Friday, January 26, 2007

Tell Me It Isn't True

The Ensign is the monthly publication by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. February contains the amazing and wonderful conversion story of Anthony Atkins, a priest in another christian chruch for 14 years, to the true church of Jesus Christ. This article is entitled "Tell Me It Isn't True."

Brother Atkins writes that on April 19, 2003 he noticed 2 missionaries in the audience during the church service. In order to find out why these 2 missionaries were there and to "let them know what true Christianity was like" he spoke to them after the service. The missionaries invited him to hear their message. Bro. Atkins accepted the invitation because, as he puts it, "an hour spent with me was one less hour they could spend with some unfortunate person."

At their first meeting, Bro. Atkins was suprised to here the missionaries teach about the "the same Jesus I had loved all my life." He recieved the Book of Mormon and began reading it together with the Bible every day. He said at first, he felt guilty and said he read a page from the Bible for every page he read in the Book of Mormon. Bro. Atkins said he promised the missionaries he would pray and ask Heavenly Father to reveal to him that it wasn't true. Bro. Atkins says that that God did not reveal it, but that instead, he "found the Book of Mormon to be a deeply spiritual book that testified of the Savior," As Bro. Atkins continued to read the Bible and Book of Mormon, he saw that both supported all the teachings of the LDS missionaries.

Bro. Atkins then relates the spiritual struggle he experienced within his soul. To get his answer to prayer, Bro. Atkins planned a spiritual day at one of his favorite places in the country side. After walking from his car down a country lane he sate with his Bible on a gatepost. He opened his Bible and read verses that explained about the Apostasy (2 Thes 2) and the Restoration (2 Peter 2). There, he pondered the words of President Hinkley in a talk entitled "The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith," which extends the invitation: "To these we say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it." Bro. Atkins recognized that accepting these new truths would mean leaving his current job and home. He pondered the scripture and hymn "Be still my soul." It is during this moment of contemplation that Bro. Atkins noticed a cow drinking from from a small algae-covered pond and looked up and saw soaring hang gliders soaring in the sky above him. At that moment, Bro. Atkins relates, "that he comprehended through the spirit that the pond represented his present beliefs, "but they were not the springs of living water the Savior was now offering me." He sensed that the Lord was offering to take him to a higher place.

Bro. Atkins continues to relate his conversion story. He attends a baptism two days later and says how he was again overwhelmed with the spirit such that tears flowed from his eyes. He also met a friend in the LDS faith who helped him explore an alternate career. Bro. Atkins begain training at a university in social work and left his profession as a priest. And then we was baptized in the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and later ordained to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and then endowed in the temple. Bro. Atkins ends the article expressing his gratitude for the missionaries who did not give up on him.

This is how the conversion process works. There is no "brain-washing" involved here. The conversion for Bro. Atkins was a personal process of faith, reading, pondering, and prayer. He, on his own, recieved an answer to his prayer; a spiritual witness from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. And his witness was not an isolated event. Bro. Atkins felt the outpouring of the Spirit numerous times until it became a continual and constant presence.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Greatest Among Equals

I noticed when doctors want to highly compliment another doctor, they say, “he/she is a doctor's doctor." This is a way of saying that the doctor is greatest or first among equals. The Bible uses this same idea to communicate God’s greatness and glory as the Most High God:

Josh. 22: 22 The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)
Deut. 10: 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
Ps. 136: 2 O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Dan. 2: 47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.
Rev. 19: 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Bible continually refers to God as the Holy of holies, God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is not just a God of degenerate being or subservient angels. God is the Most High God of glorified, exalted, god-like beings like himself who worship, praise, honor, and adore only Him. Does it give God more glory for him to be the God of fables, or the God of idols, or to be Greatest among lesser beings, or does it honor him to realize that he is the Greatest among equals. The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price says that exalting man to eternal life is the glory God.

Moses 1: 39: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

You may say that this doctrine is blasphemy. We will always only worship, praise, glory, and honor the Most High God. But as children of God, he has promised to make us joint-heirs with Christ; heirs of God. This is Eternal Life and Exaltation (Ps. 82: 6),(Rom. 8: 9-19),(Acts 17: 29).

John 10: 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

LDS recognize that man can do nothing of himself, and salvation cometh in and through Jesus Christ the Son of God. There is no other way to eternal life; but through Christ all things are possible (Mark 10: 27),(Matt. 17: 20),(Matt. 19: 26),(Luke 1: 37),(Luke 18: 27).

The Mormon Faith is a Christian Religion

It has always confused me why my Christian friends would insist that my religion should be considered a cult. First off, I am not sure just what my friends mean when they call my faith a cult. In actuality, I am not sure my friends know what they mean when they call the LDS religion a cult. What is a cult? The American Heritage Dictionary defines "cult" this way:

1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

If by definition one, my friends consider the LDS religion a cult, then they are comparing my faith with destructive organizations like those created by Jim Jones, Charlie Manson, David Koresh, and Aum Shinrikyo. The LDS people do not live in a false or unconventional manner unless you believe that morality, chastity, fidelity, sobriety, modesty, and humility are unconventional and extremist. If the LDS religion is accult by definition two, then all religions are cults and anyone who associates with a religion, mainstream or not, is a member of a cult.

According to a new article at HSW, there are specific characteristics of destructive extremist organizations that clearly sets destructive cult groups apart from religion. I will show that the LDS faith is clearly a mainstream religion and not a cult.

1. Charismatic leadership. all cults are led my a single leader who demands complete and unconditional allegience. People are drawn to this leader by the power and attraction of his personality. This attraction to a charismatic personality is often constrasted by their dissallusionment with society and the institutions of society.

The LDS faith is led by a president who is referred to as the prophet. But is being led by a presidents mean that we are a cult. If that be the case than any organization with a president is a cult. Members of the LDS faith accept and sustain the president of the church as having the authority to speak for God. I suppose the belief that someone else can tell you what God wants you to do is a cause for concern for most people.

The LDS church, from the beginning, has a system of checks and balances just like the US government. In addition to the prophet who is a member of a group of 3 men who lead the church known as the the First Presidency, the LDS church is also governed by a quorem of 12 Apostles and quorem of the 70. The Doctrine and Coventants explains in D&C 107: 24, 26, 36-37 that the voice and authority of the 12 Apostles is equal to that of the First Presidency and the authority of the 70 is equal to that of the 12. In fact, each local governing High Council led by 3 persons known as a Stake Presidemcy has authority equal to that of the 12. While a cult leader would seek to reserve all power and authority to himself, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ delegates to local leadership.

I just don't think its fair to call a church a cult just because it has central leadership. Lets not forget there are clear advantages of having a church that has central leadership. One is that there is a standardization of doctrine. No offense, but accoring to my Christian friends, different doctrine can be taught at their church on any given Sunday. When I ask them if they believe everything their pastor teaches, they say, "no way, but I know what I believe." This individual religion has become the most popular religion in the world. However, a person could travel to LDS churches around the world and on any given Sunday, he or she would hear the same doctrine taught and feel the same Holy Ghost testify of truth. In fact, the LDS church has standardized their Sunday School lessons so, he or she would actually hear the exact same lesson taught anywhere in the world.

Also, it is important to know that the Priesident of the Church has never asked that the members blindy follow his counsel. Joseph Smith and the prophets since have always pleaded with the members to first gain their own testimony or spiritual witness that what they are asking them to do is God's will. This lesson is exemplified by the Joseph Smith's first vision when he asks God for himself which of all the churches is true. Joseph Smith promised that each of us could recieve personal revelation just as he had done and know for him or herself the truth. Every first Sunday of each month in every LDS church in the world, a testimony meeting is held where members stand before the congregation and share that witness. This is not a church where the blind lead the blind. Rather, every individual member has a burning witness in their heart that Jesus is the Christ, and that the LDS chruch is His kingdom.

President Boyd K. Packer in the April conference of 1983 taught us about this: “Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. … We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see” (“Agency and Control,” Ensign, May 1983, 66).

Now the church does ask that if that personal witness is slow in coming that the members first act on faith, promising that a personal witness will follow. This call for faith should not be construed as asking that LDS members blindly follow their leaders. Christ taught this principle that you can't know whether a priniciple is true until you try it (John 7: 17)(Ether 12: 6).

"Sometimes it is necessary to be obedient even when we do not understand the reason for the law. It takes faith to be obedient. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in teaching obedience, said that whatever God requires is right, though we may not know the reason until much later" (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 256).

2. Deception in recruiting. Recruiting does not make a cult. Many organizations recruit. Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to "teach all nations" and "baptise" converts to his kingdom. I am not aware of any deception in the LDS recruiting process. As a missionary of the LDS church, I shared the doctrines of the church, and invited others to pray and ask God if the things we were teaching were true. If inviting others to recieve a witness from the Holy Ghost on their own is deception than it is not the missionaries who lie, it's those who say they have recieved an answer. But that would require a belief that God does not answer prayer. Does not the Bible teach, "Ask and ye shall recieve, knock and it shall be opened unto you"?

3. Use of thought-reform methods. A.k.a Brainwashing. The LDS church presents doctrine and uses the persuasion of patience and love but never compulsion (D&C 121: 41). The LDS church recognized everyones individual agency and right to choose for him or herself (2 Ne. 10: 23). Also, we do not deny the power of the Holy Ghost. We teach truth my a combination of logic and conscience. I have met mainstream Christians apoligeticists who claim that everything in the Bible is understood by reason and pure logic only and deny the role of the Holy Ghost. I agree that if a person had the understanding of God that the story of Moses parting the Red Sea would seem entirely logical. However, I must rely on faith and the feelings of my conscience that help me to decern truth even when something is outside the realm of my understanding, reason, logic, and experience. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16: 13). If mainstream Christianity denies the workings of the Holy Spirit, than they are no better or different in philosophy than a sociologist except being trained by studying fables instead of prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trails.

4. Isolation (physical and/or psychological): Members of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live in over 150 countries worldwide. The church has more members outside the United States than within the United States. Members of the LDS church serve in areas of government, business, education, military, athletics, healthcare, etc. Some prominent LDS members are listed at

LDS members also try and be good neighbors and productive, law abiding members of their society. Also, my wife points out, all LDS meeting house signs read "visitors welcome." We do not require a period of "brainwashing" before church attendance. As far as Temples are concerned, there is nothing mystical about dressing in white, hearing the creation story, and promising to keep the 10 commandments. The reason the general population is not permited access to LDS temples is because a person should show that he or she is striving to keep the commandments and has been born again before making promises in the Temple to live the commandments. It doesnt make sense to make promises you don't intend to even try to keep.

5. Demand for absolute, unquestioning devotion and loyalty. There is an expectation for unity in the church. Members are free to question any doctrine or decision and take it to church leadership, the scriptures, and the Lord in prayer. There is not different factions within the chruch such as orthodox mormons, concervative mormons, and liberal mormons. There is an expectation that members do "not speak evil of the ruler of thy people" (Acts 23: 5). Also, the Bible teaches to not "steady the Ark" which means that there is an appropriate and ordered way in which the church is governed and mistakes corrected (Num. 1: 51)(2 Sam. 6: 6 (6-7))(1 Chr. 13: 10 (9-12))(D&C 64: 17). The LDS church does not teach that it's leaders are infallible however we are taught that if we follow the majority of the 12 and the First Presidency, God will never cause that we should be led astray.

6. Sharp, unsurpassable distinction between "us" (good, saved) and "them" (bad, going to Hell): LDS doctrine has always taught that all people on earth will be resurrected, saved from Hell, and inherit some level of heavenly glory(1 Cor. 15: 40). Christians who believe the will live with Christ eternally will be rewarded exactly what their faith promises them. LDS Doctrine teaches that this concept of Heaven is limited and that there is more possible. On the other hand, I have met plenty of mainstream Christians that are sure that I am going to be "burn in hell" for my blasphemous faith.

7. "Inside language" that only members fully understand: All organization have a problem with this. The military has its accronyms, the catholic church, business, and not to mention medicine. Language is a refection of any culture within an organization and doesn't have anything to do with whether something is a cult or not.

8. Strict control over members' daily routines: Mormon life from the outsider's perspective seems very restrictive. LDS members refrain from tobacco, coffee, tea, alchohol, sex before marriage, among other addicting and negative influences. However, as an insider, there is noone making me live this way. I can leave whenever I want. Members don't look at these lifestyle expectations as restrictioins but rather as directions in living a happy life. The church does not control every aspect of life. In fact, most decisions are left up to the individual and family. One of the foundation doctrines of the church is on temporal and spritual self-reliance. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches, "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward (D&C 58: 26).

So, according to The American Heritage Dictionary and the HSW website the Mormon chuch is not a cult. So, why does mainstream Christian persist on calling us a cult? If their basis for this assertion is that Mormonism doctrine is different from that of mainstream Christian doctrine? I joyfully aknowledge that Mormon doctrine is different in some aspects from mainstream Christianity. However, I don' think those differences warrant the mainstream from excluding us from being called Christians when we accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Messiah, and Savior of the World and calling us a cult when we are not.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fathers and Mothers in Zion

The LDS Proclamation on the Family states that Father’s in Zion have the primary responsibility to see that the families temporal and spiritual needs are met. This means that I have the primary responsibility to be the breadwinner, and to make sure my family is doing our family scripture study, family and personal prayer, church attendance, and family home evening. Through interviews and activities, I try to assess how each member of the family is doing temporally and spiritually.

Mother’s in Zion have the primary responsibility to see that the emotional and psycho-social needs of the family are met. My wife schedules most of our recreational activities and is in tune with how each member of the family is doing on an emotional level. This kind of assessment is much more difficult than assessing temporal needs.

This has nothing to do with whose divinely appointed to do the dishes or make decisions for the family. House chores need to be shared and divided however is acceptable between the husband and wife. Also, this doesn't mean that mothers can't participate in temporal or spiritual matters and father's in psycho-social and emotional issues.

When it comes to family desision making, both husband and wife should be equal partners. Just think what would happens when one spouse makes a decision and says, “this is what I feel we should do” and the other is just told to accept it. When the road gets difficult than Satan can use that as a wedge. The other spouse can say, “This is all your fault, I never felt good about this decision in the first place.” Other the other hand, If both husband and wife make decisions together; when the going gets tough, they can say to each other, “It’s tough, but we both felt good about it, this is God’s will, and if we are patient, pray, and have faith; things will get better.”

2 Cor. 6: 14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together"

Inspired by Zelophehad’s Daughters

Monday, January 08, 2007

Steel, Tools, and Temple

2 Ne. 5: 16 16 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.

The pattern of Solomon's temple is a simple one. So simple that it could be replicated using fabric, poles, and stakes. If the Tent-like Tabernacle is considered patterned "like the Temple of Solomon" then I'm sure that a simple eligant building could be constructed which could serve the early Nephites.

The Book of Mormon says that Nephi did teach his people to work in brass, iron, copper, steel, gold and silver but that does not mean there was enough to adorn their temple to the extent the Temple of Solomon was arrayed. Also, other precious things which Nephi could be referring to in building his Temple would be granite and marble stone.
2 Ne. 5: 15 15 And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.

The Book of Mormon seems clear that Nephi had a nack for metal work. He certainly shows interest in LAban's sword and is able to give a detailed desciption of it. The very fact that he recognizes it as Steel is significant. (Google about the Vered Jericho sword for an example of Steel sword discovered in Isreal from 600bc). He also is reported as having his own steel bow which was a prized possession of his. And there is a good possibility that it was made by Nephi himself. His family mourned over its loss.

Also, there is an important detail about the manner of of his bow's demise. While his brother's bow's had lost their spring, Nephi says his Steel bow broke. This is perfect science. While steel is harder than iron, it would be less likely to lose its spring but woould have been more brittle and would be more vulnerable to breakage.

Finally, when he was commanded to build the ship to cross the ocean he immediately asks "where do I find the ore." IT seems he was well aware of what to do with it and how to make metal tools. I would also point out that Nephi says he obtained metal ore "out of a rock". This is again, perfect science. Copper, Iron and other metals were obtained by heating/smelting ore (hematite or magnetite) containing rocks.

1 Ne. 17: 9-10, 16 9 And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? 10 And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools. . . .16 And it came to pass that I did make tools of the ore which I did molten out of the rock.

I think this example shows how the Book of Mormon is internally consistent and true. However, I don't need these evidences for the basis of my belief because I have already asked God and he has answered my prayer "yes" by the power of the Holy Ghost. The mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth.

John 16: 13 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:
[A great article on ancient steel bows in India]
[Ancient steel making]