Monday, April 28, 2008

Priesthood Operation in the New Testament

Many "so-called" orthodox or evangelical Christians interpret the Bible to teach that Priesthood has no operation since the resurrection of Christ. They claim the Bible teaches that God spoke to a few men known as prophets via the priesthood in the Old Testament. But now, in the New Testament and since the resurrection of Christ, God talks to all men only through the Holy Ghost. Except that Christ did ordain Apostles to head His New Testament church but all their works and administration were done by the Holy Ghost and not Priesthood authority.

Heb. 1: 1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,

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

Orthodox go way beyond the mark with their interpretation of these scriptures. Instead of interpreting this as an expression of appreciation for Gods word given to us by His Son Jesus Christ and that acceptance of Christ sacrifice is the only way to salvation, Evangelicals are told to believe that these scripture reveal that the priesthood has no more operation in Christ's church, there is to be no other prophets and apostles because Christ is our only mediator, and there is to be no additional revealed scripture and the canon and the heavens are closed. God has given His word by His Son and that Word is all sufficient just like Christ's blood. Why would you even want more after you have heard it from Christ himself. What is Christ not good enough for you?

This is a nice tidy doctrine on its surface, except for the fact that Christ never wrote down any of his own words, and He promised his chosen servants would do greater works and reveal greater words than even He had done after his ascension.

John 14: 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Christ's words and these "greater works" were recorded by eye-witnesses of His resurrection. These were the Apostles and Evangelists who were given the Holy Ghost which was to "bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14: 26). And even though Mark and Luke were not Apostles, they were companions to the Apostles. Luke was from Antioch was likely a travel companion to Paul and may have been an eye witness of his conversion.

Except Paul wasn't even one of the original 12 Apostles. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, not Paul. "For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take" (Acts 1: 20). However, and Evangelical explained to me that Matthias wasn't God's choice to take Judas' spot. Because the remaining 11 had merely cast lots, Jesus Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus and Paul became Christ's choice as special "eye witness" to the resurrection and the 12th Apostle instead of Matthias.

Also, orthodox belief tells us to ignore when others are called Apostles like Barnabas and James. In spite of being referred to as apostles in the same sense as Paul (Gal. 1: 19, Acts 14: 14). Orthodox belief claims that apostles can be used in a generic sense meaning "one who is sent." Orthodox interpretation suggests that Barnabas and James (the brother of Christ) were referred to as apostles in the same sense as Junia (a feminine name) and Andronicus (Rom. 16: 7). But I would add, Paul doesn't call Junia and Andronicus apostles. Paul says they are "of note among the apostles," which means their example, sacrifice, works, and doings have been "noteworthy" and "spoken of with high regard" among the apostles.

So, what is going on here. Well Christ taught that His church would be "build upon a foundation" or led by apostles and prophets and that the quorum of 12 Apostles was meant to be a standing quorum for the government of His church to clarify doctrine, ordain leadership, and bare a special witness of Jesus Christ in all the world. And we clearly see the Apostles and the Seventy (Luke 10: 1, 17) act in this capacity in the Book of Acts written by Luke.

1 Cor. 12: 28-29 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments,
Eph. 2: 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Eph. 4: 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Notwithstanding orthodox interpretation, there is no evidence to suggest that the proceeding scriptures referred to only the original 12 or 13 Apostles just like the church now can't possibly be expected to stand upon the works of the original evangelists, pastors, and teachers alone. That would put a lot of evangelical pastors out of work. The Bible taught that when one apostle or pastor died or was martyred, another was to be chosen to replace him by prophesy and by the laying on of hands; not by casting lots.

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.

However, when the last apostle was martyred, the authority and keys of the apostleship were lost. Consequently, Christ church could no longer function because the keys Peter held could not be passed down by the laying on of hands. The unbroken line of priesthood authority was broken (a very important doctrine for my Catholic friends). Consequently, there no longer existed someone in the church who could continue to receive revelation, interpret scripture, and choose and ordain leadership such as pastors and teachers. This period was known as the Great Apostasy and was foretold in the Bible (Dan. 2: 45, Amos 8: 11, 2 Thes. 2: 3, Acts 20: 29, Rev. 12: 6).

After the martyrdom of the Apostles, there was a lot of discordant belief in the early Christian church. The church was plagued by mysterious Gnostic and Coptic doctrine and practices as well as being plagued by concocted and contrived pseudopigriphal writings. After a few centuries without the Apostles, there was no one to declare doctrine and interpret scripture and there were all kinds of different beliefs which claimed to be Christian. Consequently, Constantine called the first ecumenical council to establish orthodox doctrine. While well meaning, those councils voted on and accepted doctrine that had been mixed with Greek philosophy (especially Plato who taught that matter was evil and God was immaterial). This new apostate, creedal doctrine, was considered orthodox and was enforced by capital punishment.

However, no one in the Universal or Catholic church had the keys or authority of the priesthood to call such a council. Although, lots were cast in favor of these new doctrines and creeds; the doctrines like Matthias (accepting orthodox belief about Matthias), weren't God's choice.

Other Christians do not consider the LDS faith to be Christian because, while we accept Christ atonement as the only means for salvation, and we recognize the divinity of Christ; we reject their non-biblical, extra-canonical creeds which were established in the 4th-century or later. I don't see how Protestants have any reasonable basis for excluding the LDS faith from being Christian on that basis. If they think the ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church had authority to establish and define correct doctrine, then why are they not Catholic?

Again, Christ taught His Apostles that they would do even greater works and reveal greater words than even He had done (John 14: 12 ). But is Priesthood involved here, or would these greater works be done by the Holy Ghost alone? When Paul told Timothy to "neglect not" his gift which was given by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, was Paul referring to Priesthood or just the Holy Ghost? (1 Tim. 4: 14). When Christ taught his Apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15: 16), to what where the Apostles ordained? And when Peter was promised the "keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16: 19)," was that speaking of the priesthood or the Holy Ghost?

With the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and called him as a prophet and apostle or special witness of Christ just like Paul. And through Joseph Smith the keys and authority of the priesthood which is the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost was restored to the Earth. Also, the understanding and interpretation of the true roll and relationship of the priesthood and the Holy Ghost has been clarified. This understanding hasn't come by casting lots, or voting; but by revelation to a prophet of God which has been recorded as additional Holy Scripture.
So, what is that relationship? The roll of the Holy Ghost is to allow any individual who processes it to know the mind and will of God. All those who have accepted and become justified by the blood of Jesus Christ have right to the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. The promptings and influence of the Holy Ghost can be described as a "still small voice" (1 Kgs. 19: 12) or a "burning in the bosom" (Luke 24: 32). But no one is perfect, and sometimes we will reject the promptings of the Holy Ghost which will lead us to read scripture, partake of the Lord's Supper, and enter into covenants and ordinances with God such as baptism. All of these things having been prepared for the sanctification of the disciples of Christ.

But, because man at times rejects the Holy Ghost, we reject Christ (John 13: 20). Consequently, we cut ourselves off from the mind and spiritual presence of God. Therefore, God has a backup plan. God has given us the priesthood. God has ordained certain men who can do the same thing as the Holy Ghost on our behalf. An individual with the Priesthood has the authority, depending on his stewardship (jurisdiction), to tell others the mind and will of God and to reveal to them what the Holy Ghost will be inspiring and empowering them to do in their process of sanctification. Therefore, those of us not responding to the Holy Ghost, can be motivated to repent, and turn again to Christ, and continue on in the process of sanctification. While the Holy Ghost gives the individual the authority to receive revelation for themselves, the priesthood is the authority to receive revelation and perform service for others.

So, while it is true that the Holy Ghost may empower me to forsake sin in one area and may empower you to forsake sin in another area, and I shouldn't judge myself to be more righteous than you. As long as we both remain in the grace of Christ, and endure to the end, it doesn't matter where on the straight and narrow path we are when we die, so long as we are on it, Christ's grace will be sufficient for us. However, the nature of Christ's atonement does not preclude or prohibit modern prophets from telling us that God wills all his disciples that they be baptised, attend church, read the scriptures and that the Holy Ghost will empower us in the accomplishment of these works. And that our reception of these works then become a manifestation of the grace of Christ working in us and a testimony of the power of Christ's atonement for we can do no good works of ourselves.

It turns out that modern prophets have said that receiving the priesthood is also necessary to enter into the presence of God. In the Old Testament only the oldest son, or a certain tribe was given rights to the priesthood. But now, the priesthood has been made available to all men and by temple work for the dead it has been made available to all those who would have accepted it while living. This doctrine is referred to as the "priesthood of all believers." But, while orthodox churches call it priesthood, they really don't believe priesthood operates in the same way as in Bible times. The "so-called" orthodox belief claims that Jesus Christ is our only High Priest. Of course, this does not apply to their pastor.

Heb. 3: 1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

LDS know that we are to walk in the foot steps of Jesus Christ. Scriptures like this do not mean that there are not to be any more Apostles, or prophets, or High Priests. Rather, this scripture invites all men to become like Christ and be made High Priests. Christ being our Great High Priest.

Therefore, in the LDS church all worthy males are ordained by prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those who have an unbroken line of authority to Joseph Smith and from Joseph Smith to Peter James and John who received their authority under the hands of Jesus Christ himself. LDS men are first ordained deacons, teachers, and priests in the Aaronic or preparatory priesthood. This is the priesthood that was given to Aaron and the Levites to offer sacrifice and set up the tabernacle and provide for the maintenance and upkeep of the temple. It is also the authority of John the Baptist who had the authority to preach the gospel of repentance, and baptise by immersion and receive the administration of angels.
Then an LDS male is ordained to the Melchizedek or Higher priesthood (After the order of the Son of God) and given the power and authority to ordain others in the priesthood, preside in Christ's church, and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost (baptism by fire). There are different offices in the Melchizedek priesthood. First a male is ordained to the office of an elder and then as he gains experience in leading the church he is called to the office of a High Priest. Modern revelation says that the Melchizedek priesthood has the power and authority to make it possible for a man to return into the presence of God.

Heb. 5: 1-10 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: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

Paul says to the Hebrews, that every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. Paul is not talking about past high priests but talking in the present tense. Paul isn't confused about the past or the present because he then says that "no man taketh [the priesthood] unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." And how was Aaron called in the past? Aaron was called by a revelation given to Moses and then he was washed, anointed in the tabernacle and clothed in the robes of the priesthood and then ordained to his calling by the laying on of hands by Moses.
Today in Christ's church both men and woman are washed, and anointed, and clothed in the robes of the priesthood as was Aaron in modern-day temples. As the role of women in the home is respected and they do not need to be troubled with the burden of setting up chairs at church and doing other administrative tasks outside the home, woman are not given priesthood responsibility other than their office of mothers and positions as part of helps and governments in the kingdom such as the relief society, young women's , and primary organizations (1 Cor. 12: 28-29).

So, just as Christ was considered a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and due to service in this order; Jesus Christ was made perfect by obedience to the will of His father. Therefore, all men are commanded to receive this same order of priesthood and become like Jesus Christ, and follow the Savior. And Just as we follow Christ into the waters of baptism, the Holy Ghost will sanctify us in our exercize of this authority and empower us to become kings and priests unto the Most High God. And when Christ comes in the Millennium, He will rule and reign as a King of kings, Lord of lords, Judge of judges, and the Great High Priest of high priests. Like scriptures, and the church, the priesthood has been given to men for their sanctification to prepare us to enter into the presence of God so that when he appears, we will be like Him (1 Jn. 3: 2).

And what about the Holy Ghost? While the Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. The Holy Ghost is the power. So, those with the priesthood can not exercize the priesthood except through the grace of Jesus Christ and upon the principles of righteousness. Holders of the priesthood are invited to receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost so as to empower their authority the same as we talk about "empowering moral authority."

D&C 121: 36-37, 41 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. . . . No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

Therefore, because the Holy Ghost is the power by which the Priesthood authority operates, we see that the Holy Ghost had operation in Old Testament times any time the priesthood was being exercized as well. But, the operation of the Holy Ghost in the OT was even seen in a limited bases apart from the authority of the preisthood. After Moses was inspired to ordain 70 men to assist him in the judgement and government of the tribes of Isreal, 2 men who where not ordained were seen prophesying. Eldad and Medad had not yet been ordained as Seventy, but had the Holy Ghost rest on them and empower them to prophesy in the camp.

Num. 11: 24-29 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

So, we clearly see that although it sounds neat and tighty to say there was priesthood in the OT and Holy Ghost in the NT, it just isn't so. And only through the restored authority of God's priesthood and modern prophets and apostles has the true doctrine on the relationship between the power of the Holy Ghost and the authority of the Priesthood been clarified after thousands of years of casting lots on the subject.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

FLDS Injustice

I do not condone the practice of polygamy by the FLDS and I condemn the practice of marriage and statatory rape of underage girls. Polygamy hasn't been practiced by the LDS church for more that 100 years by the LDS church. After the supreme court decided against polygamy in the late 1800's the then president of the LDS church Wilford Woodruff received a revelation from God that the practice was no longer required of the LDS people. The LDS people have always believed in being good citicizens of whatever country in which they reside because "for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land."

Some have citicized Utah and Arizona for allowing the FLDS communites to flourish. However, in the 1950's there were a number of raids on the FLDS community which caused considerable public backlash. Recently, Utah has been conducting DNA analysis to establish familial relationships and uncover evidence of statatory rape in the case where a teenager is found to be pregnant.

Because of the recent pressure, the FLDS church began migrating from Utah and Arizona to Texas and the YFZ Ranch. Then in a streak of old-west justice, Texas law inforcement raided the FLDS compound and carted away all the women and children. Now, I do not condemn the raid. But I wonder what right the government has to separate the 400 children from their mothers. If the men were the threat, why didn't they just cart off the men and leave the women and children. But instead, it appears the the childen have been placed in foster care away from their mothers and placed in homes of baptists to be evangelized? Don't get me wrong, I do not agree with the beliefs of the FLDS, but since when did we start having laws in this country against peoples belief and since when do we put children of a certain religion in foster care for the purposes of reprogramming.

If the US has decided to clamp down on teenage pregnacy, can we expect law enforcement to take all children out of the homes of single women in innercities and put them in foster care in order to reprogram them and prevent them from perpetuating the ghetto culture and repeating the cycle of poverty?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Psalms 82:6 "Ye are gods?"

Psalms 82:1-8 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

This psalm is directed to the wicked judges in Israel. God begins the psalm by referring to the grand heavenly council (sod qedoshim) during the pre-mortal existence. God says that He stood among the congregation and judged among the other gods present as a Judge of judges. But the Palm doesn't refer to those in attendance judges, God refers to them as gods. And God refers to Himself as the Most High God of gods and the Great Judge of judges.

This verse clearly suggests that the wicked judges were ordained as judges in the heavenly council similar to God's revelation to the prophet Jeremiah that he too was chosen and ordained in the pre-existence to his great calling. This isn't just talking the foreknowledge of God, because it specifically says that before Jeremiah was formed in the belly, he was ordained like Christ was anointed to be the Savior of the world and is known as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13: 8).

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

Then God chastises the wicked judges for neglecting the poor, afflicted, and needy while at the same time supporting and lifting up the wicked. God says "all the foundations of the earth are out of course" meaning that nothing of what the judges committed to in the Heavenly Council is come to past.

Then God says something startling, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men." Some interpret this to mean the wicked judges are pridefully claiming they are gods, after which God sharply reminds them that they will "die like men." But this cannot be because it isn't the judges which are speaking. It is God. It says, "I have said, Ye are gods" not "Ye have said, ye are gods."

Some interpret this that God is using the words god and judge interchangeably and no additional meaning should be read into the text. I agree that God is using god and judge interchangeably, but I cannot believe God doesn't have a reason for doing it. What is that reason? God is trying to motivate the wicked judges to deal justly with the poor and needy by reminding them of the great worth of souls. Even the least of man is a "god en embryo."

God is teaching those wicked judges that all mankind are children of God the Father regardless of our acceptance of him here because we already accepted him in the pre-mortal existence when he stood as judge in the the congregation of the mighty (i.e. great heavenly council). God doesn't just say, you wicked judges are my children, but He says, "all of you are children of the most High."

The Scriptures do speak of becoming the sons and daughters of Christ when we become born-again. Christ then becomes the adopted or figurative Father of our new life as a disciple of Christ, the Father of our Resurrected bodies, and the Father of our eternal life. While this status as child of Christ is contingent upon our acceptance of Christ here in mortality, our status as literal children of Our Eternal Father is not conditional because God is the Father and Creator of all the spirits of mankind (Acts 17:28-29, Heb 12:9).

Is there any other biblical support that Psalms 82:6 is referring to man as gods? Yes, from Christ Himself. During His ministry, Jesus Christ was confronted by those asking Him to come out and clearly state if he claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus told those assembled that the miracles he performed were a sign of His calling and then said, "I and my Father are one." In response the Jews picked up stones to kill him. Then the story continues:

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 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. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

So, Jesus Christ himself used Psalms 82:6 to prove to the Jews that it is not blasphemy to equate man with god because God made the comparison first. Christ is saying, if God referred to the wicked judges and all men in Palms 82 as gods, then how can you call Me a blasphemer for declaring that I am the Son of God.

Nevertheless, at the end of Psalms 82, God reminds the wicked judges that although He is equating men with gods, without God the Father, we are nothing and will die. In the end, the Psalm suggests that righteous judgement will never be fully realized on Earth until God Himself arises, comes to earth and judges the earth. This last line foretells the Millennium when Christ will come again a second time to rule and reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords. From this scripture we know Christ will also be the God of gods and the Great Judge of judges who will finally inherit (unify) all nations.

Many Christians consider it blasphemy that LDS belief that men are "gods in embryo" because this means that men are considered gods now. Only an Abortionist would consider a human embryo sub-human or not human. In the same sense, as "gods in embryo," we should all recognize the seeds of divinity within each person regardless of their status in this life. Every soul born into this world has the potential to become like our Heavenly Father.

Jn 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Rom 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Gal 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Rev. 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
C.S. Lewis a favorite protestant writer and theologian agreed with this interpretation:
He said (in the Bible) that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. C. S. Lewis, Beyond Personality (London: The Centenary Press, 1945), P48
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), P14-15

Monday, April 21, 2008

Q & A on God

If there are other Gods then the one we are supposedly obligated to worship, why don't we worship them? Are they not worthy of worship?

Other gods would not be worthy of praise and worship (obedience) because they are not our Heavenly FAther. Obeying anyone other than our God will not bring about our exaltation. They have nothing to do with our salvation and eternal life. This is the context of God saying that there is no other Gods like him, before him, or after him. Only Our God can save us because he is our Eternal Father and we are his spirit offspring. "I said, ye are gods and children of the Most High". (children is not contingent on our current acceptance but our past acceptance)

Even though Christ is the mediator of the Atonement between God the Father and man, we do not pray to Jesus Christ or to the Holy Ghost. We only pray to the Father in the name of Christ (forever). Christ is the medium by which we reach the Father. The Holy Ghost is the medium by which the Father responds.So, yes we believe as Paul did 1 Cor 8:5-6 "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Who was the First God? or When was the First Exaltation? What God was present at the First Exaltation?

All things are before God, past, present and future (col 1:17). Gods have no beginning and no end. So, it makes no sense to apply time to God in this way. Yes, it has been taught in the past that "As man now is, God once was" and that suggests that God had an Eternal Father and so on. But since the Spirit of Our God always existed and had no beginning, The Father of God the Father did not come before because both have been and are co-existent and co-eternal beings. So, the word of Isaiah is not violated.

Are the other Gods good or evil?

Lucifer was a member of the grand heavenly council and was and is considered a god in the same sense man is. Revelations tells us that he was able to draw a third part of the stars of heaven (spirits of God the Father) So we see that we had the ability to choose in the pre-mortal existence. Thus Jude comments, "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" (Jude 1:6)

Do they all have the same wills as our God?

God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one in purpose but do not have the same wills. Will is a huge, fascinating concept. The Book of Mormon talks about two kinds of creations; things which act and things which are acted upon (2 Ne. 2:13-14,26). But it is our will that is an essential aspect of our being and an essential aspect of what it means to be considered a god.

The Bible goes into great detail concerning our will. It is what God the Father desires and values above all other things. The Bible suggests that our will is something that God did not own prior. In that sense, the Bible says that our will has been purchased or "bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20), and redeemed. Our will is what God wants of us. Christ tells us that the only acceptable sacrifice is of a "broken heart and a contrite spirit" or in other words "a willing heart and a willing mind." Christ expressed his independent will from the Father when he said in the Garden "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thouwilt."

The doctrine of will has important implications. One implicatation is that God is not to be blamed for the choices of Satan or others. God created/organized all things. But had God conjured Satan from nothing (ex nihlo) and not from pre-existing intelligence with the essential characteristic of will, then God is responsible for either: creating a defective product, rolling the dice with the universe (I granted him his agency and let things happen [conclusion of Rabbi Kushner]), or dealing unjustly to Lucifer (Satan is serving God's higher purposes). But, because the spirit of Satan with its inherent will was co-existent with God, God allows the expression of Satan's will to serve God's higher purposes but is not responsible for Satan's choices and behavior.

Are they of the same essence as our God?

Well, since the will of God is an essential characteristic of His Godhood, then I would have to say no because the Bible teaches that although Christ is one in purpose with the Father, He is of separate will.

Are the three gods of the LDS Trinity one in essence?

Same as above. But, let me say that all mankind who have kept their "first estate" accepted God the Father, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost as Gods, and members of the GodHead. But only God the Father is accepted as our Eternal Father to who we were created/organized sons. But interestingly, we are also born again when we accept Christ as our savior and Christ becomes our Eternal Father in the sense that he becomes the author and means of our Eternal Life. We then becomes His sons and His daughters. But before coming to Earth we had already accepted Christ once (first estate [choice]), and we overcame Lucifer by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (faith in Christ). Now we must choose again (second estate). God asks us, "what think ye of Christ?"

By what standard do the Gods call themselves "good" or "evil"?

"God is love" That is that God's whole purpose (work and glory) is to bring about the eternal life and exaltation of his children. God is God based on his Eternal Fatherhood. Paul said in heaven and earth there are many gods but there is only One Father to us. God the Father desires to give his children everything he has, to make us heirs of God, and to have us sit in his throne."

God is faithful" Also, what makes God good is that he keeps His word.

If we were procreated by two Gods in the spirit realm, then why were we not immediately Gods as they are?

For starter, spirit procreation does not involve pregnancy. God the Father is embodied and our spirits have always existed and were co-existent with His. We were created/organized sons of God in the grand heavenly council but we have always been considered gods with the essential characteristic of will.

Since covenants are retroactive and are from eternity to eternity, it can be said that by accepting God as our Eternal Father that he can always be considered our Eternal Father from eternity to eternity. Christ's sacrifice was similarly retroactive. Christ's atonement was infinite and eternal. Eternal Covenants don't operate exactly like laws and contracts (which has implications on why it's a sin to have sex before marriage among other reasons).

How do you interpret 1 Cor. 8:5-6 which says there is only one God?

1 Cor. 8:5-6 For though there be that are called gods (idols) , whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ,There are many gods in the heavens and the earth according to the Bible but there is only One God the FAther, and One Lord Jesus CHrist.

The Bible teaches that God is a God of gods, Lord of lords, King of kings, Judge of judges, Holy of holies; The Most High God. The scripture is talking about idol worship but the parenthetical acknowledges that in the heavens there in reality many god-like beings. Doesn't it praise God and give him more glory that he is the God of gods, or just a god of degenerates. What good are Christians over Darwinist if you believe that man is scum. What good are Christians over Abortionists if you believe "gods in embryo" make them less then gods. Satan has tried to hide who we really are and the true worth of souls in the eyes of God. This belief does not demean God but elevates man and brings Glory to the Father who is the Father of excellent sons and daughters in Christ.

What attributes set God and man apart and how are they alike?

1Cor 13:1-8 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 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.

I think that Paul is telling us that knowing everything, or having all power, or having all time isn't so special in heaven where there is no time, and no sickness, and no learning disabilities, and we have access to all truth. Being omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient may be overrated in a sense. However, as spirits in the pre-existence we did not foreknow the outcome of the test of mortality and had to exercise faith in Christ.

Although this scripture is used by some to say that miracles and signs would no longer continue in Christ's church, I think Paul is saying is that "God is love" and characteristics like charity and traits that make a good friend and a good parent are what make us a good disciple. Love is what sets God apart from man. The Love of God is manifest in His sacrifice of his Only Begotten Son and His Eternal Parenthood and His desire to share all that He has with his children. So, that His children become like Him and can share in the fullness of joy He experiences.

So, man is alike God in the sense that he is created in the image of God, and man knows good from evil. The spirits of man and God are alike in that they are timeless in that they had no beginning. Man is unlike God in that we lacked a glorified body, and we lacked procreative power, spiritually speaking (pregnancy not required) in addition to being omniscence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and dynamically immutable.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?

Some LDS talk about Jesus Christ, Lucifer, Michael the Archangel, and the angel gabriel as being spirit brothers. However, this sense of brotherhood is only in the sense that God the Father is the father of all spirits. In that same sense LDS speak of all mandkind as spirit brother and sisters of Our Heavenly Father.

But even relating to Jesus Christ in this way, we do not consider Christ to be on an equal level spiritually as man or Satan. Jesus Christ is a member of the Godhead from the beginning with God the Father and the Holy Ghost. The Bible teaches that Christ stands at the right hand of the Father and revelation teaches that Christ was the first spirit son of God as well as the only begotten Son of God according to the flesh. So, in a spiritual sense, Jesus Christ can honorably be considered our Elder Brother.

The Bible teaches that Satan was known as Lucifer before he fell from heaven. Lucifer (son of the morning) was an archangel but was not at all on the same level as Jesus Christ is power or glory. Lucifer was more on the same spiritual level as Michael and Gabriel. That is why Revelations teaches that Michael was organized to fight against the Dragon. Michael and Lucifer were of the same stature.

The Bible also teaches that Jesus and Lucifer should not be considered to have equal but opposite powers. There is no ying and yang upon which the universe balances. Satan in attempting to thwart the plan of God actually ends up serving his purposes. But, what the LDS believe about the power of Satan in relation to the power of Jesus can be summed up by a scripture in Genesis when the Serpent is being cursed by God for tempting Adam and Eve and the Atonement of the Savior is being foreshadowed: "ye may have power to bruise his heal, but he shall have power to crush thy head"

Current FLDS verses Historic LDS Polygamy

I have heard some of my colleages at work ask if there is any relationship between FLDS polygamy and the historical LDS practice of polygamy which ended in the early 1900's. I am concerned that some of them might ask, "So, is this how it was? Or, is this how the LDS polygamy used to be?"

According to the journals of my wife's ancestors, media detail on current FLDS practice seem nothing like how polygamy was practiced by the LDS church in the late 1800's. My wife's great-g-g-g-grandfather moved from Canada and imigrated to Utah with the first LDS pioneers to settle the West. He was a body guard to Brigham Young and buried bodies at Hauns' Mill. He did not have any desire to practice polygamy and was initually repulsed by the notion despite having a testimony of Christ, and the restored gospel. However, when the Martin and Willie Handcart companies were stuck in Wyoming, he left immediately as part of the rescue party.

His wife and he took in a young women who had lost her husband. She was badly frostbitten and had permenant disfigurement she carried her entire life. She was nursed back to full health and lived with that family and was cared for. Because of her disfigurment, she had few prospects to remarry and no oportunities for a carrier. In the West a women could work outside the home as only a teacher or a midwife. All the other jobs consisted in back-breaking, manual labor.

In Utah, the rescued woman was essentially fatherless and now a widow and never had had children. Years after the rescue the Bishop called my wife's husband to take her as a second wife. This issue was discussed and accepted by both husband and wife and the rescued girl became a second wife. A separate home was built for her, and she was given healthy children to raise and had every need provided for. Athough not an ideal situation, she was able to enjoy being a mother, homemaker, and wife and lived a fulfilled and spiritual life with a close relationship with Jesus Christ which was evident from her love and testimony expressed in her journal.

Polygamy is not the ideal situatation. If it were, Adam would have given him multiple wives in the garden. But, there are situations like all commandments where the Lord commands otherwise. According the the Law of Moses and the Law of Levirate Marriage, one purpose of polygamy that is accepted is to raise up righteous seed. In the Law of Levirate marriage if a man dies and his wife has given him no children she is commanded to be taken as a second wife by the man's brother to raise posterity unto the deceased man. In the same spirit, Abraham took Hagar to wife because Sarah was unable to bare children. The other reason that God may justify polygamy as an exception is to care for the needs of the fatherless and the widow. Polygamy was commanded by God to be practice by the LDS church for these 2 specific exceptions although those at the time might not have understood it. When polygamy not longer served a higher purpose it was revoked and is prohibited by the LDS church

Women were not to be treated like property in the LDS church. Women were encouraged to educate themselves, and develop their talents in homemaking, arts, music, literature, and sciences. The daughter that came from the polygamist union between my wife's g-g-g-grandfather and the rescued women studied obstretrics and gynecology and became an accomplished physician (not just a midwife) in Idaho.

Also, coercion was not to be involved. Polygamy was done by consent with the blessing of parents and family. In many cases a marriage was not consumated for several years after a marriage ceremony was performed. Polygamy served to benifit women in a way because men had to raise the bar in a sense of their behavior because other married men were still "in-the-game" so to speak. Women could never claim that "all the good ones have already been taken." Also, if they entered a polygamist relationship and they were not being taken care of they were more free to cancel the marriage and remarry out of polygamy. Second wives were given more freedom with regard to divorce because in a way their situation satisfied the command of Christ that divorce be permitted only in the case of adultery. But in this case the adultary was justified just like God justifies killing for the defense of family and country.

LDS men were not to desire the practice of polygamy. It was a call that was extended to a minority of men in the church who met strict criteria of self-mastery, righteousness, and had the means to care for a second family. Even with polygamy, LDS men were expected to practice strict chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Again, not an ideal practice and more open to be abused like in the case of the FLDS church, this was not something that anyone would desire to enter into. Brigham Young upon learning of the command to practice polygamy said:

"Some of these my brethern know what my feelings were at the time Joseph revealed the doctrine; I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I was not in the coffin, knowing the toil and labor that my body would have to undergo; and I have had to examine myself, from that day to this, and watch my faith, and carefully meditate, lest I should be found desiring the grave more than I ought to do" (JD 3:266).

But not long after obeying God's command, although an exeption, he was blessed and understood the necessity of it. Brigham Young became a fervant proponent of the practice and carried a consideral burden in taking on the support of many of Joseph Smith's wives after his death in the spirit of caring for the now fatherless and widows and in raising up seed unto his brother Joseph Smith whose second wives bore him no children.

At the time it was preached that men and women could not enter the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom unless they practiced this law. But that is because the practice was expected of them by God. There is no such expectation on members of the LDS church today, because the command to practice polygamy has been revoked and the original order established in the Garden of Eden and practiced in the Book of Mormon was restored.

Evidence for the Book of Mormon

Historically speaking, The Book of mormon says that a small group of Isrealites left Jesusalem before the captivity into Babylon and were lead through the Arabian penninsula and arrived at a place they named Bountiful which was probably located on the Coast of Oman. Candidate places for each historical site in the Arabian penninsula have been indentified including a lush area in Oman with iron deposits that could be easily smelted (verified detail).

This group then build a ship and crossed the ocean and arrived in the Americas. We know that there was pre-columbian contact with the Americas and Asia and the Middle East (verified detail). Egyptian mummies show traces of tobacco and cocaine. Indian statues show clear depictions of corn. And hookworm species isolated from ancient America and Europe/Asia mummies are identical suggesting that it was not transported to America by people walking across Alaska because hookworm has a lifestage that lives in the ground before it can infect another person by burrowing into the host's foot. The cold Alaskan climate would kill off any hookworm.

Isaiah speaks fondly of the ships of Tarshish which some experts theorize may by making reference to the lost city of Tartessus and the ancient Phoenician navy there. Some believe the Phoenicians routinely visited the Americas and may have been the means by which a second group of Israelites were able to escape Jesusalem just before the city was conquered by Babylon. This group was known as the Mulekites; so named for their leader Mulek who was said to have been a son of Zedekiah. The Melukites later joined with the Nephites.

Once in America, the Nephites built cities of timber, earth, and had metallurgical skills that Nephi had learned and would have likely passed on. However, earth, timber, and metal would not be expected to last in a harsh tropical rainforest environment. However, earthen walls around ancient central american cities have been discovered (verified detail). They built cities and had advanced agricultural practices and cash crops to support large populations of people. Critics often say this plant or this animal mentioned in the Book of Mormon was not known to the ancient americans. But each year fossils and remains of plant and animal species are being discovered including pre-columbian horses and barley to name a few (some detail verified some not). Some critics say iron was not known to Ancient Americans but now a large iron ore mine was discovered in peru. There is not evidence that the ore was smelted or any signs of iron tools but iron rusts so, this would not be necessarily expected (detail partially verified).

The Book of Mormon geography describes a narrow neck of land, a land northward, and a land southward, with a sea east and a sea west. The geography is very limited in scope because there are several accounts of groups traveling from the land northward to the land southward in just 1-2 weeks or transversing a narrow pass which is near the narrow neck of land in one days journey (verified detail). Candidate locations include panama, isthmas of Tehuantepec, isthmas of Rivas among other locations.

The Group which arrived in the land did not find the land uninhabited. There were the remains and ruins of a past civilization that had become disrupted to complete collapse. This past civilization was said to have arrived in the new world after the scattering of people at the tower of babel. Nephi and several brothers separated from Laman and Lemuel upon arriving in the Americas.

Laman and Lemuel and their descendents likely mixed with the remnants of the past fallen civilization (Omec) and resorted to a culture of superstition, belief in a great spirit who lived under the earth (King Lamoni didnt understand the concept of heaven), and hunting and gathering (details verified). There is a parallel between these civilization and the ancient Omec and the more current Maya peoples of central america. However another group adjacent to the Maya will need to be found which has stronger link to the Book of Mormon poeples (detail not verified).

Nephite civilizaiton was industrious and prospered but had to contend with what they termed the Lamanites who lived in the outlying areas and wilderness areas in a cities vacated by the nephites and other areas. They would gather and have major battles from time to time (verified detail). the Nephites had to build up walls of earth as fortification and protection of their city centers (detail verified). They also built a system of highways and roads betweeen cities (verified detail). There is no mention of the use of the wheel in the Book or Mormon which is consistent with Ancient American technology (verified detail).

There is a mention of a nephite explorer that built ships and transported nephites to other location in the land northward along the coast. Then there is mention that a particular ship was lost and never heard from again and tradition has it that this ship may have become lost and ended up in the polynesian islands. Independent science on ancient chicken-bones showed a genetic link between bones found in Chile and chickens in polynesia. They conclude that polynesians must have come to america. Ofcourse the converse could also be true that Ancient americans could have likely populated polynesia. It is not said if Hagoth was a religious man and if he transmitted the Nephite/Judeo-Christian religion with him.

The Book of Mormon does not mention use of a coinage system. It does mention the use of a system of weights and measures were measures of gold, silver, wheat etc were established based on a 1,2,4,7 system which is a more efficent system than the American 1,2,5,10 system for making sums less than 30. The Book of Mormon suggests a timing system of 400 and 20 year increments. Maya timing is based on 400 year bactuns and 20 year kantuns. 400 years would be important to the Maya because this is the exact measure of time because Nephi and Samuel predicted the fall of the Nephites in 400 years after the coming of Christ. This period would mark the rise of the Maya on the ruins of the Nephites.

Nephites also understood that earth revolved around the sun. Maya calanders and astronomy is recognized as being very advanced for its time. The Nephites are said to have built temples and lookout towers that King Noah ran up to escape a foe and saw the Lamanites coming against them to battle afar off in the distance. There are interesting medical details like the mention of fevers being assiciated with the "nature" of the seasons and climate but that certain plants and roots were used to "remove the cause of disease" which then therefore had nothing to do with evil spirits, seasons, or climate which is a radical idea to understand even from Joseph Smith. Joseph Lister did not theorize about the infectious cause of disease until much after the Book of Mormon was published. It is interesting that the Book of Mormon would mention treating the "cause" of disease as opposed to treating the symptoms or the bad air, sin, or evil spirits.

Also the war strategy employed in the Book of Mormon is way past what was understood by Nepoleon or even what was known by Civil War Generals. There is mention of complex ambushes, flanking maneuvers, retreats, reinforcements, resupplying issues, fortifications, spying, hostage negotiations, using chemical and biological warfare (hard liquor), Nephites employed food testers there after, complex army organizational command structures, ect.

Politically, the Jeredites had kings which battled for power until the culture was in ruins and destroyed. The Nephites adopted a systems of judges and a chief judge. The Lamanites kept kings and govenors. The Lamanite culture overwelmed and destroyed the Nephite culture in the End. There is only evidence that the Maya had kings and other regional leaders. There is no evidence of democratic systems in ancient America.

The Book of Mormon documents the visitation of Jesus Christ to the Ancient meso-americans some time after His ressurrection. Maya culture and many native America Amerindians have a tradition of a "great white god" who visited their ancestors and promised to return. Many Spanish exploerers like Cortez exploited this belief to subjugate and then destroy the native civilizations and loot their cities. Maya also have a tradition of a "great white god" who they call Ku Kul Can or Quetzalquatal.

Later the Nephites and Lamanites enter into correspondance. Apostate priests (Preists of Noah) are exiled from the Nephites and are accepted by the Lamanites and made teachers. They teach Lamanite kings and others to read and write and Nephite language and that leads to converstion of the Lamanites from their superstitious culture to adopt Nephite culture and industry. The Nephites and Lamanites then enter into free and open trade which fosters the transfer of Nephite/judeoChristian culture. So, after a while Nephite culture, industry, and trade becomes widespread. But then a section of the Nephite community becomes wealthy and there begins to be classes and those rich classes seek to take over the goverment and engage in secret plots, assassinations, and terrorism. The Nephites and Lamanites do a good job at first to weed out what are called Gadiaton Robbers but those seeking to join this group end up organizing themselves in remote, wilderness, and moutainous regions. These robbers end up infiltrating the governments of both the Nephites and Lamanites and cause the eventual destruction of the Nephite civilization.

The Book of Mormon narrative is a fascinating commentary on our current government and society. We also see how literacy and commerce can aid in missionary work, but wealth inequality leads to corruption.

Christ visits the people of America after the land is ravaged by an destructive earthquake, tsunami, volcano erruption and possible pyroclastic flow and a description of the three days of darkness where fire could not be started. There is evidence of a massive volcano erruption in the area that dates to the time of Christ. There is a mention that certain cities took fire and burned. This would be expected because they were mainly built of timber and earth. This is why these cities havnt been found.

Cement technology is mentioned but only in the land northword. Cement has been found north of isthmus of Tehuantepec at Teotiuachan.

At the end of the book, the Nephite people lived a united peaceful people after Christs visit for several generations but then wealth inequality creaps in and then class distinctions and then there begin to be Lamanites and Nephites and Terrorists organiziatoins again.

The Nephite people as a whole become corrupt and even more evil and materialistic and blood thirsty than the Lamanites. The few Christians are persecuted by both sides and are caught in the middle of a huge culture war. After years of war, both sides become barbaric. There are reports of rapes, mass killings, ritual canibalism, etc, etc. All Christians and signs of Christian belief and practice are destroyed, hidden, and or erased from record. The Lamanite society that remains in the land parallels most closely to Archeologists understanding of ancient Maya civilization especially detail about warfare, ritual killing, bloodletting, and ritual canabalism.

Civil and spiritual records are kept on gold plates because the prophets rightly recognize that any other material would not survive long in the harsh tropical rainforest environment but would decay. The gold plates were kept in a sealed stone box. Examples of similar record keeping dates to this exact time period.

The Book of Mormon was recorded by several major authors including Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni. Several sections are except and letters from other notable people. Langueage analysis supports that the language usage is distinct between each writer in terms of words used, style, and grammer.

The Book of Mormon is said to have been written in hebrew using reformed Egyption hyroglyphics script. This explains why the hebrew grammer stuctures, poetic structures, are preserved in its translation into English. The Book of Mormon was not written in Egyption, it was written in altered hebrew using an egyptian alphabet script. This is like Urdu and Hiindi. They are the same language but Urdu is written with Arabic-Persian script while Hindi is written using Sanskrit. There are new examples of ancient semetic languages written in hyroglyphics.

The Book of Mormon predicts that the Dead Sea Scrolls would be nearly identical to our current Bible except our Bible would lack as many books. Lehi brings to the Americas the brass plates which contained the 5 books of Moses and writings of the prophets to Jeramiah. He prophesied that the Bible would no longer be dimmed any more by time from that point although the Brass Plates they had would contain more writings then we have today.

To date the actual Nephite people and examples of their language, judeo-Christian belief and culture have not been identified. But we should remember that absence of proof is not proof of absence.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saved by Grace and Empowered to Every Good Work

Matt. 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Eph 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It seems on the surface of things that Jesus Christ and Paul are in disagreement over the conditions of salvation. Who do you believe--Christ or Paul? Obviously these scriptures need to work together. So how do we rectify the teachings of Christ with those of his Apostle? Paul teaches that we are saved by grace alone and man can do nothing of himself. But Christ taught that we need to do the will of the Father. The key to rectifying these scriptures is in the Holy Ghost.

Man alone without the grace of Jesus can do no good works. But after a man has accepted Christ and is justified by His blood, be can receive the Holy Ghost. Once the Holy Ghost enters into a person, it will start the process of sanctification and inspire the individual to make changes, repent, and do certain works. It doesn't mean you become a perfect person over night. But you need to harken to and heed the Holy Ghost because if you reject what the Holy Ghost is telling you then you have rejected Christ and have left the straight and narrow path and will need to repent to get back on the path.

John 13:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

This is the process of sanctification and if we continue in the Spirit and grow from grace to grace, good works being a manifestation that the grace and power and love of Christ are in us. Then is his grace sufficient for us, even though we are not perfect yet. But if we die somewhere in the straight and narrow path, we can say we have kept the faith, finished the course, and endured to the end.

But through the power of the Holy Ghost we will be empowered to do certain things, and change certain things. My changes may be different than your changes. And we shouldnt guilt each other or say, well I feel like I am being empowered to make this change or have this calling in life and therefore am better than you because you dont. But the Holy Ghost may lead us to pray, to read the scriptures, to be baptized, to attend church, or enter into other ordinances. Some may not feel to attend a church as yet and may still feel the Spirit working in them in some other area.

And if the Holy Ghost is not empowering you to a particular work, then I am in no place to judge. As long as you are heading what the Holy Ghost is calling you to do in your life than you are continuing to accepting Christ and His grace covers you, even though there may be other sins, habits, vices or omissions that you struggle with. Christs grace will cover them.

But, as we receive of the Spirit more and more within us, eventually at some point we will be witnesses of the power of the grace of God within us and we will be able to miraculously put off every temptation and vice and bad behavior, and we will be enabled to do all the works, callings, and ordinances which God desires that we do to and not only enjoy the the happiness of righteous living in this life but be rewarded with exaltation and eternal life in the next.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Racial Priesthood Ban

I was recently asked why there existed a past LDS policy which denied temple entrance to Blacks. The official doctrine of the church is "we don't know." Which is my position. But I followed that up with a few things that I have heard and feel right to me on the subject.

After President Kimball received the revelation on priesthood, Elder McConkie said "forget what he or Brigham Young or anyone said that was contrary to the present revelation." LDS were always against slavery. The LDS church was severely perscecuted for this very fact. Joseph Smith originally started to ordain blacks to the priesthood but then for some reason stopped. The unfortunate speculation by McConkie and others in response to this policy rightly assumed that the racial ban was inspired. However, the folowing speculation led to many racially interpret scripture. McConkie and others use the same flawed logic that the Baptist church used to justify slavery (cain doctrine) with the added racist interpretation of Abraham (pre-existence). It was wrong, and McConkie clearly retracted.

So, if the ban was inspired, why was it necessary? The same reason I think the ban was necessary is the same reason why Christ came to the Jews and not the Gentiles at first. It is because he went to the most biggoted people. We know how biggoted the Jews were. They would even walk around Samaria through the desert to go to Galilee to avoid having to go through the Samaritan land. But God didn't judge the Jews because racism and bigotry is learned. But after the fullness of the Jews then the gospel went to the Gentiles. And then after the fullness of the Gentiles the gospel will go back to the Jews. And the first shall be last and the last shall be first and Ephraim will not envy Judah and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

In the temple prayers, participants are asked if there are any unkind feelings toward other members of the group that those people would excuse themself so the Spirit of the Lord may be unrestrained. Because of our learned racism (better than many other groups; remember we were abolitionists), Joseph Smith felt that it wasn't time yet to integrate the church. Was the church under condemnation -- YES. And every president of the church has prayed that the ban would be lifted, and every president of the church has asked the members to pray that the ban be lifted. And not until Pres. Spencer Kimball got a revelation (which is said to have been a Pentecostal-type event), was the general membership sanctified by the grace of Chirst and the power of the Holy Spirit of its racism and bigotry enough to worship together in the temple.

So, the basis for the temporary ban has precedent in the Bible but has nothing to do with that Blacks were more or less worthy in the pre-existence, but that our parents and grandparents were too racist to commune and fellowship together and keep the Sprit of God working in them and in the church. Now, LDS churches are some of the most integrated churches in the world becaue of geographically defined congegations. There are no white churches or black churches or competing mega-chruches and small poor churches (except branches) and have all things (spiritually) in common. But we all worship together and the Spirit of the Lord is less restrained than it ever has been.

Also, because temple ordinances can be done for the dead, Joseph Smith knew that the ban was not denying these blessings to blacks permenantly. Now we have the opportuninty to do the work and make up for our past racism. That is part of what it means that "we without them cannot be made perfect neither they without us." We can repent and make restitution through temple work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ye are gods: Becoming Like Our Heavenly Father

I used to wonder why the LDS church would doctrinally "beat-around-the-bush" when it came to the LDS belief in theosis and the deification of man. You rarely, currently hear anyone say that quote "men can become gods." Rather, we usually always say "we can become like our Heavenly Father." I used to interpret this as attempting to soften a radical doctrine to sound more main-stream. But, now I realize that it is doctrinally incorrect to say that men can become gods and this doctrine has been correctly taught over the pulpit all along.

Many have a problem with the LDS doctrine of theosis and the deification of man. This is understandable. Many a tyrant, pharoah, despot and even Satan himself has sought to elevate himself to the level of divine in an attempt to glorify himself and subjugate the masses.

Even Moses who grew up as a son of pharoah, believing his adopted father was a god, was overcome when he beheld Jehovah.

Moses 1:9-10 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

Also, many have difficulty understanding the teaching that God the Father could once be a man and yet still be considered God. If God was once a man like us, does that mean that he wasn't always God? Doesn't that necessitate that God Himself would have a Father and so on for infinity? But Isaiah clearly teaches that before Our God was no God formed. Yet other scripture teaches that men are gods.

Isa. 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

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

So, how does LDS doctrine rectify these seeming divergent passages of scripture? I think it is a mistake to assume that Isaiah is saying that there can only be one being in all the Universes that can be called god. LDS interpret this scripture to mean that for us, there will only ever be One God who we can look to for salvation. LDS interpretation goes more along the lines of the words of Paul when he says that:

1 Cor. 8:5-6 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."

Now contextually, Paul is talking about false idols and comparing idol worship to worship of the True and Living God and his Son Jesus Christ (Just like Isaiah was). But the parenthetical statement is in contrast to Paul's idea directly before it. Paul says that there may be many "so-called" gods (idols) in the heavens and earth, but then he inserts a parenthetical. The parenthetical is to remind his readers that in heaven there actually are many beings rightly considered gods and lords. So, Paul is teaching that there are many beings in heaven and earth considered gods and lords. But there will only ever be One God the Father and Savior Jesus Christ.

The key to understanding this doctrine is to stop applying man's limited concept of time to God and to look to Christ as an example. Christ came to Earth not only to reveal to man the nature of God, but also to reveal to man the nature of man and our relationship to God.

First, LDS believe that God has always existed as God. He was not ever created God. Gods by definition are not created nor destroyed but are eternal beings. Remember that LDS do not believe in ex-nihlo creation. We believe in the 1st-law of thermodynamics that energy is neither created (from nothing) nor destroyed. All god-like beings are infinite and eternal and have no beginning and no end. That means that even though God could have an Eternal Father, that fact does not violate the words of Isaiah because all gods, and God are infinite and co-existent beings without beginning. So, it makes no sense to ask which God came first. Isaiah is right in saying that before God was no god formed, because gods are not formed. Gods and gods are infinite and have no beginning. But, Isaiah is not saying that there is only one being in all the multiverses that can be considered a god because "[we] are gods."

Second, how can Our God come to Earth and still be considered God? The same way Jesus Christ came to Earth and was considered God before coming to Earth and considered God here on Earth (Immanuel = God with us) and considered God after his ascension. Jesus Christ condescended to come to Earth and concealed his glory. In the same way, men were considered gods "in embryo" before we came to Earth and our glory has been concealed and our memory has been vailed.

LDS do not believe that men came to Earth to be created gods. We are gods (in embryo). The spirits of men have always existed and were not created gods from nothing because gods are infinite and have been co-existent with God. Men were created sons of God and have come to Earth to be made fathers like our Eternal Father. God did not create us gods, but he has created us sons of God and Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son according to the flesh; and he will create us eternal fathers through the grace and blood of Jesus Christ. Again, God does not differentiate himself from man based on his Godhood but rather his Eternal Fatherhood.

I don't mean to say that it is wrong to say "men can become gods." Because man in our current state is so unlike God in many ways, there is a lot of becoming between God and man. Although some older LDS referrences routinely say that "men will become gods," However, in a sense gods are not created or formed, they either are or they are not. I think that is part of the significance of why Jehovah called himself "I AM THAT I AM."
Therefore, I like how the LDS church talks about this doctrine lately when it is expressed that men are "gods in embryo." I also, like how Lorenzo Snow put it when he said, "As God is man may become." President Snow didn't say men can become gods, he said, men can become as God is, which is closer to saying that men can become like our Heavenly Father than saying men can become gods (knowing we already are). This really is all an issue of semantics, I know.
My favorite way to express this doctrine is by saying that men are "gods in embryo." In my mind this is a clearer way of expressing the idea because the term "gods in embryo" conveys man's infinite and eternal potential while recognizing that man still has a lot of growing to do. And because the value of an embryo is in its potential. A human embryo isn't considered any less human just because it's small and early in its development. Only an abortionist would disagree with me.
In conclusion, LDS doctrine declares that men can become like our Heavenly Father by first becoming His sons. Then through the grace alone of Jesus Christ together with the sanctifying ordinances of the gospel, God will make us eternal parents; being empowered to experience the fullness of joy that Our Heavenly Father now enjoys. However, even when men become like God, God will always remain Our Eternal and Heavenly Father, the God of gods, Holy of holies, Judge of judges, Lord of lords and King of kings; the Most High God.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Contractual vs. Covenant Marriage

Many have likely heard the following argument against marriage. What is the importance of a piece of paper? If two people are committed to each other, how is a piece of paper going to make a difference? Then the arguer often will say something to the effect of, I know couple who have a great relationship and they aren't officially married. Their relationship is way better than the handful of other bad marriages that I have heard of on TV and read about in the newspaper who are officially married. This argument demonstrates the use of the fallacy of false dichotomy and hasty generalization. Statistically, the strongest, happiest marriages are #1 committed and #2 legal. But even marriages which are committed and legal are ending in divorce at ever increasing rates.

In response to rising divorce rates, many state governments have instituted what is referred to as covenant marriage. These covenant marriages make it more difficult to divorce by requiring that the couple first go through marriage counseling, they prohibit "no fault" divorce on the basis of "irreconcilable difference." These new covenant marriages also require a 2-year waiting period before the couple can even schedule a divorce hearing before a judge. Experts are generally in agreement that this new arrangement only serves to make marriage more of a trap than really helping people stay together. This new marriage contract forces people to stay legally married who want to be divorced and provides no incentives for the parties to want to stay married. For active LDS who marry someone in their faith, covenant marriage means something more than just making it more difficult to divorce.

A 1993 study published in Demography [magazine] showed that Mormons marrying within their church are least likely of all Americans to become divorced. Only 13 percent of LDS couples have divorced after five years of marriage, compared with 20 percent for Catholics and Protestants and 27 percent among Jews. However, when a Mormon marries outside the faith, the divorce rate soars to 40 percent -- second only to mixed-faith marriages involving a Jewish spouse (42 percent).

What is the difference between LDS covenant marriage and regular marriage? In contractual marriage, a 2-way agreement is made between only the husband and wife. The husband agrees to live with the wife with the expectation of certain benefits and the wife agrees to live with the husband on condition of certain benefits. In this way, contractual marriage turn out to be more of an even 50-50 partnership. When either spouse fails to deliver on his or her end, there is a breach of contract and the spouse is within their right to cancel the contract. State governments are also a part of any marriage contract and do bestow specific rights, benefits, fees, taxes, and penalties upon the marriage couple.

[Bob Mims, "Mormons: high conservatism, low divorce, big growth," Salt Lake Tribune, 1999-MAR-6.]

Now how does LDS covenant marriage work. Covenant marriage makes God a part of the agreement. A covenant marriage is a 3-way agreement between the couple and God. In the LDS marriage covenant, God becomes the source of all expected benefits. So, there is no 50-50 expectation. Covenant spouses go into marriage with the understanding that at some point in the marriage one spouse may not be giving a full 50% while the other is giving 80% or even 100%. But this unequal situation does not nullify the covenant because God promises to compensate the spouse giving the greater effort or sacrifice. Payment may not be immediate in this life. But God promises couples that all will be made up in the next life. So, the spouse giving more in this life continues within the covenant relationship with a hope that they are laying up in store treasure in heaven.
Covenant marriage provides tangible benifits to married couples here and now in addition to expectant blessings in the next life. Because God and His grace is part of the relationship, the couples love and faith in God can inspire them to even greater love and devotion towards one another. So, in a synergistic way, both couples end up giving 110, 200, even 400% more to the marriage than they otherwise would have been able to on their own.
The parties involved in the covenant are still free to break the agreement. If a party commits adultery or is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive and not repentant, the spouse is within their right to cancel the marriage covenant. There is nothing about covenant marriage that forces or coerces any side to stay against their will. In this way, LDS covenant marriage results in stronger marriages and fewer divorces because it provides greater incentives to persuade each side to stay married even in the face of adversity or an unequally yoked relationship. State and local governments, as a 3rd-party in all marriage agreements, could likewise strengthen marriages by incentivizing marriage instead of the current system which only penalizes them.

Stats Link:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Saved by Grace Alone

I am happy to agree with our Evangelical friends that it is by the grace alone of Jesus Christ that men are saved. So, what of works? Man can do nothing good of himself. Therefore, good works are a manifestation of the reception of the Holy Ghost within us. Without the justification of the blood of Christ's atonement, God's Spirit could not dwell in us (unholy temples), and the process of purification could not occur. Without the Holy Ghost, we would be left subject to the temptations of Satan and his angels and the carnal appetites of our body.

However, we can accept Christ, and receive the Holy Ghost and learn to ignore the temptations of Satan and learn to ignore and control the appetites of the flesh. Although, there will be no Satan in heaven. After the resurrection, we will have our bodies. And hopefully we, through the grace of Christ and purification of the Holy Ghost, will have learned to master our bodies such that we will be comfortable to dwell in the presence of God; because we will be like him (1 Jn. 3: 2, Rev. 3: 21). The Holy Ghost also leads us to read our scriptures, attend church, be baptized, and to make other covenants with God which are all designed to perfect, sanctify, and unify the believer.

While it is easy to accept Christ's atonement. It is just as easy to reject Him. Every time we sin or fail to hearken to the Holy Ghost, we reject Christ and turn away from him. So, we must then exercise faith, confess and repent of our sins, and turn again to receive Christ. Then we are justified by the blood of His sacrifice such that the Holy Ghost can enter into us and we can continue on in the process of sanctification. If we continue in this process to the end of our lives, and endure to the end, then is His grace sufficient for us.

Even before a believer receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, or the baptism by fire, and is spiritually born again, becoming a new creature, with no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually; man is given the light of Christ which inspires men to do good and leads them to the greater light of the Holy Ghost. Without the grace of God manifest though the light of Christ and His Holy Spirit, no man could do good of himself. So, God makes the first move in drawing near to us and His spirit comes "unto" our hearts but not "into" our hearts because there is no coercion with God. Christ says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3: 20).

Lehi teaches in the Book of Mormon that men could not be free to choose unless they were enticed by one side or the other. That is, without the light of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, man would only be influenced by the instincts and appetites of his body and the temptations of Satan. The Book of Mormon says that without the atonement and grace of Christ, man would be doomed to become a devil, an angel to the Devil forever (2 Ne. 9: 8-9, 16).

However, good works are a manifestation that a person has been washed clean and justified by the blood of Christ, and is somewhere on the path of sanctification even if they are not a verbally professing Christian yet. That person is professing Christ through his actions. But, King Benjamin asks his people to examine their hearts to see if they feel that they have been sufficiently stripped of pride and filled with the love of Christ, and "can ye feel so now" (Alma 5: 9, 26).

Many have entered into this process without even consciously confessing Christ. The Bible teaches that those who live by truth accept Christ who is the author of all truth (Gal. 3: 6). And although, because of tradition and upbringing and opportunity, do not consciously acknowledge Christ, they spiritually accept Christ which is manifest by their good works. Christ atonement covers those sins done in ignorance and men will be judged according to the degree of light and knowledge with they have received. The Bible foretells that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 14: 11).

That said, those who have been justified by the blood of Christ, and received the baptism of fire, or the gift of the Holy Ghost, and been spiritually born again will be led to make covenants with God which were established by God for the purification and unification of his church and people. God's people are a covenant people, and scripture, his church, and the ordinances of the gospel are necessary for sanctification. Covenants such as baptism, receiving the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and temple covenants including eternal marriage not only prepare and help sanctify a person to dwell in the presence of God, but they prepare a person for exaltation. To reject the Holy Ghost which leads us to read the scriptures, attend church, and enter into covenants with God would be to reject Christ. We then would need to exercise our faith in Christ, confess our sins, repent by entering into a covenant relationship with God and accept Christ anew.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Trinity: One God in Three Beings

Bruce Nielson at "mormon matters" writes a great article saying that LDS shouldn't necessarily shun the use of the word Trinity. Although, so-called Orthodox Christians associate the term with creeds which discribe God as being without body, parts, and passions; Neilson argues that the Trinitarian view of God is a lot closer to the LDS doctrine on the Godhead relative to other beliefs about the nature of God. I admit, I have been critical of the use of the non-biblical word Trinity in past posts.

Commentors to the post ascribed the difference between the doctrine on the Orthodox Trinity and the Godhead to the doctrine of "ex-nihlo" creation. I agree that the doctrine on God is tied to the concept of creation and infinity and understanding who is Christ (What think ye of Christ). Because understanding who Christ is reveals to us the nature of God, the nature of man, and our relationship to God. LDS Doctrine on God is not modalism (one God in three forms) or Arian (Jesus is not God). Our doctrine is that Jesus Christ is seperate from, yet one with and equal to God the Father (one God in three persons). I like Nielson's use of the term “social Trinitarianism.”

I see the doctrinal divergence coming down to the words of Isaiah. Isaiah says, "before me was no God formed, neither shall there be after me" (Isaiah 43:10). Many use this verse to infer that there can only be one being in the universe rightly considered God or god. However, LDS doctrine doesn’t conflict with Isaiah at all when one realizes that God and gods are not created by definition. Jesus Christ was God, co-existent, and co-eternal with the Father from eternity to eternity. What the scriptures refer to as intelligences, or the spirits of men were not created either, but have always existed. Men were created spiritual sons of God, and Christ was created the Only Begotten Son according to the flesh, but Christ has always been God and we have always been gods and co-existent with the Father from even before the beginning (ye are gods).

The Bible doesnt differentiate man and God based on His Godhood but based on his Eternal Fatherhood. Men were created sons, but we have always been gods. And through the grace of Christ, God would make us fathers like unto himself. If the opposite of eternal is created and if created things cannot become eternal, than any man who is created a son of God, could never become eternal and inherit eternal life. The key is understanding that the spirits of men have existed forever and were always considered gods.

Elder Bednar and Praying to Act

Elder Bednar during the Sunday afternoon session of LDS General Conference invited the membership to change the way we pray. I like his point that we need to stop praying to God that the missionaries be led to the honest in heart or those searching for the gospel. That is our job. Missionaries are the teachers and we are the finders. In a way, we have been praying all this time for someone else to do our work for us. We need to start praying to God to help us find the honest in heart and those searching for the truth and help us to prepare them to listen to the missionaries. Elder Bednar gave many other examples where this principle applies to how we pray.