Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LDS Theology

In this post I am going to try and briefly summerize LDS Theology:

When God called Moses up into the mountain, God desired all the Elders of Israel to first purify and sanctify themselves and then ascend the mountain with Moses (Ex 19:10,22). God didn't just want one chief and a nation of indians. God wanted a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6)(Num 11:29). God wanted every man to be a King and Queen, Priest and Priestess in their own homes. God wants to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). However, the Elders of Israel refused, they told Moses that they were scared and that Moses should go alone and come back and tell them what God said (Ex 20:19).

As Israel approached the Mountain of the Lord, the top of the mountain was burning with fire, the sky was dark, and the gound shook beneath thier feet. The Elders of Israel refused to ascend the mountain because they feared what would happen if they put their life into the hands of the LORD. Similarily, many today refuse to sanctify themselves and ascent the mountain also. Many still fear what would happen if they fully give their lives into the hands of God. (ie He will ask me to do things I may not want to do)

In addition to being very afraid, the Elders of Israel didn't want to repent and change and keep the commandments. They didn't want to do what was required to have a close relationship with God and see His face as Moses had. So, while Moses was away, the people said Moses delayeth his return, they then gave all their gold/money to Aaron (anti-Christ type) who fashioned the golden calf and began worshipping it through lude and immoral behavior (type of the Last Days, false relgion, and sexual permissivness). When Moses came down from the mountain (type of Second Comming), and caught the people in their sins, he drew a line in the sand and only the Levites stood with Moses and the LORD (Moses 32:26).

Today, God again wants all believers to purify and sanctify themselves and ascend the mountain so that they can have a personal relationship with Him. But just as in Moses' time, we still must sanctify ourselves, and many of us just as the Elders of Israel choose to worship false religion that makes no such expectation of us. Many religions let us go through the motions of being Christian without giving us any of the of expectations and requirements that go along with enjoying a personal relationship with the LORD.

So, in the next sections, I will explain how God has revealed what we must do to ascend the mountain and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. This process involves 2 steps: Justification and Sanctification. (1Cor6 :11) Thankfully, God makes the first move and empowers every part of the process thereafter. We can do nothing good without Him. Joseph Smith taught that through the ordinaces of the Gospel the power of God is manifest. (D&C 84:20). So, nothing in the LDS Church is being done without the LORD.

#1 Justification: acquital, posponement of judgement, initial rescue/salvation

God makes the first move. Christ stand at our door and knocks (Rev 3:20). If we accept Christ, we become Justified and Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. We are innocent until proven guilty, thus since judgement is posponed, we can have access to the Holy Ghost through Christ's rightousenss and not our own. Justification and this innitial salvation and rescue is by grace and is a free gift from God. That said, the Bible teaches that we accept Christ by 1. Confession of Faith (Rom 10:9-10), , 2. Repentance (1Cor5:11), 3. Baptism by Immersion, 4. Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (1Tim 4:14)(Acts 2:38).

The Lords Supper/Sacrament is the way the Bible teaches that we renew our acceptance of Christ and our Justification. The need to examine ourselves and continually renew this convenant points us to Christ and the need of Christ's atonment and the power of the Holy Ghost to Sanctify and further change us. We promise promise to accept Christ, remember Him, and He promises to give us His Spirit.

#2 Sanctification: becoming perfected in Christ through the sanctifying presence of the Holy Ghost such that we lose all desire for sin but desire to do good continually.

Justification is only the first part of the Atonement of Christ. But not only does the Atonement of Christ have the grace and mercy to rescue us in our sins, but Christ's atonement also has the power to overcome our flesh and save us from our sins (Matt 1:21). The next step involves the Spirit-empowered process of Sanctification. Santification is so important a life-long process, Christian believers in the NT were called SANCTS or SAINTS.

Christ told the rich young ruler "If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast, give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." (Matt 19:21) Paul in Hebrews teaches that the Levitical priesthood had not the power to pefect but the higher covenant and priesthood of Melchezidek did through Christ. (Heb 7:11,19) Latter-day SANCTS or Latter-day Saints make the covenant of Consecration in the New Testament/Latter-day Temple. (Acts 2:46).

Consecration means to give all time, talents and everything to the work and kingdom of God. Allegorically, the temple symbolizes, "The MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD" (Isa 2:2) In the old testament the temple and the priesthood was only availible to one kingdom, nation, tongue and people and one tribe. But in the Last Days, John saw an angel fly with the everlasting gospel to give to all kingdoms, nations, tongues and people (Rev 14:6). In the OT God made His priesthood and covenants excluseive by limiting them to the oldest son, or only one tribe. This was done, not because God is a respecter of persons, but because He wanted man to appreciate the importance of these blessings. However, in the NT, God is promising these blessings to all people. This is what the angel on the top of LDS Temples is announcing and why LDS build temples among all nations and peoples.

While the blessings of the Temple are now inclusive and availible to all people now in the Last Days, to ascend to the Mountain of the Lord, the People of the LORD are still required to Sanctify themselves, or in other words to receive the Holy Ghost and allow the Holy Ghost to sanctify them. Paul in 1 Cor 5:11 gives us God's requirement for spiritual preparation and purification to be worthy to enter into the presence of the LORD.

1 Cor 5:11 "if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat".

This verse by Paul is the basis for worthiness to enter into an LDS Temple. LDS are interviewed by our Bishops who serve as the High Priest to determine ritual purity. However instead of external purity, Bishops who serve as Judges in Israel and who are not just "Preachers" verify our inward and spiritual purity. LDS demonstrate our compliance with 1 Cor 5:11 by confessing any sexual sin and living complete abstainance before marriage and fidelity within marriage. LDS demonstrate a Spirit-empowered love of God over money by paying tithing. Latter-day SANCTS are asked if they accept Christ as their Savior and are asked to confess any support or partipation with anti-Christian groups. LDS who are worthy of the temple and have the Holy Ghost would never abuse their wives or children (railer), Also, LDS would never take any chemical or substance for the purposes of getting "high" or drunk. God expects His SANCTS to turn to Him and not to drugs and alcohol when we are tired, bored, or stressed. And finally, God promises that though His Spirit, His SANCTS will be empowered to be honest in our dealings with our fellow man. God's temple-worthy people should never be found taking and offering bribes, kickbacks, or defauding our neighbors.

In the end the Temple is a beautiful allegory and symbol that teaches the follower of Christ who God is, who we are, and our relationship to God. The Temple teaches us about God's plan of happiness and Salvation and gives us an Eternal Perspective of what is really important. Through the temple, God's people come to receive the Holy Ghost more prefectly, and feel God's love and power. After receiving this Eternal Perspective about the purpose of life, God's' people are empowered and "endowed" and immunized against sin. Sin and being ruled by the passions and appetities of the flesh, just doesn't have the appeal that it used to have. The closer of a relationship a person has with God, the less he is subject to sin and temptation. Just as Christ promised the Rich young ruler, LDS make the covenant of consecration in the temple, and God in turn promises us greater sanctification.

So, why bother being sanctified? Well, in addition to being told that no unlcean thing can dwell in the presence of God (1Cor6:9). And this is more than just being "called clean". The issue is that despite being Justified, sin still has very real and very painful consequences. That is why I am grateful to Christ for His faithfullness, and the power of His Atonement that promises the power to overcome and escape my sins. (1 Cor 10:13)

However, Sanctification is not something that man can do on his own, or even part way. The Holy Ghost empowers the entire process. But when Nephi says "it is by grace we are save after all we can do" (2Ne25:23) or Moroni says "deny yourselves of all ungodliness and then is His grace sufficent for you" (Moro 10:32-33) LDS Scripture is not saying that we can meet God half-way or save oursleves by our works without Christ. What Nephi was saying was explainining why they observed the Law of Moses knowing that salvation was in Christ. What Nephi was saying was, becasue Christ gave the Law, they were going to receive the grace Christ had already given them before expecting to recieve more. So, in other words, Nephi and Moroni were saying we should "finish with the grace that Christ has already put on our plate, before asking for seconds".

Justification and Sanctification both occur at the time a believer truely accepts Christ and is Born again. The Temple is given to keep believers continuing in our Sanctification. Therefore, just like in the days of Moses, God is inviting us to receive His grace, and His Spirit and sanctify and purify ourselves and ascend into the mountain into His presence. So, for those who have accepted Christ and saved by His grace, will we allow the Holy Ghost to continue to sanctify us according to 1Cor 5:11 and ascend the mountain wth Moses, or will we stay behind and backslide into worshipping the golden calf? (2 Cor6:17)

Ezekiel 37:26-28 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God. and they will be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do ***sanctify*** Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Joseph Smith's Spiritual Wives

Most people know that the LDS Church practiced polygamy back when it first started, beginning in 1833 and ceased this practice not long after in compliance with US Law and a supreme court decision. My wife has ancestors on both her maternal and paternal side that practiced polygamy over 150 years ago. Unfortunately, when most people think of polygamy, they immediately think of the fundamentalists and people like Warren Jeffs. However, this was nothing like how polygamy was practiced by the LDS. That said, a friend recently asked about the several wives of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Some of these wives were from 14 to 17 years old when they were sealed. The following is a brief comment listing some of the things I have learned concering the case of Fanny Alger who was the first spiritual wife of Joseph Smith.

Critics of the LDS Church love to say things like, this is just the typical thing that happens with cult leaders. They are such megalomaniacs, they think the rules don't apply to them, and they can just do whatever they want. And true to form, the first chance they get, they try to justify their desires for sin. This is just another blatant yet typical example of the bad fruit of a false prophet.

Considering this case, it seems to me that its the age of a few of these young women that is the real issue here. Most Christian know in their heart that God would never permit sexual perversion of any sort. Enemies of the LDS Church love to make Joseph Smith sound like some sort of predator. Critics even mistakenly use the word pedophilia which by definition does not fit because that would involve abuse of children before they reach puberty. And there is absolutely not a single shred of evidence of anything like that. But, understandably, a 16 year-old is considered a minor and marital relations would be considered statutory abuse as a minor cannot give consent. However, it needs to be said that in every case, the parents of these young women did give their consent to what was a non-physical, platonic, spiritual sealing.

There are several cases were there are hearsay accounts and rumors that the first child of some of Joseph Smith's "spiritual wives" belonged to Joseph Smith. However, recent Y-Chromosome DNA testing has been done on almost all the direct descentants of these possible offspring of Joseph Smith. Turns out, JOSEPH WAS NOT THE FATHER in any of the cases. In 2005, DNA testing showed that Orrison Smith, son of Fanny Alger, was not the offspring of Joseph Smith. (Perego et al., 2005). So, Joseph Smith entered into these "spiritual sealings" and there is no evidence that there was any "physical" aspect to any of these relationships except rumors and hearsay.

In the case of Fanny Alger, she was about 16 at the time and was working as a nanny and housekeeper for Joseph and Emma. It seems that Emma did know from the beginning about polygamy and was supportive. It is also clear that Fanny Alger's parents were also aware and supportive. However, not long after the sealing, it turns out that Fanny Alger became pregnant while living with Joseph Smith and Emma. Upon learning of the pregnancy, Fanny Alger was kicked out of the house. Joseph made arrangements for her to stay with the school teacher Chauncery Webb.

So, here is the facinating and unfortunate facts of the case. Here you have a 16-year-old helping out Smith and Emma. Joseph Smith is given the revelation on Plural marriage and he feels inspired to ask Miss Alger to be a "spiritual wife" all the white assuring Emma that everything is going to be platonic and that its not going to be physical. So, Emma and Miss Alger's parents are supportive and positive. Alger comes from the Hancock family who were very early and strong members of the church. And the Hancocks stayed active in the LDS Church. My wife ancestor is a Hancock.

However, when Fanny Alger mysteriously becomes pregnant, not everyone in Kirkland were aware of the sealing, and now the accusations and rumours fly. Even Emma is thinking that Joseph and Algers had relations and was angry even though they were spiritually married. Emma wasn't angry because she didn't know what everyone else knew, that Joseph and Algers were "sealed", she was angry because Joseph was assuring her everything was going to be non-physical at least until Fanny was much older.

But now with the DNA evidence, we know what must have happened. Fanny Algers might have had an affair and got pregnant by someone else. And her pregnancy made it look like Joseph Smith was the one who was responsible. And this was what caused all the headaches and problems and accusations and roumors surrounding Joseph Smith and the practice of "sealing" which followed.

Annother issue at play here is the coverup for Fanny Alger's protection. It can be easy to forget that Joseph and Fanny are "Sealed". Therefore, Joseph had the responsibility to protect Fanny. So, instead of directing rumors and blame onto Fanny, Joseph Smith seemed to allow the rumors, and gossip, and accusations focus on him. Instead of "outing" Fanny for being the one who had the affair, he only insisted that he was not guilty of adultery. He never put any blame on Fanny, he only defended himself.

Again, from several journal accounts at the time, it is clear that a handful of people were present at the sealing of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger including Emma, and Algers parents and extended family (Hancocks) as well as other church leadership and several non-lds like Chauncery Webb (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness).

So, the issue is, if all the necessary people knew that the sealing had taken place, why the scandal when Algers becomes pregnant and not before when they were sealed in the first place. Also, why did Fanny Algers' parents, uncle, and brother stay active strong members of the LDS church. The point I am making is, all these facts prove that that the relationship between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger was a purely non-physical "spiritual sealing."

Jo Kester, a living descendant of Fanny Alger reports that Brigham Young accompanied by Fanny's brother John Alger asked to marry Fanny after the death of Joseph Smith. (he and John Taylor offered to care for all of Joseph Smith's spiritual wives.) Fanny replied, "You are a nice young man, but I want to be an only wife."

Fanny then went on to marrying Solomon Custer and leaving Missouri and settling in Indiana. After the death of Joseph Smith she was asked by her brother about her relationship with Joseph Smith to which responded, "that is all a matter of my own, and I have nothing to communicate." (bushman)

So, what do we know:
1. Joseph Smith and Fanny Algers were sealed in 1833. Fanny Algers was about 16.
2. Emma Smith, parents and uncle of Fanny Algers and church leadership were aware and/or witnesses of the sealing.
3. Fanny Algers becomes pregnant will working in the home of the Smiths as a housekeeper
4. Emma Smith is angry and there are rumors, speculation, accusations
5. Fanny is taken by uncle Levi Hancock to stay with teacher Chauncery Webb
6. Fanny remarries Solomon Custer after Joseph Smith's death and settles in Indiana
7. Fanny's parents, uncle, and brother stay active members in the LDS Church and follow the Church to Nauvoo, Il and to Utah.

Before, I end this post, I just want to emphasize something. I am really blown away by how Joseph Smith delt with this. He could have so easily diverted all the criticism and accusations toward Fanny Alger and "thrown her under the bus" so-to-speak. But Joseph Smith never did. Many of his closest friends deserted him over this. But Joseph was beyond honorable in his protection of Fanny Alger.