Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Win Hearts Not War

Some say that US policy inspires terrorists around the world. I disagree. All people desire freedom, prosperity, and opportunity. What they don’t want is apparent western materialism, secularism, and immorality; especially as depicted by American media. American media gives dictators, tyrants, and terrorist their power. Their most powerful aurgument against democracy is “Do you want your daughters to become Brittany Spears?” This is the major reason the US is called "the Great Satan."

The majority of people in Iraq, Iran and North Korea are good and honorable people with a natural sense of nationalism and love for their family, friends and neighbors. Most people from Iran or Iraq condem the actions of terrorist groups but either feel powerless to do anything about it or may even feel that the US deserves it, not necessarily because of our policies, but because they feel its the judgements of God on a wicked nation. Self-interested US policy and divisive, inflammatory language do not help. However, saying it is the root cause of terrorism is near-sighted and playing party politics.

The secret to fighting the war on terrorism is to win the hearts of the people. We have to unify all good people against those who would practice terrorism. I agree our political leaders should avoid policies and language which is inflammatory and divisive. We also must understand the nature of the conflict. This war is not a conflict of civilizations, it is a battle against civilization. Therefore we must be an example of a more civilized people.

With the good people of the earth unified on the side of civilization, when terrorist plots are formulated, people will choose to warn the innocent victims instead of standing idlely by; feeling that justice is being served. There is no better motivation than appealing to a persons sense of rightness verses injustice.

The Book of Mormon speaks about this recurring conflict against civilization in Ether 8:19-26:
"For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. . . .And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; . . . Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain. . . Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; . . . For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, . . . Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved."

According to the Book of Mormon we need to awake and repent of our sins individually and as a nation. Then after we are an example of goodness, we can persuade (not force) our brethern to do good also and come unto Christ and be saved.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why was Jesus Crucified?

DKL at Mormonmentality.org asks why was Jesus Crucified? Well, on a superficial level, that’s how the Roman’s practiced capital punishment. However, after reading James E. Talmage's "Jesus the Christ," the injustice of Christ’s treatment is much more shocking than the bruitality of being scurged and crucified. Others have died in a more bruital fashion. However, no other injustice can come close to the God of Isreal being sentenced to death for blasphemy. Who, after the injustice that Christ experienced, will, at the final judgement, be able to say that Christ’s judgements are not just? We are then urged to plead for mercy from Him who was subjected to the greatest injustice(D&C 88: 6)(Alma 7: 13).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

4 Keys to Understanding Isaiah

Avraham Gileadi in his book "Book of Isaiah, New Translation" points to 4 keys given in the Book of Mormon needed to understand the Book of Isaiah.

1. Spirit of Prophecy = A testimony that Jesus is the Christ. Since Isaiah is about Jesus Christ, its not possible to understand Isaiah unless you believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

"For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews. . . nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy" (2 Ne. 25: 1,4).

2. Letter of Prophecy = Hebrew writing style, devices, figures of speech, grammer, etc. Dr. Gileadi points out that the hebrew word for "things" = "words."

"Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews" (2 Ne. 25: 1,4).

3. Search Isaiah = Apply the teachings of Isaiah in your life.

"And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah" (3 Ne. 23: 1).
"And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men" (2 Ne. 11:8).

4. Types = All the prophecies in Isaiah apply to Isaiah's time, the time of Jesus Christ, and the Last Days.

"For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake" (3 Ne. 23: 1).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Recipe for Anti-Mormon Literature

A Christian friend of mine is investigating the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During this process he has come into procession of an article by a non-LDS preacher which, on the surface, seeks to explain the doctrines and beliefs of the LDS Church. I asked my friend if he thought the article was unbiased. My friend responded “yes” because the article praises Mormons for being honest, hardworking, righteous, family- and community-minded people. But, when it came to explaining what Mormon’s supposedly believe, the article brought up esoteric doctrines such as “blood atonement” and “Adam-god theory.”

My friend made an excellent point with regard to what he had read. He said, “I am concerned about joining a church that was founded on questionable foundation doctrines.” The foundation doctrines of the LDS church, then and now, have always been faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism by water and by the Holy Spirit. Joseph Smith taught masterful sermons on faith which have been compiled in a book entitled “Lectures on Faith.” Joseph Smith spoke on forgiveness and repentance and as a Prophet of God, he bore witness the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World. He taught that the grace of Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and eternal life. This is the foundation doctrine of the church.

Now where do these other funny topics come from? Mormons believe in being “a record keeping people.” Consequently, the LDS church has made an effort to record and catalog almost every talk, discourse, article, and sermon by its church leaders. Every single one. Consequently, enemies of the church have spent considerable effort to search through church archives and come upon a talk, here or there, that may address a speculative or esoteric topic. Then they write a misleading article which falsely presents these subjects as founding LDS doctrines.

The typical recipe for an anti-Mormon article is to start out by saying, “Mormons are seemingly such God-fearing, righteous, family-oriented people.” But then it will say, “But don’t let that fool you. It’s all a crafty facade; a diabolical ruse.” “Look at all these strange and mystical doctrines that they believe in, they are occult, they are not based on the teachings of the Bible.” They then go on to say, “no Mormons follow the Bible because if they ever did they would never be Mormon.” The whole point of the article, obviously, is to discourage the reader from further investigation on of the church.

In response to this article, I reminded my friend what the aim of the article was discouragement. I answered all of his questions from the Bible. I didn’t change the subject or ignore any his concerns. And I encouraged him to continue to learn about the true foundation doctrines of the Church from the missionaries, by attending church, and by reading the scriptures. The Bible teaches, “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak of myself.”

I have encouraged my friend that after he has searched the scriptures, and studied it out in his mind. That he would ask God the Eternal Father in the name of Christ if the LDS Church is true, if the Book of Mormon is scripture like the Bible, and if Joseph Smith was a true prophet. The Bible warns us to not “trust in the arm of flesh” but “if any seek wisdom, let him ask of God.”

I am concerned that such anti-Mormon literature would discourage my friend and others from praying and asking God if these things are true. The Book of Mormon states, “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint” (2Ne 32:8).

Also, remember that the Bible teaches that “false prophets” would arise in the last days but, “by their fruits, ye shall know them.” I think it a great compliment that most anti-Mormon literature always begins by extolling Mormon faith, righteousness, and family values. Sounds like the wonderful fruit of Christian gospel living to me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Unity and Perfection

Christ commanded that we be perfect (Matt. 5: 48) "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Many other scriptures connect the idea of being perfect with that of being one. John 17:22 reads:

A "That they all may be one;
B as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
C that they also may be one in us:
D that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
D* And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;
C* that they may be one, even as we are one:
B* I in them, and thou in me,
A* that they may be made perfect in one;"

Here Christ teaches using chiasmus that we become perfect by being "one" in purpose with God and each other. Through faith in Christ we are promised the same glory that God gave Jesus Christ. By unifying our wills with God we become perfected through a personal relationship with Him.

Genesis teaches how the relationship with our spouse is designed to perfect us, "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. . . Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Gen. 2: 18, 24)

The word help used in the verse in hebrew is "ezer" which is the root for the transliterated latin word Ebenezer which is a name of Christ meaning "Divine Enabler" or "Perfecter" The only other person or place "ezer," translated help, is used in the Bible is with reference to Christ. I think that speaks volumes about our wives' special role in our lives. Because of this critical relationship 1Cor 11:11 reads, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord."

To help us in our quest for perfection in Christ, God has given us His church. Eph 4:11 reads, "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:"

This suggests that although Christ is the only path to salvation, that Christ has given us our wives, families, and his church to help in the process of sanctification. Our relationships, organizations, and institutions become tools in which Christ has given us to both unify us and help us become perfected in Christ. However, that which has power to unite us is used by the advisary to divide us.

Additional scriptures reveal how scripture and priesthood authority were also given to both unify and perfect us. (see 2Cor. 13: 9, 11, Philip. 3: 12, 15, Heb. 7: 11, 19, 1Cor. 1: 10, Col. 3: 14, 2Tim. 3: 17)

Jesus Christ, the Father and the Son

Josoph Smith's First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ clarified almost 2,000 years of debate over the nature of God in an instant. Joseph Smith said, "[he] saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” This is exactly what Stephen described in Acts while being stoned to death, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). However, if Jesus Christ is a separate being from God the Father (Eloheim), why does the Bible in many instances call Jesus Christ, the Eternal Father? How is Jesus Christ both the Father and the Son? And, if a separate being, how is Jesus Christ "one" with the Father?

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

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nicene Creed and Trinity

Ever since the martyrdom of Christ’s Apostles there has been confusion and endless debate over the nature of the Trinity. The scriptures describe the Godhead as containing three members, namely: God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost. In 325 AD Constantine called Christian scholars to what is now known as the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicaea to debate and vote on the nature of God. The Nicene Creed as it came to be known has since been amended several times beginning with the Athanasian and Chalcedonian Creeds in 451 AD and, more recently, the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1646 AD. This latter amendment states: “There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.” Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christian churches generally accept these creeds as authoritative doctrine on the nature of God. (http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Creeds.html)

Despite the apparent agreement by many Christian denominations concerning the Trinity, the Bible clearly describes God in seemingly differing terms. There are several verses such as, “God is a spirit,” “God is love,” and “No man hath seen God at any time,” which seem supportive of these creeds (John 4:24, 1Jn 4:16, John 1:10, 1Jn 4:12). On the other hand, there are other scriptures, that read, “God created man in his own image,” “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,” and “For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you, lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee,” which, seem contradictory to the doctrine that God is “invisible” and is without “body, parts, or passions” (Gen. 1: 27, Ex. 33: 11, Deut 6:15).

Some would look at the current evidence and ascribe the apparent doctrinal discrepancy to an imperfect and inferior understanding of the Nature of God by Old Testament prophets. I think this argument borders on arrogance. It also ignores many other teachings of New Testament Apostles and disciples that also speak of God having a glorified body, parts and passions.

At the martyrdom of Stephen the Bible reads, “[Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). This verse, by itself, clearly teaches that not only do Jesus and God the Father have glorified tangible bodies, but also that they are two distinct and separate Celestial beings.

Latter in the New Testament, John teaches “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2). This verse speaking of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ states that the righteous will appear like Christ at his coming. If that be the case, then reason follows Christ will also appear like the righteous. Acts 1:11 verifies this logic as the Angles at Christ’s ascension to heaven declare, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

On a summer morning in 1820 in Upstate New York, fourteen year-old Joseph Smith left his home to pray in a neighboring grove of trees. He had read James 1:5 which reads “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all me liberally and upbraided not.” Joseph felt the Holy Spirit urge him to seek wisdom from God concerning which of all the Christian Churches was Christ’s church and which he should join. There in what is known as the Sacred Grove, Joseph Smith beheld the First Vision. Joseph recounted, “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Joseph Smith saw a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son of God. They were two separate radiant, perfected, and glorified beings who spoke to Joseph face to face, just like Moses, the Son on the right hand of the Father, just like Stephen. Also, Joseph said of this supernal experience, "my heart was filled with love for days afterward." Now the debate concerning the nature of the Trinity, which had raged for nearly 2 millennia, was resolved in an instant.

Matthew 16:13 teaches the importance of direct revelation in understanding the nature of God. It reads, “Jesus. . . asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church of Christ was to be built on the rock of direct revelation from God to Peter, who was given the keys and authority to interpret scripture, receive revelation, and speak and act in the name of God.

God reveled to Joseph Smith that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead or Holy Trinity; that they are three distinct, glorified, and perfect beings who are one in purpose; and that God the Father and Jesus Christ have perfect, glorified bodies, parts, and righteous passions, but that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit as to be able to dwell in our hearts and in all things.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Book of Mormon: A Type of Christ

I love the symmetry between the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you look close, you will see that the Book of Mormon is a type of Christ. First that the book contains the word of God just as Christ. Second, that it was sealed in a stone box and came forth out of the Earth just like Christ rose from the dead from the Garden Tomb. Third, that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was accompanied by angelic beings. You will remember that angels who attended the tomb at Christ's resurrection. Fourth, that both the body of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon were in the custody of a Joseph: Joseph of Arimathea and Joseph Smith respectively, and Fifth, that Both the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ had 12 special witnesses of their divinity. 3 of which were given a more powerful spiritual manifestation while the others a more physical witness (idea from CRAIG R. FROGLEY, CES).