Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Joseph Smith, the Prophet

In the physical sciences, a PhD is earned by learning everything there is on a particular topic and then making a small contribution to that field of study. It's a very algebraic system. You define all the variables in the equation and then solve for the unknown X. All the major scientific and technological discoveries in the 20th and 21st centuries have largely been based on this system of individual contributions, built upon prior knowledge. Religion has followed this same secular pattern. Many churches have been founded based solely on on one particular point of doctrine. In contrast, Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, defined all the church's major doctrines, which has remained virtually unchanged to the current day. Below I thought it would be fun to list just some of the major theological contributions of Joseph Smith according to an article by Stephen L. Richards. The breadth and extent of Joseph's contributions is evidence to his divine calling, authority, and inspiration.

1. First Vision Brought Certainty of the Godhead: God is our literal spiritual Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ is the literal physical Son of God. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are embodied, perfect, glorified, but separate beings.

2. Character of the Holy Ghost: The Holy Ghost is a separate being from God the Father and Jesus Christ. He is a member of the God Head but is also a separate personage of spirit in the form of a man, yet one in purpose with God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ.

3. New Concept of the Priesthood: Joseph Smith resolved the age old dichotomy concerning the catholic doctrine on succession and the protestant doctrine on the "priesthood of all believers." All worthy male members of the church are given the priesthood and can trace their priesthood lineage back to Joseph Smith who received that priesthood under the hands of the resurrected John the Baptist and the Apostles Peter, James and transfigured John.

The Prophet defined the roles and differences between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. He also defined and restored the roles of the many priesthood offices and quorums in the the church such as the 12 Apostles, the Seventy, Bishops, Evangelists, Teachers, Priests, Deacons, and Elders.

4. State of Man: Joseph taught the pre-earth existence, free agency, and eternal progression of man.

5. New Concept of Human Body: The body is the tabernacle of the spirit, and consequently should be kept pure and clean. The Word of Wisdom admonishes against the consumption and use of alcoholic, tobacco, and stimulant products.

6. Family of God Exaltation of Man: Joseph Smith taught a literal and universal physical resurrection and general salvation from Hell for all. However, there are differing degrees of glory in heaven. Goodness and obedience will merit a preferential place and condition in heaven, available to all who will prepare to receive Exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God

7. Temples and Work for the Dead: Joseph Smith was the first Christians to integrate Christ-centered, temple worship and re-institute vicarious work for the dead. Temple ordinances performed by proxy for the dead allow those who lived without opportunity to receive the technically necessary performances, to accept the work done by the living on their behalf.

8. Sealing of Husband and Wife: Marriage and family relationships are eternal covenants that can remain enforce in the next life. He made the father a king and a priest and the mother a queen and a priestess in the temple of the home. Joseph established the family as the fundamental organizational unit in heaven.

9. New Church Organization and Practice: Joseph Smith defined and restored the church's quorums, divisions, agencies, authorities, officers; including the church's missionary system, the women's Relief Society, and local lay ministry.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Words of Wisdom: Caffeine and Miscarriages Link

A new clinical study published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that consuming 200 mg of caffeine, equal to two cups of coffee per day, doubles a woman's risk of miscarriage during pregnancy. According to the study, women who consumed two or more cups of regular coffee or five 12-ounce cans of caffeinated soda had twice the miscarriage risk as women who consumed no caffeine. Women who consumed less than 200 mg of caffeine daily had more than 40 percent increased risk of miscarriage.

According to Dr. De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, the increased risk of miscarriage appeared to be due to the caffeine itself, rather than other possible chemicals in coffee because caffeine intake from non-coffee sources such as caffeinated soda, tea and hot chocolate showed a similar increased risk of miscarriage. Li said in a press statement, “The main message for pregnant women from these findings is that they probably should consider stopping caffeine consumption during pregnancy because this research provides clearer and stronger evidence that high doses of caffeine intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.”

This is yet another example of how science finally comes around to supporting revelation. Thanks to Joseph Smith and the revelation on health, known as the Word of Wisdom, given by from Jesus Christ in the Doctrine and Covenants; Latter-day Saints have avoided the negative health effects from alcohol, tobacco, and simulant caffeine (tea and coffee) consumption and abuse. Those who do not accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and witness of Jesus Christ, have rejected and subtracted the application of God's word in their life and have needlessly subjected themselves to the plagues of alcoholism, tobacco abuse, and stimulant addiction (Rev. 22: 18).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Natural Man, Humanity, Commandments and Civil Liberty

What makes humans separate from animals? Animals behavior is based solely on unbridled instinct. Humans, on the other hand, are able to control their passions and appetites. Many citicize the LDS chruch for its strict code of health. Let me remind you that, laws do not limit, they liberate. Commandments are directions to happiness and not restrictions. Is the command to not commit adultery an insult to the human spirit? What about the command about mearly coveting our neighbors wife. Where is the harm in this?

A reader argued in a previous post that guidelines against the consuption of scientifically proven addicting and mind-altering substances is offensive to the spirit and our civil liberties. Does prohibition violate our civil liberties? Consider the following scenario. When we drive cars we are expected to observe the speed limit. Does the concept of a speed limit insulting to our human spirit? It could be argued that you and I should be free to drive at whatever speed we can safely travel. However, the reason that our speed is limited is because, although we can operate our car safely at 80 and 90mph, there are others who cannot and who become a threat to others.

The same principle applies to the word of wisdom. I may be able to drink and use tobacco and stimulants responsibly, but there are clearly many who cannot. Therefore, for the overall good of society and my love for my fellow men, "the weakest of Saints" according to the revelation, we are invited to observe these inspired health guidelines.

And what about results? Research supports that active LDS members are, on average, some of the healthiest and wealthiest people in the world. Also, you should know that I work as a physician in an inner city ER. And it should not surprise you that a great majority of the tragedy I see on a daily basis is as a direct or indirect result of chemical dependance and abuse.If you want to live in a society where everyone is "free" to satisfy their animal appetites, urges, passions, and instincts then I hope you are prepared to accept the anarchy, and inhumanity that is the consequence of such unbridled behavior.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lay Ministry: Cannot Serve God and Mammon

The true church of Jesus Christ has no paid ministry. The bishops, organists, teachers, chior directors all serve voluntarily. Why is this improtant? Imagine that a churches biggest tithing supporters happen to be living in an adulterous relationship. How many sermons on chastity and sexual purity do you think that pastor will give. I can't think of a worse conflict of interest.

In the LDS church, leadership is chosen from out of the congregation to serve for a period of time. During that time, the bishop continues to work at his regular day job. He is given 2 counselors like Moses was and like Peter was given to assist him. After his period of service, the bishop is released into the general congregation ready to be called to another calling.

Matt. 6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

But what about that scripture which says a servant of God is "worthy of his hire." What Luke 10 decribes is the calling of the quorem of 70 missionaries to be sent throughout the world. Missionaries are commissioned to be sent without "purse nor script." When they enter a house they are encouraged to accept food and housing. But they didn't have a purse to accept or carry monetary payment.

Luke 10: 4-7 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: . . . And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. . . And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.

In fact Matthew clarifies this further by saying specifically:

Matt. 10: 7-10 And as ye go, preach, . . . freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Now your preacher will likely defend his salary by saying the Bible teaches to not "muzzle the ox." But isn't the labourer's reward in heaven and not on earth were moth and rust doth corrupt. True disciples of Jesus Christ would never make money (filthy lucre) off the death of Jesus Christ.

1 Tim. 5: 17-18 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

There is nothing in the words "hire," "meat," or "reward" that suggests money and the accumulation of wealth. On the contrary, each passage strongly suggests the contrary.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Determining Official LDS Doctrine

newsroom.lds.org released a statement entitled Approaching Mormon Doctrine on 4 May 2007 clarifying what constitutes official LDS doctrine.

The prophet, Joseph Smith, encouraged the LDS people to be a record keeping people. Accordingly, nearly every talk, discourse, and letter from nearly every leader in the LDS church since its inception is recorded and available in the church archives. Surprisingly, despite the hundreds of thousands of talks, speeches, discourses, and letters; I don't think any other religious organization could boast a more uniform doctrine than the Latter-day Saints. LDS Doctrines on faith, repentance, baptism, atonement of Jesus Christ, restoration, priesthood, revelation, prophets, temples have virtually remained unchanged to this day. Accordingly, discourses, talks, and books from early church leaders are routinely quoted in modern LDS meetings and literature.

However, you can imagine that out of all the hundreds-of-thousands and even millions of source materials available in the Church archives, it is easy for adversaries of the LDS church to dig up a few obscure statements on a few obscure religious topic to criticize, misrepresent, and attack the LDS Church. Consequently, the LDS Church released the following statement to clarify what constitutes official LDS Doctrine and what does not.

1. Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.

2. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.

3. Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

4. The Church does not preclude future additions or changes to its teachings or practices. This living, dynamic aspect of the Church provides flexibility in meeting those challenges. According to the Articles of Faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

5. Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.