Monday, January 27, 2014

Initial Salvation vs. Final Perfection

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (New Testament, 2*Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Scriptures make it clear that all people are fallen and sinful. Scripture also says that if it were not for God who makes the first move, all people would remain lost forever.  Fortunately for us, a loving God condescends or reaches down to draw us; rescuing/saving us from our fallen state. God draws us to Christ and Christ lifts us up (John 6:44). 

I think the scriptures make a distinction between an initial rescue, salvation, justification and sanctification and a later "lifting up" and final perfection in Christ that comes only after a life-long process of striving, obedience, devotion, enduring, long-suffering, and consecration.

2 Tim 3:16-17 Paul tells Timothy that the man of God (who has already been saved/rescued) only "may be perfect" , if he makes use (Alma 60:14) of the scriptures for doctrine, correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness.

A few Evangelicals take issue with LDS salvation because most LDS are really talking about working towards their "future perfection in Christ" and not their initial redemption/rescue/salvation. But LDS should have no problem talking with evangelicals about the assurance in our initial salvation.  Nephi talks about his redemption in the Book of Mormon:

I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 2 Nephi 33:6)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Demonstrating Our Faith

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. " (New Testament, Ephesians, Ephesians 2:8-10)

We are saved by faith and the grace of Christ. But we should continue in good works and a godly walk

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (New Testament, James, James 2:17-19)

We demonstrate our faith by our good works.

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments." (Book of Mormon, 2*Nephi, 2 Nephi 25:23-25)

Salvation is by the grace of Christ after all we can do. The Law of Moses is dead but we are still going to observe it because God gave us the Law and we will observe it until Christ tells us something else to do.

"Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?" (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 60:21)

Captain Moroni answers the question of what is "all we can do"?

"All we do" is not saying that we save ourselves even part-way. What Captain Moroni says is that God has provided gifts of His grace like: scriptures, prophets, ordinances, prayer etc. We are expected to receive and make use of all these gifts of grace to demonstrate our faith in Christ. But Paul is pointing out that just because we make use of all the gifts Christ has freely given, doesn't mean we should boast that we save ourselves. But it also doesn't mean we don't have to make use of what Christ has given us.

Therefore, we demonstrate our faith in Christ by "making use" of the free gifts of grace Christ has already given us.

"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (New Testament, 1*John, 1 John 1:6")

"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (New Testament, 1 John, 1 John 2:4-6)

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." (New Testament, 1 John, 1 John 5:3)

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (New Testament, 1 John, 1 John 5:12-14)

We demonstrate our love and faith in Christ by obedience and making use of Christ's grace and means He has given us. Christ still makes the first move. Christ gives the means first, then we make use of them to demonstrate our faith and love. Then we have the assurance of salvation.

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (New Testament, John, John 6:44)

The Father draweth all men.  But not all will be drawn.  LDS have no problem with God making the first move to "initially rescue" and "initially save" us.  Then we manifest or faith and love of Christ by obedience as we progress towards "final perfection in Christ".  If we demonstrate our faith by making use of the means provided (ordinances and commandments), we can be declared perfected in Christ.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.(New Testament, 2*Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Man of God has already been "initially rescued" but only "may be perfect" if we make use of the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in scripture.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fundamental Principles of Christianity

CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias both say that our world has a big problem with defining things. CS Lewis in "Mere Christianity" says that back in the day, to call someone a "gentleman" ment something very objective that a person was a land owner and possessed a familial coat of arms.  Today the term is very much more a subjective term meaning that we "like" the person.

When it comes to Christianity, much of the same problems exist today.  CS Lewis suggests we have difficulty defining what  it really means to be Christian. This post seeks to list some of the major principles of Christian religion.

Christian Fundamentals:
Science seeks to answer how the universe works and came to be.  Religion asnwers the different questions of who created the universe and why.

1. Who is God?  God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost.  Godhead = 3 wills, 1 purpose. The importance of distinct wills is that Christ was empowered to do good and be good because He sought the will of the Father (charity) and not His own will (pride). If the Father  and Son are the same essense (homoousios), then it destroys the principle being taught.

2. What kind of person is God? Heavenly Father is the God of love.  God is not the dieist god who created the Earth and is away in a far country with other concerns or diversions.  God is not like the Greek gods of the Iliad that watched over the people fighting and killing each other for sport. God watches over humanity with a parental care.  Enoch beheld God weeping over the suffering and wickedness of mankind.  

Understanding God's character affects how we treat our fellow man. Roman emperors whatched gladators kill each other in the Colosseum for sport. However, the Christian God healed the sick and taught the lesson of the Good Samaritan.

Understanding the character of God helps us have faith in Him and trust to put our lives into His care and keeping.  This is unlike the Elders of Israel who were invited to commune with God in the mountain with Moses and when they saw the storm and fire at the top feared to put their safety in God's hands and told Moses to go up and speak to the Lord for them.  

The manifestations of the love of God:
- beauty of creation
- created in his image
- commandments and consequences
- Plan of Salvation
- Gods desires that we return to Him
- way to return revealed to prophets
- Jesus Christ given as the only way
- Atonement: mercy to forgive
- Atonement: power to change
- Priesthood to participate
- Holy Ghost to feel love peace joy
- Prayer, Blessing and Revelation
-God is concerned with the details of our life and not "away in a far country."
-Enoch witnessed God weep over the sin and suffering of mankind.

3. Who are we? We are not animals but spiritual children of Heavenly Father, created in His image.  The worth of souls is great.  We are to live the Golden Rule and treat each others the way we would want them to treat us.  Not treat others the way we were treated. We are not slaves to the flesh but have the power to choose to fast when hungary and choose to forgive when offended.

4. Infinite Atonement.  Man for thousands of years has believed in shedding blood of animals, virgins, and infants to appease the gods representing prosperity, safety, and fertility.  Going to war and shedding blood for safety prosperity or forgiveness of sin is called Blood Atonement.  

Jesus Christ came to Earth and shed His own blood in His Infinite atonement.  We no longer have to shed blood for safety or security, health and fertility. Now we must accept Christ's blood and obey His law and commandments.  Only the shedding of God's blood could be infinite.  Only obedience to Christ's commandments can bring eternal peace, safety, and prosperity.

5. Faith and Works.  We are saved by the grace of Christ after all we can do.  What is all we can do?   All we can do is make use of the means (grace) God has already provided (Alma 60).  This doesn't mean we take any steps on our own without the help of Christ.  As we cross the bridge from mortality to immortality that spans the chasm of death and hell, Christ builds the bridge plank by plank (grace to grace).  But to receive the next plank, we are expected to be standing on the nearest plank with our toes hanging off the end.  

We shouldn't ask for seconds when we haven't even finished what Christ has already put on our plate.  Elder Maxwell has said the words of the prophets are not a buffet where we pick and choose only that which pleases us. Rather the gospel is a well balanced meal we are are expected to eat the spiritual spinach and leave a clean plate.  We are to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God and resist being cafeteria Christians.

What good is talking about how seatbelts can save lives if we never wear a seatbelt when we drive our car?  Likewise some may go through the motions of religious observation without true intent. So, to have true faith, we worship God in spirit and truth by both talking the right talkband walking the right walk.

6. Welfare and Virtue = pure religion.  Religion as a sacred responsibility to help and serve our fellow man.  However, what good is it to help our neighbor if we don't help each other live virtue and deal with many of the issues and decisions that are causing the poverty.  Welfare without accountability of virtuous living enables and creates dependance and learned helplessness.  If government believes in the separation of church and state they should get out of the business of religion.  On the other hand, churches need to do their job of both providing welfare and expecting virtue.

7. Charity vs Pride.  Charity says that we must Not do as I will but as God wills.  Charity is pure love of Christ-for the Father. Christ was empowered  to be good and do good by doing His Fathers will.  Magic vs priesthood.  Magic involves exerting our own will, for good or evil, on the universe.  Priesthood involves exerting the will of God on the universe.  Even white magic is wrong because our good is not God's good.  Consecration to Gods will results in perfection in Christ.

8. Agency:  the power to choose the right.  Agency is not about being free to choose the wrong.  Since the Fall of Adam choosing tbe wrong was all anyone could do.  It is only thanks to the commandments and revelations of God that we now know the mind and will of God and can do God's will instead of just following our stomachs.  Since the Fall, The fastest and easiest way to hell is to do nothing.  Now, because of Christ, we can now do His word and have hope and assurance in His salvation.

9. Repentance.  

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. (Old Testament, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23:21-22)

True Christians do not deny the mercy of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to forgive sin.  However, scripture is clear that Christ came to save us from our sins and not in our sins.  Christ makes the first move to condescend, redeem and rescue us as we are.  But Christ doesn't leave us that way.  Christ stands at our doors and knocks.  God sends His missionaries to the world to draw all men.  But sadly, not all men will be drawn, not all men will hear the voice of the Lord and be raised.  

True Christians understand that Christ's atonement also has the power to change our lives.  Christ desires to elevate His people to the perfection of our Heavenly Father. In Christ, we can be empowered to change our lives, to return to virtue, and to keep His commandments.  Forgiveness is wonderful, but sin still carries its painful consequences. However, through repentance we can finally enjoy the blessings that only come through righteousness and virtue.  This is why the true Church if Christ always emphasizes  repentance without denying mercy.

10. Revelation. The doctrine, gospel, and truth of Christ is the purist and highest logic.  However, God has revealed to us that His ways are not man's ways and God thoughts are higher than man's thoughts.  So, while Christians do not deny logic and reason we know that the knowledge of God and a witness of Christ's resurrection can only come by revelation. You cannot prove or disprove God to another.  You can only come to know God by experiencing Him.  And, you can only know the truth of Christ's teachings by first living them. 

God has said he has given us opposition in all things. When it comes to the resurrection of Christ , scriptures like the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, God has always given a reason for belief.  God also allows a reason against belief.  So, in the end it comes down to our desires to know the truth and our love of God and motivation to ask God to reveal the truth to us by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The final answer is logical, based on good evidence, but is ultimately rests on receiving personal revelation.  However, If you don't really want to believe and really devote your life over to Christ and His kingdom then you will find many reasons not to believe.

11. Submission to Priesthood Authority: 
Many see the LDS Church and its hierarchy as very threatening. Many don't want a Church with living prophets and local bishops who emphasize repentance over mercy. A living prophet and a local bishop will tell me to DO something I may not want to do.  On the other hand, the god in my heart, and the mercy-only Christ my local pastor talks about never or rarely ever asks me to do anything I don't want to do.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homoousios = Same Essense = One Will?

Nicene Creed
Apostles Creed
Athanasian Creed

All three of these creeds are related statements of Christian belief forming the basis of the traditional Trinity Doctrine on God.  The Catholic Trinitarian doctrine is embraced by the Catholic Church, as well as Protestant, Evangelical and non-denominational Christian churches.  However, the LDS Church does not accept these Catholic Creeds.  Consequently, many main-stream Christians refuse to recognize the LDS Church as Christian despite our belief in Jesus Christ as both the Messiah and Divine Only Begotten Son of God.

So, what do LDS find wrong with these Creeds?  Not much really.  They are mostly correct.  However, Christ taught that a little leaven "leaveneth the whole lump."  The Athanasian Creed like the modern Nicene Creed contains the "Filioque" which says, "The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son;" The original Nicene Creed said the Holy Ghost proceeded "of the Father". Later versions added that the Holy Ghost proceeded "from the Father and the Son" This was a very controversial insertion at the time. 

Wikipedia says that the "Filioque" insertion was one of several major issues leading to the Great Schism. The controversy surrounding the addition of  the "Filioque" was not just doctrinal but also centered around the issue of adding to an accepted ecumenical creed.  Rome didn't consult with anyone when they made the addition.  Furthermore, Constantinople did not recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome who approved the revision.

LDS Doctrine on the Catholic Creeds focus on several factors.  First, these early ecumenical councils were not unified in their conclusions. Yes, the New Testament records the great Council of Jerusalem where Paul and Peter came together to seek the mind and will of God concerning the question of circumcision. Peter and Paul began the council at odds with one another.  But after revelation was received, unity followed.  Unity did not follow the Creeds; instead further controversy and division.

Second, these several Catholic Creeds serve as the basis for the Trinity Doctrine on God which teaches that The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are mysteriously One God, One Being, yet three Persons. The Creeds use the word "Homoousios" to describe the Trinity which means that the Father and Son are of the "same essense".  LDS would agree with most everything doctrinally in the Creeds except for the idea that the Godhead is "homoousious".  

LDS equate the  word essense with the word will.  The essence of existence is our independent will.  Will is the part of us that says, "I think, therefore I am".  LDS believe that it is a fundamental Christian belief to understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost while One God, are also three distinct persons, beings, and individuals.  Additionally, the Bible is absolutely clear that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are of 3 distinct and separate wills perfectly unified together in 1 divine purpose and 1 power.

Satan's doctrine is "do as you will". Christ's doctrine is "not as I will but as the Father wills". LDS believe that Jesus Christ is God and co-eternal with the Father. But LDS feel it is critical to understand that Jesus Christ, had a separate and distinct WILL to that of the Father. and, that Christ subordinated His unique will to the Father's will in all things. Christ continually taught, "I came not to do my own will, but the will of the Father".

Therefore, Christ was empowered to be good and do good more than any other man because He submitted His will to the Father in all things. Pride is "do as I will". Charity is the pure love of Christ-- for the Father, and our willingness to do His will and not our own.

If we say that Christ and the Father are the same person/being/essence/will than we are in danger of believing that Christ was empowered by doing His own will. Being empowered to do our own will (for good or bad) is the definition of magic. Even white magic is evil because our perception of good doesn't always match God's good. Conversely, being empowered to do the will of Heavenly Father and bring about God's will in the world is the definition of priesthood.

Catholic Trinity: God = 1, Being 1, Person 3, Individual 3, Essence 1, Will 1, Power 1, Purpose 1

LDS Godhead: God = 1, Being 3, Person 3, Individual 3, Essence 3, Will 3, Power 1, Purpose 1

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ravi Zacharias in Utah

Ravi Zacharias is a world-renowned christian apologist spoke at BYU today and will be speaking at the LDS Tabernacle tomorrow.  Dr. Zacharias is like a modern CS Lewis. You can hear his talks live or tape-delayed at the following link:

Dr. Zacharias spoke today on Christianity and the intrinsic worth of the human soul.  Ravi said that without Christianity, mankind would not recognize the value of each human soul.

One of the most memorable stories Ravi told was about Angola Prison in Louisiana.  This prision was transformed from one of the most dangerous prisons in the world to one of the safest by giving each inmate a knife and a Bible.

Ravi said that one of the inmates on death row asked if he would sign his book.  The inmate commented that he didn't mind spending the rest of his life in jail because if this is what it took to find Jesus Christ he wouldn't trade anything for the freedom he now felt in his heart.  He told Ravi to not pray for him but to pray for everyone else on the outside who think they are free but really are prisoners and have not yet found the feedom in Christ that he had found.

Ravi gave some advise about sharing the gospel and having gospel conversations. He said to: do your homework, take care not to engage a person emotionally (emotion will drown out reason), and ask the right questions.  However, he did confess during the talk that reason alone would not help us arrive at morality.  To that comment I would tell Ravi that is why Revelation is critical to true religion.  

Finally during the question portion, I enjoyed Ravi's comments on 3 significant  conversions recorded in the New Testament of Paul, Thomas, and James the brother of Christ.  Ravi attributed his own conversion to the tradition of Thomas preaching the Christian gospel in India.  Ravi said to persevere in our calling to preach the gospel because like the Christians who lowered Paul over the city walls in a basket, "we never know who we might have in our basket".

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Same-Gender Marriage in Utah

Activist judge, Judge Robert J. Shelby of Federal District Court in Utah overturned the state’s voter-approved ban on marriage for gay couples. The Utah judge suspended state law ruling that the state law violated equal protection under federal law.  This ruling is currently under suspension by the Supreme Court until it is decided by a higher court.

The reason why government is involved in marriage at all is because a man and women who create a life have an obligation to raise and support the child and not just walk away. But government otherwise has no business to get involved in two consenting adults of whatever persuasion or orrientation who decide to live together.  

Joel Skousen, political scientist , makes a great point that the courts are making same-gender couples a protected group and giving them false rights.  Same-gender couples should have the right to live together but the government should never force the rest of the population who doesn't agree with same-gender marriage to recognize it and serve them.  Joel Skousen says a false vs. fundamental rights depends on the right having both simultaneity and being non-conflicting.

For example, people have a simultaneous right to life, but not to free medical care.  Free health care would require doctors to serve people involuntarily.  Medical care is a false right that does not meet the "non-conflicting" criteria.  Other fundamental rights would be the right to self defence, right to possess and control acquired property, etc.

Some are of the opinion that the Utah argument that "children are best raised by both mother and fathers" is weak.However, with advanced fertility, same-gender couples are now having biological children; and not just using surrogates, but actually mixing genetic material by 2 males or 2 females.

Accordingly, the argument that children are best raised by a married mother and father is still very valid.  Children's right to marriage is not just for nurture issues but also because of very important genetic issues.  Same-gender couples allowed to use artificial means to procreate will be a dangerous genetic experiment that would greatly limit the child's genetic diversity and fitness. 

One more point:  The American Academy of Pediatrics did a study to try and determine if children raised by same-gender couples were as "well-adjusted" as children raised by traditional married couples. The study found that children raised in same-gender families were only as "well-adjusted" as those raised by heterosexual families who had been divorced.  But the media consistently misrepresents the findings of this study.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Pattern of Apostasy

Some say that God would never allow his Church to fall into Apostasy. However, does this assertion follow what the Bible actually says? 

2 Thes 2: 1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

Amos 8:11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. 

 1. Jehovah establishes His covenant with Adam -------> Man falls away from the Truth -------> The Great Flood 

 2. Jehovah re-establishes His covenant with Noah -------> Man falls away from the Truth --------> The Tower of Babel 

 3. Jehovah re-establishes His covenant wtih Abraham -------> Man falls away from the Truth -------> Egyptian Captivity 

4. Jehovah re-establishes His covenant with Moses -------> Man falls away from the Truth -------> Babylonian Captivity 

 5. Jesus Christ re-establishes His covenant with Peter -------> Man falls away from the Truth -------> Holy Roman Dark Ages 

 6. Jesus Christ re-establishes His covenant with Joseph Smith ------> Second Coming of Jesus Christ

 However, in the Last Days, the Bible says that things will be different. God will finally establish His Kingdom which will stand forever.

Dan 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Daniel's triumphant Last Days kingdom did not start in the days of Peter and the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was represented in the dream by the legs of iron. So, when did the days of the Kings of iron mixed with clay begin? The Holy Roman Empire ended with the defeat of the 3rd Coalition by Napoleon and the signing of the Treaty of Pressburg on Dec 26, 1805. Joseph Smith was born on Dec 23, 1805. The current Rothschild Central Banking system (G20) started with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Joseph Smith's First Vision occurred in 1820 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded in 1830. 

 The Great Apostasy during the Dark Ages had to do with a falling away of the physical Church of Christ and the exercize of the priesthood keys, authority and sealing power to administer the covenants and ordinances of Christ's gospel. The Great Apostasy does not mean there was not a preservation of a remnant of spiritual belief. If there was no remnant of spiritual belief, then there would have been noone to join the true Church of Jesus Christ again when it was finally restored.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Women and Priesthood

It is not authority that women want but power.  People want power to change lives for the better and make a difference. But you don't need to have authority in the LDS Church to have power.  You can have even more power in your local ward through influence than by authority.  

I have had the calling of activities chair at a BYU singles ward. This calling has very little priesthood authority but very big influence.   My roommate was the Elders Quorum Pres. He and the Bishop controlled what went on for 3 hours on Sunday.  I controlled almost everything that happened the rest of the week. Through activities and regular service projects our singles ward had near 40 marriages the following summer (myself included).  I felt very powerful and influential in this calling.

I didn't need Church priesthood authority (pay the bills and take out the garbage) to have power in the LDS Church to make a difference.  But acting under priesthood authority, I had great influence and power to help and bless others.

My wife has had similar power in a ward as Visiting Teaching Coordinator.  She had had great power and influence in the ward with that calling because she makes a point of visiting and knowing everyone.  The bishop has her on speed-dial when she has had that calling.

You can "minister" in the LDS Church without having to bother with the "administering".  God knows women are way better at ministering so he doesn't waste their talents on the paperwork.