One of The Best Conversations 
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A scriptural conversation between two software engineers including several Book of Mormon and History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issues

 
Introduction  to the discussion with opening comments about a previous discussion 

Book Of Mormon Issues

Alleged Inaccuracy #1 - Christ born in the Land of Jerusalem  (Alma 7:10)
My Response - Christ was Born in the Land of Jerusalem
A Rebuttal   new - Prophecies should be Accurate and Precise
My Second Reply   new - Accurate But Not Precise and the Idiot-Savant Theory

Alleged  Inaccuracy #2 - Christ quoting Peter   (3 Nep 20: 23-24)
My Response - Where did quote originally come from?
A Rebuttal   new - God is not the author of confusion .
My Next Reply   new - I'll try again to be confused, but  it's just not confusing me.

Alleged Problem #1 - Double Talk? - Faith, Grace, Works, and Baptism (2 Nep 31: 5-12)
My Response - Clear Talk
A Statement   new - Mix-Up, But then what use is the Book of Mormon?
My Reply   new - What use is the Word of God? 

Alleged Problem #2    new - Skin Color
My Response    new - God discriminates, but is not Racist 

Alleged Problem #3 - Continuity   new - The "Jeremiah Problem" - The Bible doesn't say this!
My Reply   new - It doesn't need to and It wouldn't make any difference whatsoever 


LDS Church History Questions

Polygamy Question  new - Who's idea was this?
My Reply  new - I was just following orders

Prophet Problems   new - Prophecies Must Come To Pass 
An Explanation   new - On Why a Prophecy Appears False 

Portrayal Problems    new - the Bible contradicts your portrayal of God
My Reply    new -  The Orthodox is Paradox - Includes the Godhood of Jesus Christ and Creation; The Biblical Trinity;  The Ontological Nature of God, Angels, & Man;  Other Minor Issues


A Summary Statement
  new  On Scriptural Discourse and The Need for Revelation
 
 


 
Intro   [TOP]
I enjoy our discussions and wish that time allowed us to have more, but unfortunately at work this seems pretty difficult. I always enjoy a good challenge. My problem is that I can't always analyze and interpret quickly, I like to take my time, mull over ideas, and let them simmer in the pot for a while before I can give a coherent response. I think that is why I enjoy being able to write and allow my fingers to speak what my mouth can only seem to mutter. 

I hope I didn't offend you in our last conversation, it wasn't my intention to laugh at you. However, I was rude and I did laugh a bit at the idea that I understood you to be presenting. What I understood you saying has been the hue and cry of most churchmen (from 7th Day Adventist, to Evangelicals, to Pentecostals, to Jehovah Witnesses, to Greek Orthodox, and even to Catholic, etc...) that I have spoken with -- "We read the Bible as it stands without applying our own preconceptions and ideas about it." or as one put it "We do not interpret the Bible." (My response was, "Of course you interpret the Bible, the interpretation is where you get the meaning - saying 'We do not interpret the Bible' is equivalent to saying 'We don't ascribe any particular meaning to the Bible.") Yet all the sincere reading has split the original Church of Jesus Christ into hundreds of factions, with often very differing ideas of some of the most basic concepts of Christianity. One's interpretation of the record will invariably be shaped by one's presuppositions. Objectivity of the investigator is a myth. Science has shown us this repeatedly, many "objective" scientists will not even look at evidence that might contradict their well established theories. When a subject so near and dear to our hearts as the Bible and salvation come into play, objectivity is very very difficult. We all have pre-conceived ideas based on what we have previously learned and decided, and the nature of the human mind works first of all to arrange new data into our known understanding of how the world works. I have no doubt that you try very hard to be objective, but no matter how hard anyone tries, evidence that seems to support our current understandings of things jumps out and shouts at us, while evidence for new or different concepts only whispers quietly. Anyway I apologize if I offended or upset you, and hope you will forgive me. 

Enough of that. I appreciate you indicating some of the thoughts you had about the Book of Mormon. In this document I will try to explain my take on these questions. I do not intend to try and force your agreement (as if I could) but we can at least understand each other a little better and "agree to disagree". So I'll go through them from bottom to top. 

Response to Intro   [TOP]
(see complete unedited response here

I enjoyed our discussion as well and also lament over the lack of time. I can respect the desire to take time to think things over before responding. I don't think I would have ever made a good debate team member, I like doing the same thing.

I think that anytime a person is laughed at after expressing a carefully thought out idea there is a sense of offense. (even to a child) But these things need to be forgiven.

I believe that you are correct when you say that we all have preconceived ideas. I do not agree that these preconceived notion preclude one from doing good science or rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Tim 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Both scientists and biblical scholars are capable of reaching high levels of objectivity by following certain rules. Even scientist with very strong evolutionary biases can still do good science. These rules have been established over literally hundreds of years. Even software engineers are capable of it. But as we both know, many software engineers refuse to follow good development rules and practices just as do some scientist and Bible teachers. As for my preconceived ideas about God and Christianity, just about every one of them was wrong. As a matter of fact, I think the only idea I had that wasn't corrected or totally rebuked by studying the word of God was the fact that there was a God. Jesus Christ tore me down and is rebuilding me completely, line upon line, precept upon precept. If we accept that preconceived notions are the driving factor in biblical understanding then we have taken God out of the equation. We have disregarded the effect of the printed word in any form. We have to disregard the effects of literature, plays, newspapers, magazines, music lyrics, and even the Gettysburg Address. Romeo and Juliet can be reinterpreted as West Side Story and reach very different people with the same story and the same effect.

There are many many reasons for church splits and many of them are bad. You assert that many or all of them are caused by "the sincere reading" of the scriptures. This assertion is wrong. Here are the ones that I know of personally in no particular order:
Racism
Cultural differences and preferences
Church size
Differences in vision and direction
Gossip
Differences in mission and concentration
Differences in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit
Personality conflicts
Geographical location
Doctrinal differences
Toleration of sin
Childishness

None of them are really good but, the bad ones should ever have happened.

Further Notes on Intro      new   [TOP]

Actually I don't think that we disagree that much about the bias issue, I didn't mean to say that it is impossible to be objective, just that I think it is more difficult than most people think. Bias is very invasive and we need to work to stay aware of our biases. Also, I didn't mean to imply that I'm not biased, I certainly am biased for The Church, I'm biased for Jesus Christ. For example, I know Jesus is the Savior - I can try to understand evidence to the contrary but I will never accept it, no matter how strong or compelling that evidence may be. 

Also, if I'm reading you right, you seem to be talking about splits among local congregations. I'm sure you're correct in your observations, I really have no experience in that area at all. When I said "Church" I was thinking more in terms of major denominations, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Methodist, Lutheran, Quaker, Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witness, etc.... I think that the major cause for the creation of many major denominations was a difference in doctrinal understanding. Of course there can be many other factors, as you mentioned.
 



Inaccuracy #1:
- Christ born in the Land of Jerusalem

   Alma 7:10

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

My Response   [TOP]        Christ Was born in the Land of Jerusalem
This is one of the oldest recognized "inaccuracies" in the Book of Mormon. Every school child in 1829 knew the Christmas story and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Being Bible believing Christians who read about Christ's birth, so did a young Joseph Smith and his family. 

A . One must ask how anyone could get such an obvious and well known fact wrong, and rightly so, if Joseph Smith had been writing this himself. But he didn't, he translated it. If we put ourselves in the place of Alma it makes perfect sense. First of all, the Nephites, like the Jews in Jerusalem, did not recite the Christmas story to each other - it hadn't happened yet. The exact place of the birth of Christ was more of a trivia question, mentioned in only one verse of the Old Testament. It was not the kind of common knowledge that everyone knew, as it is today in Christendom. As shown by the verse were King Herod had to ask the chief priests and scribes where Christ would be born ( ^Matt 2:3-4 ), because apparently "all Jerusalem" didn't know the answer either. Alma is talking to a group of people who are over 500 years and 9000 miles away from the land of their forefathers. It would be highly unlikely that the common man would know the names of the little cities in the Holy Land, so if Alma had talked about Bethlehem they would have had to search and wonder where he was talking about (similarly if I told you I grew up in Rush, New York you would have to do a bit of searching to find out that I was talking about a small town outside of Rochester). And they did not have the kind of access to scriptures and maps that modern people have. They did know the name Jerusalem (having even named one of their cities Jerusalem) since they knew where they had come from, so they could readily understand where Alma was talking about. 

B . Notice Alma said Jesus will be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" and not "the city of our forefathers". There is a major difference. Although never recorded as such in any book of the Bible, in ancient times the surrounding area that was under the political and cultural control of a city was often called "the land of that city". That the ancient Jews also referred to the little towns and cities surrounding Jerusalem as "the land of Jerusalem" is attested to in extra-biblical Jewish documents (which were discovered well after the publication of the Book of Mormon). Bethlehem being only 5 miles south of Jerusalem is definitely in the land of Jerusalem, so it is not at all incorrect that an ancient writer would use this term, although how if Joseph Smith was a forger, he could have known this was a proper ancient usage has so far never been answered. You can read more about this evidence at FARMS - Jesus' Birthplace

C . Hinting at the above relationship is 2 Kings 14:20 "And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David". Amaziah could not be buried in Bethlehem (which is the "city of David" Luke 2:11) and also at Jerusalem, unless Bethlehem was considered in some way part of Jerusalem.


A Rebuttal   [TOP] new    Prophecies should be Accurate and Precise

About Alma 7:10:
I believe I understand your reasoning but I disagree with you and stand on my original position that the error is part of the proof that Joseph Smith isnot a prophet of God for the following reasons: First, when one finds this terminology in the Bible it refers to the city and can refer to the city and the surrounding area that it influences or controls. Second, prophecies of God are always precise and accurate whether we understand them or not. This is God's standard for a prophet not mine. There are general statements made throughout the Bible but not in prophecies or in "thus sayth the Lord" statements.

Deut 13:1-5, Deut 18:21-22

Alma 7:10 does not stand up to:

Micah 5:2
2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in
Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (KJV)

I believe that point C is also incorrect. Read 2 Sam 5:6 - 9

2 Sam 5:6-9
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.8 And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. 9 So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.(KJV)
 

My Second Reply    [TOP]   new
Accurate But Not Precise and the Idiot-Savant Theory

First of all, Alma 7:10 is not a "thus sayth the Lord" statement. Alma 7:9 is a "thus sayth the Lord (Holy Spirit)" statement, but that doesn't carry over into verse 10 because the Spirit would not say that Jerusalem "is the land of our forefathers ". Also if the Spirit were still speaking in this verse He would probably say Mary will 'conceive by My power' not "conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost". So verse 9 is the Spirit proclaiming Christ shall come and verse 10 is an exposition by the prophet about some of the details. But even so, I still must disagree that "prophecies of God are always precise and accurate". They are always accurate (subject to conditions of free will and interpretation as discussed in the Prophecy section below) but they are not always precise. If they were precise there would be no question for the Jews about which prophecies of the Messiah are to happen during his First Coming and which will happen for his Second Coming. Elisha told King Joash to smite on the ground with his arrows. The king did so three times. The prophet then said that he should have smitten five or six times in order to consume Syria (2 Kings 13:18-19). Elisha was accurate, but he was by no means precise, even he didn't know whether if it should have been 5 or 6. Isaiah came to King Ahaz in the name of the Lord and told him that Ephraim (head of the northern kingdom of Israel) would be broken within threescore and five years" (Isa. 7:8). We don't know exactly what date the prophet made this statement, only that Ahaz reigned in Judah from 734 to 728 BC. Sixty-five years later would be 689-663 BC. In actual fact, however, Israel was taken captive in 722 BC, so the prophecy actually occured within a time frame from 6 to 12 years after it had been spoken. It was an accurate prediction because it came to pass within 65 years, but it was not precise. Likewise, Alma's prediction was accurate because it came to pass within the area of the land of Jerusalem, although there was no need for it to be more precise. 

I see a problem with your argument on 2 Sam 5:6-9. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what it says (by the way it would help if you would give a couple of words about your interpretation of the verses you use and how they apply, since I'm sure by now you've noticed that we don't always see eye-to-eye at first) but, is it saying that the "city of David" is Jerusalem? Just what is the "city of David"? 

  • if it is Bethlehem then 2 Kings 14:20 confirms that Bethlehem can be considered to be "at Jerusalem", as stated by Alma. 
  • if it is Jerusalem then Luke 2:11 does the same as Alma since he would be saying Christ was born in Jerusalem (the "city of David") 
  • if it is both or the area around Jerusalem then "city of David" would be equivalent to "land of Jerusalem" so Luke, Alma, and the writer of Kings all use the terms correctly 
In any case, I agree with your statement that the Land of Jerusalem "can refer to the city and the surrounding area that it influences or controls", which includes Bethlehem and many other small towns. The phrase "the land of Jerusalem" is an accurate way to describe where Christ was born. "The monarchy imposed administrative districts upon the nation: twelve in the North, and twelve in the South. The delineation of these districts is available in the Bible (see Joshua 15:20-63 [Septuagint]; 1 Kings 4:7-19), and Bethlehem was included in the district of Jerusalem. ... The "city and state often have the same name in the Ancient Orient, although distinct entities. .... Where then was Jesus born? Truly, in Bethlehem of the land of Judaea (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6; Luke 2:4) --any child could tell you that in Joseph Smith's time as well as in ours. What no one in modern times would have known for sure (before the 1887 discovery of the Tell El-Marna Tablets) was that Bethlehem was also part of an area anciently called the land of Jerusalem". (from MeridianMagazine ). 

In other words, modern scholarship using the Tell El-Marna Tablets, Psuedo-Jeremiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls , and other ancient Hebrew documents has shown that the Ancient usage of the term "land of Jerusalem" for Christ's birthplace is no more inaccurate than saying that my birthplace was in the State of New York, even though I have never been in the City of New York . The fact that this relationship is not clearly stated in exactly this way in the Bible does not make the cultural context of Middle Eastern society disappear. And as stated above this example simply falls into the area of a prophecy that is accurate but not precise. Nevertheless it was as precise as needed by a group of people living thousands of miles away with limited knowledge of Israeli geography.

This whole argument is sometimes called the idiot-savant argument. It assumes that Joseph Smith was such an idiot that he wasn't aware of a fact that every school child knows, Christ was born in Bethlehem, and yet: 

  • he could recall facts such as John "should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" (1Nephi10:9), among many other things. 
  • he was such a literary genius and understood the Bible so well that he assimilated many styles of ancient Hebrew poetry (which Biblical scholars of his day were completely oblivious to) and incorporated them into the text 
  • he was such a geographical genius that he could describe locations in Saudi Arabia unknown to all scholars and adventurers until discoveries made in the 1990's 
The fact is if the Book of Mormon is a forgery, Joseph Smith would require a super-human aptitude for recall and extrapolation. It stretches the imagination to believe he was not aware of Bethlehem.  To simply dismiss the book as a forgery based on a few scriptures may be enough if you just don't want to think about it anymore, but it doesn't answer the questions about how someone in the 19th Century could tell a story using information that was unknowable at the time. I have just a few of the simplest evidences described on my Book of Mormon page that even the most determined of professional anti-Mormons have not been able to explain away.  For a more comprehensive list see Jeff Lindsay's Evidences Page .  Without some plausible answers for these strongest of evidences, the Book of Mormon can not be simply dismissed.
 
 


   
Inaccuracy #2: -   [TOP]
Christ says he is quoting Moses, but actually quotes Peter in the New Testament
   

  3 Nep 20: 23-24 -

23 Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. 24 Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me.
My Response Where did this quote originally come from?   [TOP]
You're right, this is a misquote of Moses - and if I were trying to write a book to fool a Bible believing public I would make sure my quotes are correct, but if I were Jesus Christ in about 34 A.D. I might quote this scripture exactly as recorded in the Book of Mormon. Why? Well, first you need to ask yourself this: "Why did Peter misquote Moses?" Peter's quote of Moses ( ^Acts 3:22 ) does not follow the structure of the ancient Hebrew Masoretic texts that we currently have (which is why our modern translations of ^ Deut 18:15,18-19 do not follow Peter's version). Peter also does not follow the format of the Greek Septuagint ( ^ Deut 18:15,19 LXX ), which was another of the standard scripture translations of Jesus and Peter's time. Peter introduced his quote with "Moses truly said ...", it is therefore doubtful that this is a paraphrase, why would someone claim to be saying what Moses "truly" said and then alter what Moses truly said by paraphrasing it? Were did Peter get this variant version? In doing a little research on Acts 3:22-23 I was surprised that this question seems to worry some Christian sects who expect that there should only be one invariant Bible, which "must" of course be "the one" we have. For Mormons it presents no problem. 

I see only three possibilities if we also assume that Peter was not an uninspired teacher: 

  1. Peter knew of another text of Deuteronomy which does not exist today, and he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to use it. 
  2. Peter was inspired by the Holy Ghost at that moment to extemporaneously deliver that version of scripture. 
  3. This episode in Acts occurred soon after the 40 days of Christ's post-mortal mission to the church, where He "[spoke] of things pertaining to the kingdom of God" ( ^Acts 1:3 ). Would not Jesus have taught them at least the things he taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the the things concerning himself" ( ^Luke 24:27 ). 
To my mind, this third possibility is the most likely source for this variant version from Peter. Nevertheless, in all three of these cases the source for Peter's version is Jesus Christ . It makes perfect sense to me that only a few months after Jesus Christ taught or inspired Peter to render Moses' words in this variant version that He Himself would use that version. 

A Rebuttal   new     God is not the author of confusion     [TOP]

About 3 Nep 20:23-24:
Now who is interpreting based on preconceived notions? I can read. The Book of Mormon quote starts off like this, "Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying:". And this is supposed to be Jesus Christ, no less! What makes it worse is that Peter is talking about the prophets that prophesied about Jesus Christ and their legitimacy. But in the Book of Mormon Jesus is supposedly speaking about Himself. God is not the author of confusion. You stated early in you letter that preconceived ideas could interfere with one's ability to see the evidence that is before them. (Notice my paraphrase of what you said and the context in which I write it) I believe that I have been sincere in examining the information that you have graciously made available to me. But I can only be sincere by using the Bible as my benchmark and not the way I feel or the way I want it to be. I challenge you to do the same. It is no surprise to me and it should not be a surprise to you that anyone searching for the truth and has actually taken the time to read and study the Holy Bible would have a big problem with these verses .

My Next Reply   new  
I'll try again to be confused, but its just not confusing me
  [TOP]

I have gone over and over this and I just can't figure out what you are talking about. So I need to go back to just your original statement - "Christ says he is quoting Moses, but actually quotes Peter in the New Testament". 

Jesus Christ is not quoting Peter. Peter is quoting Moses and Jesus is quoting Moses 

Peter quotes Moses ("For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up...") and then he also says that all the prophets since Samuel "foretold these days" (i.e. this current time of Jesus' mortal ministry). [ ^Acts 3:22-24

Jesus quotes Moses ("Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up... ") and then he also says that all the prophets since Samuel " have testified of me". [ ^3 Nep 20:23-24

Both are quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 18, and then saying that all prophets since Samuel taught about the Messiah. That is not confusing at all. If you understand that they each taught this for differing purposes, how does that make a difference? People use the same scripture to illustrate several different ideas all the time. Personally I feel they are each teaching the same principle - they are each testifying that Moses and all the prophets since Samuel testified of Jesus Christ. This is not confusion but harmony. 

If Peter truthfully said that the verses "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up..." were spoken by Moses, why would Jesus Christ be ignorant of that fact? If Peter truthfully said that all prophets since Samuel testified of Christ, why would Jesus Christ be ignorant of that fact? Why can Jesus Christ not teach the same truths just because they have been also taught by someone else?
 



Problem #1:  Double Talk? - Faith, Grace, Works, and Baptism

    2 Nep 31: 5-12      [TOP]

5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! 6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water? 7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. 8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. 9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. 10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? 11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. 12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

My Response      Clear Talk       [TOP]
Frankly I have a lot of trouble figuring out why you would call this "double talk." This is a beautiful and very straight forward scripture teaching us to follow Christ, to repent, and be baptized, and witness that we are willing to obey Christ. If Jesus Christ, who was perfect, needed to be baptized "to fulfill all righteousness" ( ^Matt 3:13-14 ) and He taught us to follow Him ( ^Matt 10:3 ) and He taught the necessity of baptism to be saved ( ^Mark 16:15-16 ) and He had his disciples baptize ( ^John 3:22; 4:2 ) how can anyone believe that they can fulfill righteousness without following Him and being baptized as He was? These verses in the Book of Mormon are a more detailed study of the above principles and of what Peter taught in Acts 2:37-38 

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 
Some people object to the idea that we must do something to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and a remission of sins. (By the way, anyone can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, but the gift of the Holy Ghost is something specific promised to followers.) But this is exactly what Peter said. Check basic boolean logic (in C++) 
if (Repent && BaptizedInNameOfChrist) { // THEN
You.Sins = null; // Your Sins are remitted
You.Spirit += GiftOfTheHolyGhost // Your Spirit is added to by the GiftOfTheHolyGhost
I have heard men try to take away the "and be baptized" part to tell people it really means just repent. But the wording is very plain. That is an AND function (&&), not OR, not EXCLUSIVE OR, not NOT AND, not IF (desired), not something else. It would be hard to express an idea any clearer -- " repent AND be baptized ... in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins ", that is baptism for the remission of sins. 2 Nep 31 simply gives a more complete explanation of why this is so. 

Assuming this is your problem, I will take the opportunity to explain our beliefs on grace and salvation. It's not what you think. It's not what is commonly believed by our critics, because they usually do not really want to understand it. Also we tend not to use the same jargon as other churches, so many don't see the point as intended. I will reference large sections of the Book of Mormon which will show what we really believe, not the half-truths our critics like to tell. 

In the Bible, according to Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words , the Greek verb translated as "to save" ( sozo ) as with the noun form - salvation (soterion) can have several meanings; from being healed to receiving the greatest gifts God has to give. Below is an excerpt from Vine's Dictionary for sozo, minus the references (the definition for soterion is very similar.. (This was taken from www.blueletterbible.com

A1 - Verb) (a) of material and temporal deliverance from danger, suffering, etc.; .... from sickness, ... (b) of the spiritual and eternal salvation granted immediately by God to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.... (c) of the present experiences of God's power to deliver from the bondage of sin, ... (d) of the future deliverance of believers at the second coming of Christ for His saints, being deliverance from the wrath of God to be executed upon the ungodly at the close of this age and from eternal doom, ... (e) of the deliverance of the nation of Israel at the second advent of Christ, ...; (f) inclusively for all the blessings bestowed by God on men in Christ ... (g) of those who endure to the end of the time of the Great Tribulation, ... (h) of the individual believer, who, though losing his reward at the Judgment-Seat of Christ hereafter, will not lose his salvation ...; (i) of the deliverance of the nations at the Millennium ... A2 - Verb) . "to bring safely through" ... is used (a) of the healing of the sick by the Lord, ... RV, "were made whole" (AV adds "perfectly"); ... (b) of bringing "safe" to a destination; (c) of keeping a person "safe,"; (d) of escaping through the perils of shipwreck, ... B1 - Noun)(a) "preservation," (b) "acquiring or gaining something," is used in this latter sense in Hbr 10:39, translated "saving" (RV marg., "gaining"); the reference here is to salvation in its completeness
The scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ also use these words in several different ways. Unfortunately, many LDS Christians think that salvation means one thing and one thing only every time it is used. And unfortunately, many "mainstream" Christians think that salvation means one thing and one thing only every time it is used. And since each are generally defining salvation using a different, but correct definition (according to Vine's definitions), we each end up accusing the other of false doctrine. I will explain how The Church of Jesus Christ understands these different aspects of salvation ( Skip the long explanation and get to ' The Point ') 

First of all, we do not believe "Grace plus something" as has been said. In fact what confuses people the most about this question is they don't understand that in reality we are universalists (although not Unitarian Universalists). We believe in the universal salvation of mankind from Death and Hell. These two enemies Christ has completely put under His feet, they are completely destroyed. 

Let's start with death. After we live, we must die. This is an incredibly important part of our life. At death there is a first judgment, really more of a sifting process, and our spirit may go to one of two places, Paradise or Hell, sometimes called Hades - a waiting place for souls. As a quick reference about this I'll look to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man ( ^Luke 16:22-23 one died and went to rest in Abraham's bosom, the other to a place of torment, so we see there are those two places. Next the story of the Crucifixion, as Christ hung on the cross he promised one of the thieves that "to day shalt thou be with me in paradise ( ^Luke 23:43 )" And sure enough they both died that same day and presumably went to paradise. However three days later Jesus told Mary, "I have not yet ascended to my Father." ( ^John 20:17 ). So although He was in paradise, that is not were God the Father dwells. This is a way-station were the spirits of Men wait for judgment and resurrection. And we know that because God wants us to be resurrected, resurrected body must be a better state than hanging around as only a spirit while our body lies in the ground. 

Now the place of torment, which we also call prison, is real and it is certainly a place one would want to avoid. Those who go to paradise are saved from this place. So one sense of salvation is to not have to suffer in hell at death. The way of avoiding it is simply to look to Christ, if you've heard about Him and have been able to consider and pray about Him, you can learn that He is The Way to salvation. If you've never heard of him (that consists of billions of people over the last 6000 years) all men have the "Light of Christ" within them ( ^Moroni 7:16,18 ). As men listen to and follow this Light they are following Christ to the best of their ability and knowledge , and are thereby able to enter their rest in paradise. As men reject this Light they are rejecting Christ, their spirit turns dark and after death they are naturally left in torment, having separated themselves from God . This is what Paul said about "the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2Cor7:10). 

However, because of the atonement these are not eternal destinations. It is not very well documented in the Bible but as David said, "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." ( ^Psalms 16:8-11 ). [from Acts 2 we know this is also a prophecy of Christ, however because of those parts which could apply to David only such as "I have set the Lord always before me", "my flesh also shall rest in hope", and "thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy" I believe that it is a dual prophecy that also applies to David] . John wrote, in Revelations 2:12 that when judged we will be standing before God ( ^Rev 20:12 ), and in verse 13 that death and hell delivered up their dead, and they were judged ( ^Rev 20:13 ). So they must be redeemed from Hell in order to stand before God and be judged. Also he informs us in ^Rev 21:8 that it is after the judgment that the second death comes. And also in Christ's parable of the unmerciful servant, He said that for not forgiving his fellow, he would suffer until he had paid all that he owed, and that if we are unforgiving God will treat us likewise, i.e. turn us over to the tormentors in hell until we have paid what we owe. ( ^Matt 18:34-35 ). 

These principles are more fully explained in the Book Of Mormon. After the experiences of paradise and hell, there is next to come resurrection and final judgment, as explained in Alma 40:21. 

But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works
We believe in the sufficiency of Christ's atonement alone to save all men from death and hell. We can do no work which could ever save us from death and hell. Nephi makes this very clear in 2 Nephi 9: (read the whole chapter) 
5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. 6 For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfill the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection , and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. 7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement--save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. 8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace ! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. 9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness. 10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. 11 And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave. 12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel . 13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal , and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect. 
In short, because of the atonement all men are resurrected and saved from an eternal damnation with the devil. This is done through Grace Only -NOT Grace plus works , NOT Grace plus faith , but The Grace of Christ - ALONE

And as if it needed to be more clear that this salvation is universal Amulek teaches (Alma 11:42-44) 

42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. 43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. 44 Now, this restoration shall come to all , both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost ; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. 
That all mankind is resurrected is also expressly taught in John 5:28-29 
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
AND 1 Cor. 15: 22 
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.


So one sense of salvation is that we are all eventually redeemed from Death and Hell. We also call this overcoming Physical Death. Next we need to be concerned with permanently overcoming Spiritual Death, which is separation from God. The atonement of Christ unconditionally saves us from death and hell - and then we are brought before God and are conditionally saved to The Kingdom of God. Or in other words, now we have entered the realm of rewards, and all men are judged according to their works ^Matt 16:27 , ^Matt 25:31-35,41-42,46 , ^Rom 2:6-11 ; ^Heb 5:9 ; ^Rev 20:12 ). Now the rewards that God gives are not unconditional, they are based on our obedience, our works, our forgiveness of others, our repentance, our faith... That is why Christ said, "in my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). Paul also explained this difference in the eternal worlds in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 where he said 

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 
That is, the resurrection of the dead differs in glory as the Sun differs from the Moon and the Moon differs from the stars and as stars differ from each other. These differences in glory come about because we are judged according to our works and our works all differ. And to those who obey, Christ is the author of a particular salvation - "eternal salvation" ( ^Heb 5:9 ). So one sense of salvation is that we receive a mansion of glory, based upon the judgment of our works. There are also those who have actively chosen to merit a place of no glory, that is with the devil and his angels and these are they who have "sinned against the Holy Ghost," which is the only sin which can not be forgiven ( ^Matt 12:31-32 , ^Heb 6:4-6 , ^Heb 10:26 ), and thus receive "the resurrection of damnation" ( ^John 5:29 ), as Nephi and Amulek described above. This plan is neatly summarized by Alma in Alma 42:23 
But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice
Nevertheless, (now we get back to the grace part) King Benjamin explains very thoroughly in Mosiah 2:21-25 that although God asks us to work and we are thereby rewarded for that work, we can NEVER earn this reward of salvation to the Kingdom of God. 
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another-- I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you. 
So we don't deserve to be rewarded, we don't earn it and thus can't boast, but that is the deal that Christ offers us. He has set up rules and ordinances and covenants and duties (love your neighbor, forgive, be baptized, preach the gospel) which He expects us to do our best to follow faithfully, and when we do, He chooses to give us even more reward in this life and in the next He gives us even our breath and the strength we need to do works, even our faith is not ours but is a gift from God ^Eph 2:8 ) All we really can ever add to the equation is our desire to do his will, and that desire is manifested in faith and works. He has already freely saved us from Death and Hell, and then He has set up terms for us (such as if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven [ ^Matt 6:12 , ^Matt 7:2 ] ), to be exalted on high, and then through His forgiveness and blessing He brings us to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" [ ^Eph 4:13 ]. So one sense of salvation is that, if we overcome, through Jesus Christ's grace we can be blessed to receive all that the Father has [^Rev 21:7] , we are made perfect, and we sit on Christ's throne as He sits on His Father's [^Rev 3:21] . It is still by His Grace and His Love that we receive forgiveness and whatever reward we are given. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ chooses not to reward us if we don't make the effort to do all that we have been called to do. And this makes sense in the scheme of things, because by doing His will we learn His doctrine from the inside, and we grow in and through Christ, and He is able to change us, until we are like Him [ ^1 John 3:2-3 ] and we are able to fulfill His commandment to be "perfect, even as [our] Father in Heaven is perfect" [ ^Matt 5:48 ]. This is why we are taught, "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, ... ( ^James 1:22 ) and that those who enter the kingdom of heaven are those which " doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven ( ^Matt 7:24 ). This is why "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" ( ^2 Nephi 25:23 ), not because of all we can do. 

This is also why "faith without works is dead" { ^James 2:14,17,19-22,24,26 ). Many try to say it's a cause & effect relationship (faith is the cause which produces works), but that can not be. Lack of an effect can not kill the cause. For example, Lightning is a cause - Thunder is an effect. If you see lightning but hear no thunder, we can't then say Lightning without Thunder is dead (not if you ask the people whose house got hit by the lightning). Or again the phrase "Gravity without Falling is dead" is nonsense. Just because something doesn't fall (such as an airplane, a helicopter, a blimp ...) does not mean that the force of gravity is dead, since gravity never stops acting upon the object. The lack of the effect of falling can not "kill" the cause of gravity. Lack of Works could only kill Faith if Works and Faith are integral parts of a whole . For example, if the goal is to make water then Hydrogen without Oxygen is dead - because they are integral parts - water can not exist without both hydrogen and oxygen. A wife without a husband is dead, (the woman exits but she is not a wife) because one of the integral parts is missing, there is no marriage. As James said, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). He equates faith with the body, which does not become a living soul until the quickening spirit of works is placed in it. Both must be present and work together or there is death. So we see that faith and works are integral parts necessary to receive the rewards of Christ's salvation into his kingdoms. Faith can be a cause of works, but works can also be a cause of faith. Every believer has received increased faith by doing works. Hasn't there ever been a time for you when the natural man didn't want to do something that you knew the Lord wanted you to do (say for example, forgive someone). And when your faith pushed you finally to do it, that work brought you greater faith. They are integral parts of a whole, both gifts from God which support and build each other up. 

We also are in total agreement with Paul about being saved by grace, he was trying to make the same point that King Benjamin was. Paul however had a special set of problems, he was constantly fighting against the doctrines of the Jewish converts to teach them that they were not saved by the dead works of the law of Moses, nor that salvation was payment owed them by God because of their good works. And he was also fighting against Greek philosophy which often led the "former" gentiles into errors similar to the Jewish converts. A major error was Stoicism, the belief that one could attain moral perfection by mechanical means and the careful observance of external ordinances and ascetic restrictions. Under these circumstances Paul would naturally have to stress the grace of God, that works without faith is dead, and that we can never do any work that could ever save us, that only Jesus Christ can save us, just as King Benjamin taught. (James, however was writing to a different group ^James 1:1 , so his emphasis was different) Despite Paul's emphasis on grace and faith, he teaches in many other scriptures that it is our duty, of necessity, to labor, to strive in diligence, and faith, keeping the commandments of the Lord, if we would obtain that inheritance which is promised to the faithful. ( ^Gal 6:7-9 , ^Rom 2:6-8 ). In the end he knew he had "fought the good fight" because he had done all he could do, in faith . ^2 Tim 4:7 ). 

Now you have a sufficient background that I can make my point. 

The Point
My understanding is that most "mainstream" Christians, when speaking of being saved are generally talking about salvation from hell ( Vine's definitions A1 - (b) , A2 - (b)). However, Mormons are almost exclusively talking about salvation to the greatest rewards that God wants to give us (Vine's definitions A1 - (f), B1 - (b)) ( Vines - excerpt ) (we also call this "exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom"). We are almost never talking about salvation from hell . Possibly because it is so well defined in the Book of Mormon and so basic to our understanding of the atonement, it requires very little discussion. In a sense it is simply understood that it happens automatically as a fact of the atonement. And when we talk about exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, we tend to talk more about what Christ has asked us to do. Possibly because we know His promises are sure , so we don't need to worry if He will do what He said He would. What the LDS people tend to do most often is to give one another the encouragement to keep fighting the good fight and endure to the end. So again, when the Latter-day Saints talk about salvation we are really talking about doing all we can do to become as much like Christ as is possible, and inheriting the greatest rewards that He wants to give us. That means doing good works and following His example as stated in the original scripture that we started with, 2 Nep 31: 5-12 . And because we also call the Celestial Kingdom the "fullness of salvation" or very often just "salvation" and because many "mainstream" Christians have a different understanding of the relationship between faith and works, they get the idea that we are talking about our works being what saves us from Hell. However correctly translated into "mainstream" Christian parlance we are talking about the works by which we will be judged and receive the crowns and rewards that the Lord wants to give us. We are, as Paul wrote to Titus, "Looking for ... the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; ... a peculiar people, zealous of good works" ( ^Titus 2:13-14 ).

A Statement  new   Mix-Up, But then what use is the Book of Mormon?   [TOP]

About 2 Nep 31:5-12:
I don't know why I used the term "double talk" either. I will have to sit down and try to remember where I was going with that one. I may have been referring to another verse. Who knows?

From continuing to read through your letter I find that I have understood salvation by Grace through Faith at least as well as you do. And I also understand works and reward according to what is stated in the Holy Bible. But now where do we go? What is the point of the Book of Mormon? Does it add anything to what has already been revealed in the Holy Bible? I have also read your "The Point" paragraph. You and the other Mormons I have met across the hall from me give off a strong sense of "looking down" upon us poor little Christians. As though you have some greater revelation or something even to the point of laughing at us. You are not alone in it. I have seen the same thing in some Christians. God has not forgotten us for 1800 years as you might suppose. Those of us who know our God and His word know that He has warned us repeatedly about false prophets and false Christ's. This "exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom" idea for instance, sounds interesting.

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You sound like you're a little ticked at me, (well who isn't) but I think maybe you misread my intentions. I did not write all that because I thought you didn't understand Grace / Faith / Works. I was assuming that you held a belief that was very close to what I was describing. The point of "The Point" was not to preach to you about what you should believe - but "The Point" is really really really what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really believe. Really. Almost every "mainstream" Christian source that I know of will tell you that Mormons believe that we are saved by our works. It is not helped by the fact that Mormons do a very poor job of explaining what we believe in "mainstream" Christian terms. This whole issue is a particularly large pet peeve of mine, so because I thought that you were alluding to the Grace / Faith / Works issue when you labeled these verses as "double talk", I went off on my rather lengthily rant to show we believe something very close to what you and most of "mainstream" Christianity believe. 

We do not believe that God has forgotten either the Christian or Jewish worlds for 1800 years. He has always inspired and invited men to do good. He blessed and helped the Protestant Reformers to bring His Word out of darkness. He blessed and helped the pilgrims and the American Founding Fathers to accomplish impossible tasks so a land of religious freedom could be established, where the Kingdom of God that was to be formed "in the days of these kings" ^Dan 2:44-45 (Dan 2:44) could be formed to fill the Earth. They were brave and righteous people, often inspired and guided by God, He has always blessed and answered the prayers of all those who have sought Him, He has not stopped blessing all people who have sought Him out in faith throughout the history of the world. But all are free to live their life and make their decisions, to accept more of His Word or not. He makes free agency His ruling principle and will never force us to do anything. But He had stopped sending prophets, as the testimony of the Bible teaches us were sent to Earth throughout the history of mankind. 

I'm sorry if we come off as sounding superior. I hope you don't feel that we think we are personally superior to others. But yes, we of course think that our doctrine is superior to others. In some ways it is like the general relationship between the Christians and the Jews. I have read on occasion of Jews being offended by the upstart Christians who try to tell Jews that Christians understand the Jewish Messiah better than the Jews do. Some Jews look upon the Christians as being smug and self-righteous, when in reality it is simply because the Christians are so darn sure that Jesus is the Messiah that no amount of discourse or argument will ever persuade them to move one iota from their position. And the fact that the Christians claim to have a superior understanding of the Messiah and the Old Testament can be aggravating beyond words to them. The Mainstream Christians (at least most of them) do not feel that God has abandoned the Jews and switched sides, just that He has given more information to them. Another interesting parallel is that although some Jews may be convinced by argument and apologetic (Jews have plenty of argument and apologetics of their own to "prove" that Jesus is not the Messiah), Christians know that what will really convince them is by finding out a little about it, by reading the New Testament, and praying to God to ask if He is their Messiah and Savior. 

We do not mean to look down on anyone but - HELLOOO -- We do "have some greater revelation or something". That is the whole point - think about it -- God and His Son have opened the Heavens again and spoken directly to man, Angels have been sent to give instructions to mankind and prepare the world for the Lord's triumphal coming in the last days, Jesus Christ has spoken directly to us (just as he spoke to the churches of Asia in the opening chapters of Revelations) with council and love. Because He gives information line upon line, precept on precept, Jesus has revealed greater things than He has ever given before. Should we go out into the world and teach, Jesus Christ speaks to His prophets on Earth today, just as He did in ancient times -- but just forget it - it's not important for you to listen to what God has to say! No, we can not do this - we must proclaim that God is revealing His will to His prophets in our day and the world is missing what He has to say. 

Yes, I know you've been warned about false prophets - but notice that you were warned against false prophets, you were not warned against prophets. If there were to be no more prophets he would have simply warned us of anyone claiming the gift of prophecy. He gives guidelines about how to recognize false prophets, which would have been useless information if all subsequent prophets were to be false. 

To the Jews, Jesus and the Apostles were false prophets, but we know they were new prophets who taught a message consistent with the old message - which just happened to be out of harmony with the generally accepted orthodox doctrine of the day. Nowhere in scripture does anyone say that there should not be new prophets. I see quite clearly that there must be new prophets - ^Revelations 11:10 describes at least 2 new prophets that the Christian world is going to have to accept. One of the most obvious verses that tells us there should be apostles and prophets in the Church is Ephesians 4:11-18. Just after telling us about the unity of the Saints ("unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, ... one hope ... One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all [vs 3-6]), and that we are given gifts according to grace [vs 7], Paul tells us what gifts Christ gave (And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers [vs 11]) and tells why they are needed (For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:... That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive [vs 12,14]), and then tells until when they are needed (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 [vs 13]). The Christian membership (whatever you choose to define it as) has never come close to this kind of unity, and the Bible has promised apostles and prophets until it is united. 

Most accept the lower offices but insist the the dead apostles and prophets are good enough. By that logic, the dead evangelists, pastors, and teachers are also good enough and we would need no church organization at all. But as if to dispel any notion such as this Paul goes on saying that the whole must be joined together and that each part needs to work together (the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. [vs 16] ) in the Church. This mirrors Paul's message to the Corinthians about the oneness of the Church and that you can't take away any parts . And he again lists those parts as including "first apostles, secondarily prophets" (1 Cor 12) ( and he never authorizes to take away any of those parts that he just taught us about simply because a "more excellent way" exists). 

The Orthodox/Mainstream Christian Church has decided that it can remove two of the most important parts of the body of Christ with impunity. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Christian Church, with the required apostles and prophets.

What is the point of the Book of Mormon? What is the point of the New Testament? How many doctrines are there in the New Testament that can not be found, in one form or another, in the Old Testament? Not many. Just because Christians can agree with Jews about some/many doctrines does not mean that the New Testament does not give added insight, greater understanding, and a more complete picture of who God is and what He wants of us. And it doesn't mean that Christians think God has crossed over to "our side" and abandoned "their side". 

What is the point of the Book of Mormon? Usually this question is used to set up a Catch-22 scenario. If a Book of Mormon doctrine can be found in the Bible - then why do we need it. If a Book of Mormon doctrine can not be found in the Bible - then it is un-Biblical and therefore patently false. Using this method I can easily dispense with any book in the Bible. (Note: I'm not saying this is what you are doing, just that this is what is often done.) I was recently following an Evangelical Christian Chat on Belief.net that asked the Question: Is Baptism Required for Salvation? This discussion had a start date March 2001, there are almost 400 entries with the most recent being, 2 days ago, almost 8 months later. Do you think they reached any consensus in that time? Of course not, and every scripture that you can think of, plus many you probably would never have thought of were used. However obvious you may think the Bible is on the teaching, there were many articulate and intelligent Christians who had other scriptures and other interpretations which were just as obvious to them. Some wanted to sweep it away by saying it is a secondary issue, and we don't have to divide over it. But I keep thinking, how can the question of whether or not it is a requirement for salvation be secondary? And why do Mainstream Christians expect me, as an 'outsider', to believe that this is "THE body of Christ", that all these ideas are descriptive of the original Church which had "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism". This is one huge reason for the Book of Mormon and continued revelation. The Book of Mormon resolves almost all the major doctrinal disputes in Christendom: necessity/purpose/method of baptism, salvation/damnation of infants, authority, transubstantiation, eternal security, the Fall, the Resurrection, faith/grace/works, the sinlessness of Christ, the Immaculate Conception, the virgin birth, the pre-tribulation rapture.... I could take any one of these subjects and start huge discussion on a Christian Chat site that would go on forever, and if we included the more "liberal" denominations that are generally included in this "invisible Church of Jesus Christ" ("the invisible Body of Christ"), we could debate even more basic issues (like - did Jesus really live). The Book of Mormon was given to us as a second witness, "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." It was written to prove the Bible and to prove that Jesus is the Christ, and for several reasons I see it as the best proof of Jesus in the world. It tells us itself why it exists in the title page written by Moroni in about 420 AD: 

"Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations";




Problem #2: new   Skin Color - Problems in The Book of Mormon    [TOP]

  2 Nep 5: 20-25 

20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence. 21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. 22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. 23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. 24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey. 25 And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.

My Response   new   [TOP]    God Discriminates, But He is Not Racist  
These verses are part of a larger perceived racial problem. I will discuss these verses in particular and then the question as a whole. My goal here is to point out the very anti-racist teachings of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ. And to demonstrate that although God does discriminate, God is not racist. 

First I want to define terms as I will use them:
Discriminate -- choose one thing over another, the basis of which can be anything --- intelligence, age, strength, appearance. [Merriam-Webster : 2 : to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit]
Racism -- a belief in the superiority of one race or group over another. [Merriam-Webster 1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race] 

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST - AND THE LAMANITES
It is very popular among some circles to say that these verses are about skin color, but only the last half of one verse (vs. 21) is about skin color. The subject of these verses and the point of the curse, as explained by Nephi's introduction is that because of their hard hearts (hearts like flint) that they themselves had created - the Lamanites were cut off from the presence of the Lord. It is the curse of separation from the presence of the Lord and His Spirit that causes them to be loathsome, idle, full of mischief and subtlety. If anyone mixes their seed with these people they would become "unequally yoked" and therefore their children would receive the same curse - separation from the Lord. Notice that they will be loathsome - until they repent. they are not loathsome because of skin color. 



Some wonder how these changes in skin color happened. There are 2 general theories: #1- It was a miraculous immediate change upon all descendants of Laman and Lemuel; or #2 - It was a gradual change due to inter-marrying with local populations, which the Nephites were required by Mosaic Law to stay away from. There is not enough evidence to determine exactly which.
Although the change in skin color was a part of the curse, the reason for this particular part is plainly stated: to keep the two groups separated - and that is all. Notice that they did not need to be separated because of a change in skin color, they needed a change in skin color in order to be separated. In this new an emerging civilization it would have been disastrous for the two groups to mingle and allow the false ideas and teachings of the Lamanites to corrupt the Nephites. These were Old Testament people, just like the Jews they had to be separated out from among the non-believers. But precisely because these two groups were brethren there had to be something extraordinary done to separate them. The change in skin color was an obvious difference between the groups. 

These verses can not be taken in isolation from the rest of the book, and this is part of the whole story that shows that the relationship between the two groups was not racist. If it is not clear from the above it is clear from how this curse is referenced throughout the book what each part of the curse was about. 

The prophets in the Book of Mormon never allow the Nephites to forget that the Lamanites are their brethren. There is absolutely no sense that the "whites" are superior to the "blacks". The only time that there is a sense of superiority, or at least advantage, is because of the Lord's blessings. However, when groups of Lamanites were converted this distinction totally disappeared, although skin color remained the same. Perhaps I should not say that this distinction totally disappeared, because as Mormon said "when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin ( ^Alma 24:19 )". Many of the stories of the greatest faith and dedication to the Lord are about Lamanite (dark skinned) converts: The Lamanite "people of Ammon" who chose to die rather than take up their weapons of war and break a vow that they had made with God ( Alma 24:5-19 ); and were described as being "perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end" ( ^Alma 27: 27 ). And their sons the 2000 "stripling warriors" who because of their unshakable faith were all miraculously preserved through wars and battles that should have killed them because of their inexperience ( Alma 56 ). And the prophet Samuel the Lamanite who persevered to follow an angel's commandments to preach at the top of the wall of a city of wicked Nephites as they were trying to slay him by hitting him with their slings and bows and arrows ( Helaman 13-15 ). In a time of growing wickedness, it was the Lamanites who kept the faith; "And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up ... save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord" (3 Nephi 6:14 and also once before in ^Helaman 6:34-36 ). And thus we see, that whenever the Lamanites started believing in Christ and living his commandments such that they were no more separated from the Lord - they ceased to be loathsome, idle, full of mischief and subtlety, the dark skin had nothing to do with these things.

In contrast to this, the one time when something miraculous (or at least unusual) happened and the skin of a group of believing Lamanites (who had been living among the Nephites for years) actually changed back to its original color -- what was the result? - "they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites" ( ^3 Nephi 2:16 ). And thus we see that the only consequence of the change in skin color was to separate the two groups and it had no bearing on righteousness or their standing with the Lord.

Also we have early on in the history of the Nephites the discourse of Jacob that teaches us what the relationship of these two groups should be. Some of the Nephites began to be hold racist attitudes toward the Lamanites. Jacob (Jac 3:5-9) severely chastised them for this attitude. Notice how their "filthiness" is always a separate issue from their skin color. 

5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you;... 6 ...and one day they shall become a blessed people. 7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator? 8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God. 9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers. 
Some people don't like the use of the terms white and delightsome above. But this isn't racial either. In the Book of Mormon delightsome is used to describe any group which follows the Lord, including the Lamanites ( ^2 Nephi 30:6-7 ; ^Mormon 5:17 ; ^Words Of Mormon 1:8 ). White obviously can mean the color white, but it also has always been symbolic of purity, light and truth ( ^ Eccl 9:8 , ^ Isa 1:18 , ^ Dan 11:35 , ^ Dan 12:10 , ^ Rev 3:4 ); while black has always been symbolic of confusion, darkness, and falsehood ( ^ Job 3:5 , ^ Jer 4:28 , ^ Jer 8:21 , ^ Jer 14:2 , ^ Lam 4:8 , ^ Nahum 2:10 , ^ Jude 1:13 ). The Hebrew idea that people must be white has no relation to skin color. For Example, in Daniel 11:35 "And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end"; and in Daniel 12:10 "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly". Luckily these verses aren't in the Book of Mormon or everyone would claim something stupid like 'Mormons believe that only whites can be made pure'. But, since it's in the Bible everyone immediately sees it correctly, that Daniel is not talking about literally becoming white, it is an idiomatic way of saying "pure". The Book of Mormon also uses white and black symbolically. 

Mormon's culture had race problems and since he was given visions and an understanding of our day and time he saw that we also have race problems. He therefore placed teachings in the Book of Mormon which dealt with the problem and explained what our attitudes should be as pertaining to those of "other races". Many teachings in the Book of Mormon teach us that God is no respector of persons and he looks upon people equally regardless of color or other considerations

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST - AND THE BLACK AFRICANS
Many people think Mormons are racist because up until 1978, the Church did not allow "Blacks" to hold the Priesthood. It is another reason some people believe we have "issues" with dark skinned people. Actually it is quite a different situation. The dark skinned Lamanites were never denied the priesthood, no group recorded in the Book of Mormon were ever denied the priesthood. The whole priesthood ban has nothing to do with skin color, we see that this is so from the priesthood and membership bans in the Bible.

In the Bible there are groups who were denied the Priesthood. As a matter of fact at the time of Moses only one sub-group was allowed to have the Priesthood, that was the Levites ( the tribe of Levi). Only one sub-sub-group within the Levites were allowed to be High Priests, that was the descendants of Aaron . This discrimination against all but the Levites gives the first clue about the basis upon which God discriminates: lineage. The Priesthood for ancient Israel was given only to the lineage of Levi. The office of the High Priest was given only to the lineage of Aaron. God discriminated against all other lineages.

This is a pattern that is seen over and over in the Bible. The tribe of Israel were called the Chosen People, and given revelation, guidance, and blessings from God, not because they were better than others but because of the promises made to their fathers. In the Old Testament, God blessed the lineage of Israel and gave His word to all other lineages through them. God cursed the lineage of Moab (descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot), saying that a Moabite would not enter the congregation of The Lord until the 10th generation, because they failed to give food and water to the Israelites ( ^Deut 23:3-4 ). Imagine if you were a Moabite, about 6 or 7 generations later, how you might rail against such an unjust God who would bar you from membership because of something that your fathers did 200 or 300 years ago. How can that be fair? You are innocent and had nothing to do with the whole thing, and you would have given all the food and water the Israelites wanted. And yet you may not join the Jews because of unjust racial discrimination. Might this not be the "proof" that the Israelites and their "God" are Racists and that they do not know the True God after all? 

But God is not racist . The members of the tribes of Judah, or Joseph, or Benjamin, or Napthali, ... were never considered to be inferior to Levi. The Sons of Aaron did not claim that their tribe was in any way superior to the other tribes. The Jews were not supposed to think of themselves as superior to other tribes around them (although they sometimes did which was another problem). God had good reasons for His bans and prohibitions, even if the people didn't always understand the reasons. Likewise, the former ban on people of Black African lineage never allowed a claim of superiority or inferiority, it just has nothing to do with racism. For example even in 1844 when other Christians were debating whether or not Blacks had souls, Joseph Smith the founding president and prophet of the Church stated, 

"They [Negroes] came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls and are subject to salvation. Go to Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated Negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by his own mind to his exalted state of respectability." (History of the Church 5:217) 
Today most people don't recognize how out of step this statement is with the times when is was made. To suggest that Blacks and Whites were equal and that if the situation was reversed the Black Man would be intelligent and respected (and all the other stuff Whites thought (think) of themselves), while the White Man would be ignorant, lazy, and poor (and all the other stuff White's thought (think) of Blacks) was extraordinary. To us today it's common sense (for most people who have some), but back then while they were still selling Black people like cattle, and murdering a Black person was considered to be a regrettable loss of property, Joseph Smith's statements were outrageous. It is hard to nail down if there was a direct cause and effect link between Joseph's prophetic sense and the wrath of the mobs who killed him not long after he made this statement, but I believe it played more than a minor role. 

But also like the ban on the Moabites, the Priesthood ban on the lineage of Black Africans has always been known to be a temporary thing, although the time when the ban would be lifted was unknown and thus often debated. Also debated is the exact reason for the ban. Some believe they understand it all, others aren't sure we have been given the whole story. But even if the reason why was unclear, because we have an obligation to follow what the Lord tells us to do whether we understand it or not (or even whether we personally agree with it or not), the Church leaders put the ban in place after it was revealed through Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham. 
 

One thing people often do not understand about the LDS Priesthood - it is a voluntary thing, it is not a profession. No one makes a living out of being a priest, elder, bishop, stake president.... All the leaders have their own secular jobs to support themselves, whether that's a doctor, lawyer, plumber, or dog catcher. At the highest levels of the Church, many who accept the few hundred or so full time positions as Priesthood Church leaders (General Authorities) are retired or independently well off. If they can't afford to live without an outside source of income, they are essentially put on the "work-fare" rolls of the Church, the Church gives them a job as a board member of one of the commercial companies it owns (which are like any other tax paying secular business), and they are expected to work for their support. So the priesthood ban never kept anyone from a job or a chosen profession. No one is allowed to make money from their Priesthood - if they tried it would be called "priestcraft", and they would probably be excommunicated.

So why was there a ban on the Priesthood? Most theories that I've seen fall into one of two categories (but keep in mind that any theories can be just plain wrong if there is no direct "Thus Sayeth the Lord" type revelation to support it.): #1 - That the dark skin comes from the mark of Cain, through Ham, to the early Pharaohs and the Black Africans (LDS scriptures contain more information on this subject than the Bible) or #2 - (which is actually a non-theory) that says theory #1 still requires too many unsupported assumptions about the link from Cain and that the ban was linked to Egyptus from Canaan, and not Cain, and therefore we should not theorize until we receive further light and knowledge directly from the Lord. Personally, I've not studied the subject enough to be very confident one way or the other, although I have been impressed by a discussion on this topic written by The Elijah Abel Society of Black Latter-day Saints, who apparently hold quite strongly to theory #1. I realize that to some this theory is racist all by itself, because Cain was a murderer, and because it involves verses about the Canaanites (Gen 9:25) cursed to be a "servant of servants" - and I think that I can understand when a black man has been beaten over the head often enough with a stick he would be pretty leery when a white man comes up to him with that same stick - claiming that he only uses it as a cane. LDS people who hold to theory #1, generally see Genesis 9:25 as a prophecy, not a justification. As the Lord said - "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" (Matt. 18: 7) and in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants 101:78-79 "That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another ". As far as Cain being a murderer - so what. That doesn't have any bearing on his descendants. Moses was also a murderer, and Christ was not ashamed to admit that he also was descended from a murderer, King David who had Uriah the Hittite killed. 

A web page, written by The Elijah Abel Society of Black Latter-day Saints, does a much better job than I ever could of discussing this topic and answering questions. Also since it is written by African Americans it may be considered more relevant. Let me first just point out some of their points which interested me the most. 

  1. The earliest LDS Church members had difficulties with their neighbors because Mormons were not prejudiced enough. 
  2. Dark skin is not a curse, it was just a mark for protection and therefore was actually a blessing -- the curse of Cain was the ban on the Priesthood. 
  3. Although cursed from the Priesthood the first Pharaoh (who was Black) was "a righteous man", Blacks were also blessed by the Lord with wisdom and "with the blessings of the earth". Being blessed with wisdom, they were also the founders of the first cities, and among the first to work in brass and iron, use the harp and organ, and among the first to develop math, science, and architecture. (Note: it's very hard to sustain a racist doctrine when you also attribute the beginnings of many of the world's greatest accomplishment's to the "inferior" group.) 
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ, unlike much of White Christianity in the first part of this century, has always taught it's members to voice opposition to the KKK. 
Please follow this link for a very interesting article about Black Mormons & The Priesthood Ban , written by Black Mormons. (if link is broken go here instead) Also The Elijah Abel Society of Black Latter-day Saints can be contacted through President Darius Gray of the Genesis Group (another Black LDS organization) at LDSGENESIS@aol.com. You can also read the Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses , which are both relatively short. 
 


 

The Jeremiah Problem:  new      [TOP]

Along with the skin color problem (see above) and the book of Jeremiah problem ...

My Reply   new   [TOP]
"The Jeremiah Problem" as I understand it that the book of Jeremiah does not indicate that there were other true prophets at the time of Jeremiah and that there is no indication that God was going to save any groups by having them leave Jerusalem. I see this as a very minor issue. I know of nowhere in the Bible that even hints at the idea that the Bible (as we currently have it) contains all religious truth. That is an old sectarian notion which must always follow any group who denies continuing revelation.  The logic goes something like this: "Since we have many books of scripture and since there are no more prophets to receive more, this must be all that God ever wanted to say, since it's inconceivable that I could be the one who hates and kills the prophets and thus is on the wrong path."  This mind set was well illustrated by the Pharisees in the New Testament.   

Beyond this the Bible nowhere indicates that it describes all the movements of all the people of Israeli descent. For example the Elephantine papyri, ancient documents found in Egypt, are a series of correspondence from a group of Jews who had left Jerusalem and settled in the Elephantine valley in Egypt sometime before 525 BC . They flourished there and built their own temple, apparently having received permission from the Jews at Jerusalem (since after their temple was destroyed they sent letters requesting permission to rebuild their temple). The Bible says nothing about this group (which show some interesting parallels to Lehi's group), but that's OK because the Bible never says that it has to say everything

The story of the prophet Urijah represents another prophetic voice which was lifted up just prior to this time "who also prophesied against this city, and against this land, according to all the words of Jeremiah." (Jer 26:20).  Chapter 26 of Jeremiah, written only after Urijah was captured, is the only definite Biblical information about there being any other prophets in Jerusalem echoing Jeremiah's words.  Except for these few verses we would be left with the impression that all other prophets at the time were false prophets ( ^Jeremiah 23:14 ).  Uriah was told to flee, but word got out, and he was hunted down and killed. Lehi was commanded the same as Uriah, if it had been broadcast and written about they would have hunted him down and killed him also. But Lehi got out quickly, leaving within hours and traveling rapidly to safe locations were he could hide out. If it had been recorded in Jeremiah's writings for the King to see, Lehi would be just another footnote, like Uriah. 

But what if the story had been written there, that just puts us into another Catch-22 situation, because everyone would say "So what --- Joseph Smith just stole that information about a group leaving Jerusalem from the Bible." He probably wouldn't have been the first either, so now there would be competing theories and competing stories and the experts would be able to just dismiss the Book of Mormon because it didn't follow what tradition held about this group. The point is that those who choose not to believe have a decent reason for not believing either way.





Polygamy:   new    [TOP]

I would like to know who introduced polygamy into the Mormon Church?

My Reply   new   [TOP]    I was just following orders
And the obvious answer is -------- God. But I suppose you want a bit more detail. First a small background in the practice. Three men who most religions have considered righteous and following God's commandments were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As a matter of fact one of God's names is merely a reference to these men, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 3:15). And yet two of them were known polygamists (see  Gen. 25:1-11 , and  Gen. 29,30 ). The twelve tribes of Israel would not have existed without polygamy. Christ did not have too much of a problem with it because Jesus still revered him as a father and considered paradise to be in the bosom of that old polygamist Abraham. ( ^Luke 16:22-23 ) The Law of Moses also did not prohibit polygamy, and at times even required it. Jehoiada the priest ( ^2 Chronicles 24:2-3 ) was a polygamist. ^Deuteronomy 21:15-17 shows polygamy accepted as a valid practice and gives rules governing the inheritance for children of polygamous wives. If your brother married, but died without having had children. the law required you to marry his widow and produce offspring for him ( ^Deuteronomy 25:5-6 ; which was not condemned by Christ (see also Mark 12:19-23; Matthew 22:24-28). This law was to be followed regardless of whether or not you are already married. 

Just because it is contrary to our culturally derived morals does not mean it is morally wrong by God's standards. ^2 Samuel 12:7-9 tells us quite plainly that God gave David his wives. God is not immoral and neither is polygamy. God condemns both David and Solomon not because they had many wives but because they both took wives beyond those that were given them. ( 1 Kgs. 15: 5 "Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite", & ^1Kings 11:1-2 about Solomon's strange wives). 

Peter speaks about the "restitution of all things" ( ^Acts 3:21 ) which is being brought about by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith and his successors. This principle also had to be restored as part of "all things", and was commanded by revelation and the visitation of angels. The Book of Mormon says that polygamy is prohibited, unless it is specifically commanded by the Lord to "raise up seed unto me" (Jacob 2:27-30). This is the only "reason" we know of that it was instituted. Although a principle of the gospel, it was never a requirement for all (less than 5% of the men ever practiced it), and was allowed only after much counciling, priesthood interviews, and agreement by all parties (especially the wives). It was at first extremely burdensome and hard to accept because of the false traditions of western culture. It required a great deal of faith and sacrifice to live the principles. When lived righteously, polygamist households were filled with love and sharing, and the principle was staunchly defended by both men and women. (I am not saying that there were no bad polygamous marriages, but they were a very small percentage, and any bad polygamous marriage would only be significant if it could be shown that there are no bad monogamous marriages.) Its practice was ended in the same way it began, by revelation. The existence of the Church was threatened with destruction due to the practice of polygamy, therefore the Lord rescinded any requirement to practice it since after all it is a secondary issue. In ^Jeremiah 18:7-10 we see an explanation of why the Lord would remove the blessing of polygamy from the world (because of men's evil choices) and ^Doctrine & Covenants 124:49-50 further explains the same principle.)

[BTW There is no such thing as "The Mormon Church" and never has been. My church was originally organized in 1830 as "The Church of Christ", but in 1838 The Lord revealed the complete name as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". The fact that we believe in the Book of Mormon does not change the name of the church.] 
 
 




Prophets Problem:    new    [TOP]
Prophecies Must Come To Pass

1 - Deuteronomy 13:1-11

1 IF there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.....
Deuteronomy 18:10-22
. .. 20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Jeremiah 28:9-17
9 The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.... 15 Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. 17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.


[ History Note: During a previous discussion I had made a comment pertaining to judging if a prophet is a true prophet or not, saying Nathan and Jonah could be labeled "false prophets". It was said as a kind of "off hand" statement, and we didn't have time to follow up what I meant to say - But I meant that one must be very careful , because if you judged using only basic criteria, such as in Deut 13:1, you will have to also condemn some Biblical prophets as well, such as Nathan who prophesied of David's throne lasting forever (2Sam 7:16), or Jonah who prophesied of the destruction of Ninevah (Jonah 3:4), neither of which events came to pass as prophesied. Not having developed the subject any further at that time, and before having had a chance to respond to the above scriptures, I received the reply to that previous related discussion as follows:] 

I thought about what you said about Jonah's prophecy to Ninevah and I reject it based on the following scriptures:

Jer 26:13Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.(KJV)

1 Sam 15:29And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.(KJV)

Luke 13:2-3And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(KJV)

Rom 3:24-25Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, forbearance of God; (KJV)

One of the jobs that God gives to prophets is that of making His pronouncements of judgment. God does not lie. But He does substitute judgment and in doing so He has put the penalty upon Himself at the cross. He does not lie .

An Explanation   new   [TOP]   
On Why a Prophecy Appears False

Let's not forget Jeremiah 18:
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them." ( ^Jeremiah 18:7-10

Yours is a very well reasoned scriptural response with which I agree absolutely. As a matter of fact that was my whole point. The only way you could say that these the Biblical prophets Nathan and Jonah are not true prophets is by narrow-mindedly applying the rules in Deuteronomy 13 and 18 without taking into account the other scriptures presented above that explain how a true prophet can appear to give a false prophecy.

The problem for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that many people who love to criticize The Church and contend that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet will use a double standard. For Biblical prophets they are more than happy to make allowances according to scriptures such as Jeremiah 26:13, but Joseph Smith is usually allowed only the narrow-mindedly applied rules in Deuteronomy 13 and 18. When Joseph Smith's prophesies are examined without the double standard, he passes the test of a true prophet as well as any true Biblical prophet. 

First let me go over some reasons that a prophecy may appear to be false to it's hearers: 

  • The circumstances have changed due to the free agency of men (such as with Nathan and Jonah listed above). 
  • The prophecy is of an event that has simply not yet been fulfilled, but will be in the future (such as prophesies of Christ's Second Coming). 
  • The prophecy is partially fulfilled in one time place or manner but is to be completely fulfilled in a second time, place, or manner ( Matthew 24 ). 
  • The prophet is speaking symbolically or allegorically and a literal fulfillment is not expected. (Matt 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth".) (This is a dangerous reason, anything can be explained away this way - we should have a strong reason within scripture for declaring something as symbolic) 
  • The prophetic statement (not always a prediction of the future) is opposed to the hearers incorrect interpretations of existing scriptures (such as Christ's statements to the Jews that he is God and the fulfilling of the Law of Moses) 
Using the same rules that any decent Biblical apologist would use to demonstrate that none of the Biblical prophets ever gave a false prophecy, the prophecies of Joseph Smith can also all be shown to be true. Of course, I can't do that here. That's a book length project. Duane S. Crowley, in his book, The Prophecies of Joseph Smith, examines over 400 prophecies of Joseph Smith most of which have come to pass and some that still await fulfillment.



Portrayal Problems     new  [TOP]
I would like to know why the way that God portrays Himself in the Bible contradicts your portrayal.

My Reply  new   [TOP]    The Orthodox is Paradox 

Another easy one, it doesn't. If I get into any more detail than that - it's going to get long.

OK, you asked for it. 

A portrayal is a hard thing to quantify. For example, some see the God of the Old Testament as a harsh and vindictive God. I see a very long-suffering caring Father trying to raise incredibly obstinate and unbelieving children. Two portrayals can be easily seen from the same verses. You left unsaid just what your understanding of the portrayal of God is in the scriptures you quote, so I assume it must be similar to that of the average Christian believers I have spoken with. 

As noted above, the problem with true prophetic information being opposed due to incorrect interpretations is an age old problem. It must be noted that almost all prophets have had to defend their true prophetic knowledge against the prejudice of incorrect orthodoxy. If the measure of a true doctrine is measured by how well it follows orthodoxy, then Jesus Christ himself would be a false prophet. He certainly didn't follow orthodoxy. Although both Christ's doctrine and the 1st Century Jewish orthodox doctrine can be seen to come from scripture, the orthodox doctrine makes assumptions and explanations which turn in a different direction from the original meanings of the scripture. In order to just dismiss Christ without dealing with the logic of his position they simply labeled him un-Jewish (calling him a Samaritan ^John 8:48 ), making even the discussion of his doctrine heretical to the Jewish faith, thus any known to follow him were cast out of the synagogue ( ^John 12:42 ). The orthodox keepers of the Jewish faith were only doing what the prophets had told them to do. To them, Jesus was telling people to leave the God of Orthodoxy and follow an unknown god who didn't match what all the doctors and theologians have understood God to be for thousands of years. While in truth Jesus was restoring an ancient true faith. 

Likewise, Joseph Smith is said by orthodoxy to follow a "different" Jesus, the Church he founded is "un-Christian" and heretical to what all the doctors and theologians have understood God to be for thousands of years. While in truth Jesus Christ is restoring an ancient true faith, through a prophet. 

Given the history of religious orthodoxy it does not seem unreasonable to examine their assumptions. The quickest way to get kicked out of the Orthodoxy Club is to raise a question about the Trinity. That is because they quite confidently know that: 'No subject has been contemplated and examined more by the theologians and churchmen, they have gone over all the evidence from all scriptures and have come to the only conclusion that can be made. So from here on, they can confidently state that any one who digresses from orthodoxy is not in harmony with the scriptures, so don't worry about it. And don't worry that you can't understand it, it's way over your head anyway, it takes years of training and discipline to follow the arguments which lead to the true conclusions'. They are so confident that even orthodox scholars can say things such as: 

"The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the 4th and 5th centuries is not to be found in the New Testament". (Harper's Bible Dictionary) 
"Of a doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense there is of course no sign [in the New Testament]..." (J.N.D.Kelly, "Early Christian Doctrines") 
"The God whom we experience as triune is, in fact, triune. But we cannot read back into the New Testament, much less the Old Testament, the more sophisticated Trinitarian theology and doctrine which slowly and often unevenly developed over the course of some fifteen centuries ." (Richard P. McBrian, "Catholicism", Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1980, pg. 347) 
"Thus the New Testament itself is far from any doctrine of the Trinity or of a triune God who is three co-equal Persons of One Nature." (William J. Hill, "The Three-Personed God", Washington DC, The Catholic University of America Press, 1982, p. 27) 
"The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity." ("New Testament Theology", Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1967, Vol 1, p. 84) 
They can say these things and still be orthodox because they have total and unquestioning faith in the process of the theologians to define and explain it all, in this way they can accept how the doctrine must be pulled out of the text from between the lines. 

Other orthodox scholars have recognized that the writings of the earliest church fathers (1st & 2nd Centuries) contain many of the same kind of herasies that crop up in "Joseph Smith's" doctrine: subordinationism (a hierarchy of Gods in the Trinity), anthropomorphism (God in human form), deification (man can become God), among others. (I am just going to quickly steal some references from orthodox sources from a couple of websites by Barry Bickmore and Kelly Shirts to make my point.) 

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"the Father was considered first in rank and glory, while the Son and Spirit were considered second and third, respectively. Such 'subordinationism' was suppressed by the end of the fourth century". "For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I." [T]he Paraclete [is] distinct from Himself, even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father; so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete, as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy." [Tertullian, Against Praxeas 9, in ANF 3:603-604.]"Whatever, therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a Person, I claim for it the name of Son; and while I recognize the Son, I assert His distinction as second to the Father ." [Tertullian, Against Praxeas 7, in ANF 3:602.] 

"In Pre-Nicene Trinities , the Father is the Godhead. He is eternal, immutable, unbegotten, the ultimate source of everything. God the Son, who is begotten of the Father, is God in relationship to the world. He is thus creator and is also the redeemer and sanctifier. God the Spirit is God in the hearts and minds of human beings, the inspirer and illuminator. Thus, God the Father is God in all of his attributes. Everything that can be said of God can be said of him. To use a mathematical analogy, the Son's attributes are a subset of the Father's. Moreover, since he is God in relationship with the world, he in turn includes as a subset the attributes of the Spirit. It is readily apparent why this model of the Trinity is often called hierarchical. The members of it are not coequal , in that more is attributed to the Father than to the Son, and more to the Son than to the Spirit." [Linwood Urban, _A Short History of Christian Thought_, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995,) p. 54.] 

"Indeed, until Athanasius [early fourth century] began writing, every single theologian, East and West, had postulated some form of Subordinationism . It could, about the year 300, have been described as a fixed part of catholic theology." [Hansen, R., "The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD", in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, p. 153. 

'Deification is best summed up by Irenaeus [A.D. 130-200], Bishop of Lyons, who wrote that we "were not made gods at our beginning, at first we were made men, then, in the end, gods." Irenaeus also said that Jesus "became what we are that he might make us what he himself is." In a similar vein, Clement of Alexandria insisted that Christ "became man just that you may learn from a man how it may be that man should become God ."' 

'And according to Samuel Angus, former professor of New Testament and Historical Theology at St. Andrew's College in Sydney: In the same strain Lactantius [A.D. 260-330] affirms that the chaste man will become 'identical in all respects with God'. Even more emphatically the Greek father, Methodius [d. A.D. 311], taught 'every believer must through participation in Christ be born a Christ,' and the master of orthodoxy did not hesitate to say dogmatically, 'He was made man that we might be made God.

'As non-Mormon scholar Ernst Wilhelm Benz stated, "One thing is certain: Joseph Smith's anthropology is closer to the concept of man of the original church than that of the protagonists of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin [namely, most of the Christian sects today], who considered the idea of such a fundamental and corporeal [wesenhaftes] relationship [with God] as the quintessential heresy."' 

'William F. Albright himself acknowledged that Moses' monotheism had to include God the Creator, "who is in human form...Fundamental to early Israelite religion and profoundly rooted in Mosaic tradition is the anthropomorphic conception of Yahweh ... we have only to glance at the mythologies, the iconographies, and the litanies to see that Near-Eastern gods shifted in disconcerting fashion from astral form to zoomorphic, dendromorphic, and composite manifestations. Yahweh, on the other hand, is virtually always referred to in the earlier sources in a way which suggests his human form though his body was usually hidden in a refulgent envelope called his Glory."' 

'The Bible clearly says God has a shape, and that shape is human, as when God spoke to Moses face to face, or when God was unseen of Israel, Moses did see God's back-parts as God was moving away from Moses. Numbers 12:8, the "discussion of the divine form was not meaningless, even if later exegesis attempted to interpret it away." Eichrodt notes its significance saying this selem elohim "the image of God, may once have been conceived in a quite concrete way... if therefore Man is created beselem elohim, in accordance with the picture of God, then it is certain that the original idea was of Man's outward form as a copy of God's; and here Man's upright posture and movement may have been a major ingredient in the likeness."' 

'An early Christian dialogue between Origen and Heraclides is revealing on this idea of the two becoming one, especially in relation of Jesus to His own Father. Origen asks since Jesus is in the form of God, is he a God also? Heraclides answers affirmatively. Origen then asks if the Son is distinct from the Father. Hercalides says yes. Origen asks, Do we acknowledge then, two Gods? Heraclides says "Yes; the power is One." Origen then concludes the ticklish dialogue, "But since our brethren are shocked by the affirmation that there are two Gods, the subject must be examined with care in order to show in what respect they are two and in what respect the two are one God."
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None of this is meant to be a "proof" of anything, just food for thought. There are ideas in Pre -Nicene Orthodox Christian writings that are heretical in Post -Nicene Orthodox Christianity . Personally, I choose to put more weight behind the words of those who were closer to the original Apostles (those who heard them teach or were at least taught by those who heard them teach) above the process and intellectual arguments of the theologians and churchmen of the Catholic Church. Also, as in the case of the Trinity argument, I prefer to accept what can be determined directly from Scripture not "the formal doctrine of the Trinity" which "is not to be found in the New Testament". (Harper's Bible Dictionary) 

Although the above are not directly from the scriptures, I put them up to suggest that there is not a uniform front in Christianity about the way that God portrays Himself, and that the earlier Christian writings are closer to the LDS concept of God than they are to current Orthodox concepts . Now I'll deal directly with the scriptures you listed and then you can deal with mine. 

I've divided your verses into 4 sections - depending on the point I think you are trying to make. 

1. There is only one God.

Exod 20:2-3 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt,out of the house of bondage.3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (KJV)
Deut 32:39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.(KJV)
Hosea 13:4Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.(KJV)
Interestingly, many Jews use these scriptures against mainstream Christians because their 3-in-1 God is too polytheistic for Judism. So mainstream Christians use them against us because our 3-in-1 God is too polytheistic for them. I'll discuss the issue in the next section.

2. Jesus is The Way, and the One God, and One with the Father
John 8:58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (KJV)
John 14:6-7Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.(KJV)
First of all, we believe (as ^John 8:58 indicates) that Jesus is the same personage as Jehovah, the Great I AM ( ^Exodus 3:14 , ^Isaiah 49:26 , ^1 Nephi 19:10 ). Also we believe very strongly that Jesus is the one way and the only Saviour. From the Book of Mormon Mosiah 3:17 -18 
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent . 18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

And we do believe in one God, just as the Book of Mormon says in 2 Nephi 31:21
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost , which is one God, without end. Amen. 

The only big controversy I see arises because we have different definitions of what "one" means . My Bible reading forces me to agree with the Harper's Bible Dictionary that "the formal doctrine of the Trinity is not to be found in the New Testament". But beyond that it shows me that the LDS doctrine of the Trinity is the only one described in the Bible. I have a longer discourse on the subject on my page "The Biblical Trinity ", which you may want to look at. But in short it says that since Christ prayed in John 17 that his disciples should become one "even as" Christ and the Father are one, the only logical way the Father and Jesus could be one is the same way Jesus expects us to be one with each other. That is to remain separate and distinct individuals while being one in purpose, glory, joy, witness, might, mind, and strength. Since there are no other verses in the Bible which explain how they are one, no one is justified in going beyond this interpretation into co-substantial persons of one substance. This is one reason I see that " the way that God portrays Himself in the Bible contradicts your portrayal ".

3. There is only one God, others are false gods 
1 Cor 8:4-6As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 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. (KJV)
This is an interesting verse because it is often used by the LDS as a defense of our position. Paul says there is one God, even though there are those that are merely called gods just as there are many gods and many lords, but to us there is only one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. This is a question of interpretation and preferred word order, really. Still it is not an impossible interpretation that Paul was not simply repeating himself about false gods, but that he mentions false gods and then speaks of real beings who can be called gods and lords. This is because both the Old Testament word for god (elohim ) and the New Testament word for god (theos) have in the scriptures been applied to individuals other than God the Father, Son or Holy Ghost (although not always translated as the word "god"). But despite these gods and lords, to us there is one God and one Lord. 

The scriptures use the term "god" (especially the Old Testament) for beings other than "false gods" and other than those in the 3 person Godhead. ^Psalms 82:6 -"Ye are gods ... children of the most High"; man is called god, because we are children of God. In ^Psalms 8:4-5 , Man was made a little lower than the elohim. This is usually translated angels, but the Hebrew word is literally "gods" (also I'm aware that their are Messianic overtones, but the scripture itself references men in general). In ^John 10:34-35 Christ repeats Psalms 82:6 and teaches that the scripture calls men god, when they receive the word of God. These things are not a problem for us because we are all (men and angels) the "offspring of God" ( ^Acts 17:29 ) and thus of the same "species". If man is made a little lower than the elohim, the Bible is in strict compliance with the LDS portrayal of God. 

In normal conversation we usually call pre-schoolers "children" as opposed to "men" since there is such a big difference, but we can still say that children are "men" as opposed to ducks or trees. Similarly, we usually call humans men as opposed to God since there is such a big difference, but we can still say that men are "gods" as opposed to ducks or trees - because we really are His children. God could have called mankind anything at all, He could have referred to us only as well loved creations, or His greatest creation or some other terms meant to let us know that we are very important to Him and that He loves us like a child. Instead He calls us His children, and He calls us that for a reason. Every child has the capacity to grow and become like his parent, otherwise it is not a child, just a creation. Mainstream Christianity must redefine what the words "children", "sons", and "offspring" mean, but only when used to describe our relationship to God. Mainstream Christianity must redefine what the word "elohim" means only when it is applied to other beings. These special case variable definitions are another way their portrayal of God contradicts the Biblical portrayal. Mainstream Christian doctrine must insist that God is a completely other type of being from men, not really the sons of God as He tells us we are in scripture.

And while we're on the topic, the translation of the word elohim is an interesting way that men have tried to subtly alter the portrayal of God. This word elohim is mainly used to refer to the True Eternal God, but it has an interesting feature that modern translators have always tried to downplay, it is a plural word. If the translators would translate the words without overlaying their theology onto the text, the first verse of the Bible would be "In the beginning the Gods created the heaven and the earth (Gen 1:1)' portraying God as a plural, along with 2605 other verses. Likewise that famous verse in Deut 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD" is very literally translated "Hear, Israel: Jehovah our Gods [are] one Jehovah. Or based on one understanding of the meaning of the name Jehovah it could be, "Hear, Israel: our Eternal Gods are one Eternal" (KTD {i.e. my translation:-}). This plurality of the word "God" is sometimes used by Christians to imply that the Trinity was vaguely understood by the ancient Jews, but generally I've found that most Christians find that tactic too unsettling because this portrayal of God starts turning to become too close to the LDS view that the plurality indicates several separate divine beings who are nevertheless one God.

4. Jesus Christ is Eternal and is God 
Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.(KJV)
Rev 1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira,and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. (KJV)
Rev 21:6-7 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is a thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (KJV) Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.(KJV)
We believe both of these, with no problem. Jesus Christ is God. Many are mislead by statements that Jesus is a created being, but that does not mean to us what it means to some. We mean it in the same sense where in ^Revelations 3:14 Jesus calls Himself "the beginning of the creation of God". Is Jesus the "beginning of the creation"? That makes Him the first element to be created in the creation. But we don't believe in creatio ex nihilo , "creation out of nothing". So although it can be said that Jesus Christ was created it can only be meant in a way similar to saying he was created in Mary's womb and then born. He existed before His creation as a man, He existed before His creation as a spirit, He has always existed and before "the beginning" began - Jesus was God. As John said, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. We have absolutely no theological problem with that. As far as we have been told in scripture, Jesus has always been God, the scriptures never teach of a time when Jesus was not God. So this instance of our portrayal of God not being the Bible's portrayal is illusionary.

The Ontological Nature of God
In addition there are many instances where I see our portrayal matching the Biblical portrayal as opposed to mainstream Christianity. We tend to take the Bible quite literally unless there is a good reason not to, such as a description written as a poem. For example, every eye witness account of men seeing God has described Him as having human parts. Speaking of a particular critic, one LDS scholar said: 
The Bible often speaks of God as a "man" in form, with body parts. If [he] is correct, how is this to be explained? Ezekiel and others saw and described God as a man ( ^Ezek. 1:26-28 ; ^Exod 33:18,20-23 ; cf. ^Isa. 6:1 ; ^Amos 9:1 ; ^Exod 24:9-11 , etc.). [He], I presume, is either unaware of these descriptions or does not believe them to be literal. If, infact, the body parts attributed to God in the Bible are metaphorical only, then perhaps ^John 4:24 (which [he] cites) is also to be explained metaphorically. (Where does one draw the line?) [ Tvedtnes at Shields Research
Sure there are descriptions about God being a flaming fire, and a mighty building, and a strength, and a refuge; but these are all poetic descriptions of His majesty and Power. No one in the Bible tries to report an actual sighting of God in these terms. If Steven ( ^Acts 7:55-56 ) saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, I will need to see where the Bible says this is not to be taken literally, otherwise It's another eyewitness account that the Biblical God has a visible physical presence. 

There are a few counter arguments from mainstream Christianity that I've heard of but none that hold water. There is "God is a spirit" ( ^John 4:24 ). but the correct translation would be "God is spirit" (see the NKJV, NSB, RSV, and NIV translations) and we are all for that idea, that is what separates God from the dead idols, who have no spirit. But it doesn't mean that God is only spirit, anymore than the verses "God is light" or "God is love" mean that God is only light or God is only love. That same verse tells us that we must "worship him in spirit", yet that does not mean we remove our bodies from encasing our spirits to worship. This illustrates that the spirit and body are not exclusive of one another . Paul speaks of the Roman saints as being "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit" ( ^Romans 8:9 ), yet they had bodies. He also says that the resurrected body is spiritual ( ^1 Cor. 15:42-44 ). Yet the resurrected Christ had a "body of flesh and bones" ( ^Luke 24:39-43 ). 

There is the another argument that says God is not a man that he should repent ( ^Numbers 23:19 ) and that God's thoughts are not man's thoughts ( ^Isaiah 55:8-9 ). But, these statements show no more dissimilarity between God and man than there is between a child and an adult. Children are incapable of understanding adults and why, with our immense resources we do not buy mounds of candy everyday and why we find many games and cartoons boring, and why we would want to eat broccoli. Similarly the phrase "an adult is not a child", does not force us to conclude that a child and an adult are wholly separate types of beings or that a child can never become an adult. 

How is God infinite and omnipresent , if He has a body? ^Psalms 51:11 along with other scriptures says it is possible to be cast out of His presence (which would be impossible if he were a completely omnipresent spiritual being). If you can be out of His presence He must be able to withdraw a part of Himself. This gives Him a type of locality whether He is only spirit or spirit with a body. As an embodied glorified being, just like God the Son, Jesus Christ -- God the Father is infinite and omnipresent through his infinite knowledge, works, and glory. He can withdraw his glory at any time, thus someone can be cast out. This is exactly the case with Jesus Christ so it can not be impossible that it is the case with God the Father. 

Many scholars believe that both the God manifested in the scriptures and the "simple" beliefs of those who lived with the prophets and apostles in ancient times; conceived of God as anthropomorphic. We don't actually believe that, we believe that man is "theomorphic", i.e. God is not in the image of man, man is literally in the image of God just as Seth was literally in the likeness and image of Adam ( ^Genesis 1:26 , ^Genesis 5:1-3 ), and Jesus Christ is literally in the express image of God's person ( ^Hebrews 1:3 ). This is how God portrays Himself in the Bible but the mainstream Christian portrayal must contradict the Bible by turning eyewitness accounts into metaphors, and poetic metaphors into eyewitness accounts. 
 

Satan is NOT Jesus' Brother
I know from a previous conversation we have had that someone has told you that The Church of Jesus Christ believes that Satan and Jesus are brothers, implying that they are equals in power and importance. This is propaganda told by our enemies to enflame and prejudice peoples' minds. Like most half-truths there is a kernel of truth behind it. First, a word about being Jesus' brother. Christ, Himself, puts mankind into that position when He says in John 20:17, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God". The scriptures often call us sons of God while Jesus is THE son of God. This relationship of being sons makes Jesus our brother. This is because God, angels, and men all have the same ontological nature. But Jesus Christ is nevertheless much more than that, He is our Savior and our God. 

Likewise: 

  • Lucifer was the son of the Morning ( ^Isaiah 14:12 ), he was an angel in heaven ( ^Rev 12:7-9 , ^Luke 10:18 ) from the beginning ( ^1 John 3:8 ), and was probably one of the sons of God from before the foundation of the world ( ^Job 38:4,7 [since he was cast down to this world he must have still been in Heaven before the foundation of the world]). 
  • Jesus is "the bright and morning star" ( ^Rev 22:16 ), he is the firstborn of the sons of God ( ^Col 1:15 ), and many scholars identify Him as the "angel of the presence" ( ^Isa 63:8-10 )"

Both Lucifer and Jesus, as indeed all mankind, have a common relationship as spirit children of Our Father in Heaven ( ^Hebrews 12:9 ). Because of this common relationship of being angels and sons of God, technically Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. But:
  • Lucifer choose to rebel, rejected his Heavenly Family, and became Satan. He was cast out and lost all status as an angel of heaven, a son of God, or a brother of Jesus. 
  • Even as an angel in heaven, Lucifer was never the equal of Jesus Christ who is the Savior from before the foundation of the world ( ^1 Peter 1:19-20 ), who has been God since the beginning (as discussed above), and is God's "Chosen and Beloved from the beginning" ( ^Moses 4:2 ). 
So repeating this statement is even more inaccurate than for me to go around saying that Christians believe Satan is an angel of God, just like Michael and Gabriel. 



More on the Portrayal of Our Relationship with God

There is one more item that you might view as our non-Biblical portrayal of God - the doctrine of deification. Although this doctrine still exists in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, it is considered heretical for us. 

I have a longer discourse on the subject on my page " The Biblical Trinity ", which you should look at. But in short it says that in John Chapter 10, Jesus Christ says "I and my Father are one", and the Jews immediately understood this to mean - "I am God". So when Jesus prays in John Chapter 17 that his disciples may be one with God, any 1st century Jew (including John and Jesus) would immediately understand this to mean Christ's disciples may become God. There is no other way they could have interpreted it, and there is no denunciation of this most obvious interpretation. 

Other scriptural examples of deification are: 

  • We are commanded to become perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect ( ^Matt 5:48 ). If someone is as perfect as God they would have to be God. As Christ explains in ^John 17:23 the way that this is to be accomplished is through deification , "that they may be made perfect in one". 
  • We are to become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, being glorified together ( ^Romans 8:16-17 ). A "joint-heir" does not inherit a part of the inheritance. Each joint-heir owns the entire inheritance. 
  • We are to inherit all things that the Father has as sons (and daughters) of God ( ^Revelation 21:7 ). Again we inherit ALL things just as Christ already has ALL things. 
  • We are to sit with Christ on His throne, even as Christ also sits with the Father on His throne ( ^Rev. 3:21 ). This verse compliments the ideas in John 17 very well. The throne is the royal symbol of power and kingship. We will receive from Christ what Christ was given from the Father. Not displacing anyone just part of receiving ALL things. 
  • We are to receive a glorified, immortal body like Christ's body ( ^Philip 3:21
  • We are to partake of the divine nature and be given all things pertaining to life and godliness, receiving glory ( ^2 Peter 1:3-4 ). If someone has ALL things pertaining to godliness, then they have ALL that God has. 
  • We are the offspring of God ( ^Acts 17:29 ), and the sons of God. These illustrations are not metaphorical. A child has the potential to grow into an adult - otherwise it is not a child - it is only a creation. The Bible makes it clear that we are not just creations - we are children. 
  • We are to be like Christ when He returns ( ^1 John 3:2-3
  • We will be partakers of his holiness ( ^Heb. 12:9-10
  • We will be exalted by God ( ^1 Peter 5:6
These things the scriptures testify will be given us not because we are worthy or that we have earned them but because of the grace of God and the covenant that we have made with Him and His Son, Jesus. We are given to rule and reign with God and His Christ, forever giving the honor, glory and worship to them as they raise us to be one with them as any Father would do for His Children. 
 


 

A Summary Statement    [TOP]   new  
On Scriptural Discourse and The Need for Revelation
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There are a great many things that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has in common with the "mainstream" Christian churches. And there are also many things in our theology which are not "orthodox". One way to resolve the differences is by an appeal to scripture. As mentioned at the beginning of this discussion everybody feels they interpret scripture without bias, yet simply by selectively choosing when to interpret literally and when to interpret metaphorically, men find whatever meanings that are convenient for them. 

Peter tells us that the Early Christians had "a more sure word of prophecy" ( ^2 Peter 1:19-21; 2:1 ), which was precisely because they had prophets to shine "as unto a light that shineth in a dark place". He then tells us that "no scripture is of any private interpretation" - but how can one know that their interpretation is not a private interpretation? If 2 people have the same interpretation, is it no longer "private"? Numbers are obviously not the criteria. Peter goes on to say that the scriptures are not of any private interpretation, because they were written by men of old who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. He then says that false teachers will "privately" bring in heresies, showing that a private interpretation is one brought in by a false teacher, as contrasted with the more sure word of the prophets (apostles) which the Early Christians had with them. I submit that Peter is saying that since the scriptures were written by prophets, only prophets can give correct interpretations. Therefore all the study in the world will not help the human race if they do not have prophets, sent as were the holy men of old, with the sure word of prophecy, to lead and direct the children of God. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" ( ^Rev 19:10 ), and as stated previously those prophets should be continuing in the Church until we all come to a unity of faith. 

So from my perspective Joseph Smith's teachings are a restoration, bringing us back to the older original teachings of the Christians, just as Jesus Christ's teachings were a restoration of the truth, without all the false ideas brought in by the orthodox teachers of the Law. Discussion and scriptural interpretation can go on forever, but the only sure way is to follow ^James 1:5 and receive revelation from God Himself as to just what are the true doctrines of Jesus Christ. 

Although there will be a few who will be convinced by argument and apologetic, the real way to know these things is by reading the Book of Mormon, and following Moroni's admonition ( ^Moroni 10:3-5 ) to ponder and pray and receive revelation. As a missionary for the Church I spent all my time teaching these things and then telling people not to believe me, because all men must come to know for themselves - through revelation - the doctrines of God. 

 
 

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This is not an official web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . The opinions expressed, although generally representing the beliefs of the Church, are my own responsibility. I do not speak for the Church as a whole or any other individual members. Any errors are a reflection of my own limitations, don't condemn the things of God based on my faults.
[All quoted Bible scriptures are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.]