Category Archives: Book of Mormon

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Since starting this blog, I have discussed with many people the various theological differences between the LDS Church and Christendom as a whole.  Certainly, the differences are significant and, as has been proven many times, there are many conflicts of belief that seem will never be resolved and we often have to agree to disagree.  For the most part, the comments and conversations I have been party to have been civil and respectful.  Both sides seem to be careful to only discuss doctrinal differences while avoiding criticism of the other person’s faith as a whole and for this I am grateful.  However, there have been many times, both here and on other websites (and, I might add, that I experience just living life in an area where Mormons are few) when people have called the LDS Church the “Church of the Devil” or denigrated our Prophet (more than just question such a reality or the need/doctrinal justification for a Prophet).  We are criticized by many as leading our people to hell and blinding folks from the truth. 

I thought about these views and comments as I watched the General Conference of the LDS Church this past weekend.  It was a weekend of wise and joyous instruction, where we were given the opportunity to hear from those we consider Prophets and other leaders of our faith.  It was the first Conference to which President and Prophet Thomas S. Monson was at the helm and leading up to the Conference I was praying for a confirming feeling or impression that he was indeed called and chosen by God himself, but I will get to that later. 

The one thing that struck me about all the messages delivered this weekend was the humility, wisdom, and optimism the leaders of the Church have.  This was most apparent to me as I attended Priesthood session on Saturday night.  The concluding three speakers, taking up all of the last hour, consisted of the First Presidency.  They all spoke about staying on course and repentence, yet they all took it from very different perspectives.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about the need to stay on direct course and how even a one degree deviation off course can lead to us being extremely lost, President Henry B. Eyring spoke about the doctrine of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and the need for we Priesthood members to be faithful in fulfilling that covenant, and President Monson spoke on obedience to duty and the need for more faithfulness.  In each of these talks we were essentially called to repentance.  But it was not a call in vanity or rebuke, but a call in love and encouragement.  It was readily apparent that one of the greatest concerns the First Presidency has is the increased prevalence of sexual sin (President Monson had an incredible quote about tolerance, but I don’t have it with me, I will do a post on a few of my favorite quotes later).   As I listened to these fine men speak, I realized that the image that critics of the Church try to paint about our Prophet is in no way accurate.  These men who lead the Church do not do so in a quest for power or to feed their vanity. One just needs to watch and listen to their speeches to understand this.  They lead because they were called by God and out of an unbending faith and dedication to him. 

The phrase “By their Fruits ye Shall Know Them” resounded regularly in my mind.  Indeed, people may criticize our faith and our leaders all they want, but they do so blindly and in vain.  I can understand one choosing not to believe our doctrines or that we are the true Church; I will not criticize one who came to such a conclusion after study and prayer.  However the childish and irrational name calling and denigration of the Church is inaccurate and contrary to all evidence readily available to one who takes the time to study and research.  Indeed, the fruits of our leaders are good and sweet.   I encourage all to take the time to read and consider the words of the Apostles and Prophets, especially if you are not of our faith.  Come and see what truths have been restored and know that Christ’s church with the same organization that existed in his time is again restored to the earth.

Now allow me to close with my testimony of President Monson.   As I said above, I came into Conference praying for a confirmation of his divine calling.  This was the first transfer of authority in the leadership of the Church that I can really remember.  President Hinckley was a giant among men and one whom I loved deeply.  I also had a great affinity for President Monson, but oddly I found it difficult to hold him up to the same pedastal that I put President Hinckley on.  Saturday night was the first talk he delivered in Conference as the head of the Church.  As soon as he stood and started speaking I felt that still small voice and confirming feeling that he was called of God and leads this Church through direct revelation. 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Book of Mormon, Christian, Christianity, Doctrine, LDS, Mormon, Mormonism, Religion

Pre-Speech Excerpts from “Faith In America”

The Romney campaign released the following excerpts this morning to wet our whistles in preparation for Mitt’s anticipated religion speech this morning.  (Note:  the speech is at 1030 EST, it should be streamed live on mittromney.com if you want to listen to it.)

“There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us.  If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator.  And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom.  In John Adam’s words: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'”

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.  Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

Focusing on the founding of our country is an extremely smart path to take.  If there is one things conservatives and most Americans are passionate about, it is the Constitution and our nation’s founding; what better authority to quote than John Adams!  

 Also, it is also wise to stress that religion is an essential component to America and freedom.  This may, however, be a bit risky when facing a Democrat in the general.  Could it be used against him?

“When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God.  If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.  A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”

Obviously addressing the concerns regarding Mormonism. This is his Kennedyesque statement, so to speak.

“It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions.  And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course.  Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning.  They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God.  Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life.  It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.“The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust. “We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders – in ceremony and word.  He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.  Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.  I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.'”

A couple of thoughts from these quotes.  First, Mitt is being very careful here to not equate Mormonism with Christianity; this is smart, as many evangelicals would be quite upset if he were to equate them.  He then wisely builds from that into the moral standards that religious community shares. 

Diving into the constitution and the interpretation of ‘separation of church and state’ is risky water in the general election. However, for the GOP he nailed it.  He is being very shrewd by talking about the removal of God from our public sphere.  If there is anytime of year that this will resonate, it is Christmas time.  Every year controversies about Christmas trees or even saying “Merry Christmas” stir up the passions of conservatives like me.  This should prove to be an emotional string that he can use to build support. 

“These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours.  I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor.  I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.  I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements.”

Wow, tieing in race.  I think this is an obvious semi-preemptive defense regarding race and Mormonism.  However, bringing this up may just create more questions and controversy for him to deal with.

“My faith is grounded on these truths.  You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family.  We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self -same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency.”

His family is one of his greatest strengths in this race.  Highliting them and the way that they have consistently lived their faith should prove valuable.  He is also stressing the similarities between the values and morals of Mormonism and the rest of Christianity.

“The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.


“In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this:  Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.”

Optimism, the word that is resonating from all of this.  He is using national pride and the core principles of the conservative movement as the tools from which to base this speech.  From the excerpts here, it looks like he will knock it out of the park. 

However an important factor is how it is delivered.  If he can avoid looking fake and scripted, but instead look genuine and heartfelt, it will go over well.  If not, it will not matter what he says.

It will also be interesting to see what kind of coverage this gets from the media.  Is it highly or sparcely covered?  Is that coverage positive or negative?  The post-speech spin will likely be more important than the speech itself.  Look for supporters of all the candidates (including Mitt) to be actively supporting or criticizing the speech for the next couple of days. 

Well, I know that I am biased. I am reading these excerpts as both a Mormon and Mitt supporter.  I am very interested in what all of you think about them.  Leave comments below!

4 Comments

Filed under Bible, Book of Mormon, Candidates, Christian, Christianity, Democracy, Democrats, Doctrine, Election 2008, Family, History, Liberal, Liberalism, Media, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, Politics, Progress, Progressive, Religion, Republicans, Romney

Mitt’s Make or Break Moment

Mitt Romney’s “Mormon Speech” will apparently be given this coming Thursday at Texas A&M University and the George Bush Presidential Library.   This will be a make or break moment for the campaign.   Undoubtedly it will have some sort of effect on the campaign.

The decision to give this speech is undoubtedly due to Mitt believing that they need a shot in the arm and need to try to slow Huckabee’s ascension.   It also is apparent that the campaign does believe that Mormonism is a weight limiting Mitt’s rise, and it needs to be addressed.

Certainly this is a gutsy move.  No other candidate has had or will have such a defining moment that can destroy or complete make a campaign before the first vote is cast.  In a worst case scenario, the speech will come off terrible and give off the perception that Mitt will take orders from Salt Lake City.  This is highly unlikely.

What is likely, is that Mitt gives a great speech that is very clear, however it will fairly ambiguous – not quite embracing Mormonism, while not equating Mormonism with Christianity; he will try to ride the middle of the road.  This is definitely the safest route, but undoubtedly there will large chunks of Christians who will dissatisfied and will look for short sound bites and snippets to take out of context.

At the same time there will be significance criticism from handfuls of Mormons who will think that Mitt did not defend the Church well enough or that he didn’t define the Church as being Christian.

Thus, these are things I am confident will result: 1. There will be no consensus on how Mitt did and if it quelled the Mormon question.   2. This will have zero affect with Christians who have already made up their minds about Mitt and Mormonism.   3. Building off of #2, this will not put to rest the Mormon Question.   4. There will be significant criticisms from a good part of the Mormon community.  5. There will be significant praise from the Mormon community.

So, a positive effect will not be huge.  But is large enough to justify giving the speech.  Mitt doesn’t need 20% of the 25% of those who say they will not vote for a Mormon to change their mind, he doesn’t even need 1% of those to change their mind (at least not yet).  What Mitt needs is for those voters in Iowa who are leaning away from Mitt largely because of his Mormonism, to change their minds.  My wholly unscientific estimation is that about 5-8% of the Iowa voters like Mitt and would otherwise vote for him if not for the whole religion thing, but who still may.  It appears that most of those voters are lining up behind Huckabee, so if Mitt can pull 4% into his camp (about 50-70% of those mentioned) and away from Huck, Mitt can pull out a win in Iowa.

Ultimately, however, this speech can destroy his campaign.  How it plays is all determined by how it plays in the media and on the blogs.  If previous reporting on the campaign is any indication of how things will shake out, Mitt is in for tough ride.  It could be a lose-lose situation.  The media has not given Mitt the benefit of the doubt on anything.  He seems to be the most criticized and attacked of the GOP candidates (at least Giuliani has Fox News to downplay his scandals).   

However this time may be different.  The media likes victims, they like people or groups facing tough odds and opposition.  Thus, there may a bit of sympathy for Mitt and Mormons.  If so the coverage on the MSM may be quite positive and a significant benefit to the campaign.  However, don’t look for the same kind of sympathy on the blogs.   There will be a lot of pro-Mormon vs. anti-Mormon ramblings going on.  There will columnists who will completely trash Mitt and Mormonism and even make stuff up. Likewise there will be columnists who will defend Mitt and Mormonism to illogical levels. 

No matter how it shakes out, this week is going to be abuzz about Mitt Romney; that can’t be a bad thing for the campaign, at least not until Thursday afternoon.

18 Comments

Filed under Baptist, Bible, Book of Mormon, Candidates, Christian, Christianity, Conservative, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, Media, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, Politics, Religion, Republicans

Thomas S. Monson’s Priesthood Session Intro of Pres. Hinckley

Request For Information:  I have been scouring the Internet looking for a transcript or, ideally, an audio or video copy of President Monson’s off the cuff mini-talk while introducing Pres. Hinckley at Priesthood Session of LDS General Conference.  In this, he told the story of the red-headed boy and also very passionately expressed his love and admiration for President Hinckley.  It was extremely touching and I would love to have some sort of full record of it.   Hopefully they will put it on the CD’s when they are released or in the Ensign.   Thanks for your help!

3 Comments

Filed under Baptist, Bible, Book of Mormon, Christian, Christianity, Doctrine, Family, LDS, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, People, Politics, Religion, Romney

Henry B. Eyring, Quentin L. Cook replace Elder Faust in LDS Church

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was called and sustained as the new 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy was called as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.  Elder Cook was called as a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy on  April 5, 1998. He was born in Logan, UT and served an LDS Mission to England.

The calling of Elder Eyring to serve with President Hinckley and President Monson as presiding officers of the Church is fantastic and somewhat surprising to me.  Surprising because he is one of the younger and junior Apostles (I believe, until today, that he was 3rd from the bottom in Seniority).  Seniority has nothing to do with this calling, but for some reason I would have expected one more senior.  Nevertheless, Elder Eyring has long been one of my favorite Apostles to listen to and receive instruction from.  His call was one of direct revelation from God, what a blessing it is to have a Church on the earth with such authority and with the same organization that existed when Christ was on the Earth.

13 Comments

Filed under Baptist, Book of Mormon, Christian, Christianity, Doctrine, LDS, Mormon, Mormonism, Politics, Religion

President James E. Faust, 1920-2007

 

 President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, passed away this morning, August 10, at the age of 87. President Faust was a man of deep faith, conviction, and love for his Savior, even Jesus Christ. He held the same love for his family and for the Church that he dedicated his life to serving.

Excerpt of the official press release from the LDS Church:

“(President Faust) had previously served four years as an Assistant to the Twelve (the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the second-highest presiding body) before being appointed a member of the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy (other senior leaders in the Church) on 1 October 1976.

His most recent assignments included vice chairman of the Church Board of Education; the board of trustees of Brigham Young University; the Welfare Services Executive Committee; and Deseret Management Corporation.

Bruce Olsen, managing director of Church Public Affairs, said this morning that President Faust’s ‘gentle manner and depth of knowledge, which was an important part of his ministry for nearly 35 years, will be missed.’

‘He was a true Christian who spoke and wrote with wit and wisdom,’ Olsen said. ‘Many members of the Church loved his unique way of teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ at General Conference.’

Olsen said that Church members around the world are calling to extend to President Faust’s family their heartfelt condolences.

President Faust was born 31 July 1920, in Delta, Utah. He participated as a member of the University of Utah track team in 1938 and ran the quarter-mile and mile relay.

His college career was interrupted first to serve as a missionary for the Church in Brazil and later by World War II, during which he served in the U.S. Army Air Force and was discharged as a first lieutenant. In 1948 he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degree. He began the practice of law in Salt Lake City and continued until his appointment as a general authority of the Church in 1972.

He served as a member of the Utah Legislature from 1949 to 1951, as an advisor to the American Bar Journal, and president of the Utah Bar Association in 1962-1963. He received the Distinguished Lawyer Emeritus Award from the Utah Bar Association in 1995. In August of 1997, he received an Honorary Doctors Degree of Christian Service from Brigham Young University. He was honored as a Distinguished Alumni at the University of Utah in 1999, and was awarded the Honorary Order of the Coif at Brigham Young University in 2000.  In 2003, he was given the Marion G. Romney Distinguished Service Award by Brigham Young University Law School, and he was awarded an Honorary Doctors of Law degree by the University of Utah.  President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in 1962.”

President Faust gave many speeches to the body of the Church, speeches that I always found inspiring and uplifting.  In this past General Conference of LDS Church in April, Pres. Faust’s talk was the most memorable for me.  He spoke on the importance of forgiveness and not holding grudges.  In the talk he spoke movingly of the wonderful example of the Amish community near Lancaster, PA.  A couple of years ago a traged struck when a deeply troubled young man murdered many of their young women and girls at a small school.  It was a heart wrenching and terrible report to hear, yet the response of the Amish was incredible.  Rather than call for the criminal’s head and demanding justice, they called for forgiveness and love to be shown the family of the murderer.  Their example of forgiveness and love is one that we should all aspire to.  President Faust will be missed dearly, but we rejoice in the knowledge that he is resting with the Savior and his Father in Heaven. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Book of Mormon, Christian, Christianity, Family, Law, LDS, Media, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, People, Politics, Religion

Are Mormons Christian? A Matter of Semantics

This question is one that has been continually argued since the inception of Mormonism. On the one hand Mormons say, “of course we are Christian, we believe that Jesus is God, he is the savior of the World. Even the name of our church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

On the other hand, mainstream Christianity (MSC) would argue that Mormons (LDS) are not Christian because LDS do not believe in the trinity (or as MSC likes to put “Mormons don’t believe in the same Jesus we do.”) – in that God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the exact same being.

Quite frankly, the debate is old and ridiculous. Honestly, it is a debate based upon semantics that will really have no bearing on either parties eternal salvation. Regardless of who is right, both MSC and LDS believe in God the Father, our supreme being, the creator and organizer of heaven and earth. We both believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, the savior of the World, that he died for our sins and was resurrected in order to redeem us from both spirtual and physical death. We both believe in the holy spirit, who testifies of the father and the son and confirms their divinity through his presence. These are the beliefs God is truly looking for. Are we excercising such faith in him. Our understanding of the nature of God, though interesting and thought provoking, is not what God is judging us on, he is judging us on our faithfulness to his commandments and if we have accepted Christ as our savior. Undoubtedly, those in MSC and LDS have, even if we differ slightly on who Christ is.

Now, a note to Mormons, it is understandable that we want to be considered Christian and it is also understandable that we are offended when people say we are not. But you need to understand that MSC differentiates between believing in Christ and being Christian. I would hope that all those in MSC recognize that LDS believe in Christ. So when they say that we are not Christian, it means we do not believe in Christ the way they do, and hence, we do not fall under the Christian umbrella. Fine, so what? There is a reason that Mormonism is not a protestant faith, LDS is supposed to be different. So when mainstream Christians say that you are not Christian, smile and say, “if you say so.” Realize that no matter how much talking, discussing and arguing is done, one will not prove the other wrong. We are all already stuck in our ways.

Now, let’s discuss the origins and background for each argument. First, let’s point out that there is SIGNIFICANT evidence throughout the Bible supporting both MSC’s trinity and LDS’s Godhead arguments. So, I am not going to address Biblical evidences, again both points of view are strongly argued in the Bible. (I recognize that many on both sides will likely disagree with me on that, but I have had the Trinity vs. Godhead discussion enough times to know that no amount of time spent debating or discussing will prove one side or the other wrong). So, I simply want to address the origins for such beliefs outside of Biblical records.

Let’s start with the LDS Godhead – that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings. Quite simply the basis for this belief is rooted in the very beginning of the LDS movement – Joseph Smith’s first vision. As a young man Joseph was troubled by the various religions and their differences. He recognized the need for baptism and other ordinances, for the Bible taught that. But because there were so many different Christian faiths, he did not know which one was true. As a result, he took James’s advice and asked God. He went into a nearby patch of woods to have some privacy and began to pray; to find out which church was true. During this prayer he says God the father and Jesus Christ visited him. It was at this instance that the doctrine of the Godhead was solidified in the LDS Church; God and Jesus both visited the boy Joseph, they were not one being.

Now whether you believe this actually occured or not is neither here nor there. I only share it to explain that this is an unequivocal doctrine for the LDS Church and that this why it is believed. (Now, before many of you start commenting about how that is not biblical and JS is a false prophet, please spare me; remember that there is siginificant biblical evidence in support of the Godhood belief.)

In fact, these differences of opinion on the nature of God is what lead modern-day Christianity and Catholicism to their current trinitarian belief. From the death of Christ, or, more appropriately, Peter (as he was head of the Church after Christ’s death) through the reign of Emporer Constantine (who made Christianity a dominant religion) there was siginficant debate on this precise issue – the Nature of God. It was not until the First Council of Nicea (325 AD) and the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) that the debate ended and the official belief of Christianity was that of the Trinity. Again, it is important to note that before this, there was no definitive definition, both sides were argued constantly.

So ultimately, what the argument comes down to is a matter of faith. Do you believe in the Nicene Creed version or the Joseph Smith version? There is nothing wrong with believing in either one in my opinion. I certainly have my beliefs, but I do not fault anybody for having theirs either. We are all entitled to them.

The point is, is so what if MSC don’t think LDS are Christian? If being Christian means that I have to deny my faith and subscribe to what the majority think, I don’t want to be considered a “Christian.” Further, if people like “Christian Leader” Bill Keller represent Christianity, I want nothing to do with it. Christ did not spend his time preaching hate and vitriol against the faith of others, he simply taught what he knew to be the truth and went on his way. That is what I think the LDS Church tries to do, at least as a whole. Mormons should not worry so much about what others think of them (although it is hard not to), but focus on ways to improve yourself and strengthen your faith. This is the same thing people of all faiths should be doing. All people should share their beliefs when appropriate, but do not criticize those of others. If entering into a conversation or debate about religion make sure it ends cordially and simply agree to disagree, people have been arguing religion since Cain and Abel.

1 Comment

Filed under Baptist, Bible, Book of Mormon, Brownback, Christian, Christianity, Conservative, Democrats, Doctrine, Earth, Election 2008, Family, History, LDS, Liberal, Liberalism, Media, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, People, Politics, Progress, Progressive, Religion, Republicans, Romney, Sam Brownback