Sunday, January 30, 2005

What Do Mormons Believe?

Again, as previously stated there is no way I can go into complete detail as to every single belief that Mormons hold. So before we go into specific doctrines (things like Heaven/Hell, Is God one person or three, Who was Jesus etc.) I want to present a quick overview of the Mormon’s worldview. Imagine a house being built. The last posting gave us the history of Joseph Smith which would be the equivalent of the concrete foundation. The worldview of a Mormon, this post, would be the framework of the house. Once these two areas are established, we can go into specific doctrines or “rooms within the house.” I feel that CARM’s Website presents a good brief, basic, and chronological summary of the worldview Mormons hold to. I have presented it here in its entirety (with accompanying footnotes). Please bear with me as I know these posts can be a bit tedious but they are essential to understanding the future posts in this series

Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world and that he became a god by following the laws and ordinances of his god on his home world. He brought his wife to this world, a woman he had married on the other world. She is, essentially a goddess.

In his present god-state, he rules our world. He has a body of flesh and bones. Since god and his wife are both exalted persons, they each possess physical bodies. In their exalted states as deities, they produce spirit children that grow and mature in the spiritual realm. The first spirit born was Jesus. Afterwards Lucifer was born along with the rest of us. So, Mormonism teaches that we all pre-existed in the spirit realm having been produced from the union of god and his goddess wife. Therefore, we all existed in spirit form before coming down and entering the bodies of human babies that are being born on earth. During this ‘compression' into the infant state, the memories of their pre-existence is 'veiled.'

God the father, who is called Elohim, was concerned for the future salvation of the people on earth. In the heavenly realm, the Father had a plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus endorsed the Father's plan. Lucifer did not. Lucifer became jealous and rebelled. In his rebellion he convinced a large portion of the spirits existing in heaven to side with him and oppose god. God being more powerful then they, cursed these rebellious spirits to become demons. They can never be born in human bodies.

The remaining spirits sided with God. Since they chose the better way, when it comes time for them to live on earth, they have the privilege of being born in races and locations that are relative to their condition and choice made in the spirit realm.(1)

In the Mormon plan of salvation there needed to be a savior: Jesus. But Jesus was a spirit in heaven. For him to be born on earth, Brigham Young the second prophet of the Mormon Church said that instead of letting any other man do it, God the Father did it with Mary. He said that the birth of our savior was as natural as the birth of our parents. Essentially, what this means is that Brigham Young taught that god the father came down and had relations with Mary, his spirit daughter, to produce the body of Jesus. Though many Mormons will not entertain such incestuous thoughts about God and Mary, this is what Brigham Young taught and as far as we know, this has not been denied by the Mormon Church.

Nevertheless, Jesus was born, got married, and had children.(2) He died on the cross and paid for sins -- but not on the cross only. According to Mormonism, the atonement of Christ was not only on the cross. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.

In Mormonism, men and women have the potential of becoming gods. President Lorenzo Snow said, "As god once was, man is. As God is, man may become." In order to reach this exalted state of godhood, a person must first become a good Mormon, pay a full ten percent tithe to the Mormon Church, follow various laws and ordinances of the church, and be found worthy. At this point, they receive a temple recommend whereupon, the Mormon is allowed to enter their sacred temples in order to go through a set of secret rituals: baptism for the dead, celestial marriage, and various oaths of secrecy and commitment. Additionally, four secret handshakes are taught so the believing Mormon, upon entering the third level of Mormon heaven, can shake hands with god in a certain pattern. This celestial ritual is for the purpose of permitting entrance into the highest level of heaven.(3) For those who achieve this highest of heavens, exaltation to godhood awaits them. Then, he or she, will be permitted to have his or her own planet and be the god of his own world and the Mormon system will be expanded to other planets.

1. Page 616 of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie
2. Jedediah M. Grant, second Counselor to Brigham Young said so in Journal of Discourses, vol.1, pp. 345-346. Apostle Orson Hyde stated it in, vol. 2: 210, 328; vol. 4:259-260; vol. 13:309; Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 825; The Seer, page 172, 158, -- Note: These references are not official Mormon scripture and there is disagreement in acceptance of this teaching among Mormons.
3. What's Going on in There? An Exposing of the Secret Mormon Temple Rituals, by Bob Witte & Gordon H. Fraser. Gordon Fraser, Publisher.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Introduction to the Series on Mormonism

I have been asked by a regular visitor to this site to do a series on the subject of Mormonism. I must admit that while I have extensively studied Mormonism (I’ve even been to the Temple Square in Salt Lake City) I am afraid that more harm than good may come from it. Mormonism has many different components to it and trying to cover them in just a few posts may cause more questions than answers. It would be similar to trying to explain the entire history of Europe in just a few hundred words. So with that in mind let me say right now that I cannot cover every single detail. Instead I will try to focus on some of the main issues such as “Is Mormonism Christianity?”, “Is Salvation by Faith or by Works?” and “Is the Book of Mormon Reliable?”

Mormonism is among the fastest growing religions in the worlds and boasts a membership of between 10 and 20 million people depending on who you ask. The Mormon Church is also among the wealthiest of the world’s religions. In order to get the most out of this series I feel it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the beginnings of Mormonism. I have read many different summaries of the beginnings but the one I feel is not only thorough but concise is found on CARM’s website. I have decided to print it in its entirety here because I feel it is that important for you to have a firm grasp of how Mormonism started:

Mormonism began with Joseph Smith Jr. who was born on Dec. 23, 1805, in Vermont. He was the fourth child of Lucy and Joseph Smith. Joseph senior was known as a money digger and sought after buried treasure, particularly that of Captain Kidd. His mother was highly superstitious.

Joseph Smith Jr. stated that he was disturbed by all the different denominations of Christianity and wondered which was true. In 1820, when he was 14, he went into the woods to pray concerning this and allegedly God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and told him not to join any of the denominational churches.

Three years later, on Sept. 21, 1823, when he was 17 years old, an angel called Moroni, who was supposed to be the son of Mormon, the leader of the people called the Nephites who had lived in the Americas, appeared to him and told him that he had been chosen to translate the book of Mormon which was compiled by Moroni's father around the 4th century. The book was written on golden plates hidden near where Joseph was then living in Palmyra, New York. Joseph Smith said that on Sept. 22, 1827 he received the plates and the angel Moroni instructed him to begin the translation process. The translation was finally published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. Joseph claimed that during this translation process, John the Baptist appeared to him and ordained him to accomplish the divine work of restoring the true church by preaching the true gospel which, allegedly, had been lost from the earth.

The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the account of people who came from the Middle-East to the Americas. It covers the period of about 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. It tells of the Jaredites, people from the Tower of Babel who came to Central America but perished because of their own immorality. It also describes some Jews who fled persecution in Jerusalem and came to America led by a man called Nephi. The Jews divided into two groups known as the Nephites and Lamanites who fought each other. The Nephites were defeated in 428 A.D. The Lamanites continued and are known as the American Indians. The Book of Mormon is the account of the Nephite eader, Mormon, concerning their culture, civilization, and appearance of Jesus to the Americas.

After the publication of the Book of Mormon, Mormonism began to grow. Because their religion was so deviant from Christianity, i.e., plurality of gods, polygamy (Joseph is said to have had 27 wives), etc., persecution soon forced them to move from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. After being accused of breaking some laws in Nauvoo (for destroying a printing press that was publishing harmful information on Mormonism), Joseph and his brother Hyrum ended up in jail. A mob later broke into the jail and killed Joseph and his brother.

After the shooting, the church divided into two groups: One led by his widow which went back to Independence Missouri. They are known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They claim to be the true Church and lay claim to the legal succession of the church presidency which was bestowed upon Joseph's son by Joseph Smith himself. The other group was led by Brigham Young and they went to Utah where, in 1847, they ended up in Salt Lake and founded Salt Lake City. Brigham had 25 wives and accumulated much wealth.

I realize I will probably step on many people’s toes throughout this series, especially those who are members of the Mormon Church. That is not my intention. My intention rather is to force you to take a good, objective look at the teachings of your faith. I will quote from different Mormon texts as well as great Mormon leaders. As always I would never want you to simply take my word for it but I encourage you to investigate it for yourself. As a Mormon you are very familiar with praying and asking God to show you whether or not something is true. I ask you to pray now and ask God to show you whether or not the Mormon religion is true. If it is true than you have nothing to worry about but a reaffirming of your faith. But if it isn’t true, well, eternity is a long time to be wrong.

Friday, January 21, 2005

What is a “Right”?

So I was thinking about a conversation I had with an atheist a little while ago and I wanted to share a small part of it with you. For our purposes here, we will refer to him as “Derek” although that is not his real name. Derek clearly does not believe in God. He adamantly believes that we all came from some giant primordial soup and evolved into what we are today. Can you think of a person that sounds like this? Anyway, we were discussing “rights,” specifically intrinsic human rights; rights that belong to every member of the human race on the sole basis that we are humans. Rights like the right to love someone, the right to be loved by someone, the right not to be killed or harmed by another. Things like that. About halfway through the conversation it dawned on me that because he doesn’t believe in God, rights become meaningless. Allow me to show you how I came to this conclusion.

As an Atheist, Derek views the world differently than I do. I view the world with the belief that humans are made in the image of God and struggling to avoid sin and temptation while growing in their relationship with God. Derek views the world in terms of protons, neutrons, atoms, chain reactions and so forth. In such cases, Derek must answer the question of why are human beings more significant than drops of water? To remain consistent with Derek’s view, the only thing he can answer is “they’re not.” Any answer other then this begins to ascribe value and worth to the human. Any value and worth must ultimately come from God.

I asked Derek a hypothetical question to prove my point. I said “Let’s say that you walk into your backyard and find your child is drowning. Now right next to your drowning child is a small mouse that accidentally fell into the pool while trying to get a drink of water and subsequently the mouse is also drowning. You only have time to save one of them. Which one do you save?” Derek responded with “My child of course.” I then asked him why and he told me “Because it is a human.” Do you see the problem with this? Derek has ascribed human value to the child on the sole basis of it being a human. To be consistent with Derek’s viewpoint he can only answer that neither the child nor the mouse is better than the other. If we are nothing more than protons and neutrons arranged together than you cannot say that the human is better than the mouse because it is not. The only way you can say one is better than the other is if God has ascribed that value. Now Derek could have said “Well as a human I have the ability to …” and he could fill in the blank with a multitude of things. But this is simply avoiding the issue. Simply having an ability doesn’t ascribe worth. If it did, then birds must be superior to humans because they can fly and therefore escape danger. Starfish must be superior to us because they can regenerate lost body parts. Earthworms must be superior to us because they can divide in half. Do you see where I’m going with this? A being that is nothing but protons, neutrons and atoms, such as a human, cannot ascribe value to any other substance that is also made out of protons, neutrons and atoms.

Seeing the problem with his logic, Derek became frustrated and changed the subject and we soon found ourselves discussing gay marriage. Now this post is not going to address the issue of homosexuality (perhaps another time) but remember we are asking ourselves “What is a Right?”

Derek told me that he believes homosexuals have a right to be married. I asked him what a right was. He said it was something all humans had. I then asked him where these rights came from and he didn’t have an answer (remember our pool scenario). I then told him that I defined a right as something imposed on a human being by God. I then tried to show him that if you don’t believe in a God, then rights are meaningless. By their own philosophy, those that hold to atheism cannot say that something is good. They cannot say that something is right or that something is wrong. If the world is nothing more than atoms and electrons then anything goes, anything is fair, whether we like it or not. In fact, if one subscribes to Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the Fittest” things begin to change dramatically. Not only do rights become meaningless, but respecting other peoples becomes contrary to my own good. In other words, if Darwin is right and I am here today as the result of the right combination of random chemical reactions, than your rights infringe my ability to pass on my genes. Your “right to live” is directly contrary to my desire to pass on my own genes because if I let you live then there is more competition for me. To be accurate, by Darwin’s theory, I should kill you to eliminate you as competition. Can you imagine a world like this? Any act of charity, or helping another person is directly contrary to Darwin’s theory. Therefore, as an atheist, any unselfish act that you do, is inconsistent with belief that there is no God for there is simply no reason to do them. If you are an atheist I would like to humbly challenge you to intellectually and honestly assess your worldview. You cannot follow your own pattern of living, following the law, and respecting people’s rights, and consistently deny that God exists.

In summary, perhaps Dostoevsky said it best when he said “If God is dead, then all things are lawful.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Prayer Changes Things !!!

As you can probably guess, I am officially back. After many, many hours cramped on an airplane I have finally returned home. However, I am a changed person as the Lord continues to work in my life. As many of you know from my previous post, I left on a short-term mission trip to support the persecuted church. I was in an area that was so hostile to Jesus, that mentioning what I did here on this site, could potentially cause some to be imprisoned or executed. So with that in mind I won’t mention the details.

However, I asked for prayer support while I was gone. Friends, I am here to tell you that your prayers were answered. I may never get the opportunity to meet you this side of heaven, and I may not know the specifics or frequency in which you prayed, but I do know that you were praying for me. Never in my life have I felt such strong prayer coverage. While I was gone I saw many miracles happen. Now being more of the intellectual type, I’m not one to usually see a miracle “behind every tree.” However, I saw things over the past few weeks that could only have a supernatural cause; there is simply no human explanation for it. These miracles were a direct result of your prayers. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart as well as on behalf of the persecuted church for your prayers.

While on my trip I worked with people representing 5 different continents. Talk about international coordination. I was able to attend church service at an underground church. I heard firsthand accounts of people being beaten, jailed, and executed for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ. Folks, these aren’t stories from hundreds of years ago. Many of the events in these stories have taken place since Christmas (less than a month ago). I learned first hand the reality of spiritual warfare. That is Angels and Demons are engaged in battle right now as you read this. And possibly most importantly, I learned to pray, without ceasing, like you know that it will be answered. God continued to answer prayers one right after another. Friends, if you’ve ever struggled with whether or not your prayers get answered (as I used to really struggle with this) may I offer you a suggestion? Start a prayer journal. A prayer journal can be anything from a piece of paper to a memo pad. Divide it up into three columns. The first column is for the “Date the Prayer was Entered.” The second column is “The Specific Prayer.” The third column is “Date the Prayer was Answered.” Now remember, prayer isn’t some magical wish list that we present to God. The prayers must be prayed in accordance to his will (as he always knows what is better for us than we do) and sometimes he answers them with a firm “No.” Friends, I guarantee you in a very short period of time you will see just how quickly God will answer your prayers. In fact, I believe you will find that he answers all of them (He will always answer with either “yes” “no” or “wait”). I don’t mean to get off on a tangent but prayer is so critical to a Christian’s life. If you are like me and used to think your prayer life is boring, repetitive, or predictable, I challenge you to change how you are praying. Start a prayer journal, mix up your prayers with a time of worship, and pray as if God will answer them because he does.

I wish I could go into more details about my trip but since this site can be viewed anywhere in the world I simply cannot. If you have specific questions please feel free to email me (my email address can be found on the “view my complete profile page”) and I will do my best to answer them.

I look forward to getting back to answering your questions and showing you that there are serious intelligent reasons for being a follower of Jesus Christ, probably within the next day or two. Thank you for sticking with me and this site in my absence and may God bless you.