Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Burying Nahom

A couple of recent blog posts from skeptics have once again announced that Nahom in the Arabian Peninsula, the alleged soul shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon, the last hope for die-hard believers and apologists, has been carefully examined and found to be completely unworthy of our attention. It is insignificant, irrelevant, and not we believers have simply been wasting our time and embarrassing ourselves with unjustified excitement. Shame on us.

The blogs I'm primarily considering are both at Patheos.com, home of many excellent religious discussions. The first comes from a professor of history, Philip Jenkins, in a post titled "The Nahom Follies." While his tone may be a little too strident and far too sarcastic, he makes some points that deserve a response, even though I am pained at how much he misses in his critique. But these are the kind of mistakes that many people make who are trying to be reasonable, responding to what they think they know or have heard. His Nahom follies are the follies of many other good people as they briefly look our way, or even as they try to genuinely investigate Mormonism, so I think it is important to consider what he says and understand where the problems are in his approach.

The primary problem, in my view, is that he treats the entire corpus of Book of Mormon evidence as if it were little more than one tiny speck on a map of Arabia, a solitary fruit fly of faith that he handily splatters with with one wave of swift wit. Volumes of scholarship such as the works of John Sorenson, the publications of the Maxwell Institute, the growing work of the Mormon Interpreter, and many others dealing with the intricate details and evidences related to the Book of Mormon, in the end all mean nothing. He's been exposed to some of that, I suspect, through his interactions with other LDS people like William Hamblin at Patheos, but somehow what he's managed to digest from LDS apologists (or perhaps from the non-LDS caricatures of LDS apologists) is that we've got one precious little data point that we cling to with all our might. When it comes to evidence, all Mormons have going for them is the word Nahom, or actually just 3 letters from Nahom, the letters NHM, that were miraculously (please apply an exasperated sarcastic tone to that word) found somewhere in an incredibly large portion of the world with zillions of place names, one of which happens to sort of sound like an actual name (gasp!) in the Book of Mormon, if you pronounce it just so. I cannot do justice with a paraphrase, so I will quote what the good professor writes about the archaeological evidence related to Nahom:
Supposedly, this is a site where Lehi stopped in the general area of Arabia, “the place which was called Nahom,” and in modern times, a related name with a NHM-stem has been found inscribed on some altars discovered in the region, in modern Yemen. The Book therefore (seemingly) reports something that Joseph Smith could not have known in 1830! Meridian Magazine breathlessly reports “Finding the First Verifiable Book of Mormon Site.” This is, literally, the only case where anyone still seriously pretends that they have some kind of archaeological support for the Book of Mormon, though they should be embarrassed to do so....

Apologists argue that it is remarkable that they have found a NHM inscription – in exactly the (inconceivably vast) area suggested by the Book of Mormon. What are the odds!

By the way, the Arabian Peninsular covers well over a million square miles.

Yes indeed, what are the odds? Actually, that last question can and must be answered before any significance can be accorded to this find. When you look at all the possible permutations of NHM – as the name of a person, place, city or tribe – how common was that element in inscriptions and texts in the Middle East in the long span of ancient history? As we have seen, apologists are using rock bottom evidentiary standards to claim significance – hey, it’s the name of a tribe rather than a place, so what?

How unusual or commonplace was NHM as a name element in inscriptions? In modern terms, was it equivalent to “Steve” or to “Benedict Cumberbatch”?

So were there five such NHM inscriptions in the region in this period? A thousand? Ten thousand? And that question is answerable, because we have so many databases of inscriptions and local texts, which are open to scholars. We would need figures that are precise, and not impressionistic. You might conceivably find, in fact, that between 1000 BC and 500 AD, NHM inscriptions occur every five miles in the Arabian peninsular, not to mention being scattered over Iraq and Syria, so that finding one in this particular place is random chance. Or else, the one that has attracted so much attention really is the only one in the whole region. I have no idea. But until someone actually goes out and does some quantitative analysis on this, you can say precisely nothing about how probable or not such a supposed correlation is.

And to make an obvious point once more: the burden of proof on this – and the chore of crunching the numbers – belongs to the people making the claims. Nobody has an obligation to disprove anything.
Sigh. This is a smart man, a passionate man, who in interested in LDS topics enough to write this post, but I'm afraid that he's missing way too much here. Given the tone, I'm not sure if  he will care what I have to say, but maybe people who make similar criticisms might be willing to consider a response, and I think it's important we explain that there is a serious response that merits reconsideration. So here's my attempt.

First, thank you for noticing the Nahom issue. It is important to us, but not nearly as important as you suggest. It is a small but meaningful part of a great deal of evidence related to Book of Mormon plausibility, and a significant part, only part, of the evidence specific to the Arabian Peninsula.

As I see it, the significance of Nahom or NHM is not that someone found those letters somewhere, anywhere, in the vastness of the Middle East, but that it was found at precisely the place the Book of Mormon calls for. Within a few miles, anyway, of the region where one can turn away from the general south-southwest direction of travel coming down from Jerusalem, apparently along the ancient incense trail, and then turn east to reach the eastern coast of Arabia. And then, just as the Book of Mormon says, nearly due east of Nahom is the surprising recent find of an excellent candidate for Bountiful. It's pretty impressive evidence (not proof) that helps support the case for authenticity in at least part of First Nephi, but critics have been rather consistent in reducing it all to a minor blip or two that they can overlook or squash with one deft blow.

I'll further review the significance of the finding of evidence for Nahom in a moment, but I'll first point out that one of the most important contributors to the extensive Book of Mormon evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, Warren Aston, has explained in his important book, In The Footsteps of Lehi, that Arabic names based on NHM appear to be rare. He writes that "the name NHM (in any of its variant spellings, Nehem/Nihm/Nahm, and so on) is not found anywhere else in Arabia as a place name. It is unique." (p. 12) That point has been made several times. You can go search on any of the maps available for Saudi Arabia and try finding other NHM names yourself outside of the region some of us are excited about. NHM names certainly don't occur all over the place. The Nihm tribe appears to have been in much the same area for a very long time, and now we have archaeological evidence that they were around and using that name in Lehi's day. You can wonder if the place name associated with NHM was still a place name in Lehi's day as it has been in recent centuries, but it's plausible that it was, in my opinion.

It's not just Warren Aston that has looked for other examples of NHM names in the Arabian world. I took a look myself, searching over Wikipedia's list of Arabic place names and a few parts of some maps (you can see the most detail on some of the high-end European maps of Arabia that James Gee has studied and compiled for the Maxwell Institute--the PDF file is over 100 Mb). Nothing else seems to be close, as far as I can tell. Look for yourself. More significantly, Chris Johnson, a former Mormon quite anxious to trash the Book of Mormon with the power of Big Data, made a seemingly powerful case against the significance of NHM as a unique place in a presentation a couple years ago. As I discussed in my initial response at Mormanity, by applying his sophisticated search engine skills to come up with a big list of NHM names from all over the world to argue that there is nothing special about place names with the letters NHM. In fact, he even quipped that it looked like NHM names were some of the most common place names-- just look at the list and you'll see some common names for yourself: Enham, um, and so forth. In response, I pointed out that NHM names from North America, Europe, or southern Africa tell us nothing about the significance of finding Nahom where it is supposed to be in a specific part of the Arabian Peninsula--it's an absurdly irrelevant argument. But even if we accept the argument that NHM place names on maps anywhere are relevant because they could have been inspiration for Joseph's fabrication of Nahom as a place name, there is a problem with the abundant list of names that Johnson found as he scoured the globe for NHM places: many of them, in fact, just about all of them, were not available for Joseph to swipe in 1829, or are so minor, remote, and insignificant that he probably had no chance of encountering them. See the details in one of my favorite posts at Mormanity, "Noham, That's Not History."

Getting back to the significance of the attack on Nahom, I'll now summarize the story of evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, something I discuss in more detail on my Book of Mormon Evidences page (and elsewhere here and at the Nauvoo Times). The Book of Mormon in First Nephi 16-17 in just a few verses tells us about an 8-year experience from the time that Nephi and his family left Jerusalem to the time they set sail from somewhere on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, though there is no explicit mention of the name Arabia or virtually any other detail that would be readily recognized by modern readers. But in spite of the sparse description, the fascinating thing is that enough specific details are given that we can actually attempt to recreate the path they took. We learn that about 3 days into their trip, they encountered a dramatic valley with "river of water" flowing continuously into the Red Sea. They named the valley after Lemuel and the river after Laman. Departing from this region near the Red Sea, they then continued south-southwest -- a rather precise direction. Along the way, they would pass through some fertile regions, but also endure hardship and even death. The father of the daughters Lehi's sons had married, Ishmael, passes away, and he is then buried at a place called Nahom. They didn't give it that name, but report that it "was called Nahom." After his burial and some mourning and murmuring, the family changes course, being led by a miraculous compass-like director called the Liahona, and then they begin a journey going nearly due east. This becomes a very difficult part of the journey, but they survey and reach a marvelous destination on the coast that they name Bountiful. Life is much better there at this fertile, pleasant place, but eventually they must leave after Nephi constructs a ship from the wood and ore he finds in the area, and they set sail for the New World.

For those who argue that Joseph Smith just drew from his environment to create the Book of Mormon, the trek across the Arabian Peninsula raises interesting questions. Why attempt writing about something so completely foreign with so many unknowns that later readers might investigate? Where to even begin? If it were me crafting the story, I'd just have them stroll over to the nearest port on the Mediterranean coast and hire some Phoenicians for a three-hour cruise or something. But this is scripture, the kind where the Lord gets involved and uses journeys not to get us somewhere quickly and comfortably but for all sorts of teaching and growing experiences that tend to take a lot of time and patience. Scholars may holler, but those who have experienced journeys of faith might recognize that the long preparatory trial of Nephi's journey is much more consistent with the Lord's strange ways of bringing us home.

What has become greatly interesting to some LDS people in the past few decades is the growing body of evidence, even gritty, tangible evidence dug from the sand, pointing to the plausibility of the account in First Nephi 16-17 as an authentic ancient record, the kind of record describing the kind of sacred, challenging journey that might have been made by an ancient Israelite who actually traveled through the Arabian Peninsula and encountered the kinds of places recorded in First Nephi. Instead of becoming exponentially more ridiculous as the Western world has learned ever more about Arabia, the account in the Book of Mormon has become increasingly plausible and interesting, to the point of even having genuine archaeological finds like 7th-century BC altars from Marib, Yemen with the tribal name "Nihm" on them, adding to the plausibility of the account, in addition to having "direct hits" come from on-the-ground field work exploring the geography, geology, and other aspects of key sites like Wadi Sayq in Oman. 

The evidence includes the work of George Potter who provides intricate documentation for excellent candidates for the River Laman and the Valley Lemuel, at a location that suits the text and with features that add new understanding to the comments in the text. His book Lehi in the Wilderness: 81 New Documented Evidences That the Book of Mormon Is a True History should be required reading for evaluating this remarkable site.

Here is a summary from J. Cooper Johnson, "Arabia and The Book of Mormon" at FAIRMormon.org as he reviews a presentation from Dr. S. Kent Brown:
Potter, along with the other researchers, have successfully identified this valley as the only one in this area of Arabia to have a running stream of water, a prospect which was not likely in such an arid area of the world. However, it was finally found. It did exist, although Joseph Smith, or anyone else in his part of the world, could not have known about it. Traveling To Nahom Nephi records that his family left the first camp and traveled “south-southeast” and continued in that direction until they arrived at “the place which was called Nahom” (1 Nephi 16:13, 34). Brother Brown, referring to Nephi’s choice of words, notes that, “the expression is passive, meaning that someone else had named the place. At all the other stops which are named in Nephi’s narrative, it was family members who named the places. But when they reach Nahom, it was a place that already enjoyed a preexisting name.” So, one should expect, at some point, this place called Nahom to be identified on some ancient document or artifact, if it was indeed a preexisting location and known well enough for Lehi and his family to identify it by it’s name, once they arrived.

Back in the 1970s, Ross Christensen and Warren and Michaela Aston estimated the location of Nephi’s Nahom to be in modern-day Yemen and started doing their research, which eventually yielded some fruit. The Astons “found that this name, or its equivalent which is spelled Nihm, also appeared in Arabic sources which go back to the early Islamic period, the ninth century A.D.” and “is known as both a place name and as a tribal name,” according to Brother Brown.

This was a substantial step in identifying the location of Nahom. For, as Brother Brown notes, “this area lies almost due west of the place where Bountiful must have lain in Oman.” This is important, because Nephi recorded turning “eastward” out of Nahom and eventually ending up in the place they called Bountiful, which we will discuss in greater detail shortly. However, as Brother Brown points out, “There was a problem.” While the Astons found a location with the same name, it could only be confirmed back to the Ninth century A.D., and Nephi’s reference occurs roughly 1500 years earlier.

As Brother Brown mentioned, “we needed a written source that would establish this name closer to the time of Lehi and Sariah,” which didn’t exist at the time. However, “now we have the evidence.” Brother Brown describes his discovery as follows:
I became interested in an exhibit of ancient Yemen artifacts that was in Paris about four years ago. I saw a notice of it in a magazine. The exhibit is still showing in Europe under the title of the Queen of Sheba. I bought the catalogue. I was interested in some incense altars that were donated to a temple in south Arabia. These altars are inscribed with the name of the donor, the father’s name, and the grandfather’s name, as well as the tribal name. At first, I was less interested in the names than in the shapes of the altars because these altars seem to preserve distinctive architectural forms that distinguish early Arabian sacred buildings… While I was examining the inscription of one of the altars that is pictured in the catalogue of this exhibit, I read the name of the donor: ‘Bicathar, son of Saw_d, son of Nawc_n, tribe of Nihm.’ Moreover, the excavator who translated the inscription dates this altar to the seventh-sixth centuries B.C. I thought, Bingo!
So, Brother Brown had now found an ancient Arabian artifact with the name Nihm, or Nahom that could be dated back to the time of Lehi.

Some may wonder why the name Nihm is being likened unto Nahom. Of course, they are different. However, Brother Brown makes an important point when he informed us, “in Semitic languages one writes with consonants rather than vowels. Hence, the name is NHM. These letters make up the name on the altars and also the name Nahom.” One difference is worthy of note, when considering how NHM would have been pronounced, which determines how we add vowels to the word in English. The south Arabian NHM would have been said with a soft “H” sound, thus rendering it “Nihm.” However, the “H” in Hebrew, would likely have been a strong “H” sound, the Hebrew letter, “het,” resulting in “Nahom.” Additionally, Lehi and his family would have associated NHM with “a Hebrew term which was familiar to them, that is, Nahom.”

One last note on the subject of Nahom. As mentioned earlier, Nephi recorded that after traveling south-southeast and arriving at Nahom, “from that time we did travel nearly eastward” (1 Nephi 17:1). This is significant because, according to Brother Brown, “in the region of Nahom in South Arabia, all roads turn east,” toward the incense capital of Southern Arabia, Shabwah. And once again, this information was not available to Joseph Smith.

Every bit as significant a find as Nahom, while not addressed at length in Brother Brown’s presentation, is the discovery of a place on it’s south-eastern corner that matches, in every aspect, the place Nephi called “Bountiful.” In the country of Oman one finds a stretch of beautiful land with all manner of vegetation, in contrast to the rest of Arabia, which is dry desert land. This area becomes “a Garden of Eden” during the “summer monsoon months” and “even in the dry season…plants are still blooming and fruit is ripening,” according to Brother Brown.

And, of course, you might have guessed, since it matches Nephi’s description of Bountiful (see 1 Nephi 17:5: 18:1), it is also found right where Nephi describes it, eastward from Nahom.
Regarding the significance of Nahom, also see Neal Rappleye and Stephen O. Smoot, "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, 8 (2014): 157-185. After responding to a series of objections about Nahom, including an excellent discussion of the differences in the Hebrew NHM and the South Arabian NHM and the plausibility of the Book of Mormon's word play on Nahom, the authors then give this summary of correspondences between the Arabian Peninsual NHM and the Nahom of the Book of Mormon, and why it's not enough to just say Joseph got that word from the Bible:
Both Nahom in the Book of Mormon and Nihm in Southern Arabia match in the following interlocking details:
  1. Both are places with a Semitic name based on the tri-consonantal root nhm.
  2. Both pre-date 600 bce (implied in 1 Nephi 16:34).
  3. Both are places for the burial of the dead (1 Nephi 16:34).
  4. Both are at the southern end of a travel route moving south-southeast (1 Nephi 16:13–14, 33), which subsequently turns toward the east from that point (1 Nephi 17:1).
  5. Both have “bountiful” lands, consistent in 12 particular details, approximately east of its location (1 Nephi 17:4).
While the presence of similar names in the Bible might be able to explain the first of these correlations, it simply cannot account for the all the ways the two places correspond. As Daniel C. Peterson once commented, “nhm isn’t just a name. It is a name and a date and a place and a turn in the ancient frankincense trail and a specific relationship to another location.” Suggesting that Joseph Smith simply got the name Nahom from the Bible is an insufficient explanation of the correlation. [emphasis mine]
There is much more to be said, especially of Bountiful, where Warren Aston has shown with extensive detail and beautiful photographs how the candidate Wadi Sayq, nearly due east from Nahom, meets over a dozen criteria that one can extract from the text. To that list can now be added the rare presence of iron ore that could have been used by Nephi to make tools, now that geologists have found a significant and very unusual (for Arabia) outcropping or iron ore at the site proposed as Bountiful. Collectively, this body of evidence demands to be taken seriously. And it's far more than just three random letters that someone found anywhere in the world or in any random place and time in Arabia.

Critics, however, have tended to treat the evidence as if it were little more than claiming to have found a place name Nahom in Arabia, a claim that they can attack on several grounds. The easiest ground, of course, is that the name of the tribe is Nihm, not Nahom, and is a tribal name, not a place name, among other complaints. They can also say that Nihm or Nehem or Nehhm is not the same as Nahom. And they can say that the huge concentration of graves marked as an ancient burial place called Nehhem on a map from the University of Sana'a is actually 25 miles north of Wadi Nahm/Nahom, which is also a few dozen miles away from Marib where the ancient altars from Lehi's day with the Nihm names on them where found, so all of those interesting correspondences to the Book of Mormon text aren't precisely in the same location, but more like associated in a general area that may not all have been called "Nahom" at that time. Yes, life is complicated, but those complexities are things that we can deal with. They hardly invalidate the premise that we have found remarkable evidence for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon, a broad body of evidence that involves Nahom/Nihm/Nehem, but also much more such as what lies to its east.

Nevertheless, Jenkins instructively shows how simple it can be to lose site of Nahom and the entire corpus of Arabian-related evidence. It is simple as showing that hey, Niebuhr published a 1796 map showing Nehhm on it (this is presented as an important discovery that threatens the Mormon position, when it has been a vital part of what Mormons like Warren Aston have presented from the beginning). And sure enough, Niebuhr's work is listed right in Joseph's vicinity, over at Alleghany College, PA or in the Medical Library at Philadelphia. Alleghany College is just 220 miles away from Palmyra, where the Book of Mormon project started, or just 50 miles from Harmony, PA, where Joseph went to escape persecution and do the actual translation before returning to Palmyra to publish it. Fifty miles would have been an much easier trip for Joseph Smith, who, as Jenkins seems to imagine, was an insatiable bookworm who naturally would have sought out every opportunity to do research to come up with a way to add a little "local color" to, um, one verse of the Book of Mormon.

 After showing that Nehhm or related variants did make it on some early maps printed in Europe, Jenkins says this is "damning" evidence and forces us to the conclusion that Joseph got Nahom from a map:
The map evidence makes it virtually certain that Smith encountered and appropriated such a reference, and added the name as local color in the Book of Mormon.

Some European maps certainly circulated in the US, and the ones we know about are presumably the tip of a substantial iceberg. I have not tried to survey of all the derivative British, French and US maps of Arabia and the Middle East that would have been available in the north-eastern US at this time, to check whether they included a NHM name in these parts of Arabia. Following the US involvement against North African states in the early nineteenth century, together with Napoleon’s wars in the Middle East, I would assume that publishers and mapmakers would produce works to respond to public demand and curiosity.

So might Joseph Smith have looked at a map in a bookstore, been given one by a friend, seen one in a neighbor’s house, discussed one with a traveler, or even bought one? After all, there is one thing we know for certain about the man, which is that he had a lifelong fascination with the “Oriental,” with Hebrew, with Egypt, with hieroglyphics, with his “Reformed Egyptian.” He would have sought out books and maps by any means possible …. No, no, I’m sorry to suggest anything so far-fetched. It’s far more likely, is it not, that he was visited by an angel, and discovered gold plates filled with total bogus misinformation in everything they say about the Americas, but with one vaguely plausible site in Arabia. Ockham’s Razor would demand that.

And yes, I’m joking.
The mature Joseph, after translating the Book of Mormon and having numerous revelations and other experiences, does show a fascination with the antiquities, as we also should, IMO. But that's not the young boy his mother knew, the unschooled farmboy whom she described as not being one who was bookish. He was not a bookworm and did not have some vast collection of books he consulted in preparing the Book of Mormon. He didn't even have a manuscript with him as he verbally dictated the text to his scribes. If he sought out books and maps, where were they? How did he use them? There's not a shred of evidence apart from wishful thinking that he went through any such process.

There's no evidence that Joseph had access to any information that could have helped him craft First Nephi 16-17, and if you look at the maps of the day, you'll struggle to see how any of it could have helped. Give it a try and explain to me, seriously, how those complex maps give one any guidance about where to turn and how to end up at the then-unknown outstanding candidate for Bountiful in modern Oman. And try finding NHM names every 5 kilometers or so! Or explain to me, if Joseph, in an effort to add a little local color or enhanced plausibility to his account, tracked down a detailed map and used it, perhaps after a lengthy and rather uncharacteristic journey to a large library, why would he fail to use more than just one word plucked seemingly from random off the map? Why would he use a name that none of his readers would have ever heard? Why not mention Mecca, Sana'a, Marib, or Aden? Why not actually use the map to make some major contributions to his work and reduce the risk of massive blunders? If he had all the maps of Arabia in his day before him, there's no evidence that they helped a whit. Talk about lack of significance!

Perhaps the real question, Dr. Jenkins, might be this, if you're interested in the issue of significance: What is the significance of the evidence that Joseph did research in remote libraries, or studied and used maps of Arabia from any source, all in the name of, apparently, selecting one word (or perhaps one word and if he were really clever, the south-southwest direction) that ends up not being a recognizable and widely known name right off the map that serves some "local color" function but is a name in the Bible that is spelled much differently than the obscure, unknown, apparently randomly selected place name he supposedly plagiarized from Niebuhr's map? That's a lot of work for apparently no gain. And if he did hope to capitalize on all that work by pointing to evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, why did neither he nor any of his co-conspirators (for the sake or argument) ever say a word about Nahom as some kind of evidence from Arabia? Why did no one ever even notice this until over a century later, when some Mormons began to take the Book of Mormon seriously and found, to their surprise, that there is evidence in Arabia for plausibility?

By the way, how long do you think it would have taken to "translate" a fraudulent Book of Mormon if Joseph had to track pore over books and maps to come up with a made-up concept every verse or two? In any case, I hope you'll reconsider that argument.

There's more to discuss in my next post on this topic, for a much more serious and carefully written critique of the Arabian Peninsula evidence has been offered elsewhere that may catch many Mormons off guard, for it is based on more careful arguments and draws upon some important modern scholarship on the Documentary Hypothesis. The answers aren't so easy this time, not for me, anyway, but it's definitely worth discussing and thinking about. And I'll need your help in exploring the issues. Until next time.


Cody Andrews said...

"...NHM inscriptions occur every five miles in the Arabian peninsular..."

Be that as it may, I doubt Joseph Smith was aware of this. I would never tell anyone that 'because archaeologists found a city the matches the description of Nahom in The Book of Mormon, that means that The Book of Mormon is true.' Everyone seems to miss the main pitch that it is the Spirit that brings us evidence that The Book of Mormon is true and that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. It doesn't come by archaeological evidence. God wants us to trust in Him more. 1 John 4:2 says, "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:" The Book of Mormon does just that. Problem=solved.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Jeff. If you're talking about tackling RT's series on NAHOM, you're right that it's well thought out and abundantly documented. However, I think one of its weaknesses is that he doesn't seem to allow enough room for the kinds of readings that the Book of Mormon may offer when it is approached as a *religious* text. Here's a little exchange we had on his blog:

RT: "If someone wrote a modern travel account from Ogden to St. George and the only city they happened to mention was Vernal, would that be relevant?"

Me: "Probably not. But what if the narrative isn't primarily a travel account? Or, at least, an account that has less to do with the physical journey and more to do with the spiritual or metaphorical journey? If so, then "Vernal" could become highly significant depending on the events that occur there or its placement in the metaphor or what-have-you."

Anyway, my two cents.


James Anglin said...

What is evidence in archaeology? It varies. If you discover a whole ruined city, then that is decisive evidence that some people once lived in it. Once you have that basic proof that some kind of human society existed there, you can use much more tenuous evidence to try to build a best guess at how those people lived. So a fair amount of published archaeological literature consists of stretching webs of conjecture between sparse points of ambiguous evidence. If you take that to represent the accepted standard of evidence in archaeology, however, you're missing something essential. You can only count the tenuous hints as evidence once you have the ruined cities.

That's what I think of, anyway, when I see a guy like Philip Jenkins insist that NHM is the only piece of archaeological evidence that has ever been presented for the whole Book of Mormon, and then see a guy like William Hamblin retort that there is a ton of other archaeological evidence (only he won't mention anything in particular). My guess is, they're both right — but really only Jenkins is right, because the ton of stuff that Hamblin considers evidence is tenuous hypotheses that would be respected archaeological theorizing if — but only if — we also had decisive evidence that the hypothesized ancient societies were really there. In effect Hamblin is standing on cargo cult archaeology, whose careful practitioners go through the motions of archaeological reasoning the way that post-WW2 Pacific islanders built bamboo radar dishes to try to lure back the cargo planes. They reproduce the activity but lack the essential basis that makes it work.

Three letters on a rock is no Troy; but okay, it's something. Coincidence of location with a Book of Mormon description would be something further. But just how unambiguous is that Book of Mormon description? If you didn't know where this NHM inscription had been found, would you really be so sure that this point was exactly where Nephi was describing? To pinpoint a real location in Arabia might have been tough for an uneducated farmboy, but it wouldn't have been nearly so hard to write a few vague lines about rivers and oases, and then let 21st century Mormon apologists paint the bullseyes around the bullet holes.

I'm not an archaeologist. But those would be my concerns.

James Anglin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Anglin said...

One detail: getting Nahom from Nihm. Why would Hebrew travelers pronounce NHM as Nahom, if what they heard was really Nihm? Are you suggesting that they didn't actually hear the place called Nahom, but read NHM on the roadsigns?



Anonymous said...

Great post as always, James. I'm interested in reading Jeff's response.

Something that always catches my eye involves the translation process evidence that Jeff often leans on: "He didn't even have a manuscript with him as he verbally dictated the text to his scribes..."

This statement has already been proven false by the clear evidence of KJV errors and added italicized words are found in the BoM and severely damages the credibility of eyewitness accounts of how the BoM was written. They all testify Smith did not have a bible during the translation process, the evidence contradicts this.
Again, Jeff admits how troublesome this issue is and knows the only reasonable explanation is that Joseph Smith did in fact have a Bible with him while writing the BoM.
This all leads to the very likely case that Smith and the "eyewitness" did not tell the whole truth to how this book was written and opens the doors to all kinds of other theories.

flying fig said...

Sorry, I hit the wrong selection, anon 6:52 is flying fig.
My point is by establishing the fact that Smith used a Bible while writing the BoM (which the evidence clearly shows) proves that with the eyewitness lied or were lied to by Smith. This now calls into question the entire account of where the BoM came from, how long it took to write, what other sources were used, who else was involved.

Mormography said...

Yet again Mormanity is quite anxious to trash Chris Johnson with his little plagiarism straw man. As I discussed in his initial response at Mormanity, Johnson was actually defeating a critic’s argument (Anthon 1827) that were even stronger than the NHM bit, much like Mormanity does with Curmoah-Moroni or I do with Lincoln-Kennedy. Johnson did not argue that JS borrowed the word Nahom from existing material. Mormanity’s frustration has compelled his intellect to repeat the deception.

The consistency of the human condition is indeed fascinating. Iconoclasts such as Mormanity are consistent to group conformity, right or wrong. An iconoclast such as John Dehlin had the courage at a young age to say what was happing (in his mission) was wrong and constant with his person did the same thing as an older adult.

The LDS leadership defended the younger Dehlin and inconsistently not the older. Real humans are consistent. Groups of people that we tend to personify of course rarely are (LDS, Mormons, LDS Leadership, etc).

Ben Britton said...

Hey Jeff, I enjoy your blog a lot. I just wanted to say that I've just written a post that is related to 1st Nephi's relationship to the Exodus, which you might find relevant to your next post. I don't think anyone else has written about this before, so it's exciting for me, and though it doesn't vindicate Nephi's use of the exilic or post-exilic compiled pentateuch, it does show the likely use of another source that in all likelihood was far beyond Joesph's reach, the Talmud! Check it out: https://seersandstones.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/book-of-mormon-relationships-part-ii-caleb-nephi-and-the-talmud/

Orbiting Kolob said...

I haven't read RT's second post yet, but when I finished reading the first I thought of the same general question as James -- What counts as evidence? -- and was struck by the importance of the presuppositions we bring to the table. If we presuppose the historicity of the Book of Mormon, then NHM is evidence of that historicity; otherwise, it's just a coincidence.

Let me get at my point by making an extended analogy with coin-flipping (and please accept my apologies in advance for the length). The analogy is not really about the historicity of the BoM; it's about the debate over the historicity of the BoM.

There is a controversy about a certain coin. John thinks this coin has been rigged to significantly favor heads. Jane thinks the coin is just a regular coin.

John and Jane flip the coin five times, and the result is heads 3, tails 2.

"Aha!" says John. "That's exactly what my theory predicts."

"Not so fast," says Jane. "Five is an odd number, so it was inevitable that we would get at least one extra head or tails, and the fact that the excess happened to be heads is just a coincidence."

At this point, both John and Jane might well be right. The results thus far are consistent with either hypothesis. Note that we can legitimately use the term evidence to refer to these results, but John will consider the results to be evidence for his view and Jane will consider them evidence for hers.

Anyway, if we want to know who's right, we need more evidence. So we flip the coin five more times, and once again we get 3-2 heads, for a total of 6-4 heads.

This result is predicted by John's hypothesis. But it is also predicted by Jane's: if the coin is indeed legit, the most likely result of ten flips is 5-5, but the odds of getting 6-4 are still pretty good.

What we really need to do is a lot of flips -- say, a hundred. Jane's theory predicts that the results will converge on 50%, and John's theory predicts they will converge on some higher percentage. So together our two opponents perform 90 more flips, with this result:

51-49 heads.

"I win!" says John.

"Nuh-uh," counters Jane. These results support my hypothesis more than yours. My hypothesis predicts a convergence on 50-50, and that's exactly what we've seen. And remember, your original hypothesis included the word 'significant,' and the slight difference we see in our results are not statistically significant."

"Not so," says John. "'Significant' is not the same as 'large.' When I used that term I meant something like 'measurable.'"

Says Jane, "You're just moving the goalposts...."

Obviously, hypotheses about BoM origins are much more complex than those about coin-flipping. One of the points I'm trying to make is about the word evidence and how we use (and misuse) it as we conduct these seemingly interminable debates. Bear with me as I expand on my analogy in my next comment. (The whole thing is too long for Blogger, so I've split it up.)

Orbiting Kolob said...

Next, imagine that, instead of John and Jane conducting the hundred coin flips themselves, in real time, those flips were conducted, and the results honestly recorded, by someone other than John or Jane, without John or Jane being present. That is, the results of the flips are now a matter of historical record. They are facts, but John and Jane do not as yet know what all those facts are. They have only their competing hypotheses, which they are now, in my thought experiment, going to try to prove the only way they can -- because, gosh darn it, the coin itself has been irretrievably lost and is no longer available to be flipped -- by gradually uncovering the pre-existing record of the hundred coin flips.

As John and Jane go about their digging, they first uncover the record of the initial five flips (3-2 heads) as described above, and after uncovering that evidence they have the same conversation as above. Next they uncover the record of the second run of five flips (rsulting in 6-4 heads).

We are now at the point where I said: This result is predicted by John's hypothesis. But it also predicted by Jane's: if the coin is indeed legit, the most likely result of ten flips is 5-5, but the odds of getting 6-4 are still pretty good. The difference is that instead of having John and Jane themselves perform 90 more flips, they are going to undergo a piecemeal process of gradually uncovering the rest of a preexisting evidential record, a little bit of it here, a little bit of it there. (The idea is to improve the analogy by making the simplicity and clarity of coin-flipping a bit more like the complexity of archaeology.)

What kinds of things might happen as John and Jane uncover parts of the record? They might discover a fragment that looks like this:

Flip #67: HEADS
Flip #68: TAILS
Flip #69: TAILS

"Aha!" says Jane, as John grumbles something about how, by itself, this discovery doesn't really mean very much.

A year later someone discovers another fragment of the record, and it looks like this:

Flip #31: TAILS
Flip #32: HEADS
Flip #33: HEADS
Flip #34: TAILS
Flip #35: TAILS
Flip #36: HEADS

These fragments certainly constitute evidence -- but evidence of what exactly? The known evidentiary record is still consistent with either hypothesis. This would be true even if we next discovered a fragment reading like this:

Flip #48: HEADS
Flip #49: HEADS
Flip #50: HEADS
Flip #51: TAILS
Flip #52: HEADS
Flip #53: HEADS
Flip #54: HEADS

"Bingo!" crows John. "What are the odds of flipping an ordinary coin seven times and getting 6-1 heads? Clearly this is no ordinary coin!"

"Not so fast," says Jane (no doubt with a weary sigh). "The odds of flipping an ordinary coin seven times and getting 6-1 heads are slim indeed, but that is not what has happened here. What has happened is that someone has flipped a coin a hundred times, and in the course of doing so produced a couple of runs of three. The odds of that happening are not slim at all. In fact one would expect it to happen occasionally."

Says an equally exasperated John: "You're just refusing to look honestly at the evidence that we actually have...."

I could go on, but I hope this analogy as I've developed it thus far will shed some light on the frustrations we're all experiencing in these debates. None of the BoM evidence is a smoking gun; all of it boils down to questions of probability and interpretation, which two things in turn hinge a great deal on the presuppositions we bring to the table and the way we frame our hypotheses.

Orbiting Kolob said...

I guess I will go on, just a wee bit more. What we have at this point in my analogy is that John still believes the coin was a little bit rigged. And why wouldn't he? That's what he thought going in, and the evidential record hasn't conclusively disproved it.

Jane also still believes what she believed from the start. To Jane, the idea of a coin being rigged seems inherently less likely than not, and she certainly hasn't seen anything remotely like the kind of evidence that would be needed to win her over.

In the absence of a smoking gun, believers gonna believe and doubters gonna doubt.

And lest anyone think I've gone soft, let me just add one more thing: No one who is not already committed to the idea should be persuaded of the historicity of the Book of Mormon by the evidence we have. The evidence we have is simply not sufficient for that.

Of course, if one allows oneself to be persuaded by something other than actual evidence -- by what Jeff would call the spirit or whatever -- well, that's a different story.

Cody Andrews said...

I want to add one last thing... for now, at least.

Based off of my study of the Hebrew language (historically speaking & not so much linguistically), I would recommend that people not jump the gun in assuming the pronunciation of the word 'NHM.' At the time of Lehi and his family, Israel was speaking a very different Hebrew than what is spoken today. The Hebrew I'm talking about (and I can't remember completely if it is Paleo-Hebrew or a not-so-distant variant) was spoken between 1200 & 586 B.C. (rather convenient, if you consider the Babylonian exile during the time of Lehi and his family which also transitions into my next point). At the point of the Exile, the Jews were practically forced into speaking the language of the Babylonians (a variant of Aramaic). Hebrew was only kept alive for a short time and eventually the alphabet changed drastically, borrowing from the Aramaic instead of the Phoenician alphabet.

To add onto that, the Hebrew language eventually died as a spoken language. While the pronunciation of words had been preserved (barely), the meaning of a lot of different phrases and words were difficult to maintain. Eventually, it's revival began in the 1880's. So, we have a different alphabet and different grammar style and different words. Do we really even have the same language? NO!

Basically, what I am trying to say is that, as far as research tells us, there is no official way to know how to pronounce how the 'NHM' should be pronounced. However, it should be known that these are the transliterations of words that do have the 'NHM' construction: Nahum, Naham, Nihm, Nehem and Nahm. It should be noted that there is a possibility of a different pronunciation of the word and that it is completely dead to mankind with the exception of its preservation in The Book of Mormon.

Anonymous said...

"No one who is not already committed to the idea should be persuaded of the historicity of the Book of Mormon by the evidence we have. The evidence we have is simply not sufficient for that."

But, if, for the sake of argument, the Book of Mormon were found by trained archaeologists and translated by trained linguists then the current "evidence" would be evidence indeed.

Re: Coin flipping -- You're analogy assumes that John will, in the end, never produce evidence beyond anything coincidental (Pardon the pun). Therefore, it is inherently biased.


Orbiting Kolob said...

Jack, where in my coin-flipping analogy do I make that assumption?

James Anglin said...

To be perfectly honest, even if the Book of Mormon were found on gold plates that were still preserved, and translated by experts, most people would suspect that it was an elaborate hoax, because its content seems so unlikely for a real ancient record. In such a case, though, I guess (I'm not an archaeologist) that NHM might count about as much as it does now — a little detail that is worth something, but that might line up either way.

OrbitingKolob's analogy is indeed biased: from the fact that he has 100 flips coming out very close to even, we can deduce that his John is almost certainly wrong. But this is his point: the quality of ancient Book of Mormon evidence looks a lot like the kind of random coincidences that could happen even if the Book of Mormon were fiction.

From a Mormon apologist's point of view, that conclusion may be frustrating. I can see how it might feel as though skeptics are simply so biased that they will not recognize any evidence whatever, no matter how much effort apologists make to uncover evidence. But from an outsider's point of view, I'm afraid, it is the Mormon apologists who are being unfair, because they are refusing to accept that the standard of evidence that is demanded — and that is met — in real archaeology is enormously higher than even their best efforts have managed.

Playing with coincidental parallels and plausible matches is to archaeology what the putting game is to golf. It's a real and important part of the discipline, and real professionals work hard at it. But the putting game doesn't even start until you get on the green, with something like a ruined city to prove beyond all doubt that there was something there. Ancient Book of Mormon studies seems to me to be playing mini-golf, where it's all putting. Mini-golf does take some skill and effort; but it just isn't enough to get you into the PGA.

NHM is at best a putt. In mini-golf it would be a nice play, but It's not a tee shot. There hasn't been a tee shot yet, in ancient Book of Mormon studies. This is what guys like Jenkins are saying, I think.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Ah, now I see the reason for saying my analogy is biased. It's a fair point, and I acknowledge that yes, Jack, my understanding of reality is baked into my analogical cake. So, let's go ahead and take that assumption out. Let's say that we don't know whether the final results of all 100 flips converge on 50-50, and that we only know as much of the record as I described above. The basic point, I think, remains the same: the evidence could support either hypothesis, so that the decisive factor becomes not the evidence but the presuppositions we bring to our interpretation of the evidence.

Cody Andrews said...


Cahokia is a buried city in the state of Illinois and dates back to ~600 B.C. Read more about it at the above link.

There's two ways to look at it. Either The Book of Mormon is right or The Book of Mormon is wrong. The thing to keep in mind is that The Book of Mormon isn't a historical record. It's a spiritual record. We may never find exact archaeological evidence for it, but what has been found makes The Book of Mormon all too real to be just a made up book that Joseph Smith decided to write one day.

Orbiting Kolob said...

To my mind, Cody, there are more than just two ways to look at it. What the evidence tells me is that the Book of Mormon is neither "right" nor "wrong," because it's essentially a myth--an American religious myth--and myth is not the sort of thing to which words like "right" and "wrong" can sensibly be applied.

Is the Greek myth of Sisyphus right or wrong? What a silly question!

Of course, the things we say about the myth of Sisyphus (or the Book of Mormon) can be right or wrong--e.g., it's wrong to say it's history, or that its value lies in its historical accuracy, and so on, just as it's wrong to say such things of the Book of Mormon.

Cody Andrews said...

Orbiting Kolob, you are right. Thank you for the correction. What I should have said is that it is either True or False. Even then, it still depends on what context I am speaking in. One could say, "The Book of Mormon is true." and only mean that it is a spiritually true record, but they don't think that it something that really happened and took place. On the other hand, one could say, "The Book of Mormon is false." and be referring to it as something that actually took place in history, but they could think/believe that it is a good, spiritual book. We could delve further, but I think that would just be splitting hairs.

everythingbeforeus said...


It isn't even a matter of "true" or "false."

Here is the way to word the question:"Is the Book of Mormon an authentic ancient record of a group of people who lived in the Western Hemisphere during the time period in which the book claims they lived?"

As for the "spiritual truth" of the book, well...if the answer to the question above is "No," then it doesn't matter if the book contains "spiritual truth," because the book is a fraud and the man and organization that continues to spread it across the globe are both frauds.

I could write a book that contains a pure Gospel/Christian message. My book could basically include the entire Gospel as understood by Mormons. But if I claim I found the book during an alien abduction and brought it back with me, and then I used this book to lure people into my church, I would be a fraud, and despite all the Christian truth in the book, it would be a deceptive tool. A fraud.

So, the authenticity of the book is essential to the claims of the church. It HAS to be exactly what it claims to be, or else the entire thing is a fraud.

Anonymous said...

flying fig: The evidence doesn't clearly show JS used a Bible. Sorry. If you want to say he used a Bible, then you must admit he used at least 3 different Bibles. Also, most KJV "errors" are not errors, just declared errors. Also, the italics assertion is bogus.

Cody Andrews said...


"Is the Book of Mormon an authentic ancient record of a group of people who lived in the Western Hemisphere during the time period in which the book claims they lived?" & "It HAS to be exactly what it claims to be, or else the entire thing is a fraud."

In other words it's a matter of "true" or "false." Did it happen or didn't it happen? Is The Book of Mormon true or is it false? It's as simple as that. Thank you for reiterating what I just said.

everythingbeforeus said...

No, Cody,...

The parable of the prodigal son, I assume you would agree, is "true." But it isn't literally true. It is a parable that teaches truth. If Jesus taught the parable as something that really happened, while it might contain truth, it would also be false. And the teacher would be a liar.

The Book of Mormon can be true, but only under two conditions: 1)it is a work of fiction that teaches truth and it was presented as such; 2) it is exactly what it claims to be, and the ideas it teaches are indeed true.

So, I think we agree in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is more nuanced.

Cody Andrews said...

"The Book of Mormon can be true, but only under two conditions: 1)it is a work of fiction that teaches truth and it was presented as such; 2) it is exactly what it claims to be, and the ideas it teaches are indeed true."

So, in other words, The Book of Mormon is either true or false. Why shear a pig?

1 John 4:2 says, "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:" The Book of Mormon does just that. Problem=solved.

everythingbeforeus said...


Okay I'll grant that perhaps I am shearing a pig. But why did you have to go and bring 1 John into it?

First of all, the Book of Mormon is not a "spirit." It's a book. John doesn't say that "every book that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God."

John is talking about how we can discern spirits, not books. The Jehovah's Witnesses will preach that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. But it does not therefore follow that the Jehovah's Witnesses are correct in everything else that they say. Do you believe that the Jehovah's Witnesses are "of God?"

Do you believe that the Catholics, Anglicans, Calvinists, and Lutherans are all "of God?" Is the problem really solved that easily for you?

Cody Andrews said...

"Do you believe that the Jehovah's Witnesses are "of God?"

Do you believe that the Catholics, Anglicans, Calvinists, and Lutherans are all "of God?" Is the problem really solved that easily for you?"

I don't know. It sounds like you're the only one who has a problem with it. I'm trusting the Holy Ghost on this one, not you.

everythingbeforeus said...


This answer seems like an evasive tactic. You say you don't trust me, but I haven't really said anything yet that I have asked you to trust. I have really only asked questions. Do you think Catholics are "of God" because they confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? That answer is either "Yes," "No," or "Kind of..."

Cody Andrews said...

"Do you think Catholics are "of God" because they confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh?"

Well, they certainly aren't of the Devil. I don't think it's the Church that matters as much as it is the doctrine. Do the Catholics really believe that Christ came in the flesh? Look at the rest of their doctrine. By their fruits you shall know them.

"I have really only asked questions"

That's a lie in itself. You've done more than asked questions. Not that it's bad that you've done more. It's just not honest of you to say. You should probably be a bit more thorough.

everythingbeforeus said...


I don't mean to lie. We had a brief discussion about shearing pigs, and I granted you that I was shearing pigs. A point for you.

Then, I provided some backdrop for a few questions. I can't remember making any truly declarative statements. Oh well... If I did, I take it all back then. Another point for you.

Okay...this is starting to get good now. So, if I am understanding you correctly, you are telling me that Catholics may preach that Jesus is come in the flesh, but their "fruits" suggest otherwise. This is rich! We'll just let that stand. If you agree that I have adequately summarized your point, I'll put you on the record. The Catholics, all 1.2 billion of them (that is 1,185,000,000 more people than are on the LDS church's records), do not produce fruits worthy of a believer in Christ. All those Catholic hospitals, orphanages, schools, and humanitarian organizations just don't cut it?

Cody Andrews said...

"The Catholics, all 1.2 billion of them (that is 1,185,000,000 more people than are on the LDS church's records), do not produce fruits worthy of a believer in Christ. All those Catholic hospitals, orphanages, schools, and humanitarian organizations just don't cut it?"

I mean if you want to blanket all of the Catholics in that sense, then how about we talk about the molestation of children? 1/3 of Catholic clergy molested children. 1/3 knew and didn't say anything. And 1/3 didn't care once it was revealed.

If you were to ask me, I would say it depends on the individual person because God looks on a persons heart, but if we're gonna do it your way, then lets condemn the whole Catholic Church for child molestation and not leave any wiggle room for repentance.

It should also be noted that just because someone is a Latter-day Saint that they aren't necessarily saved. Following Jesus Christ is a continuous process, not a milestone that you can sit at for the rest of eternity.

everythingbeforeus said...


You are the one who said the Catholics don't produce Christian fruit, more or less...not me!
You are confusing me now. But moving on...

Quoting you: "It should also be noted that just because someone is a Latter-day Saint that they aren't necessarily saved. Following Jesus Christ is a continuous process, not a milestone that you can sit at for the rest of eternity."

I know Jeff is going to get on my case for diverting this conversation away from NHM, but you are really tempting me when you start saying stuff like this. You are indeed correct that not all Latter-day Saints are saved. Dallin H. Oaks said that if we define "saved" to mean "exalted" there is no Latter-day Saint in all the world that can confidentally declare that they are "saved" while in this mortal life.

Not a single one.

So, I will ask you this question: At what point in your life, Cody, do you have the assurance that you have eternal life?

Cody Andrews said...

"You are the one who said the Catholics don't produce Christian fruit, more or less...not me!"

You were the one who implied that the partial production of Christian fruit means that the whole entity is good. I was merely pointing out that it doesn't go as far as we think it does. Some people do good things. Some people do bad things. However, you can't do bad things and expect to be praised as having done good. Jesus said something to this degree about people who would wrap up a dead body and make it look and smell all nice. In other words, you can dress a monkey in silk, but... you still have a monkey.

"So, I will ask you this question: At what point in your life, Cody, do you have the assurance that you have eternal life?"

Well, the answer to that question is given in your last as you quoted from Dallin H. Oaks "Dallin H. Oaks said that if we define "saved" to mean "exalted" there is no Latter-day Saint in all the world that can confidentally declare that they are "saved" while in this mortal life."

Which isn't the exact quote, but to add to what you've said, Dallin H. Oaks also stated (in this same talk if I'm not mistaken), "That glorious status can only follow the final judgment of Him who is the Great Judge of the living and the dead. I have suggested that the short answer to the question of whether a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been saved or born again must be a fervent “yes.” Our covenant relationship with our Savior puts us in that “saved” or “born again” condition meant by those who ask this question."

However, I can't play God and declare myself into His kingdom. I will let Jesus Christ petition my entry. That is how salvation works.

everythingbeforeus said...


What do you have against monkeys that even silk won't help?

I think we are not connecting in what we are saying when it comes to the Catholics. And I think the misunderstanding is so deep now that I would make it worse to try to clarify it. Anyway...

But about salvation/exaltation...I agree that we don't declare ourselves into God's kingdom, but isn't that kind of what you are doing when you tell your bishop you are worthy in every way to enter the House of the Lord? Isn't the temple the symbolic representation of the Celestial Kingdom? Aren't you therefore in effect declaring yourself worthy of Celestial glory?

Also, let me tell you the good news. There is no "short answer" and "long answer" to the question of whether you have been saved or born again. There is just one answer. Period.

The church has a "short answer" to that question so that it can continue to look like a Christian denomination. It has a "long" answer also so that it can demand from you that which the organization requires to survive, namely your money, time, and your unwavering loyalty.

1 John (this is why I asked you why you had to go get John involved) tells us that if we have the Son then we HAVE eternal life. Notice the present tense? Not future tense. If you have the Son, you have eternal life. Don't let them tell you otherwise. What do you think it means when Jesus said his burden is light?

Anonymous said...

Hi everythingbeforeus,

but isn't that kind of what you are doing when you tell your bishop you are worthy in every way to enter the House of the Lord?

- No

Isn't the temple the symbolic representation of the Celestial Kingdom?

- Yes

Aren't you therefore in effect declaring yourself worthy of Celestial glory?

- No

I believe that you are referencing 1 John 5. Here are the first handful of scriptures:

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.


PS - I believe it was you who said that the missionary discussions from the early 90's never brought up Jesus as the Savior. I found my discussions.

Lesson 1, second principle - Jesus Christ, Son of God (first principle talked about God). Complete with scripture references. 3rd principle, Jesus Christ, His witnesses and the plan of salvation. Principle 4, Joseph Smith as a modern witness of Jesus Christ, etc (more references to Jesus Christ in succeeding lessons).

If I didn't know better, I would say that you seem to be trying to misrepresent the Church.

everythingbeforeus said...

You are mistaken. I said the missionary discussions never required the missionary to commit the investigator to pray to receive a spiritual witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior. They were only to pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I am not trying to misrepresent the church. Is it not a conceivable possibility that those who are critical can also have honest grievances. I am confident that if you look back over your missionary discussions you will see that each discussion had certain commitments associated with them. Lesson one commitment invitation is read BoM and pray to see if it is true. Lesson two is invite to be baptized. Three is attend church. Four is word of wisdom and chastity. Five is tithing. Six is accept a calling.

everythingbeforeus said...

As for 1 John, sure, John says to keep the commandments. But those commandments do not include so many of the commandments that Mormons claim are the commandments of Jesus Christ. If you read the entire 1st Epistle of John, it should be more than obvious that the Commandment of Christ is to love one another. John frequently emphasizes "that which we heard from the beginning." In 3:11 he says that this message we had from the beginning is love one another. In 3:23, he says again that "this is the commandment, that we should believe on the name of..Jesus Christ and love one another." John also says that all the law is fulfilled in this: love one another.

John says nothing about the requirements of Mormon Law. The Word of Wisdom (Paul and Christ actually preach against required dietary restrictions). Temple ordinances. The wearing of garments. The paying of tithes (membership dues) to the church. Etc...

All the law is fulfilled in this: love one another.

You cannot read the simple words written in the Epistle of John and find justification for all that you do as a Mormon to work your way toward exaltation.

You are either deluding yourself, or you have been deceived by others, if you think you can.

Anonymous said...

Again, everythingbeforeus misrepresents the Gospel, and John in particular. There are plenty of sermons in the LDS church on loving one another. But that's not the gospel of Christ, is it?

It comes back to the fundamental mistake you evangelicals make: you assume that isolated statements from epistles overrules the Lord's commandments. The Lord preached the Sermon on the Mount. That says nothing about "love is all you need," which is what you are trying to turn the gospel of Christ into. Next you'll be saying the Beatles were prophets of God, right? They preached the same thing.

Jesus frequently made people sacrifice enormous things for Him. To the rich man he said to sell all he had and follow Christ. That's not "Love is all you need!" He preached the exact opposite of your doctrine; saying that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter into heaven, but only those who did His will--i.e. followed the commandments.

Your view of the gospel is simplistic: that Jesus is the Forgiveness Fairy, and sin no longer matters. You are preaching the gospel of Nehor, in a slightly modified form. Mixed with the Zoramites, really. God doesn't care what you do as long as you say you believe in Him. Right? Jesus suffered for you so you don't have to do anything--He has it all covered. So do what you want, man!

You have a very fundamental misreading of God Himself, as well. Which I will discuss in my next post.

Anonymous said...

The fundamental question evangelicals never face: Is God the same, yesterday, today and forever? I assume you would say yes. Then why the law of Moses? And what did the Law of Moses actually attempt to do? And why is that important to us today? And why, if the Gospel is so easy that all you have to do is say "Jesus saves!" and that's it (which is what the whole point of "you aren't saved by works, only by grace" is all about--to eliminate the need to keep the Commandments of God) --why was the Lord so cruel in telling the Jews to live the Law of Moses, and then let everyone off the hook 1500 years later? He then is respecter of persons? The Jews needed the whip of the Law, but the rest of us get smooth sailings?

Nonsense. The Law of Moses was not repealed in the sense that commandments and ordinances went away. Indeed, the ordinances we LDS follow today have direct analogues to the Church that Moses set up. The Lord instituted the Sacrament to replace the Passover feast; but the point was the same: to be "passed over" from the destroyer. The Temple had shewbread, washings and anointings, and so forth. Do you really think that God just decided the whole idea of Ordinances and covenants was passé when Jesus was done? Then why put them into action in the first place? Surely God knew the whole plan.

The point, as Paul said, of the Law of Moses was to be a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ. How, therefore, did that work? What was the point of sacrificing the lamb, the pigeons, the Sabbath day, the Temple, etc. if the ultimate end of all of that was "Go home and relax on the couch; as long as you love your neighbor it's all good!" What was the point of all that focus on covenants made, and punishments for covenants broken if Jesus was just going to eliminate covenants?

Or was it to teach people how to make and keep covenants with God in general, and Jesus introduced higher, better covenants? He did with the commandments; such as adultery being redefined to be lusting in your heart as well as cheating on your spouse. Higher levels of covenant keeping; higher rewards available.

This is stuff evangelicals shy away from; but then you cannot explain why God would punish the Jews with all that Law of Moses stuff when the Gospel is so easy. The evangelical version of Jesus bears no resemblance to the God of the Old Testament. Are they not the same Being? If so, why would He change His emphasis and totally change worship from demanding to even Nancy Pelosi can be considered saved?

James Anglin said...

This is why many Christians don't consider Mormons Christian. Regardless of who (if anyone) is actually right about God, Mormons like Anon 1:40 differ as much in salvation theory from the great majority of self-identified Christians as they differ in belief about the nature of God. Indeed, non-Mormon Christians and Mormons probably differ as much from each other on these essential points as they both differ from Orthodox Jews or Muslims.

I don't think I have anything to contribute to this argument other than that. I call myself a Christian and I believe that God doesn't change, but I believe that human understanding of God has changed a lot, and that ancient scriptures represent ancient human understanding, not God's complete truth for all time. So I don't see why Moses's soteriology is any more permanent than Moses's astronomy. I believe in continuing revelation.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon 1:40 writes, The point, as Paul said, of the Law of Moses was to be a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ.

I find this statement (and the widespread Christian belief underlying it) to be fascinating. My first response was something like, "Gee, I bet certain Orthodox Jews would be just thrilled to learn that their religion was not a complete thing in itself, not an end but a means, a mere stepping-stone to Christianity."

Now that we have Christianity, the (Christian) thinking goes, Judaism is no longer necessary. There are certain implications of that which I think many Jews would not exactly appreciate.

But then it occurred to me that there are atheists who make very much the same kind of claim about Christianity. These would be atheists who acknowledge certain contributions that Christianity has made to the development of civilization generally, and to the rise of liberal democracy in particular -- Catholicism gave us important institutions such as the university, Protestantism gave us the ideal of universal literacy, and so on -- but now that we have those things, we no longer need the religions that gave them to us.

So here the thinking is very much the same as above: Now that we have our modern, secular liberal democracy, Christianity is no longer necessary. Protestantism was just a schoolmaster to bring people to secular liberalism.

Of course, the Christian will immediately object that Christianity is much more than just a stepping-stone to something else; the Christian will say, "My religion remains a vital force in my own life and that of millions of other believers, etc., etc., and to reduce it to a once-useful but now outdated stage of history is both mistaken and demeaning."

But the Jewish believer would say the same thing about the Christian reduction of Judaism.

What goes around comes around.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anonymous 1:27

Nothing overrules the commandments. Evangelicals do not believe this. Stop misrepresenting what they believe. That is a straw man Mormons love to throw into the mix. But that is just being lazy.

Nothing overrules the commandments, but the reality is that you can't live the commandments. So, what are you going to do? It is all or nothing. You can't just pick the commandments that come easily to you. You have to live all of them. So, what are you going to do?

Does the blood of Christ purchase the believer? Or does the blood of Christ purchase a ladder? Mormons believe that blood purchases a ladder, and then all they need to do is climb it. Jesus will help you along the way.

But exactly what does Jesus's help look like? What is the practical difference between using the Atonement to help you overcome smoking, for instance, and my agnostic father-in-law who denies the divinity of Christ but stops smoking in a few short weeks from sheer determination?

Can you explain this to me? Explain to me how grace really works as a Mormon. At what point do you finally earn that gift that, by definition, cannot be earned?

Jesus either buys YOU or he buys you a ladder. Mormons have a ladder. Good luck climbing it.

Anonymous said...

James Anglin: You are correct that Mormons differ from most Christians in a lot of areas. This, of course, is not surprising, nor is it a new insight. We don't claim to be "regular" Christians, in that we reject creedal Christianity. Someone once described Mormons as the Christianity that would have happened if Peter rather than Paul had "won out."

I think, Orbiting Kolob, you are deliberately twisting the relationship Jews have with Christianity. Most still accord Jews a vital part in our religion--after all, Christ was a Jew and the Old Testament is a part of our faith. I would suggest, however, that even if the Law of Moses is more "primitive" as you allege than Christianity, it is certainly worlds better than your view of secular liberalism. After all, the practice, everyday difference between Secular liberalism and the worship of Baal and Molech seems to be very small. Both worship the pleasures of the flesh and the gospel of "do what you want, there is no consequences." Your beliefs are really very little different than that of the Phoenicians; just with a few names changed.

Everythingbeforeus: it's not me that is misrepresenting Evangelicals. The frequent charge you guys make against Mormons is we believe in works and commandments; when that "denies the gospel of grace" or such. Well, if believing in works and commandments is wrong, then what is a commandment--what's the punishment for violating one? I would suggest that breaking a commandment means that, without help, you will never return to God. I think both sides agree on that. We both believe that Christ is the way to return; as He paid the price for our sins.

The difference, as far as I can tell, is this: you guys believe in salvation as an event; we believe it is a process. Once saved, always saved is a large dispute amongst Evangelicals, I know. The core concept for grace and Mormons is 1) "retaining a remission of our sins." and 2) progressing forward. It is not all or nothing, as you describe it. You evangelicals say "It's impossible to keep all the commandments. So why try?" I know this because you accuse Mormons of thinking we can earn our way to heaven by keeping the commandments. If the commandments are important, then why do you say we are wrong for trying to live them? If they are not important, then they aren't commandments, are they, and Christianity has no concept of sin. This is your theological muddle, not mine.

Anonymous said...

Again, this goes back to core concepts: why does God care about us at all? What's the point, really? As best as I can tell, evangelical's believe that the end goal is, well, sitting on a cloud playing harps in-between walks with Jesus for eternity. I don't think there is any real idea of what we are supposed to do or be.

For us, we believe Jesus when He said he would make us joint heirs alongside Him with God, and that we would sit with Him in God's throne. If we are going to do that; then we have to live like that. And that's the purpose of commandments, of striving to be perfected: so we can, in fact, be perfected. We have a job to do, and it's not sitting there learning the C scale for our harps. The Commandments are for our benefit. The entire point of the Law of Moses was to teach the Jews to make and keep sacred covenants, to be God's people. To make something of them. Jesus didn't come to say, "no big deal, just keep doing what you are doing." His Law is to progress beyond the "Thou shalt nots" of the Law of Moses to the "Thou shalts" of His gospel. Nowhere did He revoke the "thou shalt not" of the Old Testament, aside from technical details here and there.

So what about Grace? Salvation is a process, not an event. Jesus wants us to do as much as we can, so that we become disciples of Him. That's why we do the commandments to the best of our ability. He makes up the rest, and as we keep the commandments, our capacity to keep them increases. Consider Peter, the only person I am aware of besides Jesus who had the faith to literally walk on water. I don't have that faith. Should I? Could I? Does Christ want me to gain that kind of faith? Am I supposed to have that kind of faith? The answers are of course. But Christ will take me and work with me, until at some point I have that faith.

We LDS people talk a lot about grace, and accessing that Grace. How does the Atonement work? It's more than just "Your sins are forgiven." If I'm addicted to heroin, having Christ say "I forgive you for that" really doesn't help me overcome said addiction, does it? I need more help than that. The grace of Christ is accessible to grant me His power, His strength to do what I cannot: overcome that addiction. If I receive His help, can I say I overcame heroin on my own? Not at all. It was Him. At the same time, He is no genie in a lamp to grant wishes. By overcoming a terrible thing like addiction, I become more like Him. I receive spiritual strength and power to resist other, and a weak thing has become strong. Ultimately, His grace allows me to tremble at the very thought of sin. When I slip and fall, He picks me up (if I want, that is--never forget He will force no man to heaven).

You say Mormons have to climb a ladder, while Evangelicals do not. Is salvation a one time thing? Can you fall? Do you have to retain your saved state? I trust you believe that Mormons are not saved, and do not go to heaven. When a saved Evangelical converts to the LDS church, does he or she lose his saved status? And if so, what was the act that broke the camel's back?

When was I saved, when was any LDS person saved, you ask. The answer will surprise you: at baptism. That is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, through which all must pass. At baptism, you are indeed saved, as you would put it.
Whether you retain that state is up to you. Just as in Moses' time. When was a Jew saved, under the law of Moses? Surely the rites and ordinances of the Law of Moses were effective for them, right? Forgiveness of sins was available through the law of Moses. A faithful Jew could indeed go to heaven, correct? A woman like Hannah, who gave her son Samuel to the Lord--surely she received the same reward that a faithful Christian did? When was she "saved?"


Anonymous said...

Surely it was when she performed the ordinances of the Law of Moses with a faithful and repentant heart. When she participated in the Temple ordinances, the Sin offering, and so forth--that had real power. There was no other way. And the Law of Moses--how did it clean and forgive sins? By accessing the power of God and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, since there is no other way to heaven than through Christ. This is all basic doctrine.

But the Jew was required to perform sacrifices constantly. Why? Because of the concept of "clean" and "unclean." And Jews went between those states regularly. You did your ritual duty to become clean again. How did you become unclean? By breaking one or more of the commandments of the law of Moses, for the most part. And the Law anticipated that no one could keep all the commandments; which was the entire point of the sacrifices, the ordinances--how to become clean again.

Where was grace in all of this? Simple: how did sacrificing an unblemished lamb actually forgive sins? Through Christ, that's how. Was it the act of sacrificing the lamb that cleaned you? No. Christ's sacrifice cleansed the penitent sinner. Could they say it was their own works that cleansed them and made them clean again? Clearly not. Sacrificing a lamb, by itself, has no salvation power. But if you became unclean, could you shrug your shoulders and pray to Jehovah and be "saved"? Nope--you had to provide the lamb and follow the prescribed way to gain access to the cleansing power of God. So were you saved by works or by grace? Both, is the answer.

Was the Law of Moses a ladder, as you call it? When did the faithful Jew earn that gift that, by your definition, cannot be earned? Surely they did receive salvation?

Now, here is where you'll say something about "dead works" and how Paul and even Jesus criticized the Jews and their emphasis on works, referring to the Law of Moses. But what were they criticizing? After Jesus' death and Resurrection, indeed the Law of Moses no longer had the power to save souls. The power of God no longer was in the ordinances. But Jesus Himself told the people to do what the Pharisee's told them to do, because at that time that was the way to heaven. And Jesus was a very faithful Jew. He obeyed the Law of Moses, because that was the authorized Law of God at the time.

This struggle over the law of Moses was an integral part of the early Church; because the Law had been the way to God. It no longer was; in the sense that sacrificing a lamb was the way to receive a remission of sins. But the concepts didn't change. While sacrifice by the shedding of blood was revoked, the concept of sacrifice was not. The concept of uncleanness and cleanliness survived. The way to remove the taint of sin changed, but not the concept. The Apostles pleaded with the people to follow the commandments of God. Paul's dwelling on grace was to point out that salvation requires two people: the person and the Lord. The Jews had fallen into the trap that all you had to do was sacrifice the animal and you were saved--like turning a jack in the box handle, until it pops out. No effort on your part, really. Paul was talking that no, it wasn't the animal that was important--it was God that did the saving. Jesus' teachings were all about the inner person; bringing the inner person up to believing in God and not just checking off a box. A real commitment to God; developing faith; repenting of your sins. Outward ordinances are required, but not effective without the inward self participating. And for a people used to outward ordinances, that took getting used to.

Continued (for the last time, I promise!)

Anonymous said...

Mormons hold the save view of salvation that prevailed in the Old testament: God requires us to do something for our salvation. But salvation comes through the Lord. The blood of the lamb is just the blood of a lamb until God accepted it for salvation purposes. And after Christ died, He no longer accepted it as effective. The Jew who went to the Temple during the last week of Jesus' life received a remission of his or her sins by performing the ordinances. The Jew who went the next week? Didn't. Same sacrifice, same ordinance. But no longer was the grace of God extended to make it worth anything. Who saved the Jew? The grace of God. At no point during those two weeks did the unclean Jew who didn't do anything become clean. The ordinance was still required.

So grace does not negate works. Sure, we don't sacrifice a lamb anymore to receive forgiveness of our sins; we are baptized and then retain a remission of our sins by partaking of the sacrament each week. The ordinance changed in details, but the effect did not. We become unclean through the week--small sins, whatever. The Sacrament allows us to become clean again--but only through the power and grace of Christ. But the sacrament is just a dead work if we have no faith, or an unrepentant heart. Then, it's just bread and water. Only when we come to the service with a repentant heart, humble and meek, does it become the Bread of Life, providing nourishment and salvation to our souls. Who, then, gets us into Heaven? Surely not me: I can no more forgive sins and make myself clean than can a rock in the mud. It is the Lord's doing. It is His Atonement that provides the power and grace necessary to wash my garments clean in His blood. Can I boast of being forgiven? No.

Yet at the same time, God will force no man to heaven. Just as the Law of Moses was designed through symbolism to lead its disciples to Christ, the Law of the Gospel requires that I do my best to become the disciple of Christ He wants me to be. I do not want to be lukewarm, so that the Lord will spew me out of His mouth.

The Evangelical view of salvation is very limiting, it seems to me. How does it save? It requires no continuing effort to retain your salvation, does it? Again, I ask about commandments. You stated that I have it all wrong, that they are vital to Evangelicals. How? You mention the purchasing blood of the Savior. After you make that commitment to Christ, after Christ purchases you with His blood, what is the impact of breaking a commandment? Does it affect your "saved" status? If it doesn't, then there's no real consequence and it's not a commandment--it's a suggestion and why bother keeping them? And if it does affect your saved status, then how do you regain that saved status? How do you move from that unclean to clean status? I would suggest to you that scripture nowhere says that Salvation is a one time event and you have it made. And without that, then the LDS view of salvation as a process, and requirements to either keep such status and how to get it back once you've lost your saved state are very necessary.

Put more bluntly: are humans required to participate in the salvation process? If not, then why did God require the Jews to participate in their own salvation, and why did He give commandments at all? And if they are required to participate, then why all the bother about “grace alone will save?” No, grace alone won’t save: Jesus has always required His people to participate in the process. And once we are required to participate, then both sides are required. At no point, however, can we say that grace is not required; for there is nothing we can do to clean ourselves. No matter how many times a Jew offered the Paschal lamb after Christ’s death and resurrection, it did nothing; for Christ would not honor it. His grace makes it all possible. Without it, we are lost.

But without our participation, we cannot be saved either. Grace is necessary, but so are we. It's that simple.

everythingbeforeus said...

"The difference, as far as I can tell, is this: you guys believe in salvation as an event; we believe it is a process. Once saved, always saved is a large dispute amongst Evangelicals, I know. The core concept for grace and Mormons is 1) "retaining a remission of our sins." and 2) progressing forward. It is not all or nothing, as you describe it. You evangelicals say "It's impossible to keep all the commandments. So why try?" I know this because you accuse Mormons of thinking we can earn our way to heaven by keeping the commandments. If the commandments are important, then why do you say we are wrong for trying to live them? If they are not important, then they aren't commandments, are they, and Christianity has no concept of sin. This is your theological muddle, not mine."

It isn't a muddle at all. You just can't understand it. Neither could I for 38 years. If salvation is a process, then tell me what happens to someone who is a temple-recommend holding Mormon, working the process like a charm, repenting every day just like he is taught to, but who, in a moment of weakness, commits a grievous sin and then dies the very next second.

The church teaches that repentance means saying you are sorry, turning to Christ for forgiveness, and then keeping the commandments from that point forward. This person only completed the first two steps, so his repentance wasn't complete. He clearly had not "denied himself of all ungodliness." The Book of Mormon says unless you deny yourself of all ungodliness, grace is not sufficient.

He died. What will happen?

This is the problem if salvation is a process. If we could predict the moment of our deaths, we could all try to make sure we had all the loose ends wrapped up by that point, but we can't predict it. So we could be taken from this earth in the middle of the process. And then we are doomed.

At least, that is what the Book of Mormon teaches. Now is the time to perform labors. After we die, there are no more labors to perform. Your scripture.

Anonymous said...

Everythingbeforeus: So what happened to the Jew who committed a grievous sin and died before being able to perform the ordinances?

What is the punishment for sin? If I am a faithful Mormon and die right after my first adulterous encounter--why should I go to heaven? Do Evangelicals get a "get out of sin free" pass? Grievous sins don't matter?

You are arguing that breaking the commandments has no consequence. Once saved, always saved. Say the magic words or however you become saved, and then it's home free, baby! Sin no longer exists!

What will happen to the guy who dies while committing adultery? Why should he get a reward equivalent to the guy who died faithful to his wife?

Again, you confirm that you don't believe in the commandments. If there is no consequence to breaking them, they aren't commandments.

Jesus said that people who harm little children; it would be better that a millstone were hung around their neck and they were buried at sea. Did He mean "Except for saved people; if they die while raping a child, but they were saved, it's all good!"?

This view is monstrous. And bears no resemblance to the Gospel of Christ. It sounds like the gospel of Satan though: "Check the box, then do what you want-- you are saved, baby! Rape that hot blond, God still has your back!"

You tell me the consequence of sin for a saved person. Right now, it looks like there is no consequence for sin in the Evangelical world.

Anonymous said...

ebu: In looking at your "19th Century Sources for Mormon Concepts", I noticed you quoted A. Campbell who said that the Book of Mormon addressed transubstantiation and penance. Really? He threw out quite a few items in his list, didn't he, and several of them are far from being accurate. Also, I suggest you also consider the implications of the view that all the words were delivered to JS (abstracting away, for the moment, from your view that JS wrote it fraudulently). Instead, you only the consider the view that JS was the translator, which is highly doubtful, although it has been a popular view, which of course doesn't necessarily mean that it's the correct view. By focusing on that suspect point of view, you are able to point out certain problems that flow from it. However, if JS didn't translate the book in the traditional sense of the term, and if there was actually a translation and not fraud, then a divine agency did the translation. And how can we reasonably limit the ability of a divine translation? Specifically, to put the text into understandable and impactful English, the divine translation could have chosen to be loose with its translation at times. So the pre-Columbian points you make and that others have made are meaningless from that point of view. On that strong view, there was tight control in the delivery of the text while there could very well have been functional/conceptual translation ("loose" translation) of portions of the text on the divine end. As I see it, the two possibilities for the text are both highly doubtful from opposing points of view: JS as author in steady dictation, JS as re-transmitter of already translated text. On the one hand, I can see the obvious problems with JS as author in steady dictation. On the other hand, a divine translation is a miraculous, rare event. So that will always be sufficient for some to discount it as impossible. From your point of view, you can look at 19c sources. From the other point of view, it's interesting to look at earlier sources as well, since the text has 16c and 17c aspects to it. Indeed, one can find phrases like "infinite atonement" back in the 17c. One can find a vigorous debate over infant baptism during the 17c as well, etc. So you will want to revisit your summation paragraph, I think, and not just include loose translation advocates' viewpoints, but also the more likely divine translation - tight control view. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

In fact, let's assume a scenario. Bob confesses Jesus and is saved at one point. He's a good Evangelical. One day, while in a hotel with Kate Upton, he loses control and ends up committing a violent sexual crime on her person.

Now what? Ignoring earthly legal effects--lets assume he blindfolded her and no one catches him so he gets away with it-- what happens?

Did he do anything wrong, first of all? And if so, what is the punishment from God for it-- is there a punishment? Does Bob need forgiveness, and does he have to do anything to receive it?

Now, alter the scenario: Bob is finished with Kate, and as he strolls outside the hotel 5 minutes later, he's hit and killed by a van. Does he still have a punishment for what he did? Or did Bob get away with it spiritually? He's saved, after all. And he never had a chance to repent, right? So that van allowed him to get away with it?

What if Bob lives another 30 years? Does he have any duty to repent? If so, when does that duty kick in? Is there a "you can't go to heaven unless you die within 2 weeks of the sin or repent" rule?

What if he never repents, but 30 years down the road, he suffers a heart attack and, knowing its his time, croaks out "I'm sorry, Lord!" as his last dying breath? Instant forgiveness? No harm, no foul?

Or, since Bob is "saved" and therefore, there is no consequence for sin, he becomes a foul rapist for the next 30 years. Is he still saved? Or are there consequences of sin for saved people?

I think the standard Evangelical answer to this is that a person who does this kind of thing was never really saved at all. But then, your question earlier comes up: How does an Evangelical know that they are saved; and are certain of it? And if you don't know until after you die whether or not you were saved, and you demonstrate your salvation by keeping the commandments, what's the practical difference between that view and the LDS view that requires us to keep the commandments? This Evangelical view descends into Calvinism and predestination, where only God knows who will be saved, and there's nothing we can do about it. At which point, again the question arises: What's the point of the gospel then, and Jesus' teachings; if nothing we do affects our eternal salvation?

Your complaint that we could die in the middle of the process and we are therefore stuck, thus we must go to the whole "Salvation is an event, not a process" is incorrect.

We are not required to become sinless before death. "Denying yourself of all ungodliness" does not mean "you must be completely perfect." Again you are saying that if you are not 100%, you will fail. That is not so. The Lord will not doom the person with just one foot on the path moving forward, for He is merciful.

God is a God of Mercy... and Justice. He is both. To whom much is given, much is required. But the converse is true: to whom little is given, little is required. The person steeped in sin who has just started the long trek back to the Savior and suddenly dies will be granted much mercy. The Lord will not require the same as He requires of Moses or Paul. I am not the judge, so I do not know how the Lord would judge Bob in the scenarios above. Was his heart in the right place; or was he transferring allegiance over to Satan when he died? Did he live up to what he knew was right and wrong? That's the Lord's call. But I do know this: deliberate violations of God's laws always bring punishment, else they would not be laws. And if your heart turns to evil right as you die, then I hope God has mercy on your soul, because His justice would say that you have lost your eternal reward.

Alma 42 explains all of this, you know. If your heart is evil, you will have evil restored to you. And committing a grievous sin will likely require a bunch of evil in your heart. A grievous sin, which requires intent and so forth? Pretty hard to do if you truly have a heart set on God.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon, you have given me a lot to deal with here. Be patient and I'll try to address it all.

Orbiting Kolob said...

the practice, everyday difference between Secular liberalism and the worship of Baal and Molech seems to be very small. Both worship the pleasures of the flesh and the gospel of "do what you want, there is no consequences."

Anon 3:51, you don't have the faintest idea of what you're talking about.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon, I've decided I can't address it all after all. This is just too much and it is scattered all over the place. But I will say this:

Quoting you: "This is stuff evangelicals shy away from; but then you cannot explain why God would punish the Jews with all that Law of Moses stuff when the Gospel is so easy."

No one has said the Gospel is easy. You are the one who is misrepresenting the Christian view of the Gospel by calling it easy, and then ridiculing that view for being so obviously wrong. I’ve tried to explain this to many people on this blog, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. It is because you are not listening.

That the “Gospel” is easy is simply not my viewpoint at all. First of all, you fall into a classic Mormon strategy called “redefinition of terms” when you speak like this. The Gospel is neither “easy” nor “difficult.” Mormons have redefined that word in a way that does not match up with both the Biblical definition NOR the Book of Mormon’s definition. The Gospel is simply the “good news” of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the Gospel.

Your church has redefined this word in order to exercise power and dominion over you. LDS.ORG says, “In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.”

See what they have done? Now, all they need to do is say the word “Gospel” and in the minds of the members it includes everything that must be done to be exalted, and it includes the church as well, because only through the church can you receive those ordinances necessary to be exalted. Thus, the word is loaded with connotations that are emotionally-charged and which reinforce the message of obedience to the leaders of the church. This is very crafty and subtle, but the Bible has warned of this kind of stuff.

Okay, so you think my concept of the “Gospel” is too easy and simplistic. Well, why are you having so much trouble understanding it then? You have written volumes on here, loading question after question on top of me. You are really getting quite a work-out here trying to understand this thing you call the easy “Gospel” from my point of view. You are ridiculing my position, even though you obviously do not understand it. Now, aren’t Paul’s words so appropriate then? The cross is foolishness and a stumblingblock? You are calling it foolish. And you are definitely stumbling over it.

Christ said his burden is light. Is your burden light? As a Mormon, is your burden light? Be honest with yourself? Do you have the rest promised in the Bible? Right now,…do you enjoy rest in Christ? Or is your life for the forseeable future a lifetime of work and trial, hoping that at the last day you have done what was required of you to be exalted on high? You won't know for sure until you die if you've made it or not. So,...are you resting the Lord?

I don't think we should continue this conversation here. Jeff is a very kind host, but we are surely straining his patience. Click on my username. As you know, it will take you to my blog. Pick any blog post, say whatever you want to say to me, and I'll see it there. We'll continue this conversation over there.

Anonymous said...

@ everythingbeforeus: what you accuse annonymous of, the "redefinition of terms" is what you and evangelicals (and mainstream Christianity in general ) do......all....the......time.

And you and others load question on question too.

None of us knows what will happen to us, because if you knew the Bible like you claim, the Bible says ALL WILL BE JUDGED IN A FINAL JUDGEMENT. According to the Bible you and the other critics have not "made it" like you think.

But this information is an inconvenient truth people like you and other LDS haters ignore. You pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe and the rest is completely thrown out.

Anonymous said...

At Anon. 6:18

Good job.

Anonymous said...

At Cody........

Good job too.

The question of "do you have the assurance of eternal life" and other similar questions are "gotcha" questions and games evangelicals like to play with LDS members.

It is very telling that ex LDS members really did not understand LDS doctrine because they parrot what LDS critics say and do, play gotcha games, and don't understand the Bible nor believe the entire Bible. They believe only Paul.

Anonymous said...

"They believe only Paul."

I'm a bit surprised LDS haven't disavowed the teachings of Paul already, like they did to Brigham Young

James Anglin said...

@ Anon 6:18:
I'm disturbed by your example of someone who 'loses control and ends up committing a violent sexual crime'. Violent sexual crime is not something any normal person simply 'ends up' doing, the way they might 'end up' drinking a few beers too many and then sleeping with the wrong person consensually. Your example is like having someone 'end up' going on a shooting spree or committing a suicide bombing. It's not a casual slip. It can't be taken that lightly; it's also not something that any normal person is likely to slide into doing just because they don't follow every detail of religious law.

But okay, pick a different sin for the example, or keep the violent sex crime and stipulate that the guy who does it is a violent sexual predator who has hitherto kept himself under control but then loses it. The problem of serious sin after a supposedly saving confession of faith does remain. I have to agree that, in the years I spent in evangelical Christian circles, I never really heard much about this kind of scenario. So I don't know what the evangelical party line is on this problem, if there is one. I think most people I knew then would probably have said that if someone's repentance was really real, then they just wouldn't do anything like that afterwards, and if they had dangerously deviant sexual instincts, then Jesus would heal that. Myself, I'm not so sure about either of those things.

The majority of mainstream Christianity, having been around for two thousand years and through some very rough times, is of course familiar with serious sin by the supposedly saved. A church that lived through the Dark Ages knows some things about the problem. The conflicting demands of setting high moral standards for believers, and maintaining the forgiveness of sin, have see-sawed back and forth through the centuries. The ancient Catholic concept and practice of penance is all about this. So is the distinction between cheap and costly grace which the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasized before he was hanged in the Nazi concentration camp at Flossenbürg.

What to do next, when the saved commit sin? I can't articulate any clear and concise Christian answers to this question. Mainstream Christianity is almost defined by the fact that this problem doesn't get a neat answer. But that's not because it's not important. Quite the contrary, it's by far the single biggest thing in the faith — the thing that most Christians spend most of their lives confronting. In that way it's like the middle game in chess. It's the heart of the game, and it's where the formulas don't really help that much, and you have to just do your best to struggle through, making as many right moves as you can. In the hypothetical example of the Christian rapist, part of repentance would surely be to turn himself in to the police, confess the crime, and accept the punishment. Apologize to the victim. Maybe even participate in a documentary, explaining how it all happened, in order to help reduce the number of similar crimes that might be committed by others in the future.

Such as they are, the mainstream Christian answers about sin are not Mormon ones, as far as I can see. But that is not at all because Christians haven't noticed the problem. Quite the contrary.

flying fig said...

You're right James, it's a matter of the heart. God wants my heart, my works and sacrifice come after as the result of my changed heart.

This is a brief summary of what I believe the Bible teaches about salvation.

I believe every Christian is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy and is therefore identified as a saint. This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and should not be confused with progressive sanctification. This sanctification has to do with the believer's standing, not his present walk or condition (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 2:11; 3:1; 10:10, 14; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2).

I believe that there is also, by the work of the Holy Spirit, a progressive sanctification by which the state of the believer is brought closer to the standing the believer positionally enjoys through justification. Through obedience to the Word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ (John 17:17,19; Romans 6:1-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 5:23).

In this respect, I believe every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The struggle nevertheless stays with the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to the eradication of sin in this life are unscriptural. Eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 3:5-9).

I believe that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God's power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 5:24; 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 5:9-10; 8:1, 31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 7:25; 13:5; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24).

I believe it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God's Word, which, however, clearly FORBIDS the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for sinful living and carnality (Romans 6:15-22; 13:13-14; Galatians 5:13, 25-26; Titus 2:11-14).

everythingbeforeus said...

Thanks flying fig. That says it nicely and succinctly, well-supported by the scriptures, and I would hope that those who challenge you on this would at least accept that it isn't like Christians have thrown their doctrine together willy-nilly in order to allow themselves to go on sinning.

It isn't that the commandments have been repealed. It is that we acknowledge our inability to live the commandments to God's standards. Christ taught the law because he was showing us the high standard required. But he atoned for our sins because we cannot meet that standard, yet, yes...we are duty bound to live the law perfectly. The law has never been done away with. But the reality is that we (and all you Mormons) cannot live the law. So, when Joseph Smith, in D&C 88, says that it is by law that we are protected, preserved, sanctified, and justified, Christians are going to tell you then that you are hopelessly damned if you believe this.

And when you, in your temples covenant to obey the law (not just try to obey it), we are going to ask you, "Are you not sealing damnation upon your heads?" You break these covenants hundreds of times a day! Your temple covenants make liars out of you before the throne of God. Which is why Jesus said do not swear an oath!

You are making solemn covenants that you acknowledge you will never keep perfectly. Don't you see how serious this is? Do you think it is all a joke? You don't promise God you will try, you promise Him you will DO!

Orbiting Kolob said...

Mainstream Christianity is almost defined by the fact that this problem doesn't get a neat answer.

James hits on something very important here. In thinking about that "something," it might help to invoke an idea first formulated by John Keats, negative capability. If interested, see here and here.

Anonymous said...

I'm the 6: 18 Anon.
So nice to see James and Flying Fig preaching what is essentially Mormon Doctrine. Flying Fig very well describes what happens when you are baptized (you become a Saint, and take upon you the name of Christ); and then the struggle to endure to the end, to realize the blessings that have been promised to us, conditioned on our qualifying to receive them. We agree, Flying Fig, that everyone is involved in a daily struggle against sin.

Where I think you guys go off the rails a bit is the "once saved, always saved" thing. Once you gain entrance to God's kingdom does not mean you will never leave... even the devil was in heaven at one point, before the fight with Michael. And indeed, people who sin against the Holy Ghost will never receive forgiveness. Ergo, they cannot get into heaven.

To everythingbeforeus, I again ask the question: how did Jews under the law of Moses receive salvation? Was it impossible for them? Do you take Dante's point of view that no Jew before Christ got into heaven or received salvation?

I assure you, the Law of Moses was exceedingly more... tedious than the requirements the LDS church has. How, then, could they be saved? How could they live the law; for it was impossible to live the law fully and stay clean? How did they get into heaven?

This question is one I ask of all you Evangelicals. Explain how salvation worked under the law of Moses. And reconcile it with the fact that no one gets to go to heaven except through Christ. And you can't just say "They offered sacrifices acceptable to the Lord!" Why was the sacrificial system of the Jews worthy in cleaning sin, while, say, sacrifices of other people didn't work?

I find that Evangelicals have a curious blind spot as to how God works. If God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, then did He or did He not change the requirements to get into heaven once Jesus came?

I ask: could a Jew complain to the Lord, saying, "I had to follow the Law of Moses with all its onerous requirements, but all you require of these people is to say 'Jesus Saves' and they get the same reward for doing nothing. Where is the justice in that?"

You see, you Evangelicals are stuck: You attack Mormons as "Focused on Commandments and ignoring the Grace of God!" Which means that, in your view, God doesn't require Commandments; else we Mormons wouldn't be attacked for it by you guys. You can't say Mormons are wrong for requiring people to obey the commandments if in fact people are required to obey the commandments.

But clearly, at one point, God did require the Commandments to be obeyed. Abraham, etc all had to perform sacrifices, etc. And now you claim that you can get the same reward as those who went before by qualitatively meeting lower requirements. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, yet an Evangelical will get the same reward for doing nothing? Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego were willing to lay down their lives for testimony of the Lord. Are Evangelicals required to be willing to do the same? Clearly not. Evangelicals are not required to do anything, right? Isn't that whole point of Evangelicalism? It's all Gods grace and there's nothing we can do, so nothing is required? Why, then, should they receive the reward of those three saints?

Orbiting Kolob said...

...the Law of Moses was exceedingly more... tedious than the requirements the LDS church has. How, then, could they be saved? How could they live the law; for it was impossible to live the law fully and stay clean? How did they get into heaven?

Someone help me out here. I honestly don't understand this argument. Why is our inability "to live the law fully" even an issue? If you live a life that overall is very good, should you be denied any reward simply because you failed to be perfect?

You don't need a 4.0 to graduate from high school. You don't need perfect SAT scores to get into college, or perfect GRE scores to get into graduate school. Why, then, this idea that one would need perfect obedience to the law to get into heaven?

Why couldn't God simply acknowledge our human weaknesses and adjust the cutoff score for his HAT (Heavenly Admissions Test) accordingly?

everythingbeforeus said...

Well, orbiting, what you are describing is essentially the Mormon system. They only have to be able to answer the questions of the temple recommend to be deemed worthy to enter the House of the Lord. The small every-day sins are not really a limiting factor in their worthiness. This is a main difference between Mormons and most other Christians.

Anon is here trying to tell us that evangelicals don't care about commandments. That is not the case at all. We care more about commandments than Mormons do. I am not going to get into Heaven if I see a girl and lust after her. That sin damns me.
Mormons just have to make sure they don't go have sex with that girl. That is the line they can't cross. If they lust, sure,..they know they shouldn't, but this isn't a sin that will keep them out of the temple. If it was, the majority of the male membership would be denied temple recommends, because what guy out there doesn't have a dirty thought from time to time? The Mormon bar is not nearly as high as the one Christ established.

And the Word of Wisdom! It even says that it is "adapted" to the capacity of the weakest of the Saints. So,..that is an example of God adjusting the cutoff score right there.

Mormons are only concerned about sin as an action. Christians are concerned about sin as a condition. Mormons teach that Christ's atonement deals with sin as a condition free of charge. There is no "original sin" at all, but we all need to continue to repent of our own actions. This is a case of telling a sick patient that the underlying disease has been cured, but the symptoms will persist until death and they must continue to take the medicine all their life. And the medicine can only be found in one place. And they must pay 10% of their income to receive it.

No...Christians say that sin is a condition and there is nothing we can do about it on our own. And this condition is why we commit these negative actions. We are never going to be able to overcome this condition at all on our own. We have no cure for it that won't end up destroying us.

So, a perfect, disease-free man came along agreed to offer himself up to the full destruction of this disease, so that we could have a cure that will not destroy us. In some miraculous way, he has become our cure.

Anonymous said...

Orbiting, that actually is a good question. It's one that both the Jews and Christians answer one way, and the Islamists answer a different way, as far as I know.

By definition, God is perfect. He obeys all the laws. To live with Him, you must also be perfect. This isn't necessarily because God said so, but because we would not be able to stand it if we were there. Consider how it feels to stand next to someone who is, relatively speaking, perfect in something. How would we feel if we had to compare ourselves to Tom Brady for football, Babe Ruth for Baseball, Thomas Edison for engineering, and Einstein for brains? Wouldn't we feel embarrassed, or resentful, or inadequate? Then consider not ever being able to get away.

Hell is actually a mercy in many ways. Can you imagine standing next to a perfect being; living there, being constantly reminded every day that you failed, that you couldn't measure up? It's more merciful to not be with God.

Thus, no unclean thing can dwell with God. If you can live all of the law perfectly, you can earn your way into heaven. You are clean.

Committing a sin makes you unclean; and deprives you of being able to stand in God's presence. Sin separates us from God, and since God is perfect, any sin will do the trick.

Both Jews and Christians follow to this point.
Here's where the Jews and Christians split. Only one person actually earned their way to heaven: Jesus Christ. Everyone else failed, or fails at some point. Everyone else.

And that presents the problem of how do we imperfect beings get to heaven, then? How do we become clean, and blot out those stains. Justice says the first sin, and you are done.

Islam doesn't require penance, but then Islam is a bit off. I honestly don't know how Jews handle it these days after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Law of Moses went away.

But for Christians, Jesus pays the price Justice demands. His blood washes away our sins; and makes us clean. When we repent and allow Jesus' Atonement to take effect, God will remember our sins no more. So we in fact become clean again; and we no longer have to hide in shame from God; and look for something to blot us out.

So God cannot allow a little sin to just linger. We have to be perfected to dwell with Him, which means no sin at all--not even a little bit. We can't get that on our own. Thankfully Christ is there to be the great Mediator; to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He paid the penalty for our sins; so we can be clean.

So my question to EverythingBeforeUs was this: How did the Law of Moses erase sin; and give us a path out of the terrible demands of the law of justice? How did it make people become clean, once again, to make it possible to go back to heaven?

I hope it helps. Your question is the very reason why we need Christ; so it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Oh and everythingbeforeus? Your description of Mormon theology is grossly off the mark. Grossly. In fact, I would go so far as to say you are deliberately and intentionally misstating Mormon theology. You know better, seeing as you apostatized from the faith. You know you are lying about it.

And you are completely misrepresenting your own statements in this thread. I am completely certain that you do not really believe that lusting after a girl in your heart will prevent you from heaven. Because you are "saved", see. And you yourself agreed with flying fig upthread that once saved, you never lose your saved status. Your description of Evangelicals obeying the commandments more than Mormons is a complete mockery of the entire "Salvation by grace alone" doctrine that Protestants crow about.

And your accusation that Mormons only care about sins of action is a lie--a complete, utter lie. Good thing you know you are lying, right? Is that one of those sins that's going to remove your "saved" status?
Your focus on the Temple recommend question is bemusing. Those are minimum standards to be met. Meeting them in no way guarantees that you will make it, precisely because God judges you on your heart as well as your actions.

Look, I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the Temple. I'm sorry you weren't sufficiently prepared. I'm also sorry that you didn't recognize the fact that every ordinance in the church has set and fixed language. But you distorting LDS doctrine and then attacking it--well, it's the same thing that the accusers of Paul and the Apostles did. Glad you are joining them.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon, you say that "he paid the penalty for our sins; so we can be clean." How do you become clean? How does Christ's "mediating power" act in your life? In what way does this all work? We are so sinful, we commit sin all the time. Do we really need to remember each infraction and repent of those sins? Even the ones we aren't completely aware of having committed? Every time you shop and see a magazine that is inappropriate at the check-out, do you need to gauge the level of sin you committed in that moment in order to determine what level of repentance will be required?

You are throwing out all this Christian language here, but you are not really describing nor fully elaborating on what you are actually talking about.

HOW does Christ cover your sins? And WHAT must you do to get that coverage? And how do you keep that coverage minute-by-minute when you are sinning left and right all day long? That person that cuts you off on the highway? That smelly person that is sitting behind you in the theater. What do you do with these negative and sinful thoughts that damn you every single moment of the day? Do you seriously repent of each and every single sin you commit? I am asking you directly, Anon...do you fully repent (and repent means to turn away and never come back according to Mormons) of each sin you commit?

James Anglin said...

Why should sinners whose highest moral effort only gets as far as repentance receive the same welcome as heroically virtuous saints? I don't know. But the unfairness of the kingdom of God is a major theme among Jesus's parables. How many of them are about somebody getting more than they deserve? How often is it actually the least deserving people who get the best deal?

Yeah, if you want you can turn up the volume higher on Jesus's other parables, the ones about wise maidens and guys with more talents and the house built on rock; but the theme of undeserved reward is also a substantial part of Jesus's teaching. If you want to downplay it, you've got a lot to downplay. Evangelicals happen to take the undeserved reward theme at face value, and turn up its volume. If you want to downplay everything Jesus said about obligations, though, you've also got a lot to downplay.

To make Jesus go all one way on this issue may make for a more consistent doctrine, but it's not really respectful of the best record we have of his actual teachings. He doesn't just say It's all good. But he also doesn't say You gotta deserve. I'm not sure how to reconcile these two sides clearly. Jesus himself didn't do that, at least not that I can see. My take on why he didn't is that the Tao which can be named is not the eternal Tao.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Writes ETBS: Anon is here trying to tell us that evangelicals don't care about commandments. That is not the case at all. We care more about commandments than Mormons do. I am not going to get into Heaven if I see a girl and lust after her. That sin damns me.

Understood. But why should that sin damn you? That's what I don't understand. It's as if a college admissions officer were to say, "Brilliant essay, young man. But I see here you got a speeding ticket in 1989, so no college for you."

Writes Anon 2:36: By definition, God is perfect.... To live with Him, you must also be perfect. This isn't necessarily because God said so, but because we would not be able to stand it if we were there. Consider how it feels to stand next to someone who is, relatively speaking, perfect in something.... Wouldn't we feel embarrassed, or resentful, or inadequate?

I don't buy this at all. I live and work with some amazing people who are better than me in various ways, yet somehow I still manage to be happy.

Consider it another way. Suppose you're a pretty good (but far from perfect) guitarist, and one day you get the chance to go on tour, playing rhythm guitar behind Eric Clapton. Are you going to turn down that chance because playing alongside such a genius would leave you feeling embarrassed, resentful, or inadequate? Nah--you're definitely going on that tour, and you're going to treasure every moment you're up there on stage with Clapton.

Committing a sin makes you unclean; and deprives you of being able to stand in God's presence. Sin separates us from God, and since God is perfect, any sin will do the trick. Both Jews and Christians follow to this point.

Having been raised Jewish, I can assure that Jews do not think in that way. Heck, Jews don't necessarily even think of God as perfect. That's the Philosopher's God, not the Jewish God. The Jewish God is the one who (in the Flood story) finds himself "repenting" of his creation, having his sense of justice challenged successfully by Abraham (in the run-up to the destruction of Sodom), and so on. The Jewish God is far too anthropomorphic to be perfect. Just read the Book of Job. Or watch the film God on Trial.

I also don't buy the idea of substitutionary atonement, how it can be possible that "Jesus pays the price Justice demands." Seems awfully crude to me, and wrong on its face. I mean, if Jesus offers to take my punishment on himself, it's awfully nice of him and all, but it seems to me a just God would tell him, "Thanks, but no thanks. Justice demands that the only one who can do the time is the one who does the crime."

James, I agree with you that the various ideas expressed and implied by the Bible cannot be reduced to a single "consistent doctrine." My feeling is that people only try to do that because they don't understand what the Bible really is. They think it's some univocal expression of the One True God; ergo they think it must be consistent in its meanings; ergo they read it in a way that forces it all into an artificial consistency; which is to say, they misread the Bible terribly. Far better to read the Bible as what it is -- as the multiply-authored hodgepodge of ancient myths, legends, histories, genealogies, parables, etc. that all the scholarship shows it to be -- which understanding removes the need to find it doctrinally consistent.

Anonymous said...

Pretty far afield from Nahom, aren't we?

7mormonquestions.wordpress.com said...

I am not sure why the concept of NHM is so discredited by some.

The general direction of travel of Lehi and company in the Arabian peninsula appears to quite clear in the book of mormon. So finding a place name in the general vicinity of where you think you should find it feels like it should be seriously considered. Just like finding a city named Zarahemla on the american continent would be quite astounding of a coincidence of the Book of Mormon was just made up.

I like your use of the word plausibility in your blog post.

NHM in the general vicinity of where it should be found adds to the plausibility that the Book of Mormon could be a real account of real people.

If it were a math problem, you could add up all of the truth claims of the Book of Mormon and test the probability versus probability of each claim and come up with some sort of mathematical formula for how likely is it that the Book of factual and a real history of real people.

But I am more interested in what the book teaches about the gospel itself.

To me it is more compelling. I am always amazed at the significant differences in the plan of salvation contained in the book of mormon as compared to what is traditionally taught by the church today.

But fortunately some of the most significant gospel discrepancies in the book of mormon can be explained by section 19 of the doctrine and covenants as to why God would allow such differences to exist.

It is a fascinating study for those who have the interest.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

So how do we access Christ's atonement? By Baptism, and then repenting and partaking of the sacrament. By accessing the Gift of the Holy Ghost to help us not commit the sin in the first place. By changing ourselves through prayer, through scripture study, through our obeying the commandments we can obey and striving to master the natural man more and more; and applying faith: Faith that Christ meant what He said about saving us. Helping our weak things become strong. By saying, "I believe Lord. Help thou mine unbelief!" By doing your best, and when your best isn't enough (and at some point, for everyone, your best is not enough), by relying on the merits and mercy of Him who is mighty to save.
Our job as Christians is to experience Christ's mercy and love for ourselves. By, yes, accessing Christ's grace. By becoming Christ's disciple; indeed His friend. By doing the things Jesus would do. We can become Peters if we allow the Lord to mold us from our current state. It takes faith, it takes work. It takes sacrifice. Are we willing to give away all our sins to know the Lord? That's what it takes: giving away our sins. And that is awfully hard. It takes time, but the Lord is merciful, and eager to help.

Your view of Mormon theology, everythingbeforeus, focuses exclusively on rules, regulations, and commandments. Indeed, they are there. But the mercy, the grace of Christ, and His work for us are also there; and that you ignore and pretend does not exist.

You do realize, don't you, that both Evangelicals and LDS people agree that Evangelicals will get what they want, right? An eternity of walking with Jesus? And we both agree that if we follow the Evangelicals view of the gospel, they are perfectly correct in that it will qualify them for that walking with Jesus bit? The Evangelical heaven is the terrestrial kingdom; and the doctrines you've been preaching are exactly the doctrines that qualify people for the terrestrial kingdom. And that's a fantastic place, the Lord said.

To James: You recognize that we need both "faith" as well as "works." Christianity has argued over that for millennia. The Catholics leaned heavily into the "Works" bit; until they were selling indulgences and promising you could pay money and go to heaven. That abuse led to the Protestant reformation, which eschews works entirely in favor of faith; until today they say all you need is to believe and you go to heaven. Neither is biblical, nor logical.
The Jews ran into the same thing; of course. They picked the "all you need is to sacrifice and you are set" side; and Jesus rebuked them for it. To obey is better than sacrifice, as the prophet said. The answer is you must have both. You have to have the ordinances, the good works, the charity and sacrifice. But all of that means nothing if you don't have that mighty change of heart and work on your faith.

The formula is different for each person as to what they need. Some have faith easily; some don't. Some have great mastery and will to overcome the flesh, but lack faith. Each of us has challenges meant for us. But ultimately we all have to make and keep covenants with God with all our heart, might, mind and strength. The whole person as a disciple.


Anonymous said...

Sheesh, it posted my comments in reverse order.
Anon 6:18 here.
To 7Mormonquestions, the Book of Mormon itself points out that it only discusses a small bit of the gospel. We got 1 and a half days of the 3 day's worth of teachings of Christ. Mormon said he would write more, but was forbidden. And the vast majority of the book predates Christ's visit; so it's Christianity as implemented through the law of Moses.

And to everythingbeforeus; you really don't remember much of the LDS faith, do you? What do you think baptism and the sacrament are for? They are they to help us repent. You are focused on this idea that we Mormons don't actually believe in Christ and His redeeming sacrifice. I'm not perfect, and while God commands us to be perfect, He knows we cannot do it all at once. It's a process. Again, since you refuse to engage the Law of Moses question and how it worked, I'll spell it out. Take a regular person, say, Ruth, during the Law of Moses. She's a faithful Jew; follows the Law of Moses. But like all of us, she's not perfect. She gets angry without cause; maybe doesn't keep the Sabbath day completely holy. She goes to the temple and offers her sin offering on the day of Atonement (I might be mangling the details). Does the Lord accept it? Yes; if she has a repentant heart. She is forgiven and made whole. And next time, she tries better. Maybe she still has a problem with the Sabbath day, but her anger is better. The Lord still forgives and lends her some of His strength. And someday she conquers her anger issue. She doesn't need repentance for that anymore. She can work on the Sabbath issue. Is she perfect? No. But she's progressing. The sacrifices of the Law of Moses allow her to regain her cleanliness.

The same is true today. The sacrament is a direct replacement for several of the ordinances of the Law of Moses. But it has the same purpose and effect. Only the ordinance, not the doctrine, has changed. And indeed, it hasn't changed all that much, to be honest. It is Christ who makes it effective. The Lord does not require perfection the first time out, but He does require that we progress. But we cannot sit there and say, "I'm good with not keeping this commandment; I'll work on others." That's not a broken heart and contrite spirit.

EverythingBeforeus, you need to reread the Book of Mormon, specifically Alma's and King Benjamin's sermons. This is all explained there. We seek the mighty change of heart; not a cold mechanical checklist of "have I repented of that 12:05 PM Tuesday afternoon incident where I flipped off that driver!" It requires humility; it requires putting off the natural man. For most, it's a lifelong process. For some, it's like Saul on the road to Damascus--quick and dramatic." I've seen people on their knees sobbing and pleading for Christ to forgive them, and they receive that forgiveness and their sins are washed away.
You focus too much on the "checklist" and the "rules" and outward things of the LDS church. And you ignore the repeated and time and time again emphasis the church teaches about the inward self. Sure, you need to stop the sin, etc: but you also need that mighty change of heart. We need the ordinances, but they are just dead works without the faith and commitment of those involved.

Then back to the comment before us... and then skip back to the one below this.

Anonymous said...

So now for Orbiting Kolob.

I agree, first of all, that God is Anthropomorphic, and has feelings, anger, etc. It's one of those things that creedal Christians scream against Mormons... that whole anthropomorphic God bit. (How they say we are wrong when they worship Jesus, who was a Man, is a puzzle they have to solve) Of course, I'll disagree that God is imperfect. The two examples you point out--Job and the Flood are either 1) explained better in latter-day revelation or 2) we don't have the full story.
Still, why should sin remove us from God--that is the real question.
Let's start up front: clearly, God can be around sinners. Jesus dwelt on earth surrounded by them, and they didn't burst into flames or whatnot. If you believe in the LDS doctrine, God Himself visited Joseph Smith and Joseph survived. Moses survived as well, and so did Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. So clearly you can contact Deity while being sinful; or having sin.

So temporary visits are clearly fine. Why can't that be extended into permanent living? Why cannot sinful people dwell with God?
The answer, I think, is in two parts.

Part 1. What is sin? What is it versus a transgression? Consider, for a moment a car running over a child. Is that a sin? Certainly, if it was intentional. And certainly not if you ran over the child because you couldn't see them. Yet we are commanded not to murder. The result is obvious. What, though, if you ran over the child because you had to choose between running over the child or turning the other way and running over a group of children? Is your intentional running over one a sin? Or a transgression?
Sin depends, mostly, on the intent of your heart. The same actions and result may or may not be a sin, depending on the context. Thus, a soldier is not automatically sinning when he breaks the "thou shalt not kill" commandment to save the life of his buddy from his enemy. This is the provence of the Lord's judgment, to decide what is sin and what isn't.
But a sin requires evil intent, for the most part. It's something done for selfish reasons; for personal gain of some sort. Or even to promote evil. Sin is putting yourself ahead of God, in some fashion. And we all do it, at some point.
Therefore, sin is a rebellion against God. How can someone who is rebelling against God--even in the smallest degree--be allowed to dwell with God?

Part 2: Justice.
God is a God of justice. If God allowed the "traffic tickets" to be let through, where is the line drawn? If someone has a habit of a traffic ticket twice a week for 60 years; does not the law recognize that there is a real problem? The same with DUI's and others. Repeated small, minor offenses are symptoms of deeper issues. Thus, should they be let in? What about the person who committed adultery only one time--is that something to overlook while keeping out the habitual small sin person?
Where is the justice in allowing some sinners to dwell with God and not others? For everyone can make an excuse of some sort. And if there is no punishment, then is there a law? Can God say, "The punishment for breaking the law is for everyone--except these fellows here, whom I'll favor?"

God is a God of perfect justice. You will get exactly what you deserve. And that's a horrifying thought, for the majority of us. God must keep all sinners out of heaven, else He is not an impartial, Just God. He would cease to be God if He showed favoritism. And where do you draw the line, once you say "this sin won't keep you out of heaven, but this one will?" How can you have justice in those scenarios?
Therefore, it is just that sinners do not get to dwell with God. That is the punishment, at the least, for sin.


James Anglin said...

Good works and charity, I can see. I'm a little less clear about the ordinances.

Most explanations of substitutionary atonement that I have heard strike me as bizarre, too. They make God Almighty seem like a helpless obsessive-compulsive who just has no choice but to do awful things, because God just can't abide our little imperfections.

Recently, though, I've found a way of putting it for myself that makes more sense to me, and yet does also seem like a fair translation of the traditional concepts, into modern terms: Omnipotence means high opportunity costs.

I may not seem like a monster of evil, but in a very complex world, all kinds of little sub-optimal choices on my part are probably preventing a lot of wonderful things from ever happening. A really, really good universe is in principle possible; and every second, I'm probably preventing it. Now, maybe I'm just a perfectionist type, but if I were God, I would be incredibly tempted to tweak a few electrons and force that James guy back on track, for the sake of the perfect world I could make, being God. But then, of course, that would be making a different James. In effect, killing me as I am, and replacing me with someone else.

Instead, for some reason, God lets me persist, and be myself. For God, though, this means paying an opportunity cost higher than I can imagine. I mean, think of anything that you would like to improve about the universe. God thinks of that, and infinitely many other things like it. Some of them are things God gives up, to keep me. To me, this is the sacrifice that God makes. The Word dies, so that we can live. Pretty much literally, all the time; Calvary wasn't the instant it happened, but just the instant that God let us see it.

I'm not sure that formulation makes any sense without Trinitarian theology, though.

Anonymous said...

This leaves us in a pickle. We all commit sin, even small ones. Yet justice demands that there be a punishment. And that punishment, which is just, keeps us from dwelling with God.

One point here: This is not just living in a house down the street from God; the reward is to be an heir of God and Joint-heirs along with Christ. We must be perfected beings with no hint of sin so that we can be like God. He is perfect; to receive all that the Father hath, we must be perfect like Him. Thus, we cannot have any sin in our being. We can receive other, lesser rewards, but we cannot receive the greatest of all rewards; which is all the Father hath, without becoming like the Father. Any sin means we are not like the Father, who is perfect, and thus we disqualify ourselves for that reward.

I hope that makes sense.

Now, this of course leaves us in a pickle: how do we imperfect beings who have committed sins therefore qualify for all that the Father hath? It would not be just if some sinners got that reward without all sinners getting it.

We therefore must be able to somehow remove sin from ourselves in such a way that justice is met. So that when those who do receive All that the Father hath, everyone can acknowledge that such a result is just. How then to become clean? And this is where Christ comes in. Substitutionary Atonement works here.

In some way we don't know how, Christ suffered the punishments of the law for our sins. He paid what Justice requires for breaking the law. Even the sins we cannot repay or fix; He paid. He could do this, for He was divine as well as man, and He had no sin of his own.
So when the time comes for rewards, when God calls my name, the Lord can step forward and say that Justice has been satisfied; and all the law requires has been fulfilled. If Christ has paid the penalty for my sins, the Law can require no more. It is then up to the Lord what my reward will be; and whether I have fulfilled His conditions to receive it--and His standards are, thankfully, things I can do. He bought me with His blood. When the demands of Justice are asked, the Lord has paid it. And it would not be Just to have me pay them again.

Thus mercy can be extended; because the Lord has paid the demands of justice. The law has been executed; those who demand punishment for my sins can ask no more, for the Lord has been punished. What the Lord does with me, whom He has paid the uttermost farthing for, is no longer the concern of Justice. If I enter into all that the Father Hath, that greatest of all rewards, because the Lord deems me worthy, is not something Justice can prevent; nor should it care. For the price for sin has been paid.
Without the sacrifice of a Devine being, this would not be possible. Exposed to the demands of justice, I cannot receive the highest rewards our Father in Heaven is anxious to give us all. Without Christ's help, on my own I cannot qualify for the greatest of all gifts. I may qualify for lesser gifts, but not the greatest of all.

Orbiting, you state that Justice will not be satisfied with Jesus paying the bill; "the one who does the crime should do the time."
This is why it took someone divine to pay the price. What is the goal of justice? To see that everything is fair, and that the agreed on punishment is extracted. Who enforces Justice? Is it not us? When we see someone getting something they do not deserve, do we not cry for justice? Why should Jenny get that promotion when I did not? Why should Hannah get that greatest reward; the gift of all the Father hath, when I know she did worse things that I did, who did not qualify for that reward? Is that fair?


Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon 6:14 writes, Therefore, it is just that sinners do not get to dwell with God.

I don't see where that follows at all. Total non sequitur.

In any sort of just realm, punishments/rewards should be proportionate to sins/virtues. You seem to be saying that there's ultimately ony one reward--eternity with God--and only one way to merit it--perfect virtue--so therefore any sin, because it prevents perfect virtue, rules out that one reward, with the result that all sins wind up getting treated the same. Proportionality goes out the window, and thus so does justice.

The same thing happens if, a la ETBS, we think of sin as a condition rather than an act. Since every sinful act, no matter how petty or how egregious, is indicative of the same condition, every sinful act is seen as meriting the same punishment. Again, proportionality goes out the window, and thus so does justice.

In this scheme of things, you and I and Adolf Hitler all deserve the same punishment because we can all be lumped into the same category of "sinner." This is an obviously illogical way of collapsing moral distinctions and proportionality.

It seems like a system design to keep us forever in a heightened state of anxiety and guilt, and I don't buy it one bit.

Anyway, why do we have to see living with God as a reward for good behavior? Why do we have to see being cut off from God as punisment for sin?

Maybe we should see living with God as something like a right inhering in our status as a "child" of God -- a status Mormons supposedly take quite literally. (Hah. What kind of parent banishes their own child for petty misdemeanors? It's ludicrous.)

When a child sins, they can be effectively punished without being cut off from the parents. Banishment from the presence of the parent is certainly not necessary in order for there to be justice. Such a banishment for any but the worst sin would in fact seem to work against the interests of both parents and children, not to mention breaking some kind of natural compact between them.

Can't God do any better than the average human mother or father?

The whole Christian understanding of this stuff baffles me.

Anonymous said...

So who enforces Justice? All of us! This is to James: God inflicts punishments for the violation of law, because that is Just. And ultimately, we agree to the punishments.

We want to make sure that everyone gets what they deserve. For that is what we will get. God grants us the desires of our heart, and if those desires were evil, then He gives us evil back.

So how then does the Atonement work? Christ paid for our sins. He suffered more than we can suffer. When we see Hannah getting that reward of all the Father hath, and start to say that is not just, the Lord answers: Look at my punishment. I suffered for Hannah. She did X, Y, and Z. The punishment for that this... and I paid it. I suffered more for her than you can imagine. The law was broken, and I paid. I bought her with my blood. Can you say that justice has not been done? Hannah is mine to do with as I wish. And you had the same opportunity; for I paid for your sins with My blood too. I God, the greatest of all, suffered all these things for you, for Hannah, for everyone, so that all of you could come back to God and receive the greatest of all Gifts. All you had to do is follow my path, and you could receive what Hannah is getting. But you did not. You failed to take advantage of My sufferings, of My sacrifice. I paid for your sins, but you refused that payment. So Justice will be yours to satisfy. Yes, Hannah's sins were red as snow, but I paid them all; and she is now white as snow. I offered My hand to you; but you refused. How can you demand that Hannah be punished for her sins when I did so? Especially since I was punished for your sins as well; and you turned away from Me? Hannah followed My path and accepted My Gift. You did not. How can you complain? I set conditions on My Gift, and a Path, so that each of you could be ready for the greatest of all gifts; so that you could be like Me. And I paid for your stumbles and falls along the way. I would that everyone take advantage of this gift.

That is the answer of the Lord. That is why we need the Savior, for He does what we could not do. He stepped in to satisfy the demands of Justice; so that we can receive mercy--and ultimately, become like Him and receive the greatest of all of God's gifts; which is all that the Father hath. Such a gift is only possible because of our Savior; and He is anxious for us to receive it.

Anonymous said...

I was done, then saw your comment, Orbiting. The Gospel is oriented towards giving us the highest rewards. To preparing us to get the greatest of all gifts of God.

Sure, if you don't want to get the highest gifts of God, then some sin will not prevent that. You can receive a great many things, even glorious things.

But to be an heir of God, a joint heir along with Christ, and to receive all that the Father hath? That requires us to be perfect, and clean, for we must be like God. And any hint of sin will prevent that, for God is perfect.

But if your goal is to be an angel or servant or something; sure, you don't have to be completely cleansed of every speck of sin. Lucifer, after all, was very prideful while still an angel before he fell.

But to receive the highest rewards? Yeah, you've got to measure up completely.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Wow. To desire "to receive the highest rewards" -- that desire already seems pretty prideful to me. The highest level of your heaven, a sort of gated community of the very most deserving, must be a pretty smug place.

everythingbeforeus said...

Orbiting Kolob,

Yes..I think you understand Mormonism quite well now. I was a good Mormon once. I sat in temple recommend interviews and declared myself worthy to enter the Lord's House, the symbolic representation of his power and glory. I went through the checklist: no tea, no coffee, no alcohol, no sex outside my marriage, I pay tithes, I wear my garments, etc, etc, etc.....Yep, I'm good to go.

I sat in that room with the fancy upholstery and the chandeliers and the expensive vases. I was so pleased that God smiled so favorably upon me.

And then, I saw it all for what it was. And I realized how terribly prideful and arrogant I had been all along.

I remember the moment I finally gave it up. What a relief it was to finally be down off that pedestal and, for the first time in my life, be a part of the rest of the human race. I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything. I'm serious. It was the feeling of the most profound relief.

everythingbeforeus said...

Quoting Anon: "Your view of Mormon theology, everythingbeforeus, focuses exclusively on rules, regulations, and commandments. Indeed, they are there. But the mercy, the grace of Christ, and His work for us are also there; and that you ignore and pretend does not exist."

I don't ignore that it exists. Far from it. I experienced it, but independent and separate from the Church. In fact, I would say I experienced it in spite of the church. The church had nothing to do with my experience of grace and divine love. So, I don't have any idea what the church really provides. In all my 38 years, I never felt anything close to the magnitude and power of a private, one-on-one, encounter with the divine while driving in a car across the high plains on a business trip. The nature of the experiences was such that I knew the church had nothing to do with it, and that those silly rituals are all child's play. Ballard recently preached that it is within the church that we access the grace of Christ that saves us. The man is a liar. He has the cart before the horse. The church is NOT the source of grace. God is. And he has effectively set the church organization up as an idol.

Quoting Anon again: "You do realize, don't you, that both Evangelicals and LDS people agree that Evangelicals will get what they want, right? An eternity of walking with Jesus? And we both agree that if we follow the Evangelicals view of the gospel, they are perfectly correct in that it will qualify them for that walking with Jesus bit? The Evangelical heaven is the terrestrial kingdom; and the doctrines you've been preaching are exactly the doctrines that qualify people for the terrestrial kingdom. And that's a fantastic place, the Lord said."

Thank you so much for telling me that I'll get what I want, but unfortunately I am too stupid to know there is something better than what I desire. Don't you ever stop to think how your Mormony words sound to all the rest of the Christian world?

Let me ask you a question. If I am worthy of the Terrestrial Glory, it is because I would not be comfortable in the Celestial Kingdom, because that is the glory of the Father, and I can't abide it. However, apparently, I can abide the glory of the Son, which implies the Son is of a lesser glory than the Father. If he were of the same glory of the Father, then I would not be able to abide the Son's presence in the Terrestrial kingdom either, would I?

See, this is why Christians say Mormons are not Christian: they have a Christ who does not possess the fullness of divinity, as Paul says that he does in Colossians. He is a lesser deity, capable of residing with those who are not clean enough to enjoy the presence of the Father. Well, if he is capable of residing with those of a lesser glory, he clearly is of a lesser glory also. Otherwise, the inhabitants of the Terrestrial Kingdom would not be able to abide his glory.

You have a different Christ, Anon....He is not the one spoken of in the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

Everythingbeforeus: you yourself are condemning the Christ of the New Testament. He it was who set up the Kingdom of God with Moses--was that an idol? He ordained apostles, Peter, James, and John. They had bishops, they had the Lord's church. Was Jesus setting up an idol? Apparently so, since you condemn the Church.

You say that Christ must be equal with God, yet that is not what Christ said. His own words in John 10:29; in John 14:28 confirm that the Father is greater than the Son. And who would know better than Jesus Himself? John 5: 9: Jesus can do nothing except what the Father wills Him to do.

I looked on your site, everythingbeforeus. You posted about the Trinity, and how Jesus and the Holy Ghost must be equal to God the Father. But Jesus Himself refutes it. That doctrine was invented hundreds of years after the New Testament. None of the followers of Christ ever thought that Jesus was the same Glory and Power as the Father. That they are the exact same is one of the most pernicious doctrines ever invented. They are not the Holy Ghost either. And yet the Holy Ghost is also divine. Your creedal God is not the God of the scriptures; it is the creation of a committee with no inspiration.

everythingbeforeus said...

Christ took upon himself a subordinate position, yes, to fulfill the act of the Atonement. But he says in John 17:5, "And now O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, WITH THE GLORY WHICH I HAD WITH THEE BEFORE THE WORLD WAS."

(Sorry for the caps. I can't figure out how to make italics to show emphasis.) Christ took upon himself a temporary loss of glory as a man of flesh, but he had the glory of the Father before and after. The Jews, remember, worshipped the "I Am." As in John, Jesus declares himself to be that same "I Am."

Orbiting Kolob said...

ETBS, for italics, bolding, etc., you can use basic HTML tags, as explained here:


flying fig said...

Ultimately, any biblical support favoring an LDS position is moot as FairMormon points out:
"Latter-day Saints do not draw their doctrine from a reading of the Bible—as in all things, they are primarily guided by modern revelation"

This alone should end all discussion between Mormon theology/doctrine and the Bible

Cody Andrews said...

This is exactly why prophets are so very necessary. When men talk doctrine, you get the doctrines of men. When God talks to His prophets, you get the doctrines of God.

everythingbeforeus said...


Oh brother!

Did you know that Brigham Young taught, as doctrine, the idea that Adam and Eve are our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. He was going to make this teaching a part of the endowment ceremony.

Did you know that Wilford Woodruff believed that if the Saints gave up polygamy, they'd have to give up their ENTIRE religion?

Did you know that John Taylor and Orson Pratt taught that monogamy was just about the biggest curse of all time, and it was the reason the Roman Empire was destroyed!

Gotta love those prophets! Always a bulls-eye with that crowd!

everythingbeforeus said...


How do you tell a false prophet from a true prophet? And don't just say "the Holy Ghost," because a false prophet wouldn't be a very good one if he couldn't deceive people into thinking he was God's prophet.

What objective test is available to determine if the prophet you follow is a true prophet and not one of the false prophets we've been warned about?

Orbiting Kolob said...

When men talk doctrine, you get the doctrines of men. When God talks to His prophets, you get the doctrines of God.

Seems to me it's more like, "When men claiming to be prophets say that God talks to them, you still get the doctrines of men -- and not just any men, but men deluded enough to consider themselves prophets."

There's quite a chasm here: the men whom believers are most likely to trust are those I am least inclined to trust.

Given the undeniable historical record of earlier LDS prophets giving out so much bizarre doctrine that gets disavowed by later prophets, I think my skepticism is quite justified.

Don't get me wrong. It's good that the Church has disavowed things like polygamy and blood atonement. But that kind of historical revisionism comes at a cost: lost credibility.

Anonymous said...

flying fig's post of 7:31 AM, October 16, 2015 is a pretty apt description of LDS theology, with one small exception. That exception is that anyone has the free will to reject salvation even after having been saved, the point being that God will not violate the will of anyone, whether or not they are saved. One gets the distinct impression that the entire evangelical vs. mormon contention is largely maintained by each side misrepresenting the beliefs of the other side, if in fact flying fig has adequately described evangelical beliefs.

I have no idea what that has to do with Nahom. The discovery of Nahom and Bountiful is extremely interesting. I also found it interesting when archeologists found evidence of decayed timber works on the earthen walls or "mounds" in Ohio and surrounds, but then Daniel Peterson and others assure me that it's just a coincidence, it has nothing to do with Captain Moroni's unusual fortifications.

Aside from the number of angels that will fit on the head of a pin, I will always be grateful for the influence of the Book of Mormon in my life. Thankfully I was never much interested in debating this or that evidentiary issue, but rather took the approach that my life might be improved if I were to read and ponder it regularly and sincerely. It did not fail me, and that has made all the difference in my life.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon 11:16

It is wonderful that your life has been improved and enriched by the Book of Mormon. It had a positive influence on my life for several decades also. The doctrinal passages are rich and poetic. I never cared much for the narrative, though.

A Tale of Two Cities also has had a major influence on my life. More so than any other novel, and I have read many. TTC also testifies of Christ, a few times in very overt ways. Sydney Carton is a type of a Christ, giving up his own life for others.

Les Miserables also. That novel deals with the struggle between the concepts of mercy, personified by Jean Valjean, and justice, Javert, almost as well as the BoM.

These books teach true principles, but they are not "true." They are fictional. Anyone who reads them knows that going in.

The problem with the BoM is that there are many true principles taught, but there is almost no evidence at all that the events and characters are historical facts. And the reader is challenged to make it a priority to determine if the book is "true." And then, the reader is told that if they determine it to be true based upon a rather suspect way of determining truth, it must then follow that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and it must then follow that the Church he established is God's one true church, and it must then follow that the reader would be very unwise to reject it. Rather, he or she must join it, and live by all it precepts, rules, requirements, and expectations, otherwise he or she will be denied eternal life and eternal family. So, the reader begins to live the Word of Wisdom, starts wearing temple garments, starts paying tithing (even if he/she can't afford it), starts laboring in the wards, stakes, and temples. He or her entire life is swallowed up by all of this stuff. The leaders then constantly warn him or her about investigating the history and the doctrine on the Internet. Dire warnings are made frequently about the "apostate" and the eternally negative consequences apostasy will have on both his/her soul and the souls of his/her children. Elder Ballard tells him or her that it is ONLY within the church that we can access grace, and that outside the church everyone is tossed to and fro, adrift with out oar or anchor, by the waves and winds of the Devil.

And yet...so much of what the convert is now compelled to do and believe is nowhere to be found in the Book of Mormon. No tithing. No garments. No temples. No Word of Wisdom. No three degrees of glory. No eternal family. No eternal progression. No endowment. No exaltation. No preexistence. Etc, etc, etc....

In fact, that Book of Mormon says that the doctrine of Christ is to repent, be like a little child, and be baptized. And that anyone who adds or takes away from this and calls it the doctrine of Christ is of the Devil. The Book of Mormon condemns the very organization that promotes it.

The Book of Mormon is bait. It is a wonderful book. It really is. Bait has to be wonderful. Few people would join the church if they were given the true Mormon experience FIRST, and the BoM LAST.

Cody Andrews said...

"Given the undeniable historical record of earlier LDS prophets giving out so much bizarre doctrine that gets disavowed by later prophets, I think my skepticism is quite justified."

I can give you ample enough evidence of false prophets in the Bible, such as:

Isaiah, Jonah, Nathan, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

I guess LDS prophets aren't the only ones subject to being imperfect humans. I guess you tend to forget that when you go on an apostate rant against the truth.

everythingbeforeus said...


Orbiting Kolob wasn't talking about "imperfect human beings" who mess up from time to time. He was talking about men who have claimed to reveal the mind of God, but who then need to be corrected later by other men who are also claiming to reveal the mind of God. If you tell me that I have to allow that a prophet will, from time-to-time, mess up and claim to be speaking for God when he is really speaking his own ideas, then for all practical purposes, the words of that prophet are useless, unless there is a sure-fire way to verify when he is really revealing the mind of God and when he is just shooting off at the mouth.

Personally, I would think that a prophet would at least understand the nature of God. Yet, in Mormon doctrine we see an evolution in the doctrine of God's nature. In the late 1800's we have this very strange detour into occultic regions when Brigham Young starts preaching that Adam is God the Father. We are not dealing with just human frailty here. You may think that that is just a minor blip. But it isn't. Traces of the Adam-God doctrine can still be detected in the endowment if you know what to look for. And, the Mormon idea that the "Ancient of Days," a Biblical title for God, is actually Adam is clear evidence for the Adam-God doctrine.

Cody, you are young. I suspect you are only a year or so off your mission. You speak with bold confidence. "...apostate rant against truth..." But you have a lot to learn.

Think about this: If the church ISN'T true, what would that look like? In other words, what would the leaders have to do or say to convince you that the church isn't what they claim it is? It is healthy to think critically like this. I'll bet that if you can answer that question honestly, I could point to at least one incident in church history where the leaders have done or said something just like it.

Cody Andrews said...

"He was talking about men who have claimed to reveal the mind of God, but who then need to be corrected later by other men who are also claiming to reveal the mind of God."

You say corrected. I say that it's a change in which the Gospel is being delivered. God works how He needs to. What's good yesterday may not be good today or tomorrow. My ways are not His ways. Neither are your ways His ways.

"You speak with bold confidence."

That's because I know what I believe to be true. I've had undeniable experiences that all point me to the path that I've taken.

"Think about this: If the church ISN'T true, what would that look like? In other words, what would the leaders have to do or say to convince you that the church isn't what they claim it is? It is healthy to think critically like this. I'll bet that if you can answer that question honestly, I could point to at least one incident in church history where the leaders have done or said something just like it."

I would venture to say that would be miserable thinking. Every person that I have met who has gone away from the Church has become miserable. I was miserable before I joined the Church two and a half years ago. Now, I'm at peace. I'm happy. I recognize that the prophets and apostles aren't perfect, but that they are trying; much like the rest of us. Walking with Christ is a path, not a merry-go-round.

"You may think that that is just a minor blip."

Adam-God theory? Ha! Even if there was any truth to it, whatever Brigham Young said was never presented to the Church for a sustaining vote. It was not then and is not now a doctrine of the Church. Stop trying to make it seem like it is a big deal.

everythingbeforeus said...

The Adam-God theory is a big deal. Bigger than most people think.

Mormography said...

Quote from Daniel C Peterson:

"It's just...you know, if you take a long enough list of place names, you'll find parallels, especially if you're "loosy-goosy" about it. You'll find parallels with just about anything. This is easily done."