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Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Lesson from the Great Sign of the Birth of Christ in the Book of Mormon

One thing has long puzzled me about the Book of Mormon account of the birth of Christ. Why did the believers mourn and begin to fear that Samuel the Lamanite's prophecy had failed regarding the promised sign of Christ's birth?

The Book of Mormon has a scene where Samuel the Lamanite gives a prophecy of a dramatic sign to come the night before the birth of the Messiah. In five years, there will be a night when it stays bright as the sun sets, giving a sign of the Savior's birth. From Helaman 14 we read:
[1] And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.
[2] And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
[3] And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
[4] Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
[5] And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
[6] And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.
[7] And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

Over the next five years, many other less dramatic signs have come to pass, which are easily handled by the critics with arguments similar to what we often hear today in discussions, say, of Book of Mormon evidence, as we read in Helaman 16:
[16] Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.
[17] And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:
[18] That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?
[19] Yea, why will he not show himself in this land as well as in the land of Jerusalem?
[20] But behold, we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.
[21] And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.
[22] And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.
[23] And notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land. 
 Lucky guesses and logical fallacies, nothing worthy of any interest.

The anti-Messiah sentiment in Nephite society had become powerful among the movers and shakers in their society, so powerful that a plan was even concocted to provide a final solution to manage the divisive, retrograde believers who were such a roadblock to progress. The opportunity came with the apparent failure of Samuel's prophecy and the huge momentum this gave opponents of the Church, as we read in 3 Nephi 1:

[4] And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
[5] But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
[6] And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
[7] And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass. 

 This was a difficult time for the believers, for the argument against their faith was strong enough, in spite of other prophecies and signs having been fulfilled, that they began to be very sorrowful, wondering if the sign had actually failed. I presume that some turned from their faith at this point, and that it was the "true believers" who held on and waited, as we read next, and as we read of the audacious and intolerant deadline imposed by those in power:
[8] But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
[9] Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
The prophecy would be fulfilled right before the deadline given, but it does not appear that the believers were dealing with the arguments against them by saying, "Hold on, guys. Samuel said five years, and it's only been 4.9. Nothing is supposed to happen yet." No, they were worried and fearful.

Going back to Samuel's prophecy, he doesn't exactly say that the sign would come in five years. He says five years will pass, "and then" the sign will come. So it's after five years. Five years and a month? Six months? I'm not sure. But I suspect that the prophecy became widely understood as a sign to come in five years. After five years had passed, the critics could rejoice and the believers began to fear. There's a subtle point in Helaman 14:2 that I didn't notice until yesterday, right before I gave a talk in sacrament meeting and was inspired by the Primary children having just sung about Samuel the Lamanite. As I was wondering about that prophecy and the misunderstanding, that's when I noticed Helaman 14:2's wording, and decided to change my talk to emphasize that story. I asked people if they would be able to hold onto their faith in that day, with such influential arguments and popular sentiment against it? And can they hold onto it today, when there is still much we don't understand, in spite of many signs, miracles, and blessings we have received? That's another story. Here's what happens with the story in Third Nephi 1:
[10] Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
[11] And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
[12] And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord, all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
[13] Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
[14] Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son -- of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
[15] And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
[16] And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand.
[17] And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.
[18] For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief.
[19] And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.
A wonderful story to ponder as we remember the birth of Christ long again in a manger in Bethlehem (part of the ancient "land of Jerusalem" per Alma 7:10 and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Amarna Letters, but that's another story, too.)

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Jeff. I thought you'd be interested to know of the following language of Helaman 14:5:

And behold, there shall be a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld;

As might be expected, the be was removed, which is the reading you have provided from the LDS text. It's just one of thousands of edits that the current text has incorporated. Of note is that the current text has 654 conjectural emendations. The Yale edition has only 354. The latter has more consistent readings, and 300 fewer conjectures. All older, lengthy texts, especially those based on manuscripts, have the same problem with inevitable conjectures. For instance, the number of variant readings for biblical passages and even titles of the books can be quite large. Different critical text approaches yield different results. Some tend to accept more difficult readings, when choosing between two or more. Some tend to accept longer readings, some shorter readings.

Interestingly, the following puritan preacher, who died in 1646, used language that is similar to what is found in Helaman 14:5:

1675 EEBO A30576 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] Four usefull discourses

That is, If a Son of Peace be in the Family, your Peace shall rest upon the Family; that is, there shall be some good come unto the Family, by reason of any one Son of Peace that’s there: If there be but one that doth Entertain the Gospel,

We see the same the language here:

2 Nephi 1:6
Wherefore I Lehi prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me that there shall be none come into this land save they should be brought by the hand of the Lord.

These are mutually supporting. The general construction is “there shall be {indefinite noun phrase} {intransitive infinitive}”. It seems to be a future-tense analog of language like "there was a voice came" or "there was a man fell". In the past tense there is a missing "which". In the future tense there is a missing "which shall".

Notice these other uncommon/rare nonbiblical matches with Burroughs's language:

Jacob 5:46
notwithstanding all the care which we have taken of my vineyard, the trees thereof hath become corrupted,

1651 EEBO A30575 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] An exposition . . . of the prophesy of Hosea

and think they have gotten a great Victorie that they have prevail’d over their consciences, that their consciences hath given them leave to do such a thing;

Alma 6:8
according to the revelation of the truth of the word
which had been spake by his fathers

1659 EEBO A30566 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] Christ inviting sinners to come to him for rest

Now the spiritual afflictions have been spake of much in the handling of the former burden,

1 Nephi 18:15
my brethren began to see that the judgments of God was upon them

1651 EEBO A30575 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] An exposition . . . of the prophesy of Hosea

But this Admah and Zeboim were two of the Cities that the judgments of God was most terrible upon;

Alma 11:25
when thou had it in thy heart to retain them from me.

1657 EEBO A30608 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] The saints inheritance and the worldlings portion

dost not thou account thy self an undone man,
when thou had some comforts?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I thought you would also be interested in this obscure language from eModE and 3 Nephi 1, which is where you end your post:

3 Nephi 1:29
they had many children which did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some which were Zoramites by their lyings and their flattering words to join those Gaddianton robbers.
 ‘that they came of age, and were led away . . .’

1650 EEBO A30574 Jeremiah Burroughs [1599–1646] An exposition upon the prophesy of Hosea

How many in their young yeers, we had thought very gracious seed began to sprout forth, and we had thought that the seed grew to a stalk, and when they came to be for themselves, we had thought they had begun to bud in gracious actions, we had thought it came to be meal, to their middle age; but to their old age strange lusts hath come and devoured all.

This Burroughs meaning has not yet been found in the OED, but matching attestations have been found (see also Defoe, Colonel Jack [1722]):

1680 EEBO A43153 Richard Head [1637?–1686?] The English rogue

I will now conclude, only tell you a Story or two, how I have initiated my self in this Art of Knavery, for my time being suddenly to expire, I thought it necessary to try some expedients, how I might live hereafter, when I came to be for my self; and knowing that my master could not do any thing at first, without a Confederate, (some body to help and assist him) I procured the like:

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon, a secular lexicographer would probably read your comments and see evidence that these archaic forms persisted into Joseph Smith's linguistic milieu. That's the sort of conclusion usually drawn after finding forms in texts newer than those in which they'd previously been observed. I was thinking that maybe you should contact someone at the Oxford English Dictionary about the persistence of these forms, but then again I don't know what real lexicographers would make of archaisms in texts that were deliberately designed to sound archaic.

Of course, my understanding here presumes that the BoM is a 19th-century production, and yours that the book is ancient. I might think you're being stubborn or gullible or whatever, while you might think I've been blinded by Satan, but really, the differences between our conclusions are pretty much completely driven by the differences in our assumptions. You've chosen to believe something I find preposterous, and, as they say, GIGO.

To everyone: Nothing personal, but now that the Church has so completely lost its battle against gay marriage, it's past time for me to be moving on. Jeff, you have my best regards. James, ETBU, and all you other honorable souls who have been "blinded by the craftiness of men" -- see you in the Terrestrial Kingdom! Maybe after the resurrection we can all get together and have (decaf) coffee and donuts with Mark Twain.

Anonymous said...

Well, Orbitational, the fatal problem with your deplorably ill-informed view is that you need to posit that obsolete / "archaic forms persisted into Joseph Smith's linguistic milieu" more than 30 times over. GIGO indeed. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Orbiting: "Maybe after the resurrection we can all get together and have (decaf) coffee and donuts with Mark Twain."

As one who believes in a literal resurrection I look forward to that. I also look forward to moving onward and upward into greater spheres of existence. The great hermetic tradition which had it's beginnings before Adam is alive and well today.

You have a standing invitation to join us in this greatest of adventures.


Jack

everythingbeforeus said...

I come here and talk about Mormonism's occultic tendencies, and I get reprimanded. Jack comes here and openly and shamelessly admits to the occultic reality of Mormonism by saying, "I also look forward to moving onward and upward into greater spheres of existence. The great hermetic tradition which had it's beginnings before Adam is alive and well today," and no one will blink an eye.

What Jack is saying here is at it core an occultic proclamation. Not only does he invoke Hermeticism, which is a branch of the occult, but he talks about moving upward "into greater spheres of existence."

You may wonder why I consider this so harmful.

Well, here goes: Mormonism believes that each individual human being has eternally existed as "intelligence." God himself was once nothing more than "intelligence." Thus, all humankind is eternally co-existent with God, because all intelligence is eternal. God is God simply because he is further along this "greatest of adventures" than we are.

If there is some aspect of our existence that is independent of God, which our "intelligence" would be since God didn't technically create it, then there is something in us that does not owe anything to God. As indebted to him as we may be in so many ways, ultimately our success in this great adventure is at least partly due to the quality of our eternally-existing intelligence. And thus, those who are more successful at this great adventure have something of which they can boast.

This is the root of Mormonism. Some are more fit for the task than others, and those are the ones who are able, through obedience to laws and ordinances, to make use of the Atonement of Christ to move onward and upward into greater spheres of existence, as God did before them.

If you do not understand how evil this doctrine is, it is time to wake up and come to learn of the true God who is the source and cause of all existence. The God you worship as a Mormon is nothing more than the Sorceror's Apprentice who stands on a cliff made of matter that he did not create, and waves his wand to command the stars and planets, all of which he "organized," none of which he "created."

You possess the false doctrine of the world, the wisdom of the world, which is that man is the measure of all things. This is the original lie that led to the original sin. It has been passed down through the centuries, cloaked in pleasing words that lull the listener into a deep spiritual sleep. It is transferred quite often by secret rituals which promise to give to the initiates strength and health and power and authority. Especially authority. It has been revealed in different forms time and again through those who have been driven by their own lusts, who, as Peter says, have eyes full of adultery, who seek to exploit us and make merchandise of us.

Sometimes this lie leads to wanton indulgence. Sometimes it manifests itself in false piety. It doesn't matter whether on the surface it appears to be righteous or wicked. Underneath the surface is the reality: Man is God. Take that to its logical end. If man is God...there is no God, not in the Biblical sense.

Paul said that we suppress the knowledge of the true God, who has made Himself sufficiently known so that we have no excuse, and we put in His place gods fashioned after the likeness of corruptible man. He is talking about you, Mormons.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, Jack. False piety indeed, ethg.

Anonymous said...

Please, friends. Let's allow a little room for a God who is wise beyond our present limited capacities and knows how to patiently lead us from grace to grace into greater measures of love, knowledge, and spiritual fulfillment. Remember, the Savior said to His disciples that to them it was given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom while to others it was not. Did that dichotomy make Jesus an occultist?

That said, I don't really chafe at being labelled an occultist as it (occultism) is a manifestation of a corrupted hermetic tradition which was pure in the beginning and has been restored from time to time in its purity. Remember, Paul also said, "eye hath seen, ear hath not heard, nor has entered into the heart of man..."

Finally, I don't want to argue about God. I think we can agree that He is loving and to dispute over his other virtues would be an oddly ironic under the purview of a loving God.

Anonymous said...

That last comment was from me, Jack

bearyb said...

everythingbeforeus,

While some things about "intelligence" have been revealed, I don't think we have the complete story. Still, we have some interesting concepts to think about. From a search on the term at lds.org:

Intelligence has several meanings, three of which are: (1) It is the light of truth which gives life and light to all things in the universe. It has always existed. (2) The word intelligences may also refer to spirit children of God. (3) The scriptures also may speak of intelligence as referring to the spirit element that existed before we were begotten as spirit children.

Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence:D&C 88:40;
Intelligence was not created or made:D&C 93:29;
All intelligence is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it:D&C 93:30;
The glory of God is intelligence:D&C 93:36–37;
Intelligence acquired in this life rises with us in the resurrection:D&C 130:18–19;
The Lord rules over all the intelligences:Abr. 3:21;
The Lord showed Abraham the intelligences that were organized before the world was:Abr. 3:22;


Everything to do with our ultimate end rests on our agency and how we use it. In a sense, that DOES make us masters of our own fate, captains of our destiny.

"Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Nephi 10:23)

I would not raise that notion to the level of "Man is God," however. We cannot simply "will" ourselves into any "higher sphere of existence."

I am inclined to believe that God's laws are what He has revealed to us about some of what He knows about eternal existence. I have trouble believing that He invented the laws He has revealed, because if He arrived at His current station through obedience to laws, they must have already existed for Him to exercise His own agency on. But, again, we don't know much about how all that transpired. In short, I believe He is God because of His perfect obedience to eternal laws, most of which we probably have no clue even exist.

One of the above references talks about how intelligence is neither created nor made, but is matter or "spirit element" (elsewhere we learn that all spirit is matter).

Apparently, even THAT had to be organized. If so, we certainly DO owe all that we are to God, except that portion that couldn't be created, or made. That in no way diminishes His role or importance in my mind.

A quick search on "Thoughts" also brings up some instructive information:

Thoughts - Ideas, concepts, and images in a person’s mind. The power to think is a gift from God, and we are free to choose how we use our power to think. The way we think greatly affects attitudes and behavior, as well as our standing after this life. Righteous thoughts lead to salvation; wicked thoughts lead to damnation.

This leads me to think that in one sense, intelligence - like all matter - could not act, but needed to be acted upon (organized) before it could act for itself. Hence, we needed God from the beginning of our existence as individuals.

This all brings up something I hadn't thought of before: Is there something actually transferred to our spirits whenever we have spiritual experiences? Some kind of "matter?" Hmmm....

everythingbeforeus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bearyb said...

Jack, may I suggest that you go ahead and post under "Jack" instead of "Anonymous?" It might save you time and trouble, and us extra scrolling time and effort.

bearyb said...

everythingbeforus, you said:

As indebted to him as we may be in so many ways, ultimately our success in this great adventure is at least partly due to the quality of our eternally-existing intelligence. And thus, those who are more successful at this great adventure have something of which they can boast.

This is the root of Mormonism. Some are more fit for the task than others, and those are the ones who are able, through obedience to laws and ordinances, to make use of the Atonement of Christ to move onward and upward into greater spheres of existence, as God did before them.


It might interest you to know that there is a reference in Alma 13, particularly vs. 4 and 5, that speaks to the "same standing" enjoyed by both those who were ordained as high priests and their brethren, who were not.

I don't know where you might have picked up the notion of a "different quality" of intelligence.

bearyb said...

everythingbeforeus, you said:

Joseph Smith said the first principle of the Gospel is to know that God was once a man who now sits exalted on a throne. That is the first principle of the Gospel as spoken by the founding prophet of the dispensation and of your religion. Brigham Young taught that acceptance or rejection of his Adam-God doctrine will prove the salvation or the condemnation of humankind.

Actually, it is more well-known that Joseph Smith wrote that the first principle of the gospel is faith (4th Article of Faith).

As far as the Adam-God "doctrine" goes, please read the following by Pres. Kimball:

“We hope that you who teach in the various organizations ... will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine” (CR, Oct. 1976, 115).

Did you somehow miss this in your apparent deep study and knowledge of the teachings of the Church?

bearyb said...

To all:

There is a collection of essays on lds.org that address many current and past topics that many have had questions about.

"These essays complete a series of 13 that the Church began publishing in 2013 to provide an accurate resource for its members to gain insight and understanding into some of its teachings, practices and history. The 13 essays published to date were prepared through extensive research by men and women Church scholars and carefully reviewed by members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other General Authorities and women leaders to provide an official, authoritative and transparent source of information."

The essays can be found at

https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng

Joe said...

bearyb: What's your take on SWK's "alleged to have been taught" as it might apply to BY's Adam-God emphatic pronouncements?

Anonymous said...

Everything,

I didn't want to argue about a loving God -- that just seems strangely counterintuitive. But since you're calling me out let me just say that, IMO, one of the great stumbling blocks of modern Christianity is the idea of "Creatio Ex Nihilo." And I think your position on the nature of God and our relationship to Him seems to be based upon that notion.

As per you're argument -- I prefer to view God as helping coexistent beings along and allowing them to progress as they are able rather than to view Him as one who creates us unequally and then places us in unequal situations. And then there is the problem of evil wherein a loving God would create people with unequal tendencies toward good and evil, thus becoming responsible for Hitler, Mao, Stalin and the like.

These are standard arguments with which you are probably already familiar -- but there it is. I much prefer a God who allows us to join with Him by covenant and shoulder the burden of accountability. It is then that grace truly makes sense -- we have fail to live up to our end of the covenant and yet God who provides a way for us to renew that covenant through Christ. If we are merely His creations then grace becomes nothing but the corrective action of a God who didn't get it right the first time -- and a capricious action at that.


Jack


everythingbeforeus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
everythingbeforeus said...

By the way..."stumbling block" in Greek is "skandalon." In Latin that word carries with it the meaning "offence." You can also see the word "scandal" in there, too.

So, Christians do not have a stumbling block in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, because they accept it. However, the doctrine is "skandalon" to Mormons when viewed in light of the etymology.

Anonymous said...

Everything: "Jack, either way...we are unequal. Whether God created us this way, or we just are that way because of the nature of our eternally-existent intelligence, it doesn't matter."

You're right. But the important question is whether or not *God* made us that way. Because if He did then He is responsible for all the evils and inequalities in the world. And that makes Him terribly capricious -- not a God that can be trusted. If, however, He is one who helps us along in spite of our *innate* inequality then He is more apt to be a God of grace. And we can feel more assured that everything He does is for our benefit.


Jack

everythingbeforeus said...

Well, I would recommend reading some St. Augustine. Christian thinkers from the apostate Christian church have been tackling these grade-school sandbox problems regarding the origin of evil for a very long time.

If God didn't make us good or bad, then our goodness or our badness is simply the result of bum cosmic luck. If he did make us that way, then God is a rather nasty entity. But it wasn't bum luck. Nor is God nasty. God made us perfect, and along with that perfection came the gift of choice. We couldn't be in His image without it. We have volition, free will. If we were not gifted free will, we'd be automatons. But God created us in such a way, that the praise and honor we give to God is the result of a conscious choice on our part.

I see what you are getting at, that God helps us along, regardless of our cosmic luck, whether good or bad. That sounds good, but that doesn't solve the problem of what happens if we are cosmically doomed to disobedience because of a flaw in our intelligence. If some of us are destined to disobedience because of a weakness in the nature of our "intelligence," how is such a person to be saved? By lowering the standard for them? Not at all. So again, how is such a person to be saved.

The reality is that none of us are going to meet that standard, so by the terms of the law, we are all already condemned. Jesus himself said so. John 3:16-18. We are not walking on a fence, and our choices will determine what way we fall. We are already on the bad side of the fence. Already condemned.

You talk about God's grace, but from the Christian perspective, you are denying God's grace the minute works become a prerequisite to receive that grace. For it is then no longer grace. But wages.

everythingbeforeus said...

Jack, think of it this way...I'll take it you are a good Mormon. You don't drink, smoke, fornicate. You serve others. You are charitable.

There are other people out there who are not that way. For all kinds of reasons. They drink to excess. They are lustful. Why are you the way you are and they are the way they are?

Is God responsible for this disparity? We would say no. Are you and this other person responsible for this disparity?

If yes, why? What is it about you that makes you so much more capable of living the law than this other person? What do you have that they clearly do not have? And why do you have this and they do not?

How would you account for this if creation is not ex nihilo? If you and this other person were eternally-existent intelligence, where does this disparity come from if not from within the nature of your intelligence?

Have you not then something of which to boast? And is not your ability to live the law simply the result of cosmic luck?

Anonymous said...

I don't love arguing tenets because none of us really has very much knowledge about God. I would say, though, that you have to figure God's foreknowledge (or lack thereof) into your argument. Even if He created us perfectly he must have had some sense of how we would digress into sin and, therefore, would still bear some responsibility for evil.


Jack

Anonymous said...

None of us has anything to boast of because we all (except the Savior) fall infinitely short of the mark no matter how well we might be prepared before coming into this life.


Jack

Jeff Lindsay said...

As a reminder, for the tenth time or so, this post and nearly all of my posts are NOT about the long-rejected Adam-God theory. My posts are NOT excuses to jump in and keep raising that objection. I don't know why that is just such an irresistible temptation, but I don't think yielding to it is an expression of Christian goodwill. I am sorry to report that I've deleted a couple of Everything's comments here that I found to fall within my definition of bad behavior. I may be unreasonable and impatient in doing this, though I hope it's a reasonable step meant to remind you that I offer the ability to post comments with some basic expectations, and that I will delete things sometimes. Sorry about that.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Whatever the nature of our intelligences are, we know almost nothing about that and almost nothing about what it means for some aspect of us to be co-eternal with God. But we do know that the difference between Him and us is vastly beyond your unfair mischaracterization of my faith. Even after we are brought into His presence and more fully made His sons and daughters, even after we are brought into the throne as joint-heirs with Christ (Paul's words in Rom. 8, not mine), even after we enter into that incomprehensibly joyous state that early Christians and biblical writers referred to as being like God, putting on the divine nature, even being called "gods" as Christ himself taught in John 10, even after that point, we will not view God as "just another" like us, but will have all the more cause for wonder and amazement and rejoicing. As D&C 76 explains, in the eternities, after we are in His kingdom and presence, all things bow humbly before him, giving him glory and reverence forever.

The more we learn the wonders of science, the more we can appreciate the majesty of the Creation. The more we learn of the human soul and mind, the more we can appreciate the majesty of the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. None of us, no matter how advanced our science becomes, will be the Creator who gave us this incredible cosmos with its perfectly balanced properties of light and matter that makes stars possible, that make carbon and water possible, that make DNA and reproduction possible. None of us will become the sinless, perfect One who wiped out the debt of sin for those who will accept Him. We will always be infinitely in their debt and able to enjoy their greatest gift, Eternal Life, only due to their grace and kindness. No amount of effort and commandment keeping can resurrect a single cell of my body or wash away my sins. Nothing I can ever do can make me take the place of God. I will always bow in humble reverence to Him, even if He invites us to receive all His blessings and sit in a throne as joint-heirs with Christ. Accepting the possibility of such divine potential seems unspeakably evil to you, but it's an outrage that needs to be applied to those earlier occultists and evil-mongers, Jesus and His apostles, plus the early Jewish prophets as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff, for that excellent comment. I hope that is helpful to others, as it was to me.

everythingbeforeus said...

Jeff, you are correct that we will always bow the knee to our God even when we have become gods ourselves, and that we'll never catch up with Him. But what you leave out is that our posterity will indeed eventually bow before us in the same reverential manner in which we now bow before our own God. Just as we do not acknowledge any gods before God, our posterity will not acknowledge any gods before us.

You know this is true. You know this is the promise of the temple ordinance, Jeff. You say I am mischaracterizing your faith, but I am not. I am simply revealing the logical end of the doctrine that clearly and openly taught by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and others.

If your church no longer embraces this doctrine, it is in a state of apostasy. YOu can't say, "Well, they were only speaking as men." They were prophets and apostles. Just like Peter, James, and John. Do you think Peter went around preaching a conception of God that would later be disavowed as "the words of an imperfect, but good and sincere man who is happens to be a prophet?" No! Because Peter warned us of such men, false teachers who introduce false doctrines, just like the false prophets who showed up in Old Testament times. 2 Peter 2. He tells us about men like this.

Mormons will claim that the early Christian church fell from its original truth, and that they would've done well to have followed the original apostles who taught it in its purity. Well, your original apostles taught Mormon doctrine in its purity. Why has the church moved away from it? Why is this not considered a sign of apostasy as it is in the early Christian church? Why are the leaders so hesitant to teach it in its fullness to the extent that the earliest Mormons taught it?



Anonymous said...

I don't know that it has been disavowed, ebu. And what is your point? The church surely doesn't emphasize it, as there is little reason to do so. We know hardly anything of post-mortal processes and activities that may lead to such a state. You really do have vicious hang-ups that you should let go of.

everythingbeforeus said...

anon,

The point is this: I was taught doctrine in the church that I built my entire life upon. I don't believe this doctrine anymore. Now, when I speak to Mormons about this stuff from a critical point-of-view, I get the runaround. I get the "we can't know this," and "I'm not sure we really believe that." I get this from my own mother even! Doctrine I was taught in seminary by my mother, and when I press her on it, she backs away and says things like, "I just keep it simple. I don't know about all that complicated stuff. I just don't think so deeply about it like you do."

See what I am saying? And I am basically getting the same thing here. I don't know what Mormons really believe anymore. They don't know what they really believe anymore. All they really need to believe at the end of the day is that no matter what their church taught, teaches, or will teach in the future, it is God's church.

It isn't about truth for you guys. It is about authority, and about being the only ones who have that authority. Your leaders could say what ever they wanted. It wouldn't matter to you.

I want to speak to an honest Mormon who says, "Yes...I was taught this. Yes...this is what I believe. Yes...Brigham Young believed this." I want to speak to a Legrand Richards or a James Talmage or a Heber C. Kimball or an Orson Pratt. Someone who stands up and defends those doctrines that were taught to me as eternal truths.

Setting Adam-God aside, because the church clearly has rejected this teaching, you all know that someday if you are exalted, you will be worshipped as a God by your posterity. This is the deep doctrines of the temple. You know this. Tell me you believe this. Stand up and defend it!

I can't believe what I am seeing since I left the church almost two years ago. Only one person from my ward has had the guts to sit me down and go the distance to me, to listen to almost the full extent of my disaffection, and lovingly stand up and defend his beliefs against it. I respect that man. That is the kind of Mormon I was trained to be! That is the kind of Mormon I tried to emulate on my own mission. Bold, courageous, unflinching. I will respect that man despite the fact he believes what I consider to be false doctrine. I will go down fighting for such a person's right to believe, to be what he believes he should be.

But he was the only one. All the other members, bless them, the kindest souls I've ever met. True emulators of Christlike ways. They invite us over for dinner. They bring us snacks. They come by to visit my children. But they don't touch religion with us. Even the missionaries who have a standing appointment every Saturday night come, shoot the breeze, relax. But they don't dare go into religion. It is sad. This is not the courageous Mormonism of my youth anymore.

Anonymous said...

Everything,

I for one, as a Mormon, am glad that we are not steeped in creedalism. The mystery of godliness is far beyond our comprehension and will only be understood in its fullness a great while after this life. So the important thing for now is to be led in the right direction. And that's why, for Mormons, if we do have anything that resembles a creed it is very minimal -- the basics.

That said, we tend to build our testimony more squarely on events than ideas or doctrine. To say "I know the church is true" implies a restoration of the church. To say "I know that Jesus lives" implies that He resurrected. To say "I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God" implies that Joseph Smith's account of its coming forth is true and that its contents has to do with real people and events.

Remember, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And prophecy, as such, has to do with events.

everythingbeforeus said...

Oh, anon...if you could step outside your own world long enough to hear how your words sound, you'd probably alter them.

You can enjoy your lack of a creed all you want, but don't think your church is without its creeds. They just aren't written down. The moment you begin to enjoy your doctrinal freedom a little too much, you can be certain a bishop or a stake president will call you into their office and try to rein you back into the fold. It is kind of a twisted system that says it won't pigeon-hole anyone with a creed, but then excommunicates its members for teaching doctrines that go astray from what is, for all practical purposes, a creed.

So your testimony as a member is rooted in the reality of events? What events? The First Vision? Which version?

The restoration of Priesthood through angelic visitors? No one in the church heard anything about these angelic visitors until five years of so after they were supposed to have appeared.

D&C 27, which speaks of these visitors was doctored. It says in the heading that it is a revelation given in 1830, but the first publication of this revelation in 1833 doesn't include any mention of John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John. That was added later, after the fact, when the Book of Commandments was republished as the Doctrine and Covenants.

Try as you might, you'll find absolutely no mention of these visitations in the historical record until much later. This is all akin to building a house on sand. I wouldn't build a testimony on something as unstable as that, if I were you.

By the way...D&C 27 says that Jesus is going to drink wine with us again when he comes. Where in the world is he going to find a Mormon who will sit down to a glass of wine? And why in the world didn't Jesus know that in a few short years he was going to ban wine altogether in D&C 89?



Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting, I wish you the best as you move on. I wish to point out that some of your comments have been extremely helpful to me, in spite of your intent of undermining the Church. I appreciate your willingness to engage and discuss on a number of issues. For example, the extra investigations you spurred me to conduct in Alma 36 and the Lehi's Trail topics proved highly interesting, and I think there were even a couple of meaningful little discoveries, at least for me, that came through that process even if I also strongly objected to your approach. Anyway, best wishes, and thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everythingbeforeus,

You're not being very genuine. Here is D&C 27:5 -

5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;

Interesting that he does not say he will drink wine but of the fruit of the vine. I'm confident that there will be plenty of Mormons willing to drink of the fruit of the vine with Jesus.

You like to say doctored, I like to say revised. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to review many technical documentations. The process was not called doctoring but was called revising. Details are overlooked, not mentioned for one reason or another (which makes the Book of Mormon a bit amazing at how little doctoring / revising has happened to it given the length of the volume). So is the case when revelations have come.

You like to jab at the fact that there are multiple accounts of the first vision. Nobody has given me a hard time when I retell certain events in my life when I add details or omit details depending on my audience. I'm sure we can allow Joseph the same latitude.

You sound certain that no one in the church had heard about these angelic visitors referenced in section 27. I would suppose you have references to back this up or are you just stating an opinion loudly enough so that no one will challenge you?

Steve

Anonymous said...

Everything,

You have this habit of laying out a concern having to do with something in my comments and then zeroing in on some juicy non sequitur. It's like parting the curtain just enough to lob in a pineapple.

But even so, let me just say that when we talk about doctrine in the church we're generally talking about things that we *do* (or fail to do) rather than things we believe. And those folks who are excommunicated from the church for supposedly only having an opinion are not merely thinking or believing in unconventional ways. They are actively promoting their ideas in ways that de-edify the oracles of the church, causing schism among the members.

You say, "So your testimony as a member is rooted in the reality of events? What events?"

The Creation
The Fall
The Atonement
The Restoration

Just for starters...


Jack

everythingbeforeus said...

Merry Christmas everyone.

everythingbeforeus said...

Steve,

The context for the Savior saying he'll drink the fruit of the vine is the discussion about where to procure the wine used for the Lord's Supper. Read the whole section. The first verses of that section are all about real wine. It is about wine, Steve. The fruit of the vine is wine.

Anonymous said...

Inconclusive, ethg, and an instance of fault-finding that points to a weakness. Cheers.

everythingbeforeus said...

The revelations weren't doctored, they were only "revised?!" I don't think you are aware the extent to which these revelations were altered. I would suggest you look into it. This was not a revision in any sense of the word. In some cases, this was wholesale alteration. And for the church to publish the original date of the revelation in the D&C when the revelation from that original date bears little resemblance to the future altered state is deceptive and dishonest.

If I write an essay in 1987, and the completely revise that essay again in 1990, making significant changes that alter the meaning of the original, I do not continue to proclaim that my essay was written in 1987.

You need to wake up to the degree to which you have been deceived. And you also need to wake up to the degree that you are complicit in this deception by continuing to defend this.

Anonymous said...

Hi everythingbeforeus,

I'm sure you can indulge me in being a little bit pedantic when it suits me since we indulge you in being pedantic when it suits you. In this case, I will stick with "fruit of the vine" since that is what it says. However, I am not concerned because if Jesus is offering me wine, then I will imbibe. If you are offering me wine, I will not imbibe.

I did a little bit of reading before I initially replied to you. I think what concerns you is that not all that was revealed in August and September of 1830 was initially recorded in its nice little section that we now know as section 27 of the Doctrine & Covenants. You are looking at the various recordings and looking at current section 27 and now crying fowl. These revelations were not always known as section 27. Since I am getting my information from mormondialogue.org (in the top 10 Google hits when searching doctrine and covenants sections 27), a contributor sums up my feelings about it nicely:

"My understanding is that this is two different revelations which were cobbled together into one section of the D&C. Two separate revelations, one section. While this is interesting, it is hardly "worth talking about" except as a oddity in the history and development of the D&C. There was an article in the Ensign years ago on this and perhaps someone can look it up."

So, your 1987 essay was joined with another essay and brought together and revised to form a new 1990 essay. I've done that too with technical documentations that I have been in charge of and it got a new "essay" name much like putting these revelations into the same document and giving it a new name known as Doctrine & Covenants section 27.

happy Saint Steven's day,
Steve ;)

Anonymous said...

Today there is ongoing debate as to whether or not the "fruit of the vine" is fermented grape juice or unfermented grape juice.

Unfermented grape juice was available year round during Biblical times. It was not all fermented.

bearyb said...

Sorry, Joe, I was away for a few days. You asked me "What's your take on SWK's 'alleged to have been taught' as it might apply to BY's Adam-God emphatic pronouncements?"

Not being very familiar with the emphatic statements to which you refer (though I'm sure you could cite them), I would say that the implication of such a statement is that some things said by BY may have been regarded by SWK as having been misunderstood by some, or taken out of context, etc. It is not important at this juncture what was said or understood to have been said by BY about it, as SWK "emphatically" denounced all such theories. Besides that, I have never taken much thought to the statements I have heard about it (the Adam-God theory), because it is not consistent with other well-known and widely accepted, canonized scripture.

bearyb said...

Everything,

I would like to respond to some of your comments, quoting them first:

If God didn't make us good or bad, then our goodness or our badness is simply the result of bum cosmic luck. If he did make us that way, then God is a rather nasty entity. But it wasn't bum luck. Nor is God nasty. God made us perfect, and along with that perfection came the gift of choice. We couldn't be in His image without it. We have volition, free will. If we were not gifted free will, we'd be automatons. But God created us in such a way, that the praise and honor we give to God is the result of a conscious choice on our part.

Where does it say God made us perfect? If He made us perfect, why did Christ command us to be perfect? The "perfect" used in Matt. 5:48 could also be interpreted as "complete." It is interesting that when issuing that statement before His resurrection (as in Matthew) He finished with "even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." But later, after His resurrection, He modified His statement to include Himself, saying "even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." (3 Nephi 12:48) This is a clear indication that none of us will be "perfect" or "complete" until after our resurrection. Resurrection is not something we can accomplish on our own, so there is one very clear example of how the grace of God will affect us.

And yes, we do have the gift of choice. Our agency is integral to the Plan of Happiness. Our free will is the one thing we can offer to God that He will not take or control. What would be the point of His forcing us anyway? We already know about the other one who wanted to use force. But along with the ability to praise and honor God comes the ability to dishonor and disobey Him. Otherwise it would not be a free choice.

I see what you are getting at, that God helps us along, regardless of our cosmic luck, whether good or bad. That sounds good, but that doesn't solve the problem of what happens if we are cosmically doomed to disobedience because of a flaw in our intelligence. If some of us are destined to disobedience because of a weakness in the nature of our "intelligence," how is such a person to be saved? By lowering the standard for them? Not at all. So again, how is such a person to be saved.

Your premise that anyone might be "cosmically doomed to disobedience" is flawed. That negates the power of the Atonement, and the very real possibility that we can have our natures changed. Does Christ have the power to save everyone or, doesn't He? I already asked you once where you got the notion that we received different "qualities" of intelligence. You didn't answer that yet.

I am reminded here about many examples I've heard in the news lately where the questions have been raised, "What did they know, and when did they know it?" The scriptures are abundantly clear that men will be judged according to their knowledge. But they also say we can't be saved in ignorance. It may be a natural tendency for us to look upon others and try to figure out where they fit in the grand scheme (read "judge them"), but it is enough of a struggle for us to look inwardly to have the audacity to try to decide about others outwardly. I am so thankful I will not be the Judge of who merits what.

bearyb said...

Everything (continued),

The reality is that none of us are going to meet that standard, so by the terms of the law, we are all already condemned. Jesus himself said so. John 3:16-18. We are not walking on a fence, and our choices will determine what way we fall. We are already on the bad side of the fence. Already condemned.

That depends on how you look at it. In one sense we are, all of us, already "saved."

It is true we are currently in a fallen state. And there is nothing we can do to "earn" heaven. But there is plenty we can do to "learn" heaven (as Brad Wilcox puts it). We are given commandments to guide us in our tuition (and to show a sign of love and honor to God). Even though we have a full ride scholarship, we still have to do our homework if we want what that experience can provide. Of course, we can be lazy and party our way through, but we'll also have to face the consequences of that choice, too.

Boy, wouldn't it be great if we could coast along without having to choose anything? But we aren't given that option. Not only that, we are subjected to "enticings" by good and evil so that we might act for ourselves. (2 Nephi 2 is an excellent resource for understanding this.)



You talk about God's grace, but from the Christian perspective, you are denying God's grace the minute works become a prerequisite to receive that grace. For it is then no longer grace. But wages.

The scriptural references that admonish us to "obey commandments," "follow Christ," "do His will," "become like Him," etc. are too numerous to mention. In the face of such opposing forces as we encounter here, what kind of a God would require that we do nothing? Isn't even just the choice to believe a "work?" Besides, if "the wages of sin is death," what are the wages of obedience?

Vance said...

I've been here before, and I note with a little sardonic amusement that just after Jeff posted that great analysis of Alma 36, Orbiting decides he's had enough (after spending weeks trashing Alma 36 and Chiasmus as something that just anyone naturally comes up with). Guess he was having a hard time figuring out how Alma 36 just happened.

Anyway. Everythingbeforeus has the typical Evangelical problem of "Works are blasphemy! It denies Grace to say we humans need to do something!" This, of course, is an example of what Peter said people do: twisting the words of Paul out of all sense and reason.

There is nothing in the scriptures that even hints that God hates works and will condemn people to hell if they do good things, thinking that God wants them to do those good things. Yet, that is the doctrine Evangelicals use to say Mormons are going to hell because they are "denying grace" by insisting that God wants and requires us to participate in the effort of our salvation.

1) God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
2) The only way to heaven is through Christ.
3) God is no respecter of persons.
4) God required His followers prior to Christ's life and death to perform good works in order to receive salvation.

Those 4 statements are universally agreed upon; Evangelicals accept them and so do Mormons. What, therefore, are the implications of those 4 statements?

First of all, Jews were saved by Christ. The Law of Moses only had any impact because of the power of Christ's atonement. The Jews of the Old testament period get the same reward possibilities as we get. The Law of Moses was sufficient for their salvation; and they are not relegated to some lesser reward because they didn't have Christ's teachings (that we know of; the Old Testament has lots of the doctrine of Christ in it).

If God required the Jews to do good works in order to take advantage of Christ's saving power, then why would He say that we don't need to do good works? That would mean that God is not just if He requires the Jews to do something harder to gain the same reward that His followers now can get. And God is perfectly just. The same degree of difficulty is required for the same reward, whether prior to Christ or after Him.

Since the Jews were required to sacrifice, to do good works, and to commit their all to follow God: why, then, do you preach that we are blaspheming and going to hell for saying that God requires His followers now to sacrifice, to do good works, and to commit their all to follow God? Ordinances were how the Law of Moses functioned, yet you insist that ordinances are done away with. Christ said no one goes to heaven without baptism; yet you insist that works are not required. You disagree with Christ, clearly. That is your problem, but how can you condemn us for following the Savior?

Oh, and on the whole "doctoring" bit. When the Jews burned Jeremiah's prophecies and he sat down with Baruch to write them all again; many of them decades after the first writing: do you think there might have been a change or two in them? Greater prophetic insight; hindsight, etc--allowing Jeremiah to "correct" and update things? How about the Book of the Law found by Josiah in the Temple--surely that wasn't the exact same thing that Moses dictated 500 years prior. You have to let go of the inerrancy of scripture doctrine; else you are in a world of hurt because then you are worshiping a book and not the Author of it.

bearyb said...

Everything,

Just curious - though you may have explained it here already at some point (and if so, I apologize), but from where did you get the inspiration for your screen name? It seems quite reminiscent of Alma 30:44, or even Alma 13:20. Either would be ironic, given your current position on all things "Mormon."

bearyb said...

everythingbeforeus,

I really don't understand your position of disdain for church members who you say aren't willing to talk to you about religion, claiming that they don't even know what they believe. Each of us is in a different location regarding our understanding of doctrine and conviction of belief. You even denigrate your own mother for her desire to focus on the simple truths of the gospel, which is all any of us need anyway.

I can imagine why many might be unwilling to speak of religion with you. They likely already know your current position and your background. What more could they possibly have to tell you that you aren't already aware of? People aren't usually very eager to begin a conversation that they know will likely end unpleasantly. And how should one approach you when you say things like "Christians do not have a stumbling block in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, because they accept it." Huh? Isn't the definition of a stumbling block the acceptance of false ideas?

There comes a time when nothing more can be said, as evidenced in the several accounts of Jesus not answering His accusers just before they decided to crucify Him.

Vance said...

This is Vance again. I was thinking about EverythingBeforeUs's demand that we disavow good works and rely on grace alone.

What does that really mean, this position that if we say that God commands us to do good; to make and keep covenants in sacred ordinances; and without them we will not qualify for all that God has? The Evangelicals say that this doctrine is heresy, and of the devil, and makes it so no one goes to heaven when, they say, all we need to do is say the magic phrase and we are saved.

But are we? What is the penalty for sin in a "Saved by grace alone!" world? There is none, is there? There cannot be a penalty for sin; else our works, not the grace of God, keep us from heaven. If good works do not matter, neither do bad works, for those who get to heaven still can boast they didn't do evil works, and God is thus rewarding them for their works-- a heresy. Therefore, there cannot be any punishment for sin in a saved by grace theology. The only thing that matters is if you are saved... by your confession that Jesus is the Savior. That's the only determination of who gets heaven, and who doesn't: whether you accepted Jesus as your personal savior.

Under this view, once "saved", you are free to commit whatever sin you want, because God doesn't care: He does not judge works; only your "saved" status. Sure, He would prefer you to not rape your neighbors wife, but He will not punish you for it; else He would be using works as a qualification, not grace. Right?

Consider the case of two neighbors in rural India. One is nice, kind, follows the Golden Rule, serves her neighbors and is charitable-- A Christian in deed, just not name. The other is lazy, selfish, a boor and total jerk. He cheats, he lies, steals, etc. One day, a TV program comes on. The boor is at home, sees the preacher come on and talk about Jesus, and how you are saved if you confess Jesus as your personal savior. The kindly woman is out delivering soup to a sick friend. The boor immediately chants "I accept Jesus as my personal Savior!" And the kindly woman comes home, missing the broadcast. Jesus never is mentioned again; after all, this is rural India. The kindly woman remains kindly, the boor remains boorish.

Evangelicals tell you that God will save the boor and damn the woman to hell, for she never heard of Jesus. They preach that God wants the boor around, for he is saved! And He hates the woman, for she only did kind and loving deeds her whole life but died never hearing of Jesus, so she is doomed to hell. Isn't it wonderful how grace saved this boorish man! And it's too bad this saintly woman is in agony in Hell, due to no fault of her own.

And we Mormons are called rejecters of the goodness of God, because we believe this is not so! There is no grace in Evangelicalism for the heavenly people who never had a chance; conversely there is no justice when they say there is no punishment for sin, because that would be "Denying the grace of God" if there was consequences, whether good or ill, for your actions.

The Evangelical God is very... capricious. The sole criterion for getting to heaven being whether you were "saved", not your works and faith. Of course, Jesus taught no doctrine; yet we Mormons are accused of not following Christ when we believe He meant what He said about His commandments being, you know, commandments. Not suggestions, like the Evangelical view.

everythingbeforeus said...

Everything Before Us...from the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities.

everythingbeforeus said...

Bearyb,

I defined stumblingblock. I gave you the etymology. The Greek word is skandalon. Scandal. Offense. Christ crucified is an offence, a scandal, to the Jews. A stumblingblock is a true doctrine that is offensive to someone or to a group of people. To those people, the true doctrine is a stumblingblock.

That is how Paul uses it. Christ crucified is to the Jews a stumblingblock.

everythingbeforeus said...

Vance,

Do you really want to have this discussion?

everythingbeforeus said...

Vance,

Saying the “magic phrase” doesn’t save you, Vance. Believing in Christ saves you. It isn’t a profession of the mouth. It is a belief in the heart that saves. You do not understand my position. You are relying on your faulty understanding of so-called “evangelical” doctrine to argue against me.

You say, “Under this view, once "saved", you are free to commit whatever sin you want, because God doesn't care: He does not judge works; only your "saved" status. Sure, He would prefer you to not rape your neighbors wife, but He will not punish you for it; else He would be using works as a qualification, not grace. Right?”

Again… you are using your faulty understanding. No one is free to commit sin. Paul says it very clearly in Romans. He addresses the very accusation you are making here. We are not free to sin. And the Bible is clear we will be judged by our works. These issues are all dealt with in the Bible, Vance. Read it!

I’ll summarize good sound Biblical doctrine. Go find it for yourself: We build on the foundation of Christ. There is no other foundation really to build upon. If we have Christ as our foundation, we build upon him with our works. At the end, our works will be tried by fire. That which survives will determine our reward. Even if all our works are burnt up, we are still saved. This is in Corinthians. We are still saved, but though as one escaping from fire, because we built upon the correct foundation.

To use your analogy of the Indian boor, if the boor truly accepts Jesus as his Savior, the works will follow. If they do not, he wasn’t truly accepting Jesus as his Savior. This is in James. Faith only saves if it is real faith.

As for the kindly woman, she fits the bill of the Gentiles Paul speaks of who were living the law without the law. They were just as justified as the Jews were who had the law. And they were more justified than the Jews who had the law, but weren’t living it.

The Bible answers all these questions, Vance. This is softball stuff!

everythingbeforeus said...

So, given my explanation above, why do I part ways with Mormonism? That is probably what you are wondering.

Well, the key is in Galatians. The Galatians, to make this simple, had come to Christ through the Spirit, but were then trying to perfect themselves through the flesh, meaning by obedience to laws and rituals. Galatians 3:3. Paul said that this was a different gospel. And he said that those who try to do it this way are fallen from grace.

You know deep in your heart that this is a perfect description of the Mormon way. We are saved by grace; we are exalted (perfected)by obedience.

That is why I reject Mormonism. Because it takes salvation and eternal life, which are synonymous in the Bible (and Book of Mormon, too, for that matter) and separates them into two different things. Salvation is any degree of glory, and we are all saved according to this definition (D&C 76). Eternal life, however, is exaltation, and we are not exalted without obedience to laws and ordinances.

This is contrary to the teachings of John, Peter, and Paul. I would go so far as to even throw in James.

What Joseph Smith essentially did was create a religion that was patterned after his grandfather's Universalism. But then, because it is no fun to be a religious leader when everyone is going to be saved, he constructed his own form of Heaven and Hell on top. All are saved, but damnation still exists, because salvation isn't the end of the game. Exaltation is. And if you are not exalted, you are still saved, but you are also damned! That is D&C 132!

It is really screwed up.

everythingbeforeus said...

From the point of view of exaltation, there is nothing below it but damnation (D&C 132). But the three degrees of glory are below it, and these are described as salvation in D&C 76.

It is a totally deceitful and manipulative system. Because Mormon missionaries can go around preaching how everyone will be saved and happy in a degree of glory. And then, when they have won their converts, the new members can be told that if they do not remain obedient, they will be damned: eternally separated from their Father in Heaven's presence and also separated from their family. The message changes. It just depends on which side of the baptismal waters you are on.

everythingbeforeus said...

Bearby, I think I addressed some of your ideas in my response to Vance. But a few things:

1. "Learning Heaven" is not a scriptural concept. It was an idea that came out of the King Follett Discourse. It is occultic, Kabbalistic, Masonic...it is your basic garden variety dark false doctrine.

2. Choosing to believe is not a saving work. Believing is what saves. There is a slight difference. And no...it isn't a work. It is an "anti-work." It is the opposite of work. Those who have experienced saving grace will know what I am talking about. It is the "giving up the fight." This fight I speak of manifests itself in two ways. Through sin and also through "righteousness." You are fighting against the grace of God when you enter a temple to perform a righteous ritual that you believe you need to perform to be justified. Read Galatians.

everythingbeforeus said...

Vance,

The Evangelical God is very... capricious. The sole criterion for getting to heaven being whether you were "saved", not your works and faith.

Faith is what is required to be "saved."

Of course, Jesus taught no doctrine; yet we Mormons are accused of not following Christ when we believe He meant what He said about His commandments being, you know, commandments. Not suggestions, like the Evangelical view.

I don't know who these evangelicals are you refer too. They are not me. What are Christ's commandments? No tea? Did he command that? The man who said that it isn't what goes in the mouth that defiles a person also said, "No temple recommend if you drink tea?" Do you believe this?

Paul said that these silly man-made religious rules do nothing to control the lusts of the flesh. Colossians. He also said in the same place that you should not let anyone judge you according to what you eat or drink. What is the criteria for judgement in the temple recommend interview.

But you seriously believe that one of God's commandments is "Thou shall not drink tea?"

Christ has two commandments: Love God. Love one another. On that hangs all the law and the prophets. And John said that all the law is fulfilled in this: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

That is the commandment, Vance. No tea prohibitions. No secret rituals. No garments. Read the Bible.

bearyb said...

ETBU, you said

All are saved, but damnation still exists, because salvation isn't the end of the game. Exaltation is. And if you are not exalted, you are still saved, but you are also damned! That is D&C 132!

Yes, I suppose that is technically correct.

Keeping in mind that part of exaltation is the continuation of the family unit, which has been explained to be the source of "eternal increase," how would any of those not continuing in a family unit accomplish this aspect of it?

Hell, strictly speaking, is a temporary condition. Damnation simply means "stopped" from progress or increase, and yes, will be present even in the Celestial Kingdom where there will be many who will be "separate and single."

Marriage and the family unit are of such importance that I am sure we cannot fathom their complete significance. But it is clear that those who will not enter this covenant will not have an increase. What could be more simple to understand than that?

bearyb said...

A stumblingblock is a true doctrine that is offensive to someone or to a group of people. To those people, the true doctrine is a stumbling block.

I guess I was a little off. So it's the acceptance of false ideas that make true doctrine a stumbling block. I stand corrected.

bearyb said...

Salvation is any degree of glory, and we are all saved according to this definition (D&C 76). Eternal life, however, is exaltation, and we are not exalted without obedience to laws and ordinances.

Each realm of existence has a requisite set of acceptable behaviors. If you cannot abide them (learn them, accept them, live them) you not only would not qualify for the particular realm to which they apply, you would likely not even want to be there. This needs no scriptural backing to be understood. There are many examples of this in our current existence. Why shouldn't the same concept apply in the next?

bearyb said...

You are fighting against the grace of God when you enter a temple to perform a righteous ritual that you believe you need to perform to be justified.

If I enter a temple only to perform rituals that I believe will justify me, I am going for the wrong reason. The way I see it, each covenant we make is a sign of our acceptance of God's gifts of grace (which must be more than simply one single, complete entity, as even Christ went "from grace to grace" as He grew), and an acknowledgment on our part that we understand His code of conduct for us as it pertains to our current circumstance.

I have often thought that this world would be much better off if all "religious people" would simply live according to their professed beliefs, no matter what they are. One of the strengths of the temple is that we are taught and accept by covenant the idea that God's commandments are not just suggestions, but that He actually expects us to live them. Performing a ritual is one thing - living a covenant life is quite another. Granted, it is something none of us has completely mastered, but it is the trying and the struggle and the sincere intent to do so that hopefully keeps us moving, and in the right direction.

Just as a marriage ceremony should signify that a couple has covenanted to continue a relationship they have already started, the temple provides a solemn place where we can, without distraction, make covenants to continue on our journey in the gospel. It is a source of great strength to me to reflect on the belief that I have been straightforward with God, before witnesses, in such a setting, and is sometimes the only thing I have to hold onto when trials arise. At the very least, it has certainly kept me from doing a lot of very self-destructive things I might otherwise have entertained. And since none of us is an island, who knows the extent of the fallout that has been thereby avoided?

everythingbeforeus said...

Keeping in mind that part of exaltation is the continuation of the family unit, which has been explained to be the source of "eternal increase," how would any of those not continuing in a family unit accomplish this aspect of it?

Thus, polygamy will be an essential aspect of the afterlife, unless an equal number of men and women are exalted. There is no getting around it. Mormonism is a polygamist system, even if current laws and cultural norms render it unlivable, which is why the FLDS are far more courageous than the Salt Lake Mormons. Despite the constant persecution of Babylon, they live the religion that Joseph Smith actually restored.

But think about this from another point-of-view: If human beings were the only species that required male/female counterparts to reproduce, I would be far more inclined to believe that sex truly is sacred, that our anatomical components that make procreation possible truly are "sacred private parts," and that the union of male and female truly is a divine act that, as Holland stated, connects us with divine power and with deity (paraphrasing). But almost all species, especially among mammals, have a form of sexual procreation. Does this mean there are tiger gods and fish gods and dog gods, etc, etc, etc? And that the unification of a male tiger and a female tiger creates a divine partnership that will carry on into the eternities?

See, the Mormon concept of the divine role of gender becomes quite silly when you see two dogs engaging in the act on the side of a busy highway. How is human sexuality a sacred act when the same act is performed by the rest of the animal kingdom without any consideration for its sacredness?

Sex is a very powerful driving force in human affairs. It is the source of much wonder, much grief, much disappointment, much joy, much heartache. And it is so because we, unlike the rest of creation, were endowed with reason and intellect, the ability to act beyond mere instinct.

And this created within us, as a species, a need to explain sex and make sense of it. And so we developed stories, myths, legends, and doctrines(much of them occultic) to make sense of this very animalistic drive inside of us, who are otherwise very non-animalistic creatures. It was coming face to face with our animal nature (we sprung from the animal kingdom by evolutionary processes) that has created this religious drive to explain human sexuality from a spiritual perspective.

In Mormon culture, so much pain is caused by the doctrine of exaltation, which is basically the enshrining of human sexuality on the throne of God. But we did not come from the throne of God. We are of the Earth and therefore we are prone to genetic disorder, mental disorder, sexual disorder, familial disorder. Many in this life will not meet the standard of the Happy Mormon Family. In Mormonism, there is nothing for these people, except a constant reminder of ultimate failure. And if you are a woman, like my older sister, who has not been able to marry, you are only assured that in the next life, you'll be given to a worthy man as one of his many sister wives.












everythingbeforeus said...

But don't get me wrong. I am a firm believer in chastity, fidelity, and monogamy. I don't think we, like dogs, should be procreating on the side of the road, because we are rational creatures endowed with the godly power of intellect. I just don't agree that human sexuality is any indication that God is a gendered or a sexual being.

everythingbeforeus said...

Each realm of existence has a requisite set of acceptable behaviors. If you cannot abide them (learn them, accept them, live them) you not only would not qualify for the particular realm to which they apply, you would likely not even want to be there.

How is this not a works-based system?

everythingbeforeus said...

Marriage and the family unit are of such importance that I am sure we cannot fathom their complete significance. But it is clear that those who will not enter this covenant will not have an increase. What could be more simple to understand than that?

Mormonism has a gendered God who is only God because he has a wife (possibly more than one). In Mormonism, the goal is to become a god also, worshipped by one's posterity. That is the significance of the marriage unit. It makes perfect sense if you accept these doctrines.

This doctrine tramples all over the concept of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost being God. How can Jesus be truly God while in the pre-existent state when he bore none of the essential attributes of God? What about the Holy Ghost who doesn't even have a body?

The Mormon concept of God totally contradicts the Christian concept of God, and vice versa. The two are simply different, fundamentally different. Incompatible. So, either Christians are not Christian, or Mormons are not Christian.

Will you stand up for your theological understanding of God and reject the mainstream Christian concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

The Jews had the knowledge of the one God. That was their role and their purpose: to stand as a witness for the one God while surrounded by the false gods of the ancient world. They had no leeway to engage in ecumenical endeavors. A correct understanding of the nature of God is essential to the worship of the true God. A false understanding of the nature of God means the god you are worshipping is a false god. Mormons and Christians cannot both be correct.

Will you stand up for your God and reject what you perceive to be the false God of Christianity, just like your early church leaders did so vehemently?

bearyb said...

Wait... are you saying that "Christians" do not believe in a gendered God? Despite a WHOLE LOT of biblical language to the contrary?

bearyb said...

Works-based system? Not exactly. How about "obedience-based" system? Some of the things we are asked to do are universal (faith, repentance, baptism) while some are not (build an ark, sacrifice your first born, die for your convictions). Where would Noah or Abraham have been were it not for their obedience? Sure, they would have been SOMEwhere, but not where they are.

What kind of preparation for "heaven" do you believe in? What do you think goes on there?

And what of all the different resurrections Paul talks about?

bearyb said...

Yes, apparently polygamy will be present in the Celestial Kingdom. Will it be universally practiced? Who knows? Am I ready for it? No. Will I be asked to do it if I get there? Who knows? Are there some things we don't understand about it? Plenty.

Do animals understand the gravity of their actions regarding procreation? Have you asked any? All we know about that is that they have a commandment to "fill the measure of their creation and have joy therein?" Do you understand everything about that? Neither do I.

I do know that, properly employed within the Lord's boundaries and limitations, it can be a source of joy that is incomparable with any other endeavor. And I'm not talking about the "act," but everything that emanates from it. It is the misuse of this power that causes the pain you mentioned.

And do the majority of "mainstream Christians" agree that we did not come from the throne of God, as you assert?

bearyb said...

Will you stand up for your theological understanding of God and reject the mainstream Christian concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In a word, yes. Otherwise it wouldn't be my understanding, would it? I do recognize there are differences between the LDS teachings of God's nature and those of "mainstream Christianity." Keeping in mind that "popular" ideas often have no correlation with "correct" ideas, upon what do the mainstream Christians base their concepts of God? And would you mind stating some of those concepts instead of just telling me mine?

Speaking of the Jews, do most mainstream Christians even appreciate the Jewish contribution to their own spiritual heritage?

everythingbeforeus said...

I can't speak for most Christians, but despite the metaphorical language used to describe God as a man, I do not believe in a gendered God. It is my understanding that most Christian denominations, regardless of how individuals may conceive of God, would not accept the idea of a gendered God in any official capacity. I know Anglicans do not officially preach of a gendered God, except in that God chose to incarnate in a male form as Jesus.

The Bible says that the woman came from the man, and the man comes from the woman, but all things come from God. The male/female duality is a closed system, and God exists outside of it. He is not part of it. He does not participate in it.

Paul does not speak about different resurrections. He speaks about one resurrection. Mormons have grossly misinterpreted Corinthians. Paul is answering a very specific question: what body will we have in the next life. There are earthly bodies. There are heavenly bodies. We have a natural body now on earth, but in the next life we'll have a spiritual body in Heaven. That is all he is saying. Celestial and Terrestrial are just fancy KJV ways of saying heavenly and earthly. There is not such thing as Telestial. It is a made-up word.

Ask yourself this question: If the Telestial Kingdom is basically akin to the existence we currently reside in, why is it NOT called Terrestrial? Terrestrial means "of the earth." Joseph Smith really botched this on. If the Terrestrial Kingdom is likened to the glory of the Moon, why is it not called something like Lunestial? It is screwed up.

I believe in the kind of preparation for Heaven that is supported by the Bible. I don't read anything in there about temple ordinances, eternal marriages, garments, dietary restrictions, etc. Even the Book of Mormon, which contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel doesn't talk about these things.

I would say that yes... the majority of Christians would reject the concept of the pre-existence as understood by Mormons.

Upon what do the mainstream Christians base their concepts of God? And would you mind stating some of those concepts instead of just telling me mine?

God was God from everlasting. He's always been God. He's never NOT been God. There are not gods formed before Him. There will be no gods formed after Him. God dwells in unapproachable light and no man has seen, nor can see, God. God is Spirit. And a Spirit does not have flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. That is all from the Bible. I can give you references. All Bible. That is the Biblical, Christian concept of God. Joseph Smith openly refuted this, he said that he refutes the idea that God was God from all eternity (even though the Book of Mormon explicitly states that he was God from all eternity).

Mormons base their concept of God entirely on the words of a single man. The Bible does not support your concept. The Book of Mormon does not support your concept.

Speaking of the Jews, do most mainstream Christians even appreciate the Jewish contribution to their own spiritual heritage?

Yes, mainstream Christian appreciate the contribution of the Jews. Every single Sunday the Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, and Anglicans, (and probably more) publically read from the lectern from the Old Testament and the Psalms. How many Sundays in a year do Mormons read the Old Testament from the pulpit as a formalized part of the services? Most Christians do it every single Sunday. Mormons only really cover the Old Testament once every four years, and then only to engage in proof-texting in order to make it look like Mormonism is true.

Face it. Your relationship with the Bible is very tenuous. You openly reject much of what is taught therein.






bearyb said...

There you go, telling me what I believe again.

You might be surprised how often the Old Testament is quoted either in "services" as you say, or in subsequent classes. As far as the "formalized" part of your statement goes, you should know that most of what is said comes from members own preparations when they have been asked to speak on certain subjects. But my favorite "service" is when members speak without specific preparation, as in Fast and Testimony meeting.

I admit that I am not as familiar with biblical content as I should be, but I'm not as familiar with ANY of the scriptures as I should be. Your statements of differences in our beliefs based on biblical teaching simply illustrate differences in interpretation.

To me, it's quite clear that when the bible says man was created in God's image, He must look something like us. And when it says Moses spoke to God face to face, I'm pretty sure they saw each other. When the bible describes the Lord sitting on the right hand of God, I assume He must also have a left hand as well as other appendages with which we are familiar. And when it says God does things through His servants the prophets, I'll be looking for a prophet.

All these things are very clearly stated in the bible, so I hope you'll excuse my "confusion" concerning the nature of God.

By the way, are you the one who gets to decide which language in the Bible is metaphorical and which is not? And where does the Bible claim to be the ONLY official word on these subjects?