Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mormons Are Christians Too

I recently decided to create a Facebook page called, "Mormons are Christians too".  This was in response to anti-Mormon comments I received while visiting another Christian page.  I wanted to create a place where we could discuss religion without all of the arguing, name calling, and anti-Mormon sentiment.  Being that I am the administrator of the group, I have the power to remove anyone who makes hateful or anti-mormon comments, or who is there just to argue.  I wanted it to be a different kind of page.   It is another part of my effort to help the Christian world see that we are Christian too.

So in this blog post I would like to discuss some of the arguments I hear about why we shouldn't be called Christian.  I would like to discuss why we call ourselves Christian, and also how we differ from the rest of the Christian world. 

One of the arguments that I often hear from anti-Mormons is that we must not be Christian because we are called "Mormons".  I tell them that the term "Mormon" is not the name of our church, but a nickname given to us by others.  I was thinking today that it could be likened to terms like "Episcopalian", "Protestant"etc.  We prefer the nickname "LDS" or "Latter-day saint".  But the actual name of our church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints".  The very fact that the name of Jesus Christ is in the name of the church, should give people a clue that we believe in Jesus Christ, but for some reason they often overlook this fact. 

Although our interpretations of the Bible differ from other Christian religions in some ways, we do believe the Bible, and follow the teachings of Jesus that are found in it.  Some may say that because we interpret some things differently, then we must not be Christian.  But even among the accepted Christian religions of the day, there are many different interpretations of the Bible.  Some Christian churches believe in repentance and baptism, while others don't.  I have a gay friend who had to "shop around" before she could find a Christian church that agreed with same gender marriage.  So the spectrum of Christianity, even within the Christian religion, is quite varied. 


One of the arguments I most often hear is that because we have additional scripture, we must not be Christian.  Just yesterday, someone told me that we must not take away from, or add to the Bible.  I explained that we haven't added to or taken away from the Bible.  We use it just as it was translated in King James time.  The Book of Mormon stands separate as a separate witness that Jesus is the Christ.  We believe that it follows the "law of witnesses" that says that " the mouth of two or three witnesses shall all things be established".  It stands as a second witness that Jesus is the Christ.  It is the witness of a second group of people who saw the resurrected Christ, and left behind their witness that He indeed did rise from the dead, and is the Savior of the world. 

Some people have shared a specific scripture from the Bible to try to argue that we must not have any scripture except the Bible.  One of the common scriptures they share is found in Revelation 22:18,19: 
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
We believe this scripture is specifically talking about the book of Revelation.  In fact, if we look at the chronological writing of the books of the New Testament, Revelation was not actually written last.  If we were to apply that scripture to the entire Bible, we would have to eliminate many other books that are currently found in the New Testament.  In a talk on this subject, Elder Howard W. Hunter said, "It is also interesting to note that John himself added to scripture after writing the book of Revelation, which is generally conceded to have been written while he was on the Isle of Patmos. It was long after John left Patmos that he wrote his first epistle. This fact standing alone would be sufficient to defeat the claim that revelation was closed and that man was enjoined from adding to scripture. This adds cumulative evidence that John had reference to the book of Revelation only. 
In the Old Testament also are found similar vigorous denunciations and commands that there shall not be taken away or added to the words that were written. The first is found in Deuteronomy, written at the time Moses was exhorting Israel to live the law of the Lord. The Torah was oral law and had not been reduced to writing prior to the time of the codification of the law in Deuteronomy. Now that it had been reduced to writing by Moses prior to his death and assumed to be complete, Moses wrote:
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2.)
Later in this same book of the law, Moses repeated the admonition in similar words. He said,
“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deut. 12:32.)
In the minds of some, these admonitions in the Old Testament raise the same question as to the Book of Mormon being an attempted addition to scripture as does the injunction and warning at the end of the book of Revelation. In effect, these passages contain the same injunction as the one at the close of the Apocalypse; and if the same interpretation and argument was applied to them as is applied to the closing verses of the book of Revelation, there would be no scripture after the writings of Moses. Such an absurdity would result in discarding the greater part of the Old Testament and all of the books of the New Testament.
A careful reading of each of these admonitions makes it clear that man is not to make changes in the revelations of the Lord: man is not to add to or take from the words of God. There is no indication or intimation that God could not, or would not, add to or take from; nor would any reasonable person with a belief in the divine powers of God consciously believe that God would be so restricted. Without question he would have the right and power to give additional revelation for the guidance of his children in any age and to add additional scripture."  (Conference address April 1981 "No Man Shall Add to or Take Away)

 Many people have told me that I worship a "false Christ" because our view of the Godhead is different from most of Christianity.  My understanding is that most of the Christian world take their view of the Godhead from the Nicene Creed which states that God is without body, parts, or passions, and that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one being. This creed was written some 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ, at a time when we believe a great apostasy had already occurred.  In a recent conference address, Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, "Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].
If God does not have a body, then why was it so important for Jesus to resurrect His?  And why did he appear to His disciples and show them His body, and have them touch it and feel it for themselves?  We believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings.  God the Father, and Jesus Christ both have physical, tangible bodies.  They are glorified, perfect and immortal.  Jesus Christ is literally the "only begotten of the Father in the flesh".  What might be confusing to some is the view of God from the Old Testament.  We believe that the Savior did appear to some in the Old Testament times, but that because He had not yet been born to a physical body, He appeared in Spirit.  When He appeared in a burning bush to Moses, it was as a Spirit.  In the New Testament we read about His birth to this world, and then subsequent death and resurrection.  In His appearances after that, He has always appeared with His physical body.  An example of this was when he appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. 


Many people cringe at the thought that we believe in living prophets.  So many people have told me that I follow a "false prophet".  The Christian world today seems to believe in false prophets, but not true prophets.  But throughout time, God has had prophets through whom He revealed His will.  In Amos 3:7 we are taught an important truth:  "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."  If God works through prophets, then where are the prophets today?  We believe that a true prophet stands at the head of our church, and that God reveals His will through Him.  Why would God, during the most tulmultuous time in the history of the Earth, withdraw from His people, and cease to give revelation and guidance?  Some might say that the guidance given in the Bible was enough.  But how can we know how to proceed in these modern times without modern revelation?  Throughout the Bible, we see prophets through whom the Lord revealed His will.  We believe that same pattern is followed today.  Today our church is organized with twelve apostles, and a prophet to lead us.  Jesus Christ stands at the head of the church, but reveals His will to the prophet.  As members of the church, we have the right to a witness from the Holy Ghost to know whether or not he is a true prophet.  Any who fear they are following a false prophet can pray to God and find out for themselves.

In conclusion I want to emphatically state that I am a Christian.  To me this term means that I believe in Jesus Christ.  I do not identify with many of the beliefs of other Christian religions, but I do believe in Christ.  Some have said that I believe in a "false Christ" because I do not believe in the Christ described in the creeds.  That same argument could be used against them, but I allow others the freedom to worship how they see best, and I hope that we can all work together to build peace and harmony on this earth.  I believe in Christ.  I am a Christian. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Scripture Mastery: Old Testament

In the seminary classes that our church youth attend, they are encouraged to learn a set of "scripture mastery" scriptures.  There are 25 from each of our 4 books of scripture:  The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.  (Okay, technically that is 5, but we sort of lump the Pearl of Great Price in with the Doctrine and Covenants, and part of it in with the Old Testment :)

These scripture mastery verses are specifically chosen to help youth learn basic gospel doctrine.  Learning them also helps prepare young men and women for future missionary service.  Some of the new scriptures help correlate with lessons the youth will be having. 

Some students even memorize these scriptures, but at very least become familiar with the wording, and where they can be found.  Seminary students often have a "scripture chase" where  they are given a clue, and race to see who can find the corresponding scripture first.  Scripture mastery study helps students to really become familiar with some key gospel doctrine. 

Our church recently revised the scripture mastery list.  They omitted some scriptures that used to be on the list.  They added some scriptures that weren't on the previous list.  Some of the scripture references were changed to add an additional verse in order to make more clear the doctrine being taught in that verse.  I'm very excited about these changes, and have already been studying to see which verses have been added.  I am so excited in fact, that I wanted to share them with you!  I will begin with the Old Testament, and perhaps add an explanation or two about why I like this addition, or why I think it is useful for students and future missionaries. I'm listing all of the scriptures in the list, but I will note which ones are new.

 (These first few are from the Pearl of Great Price.  I will try to write a separate post about why this is included in our Old Testament list.)
Moses 1:39
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Moses 7:18
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

Abraham 3:22-23
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
Genesis 1:26-27
26 ¶And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Genesis 2:24
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
I think this one was added to help support the teachings found in the "Proclamation on the Family".
Genesis 39:9
9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Exodua 19:5-6
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Exodus 20:3-17
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 ¶Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. 
Joshua 24:15
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
1 Samuel 16:7
 7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
Psalms 24:3-4
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Psalms 119:105
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalms 127:3
3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
(This one also helps support the teachings found in "The Proclamation on the Family")
Proverbs 3:5-6
5 ¶Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 
Isaiah 1:18
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Isaiah 5:20
20 ¶Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
(Isn't this so applicable for today's world?)
Isaiah 29:13-14
13 ¶Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Isaiah 53:3-5
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 ¶Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 58:6-7
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
(I should mention here that one of our practices is to fast for two meals once a month and contribute the money saved to help the poor.  This scripture supports that practice.)
Jeremiah 1:4-5
4 Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
(This scripture supports our belief that we existed as spirits before this life, and lived with our Father in heaven.  We used a different scripture before to support this teaching.)

Ezekiel 37:15-17
15 ¶The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
(We believe this scripture is talking about 1. The Bible, which is "for Judah", and 2. The Book of Mormon which is the "stick" written for "Ephraim", or the people of the American continent who were descendants of Joseph.  Combined together, these two books become one in our hand in testifying that Jesus is the Christ.)
Amos 3:7
7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
(This scripture supports our belief in living Prophets.)
Malachi 3:8-10
8 ¶Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
(This scripture supports our belief in paying tithes and offerings.)
Malachi 4:5-6
5 ¶Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
(This scripture supports our belief in doing geneology and temple work for our ancestors.  More information about this scripture is found in the Doctrine and Covenants.)
I know that there are many other Old Testament scriptures that are important.  They are taught during seminary lessons.  But these 25 are core scriptures that are emphasized.  I will write another post another day to share the New Testament scriptures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Religious Freedom

Our church has recently developed some online tools and media to promote religious freedom.  It is clear to many of us that our religious freedoms are being threatened in recent years.  It is important that we protect the religious freedoms of all, not just those of Christians.  Check out this link to view the LDS Newsroom page about religious freedom.  I also want to encourage you to "like" the "Support Religious Freedom" Facebook group. 
Here is another link to an article about this movement.  And here is a link to a video of a speech given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks about religious freedom.   I think this is a very important and relevant discussion for us in our country at this time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mormon Messages: Daily Bread: Experience

To me, this video speaks to the very core of our religious beliefs; our personal relationship with God.