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Rock of Christ or Rock of Revelation?

January 24, 2009

I’ve been reading “How Wide the Divide” (recommended by Clean Cut). I’ve just started the book so I’m sure I will have more thoughts in future posts (so far I do not agree with everything), but I appreciate the respectful nature of dialogue and what appears to be the intent of the writers – for improved communication between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints.

I wanted to write about something that stood out to me in the introduction of this book. BYU professor Stephen Robinson says,

“Evangelicals usually forget that the Bible is also Scripture for the Latter-day Saints, and that there is not a single verse of the Bible that Latter-day Saints do not accept. True, we do not interpret the Bible by the Hellenized philosophy of the early church councils (Nicaea, Chalcedon, etc.), but for us the Bible – without the councils and creeds – is the word of God” (p. 20).

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the claim that Evangelicals interpret the Bible “according to the councils and creeds,” but I personally think this distracts from the real issue. I agree we interpret the Bible differently, but not because of councils and creeds. Evangelicals use a literal and grammatical interpretation of the text; Latter-day Saints use interpretations that are adapted to fit the lens of modern revelation. Let’s examine one of the key passages of Scripture that we interpret differently and see if “councils and creeds” have anything to do with the Evangelical interpretation.


In Matthew 16:18 Jesus tells Peter,

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

This is an important verse for both LDS and Evangelicals as it has implications for the doctrine of the apostasy and modern revelation.  The word at issue is rock. Roman Catholics have historically interpreted rock to refer to Peter as they claim he was the first pope. Peter’s own writings completely refute this, however, as will be seen in a moment. Latter-day Saints have historically interpreted rock in this passage to refer to revelation (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p. 273, lds.org “rock” definition) and have claimed that the “restored church” is founded upon this rock of revelation (statement from current prophet, see 8th paragraph).

Relying on the literal and grammatical method for Biblical interpretation, I would like to examine the grammar of this sentence. What does the word rock mean in the original language?

The word used in Matthew 16:18 is Petra and means literally rock or mass of rock. Peter’s name, Petros, means a little rock or piece of rock. So, it appears Jesus was using a play-on-words when He said “Petros (little rock), upon this Petra (Rock), I will build my church.” It is obvious Peter got the Lord’s metaphor because he later used the same metaphor when writing about the relationship between Christ and the Church. Contrary to the Catholic view, he didn’t claim to be a pope.  Contrary to the LDS view, he didn’t claim the rock was revelation.  He wrote that Christ was the foundation of the Church and he used the word Petra to describe this foundation (I Peter 2:8). He used the same analogy for believers – he called us “lively stones” (I Peter 2:5) that are built upon the Rock of Christ, our firm foundation.   Further, Peter quoted from Isaiah who prophesied that Christ would be a “stone” of stumbling and “rock” of offense to the nation of Israel (Isa. 8:14).

Is it just me or does rock seem like a really inappropriate analogy for modern revelation that is subject to change? A rock denotes strength, a firm foundation, immovable, solid, it doesn’t change.

A rock sounds more like this Person:

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Rock is often used as a metaphor for God throughout the OT:

“I will publish the name of the LORD (YHWH): ascribe ye greatness unto our God (Elohim). He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4; see also Deut. 32:15, 18, 30-31; I Sam. 2:2, 22:2; 2 Sam. 22:32, 47, 23:3; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46, 28:1, 42:9, Isa. 17:10, I Cor. 10:4, etc.)

I do not know of anywhere in the OT or NT Scriptures where rock refers to revelation and, from what I have studied, this is the only place where LDS believe the word refers to revelation. They agree that in other places rock refers to Christ (see “rock” definition).

Using a literal and grammatical approach, I have demonstrated that the word rock refers to Jesus Christ, not revelation.  (I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether I have used any “councils and creeds” in my interpretation of this passage 🙂 ).  I am defending the plain, normal interpretation of this text that avoids eisegesis and circular reasoning.  An example of circular reasoning related to this passage would be the LDS church’s assertion that they are founded on the rock of revelation.  How do they know this?  Because of this verse.  How do they know that’s what this verse is saying?  Because of revelation.

This is an important verse for LDS and Evangelicals so I can understand why this is the only verse in Scripture where LDS claim rock means revelation.  If rock refers to Christ in this verse, we have His personal promise that He will build His Church upon Himself and keep the gates of hell from prevailing against it.  This flies in the face of the doctrine of the “total apostasy” and removes the need for modern revelation.  If Christ is the foundation of His Church, there was no need for a restoration – only continuous reformation.  We have only to focus on knowing Him, following Him, and obeying everything He has revealed to us through His Word as He continues to build His Church.  Apostasy surrounds us, but Christ protects us when we make Him and His Word our firm foundation.

Jesus said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock (Petra): And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Petra). And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Is your faith built on a firm foundation (the Rock of Christ) or the shifting sands of modern revelation?


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145 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 2:42 pm

    Jess , you wrote:

    Is it just me or does rock seem like a really inappropriate analogy for modern revelation that is subject to change? A rock denotes strength, a firm foundation, immovable, solid, it doesn’t change.

    A rock sounds more like this Person:

    “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

    SWEET………..Germit

    that’s one to put in the file

  2. January 26, 2009 6:52 pm

    Not really actually…

    It’s a false dichotomy to say that Evangelicals take the Bible literally, while Mormons take the Bible in light of something external.

    What about John 10:34-35 and Psalms 82:6. Now who’s reading the Bible literally, and who’s doing the “gymnastics” to make it fit their existing paradigm? “Human judges” my foot! Only someone already defending their own turf would take that read on that particular verse.

    Mormons read the Bible in the light of new revelation. You read the Bible in the light of accepted post-Biblical creeds. And we both take some Bible passages literally and others as symbolic. That’s always been abundantly obvious to me. It should also be obvious to anyone who isn’t too wrapped up in the Evangelical mindset to look at it objectively.

    Sola scriptura is nothing more than a big glorified myth that some Evangelicals find useful for propaganda purposes. But it no more exists in the modern Christian world than the Easter Bunny does.

  3. January 26, 2009 8:11 pm

    “Is your faith built on a firm foundation (the Rock of Christ) or the shifting sands of modern revelation?”

    Your question here seems to imply that Latter-day Saints are NOT built upon the Rock of Christ, but rather something else. But that just won’t do. After all, the Book of Mormon prophet Helaman made very clear that “it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12).

    As your link points out, there are multiple ways of interpreting scripture–whether figuratively or literally. But let there be no doubt that it is Christ who we trust and strive to follow. And He reveals “his secrets unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Part of building upon the rock of Christ is to hearken unto what He says through his servants. We just happen to differ in our belief He called new prophets after a long period in which they were indeed killed off. For us, the live prophets are every bit as good as the dead ones. I highly doubt that those received Paul’s epistles mistakenly assumed they might be building on “the shifting sands of modern revelation” back in their day, rather than Christ, simply because Paul was not Christ. The servants of Christ speak the words of Christ…

  4. January 27, 2009 12:30 am

    Clean Cut,

    You might notice that a lot of my previous posts have been written with ex-mormons in mind. One of the greatest concerns I have is the large numbers of people who are losing faith in the LDS church, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith, and are walking away with nothing left. I can understand why, after having one’s faith shattered, it would be very difficult to trust again, but they are flocking in droves to agnosticism and atheism. The only logical conclusion for me is that they never had their foundation in Christ at all, but rather in the LDS system. In addition, I have heard the testimonies of many ex-mormons who are now born again Christians and they claim their foundation was not rooted in Christ when they were LDS members, but rather in their testimony of the church, Book of Mormon, etc.

    When I ask questions like the one you mentioned I have these types of people in mind. I do not know how many members this includes. I cannot speak for every individual LDS or Evangelical – only God knows each one’s heart – but I hope you can understand the source of my very serious concerns.

  5. January 27, 2009 12:34 am

    Seth,
    I have no problem with John 10:34-35 and Psalm 82:6 as long as you can reconcile a literal reading of these passages with a literal reading of Isaiah 43:10.

  6. January 27, 2009 12:41 am

    Jessica,

    This is a great post. I appreciate your insight. While a Mormon I explained this verse just this way… rock being revelation. Among the many problems Mormons have with the “revelation” of their church is the way it changes…

    1842: God was once a man and man can become a god.
    2002: Well… we don’t know much about that.

    1860: Blacks cannot hold the priesthood and will be only servants in the celestial kingdom.
    1980: Blacks can hold the priesthood and will receive the same level of glory as everyone else.

    1842: American Indians are descendants of the Lamanites.
    2007: American Indians are only ‘among’ the decendants of the Lamanites.

    1860: What the prophet says from the pulpit is as good as Scripture
    2008: What a prophet says from the pulpit MIGHT be scripture or MIGHT NOT be scripture… it all depends.

    etc, etc, etc…

    It is wonderful to know that Jesus Christ is my rock, my redeemer, my God and my Savior. He does not change!! All praise be to Him!!

    Darrell

  7. January 27, 2009 12:48 am

    Jessica,

    Now being Ex-LDS… I can assure you that your feelings/ fears about Mormons having their faith in the Church rather than Christ is completely justified. I have seen many people, when they realize how the church has been lying to them for years, pretty much throw out organized religion all together. I have witnessed people say “well, if the church isn’t true than I guess the whole thing (Christ) is a lie.” It is so sad to see this… people equate Christ to the LDS Church and nothing else… as if the Church and Christ are the same thing… you can’t have one without the other. The Church is scaring people by lying to them!!

    I have SEVERAL active LDS who are opening themselves up to me and honestly sharing their feelings about the church and it is scary. There are a LOT of people that I know whose testimonies in the LDS faith are pretty much gone. I know of several people who are only active out of fear of what might happen to their family if they leave. Some have spouses who have told them that they would leave them and take their children away if they ever left the church.

    I have been working with many of these people to show them how Christ is real and can be their Savior EVEN THOUGH the church is not true and has been lying to them for years. It is glorious to see these people realize that they do not need the LDS Church to come to Christ. When the light bulb comes on and they accept Christ the change is amazing.

    Darrell

  8. January 27, 2009 1:48 am

    Seth: within her article, I noticed Jessica’s use of the word’s “metaphor” and “analogy”, so it seems her approach to scripture incorporates some allowance for symbolism. I think you are making too much of her use of the word “literal” in her approach to scripture. As for Ps 82, and I’m sure you’ve seen this a few times, whatever the “gods” are, can we agree that according to the psalm itself, they “DIE LIKE MERE MEN”,,,,,they “WILL FALL LIKE EVERY OTHER RULER”. Whatever description or application we make for “gods”, verse 7 needs to apply to them as well. This kind of judging scripture by other scripture is what Jessica is talking about.

    DARRELL: good list
    the revelations given about polygamy and how Zion was to be restored, in what form, etc. came to mind as well, and it would be an interesting evening to collect as many wayward, shifting, revelations as can be found and make a more complete list. Over a cup of joe, or postum.

  9. January 27, 2009 4:32 am

    The mere fact that the verse says that they “will die like men” seems to be pretty good evidence that it was not referring to mortal men. I mean, there’s no real point in telling a mortal man he’s going to “die like men” is there?

    It also makes Christ’s use of the passage in John pretty pointless otherwise.

    Jessica, haven’t read your passage yet. But that was kind of my point. We mostly differ in which passages we take literally and which we take symbolically. And in how we finesse different verses together.

  10. January 27, 2009 8:26 am

    Seth: hmmm, interesting position on v.7; and you may not be interested in dragging this out since this is quickly heading toward and “agree to disagree” scenario.

    ….but it would seem that you believe in some kind of “mortal god/God”; if the subjects are NOT mere men, then you are left with some kind of deity that dies……and WE”RE the “hellenized” ones ?? INteresting. And yeah, Jesus’ point might just be as simple as saying “Dude, you know you’re going to die, right ??” e.g.: you are NOWHERE close to being a REAL god…. who does not die. Just a thot.

    You are probably right about the picking and choosing, everyone hopefullly does that, or else there are a lot of one-eyed, or no-eyed guys running around with what used to be “eyes that offended them”……

    You are a TUFF nut to crack, but I like your posts.

    GERMIT

  11. Katie permalink
    January 28, 2009 2:02 am

    Hey Jessica,

    It’s funny, I just barely picked up “Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate” and am reading it now. I enjoyed “How Wide the Divide,” and actually, as an LDS, found it instrumental in helping me find Christ in my own life. I hope you enjoy it.

    One thing I did find interesting was this quote, from Evangelical Gerald McDermott:

    “Perhaps, then, we should call for a moratorium on evangelical-Mormon mutual criticism over whether and who has resorted to creeds and traditions in their interpretation of the Bible. We’re all guilty. Or perhaps we should say that both groups ahve at least implictly recognized the wisdom of George Caird’s remark on the love of Christ mentioned in Ephesians 3:18: ‘Ittakes the combined experience of all Christians to comprehend it. … This means it is impossible not to be influenced by some tradition in reading scripture. … The real question is not whether we will be influenced by tradition…but which tradition?”

    That we both interpret the Bible through the lens of tradition (be they creeds or modern revelation) is simply a fact of unavoidable reality. We would be unwise to do otherwise–to throw out the wisdom and experience of those gone before! I think the heart of the question is are the traditions of God–which comes closer to His truth?

  12. January 28, 2009 9:52 pm

    Jess,

    You really did a nice job with this. What a helpful lesson in the differences between biblical and LDS hermeneutics! The further links to eisegesis and circular reasoning are also a nice touch.

    I particularly like the line that you drew by saying:

    “Evangelicals use a literal and grammatical interpretation of the text; Latter-day Saints use interpretations that are adapted to fit the lens of modern revelation.”

    🙂 Keep it up, sis.

  13. January 29, 2009 4:53 am

    This “conversation” seems to recently have taken a turn toward apologetics. I recently read a comment on another evangelical blog that reminded me of a few of the commentators here. Seth will recognize this quote, as he and I seem to end up on a lot of the same sites recently.

    “At times we’ve discussed the merits and drawbacks of engaging in apologetics, and while I agree with some that it can have an educative value, in many respects I think all too often it leaves quite a bit of collateral damage in the wake. People rarely, at least I’ve rarely seen anyone really change their position by engaging in apologetics.

    “One of the virtues I find of a more relational and dialogical approach is that when people know each other and have built a relationship there is much less showmanship and individuals are quite willing to concede weaknesses in arguments or even mistaken facts, plus there is less of a temptation to turn the whole thing into a spectacle where the goal is for others of your own faith community to look on and cheer, rather than to actually engage the person you are speaking with. In addition, I think the educational value can often be greater and it doesn’t take so long.”

    I personally give more credibility to those who truly want to seek mutual understanding and have a civil dialogue, rather than those who merely engage in polemics (ie: “The Church is scaring people by lying to them!!”, etc, etc, etc.)

  14. January 29, 2009 5:12 am

    More on topic, though, about your concern for ex-Mormons “flocking in droves” out of the Church and into a no-man’s land. I’m not really seeing that huge exodus like you express (where do you live?) but certainly there are many whose faith becomes jarred by one thing or another and begin to feel like the Church isn’t what they thought it was. I hope we can do a better job at reaching these people. There are a lot of good resources now than probably have ever existed before. A newer blog, for example, is http://www.staylds.com/

    Some reconcile things better than others, but I’m certainly not seeing things in the same light as Darrell or others who see nothing good at all in the Church. That just doesn’t fit my own “Mormon” experience.

    FYI, interesting post at Mormon Matters today (http://mormonmatters.org/2009/01/28/why-is-it-so-hard-for-ex-mormons-to-join-another-christian-denomination/) about your very concern.

  15. January 29, 2009 2:18 pm

    CleanCut: you wrote

    I personally give more credibility to those who truly want to seek mutual understanding and have a civil dialogue, rather than those who merely engage in polemics (ie: “The Church is scaring people by lying to them!!”, etc, etc, etc.)

    maybe the two, apologetics and acting in a civil manner, don’t have to be separated , although they often are. Establishing some kind of relationship and going from there is preferred, and showing respect to one another is always called for and what we want for ourselves.

    One problem is that our theologies will always put us in an “us/them” scenario, and no amount of “getting along” (which I believe in 2cdTim2:24) will change that.

    thanks for the link to Mormon Matters, I’ll check that out.

    GERmIT

  16. January 29, 2009 4:45 pm

    Cleancut,

    Please understand that I am simply stating what my experience has been and sharing what others have said to me. When people find out that the church has been lying to them (in their opinion– which I happen to agree with and I know you may not) many times they leave the church with scars. These scars prevent many people from ever being willing to consider that perhaps Christ is real even though the church is not true. This is not an apologetic stance at all… it siimple the reality I and others have seen.

    By the way, I don’t doubt that YOU have not had many people share with you that “they don’t believe the church is true or are having doubts”. While I was an active member I cannot think of one encounter with people in my home ward with this issue. It was not until it became public that I no longer believed in the church that people began to approach me with their issues. Once I became “safe” to talk with people began to share stuff with me that shocked me. Some of these people hold leadership positions.

    Darrell

  17. January 29, 2009 7:02 pm

    Darrell, I understand what you’re saying. The important distinction to make is that just because that was your unfortunate experience does not mean that this necessarily represents the status quo. I’m very sorry that you had such an experience that caused to feel hurt and now bitterness towards the Church. You really probably feel that you know the “real truth” and feel duty bound to share what you know with those of us who just don’t see it and are trapped. I can’t blame you for feeling the way you do. I only blame you if you’ve become too blinded to see that opposite perspectives exist, or if you feel justified in polemics rather than simply having a civil and honest dialogue.

    I deeply love my experience being a Mormon, as frustrating and as happy as it can be at times. I can’t help but detect goodness when I see how faithful Latter-day Saints live their lives. After all, isn’t that “end product” the best test for any religion? Now, I’m under no illusions that Latter-day Saints have a monopoly on goodness, I’m just expressing that I personally feel grateful to belong to the Church and also that I believe in the doctrines of the Church. But for me, it’s not even really about the Church–it’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the Church is not perfect. It can’t be because it’s made up of imperfect people. But I still believe that it is inspired. For me, it truly is about coming to know my Savior and serving my brothers and sisters. I also recognize God’s hand, His truth, and His power. I’ve had too many experiences to deny this.

    I don’t know how long it’s been since you left the Church, but I’ll assume it was before Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Joseph Smith came out. I think that this book has helped all kinds of people see the issues that can be so disturbing about Joseph Smith, and also to see them in context. I learned some uncomfortable things I didn’t know before, but I never felt the Church was lying to me for not having made them a big deal. Yes there are things that can be a little jarring to members of the Church who are under-informed about the past, but I was able to adjust my paradigm just fine. For example, see my post at http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/01/one-year-after-paradigm-shift-joseph.html

    I concede that many people are badly under-informed, but then again we don’t use Sunday School as the place to spend time on controversial issues. Who likes to dwell on messy issues? Furthermore, just because there are controversial issues doesn’t automatically rule out the “truthfulness”, and the “usefulness”, of the Church, nor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which it proclaims. I, for one, am proof that it’s completely possible to know about the controversial episodes in Joseph’s past yet till maintain belief in the inspiration of this work. I feel it’s added a more realistic depth to my faith.

    The more I’ve learned, perhaps the more philosophic and less dogmatic I’ve become in how I approach my faith, but I can still believe Joseph was a prophet even though there are a lot of things about him and his past that make him an easy target to dismiss as a fraud/false prophet. Some people can work through these and some cannot. The more I’ve assimilated them, the less of a “big” deal it is, and the more I can focus on all the great and truly amazing things about the Church and its doctrines. And at the end of the day, the focus isn’t on Joseph Smith anyway; the focus is truly on the Savior (although some members and wards do better at balancing this than others.)

    When all is said and done, is the Church obligated to talk openly about the disturbing things? Does anybody want to focus on just the warts? I welcome this new era of openness that I’m seeing in the Church, but I can also understand why many would hesitate to talk about these things openly. We shouldn’t ignore the warts entirely but we also can’t focus in so much on them that we fail to see all the goodness, truth, and inspiration that came about as a result. To do otherwise would be to create a caricature. In all fairness, both sides can be satisfied and multiple perspectives shared, although we would probably disagree on how this should be done. But I’m fine with that.

    I’m perfectly happy with you having your perspective of truth and me having mine and agreeing to disagree. After all, I’m not interested in converting anyone to my “side”. I don’t hesitate to share what I know with others, but I recognize that good people truly know the Savior with or without my Church, and that He often uses them right where they are. I personally just enjoy the benefits and education that come from seeking out mutual understanding in having interfaith dialogue.

  18. January 29, 2009 7:28 pm

    CleanCut: good post….let me amend my comment a little.

    should read: “my theology and that of Joseph Smith will always put the orthodox christian and the LDS (in gerneral) positions in an ‘us/them’ position.”

    you’ve been able to allow for these differences, so it seems.

    GERMIT

  19. faithoffathers permalink
    January 29, 2009 7:49 pm

    Folks,

    Lets look at the scripture discussed in this article in its context.

    Peter had just declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Christ then responded “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”

    First- Christ pointed out that Peter’s knowledge of Christ was from God, not man. Then He says “upon this will I …” What is “this?” It was that Spirit of Revelation- WHICH IS THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST.

    To say LDS believe the rock referred to the “rock of revelation” is incomplete. We define the spirit of revelation as the “spirit of testimony of Christ.” The Holy Ghost will always testify of Christ.

    So He was saying He would build His church upon the Spirit of revelation and testimony of Christ. This is not at all that contradictory to saying Christ is the “rock” in other scriptures.

    By the way- the next two verses are very interesting and rarely understood. Studies of ancient texts have shown that the phrase “gates of hell” was not used as it is today until almost 800 years later. At the time of Christ, this would have referred to the gates of Sheol, the resting place of the souls who had departed this life. He was NOT saying that nothing would ever threaten or destroy His earthly church. He was saying that the boundaries, or gates, of that resting place would not keep those souls in captivity forever. Why? Because of His great atonement and His breaking the bands of death and the vicarious work that would be done for those souls.

    Look at the next verse: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    What were those keys? Christ was clearly saying that He was going to give Peter some power that had binding consequences not just in this world, but in heaven. Interesting that this binding power is discussed in the context of the gates of hell, or Sheol. This of course was the Priesthood authority which He gave to His apostles.

    LDS interpretation of these verse, in my opinion, is the only one that makes sense and provides the cohesive context for why these concepts are placed together. 1. Spirit of Revelation of Christ 2. Establishment of Church on a foundation 3. Keys of authority. Other interpretations break up these verses into different topics.

    I have heard no good explanation from evangelicals for what those “keys” were.

    fof

  20. January 29, 2009 8:16 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Thank you for sharing. I understand where you are coming from… I had the same perspective for several years. Obviously, my perspective has changed dramatically… that is why I am now a Christian!!

    One of the things I have come to recognize is that “truth” is “truth”. As President Hinckley said “either the church true or it is a lie. There is no middle ground.”. I realize that the church has a lot to contribute morally to the world. However, I would submit that in this regard, the church is just like several other religious systems around the world…

    1) Muslims
    2) Catholic
    3) Protestants
    4) Buddism
    5) Mormonism
    6) Hinduism

    All of these religions have morals in common. Does this mean they are ALL true? Of course not, they each teach different things!!! If Jesus Christ is God than the Muslim faith is FALSE. If the Pope is the Vicar of Christ than the Protestants and Muslims have got it wrong. If JS is a Prophet than Mormonism is true and everyone else has it wrong. If JS is a fraud than the Mormons are wrong.

    Truth is truth NO MATTER WHAT YOU OR I BELIEVE. It exists independent of feelings and thoughts. For example, I might take great comfort in believing that the sun is God (some people actually believe this.. Hindus for example). I can pray to it daily and feel very good seeing it watch over me everyday. I might even live a moral life as a result of my belief that the sun is God. Does my belief in the sun and the fact that my belief causes me to live morally change the fact that the sun is not God? No. The same goes for the LDS Church. It can and does contribute morally to the lives of those who believe it to be true but this means nothing about whether the Church is in fact true.

    The website you linked to in your previous post (staylds.com) has an article on it that I read last year. One of the reasons the article give for staying LDS is the moral values the church teaches. I just think that is SO sad. One should not stay LDS simply for the moral values! You can get those in ANY religion. Should I teach my children a LIE just because it causes them to be MORAL? The only reason to stay LDS is because the church is TRUE. If the church is NOT TRUE than I believe that we have an obligation to seek out what IS true. Jesus told us “the truth shall set you free” and that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind”. How can you do this if you are teaching and living a lie?

    You said:

    “When all is said and done, is the Church obligated to talk openly about the disturbing things? Does anybody want to focus on just the warts? I welcome this new era of openness that I’m seeing in the Church, but I can also understand why many would hesitate to talk about these things openly.”

    In my opinion the church is sharing a white washed version of it’s history in many respects. This is misleading… especially given the fact that the church discourages people from reading “anti” material. In many instances the only place you will learn the unsanitized version is IN the supposed “anti” material. For example, the missionaries share the ONE version of the first vision as if it is the only one that exists. Investigators are never told that there are numerous other versions out that were written PRIOR to the “official” version. Why? Because it is not faith promoting. One of the ways that missionaries discouraged investigators from reading “anti” material while I served as a ward mission leader was with the following example:

    “If you want to find out about a toyota, would you go to the Honda dealership? No, you would go to the Toyota dealership. The same goes for the Church… if you want to find out about us, don’t go to other (“anti”) sources. You need to come to us. Other people tell lies about us. We will tell you the truth.”

    Couple this type of spin with the fact that the very leaders of the church are telling the members that “all truth is not good” or “faith promoting” and it is all really sad.

    Darrell

  21. January 29, 2009 8:49 pm

    CleanCut: I commend you for reading R.Bushman and for not fearing good (honest) histrory. In my very limited experience, it seems LDS don’t quite know what to do with Mr. Bushman. I have asked several LDS point blank about Mr.Bushman (“what do you think of his work….etx…) and gotten MOSTLY silence or dodging, although there have been a few (faithoffathers, are your ears burning ???) who chimed in postively.

    My point is that it LOOKS LIKE your group is somewhat split on how big a deal good history is, and what to do with historians like Bushman who tackle things head on.

  22. January 29, 2009 9:56 pm

    “My point is that it LOOKS LIKE your group is somewhat split on how big a deal good history is, and what to do with historians like Bushman who tackle things head on.”

    germit, that would be true of Evangelicals as well, and their wide range of scholarship.

    I’ve also read “Rough Stone Rolling” and thought it was an excellent book. I imagine a lot of the silence is because people haven’t read the book. It’s a pretty thick book after all. I will say that you can pick up a copy of Bushman’s book at Deseret Book – an officially LDS Church-affiliated bookstore that is known for being rather picky about what it will and will not carry.

    I think you and I are witnessing a change in approach to history in the LDS Church.

    I will not concede, as Darrell has argued before, that the LDS Church has been dishonest in how it has handled history (Darrell and I have had this argument before). I will say however, that I feel the Church has not been as forthcoming as it needs to be.

  23. January 29, 2009 10:03 pm

    Thanks Germit. I think your perception is correct that there is a “split”. Some deeply appreciate it, some don’t even want to go there, and some aren’t sure what to make of it. I think Bushman was very fair, but obviously, you can’t please everyone. He is, however, a practicing Mormon and even a patriarch in his stake. I think it’s safe to say he is respected by the leadership of the Church, especially based on their reaction to book. But I see some split in the ordinary “rank and file” members who are either not interested in the history or the extremists that think he is apostate for even mentioning that Joseph Smith also had flaws. Most people are just afraid of what they don’t know.

    Darrell, I do not disagree with the statement that it seems to be a “do or die” kind of proposition whether the Church is “true” (although there is much to discuss on what that does and does not mean) or whether the Book of Mormon is “true”, or whether they are frauds. I deeply believe both are true. You misunderstood me if you thought I was saying that good, moral lives are proof that a Church is true. That’s not what I said nor meant to imply.

    Obviously my paradigm is not your paradigm. You have concluded that it seems like the Church is a fraud. To me it seems otherwise. Sure you think you’re “right” and I think you’re “wrong” about the Church (if that is your assessment). And you probably think I’m wrong in my assessment. That’s okay! I don’t care. I have no interest in debating that which cannot be “proven” and getting involved in a pointless deadlock debate. To each their own, but that’s not my “cup of tea”–even if I drank tea! I personally feel it’s much more worthwhile to simply have a respectful conversation about each of our faith’s without resorting to polemics. For me, it’s not about being “right” or winning an argument.

    I have no problem believing what I do while at the same time acknowledging truth and good in other religions. Sure, a good, practical test (for usefulness, not truthfulness) for any religion is how it translates into the actual lives of its adherents. I have great respect for all these religions and its good people, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them. But I can still respect them. Multiple faiths can pass that test, as I think my Church does, but I don’t offer that as “proof” of its truthfulness. But nor is it my intent to “prove” that my Church is the Lord’s actual Church upon the earth. Although I believe it is, that doesn’t mean I think all other Church’s are false or bad or lead to “hell”. It’s not that black and white. Anyone who sees the world like that does indeed have a flawed paradigm.

  24. January 29, 2009 10:15 pm

    I missed Seth’s most recent comment since I was writing while he posted it, but he makes some fair/good points. I agree.

  25. January 29, 2009 10:31 pm

    Seth : you wrote

    My point is that it LOOKS LIKE your group is somewhat split on how big a deal good history is, and what to do with historians like Bushman who tackle things head on.”

    germit, that would be true of Evangelicals as well, and their wide range of scholarship.

    absolutely true…….and getting “true-er” by the day……..touche

    it could be that some LDS hesitancy in even talking about Bushman and others , with GERMIT, an amatuer apologist, is that they don’t want to egg on the antagonist, perhaps……why even start the conversation ??? which I can understand…..

  26. January 30, 2009 12:48 am

    Hi FoF! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this passage. I don’t think Peter would agree with your interpretation though. 🙂 Did you read the link I provided to I Peter 2? Peter got the rock metaphor. I’ll stick with his interpretation since he was actually there! 🙂

    As for the “keys” – that’s a good point to bring up. I might consider doing a separate post on that topic since you say you’ve never heard a good interpretation of that from evangelicals.

    Clean Cut, You asked where I live. I’m in one of the hearts of Mormon country – Idaho 🙂 Also, I’ve visited StayLDS before and blogged about some of my thoughts on the advice given there… As you might guess, I have a few more concerns.
    https://ilovemormons.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/buffet-mormonism/

  27. January 30, 2009 2:00 am

    FoF; thanks for the post

    the most direct and obvious problem with the “rock as revelation” is this

    the OT references to God, or Jesus, or the Messiah as ROCK just plainly say “___is our rock” or “____ is our rock” or something to that effect. I guess that’s not a problem for you if “rock” is handled one way throughout the OT and another way here in the gospel.
    needless to say, I don’t think that’s the case, if anything , I’d find Jesus using “rock” as a self reference to be “tagging onto (and logically so) ” the OT references where Yahweh calls HIMSELF “rock” repeatedly.

    the other places in the NT don’t explicitly bring out your idea, and 1peter plainly calls BOTH Jesus and HIS followers “stones” or “living stones”……and this is similar to the plain language of 1cor10:4 “…..and that rock was Christ….”

    you can read “revelation of Jesus as the Christ” or something like that INTO the text, but I’m straining for a good, scriptural, reason to do so

    I’ll look into the “keys” thing, or just stall and have Jessica do it……

    Glad to see you up and at it……jail food must agree with you…..

    GERmIT

  28. January 30, 2009 2:09 am

    another logical, and scriptural, reason for seeing “rock” as a label of self-identification is that it fits wonderfullly with WHO Jesus is, and WHAT HE does. I won’t go into the detail but BOTH the parable in Matt 7 AND the word pictures in !stPeter fit wonderfully together in describing JESUS as the foundation: strong, permanent, a source of protection and support, a shelter, etc. contrast this with how changeable someone’s TESTIMONY COULD be, even PETER”s testimony wavered “I don’t know the man…..” although with Heavenly Father’s generous help, we can safely say that Peter made a great recovery !!

    hope this helps GERMIT

  29. January 30, 2009 2:13 am

    Clean Cut,

    Thanks for the link to the Mormon Matters post. I liked Seth’s comment the best:

    The problem is also that the Mormon “product” is directly premised on the idea that the other commodities are inadequate and does a fairly thorough job of convincing people that the bog-standard “Christian commodity” is unacceptable. I’ve heard Evangelicals complain before that Mormonism does such a thorough job of undermining traditional Christianity that when Mormons lose faith in Mormonism, they really have nowhere to go except some brand of agnosticism.

    Seth, you really captured the essence of the concern very well. Thanks

  30. January 30, 2009 2:34 am

    Clean Cut,

    You said:

    “I have no interest in debating that which cannot be “proven” and getting involved in a pointless deadlock debate. To each their own, but that’s not my “cup of tea”–even if I drank tea! I personally feel it’s much more worthwhile to simply have a respectful conversation about each of our faith’s without resorting to polemics. For me, it’s not about being “right” or winning an argument.”

    I would agree with you that it is not about winning an argument. However, given the fact that your church has about 60,000 missionaries out trying to covert, among others, the 2.3 billion Christians over to Mormonism, I would say that your church DOES believe it is about being right.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for respecting people’s rights to disagree. I will defend your right to be a Mormon all day long. However, I do think the religion is false and am all for lovinglytrying to win people over to truth. That is what Christ did for over 3 years to set the example for us.

    Seth,

    You said:

    “I feel the Church has not been as forthcoming as it needs to be.”

    Agreed. However, not only have they not provided the unsanitized version themselves, they have also discouraged people from discovering it at all by scaring them with the dreaded “anti-mormon” line. They do this by discouraging people from reading “anti-mormon material”… which is often the only place to read the true church history. Many Mormons are so afraid of supposed “anti” material that they refuse to read anything about the history of the church EXCEPT FOR material produced/published by the church or it’s affiliated companies.

    Darrell

  31. January 30, 2009 5:18 am

    Who is “they” Darrell?

    The top Church hierarchy? The local zealot in your High Priests Quorum? A former Bishop? A Church manual? Who?

    I also discourage people from going to places like Mormon Research Ministry or CARM to find out about Mormon history. Horribly biased and one-sided places to get your information. But that doesn’t mean I advocate ignoring the history either. I’m a big advocate of the the LDS Church airing its history in a warm and supportive environment – at Church. I think it would effectively neutralize a lot of problems we’ve been having.

  32. January 30, 2009 3:17 pm

    Seth: your last post begs the question since you wrote

    I’m a big advocate of the the LDS Church airing its history in a warm and supportive environment – at Church. I think it would effectively neutralize a lot of problems we’ve been having.

    well……why the hold up on your church ITSELF in coming through to its own people about the kind and quality of history that we get from Bushman ?? In the vaccuum created by this lack of initiative, your church leaves it to others to “fill in the gaps”. Doesn’t this seem avoidable to you ??

  33. Susan permalink
    January 30, 2009 3:53 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Howdy from a fellow texan. I am fascinated by your writing. I have followed your blog and your answers here.
    Can ask a question? You wrote:

    ” But for me, it’s not even really about the Church–it’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the Church is not perfect. It can’t be because it’s made up of imperfect people. But I still believe that it is inspired.”

    “I don’t hesitate to share what I know with others, but I recognize that good people truly know the Savior with or without my Church, and that He often uses them right where they are.”

    We agree on many points……..
    I agree that its all about the gospel of Jesus, NO human organizations are perfect……….. and God can use people where they are………….

    However, I can’t reconcile your statements. The LDS church was founded on the idea of the Great Apostasy. The doctrine of the apostasy means that we in the non-LDS Christian faith CAN’T truly know the savior. If we could, then what is the purpose for modern revelation, etc. If Jesus told Joseph Smith “they are all wrong”……….. that is pretty clear. HE didn’t say……….. Jesus said we contained TRUTH and good people…………….. Joseph Smith wrote his inpired revelation and quoted the words of Jesus. Jesus told him “they are all wrong”.

    So, it seems you are making the following arguments:
    1. The LDS prophets are inspired and Joseph Smith was inspired. They are given truth directly from God.
    2. Although you didn’t state it, we know that the LDS church teaches and Joseph Smith believed in the apostasy…….. This includes the idea that the Holy Spirit left the fellowship of believers for over 1000 years and, therefore, you can’t TRULY know Jesus Christ without new revelation. (Jesus told Joseph Smith “they are all wrong”……….. )
    3. You state you believe non-LDS Christians can TRULY know the savior without being part of your church. You used the word truly……… .

    Which of the three above is incorrect? If 1 and 2 are correct, then 3 must be false. If 3 is correct, and we know 2 is correct, then…………….. #1 must be false.
    I am not trying to be dogmatic. I am a very ecumenical sort……. Can you explain your thoughts further? How do you reconcile these three ideas?

  34. January 30, 2009 4:50 pm

    Hi Susan. Thanks for seeking out the clarification. Certainly we are unapologetic about the Great Apostasy, but we must be careful not to say more than we know. For example, my understanding about the apostasy is not that all people lost the ability to know the Savior. In fact I believe that most good Christians were trying their best to COUNTERACT the apostasy. As I see it, there was inspiration throughout all of this, including the reformers who God inspired to prepare the way for the complete restoration.

    As for the statement that the Churches are “wrong”–that doesn’t mean that other churches are completely “false” or have no “truth” and do no good. They do; it’s just that they’re “wrong”. God loves and blesses all of His children and His Spirit reaches them and most certainly confirms truth, all according to their understanding. It’s not the Christians themselves or the denominations that are an “abomination”, but the “creeds” which are (intentionally or unintentionally) equated with God’s Holy Word, or scripture. Creeds that are given equal authority to scripture are indeed an “abomination”, and professors who teach that those creeds are on par with holy scripture are “corrupt”.

    The Book of Mormon also metions the “Church of the Lamb [of God]” and the “Church of the Devil”. The Church of the Lamb includes all who truly follow the Lamb of God, regardless of which denomination they belong to. The Church of the devil includes all who fight against God and the Lamb. As I understand it, this doesn’t imply any specific denominations at all, only those who fight against Christ.

    Naturally there are people that know the Savior who don’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–many know Him much better than some individual Latter-day Saints. But that doesn’t mean they know EVERYTHING. Do any of us? I’d say not. But I do believe that through the restoration, God has reached out to help us more FULLY know Him–God the Father and God Son.

    I can’t say whether or not this helps you reconcile your statements, but I appreciate you seeking out mutual understanding. This is all a part of my understanding and my paradigm.

  35. January 30, 2009 5:33 pm

    Clean cut: thanks for the post

    how am I to reconcile what you said with JS quote (and this is a paraphrase, tho I think it’ s pretty close)

    “Mother, I have been shown that the presbyterians are wrong…..’ told to Lucy, I believe, the day after the first vision. This is NOT the only comment made by JS and many other leaders about presbyterians, baptists, and methodists, to name just three. I won’t delve into those comments just now. thanks GERMIT

  36. January 30, 2009 5:42 pm

    Seth,

    You said:

    “Who is “they” Darrell? The top Church hierarchy? The local zealot in your High Priests Quorum? A former Bishop? A Church manual? Who?”

    Please tell me you are not trying to insinuate that the Church does not discourage reading Ani-Mormon material. A quick search at lds.org can yield numerous quotes in church magaznines, General Conferences, etc. expressing the ‘dangers’ of reading anti-mormon material. For example, here are a couple of quotes from a New Era article were people shared their thoughts about anti-mormon material.

    “Those who search out anti-Mormon literature and delve into the mysteries that are so prevalent in such writings are making the same mistake that proved so devastating to the Jews. They place stumbling blocks in their path that are hard to overcome.”

    “Anti-Mormon literature is a tool of the devil. It isn’t printed to strengthen one’s testimony of the truth but for the opposite reason. Leave it alone.”

    “When we indulge in reading anti-Mormon literature, we are just extending an invitation to the adversary. ”

    The general tone in the church is that anti-mormon material is:

    1) Dangerous
    2) Influenced by satan
    3) Full of lies
    4) A waste of time

    You cannot honestly tell me that you do not think the church discourages members from reading it. Come on Seth…

    Darrell

  37. January 30, 2009 5:52 pm

    Germit, I really don’t see what there is to reconcile. I think I already addressed that in the above commehnt.

    Darrell, I think you’re sidestepping the question and putting words in Seth’s mouth. You didn’t answer the question.

  38. January 30, 2009 6:14 pm

    Clean cut: my “gut” tells me that maybe you think this line of discussion is not all that fruitful, but I’ll go a little further.

    If you’ve already addressed my question , then are you sayiing that JS had in mind two groups of presbyterians, one who held to the creeds (and therefore an abomination, and another that held to something else that he had no basic quarrel with ??

    I won’t give you a dozen other quotes from other LDS leaders reg. other christian groups because the thot, I think , would be similar……

    I’m not trying to nit pick you…. to me it seems that if one removes the truths found in the creeds (which we hold to be biblically based) then how much of presbyterianism, methodism, baptist, remains ???? didn’t JS understand this ?? I’m thinking he did….

  39. January 30, 2009 7:02 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I didn’t side step anything. I answered rather directly…

    “A quick search at lds.org can yield numerous quotes in church magaznines, General Conferences, etc. expressing the ‘dangers’ of reading anti-mormon material.”

    I even provided some quotes to support my assertion. How is providing quotes off of lds.org side stepping? You can’t get much more official about the church’s position than to provide information directly off of their own wesbite.

    Darrell

  40. January 30, 2009 7:38 pm

    Germit, I confess that I’m a bit confused at what exactly you’re asking. Thus, I don’t know how to answer.

    You wrote: “Are you sayiing that JS had in mind two groups of presbyterians, one who held to the creeds (and therefore an abomination, and another that held to something else that he had no basic quarrel with ??)

    No. (And again, Presbyterians were never considered an “abomination”–they were just “wrong”. (Of course there is much that is right and good, but we’re talking generally about having the Lord authorize His Church with prophets and apostles and priesthood and revelation, etc.) I understand that this can be offensive, especially when some early Church leaders in their zealousness presented this in an offensive way, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be offensive and the Church doesn’t have to compromise itself doctrinally while still maintaining great respect for other faiths. See http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/respect-for-diversity-of-faiths

    You wrote:

    “To me it seems that if one removes the truths found in the creeds (which we hold to be biblically based) then how much of presbyterianism, methodism, baptist, remains ???? didn’t JS understand this ?? I’m thinking he did….”

    I agree. You can see why they were considered “wrong”. Naturally we disagree about the creeds being biblically based.

    Darrell, I’m sorry for not explaining myself very well. I thought the question was trying to get you to expound on who you mean by “they” [“Who is “they” Darrell? The top Church hierarchy? The local zealot in your High Priests Quorum? A former Bishop? A Church manual? Who?”] rather than the academic integrity of “anti-Mormon” literature.

  41. faithoffathers permalink
    January 30, 2009 7:56 pm

    germit,

    Regarding non-LDS religions being “wrong,” I would agree with what Joseph Smith said- that they were wrong in the sense that they claimed to be Christ’s authoritative church. That was the claim made by so many- that they had the correct doctrine and authority. And in that sense, they were wrong. That doesn’t mean members of those churches could not know Christ or have great love for Him.

    I am convinced that God has less interest in which church we label ourselves with than we do. He does not see us as Baptists, Evangelicals, and Mormons, etc. He sees us all as His children, without the labels. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to know true doctrine and to receive all necessary ordinances for salvation. This is clearly His desire for everybody.

    Darrell,

    I would agree with clean cut that “anti-mormon” material should be avoided by LDS. The main emphasis and plea of these sources of information is to depend and rely on the intellect to the detriment of the Holy Ghost. I have found this true in 25 years of reading both pro and anti-LDS literature. The authors of such books, videos, etc. are convinced that the LDS church is wrong, and utilize a purely intellectual (not always intelligent) line of reasoning in criticizing it. I believe there is a division within themselves- they may try to incorporate the spirit into their own reiligous beliefs as it pertains to their religion, but jump to a purely brain-driven mode when addressing LDS issues. And doing so in the pursuit of eternal, spiritual truth is dangerous, and will not lead to God.

    In saying this, I do not say that there are not intellectually sound explanations for the issues brought up by anti-mormon sources. I very much believe there are such explanations.

    And, in my opinion, these anti-mormon sources are quite biased- at least 98% of them. They will always assume the worst when given an option (you may say LDS will always assume the best-maybe so).

    So they encourage a person to rely on the wrong method to interpret biased information about the church. How could an LDS person ever encourage someone to do that?

    fof

  42. January 30, 2009 8:35 pm

    FoF: hope you don’t mind me jumping in…..i couldn’t….or wouldn’t (moral free agency and all….) resist

    you wrote:
    In saying this, I do not say that there are not intellectually sound explanations for the issues brought up by anti-mormon sources. I very much believe there are such explanations.

    IF that is the case, then the culprit is NOT the intellect, nor the use of intellect but the keeping of some kind of agenda to hold GOD ‘at bay’. the intellect then becomes the pawn in a person who WILL NOT be pusuaded otherwise. This seems to me to be a MORAL failing, not exactly a function of the intellect. Hope you don’t mind me ‘piling on….’

    GERMIT

  43. January 30, 2009 8:50 pm

    Clean Cut: I’ll try a slightly different angle

    first of all, I’m not trying to invent some kind of offense where there wasnt, or isn’t , one. Life is way too short for that. I’m not trying to fan into flame a flame that doesn’t exist. But pulling on that picture….where there’s smoke…..and the smoke is coming from JS (and others from the LDS past) who label SOMEONE or SOMETHING an abomination….and I think the word “corrupt” comes up as well. That’s strong language, I think you’d agree.

    You SEEM to be saying, “that’s just the CREEDS he was taking about….” and those who taught, or profess, them.

    my point is that how much of any of these groups, circa 1820 OR today really (the core theology has not changed, I don’t think since then) remain if the creeds are out of the picture. How can condemn, literally, the creeds, and not the people who hold to the creeds ?? Unless you are saying that there can be a presbyterian, etc…. who has there belief WITHOUT the creeds ?? I know we are heading into a post-modern era where some of this might sound like so much babble, but my point is that the christians that JS was talking about, and a good many today(not all who want the label of “creed believer” granted) are CONJOINED with those creeds, not because of the creeds themselves, but they represent the ‘guts’ of the bible TO US. I understand that there are many who don’t see it this way, but I’m addressing JS specifically and his complaints as he spoke them in 1820.

    I’m sure a more gifted writer/thinker could put this clearer, I hope this makes sense.

    GERMIT

  44. January 30, 2009 11:21 pm

    Honestly Darrell, I just hadn’t encountered those quotes before, I was just genuinely asking for your sources (I do that from time to time).

    A question though – would you recommend Dawkins or Hitchens to your fellow churchgoers? If one of the youth in your congregation was asking you whether he ought to read it, what would you tell him?

    Would you discourage the youth in your congregation from messing around on the FAIR website?

  45. January 31, 2009 4:37 pm

    Germit: The “Christians that [Jospeh Smith] was talking about, and a good many today…are CONJOINED with those creeds, not because of the creeds themselves, but they represent the ‘guts’ of the bible TO US.”

    This demonstrates exactly what I think is “wrong”. I think the Bible should stand alone, by itself, without the lens of the creeds. I think that if the Bible really meant what the creeds say it means, then it would have said so! If you cannot be a Christian WITHOUT being conjoined with those creeds, then I think those “guts” are unbiblical, and a “man” produced work as opposed to a God produced work. The creeds can’t possibly be a summary of the Bible because “summaries” cannot introduce new concepts that were not in the original!

    (For example, I fully believe what the Bible says about the oneness and the threeness of God, but I reject that it speaks of the ontological oneness of God’s being).

  46. January 31, 2009 5:38 pm

    Seth, hope you don’t mind me tagging into a “darrell” thing……

    If a church member, youth or otherwise, expressed interest or concern about something raised by Hitchens, Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, or fill-in-the-blank, I’d suggest they read or watch some of that, (if they hadn’t already) then we’d talk. By youth I mean someone of high school age, and any of my suggestions would be knowing that the parents are on board (if they are ‘in the picture’….sad to say)

    questions just don’t ‘go away’ when we say “oh….that’s not a big deal” “tell you when you are older (RIGHT………)” or “that’s not good for you…..”

    in this case, real christianity HAS satisfactory answers, to just about everything that the skeptics choose to throw our way…..granted, the problem of evil is not a “soft-ball lob” A careful examination of Hitchens and the Gospel shows our cocky little Brit to be mostly a blow hard….and not that great a thinker…..Dawkins rather quickly shown to be a decent scientist, a TERRIBLE and lazy theologian…..

    that’s my 3 cents worth

    GERMIT

  47. January 31, 2009 7:25 pm

    Clean Cut,

    FWIW, I don’t necessarily agree in toto with every detail in the creeds. I agree with them in so far as they are faithful and true to the Scriptures. I wasn’t even raised with an understanding of the creeds and I don’t ever think about them (unless I’m talking with LDS). 🙂 Most Evangelicals I know do not know much about the creeds – we study the Bible. So, it’s really weird for me when LDS always bring up the creeds as if that forms the foundation for our beliefs. I know some Christians are more heavily focused on the creeds than others and I don’t have a problem with that. From my review, the creeds were an attempt to faithfully set forth the doctrines of Scripture so as to separate truth from error. The Religious Researcher has a really great post showing the Biblical basis for the creeds here.

    As far as the ontological oneness of God that you mentioned, I believe this is the best understanding given the Scriptural teaching that God is One and yet God is three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I know LDS explain this to mean “one in purpose” but it goes farther than that when Jesus is claiming the divine name of Yahweh in John 8:58. I know LDS say Jesus was the OT Yahweh and God the Father was the OT Elohim, but Yahweh and Elohim are used interchangeably throughout the OT in Hebrew parallelisms. The Jews understand these divine names to be referring to the same Being. Their reason for rejecting Jesus was because He claimed to be God (John 10:33). I’m not saying I can understand this anymore than I can understand how Jesus was on earth and in heaven at the same time (John 3:13), but His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isa. 55:9). Most importantly, though, the doctrine of the Trinity is faithful to the monotheistic teaching of Scripture.

  48. Susan permalink
    January 31, 2009 8:47 pm

    I want to repeat Jessica’s statements. Many Christians and most evangelicals don’t refer to creeds………….. ever. However………. let’s think of another reason they were written. When were most of them written? ……. the Middle ages. We are looking at things from the “lens” of modern ideas. How many folks in the middle ages could read, write or study theology? Most peasant farmers didn’t have the luxury of studying the wonderful ideas in scripture………. they needed the gospel message boiled down to simple wording and ideas.
    Only since the printing press and the advent of modern education do we have the ability to spend time digging deep into the wonders that God’s word provide.

  49. January 31, 2009 9:56 pm

    You don’t ever refer to creeeds?

    The why are you insisting that God the Father and God the Son be the same ontologically?

    Where did that come from?

    And don’t tell me it came from the Bible, because it absolutely is not in there – unless you are actively trying to read it there to meet assumptions you were already bringing to the text. Which leads me to question where those assumptions came from.

    I agree germit that Dawkins and Hitchens are ridiculous ultimately. But somehow I doubt that everyone else in the Evangelical tradition is quite so easy-going about things as you are. I fact, I’ve encountered Evangelical bloggers online who will ban you from their blogs if you so much as link to the FAIR website. CARM is also fairly well known for banning Mormons commenters whose arguments the moderators find themselves unequipped to deal with (this is stuff I heard from Evangelicals who participated there, by the way). So the fear of argument, and the active suppression of dissenting views seem to be hardly an exclusively “Mormon thing.” Seems more like a human nature thing to me.

  50. January 31, 2009 10:34 pm

    Seth: touche abut fear and suppression; the Roman Catholic church had there list of “banned material” (maybe still does, I’d have to ask my folks) and Protestants are by no means immune. Not that I’m totally against “censoring” , but bad ideas are like mold….you don’t fight them by burying them…..you bring them to light and heat….and of course over time, you’ll have to do so again…..

    an aside about LDS material: if I were talking to a possible convert to Mormonism, I’d let them know about FAIR and FARMS, and the better authors/thinkers…..and the arguments against…….if what a person WANTS is Mormonism, that saddens me, but using subterfuge to prevent it seems….lame.

    the creed discussion has my brain working and hurting……and the truth is, MOST christians I know don’t have the slightest idea of what’s in the creeds, so the more I think about it, they seem to have served a role , historically, in fighting particular heresies at particular pointsi in time. Or particular error….perhaps (and this is “off the cuff”) your church statements that the right and true successor of JS was Brigham Y. , and not Bill, or Bob , or Tony…..would function in roughly the same way. Not scripture, but needed at a specific time to combat a specific untruth. Of course Bill, and Bob, and Tony will disagree and say your words are merely the “words of men”, while the LDS will maintain differently. Because your “official” statements of doctrine can be amended over time , your scripture ITSELF, might also function in somewhat the same way….but those are rough ideas of mine. the discusson begs the queston: could there be another “creed” or “council” in these modern times ?? that’s an interesting thought.

    GERMIT

  51. January 31, 2009 10:56 pm

    Frankly, I think the LDS Church is still too young relatively for anyone to be entirely sure whether we have creeds or not.

  52. January 31, 2009 11:07 pm

    Susan, you write that the creeds were written because “they needed the gospel message boiled down to simple wording and ideas”, but I find them and their ideas anything but. They appear to me to be quite philosophical and hellenistic. I’m not going to push this point, because I’m not trying to argue or debate.

    Jessica, you are correct that the LDS believe that Jesus was Jehovah, but the word “elohim” in the Old Testament we do not claim refers to God the Father. That name was given later by Joseph Smith to avoid confusion, but we do not claim that God the Father is the God of the Old Testament. Just a clarification. I’m still not convinced that you can read the Bible WITHOUT the lens of the creeds and somehow come to the conclusion that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost are ontologically one being. I’m just not seeing it.

  53. February 1, 2009 12:54 am

    Clean Cut,

    You said “but the word “elohim” in the Old Testament we do not claim refers to God the Father.”

    I’ve never heard this before. Can you share what you mean by “we do not claim that God the Father is the God of the Old Testament” ? I’ve never heard this before and I’m confused.

    Also, I will post a couple of quotes here to show why I have understood LDS to teach that Elohim refers to God the Father:

    “Although Elohim is understood and used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the name-title of God the Eternal Father and the name Jehovah is reserved for His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, this has not always been the case. Nineteenth-century Mormons—including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor—generally used Jehovah as the name of God the Father.”
    (http://en.fairmormon.org/Elohim_and_Jehovah)

    “Jesus Christ, whom we also know as Jehovah, was the executive of the Father, Elohim, in the work of creation.”
    (http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=88021b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=cf36f48fa2d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1)

  54. February 1, 2009 1:07 am

    Seth, You said “The why are you insisting that God the Father and God the Son be the same ontologically? Where did that come from?

    Um, the Bible?

    “Hear, O Israel: YHWH our Elohim is one YHWH” (Deut. 6:4).

    “Thus saith YHWH the King of Israel, and his redeemer YHWH of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no Elohim” (Isaiah 44:6).

    “I am YHWH, and there is none else, there is no Elohim beside me” (Isaiah 45:5)

    “For thy Maker is thine husband; YHWH of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the Elohim of the whole earth shall he be called” (Isaiah 54:5).

    God said to the Son “Thy throne, O Elohim, is for ever and ever…Therefore Elohim, thy Elohim, hath anointed thee…” (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9)

    Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58 – Jesus claiming the Divine name of YHWH as used in Ex. 3:14)

  55. February 1, 2009 3:02 am

    Yeah. And the word “one” can mean any number of things.

    Try again.

  56. February 1, 2009 3:47 am

    Seth,

    You asked…

    “A question though – would you recommend Dawkins or Hitchens to your fellow churchgoers? If one of the youth in your congregation was asking you whether he ought to read it, what would you tell him? Would you discourage the youth in your congregation from messing around on the FAIR website?”

    I have to agree with what Germit said addressing this. I teach a college/career Sunday School class at church and believe it or not we have discussed stuff like this. I do not discourage anyone from reading FAIR, Dawkins or anyone/anything of the sort. In fact, I encourage people in my class to study and learn about JW, Mormon, Atheist etc. points of view. I am a firm believer in learning about different theologies, wordviews, etc. There are answers for just about all of the critcisms lobbied at Christians. Besides, if one really has the truth I don’t see why we should be afraid of knowing what the other side says. That is one of the reasons I don’t understand the LDS Church’s discouragement about reading “anti” material. If they believe they have the truth why be afraid of people learning about what the critics say?

    Darrell

  57. February 1, 2009 2:19 pm

    To All: one would think that if the Trinity doctrine, among others, were just a product of the creeds, which nearly every christian today hasn’t a CLUE about, then it would logically follow that this idea would die out. People still love and read the bible, MUCH more so than the creeds, why the longevity of this doctrine ??

    Darrell: “Besides, if one really has the truth, I don’t see why we should be afraid of knowing what the other side says.” exactly

    the trinity may be difficult to explain, but it doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker for those converting, and typically , instructors use the Bible itself to get that job done.

  58. February 1, 2009 6:49 pm

    Seth,

    You said:

    “Yeah. And the word “one” can mean any number of things.”

    This sounds a lot like Clinton saying “It depends on what the definition of the word “is” is.”

    🙂

  59. February 1, 2009 9:06 pm

    “the trinity may be difficult to explain, but it doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker for those converting, and typically , instructors use the Bible itself to get that job done.”

    My wife’s experience of learning “the Trinity” while she was on her way out of Mormonism worked exactly like this. She never “read the creeds” or anything of the sort. Rather, she studied the Bible, and according to her own words “came to believe that there is One God expressed in 3 persons because it is what the Bible teaches.”

    All the creeds are are short statements about what the Bible as a whole teaches. I always find it interesting how Mormons jump on the creeds… afterall, you have your own… they are called the 13 articles of faith.

    Darrell

  60. February 1, 2009 9:26 pm

    Seth: if the case is as you say, that the trinity is just not in there (a fair reading of the scripture) then the fields should be ripe for the LDS harvest…just show people that what they have been TOLD is clearly not the case…..

    the JW’s have a similar assignment with HELL……

    you have your work cut out for you

    GERMIT

  61. February 1, 2009 11:29 pm

    The word “one” in the Old Testament gives us absolutely zero guidance on what sort of “one” we are talking about. What sort of unity is being expressed?

    There is no textual reason to believe the unity must be that of substance. Especially considering that “substance” wasn’t even a concept that the Old Testament authors would have understood in the first place.

  62. February 2, 2009 1:46 am

    Seth,

    You said:

    “The word “one” in the Old Testament gives us absolutely zero guidance on what sort of “one” we are talking about.”

    I disagree (I am sure you are surprised!!). We are told in Isaiah over and over again just exactly how the Lord is “one”.

    43:10 – 11 Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am Yahweh and apart from me there is no savior.

    44:6 I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

    44:8 Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock, I know not one.

    45:5 I am Yahweh, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.

    45:6 I am Yahweh; and there is no other.

    45:14 Surely God is with you and there is no other; there is no other god.

    45:18 I am Yahweh, and there is no other.

    45:21 And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.

    45:22 Turn to me and be saved all you ends of the earth; for I am god, and there is no other.

    46:9 I am God and there is no other;

    These verses tell us :

    1) There is only one God
    2) There is no God before Him
    3) There is no God after Him

    We know EXACTLY what God is saying when He says that there is only “one”. He is telling us that HE IS THE ONLY GOD… period!!! This rules out the Mormon idea that there are multiple Gods who are united in “one purpose”. For the Mormon idea that Christ was spiritually begotten of God the Father would mean Christ was a God who came after God the Father. Therefore, Mormon theology violates what Isaiah tells us over and over again.

    What is interesting is Mormons claim that the Christian creeds are manmade creations which violate scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creeds are statements which tell us exactly what the Bible teaches. The creeds came about through the practice of Exegesis. They were read OUT OF the Bible.

    Mormonism, on the other hand, starts out with the a priori position that JS is correct (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate Gods/Beings united only in purpose… Christ was spiritually born to God the Father and thus, is a God who came AFTER Him). Given this position Mormons who study the Bible are forced to read definitions INTO the Bible text to make it fit their already established belief… Eisegesis .

    Darrell

  63. MadChemist permalink
    February 2, 2009 3:40 am

    While it is true that most Christians don’t know what is contained in the creeds, most pastors do, and when they condemn Mormons while feeding their congregations food and candy, they tell them “They’re not Christian because they don’t believe the Bible the same way I do. The don’t believe that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father. They don’t believe in the infallability of the current written text of the Bible. They don’t believe in creatio ex nihilo.” Many pastors aren’t even aware that this concepts are not clearly taught in the Bible. Most don’t know that the Bible doesn’t contain the words “consubstantial, infallible or creatio ex nehilo” yet it doesn’t, search and see.

  64. MadChemist permalink
    February 2, 2009 3:48 am

    Germit:
    I need to take you to town on your misquoting Joseph Smith. You wrote:
    “Mother, I have been shown that the presbyterians are wrong…..’ told to Lucy, I believe, the day after the first vision.

    What Joseph actually wrote was this:
    “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.”

    In my reading, the former, incorrect quote is much stronger than the latter. Do you actually believe that Presbyterianism IS true? Because if not, it’s really a moot point. Unless you’re a presbyterian, you really shouldn’t be upset with the statement because you obviously don’t believe presbyterians are right. Think “Nathan the Wise” by Lessing.

    In a post discussing how “good Evangelicals are at looking at text within its context”, can you see why Mormons do not trust the honesty of Evangelicals in describing the Bible when they can’t even honestly describe modern context? While you admit that you were paraphrasing, you obviously took the least charitable, and verifiably incorrect understanding of the statement.

  65. February 2, 2009 3:50 am

    the bible doesn’t contain the phrase “pre-mortal exitstence” but I think that’s a concept that LDS say is to be found in the Bible….I wouldn’t get too picky on whether particular words are there…..the question is: are the concepts to be found there ?? obviously, you feel they aren’t

  66. February 2, 2009 3:54 am

    How are they “one” Darrell?

    Why do you think it is one in substance? I just don’t see it from the verses you are quoting. The notion of substance itself is an entirely extra-biblical innovation. Nobody in the Old Testament believed in this kind of Neoplatonist gobbledygook.

    How do you keep from the heresy of modalism? Because in my experience, modalism is exactly what an awful lot of Protestant scholars and pastors are advocating (though they’d never admit it). Some of them, in an attempting to overcompensate for what they perceive to be Mormon theology, unwittingly stumble directly into very modalist metaphors and ways of viewing God.

    My experience with American Protestantism is that tri-theism is more common among the regular parishoners (like my grandmother, and a number of other lay Evangelicals I’ve encountered), and modalism has a lot of vogue among the Protestant “elites” (pastors, internet warriors, etc). But I’ve never seen anyone straddle the line that trinitarian thought apparently demands between the two without resorting to either Social Trinitarianism or the modalist/tri-theist heresies.

    For me the only conceivable options are:

    1. Modalism
    2. Tri-theism
    3. Social Trinitarianism

    Nothing else makes sense of the scriptures. Nicene Trinitarianism is a non-option because it simply barely-asserts that it lies between modalism and tri-theism, but never explains how it manages this extraordinary trick in defiance of all laws of logic and common sense.

    I personally choose option 3. It’s the only conceivable way to wed Old Testament monotheism with the reality of the separateness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  67. February 2, 2009 3:56 am

    MadChemist: my paraphrase was really pretty close, the knowledge of Presbyterianism that JS “learned”, you wouldn’t happen to believe that that was gained by REVELATION, would you…?? Just a wild guess on my part. I’m glad to have the exact quote, so thanks, but I’m not seeing where I was “not honest” or even “less than charitable”. I readily admit that I’m capable of BOTH those sins, and much much more…..have you been talking with my wife, or my dog…..?????

    GERMIT

  68. February 2, 2009 2:01 pm

    MadChemist: I missed answering one of your questions; I believe that Presbyterians who trust in Jesus for salvation , by grace through faith, not as a result of works (Eph 2:8,9) are indeed part of the body of Christ; I consider myself “spiritually related” to those folks , even if that’s not where I go to church. It seems when the LDS consider ‘one true church” , you think “organization” or “one particular denomination”. This is very similar to the Roman Catholic idea, by the way. I don’t see “ecclesia” in this way. thanks for the questions.

    GERMIT

  69. MadChemist permalink
    February 2, 2009 6:45 pm

    Germit:
    While I recognize that the word “pre-mortal existences” is not contained in the biblical, I still believe it because it is a part of modern revelation. Therefore, I do not exclude you, Germit, from the broad cloak of Christianity for not believing something that isn’t explictly stated in the bible. I just wish I was allowed the same previledge. I recognize that I believe more than is stated in the bible, but at least I recognize that. Presbyterians also believe things that are not in the Bible, does that make them non-saved? No.
    Further, your inability to parse what was wrong in your paraphrase, well it speaks for itself. I could care less between “learn” and “shown”. You’ve completely ignored the situation. Joseph is speaking with someone he loves very much, his mother, who while a firm Christian, was choosing to associate with the presbyterians. He didn’t say: “You’re wrong, mother! You’re in the wrong, apostate church.” He said, “I have learned for myself that presbyterianism is not true.” That’s much softer. That’s much easier to extract a “portion of the truth” from a presbyteriansim that isn’t fully true (e.i., “not true”) than from a religion that is completely, and totally “wrong.” I think you really think we think the latter, even though, I submit the textual evidence here and throughout Joseph’s life indicate that we should believe the former.

    Finally, while it is true, that today many Christians in the united states are willing to be tolerant and respecting of one another in their various beliefs, to assume that it has always been this way would be a serious historical error. I can accept that you have a modern use of the word ecclesia that differs from mine, but I wouldn’t say going so far as saying the opposite of you is an exclusionary catholic idea. Others, besides the Catholics have held such views in the past.

    FWIW, I’ve usually noticed that anti-Mormons are much more charitable to those in their own churches, families, and pet-owner relationships than they are to Mormons. I’m willing to let your record speak for itself, but perhaps a little evidence of that would help, (e.i., “You’re right, using ‘wrong’ versus ‘not true’ can change the force of the quote, and one should look at the context of the statement before reading the words out of context. I recognize that you, MadChemist, viewed this as less than charitable, but that is not how I meant it, I guess it was more of a misunderstanding of how I read Joseph Smith’s statement”)

  70. February 2, 2009 7:33 pm

    Mr MadChemist: thanks for the reply. let me respond to your points (some of them) as written

    Ive talked with a number of LDS who firmly believed that the Bible was/is clear in teaching the concept or belief of pre-mortal existence, even if the phrase itself is not in there….not that different thant the idea of believiing in the trinity, or the omnipresence of God, etc….for the same reasons. Not sure where you stand on the bible’s view of pre-mortal existence, but it’s in that context that I made my comment, and I’m sure that those LDS believed modern revelation to “flesh out” and make clearer what the Bible said. Your point seemed to be the PARTICULAR words…. and that seems to me to be a non-issue.

    As to JS being softer….perhaps to his mother and immediate family he was, he unquestionably loved his family very much. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at Bushman, Newell , and others…..so I’ll take a “pass” for now as to wheither he was equally charitable to others. I kinda doubt it, but it’s been months since looking into early church (LDS) history, so I’ll take a look at “Rough Stone” in the next day or two. You and I agree to disagree about “not true” vs. “wrong”. I’d place a lot of imortance on “not true”, and to ME, this seems a weightier rebuke. I know that’s not how you see it….. From what I can tell, JS seemed to waffle (you won’t like that word) back and forth , allowing protestants “some measure of the truth” one day, and saying very harsh things about them the next. This does not surprise me, because consistency doesn’t seem to have been his strong suit in many areas, this would be just one.

    If you can show me wrong in any area, I am ready (gulp…) to “fess up”. I’ve made, and will make, errors in my dialogues with mormons. I am far from the answer man, but in this particlular go round, so far, we agree to disagree.

    Hopefully charitably.

    GERMIT

    PS: the “one true church” idea is , of course, NOT EXCLUSIVELY Roman Catholic, and I don’t think I ever made that claim….there are surely dozens of groups presently, and thousands or more historically, who have made that claim.

    PPS: my goal is equal charity to ALL, but charity can take on some unexpected shapes: the ladies doing the “Wives of JS” portrayal outside of one of your pagaents were doing, in my view, a charitable work…..I can understand if you see that otherwise.

  71. February 2, 2009 9:01 pm

    Well germit, I think we are all “softer” on other religions some days than we are on other days.

  72. February 2, 2009 9:27 pm

    Seth: amen to that , and your point reminds me of a true stroy from Mike Spencer internetmonk column of this month:

    a group of christians entered a busy restaurant on Sunday, plopped down, and then forthrightly told the waitress that they would NOT be tipping her because “we don’t believe in working on Sunday….” GERMIT would have very politely poured the hottest coffee I could find on their self-righteous laps….”would that be regular or de-caf ???” In our stand for truth, sometimes basic civility goes out the door.

    GERMIT

    PS: the mgr. of the restaurant ended up waitiing on the zealots……wonder if he was Mormon…..the article didn’t say……

  73. February 2, 2009 9:29 pm

    I agree that some days we are softer than others. For example, earlier I was walking a fine line in rejecting the creeds. I don’t necessarily reject the entire “content” of the creeds, but rather the idea that they are authoritative in regards to the Bible. Case in point: the only part of the Nicene creed that Latter-day Saints really would not agree with would be the statement that God the Father and God the Son are one substance.

    Jessica, I just now realized that I missed your earlier question about the use of “elohim”.
    To clarify, allow me to quote from Mormon wiki. It says basically what I was trying to say earlier:

    “The name Jehovah is today used to represent the premortal Jesus Christ who came to earth as a son of Mary while the term Elohim is used almost exclusively as a name for God the Father, although this is not the way it is used in the Old Testament as we now have it. It seems as if this LDS traditional usage began with the Endowment when Joseph Smith needed a distinct name for God the Father and chose to use the term Elohim to refer to Him. Although this name is appropriate for God the Father, it is important to not retroactively apply this usage to the Old Testament (For example, see Genesis 2:9 where the term Elohim is applied to Jehovah).”

    This is why I said that “elohim” (which is indeed a name for deity) as used in the Old Testament is not believed by Latter-day Saints (or at least shouldn’t be believed) to be God the Father, but rather, the God of the Old Testament, who was Jehovah. But Joseph Smith later chose the name “Elohim” to designate a name for God the Father, but independent of its use in the Old Testament. In short, the two are not understood to be the same thing in Latter-day Saint terminology.

  74. February 2, 2009 10:25 pm

    Seth,

    You asked:

    “How are they “one” Darrell?”

    I see the Bible as being very direct about how the three persons are one. They are one being… God. Let me explain why I don’t have issues with this…

    Just look at what God has created. Billions upon billions of stars. I was recently reading about some of the stars that have been discovered. Some of these stars are a TRILLION times the size of our own sun. Amazing!

    Think about how many people there are in the world 6.3 Billion. God knows how many hairs are each and every person’s head!!! Wow!! In addition, He knows every one of these 6.3 Billion people personally and He knows our problems BEFORE we do. Amazing!! I have trouble remembering what each of my 4 kids had for breakfast this morning!! Much less being able to listen to 6.3 BILLION people talk to me at once.

    Given this I simply do not find it hard to believe that God can be ONE being who eternally exists in three persons. If He can speak through the mouth of donkey to Paul, through a fire to Moses and listen to 6.3 Billion people speak at once, I am sure He has no issues being eternally existant as 3 persons! That is a minor challenge compared to creating a star a trillion times the size of our Sun… not only that but also creating BILLIONS MORE OF THEM!!

    The problem that I see for Mormons is that your theology conflicts with the Bible. In Mormonism Christ is a spiritually born God who came after God the Father. This violates numerous verses.

    In addition, Mormons want to be able to fully conceptualize God. The approach Mormons take is to say… “Well, if I can’t understand it than it must be false!!”. Why does it have to be so? You are human… God is not… why should you be able to conceptualize Him? Tell me where it says you have to be able to understand something for it to be true?

    Mormons simply don’t allow God to be big enough to them. They feel the need to shrink Him down to be able to fit them into their finite minds. Why should a INFINITE being be required to fit into your finite mind? Once you get God BIG ENOUGH realizing who He is is no longer an issue.

    What I know is this… the Bible tells us who God is. He is not 3 separate Gods… one of whom was “formed” by the other. Therefore, Mormonism does not match up with the Bible. The Bible tells us that there is 1 God… and this God has chosen to manifest Himself to us Eternally in 3 Persons. This is the doctrine of the trinity.

    Darrell

  75. February 3, 2009 12:36 am

    That stuff is all amazing Darrell. But here’s the thing – I can actually conceptualize a God who encompasses the universe. I can grasp the idea, amazing as it is.

    But you cannot conceptualize a God who is at once one substance and yet three substances. It is self-contradictory.

    I understand that you are appealing to “the mystery” here. But that doesn’t vindicate an idea that is self-contradictory.

    What cannot be conceptualized by the human mind cannot be believed.

    Omnipotence can be conceptualized. Perfection can be conceptualized. Numerical unity of three separate Beings cannot be.

  76. February 3, 2009 12:45 am

    “But you cannot conceptualize a God who is at once one substance and yet three substances. It is self-contradictory.”

    Correction. It is not one substance and three substances. It is one substance, one being, three persons. This is not a contradiction.

    However, One God (which the Bible says) versus three Gods (actually multiple more gods according to JS) IS contradictory.

    Be honest with yourself Seth…

    Can you understand how God can be in all places at once?

    Can you understand how God who can hear 6.3 Billion people at once and answer them all in an instant?

    Can you understand how God knows the future before it occurs?

    Can you understand how light can travel from the sun to the earth in just over 8 minutes?

    No, you can’t… yet it is all true. So it is with God. It can be true that He is one being who chooses to eternally exist in 3 persons.

    Darrell

  77. Anonymous permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:14 am

    Clean Cut,
    Again………. I am having a big confusion moment:
    You wrote:

    “The name Jehovah is today used to represent the premortal Jesus Christ who came to earth as a son of Mary while the term Elohim is used almost exclusively as a name for God the Father, although this is not the way it is used in the Old Testament as we now have it.”

    “This is why I said that “elohim” (which is indeed a name for deity) as used in the Old Testament is not believed by Latter-day Saints (or at least shouldn’t be believed) to be God the Father, but rather, the God of the Old Testament, who was Jehovah…”

    Old Testament God is Jehovah AND the premortal Jesus? Am I undstanding that right?
    So the God of the burning bush, first covenant, etc. is premortal Jesus? Did I understand that correctly?

  78. February 3, 2009 3:33 am

    “Can you understand how God can be in all places at once?”

    No, because I don’t necessarily believe He is everywhere physically all at once. He might be, but there is no need to conclude this. Either way however, THAT can be conceptualized. The Trinity cannot.

    That which can be conceptualized and that which can be fully understood are two different things.

  79. February 3, 2009 3:35 am

    Now, a question for you Darrell –

    When Moses struck the rock and water came forth, where there two Gods present there that day:

    1. Yahweh
    2. Moses

    After all both had godlike power. Were there two Gods there that day?

  80. February 3, 2009 3:55 am

    How fun. We’re having two separate conversations at once!

    “Old Testament God is Jehovah AND the premortal Jesus? Am I undstanding that right?
    So the God of the burning bush, first covenant, etc. is premortal Jesus? Did I understand that correctly?”

    That’s correct.

  81. February 3, 2009 3:59 am

    Seth,

    I don’t understand the point of your question. Of course there were not two Gods there. You will have to explain what you are trying to say a little more because I don’t follow.

    Darrell

  82. February 3, 2009 4:52 am

    But why would a Protestant say there were not two Gods there?

    Just humor me a bit.

  83. February 3, 2009 6:44 am

    Darrell: I like your line of reasoning, although some might see it as a dodge…..physicists don’t know what to make of matter itself and what to do with subatomic attractions, as it seems the more we know, the more Newtonian physics is thrown on its head….we seem to know what things DO, but what they are exactly have the smart guys scratching their collective heads.

    if it’s that way with the created universe….is it reasonable that we are going to have the trinity hammered out ?? back to the fleas figuring out the rhino……

  84. February 3, 2009 3:00 pm

    Seth,

    I could give several reasons. The most prominent of which is that we know a lot about Moses’ life. He never claimed to be God. He lived a sinful life just like the rest of us and he died just as any mortal does. Therefore, we know that he was not God.

    I think I see what you are trying to get at. Are you are trying to make the comparison between Moses/God and Jesus/God the Father? By showing Moses and God being present when mircales are done you may be trying to show how God the Father/Jesus Christ are not 2 Gods under Mormon Theology. If so, I have to say I don’t think this is a very good analogy. First of all, Christ claimed to be God… Moses did not. By Christ claiming to be God one is forced to take what he says and compare it to what we are told about God in the scriptures. Among other things the scriptures tell us there is only one God, He is eternal and there are no Gods before Him or after Him. This just does not work with Mormon Theology about Christ where Christ is a “formed” being.

    Germit,

    You are correct that someone could assert that I am dodging is a discussion of the molecular nature of God’s being. However, I don’t believe I am doding anything. I will freely admit that I know nothing about the moelcular structure of God… does anyone? Nevertheless, the same could be asserted about many things. Mormons believe in spirits… well, let’s discuss how we can “know” that spirits exist. What is their molecular structure? How do we know they are “matter”? We can’t weigh them. We can’t measure them. We can’t show how they take up space. Maybe they really don’t exist? Scientists can’t explain the nature of DNA which is something God created! How can we expect to understand God’s nature?

    I love what CS Lewis has to say about how the critics and cults attack the Trinity:

    “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother with.”

    In my opinion that is how Mormons work. They don’t really deal well with the FACT that their theology surrounding God does not match well with the Bible. My experience with Mormons has worked a lot like this. When you show them how the Bible contradicts their theology regarding God, they will do one of two things typically:

    1) State that the Bible is wrong, has been changed, and lacks the “plain and precious truths” of the Gospel.

    or

    2) Redefine what “is” is in the Bible… “God didn’t really mean that He is the only ‘one’ who is God”… “They are only ‘one’ in purpose.” In other words, they try to read something into the Bible text that is not there… Eisigesis. In the process, they bring God down to a point where they can understand Him. They simplify Him. What is really interesting is that at the same time their theology brings God down, it also elevates man. They teach that man is currently a “god in embryo” and can become exalted to godhood himself. This is exaclty the sin that Lucifer committed in the garden of eden.

    Darrell

  85. February 3, 2009 3:08 pm

    Darrell: somebody somewhere said, “there is nothing new under the sun…..” your post, to me, is spot on, and that’s why Mormonism reminds me , in many respects, of Greek mythology: men made (quite literally, I guess) in the likeness of GOD, GOD(s) made in the imanges of men and women….. does this sound vaguely like Romans 1 ??

    JS had a knack of knowing which “inventions” were going to be acceptable to the flock, what would sell…..though he did have a tough time with polygamy with many.

    good post, GERMIT

  86. February 3, 2009 3:25 pm

    Actually Darrell, that was not at all what I was getting at.

    I just want it explained why Moses could show divine power, and yet not be God.

  87. February 3, 2009 3:45 pm

    Darrell, have you ever considered reading “How Wide the Divide?”

  88. February 3, 2009 3:49 pm

    “I just want it explained why Moses could show divine power, and yet not be God.”

    The same way God can speak out of a fire or the mouth of a donkey and the fire and donkey not be God. God is limitless and can choose to perform miracles when, where and through whomever/whatever He chooses. Since we are HIS creations He can do with us whatever He wants.

    Darrell

  89. February 3, 2009 4:05 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I actually have it on my reading list (which is rather long). Although, I really don’t need to read it to understand both sides. I was LDS for years and understand LDS Theology very well. I spent years studying both sides (Evangelical and LDS) and can see where both are coming from. I simply believe the evidence shows Mormonism to be false.

    Darrell

  90. February 3, 2009 4:06 pm

    Seth: I don’t quite get your question. GOD of both the NT, OT, and even the BofM has not problem “delegating ” powers to men and women (shudder) in order to reflect who HE is. this is remarkable and woderful and supernatural, but how does this mean GOD’s agents become GOD ?? this is a needless mixing of two different category of being….. was it Peter and John who were “worshipped” after a miracle, and flat out told people “get up off your knees, we are men just like you …..” ??

  91. February 3, 2009 4:16 pm

    Germit,

    Exactly… kind of like the way Christ told us that if we pray anything in His name, believing it will come true, our prayers will be answered. Is is US who does it because we prayed or God? God of course. We have no power in and of ourselves… God has the power and chooses to answer us.

    Darrell

  92. February 3, 2009 4:55 pm

    That’s fine with me, really, if you “believe the evidence shows Mormonism to be false”. I believe otherwise. Nevertheless, I don’t think the point here was to try and prove one or the other, but rather explore how you take things and understand things to mean what you say they mean. In that spirit, I want to commend you in the way you describe evangelical belief in God. I think you speak that language very well. But remember that Latter-day Saints have a different theological vocabulary, and I am recognizing a gap between your theological understanding and your ability to translate that understanding into a theological vocabulary Latter-day Saints can agree with and see themselves portrayed completely accurately. There is plenty we can still disagree on and hold our own views on by getting it completely right, without having to include (intentionally or not) caricatures of LDS belief.

    For instance, you talk of Christ being “formed” being as if that rules out his ability to simultaneously be God himself. You fail to recognize that Latter-day Saints do not hold to the strict wall of separation between the Creator and the creatures that factors into your understanding/paradigm. If I had did indeed hold to that paradigm, as you do, then I could understand why you would find the evidence contradicting “Mormon Theology”. But I do not agree with that strict wall of separation that comes out of creatio ex nihilo. I do not find it to be biblical. Again, we must agree to disagree here, but I find that strict wall of separation between God and everything else (including us) to be a product of the creeds and philosophical discussions rather than biblical.

    Please don’t misunderstand me to be “attacking” your paradigm nor the cherished doctrine of the Trinity. (By the way, you’re absolutely right that just because it is mysterious doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be incorrect, but this goes both ways. Just because our belief about God is less “complex”, or more “simple”, doesn’t necessarily mean that it must be wrong). I’m just saying that we need to work toward becoming more theologically bilingual, and it seems that you are not as fluent in LDS understanding as you think you are.

    I certainly don’t think I’m an expert in understanding both theological vocabularies, but I’m trying. And “How Wide the Divide?” really helps promote mutual understanding and getting past the hang-ups that naturally come when we try to impose our unique biblical paradigms onto the others’ beliefs. I think this is what is happening when you say your view of our theology surrounding God does not match well with the Bible. We, of course, feel that the Bible matches very well with the true nature of God. You and I are viewing the Bible through different lenses, and some of what we may be projecting onto the others’ beliefs are non-biblical assumptions. I do not think there is a single verse of the Bible that I would say is “wrong”, as you claim we do. There is not one passage of the Bible I disagree with.

    You also claim that we try to read something into the Bible text that is not there… Eisigesis. But again, this is a two way street, and we feel that traditional Christians do the same.

    You say we “bring God down to a point where they can understand Him. They simplify Him”, but this just won’t do. It is not an accurate representation of how we also believe God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. We just also believe that we are of the same kind, or species, as God. For us, this doesn’t take anything away from God, as you seem to think it does.

    You are correct, however, that our understanding “elevates man”, because now we are not a different kind or species of God–we are literally the children of God with divine worth and noble potential. Apparently the LDS take the “offspring of God” scriptures more literally than evangelicals do, because when one literally believes that God is our Father and we are His children, it’s not hard to understand how some consider us “gods in embryo” and that can become exalted to godhood, too. This is our belief. But even this teaching is much misunderstood WITHIN the church and is taken too far, beyond what our scriptures say, into the realm of speculation. We will be gods by grace, because God, through the grace of His Son, makes us divine beings and part of the family of God. We will be exalted, but only through Christ who does the exalting and takes away the wall of separation between the Divinity and mere mortals through the the “at-one-ment” of Jesus Christ. But I wouldn’t be comfortable in going so far as to say we believe that we will become worshipped beings ourselves. That’s not official Mormon theology. The goal is to become LIKE God, not to replace or supplant God. We believe we will always worshipped Him and be subject to Him, but it will be from a relationship of “oneness” with Him. See my post http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/01/becoming-like-god-some-things-i-know.html

  93. February 3, 2009 5:10 pm

    Clean Cut: EXCELLENT post….and you”ve hit for the cycle, to use a baseball term , in describing some of the problems with VOCABULARY and TERMINOLOGY. I’d say absoutely on target, but as an apologist (an unapologetic apologist) those like Darrell and myself will always couch the extra-biblical group or belief (at least eventually ) in terms of what we see to be biblical or true. For this reason, our statement will , despite our best efforts at understanding the LDS position accurately, always be seen as CARICATURE and worse. I know that sounds gloomy, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough for an honest orthodox christian apologist to just shrug and say….”well , you see things THIS way….and we see things THAT way…..”

    I can , I hope , charitably, agree to disagree without veins popping and screaming, but my goal is to lead toward what I see as TRUTH. All other goals are secondary, thouigh important: like reamaining civil.

    Put another way: you and your leaders will NEVER be comfortable with my language, it’s a safe bet GERMIT will never be comfortable with yours. Oil and water…….yin and yang…..if you catch my drift…….

    GERMIT

  94. February 3, 2009 5:15 pm

    Seth: it occurs to me, as I think on your question, that the VERY REASON that GOD has, and still does on occaision, delegate those supernatural powers, is to show that HE IS GOD, and WE ARE NOT. HE is playing a ‘risky game’ in this , because as people, we are ALWAYS prone to elevate SOMEBODY…….see Saul in the OT…… but it seems that , to GOD, it’s worth the risk. the gospel goes powerfully forward in the NT era, partly because of the powerful witness (of the power of the RISEN CHRIST JESUS) of ‘signs and wonders’. I’ll won’t go down the “power for today” road just yet……we’ll let the dispensationalists sleep in…….

    GERMIT

  95. February 3, 2009 7:35 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I appreciate your perspective and, in reality, I do respect it. I held a viewpoint much like yours for years. I enjoy discussing different viewpoints/theologies and I am always seeking for better understanding. It is never my goal to belittle or paint false pictiures of another individual’s faith. At the same time, however, I do believe we are in a spiritual battle here. I am firmly of the opinion that Mormonism is false and leads people into spiritual bondage… it is “another gospel” which preaches “another Jesus”. This leads me to approach things with a different, more important goal in mind… to win people over to Christ. If, in that process, I also build relationships or understanding with those of other faiths than I have received the icing on the cake.

    Have a great afternoon!!

    Darrell

  96. February 3, 2009 7:48 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Once again, I’ve learned something new… You said “we also believe God is omniscient, omnipresent,”… I’ve never heard this before. I thought LDS theology teaches God the Father is not omnipresent. I think if we agreed on this attribute the Trinity would make a lot more sense to LDS…

    However, these are some quotes leading me to believe LDS do not ascribe the attribute of omnipresence to God the Father:

    Brigham Young said, “Some would have us believe that God is present everywhere. It is not so” (Journal of Discourses 6:345).

    LDS Apostle James Talmage stated that neither God the Father, nor “any actual person of any one member of the Godhead can be physically present in more than one place at one time” (The Articles of Faith, pg. 39)

    (quotes hijacked from MRM)

    OMNIPRESENCE. Since Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father and God the Son are gloriously embodied persons, they do not believe them to be bodily omnipresent. They do affirm, rather, that their power is immanent “in all and through all things” and is the power “by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:6, 7, 13, 40-41). By their knowledge and power, and through the influence of the Holy Ghost, they are omnipresent.
    http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Omnipotent_God%3B_Omnipresence_of_God%3B_Omniscience_of_God

  97. February 3, 2009 7:56 pm

    “I’m just saying that we need to work toward becoming more theologically bilingual, and it seems that you are not as fluent in LDS understanding as you think you are.”

    I forgot to mention this in my previous post… sorry. I beg to differ on this. I understand LDS Theology extremely well. If you find that I have erred in describing an official LDS teaching please let me know the speciific point I erred on and we can discuss it. In the end, I will either correct myself or show evidence to support my assertion.

    That being said, while you might not PERSONALLY believe something I assert, that does not mean it is not an official church position or is not something that has been taught officially by the church. Many LDS Doctrines have changed dramatically over the years and it almost depends upon which Mormon you talk to as to what theology you might get. I do find that there is a vast range of personal opinions among Internet/Dialogue/Sunstone Mormons which, in many cases, differs with what the Brethren teach and the chapel going Mormon believes. I recently had a conversation over the internet with a person who insisted that the LDS Church does not teach that Christ is a spirit born son of God the Father. When my wife, lifelong LDS, saw what he wrote, her immediate reaction was “What LDS Church does this guy claim to belong to? It is not the one I attended for 37 years!!” Funny!!

    Darrell

  98. February 3, 2009 7:58 pm

    Well, Darrell, I think you have a hard sell if you have to convince me that I have not been won over to Christ or that I cannot partake of His salvation as a Mormon.

    Parenthetically, what a sad outlook to feel that your experience in Mormonism was spiritual bondage. I’ve always felt that it was quite liberating!

  99. February 3, 2009 7:59 pm

    Jessica,

    Yeah, just read Seth’s quote from an earlier post on this very blog…

    “No, because I don’t necessarily believe He is everywhere physically all at once.”

    Doesn’t sound like Seth agrees with Clean Cut about the Omnipresence of God. LIke I said… there is a vast range of opinions among Mormons. That is why one will say we are wrong when we assert “x” and another will insist that “x” is officially LDS.

    Darrell

  100. February 3, 2009 8:08 pm

    Jessica, see page 77 of “How Wide the Divide?” (if you’re still reading it). “While God in the LDS view is not PHYSICALLY present in all things but rather spiritually present, I don’t think this really differs very much from the Evangelical view in which God’s omnipresence is likewise not a PHYSICAL or MATERIAL presence, but a SPIRITUAL presence.”

  101. February 3, 2009 8:34 pm

    CleanCut: I’m the wrong person to be treading here, but isn’t the difference that 1)ev’s hold the Father to be Spirit, not held back by a body, and the Holy Spirit to be equally GOD; I’ve been told by LDS repeatedly that it’s the influence of the Father that is everywhere, and therefore it’s AS IF HE is in all places. Did I hear that wrong ??

  102. February 3, 2009 8:55 pm

    Latter-day Saints also believe God to be Spirit, but not MERELY Spirit. Joseph Smith offered the following revelation regarding the members of the Godhead: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (D&C 130:22).

    But Latter-day Saints do not believe God is confined, or held back, by His body. He has a body, but it does not have Him.

    “God’s divine, embodied being is the center, not the limit of his power. We believe that a tangible glory or light “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne . . . who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:11-13). By means of this spirit, God’s power and influence are present at every point of time and space.” –Bruce D. Porter, in First Things article on “Is Mormonism Christian”, http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6332&var_recherche=mormonism

  103. February 3, 2009 9:27 pm

    “Well, Darrell, I think you have a hard sell if you have to convince me that I have not been won over to Christ or that I cannot partake of His salvation as a Mormon.”

    Well, you are still pretty young. Hang around for a while and who knows, maybe your opinion will change. God can do wonders… 5 years ago my wife was probably more staunch about the Church than you are. Today, she is no longer a Mormon and she could not be happier to be a Christian. Man how things can change!

    Darrell

  104. February 3, 2009 9:56 pm

    Darrell, I agree with your assessment that during the miracles of the Old and New Testaments, there was only ever one Source of power in operation.

    Moses was merely the conduit when he struck the rock and water issued forth. We both agree on this point.

    Let me explain where I was going with this.

    If Moses can create water from a rock by the power of the One God, why can I not create a world by that same power?

    LDS theology always views any divine power we ever attain as being DERIVATIVE from our participation in the One Source of power in the universe – the One God. So it is simply a complete misrepresentation to say that Mormon Doctrine teaches that I will haul my wives off to some isolated corner of the galaxy and set up my own little independent kingdom without reference to the Divine Father to whom I owe my being.

    I mean, do you guys think that I believe I’ll be able to give contradictory orders to my own world contrary to what God the Father wants? Or that I would even be capable of enjoying the presence and power of God if I ever was in disunity with Him?

    Because I’ll tell you right now – I believe no such thing. Never have. And I doubt many modern Mormons (or past Mormons for that matter) do either.

    “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”

    Mormon godhood can only EVER occur in a derivative sense and in total harmony with the Father.

    The One God in the universe remains in Mormon theology.

  105. February 3, 2009 10:11 pm

    Darrell, that really doesn’t address the issue. You apparently never “knew” Christ while you were a Mormon, and now that you do, you’ve concluded that you are now part of “true” Christianity and Mormons therefore are not able to truly know Christ because you never did as a Mormon. But that just won’t do either, because I have already been “won over to Christ” and He continues to be the central focus of my worship as a member of His Church.

    You seem to imply that being a Mormon is all about “the Church” and not about actually knowing Jesus Christ. I concede that there are members of the Church who may have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ, but have yet to truly come to know Christ. (There is a difference between the Church of, and the gospel of, Jesus Christ.) Books like Stephen Robinson’s “Believing Christ” have done wonders for many Latter-day Saints.

    I wonder if you really can’t acknowledge that many (if not most) of us HAVE come to know Him, continue to seek Him, have been blessed by Him, rejoice in Him, and feel the power of His love and grace–all while being a Mormon. Do you REALLY believe that it’s not possible to be a true Christian while also being a Mormon? Or are you suggesting that one must also have the right historical Christian pedigree and believe the extra-biblical creeds in order to know the Biblical Jesus?

  106. February 3, 2009 10:14 pm

    I think what Seth just said backs up what I was saying earlier about Mormon theology.

  107. February 3, 2009 10:39 pm

    Seth,

    You said:

    “LDS theology always views any divine power we ever attain as being DERIVATIVE from our participation in the One Source of power in the universe – the One God”

    Joseph Smith said:

    “…that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did…”

    So, who was God’s God while he dwelt upon an earth and worked his way to godhood? Was God’s God the “One God”?

    Darrell

  108. February 3, 2009 11:53 pm

    Beats me. But there has only ever been One God in existence and that’s all there ever will be. How many beings participate in that reality and for how long they have participated, I can’t really say.

    I cannot speak to God the Father’s past. However, I can say that since God the Father currently participates fully in the perfections that attend the One God, he can speak with full authority in the Old Testament as being the One God. Whether He was always in this state, or whether He only came to participate in this state at some point makes little practical difference to me (I’m willing to be convinced of either position).

    What it boils down to Darrell, is whether we have a God in whom we can trust for life and salvation.

    I do have such a God. And there is only one.

    But not a unity of substance. Rather a perfect unity of love, will, and purpose. A unity so profound that any one member can speak for the whole perfectly.

  109. February 4, 2009 12:02 am

    Seth,

    So God is a reality that one participates in and not a Being?

    Darrell

  110. February 4, 2009 12:04 am

    That’s the kind of speculation that many members get into but we just don’t have answers for. That doesn’t really change the fact that for us, there is one God, or Godhead. The three are one in practically every way, except ontologically, that we can rightfully speak of them as one God (as our own scriptures do) as well as three individual Gods. There is no problem.

    I’ll quote Seth from another blog post:

    “Joseph’s King Follett Sermon seems to imply that God the Father experienced mortality in the same way Christ did – as a perfect and divine individual who laid down his life and was resurrected.

    “But, honestly, we don’t really know. It’s all speculation. Some LDS scholars say God was always God (just in different form), some think he was once a “sinful man.” But doctrinally, it’s anyone’s guess as to the details.”

  111. February 4, 2009 12:06 am

    (I wrote that last entry before I saw Darrell’s most recent entry).

  112. February 4, 2009 1:27 am

    By the way, I highly recommend that article in “First Things” on “Is Mormonism Christian?”. There’s a part from Elder Bruce D. Porter (one of the general authorities of the Church) and then a part from evangelical Gerald McDermott. I, at least, felt that Elder Porter was fantastic, for informed people wanting to know what Mormons believe about Christ. Check it out at http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6332&var_recherche=mormonism

  113. February 4, 2009 1:29 am

    Clean Cut,

    You asked:

    “Do you REALLY believe that it’s not possible to be a true Christian while also being a Mormon?”

    We talked about this on the “Jesus Christ Personage” post of Jessica’s. I will past some of our dialogue on that post below. In short, no I do not think one can be a Christian while still holding to LDS Theology. LDS Theology teaches a “different Christ” and “another Gospel” as warned about in the Scriptures. In my experience in working with and talking to people who become Christians while LDS, I typically find that they don’t last long attending the Mormon Church. They generally have a hard time listening to LDS Teachings each and every Sunday and typically want to fellowship with fellow believers. Most end up leaving the LDS Church to attend a Christian Church.

    Here is some of our discussion from the other post surrounding the LDS different Jesus…

    Clean Cut,

    Are you saying that we should not take the warning in 2 Corinthian 11:4 seriously?

    “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

    I believe this is the most important point to be addressed between Mormons and Christians. It is THE difference. Even Gordon B Hinckley admitted that the LDS Church teaches s “different” Jesus from Christians.

    “The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness [sic] of Times’” – June 20, 1998

    He said this in fact while I was STILL a member of the LDS Church. I remember this VERY clearly.

    You also made some comments about the 8th Article of Faith. So that I don’t misunderstand your position, would you mind clarifying your understanding of the LDS Church’s position on the reliability of the Bible? Thanks!

    Darrell

    Clean Cut said, on January 17th, 2009 at 6:00 pm:

    Darrell, there are “differences” in our belief for sure. We believe in the Christ of the Bible, but not the Christ of post-biblical councils and creeds. I too was there in person and remember when President Hinckley said:

    “As a Church we have many critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient traditions, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes from the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke to them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision of the Almighty Redeemer of the world glorifying our understanding, but unequivocating in the knowledge it brought.” (April 2002 General Conference)

    Both sides accept the biblical teachings about Christ, but we interpret them through different lenses. Yes, this is a difference. No one has ever claimed “we’re the same”. But I’m not convinced that even though we have differences in our Christian beliefs and the nature of God, that necessarily means we’re worshipping a different being, but rather understanding different things about that being.

    As Robinson put it:
    “Evangelicals often accuse Latter-day Saints of worshipping a ‘different Jesus’ because we believe some things about Jesus that cannot be proven from the Bible. However, I would point out that John thought Jesus was crucified the afternoon before Passover (John 19:14; 18:28), so that the Last Supper was not the Passover meal, while Matthew, Mark and Luke say Jesus ate the Passover with the disciples and was crucified the morning after (Mark 14:12, Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22:13-15). Is John (or the Synoptics) writing about a ‘different Jesus,’ or do they simply disagree on the details concerning one Jesus?

    “If some Christians think Jesus had siblings and other Christians think that he did not, or if some think he stayed in Egypt for years while others think it was merely for weeks or months, do they worship different beings? If I think Jesus liked his veggies and you think he didn’t, are we therefore talking about two different people? Some Evangelicals, like the Mormons, do not accept the Nicene and Chalcedonian definitions, I am told, but limit their Christology to the New Testament data. Do these people also worship ‘a different Jesus’ than other more creedal Evangelicals, and are they therefore not Christian?

    “This charge, that people worship ‘a different Jesus’ if they disagree over any detail of his character or history, is simply a rhetorical device, a trick of language. All I can say to it is that Latter-day Saints worship that divine Son of God of whom the apostles and prophets of the Old and New Testaments bear record, and we believe all that they have to say about him. There is no biblical information about the Son of God that the Latter-day Saints do not affirm. If Evangelicals truly worship ‘a different Jesus’ than this, I shall be greatly disappointed.”

    Darrell said, on January 17th, 2009 at 10:27 pm:

    Clean Cut,

    You said:

    “But I’m not convinced that even though we have differences in our Christian beliefs and the nature of God, that necessarily means we’re worshipping a different being…”

    I have to politely disagree with you. The NATURE of the being we worship is how we define WHO we are worshipping. Let me give an example…

    Let’s say you and I met at a Dialoque Symposium and we began talking. In the course of the conversation I mention a friend of mine by the name of John Taylor. You stop in your tracks and say… “wait I know John Taylor too!”! Naturally, we are both amazed that we know the same person. Well, how would we determine if we are speaking of the SAME individual? We would discuss the DETAILS ABOUT THEM!! So, I might say “well the John Taylor I know lives in Atlanta, has 4 kids, is caucasian, works at TBS, etc.” Then, you might follow follow with… “well, I guess we are talking about DIFFERENT John Taylor’s because my friend lives in Utah, works for BYU, has 8 kids and is Asian.” Given these descriptions we would both be able to determine that we are TALKING ABOUT DIFFERENT PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE SAME NAME.

    That is exactly what is happening between LDS and Christians. We talk about worshipping the Jesus of the Bible, however, our descriptions of the Jesus’ we each worship ARE VERY DIFFERENT. Therefore, they are different Christ’s. This is VERY IMPORTANT as the Bible warns that there will be those who preach a “different Christ”. In fact, Christ HIMSELF warned that there would be those doing all manner of good works in HIS NAME but that on Judgement Day He will tell them to “depart from” Him as He “knows them not”.

    Mormons and Christians each preach a different Christ… the only question is which one is correct?

    Darrell

  114. February 4, 2009 1:35 am

    “So God is a reality that one participates in and not a Being?”

    That’s fairly close to what I actually believe Darrell. But my own views are evolving as I learn more. I am also open to the claim of other LDS theologians such as Blake Ostler that God the Father, was always in His current position. This is not an area where I am 100% set in my views.

    Grace vs. works is another area where my views are very much dynamic and developing.

  115. February 4, 2009 1:39 am

    However, I should clarify that “God” is also a person in my view. I worship a personal God. It’s just that that person perfectly participates in the unity required for being God. I’ll admit that the views are not fully formed. But so far, I think they are at least logically consistent.

  116. February 4, 2009 1:47 am

    Clean Cut,

    I think Gerald McDermott does a great job in detailing out the differences between the LDS Nature of God and the Christian Nature of God. This, to me, is the biggest issue for Mormons… by having “who God is” wrong everything that flows from that (pretty much the rest of their theology) is as a consequence messed up.

    Darrell

  117. February 4, 2009 1:48 am

    Darrell, my sincere question for you then is how you define what it takes to truly be a Christian? Are you adding a theological litmus test here? It really doesn’t matter to me whether you think you’re right and I’m wrong or whether you think I worship a “different Jesus” or the “right” Jesus. I have no doubts about my own Christianity, but it certainly is not YOUR brand of Christianity. We can both agree to that.

    But as Elder Porter from the conclusion of that article:

    “Are Mormons Christian? By self-definition and self-identity, unquestionably so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that it is a Christian-faith denomination, a body of believers who worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and who witness that salvation is possible only by his atoning blood and grace. By the simple dictionary definition of a Christian as one who believes in or worships Jesus Christ, the case is compelling. To the title Christian a critic of Mormonism may add any modifiers he deems appropriate—unorthodox, heretical, non-Nicene, different—but blanket assertions that we are not Christian are a poor substitute for informed argument and dialogue.”

  118. February 4, 2009 1:54 am

    Seth,

    Couple of questions:

    1) Who do you worship… the person who is your God or the overarching reality of God?

    2) Is the person who you worship a God in and of himself? Is he only a God because he has become a “member” (for lack of a better way to put it) of this overarching reality known as God?

    Darrell

  119. February 4, 2009 1:54 am

    I felt that McDermott did a fine job of describing Evangelical belief, but not so great (although a valiant effort) in describing LDS belief.

    Anyway, what I mean when I ask you if you’re adding a litmus test is if you feel one must accept the Trinity (and/or understand it properly) to be saved?

  120. February 4, 2009 2:08 am

    Clean Cut,

    Here is a list of beliefs that are basic to Christianity. Numbers 2, 4, 5, and 6 are musts for being a Christian in my opinion.

    1. We believe the Bible to be the only inspired and inerrant Word of God. It is the only ultimate and infallible authority for faith and practice.
    2 Timothy 3:15-16; Luke 24:27; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 22:18; Hebrews 1:1

    2. We believe there is one living and true God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19

    3. We believe that the Lord God is creator and sustainer of everything that has been made and absolutely sovereign over all things. God is holy, righteous, just, good, loving, and full of compassion.
    Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Psalm 93; Exodus 34:6-7

    4. We believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
    John 1:1; Luke 1:27, 31; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 2:4; Romans 3:25; Luke 24:6; Acts 2:23; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:11

    5. We believe in the full deity of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging Him together with the Father and Son in the works of creation and redemption. We believe that for salvation of lost and sinful man, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary.
    1 John 5:7; Matthews 3:16; Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; John 3:3; Ephesians 2:4-5

    6. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith alone. This saving faith is in the sacrificial and atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 5:1; Romans 5:8-10, 19; John 11:25

    7. We believe that faith without works is dead. Repentance, obedience to God’s commandments, love, and good works are evidences of saving faith.
    James 2:8; Hebrews 13:21; Matthew 5:16; Luke 13:3; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:11; Matthew 5:43-44

    8. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by Whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
    Romans 8:2, 9-11, 26-27; I Corinthians 12:4-11; Galatians 5:16-26; Philippians 2:12-13

    9. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost – they that are saved to the resurrection of eternal life and they that are lost to the resurrection of everlasting damnation.
    I Corinthians 15:12-28; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Philippians 3:20-21; John 5: 28-29; Matthew 25:31-41

    10. We believe in the spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:1-14; I Corinthians 12:12-26

    Darrell

  121. February 4, 2009 2:29 am

    I worship a being who perfectly embodies an overarching reality.

    Whether He was always inherently that way is not of huge concern to me. In a sense, all of us have the capacity for divinity within us though.

  122. February 4, 2009 2:34 am

    “Whether He was always inherently that way is not of huge concern to me.”

    So, when this Being says that there was no God Before, After or Besides Him that does not matter to you?

    Darrell

  123. February 4, 2009 3:34 am

    No. Because that statement is still compatible with a number of different viewpoints.

  124. February 4, 2009 4:08 am

    Seth,

    I just don’t see the compatibility. If God the Father is who you worship and he has not always existed as God and is not the only God, how can He truthfully say…

    There was no God before Me, there will be No God After Me and there is No God besides me.

    1) There was a God before Him… as He is an Exalted Man.

    2) There are many Gods besides Him all falling into this reality known as God

    3) There will be many Gods after Him… all of us who will be exalted to Godhood.

    The text in Isaiah does not say there is no God besides, before or after the high overarching reality known as God. The text personalizes it to the specific being who is speaking. It says there is no God before, after or besides this one specific being. He is not speaking about a concept or reality. Rather He is speaking about a personal Being… Himself.

    Another problem with your concept and in general the Mormon concept of God is Isaiah 42:8 where God says “I will not give my glory to another”. How does this work under your concept? This overarching reality known as the “One God” is giving the glory that belongs alone to Him to another – the other men who become exalted/gods. That is a clear violation of this text which says that the One God will not give His glory to another.

    Darrell

  125. February 4, 2009 5:11 am

    Except Jesus Darrell. Did you forget about him?

    Definitely “another.”

  126. February 4, 2009 5:11 am

    If you can logically unify three beings in One God, you can logically unify more.

    It’s really that simple.

  127. February 4, 2009 5:43 am

    Speaking of various interpretations, I just came across this blog post today: Does The Bible Teach Radical Monotheism:
    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/listen-o-israel-yahweh-is-our-god-yahweh-is-one”-does-the-bible-teach-radical-monotheism/

  128. February 4, 2009 12:18 pm

    Seth,

    You said:

    “Except Jesus Darrell. Did you forget about him? Definitely “another.”
    If you can logically unify three beings in One God, you can logically unify more.”

    Here’s the point where the trinity comes in to solve this problem. You are misunderstanding and misrepresenting the trinity. It is not three beings in One God. It is three persons, one Being, one God. Jesus is God… therefore, when Jesus has the glory it has not been given to Him by another Being.

    Under your scenario you are unifying many beings into one overarching reality. As you said in an earlier post it is by the glory and power of this overarching reality that all of the beings act. They have no power and glory in and of themselves. They can’ trun off to a corner of the universe and setup their own camp by their own rules. They act under the authority and glory of this overarching reality. They have been given the glory and power of this overarching reality… a clear violation of Isaiah 42:8.

    Under Mormonism’s theology where Christ is a spirit born son of God the Father you ahve the same problem. Christ acts with Divine Investiture of Authority and is given the Glory of God His Father who was a God prior to Him… that is how He does the things He does. Here is the thing…while on earth Christ accepted worship of Himself on many occassions (Matthew 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 20:20, 28:17, Mark 5:6, John 9:38, 20:28) . Therefore, Christ is accepting worship and glory that rightfully belongs to God His Father… a clear violation of Isaiah 42:8. The Father’s glory is given to another Being… Jesus.

    The Trinity solves this problem… three persons, one being, one God. Mormonism’s nature of God is left with this issue (along with several others) to deal with.

    Darrell

  129. February 4, 2009 12:19 pm

    The smiley face above is supposed to be an 8

  130. February 4, 2009 3:24 pm

    All beings, including God, have power that is in some sense derivative and dependent. God’s own power is dependent on His being in perfect conformity with with the attributes of perfection and righteousness. If He does not live up to these criteria, He ceases to be God.

    God is not God because He has no choice to be otherwise. God freely chooses to BE God. All power and perfection in the universe is derivative, and therefore achievable (though quite decisively beyond the capacity of unaided mortal efforts).

    I do not recognize your distinction between “person” and “being.” It seems to me a distinction without a difference.

  131. February 4, 2009 4:20 pm

    So under your paradigm/Mormonism’s paradigm God is not the Sustainer and Ruler over all…. in otherwords He is not self-existant/self-sustaining. He only rules because He conforms to a standard that is higher than Him… perfection. God does not create or decide the rules/what perfection is… he follows a set of rules for perfection that are above Him. Following those overriding set of rules/guidelines is what allows Him to be God.

    Do I have your perspective correct? Is this an official Mormon theological position in your opinion?

    Darrell

  132. February 4, 2009 11:44 pm

    I don’t know what you mean when you say that God follows a set of rules that are “above him.” What do you mean by “above him?”

    A set of abstract rules are not “above” those who follow them. The law of the United States is not “superior” to those who follow it anymore than the law of gravity is “superior” to those who are bound by it. In fact, I’m not even sure a set of parameters even has any independent meaning apart from those beings who experience them.

    Which makes it silly to even suggest worshiping the abstract “law of the universe” to me. I might as well worship the concept of a triangle because it’s based on logical mathematical laws we are all bound by. Or the color yellow. It’s silly. I don’t worship the laws. I worship He who correctly embodies the highest fulfillment of those laws. I worship a person – God.

    But you are correct that God could conceivably choose to not be God. The fact that He is God is a voluntary action. Which makes it infinitely more admirable in my estimation. His status is derivative on His adherence to a set of laws. Yes.

    As to whether this is an official LDS position…

    I don’t know Darrell. Who cares, really?

    Focus on the Mormons you’ve got at hand now. Worry about the other ones later when you meet them. If you are going to be in the Mormon-dialogue-ing business, you are going to have to learn to interact with the Mormons you have in front of you and stop looking for ways to marginalize and undermine them as representatives of the entire religion.

    Why waste time on a quest for some mythical “Mormon prototype” when you’ve got real Mormons right in front of you?

  133. February 5, 2009 1:54 am

    Seth,

    You are misunderstanding my question and intention for asking it. Humor me.

    Did God create the laws/rules or does He simply choose to follow rules that exist independent of Him? I think I know your answer but I just want to make sure I am understanding you correctly.

    Is this YOUR opinion or do you consider this to be an official doctrine of the LDS Church? If you say, I don’t know, then please tell me where you get this belief from if not from the LDS Church.

    Darrell

  134. February 5, 2009 5:36 am

    I think it’s hard to pin down exactly where we get all our ideas from Darrell.

    To answer the question. I think that principles of perfection just “are.” I don’t think they originate from God (though I think Blake Ostler has pushed the view that they do – but can’t be sure on that). I don’t hold the traditional Christian view of God as the existential “ground of all being.” Though I am willing to let my views evolve on this point.

    I’m hesitant to say that this is official Church Doctrine. I don’t have the sort of in-depth command of official LDS sources to make that claim with confidence. Besides, my experience is that the LDS Church rarely wades much into detailed theology anyway.

    The way I view my own beliefs is that they are a logical conclusion from what I know of Mormon scripture and other Mormon sources. They also come from debating with Mormons and non-Mormons. You are forced to articulate a lot beliefs in a debate, that you never would have bothered much with otherwise.

  135. February 5, 2009 2:39 pm

    Clean Cut,

    What is your take on this? Does perfection originate with God? Did God create the laws or do the laws exist independent of Him? Just curious on your take of Seth’s position.

    Darrell

  136. February 5, 2009 2:51 pm

    Seth,

    Thanks for sharing your point of view. I read a few books by Skousen a fews years back and he shared some ideas similar to yours. What I found interesting was that he did not share the ideas as if they were his own opinion, he wrote the books as if they were official doctrine. His idea that God is only God because the intelligences CHOOSE to obey Him was pretty wild. He said that God tells the intelligences what to do and then has to WAIT on them to CHOOSE to obey. That if the intellegences ever decided NOT to obey Him that God would cease to be God.

    One more question for you:

    Is it your opinion that the God you worship was once a man who has now progressed to become an Exalted Man/God and is, therefore, now a part of this overarching reality of God? It sounds as if that is your position but I just want to be sure.

    Darrell

  137. February 5, 2009 4:52 pm

    “Is it your opinion that the God you worship was once a man who has now progressed to become an Exalted Man/God and is, therefore, now a part of this overarching reality of God?”

    Tentatively yes.

    I used to hold this view more firmly (growing up in the Church). But I’m less, and less bullish on it as I get older. I find the arguments by some Mormon scholars that God the Father was always “God” interesting, and there is a very good chance they might convince me. But for the moment, yes, that is how I read Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon. And I’ve always been a fan of Joseph’s theological teachings.

  138. February 5, 2009 6:01 pm

    Darrell, I appreciate you asking. But it’s all pure speculation. I don’t see how there can be any “official” position by the Church on this because nothing has been revealed or is found in the scriptures about those details. So for me, it really doesn’t matter. I just have faith that God is perfect and thus we can perfectly trust in Him. And one day we can get more answers. It’s interesting to speculate and think about some of this, but it’s not really imperative for me to know that which is not yet known, and which doesn’t affect my ability to have faith in God. I’m sure you understand that, since in your case you still have faith in God even though you can’t really explain (and I can’t really understand) how three persons can exist in one being. As mysterious as the Trinity is, and despite its complexity which you do not fully comprehend, you still have faith.

    However, it’s liberating for me to realize I don’t need to turn from what I do know — like the “mighty change” of my heart that comes from being “born again” in Christ — for what I don’t (yet) know.

    You also asked about God once being a man who has progressed to be God, and that too is a topic where we really don’t have much to go on in terms of details. There is nothing in our official cannon about this, so where did it originate from? It came from one funeral sermon Joseph preached right before his martyrdom. Beyond this King Follet sermon, Joseph never elaborated. So we’re left with various interpretations of what he actually meant by it. So the question isn’t about whether this is an “official” doctrine or not, it’s about which interpretation is correct.

    My understanding has evolved lately about what Joseph was actually teaching. If one is not aware of other possible interpretations/meanings, one can get confused very easily over what to make of the King Follet discourse, whether it contradicts scripture, or what to make of God once being a man, or whether he was not eternally God. I’m guessing that a majority of people are confused because they aren’t familiar with the fact that there are other interpretations. I’m sure that there are many, like I was, who are wondering what to make of it, not knowing whether they should accept it, defend it, ignore it, or do something else.

    I’m fortunate enough to have had interaction with a special “mentor” to better help me make sense of this, and I’m now very comfortable with what I believe Joseph was actually teaching. While I may be confident that my interpretation is correct, I can’t force it onto anyone as “truth” because in reality we don’t really know the details. But it is important, as well as liberating, to know that on some things we are not bound to believe just one way or the other.

    I believe that what Joseph was really saying, and what makes sense to me in view of all the other revelations and scripture that came to us through Joseph, is simply that God once had a mortal experience, dwelt on an earth, “as did Jesus”.

    We know that Jesus, as God, had a mortal experience living as a man on earth. But he was not a sinful man, as we are. He was still divine. So I can feel comfortable that this was what Joseph was saying–not that God was once not divine, but that he too had a mortal experience, as did Jesus. And clearly he felt that was biblical (to paraphrase John 5:19: “the Son can do nothing but which I see my Father do).” But Joseph never expounded upon this. He spoke boldly as a prophet and would fill in some of the theological gaps on which the Bible tends to be silent. Speaking of God having a mortal experience is perfectly believable to me, although it appears to me that it would have been a very different mortal experience than the one we’re presently going through, but I can believe that it’s possible he went through one.

    Nevertheless, some have taken this to mean that God was once MERELY a man, a sinful man, and progressed to Godhood. That would appear to contradict our own scriptures, which say that God is eternally God–thus, I do not subscribe to that interpretation. I may once have out of ignorance, but I think I was wrong to assume as much. But it really doesn’t matter, even if I’m still wrong now. I admit that there is still much I’m still ignorant of. But it’s not central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not necessary for me to know all the details, right now. I’ll tell you what is necessary and central–the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s fundamental–so I’m glad that this is the doctrine that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints focusses on, and not the tangential and peripheral teachings.

    My interpretation is that this would seem to be more of a comfort/funeral appropriate teaching, that he’s experienced mortality and death, like us, but now has taken up His life, as did Christ. Either way, it’s still in line with our doctrine that we will always worship God the Father as our Father, not replace or supplant him. (See Boyd K. Packers talk, “The Pattern of Our Parentage” http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3bf405481ae6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

    We don’t teach that we will ever be worshipped beings ourselves, Gods like God is. We do believe we can become like Him and develop the same qualities and attributes as our Father, and live the kind of life that allows us to be “joint heirs” with Christ and the Father–gods, but gods by grace.

    My understanding of the King Follett sermon, as meaning that God once had a mortal experience, could also very well be scriptural. At least Joseph felt it was. He said he was going to reveal this “secret” by proving it through the Bible. So I, like many other Latter-day Saints, don’t necessarily think Joseph Smith ever taught that there was a time before God was God or when God was merely mortal and not divine. I, like many other Latter-day Saints, believe that God was always eternally God and that there was never a time where he was not God. I don’t accept the interpretation that Joseph Smith taught God was once just a mere mortal and had to grow into becoming a God. I don’t believe that the King Follet Discourse teaches this. That’s not what I believe the “great secret” was referring to.

    Joseph Smith certainly felt his theology was consistent with the Bible. As my mentor explained: “He doesn’t say he will refute the Bible. He says he will refute the idea that God was God from all eternity, but to me it only makes sense to understand Joseph as saying “I will refute the idea that God the Father never had a mortal experience.” When Joseph says “he [the Father] was once a man like us” we need to read it along with the phrase “the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” In other words, Jesus Christ was definitely a man who dwelt on an earth just like us, but he was God and we are not. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I was not. Therefore, to me, it makes sense to understand that God the Father was also God when he “dwelt” on an earth. Thus, I do not believe that Joseph Smith was teaching that there was a time when God was not divine. Rather, he is trying to teach that God the Father experienced mortality. We are experiencing mortality, Jesus Christ also experienced mortality. Experience is the hallmark of Mormonism. We need experience. Even the Son of God needed experience.”

    So the “great secret” would have been that God the Father also once had a mortal experience, as did Jesus. But that’s the extent of our understanding, as nothing more was ever said on this by Joseph Smith, and the Church has declined to issue an official interpretation or understanding. We have the freedom to believe how we see fit in regards to the other interpretations, and frankly, we don’t care that we don’t presently have all the answers yet. So we don’t really feel the need to discuss this doctrine very much because it’s not going to determine anyone’s salvation to believe one way or the other, and to do so would only bring up more speculation that we don’t have answers for.

  139. February 5, 2009 6:12 pm

    I’m also aware of some scholars who point out that the original word from which “eternity” was translated is problematic because it denotes that there were indeed stages, with a beginning and an end. So some can interpret this to mean that God has always been God throughout “our” eternity, but that there was a time before our eternity in which he may not have been God. But again, this is just speculation and is not one definitive right answer. It’s pretty deep, and it’s hard for me to conceive of multiple “eternities”, just as hard as it is to try to comprehend an eternity without a beginning or an end. It’s just mind boggling and mysterious. Can you see why we would tend to stay where we have a solid foundation–and stick with the core and saving doctrines of the gospel? We keep it pretty simple in Sunday School!

  140. faithoffathers permalink
    February 5, 2009 8:24 pm

    Clean Cut and Darrell,

    Interesting topic- one I have pondered a fair amount. I agree with your take CC. Look at the symbolism of Abraham’s sacrifice. His sacrifice was the great similitude of God’s sacrifice of His Son. Abraham of course did not have to go through with killing Isaac. But the symbolism is deep. Now consider modern revelation in the Pearl of Great Price which adds to the history of Abraham. He as a young man (who knows how old) was placed on an alter himself to be sacrificed. He was saved by Jehovah and hence was not sacrificed.

    Now consider how difficult it would be for Abraham decades later to place his own son on an alter and intend to take his life, not unlike what his wicked father attempted with him. The fact that he himself had been in that position adds a boat-load to my understanding of his obedience and the greatness of his soul.

    This adds a little to the question of God having a mortal life. I think there is reason to believe that, yes, God the Father had a mortal experience, but that it was very much like His Son’s mortal life- one of perfection and sacrifice (maybe even as a Savior). The story of Abraham takes the symbolism to this level as well.

    Consider also what I believe is the reference to Jehovah in the Pearl of Great Price as “one like unto the Son of Man.” In other words, is this phrase actually referring to God the Father as “the Son of Man?” And Jesus was “like unto” Him?

    This is a very sacred topic, one I don’t discuss often. But it is beautiful and rich, and hopefully will be shared with respect.

    Darrell- my take on Skoussens ideas are a little different. God is obeyed not because He is dependent on nature obeying Him. Rather, because He is perfectly intelligent, perfectly loving, perfectly just, and perfect in all ways, all elements of the natural world and universe bow to Him and obey Him. In D&C 121, it speaks of an “everlasting dominion… flowing unto thee without compulsary means.” I think this verse adds to our understanding of God. He does not force obedience. All things that obey the laws of the universe obey Him and give Him obeisance.

    Just some thoughts.

    fof

  141. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 5, 2009 9:52 pm

    What a treat it is to stumble onto this thread.

    As a former Evangelical Christian for over 30 years and now LDS Christian of almost 9 years i can appreciate the largely positive tone of this discussion- as well as the fact that it is even taken place at all. There is such a need and hunger for more positive and fruitful dialog between our two groups- a fact i am sure most here clearly realize already.

    While i cannot often justify the time commitment needed to address these issues properly in a written format i am always willing and available to discuss them in person or on the phone.

    If there are Evangelicals here that have questions or that are seeking to understand the LDS paradigm better and would like to discuss them in person or on the phone please consider me available and willing.

    Please feel free to e-mail me anytime at: inhimdependent_lds@yahoo.com

    In Christ,

    -Tad

  142. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 5, 2009 9:55 pm

    …..and LDS Christians are of course always welcome as well. 🙂

    -Tad

  143. February 6, 2009 12:34 am

    I also appreciate that the tone here, while unavoidably confrontational at times, remains respectful.

  144. February 6, 2009 12:45 am

    Agreed.

  145. February 7, 2009 5:43 pm

    I enjoy having conversations where we can challenge one another about our theology without taking offense or resorting to name calling and rudeness. Nothing is achieved by being rude other than pushing someone away. Much good can come, however, from a courteous theological discussion.

    Thanks for the conversations.

    Darrell

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