Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What if I have a Problem with Paul's Interpretation of Jesus?

I was busy Tuesday night, but got a chance to catch 15 minutes or so of Shawn McCraney's weekly TV journey into his misguided attack on all things LDS. One question from a caller was quite interesting for how it illuminated the hypocrisy of Shawn in dealing with LDS beliefs vs. his interpretation of Christianity.

Shawn was asked by a woman caller if he placed the statements of Paul on the same plane as the recorded statements of Jesus. He said he did, as they all came from the same source. She said she did not, as Paul's statements could have been just commentary instead of divine messages.

The hypocrisy here is Shawn has repeatedly attacked LDS statements stating or implying that one cannot be saved without believing Joseph Smith was a prophet. Usually the attack on such statements truncates the explanation that if Joseph Smith was a prophet, one is effectively rejecting God's words, not Joseph Smith's, by denying he was a prophet, and therefore is rejecting Jesus' servants (See Mark 7:7-13).

Yet, here we find Shawn making the same argument. He noted there is very little of Jesus quoted in scripture. The truth is Jesus wrote nothing anyone is aware of. Everything is from inspired servants.

Shawn, can one reject Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul and Moses, and still be saved?

If they are real, inspired servants of God, the answer is 'NO'!

Which is the LDS positioned concerning EVERY WORD of GOD, coming through prophets both recent and far past.

Or, surprise us all Shawn: Be consistent and support the idea one can reject the teachings of Paul and still be saved. It is illogical from a Christian or Sola Scriptura standpoint, but consistent with Shawn's attacks on the LDS faith.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sola Scriptura Not McCraney's Alma Mater

This site is not intended as a weekly comment on Shawn McCraney's video screed of things LDS, but his latest attempt at scholarship is surely worth the look, if for no other reason than there are many laughs to be had. This week he addressed the history of scripture and documents in support of it. It perfectly illustrates the statement that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

The point of the presentation was, as Shawn commented several times, how trustworthy the support for the Bible is, and in particular, why such support is to be rationally discerned as opposed to the irrational support for the Book of Mormon.

Sadly, it would be hard to intentionally put so much misinformation about the Bible together even if I did somehow find it objectionable. I personally find it dangerous to peoples' faith to misrepresent the Bible's history, as it comes across as if one is afraid to tell the truth.

For example, Shawn made a big deal about how the translation of the Bible into Latin was an attempt to take it out of the language of the people to manipulate them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The language of Italy and western Christianity was Latin. Translating it into Latin made it available to many more people, as most local priests could read, and therefore could share the Bible to those who generally could not read. The word "Vulgate", as in "Latin Vulgate", means "common", as in the language of common people. Our world "vulgar" has its roots in this meaning, as something was vulgar because it was "of or relating to the common people"(Webster online)., or as the entry for the Vulgate says, "the speech of the common people and especially of uneducated people" .

His explanation of the coming forth of English Bibles was just sad. He never mentions that the King James Bible was very much just a minor revision of Tyndale's work, which was reused up to the time of the KJV. Anyone reading Tyndale will see it immediately.

His explanation of why there are no original documents by Paul or Moses is also embarassing to listen to, as it ignored the fact we have copies of every Old Testament book except Ruth from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to earlier than the New Testament, written on various perishable media. The original letter to Romans, for example, could have been placed in a jar and sealed up to be preserved, just like the DSS.

He never addressed the fact that 300 years after Christ there are no more than 4 or so complete copies of the New Testament known to exist, and no more than 75 total documents or any length by the end of the 4th Century. (See this link for how those NOT of the Christian faith view the manuscript evidence. It is NOT a "rational" position to contend it is uncontested.)

Again, not brought up is any attempt to show how the Book of Mormon could be compared to the Bible texts. For example, the Book of Mormon plates represent a revision of first hand documents and first hand documents compiled by its authors (Mormon and Moroni). It went through a single translation into English, with relatively few translational revisions. The "documents" (the gold plates) were seen by more than a dozen witnesses, and the translation was pronounced by a voice from heaven as being accurate. This compares extremely well to the Bible's various manuscripts, which suffer from anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 textual variations, a few of which are quite important.

Which is something Shawn never discussed. The Tanner's famously wrote of over 3,000 changes to the text of the Book of Mormon, of which less than 100 where actual revisions to the basic text, the rest being various grammatical changes. By contrast, Bruce Metzger published a companion to the Greek New Testament which lists over 1,800 textual variations he felt rose to the level of needing explanations, of which more than 100 were of such a nature that NO determination of what the original text was can be determined from the manuscripts available today.

In trying to explain the support the earliest complete Greek codexes give to the New Testament, Shawn never once discussed the thousands of errors and conflicts between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, or that some groups actually reject them completely (King James Only proponents) because they contradict the vast majority of much younger manuscripts which are typically referred to as Textus Receptus, or the Received Text.

I have said this before, but the New Testament is my favorite volume of scripture, bar none. After nearly 30 years of intensive study, I see the NT as a do a good friend, warts and all, and I accept it as the word of God. Where I have problems with "Sola Scriptura" is the normal falsehood attached to it that it is inerrant. It simply is a false position to contend that the Bible, any Bible, does not have errors within it. The issue is, to me, do these errors in any way matter in terms of salvation? NO! So I can read the Bible, errors and all, and feel the inspiration of the Spirit bear witness of its truth, without fear of being misled. I don't have to try to harmonize why a faith denys the existence of an organized priesthood, the necessity of baptism, or the fact that men can be exalted. I accept the printed words as written. In some cases it helps to know what the Greek or Hebrew texts say. But most of the time the Bible, any Bible, is clear enough that when coupled with living prophets and the inspiration of the Spirit, there is no confusion.

Shawn has a bias against "organized religions". He does not believe any person has to be involved in another person's salvation. In this he is grossly mistaken, for Paul writes:

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? (Rom 10:13-15)

Paul teaches that only those sent by a Church organization, which teaches the Gospel, can teach the real message of salvation.
28 And God hath set some in the church... (1 Cor 12:28)

Once again we see how just reading someone's tract on the history of scripture can leave you a different message than scripture.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

You Don't Understand the Bible Makes Me A Heretic?

I attended a debate Friday evening between LDS apologist Martin Tanner and Pastor Jason Wallace, a vocal critic of the LDS Church. It was interesting and respectful, but did not really stay focused on the topic of "The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon".

Afterward, a young man, I think his name was Matt, went up to the podium and engaged a few Mormons in his attempt to show LDS views of salvation and Christ are not Biblical. He was talking with Van Hale, whom I respect as one of the most knowledgable and considerate defenders of the LDS faith anywhere, and I chimed in with my own thoughts. As the conversation moved to the idea of salvation meaning exaltation, John 1:1 was brought up by Matt as proof of there being a single essence of God shared by the Father and Son.

I tried to explain the grammar, but he clung to an erroneous understanding (following a misunderstanding of Colwell's rule on the use of the definite article) of the phrase "...and the word was god" to identify Jesus being the same as "god" in the previous clause, "and the word was with god...". This of course creates the heresy of Sabellianism or a form of modalism. Beyond that, it is simply bad grammar.

So I happen to have a copy of pages 8-9 of "A Translators Handbook to the Gospel of John", published by the United Bible Societies, the same non-LDS group sponsoring translations into dozens of languages around the world. It specifically explains that in the phrase "the word was god", 'god' is to be understood as an adjective, and the phrase connotes similarity, not identity. The word has a nature which is like God's, he is not THE God. It specifically cites Moffatt's translation that "the word was divine" as coming very close to being the best translation in the fewest words, though "the word was the same as god" is adequate as well. They go on to explain that the phrase in its use is like a phrase about teaching: ...and Mr. Green was with the teacher, and Mr. Green was a teacher.

Mr. Green belongs to a class of individuals, teachers. Not all teachers are Mr. Green.

I directed him to look up Daniel Wallace's lengthy treatment in "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics", where he points out the same things, noting that the use of "god" in the phrase "the word was god" is a qualitative meaning, i.e., it describes a quality of the word, not his identity.

He insisted I did not have it right, and said he didn't believe me, to which I said I wouldn't expect him to believe me. This led to the question of the Word creating all things ex nihilo, which I responded by citing the verse John 1:1 is paralleling being Genesis 1:1-2, which states in clear terms in the Hebrew that 'In the beginning, when god began to create, he did so out of the existing, chaotic watery mass, and created heaven and earth'. I told him this was a paraphrase, but was very reflective of what Genesis was teaching. Again, he said he did not believe me, and I think it was his Dad who was standing there with him (they looked alike, but I could be wrong), who was adament that this concept of creation was crazy and deminished God, so I told him to look up "Creation" in "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary" or the foot notes to the Net Bible's Genesis 1:1 . I also told him I had had a wonderful, 3 hour conversation with a Jewish Rabbi about this exact topic, in the presence of 4 anti-Mormon friends of mine who had brought him, and he acknowledged that this verse does not carry the meaning that absolute creation of matter is described here.

Matt was thoroughly shocked that his understanding of these issues had a legitimate, scholarly meaning which could support the LDS position. He actually thought I was making it up as I went along, until the debate moderator, who is not LDS, came over and said "Yes, I think I remember reading that", or words to that effect.

Matt has been taught a false tradition by his spiritual fathers, which then leads him to conclude the LDS are heretics. Even after I showed him the scholarly evidence from the photo copies I carry with me of some of these items, he still could not accept his understanding could be flawed. Which is why spiritual conversion by those who seek truth rather than simply to defend their position is predicated on humility. I am not the most humble guy in the world, but I recognize I still can learn from many, many sources, LDS and otherwise. My world is not threatend when I learn new things, because my world view is that of Joseph Smith: Let the truth from all sources lead you where it may.

Any faith which requires a limited understanding of its doctrines to remain faithful is probably a faith with bloggers attacking the LDS faith.

Yes, I am a heretic, because you don't really understand the Bible.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mormon Interpretation of 1 Cor 15:29

Why do Mormons draw support for the practice of baptism for the dead from 1 Corinthians 15:29? First of all, the practice of baptizing on behalf of the dead was not revealed to the LDS Church until 1841. So when Joseph Smith was reading the Bible and performing what has come to be called his Inspired Translation, he did expound on the concept of performing temple work as a proxy for those who had passed away. In other words, the verse is not the basis of the doctrine, but rather is evidence of past practice of a doctrine which has now been restored.

But let's look at two technical points about how this verse is to be correctly understood. The verse speaks in the third person, as written by Paul, about "they" who are baptizing for the dead. Anti-Mormon literature frequently assails this as proof Paul is not saying it accomplishes anything, since he was not sent to baptize. As the reasoning goes, if Paul was not baptizing, then it must not be essential to salvation.

Two points show the folly of the anti-Mormon argument.

1. Paul says he is not baptizing people not because it was unnecessary, but because the people in the Church at Corinth were bragging about who had baptized them (1 Cor. 1:10-17). He notes that by the Spirit "All are baptized into one body," and through that baptism are made partakers of the Spirit.(1 Cor. 12:13). We know from Paul's other letters he believes water baptism is essential to putting on Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Titus 3:5, which uses the word washing, a word which in Greek means to thrust into water to clean something!)

So Paul's point is not that baptism is unimportant so he does not do it, but rather everyone there is baptized, and it does not matter who does it as they are all baptized into Christ's body.

2. Paul is very careful about the words he uses. So re-read 1 Cor. 15, and note the following: Whenever Paul uses a first person or third person pronoun(I, we, they, them), he always is speaking positively about those people, noting they have true faith (see 1 Cor 15:1-3, 9-11, 15, 18-20, 23, 29-32, 34-35, 48-52).

But those to whom he speaks to directly in the 2nd person (ye, you, your) he speaks in rebuke. Starting in verse two (after reminding them in verse 1 he had preached the Gospel to them), he notes their faith may be "vain" because they forget what he preached. He notes among "you" are those doubting the resurrection (vs. 12). He continues a rhetorical approach to their lack of faith by asserting their faith is in vain if Christ did not rise from the dead (vs. 17), and they are still in their sins.

Now comes the critical point of the argument. After discussing the resurrection of all the dead by Christ's atonement (vs 21-22), he notes the order of the resurrection is they who are righteous in Christ, then the rest, until Christ subdues everything (vss. 23-28). And the very next three verses compares everyone he is discussing:

Vs. 29 is about the faith of "they" who are baptizing for the dead, whose faith would be in vain if there really is not a resurrection. So he is identifying these people as faithful in Christ.

Vs. 30 Paul now notes "we" all stand in jeopardy constantly because of our true faith.

Vs. 31 notes "your" rejoicing is flawed because you do not actually believe in the resurrection of the dead, and such non-faith means a consistent response would be to live each day as the pagans, who feed their bellies (vss. 32-33).

Vs. 34 notes Paul is speaking to "your" shame. They need to awake to righteousness and sin not. This goes to the heart of the point that Paul started this passage by noting that "ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:2)

So Paul affirms the correctness of baptizing for the dead, explains why he is not doing so, and reaffirms that belief can save us at this moment, but it is through repentance and righteous living, relying in faith upon the atonement of Christ, by which we will be saved in eternity.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Justification, Works, Deeds and My Salvation

When I hear Shawn McCraney, Bill McKeever, James the screamer or a myriad of other critics talk about the LDS beliefs, either intentionally or otherwise, they get them wrong. I showed an ex-Mormon person I meet with weekly, to discuss LDS doctrine, notes from Shawn McCraney's show on the First Vision. I had added my responses and references, and he turned to an anti-Mormon fellow sitting there with us and said "Shawn should not claim to be an expert on Mormonism." Nearly every "fact" he asserted in his notes was documentably false. What makes one chuckle is McCraney's repeated assertions that Mormons never challenge his facts, they are just frustrated with his doctrinal analysis and Biblical expertise. Of course, that is it.

Not to pick on McCraney exclusively, it is precisely such assertions that make having a conversation with anti-Mormons and some brainwashed ex-Mormons about actual history and doctrine so difficult to carry out.

One problem is that there is no canonized dictionary of the definitions which often get drawn into the contention. So let's pick on what a few critical words mean.

I love the Evangelical argument that Ephesians 2:5, 8-9 that you are saved by Grace through faith. What does that mean? I fail to see the words confession there (Romans 10:9). I don't see believe in your heart. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 basically restates what Romans 5-8 teaches, that we are saved by Grace, but we are required to be obedient to Christ's teaching, thus we must "walk in [good works]". Grace is a gift which is not conditioned on any act of our own. Thus Romans 5:9-10 tells us that everyone was reconciled to God, through the death of Jesus, but "being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The idea here is that we put on the life of Jesus by ceasing from sin and being obedient to the commandments of God.

If I read all the main "Born Again" or "Grace Only" verses, there is no commonality across all of them. In 1 Cor 15:1 Paul specifically says that he is declaring the Gospel. And what does he declare? That IF they remember that Jesus died according to the scriptures, was buried and rose we will be saved. Where is our faith? Where is confession? Where is the sinners prayer?

In Romans 10:9 Paul teaches that if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth, we will be saved. He goes on in verse 16 to explain that belief and obedience are equivalent terms. Where is Grace? Where is the discussion of Jesus dying?

Justification means to make us right before God in a legal sense. We are declared "not guilty" of whatever we did. But Justification is not a pardon of future actions. It is not a blank check to sin. In fact, in Romans 5:18-21, which declares ALL people are made righteous in God's sight through the atonement of Christ, is immediately followed by the very specific teaching of Romans 6 that we must cease sinning, or we are condemned to death. He asks the question:
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Rom 6:15-17
It is hard to imagine a more "Mormon" passage anywhere in scripture, and there is stands in the middle of Romans.

Works are confused between the "Works of Moses" and just being obedient to Christ. Paul does not say we should not obey, he says the idea of "earning" heaven is impossible. You can never get God in debt to you (Mosiah 2:21-25). No matter what you do, God gives us more than we can give him, so there is no way to put him into debt to us and earn salvation.

Moreover, "Works of the Law" is a technical term, and saying "works" (Greek "ergon") in a context of salvation is short hand for works of the Law of Moses. Ergon is also perfectly good to be used in a context outside of the "works of the Law" of Moses, but context makes such usage clear, such as Romans 2:6, 7 ("deeds" and "doing"). Romans 3:27 uses the shorthand "of works" in reference to the Law, and Romans 4:2 is clearly referring back to works of the Law as cited just two verses earlier in Romans 3:31.

This is probably a good point to mention the cultural teaching style was to read the letters to the congregation in a continuous reading. Chapters and verses were not added to the scriptures for hundreds of years. We now routinely see people dividing thoughts into sub-thoughts as if they were detached from the context.

So for a Mormon, myself, I am confident of my Justification. I am equally convinced that I cannot earn salvation, but that I know that as long as I am acting in faith, I am saved. I still have my shortcomings, but that is why Christ asks only for my obedience, not my human perfection.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Romans on Grace, Works and Justification

As a Latter-day Saint, there was a time when the letter to the Romans in the New Testament seemed like a theological maze. Whenever I spoke with non-LDS, they would point to verses in it to support their claim that "Grace only" or "Believe and Confess" were the theological underpinnings.

I took up Romans as my own special project, to try to get my arms around it. After many years of study, I have reached several conclusions which I think are helpful to people of all faiths.

1. The letter to the Romans was primarily written to the Jews of the Church at Rome. Romans 2:17, 4:1, 7:1-2. There are parts written to everyone, but Paul repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament and illuminates what the proper understanding of the role of "works" are in salvation.

2. "Works" are almost always meant to be understood as works or deeds of the Law of Moses. There was an article from Biblical Archeology Review in Nov/Dec 1994 which demonstrated that Paul is almost always using the phrase "works/deeds of the Law" as a technical defined term closely corresponding to writings by the same name in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3. Paul requires obedience as a fundamental condition of faith. Romans 10:16 literally defines it as such.

4. Works differ from obedience and walking or living in Christ because of the intent. Paul talks about works as a way of earning salvation, without a requirement of exercising faith. Obedience not only expresses our faith, but grows it as well.

5. Probably the most fascinating point in Paul's writings, and continuously ignored by those who advocate a "Grace Only" salvation scheme, is Paul's central teachings that through Jesus Christ, ALL people are already saved and justified in the sight of God (Romans 5:18; 7:9); that they retain this state of salvation only by refraining from sin and walking in faith (Rom 6:15-18; 8:1,4) , and failure to do so results in damnation (Rom 8:5-6).

Paul teaches that God is no respector (2:11) of people, and that all have sinned(3:23). He elaborates on this in Romans 5 by pointing out that through Adam, sin entered the world to all people(5:12). He points out, though, that Christ's atonement covers all of mankind's sins, not just those of the believers(5:18). The gift of the Atonement is on all mankind for justification unto life. This becomes the foundational teaching for why we must obey, because the only thing which differentiates believers from non-believers is their attempt to follow Christ and be led by the Spirit. Otherwise they are worthy of damnation, just as the unfaithful are (1:32).

6. Paul's teachings on Election and predestination are exclusively about God's selection of Israel as the channel to deliver prophets and ultimately Christ. This an area of Paul's teachings where he heavily draws on Old Testament verses (Isa 29:16; Jer 18:6) to show it is the corporate body of the children of Israel which God had chosen, and now he had chosen the New Testament Church as the same vehicle for dispensing salvation.

7. Romans 10:9 about confessing and believing is about being taught the Gospel by authorized preachers (10:15) and upon exercising faith, we must be obedient (10:16). Romans 10:13 is from Joel 3:5, and was quoted by Peter at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). When asked by those listening what they needed to do, as they felt the Spirit testify their preaching was true (Acts 2:37), since they already BELIEVED in Jesus, they were told to "repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost...Save yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:38-40)

Paul teaches in Romans that it is through water baptism that one puts on Jesus Christ and becomes the New Man (Romans 6:3-5). Living our life in obedience is our confession of who we are, that is, we are Christ's (Rom 7:4, 12:5).

8. Lastly, Romans 8 is teaching that mankind can become like God. The phraseology Paul uses, calling those who are saved the "children of God", "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ", to be glorified (vss17-18), of which receipt of the Spirit is just the beginning of the gifts we are to receive(vs 23), but he notes that what we are now, even with the Spirit, not even a glimmer of what we will become (vss 19-21). Again, this is consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament that man's destiny was to rule over all the creations of God (Rom 4:13, Ps 8:6).

Paul begins and ends the letter to the Romans by mentioning obedience (1:5; 16:19,26), and he laces it 10 more times directly in the letter, then uses language such as "do" (48 times), walk (6 times), follow (3 times), keep(twice) to emphasize our part in our salvation.

'Faith' in Romans results in obedience, and obedience results in our continuing salvation. It is possible to have Faith without obedience. The lack of obedience leads us to death. Thus James and Paul completely agree that Faith without works is dead, being alone.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pervangelical Ignorance

I don't really like name calling. In fact, I try not to do it at all. But this past weekend at LDS General Conference there was such a farcical zoo created by the Street Preachers, that I sort of figure I need a new name for these folks who claim to be Evangelical Christians. Simply speaking, they are not. They pervert the doctrines of the Bible for their own self-aggrandizement.

One fellow named James is a particularly choice piece of Biblical perversion. He is deceptive and rude, and then resorts to the Bible to claim such rights. Jesus must weep extra hard. The funny thing is he likes to dress up in costumes and wear a cape, but then he calls Mormon men "effeminate". Seriously. His family looked to me like a bunch of demoralized troops run into the ground by an oblivious commander. He strutted around wearing a Satan outfit and tried to be sarcastic. I spoke with him on Saturday, and he asked me where the book of Hezekiah is in the Bible. Of course, it is not in the Bible, and I said so. He immediately responded "Oh, you've seen my videos online." Well, truthfully, yes, but I did not recognize him, and I knew the answer from my study of the Bible.

This kind of person is unChristian at so many levels. Peter advised us to have "answers" to questions asked of us, but to answer with gentleness and respect. No one is asking him questions, he just stands around and yells at people. I was speaking with his family, and he comes over to tell them not to speak with me, and then starts asking questions of me, and when I said he was rude and this was not a conversation, he said he was not trying to have a conversation, he was preaching. I guess I should know a guy dressed as Satan and being rude is probably congenitally unable to be honest in his communications with others.

He is literally so proud of his Bible study experience, he refuses to entertain there could be more to learn. He was attacking the LDS position on the Godhead, and I told him that John 1:1-2 was pretty compelling evidence that there is more than 1 real divine being or God in Biblical Christianity. He said let's read it, and I quoted it to him in the Greek. He started saying that I asserted we should be reading the original documents, and of course there are none, and so I was a fool.

I never said let's read the original documents, since their abscence is well known to any LDS person or anyone else who has studied Biblical Greek. I said let's read it in the original language. Since all or nearly all of the New Testament was written in Greek, and the King James Bible was translated from Greek documents, it seems obvious to me that only a person with highly perverted concepts of what the Bible teaches would be afraid to try to understand the nuances of the Greek language. For example, if you understand that the words for righteous and justified are from the same root, it creates some texture to more fully understanding the use of the two words. If you understand the grammar of John 1:1 it completely changes the meaning of the English translation. The English translation is only valid IF you know what the Greek was saying, or else you walk away thinking God and the Word are just different manifestations of the same god. But that is not what the verse teaches. It is teaching the Word fully posses all the attributes of God, and yet is not the God, but is with God and is himself perfectly described as being god, just not The God. In other words, it absolutely says that God and the Word, who is Jesus, are two separate but equally divine beings. Very LDS from a doctrinal standpoint.

There is a certain part of me which is glad Jim and the other Pervangelicals show up. I doubt anyone has left the LDS Church as a result of the protestors for the past 6 years. No one with questions concerning their faith would ever stop, and as a result they get the good advice they need from their Bishop.

Jesus never attacked or yelled at people not of his faith. Neither did Paul. Nor did any other New Testament teacher or leader. They did attack hypocrites within their own faith, Jewish Pharisees and Judaizers. They preach for belief in Jesus, not attacking other faiths. Which is the LDS approach.

I understand more and more why people who get more and more education leave non-LDS faiths, and why the more one is educated, the more likely they are to be active participants if they are LDS. It turns out people who don't think the world is flat can grasp that God still speaks through prophets, even if those prophets have human flaws. There was a time when the institutions of religion were the champions of education. The hijacking of the Evangelical and Protestant faiths has rendered such zeal unpopular, even persecuted.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is "Anti-Mormon" Codespeak for the "N" Word?

One well known anti-Mormon has written that LDS use of the phrase "anti-Mormon" is equivalent to societal usage of the "N-word" to describe African Americans.

This is a man apparently in search of pity.

You can read his rationale here.

The problem is there is no comparison. Or is there, but not what he wants.

The "N-word" most likely derived from Americanized slang for the French and Spanish words for black, negre and negro. Today the N-word is highly offensive when used in society, (and frankly I am offended at it's use by various African-American music artists who don't seem to understand the harm they perpetuate to themselves and others by its use, but that is another discussion.) though such was not the case in earlier history. According to the 1913 Webster it was considered a vulgar application for negros; and up until the latter half of the 19th century it was not seen as insulting, per se, but rather a description of the color of African Americans as used by virtually all non-African Americans who were oblivious to the racist and arrogant assumptions incumbant upon the use of the word when applied to African Americans.

The difference is any attempt to grab the gravity of this phrase is simply a tasteless abuse of history which testifies to the suffering of slaves, brought against their will and traded as commodities, and given a name of derision.

By contrast, anti-Mormons took the title "anti-Mormon" to themselves in the 19th century. I believe even recent critics like Sandra Tanner have labeled themselves "anti-Mormons".

People bearing such a label don't suffer enslavement. Indeed, they are practically worshiped by various Christian groupies for their "love and heart" for the Mormon people. I have seen this first hand, and you can find plenty of videos on the web showing these people presenting to various church groups.

Many also get "PAID" to do this activity. And they can quit when they want. And occasionally they convert to Mormonism. Try that as one labeled by the "n-word". A slave becoming a white master, if you are going to attempt to co-op the negative connotations of the "n-word". (Yes, a strawman argument, but it just so easily fits the situation. I will try to refrain going forward.)

The term "anti-Mormon" describes something someone does, and it carries no social penalty to use the term, except among the anti-Mormons when they feel it may misrepresent their actual nature. That being said, if they are attacking the LDS faith, then their rejection of the title is more like a pedophile wanting to be called a child lover and not a monster. It does not offend the average Christian who hears the term "anti-Mormon". It does not offend the average non-Christian. It does not offend the average Mormon.

The irony is this is not a term angrily given by Mormons to reluctant recipients. It was a description of people's activities which was gladly received by virtually all such people working against the LDS faith, and worn as something of a badge of honor.

The difference between the "n-word" and "anti-Mormon" is the difference in the meaning of one who is oppressed, and one who is a racist. Those labeled by the "n-word" are involuntarily labeled and have a history of oppression caused solely because of birth circumstances. An anti-Mormon, however, is more like a racist, someone who has chosen to engage in a belief system which attacks others in the belief their system is superior.

Anti-Mormons choose to attack or engage Mormons. People labeled by the "n-word" do not seek the circumstances which bring on its application. You can be a Christian without being an "anti-Mormon", even while disagreeing with the LDS faith. I don't know of any examples where an African American has not been labeled by some ignorant bigot with the "n-word" at some point in their life.

An "anti-Mormon" is essentially a religious racist. We could call them theological skin-heads, or Christian nazi's. Each of these labels bears the implied meaning of a choice. A Christian missionary does not attack other faiths, they preach and invite into their own faith. They may or may not believe their concept of Christianity is the only way to return to God, but they don't attack other faiths when their efforts are lacking. They simply continue in their labors, and move on. Peter tells believers to be ready to give an answer for the reason for their faith, and do so with gentleness and respect. Such attitudes are usually foreign to anti-Mormons.

Anti-Mormons go out of their way to encounter Mormons in the practice of their faith. They don't preach Jesus, they preach AGAINST Mormonism, and Jesus gets thrown in like a toy in a happy meal. And that is what the word "Anti" means. To be against something. And when they say "We love the Mormon people, we just hate the doctrine", this is not true. Virtually every anti-Mormon I know attacks the integrity of LDS leaders at all levels. They attack faithful Mormons as "blind", or deceived, or even, as has happened to me, as a "deceiver". Last time I checked, these are all Mormon "people". These people basically have found a hobby which they usually support via tax free donations. I don't doubt they don't make a lot of money. They don't deserve to, so I won't argue that point. They are getting what they have rightfully earned. But they really love to try to illustrate themselves as somehow being small, diligent humble workers of Christ victimized by a huge, evil Church. It is just so untrue, it is sad.

Unlike times past when anti-Mormons chased the Mormons at gunpoint, modern society limits their attacks to attempting to ruin the religious gatherings of the faithful through verbal abuse and mocking of religious values, or simply lying or misrepresenting historical circumstances to dissuade potential converts and shatter the faith of the membership. I once heard Ed Decker defend his lies about LDS beliefs by saying something to the effect "If you're in a wrestling match with the Devil, anything goes." So for most anti-Mormons, the end justifies the means.

Boyd K. Packer recounted how he was asked "What do you think of Anti-Mormons?", to which he responded "Not very often." He explained the brethren are so busy administering and growing the Church and its affairs, they really don't have much time to spend dealing with anti-Mormon issues. I think they see anti-Mormons as just the dogs barking outside the gates of the kingdom. They make a noise, and occasionally can bite, but they really just mostly seem to do nothing constructive, leaving piles on the neighbors lawn.

Being an "anti-Mormon" means that facts are assembled in a way convenient to your conclusions, regardless of reality. They will argue things like blood atonement, God having sex with Mary, Jesus being inferior, Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre or other issues without any appeal to facts. The main reason LDS leaders don't encourage members to engage anti-Mormon materials is so much of it is a waste of time. Moreover, the responses to anti-Mormons are only of value if they are found and used by those who have read the negative material. So labeling someone anti-Mormon is helpful in understanding they are not interested in growing your faith or knowledge of Mormonism, but just getting you out of the LDS Church. Examples of half-truths and denunciations about Mormons are so broadly available, providing specific examples is probably unnecessary. Answers are readily available at various locations, but I really like the FAIR Wiki for its balance of brief answers with thorough references for further research. Funny how you don't see anti-Mormon's attempting to critique the FAIR Wiki to point out its shortcomings. Why is that? I would say simply because it bites back with truth and facts to vapid attacks.

So there is no material relationship between the "n-word" and being an anti-Mormon. It is just an attempt in my opinion to wrongly attach their choices to the legacy of abuse suffered by those wrongly derided by the "n-word". Shame on those who try to make their efforts appear remotely on a par with the suffering of so many millions of oppressed people.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Has Ad Hominem Been Re-defined?

People see themselves so differently from reality. In fact, due to the filter of our brains, we may not actually ever experience reality.

I was listening to some podcasts as an anti-Mormon and an ex-Mormon were discussing their stories. One guy says he "is not into the ad hominem" (attacks on people disqualify their argument, rather than their arguments). Frankly, I started laughing out loud. This is a man who has literally screamed at me on the street calling me a "deceiver". I handed him a flyer I wrote specifically addressing an activity he likes to do to try to make his point, mostly with Mormon youth. My 2 page flyer lays out every known historical account of the subject, providing quotes and references so folks can look them up themselves. It doesn't mention him or even discuss anti-Mormon claims, so it cannot be seen as a personal attack. It simply lays out those historical figures with first hand knowledge, and the statements they made. He refused to discuss the citations, but instead judged me and called me a deceiver. I am pretty sure that is the definition of Ad Hominem argumentation. It is also technically the logical fallacy of "poisoning the well".

Here is a guide to detecting an Ad Hominem attack:

If the response describes how unenlightened a person is: "They lack the holy Spirit, so they don't understand ...X" In other words, ignore their arguments because they don't have divine guidance. Sort of the defintion of a circular argument ("trust us, we have the Spirit, they don't") with ad hominem thrown in ("Disregard anything he says, he does not have the Spirit".)

Or they beg you not to read or discuss something because of a supposed defect of character: "He is a deciever (liar, fat guy, bald, has freckles, Body odor, etc.)." How does that impact the argument? Isn't the whole point of examing an argument to find out if it is valid? If so, then this type of attack is just to try to avoid having to respond to the questions such a person may create.

Or they tell you the person does not have the right credentials: "He/she does not represent the Mormon Church." Translation: "Their arguments are probably better than what the Church would make, and I don't want to have to deal with them." Sort of the back-handed compliment of the first set of excuses.

Lastly, if you hear someone say something like "I (or he or they) used to be a Mormon, and should know the truth about them." Run away. This is an inverted Ad Hominem attack. It presents as a sole qualification someone's pulse during a period of time. It tells you nothing about what they know, their attitude or participation while a member, or their current expertise on any subject. It is designed to try to cancel out listening to the arguments of Mormons by indirectly attacking their integrity, and once again avoiding discussing the merits of the arguments being presented. If presented as the primary, or in some cases the only, qualification, you can rest assured they don't know anything of a substantial nature. And lest that be taken as an ad hominem attack, I would say check out what they say. If they say Mormons officially believe or did believe in things like God having sex with Mary, or the Adam God Doctrine, or that Joseph Smith practices polygamy simply as a pervert, then there are plenty of non-LDS and LDS sources which can easily refute such assertions. Then you can draw a conclusion about the reliability of this person as a source of information, and not have to engage in ad hominem attacks.

A teacher soon learns which students do their schoolwork because they understand the subject matter. If they constantly produce poor work, the teacher knows what to watch out for, even as he/she reads a bad paper from the student again. The student gets to make his case, he just loses trustworthiness when the work is consistently bad that suddenly he is going to submit something brilliant.

So it is with those who claim to hate ad hominem arguments, and yet resort to such when confronted with arguments they cannot answer. Beware.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do you want Peace, Happiness and Long Life? Be a Mormon!

What is the litmus test for truth?

Is it figuring out really complex theological dogma? Is it being rich in wealth? Is it getting any girl or guy you want? Is it winning an argument?

No. Truth is peace that comes from doing the right thing, even if others don't approve. I know too many folks who struggle in their lives for acceptance by others, precisely because they cannot accept themselves. And if you can't accept yourself, you surely don't feel like God accepts you either.

Simplicity, even amid complexity, brings happiness. So a faithful marriage is better than any faithless fling, flirtation or pornographic titillation can ever be. Because you are accepted of your spouse, and your spouse accepts you. Betrayal in this arena brings some of the deepest pain a person will ever experience. Success brings comfort in the journey.

The higher the quality of life it seems is strangely correlated to the length of life. Looking out for your personal health is an act of love for your spouse, children and loved ones who continually deal with the aftermath of personal neglect even, or maybe especially, after one dies. It seems basic, consistent health choices improve the quality of ones life, whatever the god-given circumstances of the beginning of one's life.

Studies show Mormons spend more time studying the Bible, in prayer, teaching their children and sharing their faith with others, and engaging in service, than any other faith. Studies also show active LDS enjoy the highest sense of life satisfaction of all people. And the IRS has identified the Mormons as the faith most giving of material wealth in America, while they at the same time are the most highly educated of any denomination as well. In fact, surveys show the LDS faith is the only religion in the US where more education is a predictor of religious participation. In other words, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to be an active Mormon, but the less likely to be active in other religious traditions.

Mormon temple marriages have the lowest rates of divorce of any religion in America. Of course it is not the act of being married in the temple, since there are divorces among those people too. It is a commitment to the principles such a marriage is designed to incorporate which helps steer couples through the obstacles of life, and end up still in love.

Probably as a result of the above principles and the traditional interpretation of the LDS health code called the Word of Wisdom, Mormons live on average 8 years longer, with a higher quality and satisfaction, than the US average. This is the longest addition to life of any identifiable group in the US.

Anti-Mormons complain that LDS doctrine is so simple it allows every person their own spin on many doctrines. I don't think that is an accident. God did not ever say a belief in the Trinity as defined in 381 A.D., and not 325 A.D. or some other counsel, is essential to salvation. Being LDS is a simple, comfortable, happy faith. Those who claim otherwise are usually those who think that God doesn't care how they live their lives. To some extent, he doesn't. That is, you can live life as you please, he just doesn't bless those who stray defiantly away. Come back and find peace. There are tests which make it easy to tell who follows the True Jesus:
By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
There are lots of nice people in churches, but Jesus' Church (Matt 16:18) is an institution of love, bringing the fruits of peace, happiness and comfort in the journey. It does not attack other faiths, but invites those in error to come and see where Christ really is.

Peace is the gift He left for us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shawn McCraney's Attitude About Research

I thought those who think I might exaggerate when describing anti-Mormon approaches to research and accuracy being somewhat shy of the mark of "rigorous", here is a statement written by Shawn McCraney about his labeling such work as being analogous to a child molester's abuse of children. Read for yourself:
Re: Van Hale Interview

by Shawn on Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:45 pm

Nothing has changed in my opinion with regard to The Bob and his points. I do not read them because I believe anyone who would defend Joseph Smith's Mormonism is not worthy of being read. I've read Joseph Smith's gospel. I've read LDS doctrine. A self-appointed defender of Mormonism will receive no respect or time from me because no matter what they say - no matter what they say - they are defending Joseph Smith's Mormonism. In my opinion taking the time to listen to their points is like listening to a pedophile promote his own pre-school business - theres just far too much twisted ulterior motive involved.

Hope this helps.

Note that he highlights and repeats the "no matter what they say". Shawn's Born Again Mormon website states its mission to members of the LDS Church is:
...[we] seek to confront and help remove any doctrines which demand anything more than faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
I guess I don't get how to harmonize an outreach to LDS members which confronts their doctrines but avoids talking about their doctrines. Much of Shawn's attack material is designed to attack the human problems of Joseph Smith and his successors. But even when he discusses Baptism for the Dead, he only confronts the strawman he created on TV, and then avoids discussing the LDS evidence with active LDS members. Since he has a section in his "Purpose" area on his website called "To disaffected members of the LDS Church", I assume the section "To members of the LDS Church" means believing members.

But I have learned that nothing is so simple when anti-Mormons are concerned about losing an agrument, or at least looking like they might not be the expert they hold themselves out to be.

Food for thought when you accuse Mormons of not representing themselves. Odds are, they are really not invited.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shawn McCraney: Still Ducking

Check out video reviews on youtube under the answeringantimormons heading.

I called in early to Shawn McCraney's show, Heart of the Matter, because a call screener several weeks ago said I should because I would not make it on due to the time constraints. So I called in at 8:17pm, identified myself, and was told I would be on hold until the other callers got through who were first time callers. At 8:40 pm Shawn noted the lines were full, but no caller information was present, and he had taken about 6 calls so far. Since they only have 4 phone lines, that means he went past me twice, and now was stuck. A minute or two later the call screener, Jeannie, came on and said Shawn would not be taking my call because I was, in so many words, too knowledgeable to let get on the air with Shawn. They said if I was an LDS official, they would let me on the air, but because I was just a knowledgeable Mormon without the "official" title, they did not want to have me on air. Jeannie said lots of Mormons call in to correct Shawn, and she said Shawn was not correct claiming that no Mormons challenged his facts. He just does not let them on the air.

I find it remarkable that the support crew and groupies of Shawn don't understand that someone who claims the Mormons are a Prideful Church of deceivers, don't connect the dots that Shawn is dishonest about his claims about the callers into the show, and they know it first hand, and he does it to avoid engaging knowledgeable Mormons who could correct him. That involves both pride and honesty, and they have first hand knowledge. Go figure. Classic Koolaid drinkers, too committed to act with integrity, I believe. Isn't that what Shawn says faithful Mormons are like? Hmmmm.

Here is the email I sent to Shawn tonight:

Once again I am dazzled by the man who proudly beats his chest and claims time and again that he never gets his facts wrong about the LDS Church, and that no Mormons ever call in to say he has it wrong, standing firmly in the petticoats of his call screeners to make sure knowledgeable Mormons don't accidentally get on the air.

Shawn, it is a lie that Mormons don't attempt to correct your facts. And it speaks volumes that you consider such lies OK because you keep those Mormons off of your show.

Shawn, the more you claim to want to starkly portray the differences between Mormons and non-Mormons, the more absurd your reasoning reveals itself that you don't want to discuss Mormonism with practicing Mormons. If you were not actually afraid of talking to Mormons who know LDS doctrine, why do you limit yourself to the disaffected, uneducated and sometimes genuinely confused? Because your pride won't risk getting bested on your own show. I suspect you may argue with this email, but that too is safe, since it cannot respond.
Have fun, I will put this on my blog at wwwdotpromormon dot blogspot dotcom .
I don't know anyone who can really defend their hero Shawn, but why not send me your thoughts, or maybe tell about your attempts to get on his show. Or attempt to defend him. That would be rich.

Monday, September 08, 2008

State of the Art Anti-Mormonism

I thought this would be a good time to review the 5 "best" anti-Mormon arguments against the LDS Church.

5. DNA and the Book of Mormon. This one started with such promise for the Anti-Mormons. Then LDS scientists pointed out how incapable this line of attack was in actually proving anything, pro-or-anti-, relative to Mormonism. While such one-trick-pony-advocates as Simon Southerton screamed that their position was being ignored or the LDS position was shifting, in the end (and it has in fact reached the end!) the glaring flaws in their argumentation have caused them to once again argue things other than DNA to attempt to support any relevance of their DNA arguments.

4. Monotheism in the Bible. The idea is that the Bible clearly teaches their is only one God, and not a plurality of true, divine beings. This argument continues to come up, despite the fact that the universe of people who have studied Biblical beliefs of God in their historic and linguistic contexts has reduced to specialized argumentation those who seriously advocate this. By that I mean you have to be a conservative Christian who either a.) simply ignores the archaeological and linguistic evidence harvested in droves in the past 100 years, or b.) you argue it is just a matter of heretic liberals smearing the "true doctrine of monotheism" with unjustified interpretation of evidence. The reality is that the work by Patai, Barker, Dever, Mark Smith, Michael Heiser or Jason BeDuhn and virtually all Greek language grammarians make belief in the concept of exclusive and strict monotheism in the Bible as the orthodox belief of Hebrews and Christians impossible to maintain. Not to mention more than a dozen EXPLICIT statements acknowledging the existence of muliple REAL gods, as well as it being the aim of salvation of mankind.

3. Satan and Jesus are not spirit brothers. This is an interesting position because it requires denial of specific scriptures for anti-Mormons to maintain it. In Job 1:6 we have all the sons of God appearing before God, "and satan was among them." We have Hebrews 12:9 telling us the Father is the father of spirits. Since Jesus had a spirit and satan and his devils are also called spirits in scripture, we are left to equate why all spirits are created by the Father but are not really brothers and sisters when it comes to Satan and Jesus. Mormons of course feel this is thrown out simply as a distraction, since at least some early Christians taught and believed this to be the case as well, and it has no bearing on how Good Christ is or how Evil Satan is.

2. Joseph Smith was human. This isn't exactly how they say it. They say things like "how could a prophet do...X?" My current favorite response is to agree, and say if prophets express opinions which are demonstrably false, and contend it is true or a revelation, then we probably have a case of a false prophet before us, according to their standards. Then we read Titus 1:12-13 by Paul: "The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [i.e. lazy gluttons]. This witness is true." If you do believe all people from Crete are lying, evil, lazy gluttons, then this may in fact represent truth to you. For the rest of us, this is obviously Paul's opinion, and a flawed one at that. So now we must decide if should throw out the 13 or 14 letters attributed to Paul (cutting the New Testament in half. That should increase readership!) because of Paul's poor judgment in this area, or if we acknowledge all of the surviving writing attibuted to inspiration by God is filtered through flawed humans. The Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. It doesn't specify the translation is from copyist to copyist, but rather is broader, allowing people to use some common sense.

1. Finally, the #1 Anti-Mormon attack is that Mormons don't honor the role of Jesus. I have heard anti-Mormons say they have sat through entire sacrament meetings on Fast Sunday, and never heard mention of Jesus in the testimonies being born. I will say it here: I think these people are liars. As a convert of over 30 years, I have sat through hundreds of such meetings, and never once had such an experience. If anti's were honest, they would acknowledge that they don't believe in the same God as the Jews or the Muslims, a claim they often make. Neither the Jews or the Muslims believe in a Trinitarian deity. In fact, theologians of both groups denounce Christians as apostate from the doctrines of the Old Testament. Mormons love Jesus. We just don't believe that his theological value is visible to man as the result of unrevealed intellectual reflection to try to harmonize the false concept of monotheism with the dilema of the New Testament witness of a plurality of Divine beings (John 1:1-2).

There you have it, as I see it. What do you think?

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Do Anti-Mormons Read to Lose Braincells

I am a zombie. I have no original thoughts. My mind is filled only with LDS propaganda. I will tell lies if my faith is threatened.

OK, not really.

But I am regularly accused of such things. Just last Tuesday night my anti-Mormon friend Robert Verdin said he thought I probably lie to support my beliefs.

This after he acknowledged after 30 years of evangelizing the Mormons, he had never read the Book of Mormon. On Tuesday he acknowledged that he had not even bothered to look at, let alone read, the 40+ pages I provided him in support of the Book of Abraham, responding directly to attacks he had made.

He is sure the Book of Abraham is false, he said, because Joseph Smith was such a bad guy, it could not possibly be true.

I suppose they said the same things about Elisha after the she-bears tore dozens of children to shreds in the Bible. I am pretty sure personal habits are not reflective of truth claims of a prophet's mission.

But let's exam a couple of claims Anti-Mormons make which require one to actually ignore facts.

Bill McKeever calls me a deceiver because I point out that he ignores the eyewitness accounts concerning the nature of the Gold Plates and their weight. All the witnesses said they weighed 40-60 pounds. Additionally we have statements by his wife, family members and other observers who handled and carried the plates. These included his young sisters, neighbors and friends carrying the plates. This is in addition to the 8 witnesses who testified of the plates dozens of times. Martin Harris held them for over an hour on his lap; Joseph's brother William Smith said they weighed 40-60 pounds, and Joseph is quoted as saying they weighed 40-60 pounds. William Smith also said they were composed of copper and gold. Gold was their color, not their assayed composition. An 8 karat gold ring is a gold alloy and also the color "gold". We know that there is an alloy, Tumbaga, made of Gold and Copper, found in Central America, which is a perfect candidate for the material the Gold Plates were made from.

How much does Bill say they weighed? Somewhere between 100-240 pounds. And his source?

He has none. He has calculated this, or he accepts other people's calculations. But when I point that out, he says I am a deceiver! That makes sense.

Robert Verdin says the figures in Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham, showing a man holding a knife attempting to kill the man on the lion couch, is proof, says Robert, that Joseph Smith was a fraud. Why? Because some Egyptologists have asserted that it should be a picture of a man with a jackal's head with a bird flying over him.

The problem: There are three witnesses who saw the original scroll from which facsimile #1 is made, one of which was a non-LDS minister and critic, who noted there was a man holding a knife. And further, Kerry Shirts has provided references to similar looking artifacts.

As noted above, Robert's response is to refuse to read the material, and instead asserted that NO LDS SCHOLAR CAN BE TRUSTED! Even the other non-LDS folks sitting at the table protested how indefensible such a statement is.

Lastly, I spent three hours talking with a youth group two weeks ago, and two of their pastors. We spent more than two hours discussing the winter 1830 mission to Canada by Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page, and two additional companions, to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. You can read the entire story here. Suffice it to say at the time we both did not understand the issues involved. They argued Joseph Smith was a false prophet based on David Whitmer's erroneous account, and I acknowledged that they were correct, based on Whitmer's account. But I said I did not think it was the correct story. That was true. Sadly, we wasted most of our time discussing something which was false, instead of the Gospel. The sad part is they think they know what Mormonism believes. They don't. They know a distortion provided them by someone who doesn't know what they are talking about.

I discovered today that Rob Sivulka, someone whom I have never thought was much of a scholar because of his sloppy research, now has the Canadian mission on his website as one of the "false prophecies" of Joseph Smith. Oh that he would someday do a little of his own research before he launched on the Mormons. Those actually involved in the Mission believed the revelation received by Joseph Smith was actually correctly fulfilled.

So do Anti-Mormons actually lose brain cells? Of course not. But they do tend to be unbelievably hypocritical in their attacks on LDS gullibility when they typically have their laundry list of false issues they preach. Gullibility is not a disease related to California Seagulls eating Utah Crickets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Earning Condemnation

All mankind is fallen. This is a tenet of every Christian religion or denomination of which I am familiar. But the Bible also teaches that through Jesus Christ, all mankind has been made right with God.

When I tell people this, especially non-LDS, they want to argue the point. Because I would rather discuss than argue, I just turn to the scriptures, and let them defend me:

Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life.(Romans 5:18, NLT)
This would seem to present a significant problem for folks who believe God doesn't really want to save ALL of his children. Don't misunderstand me, Paul is developing a masterful doctrine of LDS salvation between Romans 1 to Romans 8. Being made right, or justified (as many translations render it) is not of permanent duration, and so Romans 6 teaches that even those who believe in Christ will be condemned if they do not obey Christ.

But that is the rub. How can one "obey" anything, if, as many supposed "Christians" teach, God has set in people, without their choosing, hearts which are totally depraved of righteous desires to follow Christ?

In the Old Testament, God teaches that there is a statute for dealing with accidentally killing someone. It is called "manslaughter", and one who accidentally kills another, that is with no intent of doing harm, cannot be held to the usual penalty, which is death. See Numbers 35:9-34.

God absolutely hates scales or balances which are uneven. (Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 20:23)

If only God can put a desire or will into a person to exercise faith, to call on Christ for salvation, then it is impossible for him to condemn to death those who lack that desire. To folks who believe "free will" does not really exist in the sense of being truly free to accept or reject the message of Christ, I am struck by the message of Romans. Christ has already set everyone free.

How long we retain freedom is entirely dependent upon our personal wills being turned to God and faith in Christ. And that is a choice.

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." (Genesis 3:22)
I would welcome someone showing me where this ability to discern Good and Evil was repealed. If such a passage of scripture is not forthcoming, then I must conclude that we each earn our own condemnation, and therefore all of us also have the ability to appeal to Christ and exercise faith unto salvation through the Grace of Jesus Christ. The twisted reading of scripture leading one to conclude we live in total depravity is the work of men, and not God.

Unless, of course, uneven balances are no longer the abomination they once were to God. But that would make him a changeable God, and creates a whole bunch of problems in and of itself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is an "Anti-Mormon"

Is using the term "Anti-Mormon" prejudicial and loaded in attaching negative connotations to a conversation?


It simply explains the activity of the person involved. If someone were truly "Pro-Christ" and loved those involved with Mormonism, they would have the courage of convictions to preach what they believe, and their "Anti-Mormonism" would virtually disappear. They may say something like "We believe temples have been replaced by Christ and the Holy Spirit." They may then say such a relationship to Christ and the Holy Spirit is all that is necessary for salvation. Notice how it is unnecessary to mention LDS beliefs about the temple if they tell you about their beliefs about the temple.

Where is the line that crosses over from "Pro-Christian" to "Anti-Mormon"? Is there anyone reading this who really wonders? When invectives are used to characterize the adherents and especially the leaders of any faith as conspiratorial, deceptive and acting in bad faith, or if false recountings of history are told to provide shock value, or especially if one is paid to tell people about how terrible another faith is, they are clearly an "anti-X". So when you read the comments from Aaron from two posts ago where he acknowledges his sole purpose in engaging me was to waste my time to prevent my interaction with others, and he does so under the guise of being interested in the LDS doctrines, he confirms he is not about preaching what he believes in but working against people of other faiths, in this case he is an "Anti-Mormon".

It seems to me Aaron should be significantly less sensitive about being called an "Anti-Mormon" since he writes that is exactly what he DOES. Let's walk through the logic briefly. Did Aaron speak with me because I was seeking him out to attack his faith? No. Did we even discuss my beliefs concerning his faith? No

Did Aaron use this tactic on anyone among the "Christian" apologists? Ask him, but I doubt it. So this is a special tactic he has reserved for me as a Mormon apologist.

This is what puts the lie to the oft repeated statements "We hate Mormonism, but we love the Mormon people."

I am Mormon. This was an act deliberately designed to interfere with me without regard to my feelings or welfare. It was something he did intentionally. His interest was a lie, and he did it strictly to stop a "Mormon".

That creates several issues here:

It affirms Aaron is an Anti-Mormon. If he doesn't like the title, maybe he should consider acting in other ways. Along with his buddy Mr. Bill, who literally SCREAMS at me that I am a deceiver because I challenge the false representations he makes about the Gold Plates (honestly, it is too funny to watch as he explains why we should accept his calculated values for the weight of the Gold Plates instead of the statements by witnesses, including a reliable second hand account from Joseph Smith.), I must say that I don't really feel, see or experience that swelling tide of love for the Mormon people.

Now if they want to preach what they believe will save people, then more power to them. But their main point in teaching is to create doubt in the youth or others whom they think they can shock with descriptions of LDS history, doctrine or practice.

Aaron's attempt to restrict the use of the phrase "Anti-Mormon" on his own website is sort of an "Alice in Wonderland" approach to not calling things as they really are.

Lastly, I believe the Anti-Mormons provide wonderful examples for the members and investigators of Mormonism. So I like them out there, because in defending my faith their attacks always work to the Church's benefit. As the Church's efforts to promote transparency of LDS history and doctrine continue to be manifested in things such as the "Joseph Smith Papers Project" and more engaging of the Church's critics by informed members, the excesses of Anti-Mormons, and their deceitful tactics, make the contrast between being "Pro-Mormon" and "Anti-Mormons" all the clearer. If they could win in the arena of defending their ideas and philosophies, they would logically want to take that approach. But they don't. Keep telling people the plates weighed 100-120 pounds. Ignore the historical first hand accounts of 40-60 pounds. And then let's let people decide who is grasping at straws, and who is providing accurate history.

Just remember, if Anti-Mormons attempt to disrupt my personal activities as they did in Manti when I am neither an official spokesman for the LDS Church or any other organization, they are firmly in "Anti-Mormon" territory. I am a Mormon, and Aaron was Anti-Bob practicing and defending his Mormon beliefs. I am not an "institution". I am Pro-Mormon.

It doesn't get much clearer.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Respecting People and their Faith

Did Jesus or Paul ever attack someone who held a different faith?

No! Not just "NO", emphatically "NO".

Jesus cut loose on hypocrites of his own faith, Judaism. He never says, "Oh you apostate Samaritans, you're going to Heck." Or, "You Romans are messed up." No. And neither did Paul.

In fact, Paul lived 3 years in Ephesus, where the goddess Diana was revered. After 3 years, Paul had converted thousands, and the silversmiths were losing a fortune. So they whip up a posse to go kill him and his companions, and take him to city hall. The town clerk, realizing he has a riot on his hands, calms the crowd by reminding him they are neither "robbers of Churches, nor yet blasphemers", and if they have evidence or witnesses, they need to bring them forward. No one steps up, and the crowd is dismissed. (See Acts 19:21-41)

Think about it: After 3 years, no one among a rioting crowd could step forward to accuse Paul of preaching AGAINST Diana. NONE. Even though the silversmiths claimed to each other that Paul taught idols were not gods, which would have been blasphemy and treason if had Paul done so (Acts 19:26), the mayor notes it is not the case, and there are no witnesses.

Last time I checked the anti-Mormon sites, they were reminding everyone that Mormons are not Christians. We have a different Jesus. We worship a false god.

WWJD? What would Paul do? Well, we know what they wouldn't do.

So I guess we have another way, besides personal revelation, to know which preachers are corrupt. We can just watch and know that no missionary makes attacking another faith the focus of their ministry.

See Acts 5:42, 17:3; 1 Cor 1:17, 23; 2 Cor 4:5; Eph. 3:8; Phil 1:18; Col 1:27-28; 1 Pet 3:15.

Or I guess we could just ignore the Great Commission, and instead of teaching people to observe the things Christ taught, we could teach against every other faith.

Call us silly, but we Mormons are going to go with the Biblical model of preaching.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

4th Annual Hug Your Anti In Manti

My wife thinks I am nuts. I am back in Manti.

OK, so I went Thursday and was the first target a fellow from Idaho Falls witnessed to. I suspect that is sort of like picking Darth Vader to test out your new light saber you found at the bottom of a power shaft. He seemed a little unnerved, but I was nice. Anyway, after raining on his party, I politely excused myself, and walked off.

I found Aaron Shafovaloff standing in the street, and he was wrapping up speaking with a couple of folks, so I kind of small talked with him. Then he started asking if I believed I worked or merited salvation. Despite trying a dozen different ways explaining that while I believe Jesus is the Savior of those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9), and therefore by implication is NOT the Savior of those who disobey him, our reason for obedience is love, not "earning" salvation, since it is impossible to earn or work our own salvation. He said many Mormons have said we must work to obtain exaltation and therefore we merit salvation. I kept telling him depending upon the context of the statements, people may say that, but if you put the question to them whether they could become perfect without Christ, no LDS with even half a conscious brain in Church could come away thinking they don't need him. I reminded him that President Kimball said no one, no matter how good, could be saved without the atonement of Christ, and that no matter how powerful the atonement of Christ, no one can be saved without doing their part. It is the very nature of a covenant that it is a promise between two parties.

Aaron kept saying that meant I did believe my works merited or earned salvation, and I said "I am just going to stand on Hebrews 5:9, with the Biblical Christians, and that speaks for itself." Aaron's style is to shoot questions at you rapid fire, let you answer a little bit, quickly restate your position into his words turning it into whatever he sees as non-Christian, and then trying to make you see why your statement is false. He was very rude, talking over me, raising his voice, and repeatedly engaging in sarcasm, even though I treated the conversation seriously throughout. A companion of his standing nearby repeatedly tapped Aaron on the shoulder signaling to lower his voice and calm down, and I finally said I needed to move on, to which he replied "I accomplished my goal, I kept you from talking to others." I told him insincere conversation was sinful, and he needed to repent, and I walked away.

A few minutes later he caught up to me, and wanted to say he was over the top and wished me well, and I told him I didn't particularly care, it was obvious he did not really care what the LDS Church or members believe. He said he treated me differently because I am "an arm chair apologist". I told him there is no excuse, and kept walking.

The second night, unbelievably, Bill McKeever had his little wagon again from last year, but this year he had stacks of weights. When he saw me, he challenged me to grab fifty pound of weights and better be able to out run him. One of the kids standing by, a lanky tall teenager all of 140 pounds or so grabbed the weights and casually started walking off. Bill said "Come back", but the kid kept walking, then started running towards the food court. It was funny because Bill had to run after him, but the skinny kid just got tired and had to put the weights down, otherwise a big kid might have made him go quite a distance.

So I of course told the folks to keep asking him how much the witnesses who lifted the plates said they weighed. Since the witnesses said 40-60 pounds, and Bill tells people over 100 lbs, he gets really mad at being exposed as distorting the historical record. Bill yelled, very loudly, about how deceptive I was, and an anti-Mormon fellow whom I have seen before, but who refused to tell me his name, walked over and said "You just have a spirit of contention about you." So I told him I understood Jude in the Bible told us to contend for the Faith, and I wondered if he had decided that portion of the Bible was unimportant, because I found my behavior consistent with scripture, since I don't yell at people or call them names, but just respond with facts and scriptures. He said he had had a stroke in February (I think), and he was here because we needed the truth, and he reiterated how I was just contentious. I told him I was fine with that, that since he did not believe in the full teachings of the Bible, I was comfortable I had the truth, and, as I do with all the "faith only" Evangelicals, I asked him who was it that Jesus was Savior for, those who believed or obey? He said believe, and I asked him why he did not believe the teachings of the Bible, and again gave the Hebrews 5:8-9 reference, and quoted it to him, adding that I found it pretty much indefensible on his part to attack the Mormons as false when he rejected the express teachings of scripture. He got so made, he literally almost started to spit as he spoke. I asked him what happened to that calm, judgmental demeanor he just had, and how I found it funny that because he is losing the debate, he becomes angry. He walked off, and later he walked up to me as I was speaking with Bob Verdin while he was speaking with two teenage LDS boys, and this man told me I was just a trouble maker and should leave. I laughed, and Bob Verdin said "It's alright, he is my friend."

Last story for today. I was standing talking with some of the 34 women and girls who dressed up as Joseph Smith's wives, and asking them who among them had had children other than Emma, and just sort of pursuing the conversation with them, when this short fellow walks up to my right hand side and starts mumbling something. I ignored him initially, and then asked him if he was praying for me. He said he was, and then he proceeded to stalk me for about an hour, everywhere I went. He finally left when he bore his testimony to me that I did not have the Melchizedek priesthood. I told him as far as I could determine, there are only two "true" priesthoods named in the Bible, the Melchizedek and the Aaronic/Levitical. I asked him which priesthood Peter had in mind in 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6? Did he believe a non-Levite could be a Levitical priest, and if not, did that not leave just a single choice? Anyway, after praying for me for a while, he left.

As I walked away that evening, Bill McKeever was with a group of folks and I said something to them which I don't remember, but Mr. Bill started yelling what a deceiver I was, and I respond by pointing out how it surprised me how angry a good Christian like Mr. Bill was, who claimed to love the Mormons and have a heart for the truth. Mr. Bill just kept yelling what a deceiver I was, so I just said "God bless you", and walked away.

"the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center."(1 Nephi 16:2). Especially when they know they are distorting LDS doctrine and history, has been my experience.

More later.