Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Perfection and "Gar"

Saturday last I spent at Manti, and only spoke with a single individual. His name is Timothy Martin of Watchman Fellowship, an anti-Mormon group which is also "anti" other non-traditional Christian and non-Christian groups. So they make their living attacking other faiths.

Tim spent much of Friday and then Saturday explaining to me that as a Mormon, we are bound by the teachings of the D&C and Book of Mormon to keep the commandments, and that ANY sin results in ALL of our past sins being heaped upon us in a flood of condemnation for our gross disobedience. Though I showed him this was NOT the teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, who on page 361 of his book Miracle of Forgiveness notes we continue to repent and receive forgiveness throughout out lives for our day to day follies, and likewise are totally forgiven of those major sins of which we completely repent, he persisted. He claimed that since God cannot look upon any sin with any degree of allowance, our daily sins would necessarily exclude us from salvation. He ignores the most obvious statements from the scriptures, which he said were the only measure of official LDS doctrine even if LDS leaders, including Joseph Smith, said that the context of such requirements to "keep the commandments" was not perfection in execution but the attitude and desire and general commitment to live the commandments and repent in those circumstances of failure. He said we essentially made a mockery of the weekly sacrament, since we committed to living all of the commandments during the sacrament. I pointed out the sacrament prayer says we are "willing to" keep his commandments, but it is understood that we all continue to fail though we intend to do our best not to sin. Thus we believe it is by grace we are saved after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23), that all we can do is have faith in Christ to forgive us and repent of our sins (Alma 24:10-11), that we are obligated to keep the commandments and repent as we commit sin (1 John 1:5 - 1 John 2:6).

That we must get to a point of not only not sinning, but having no desire to sin is undeniably part of LDS doctrine. Such a state is not only rare, but virtually impossible to see how a mortal could reach that state. Thus Joseph Smith spoke of the path to exaltation as one which is like a ladder which cannot be reached until long after we leave this life. However, that need to keep the commandments and repent as we fail does not bring upon us ALL of our past sins, nor negate the covenant between Christ and ourselves. He is our Saviour. He does not expect us to be perfect in actual deed, but the Bible describes seven people as being "perfect" in the keeping of the commandments. Did they "sin"? Of course they did. But they are described as "righteous" and "perfect".

So are we, as we live the covenant we have with Jesus, which includes exercising faith, living the commandments, and repenting of our sins. "Be ye therefore perfect (Gk: Telios: Complete), even as your father in Heaven is perfect."

So Tim through an interesting test at me. During the course of the conversation he mentioned that I am someone who has apparently studied LDS doctrine and history and Greek. I said I have. As he left, literally the last thing he said to me was, "Bob, what does the greek word "gar" mean?" I said, "Why do you ask? In what context?" He replied, "Just what does it mean?" "I said 'because'."

Technically it can mean a lot of things, in various contexts. For, And, Because. Actually a bunch of words used to translate it. But what was the point of asking. I can only guess that it was his version of a 'pop quiz' because I routinely respond to people throwing out "the original Greek" that I too have studied Greek. In fact I took 1st year Greek TWICE from Salt Lake Theological Seminary. I also quickly tell people I am no Greek scholar, never pretend to be, and frankly am not that good at it. But what it allows me to do is use the tools of the trade with understanding. I have a very limited vocabulary and couldn't teach the grammar to save my life. But that is not the same as saying I don't "get it". I do.

Had I answered incorrectly, I suspect there would be a comment about my Greek abilities being a hoax. Since I got it correct, I am guessing we won't be hearing about it. But these conversations are never about the "real" Greek. If they were, they wouldn't be Trinitarians. OK, that is opinion. But ignoring the meaning of John 1:1-2 in the Greek is a much bigger problem than whether I am an expert.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anti's In Manti

For about the 6th year now, I am in Manti, Utah during the LDS Manti Pageant. This event draws far more anti-Mormons and "missionaries to the Mormons" than any other event in the Church. Typically there are around 120 individuals in the streets around the Manti Temple attacking the faith of the LDS faithful and guests attending the Pageant. I of course say "attacking the faith of the LDS faithful" because their "message" is that Mormons are wrong and should become any flavor of Christian but Mormon.

I have blogged previously on just how unBiblical these "Christians" are in their approach, so I won't belabor that point now. What I find funny is how I am being received by the various Anti's I engage. Whenever I start to talk with someone I don't know, someone walks up to them and either says directly to them or whispers in their ear, "He is an LDS apologist, don't waste your time." I respond that I see this as a great missionary opportunity since these people at least claim to be interested in Biblical truth.

Last night I spoke with Leonard, the ex-Mormon who claims he really was active before he read a booklet which got him on track to leave the Church. I have seen the booklet and sort of scratch my head. Now Leonard talks about believing the Bible, but doesn't know it very well. Cases in point: We were discussing "faith only" salvation, and that it cannot be lost. I note Heb 5:8-9 says that Jesus is the savior of those who obey, which means we obviously have to do more than just believe. Moreover, Mark 16:16 says you must have faith and be baptized, and even more pointedly 1Pet 3:21 says it is "baptism which is now saving us". He actually gets incredulous and doesn't believe the verse in 1 Peter is real until I show it to him. So then he insists that it is not water baptism being discussed. I point out Peter specifically says it is not because of the water washing away the dirt which is saving us, but the response of our conscience to the Spirit. He says "see". HELLO!! He is specifically saying water is involved, but it is not the washing away of physical dirt. I love it when folks think they have this stuff figured out without bothering to study it.

I was speaking with a small group of LDS and non-LDS men, and one non-LDS guy was quoting from "The Miracle of Forgiveness" to try and make some points about how you must forsake all of your sins. I had been preparing to do a sort of fireside conversation down here with anti-Mormon Aaron Shafovaloff specifically on "The Miracle of Forgiveness", and I had my book with me. So I pointed out to the young man that Kimball makes it clear that our progress is expected to include day to day follies, as stated on the last page of the conclusion, but that he is focusing on getting past serious sin and gradually overcoming our less serious issues. He then asserted that we would be in a position of losing our salvation every time we sin and get our sins back to us. I said that while it is possible to lose our salvation, it is not the LDS view that simply sinning destroys our salvation, so long as our desire is to press forward.

He disagreed that we could lose our salvation (my inner voice puzzling "don't they read the scriptures?") So I reminded him that Galatians 5:4 does in fact say that they have "fallen from grace", with the context being they have ceased to obey the Gospel by going back to the Law, and have therefore lost their salvation which is in Christ. He questioned if that verse really meant losing salvation in the Greek, and told him it did. He said "Have you read it in the Greek?" "Yes", I said. "In the Greek, you have read it?" "Yes, I read Greek, I don't have it with me, but I have read it in Greek, and it does mean fallen from Grace."

At this point a guy named Tim jumped in, after a guy walked up to the young man I was speaking with and warned him about me, (I am sooooo dangerous to unstudied anti's :-) ). Tim wanted to prove that Kimball and McConkie taught that you must be perfect in this life to be saved. This is clearly not LDS belief, but this line of conversation always devolves into a discussion of my own sinful nature, and my position that God will forgive me because my attitude is one of wanting to do what is right, and trying to live to that standard, understanding that while I will fail at times, my repentant attitude coupled with my consistent general living of the Gospel is good enough. He wanted to argue that position, but at that point I saw some of my family, and excused myself and visited with them until the pageant began. It was a great night for the pageant, and I stayed to watch it. It was very good.

I plan to put a couple of small flyers together on eternal security and faith and obedience, and so long as the rain lightens up, go have some fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Language of Love (literally and filthy)

At the weekly gathering of anti-Mormons who meet after Shawn McCraney's show, a couple of new people were there. A father and son, they had been members of the LDS church, but no longer were. We had about 45 minutes of very pleasant conversation about work and family, and as they were getting ready to leave, I mentioned I was an active Mormon. Immediately the son commented how "F-ed up" I must be, and while his father asked questions about things related to the temple which he didn't really care to hear an answer, the son kept saying things like "if we were in a court of law you would lose". As I pointed out they were misquoting the first of the ten commandments, (they kept saying the 1st commandment said there are no other gods, instead of we should have no gods beside god, a significant actual and historical difference), they insisted I stop using the Bible to show they were misquoting the Ten Commandments, the information on Melchezidek in Hebrews, and Stephen seeing God and Christ in Acts 7. Instead the son, Maurice, got more and more agitated to the point he looked like he wanted to fight. I pointed out how unChrist-like his demeanor was, and he started shouting, to the point the restaurant staff told him to be quite, as he left using the f-word repeatedly to describe how stupid I was.

Well, I am stupid. But I am pretty sure those words weren't the language of love Jesus intended us to use on our fellow men.

There was the typical bully attitude in all of this as well. Maurice said several times I should go on Shawn McCraney's show and be displayed as a fool. While I have no real desire to be on Shawn's program, Shawn has stated several times publicly he won't have knowledgeable Mormons on his show, and I am told he told some folks I know privately that he would never have me on his show. So Maurice's dream trouncing event of me by Shawn will fall into unrequited desire.

For the record, several of the other Christians around me were mortified by Maurice's conduct, and apologized for his behavior. Reed commented that he felt I certainly had won that exchange. There really is no winner in this kind of exchange because nothing is accomplished.