Monday, October 12, 2009

Jesus in Our Midst

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:20)

Most LDS are dumbfounded when they are accused of not being Christian. Not because of an ad campaign from Salt Lake City to be more "Christian", but simply because our lives revolve around following Christ, applying his Atonement to our lives and seeking to experience more of his Spirit in our lives.

Truly, we live "Come unto Christ."

Yesterday being Fast Sunday, I decided to make notes on what people testified about in our meetings. It was extremely edifying, even if not surprising. While there were two instances where people thanked members of the congregation for various acts of kindness they had recently received, the other eight testimonies, by individuals ranging in age from 15 to 70, were all centered on their sense of love for the Savior and the atonement. A couple mentioned their belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored the Gospel, but there was no hint that Joseph was anything more than the messenger of God, and certainly no expression of worship or thought that Joseph was god. Several times statements such as "the Spirit testifies to me that God lives, we are his children, and Jesus' atonement is real", were made. Expressions of feeling the Spirit were often repeated. The sense of gratitude by the youth for forgiveness of sins was expressed several times as well.

I write this because Jesus Christ swore that he would be in the midst of those who gathered together in his name. The Spirit bears witness that is true. Frankly, I have felt the Spirit at times in other churches. But I can say that I have never felt anything approaching the Spirit from people like Shawn McCraney, Rob Sivulka, the street preachers, Evidence Ministries, Mormon Research Ministries, or especially from Sandra Tanner. These people are just lost. Members of the LDS faith believe the Bible and the Spirit, which leads them to truth. People who make their living attacking the LDS or other faiths are by Biblical definition false teachers and filled with the bitterness of the devil, for the devil desires the contention they breed.

We are to contend for the faith. Not against other faiths. If you are looking for God, "Come, and see."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Leaders Fighting Amongst Themselves

I remember how I was told a story about the president of the Church snubbing a group of new members. Seems he was of a different social status than they were, and it just wasn't cool. I often wonder what those members thought. Here you have a brand new Church, a relatively new, 1st generation prophet, and constant new "convenient" revelations to sort out the differences from the Bible. And the president snubs you in public.

Then one of the members of the quorum of the twelve (or fifteen, if you count everyone who was called an apostle at the time), actually called the prophet out. This junior member of the quorum of the twelve had a reputation for being a hot head, in fact was known to be super opinionated, and even wrote things the Church had to remind everyone could be misconstrued. He routinely sounded authoritative, even as he would put in the caveat "this is my opinion". He also would routinely attack traditions people brought with them from their previously traditional accepted faiths.

The Church was accused of being filled with leaders lacking faith, lying about visitations by Jesus, and even denying the traditional beliefs about God. Oh, and the errors in the revelations, don't even get me started. They constantly received new "revelations", and then would actually edit the Bible to support their "convenient" revelations. They didn't write down their supposed eyewitness accounts for 20-50 years after the events transpired, and then they were accused of colluding on those accounts. They constantly argued over which translation had errors, and some of the leaders even speculated that Jesus was married, and they explained to be "born again" meant water baptism.

Still, when the president of the Church was confronted with his bad behavior, he admitted he was wrong privately, but never wrote or publicly admitted to correct his errors about treating people so inconsiderately. How is that for perfect leadership?

Some of you by now have probably figured out exactly who I am talking about. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery? Maybe David Whitmer? Bruce R. McConkie? Or Brigham Young and Orson Pratt? No.

Peter and Paul.

Peter famously quotes Joel in his speech on the day of Pentecost. But he quotes a form not found in any Hebrew or Greek form. Paul free-style quotes the Old Testament constantly in his writings. The fight goes on until today whether the Majority Text tradition is correct or the Alexandrian texts, for the New Testament; and there are thousands of changes between the Masoretic text used for the King James Bible, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The supposed "Q" source for the New Testament Gospel accounts of Jesus' life assume that Matthew and John did not actually experience and write down their own original thoughts, and that Matthew, Mark and Luke copied from some unnamed source for up to 90% of their content.

Peter and Paul of course argued about Peter being afraid to openly associate with the Gentile converts around the Jewish converts. Paul got into such an argument with Barnabus, they actually split up and went different directions. Peter wrote to warn the saints that Paul's writings were sometimes difficult to understand. Peter never admitted he had been chastised by Paul, as Paul describes it in Galatians. Justin Martyr explicitly explains that to be "born again" meant to be baptized in water.

Anti-Christians accused the Christian disciples of being atheists for not believing in the official version of deity. Everyone accused the Christians of stealing Jesus' body, or even that he did not actually die.

Those who do not study history, stupidly repeat it. New Revelation is never accepted as authentic by the majority of the population where it is received. No one, or almost no one, argues with the baptists, Presbyterians or even the street preachers to any great degree, about doctrine. They may not like their methods, but the lies of Hellenization and the Etruscan culture adapted to create the traditional "Christian" Jesus hundreds of years after Jesus and the Apostles passed on, are what made today's Christianity what it is.

The truth is, our leaders are very, very flawed people, and always have been. That has nothing to do with whether God is using the weak things, the imperfect things, to bring about the salvation of humankind. He does today what he has always done: Tells us to listen with our hearts, and at times hold our noses, and believe he still speaks to us. Change is inherent in following a living, speaking Christ.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lessons Learned OUTSIDE General Conference

It is funny how we can lose track of how important the big things are as we argue about the little things. At General Conference, one such point came out clearly.

I spent a lot of time discussing polygamy with the fake brides of Joseph Smith; I spent a lot of time discussing how the Bible is totally at risk if the incorrect Evangelical understanding of the Bible and the use of archaeology is applied to the Bible as Evangelicals attempt to do against the Book of Mormon. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. The Evangelicals refused to believe that most archaeologists don't believe the historical accounts contained in Genesis through Joshua are generally "historical myths" (William Dever). So I showed up with multiple books by some of the most respected archaeologists in the world, who explicitly state that the consensus among archaeologists is those early accounts must be abandoned based on the current archaeological evidence. Their response was "wait and see, it will eventually be vindicated", which I replied, "Ditto", are you willing to withhold judgment about the Book of Mormon on the same basis? After all, there are numerous issues which have been shown correct over time in the BoM, and we have great witness testimony as to the reality of the plates.

So when speaking with a few street preachers after the 2nd Sunday Session of GC, a friend of mine was speaking with them and they didn't realize the teachings of Rev 3:21, that the saved sit on the throne with Jesus, just as God brought him onto his throne. They also denied the ongoing need for apostles or other Church officers. So I jumped in with Rev 1:6, noting that Jesus Christ has made us "kings and Priests unto God and his father". I asked them what positions these were, and what it meant. I also asked them how did they describe the positions, since the verse says he "hath made us", as in present tense, something which is already done. The two theological experts (Kevin and Mark) said, "I don't have a crown, where's my crown?" I told them if they got their act together and got into the Temple, I would tell them all about it.

It seems so obvious that I forget we are blessed with inspired teachings. The whole point of salvation is based on exaltation, which is symbolized by the kingship and priesthood ordinations. Margaret Barker made the point in her December 2008 paper on Melchizedek that the holy of holies was the place where the Melchizedek priesthood transformed men into mini Jehovahs. She points out that there were to be many Melchizedek priests, and that Psalms indicates that Jesus became the son in some form of temple, called simply the "holy mount". She notes that knowledge of the Melchizedek priesthood was well understood by early Christians and the first Temple Jews, but was lost by both second temple Jews and by modern Christianity. She asserts that the entire point of worship and religious observance is found in the symbolism and ordinances of the temple revolving around the Melchizedek priesthood. Since this comes from a non-member, it is all the more enlightening.

But temple ordinances identifying the path to exaltation is so obvious, when you recognize that exaltation, which is defined by the "second Adam", or Jesus Christ, is the restoration of mankind to the "Adamic" state, to receive all things which God has. John perfectly describes this in his Revelation: Based on faith and our commitment to Christ, so long as we have a repentant, humble nature we can be exalted on the same throne as Christ. Not replacing him or removing him, or taking over for him, but through his gift, becoming a king and a priest like him.

Anti-Mormons can scream and yell all they want about the "false Gospel" of the Mormons, but it is reminders when speaking to them at the gates of the temple why John also calls them dogs (defined as: 1) a dog; a man of impure mind, an impudent man), who have no part in the holy city. Jesus says in Rev 1:6 that he has made them Kings and Priest unto God and his Father. Since most "Christians" have no clue they are a King or a Priest, then it sort of goes without saying they have no idea who the master is who is calling.