In Whom Can I Trust?: How I Lost My Faith

November 8, 2008
By

It’s a familiar story: I read a book (or part of a book anyhow) about Mormon History and began to doubt my faith in the LDS Church.

Your life lays on the floor, shattered before you. Are there any pieces worth salvaging, or is none of it worth a darn? Is there even a God? Does life have meaning?

You aren’t sure what to do or where to go from here. You want to believe in God still, because there was so much joy in it, but you can’t just will it to happen over what your brain tells you the truth is. And you feel all alone because there is no one within the LDS Church you can really talk to about your doubts in a meaningful way.

What do you do when you come to realize that you faith had been misplaced all these years? You wish you could die.

I didn’t know about the New Order Mormon community during this period of my life, so I thought I was unique and I was very alone.

Through years of prayer, fasting, giving up on prayer and fasting, returning to more prayer and fasting, and finally receiving definitive answers from God, I emerged with a new, and somewhat uncomfortable, world view.

Rational Blind Spots

It started out as noticing “undesirable” patterns in others, only to start to notice them in myself as well. Sadly, whenever I did notice it in myself, it was already “after the fact” and usually years later, well after any passion over the situation had long since defused.

First, I noticed that other people — as well as myself — have blind spots to reason. In fact, the only time we can seem to consistently accept reason is when there was no or minimal passion involved.

Because of these rational blind spots, people don’t easily drop ideas they hold. Our ideas are part of our identity and part of who we are. Giving them up is a kind of death of self.

However, I noticed two strange exception to this rule of thumb. The first exception was when when there is an emotional reason to change one’s mind also present. In that case a change can happen rather quickly with “new reason” replacing the old.

A real life example: My boss at work couldn’t say enough about how great our company was right up to the moment in which she quit; then she couldn’t say enough bad. She thought she was being reasonable in both cases.

Another example: I didn’t question my beliefs in the LDS Church until there was a moral dilemma (I.e. an emotional issue) involved. I doubt anything else could have caused me to pause at all.

The second exception to when we can give up our ideas is when there is overwhelming social acceptance of our peers of a counter idea. This last is perhaps the most powerful. In studies, it has been found that “social truth” can actually override plain facts, such as getting a person to call the obviously shorter of two lines the longer.

“Just Give Me a Good Reason”

A related truth is that every person I have ever met, including myself, thinks they are an exception to the above rule. Commonly I hear people say “well, I (unlike most poeple) can change my mind if you can give me rational reasons.” (Or, more to the point, they might say something like “If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument …”)

We are all good at thinking of examples of where we changed our minds due to accepting reason and thus we identify ourselves as open minded. Yet, I rarely actually see any one do this in front of me. Have you?

Exception to this exception: I seem to perceive people that I have a high rate of agreement with as willing to change their minds and be open minded more often then I do of people I don’t agree with much. (i.e. “I see Fox News fairly cover the issues all the time, because they care about the facts, but CNN doesn’t!”) I have come to recognize this as a bit of desirable self projection.

The Curse of Certainty?

I also noticed that people felt certain about things they couldn’t rationally be certain of. In fact, uncertainty was a rarity except when the subject didn’t matter to the person. I found I could easily be uncertain about Bigfoot’s existence, but not about the rightness or wrongness of my spiritual or political beliefs.

Also, people tend to be very good at explaining that they used to be so certain, and they are sure glad they aren’t like that any more, all while being so certain of whatever their new beliefs are.

For a good example of a post on Mormon Matters guilty of this, click here.

“Other People Just Can’t Critically Think Like I Can!”

I noticed that people, including myself, can easily see the problems inherit in someone else’s beliefs, often quite accurately, but not in their own.

A libertarian friend was fond of saying that “other people” don’t “think critically.” His complaints about conservative and liberal beliefs were often factually true and good examples of out of the box thinking. Yet he couldn’t think critically of his own libertarian beliefs if his life depended on it. This, unfortunately, led him into some rather wacky conspiracy theories that everyone around him could see only a non-critical thinker could believe.  It also made it impossible for other people to separate his good thinking from his bad thinking.

The Power of Stories

We’re suckers for a good story. Our rational processes seemed to collapse around them. O.J. Simpson ran from the law because he was guilty. Thus I knew for certain he was guilty. And why else would Saddam Husein refuse to fully cooperate other than because he was hiding weapons of mass destruction? Thus I knew he had weapons of mass destruction.

First Impressions

I observed that what information we receive first has a huge impact on us. Truly first impressions matter the most — and you really do need to go tell your boss your side of the story before your co-worker does.

This last is particularly humbling because it means I’m easily manipulated. To use an example from Church History: if I were told by someone that Joseph Smith only mentioned one personage in his 1832 account of the First Vision because he made up the two personages later, this idea will “stick” in my mind. Even reading the actual account (which actually mentions no personages at all) would not change my mind because I’m already primed to interpret a lack of two personages as meaning one personage.

But suppose that same person told me that Joseph Smith didn’t want to expose the world and the Church to the physical separateness of the Trinity because they weren’t ready for it; so Joseph choose to hide that fact in his 1832 account of the First Vision by generically referring to both personages as “the Lord.” Now I’m primed to read the 1832 account of the First Vision in such a way that it seems completely in agreement with the 1839 account and you’ll never convince me that Joseph only saw one personage.

If later I hear someone say that the 1832 account only mentions one personage, I’m actually now primed to think of that person as lying since I know (or at least think I know) that it doesn’t mention any number of personages at all and it’s really obvious to anyone “who is sincerely reading what it says.”

In Whom Do You Trust?

Humbled by these realizations, I was further humbled to realize that knowing I was a defective thinker didn’t actually stop me from continuing to be a defective thinker.

What do you do when you come to realize that your faith has been misplaced all these years? I wanted to die. For in Whom can I trust and place my faith if I can’t trust my own brain?

  • http://velska.wordpress.com/ Velska

    “knowing I was a defective thinker didn’t actually stop me from continuing to be a defective thinker”

    A gem! I have found same tendencies myself.

    As for certainties, I have often said that there is far less certainty in reality – to exist in reality you have to learn to live with uncertainty.

    But even in the uncertain reality, Faith can sustain us. Really. Your example about the First Vision is a good way of proving how prone we are to interpret things in a way that support our view. So you get to decide what it means? More or less… But what it’s effect on your life is, that’s what counts (see Moroni 7:16-17).

  • James

    Bruce this is absolutely fantastic – full of gems!!

  • Jerry

    Great reading, My faith was tested when I realized my mission president would make up any truth he felt like needed to be said. He would contradict himself from one day to the next. Needless to say I don’t see my leadership as infallible but I do need and rely on my faith in Christ. Of course as you pont out I do see myself as having infallible logic.

  • GBSmith

    Just a few thoughts about the points you make:

    “However, I noticed two strange exception to this rule of thumb. The first exception was when when there is an emotional reason to change one’s mind also present. In that case a change can happen rather quickly with “new reason” replacing the old.”

    Some would argue that the experience that allows you to believe again is an emotional one. A person hasn’t found the flaw or fault in the thing that caused their faith to crumble but something has happened to cause it to not matter and emotion more than anything can allow us to set aside reason.

    “I also noticed that people felt certain about things they couldn’t rationally be certain of. In fact, uncertainty was a rarity except when the subject didn’t matter to the person.”

    Again once the thing is fixed in the mind as true, then we feel comfortable and often compelled to declare it’s truth. I remember once seeing a teenager affirm the truth of the 6 day creation saying that she just knew that that’s the way it was and by inference any evidence to the contrary didn’t matter.

    “Also, people tend to be very good at explaining that they used to be so certain, and they are sure glad they aren’t like that any more, all while being so certain of whatever their new beliefs are.”

    …or aren’t. It’s always interesting to me to see how easily we can bear out testimonies to what isn’t true when our faith is gone. It’s like the spirit in disguise bore witness that something wasn’t.

    “I observed that what information we receive first has a huge impact on us.”

    It becomes the benchmark against which everything is judged after that and that is why it is so wrenching when faith is lost. A person has lost their anchor and that’s not a good feeling when you’re at sea or ashore.

    “For in Whom can I trust and place my faith if I can’t trust my own brain?”

    Probably nothing or no one but it’s best not to think about that.

  • Blake

    “or in Whom can I trust and place my faith if I can’t trust my own brain?”

    Well, I don’t trust your brain. It only knows a beginning and an end and will never grasp eternity. I say trust your heart and let it enlighten and inspire your brain with insight and breakthroughs.

  • http://www.fulness.com spektator

    I have come to picture my brain/mind as a contraption that has some characteristics of a strainer. We pour massive amounts of informaton in and the strainer only traps those things that fit in our current perception. Many ideas simply slide through the strainer until one day, we add a new recognizer to the strainer. All of a sudden we see items trapped in the strainer that we never perceived before. A good example is when I learn a new word, I start running into it in my life. I have come to realize that the word was always flowing through my strainer, but I never captured it before.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, our brain only deals with those things that are trapped by the strainer. Sometimes an event, such as the one Bruce alluded to, will cause our strainer to pick up a lot of new items that hadn’t been caught before. Our brain/mind must now try to rationalize these items with our perception.

    This rationalization often changes our perception and the cycle begins again.

    As I experienced my crisis of faith, I began to accumulate a lot of items that I never perceived before. Being an engineer by trade, my challenge was to make all these items fit together in some fashion. I hope I finish putting all this together before the quiz.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    Bruce,

    I’m not sure of your conclusion. Interesting points but they don’t add up to a conclusion.

    You said near the beginning of your post: “…and finally receiving definitive answers from God, I emerged with a new, and somewhat uncomfortable, world view.”

    What does this mean? How does a definitive answer equal uncomfortable world view?

    By the way, this link isn’t working, at least for me: For a good example of a post on Mormon Matters guilty of this, click here.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    One thing I find fascinating is the effect of framing.

    Interesting essay.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Excellent comments all. A few responses:

    “Some would argue that the experience that allows you to believe again is an emotional one. A person hasn’t found the flaw or fault in the thing that caused their faith to crumble but something has happened to cause it to not matter and emotion more than anything can allow us to set aside reason.

    I would argue this. Actually, I think I AM arguing this.

    “By the way, this link isn’t working, at least for me: For a good example of a post on Mormon Matters guilty of this, click here.”

    That link was hard to work out. I tried my best to test it beforehand. It’s fixed now. :)

    “I’m not sure of your conclusion. Interesting points but they don’t add up to a conclusion”

    Althought I am planning additional posts to clarify, there is a conclusion here. It’s just that it’s a bit… hidden. But only a bit.

    “What does this mean? How does a definitive answer equal uncomfortable world view?”

    Hmmm…

    “I say trust your heart and let it enlighten and inspire your brain with insight and breakthroughs.” and “But even in the uncertain reality, Faith can sustain us.”

    Good food for thought, Blake and Velska.

  • Tom Haws

    You are a mystic. Beautiful.

  • Bruce Nielson

    From wikipedia on Mystic: “It may also be a person seeks the truth of life beyond the five senses.”

  • Pingback: What is a Black Swan? A Book Review at Mormon Matters

  • Tim

    The unfortunate thing about Mormon teaching is that we’re taught to primarily use our feelings about the faith and not our MIND. This is a “red flag” to all those who value the mind that God gave us. As soon as we use our mind to validate something, it is strongly suggested by Mormon teaching that we refrain from those activities in favor of the “feelings” that we should be receiving from God. When we use our MIND to consider the fact that Joseph Smith was just a young 14-year old teenage boy like many other teenage boys in the world and that he claimed he was given an audience or visitation with both the Father & the Son Jesus god as well as many important old & new testament prophets & apostles such as Moses, Peter, John, James, Elisha, and others along with an Angel of God that no one had ever heard of before and that this occurred over a 10-year period from the age of 14, one should be wondering about the possibility that such an incredible thing actually occurred? Joseph was an ordinary, average teenager living in a poor family in the state of New York and his particular claims had never before happened to anyone else in the world at any time in history! According to today’s standards & knowledge, the question one should be asking is…do and can teenagers lie? If you answer “yes” to that question (which it should be if you have ever dealt with a teenager before) then is it equally possible that Joseph Smith could have lied about everything he and others claimed to have experienced for the sake of possible great gain in the world? If the answer to that is “yes it is possible” (and that should be the answer) then one should use his mind to ask if a person should emotionally through only their “feelings, stake his or her eternal future on the word of a teenager from New York in the early 1800′s along with some close friends and family members who claimed to be witnesses to some of these activities? If one blindly (through “feelings” without using the mind) believes in the word of an ordinary 14-year old boy claiming the most incredible supernatural (and generally outrageous) things ever heard up to that point and including today, then a person should also believe the words and writings of other worldly prophets who claim similar incredible occurrences such as Muhammad, Mary Baker Eddy, the Roman Catholic Pope, Charles Taze Russell, or even Benny Hinn. They all claim or claimed to have an audience with God, Gabriel and or Jesus in various ways and at various times being told many incredible things by or through the same God. Without using our mind to judge what we see and feel, we are actually just brainwashed robots who are made to feel guilty (by some religious leaders) when we do use our mind to question our faith. If you, like many Mormons and people of like faith, don’t use your mind to question what “religious” people tell you is true, then you have no right to believe it is true. A person’s feelings mean very little when a person does not look deeply at the facts. Just ask an abused wife of a dominating abusive husband. She believes he loves her because he says so and so she “feels” that must be true. But he beats her up daily in the name of that love. Does he really love her? If you use your mind then the answer is obviously no. He cannot truly love her because his actions are so outrageous and do not conform to the definition of love. Joseph Smith (along with his witnesses) claimed unbelievable activities actually happened. But just maybe… those things weren’t really true? But if that’s so, then why did those people do & say all of that and stand by those “testimonies?” What did they actually gain? Maybe you should just THINK about it all before it’s too late. Your eternity depends on it.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    You could have just as easily said:

    “According to today’s standards & knowledge, the question one should be asking is…do and people lie? If you answer “yes” to that question (which it should be if you have ever dealt with adults before) then is it equally possible that Jesus could have lied about everything he and others claimed to have experienced for the sake of possible great gain in the world? If the answer to that is “yes it is possible” (and that should be the answer) then one should use his mind to ask if a person should emotionally through only their “feelings, stake his or her eternal future on the word of a man from Galilee in the early 1st century along with some close friends and family members who claimed to be witnesses to some of these activities?”

    Also, I know I’m probably wasting my time even trying to reason with you, but I do hope you’ll consider the fact that your whole argument is built on an incorrect understanding of a certain LDS teaching.

    The LDS Church teaches that we are insufficient to approach God without his help and thus truths about God cannot be found by relying on our mind alone. (Do you disagree with this teaching? I have been told by other Christians that they agree the Bible teaches exactly this. We cannot approach God by our own strength and means alone.)

    You have confused this for the logically non-equivalent that the LDS church teaches that people are not to use their mind at all and use their heart alone. Your entire argument assumes this.

    But how could anyone make a religious decision without ultimately having to rely on their heart? How could anyone approach God without having to admit to God they just aren’t capable of figuring it all out on their own (as was the point of my post) and they have to rely on Him and on His strength instead? Do you really believe you are different?

    Your comment comes across like you are saying, yes, you feel you can approach God by simply using your own mind and God played no part in it. It’s about you, not about God. You seem to be saying that this is what God expects of us and seeking answer from Him in prayer and seeking answers to prayer plays no role at all and is dangerous. I’m sure you didn’t mean to come across like this, but you really seem to be saying this.

  • Jeff Spector

    I suspect Tim’s post is a “hit and run” and is based on a very old Anti-Mormon (interesting use of “We”) claim against Church members that we rely on feelings rather than “what the Bible says.” This post, like that claim fails to understand LDS doctrine about using our mind and intellect AND The Spirit to discern truth from error.

    “(Doctrine and Covenants, Section 9:8)
    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” The feeling spoken of is the prompting of the Holy Ghost confirming the truth.

    using only our feelings or our own intellect rarely get us the truth. It is a combination of our mind and the Holy Spirit.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “This post, like that claim fails to understand…”

    Interesting use of words: “Fails to understand.”

    It’s a bit hard to see how a person that is using the mind could miss something as basic as the fact that there is no way Mormons self preceive themselves as not using the mind. Is it even possible for someone to believe such a thing given the nature of the human brain? Would anyone come out and say “yup, I pretty well try to ignore all reason”?

    Now, of course, if you already disagree with Mormons, it’s easy to see how the narrative fallacy (that’s really a “feeling” by the way) would cause you to think that anyone that disagrees with you must not be using their mind. That would be pretty normal.

    So it would seem you are right, Jeff. Probably just a hit and run with no intentions of actually engaging in discussion. Just take a wild swing and your off.

  • Tim

    “(Doctrine and Covenants, Section 9:8)
    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” The feeling spoken of is the prompting of the Holy Ghost confirming the truth.

    Using Mormon doctrine and writings to prove Mormon decision making is assuming that there is no bias in that decision using only those sources. Of course there is bias, so that kind of reasoning is not rational. When it comes to understanding truth, one must always ask honest questions for both sides of the equation. If Joseph Smith lied, what would he have to gain by those lies and then where does that lead us? If he didn’t lie, then we all know what truly came next. If Joseph Smith had not had the experiences he claimed to have had, then where would he have had instead?

  • Jeff Spector

    Tim,

    You appear to be only asking questions from the negative side, so you are not even using you own rationale. What if Joseph was telling the truth? Then what do you do?

  • Tim

    The “negative side” is only negative from a certain point of view. To others, questions are simply questions looking for direct answers. It unfortunate that some Mormons continue to change the subject to an offensive position instead of just answering questions. It’s also too bad these people seem to be unwilling to contemplate simple questions in an honest way. Perhaps they should run for a political office because they would do well.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “It unfortunate that some Mormons continue to change the subject to an offensive position instead of just answering questions”

    LOL Tim. You mean like you just did?

    “If Joseph Smith lied, what would he have to gain by those lies and then where does that lead us? If he didn’t lie, then we all know what truly came next. If Joseph Smith had not had the experiences he claimed to have had, then where would he have had instead?”

    Let me answer this one first:

    “If Jesus lied, what would he have to gain by those lies and then where does that lead us? If he didn’t lie, then we all know what truly came next. If Jesus had not had the experiences he claimed to have had, then where would he have had instead?”

    I believe Jesus was the Son of God — and God the Son. I do not believe He lied about that. But if He did, it’s easy to see that it gained him a following and we certainly have examples throughout history of people that made similar claims for the praise and honor of those that followed them.

    In the case of Jesus, it didn’t play out well because, in the end, he was killed.

    If Jesus did not have the experiences he claimed to have had, then what does this mean? It means Jesus isn’t really the Son of God. It means my Christian faith is not true. It means there was no atonement for sins. It probably means there is no God at all.

    But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Jesus did lie, yet there is a God, one that I don’t fully understand. Perhaps this God is merciful, just as Jesus taught. Perhaps my believing a liar won’t affect anything. I just don’t know.

    Now I’ll answer the one you asked:

    I believe Joseph was a prophet of God. I do not believe He lied about that. But if he did, it’s easy to see that it gained him a following and we certainly have examples throughout history of people that made similar claims for the praise and honor of those that followed them.

    In the case of Joseph, it didn’t play out well because, in the end, he was killed.

    If Joseph did not have the experiences he claimed to have had, then what does this mean? It means there is not a God that talks. It means that God can’t be trusted and perhaps even doesn’t care enough about us. It means my Christian faith is not true. It probably means there is no God at all.

    But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Joseph did lie, yet there is a God, one that I don’t fully understand. Perhaps this God is merciful, just as Joseph taught. Perhaps my believing a liar won’t affect anything. I just don’t know.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    Now that I have truthfully answered your questions, I expect you to now answer your own questions, just like Jeff asked you to. I would sincerely like to see how you would answer your own question about whoever you believe in. If you can’t give me the curtsey I just gave you, I’m done with this conversation.

  • Tim

    Hey, nice try on your answers there Bruce. But pretty weak overall. I never did ask if Jesus may have lied… just Joseph Smith. I never did ask what you believe about Jesus either. Once again, you immediately avoided my original question. I expected that. Very predictable. Maybe I just need to answer the question for you since you are having such a difficult time of it for some reason. Joseph came from nothing and had nothing and then eventually rose to great heights in his life because of what he claimed. From the world’s point of view, he gained power, prestige, authority, money, a following, a church, fame & respect for him his family and close friends, multiple women as wives(fact) something that would normally be seen in the 1800′s as satisfying sexual lusts, and being revered for having claimed direct, prophetic, ongoing communication with God himself. So did he gain more just than a following as you say? Obviously.

    But what did Moses gain in his day. He went from superstar status in Egypt to a lowly desert dweller and then to a prophet wandering around in the wilderness for years without money, fame, fortune, and all the things he had before. He received the “law” while leading his people through the wilderness for a generation. He went from having everything in this world to nothing. James, Peter, and especially Paul gave up everything to follow Jesus. Paul went from being a well respected Roman citizen, military man, and Pharisee who had power, authority, money, and respect, to a lowly convert to Christianity. The years following that conversion gave him no wealth, power, prestige, or any of the things he had prior to his conversion. No women, just loneliness. His friends and followers left him. He went from worldly gain to worldly loss. In fact, it is pretty well understood that all the original apostles gave up their worldly gain to follow Jesus Christ to their death.

    Joseph Smith seemed to be just the opposite. He gave up nothing in this world, and gained everything a mortal man could want. And on top of that, claimed that he would eventually become a god like Jesus. With regard to his death (murder), that so-called martyrdom changes nothing about his life and all that he (and others…especially the men) had personally gained until that point. Liars and thieves are murdered just like real prophets and saints too.

    Bruce, a real good question at this point would be, “what would you have if you didn’t have the book of Mormon as well as the other Mormon related writings?” If there was only the original bible with the writings from the old & new testaments, could you live with that? Have you ever really read the bible alone without the book of Mormon as a guide? Have you really studied it and it’s history? I know the Joseph Smith question was difficult for you, hopefully this one won’t be. Take care.

  • Jeff Spector

    Well, Tim, at least at last, you have revealed your true colors. Now, we are getting somewhere.

    “If there was only the original bible with the writings from the old & new testaments, could you live with that?”

    If we had the true and complete Word of God as revealed to His chosen Prophets, yes, the answer is yes, we would, as would the world, be satisfied. But, if you are referring to the current Bible, which version and translation are you specifically speaking of? Because we all know it is not the complete writings of the Prophets.

    If God is God and true to His Word, then there is much more He has revealed to His Prophets than is contained in what you call “the Bible.” We happen to be fortunate to have received an additional portion of God’s Word through the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. We also have the benefit of His living Prophet on the earth today.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Joseph Smith seemed to be just the opposite. He gave up nothing in this world, and gained everything a mortal man could want.”

    I have committed to not reviling those who revile me, but that statement simply is so ridiculous that it defies silence. If you can say that, you either have not studied his life deeply or you are looking at it from an incredibly biased perspective – without comparing it to many others whom you appear to accept as prophets.

    I am not insisting that you accept Joseph as a prophet, but I am asking you to remove the rose-colored glasses and try to deal with him as openly and honestly and comprehensively as most of us here are trying to do. We are dealing with a truly complex person; you are trafficking in caricatures.

    You rejected the answer to your question relative to Jesus once, then you did so again. If I used your explanation to assess Jesus “objectively” (using ONLY your stated criteria), He would be standing next to or below Joseph in Hell – since he started out lower and ended up higher. King David also started out even with Joseph but ended MUCH higher. You can’t condemn one man and not condemn all who fit – and you can’t ignore the actual implications of your own criteria.

    Please, address that response to your own statement (your own stated judgment criteria) – before brushing with such a broad stroke.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Oh, and Tim, please be courteous enough not to charge us with ducking questions then ducking every one that shatters your glass house. Don’t dodge the last few questions; answer them directly.

  • Tim

    OK…perhaps I have been too judgmental about Joseph Smith Jr. Maybe you can tell me his true personal background as well as his family’s background so I can better understand who he really was and what he really did up to the point of his first vision and until the boM was published in 1830. It sounds like there is more to his life then what I have stated. It also sounds like you might have those answers about this “complex” individual? Since Mormonism today is based originally and exclusively on one man, Joseph Smith Jr, and his very special translation of the plates (of which we know little about the actual translation process), Joseph’s personal history and any historically recorded statements by his parents throughout his young life would bear a great testimony on helping to establish the authenticity & believability of Joseph’s very important historical statements.

    As for the (“lack of”) more or complete writings of the “bible prophets,” you must know that actual truth in this world rarely depends on the quantity of statements made or how many words are spoken, Truth mostly depends on the character and historical validity of the individuals who say they speak the truth, and not just the words they speak. There are millions of (Christian) people throughout the world, who long before and after Mormonism officially came into existence, believe that Jesus Christ always existed from before time and was equal in his deity and power to God the Father. There was no starting out lower and ending up higher (as you believe) in that case. And when it comes to the progression of man through time, there is only 2 so called “progressions” in Christianity:” A life saved from or a life lost to…Hell. And there are only 2 places which one lives eternally: a universal Heaven or a universal Hell. No other levels, places, or changes. And if an individual does not believe that Christ is God of the Universe (in Christianity) and accept him as Savior & redeemer, then Christianity (with the exception of Catholics & Eastern Orthodox) says that that person will be in eternal hell with no way out ever. Assuming you know this teaching that goes on in most christian churches today in the world, then it is easy to see that Mormonism teaches vastly different expectations and “truths” to it’s “believers.”

    But once again, it’s not numbers that make truth, it’s the individuals themselves in question. And that brings me back to Joseph Jr. Who was he …really? What was he like according to his family and people that dealt with him in business and recreation, etc. (other than those individuals who were the 3+8 “witnesses.”)

  • Tim

    Oh and one more thing. The Protestants in the 16th & 17th century claimed that they gave back “true Christianity” to the world (mostly Europe at that time) from the Roman Catholic church. It is believed by many that the so called dark ages “hid” the truth of the “bible” by taking truth away from people and putting it exclusively inside church control in a language not in the common tongue. People generally had to believe and do what they were told. So could it have been that the truth was always there and simply “controlled” by the wrong people but not actually lost? If this were true, and most American Christians believe this to be the case, why would we need Joseph Smith?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, you completely missed the point of my comment. Let me try one more time:

    According to you, Joseph was a fraud simply because he started out poor and his claim to prophetic authority led him to riches and fame and having a following. You stated that he “gave up nothing in this world, and gained everything a mortal man could want.”

    Two points:

    1) Joseph never gained wealth. He lived and died in relative poverty. He never gained respectability in the general population, and he never gained peace or security. He also “gained” jail time on trumped up charges, being tarred and feathered, the loss of more than one child, ridicule and scorn, the loss of many friendships, conflict with his wife, etc. Your description of his life is a caricature, plain and simple.

    2) My point about Jesus is that if you measure his life here on Earth, he fits your condemnation even better than Joseph does. He was born poorer than Joseph; he lived a rather anonymous life until he turned 30 (much later than Joseph); he then suddenly appeared and, according to the Bible, claimed to be the chosen Messiah. He quickly became what the authorities of the time considered to be a cult leader (much more popular than Joseph) – one so popular and rising that both the Jewish AND Roman leaders decided he had to die, in the case of the Jewish leadership specifically because they couldn’t accept an “unsavory”, uneducated commoner (a wine-bibber and a friend of the publicans and sinners) as a legitimate prophet – much less as the promised Messiah. He was judged to be a fake largely because he didn’t fit their expectations – and because of things about him that they labeled as “dirty” or “common” or “beneath” true leadership. They rejected him by and large because those who knew him before his ministry didn’t accept him as the Messiah. (“Is this not the carpenter’s son?”) So, they rejected him because, as you said, they spoke with those who knew him outside his ministry. (Iow, they rejected his own witnesses, just as you dismissed Joseph’s own witnesses in your last comment.)

    Those at the time who didn’t accept his words rejected him and conspired in his death specifically for the exact same reasons you list as the reasons to reject Joseph. I AM NOT COMPARING JOSEPH TO JESUS in saying that. I simply am saying that, based on WHY you have said you reject Joseph, IF you used that same criteria at the time of Jesus, you would have rejected Jesus, also. Again, I am NOT making a statement about you personally; I ONLY am making a statement about your stated judging criteria.

    Please respond to that point.

  • http://www.shenpawarrior.com AdamF

    Tim,

    I’m late to this discussion, but had a stupor of thought when I read this:

    “Truth mostly depends on the character and historical validity of the individuals who say they speak the truth”

    What does that mean? Also, says who?

    It sounds like you’re saying that it’s not what someone says, but what kind of person they are that determines truth. Logically, that makes no sense to me. You could have a great person, for example, who didn’t know what he was talking about and spread all kinds of error, could you not? Also, who and what determines character? Also, aren’t we all sinners? Thus I guess none of us can speak truth, right? Also, anybody that really believes that God arbitrarily damns people to suffer in hell for eternity has a problem with their character. Also, historical validity is somewhat of an oxymoron, I think, because history is not a set of facts, but a story told by storytellers. We all have different perspectives… wow that was a lot of “also”s.

    I’m not talking specifically about J.S. or Christ or Moses or anyone else, just looking at your idea here, about truth. If this comment is not related to the post, do forgive me. I just got excited by your above quote.

  • http://www.shenpawarrior.com AdamF

    by the way, I was not suggesting that you or any one specifically has a problem with their character. :)

  • Latter-day Guy

    Once upon a time there were three billy goats, who were to go up to the [website] to make themselves [think], and the name of all three was “Gruff.”

    On the [website lurked] a great ugly troll , with eyes as big as saucers, and a nose as long as a poker [and verbose, poorly-reasoned arguments].

  • Holden Caulfield

    Google it, Tim.

    Getting back on track, as one whose faith is going through a redefinition, I have been listening to various Christians to re-enliven my faith. I recently have been listening to Rev Peter Gomes, Preacher in Residence at Memorial Church of Harvard University. He has been there 30+ years. In one of the online recordings, he was being interviewed by Don Imus who asked him if there is life after death. I put his answer in my journal. It goes as follows:

    “I don’t know but I’m interested in finding out. I like to believe the great Christian story that there is a life and a realm beyond this one and that we are ushered into it and there is an eternal accounting there. I like to believe that the wicked are punished and that the virtuous, the hard working believers are rewarded, but I don’t have any evidence one way or the other. That’s why I am a man of faith. I’ll find out, I suspect, and until then I’m going to hold on to the picture that the church has painted for so long. It’s as good as any other–the notion of total oblivion and complete destruction; that’s not very motivating and not very appealing to me.”

    It is interesting to me that a man who has given his life to God says after 30+ years—

    “I don’t know”
    “I don’t have any evidence one way or the other”
    “It’s as good as any other”
    but also “I am a man of faith”

    I believe most members think if you don’t “know” you are defective, you haven’t tried hard enough to get that “knowledge” promised.

    My brain, getting back to the original post, tells me we are here to live by faith. Isn’t that sufficient? To continue to try, to believe? I think some in our church lose faith because they don’t have the “knowledge” so many boast of and deem “good” members possess.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Holden, I agree completely with everything in your comment. Rev. Gomes is an amazing orator, and his sermons are wonderful and inspiring.

  • Tim

    Hmmm,all very well thought out comments. So then does one’s belief (or lack of it) in Jesus Christ (as defined by any religion that defines him based on their prophets or leaders definitions) make a difference in whether one can enter into a “positive” afterlife such as heaven or paradise, or whatever one would define as a positive afterlife…as opposed to a permanent hell? Can I believe in the “wrong god” or at least the wrong definition of god and still have a good afterlife? By the way, I never stated that I reject Joseph Smith. Perhaps you misread that into my statements, but I do make the point that Joseph’s assertions that he had an audience with a physical Heavenly Father & son Jesus at the age of 14 (up til that point Christianity defined Heavenly Father as god without a physical body and Jesus not coming back to earth for any reason until his second coming), and then subsequently through the next 10 years had a personal audience with at least 6 or more bible prophets/apostles who came back from the dead to speak with him as well a previously unknown Angel of God (Moroni), is way beyond the scope of believability in human terms…isn’t that so? If that IS so, then please tell me why it would otherwise be easily believable? If it is NOT so, then please tell me why you would you “want to believe” the “outrageous” (it’s a reasonable word under normal circumstances)things that Joseph Smith Jr (and Oliver Cowdery) said, especially if American Christianity had “already been teaching” that faithful believers were destined for an eternal, joyful, glorious, perfect heaven in the midst of Jesus Christ himself? Why was more “truth” about God, Christ, and heaven really needed anyway? By the way, more truth from the boM (if it comes from the same God) in this case should add to and compliment previous truth shouldn’t it? Then why does the same God seem to redefine historical christian beliefs up until the time of Joseph? Then didn’t God (Jehovah and/or Father or Jesus) also redefine basic Christian beliefs through the onset of the Jehovah Witness believers, Christian Science, Bahai faith, as well as Seventh Day Adventists…all of which coincidentally happened in the 1800′s with their particular prophets?

  • Jeff Spector

    “Perhaps you misread that into my statements, but I do make the point that Joseph’s assertions that he had an audience with a physical Heavenly Father & son Jesus at the age of 14 (up til that point Christianity defined Heavenly Father as god without a physical body and Jesus not coming back to earth for any reason until his second coming), and then subsequently through the next 10 years had a personal audience with at least 6 or more bible prophets/apostles who came back from the dead to speak with him as well a previously unknown Angel of God (Moroni), is way beyond the scope of believability in human terms…isn’t that so?”

    If you are saying that there are no picture, no videos, no actual proof other than Joseph’s word that it happened. Many of us, in fact. most of us here, have looked at the evidence Joseph presented in the form of his personal testimony and the fruit of his efforts and have decided by faith and the through the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true. Tim, it is as simple as that. The same effort you and others have applied to your beliefs we have applied to ours.

    There is not enough evidence in the world to prove anything that you don’t want to believe. Joseph’s story is no more “outrageous” than any story from the Bible. In fact, it is more believable from the evidence of the fruits that have sprung forth from it.

    But, again, no one will beleive anything they do not want to.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, those are good questions, but they are not relevant to this post – and we are at an impasse as to the question I raised. I simply will echo Jeff:

    From a purely scientific or logical standpoint, nothing Joseph taught is any more outrageous than what is taught in the Bible – and he was no more “unsavory” than many Biblical prophets. It really does boil down to personal experience and perspective – nothing more, nothing less.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “Hey, nice try on your answers there Bruce. But pretty weak overall.”

    Tim,

    As I said previously, I’m now done with this discussion until you honestly answer the same questions for Jesus.

    Also, Tim, I take exception to you taking a truthful personal answer (and difficult to even go there) and calling it “weak.” How can an honest personal answer be “weak”?

    You would have shown yourself to be someone without guile if you had admitted that my answer and your were exactly the same concerning Joseph. I did admit that it’s possible to imagine Joseph as having lied to gain the praise of his followers. I also admitted that in the end it got him the hatred of his non-followers and lost him all his standing in the rest of the world’s eyes. You can say what you will, but that is potentially true for Moses or Jesus or anyone we can think to discuss.

    In any case, I’m done with this discussion with you until you are willing to give me as honest an answer as I gave you to your own questions.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “My brain, getting back to the original post, tells me we are here to live by faith. Isn’t that sufficient? To continue to try, to believe? I think some in our church lose faith because they don’t have the “knowledge” so many boast of and deem “good” members possess.”

    Holden, thank you for the great summary.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “is way beyond the scope of believability in human terms…isn’t that so?”

    “There is not enough evidence in the world to prove anything that you don’t want to believe. Joseph’s story is no more “outrageous” than any story from the Bible”

    Actually, I find believing that Jesus was God is considerably beyond the scope of believability in human terms. It takes faith for me to believe that. It’s not hard for my inner atheist (may he rest in peace) to say “holy cow! This guy was nuts, he was claiming to be God! And look at what he got out of it! He was born poor and raised to greatness world wide! Obviously he did it for the fame.”

    If I rejected Joseph by your criteria, I’d have to reject Jesus first. I’m unwilling to do that because of my faith. Thus I can’t write off Joseph by that criteria and must take his claims seriously.

    Tim, I said I was done but then had to write the above. Tim, please answer your own questions concerning Jesus. Give us an honest answer. I did it for you, I’m only asking for the same in return. I admitted the bad possibilities if Joseph (or Jesus) were liars. I admitted it might be that they are liars, I just can’t know that by scholarly means for sure. I am giving you a very honest very personal answer that is uncomfortable for me to do in a public form like this.

    Will you give me the same? Really try to analyze this the way you are asking. Could any of the prophets in the bible truly survive your analysis? Do any of them fall into your “realm of believability?” Can’t nearly all of them be cast into a light of “they did it for the fame and popularity that followed from those that believed them?” Certainly that is true for Jesus. If it’s true for Jesus, I submit that this is a bad set of arguments on the face and needs to be dropped altogether.

  • Tim

    OK. Fine. Some things are just hard to prove no doubt. As I read it, the prophets of the bible really didn’t change change anything. They just foretold of what was to come and in Moses’ case, he received the law (10 commandments from God which is a far cry from what Joseph claimed to receive), and in the case of Jesus, he also foretold of what was to com because he was god and he could. He defined who God (himself) really was and how he himself operated, and proved his deity by his resurrection. With that in mind, the prophet joseph smith has showed the world “new truths” from apparently older sources that reveal stark differences from accepted Christianity up to that point in the way that God operates, exists, behaves, and the rules, and redefining man’s responsibilities and expectations in this and future existence. It really appears to be a significant difference between what Joseph brought the world and what anyone else did or had ever done. So with that in mind, I just want to know for my own peace of mind that if I never come to a full acceptance of Mormon doctrine and belonging to the Mormon faith, will I still go to “heaven.” I mean, isn’t that the goal of most religion… to achieve a fulfilling and happy afterlife in some way? Even the Buddhists seem to want that. Where will they be after this life? Where will any of us be that do not believe Joseph Smith (at least at this point)? Do you have a scriptural based answer for that, whether it comes from the boM or the bible?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, it is core Mormon doctrine and part of our cosmic theology that all are children of God and will be judged in the end by the condition of their souls and their dedication to whatever they “knew” in this life. According to Mormon doctrine, you don’t have to be Mormon to be saved (or even Christian in this life) – as opposed to much of Christianity in which Mormons and Catholics and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and agnostics and atheists ad infinitum all end up burning in Hell and separated eternally from God.

    I can’t judge you, and neither can anyone else here. That is left solely to The Son.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim, just in case you think Ray is double speaking here, let me add a second witness. Mormonism does not teach that the good Christians of the world go to hell. We believe they receive essentially the very reward they are seeking, life in heaven (bear in mind we believe in mulitiple concepts of heaven) with the Son. And we believe it is because of the atonement of Jesus Christ and on His merrits that this is received.

    Mormons are not technically universalists (because we also believe in a hell and even potentially in hell forever for some), but we have strong leanings that way doctrinally.

    Mormon theology is more complex on this subject then it is for other types of Christians, so that’s why it’s impossible for us to judge others. For all we know, you will attain to above the heaven you seek. It will ultimately be between you and the Lord and you will find the happiness in the afterlife you are willing to allow yourself.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “in Moses’ case, he received the law (10 commandments from God which is a far cry from what Joseph claimed to receive)…”

    One side point here. You may personally believe what you just said, I don’t know. I am not trying to speak for you. But I, and most Christians I know, believe Moses received the entire law of Moses from God, including a huge revelation about the beginning of the world (or at least an inspired telling, which is the same thing) and then working up to a set of laws by which a nation was to be run. Most of us also believe Moses performed mighty miracles, freed a nation, revealed truths that were lost or never previously had, and spoke to God face to face on several occaisions. (The bible says all of the above is true. I don’t know you, so I’m not sure how much of the bible you accept literally.)

    I have always seen the claims of Moses and Joseph as similar because that’s the way I see Moses.

    If you really see Moses as merely receiving ten commandments and foretelling the coming of Christ, then I can understand why you think Joseph’s claims were so far beyond Moses. But I hope you can see that from where I am sitting, the claims of Moses seem to exceed Joseph’s considerably.

    Oh, and while we are at it, Moses essentially made himself an absolute ruler of a nation as part of his prophetic calling (thus literally a rise above his Egyptian station) and went on to do many things that many people would consider questionable morally. This included ordering extinction of other nations, writing polygamy into his laws that he claimed came from God, and apparently taking a second wife himself (which seems to have led to a breach with the other leaders, not because she was a second wife, but because of her race.)

    I Guess I should mention here that some think the Ethiopian wife was actually a wife from back when he was an egyptian prince and that his “regular” wife, Zipporah, was the second wife. Either way, we have two wives, it would seem.

    In any case, its not hard to see how this could all be turned into a story about how Moses did it all for the glory, fame, and sex, if we wanted to. Oh, we could also claim that his real fall from being an Egyptian prince was not a revelation from God, but a murder that got found out and deposed him. Then he trumped up the whole ‘I spoke to God” thing once he was merely a shepherd and wanted his power back as a way of leading a nation again, only this time as the ruler. Heck, we can even through in that he did it all for revenge of those that took his lavish life from him. So he took their slaves away from them to get back at them. Do you see how easy this is to make up negative narratives like this? Do you see why I think the test you are proposing doesn’t really mean anything?

  • Tim

    OK. So it is reasonable then to assume that most good people on earth will reach a certain type of heaven one way or another as described in the boM? If that’s so, people don’t have to be afraid of being dammed to an eternal hell as others would say they would? The conditions, circumstances, and morals of their lives here in this life is what really counts, right? And in the end (eternity), one will find out his or her reward based on what God allows to happen at that time? So to me, that means it is at least possible and perhaps probable that I could attain the heaven that I am seeking even without a good understanding or belief in Mormonism, Christianity, Judaism or any number of other religions? If that’s so, then what am I actually “losing” by not becoming a Mormon?

  • Tim

    Oh and I forgot to ask…where does ones personal “sin” enter into the Mormon equation? Does it exist and if so, how does that go away? It seems like so many religions are so concerned with the bad side of mankind or what some call “sin.” It is said that the 10 commandments shows people their sin that they cannot easily escape. How does Jesus really enter into all of that?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, I’m going to bow out here, not because of anything you said, but because I simply can’t address everything properly here. If you would like more detailed responses to your questions, let me know in a comment. I will e-mail you privately.

    Let me simply say this, to highlight why I would rather have this conversation privately:

    “So it is reasonable then to assume that most good people on earth will reach a certain type of heaven one way or another as described in the boM?”

    **The Book of Mormon says nothing about kingdoms of heaven.** That comes from an interpretation of the Bible and from passages in the Doctrine & Covenants. Most people who are not Mormon assume our unique doctrines come from the Book of Mormon. A few do; most don’t. Most actually come from how we read the Bible.

    If you really are interested in understanding what I mean, and knowing what we really believe and why, I would be happy to talk via e-mail.

  • Tim

    ok..email is fine. If there is a fairly simple way for my questions to be answered so that I have a clear understanding on this subject matter, that would be personally helpful.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    You are asking good questions, though I perceive a bias in the way you ask them. (That doesn’t mean they aren’t still good questions.)

    I would like to answer the questions you ask with lots of detail and explanation, but I feel we didn’t finish the last round of questions. Will you please answer the questions I asked you. Please take a look at your original questions about Joseph and answer them for Jesus or Moses.

    I’d like to know if we can at least agree that the original test you proposed doesn’t help us discern anything one way or the other, at least not for a Mormon. It could validly be used to disqualify or qualify Jesus, Joseph, Moses, right? I think this is pretty obvious, and I’d like to put that to rest first. If you think this isn’t true, I’d like for you to still answer the questions for yourself and explain further why you actually feel this test should mean something to me.

    Don’t misunderstand me, Tim. I’m not asking for you to accept Joseph or reject Jesus or Moses. I’m not asking for you to feel they are same or anything like that. I’m just asking you to acknowledge — for me — that if I took your test literally, I’d have to reject all or accept all on the same grounds. Because all can be fit into a story of how they did it all for God and gave up the world or that they did it for the fame and power that comes with religious leadership. Let’s end that conversation first.

    I’ll try to give you a short answer to your questions next. I’ll give you a much longer answer if you will put the first round of questions to rest and if you are interested in what Mormons really believe. It’s not simple, so you have to promise to be willing to hear it all out and not try to force fit it into pre-existing categories you are already familiar with. (Which is what I preceive you doing inadvertantly so far. It’s an easy mistake to make.)

  • Bruce Nielson

    “So to me, that means it is at least possible and perhaps probable that I could attain the heaven that I am seeking even without a good understanding or belief in Mormonism, Christianity, Judaism or any number of other religions?”

    Let me try to give you a short answer to your questions. I will give you WAY more to go off of if you will finish the above.

    The short answer to your questions is that Mormonism doesn’t allow me to judge you on this. It may well be that you are the type of person that even if you didn’t believe in Jesus Christ during your life you would have still be able to utilize His grace to save yourself. (This would mean you still have to accept Christ but after this life, so there is still no salvation save by Jesus in Mormonism.) You are trying to tie it down to a simple formula similar to your own beliefs, and Mormonism defies such categorizations.

    “If that’s so, then what am I actually “losing” by not becoming a Mormon?”

    This question starts with the assumption, for the sake of argument, that Mormonism is true and you end up rejecting it. My answer will assume that. You should accept Mormonism as true if it’s true because there are advantages to understanding the real nature of God and reality. Indeed, it should be obvious that it’s impossible to ever know God fully if you never accept all truths about Him. The idea that you could reject Mormonism forever (even after this life) yet somehow know God fully would be a logical contradiction.

    But if you don’t accept it, no, it doesn’t mean you get cast off to hell necessarily.

    In Mormonism there are definitely huge punishments for sin or refusing to repent, so that answers your question about sin. Hell is awful, don’t go there. The difference within Mormonism is that there is hope for those in hell eventually repenting and avoiding an eternity in hell, though they can never attain to what you would call “heaven” either. They are truly damned, but not necessarily in pain forever either.

    But the real issue here is that in Mormon theology, the best form of “salvation” (and thus the highest “heaven”) is something that all other Christians reject as being an impossibility. It’s not hard to see that if you don’t even believe the best form of salvation exists, and refuse to ever accept that it does, that you simply can’t ever have it. You will attain to the form of salvation you seek, which is a lesser one and not nearly as good. But it’s the one you care about and it’s where your heart is, so this is fair and merciful and you will have received what you desired. You have “lost nothing” from your point of view, but also “lost everything” from a Mormon perspective.

    “The conditions, circumstances, and morals of their lives here in this life is what really counts, right?”

    While the conditions, circumstances, and morals of one’s life do matter — as they are the fruits of faith — I’d be hard pressed to say “yes” to the above questions as you currently have it worded. Clearly, in Mormon doctrine, it’s the atonment of Jesus Christ that “really” mattered by far and away compared to our choices.

  • Tim

    OK..I understand and will back off of my previously biased comments. I also think I understand your meaning for Jesus’ atonement for mankind being of prime importance. But it seems like it would be a good thing that at least most human beings will not have to spend an eternity in a place called hell, regardless of their religious persuasion. So then it appears that ultimately, non-mormons would lose a higher level of eternal existence by not accepting the mormon faith as opposed to what believers would (or could) receive…is that right?

  • Bruce Nielson

    “But it seems like it would be a good thing that at least most human beings will not have to spend an eternity in a place called hell, regardless of their religious persuasion.”

    I agree. This is one of the more “shocking” revelations that Joseph Smith received. It went so far against traditional Christian views of the time that Brigham Young (2nd President of the Church after Joseph Smith) rejected it for a while, or so the story goes.

    “So then it appears that ultimately, non-mormons would lose a higher level of eternal existence by not accepting the mormon faith as opposed to what believers would (or could) receive…is that right?”

    Yes, that is correct. With the caveat that this “not accepting” is in this life and the life (afterlife in the spirit world) to come. Mortality, as important as it is in Mormon theology, is not the end of your chance to accept things.

  • Tim

    Being able to have the opportunity to accept truth after one has died sound like a great thing. How would a person know where they actually “stand” before god with regard to their progression (as you call it) while they are alive and after they have died? How do we know where we are and how far we’ll get? Or are we not supposed to know?

  • Tim

    Oh, and does it (progression to a higher level) also depend on what Christians call being “born again” and having “a saving relationship with Jesus Christ?”…by the way, just so you know a little bit more about who you’re talking with, I am actually a Jewish person with very close Christian & Mormon friends. I’ve had a chance to learn some things about each religion and find their “truths” & teachings somewhat in opposition to each other. Why is that since they both supposedly worship the same God who should be on the same page with them (give or take)?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, I apologize for assuming you were an evangelical Christian who believes that Mormons are headed to a special place in Hell. Honestly, that colored my reaction a bit. I am fine continuing this discussion here, since the thread is dead otherwise.

    However, I still will contact you via e-mail, if you have any questions that you might not want to ask here. If here is fine, let me know, and I won’t contact you via e-mail.

  • Jeff Spector

    Tim, Being a Jewish convert to the Church, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you from that perspective. We come to this from a very different view than Christians do. It is not that easy to accept something we have been taught our entire lives to reject. To me, as I pealed away the onion, so to speak, I found the truth.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    It’s helpful to know where you are actually coming from. Did you give an email address? I didn’t see one. If you click on my name at the top of the post you’ll get my profile which includes info on how to contact me.

    Tim, I promised I’d give you tons of details if you were to answer my questions. You have done so now in #49. If you are interested in full details, I should probably send you an email. I’ll explain the full Mormon concept of the plan of salvation and give you links to the text of the revelations we pull it from. (We have a book of revelations from Joseph Smith called the Doctrine and Covenants.)

    If you feel like you are getting sufficient info here, that’s fine too.

    Let me give short answers to your questions:

    “How would a person know where they actually “stand” before god with regard to their progression (as you call it) while they are alive and after they have died? Or are we not supposed to know?”

    The standard Mormon answer to this question is that you pray and seek answers to prayer and the Holy Spirit will guide you on this. My additional answer is that you have to walk by faith, so I don’t suppose you get to “know” in the sense of absolutely certain knowledge. But then again, how much in your life is absolutely certain knowledge?

    “How do we know where we are and how far we’ll get?”

    Good question.

    Matt. 5: 48
    48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    John 17: 3
    3 And this is life beternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    The goal is to know God so fully we are like He is. So “how far we are” is “not very far at all, even for the best of us.” And you’ll know you are there when you are perfect even as the Father is perfect. (Obviously no something that happens during life on earth.) So worrying about if you are “on the path” or not becomes a questionable question. We are all “on the path” so to speak, though many of us may never arrive at the destination because we wandered too far. (All of the above is about the highest form of salvation, not the lower forms.)

    “Oh, and does it (progression to a higher level) also depend on what Christians call being “born again” and having “a saving relationship with Jesus Christ?”

    That’s a non-Mormon Christian concept. Mormons believe the highest form of salvation is dependant on having a “covenant relationship” with Jesus Christ, yes. This is similiar to but different from the Evangelical Christian concept of a “saving relationship.” The main difference is that we believe it can only be entered into via someone holding what Mormons call “the Priesthood” which is limited to the LDS Church alone. (There is a lot more detail I could explain here.) Again, this is for the highest form of salvation only.

    “Why is that since they both supposedly worship the same God who should be on the same page with them (give or take)?”

    I’ve long since come to realize that there is more overlap between Mormon beliefs and Protestant (or Catholic) beliefs that I had originally thought. But I don’t know of any Mormon, Catholic, or Protestant that believes we are anything but three different religions with completely different views about God. In other words, we do not believe we are “on the same page” at all.

    We all have mutually exclusive beliefs. If we assume one of us is right, then unfortunately, where we disagree, the rest are wrong.

    Mormons believe that original Christianity strayed from the original truths that God intended. (Of course Catholics and Protestant would just say the opposite, that they have the original truths God intended and Mormons departed from it. But either way, we all believe that where we disagree, we are right and the others are wrong. The only real difference here is that Mormons allow for the other religions to still receive the salvation they seek and thus seperate “truth” from “salvation” to some degree. Catholics have some seperation on this, but less. Protestants, at least the conservative ones, have very little or no seperation.)

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    One other thing. I HIGHLY recommend that you talk to Jeff and Ray offline even if you talk to me offline. Keep in mind that Mormonism doesn’t have exactly one interpretation and that different people are going to emphasize different things about it. (This is true of all religions, whether we admit it or not.)

    I think you’ll find that Jeff, Ray, and myself give you three very similar views of Mormonism, but with some difference in interpretation. Mormons tolerate difference in opinion over theology more than you might imagine. I think you’d probably be particularly interested in how Jeff sees our doctrines and theology since he is coming at it from (originally) a non-Christian Jewish perspective. He was never a Christian until he became Mormon.

    Ray is one of the best “explainers” I have ever seen, so I would encourage you to talk to Ray too.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, if you do want to talk with anyone via e-mail, send us a message at mormonmatters at yahoo dot com from the e-mail address you would prefer to use.

  • Tim

    That’s all sounds very helpful to me Bruce. Yes, I would like to know more. By the way. Just a couple of other things that puzzle me about what other people have said about mormons that I don’t know how to respond to or why they would be wrong.
    1. “Mormons can eventually become gods like jesus and his father.” The practice of becoming or worshiping multiple gods or deities of any form or level is in opposition to what the jews believe about god (and what separated them from the religions before and directly after them)…God defined as one eternal universal monotheistic being or spirit (incl christians for that matter who say the trinity is really still one god with distinct positions or roles)
    2. “There has been no concrete archaeological evidence or DNA to support the claim that mormon civilizations actually existed (during old testament days) in the new world of America.” People opposed to that claim say that by now, good amounts of evidence would have shown itself like it has for many new testament civilizations.
    3. “The mormon faith has grown in large part because of rejection of the bible doctrine of sin.” It is said by evangelical christians (I believe) that without the absolute need for a “personal savior” to die in our place so that we can go to heaven and escape hell, then jesus’ death on the cross would have little or no meaning to individual believers because then they would likely escape hell anyway (according to mormon belief). So the “substituted” death of jesus then becomes pretty meaningless? what’s the answer to that? (assuming I am stating that particular christian objection correctly)

    Thank you for your help

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    #1: “Mormons can eventually become gods like jesus and his father”

    Look back at my post #55. I actually just said that, but in different words meant to avoid religiously loaded words that mean something different to me then to you. Yes, we believe the goal is to become one with God and to be a join-heir with Jesus.

    Rom. 8: 17
    17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    We are different with the rest of the Christian world because we take the verse literally instead of figuratively. This verse literally says that we will have the same relationship with the Father that Jesus has with the Father. Thus the highest view of salvation in Mormonism is that we’ll be one with the Father and part of the Godhead just like Jesus is.

    This means that Mormons both believe in a plurality of persons that are God but still only one God or Godhead (divine nature.) The idea that Mormons are “polytheists” is simply not true, but then we aren’t strict monotheists either. But neither are Trinitarians. I personally think we are pretty close to Trinitarians but minus the substance theology.

    Tim, I’ve extensively written on this subject in my posts. For example:

    On why how Mormons reconcile believing “God” is mulitiple persons but still one God.

    How I define monotheism… based on a Jewish Rabbi’s writtings.

    On the problems of language trying to express Mormon (or anyone’s) beliefs about God.

    Mormons as social Trinitarians.

    Why the traditional Trinity doctrine is a contradiction and the Mormon version isn’t.

    On why it’s just as easy to call traditional Christians polytheists as it is Mormons, but it’s misleading or dishonest to call either that.

    Also, check out KC’s post on the Mormon Trinity.

    I guess the bottom line on this is that other Christians do not like us and are more interested in making our doctrines look bad rather than understand them. Thus the very fact that we believe humankind’s destiny is to going the Godhead is enough for them to label us as believing in polytheism. Yet, the same charge could be leveled at their Triniarian beliefs, so this is an act of sawing off the limb you are sitting on.

    “There has been no concrete archaeological evidence or DNA to support the claim that mormon civilizations actually existed (during old testament days) in the new world of America”

    Guilty as charged. If you believe absence of evidence is evidence of absence, then by all means, disbelieve Mormonism.

    On the other hand, there is circumstantial evidence that is a lot stronger then you might expect. For example, take a look at this post. I’m no expert, but this is an amazinging poetic passage that approximates ancient hebrew poetry. It’s really hard for me to believe it just happened by chance. At a minimum we’re going to have to given Joseph Smith credit for being one of the all time great religious geniuses if he actually just wrote the Book of Mormon rather than translating it like he claimed.

    I could show you several similar items. None of which, in my opinion, prove the Book of Mormon true, but all strongly suggest possiblities more so than a young boy in the 19th century should have been able to come up with. Judge for yourself.

    #3 “The mormon faith has grown in large part because of rejection of the bible doctrine of sin.”

    You are stating this objection correctly. It is patently false. Unlike the two above that were half-truths, this one is just wrong. The Book of Mormon explicitly states that if not for the atonment of Jesus, the end result woulud be that we’d all be in hell forever.

    This argument, from what I can tell, is based on Evangelical Christians starting with our concept of multiple levels of salvation and a possible escape from hell and they are assuming that means you don’t really need Jesus. But they simply never bothered to undertand this: all levels of salvation and even the escape from hell proposed, are based on eventually accepting Jesus after this life. Thus ALL salvation is from Jesus in Mormon theology. Every last ounce of it.

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    In an act of casual hubris, I’m going to ignore the entire discussion and bring up something that struck me the deepest in this post: the loss of trust in the mind. I, too, have recently experienced this same epiphany. I suddenly realized that there is no way to trust my thinking, because everything I think is necessarily and irrevocably colored by how I perceive things. “Unbiased” is an illusion, completely and utterly impossible to achieve.

    However, after the despair expressed in the post, I realized that this understanding is key to understanding the Gospel. Only when we realize that nothing we do is free from flaw can we really begin to grasp what mortality and the Atonement mean.

    Because of this epiphany I have finally touched on true humility (though I’ve not yet reached it, I can at least scent it in the air.) Humility is realizing that there is no way to be completely right, that we can only do the best we can and keep our intentions pure.

    Only then, can we begin to accept and understand the Savior.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Humility is realizing that there is no way to be completely right, that we can only do the best we can and keep our intentions pure.”

    #60 – Exactly, SilverRain – and, ironically, it is our acceptance of on-going revelation and modern prophecy (for all of us through access to the Holy Ghost) that makes this epiphany jive with the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. We really don’t have it all, and we really do need his on-going and steady word in the here and now.

    Essentially, we believe that Jesus really does have the power to do what he says he can do, even though we realize he has no obligation to do so and we don’t deserve it – that his grace truly is universal and all-encompassing; standard evangelical interpretations, ironically, stake their claims by denying the power of the Atonement – saying that he can’t save all as he (and Paul) claimed he can. That’s a shattering epiphany, so few evangelicals are willing to embrace it.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, you said:

    “There has been no concrete archaeological evidence or DNA to support the claim that mormon civilizations actually existed (during old testament days) in the new world of America.”

    Sure, there has been – lots, actually (if you change “mormon civilizations” to “civilizations like those described in the Book of Mormon”). It just doesn’t conform to the incorrect assumptions we have made over the years. That’s for another post I will write someday.

  • Tim

    “But they simply never bothered to understand this: all levels of salvation and even the escape from hell”

    Bruce, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I do appreciate it. I do feel a need to ask you about some words within your statement “the escape from hell.” How does that actually work if a person goes to that place as far as escaping? Would we be doing it ourselves, by prayer from others, by God’s permission alone, etc?

    Finally Bruce….. I forgot to ask you before (if you don’t mind)…one of the strongest arguments that many religions seem to make about the old & new testaments of the bible is that they (the “scriptures” that we have now) simply cannot be trusted to be the perfect or complete truth and knowledge of god. That the correctness and content of the bible has basically been lost and/or corrupted(at least somewhat) through the ages and not the same as what the old testament jews or 1st century christians received and were taught. I believe this is basically the claim that Jehovah’s, christian science, 7th day, catholic, islam, and others make (incl mormon of course). They all seem to have a problem with the trustworthiness of the bible as we have it today. Is there good cause and evidence for this? Isn’t there very old manuscript evidence (as some would say) to support the contention that little has been corrupted in today’s bible and the major original writings are in tact? And if the bible we have now (the standard popular ones) has really been corrupted and changed in big ways, then why would the other religions (who also question the bible) not be right about their prophets and/or revelations? How do mormon’s view the fact they (those other faiths) also believe they have been given god’s true and continuing word?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, as kindly as I can put this, you are scatter-gunning (doctrine-bombing) this discussion. If it’s going to be productive, you need to stick to one question at a time, work through it, dialogue about it, come to some degree of understanding, then move on to another question. You aren’t doing that; you aren’t “conversing” at all. You simply are throwing out issue after issue and not even trying to engage in open and mutually constructive discussion.

    So, please back up to square one and ask whatever question is most important to you. Let’s tackle this in a reasonable way, one question at a time – openly and honestly and as a true dialogue.

  • Bruce Nielson

    SilverRain! How dare you make a comment that is actually on topic on this thread! :P

    SilverRain, I am coming to really appreciate your insights. Such as:

    “However, after the despair expressed in the post, I realized that this understanding is key to understanding the Gospel. Only when we realize that nothing we do is free from flaw can we really begin to grasp what mortality and the Atonement mean.”

    Wow! Well said.

  • Tim

    OK…sorry about that. At this point in the conversations, I am most interested in the whole concept of hell (how does it work and how do we escape) and why so many religions have differing views on that? Why aren’t all of those religions, if they are on the same page when it comes to the bible being very questionable, simply believing that God has appointed Joseph Smith as the final true prophet of God and leave it at that? When I think about it, it just doesn’t make sense that there are so many different explanations. Sorry if you think I am “doctrine bombing” (never heard of that description before), my mind just works faster than my fingers, and sometimes I also don’t know how to slow down. I’ll keep it under control:)

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim,

    Ray is right that we are flipping subjects really fast and probably aren’t getting the most out of this discussion because of that. So while I agree with Ray completely, I am OCD about giving answers when asked, so let me try short ones:

    “And if the bible we have now (the standard popular ones) has really been corrupted and changed in big ways, then why would the other religions (who also question the bible) not be right about their prophets and/or revelations?”

    I don’t know how to answer this question. I am unaware of any major world religion (I mean Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Budhist, Islam, etc.) that believes they have a prophet today. Catholics come the closest with the Pope who has the sole authority to decide what their scriptures meant but can’t add to scripture, even in theory. So I am unsure how to answer this question.

    Also, I am not a Mormon that thinks the Bible has been substantially corrupted or changed. My main concern with the bible — if you can call it a concern — is that we’ve lost the historical context for most of it (bear in mind I’m suspicious of all scholarship, as well I should be) and thus I feel it’s not so much “corrupted” as it is that our interpretation of it is corrupted.

    I see using Mormon revelations as restoring the context so that the Bible can be truly understood.

    That doesn’t mean I think the Bible is perfect, however. I do not ascribe to Biblical infallibility at all. But I don’t have any particular reason to see it as fundamentally “corrupted” either.

    “How do mormon’s view the fact they (those other faiths) also believe they have been given god’s true and continuing word?”

    We are similar to the Bahai on this, in my opinion. We feel God gives truth to everyone and over time it corrupts but that the basic truths (love they neighbor) are usually perserved. We look up on religions (that I am aware of… well, not Satanism, I suppose) as coming from God, if indirectly, and being a good thing.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Ray is right that we are flipping subjects really fast and probably aren’t getting the most out of this discussion because of that. So while I agree with Ray completely, I am OCD about giving answers when asked, so let me try short ones:”

    EPIC, Bruce!

    (See, Tim, it’s not just you.) :)

  • Bruce Nielson

    It’s my thread and I’ll epic if I want to. :P

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim in #66: “Why aren’t all of those religions…”

    I can’t answer for other religions. Actually, I can’t even answer for Mormons as a whole, per se, just myself.

    About hell. We don’t know much. Here is what Mormon scripture (including the Bible) say:

    1. It’s really bad.
    2. It’s not a literal fire and brimstone, but it’s that bad.
    3. It’s God’s punishment and in that sense it’s “Eternal” but your stay there might not be.
    4. Once you come out of it, you attain to the lowest “heaven” if you will.
    5. You have to suffer for your own sins there until “justice” has been paid.

    Joseph Smith (not in a revelation) added that you came out of it by suffering until you could accept Jesus. He didn’t really go on to explain it much beyond that.

    In short, I don’t know.

  • Tim

    OK Bruce…,I am finally starting to “get it,” and when that happens, it’s a good thing…at least for me:) It’s so helpful how your direct answers (on what I consider very important subjects for me) have actually shown me things that I can really understand. It’s so nice to meet someone who is willing to answer (what I consider to be) reasonable questions with good direct answers that make sense. Thank you. You have not only been very direct and apparently honest, but very kind. I am just searching for truth and I’ve always found that asking questions helps to get me there…and yes I know, faith is the final ingredient:)

    Your answers, did leave 2 important points (at least for me) unanswered and I was really hoping to know about it.
    1. I have come to understand that followers of Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science, Ellen G White of 7th day adventism, Charles Taze Russel of Jehovah’s, as well as Muhammad of Islam consider their religious founders to be prophets of god who restored (or at least brought in) the true teachings of god…is this not so? At least that’s what I am led to believe. So that’s why I asked the question “And if the bible we have now (the standard popular ones) has really been corrupted and changed in big ways, “and I now add possibly misinterpreted,” then why would the other religions (who also question the bible) not be right about their prophets and/or revelations?”

    2. Bruce you said with regard to hell “You have to suffer for your own sins there until “justice” has been paid. OK. I understand that..but when (or how) does justice become “paid?” I feel it’s an important point for one who eventually wants to escape it and it’s important for me to understand.

    After this I promise not to ask any more of these kinds of “probing” questions. I am sure you all are tired of it by now:)

  • Holden Caulfield

    Bruce, Ray:

    I flippantly told Tim awhile back to “Google it” because I felt he wanted a battlefield, not answers. You guys go way beyond my reasons for blogging. I nod my hat to both of you. Much better people than me.

    Beyond that, no easy task explaining the elusive Mormon doctrine, even the “easy” stuff.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, Mormonism defines “prophecy” loosely as “what is revealed through the Holy Ghost”. That is my own definition, but it comes from the Bible Dictionary that is included as a part of the scriptural helps that are in the KJV Bible that the Church publishes. Under “Prophet”, it says:

    “In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11: 25-29; Rev. 19: 10.”

    From Numbers 11:25&29: “and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease … (and Moses said) would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

    From Revelations 19:10: “I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

    Given this definition, Mormonism has no problem accepting non-Mormon religious leaders as “prophets” in that most narrow sense – as someone through whom God chose to speak through the Holy Ghost. In fact, this is very consistent with the OT perspective, when numerous “prophets” lived at the same time and seemed to come out of the woodwork prior to great calamities. There is a difference between that, however, and the “calling” of someone to the “Priesthood office” of prophet.

    Those who have been called and ordained as prophets and apostles are “set apart” to prophecy (to share the word of God as moved upon by the Holy Ghost). They aren’t “perfect” (complete and whole and fully developed) in this responsibility (meaning they aren’t infallible), but they do “read the signs of the times” and share their inspiration with the world as a result. That also is why, frankly, we should have little problem letting go of things that were said in a different time than our own (or even in a different culture concurrent to our own) – since what God communicates with his children can change according to the needs of the people at any given time or in any given culture. He also communicates according to their willingness to listen.

    For example, if highly addictive substances are unknown in one society, there is little reason to expect God to prompt a prophet to speak of them; if, however, those substances exist or will be introduced shortly in another society, there is every reason to expect prophets in that society to mention them. This also explains why the Jewish priests in Jerusalem at the birth of Jesus had no idea about the prophecy regarding the star, while “wise men” from the east did know of it. One group was open to being told about it; the other group was not – so, apparently, God simply didn’t inspire any prophets from that area to mention that upcoming sign.

    Was Muhammad a prophet? Given the totality of what he taught, I have no problem believing he might have been. I feel the same way about Confucius, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and any number of other inspired preachers. I don’t view them as Prophets or as having been called and ordained through the Priesthood as prophets and apostles, but I have no problem with them proclaiming the word of God through inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The same, frankly, is true of any number of rabbis.

  • Tim

    Ok…I think I pretty much understand that explanation! There is obviously a lot to consider when trying to understand that issue. Thank you Ray.

    So what I “get from that” is that one prophesy from God can supersede or replace another prophesy from God no matter what prophet might be giving it, when it is given, or where it is received (by the prophet)…is that right? Then that would answer the question, “why does it seem that so many different religious prophet’s prophecies disagree we each other almost like they are not coming from the same god as in the case of some important teachings in Islam vs Mormonism? It’s simply that god has something else to say to mankind and has chosen one prophet or another to say it and the later prophesy takes 1st position if it seems to disagree with a prophesy before? Is that what you are saying Ray about various religious prophets…other than Joseph Smith (who was set apart)? Maybe I am wrong on that?

    So then the writings of the other prophets who claim that those writings are the “word of god” given by inspiration by god (the holy spirit) are as much to be trusted as the writings of book of mormon or bible for example? Or am I still a bit confused on that issue? If the holy spirit is the source of the spoken or written prophesy, then it must be true, assuming the holy spirit does not lie.

    I don’t not want to sound redundant Ray because you have been so patient with me, but how can we really believe or trust that Muhammad or Mary Baker Eddy for example (both of whom founded new religions & teachings), are actually revealing “holy spirit inspired” prophesies? How can we know or particularly trust that they (the prophesies) are coming from the holy ghost by way of jesus christ as you stated? How can we trust that they are genuine? Those followers certainly believe their own prophesies are of god, but how would mormonism look at them with regard to that?

    Mother Teresa or Billy Graham (as far as I know) didn’t start a new religion with a new church. They were small “players” in the history of christianity from the way it looks. Their don’t have prophesies that began a new and distinct religion like Joseph Smith, or Jesus. However, that is not the case for the religions I previously asked about who did start new religions. And rabbi’s (and I do know a few of them being jewish myself) don’t normally think of themselves as prophets, but teachers of the law and of jewish ways, customs, rituals, and beliefs) and probably would not say that they started a new religion with new teaching apart from what already exists in the jewish faith.

    As far as Confucius goes, from what I know of those teachings, they don’t really consider themselves a religion with a god who has given or gives ongoing prophesies to chosen prophets of god…since they really don’t claim to worship a god as far as I know. They are (I believe) primarily a philosophy and a way of life with certain moral standards. There is no inspired original book or writings from a god (that I am aware of) given to confucius like there was with the other religions.

    So back to those previously mentioned religions, their founders and their inspired books that direct the lives of their followers… how can we know if they were truly inspired of the holy ghost by way of jesus christ, unless the holy ghost can make mistakes (I am asking that question in all seriousness)… or maybe the holy ghost wasn’t involved at all? If he wasn’t involved at all (and how would we know that?), would the claimed prophesies still be prophesies? Would they still be the word of god as far as the way mormons view god and the proclamation of the word of god?

    Ray, you did say that “I don’t view them as Prophets or as having been called and ordained through the Priesthood as prophets and apostles, but I have no problem with them proclaiming the word of God through inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The same, frankly, is true of any number of rabbis.” (that’s why I am hammering so hard on my question because I am still not comfortable with the answer you gave.

    Thank you very much for considering this line of thought Ray…I just want to be sure I understand how to view the “definition and reality” of prophesy and prophets writings (in other substantial religions) which seems to be so important to mormonism and the teaching that has come from it. Thank you. And if it’s important to mormonism it is important to me.

    By the way, I am not looking for a long explanation. Quite the opposite. Just direct, honest, and hopefully something I can really understand. Does mormonism really have a good answer these issues? Thank you again!!

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, I know you aren’t comfortable with my answer, and I know why you are not comfortable with it. I just think you should know that up front. This is not the first time in the last few decades I have had this exact same conversation, in this exact same way, in this exact same order, ad infinitum. Absolutely nothing you have said here is new to me, including the approach you are taking. I know exactly where you are coming from. I am patiently conversing with you, but I have predicted every step you’ve taken in this discussion accurately up to this point, since I really have had this “conversation” numerous times in my life. I understand you much better than I believe you think I do, just so you know.

    Anyway, we believe that God speaks through the Holy Ghost to all who will listen. We don’t claim a monopoly on truth or understanding. We believe that ALL religions (with perhaps a very few Satanic exceptions) have some truth and inspiration behind their teachings (and some have MUCH truth) – through “prophecy” in its most general sense.

    I used Confucius intentionally, specifically because he would not have considered himself to be a “prophet”. However, I do believe his teachings were “inspired” and, perhaps, received through the influence of the Holy Ghost. I don’t know that, so I only can say he “might” qualify as a prophet in the loosest sense I shared. That is how I view Muhammad – perhaps as a prophet in the sense of sharing general truths he learned through the Spirit. Again, I don’t know that, so I only can say he might have been one.

    There are examples of this in the Bible – people of whom we know very little except that they were not Jews (or even of the House of Israel) and that they were inspired by God and understood and/or pronounced prophecy. I already have mentioned the wise men from the east; Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) is a fascinating example, as he was a “priest of Midian” (a son of Abraham and one of his concubines); Melchizedek is even more interesting, since we only have one reference to him in the entire Bible – but that reference calls him “the priest of the most high God” (and he was not of the covenant seed of Abraham or considered to be a prophet by most Christians); there are others.

    We believe all good things come from God, and that anything that inspires to do good comes from God – at least originally. I believe that many teachings of the various religions are so similar at heart that they shared an original genesis, either as mutations from a common source or by direct inspiration from God to various individuals – “prophets”, if you will, in that they shared what the Holy Ghost inspired in them. (“Spirit-breathed” is a common evangelical phrase that means much the same thing.)

    However, I never said new prophecy always trumps old prophecy. That is a standard charge by those who stereotype Mormonism and try to reject new modern prophets in favor of Biblical prophets. It really is quite transparent, and quite contradictory for any Protestants who essentially ignore the OT since the NT is later revelation (or stress Paul’s epistles over the Gospels – or the Creeds over the Bible itself). All I said is that some things prophets teach are cultural or relevant to one particular time, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we no longer follow them. Almost all Christians believe this (see Paul’s statements on women remaining silent in church, for perhaps the best example), so it is not unique in any way to Mormonism.

    To your exact question, the only way to ascertain the Spirit is through the Spirit – and that’s where it gets tricky, since that is an individual experience. What one person deems a spiritual answer might not be what another person deems as such, and one person might actually believe they have received an answer that is totally different than someone else’s. I can’t make that call about anyone else’s experiences; I only can speak of mine, since we are commanded to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

    Iow, I am answerable to God for following what I believe He tells me (allows me to feel, witnesses to my soul, etc.). I have to make my judgments based on a comparison to what I believe Jesus himself said and what I believe will bring me closer to Him and the Father, but even that is subjective and different for each person – since the Bible is interpreted differently even by various adherents to mainstream Protestant denominations. If Baptists and Presbyterians, for example, can’t agree on central aspects of salvation (and if Christians have killed each other over the centuries because they felt so strongly about those differences), all I can do is understand and live to the best of my ability and trust God’s grace and the Atonement to make up for my shortfalls.

    Summary: I must not blindly reject someone’s words simply because they don’t fit a blanket stereotype of prophets that isn’t even consistent with the Bible itself. I must seek understanding and light and knowledge and truth through all who are inspired of the Spirit (no matter their religious affiliation), all the while clinging tightly to my testimony of Jesus as my Lord, Savior, Redeemer, God and Judge (among other things) and trusting Him to do what he promised to do in His earthly ministry.

  • Tim

    Ray, I am sorry that my last “posting” was so long! I wanted to apologize for that. My only goal was to be able to “really understand” that particular subject. Perhaps a better, and much shorter way of approaching it is by asking you the following short questions which would probably come close to what I am looking to find out: Hopefully they can be answered very directly and that mormonism speaks clearly to this kind of thing. That certainly would help me and I need all the help I can get:) Sorry for asking all these questions:) Really i’m grateful for your kind responses. You know, “jews” like myself can be kind of “pesky” if I do say so myself! But hey, we believe if we don’t ask, we may not get what we really need.

    1. Do mormon’s (you personally Ray) believe that the Koran (Qur’an) of the muslim faith is the word of god as inspired by the holy spirit through jesus? If so, why? If not, why not? Short and sweet answers:)
    2. Do the mormon’s (you personally Ray) believe that the New World bible and watchtower publication of the jehovah witness faith is the word of god inspired by the holy spirit through jesus? If so, why? If not, why not?
    3. Do the mormon’s (you personally Ray) believe that the book “science & health with key to the scriptures” of the christian science faith is the word of god inspired by the holy spirit through jesus? If so, why? If not, why not?
    4. Do you believe that the Catholic pope is infallible (they say they are) with regard to their official teachings and that these teachings are inspired by the holy spirit through jesus christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
    If any of these books/writings or people are not inspired by the holy spirit through jesus christ, then where did the books and/or proclamations actually come from?

    OK, there it is Ray. By the way, I have already found out the answer to these questions from evangelical christian’s (that I know) point of view . Their answer would simply be “no, they (those books or people) are not inspired by the holy spirit. Their beliefs are in opposition to ours so they cannot be true, and therefore they are false. God cannot lie.” That’s the short version.

    So how would you (mormonism) answer it?

    Thanks again for your patience with me.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, I’ve already answered your questions, and I’m not playing that game – and I will use one of your questions to illustrate the primary reason why. You asked:

    “Do you believe that the Catholic pope is infallible . . .?”

    I have been patient and tried to model meekness in my responses, but this question proves completely that you aren’t reading my comments thoughtfully and seeking to understand where I am coming from to engage in a true dialogue. I’ve said multiple times that I don’t believe in prophetic infallibility and that Mormonism doesn’t teach infallibility even for Biblical prophets and our own modern prophets. Your question shouldn’t have to be asked by someone who is as intelligent as you obviously are.

    Furthermore, you are asking me to give very short, yes-no answers to complex questions – which I already have answered in my previous comments.

    All I will say is that Mormonism allows for degrees of truth outside of Mormonism – and even outside of Christianity. It allows for the working of the Holy Spirit through a connection with the Light of Christ for all who sincerely are striving to understand and follow God regardless of religious affiliation. We do not believe God speaks to and inspires ONLY Christians; we do not believe that He is completely silent with all the rest of His children. The Bible itself doesn’t teach that – as with the cases I just mentioned in my last comment of those outside the “Chosen People” category of their time who, nonetheless, knew of prophecy and were led by the Holy Spirit.

    I (and Mormonism) have simple, short answers to your questions, and they are very different than the answers believed by evangelical Christians. I know that; they know that; it is obvious you know that. My closing comment to you is that the evangelical answer you have provided is diametrically opposed to the Bible and incorrect on its face. There are commonalities in many areas throughout the texts you reference, and there are differences throughout the texts you reference. There are elements of truth within them, and there are elements of untruth throughout them. That is the simple answer to your questions.

    I am headed to bed. Good night. Go with God.

  • Jeff Spector

    Tim,

    Let us leave this conversation with the following quote from Brigham Young, which I think sums up the conversation which we have been having. I think we are all weary of dancing from one topic to the other and not fully discussing anything. So, I wish you well in your honest pursuit for the truth.

    “”Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this church. As for their morality many of them are morally just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this church and kingdom. Death, hell, and the grave only are outside of “Mormonism.” “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss;” (President Brigham Young, delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, April 8th, 1867. Journal of Discourses, Vol 11, page 375)

  • Tim

    OK Jeff..now I understand much better (I hope) from the B.Y. quote you provided. Please understand that as smart as you all think I might be, it still has been difficult up to this point for me to really get a handle on these particular subjects…until now. Mormonism is definitely not black & white as so many other religions seem to be and in the way I have been taught to think. The BY explanation means to me that mormonism is a the top of the Universe (so to speak) with regard to religious truth and authority, and accepts & believes that ultimately all can be truth (no matter who has it, and whatever IS truth is part of mormonism. So trying to define or determine truth has been my hangup obviously. Based on the B.Y. quote, I really shouldn’t be focusing on that as much as focusing on simply having faith that mormonism is true, Joseph Smith is true, and the mormon path to jesus, salvation, and eternal life is true. Period. Is that it in a “nutshell?” I hope so.

  • Tim

    Oh…and I really have been reading the comments as thoughtfully as I could, although that may be hard to believe on the surface. Like I said before, I think in “black & white” terms and just had no idea that mormonism really wasn’t that way at all. It’s been a difficult learning experience that’s for sure.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Based on the B.Y. quote, I really shouldn’t be focusing on that as much as focusing on simply having faith that mormonism is true, Joseph Smith is true, and the mormon path to jesus, salvation, and eternal life is true. Period. Is that it in a ‘nutshell?’”

    Nope.

    If you are serious about trying to reach an understanding, you should be considering everything with an open heart AND mind and praying sincerely to the Father in the name of the Son to feel the confirmation of the Holy Ghost – so you have your own personal prophecy / witness from the Godhead / Trinity. It really isn’t much more complicated than that. If you sincerely believe God is telling you to accept Mormonism as restored Christianity (as the closest thing we can get to what Jesus himself actually taught), you have an obligation to act on that; if you sincerely believe God is telling you NOT to accept Mormonism as restored Christianity (as the closest thing we can get to what Jesus himself actually taught), you have an obligation to act on that, as well.

    It’s between you and God, and it’s up to you to act according to your own inspiration / prophecy / direction from God. My only advice:

    Try to set aside all previous interpretations and give our beliefs the benefit of the doubt. Too often, people with whom I have discussed these things can’t get past what they have been taught in other denominations, even when it seems clear from a simple parsing of the Bible itself that those teachings aren’t in harmony with the words of Jesus himself. That is true especially of evangelical denominations. My standard is simple – and opposite of what you assumed earlier:

    When dealing with the Bible, ALWAYS grant top priority to the words of Jesus. Interpret EVERYTHING else through the lens of his words. For example, if there seems to be a discrepancy between what Jesus says in the Gospels and what a prophet or apostle or disciple or early Christian father says, Jesus wins – EVERY TIME, regardless. If there is a discrepancy between what a NT prophet or apostle says and what an early Christian father says, the NT prophet or apostle wins – EVERY TIME, regardless. If you do that honestly and scrupulously, I believe you will see that the teachings of “The Restoration” are aligned very well with the original teachings of Jesus, slightly less well with the teachings of Paul, slightly less well with the teachings of some of the most influential early Christian fathers, not all that well with most of the Protestant reformers and not well at all with most 19th and 20th Century Protestant ministers.

  • Tim

    OK Ray…I will think about that. You are right, someone like me would have to get past “traditional or conventional thinking” to move towards something new, previously unknown, or misunderstood. I believe it would be a big stretch for me (at least for the moment) to believe that someone like me could someday become someone exactly like jesus (in the literal sense). A god (although jews don’t obviously believe Jesus is or was a god). That’s a huge leap of faith as far as I see it based on past understanding of the afterlife. I am not so much concerned about my short time (life) here on earth at the moment as the notion of what reality will be like after my life is over. The thought of eventually becoming a “god” who would be in charge of his own planet, kingdom, multiple children, multiple wives, etc, etc (as I understand it) is a bit overwhelming for me to think about. Is that a normal reaction? Being somewhere forever in the midst of billions of eternal beings after we die is one thing, but being somewhere like the other is quite another thing. It would be to me like going to Disneyland or Disneyworld (I love those places)and never having to leave, going on exciting rides forever, and finding out that I was in charge of or owned those places too! maybe that would (if I can use that analogy). Maybe that (being at disneyland forever) would get a little boring after a while:), but being an eternal god probably would not.

  • KingOfTexas

    I have a testimony of the truth of many, many things. Some things which can’t be told. (not temple things) There are scriptures I have read for 40 years in Greek, Hebrew and heard them in redneck English yet I didn’t understand them until a few months ago. I was shown by the spirit the understanding of these things. I don’t know everything in the scriptures but I know they are true. When it comes to spiritual things I let the Spirit guide me to truth. If someone says the Bible is wrong because… or the Book of Mormon is wrong because… I ignore it. I know they are true. To think we can use our intellect or reasoning to figure out God is the height of blasphemy. When we are meant to know or are worthy to know we will be shown by the spirit. Don’t forget the things you do know. Which of the articles of faith do you know are true which do you believe are true? Ask to know if they are all true. http://scriptures.lds.org/a_of_f/1/1-13#1 Start over if you have to.

  • Jeff Spector

    “I believe it would be a big stretch for me (at least for the moment) to believe that someone like me could someday become someone exactly like jesus (in the literal sense).”

    Yes, it is a stretch to beleive that if you are not able to assimilate and accept the basic doctrines of the Gospel as taught by Jesus. As Joseph said, the journey is like a ladder, you must start at the beginning and progress rung by rung. You cannot very well reach the top rung until you are at the one below it.

    You can’t accept to be like Jesus until you understand the true nature of God, His Son and the Holy Ghost. Just like you can’t solve triple integrals if you can’t add two number together.

    Tim, you need to put aside the complex doctrines and focus on the simple things.

  • Tim

    Jeff,

    I agree with you. To the (my) natural mind, these doctrines (issues) are very complex and it hurts my brain thinking about them any more (at least at this point). So yes, it’s definitely time to focus on the simple things:) With that said, I will mediate and pray about simple things for a while.

  • Bruce Nielson

    I tend to take a break on the weekend because all of these comments hurt my brain. So I seemed to have ended up accidently dropping out of this conversation and missing it all.

    Tim, I appreciate the questions you’ve been asking. I think Jeff and Ray gave some pretty good answers.

    Let me add my own view here, even if you don’t get to read it.

    First, let’s start with what I perceive many Christians (Jews too maybe?) as believing the truth about scripture to be. I’m going to call this the “Born Again (Evangelical) Christians View” of scripture because that’s whom I associated it with the most. This doesn’t mean they are the only ones that hold this view nor does it mean all of them hold this view.

    The Born Again Christian view of scripture is one where scripture — to them that’s the Bible — is perfect and infallible. People that hold this view tend to not differentiate a hierarchy like Ray did in #81.

    Under this view — which I believe to be fatally flawed, by the way — we’d take Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and say that it is exactly equally in authority to Paul’s marriage advice in 1 Corinthians 7. The thinking goes that the Bible is scripture and scripture comes from God and God is perfect, thus all scripture is perfect.

    The problem is 1) there is no scripture that teaches this, thus this is actually an extra-scriptural belief, 2) the scriptures deny this possibility.

    For example, Paul, in 1 Cor 7:6 states: “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.”

    So here we have a conundrum. Paul, in the scriptures, tell us point blank that what he is about to say isn’t directly from God. Now what!? However, later on, he says he thinks he is being inspired by the Spirit. (see v.40.)

    The Born Again Christian view is that Paul thought he was just speaking for himself, but then he was really inspired, so this chapter is as authoritative as the Sermon on the Mount.

    I think that’s hogwash, to be blunt. I don’t have space here to go into all the different ways to read this chapter — there are many. All I can say is that I take Paul at face value. If he says “not by commandment” (essentially, this is my best inspired opinion based on our current circumstances) I think he means it. Period.

    So who believes the Bible more? The Born Again Christians that claims 1 Cor 7 is equally in authority to the Sermon on the Mount, or me, that believes 1 Cor 7:6 exactly at what it says? You be the judge.

    Now compare the Born Again Christians view to what God revealed to Joseph Smith in D&C 91. This is a revelation that Joseph Smith received because he wanted to know about the Catholic Apocrypha. These are books from Old Testament times that Catholics consider Scripture but Protestants don’t. Joseph, naturally, wanted to know if they were really scripture like the Old Testament and if people should study them out like the rest of the Bible.

    The answer from God was shocking: (I’m skipping a few parts)
    1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;
    2 There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.

    4 Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth;
    5 And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom;
    6 And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. …

    This was the opposite of the Biblical infallibility view (what I’m calling the Born Again Christian view) of the time. Things were supposed to be either scripture and true or they were false. But here God is saying that there is a hierarchy. Some things are more true than others. Some contain more interpolations that didn’t come from God than others. Thus something can be partially from God and partially not from God at the same time.

    Based on this view, Mormons have a view of a hierarchy. We put the most emphasis on our 4 books of scripture: The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price. We put a lot of emphasis on, but not quite as much, the words of the presidents (prophets) and apostles of the Church. We put slightly less emphasis ones that are dead then ones that are living (on the assumption that inspiration has a temporal component. We put less emphasis, but still quite a bit, on local leaders. Eventually we get outside of our own Church/Religion and we still put some emphasis on these. We find much truth there and even some truth not revealed within the Church. We wish to collect that and make it our own. But we aren’t likely to spend time in Sunday School studying the Koran or Mary Baker Eddy. If a Mormon is interested, they can do that on your own prayerfully and still gain insight from the Spirit while ignoring the parts of those teachings that are not really from God.

    I personally have found a ton of inspiration from the early Christian and apostolic fathers (first 3 centuries, anyhow.) I think those people were very close to God (the so-called apostolic fathers actually knew the original apostles) and I try to work their teachings into my life to some measure.

    I have found a lot of inspiration and truth with C.S. Lewis (a favorite amongst Mormons) even though he’s a relatively “orthodox Christian” in his views. In fact, C.S. Lewis’ writings have helped me to understand several revelations from Joseph Smith that I don’t feel I understood before reading Lewis. I truly believe God inspired and revealed things to C.S. Lewis. But that doesn’t mean I think his writings have anything close to the same authority as scripture. And I disagree and disbelieve many things Lewis taught, though I think they were honest mistakes where he was just doing the best he could to understand God from the scriptures.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim, let me address a couple of other things. First, you said: “The thought of eventually becoming a “god” who would be in charge of his own planet, kingdom, multiple children, multiple wives, etc, etc (as I understand it) is a bit overwhelming for me to think about. Is that a normal reaction?”

    Two thoughts here. First, you are freely intermixing various speculations of 19th century Mormons about what it means to become one with God with modern Mormon beliefs. This is because you’ve read things Evangelical (Born Again) Christians have said about Mormons rather than what Mormons say about themselves. I’m not denying anything you said, I just don’t know. But I have serious doubts that the 19th century Mormon view of Deification (Godhood) was accurate. See my article here on the subject.

    Second, yes, it’s overwhelming. In fact, it seems like it isn’t possible. We can become God just like Jesus is God? How is that possible? It’s not possible, right?

    This is EXACTLY why the rest of the Christian world can’t accept this teaching. (Despite it being very historically Christian in many ways. Early Christians fathers did teach a form of Deification similar to this.) They simply can’t fathom the possibility that God is actually capable of making us God with Him — literally adding us to the Godhead.

    Is anything too hard for the Lord?

    “Maybe that (being at disneyland forever) would get a little boring after a while:), but being an eternal god probably would not.”

    I think this is exactly correct. There is no view of the afterlife that could ever be sufficient to make us perfectly happy forever but the one were we attain to all that the Father hath. (See Luke 15:31 and compare to Rev 21:7. Also compare to Matt 11:27 where this is said of Jesus.) And there is no view of God that is perfectly good and loving save this one either. If you had children, would you want them to forever be less than you just to be sure you are the best? This does not make sense to me.

  • Tim

    Hi Bruce,

    I really wasn’t going to come here today, but after noticing your lengthy and well thought out responses, I felt like I wanted to say something that just occurred to me.***

    4 Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth;
    5 And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom;
    6 And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. …

    ***Keeping the above answers (revelations) you quoted from god to joseph smith in mind,… does the understanding an individual receives on any question or subject matter that pertains to life or faith (god) ultimately depend on the holy spirit and the wisdom & truth that he provides an individual to DISCERN truth from untruth, FACT from fiction, etc? Is that what it really boils down to when we are looking for answers (truth)?

  • Bruce Nielson

    “does the understanding an individual receives on any question or subject matter that pertains to life or faith (god) ultimately depend on the holy spirit and the wisdom & truth that he provides an individual to DISCERN truth from untruth, FACT from fiction, etc? Is that what it really boils down to when we are looking for answers (truth)?”

    Tim,

    Take a look at your own question. With everything that has been said, what do you think the answer is? It’s not a yes or no answer is it?

    Now go back and read my original post that started this thread.

    What you are trying to do (as do we all) is “figure this out” rationally so that you have an objective answer. It’s impossible. If you are smart enough to get to the bottom of this, you’ll find there is no bottom. If there really were a way to objectively determine “religious truth” we’d all have found it by now.

    I commend you for your struggles in this regard. The fact that religious truths about God are beyond our ability to rationalized out, doesn’t mean God objects to us sincerely trying. Indeed, I doubt he’ll answer any prayer that isn’t sincere and I doubt it will be sincere if you aren’t really trying to use the mind in this regard.

    Now look at SilverRain’s comments in #60:

    However, after the despair expressed in the post, I realized that this understanding is key to understanding the Gospel. Only when we realize that nothing we do is free from flaw can we really begin to grasp what mortality and the Atonement mean.

    Because of this epiphany I have finally touched on true humility (though I’ve not yet reached it, I can at least scent it in the air.) Humility is realizing that there is no way to be completely right, that we can only do the best we can and keep our intentions pure.

    Only then, can we begin to accept and understand the Savior. [Possibly insert "God" in place of "Savior" as desired.]

    This is the answer. You should not “join Mormonism” unless you honestly seek an answer from God and honestly feel God has answered you in the affirmative. The same could be said of any religion. If you do feel you’ve received an answer from God, then how to proceed is obvious: do what you believe God is telling you.

    At some point the following thought crosses my (and hopefully everybody’s) mind. “What if I’m wrong? What if I misunderstood? What if I’m letting my biases interfer?”

    When this happens, realize that’s just reality. You are weak and nothing without God.

    Instead, have faith that there is a God and that He can and is leading you. Have faith that He answers prayers. Have faith that He really is good, really is gracious, really does not lie. Have faith that anyone can approach Him, not just a predestined few.

    And then have faith in His mercy for the times you are wrong or do misunderstand — for you will never know how much or where you “got it wrong” for sure. And then stop worrying and seek answers from God again for the rest of your life, always trusting God is leading you, bit by bit, to more. Enjoy the journey. Don’t forget to thank God for it.

  • Tim

    Bruce,

    With all that the mormon beliefs (truths) offer someone, why would anyone want to believe in anything else like the catholics/protestants, jews, and muslims do?

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim in #90:

    Goodness. I can think of tons of reasons. Some are good reasons (“I was raised this way and I’m going to honor my culture.”) Some are better reasons (“I don’t believe in it.”) And, of course, some are bad reasons (“I hate Mormons.”) This is such a personal thing there is no way for me to answer the question. You get to answer it for yourself and for no one else.

    If what you are asking me is “do Mormons have one of the most positive views of God of any religion?” then I’d have to say that in my opinion, they do.

    Plus, we’d all have to agree that the Mormon view comes with a high price tag for many people.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Tim, I am going to be pretty blunt in my response to your question in #90 – much more blunt than I normally am, because I believe you deserve my unedited and totally honest answer. Bruce’s answer is honest and valid, since he was looking at reasons why someone might not accept the claims of Mormonism. My most basic answer is pretty straight-forward and simple:

    People don’t accept Mormon beliefs because they can’t accept the one “root reason” and the “trunk” that springs from it. When they start with a different root system and a different trunk, they get different fruit. It really is that simple.

    The “root” of Mormonism is that God, the Eternal Father, literally is our father in a very real and ancestral way. The “trunk” that grows from that is that Jesus, the Christ, literally is God, the Son, whose mission (the “Good News”) is centered on freeing us from the effects of mortality (“The Fall” from the presence of our Father) and returning us (“saving” and “redeeming” us in a state of “at-one-ment”) to Him – cleansed of impurities and ready to become like Him.

    That root (OT) and trunk (NT) are the central themes of the Bible, and the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry was to show us how to love EVERYONE as brothers and sisters – to esteem ALL as children of the Father – to achieve individual AND communal perfection (completeness, wholeness, full development) – etc. The epistles are focused primarily on reinforcing that message – that the unity of the Saints is critical to becoming one with God, which is the ultimate objective of life.

    Why would anyone reject all that Mormonism offers? I believe the simplest answer is because they don’t accept and believe what the Bible teaches – especially the words attributed to Jesus himself. They say they accept the Bible as the word of God, but they don’t really believe what it teaches – when its teachings are grounded first and foremost on the teachings of Jesus himself. Hence, my advice about prioritizing scripture. JESUS WINS EVERY TIME – and far too many Christians “draw near to (Him) with their lips (what they say), but their hearts (what they actually believe) are far from (Him).”

    That’s my blunt answer. Those who reject Mormonism’s theology (not necessarily the Church and its organizational structure, but the core vision of the theology it teaches) do so because they look around and inside them and can’t have faith that God is their literal father and that He can take their incredibly flawed selves, clean them up and make them shine with Celestial glory. They have “a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Ironically, the power they deny is the very power of which Jesus and His disciples testified as being the core of the Gospel.

  • Jeff Spector

    “With all that the mormon beliefs (truths) offer someone, why would anyone want to believe in anything else like the catholics/protestants, jews, and muslims do?”

    TRADITION!

  • Bruce Nielson

    Jeff, please sing your answer in #93 for us. :P

  • Jeff Spector

    Don’t think I don’t know it by heart. It is my family’s all time favorite behind West Side Story!

  • Bruce Nielson

    Jeff Spector: The One Man Play!

    Jeff will sing for us several of his favorite selections from his families two all time favorite musicals. Get your tickets now from Spectortix. A bootleg version will be available on the internet later.

  • Tim

    You guys are funny and entertaining too:)

  • Tim

    By the way Bruce & Ray, I am “chewing” on your recent words (in #89 & 92) at this time…and I must say they are pretty tasty:)

  • Jeff Spector

    “Jeff will sing for us several of his favorite selections from his families two all time favorite musicals. Get your tickets now from Spectortix. A bootleg version will be available on the internet later.”

    Just a glimpse of my enormous talent is available here:

    On behalf of the group and myself, I hope we passed the audition

  • Bruce Nielson

    Is that really you? Or are you just joking? I’m so terribly gullible. :P

  • Jeff Spector

    I’m afraid so.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Tim, I enjoyed talking with you.

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