Friday, 28 November 2008

The Mormon Creed Examined

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It’s a well known fact that to observe the original tenets of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young would be illegal in many countries.”

The following comes from a little booklet I encountered which is entitled “The Mormon Creed Examined,” which claims to be authored by Keith L. Brooks. I am not the author of this, and accept no responsibility for it, but I do agree with it and strongly believe that many today who follow Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) do so without really knowing the truth of what their early leaders originally taught.

The ultimate irony for me is this: If Joseph Smith claimed divine inspiration (which he did), one would have to assume that such “revelations” could not be later edited by others (which they have done many times over). Mormonism as taught today to the unsuspecting is so far removed from the “revelations” of Joseph Smith, that one might have to ask, “Did God change His mind?”

Unfortunately there are many Christians that have been misled by Mormonism. Here in Southern Alberta, as in other parts of the world, Mormonism has spread to such an extent that many of the unsuspecting have actually equated Mormonism with Christianity. There is nothing Christian about Mormonism! I remember a Mormon friend once telling me, “of course we’re Christian because we have the name of Christ on our buildings!” My answer is, “having the name of Christ on your building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than someone swearing and using the Lord’s name in vain makes him a Christian!”

Now on to “The Mormon Creed Examined,” by Keith L. Brooks
_______________
“The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ – this was the title of a little card given to me by a Christian woman who had been convinced by two Mormon elders that the Mormon Church was the true church, loyal in every way to the Bible.

The brief statements on the card appeared to include the basic Christian doctrines for which all evangelical churches are supposed to stand. My friend, however, was not aware that these statements were subject to the interpretation by writings other than the Bible which Mormons regard as sacred. Neither did she know that the distinctive Mormon teachings (which every Bible-loving Christian knows to be contrary to God’s Word) were not mentioned in the creed. The little card, which is freely distributed among members of evangelical churches, has cleverly misled hundreds.

Mormonism As Now Taught

The Bible declares, “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa.8:20).

For a number of years the author’s folder, The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error, has been widely circulated. The basic teachings of several modern cults and the clear statements of the Scriptures are arranged in contrasting columns. The cult teachings were taken from the original writings for which the founders claimed divine inspiration, for one would assume that such “revelations” could not later be edited by others.

In some instances divisions have actually occurred within the cults themselves (as in Christian Science and Mormonism), so that certain groups reject part of the original teachings. Succeeding editions of their official books simply omit views originally propagated but which have been unacceptable to many people. But since the founders claimed divine inspiration for their teachings, we are justified in examining the original teachings.

It is difficult, however, to study Mormon beliefs because they insist that they do not hold the views listed and that they hold strictly to the Scriptures. It is a well-known fact that to observe the original tenets of Joseph Smith would be illegal in many countries. Using the 1948 edition of the official handbook of Mormon doctrine as a reference, we will consider the doctrine of salvation. If the Mormons are unscriptural here, obviously we need not proceed to their other doctrines.

Mormon authorities insist that “the church which we represent is the one church and kingdom of God, and we possess the only faith by which the children of men can be brought back into the presence of the Father” (Young - JD 12:205). In the entire book of 418 pages, however, we find but one reference from the Bible, and this in no way supports the statement after which it is used.

According to this book, all human beings are bound by Mormon teaching, since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints “is the only one existing in the world that can and does legitimately bear the name of Christ and His divine authority” (Smith – IE 21:639).

Joseph Smith “was ordained before he came into this world and received every key and ordinance and law ever given to any man on earth from Adam down” (Woodruff – JE 21:317). “It was agreed in the counsels of eternity before the foundation of the earth was laid that Joseph Smith should be the man to bring forth the Word of God to the people and to receive the fullness of the keys and power of the priesthood of the Son of God” (Young – JD, pp.289,290). “The same Mormon priesthood exists on the other side of the veil” (Woodruff – JD 22:333).

Our New Testament makes it very clear that no other priesthood exists over the souls of men since Christ became our exalted High Priest.

Basic to the Mormon doctrine of salvation is the teaching that, like our Lord – who was pre-existent with the Father from all eternity – human beings were also pre-existent and perfect in the celestial state. Instead of our being finite beings (as the Scriptures clearly teach) – creatures of time – we are all visitors from the celestial world who are put on temporary trial in the flesh and given the possibility of “evolving” into “Gods.” (They capitalize the word “Gods” as used of human beings.)

“Man as a spirit was born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions prior to coming to earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality” (Grant – IE 28:1090). We don’t need to look for any scriptural authority for this, for this knowledge as to man’s origin has been specially given to the Mormon Church (Smith – CR, p.33). “Not only was the Saviour in the beginning with the Father but also you and I were there. We dwelt there by reason of faithfulness, having kept our first estate, and have been permitted to come into this world and receive a tabernacle of flesh” (CR, pp. 47, 48). We read: “We possess the same faculties and powers the Father possesses, being required to pass through an ordeal by which we will be improved according to the heed we give the principles we have received” (JD 14: 300-302). “The labours we performed in the celestial sphere have had an effect on our lives here and to a certain extent govern the lives we now lead” (Grant – IE 46:75).

It is at once obvious that this doctrine on human pre-existence must call for an entirely new construction of the biblical plan of salvation. How will such teachings be reconciled to clear New Testament statements? The doctrine of pre-existence makes us eternal beings on mortal probation. We are next told that the object of our being placed on this earth is that we may “work out an exaltation that we may prepare ourselves to go back” (Grant IE 48: 123) or that “we may become sons or daughters of God in a fuller sense” (Smith – JD 19: 259).

“We are here to prove whether we are worthy to go into the celestial, the terrestrial, or the telestial worlds or hell or some other place” (Young – JD 4: 269). “We are here that we might have a body and present it in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body and herein is his punishment” (Smith – TJD 8: 181). “We are also here to cooperate with God in the redemption of the dead and in the blessings of our ancestors and for the purpose of redeeming and regenerating the earth on which we live” (Taylor – JD 21: 94).

Then, according to Mormon teaching, those of us who make good are on the way to becoming gods! “The Lord created us for the purpose of our becoming Gods like Himself when we have proved in our present capacity – growing up from the low estate of manhood to become Gods until we can create worlds on worlds” (Young – JD 3: 93). Thus we become rival gods to Him who, in the consummation of this age, is to become all in all.

“Man is endowed with divine attributes and has the capacity in due time of evolving into a God” (IE – 13:31). Young adds that “we can become Kings of kings and Lords of lords” (JD – 3: 265, 266). “We have to learn how to be Gods ourselves” (Smith – TS), and Young adds that when we get to be gods and creators we can “propagate the species in the spiritual” (JD – 6: 274, 275).

Against this backdrop, how can we now hope to make sense of the New Testament teachings concerning salvation by grace through faith without works? (John 6: 28,29; Rom. 3: 27,28; Eph. 2: 8-10; Titus 3:5).

Turning to the subject of the gospel, we find that the Mormons propose entirely new definitions, all of which are contradictions in terms. “The gospel is a system or plan of laws and ordinances by strict obedience to which people are assured they may return again into the presence of the Father” (Young – 13: 233). “The gospel is a portion of the law that pertains to the kingdom where God resides” (JD 8: 159). With so many clear definitions of the gospel in the New Testament, one wonders why some of them are not cited – but not one salvation verse is quoted.

“The gospel,” Smith tells us, “is a code of laws and ordinances given men to enable them to assimilate themselves to those who are in heaven” (MS – 54: 641). The New Testament puts the law and the gospel in full contrast, declaring that any mixture of law or works with grace makes grace of no effect (Rom. 11:6). Hence, it is not strange that Mormonism has to come up with some new, fantastic definitions.

“There is a very foolish idea,” says Young, “that there was no such thing as the gospel of Jesus Christ until Jesus came. It (this idea) is the greatest folly in creation” (JD 20:23). However, the opening verses of Mark’s Gospel tell us precisely of “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (v.1) with the proclamation of John the Baptist of Christ’s coming as the Lamb (vv. 2-8).

According to Mormon teaching, water baptism is the vehicle of conferring the Holy Spirit, and this baptism is invalid unless administered by a properly constituted Mormon official. Says Herber Grant: “We declare to all the world that John’s baptism restored the Aaronic priesthood and bestowed it upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.”

We have left untouched some of the more characteristic Mormon teachings, but we have cited a sufficient number to show even the most superficial student of the New Testament that the claims of Mormon representatives are false. That they seek only to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord is so obviously deceptive that only one course is open to the sincere seeker for God’s truth: “Mark them which cause … offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).

Origin of Mormonism

In 1820, Joseph Smith, of Palmyra, New York, claimed to have received divine revelations to the effect that all Christian churches were to be repudiated, that the true gospel had been lost since the third century, and that he should find a long-lost book containing the truth. Smith claimed that he was appointed to organize the only true church, of which he was to be the head, with full authority to appoint apostles. He got a following by teaching that judgments were about to be poured out on the earth.

From it’s beginning, Mormonism has been under the rule of an autocratic self-appointed “priesthood.” In reality, it is a great secret society, binding its converts to solemn oaths for life and, through fear of curses, making it very improbable that very many of the converts will get away from the system.

Where did Smith get all the material for the Book of Mormon? He claimed to have found golden plates in a hole in a hillside, and he said that the plates bore a revelation written in “reformed Egyptian.” He claimed that the Lord had given him some special eyeglasses through which he looked at the writing. Immediately the English translation appeared and was written down by an assistant. When all was written, Smith claimed that he gave the plates to an angel, who disappeared with them. Later, ten people said that the contents were based on the material written by a man named Solomon Spaulding and a disposed Baptist minister, Sidney Rigdon, who had been devising a new religion.

Even the origin of Mormonism’s sacred book makes the religion suspect, and the wise seeker for truth will steer clear of it.

_________________________

The preceding was originally published by “Back to the Bible Broadcast.”
For more on this subject, see the following great books:

Roberts, R. Philip. Mormonism Unmasked.
Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.
1998. ISBN: 0-8054-1652-8

Cowdrey, Wayne L, et. Al. Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?
Vision House Publishers, Santa Ana, California.
1977. ISBN: 0-88449-068-8

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Shack - by Wm. Paul Young

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There really haven't been too many books out there lately that have grabbed my attention like The Shack has.

To borrow a line from the back cover of the book, "In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?"

Over the last few months I've been going through a rather difficult time. If you've been a regular reader on this blog, you may even have noticed that something was up when suddenly there seemed to be an absence of new posts to the blog. Without subjecting you to all the details of this difficult time, let me simply say that our Heavenly Father graciously (and maybe even ironically) used THE SHACK to bring me back again into a closer and deeper relationship with Him. Praise God!

When I started reading this book, at times I found my theology being challenged, as I suspect may have happened to many other readers as well. This is especially true given my Baptist seminary education, and especially regarding the Trinity. However, as I continued being absorbed in THE SHACK, it is interesting that many of those theological challenges seemed to disappear and I found myself seeing our great and loving God with fresh and new eyes. I had never before thought of the Trinity of God in such a fashion as the author describes in this book.

I know there are many critics of this book, but I think most of their problems with THE SHACK stem from the unfortunate bad habit that many of us still have of always wanting to put God into a religious box of our own making. In one You Tube video I recently saw, some pastor kept on slaming this book as being heretical quoting this scripture and that scripture. In truth, his own rantings were equally, if not more so, anti-biblical than the book he was being critical of (see some of my other articles on this blog regarding pastors and institutional churches for more on that).

However, if we stop to think of how the Bible repeatedly describes God as a God who is passionately in love with us, then the author's portrayal of the Trinity of God is suddenly not as far fetched as some would like us to think. Perhaps even more importantly, those critics need to remember that the author never intended this book to be a theology textbook. It is, after all, a novel. Let's not forget that.

I generally don't read too many novels, but I do highly recommend this one. It will challenge you (again, if for no other reason then because of the box we tend to put God into), and it will rip at your heart strings and bring tears to your eyes. Then when you least expect it, THE SHACK will also bring you face to face with your "Papa." May God bless you and give you peace, whatever or whomever your "Missy" may be. http://www.theshackbook.com

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Plastic Christianity

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"for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14)

I was reading an article in my local newspaper on one of Billy Graham’s daughters. She was (rightly) concerned with how we as Christians tend to be plastic and superficial in our Christian walks, at least when we’re in our institutional church buildings. She is quoted to have said,

“Once we’re in the church, we pretend all the sinners are on the outside. We want to keep the rules, and when we can’t, we become shameful and pretend we have it all together.” She goes on to say, “The world is tired of plastic Christians … I told everyone I had it all together, and I was falling apart. And I was scared to death to tell somebody.”

Unfortunately, her experiences are far too common. I too remember how many times in the past I’ve walked into an institutional church building and was greeted by somebody with a “Hi, how are you?” Being concerned to give the kind of answer I knew they wanted, I’d answer with the usual “Fine, thank you.” In truth, I was anything but fine.

Why do we do that? In an attempt to “be” what we’re supposed to be, we lie and put on this mask that everything is OK. Unfortunately, everything is often not OK. The truth is, though, that people don’t want to hear that. If I answered back that this, that, or some other thing is wrong, people would be uncomfortable and not know what to do with it.

Why can we not be real, especially around other Christians? Why are we afraid to “tell it like it is?” Why are we so concerned what other people will think if they find out the truth about our inner turmoil’s and pains?

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The answer lies in the fact that we are “Plastic Christians.” It’s somewhat ironic that the non-Christian world sees this, but we tend not to. Is it little wonder then that the form of Christianity that we present to the world is of no interest to them? The world’s not interested in “plastic.” The world is looking for truth and relevance. They are not looking for masks. They see no relevance in an artificial plastic Christian. They’ve already got enough phoniness in their world. Why would they want the phoniness the institutional church is offering too?

So how do we move from being phoney and plastic Christians to being Christians that are real and relevant, not only in the church, but also in the world? The answer lies in genuine love and relationships. The institutional church is really not conducive to either. And if it’s not conducive to either, then why be a part of it? The institutional church, contrary to what they may say, really does not lend itself to developing real relationships. How can it develop real relationships when in it we’re all lined up in neat rows facing the same direction? How can we develop meaningful, non-plastic relationships, when all we’re looking at is the back of the head in front of us? How can each of us “be” Christ to each other in a meaningful and relevant way, practicing the spiritual gifts that God gives each of us, if we continue to depend of a pastor up front to “do” everything and to let us continue to simply be spectators?

When I left the institutional church, the Lord graciously led me to other non-institutional believers with whom I was able to build real relationships. Suddenly, like never before in all my life, I found myself able to genuinely minister to others and to be ministered to by others. Suddenly I was really able to hear and to empathize with a brother or sister who was hurting deep inside, and just as suddenly, they were able to do the same with me when I was hurting. Suddenly we could cry with each other and rejoice with each other. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “When you come together, everyone has…” In the church the way Christ designed it, “everyone has” something to contribute for the wellbeing of all. When you get together with other believers, regardless where it is, do you have every opportunity to contribute what God has given you for the benefit of others? If not, then what are you doing there?

Unfortunately most institutional churches don’t allow for the “everyone has” of 1 Corinthians 14:26. Instead they tend to focus more on the performances of a few individuals up front. What is the result of this? The result is that we become irrelevant, not only to the world around us, but also to each other within the church. Ultimately the result is that we all become “Plastic Christians” whose only real use is to wipe the dust off the pews with the seat of our pants. How sad!