The Windmills of the Mormon Mind

 

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The mists of time lend one a certain romance, Alan Bennett

Its that time of year again. Folk are getting excited about the season, buying and wrapping gifts, some have already got a carol service or two under their belt, along with some mince pies perhaps, and there is a general sense of good will in the air. Mormons are no different in this respect. The December Ensign touches on the great themes of Christmas, the birth of a son, the story of shepherds and angels, the visit of kings. Mormons like to think of themselves as just like everyone else at this festive season.

At the same time, the traditional message of Mormonism is one of distinctions, things that set Mormons apart. Think of the founding claims of Mormonism; other churches are corrupt and wrong, Mormonism is “the only true church,” Mormons have the only true gospel, restored to earth after 1900 years of darkness and apostasy.

How do Mormons hold these conflicting ideas at the same time? How can they be like other Christians and yet so distinct as to be “the only true church?” When we read the items in the Ensign the discerning among us will easily identify the distinguishing marks of Mormonism.

Happiness a Spiritual Fruit?

The Bible message is of God come to dwell among men to serve and, ultimately, to die for men’s sins, then rise again, breaking the bonds of death and inviting all who would to come to God by grace, through faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-13; Hebrews 4:14-16)

The Mormon message is of the Son of God come to dwell among men, to inform and educate people in the “great plan of happiness” God the Father has devised for us. Mormon “salvation” is no more than resurrection, while what Christians understand to be salvation, eternal life in the kingdom of God, Mormons call exaltation and it is earned.

imageHenry B Eyring states, “You have felt happiness as you have kept the commandments of God. That is the promised fruit of living the gospel (see Mosiah 2:41)” The first presidency message (p4) mentions happiness no fewer than 13 times in an article just 656 words long. Happiness is the great theme of Mormonism, the gift Mormons bring their neighbours, but where does the Bible say Christ died to educate us in the art of happiness?

The Bible clearly teaches that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23) Something as trite and temporary as happiness is not found here. Note also that those things that Mormons would regard as the root of their happiness, those acts of obedience demonstrated in kindness, faithfulness etc. are not roots at all but they are fruit of an abiding in Christ, as explained in Jesus’ description of the vine and the branches in John 15.

God and Son

But isn’t Jesus “the Son of God” as Mormons say?  Another distinction is discovered in the visiting teaching message p7, The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: The Only Begotten Son. Here we learn that the only thing that distinguishes Jesus from the rest of mankind is not his position as the second member of the Christian godhead but because he was born of God the Father and a human mother.First Vision

In Mormonism all mankind is literally born of God in a premortal existence and God is as much our Father as he is Jesus’ Father, Jesus himself being our elder brother by premortal birth.  In this familiar picture of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” you are effectively seeing a father and two sons. That being so, Mary was also a daughter of God in that premortal existence, which means that for Jesus to be born on earth of a Divine Father and mortal mother the Mormon God would have to have had an incestuous relationship with Mary. Mormon leaders have asserted as much:

“The Only begotten of the Father (Moses 5:9) ‘These name titles all signify that our Lord is the Only Son of the Father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only mean only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine)

“The Saviour was begotten by the Father and his Spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits, and that is al the organic difference between Jesus and you and me.” (Brigham Young, JOD 4, 218)

Joining the Parade

Then there is an article on becoming Better Saints Through Interfaith Involvement (p28) There are two important points I want to raise here. Mormonism is founded on the claim that all churches are wrong and all those who profess the Christian message of the past two thousand years are corrupt (JSH 1:19) That message is being taken to your neighbours as you read this, make no mistake. John Taylor, third Mormon president said of such initiatives:

“We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol (sic); it is as corrupt as hell; and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.” (JOD 6, 167)

This statement was made in 1893. Exactly 220 years later Mormons find themselves encouraged to join this same parade of pomp and glory.

My second point regards the claim Mormons make that Evangelical Christians “don’t believe in good works.” It is a common enough statement to those who take the trouble to engage with Mormons but it is patently not true. Mormons should know this since it is they who “do good works” alongside other churches that teach a gospel of grace.

They waste no time telling the world how engaged they are with their neighbours of “other faiths,” as they like to call us, and yet they insist we don’t believe in good works. They expect to find us idle even as we work alongside them for the good of the wider community

How do Mormons deal with such cognitive dissonance? To be so conflicted must come at some great cost. They boast they are different yet insist they are like us. They despise our parade and yet they want to join in, bang their drum, and mingle with the crowd. They accuse us of having a cheap grace yet happily work alongside us as we sacrifice ourselves in service to others, all the time boasting of their own works yet failing to recognise ours.

Generations

Jailed leadersThe first thing to realise is that different generations join a different Mormon Church. The Mormons of the 19th century were prepared to go to prison, even to die rather than relinquish their practice of polygamy. Even into the early 20th century Mormon leaders died on the run from the law.  A whole package of doctrine supported this faith that polygamy was the order of heaven and no earthly power was going to stop it.

In much of the 20th century, while Mormons no longer practiced polygamy outside their temples, that package of doctrine was till taught and clearly understood by Mormons who looked to a future time when it would be restored, perhaps in the millennium. I remember well and taught enthusiastically all that Mormonism had taught about this “celestial doctrine.”

In the last days of the 20th century and into this 21st century Mormons regard polygamy as an historical curiosity, something of its time but certainly of no great doctrinal significance for them. You will hear Mormons dismiss it and say they don’t even fully understand the whole business other than as something that happened a long time ago. The same might be said, need I remind you, of the Mormon doctrine of denying Black people the priesthood until July 1978.

The second point is demonstrated by another article on page 54, a report about sermons from early church leaders recovered because transcribed from the shorthand in which they were originally recorded. You might expect the Mormon Church to shy away from publishing such potentially incriminating material since the Mormonism of those far distant days is very different from the Mormonism of 2013/14.

But there is something about the passing of time that lends a certain romance to the good bits of history and something of irrelevance to the bad. The Mormon Church plays on this helpful illusion that time lends to just about anyone’s story.

The mists of time allow them to say they don’t really know what was meant so long ago and in such circumstances. Scott Gordon said something like this, as reported in Bobby’s blog post last week. In such ways the different generations of Mormonism are built up, given a new, contextual meaning where once their meaning was timeless.

Where we see Mormons conflicted Mormons refuse to see such conflict. The Mormon Church helps by continually rewriting their history and urging Mormons to think only of what is in front of them, their generation’s story. It depends on where in this web of lies you are but each generation has found comfort in its own untruths. I was thinking of the words of the song Windmills of Your Mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone

We can’t assume the Mormon standing in front of us has traversed any particular tunnel or is familiar with the particular dark cavern we first encountered Mormonism. Each will have their own set of ideas, their own understanding to reassure them and it is these, as much as anything, we must first deal with.

What is certain is that the Son has not shone in their lives and it is the message of grace, of the cross that is always our destination as we witness; that never changes. This Christmas lets remember the child in a manger born to die on a cruel cross for the sins of the world, including Mormons who, despite their protestations to the contrary, have yet to know him.

19 thoughts on “The Windmills of the Mormon Mind”

  1. So happiness is not biblical, you say? What about the Beatitudes? (from Smith’s literal translation from the original languages):

    Happy the poor in spirit…
    Happy they suffering…
    Happy the meek…
    Happy they hungering…
    Happy the compassionate…
    Happy they making peace…
    Happy they driven out for justice…
    Happy are ye, when they shall upbraid you…for my sake.

    Matthew 5

    If you are so mistaken on something so simple as happiness as a fruit of following Christ, why should I believe you on anything else you say in this article?

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  2. To miketea: Strong’s concordance number G3107, Greek word “makarios,” translated in the King James version 44 times as “blessed,” 5 times as “happy,” and one time as “happier.”

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  3. Hi Ted, I think it is important to understand that while the Greek has multiple meanings in English, the meanings may not be substituted and still be considered correctly presented. There is more to translating than that. For example, when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him we just see the word love translated into English. When we read the verses in John 21 we aren’t seeing that the love Jesus is asking about is a self giving love, but Peter is answering with brotherly love. In the third repetition Jesus goes down to Peter and uses the brotherly form. Jesus meets us where we are.

    I haven’t discussed the above with Mike, but I will put my own spin on it. First, I grew up in the church and was active all my life and served a mission in what was the England London South Mission from 1985 to 1987 and when I was 45, a few dots connected with me and I eventually discovered Jesus in the way we understand in Luke 15. He searched for me, he ran to me.

    Over the last couple of weeks I have returned to some thoughts about my experiences over the last two years. I see in myself my motivations for doing things, I am aware of my feelings for my family, for those around me and for Jesus too. In my gratitude to Jesus and in the relationship I am part of I have my own response to make and I feel joy as I share my time and talents and money and love with others in a way that I never felt before. This is the sort of happiness that I think we can talk about.

    I can think of many times in my Mormon experience when I felt great. I had 100% home teaching for a very long time. I managed to get someone who hadn’t been out to church for a very long time to come. As a quorum leader I visited often with a person suffering with a terminal illness, I spent hours (up to 5) preparing Priesthood lessons to literally standing room only rooms, the doors left open so men could stand and listen. Many of these Elders, often only came to class when I was teaching. I used to go to the Temple as often as I could and frequently weekly. I spent hours bringing the ward financials up-to-date taking over from someone who struggled. I was always doing, but I was acting out of obligation, but it did make me feel good. I was doing what I should be doing.

    I do many of these things now at the new church I go to. But I feel different in my participation. I do feel happy, I have joy, I feel a new creation and I feel the Holy Spirit with me, I feel love, I feel hope. I don’t fear or wonder about what will happen when I meet Jesus when he comes again. I am reconciled to him and live in the Spirit. Mormonism is great in many ways socially and even practically, but it left me lost, though I didn’t know it. It is wonderful being found.

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  4. Yes, Michael, I know about translation and its foibles. I was on a three-person team that translated the Book of Mormon into a South American indigenous language many years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with joy and happiness. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am blessed to say that I feel, as I serve others in and out of my Church, those same things. I believe my Savior’s words: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”I feel a sense of obligation to serve people, and I feel an obligation to to my Savior to keep his commandments–I suppose that would be a bit of that “self-giving love” you mention in your post.

    And I also “feel happy, I have joy, I feel new creation and I feel the Holy Spirit with me, I feel love, I feel hope.”This happiness I feel, and this happiness you describe is not what miketea seems to be describing(he claims that “happiness” is “trite and temporary”). What miketea calls happiness I would call pleasure.

    I also believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior in the most literal sense imaginable. My work is to come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and receive his grace and love. I have seen this power in my own life and in the lives of others I have worked with in the gospel, as I have repented and received very literally joy and peace through God’s grace, and seen and worked with others who have done the same. I work hard in my career and in temporal pursuits also, and that makes me feel good, but that is not the same as the joy I feel when I receive God’s grace. I understand the difference, and so do my fellow Mormons.

    So, it just seems a real stretch for miketea to criticize my beliefs because they include the notion that happiness is a fruit of following Christ.

    There are other statements miketea makes that also are truly puzzling. For example, he complains that Mormons accuse others of not believing in good works. If any Mormon has ever said this to him, it probably is because they are reacting to a never-ending drumbeat of evangelical Christians telling us that (1) we believe we must work our way to heaven, (2) we do not believe in Christ’s saving grace, and (3) therefore we are not Christians. We know what we believe and what we don’t believe, and it is nothing like what those evangelists tell us we believe and don’t believe.

    I try never to tell others what they believe–that seems like something I should ask them, not tell them. By sharing what we believe and asking what others believe, we have hope of understanding each other. By telling others what they believe we simply reveal to them that we do not understand them.

    Peace.

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    1. Hello again Ted, the point I was making, but not sharply, is that the only response to Jesus is thanks motivated by love. In the LDS church response is dictated by obligation.

      I was reading on LDS org this week, it may have been the new essay on Blacks and the Priesthood, that the atonement is conditional. Those conditions include ongoing activity, fulfilling church responsibilities, paying tithing, without which of course a peers on may not go to the Temple, there is the requirement to go to the temple and receive the ordinances there, and these are the real saving ordinances. It is these ordinances tha can bring a member of the LDS church to God as without them one is left out of that communion.

      The relationship we have is union with Christ in the Spirit and communion with God. The response of required works to realise this communion is the part that I came to understand denied the life and work of Jesus.

      Of course one cannot recognise God in ones life and avoid the change of mind that is repentance. I am sure you would agree. But in the LDS church we make God a debtor. We ask to bind The Lord – the number of times I have heard that.

      For me, Romans was important and drew distinctions between what I believed as a Mormon and what was in the Bible. From there the problems with Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon and etc. just iced the cake as it were. I was happy before but I am much happier now.

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  5. Ted,

    I have no problem conceding that “blessed” may be understood as “happy,” you make a good point. I should have anticipated it and unpacked my argument more thoroughly. But the criticism I raise must be seen in the context of the article and of Mormonism (not what a particular Mormon believes). Let me clear up a few simple points first.

    You quote the so-called Joseph Smith Translation but it doesn’t carry the authority to answer the point since it is not a recognised translation even in the Mormon Church, otherwise why do Mormons use the KJV? In the Christian world it carries no weight at all. This is too great a subject for now but, suffice to say, it can be reasonably claimed it is no translation at all but a simple reworking of the Bible to fit it more closely to the Mormonism of Joseph Smith. It certainly pandered to the man’s vanity since he wrote himself into the text of Holy Writ.

    Your point about the role of works in Mormonism may well reflect your personal convictions but not the historical teaching of Mormonism. You write of your activities in the Mormon Church as a teacher, let me say I was a Mormon for many years and my chief role was as a teacher, from the Investigator’s class, through Seminary and Institute, to Priesthood lessons. It is not a case of this or that individual getting it wrong and misrepresenting Mormonism but one of leaders and official publications teaching a religion of works. Even your own articles of faith clearly teach a salvation by works.

    My third point concerns your last remarks regarding not telling someone what they believe. It is well enough taken but has a serious flaw in this context. You see, I am not, in my post, addressing myself to the tenets of any particular Mormon. I could only be reasonably expected to do that in one-to-one witnessing encounters. On a blog I address myself to the general, body of doctrines, teachings and authoritative statements of the Mormon Church found in the public domain. It is no defence to complain “this doesn’t address what I believe” since it was never intended that it should.

    Back to “blessed.” The most authoritative translations – NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, even The Message and NLT – all use the word “blessed.” There are translations that say “happy,” but they tend to be paraphrases, or simplified version such as the GNB and the CEV. Even you recognise that it is translated in the King James version 44 times as “blessed,” 5 times as “happy,” and one time as “happier.” I suggest there is a reason for this.

    As Michael has pointed out, the Greek suggests ideas not accurately represented by the clumsy English “happy.” Jesus would have spoken Aramaic but the New Testament was written in Greek. The Arab for makarios is Baraq, in Hebrew Barak and, yes, it is the source of the US President’s name. There is a helpful explanation of the word on the online dictionary of Hebrew word meanings – http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_bless.html – I quote:

    “Every word in the Ancient Hebrew language was related to an image of action, something that could be sensed (as observed by the five senses – seen, heard, smelled, touched or felt) and in motion. The word bless, found numerous times in English translations of the Bible, is a purely abstract word that cannot be sensed, nor is it in motion. In order to interpret this word correctly we must find its original concrete meaning. In Genesis 24:11 we read, “And he made the camels “kneel down” outside the city.” The phrase “kneel down” is the Hebrew verb ברך (B.R.K), the very same word translated as “bless.” The concrete meaning of ברך is to kneel down. The extended meaning of this word is to do or give something of value to another. God “blesses” us by providing for our needs and we in turn “bless” God by giving him of ourselves as his servants.”

    The New Living Translation helps us here. It translates Matthew 5 beginning, “God blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him…” All other blessings flow from this first act of recognising our helpless state. So we begin with our need, recognising our total inability to please God, God blesses, “providing for our needs” in sending His Son to die for our sins and we, in our now blessed state, serve the God who has met our every need in Christ.

    Paul, in Romans 7, describes with painful clarity our state before God steps in to meet us, “I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life dominated by sin and death?” (Ro.7 21-23 NLT)

    Who indeed? Paul goes on to name Christ as the answer. Earlier in the same letter he writes, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners…God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Ro.5: 6-8) He begins the chapter with these words, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God with God BECAUSE OF WHAT JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD HAS DONE…”

    To bless is to give something of value. In Christ, God has given that which is of ultimate and incalculable value to sinners, the poor in spirit who, recognising their need as described by Paul in Romans 7. This may well make happy but happiness does not truly describe blessedness. It falls far short of the blessedness experienced by the saved. It is not something gained by following a great plan of happiness, but by trusting in the finished work of Christ. He is the full “plan of salvation.”

    There is more I am sure but this will do for now. Thanks for your interest and for sharing your experiences.

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  6. Thanks for your reply, miketea. A couple of comments:

    The translation I quoted was not the Joseph Smith Translation. It was a Julia Evelina Smith Parker Translation, an admittedly rather odd translation, as the translation is word for word from the original Hebrew or Greek. Not much use for getting all the meaning out of the phrases, but it does have the advantage of showing the original language word usage and structure. My understanding of the Greek word often translated as “blessed” is not offended in the least by also being translated as “happy” six times in the KJV. And yes, I agree with you that the joy of receiving of Christ’s grace is not fully encompassed in the word “happy,” but neither is it fully encompassed in the word “blessed,” nor in any word. But, happiness is wonderful thing–very different from simple pleasure and more akin to joy, in my mind–and definitely, from my experience, a fruit of grace and also a fruit of obedience.

    You characterize Mormonism as a religion of works. I do not disagree with that, as far as it goes. It is; but, it also is a religion of faith in God’s all-encompassing grace. To characterize Mormonism as a religion of works at the expense of belief in and understanding of all-encompassing, eternal and infinite grace as our means to being saved (or exalted), is a misunderstanding of our doctrine.

    The interplay of grace and works is a great field for study and prayer. One who prayerfully digs in it and plants seeds of study and prayer has good hope of reaping understanding. This interplay between works and faith cannot yield much fruit, however, if one cavalierly takes one side or the other and assumes that that the good news is all about works or all about grace. Christ never taught that, nor do the other New Testament writers. (Nor does Mormon doctrine.)

    Because of the interesting interplay,if one wants to use the works/grace dichotomy as a bludgeon, it is easy to pluck out statements that would seem to favor one side over the other. However, doing so misses the insight that can come from open-mindedly studying all that is said in the scriptures to see where the balance is.

    In my mind and studies, Mormon doctrine does a better job of this synthesis of these two principles than any other church’s doctrine.

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  7. Thank you for this insightful article, Mike. While reading about Mormonism’s inconsistencies and internal conflicts does not make me happy, I am, nevertheless, blessed by your clear and concise presentation of these issues.

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  8. Thanks for your encouragement Sharon. It is greatly valued.

    Ted, I am sorry but it was an honest mistake but, truthfully, you would have been better off sticking with the JST which, by the way, gives us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

    As to the Julia Evelina Smith Parker Translation, I will leave readers to make up their own minds by reading about this lady here http://www.bible-researcher.com/julia-smith.html As for me, I don’t plan to have this translation on my shelf any time soon. Oh, dear me.

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    1. Don’t worry about it. Yes, her translation is naive and eccentric, but it has some value simply in letting one quickly get a sense of the word choice and order in the original language.

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      1. You might say that. Or you might say she had no idea what she was doing, isn’t worth taking seriously but if you Google something to “prove” blessed means happy her translation of Matthew 5 can come in really handy.

        Try engaging with the points I carefully made. Look at the root word in the original language, engage meaningfully with the fact that it means to make generous provision for, try and understand that against the wider Christian message of grace and then share what you conclude. It isn’t enough to assert on the basis of one of the dodgiest translations ever that it means happy. You only undermine your own credibility. If it carries the meaning and intent I have shown what are the implications for a religion of works? How far away from what I have said is Mormonism? How closer to the Bible?

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      2. I’m “happy” to oblige 🙂 Let’s see…

        Your original argument is a criticism of this quotation by Henry B. Eyring: “You have felt happiness as you have kept the commandments of God. That is the promised fruit of living the gospel (see Mosiah 2:41)”

        From this you criticize my faith by saying that happiness is “trite and temporary,” and that it is not one of the listed fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. We are not yet talking about Hebrew or Greek. We are talking about modern English. Your entire criticism falls right here, unless you can prove that Mormons use the word happiness to mean some kind of trite and temporary buzz.

        Of course that is not what we mean, nor is that what the common meaning of happiness is. In fact, if you want to know what Elder Eyring meant by happiness, the best place to look would be the Book of Mormon scripture he cites, Mosiah 2:41:

        ” 41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”

        The happiness Elder Eyring speaks of is a “blessed and happy state.” (Sounds to me like a good English equivalent of the Greek word makarios that the King James translators rendered most times as blessed and sometimes as happy.) This state, according to the above-quoted scripture, is described as being blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual, as being received into heaven, and as dwelling in the presence of God in a state of never-ending happiness.

        So, this is what Elder Eyring calls the “promised fruit of living the gospel.” This happiness is neither “trite nor temporary.”

        You may criticize this scripture because it links this “blessed and happy state” with obedience. This, however, is exactly what Jesus Christ does in his Beatitudes.

        It is the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake that are blessed/happy, not just anyone or everyone. These are works. And as Jesus says, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.”

        Jesus Christ, when he said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15 ) did not negate grace. Neither do we as we try to show our love by keeping his commandments.

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  9. Ted,

    You make the fundamental error of making Mormonism and all things Mormon the starting point and the measure of all other things.I criticised Henry Eyring’s remarks on the basis of what we already know from Scripture (the Bible). You have simply quoted the Book of Mormon, which is bound to agree with Eyring, since it comes from the same religion. The point here is not what Mormons make “happiness” mean but what happiness means in the world and in the economy of heaven. According to Scripture, happiness is a transitory thing, defined by circumstances and changed by fortune.

    When Leah’s servant bore Jacob a son she called him Asher because, she said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” (Gen.30:13)

    “Judah and Israel,” we are told, “were as many as the sand of the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.” (1 Kings 4:20)

    The Queen of Sheba declared to Solomon, “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” (1 Kings 10:8)

    “And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai.” (Esther 5:9 – note here how passing was Haman’s “happiness”)

    The word of the LORD came to Zechariah and spoke of, “glad occasions and happy festivals” (Zech.8:19)

    Paul writes of being delighted to see, “how happy Titus was because his spirit had been refreshed by all of you.” (2Cor.7:13)

    Happiness is tied, in the minds of the Scripture writers, with circumstances, that change (consider how quickly Haman’s “happiness” changed when he saw Mordecai) The fact that Henry B Eyring can soliloquise so fervently about happiness, the fact that you can defend him by reference to the Book of Mormon, demonstrates how far Mormon teaching is from how the Bible understands these things.

    Now consider the fact that you had to quote an obscure and, frankly, unreliable source to prove your point, not even agreeing with the JST. Consider that most translations give us blessed and consider the root of the original word. Put those together with the plain fact that “happiness” is a purely subjective and passing state, even according to the Bible. Then consider what the Beatitudes are actually telling us.

    Jesus is not describing a state of happiness enjoyed by the faithful and law-abiding. He is making an objective judgement of these people; not what they may feel but what God thinks of them and what, on that account, they are – blessed. Remember that Barak means to give something of value to another. Go back through the careful Bible study I have presented and consider what God has given us in Christ and then make the connection between that and God’s grace (which is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) We are blessed not, as Eyring insists, because we are deserving but because of God’s free and gracious provision to the poor in spirit.

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  10. In spite of your unhappy theology, I am not ashamed to find joy and happiness in the gospel, both through obedience and through Christ’s grace. The good news, after all, should not make us sad!

    If you reject Elder Eyring’s suggestion that happiness is a worthy fruit of obedience, you also are rejecting Jesus’s own teaching. At the last passover supper, Jesus washed His apostles’ feet, even those of Judas Iscariot. He told His apostles that they should serve each other as He served them. Then, He told them they would be happy if they did what He told them to do:

    ” If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:17

    I believe Him.

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    1. Ted,

      I am sorry you are not prepared, or perhaps not equipped, to engage with the subject at a more mature level. I am disappointed but not really surprised. You begin from the non-negotiable position that “the church is true” (a statement you never find in Scripture); you then conclude, “therefore everything its leader’s say must be true”; then every every thought, idea, even every text of Scripture that challenges the claim must be untrue, no matter that it has merit, and the only way to deal with the situation is to repeatedly assert Mormon “truth.”

      John 13:17 gives us the same makarios, “blessed” and not happy, so you really only beg the question when you put it forward to reinforce your claim. You really need to engage with what “blessedness” actually means and not what you would like it to mean. By the way, earlier you asserted it was about what the word means in English. This simply begs the question and doesn’t begin to address what is or isn’t a good translation. Joseph Smith appears to have decided “blessed” is a good translation. Interesting, isn’t it, that you don’t agree with him?

      You put words into my mouth when you assert I find no happiness in the gospel. My claim, backed by actual facts, is that “happy” is a thoroughly inadequate translation for makarios/barak and on that scholars agree. This may seem a minor point but it is not.

      The Mormon understanding puts the emphasis on the happy state of industrious and obedient man, demonstrating how man/works-centred Mormonism is, while the correct understanding, as I have carefully demonstrated, emphasises God’s judgement of poor and inadequate man, God’s declared and constant grace towards undeserving but loved by God man. Here the emphasis is on God’s undeserved love towards us when we recognise our poor state before him.

      In the former our “happiness” depends fully on our changing circumstances, in the latter our “blessedness” depends on God’s constant and unchanging love. This is not a minor point but core to the gospel.

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      1. This will be my last post on this subject. This is your blog, and I will concede to you the right to the last word. Here is my summary. I think, as in Isaiah 29:21, you seek to “make a man an offender for a word,” by criticizing Elder Eyring’s use of the word happiness. You, without any convincing support, define happiness as something “trite and temporary.” However, the best way to understand what Eyring means by use of the word is to look at the reference he cites as support for his statement, which refers to a “blessed and happy state.”

        I pointed out to you that the beatitudes use a word that is defined almost identically (makarios, which Strong’s Concordance of the Bible defines as “supremely blest; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy), and says that those who do various good things (be peacemakers etc). will be “makarios.”

        I have no quarrel with including the concept of blessed in Greek makarios. I have no problem with the concept that happiness is a gift–or a blessing–of God, and I agree with all your commentary that our blessings all come from God. I also agree with you that only in and through the mercy and grace of my Savior can I ever hope to be saved and to return to him.

        However, I do not reject the clear Biblical message that our obedience means something, and that we will be blessed/happy also for our obedience. As Jesus Christ himself said: “If ye know these things, [blessed/]happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:17

        I apologize if, in my defense of my beliefs (which I believe to be true), I have become contentious, for contention is not of God.

        “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

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  11. …and yes, I know that Greek word used in John 13:17 is the same Greek word used in the Beatitudes. I see no problem in that word being translated as blessed or as happy (or as the Book of Mormon scripture I referenced, “blessed and happy state”).

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  12. I am not in the least offended by your remarks Ted. As for being contentious, I would expect no less than that you should contend for your faith. I have no time for lily-livered souls who go through life determined that to be a Christian is to be unremittingly yielding and pleasant. I am disappointed that, finally, you have conceded my explanation, although you still don’t understand the reason for my criticism of the piece in its context. I am happy to put that down to my inadequacy as a communicator and am sure others would have made a better fist of it.

    If we have laboured this word it is only because of your apparent intransigence in not conceding points in the first place, and because this has been your choice. You have been silent on the rest of the article.

    Nothing from you about the serious issue of the Mormon Jesus being simply Joseph’s older brother and the implications of that idea as it works out in the “great plan of happiness.”

    Not a word about the hypocrisy in damning all Christian churches in the nineteenth century, the very foundation of Mormon claims, only to join today the parade so eloquently described and ridiculed by John Taylor.

    No comment on the “eternal” and uncompromising nature of polygamy being reduced to an historical curiosity, taught as vital and of eternal consequence in the nineteenth century, still clearly understood and taught within my lifetime with the same fervour, though not practised, only to be obfuscated by dishonest and misleading church leaders today.

    As for being “an offender for a word,” a neat insertion of the work of Peterson and Ricks’ ironically amusing little work, when they write of “anti-Mormons” playing word games I can only think of pots and kettles (if you know that saying) To label a critic as “anti-Mormon” is to play the very word game they accuse others of playing.

    We will, if you wish, leave it there however, and I do honestly wish you and yours a very happy and joyful Christmas. As, indeed, I wish everyone who is kind enough to visit this blog and share their thoughts and experiences.

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