General Conference April 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session, by Jim Gourlay

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President Boyd K. Packer

 

 

Mr Packer began his message with his quest for what he calls ‘a personal testimony of the gospel’. He is after religious certainty. The question he raised was a good one: how do we know, of all the competing religious claims in this world, which is true? Is there a certain word from God by which to evaluate the true from the false? Can we know with confidence the path that leads to eternal life?

 

What happened for Mr Packer? He had a religious experience in prayer. He felt something which he described as ‘personal’, ‘intimate’, leaving him with a sense of ‘joy and awe’. We presume that this experience dispelled his personal doubts. Later on he continued his religious quest believing he was hearing the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

The Problem of Subjectivism

 

Mr Packer exemplifies one of the great problems in Mormonism. As the Mormon retreats to his personal experience the more it lies beyond the realm of criticism. The Mormon thinks this is an advantage as he feels safe. After all, you cannot argue with an experience.

 

But what applicability has Mr Packer’s experience for anyone else? This is the problem for the Mormon: he may say, ‘I have had an experience’, but haven’t we all?

 

When I was an atheist I had a conversion experience to atheism. I had struggled with the problem of how there could be a good God who allows evil. In one of those moments of ‘insight’ (so I believed at the time) I saw a resolution to this problem. If there is no God there is no ‘problem of evil’. A Mormon, understandably,  won’t allow my experience to be of universal application. I can’t imagine I would convert a Mormon by my ‘testimony’. But why not? Well, the Mormon will figure, it’s just an experience you had.

 

 

The counter argument could be that Mr Packer experienced God and didn’t just have an ‘insight’. Well then, I have some religious experiences of my own. I have experienced God is ways, I would imagine, every bit as profound as Mr Packer’s. I won’t go into them, but let’s just say I had experiences that gave me great certainty that God exists, even that Jesus has risen from the dead.

 

Do his experiences prove his distinctly Mormon beliefs? Hardly. Why should they? I know a Hindu who had a powerful experience (a miracle) to confirm his belief in a certain guru). Will Mr Packer change his beliefs on the basis of this man’s experience? No. Does his experience prove his Hindu beliefs. Mr Packer can hardly accept that. If he wouldn’t allow someone else’s experiences to contradict his beliefs why should he expect his experiences to carry any weight with anyone else?

 

What of his hearing the ‘whisperings of the Holy Spirit’? Here another, related problem emerges. How confused is God the Holy Spirit? Why are his ‘whisperings’ to Mormons contradicted by his whisperings to mainstream Christians? Why does the mainstream Christian experience the Spirit testifying to the uniqueness of the 66 books of the Bible as breathed out by God but experiences nothing of the sort when reading other religious literature such as the Book of Mormon? When the orthodox Christian experiences the confirmation of the truth of the Spirit-inspired Scripture in his spirit that the whole apparatus of the temple, its sacrifices, priesthood etc has been fulfilled in Christ (and that the LDS priesthood is neither necessary nor efficacious), what criterion adjudicates these competing claims?

 

 

 

William Walker

 

Mr Walker likes church history and has found his faith to be ‘fortified’ by those who have gone before and lived true to the faith. I presume by ‘the faith’ he means ‘the Mormon faith’, for it is church history that provides one of the strongest challenges to Mormon claims. Far from fortifying the Mormon faith, the pages of (universal) church history bear testimony to the novelty and heterodoxy of Mormonism.

 

In essence he told his audience that the  Mormon story of faith and sacrifice is their heritage. No one will deny that Mormon pioneers may have made sacrifices. And we can indeed be inspired by the heroic examples of those who have gone before us.

 

Wilford Woodruff was working in the Liverpool and Preston areas in the early days of Mormonism. He then went south and came to Herefordshire. A group of the United Brethren (former Primitive Methodists) were there who had been praying for light and guidance (shy had they abandoned the gospel of Wesley and Whitefield? Why wasn’t the gospel itself light and guidance?). They believed Woodruff was the answer to their prayers. They converted en mass to Mormonism.

 

The Problem of Displaced Authority

 

One of these men, a forebear of Harris’, joined the Mormon Battalion in the American-Mexican War. Why did he join at great person cost? Because the man believed that Brigham Young spoke as a prophet, as if God himself were speaking.

 

Here lies a great problem for Mormonism. If the Bible alone is not the wholly sufficient Word of God so that the man of God is ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim.3:16-17) then there must be another authority for the believer. Authority in Mormonism is displaced from the Bible (where it ought rightly to be) and is vested in the governing authorities, especially the living prophet, and the other LDS scriptures, also given to us by LDS authorities. When the Prophet speaks, so we are led to believe, God speaks. If he leads the Mormon into war then to stay at home is disobedience to God. If he says, believe this, then to disbelieve is to call God a liar.
There is no higher authority than the governing authorities, if we are to believe the 14 fundamentals of following the Prophet by Ezra Taft Benson where he said: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works. and The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture. The authority placed in the hands of man in the LDS church is staggering, if this talk by a Mormon Apostle is to be taken seriously. 

 

So what is to stop the current governing authorities from teaching falsehood? The believing Mormon will say that the authorities are led by the Holy Ghost and so will lead into truth and give certainty. But weren’t Smith and Young led by this same ‘Holy Ghost’? Did the Holy Ghost inspire those parts of the Doctrines and Covenants that teach polygamy? Did the Holy Ghost direct Young to strenuously deny the priesthood to blacks and teach the Adam-God doctrine? If Young erred on the latter point can’t today’s authorities be found to err in years to come?

 

Mormons claim God has always had a prophet on earth except in times of apostasy and the church is led by the Spirit. A church truly led by the Spirit would have unchanging doctrine. What do we see in Mormonism – constantly changing doctrine and constantly revised Scriptures.

 

 

Tom Perry

 

Mr Perry recounted his grandfather and a story he heard as a boy. He asked his grandfather how to know right from wrong. His grandfather explained with an illustration. A team of horses must always know who is in charge. If a member of a team does not need a driver it will not work as a team.

 

The story has a spiritual application. Who is the driver? The Lord. He knows best. The team member must be obedient. The harness and bit represent the promptings of the Spirit. All that is needed is the ‘small, still voice’ that the Lord speaks to us. Out of respect for our agency it is never a strong or forceful tug’

 

The problem of making the Bible say anything you like

 

Apart from the fact that the small, still voice is not, in context, the whisperings of the Spirit in the conscience of the believer, Mr Perry demonstrates the error of eisegesis – that is the opposite of exegesis. Eisegesis means to read into the Bible what you want it to mean, rather than to take out of it the meaning given by the author.

 

Mr Perry quoted James 3 which mentions putting a bit in a horse’s mouth as if in confirmation of his spiritual analogy. But James 3 is not talking about the promptings of the Spirit. It reads:

 

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6, NIV)

 

It is evident that James is talking about how our words can cause trouble even though the tongue is a small object. But seemingly the meaning of James’ words is irrelevant to Elder Perry. I presume he remembered his grandfather with fondness, wanted to tell a good story, found a reference to bits in horses’ mouths and was determined to force-feed it down his hearers’ throats. I am familiar with the temptation – but it must be resisted. A failure to resist is to rob the Bible of its message. It is to gag God. When this happens the Bible becomes a piece of play-dough fashioned according to the shape the speaker desires. The message reflects the speaker’s opinions, the Bible is quoted supposedly buttressing the speaker’s opinions with divine authority and the hearers are unaware that they have been as effectively conned as by a magician’s sleight of hand.

 

Now people routinely take Scriptures out of context, but isn’t this man a leading figure in the restored church? If this man is willing to twist Scripture against the intention of the Holy Spirit who inspired it, what’s to stop the rank and file of Mormons from doing the same? But more, if the Bible can mean anything you want it to mean then it is meaningless. If  context is irrelevant to determining the meaning of a text then all interpretations are valid. This is because the true intention of an author is found by looking at the context. If all interpretations are valid then that text is no more worth studying than reading your spaghetti soup for  inspiration.

 

Were any of his hearers familiar with James 3? Did any of them check the reference? Or did they take his word for it since he is an ‘authority’ in the church? Shouldn’t we expect a leading figure in the ‘true church on earth’ to not abuse the meaning of a text like this?

 

 

Lawrence E. Corbridge

 

Mr Corbridge recounted the story of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. There has always been opposition to the true faith. Just as Christ was crucified so the dirt will fly in the restored church. Smith was opposed because he brought the truth.

 

The problem of invalid reasoning

 

Now it may be that those who bring the truth face opposition and hostility but it does not follow that those who face hostility bring the truth. A drunkard may be obnoxious and generate hostility but he is not thereby a man sent from God. This is not to imply anything about Joseph Smith’s character – it is merely a fact of logic. To state it more exactly:

 

If situation A always brings about consequence B we are not justified to say that because situation B exists A must have brought it about.

 

Why? Because B may have multiple causes. If I drive my car off a cliff (situation A) I damage my car (B). Now if one day I see a damaged car (B) am I bound to conclude the car has been driven off a cliff (A)? Of course not. The car could have been vandalised or hit by a truck etc.

 

Now a person may not care for this line of reasoning. Mr Corbridge’s hearers may have been persuaded. But he is wrong. They are wrongly persuaded. Now I know that to say anybody else is wrong is a heresy against the orthodoxy of postmodernism, but I don’t care for that. Logic is still logic and if you see a damaged car and always conclude it was driven off a cliff don’t expect me to follow you.

 

 

The problem of claiming continuity with the church Jesus founded

 

Mr Corbridge claimed:

 

The Church of Jesus Christ today is fundamentally the same church he organised during his mortal ministry with prophets and apostles, Melchizedek and Levitical priests and elders, high priests, deacons, teachers, bishops and the seventy – al is described in the Bible’

 

But it isn’t. There is only one high priest – Jesus himself (Hebrews 8:1). There is no priestly cast but rather all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9). There are to be no temples on earth because the one in Jerusalem was merely a copy of the heavenly reality. Now that Jesus has entered into the Holy of Holies on behalf of His people no imperfect sacrifices on earth by a sinful person can do anyone any good. Jesus declared the time of worship in a temple has passed away (John 4:21).

 

The last apostle was Paul (1 Cor.15:8)and none of those claiming the title today has seen the risen Lord or been with him the whole time of his earthly ministry. And the ‘seventy’ was not an enduring office but a temporary witness amongst certain of the Jews before the gospel went to the gentiles (Luke 10).

 

He goes on:

 

“After the death of the apostles, priesthood authority was withheld from the earth”

 

This claim, which lies at the heart of the LDS Church’s legitimacy as a distinct religion, is easily and often asserted. But it has no basis in the teaching of the Bible, Jesus, his apostles and those who came immediately after them.

 

The apostasy mentioned in the New Testament is never described as total or universal (1 Tim.4:1 says ‘some’ not all will depart from the faith). Jesus certainly warned of false prophets to come, but why does He never speak of a universal falling away? How can He promise to be with His church ‘always’ to the end of the age if there was a falling away of nearly 1800 years? Was Christ ‘with’ an apostate church?

 

Why do the early fathers say there was a continuity with the teaching of the apostles? Was Polycarp not a true disciple of John? Why was no warning of a total falling away recorded anywhere in the church fathers?  Why is no mention made of a coming restorer? Why did the Lord not warn the churches in Asia (Rev.1-3) that they would all be entering a time of apostasy?

 

The problem for the LDS church is this: they need a total apostasy to give their organisation a reason to be. But in searching for it in Scripture they must take verses out of context (Amos 8 is about the northern kingdom of Israel) and read into them things that are not there. A final example: the ‘apostasy’ of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is resolved not by a restored church but by ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess. 2:1) which will inaugurate ‘the day of the Lord’ (2 Thess. 2:2). This speaks of the revealing of ‘the lawless one’ whom ‘the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming’ (2 Thess.2:8). Like the other Scriptures, none of them fit a scenario dreamt up by Joseph Smith or any leaders of the LDS church.

 

Mr Corbridge asked a good question:

 

Which is more likely: that he (Smith) dreamed it all up or that he had the help of heaven?…Do the Scriptures he produced sound like the words of man or the words of God? …He was either pretender or prophet. Look at all of the evidence.

 

Well I have looked at the evidence and conclude that the Book of Mormon contains a lot of plagiarism from the King James Bible. The commands given to Emma Smith to give in to the polygamous wishes of her husband have all the marks of ‘revelations of convenience’ (D&C 132:51-54). If you don’t believe that just tell your wife tonight that God told you to get another wife. Accept it or you will be ‘destroyed’.’

 

 

After all is said and done…

 

In summation, though there were a few valid points made here and there, when it came to a proclamation of the true gospel, what was presented was a works-based message. In effect, that message said that the atonement of Christ was a starting point that was to be received but it was not sufficient to save. What man must do is add his good works to it: baptism, tithing etc.

 

The Judaisers added to the gospel. When Paul came across the message of the Judaisers in Galatia he did not spend time commending them for their good morals – though they were likely very moral. He said they had abandoned the gospel and deserted God (Galatians 1:6). They had turned to a different gospel because they added works to faith so as to be justified before God. They had abandoned the true faith which the apostle taught by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and which we all must learn to be saved:

 

…a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16, NIV)

 

The abandonment of the gospel is the consequence of the problems I have highlighted. Subjectivism replaces the objective truths of the Word of God for man-made teachings. A displaced authority makes erring humans with fallible ideas the source of truth instead of the Word of God. Making the Bible say what you wish robs God of His speech and hearers to access to the mind of God and His message. Relying on faulty logic can persuade people of falsehoods. And claiming continuity with Jesus’ church is refuted by the evidence.

 

Dear Mormon reader: please consider it possible that you are in error. Search the Scriptures. They have not been corrupted as you have been taught but contain the true message that will deliver you from eternal death into the kingdom of God’s Son.

 

I bear witness that Jesus Christ is the uncreated, eternal, second person of the Triune God and that by faith in Him alone without the addition of any meritorious works we are justified in God’s sight as the Scriptures teach.

 

 (Sunday Morning session review coming soon!)

 

9 thoughts on “General Conference April 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session, by Jim Gourlay”

  1. Jim,
    Nice to meet you!
    1) To your paragraph: “The Problem of Subjectivism”
    My response: In the Spirit of relying solely on the Bible, here are Christ’s own words describing the Holy Ghost and His role:

    “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
    “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God….But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”.

    2) To your paragraph, “The Problem with Displaced Authority”
    My response: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, abut he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

    “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,”

    “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”.

    3)To your paragraph: “The problem of making the Bible say anything you like”
    My response: The bible is full of metaphors to teach Gospel truths in many different contexts. the universality of the metaphors is what makes them so potentially powerful. The comparison of a bit in the mouth of a horse to the Holy Ghost prompting us in the direction of truth is completely complimentary to the Bible’s teachings: While this metaphor may be used in a different context than James used it in that chapter, it can certainly and with Biblical credibility be applied in the way Elder Perry applied it: As the Bible teaches:
    “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

    4) To your paragraph, “The problem of invalid reasoning”
    My response: The same standard can be applied to your conclusion. Just because Elder Corbridge may have used what you characterize as “invalid reasoning” does not mean that his conclusion is not valid or true.

    5) To your paragraph: “The problem of claiming continuity with the church Jesus founded”
    My response: Jesus is the Presiding High Priest of His Church (the Head, the Cornerstone, etc.), under which He has called and set apart others to serve:
    To Peter he promised presiding authority on the earth after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension to heaven: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    “And he agave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

    Jesus established a foundation of 12 apostles with Peter to hold the “keys” after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. At that time there remained only 11 apostles after the death of Judas. In Acts 1:21-26, the remaining 11 apostles gathered and out of 2 candidates, chose Matthias to fill the vacant position to restore the foundation of 12 apostles. Paul was the last apostle to be called in his time and he prophesied, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come (Christ’s 2nd coming), except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”
    Gratefully, the foundation of 12 apostles has been restored prior to Christ’s 2nd coming “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”

    6) To your paragraph and your critique of the teachings during the Conference session of the proper role of doing His works, “After all is said and done”

    Christ’s response:”If ye love me, keep my commandments”

    “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

    “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”

    “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

    Christ’s Apostles’ response: “(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”

    “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”

    “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

    “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

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  2. Thank you for your response Michael (and good to meet you to!)

    There’s a lot to discuss here (probably too much in comments section). Perhaps a general observation. The Scriptures you cite do not prove what you imply they do. One example, ‘He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you’. The Holy Spirit will take the teachings of Christ and show them to ‘you’. But who is ‘you’? Who was Jesus speaking to? He was speaking to the apostles (and, again, Paul was the last apostle 1 Cor.15:8. You say, ‘ Paul was the last apostle to be called in his time’ but Paul does not add this caveat.). This does not have application to anybody who has an ‘impression’ and then claims this Scripture as evidence it is God. Again, this is related to the point I made about the problem of making the Bible say whatever you want it to say. The Bible means what it meant in its context.

    So this is my contention I’d like you to engage with: if application of a Bible verse is made that ignores its original context then it is scripture-twisting. If we ignore this principle then I can make the Bible ‘say’ anything and so can you and therefore the Bible ‘says’ nothing. Because, as I said, if the Bible can mean anything it means nothing. Now you have said that Elder Perry borrowed a metaphor but used it differently from the Bible’s meaning. But why did he make reference to James 3 in his talk, then? Wasn’t it to imply that the Bible supports what he was saying? He didn’t preface his remarks with, ‘to borrow a metaphor…’

    As to the Scriptures on works, orthodox Christians have good works. But we also have the gospel which is, at its heart, the free gift of justification by faith alone receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ without any addition of the merits of man. Please explain Paul’s meaning in Galatians 2:16 if the gospel is not what I say it is. Please explain what he means that ‘all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Gal.3:10). Quoting verses that enjoin works will not do. I know them well. I can explain them, but you will have to explain away Gal.2:16; Rom.3:28 etc.

    Now I thank you for your points in paragraph 5. You won’t be surprised if I say I disagree with you! Peter (Mt.16:19) was not the only one given the keys – all the disciples were (Mt.18:18). Yes ‘Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets’ Eph.4:11 but Paul had already said in this letter, ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ Eph.2:20. The verb is not ‘being built’ or ‘is building’ but built. The verb is in the past tense. The foundation of a building is never continually being built, is it?
    You quoted about ‘the man of sin’ being revealed. But I dealt with 2 Thess. in my article. Once again, the solution to the problem of the man of sin is not a restored church but the return of Jesus. I have not yet heard any Mormon answer this point. You have the chance to be the first.

    Cordially,

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  3. Jim,
    1) To your comment regarding “He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you”
    My response: After Christ’s departure, the apostles were to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost first but NOT exclusively. In fact, through the apostles, the Gift of the Holy Ghost would be given to all who would receive it: ie. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and “ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call…and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”.

    2) Elder Perry’s grandfather taught him of the metaphor originally outside the context of the Bible. Elder Perry then refers to the use of the metaphor in James 3:3 which teaches a principle that can be applied in many other situations including the one his grandfather taught him. “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.” Elder Perry is an apostle, James is an Apostle. Both have been able to use the same metaphor to teach equally reliable truths.

    3) The Grace/Works debate has been going on for centuries between Christians. To me, God’s works are an integral exercise of His grace as is “doing His works” is an integral exercise of our faith. Thus, we are saved by grace through faith. His works are the fingers of the hand of His Grace just as doing His works are the fingers of the hand of our faith.

    4) Yes, I agree, all the apostles were given the high priesthood authority to have bound in heaven what they bound on earth. Peter would be given the “keys” to preside in that high priesthood authority on earth after Christ’s ascension into heaven with Christ always remaining the great High Priest above.

    5) In regards to your comments concerning “built on the foundation of apostles and prophets.” Apostle is an organizational office within the high priesthood that is held by different individuals over time. For example, when Judas, the individual, vacated the office of apostle, Matthias was chosen from 2 candidates by the other 11 apostles to fill that open position of apostle. Paul was later chosen to fill a position as an apostle. Due to the “falling away” prophesied by Paul, those acting within the office of apostle were persecuted and murdered and the offices of apostle could not/were not filled fast enough and the continuation of the offices of apostle was interrupted until the latter-day restoration in preparation for the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ

    6) You stated, “the solution to the problem of the man of sin is not a restored church but the return of Jesus. I have not yet heard any Mormon answer this point. You have the chance to be the first.”
    My response: In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, it states, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

    We have certainly seen in the history of the world, the man of sin eagerly reveal himself whenever and however he can. Some are blinded by pride and arrogance or ignorance to recognize the reality of the man of sin.

    Why did Christ organize His church in the first place? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” .

    Christ will come again and ultimately vanquish the son of perdition but that is a work in process, not yet completed and it is the work of His church to continuously reveal to the world the reality of sin and its master and the enslaving effects it has upon our souls while teaching freedom and salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Savior, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

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    1. Dear Michael,

      Here are my thoughts on what you have written…
      1) Orthodox Christians believe that all true Christians receive the Holy Spirit. This is not contested. But the Spirit’s work is not the same as every impression I receive. The Spirit illuminates the truth of the words of the 66 books of the Word He has inspired.
      2) Elder Perry cannot be an apostle. He has not seen the risen Christ nor was he with Jesus during his earthly ministry. God says (Acts 1:21-22) that these are the absolutely necessary qualifications for holding that title. Paul qualifies as an unusual case who saw Jesus (Acts 9)
      3) The grace/works debate has been going on for centuries but it is settled by Scripture not my personal opinion. Again, I ask, what do Galatians 2:16 & Romans 3:28 mean? Did the Holy Spirit forget what He had inspired in other Scriptures so as to contradict Himself?
      4) I said, ‘all the disciples were’ (Mt.18:18) given the keys – not ‘apostles’
      5) Are you saying 2 Thess.2:3-4 is both future and past? Does this make sense of the text? Or is the text being forced liked playdough into the LDS dogmatical play mincer machine?

      With best wishes,

      Like

      1. Jim,
        Hope your Easter Holiday brought you and your family great joy!
        1) 1 Corinthians 12 teaches that the manifestations of the holy Ghost are much more than illuminating “the truth of the words of the 66 books of the Word He has inspired.”

        2) Matthias and Paul are 2 examples of how 2 individuals were called to hold the office of Apostle after the death and resurrection of Christ.beyond the original 12. Of course, Elder Perry could have been called to the same office in our day.

        3) James 2:17 states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” which teaches us that works are an integral part of faith in Christ. With that fuller understanding of what faith is, then read Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:28. or as Paul taught in Romans 6:15 “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

        4) Matthew 18:18 was directed to the Apostles

        5) In reference to 2 Thess 2:3-4, I am saying that
        a) “for that day shall not come” is referencing the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ in his glory which is in Paul’s future and ours,
        b) “except there come a falling away first” is in Paul’s future but our past referring to the Great Apostasy, and
        c) “and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” is in reference to a process which began with the restoration of Christ’s Church in Paul’s future and in our past, present and future as the restoration has begun but is not complete and continues through to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ when He shall rule for 1,000 years when Satan will be bound followed by the final battle when Satan will ultimately be vanquished for eternity.

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  4. Dear Mr. Gourlay,
    Congratulations on a well-written and very logically based article, on General Conference April 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session
    With your permission, I would like to expand and comment.
    Though I admire in principle your piece and on the whole am in agreement with you, I am at odds on a few minor points, and feel you have not continued the to the logical outcome some of your arguments; unconsciously stopping short at the point where they apply to the LDS and having gone no further.

    The Problem of Subjectivism President Boyd K. Packer
    My own natural prejudices appear here straight away as am a person who finds the writings, musings and pontificating of Mr. Packer, almost without exception dangerous, wilfully ignorant and manipulative.
    Simply I do not like the man.
    However that said I shall confine myself to the subject of his address ‘a personal testimony of the gospel’
    Religious certainty is a contradiction in terms, the raison d’etre of religion is to provide a secure environment for the expression of faith.
    Faith is of course open to various definitions but the most common colloquial one would be I believe
    “To express a trust in the validity of the expression of that which cannot be proven to be true but is assumed and presumed to be so.”
    Where as certainty is to be assured something is true by unimpeachable evidence, in other words a fact.
    Facts deny faith, for that which is certain no longer requires faith because it has been proven.
    So what Mr Packer indeed requires from his audience is not what he is asking for, he is simply regurgitating the old call to strengthen the faith of the TBM.
    In order to do this he asks that the “Testifying” LDS member overlook the obvious tautology of the faith.
    “I know the church is true because I have a testimony: I have a testimony because the church is true.”
    So how is it that every other member of every other denomination, religion etc can also claim a testimony of the truth of their faith?
    The Book of Mormon provides a convenient and altogether tactless escape clause to prevent the TBM from being confused by this,
    “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the Church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore who so belongeth not to the church of the lamb of God belongeth to that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
    (The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10)
    So every other testimony of anything that is not a testimony of the LDS is of the Devil.
    But that is okay recall the LDS also say in the articles of faith

    11 We claim the aprivilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the bdictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may.

    So do other Churches and religions use this same practice?
    Simple answer Yes.
    Though some do not condemn other creeds as “the mother of abominations; and … the whore of all the earth.” Many do similar and quite often will condemn sincere protestations of religious revelation from those within and without their organisations as “False prophesy” “Devil’s Doctrine” and “Lies of infidels”
    “We are the one true faith, ordained by God himself.” is not a cry limited to the Mormon Church is the universal (often literal) Battle cry of the religious throughout the ages.
    On your personal point “When I was an atheist I had a conversion experience to atheism” you make the same assertion, guided by the insight that “If there is no God there is no ‘problem of evil’”.
    I do not know you or your experience but I know my embracing of atheism was not a “conversion” it was that I simply stopped having faith, because faith made no sense. All else followed naturally until I simply realised there is no proof or evidence to back up the existence of a God as preached in the entire pantheon of major faiths. It was not based on another act of faith in another abstract answer that answered a philosophical abstract problem.
    Such a “conversion” as you describe was as doomed to failure as any other was, because it still proceeded from the assumption that there was a problem to be solved, that of why a personification good would allow or create his own antithesis.
    You are of course totally right when you say
    “I can’t imagine I would convert a Mormon by my ‘testimony’. But why not? Well, the Mormon will figure, it’s just an experience you had.”
    I on the other hand feel I might convert a Mormon by my ‘testimony’ simply because I don’t ask him or her to accept anything but to simply, as an experiment let go of the anchor that holds all of their other “beliefs” in place.
    Let go of the concept of Faith as a whole and everything else just drifts away peacefully.

    William Walker’s that simply uses that age old argument that it must be true because al lot of people have believed it for a long time.
    The counter of course is that Zoroastrianism has been around a much longer time than all branches of Christianity, and is still going strong so it must be the one true religion.

    Which brings us back neatly to 1 Nephi 14:10
    All the others are wrong because they are wrong.
    My person belief is that the pioneer stories are tragic, in no way heroic but are simple examples of an exploited credulous mass of people being used to further the aims and objectives of a group of con men and blaggards at the cost of their very lives.
    The Wilford Woodruff story is a particularly evil example of the misuse and abuse of the gullible
    The Problem of Displaced Authority
    Again this is a problem that extends far beyond the LDS almost all churches have a leader or group of leaders accepted by their followers as the representative of the unseen God (or whatever) on earth.
    The mouth piece or messenger, Pope, Pontifex, Arch Bishop, Pharaoh, God king, conclave, etc.
    In the past, it has benefited the power base of the “Religion” to place upon these “favoured” men the mantel of infallibility.
    He who speaks with the voice of God cannot be wrong.
    (The sole exception I can think of being the Dali-Lama who has openly stated that when science proves Buddhist principles wrong then Buddhism must change)
    Now we have a problem, when past Popes or Prophets etc have left written records of their teachings and those teaching are seen to be impossible, immoral or in contradiction of that which has come after them what do we do?
    The Roman Catholics were the first to address this and long ago stated that Papal infallibility does not apply to everything every pope ever taught, it simply means that when something has stood the test of time and been proven to be right and Moral and non-contentious, then, and only then can it be declared as having been an utterance of infallible doctrine.
    Joseph Smith and Brigham Young made no such proviso and so it has had to be forced on to them decades later.
    By their contemporaries the utterances of prophets right up until SW Kimball were thought to be scriptural and were taught as such.
    Then came the problems of the withholding of the priesthood, the fact that Quakers were not found to be living on the moon and many others.
    Suddenly the church was faced with no end of embarrassing and potentially litigious prophetic teachings in the Journal of Discourses and conference reports and had to come up with something fast.
    The answer was basically the same one as the RC came up with.
    It is not known until later whether a prophet is speaking as a Prophet or just speaking as a man.
    Problem solved, anything bad or wrong a past prophet said was NOT him channelling God it was his own stupid ignorant opinions.
    God didn’t withhold the priest hood from anyone Brigham Young did and he was wrong.
    So why then did it require a revelation to reverse that decision, why was their no apology, why was Brigham Young not declared a false prophet for claiming it was divine revelation?
    The problem of making the Bible say anything you like
    There are many ways to go at this, but the simplest is to assume the Bible means (within the context of the time and environment of authorship) exactly what it says.
    Well that seems simple of course until we find the bible contradicting itself, giving different versions of the same events and being downright evil in some of it’s pronouncements.
    For many centuries the churches got round this be retranslating the Bible and rearranging the cannon again and again skewing the translation or content toward the current political agenda of social expediency.
    IN short every church can and does and has always made the bible say whatever they want it to. (In literary theory this is know as “the death of the author”)
    Lawrence E. Corbridge
    Mr Corbridge recounted the story of the First Vision of Joseph Smith.
    Which one? There are nine of them (at least) all vastly different and linked only by the assertion that Joseph was probably present. So enough said about that.

    The problem of invalid reasoning
    The inverse syllogism sounds logical but seldom is, but burying nonsense in a lot of plausible sounding nonsense is a favourite logical fallacy of religions and politician and newspapermen because it is a very easy tool with which to induce moral panic.

    Murder is a bad thing
    The church teaches good things
    Therefore the church teaches not to murder

    Is valid because it is simply information about church policy

    The church teaches murder is wrong
    The church teaches good things
    Therefore murder is a bad thing

    Is not valid because the subjective judgement of the act of murder is not RELIANT on the teaching of the church, that is to say Murder is not a bad thing only because the church says so.

    The next stage is to take the argument even further away from actual logic and assert that
    The church teaches not to do evil
    The church teaches good things
    Therefore, the teachings of the church define good and evil
    The natural extrapolation from this is that the church is the sole arbiter of good and evil, if accepted this leads to the idea that morality is impossible without the church and that those without “the Gospel” are necessarily evil and before you know it we are back at 1 Nephi 14:10
    It is of course bad logic all the way along the line, and as with your smashed car allegory, does not hold up to critical examination, but the average person is not trained in logic and as the old adage has it “if you cannot blind with science, baffle with bull”
    Mr Corbridge, would I dare say share your contention that wrong is wrong postmodernism, orthodox or otherwise ( though personally I find the idea of “the orthodoxy of postmodernism” an oxymoron) has no place in religion, it is a merely a theoretical standpoint for the free analytical thinker, a creature diametrically opposed to the theologian on almost every level.

    “The last apostle was Paul (1 Cor.15:8)and none of those claiming the title today has seen the risen Lord or been with him the whole time of his earthly ministry.”

    Something of course that can be equally said of Paul himself. Paul I often feel was the Joseph Smith of his day and finds his way in to the Biblical cannon only as a concession to the Marcionites assimilated in to the primitive church.

    “ “After the death of the apostles, priesthood authority was withheld from the earth”
    This claim, which lies at the heart of the LDS Church’s legitimacy as a distinct religion, is easily and often asserted. But it has no basis in the teaching of the Bible,”
    “The problem for the LDS church is this: they need a total apostasy to give their organisation a reason to be.”
    The idea is not original to the LDS, it forms the basis for the Quakerism, (Society of Friends), a religion once Practiced by Martin Harris. The “Friends” have long held, and still do hold that the true priesthood was lost in a great apostasy, which took place at the time of the Nicene conference and the adoption of “watered down” Chrisitianity as the state religion of the remains of the Roman empire. This is why the Quakers have no priests and preach to one another by promptings of the spirit only and hope for the day that there will be a restoration of the sacrements.
    So again, we see Joseph and Co adopting wholesale any doctrine that fit their purpose and shoehorning it in to LDS teachings.

    I don’t intend to get in to the works vs grace argument as Bobby and I have long since agreed to disagree on that, he has his side of the argument I think it is totally irrelevant.

    So in closing I ask you, the Mormon reader and the none Mormon to Recall Matthew 7:24-27 and consider this
    If as an experiment you can abandon the sands of faith for a few minutes, and instead rely on the rock of fact, how much of your belief system can stand alone, solid and well grounded and how much simple collapses like a house of cards with one base card removed.

    Like

  5. Dear Henry,

    Thanks you for your comments. You made a lot of interesting points and I’m sure we’d agree on many things. As I read you I’m getting the impression you hold to a post-enlightenment idea of a fact/value distinction: “Facts deny faith, for that which is certain no longer requires faith because it has been proven.” and then you speak of ‘the rock of fact’ vs the ‘sands of faith’. So what is a ‘fact’? And how can a matter be ‘proven’? I won’t assume your answer (some form of scientific empiricism? You spoke of ‘science’ in connection with Buddhism); I’d rather hear your view. The thing is, I believe the general validity of my senses but I cannot prove them (but no more on that for now). Am I reading you right?

    Another question. Do you really stand by this statement: ‘every church…has always made the bible say whatever they want it to’? Might someone not say to you, ‘And do you, Henry, make every text mean what you want it to mean for your own interests?’ Don’t you see how corrosive postmodern literary theory is? Derrida, Barthes, Foucault et.al. want to affirm there is no authorial intent, but woe betide the person who makes them say what they never intended! Or are the progressive, the left-wing, the ‘righteous’ immune from such abuses of the text and only their opponents do this? “Postmodernism is incredulity towards all metanarratives” (was that Lyotard?) And yet this statement is a statement about all narratives! It reminds me of a few others:

    “All truth is relative” (An absolute statement)
    or “There is no such thing as absolute truth”
    “Statements mean whatever the reader assigns to them” (which I decide means ‘”Statements DO NOT mean whatever the reader assigns to them”)

    etc!

    And you say Paul didn’t see the risen Lord? What makes you say this? What do you do with Acts 9?

    Thanks for the conversation and all the best,

    Like

    1. Thanks for your reply
      I’ll address your points one by one if I may

      What is a fact?
      Well I’m sure you know the answer to that. A fact is something provable by observation and/or experimentation, that can and will under the same set of circumstances provide the same outcome every time, provided there are no additional variable introduced.
      These fall in to two categories A priori and a posteriori
      The former are simple matters of indisputable truth such as “the part will always be smaller than the whole” and certain other scientific constants as well as semiotic definitions such as “a square must have 4 sides”
      The latter is the kind of fact that is extrapolated from past experience such as making a repeatable chemical reaction.

      Faith is subject to none of this and is often in direct opposition to both A priori and a posteriori facts, in that it relies for proof on Feelings and inexplicable Miracles.
      Elijah calling fire from heaven to light his sacrifice, was seen as an act of faith bringing about a Miracle until Franklin proved that lightening is electricity, and that obeys the laws of the same. Elijah thus moves from Miracle worker to Physicist and Meteorologist, act of faith becomes scientific know how, still impressive but not miraculous.

      I did not speak of science in relation to Buddhism, I was quoting the Dali Lama.

      Do I really stand by this statement: ‘every church…has always made the bible say whatever they want it to’?

      Yes of course I do, compare any two translations of the bible and you will find a skewing of political ideology toward the King or pope contemporary to it.
      No two major churches have the same cannon in their bibles Some have the Macabees, some do not, some have Daniel Bel and the Devil, others do not, some have the Song of Solomon, some do not and so on and so forth.
      In the Douay–Rheims Bible the Ten commandments have no prohibition against graven images, the KJV does.
      I could and will go on if you want me to.

      You are correct your quote is from Lyotard as mine was from Barthes Via Derida and as you point out Statements can take on whatever meaning the reader assigns to them, but that is the very point, READER singular, it is not a universal rule and so your disagreeing and assigning your own meaning is proof of the validity of the statement as far as you as the READER are concerned. However, your meaning may not be that of any other Reader.

      Truth is not relative but until proven true all presumed facts are subject to testing and falsification.
      However “revealed truth” or “Scriptural truth” does not extend this courtesy and demands that it be accepted as irrefutable on its own assurances and credentials, which themselves are usually previous revealed or scriptural truths.

      Paul did not see the risen Lord.
      There are four accounts of Paul’s vision in the NT, Acts 9, Acts 22, Acts 26 and first Galatians, each more exaggerated than the previous one. But common to all of these are the fact that Paul was not alone when he had his experience, but no one else saw or heard anything, Just Paul rolling about on the floor. Therefore, if he saw anyone at all it was a spiritual being not a physical one or was a form of vision not a visitation.
      Regards

      Like

      1. Thanks Henry, big subjects here, but on the ‘facts’ thing I’ll just say that knowing facts presupposes the reliability of our senses, the ability of our ‘minds’ to know ‘truth’ etc – all fatally undermined on naturalistic foundations (e.g.http://www.tenminasministries.org/argumentfromreason.html etc. I.e. what are immaterial laws of logic in a naturalistic universe? etc but too big a subject to flesh out here)

        Paul’s companions did hear something, though: a ‘sound’ (Acts 9:7; but did not make out the voice or understand it, Acts 22:9) and saw a ‘light’ (Acts 22:9). The sight and/or sound caused them ‘all to (fall) to the ground’ (Acts 26:14). These texts do not seem consistent with your phrase, ‘no one else saw or heard anything’, nor with the idea it was an internal vision for a vision would not have this physical effect upon others.

        Regards

        Like

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