Tag Archives: General Conference

GENERAL CONFERENCE OCTOBER 2017 – SUNDAY AFTERNOON SESSION REVIEWED BY ANDREW BROWN

Image result for general conference october 2017 sunday afternoon

I’d like to start my saying that I enjoyed listening to the General Conference October 2017 Sunday afternoon session; much of what is said was great advice on Sunday afternoon Elder M. Russell Ballard reminded us we must “heed the words of Jesus”. Elder Joni L. Koch reminded us during his talk: when meet to worship “we should leave behind our differences, including race, social status, political preferences, and academic and professional achievements, and instead concentrate on our common spiritual objectives.”

Elder Stanley G. Ellis very wisely drew our attention to the fact that sometimes: hard times are exactly what we need; spiritually speaking. “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us, and gives us a chance to prove ourselves.” His talked reminded me of Hebrews 12:6 “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Sometimes God uses circumstances to refine our faith and correct us. Even in these times we should remember Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Elder Stanley also reminded us that hard is part of God’s plan, the crucifixion, is possibly the worst experience we can imagine and yet is was God’s plan to save us.

I found what Elder Jose L. Alonso said very encouraging; “I know that our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love us and are willing to help us to act as we love one another as they have loved us. And I know that by serving and forgiving others with real love, we can be healed and receive the strength to overcome our own challenges.” I really do believe we must love one another, the example Jesus left us is so challenge we desperately need his help to follow it especially is our self obsessed, consumer driven culture; to love another like we love ourselves is an alien concept.

I wish all would heed much of what was said at the general conference. So I guess the question remains, If I agree with so much why am I not a Mormon?

For me it all comes down to the topic spoken about by Tad R. Callister. Is the Book of Mormon really true?

Let us examine the arguments put forth by Tad R. Callister.

Image result for “First, the critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events.”.

“First, the critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events.”

The first thing worth noting is that we should not be considering the modern Book of Mormon, which has been through years of editing. You can purchase a 1830 Book of Mormon from Amazon should you wish to compare it. If you do you will immediately notice there are no verses divisions, however if you look further you’ll see changes to the text itself. Many of the changes are grammatical however some change the meaning of the text. For a full list please see here.

Lets now turn to Tad’s points.

Did Joseph smith have limited education?

It has been argued that there is no way Joseph was intelligent enough to write the Book of Mormon, however the evidence we do have suggests otherwise. Many young people have accomplished things that seem beyond their years. Alexander the Great led an army at age of eighteen, and Mozart was composing music by the age of six. In his late teens Joseph Smith showed signs of being a creative and charismatic leader as evidenced by his leadership in various money-digging schemes. According to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, he was a creative storyteller as well:

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.”(1)

 

Even though Joseph Smith had little formal education doesn’t mean that he wasn’t educated. He enrolled in school when he was twenty. Joseph’s father had also been a school teacher and journalist, it is unlikely he wouldn’t have passed on some of his knowledge to his son.

Author Dan Vogel observed: “Certainly, Smith had less schooling than his wife, but he managed to write reasonably well. After examining several letters from the early period of Smith’s life (1831-32), historian Dale Morgan concluded that they exhibit “a flair for words, a measure of eloquence, and a sufficient degree of schooling.” William Smith [Joseph’s brother] challenged the view that his brother was “unlettered” as a “mistake,” remembering that Joseph “wrote [in] a plain intelligible hand.” Still, Smith’s talent lay not in correct orthography but, while telling a story, in his sense of narrative and ability to create memorable images. The book Joseph dictated abounds with examples of his poor grammar and Yankee dialect as well as his penchant for digression, redundancy, and wordiness. Rarely are his characters’ inner moral conflicts reflected. Most often we encounter flat, uncomplicated, two-dimensional heroes and villains. Generally the plots are simple and frequently improbable. However, the point was not to produce a literary masterpiece, although there are occasional passages exhibiting the lyrical quality of romantic writers of the era as well as the rhetorical style of the area’s preachers. Joseph Smith’s creative imagination, years of Bible reading, attendance at various religious meetings, exposure to common ideas about the origin of the Native Americans, prepared him to write the Book of Mormon”. (2)

Callister says:

“Accordingly, many critics propose that he was a creative genius who relied upon numerous books and other local resources to create the historical content of the Book of Mormon. But contrary to their assertion, there is not a solitary witness who claims to have seen Joseph with any of these alleged resources before the translation began.”

Is it significant that we don’t have a list of the books Joseph had access to? Well it would be interesting if we did have a list, which excluded them, but in this case it seems to have little significance, that we don’t have a precise list. Even if we give

Joseph the benefit of the doubt the books where popular in his geographical location at the time, many of us know storylines of books we haven’t read simply because we hear others talk about them often. I believe the influence of the book should be judged not by whether we have an external list but whether we can see the influence of the book within the text.

What other non-religious book were written at the time with similar themes or storylines?

Image result for view of the hebrews

View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith

Not only are there aspects of the Book of Mormon story found within View of the Hebrews, it was a very popular book at the time claiming the Native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel. It was publish just 7 years before the Book of Mormon For a full list of the comparisons see here.

Other books which were available at the time in Josephs Smiths location at the time he was writing the Book of Mormon (all available today on Amazon) include:

The First Book of Napoleon (1809) M. Gruau

It has similar, language, themes and lessons. Additionally it is believed that the book was written by the author Modeste Gruau when he was 14.

Not only is the language similar but entire sentences are identical. For examples of such sentences please see this video. (time stamp 50:00)

 

The Late War (1816) J. G. Hunt.

It has similar: language, themes and many of the battle scenes found in the Book of Mormon are strikingly similar to those described in the book. In fact there is a striking similarity between Jackson and Moroni. Again just like the “First Book of Napoleon” entire phrases and sentences from “The Late War” have found their way into the Book of Mormon see this video. (time stamp 1:02:00)

Again should you doubt what is being said this book it is available on Amazon.

Callister also says:

“How did Joseph read all of these alleged resources, winnow out the irrelevant, keep the intricate facts straight as to who was in what place and when, and then dictate it by perfect memory?”

Reading three books in addition to the bible and combining elements of each storyline is hardly a supernatural feet. Many fiction writers today draw upon each other’s work. If you’ve read both Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books, you can’t help but draw parallels like, the 9 rings and the 7 horcruxes, both having a giant sniper with easily mixed names.

Yes they are stand-alone stories but I doubt anyone would seriously argue J.K. Rowling was unaware of Tolkien’s work given the obvious similarities. Also did Joseph have to dictate it from memory? I’m certainly not suggesting that would have been necessary. In fact had Joseph been able to dictate from memory the Lost 116 pages by Mr. Harris wouldn’t have been an issue. It’s only an issue if he couldn’t remember what he’d made up rather than translated.

Callister says:

“In fact, his wife Emma recalled: “He had neither manuscript nor book to read from. … If he had, had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.”

 

So how did Joseph perform this remarkable feat of dictating a 500-plus–page book without any notes? To do so, he must not only have been a creative genius but also have had a photographic memory of prodigious proportions. But if that is true, why did his critics not call attention to this remarkable talent?”

Is this a fair assertion? Consider the hat he peered into a hat could easily have contained a notebook. Josephs position in relation to the others in the room could also have concealed notes, why the screen? What role did Emma play in the translation? Would the Golden Plates not count as a manuscript?

None of this defense is necessarily true, we have no way of knowing whether Joseph had notes. Secondly as already discussed his own family recorded his love of storytelling and how he could create a story on the spot to entertain then.

The next statement of Tad R. Callister I’d like to pick up on is

“The real issues still remain: how did Joseph produce a book that radiates with the Spirit, and where did he get such profound doctrine, much of which clarifies or contradicts the Christian beliefs of his time?”

The statement seems odd to me, ok it certainly contradicts the gospel message for in the Bible which was taught at the time that man is save my grace not after all he can do, but while he is yet a sinner. Contrast Ephesians 2:9 with  2 Nephi 25:23.

Lets give Joseph the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Lets agree he really did receive the book of Mormon under angelic guidance. The simple fact that the gospel found in the book of Mormon based upon human merit rather than unmerited favor of God should cause us to reject it.

As Paul said 

Galatians 1:8-9

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Secondly I would like to suggest what the Book of Mormon reveals about the nature if God is also in contradiction with that Joseph later taught and is also in contradiction to what is believed by Mormons today.

Lets ask the Book of Mormon some questions

1: Who is God?

  • 2 Nephi 31:21, Mosiah 15:1-4, Alma 11:38-39, Alma 11:44

2: What is the substance of God?

  • John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Once again the Book of Mormon agrees with the Bible, but Mormon doctrine is vastly different. See Alma 18:24-28, Alma 22:9-11

3: Has the nature of God ever changed?

  • Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 Brigham Young said:

The doctrine that God was once a man and has progressed to become a God is unique to this Church. How do you feel, knowing that God, through His own experience, “knows all that we know regarding the toils [and] sufferings” of mortality? (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, Chapter 4, Suggestions for study)

 

I would suggest this is vastly different to what the book of Mormon Teaches

  • See: 3 Nephi 24:6 (Direct quote from Malachi 3:6),
  • Mormon 9:9 (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17) and Moroni 8:18

In addition, one might ask: where did Joseph get the powerful insight that because of Christ’s Atonement, He can not only cleanse us but also perfect us? Where did he get the stunning sermon on faith in Alma 32? Or King Benjamin’s sermon on the Savior’s Atonement, perhaps the most remarkable sermon on this subject in all scripture?

Are not all of these topics covered in the Bible?

Are we now supposed to believe that Joseph Smith just dictated these sermons off the top of his head with no notes whatsoever?

Again this isn’t what is being suggested as the alternative and to a critical eye comes across as a straw man argument.

If Joseph were not a prophet, then in order to account for these and many other remarkable doctrinal insights, the critics must make the argument that he was also a theological genius. But if that were the case, one might ask: why was Joseph the only one in the 1,800 years following Christ’s ministry to produce such a breadth of unique and clarifying doctrines? Because it was revelation, not brilliance, that was the source of this book.

My Muslim friends often make a similar argument of the Quran, ‘its so beautifully worded it has to be revelation’. Uniqueness of doctrine sadly should be a warning to us, not an attraction as we saw from Galatians and the vast majority of the theology of the Book of Mormon mirrors the Bible, as I have argued it is the later developments of Mormon theology that departs from both the bible and the Book of Mormon.

Callister says:

“But even if we suppose that Joseph were a creative and theological genius with a photographic memory—these talents alone do not make him a skilled writer. To explain the Book of Mormon’s existence, the critics must also make the claim that Joseph was a naturally gifted writer at age 23. Otherwise, how did he interweave scores of names, places, and events into a harmonious whole without inconsistencies? How did he pen detailed war strategies, compose eloquent sermons, and coin phrases that are highlighted, memorized, quoted, and placed on refrigerator doors by millions of people”

If this argument holds true then I guess all of these writers are divinely inspired

Callister says:

“Joseph’s wife Emma confirmed the impossibility of such an undertaking: “Joseph Smith [as a young man] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictat[e] a book like the Book of Mormon.”

 

As we have already documented above this statement simply isn’t true, Emma elsewhere herself contradicts this, as dies Josephs Brother.

Finally from Callister:

And finally, even if one accepts all of the foregoing arguments, dubious as they may be, the critics still face another looming obstacle. Joseph claimed that the Book of Mormon was written on golden plates. This claim received unrelenting criticism in his day—for “everyone” knew that ancient histories were written on papyrus or parchment, until years later, when metal plates with ancient writings were discovered. In addition, the critics claimed that the use of cement, as described in the Book of Mormon, was beyond the technical expertise of these early Americans—until cement structures were found in ancient America. How do the critics now account for these and similar unlikely discoveries? Joseph, you see, must also have been a very, very lucky guesser. Somehow, in spite of all the odds against him, against all existing scientific and academic knowledge, he guessed right when all the others were wrong.

 

I’ll happily admit Joseph got many historical details correct and where the Book of Mormon stands up to historical scrutiny, I will happily acknowledge these points. However for the “most correct book of any book on earth” we aren’t looking for some “lucky guesses” but for the entire narrative to be anachronism free. For example not one coin has ever been found in America dating to Book of Mormon times as described in Alma 11. For a fuller list please see here.

To conclude therefore: I’m not a Mormon because the Book of Mormon fails not only to align with what the bible teaches it also fails to align with what is believed by the Church of Later Day saints today. I know that the LDS apologists will twist many of the scriptures so they fit the current doctrine but I ask you would an honest reading of the Book of Mormon ever lead you to many of the core LDS beliefs today? Where is eternal marriage? Where are the two priesthoods? Where are the Gods before Jehovah? Where can I find the doctrine of salvation as presented by the missionaries on the streets?

So many are later additions and I’d suggest total overhauls. Why should anyone consider it reliable scripture? By the same standard we reject the Quran we should reject the Book Of Mormon, it fails the test of truth when compared to God’s revealed word in the Old and New Testament, while claiming to clarify and add to God’s final revelation – the work of His son. (Hebrews 1:2)

 

 

References

1, Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England: S.W. Richards, 1853), p. 85; reprinted under the title Joseph Smith’s History by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry).

2, Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004), p. 119.

 

 

General Conference – April 2016 – Saturday Afternoon Review by Tony Brown

Play video

Having listened to the message by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold (of the Seventy) given at the General Conference, I felt compelled to action.

His message entitled ‘To the Rescue: We Can Do It’, was a clarion call to reach the lost sheep. Quoting Matthew 18:11 and 14:

“The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. …

“[For] it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”

Elder Arnold spoke of rescuing ‘less-active’ and ‘non-member’ LDS friends.

His was an emotional, stirring and challenging talk and I couldn’t help but be drawn in to the need to share the Gospel whilst we have the chance.

I was reminded of the hymn:

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Sadly, as much as I was agreeable to much of what was said in this discourse, Elder Arnold’s message was not about pointing people to, and leading people to Christ but rather bringing ‘lost people’ back to, or into, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is something altogether different!

Though speaking to a LDS audience, much of what he says in terms of the urgency of the Gospel, can be agreed upon by Bible believing Christians. There is an urgent necessity to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ. But what must be shared is the Biblical Christ and the Biblical Gospel, neither of which can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Surely the words of the Apostle to the church at Galatia, are as much relevant to the LDS, as they were to those to whom Paul wrote:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-9

 Elder Arnold shares a number of personal stories, both tragic and joyous. In doing so, he moves his hearers to consider the mission to which, he claims, they have been called.

He speaks about his mother who visited, ministered and encouraged lost ones back into the fold. It is very challenging when we find such determination, desire and enthusiasm amongst those in falsehood, but find only apathy amongst those who truly profess to know Christ. Shouldn’t those who have been truly born again of the Spirit of God have the same passion for the lost?

For those who may claim ‘I cannot do it’ or ‘It is not my gift’, Elder Arnold uses the example of Moses to point out that you can do it, as Moses did, because it is God who equips.

The Elder then shares stories and principles that he claims, will help in the rescue effort.

Using an emotive and tragic true story of lives lost at sea because of a delayed rescue, Elder Arnold shares the reaction of Elder Alejandro Patanía, whose brother Daniel sadly lost his life in the story. Elder Patania is said to have compared the tragedy to the words found in Ezekiel 34 verses 4 and 10:

, “Ye [have] not strengthened, … [or] brought again that which was driven away, … [or] sought that which was lost; … and I will require my flock at [your] hand.”

Although it is right that all Christians should look out for each other, Ezekiel 34 is a challenge specifically to the shepherds, not the sheep. Shepherds are to look after their flocks, having a special concern for the lost, the sick and the weak sheep.

Elder Arnold though applies Ezekiel 34 to all his hearers challenging them not to delay in going to the rescue, because there will be consequences if they do.

A call to rescue implies an imminent danger and/or peril, but let us consider how the LDS and the Bible believing Christian understand this danger.

For the Latter Day Saints, people need to be rescued, not because they are not saved – to the LDS all are saved, but rather people need to be rescued because they are not part of the one true ‘restored’ church. If you are not part of this ‘restored’ church, you cannot reach exaltation.

What is exaltation?

Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation. (Gospel Principles – Chapter 47)

So you are saved as a lapsed Mormon, you are saved as a non-Mormon, but you cannot reach your full potential if you are not a Mormon. To get to the celestial kingdom, where Heavenly Father dwells, and become a god like him, you need to be following all the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel; not forgetting the endorsement you need from Joseph Smith:

“No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith…every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 289

With this context in mind, we see that Elder Arnold’s call to rescue is not what it might appear to hearers outside of the LDS fold.

For the Christian, the call to rescue means something very different. People ‘outside’ of Christ are in imminent danger.The Bible teaches that we are all sinners in rebellion towards God:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.     Romans 3:23

 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.  Romans 5:12

Sin brings with it death and judgement. Everyone will stand before Heavenly Father to give an account of their life.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment… Hebrews 9:27

We will stand before Heavenly Father clothed in our own ‘righteousness’ or clothed in the ‘righteousness’ of another. The Bible does not speak well of our own righteousness:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…  Isaiah 64:6

To stand before Heavenly Father on the basis of our own righteousness is a fearful thing, for we are not made right with God on the basis of our own righteousness, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.          Titus 3:4-7

Only Christ can rescue us from the imminent danger. To trust in Christ alone is to have eternal life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 5:24

Those who trust in their own righteousness, have not passed from death to life and so remain condemned, with their destiny being outer darkness.

The Mormon gospel is another gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that cannot save. Elder Arnold’s challenge to his LDS hearers was to rescue the lost, but who is going to rescue them?

To the Christian:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!       Romans 10;14,15

To the Mormon:

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

“Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.  Ephesians 2:8,9

General Conference – April 2016 – Saturday Morning Review by Bobby Gilpin

 

It’s that time of the year again where Facebook and all things media and social media go crazy with all things general conference where Mormonism is concerned.

I always think this is a good opportunity for us as a ministry to keep up to date with what is being taught by Mormon general authorities and offer our perspective on this. The talk that caught my eye the most from the Saturday Morning session is “Where are the keys and authority of the Priesthood” given by Elder Gary E Stephenson of the quorum of the 12 apostles.

Needless to say this talk is looking at the whole area of Priesthood authority, Stephenson, opens the talk with a story of him once losing his car keys on a family holiday, and how the car was useless without those keys. As the talk goes on the point is made again and again about how important the “Priesthood keys” are for the Mormon church and its members to function. One of the concluding points which I am going to work back from is this:

I testify that priesthood authority and priesthood keys start the engine, open the gates of heaven, facilitate heavenly power, and pave the covenant pathway back to our loving Heavenly Father.

This talk really labours the absolute significance of the “priesthood keys” here are two other quotes from this talk.

September of last year. There, I felt the power and reality of the heavenly events which took place on that sacred ground. That experience led me to ponder, study, and pray about priesthood authority and priesthood keys, which impressed me with a desire to share with the young men and young women of the Church how priesthood authority and restored keys can bless them.

and

Sealing keys, restored by the Old Testament prophet Elijah, enable ordinances to take place in holy temples. Ordinances performed in these temples enable individuals and families to return to the presence of our heavenly parents

The concept of priesthood keys and priesthood authority are absolutely essential within Mormonism, particularly when it comes to issues such as how might someone be exalted.

Joseph Smith founder of the Mormon Church said:

download

“If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:424

12th Mormon Prophet Spencer W Kimball said:

655348 (1)

“Men require priesthood for exaltation. No man will ever reach godhood who does not hold the priesthood. You have to be a member of the higher priesthood – an elder, seventy, or high priest – and today is the day to get it and magnify it” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 51).

When I see quotes like this one quote from the apostle Paul keeps going through my head.

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Why did Paul say this? Surely this priesthood authority and these priesthood keys are so significant he would want to share this with the people he was writing to. To be fair this point alone does not mean that Paul never taught anything else, in Acts 20:26-27 Paul makes the point that he did not hold back any of the council of God, meaning there will are a number of different areas that he taught, on which we of course see in his other letters.

However no where in the New Testament do we see Paul emphasise that the Priesthood must be held by Christians to be saved or exalted. Paul instead boldly claims.

1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

The repeated message of the New Testament is the sufficiency of Jesus, we see in Hebrews 7 that He is forever  a high priest, and is therefore following the Old Testament pattern of one high priest existing at a time until death, and so Jesus is the only high priest that we need.

I did a word search on the king James Bible looking for priesthood keys and here is what I found.

priesthood keys

I got the same thing looking for Priesthood authority too. The word Priesthood is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament in the King James version of the New Testament (which Mormons use) here they are.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Both of which refer to a collective priesthood encompassing all believers.

Hebrews 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

Hebrews 7:11  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

Hebrews 7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

Hebrews 7:14 or it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Hebrews 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

This teaching develops as the verses go on (best understood when reading the chapter in full) and shows that Old Testament Priests have now been done away with, and we now have a permanent high priest that continues forever unlike the old Priests that is Jesus. We see no emphasis on the Melchizadek or Aaronic priesthoods as being something we should seek to gain as Christians.

Our salvation, or exaltation or whatever you want to call it only happens by faith in Jesus, He is our Saviour, He is our Prophet, He is our Priest, He is our King. There is no reference here to the significance of Christians holding onto any priesthood authority, but rather Jesus is the one that continues forever as a high priest. A role that previously was held by individuals one at a time until death.

51rTXBc0gVL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_

 

In the FairMormon Book “Restoring the ancient church” by Barry Robert Bickmore, which was written to show how the Mormon church is a restoration of the early Christian church. There is an interesting quote regarding “Priesthood Authority” in the early Christian church. (brackets and bold added)

“While the extant (still existing) early Christian documents  make no mention of the two priesthoods within the Church, it is at least clear that there was a hierarchy of authority at least roughly corresponding to the distinction made by the Lord to Joseph Smith”.p.189

 

 

This is a significant admission, that no early church documents make any mention of these Priesthoods that the Mormon church holds so dear, and as I have shown it’s not in the New Testament in relation to individual believers continuing to hold them, therefore where is the restoration here?

Its not a restoration but rather a fabrication. Absolutely there was leadership in the early church as this quote says, but not in the name of the Aaronic or Melchizadek priesthoods, which are now complete in Christ. Interestingly David Whitmer one of the Book of Mormon witnesses saw this idea of priesthood authority as a fabrication too, more on that here.

I think in reality the simplicity of the good news of the gospel of Christ has been lost on Mormons, This emphasis on Priesthood authority and keys is at the expense of simply proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and is causing Mormon after Mormon to remain in a lost state, unless they see past this and trust in Christ alone for their salvation.

The gospel is a message of a Saviour seeking to save the lost, not a message of an exalted man seeking to give people the authority they need to cause their own exaltation.

Thanks for reading, look forward to your comments.

 

General Conference April 2015 – General Priesthood Session

Monson

 

A couple of months ago I spoke to some Mormon missionaries about baptism. They asked me what I thought about baptism and after I told them I believed in believer’s baptism by immersion, they appeared pleased. They then proceeded to tell me that my own baptism was invalid because it was not conducted by someone with proper ‘authority’.

To Latter Day Saints, only those who hold the priesthood have the authority to administer sacraments and, only the LDS have the priesthood.

The Priesthood sessions at the General Conference are aimed at young male Mormons (12-18 year olds) who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, and older Mormon males (18+) who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Having listened to the sessions, one has a sense of what is expected of those who have been entrusted with..what President Monson calls, ‘…one of the most precious gifts ever bestowed upon mankind’.

One can’t fail to be moved and challenged by some of the things said by LDS leaders in these sessions.

The session on Fatherhood – Our Eternal Destiny by Larry M. Gibson Recently Released First Counsellor in the Young Men General Presidency, was particularly challenging.

The challenge to be a good father and a good husband is a relevant word for every Christian man, but you get the sense as you listen to his message, that the way the LDS talk about family is bordering on idolatrous. This is not so strange when you are aware of what the LDS teach about eternal marriage and heavenly families.

As young men listen to the message, they know it is their duty to go on a mission, then find a wife, then have a plethora of children; after all there are many ‘spirit’ children needing to come and work out their plan of salvation.  They then need to be a good father and to lead their children to become faithful Latter Day Saints. Welcome to the Priesthood boys!

In a later session, President Monson spoke on the topic of ‘The Priesthood – A sacred gift’. He recalls a hymn from his youth: Come, all ye sons of God who have received the priesthood; and he challenges his hearers with the words ‘let us consider our callings; let us reflect on our responsibilities; let us determine our duty; and let us follow Jesus Christ, our Lord.’

His words perhaps sum up, not just life in the priesthood, but the entire LDS belief system; one of responsibilities and duty. This well-known verse from The Book of Mormon says it all:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. 2 Nephi 25:23

 This is a far cry from its equivalent verse in Ephesians 2

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (v.8-10)

No effort, no duty, just grace. Amazing grace!

President Monson shared how the priesthood was restored:

‘…the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith by John the Baptist is most significant. Likewise, the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph and Oliver by Peter, James, and John is a cherished event… I hope each young man who has been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood is given a spiritual awareness of the sacredness of his ordained calling, as well as opportunities to magnify that calling.’

D&C

D&C section 13 says this about the event:

An extract from Joseph Smith’s history recounting the ordination of the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. The ordination was done by the hands of an angel who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient Apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time this higher priesthood would be conferred upon them. (See section 27:7–8, 12.)

The restoration of the priesthood (and the assumed authority that comes with it) stands or falls on the testimony of Joseph Smith, at least it does if you are LDS. For those of us who are not LDS, we can look at things a little more objectively, a little more Biblically.

The first thing that is noticeable in this account is that an angel appeared. This angel claimed to be John the Baptist and then claimed to be acting under the direction of Peter, James and John.

An angel appears and preaches something new, another gospel…

Galatians 1:6-9

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Here is a question: Why did the Aaronic priesthood need to be restored?

This Aaronic priesthood, like many ritualistic activities found in the Old Testament were foreshadowing something (or rather someone) that was to come. Everything they did point to Jesus. The work of the Aaronic Priesthood spoke of the finished work of Jesus. Once Jesus had made atonement for sin, and the veil torn in two, there was no longer any need for the Aaronic Priesthood.

So why would John the Baptist (or indeed anyone else) try to restore it through Joseph Smith? It is also a small aside, but an important one, that this restored Aaronic Priesthood is bestowed upon 12-18 year olds!

The Book of Numbers chapter 4:1-3 says:

‘And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation’

Those who served in the Aaronic Priesthood had to be Levites (LDS fail); they had to be between 30-50 years of age (LDS fail) and they also went through an arduous process of purification (Leviticus 8) (LDS fail).

For young LDS men to become Aaronic Priests, the process consists of an interview and the laying on of hands!! (Biblical Test = Fail).

President Monson goes on to talk about his transition from the Aaronic to the Melchizedek Priesthood:

As I approached my 18th birthday and prepared to enter the mandatory military service required of young men during World War II, I was recommended to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, but first I needed to telephone my stake president, Paul C. Child, for an interview…’

 President Child said, “Brother Monson, you hold the Aaronic Priesthood. Have you ever had angels minister to you?” I replied that I had not. When he asked if I knew I was entitled to such, I again replied that I had not known.

He instructed, “Brother Monson, repeat from memory the 13th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.” I began, “‘Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels—’”

“Stop,” President Child directed. Then, in a calm, kindly tone, he counseled, “Brother Monson, never forget that as a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood you are entitled to the ministering of angels.”

As the LDS fail all the tests of the Aaronic Priesthood, and there is indeed no need for an Aaronic Priesthood, it is right to conclude there will be no ministering of God’s angels for them, though we can assume that he who can transform himself into an angel of light will be sat front row and centre at General Conference!

But what are we to make of President Monson’s tale of healing:

The night before our Christmas leave, our thoughts were of home. The barracks were quiet, but then the silence was broken by my buddy in the adjoining bunk—a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill—who began to moan in pain. I inquired concerning the reason, and he said he felt really sick. He did not want to go to the base dispensary, for he knew that doing such would prevent his going home the following day.

He seemed to grow worse as the hours passed. Finally, knowing that I was an elder, he asked me to give him a priesthood blessing.

I had never before given a priesthood blessing, I had never received a blessing, and I had never witnessed a blessing being given. As I prayed silently for help, I remembered the Missionary Handbook in the bottom of my seabag. I quickly emptied the bag and took the book to the night-light. There I read how one blesses the sick. With many curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could put everything back into my bag, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child. He awakened the following morning feeling fine. The gratitude each of us felt for the power of the priesthood was immense.

Does this story mean that there is ‘power, power, wonder-working power’ in the priesthood? Not at all.

Many groups claim healings in the name of Christ. After all Jesus told of those who could perform such, but they are not of him. Matthew 7:21-23

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.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

President Monson concludes his message with these words:

As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have answered His call; we are on His errand. Let us learn of Him. Let us follow in His footsteps. Let us live by His precepts. By so doing, we will be prepared for any service He calls us to perform. This is His work. This is His Church. Indeed, He is our captain, the King of Glory, even the Son of God. I testify that He lives and bear this witness in His holy name, the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Unfortunately those hearing his words, those claiming a priesthood authority, are not engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not His work, nor His Church.

True Biblical authority is available to all who have repented of their sins and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who do so are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, the same Holy Ghost who gave the disciples their authority.

Acts 1:8

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

This is also confirmed by The Book of Mormon:

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.  (1 Nephi 10:22).

Authority is given by God, not by a church!

General Conference April 2015 – Saturday Afternoon Session Review – by Jim Gourlay

Elder Quentin. L. Cook. The Lord Is My Light.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. (Elder Quentin L. Cook, April 4th 2015)

 Maybe since Kirtland, we’ve never had a time of – I’ll call it apostasy like we’re having now (Elder Marlin Jensen,  January 18, 2012)

If you find those two contemporary quotes at odds, that’s a sign you’re awake! If you think there has been a massive improvement in three years, I’d say you’re a creative interpreter!What explains them? Is the first a public relations message and the second a wake-up call to the faithful? What is going on here?

It is reckoned that as many as 70% of Mormon members are ‘inactive’. This is hardly a sign of strength. It suggests many people simply take the easy route of disengagement rather than the formal process of resigning membership.

The worldwide activity rate for the LDS Church at present is estimated at 30% whereas the activity rate outside of the United States and Canada is estimated at 22.5% (source)

In other words, when we read of Mormon membership statistics, we can say that only about a quarter to a third are active in attendance at their place of worship etc. In the UK, active membership is only 18% (source).

So if total membership is 15,372,337 (source), what is the number of active participation? If it stands at about 30% then the true figure is nearer to 5,000,000 worldwide.

Of course, Mr Cook’s phrase, ‘has never been stronger’ is a relative term. Perhaps this state of affairs is better than it was a few years ago. I don’t know. But to an outsider it hardly appears impressive. If this is the restoration of the true church of the lamb then the number of those of the church of the devil are thousands to one in favour of hell over heaven. A strange state of affairs for Jesus who is presiding over the restored church on earth.

What could explain the high attrition rate? One reason could be that missionaries are less than forthcoming about the demands and true doctrines of their church.

One person, still a member of the church, cited the common reasons people leave the church (John Dehlin). He groups these as

1. historical issues (Joseph Smith as a gold-digger, the Kinderhook Plates, Book of Abraham, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Smith’s polygamy and polyandry etc);

2. scientific issues (some of these are in common with Biblical Christians to do with an historical Adam and Eve, Flood etc, but specifically the problems with the Book of Mormon – Native Americans have Asiatic DNA, horses and steel in the Americas etc;

3 doctrinal issues (e.g. is the LDS the only true church? etc);

4. Social-political issues (e.g. Church’s stance on homosexuality etc);

5.  Spiritual issues (e.g.not receiving the promised witness of the Spirit etc)

These are all weighty matters and John Dehlin goes on to say that in the process of disaffection the church’s perceived silence on these matters only makes things worse. If church leaders have no answers to my doubts, people reckon, perhaps my doubts are justified.

So let’s go back to the beginning. What was the context for Jensen’s more pessimistic quote? The reason for the apostasy was, in his words, ‘Google’. Which can only mean that people are looking for information on the Internet and coming across information that is not controlled by the church. This means they can look up the historical, scientific issues etc mentioned above.

Logically speaking, the failure of the Mormon church to retain converts has nothing to do with whether it is a true church.

…it does not prove or disprove anything about the truthfulness of the religion. What it does tell us is that a significant number of Mormons are dissatisfied with their faith. (Mormon Coffee)

And maybe the drop-off rate is linked to what they are finding out online. Has Mormonism really never been stronger? Can it survive the Information Revolution?

Elder Wilford W. Andersen – The Music of the Gospel

Mr Andersen rightly pointed out the need for the Holy Spirit in the life of a child of God. He rightly noted the need for a changed heart and the joy of the Spirit. In short, he rightly noted that mere doctrine by itself is no more sufficient than dancing is without music.

So what do we learn of Mr Andersen’s pneumatology – his doctrine of the Spirit? We learn that he believes in baptismal regeneration:

“When we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, we are filled with the heavenly music that accompanies conversion. Our hearts are changed”


Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person receives the Spirit at baptism. It is a belief held, if not officially endorsed in many churches, but especially those that practice infant baptism. Note how he links conversion and change of heart with receiving the Spirit. This is correct. What I deny is that this takes place after baptism.

Why is it wrong?

There are two reasons. One is that his teachin is denied by the Holy Spirit in the pages of the New Testament. The second is its theological implication that the work of God is dependent on the work of man.

First, the New Testament evidence.

When the gospel was beginning to go to the Gentiles, Peter received a vision (Acts 10). He went to Cornelius and preached the gospel to him.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message Acts 10:44

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? (Acts 10:47)

In other words, Peter’s thinking was the reverse of Mr Andersen’s. Peter baptised on the basis that Cornelius had already received the Spirit. Peter felt able to baptise them because they were converted and had the Spirit.

In short: conversion first, then baptism.

Theologically the Spirit changes hearts through the preaching of the gospel not the administration of water. Water baptism is a sign of union with Christ that has taken place (Romans 6). Union with Christ comes only by explicit personal faith in Jesus upon hearing the gospel.

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

The Holy Spirit does not say, ‘you have been born again through baptism’ even though Mr Andersen does.

And here’s the problem, if we do not know the truth about the new birth and conversion, how can we hear, to use Mr Andersen’s illustration, the music of the gospel?

The theological problem is this: the Mormon gospel emphasises the work of man and downplays the sovereign work of the Spirit. Speaking of the Spirit as the wind (same word in Greek), Jesus said:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. John 3:8

The wind is not controlled or subjected to human power. It is a law to itself. It answers to no man. It is the same with the Spirit. He changes whichever heart he pleases, whenever he pleases.

This is not to deny that man plays any part. Men of God are called to preach the gospel. And God has ordained that through the preaching of the gospel the Spirit will work – in the way he wishes. The work of preaching is likened to watering, but it must never be confused with ‘God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:7) by his Spirit.

There was much to like in what Mr Andersen had to say. He was making a case that we be patient and act with kindness in our families. All this is good. And all this is a fruit of the Spirit of God.

And so for that reason we need to beware of falling into the trap of baptismal regeneration. There are many people who believe they are converted because they were baptised. They have been made false converts. We cannot produce the fruit of the gospel if we have cut ourselves off from its life-giving source.

Conversion happens when we hear the true gospel. We hear of the one, true God whom we have offended by our sins. We see we are under the wrath of a holy God. But we see too the love of God in Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins. Our eyes are open to feel and see we are deserving of wrath. We feel that our efforts to gain a right standing with God are sinful and futile. We abandon any claims upon God and simply cry out for utterly undeserved mercy. But then we stand amazed: we are given the grace to repent and trust in Christ and Him alone for forgiveness. What joy fills the sinner’s heart! Our tongues are loosed and we sing a new song:

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.


And this music rings in our eyes all the days of our earthly pilgrimage until that day ‘when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease.’ Yet that will not be the end of the music but merely its beginning:

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’ve first begun.

General Conference April 2015 – Sunday Morning Talk on Grace Review – by Bobby Gilpin

It’s that time of the year again. Our reviews of each session of General Conference are scheduled to start going live from this Friday. However there has been a lot of interest and excitement that has arisen on the back of a talk given on Sunday Morning by Dieter. F. Uchtdorf, second councillor to the first presidency. His talk focused on the subject of grace. This is a key issue that often comes up in Evangelical/LDS dialogue, and I thought I would jump right in with some thoughts on this.

I am going to assume people reading this have seen or heard the talk, if not I really recommend that you do, please check it out here. Or if it helps, you can listen to the audio here.

I think if I listened to this talk without much of a background knowledge of Mormonism I probably would not bat too much of an eyelid at this, in a lot of ways it sounds like a basic good talk on grace. I guess inevitably then I am going to have some bias, however I hope that bias is reasonable based on my past knowledge of Mormonism.

Firstly at about 3:50 Uchdtorf says this about grace

“….The grace of God, the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now, into exalted beings of truth and light….”

This is an immediate difference between the LDS and I would say the Biblical view of grace. I see the Biblical view as being that grace is the unmerited favour of God, placed upon us by faith. Instead Uchdtorf calls it the means by which we become something better, this from my understanding is the general LDS view on grace. We see this quote from an article on Grace on LDS.org.

No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives.

Really this means that grace is what makes you do good enough, in order that you might gain or earn exaltation, this is a contradiction in terms if you are seeking to show that it’s not by works, as this is really how you become able to do the works, thus the works are still necessary.

The website gotquestions.org says:

the word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness. We can all extend grace to others; but when the wordgraceis used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.”

True Biblical grace is the merit of God imputed to you, when you put your trust in Him, you become righteous by virtue of His saving work in you. Which absolutely should produce a changed life, resulting in good works. Without this there is no way of knowing that someone truly has accepted Christ. However Uchtdorf is putting the cart before the horse here, saying that grace is all about making you perform, in order that you might receive eternal blessings.

This is further reinforced at around 9:13 when he says:(bold added)

“His grace helps us become our best selves.”

This reminds me of a story that Thomas Monson told in the 2012 Priesthood session, he says this about a missionary who was asked why he was so successful.

Brother Tanner asked him what was different about his approach—why he had such phenomenal success when others didn’t. The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, “When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart.”

This missionary looked at someone’s outward and focused on that, I think this is the essence of Mormonism, working to make people behave better outwardly, while leaving people lost inwardly.

In the Bible we see this in Romans 4:5

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness

Yet in Joseph Smith’s “inspired” translation

But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

All of a sudden, God does not justify the ungodly. Because in Mormonism people need to make themselves Godly (with the help of grace), in order that they might become acceptable to God, As Alma 11:37 in the book of Mormon says: he cannot save them in their sins.

This is what Uchdtorf is really saying here, but he is dressing it up in a way that many uninformed evangelicals and LDS members alike will love.

At around 15:50 during the talk, Uchdtorf talks about how people have so often misunderstood 2 Nephi 25:23 saying how its not really saying we have to do all that we can, this is a misinterpretation.

In October 2010 Dallin Oaks said this:

Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, ‘after all we can do’” (2 Nephi 25:23).

In 2009 JORGE F. ZEBALLOS said:

“Salvation and eternal life would not be possible if it were not for the Atonement, brought about by our Savior, to whom we owe everything. But in order for these supreme blessings to be effective in our lives, we should first do our part, ‘for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’”

Thomas Monson, “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p.53 (bold added)

“It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in thepresence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which wewant membership. Such blessings must be earned” 

Lowell L. Bennion, Introduction to the Gospel (1955; LDS sunday school material), chapter 20, “The Way of Salvation”

“We believe in individual merit as a means of gaining salvation” – 

The reason people have been “misinterpreting” this for so long, is that their Leaders have been teaching it in that way.

To finish off, I think if the Mormon church really wants to prove to the world that they believe we do not become acceptable to God by our works, and its all of the merit of Christ, they need to ditch Temple recommend interviews, letting everyone in who professes Christ. They need to get rid of tithing settlement meetings where people have to show they have given a full 10% of their income, instead just telling people to give according to their conscience. Also get rid of Sunday dress, as we come to God as we are.

Also what about removing the “Requirements For Exaltation” part of the Gospel Principles manual that lists all of the things people need to do in order to be exalted.

They need to show by their actions as well as their words that this is a grace filled movement, otherwise they are simply saying that Jesus is full of grace, but the LDS church wants its piece of you.

General Conference October 2014. Sunday Morning Session, by Bobby Gilpin

lds-general-conference-april2013-1020x444

I think the thing that always strikes me very quickly whenever I listen to any general conference talk is this, where is the revelation? Where is ANYTHING that is new. It just does not happen. There are thousands of missionaries around the world telling people how great it is that the LDS church has a modern-day Prophet, that the canon of scripture is not closed, and that God loves us too much to leave us without the modern revelation that we so need today.

Yet none of this is anywhere to be found, least of all in one of these sessions. From what I can tell general conference exists for 3 purposes.

1, To keep people active in the church.

2, To respond, usually indirectly to criticism or comments being made about the church.

3, To keep people obedient to the church.

This is it, and in this session this is as clear as any other.

The first talk of the Sunday Morning Session is by Henry B Eyring first counsellor to the presidency, and it is on Continuing Revelation. 

Eyring says this:

 

President Boyd K. Packer described that identifying mark of the true Church this way: “Revelation continues in the Church: the prophet receiving it for the Church; the president for his stake, his mission, or his quorum; the bishop for his ward; the father for his family; the individual for himself.”

Nowhere in this talk does Eyring give an example of a Prophecy from current Mormon Prophet Thomas S Monson. Toward the end of his talk he says this

God pours out revelation, through the Holy Ghost, on His children. He speaks to His prophet on the earth, who today is Thomas S. Monson. I witness that he holds and exercises all the keys of the priesthood on earth.

Can any Mormon give me an example of when this has happened? The only thing I can think of that has happened of any significance under Monson’s tenure  is reducing the age of missionaries. Which is a procedural change at best. Right now around the world we are facing some of the hardest issues ever, yet the Mormon Prophet and therefore the Mormon God, are silent on the matter, this to me and I hope others, speaks volumes.

 

The second talk is called Sustaining the Prophets and is by Elder Russell M Nelson, of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles. 

This talk very strongly fits with my point number 2 above of what general conference does. General conference will indirectly respond to what’s being said about the church and its leaders, but will very rarely affirm that what is being said is the case.

For a number of years now there has been much discussion on whether Thomas S Monson is suffering from dementia. Monson is 87 years old and whether you believe he is a prophet or not, you will agree that he is human like the rest of us, subject to the same weaknesses, illnesses etc as the rest of us, so as a quick disclaimer even if this is true I don’t see this as a deal breaker as to whether the LDS “gospel” is true or not, however I wonder why this cannot be specifically and clearly addressed.

 

John Dehlin of the Mormon Stories podcast said this:

I’ve probably talked to 50 people who work directly with the church in some significant capacity who all confirm that President Monson has some form of dementia and that unless he’s got handlers around him, and unless he’s reading a speech, he’s unmanageable and incoherent, and you know that doesn’t mean he can’t be friendly to a child and wink to a crowd or wiggle his ears or read a teleprompter, but in terms of really managing the church, he’s over 90.(1)

This talk never affirms this is going on but it is filled with the idea that even if the Prophet is unwell the church is ok, here’s a quote. (bold added by me)

The Apostle with the longest seniority in the office of Apostle presides.15That system of seniority will usually bring older men to the office of President of the Church. It provides continuity, seasoned maturity, experience, and extensive preparation, as guided by the Lord.

The Church today has been organized by the Lord Himself. He has put in place a remarkable system of governance that provides redundancy and backup. That system provides for prophetic leadership even when the inevitable illnesses and incapacities may come with advancing age.Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray. Senior leaders are constantly being tutored such that one day they are ready to sit in the highest councils. They learn how to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Spirit.

While serving as First Counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson, who was then nearing the end of his mortal life, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained:

“The principles and procedures which the Lord has put in place for the governance of His church make provision for any … circumstance. It is important … that there be no doubts or concerns about the governance of the Church and the exercise of the prophetic gifts, including the right to inspiration and revelation in administering the affairs and programs of the Church, when the President may be ill or is not able to function fully.

So we see here Nelson affirming that leaders are only there because God has put them there. That illnesses are inevitable given the age of the leaders, and not to worry if this happens. I think for now many LDS members are unaware or unconvinced of Monson’s dementia, and many are aware, this comment speaks to both of those sets of people while never affirming or denying this to be the case, this is a very common general conference theme.

Recently Thomas S Monson was pictured meeting a stake president.

Monson

This is obviously without the makeup that will go with a general conference day. There is nothing particularly shocking about this picture, it just simply shows a man who is getting very old. As we all will over time, however Nelson also makes this point.

 

The ways of the Lord are different from the ways of man. Man’s ways remove people from office or business when they grow old or become disabled. But man’s ways are not and never will be the Lord’s ways. Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.

 

It seems to be saying that Monson cannot step down, that he must stay in the role till death. This saddens me a little for this man, his dementia if he truly has it is only going to manifest more over time, yet in the process he has to stay the at least named leader for this church, I struggle to see why this is such a good thing that makes the LDS church so unlike the so-called “man’s ways”.

 

This talk is all about the fact that the LDS church leaders know that this information is getting out, and so they want people to not worry, the church is still in good hands. Fulfilling my points 1, 2 and 3.

 

Nelson ends with this. (bold added)

 

Last year, when President Monson reached the milestone of 5 years of service as President of the Church, he reflected on his 50 years of apostolic service and made this statement: “Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, … ‘I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen … and consecrated by my father, … and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me’ (Mosiah 2:11).”

President Monson continued: “Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.”

President Monson, we thank you for those truths! And we thank you for your lifetime of exemplary and dedicated service. May I presume to speak for the members of the Church throughout the world in our united and sincere expression of gratitude for you. We honor you! We love you! We sustain you, not only with uplifted hands but with all our hearts and consecrated efforts. Humbly and fervently, “we ever pray for thee, our prophet dear”! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Mormon Church is, at its heart a man exalting organization, Jesus Christ is an after thought, I see this section of the talk as a clear affirmation of this. Why would we ever thank a man for any truths? Ever? It just would not happen. We see in the New Testament from the Apostle Paul a constant exalting of God. A constant grateful heart to God, for all things, here’s some examples.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth Godthanks.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
We thank God for the blessings God gives, we thank God for the blessings that God gives through people. All things are by, from, and to God. No human no matter how significant their position, or great their gifting deserves the thanks and praise that only belongs to God.

 

For the sake of time I am going to jump straight to the last talk. Given by President Thomas S Monson and called Ponder the Path of thy feet.

 

Now to be fair I think on the whole this seemed a fine talk, sure terms like Exaltation that are used are ones that open theological minefields, however that aside, and casting aside the regular emphasis on obedience could take us into the faith/works debate, there were some good points made, such as:
As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.
Sounds good to me, however what did strike me was that this was a very general, safe talk. Nothing new, certainly nothing revelatory, and it could have been given any time throughout the history of Mormonism with no real relevance to a specific time.
 In recent years Monson has seems to have started a habit of repeating talks that he gave years ago. In the Priesthood session this year he gave the talk “Guided safely home”. This has remarkable similarities to the 1982 talk Sailing Safely the seas of life.  There is some further discussion on this with other examples here.

 

I think there is only more of this to come and that this is a sign of Monson’s dementia. From some research I have found that familiarity is essential for people with this condition. Doing new things is very difficult and the more familiar surroundings/circumstances a person is in the better, see an article on this here. President Monson, has been giving general conference talks for many years, this is a familiar surrounding to him, I think giving him talks with content he has given before, with likely some re watching of these talks before conference will only help him carry out his role with this condition. However it does seem these days that he rarely makes an appearance otherwise.
As I said earlier this point alone is not a deal breaker for the truthfulness of the LDS message, however it is, I feel a cruel and irresponsible move to  have someone in this position still be expected to carry out this role. It is dishonest of the leadership to not spell this out, rather just giving a pep talk that if something is wrong you do not have to worry.

 

In some senses this would be an opportunity to show the true prophetic gift of the Mormon prophet, that even with this condition God is giving him clear prophetic messages for the LDS church. With respect I really would not hold your breath for this. The reality is that because President Monson is not a true Prophet, dementia or no dementia, it really does not make any difference if he has this illness, as nothing new was coming anyway.

Notes.

(1) http://www.wheatandtares.org/14846/does-pres-monson-have-dementia/

General Conference – October 2014 – Priesthood Session Review – by Jamie Lundy

1220667

The initial talk in the Priesthood session was delivered by Quinton L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He began by warning the priesthood holders (all faithful men in the Church) to avoid rationalizing away the choice of walking a righteous life. In LDS parlance this does not merely mean abiding by the teachings of Jesus or performing acts of kindness but was explained by Elder Cook as “performing temple endowments, keeping the commandments, and achieving a temple marriage.” These concepts coincide with LDS teachings regarding the Mormon doctrine of the afterlife.

The twelfth president of the Church Spencer W. Kimball taught,

“Those without eternal marriage may be angels. Now, the angels will be the people who did not go to the temple, who did not have their work done in the temple. And if there are some of us who make no effort to cement these ties, we may be angels for the rest of eternity. But if we do all in our power and seal our wives or husbands to us…then we may become gods and pass by the angels in heaven” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 51).

It was then fitting that the LDS Apostle continued his lecture with a warning to those comfortable living the “single life.” He carefully intoned, “Single men should be uncomfortable.” Living single, he continued “is not compatible with sound doctrine.”The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) section 132 provides foundational church teachings on the subject of marriage. In it we are told of a “new and everlasting covenant.” Those who do not keep this covenant will be damned (unable to progress to godhood), “for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.Those covenants and contracts which are entered into outside of the temple endowment ceremony are considered null and void in eternity (v. 7,15) but if they keep these oaths and covenants ratified in an LDS Temple ceremony, they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods” (v. 19-20a).

These teachings, of course, are out of step with both the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. The entire course of the Biblical scriptures is one of monotheism (belief in one god). This goes back to the earliest days of Judaism. A Psalm written by Moses (Psa. 90) provides that God was never exalted but was, in fact, God from everlasting. Also, God, in Deuteronomy 32:39 states, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me.” The righteous prophet Amulek in Alma chapter 11 (in the Book of Mormon) declares that there is only one god and explains in verse 31 that an angel had revealed this truth unto him. These contradictions follow from what appears to be a change in Joseph Smith’s theology over time.

Apostle Cook continued with many warnings to the saints to be careful on the internet and to be authentic in the use of social media. Warnings like these may have some of their genesis in the current internet crises which has struck the Church. See the Swedish Rescue documents at Mormon Think. It was brazenly declared that Mormons celebrate truth of every kind. Many will wonder, why has the Church attempted to dissuade their members from finding truths out about the history and theological metamorphoses that have transpired in their past. A recent example of this comes by way of a former area general authority in Sweden, Hans Mattsson. Who had his genuine questions frustrated and or ignored (see Mormon Stories.) All the same, these sound warnings could be heeded by all Mormons and non-Mormons alike. The internet is full of potential for good or evil. Even the good on the internet can be a distraction from spiritual and eternal matters.

In conclusion a testimony was shared and the warning tone of the lecture continued when the membership was reminded that being valiant in their covenants was the dividing line between the terrestrial and celestial kingdoms. This stands as a safeguard to those waffling in their commitment to the Church.

The next talk was given by Seventy Craig C.Christensen. The central motif seemed to relate to the obtaining of a proper testimony. All those in attendance were encouraged to strengthen their own testimony of the restored Gospel. The Church, it was iterated, was founded upon the principle that anyone can ask anything from God and hear from him. The example of Joseph in the Sacred Grove was used as case in point to this statement. Elder Christensen made a reference to ones testimony being like a tree. He asserted that a testimony is not like an on-off switch. A tree requires long term care and watering. “Our feelings will fade,” he shared, “if we do not nourish them.”

Following this was Dean M. Davies, the second counselor to the presiding bishopric (which has the assignment of administration over the lesser, Aaronic, Priesthood). His major thrust was in encouraging the members to take care of the poor and needy and to be a catalyst toward faithfulness in the “Law of the Fast.” This is an LDS custom which requires members to fast from meals for one day per month. The money that would have been used to buy food by the individual is then donated to the Church for the singular use of caring for the poor and needy. Elder Davies taught that taking care of the poor is an essential Gospel principle and was one of four divinely appointed responsibilities which help individuals and families qualify for exaltation to godhood and life in the Celestial kingdom. Isaiah 58 seemed to be a bit misapplied toward this end. The chapter was used to admonish those listening toward fasting for the poor but the context actual repudiates the hypocritical fasts practice by the Jews at that time. The Lord told them that the fast which he requires was a fast toward righteousness and good deeds to the poor.

Incredibly, after the panoply of reminders to keep covenants, oaths and responsibilities by the current and previous speakers, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 were invoked. It was difficult to hear the lectures and get the feeling that the burden of Mormonism is light. A casual reading of the previously referred to LDS scripture passage, D&C 132 contains numerous qualifiers and legal styled verbage which would be incredibly at home with similar texts in Jewish rabbinical literature such as the Midrash and Talmud where every possible angle is taken regarding every possible subject. It was against such legalities that Jesus waged war in order to free his people from being burdened by those who put heavy burdens on men’s backs but would not offer so much as a single finger to help them lift it.

Following this lecture was one delivered by the second counselor to the First Presidency, Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He began with the story of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. Those disciples there at the table were surprised to hear their Lord tell them of his impending betrayal. Those there inquired of the Lord, “Is it I?” Elder Uchtdorf proclaimed this attitude as a pathway for life and equated it with the parable of the plank and the speck. He encouraged the crowd to ask the same question of themselves. This type of introspection could certainly be good, however, this brings up a key issue of departure between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Evangelical Christianity. For instance, Protestants might point out that the Apostle John, in his first epistle, informed his readers that he had written them this letter so that they “might know that they have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Also, Paul, in Ephesians 3:12 states that our confidence comes through our faith in Jesus, not from our own works or keeping of any contracts or commitments. Previously, it has been sufficiently demonstrated that the faithful Mormon can never truly be certain of his position before God until the very end. For an excellent example of the burden many Mormons carry in this regard see the April 1992 Ensign article written by Stephen Robinson (which can be found here:, note especially the section on his wife Janet). Elder Uchtdorf encourages the listener, finally, that there is divine potential that Heavenly Father wants to cultivate within each one of us. One need not wonder at this. The statement is as literal as it probably can be.


The second to last talk was delivered by first counselor to the First Presidency Henry B. Eyering. This talk was often interrupted by emotional moments. Elder Eyering had to take frequent pauses to regain himself. The message’s topic was the Aaronic Priesthood. This is a priesthood covenant entered into by most Mormons when they are twelve years old and corresponds (supposedly) to the priesthood held by Aaron. Very few, if any, of the functions performed by Aaron and his sons are actually performed by Aaronic Priesthood holders. Elder Eyering spent most of his time telling nostalgic tales of his past. Memories of his early years in the priesthood were shared, as well as memories he had of his son at the same age were used to provide tips and bits of advice for how to treat the youths. Encouragement and praise should always precede and accompany words of admonishment.


Elder Eyering shared a story he remembered from his childhood of accompanying an older man in the church on an in home visit to help a widow. Of course we can commend him for being available for such a noble task but the lesson he learned might perhaps be troubling to many. He states that he learned all that he must do to have his sins forgiven as he accompanied this older brother on this task. It may surprise Elder Eyering that Paul actual proclaims that God “justifies the ungodly” through their belief. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” David himself was said to speak of the one who receives righteousness apart from the Law (see Romans 4). In fact, in Galatians 3 Paul says that we enter into promises made to Abraham by our faith because of a faithful Messiah (Jesus). He speaks of the Law in saying that it was temporary and came to increase the trespass. Now that we are in Jesus the previous arrangement is null and void just as a deed of inheritance is null and void when the one take possession of his inheritance.


The final talk was delivered by the prophet Thomas S. Monson. This final talk was very difficult to follow. President Monson appeared very frail and had difficulty not slurring his words. The opening tale was from WWII. The prophet told a story about the German ship the Bismarck. The shipped was proclaimed unsinkable and appeared to be just that, until a lucky British torpedo jammed the ships rudder. Because of this development the ship could only move around in a circle and was eventually sunk. We then hear of the prophet Daniel who was faithful to God in the face of trying circumstances and even was willing to go to the lion’s den for God. We too will be like the Bismarck if we succumb to the temptations of Satan who wants to destroy us. “May we be faithful as Daniel and Jacob, the brother of Nephi. If we do this we are promised that we may find our way home to be with our Father forever.

General Conference April 2014. Sunday Morning Session, by Vince Mccann

06mormon-web-articleInline

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As with many of these presentations by modern LDS leaders, given in conference, there is much general content here that any Christian would agree with (and even many non-religious people). Uchtdorf reminds his listeners to be thankful and grateful for the blessings we have even in the hard trying times.

As is often the case in LDS culture, Joseph Smith is held up as a saintly example. In this instance, Uchtdorf speaks of Smith still maintaining an attitude of gratitude despite being held prisoner in the Carthage jail. Without knowing the full story, one would get the impression that Smith was some sort of innocent party or prisoner to injustice. However, the facts are that Smith was being held due to encouraging a mob to destroy printing presses that were publishing a newspaper exposing his activity around polygamy (The Nauvoo Expositor), not because he was suffering persecution for following Christ.

The scripture in 1 Peter 4:12-16 comes to mind regarding this issue:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

It was at this prison that Smith met his untimely death at the hands of a those seeking revenge against him. Also lacking in the commonly accepted airbrushed history of this event in the minds of many Mormons is the fact that Smith retaliated back against his attackers by returning fire back at them. After this, Smith jumped from the window of the Carthage jail in an attempt to escape and gave a common Masonic cry: “O Lord, my God!“ in an apparent attempt to find help or some sort of restraint from possible fellow freemasons that may have been present in the mob (yes, Smith was a Freemason as well!). When Smith was announced dead after this attack he was found with an occultic item called a Jupiter Talisman.

Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of Mormons are unaware of the more accurate picture concerning Smith’s death. Rather, most tend to be exposed to an inaccurate and highly romanticized airbrushed version.




Elder M. Russell Ballard

In this presentation Elder Ballard asserts that we should not refer to Christ’s Church by any other name other than the one that the Lord Himself has declared: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and insists that the use of this name (rather than Mormon Church) identifies them as Christian to others. However, nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus insisting that believers refer to His Church by this title and the Mormon Church was not always known by this name. 

Eric Johnson, of Mormonism Research Ministry, notes the following about the name changes that the Mormon Church has undergone in times past:

Another point is that the LDS Church’s title has not always had Christ’s name since its foundation on April 6, 1830. The Mormon scripture Doctrine and Covenants 20:1 reports that the original name of the church was the “Church of Christ.” In 1834, the name was changed to “The Church of Latter-day Saints” (History of the Church 2:63). This took place at a priesthood conference at which Joseph Smith was present. The vote was unanimous. Note that the name of Christ was completely omitted. This was the church’s official title until April 26, 1838 when it was changed again to its current name. (The Name of God’s Church,)

As for Ballard’s assertion that using the name of Jesus Christ in the title of the Church identifies them as Christian, it is an easy thing for a religious group to claim the name of Jesus but be far removed from a genuine Christian group.  

Ballard then goes on to follow up on a message he gave at the last LDS general conference whereby he urged members to pray and reach out to non-Mormons with the message of the LDS Church. He recounts a story whereby a member reached out to a non-member on Facebook with some success. Mormon leadership have been recently been encouraging members to spend more time in their witnessing endeavours on the internet. This is good news for those of us who seek to evangelize them, as we have more of an opportunity now than ever to share the genuine Gospel of Christ, and make them aware of the errors of Mormonism that many are simply unaware of.

Jean N. Stevens

I didn’t get too much from this presentation and, on the whole, found it to be a very general talk on trusting in God and having faith, which of course Christians in other churches would agree with. 

I did find it interesting that there was a quote by C.S. Lewis and viewed this as another attempt from the Mormon Church to sound more Christian (as with Ballard’s desire for Mormons to be identified as Christian on account of the Church’s name).

Stevens mentions a family who would be together forever on account of the Mormon temple ordinances and belief in the eternal family unit. However, I often think about the numerous problems that this doctrine holds for LDS people when one considers how a family can be together in eternity. For example, how can families be together forever  when each person would inevitably be at various levels of “worthiness” and therefore attain different places in the Mormon plan of eternal progression? What about a family member who denies the teachings of Mormonism?




Bishop Gary E. Stevenson

There appeared to be a little more obvious Mormon doctrine in this presentation than what is often found in the majority of these conference talks. Stevenson speaks about the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence, declaring: “Before you were born you existed as a spirit.” 

Although no scripture is offered up in this particular presentation, the usual biblical passage that is often cited to attempt to back this belief up by the average Mormon is Jeremiah 1:4-5:

Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

However, notice that it is ‘the Lord’ who is saying that He knew Jeremiah before he was born. This shouldn’t surprise us seeing that God is omniscient and eternal. Of course God would know Jeremiah and all people before He even created them. If this text stated that Jeremiah knew God before he was in the womb that would be better evidence of a pre-existence.

Stevenson states: “Your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life.” and: “Certain things are absolutely essential” to attain this prize of eternal life. 

There is quite a list of things that follows that one must do to attain this prize of eternal life: “baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, temple ordinances, and partaking of the sacrament each week” as well as “keeping the commandments” “receive an ordinance” “self discipline” “daily prayer, scripture study and church attendance” and “keeping the covenants.”

In contrast, the Bible states that eternal life is a “gift” not a “prize”:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

We can know that we have eternal life by simple faith in Christ:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

Furthermore, the Bible also states that we are saved by faith alone in Christ not by performing some sort of tick list of good works:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Elder David A. Bednar

Bednar speaks about the load that each person carries and how this is necessary to produce spiritual growth. He then cites Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew: 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29).

However, I find it odd that Bednar cites this passage as the point of it is that Jesus wants to relieve us of our heavy laden and give us rest in Him. However, when one understands LDS theology, with it’s emphasis on performance, and works orientated salvation (whereby Stevenson‘s previous presentation is a prime example of this), it is easy to see how Mormon people tragically miss the simple and liberating beauty of this wonderful passage

President Thomas S. Monson

Monson’s focus is on love in this presentation and how acts of kindness can bring people into the Mormon Church. Monson urges his listeners to love the people that LDS members come into contact with and to take every opportunity to do this.

As with many conference talks, however, I found this presentation to be very general, and one with which the majority of people (including non-religious people) would concur with on many issues (themes such as being forgiving, merciful, patient, kindness, etc.).

Personally, I found that this particular talk (as well as many of the others) lacked any real passion. Without being insulting, I actually found myself losing interest in this talk especially. 

After listening to the entire Sunday morning session I felt that many of the speakers (though not all) simply seemed to be going through the motions, being careful to say what they thought was the right thing to say, trying to fit in as much as possible with other churches, and not really presenting anything very substantial.

General Conference April 2014. General Womens Meeting – By Vicky Gilpin

 

 

Daughters in the Covenant

BY PRESIDENT HENRY B. EYRING

First Counselor in the First Presidency

 

I’ve chosen to focus on just one of the talks from the General womens meeting, the other talks were filled with the all usual, encouraging words and sisterly love you would expect, but this final address by President Henery B Eyring caught my eye on a few points.

Something I picked up on when reading through Eyring’s talk was an emphasis on feelings. Read through the following quotes.

 

“A number of you were baptized recently and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. To you that memory is fresh. Others were baptized long ago, so the memory of your feelings of that covenant experience may be less clear, but some of those feelings come back whenever you listen to the sacramental prayers.

“But we each felt God’s approval. And we felt a desire to forgive and to be forgiven and an increased determination to do right.”

 

How deeply those feelings went down into your heart was determined largely by the way you were prepared by loving people.

I can say “surely” because those feelings are placed deep in the hearts of all of Heavenly Father’s daughters. That is part of your divine heritage from Him.

You all have felt the blessing of being in the company tonight of daughters of God who are also under covenant to help and direct you as they promised to do.

 

You might be wondering what the big deal is, if your a Christian you might read those quotes and think, well yes I remember my feelings as I was baptised, I’ve felt blessed in the company of sisters in the Lord.

 

But there’s something more going on in the LDS Church when it comes to feelings.

Even from the first instant, potential converts are compelled to Pray and see if the Book of Mormon is true…

 

 Moroni 10:4

 

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

 

 

How is one to know Gods answer to this prayer?…

 

By a feeling, referred to as a burning in the bosom. If the ‘Potential convert,’ comes back to the LDS Missionaries and says they didn’t feel anything, their told that their not praying sincerely enough and to pray more until they experience this feeling. This circular reasoning sets in motion a cycle of relying on feelings. Mormons give there testimony saying, ‘I know the Church is true!’ How do they know? Because they’ve had a burning in the bosom, a feeling.

 

I’ve got news for any LDS readers though. I’ve had feelings too. I’ve felt the Holy spirit (Ghost), I’ve felt his direction, I’ve Known His presence. Many Christians say the same.

So how do we know who has the truth?

My knowledge of truth is not based on feelings, I have experienced feelings and these serve to confirm what I already know, but I do not base my knowledge of truth on feelings but on the word of God.
I remember one time Bobby and I were meeting with a couple of LDS Missionary’s and Bobby said to one of them, “What if I said to you that I KNOW that Superman is God!” Do you know what his reply was?

 

“Well I’d have to pray about that to see if it was true!”

 

Gob smacked!

 

That is what happens when your basis for knowing truth is so subjective. The serial killer, the Rapist, the paedophile, ( I’m trying to make point, it’s not a comparison ) might all believe that what they do is good and right and true, who could argue if all truth was subject to our feelings?

 

You might be thinking “but I KNOW, that feeling was so strong, undeniable!”

Maybe so, and I’m not discounting your experience, but don’t you think you might leave yourself open to deception?

Satan, The great deceiver, the Father of Lies, is so called for a reason. The Bible tells us that he is even able to appear to us as an angel of light! ( I’m referring to 2 Corinthians 11:14, but for context I’ll give you 4-6 also…)

 

2 Corinthians 4-6

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

 

Here we read that Satan, even from the very beginning was trying to bring his deception through a different Gosple. We read that it is possible to recieve a different spirit. That a different Jesus was being proclaimed by “Super-Apostles,” Why did he say that? I believe it was because these “Super-Apostles” had great showmanship, great Charisma, and could entice the crowd. Paul comments that he is unskilled in speaking, I believe he’s saying this because these super-Apostles were skilled, or gifted in speaking. He goes on to say…

 

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

 

Satan was working to bring down God’s Church, not after the death of the apostles but from the very start, and he does this by using great men of Charisma, with smooth tongues, and leadership skills. Yet Jesus said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church! And he didn’t. Satan continued his work throughout the century’s bringing false Gospels and false teachings but as in Paul’s day, those called of God to be his children stood strong, enduring to the end.

 

The LDS Church has built itself on the notion that the Church Jesus built totally crumbled. But the Bible tells us that it is not possible for the elect of God to be deceived.

 

Matthew 24:24

For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

 

You might choose to believe that the gospel was lost and that Joseph Smith restored it, but I ask again, on what do you base this knowledge? On a feeling? With Satan prowling around like a roaring lion, ready to deceive those who are listening? With centuries of experience in bringing false teaching, bringing false gospels? I wouldn’t risk my eternity on a feeling.

What if the LDS Church is wrong. What if it is proclaiming a different Gospel? Try reading the New Testament, with a fresh look, and see what gospel message you find.

 

 This same challenge was once given to a young LDS Missionary, here is what happened.