Archive | March, 2015

50 Questions: Mormon Scriptures, part 2

31 Mar

On another blog Tim has been writing answers to a series of questions asked by a Latter Day Saint named Greg Trimble. The list was titled 51 Questions That Might Lead You To Mormonism. So far Tim has posts 5 parts in his series, and I don’t know how many more it will take to answer all 51. However, in part 4 he mentions another list of questions that was made back in 2001. This was titled 50 Questions to Ask Mormons. So, I have decided to follow Tim’s example and make a short series to answer these 50 questions.

I will answer the questions in the order they are given and in the categories they are sorted into. Each post will be less than 1000 words, so only a few questions will be answered in each.

Read 50 Questions: Prophets, part 1; Prophets, part 2; Mormon Scriptures, part 1

QUESTIONS 14-18

  1. Why did God encourage Abraham & Sarah to lie in Abraham 2:24? Isn’t lying a sin according to the 10 commandments? Why did God tell Abraham and Sarah to lie when 2 Nephi 9:34 condemns liars to hell? 

Why did God tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac when He so clearly condemns human sacrifice? Why did God command Moses, Joshua, Saul, and many others to kill thousands when killing is a sin according to the 10 commandments?

To question God is a dangerous business. When God commands we should obey, and hope that we will understand at some future time. We must trust God and have confidence that nothing he commands can be a sin.

 

  1. Why does the Book of Mormon state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10) when history and the Bible state that he was born outside of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem? 

 

Alma 7: 10 “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.”

 

Note that Alma does not identify Jerusalem to be a city. He states “at Jerusalem WHICH IS THE LAND of our forefathers” (emphasis added). So his words make it clear that he is not speaking of a city but of a geographical region.

Continuing from this, “at Jerusalem” (which is what Alma says) is used 19 times in the Book of Mormon. Those in the books of 1st and 2nd Nephi are referring to the city, which would be logical considering his familiarity with the area, as well as the familiarity of many with him. However, starting with Alma 7: 10, all the other times it is used it is referring to the geographic region where Christ conducted his ministry. Alma 7: 10 is establishing the new understanding that would be used from then on.

 

  1. If the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth, as Joseph Smith said, why does it contain over 4000 changes from the original 1830 edition? 

No change has caused a change in the meaning of the text. They have been printing errors that are common to all such works. Thus there have been many corrections made, most based on the hand written manuscripts that are available from the scribes of Joseph Smith. There have also been some alterations in language as the conventions of English have changed over the year. Nothing essential has changed, and the Book of Mormon remains the most correct of any book on Earth.

 

  1. If the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the everlasting gospel”, why does the LDS Church need additional works? 

The Fullness of the Gospel refers to the basics, or the core doctrine that leads men to God and the Celestial Kingdom. That fullness is contained in the Book of Mormon.

The other works deal, primarily, with other matters. They deal with church governance, health standards, and other things that are not directly essential to salvation, but are, nonetheless, important for our lives and are revealed from God for our benefit.

Some parts of these works also speak to the Mysteries of the Gospel. These are doctrines that do not bring one to God, but are rather for those who have already come to God.

 

  1. If the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the everlasting gospel”, why doesn’t it say anything about so many important teachings such as eternal progression, celestial marriage, the Word of Wisdom, the plurality of Gods, the pre-existence of man, our mother in heaven, baptism for the dead, etc? 

First, one really needs to understand what doctrine is important. I find it a common thing among those who write such questions to claim minor concepts are important (like that of a Heavenly Mother).

Second, as I said in the previous question, many of these things are not part of the Fullness of the Gospel, as they are not essential in bringing us to God.

50 Questions: Mormon Scriptures, part 1

30 Mar

On another blog Tim has been writing answers to a series of questions asked by a Latter Day Saint named Greg Trimble. The list was titled 51 Questions That Might Lead You To Mormonism. So far Tim has posts 5 parts in his series, and I don’t know how many more it will take to answer all 51. However, in part 4 he mentions another list of questions that was made back in 2001. This was titled 50 Questions to Ask Mormons. So, I have decided to follow Tim’s example and make a short series to answer these 50 questions.

I will answer the questions in the order they are given and in the categories they are sorted into. Each post will be less than 1000 words, so only a few questions will be answered in each.

Read 50 Questions: Prophets, part 1; Prophets, part 2

QUESTIONS 9-13

  1. Can you show me archeological and historical proof from non-Mormon sources that prove that the peoples and places named in the Book of Mormon are true? 

No, but I could show evidence. The real question is would they even recognize it or accept it for what it is. I have looked at all the evidence from archeology and history and I have seen the evidence. It is simply not accepted by those who don’t want evidence to exist.

However, whether there is evidence or not doesn’t really matter. The Book of Mormon is from God, and He has declared its truth. That is enough for the faithful, and the learning and reasoning of men cannot undo that.

 

  1. If the words “familiar spirit” in Isaiah 29:4 refer to the Book of Mormon, why do familiar spirits always refer to occult practices such as channeling and necromancy everywhere else in the Old Testament? 

 

The verse in question: “And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.”

 

Note that it says the voice will be as of one that hath a familiar spirit. It does not say it will be a familiar spirit, but merely says it is similar.

Now, a familiar spirit refers to one who attempts to tell the future, or divine a fortune, through contacting the dead. Even today many who claim this power say that they are in contact with a spirit guide who directs them through such communication. Now, this practice was condemned by God, and still is condemned.

Isaiah says that the voice will be similar to one with a familiar spirit. This means that the voice will be the voice of the dead speaking to the living. The reference would likely have been understood by those living in the days of Isaiah to mean this. The Nephites, being dead, are speaking to the living through their testimony that is contained in the Book of Mormon.

So, Isaiah refers to the Book of Mormon, not as a Familiar Spirit, but as a voice, which he then compares to a Familiar Spirit because both are the dead speaking to the living.

 

  1. Why did Joseph Smith condone polygamy as an ordinance from God (Doctrine and Covenants 132) when the Book of Mormon had already condemned the practice (Jacob 1:15, 2:24)? 

You will also note that the verse in question does not condemn plural marriage. It condemns the attitudes that were espoused by certain men who took multiple wives for the sole purpose of gratifying the carnal lusts. As it says they began to “indulge themselves in somewhat wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.” These men sought to justify themselves by appealing to David and Solomon.

It is in chapter two that we get the full understanding of this. Jacob preaches to the Nephites. First he tells them that the practices of David and Solomon were not right (verse 24) and that God expect them to live better. He gives the command “there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (verse 27). He then tells them that God delights in chastity and that “whoredoms are an abomination” before God (verse 28). Then he declares “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

So what we have is the condemnation of whoredoms, as well as the practicing of plural marriage without God’s command. But when God commands it is a proper practice; and the command is to be obeyed when given.

 

  1. Why were the words “white and delightsome” in 2 Nephi 30:6 changed to “pure and delightsome” right on the heels of the Civil Rights campaign for blacks? 

Hardly on the heels, but the better question is why was this the only verse changed when there are at least three other references to white and black skin in the Book of Mormon that were unchanged?

The context of this verse is speaking of a person’s worthiness, or righteousness. Thus the term pure is a better word for the context. White was used originally because in the 1800’s white was commonly used to me pure. So the meaning of the verse is not changed, only the language. Why this was done I won’t speculate on.

However, as I said before, it must be noted that every reference where the context is the color of skin remains unchanged.

Such as 2 Nephi 5: 21, which says “that they might not be enticing to unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

Or Jacob 3: 8 which tells us “unless [the Nephites] repent of [their] sins that [the Lamanites] skins will be whiter than [the Nephites].”

Or 3 Nephi 2: 15 where the “curse was taken from [the Lamanites], and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.

 

  1. If God is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bones, why does Alma 18:26-28 and John 4:24 say that God is a spirit? 

John 4:24 was a mistranslation that Joseph Smith has long since corrected.

Alma 18 does not teach that God is a Spirit. It uses the Lamanite’s belief in the Great Spirit to familiarize them with the concept of God so that they could more easily understand the gospel that was being preached to them.

Of course, Christ was a spirit at this time, as he had not been born. This is where the Lamanites got the idea of the Great Spirit to begin with.

 

50 Questions: Prophets, part 2

26 Mar

On another blog Tim has been writing answers to a series of questions asked by a Latter Day Saint named Greg Trimble. The list was titled 51 Questions That Might Lead You To Mormonism. So far Tim has posts 5 parts in his series, and I don’t know how many more it will take to answer all 51. However, in part 4 he mentions another list of questions that was made back in 2001. This was titled 50 Questions to Ask Mormons. So, I have decided to follow Tim’s example and make a short series to answer these 50 questions.

I will answer the questions in the order they are given and in the categories they are sorted into. Each post will be less than 1000 words, so only a few questions will be answered in each.

Read 50 Questions: Prophets, part 1

QUESTIONS 4-8

  1. If Brigham Young was a true prophet, how come one of your later prophets overturned his declaration which stated that the black man could never hold the priesthood in the LDS Church until after the resurrection of all other races (Journal of Discourses, Dec. 12, 1854, 2:142-143)?

Well, let us look at this quote.

“When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity.”

What is actually being said? He is not declaring this is a necessity. If it takes that long than that is fine, because even after everyone else is resurrected there will be time to bring the descendants of Cain to salvation.

He continues “[Cain] deprived his brother of the privilege of pursuing his journey through life, and of extending his kingdom by multiplying upon the earth; and because he did this, he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God.”

So, the only thing that can be said to be actual doctrine is that the descendants of Cain must be the last to receive the blessings of the Gospel. When this would happen is not stated as a set time. It doesn’t matter when it happens, only that it would happen after everyone else received it.

Interpret this as you will, but it seems to me that the conditions for them being last were met in 1978, which in no way contradicts what Brigham Young said.

 

 

 

  1. Since the Bible’s test to determine whether someone is a true prophet of God is 100% accuracy in all his prophecies (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), has the LDS Church ever reconsidered its teaching that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets?

Considering that none of their prophecies have been shown to be false there is no reason to. Every prophecy that either of these men spoke has been fulfilled or will be in the future.

 

 

  1. Since the current LDS prophets sometimes contradict the former ones, how do you decide which one is correct?

No current prophet has contradicted a former one on matters of doctrine, only on matter of opinion. As such we are free to agree with either opinion or form our own. The doctrine remains the same, however. On occasion a current prophet will declare doctrine that contradicts the opinions of former prophets, in which case we are expected to accept the new revelation and discard any previous opinion that may have existed.

 

 

  1. Since there are several different contradictory accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision, how did the LDS Church choose the correct one?

They are all right. There are no substantial contradictions, and the setting and reason for giving each would explain why different details are in each, and why they are told in different ways. It is very much like the accounts of Christ’s life in the different gospels; or the different accounts of Paul’s vision in the book of Acts. The one in the Pearl of Great Price was written as part of a history of the church dictated by Joseph Smith for the purpose of teaching the rise and progress of the church. This is why it was later canonized.

Here is a good article discussing this: https://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng

 

 

  1. Can you show me in the Bible the LDS teaching that we must all stand before Joseph Smith on the Day of Judgment?

No, but then we do not believe that all doctrine is contained in the Bible. It is a foundational collection of scripture, but not the only one.

In addition, I would have to have a clarification as to what is meant by standing before Joseph Smith. I have read many quotes and what I can see is an understanding that one must have Joseph’s approval, or a kind of letter of recommendation, in order to pass into the Kingdom of God. Since the Bible does say that Christ’s apostles would judge Israel (Matthew 19: 28), the idea of a character witness doesn’t seem all that strange to me.

 

50 Questions: Prophets, part 1

26 Mar

On another blog Tim has been writing answers to a series of questions asked by a Latter Day Saint named Greg Trimble. The list was titled 51 Questions That Might Lead You To Mormonism. So far Tim has posts 5 parts in his series, and I don’t know how many more it will take to answer all 51. However, in part 4 he mentions another list of questions that was made back in 2001. This was titled 50 Questions to Ask Mormons. So, I have decided to follow Tim’s example and make a short series to answer these 50 questions.

I will answer the questions in the order they are given and in the categories they are sorted into. Each post will be less than 1000 words, so only a few questions will be answered in each.

 

QUESTIONS 1-3

  1. Why does the Mormon Church still teach that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God after he made a false prophecy about a temple being built in Missouri in his generation (Doctrine and Covenants 84:1-5)?

There was no failed prophecy.

  1. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

  2. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.

In verse 4 we read a command to build the temple, not a prophecy that it would be. The prophecy is in verse 5, which states only that a temple would be built, without specifying where, and that the glory of the Lord would fill it. This happened four years later when the Kirtland Temple was dedicated in 1836.

 

 

  1. Since the time when Brigham Young taught that both the moon and the sun were inhabited by people, has the Mormon Church ever found scientific evidence of that to be true (Journal of Discourses, 1870, v.13, p.271)?

Here is the quote in question.

Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed “the man in the moon,” and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.

What is really being said? Notice that Brigham Young says he thinks there is life on the sun, and thus we take this to be a personal opinion. What is that opinion based on? The doctrine that “it was not created in vain.” This means that everything was created to serve a specific function, and in Brigham Young’s opinion that function is to give light, both to those that live on it and other planets. The same reasoning is readily applied to his comments regarding to the moon. Thus we have no problem with this.

We could also mention that speculation as to life on the Moon was not uncommon in the days of Brigham Young, and that his opinions on this would have very naturally extended to the sun.

On a final note, if we read farther in Brigham’s words we read the following.

It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized. Every planet in its first rude, organic state receives not the glory of God upon it, but is opaque; but when celestialized, every planet that God brings into existence is a body of light, but not till then.

 So, it would appear that Brigham Young believed that Sun is a Celestialized planet, and thus its inhabitants would be Celestial beings. As such there would be no way to scientifically detect them, any more than one can scientifically detect God.

 

  1. Why did Brigham Young teach that Adam is “our Father and our God” when both the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:12) say that Adam is a creation of God (Journal of Discourses, Apr. 9, 1852, vol.1, p.50)?

Because Adam is our father; he is the first of the human family, and thus is the great mortal father of all those born on the Earth. In this he also stands as the presiding authority over this Earth, and thus is the one that all on this Earth are directly under in authority. Christ is over all creation. Adam, under Christ, is over this Earth.

However, Adam was created by God the Father, the Most High God, who is over Christ. None of this is contradictory.

The Book of Revelation; Chapter Six – The First Five Seals

19 Mar

I have been doing a series of posts on the Revelation of John. In this series I have been comparing John’s vision with books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST – given in red).

Revelation Six

 In my last post I showed that each seal of the book that John saw represented 1000 years of the Earth’s history. This chapter opens the first six seals. The first five are very brief, but the sixth is much more detailed, and is continued in the next chapter. So, we will look at only the first five seals in this post.

First Seal (verses 1-2)

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

This is a representation of the first Millennium. So, it represents, approximately, the time that Adam was alive (Adam lived 930 years, Genesis 5: 5). The conquer would then represent the initial subduing of the Earth and the first cities that are described in Genesis and Moses.

Second Seal (verses 3-4)

And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

In the second Millennium we see war as peace is taken from the earth. This is the time just before the flood, which Genesis describes as “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6: 11) We have very little of the story of this period. Even with the JST very little is said. But I would think that, at least until the middle ages, there was not a period in the history of the world that was more violent and prone to war than this period just before the flood.

Third Seal (verses 5-6)

And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and hurt not thou the oil and the wine.

This clearly shows famine, or a lack of food production. This would be the third Millennium, or the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Egyptian captivity, and the reign of the Judges. Why would this time be represented with famine? In Genesis 12 Abram goes to Egypt to escape famine. Isaac goes to the King of the Philistines because of famine in Genesis 28. There was the great famine in the time of Joseph (Genesis 40-41). It seems the three greatest famines in recorded history were during this millennium.

Fourth Seal (verses 7-8)

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

This seal is usually referred to simply as death, and that is what is described. Death by sword, hunger, and wild beasts. This is the fourth millennium, the thousand years before Christ.  What characterizes this period is that amount of death that takes place. Empire after empire rises up to conquer the world, killing their enemies with the sword and with hunger. This was the first time where it seems that entire cities were being wiped out.

Fifth Seal (verses 9-11)

I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

This seal is the thousand years after Christ (including Christ’s ministry). This was a time of great persecution in the church, as well as the beginning of the Great Apostasy. John sees the martyrs of the first centuries; those slain for their testimony. They are given white robes, a symbol of purity. They cry out for God to avenge them, but are told to wait until the time when further persecution would result in the death of many more of the faithful.

It may be that John is seeing only the early martyrs in the days of Nero, and they must wait until the further persecutions of Diocletian and others have occurred. In this case the little season would be a few centuries, and would place the judgements of God at the beginning of the Apostasy, and thus the Apostasy would be avenging their blood. This would make sense as God withdrew His spirit and for many years there was great violence and wars throughout the world. This is the millennium that saw the rise of Islam and the great conquering wars that those people undertook. Europe, and Especially the Roman Empire, could be seen to have felt the judgment of God.

However, John may be seeing all the martyrs in the first few centuries, which would make the little season the time of the Apostasy. That would place the fellowservants and brethren in our day, and thus refer to the persecutions that would come much later. If this is the case than the judgment that God promises would be that of the tribulations of the last days.

 

See also chapter one,  two, three, four, five

The Revelation of John: Chapter Five

10 Mar

I have been doing a series of posts on the Revelation of John. In this series I have been comparing John’s vision with books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST – given in read).

Revelation FiveRevelation 5

 In this chapter we read about the book sealed with seven seals. John sees the Father holding the book and an angel asks, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (verse 2) No man is found to open the seals, and when John sees this he weeps.

Before we continue we should first ask what this book represents. There are many ideas regarding it, but we have the blessing of a direct interpretation from God himself. We looked at section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants when we looked at Revelation chapter four. We again turn to that section for an explanation of this book (in verses 6-7).

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?

A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?

A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.

So, we can see that John’s revelation was much more encompassing than many people think. It quite literally reveals the history of the world, from the fall to the millennium and final judgment.

 

At this point the vision becomes a little interactive, for one of the 24 elders, mentioned in the previous chapter, turns to John and reassures him.

Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (verse 5)

Before we say what John saw let us consider this statement. The Lion of the tribe of Judah alludes back to Genesis 49: 9 when Jacob describes Judah as a lion’s whelp, indicating that sometime in the future that full power of the tribe would be realized. This happened through Christ, who was of Judah, and thus Christ is here called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

After the elder makes this declaration John then tells us he saw “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having twelve horns and twelve eyes, which are the twelve servants of God, sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.” (verses 6-7) Now, the Lamb is an obvious reference to Christ, who is commonly referred to as a lamb and was symbolized in ancient sacrifices by a lamb without blemish. However, you may note that the JST changes the KJV from the number seven to the number twelve, and once again changes spirits to servants. I am inclined to think that this is a reference to the twelve apostles that served under Christ, who were first given the commission to take the gospel to the world, and who will judge Israel.

The rest of the chapter consists of the four beasts and the 24 elders praising Christ. There are only a couple of things I want to note in these last seven verses.

First, in verse eight the KJV says that they each held a vial full of ‘odours.’ An alternate Greek translation would render this ‘incense.’ In either case it is described as ‘the prayers of the saints.” I think the use of Incense would be a better translation because it takes ones mind back to the burning of incense in the ancient temple, which was to symbolize the prayers of the people going up to God.

Secondly, the reason given for Christ being worthy to open the book is important. “…thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (verse 9) We know that the book contains the history of the world from the fall, and yet Christ’s atonement makes him worthy to open all the seals, even those that came before him. To me this is an indication of the retroactive power of the atonement. I have heard some outside the church say that those who lived before Christ were saved by their own works, while the atonement is only for those who lived after Christ. To me this declaration that the Atonement gives him power and authority over all history shows clearly that His atonement is truly for everyone at everytime.

 

See also chapter one,  two, three, four