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Little Known Propaganda: 1 – All Churches Wrong

11 Jan

This is my first response to the list of “little known facts” referenced at the blog Sound Doctrine. On this blog the author presents the list along with responses to each from a F.A.I.R. Mormon scholar, known only as CleanCut. In addition the author of this blog, known as Damon, gives a response to CleanCut. As I said in my introduction blog, I am writing a response to each fact in a lengthy series. I will not, however, comment on what CleanCut or Damon said.

 

FACT #1 The Mormon Church teaches ALL other Churches are WRONG; ALL their creeds are an ABOMINATION in the sight of God; and ALL their teachers are corrupt.

One of the Mormon Books of Scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, says this about non-LDS churches:  “…they were ALL WRONG; and the Personage who addressed me said that ALL their creeds were an ABOMINATION in his sight; that those professors were ALL CORRUPT…” (Joseph Smith 1:19).

 

Very true; however this is hardly a little known fact. Even in 2008 it was well known that we believe we have the only true church. So, to have it on a list of supposedly little known facts is not completely honest.

 

Also, it must be understood in its proper perspective. You see, we take Paul literally when he says there is but one church and one faith (Ephesians 4: 4-5). We do not hold to the view that the church is all Christians; rather we believe the church to be the organized system of religion that Christ established while on the Earth. When that system was lost the church was lost. Any religion that is not part of that organization cannot be the true church. Paul also described this organization, listing as offices within it Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4: 11-12).

So, any church that does not contained these offices, duly appointed by God as was Aaron (Hebrews 5:4), cannot be the true church that Christ established. As none of the churches at the time of the First Vision had these offices, or the authority to appoint them, all of them were the wrong church.

 

As to the creeds, anything that tends to lead men away from God and the fullness of his glory would be an abomination to God. God wants all his children to share in his glory; anything less causes him sorrow. So, those creeds that teach false doctrine and thus lead men to a lesser glory would be detestable to God as they frustrate his desires.

 

Having said all this it must also be understood that just because a church is not the one true church that does not mean that all the doctrine that it espouses is wrong. All churches have a measure of truth, some more than others. It is also true that the followers of the different religions are most often good people who have simply been deceived.

False Prophecies

21 Oct

One of the favorite tactics of those who oppose the church is to try and point out unfulfilled prophecies of Joseph Smith. I have read many such lists, and they generally fall back on the same ten or twelve. This is done in an attempt to prove that Joseph Smith is not a prophet.

The argument is based in Deuteronomy 18: 20-22, which reads “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we a know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

So, the critics want to present false prophecies to claim that Joseph Smith is guilty of giving false prophecies so they can try to convince others that he is not a true prophet and can be rejected. In fact, at the CARM website they say “that having several fulfilled prophecies and even a single false prophecy still means that the person is not a true prophet of God.”

Now, it is true that this is a test of a true prophet. However, for this to be proven you first have to prove that the person was claiming to speak in the name of God, and then you have to prove that the prophecy was false.

Now the first one can be hard to prove, because prophets don’t always begin their prophecies with “Thus saith the Lord.” Actually, sometimes they may seem to indicate they are speaking for God but are actually speaking for themselves, offering their opinion on what God has planned.

The second is even more difficult to prove. Prophecy is notorious for symbolism and generalities, rarely giving time tables for anything. This leaves it to the reader to try and figure out the meaning, or recognize it when it is fulfilled. The key to unlocking the meaning and fulfillment of prophecy is given to us by Peter. In his second epistle he tells us “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private d interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” In other words, prophecy comes by through the Holy Ghost, and so it is only through the Holy Ghost that one can understand its meaning.

 

So, while people are continually trying to prove Joseph Smith a false prophet, they seem to lack the power to do so. No one without the gift of the Holy Ghost is qualified to judge anyone to be a false or a true prophet. Those who have never been baptized by proper authority do not have this gift, and those who have left the church have lost it.

All things considered one can see why it is difficult for anyone to know exactly what a prophecy means and if it has been fulfilled, especially for those who are trying to prove them false.

 

However, for the sake of sportsmanship I will do a series on some of the prophecies in question. I take the first five from the CARM website. As I find more in other lists I will add them to this series over the years. I also ask that if any of those reading this know of any such claim that they would like me to research and post on I will gladly do so.

I realize that I am working on several series right now (I think this makes three) but I will be posting on all of them in the next week.

Articles of Faith: Eleven

21 Apr

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Today I will discuss briefly the eleventh of the Articles, as given below.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

This will be a short comment as there really isn’t much to say concerning this. We believe that all men have the god given right to believe whatever they choose. No one has the right to dictate conscience. Joseph Smith gives this same sentiment in another place. He declares

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any
man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. (quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)

We believe in building men up, and building them up in the way they desire if we cannot persuade them our way is better. In other words, I will teach everyone the truths of the gospel, but if one comes to me for assistance in building his Hindu shrine I will assist him. This is actually a little exaggerated, but it makes the point. I think I would be willing to help a friend construct a religious building or shrine to his faith, but what I think Joseph Smith meant was that we will not deny anyone our assistance in a good work. We will not turn others away from our stores, or deny anyone any aid we can provide based on what they believe.

We will not assist in any undertaking that is not good and calculated to uplift our fellowmen, however. So, we will not help a friend conceal his affair from his wife, nor will we assist anyone in covering up a crime. However, we will not hold back aid from anyone who is doing good, regardless of what they believe.

I think the reason that Joseph Smith included this in the articles was in large part due to the severe persecution he and the saints had suffered for the past 25 years. Part of that persecution was the spreading of lies that the saints were isolationist in nature, that they didn’t trade or associate with those of other faiths. It was also spread around that in Nauvoo those who were not Mormon were persecuted, especially because Joseph Smith was the Mayor. He wanted to dispel these false rumors and make the truth of our beliefs known.

Articles of Faith: Nine

8 Apr

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Today I will discuss briefly the ninth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

In the last article Joseph Smith declared our belief in the written record of God’s word. I think it appropriate here to mention that he did not include the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price in the Eighth Article. This is a point some non-members have brought up to me in the past. The reason is simple; his intent was to speak on the ancient records of God’s words. Some may question why the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham were not included. Well, the Book of Moses was simply a retranslation of the Bible, and thus is included, while the Book of Abraham was not yet published or accepted as a standard scripture of the church.

However, all of these are included in the Ninth Article of Faith. This article is the declaration of our belief in continuing revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of modern revelation and a number of the sections had not been revealed when Joseph Smith wrote this article. By declaring this belief he affirmed that more knowledge and more direction would be revealed and it would be just as true as anything revealed in the past, and thus allowed future presidents the ability to lead the church as is necessary.

However, there is a greater implication to this article. After the first century when the church started to fall into apostasy the leader chose to close the canon. They had no authority to do this, but they declared that God would never reveal anything else to man. In this way they set the early apostles apart as being on a level that no one else could ever attain. God no longer called men as prophets or apostles.

Joseph Smith, however, declared boldly that God was not yet finished, but would continue to reveal truth to his people. Joseph Smith could have done the same thing as those early, uninspired men. He could have declared that after him there would be no future revelation, and thus set himself apart as something that no one else could attain. But he did not do this. He left it open for those who came after to not only become as he had, but possibly to be greater. This shows a great humility in the man, as he had no desire to keep things for himself.

Because of this article we can accept the revelation to Joseph F. Smith concerning the world of Spirits; we can accept the Manifesto and the later lifting of the ban on the Priesthood. These things pose no problem for those who truly understand the gospel, because we believe that God has not finished revealing his will to man. Not only this, but we look forward to many more and great revelations that are yet to come. Joseph Smith gave us the record of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, but we anticipate the sealed portion being brought forth. We also anticipate the bringing forth of the record of the lost tribes. These things are things we can look forward to, because we do not believe that God has shut the heavens and does not reveal his will anymore. We believe he has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to his kingdom.

Articles of Faith: Seven

3 Apr

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Today I will discuss briefly the seventh of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

First to note is the ‘and so forth.’ Joseph Smith is not attempting to list all the gifts of the spirit here, and in truth he does not list even all the gifts that are listed in the other scriptures. There are two other places that a list is given, both having a longer list than what Joseph Smith gives here.

Paul gives a list of the Gifts of the Spirit

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11)

This is what is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants.

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;And to others it is given to have faith to heal.And again, to some is given the working of miracles;And to others it is given to prophesy;And to others the discerning of spirits.And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (D&C 46: 11-26)

Even these lists are hardly exhaustive, but they give us a clearer idea of what is included. Let us again consider the order. This is the only one that I can honestly say that I don’t think the order has any real importance. No gift is greater than any other, and not all have all gifts. We are counseled to seek out the best gifts, but what is best for me is not going to be what is best for others. As such, if we were to list the gifts in order of greatness the order of the gifts would be different for each person. So, let us now look at the actual gifts.

Each gift is unique, and I am not going to take the time to go over each one. The important thing to note is that all of the gifts listed in all these references refer to what would be called supernatural ability or divine power. A person may be born with a great ability to learn languages, but this does not mean they have the Gift of Tongues from the spirit. Another may be born with great skill in medicine, but that does not mean they have the Gift of Healing from the spirit. The Gifts of the Spirit refer to God granting us, through his spirit, power beyond what we would be capable of on our own. A skilled doctor that rejects the gospel cannot claim to have any gift from the Spirit, and yet still be able to heal people. Why? Because he has a natural talent within himself. A person who has no such talent and yet, through their faith in Christ is able to heal others can claim to have the Gift of Healing.

While I think it proper and good to thank God for our natural talents and credit his goodness that we have them, we should not confuse our talents with the Gifts of the Spirit.

Articles of Faith: Five

24 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, and 4. Today I will discuss briefly the fifth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

This article of faith discusses the authority to act in God’s name. Joseph Smith has already laid down the foundation of the gospel in Christ and the Godhead; has declared our belief in the Atonement and taught us the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. But what good is all this if the authority to perform those ordinances and teach the gospel is not had. Again, I find the order significant. In the first four articles he established what the Gospel was, and now he is telling us how to claim it as ours.

What he says here is very similar to what Paul tells the Hebrew Saints.

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

Hebrews 5: 1-4

Here Paul tells us that one must have the authority given to him from God in order to legally act in the office of High Priest. He must be called of God in the same manner as Aaron was. We read about it in Exodus 28, where God tells Moses to bring Aaron and his sons and set the coats of the priests office and them “and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them” (verse 41).

Joseph Smith says a man must be called of God, and Aaron received his called from God.

Joseph Smith says that it must be by prophecy. In this case Joseph Smith is not speaking of the foretelling of future events, but of the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Christ (Revelation 19: 19) or the spirit of Revelation, or to speak for God. Moses spoke for God in calling Aaron, and thus Aaron was called by prophecy.

Joseph Smith also says it must be by the ‘laying on of hands.’ This is the method of many ordinances, as the Bible attests to. When Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he laid his hands on their heads (Genesis 48:14-19). The Apostles Peter and John bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17). And, more to the story of Moses and Aaron, when Moses was about to leave Israel he took Joshua “And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.” (Numbers 27: 23). So, when we read that Moses was to anoint and consecrate Aaron it becomes clear that this meant the laying on of hands to consecrate them for the service of priests. Consecrate means to ‘set apart or dedicate to the service of God.” In the modern day we speak of setting people apart for callings, and do this by the laying on of hands. When Moses consecrated Aaron he set him apart, and did so, as he did later with Joshua, by the laying on of hands.

The last requirement Joseph Smith gives is that the one who is doing the laying on of hands must have authority to not only teach the gospel, but to administer the ordinances. Comparing this to Aaron again we see again that it was completed, for Moses clearly had the authority to do both.When Paul wrote to the Hebrews he told them that a man must be called of God as was Aaron if he was to act in the office of a High Priest. The Hebrews would have understood the circumstances and nature of Aaron being called. Joseph Smith, in this Article of Faith, states the same thing that Paul stated, but instead of making the comparison with Aaron (a figure not as well known to 1800’s Americans) he simply outlined the requirements.

Articles of Faith

4 Mar

It has been a while since I did anything here, and I was just thinking about the Articles of Faith and thought I would do a series regarding them. These posts will be brief, as they are merely my quick thoughts on each Article. To start off with, let me give a brief explanation of the origin of the Articles of Faith.

In 1842, while the saints resided in Nauvoo, Illinois, a Mr. John Wentworth requested from Joseph Smith an account of the history of the new religion. Wentworth was asking on behalf of his friend, a George Barstow, who was in the process of writing a history of New Hampshire. For those not familiar with Joseph Smith’s own history, he did spend a few years in New Hampshire as a boy, just before his family moved to New York, and it was there that he contracted typhus fever and had his famous operation. While the main events of the rise of the church did not begin until they had moved to New York, Mr. Barstow evidently wanted to make mention of the new religion because he knew that Joseph Smith had lived in New Hampshire.

For his part Joseph Smith was perfectly willing to comply with the request, and soon wrote the now famous Wentworth letter. His only request was that Barstow “publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.” Joseph Smith sent the letter to Mr. Wentworth, but it was never used by Mr. Barstow as he choose to end his book at 1819, or the passing of the Toleration Act which made all religious groups equal and dependent on free contributions for support. However, the letter was printed by Joseph Smith in The Times and Seasons, a bi-monthly newspaper printed by the church (which was also the first to print the Book of Abraham and the History of Church), of which Joseph Smith was the editor.

The letter itself gives a brief overview of the various events related to the rise and faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints. Nothing is dealt with in any real detail, though some facts of each event and mentioned. It deals first with the First Vision and then the visits of Moroni. He addresses the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and does give a summary the narrative and doctrine. He tells of the early spread of the church throughout the United States, which was followed by the Missouri persecution. He then tells of the missionary work being done throughout the world, in which he gives this statement.

Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

This is the prophetic words of Joseph Smith that is the standard of all the missionaries of the church as they go forth to teach the world. It was immediately after this statement that Joseph Smith chose to list the core doctrines of the church; to state what we, as saints of God, believe and follow.

This letter was first published in 1842, but was not, at that time, considered scripture. In 1851 Franklin D. Richards included them in his publication of “The Pearl of Great Price,” a pamphlet printed for the benefit of the saints in Europe. This pamphlet contained many writings from Joseph Smith, including extracts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, some sections from the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Abraham. It was not until 1878 that the pamphlet was published in the United States, with some alteration. In 1880 it was  made a standard work of the church, and joined the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenant as the primary scriptures from which members were to study the gospel. From that time these articles have been a focus for many members, and it has been encouraged that all members memorize them and learn their meaning.

In the next few articles that I write I will be addressing each in order and discussing their importance and meaning.