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Monday, September 12, 2005 

Until Death Do Us Part…Not

“—At death the eternal spirit merely steps out of the mortal tabernacle and enters a world of waiting spirits to await the day of resurrection. The spirit, which lived before in pre-existence, lives on after death. In this sense, there is no death and there are no dead. Our departed fellow mortals only seem dead unto us because they have gone in to another realm of existence where we can no longer see and associate with them.” Bruce R. McConkie “Mormon Doctrine”


Another timely subject. I attended a funeral last Friday. The son of my former employers accidentally mixed incompatible drugs and suffered cardiac arrest. It was a truly sad occasion because he was young and it was an accident, but the funeral was uplifting, inspiring, and full of love.

This young man came from a good family, not unlike many of your families: siblings loved each other and supported one another, and the parents were kind, stable, and loved their kids unconditionally. So the general theme of the day was: “David, we love you, and we will be with you again.”

LDS doctrine says that we were created in spirit form by our Heavenly Father long before we came to this earth. We all lived together in the presence of God: everyone who has ever lived, everyone living now, and everyone who has yet to come. A plan was set forth whereby we would have the opportunity to gain a physical body, like God’s, and to be tested. Without getting too into it, we accepted the plan to follow our brother, Jesus Christ, as he would also come down and gain a body and be an example for us as to what we need to do to return to Heavenly Father.

We should try and emulate Christ’s life, and we will also emulate the pattern of his death. We, too, will die as he did which means that our spirits (the essential part of us that makes us US) will separate from our bodies (which were made by our parents) and will go dwell in a temporary realm (the spirit world) until the time bodies and our spirits are again united (resurrection). The New Testament documents Christ’s death and resurrection (the Gospels document this as part of the story of Christ’s life and then allude to it throughout the epistles), and the Book of Mormon gives us a little more insight into the specifics of resurrection and its purpose (Alma and Amulek talk with Zeezrom in Alma chapter 11, and Alma’s father/son talk with Corianton in Alma chapters 39-42).

Mormon doctrine also tells us that the temporary place, called the spirit world, is not up in the sky, it is not down below, it is here all around us; a thought that makes me feel slightly claustrophobic. There are “good” and “bad” spirits around us pretty much all the time. We are taught that the spirits who followed Satan’s plan, the ones who will never receive bodies because they forfeited the right when they chose to be disobedient, they are here, too. I’m sure that most of you have had an experience where you felt an “evil” presence that frightened or terrified you. On the flip side, I’ll wager that most of you have also felt comforted by what you perceived as the presence of a loved one in a time of need. This is evidence of life beyond death.

The fact that we can feel a spiritual presence, the Holy Ghost, lays wide open the possibility of other spiritual beings being able to communicate with us spiritually. Some peoples (the tribe of Manasseh, for example) have innate spiritual gifts that make them sensitive to things of a spiritual nature. Have you ever wondered why peoples of the tribe of Manasseh always seem to claim to see saints and visions and other seemingly extraordinary things? Just a thought…

I think this post warrants a testimony. I believe that it’s true, that we lived before this life, and we will live again after this life. I believe it’s true because during times when I have grieved for a loved one who has passed on, I have felt a comfort beyond that which I could myself produce that assured me that my loved one was “alive”; an assurance that I would see that person again. These feelings come through the influence of the Holy Ghost, and when the Holy Ghost testifies, I know it comes from God.

We are taught that if we are faithful to the commandments and to the covenants we make to God in the temple, we can be with our families and our loved ones forever…not until “death do us part.” If this isn’t the greatest motivation to be faithful and true, I don’t know what is…besides maybe pure love of God. But until I get to that point…I’ll do it for my family.

What if our departed loved one was not living the gospel? Will we still be together as a family after death? We know that for a marriage to last beyond the grave, it has to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise after a temple marriage. What about our other family relationships?

This is where it gets tough. The way I understand it, we will be able to see departed loved ones no matter what. But being able to be WITH them all the time may be another issue.

Essentially, when a man and a woman are sealed they make up the basic unit of "family". This couple may have children who are sealed to them, but a perfect scenario would have those children each be sealed to their own partner, thus continuing the basic family unit of male & female. This literally creates a "chain" of sorts...we are connected together through the sealed relationships of parents to children and chidren to their own spouses. Thus we have a connection or privilages of relationship. We do temple work for the dead to literally bind the entire family of God together. You know how immediate family have certain rights here on earth? I think by being sealed to one another, we will have certain "rights" in the afterlife as well.

Well this brings up two questions: what happens if one spouse is more faithful than the other? and what happens if a child is not faithful and never marries?

Our mortal probabtion is the time to prepare to meet God, or so the scriptures say. Alma tells us that when we die, we end our mortal probation and when we are ressurected, we are resurrected to the same state we were in when we died. Goodness will be restored to good, and filthiness will be restored to filthiness (that's how Alma words it). How we spend our earth life depends a great deal on how we will spend eternity.

To be together forever, both partners need to be faithful (keep the commandment and their covenants) to have their relationship sealed "by the Holy Spirit of Promise." If they are faithful they can be together forever in the Celestial Kingdom, or the highest degree of glory. The Terrestrial and the Telestial Kingdoms are also degrees of glory, which means they are really cool places to be, but in these kingdoms, couples will not have the opportunity to be together as a family unit. That is a privilage reserved for those who were strict in obeying the commandments; it's a reward, a motivation to get us to want to do our best.

If one spouse did not keep up their end of the bargain, and are not worthy to be in the Celestial Kingdom, I don't think that GOd will "punish" the other partner by denying them Celestail blessings. They will not be able to be together...at least not right away. We do not have doctrine or scripture that tells us specifically what will happen, but knowing that our Father in Heaven is loving and fair, I have a feeling it's all going to work out.

This goes for children who didn't follow the commandments and who never married. Doctrine tells us that people in higher kingdoms can "visit" the lower kingdoms, for lack of a better word, thus seeing loved ones and having an association because they are bound by the relationship of a sealed family. But they will have a separate "work and purpose" and will not be able participate in Celestial activities (whatever they are).

Two cases in point:

My dear aunt had a marriage go bad. While it definitely takes two to tango, her husband ended up having an affair and embezzeling money. They divorced and he was never active in the church again, but she remained faithful to her covenants (as far as I know). She moved on and remarried, but she kept her temple sealing to her first husband, after all, he was the father of her 5 children and was sealed to them. She explained to me that she had a certain faith that things would work out. Not that she and he would miraculously "make up" and things would be alright in the hereafter, but she had a feeling that Heavenly Father has a plan for families like hers, and that she would just continue to do her best and have faith that it would all be worked out by a loving Father in Heaven.

Second story, my grandmother's brother committed suicide as a teenager. It was devestating to the family and the whole community. My great-grandfather was a very humble man of tremendous faith. The death of his son was troubling considering what we believe about the necessity of temple marriage and about leaving this life with unresolved sins. A little while later, my great-grandfather had a dream where his son appeared to him in what looked to be a white worksuit. His son assured him that he was fine, but that he had to go and would be back. Later in the dream the son appeared again in a different workman's outfit and told his father that he was very busy and that he was working things out; that he was working on recifying his mistakes. My grand-father never intended those he told to take this dream literally, but rather it was a lesson that even though we may make mistakes here, or may not fully realize the errors of our ways, God is merciful. We will be held accountable for our own sins, not the sins of Adam, not our parent's sins, and not our spouse's. But there is a measure of continued learning that goes on in the spirit world as we await out ressurection. The scriptures tell us that Jesus set up a "system" whereby missionary work would be done in the spirit world to inform all of those spirits who lived and died with no knowledge of Christ, that there was a plan of salvation and Christ was the center. So we can learn and gain a testimony of sorts after ourlife here. I imagine that there are numberless concourses of young people and old people who never really grasped the Gospel here on earth for various physical, emotional, or spiritual reasons, and that in the spirit world our knowledge about the Savior and the Atonement is made whole. We can't repent in the spirit world, but we can have all the gaps filled in and be judged accourding to a more perfect knowledge. But how much better it is for us to gain that knowledge in the flesh! How much easier it is to repent!

Tradgedies happen all the time, bad things happen to good people, perfect couples can crash, the best parents in the world have kids who die of mixing drugs, but it is SO comforting to know that God is at the helm of this chaotic existence. I can only do my honest best, and have faith that it will all work out.

I agree that God is loving and merciful and that there are many as yet unanswered questions concerning this topic. The problem I have with how we talk about this in the church is that when something bad happens we are all about love and acceptance(God will make it right so that we can be together again)-which I do believe, but before something bad happens we are all about scaring each other. If we don't keep the commandments and do everything the church tells us to do, we probably wont not be with our families again.
My mom lives in constant fear that one or more of her children will not be valiant enough to be with the rest of the family eternally. It haunts her and tortures her, which I think puts a great strain on her relationship with some of her children(me included). I find the concept that God would put his children in this kind of situation intolerable, and I don't believe it. Where is the hope and joy of the atonement in such an atmosphere of fear?

"Some peoples (the tribe of Manasseh, for example) have innate spiritual gifts that make them sensitive to things of a spiritual nature."

I find this really interesting... Can you tell me where you found this info?

I think its important to note that once married, and especially children that are married now, or possibly in the spirit world, once married they cleave unto their spouse.

Once we accept the bonds of marriage we are no longer bound to our parents in a "all the time" sense as I think we would be to our spouse.

The ability to cross kingdoms to do the Lord's work will always be there, and I suspect with an eternity at our disposal we will have many opportunities to be with our extended family.

I can fully appreciate the fear that someone who loves their family would have at the thought that they would not be able to be with them. But that is where our faith in the atonement is most needed.

We need to remember that not everyone will make the right choice and some will make the worst choice. But we can take comfort that if we teach them the correct principles and help them to understand the gospel they will be more able to accept the atonement and through it will be able to recieve expectation.

I must say that I liked the subject of this post. But first I should mention that I'm not LDS, but Southern Baptist. I've commented on another Mormon blog earlier this year, and found the discussions highly interesting, and was looking around today and found this post. Which is ironic, because I was just talking about this same subject with a friend of mine yesterday and today.

So I was wondering if it might be okay I comment and perhaps ask some questions reguarding some LDS doctrine that I find confusing or interesting. If I'm totally out of line, please let me know.

One of the most confusing things about LDS doctrine to those in the outside world is Creation and life before/after Earth. I know the LDS church believes, as you said, that "we were created in spirit form by our Heavenly Father long before we came to this earth," but that is difficult for many of us "Gentiles" as I've hear us referred to as (much to my chagrin, as the word 'gentile' has come to carry a harsh connotation) to grasp. We believe our lives began at our conception, not that we lived in the spirit world with God for all time. I know it is often quoted, "before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" but we take that statement to show God's infinte knowledge and love for each individual person on Earth. He knows who will be born tomorrow, next year, a hundred years from now. We do not believe they are living with Him at this moment, but that He knows they will come into existence, when, where, and who they will become. So I was wondering what scriptures the LDS church uses to support their idea of pre-existence.

And along the same lines, if God was once a man (as the LDS church says He is an elevated man) then who is it that brought Him into existence? Who created His world, and His previous earthly life? And where is His wife in all of this? I have heard a few LDS members speak of 'Heavenly Mother,' which can only make sense if a man must be sealed to a wife in the temple to become elevated to the Celestial Kingdom, but why isn't she referred to outright in LDS scripture? Or, is she referred to and I just haven't read about it? Why keep her so much in the dark?

And the idea of people being able to cross Kingdoms after death is new to me; I haven't heard anyone else bring it up yet, so it's an interesting solution to the separated family problem as well.

But in the SBC church, where we most certainly are married 'till death us do part,' the problem of families being separated isn't as big a problem; we either go to Heaven or Hell, and if we all go to Heaven, then there we are, we'll see each other always.

And on another note, speaking of death and the afterlife, does it ever bother any members of the LDS church when Gentiles do not want to have a baptism done for them or their loved ones in an LDS temple? I can understand the LDS church wanting to unite everyone together after death, but there was so much controversy over proxy baptisms with the Jews and Russians recently that I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on that subject. Personally, I don't like the concept either; I believe what I believe, baptizing me after death to join me to the LDS way shows me that the LDS church thinks my beliefs are completely invalid and that I'm in Hell; it patronizes the views I hold so dear. If I'm wrong in that assumption, please let me know.

But there is one thing I agree with in all of this. I do think that the Earth is filled with spirits; I believe these to be evil spirits, workers of Satan to try and turn us from the Lord, or workers of God trying to turn us closer to Him. I don't think these spirits are people, however, but angels and demons. And I do agree that these spirits can be felt. Evil can be detected, Goodness can be felt.

If anyone can answer my questions, or point me in the direction of where to look, that would be great. Or if anyone wants to disagree with me and start a good theological debate, that would be okay too. Thanks.

We can't repent in the spirit world...

I am curious as to what leads you to believe this?

annie--I'm so glad you posted all of your comments and questions. I'm sure everyone will be willing to chat with ya. I wanted to respond to your paragraph about proxy baptisms (I'm sure others can respond more eloquently to other topics)....

A non-LDS family friend, "Grace" was upset after the death of her father because her LDS sister had her father's temple work done (proxy baptism). You see, her father was quite against the LDS church and made it very clear he did not want his temple work done after he died. Her sister did it anyway and it cause a huge family rift.
Grace was talking about it with my mother and my mother told her that the proxy baptism wasn't "final"--her father still had the right to CHOOSE whether he wanted to accept the baptism done on his behalf in the afterlife. That made Grace feel a lot better because she understood that her sister merely made the baptism available to him if he ever changed his mind.

In simple terms, I believe that's how most LDS people approach it--we do the work to make it available, but the person still has the agency/free will to choose or deny the baptism. But, without performing the proxy baptism--should someone WANT access to baptismal blessings in the post-mortal world, they don't have the opportunity. (Someone may be able to sum it up better, but I hope the story helps illustrate the concept.)

annie--(clearly I'm not working like I should be!)--

in brief response to your question regarding life before earth--aka the Pre-Existence--most of that comes from our LDS scriptures (the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine & Covenants) and from modern prophets that we believe expounds upon/further brings to light references in Biblical scripture.
I don't know how much more in depth you want to go... (and I'm still hoping more will answer your questions too)

But, i have a question for you... You said, "I do think that the Earth is filled with spirits; I believe these to be evil spirits, workers of Satan to try and turn us from the Lord, or workers of God trying to turn us closer to Him. " We believe the evil spirits were denied bodies--in Monopoly terms, "Do not pass Go, Do Not Collect $100"; the good spirits also existed w/ us in the pre-existence--some have had bodies, some will yet have bodies.... But, once we all dwelt as spirits together.... Where do you believe they came from?

Thanks for answering some of my questions. I always feel a little aprehensive about how I will be received in some places.

To answer your question of where do I think the spirits on Earth came from: in SBC (and my) beliefs, the only thing that has existed for all eternity is God. End of sentence. But God created angels in Heaven. The spirits I think are on Earth are those angels and the demons of Hell. I completely believe in the Fall of Satan; he was an angel (Lucifer) and he committed the sin of pride, which caused God to cast him out of Heaven, into Hell, along with one third of the Heavenly angels who wanted to follow Satan due to their pride and jealousy of God. They dwell in Hell and became demons. The rest of the angels in Heaven can act as God's messengers and servants; they come to Earth, talk with people (as is seen numerous times in the New Testament), guide people, etc. But I think demons do as well: they are Satan's messengers, they come to Earth to tempt, to lure, to gain souls for Hell.

I do not think I (or any other human, save Jesus)existed with these angels in Heaven before Earth. They were created before Earth, before humans, before animals, and serve a different purpose to God than we do. They do not get to have physical bodies and live on Earth as humans do.

I hope that helps explain where I'm coming from.

And the idea of proxy baptism still confuses me. I'm under the impression that the only time we get to choose whether we want to follow God or not is on Earth. After death, there is no choice. Your choice was already made on Earth; death is the end, you continue on to Heaven or Hell. I thought the LDS believed that too, in a way, but then the idea of proxy baptisms wouldn't make any sense, because you wouldn't be able to choose to accept the baptism or not. Firstly, it doesn't seem very fair: you can live your whole life believing a lie, die and then find out you were wrong and change your mind? And what happens to the souls of those who've died, if it happens to take a week, or a month before someone gets around to baptizing them? Are they in some sort of spiritual Limbo between this life and the after life?

And while I like the way you explained the baptisms to your friend, I still can't say that I like the idea. It still tells me, "You are wrong. You're going to Hell, we're trying to save you from your mistake." when I don't think I've made one to begin with. But that's just me.

And we also have a different view of baptism as well. I know that in the LDS church, baptism is (obivously, if you go so far as to baptize the dead) a necessary thing for salvation; you are not saved until you are baptized. And I know their are other churches who believe that as well, but in the SBC, we believe that baptism is just a symbol, an "outward sign of an inward change" as we like to say so often. If someone lives their entire life and is never baptized, they can still be a saved person and go to Heaven, because we believe salvation begins at the moment a person asks Jesus into his heart, repents of his sins, makes a commitment to follow Christ's teachings. Then a person is saved, his name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and he has a ticket into Heaven, and only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (turning against God and Christ, and let's say, choosing to become Hindu or atheist) will get his name erased from the Book. Baptism is simply a physical act that shows others publicly the commitment you've made to God.

And I also have one more question that really doesn't have anything to do with the post or topic, but that I've just never asked an LDS before: what are the LDS church's views on Lord's Supper, or Communion? Catholics believe that the bread and wine physically become the body and blood of Christ, the SBC sees Communion once again as a symbol (and we use grape juice instead of wine, because we have a no alcohol policy). I was under the impression that the LDS church uses water and not wine or grape juice at communion, is that true? Why? Grape juice is a good sub for wine I think. And do you believe it is simply symbolic, or is there more to the story?

Again, thanks for answering my questions.

Great questions!

Annie you may be interested to discover that in LDS theology, it is not the Gentiles who go to hell. Only Mormons can go to hell. Everyone else will receive some degree of a glorious resurrection. This doctrine, which you may or may not have heard of, refers to the "sons of Perdition" and "outer darkness".

You have some great questions about the pre-mortal life. We don't know all the answers, but Joseph Smith taught that God had a Father, and it is generally assumed that this pattern goes on back for eternity. The idea that a Heavenly Mother exists and is an integral part of the plan is solid doctrine, but there is no mention of her at all in LDS scripture. Why not? Generally, it is thought to be because God regards His spouse with such respect and reverence that He would not want to subject her to the profanities and doctrines of men. Just look at what Catholicism has done to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Think how many times people take God's name, and Jesus' name in vain, in profane ways. So Father decided to just not even tell us about Mother, hoping to spare Her some of that.

Regarding the water/wine/grape juice issue, Joseph Smith received a revelation where the Lord said (i'm paraphrasing here) "it really doesn't matter what you use, as long as you consecrate it with the priesthood authority".

Regarding the necessity of baptism, I certainly don't want to get into a "bible bash", but the Savior made it pretty clear to Nicodemus that being "born of water and of the Spirit" was essential to enter God's kingdom. We equate that with baptism. We do proxy baptisms for everyone we can, with their family's permission. Not all of those people will accept the ordinance. But many of them will, especially those who were good people, but who never heard of Jesus, or who were blinded by the craftiness of wicked men, and were not given the full opportunity to accept or reject Christ's gospel and church. If someone adamantly refuses baptism in this life, I seriously doubt they would accept it in the spirit world... but we do it anyway. Why not, what's the harm? If they dont' want it, fine. But what if they DO want it, but we failed to provide it, in the mistaken notion that "that person will never accept it"?

By the way, though this might seem like a doctrine of "second chances" or "deathbed repentance", it's really not. If someone has the opportunity to fully accept or reject the gospel in this life, and they reject it, they have missed the opportunity, and proxy ordinance or no, they will not be able to enter the Celestial Kingdom. The proxy ordinances are for those that for one reason or another did not have a true unbiased opportunity to hear it while in mortality.

Annie, you also may not have caught the idea that judgment does not occur immediately at death. When someone dies, their spirit goes to a holding area of sorts, sort-of like "limbo" awaiting the great and glorious resurrection of the dead, when their physical bodies will be recreated and joined with their spirits once again. Until that resurrection occurs, there is still learning, growth, experience, mistakes, sins, repentence and similar experiences to mortality, with the obvious exception of experiences which require a physical body. And we understand that it is more difficult to repent of sin there than it is here. Some things, such as ordinances and repentance were meant to be done in mortality, and are difficult to accomplish on the other side of the veil.

AFTER the resurrection occurs, there is no longer time for repentence... your full memory of pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal life is restored to you, you appear before Christ and the Father, and are judged, and assigned a degree of glory based on your level of faith, obedience, and submission to His will. If you have taken the necessary steps, Christ intercedes for you, and your imperfections are swallowed up by his glorious atonement.

Annie, I hope you feel that you and your questions are welcome here. By the looks of it, they are! I appreciate the questions you have brought up and a appreciate eveyone's willingness to answer them.

If we ever use too much LDS "lingo" or unfamiliar doctrine don't hesitate to ask us what it all means. We try to stay basic in explaining our beliefs and our personal understandings, keeping in mind that our readers are from many different religions.

I enjoyed everyone's comments.

Thanks for answering my questions, I appreciate the effort.

After reading what Rob said about life after death, it got me wondering about God. Do Mormons believe that God has a physical body? If elevated men from this earth eventually get their bodies back, and God is an elevated man, does He/Jesus have a body too?

And I don't quite understand the Mormon view on the reason God created the world. If we all existed in the spirit world with Him, and we'll see Him again when we die, then what's the point of Earth? To learn and experience things? What could we learn here that we couldn't learn with God? What kinds of skills/thoughts/morals/experiences/etc. could we learn here that would be of any use in Heaven?

I also don't understand why the LDS church denies the validity of the Trinity. I know it's a hard concept to understand, even the best SBCers have trouble with it as well, but almost every single mainstream Christian church believes in the Trinity; why does the LDS church say it's wrong? And how do Mormons claim to be monotheistic? Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Mother, whoever created Heavenly Father's world, etc. they all claim to be gods, don't they? Wouldn't that make Mormonism a polytheistic religion?

And Rob: you said that only Mormons go to Hell. Maybe you could explain that a little more, because I don't quite understand that. Why would I receive glory in the Mormon doctrine when I don't believe in it, while a Mormon who does believe the LDS doctrine could go to Hell?

And yes, I know the Bible verse you speak of when talking about baptism, and the SBC church does stress baptism (we can't take Lord's Supper or be a church member if we aren't baptized) however we do feel that the act itself does not make someone saved. Christ alone saves souls; not a font of water, a pastor, or some words. We accept deathbed confessions and salvations.

Again, thanks for answering my numerous questions. And I hope I don't come across as insulting in any way; if I do, I'm sorry, that's not what I'm trying to do.

annie--I just love your questions! (And thanks for answering mine—it’s nice to know where we’re all coming from.) I’m eager to answer your questions. [I wish I had more time to do so, but I’m burdened by only being able to respond during stolen moments at work. I don’t have the internet at home, where I would have likely typed all nite long if I did!]

In short—yes we believe that God (Heavenly Father) has a glorified body, and Jesus has his own glorified body, whereas the Holy Ghost/Spirit does not have a body—but is a separate spirit entity. It’s a very complex ideology in that we believe Jesus is Jehovah of the Old Testament, but Jesus has a Heavenly Father—Elohim, who is a different individual and physical being. So yes, we believe Jesus is God incarnate, and yet we still believe in Elohim, our Heavenly Father, as God too. But, no we do not agree whole heartedly in the mainstream concept of the Trinity…… (Someone want to help me out?)

I am so proud that you asked if we’re polytheistic! Why? it shows you’re really thinking about the concepts… and I appreciate your sincerity and interest. (I wish I had a book I just read on me for this one…)
Monotheism is the belief in a single, universal, all-encompassing deity. As you pointed out, that isn’t really us, is it?
The first commandment says, thou shalt have NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. And, as you pointed out, we do believe there are many glorified beings—Heavenly Father & Mother, Jesus, even Adam & Eve, etc.…. However, we only worship one—which makes us Monolatrous. [Monolatry: Several gods, but only one of them is worshipped.]

That’s not a concept taught in our Sunday Schools [“Today’s lesson, MONOLATRY”], because, in my honest opinion, not everyone is ready for more than a simple faith… (I’m not trying to offend...) But, it’s true. I guess we often say we’re Monotheistic because for us there is only one God whom we worship and it’s a good building block until you’re intellectually ready to put the pieces together. I don't think we're trying to be misleading when LDS claim to be so.

Anyone else care to respond to annie’s question?

Annie-

it's not so much that God is an elevated man, as that men are gods in embryo... we are God's children, and have the potential to progress to become like Him.

And yes, God and Jesus both have physical bodies. When Christ appeared to the twelve disciples, they handled and felt the wounds in his hands and feet. He ate with them, and said "a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39) He did not discard this resurrected body after His ascension, but still has it. How do we know? He appeared at the right hand of His Father to Joseph Smith. This "First Vision" showed that the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of God being a spirit only, with no physical body, were both false. The doctrine of the Trinity was not introduced into Christianity until several centuries after Christ, and not formally adopted until the Council of Nicea, in the 4th Century. In the Great Intercessory Prayer, Christ admonished his disciples to "be one", even as He and His Father are one. That is one in purpose, one in mission, one in will, but not literally to become the exact same person... how could twelve apostles all morph into one being with twelve aspects? They could not, and neither are God and Christ the same person... They are separate persons with one common goal. Joseph Smith, like Stephen before him, saw God and Christ as two separate, distinct individuals, who conversed with him, as they did with Moses, face to face.

These doctrines, and many more, are discussed at www.mormon.org, in much better wording than I can present.

As to baptism, I did not mean to imply that the water or the words save anyone. You are absolutely correct, only Christ can choose whom He will save. It's just that He has told us He will only save those who have been baptized.

Baptism is also a covenant and an ordinance. As an ordinance it must be performed and is the first step in accpeting Christ. As a covenant there are things we promise to do as we enter into it.

In that sense the water and words don't save us. They provide the context for the ordinance as prescribed by Christ, but as we live up to the covenants made at baptism this shows us our willingness to let the atonement work in our lives.

I understand what you mean about baptism, it's just that the SBC (and I) don't agree with that idea. We do agree that if you become a Christian, baptism is a command given in the Scriptures, and you should follow through. But if you don't (perhaps when a person accepts Jesus while on his deathbed, or if a person for some reason doesn't have the opportunity to go to church to have a baptism done) then you won't be condemned to Hell, you can still enoy Heaven with the rest of us. But if you have the opportunity to be baptized, then it is pretty much mandatory, because you can't be an official church member or take Lord's Supper.

And we take that verse from John to explain the Trinity exactly. That's of course, not the only verse we use, but it is one of them. For one thing, the SBC takes a literal view of the Bible, so the words "as I and the Father are one" mean just that: that Jesus and God are one.

And the LDS concept of the creation is completely different from mainstream concepts as well. I get a little confused about that, due to the names, as was mentioned above, Jehovah and Elohim, and I also heard something somewhere about Michael the Archangel being a part of creation as well. I was wondering how all of that fit into the story as told in Genesis.

Talking with Mormons is a little difficult for us Gentiles, because we don't read or believe the BoM, or Joseph Smith, so when Rob mentions Smith's visions about how the Trinity was disproven by God Himself, I don't really know how to respond to that, because quite simply (and with no malice involved) I don't trust any of it as true. But if there are any Biblical examples of how the LDS church might disprove the Trinity, or change the creation story, then I'd love to hear it.

I think it is somewhat similar that you can go to a LDS church every Sunday without being baptized, but you aren't an "official member" without baptism and making that first step or commitment. It is, however, viewed as a commandment...

Annie-

The truth of Mormonism rests on the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. There is no way around it. If the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph was a prophet, then our church is true. If Joseph was not a prophet, and the Book is not true, then there is no sense trying to explain our doctrine from Bible quotes. This isn't to say we worship Joseph... we don't. But the truth or falsehood of his story is the crux of the whole religion. If you can't buy the story, then there is no way to understand the doctrine. Our doctrine is not derived from studying the Bible. It is derived from the teachings of modern, living prophets, who sometimes cite scripture, but who sometimes just reveal new principles (or restore lost ones).

Back to the SBC... so you take the statement that "I and the Father are one" literally, even though He asks the Father to make the Twelve one in the same way? And yet, when He says baptism is absolutely essential, you don't take that literally? Your statement that "it is pretty much mandatory... but if you don't, you still get to go to Heaven with the rest of us" makes no sense to me. It's mandatory, but not required?

As for "changing the creation story", again, we're back to the notion of prophets. If you accept that a prophet is a man who receives direct revelation from God, then when he tells you "God said the story in Genesis isn't quite right, this is the way it really is" you go with that. The Bible makes no claims to its own perfection or accuracy. The Bible references many sacred writings and documents that are no longer available, thus admitting its own incompleteness. The Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church many years after the Apostles were dead and gone. It was translated, and re-translated, copied and re-copied (by hand) by cloistered monks living during the Dark Ages. For all these reasons, and others, God saw that His doctrines had been changed, the ordinances broken, and that the Bible was no longer a sufficient representation of His message to Humanity. Therefore, He undertook to restore His true Church to the Earth, with living prophets and Apostles, who have authority greater than the Bible. The Bible is a great book, and we accept it as Scripture, the word of God. But it isn't perfect or complete.

I should have said that the Bible CONTAINS the words of God... however some of those words have been changed, or left out, by men. And others have been added without God's approval.

Rob: I understand what you're saying about JS and the BoM, but if the LDS church believes that the Bible is not perfect Scripture, and that the BoM is, then why use it in the first place? Why not just throw out the Bible and keep Joseph Smith's prophetic visions? The LDS church uses Biblical quotations all the time, but mostly from what I see, to back up a quotation from the BoM. So I'm going to feel safe in assuming that the LDS church grants a certain level of authority (a word I know the Mormons really like) to the Bible as well as to the Book of Mormon.

And some non-Mormons would use the LDS tendency to put down the Bible as a way of discrediting the church as Christian; all mainstream Christian churches use the Bible as it's center written authority, and the idea of using another book over it is hard to grasp. And the SBC does believe that the Bible is God's Word, not man's: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1. We feel that the Bible is inspired writing; God had a hand in every word that was written down in every book, He had a hand in guiding the men translating the Word, copying the Word, deciding which books were from Him and which were not. We trust that the Bibles we read now, while perhaps containing a few grammatical errors at least, is not so far gone from its original version as to change any of God's plans or teachings, and that He approves of the Book we read now.

But to the SBC, the Book of Mormon has no validity, no relation to Christianity whatsoever. And that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God. I completely understand your comments about how accepting both Joseph Smith as the real deal and the Book of Mormon as true is essential for any and every follower of the LDS doctrine.

It's interesting for me, because I'm taking a History of the Christian Church class in school right now, and we just finished discussing a group of early Gnostics who remind me of the Mormons greatly; the Montanists who followed and man named Montanus, who claimed to have "latter-day visions" that he felt should be added onto the Bible, like John's revelation. The Church eventually considered him and his followers heretics and made laws against latter-day revelations because of the inability to prove these visions as actual revelation and not simply dreams or insanity. I think the early church makes a good point in the fact that, while the Mormons can see Joseph Smith as having had true and concrete revelations from God, the rest of the Christian world has an extremely hard time believing him, instead assuming him to be dreaming, insane, or just plain bored.

And the new ideas he brings up are so far from mainstream Christian thought over the past 2000 years, that it is hard to think God would have told Smith to change the church so drastically all at once.

As to my statements on baptism; forgive me, I'm not an accomplished writer, so I may have a hard time putting some of my concepts into words. But yes, we do take the Bible literally, and we see baptism as a command: you cannot become a church member, or take Lord's Supper if you are not baptized. But, and here's our discrepency, if a person for some reason cannot take part in a baptism, for a good and legitimite reason, then this person will not be condemned to Hell for reasons he can't control. For instance, if a person does not accept Jesus until he is on his deathbed and there is no time to baptize him, or if a person dies before they reach the age of consent, or if a person for some good reason cannot be baptized, then we feel that God is merciful and just and will not condemn a person to Hell because they weren't baptized. But as for the rest of us, if we are capable in every way to be baptized, then we are commanded to do so.

I hope that makes some kind of sense.

Annie,

I appreciate your interest and you've been very respectful of our faith and I hope we can continue to answer any questions you have.

But you don't need to be a member of the LDS church to read any of the documents that are mentioned here. LDS.org has everything on line, including the Joseph Smith History, Topical Guides and even the Ensign magazines that have talks from our present day prophets.

Some of the things might not make sense without having a better foundation, just like taking calculus before algebra.

The Joseph Smith History shows Jesus and God as two separate personages because Joseph Smith saw them separate side by side.

I had a hard time when I joined really understanding the different names like Jehovah and Elohim, but I remember seeing things way before I even found the church that talks about Jewish names and how each one was used to denote a specific person. In modern scripture they have come to be the same person.

if the LDS church believes that the Bible is not perfect Scripture, and that the BoM is, then why use it in the first place?

Just because it isn't perfect, doesn't mean that there isn't good stuff in there, too. Plus the Book of Mormon doesn't cover everything. We also have the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and we believe that God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining" to His kingdom.

all mainstream Christian churches use the Bible as it's center written authority...

Well, that's where we're different. We get our authority from Christ and His apostles, not from a book. And Mormons make no claim to being "mainstream" Christians, nor do we want to be considered such. Mainstream Christianity is wrong; that's why a restoration was necessary. But to label us as “not Christian” is inaccurate, because we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Just because we don’t regard the Bible the same as other Christian churches do, doesn’t make us non-Christian. Unorthodox, perhaps.

the SBC does believe that the Bible is God's Word, not man's: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1.

The "Word" referred to in that verse is Christ Himself, not the Bible. See verses 2-4 and 14 of the same chapter.

God had a hand in every word that was written down in every book, He had a hand in guiding the men translating the Word, copying the Word, deciding which books were from Him and which were not.

Ok, what about the errors? Judas couldn’t both hang himself and throw himself off a cliff. Are you saying that all those Catholic monks were receiving revelation from God to know what was Scripture and what wasn’t? That would put them on the same level as Moses, Isaiah, Peter and Paul. Are you saying the Catholic monks were prophets and apostles? Are you saying there were no corrupt officials in the Catholic church that changed doctrines to suit their own political purposes? If they were able to perpetrate such horrors as the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning “heretics” at the stake (including many Protestants), why don’t you think they could have changed portions of the Bible?

The Church eventually considered him and his followers heretics and made laws against latter-day revelations because of the inability to prove these visions as actual revelation and not simply dreams or insanity.

Ah, but there is a way. You do as James the apostle advised (chapter 1 verses 5-6) and ask God if Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are true or false. If God answers you through the Holy Spirit that they are true, then there’s your proof. Of course it helps to read and ponder the book first, so you have an idea what exactly you’re asking about. And you need to have the faith that He will answer you.

And the new ideas he brings up are so far from mainstream Christian thought over the past 2000 years, that it is hard to think God would have told Smith to change the church so drastically all at once.

Well, actually the “new” ideas of Joseph Smith are the same ideas that Adam, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John, and the Lord Himself all had and taught. That’s the idea of “restoration”, bringing back that which was lost. What we’re saying is that after the death of the apostles, the doctrine and practices of the early Christian church became corrupted by Greek, Egyptian, Gnostic and other influences. Witness the cult of Mary. Witness the baptism of infants. Witness the worship of “saints”. And on and on. The church lost its direct link to God because there were no apostles or prophets, and the pagans got their doctrines adopted into Christianity by hook or by crook, with the assistance of such noble figures as Constantine. An unbiased study of first and early second century Christianity will find it much more similar to Mormonism than to any modern Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox sect.

Charles-

Uh, in modern scripture, Jehovah and Elohim are NOT the same person. Is that what you meant to say?

Guess I didn't really finish that last thought. After all the changes that were brought into Christianity by false priests and tyrants, Joseph Smith "restored" the original version of Christianity, with a few updates as dictated by the Lord. Again, we are back to the key question of whether or not Joseph was a true prophet of God. If he is, the rest of this stuff is easy to explain. If he isn't, or wasn't, then the rest of this stuff doesn't really matter, does it?

Alright, well first I guess I should say that, while I haven't read the BoM, PoGP, or the D&C all the way through, I do know the general layout of these books alot better than most non-Mormons you'll meet. And what I have read did in fact come from the Mormon website; I've looked up all the little explanations about LDS beliefs on mormon.org, so I just wanted everyone to know that I'm getting my info from y'all (the Mormon population) and not from people with biased opinions and wrong info who want to portray Mormons in a bad light. If the truth should be known, I did want a copy of the BoM, but was afraid to ask or call or send an e-mail due to the simple fact that I'm not set on being converted, and the Mormon church is very big on following up on those who request books, or so I've been told.

That having been said, Rob, your comment about how the LDS church is different from the mainstream church because you follow Christ and not a book is, if I may be so blunt (and not taken as offensive, please), a typical LDS response I think. But the SBC (and all other mainstream Christians) follow Christ too: His teachings in the Gospels, the teachings of His apostles, etc. through the Bible. The SBC, however, take a further role in going so far as to follow only doctrine that can be supported in the Bible, unlike Catholics, Episopalians, and others, who follow the Bible, writings of early popes and church leaders, etc. The SBC follows the Word of God and not the words of men, because who's to say that a man could be telling a lie, mentally insane, influenced by Satan, etc? This, of course, is in direct opposition to the LDS church that follows to the T the words and teachings of Joseph Smith, a very flesh and blood human, capable of making mistakes, being insane, having dreams, being influenced by others, etc.

Now I'm not saying that early church leaders and writers weren't human, or that they didn't make mistakes in their lives; the only perfect human was Jesus. But, I am saying that the Bible writings were inspired by God, not necessarily written by His hand, but definitely with His assitance and guidance. And to discredit my (the SBC) Bible, is also to discredit your (the LDS) own, and then again, I would ask, why not just get rid of it completely if you dislike it so much? But since I know that the LDS church agrees with (mostly) the teachings of Scripture (and just for my sake, I'll say that Scripture to me is the Bible only, whereas I know Scripture to you will be the Bible +, so when I use Scripture, assume I'm talking about only the Bible) then I know you won't want to blot it out of existence. But I do believe that there are some mistakes in the Bible, but that they are mistakes such that won't hinder or change the teachings of Christ and God, the meanings of the words, the lessons the apostles wanted to convey, etc. But I feel that if Christianity had gone on the way it had for so long with God not approving of it, then He would have done something to change our way of thinking.

Enter in Joseph Smith, for this is exactly what the LDS church claims he has done; been God's messenger to change the false church back to its original status. I'm taking a class on the early church in college right now. I'm researching and learning the way the church used to be. It sounds nothing like the LDS church to me. There is no idea in the first or second centuries of degrees of Heaven, the concept of the Trinity was considered sound and unopposed doctrine by the second century, the Bible was already beginning to take shape (the Septaugint) into what it is today, unsound scriptures were weeded out, the priesthood authority was established. Now, unless I'm reading your comments wrong, and the restoration of JS was not to restore the church to become like the church of these centuries, then I believe the church to not have undergone such a drastic apostacy and been in need of a prophet to change us from our heatenish ways.

Also, in my use of John 1:1 to explain the Bible as God's Word: we also use that quote to explain the Trinity as well. We consider the Word to be both Christ (as you mentioned) and the Word of God. It's like this: Christ is the Word made flesh (as in verse 14): Christ came to Earth to teach, to guide, to be a messenger of God's Will; He was the Word of God. His words were written down in the Gosepls, the Bible, the Word. Yes, Christ=the Word in that verse, meaning that the Gospels which recorded Christ's teachings, are the Word of God, not the words of the men who wrote them. Also, Christ is the Word in that verse, showing God and Christ to be one: "the Word was God." You admit yourself that this verse is talking about Christ. I think that as well. And in that verse it specifically says, "the Word was God." Substitute Christ for God, as you said yourself "the Word" meant, and you have "In the beginninng was Christ, and Christ was with God, and Christ was God." This verse shows the relationship between God and Christ as being one and the same, not separate.

And I have heard from Mormons before the idea of asking God if the BoM is right and you'll have your answer. But what if I pray to God and ask Him to show me the truth and I still do not believe in the BoM or Joseph Smith? Has God abandoned me? Did I not understand Him correctly? Am I just meant to not be saved? What of the thousands of people who know the BoM and yet don't believe?

And the last comment about whether or not JS was a true prophet: if he was a true prophet, yes, everything is easy to explain. But if he wasn't, is it really so simple that it all doesn't matter? If I was following Mormonism and I found out later that JS had lied, it would matter a great deal. I would have found out that my whole life I had been living a lie, and that would be horrible. And if you suddenly did find out that JS was wrong, then according to mainstream Christian standards, none of the Mormons would be making it into Heaven, at least I don't think any mainstream church that knew about Mormonism would say they would get to go to Heaven. There's too much of a doctrinal difference for that.

So we basically have each other in a headlock: you believe I can't reap full rewards because I'm not Mormon, and I believe you can't reap full rewards because you are.

Annie-

I hope I'm not being offensive in my replies to your questions and remarks. I'm not intending to belittle your beliefs, just call into question what seem to me to be inconsistencies.

You're very slippery in your doctrine. First you say the Bible has no errors, then when I point out some, you say "well, no IMPORTANT errors." First you say baptism is essential, then it isn't, then it is if it's convenient but if not, that's ok too. The whole idea of "well, a christian should keep the commandments to go to heaven, but if he chooses to ignore them his whole life and then minutes before expiring confesses Jesus as his personal Savior and he goes straight to Heaven" baffles me.

Back to your points:

For the extensive similarities between the primitive Christian Church and the modern LDS Church, I have not the space to list them, but the doctrines are there in the writings of the "church fathers". As I said above, the doctrine of the Trinity was NOT firmly established until the Council of Nicea, which occured in the fourth century, I believe (may be wrong on the date there). At that council, they took a "vote" on the doctrine (interesting way to establish true doctrine: vote on it), and then the bishops who disagreed with the Trinity idea were executed. Tidying up loose ends and all that.

Back to that John scripture, I accept that Christ is a God. But if you think that means that Christ is the ONLY God, then what is John talking about saying "the Word was WITH God"? Christ was with Himself? Or are you saying the Bible was with Christ/God? The simplest explanation is that Christ, a God in His own right, was with God in the Beginning, and involved in the creation of the Earth.

I encourage you to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Don't pray to God to "show you the truth"... be specific.. read it, pray about it, ask God directly: "is this book true or false? Is it from you, God, or is it from Satan? Is it the work of a liar, a madman, or a true prophet?". I testify to you that all who sincerely read and ponder the book, and pray with real intent will have an answer from God.

I think you misunderstood my last statement. What I meant was, if Joseph Smith is not a true prophet, then what difference does it make if this doctrine or that one is Biblically sound? If he's false, then the whole thing is false, if he's true, then the whole thing is true. So rather than quibble about individual doctrines, let's get to the main question: Is Joseph Smith a true prophet, or isn't he? The only way to know a true prophet from a false one is listed right there in the New Testament: "By their fruits ye shall know them." So, the fruits of Joseph Smith are these: The Book of Mormon which he translated, the other books of Scripture he brought forth, and the Church he restored. Read them, study them, ask God. If God tells you Joseph Smith was a liar or a lunatic, then by all means, don't become a Mormon. However I can testify to you that God has told me otherwise. He was a true prophet. I don't expect you to just take my word, find out for yourself. But you're not going to know by just looking up Bible verses. You've got to ask God.

I would like to point out that I am not an expert theologian, and explaining someone's religion is a little hard to do when not speaking face to face. I might type something I didn't mean to, or type while doing three other things also (as I have a bad habit of trying and failing to do a million things at once), but I'm trying to lay my views out as simply and correctly as I can.

Firstly, you've just basically taken away all power I might have had to use the Bible as my authority in this discussion: "But you're not going to know by just looking up Bible verses. You've got to ask God." And since I'm sitting here spouting Bible quotes at you, my end of the discussion would end up being very limited. But that was one reason I had of explaining how I think the Bible is God's Word. By quoting from the Bible, I essentially am quoting God in my standards. So for the sake of this conversation, I'll continue to do so.

I'm not sure if you understand where I'm coming from in baptism. The SBC recognizes that Christ Himself was baptized, and that we should too. But we also recognize that it is faith in Christ, and no action or work, that will allow us salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9). Baptism will not grant us salvation. In the same way, not being baptized cannot hinder us from becoming saved. It is faith in Christ alone that does that, nothing else. So while we see baptism as a command, we also see it as symbolic, not an actual tool of salvation. (You have probably heard the SBC or the Methodists describe baptism as 'An outward sign of an inward change.') Getting baptized allows us to share in the fellowship of church membership, and in the symbolic nature of the Lord's Supper, both of which are denied to those who aren't baptized. We feel that if you have the opportunity to make a public commitment of faith through baptism, then it is your duty to do that. But if it is not in your power to become baptized, God will be just and merciful and not hold you accountable for it. Proxy baptisms are unnecessary. For although baptism is a command, it is for those who are able to obey it; as for those who cannot (as I said before: those who die before the age of consent, or who those who don't accept Christ until before their deaths) God will judge them justly and mercifully.

That may sound inconsistent, but I think it makes sense. We have our entire lives on Earth to accept or reject Christ. A person who doesn't accept Him until a moment before his death holds no less a place in Heaven than a person who accepted Him at the age of 10 or 20.

I feel as if the Mormons hold too high a standard on works at times. Doing this gets you into the Celestial Kingdom, doing this grants you blessings, doing this, doing that, not doing this, not doing that. Temple work, missions, baptism, mandatory dress and food laws. The SBC holds a much higher value on faith than works. This is why baptism, though a command, in itself will not grant someone salvation or prevent their salvation, because it is a work.

As to the church history: I really would be interested in seeing some info on the similarities between the accepted and orthodox practices of the early church and the LDS church as it is today. So far as I have learned only the Montanists (who were found heretical) hold very much similarity to Mormonism today. And while the concept of the Trinity was not coined and written down as being established until the Council of Nicea (in the year 325) the concept of the Trinity was around before that (as we see when Tertullian first uses the term Trinity who lived from 155-230, much closer to the time of the apostles than the Council of Nicea) and although not called the ‘Trinity,’ the idea was there early enough and held on long enough to eventually make it official doctrine during the council in 325. So many unorthodox Christianities were floating around from the time of Christ’s death, that I feel that since the Trinity doctrine held on through all of that and was still officially proclaimed, then that has a lot of weight.

As to the Trinity in the Bible, the SBC views God as being a triune God with distinct personal attributes, but one on essence, nature, and being. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all God, but have different attributes and, I guess you could say, are different manifestations of the same God. God the Father manifested Himself into God the Son, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, to bring salvation to the world. We do not see them as separate beings, because to do so would be polytheistic: three different gods: Father, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I still don’t quite understand how Mormons can claim that there are multiple gods in the universe, and still follow any teachings of the Bible, which over and over again clearly states that there is but one God who has existed eternally (and therefore could not have been a man).

But all in all, I suppose the big question really is: is Joseph Smith a true prophet? Obviously you think he is. Obviously I don’t. So what went wrong with you, or with me or the millions of others out there who disagree? Did all the Mormons get it wrong and get incredibly duped? Or did all the rest of us just screw up in not taking Smith seriously? Either way, we can’t both be right, can we? Well, apparently from what you said earlier, in the Mormon view, I get the better end of the deal, because I don’t go to Hell when I die even if I don’t become Mormon, though I still don’t understand that idea completely.

And one last question: do you think that you and I, when we pray, are praying to the same God, and I just happen to be mistaken as to His atrributes and don't realize that God is actually three, or are we praying to different Gods? Just a question.

Annie,

A couple of things. Thanks for coming to members and the churches site for information, its refreshing to see someone interested in learing rather than solely debate or tear down someone elses faith.

If you do want a Book of Mormon, but don't want a commitment, just let them know, They may follow up with a couple of phone calls but my understanding is if you tell them no thanks each time they will only follow up about once a month for 3 months then stop. However you can always go to a chapel on Sunday enjoy service ask for a copy then leave. Somone would be happy to get one for you.

I believe that most Christians are trying to follow Christ. What I enjoy about our church is that we have more than just the New Testament that testifies of Christ and expounds on his teachings.

When someone says we have more than a book it also goes to demonstrate that we have leaders, we believe are set apart by God to lead us through present day challenges.

The apostles wrote many epistles to different communities in their times and the subject of those letters were to address the needs of the church at that time. Many of those subjects are applicable today, but its great to have someone that can counsel us on what God wants for today.

The big differnce between the Catholic and LDS church and other christian faiths, is that the LDS and Catholics both believe they have that divine athority. I'm not aware of any other church that will outright say, God told them their church is right and others are incomplete.

We also believe the bible is accurate in as much as it is translated correctly. Because of the council of Nicea and numerous translations the Bible is more corrupted than what others would like it to be.

If someone can accept the BoM as scripture translated directly by a prophet it becomes easier to understand why it is more correct, but it is still "another testament of Jesus Christ" not a replacement. It is one of the things that really sets us apart from other christian faiths so you will see a lot of Mormons quote scripture and give talks based out of it more than the Bible but that is because those are things other churches simply don't have.

On a brief subject of baptism and faith. I believe both are required and that is generally what we are taught. As I said earlier Baptism is one of the saving ordinances for exaltation. Those who do not have the opportunity here will probably have that opportunity in the next life.

Faith however is all bout action. James 2:20 and 26 both point out that faith without works is dead. To believe but not act on those beliefs is a form of hypocracy. That is why we do not except the atonement as a free pass that gets us in just by saying we believe. Works are essentially an outward expression of one's faith. Likewise, works without faith is hollow. That is the difference in Grace and Faith.

We understand baptism as necessary because if He who is perfect has need of it then we who are less so are moreso in need of it. Baptism is also a reference and similitude of the death, burial and rebirth.

Baptism is also a covenant not just an ordinance. Because we accept is as an ordinance it is necessary and that is why proxy baptisms are held. But as a covenant it is a commitment to living the faith and through that faith do the neccessary good works.

I would like to point out that I am not an expert theologian, and explaining someone's religion is a little hard to do when not speaking face to face.

I agree, and understand. Same here.

Firstly, you've just basically taken away all power I might have had to use the Bible as my authority in this discussion

Yes, you’re right. But if you disallow Joseph Smith and the modern Scriptures, you’re taking away MY power. Your original stated intent was to understand LDS doctrines. And my point is, LDS doctrines are not derived from the Bible, they are derived from modern prophets and modern scriptures. We believe the Bible, but that is not the source of our doctrine. You and I can trade verses back and forth all day long, but frequently we will read the exact same verse and interpret it in opposite ways. Herein lies the problem. The Bible alone is not sufficient to determine whose interpretation is correct, yours or mine. Thus, we need guidance from the Holy Ghost to testify and witness to us which interpretation is true. Thus we need modern prophets and apostles to clarify the vague portions of Scripture, and to update us with new scriptures from God. If your intent is to understand LDS doctrine, you’re not going to understand it by trying to derive it from the Bible. It didn’t come from the Bible, it came from God speaking face-to-face with Joseph Smith. Now I can show you plenty of Bible verses to back up any LDS doctrine that you choose, but the point is, that wasn’t where the doctrine originated. It originated in direct new revelation. The Bible quotes simply serve to show that the doctrine was also preached in ancient times. If your intent is to find out for yourself whether or not Mormonism is true, the only way is the way I have detailed before: study, pray, and follow the promptings of the Spirit. If your intent is not to understand, nor to find out for yourself, but to convert us poor misguided Mormons, well, in my case at least, Bible verses aren’t going to help you there, either. But feel free to keep trying 


I'm not sure if you understand where I'm coming from in baptism.

Thank you for attempting to clarify it. I think I understand, it just doesn’t seem really consistent or logical to me. But if it works for you, great!

I feel as if the Mormons hold too high a standard on works at times. Doing this gets you into the Celestial Kingdom, doing this grants you blessings, doing this, doing that, not doing this, not doing that. Temple work, missions, baptism, mandatory dress and food laws. The SBC holds a much higher value on faith than works.

You may be right here… many Mormons jump on the “works” bandwagon and ignore the “grace” aspect of the Atonement. In my view, both are essential. Keeping the commandments will not save you, but NOT keeping the commandments will certainly damn you, unless you repent and start keeping them. To me, Jesus was very clear that someone who does not keep the commandments and makes no effort to repent will not be saved, no matter what they may have confessed with their lips. Now you’ll quote Paul, and I’ll quote James and we’ll go round and round. But if you want to know what one Mormon believes, I believe that faith is the first essential step. If you don’t have the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing else matters. After that, you must do as Peter said in Acts 2:38, and continue on in the faith, keeping the commandments and enduring to the end of your life. If you do that, you’ll be fine in the afterlife. However, if you just stop at the “faith” step, and don’t do the other things that the Lord has commanded, while you won’t go to Hell, you won’t receive the highest blessings either.

As to the church history: I really would be interested in seeing some info on the similarities between the accepted and orthodox practices of the early church and the LDS church as it is today.

Here is a brief article that quotes several of the early church Fathers, and compares their practices and doctrine to the LDS Church. Here is another article detailing New Testament characteristics of the church Christ set up that are embodied by the modern LDS Church.

So far as I have learned only the Montanists (who were found heretical) hold very much similarity to Mormonism today.

Why does being declared “heretical” by the Catholic Church have any relevance? I’m pretty sure that Baptists are considered heretical by the Catholics. John Wycliffe was burned at the stake for daring to translate the Bible into English… they called him a heretic too. As for the idea of the trinity, I think I’ve stated the position adequately before. Mormons do not make the claim to be monotheistic. We dispute the claim that the Bible is monotheistic. We do claim to only worship one God, the Father, which is what the Bible requires. Granted, the Old Testament is a little vague in this realm. Luckily, there’s modern prophets who can clear that up for us. 

But all in all, I suppose the big question really is: is Joseph Smith a true prophet?

Yes! Yes!

Obviously you think he is. Obviously I don’t. So what went wrong with you, or with me or the millions of others out there who disagree?

Perhaps you (and they) have not asked God with sufficient faith and sincerity yet. I don’t think God will answer you if you have your mind made up ahead of time. Or maybe He will, but we can’t hear the answer until we shed our prejudice and just listen. I’m not claiming to be more faithful or sincere than you. But I have received the witness of the Spirit that Joseph was a true prophet. As to why you haven’t, I can’t say… keep trying 

And one last question: do you think that you and I, when we pray, are praying to the same God, and I just happen to be mistaken as to His atrributes and don't realize that God is actually three, or are we praying to different Gods? Just a question.

Well, I think God is God. If you pray to the Heavenly Father, creator of the universe, and Father of Jesus Christ, then that’s the same person I’m praying to. Just because you happen to think He is the same person as Jesus Christ doesn’t invalidate your prayers to him.

If you’re interested in lists of Bible verses that demonstrate things like separate individuals in the Godhead, different levels or destinations in “heaven”, the importance of keeping the commandments as well as believing in Jesus, I can supply these. But I’m not sure they’re going to convince you of anything, plus there are many great websites and books out there that already do this, much better than me. I urge you to get a Book of Mormon and just give it a try. If you don’t want missionaries knocking on your door, the book is commercially available at most bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, and you can even order it from Amazon. Good luck.

On the Trinity. So much has been said, all I think I can repeat or add to it is that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one in purpose. There are various examples in D&C, Joseph Smith History, and the Bible itslef that supports the notion that God and Jesus are individual beings.

It is their purpose and community that makes them one. Much in the same way that through marriage we become one with our spouse but are one in purpose and community.

I'm not a huge fan of linking in comments but I think this article at Jeff Lindsay's site is very appropriate at answering questions on the Trinity.

http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/oneness.shtml

Jeff has a lot of information about BoM arguments, its a good read.

Polytheism vs Monotheism is a little different. We believe in One supreme being, that is God. We do recognize that there are some ascended beings and even other perfect beings (like Christ) are one in purpose with him. Because of the priesthood and divine authority there may be other beings doing God's will.

We even accept that through eternal progression we can become like God, possibly gods ourselves. In this sense, the belief in multiple gods, I can see and even conceed that there is a streak of polytheism in LDS teachings. But the worship is a key difference. We recognize it was God and Christ (through God's direction) that we were brought into this world. It is He that offers us salvation and has provided for us as we try to progress and excercise our agency in this world. In the sense of worship we are certainly monotheistic.

Something that comes to mind as I read the discussion, and it is a good one, is that it is almost debate like. Someone has to be right and the other wrong.

This is very dangerous from religious paradigm where much of our belief comes from faith, which in part is a knowlege of things unseen.

No one is trying to convert anyone here. Its been said before, and I feel pretty confident that its true, that one cannot be converted through argument, debate and logic. Any argument a person puts forth can be argued against.

A key aspect to praying about the truthfulness of anything is this: If a person reads the BoM, or takes the discussion or seriously considers if its true and they should join, that person must do as Heavenly Father has instructed.

We should pray for guidance. But that prayer may not always leave an obvious answer. Sometimes those answers come from other people. But before we pray we must be honest with ourselves and we must be willing to follow the direction given to us no matter what that outcome is.

When I prayed about joining the church, I did so knowing that I would join or not join depending on the answer. I excercised faith that even if I didn't like change and my family was not a member, I knew that if it was revealed to me to be true, then I must join. And I did.

My daughter referred me to this site as you are discussing issues I have long discussed with a good friend. I have viewed many similar sites in which the participants indulge in "Bible-bashing" and sarcasm. I am greatly impressed with all participants here. You display genuine interest in one another's viewpoints. I may at some point jump in theologically, but for now, will just wish that you all "live long and prosper." I'll follow this thread with interest.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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