Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Mormon Matrix

In June 1999 film fans were excited at the release of The Matrix, a film in which a computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. It is set in a post-holocaust world, and the Matrix is a computer generated world laid over the real world to give the illusion that all is normal and life goes on. In reality, the world has been destroyed and people are being manipulated by machines.

Many saw a parallel with Mormonism and I wrote this at the time to illustrate some of those parallels. As we end this year and, God willing, look toward another year of ministry I thought it would be good to publish it again. To remind ourselves of how sinister and manipulative Mormonism really is and how worthwhile is the task of exposing the Mormon Matrix and publishing the Christian truth.

Mormon-Christian

The late Mormon prophet Gordon B Hinckley, in the April 3rd 1999 Mormon General Conference, stated:

"I am pleased to report that the Church is better known and better understood. Generally the media have been kind to us. They have dealt honestly with us. There are exceptions, of course, and this we regret. The old images of the past continue to be dragged forth by those who deal in sensationalism and exploitation." (May 1999 Ensign magazine, emphasis added)

Mormonism has been pursuing respectability and acceptance for a long time now. There has been a concerted effort to impose a matrix, or a pre-formed image (one definition of matrix is, a mould in which a type, die etc. is cast), over the top of those "old images of the past".

It is remarkably successful at this and people are joining because of the image, only later discovering the reality underneath. What is the image that the Mormon Church seeks to project today? What are people seeing and what is behind this Matrix? Because, underneath the Mormon Matrix beats the life of a very different world.

Firstly there seems to be an overwhelming concern amongst Mormons to be regarded as Christians. Today it is common to hear Mormons describe themselves as Mormon-Christian. In the April 1998 General Conference Gordon B Hinckley observed, "There are some of other faiths who do not regard us as Christians."

Speaking in February 1998 Mormon apostle Boyd K Packer gave a message "…for those who teach and write and produce films which claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian church and that we, the members, are not Christians." (Speaking Today, April 1998 Ensign magazine).

The Mormon hierarchy are anxious that Mormons be seen as Christians amongst other Christians, their church as another Christian church, their creed, like many another, simply an expression of differences on secondary things whilst holding to the same essential truths - just like other Christians. But what is their traditional attitude to these churches with which they are now so anxious to be identified?

Apostate, Abominable Christendom

"I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong…all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." (Joseph Smith, History 1:19)

"Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the Church of the lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 14:10)

John Taylor, third president of the Mormon Church said:

"We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol [sic]; it is as corrupt as hell and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.167)

Corrupt Bible

Although Mormons officially declare a commitment to the Bible in reality they do not trust it because, according to Mormonism this great and abominable church to which Christians belong has corrupted the Bible:

"For behold they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men." (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 13:26-27)

The 8th Article of Faith of the Mormon Church states:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (Emphasis added)

In fact the Bible is the only Mormon "standard work" which is not accepted as infallible. Whilst the Book of Mormon is accepted as the infallible book of the restoration, the Bible is seen as the corrupt book of the apostasy, its use limited to those proof texts that can be lifted to "prove" the Mormon creed.

Unbiblical Jesus

Although professing faith in the biblical Jesus, from birth to death and resurrection, they deny key Bible teachings about Jesus.

The Bible states that Jesus "was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit", and "what was conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit", and that she remained a virgin until Jesus' birth, for "[Joseph] had no union with her until she gave birth to a son". (Matt.1:18,20,25)

Mormonism, however, teaches that Jesus was conceived by literal, physical sexual intercourse between God and Mary. Brigham Young, second president of the church stated:

"The Only Begotten of the Father. (Moses 5:9). These name titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only mean only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol.4,p 218 emphasis added)

Young also stated:

"Now remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." (Journal of Discourses, vol.1, p 51 emphasis added)

An Impotent Saviour

The Bible speaks of "God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness" (Ro.5:17), and also refers to "us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Ro.4:24), further stating,

"That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We therefore implore you, as Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you, on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor.5:19-21)

Mormonism, however, teaches the insufficiency of Christ's atonement:

"Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offences are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood, shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, p. 135 emphasis added)

A Broken Promise

In the Bible Jesus made firm and solemn promises concerning his commitment to his church.

He promised that, "when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) and,

"I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it". (Matt.16:18)

Mormonism, however, is based on the false idea that there was a "Great Apostasy", or complete falling away from truth shortly after the death of the Twelve Apostles, that the Spirit abandoned the early Christians, that the gates of hell did prevail, and that for nearly two thousand years, until the advent of Joseph Smith, all churches were, " wrong…all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." (JSH 1:19)

"behold they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men." (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 13:26-27)

An Equal to Jesus

Mormon apostle James E Faust said at the April 1999 General Conference:

"We stand on the brink of the next century. From this vantage point, we need to remember that the most significant events in the last 2,000 years…were the Savior's Atonement and the restoration of the gospel…These two singular events will continue to be of transcendent importance to mankind as we move forward in time. The past, present, and future pivot on these marvellous divine interventions."

The World beneath the Matrix

Here is the true message of Mormonism, the ministry and work of Jesus and that of Joseph parallel and equal in being the most significant pivotal events and of transcendent importance in the history of mankind.

In the doublespeak of Mormonism they have claimed that their faith is Christ-centred, they have projected the image of Christian orthodoxy, whilst at the same time believing that Jesus did not keep his promises of John 16:13 and Matthew 16:18, that Jesus' work on the cross is inadequate, that God's word in the Bible is insufficient for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16). Here then is the Mormon Matrix:

 

MATRIX

REALITY

Bible-based

Jesus following

Respecting other churches

Trusting in the finished work of the cross

A Christian denomination

Book of Mormon centred

Joseph-centred

Devaluing other churches

Trusting in the "restored" church and gospel of Joseph

A Christian Counterfeit

The Typical Mormon

It would be wrong to imagine that the average Mormon can see behind the Matrix. The missionary at your door, your Mormon neighbour or work colleague is not coming to you thinking "I must bring my Joseph centred faith and present it as Christ centred. I must get my friend to dump his Bible in favour of the Book of Mormon." They believe that what they have is the Christ-centred reality of scripture. That the little "doctrine" they get from their Bible is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If anything they believe that, far from having less than the truth, they have more truth through the restoration. They are victims of the Matrix, not its operators.We want them to know that though the Matrix is an illusion, and the reality behind it a deception, there is a reality that brings freedom - freedom in Christ,

"To the Jews who had believed him Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'"

(John 8:31-36)

Monday, 27 December 2010

Monday Mormon – In the Heavens are Parents Single?

In the last of our 21 Questions we continue to address the question of family. Mormons lay great store by families, insisting that “families are forever.” But what of those who never marry? Will those who remain single in this life be denied God’s blessings?

As before, we will look at the questions (Q) and answers (A) with comments (C) and any quotes (Qu.)

Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

A: God will not withhold blessings from any of his children who may not have the opportunity to marry in this life.

Qu.If you want salvation in the fullest, that is exaltation in the kingdom of God, so that you may become his sons and his daughters, you have got to go into the temple of the Lord and receive these holy ordinances which belong to that house, which cannot be had elsewhere” (Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p.44).

Qu. “It fills my heart with sadness when I see in the paper the name of a daughter or a son of members of this Church, and discover that she or he is going to have a ceremony and be married outside of the temple of the Lord, because I realize what it means, that they are cutting themselves off from exaltation in the kingdom of God.

SORROW IN RESURRECTION IF NO ETERNAL MARRIAGE. These young people who seem to be so happy now, when they rise in the resurrection—and find themselves in the condition in which they will find themselves—then there will be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and bitterness of soul ...” (Ibid., p.60).

Qu. "Restrictions will be placed upon those who enter the terrestial and telestial kingdoms, and even those in the celestial kingdom who do not get the exaltation; changes will be made in their bodies to suit their condition; and there will be no marrying or giving in marriage, nor living together of men and women, because of these restrictions" (ibid. vol. 2, p.73).

Qu. "Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the holy priesthood," The Prophet says, "They will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p.238)

C: Exaltation and even happiness in the next life, for a Mormon, depends on being married for eternity, the establishment of “increase” and the building of an eternal dynasty. Without this “there will be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and bitterness of soul ...”

The Mormon hymnal includes a hymn with the words:

In the heavens are parents single?

No, the thought makes reason stare.

Truth is reason, truth eternal

tells me I’ve a mother there.

To summarise:

The Mormon Plan of Salvation is the plan by which God himself became God according to Mormonism. God made this planet to accommodate his spirit children (us) and faithful Mormons will go on to create and inhabit their own planets, which will be populated by their spirit children who will, in turn, worship them – and the whole process starts again.

The god of Mormonism has a body and, like the Wizard of Oz, he only appears omnipotent. Pull back the veil and you see a man. Mormons use the phrase “literally the Son of God” of Jesus as though it is a classic orthodox Christian tenet but by this deceptively simple phrase they are conveying their belief that an “exalted man” with a physical body had intercourse with an exalted woman and, from that union, came the “literal Son of God”.

While the Bible teaches and Christians believe that Jesus is “literally God the Son”, the eternal God, Mormons believe he is “literally the Son of God”, the offspring of a man they worship as God and a woman they regard as their goddess mother.

Kolob illustrates the idea that the Mormon god is relatively omniscient (an oxymoron), not an eternal God but an exalted man who is only eternal going forwards; going backwards he clearly decreases until that time when he did not reign.

Following this example, Mormon men intend to become gods, just as their god has done before them. Joseph Smith taught this and, in 1974, Mormon apostle Marion G Romney stated, “God is a perfected, saved soul, enjoying eternal life.” That is what “salvation” is to a Mormon, i.e. godhood. (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct.6, 1974)

Not only do Mormon women need to have passwords but they need the permission of their husband to access heaven. Mormon women take the role of “heavenly Mother” with their god husband, heavenly Father, yielding “the most perfect obedience to their great Head.” Not only so but eternal happiness depends on entering into this eternal arrangement, a wife among countless wives of an exalted man among many gods. The seemingly innocent Mormon message about the family is the basis for this dynastic arrangement.

Mormons in their tens of thousands go out as missionaries every year into areas where traditional Christianity is already established and the Christian message regularly preached. This despite the fact that there is no evidence for or reason to believe it, its original founders and witnesses discredited and/or excommunicated, denounced by their fellow Mormons and the larger world.

I think perhaps now you can answer the first question for yourself - “Why do Some People Call the Church a Cult?”

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

If I Were a Lamanite: More Book of Mormon Changes

If I were a Lamanite I wouldn’t know right now whether to laugh or cry, whether to have a party or have a quiet little identity crisis. Are my ancestors the primary ancestors of Native Americans or just among the ancestors of Native Americans? Once the Mormon Church taught the former, now it teaches the latter; very confusing.

Now the Mormon Church is expunging from Book of Mormon chapter headings clear allusions to key aspects of Lamanite history – and racial content. The heading for 2 Nephi 5 previously read:

The Nephites separate themselves from the Lamanites, keep the law of Moses, and build a temple -- Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.

The same chapter heading after 17 December 2010 reads:

The Nephites separate themselves from the Lamanites, keep the law of Moses, and build a temple—Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cut off from the presence of the Lord, are cursed, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.

Another significant change has been made in the heading of Mormon 5. The original read:

Mormon again leads the Nephite armies in battles of blood and carnage--The Book of Mormon shall come forth to convince all Israel that Jesus is the Christ--The Lamanites shall be a dark, filthy, and loathsome people--They shall receive the gospel from the Gentiles in latter days.

After 17 December 2010 it reads:

Mormon again leads the Nephite armies in battles of blood and carnage—The Book of Mormon will come forth to convince all Israel that Jesus is the Christ—Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites will be scattered, and the Spirit will cease to strive with them—They will receive the gospel from the Gentiles in the latter days.

White and delightsome

This is not the first time changes were made to disguise the racist foundation of the Book of Mormon. Until 1981 the “dark-skinned, filthy, and loathsome” Lamanites had held out to them the promise that their repentance would make them “white and delightsome”:

And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.

And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people. (2 Nephi 30:5-6)

This was then changed to “pure and delightsome” and I wonder if a Lamanite should be delighted to be promised “pure and delightsome” or disappointed to be left with the “curse” of a “skin of blackness.”

Of course, this “skin of blackness” thing never really had any legs. Native Americans have skin better described as olive coloured. Just as there is no evidence of Hebrew forbears for native Americans, so there is no evidence of them having or ever having had black skin.

Uninspired headings

A Mormon might typically object that the changes have been made in chapter headings that first appeared in the Book of Mormon in 1920 and not the “sacred” text of the book. This I have always found puzzling and, to be frank, rather childish. Mormons are adamant in their claim to being led by prophets and, as a consequence, are better enlightened. At the same time they feel no compunction in dismissing vast tracts of their prophets’ teachings when it suits them.

But the chapter headings faithfully reflected the “sacred” text until these changes were made. Now an essential element of the story is absent from the heading; why? It can hardly be a stab at clarification, as claimed, since it removes information that is true to the text.

The following is reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:

The original headings remained in most English editions until 2004, when Doubleday published the first trade version of the LDS scripture and implemented the editing.

Until this month, the 1981 headings remained in the church’s online version at lds.org. When the church upgraded its website, the Doubleday changes were included online. The former version will continue — for now — in the printed English versions.

“Doubleday changes”? Is Mormon doctrine now subject to the dictate of secular publishers? The Doubleday Book of Mormon is, of course, the trade edition intended for sale in retail book outlets.

Ah, I get it.

I guess the Lamanite will have to keep his swarthy looks and work harder on his character.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Monday Mormon – Families are Forever

In the latest of our 21 Questions we address the question of family. Mormons lay great store by families and it is one of the things that makes them seem wholesome and right. But what do Mormons mean when they tell us that “families are forever?”

As before, we will look at the questions (Q) and answers (A) with comments (C) and any quotes (Qu.)

Q: What do the Mormons believe about the family?

A: Mormons believe that the family is the foundation for this life and the life to come.

To reiterate earlier observations:

Qu: “Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he can make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000” (Spencer W Kimball, Ensign, Nov.1975, p.80)

C: Mormon men intend to become gods, just as their god has done before them. Joseph Smith taught this and, in 1974, Mormon apostle Marion G Romney stated, “God is a perfected, saved soul, enjoying eternal life.” That is what “salvation” is to a Mormon, i.e. godhood. (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct.6, 1974)

Qu. "In the Heaven where our spirits were born there are many Gods, each one of whom has his own wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters... each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones.... The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.” (Mormon apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, March 1853, pp. 37-39)

C. In the most fundamental way this describes the Mormon Plan of Salvation, the plan by which God himself became God according to Mormonism. God made this planet to accommodate his spirit children (us) and faithful Mormons will go on to create and inhabit their own planets, which will be populated by their spirit children who will, in turn, worship them – and the whole process starts again. The truth, then, is that Mormons expect that there will be planets which Mormons will rule after their death and ascension as great celestial patriarchs.

The impression given, and gained, from Mormon publicity for the family is that of a warm Victorian picture of hearth and home, thrift and industry and traditional values in support of the idea of the nuclear family. Mormons however expect to become gods, populating their own earth with their spiritual offspring, just as God has done before them. The family, so celebrated in Mormonism, forms the basis of this cosmic dynasty; the extended family writ large across your very own universe.

While Christians enter the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ro.8:14-17; Gal.4:4-6) Mormons anticipate becoming god of their family through working the Mormon Plan of works by which God became God of his family. The difference is profound and this definition of family is not to be found anywhere in Scripture.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Monday Mormon – Missionaries Burnish the Image of Mormonism

People are often intrigued by the Mormon “missionaries”, those young pups who go around calling themselves “Elder”, daily keeping a shine on the image of the Mormon Church. In the latest of our 21 Questions we address the question many ask; why do they do it?

As before, we will look at the questions (Q) and answers (A) with comments (C) and any quotes (Qu.)

Q: Why do Mormons go from door to door?

A: Christ admonished his disciples to take the gospel to the world. The Church follows that admonition and sends missionaries throughout the world.

C: So much might be said about mission and Mormonism. The Mormon missionary programme is youth-based and might be said to be a youth programme as much as anything.

It is not especially effective with recent convert growth at a modest 2-3% per annum and over 300 Proselyting hours per convert, a retention rate of some 20-30% and missionary numbers dropping by up to 14% in the first decade of the 21st Century.

The average activity rate worldwide is no more than 35% and approximately 1million members are awaiting confirmation of resignation at any given time. The average growth in the UK is 1.55% and attendance 30%. Mormon missionaries are a good shop window however.

It is a church led by old men; their latest president, Thomas S Monson, is the first to have been born after the war – the First World War that is. They are ultra-conservative and, for all their claim to be prophetic in ministry, they look to the past much of the time. This contrasts sharply with the image they strive to convey through their missionary force, comprised almost entirely of 19-21-year-olds.

Mormons do not operate missions other than where there is already an established Christian, especially Evangelical presence. They cannot be said to break new ground and much of what they do simply duplicates work already established by larger, older and Christian missions.

Christian missions will open doors and Mormons walk through them. Christian missions establish a presence and the good will of the community and Mormons trade on that good will. Christianity builds a house and Mormonism moves in. In this respect Mormonism can truly be said to be parasitic.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Mormonism’s “Lost Books of the Bible” Part 2: The Existing (and non-existent) Books

We have been examining the Mormon view of Scripture and of the Bible in particular. Observing that Mormons believe they work from an open canon we have studied the Mormon view of Scripture in general. Then we looked at the claim that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and is another testament of Jesus Christ. We have met the challenge to pray about this book and asked should a Christian read the Book of Mormon?

Last time we started to look at the Mormon claim that at least twenty books are missing from the Bible and saw that these serious gaps are often used to explain why Mormonism can’t actually be found in the Bible. We identified and explained the books that are indeed absent, although not necessarily missing and now we come to books that are on the missing list although they are found in the Bible or never actually existed in the first place.

Old Testament

The Book of the Covenant cited in Ex.24:4-7 is the earliest “missing book”; except it isn’t missing. It is a record of the covenant between God and Israel. In this text the covenant is read out, “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.’” (Ex.24:3) What is the covenant between God and Israel and where do we find the terms of the covenant? The covenant is initiated by God in these words:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex.19:4-6)

The Book of the Covenant is the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-21) and the commands and rules that follow (Ex.20:22-23:33). It describes how a covenant people live towards their God in light of what he has done in saving them.

The Book of Statutes cited in 1 Sam.10:25 is another form of covenant, this time between Israel and Israel’s king. It is a legal agreement between people and king setting out how the king would conduct himself, the rule of kingship setting out the duties and prerogatives of the king. This rule was laid up before the LORD as had been the Book of the Covenant. These rules are described by God through his prophet in Deut.17:14-20 in anticipation of the people rejecting God and demanding an earthly king “like other nations.”

The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite cited in 2 Chr.9:29. The account of Ahijah is found in 1 Kings 11:29-40 where he prophesied taking the kingdom from Solomon, giving ten tribes to Jeroboam, but retaining Jerusalem for the sake of David.

The Visions of Iddo the seer cited in 2 Chr.9:29. Iddo is traditionally identified with the unknown Prophet, “the man of God”, in 1 Kings 13. As stated in 2 Chr., the vision of this man of God from Judah concerned Jeroboam.

New Testament

The “missing text” referenced in Mt.2:23 isn’t missing at all. It is not a reference to a particular Old Testament prophecy but clearly states, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” It is prophets plural not prophet singular. The phrase “He shall be called a Nazarene” is not simply a reference to his place of origin but a term of derision, as in Nathaniel’s dismissive “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn.1:46 cf Jn.1:41; Jn.1:52)

“To be called a Nazarene, was to be called a despicable man, a man from whom no good was to be expected, and to whom no respect was to be paid. The devil first fastened this name upon Christ, to render him mean, and prejudice people against him, and it stuck as a nickname to him and his followers.” (Matthew Henry)

Like Nazareth he will be despised (Is. 49:7; Is.53:3)

Paul’s “revelation, as I have written briefly” in Eph.3:3-4 is not a reference to a lost writing but to a passage earlier in the same Ephesian letter (Eph.1:9; Eph.1:17). Having alluded to this revelation earlier in his letter he proceeds to elaborate on it from chapter 3 verse 6 “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel...”

The so-called “Declaration of Belief” Mormons insist is referenced in Lk.1:1 is Luke’s allusion to other writings “undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us...concerning the things you have been taught.” (Lk.1:1-4) These other writings we have in the other gospels and other writings of the New Testament.

There may well have been still other writings covering the same ground, eyewitness reports etc. but there is no reason at all to believe that we don’t have all we need to exercise saving faith and we come back to the question of whether the Bible is intended to be complete in the sense of an exhaustive account or complete in the sense of a sufficient and trustworthy account.

Jude 3 reads “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Mormons read into this a “missing letter” but Jude’s “was very eager...” and “I found it necessary...” is not a reference to a previous letter but to a previous intent aborted by pressing circumstances. It was in this letter that he “was very eager to write to you about our common faith”, and it was in this present letter that he had to change his mind and “found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith.”

Jude set out to rejoice with the saints of God but found he instead had to warn the saints that “certain people have crept in unnoticed...ungodly people...” It is this letter that carries that warning, a description of false teachers and their false teachings and a description of their motives methods and certain end, as well as a clear teaching on how to deal with them.

In Jude 14 there is a quote from Enoch 1:9 concerning the Second Advent and the judgement of the wicked. 1 Peter 3:19-20, a text familiar to Mormons and about spirits in prison, also has parallels in Enoch 21:6. Enoch has an interesting history, from long being thought lost to being discovered in the 17th century in the Ethiopian language. It is a mystical text that has never been considered canonical by Jews or Christians, except in the Ethiopian Church where it was discovered.

It was apparently well known in the early church but the fact of its being quoted does not mean it’s being accepted as canonical any more than Paul’s quoting a Cretan proverb in Titus 1:12 or a Greek poet in Acts 17:28 canonises Greek or Cretan literature.

Conclusion

Our overview of this list of books considered missing by Mormons gives an insight into the Mormon approach to Scripture. In the Old Testament much of what they regard as missing is historical by nature and so it comes down to whether we have a reliable historical record, not whether we have a collection of exhaustive accounts from any number of viewpoints.

The writers of Israel’s history drew on many sources to compile their chronicles, a process that, by its nature, makes these sources superfluous once the history the writers wish to relate is told. Mormons don’t really understand how we got our Bible, what process produced it, how it has been transmitted and the relationship of human and divine authorship.

Then there are those books that are not missing. The Book of the Covenant is fundamental to understanding the history of God’s relationship with his people and yet Mormons, who claim to be God’s covenant people in these “latter days”, are at a loss to know what or where it is. The humblest serious Bible student might have told them.

Finally, there are those books that have never existed. The determination of Mormons to find fault with the Bible is so visceral that it overrides reason and the rules of plain English. Jude, writing of his original intent to rejoice with the saints and his revised purpose in writing instead as he does, is so plainly a reference to the same letter that it is embarrassing to have missed it.

Yet, to a Mormon prophet, neither reason nor logic will turn him from his determined course to cast doubt on the Bible and promote the message of Mormonism as the only safe haven in a sea of apostasy.

But the Word of God has always been a safe harbour and careful attention will show that you can trust your Bible for it has been wonderfully kept down the ages.

“Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself.” Charles Spurgeon

Monday, 6 December 2010

Monday Mormon - The Mormon Java Jive

In the latest of our 21 Questions we ask about the peculiar Mormon health code, the Word of Wisdom. It seems strange that a church calling itself Christian should be so regressive as to have a health code that determines a person’s worthiness. Of course Christians believe in being sober and sensible in eating and drinking etc. but we follow Jesus who said:

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean") (Mark 7:18-19)

The clear principle is that what we eat does not in any way disqualify us from heavenly rewards. Then we have the cautious advice of Paul:

"’Everything is permissible’ - but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ - but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lords', and everything in it.’

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put in before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, 'This has been been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you , and for conscience' sake - the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? if I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God - even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so they may be saved.” (1 Cor.10:23-33)

As before, we will look at the questions (Q) and answers (A) with comments (C) and quotes (Qu.)

Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Q: Does the Church also ban the consumption of "hot drinks"? And does that apply specifically to caffeinated drinks?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

C: These two questions are very interesting and raise an important question about what is and isn’t authoritative in Mormonism. A Mormon will tell you that the only authoritative sources are the “Standard Works”; the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) and Pearl of Great Price. The Mormon health law, the Word of Wisdom, is found in the D&C. There are two facts that stand out; 1) there is no mention of tea or coffee and 2) it is “not a commandment or constraint but a principle” therefore not binding.

Qu. “SALVATION AND A CUP OF TEA

You cannot neglect little things. ‘Oh, a cup of tea is such a little thing. It is so little; surely it doesn't amount to much; surely the Lord will forgive me if I drink a cup of tea.’

Yes, he will forgive you, because he is going to forgive every man who repents; but, my brethren, if you drink coffee or tea, or take tobacco, are you letting a cup of tea or a little tobacco stand in the road and bar you from the celestial kingdom of God, where you might otherwise have received a fulness of glory?

‘Oh, it is such a little thing, and the Lord will forgive us.’ Well, there is not anything that is little in the way of sinning. There is not anything that is little in the way of sinning. There is not anything that is little in this world in the aggregate. One cup of tea, then it is another cup of tea and another cup of tea, and when you get them all together, they are not so little...

God is not going to save every man and woman in the celestial kingdom. If you want to get there, and you have failings; if you are committing sins; if you are breaking the commandments of the Lord, and you know it; it is a good time right now to repent and reform, and not get the idea that it is such a little thing that the lord will fogive you; just a few stripes, just a little punishment and we will be forgiven; for you may find yourselves cast out, if you insist and persist in such a course.”

(Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol.2. pp16-17)

C. There has been much speculation over the years about what is forbidden, with members moving in their thinking from hot drinks to speculating whether the true purpose of the principle is the avoidance of caffeine. This led to the more zealous concluding that it was therefore wrong to drink Coca Cola, energy drinks, Lucozade etc.

Mormon leaders have variously spoken about avoiding tea and coffee but warned the zealous not to take it too far, insisting that it doesn’t include Coca Cola. But then it doesn’t include tea and coffee and, in the original form, it is neither a commandment nor a restraint.

Qu. “A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of the high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints of Zion-

To be sent in greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the world of wisdom...given for a principle with promise adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints...strong drinks are not for the belly, but for washing the body.

And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly...and again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly” (D&C 89:19)

Since there is no revelation, i.e. in the Standard Works that commands obedience or mentions tea and coffee then Mormons are not truly bound except by conscience. Now there’s a novel idea.

One idea that Mormons can't countenance is that Mormonism is influenced by the society around it. All things Mormon are viewed as the product of unique and revelatory knowledge. But things that seem unique to Mormonism today were often the product of the age.

The Word of Wisdom is a good example. The way the story is told you might be forgiven for believing that society at large was smoking, drinking etc. and being otherwise "worldly" and Mormons did the same until Joseph Smith had a revelation called the Word of Wisdom.

Nothing could be further from the truth. At that time a temperance movement, started in Boston in 1826, was sweeping America and most churches swore off drink, tobacco and, yes, tea and coffee as stimulants. Where just a few years previously a visiting minister might reasonably expect to be treated to a glass of sherry with the pastor, now the test for a minister’s worthiness for the role of preacher might well be his complete sobriety.

If the Word of Wisdom hadn't been taught then Mormonism would have been the odd one out not the most enlightened.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Accounting for Mormonism’s “Lost Books of the Bible” Part 1: The “Missing” Books

The Mormon Church claims to have identified at least twenty books they think to be missing from the Bible. We are left in no doubt that these are considered serious omissions. Listing these missing books in his book The Articles of Faith, Mormon apostle James Talmage wrote:

“Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the ground that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures, and that alleged revelation not found therein must therefore be spurious, may profitably take note of the many books not included in the Bible, yet mentioned therein, generally in such a way as to leave no doubt that they were once regarded as authentic.” (Talmage, Articles of Faith, 1960 ed.p.501)

Books

The picture conjured in people’s minds by such comment is of sizeable volumes, something the size of one of the Major Prophets or a gospel. A major account of essential events, a comprehensive and indispensable code of instructions without which we are spiritually impoverished.

This deficiency is routinely trotted out as explanation for why key Mormon doctrines cannot be found in the Bible. With an “as far as it is translated correctly” Bible (Mormon 8th Article of Faith) robbed of so much in the process of transmission (1 Nephi 13) anything might be orthodox.

When Mormonism produces additional and sizeable “books of scripture” such as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants the inference that “books” means substantial volumes containing many key lost doctrines is reinforced. When twenty such missing “books” are identified it is an alarming revelation and feeds the popular conception that the Bible is unreliable and incomplete.

But when the Bible talks about “books” it is usually translating a word such as the Hebrew sepher or the Greek biblia which translate “writings” and can mean anything from a letter (Jude is just 1 chapter containing 25 verses), to a legal document (the “book” in 1 Samuel 10:25 is an example) to a lengthy chronicle that describes a meta-narrative (Chronicles and Kings). It is important then to not take too literally in the modern sense the word “books.”

We have already said that just because a book is mentioned in the Bible doesn’t mean it was intended that it should be in the Bible. That something is only missing in the way Mormons mean it if it is meant to be there in the first place. Of the twenty books listed by Mormons some certainly are mentioned but not included in Scripture while others are, curiously, included in the “missing” list - even though they are found in the Bible, or even don’t exist at all. We will come on to those.

Reporting, Recording and Redacting

The popular picture among Mormons of prophets and of Scripture is Joseph Smith bent over his gold plates dictating to a scribe an “inspired” translation of the Book of Mormon. Of Smith giving messages directly from God, such as are found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Messages meant to read like the “Thus saith the LORD” sections of Isaiah, Jeremiah and others.

When Mormons talk about the “fullness of the gospel” they have in mind not just a sufficient for salvation message but an exhaustive record designed to fit them for godhood and issued straight from the throne room of the Almighty untouched by profane hands.

God does indeed speak through prophets in the Bible but much of the Bible is historical narrative, wisdom literature, songs and poetry, proverbs, laws and statutes, etc. the stuff of humanity. What needs to be understood is that Scripture is not simply dictated by God.

God works through men in the familiar process of transmitting oral tradition, making written chronicles - and redaction, or editing. This makes it no less the Word of God but it helps explain that many “books” are not so much lost as used as sources in the editing and transmission of works that are in the Bible.

Six so-called “missing books” fall into this category of sources whose content is available to the Chroniclers who made the records we do have and who made good use of relevant parts of these sources.

These six so-called “missing books” Nathan and Gad, Shemaiah, Jehu, Uzziah, and the Seers all relate to the monarchic period in Israel. “The authors of Kings specifically claim to have access to written sources of information about the monarchic period, both for Israel and for Judah.” (Study Note to 1 Kings 14:19, ESV Study Bible, 2008)

This was a period when literacy was widespread in and around Palestine and writing was employed in legal, business, literary and religious texts. In the period from 1200 BC to the fall of Judah in 587-586 writing has been described as pervasive. The picture we have is of writers and Chroniclers drawing on a vast store of royal archives, temple libraries and archives, as well as foreign annals and inscriptions to produce what has been carefully passed down to us.

The writings of Nathan and Gad, of Shemaiah and Jehu, Isaiah’s record of Uzziah and the Chronicles of the Seers were all used to supplement existing material in telling the story of Israel and Judah.

The period covered by Nathan and Gad is covered in Samuel. Chronicles covers the same period as Kings.

The Chroniclers’ use of Shemaiah and Iddo, cited in 2 Chronicles 12:15, explains how they were able to supplement the material in Kings.

The same might be said of Jehu, a source cited in 2 Chronicles 20:34, Uzziah cited in 2 Chronicles 26:22

The Chronicles of the Seers cited in 2 Chronicles 33:19. This last expands on 2 Kings 21:17-18 in emphasising Manasseh’s prayer and humble repentance as key to his reign.

The “missing books” were available to and drawn on by the Chroniclers whom God led to write as they did, and whose writings cover the same periods and events as contained in those “missing” documents, and therefore we can be confident that nothing is missing in the sense that it should have been there in the first place.

Songs, Poems and – Biology?

The Book of The Wars of The LORD, mentioned in Numbers 21:14, is thought to be a collection of victory songs, possibly a continuation of what was begun in Exodus 17:14 where a memorial was begun of the defeat of the Amalekites. It is quoted in Numbers because it is relevant to the events and the geography at that part of the story.

The Book of Jashar, mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, is similarly thought to be poems or songs relating the deeds of heroes. Jashar may be related to the Hebrew words “sing” or “upright”.

Both Jashar and the Wars of The LORD are cited when a portion of their content relates to the part of the narrative in which they are cited. What is important here is the narrative, not the sources. Their relevance is to the story and not necessarily to the whole history of salvation (Tim.3:14-16) which would explain their absence from the Bible.

As to the Acts of Solomon, the reign and life of Solomon is described in 1 Kings chapters 1-11 but the Acts of Solomon, mentioned in 1 Kings 11:41, is unknown to us and neither is anything known about it.

But then much of the literary output of Solomon is unavailable to us today including most of “three thousand proverbs and his songs [which] numbered a thousand and five.” He is also reported to have “described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.” (1 Kings 4:32-33)

As we have discovered, not everything mentioned in the Bible is intended to be in the Bible. Some things are clearly not going to serve any practical purpose to us some three thousand years later and, given this list, aren’t you glad?

New Testament

Mormons name seven missing New Testament records, three from Paul, two from Jude, a missing text quoted in Matthew and a “declaration of belief” alluded to in Luke’s gospel. Only two from the seven can be said to be “missing”, both from Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul refers to an earlier letter in which he instructed Christians in Corinth “not to associate with sexually immoral people.” In the letter we do have he goes on to expand on that instruction, qualifying his remarks and, no doubt, answering questions they raised on the subject.

We know what Paul wrote about in that first letter insofar as he refers to issues of immorality and there is no reason to suspect that the missing letter covered ground essential to our understanding not covered in the two letters we have or in other New Testament texts.

In Colossians 4:16 he refers to “the letter from Laodicea.” Letters of this kind were passed around the churches and, although we don’t have this letter, there is no reason to think it covered material not covered in other “round-robin” letters such as Ephesians.

It will not do to infer that the Bible is inadequate just because you identify writings that aren’t contained within its pages. Talmage writes of, “Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the ground that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures...” That “complete” is misleading in implying an unexpurgated text when the Christian Church speaks of a complete and closed canon in terms of a sufficient and unexpurgated message. The difference is profound and important.

Neither will it do to insist that writings are missing when, in fact, they are not missing, and indeed in some cases they are non-existent. So where are the “missing books” that aren’t really missing at all? We discuss this in part 2: the existing (and non-existent) books.