God, Man, Darwin and Insufficient Evidence

February 4, 2013

When Jesus Christ was upon the earth in mortality, he became somewhat irritated with his apostles when they asked to see the Father.  He told them that he looked just like his Father, and if they had seen him, they had seen the Father. (John 14:9)

We also have the testimony of Joseph Smith who met with both the Father and the Son during the First Vision.  The Father is one man or personage.  The Son is another.  And they look alike.  Both were modern men as Joseph Smith was himself. (JS-H 1:17-20)

Who but “God” could have made the heavens and the earth?  And is not Jesus “God” or the Creator according to our doctrine?

Keeping this in mind, God was a modern man before this world was created.  How could this be?  Is not all the “scientific evidence” for Darwinian evolution here upon this earth?  And if there is such evidence elsewhere in the universe, have our anthropologists, paleontologists, geologists and other scientists been able to examine that evidence?

Joseph Smith taught, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man… I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea… He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. (Joseph Smith.  King Follett Discourse. April 7, 1844)

I am just foolish enough to believe that if I am a child of God, and I look like my Father just as the Savior and Joseph Smith did, I was “created” in the same way too, and the pattern for that creation was set long before the earth was made or in other words long before any of the evidence we have seen for Darwinian evolution.

Presented with this argument, many have told me, “Well, he [God] must have evolved on another planet, the one where he spent his mortality.  To which my answer is, but all the evidence we have is right here.  Could there be missing data that is essential for understanding this?

I love debating Darwinian evolution because like arguing politics and religion, there is no end to it.  Might that be the result of insufficient data?  Do we need to answer every question even when we do not have enough evidence?  When we travel to the stars, might we learn more about our origins?

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Jesus Christ And The Right To Keep And Bear Arms

February 3, 2013

What does Jesus Christ and his authorized prophets believe about the right to keep and bear arms? Consider these passages:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (US Declaration of Independence. 1776)

We are all born with a right from our Creator to life and liberty.  Because we have a God-given right to life, we also have a right of self-defense.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. (Constitution of the United States of America, Bill of Rights, Amendment II)

Because arms are essential for defending our lives, we have a right to bear arms.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (Jesus Christ as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101:80)

Here our Savior Jesus Christ who gave us these rights of self-defense and bearing arms tells us that he inspired the Constitution and Bill of Rights which guarantee those rights.

I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the federal government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship, and to pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property. (Ezra Taft Benson, a prophet of God. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 617)

And here an authorized prophet of Jesus Christ tell us the government must not deny these rights to us, his children.

Others have a different opinion. Of course. Satan rages in the hearts of men in these last days. They value their own opinions above those of the Lord. All they can do is protest and state their contrary opinion.  But the truth cannot be successfully refuted.


The Intolerance of Jesus Christ

February 3, 2013

Through his prophet Alma, Jesus Christ taught:

And he said: Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (Alma 45:16)

We know that God loves us. And so he must possess the virtue of tolerance to a degree that we do not. But from this passage we learn that there must be things he does not tolerate. What are they?

God does not tolerate sin. Why? It is because he loves us. Sin causes us pain. It injures us. It brings failure and disappointment. Ultimately it destroys us. We should not marvel that Jesus Christ is intolerant when it comes to sin. He is intolerant because he loves us. He wants us to be happy, and he knows better than any of us where the path is that leads to happiness. Hence, Jesus Christ loves us, but he is intolerant of our sins. We must repent of them or we will suffer.


Update: The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball

October 15, 2012

I was in Salt Lake City a few days ago and I visited the Church Distribution Center.  I was pleased to see that The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball was still sold there, and it was either the only doctrinal work promoted by Church Distribution or one of very few.  Six years ago I wrote A Controversial Book That Should Not Be Controversial. It has always surprised me that so many saints hate this book.  I love it.  Next to the scriptures themselves I consider it to be the most important book written in this dispensation.  It changed my life forever, and without it I could never have repented sufficiently to obtain the Melchizedek priesthood, my first temple recommend, and my temple marriage to Esperanza thirty-five years ago.  Highly recommended.


Mormon Funerals

October 14, 2012

I just returned from a week in Salt Lake City and Provo.  My wife’s nephew passed away at the age of forty-four, and we attended the funeral.  I cannot remember when I felt more spiritually fed.  The Spirit was strong, and we were comforted.  It was not a secular funeral.  It was a gospel funeral, a Church meeting.  Mormon funerals are filled with hope, and a genuine testimony that the life after this one is real.  Over the last fifty years I have noticed that because the saints have such a strong faith in the teachings of their church, and are not just going through the motions, their funerals are very different from others.


Are Mormons Becoming Protestants?

March 16, 2012

Are Mormons becoming Protestants?  Of course not.  Even if they would accept us as one of them, we would betray the gospel of Jesus Christ and his prophets if we became Protestant.  Yet I have heard some online who feel there is a spirit among some Latter-day Saints to become more Protestant-like.  Whereas in past generations Latter-day Saints have celebrated our differences from the traditional Christian world, today it seems more common to dwell upon the common ground we both share.  Is this a good thing?  Is this a change in our doctrine?  Is this trend from the rank and file membership, or is it being taught our prophet-leaders?

Thoughts on Interfaith Relations
President Gordon B. Hinckley has consistently advocated dialogue and mutual respect in interfaith relations. He has admonished members of the Church to cultivate “a spirit of affirmative” for those of differing religious, political, and philosophical persuasions, adding that “we do not in any way have to compromise our theology” in the process. He gave this counsel: “Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.”

When members are not well grounded in the teachings of their own faith, how are they to resist being taught rather than teaching?  I ask this question in the light of this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:

Doctrine and Covenants 43:15

Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit;

When all about me are trying to find common ground with the Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, etc. I get an uneasy feeling.  Can one always teach respect for another’s faith without putting himself into temptation?  If we spend much time in highlighting the good in the faiths and beliefs of others, is there a chance we will imply to the unsophisticated that one faith is about as good as another?  If the Methodist faith is so wonderful, why not be a Methodist? Surely God wouldn’t mind.  He loves all of his children.  And if I am a Methodist, I won’t have to quit smoking and keep the Law of Chastity.  Suppose I wanted to marry.  Suppose my future spouse is a Methodist.  What is going to best persuade me to marry a Latter-day Saint instead?  Will I do best by learning all the good things about Methodists and their teachings, or by learning what is false about their teachings?

This has puzzled me as long as I have been a Church member.  If I accentuate the false teachings of the sects of apostate Christendom, I am encouraged to cling to the gospel as a drowning man clings to a life raft.  If I do the opposite and look constantly for the good in their denominations and teachings, I will minimize the importance of the differences between us.  In which case, I might as well be a Protestant.

Joseph Smith had almost nothing good to say about the Protestant denominations of his day.  Just read his writings and sermons to confirm this.  The gospel was restored because traditional Christianity had become rank with apostasy and false doctrine.  Brigham Young and the other successors to Joseph Smith had this same negative and almost militant view of “the sectarians.”  Yes, there is a lot of truth in all religions.  Yes, there are good people in other churches and bad ones in the LDS faith.  Are these wonderful people in other faiths wonderful because of their churches or in spite of their churches?  I’ve also met wonderful atheists, agnostics, humanists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims.

Whenever I hear someone complain that I express negative thoughts about this or that false teaching in another church, I am told that such negativity will cause us to lose new converts.  Maybe so.  But is there any danger that failing to emphasize the falseness of their teachings will cause some of our members to misunderstand and become confused about our own teachings? Many of our members are not particularly interested in doctrine and might decide various teachings of other denominations are superior.  Why should we worry more about bringing others into the Church than we do about keeping those we already have?

For a number of reasons, the Church is true.  The other churches are not.  There is more to it than that, but that is most basic.  The whole idea of a true church implies that the others are false.  Baptists don’t ever talk about this or that denomination being “true.”  I never heard that until I became a Latter-day Saint.

I think we need to love and respect people of other faiths.  That does not mean that we need to love and respect their false churches.  If we forget this, our ability to retain the members we already have will go down as the number of new members goes up.

Can we love the sinner and hate the sin?  Yes, of course.  Can we love the Baptist or Methodist without loving his false church?  I think so. Is this distinction too fine for some to understand? I hope not.

When I became a Mormon it was because I knew the Baptist faith of my childhood was teaching nonsense about the Jesus Christ.  Had the Church made an effort to underline the things we had in common, I would have seen no reason to become a Mormon.  If just being a good person is all God requires, I can do that anywhere.  I do not need to be a Mormon to do that.

Is the faith of the Latter-day Saints part of the ecumenical movement?  I left the Protestants behind because I knew that philosophizing, voting, participating in conclaves and conventions, and learning about other faiths has no bearing upon what is true and what is false.  Truth and falsehood need no excuses or explanations.  If a thing is true, it is true regardless of what the “ecumenical” opinion is.

I think it is wrong to think well of the false doctrines promoted by the other churches.   It is wrong and it is also spiritually dangerous. Please correct me if I am wrong.


Mormons, Jews, Christians and Future Holocausts

September 19, 2011

For years I have watched a change of attitude in the Church towards traditional Christianity.  I haven’t understood the reason for it, nor have I been comfortable with it.  I joined the Church from a Baptist background, and if I had wanted to be a Protestant, I would have just remained a Baptist.  After all, we are the true Church, the only true Church.  A true church strongly implies false churches.  Sure, there is truth in all of them, but so what?  Even Satan worshippers have some truth.  They believe there is a Satan, just as we do.  They believe in keeping the commandments even though they are the devil’s commandments rather than the Lord’s.  They have scriptures just as we do.  And my guess is that their scriptures are just as inspired as ours even though the inspiration is from below.  There is truth in Buddhism, Islam, the Hindu faith, and Judaism.  There is even some truth in atheism.  I do not see how the denominations of traditional Christianity can be justified merely by asserting that they contain some truth.  They do not have the priesthood, revelation or prophets.  They teach copious amounts of false doctrine.  Perhaps of greatest importance is the undeniable fact that without the priesthood, they are unable to perform those essential ordinances without which it is impossible to obtain eternal life.  In the denominations of traditional Christianity there is no salvation.

But of greater significance to me, is the fact that the attitude of the Prophet Joseph Smith was negative concerning the “sectarians.” That was his term for the many denominations of traditional Christianity.  Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, the primary inspiration of this blog, did not use the term “sectarian” so much as they referred to “apostate Christendom.”  But although the terms they used were not the same, their negative view of the Protestant and Catholic denominations were in the tradition of Joseph Smith as was my own because of the reasons for which I joined the Church.  I had obtained a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

After all, is not this a passage from our scripture?

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.” (Joseph Smith–History)

If traditional Christianity had not gone astray, there would have been no Great Apostasy and no need for a Restoration. Because of this teaching, and the attitudes of Joseph Smith and the early latter-day prophets, this change in LDS understanding and attitude towards the false churches has been a puzzle to me to me and a source of no small amount of distress.  Are these changes from God, or are they just false attitudes creeping into the Church?

Well, yesterday I had a thought that may have been from the Lord because I never thought it before, and it answered all my questions and set my heart at rest on this matter.  A young and brilliant attorney in my ward spoke in Sacrament Meeting, and at one point he spoke about the claim some sectarians make that we are not Christians.  I thought his remarks excellent.  Whether we are Christian or not depends on how one defines the term “Christian.”  If in the course of conversation with a Gentile we are using different definitions, of course there will be little or no true communication or understanding.

Whenever this topic of who is and is not Christian comes up, a nagging question comes up in my mind.  Why do we care what the they think?  There is a sense in which we are not Christians.  We are not heirs to the false doctrines and philosophies of traditional Christianity.   On the other hand, there is a sense in which they are not Christians.  How can one follow Jesus Christ while rejecting his prophets? That is exactly what the Protestants and Catholics do.  There is a sense in which we are the only Christians.  So why do we care what they think?  Joseph Smith didn’t.  He denounced those denominations as false churches all the days of his short life.  So did his successors until recently.

After the meeting I went up to this fellow and asked, “Why do we care?  Why do we care whether or not the false churches consider us to be Christian?  We are in this life to please God, not man.  His are the only opinions that matter.  He told me what I thought he would, something I have heard from dozens of other saints when I pose this question.  “We want the other churches to accepts us as Christians because of our missionary work.”  But that makes no sense.  When others join us from a Catholic or Protestant background as I did, we are ripe to become members of the Church because we have begun to doubt the teachings of the church in which we grew up.   Do our missionaries have a lot of success in baptizing nonmembers who are still convinced their church is right?  I doubt it very much.

Then during the Sunday School part of the block, I thought something I have never thought before.  We are living in a very difficult time for people of all faiths.  Just as the other churches are being persecuted on all sides by the atheists, agnostics and secularists, so are we.  The gays are mad at us, as are those who believe there can be a legitimate “choice” to kill an unborn child.  Others hate us because we love and defend our God-inspired Constitution.  Many despise religious tea party people because they remind the wicked that there is a difference between right and wrong.  The government controlled media portray those who believe in a far more negative light than those who keep their mouths shut about God.

But more importantly, this intolerance for those who are religious is increasing rapidly.  What will happen in the future?  Does persecution lie ahead, not only for the Mormons but for all those who believe in God?  Could there ever be another holocaust or genocide, this time not just targeting Jews but all who believe? I think it could happen.  There are a couple of reasons.

First, our scriptures proclaim that when Christ comes at the Second Coming, there will be few left upon the earth.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall akill you: and ye shall be bhated of all nations cfor my name’s sake.

And then shall many be aoffended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

And many afalse prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

And because ainiquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax bcold. (Matthew 24:9-12)

[…]

For then shall be great atribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those adays shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)

Also, the latter-day Prophet Bruce R. McConkie and others have said that the saints will endure greater persecutions ahead than those they have known in the past:

Nor are the days of our greatest sorrows and our deepest sufferings all behind us. They too lie ahead. We shall yet face greater perils, we shall yet be tested with more severe trials, and we shall yet weep more tears of sorrow than we have ever known before. (Bruce R. McConkie.  The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory.  General Conference, April 1980)

If these prophecies are true, and I believe they are.  Then all we who believe in God must stick together.  We need to forget our differences and focus on our mutual belief in God and his love for us.  For only his love and our faith in him will get us through the difficult times ahead.  Those who have taken the part of Satan, with or without realizing it,  can persecute all of us regardless of religious persuasion.  And they can persecute us with a great persecution, possibly unto death.  But as long as we remain faithful, we need not worry.  As long as we keep the promises we have made to God, he will protect us and sustain us in this life and in the life to come.

The bottom line for me, and what I learned from my contemplation is that because very difficult times lie ahead for all of us, we Latter-day Saints do not want to be alone against the terrors that evil men seek to inflict upon us.  We are all children of the same Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters.  And we need to love and care for each other amidst all the machinations of the secular world, the crusading atheists, and the worldly.

But not only that, the Latter-day Saints are very well organized.  They can do much for those of other faiths if they will let us and need our help.  In some cases we can provide some of the leadership that is needed for our spiritual and temporal survival.  We are strong in the Lord and can use that strength to love and serve others.

In any case, I am no longer puzzled or distressed that we are reaching out to the other churches.  We need friends both inside and outside of the Church.  We can help each other.  And we are going to need it.