I wanted to die.
Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in my state of mind I wasn’t really thinking clearly anyway. Continue reading Levees and Leaving
I wanted to die.
Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in my state of mind I wasn’t really thinking clearly anyway. Continue reading Levees and Leaving
I’m really excited for General Conference. Come Saturday morning, I’ll be in my super comfy Nautica PJ’s (or maybe sporting my PhillyD monkey shirt), probably setting the oven timer for the amazing French toast casserole we make biannually at conference time.
Making this breakfast is a family affair. It’s tons of fun.
We don’t dress up for conference in our family, unlike some folks, I guess (the Trib runs pieces like this during the two times a year time it tries to be nice to the LDS Church, the weeks before the spring and fall conferences). That definitely helps me be excited.
When my wife and I were dating, though, I did have her convinced for a moment that in my house, we stayed in church clothes all Sunday long.
(I could see it in her eyes, the way she considered breaking up with me right then and there.)
The way we approach conference – more in terms of what we listen for rather than our dress or food quirks – is very important when it comes to getting the most out of it. Let me show you what I mean.
In 2005, then President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk entitled, simply, “Gambling.” I’ve always found the structure of this talk far more interesting than the content. Continue reading General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”
Not Free Willy
My wife and I watched Blackfish a few months ago. Going into it we knew it was about SeaWorld and orca whales and the issues that arise from their captivity, but we didn’t know much more than that. Thinking that our two year-old son might find it interesting to see killer whales, my wife invited him to join us.
“Hey, do you want to watch a show about whales?”
*turns on Blackfish*
(From the television) “…Um, we need someone to respond… the whale just ate one of the trainers…” *ominous music* Continue reading Tolerating the Weeds
A Whole New World
I’ve maintained a blog for perhaps four years now, but it’s really always been for me more than it’s been for anyone else. I write about things I’m interested in, or have an opinion about, but I don’t really follow other blogs or comment prolifically. Because of that, I’ve had limited awareness of the Mormon blogosphere as a whole.
That’s changing a bit. I’m coming to find that there’s a whole world out there I never even knew about!
Like, did you know there’s a loosely-defined community of bloggers that constitute the Bloggernacle? (It’s hard to define, though some have tried – from my knothole, it looks like it tends more ‘liberal’.) There’s even a term for when members of that community gang up on you – it’s called being Bloggernacled (from “Bloggernacle dog piled”). Continue reading Somewhere I Belong
It’s beautiful in Washington state right now. Just last weekend, my family and I visited the Quad at the University of Washington, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The winters here are cold and dark – in December, the sun doesn’t rise until 8am and sets as early as 4:30pm – so it’s refreshing to see color and vibrancy return as we meander into spring.
That beauty was offset by some difficult news. I say difficult, because while it doesn’t really affect me directly now, it’s indicative of a culture shift that will impact me in a big way, sooner or later. Continue reading Cherry Blossom Faith
Man, that title sounds like the start of a bad joke. If only.
Eliza Wood recently authored an article on the Huffington Post, a news outlet that tends to stray farther left that right (but that matters little for Latter-day Saints, who have trouble finding allies on either end of the political spectrum). Her question was this:
“Are Mormons any closer to Christians than Muslims?”
And her thesis?
“Short answer: No.”
A Few Problems Up Front
There are a number of things in this article that make me wonder, including why we are asking the question in the first place. Why are we looking to tie Mormons to Muslims?
I would wager that it’s based on the fact that Islam creates a knee-jerk reaction of fear and distrust in the American public. Tying Mormonism to that same knee-jerk reaction, however illegitimately, is something that will prove problematic for Mitt Romney and his candidacy for President (not to mention it’s impact on Latter-day Saints in general). I wonder why anyone would want to achieve that, especially given the fact that there is little to no unique connection between the two theologies.
Another problem is that Wood never really defines what Christianity is. It seems difficult to answer the question she poses without examining such a fundamental question as what makes Christianity Christianity. I’ve done a far better job at examining this question, and I don’t even get paid for it (see my posts “Calling us Cultists”, “Mormonism and Robert Jeffress”, and “Mormon Observations on Mere Christianity” for starters).
Wood gives explanation for this important investigation as such:
“As the media shapes our understanding of the Mormon faith, now that we Americans consider electing our first Mormon presidential candidate (Mitt Romney), it might be wise for us to better understand the similarities and the differences among Christianity and these two faiths.”
I’m not sure why any Presidential race merits examination of the candidates’ religion. I know there are some who believe that Obama is a closet Muslim, but were that the case I’m not sure I would have a problem with it. As a Latter-day Saint, I’ve never had my faith represented in this political office, but that’s not really an issue for me. I’m concerned that it’s an issue for Wood and those of similar disposition.
What’s more, why is Christianity our yardstick? Or rather, why is Wood’s version of Christianity our yardstick?
There are a number (read: not a few) of blatant errors about Mormonism in the remainder of the article. In pointing them out, I will defer to Daniel Peterson’s post. While I am pretty savvy on catching the Mormonism wrongs, Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, and is quite qualified to speak on the subject. I agree with his assessment that Wood is
“attempting, in a not very subtle and not very ethical way, to demonize Mormonism and to damage Mitt Romney by linking them with Muslims and terrorism. Which, if true, is both disingenuous and irresponsible.”
Backing up this asserting are a number of comments Wood makes on her own article, including one that says:
“Readers may enjoy other research and perspectives on this subject”
And then she links to a number of other sites, including the Christian Research Institute (which constantly, constantly bashes on the LDS Church) and Wikipedia (do journalists not use primary sources anymore? I couldn’t cite Wikipedia in high school…). It’s tacky at best, and more likely (as Peterson suggests), incredibly unethical.
But Peterson’s analysis is more than sufficient, and since my post would be more or less a copy-and-paste from here on out, I commend his post to you.
I will be the first to admit that Latter-day Saints sometimes have a persecution complex, but can you always blame them, especially when you encounter drivel like this?
Eliza Wood, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Opposition to the LDS Church can be pretty virulent at times. Considering that, if financial criticism had any merit, it would have gained traction long ago. As it is, people have to stick to 200 year old stories of polygamist kidnappings or gold-digging prophets.
But that doesn’t stop people from digging into Church financials every now and then. Recently, this role was played (just as poorly as it has already been played) by Caroline Winter. The response to her article is the same as President Gordon B. Hinckley’s response to a 1997 Time article. He said,
“The money the Church receives from faithful members is consecrated. It is the Lord’s purse. Our Church facilities are money consuming and not money producing. We are not a financial institution. We are The Church of Jesus Christ. The funds for which we are responsible involve a sacred trust to be handled with absolute honesty and integrity, and with great prudence as the dedicated consecrations of the people.
“We feel a tremendous responsibility to you who make these contributions. We feel an even greater responsibility to the Lord whose money this is.”
Winter’s article may have garnered her some attention, but it will only be remembered as another failed attempt to discredit a spiritual institution that exercises an exactly honorable stewardship when it comes to finances.
I’ve written before on the unfortunate habit of labeling Mormonism a cult, and my disappointment when that label comes from the lips of Evangelical or mainstream Christians. I enjoyed this piece on the subject, and hopefully not just because I agree with the author (human beings have a habit of doing such things).
There’s a mistake that people make when they call Mormonism a cult. The mistake goes something like this:
“These attacks inevitably abandon any definitional rigor and load the dice to reach the desired result. Thus, Sullivan adopts a handful of suspiciously on-the-nose criteria for cultishness— secret places sealed off from outsiders, pressure not to leave, and effective “enforcement” of tithing. In other words, Sullivan looked at some elements in the Mormon tradition that he finds unsettling, exaggerated them for effect, and decided that those are the characteristics of a cult. It’s an easy game to play.
“Here is another reasonable-sounding list of cultish characteristics: belief in the infallibility of a supreme leader, a system prohibiting clergy from normal family life, and a network of the especially devout who vow to totally remove themselves from society. No one believes Sullivan’s own Catholic Church—a global faith that has inspired some of the world’s greatest art, thought, and philanthropy — is a cult. But using Sullivan’s tactics, it isn’t hard to cast it in a dark, suspicious light.”
The author concludes that using the term in reference to Mormonism is inaccurate. They write:
“Ultimately, calling a religion a cult is a cowardly act, because the vagueness of the word provides plausible deniability to any who use it. While Sullivan or Jeffress may say they use the word in a specialized, limited sense, for the average person it evokes images of federal agents surrounding the Branch Davidians in Waco, not of a vibrant, growing religion some 14 million strong. If Sullivan does not intend to equate Mormons with brainwashed sycophants in a suicide pact, he should choose a less inflammatory word—one that actually means what he is trying to say.”
After reading the article (or just the above conclusion), what do you think? Is it fair to label Mormonism a cult?
There has been a recent buzz about a group of Latter-day Saints who decided to “declare their independence” from Mormonism. The Salt Lake Tribune writes about it here.
I can echo the words of LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy, who said,
“We love and respect every member of the church. People make their own decisions about the direction they will follow in life. While there are very few who take this action, it is sad to see someone choose to leave. We wish them well.”
Still, I’m not sure I can respect what they’re doing as they climb Ensign Peak carrying signs that say things like “Finally ExMormon,” “Research the Church,” and “Transcend Mormonism”. Even though they argue that their goal is not to conquer the Church, this behavior suggests otherwise.
And what is behind this “mass” exodus (some 120 of the almost 14 million Latter-day Saints)?
These, and other issues like them (different accounts of the First vision, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and other anti-Mormon drivel), have been addressed by LDS scholars time and time again. If some are not satisfied with these answers, that is fine – as Purdy says, “People make their own decisions about the direction they will follow in life”.
People with purely philosophical differences with Mormonism, though, do not band together and hike a mountain carrying signs, or write blog posts like this. I, for example, don’t align 100% philosophically with Buddhism, and yet I have not (yet) climbed atop locations with religious significance to Buddhists carrying signs decrying their beliefs.
There are deeper things here.
Another of the reasons behind one person’s “resignation” was the money spent by the LDS Church on the City Creek Center mall. For an example of a retort to this “What would Jesus build?” criticism, see here. Just as with all the other claims, there are answers out there for those who want to find them.
But for those uninterested in knowing whether or not the Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith was God’s prophet, and knowing it from God, those answers are little more than pearls before swine. They’ll have to overcome their deeper issues first.
While we can’t know for sure, I suspect that one day these people will feel as Lyman Johnson once did. To the Twelve Apostles he said,
“If I could believe ‘Mormonism’ as I did when I traveled with you and preached, if I possessed the world I would give it. I would give anything, I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe it again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment.“
But again, with Purdy and the leadership of the Church, I wish them well once their 15 minutes of fame has come and gone.
1 John 5
In TBC’s third volley, there is more wresting of the scriptures (it’s like they can’t help themselves). They write,
“The Apostle John reaffirms these principles by stating, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. . .” (1 John 5:9). He goes on to identify “the witness of God” to be that which he was writing, New Testament Scripture! The pressing importance of this discussion is also included in his narrative. It is only when feelings and predispositions give way to God’s objective written revelation, the Bible, that the truth about eternal life can be positively known.
” “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in
His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of
the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life. . .” (1 John 5:11-13).”
1 John 5:9
What does John say about confirming truth?
Like Isaiah, John does not say that the only source of truth is the New Testament or the Bible (the Bible was not even compiled in his day!). He does not say that we must subjugate personal revelation from the Holy Ghost. Instead, he says the Spirit bears witness of truth, and if we believe the witness of man, surely we should believe the witness of God. He says,
“This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth….
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son” (1 John 5:6,9).
The “this” of “this is the witness” does not refer to the New Testament, or even to the book of 1 John. Two other translations of 1 John 5:9 make this clear.
These verses show that the “this” is simply a reference to what the witness of God is – that Jesus is his Son.
And as verse 6 states, this truth is borne witness of by the Spirit.
Clues from the Context, Again, Again
1 John 5:9 is part of a wonderful close that John gives to his book of 1 John. Let’s look at some contextual clues so that we can appreciate the theme that runs through the chapter. We’ll be looking most closely at verses 6-13.
The Johannine Comma
In this part of 1 John there is a portion of scripture that isn’t found in any manuscript before the 5th to 7th century. Most scholars believe that Erasmus of Rotterdam inserted it himself, likely to give more credence to the doctrine of the Trinity (which, mind you, was not incorporated into the ancient church until 360 AD, at the Council of Constantinople).
Did you get that? This portion of scripture was not written by John, but was added to the Bible long after his death. The affected verses, with the johannine comma in bold, reads,
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
“And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:7-8).
Why is this important to bring up now? This text is right in the middle of John’s closing words, and is important when considering the meaning of the passage as a whole.
John’s Closing Statement
John desperately wants us to believe in Jesus Christ, and thereby inherit eternal life. In fact, that is the very reason that he wrote 1 John, that we “may believe on the name of the Son of God” (vs. 13).
How do Spirit, water, and blood relate to Jesus Christ, and to salvation? We’re taught,
“Inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
“For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified“ (Moses 6:59-60).
Being born again, of water and of the Spirit (see John 3:5), and being sanctified by the atonement and blood of Jesus Christ, is the only way to eternal life. How important this is to make known to the world! Lehi writes,
“Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah“ (2 Nephi 2:6-8).
That’s why both the Father and the Holy Ghost bear record of this truth, as John tells us below. John himself also bears that same witness, for it is only though Jesus Christ that we can be born again and receive eternal life.
Without the johannine comma, let’s read 1 John 5:6-13, which has absolutely nothing to do with the sufficiency of the Bible. John says,
“This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
“For there are three that bear record,
“The Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”