Tag Archives: Truth

“This is for the Record”

Geez Cousin you are super into this whole thing.”

I had posted a link to Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, released by Ordain Women, on Facebook. I thought that it provided an interesting counter to some of the claims that Kelly has made about the process she has gone through. It wasn’t the first time I’d posted or written about the recent controversy, either: Continue reading “This is for the Record”

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Camp. With Girls.

I didn’t have many close Mormon friends in high school. There were a few of us, of course – California is no Utah, but neither is it the Eastern U.S. – but us Latter-day Saints didn’t really hang out in the same circles.

This is by no means a lament – I had wonderful friends, inside and outside the Church, and I’m all the better for them. Being part of a diverse crowd, however, did give me the chance to see how other churches did things. Continue reading Camp. With Girls.

Sugar and Spice and RIGHTEOUS FURY!!!

Kate Kelly published a commentary on her upcoming disciplinary council. I’d like to comment on that commentary, and I decided the best way to do that was within the text itself. You can find it below, along with my thoughts.

I feel sad, because it sounds like Kelly’s resolved to leaving the Church, and using this as a catalyst to maintain media attention for however long her 15 minutes lasts. Too bad. Continue reading Sugar and Spice and RIGHTEOUS FURY!!!

#livingauthentically

Kate Kelly was informed on June 8 that there will be a disciplinary council trying her for apostasy. Holy Bloggernacle explosion!

Holy Kate Kelly, Batman

For my part, I’m saddened by this, just as I would be saddened by any person being potentially deprived of the blessings of Church membership. Neylan McBaine expresses that sentiment quite perfectly, I think. I’ve read her post a number of times, and there’s really nothing I would object to or add my own nuance to. Because of that, I really encourage you to read her post.

Still, I wonder if McBaine’s tears are in vain. Continue reading #livingauthentically

A Harmful Address from General Conference

I like to explore the blogosphere after General Conference ends. I’m interested in the reactions that others have to the words of the Church leaders, men who I consider to be prophets, seers, and revelators. This helps me to think more critically about what I’ve heard, which in turn builds my testimony in what they’ve said.

One particular post caught my eye. A marriage and family therapist, and member of the LDS Church, wrote a post on the Saturday morning session of General Conference, dividing each speaker’s comments into (potentially) three sections:

  • Messages I Found to be Healthy and Uplifting
  • Messages I Found to be Needing of Further Nuance/Discussion
  • Messages I Found to be Harmful

The first two sections aren’t anything special – this blog, for example, is a place where I often add my own nuance and discussion (from my perspective, of course) to the words of prophets. That third section, though, piqued my interest, perhaps because it’s an idea that is so foreign to me – it’s a short walk from “harmful” to “dismissible,” and that concerns me ever so slightly.

In the interest of adding to the dialogue, I’d like to look at the “harmful” portions identified by this blogger in Jeffrey R. Holland’s address. Continue reading A Harmful Address from General Conference

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 10

Go back to Part 1.

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.

  • NIV: We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
  • NLT: Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son.

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.

Yet this will be somewhat more involved than when we looked at Jeremiah because of something called the johannine comma.

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.”

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 9

Go back to Part 1.

2 Peter 1:16-21

Remember TBC’s second volley? They write,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes!… It is also highly informative to note that though Peter received direct revelation from both the Father and the Son, he emphatically declared the Bible to be “. . .a more sure word of prophecy. . .” (2 Peter 1:16-21).”

Clues from the Context, Again

When Peter speaks of “a more sure word of prophecy”, what is his intent? Let’s look at some contextual clues. Earlier in the chapter, Peter makes his intent clear. He says,

“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:8, 10).

As any good minister, Peter wants those he teaches to be saved through Jesus Christ, and he is going to accomplish this (also as any good minster) by preaching about the Savior.

But he wants to head off a concern he expects from his listeners. Is Christianity just a fancy trick? He tells them,

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16).

If they were not following cunningly devised fables, from where did their testimony come? Peter continues that their testimony is based on their eyewitness accounts (including at the baptism of the Savior and on the Mount of Transfiguration) and the words of the prophets, found in the scriptures, which we should also heed.

But is his intent to promote the written prophecies above personal revelation, or modern revelation, as TBC suggests? No! Look at how Peter continues.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Because scripture is given by the Holy Ghost, it must be interpreted by the Holy Ghost. This includes inspired teachers like Peter, and this is why Peter is so concerned about false teachers in the next chapter who “deny the Lord that bought them” and “with feigned words make merchandise” of parishioners (2 Peter 2:1, 3).

TBC would like us to believe that when Peter says “a more sure word of prophecy” he means the Bible, the closed cannon that most Christians believe it to be today. What evidence do they have to substantiate this? In short, nothing.

As shown above, the scriptures are a vital part of our testimony, and they must be interpreted through revelation from the Holy Ghost, for they were given by the power of God through the Holy Ghost.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 8

Go back to Part 1.

The Authority of the Word of God

TBC’s second volley continues the trend of wresting the scriptures. They write,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes! The prophet Isaiah has said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Here the only reliable testimony is identified as the written Word of God. That certainly explains why the Apostle Paul commanded his readers to study the Bible, the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”

The Circular Argument

Can you see the problem with their argument? I’ll give you another chance. TBC argues,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes! The prophet Isaiah has said, “To the law and to the testimony….” Here the only reliable testimony is identified as the written Word of God.”

Do you see it? I’ll give you some more help.

  • Christian – “The Bible is the Word of God!”
  • Non-Christian – “How do you know?”
  • Christian – “Because it says in the Bible that the Bible is the Word of God!”
  • Non-Christian – “?”

Anything? Maybe it would help to see things from a different perspective.

  • Mormon – “The Book of Mormon is the Word of God!”
  • Christian – “How do you know?”
  • Mormon – “Because it says in the Book of Mormon that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God!”
  • Christian – “Oh! I want to be baptized!” 😉

See it now?

This is an unfortunately frequent, and horribly circular, argument used by mainstream Christians. One Latter-day Saint, speaking of how many Christians today practice what could be referred to as “Bibliolatry”, said, “The Bible is not the object of our faith; it is one of the sources of our faith.” This “Bible Worship” at the center of Christianity may be why mainstream Christians cling so tightly to this fallacious argument.

Unless we can first know whether or not the Bible is true, we cannot know if anything it says it true, including that it is God’s word.

So how do we know that the Bible is true? What can confirm the truthfulness of God’s word?

Certainly we have physical evidence to  support the people and places of the scriptures. We can find evidence that Moses lived and wrote what the Bible says he did. Yet this does not prove that what he wrote was true. We can find evidence of the historical Jesus, but how can we know that Jesus is the Son of God?

Only God can confirm his word, and he has chosen to do this through the Holy Ghost. Matthew writes,

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

“And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17).

Isaiah 8:20

What does Isaiah say about confirming truth?

He does not say that the only source of truth is the Bible (the Bible was not even compiled in his day!). He does not say that the only way to confirm truth is to see whether or not it is in accordance with other revealed scripture. Much like Paul in Galatians, Isaiah is only saying that God is consistent, and that, for example, the truth he reveals in the New Testament will be according to what he revealed in the Old Testament. He says,

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

For Latter-day Saints, what God revealed in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants is according to what was revealed in the Bible. Silly, misinformed Christians may contradict this claim, but obviously we would have to investigate these objections on a case by case basis, and it’s not my purpose to do so here.

Clearly, Isaiah does not help TBC’s argument in this case.

2 Timothy 2:15

What does Paul teach Timothy about confirming truth?

He does not really teach anything about confirming truth. He doesn’t really teach anything about studying the scriptures, either, as TBC suggests. Instead, he teaches about using the scriptures. Paul says,

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

The last phrase, “rightly dividing,” could be translated, “setting forth without perversion, distortion”. It’s unfortunate TBC does not heed Paul’s counsel, and set forth the truth without perverting it or distorting it.

Clearly, Paul does not help TBC’s argument in this case.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 7

Go back to Part 1.

Jeremiah 17:9

The first wave in TBC’s attack comes in the form of a twisted Jeremiah 17:9:

“A basic Bible fact is Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. . .” Therefore, it may be concluded that even a burning conviction or “testimony” is totally untrustworthy. Tragically, even many “answers to prayer” fall under this description when based primarily on feelings.”

Whew, I hardly know where to start.

Clues from the Context

When Jeremiah speaks of the heart, to what is he referring? Let’s look at some contextual clues. Earlier in that chapter Jeremiah teaches,

“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord…

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (Jeremiah 17:5,7).

Jeremiah contrasts those who trust in man with those who trust in God. One’s heart departs from the Lord, and one’s “heart” is with him. Of the heart of he who “maketh flesh his arm”, Jeremiah then teaches,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

He then promises that

“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Clearly, the heart is related to where we put our hope or trust. What else can we learn from the context?

Throughout the chapter Jeremiah uses the word “heart” four times, and each time as a symbol for innermost desires. Clearly, “heart” here is not a symbol for “feelings”, or even for revelation from the Holy Ghost. Our heart is a symbol for our innermost desires, and those who put their trust in God will find that he will test and try their hearts so that they become purified and centered in him.

There is a fantastic sermon here, but it has nothing to do with revelation. As such, we cannot draw the conclusion that TBC draws, that testimonies or answers to prayer connected to emotions are “totally untrustworthy”.

Heart – Our Innermost Desires

Surely this must be some fringe Mormon interpretation, right?

Not at all. From the Bible Tools page for Jeremiah 17:9, we get a similar interpretation. John Ritenbaugh teaches,

“A person breaks the second commandment when he exalts himself against God by trusting in his own or another’s reasoning and lives that way rather than the way God ordained and commanded.  Too often, the heart is easily led to satisfy its own desires rather than follow revealed knowledge. But God faithfully searches and tests our hearts to rid us of all idolatries so we will follow His way as closely as possible.

He continues,

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep — that is, guard, preserve, and maintain — our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits…. The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God’s holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

This kind of legitimate commentary is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

More from the Scriptures

And what do other scriptures teach about the heart? I’ll offer just two references from a myriad examples.

Paul tells us,

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

And the Savior himself promised that

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

The heart is not condemned in scripture. Just the opposite, it plays a key role in our salvation.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 6

Go back to Part 1.

The Question We are After

TBC continues, off their straw man distortions in the first paragraph might I add,

“But does feeling something is true make it so? Does profound belief assure truthfulness? Can feelings be depended upon to be the witness of the Spirit? When, for example, two opposing religionists both “know” their respective viewpoints are “true” because of personal “revelation” or an inner warm glow, how can it be determined which, if either of them, is correct?”

These rhetorical questions, while being used to set up a deathblow to the LDS perspective, are generally on the right track. Does feeling something is true make it so? No. Does profound belief assure truthfulness? No. Can feelings be depended upon to be the witness of the Spirit? Not always, certainly.

Yet Latter-day Saints would not answer any of these questions in the affirmative, nor would we need to in order to remain on solid theological ground. Any assumption otherwise is just incorrect.

And of course, the last question is what I’ve been trying to get at this whole time. It’s just another way of asking, “How can I come to know spiritual truth?”

TBC’s answer to this question is to rely only to the Bible. This is problematic in many ways, not least of which is that this technique to knowing spiritual truth is fundamentally dependent on how men interpret the Bible.

What makes this problematic? The pastors, teachers, and preachers of mainstream Christianity are all men, flawed men, mortal men, men who deny that God still speaks to us.

What does that mean, really? Whether they be modern pastors, or Church Fathers, or early reformers, none of the men teaching us what the Bible means claim to be, as Peter puts it, “holy men of God [speaking] as they [are] moved by the Holy Ghost” (see 2 Peter 1:16-21).

That’s problematic.