Should the cross just be an afterthought?

How one viewed the historical events remembered over the past week makes all the difference in the world. Yesterday some families woke up and had the kids hunt for Easter eggs before putting the ham in the oven and driving to a local church for the semiannual visit. Happy EasterAt the end of the day, everything probably felt satisfying. How many of these folks woke up this morning (this is traditionally even called “Easter Monday”) with nothing changed, just another “Monday Monday” as the memory of Easter is bound to quickly fade away?

Suppose you were visiting Seattle in early February 2014, less than a week after the city’s football team won a Super Bowl championship. A million people fill the streets as well as the city’s two stadiums for a celebration of the arrival of the Vince Lombardi trophy. Players on the team stand in flatbed trucks that wind through the parade route heading to the football stadium. Because you’re not a football fan and don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t quite appreciate the exuberance of these crazy people, but you still become excited and join the festivities anyway. Somebody hands you a hard-to-get ticket so you can enter the stadium and watch the presentation of the trophy, with the “12th man” crowd roaring its approval throughout the afternoon.  It is all very exciting, even for someone who doesn’t quite get what all the fuss is about.

Now switch to the person who has been a faithful fan since the Seahawks were invented in the mid-1970s. There were plenty of losing seasons for those Seattle faithful, as hopes were usually dashed by late November or at least by early December, yielding annual frustration for the fan base. Of course, at the end of most seasons, these fans were fond of saying, “Wait till next year.” Winning a Super Bowl was just a fairy tale fantasy.

Throughout the 2013 season, the Seahawks had many ups but also a number of downs, including several injuries to key players and close losses to top teams later in the season. Yet the team got a win in its last regular season game to claim the conference’s top playoff spot. Seahawks FansTwo weeks later, victory was easily secured in the first playoff game. In the NFC Championship game, it appeared that the team’s rivals—the San Francisco 49ers—would be successful in marching down the field for a winning touchdown with only a minute left. However, when a Seahawks cornerback tipped a potential game-winning touchdown pass and the ball floated to a teammate for an interception, the invitation to the Big Game was sealed.  Two weeks later, the Seahawks crushed their AFC opponent, claiming their first-ever Super Bowl. Despite enduring many years of losing seasons, the newfound “we are the champions” song blaring in the stadium had to be ever sweet for fans in attendance as well as those watching on TV!

Now it’s a few days later and time for the victory celebration. Ask yourself, which one of these two people attending the parade will have fully celebrated: the visitor who just happened to be in Seattle that day or the fanatic who lived and breathed Seahawks football since 1976? I think the answer is obvious.

To someone who grasps the significance of Easter, it would be impossible to celebrate on Sunday and then return to life as normal on Monday. The whole story must be understood, starting from the time a baby was born in a manger; after all, this “God in the flesh” was sent from heaven above to provide forgiveness of sins (Matt 1:21). This child became a man, dwelling among the people with whom He was sent to save (1 John 1:1-8). Even though He was hated by many, Jesus ended up entering Jerusalem on a donkey and was proclaimed the “king of kings.” Ultimately, He was hanged on a cross before uttering the words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

AtTheCrossThe events that took place on this gruesome day known as “Good” Friday might be considered a “wait till next time” moment by observers.  Certainly this was not the way the disciples must have pictured the ending. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, the apostle Paul admitted that there was a discrepancy between expectations and reality when he wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” He added in verse 22 that “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

Just when all hope looked lost, Easter took place on the third day! To a person who grasps the events of Good Friday, the ultimate celebration (“He is not here, He is risen”–Matthew 28:6) is a glorious moment!

While today’s LDS leaders are very careful to include discussion of the cross in their discussion of the “Atonement”—for example, see the April 2014 Ensign article titled “Special Witnesses Testify of the Living Christ”— they have typically minimized the death on the cross and rather  stressed the event taking place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although not a general authority, BYU professor Robert J. Matthews best sums up the LDS perspective:

“It was in Gethsemane, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, that Jesus made his perfect atonement by the shedding of his blood–more so than on the cross.” (A Bible! A Bible! p. 282)

Thirteenth president Ezra Taft Benson would have agreed with such an assessment:

“It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg.14)

Showing he had no clue about the importance of what took place on the cross, fifteenth president Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

“But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of a Living Christ.” (“The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, April 2005, p. 3)

No New Testament author claimed that the blood spilled in the Garden of Gethsemane should be considered efficacious for even a partial atonement for sins. Rather, as the saying goes, the “devil is in the details.” It is the death of Jesus, not His perspiration, that is stressed in the biblical record. (See Bill McKeever’s article “Why Not Gethsemane?” for more details.) As the writer of the book of Hebrews put it, “a will is in force only when somebody has died.” (See Heb. 9:16-22.) I therefore maintain that it is impossible to fully celebrate Easter without first having a proper perspective of the brutality and seeming finality of Good Friday. Understanding that He died in our place so that we could live in His place is a vital concept for those hoping to celebrate Resurrection Day.

If this is understood, the refrain of the old Isaac Watts hymn “At the Cross” will play ever true even the week after Easter:

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

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For the Sake of Love

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Could this be…my Savior?

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Being nice to Mormons — let’s just all get along

Blogger Matt Walsh has been taking some heat these days. Or, to be more accurate, Matt takes heat every day. Matt stands strong on important issues, and Matt does not mince words. In response to the sorts of comments he gets on his blog, he has written a provocatively-titled article: “Jesus didn’t care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.” He begins,

“There is no shortage of heresies these days.

“If you want to adopt some blasphemous, perverted, fun house mirror reflection of Christianity, you will find a veritable buffet of options. You can sift through all the variants and build your own little pet version of the Faith. It’s Ice Cream Social Christianity: make your own sundae! (Or Sunday, as it were.)

“And, of all the heretical choices, probably the most common — and possibly the most damaging — is what I’ve come to call the Nice Doctrine.

“The propagators of the Nice Doctrine can be seen and heard from anytime any Christian takes any bold stance on any cultural issue, or uses harsh language of any kind, or condemns any sinful act, or fights against evil with any force or conviction at all. As soon as he or she stands and says ‘This is wrong, and I will not compromise,’ the heretics swoop in with their trusty mantras.

JesusCleansingTemple“They insist that Jesus was a nice man, and that He never would have done anything to upset people. They say that He came down from Heaven to preach tolerance and acceptance, and He wouldn’t have used words that might lead to hurt feelings. They confidently sermonize about a meek and mild Messiah who was born into this Earthly realm on a mission to spark a constructive dialogue.

“The believers in Nice Jesus are usually ignorant of Scripture, but they do know that He was ‘friends with prostitutes,’ and once said something about how, like, we shouldn’t get too ticked off about stuff, or whatever. In their minds, he’s essentially a supernatural Cheech Marin.”

While The Matt Walsh Blog and Mormon Coffee differ significantly on topics discussed, we share common exposure to propagators of the Nice Doctrine. That’s why I think Matt’s comments in this particular article would be of interest to the Mormon Coffee community. That, and the fact that later this week Christians all over the world remember and contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus, which was preceded by some of His less-than-nice behavior.

Matt Walsh writes about the Jesus he finds in the Bible:

“I read of a strong, manly, stern, and bold Savior. Compassionate, yes. Forgiving, of course. Loving, always loving. But not particularly nice.

“He condemned. He denounced. He caused trouble. He disrupted the established order.

“On one occasion — or at least one recorded occasion — He used violence. This Jesus saw the money changers in the temple and how did He respond? He wasn’t polite about it. I’d even say He was downright intolerant. He fashioned a whip (this is what the lawyers would call ‘premeditation’) and physically drove the merchants away. He turned over tables and shouted. He caused a scene. [John 2:15]

“Assault with a deadly weapon. Vandalism. Disturbing the peace. Worse still, intolerance.

“In two words: not nice…

“Jesus deliberately did and said things that He knew would upset people. He stirred up division and controversy. He provoked. He didn’t have to break from established customs, but He did. He didn’t have to heal that man’s hand on the Sabbath, knowing how it would disturb others and cause them immense irritation, but He did, and He did so with ‘anger’ [Mark 3:5]. He could have gone with the flow a little bit. He could have chilled out and let bygones be bygones, but He didn’t. He could have been diplomatic, but He wasn’t.

“He could have told everyone to relax, but instead He made them uncomfortable. He could have put them at ease, but He chose to put them on edge.”

And by putting them on edge, He made enemies. Yet He didn’t flinch, even though He knew His enemies would put Him to death. Death on a cross. For them. For the sake of – and because of love for — His enemies.

Now, as Matt Walsh notes, Jesus is God and we are not. Jesus has more street cred than we do. So shouldn’t we be nicer than Jesus was? Shouldn’t we avoid confrontation and dispute, and be willing to just agree to disagree? In Matt’s words,

“[W]e are called to be like Christ, which begs the question: what is Christ like?

“Well, He is, among other things, uncompromising. He is intolerant of evil. He is disruptive. He is sometimes harsh. He is sometimes impolite. He is sometimes angry.

“He is always loving.”

So must we be always loving.

Love has many faces. It is loving to comfort; it is also loving to challenge. It is loving to encourage; and it is loving to pull the rug out from under someone who is complacently living a lie while heading for a Christ-less eternity.

Jesus’ love compelled Him to both tenderness and aggressive confrontation. So too, as the Bible says, Christ’s love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14), His people:

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Why? Because the day of God’s wrath is coming. We’ve seen Jesus angry, and we’ve seen the earth quake at His death; but honestly, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

GodsWrathWhen Jesus returns He will have a sickle in His hand to reap grapes of wrath. A sharp sword will proceed out of His mouth to strike the nations. And when the winepress of the wrath of God is trampled, blood will flow from it for miles. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (see Revelation chapters 14, 19 and 20).

When Jesus returns, He’s not going to be nice.

Does it offend you, Mormon friends, to be shown that you are following a false prophet? Does it upset you when we demonstrate that your church is not the kingdom of God on earth as it claims? Does it hurt your feelings when we point out that the Bible says all your so-called works of righteousness are but filthy rags before our holy God? Or when we warn you that the Christ of Mormonism is a “different Jesus”? Or when we proclaim that your only eternal hope is to trust in the true Christ, and to trust in Him alone? So be it. It may not sound especially nice, but we implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.

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Capstone Conference Today

There is a pretty amazing 1-2-3 punch today of Sandra Tanner, Bill McKeever, and Rob Bowman. Come after lunch to Calvary Chapel Salt Lake City and hear them all at the Capstone Conference.

2:00-2:45pm Sandra Tanner – “Apostasy in Sweden: An Example of a Larger Crisis”

3:00-3:45pm Bill McKeever – “The new ‘Gospel Topics’ essays: When transparency is, at best, opaque.”

4:00-4:45pm Rob Bowman – “From Mormonism to Skepticism: Answers for Mormons Who Are Losing Their Faith”

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Mormonism’s Prophetic Authority and Selective Disobedience

Mormon blogger Jana Riess writes about “selective obedience” in her April 7th (2014) blog. She’s responding to a comment made by LDS apostle Robert Hales at last weekend’s General Conference. In his address, Mr. Hales contrasted three types of behavior: disobedience (rejection of God’s law), selective obedience, and mature Christ-like obedience. As reported by Deseret News, Mr. Hales said,

“At times members may participate in ‘selective obedience,’ claiming to love God and honor God while picking and choosing which of His commandments and teachings— and the teachings and counsel of His prophets — we will fully follow.”

GC Conference CenterIn her blog, Ms. Riess takes issue with Mr. Hales’ teaching, noting that “selective obedience is where most of us live. Of course we pick and choose. Of course we have to pray and make decisions.”

Ms. Riess contrasts her chosen “selective obedience” with those who take an all-or-nothing approach to LDS “prophetic authority.” There are those who believe “every statement that proceeds from a church leader’s mouth is gospel,” and there are those who “witness the overwhelming evidence of historical change in the Mormon tradition and conclude that little or nothing in the religion can be inspired.”

Ms. Riess recognizes that historical evidence exists that demonstrates past Church leaders have been wrong on occasion:

“that God denounced interracial marriage, for example, or that African-Americans would never be worthy to hold the priesthood by divine decree. Brigham Young taught that polygamy was an essential practice to prepare a person for life in the Celestial Kingdom (though some of his other statements qualified this). He also believed that there might be a Loch Ness-style monster living in the Bear Lake, which traveled via an underground tunnel to its other home in the Great Salt Lake.

“Clearly, none of this is current LDS teaching.

“So I’m not on board with the idea that I should simply accept anything proposed in General Conference, even if it is reiterated at different times by different general authorities…”

Yet Ms. Riess is not “ready to dismiss the many beautiful, true, and thought-provoking things that were said at General Conference” and therefore takes a middle-of-the-road approach. She chooses which “prophetic” teachings she will accept, and which she will dismiss.

In some ways, this reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ famous trilemma, expressed in his book Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Like Jesus in Lewis’ trilemma argument, Mormonism has not left open the option that Jana Riess prefers — that Mormon “prophetic authority” can go terribly wrong sometimes, but at other times should be embraced as “beautiful, true and thought-provoking.”

This self-same “prophetic authority” has decisively pronounced the all-or-nothing argument that Ms. Riess rejects.

doctrine-and-covenantsMormon Scripture says of Mormon elders:

“And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.” (D&C 68:4-5)

Mormon Scripture says of Joseph Smith (and by extension, subsequent Mormon prophets):

“thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 21:4-5)

The Mormon manual Gospel Principles explains Mormon Scripture:

“A prophet is a man called by God to be His representative on earth. When a prophet speaks for God, it is as if God were speaking (see D&C 1:38).”

If Mormons leaders holding “prophetic authority” speak for an omniscient God, then they cannot be wrong when speaking on spiritual matters. They cannot lead the Church astray with false doctrine. If they do, they are not speaking for God. Those holding “prophetic authority,” in their roles as prophets, seers and revelators, have taught:

“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 212-213)

“We are most fortunate to have a living prophet at the head of the Church to guide us, and all who heed his counsel will be partakers of the promised blessings which will not be enjoyed by those who fail to accept his messages…Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the debate is over.” (N. Eldon Tanner [First Counselor in the First Presidency], “The Debate is Over,” Ensign, August 1979, 2)

“One cannot successfully attack true principles or doctrine, because they are eternal. The revelations that came through the Prophet Joseph Smith are still correct! …when you pick up a stick you pick up both ends. And so it is with the gospel. As members of the Church we need to accept all of it.” (James E. Faust, “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign, November 2003, 21-22)

Early Mormon apostle Orson Pratt proffered:

“If one portion of the doctrines of the Church is true, the whole of them are true. If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them, because it is utterly impossible, according to the revelations that are contained in these books, to believe a part of them to be divine—from God—and part of them to be from the devil; that is foolishness in the extreme…” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 17:224)

As much as Jana Riess and other liberal Latter-day Saints would like to approach Mormon “prophetic authority” as one might approach a dinner buffet, Mormonism does not give them that option. President James Faust did not allow for that kind of thinking:

“Revelations from the prophets of God are not like offerings at the cafeteria, some to be selected and others disregarded.” (ibid., Ensign, November 2003, 22)

Moses parts the Red SeaMormons cannot have their cake and eat it, too.  Either the prophets speak for God and what they teach is true, or they do not speak for God at all. Mormonism leaves no room for any conclusion other than (to borrow from C. S. Lewis),

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things the Mormon prophet(s) said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either what this man spoke, and speaks, is ‘the will…mind…word…voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation,’ or else he is a madman or something worse.”

And if the Mormon Church is led by a “madman,” if what its prophets, seers and revelators say are lies or delusions, then the Mormon Church is a fraud and the eternal promises it makes are null and void. Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley insisted,

“Each of us has to face the matter – either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” (“Loyalty,” Ensign, May, 2003, 60).

Dear Mormons, it is “foolishness in the extreme” to believe that a true prophet, whose very words are “scripture,” would teach false doctrine (“whatever comes from the voices of those who hold that authority is scripture, no matter of what they may speak,” J. Reuben Clark, Jr. [First Counselor in the First Presidency], Conference Reports, April 1944, 112).

In truth it is all-or-nothing. The Mormon Church is the kingdom of God…or nothing. The conclusion is inescapable: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by its own definition, is nothing.

But do not lose hope my friends, for here…here is something. Here is our nothing covered by God’s all.

Posted in Authority and Doctrine, D&C and Pearl of Great Price, General Conference, LDS Church, Mormon Leaders, Prophets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Counter-Creed to “Practical Mormonism Atheism”

Practical Mormon AtheismThe Contraries
1Even if Mormonism is false, it is still worth believing and ought not be refuted.Mormonism, if false, ought not be “left alone”, but ought to be refuted and engaged and deconstructed.
2Faith is ultimately irrational.Faith is partly but vitally rooted in evidence that can be publicly scrutinized.
3Even if you don’t believe in God, you should still stay on the membership rolls and consider yourself a Mormon.Those who turn atheist can keep attending as welcomed guests, but ought not attend as members, and ought not self-identify as a member of any religion they no longer believe in.
4If the LDS Church isn’t true, there is no God.There are plenty of reasons to believe in a first, Most High, absolutely ultimate God outside of Mormonism.
5How you live your life is more important than what you believe.Beliefs are primary and behavior is secondary, because the only behavior that matters is that which flows from true and right belief.
6I can’t believe in a God who demands worship.God is a jealous God who demands that he be praised and worshipped as the best of all beings, and will harshly punish those who refuse to worship him.
7It doesn’t matter if it’s true. What matters is whether it is official.“Non-official” teachings of our tradition, culture, literature, and institution ought to be scrutinized.
8I proudly mentally disassociate from the content and implications of my belief system.We love systematic, integrated theology, and thinking through the implications of our worldview.
9The Church is true. Even if I don’t believe this or basically understand it, I can bear testimony of it.We insist that neither we nor our children bear such testimony until we basically understand and believe what this means.
10There was a conspiracy to fundamentally corrupt the Bible. It is untrustworthy and we look elsewhere for truth.We trust the Bible to not have been fundamentally corrupted, we encourage the study of original Biblical languages, and we value exegesis and examine the teachings of our leaders against the most probable original meaning of the text.
11Apart from Mormonism, I have no good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.Outside of Mormonism there are good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
12The existence of my personhood is not owing to any god.My personhood is not co-eternal with God or any other intelligences, rather God himself created my essential personhood at a point in time.
13Everything is matter and nothing is immaterial.Not everything is composed of matter. Some things are immaterial spirit.
14There is no ultimate personal being who is the ground of all other being.There is an ultimate being from whom absolutely all other things (not to be relativized to one generation of the gods) come.
15There is no first cause.There is a first cause.
16There are impersonal eternal laws that govern everything.All eternal laws come from an ultimate personal being.

 

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Mormons and Muslims Similar in Many Ways

Blue Mosque by night – IstanbulBack in 2005 Robert Velarde and Eric Johnson co-wrote an article for the CRI Journal comparing Mormons and Muslims. The authors looked at four areas of differences (i.e., views of Creation, God, Jesus, and humankind’s final state) and four areas of similarities (i.e., origins, scripture, restoration, and the human condition).

In 2008 the Los Angeles Times reported on a growing bond between Muslims and Mormons. The article noted a statement made by a BYU professor to the effect that positive Mormon attitudes toward Islam had resulted in (among other things) “Mormonism’s being called the Islam of America.”

In 2010 Aaron Shafovaloff explained to Mormon Coffee readers that LDS apologist and leading scholar on Islam, Daniel Peterson, was unwilling or unable to take a position on whether Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, was a false prophet or “a genuine prophet of some sort.”

In 2012 Huffington Post contributor Eliza Wood asked “Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?” Before providing readers with a list of 19 similarities between Islam and Mormonism, Ms. Wood wrote, “While in some ways neither Islam nor Mormonism is very much like Christianity, the two faiths actually have a lot of similarities.”

jesus-is-muslim-billboardAnd that brings us to today as yet another similarity between Mormons and Muslims has appeared – this in the area of public relations. The Christian Post reports that controversial billboards are showing up around Columbus, Ohio that state, “Jesus is Muslim,” “Muhammad is in the Bible,” and “Muslims love Jesus too,” The organization responsible for the billboards is ask-a-muslim.com. This organization insists, “When you have questions about Islam, ask a Muslim.” On the website, under the heading “Jesus was Muslim,” is this declaration:

“Muslims are Christians

“For starters, Muslims are Christians – if ‘Christian’ means someone following the teachings of Christ, so by learning about Islam you are not disobeying Jesus…

“Muslims are following the teachings of Jesus, while most Christians have began to follow the Church – this is why the Quran needed to be revealed.  (Holy Quran 9:31)…

“Please remember Islam = following Jesus. Muhammad confirmed Jesus.”

Ask-a-muslim.com is a group of Muslims who live in Ohio. They are

“dedicated to educating you about Islam, giving you a chance to hear about Islam from practicing Muslims… We invite people to have an open discourse with us. All we ask you to do, is ask us whatever questions you have about Islam, and we’ll gladly and honestly answer them. We believe that clearing up the many misconceptions about Islam will make this world a better place. A place with less violence and hatred, filled with mutual respect and understanding.”

AskAMormonHow does the statement, “Muslims are Christians” clear up misconceptions about Islam? How does the claim “Islam = following Jesus” foster greater understanding of the religion and its adherents?

According to Velarde and Johnson,

“Muslims do acknowledge Jesus as a great prophet and accept His virgin birth,sinlessness,and miracles, but they adamantly reject His deity as well as His death by crucifixion. Some Muslims argue that someone else died in the place of Jesus.Because Muslims often interpret in a literal fashion the Christian doctrine of God ‘begetting’ a Son, they hold that Christians add another being to the nature of God. This is blasphemous to the Islamic mindset, since Allah is the only God and can therefore have no companions.”

Likewise, when Mormons talk about Jesus there is a theological disconnect between what Mormonism teaches and the biblical Christ:

“Latter-day Saints affirm the divinity of Christ and His virgin birth, miracles, and bodily resurrection. This may seem orthodox, but a closer look at LDS teaching reveals significant points of disagreement with Christian positions on these doctrines. For instance, while LDS leaders say Jesus is the ‘Son of God’ and ‘the Only Begotten Son in the flesh,’ they do not hold that He is God in the flesh or the second person of the Trinity. In Mormon theology, Jesus is one god among many. Also, Mormons have claimed that the virgin birth involved a physical union between God the Father and Mary.” (Velarde and Johnson)

Coach Dave Daubenmire of Pass the Salt Ministries in Ohio has responded to the “Ask a Muslim” campaign by organizing a Christian rally to counter the misleading statements on the billboards:

“‘Although we support the Islamic community’s right to free speech, as well as their right to post messages on billboards, we do not support the hi-jacking of the name of Jesus Christ in their attempt to lure uninformed Christians into their religion,’ Coach Dave Daubenmire said.

“Daubenmire continued, ‘Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and resurrected over 600 years before the birth of Mohammed.  Although Islam honors Jesus as a prophet, they do not believe that He is the risen Son of God.  During this most Holy Lenten Season we find the messages on the billboards to be insensitive, dishonest and deserving of a response from concerned Christians. We will be on the streets to proclaim Jesus is NOT Muslim but Jesus is Lord!!’”

This is something I never saw coming. Mormons and Muslims now share an effort to be identified as Christians. They share the desire to have their respective religions recognized as the true religion of Jesus Christ. They share a willingness to spin and blur the truth in order to achieve their proselytizing goals. And because of all this, there is one more thing they share: Challenges to these misleading claims by Christians who are committed to stand firm for the truth, stand firm for the cause of Christ.

Posted in LDS Church, Misconceptions | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

New church essay distances LDS Church from Joseph Smith

Breaking news as reported by Peggy Fletcher Stuck:

joseph-smith-statueOver the past few months, there have been essays published on LDS.org concerning the First Vision, Race and the Priesthood, plural marriage, the Book of Mormon translation, and Becoming Like God. Now, in a paper that appears to top the others, the sixth essay was published yesterday that is causing shock waves around the world. Titled “Distancing the Church from Joseph Smith,” church authorities  indicate that the LDS Church wants nothing more to do with the legacy of Joseph Smith.

According to the article:

“Joseph Smith was a farm boy with a fifth grade education. While he certainly was gifted in many ways by God, it has never been claimed that Smith was responsible for ending the Great Apostasy that started in the third century. In fact, there could have been no such event as a ‘great’ apostasy if the apostle John and the Three Nephites are still alive and never lost their priesthood. Thus, while Joseph was indeed responsible for starting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of our people place too much emphasis upon this man who is just like you and me, a human with many frailties just like ours.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency, likened the move to his days as a pilot for a German airline. He claimed that “just as I flew for many years, Joseph Smith is like an eagle soaring above the plains. He’s a good eagle, no doubt, but to give too much prominence to one man would be irresponsible since our church is centered on Jesus Christ. Just consider the name of our church and you’ll know what I mean.”

Among other issues, the article cited Smith’s polygamous ways with 34 women as “irresponsible, especially when it is considered that a third of his wives were teenagers and another third married to other men’s wives.” Also specifically cited as “blasphemous” was Smith’s infamous “King Follett Discourse,” a speech given by Smith claiming that people could become gods.

As far as the death of Joseph Smith, the article states that Smith did not die as a martyr.  It admitted that because Joseph Smith had a smuggled gun and used it to shoot several of his attackers, the title “martyr” is not an appropriate description. The article stated,

“It is not true that Joseph ever said that he was like a lamb led to the slaughter. Instead, what he said was ‘I am thirsty like a ram led to the water.’ Apparently George G. Watt, the stenographer who later compiled the Journal of Discourses, had a head cold that day and did not fully understand what Smith was trying to say.”

MelPriesthoodProbably most shocking of all is that statues of Joseph Smith as well as his brother Hyrum will be immediately removed from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square area. No indication was given about what would replace these statues.

It’s one thing for the church to lay the blame for the banning of blacks at the feet of Brigham Young or to admit that “some” plural marriages in the LDS Church continued after the Manifesto of 1890. But this move to relegate Joseph Smith to nothing more than a person who spoke his personal opinion seems to be a step unexpected by everyone, including LDS Church president Thomas S. Monson.

President Monson, who made a guest appearance on NBC’s “Nightline with Hugh Downs” and was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune (“LDS President unclear about the legacy of Smith,” Salt Lake Tribune, 3/31/14), said,

“I think Smith had good intentions, but then I think he really had good intentions. He probably intended to have these good intentions, but regardless, Smith’s intentions can’t be faulted.”

While critics of the church hailed the decision, many speculated what this move will mean to the LDS Church. When asked about the paper printed on the LDS website, one BYU professor who asked not to be named merely shook his head and stated, “Not official, not official, not official.”

We’ll keep our ears to the ground and inform you of any updates. Until then, Happy April Fools Day!

Posted in Early Mormonism, Joseph Smith, LDS Church, Mormon History | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Should Christians – or Mormons – participate in the Hindu Holi Festival of Colors?

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Aaron evangelizing at the
2014 Hindu Holi Festival

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Hindu Holi Festival in Spanish Fork, Utah, “draws tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints and others to Krishna Temple.” The 2014 Festival was held this past weekend. The Washington Post reported,

“’It’s an opportunity for young LDS (Mormon) kids to come and celebrate their spirituality without alcohol or drugs,’ said Caru Das, the temple’s priest.”

Listen as Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson discuss the Holi Festival and its spiritual significance on Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Posted in Mormon Culture | Tagged , | 46 Comments