Conversation with Stephen at Temple Square

We discuss General Conference, the Lorenzo Snow couplet, whether God was possibly once a sinner, whether God demands praise, whether God gets all the glory, and some other things. (30m 6s)

Direct link to MP3

Yes, I’m horrible with names. I think I asked him three times!

Some passages referenced in the conversation:

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9-11)

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:4-11; I wish I had read this whole passage!)

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

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10 Responses to Conversation with Stephen at Temple Square

  1. iamse7en says:

    I thought Stephen did a great job, answering some questions that we just don’t know the answers to.

    Conference is great: it helps me to re-evaluate my standing with God, and what things that I must change/adjust to become closer to him, or become more Christ-like. I am inspired to help my brothers and sisters, and to draw closer to God through faith, study, and prayer.

    A lot of the conversation was speculation: we just don’t know the nature of his mortal existence, only that he had one. All in all, I thought Stephen did a great job. He seemed very cordial and respectful, and I thought Aaron was too. (Haven’t finished listening to all of it though).

  2. It is speculation for the Mormon, of course. For the Christian, it is absolutely the case that God the Father never once even possibly sinned. That’s an important reason we can worship God for being God. For all we know, the Mormon God could have confessed adultery, coveting, lying, stealing, and idolatry to his bishop.

  3. Lautensack says:

    At about minute 14 Stephen says that in the original Hebrew the word for anger in Isaiah 48:9 is not that strong. The word here is Aphi [(Alph)(Pe)] this same word is used of Potiphar in Genesis 39:19 when his wrath is turned against Joseph due to the words of his wife. Are we then to believe that Potiphar wasn’t really that mad at Joseph for allegedly sleeping with his wife? I submit that Potiphar was pretty angry, angry enough to throw Joseph into jail.

    If any of you would like to study the original language of the Old Testament, Hebrew I would suggest Basics of Biblical Hebrew and A Reader’s Hebrew Bible to start.


  4. Berean says:

    I admire Stephen’s honesty in answering the questions. What got my attention is that he freely admitted that he didn’t have a problem with the idea of becoming a god and having his spirit children worship and pray to him. It seems that the LDS Church has recently started to downplay the doctrine of exaltation I think to make themselves more compatible to traditional Christianity which completely rejects this doctrine with numerous Bible texts in support.

    Speaking of Bible texts, Stephen is in favor of a one-sided deity that only has love and sadness when people on earth reject him. However, the other side of the gospel shows that God/Jesus also will spill out His anger in righteous judgement on those (the majority of people) that are walking on the broad road and will in turn be thrown into outer darkness.

  5. Jacob5 says:

    I have a question about the version of the bible that was used. I use the KJV but I noticed some differences. What version do you use? Above all the differences I noticed is that of Hebrews 1:1-2. I would like to understand the reason for the difference between “hath” (which I understand to be “has” in more modern speech) and “but”. I would also like to understand the reason for the change from “worlds” (plural) to “world” (singular).
    I can’t but wonder if there may be a great rift between views of the bible simply because there are differences alone in the different bible versions.
    I also believe that Stephen did a good job. When Lorenzo Snow gave that couplet, he in no way shape or form meant to diminish God. But what it does do is describe our potential. We as God’s children are capable of attaining the same course that God is.
    I believe that Christ can make people clean. As it is described in the bible a man’s sins will be “blotted” out (Isa. 44:22, Acts 3:19) and I tell you, what is a man if his sins are no longer recorded, does he not become sinless? And a just man will be made perfect (Heb. 12:23). So I say that if God is a sinless perfect being, what becomes of another sinless perfect being. Forgive and forget is the bases of the atonement. Once we have repented and have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, we may yet be forgiven of God and He will remember our sins no more. Only human failings carry on the notion of other’s mistakes beyond the repentance. So, even though it is true that it is not a generally taught couplet in our church (which isn’t based on couplets) it still holds up to the scriptures.
    We can never replace our God. We can not diminish His glory. But it is His work and His glory that we can join the path that He has shown us.

  6. eric017 says:

    I honestly believe Stephen and other Mormons sincerely do not want to diminish God by adminiting that the church still has believes that God was once in our shoe and man one day may be in his shoes. Yet at the end of the day, what are we left with? In my view, a diminished God relative to how Christians view God. God, according to LDS theology, was not always all powerful and did not always exist, indeed was not always God. These days it isn’t appropriate for the LDS to talk about becoming Gods, even amongst themselves. The couplet is couched in more less offensive language such as ‘becoming more like our Father in Heaven’. Who doesn’t want that?

    The jist, though, is realizing that it is imposible. We can choose to sin less, but if we truly look inside our hearts we realize that we can never be entirely like God. For one thing, we haven’t always existed. And, we are incapable of completely removing sin from our lives.

    Ignoring for a moment all the inconsistancies of the First Vision stories, the historicity of the BOM, and all the other issues with the LDS church, a Christian who has thier heart changed should realize that this is a different gospel than the one that saved them.

  7. Michael P says:

    Jacob, my response will not address the verses in particulr, but the importance of using different versions. It is true that no one translation is perfect. Each has some strengths and some weaknesses. Each has its own technique and strategy to translate (ie, word for word vs thought for thought.) This would be the same if translating from any language. That said, to get the best picture of the original languages, do we rely on only one translation? No. We get the best idea of the original by viewing all possible translations. We get a better idea of what was meant by seeing more than one way of thinking about the verse. Short of learning the original langauge, this is the best way to read scripture.

  8. Jacob5 says:

    I beg to differ with you Eric. We believe that we have all existed for ever. Although there were points in our existence which saw a transition from one existence to another there was never a time when we did not exist. This why we are trying to get away from the term “pre-existence” which is false. We try to use terms such as “pre-mortal existence”, “pre-earth life”, or “ante-mortal life” which better clarify the state of things.
    As to your sentence stating, “we are incapable of completely removing sin from our lives.” I would ask, do you believe that Christ can remove your sins? If not, then does that not contradict what I have been hearing on this sight of how Christ’s grace is sufficient to save us. Does salvation mean the removal of sin or not? If it does then does that mean we will become sinless? So again I say, what is a man who is made sinless? because only clean things can dwell in God’s presence.
    Now for Michael. I agree there are many interpretations that could be had. I chose that part because they seem to be contradictory. Hath and But have two different meanings, and the transition from plural to singular is also a pretty interesting point. But I say this, if it is claimed by so many that you have the manuscripts of the books we take as canon, then why is it that there are different translations. Shouldn’t people get together and just decide on one single translation. Much argument is made about the Book of Mormon with those changes that were made since its first translation. Then why is it so accepted that we have more than one translation of the bible?

  9. Lautensack says:

    The reason for the two different translations is the evolution of the English language, in 1611 English the contrast between what was said in verse one and what was said in verse two would be clear, as it is in the Greek, however today “Hath” does not necessarily convey the contrast, thus the words translated “in these last days” are translated “but in these last days”, please note that even in the ESV the word has is still there.

    As for the word “worlds” being changed to “world” the word here is (AION) meaning ages, eternity (see Hebrews 1:8), or all that has ever existed and thus can be correctly translated world, worlds or even universes it is a stylistic thing really, the translators of the ESV meant by world, all that ever existed, just as the translators of the KJV meant by worlds all that has ever existed, and it should be noted that this includes time.

    The difference between the bible translations and the Book of Mormon changes is that we have the original languages of the Bible to look back at and interact with where as we only have the 1830 BoM to interact with. Thus the changes to the BoM are not simple updates to language but doctrinal changes. But I would have no problem with someone quoting 1 Nephi 11:18 “And he said to me, “Behold, the virgin who you see is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.” As an updated version of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon.
    [Actual text reads “And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”]
    Where as the current text reads “And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.” (emphasis mine) Note the doctrinal change.


  10. eric017 says:

    I know you believe that our soals always existed. I, however do not believe this. The idea is a construct of the ever evolving theology of Joseph Smith. My opinion of him is that he what he said is not to be trusted. He changed his story too many times. I think your differing definitions are quibling with semantics. Thus we will have to agree to disagree regarding our existance. Second, I believe you made my point, although I guess I could have been clearer. When I said ‘we are incapable of removing sin’, I meant ‘all by our lonesome’. In other words, I do not believe that we have the ability to completely remove sin from our lives before salvation becomes effective. God certainly can removes our sinful desires from our heart. However, life is a series of choices. And we are fallen, imperfect, and creatures of habit. Thus, we are inherently undeserving of salvation, which is why it must be a gift from God. When one is saved, the walk in Christ begins and one begins to see our choices and sinful nature much more clearly. Through His Spirit, we are given the power to not sin. But the choice is still there, and sometimes we make mistakes simply because we aren’t thinking and are operating on habit. I speak not necessarily from docrine, but from personal experience. This is what I believe Paul meant when he said its “nonsense to the Greek”. It won’t make sense until it happens to you.

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