"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 2:8 (The Book of Mormon)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Answers for Questions: Part 1 :)

This is a comment recently posted by my cousin after reading my post, Choose to Receive.  I wanted to include you in the discussion. :)
 
Okay Carey...forgive me once again as I'm behind on your posts, but I had to add some food for thought on this one! It is in my humble opinion as someone with a different faith, that this comment about your faith is based more on what I see as "rules not found in the bible". For example...drinking coffee, wearing special undergarments (sorry I don't know the correct word - not trying to be disrespectful), having to be married in the temple, etc... I view these things as ceremonies or rules that don't actually have any effect on your salvation and don't mean your are disobeying God or any of his commands if you do or don't do them. I have to say that I agree with you 100% that God's "lists" are commandments and NOT suggestions. And that although salvation is a free gift it is very important that after we receive it we take action and follow Christ by imitating Him just as He commanded. I fear that some Latter Day Saints might believe their salvation is tied to what clothes they wear of what liquids they drink and for me that is a sad life under the "law" rather than living in the freedom that Christ gives you. Christ never gives you the freedom to sin (disobey a commandment) but the freedom to live outside of the law (circumcision, eating certain foods, no longer sacrificing animals etc.). If you tie your salvation to rituals, clothing or drinks than you take away what Jesus did on the cross. The only way to heaven is not by works but by faith in Jesus, and even when I sin and disobey a command God is always there with open arms as I have a repentant heart and turn once again towards Him. And that's my two cents...hopefully without offending anyone! (-: As always I love you and love the conversation you create! 

What great questions!!!  Thank you so much for your candor!  I am really excited to get to elaborate on this a little further.  My goal is to answer your questions as guided by the spirit.  The challenge for me is to express the fulness of the concepts in question without becoming too long winded.  In an effort to do this- I am breaking my response into 2 posts... 1 for this week and 1 for next.  Before reading further, I invite you ask the Father to illuminate your mind with understanding and with a witness by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As always, please feel free to follow up with any questions that linger. :)

Basically it boils down to a couple of points.  

First, What is the definition of salvation?  
As a Latter-day Saint I would define it as the gift given by the Savior of everlasting life in a condition of glory.  It is my belief that most every human being will receive salvation.  Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine referenced by Paul when he spoke of a man caught away into the third heaven.(2 Cor 12:2)  Simply put, there are 3 different degrees of glory possible for us to receive after we stand before the judgment bar.  The glory of the least of these kingdoms "surpasses all understanding".(D&C 76:89)  This is the salvation which I believe that those who reject Christ and His gospel will receive.  If I am understanding you correctly, you are asking about people who honor and love the Savior by living a life in harmony with the 10 Commandments.  If those who reject Christ receive the formerly mentioned glory, how unspeakable must the glory be that God has in store for those who are faithful in keeping the commandments? 

Second, Do Latter-day Saints practice religion not found in the Bible?   
The answer to this question lies in another.  
What does the Bible teach us that Christ's church looks like?  
As I study the Old Testament, I see that God spoke to His children in ancient times through prophets. Trusting that God is the same yesterday, today and forever... it makes sense to me that He would still use this pattern. Christ tells us that we can identify true prophets by their fruits. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit and neither can a false prophet. As I study the fruits of the spirit as identified by Paul in Galatians... I recognize them to be the fruits which have filled my life as I follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by Joseph Smith, continued on through the current prophet, Thomas S. Monson.

As I study the New Testament, I recognize the pattern which Christ himself established for His church to be the same one which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized by. Paul teaches that Christ's church is built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.(Ephesians 2:20) This is the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The study of the Bible is the study of people who had religion.  It is my testimony that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ today, and the religion documented in the Bible, is contained in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  I have conviction that following the direction of the prophet is one and the same with following the direction of God.

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. 
This means that when the prophet lays out the "do's" a "don'ts", I follow!  This isn't a sad life under the law, but rather a life filled with the priceless fruits of the spirit.  It is a life free of addiction and it's painful repercussions.  It is a life free from the bondage of sin.  It is a life filled with gratitude and respect for my precious body.  It is a life filled with constant reminders of the love my Father has for me and the love that I have for Him.  It is a life filled with power!  Power to choose for myself which blessings I want to receive.
 

 
Next week I will answer the question, "Why do Latter-day Saints follow rules not found in the Bible?" I will also discuss the specific practices you have asked about!!!  Hugs...

13 comments:

  1. Carey,
    First off forgive me, as my comment will most likely be a long one. Thank you for wanting to answer my questions and even giving it such attention as to make it your post! As always please know that it is my desire to speak to you in love and truth and never my intent to be hurtful or disrespectful. Rather I just long to know you and your beliefs better. I first want to state that I believe the Bible to be the true word of God, written by man, but inspired by God. Therefore I desire to do my best to live my life by what it says. That being said I am left with some questions after reading your post.
    1.Do all people really go to heaven and/or receive salvation?
    2.Are LDS members allowed to “test” a prophet appointed by the elders and/or President of the LDS church?

    These are my main questions to you, but I’d like to share with you my own answers as well. If all people receive salvation as you said, which I interpret to mean that you believe all people go to heaven, then why does the Bible mention hell or God’s wrath? Did you know how many times does the Bible mention hell? In the oldest manuscripts available, the Hebrew word sheol appears 65 times. The King James Version translates this Hebrew word sheol, 31 times as "hell," 31 times as "grave," and 3 times as "pit." In the "New Testament," the King James Version translates the Greek word "hades" in all 10 places it occurs, as "hell." The King James Version also uses the word "hell" or "hellfire" when translating the Greek word "Gehenna" 12 times. Other Bible translations translate the Hebrew word sheol and Greek word hades in different ways, some don't use the English word "hell" at all, instead transliterating the Hebrew and Greek words directly as "sheol" and "hades."

    The Greek word "tartaroos" or tartarus from which Hell is translated in 2 Peter 2:4 which describes the deeps parts of the dark pit where the fallen angels are reserved for punishment. This is the same place the demons in the swine did not want Jesus to send them; that is, the Abyss. Also, consider a careful study in the same context of 2 Peter and that is 2 Peter 2:9 which places the deceased wicked in the same place as the fallen angels. Study that verse in the original language or using various clearer versions of the Bible like The English Standard Version.

    In the KJV of the Bible, the word Hell, though not meaning the same thing in every verse, is used 54 times. God's wrath is mentioned in both the old and new testaments a total of 95 times.
    Wrath of God = 31
    God's wrath = 11
    Day of the Lord = 53 (This speaks mainly to the last few days of mans rule on the earth before Christ returns to setup His millennial kingdom)

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  2. All of this brings me back to my first question “Do all people really go to heaven and/or receive salvation?” The Bible says no. If this were true that all people did receive salvation and go to heaven what would be the point of the Bible mentioning hell or God’s wrath? In fact, what would be the point of Jesus dying on the cross? Even further, why would I not want to just live life on earth in any manner that I pleased if I was going to heaven regardless?

    John 14:6 (Jesus talking) “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man come to the Father except by me.”

    John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

    Romans 4:25-5:2 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and then was raised to life to put us right with God. By faith in this, then, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

    Romans 10:9-11 “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are put right with God, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."”

    These are just 4 verses (there are many more) that confirm for me that my believing that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and through that He has cleansed me and given me eternal life is THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN AND/OR SALVATION.

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  3. My other question is, “Are LDS members allowed to “test” a prophet appointed by the elders and/or President of the LDS church?”
    My guess on this question is no. It seems to me that as an LDS member you are to accept any and all decisions made by your elders and/or President of the church as if God makes them.

    Personally, I consider all men to be just mere humans with a sinful nature. I don’t trust any decisions men make unless it lines up with God’s word and even then I believe many mistakes are made with good intentions. But the point for me is that I have the freedom to test anyone or anything by using the Bible as my litmus stick. If what is being taught or done does not line up with God’s word it is not of God.

    Which brings me to Joseph Smith, I know we differ in opinions on this topic. I do not believe that he was a prophet of God. I do believe God uses prophets, but I think in modern day language we would call them missionaries, pastors, bishops or priests. I feel there are two important things to look at when “testing a prophet”. The first is that the Bible says to not add or take away from the word of God. So, if a “prophet” does this I would consider him/her a false prophet.

    Deuteronomy 12:32 “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”

    Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

    Revelation 22:18-19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.”

    It is my understanding both by third party and a small amount of internet research that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. I would consider this book an attempt to add to the Bible.

    As you said the Bible says to test a prophet by his fruit. Because Joseph Smith was a known polygamist and also taught that people of color were less than white people, I feel that this speaks to the fruit of his life. I believe to marry more than one person is a direct disobedience of God’s word and I believe the bible teaches all people are created in the image of God regardless of color. So, for these two reasons I personally discount that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord.

    In conclusion, it is my prayer that you know the truth of God’s word. If our hearts and minds can’t agree with one another, my heart still loves your heart! (-:

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  4. WOW!!! I hope you know how much you make me smile! I think you do:) I just really enjoy our friendship!

    Question 1- Do Latter-day Saints believe in hell? Yes... 100%... absolutely! You lay out beautifully it's evidence in the Bible.

    We are in complete agreement that Christ is the ONLY name under heaven whereby men can be saved. He IS the ONLY way... the ONLY truth... the ONLY life!

    Here's my question for you though:) If all that you have to do receive salvation is confess
    Christ... what exactly does the judgment bar of God look like? Will it simply be "You said you believe therefore you are saved." or "You never said it... you're not."? In your mind, will the person who merely spoke the words receive the same salvation as Abraham, Moses or Paul who sacrificed everything to live a life honoring God? I think that this view of the Bible's teachings is narrow and partial. I am grateful for the clarity that comes as the Bible is embraced in fulness and entirety. As I read, it is beautifully clear that our actions and choices determine the glory we will receive THROUGH the grace of Jesus Christ!

    Christ taught that those who merely speak without doing are as the whited sepulchers... lovely on the outside, filled with death inwardly.

    One more question- If confession is all that is required... why is it that so many Christians preach that Mormons will go to hell? Mormons undeniably confess Christ as their Savior! If that truly is the only requirement, people of my faith qualify.

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  5. Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Here Christ tells us that you have to do more than confess to enter into His kingdom.

    Penny for your thoughts...

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  6. Question 2- Are Latter-day Saints allowed to "test" a prophet? Yes! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Father's road map for the salvation of the individual. He invites each individual to gain a testimony of any principle for his or her self. I DO accept the words of the prophet to be the words of God... however... they are mine to test! God is not the founder of the notion of blind following. He IS the author of combining the power of your mind, heart and spirit with His to identify truth.

    I take God at His word. Through His Son, He clearly directs how one can determine if something is of Him or not. It is by the fruits it produces! A corrupt tree CANNOT bring forth good fruit. Consequently... following a corrupt or false prophet could NOT produce the fruits of the spirit. If it could... God would be a liar... and I reject that notion wholly!!!

    ALL truth circumscribes to one great whole. Consequently, the prophet's teachings are always consistent with the word of God found in the Bible. When a prophet's counsel is hard for me to understand or receive... it is my responsibility to seek understanding through personal study and prayer. It is up to me to test the word and see whether it stands the "fruits" test. I have done this Erin and time and again... the fruits of the spirit are manifest more fully in my life. When I was younger and less spiritually adept, on several occasions I applied that test in reverse by rejecting or disobeying His counsel. Without fail... I received confirmation through fruits of sadness and misery, that indeed I had gone against my Father's counsel.

    My testimony comes from a lifetime of reaping the fruits of following the prophet!

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  7. Finally, we are in complete agreement that the Bible is the word of God. Here's the challenge, however. I looked on Wikipedia and found 97 different versions in the English language alone. This would account for the 1000's of different churches with very different doctrine which all stem from the same book.

    Christ teaches in the Bible that it is in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses that all truth is established. The Book of Mormon is a companion witness to the Bible that Jesus is the Christ. The Book of Mormon clarifies the meaning of the Bible and testifies of it's truthfulness.

    Like the Bible, it was written by men, inspired by God. Joseph Smith was the man called by God to translate the ancient writings and publish them.

    "After the Savior cast out certain devils, the Pharisees claimed that He did so “by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” The Savior responded that such a conclusion was nonsensical: “Every kingdom,” He said, “divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every … house divided against itself shall not stand.” And then His compelling climax: “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”Matthew 12:24–26 (Tad R Callister)

    The Book of Mormon is filled with the invitation to "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him." According to Christ's own words, Satan could NOT have inspired this book, because he would be a house divided against himself.

    I would invite you to take Christ up on His invitation and apply the "fruits" test to this sacred book. Reading or listening to what third parties have to say about the matter, positive or negative, does not meet God's standard. I invite you to prayerfully read the book with a sincere heart, meaning that you will act on the promptings God will give you. It is my testimony that if you will do this, God WILL open your mind and heart and pour in truth you previously have not recognized. This is my experience. This is my testimony. This is my greatest desire for you:)

    Please know how VERY blessed I feel to be having this conversation with you! Your questions mean SO much to me. Please know that I NEVER take offense at anything that you ask or say. I love your open mind and heart! You are so very precious to me!!!


    Here is the link for a fabulous talk on the matter, which I recommend highly. http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-book-of-mormon-a-book-from-god?lang=eng

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  8. Wow! So many thoughts and things I'd like to say! (: I am really enjoying this back and forth and I know it is a bit long on your blog I wanted to answer back to you in this format (rather than the phone, though I love talking to you!) because I thought if anyone else out there had some of the same questions you did I really wanted them to hear my answer. I want to just address many things, but I'm going to try and focus on two thoughts. First I want to address what you said above: "One more question- If confession is all that is required... why is it that so many Christians preach that Mormons will go to hell? Mormons undeniably confess Christ as their Savior! If that truly is the only requirement, people of my faith qualify."

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  9. In my heart more than anything I want to shout "you qualify!" Carey, I'm not sure I've encountered a more pure and loving heart on this planet than yours! You really are an example to me of how I want to strive and live my life, but unfortunately I'm not the judge. God is and I have to look to His word, the Bible, in these matters.
    Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"
    I think the word "faith" eludes to more than just confession. It seems to me that it is a decision of the mind, a confession of the mouth and an attitude of the heart that are all combining to have faith to accept the grace that Jesus poured out for us on the cross. When you said, "Here's my question for you though:) If all that you have to do receive salvation is confess
    Christ... what exactly does the judgment bar of God look like?" The thief on the cross comes to mind(Luke 23:39-43)All he did was confess, but obviously a change occurred in his heart as well, and Jesus said he would be with him in heaven. My worry is that when we speak about Jesus and God we are not actually talking about the same person.

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  10. Here's where I see differences in the things we say, even though we are saying the same word, the meanings seem to be different.

    Christians believe there is only one God (Isaiah 43:11; 44:6,8; 45:5).
    This is from the book of Mormon
    "And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light: and there was light (Book of Abraham 4:3).

    Christians believe God has always been God (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15).
    Joseph Smith taught "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

    Christians believe the Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all the universe and that He exists in three eternal, simultaneous persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    Mormons believe the trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. "That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man," (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).

    Christians believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:23).
    Mormon Doctrine says "The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).
    "Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p. 547).

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  11. These things are all pretty different. Different enough that I believe Mormons are not worshiping the ONE TRUE GOD. I believe (and I know this is a very hard thing to hear or even think) that Satan is very crafty and can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) and that he has used the Mormon religion as a way to lead people away from God by deceiving them that they are really following God. They say if you can get someone just a few millimeters off course that in the end they will be miles and miles away from where they intended to be.

    Finally the only the other thing I wanted to address is that you said, "My testimony comes from a lifetime of reaping the fruits of following the prophet!" Anyone can have the appearance of "good fruits" if they follow a strict lifestyle of living the way you live. Mormons are some of the best people I know and the most righteous. They appear to live a life far more obedient than my own (I really am trying (:). But the issue to me seams to be exactly what you said, you are following a prophet, not Jesus. Jesus said, "take up your cross and follow Me." (Mark 8:34)

    In closing, I thank you for your open mind and heart. I truly appreciate the conversation! We certainly have given each other a lot to think about!

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  12. We do have very different beliefs:) I am not a bible scholar, but I am a bible lover and have grown deeper in that love as I have taken 2011 to study in depth the New Testament. What a gift:)

    Let me make sure I am understanding you correctly. The fruits of the spirit, identified in Galatians, which Christ tells us are the measuring stick for whether it is of God or not... really and truly aren't the measuring stick because anyone (even those who are deceived by Satan) can have them? Satan has built a huge movement of people who are going about doing good (which would be the work of his enemy)and has filled their lives with the fruits of the spirit (his enemy)? My question to you would then be, WHY did Christ tell us to apply that test, if it wasn't a sound test??? Has God been duped by Satan? I am not following the logic on this one!

    If we can't take God at His word... if we can't trust that when Christ uses simple words like "prophets", He means "prophets", then we don't have footing to stand on for this discussion.

    Rather than continue to go back and forth on points of doctrine, I would love to talk about these things further maybe on the phone. Can we talk this week and make it an on going conversation? I love talking with you and I really appreciate your enthusiasm in sharing your beliefs with me. I love you with ALL of my heart!

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  13. One more thought on Satan actually being the author of the fruits I experience...

    I feel the power of the spirit moving through out every facet of my life. I seek guidance through prayer and I feel my Father's direction constantly. This feeling and the countless experiences I have had in being moved by the spirit COULD NOT be counterfeit by the prince of darkness! The warmth and light I experience as I deepen in my companionship with my Father and His Son through the Holy Ghost could ONLY come from the source of ALL that is light and good!

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