Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter and the Restoration

This is a reprint of an article I wrote back in 2010 for the Examiner.  Easter weekend is upon us once again and it has been a busy week.  I thought I'd share this still-relevant article and wish you all a happy Easter. --Greg

Easter and the Restoration: The resurrection confirmed anew

Most of us will have a hectic, busy week this week, so here's an opportunity to pause and think about the things of an eternal nature. Here's wishing a Happy Easter to everyone. What a beautiful time for contemplation of these things:

From Matthew:
"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it . . . And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen..."
From John:
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you ..."
"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
". . . After that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days . . ."
". . . And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
From Peter:
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
From the Book of Mormon:
"And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying: Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world."
From Joseph Smith, Spring 1820:
"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
From Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, 1832
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."
The most joyous news that any Christian believer can receive today is not only the glad tidings that Christ is indeed risen, but also that he has appeared again our day, confirming the ancient scriptures and the testimony of the ancients is true.

On this Easter, all Latter-day Saints raise their voices in praise to God for the resurrection of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. It is in the certain testimony of his resurrection that we find comfort in times of loss and assurance of the promises of eternal life if we are obedient to his commandments and receive his Grace. Our unequivocal testimony is that he lives today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A couple of interesting articles

There were a couple of interesting articles on the FAIR Mormon Blog this week.  I jokingly, but respectfully call FAIR the "footnote" apologetics site because their articles are generally very academic in nature.  They research the critiques of our anti-Mormon foes and document where they're wrong.  They are great at demonstrating where our adversaries use out-of-context quotes or bad statistics to try to gain some kind of leverage against us.  While FAIR focuses on debunking their claims, SPAM is interested primarily in the "why" and the "how" of anti-Mormonism.  It's the motives and intentions of anti-Mormons that interest us.  What are the underlying causes of their hatred of Mormons?  What tactics do they use?

Although our approaches are different, I respect FAIR's work, even if it's a "snoozer" for most people.  Nevertheless, every now and then, they do generate some interesting work.  Here are two recent studies they did.  The first is an example of how anti-Mormons who support ordaining women to the priesthood are using out-of-context quotes to bolster their position.  That's #1 on our list of anti-Mormon tactics.  Click on the link to check out the article:

Poignant Bumper Sticker Memes

Then there's a now infamous 2009 study that showed that Utah led the nation in pornography consumption.  That study suffered from several important structural flaws in its decidedly unscientific methodology. Of course, that didn't stop anti-Mormons (particularly among atheists and secular critics) from claiming that Mormonism is sexually repressive and it drives men to consume porn.  A more scientific study has been published recently that places Utah much lower on the list, around 40th out of the 50 states.  Specifically, the data shows that in any state where there is a sizable Mormon population, it accounts for a significantly greater than average reduction in porn consumption. However, you can be that 10 years from now, anti-Mormons will still be quoting the first survey without any reference to newer, more accurately tabulated data.  Here's the article:

Rethinking Mormons and Porn: Utah 40th in US in New Porn Data

Monday, April 14, 2014

Atheists target Salt Lake City

I always loved to see Emmitt Smith run the ball. Sometimes he would have five or six guys on his back, holding onto his legs, and he would still be driving forward to the goal.  He was unstoppable. The defense might be able to slow him down some, but he was inexorably on his way to the goal line.  He would get there no matter what.

In football, the only guy the defense is interested in tackling is the guy with the ball.  They have no interest in anyone else on the field.  Every effort is focused on stopping the guy moving the ball forward toward the goal.  This is an analogy we can apply to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is steadily moving forward in its mission to prepare the world for the Lord's return.  There's a good example of this in the press today.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Dave Muscato, the PR guy for American Atheists, which is having its annual convention in Salt Lake City.  Muscato says the group hopes to convert (my word, not his) ex-Mormons into atheists.  According to the WSJ,
"A lot of Mormons who have become atheists call themselves ex-Mormon and part of our campaign is to get them to move away from ex-Mormon" and simply call themselves atheists, thus taking pride "in their non-belief."
In the past couple of years, atheists have started to organize themselves into "churches" of sorts, where they socialize and do the kinds of events churches hold (hearing sermons, singing "hymns" like John Lennon's "Imagine," potluck dinners), but with a non-theistic approach.  Does this remind anyone of the antichrist Sherem in the Book of Mormon?

Does it seem like Salt Lake is becoming ground-zero for the godless?  After all, there are big cities everywhere with lots of churches in them, why do they target the city of the saints?  If atheists want to go after a religion, why not confront the world's billion Catholics or two billion Muslims?  Perhaps it's an example of the football analogy: the guy who they want to tackle is the one who has the ball and is advancing steadily toward the goal line.

Source:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303603904579491492525002948

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why is it necessary to accept Joseph Smith as a prophet?

Continuing the “wolves among the sheep” theme that started in the last two posts, this article was prompted by a discussion between a group of members in another Internet forum. As I lurk around several of these forums, I am always amazed at the lack of doctrinal understanding of many members. I understand that many of them may be new to the faith and have not had the opportunity to search the scriptures as more seasoned members should have done, but the answers they receive are often shockingly wrong.

In high schools and colleges today, Information Literacy is often a required course subject. Students have to be taught how to do research on the Internet and how to identify valid sources of information. You have to take almost all Internet-based information with a grain of salt (including this site) because uncorrected errors can occur. The Internet gives legitimacy to people who can simply make an attractive, professional-looking web site. S.P.A.M. has outed a number of anti-Mormon ministries that are merely blogs (like this one) and are run from some guy's apartment in a bad neighborhood. (See “Getting Real” from May 2010.) Even a well-meaning person can make mistakes. An ill-intended person can mask his malevolence with a professional-looking site or forum.

On several LDS-themed discussion groups, there are often anti-Mormon wolves hiding among the sheep. In some cases, they pretend to be members or they are disaffected members. The site from which I'm drawing today's question has several members who have been excommunicated for apostasy. Their personal apostasy came from their trying to force their extremist political views on members, claiming that their interpretations of certain prophecies regarding the United States' future is correct and that the leaders of the Church are intentionally trying to misguide the members.

The question that came up on one of these sites today was a personal one. One of the men married outside the Church. His wife “got saved” as evangelicals call it and she felt like she needed baptism. The guy proposed that his chums, the Mormon missionaries do the baptism. The wife began taking the required missionary lessons, but she didn't want any part of Joseph Smith. The missionaries had integrity and wouldn't baptize her unless she was converted.

The member's question—which I found stunning—-was this: “Why does someone have to accept Joseph Smith to be baptized?” After posing the question, the wolves among the sheep began their work. They focused on scriptures that rightfully teach that baptism is a covenant that we will take upon us the name of Christ, always remember him, and keep his commandments, so we can have his Spirit to be with us. Some of them went so far (and these are the ones who are outside the doctrinal zone of safety) as to suggest that it was a form of idolatry to require an acceptance of Joseph Smith to be baptized. The sheep in the flock were at a loss to argue with this because they don't know the scriptures and they don't know the doctrine.

Salvation is in Jesus Christ. We rely upon his atonement for salvation. The Book of Mormon and the Bible are clear on this. We must keep his commandments. Jesus himself told a man that, to obtain eternal life, he must keep the commandments of God (Matthew 19:17, John 14:15). One of those commandments is to be baptized (John 3:5, Mark 16:16). The first four principles and ordinances of the gospel are: faith, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and they laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (Articles of Faith).

The fifth article of faith tells us that a man must be called “by prophecy, by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority” to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances. In this article of faith is the key to the question about acceptance of Joseph Smith and the connection to the saving ordinance of baptism. If a person believes in Christ, he (or she) will repent and request baptism for the remission of sins. Sins are not remitted (forgiven) until a proper baptism is done. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it tells us that the power of godliness—GRACE—is made manifest to us in the ordinances of the gospel (D&C 84:20). To obtain saving grace, it comes through an ordinance. That ordinance must be administered by someone with authority.

In Protestant churches, there is a general rejection of authority in favor of a doctrine called the “priesthood of all believers.” This generally means that no priest or intermediary is necessary. Anyone can do a baptism or that baptism is simply optional. In Orthodox or Catholic churches, there is a believe in authority, but we can show in history that their claim is not valid. A general apostasy occurred long before the Nicene Council, to which these churches can claim their birth. In other words, no church has authority from God unless God gave that authority again in the post-apostolic times. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims that authority was restored through Joseph Smith by Peter, James, and John.

Baptisms performed by other churches that don't have this authority are invalid. They are pleasant demonstrations of belief, but they don't remit sins. How does one get into heaven without getting their sins remitted?

Jesus taught that we must be born “of the water” and “of the Spirit.” The baptism of fire or the baptism of the Holy Ghost is to receive the laying on of hands, by one in authority, after one has received a remission of sins through proper baptism. Joseph Smith said:

“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/born-again?lang=eng)

The laying on of hands to give the gift of the Holy Ghost is called confirmation. You are confirmed a “member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” at that time. Thus, there is no salvation in this dispensation unless you received baptism and confirmation at the hands of someone who has received authority that descends down to us from Joseph Smith.

You don't have to accept Joseph Smith to be saved. You have to accept that the authority comes to the Church to perform a legal gospel ordinance came to us through him. If Joseph Smith didn't receive that authority, then you need to find someone else who did. If you can't find it, then Christ's Church isn't on the earth. If Joseph Smith did receive it, then the only authority to perform baptisms for a remission of sins and to give the gift of the Holy Ghost abides in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In John 13:20 (and it is also rephrased in Matthew 10:40 and Mark 9:37), Jesus told his apostles, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”

The ancient Israelites rejected Jesus Christ, even while they claimed to believe in the Father. What they were saying in essence was, “We don't believe God sent you. We don't believe you have authority to say what you say and do what you do.” This enabled them to reject even his miracles, explaining them away as having been done by the power of the devil. Because Jesus did indeed act in the authority of his Father, even God, his adversaries rejected God the Father and were condemned.

Thus, there is a line of authority at work here. Jesus extends that line of authority downward. To accept those to whom he gives authority (priesthood) is to accept him. To accept him is to accept the Father. If you lived in the first century, you could not believe in Jesus Christ without accepting Peter, or Paul, or John, etc. If you rejected Peter, you could not come unto Christ who sent him. Likewise, if you live today, Joseph Smith is the one who was given the keys of the kingdom for our dispensation.

If you lived in the times of Moses, you had to come to God through the keys of authority given to him. If you lived in the days of Noah, or Melchizedek, or Elijah, or Peter, it would be the same. Noah is a very graphic example of the danger or rejecting a prophet's authority. Joseph Smith is like Noah. Noah was sent before the flood. Joseph was sent before the day of burning. Joseph Smith received the keys of the kingdom and the keys of all previous dispensations to prepare the kingdom of God for the coming of the Lord. If you reject him, you reject Jesus who sent him, and the Father who sent Jesus. That's the principle involved here.

Jesus alone saves us, but he has commissioned and sent his servants. He has given them authority. All who come to Christ will receive those servants. Rejection of the servant is a rejection of the Master. To the brother who asked the missionaries to baptize his wife, but not into the Church, he needs to understand this principle.

I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he was sent by Jesus Christ to prepare the world for the Second Coming. The authority and teachings God gave him continue in the Church. There are living apostles and prophets to day that bear this mantle of authority. If you seek salvation today, if you seek Christ's church, you should prayerfully ask God where this authority is found. I testify that it is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tolleson LDS church rebuilt after arson

In July 29, 2012, an arsonist burned down an LDS meeting house in Tolleson, Arizona.  S.P.A.M. reported on the incident previously.  The arsonist was never arrested. After almost two years, a new stake center has been constructed on the site of the former one and it is holding its open house this weekend.  Read the report about the open house here.

For more information on anti-Mormon incidents, arsons, and other acts of violence against the Church, please see the S.P.A.M. Incident Log.

Friday, April 11, 2014

No ordinary church

The painting on the right is one I always find moving and inspiring. It shows a pioneer family burying their child in an unmarked grave on the prairie, which they will leave shortly.  They will bear their sorrow and turn their faces toward Zion and begin pulling the handcart through the trackless snows.

It is this legacy of sacrifice that inspires us to keep moving forward.  If we quit, their sacrifices to give us this kingdom are all for nothing.  We understand that to inherit the glory they received from God in eternity, we must live to our covenants and never give up.

In yesterday's article, I related the story of a so-called TBM (true blue Mormon) who has apostatized, but has made the evil decision to stay in the Church and "fake it," while he works to bring the Church down from the inside.  One of the things he said has stayed in my mind:
"...one sunday I was sitting there thinking "why the f*** do I have to do all this stuff just to worship god?"- home teaching, calling, responsibilities, tithing.. this is not what an ordinary church would do." (Capitalization and punctuation in the original)
He has unwittingly hit upon the answer to his own question in posing this one.  This is NO ORDINARY CHURCH.  

Why do most people go to Church?  In my experience, being a convert to Mormonism and having attended and studied many religions in my search for truth, most people go to Church to feel better about themselves.  For some, they like the social contacts with others, the reaffirming that they are not alone in their opinions and beliefs.  For others, they feel an emotional uplift from singing, praying, and sharing feelings.  

Others go to assuage feelings of guilt.  Their parents pressured them when they were young and they feel guilty if they don't go.  Hearing messages of forgiveness and reconciliation are comforting and give them hope.

Some people go because it's a social necessity.  If they don't go, people might talk.  It's like President Obama, one of the few presidents who's not a big church-goer.  He gets flack for that.  If you're a community leader, a politician, an entrepreneur, or hold some public position, it assures others that you're an honest, God-fearing person.  You're trustworthy.  

There are probably lots of reasons for attending any church, but one more I'd like to mention is hypocrisy.  Some people go to church services (in any denomination) who go there simply because they like to feel better about themselves because they can look down on others disparagingly.  They donate time, money, and service to earn the praise of men.  

In most cases, people don't want to have to do anything.  Church meetings, especially among Protestant evangelicals, have become religious entertainment.  A Methodist minister once lamented to me that he found it absolutely draining to have to "fill the cups" of his congregation every week.  In his view, a true Christian church would have people come together, some with spiritual cups brimming to share, others half-full, and others needing filling.  Ideally, he said, they should be sharing from one another's cups.  Instead, because that didn't happen, he felt the obligation to try to fill his cup each week, only to have it drained to the dregs by a bunch of spiritual parasites.

Is that what this brother wants--to become a spiritual paradise?  If he wants to find a church that will require no obligations of him, there are a lot of choices out there.  There are churches that have concerts every week.  Some are like holy pep rallies.  Others are sedate, tranquil places where the pastor drones on in soothing tones, gently numbing the conscience to the incessant call of the Holy Ghost to repent. There are churches where he won't have to wear a tie or a suit or even clothing!  Yep, there are even nudist churches.

With such a variety of choices, why not pick another church instead of trying to destroy his own?  It doesn't make sense.

Meanwhile, if you're really into Bible religion, as most claim to be, you should be looking for a Church that demands the surrender of everything.  Sacrifice, service, and obedience are what Jesus demanded of those who joined his Church.  Consider this passage from Matthew:
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 10:37-39).
And this one... 
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me (Matthew 19:21).
And this from Luke...
57 ¶And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke chapter 9:57-62)
When a man came to Jesus asking how to have eternal life, Jesus simply told him "...[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).  He didn't tell him to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and then sit back with a free-grace-get-out-of-hell-free card in his pocket.  The Lord Jesus told the guy that he needed to keep the commandments.  Obedience is necessary.  Anyone who says otherwise contradicts the very words of Jesus himself.

Jesus isn't trifling with you and me, brother.  He demands it all.  He wants your entire heart, soul, and mind.  He wants your absolute devotion.  He wants no other gods before him.  He wants you to walk the walk, not talk the talk.  He wants you to pray and to serve and to give until you are spent.  Only then will you find that the reservoir of faith you have spent gets refilled with something divine.  The wellspring of the Holy Ghost refills you and sanctifies you.  It changes you.  You become a better person, one more like Jesus.

You're not going to get that in one of those religious pep rallies, not matter how hard you try.  That's the churches of men, not the Church of Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith taught that a religion that does not demand the sacrifice of all things doesn't have power to save a person into the celestial kingdom.  If you are going to spend eternity with people like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Peter, and Paul, you are going to have to be the kind of person that they were.  You are going to have to clear a high bar of faith and devotion.  Imagine yourself in heaven consorting with these men, those who gave all to the Lord's cause.  Many of them laid down their lives for their testimonies or offered huge personal sacrifices for the cause.  What will you have to compare to them--you didn't go to the Gap on Sunday?  What kind of sacrifice is that!

Indeed, if you intend to inhabit the celestial worlds with our forebears who pulled handcarts across the plains, you're not going to get there by complaining to God about home teaching or holding a calling.  Be real.  Heaven is a real place and it's not for the spiritually lazy.  Time to man-up, brother.  Stop complaining.  Put your hand to the plough and don't look back.  Don't spend time looking back in the rear-view mirror pining for the ease of Egypt when a Moses is leading you to a promised land that flows with milk and honey.

This is no ordinary church.  It is the Church of Jesus Christ himself. It is the one Church that has the keys, powers, and authorities to save your soul.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wolves among the sheep

The devil is real and he works to destroy the happiness of Jesus' followers.  He uses persecution outside the Church from secularists, the irreligious, and religious bigots.  However, one of the more insidious threats to one's testimony can come from right within our ranks.  Check out the kick-off of one topic on an anti-Mormon site:
This has been likely done before but:
I want to advocate a new blogsite called "the secret mormon project". I am a TBM who has had a lot of bad experiences with the church. I recognize that the church's social, teaching and leadership structure is deeply flawed. The things I see wrong with the church focus mainly around these things rather than historical issues with Joseph Smith, the BoM, etc.
The church has too many massive elephants in its rooms, or in other words so many enormous problems which cannot be spoken out about or dealt or even focused upon by its members. I cannot publicly challenge anything, if I do I'm going to be punished for "apostasy" and face goon squads and a lot of ward gossip.
So I proceed to create the "secret mormon" project, where I, an anonymous member will discuss problems with the church. The church is oppressive, it is also totalitarian. Its caused me a lot of heartache and one sunday I was sitting there thinking "why the f*** do I have to do all this stuff just to worship god?"- home teaching, calling, responsibilities, tithing.. this is not what an ordinary church would do.
It's time for me to speak out, mormonism needs bringing down from within. If you are on here and you still "active", then you need to establish a "secret mormon" blog too.. if we can make a movement we can REALLY HURT THIS ORGANISATION.
WHO'S WITH ME?
Yes this has been done before; Judas comes immediately to mind.  It is the height of self-deception to declare oneself a TBM (true blue Mormon--Internet slang for the faithful LDS members) and at the same time be plotting with those who hate us to "REALLY HURT THIS ORGANIZATION."

We are entering into period that the world has not seen since the 1st century tribulation of the Church.  In that day, Paul spoke of "false brethren unawares brought in...that they might bring us into bondage" (Galatians 2:4).  He warned, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29).  

There are anti-Mormons hiding in the Church, disaffected brethren and sisters who have malicious intentions.  They may be teaching your child's Sunday School class or leading the scout troop.  Pay attention to your gut.  The Spirit of the Lord will help you discern danger.  Pray for the spirit of discernment to be upon our bishops an stake presidents.

Having studied anti-Mormonism for several years, I am sure that the "thrill" these individuals get from covertly trying to undermine the saints will not be satisfying.  The evil spirit that abides in their hearts seeks escalation and conflict.  Satan loves contention and the more he can generate, the better he likes it.  

How do we counter this?  With genuine love and charity.  There's one thing the devil can't stand--that's righteousness.  So treat everyone with kindness.  Care genuinely.  Listen with empathy.  When they can't stand it any more, they'll leave and the danger leaves with them.  Or perhaps the spirit of repentance will call to them and they'll turn back to the Lord who loves them and his Church.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

That ye may not be deceived

It was a wonderful weekend watching General Conference.  As I had mentioned earlier, the Ordain Women protesters tried to get some traction in the media.  As expected, they were denied access to the Priesthood Session and they sat it out, watching it on their cell phones, iPods, or other mobile devices.

Kristi Boyce, one of the protesters, told a reporter "I love my prophet and I feel like this is a way to show devotion to a church I owe so much to."

"Ex-squeeze me!" as they say on Wayne's World.  What kind of fragmented thinking is this?  She loves the prophet--the president of the Church, the man she sustains as a prophet, seer, and revelator--yet she opposes the fundamental concept of his prophetic authority?  She admits that she owes much to the Church an wants to show devotion to it by undermining the revelatory priesthood keys, the Rock upon which the Church is built?  Are you kidding me?  These women are deceiving themselves with these kinds of rationalizations.  Here's what Jesus himself told the founding prophet who received the revelations and angelic ministrations that restored the lost priesthood to the earth:
14 And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.
Jesus provides us patterns for the purpose of comparison.  If something doesn't fit the pattern, it is an easy way to perceive the error in it.  We don't have to spend a lot of time debating it.  The adversary works in trickery.  Jesus gives us straight-up patterns that are easy to discern.  Those patterns are in the scriptures.  It's why he tells us repeatedly to search the scriptures.  We'll know the patterns of what he has done in the past and we can see how the present fits into it.

One of the patterns the Lord has shown us is how to discern false teachers who would lead the men and women of the Church astray.  True servants of God will be prayerful.  They will have a humble, contrite spirit, not a haughty, pretentious one.  His or her speech will be meek and edifying, not grating and derisive.  Even if a leader or teacher has those two qualities, there is one last, supremely important one that is qualified with an "if" statement.  If a person has all these qualities AND he or she obeys the ordinances of the gospel, that fits the pattern.

Priesthood ordination is one of the gospel's ordinances.  Anyone who advocates ordaining women is not of God because they are out of harmony with the revelations.  Case closed.

It all comes down to whether you believe the priesthood was restored and that the living prophet holds the keys and powers that were conferred upon Joseph Smith by Peter, James, and John.  This is the dividing line between what is Mormon and what is not.  If you go through the temple recommend interview questions, for example, most Christians would answer the first couple questions the way we do.  They believe in God the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  They believe in the atonement of Christ and his role as Savior and Redeemer.

The third and fourth questions have to do with the Restoration and the authority of the modern prophets and apostles who direct the Church today.  These questions would divide the "sheep from the goats" to use a biblical analogy.  They separate the true followers of Christ from the pretenders.  The priesthood keys are what divide the kingdom of God from the telestial world on its borders.  Inside those borders is peace, harmony, order, and clarity.  Outside those borders is schism, confusion, division, and disorder.  The saints of God are one people.  The pretenders are a quarreling family of shepherd-less sheep.  Satan would reduce the saints to such a state of confusion if he could.  Safety and peace are on one side of the line; danger and contention on the other.

The confusion in the mind of these unfortunate sisters is indicative of which sign of the line they're on.  Do the leaders of the Church speak for God or are they just ordinary men who represent traditional patriarchy?  The answer you give to that question depends of whether you understand the true nature of priesthood authority and whether these men possess the keys they claim to hold.

Sources:
Story--  http://www.kutv.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_10468.shtml
Video-- http://www.kutv.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_10468.shtml

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Typical anti-Mormon "Christian"

I really try my best to give grace to those who fight against Mormonism.  Most of them are either misinformed or misguided.  Someone they trusted--usually a pastor, priest or parent--filled their minds with prejudice and falsehoods about Mormons and then told they they were doing a service to God in bashing Mormons whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The sad thing is that the obsessive, knee-jerk reactions they manifest are almost Pavlovian.  Because they do what they have been programmed to do, they cease to be driven by Christian compassion.  All they are looking for is a "weakness" to exploit and score a point for their side.  A case in point is one commentator on an article Glenn Beck published about the passing of his father.

Beck eulogized his father and honored him.  Although he was not devoted to sectarian religion, he was a good, honest man who worked hard all his life, taught his family to be honest and upright, and served other people with kindness.  On his deathbed, Glenn said his father received heavenly "escorts" to take him to the other side.
“My father slipped in and out of consciousness for a while,” Beck recalled. “And then he sat up in bed, looked up at the ceiling corner as if someone was there, and he said, ‘Yes? OK. I understand. I’m ready. Take me with you.’ And he closed his eyes.”
Beck shared this tender, personal experience with his readers and many of them related their condolences and even some similar experiences at the passing of their loved ones.  Amidst the outpouring of kindness and gentleness, one anti-Mormon saw the chance to score. "Smokey Bojangles" wrote:

"And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.’ No coffee,hot tea, or hot chocolate
You can only eat critters during ‘winter, or of cold, or famine.’
‘The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones…’ God and Jesus are just regular folks…And so are Angels.’If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.’
‘ In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.’ Three degrees of Heaven?
It beats being an Atheist,but I still wouldn’t want to be a Mormon."
It's a classic anti-Mormon "shotgun" attack wherein the attacker throws out a bunch of points without context or introduction to try to make Mormonism look strange, with the intent of ridiculing, demeaning, and overwhelming the Mormon defender's ability to answer all the accusations.

Just think of this.  In Glenn Beck's moment of grief, a supposed "Christian" had the opportunity to console and offer comfort to a person in mourning.  His anti-Mormonism overcame any natural instinct toward kindness, empathy, sympathy, or charity.  The love of God is not in this person.  It is that way with all anti-Mormons.

Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice."  The ones that fight against Mormons who say that Jesus still speaks today are proving by their actions that they are not Jesus' sheep.  They follow another master.  They will get the reward of him whom they serve.

S.P.A.M. extends its condolences and sympathy for brother Glenn Beck's loss and we celebrate with him the truths that affirm that God is real, that he loves his children, and that angels attend us even today.  What peace and comfort the gospel brings.  Why would anyone fight against it?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

UK Court dismisses bogus fraud case against President Monson

"I am satisfied that the process of the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others."  So said Westminster Magistrates' Court Senior District Judge Howard Riddle in his written ruling dismissing fraud charges that were filed against LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.

The Church's legal team asserted, "This is no more than a vexatious publicity stunt by Thomas Phillips, a disgruntled former member of the church, who in any event does not appear to be authorized to engage in litigation in England,"

The judge also explained that the summons issued to President Monson and threatening him with arrest was also a mistake.  According to the Deseret News,
"It is obvious that this proposed prosecution attacks the doctrine and beliefs of the Mormon Church and is aimed at those beliefs rather than any wrong-doing of Mr. Monson personally," he wrote in his ruling. "The purpose is to use the criminal proceedings" to attack the church.
The Church has requested that the court require Phillips to pay legal costs.  Phillips stated that he plans further harassing legal actions.

Source:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865599098/British-judge-rejects-case-calls-it-an-attack-on-LDS.html?pg=2