Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pay attention to the '...'

An ellipsis is a punctuation device that allows a writer to omit words from a citation that are superfluous or able to be understood from the context.  It's the little "..." that you see in a formal paper or text.  It's a way of making writing with lots of quotes from other sources flow more naturally.  You see them all the time, but usually they are used incorrectly in more casual writing like emails and text messages.

The ellipsis is often used by religion writers to abbreviate a scriptural text so that it will flow with the other written content.  For example, an original passage from the New Testament might read:

 ¶And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

A writer or commentator discussing this passage might introduce the scene in his own words, paraphrasing the setting, and transitioning to the meat of the subject saying a man approached Jesus and asked him, "...Lord, my servant lieth at home sick...."  The ellipses at the beginning and end of the citation omit information that isn't necessary to understand the context.  Nothing vital is lost.  We get the full meaning of the phrase without the additional words that would clutter up things for the reader.  The writing is conversational.

However, the ellipsis is notoriously used by sectarian preachers to omit important passages from scripture that don't fit their church's doctrines.  It's all the more common if the passages are important ones that substantiate Mormon beliefs.  They want to avoid those at all costs!

I saw an example of this today.  I was reading an article titled, 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church  on a Protestant web site called Faith It.  The article is focused on ways to keep youth from drifting away from faith when they go off to college.  The author, Jon Nielson, college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, makes many valid points.  I couldn't help but smile when he quoted an important scripture and used an ellipsis to omit a passage that gives Protestant-Evangelicals some heartburn.  He quoted Ephesians 4:11-12 from a modern translation in this manner:
But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: “[Christ] gave…the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to “equip” the saints to do gospel ministry in order that the church of Christ may be built up.
 In this case, it's important to note what he left out with that little "..." in the citation.  Here's the full original without the ellipsis:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
 I highlighed in bold print the part omitted with the ellipsis.  You see, the passages says the Christ gave APOSTLES and PROPHETS to perfect the saints, for the ministry, and for building up the church.  In the Protestant-Evangelical world, where are their prophets?  Where are their apostles?  They don't have them.  Their doctrine prohibits them because their creeds banned the possibility of any revelation after the biblical times. Is that "superfluous" information to be omitted?

You may consider this nitpicking, but we see it all the time.  My dear, departed mother-in-law read her Bible every day using a Methodist-produced study guide.  In decades of reading the Bible, she had never ever seen the words "baptism for the dead," even though it's right there in 1st Corinthians 15.  How could a person read the Bible for almost an entire lifetime and not see that?  Easy.  She used the study guide that was prepared by Methodist theologians.  They were careful to edit that out.

In France, I saw a missal in a Catholic cathedral. If you're not familiar with it, it's kind of liturgical book used to celebrate their masses.  There was a page in it that had the Ten Commandments in it.  I noticed right away that these Ten Commandments were different from the ones in the Bible.  They conveniently omitted the commandment that says we are not to have any graven images or bow down to them.  That left 9 commandments, so they split the last one about coveting into two parts, saying not to covet someone's wife and to not covet his property.  That gave them an even 10.

As I looked around the cathedral, I understood why.  It was filled with graven images of saints to which people would bow down and pray, in violation of the commandment.  They had to omit that one or face uncomfortable questions from the faithful seekers of truth in their midst.

You find this is almost every Church.  They will teach that you are saved by grace and omit the dozens of passages that say that you will be judged according to your works.  They will cite the verse that says "no man can see God" but omit the 20 verses that speak of God appearing to various prophets.

If you will be careful and wise, you need to check the doctrine against the scripture.  You will find that the other guys always have some interesting omissions in their presentation.

Mormons believe the whole Bible.  We believe all of it.  We practice all of it.  We believe all that God has revealed and that he will continue to reveal his will today.  Pay attention to the "..." whenever you read a religious article.  When you see them, look up the original and see what was omitted.  You may be surprised.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An act of faith

Scientific types always dismiss the claims of the faithful, not knowing that their own scientific research is an act of faith.  Think about it.  If all things are equal at the start of an experiment, how do you select a hypothesis to begin with.  One of them will seem more viable, more plausible than another.  The moment of selecting how to act and move forward is an act of faith.  The scientist trusts his instincts, his experience, and his gut.  That one hypothesis stands out above another comes from discernment--a spiritual gift.  Abraham chapter 3 goes all into this premise via a syllogism using Kolob as a metaphor.

This past week, there was an article in which NASA claimed that they will find life in outer space within the next 20 years.  This is a statement of faith, every bit as much as the believer's confession that there is a God that exists, but whom he has not seen.  The billions of dollars dumped into this NASA research is evidence of faith on their part.  Why would anyone put those great resources into something that is yet unseen and of which no proof exists presently?  NASA "believes" that there is life out there and they are sure they will find it.  Yet the fact that they have no proof doesn't stop them from asking Congress to give them lots of money, does it?

When we think of faith in the terms that Joseph Smith described it, that it is the cause of all action on our part, suddenly faith becomes more evident.  Whether we decided to plant a garden, lose 10 pounds, buy a home with a 30-year mortgage, or look for aliens in outer space, those are all acts of faith, because we can see what we desire in our mind's eye and act upon it even though we cannot yet see the finished product.

Everybody has faith.  Everybody believes in something.  Those who demand proof and evidence of faith need only look at their own actions for understanding how faith works.  The question then becomes, "Do you believe in something that is not seen, but which is true?"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Watch for the pattern

Johnson was excommunicated in 1979
The headlines today inform us that Kate Kelly--recently excommunicated for her gathering women to oppose and protest against Church teachings on priesthood via an organization called Ordain Women--plans to appeal the judgment of her bishop to the next level.  Church disciplinary procedures allow options for her case to be reconsidered by her stake presidency and the high council.  If the member is not satisfied with the judgment, an appeal may be made to the First Presidency of the Church.  This is ultimately what Kelly wants.

The appeal process is neither automatic nor required.  The stake president can examine the testimony and evident of the case, which in this case isn't secret, and determine that the bishop's original decision can stand.  Or he can re-hear the case with the high council.

After Kelly made public the results of her first hearing, the news media predictably trumpeted that she was excommunicated by a panel of three MEN.  Certainly, if her excommunication is upheld by the stake presidency and the high council, the headlines will read that her ousting was reconfirmed by 15 MEN.  No matter what, men hold the priesthood keys that determine whether she regains her membership or whether she stays excommunicated.  The headlines will reflect the mantra that evil, misogynistic Mormons are too inflexible and backward to get with the times.

It is more likely than not that Kelly's excommunication will stand.  The reason she was excommunicated is that she is in open, public rebellion against those who hold the keys of the kingdom.  The Lord' has said "he that receiveth you, receiveth me...and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me."  A person who has a testimony of the restored gospel will understand that the Lord's servants represent him.  He has given them authority and power to act in his name.  He sustains their actions and they are sealed in heaven and on earth.  Jesus gave the apostles authority to remit or retain sins.  Those keys are delegated to bishops and stake presidents.

Unless Kate Kelly repents of her stubbornness and rebellion, we will watch a familiar pattern unfold.  She will inevitably slide into full-fledged apostasy out of resentment and bitterness that she could not force God's Church to bend to her will.  Here's how it will play out.

After each stage of the appeals process, she will garner media attention.  The liberal media are drawn only by the lure of controversy and the desire to discredit any power that does not come from the state and the elites who own their news corporations.  The Book of Mormon warns of the proud who are rich and the proud who are educated.  The media is beholden to both.  The media seeks to make anyone who doesn't play their game look foolish, backward, or out-of-touch.

Then, once the appeals are done, the media will begin to lose interest.  There are always new, fresh controversies that will fill airtime.  The world really doesn't care about Mormons anyway except when it serves its interests, garish or prurient.  When that attention starts to drift, Kelly and her followers will resort to crazy, outrageous steps to try to regain the media's attention.  I'm talking about things like, marching down the streets of Salt Lake City wearing only their temple garments or some stupid PETA-like stunt.  They'll do something like partner with some other denomination, probably Unitarian Universalists, and hold a mass "baptism" or something like that.

Even then, the media's attention will drift.  After a year or two, she won't be able to even get media coverage short of getting herself arrested.  At that point, the inefficacy of her efforts will stick in her craw and the bitterness will make her seek to damage the Church.  At this point, many apostates ally themselves with anti-Mormon ministries or parachurches.

It's possible that Kelly might try to pry her way into membership in the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized LDS Church), but they'll know she's a troublemaker.  They'll avoid giving her any power because they won't want anyone to make waves.  They tried ordaining women once before and lost a quarter of their membership--and they're not that big to begin with!  Unless she can be in charge, she's not going to want to follow any other leadership.

Since Kelly's liberal bent would most likely steer her away from evangelical parachurches, she'll probably gravitate toward the more secular anti-Mormons.  These are not as organized.  I call them the "Reddit" crowd because a lot of them hang out there and bash the Church.  Then it's on to Recover From Mormonism or

Helen Radkey
Kelly's life will become obsessively centered around getting attention for her dying causes and it will affect her family.  Hubby will get tired of the constant conflicts.  The spirit of apostasy thrives on conflicts and those conflicts begin to erupt at home.  Soon it'll be splitsville for the couple.  Brothers and sisters won't even be able to carry on a conversation about anything with her unless it revolves around her bitterness toward the Church.  This is what happened with Helen Radkey, who came to the media's attention several years ago when she tried to use the genealogical records of the Church to embarrass it.  Her son said in an interview that the family really felt alienated from her because she became a crank over her cause.

Even after some time there with those "harpies," they'll tire of her and the need to find greater recognition will drive her into the arms of more weird, radical groups.  Take Sonja Johnson, who was excommunicated for her attempts to divide the Church over the Equal Rights Amendment in the seventies.  I recall leaving a regional meeting of the Church near Washington, D.C. and seeing an airplane flying overhead with a banner reading "Mother in Heaven loves Mormons for E.R.A."  It was chartered by Johnson and her supporters.

Johnson ended up spiraling downward after her excommunication, losing her husband, her children, going into a lesbian relationship.  That relationship was so disatrous that Johnson ended up calling lesbian relationships "dangerous patriarchal traps" and wrote essays against all marriage-like relationships. Johnson ended up writing that "sex is engineered as part of the siege against our wholeness and power."  She founded and failed with a women's commune called "Wildfire."  Now, at the age of 78, she lives with her female partner and runs a B&B called "Casa Feminista."  Today, anyone under the age of 50 says, "Sonja who?" when they hear her name.

What did Sonja Johnson do that harmed the Church in any way?  Since 1979, the Church has more than doubled its membership.  It is more active, more influential, and more far-reaching than ever before.  In 1979, we had 15 temples.  Now there are well over 100.  We had under 50,000 missionaries in the field at the time, now we have around 88,000.  We have latter-day saints in China, Yemen, Dubai, Russia, the Baltic states, Indonesia, India, and almost everywhere.  The Permanent Education Fund assists thousands of young people in third world countries, transforming their futures.  We have donated hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance throughout the world, responding to global disasters in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and throughout the United States.

This is what Johnson tried to stop, but the work rolls on.  She could have had a hand in it, but she chosed to try to destroy it.  She ended up growing old, outside the Church, without the comfort of eternal family ties, destined to be alone in eternity, most likely in the telestial kingdom.

This is what awaits Kate Kelly.  Watch for the pattern.  It make take years to unfold, just like it did for Sonja Johnson and Helen Radkey, but it will follow the pattern.  The scriptures tell us that the devil does not sustain those who follow him, even those who do so unwittingly.  He always leads them into darkness and abandons them.  It is an unfortunate fate for a child of God.

Fortunately, the way back is clear.  Repentance can heal and restore.  The hand of fellowship will remain extended if she will abandon her desires to harm the Church and seek to build up Zion once again.  Zion will be built with or without her.  It would be a shame to have to stand on the outside trying to slow down those who are building it up despite her absence.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

BOM show producers reject LDS movie ad

The Book of Mormon Broadway musical has been a runaway hit, praised by the degenerate and the worldly.  It mocks God and his servants.  In the middle of the "Mormon Moment" while Romney was running for president, people saw it as a parody on Mormonism and religion in general.  The producers repeatedly said they didn't hate Mormons and that the play wasn't anti-Mormon in nature.  They harbored no ill will toward Mormons, they said.  Bull.  Just bull.

The Church has never been one to shy away from an opportunity to share the gospel and our leaders apparently saw it as a good-natured move to advertise in the playbills for the show.  The publicity probably led to at least a few converts.  I think that irked the producers of the show, but oddly, the theaters didn't turn down the Church's advertising money.  Hypocrites.  That's what they are.

But even the goodwill that can be bought with money eventually comes to an end.  The show has rejected advertising from an LDS film called the Saratov Approach.  The movie is the true story of two LDS missionaries who were kidnapped and held for ransom in Russia.  The producers rejected the ad because, unlike their bigoted, hateful portrayal of missionaries, the movie portrays them in a positive, even heroic light.

So there you have it.  The purpose of the play is not to entertain, but to foster cruel, bigoted, and hurtful stereotypes--and make money doing it.  Sad.  Just sad.

Now, we're waiting for the well-timed lightning bolts...


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ron and Cathy Den Boer: Anti-Mormon Trolls

I'm one of two national LDS columnists for the Examiner web site.  I've written over 200 articles for Examiner in the past five years.  I appreciate the chance to write and have my articles on my faith be seen around the world.

Unfortunately, a couple of other people have decided to jump on the bandwagon and ride my "coattails" with the intent of spreading an anti-Mormon message.  It has been my experience that a Mormon can never stand up anywhere in the world and declare his testimony without Satan providing an opposing voice to try to drown out that testimony.  It is uncanny how it happens.  I have likened anti-Mormons like the "Agent Smith" character in "The Matrix."  It seems that anyone, anywhere can transform in to an anti-Mormon.  That's because, everywhere you go, there are people over whom the devil has influence.

In the comments section of my Examiner articles, if I enable comments for the articles, inevitably some anti-Mormon will chime in and try to defame my faith.  Over the last couple of years, I have acquired two "trolls" or "stalkers."  Their names are Ron and Cathy Den Boer.

The Den Boers are peculiar in that the comments they post rarely have anything to do with the content or topic of my articles.  They've simply subscribed to my Examiner feed and they get an e-mail when I post anything new.  In knee-jerk fashion, they find a cut-and-paste section of text from CARM or some other anti-Mormon web site, and they paste it into the comment field.

Examiner only allows for about 1000 words in the comments field, so very often, the Den Boers must post multiple comments.  I have written articles 500-700 words in length, only to have them post 2,000-5,000 words of anti-Mormon stuff in the comments!  You see, they're not generating original material, they are plagiarizing the stuff from other sites without attribution.  I guess no one told them plagiarism is dishonest--or either they don't care to be dishonest when it comes to their fight against Mormonism.

The Den Boers, Ron and Cathy
It's a quandary for me sometimes.  I hate that they might scare other readers from commenting on the articles.  It's a form of cyber-bullying in that sense.  I could just not enable comments, but that doesn't give people the opportunity to ask sincere questions.  There are reasonable people out there who want to have a conversation.  The Den Boers want to shout them down and stop that conversation from happening.

Who are the Den Boer's anyway?  Ron's Facebook profile can be found here.  Their public profile says he worked at the Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, went to Sunnyside High School, and that they live in Vancouver, Washington.

Cathy works at Educational Service District 112, which "...equalizes educational opportunities for learning communities through innovative partnerships, responsive leadership, and exceptional programs."  Cathy studied at WSU Vancouver and received her BS in Psychology and a Masters in Education.  They have children and grandchildren.  They have thing for schnauzers, too.

Gosh, they seem like such NICE people, don't they!  But there is a Jekyll and Hyde quality to anti-Mormons.  It's a dark, hidden obsession, like pornography.  They are all pleasant and nicey-nice to their friends, but those friends just can't imagine that the instant the topic of Mormonism is raised, Ron and Cathy's guts just start growling and they can't rest until they have attempted to stamp out the threat it poses.

When I post an article on Examiner, within a matter of minutes sometimes, they respond with hateful anti-Mormon tripe.  Would their friends expect that of them?

The Den Boer's aren't alone in this.  There are many like them.  One of the most vicious anti-Mormons I ever encountered was a 73 year-old woman, a professor of music, a recording artist, and a music therapist.  She and her husband operate a prestigious vineyard in northern California.  She lives in a million-dollar home and is considered quite the socialite.  Like the Den Boers, her friends can't imagine that she spends hours every week for years, posting anti-Mormon stuff on Internet forums.

You might think it mean-spirited of me to post the Den Boers' information like this.  Like Rush Limbaugh, I'm just a "harmless, loveable, fuzzball."  I mean no harm by it.  I believe that it's instructive to provide the information because the Den Boers attack me and the Church with every article I write.  People need to know who anti-Mormons are.  They need to see that haters can wear their religion like a mask, hiding the hate that's underneath.  Let's take off the mask.

I hold no ill will toward them.  I don't know them.  The Den Boers have just made it their mission to tear down Mormonism.  They've taken it upon themselves to post anti-Mormon cut-and-paste attacks on a large number of my Examiner articles.  I thought you'd like to know who they are the next time you see their names in the comments section of my Examiner articles.  Anti-Mormons don't like to do their work in the light of day.  Now their names and picture will soon be Google-able and anyone who wonders why people act like the Den Boers can ask them why they hate Mormons so much.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy anti-Mormon Mothers' Day

My Google Alerts brought this to my attention today. A woman who is in the process of falling away from the Church posted this yesterday on an exMormon/anti-Mormon forum, just a day before Mothers' Day.

"So since I have lost my faith I have been slowly distancing myself from the church. So there are definitely signs for hubby to read...... I stopped wearing my garments...not a word from hubby.... I got released from my calling....I started only goi g to sacrament I often just stay home all together. This is mostly all ignored by hubby. Mostly, except for the overt new push to extra indoctrinate the kids....his efforts to overly talk religion when we go to my family's... anyway, you get it, typical passive aggressive mormon behavior.

"So tonight, around 6 he mentions that he is subbing for one of our little ones primary class tomorrow, (mothers day) and would I come help him, oh and would I do the lesson?

"I just laughed and said no I wont do the lesson. This is just a little manipulation because he knows I don't plan on going to anything but sacrament. And he made sure he brought it up in front of little one, who was thrilled at the idea of having mom and dad in their class. (Little one has a hard time going to primary alone)

"Hubby could care less what I think or believe..... he just wants that role of faithful wife and mother filled to complete his mormon image. (Spelling and capitalization as in original.)

This brings to mind a situation I ran into back on the original S.P.A.M. site a few years ago. I discovered that one of the anti-Mormons who had joined our site was a former member who was trying to undermine his wife's faith in the Church. He was still married to her and he was conspiring with anti-Mormons and apostates on an open Internet forum about the best way to destroy her faith. It makes my blood run cold to think that such evil exists. We know there are wolves in sheeps' clothing lurking in the Church, but to have the wolf in your own family must be a horrible thing to discover.

At the time this was going on, I wrote two articles, found here and here. These became the S.P.A.M. articles that had the most pageloads. The first one received nearly 30,000 in a day and eventually exceeded 70,00 pageloads. These articles drew criticism from shallow-minded saints as well who didn't bother to actually read the ample scriptural evidence I provided, alongside the words of modern General Authorities. The consensus of the scriptures was clear, no woman has the obligation to follow her husband into apostasy. Divorce is a last, final option that may be required to save the faithful member and the children when other remedies have failed.

It seems that the more common scenario is the one I described in the articles, a husband gets dragged down by Satan and he attempts to compel his wife to follow him into darkness. The post I cited above from to day is from the less common situation, where the wife falls away.

When you read the woman's comments above, given to a known group of individuals hostile to her religion, you might wonder why the woman won't seek counseling. She accuses her husband of passive-aggressive behavior and says this is typical of Mormons. This is likely a case of projection. Who is hostile here? The woman or the husband? We don't know the husband's side, but it sounds very much like he is a concerned husband and father who sees his wife abandoning him, their children, and the sealing ordinances that would lead them into exaltation.
Passive aggressive behavior is typified by certain behaviors including:

  • Procrastination
  • Behaving beneath customary standards
  • Pretending not to see, hear, remember, or understand requests
  • The silent treatment
  • Sulking & withdrawal
  • Gossiping

Aren't these behaviors present in what we can read in this woman's comments? Almost all of them are present! Instead of having frank, open, and confidential discussions with her spouse, she has resorted to gossiping behind his back with nameless, faceless devils whose only motive is to damage her faith and the Church. Out of the entire discussion thread that ensued, there was only one reasonable commentator who suggested that, if she hoped to save her marriage, she should drop the hostility toward the Church. It certainly would be possible for love to prevail and tolerance to take root. How likely is that so long as she is willing to bad-mouth her eternal companion to the anonymous wretches who can't move past their own personal apostasy without reliving it again and again for others?

The woman claims that he “...just wants that role of faithful wife and mother filled to complete his mormon image.” Perhaps it is the case, but is it also possible that he is distressed to lose his eternal companion?” Is he not worried about the destructive effects of her hostility toward the Church on their children? The woman was fuming because her husband expressed his hope that she might set aside her personal struggle for the sake of the children on Mothers' Day. Unfortunately, she is so steeped in selfishness that breaking the hearts of her children is no longer a consideration. Apostasy almost always has its root in selfishness. It often emerges from an unwillingness to wait on the Lord and the unreasonableness to demand that God follow our timelines, not his.

A crisis of faith can happen to anyone. We get through those times by leaning on others who have faith, not abandoning it. Like President Uchtdorf said, we should learn to “doubt our doubts” first, before doubting our faith. A patient, concerned husband is praying and hoping every day. There are small children who pray with childlike faith that their mother will choose to be with them forever in heaven instead of following the voice of the Adversary into oblivion.

My prayers are with this mother on Mothers' Day. May God's love and the love of her family soften her heart and return her back to the arms of those who care about her most. May his love tear her from the clutching arms of exMormon and anti-Mormon demons who lie in wait to deceive.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why "Truth is not a tactic"

Anti-Mormons who visit S.P.A.M. often leave with consternation about our motto, "Truth is not a tactic."  They return back to their anti-Mormon and ex-Mormon forums and make snide comments.  Some have suggested that this means that we don't rely on the truth.  That would be a misguided assumption.

When we say truth isn't a tactic, I would refer the reader to the definition of the words, truth and tactic.

Truth is simply what is.  It doesn't follow anyone's agenda.  It doesn't bend to politics, persuasion, or influence.  It just is what it is.  It's "just the facts, ma'am."  It doesn't matter who declares the truth because it doesn't change.   If a Mormon tells the truth, it's just as true as if a Catholic, a Baptist, a Buddhist, or an atheist declares it.

A tactic, unlike truth, is an action or strategy that is "planned to achieve a specific end."  Synonyms include "trick," "ploy," "dodge," "ruse," and "machination."  As you can see, truth can't be manipulated.  Ultimately, it stands on its own.

Here at S.P.A.M., we just tell the truth.  We don't manipulate it.  We just present it and explain it as we see it. We have shown repeatedly that anti-Mormons depend on tactics, not truth.  We have identified those tactics:
1. Use of non-authoritative sources and out-of-context quotations
2. Attack the story of the Book of Mormon's origin, not its contents
3. Distort Mormon doctrines by comparing them to the unscriptural teachings of Christian creeds
4. When all else fails, lie!
5. Use slander, personal attacks, and character assassination
6. Accuse your opponent of doing the very thing you are doing
They have to use these tactics because the truth doesn't sustain their side.  They just can't tell a person to read the Book of Mormon and see for themselves.  They have to stop that person somehow from even considering the possibilities.  They have to misrepresent statements by slicing and dicing them into something unrecognizable from the original text.  They compare our beliefs to their own interpretations.  When the Bible agrees with us, they say we're interpreting it, or that it's just a metaphor.  They lie about our beliefs and doctrines to other people all the time because, if people really knew what we believed, it would seem reasonable to them.  They slander Joseph Smith and the leaders of the Church.  Then they use the psychological device called projection--they accuse us of lying when they are lying.  They accuse us of character assassination when that is what they are doing to us.

Our motto, "Truth is not a tactic," means that we will stand by the facts.  We will declare the whole truth, not half-truths or innuendo.  The more determinedly we declare it, the more irrational their opposition becomes.  The more they resort to tactics.  Thus, truth can never be a tactic.  It stands independent in the sphere where God has placed it to act for itself.  Let the seeker decide for himself.  We are happy to leave it to the seeker and God to find confirmation of our testimony.  We know that God is faithful and that, as James wrote, anyone who seeks wisdom should "ask of God."  If the other guys don't have the confidence to let God guide you, what does that say about them?  Where is their faith?  We trust in God and encourage you to take it to him in prayer.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Insincere questions

Most of the the people who are devoted to destroying Mormonism are religious people from other Christian sects.  Statistically, this is primarily because there are more people who believe in a supreme being than people who don't.  There are atheists who wish to destroy all religions, but they represent a much smaller part of the population.  There are former members who lose their faith and harbor some kinds of resentment towards the Church and seek to damage it, but there are yet fewer of them.  By and by, most people are tolerant and are willing to live and let live.  Thus, people who go about trying to destroy a religion usually have some deeper motivation--one that allows them to cover their hatred with the veneer of virtuosity.  Jesus said that there would be people who would seek to destroy his followers and even put them to death, thinking they were doing God justice.

Because anti-Mormons who come from other Christian sects want to appear righteous to others, they will often devise trick questions to hide the hypocrisy that would otherwise be apparent in their actions.  The Bible tells us that ancient Jews did the same thing to Jesus.  In fact, the whole of the 12th chapter of Mark's Gospel is about this topic.

Jesus starts out the chapter with a parable about a man who plants a vineyard, puts a wall and a tower in it to guard it, and lets it out to husbandmen to cultivate it.  Over time, the man sends servants (prophets) to check on the progress of the husbandmen (the House of Israel).  To his dismay, the master's servants are beaten, abused, and even killed.  Finally, the man sends his own son, figuring that the husbandmen will respect him.  Instead, the husbandmen kill him.  The master comes and destroys the husbandmen and gives the vineyard to others.  Jesus' message was clear to them.  The religious "authorities" who ruled over the minds of the Israelites were going to be destroyed because they rejected God's prophets and were, at that moment, rejecting God's own Son.  The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus, but they were afraid to act at that time.

So, fearing the people, they decided they'd try to discredit Jesus using sophistry.  Sophistry means "the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false."  They devised some scenarios to trip up Jesus and make him look foolish.  Of course the wisdom of the Son of God was superior to theirs, but our mission here is to study their methodology and compare it with the tactics of anti-Mormons today.

There were various sects among the Jews at the time, just like there are various sects and denominations of competing Christian churches today.  Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, etc. all have doctrinal differences with one another.  Catholics don't believe Protestants will go to heaven.  Protestants teach that Catholics won't be saved.  Baptists don't believe Methodists will be saved, because they baptize infants, etc.  They all have their differences.  They don't agree on but a few things.  Each condemns the other.

Among the Jews of Jesus' day, there were the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Saducees.  There were probably others, but these three sects show up in Mark chapter 12.  They disagreed on fundamental doctrines, but they set aside their differences to combat God's Son and his Church.  Sound familiar?  In my years of studying anti-Mormonism, I've seen evangelical Christians go team up with atheists to swap and compare notes on how to gang up on the Mormons.  I've seen people of different denominations set aside their deepest, most profound doctrinal convictions just so they could show a united front against Mormonism.

I once watched two Christians battle it out over whether the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were three separate beings or just one Trinity-in-unity kind of being.  When I took the side of the guy who said he could show dozens of scriptures that prove that the Godhead were three separate beings, he actually changed his tune and changed sides because the Mormon agreed with him--but I digress.

First the Herodians come with a question about paying taxes.  Jesus answers them with the "Render unto Caesar..." line that was so profound.  When we read that, we have to understand that the question was not about obeying the laws.  The Herodians were baiting him.  If he was indeed their "Messiah" (and they misunderstood that the Messiah should be a secular, Davidic king), why should he pay taxes to Caesar's government instead of overthrowing it.  They were trying to get him in trouble with the Romans.  That was the point of their insincere question.

The next insincere question comes from the Sadducees.  The text in Mark 12 tells us that the Sadducees denied belief in a resurrection of spirit.  They were like the Stoics, but Jewish.  So they come to Jesus asking a question about the resurrection of the dead.  They had a logic problem to show how there could be no afterlife, and that problem dealt with the complications of a woman who had multiple marriages.

You see, people who believed in a resurrection also believed in eternal family relationships.  They believed that marriage would endure beyond the grave.  The Sadducees posed a problem about a woman who kept outliving her husbands and remarried several times.  Who would have her in the resurrection?  The logic of the Saducees told them that this problem easily illustrated that there would be no resurrection.  Jesus told them flatly that they were wrong.  Their question was insincere in that they focused on the topic of marriage, but the real purpose was to undermine Jesus' teachings about the resurrection of the dead.

Finally, one of the scribes came to Jesus asking him which commandment was the most important, hoping to get him to stumble somehow.  Jesus answered scripturally, with a passage from the Torah.  The first commandment was to love God.  The second was to love your fellow man.  He said that all other commandments were connected to these two.  The law and the prophets were based on these two greatest laws.

If you are a member of Christ's church today, you must realize that our self-declared adversaries have designed questions to undermine your faith.  They intentionally try to word things in such a way as to make you stumble and doubt yourself.  You have to realize that they are not sincere.  The rest of Mark chapter 12 teaches lessons about hypocrisy.  That's the point of those lessons.  People who try to trip you up are not concerned for the welfare of your soul.  They want to destroy your faith.  They are not misguided, but well-intended.  They are not listening to the Good Shepherd's voice.

If you follow your heart, you will be able to discern them.  You may have a friend bring up one of these fake questions that are intended to trip you up, but they'll preface it a certain way.  "My pastor says that Mormons believe in a different Jesus.  Is that true?"  You can know they're sincere because they are your friend.  But you'll find others who will be like, "Oh, you're a Mormon.  Don't you believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?"  There's a difference in spirit that you will feel in these instances.  You can discern a true, concerned friend from someone who has been programmed to be an attack dog when Mormons are mentioned.

I've seen anti-Mormons emerge in the most unusual places, especially on the Internet.  There's a lady who runs a food blog that now mostly writes anti-Mormon garbage.  There's a guy on a mixed martial arts forum who keeps a constant anti-Mormon discussion going.  You'll meet some "nice" neighbor lady who is a Sunday School teacher in her church, who will start bringing you anti-Mormon tracts from her pastor, even though she never took an interest in speaking to you until she learned you were a Mormon.  She'll be so warm toward you that you'd think butter would melt in her mouth, but your skin just crawls when she's around you.  You'll feel it.  Follow the Spirit and discern how you feel about these people.

When someone asks you an insincere question, give them the answer to the question they SHOULD HAVE ASKED.  When they say, "So, I heard that you have to believe in Joseph Smith to go to heaven," just go back to the beginning.  Testify of Jesus Christ and that Joseph Smith was a modern witness of Jesus' resurrection and that Jesus called him to restore the ancient Christian Church back to the world.  Put the rightful focus on Jesus Christ, but show that Joseph was called to be a servant of the Lord.  Joseph Smith points us to have faith in Jesus and bore witness of the resurrection, just like Peter or Paul.

When you follow the Spirit and trust your gut, you will be able to give better answers and not be flustered when someone tries to corner you with a cleverly devised question that intended to make you err.  Just testify of the truth and what you know, and everything will be fine.

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