Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Accusation: Mormons Don't Understand Grace or the Unnecessary Pursuit of Good Works (Part 2)

...continued

Accusation (Part 3):
“Good works, keeping the commandments, or being a good person do not get me into heaven. Salvation requires of me to believe in Jesus' sacrifice for me and if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life.”

Response:
We’ve already established, and you have mentioned again, that belief is essential for salvation.
Here is where I see a “disconnect.” Many “Christians” think of their belief in Christ as a noun and treat it almost as a possession. Christ did not say that those who have “a belief” in Him and don’t act on it gain everlasting life, but those that “believe,” (remember it’s an action word).
How does Jesus Christ define believing in Him?

“12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
-John 14:12-15

What do we learn here? If we truly “believe” in Christ, we will do the works he did (good works) and if we love him we will keep his commandments. So, if believing is a requirement for salvation, that includes doing good works and if we believe loving Christ is essential (which I do - “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart” -Deut. 6:5, Matt 22:37-39) then we know that keeping the commandments is essential for salvation.

You are right: “if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life.” They will see it because you will keep the commandments and do good works.

17. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
-James 2:17-20


Accusation (Part 4):
“But the way I live my life after that salvation moment is not what brings me salvation. Only Christ can give salvation. Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”

Response:
Somehow, somewhere people started to think that because Christ saves us, it does not matter what we do after we accept him. My response to that, is why on earth did Christ give all those commandments then? I’m not referring to the Old Testament commandments. Christ didn’t say “It’s written thou shalt not kill, but I say that you can kill, as long as you accepted me, and you will still be saved even if you don’t repent.” Nope. This is what he said:

21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matt 6:21-22

These verses are found in the Sermon on the Mount. He was addressing his followers (I imagine there were just curios bystanders as well), but he was giving his followers these commandments. He didn’t make the commandment easier, he made it harder. He also said if you call someone a fool, you’re in danger of hell fire. So, yes, what we do after we accept Christ does not bring us salvation, but it can disqualify us from salvation. Here’s what Paul said about it:

4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5. And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
-Heb. 6:4-6

Two times, Jesus made an authoritative (obviously) statement on this subject:

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” -Matt 10:22

“13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matt 24:13

If ye endure to the end, you will be saved. Which means if we don’t endure to the end, we will not be saved.

So what does endure mean? When we study the context of both of these statements we see that it means to endure the hardships associated with being a follower of Christ. What does being a follower/believer in Christ entail? We discussed that earlier. Now, when is “the end” that we have to endure until? The end of the day or week that we accepted Christ? Nope. Until the end of our lives.

“Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”
We know that only Christ ultimately saves us, but why is it so hard to believe that he expects us to keep His commandments and that he rewards those who do? The ancient prophets and patriarchs (as well as the modern) were blessed because of their righteousness and obedience to God’s commandments.

Another passage from James-
21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
-James 2:21-23


Summary:
We believe that we are saved by grace through faith and belief in Jesus Christ (and all that entails —obedience to commandments) and that it is necessary to live how Christ asks us to live after we have accepted him.


Best Wishes,
Rusty

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Accusation: Mormons Don't Understand Grace or the Unnecessary Pursuit of Good Works (Part 1)

I received an interesting series of comments/accusations to various articles I wrote a few months ago. I have a little time on my hands, so I thought I would take some of that time to respond to one of the lengthier accusations. I will break it into three separate articles so as not to bore you and to keep each article a little more focused.

Following is the entire section of the accusation I will address in this and the next article. I will then break it down and respond to the various accusations/comments.

Accusation:
“You say that you believe that you are saved by grace but how are you saved by grace if you still have to do things on your own accord to reach the highest level of heaven?
Grace, by definition, is unmerited, meaning you have done nothing to deserve it and nothing you can do can make you deserve it. Therefore, truly being saved by grace is accepting that because of my sin I deserve death but Jesus chose to die in my place and believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God. The end. Good works, keeping the commandments, or being a good person do not get me into heaven. Salvation requires of me to believe in Jesus' sacrifice for me and if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life. But the way I live my life after that salvation moment is not what brings me salvation. Only Christ can give salvation. Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”

Response:
In order to appropriately -and thoroughly- respond to these comments, it would be best to start with a proper, fundamental understanding of what “grace” is. We will then be much better positioned to address the issue.

“Grace” comes from the Greek “Charis” (Khar-ece) and means “graciousness in manner or act”—especially the divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life (Strong’s concordance). The “grace of God” then, is the graciousness and influence of God in his dealings with his children (“saved by grace”) and/or the direct effect of that grace in an individual’s life (“I succeeded by the grace of God). One of my favorite descriptions of grace is it’s “enabling power” in the lives of the faithful. Also, Peter puts it well: “But the God of all grace... make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” -1Pet. 5:10

Yes, we’re talking semantics here, but it is important to have a correct understanding of what the concept of grace actually means instead of parroting certain phrases in the Bible without knowing their true meaning.

Now, are there varying amounts or degrees of grace someone can have in their life? Yes. Again, I will refer to the words of Peter. -I think it’s fitting that two versus before the one I want to focus on, Peter warns the Church (since he was leading it) to be careful in dealing with Paul’s writings because some believers got mixed up in doctrine and fell away from the Church because of them. For Context’s sake I will quote the four versus here:

15. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
-2 Pet. 3:15-18

So Peter commands the members of the Church to “grow in grace.” He is not saying to grow “into” grace, but increase in degree of grace as well as the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I think it’s logical and probable that Peter and the other apostles had more of the Lord’s grace with them than a half-hearted member of the Church who just went through the motions. -It's not necessarily an "either you've got it or you don't" thing.

***Thus-far we know that grace is the “graciousness,” “influence” or “enabling power” of deity and that this influence can be had in varying levels or degrees in our lives.

On to our focus.

Accusation (Part 1):
“You say that you believe that you are saved by grace but how are you saved by grace if you still have to do things on your own accord to reach the highest level of heaven?Grace, by definition, is unmerited, meaning you have done nothing to deserve it and nothing you can do can make you deserve it.”

Response:
I agree that the human family does not really “deserve” to receive Heavenly Father’s grace; after all, Adam and Eve did eat the fruit, right? I do however believe that God’s plan included sending his Son, that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting ilife.” -John 3:16

You will agree with me then when I say that we need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to gain everlasting life (be saved) because you already said “believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God.” Believing is a verb (which describes an action), which means believing is doing something. So, we do something (believe) in order to gain everlasting life (be saved).

It seems like a safe assumption (to me at least) to say that believing in Jesus Christ not only gains us eternal life, but the grace of God. That seems reasonable, right? -If we’re saved by grace, and if belief gains us eternal life (salvation).

Belief qualifies us for grace, not because we deserve it, but because God is bound when He makes a promise. It is obvious then that we do have to do things of our own accord (believe) in order to reach the highest level of heaven (Eternal life).

Accusation (Part 2):
“Therefore, truly being saved by grace is accepting that because of my sin I deserve death but Jesus chose to die in my place and believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God. The end.”

Response:
More or less. We will clarify “belief” in the next article.

continued...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Accusation: Mormons don't understand the Spirit or the Atonement

Following are some random accusations towards Mormon beliefs on the ministry of the Spirit and how the Atonement works accompanied by my responses. This is a continuation of the same correspondence mentioned in the posts on 9/30/08 and 10/05/08.

Accusation:
We were born in sin and have a natural instinct or desire to sin but He also gave us a conscience and when we do something wrong He “reminds us” or “tells us” in that little voice. The closer we are to Him the louder that voice is. It’s not a feeling because feelings are not the voice of God but a true knowledge.

Response:
-I assume that you will agree with me that the fruits of the spirit are granted to those who are close to God. I also assume that you believe the Spirit is a teacher (John 14:26).
Paul defines the “fruits of the spirit” as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering...” -Gal. 5:22. I don’t know what your particular experiences have been, but when I learn something from the Spirit (who is a teacher), and experience the fruits of the spirit, I experience love, joy, peace, etc.; which, are feelings. I do not think you believe love, joy, and peace aren’t feelings.
So, often when the Spirit teaches something, there are feelings involved.


Accusation:
When we sin we need to confess it and ask for forgiveness. Not like a revolving door like “I’ll sin now and confess later and everything will be alright.” God knows our hearts.

Response:
-I absolutely agree. One of my favorite biblical verses on this subject is Heb. 6:1 - “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection (*there’s that “perfection” word again); not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God...”


Accusation:
The “restored gospel” is full of do’s and don’ts. Mostly do’s. You can’t “buy your way into heaven” by going to church, paying tithing, and doing temple work. You can’t get a better seat in heaven by having lots of children, becoming a missionary, or being a bishop.

Response:
-The Church of Jesus Christ does not teach that people can buy their way into heaven. The only “buying” that ever happened in the gospel is Christ buying us with his sacrifice (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23, 2 Pet 2:1). People who have not studied the truths that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches do not realize that the Book of Mormon harmonizes with the Bible in stating-

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” - 2 Nephi 10:24

We know that if we believe the Lord, we strive to keep his commandments, and he will reward us as He sees fit. Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, we would all be lost, no matter how righteous we were.

“yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement...”
-Alma 34:9


Accusation:
God loves all of us and desires a true relationship with us. He is a great friend, and wonderful father. You can get to heaven if you accept Him as your personal savior.

Response:
-I absolutely believe if we accept God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and do what he asks us to do, we can return to live with Him in heaven.


Best Wishes,
Rusty

Monday, October 6, 2008

Accusation: Marriage is not a commandment

Accusation:
I'm sorry but Gen. 1:28 says nothing about marriage being a comandment. It says to be fruitful and increase in number and to rule over the earth and the fish in the sea, etc. Yes, procreating does seem to reference marriage but it doesn't actually say that one needs to be married and no where does it say that doing anything that was mentioned was a commandment.

Response:
I appreciate that you care enough about this subject to take the time to express your opinions.
“God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it”
-Gen1:28
I think we can all agree that when God says to do something, that constitutes a commandment. He commanded man to have children. How could he have children without having sexual relations? Having sexual relations outside of marriage is called fornication, which is a very serious sin.
It would appear to me that in order to keep God’s commandment (be fruitful, and multiply), man would need to have sexual relations with his wife (who he was married to), otherwise it would be fornication.


Accusation:
God does not say that people HAVE to be fruitful and multiply, let alone be married.

Response:
As we just established, when God says “do this,” or, “do that,” or, “be fruitful, and multiply,” it is a commandment. A command is to “give an authoritative order” (Oxford American Dictionary), hence, it is something you “have” to do. If you do not, it is sin that needs to be repented of.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
-James 4:17
I can see that this subject is one that you care about, so the most helpful thing might be to turn the page of our bible (from Gen 1:28) and read Gen. 2:22-25-

22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

I don’t think the Lord could be more clear than this. This is obviously not a commandment to only Adam and Eve because Adam and Eve were the first of the human family, therefore they could not leave their father and mother. It is a commandment to all of us, in every age.
In fact, one of the signs of the “latter times” is that “doctrines of devils” would be taught, including “forbidding to marry” (1 Tim. 4:3). So the devil doesn’t want us to get married. Why is that?


Accusation:
If he did, then what happens to people who are infertile and cannot have children? Are they not keeping God's commandments because they cannot have children? This argument just simply does not work.

Response:
Ahh.... This is another beautiful truth that the true gospel of Jesus Christ simply explains. If we are physically unable to keep a commandment, how could a just God condemn us for not doing so? He doesn’t. It’s the heart and the motive that count.
I think Paul’s words will work here: “for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15).
Another scripture I like (which does not necessarily refer to marriage) will fit nicely here as well:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.” -Doctrine & Covenants 124:49

I do agree that God punishing those who could not keep his commandments would not be a good argument. But people cannot use this as a cop-out to half-heartedly “try” to keep a commandment and then quit because they think they can’t do it or don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices.


I hope that helped answer your comments/questions. I promise you, from personal experience, that following the Lord’s plan is where true happiness is found.

Best Wishes,
Rusty

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Question: Why don't Mormons believe all you have to do is say you believe in Christ to be saved?

Question:
Why is it so hard for one to believe that God loves us enough to die for us and that all He asks is that we believe in Him?

Response:
-The truth that God sent his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) has caused many to stumble. Many of Christ's early disciples left him because he taught them things which were “hard” (John 6:60). Many “christians” error today, because they suppose that a mere verbal profession of belief is all that is necessary to achieve salvation. Jesus Christ himself defined what a believer should do:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” -John 14:12

Remember, devils also believe in Jesus as the Son of God; think of Legion who proclaimed the divinity of Jesus (Mark 5:7), and the spirit that the sons of Sceva tried to cast out, stated, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?” - Acts 19:15

If we truly believe in and love Jesus, we keep his commandments. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” -John 14:15.

“3. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
4. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” -1 John 2:4

So, yes. With everything in context, all that God asks of us is to Believe in His Son.


Comment:
Communion is a way for us to renew our commitment to give Him our lives in return for the Him dying for us.

Response:
-Agreed, mostly. I know you did not mean this, but it’s not realy a barter. It’s not that “he did that, so we will give him this.” We all owe the Lord everything that we are, and “communion” is a reminder of this.


Comment:
He does not ask us to become perfect, He says to turn away from sin.

Response:
-Actually, he does “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” -Matt 5:48. That wasn’t just him asking us to be perfect, he commanded it.


Best Wishes,
Rusty

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Question: How could God take the gospel from the earth?

I received an interesting email recently from someone who had many questions about the Church. In order to best answer her questions, and share the responses with all of you, I broke apart her email and will post her specific questions/comments accompanied with my responses.

Question:

I would like to ask why a loving god would remove the gospel from the earth for so many years and then have it restored?

Response:
It might seem wrong for a loving God to take away the gospel and leave his children in darkness -I agree. His children, however, are often ungrateful and forgetful, and sometimes downright spiteful.
Without going into much detail, it was man that corrupted the Church and caused the Lord’s spirit and guidance to be withdrawn from the early Church. All that was left was a shell of the divinely inspired organization that the Lord himself set up. Many of the original apostles expressed concerns about what would happen to the Church and it’s teachings after their departure (Acts 20:28-30, Gal 1:6, 3:1, 2 Thes. 2:1-3, etc.). I especially appreciate the writings of Peter (who was the appointed leader of the early Church):

2 Peter 2:1 -
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

Also, you can find interesting writings of Peter in “The Apocalypse of Peter,” found in the Nag Hammadi Library. -This was a volume of early religious writings (similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls, but date in the first two centuries) found in Egypt in the 1940’s. *Note that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not uphold the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi Library, or other apocryphal writings as part of our offical canon. Interesting things can be discovered in them, however. In the Apocalypse of Peter, Peter speaks about many who would set themselves up as leaders of the early church and oppress those who try to follow the correct path and teach incorrect doctrines. These “pure ones” (those that follow in the correct paths) will look forward to a “restoration,” in the future. Peter spends a fair amount of time identifying how the false priests and teachers would usurp power over the early church. If you are familiar with the Bible, you will recall how Jeremiah laments frequently over how the leaders of Israel caused the people to stray and deny themselves of the blessings of heaven.

The Illustration to the right is a depiction of the crucifixion of Peter, who, according to legend, was crucified upside-down because he felt unworthy to be martyred in the same way that his Lord was. The fledgling Church was left not long after without any of the original apostles to guide it. Leadership was diluted and different factions arose in attempts to seize control and governance of the church. The confusion only increased until the Day the Lord saw fit to restore the truth.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Accusation: The Truth About Mormons - Part 4

ACCUSATION
"It doesnt bother you that joesph smith went to jail murdered 2 people and was killed himself and now they have changed the story trying to say.."this is where joesph smith shed his blood for our sins."?"

RESPONSE
I understand how absurd much of what is taught in The Church of Jesus Christ may sound, after all... I am a convert and use to make fun of Mormons myself. Does it bother me that Joseph Smith went to jail (on more than forty occasions I might add)? It might if he had done anything worthy of imprisonment.
The sad truth about many accusations that flutter around regarding the character of Joseph Smith is how woefully erroneous they are. For example, the accusation you just gave against Joseph Smith did not have any reference attached. Much of the anti-mormon literature out there is the same, not bothering to give any references. -Especially on the more extreme claims.
One of these extreme claims is that the story was changed to say, "this is where joesph smith shed his blood for our sins." I'm sure that you mean well by writing these things, but the problem in doing so is far-reaching. Those who are curious about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints might read a statement like this and accept it as true without "doing their homework." Then, they will perpetrate those falsities to others, thinking they are informed and so on. I know, I did the same thing.
To put this statement of yours to rest, I will only reference one verse in the Book of Mormon:
"And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men." -Mosiah 4:2
This statement was made by a group of people in roughly 124 B.C. Whether or not you choose to believe that this actually happened, you're the one that's accountable for that. What you can't deny is that the Book of Mormon clearly testifies that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us, not Joseph Smith. The story has never changed. Those who say otherwise have not "done their homework."


ACCUSATION
It doesnt bother you that in Revelation 22:18-19 says " 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 prophecy, GOD SHALL TAKE AWAY HIS PART out of the BOOK OF LIFE, and out of this city, and from the things written in this book."
Does that bother you?

RESPONSE
It does not bother me that this statement is recorded in the Bible. It is disappointing to me though, that so many people still quote this verse in hopes of discrediting the Book of Mormon. I've already written a more in depth article on this subject (the holy bible is very specific bout adding to or taking away). To put it simply (and succinctly), "this book" is referring to exactly that -the Book of Revelation. Remember, Bible comes from the Latin, "biblio," which means books, or library. John's statement is referring only to the Book of Revelation. In case you're interested, John wrote the Gospel of John 15-25 years after the Book Revelation. I don't think he wanted to invoke the plagues upon himself.



ACCUSATION

have you ever looked into your own beliefs and others? I'm not here to lash out..I'm here to help you from this great deception of lies. Do some homework and ask yourself questions. I pray that the TRUTH is what you see.
GOD BLESS

RESPONSE
I appreciate your concern for my welfare and thank you, I have researched the beliefs I've subscribed to. I am a convert, and I can say with a certainty that I have seen and tried what else is out there. NOTHING has brought me anything close to or resembling the happiness and peace I have felt since joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And thank you for your advice to pray about these beliefs. I have done so in and have felt the peace and joy that come only from a loving Heavenly Father, through the Holy Ghost, confirming that these beliefs are true. I also hope that from my responses you have been able to tell that I have done a little bit of homework. May you be blessed as well.

Best Wishes,
Rusty

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Accusation: The Truth About Mormons - Part 3

ACCUSATION:
“Although the bible stays the same as today (word for word when the sea scrolls were found)- dont you ever questions why the mormon book has been changed 100's of times? Do you realize that the bible is the only book EVER to have 40 different authors, 3 languages, 3 contents, over 1500 years and none contradicted itself?”

RESPONSE:
I can appreciate your earnestness in defending the Bible and it’s divine origin. Most people in the world don’t realize that the one of the main purposes of the Book of Mormon is to serve as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

Unfortunately, many pastors and religious teachers dismiss the Book of Mormon without actually reading what it has to say. This is how many misnomers are promulgated about the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

We also defend the Bible because, quite simply, if the Bible is not true, neither is the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon testifies of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his role as the savior of mankind. We however recognize that the Bible has gone through many translations and has undergone many modifications over the past 1900+ years. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered they did not correlate “word for word” as you said, but did however have many of the same writings. Curiously, there were many other books of scripture discovered with the Dead Sea Scroll cache that are not in our current version of the Bible. This is no big surprise, seeing that even today protestants and other non-Catholics exclude the deuterocanonical texts that are found in the Catholic Bible.

Interestingly enough, if you take the time to study the dead sea scrolls (I own a great version called “The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls,” by Geza Vermes), many teachings actually support what Mormonism teaches.

Now, as far as changes to the Book of Mormon, I’m surprised you low-balled the number that much. There have been thousands of changes to the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. And if I left it that, I would be doing exactly what many ill-informed critics do. –Not clarifying what that means. We have most of the original hand-written manuscript on record and it is actually printed for all to see and compare to all who wish to see it (see The Critical Text Project for the Book of Mormon, Royal Skousen). Those changes were mostly punctual or grammatical. Much to the chagrin of nay-sayers, the doctrines and stories found in the Book of Mormon have not changed.

Next, let’s talk about your following comment: “Do you realize that the bible is the only book EVER to have 40 different authors, 3 languages, 3 contents, over 1500 years and none contradicted itself?”

It’s important to recognize that the Bible is not one book, but a collection of books. Bible comes from “biblia,” which is the Latin word, meaning library, or books. So, it is not ONE book that has the qualifications you just mentioned.

Just to humor you, the entire Book of Mormon (which is also a collection of books) has many authors too. It also contains fragments of at least 3 languages, spans at least 3 continents, and covers at least 2,600 years. –By the way, the Bible covers much more than 1,500 years, more like 4,100 years.
Hope that cleared things up a little bit.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Accusation: The Truth About Mormons - Part 2

continued from "Accusation: The truth about mormons - Part 1"

ACCUSATION
“and asked about what church to go to..and that angel of light said none…”

RESPONSE
Joseph wanted to join a church because he thought it the right thing to do. He asked God which church to join because he was confused by all the different teachings from the different churches (happens a lot, right?) and he wanted to know which church God approved of. Jesus Christ (not an angel of light), told young Joseph to join none of them.


ACCUSATION
“they are ALL WRONG..which states that EVERYTHING about them and beliefs arnt true-then your calling GOD a LIAR! THAT MEANS GOD WAS WRONG>>>>GOD IS NEVER WRONG.”

RESPONSE
This was one of those moments when I was shocked. Jesus Christ, said that the Churches were wrong and that Joseph must not join any of them. This does not mean that “everything about them and their beliefs aren’t true.” I’m not sure how this naysayer made this jump, but it was a big one.
We believe that almost all churches have pieces of truth in them. We invite others to take what truth they have, and come and see what truth can be added to that, as our late beloved President and Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley said. So, this would not make God a liar, but Satan and evil men would be the liars.
“God is never wrong.” No argument from us on that one amigo.

Best wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Accusation: The Truth About Mormons - Part 1

Every now and then, a comment comes along that leaves me, well… speechless; actually, shocked might be the better word. After reading your comments on Mormonism, I feel it my responsibility to shed some light on the subject for the benefit of whoever may find themselves reading this, and/or possibly the actual naysayer and author of these comments.

ACCUSATION - Part 1
"If you believe that GOD is the same "today, yesterday and forever" then why would you need a mormon bible? If you believe what Joeseph Smith taught that when he was drawn to an angel of light (which means= Devil) and asked about what church to go to..and that angel of light said none..they are ALL WRONG..which states that EVERYTHING about them and beliefs arnt true-then your calling GOD a LIAR! THAT MEANS GOD WAS WRONG>>>>GOD IS NEVER WRONG."

ACCUSATION
If you believe that GOD is the same "today, yesterday and forever" then why would you need a mormon bible?

RESPONSE
We absolutely believe god is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and that is one of the main reasons that we believe we need the Book of Mormon. The Bible records God speaking to his prophets for 4,400 years, if he is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” don’t you think he would also speak to his prophets today? The prophets of the Book of Mormon had our day in view when they wrote their records. It serves as a second witness to the Bible in bearing testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation is to be found in his gospel.
If you think it’s not necessary to have another book that supports the Bible’s teachings, you might well take Mark, Luke, and John out of the Bible because they basically say the same thing. Preposterous, right?
–By the way, the Mormon Bible is the King James Version, meaning the Bible we read from. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.

ACCUSATION
“If you believe what Joseph Smith taught that when he was drawn to an angel of light (which means= Devil)…”

RESPONSE
Two things jump out immediately in this comment that show this naysayer’s lack of study on the subject:
First, Joseph Smith did not claim to be “drawn to an angel of light.” His claim was even more amazing in that God the Father and Jesus Christ visited him in response to his humble prayer when he was fourteen.
Second, angel of light does not mean “devil.” I assumed when reading this that the naysayer was referring to 2 Cor 11:14 which reads, “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” In context, this verse is saying that in order to deceive, Satan can transform into an angel of light (or imitate, because Satan obviously can’t be a righteous angel). The proceeding verse (2 Cor. 11:13) mentions deceitful workers that transform themselves into apostles of Christ. I think we can agree that wicked men cannot literally transform into the Lord’s chosen apostles.
Just for added good measure, let’s mention that “transformed” in these verses is translated from the Greek “metaschematizo,” which means to disguise.

to be continued...

Best Wishes,
Rusty

Friday, April 25, 2008

Question: Was Jesus Married?

QUESTION:

Dear Rusty,

I have a question do mormons believe Jesus was married? I was also wondering about their thoughts on the virgin Mary. If they believe Jesus was married do they believe he had more than one wife. Thank You so much for taking the time to answer my questions.


RESPONSE:

Sorry it took a couple days for me to get back to you. I actually wrote a short article on this topic on my site truthisrestored.blogspot.com.

My answer is my own opinion from my own study over the years. I have no problem believing that Christ was married. As a matter of fact, I am more disturbed by the belief that he was not.

Marriage is and always has been a commandment of God (Gen 1:28). Christ was perfect in every way, including keeping every commandment of God. Therefore, if someone professes that Christ was not married, they're also saying he did not keep the commandments, which would make him not perfect. See what I'm saying?
As far as him having more than one wife, it would not surprise me one way or the other. Polygamy was a common practice then and was approved by God (Think of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David (2 Sam 12:8), etc...)

Mary, the mother of Jesus was one of the most righteous of Heavenly Father's daughters. How many others would be trusted with the role of being the Mother of the Son of God? the exact details of Christ's conception are not nearly as important as the fact that he was conceived by miraculous means and was literally the Son of God. Some people unwisely get hung up on the means of his conception instead of the reason for it.

"We believe in God the eternal father, and in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" -Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith: 1

"There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." -Mosiah 3:17 (in the Book of Mormon)

I hope I've been able to answer your questions satisfactorily.

Best Wishes,
Rusty

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Accusation: Mormons follow the devil. They even sing it in their hymns

ACCUSATION:
Mormons deny that they follow the devil. In their hymn book, on page 116, they declare that they do: “Is it enough alone to know that we must follow him below.” How can any Mormon deny that they follow the devil when it is in their very so-called “hymn book?”


RESPONSE:
Yet again, another marvelously misinterpreted passage, taken royally out of context. Well, I have come to expect no less from nay-sayers.

I believe quoting the rest of the verses would help shed some light on the real meaning of this hymn.

1. “Come, follow me,” the Savior said.
Then let us in his footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God’s own loved, begotten Son.

2. “Come, follow me,” a simple phrase,
Yet truth’s sublime, effulgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.

3. Is it enough alone to know
That we must follow him below,
While trav’ling thru this vale of tears?
No, this extends to holier spheres.

4. Not only shall we emulate
His course while in this earthly state,
But when we’re freed from present cares,
If with our Lord we would be heirs.

It appears that, if our friend had read (or at least acknowledged he had) the rest of the verses, we might not have had to address this subject. It is obvious the hymn is praising Jesus Christ and expressing the importance of following the Lord (Jesus Christ) below (on earth) throughout this life.

It would well behoove our friend to take a few moments and read the March Ensign (Church Publication) as well. That might better inform him of our beliefs about Jesus Christ.

I hope to get back to my normal posting schedules (1-2/week). Suggestions for new topics are welcome.

Till next time…

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Question: Why don’t I feel the “burning” of the Spirit anymore?


I’ve also pondered this question in the past. It seems like you’re basically doing everything you’re supposed to be doing (going to Church, reading your scriptures, praying morning and night, etc…) and yet, you don’t feel that same burning of the bosom, or spiritual high that you’ve experienced before. I don’t think there is necessarily one universal answer for this question, but I will present one reason I think applies to many, if not most, in this situation.

Every week in Church, members of the Church make solemn covenants to take upon them the name of Christ, keep his commandments, and remember him. In accordance to those covenants, the faithful are promised to “always” have His Spirit to be with them. So… if we are promised we’ll always have the Spirit, and we’re doing what we can to keep our side of the covenant, why do we sometimes feel that we don’t have the Spirit with us?

I’m suggesting the answer is often that we are simply used to it. If we are really living the way we should be, and doing the things we’re supposed to, and have been for a descent amount of time, we are so accustomed to the companionship of the Spirit that it is not so striking or noticeable to us anymore. When I first joined the Church, I felt on fire every time I read the scriptures. Now, I occasionally feel a more powerful presence when I have one of those “Ah ha!” moments. Normally I just feel confident and peaceful. –What the scriptures refer to as the “rest of the Lord.”

A more poignant example comes from the experiences of Joseph Smith. When “The Vision” (D&C 76) was given to Brother Joseph and Sidney Rigdon, brother Rigdon was overcome with the Spirit and power of the manifestation. Brother Joseph smiled and said “Sidney is not used to it as I am” (Philo Dibble Recollections, Juvenile Instructor 27, 303-304). Brother Joseph was able to endure the vision calmly and collectedly, though obviously feeling the power of God.

What I tend to notice more distinctly is the absence of the spirit. A long time ago my best friend pointed out something in his family’s scripture study. Many think when we don’t feel the Spirit it is because He has left us. King Benjamin remarks that those who to contrary to the will of God withdraw themselves from the Spirit (Mosiah 2:36). At the beginning of my conversion (which all must go through) the strong presence of Spirit was striking and unusual whereas acting the way I had previously felt normal. Nine years later with a little bit of seasoning has altered things so that when I am in the wrong, the withdrawal or decreasing of the Spirit’s influence is more striking and unusual.

As we strive to live the right way, our natures change. We become “new creatures in Christ,” as Paul says (2 Cor 5:17-18). I pray that the long-suffering and loving-kindness of Heavenly Father, and the patience and refining nature of my wife will help stay me on the course.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Online Missionary Success (Part 2)

Recently, I wrote about a friend a made on lds.net who joined the Church a while ago, but was driven out by her mother (of another faith). She always retained a deep (though tender) testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

She contacted me through lds.net and my blog (Truth is Restored) and asked me many questions about the Church and it’s teachings. I have been following her progress and steps backs towards the Church.

Earlier this week, I had been thinking about how she was doing and I wrote to check up on her. Following is a paraphrase of her response:

“Hey Rusty, guess what ? My mom is moving out, she just cant take it that I am LDS. I wish her all the luck!
My husband is going to church with me and said yesterday (all on his own, out of no where) that he was thinking about joining the church. He loves what he has learned so far. Our gospel principles teacher (Brother Bailey) has gone in great depth, from A to Z every thing about the church.
I’m so excited! When we are in class you can see my husband hanging on every word and nodding his head "yes" when every thing is explained.
As for my seven-year-old daughter, I have explained every thing from being spirit children to agency and the Atonement of Christ. She is highly intelligent and was asking me before we started going back to church 4 weeks ago about getting saved and baptized. On September 19th she will be 8-years-old, so I want her to understand exactly what it means to be saved and the importance of it all. Waaah-Hoooo!!! Can you believe it? My little family of Mormons!!! Gotta love it!
I just want to say thank you for all your studying and your blog, “Truth is Restored.” That was a big part in my going back to church. Now my family is going to be saved, baptized, and members of our Church.
God bless you and your wife!

-My husband, Keeley (my daughter), and me”

It is amazing how big of an impact we can make when we take a little time and apply our efforts in the cause. I would have been satisfied if my labors had done nothing more than keep some of the false and negative materials about the Church out of the top spots on web-searches. I have now had the joy of helping precious souls find the truth only found in the restored gospel of Christ.

Let’s carry on in this great cause brethren and sisters!

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Accusation: Polygamy is evil and is not biblical

I’ve been thinking lately about writing an article on polygamy. It will be somewhat exhaustive, and dealing with a very sensitive subject, so obviously it will take some time to feel comfortable publishing it. As for now, I’ll just write a few comments on the subject.

For one, I’m always a little bit alarmed at how viciously “bible-believing Christians” attack the Church for this part of its history. Are not the very covenant people descended from Father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? They were righteous above those of the earth to the point that the Lord kept his promises made to them and established them as his people.

Polygamy was not part of the Mosaic Law and hence was not abolished when Christ fulfilled the Law. It is a practice condoned by the Lord when he needs to “raise up seed” unto himself (Jacob 2:30).

If someone believes the Bible, then they have to believe that the Lord approved of the practice. Even during the time of King David the Lord approved of the practice. In fact He gave wives to David as a blessing. When Nathan came to David and reprimanded him for his sin against Uriah, speaking in he name of the Lord he said, “And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s WIVES into thy bosom….” -2 Samuel 12:8

Now, polygamy is currently prohibited in the Church, not because it is wicked (indeed it could not be if the Lord’s chosen people come from the practice) but because the Lord does not deem it necessary at the moment. The policy did not change because of pressure from the government. They had been persecuted almost a half-century for the practice before the LORD commanded it to cease for the time.

The Lord is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If someone says the Church is wicked because they once practiced polygamy, they are calling the Great God of Heaven wicked for commanding it.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Psalms 119 and Scripture Numerics

As I was reading through psalms today, I noticed an interesting pattern. Some of you may have heard of a branch of scriptural study called “scriptural numerics.” Many believe that the numbers and patterns found in the scriptures are ubiquitous and meaningful. I lend some credit to the theory, but not as much as others. For instance, three has to do with perfection, completeness, and God especially. Six is a number dealing with the weaknesses of man, satan, etc….

The number that caught my eye today was eight. Previously, I had loved psalms 119 because it dealt with the importance of scriptures and their importance. It took on a whole other dimension today for me when a few things caught my attention.

I have been curious in the past about why this chapter (psalms 119) is subdivided into sections headed by the Hebrew alphabet. I tried to think of some reason that the author would divide it thus. Letters of the Hebrew alphabet can double as numbers, so it’s not unusual that they are used. I thought for fun I would check if the sections were evenly divided.

There are 176 verses in Psalms 119. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
176/22 = 8. Interestingly enough, each sub-section in the chapter contains exactly 8 verses. Most that study this subject believe 8 to point towards new beginnings, creation, and the word. I also believe it has to do with water (flood story found in Genesis 7-8, 8 on the ark, baptized at 8, etc...). Water has to do with the “living waters,” or the words of life (psalms 1:3-4, John 4:14), which would agree with the last of the generally agreed upon meanings of the number 8.

I also noticed that every single verse used one of 8 words that describe the scriptures; namely: law, testimonies, way/s, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, and word/s. All but 4 of the 176 verses of Psalms 119 use at least one of these eight words to emphasize the importance of the scriptures. I decided to get geeky and make a diagram just to show it (just to save anyone time who would care enough to see this).

Nobody’s salvation is going to hinge on these semantics, but it is interesting. I don’t find it to be an internal evidence for the Bible. We must remember that not only is the Book of Mormon on trial in the world’s eyes, the Bible is as well, and maybe even more so than the Book of Mormon.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
Truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rusty Curtis' conversion story

February 27th marks my ninth year as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It surprises me to think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in so short a period of time.

I am often asked about my conversion story. I have given it so many times, that I generally make the story very short so as to not bore the unfortunate asker to tears.

Many of you have become regular readers of my Truth is Restored blog. I thought I should take the time to re-write my conversion story for you, as well as anyone who might happen to stumble upon it. I will try to include the pertinent details, and spare you the superfluities.

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. My father was a glass-blower who converted to Judaism around the time I was born, and my mother was Presbyterian (which I was baptized as when a baby). We moved to Big Bear, CA when I was about five. My parents were divorced shortly thereafter.

My mother and I moved to live with her Mother in Townsend, MT. We then moved to White Sulphur Springs, MT. Within two years we were back in Las Vegas where my mother planned on teaching. She soon started working two jobs and we did not see each other that much. At seven years old I would have to wake up in the morning and go to school because my mother would still be working her swing shifts. I grew up very independent and learned how to take care of myself for the most part. I also learned at a young age how to get into a fair amount of trouble. By the time of my conversion I was considered one of the party kids.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) make up a sizeable percentage of much of the Southwest; Las Vegas is no exception. I had good Mormon friends going up and I always liked and respected them. Fortunately I had a descent enough head on my shoulders to recognize that those who did not live their teachings should not be used to judge the organization to which they belonged. –The term “jack-Mormon” was even known and understood by those not belonging to the Church. I still teased LDS friends and I’ll always appreciate a certain day when a member of the Church called me on it.

I had two LDS friends whom I sat next to in one of my classes (HS Sophomore English). One day (Wed., Feb. 3rd, 1999 to be exact), in the middle of some of my jests about the Church towards the Church, one of these friends turned to me and said “Why don’t you just come to seminary with us?” I had known that the LDS kids went to seminary and said I would like to go.

We went that afternoon (some kids could not make early morning seminary, so they held an afternoon class to accommodate). I can’t recall what was the subject, but I remember that I enjoyed myself and wanted to come back. Well, two days later (Friday), the seminary was holding a six-hour Book of Mormon “Read-A-Thon” for the seminary students, followed by a dance. For those of you who are LDS, you’ll get a kick out of it that I really enjoyed myself during the read-a-thon. I was fascinated with the Book of Mormon. I had pretty much made up my mind that night that I wanted to be Mormon.

One of those two friends (who later became nearly as close as a brother to me) invited me to Church for the coming Sunday (two days later). I remember standing outside my apartment complex in -what was then- my Sunday best and wearing my earring. At Church, the missionaries approached me, and I asked them what I needed to do to get baptized. Needless to say, that somewhat made their day. They gave me a Book of Mormon, asked me to read 3 Nephi 11 and set up our first discussion for Wednesday night.

This is where my conversion truly took place. I went home from Church, locked myself in my room and started reading, and then I kept reading. -From this day forward I started studying the gospel about 3+ hours a day (sometimes more, sometimes a little less). When I met at my friend’s house with the missionaries three days later, I had read 3 Nephi 11, and then from 1 Nephi to the end of Jacob. Nearly every page I read brought tears to my eyes. My deepest questions were being answered and I came to know my God. The Holy Ghost bore powerful witness to my soul of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

About two weeks later (if I remember correctly) I attended the baptism of a young man slightly younger than I was at the time. I was struck, powerfully, at this event. After the baptism, everyone left the room, except for me. In those few minutes alone, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that there was a God, that he was very aware of me and loved me, and that I now knew who my real father was. I did not have the opportunity to be around my earthly father very much because of divorce and distance. I now knew who my real father was, and have since then tried to do whatever was in my power to do his work. –Not so I could claim rewards, but more out of love and gratitude to Him.

One week later I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have never regretted that day; I only feel deep gratitude to my Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ for their sacrifice on my (and everyone else’s) behalf.

**I'm the second to left (red hair). Standing next to me is a man I deeply respect and who has become a type of "father-figure" for me in my life.**

I prepared with vigor for my mission. Three-and-one-half years after my mission I hit the streets of the Missouri St. Louis Mission. I worked and gave it my all. I wanted to share the joy and peace I found in the Gospel with anyone, and everyone I could. After my mission, I continued to study and serve in whatever capacity I could.

I know that the blessings promised by the Lord are real, and that He truly is no respecter of persons. I was not born into the Church, and I had no money or fame. I have a beautiful wife, I am financially taken care of, and feel that I am generally on the right track in life. Through obedience to the commandments of the Lord, and my best efforts, he has helped me come this far. And I will continue the course laid before me and strive do do whatever I can to advance the causes of God.

I have now found an outlet where I can reach out and help others who are looking and yearning for the truth. It’s a great and glorious work we’re involved in, and there’s no other work I’d rather be helping to move along.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
Truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Accusation: Joseph Smith had a vivid imagination and made up the Book of Mormon

I wrote and answered this accusation, just because I had the time and haven't had any questions asked in the last couple days that I felt like making a post of. Enjoy...

ACCUSATION:
Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon, and the supposed Hebrew/Egyptian names and words therein. He just copied some names from the Bible and made up a couple words and called them Hebrew. -“Liahona”, for instance. Who’s to say that Joseph Smith didn’t just make that word up?


RESPONSE:
The story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is understandably difficult for many to accept or even consider. Many nay-sayers of the Church espouse many theories for it’s unexplainable appearance. One, is that Joseph Smith copied it from another manuscript and changed the names and some of the story. Another is that Brother Joseph was delusional and hallucinated his experiences. Some even claim that he just flat out made it up. Even if any of these were reasonable explanations, it would be a far cry to claim he made up words, claiming they were Hebrew, providing a translation of them, and then have them turn out to be correct. That doesn’t just happen.
Though you could not necessarily “prove” the Book of Mormon authentic by analyzing names, words, and phrases used, and finding them to be accurate and contemporary with Biblical Hebrew, it would give the record some additional credence in a scholarly light.

The word “liahona” is used only once in the Book of Mormon to describe the curious object Lehi found outside his tent one morning (1 Ne 16:10). Alma calls it the Liahona centuries later:

“38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.” -Alma 37:38-40

Nephi described it thus:
“a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.” -1 Nephi 16:10

Alma (or Joseph Smith, claim the nay-sayers) defined the Liahona in Alma 37:38 as a “compass.” Let’s take a look at what the Hebrew might have looked like.

The first use of compasses were mentioned in Chinese and Western European records in the 12th Century AD; so obviously, ancient Hebrews did not have a term for something they had never seen or heard of before. -Joseph Smith was familiar with what a compass was, and could therefore render a plainer translation when he used the word compass in the translation of Alma 37:38.

Naturally then, they (Lehi’s party) would do the best they could do to describe the object, and probably by what it actually does. It showed the course they should take, and pointed the way (or pointed whither, as Nephi said -1 Ne 16:10) they should go (Alma 37:39-40).

I imagine it’s safe to assume that the English spelling of “liahona” is meant to phonetically resemble or represent the Hebrew word, just like the Hebrew names used in both the Bible and Book of Mormon.
Now, Liahona is not one word. I believe it is a combination of three words.

L, in English is the equivalent of ל (lamed), in Hebrew. By itself, ל means “to.” Like “to” eat, or, “to” the store.

יה, or yah, is God.

הנה (hanah), means “hither” or “thither.” It also means “thitherward.”

When a ל (to) is used before another word (like “to” study) it is connected. ללמוד is the conjunction of ל (to) and לומד (study), meaning “to study.”
ל'ההנה would roughly sound like “li-yah-hana,” coming close to liahona, and means “to” + "God" + “thither” = “thither-to-God”.

I’d say that comes pretty close and would be a pretty darn good guess for an uneducated farm boy. I don’t believe that Joseph was guessing or making things up.

Little textual evidences like this example can’t literally prove the Book of Mormon to be true, nor can they be the basis of someone’s faith. But, they are fun to find and use in defense of the gospel. Till next time…

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Accusation: Mormons live in a burning house

INTRODUCTION
The other day I happened to run across a web site that purported to be a ministry to reach out to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and teach them the truth. As expected, I didn’t see anything new except the same old weak and “recycled” (a term one of my friends used) accusations used against the Church. It’s especially obnoxious when these people try to use the Book of Mormon text to teach us what we believe.

As I perused it’s content, a few statements caught my attention:

“If you saw a house on fire with someone trapped inside, what would you do? Would you drive by without doing anything? If you knew you could help the person, would you try? Nothing stimulates a sense of urgency more than a life and death situation.
When you see a Mormon, do you recognize that that person will suffer the everlasting fire of hell for eternity? Do you believe that Mormonism places its members inside a burning building that collapses into hell at the moment of their death?
Like followers of Judaism, Mormons believe their own works will give them righteousness. In truth, every Mormon who doesn’t trust in Jesus as his or her substitute, relying solely on Christ's righteous works, is living in a house that is on fire.”

My reaction was probably similar to yours: I rolled my eyes and shook my head. I decided that if this author’s true motives were really to reach out in truth in love to mormons (this is the site by the way, truthinlovetomomormons.com – You might not want to go there, by doing so they will start to move up in search engine rankings and that’s a bad thing), then they would probably be willing to make corrections if their assertions were shown to be incorrect. I emailed the author and asked if their statements were implying that Mormons don’t believe they are saved by grace. Following was their reasoning for their accusations. Following that is my response.

*Disclaimer – I hope no one is offended by my response. I was a little facetious in my response email to hopefully impress upon them the “silliness” of their accusations.*


ACCUSATION
“Dear Rusty,

Thank you for taking the time to send us an email. We appreciate your comments!

You asked if we were correct in our assertion that LDS people do not believe in being saved by grace. The LDS Bible Dictionary states, “This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (p. 697). Also, 2 Nephi 25:23 says, “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” The book True to the Faith says that “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him” (p.77). How do you interpret these quotations? Doesn’t it say that grace is the power God gives people to save themselves only
after they have done everything they can do? So according to these
sources, LDS people do not believe in being saved by grace. Can you cite sources that tell me otherwise?

The LDS sources contradict what Jesus says in the Bible, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Heavenly Father has given us a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. All we need to do is believe, just as the Bible says.”


RESPONSE

Thank you so much for your speedy response! I also appreciate the thoroughness of your response.

In answering your question, I will assume that you have read the Book of Mormon many times, cover to cover, and really studied and pondered it’s message in order to more fully be able to show “truth in love to Mormons.” After all, it is souls your trying to save, and you would definitely not want to bear false witness about your brothers and sisters.
In my reading I’ve run across a couple interesting verses in the Book of Mormon. I imagine that you have also run across the same verses from during your deep and objective studies of the Book of Mormon.

“24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is ONLY in and through the GRACE of God that YE ARE SAVED.” -2 Ne 10:24

“17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be NO OTHER NAME given nor any other way nor means whereby SALVATION CAN COME unto the children of men, ONLY in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” -Mosiah 3:17

Sounds like a similar teaching to that found in John 14:6, right?

It might be interesting to read 2 Ne. 25:23 and instead of trying to interpret it, let it speak for itself:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is BY GRACE that WE ARE SAVED, after all we can do.”

I did not read anywhere in this verse that we save OURSELVES with the grace of God. I see that it is by grace that we are saved. I observe no disharmony between the Bible and the Book of Mormon on this subject. PAUL states that we are saved by grace, Nephi states that we are saved by grace.

I believe then that we are agreed Mormons believe they are saved by grace.

What then does “after all that we can do” mean? Maybe in your studies of the Book of Mormon you have also run across an insight into this phrase. A group of wicked Lamanites had converted and joined the believers stated, “it has been all that we could do… to repent of all our sins….” -Alma 24:11

Surely we agree that the Bible teaches repentance of sins.

Well, I hope this clears that up. I would appreciate it if you altered your web site content to reflect what Mormons really believe on this subject, and maybe, if you have the time and care to be correct, study out your other accusations made against the church and update accordingly. I don’t think you want people thinking that your accusations were not thoroughly researched.

Best Wishes,
Rusty

-PS
I have not heard back from them and their site has not been updated, last I checked.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Online-Missionary Success

I made a new friend, not too long ago, on lds.net. One, day, I had a message in my inbox from a woman who had some questions about the Church. I answered them as well as I could at the moment. The next day, I had more questions from my new friend (I have been getting a lot of questions lately from people curious about the Church). One of her first messages shared her past history with the Church (I have quoted it mostly word for word):

“Hi Rusty.
Thank you so much for answering my question….
So far, the little bit of info I have acquired about the Mormon beliefs has been answering my questions that nobody else (other religions) has been able to. Like the female aspect of god, once saved always saved, one true religion, one true doctrine, and one true God.
I’ve always known the Bible to be true, but I felt there was more, like where are the prophets of today?
I once was baptized into the Mormon Church but caught so much adversity from my mom (a pentecostle) that I basically had a nervous breakdown and just quit going.
The only time in my life I have felt at peace, full of joy, and truly loved was the short time that I was in the Mormon Church. My mom currently lives with me, I feel led to do more research in the Mormon Church. Of course I am facing extreme hostility from my mom but told her I will continue my search, and she has no right to judge without all the facts.
There are always two sides to a story. She only knows the world’s view of Mormonism, not the actual Mormon side itself. She refuses to seek the answers as to what and why the Mormons believe what they do, but will make fun of the beliefs and say they are all liars and doomed for hell.
I love and respect my mom with all my heart. I do not want to argue with her. I want her to leave me alone in my search, without the mockery and hostility.
Thank you to you and others who are seeking truth and actually researching and helping enlightening others who are too!”

From what our friend has told me, I get the feeling that she was once deeply touched by the Spirit, and recognizes the void that was left when she stopped going to Church.
I answered her questions as they came, and did the best I could to help her.
I signed into my account tonight to check what new messages or questions I had waiting for me. I felt deep gratitude and joy as I read her most recent message (again, mostly word for word-just grammatical edits):

“Hello Rusty,
I thought I had burned you out on questions? I have been studying a lot in the King James Bible. All is starting to make since now that you gave me insight; now I just cannot wait for my new Book of Mormon! -And to read the Articles of Faith & Doctrines and Covenants. My family and I are going to the Rockport branch this Sunday. Can you believe it?!

Complete Gratitude,
…”


Elder Ballard has recently suggested that those who are able should start doing what they can to use new media to share and defend the gospel. I was just recently asked by my ward to give a fireside on this topic. People were amazed at how big of an impact regular members of the Church are making (I showed results of many people's efforts). Not only will my new friend be going back to Church, she is taking her family with her.

“12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.”
-D&C 123:12-14

I am so grateful to be involved in the work. Carry on brothers and sisters! We are making a difference.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Question: What was Satan up to in Heaven?

QUESTION:
What did Lucifer mean by saying to God, "I will be your son," when asking God to use him to be savior of mankind? Why didn’t he just say, "here am I, your son" or did I just misinterpret the verse?


RESPONSE:
I appreciate that this question was asked. I have thought about this question before and felt like I understood the “what” before, but I never really thought about the “why,” as I have when reflecting on your question.
First, let’s talk about what Lucifer meant by “I will be your son.”

WHAT:
“That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.’
‘2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” -Moses 4:1-2

This question requires a basic understanding of what happened in the pre-mortal realms regarding this earth. Heavenly Father presented a plan to his spirit children that offered them (us) an opportunity to experience life, with all its hardships and trials, and also it’s beauties and joys. In this life we would learn, grow, and become more like Heavenly Father. Because would be away from the presence of God and act independently, there would obviously be many sins committed, everyone would fall “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Hence, the plan called for a savior.

Our eldest brother, Jesus Christ (Jehovah as we knew him), was all-wise and knew that this role would require the ultimate sacrifice and suffering. Because of his great love for our Father and us, he volunteered to fill the role that was his to fill.

Lucifer also volunteered to fill this role, but with a few addendum. He too knew that the plan called for Father to send an “only begotten son” to the earth. This is what Lucifer meant when he said “I will be thy son.” All of us are spirit sons and daughters of God, but there was ONE who was to be the only begotten of the Father “after the manner of the flesh” (1 Nephi 11:18).

WHY:
This answers “what” Lucifer wanted to be, but let’s talk about “why” he wanted to do the things he did. Keep in mind, the following is the philosophy of Rusty Curtis (except for quoted scripture). It is strictly speculative and probably won’t mean one iota to someone’s salvation. It is interesting however.

Let’s start with what we know about his pre-mortal motives as found in the passage we’ve been discussing:
1) Satan declared “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost….” –Moses 4:1
2) He then said, “I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” –Moses 4:1
3) Father told us that Satan sought that “I should give unto him
mine own power….” –Moses 4:3

It is not hard to see at that Satan is audacious in his proposal. But, it was not stupid. If we have learned anything through our own life experiences and our personal war against the adversary, we know that he is not stupid. He is not wise, but he is clever. He knew how much Father cared about all of His children and sought to tempt Him by promising to return all Father's children to Him (Satan is the great tempter).

Let’s give the adversary the benefit of the doubt (for this seemingly simple plot), because it is always better to overestimate an opponent rather than underestimate.

I believe this offer was double edged. He was trying to trap Heavenly Father. Guess who else was there when Satan made his offer? Heavenly Father’s children, meaning US. Satan positioned himself as somewhat "altruistic" to Father’s children by promising that they would all return to Father after mortal life and that he would "bear the burden" to make this possible. He knew our great love for our Heavenly Father. With this move Satan drove a wedge in the Heavens. He manipulated the deepest, profound affection and love that Father had for children, and that children had for Father.

Father was then in a position where he either accepted Satan’s plan (which of course he would not do) and gave up his power and glory to an unworthy son, or rejected his plan and effectively told many of his children that he did not love them enough to do what could save them (as Satan positioned it). Do you see how Satan manipulated the situation? Satan thought he set himself up with two ways to get what he wanted.

Satan’s bargaining chip of “returning all of Father’s children to him” was a decoy. Of course Heavenly Father knew what Satan was doing and chose Jehovah (Jesus Christ) to fulfill the plan.

Many of us have wondered how it would be possible for Satan to be so persuasive that he could convince a third of the hosts of heaven (Revelations 13:4) to rebel against Father and actually commence a war against him. Yes, he had to be persuasive, charismatic, and authoritative, but what leverage did he have to be so persuasive? I think he played off the emotions of Father’s children and convinced many of them that Father did not love them enough to save them. By rallying support from those he persuaded, he thought to enforce his way. A war is not fought usually unless both sides think they can win. He had a third of the hosts of heaven so persuaded that they actually fought against the God of Heaven thinking they can win. There would have to be very powerful motivation to do this.

What is even more audacious about Satan’s offered addendums to Father’s plan was how he tried to pull an unbelievable “sleight of hand.” He wanted to attain godhood (however he could) with no sacrifice on his part. He not only tried to usurp the role that was Christ’s to fill, but alter it in a manner that he would not have had to experience anything unpleasant. If his desires had been granted, man’s agency would have been abolished (Moses 4:3). Hence, there would be no sin, hence, Satan would not have to sacrifice anything to return Father’s children to him and would claim the throne of God. Satan tried to pull the ultimate fast one. Either Father granted Satan His throne with no sacrifice on his part by accepting Satan’s proposal, or Satan would commit mutiny in Heaven and seek to seize Father’s thrown by manipulating His children to war against him.

Satan thought he was cleverer than the eternities and cared only for himself. This one individual (as far as we know) initiated the tearing apart of the heavens and the family of our Heavenly Father in the pursuit of his own desires and lusts. He cared not for us then, and cares not for us now, and he still tries to enslave those who did not side with him in heaven.

I think it's important to have an idea of just how subtle the adversary is. We must be wise and not underestimate the enemy of our souls.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

Monday, January 28, 2008

Accusation: Joseph Smith Fabricated the Book of Abraham

ACCUSATION:
It's now been proven that the Book of Abraham was basically made up by Joseph Smith. It's my understanding (and the church seems to be agreeing it's a false hood), that he "translated" ancient text off of old scrolls, now, more then a century later those translations have been proven to be completely false.
So...
How do you believe the BoM?


RESPONSE:
Thanks for asking me this question.

I haven’t seen this criticism in a while.
It’s an old and false argument that was prevalent in the late 60's. It all started when an old Egyptian manuscript was re-discovered in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966. The document was identified as belonging to the Church. It was also of authentic Egyptian antiquity, but when translated, it was not the Book of Abraham.

Nay-sayers of the Church jumped on this immediately and stated emphatically that this proves Joseph Smith was a fraud. They make two (actually more, but two to keep it simple) huge mistakes in this assertion (as opponents of the Church are usually hasty and don’t take the time to really research their claims):

1. Joseph Smith and the Church had SEVERAL Egyptian manuscripts all bought from the same source (Michael H. Chandler in Kirtland Ohio, in 1835). Nay-Sayers neglect to mention this, or didn’t bother researching it, and automatically assume that the one manuscript discovered had to be the one from which the Book of Abraham was translated.

2. Some (in the time of Joseph Smith) had given a description of the manuscript from which the Book of Mormon was translated. The manuscript which the nay-sayers would love to claim is the manuscript that the Book of Abraham was translated from, is NOT the manuscript that the Book of Abraham was translated from.

So this whole argument against the Church is built on a faulty premise. It is an incorrect assertion thrown against the Church in efforts to discredit it. Where the Book of Abraham manuscript is, is not certain. Many things were lost or left behind when the early saints were forced to leave Nauvoo, IL, and made their way to Salt Lake City.

The follow-up question is, “well, if the manuscript isn’t the Book of Abraham, what is it?” Great question. One of the most brilliant men to walk the earth (in my opinion) actually wrote a book on this subject. Hugh Nibley, wrote “The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri.” In it, Nibley translates the entire manuscript and shows that it’s not the Book of Abraham, it is what is called, by Egyptians, a “Book of the Dead,” which contains instruction for the deceased on how to progress on their eternal journey. Many of the things taught therein are similar to what we believe as true doctrine, and which we believe Abraham knew and might have shared with the Egyptians.

So…
As to how I can still believe in the Book of Mormon.

I believe in the Book of Mormon because of the peace it brings to me as I read it. I believe it because I have sought to practice the principles it teaches, and have experience the tangible blessings it promises. You mentioned to me before that both of us had similar experiences and grew up confused. This is true. I was not indoctrinated by the Church or it’s members. I read the Book of Mormon on my own time, and in it, I found not only God, but answers to many of my unspoken questions. I have felt the warmth, peace, and inspiration from the Spirit that are promised to those who read it and pray about it. These evidences are stronger to me than any accusation against the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith, even if I did not know the incorrectness of the accusation/s.

You would think that many of our accusers, so called “Christians,” would be able to do a lot of good in their own church and helping people that could use it. Instead, they poor tremendous effort into trying to bash another faith and discredit it. When the issues they present are researched further, what they originally thought discredited the Church, turns into a support and evidence of the Church’s truthfulness.

Best Wishes,
Rusty
truthisrestored.blogspot.com

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