Thursday, January 31, 2008

Online-Missionary Success

I made a new friend, not too long ago, on 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,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Question: What was Satan up to in Heaven?

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?

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.”

“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).

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,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Accusation: Joseph Smith Fabricated the Book of Abraham

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.
How do you believe the BoM?

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.

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,

Friday, January 25, 2008

What is "Blood Atonement?"

Did Brigham Young preach blood atonement? -Christ’s blood was not enough?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or “Mormons,” are often slandered because of a misunderstanding concerning statements made by early church leaders, particularly Brigham Young. As a matter of fact, they never even used the term “blood atonement.” The true meaning of Blood Atonement (If we are to use this term) refers to the atoning powers of Christ’s blood and sacrifice. Through this act man may be cleansed “through the blood of the lamb.” Some have twisted the words of early, and recent church leaders to say all sorts of inaccurate things and brassly proclaim that that’s what Mormons believe.

What God (and the early church leaders) did teach, is a form of capital punishment for grevious crimes (such as murder murder). The teaching states if a person has been received into the Church and received a fullness of truth, if they shall sin against this greater light by murdering, the atonement of Christ alone will not “absolve the person of the consequences of the sin.” -Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Blood Atonement The offender would need to voluntarily suffer the will of the Lord will the atonement take effect upon the offender. The doctrine is found in the Old Testament:

“Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man”
-Genesis 9:6

Some believe that this is a wicked teaching. Those who believe the Bible to be the word of God accept this teaching as divinely inspired. This was a commandment given before the Law of Moses, hence, when the law of Moses was fulfilled, this commandment was not nullified.

It is important to note that the Church does not, and has never enforced this law on their own accord. Offenders are delivered up to the courts of our country to be judged according to their crimes.

I hope this answered your questions.

Best Wishes,

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Accusation: Mormons teach they can become Gods. This is not biblical.

The following remarks were comments to one of my earlier posts (copied exactly as written by commenter) : “Do Mormons teach that we can become gods?”. I though that I might not only respond to his comments, but make his comments and my response a new post, so that others might have the opportunity to enjoy the discussion. So following the section entitled “Accusation” (right below) is my response.

Jesus used the term “gods” to describe how they presented themsevles. Look at the very next verse; Psalm 82:7; “But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” God says that although you present yourselves as "gods", you are really just mere men! The word "god"(note lower case G) is used to describe those who have authority over people in certain circumstances.

We must remember:
Isaiah 44:6; "I am the first and I am the last apart from me there is no God.”
Isaiah 46:9; "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me."
Isaiah 43:10; "Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me."
Isaiah 45:21-22; "...there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."

Furthermore; you and I cannot become a god; no matter how hard you try. God does not have a god-wife. God has always been God; He was not a man from another planet before He became God. If He did, where did it all start? And if it had a start then it has to have an end. God is timeless; He has always existed and will always exist. Jesus did not exist separate from God before the creation of the universe. Lucifer is not the brother of Jesus; he is a fallen angel. I could go on but I won't. I pray that the lies of the Mormon truth would be revealed to you. I pray that God will give you the strength to step away from these lies and see the truth.

Ani ohev ze Tanakh. Ve Atah?

Sorry it took me a day to get back to you. I just now have the chance to sit down and respond to your comments. Before I do though, I just wanted to let you know that I have studied Hebrew, and you and I will be using a little bit of it to work out your assertions. I understand that you mean well, but I hope that when we’re done, you won’t rush to make the same comments. This will not be an argument. This will merely be a discussion of these topics, so that other readers will have an opportunity to review the subject. I would also like to emphasize that I speak on my own accord, not the Church’s, and I submit that my following comments are from my limited knowledge.

“Jesus used the term “gods” to describe how they presented themsevles. Look at the very next verse; Psalm 82:7; “But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” God says that although you present yourselves as "gods", you are really just mere men! The word "god"(note lower case G) is used to describe those whot have authority over people in certain circumstances.”

-“gods” in this example is translated from אלהימ (El-o-heem) This is the same exact word translated as “God” in nearly every instance throughout the Old Testament, including “In the beginning “God” created the heaven and the Earth” (Gen. 1:1) An important thing to know about Hebrew is that adding the “im” or “ot” is usually how to pluralize. –Depending on word gender and context. A literal definition would be “Gods.”

-Capitalization is not relevant because there is no such concept (no capital letters) in Hebrew. The differentiation between “Gods” and “gods” is a moot point. Any interpretation based of this reasoning (a difference between “Gods” and “gods”) is an interpolation in something that doesn’t even exist.

-The Lord saying “I have said, Ye are gods,” In a sarcastic or facetious way, followed with “and all of you are children of the most high,” in a truthful way (Acts 17:29), doesn’t make sense (in my opinion). Both parts are either sarcastic/facetious, or both parts are true. Since holy writ states we are all the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29, also Romans 8:16) I am lead to the conclusion that both statements in this verse are true and literal.

“We must remember:
Isaiah 44:6; "I am the first and I am the last apart from me there is no God.”
Isaiah 46:9; "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me."
Isaiah 43:10; "Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me."
Isaiah 45:21-22; "...there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."

-We just mentioned above how the true rendering of “God” throughout the Old Testament, INCLUDING BEFORE THE CREATION, should be “Gods.” If evidence is wanted in the English translation, one need not leave the first chapter of Genesis:
“And God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness….”
If we are to interpret the verses listed above (Isaiah verses) at face value, then we would have an issue. Who would it be that God was talking to? And who is the other person that God is forming man in the image of? I don’t want to sound condescending here, but I do not believe God is schizophrenic. From these findings I am of the belief that God was not alone in the beginning. Just for good measure, let’s mention God’s reaction when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become as one of US…” (Gen. 3:22).

-From the above I submit that God was not alone in the creation. There were “Gods” in the beginning (let us, our image). This would mean that Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 46:9, and 45:21-22 do not mean that God is the only God there is, though it might appear that way if isolated from the rest of scripture. I think the Lord is really emphasizing the importance of our commitment to and worship of Him in these instances (again, this is just my understanding, which isn’t much).

-As to the Isaiah 43:10 reference, I noticed something I hadn’t before that was very interesting. The Hebrew form of “god” here (in the Hebrew text) is not the same as the other three (and most of the other references in the Tanakh-Old Testament). It is translated from
אל, a short form of איל (ah-yil), which basically means a “chief”, or something/one very strong. This would be in harmony with a verse from Psalms 82 (which we quoted earlier). Verse 1 reads, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.”
Again, this reference emphasizes to me the reverence due to God the Father, and recognizes Him as the “chief” or “head” among the gods, and holding a unique station.

Furthermore; you and I cannot become a god; no matter how hard you try. God does not have a god-wife. God has always been God; He was not a man from another planet before He became God. If He did, where did it all start? And if it had a start then it has to have an end. God is timeless; He has always existed and will always exist. Jesus did not exist separate from God before the creation of the universe. Lucifer is not the brother of Jesus; he is a fallen angel. I could go on but I won't. I pray that the lies of the Mormon truth would be revealed to you. I pray that God will give you the strength to step away from these lies and see the truth.

-There is a spiritual mind-set that I call “Eternal Tunnel-Vision.” It basically means that some people only focus on a few small aspects of the eternal gospel and don’t consider or believe there is more to the big picture that is available or seek after it. I have wondered many times what other faiths consider heaven to be. I have wondered what other people consider heaven to be, and why they want to get there so bad. Is it really a place where saved people strum a harp and sing hymns everyday, all day, for eternity? Is there something more to it?

-Faithful saints are promised that, if faithful, they will receive a glorified body like Christ’s (Phil. 3:21), be like Christ (1 John 3:2), and inherit ALL things with Christ (Romans 8:17, Hebrews 1:2). So what are we if we are like Christ and possess ALL things? It’s overwhelming to think about, but I believe that would be a God. "St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, 'God became human so humans would become gods' (On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B)." -reference Interestingly enough, this same Athanasius penned the Athanasian Creed (description of the trinity) in the fourth Century AD, which is the basis for most Christians understanding of the Godhead. In the future, please, don't call this sacred doctrine un-Christian.

-I have not read in the Bible that God does not have a wife. I do however find him not alone before the creation, as discussed above. God also commands man to marry (not part of law of Moses) saying that it is not good for man to be alone. Is there conclusive proof in the Bible that God is married or not? I have not found it. I do however find more evidence pointing towards yay, than nay.

-Speculating on the ontological aspects of God’s life is fruitless. The fact is that we time-inhibited mortals cannot wrap our minds around infinity. The fact of the matter is that no mortal knows the whole story. The Bible is a woefully insignificant spec of a record in terms of what’s been happening in the cosmos for eternity. It would be rash for anyone to declare they know with certainty when and how any being came into existence. As for me, I am not concerned with these things. They will all be revealed at some point.

-As to Christ and Lucifer’s being brothers, there is already an entry on this subject posted on my site.

Thanks for bearing with me. I wanted to make sure we cover the points thoroughly. I also appreciate the genuine interest in my eternal well-being. By the way, my greeting at the top means “I love the Tanakh (Bible). And do you?”

I am grateful that the “Mormon truth,” as it was called above, has been revealed to me. I have studied and researched a lot. I have many physical evidences supporting my faith. But, the most powerful and compelling buttress of my faith is the still small voice, which fills my soul with faith, hope, and the pure love of Christ.

I do pray that my Heavenly Father will give me strength and grace to stand firm and undaunted in the truth. The Truth that has been Restored.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What is salvation, and how do we achieve it?

This post is the second part of a correspondence. The first part is under the post, “What is the difference between conversion and salvation?”

If the only heaven worth striving for is the one where we enjoy full fellowship with the Father, then what does it really take to live the kind of life where we can have the expectation of going there?

I think the key here is an understanding of what our whole purpose is for our existence. Why is it that God created us in his image? Why did he care about us so much that he sent his son to suffer beyond mortal comprehension for us. Why does he offer us all that he has if we are faithful (Rom 8:16-17, Heb 1:2)? These are BIG investments.

I believe it is because we are His children, literally. He loves us more than we know. He wants us to progress to our full potential, just as any of us would want our children to.

I mentioned before how salvation seems to be a pass/fail thing for many people. The saints tend to view it (from my experience) more like grade school. Everyone in the same school has the same opportunities to succeed as the next person. What they become in life depends on what they want to be, and the choices they make to get there. If someone just wants to pass and get through so they can get a decent job that pays the bills, it is their choice and they are welcome to it. If someone aspires to grad school and wants to keep learning and progressing and become the best they can possibly be, they are free to do so and can take the steps and make the decisions to get there. It is all about agency.

The LDS doctrine teaches that this life is a learning experience. We are trying to become more like our Heavenly Father. This is where eternal perspective comes in. If our final destination is to strum a harp and sing hymns for eternity, why all the commandments and trials? Shouldn’t we just take music and singing lessons? –I’m being a little facetious here obviously.

We are given agency and are presented with commandments. We are free to follow them, or take another path. We do not keep these commandments just to pass the test in this life, but they teach us the skills we need to succeed in our eternal career. -Accountability, responsibility, humility to listen to the Lord’s counsel and DO IT, etc…. We are trying to become like our Father. That’s what the commandments are (His book of etiquette, per se). We have a book we consider scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. In it, the Lord explains why he gives commandments:
“8 I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.”
-D&C 92:8-9

I assume you know that LDS doctrine teaches there are three main degrees of heaven. It’s not about what religion someone belongs to that gets you into one of these degrees, but the choices we make with God.

That’s what the temple is all about (some non-Mormons get upset and freaked out about rumors they hear about what goes on inside). Temple ceremonies partly consist of making promises and commitments to God and returning frequently to remind ourselves of them. We also receive instruction on how to better live a better life. There is nothing dark or ominous in he temple, just fortifying and inspiring.

If in life someone wants to get better, they make a commitment, they keep the commitment, they are rewarded. Then they want to keep getting better, so they make bigger commitments, etc….
It’s a perpetual upward cycle.

Some take issue with the idea of different degrees of heaven. They say it’s not fair. I would ask them if they would consider it fair for someone who lives a horrible life, beats his family, and never helps anyone, who, if he “accepts Christ as his savior” two days before he dies, to receive the same rewards as faithful Abraham? In Christ’s Father’s house “there are many mansions” (John 14:2). Those who strive to live up to the highest of God’s standards will be worthy to continue on to eternal progression. –ONLY through the grace of Christ (this is important, most people don’t realize Mormon’s believe in being saved by grace -2 Nephi 10:24, 2 Nephi 25:23-).
This is the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) mentioned by Paul.

Those who are good, but do not desire to reach this same degree will still be rewarded, but they will not continue to eternal progression. Have you ever wondered what the word “damn” means? Think of a river. A damn stops the progression of a river.
In the gospel context, being damned is the stopping of one’s progression because of their own choices. They have not proved themselves responsible enough to continue down the path of eternal progression. They are damned. You work with prisoners. You know that if someone does not act responsibly, they have privileges taken away.

In summary, this life is about making choices. Where we go depends on the choices we make. If we want to “pass,” we make the choices to get us there. If we want to go to grad school and become the best we can be, we make the choices, and follow through, to get there.

Best Wishes,

What is the difference between conversion and salvation?

I've started a correspondence with one of my new friends at He is a prison chaplain (a great one probably) in the Northwest. This posting, and the one entitled “How does one attain Salvation?” are responses to some of his questions. Yes, he gave me permission to post them; he actually encouraged it.

What does it mean to be converted vs. achieving salvation? You are likely aware that evangelicals focus on conversion, whereas LDS tend to see salvation as having endured to the end (thus all the debates about where good works fit in).

Extrapolating from our previous correspondence and the context of this question, I’m assuming you’re saying “evangelicals focus on conversion” is “getting/being saved.” Hence, evangelicals generally teach being saved now, and Mormons generally refer to salvation as an end result.

I’m glad that I have the opportunity to address this subject. The truth is that LDS doctrine does teach a doctrine similar to being saved. It’s called entering the “rest of the Lord.” As far as I know, it is very similar to “being saved” for an evangelical. Joseph F. Smith gave one of my favorite definitions of the “rest of the Lord.” It is a little lengthy, so I’ll paraphrase: “Entering the rest of the Lord is entering into the knowledge and Love of God to such an extant, that we know we are right and are not swayed from it in the slightest by anything anyone does or says against the truth” (the quote is found in a great book called Gospel Doctrine, which contains some writings and sermons of Joseph F Smith -Joseph Smith’s nephew- pg.58). It basically means becoming 100%, fully converted. When we are truly converted, our souls rest even in the turmoil of daily life.

Christ put it this way:
“28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” –Matt. 11:28-29

The term “Rest of the Lord” is generally used in two main contexts, with others that are debatable (I’m actually doing a study right now on the topic of “Rest of the Lord” and will post it when I’m through). First, entering his rest now, and second, in the nest life.
One of my favorite versus that shows both is found in the Book of Moroni (in the Book of Mormon). Mormon (Moroni’s father) addresses the modern (latter-day) church:
“Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from THIS time henceforth until ye shall rest with him IN HEAVEN.”
–Moroni 7:3

We could call this “rest of the Lord,” we enter in this life, a temporal salvation (being saved-evangelical). And if we continue on this path, we will land our souls in his eternal rest (eternal salvation). Enduring is crucial. Christ taught: “he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” -Matt 10:22, 24:13

“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, [entered into rest, or “got saved”]
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.” –Hebrews 6:4-6

Semantically, they're different; but we can't have one with out the other.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

what does Science say about the settlement of the America's before the Inca

"Science" is saying that the native inhabits of tis land got here many different ways. There have been studies finding that many of the Native Americans have Asian ancestors. Many ill-informed critics of the Church try to use this as evidence that the Book of Mormon is not true. They neglect to mention that DNA research is also finding that some Native Americans have primarily Near-Eastern and Israeli heritage (interesting article on this topic), which actually supports the claims in the Book of Mormon.

As far as science goes though, it has been my experience that science usually catches up with the Church, and not the other way around. For instance, when the "Word of Wisdom" (no alcohol, tobacco, tea, etc...) was given 170 years ago, many people actually thought tobacco was good for you. They had no clue what kind of horrible effects these things had until science snailed behind 150 years and figured out these things really weren't good for you.

That's one reason I'm not alarmed when reports come out about something that might shake someone's faith. Just give it a little while, and it will get straightened out.

Best Wishes,

CNN links to Truth is Restored

Imagine my shock yesterday when I discovered that people were linking to my site via CNN! I checked out what was going on and found out that they posted an article about Mitt Romney and his faith, and used my blog as one explaining the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
How's that for a slap on the back? More like a conk on the head actually.... This means I probably have to be responsible about what I say.

Here's the link (scroll to the bottom and click on "from the blogs"): CNN links to Truth is Restored

The point is neighbors, that we can make a difference. Lets add to or current efforts by putting our shoulder to the keyboard too.
I hope we done the Lord and you proud Elder Ballard!

Best Wishes,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What do mormons believe?

What do Mormons believe?

Many have wondered and asked what Mormons really believe in. We hear all sorts of horror stories from people of other churches trying to explain what Mormons believe. The fact is that you don’t go to A Chevy dealership to learn about Fords.

I myself was curious about what Mormons believed in. Then I took the time to find out. I discovered that the Church wasn’t made up of the crazies that people of other faiths said it was. I was always suspicious of all those pastors and preachers that fought against any church or organization so aggressively (Of course they’re going to fight against something that takes church member away from them, the bottom line is that is their source of income). I love that the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has an unpaid ministry. That in itself is so comforting. Even those missionaries that you see riding around on their bikes aren’t paid. In fact, THEY pay about $10,000 to go on their missions and share what has brought them so much joy. Think about that next time they knock on your door. They don’t get anything out of it when you or a friend joins the Church, just the joy of seeing someone find true happiness in life.

You’re probably thinking at this point that I have to be a Mormon. Great guess! I am. But, I have not always been. I grew up in Las Vegas. Most of you know enough about the world to know that Vegas is a crazy place. I was exposed to many different religions and many different life philosophies, but none of them ever seemed to answer the deep questions of my soul: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Questions that you have probably pondered. I found that the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) had the right answers.

So what do Mormons believe? In short, A lot! The most important and fundamental belief is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. Not what you expected? Many say erroneous things about the founder of the Church, Joseph Smith. These are words from his own mouth:

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
–Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 121

Mormons also believe that if someone goes to heaven, they do a lot more than just strum a harp and sing all day. They continue to progress and grow. We believe that we are children of God. Surely, God would want his children to accomplish more than practice music all day, for ETERNITY.

Mormons believe that there is an essential purpose in life. All of Gods children gain experience here that they could gain in no other way. Sometimes life is a school of hard knocks, sometimes it’s a little easier, but in the end, it always has a purpose.

There are many, many other things taught in the Church. I will give you a list of 13 short, main Mormon beliefs, called The Articles of Faith. Joseph Smith wrote them in response to questions like yours:

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

If you have any more questions about Mormons, try visiting the official website at

If it is more comfortable for you, you can visit my site: Truth is Restored.

Best Wishes,

Did Jesus and Lucifer present different Plans of Salvation?

Did God pick Jesus’ plan of salvation over Lucifer’s plan?

Another great question, Ken. First off, there were not two plans presented in the pre-mortal council. God the Father (Elohim) presented the plan of salvation (that’s what we call the overall plan and purpose of our existence). Jesus offered to fulfill the plan by being the savior of mankind in the Father’s plan. Satan also volunteered, but demanded the throne of the Father in return. He also wanted to pollute Father’s plan by taking away the agency (ability to choose) of mankind. This way no one could sin and none would be lost.

This might sound like a good thing, until one truly recognizes the importance of agency. Our omniscient Heavenly Father did. Father chose our elder Brother Jesus Christ to fulfill the plan. Satan rebelled and convinced a third of the hosts of heaven to do the same. This was the foundation for the “war in heaven.” Most of the account can be found in Moses 1:1-4 (Found in the Pearl of Great Price, additional scripture revealed by the Lord to Joseph Smith):

“1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: 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.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.”

Best Wishes,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What is the Adam God Theory?

Hello everyone. I hope everything finds you well. I got a great message (in my account – it’s great) from a new friend from Pennsylvania named Ken. Ken has a sister that converted to the Church, and he now has some questions about the Church. He asked some good, honest questions about the church’s history and teachings. My next four posts will consist of his questions, and my responses.

Ken’s Question:
What do you know about the Adam-God theory? Was Adam a God? Will he become a god in heaven?

This whole fiasco comes from one misquoted Brigham Young statement found in the Journal of Discourses (a 26 volume collection containing discourses of some of the early leaders of the Church). I’ll quote it for you so you can see exactly what I’m talking about:

“When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body…. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! About whom holy men have written and spoken—HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do.”
-Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pg. 50

So that’s the quote, Ken. What many “anti’s” have said regarding this passage is that Mormons believe Adam is God the Father. Absurd, right? Yes, it is. These nay-sayers don’t bother quoting anything else Brigham Young intentionally, or out of ignorance. And honestly, how many average people will go out and read a 26 volume series to put everything in context? Here is the very next paragraph following this last statement:

“It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael….”

Here, in the very next verse Brigham identifies these individuals as separate. –Meaning that Heavenly Father and Michael/Adam were not the same being. President Young was not dumb. -Through his leadership most of the western states were settled and developed.
President Young is simply saying that Adam is the Father of our race, he has become a God (I discuss this topic here: Do Mormons teach that we can become gods?), and he is whom we will be familiar with instead of those from other of God the Father’s creations (we believe Heavenly Father has created many other worlds besides ours).

To summarize: Adam (or Michael) is not Eloheim. Eloheim is God, our Heavenly Father. Adam is the father of the human race, not our spirits, and has become a God.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Accusation: Mormons believe warm-fuzzies signify truth. This is not biblical.

Mormon’s say that feelings signify the Holy Ghost is telling you something is true. This is not biblical.

Proof-texting is the term used for “proving” something by supporting your stance with “authoritative” quotes; e.g., God loved the world for “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). This is a popular practice amongst the religious debaters of the world. The reason I mention it is to point out a flaw in it. Many people can be passionate about a certain aspect of the gospel and quote one or several scriptures to support their belief in it. The rub is that so can many others on the same subject, and reach a totally different conclusion. They think they are just as positive and sure as the other guy. See the problem?

So, how does one discover the real spiritual truth of a matter? Here’s something interesting to do: Ask a evangelical “Christian” why he believes in Jesus Christ. You will probably get one of two answers, and one of them, if you ask again, will probably end up being the same as the other answer. So really, you’ll usually get the same answer: “I just know it in my heart.” That sounds a lot like feelings, doesn’t it? It is incredibly ironic that other Christians claim that Mormons teach an unbiblical method of recognizing truth.

Let’s explore a couple New Testament examples, and keep it short so you don’t comatose with boredom. This is where one needs to quote sources that are commonly accepted as legitimate (at least in Christian circles).

1. How did the early disciples truly know that Jesus was the Promised Messiah/Christ? Was it through a cognitive process? That was definitely part of the picture for some, but let’s look closely at Simon Peter. Many others were with Peter when they witnessed Jesus performing mighty miracles, yet many stopped following him when they did not understand Jesus’ teachings (John 6:66). Why did Peter believe and know that Jesus was the Christ when others saw the same miracles? Jesus answered this question himself:

“Blessed are thou Simon Bar-jona [Peter]: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” –Matt 16:17

How does the Father “reveal” things to his children? Through the Holy Ghost:

“But the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things….” –John 14:26

The Holy Ghost is the great teacher and converter. His whisperings are usually not audible, but are recognized as thoughts, impressions, or feelings in the heart. The Bible is replete with examples of this concept. When impressions are made by the Holy Ghost, they do not soon leave. Before accusing Peter of Denying Christ three times, remember that earlier in the same night he proved that he would fight to the death for Jesus (Matt 26:51). I don’t think believe that Peter was scared to claim discipleship of Christ because he already proved he was not. I believe that he knew he was the leader of the fledgling Church and had to carry it forward. This strong “testimony” was born of the spirit and feeling that he felt in his heart.

2. Two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus after the death of Christ discussing the recent events. Jesus appeared to them and they did not recognize him by sight. Christ taught them from the scriptures, and broke bread, at which time “their eyes were opened, and they knew him….” They recognized the savior at this point, but confirmed it when they said, “Did not our heart burn within us…?” –Luke 24:13-32

Remember, many hundred people saw Jesus perform miracles and yet turned away. Miracles and signs don’t convert. Can we say “Judas Iscariot?” It is a combination of mental learning and confirmation in the heart/feelings.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of scripture containing the revelations of the Lord to his prophets in recent history, we find this enlightening description of revelation:

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
‘Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation….” –D&C 8:2-3

I know that Jesus lives and is my savior not because I have seen him or have taken a recent trip to heaven, but because I have 1) read of him and pondered his life and teachings and 2) the Holy Ghost has born witness of the truthfulness of these things to my
heart and mind. By this same process I have come to know the Book of Mormon and Bible are true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church established by Jesus Christ himself.

Best Wishes,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Saved by Grace and Perfected by Grace

Saved by Grace and Perfected by Grace

I have not heard any questions recently that I have jumped out of my skin to answer, so I thought I would take a few minutes and talk about one of my favorite aspects of the true gospel: the effect grace has on our mortal lives and not just the saving portion (Though that is monumental).

I have been blessed/cursed to be extremely practical. One reason the Church was so appealing to me before, during, and after my conversion was how applicable it is teachings are in modern life. Our prophet and general authorities constantly give us inspired guidance (as given to them by the Lord) about how to not only reach our eternal goals, but to improve our day-to-day lives also.

I love the gift of agency. I am so grateful that I have the God given right to make of my life what I want it to be with his help. “His help” is what I want to focus on. Grace is a subject I have spent much time studying. I in no way claim to be the authority on it, but I think I have a slight grasp on a few of it’s intrinsic meanings.

Grace comes from the Greek “charis” (khar’-ece) ad has many definitions. A few that stand out to me in relation to this topic are graciousness, benefit, favour, and gift.
The LDS Bible Dictionary at one point defines grace as an “enabling power.” In context this definition was given in respect to the saving power of grace at the judgment, but I believe it is equally applicable as the enabling power in our everyday lives.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” –Phil 4:13

“I know that I can do nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.” –Alma 26:12

“With God all things are possible.” –Matt 19:26

No matter which way we slice it, that fact is that Jesus Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” –John 14:15 He also commanded “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Perfect in this verse comes from the Greek “teleios” (tel’-i-os), which means “complete (in various applications of labor, growth, ment[ality], and mor[al] character, etc….” –Strong’s Concordance, pg. 90

I interpret all my study to show that the effect of grace in this life is not just helping us to get through the daily grind, but to constantly improve. Every day I want to be better than the previous day. I want to be a more “complete” person. The more I seek to learn of Jesus Christ, follow his teachings (and learn more about him through that process –John 7:17), and become like him, the more He enables me to do so through his grace. Every gift that he imparts is part of his grace.

I believe that those who feel grace is only applied at the judgment to save us, or that when we accept the savior and his grace we don’t need to do anything else are missing out on one the greatest blessings of this life: the joys of improving oneself everyday through the grace of God and being able to reflect and see how far we have come.

Best Wishes,

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Reflections on the sacrament

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints partake of the sacrament every week during normal worship services. Other churches often call this the “Lord’s Supper,” or “Communion.”
During the administration of the sacrament we reflect on the on the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I found myself pondering today on the significance of eating and drinking the sacred emblems. Catholics believe in what is called “transubstantiation” in which the bread and wine they drink literally transform into the flesh and blood of Christ. While we do not believe the bread and water (in our case) literally transform into the flesh and blood of Christ, we treat seriously the ordinance as a means of renewing our covenants with the Father and retaining a remission of our sins.
I find it interesting that often when we reflect on something we feel we know a lot about (especially in gospel settings) we catch nuances and subtleties that we did not notice before. It reminds me of something Hugh Nibley said: “If a symbol is truly eternal, we will be able to find endless meanings to it.” –paraphrased
As I sat pondering the significance of the sacrament I thought that the sacrament is a divinely mandated medium for those worthily partaking of it to internalize the power of the atonement and recognize the sacrifice of the savior.
This was not a new thought to me. It was however a new thought to the followers of Christ when he had his followers eat bread and drink wine, telling them that this was his flesh and blood. Many disciples turned from him and left, calling this “an hard saying” (John 6:60).
Insights into why this internalization of the sacrifice of the savior are so important are found throughout the savior’s teachings. Many of his teachings were purposed to wean the people of the pharisaic concepts of righteousness (outward performances) and to teach the people to be internally righteous which would naturally show outwardly. Many of us know people today, in the Church or out, who have all appearances of being pious and godly to only discover on closer observation it is a show.
The more deeply we internalize the sacrament, the more we allow our hearts to be changed and turned towards righteousness. This means people like me have lot of internalizing to do so the Lord can straighten us out.

Best Wishes,

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