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,

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,

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,

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...

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?

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,

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Accusation: Mormons live in a burning house

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, – 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.*

“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.”


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,

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

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