Monday, September 15, 2014

Does the Bible Support the LDS Priesthood?

        On May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith claims he and Oliver Cowdery went into a wooded area to pray.  They were supposedly visited by a being from the spirit world they identified as John the Baptist.  Smith said that "John" conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood, which (according to the LDS) "holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins...."  No one, Smith said, can be properly baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ unless the one baptizing him or her holds the Aaronic priesthood.

Smith at that time, at what he said was the direction of John, first baptized Cowdery then Cowdery baptized Smith.  They then laid hands on each other which Smith said ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood.  It was necessary for Smith and Cowdery to baptize and lay hands on one another because John, who baptized during his earthly ministry, was a spirit being who could not perform the task on someone with a physical body.  This is why the Mormons baptize for the dead in their temples.  Living Mormons stand in proxy for dead relatives and others so they can be baptized and receive the laying on of hands.  According to the LDS, the deceased are living in the spirit world with no physical body to baptize.

But we must question, where did John the Baptist get the authority to confer the so-called Aaronic priesthood?  He never held such a thing during his earthly life.  Although his father Zecharias was a Levitical priest, John never served as a Levite priest.  For starters, he wore skins of unclean animals.  A Levite priest would never be caught dead wearing anything unclean, lest he be cut off from his office as well as his people.  Also, he ate locusts which were likewise unclean.  He baptized people which was certainly not a Levitical duty.  And finally his ministry was not in the Jerusalem temple, the only place where Levites were allowed by God to do their work.  Rather he ministered in the wilderness east of the Jordan River.  He never held any such priesthood during his life on earth.

If John the Baptist did not hold the Aaronic priesthood during his earthly life, could he have received in the spirit world after death?  Without a physical body?  Absolutely preposterous!  How can hands be laid on a spirit?  The Mormons themselves acknowledge the impossibility of this scenario when they admit John as a spirit being could not have laid hands on and baptized Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery!

Every Mormon elder today who claims to hold the Aaronic priesthood is said to have received it from someone who received it from someone else before them, and so on all the way back to Joseph and Oliver.  But if John the Baptist didn't have the priesthhood, they never got it from him or anywhere else, and no one in the Mormon church holds it today!!

What then is the "Aaronic" Priesthood?  Although certain English language Bibles one time mention the phrase "after the order of Aaron" (Hebrews 7:11), nothing in the Old or New Testaments (all of Scripture), nor in Church History ever existed with that specific title.  It was unknown until Joseph Smith dreamed it up.  The Levitical (not "Aaronic") priesthood was merely those temple duties which were established by God through Moses and first ministered by Aaron.  The priesthood succeeded from Aaron and his sons through the tribe of Levi for 1400 years.  When Christ died on the cross for our sins, He became our High Priest.  His once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross became the final blood that needed to be shed for the sins of all.  The veil of the temple was rent in two, opening the place where the priests ministered to all who would come to Christ.  The office of High Priest, or Levite Priest, or "Aaronic" Priest, or whatever one might wish to call it, was no longer needed.

According to the second edition of the Mormon reference work Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie, page 478, the Melchizedek or Higher Priesthood, the was restored around June of 1829 or perhaps a bit later when the Apostles Peter, James and John supposedly appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.  Everything on the Earth the Mormons say is subject to the power and authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

McConkie echoes over 135 years of Mormon thinking when he says on page 479 that "...without the Melchizedek Priesthood, salvation in the kingdom of God would not be available for men on earth, for the ordinances of salvation -- the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, for instance -- could not be authoritatively performed.  Thus, as far as all religious organizations now existing are concerned, the presence or absence of this priesthood establishes the divinity or falsity of a professing church."  McConkie goes on to add, "If there is no Melchizedek Priesthood on earth, the true Church is not here and the gospel of Christ is not available to men.  But where the Melchizedek Priesthood is, there is the kingdom, the Church, and the fullness of the gospel."

In the first place, McConkie (and by extension the LDS church) has fallen into the trap, or is attempting to push others into the pitfall of confusing the "ekklesia," the called-out believers, with a religious organization when using the term "church" or "True Church."  And yet surprisingly, Biblical Christianity would agree with McConkie's statement.  There is an enormous difference, however, between what the Mormons call the Melchizedek Priesthood and what God calls it, as we will ultimately see.

The ultimate question on this subject is, does the Mormon Church hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, and if not. who does?  To learn the answers to these questions we begin by learning what God says the Melchizedek priesthood is.  First if must be asked, who was Melchizedek?  In Genesis 1:18, Melchizedek, who was both King of Salem (now known as Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God, brought forth bread and wine to Abraham following the patriarch's military victory at the valley of Shaveh (Genesis 14:17-20).  Abraham paid a tithe, a tenth of all the spoil from his victory, to Melchizedek.  Considering that the Old Testament contains types and foreshadows of the New Testament, in this narrative Melchizedek according to Hebrews 7:1-10, is the prophetic foretype of Christ.  Melchizedek is the King of Salem, or in Hebrew, "shalom." or peace just as Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Hebrews 7:2 also calls Melchizedek the king of righteousness.  Christ, of course, is our Righteousness, and the King of our peace.  The entire book of Hebrews is written around the theme that Jesus is our great High Priest -- the mediator between God and man, Who continually makes intercession on our behalf before the Father.  When we sin, we have Jesus Christ as our Advocate, our Attorney, pleading our case before God.  He wins our righteousness before the Father which he secured on Calvary's cross.

Melchizedek is paid tithes by Abraham in the same manner we pay our tithes and offerings to God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ.  The bread and wine Melchizedek brought forth are types of the body and blood of Christ which are also typified through the Passover meal as what is called "the Lord's Supper" or "Communion."  Furthermore, although there are other foreshadows of Christ found in Old Testament characters, Melchizedek is the only person in the Bible (other than Jesus) that holds the offices of both priest and king.

The most important typification of Christ found in Melchizedek is seen, as Hebrews 7:3 puts it, Melchizedek was, "without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God...."  Melchizedek had no recorded beginning or ending to his life.  Certainly, as a mortal human this does not mean he was eternal in his earthly existence, but he was rather a type of the Eternal Christ (as an aside here, it can be noted that only the Christ of Biblical Christianity -- Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise -- is eternal.  The Latter-day Christ, no matter how many times he is referred to in Mormon writings as eternal, is, by the Mormon's own definition not eternal.  The LDS Jesus Christ was created by the union of a heavenly father called Elohim and one of his many wives in a time Mormons call the "pre-existence."  The Mormons even say Elohim himself was a created being, once a man, who lived on a world near a star called Kolob.  A being with a beginning is certainly not eternal.

The Jesus of Christianity has existed from eternity past and will exist into eternity future.  He is called in Revelation 1:8 as the Alpha and Omega, existing before anything in the universe was created, including time and space.  In Isaiah 41:4 God calls Himself the first and the last.  Why?  Because the Eternal Christ and the Eternal Father are one in the same.  Christ was not a created being.  He created ALL things Himself (including time and space) as evidenced in John's gospel, chapter 1, verse 3 which says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made."  Colossians 1:16 declares, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." (emphasis mine)  The Mormon cannot know the Eternal Christ because his theology does not support an Eternal Christ.)

Christ is called a priest after the order of both Aaron and Melchizedek.  These four words -- "after the order of" -- are most important to our understanding.  The words in the King James "after the order of" (or "kata ten taxis" in the Greek) might be better rendered "according to" or "in the same manner as" Melchizedek.  In other words, Jesus Christ was both Priest and King in the same manner AS Melchizedek and not the holder of some religious order created by the Mormons!

The Levitical priesthood (incorrectly called the Aaronic Priesthood by the Latter-day Saints) was the daily ministering by the Levite priest in the Holy Place and the annual ministering in the Holy of Holies by the high priest in the Temple in Jerusalem.  It is "in this same manner" that Jesus Christ is Our High Priest, ministering as our Advocate before the Father.  Christ, our great High Priest, at his death on the cross entered once for all into the Holy of Holies to perform the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

The high priest holds his office for life.  When Aaron died, the priestly duties were passed on to his offspring.  As long as Jesus Christ lives, He and He alone remains our High Priest.  It is Jesus Christ whom God's word calls in Hebrews 7:21 "a priest forever."  The Bible goes on to say that there were truly many (Levitical) priests, but they were not allowed to continue by reason of death.  Their priesthood was transferred one to another.  But Jesus Christ lives, and lives forever.  His priesthood can never be transferred to another!  That includes both the so-called "Aaronic" and the Melchizedek priesthoods.

There is a single Greek word in Hebrews 7:24 that confirms this.  This word is "aparabatos."  In the King James it is "unchangeable."  This word can also be rendered "untransferable," but in the fullness of the Greek, it means "incapable of being transferred from one to another."  So, with a single word, "aparabatos," the entire Mormon theological system comes crashing to the ground.  For according to the Bible, if only Jesus holds the Melchizedek priesthood, then no LDS man holds it (Mormon women cannot hold it anyway) and therefore, by their own standard, there can be no baptisms, no blessing, no preaching of the Mormon "gospel," and no other authoritative operations of LDS church.  That's just how broad the issue is.

But who does hold the "Melchizedek priesthood" in reality?  The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 1:6 that, "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." The "us" is us!  We Christians are the ones, in a manner of speaking, who hold the Melchizedek priesthood (although in actuality, Jesus alone holds it).  It is us, the "ekklesia" or "church" which exists on earth as the Spirit of Jesus living in the Christian -- a "priesthood of believers."  Peter says we Christians are a holy priesthood (I Peter 2:5).  Paul calls this, in Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

This is just another way to describe the personal relationship that believers in Christ will enjoy eternally with Jesus.  Praise God, the gospel of Christ, the Good News of salvation by grace through faith and not works of righteousness, is available to all today, because of the Melchizedek Priesthood, held not by Joseph Smith and his followers, but by Christ and Christ alone forever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Faith-promoting Message

Here is a very important, faith-promoting message for all Latter-day Saints.  In fact, it could be the most important message you, as a Mormon, will ever read.

The Eighth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly...."  Stop and ask yourself, "What if the Bible IS translated correctedly?"  Consider this:  The original languages of the Bible are Hebrew and Greek.  These are not dead languages.  Over 13 million people in the world speak Greek.  Just under 10 million speak Hebrew.  They are well-known languages.  We can know exactly what the Bible says.

The next question becomes:  How reliable are the original language documents we have today?  Consider this:  The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 contain the entire Hebrew Old Testament (with the exception of the Book of Esther (which does not contain the name of God).  Carbon dating has placed these as far back as over 400 B.C., about the time the last book, Malachi, was completed.  A complete Old Testament from the time it was written!

We also have over 5,600 Greek manuscripts of New Testament in existence today.  Some of the fragments date back to 130 A.D. -- less than 40 years after it's completion!  These documents predate the Roman Catholic church, most of the early church Fathers and all of the heresies of the dark ages.  Among these manuscripts there is a 99.5% agreement among the texts, and the variations are mainly in spelling, capitalization and so forth.  None of the variations affect doctrine.

We can examine these languages and find out easily what the original words actual mean.  And when they are translated into English, we find English language Bibles today say the same things, differing mainly in style and expression.  If the Eighth Article of Faith asks the question, "Is the Bible translated correctly?"  We can answer with a very firm, "Yes!"

What about the Book of Mormon?  Can we check the original to see if it is translated correctly?  No.  Unfortunately, Joseph Smith said the Golden Plates from which he said he translated the Book of Mormon were taken back by an angel, and we do not have them today to examine.
But can we take Joseph Smith's word for it that he translated the Book of Mormon correctly?  For that answer, we must turn to the Book of Abraham.  Since 1966 we have had the papyri of that work available to examine.  But in Joseph's time, around the time of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, no one in North America could read Egyptian hieroglyphics.

But now all Egyptian scholars (except a few who are Mormons) can easily see that Joseph did not translate even one hieroglyphics correctly.  He wasn't even close.  It was a different story altogether.  Now, if Joseph Smith cannot be trusted as a "translator" of the Book of Abraham, how can he be trusted as a translator of the Book of Mormon?  We must also ask how can his prophecies in the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Moses be trusted?  Should we simply take his word for it?  2 Nephi 28: 31 echoes the Bible (Ps. 118: 8 KJV) when we are told not to trust in man.  That includes the man Joseph Smith!

When all is said and done, although the other "Standard Works" are in doubt, the Holy Bible is complete, inerrant and truly can be trusted.  And it's the only work that can.
So, what does the Bible say about one of the most important doctrines of the LDS church?  We are referring to the Melchizedek priesthood.  What does the inerrant Bible say about who holds this priesthood?  We find the answer in the book of Hebrews, chapter seven.  This chapter is very clear in explaining the reason that Jesus is our great High Priest.

In the Old Testment it was clear that those from the tribe of Levi could only be the question became, how could Jesus be our High Priest when he cam from the tribe of Judah?  The answer is that Jesus has a higher priesthood than the Aaronic priesthood (from the tribe of Levi).  His priesthood is after the order of (or "in the manner of") Melchizedek.  But the question remains:  Who holds this priesthood today?  The answer is in Hebrews 7: 24.
This verse tells us that Jesus holds this priesthood, and it has never been passed to anyone else.  The Greek word the writer of Hebrews used is "aparabatos."  This word has only one meaning:  nontransferrable!  In other words, as long as Jesus is alive, no one else can have this priesthood transferred to him.  And the next verse, v. 25, tells us that Jesus indeed lives forever.  No one else but Jesus will ever hold the priesthood, because he will never die, which would pass the priesthood to another.

What does this mean?  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continually tells us that nothing can take place in their church without the priesthood.  No teaching, no baptisms, no administration, not anything!  But if the Melchezek priesthood cannot be transferred from Jesus to another person, that means that no man in the LDS church holds the priesthood.  There is no authority in the Mormon church, as they understand it!!

So now you are asking yourself, "How can this be a 'Faith-promoting Message?'"  Simply this:  And we make this in the form of an appeal.  Do not put your trust in a non-existant priesthood!  Do not put your trust in a man (whether he claims to be a prophet of God or not)!  Do not put you trust in any writings other than the Holy Bible!  Put you trust in the central figure of the Bible, the one who really holds the priesthood -- Jesus Christ!  And put your faith in Him alone!

The Bible says that Jesus is the creator of all things (Colossians 1: 16-17).  "All" means only one thing -- ALL!  Everthing!  The only way this could be is that if Jesus were out of what is called space-time (which he also created).  This makes him eternal.  Existing in eternity-past.  Co-existant in eternity-past with the other persons in the Godhead, the Father and the Holy Spirit.  This means there can only be one God, but in three Persons.  An impossible concept to get your mind around, but perfectly acceptable by faith.

So, how do we put our trust in Christ alone?  Titus 3: 5 has the answer, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration (not the washing of baptism, but regeneration -- new birth), and renewing of the Holy Ghost."  You can't come to Jesus with your works of righteousness.  Your righteousness is like garbage in His sight (Isaiah 64: 6).  Come to Jesus with nothing but your desire for him to save you by grace alone, through faith alone!  He will promote your faith...making this indeed a faith-promoting message!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Reworking the Bible to Fit Your Doctrine (Part 2)

In the previous blog, "Reworking the Bible to Fit Your Doctrine (Part 1)," we talked about the various religions that claim they believe in the Bible, but whose doctrines deviate greatly from what is taught by Evangelical Christians, Mainline Protestants and others who believe the Bible is inerrant and complete in and of itself.  We listed four of the ways these religions rework the Bible to fit their religious beliefs:

1.  They rewrite portions of, or the whole of the Bible to fit their teachings
2.  They add additional verses, chapters, books or whole works of what they call "scripture"
3.  They claim the Bible is either mistranslated, or the transmission process (copying the Bible by scribes             through the ages) is flawed.
4.  They claim portions of the Bible vindicating their doctrines have been lost from the Bible as it originally           stood.

It is the fourth statement we will zero in upon in this blog.  For it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormon church that claims portions of the Bible are missing in an effort to undermine the Bible and make it work within their perverted teachings.  In fact, they say so much of the Bible is missing that they say they need modern day prophets and a "restored church" to recover these supposed lost portions of the word of God.  But are Many plain and precious truths" removed from the Bible as they say?  Let's examine the evidence.

What the Mormons believe about the missing "plain and precious truths" proceed from the Book of Mormon itself, in I Nephi 13:24-26 which reads, "Thou hast beheld that the book [The Bible] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.  Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews IN PURITY unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.  And AFTER they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away." (emphasis mine)

To begin with, these verses contradict both the inspired Old and New Testaments:

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." -Isaiah 40:8
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. -Matthew 24:35

Both historical and manuscript evidence immediately show us that the quote in I Nephi is false. How?  It was the Apostles of the New Testament who wrote the New Testament (Luke and John Mark were not Apostles, but wrote under the direct tutelege of Apostles Paul and Peter respectively) before 100 A.D., after which all of the Apostles had died.  So if I Nephi 13 right then Mormonism admits the Bible was IN PURITY AFTER 100 A.D.  As the First Century Apostles were still in charge of Christianity, something happened (directed by God) that would cause Biblical purity to be safeguarded and perpetuated.  What was it?

Beginning in February and continuing through the summer of the year 70 A.D., Titus Flavius Vespasianus, future Roman emperor, destroyed Judea, Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple.  This began what become known as the "Diaspora Romani," the dispersal of Jews from Israel to locations throughout the Roman Empire.  This also began one of history's greatest persecutions of Christians.  As they escaped from the Holy Land they took great pains to preserve their Scriptures, conscientiously hiding some of them in caverns so they would not fall into the possession of the Romans (and other possible groups) and be destroyed.  They also brought scrupulously accurate copies of their Scriptures throughout remote areas of the Empire as they fled.

Fast-forward to 1946 A.D. when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran (in what is currently called the West Bank) about one mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, hence the name "Dead Sea Scrolls."  This finding of the Scrolls completely eradicates any chance the Old Testament could have been altered as the Book of Mormon alleges because all of the Scrolls are dated from 250 B.C. to 70 A.D. (the time of the distruction of Judea).  The Scrolls contain the entire Old Testament (less the book of Esther, which is not a book containing crucial doctrine and, in fact, doesn't even mention the name of God).  If anyone wanted to "monkey" with the Old Testament text, for any evil or other purpose, such manipulation could have effortlessly been distinguished by a simple comparason between the Scrolls and the Old Testament (Hebrew Tanakh) we have today.  In fact, the texts as compared are virtually identical.  The few extremely minor divergences alter no doctrines, commandments or truths.  Furthermore, any alterations would have had to be made in the Aramaic translation of the Old Testament (Aramaic Targum, 100 B.C.) and the Greek Septuagint, Second Century B.C.) also, well before the 100 A.D date suggested by I Nephi.  No such alterations have occurred -- period!

But what about the New Testament?  This document is the very one that defines Christianity for both faith and practice.  Has it been altered?  Are their "plain and precious truths" missing from it as well?  Absolutely not.  Let me explain:When Christians were fleeing the persecutions of the Romans, the meticulously produced copies of the Apostolic writings (possessions cherished far greater than any earthly holdings they might have) went with them -- throughout the known world, to Europe, Asia Minor, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other remote locations.  This diaspora took place prior to 100 A.D.  By 200 A.D. direct copies of these writings, the entire New Testament, had been made into Latin, Syriac and the Coptic language.  With this exodus of Christians and the distribution of their Apostolic writings prior to 100 A.D would have made malevolent manipulating, "monkeying" if you will, of the texts immediately observable.

Today's manuscript evidence for the New Testament is mind-blowing.  The sciences of archaeology and texual criticism have revealed over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts and at least 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian -- and all in textual and doctrinal agreement!  No changes in commandment, axiom or precept.

Absolutely nothing is extant, nothing with any historical foundation, that would come even close to supporting the allegations by the LDS church that a single "plain and precious truth" has been taken out of God's Holy Word, the Bible.

What we have today is a Bible that is complete and inerrant.  Nothing lost or missing, nothing changed.  The perfect word of God.  The same word of God which so grossly contradicts the Book of Mormon and LDS teachings.

The Eighth Article of Faith of the Mormon church says, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

Don't worry.  IT IS!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reworking the Bible to Fit Your Doctrine (Part 1)

Reworking the Bible to Fit Your Doctrine (Part 1)

With all the many Christian denominations today, why do almost all of them believe the identical things about the essentials of the faith?  I'm talking about the essentials now, not secondary issues.  Secondary issues would include whether to have communion weekly or monthly, whether have a business meeting annually or every six months or whether to call your church leader "pastor" or "elder."  No, I'm talking about ESSENTIAL doctrines such as who God is, what God's written word is and how we as human being achieve peace with God, which the Bible refers to as Salvation.

Those who agree on the Bible, and the Bible alone as the only, complete and inerrant written word of God agree also that God is triune in nature, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that Salvation, being saved from the wrath that will someday be poured out up sin, is by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone.  This is the essence of Christianity and is believed emphatically by all Christians across an entire myriad Christian denominations, from Baptist to Lutheran, from Nazarene to Assemblies of God and uncountable others.

There are however, other religious groups who try to pass themselves off as Christian, but fail the test for Christianity in that they deny one or more of the basic tenets I listed above.  A real problem arises when these groups claim to believe in the Bible and yet their religious model bears little or no resemblance to Biblical Christianity.  In order to hold to their claim to believe in the Bible, they must somehow rework the Holy Scriptures in a number of ways to squeeze their teachings into a seemingly "Christian" mold, when indeed their doctrines are out of the Biblcal box to begin with.

How is this done?  There are a number of ways.  One is to basically rewrite the Bible itself to fit their doctrines, ignoring the Bible's actual wording.  An example of this would be the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, better known as the Jehovah's Witnesses with their New World Translation (NWT).  Over the course of their existence since the late 19th Century, Christians were continually pointing out to them (often in heated debate) that their teachings were way out of line with both the Old and New Testaments -- and they knew it.  But rather than surrender and become orthodox in their beliefs they simply rewrote the Bible, beginning with the New Testament (which they adamantly refused to call the "New Testament" but rather renamed it the "Christian Greek Scriptures") in 1950, followed by the Old Testament in 1961 (which the also renamed the "Hebrew Scriptures").  In other words, if you don't like the rules of the game, rewrite the rules!  Including the name of the rules themselves.

Another way a religion can claim to believe in the Bible and yet have doctrines that are far-flung from it, is to add to it.  The Roman Catholics and other groups have done this with the Apocrypha.  This work is usually found stuck between the Old and New Testament in certain Bibles.  It is writings by the Jews mostly during the intertestamental period.  The problem here is that the Jews themselves don't recognize Apocrypha as Scripture.  So why should we?  Besides when Jesus was bookending the martyrs who had come before him, he started with Abel and ended with the last martyr in the Old Testament, Zechariah, son of Barachias (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51).  Why did he leave out the martyrs of the Apocrypha.  Simple answer.  To Jesus the Apocrypha wasn't Scripture.  Other pseudo-Christian groups have added other works to "augment" the Bible, such as "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by the Christian Scientists and "Divine Principle" by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon.  These augmentations certain change doctrine.

A third way orthodox Biblical doctrine is eschewed in favor of a Bible-claiming religion's teachings is to claim the Bible has been either mistranslated or perhaps mistransmitted (through the copying processes down through the ages).  It is this technique that has allowed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons to proclaim for 184 years that, "Oh, yes, we believe in the Bible!" and yet have a teaching set that is closer to Islam than Christianity (however, that's a subject for a future blog).

Along with adding three other works of "scripture" (The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price -- which would also put them in the first category above) to the Bible (King James Version only, mind you), the Mormons have tried to successfully vindicate their beliefs by attacking the Bible's translation and transmission.  If one finds a passage of Biblical scripture that contradicts Mormon doctrine, Latter-day Saints are quick to vociferate, "That's mistranslated!!"  However, it has always been a mystery to me why the only places the Bible that are mistranslated (according to the LDS) are the ones the stand in contraposition of the teachings of Mormonism.

To drive home their idea of Biblical inaccuracy, Latter-day Saints have included three places in their Standard Works that act to their desired vindication.  The first is the Eighth Article of Faith, which they included at the end of the Pearl of Great Price, making it the inspired word of God (in their eyes only).  It states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly...." (of course, what "We believe" does not constitute truth -- one could certainly believe falsehood).

The second attack upon Biblical completion and sufficiency comes in the Book of Mormon, II Nephi 29:6,10 which states, "Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written." This tells Mormons everywhere that we Bible-only Christians are fools.  However, this is circular reasoning.  In order to believe such an idea as God will add to the Bible, one must believe the Book of Mormon to be a true addition to the Bible.

The Mormons' final and most pernicious attack on the inerrancy of the Holy Bible comes also in the Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:28-40 and 19:3.  Eight times the Book of Mormon claims here that "plain and precious parts" are removed from the Bible, and therefore it follows that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been called by God to restore them.  Obviously, to the LDS, what has been restored by Mormonism and what plain and precious parts were left out are one and the same.

This is what the entire veracity of Mormonism hangs upon.  If plain and precious parts have been lost from the Bible, then the LDS church may (or may not) be true.  On the other hand, if the Bible is complete and inerrant, Mormonism cannot in any way be true.

Daily I hear Mormons pleading the case for their doctrines by telling me the "plain and precious parts" are missing from the Bible.  But as a Christian how would one prove they have NOT been removed?  It is a task that is not nearly as difficult as it sounds.  And I will demonstrate how that can be accomplished in my next blog.

(Part 2 to come)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Take Up Your "Garden" and Follow Christ

Did the Atonement of Jesus for our sins happened in Garden of Gethsemane?

The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints does not view the atonement of Christ in the biblical and historical Christian manner. Instead of the atonement occurring on the cross, Mormonism teaches that the atonement occurred primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus shed His blood. Please consider the following quotes from a BYU professor and the Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie.

•BYU professor Robert J. Matthews, who on page 282 of his book, A Bible! A Bible!, wrote, "It was in Gethsemane, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, that Jesus made his perfect atonement by the shedding of his blood-more so than on the cross."
•Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie, stated, "Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane," (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, p. 774).

This whole line of thinking diminishes the actual Atonement of Jesus on the Cross of little or none effect.  I've had Mormons say the reason you'll never see a cross on an LDS church building is because thinking the Atonement happened on the Cross is "rather foolish."  Could such a statement be what the Apostle Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 1:18 when he stated, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."  This would certainly mean that anyone thinking the Cross is of little or no affect in the Atonement is no only missing salvation, but does not know the power of God and is perishing spiritually.

So what did happen in the Garden of Gethsemane? The narrative is found in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46. John's gospel mentions a garden (John 18:1), but only mentions that the arrest of Jesus took place there. Only Matthew and Mark identify the garden as Gethsemane. Only Luke tells us that His perspiration fell "as it were" great drops of blood. In the original Greek text the word for "as it were" is "hosei" which means "appearing similar to." In other words, the great drops of sweat falling from His brow would be just as heavy as if he had some kind of flesh wound, perhaps in the head, and heavy drops of blood were falling. But it was sweat, not blood. He did not bleed in the garden, much less bleed for our sins there. How do we know this? Luke has the answer.

Luke was a doctor, a physician specifically (Colossians 4:14). He would certainly know the difference between sweat and bleeding. Admittedly, there is a condition in which one can actually sweat blood. It is called "Hematidrosis." It is a medical condition that is very rare, but still documented in ancient times and Dr. Luke would definitely be familiar with it. "Hematidrosis" is also a Greek word that was available to Luke (who was Greek himself). Luke, in his role as Biblical historian, continually in Scripture is careful to use the most exacting terms and descriptions, but he did not use "hematidrosis," but instead used the word "hidros" -- sweat (without the "hema" -- or blood). Luke is very careful here to tell us that Jesus perspired in the garden, but did not sweat blood there. That's because the cross is the place where he shed his blood for our sins -- regardless of the Latter-day Saints telling us just the opposite.  Perhaps that's why the Cross is not seen on any Mormon building and you won't find "The Old Rugged Cross" or "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" in there hymnbook.  The Cross is perhaps foolish to them.  It is the reason that the Apostle Paul wrote, "The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them who are perishing."  In other words, the LDS are spiritually dying and only what Jesus did on the Cross can save them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hell is for Real (Jesus said so)

A best-selling book and recent motion picture told the story of Colton Burpo, a four-year old boy who supposedly died and went to Heaven during surgery.  While am a dubious of all NDEs (Near Death Experiences) I hear about (most do not line up with Biblical theology), Colton's story particularly struck a nerve with me due to the fact that most of his story was more "Wesleyan" than straight Bible.  His father is a Wesleyan pastor, and I have always had my suspicions the boy was "coached" in telling his story, much in the way very young children are coached in the Mormon church in giving their "testimony" that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church, the Book of Mormon is the word of God and Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

In light of this, I began to search the Bible, expecially the words of Jesus -- mostly from the four Gospels -- to see exactly what Our Lord and Savior had to say on the subject of Heaven and discovered He actually said a lot more about Hell!  This is significant, in that most people absolutely don't believe in Hell and that includes many Christians (mostly liberal ones) who feel that references to Hell in the Bible are actually metaphors.

Believing that something doesn't exist, however, doesn't make it go away.  If I were arrested, I could tell the officer who "busted" me, "You can't take me to jail because I don't believe jail exists.  I've never seen a jail, never been there, in fact I've never known anyone who has been to jail, therefore I know jail does not exist!"  Once I was tossed into the "clink" and the big door slammed, I would probably quickly understand thatwhat I previously thought about jail didn't matter make jail non-existant.

It is the same for Hell.  Just because a person refuses to believe in Hell doesn't make it go away.  It's there, it's a real place, and all who do not put their faith and trust in Jesus to same them are headed for that final destination -- a sobering thought indeed!

Jesus certainly believed in Hell and made 32 specific statements concerning it.  He was not speaing metaphorically and he wasn't calling it a "state of mind."  It is a real place.  And if Jesus, who was God Almighty come in human form and was sinless (which includes never telling a lie), was convinced "Hell is for real," I think we'd better wake up and take notice of all he said about the subject.

These are the 32 statements Jesus made, and where they occur in the Bible:
1.  Jesus said it is a wrath to come (Mt. 3: 7)
2.  Jesus said those not bringing forth good fruit would be cast into the fire (Mt. 3: 10)
3.  Jesus said the chaff would be burned up with UNQUENCHABLE fire (Mt. 3: 12
4.  Jesus said anyone calling his brother a fool was in danger of Hell fire (Mt. 5: 23)
5.  Jesus said it was better to have a body part perish than be cast into Hell (Mt. 5: 29, 30)
6.  Jesus said the way to destruction was broad (Mt. 7: 13)
7.  Jesus said it was a place of outer darkness (Mt. 8: 12)
8.  Jesus said it was a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8: 12)
9.  Jesus said to fear God who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell (Mt. 10: 28)
10.  Jesus said it was a place where tares (weeds) would be burned up (Mt. 13: 30, 38)
11.  Jesus said it was a furnace of fire (Mt. 13: 42)
12.  Jesus said it was worse than having a millstone tied around your neck and be cast into the sea (Mt. 18:6)
13.  Jesus said it was a place of everlasting fire (Mt. 18: 8)
14.  Jesus said it was a place where those who made light of His marriage to the Bride (Church) would be burned up (Mt. 22: 5, 7)
15.  Jesus said it was a place of damnation (Mt. 23: 33)
16.  Jesus said it was a place prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25: 41)
17.  Jesus said it was a place of EVERLASTING punishment (Mt. 25: 46)

(Note:  Revelation 20: 10 tells us that those whose names are not found in the book of life will be tormented along with the beast, the false prophet and the devil, "day and night FOREVER AND EVER.")

18.  Jesus said it was a place where one's soul would be lost (Mk. 8: 36)
19.  Jesus said it was a place of shame (Mk. 8:36)
20.  Jesus said it was a place where no one would cease to exist (Mk. 9: 46) [note:  "Worm" in

the orginal greek refers to a constant eating away of a dead body]
21.  Jesus is was better not to be born than to go there (Mk. 14: 21)
22.  Jesus said he who does not believe would be condemned there (Mk. 16: 16)
23.  Jesus said it was a place of mourning (Lk. 6:25)
24.  Jesus said it was a place where one would be lost and cast away (Lk. 9: 25)
25.  Jesus said there would be those who would be thrust down there (Lk. 10: 15)
26.  Jesus said it was a place where the unrepentant would perish (Lk. 13: 5)
27.  Jesus said it was a place of flames and torments (Lk. 16: 23-25)

(Note:  I've heard liberals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and others dismiss Luke 16 as being only a parable.  First of all it's not a parable.  When Jesus told parables, he never used anyone's name.  But here he uses Lazarus' name, because Lazarus is a real person. And this is a real event.  And even if it were a parable, let me ask you this:  Would Jesus tell a parable that had wrong theology?  No.  Indeed, Jesus used parables to explain correct theology about the Kingdom of God.  You will also notice here also that the rich man was suffering even BEFORE the final Judgement, which is yet to occur.)

28.  Jesus said those in Hell would recognize the righteous dead (Lk. 16: 23)
29.  Jesus said there was a great gulf fixed between Hell and Heaven that could not be traversed (Lk. 16: 26)
30.  Jesus said the unbelieving in Hell would never see life (Jn. 3: 36)
31.  Jesus said Hell was where the unbeliever would have the wrath of God abiding on him (Jn. 3: 36)
32.  Jesus said it was a place of resurrection (the unrighteous dead would experience existance) (Jn. 5: 29)

Jesus' statements on Hell are backed up by Psalm 88 in the Old Testament which gives us an
excellent description of Hell:

Verse 5 says it is a place with people who God no longer cares to remember -- who are cut off from His care.
Verse 8 describes the distancing between the righteous and the lost (see ##28 & #29 above).
Verse 8 also says those who are there, are repulsive to the righteous.
Verse 8 also says no one can leave there (#30 above).
Verse 9 describes the crying there (see #8 above).
Verse 14 describes God's rejection.
Verse 15 describes the horrors.
Verse 16 also describes the terrors (also verse 17).
Verse 18 speaks of the great gulf (#29 above).
Verse 18 also speaks of the outer darkness Jesus referred to (#7 above).

Unlike Colton Burpo, the words of Our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ can be "taken to the bank" with 100% guarantee.  There is indeed a Hell.  It is a real place.  And you don't want to go there and suffer for all eternity.  The only way to avoid this eternal damnation is trust in Jesus with all your heart.  He will save you from Hell by His grace, something you cannot do for yourself by your good works (Ephesians 2: 8,9; Titus 3: 5).  Hell is a coming torment which culminates God's wrath poured out upon sin (which a perfect God cannot tolerate in His site).  All people whoever lived or who now live with either, upon dead, go to one of two places -- Heaven or Hell.  You can avoid Hell and live an eternity of bliss with Jesus by following the simple prescription laid out by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10: 9-13:

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Better than an attorney -- the LDS write great escape clauses!

     When Joseph Smith (or possibly Sidney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdery) put together the Book of Mormon, it was apparently intended that when Jesus spoke of "other sheep" (John 10:16) he was speaking of the Nephites and Lamanites who supposedly migrated from Jerusalem to the western hemisphere around 600 B.C.
     Then somebody (perhaps Smith, Rigdon, Cowdery or others) said, "Oops!  Christians will say Jesus was speaking of the Gentiles (non-Jews).  We need to stick something in here to counter that notion!"
     Therefore, three verses were added to III Nephi 15 (vv. 21-23):   "And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.  And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.  And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice -- that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost."       Now the argument can be (falsely) made by the LDS that since Jesus never spoke to a Gentile (ridiculous, since Jesus spoke to a Roman centurian (Matthew 8:5-13), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), the Syrophonecian woman (Mark 7:25-30; Matthew 15:21-28) and others), the Gentiles would have to hear him through the Holy Spirit.  So Jesus must have been talking about some other people group (which the LDS claim were the descendants of Lehi in the New World).
     To say it another way, "Let's squelch their (Christian) arguments before they can make them!"  In terms of writing legal documents, this is called an "escape clause."  And if that doesn't work, use the "Great Mormon Escape Clause," Article 8 of the Articles of Faith:  "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."  In other words, Jesus may have never mentioned "other sheep" in the first place!
     Because of "escape clauses," twisting Scripture, re-writing history and downright religious dishonesty, Latter-day Saints can win any and every argument.  The sad thing is that although they win the argument, they have lost their souls for all eternity.