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Understanding Mormonism

May 24, 2010 10 comments

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fascination with the Mormon church. It all stems from May 2007, as I was spending my first weekend in Russellville, AR during my internship at the First Free Will Baptist Church. The YP there was out of town, getting his Master’s degree and I was at their home on a Saturday morning when the doorbell was rung. I looked, and lo and behold there were two, young, white shirt, gentlemen at the door.

As we began to talk, I began to sense that they knew what they were talking about, from the standpoint of how to present their side. Me, being a senior in college, began to use my Bible training to my disadvantage as I began to get flustered while talking to them. I essentially told them that I believed the Bible to be true, while they told me that the Book of Mormon presented the name of Christ 2500 times. I asked them if they had ever read the Gnostic Gospels, which also mentioned the name of Christ, but did not make them true. It was at that point, they left, and I felt as though I had earned a victory. Yet since that time, I recognized that I was very unprepared to defend my faith. Not only that, I was acting like a jerk while doing it, getting a big head at the thought that I “ran off the Mormons.”

Since then, Mormonism has both intrigued and impressed me. I have read some books on it, as well as different sources and articles. I have tried to strike up conversations with  Mormons that I have met. I have done research in order to understand what they believe, and the most efficient way to share my faith with them. And, I have secured my own copy of their Book of Mormon.

Here’s what I have learned thus far:

  • Mormons are very knowledgeable. They are very willing to share with others what they believe. They have at least received some form of training in Mormon history and belief. They know the phrases to use, such as “plain and precious” truths to describe Scriptures.
  • Mormons are tough to witness to. This is in direct relation to the above statement. They know what they believe, and therefore, they are hard to sell. In addition, Mormons “bear witness” or testify of what they know to be true. They know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. They know that the Book of Mormon is true because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. This makes it difficult, because even at the supposed contradictions and problems, they believe they are true because of what they feel to be true.
  • Mormons are insistent to challenge you to try their faith. They are always offering you to read the Book of Mormon and ask God to know whether it is true or not. This is an awkward moment, as it calls on someone to make a decision right there in my opinion. But, they insist upon it, and challenge those that they speak with on the topic.

So there are many things that Christians can learn from the Mormon church and believers. Their knowledge and insistence are to challenge us. What would happen if each Christian dug into the Bible the way that the Mormon church digs into their beliefs and Scriptures? What if each Christian were to share their faith with strangers with the fervency that the Mormons share their faith? It would be dramatically different.

The one thing that has intrigued me most about Mormonism, though, is the belief upon the Scriptures. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is the second testament concerning the life of Christ. While the Old Testament gives the history of the Jewish people, and the New Testament gives the story of Christ and the explosion of the church, the Book of Mormon gives the account of Jewish travelers who came to the “American continent” and settled, to be visited by Jesus Christ later after His ascension into heaven. In the Book of Mormon, we find a prophecy in 1 Nephi 13 that in the future, the Bible would lose its “plain and precious truths” to be corrupted by the abominable church, thus showing the need for the additional testament of the Book of Mormon.

Yet, this is not what intrigues me the most. What intrigues me the most is the view that the Bible is the Word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” So I have inquired to a few Mormons – Where has the Bible been mistranslated? Below are a few of the answers I have received.

  • “Have you ever wondered why there are so many different churches with different beliefs?” The claim is that since different people translate different ideologies from the Bible, that it has obviously been mistranslated.
  • Acts 7:54-60 contains the stoning of Stephen. I was actually not able to get answers as to what the problem with this passage was, because the Mormon missionary I was chatting with lost their computer. At some point, we are supposed to reconnect online and pick up where we left off, but thus far, I have received no further information on this “mistranslation.”
  • 1 Samuel 16:14 speaks of the Spirit of the Lord departing Saul and a bad/evil Spirit coming to torment him. This is one that I was able to talk about for a while. I pulled up the wonderful resource at StudyLight.org and informed the Mormon that this is not a contradiction (as they supposed since they claim that God does not have an evil spirit – agreed of course) as the Hebrew word used for “evil/bad” is ra, which simply means a bad spirit that came upon Saul. The conversation quickly changed. I do not count this as victory, but instead, just a change of subject.
  • John 1. John 1 contains John’s speech on Christ being eternal with the Father and establishing Him as the Word. This is contradictory to Mormon doctrine and belief that Christ is eternal, and instead He was a created being from God and Mary. The source that was used here threw me for a loop, as I realized that the Mormons believe this is mistranslated because of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). The problem with the JST is that some verses stay the same, while others are completely changed. Yet, there is no proof anywhere that these need to be changed. So I inquired further about how we can know that this is true, but again, it came back to “Praying and asking God to reveal the truth while reading the Book of Mormon and the JST.” I asked for other examples, but every time, I was given links to the JST. This is the easy way to cop-out that the Bible has been mistranslated, simply because Joseph Smith claimed it was.

I’m presently studying a little further about the Joseph Smith Translation, and will post some more once I receive more information. But it creates a difficulty in discussion when informing the one who you are speaking with that if the Bible has been mistranslated, then from the thousands of manuscripts from hundreds of years would document this. But it all referred back to the JST and the testimony that it was true. It’s difficult.

What do you know about Mormonism?


Book: Why Evolution Is True

October 19, 2009 21 comments

I finished Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne last night.  I had been looking to read a book on evolution lately in order to better understand the mindset of those who argue against creation.  Surprisingly, the Coyne book wasn’t bad.  It didn’t take on the same arrogant tone that Dawkins, Hitchens, and other anti-theists take on in their writings.  It was an informative, yet slightly misguided book.

I did learn a lot though.  And that was very beneficial.  Coyne never attacked Christianity, but asked generic questions regarding creationism.  This is where he went off the tracks, assuming his knowledge of creationism.  

Nonetheless, the book was pretty good.  Let’s review:

  • The issue of “species” is a pretty big deal.  Coyne claims that 99% of species that have ever walked this earth are extinct (no sources to back the information).  This comes interesting to me as by species, it is meant within a class of animal.  Instead of “species” meaning a new animal, it means a different type of finch, fish, monkey, etc.  This has always seemed to be a fun issue of interpretation.  Anyways, on this issue of Coyne’s assertion he states, ““This, by the way, poses an enormous problem for theories of intelligent design (ID). It doesn’t seem so intelligent to design millions of species that are destined to go extinct, and then replace them with other, similar species, most of which will also vanish. ID supporters have never addressed this difficulty.”  Animals die.  People die.  Death is the result of sin.  Just because the answer to the question isn’t what you want, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been addressed.
  • Coyne repeatedly appeals to the idea of “Bad Design” but as I just mentioned, Christians do have an explanation for the messed up things of the world – unfortunately, people who operate from the mindset that there is no God refuses to accept that.
  • Adaptation happens. I’ll agree with that.  It’s been observed.  My problem with evolution is the fact that adaptation has been observed – ie. Darwin’s finches – and the argument continues that many little changes within a species add up over time, thus, one form can transform into another.  I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
  • One such example that Coyne provides for adaptation is as follows: There are species of orchids that resemble wasps, bees, and other insects.  Sure, I can see that.  And this is showing my ignorance on the issue of course, but the argument is that over time, these orchids have developed leaves or whatnot that look like a bee.  I mean, look at the picture – it looks like a bee.  I just don’t understand what caused the orchid to transform a leaf to look like a bee. Orchids are non-thinking organisms, thus there is no perception of what a bee looks like.  So, does nature just somehow take over and give the orchid the ability to grow a leaf that looks JUST like a bee?  Random mutations within the DNA sequence allow a leaf to begin to grow and change to the point that it looks like a bee, whenever the orchid cannot observe what bee looks like?  Maybe it’s way over my head, but if someone would like to explain how something this complex can happen within an orchid, giving it the ability to grow a leaf that looks like a bee whenever it cannot observe what a bee looks like, then I’d love to have the explanation.  As for now, I just think this is a poor argument.  Kinda like the Christian side whenever someone argues and just says, “Goddidit, don’t ask anymore questions….” I feel like many people say, “Evolution did it, shut up!”  
  • Again, my ignorance might be shown greatly here, but another problem I have is of human fossilization. No, I will not go on to say that some of the “transition fossils” presented are not human…whoops.  Anyways, Darwin, Coyne, and others use the argument that humans began evolving in Africa.  Thus, it is obvious that most fossils would be found in Africa of the earliest descendants.  Sure – that’s fine.  I mean, according to the Bible, that area is where a lot of fossils should be found, too, as fossilization occurs whenever organisms find themselves quickly covered by water and sediments…I seem to remember this flood story…nonetheless – a quick look at human fossil records shows that some of the earliest “human fossils” were not discovered in Africa, but instead scattered around Asia, Europe, AND Africa.  I don’t care where they find them.  I just thought it interesting that Coyne really hit on the fact that man evolved in Africa, thus fossils should be found only there, and then whenever man because a thinking creature capable of movement, he moved across the world…yet some of the oldest dated fossils by evolutionists are found in Germany, China, Pakistan, and Italy. Oh well.

Anyways, I enjoyed the book.  I obviously don’t know everything that evolutionists believe, nor will I ever (as I have heard different contradicting ideas from different evolutionists…)  I just wanted to take a step toward understanding the worldview from which they work.

There are many I have talked to who are simply angry.  They don’t want to believe in a God.  They don’t want to deal with that, so it’s a sense of rebellion.  I try to avoid these types of people.

But others are simply unable to come to the conclusion that a God exists.  They see evolution as fact because it makes sense.  They see Christianity (and any religion) as moot because it seems preposterous and impossible.  They reject it because it is not logical – not because they’re angry babies.  I like these people, because they’re nice.

I read this book to understand those people.  I read this book to be able to at least talk to them a little.

One last tidbit, just for fun.  Within the book, Coyne says “probably,” “maybe,” “possibly,” etc. numerous times when speaking of how things evolved, why they evolved, and other issues.  Sure, I don’t expect evolutionists to have all the answers.  I mean, that’s something you hear a lot from them.  “No, we haven’t found transitional fossils, but we will someday and that will answer all the questions…”  What you hear is faith.  I just wanted to point that one out.  So, don’t bash faith.  It happens to everyone.  

Now, back to reading things I want to read for fun….not that I didn’t enjoy the book.  It had some interesting tidbits…just interpreted the evidence in a much different way.

Back Into The Apologetic World

September 30, 2009 4 comments

I’m quite proud of myself, as I have been feeling mighty academic lately.  In the past two weeks, I’ve managed to read three books.

  • One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven by Mark Cahill
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza

The latter will be finished today.  I have more books on the horizon, as for some reason, I’ve really enjoyed reading lately, once again.  It is challenging me daily to study into different concepts and ideas.

One of which I have posted previously.  In fact, I briefly mentioned it on my very first blog post EVER!

In many atheist circles, there is a bogus claim that the story of Jesus Christ is just another account of a god, based off of previous stories told about other Egyptian, Roman, Persian, and Hindu gods.  I’ve had the privilege over the past 24 hours to speak with an atheist I met on Yahoo! Answers, and it has been fun to say the least.  I’d like to share some of the conversation here.

It all started as I responded to the claim mentioned above, that Christ came from the story of Horus, and that Horus was crucified, resurrected, fed 5,000 people with bread, and other great things.  I simply posted:

Can you please show me where these stories occur that pre-date Christ?

Really, it’s a simple request.  I just want to know where these stories originate from.  Show me the book.  Show me the wall paintings and translation of the hieroglyphics that tell the story of the time that Horus fed 5000 people with bread.  Obviously, if this is common knowledge, as is constantly suggested, it is nothing more than easily accessible.

That’s when my new friend approached me.  He sent me an email through Yahoo! Answers with two websites enclosed.  Let me copy and paste his first email below, as it really sets the stage for what ensues:

 http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/HORUS.htm

3000 BC is 3000 years before your christ.

Horus, the Egyptian Falcon-god, is “lord of the sky” and a symbol of divine kingship. His name (“Har” in Egyptian) probably means “the high,” “the far-off,” “the distant one” and is connected with “Hry” (“one who is above/over”). The name appears on Egyptian hieroglyphs in the royal protocol at the very beginning of dynastic civilization (c. 3000 BC).

http://listverse.com/2009/04/13/10-christ-like-figures-who-pre-date-jesus/

seriously man, do a little reading and learning before making claims against people.

I replied back to him after looking at the second link. Read more…

Religulous, Pt. 2

March 9, 2009 12 comments

Back in September, it was released that the great comedian (great sarcasm), Bill Maher, would be releasing a movie on religion.  Thus, Religulous.  I posted this post in regards to the upcoming release.  This past weekend, I was able to get the movie at the library and sit and watch it.  I made sure to write down specific things to keep track of…by the end, I had typed four pages of notes.  All in all, the movie is typical atheist mumbo jumbo that presents no factual information against Christianity, but only seeks to mock it.  So, without further delay, let’s talk.

Maher opens the movie with the statement, “Religion is detrimental to the process of humanity.”  I somewhat understand what he’s saying here, surprisingly.  Wars, etc in the name of gods and religion.  Interestingly enough, watch the movie, and Maher doesn’t necessarily discuss religion per se, but makes it a personal attack on Christianity.  The movie is a little over 90 minutes, but 58 of those minutes are spent upon Christianity.  Feeling threatened, Mr. Maher?

Maher makes a number of erroneous statements throughout the movie.  In one, he is interviewing a group of Christian truckers at a truck stop in Raleigh at a service.  (I mean, he had to go get interviews with scholarly people, right?)  He states that he has problems with the fact that Christians believe in stuff that is not mentioned in the Bible, such as…and I quote, “Original sin…and the virgin birth.”  Say what?  Not in the Bible?  Apparently Mr. Maher has never read Romans 5 in regards to Original Sin, nor the Gospels in reference to the virgin birth.

My favorite error though is this.  It’s the book of Revelation.  There is no “s” at the end of Revelation in regards to the book found in the Bible.  There never has been, and there shouldn’t be in your movie.  This was at the VERY BEGINNING of the movie.  I caught it, rewound it to make sure I heard correctly, and then watched it twice more to verify.  At the end of the movie, on the screen, he quotes Scripture and actually spells it “Revelations” and then gives the reference.  Now, I’m not being nitpicky, but, to me this irked me.  If you are trying to make a movie to dispel the “myth of religion,” it seems to me that making it someone correct in the minor details would help to establish its credibility.  If you overlook details such as that, I think you start losing early in the game.  

Maher interviews Read more…

Roman Catholicism

March 5, 2009 4 comments

I’m coming down with a second cold in three weeks.  I think I have malaria that has secretly hid in my system since I went to Haiti in September.  Maybe not.

So, we covered the RCC (Roman Catholic Church) last night in youth group.  I’m not going to make this a very, very, long post, but thought I’d post some of the interesting facts I discovered.

I do know that not all of these facts fit every RC Member to a T.  If anyone has corrections, discussion, or questions, I’d love to hear them.

 

  1. I did not know the view of mass.  Mass is actually Christ’s death being poured out EVERY time mass meets.  Without mass, the people cannot receive forgiveness of their sins.  That is the importance of going to mass.  It’s not just a church service, but it is in their mind, the literal act of Christ dying on the cross of the sins of people.  Through mass, the people are purified.
  2. The priest must do every step in mass perfectly.  If he forgets one, he sins, thus making the entire mass worthless, and no one receives purification.  Whoops!
  3. I’ve never read the apocrypha, but the teachings of it seem crazy that they can be Read more…

Other religions

March 2, 2009 Leave a comment

This is the new series that I am starting on Wednesday nights at youth group with the teenagers.  It took me a lot to get past my pride to want to teach something like this because it seems so “youth pastor-ish” to do this.  But, I had one of my 7th graders come to me a couple of weeks ago and say “Can we learn about Catholicism…because I have a friend that is Catholic and I don’t know enough about it!”  If that didn’t warm my heart and soul, I don’t know what would.  My youngest in the youth group asking me to teach them something that they don’t know…because  their friend is Catholic!  It’s awesome.  I am overjoyed!

So yesterday morning in Sunday School class, it just so happened our curriculum mentioned other religions briefly.  That opened up a whole ‘nother world of discussion.  I had one mention they wanted to learn about Hinduism because they are a musical orchestra with someone who is Hindu.  One of them was utterly amazed at the thought of Scientology and how someone could follow that.  It was encouraging.

This has been a big struggle of mine since I started the job.  Doing lessons that I feel like hit the teens where they need to be hit, but at the same time, I want to hit them where they will hit back.  (I’m full of analogies today.)  So I am excited to teach them about other religions for sure, but I know I don’t just want to stop there.  As I’ve mentioned before, so many people are completely ignorant of Read more…

Categories: Apologia, Youth Ministry

So help me God…

January 14, 2009 1 comment

In case you haven’t heard – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090115/ap_on_go_ot/obama_under_god

It’s such a horrible thing for someone else to exercise their free speech for their choice of religion isn’t it?  

Aggressive atheism at its worst.