Wednesday, January 27, 2010

He is Risen! The Case For the Resurrection of Christ

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 121.)

I recently had a conversation with a friend who did not seem entirely convinced of the reliability of the accounts given by the apostles (and/or the writers of the gospels) concerning the literal reality and veracity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. More to the point this person did not seem to have a clear grasp of the function and consequences of the resurrection itself. Unfortunately he is not alone, nor is he unique, among Americans. According to Newsweek magazine: “The number of Americans who say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ has dropped 10 points since 2003 to 70 percent, according to the most recent Harris poll; only 26 percent of Americans think that they'll have bodies in heaven, according to a 1997 Time/CNN poll.” (Lisa Miller, “Far from Heaven,” Newsweek, Mar 25, 2010).

My friend is at least nominally a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so his skepticism puzzles me somewhat since, like Paul, I feel that "if Christ be not raised...we are of all men most miserable."  The resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the hope that it brings, is the central message of the New Testament and it is the principal doctrine of the restored gospel.  The resurrection and its consequences are firmly established  by the Bible, as well as by the scriptures of the restoration, and so there is no reason for a Christian of any stripe to doubt the reality of the living Christ, and it makes no sense that so few people believe that (thanks to Christ) we ourselves will rise in the resurrection with glorified physical bodies.  Given that ignorance and disbelief in a doctrine as fundamental as the resurrection of Jesus Christ seems to run rampant even through the ranks of Christianity, I feel that it is my duty to make a case for the veracity of Christ's resurrection and to explain the effects and mechanics of the resurrection itself.  Such knowledge is crucial for anyone who claims to be a Christian and who wishes to obtain understanding in this life and salvation in the world to come.

2 Nephi 2:8  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

It may be that resorting to the Biblical account may do little to convince someone of the fact and reality of the resurrection when they are already somewhat doubtful of the veracity of the Bible record itself. However I hope to establish the doctrinal and historical veracity of the Biblical account of the resurrection through scriptural sources outside of the Bible, and in so doing clarify the exact effects that resurrection has upon an individual (both in the physiological as well as in the redemptive sense) and perhaps explain the reasons behind those effects. I also hope to explore some aspects of the doctrine of resurrection contained in the scriptures that seem to be poorly understood by my peers. It is my hope that in gaining more knowledge about the details of the resurrection we can all gain a stronger testimony of the wondrous (and wondrously simple) fact that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again after three days, and that he lives even to this day and forevermore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do Mormons Read The Bible? 6 Tips to Unlock The Bible.

Do Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God?  Do they regard it as scripture?

The answer is: yes, the Bible is revered as scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  However many Mormons, like many other Christians, likely do not read and study the Bible as much or as diligently as perhaps they ought to do. To the end that I might foster a greater love for and familiarity with the Holy Bible among all Christians, and especially among my fellow Latter-day Saints, I have provided six suggestions to help make the Bible more approachable and enjoyable.

1)  Context is everything.  Find out who is speaking (or writing), and to whom it is that this person is speaking or writing. Find out when (roughly) the passage of scripture that you happen to be studying was written, and try to find out where it was written as well. It’s hard to understand anything when you take it out of context, and you might even enjoy the discoveries that you make as you delve into the ancient cultures and environments that formed the backdrop (and informed the writers) of the Bible.

"It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows." --Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), in his introduction to his Bible translation (the first complete English translation of the Bible to be put into print).

2) Bring a dictionary to your study table. The language of the King James Bible, while deeply poetic and beautiful in the majesty of its prose, is written in a form of English that people today would doubtless consider archaic at best. Some people find it much too difficult to understand, though I would submit that it just takes some getting used to, and that the language of the King James is not so far removed from ours as one might think at first glance. Sometimes it might be helpful to use a modern language  translation of the Bible, but I would caution you to take care concerning which translation you decide to use, because some translations are better than others.  The New International Version is probably the most scholarly and reputable of the newer translations, and I often find additional insight into the meaning of certain verses by consulting this Bible as a supplement to my study in the King James Bible.  However, you should not assume that a simpler, more modern, translation alone will allow you to fully grasp the principles and doctrines of the Bible if you are not willing to engage in rigorous study and diligent application of the teachings you find therein.  The doctrines and concepts are no less complex just because the language is a little more contemporary, and so you should not view a more modern translation as a shortcut to understanding.  For that reason, even if you were to choose to read a modern language translation, you would probably still find it helpful to define words and terms (and concepts) that might be unfamiliar to you using a standard dictionary, a Bible dictionary, or a scripture encyclopedia.

3) Consult study guides and commentaries. Much has been written both inside and outside of the Church by way of Biblical analysis, and history.  Many of these books can be invaluable as aids to increase and enhance your understanding and appreciation of the Bible text, and the world that is chronicled within it. A note of caution, however. When consulting study guides that were produced by people who are not members of the Church, it is helpful to remember that they do not have modern revelation from which to draw, and therefore these authors must depend largely upon their own learning. This is true, to a slightly lesser degree, of those authors who may be members, but who are not ordained general authorities of the Church. In other words, these authors may not have all of the answers, and may in fact have erred in some of their analyses if the Bible and its doctrines. Accept what they write with a grain of salt, and as always follow the guidance of the spirit when studying these things.

4) Read the Book of Mormon. You heard me. The best study aid for the Bible is the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon testifies of the truth of the Bible, and helps to clarify and bear witness to many of the doctrines contained within it. These books were intended to be read together (see 2 Nephi 3:12, Ezekiel 37:15-20, and D&C 20:8-12). You will find that your understanding and enjoyment of the Bible will increase as you study the Book of Mormon, and that studying the Bible will do the same for your appreciation of the Book of Mormon. Heber J. Grant found this to be true, as he stated in a 1936 edition of The Improvement Era: "All my life I have been finding additional evidences that the Bible is the Book of books, and that the Book of Mormon is the greatest witness for the truth of the Bible that has ever been published" (IE 39 [Nov. 1936]:660).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The 7 REAL reasons why you need to go to church

What are the REAL reasons why you need to go to church?  Not just the good reasons, or the reasons why going to church is good for you, but rather the actual practical reasons why God asks each of us to show up to a building every Sunday.

As I was browsing around the Internet recently, I came across a question and answers forum in which someone asked the question, “Why do we need to go to church on Sunday?” The answer that was voted the best was this one word in all caps: FELLOWSHIP. Most of the other answers tended to sound something like this (I’m paraphrasing): "You don’t need to go to church; God can hear your prayers wherever you are." Others said things like: "We’re hardcore Christians, and we still skip church all the time, but I guess it’s good to learn things with other Christians." Some maintained in a somewhat derisive tone that you are a sinner if you don’t go to church (this was usually followed with the person saying something along the lines of how glad they are that they aren't a christian, so they don't have to worry about it). One person provided a very detailed argument that you should go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. This, along with some related questions that a friend asked me recently, got me to thinking about the ACTUAL reasons why we need to go to church. Not just the good reasons, or the reasons why going to church is good for you, but rather the actual practical reasons why God asks each of us to show up in a building every Sunday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Do We Need The Book of Mormon?

A friend of mine sent me this interesting question about the Book of Mormon last year, and I thought that I would share my response with you, my loyal readers.

Q:  J. and I were wondering what the purpose for the Book of Mormon is. We understand the Doctrine and Covenants, but are a bit lost otherwise. Figured we would ask you.

A:  A helpful way to look at it is to lose the artificial distinction between one piece of God's word and another. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price all consist of God's word given to his Prophets who in turn were authoritatively commissioned to teach His laws and institute His ordinances, and keep records of God's dealings with his people. While the prophets in the Book of Mormon happen to be different men than the prophets in the Bible and other books of scripture, that doesn't change the fact that they were called by and ordained through the power of the same God.  It would be illogical to accept Isaiah, but reject Matthew, just because they came from different eras.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Special Missionary Bible Study

The full-time missionaries will be teaching us a quick refresher lesson on The Plan of Salvation. I feel that in view of some of the subjects that we will be covering in depth as we move into such epistles as 1 Thessalonians, we can all stand to review some of the basic concepts contained in God's plan for his children. This is a golden opportunity to invite your non-member (or lapsed member)friends to hear the Gospel in a fun and informal setting. I strongly encourage anyone who plans to attend to seek the guidance of the spirit to help each of us know whom to invite. As usual, Bible study will be held at Jami's place at 7 pm, Wednesday Jan. 6. For more information, please contact me via e-mail or facebook.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christian Martyrs

The Great Apostasy-Part III: Apostasy and Dissension from within the Church

Apostasy and Dissension from within the Church

This is the third installment in my series of presentations on the Great Apostasy. In this segment we examine the catastrophic effect that internal heresy and strife had on the primitive church, and the Apostles' responses to and prophecies about this increasingly widespread apostasy.  If you have not already done so you should go back and view Part 1 and Part 2 first before you start Part 3.

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