Monday, June 22, 2015

God's Truth Is The Truth, Even If You Disagree With It

I have noticed lately that there are many in and around the church who expect that everything that comes from God should be something with which they agree, and if they do not already agree with a teaching or doctrine of the church, then they assume that it must not come from God.  There are those who reject Christianity and/or a belief in God, because they cannot reconcile their own beliefs with those which are taught in the scriptures or by church leaders.  There are members that persist in disobedience to prophetic counsel because they cannot bring themselves to listen to counsel with which they do not agree.  Many insist that they would obey a given commandment if only they understood it, or they claim that they will live it just as soon as they gain a testimony confirming that such a commandment is true.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Answers to Hard Questions About The Fall of Adam

Why does the Fall matter?

I have noticed that many people find the story of Adam and Eve, and their fall from the Garden of Eden, to be a puzzling chapter in the story of our shared Judeo-Christian faith.  Many find it hard to account for because it doesn’t seem to fit with modern notions of the origin of our species.  Others struggle with the difficulties that arise over what seem to be difficult doctrinal issues surrounding the fall.  I have even heard Mormons refer to certain aspects of the fall of Adam and Eve as “deep doctrine” as if it is some incomprehensible mystery which cannot fully be understood or explained.  Even those who accept the importance of the Fall of Adam and Eve sometimes struggle with the full significance and meaning of the fall, because the fall is so complex in its ramifications, and the full meaning of the events and symbols used in the accounts of the fall can be confusing and may even be perceived as contradictory to our limited understanding.

Due to these and other difficulties, some are tempted to dismiss the fall as a mere fable, and one that is no longer relevant to us today.  However, this could not be further from the truth.  As modern day prophets have repeatedly pointed out, it is crucial that each of us gain a good understanding of the events and significance of the fall of Adam and Eve, and to do so is actually fundamental to fully celebrating one’s faith.

“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.”  (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 85).

“The simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.”  (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign, May 2015,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How the Jewish Festivals are connected to Christ in the New Testament

Jewish Feast Days Associated With Important Events in the Gospel of John

What follows is a copy of my collection of quotes on the subject (along with a few of my own notes), and as such, there is very little original content included here.  Nevertheless, I thought that it might be of interest to my readers.

“One evangelist, the author of the Fourth Gospel, stands out as having a special interest in the Temple…As is so often the case in this text, what this evangelist seeks to provide is a radical rethinking of early Christian affirmations.  In the process, he appropriates imagery connected with the temple as a way of affirming his understanding of the significance of Jesus.

“A major vehicle for further connecting Jesus with the temple is the evocation of Israel’s sacred calendar, invoked at key points in the first half of the gospel” (Attridge, 2014).

Attridge, H. W., (2014). The temple and jesus the high priest in the new testament.  In Charleswoth, J. H. (Ed.), Jesus and temple: Textual and archaeological explorations. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.)

John 2:  Passover #1 Turning of water into wine at Cana & the first cleansing of the temple immediately precede Passover

“Four cups of wine mixed with water were drunk at different stages of the [Passover] feast (compare Luke 22:17, 20; 1 Cor. 10:16, the cup of blessing)” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,”

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Parable of the Talents and Predestination

“No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children.” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Why Marriage, Why Family,” Ensign, May 2015,

The Parable of the Talents which Jesus taught to His disciples in Matthew chapter 25 can be fairly instructive when considering the question of foreordination and election, and how it governs our placement in this world and our relationship to each other.

The Parable of the Talents teaches the importance of exercising righteous stewardship with those things that the Lord gives to us while we are in our second estate.  Even though each servant in the parable received differing amounts to start with, they were each expected to wisely manage the talents with which they had been entrusted, in order that the wealth could grow and increase in their care before they had to return what they had been given to the master.

We all start out with differing gifts in life, and some are seemingly given greater advantages and blessings in this life than others, such as being born into the covenant, or living in a country where freedom and prosperity reign instead of tyranny and strife.  We also come into life with certain abilities and talents which are innate, or which we developed during our life before we came here, and it may seem that some have received more natural talent or advantageous opportunity than others.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A More Excellent Way: Are Mormons Living the Higher Law?

WARNING:  This post contains several mentions of a word and subject which is probably unsuitable for children.

I spend a great deal of time writing, speaking, and answering questions about religion, so I tend to encounter the whole spectrum of Mormon doubts and problems (as well as the best that we have to offer) as I get to know people across the world and the church.  As I have interacted with other Mormons on questions of religion, I have noticed a certain tendency that I find especially disturbing.  Specifically, I have noticed that Mormons like to ask some variation of the “Is [blank] a sin?” question, which is usually accompanied by phrases like “It isn’t expressly forbidden by the general authorities,” or, “it isn’t spelled out in the scriptures (or the policy or manuals of the Church),” with the implication that unless it is spelled out explicitly as a sin, then it must be OK to do.  This attitude can only be called legalism, and it can be very dangerous.

Legalism:  Noun.  usage: strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit.”  (, n. d.)

Case in point, the following question was posted in a Facebook discussion group for Mormons in order to solicit responses for a podcast:

“I got into a downright weird conversation with someone on whether or not the LDS Church teaches masturbation as breaking the Law of Chastity.

His defense was that there isn't a section in the Aaronic Priesthood Manual or some such work (you know - the Fifth Standard Work) about masturbation and so it isn't a sin” (Joe Rawlins, Facebook post, April 9, 2015).

In response, one person stated that she has never viewed a proscription against masturbation to be part of the law growing up, and that she still doesn’t, and then she posted a link to the Wikipedia definition of the Law of Chastity (as taught by the LDS church).

Another person posted a talk from President Spencer W. Kimball which specifically stated that the law of chastity forbids “all sexual relations outside marriage,” including masturbation, to which the first person replied that she did not see anything expressly forbidding the practice in the youth booklet.

Several individuals argued back and forth about whether or not pornography addiction is an actual or fictional condition, and others made statements criticizing the church’s stance on the subject as being a relic of Victorian era hang-ups about sex, and/or misconceptions about the sin of Onan (as it is often referred to) in the Bible, even going so far as to post a link to an article from Wiktionary defining onanism (see Genesis chapter 38 if you really care to know more).  There was also a protracted argument among several individuals concerning the severity of the sin, and its ranking in comparison to the severity of certain other sins.  Of course the crux of the entire argument had to do with the fact that teachings forbidding the practice of masturbation are not clearly spelled out in scripture.

This whole argument is an example of the irritating legalism that has crept into the attitude of many church members:  "If it isn't specifically spelled out, then I don't have to do it, and if it isn't expressly forbidden then I can do as I please."  Or, more subtly, ranking or defining sins so that some seem less severe than others.  Legalism is a problem for members of the church because it can cause us to miss the whole point of the gospel (and commandment keeping) and the atonement of Jesus Christ, and cause us to become lost in a maze of petty bickering over tiny points of the law. Worse, "by looking beyond the mark" (see Jacob 4:14) we may cause ourselves (and others) to "stumble" and "fall" because of confusion over what is and isn't sin.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why Did Jesus Have to Die on the Cross?

This post is actually a response to two questions, and as such it is organized into two parts:  First, why did Jesus have to die for the atonement to work? Second, why did Jesus have to die on the cross, as opposed to some other way? 

Q1: Did Jesus need to die on the cross? Had he already paid for our sins at this point or was it part of the atonement? And in what way?

A1:  Jesus did indeed need to die for our sins.  While Christ had made an atonement offering in the garden by His suffering and by shedding his own blood (acting in his capacity as the great high priest), the atonement was not yet finished.

The law of justice says that if a man sins somebody has to pay the price.  Fortunately, Christ paid the price for us, but the price is very high.

Alma 34: 9-12  For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.  For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.  Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another.  Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother?  I say unto you, Nay.  But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How Does Foreordination Work?

Q:  If someone is preordained to do something...does this mean that they can still choose not to?  Or will they just do it regardless? Also, are people preordained to do good things as well as bad? Or is it the same concept as destiny?

A:  When speaking about this principle, I think "foreordained" is a better word to use when it comes to gaining a full understanding of the concept. I choose to stress the importance of the terms we use, because misunderstandings concerning the doctrine of foreordination have caused much confusion and disagreement among Christians in all ages, and even among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  However, foreordination is a doctrine which must be understood and taught correctly (and in the proper context), because it concerns where we came from, and what our purpose was in coming here.

“The combined doctrine of God’s foreordination is one of the doctrinal roads “least traveled by.” Yet it clearly underlines how very long and how perfectly God has loved us and known us with our individual needs and capacities. Isolated from other doctrines, or mishandled, these truths can stoke the fires of fatalism, impact adversely upon agency, cause us to focus on status rather than service, and carry us over into predestination.

“Yet, though foreordination is a difficult doctrine, it has been given to us by the living God, through living prophets, for a purpose. It can actually increase our understanding of how crucial this mortal second estate is and can further encourage us in good works. This precious doctrine can also help us go the second mile because we are doubly called.”  (Neal A. Maxwell, "A More Determined Discipleship," Ensign, Feb. 1979,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Making the Sacrament More Sacred

Why we Need to Understand the Whys and the Wherefores

The words we use matter.  We, as Mormons, often tend to use our own special definitions for gospel terms without always giving much thought to the reasons for using those specific terms, or to the particular meanings which may be contained in those terms.  Sometimes we as members even participate in certain church activities without giving much thought to the reasons why we are doing them.  This is especially true of the sacrament, which is one of our most sacred ordinances, and yet we tend to take it for granted because we observe it almost every week.

“The ordinance of the sacrament has been called “one of the most holy and sacred ordinances in the Church.” It needs to become more holy and sacred to each of us” (Hamula, 2014).

“Since we can partake of the sacrament every week, many take the ordinance for granted or fail to prepare properly for it each time. External disturbances may prevent complete concentration on spiritual things during the sacrament. Some do not understand the true nature of the sacrament.

Almost all Latter-day Saints could better use the ordinance of the sacrament to help purge their souls in preparation for eternal life. President David O. McKay stated: “The partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is one of the most sacred ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ. Associated with it are principles fundamental in character building and essential to man’s advancement and exaltation in the kingdom of God. Too few communicants attach to this simple though sublime rite the importance and significance that it merits. Unfortunately, the form of worship is frequently an outward compliance without the true soul acknowledgment of its deep spiritual significance”” (Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, 2011, 71).

To the end that we might more fully appreciate and understand the deep significance of one of the most important parts of our worship, it might be helpful to break the term “the sacrament” down to examine its roots and to glimpse its full meaning.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All About Armageddon

In the five years that I have maintained this blog, I have studiously avoided posting anything about the end times, the second coming, or the battle of Armageddon, for at least two reasons.  First, these topics tend to bring out the crazies on the internet, which I find incredibly tiresome.  Second, I have found that focusing too much on these subjects can cause everyday Christians to “look beyond the mark” (see Jacob 4:14).  By this I mean that it can often seem more exciting and interesting to speculate about the great and terrible events of the end of the world, which can seem safely removed from our everyday experience, than it does to contemplate the need to apply the simple principles of the gospel in our everyday lives.

On the surface, the simple and basic principles of the gospel, like faith, and repentance, and enduring to the end, can seem mundane and small when compared to the terrible glory of the end times.  It is also my opinion that these principles are often overlooked because the principles of the gospel require daily transformation, and self-evaluation, which can be difficult and uncomfortable, and therefore much less fun to consider in a priest quorum meeting than the “exciting” events leading up to the second coming of Christ.

I therefore preface this post by declaring that learning to live the gospel, and developing a relationship with God through the Holy Ghost, is more important than knowing the particulars of the events of the end times, or becoming an eschatological expert.  It is important to know "the signs of the times," but not at the expense of the "weightier matters," like justice, mercy, faith, and faithfulness.  If we are truly converted, through faithful obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, then the last days need hold no fear for us.  If we have truly become converted as a disciple of Christ, we can look forward with anticipation, and without trepidation, for the day of His return, and there is no need to continually pore over and dwell on the accounts of the suffering and bloodshed that will come in the days leading up to His coming, especially if doing so causes us to lose sight of the truly important study and application of the gospel.

With that said, I chose to publish this post about Armageddon because I found that there is an everyday spiritual application which we can gain from a study of the terrible fighting that will usher in the coming of Christ.  While I spend most of this post outlining the events and conditions during the battle of Armageddon, I conclude it with advice concerning how best to fight the everyday spiritual battle which each of us must fight in order to stay true to the Lord and His gospel, and ultimately, to prepare for His coming.

My friend Shari asked me this question in an effort to deepen her knowledge so that she could answer some questions that her friends had concerning the end times.  What follows is an expanded version of my original answer.

Q:  Is the battle at the end of the world (Armageddon) going to be a physical or spiritual battle?
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