Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Can An Eternal God Have Once Been A Man?

This question was posed in an online group regarding the LDS doctrine that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 345).  Below it I have included my response in three parts.

Premise 1: God does not change
Premise 2: God is eternal
Logical conclusion: God has always been god and could not have once been man because that would have involved him not being god eternally and changing into god.
What is the flaw in this argument?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why Only Jesus Could Be The Christ

Q: Was Jesus the only one who could have been the Savior? Was it possible for someone else to have been the Messiah?

A: Jesus alone was anointed as Savior because He was the only one who had the right to be the Christ (or the Messiah).  He could claim that right because it was His by birthright and by righteousness, and also by covenant.

“Jesus was chosen from before the foundations of the world to be the Christ, the Anointed One…He was the birthright son, and he retained that birthright by his strict obedience” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, 15).

Christ’s claim to the Messiah-ship is actually fairly well established in scripture (particularly in the Bible).  Here is the case for Jesus’ unique and exclusive claim to the title of “The Christ” as well as to the responsibility and blessings that come with that title.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

5 Scriptures that Testify that God is Real

Countless people throughout time have wondered: “Is there a God?” There are nearly as many opinions on this subject as there have been people who have lived on this planet.  For this reason, many people feel confused or uncertain about whether or not God exists, and if so, what that actually means for us humans.

Many people have rejected the notion of the existence of a God or a higher being altogether.  Still others acknowledge that there may indeed be some kind of higher being who exists in the universe, although they do not know who or what this being may be, or what form he/she/it may take.  Others choose to reserve judgment for a number of reasons, including waiting for more evidence (one way or another) to present itself.

The problem is that many of those who search for God tend to reject scripture out of hand as a reliable source of evidence.  I imagine that this is because they assume that religious texts are essentially biased.  However, this forces them to look for evidence that is inconclusive at best.  There are many who point to the workings of the natural world, and of creation as evidence of a divine presence, but there are just as many people who point to the same evidence to say there is not a god.  There are some who try to use a process of logic to reason their way to God, but once again there are many who would argue that logic suggests that there is no God.  Even some religious people might argue that God is beyond our ability to grasp through human reason alone.  I mention all of this in order to demonstrate the evidentiary value that scripture can have in an honest and open-minded investigation into the existence of God.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thy Grace Is Sufficient For Me: A Psalm of Gratitude

This is my amateur attempt at producing a psalm.  I posted this rather personal work in order that I might uplift and inspire others to grow closer to God.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

Lord, thy grace is sufficient for me
In thy mercy thou givest me rest
Lord, as thou takest my burdens upon thee
Thou makest my burdens light.

Thou forgivest me my transgressions
My sins are blotted out through thee.
Thy lovingkindness and thy mercy are without end
And cannot be exhausted.

Lord God, thou art my master
I deliver myself to thee
I am thy servant
Thou settest me free

Thy yoke is easy, and thy burden is light
Gladly do I take up my cross
Happily do I follow thee
In following thee I find my life

In serving thee I gain dignity
Thou makest me thy particular treasure
No longer am I a slave to sin
Never again will I transgress

Thou makest me thy child
No longer am I a servant in thy house
I am thy son, give me thy spirit
I cry unto thee, Abba, Father.

Thou guidest me when I am lost
Thou art my light in obscurity
By thy word I set my steps
By thy teachings I build my life

In grief I seek thee Ebenezer
In my adversity thou hearest my cry
Thou art my support in sorrow
My balm and surcease in suffering

Thou art my companion in adversity
In thy footsteps I tread the path of woe
Thou hast descended unto hell
In thy suffering thou hast reclaimed my soul

Thou art the captain of my salvation
I will follow thee in all things
Thou leadest the way
Thine example is my guide

Thou teachest me to love mine enemies
To do good to those that despitefully use me.
In love I fulfill thy royal law,
Through love I approach thy throne.

Through thy grace I approach thee with boldness
Thy redemption sanctifieth me
By thy merits hast thou justified me
Thou hast brought me before the mercy seat

I stand before thee revealed
Thy word is quick and powerful
Thou hast discerned the thoughts and intents of my heart
Purify thou me Lord!

Cleanse thou my innermost soul
Give unto me clean hands and a pure heart.
I give unto thee my heart and my will
I surrender unto thee the weapons of my rebellion

Thou desirest not gold or silver
Thy treasure cannot be bought
Thy salvation is a pearl without price
I would give all to obtain it

Thy grace is sufficient for me
In thee I am made whole
The riches of thy blessings defy my capacity to receive them
My gratitude is not sufficient to the bounty of thy grace

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How do I Distinguish the Holy Ghost from My Own Thoughts?

Q: How do I tell the difference between promptings from the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts?

A: For some reason, this is a question which preoccupies members of the church, especially the youth and young adults.  I have heard some variation of this question in countless settings throughout the church.  I have heard it in seminary and institute classes, I have heard it during ward youth activities, and during Sunday school and priesthood classes.  I also noticed that this question cropped up in every single face to face session the general authorities have held with the young adults in the church.  Clearly, there is a burning desire to learn the answer to this question!

I think it is a good sign that so many want to know how to better recognize that voice of the spirit.  It shows that people across the church are thinking about this question, and seeking to better know the Lord.  However, I do think it is a little strange that there should be so much confusion among members of the church.  Presumably, if they are members of the church, then they have been baptized and they have received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Since we are therefore entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide, instruct, and direct us in our lives; surely Latter-day Saints must be experts when it comes to receiving and recognizing the spirit.

Why All the Confusion?

Given the particular facility the gift of the Holy Ghost ought to bestow upon members of the church, why is it (clearly) so difficult for us to tell the difference between the voice of the spirit and other influences?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

7 Mistakes Even Good Mormons Make

On the whole, Mormons are good people.  Most of us do our best to try to live the gospel. Most of us try to be Christ-like and obedient to the Lord.  Unfortunately, even the best of us tend to fall into traps of bad thinking without even being aware of it.  This flawed thinking can interfere with our ability to fully live the gospel. These mistakes can keep us from experiencing the full blessings and joy that come with gospel discipleship.  More often than not making these mistakes can actively make us miserable.  On my blog I answer gospel questions, and in real life I talk to people of all walks of life about religion, and I have noticed a few common problems that even the best of us may have to overcome in order to progress in the gospel.

I.                 Riding the Line
When I was a young man, I was taught a parable in my Aaronic priesthood Sunday classes about truck drivers and staying away from the line:

“A man was interviewing new drivers for his transportation company. The route was very dangerous and went along several steep cliffs through a mountain pass. The interviewer asked each man how close he could safely drive near the edge of the cliff. The first man responded, “I could drive within six inches of the edge.” The second man responded, “I could drive within two inches of the edge.” The third man responded, “I would stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as I possibly could.” (Aaronic Priesthood Manual, lds.org).

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Gospel is NOT a Checklist.

Q: I am a convert of 9 years, and in that time, I have noticed something that bothers me. In particular, I've seen this happen to a couple friends, to two of my own cousins, and even my husband.

They grow up totally devout Mormons, learning to go to primary, young men/women's, serve a mission, get married, go to the temple, etc. But then sometimes people hit a snag. The church says "you must do A,B,C,D and then you get to go to heaven.”  But I've seen some people get to "C" and because of something beyond their control, they can't do that thing. (For example, not qualifying to go on a mission for medical reasons)

For example, one person had a hard time finding a wife. He's only 27 and he acts like his life is over because he's not married yet. My cousin didn't go on her mission and the guy she was with left her, and now she's lost like she has no purpose.

It's like they suddenly don't know what to do with themselves. Like their life just ended. Like they had a map of what to do and the map is messed up so they fall into this really sad and really pathetic depression.

Personally, I don't want my kids exposed to that!  I don't want my son to be depressed and feel like a failure because he didn't follow the A,B,C,D plan to a T.  Watching what this stuff is doing to my friends and family is so sad. My cousin literally just sits in her room crying and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't qualify for a mission. AND ITS NOT EVEN HER FAULT! She's even becoming apostate over it!

I'm so close to pulling my kids out of church and just teaching them at home. I don't want my kids mentally screwed up because of this church and the ridiculous pressure and expectations put on these kids.

Am I wrong? Does anyone else see this?

A:  You are not wrong to be concerned and repelled when you see your friends and family suffering from feelings of inadequacy, depression, and guilt at what they perceive to be their failure to adequately live up to gospel requirements.

Your friends are not alone.  Many Mormons who are doing their best to follow God’s commandments can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight and number of things they have been asked to do as members of the church. Some, like your friends, may wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and failure when they don’t manage to measure up.

This is unfortunate, because your friends and many others like them don’t need to feel like failures.  They don’t have to feel like they are stuck, or like their life is over when something doesn’t happen the way they think it is supposed to happen.  Your friends are laboring under some misconceptions about how the gospel is meant to be lived, and this wrong thinking is making them miserable for nothing.  From where I’m standing, there are two problems: First, they (and you) seem to be proceeding from the assumption that there is a checklist (A, B, C…) that we have to follow to a tee if we are going to go to heaven.  Second, they also assume that getting into heaven is the whole point.  Also, as you may have noticed, the problem with this checklist mentality is that it almost immediately starts to fall apart when things in life don’t go according to plan.

Serving a mission, marrying in the temple, paying your tithing, and so forth are all important things, but none of these things is the ultimate goal of gospel discipleship.  Accordingly, the church does not teach that you have to follow a rote list of A, B, C, and D to get into heaven.  What the church does teach is simultaneously simpler and also more complex and elegant than that.
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