Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Calling in the cavalry


Had the missionaries over tonight and they brought a regular member with them. He was someone who was a little more well versed in the Bible. The conversation got a little more pointed than normal, especially when speaking to the local member. I am guessing he was a former bishop, because he was fairly well versed in some of the arguments, but as we dug deeper into the priesthood it became pretty clear that he wasn't that familiar with Hebrews and the covenants. He was a little irate with me at times, so I may have overdone it but he was a bit smarmy. I saw him talking for some time with the missionaries outside after our visit, so I am worried that he was warning them to not come back.

I am afraid I was a little heavy handed tonight, a little too quick to come back on every comment. My impulse when I get challenged it to jump on the person with both feet, which isn't the right way to witness of course. I ended up speaking way more to the member than to the missionaries, and I hardly expected to sway the lifelong adult. My hope is to plant the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of these young men so that when they leave their missions they are encouraged to dig deeper into God's Word and see who Christ truly is. We did get a commitment to come back in two weeks, and I really want to give them the chance to talk more so we don't completely spook them. If they don't come back we lose the chance to keep up the dialogue, so I am praying that they will be back. We are due for a switch so I am expecting that the one missionary won't be back but the other one will with a new companion, so we have a chance to talk to a new person.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Very fruitful conversation


We had a great conversation on Tuesday with the mormon missionaries. I used the pamphlet they left the last time to ask a couple of general questions, "The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and then it was on. I asked them right away about the Aaronic priesthood and focused the questions on what the function of the Levitical priesthood was. I got them to agree that the Aaronic priesthood was the restoration of the same priesthood as that held by the Levites, which is important and is pretty clear given that the restoration allegedly came from John the Baptist whose dad was a Levite etc. Once I had gotten their agreement on that (and it is vital to make sure you have agreement on definitions), I asked them if they knew what the function of the Levitical priesthood was in the Old Testament. They didn't really have a good answer, so I explained from the OT what the Levites did. I then took the to the NT and showed them how Christ fulfills the sacrifice for the sins of His sheep and because of that there was no need for the Aaronic priesthood to be restored. Then I took them to Melchizidek and we talked about who he was and how Christ holds that office alone as a High Priest after the order of Melchizidek. Again the central point being that with a High Priest like Christ and a sacrifice as perfect as the one of Christ, what need do we have for a human priesthood and a restored temple? They honestly had no answers for me.

I did get a commitment from them to come back next Tuesday. I hope to make this a more or less weekly thing, we figure that with them moving in and out of this area and splitting with other missionaries we should have the chance to impact 12-15 missionaries a year at least. I don't expect any of them to come to Christ and leave mormonism on their mission, but I do hope to plant a seed that will flourish later on and get some contact info from them so I can stay in touch with these young men. I am hoping that they call for reinforcements so I can meet some members in the area and talk to them. I am sort of considering going on a fast and testimony Sunday so I could get up with an open mike and declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

Pray for these young men, who I will not name specifically, that God will use our visits to show them the lie of mormonism and that through our interaction I can show them the better way that is found by simple faith in the grace of Christ.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another visit upcoming

The missionaries called us again and are coming over Tuesday night. I am going to get some pizzas for them because I have been to a number of missionary apartments and they generally live like animals (put a couple of 20 year old guys with no money in and apartment, and it is a wonder they don't turn to cannibalism when the noodles run out!)

My goal for Tuesday night is to dig deeper into the idea of the priesthood, and focus the conversation on the same vein as in the post below. What is the priesthood in the OT, what is the role of Christ, why do we need a new priesthood given the office of Christ? It is a delicate balance because I want them to keep coming back, so I need prayer that I will be firm and bold in declaring Christ but not hostile or confrontational. It is easier with missionaries because we have a soft spot for these young men. I loved going out with them when we were mormons, and having them over for dinner weekly. They for the most part have been spoon fed mormonism since they were small children, and it takes time to unravel the lie while showing them a better way through the Christ of the Bible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Examining the Book of Abraham

Bill McKeever of the Mormonism Research Ministry put together a very lengthy video debunking the "translation" of the Book of Abraham, a pivotal text in mormon theology. The full video is pretty long and you can watch it here, but there is a shortened version that I like a lot because it very succinctly demonstrates that what mormons carry around in their "scriptures" is not what Smith claimed it to be at all. Watch and enjoy!




Examining Facsimile One from the Book of Abraham from Mormonism Research Ministry on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sober Discourse: Subject/Purpose Statements for Hebrews#links

Sober Discourse: Subject/Purpose Statements for Hebrews#links

For more on the superior priesthood and office of Christ, see this brief outline from my pastor Michael Jones.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A restoration or a fabrication?

A restored priesthood?

Even a cursory glance at mormon teachings will show what a vital part of their mythos the idea of a restored priesthood is. It is one of the, if not the key, declaration of uniqueness and superiority of mormonism over and above orthodox Christianity. If mormons are correct, then every Christian baptism performed is null and void and if they are not correct, then every mormon baptism is illegitimate and they are all individually lost in their sins because they have placed their faith in false teachers and a false gospel.

The story takes us back to the 1800's in Harmony, Pennsylvania on the banks of the Susquehanna River. On May 15, 1829 as Joseph Smith tells it, an angelic visitor appeared to him and his companion Oliver Cowdery and identified himself as John the Baptist. John places his hands upon Joseph and Oliver and gives the the "Aaronic Priesthood". The story is canonized in mormon scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 13: 1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. Set aside for a moment the idea of the sons of Levi making an offering again after the perfect sacrificial offering of Christ. What Smith is claiming here is startling: a man who was beheaded in the first century appears to these two men in the 1800's, with a body of flesh and bone apparently, and confers on them a priesthood that has been lost for 18 centuries. Later Peter, James and John appeared to Smith and granted them the higher priesthood, known as the Melchizidek priesthood.

The first issue is the nature and the function of the Levitical priesthood, the priesthood of Aaron that Mormonism claims has been restored. The Levites were a particular ethnic group that was set aside for the administration of the temple ordinances, in return for their service they were not given a land holding but were given a portion of the offerings to support themselves. The primary function of the Levitical priests was to administer the temple ordinances, which were primarily to deal with sacrifices. That is important because according to mormonism, young men hold the “Aaronic” priesthood which was restored, but there is no comparison between the Aaronic priesthood of Mormonism and the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were an ethnic tribe and spent most of their time in sacrifice.

The key here is the idea of covenant administration. Under the Old Covenant, the members were national Israel, it was an ethnic membership. The mediator was the High Priest, an office which only one person at a time held. What we know from the book of Hebrews and from Old Testament evidence, primarily the promise of a new and better covenant in the book of Jeremiah chapter 31, is that the new Covenant is different than the old Covenant. Under the old Covenant, human priests offered sacrifice for the sins of the people and also for themselves. Under the New Covenant, there is the perfect and complete sacrifice by and through Christ. That sacrifice for sin is complete and eternal and sufficient, so there is no reason for a system of ongoing sacrifice which was the main function of the Levitical priesthood. In the same respect there is no need for an ongoing prophetic ministry in the sense of receiving new revelation or in a restoration of the temple system. Why have a temple and priests when there are no more sacrifices to be made? Why have a prophet when revelation has been received once and for all in the person and work of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2)? The prophets of the Old Testament all were pointing in one way or the other to the coming of Christ and His reign, and that has taken place so now the ministry of the believers is to call people to recognize that event and repent. Any new revelation that is allegedly being brought forth is done to the detriment of the Gospel, trying to add to the perfect work of Christ on the cross.

There is no mandate in the Bible for a person who receives revelation to hold any priesthood, or to administer the sacraments or any of the other minor functions associated with the “Aaronic” priesthood in mormonism. There is no sign of the receipt of the Holy Spirit in regeneration being tied to the priesthood. In fact the concept of a continuation of a human priesthood that resembles in any way the OT priesthood is completely absent in the NT.

So in a nutshell the issue is that the “restored” priesthood is a relic of the Old Testament/Old Covenant and has been made obsolete by the cross because the function and role of the human priest as administrator of the sacrifice and mediator between man and God has been replaced by our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews is just devastating to the whole foundation of the mormon restored priesthood and modern day prophets. From front to back, it contrast the Old Covenant human priesthood of Aaron with the eternal priesthood of Christ, the perfect mediator of the New Covenant.

Furthermore, the Levitical priesthood that was supposedly restored is restricted to members of that tribe and is further restricted in that only those of a certain age could serve in it: “from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting.” (Numbers 4:3) Mormons by contrast “ordain” young men in their teens to the Aaronic priesthood.

The priesthood of Melchizidek is held by only one individual, that being Christ Jesus, and there is no mention of this priesthood held by anyone else (other than the man that it is named after in the OT)There is not a hint that Peter, or Paul, or John or any of the Apostles held or claimed to hold or needed to hold some special priesthood.

Ultimately, there are two major issues that confound the mormon priesthood restoration tale: First, the mormon priesthood doesn't resemble in any way the Levitical priesthood and it certainly is not reflective of the priesthood of Melchizidek which is held only by Christ as our mediator and High Priest and second there is no evidence that the apostles held to or saw a need for a specific priesthood that was passed on by the laying on of hands after the mormon model. We don't need to restore something that Christ has made obsolete, and we should not desire to go back to the old system and try to please God outside of Christ.

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain." But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:1-13)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Interesting conversation

The missionaries came over tonight, we had a very nice conversation. The spiel has changed some since we left, the one missionary was very open up front about the nature of God, etc. The little handouts they give out now even speaks highly of Martin Luther and John Calvin! But the old missionary lesson plan seems to be out of style. A lot of their talking points are still pretty much rote memorization, so when they started in on the party line I tried to switch to personal conversation to break the train and then get back to digging deeper into what they were saying, without spooking them too much. They didn't even try to give us a Book of Mormon.

They did seem to be caught off-guard when I brought up Hebrews 1 telling us that God no longer speaks through prophets. I was trying to not hammer them on stuff, but I was able to give them a good overview of the nature of man, sin, of justification.

I am hoping they will come back so I can engage them in a conversation about the priesthood, why it is not a requirement to be an apostle or elder, why there is no record of any of the early Christians holding it and why the need for a human priesthood has been done away with. That should lead to a conversation on the office of prophet. Pray for these young men and all the young men and women that are out there unknowingly spreading a false gospel.

Prayer needed

We are having the local missionaries over on Saturday night at around 7:00. Please pray for us and for these lost young men. I hope to have a good conversation with them about the fundamentals of their church from a Christian standpoint, not an apostate standpoint.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What do you mean we aren't Christians?

I was looking for something else on the webpage of talk show host Glenn Beck (who is a mormon) and came across this article:

Glenn not a Christian?

GLENN BECK PROGRAM
BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

GLENN: ABC wanted me to do something on Good Morning America. It was my understanding, but I've been so busy, I haven't been involved in all the details, but it was my understanding that Diane was going to have a conversation with me on Mitt Romney and what was happening with Mitt Romney and what I thought he should say in the speech, but that would be too reasonable. That would be a reasonable conversation to have. Instead when I arrive, Richard Land is there and he is a Southern Baptist and I said, hello, Richard, how are you? And we talked for a few minutes and he was a very pleasant man. We get on the air and Diane Sawyer, I think the first question out of her mouth is, are Mormons Christian? And, of course, his answer is no, they're not which, you know, under two hours sleep I've got to tell you I had a hard time, you know, just smiling and letting it pass, especially since I only had two hours sleep because I had done a Christmas show the night before where I was talking about the real meaning of Christmas being with redemption and about not the birth of the baby, about the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So I had a little hard -- it was very difficult for me to let that one pass, but I did.

The next question, with about 40 seconds to go, was about the deep doctrinal issues of Mormonism, and I've got to tell you something. I want you to put yourself in my shoes. Mormons, the doctrine is different. However, that's what attracted me to it. For me some of the things in traditional doctrine just doesn't work, but it works for millions of other people and that's great. Happens to work for millions of Mormons the other way. That's great. You know, I'm not going to preach to you, you don't have to preach to me. We'll pray for each other and we'll see each other on the other side hopefully.

Now, imagine, put yourself in this position. Let's say you are in Saudi Arabia where nobody's ever heard of the trinity. You're a Catholic. Nobody's ever heard of the trinity. What, the trinity? What, it's three in one, they're everywhere and nowhere. Jesus is on the cross but he's really God. So God has died but yet he didn't die and how does this -- imagine you've never heard this before. So you've never heard any kind of explanation. So it works. You know what I mean? You've never heard anybody say, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait, you've got to slow down. She asked me two questions about deep doctrine issues and I had in my ear, 40 seconds. Oh, well, hang on. I've got 40 seconds. Let me explain this to you. You can't explain it in 40 seconds. You can't explain anything of deep philosophical viewpoint or deep theological viewpoint. It took me a year of real studying to be able to understand some of the stuff in all of different doctrines, which leads me to this. Nobody really cares. Nobody really cares.


I wonder if the issue is that Mr. Beck can't answer the question or just doesn't want to. Mormon president and "prophet" Gordon Hinckley did a similar thing on Larry King Live when asked about men becoming gods, and he ducked and dodged all around one of the most firmly held mormon beliefs. Well I don't know if we teach that...What do you mean, you are the prophet of the restored church with a direct conduit to Christ. How do you not know this stuff? The answer is that mormons know that discussing this sort of stuff on TV makes it harder for missionaries to get in the door of unsuspecting people. "Hi, we are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we would like to tell you how to become gods". That isn't going to get you many invites into the living room.

Mr. Beck raises the same sort of objection we often hear from mormons. How can they say that I am not a Christian, look at all of the Christian appearing stuff that I do. I go to a church with the name of Jesus Christ on the building. I read the Bible. I pray in the name of Jesus. Most mormon, especially the missionaries, trip over themselves to use the name of Christ as often as possible. Isn't that enough? Well no, it is not.

A key passage in the Bible is Matthew 16:13-17.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

Simon Peter declares Christ the Son of the living God, in contrast to what other people say about Jesus. It wasn’t like He was unknown or that people did talk about Him, but just talking about Him does not make you a Christian.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23)

If you don't recognize Christ as God incarnate, God in the flesh who lived a perfect life and atoned for the sins of His sheep on the cross, died, was buried and rose again, and place your trust in Him and depend on faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone then you aren't a Christ. Muslim praise the name Jesus Christ, but they aren't Christians and having the name Christ on your church sign and talking about Christmas doesn't make you a Christian.

Adoption

One of the biggest problems with witnessing to mormons is that we are using many of the same words and often even referencing the same Scriptures, but meaning entirely different things. This exposes the lack of Biblical depth that most Christians, including me, have because we have a hard time exposing the context and rebutting what is being said with the entire Biblical record. When we are witnessing to mormons and others who are lost, we need to understand what the Bible says so that when faced with verses out of context we can draw the conversation back to the Bible instead of arguing about what a verse means.

That is nowhere more true that the Biblical doctrine of adoption.

Mormons read in the Scripture that we will become joint heirs with Christ, that we will be called sons of God and immediately connect that to the mormon doctrine of exaltation (i.e. that the most faithful mormon men will become gods and reign over their own planets, just as the God of the Bible is supposed to be an exalted man. It is all a divine pyramid scheme in a way). This is an all too common reaction from mormons who typically view all of Scripture with suspicion, and whenever possible view any doctrine through the lens of mormonism. But it is clear that the Bible tells us that there is but one God, negating the idea of man's exaltation in the mormon sense.

So if the mormon idea of exaltation, of deification of man is not what the Bible is speaking of, what do these verses mean? In a nutshell, they refer to adoption. There are a number of passages that directly deal with adoption in the New Testament...

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17 ESV)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

So what we see in these verses that deal directly with the becoming sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, is that we are not granted this because we are by nature like Christ but because we have been granted that status graciously through adoption.

There is a great sermon by C.J. Mahaney on the topic of adoption that you can listen to here that really gets at the humbling heart of adoption. We are not made God's equals or even like Him in nature. Jesus is not our literal brother. What we receive though is the blessing of renewed familial fellowship with our God through the purchasing power of Christ's blood. Salvation is not merely being saved from hell, it is also being adopted by God, given the glorious benefits of being sons and daughters of God. If we were merely saved from hell, that alone would be worthy of an eternity of gratitude and praise to God, but God is not content merely to save us but also to adopt us, calling us out of the world of sin.

We were once slaves to this world, slaves to sin but when we come to faith in God through His grace, we are no longer slaves, but sons. If you adopt a child, that child is not genetically made like you. They are still different from you in a number of ways, but they are given the same rights as your natural children. God only has one Son, His only begotten who is like Him but we are ushered into His glorious presence through adoption, and that is why the Christian can call God "Father".

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What is the point of a prophet who doesn't speak prophetically?


One of the central hallmarks of mormonism is that they have a restored priesthood that includes a restored office of prophet. For mormons, the man who occupies the office of President of the mormon church is a true and only prophet of God on par with men like Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The man who occupies that office today is Thomas Monson, a guy who has spent almost his entire life as a mormon leader. He was "called" as a local bishop when he was 22, which is pretty unusual. He has not had a job that wasn't connected to the mormon church for what looks like half a century, so this is a guy who knows mormonism inside and out. If you want to know something about mormonism, you could hardly find anyone who is better prepared to speak on the topic.

If you are looking for someone to prophesy though, you need to look elsewhere.

The mormon President is many things. Normally a good speaker, an outspoken believer, a spokesperson and a leader. But a prophet? Not hardly. You will look in vain for a prophetic utterance from Thomas Monson. Or his predecessor Gordon Hinckley. Or his predecessor. And on and on. In fact, other than the politically expedient "revelation" overturning the racist prohibition on blacks holding the mormon priesthood., the mormon prophet has not done anything prophetic for generations back. The Bible is allegedly not translated properly. Is the mormon prophet using his prophetic office and his "priesthood authority" to translate the Bible properly so mormons could trust what it says? Nope. They are apparently too busy appearing on Larry King Live.

When I hear a mormon talk about the "prophet", I always refer them back to Hebrews 1:1-2. We don't need prophets today to point forward to the Christ when Christ has already come and fulfilled all righteousness. We don't need a temple when Christ has made the perfect and complete sacrifice. We don't need a human priest to be a mediator for us when we have the great High Priest interceding for us directly to the Father.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Welcome to my new blog!

I wanted to put together a "side" blog for a long time to deal exclusively with mormonism because many of the issues in mormonism are so out of the ordinary that they make little sense to the average reader. For most people the idea of the mormon temple ceremony makes no sense at all, and I want to avoid sensationalism. So those who are interested can follow the link to this page from my main blog. So we will see how it goes, I am planning on not moderating comments to make people feel encouraged to discuss issues and without letting the sometimes heated commentary spill over onto my primary blog.

Enjoy!