Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Friday, January 12, 2018

His work and his glory

(by Daniel Peterson 1-11-18)

The first chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is dated to June 1830. The Book of Mormon had been published only two or three months before, yet the Book of Moses is strikingly different from that volume — a fact requiring explanation from anybody who regards them simply as the products of the same creative but uneducated mind.

And Moses 1 is rich, densely packed with important teachings that we perhaps now take for granted but that are also remarkably profound.

In this column, I’ll focus on the single most famous verse in that chapter, Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

This declaration offers a radically different view of God than that advocated by many theologies and theologians. Over the centuries, they have tended to portray the Father as a stern, distant, all-ruling monarch. Or, drawing upon Greek philosophy, they have sought to meld the biblical portrayal of Israel’s personal God with Aristotle’s dispassionate, even cold, “unmoved Mover” — a divine thinker thinking about the only object of thought in the universe worthy of its attention: Itself. And yet, in doing so, they have overlooked the clearest and most obvious biblical revelation of God’s fundamental character — Jesus of Nazareth.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (see John 3:16-17).

In John 14, responding to Philip’s request to see the Father, Jesus said “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (see John 14:9).

And Jesus revealed the Father perfectly, not only in the sense that he was “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3) but in the sense that Jesus did “the works of (his) father” (John 10:37). “I seek not mine own will,” he declared, “but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). “If ye had known me,” he told Thomas, “ye should have known my Father also” (John 14:7).

And what did Jesus do? According to John 13:1-5, just minutes before his arrest in Gethsemane, “when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended … Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”

“He that is greatest among you,” Jesus had taught the disciples, “shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Moses 1:39 teaches us with unmistakable clarity that service isn’t just an admission requirement for heaven, merely a test that, once passed, can be left behind. Instead, it’s of the essence of deity, at the very heart of becoming like our Father. And, in its repeated description of Moses as a “son” of God (e.g., at 1:4, 6, 7, 13, 40), distinct from but “in the similitude” of God’s “Only Begotten” (e.g., at 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32-33), the first chapter of Moses plainly teaches the closeness of divinity and humanity.

When, in Matthew 5:48 (compare 3 Nephi 12:48), the Savior counsels his disciples to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” that exhortation concludes and sums up a six-verse passage on loving and doing good even to our enemies “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). “He that loveth not,” says 1 John 4:8, “knoweth not God; for God is love.”

This teaching is perhaps especially appropriate to keep in mind during a week when we commemorate the life and ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, who so wonderfully illustrated the principle of personal service and attention to the needy, the suffering and the lonely. May we all follow his example.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

LDS author says modern shame culture was illuminated by New York Times' President Monson obituary

(by Trent Toone 1-10-18)

The New York Times' obituary for LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was an example of how the modern shame culture stigmatizes Mormons for their traditional teachings and stances on social issues, Hal Boyd wrote in a op-ed Wednesday.

"If, as it sadly appears, the New York Times was, in the name of greater inclusion, attempting to stigmatize or shame a deceased LDS prophet and the Mormon faith, its efforts amount to the kind of hypocrisy more commonly associated with Hawthornean clergymen than with news organizations," Boyd wrote before quoting the Times' own David Brooks. "'The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.' Jesus Christ promised mercy to the merciful. For the rest of us, we ought to be cautious how we mete and measure."

In his article, Boyd, a former Deseret News opinion editor and co-author of the book, "Are Christians Mormon?" summarized how readers reacted to President Monson's obituary through online comments and social media, prompting a response from the Times' obituary editor William McDonald.

"McDonald's admission is admirable. We all have lapses in judgment," Boyd wrote. "But after the news of recent weeks, during which we have learned how damaging it can be to focus on a public persona while glossing over private behavior, it seems odd that the Times would not be more eager to give at least equal billing to the private life of such a person of prominence."

Read the entire article by clicking here.


New York Times obits editor responds to criticism of President Monson’s obituary

(by Morgan Jones 1-8-18)

The New York Times has received some scrutiny on social media over the past week for its Jan. 3 obituary of President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who died Jan. 2 at the age of 90.

A petition calling for a rewrite of the obituary has collected more than 100,000 names. The obituary drew criticism for its focus on social issues that faced the LDS Church during President Monson’s time as prophet.

“Facing vociferous demands to recognize same-sex marriage, and weathering demonstrations at church headquarters by Mormon women pleading for the right to be ordained as priests, Mr. Monson did not bend,” the obituary read. “Teachings holding homosexuality to be immoral, bans on sexual intercourse outside male-female marriages, and an all-male priesthood would remain unaltered.”

On Monday, William McDonald, the obituaries editor for the New York Times, responded to questions drawn from reader feedback on the obituary. McDonald began by calling the obituary “a faithful accounting of the more prominent issues that Mr. Monson encountered and dealt with publicly during his tenure,” but later acknowledged those who feel the obituary “did not provide a more rounded view of Mr. Monson — perhaps his more human side.”

“I’ll concede that what we portrayed was the public man, not the private one, or the one known to his most ardent admirers,” McDonald said. “In 20/20 hindsight, we might have paid more attention to the high regard with which he was held within the church. I think by his very position in the church, all that was implied. But perhaps we should have stated it more plainly.”

In the end, McDonald defended his publication’s coverage of President Monson’s death.

“Still, on balance, I think the obituary makes clear that he was a man of strong faith and convictions, who stood by them even in the face of detractors, while finding ways to move the church forward,” he said.

McDonald addressed other questions, such as how the New York Times chooses “which points from a person’s life to highlight,” whether there is an obligation to pay tribute in any way in writing an obituary and why they chose to refer to President Monson as “Mr” rather than by his title as church president.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Here's the answer Rob Bell won't give Aaron Rodgers about salvation for people "in a remote rainforest"

Aaron Rodgers and other millennials who struggle with questions about the ‘remote jungle’ conundrum should rest easy. There is a biblical answer rooted in ancient church teaching.

(by Peter Burfeind 9-1-17)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers brought up the old “sinners in a remote jungle” conundrum in a recent exclusive interview with ESPN. Of course, in his words the conundrum is updated to “remote rainforest,” because, I guess, “jungle” is offensive or culturally oppressive, or something.

In any event, the conundrum supposedly unmasks a big problem with Christianity. In Rodgers’ words: “I remember asking a question as a young person about [somebody’s salvation] in a remote rainforest…[He answered]: ‘If you don’t confess your sins, then you’re going to hell.’ And I said, ‘What about the people who don’t have a Bible readily accessible?’”

(for the rest of the article click on the link)

New York Times memorializes Mormon President less charitably than they did Fidel Castro

The New York Times obituary was taken as an opportunity to demonize a leader who has spent his life and influence trying to better the world through charity and the word of God.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

For Mormons, Succession Drama Is Against Their Religion

(by Laurie Goodstein 1-3-18)

There will be no white smoke from a chapel chimney. There will be no church convention, no lobbying and no election.
Mormons don’t do succession drama. When the head of their church dies, as Thomas S. Monson did on Tuesday, the next leader is chosen from the top ranks based strictly on seniority. The system is intended to avoid any hint of instability or intrigue, but it practically guarantees that the president will be elderly — even very elderly.
President Monson was 90, and had served as prophet and head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly 10 years. Following a tradition that dates from the church’s early years, he is to be succeeded by the longest-serving member of a church governing body known as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Right now, that man is President Russell M. Nelson, a former heart surgeon, who is 93. Next in line after him is Dallin H. Oaks, a former president of Brigham Young University and state Supreme Court justice. He is 85. You have to pass four more people in the line of succession before you get to someone born after World War II.
“It seems very predictable and regular, and there’s a certain comfort that comes from that level of stability,” said Brian Q. Cannon, past president of the Mormon History Association and director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University, the Mormon church’s flagship college.
President Nelson is unlikely to deviate much from President Monson’s conservative course, Professor Cannon said. The two men are of the same generation, molded in the same culture. But President Nelson’s priorities in office may be somewhat different, given his background in medicine, his experience training heart surgeons in China and his fluency in Mandarin.
“I don’t foresee any radical changes, any revolutionary changes, but there could be differences in emphasis,” Professor Cannon said.
President Nelson has already used his position as the church’s senior apostle to endorse the teachings of President Monson as divinely inspired. Mormons believe that the president of their church is a living prophet who receives revelations from God.
In an address to Mormon millennials in 2016, President Nelson defended a controversial church policy set down by President Monson that declared gay Mormon couples to be apostates, and barred their children from most religious rites until they turn 18.
“Prophets see ahead — they see the harrowing dangers the adversary has placed, or will yet place, in our path,” President Nelson said. “Prophets also foresee the grand possibilities and privileges awaiting those who listen with the intent to obey.”
President Monson’s funeral has been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 12 in Salt Lake City.
Over the church’s 187-year history, the president has always been succeeded by the longest-serving member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (who is not necessarily the oldest apostle), church historians said in interviews.
The first time was rocky. When Brigham Young succeeded the church’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr., in 1847, he assumed the presidency only after a three-year power struggle. But over time the succession process became codified to avoid anything like that happening today, church historians said.
According to the church’s website: “The appointment of a new president of the Church happens in an orderly way that — remarkably in today’s world — avoids any trace of internal lobbying for position or rank. Viewed by members as a divinely revealed process, it is devoid of electioneering whether behind the scenes or in public.”
The gerontocracy at the top of the church has the advantage of experience, but there are also obvious disadvantages. Some Mormon bloggers have commented in recent years that President Monson appeared to be disoriented, or gave rambling speeches in public appearances. The church announced in October that he was no longer coming into the office, and he did not appear that month at the church’s semiannual international gathering, its general conference.
President Nelson is older than President Monson was, but observers say he is physically and mentally strong for a man of his years. “President Nelson is remarkably healthy,” Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the church, said. “As recently as last season, he was still snow skiing.”

Monday, January 1, 2018

An Old Testament curriculum year beckons to us (or threatens us!)

(by Daniel Peterson 12-28-17)
Beginning in January 2018, the curriculum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' adult Sunday School classes, worldwide, will turn to the Hebrew Bible or, as Christians typically call it, the Old Testament.

Why? Why bother? Isn’t it sometimes difficult to understand? Isn’t it full of violence? And aren’t the detailed rules and regulations of the Old Testament mostly irrelevant to Christian life today?

Although even a little bit of preparation can overcome many obstacles, such objections have some merit. But the Old Testament is richly worth reading, nonetheless. For one thing, it is foundational to much of the culture of the west — to its art, music, literature, politics and philosophy. Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Michelangelo’s “David” and his Sistine Ceiling, Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” the writings of the Puritans, and hundreds of other vital artifacts of western civilization are incomprehensible apart from some knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. The famous Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17), are of fundamental significance to western law and morality.

Moreover, the Old Testament is scripture, and not only for Jews. It’s true that Christian appreciation of the Hebrew Bible has varied widely over time.

The important second-century heretic Marcion, for instance, represents an extreme position; he rejected both the Old Testament and the God of the Old Testament, insisting that the father of Jesus was a different deity than that of the Hebrew prophets. Marcion was eventually excommunicated, but many Christians in later centuries have come dangerously close to espousing a kind of folk-Marcionism, carrying Bibles about with them that consisted only of the New Testament and the Psalms and effectively — and sometimes rather explicitly — overlooking the Jewishness of Jesus.

This is not an option available to the Latter-day Saints, whose keynote scripture, the Book of Mormon, bridges the era of the Old Testament and that of the New, effectively linking them, and whose church features not only apostles, teachings about Jesus Christ’s Atonement and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper but patriarchs, temples, tabernacles and priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek. The covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17; 22:15-18; Doctrine and Covenants 132:29-50; Galatians 3; Abraham 2) remains essential to Mormon life and doctrine.

Early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were saturated with the whole Bible, not merely the New Testament, which is why Utah is studded with place names like Zion, Moab, Enoch, Eden, Ephraim, Salem and Mount Nebo. Early Mormon history cannot be fully understood apart from the Old Testament — nor even, specifically, apart from the book of Isaiah, which is cited throughout the Doctrine and Covenants.

Nor can the Book of Mormon be understood without the Hebrew Bible. When Lehi sent his sons to fetch the brass plates of Laban, putting their lives at risk in doing so, he was essentially in quest of a text of the Old Testament (see 1 Nephi 3-5). This was the only scripture known to the first Nephites. Isaiah is the prophet whom they quote the most in their own writings.

The Hebrew Bible was the only scripture of the first Old World Christians, too. The Psalms were their first hymnal. The New Testament cites Isaiah many times, and Matthew’s gospel repeatedly seeks to show how Jesus — a descendent of David — fulfills the predictions of Israel’s prophets. When Jesus comments of his critics that they study the scriptures diligently because, in them, they think they have eternal life (John 5:39), he is plainly referring to the Old Testament. The scriptures he says, “are they which testify of me.”

Likewise, when Paul reminds Timothy that “from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus … perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:15, 17), he can only be referring to the Hebrew Bible (though probably in its Greek Septuagint translation) since the New Testament didn’t yet exist — and certainly hadn’t been available when Timothy was a child. (Some critics of Mormonism have used this passage to argue that, since the scriptures young Timothy had known were sufficient by themselves for salvation, the Book of Mormon is unnecessary —apparently without noticing that their argument would also render the New Testament itself superfluous.)

A good resolution for the Latter-day Saints in the new year of 2018 would be to deepen our knowledge of the Old Testament, to understand it better. It is, literally, the foundation of all of our scriptures.