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.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible? (part 1)

The reliable Gospel eyewitness accounts aren’t the only ancient description of Jesus. There are also non-Christian descriptions of Jesus from the late 1st to 5th Century. What do the non-Biblical accounts say about Jesus and how are we to assess them? It’s been my experience that two people can examine the same event (or even the same historical character) and disagree about what they have seen. Many years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and the entire event was captured on video tape. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses. The tapes were watched over and over again. Yet, in the midst of such a robust eyewitness record, people still argue to this day about what they saw and what actually happened. Was it a lone shooter or an elaborate conspiracy? Something very similar occurred when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. Most of us either saw the attack live on television or watched the video for months afterward. But the event is still interpreted in a variety of ways. Was this the act of international terrorists or an elaborate governmental conspiracy? Two well documented historical events with a rich set of evidences. In spite of this, both events have been interpreted in a variety of ways. It shouldn’t surprise us then to find the historical records of Jesus Christ might also experience the same type of scrutiny and diverse interpretation. Did Jesus truly live, minister, died and rise from the grave as the Gospels record or was it an elaborate conspiracy? One thing we know about the Kennedy assassination and the World Trade Center attack: regardless of interpretation, there were eyewitnesses to the events, and the events did truly occur. In a similar manner, the ancient evidence related to Jesus reveals there were eyewitnesses and He did exist in history. Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible? Yes, and the ancient non-Christian interpretations (and critical commentaries) of the Gospel accounts serve to strengthen the core claims of the New Testament.

Thallus (52 AD)

Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who previously tried to explain away the darkness occurring at Jesus’ crucifixion:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)

If only more of Thallus’ record could be found, we might find more confirmation of Jesus’ crucifixion. But there are some things we can conclude from this account: Jesus lived, He was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of His crucifixion.

Tacitus (56-120AD)
Cornelius Tacitus was known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and is among the most trusted of ancient historians. He was a senator under Emperor Vespasian and was also proconsul of Asia. In his “Annals’ of 116AD, he describes Emperor Nero’s response to the great fire in Rome and Nero’s claim that the Christians were to blame:
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”
In this account, Tacitus confirms several historical elements of the Biblical narrative: Jesus lived in Judea, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and had followers who were persecuted for their faith in Christ.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

'We're correcting a name,' President Russell M. Nelson tells Latter-day Saints in Canada

(by Scott Taylor 8-18-18)

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says his recent call to identify the church by its full, formal name rather than the nicknames and abbreviations used for more than a century does not constitute a name change but rather a course correction.

“The name of the church is not negotiable, because the Lord has told us what his church shall be called,” he said, citing the faith’s scriptural verse of Doctrine and Covenants 115:4: “Thus shall my church be called … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

“So, we’re not changing names. We’re correcting a name — that’s important to note."

We know that it’s going to be a challenge to undo tradition of more than 100 years. And we don’t have all the answers. All we know is the Lord has said, ‘Thus shall my church be called …. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. - President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In his first public comments since Thursday’s statement asking to drop the use of Mormon and LDS when referencing the church, the 93-year-old leader emphasized the church’s correct name as he spoke in a Saturday evening devotional in downtown Montreal. The meeting was the second of three such meetings he is conducting in as many nights in central and eastern Canada. He was asked about it afterward in a brief media interview.
“Some marketers change names hoping to be more successful. That’s not our point. We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages,” said President Nelson, mindful that the term Mormon — from the church’s scriptural Book of Mormon — has been used since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized in 1830. Often, Mormon has been used in derision.

We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages. - President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The topic first came up during his evening devotional before a group of 4,000 in the Palais de congrès de MontrĂ©al, as President Nelson testified of the truthfulness of the church by using and emphasizing its full, formal name. “And I might add that it’s not the Mormon Church. It’s not the LDS Church. It’s not the Church of the Latter-day Saints,” he said.

Summarizing the media response to Thursday’s announcement as “they’re pretty excited about it — ‘it can’t be done,’ ” President Nelson repeated the difficulty with a clarification: “I know it can’t — but it’s going to be, because the Lord wants it that way.”

In the post-devotional interview, President Nelson said church leaders are not surprised at the initial hesitancy. “We know that it’s going to be a challenge to undo tradition of more than 100 years. And we don’t have all the answers. All we know is the Lord has said, ‘Thus shall my church be called …. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ ” he said, repeating Doctrine and Covenants 115:4. “That’s enough for me.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who is accompanying President Nelson on the three-day trip, said the First Presidency and quorum members are unified on the subject.

“The president has spoken, the Lord has spoken to the president,” he said, “and this is going to be an extended, multi-year effort — but this will not be something that will be attempted and then pulled back from.”

Problems and challenges can be worked out, and the effort has to start first with the members of the church.

“It’s disingenuous for us to believe that we’re frustrated because others don’t call us by the right name when we don’t call us by the right name ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to clean up our own part first, and then the media will follow — they will be gracious.”

President Nelson said he is equally as concerned with the proper use of “Mormon.”

“We have to be careful to protect the name Mormon. He will think that we are tossing it out. We aren’t. We just want to be accurate. Mormon was a man. He was a prophet. He was a writer. A record-keeper. We honor him and treasure the book that bears his name. But we’re talking about the name of the church.”

Friday, August 17, 2018

Mormons don't want you calling them Mormons anymore

(by Doug Criss 8-15-18)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is embarking on a rebranding effort of sorts.

The church, commonly referred to as the Mormons, really wants people to stop using that word. It also wants people to stop using LDS as an abbreviation. From now on, it prefers that people use the church's full name, and when a shortened reference is needed, to just use "the Church" or "Church of Jesus Christ."

These preferences are contained in a new style guide that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released Thursday. It states that while "the term 'Mormon Church' has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use." It also asks that the term "Mormons" not be used in references to members.

Also out: the word "Mormonism," which the style guide states is an "inaccurate" word to use to describe the "doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." But the word Mormon is fine to use in proper names, like the Book of Mormon, or in historical expressions like the Mormon Trail.

'The importance of the name'

The style guide was published on a church website, along with comments from the church's leader.

"The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Russell M. Nelson, the church's president, said in a statement. "We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so."

Over the next few months, church websites and other materials will be updated to fall in line with this new directive, the statement said.

And that leads to all kinds of questions: Will the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir be renamed? What happens to the "I'm a Mormon" advertising campaign? Will the Mormon moniker be stripped from the Mormon Channel, the church's multimedia arm? Will the letters "LDS" disappear from the plethora of related entities that carry it, such as the LDS Business College, LDS Charities or Intermountain LDS Hospital?

Even the website that announced the preferences for the name is called Will its name change?

A church spokeswoman told CNN there would be no further official comment.

Not the first time

This effort to distance itself from the Mormon name isn't new. Leaders of the faith -- which has more than 16 million members worldwide -- made similar efforts in 1982, 2001 and 2011, CNN affiliate KSTU reported.