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The God I Believe In

An examination of the Mormon testimony of God

Various Mormon texts.

Apr 29, 2012 12:00 AM

MP3 audio icon The-God-I-Believe-In_04-29-2012.mp3 — MP3 audio, 13526 kB (13851072 bytes)

Introduction

My goal for today is to take you behind the veil, so to speak, and give you a look at Mormonism from the inside. If you remember when we talked about the Jehovah Witnesses I mentioned how their theology was deceptive, that their teachings stay close to scripture. They will interpret scripture slightly differently, and also translate it differently as needed so that it is not easy for the casual observer to catch. To help you visualize how Mormon and JW doctrine compares to Christian doctrine; allow me to use a Star Trek metaphor. A note to anyone that might be listening I am simply tailoring my sermon in a way my audience will understand, my apologies.

*Food for thought; isn’t it interesting when we read the scriptures Jesus’ illustrations come from farming, fishing, carpentry and the like and ours tend to be from TV and Movies.

Now suppose Christian Doctrine is represented by the human race. Remember this is just a metaphor so don’t geek out on me and take my meaning too far. Jehovah Witness doctrine would be like the Vulcans, to any outside observer there really isn’t much of a difference, just some pointy ears and think eye brows. And Mormon doctrine would be like the Borg, though technically ‘Humanoid’ in that they have a head, arms, and legs the similarities end there. In other words on a very superficial level they have an appearance of Christianity but when you examine what they believe, though just as unbiblical as JW doctrine, it strays much further away.

Note that I am talking about their doctrine, not what kind of people Mormons are compared to us or how conservative or liberal they are to us or how ‘good’ they treat their families.  I am talking about what do they believe and why do they believe it.  I mention ‘Why’ because maybe more so with Mormons then with anyone else we need to be able to recognize the presuppositions they are working with and how they differ from our own. Because of the nature of their deception much of what you hear from the outside looking in sounds Christian but all the while they have a completely different meaning.

So what do I mean about these presuppositions; for example we have a conversation and mention predestination. Between us family here we have an understanding that we are not talking about a fatalistic world view where nothing we do matters. God already choose who he is going to save and those he didn’t choose can’t be saved so let’s go home and take a nap; because we are just evil Calvinists. This is what we can experience with people coming from a different context and applying a different meaning to that same word. And this is where the danger of Mormonism lies. They use our presuppositions against us by using the language of the bible all the while creating a completely different context and therefore meaning of those words. For this reason before discussing some specific beliefs I want to cover some History as with Charles Taze Russell to give you an idea where their doctrine is coming from.

Why we believe

This is not only good practice when examining false teaching but we should also ask ourselves the same question: Why do we believe what we believe? The scope of answering that question for one religion is broad enough let alone two so this afternoon we are going to cover only a small piece of the pie. So today we will look at Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul, specifically their testimony of their own ‘conversion’ and of the character and nature of God.

What idea comes to mind when we talk about a testimony, a trial or court case, [Some may say Conversion testimony] and that is how we want to examine these men. Avoid emotional arguments and like any good judge examine the character and motives of the witness to help determine the credibility of their testimony. The next section I will pull from one of the Mormon Holy Books so to speak called ‘Pearl of Great Price’. When I say ‘Holy Books’ I mean that this along with the ‘Book of Mormon’ and ‘Doctrine and Covenants’ are said to be as divinely inspired as we consider the Bible. I am pulling the text straight from the LDS.org site so these words are the current official version they have.

The Pearl of Great Price contains a number of smaller writings, this one called ‘Joseph Smith – History’ which is a section from another set of writing that he wrote. In the interest of time I will trim it down but you can read the full text on the link at the bottom.

5 Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester [~1810], there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

6 For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

To give you some context he is referring to the charismatic Camp/Revival Meeting movement that began around this time. Note that his testimony begins at this point as a young man and not a Christian witnesses the hypocrisy and confusion and strife of this movement. Remember back to C.T. Russell and the Civil War.

8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

We can understand the confusion of not quite wanting to be labeled Methodists or Presbyterians or Baptists. But unlike him we do not ask this question because they fight amongst themselves therefore how do I know who is right. Take note of first the utter lack of examining what they are fighting over; assuming he accurately represents the events of that day.  Then second the complete ignorance of any churches/denominations outside of his American/New York context, as a young man this would be understandable but remember this supposed to be divine truth spoken by a prophet of God.

13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

17 [He went into the woods to pray and had a vision] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

So here is where we run into the first obvious issue, if we are to believe Joseph Smith’s testimony, God and Jesus both appeared to him in a vision, an act wholly unsupported by scripture. *Note he states not having in his heart the idea all sects were wrong, yet this is not the case in verse 10. Then in an almost humorous line we find out all of Christianity is wrong … period. Even though all he has testified of up to this point is some strife in a new movement in north east of America, we now can just ignore everything else because it is all wrong too. An answer that worked out great for him personally so that was some good luck.

Without dragging that out, let me now turn to Paul and his testimony. I won’t spend the same amount of time analyzing it as this is something we are familiar with, but think of his words now in contrast to Joseph Smith’s testimony. []

1“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

You see that both men claim to receive visions from God. Both men are persecuted for the testimony they received when they proclaim it. There are two key differences that I want to point out; did you guys catch them or others I didn’t? [Give time for feedback]

One clear difference is motive, if you remember I mentioned any good judge would listen to Joseph Smith and immediately question his testimony because he was looking for a problem with the churches and found it. When you look at Paul his desire was to persecute the Christians in God’s name. That does not present us with a clear motive to have a vision where he is blinded forced to realize he has been a blasphemer and a murder at heart.

Second is the lack of witnesses. If you notice everything about JS testimony is internal and private. One of the first things a judge would ask is, ‘Did anyone else see this …’ or ‘This doesn’t line up with all of the other eye witness testimony we have’.

Let’s ignore the issues we see in Joseph Smith’s testimony for the moment, the key is to remember everything will be now built off of this presupposition, that all of the other ‘sects’ are wrong. If that is true that means everything that he will teach will cannot be the same as Christian teaching, even if it sounds the same. And this is what happens, he continues to have visions where this teaching begins to grow, he dictates/translates divinely inspired new doctrine that was ‘Lost’ thousands of years ago.

 

What we believe

When you go straight for the foundation of these doctrines you can keep yourself from getting lost in the arguments over the endless minor issues. You can also equip yourself with the context that is needed to understand a language that may be completely different from your own. Armed with this knowledge lets tackle some of their beliefs about who God is. Also in the Pearl of Great Price we find a section called ‘The Articles of Faith’ similar to any belief statement you might find on a church website. The first article states, once again quoting from the LDS.org website:

1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Though this is not specific enough to know exactly what Joseph Smith means by this article, we can now clearly see we cannot assume our Christian presuppositions onto this text.  Combined with the vision we read earlier God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings, we know our Trinitarian view of God is rejected even in this statement.

In the Pearl of Great Price there is ‘The Book of Abraham’ where there is a retelling of the Genesis account, obviously the one book wasn’t enough.  Let me read it to you, once again straight from the LDS.org website:

1 And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

2 And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.

3 And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.

4 And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.

5 And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night. And it came to pass that from the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day; and this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called day and night.

 

In case you didn’t catch it the text here reads a little different then genesis. He is not translating Hebrew text here where he could try to make an argument that the word for God is plural. This is his own divine translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphs which we now know is nothing close to the actual translation done by those that know the language.  There is a clear implication that there are many Gods, at the very least more than one.

Here is a section from the ‘Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith’ also available online though not on the LDS website:

Section Six 1843-44, p.345

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,--I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form--like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

You can start to see how their doctrine is already far from our own; God to Joseph Smith is just an exalted man, once just like us.

Section Six 1843-44, p.346

Here, then, is eternal life--to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.

And not only did God change from man to God but we also can apparently do the same taking baby steps. There is much more to read on just God, let alone all of their other Prophets whose teachings should also be considered scripture.

The point of all this is that we need to learn, like the Bereans, to study the scriptures to see if these things are so.  The Church today has a terrible track record with discerning truth from error; even those we know are true Christians. Need I mention Joel Osteen, Todd Bently, The Shack, Holy Laughter, fill in the blank. With the technology and wide spread information we have available today there is no excuse for a Christian coming out and claiming Mormonism is just another form of Christianity.

Pray

One last thing: As far as the election goes, we know God is Sovereign and controls all things, so it doesn’t matter if you vote. Just go home and take a nap. (Readers note: That is sarcasm.)

 

 

  1. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng
  2. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng
  3. http://www.johnankerberg.org/Articles/_PDFArchives/apologetics/AP1W1001.pdf
  4. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/4?lang=eng
  5. http://www.boap.org/LDS/Joseph-Smith/Teachings/T6.html

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