Saturday, November 9, 2019

What is Mormonism?


Mormonism all began in 1820 in Manchester, New York when a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith became confused about all of the church denominations. He was wondering which one was the “true way to God.” He went into the woods to ask God which church he should join and allegedly God the Father and Jesus appeared to him stating that none of the modern denominations are true and that he was chosen to reestablish Jesus’ true church. 3 years later he was visited by the angel Moroni who told him where to find the “sacred golden plates” under a rock on a hill. Around the same time the angel supposedly gave him “seer stones” which helped him translate the golden tablets into the Book of Mormon which is the core sacred book for Mormons. The translation process was bizarre in that Smith hid behind a curtain while looking into a hat that contained the stones and as writing was illuminated on the stones he dictated it to his scribe on the other side of the curtain.

Joseph was a talented influencer and his followers were persecuted for polygamist activities and strange theological views. It’s reported that Joseph Smith married up to 40 women, some were already married. One of his wives was named “Helen Mar Kimball” and she was only 14 when they married. Its reported that Smith manipulated her into marriage by threatening that and angel with a flaming sword would bring destruction if she didn’t marry him. An angry mob eventually killed Joseph Smith in 1844.

Mormon theology is derived from the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, a book called the Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Bible. Mormons believe God the Father was once a man on a former planet who ascended to Godhood. They believe God the Father and Heavenly Mother produced Jesus as their first born spirit-son. According to Mormonism the Holy Spirit does not have a body but is a spirit. Some unique religious rules in Mormon theology are: no coffee, no rated R movies, no shopping on Sundays, attending church for 3 hours each Sunday, read the mormon holy books, believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet, complete the various “ordinances,” and also participate in “temple work.”

Mormon Temples are important because you can’t perform most ordinances outside of them. The ordinances include being baptized, and being endowed (which is when you are of age you visit the temple, are giving special holy underwear for protection, are given a new name to be called in heaven, learn a secret handshake and secret passwords to get into heaven, if you’re not a full tithe payer you can’t be endowed), other ordinances include temple marriage, as well as “receiving the priesthood” (a formal ceremony enabling males age 12 to 18 to act in the name of God). African Americans were not allowed to receive the priesthood until 1978, but Joseph Smith allegedly gave the priesthood to at least two African Americans, confusing right? Marriage is very important because in Mormon Heaven you and your eternal spouse can produce spirit children and create your own worlds for the spirit children to become humans on and potentially become gods themselves. Baptisms for the dead are common practice in which you can give a person the choice to be released from spirit prison by being baptized for them. Ordinances for the dead are done to attempt to give them entry to a better place in the afterlife.

According to Mormonism everyone comes from a “premortal life” where they were spirit babies with God on a distant planet next to a star call Kolab. God came up with a plan to send us all to earth where we become mortal and have free-will so that we can be tested. God’s first born spirit son Jesus agreed to be sent as a redeemer to us so that we can possibly ascend to godhood like God the Father through becoming Mormons. Satan proposed a different plan in which no one on earth gets free will and would be forced to follow God’s commandments and be saved. God didn’t like this plan but he let everyone in premortal existence choose whose plan they would follow. Thus ⅓ of the pre mortal spirits chose satan's plan and were cast out of heaven with satan and now tempt those who live on the Earth.

According to Mormonism when we are born we cross over from premortal into a mortal existence where we have a choice to do good or bad. The Mormon afterlife has multiple phases but begins with 2 places that you can go. You can go to spirit paradise or spirit prison- spirit prison is similar to a school where those who didn’t become Mormons are taught the mormon gospel and given an opportunity to choose to exit spirit prison. Members of spirit paradise are Mormons who teach the students in spirit prison. After this there is a resurrection and final judgment and then God sends people to one of 4 different options in the afterlife based upon their deeds and whether or not they are a Mormon. The celestial kingdom is for outstanding Mormons who completed their ordinances- full of bliss. The terrestrial kingdom is for people who did not complete their ordinances and non-members, a very nice place. The telestial kingdom, mainly for bad people- still pretty nice. The last option is outer darkness which is reserved for those who have a full knowledge of the truth and deny it in the face of God- they are completely cut off from God.

The governmental structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints consists of a headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The top leader is a Prophet who has two counselors, under them are the quorum of the twelve, and under them are the quorum of the seventy elders. The prophet can supposedly receive revelation and is the mouthpiece of God. The apostles go around preaching in LDS churches throughout the year. When a prophet dies, the longest serving apostle becomes the prophet and the former prophets two counselors return to the quorum of the 12 apostles, then the prophet chooses through revelation his two counselors from among the 12 apostles. Therefore 1 person from the 70 is chosen to be an apostle and fill the vacancy. The senior most apostle is the leader of the apostles. Under the 70 elders are stake leaders and under the stake leaders are local bishops and under the bishops there the local church leaders.

By now you know that Mormonism is certainly strange compared to traditional Christian beliefs. The biggest point of contention is who the person of Jesus is for Mormons. In Mormonism, Jesus is a spirit child of God the Father and heavenly mother and the spirit brother of satan, in Christianity Jesus is the co-eternal, co-equal Son of God the Father who has always existed as God. 

Written by: Kyle Bailey, D.Min.

Friday, November 1, 2019

What is the Gospel?




Galatians chapter 1 verse 8 says “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!”

This scripture helps us understand how critical it is for us to know what the Biblical Gospel is. The word Gospel comes from a Greek word meaning “Good News.” In order for us to truly appreciate the good news we have to better understand the story of the Bible as a whole. It’s not often that we hear good news in this broken world that we're living in. The headlines are full of death, turmoil, division, and despair. The story of the Bible begins with helping us understand how the world became this way.

In the beginning of the Biblical narrative we find God presented as the Creator of the Universe, but something very different about the world is emphasized in the Biblical narrative. The world was good! In the early chapters of Genesis we find God repeatedly saying that His created world was full of goodness. That is, there was no evil, sin, sickness or death present within the world.

The Garden of Eden reflected a time in the distant past when Heaven and Earth were connected and God and Humanity were in a beautiful relationship with one another. But as the story continues something sinister takes place. We find the demonic appearance of satan in humanity’s habitat tempting them to rebel against God. Yes, the famous story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation and thus triggered a cascade of disorder and dysfunction that has plagued mankind ever since. We were plunged into a world characterized by corruption in our hearts.

Directly afterwards God in His mercy predicts in Genesis chapter 3 verse 15 that a descendant of Adam and Eve would suffer and defeat the works of satan, this person is known by the Biblical phrase “Messiah.” This is the beginning of the Gospel or “good news.” From here we find a long lineage of descendants who do great things for God but ultimately succumb to temptation and corruption in one way or another. This cyclical pattern emphasizes that a merely natural descendant of Adam and Eve does not have the capacity to defeat the works of satan in and of themselves. Thus the story of the Bible culminates brilliantly in the person of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the initial part of the Biblical story we find the identity of the Messiah becoming more and more specified as a total of 315 prophecies about him were written. By the time that Jesus Christ arrives on the scene the Jewish nation was eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Biblical Messiah. The works of satan were ravaging humanity and the people were yearning for the announcement of good news. At the birth of Jesus we find the angel proclaim:

Luke 2:11- “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Jesus’ entire ministry was characterized by good news for those whom He encountered. He healed the sick, cleansed the leper, made blind eyes see, caused the lame to walk, and raised people from the dead. When Jesus would arrive in villages thousands of people would show up to see him and hear him teach. In John chapter 7 verse 46 it says

“Never has anyone spoken like this man!”

Even with the incredible miracles done during Jesus' ministry and the many prophecies fulfilled by him there was still a deeper issue within humanity that needed to be addressed. The issue of slavery to sin. In order for our bonds to be broken someone has to pay the price for our redemption. Jesus paid the price to redeem us from sin with His life’s blood. He died on the cross in our place, for our sin, so that we can be forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit.

There couldn’t be any better news than this! But that's not the end of the story. After 3 days Jesus resurrected from the dead with an immortal, glorified body. The Bible teaches that through faith in Him we get to experience the same kind of resurrection at the end of the age. The gospel is good news about the free gift of eternal life offered to humanity through Jesus Christ.

We cannot save ourselves from the bondage of sin. God became flesh and He alone paid the full price for our redemption through His blood. The good news is, you can know that you have eternal life. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” and Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Written by: Kyle Bailey, D. Min.