Sunday, 23 March 2008

Is This Joseph Smith?

An image said to be that of Joseph Smith is circulating on the internet. The image does not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It belongs to the Community of Christ. No one knows for sure if it is him. Many Utah residents have received an e-mail with a photo attached and a book, due out in three weeks, will try to prove the claim. The LDS church says there's no way to prove the image is really Smith.

The picture is below on the left and, on the right, an official photo of the prophet. What do you think? Is it Joseph? For more on this story click on the title of this post.

More to the point there are a number of similar stories floating around the Internet at the moment. Is this preoccupation with images of the founding prophet of Mormonism in breach of the second commandment?
























Friday, 21 March 2008

PROPHETS OF GOD?

Occasionally the Watchtower Society (WB&TS) publish an article, that while outlining one belief, inadvertently condemns another of their teachings. One such article appeared in Awake!, March 22 1993, pp.3/4 entitled Why So Many False Alarms? Quoting the boy who cried ‘Wolf! Wolf!' once too often, they list several individuals and groups who have made false predic­tions. The final person mentioned being William Miller from whom Charles Taze Russell got his inspira­tion for dating the return of Christ. In the next para­graph they ask,

“Does the failure of such predictions to come true convict as false prophets those who made them, within the meaning of Deuteronomy 18:20-22?”

The question is eventually answered in the following way,

“... they should not be viewed as false prophets such as those warned against at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. In their human fallibility, they misinterpreted matters.”

Until this point, the WB&TS has not been mentioned. Indeed, it is not mentioned in the main body of the text at all. However, at the end of the answer quoted above we have a foot­note, which we quote in full and then make one or two interesting observations.

“Jehovah's Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus' second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah.’ The Watchtower, the official journal of Jehovah's Witnesses, has said: “We have not the gift of prophecy.” (January 1883, page 425) “Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible.” (December 15, 1896, page 306) The Watchtower has also said that the fact that some have Jehovah's spirit “does not mean those now ser­ving as Jehovah's witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this mag­azine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes.” (May 15, 1947, page 157) “The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic.” (August 15, 1950, page 263) “The brothers preparing these pub­lications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim.3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as under­standing became clearer, to correct views. (Prov.4:18)” - February 15, 1981, page 19.

It is amusing that although this quote refers to the WB&TS, who publish the Awake!, they put it in the third person trying to distance themselves from the reality of the situation.

Dates Incorrect

As they admit, in the past certain dates have been shown to be incor­rect. This means that every date must now be suspect. How do we know that 1914 is correct when so may others are now wrong? Also, if they have been honest enough to admit that dates were wrong in the past why not also admit what the leaders surely know to be true that 607 BCE is not the date for the fall of Jerusalem?

There is another aspect to this because the dates they have changed are not man's dates but God's. The admission only says, “have suggested” but the reality is not that they have suggested but prophesied.

“We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours.” - The Watch Tower, July 15, 1894, p.226.

What they are now saying is that God was incorrect with His dates. Is this possible?

Not in the name of Jehovah

This key statement is the one that really sinks the WB&TS. Their main defence against being labelled a false prophet is that the predictions did not originate in the name of Jehovah and they never said these were the words of Jehovah. As ‘prosecuting counsel’ can we show to the ‘jury’ clear evidence to prove that the Watchtower's words show them to be false prophets.

“The date of the close of that "battle" is definitely marked in Scripture as October 1914.” - The Watch Tower, January 15, 1892, p.22.

What else is Scripture other than the words of Jehovah? They did say it was His words!

“... and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men…” - Millions Now Living Will Never Die, WB&TS, 1920, p.90.

Again, it is the Scripture - the word of Jehovah that predicts the events of 1925!

“The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914.” - The Watchtower, July 15, 1924, p.211.

Once again, it is the word of Jehovah.

“Receiving the gift, [the Watchtower publication, Children] the marching children clasped it to them, not a toy or plaything for idle pleasure, but the Lord's provided instrument for most effective work in the remaining months before Armageddon.” - The Watchtower, Septem­ber 15, 1941, p.281.

This book and its wrong predictions were the Lord’s words!

These are a few examples that show beyond any doubt that the predictions have been in Jehovah's name and by the Word of Jehovah. On their own admis­sion they are false prophets.

We do not have the gift of prophecy

Whoever heard of a prophet that does not have a gift of prophecy?

“So then does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet?... This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women... Today they are known as Jehovah's Christian witnesses.” - The Watchtower, April 1, 1972, p.197.

Either they are a prophet pointing to the truth of God and His Word or they are not. It is not possible to have it both ways.

The Watchtower is not inspired

This raises several questions. Why does anyone believe what it says? Why can you be disfellowshiped for going against the teaching of the Watchtower? Why is it studied so closely every week? Why will a Jehovah's Witness state categorically that the Bible does not mean what it says based on what they have read in The Watchtower? The answer is simple - the average Jehovah's Witness believes sincerely that the Watchtower is the only channel that God is using today and as such is both inspired and dogmatic.

The Society cannot have it both ways. The article is correct because it comes from God's channel but of course, it may not be right or true! The result of all of this is that one of their own official publications has condemned the WB&TS as a false prophet.

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Mormon "Dumb and Dumber"!


This is surely the Mormon version of Dumb and Dumber. This is a picture of a Mormon missionary "preaching" from the Book of Mormon from behind the Sangre de Cristo's altar at the Catholic Church in Colorado. Other pictures show a missionary holding the head of a church statue, which another claimed to have decapitated; and "sacrificing" a fellow missionary on the altar. They then posted them on the Internet!

You can read more about this story at The Deacon's Bench http://deacbench.blogspot.com/2008/03/mormons-apologize-for-this-senseless.html and in the Deseret News http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695260598,00.html

You can also watch a news broadcast by clicking on the title of this post.

This story highlights two things for me. The first is that, for all their talk in recent years of respecting other faiths, it is natural for Mormons to feel contempt for anyone outside "the Church". The conduct of these missionaries is not so much out of character as off message. Mormons speak two languages: before the world they speak the language of conciliation and respect; in their own ranks they speak the language of dismissal of and contempt for every other church.

Orson Pratt, an early Mormon leader, said, "Who founded the Catholic Church? The Devil." Bruce R McConkie, in the 1958 edition of his Mormon Doctrine wrote:

"It is the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this, 'church which is abominable above all other churches' in vision. He 'saw the devil that he was the foundation of it' and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organisation"

The next edition saw McConkie's language moderated but a look at 1 Nephi 13:1-10 shows that these views are based on Mormon Scripture. Statements to the contrary notwithstanding, this is what Mormons think of other churches.

The second thing to highlight is that the Mormon Church has offered a formal and unqualified apology, describing the desecration as "inexcusable". Bill McKeever of Mormonism Research Ministry http://www.mrm.org/ in an email observed:

"Hmm. Profound regret and sincere apologies. The LDS Church had no problem using the word apology when it came to the desecration of this Catholic shrine, but couldn’t muster up the courage to use that word when it came to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In both cases the actual crime was committed by mere members, but the descendants of the MMM only got a profound regret. Does this mean shrine desecration is more shameful than murder or does it mean that a positive public image really means more than both?" (emphasis in original)

I guess we must remember that every Mormon statement, pronouncement and public declaration is more to do with politics than preaching and we can expect truth to be sacrificed on the altar of image and respectability.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Is the Watchtower Society 'wishy-washy'?

WE SHOULD NOT BE WISHY-WASHY


"It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then find that
our understanding of the major doctrines of the Scriptures was in error, and
after that, to go back to the very doctrines that, by years of study, we had
thoroughly determined to be in error, Christians cannot be vacillating -
‘wishy-washy’ - about such fundamental teachings. What confidence can one
put in the sincerity or judgement of such persons?" - The Watchtower, 15 May
1976, p.298.

This is the Watchtower’s own statement on what it means to be wishy-washy. This is very revealing when we consider the following statements. Each one shows a change and then a reverse to a specific doctrine. Wishy-washy or what?

THE POWERS
Evil as these Gentile governments have been, they were permitted or
‘ordained of God’ for a wise purpose (Rom 13:1). - Studies in the Scriptures,
Vol.3, 1886, p.250.

. . . the Scriptural exposition of Romans chapter 13. It showed
that Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, rather than the wordly rulers and governors
are ‘The Higher Powers’ . . . - The Truth Shall Make You Free, 1943,
p.199.

So the ‘superior authorities’ have their setting logically in the world
outside the congregation. - The Watchtower, 15 November 1962, p.683.


THE SOWER


Jesus Christ, with his prophetic foresight, could foreknow the outcome for
the symbolic mustard grain that he planted in the first century. - The
Watchtower, 1 October 1975, p.600.

In the parable, the ‘man’ that sowed the mustard grain pictures the ‘wicked
one,’ Satan the Devil. - Man’s Salvation out of World Distress at Hand, 1975,
p.208.

Which is correct . . . Jesus is to be considered as the planter referred to
in this parable. - Our Kingdom Ministry, November 1975, p.4.


THE LEAVEN

Leaven represents corruption throughout the Scriptures: in every other
instance . . . it is represented as evil and impurity, something that is
defiling . . . Jesus refers to leaven as a corruption . . . - Zion’s Watch Tower
Reprints, 15 May 1900, p.2635.

The leaven of righteousness of this God-approved nucleus . . . (Matt
13:33). - The Watchtower, 1 April 1962, p.204.

Accordingly, the parable of the leaven . . . is on the negative side . . .
leaven . . . is used throughout scripture in an unfavorable sense . . . - The
Watchtower, 1 October 1975, pp.592, 603.


HEAVEN OR EARTH?


But while we still urge justified believers . . . we cannot hold out as a
hope, the heavenly prize. We point such to . . . future earthly blessings.
- Zion’s Watch Tower Reprints, July 1882, p.377.

Though both companies will be spiritual beings . . . the ‘great company’
will be companions of the Bride . . . there will be a very great difference in
the degrees of glory. - Zion’s Watch Tower Reprints, March 1883,
p.458

Do those of the ‘great crowd’ . . . also go to heaven? . . .
Great Crowd, earthly hope. - Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, pp.167,
441.


INFLUENCE OF THE DEAD

Hence our dear Pastor, now in glory, is without doubt, manifesting a keen
interest in the harvest work, and is permitted by the Lord to exercise some
strong influence thereupon. - The Watch Tower Reprints, 1 November 1917,
p.6161.

No one of the temple company will be foolish as to conclude
that some brother (or brethren) at one time amongst them, and who has died and
gone to heaven, is now instructing the saints on earth and directing them as to
their work. - Jehovah, 1934, p.191.

It is fitting, then, that one of the 24 elders, representing anointed ones already in heaven, should stir John’s thinking . . . that elder could locate the answer and give it to John. This suggests that resurrected ones of the 24-elder group may be
involved in the communicating of divine truths today. - Revelation Its Grand
Climax At Hand, 1988, p.125.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Mormon Lies Through the Eyes of James (James 5:12)

In writing my weekly Bible reading for the Reachout web site, the Richmond Briefing, there was such a clear application to the problems of dealing with the disingenuous answers routinely given by Mormons when they are challenged about aspects of their faith that they would rather not discuss. I wrote a second version of the study with a particularly Mormon application and put it up here as a warning that it just doesn’t do to take thing at face value.

James is writing here about oaths and the way we represent ourselves to others. When he writes “Do not swear” he doesn’t have in mind bad language but the making of oaths designed to guarantee the truth of what we are saying. We hear this sort of thing a lot in certain circles; “On my mother’s life!” someone might insist when something they have said is challenged, a particularly obnoxious oath inasmuch as it indicates that neither their word nor their mother’s life means much to them. This reaches its extreme noxiousness when it’s expressed as “On my baby’s life!” something I have overheard all-too-often.

In particular James means invoking the name of God for this purpose. We often hear this in the form of, “As God is my witness!” How often does the oath giver know the God whose name they invoke and if he was known to them would they so casually invoke his name?

Building on the Anabaptist tradition, some Christians take this verse as meaning that a Christian shouldn’t swear an oath of any kind even in a courtroom. Others believe that it is the indiscriminate and casual taking of oaths and of avoiding the more serious consequences of oath taking by invoking less sacred things that James has in mind (Mt.23:16-22). Jesus addressed this issue in his Sermon on the Mount:

“Again, you have heard that it was said, to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord’”

Clearly he is addressing the issue of people discriminating between oaths to the Lord and other, “lesser” oaths. However, Jesus went on to say:

“But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair black or white. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Mt.5:33-37)

The similarities with what James writes are clear and the lesson here is that, whichever view you take on oaths, whether they should be taken sparingly and seriously or not at all, a Christian’s word should be so consistent and dependable that we should need no oath to support it. In this way we are left with no excuse for making oaths or statements that avoid absolute truthfulness. Mormons present a very good example of this less than frank approach so roundly condemned in Scripture.

Mormon Lies that can blind us

“We believe in the same God as you. ‘We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost’ (Mormon First Article of Faith)”

Although it has the appearance of a Trinitarian confession this does not come close to what Mormons believe about God. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, said:

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God…and that he was once a man like us…and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves…the same as all Gods before you." (King Follett Discourse)

“Of course we trust and believe in the Bible” This, again, is a disingenuous answer. The Eighth Article of faith of Mormonism declares:

"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God"

The Bible is the only book of Scripture in Mormonism that is regarded as unreliable and its content is only respected so far as it appears to confirm the Mormon message. The message of Mormonism, such as their teaching on the nature of God, is brought to the Bible and if the Bible does not agree then it is the Bible that is considered wanting. While the Book of Mormon is considered the book of the restoration the Bible is regarded as the book of the apostasy.

“We are Christians and respect other Christian denominations. We would never attack other churches as some attack us.” The Book of Mormon however declares:

"Behold, there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth" (1 Nephi 14:10)

There doesn’t appear to be any room for “other denominations” here and it might be worthwhile asking a Mormon which church they think you belong to.

“Of course Mormons aren’t polygamists. We renounced polygamy in the nineteenth century and those who practice it today have nothing to do with us.”

Two things worthy of note:

1. Polygamy is still an integral part of Mormon Scripture. Mormons might argue that the practice of circumcision is part of Christian Scripture but is no longer practised. This is comparing apples and oranges because circumcision was a mark of the Old Covenant, which was superseded by baptism under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Polygamy, however, is taught as an eternal principle and regarded as the order of heaven. It is described as the “new and everlasting covenant”:

"And again, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation. Then shall they be gods." (D&C 132)

The reference to Mormons becoming gods by the “new and everlasting covenant” is instructive in light of what we have already seen of the teaching that men become gods. While the familiar Salt Lake City Mormons do not currently practise polygamy, it seems it will be reinstated, if not in this life then in glory.

2. That being the case it might be said that today’s polygamists are simply keeping the practice warm for the day when all Mormons return to the principle. Further, it seems less than honest to deny liability when the very texts that teach polygamy still form an integral part of Mormon “Scripture”.


Scripture makes clear that there is a base instinct that drives the unregenerate person. It is unreasoning, animalistic and majors on preservation of self. It only values those things that serve its own purposes and speaks abusively against the truth it doesn’t understand. There is an urgent need for Christians to contend for the faith against such instincts and those who act on them. How often we have heard Christians declare that they had spoken to Mormons and discovered that they found so much common ground. The fact is we cannot simply be decent and civilised, not make a fuss and take people on face value. If individuals do not consciously lie then cults do lie through them as they mimic their leaders, toe the party line, and convince perhaps even themselves to accept the lie as the truth.