WEEK SIXTY-THREE September 15, 2014
At our last visit with our minister friend, Brother Forty-two he left me with a book to read that is unflattering of the LDS faith. I decided to take a take twenty comments from the book and explore if they were really true, to sort of set the record straight. So I sent him the following—For over past fifty years I have listened to, watched, and read sufficient materials allowing me to render an informed opinion concerning those seeking to distort the truths of the LDS faith. I have also read the opinions of scholars, whose wisdom far surpasses my own, who have neatly put to rest each and every objection I have ever encountered. I have noticed that those seeking to distort “pretend” that no such opposing scholarship even exists as it is never acknowledged in their works. Therefore I affirm my request to you, encouraging you to review the “other side” of all these issues as well, the ones not shared in their works, and to do so honestly and sincerely, noting what truly makes sense.
As a young missionary over fifty years ago I first came in contact with Walter Martin’s book, The Rise of the Cults, (1955) and have noticed the ebb and flow and the rationalization supporting the same over the years. It seems to me the “anti-Mormon movement,” if that be an accurate label, has transitioned over time from only distorted facts and fringe doctrines as the basis for “proof,” to unsupported claims of the Bible as the final authority rather than God. It has not been hard to notice the circular logic employed here, something written even by inspired men somehow has the power to bind the all-powerful God. Why is this so? The Bible is the final authority because it is the Bible. Where in Bible does it even say it is the final authority? Well actually nowhere. So why is it the final authority? Because we say it is. Then the movement shifted back to distorted facts and a myopic view of the Journal of Discourses and now on to acceptance of faith driven events in LDS history but claiming they are of demonic source (the so called New Age Anti-Mormonism).
I include in this sequence Walter Martin and his several books, Floyd McElveen, Fran Sankey, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Wesley Walters, Ed Decker, Loftes Tryk, and James R. Spencer. Each in turn seemingly spurred by a desire to create a divide among Christian people of God.
If I could offer a seeming generality, if the Bible says something other than their stated belief, they claim it doesn’t mean what it clearly says, has been interpreted incorrectly, the words have been used wrong, etc., etc., and on and on. All of which flies in the face of the Bible being an unerring authority upon which one can rely. I find myself coming to the conclusion as I read their works that I believe more literally in the Bible than they do.
Let me take just one example and then I will treat the Floyd McElveen book you gave me to read. It clearly states in the Bible, in several places that those who believe are saved. LDS doctrine believes that as well, but asks does the Bible say anything else? The answer clearly is that it does.
We read in the Bible that one must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16) and when the jailer asked Paul what was required to be saved he said to believe and then took him out and baptized him (Acts 16:25-33; and there are others). So it appears to be saved we need to believe and be baptized if we are to follow the Bible. Does it say anything else?
Yes on the day of Pentecost Peter taught must also repent (Acts 2:31 and other places as well). So to be saved we are to believe, repent, and be baptized. Anything else?
Well we read we are also to receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5, 11:16). So we are to believe, repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Anything else?
Yes, the Savior himself said it is not enough just to believe but we must also do the will of our Father in Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). So the Bible says we are to believe, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and keep the commandments of God.
From all this one might conclude we are saved by grace absolutely and unconditionally, but we are judged by our works. Belief is the beginning. Nothing else can follow unless we first believe. Likewise baptism avails us nothing unless we first repent and choose to live obedient to God’s direction and commandments. Each of which seems to be part of the whole package of being saved. Isn’t this starting to look like the gospel taught in the Bible is the same as God restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Well, as I read The Kingdom of the Cults (1965), The Maze of Mormonism (1984), God’s Will, Final, Infallible, and Forever (1985) et. al, it is clear their goal is not to inform but to distort. It is as if they have come to a conclusion and choose to only use fringe doctrines, unproved “facts,” or nebulous statements of individuals rather than actual doctrines of the Church and construct their arguments accordingly. In addition they seemingly discard such Bible verses as are problematical to them. I keep finding myself saying I believe this and so and yet hearing these authors say, “No you don’t! You believe that and the other.” It is offensive to be told what one believes, especially when it runs counter to the truth. My beliefs are between me and God. I know what they are as does the God whom I worship.
The reasoning in disrupting my peace is the claim that “your house is on fire and we are trying to protect you.” But what is really happening is my house is filled with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, something apparently so foreign to these authors they mistake the light and glory of God for a fire and foolishly rush to quench that which is holy, true and unquenchable. Truly did the ancient prophet Alma say of such “fire fighters”— “Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye … interrupt their rejoicings?” (Alma 30:22). (I then followed with my little two statement treatise but have yet to hear fro Brother Forty-two as of this writing.)
Some changes are coming in the stake we serve in and I shared with our Mission President what those changes are going to be and how I felt we could best handle them. He agreed with our suggestions.
Did quite a lot of Family History for Brother Four this week which he greatly appreciated. He is looking at assisting a local pastor in bringing an outreach of fellowship into the congregation but still wants to hear our message and has finally begun reading the Book of Mormon and we had a good discussion about the chapters he has read. He asked, “So what is going to happen to me when I finish? Is this going to change my feelings about the Bible?” I told him as to the latter I hoped not, but as to the former that was a question I would have to be asking him when he finished. His wife agreed, “Honey only you will know how it changed you.”
We strolled into District Meeting a few minutes before the appointed hour at 10:30 commenting to each other that it sure looked like a lot more cars than usual only to learn it was a Zone Training meeting which started at 9 a.m. Neither the DLs of the ZLs remembered to notify us. Jan thought it was great only a two hour meeting instead of a 3 ½ hour meeting. The final exercise was on obedience. Then a punched card was passed to each one there to write on something you could get rid of to be more obedience. Which we did. Jan put on things about being more patient. Then they brought in about two dozen helium balloons which we were going to let go as a district to symbolize letting goal of those issues that got in the way of our obedience. As we went outside for the “letting go” it kept going on and on with nothing happening when Jan commented about getting things rolling. We both remembered her remark dealt with being patient and we both cracked up. Finally the balloons were released and at the end of this blog is a picture of the same.
We were able to visit for a couple of hours with family, Jan’s sister Carol and her oldest Teri Hill and her clan, at San Clemente. It was great catching up with them.
One of our granddaughter’s had some needs and I wrote a story for her about The Mouse Family. We are anxious to see what she gathered from the story.
THE MOUSE FAMILY
The McDonald family lived in the town of Mapleton, a small, pastoral setting against majestic, snow clad mountains. At the end of a lane shielded on both sides by tall, leafy Maple trees, stood their house, white and imposing, rising three stories high. This was a special home because it was filled with love and caring for one another. But our story is not about the McDonald family.
Behind the small crevice at the base of the grand staircase that curved and rose triumphantly through the house, lived the Mouse family composed of Millie and Mitchell, the parents, along with their small brood of Miller, Moo, Montforth, Miranda, and Miles.
This was a happy family. You may wonder why? It was because of their love for one another and was demonstrated in the way they treated each other. This make their small home a safe place for everyone. It was as if the love generated in each heart wove itself though the fiber and being of each member of the Mouse family. Each looking after the comfort and well-being of one another caused a special light of warmth and comfort to fill every heart. It was their gifts of service, love for, and kind gentle manner of treating one another that caused the light to infuse into each member in the family.
With this special light, family members cast about the neighborhood, developing inspiring relationships with others. Sharing their love, kindness and service easily because of the blossoming light each family member enjoyed. They quickly became known in the community for their generosity, caring and service, and the community, in turn, continually reflected that same light back to the Mouse family. They learned that the more light they gave the more light they received.
However, there was also a dark force in the neighborhood who believed he could only grow in power and dominance by destroying the light found in others. He learned the easiest way to interfere with the light was to interfere with relationships. If he could get those in the community to concentrate upon their own needs, while forgetting the needs of others, the light would quickly extinguish itself. So he put his plan into practice, reminding each how important THEY were and teaching them to believe that whatever bad that happened was the fault or blame of others. “Blame everything on others,” he cried in their ears.
He tricked them into seeing only their own needs and believing their happiness could only come at the expense of those around them. He stoked their frustrations in big bold colorful letters, making them feel further diminished by the small mistakes of others. Urging them to notice that “everyone is against me.”
Millie and Mitchell could see this darkness spread through the neighborhood and were fearful it would creep into the McDonald home. They warned Miller, Moo, Montforth, Miranda, and Miles with love, scripture reading and prayers and it appeared for a time their efforts to combat the darkness was working until ……
Moo, of a sudden, began to lash out at all about her. It was as if relationships no longer mattered to her. Everything in Moo’s mind was about Moo. She, blinded by the power of darkness seeping into her life, accelerated that darkness within the family by her actions.
She wasn’t doing this on purpose. Moo’s objective was not to destroy the light the family enjoyed. She didn’t see it that way. But darkness had clouded her mind and she fought desperately to again be filled with light.
Moo could see that if she did not change she would be forever unhappy, that there was no happiness in living in the dark and seeing only her own needs. She knew she needed to extend her forgiveness and love to others, not because they needed it, but because she needed it, to bring back the light into her own life.
The power of dark reminded her again and again, “Moo, this is unfair. You are right. All others are wrong. It’s all about you isn’t it? The others, even your family, deserve to be treated this way. It’s your life after all.” But Moo who had ever been valiant knew deep down inside that only in the light could she blossom and become the daughter of God that he would have her be. This darkness couldn’t be right she reasoned with herself, because now she was feeling miserable. Moo saw that only when filled with light, and bringing light to others, could she regain the fullness of happiness that once had lifted her spirits and brought the image of Christ to her face.
So mustering all her courage, Moo set out to make the necessary changes. They came slowly because the dark had taken a strong hand and was not willing to easily let go. She began by preparing herself, immersing herself in the scriptures so she could be reinforced by the Holy Spirit, praying for her Father in Heaven to forgive her, seeking forgiveness of those she may have offended, which may have been the hardest of all, and keeping a journal of the good things Miller, Montforth Miranda and Miles did to remind her of their goodness and to build a defense for her against the forces of dark.
In the process, Moo learned unhappiness always followed when she was critical. Even when she felt justified in being critical, she was unhappy. She noticed that even in trying to be good, to serve faithfully, she would slip into being critical. How could this be?
One night as Moo poured out her heart in prayer, earnestly seeking the guidance of the Lord, the hint of an idea began to form in her mind. “Could it be that in focusing on my own personal needs I have lost focus?”
As Moo meditated upon this singular revelation to her very soul, she began to see clearly that in the pursuit of her goals maybe she was going about it the wrong way. It didn’t make sense that she could build a better self by destroying the worth of others. “Am I really loving and serving as I should be?” she asked herself.
Moo saw focusing on herself had promoted her frustrations and irritations with others. She saw “Everyone is messing up my life” had mysteriously become her mantra and she saw it was slowly leading her away from the light.
Each morning thereafter, her heart was set on discovering the needs of those around her, just as her mother Millie’s had always been, and then loving, helping and guiding them in her own special way. Moo’s objective became one of serving the Lord by serving those around her, and not one of accomplishing what only she wanted but truly loving and serving. Of a sudden the frustrations and irritations disappeared as did the dark.
As Moo allowed the promptings of the Spirit to work within her, she began to love others with all her heart, and in so doing, that love became her personal desire as well. In forgetting herself in the service of others, an immediate transformation began, almost unnoticed to her, but noticed by her family and friends—she became filled with light. So much light that she could easily share the light with others making many, many happy.
Moo learned that light and happiness are achieved only as we give ourselves in the loving and caring service of others, treating others in kindness and respect, and continually touching and blessing those about us.
At our Bible Study tonight we focused on hard things the Lord asks of His children. WE followed the elders, sisters and the ward mission leader. I wanted to show that our obedience did not necessarily have to be tied to “success” but that our success would come anyway in just being obedient. I shared Doctrine & Covenants 117:12-13 about Oliver Granger that his sacrifice would be more sacred to the Lord than his increase and 58:2-6.
Had a couple of visits with the Two family including a dinner. The young Brother Two has marveled about his blessing concerning starting a new middle school in 8th grade and how the promises have come true in making friends.
Attended the evening session of stake conference. The 2nd counselor in the Aliso Creek ward called and asked if I would speak next Sunday on prayer. During the session had some ideas of for the talk about living water. We choose to believe in prayer, real intent a willingness in advance to comply with direction to be given, eliminating pre-determined methods of how the lord must respond to us as in setting aside signs and substituting willingness, and given equal passion to desires and nevertheless willingness. Also had a thought come to my mind regarding the baiting we receive from non-members, “You mean if we don’t do this and so we can’t have that.” Which I never feel comfortable in answering. Thought was “I can’t certify what you won’t get in choosing your path, only what the Lord promises in choosing this path.”
One of the sisters was invited up to be interviewed of sorts by high councilor over missionary work. She joined the Church in March. Told us she was a member of a large mega church with a famous pastor. He encouraged the members to meet in bible study groups of 10-15 to feel part of something real as the size of the church mitigated against such feelings. Said, “We need to love and serve each other like the Mormons.” Said the sister, “You could have heard a mouse pee in the corner.” Everyone laughed. What an inspiring testimony she bore about the members of the church. We were encouraged to log on to social.lds.org for ideas on using social networking in missionary work which is something we have to learn about.
During both the evening session and morning one I found myself listing things I have learned as a senior missionary making me a different person. I believe they are for our homecoming talk.
In the Sunday session a sister shared a story about implementing the Brady Family approach. She said in the TV series an upset teenager would bound up the stairs followed quickly by one of both parents. Then a serious talk would ensure on the bed and everything resolved. She tried it. Upset she bounded up the stairs, slammed the door for point of emphasis so her mother would know she was upset and the sat on her bed waiting. She waited. Waited. Waited some more. Then came down stairs and her mother was washing dishes. She explained how upset she was that her mother didn’t even bother to come up to help her and her mother replied, “Honey, I knew you could resolve this on your own. You knew how to handle the problem. So I let you alone to handle it yourself. If there is something you can’t handle, I will be there just like a promised.” She taught about the poor results that usually follow when we do everything for our children and then they have to fend for themselves with no skills and likened it to Heavenly Father helping us to develop skills and use them.