Reflections on the various dimensions of feminine vocation from liturgical homemaking and child rearing to education and the spiritual life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dear Mormon Missionaries (A First Question)

Thanks for stopping by the other day and taking the time to talk with me.  I appreciate your zeal and commitment to your faith that leads you to dedicate your time to telling others what you believe.

I am glad you took down my phone number and look forward to meeting with you again soon.  While I am not looking to convert, I do have genuine questions about the faith that you profess.

When we spoke, I explained why I have a hard time considering the Mormon faith as an option.

The church I attend now is not the church I grew up in.  I was raised in a cultish house church that identified itself as a non-denominational Christian community; it was in a vein similar to what is commonly called Evangelical Protestant with loose roots in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition.

While not a full-blown cult, it was cultish in several ways.  There was a powerful "them versus us" attitude toward all other Christian communities that bred judgmentalism, feelings of superiority, and proselytizing zeal.  This attitude kept us closed off from interacting with others in a genuine and open way and thereby limited our ability to learn from them or see ourselves in a true light.

The definitive theology of the group was largely the invention of one or two leaders whose sway was established through power, charisma, and manipulation; their personal histories and (lack of) education did not recommend them.  The theology preached had significant holes and incongruities; when questions were raised about these holes and incongruities, the leadership became defensive, dismissive, or patronizing.  The group was controlling and emotionally incestuous.  Uniformity was often equivocated with unity.

I accepted the doctrines and disciplines of my childhood church wholeheartedly and did not question or test them until they started to collapse around me when I was well into college.  In high school and as a freshman and sophomore in college, I was a hot-handled proselytizing zealot.  I was probably about your age when, like you two, I went about trying to convince other Christians of "the fullness of the faith."  I believed it was my righteous duty to enlighten the benighted.  (The zealot is still in me—old habits die hard—but, by God's grace those habits no longer rule me.)

Later, in a graduate psychology class I learned the technical term for what I had experienced: foreclosure.  It's what happens when a child makes a premature commitment to a life identity.  The problem is not in adopting the beliefs of the parents but rather in defining the direction of one's adult life on a trajectory that has not been sufficiently tested against the alternatives, that has not been given time to mature into an adult belief system.  Directions are chosen too soon and without sufficient exposure to alternatives.

After taking a class in child development, my college roommate wondered what would happen if you taught a child the opposite names for all the colors so that they believed red was green and so forth. She thought it would be an interesting experiment (one that, of course, she would never really undertake).  I think I know what would happen because it is similar to what happened to me.  When I learned that what I had been taught about the world and the church was false, my world turned up side down and I was disoriented and depressed for a quite a while.

I eventually joined the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church because it offered an essential ingredient which my childhood church lacked: secure moorings in truth evidenced by two centuries of doctrinal and pastoral continuity.

That brings me to my first question about the LDS faith: I would honestly like to know how you explain the disjuncture between the doctrine and discipline of the LDS church, on the one hand, and traditional Christianity on the other hand.

While Mormons and traditional Christians use some of the same words, we do not mean at all the same thing when we speak of Jesus Christ being the begotten Son of the Father.  Your own president/prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, agreed that we define our terms differently when he said, "The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak."

Before Joseph Smith, no one taught or believed the set of beliefs taught by the LDS, especially (among other beliefs) that God the Father has a body, that Jesus and Lucifer are brother sons of God, that we pre-existed as God's spirit children in heaven before we were born, and that we will have our own planets to populate (in polygamous marriages) and be God over in heaven if we are properly sealed and sufficiently righteous in this earthly life.

One of the watershed experiences in my conversion process was reading the works of the Apostolic Fathers—the generation of church leaders, such as Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who were discipled and appointed by the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ—as well as successive Church Fathers, such as Saint Athanasius and the Capadocian Fathers: St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus.

From my reading of the historical documents—the letters, cannons, teachings, scholarship, and creeds of the Church—it seems that the teachings regarding church leadership and hierarchy, the sacraments, the eternal Triune Godhead, the two natures of Christ, the incarnation and passion of Christ, and the nature of salvation and sanctification have all remained consistent over the Church's life being affirmed by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the "one, holy, universal, and apostolic faith."

Can you tell me what the Mormon church teaches regarding the Church Fathers? I've not been able to find a specific date as to when the apostasy is supposed to have begun—do you know of one? Are there any explanations offered as to why the apostasy would have lasted so long, and, if so, what has been offered to support this interpretation of events?

These are honest questions I have; I do not mean to personally attack you or any LDS faithful. I am always open to discussing religion or any other topic that brings us closer to understanding the truth.  Jesus claimed to be the Truth, and it is my joy to seek and conform myself to Him.

Yours in Christ,
Jen

22 comments:

  1. (I know this is a serious topic, but I couldn't help but smile about your college roommate's 'experiment' =)

    I wanted to link to this in hopes that the missionaries with whom you spoke will leave you a reply. I'm quite interested in hearing the Mormon perspective, since my sister is now married to a Mormon.

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  2. Dear Jen,
    I am the "Mission Leader" in our local Ward (or congregation) where the missionaries you met currently serve. I help them be more efficient by being their "dedicated helper" of sorts. In some ways I am their secretary and in others they are "my missionaries." Anyways, Jackie Rama wanted me to let the missionaries know about your post. I'll let them know they are being missed. I believe they felt a bit uncomfortable when they tried to teach you and figured they might not be welcome, but I'll let them know they must have misunderstood you.

    I hope you don't mind if I take the opportunity to answer some of your questions here, as the missionaries hardly ever see a computer, nor do I think they know about your blog.

    Regarding the "Church Fathers" and councils, we don't teach anything about them as they are the fathers and councils of the Catholic Church, and perhaps in some way of all other churches that protested or parted from that church. As you mentioned, we believe that the many prophesies in the Bible regarding the "great apostasty" were fulfilled shortly after Jesus left the Earth and the Apostles were persecuted and killed. We believe that for centuries the Church as Jesus had organized it, with it's priesthood and complete doctrine, had been lost from that time on. Because of this, a restoration had to take place. The Church of Jesus Christ had to be restored in it's full form, as it was when he organized it 2000 years ago. To do this, God again required the service of a faithful prophet, like those of old.

    About 200 years ago, a 15 yr old boy by the name of Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord which of the many churches around he should join. At that point, Heavenly Father and his Son explained to him regarding the apostasy and that no church in that day had the fullness of the Gospel. They further explained to him that if worthy, he would become an important tool in their hands to bring back and restore the Church as it originally was. He became the first prophet since the last ones were killed almost two millennium ago. Moreover, he was given the task to translate another testament of Jesus Christ: a book of scriptures written by many prophets that lived in the Americas centuries ago and compiled by one of those prophets, Mormon, who's name the book bares. To learn if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true, restored Church, the Book of Mormon is a good fruit to test. "By their fruits, ye shall know them." If this book is true, then the man who brought it to light must have been a true prophet and his church actually the Lord's true Church. This is why the missionaries probably invited you to read it, ponder about it, and pray and ask God if it's true. This is the best way for anyone to learn about the Church. Test this fruit, and if it's good pray about it to learn if it truly is another testament of our Lord. That would in turn tell you if this is the Church of Christ.


    Only God knows fully why the Apostasy lasted so long. We mainly believe that it simply took a while for all things to be set in place for the Church to be restored once and for all, never to be taken away again (as per the Bible).

    As you might thus infer, we follow the teachings of the Lord's prophets of old by their writings in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, as well as the teachings of the prophets of today... who mainly clarify ancient scripture, but often too receive revelations from God that are more pertinent to our times. Furthermore, we believe that it is only by direct revelation from God to his chosen prophets and apostles (old and new) that he teaches us the doctrine of his Gospel. Just like in Bible times.

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  3. (continued)

    Some very key and simple doctrines had been lost during the apostasy. Highest among them was the true nature of God. We believe it when the Bible says that we were created in his image. We thus look like him and he like us. We also believe Heavenly Father is the father of all of our spirits, we're all brothers and sisters. We believe Jesus is his first born and our resurrected Savior. We also believe that Heavenly Father's "son of the morning" (mentioned in the book of Revelation) rebelled against him and became the devil. Thus, satan did not come to exist independently, but was one of God's sons and, therefore, also one of our brothers though he was never born on the Earth.

    Other principles of the Gospel that had been lost also include the fact that our existence did not commence when we were born on Earth, but that we did in fact live as spirits with our Heavenly Father before we came to the Earth.

    I feel tempted to make a long list of Bible references to all these teachings, but I fear it might start a back-and-forth that would become unproductive. Suffice it say that these are some of the things we believe, that it is all rooted in the Bible and that all are welcome to learn more about it and to learn if it's true by the simple tasting of a very palpable piece of evidence that distinguishes us from all other religions. That fruit is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

    I personally know that all these things are true because when I was young I was constantly taught at Church to learn for myself if these thing are true. When I was fifteen I finished reading through the Book of Mormon for the first time, knelt in prayer to ask if it was true, and received an answer that I will never be able to deny. This experience has been the seed of much joy and an abiding faith in Jesus Christ.


    Thank you again for your interest. It is always an absolute pleasure to share our most cherished beliefs. As is obvious by our extensive missionary efforts, we want to share these things with everyone!

    I'll make sure to send the missionaries over to help you answer your questions.

    Sincerely,
    Kevin Carbajal

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  4. Kevin,
    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment here. My post, to which you have responded here, was written as the first in a series, and was published after your missionaries stopped by the first time but before their second, follow-up visit. So your missionaries have not been neglectful. :o) What’s more, they are both very respectful, polite, and honest. At my last meeting with them I made it clear that I would welcome them back for continued discussion anytime.

    I think I generally understand the basic teachings of the Mormon church as summarized in your comments. What is still unclear to me is when the apostasy is supposed to have begun.

    When I read the writings of the generation of church leaders that directly succeeded the original apostles, am I to understand those writings and their authors as apostate? For example, I read the letters written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a student of John the Apostle and a successor of Peter the Apostle as bishop of Antioch. Saint Ignatius wrote letters on his way to martyrdom in Rome where he was eaten alive by lions for confessing faith in Christ Jesus. I also read of Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, also believed to be a student of John the Apostle. Like Saint Ignatius, he was martyred for confessing faith in his Lord and Savior; he was burned at the stake and then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him.

    What signs of apostasy should I be looking for when I read the surviving letters of these and other seemingly holy early church leaders?

    I asked these questions of your missionaries when I met with them, but I think they were as stumped as I am.

    Thank you again for your time and attention.

    Sincerely,
    Jen

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  5. That is a great question. I guess I first need to clarify the word "apostasy." It usually carries a harsh connotation when describing individuals who willingly distanced themselves from the Church. However, when the term is used to describe the state of the Church that Jesus organized, it simply means that it fell apart and that it's leadership on Earth was dissolved and revelation from God to his Church as a whole was interrupted.
    When the apostles were killed and not replaced and the Church lost it's leading Quorum of twelve apostles, the Church fell into apostasy. Of high importance was the fact that the keys held by the apostles were lost with them. 'Keys' being God-given authority to act in His name on Earth. The apostles could also delegate these keys to other righteous individuals (like the "Seventy" mentioned in Luke, and other designated local leaders of congregations, for example), but they were ultimately held by the apostles themselves.


    When the quorum of twelve apostles was gone, the Church lost it's Earthly leadership along with those vital keys. Many faithful members who endured and survived the prosecution remained. However, the anchor for doctrine and priesthood (keys) was not there when the apostles weren't there, and over time the church became fragmented and the doctrine in the scriptures was left at the mercy of interpretation of men.

    As to exactly when the apostasy started, perhaps a good guess would be when the last Apostle, Simon the zealot, was crucified in 74 BC. But it probably started gradually as no more replacements were called as the apostles were being killed.

    Other great followers of Christ were abundant in those times. Their writings and teachings have value. I don't know of any signs of apostasy you might find in the writings of the great men you mentioned (we don't read their writings). If there are any, I imagine they would be in the form of deviations from the doctrine the Lord taught. I guess the more palpable evidence of the apostasy is in the fact that there was no church organized as the Lord himself organized it. Better evidence, however, is obtained through pondering and prayer.


    On another note, let me take the liberty of providing this link
    http://mormon.org/restoration

    for others to have as they follow you series.

    Thank you!

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  6. Kevin, thank you so much for your quick and courteous response to my questions!

    I hope I am not trying your patience, but I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying in your last comment. It sounds like you’re saying either that there is no historical evidence for the loss of the keys/dissolving of church leadership and the corruption of doctrine or that you’re saying the only historical evidence is the doctrinal and organizational differences between what Joseph Smith taught and what was taught and practiced by those Christians living between the time of the apostles and time of Joseph Smith’s revelation.

    This is confusing to me because I’m not sure how the difference between the two sets of teachings (LDS and traditional Christianity) could be considered evidence for either set being true and the other false. Perhaps I just misunderstood you?

    I do note your point about personal experience in prayer being a form of evidence. I would agree that personal experience of God is crucial to a life of faith.

    When I pray and ask God to show me his truth and grant me wisdom, I don’t get a revelation that Mormonism is true. That is why I am wondering if there is any other evidence that corroborates LDS claims.

    In your previous comments, you described the Book of Mormon as the fruit that can be tasted/tested as evidence and you also mentioned the continued revelation of the various prophets who have succeeded one another as presidents of the LDS church. I certainly haven’t read the whole Book of Mormon, all of Doctrines and Covenants, Journal of Discourses, or other records of the teachings of the prophets, but what I have seen just raises more questions. I wrote up some of those questions as a second post, which I will go publish right now.

    Thanks again for taking the time to address my many questions!

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  7. There are entire books written about the evidence of the apostasy. I would recommend "The Great Apostacy" by James E. Talmage. I'm not going to speak of that because it would entail talking about the occurrence of divergence from the Lord's, something that would spur feelings of contention, no doubt. We don't like to talk about other religions except in a good light.

    I will say this though: many prophets in the Old and New Testaments spoke of the coming of the great apostasy. Perhaps the question is, has it come or is it yet to come?

    Like you alluded to, learning about God is done by the spirit. There's a big limitation to trying to learn by logic only. This is why we emphasize prayer to ask God regarding what we learn.

    I would invite to pray about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. This entails having an honest and clear mind that is pondering about the basics of the Church, rather than partially-informed truths that may be out of context. The simplest way to do this is to read and ponder about what is in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which you said you haven't read. If that book is a lie that was fabricated by a 20 year old farmer with a grade-school education, then we are all wasting our time.

    However, if that book is true, my friend, you have found the restored Church of Jesus Christ, just as it was back then. Led by Jesus himself, through prophets and apostles that are alive today!

    We invite everyone to test this book!

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  8. This is how the phrase should have read in that first paragraph:

    "I'm not going to speak of the evidence because it would entail talking about the divergence from the Lord's doctrine..."

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  9. Hi Kevin and Jen,

    I have been following these posts and very much appreciate them as I am also very interested in this topic. I also appreciate the tone, which is respectful. It is with the same respect to both of you that I ask this question to Kevin:

    Jen asked you: "What signs of apostasy should I be looking for when I read the surviving letters of these and other seemingly holy early church leaders?" (Here Jen is talking about the early church leaders who were not the original 12).

    Kevin, you said, "When the apostles were killed and not replaced and the Church lost it's leading Quorum of twelve apostles, the Church fell into apostasy. "

    I am confused here, because as Jen said, Apostles were replaced by the very people you believe had the keys.

    What, in your view, does it take to legitimately replace an apostle?
    Why is it not sufficient for a line of bishops to hand over the power from one generation to the next? In other words, what is the form of apostolic succession -- which Mormons think happens in the present day within the Church of JCLDS -- that is valid?

    Again, Jen said, "I read the letters written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a student of John the Apostle and a successor of Peter the Apostle as bishop of Antioch . . . I also read of Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, also believed to be a student of John the Apostle."

    Both Ignatius and Polycarp were appointed by the Apostle John. St. Ignatius succeeded Peter as Bishop of Antioch. These are historical facts. Do you not believe both Peter and John have the authority (keys) to appoint Ignatius & Polycarp. Certainly you believe that the apostles had the authority to replace Judas with Matthias (See, *Acts* 1:1-26 and more generally, *Acts* 20:28)? But if it holds in one case, why not in the others? And if it holds in the others, why not generally?

    Again, I ask this question out of genuine respect for you and your faith. Thank you!

    Yours In Christ,

    Bridget

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  10. I'm fascinated by all these comments, and I have a lot to say! (But I'm not sure I want to jump in by internet).

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  11. Thanks Bridget for clarifying where Jen was going with that. I'll address apostolic succession below, after a bit more about Keys I feel I need to explain better.

    The Keys of the Kingdom of God on Earth are held by God's anointed prophets and apostles. The president of the Church following Jesus' departure was Peter. He held the Keys. When the president, prophet or presiding apostle passes away, then the collective quorum of the Twelve holds the Keys until a new president is ordained.

    Anyone else that was given the priesthood could act in the name of the Lord only as some of those Keys were delegated to them. But only the Keys necessary for their duties, like for example, a baptism in Antioch when one of the apostles wasn't there to do it himself.
    What I meant to say in previous posts is that all these priesthood holders in lands near and far from Jerusalem had nobody to delegate keys to them when the heads of the Church on Earth were killed, because the Keys were lost with them. Our contention is that after the death of the last apostle, only lesser priesthood authorities remained. (I'm not aware of any of the contemporaries of the apostles claiming to have been called as replacement for fallen apostles or as prophets...?)

    Obviously, you and many others would understandably disagree with this contention.


    Regarding apostolic succession, the following anecdote is interesting:

    A while back a representative from the Roman Catholic Church went to Utah to speak from the stand at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He got well acquainted with one of the Apostles of the LDS Church and in one of their conversations told him the following: "You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don't even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that's all there is to it. (...) If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need for Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism's attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days." ("A Marvelous Work and a Wonder" by Legrand Richards)

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  12. Now, I understand there are a dozen or so Churches that claim apostolic succession, so I guess those Churches could make a similar claim as the Roman Catholic gentleman above.

    Either way, talking about evidence of a Church having fallen away or of a restored Church never having restored true doctrine and priesthood would only deteriorate the discussion. Perhaps, answering the question I brought up earlier (Did the oft prophesied apostasy already take place or is it yet to take place?) would also inevitably bring contentious arguments.

    So how to test something of such high spiritual importance? I guess a lot of study and prayer.

    Let me again submit the value of the Book of Mormon here. Since there is no overtly distinguishing trait among Churches claiming apostolic succession, nor even with all protestant Churches (except this issue of priesthood lineage), the singularity of the Book of Mormon and its nature as palpable evidence brings it front and center. Especially in a blog on the LDS Church.

    Isaiah comes in real handy here. In Chapter 29, he, among other things, speaks of a looming time of apostasy when prophecy would cease, that a restoration would happen, and that a "book that is sealed" that would "whisper out of the dust" would be instrumental in that restoration. This comes in handy because we're speaking of apostasy, restoration AND of a book that was taken out of the ground, speaks of a lost civilization ("whisper out of the dust") and was sealed (portions of it physically and all of it by way of how it needed translation).

    Of course, that chapter obtains its more powerful meaning only after one reads and prays about the Book of Mormon.

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  13. Kevin,
    (I hope you don’t mind the leisurely pace of the discussion of late; life happens!) You’ve suggested a few times, and specifically in your last comment, that the evidence for the veracity of LDS claims is the Book of Mormon:

    “Let me again submit the value of the Book of Mormon here. Since there is no overtly distinguishing trait among Churches claiming apostolic succession, nor even with all protestant Churches (except this issue of priesthood lineage), the singularity of the Book of Mormon and its nature as palpable evidence brings it front and center. Especially in a blog on the LDS Church.”

    Should I understand then that there are passages in the Book of Mormon that address the key points of the discussion we’ve been having so far, specifically regarding
    (1) the keys passing from the 12 original apostles/Peter to Joseph Smith, and
    (2) church leadership requiring a “quorum of twelve apostles” as opposed to appointed successors of another title or number?
    If so, would you point them out to me? I would be interested in reading and learning more about the sources of the LDS doctrine of keys and apostolic succession.


    Since we both consider the New Testament to be a source of revelation, perhaps it would be helpful to look there as well. Perhaps you can help me understand what you’re seeing there that corroborates LDS teachings regarding apostolic succession. If I understand your view, the original twelve apostles had the keys and thus the power to appoint replacements/successors (as in the selection of Matthias, which Bridget pointed out earlier).

    The first apostle to be martyred was James, the brother of John, and son of Zebedee (not to be confused with the other apostle James, the son of Alphaeus—cf. Acts 1:13—who wrote the book of James in the Bible and who is also mentioned in Acts 12:17; 15:13; and 21:18).

    Fortunately for us, the martyrdom of this first James (around 44 A.D.) is recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (12:2). As this passage in Acts 12 illustrates, early persecutions were local and sporadic. The first universal (empire-wide) and sustained persecution of Christians did not take place until 250.

    The apostles and elders were able to gather together in relative freedom after the martyrdom of James, as in the case of the apostolic council recorded in Acts 15 wherein “the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter [whether ‘it was needful to circumcise’ Gentile converts and ‘to command them to keep the law of Moses’]” (v. 6 and 5).

    What I’m wondering, then, is why the apostles would have refrained from appointing an apostle to replace James of Zebedee who had already been martyred, if it is true that God had given them the keys and revealed an LDS-type leadership structure to them. In the several intervening decades between the death of the first apostle and the death of the remaining apostles, why would God’s elected key holders fail to do God’s will in replenishing the quorum if God had revealed such a structure to them?

    Acts records the replacement of Judas with Matthias, but no replacement is recorded for James of Zebedee in the 16 remaining chapters of Acts or in other biblical or extra-biblical sources from the early Church.

    From the view you’ve painted so far, it seems that either the apostles themselves became apostates failing to conform to the alleged revelation of God regarding church structure (quorum of 12), which I don’t think either of us would maintain, or the quorum of 12 concept had not yet been revealed. But if God had not revealed to Peter and the others a plan for a perpetual quorum of 12 apostles with one president, I’m not seeing how the generation after the apostles would have become apostate for failing to do something that the original apostles had no need to do. Are you seeing something I’m missing here?

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  19. That was weird. Sorry about all the duplicate (now deleted) comments! Google told me my first comments were "too large" to publish but then published them anyways. ???

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  20. You are missing the point regarding the Book of Mormon. It is not there to "set things straight" or provide groundbreaking doctrine that isn't found in the Bible. It's purpose is to be "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" and stand as another witness of the Savior and His mission. It was written by prophets of old just as the Bible was, but by prophets in the Americas. They told of their history, their experiences, etc, like the old world prophets did. It is the history of a people and a compilation (by Mormon) of the writings of many prophets.

    Again, the point with the Book of Mormon is that if it is true, then the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored and prophets of God are again on Earth teaching and calling all to repent and come unto Christ. Why? Because the Lord would only have given such a book to His Church. If it isn't true, we are wasting our time.

    Our doctrine derives from the scriptures and from the revelation given to modern day prophets. Men like those of old, but that were called in our times to teach and guide us today. They mainly instruct regarding the correct meaning and application of the scriptures, but often do receive new instruction. The Word of Wisdom is a good example (to not ingest alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, excessive meat, etc).


    Now back to your questions:

    The Book of Mormon was written in the Americas mostly between 600 BC and 400 AD. Communication between the people of the Book of Mormon and those in and around Jerusalem was non-existent. These people knew of the Lord's mission on Earth, that he would perform most of it in Jerusalem (they new of Jerusalem as they originated from there) and that he would chose disciples. After the Lord's death and resurrection, he visited sheep from other folds (as he mentioned in John) and among them were the people in the Book of Mormon. Interestingly, he organized his Church in the Americas as well, with a new set of twelve apostles contemporary to the ones in Jerusalem. The reason for this being the logistics of communication between continents that barely even knew of each other. That pretty much sums up most of what the Book of Mormon says about your first two questions.

    The Quorum of the Twelve "concept" as you put it, is not new. The number twelve arises from the tribes of Israel, and there is one apostle for each. Why didn't the Apostles keep replacing their martyred brethren as they did with Judas/Mathias to keep that important number twelve? I would guess that it was because, as prophets, they understood the big picture. They understood the many prophesies regarding the apostasy and realized they had to let it happen, as it was God's plan.

    Again, don't ask me why the Lord did it that way. I don't know why it had to happen so early and for so long. I imagine we'll know the full reasoning (by God) behind this some day.

    We could make this an endless, fruitless argument. But ultimately, faith isn't about convincing people. Conversions aren't brought about by telling people they are wrong, they are brought by teaching the light with love. A conversion only happens with honest investigation and prayer. Most members of the LDS Church will tell you that they received very specific answers from God. This is where we base our lives.

    You can ask me for a passage in the Bible that spells it out. There is none that says "here ends the apostolic succession, wait for the Mormons." It would be too simple. All I can do is show you all the signs, as specific as they are (like those I mentioned in Isaiah 29).

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  21. Thank you, Kevin, for replying to my last questions. I am sorry I seemed to mistake your point about the Book of Mormon. I appreciate your directness.

    I agree with you that the central question is whether the Book of Mormon (along with the larger corpus of LDS teaching) is true. I also agree that “we could make this an endless, fruitless argument,” especially since we each come from our respective interpretive traditions for understanding the Scriptures.

    When you say, “ultimately, faith isn’t about convincing people,” I mostly agree. I agree that “ultimately” convincing people is not what brings faith; I think we would probably both agree that God gives faith through the Spirit. However, I believe that rational discourse does properly play an important role in clearing the way for faith.

    And on this issue, I wonder if I have not been sufficiently direct regarding my own point. What I am trying to discover is whether there is evidence or independent reasons, in addition to subjective religious experience, that corroborate LDS claims.

    I have been debating about posting my third and final “Dear Mormon Missionaries” letter, and I think now it might be helpful to post to further clarify my thinking on this point: http://raisingpurepraise.blogspot.com/2010/08/dear-mormon-missionaries-third-question.html.

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  22. Oh definitely. There's tons of evidence of our claims. I've given you examples of them... many prophets spoke of apostacy, of restoration, etc. It's all over the scriptures. Perhaps I didn't point them out very well.
    I didn't realize you had already posted a second letter, I look forward to checking it out!

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