Sunday, December 14, 2008

Are We Ripening for Destruction?

For a people to become “ripe for destruction,” the Book of Mormon provides a two-pronged test. First, the majority must choose evil over good, as originally taught by King Mosiah and subsequently reiterated by several other prophets (see e.g., Mosiah 29:27, Alma 10:19-23, Hel. 5:2). Second, the people must “cast out the righteous” from among them. Interestingly, it is the righteous and their prayers that actually save the people from utter destruction until they are ultimately cast out (see Alma 10:22-23, Hel. 13:13-14).

[As a side note, I have jokingly thought that if God doesn’t destroy the city of Las Vegas he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. But, nonetheless Las Vegas and other cities continue to thrive. Is it a direct correlation to the righteous individuals residing in those cities?]

But being “ripened for destruction” doesn’t necessarily mean imminent destruction. Instead, Samuel the Lamanite introduces us to the doctrine of having one’s “destruction made sure”; the polar opposite to having one’s “calling and election made sure.” Atop the wall at Zarahemla, Samuel declares to the wicked Nephites that they have ripened for destruction and if they now failed to repent they would have their “destruction made sure” (Hel. 13:32). He continues by prophesying that when the Nephites finally realize they can go no lower, they will cry out the Lord, “O Lord, canst thou not turn thine anger from us?” (Hel. 13:37). Unfortunately, it will then “everlastingly” too late:

But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38)(emphasis added)

In the Bible, and mainstream Christianity, this is called the Doctrine of the Reprobate, or Reprobation. Reprobation is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which concludes that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation, so the remainder are necessarily pre-ordained to damnation, i.e. reprobation. In Calvinist terminology, the non-elect are often referred to as the reprobate.

As LDS, we do not agree with predestined election, but instead individuals must work to “make your calling and election sure,” and subsequently have that election sealed by “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Pet. 1:10, 19). Likewise, we do not accept that individuals are predestined to destruction, but must “earn” such a fate by first ripening for destruction (the 2-prong test) and then refusing to repent.

Paul briefly comments on some characteristics of those ripening for destruction:

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:23-27)

A few of the obvious characteristics asserted by Paul above include idolatry, prostitution, and homosexuality. Paul continues by introducing the Doctrine of Reprobation, wherein God ultimately allows those ripened for destruction to seal their own fate:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (i.e., appropriate);
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
1 Therefore thou are inexcusable, O man… (Romans 1:28 – Romans 2:1)(emphasis added)

Paul explains that these people block God out of their lives for so long, that he ultimately just lets them seal their own “reprobate” fate. Notice in verse 32 that these individuals are fully aware of God’s impending judgments, but they nonetheless get pleasure out of doing wickedly. Indeed, they eventually seal their own destruction and become “inexcusable” before God. Those that become “reprobates” have done so by forsaking the healing power of Jesus Christ in their lives:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Similar to the peoples spoken of in the Book of Mormon, we have a system of government that allows the people to establish law. We also, however, are susceptible to the similar pitfalls of such a government. Specifically, we may also “ripen for destruction” ourselves when the majority chooses evil over good and subsequently casts out the righteous. I submit that the United States may be close to this point; although not quite fully there.

In sum, I have often wondered if a specific region of the United States eventually chooses evil over good and then subsequently casts out the righteous from among them, would that region of the United States be susceptible to God’s destructive forces? Will the Church ever remove itself from a region as it has previously done and thereby allow the impending judgments of God to come to pass?

Sweet Deal at D.I.

My recent unemployment allowed me to take a trip to Seattle to visit family. I hadn't been home for two years and it was nice to have some free time to hang out. After meeting for lunch with a friend, I reluctantly agreed to go to the D.I. across the street so my wife could search for some deals. Admittedly, I don't care too much for D.I. because the one by us in Mesa doesn't have that many things that I like (unless you are looking for Barry Manilow 8-tracks) and is a little big.

Perhaps the Seattle area D.I.'s are less visited than here. I say so because I found a steal in the book section. Volume 10 of the Hugh Nibley series, The Ancient State, was there for only $2. Of course it had not dust jacket, but do we really buy books for the the dust jacket? I didn't know how much it cost new, but I knew I got a good deal.

The conclusion to the story? I found out online when I got home that The Ancient State retails at Deseret Book for $34.95.

Perhaps, you say, this is a pretty lame post. I agree. But after losing a job and relocating to a different state with a house in Arizona anchoring us down, I need any good luck I can get.

(Tell me if you can honestly see a difference. Or at least a difference that is worth $32.95.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yes, we believe in the Bible...

To some not of the LDS faith, it may come as a surprise to learn that we believe, revere, and love the Holy Bible. We do have additional scripture, however, including the Book of Mormon; but it supports the Bible, never substituting for it. In fact, we cross-reference from one book of scripture to another because we are persuaded that the greatest commentary on scripture is scripture itself.

Sadly, the Bible is the most misused and misunderstood book ever written. It has been used to justify all manner of impropriety, wickedness, and falsehood. It has been used for centuries to settle disputes of every imaginable kind, even those that the prophets never intended to settle. Indeed, it has been quoted as often by devils as by Saints and, likewise, has served as an instrument of suppression as often as it has served as a source of inspiration.

In reading and commenting on religious blogs of other faiths, I have encountered numerous individuals who state emphatically that their position is based entirely upon the authority of the Bible. Unfortunately for them, however, God is the only source of reputable religious authority. In fact, the Bible itself points away from itself and instead to that final and true authority, God Himself.

For a time, the established Biblical canon ensured doctrinal orthodoxy as the Church began to grow around the 4th century. An overreliance on the canon, however, tends to shut one off from new truths or insights, and may breed spiritual complacency. For example, non-LDS bloggers often state, “Well, because the matter under consideration is not dealt with directly in the Bible, there is no answer, or God doesn’t care how we solve the issue.”

To that I feel compelled to respond: “If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?” Or: “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls the Bible?

A knowledge of what the Bible does not claim for itself is important in protecting against its misrepresentations. The following 5 points delineate claims that Bible religions falsely attribute to the Bible, but which the book does not claim for itself:

1) The Bible makes no claim to infallibility. There isn’t one verse within the Bible to sustain this doctrine. In fact, it was in the name of infallibility that Galileo was condemned by the church in Rome for saying that the earth moved around the sun. The idea, it was held, contradicted scriptural passages that spoke of the sun’s rising and setting.

2) The Bible makes no claim to having been supernaturally dictated. Whoever was the first “scholar” to make the terms “the Bible” and “the Word of God” synonymous, did a great disservice to the cause of truth and religion. The term “word of God” is found in scripture hundreds of time, and yet in not one of those instances is it applied to the scriptures.

3) The Bible makes no claim that prophets are infallible. James states that Elijah, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, was “a man subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). Paul corrected Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), and Peter said Paul’s writings were “hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16). Jonah misunderstood his own prophecy (Jonah 4), and Noah occasionally got drunk (Gen. 9:21). Prophets are mortal and, as Joseph Smith taught us, “a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” (TPJS, p.278)

4) The Bible does not claim to have all the answers nor that it is God’s only revelation. Instead, the Bible continually directs its readers to implore the heavens for knowledge and understanding beyond what it contains, and often quotes statements and books that are now lost unto it. In fact, nowhere does the Bible purport to give its readers either authority or commission to preach the Gospel or to perform Gospel ordinances.

What makes us different from most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading, Revelation, and Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” in Plain and Precious Truths Restored, p.2 (emphasis added))

5) The Bible does not claim to be complete nor does it claim that revelation has ceased. As Joseph Smith said, “We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain: but to say that God never said anything more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once that we have at last received a revelation; for it must require one to advance thus far, because it is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God, that He would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again; and if any man has found out for a fact that the Bible contains all that God ever revealed to man he has ascertained it by revelation, other than has been previously written by the prophets and apostles” (History of the Church, 2:18) (emphasis added).

The New Testament church was led by Apostles and prophets and governed by the spirit of revelation. The life-giving force of the Church was the Holy Ghost, not some scriptural record that no member of that church ever read. In fact, the New Testament did not exist until several centuries after the apostasy was complete.

The Bible is a magnificent tool in the hands of God, but it is too often used as a club or a weapon in the hands of men and women. Truly, the more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which continual revelation plays a major role.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wilford Woodruff on Jay Leno

We were watching Leno a few nights ago and enjoying the Battle of the Jay Walk All-Stars. At least one of the people contestants was Mormon. Perhaps two (the Utah bob cut gives it away) could have been. Forward directly to around 16:23 to go to the part that I am referring to.