Women in the Bible vs the Book of Mormon – pt 2

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Chris

From the very first chapter in the Old Testament, we are taught that women – like men – were created in God’s own image.  Men and women are created equal.  And from that point forward, women played prominent roles in may key biblical narratives. 

As we study the Bible, we see at every turn – in the story of God’s people – that the gifts of women are necessary and vital.  God elevates the status of womanhood throughout the biblical record.

But, now let’s consider the women in the Book of Mormon.  The Book of Mormon has over 500 pages, covering a span of 1021 years of Nephite and Lamanite history.  Plus, another 2,000 years of Jaredite history.  Considering all that time and history – how many women in the Book of Mormon are actually mentioned by name?

Ava

Total?!  Six.

Chris

Only six.  It was very, noticeable to me when I read the Book of Mormon – the lack of personal names for women.   

Ava

And three of those women mentioned by name are taken directly from the Bible: Sarah – wife of Abraham; Eve – wife of Adam; and Mary – mother of Jesus. 

Chris

So, who are the remaining three women originating from the Book of Mormon? 

Ava

There’s Sariah – wife of Lehi; Abish – a Lamanite convert; and Isabel the harlot. 

There’s almost complete silence on women in the Book of Mormon.  They play basically, unimportant roles.  There are references to other females such as “wife,” “mothers,” “daughters,” “sisters,” “queen,” “her,“ “she” –  but none of them have proper names. 

While Nephi never mentions his wife’s name once, he uses his own name numerous times in the first two books of the Book of Mormon.  In fact, we find the phrase “I, Nephi” eighty-six times.  Unlike the Bible – there is virtually nothing mentioned about family life, children, romantic love, marriage ceremonies, or divorce. 

It seems that in the Book of Mormon, women were primarily accessories to men – dependent upon them, not only for survival – but also for identity.

All of this is strong evidence that the Book of Mormon was written by one man – who wasn’t interested in the matters or needs of women. 

Chris

You’re right.  If the Book of Mormon really was a collection of histories passed down from one writer to the next over thousands of years – like the Bible – there would have been numerous women named in the record.  But, there are not. 

The god of the Book of Mormon does not appear to be the God of the Bible.  Which is yet another proof that the Book of Mormon was a fabrication of one man’s misogynistic imagination. 

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Women in the Bible vs the Book of Mormon – pt 1

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I’ve always been interested in how women in the Bible were viewed.  I know numerous women were mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, but how many had speaking roles?

I was recently on an internet site called Word Counter and discovered that of the numerous women mentioned in the Bible – 93 had speaking roles.  The site said that in the Kings James Version there are a little over 783,000 total words, and those spoken by these 93 women add up to a little over 14,000 words – which was about 1.8 percent of the entire Bible. 

That isn’t a big percentage, but those words are like pearls or precious gems lying in a field – just waiting to be discovered.  And while 93 speaking women is a relatively small number – I don’t believe there are any other existing historical documents that quotes that many women. 

I know that some of the women in the Bible were healers, warriors, business leaders, diplomats, judges, musicians, and prophets.  There were even prostitutes and murders among the ranks.  Two of the books of the Old Testament were named after women – Esther and Ruth.  And those men who wrote the other books of the Bible, certainly felt free to mention women by name – and to write concerning their achievements.

The ten women who talk most in the Bible are primarily in the Old Testament.  But the New Testament is unique because against the backdrop of first-century – Middle-Eastern, patriarchal, Judaic culture – Jesus treats women with SO much respect and as equals to men. 

In fact, Jesus’s longest recorded conversation with anyone was with a woman – the woman at the well – recorded in John 4:4-42.  Remember, she had five husbands and was living with a sixth man.  Jesus initiates the conversation with this woman – a Samaritan – unheard of.  Her surprise is expressed in the narrative: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” 

 

Jesus then enters, into a prolonged dialogue which honors her thirst for truth.  Ultimately, He reveals to her His identity as the Messiah.  And, because of her excitement in witnessing to the town folks – many believed in Jesus.  

Jesus refused to view women as unclean or deserving of punishment.  Women who were menstruating or persons who had any flow of blood were considered ritually unclean.  And, anything or anyone she touched was considered unclean.  We find in Luke 8:43-48, the account of a women who had been bleeding for 12 years.  She was considered an untouchable – a nobody.  Yet, she is healed instantly upon touching the border of His garment.  Jesus turns to her and addresses her affectionately, calling her “Daughter.”  He tells her that her faith had made her whole and to go in peace.  How tender!

Jesus recognized the dignity of women in situations that seem – by ritual law – to demand judgment.  As examples: the sinful woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36-50, and the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3-11.  In both cases Jesus sees the women as someone deserving compassion. 

When Simon, the Pharisee, was upset that Jesus allowed a sinner to touch Him – not only does Jesus tell the woman her sins are forgiven, but asks Simon “Do you see this woman?”  The question urges Simon to look beyond the prejudice he always had for women of reputation – and to see her as a woman of humility and great love. 

Then there’s the woman caught in adultery who is brought before Jesus to be judged according to the Law.  Jesus says that none of the men who brought her themselves are without sin.  When her accusers departed, Jesus speaks compassionately to the woman.  He doesn’t gloss over her sin, but in his refusal to condemn her, He invites her to a new image of herself. 

I noticed how Jesus stepped over the boundaries between men and women by His acceptance of women as disciples.  The story in Luke 10:38-42 of Martha and Mary, highlights Jesus’s acceptance and blessing of Mary’s desire to learn.  In Mary we see what it means to be a lover of Christ, for she is seen three times in the Gospels – each time at the feet of Jesus.  This was the typical position of the male disciple.  But Jesus welcomes her desire to learn, and says “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Jesus not only taught women, but some of them traveled with Him and ministered to Him – like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Chuza, and Susanna. 

Then there is, the account of Martha who was grieving over the death of her brother, Lazarus.  While they stood at the tomb, Jesus reveals to her, in John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Then He calls Lazarus to come forth from the grave.    

Women were present at Jesus’s crucifixion.  And women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection.  In Acts 1:12-14, women joined in prayer between Jesus’s ascension and Pentecost.  Even the apostle Paul regularly ministered in the gospel alongside women.  He applauded their faithfulness and their giftedness. 

It is clear, that God elevates the status of womanhood throughout the biblical record.

 

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Stay in the Boat – Faith and Doubt – Part 2

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Last time, we were commenting on a speech given on January 13, 2019 by Dale Renlund, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Ruth.  They were talking on behalf of the Church’s leadership, who are concerned that its members are having doubts about their Mormon religion.  The title of their address was “Doubt Not but Be Believing.” 

They told a parable about a boy, who after being rescued from sea – complained about the condition of the boat and wanted out.  The story was meant to illustrate the foolishness of abandoning the LDS Church.  The Renlund’s remarks throughout their address trivialized doubting Mormon’s concerns and belittled them as individuals. 

And he calls himself an apostle?  Quite honestly, it was a very unchristian-like response to this sensitive issue. 

His wife, Ruth, smugly made the comment, “You don’t have to be an ordained seer, like my husband, to know that slipping back into the water instead of staying in the boat is risky.” 

What I found interesting – is that he quotes from Lectures of Faith written by Joseph Smith which says, “For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.” 

Anything from Lectures of Faith is suspect – since the LDS Church removed Lectures of Faith from its cannon of Scripture due to the inconsistencies taught in Smith’s lectures with current Mormon doctrine. 

Renlund said that “Many who have had questions, who have had doubt enter their minds, and have had difficulty finding their spiritual footing have nonetheless stayed faithful and have remained on the covenant path.” 

Faithful to what, though?  Faithful to the Church?  Or, faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is leading them to seek and search for truth, and for a stronger personal relationship with Jesus Christ? 

Related to that, is the story of Peter walking on water – mentioned by Mr. Renlund. 

The way I read it, only confirms the desire we all should have for a closer relationship with our Lord. 

Matthew 14 takes us out to the disciples who were in a boat, on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night.  The wind was blowing, and the boat was being tossed with the waves.  Those men were probably feeling helpless in those cold wet conditions.  It was then, when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea.  Matthew wrote, Verse 26 “they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” 

Jesus, being full of love – quickly calmed them down.  Verse 27 “But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” 

It must have been reassuring to hear the Savior’s voice calm their fears. 

What we read next is perhaps one of the most amazing things ever to happen to a mere mortal man.  Verse 28-29 “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he (Jesus) said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” 

I admire Peter’s love for the Lord.  There were no waves or wind or darkness of night that were going to get in his way.  The Lord was out on the water and Peter wanted to be with Him. 

Peter was willing and ready to get out of the safety of the boat – to be with the Lord.  Peter did in fact, walk on water!  He is the only human being – who was not God in the flesh – to experience such a feat.  And, remember he did ask the Lord before jumping out of the boat. 

Jesus’ response to Peter was to “come.”  This is the exact call Jesus has on every single person’s life.  While others – like Mr. Renlund – is telling us to stay in the safety and comfort of the Church – Jesus is inviting us to step off the boat and walk with Him, in faith, and to not fear. 

What if Peter had stayed in the boat?  Remember, Jesus invited Peter to leave.  That takes a tremendous amount of faith.

What is there to fear when seeking truth – answers to our questions and doubts?  Members of the LDS Church should put their full trust in the Lord that He will be there to walk by their side and hold their hand as they navigate treacherous waters.

They might come to realize that their personal relationship with Christ has been strengthened and they are more secure in their spiritual journey than remaining in any boat.   

As Peter was walking on the water towards Jesus, he became afraid and cried, “Lord save me.”  Peter recognized there is no other name whereby men may be saved.  Verse 31 “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 

If Peter had little faith yet could walk on water temporarily.  Think what would be possible in our lives if we have even that much faith. 

 

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Stay in the Boat – Part 1

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Many faithful Mormons are having concerns about the Church’s doctrines, policies, and history.  What do you think the LDS leadership’s attitude are toward those doubting members?

I think their attitude toward those members who are having doubts and questioning their faith was demonstrated in a recent church-sponsored, world-wide devotional for young adults. 

 

Dale Renlund, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke with his wife, Ruth.  The address they gave on January 13, 2019, titled “Doubt Not, but Be Believing” was very unkind and uncharitable. 

They told a parable about a boy who, was rescued from the sea.  Once in the boat, the boy became unhappy with the condition of the vessel.  The complaining boy demanded that he be returned to the sea from which he had been rescued. 

"If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”

George A. Smith

Journal of Discourse Vol. 14 pg. 217

If he were a true apostle – a servant of the Lord – he would have showed understanding and compassion towards these members.  He would have told his audience that doubt is actually a growth-element of faith.  Using the Bible, the Renlunds could have shown that many of Jesus’s own disciples struggled with doubts and a lack of faith.  He could have quoted Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

 

And, it would demonstrate these “doubters” aren’t taking their religion for granted.  Latter-day Saints SHOULD compare Mormonism’s historical claims and doctrinal assertions against those of Christianity. 

 

But the Renlunds say that would be a faithless thing to do. 

 

But it is exactly what God calls us to do.  A true apostle of the Lord – John – cautioned us in 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  

 

The Renlunds said that doubt and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time.  And that doubt NEVER leads to faith.

 

That is a blatant lie.  Here, in the Bible is an example of a man who had faith – but struggled with doubt.  Mark 9:23-24 “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.”  If we were completely honest with ourselves – every devout follower of Christ has their doubts from time to time.  That’s when we ask God to strengthen our faith as we get into HIs Word to search for answers. 

 

The Renlunds said that doubt prevents a person from receiving answers from God.

 

Again, that sounds contrary to the message of the Bible.  Even our Lord, Jesus Christ, had doubts in the Garden of Gethsemane about his ability as a mortal man to face the impending physical pain and torcher from the Roman soldiers.  Jesus prayed to His Father – if there was any other way.  The answer to His prayer came in the form of an angel who came to strengthen Him.  It is often when we are in the throws of our doubting and questioning, that we become open to answers from God.

 

The Renlunds also said that doubt leads to being taken captive by the devil.  

 

Sounds like scare tactics to me. 

Try convincing the apostle Thomas of that.  Following Jesus’ death, Thomas rejected the idea that Jesus was alive again.  He said in John 20:25 “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  For eight days Thomas doubted and disbelieved.  Was he taken captive by the devil – like the Renlunds said would happen?  No!  Jesus appeared to Thomas and provided the evidence Thomas needed.  John 20:27 “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and BE NOT FAITHLESS, BUT BELIEVING.” 

 

And, I love how Thomas responded to Jesus when he said in Verse 28 “My Lord and my God.” 

 

 

Contrary to the bad advice about doubt, given by LDS apostle Dale Renlund and his wife – doubting and questioning are healthy thoughts that lead to study and research in an effort to find truthful answers.  Our sincere intentions and diligent seeking draws us closer in our relationship with God.  

 

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False Prophecies of Joseph Smith – David W. Patten’s Mission

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The Lord warned about false prophets who would speak in His name.  And He gave us a way to test a man to know if he is a true prophet of God, or not. 

In Deuteronomy 18:22 “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen, or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”  

Let’s take a look at another prophesy Joseph Smith made and how it turned out.  Joseph had been experiencing financial trouble.  The illegal Kirtland Bank he set up had failed completely, almost as soon as it had opened for business.  Members of the Church were beginning to lose trust in him, and Smith was forced to excommunicate several of his top leadership.  But Joseph had confidence in 38-year old David W. Patten, one of the original twelve apostles, who was very loyal to Mormonism.  Patten must have seemed a safe bet for Smith to have the Lord prophesy about. 

The prophecy is in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 114.  The heading says, “Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Far West, Missouri, April 17, 1838.”  Verse 1 “Verily thus saith the Lord: It is wisdom in my servant David W. Patten that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me NEXT SPRING, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world.”   

So, speaking for the Lord in 1938, Joseph Smith prophecies that David Patten in a year from then would perform a mission, that would have been fulfilled in the spring of 1839.   The problem was that Patten was killed on October 25, 1838, at the Battle of Crooked River – six months before he was supposed to go on his mission. 

Some might try to defend this prophesy of Joseph Smith by saying that Patten’s unworthiness thwarted the plan of God. 

But hear what Joseph Smith said about him at the funeral – recorded in History of the Church, Vol. 3 p. 171, “Brother David Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him.  He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he had lived, a man of God, and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection, in a world where mobs will have no power of place.  One of his last expressions to his wife was – ‘whatever you do else, O! Do not deny the faith.’” 

Surely, God would have known Patten would be killed six months after the revelation had been given.  And not have been silly enough to predict an event that was never going to happen.  Or, does the Lord NOT know everything past, present, and future after all?

The Quorum of the Twelve 1835 Mission

Latter-day Saints have to remember the promise of the Lord as recorded in their own scripture.  Written on November 1, 1831 as an introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants;

Section 1- 37-38

“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.  What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth shall pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

Here we have a claimed statement from the Lord that there are no excuses.  And the prophecies and promises made by Joseph Smith on His behalf will all be fulfilled. 

So far, none that we have encountered have remotely come to pass.   

 

Since Joseph Smith failed repeatedly in his ability to function as a legitimate prophet of God, he is to be forever seen as one who speaks presumptuously for the Lord and is in reality, a false prophet.

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Article Bible References

  • Deuteronomy 18:22

I Never Knew You – Part 1

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Chris

I was listening to an October 2016 General Conference address given by LDS Apostle David Bednar

Elders lets look at a talk given by Apostle David Bednar at the October 2016 General Conference.

Elder Smith

Is that the one titled, “I never knew you?” 

Chris

That’s the one.  Elder Bednar began his talk with a passage taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-23.  His point was to emphasize that, the Lord’s statement in the King James Version, “I never knew you,” was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to read “Ye never knew ME.”  

Then Elder Bednar recites in the King James Bible the Parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-12, where Jesus tells the foolish virgins “I know ye not.”  And again, Elder Bednar explains that the King James Version was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to read, Ye know ME not.” 

At the end of his talk found on lds.org or ChurchofJesusChrist.org – under references – you’ll find the footnotes to these JST passages. 

Elder Young

Thats why we believe Joseph Smith to be an inspired prophet of God.

Chris

Yeah well, it’s interesting the Lord inspired Joseph Smith to revise the word of God by taking out the incorrect wording and replacing it with what should have been in there.  But Elder Bednar makes a critical mistake in using the Joseph Smith Translation to prove his point.

Elder Smith

How so?

Chris

If we turn to the Book of Mormon – which is claimed to be the “most correct book,” – we find the Sermon at the temple in Bountiful, where Jesus supposedly appeared to the Nephites following His resurrection.  Would you please read 3 Nephi 14:23?

Elder Smith

 

“And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  

Chris

Notice anything there?

Elder Young

3 Nephi 14:23 is word-for-word the same as it is in the King James Version of Matthew 7:23.

Chris

Exactly, including the same phrase “I never knew you.” 

Elder Smith

Look, here in the footnote of 3 Nephi 14:23.  It cross-references another Book of Mormon passage, Mosiah 26:27 “And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” 

Chris

Do you see the mistake Elder Bednar made in using the Joseph Smith Translation?

Elder Young

It seems that the Book of Mormon agrees the King James Version and not the Joseph Smith Translation.  That’s confusing.

Chris

I think it’s very clear.  You not only have two verses in the King James Bible – but also two verses in the Book of Mormon – which was supposedly translated by the gift and power of God – that differ with the Joseph Smith Translation. 

Elder Smith

I wonder why – If it was good enough for the Lord to be quoted in the Bible and substantiated in the Book of Mormon – why did Joseph Smith feel it necessary to change the Lord’s words in his Inspired Version? 

Chris

And what was Elder Bednar thinking?  Why, is the footnote in Elder Bednar’s talk only referencing Matthew 7 and not, 3 Nephi 13 and Mosiah 26

Elder Young

I don’t know.

Chris

Is it because Joseph Smith copied the “Sermon at the temple” in 3 Nephi from the King James Bible “Sermon on the Mount?”

 

Look Elders – If you have a modern-day apostle telling its members in a world-wide General Conference that the Bible is wrong and the Joseph Smith Translation is inspired – in spite of what was just pointed out in the Book of Mormon – as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what do you do with that information?  

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Acts 22-28 ~ Come Follow Me

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Is there any comparison between Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and Joseph Smith’s vision in the woods in New York? 

 This will be our last lesson from the Book of Acts.  The manual states that Paul’s “errand from the Savior was ‘to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:15).  In chapters 22-28 of Acts, we see Paul fulfilling this errand and facing great opposition – chains, imprisonment, physical abuse, a shipwreck, and even a snake attack.  But we also see that Jesus ‘stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul’ (Acts 23:11).”

Paul had been falsely accused, arrested, and kept in prison for a couple of years by Felix the Roman ruler of Judea.  When Felix was replaced by Festus as ruler – Paul was brought before him.  Acts 25:7-8 “And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood around about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.  While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.”  The high priest and others wanted Festus to send Paul to Jerusalem in order that he might be killed there.  The reason is because Paul had preached openly about Jesus being crucified for the sins of the world and he affirmed that Jesus rose from the dead.  Had Festus been persuaded by their rhetoric – it is possible that he would have been killed.  But God had promised Paul back in Chapter 23 that he would “bear witness to the truth at Rome,” and nothing was going to stop that from happening.  So, Paul was kept at Caesarea.  Acts 25:10 “Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.”  Festus did not dare deny Paul the protection of the Roman laws, since Paul was a Jewish Roman citizen.  Acts 25:12 “Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt thou go.”

Days later, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, who was also his unlawful wife,  came to Caesarea to pay Festus a visit.  This Agrippa was the son of Herod Agrippa who was the great grandson of Herod the Great.  He was known as Agrippa II.  Festus explains Paul’s situation to Agrippa and says that he insisted that Paul get a fair hearing even though the Jewish leaders wanted to convict him.  Acts 25:22 “Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself, Tomorrow, said he, thou, shalt hear him.”  So, the next day Paul is brought before Agrippa and Bernice.  Which brings us to Paul and his eloquent response in chapter 26.   Verses 1-3 “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, thou art permitted to speak for thyself.  Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.”  Paul was openly telling Agrippa that he was blessed to have someone who could understand where he was coming from.  Remember Agrippa was a Jew, himself.  At Verse 4 Paul begins his actual speech.  He recounts his youth as a Jew and becoming an educated Pharisee.  He knew and lived and followed the Law and traditions of the elders.  Then the bomb!  Verse 6 “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers.”  In other words, Paul is proving that what he is offering the world is a fulfillment of what they as a nation had long taught and believed.  And what was this that Paul was saying – God promised unto the forefathers of the faith – the HOPE of the promise!  The promise had been given all throughout the Old Testament that the Hope of Israel – the Messiah would come.  Paul was saying that God was true, and he, Paul, was a witness to this Messiah, even Jesus Christ.  That the Messiah did come and do what God said He would do.  Having established this Paul now asks Verse 8 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”  I think the bottom line to it all is that they rejected the resurrection of Jesus – because if they accepted it, they would have had to let go of their former ideas and beliefs and allow Christ to reign.  That was too much for them. 

At this point, Paul steps back into his biography and begins to admit in Verses 9-18 that he himself had things against this Jesus of Nazareth.  So, Paul is retelling here an account of his conversion whereby he presents the evidence that he was called of God to do what he had done.  I need to mention that the manual states: “The book of Acts contains three accounts of Paul’s miraculous vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-20; 22:1-21; 26:9-20).  Each of these accounts is slightly different from the others, and some provide more detail than others.  Because the accounts were told to different audiences for different purposes, it is reasonable that Paul chose to emphasize different parts of the experience for each audience.”  I can’t argue with that statement.  But then the manual tries to compare the three accounts of Paul’s vision by stating that: “Similarly Joseph Smith recorded several accounts of his First Vision (see “First Vision Accounts,” Gospel Topic Essays, lds.org).  The various accounts were given to different audiences for different purposes and provide insights that would not be available if only one account existed.”   The book of Acts from which we have all three accounts of Paul’s vision was authored or written by one person, Luke.  There is also one account in Galatians 1:11-16 in addition to several references to Paul’s vision, conversion, or commission elsewhere in Paul’s epistles (1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:8-9; Romans 1:4-5; Ephesians 3:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11-12).  Luke agrees independently with Paul’s epistles with regard, to the “who, what, when, where, and why” of Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ.  Since Peter and other apostles accepted Paul as an apostle – clearly they had accepted his claim that the resurrected Christ had appeared to him.  As an apostle, Paul articulated a revolutionary way of life based on love that broke down barriers and lifted human beings.  Paul lived a life devoid of material wealth, power, and sexual fulfillment yet without advocating retreat from ordinary life.  Paul suffered unjustly and repeatedly throughout his ministry and finally died for his testimony to the risen Christ. 

The LDS church’s approach to deflecting criticisms of Joseph Smith’s – nine first vision accounts – are to argue that similar issues pertain to Paul’s vision.  However, the comparative argument fails because it is based on isolated points of comparison rather than on comparing the two cases of Paul and Joseph as wholes.  It is evident that the case for Paul’s vision is quite strong, while the case AGAINST Joseph’s vision is just as strong.  The Mormons often point out that there are differences in the various New Testament accounts of Paul’s “first vision” of the risen Christ.  No one argues that Joseph Smith should have told the story with the same details and in the same words every time.  Thus, it is irrelevant that Luke’s report of Paul’s defense before Agrippa has a lengthier account of Jesus’ words to Paul than Luke’s other, parallel accounts of the same event.  Specifically, Mormons appeal to the apparent discrepancy as to whether Paul’s companions heard Christ’s voice or not (Acts 9:7; 22:9).  An obvious explanation of the discrepancy is that in Acts 9:7 they heard the voice, while in Acts 22:9 means they did not understand the voice.  The Mormons would argue that if Acts can have discrepancies in its accounts of Paul’s vision, and yet that vision still have taken place, Joseph Smith can have discrepancies in his accounts of his own vision and yet that vision still have occurred.  But this argument fails for three reasons:  First, the apparent discrepancy in Acts is a very minor, inconsequential difference that has nothing to do with the credibility of Paul’s having seen the risen Christ.  The difference does not come close to being as significant as whether Joseph saw God the Father!  Second, the discrepancies in Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision are significant because the accounts were given at various times over a period of several years and paralleled his evolving theology during those years from monotheist to polytheist.  Nothing like that is going on with the accounts in Acts.  These accounts appear in the same book, produced at the same time, and therefore cannot be evidence of Paul (or Luke) changing the story with the passing of time.  Third, there are good reasons to think that the two statements in Acts are not contradictory after all, but complementary.  To say that someone could not “hear” what someone else said – can mean that he did not hear the sounds – or that he did not hear them well enough to make out the specific words.  Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus enjoys rich evidential support and is critical as an explanation for his dramatic conversion from persecutor of the church to apostle to the Gentiles.  By contrast, Joseph Smith’s vision of Jesus Christ and God the Father in 1820 is not only sorely lacking in evidence but is utterly lacking in credibility on a wide array of fronts.  That is why the manual’s attempt to compare Paul and Joseph’s visions is neither logical nor reasonable.

Then Paul ends his speech before King Agrippa by saying in Verses 19-23 that he did what God had called him to – by preaching the Good News to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God.”  “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”  In hearing this, Festus shouts at Paul “are you mad?”  Paul calmly replies in Verse 25 “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”  Built into Paul’s response is the challenge: Test what I am saying against scripture.  Challenge my testimony or witness but do not prematurely decide that I am wrong until you do.  After defending his words of truth and wisdom, Paul turns to King Agrippa who was a Jew and says in Verse 26 “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.”  Agrippa would have been well acquainted with Moses and the prophets, the expectation of a Messiah, and the promise of His coming.  He would have known of Pilate and Jesus’ death and perhaps even heard of His resurrection.

At this point Paul directly asks and answers for Agrippa.  Verse 27 “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know thou believest.”  When he asked Agrippa, “do you believe the prophets?”  Perhaps the King swallowed hard, and the expression on his face gave away his conviction.  Because after a moment – Paul said kindly, “I know you believe.”  After Paul confirms this knowledge to King Agrippa, the Spirit was calling to the man.  And in that space, the king had a choice.   Verse 28 “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian.”  We all want King Agrippa opportunities in life.  We may have helped someone come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior – but it is not our job to convert anyone.  That responsibility is the Holy Spirit’s.  Ultimately, the person has to choose.  Considering the fact that Agrippa was a King sold out to the Romans, was illegally married to his own sister Bernice, and he was rich – there was just too much for him to lose – too much at stake.  Verse 29 “And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”  Paul is saying – this is my earnest desire, that with the exception of these chains, this bondage that I am in, I would to God that all within my voice could be as I am.  There was nothing Paul could do to overcome Agrippa’s heart – that would need to be a work of God.  Verse 32 “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” 

The rest of the chapters in the Book of Acts chronicle Paul’s harrowing voyage to Rome – as a prisoner where he was to be tried and executed.  But, in the weeks ahead – we will be richly fed from the letters Paul wrote to the saints in various locations. 

And, that concludes our study of Acts.  Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.

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Acts 16-21 ~ Come Follow Me

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Does the New Testament teach that all human beings are literal “offspring” of Heavenly parents?  Does God dwell in Mormon temples?

Okay, we are more than half-way through the book of Acts.  Today’s chapters describe two of Paul’s missionary journeys with his companion Silas.  We begin with Acts 16:5 “And so were the churches (ekklesia – assemblies) established in the faith, and increased in number daily.”  But, during their travels Paul and Silas are taken into custody for their preaching.  They were ordered by some magistrates to be stripped of their clothes and beaten.  Then the Jailor having been given strict orders, threw Paul and Silas into prison where their feet were locked in the stocks, so there was no chance they would escape.  Verse 25 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”  What an attitude these men had!  We often praise God in times of gratitude and joy, but do we – like these men – praise God in times of pain and trial and discouragement?  From this event, we are reminded that our joy comes from within – not from without. 

Verse 26 “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”  This was truly the power of God doing His miraculous work of liberation.  Verses 27-28 “And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here”  Verse 29 “Then he called for a light (a torch), and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,”  It suggests that the guard was aware of something supernatural occurring, for there would really be no other reason for him to come in trembling.  He probably had been hearing their songs and prayers to God through the night which was preparing his heart.  Then – BOOM – a sudden shake that opened the doors and loosed their stocks.   The jailor may have desired to have the kind of faith in God like Paul and Silas had even before the earthquake.   He wanted to be saved from himself and to be saved to peace and truth – the way Paul and Silas were.  He asks them in Verse 30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  He merely wanted what these men were promising and teaching and, what they themselves possessed.  Often – even today – people have no idea about who God is, who Jesus is, what the Gospel is really about – but they want answers to the meaning of life and fulfillment.  So, he asks Paul and Silas, “What must (or can) I do to be saved?” 

Before we read Paul’s answer –

What would you say to someone who asked this question of you?  “What can I do to be saved?”  The LDS response – “Have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, receive temple covenants, keep all the commandments including word of wisdom, paying tithing, receiving the priesthood and last but not least – endure to the end – but there is no promise that you’ll be saved until you die and are judged.”  What was Paul’s response to the jailor’s question “what must I do to be saved?”  Verse 31 “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”   It was basically the same thing Peter said to Cornelius back in Acts Chapter 10.  When we talk about being saved – we are talking about placing our trust in Jesus.  Faith in Him alone is the saving grace we are talking about.  The jailor was not asked by Paul if he felt worthy enough.  The response was clear and concise – “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Meaning – believe that Jesus paid for our sins and, that He lived the perfect life we will never live.  He is enough!  There is nothing we can do to add to being saved – but to believe.  Verse 32 “And they (Paul and Silas) spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.”  So, they shared the good news of the gospel.  

Let’s move on to Chapter 17 in ActsVerse 10 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.”  For their safety they were sent unto Berea, which was a city of Macedonia.  And they went directly into the synagogue.  At this point Luke makes a comparison between what Paul and Silas found in Thessalonica and what they discovered in Berea, saying Verse 11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  Those in Berea were more noble because they received the word with more readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily to see whether the things Paul and Silas were teaching were true.  These Berean’s hadn’t let their predispositions get in their way.  They didn’t allow their prejudices to stop them from considering what Paul and Silas taught.  They nobly received the word with open, eager minds AND then, they searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were told measures up.  It cannot get better than this.  I mean, a person who will first hear and then test what they are being told against scripture.  That is the perfect description for a seeker of God and truth, in my estimation.  This is the key to conversion.  If we are willing to test all things – we should have no need to fear anything.  I remember when I was having doubts about my faith in the religion of my up-bringing – I asked myself, “if the LDS Church wasn’t true – would I honestly want to know?”  Yes, of course!  If it is true, then it will past the test of scripture, right?  As I earnestly searched the scriptures daily, I compared the fundamental teachings and doctrines of Mormonism with the Scriptures – the Word of God – to find out whether my high-demand, works-based religion was so.  And you know what?  The method works.  And, I had my answer – just like what was described in Verse 12 “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”  The Bible provided the standard of truth that can be used as a measuring stick for truth.  If individuals or churches teaching anything contrary to what the Word of God says – those individuals or churches are not teaching truth.  They are false teachers and prophets presenting a different gospel. 

Paul now travels to Athens where – as it says in Verse 16 “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.”  In the absence of a visible tangible God – our tendency to worship the tangible is irresistible.  And idolatry is as rampant today as it was back in among the Greeks.  If we look at the first two of the ten commandments: 1) There is one God and we are to have no other God’s before Him.  2) Make no graven images.  And so, here in Athens, Paul begins to dispute with the Jews and Greeks.  Verses 22-23 “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mar’s Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.  For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”  By rearing this altar these Jews and Greeks acknowledged their need of instruction.  Paul challenges their ignorance by stating in Verse 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;”  Paul speaks of God as the Creator of ALL things in heaven and in earth.  Thus, opposing their opinions that there were many gods.  Also, emphasizing that this One True and Living God does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Did you hear that my Latter-day Saint friends?  God does not dwell in man-made temples.  Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ does not enter into the holy places made with hands.  Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 that WE are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.  Paul’s intention was to introduce them to the Only True God – who to them thus far was unknowable.  As Jesus said in John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” 

It is in the coming verses we find a troubling misinterpretation of God’s Word.  Acts 17:26-28 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”  This shows the foreknowledge, the love, the planning, of God, to set forth before all peoples – from every land – the truth of Himself.  He has established their boundaries in His time so that we might all want to seek after Him.  From what Paul says here – the very design of God placing man on earth in their specific habitation was so that at some point in time they would  desire to seek Him and come to a knowledge of His existence and character – and therefore obtain life eternal. 

Here the manual states “As you examine Acts 17:24-31 together, consider discussing the truth taught in Verse 29 ‘We are the offspring of God,’ meaning that Heavenly Father is the literal Father of our spirits… What does this fact that we are children of God teach us about God? about ourselves?”   Let me put this in context.  Paul was raised in Tarsus, a Greek city of Cilicia that was under Roman control.  He was familiar with Greek writers to a certain extent even though he was a devout Jew.  In Cilicia was a poet by the name of Aratus and he wrote a hymn to Jupiter that includes the line, “For we are also His offspring.”  Appealing to the wisdom they possessed here in Athens, Paul cites this particular poet.  The word “offspring” here is also translated “kin.”  Are we “kin” to God?  We are His only kin as we are made in His image.  We are literal creations made in the image of the invisible God – with the means to reason and choose – and are in fact, His created offspring.  Mormonism has misconstrued the meaning of Acts 17:28-29 by reading into the text an idea that is not there.  Here’s the context.  Paul was preaching to the Athenians. They weren’t believers in the true God.  But despite their unbelief, Paul goes on to affirm that we are all offspring of God.  Why?  Simply because God is the Creator of us all.  Whether we believe in Him or not, all of us were nevertheless created by Him, and thus are rightly called His offspring.  God is the Father of all humanity in the sense that He created all humanity.  Acts 17:28-30 says nothing at all in support of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother or Mothers giving birth to billions of spirit children.  The emphasis in these verses are on God’s creation, not procreation.  Show me a single reference in any book written by any of the New Testament authors that explicitly states that humans pre-existed in spirit-bodies.  Show me in the Book of Mormon for that matter.  It can’t be done.

The first part of Verse 28 says, “For IN HIM we LIVE, and MOVE, and HAVE our being.”  These are words to describe the whole of us.  In Him we have our very lives, our every move, our being.  We should love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength.

 

And, that concludes our study.  Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.

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Why I Left Mormonism – Part 2

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I read in John 1:12,13which really had an impact.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor or the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I can see how that beautiful passage would have an, effect on you – or anyone for that matter. 

Exactly! You see, to a Mormon, the “power to become the sons of God” refers to the power or potential to become exalted.  Latter-day Saints love to sing the song “I am a Child of God” because they believe everyone comes to earth from the pre-existence as a son or daughter of immortal heavenly parents.  Mormonism teaches that every human being is born a child of God. 

That’s not what the Bible teaches.  We don’t inherit our sonship from God.  To a Christian, verses 12 and 13, means that as many as received Jesus as their Savior – He will grant the right and privilege for the new birth.  No one can attain this new birth by his or her own power, merit, or ability.  Only God can grant it.  It is a gift of God. 

Then is says in verse 14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  According to The Proclamation on the Family, the LDS Church teaches that in pre-mortality, all of us, including Jesus were begotten and born as spirit children of heavenly parents.  But that Jesus was the only mortal whose father was literally Heavenly Father.  Thus, to a Mormon, Jesus is the Only Begotten of the Father as a mortal. 

 

But as Christians we believe verse 14 is saying that God became incarnate by taking on a mortal body.  He was “begotten of the Father” – meaning, He was uniquely qualified.  Christ – the Logos – did not cease to be the Logos when He became flesh.  Christ still had the fulness of the shekinah glory in Him, but that glory was veiled so he could function in the world of humanity.  This is the mystery of the Incarnation: Christ – the Logos – was not part God and part man, but fully God and fully human, as it says in Colossians 2:9.  Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form. (Philippians 2:5-9)

Another big verse for both the LDS and Christians is Verse 18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”  Joseph Smith twisted this scripture in the Joseph Smith Translation to read “And no man hath seen God at any time, EXCEPT HE HATH BORNE RECORD OF THE SON; for except it is through him no man can be saved.” 

The LDS rely on Smith’s translation to support their belief that God supposedly appeared in Joseph Smith’s First Vision.  But Christians believe the King James Version as being correct in saying that “no man has seen God at any time.” 

That’s because it is supported by other verses in the Bible that teach that no man has or can see God.  1 Timothy 1:17 and Hebrews 11:27 teaches that God is invisible.  1 John 4:12 clearly states “No man hath seen God at any time.”  The Bible teaches that some have seen His glory, but no one has seen Him, because He is Spirit – not an immortal resurrected exalted man – like Mormonism teaches. 

Even the Book of Mormon refers to God as the Great Spirit in Alma 18:24-28; Alma 19:25-27; Alma 22:9-11; Alma 31:15. There is absolutely no mention in the Book of Mormon that God has a body.  Only that God was Spirit. 

I think we can state the obvious here – The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity.

 

I arrived at this conclution after reading the first chapter of John’s gospel.  LDS Church President and Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley agrees with us as well.  Let me read from the LDS Church News, June 20, 1998, p.7.  The paper reports, “In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ,’ ‘No, I don’t.  The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.”

 

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Why I Left Mormonism – Part 1

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Ava

Chris, when did you realize as a Mormon that – what you had been taught, believed, and practiced all your life, was a lie?


Chris

Well, Ava – I had returned from an LDS mission, got married in the temple, was very active in the Church, when I began to feel that something was missing in my spiritual walk.  That something, I recognized was a greater relationship with my Savior.  I decided one day to read the New Testament but this time with fresh eyes.  I started with the, Gospel of John and remember asking God to help me understand the truth of who He is.  I barely got through the first three verses in chapter 1, when an awakening started to happen within me. 

Ava

What did those verses say?

 

Chris

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”   

 

Ava

So, what kind of awakening were you experiencing?

 

Chris

I realized the significance of those verses:   In the beginning – from before anything else – the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And – ALL things – were made or created by Him THAT caused me to stop and ask – EVERYTHING?  What does everything mean? (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 44:24; Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)

 

Ava

And why was that so astonishing? 

 

Chris

That meant the Word – who I soon realized in this chapter was Jesus – had always existed.  He was uncreated.  He didn’t start out as a literal spirit child from heavenly parents in the pre-existence as I had understood in Mormonism.  He didn’t earn His status as deity.  He has always been God.  And, if He created all things, then The Word – God – preincarnate Jesus – created Lucifer and all of us.  That meant that neither Satan, nor human beings could be spirit children of heavenly parents.  Nor could Jesus be our elder spirit brother.   Jesus is equal with YHWY, yet He is distinct from YHWY. 

Having considered myself, a student of the Scriptures – how did I miss this!  How did I read these verses before and never understand what they meant?

 

Ava

Probably because you had always viewed scripture through the lens of Mormonism. 

I think when we read the next couple of verses, it might make sense why you missed the true message about Jesus.  It says in, Verses 4 and 5 of John “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and darkness comprehended it not.” 

Could it be that the darkness of lies and deception of Mormonism blinded you from seeing and comprehending truth?

 

Chris

Oh, absolutely!  Like the blind man who Jesus healed in John chapter 9, I realized that God had given me new in-sight.  Once I had been blind – now I could see.  As I read in John 1:4, He is the giver of life since He is the Creator.  He also gives Eternal Life to all those who believe on Him.  The light of Jesus as it says in John 1:5, penetrates and enlightens the hearts and minds of men and women.  When Christ’s light shines, we can see our sin – and His glory.  We can also refuse to see the light – and remain in darkness. 

“I have to go but next time I want to tell you the rest of the story.”

 

Ava

 

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