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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False Prophecies of Joseph Smith – Copyright©

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If Joseph Smith’s revelations were proven false or fraudulent how can we possibly accept anything in the Book of Mormon or anything Smith ever said?

As a Christian, I trust the Bible to be the Word of God.  In ancient times, God spoke to His chosen people through His prophets.  God knew there would be other men pretending to be prophets but – who were no more than mere counterfeits.

 And God gave us a fool-proof test to know if someone is a true prophet of God.  It says, 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.” 

And in Jeremiah 14:14 “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”

It seems that Joseph Smith fits those descriptions.  Didn’t he make prophecies that did not come to past?

Yes!  There is a classic example in LDS Church history called the Canadian Copyright Episode.  This event was recorded during the winter of 1829 and 1830 in a publication called “An Address to All Believers in Christ, pp. 30-31” by David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

When Smith desperately needed more money to complete the printing of the Book of Mormon, his brother Hyrum Smith suggested to Joseph that some men could go to Canada and sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon.  Smith agreed to ask the Lord by looking into the hat in which he placed the seer stone.    

I guess a traditional prayer wasn’t reliable enough for an answer to this question?  

Joseph claimed he received a revelation that some of the brethren should go on a mission to Toronto Canada. There, they would be successful in selling the copyright.  So, Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery traveled to Toronto, but they were unable to sell the copyright and returned without any money.  Smith was asked point blank, why God had forsaken them, having commanded them to go? 

Joseph didn’t know why the prophesy didn’t come to pass. So surprisingly – he enquired of the Lord by going back to the same seer stone in a hat to get an explanation from God. 

That seems bizarre.  So, what did the hat reveal this time?

He was told that the initial revelation was not from God after all.  He then supposedly received a NEW revelation. Smith said, “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.”

So, Smith admitted that he could not actually tell if his ideas came from God, from Satan or simply out of his own head – or in this case – the hat.  But then, how could Smith even be sure this second revelation was from God. How could he ever be sure of any revelation?

It did, however, give Smith a ‘Get out of jail free’ card to use in the future if anything else went wrong with his prophesying.  Revelations that succeed – come from God.  And, the ones that fail are either wishful thinking or, snuck in by Satan who can deceive the prophet. 

Smith couldn’t lose, whatever the outcome of his revelations.  Where then does that leave the reliability of any revelation coming from a supposed prophet?  Putting faith in something, with a such a small chance of it being from God is very risky.  Especially when it effects someone’s life. 

This also means about two thirds of Smith’s other revelations and scriptures are then completely false by the simple laws of probability. 

The fact that almost everything Smith taught and wrote has now been exposed as false, means that in reality nothing can be trusted as being from God, and that Smith made it up as he went along. 

How then, if he thought at the time it was a revelation, can we possibly accept anything written or said by Joseph Smith?

 

We can’t, since Smith himself didn’t even know if he could trust what he thought was revelation.  

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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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Kinderhook Plates – Part 2

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Following the discovery of the six Kinderhook plates in 1843 that supposedly had ancient writing on them, what ever became of those plates?

During the Civil War the plates were thought to be lost.  However, some time in the 1960’s, Wilford Poulson a professor at Brigham Young University, found one of the original plates #5 in the Chicago Historical Society Museum.  After examining the plate, Professor Poulson believed it to be a forgery. 

 

Welby Ricks, who was President of the BYU Archaeological Society, welcomed the discovery as a vindication of Joseph Smith’s work.  He wrote, “A recent rediscovery of one of the Kinderhook plates, which was examined by Joseph Smith, Jun., reaffirms his prophetic calling and reveals the false statements made by one of the finders.  The plates are now back in their original category of genuine.  Joseph Smith, Jun., stands as a true prophet and translator of ancient records by divine means and all the world is invited to investigate the truth which has sprung out of the earth not only of the Kinderhook plates, but of the Book of Mormon as well.” 

In 1980, LDS scholar Stanley P. Kimball was permitted to perform destructive tests on the #5 plate.  He described the results of the tests in the LDS Church publication, The Ensign, August 1981, pp. 66-70.  The article says, “A recent electronic and chemical analysis of a metal plate brought in 1843 to the prophet Joseph Smith appears to solve a previously unanswered question in Church history, helping to further evidence that the plate is what its producers later said it was – a nineteenth-century attempt to lure Joseph Smith into making a translation of ancient-looking characters that had been etched into the plates.  As a result of these tests, we conclude that the plate is not of ancient origin.  We conclude that the plate was made from a true brass alloy (copper and zinc) typical of the mid-nineteenth century; whereas the ‘brass’ of ancient times was actually bronze, and alloy of copper and tin.”

If Joseph Smith had not been shot and killed in June 1844, it is very possible he might have published a finished translation of all six of the counterfeit plates.  Wouldn’t that have been interesting?

What is the Church’s position on the Kinderhook plates, today?

The Church defended the authenticity of the plates and Joseph’s translations of them since their discovery in 1843 up to 1980 – 137 years!  Following the destructive testing, the Church backed off its claim that the plates were real.  Now the Church claims it was all a hoax.    

Smith made the claim that he could translate the ancient writings on the plates.  And in fact, did translate some of them.

It should be obvious that Smith’s work on these fraudulent plates casts serious doubt upon his credibility as a translator of other ancient records like, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.  We already know from the Church’s Gospel Topica Essay found on lds.org titled: “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham” that the Book of Abraham isn’t a true translation of ancient Egyptian papyri.  The Church now admits that. 

After disproving the Kinderhook plates and the Book of Abraham translation, am I now supposed to trust Joseph Smith when he claims to have translated the Book of Mormon written in an unknown language in Reformed Egyptian from a – rock in a hat? 

 

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Book of Abraham – Part 2

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What became of the papyrus scrolls – that the Book of Abraham was translated from.

Once Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, the papyri collection remained in the possession of his widow, Emma.  Remember she refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young, and remained in Nauvoo with her children while the Saints moved west to the Utah Territory.

In October of 1880, the Book of Abraham was included in The Pearl of Great Price which was officially canonized at the Church’s semi-annual General Conference in Salt Lake City. 

The Introduction to the Book of Abraham reads, “The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”

Allow me to fill in a crucial time gap.  Nearly forty years passed from the time Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, until it was officially recognized as sacred Scripture of the LDS Church.  However, during that period something occurred which neither Joseph nor any of his contemporaries could have foreseen. 

After many years of dedicated work on the Rosetta Stone, scholars were able to decipher the ancient Egyptian language.  It was now possible for scholars to translate accurately Egyptian texts and to understand their contexts. 

Initially, it did not appear likely that this new development would impact the isolated Mormon Church in Utah. 

What happened to the papyrus scrolls that Emma had?

Those scrolls and mummies were eventually sold by Emma in 1856, making their way to the Museum of Chicago.  They were then presumed destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871.  But those papyri had not been destroyed.  Lost, yes – but not forever.  They were to one day reappear. 

One Spring day in 1966, a professor of Arabic Studies from the University of Utah entered one of the vault rooms of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeking material for a book he was writing.  Dr. Aziz Atiya came across a file that contained a forgotten collection of Egyptian papyri.  The papyri had been glued to stiff backing paper in the 19th-century in an, effort to preserve them.  The reverse sides of the paper contained such things as architectural drawings of a temple and maps of Kirtland, Ohio.

Was Dr. Atiya was nor a mormon, but he recognized the collection as having a connection with the history of the LDS Church.  Dr. Atiya arranged for the LDS Church to acquire this collection from the museum.     

On November 27, 1967 the Salt Lake Deseret Newspaper announced the discovery of the original papyri from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. 

Questions quickly rose – Would the arguments of critics be overcome and silenced at last?  Would Joseph’s work finally be justified before the eyes of a skeptical world?  The Saints waited expectantly and held their breath.

We can only imagine the anticipation since the LDS Church had been criticized all those years for not having the Gold Plates to validate the Book of Mormon, and the ancient Egyptian papyri to validate the Book of Abraham. 

Finally there were highly educated Egyptologists who could translate the writings on the papyrus to let everyone know if it was truly what Joseph claimed it to be – the Book of Abraham.

Next time we meet, I will share with you how that turns out. 

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I Never Knew You – Part 1
– 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 contradictory statements 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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This is not a simple acknowledging that He is God. This is a deep personal conviction that Jesus is our Lord. It includes repenting, trusting, and submitting to Him as Lord.
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Book of Abraham – Part 1

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Have you ever prayed to know if the Book of Abraham is true?

Does the promise in the Book of Mormon – to pray and ask God if it is true – doesn’t apply to the Book of Abraham?

How can you trust that the Book of Abraham is the word of God?

Latter Day Saints believe they have to have faith that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that he had the gift to translate.

From ancient Egyptian into 16th-century Kings James English, no less. 

Are you aware that – what Joseph Smith claimed to be a correct translation of the Book of Abraham – has since been proven to be a fraud?

Let me begin, by sharing with you some of your own church history.

In 1835 a traveling showman – Michael Chandler – brought an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts to the Mormon town of Kirtland, Ohio.  Those artifacts consisted of four ancient Egyptian mummies and two papyrus scrolls.  Because the Latter-day Saints believed their prophet Joseph Smith had the gift to translate the Book of Mormon gold plates that were inscribed in “reformed Egyptian”, those same Mormons believed Joseph might want to see if the papyri were of any religious value. 

Joseph examined the hieroglyphics on the scrolls and declared them to be the writings of Abraham and the writings of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. 

Despite the severe financial, problems the church was suffering at that time, the Mormons purchased the scrolls for $2,400 – a large sum of money in those days. 

Joseph immediately began the translation of the first scroll.  He stated, “I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 2:235-236)

Consequently, he never began the translation of the supposed writings of Joseph of Egypt. 

In the eyes of the church members, this translation of Abraham’s record validated Joseph as a “prophet, seer, and revelator.” 

Contained with in it were unique and distinct doctrines. 

the pre-existence of spirits

eternal progression, and

the plurality of gods. 

It also introduced the first and only scriptural basis for denying the priesthood to people with black skin.

You’ll find the “curse of Cain” referred to in Abraham 1:21-27.

The value and impact of the Book of Abraham was recognized at once by the faithful, and Joseph continued to expound upon its contents in lectures and sermons right up to the time of his death. 

When we meet again, I would like to tell you what became of the papyrus scrolls.  It’s an intriguing story that you’ll want to hear.

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Atonement – Part 3

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In a recent General Conference address, LDS Church President, Russell M. Nelson made a comment about the location of where Christ atoned for the sins of the world. 

LDS.org under the talk titled: The Correct Name of the Church.  “In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior took upon Himself every pain, every sin, and all of the anguish and suffering ever experienced by me and by everyone who has ever lived or will ever live.  Under the weight of that excruciating burden, He bled from every pore.  All of this suffering was intensified as He was cruelly crucified on Calvary’s cross.”

In light of that statement, I have to mention that neither the Bible nor any Mormon Scripture specifically state that the atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Because to have the atonement occur in the garden would be contrary to the narrative of the entire Word of God.

In Old Testament times, redemption was demonstrated through the ceremonial sacrifice of an animal.  God made it clear that forgiveness would be provided only through the DEATH of an innocent substitute that represented the payment for the penalty of sin. 

But never did an animal sit somewhere alone in a pasture and suffer as a substitute sacrifice for sin.  The LDS focus on the Garden of Gethsemane has absolutely no biblical connection to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, which was a picture of the shedding of the Lord’s blood which occurred where?  On the cross. 

But the New Testament does say that He suffered great agony in the garden. 

The garden is where He suffered great agony in His humanity over the impending pain and suffering that would culminate with His death on the cross.  His will was to do the Father’s will, but His flesh was shrinking at the thought of being beaten and crucified.  Can you imagine how scared any of us would be if we were put in the same situation?

But it say’s here in Luke 22:44 that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Isn’t that considered “shedding blood?”

The way it is written suggests that His sweat was so profuse that the drops of sweat were heavy like what great drops of blood would look like.  The fact that only Dr. Luke, the physician, records this account makes it more likely that he was using a figure of speech. 

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus prays in the garden three times to the Father that if it be possible, “this cup” – meaning His taking on our sin – would pass from Him, but that God’s will be done. 

Once Jesus was outside the garden facing the temple soldiers, Peter acts rashly by cutting off Malchus’ ear.  Jesus then says to Peter as recorded in John 18:11, “Put up thy sword unto the sheath; THE CUP which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

Jesus is implying to Peter, “I just overcame the temptation to follow My own will.  And now you are stepping in to impede what I was sent to do, which is to take away the sins of the world by drinking THE CUP.  Put away your sword and let me precede to the cross, that I may do my Father’s will.”

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Mormonism vs. Book of Mormon

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Didn’t
Joseph Smith claim the Book of Mormon to be “the most
correct book on earth”?

That quote
is found in Joseph Smith’s, History of the Church vol.4
p.461 “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any
book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to
God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

I find it
interesting that today’s Mormonism has “precepts” and teachings that are not
found in the Book of Mormon.  In fact,
many of today’s Mormon doctrines contradicts the Book of Mormon.

Doesn’t
today’s Mormonism teach that there are, a plurality of Gods in the universe?  Not just the three separate God’s that
Mormons worship? 

Latter-day
Saints believe that there are innumerable God’s who have created their own
worlds and who are worshiped by their creations.

Yet, the
Book of Mormon teaches differently. 

2
Nephi 31:21

“And
now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way
nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of
God.  And now, behold, this is the
doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.  Amen.”

Alma
11: 26 and 29

“And
Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?”  “And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and
living God.”  “Now Zeezrom said: Is there
more than one God?”  “And he answered,
No.”

Pretty clear
what the teaching is – there is only one God.

Nowhere is a
plurality of gods supported by the Book of Mormon. 

Doesn’t
modern Mormonism teach that God was once a mortal man who became God, just like
all men have the capability to become?

The LDS call
this the plan of eternal progression.

This is an
excerpt from the book, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, p. 345, “I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show
what kind of being God is.  What sort of
being was God in the beginning?  God
himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in
yonder heavens!”

The Book of
Mormon like the Bible, teaches that God is unchangeable.  Look at Mormon 9:9, 19

“For
do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him
there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?  And if there were miracles wrought then, why
has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?  And behold, I say unto you he changeth not;
if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”

That must
mean that SINCE he has become God, he is unchangeable and will always be God.

Moroni
7:22

“For
behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting.”

Moroni
8:18

“For
I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is
unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

It all boils
down to whether or, not the Book of Mormon really is – “The
most correct book on earth.”  If
it is, then current Mormonism disagrees with its essential teachings. 

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Did Joseph Smith Write Himself into Scripture?

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2 Nephi 3:14-15

“And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled.  Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise; And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father.  And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.”

 

Who is that prophesy referring to?

Latter-Day Saints believe it was speaking into the future of Joseph Smith.

This passage is from the Book of Mormon for which we know there are no ancient documents or records to verify. 

And what’s the correlation?

You’ll need to read from the Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 50:33

“And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I given unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.”

Do you notice the similarities?

That reference to Joseph and his father is obviously, Joseph Smith Jr. and Joseph Smith Sr. 

Those corrections that Joseph Smith made do not appear in any of the numerous ancient Old Testament manuscripts.

So, what’s your point?

It’s apparent to me that both scriptural passages came through one man.  And it’s the same man who is the object of those prophecies – Joseph Smith. 

Doesn’t that seem self-serving and arrogant of Joseph Smith to write himself into the narrative of what is called Mormon scripture?


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Testing the Book of Mormon – Part 3

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Another test
we should put to the Book of Mormon is the Test of Archaeology.  This would be a test against history. 

The Book of
Mormon is full of supposed history – civilizations that lived in and populated
cities in what is known as the Americas. 

Though the
Bible wasn’t written as a history book, it also contains much history.  When we read of great cities and battles in
the Bible, archaeology continues to prove that the Bible is an accurate
representation of history.

What about the Book of Mormon?

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Latter-Day
Saints use Ether 15, where “two million” of the Jaredites were slain in
battle.  In this battle, “men, women and children were armed with weapons of war,
having shields, and breastplates, and head plates.” 

The previous
chapter says, that “so swift and speedy was the war
that there was none left to bury the dead.” 
Bodies were “strewn upon the face of the
land.”

2
Nephi 5:15 “to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of
brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which
were in great abundance.”

In Alma 11:5-6, it explains how the people had their own
monetary system, including unique coins and measurements of gold and silver.

Considering
the cities and millions upon millions of people (Nephites, Lamanites, People of Zarahemla, Jaredites, Jacobites, Josephbites,
Zoramites, Ishmaelites, People of Zeniff, People of Alma, Amlicites,
Amalekites, and others)
who had metal weapons, armor, and currency, one would expect the Americas
to be littered with archaeological confirmation. 

Is, there
any historical evidences that prove these civilizations existed at all?

Not so far.
As of today, there is zero evidence of any of the groups of the Book of
Mormon. 

On the other
hand, every year in the Holy Land, archaeologists are discovering weapons,
coins, animals, cities, and civilizations mentioned in the Bible. 

By the way,
where are the gold plates the Book of Mormon was reported to be translated
from?

They were
returned to the angel Moroni by Joseph Smith, when he was finished with the
translation.

In
comparison – the Bible is the most attested book of all antiquity.  There is an abundance of Hebrew and Greek
manuscripts that helps us place the Bible in history and show that even though
the Bible is 2,000 years old, we have every reason to believe what we have now
is complete. 

How many
Book of Mormon plates do we have access to? 
Zero!

Why would
God allow us to find thousands of manuscripts for the Bible, but then claim the
plates for the Book of Mormon were too precious to be kept on earth?

Maybe,
because God wanted us to believe in the Book of Mormon based on faith alone.
They say.

Without a
trace of evidence of its history? 
Doesn’t seem logical to me.

One more
thing – the Book of Mormon claims to have originally been written in what
language?

It says in Mormon 9:32 “reformed Egyptian.”  

And, no
historian or language expert has ever found evidence of such a language.                                           

You see
Elders, Christians are happy for historians to put the Bible on trial.  In fact, the more that happens, the more the
Bible is proven. 

However,
every time that historians put the Book of Mormon to the test, it always fails.

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