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Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14th, 2016

Blog Posts
I've been busy in the last three months, partly because of a new job, partly because I'm learning Russian, so I've had to let the blog take a back seat. I hope to start posting again in August or September, however. In the meantime, I'll repost some old posts, which you might not have seen. I hope that when I come back, you'll come back as well. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mormonism and Exaltation

Mormonism and Exaltation
By Sean Killackey
February 7th, 2016

“[Let us] obtain the salvation that is through Christ Jesus, along with everlasting glory. This saying is trustworthy: Certainly if we died together, we will also live together; if we go on enduring, we will also rule together as kings.” – 2 Timothy 2:10-12 NWT
                                                   
As show in the previous two essays (here and here), the doctrine of premortal (and pre-physical) existence is contradicted by the inspired word of God. Therefore the Mormon teaching that we can become like God is invalidated, since it is contingent on the “plan of salvation” which we agreed to in our non-existent premortal spirit state. This fact is indisputable if the conclusion arrived at previously is true; that being said, let’s examine (apart from any previous consideration) some evidence used by Mormons to argue that the doctrine of Exaltation is biblical.
“When we lived with our Heavenly Father,” says Gospel Principles (p. 275), “He explained a plan for our progression. We could become like Him, an exalted being. The plan required that we be separated from Him and come to earth . . . to prove whether we would obey our Father’s commandments even though we were no longer in His presence.” Our exaltation, says the same work, “is eternal life, the kind of life God lives,” that of a perfect and glorified creator.
Mormons say that Paul delineated this afterlife when he said that he “was caught away to the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2) This third, or highest heaven is called the Celestial Kingdom in Mormon theology, supposedly from authority of 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, which also calls the second heaven the Terrestial Kingdom. What of the lowest heaven? Mormon scriptures pick up where the Bible “falls silent.” “Through latter-day revelation [Doctrine and Covenants 76:81] we learn that the third kingdom is the telestial kingdom.”[1] (Ibid.) Does this three tiered concept of the afterlife hold up?
No. Firstly, Paul, at 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, does not contrast two kingdoms, or destinations for mankind, but the present earthly (what the King James Version renders as “terrestrial”) and the future heavenly (what the King James Version renders as “celestial”) bodies of those who will reign with Christ. No third category is even mentioned.[2] Two categories of bodies are contrasted, not two destinations. Further, only one of the types of bodies mentioned exists in the afterlife; our present, physical and corruptible body already exists. Therefore, any attempt to extrapolate two kingdoms from the two types of bodies fails, since all three kingdoms are entered into after death.[3]
Therefore, the Mormon three-part afterlife is misconstrued from a poor understanding of the Bible, rather than being a proper expansion of a nucleus of correct teaching. So, while Mormons rightly stress the need to do good to be worthy of salvation, this still remains a false doctrine, and is therefore dangerous. Let us avoid it and stick to healthful teaching.



[1] Depending on our faithfulness, Mormons say, we will be exalted into one of these three kingdoms.

[2] Paul does contrast three things in verse 41 (the sun, the moon and the other stars), but to say that these signify the three kingdoms of Mormon theology is unwise, since Paul then says that the individual stars vary from one another – are there, then, an uncountable number of kingdoms, each one represented by a different star, each differing in glory? Of course not.

Rather, Paul was saying, ‘See how the literal heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon and the stars, differ from each other – even the stars differ from one another? That is how it is in the resurrection; our present bodies have a glory, but the heavenly resurrected body will have a glory that is greater than that, just as some stars are greater than others, and the moon is brighter than those stars, and the sun is brighter than the moon.’

[3] As for why Paul said “third heaven,” a small explanation is in order: the number three is used in the Bible to denote emphasis. It should not be taken literally. (Regardless of whether Paul wrote “three” to emphasis the glory of his vision or not, we see that the general explanation – that “three” is figurative – still stands, whereas the Mormon interpretation does not.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence (Part Two)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part Two
By Sean Killackey
February 6th, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26
                                                   
As shown in the previous essay (here), the Mormon doctrine of premortal existence is seriously challenged by some of the specific cases that supposedly demonstrate it (for example, Cyrus, Jeremiah and Jesus). In fact, Cyrus’ example, specifically that he did not know God when he was anointed as opposed to the idea that God selects, or foreordains some for special missions on earth, when they exist in heaven, where they all know God, seems to implies that premortality is a false doctrine. Now, we will examine a few supposed general descriptions of premortal existence from which Mormons assert their doctrine is implied. We will examine Genesis 2:4,5, Numbers 16:22, and Ecclesiastes 12:7. Our primary source for Mormon beliefs will be the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Genesis 2:4,5 is used to support the notion that “all things, even the earth itself, had a spirit existence before the physical creation,” how? Because that passage (KJV) “says that the Jehovah God made “every plant of the field before it was in this earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.”” The “mystery” that the Book of Mormon elaborates upon and “solves” is: how can God create something before it is on the earth? Moses 3:5 answers, “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”
This would be a useful interpretation, perhaps even one that opens up a hidden secret, were it not for the fact that the supposed implication of pre-physical creation arises from a now awkward construction in a translation last revised in 1769. The New International Version, last revised in 2011, renders Genesis 2:4,5 as, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” And the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, last revised in 2013, says, “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. No bush of the field was yet on the earth and no vegetation of the field had begun sprouting, because Jehovah God had no made it rain on the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”
These two translations and along with the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NET Bible and the International Standard Version among others, give no indication that God made something before it was on the earth. Rather, they all bring out the point that before God made plants on the earth, he made man on that earth;[1] there are not two acts of creation for plant life, one spiritual and the other physical. Just as Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth and had his absolute origin on that physical earth, plants likewise have their absolute origin in the physical realm, the only place where they were created.
Supposedly the doctrine that “[God] made the world, and all men before they were in the flesh,” as found at Moses 6:51 is an implication of Moses calling Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all people [lit. “all flesh”].” (Numbers 16:22) It is not, however, for Jehovah gives to all men their spirit, or the breath of life and has power over our lives; nothing more is implied by calling Jah “the God of the spirit of all people.” Since this is the case, just as there is no explicit support for premortality in Numbers 16:22, there is no implicit support for this verse – none that necessitates the doctrine at the very least.[2] If it did, would it not also imply that he procreated the spirits of animals? (If not, is he the God of their spirits in a different sense?[3] If so, then the Mormon interpretative framework admits that being “the God of the spirit . . .” does not require God to procreate the spirits that he is the God of.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says, “The dust returns to the earth, just as it was, and the spirit returns to the true God who gave it,” is also marshalled for proof that we existed in heaven. God is in heaven, where our spirit, which is supposed to contain our mind, [4]  returns, so it would make sense that, because our spirit was given to our physical body, it must have predated it, and would, therefore, constitute a pre-physical man existing in heaven. This latter statement matches with the Mormon pre-physical premortal life,[5] so that doctrine must be true, right? No, for, as we have already seen, our absolute origin is traced to the earth, so even if the spirit is the location of the mind, it does not prove that we existed pre-physically. If the spirit is the location of our mind, it is never said to contain our mind before its joining with our physical bodies.
We can conclude confidently that the Mormon doctrine of premortality, with its implications that we existed pre-physically, and were literally procreated and can become like God, since he was like us, are all wrong. If they were right, we would be tasked with the impossible task of harmonizing why Christ is from heaven, yet we are not and explaining how a temporal infinite regress is possible.[6] But since such tasks are not possible, we must discount Mormon doctrine, preferring to stick to a biblically harmonious teaching, one that does not imply pre-physical and pre-mortal existence.[7]



[1] Some suppose that the two descriptions of creation contradict each other. They do not, as has been shown elsewhere, so this essay will not address that claim.

[2] Job 12:10 states, “In [Jehovah’s] hand is the life of every living thing [a]nd the spirit of every human.”

[3] True, the scriptures do not explicitly call Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all animals,” but they too are said to have the breath of life, or a spirit in them, and they are created by the same one who made mankind, so are we to say that he is not God over them?
[4] Psalm 146:4 shows that the mind is not in the spirit, for the thoughts perish when the spirit goes out.

[5] Though, even if this was true, it would not imply that God procreated us, or that he existed as we do, or that we can become gods.

[6] Since we were are said to have existed eternally in Mormon thought, this denotes that there has been an infinite number of instants prior to now. However, this is not logically possible (for example, you cannot build an infinite from a finite amount by adding a finite amount, or by multiplying it by a finite amount). That is why it is said that God was atemporal (without time and changeless) “prior to” (or sans) creation, yet temporal (inside of time) subsequent creation.

[7] Some may describe Adam and Eve before they sinned as immortal, but this would be using the weaker definition of immortal (never going to die) vs. the stronger definition of immortal (unable to die). Adam and Eve were already mortal before they sinned in the sense they could have died if they did not eat or breath; they were not self-sustaining beings.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-phyical Existence (Part One)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part One
By Sean Killackey
February 3rd, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26

Mankind, according to Mormonism, “[p]rior to mortal birth . . . existed as men and women in a spirit state.” Before even that, we didn’t even possess any kind of body, but “the intelligence [that now is] dwelling in each person” existed coeternally with God. (Doctrines and Covenants 93:29) Then, once given a spirit body, we became the literal spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother in Heaven. Further, “[f]rom among those who were noble and great ones in that former world, the Lord selected those to be prophets and rules on the earth.” This is the Mormon doctrine (as articulated in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and other Mormon sources) that we will refute today.
What is the basis for asserting that we existed prior to our physical existence? Mormons draw upon Jeremiah 1:5 and Isaiah 44:28-45:4, among others, to show that God knew us as persons from before we were physical and therefore assume that we were in existence before our physical birth. However, is it really necessary to assume that Jeremiah and Cyrus existed before their physical births just because God displays foreknowledge concerning such ones? No. Rather, it is clear that, just as God foreknew what these ones would do before they did it, he foreknew that they would come into existence before they existed.
In Cyrus’ case, it is evident that God is not talking about a then already in existence (non-physical) Cyrus just because he talks about him in the present tense in Isaiah 44:28, why?[1] For, while Jehovah calls Cyrus his shepherd, and logically you must exist in order to be or do anything, Cyrus was not actually Jehovah’s shepherd when those words were uttered, and therefore, all that the words indicate is that he had to eventually exist before he was to become Jehovah’s Shepherd. Thus, the use of present tense does not necessitate that Cyrus had a pre-physical existence.
Similarly, while Jehovah speaks in the present tense to Cyrus in Isaiah 45:1,[2] this it does not imply that Cyrus was inexistence before his physical birth, for Jehovah, when referring to events that were yet to happen, speaks in past tense.[3] The purpose of using past tense is obviously to denote the certainty of the things foretold; the use of past tense is figurative.[4] “Says to,” therefore, does not necessitate that the recipient of those words be present when they were spoken any more than figuratively using past tense to describe events necessitates that those events had already happened. Thus, the case of Cyrus is poor justification for the doctrine of premortal life.
And, while Jeremiah 1:15 records Jehovah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, [a]nd before you were born I sanctified you.[5] I made you a prophet to the nations,” this furnishes no definite proof that Jeremiah had a premortal life. In what way did Jehovah know Jeremiah before his formation? Is it because Jeremiah is eternal, existing first as an eternal intelligence, then as a spirit man, then as a mortal? Or is because God has the ability to foreknow who will be and what will occur? The latter is much more reasonable given the rest of the scriptures (and their silence on the doctrine of premortal existence).
Mormon sources spell out the doctrine clearly, but at best, Mormons can only say that this doctrine is merely implied in the scriptures – a forlorn hope at best, as we have seen so far. Does example of Christ, whose pre-existence is clearly affirmed in the scriptures, might provide a refuge for this doctrine? No; appealing to his example it is rough going, since Christ indicates that his pre-physical existence was unique among men, which made him superior than them; other just didn’t have it.
Jesus, affirming his pre-physical existence, says, “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.” (John 8:23) The question for Mormons is: if Christ, like us, pre-existed spiritually and then came down to the physical realm, why does Christ set us apart from himself? Didn’t we also come from the realms above? Maybe he is not referring to our origins when he says, “You are from the realms below.” Unlikely, for he is obviously referring to his own origin when he says, “I am from the realms above.” Unless he isn’t referring to his own origin, but is speaking figuratively, as if to say, “You are wicked; I am righteous?”  Not possible, for nowhere else does anyone use our place of origin to symbolize whether we are righteousness or wickedness.[6] Further, Jesus says elsewhere, “I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me,” thus showing that he uses “heaven” and “the realms above” interchangeably to show his literal place of origin. (John 6:38) This is backed up by Paul, who says, “[Christ] is from heaven,” and by the context of John 8:23, a discussion about who Jesus is and whether he is greater than Abraham and the prophet. (1 Corinthian 15:47) Jesus asserts that he has been in existence since before Abraham was. He says, “Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence I have been,” thus showing that he is greater than Abraham because of his pre-existence. – John 8:58
What if Jesus is referring only to Abraham’s physical birth? He might be referring to Abraham’s physical birth (though the words “birth” or “born” are not in the Greek text), yet even then, this would still imply that Abraham’s physical birth was the start of Abraham’s absolute existence, since, earlier on, he referred to his absolute origin.[7] If Jesus was simply contrasting his absolute existence with something less than Abraham’s absolute existence, it would not prove the point that he was greater than Abraham. After all, according to Mormonism, everyone’s absolute existence predates Abraham’s physical existence! (And, if we all were eternal intelligences, no one absolutely predates another.)
To conclude our discussion on the evidence from Jesus, we see that he refers to our place of origin (earth) literally in contrast to his own (superior) place of origin (heaven). He considers these to be absolute places of origin. Therefore, when he says that he existed before Abraham was, he means this absolutely; both facts are fatal blows to the doctrine of premortality.
Commenting on those who come from this world, Paul says, “What is physical is first, and afterward what is spiritual. The first man is from the dust,” and “we have borne the image of the one made of dust.” (1 Corinthians 15:46,49) This is important for it shows that the physical body is first. Therefore, Adam began as a physical being – otherwise Paul would say, “The spiritual body is first, then the physical, then the exalted.” If he wished to do more than “imply” the doctrine of premortality, he had an excellent chance to do so.
Some might object to my assertion that this passage precludes us from having had premortal spiritual bodies, since Christ was once a man and was not physical fist, but spiritual. However, Christ is unique among mankind in this regard (as shown above) and his example should not be used to imply that we might also have been spiritual first even though Paul says otherwise.
Paul shows that Christ is the heavenly one, yet Adam, whose image were bear, the fleshly one! Yet, Mormonism implies that both were spiritual beings; if so, why is one called “heavenly” and the other, “fleshly?” Because, as opposed to the first man, Christ, the second man, originated from heaven;[8] Adam, whom we are like, originated from the dust of the earth.[9]1 Corinthians 15:47
In this essay, we’ve established that the Mormon interpretation of certain proof texts is problematic compared to a more straightforward reading of the text, which denotes nothing more than foreknowledge of things and people yet to be. Further, we have established from the evidence of Jesus and Paul that we are not pre-existent in some premortal spiritual state, but have our origin in this realm, and thus have not always existed. In the next essay, we will examine other proof texts of this Mormon doctrine to see if perhaps those can save it. They will not be able to; the implications of this for Mormons are profound. Their view of purpose, salvation and so forth are destroyed. If it is wrong, though, it is good to discard such beliefs.



[1] “The One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd.’”

[2]“This is what Jehovah says to his anointed one, to Cyrus”

[3] “Whose right hand I have taken hold of . . .”

Some may try to object to my evaluation that the taking hold of Cyrus’ hand was a future event in Isaiah’s day. Assuming that Cyrus was pre-existent, they argue that Jehovah took hold of Cyrus’ hand in that pre-existent state. When Cyrus became Jehovah’s shepherd, Jehovah took hold of his right hand; each expression refers to the same thing, the anointing of Cyrus to accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, we must see if it is possible for Cyrus to have been anointed before his physical existence. It is not possible.

Let us take the similar example of Jesus, who is the Messiah. If we look, we see many references to him as Christ before he was conceived, or before he was born, yet it is evident that he was not made Christ until he was about thirty years old, when he, the came forth to be baptized and was anointed with the holy spirit, as precisely foretold by Daniel. If we say that Jesus was already the Christ before he was thirty, then the Christ came before the end of the sixty nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, and therefore, Jesus can’t be the Christ. Such references to him as such before this time are spoken to denote the certainty his appointment, he was as good the Christ.

Connecting this back to Cyrus, we see that, just as in Jesus’ case, Cyrus was called “shepherd” and “anointed one” prophetically, on account of what he would be.4 He did not begin to fulfill Jehovah’s purpose until he began to subdue nations, therefore, even while alive as a man, he was not always Jehovah’s anointed one, yet Jehovah spoke with the certainty that it would happen (and it did).

If this is not satisfactory, consider Isaiah 45:5, which says, “I [Jehovah] am calling you by your name. I am giving you a name of honor, although you did not know me.” If we assume that the calling of Cyrus as Jehovah’s anointed one occurred in Cyrus’ premortal life, then we would be hard pressed to explain the fact that Jehovah says Cyrus does not know him. But, if we assume that it was in his physical existence that he received his calling, we would not be hard pressed to explain this verse, for Cyrus, before he started subdued kings before him, did not know of God. However, afterward, as is evidenced by his decree in Ezra 1:2-4, knew of Jehovah after assuming his role as Jehovah’s anointed one and shepherd.

If the choosing of Cyrus did not occur in the premortal state, the Mormon teaching respecting premortality is wrong, for they clearly say that “From among those who were noble and great ones in that former world [the premortal state], the Lord selected those to be prophets and rules on the earth.” Unless they argue Cyrus was chosen in his premortal state and yet somehow did not know God – I don’t see how that is possible.

[4] Other examples of this exist in Scripture, such as Jude 14,15. In Enoch’s day, Jehovah had not yet executed judgement against the wicked, yet Enoch speaks of him as having already come.

[5] Or, “set you apart,” that is, for his prophetic commission.

[6] Jesus does use “father” (God or Satan) figuratively, as symbols of whether we are righteous or wicked, as does John. If we are righteous we are from God and he is out Father, but if we are wicked, Satan is our father. His use of “realms below” and “realms above” is not like that in this context.

[7] Jesus’ human nature came into being in the physical realm (“the realms bellow”) and it was not in existence until two thousand years after Abraham’s humanly existence, yet Jesus the person and his absolute existence predates Abraham’s physical birth. Therefore, it must be to his absolute existence that Jesus refers to when he says, “I have been in existence,” which would mean that he refers to Abraham’s existence.

[8] Additionally, while called “man” in this passage, it is clear that Jesus is not literally a man anymore, for he is now “a life-giving spirit.” He is experimentally (according to experience) a man, but not ontologically (according to nature) a man.

[9] Note that Jesus, when he was a man, was also “made of dust,” yet he is not said to be of the dust, but from heaven. Therefore, we see that Paul is talking about absolute origins, meaning that Adam’s absolute origin is earthly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"You are a Priest Forever"

“You are a Priest Forever”
By Sean Killackey
January 25th, 2016
[Updated: February 3rd, 2016]

“[H]e has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 5:10 NWT

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is governed by the priesthood,” says Gospel Principles. To them it has always been in existence and is “always associated with God’s work.” The Mormon Priesthood is divided into two categories, the higher Melchizedek Priesthood[1] and the lower Aaronic Priesthood.[2] The latter of which is an appendage to the former. (Ibid, p. 73) It is safe to say that there is no more important a facet of that church than their priesthood. Therefore, the validity of their faith – not the subjective “burning in the bosom,” but their system of beliefs and practices – is contingent on the authenticity of their priesthood.
According to their teachings, the priesthood, while eternal, was not always upon the earth. the lack of faith of Israel in the time of Moses, led to the removal of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for the most part) in Old Testament times; the Aaronic priesthood alone continued. Similarly, following the apostasy of the early church, the “priesthood authority was taken from the earth,” To be restored in the time of Joseph Smith. Let us examine the activities and functions of their priesthood and compare it to what is known biblically of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods to see if Mormonism is correct. We will start our examination by discussing the Aaronic Priesthood.
Supposedly, “[o]n May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as a resurrected messenger from God and conferred the ancient “Priesthood of Aaron” upon them.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) In Doctrine and Covenants 13:1, “John” says, “[the Priesthood of Aaron] holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” It, “John” continues, “shall never be taken again from the earth.” Let us scrutinize this claim by keeping in mind two questions. First, was John able to confer this priesthood on another? Second, does the description of the “Priesthood of Aaron” in Doctrine and Covenants match with that of the Bible?
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism correctly notes that John the Baptists was “a descendant of Aaron through both parents and thus a Levite.” His Father, Zechariah, was a righteous priest in those days. (Luke 1:5,6) Therefore, they reckon that John was also a priest, which seems logical, since Aaron passed his office to one of his descendants, and the other priests did so as well.
However, not all of his descendants officiated as priests. The age to begin serving as a priest, while not stated explicitly, was around 25.[3] Five years after this age, we find John preaching baptism in symbol of repentance, which he did for a considerable time afterward until his death, instead of officiating as a priest. John was observing his role as a Nazarite and the promised “Elijah,” the one sent ahead of the Messiah. So, we see that just because his father was a priest, it did not follow that he was – though he certain was eligible to serve as one.
Further, even if he was not a priest, he could not have given the priesthood to another. Perhaps, instead of passing on the priesthood from his own authority or possession, which it is evident he lacked, he passed it on from God, the One who gave it to Aaron through his angel to begin with? That is not a viable solution, for it is still clear, as evidenced by its name, only descendants of Aaron could obtain to that priesthood (only one of which at a time served as High Priest). Certainly, not all Mormons who profess to be of that priesthood are descendants of Aaron.[4]
What of the duties of the so-called (modern) Aaronic Priesthood? “John the Baptist” says that the Aaronic priests minister to angels and preach baptism for the remission of sins, but Jehovah never gave such duties to the actual Aaronic priests. Angels are not ministered to, but are “sent out to minister to those who are going to inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) There was no baptism in Old Testament times among God’s people, the Molten Sea argument notwithstanding.[5] Priests had various jobs, including teaching the people, judging them, ritually cleansing others and offering incense. They also offered up sacrifices for the people’s sins, leaving no need for them to teach or preform baptism for the people’s sins. This would be a good reason as to why Jehovah never mentioned baptism for that purpose to Moses. Such baptism was preached and practiced (only by John apart from any priestly duties) to prepare the people for the then immediate appearance of the Messiah.
Most damning, however, is the fact that the Aaronic Priesthood has no purpose after the death of Christ, and that purpose which it used to have is not being performed by the Mormons who claim that office. Paul writes that, “[Jesus, i]f he were on earth, . . . would not be a priest, since there are already men who offer the gift according to the law.” The actual sons of Aaron still offered up sacrifices in those days and preformed their legal duties. This, though, was “a typical representation [or antitype] and a shadow of the heavenly things” and would end (Hebrews 8:4,5)
Perhaps, the older duties no longer needed to be performed, but the priesthood itself could still continue in altered form as it does in Mormonism. The natural response to this is: why keep the priesthood if its functions are so radically changed? Would it really be the same priesthood? Further, it is explicitly taught that when Christ came, he did away with the Law covenant, and that its priesthood, which was “weak and ineffective,” was thus “set aside” and replaced by a new one. (Hebrews 7:18) In addition to being weak, the Aaronic Priesthood (and the Mosaic Law which prescribed it) had to be replaced, since the High Priest “in the manner of Melchizedek” (not of Aaron) was not of the tribe of Levi, the only tribe from whence priests could come from.[6]
“For since the priesthood is being changed,”[7] wrote Paul, “it becomes necessary to change the Law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12) If, though, the priesthood remains forever, then it is not changed, so the necessity that Paul sees to change the Law would be nonexistent. Yet, Mormons argue that the Aaronic Priesthood remains forever, since the covenant made to Aaron and his sons was for ‘forever.’ (Deuteronomy 18:5) This is poor justification, since the words “forever” or “always” in Hebrew is not always meant absolutely. For example, a slave who wished to could choose to be his master’s slave “forever.” (Exodus 21:6) If, then, “forever” could be spoken of things with an end, the Aaronic Priesthood could end despite its seemingly everlasting nature.[8] We note, then that these two priesthoods could not continue on forever side by side; the former was abandoned in favor of the superior ne. With this in in mind, let us move on to discuss the Melchizedek Priesthood.[9]
Mormons assert that the Melchizedek priesthood existed before Jesus’ day. To them, “[b]efore [Melchizedek’s] day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:2; italics in original). This seems to be scriptural, for Paul says of Melchizedek, “In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but being made like the Son of God, he remains a priest for all time.” But, what if there is a difference between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the priesthood after the manner of Melchizedek? Then, this supposed continuity would collapse, and the Mormon priesthood with it.
There is a difference between the two. Firstly, Paul simply uses Melchizedek as an antitype. In the scriptures antitypes of Christ or the new covenant bear semblance to what they represent, but are lesser. For example, Jesus is the Prophet like Moses, yet Jesus is worthy of more honor and has more authority that Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15; Hebrews 3:1-6) Or, take Solomon or David; the pattern still holds, Jesus is like them, only greater. (Luke 11:31) So, the fact that Paul speaks of Melchizedek as being without ancestors or death is merely figurative. The absence of a genealogy and a recorded statement for Melchizedek provided a perfect antitype for Christ, who drew his priesthood no fleshly decent, but from an eternal life. Only Christ, not Melchizedek, who theoretically should still be a priest, can save us completely; therefore, we recognize that the priesthood of Melchizedek is inferior to that of Christ’s and is thus not a part of it. Also, unlike Melchizedek, Jesus does not – and, in fact, cannot – officiate as a priest on earth, so how could Mormon Melchizedek priests be priests while on earth? – Hebrews 8:4
In the end, Mormons do not officiate either priesthood properly, priesthoods they have not proper claim to. The issue comes to this, then: Mormons are part of a church officiated by frauds, pious frauds (in large part) no doubt, yet frauds nonetheless. The question that this produces is: if Israel was not spared even though they kept the (then newly defunct) Law and kept the actual Aaronic priesthood, how could can Mormons be spared?


[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses do not consider there to be such a priesthood. Rather, only Jesus holds that office. A priesthood implies more than one individual holder.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses call this the Levitical Priesthood. This term, however, in Mormon thought, refers to the Levites who assisted the actual priests. Therefore, when I refer to the High priest and those who officiated at the altar (as distinct from those Levites who did not descend from Aaron) I will use the term common to Mormons, “Aaronic Priesthood.”
[3] Levites began their service at this age, so it is reasonable to conclude that the same is true of the priests. Further, priests did not have an age of retirement, which the Levites did possess. – Numbers 8:25,26

[4] They are ineligible for this office, since it “depends on fleshly descent” and a now defunct “legal requirement.” Too, it itself is also a defunct facet of that Law. (Hebrews 7:16) You cannot keep the priesthood apart from its legal requirements, because the two are inexorably linked. Additionally, Numbers 3:10 states that any “stranger,” that is, anyone not of Aaron’s family, who came near the tent of meeting was to be executed, thus the importance of the legal requirement of fleshly descent is shown clearly.

[5] Mormons sometimes claim that the molten sea was made for baptism 2 Chronicles 4:6 does say that, “the Sea was for the priest for washing,” but it says nothing about them baptizing themselves or others. Rather, the connection was made to physical and ceremonial cleaning, for in that verse, “the things used for the burnt offering” were to be rinsed just as the priest were to wash.

[6] If the Aaronic Priesthood could have remained after Jesus assumed (not having previously) the office of High Priest (in heaven), the weight of the necessity that Paul says is implicit in Psalm 110:4 is reduced greatly. If, after all, you can change the priesthood, why did Jesus’ become high priest from a different tribe force the removal of the Mosaic Law? – Hebrews 7:12-14

[7] Changed, not in the sense of being altered, but in the sense of being replaced. Similarly, the Mosaic Law is replaced by the law of faith. – Romans 3:27

[8] “Forever” thus denoting something that would otherwise last forever, or something that lasts for a great length of time, but which will end.

[9] While the Bible does not show there to be a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (rather, only one priest after the order of Melchizedek), we will talk as if such a priesthood is prescribed therein.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mormonism and the Sabbath

Mormonism and the Sabbath
By Sean Killackey
January 24th, 2016

“One man judges one day as above another; another judges one day the same as all others; let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.” – Romans 14:5 NWT

“The Sabbath day is every seventh day. It is a holy day ordained by God for us to rest from our daily labors and worship Him,” says Gospel Principles (p. 13), a Mormon teacher’s manual. And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism comments, “When men and women are willing to work on the Sabbath to increase their wealth, they are breaking the commandments; for money taken in on the Sabbath, if the work is unnecessary, is unclean money,” and, “[Sabbath-breakers] are as rebellious as the children of Israel.” Therefore, the Sabbath is a present and incumbent, even if joyful, responsibility to Mormons. This position, though, is unscriptural.
The Sabbath of course is not evil. Jesus stated, “The Sabbath came into existence for the sake of man,” so follows that the Sabbath would have some practical and spiritual benefit for the observer. (Mark 2:27) Isaiah shows the benefits from proper observances of fasting and the Sabbath to the people of his day: the hungry are fed, the oppressed are freed, and the poor and homeless are helped, and Jehovah promises to bless them all. (Isaiah 56:1-14) So, if this is the case, how can requiring the observance of the Sabbath be unscriptural?
Plainly, the Sabbath is explicitly not incumbent upon Christians. It was not mentioned in the letter given to Christians in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. (Acts 15:23-29) Paul, as shown above, allowed people to choose their own position on whether they will celebrate it. And, while he doesn’t condemn the observance of the Sabbath, he never allows for the impression that it is necessary for Christians. Rather, he points out that it is among those things that are “a shadow of the things to come,” and condemns those that tried to enforce it in his day as trying to “deprive [others]” of “the prize.” To him, such ones were “not holding fast to [Christ].” He made the point they merely had “an appearance of wisdom,” and, while “a self-imposed form of worship,” required observance of the Sabbath actually belongs to “the elementary things of the world,” as does the idea that observance of the Mosaic Law as a whole is necessary. (Colossians 2:16-23) The requirement to observe the Sabbath, unlike the prohibition against murder, incest, fornication and blood, did not continue as part of “the law of faith.” – Romans 3:27-31
The disparity between what Mormons teach and what the Bible does is not on whether the Sabbath itself is good, but on whether it is required. Paul never condemned the Sabbath, for it, like the Law “is fine if one applies it properly.” How can it be applied properly? By recognizing what it stood for, the rest that God’s people can now enter into and enjoy, God’s own Sabbath. (Hebrews 4:4) If you choose to observe it, fine, but do not try to get others to do so.
Yes, while we “do our utmost to enter into that rest,” we do not ‘get burdened down with unnecessary things,’ nor do we ‘subject ourselves to such decrees.’ (Hebrews 4:11; Acts 15:28; Colossians 2:20) By doing so, we observe the greater Sabbath, the one that we must enter into, which is not on a particular day. Mormons, however, make the Sabbath part of God’s commandments. Our “level of salvation” is contingent on our observance of God’s commandments, which include the observance of the Sabbath, in Mormon thought. And a continual profaning of the Sabbath would prohibit one from “the fulnes [sic] of salvation.” This is clearly not what Paul taught.
While praying, contemplating spiritual things, and helping others – central aspects of the Sabbath – are all good, we can do them apart from the Sabbath. Therefore, any justification that could be derived from the command to “not [forsake] our meetings together, as some have the custom” (among others) comes to nothing. (Hebrews 10:25) Of course, Mormons do these activities on other days, as they should,[1] yet the commands and exhortations to do those things cannot be used to justify the required observance of the Sabbath. If it were otherwise, Paul would have been the foremost proponent of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath itself is no better than other days. We gather together, not because it is the Sabbath, but because we are told to. We pray, read and mediate, not because it is the Sabbath (even if we do it on the Sabbath day), but because those things are necessary. We help others, not because it is the Sabbath, but because we should “work what is good toward all.” – Galatians 6:10
The result from their teachings is that Mormons run contrary to God’s inspired word. Whereas they are right to say that we should pray, help others and come together to worship, they are wrong to conflate such things with the Sabbath and to restore other Sabbath day restrictions (for example, against buying or selling or recreation) upon us. The result is only “an appearance of wisdom,” but ‘the fullness of the shadow belongs to Christ.’ Such enforcers forsake (even if unintentionally) “the Head,” Christ.



[1] That is, if there religious services were scriptural. The habits themselves, at least in a general sense, are not wrong, though some of the particular facets of Mormon worship are unscriptural. (The pattern of worshipping God is not wrong, but how it is done is.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mormonism

Mormonism
By James Seward

Definition: A Restorationist movement led by claimed prophets, starting with Joseph Smith (1805-1844), with distinctive beliefs and a unique scriptural canon in addition to the Bible: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

Are their any problems with Mormonism?
Consider the following:
(1) Mormonism makes salvation impossible for this reason: It has a 'no blood before Adam's Fall' doctrine, including no children or death in the pre-Fall Animal Kingdom.[1] Additionally, the Fall is described as a blessing in the Book of Mormon at 2 Nephi 2:22-5. (See problem 2 below.) The problem is that it presents blood as a product of Adam's transgression, yet Jesus had blood (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:11),[2] but he was free of the affects of Adam's transgression. (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 4:15) Therefore, what we have here may be called a soteriological contradiction, for Jesus was holy and sinless—he did not have any products of Adam's transgression, but Mormonism gives him just that, blood from Adam's transgression.
(2) 2 Nephi 2:22, 23 contradicts Genesis 1:28 which states this regarding Adam and Eve (NW): "Further, God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it.'" (NET Bible renders this "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!'" RS, Yg, NASB, NIV, as well as others, read similarly.) Thus Adam and Eve were told to have children, yet 2 Nephi 2:23 says "they would have had no children." Additionally, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible omits this passage in its version of Genesis 1:28, while at the same time it is retained in another Mormon version of Genesis 1:28 found in Moses 2:28 in the Pearl of Great Price, which therefore also contradicts 2 Nephi 2:22, 23. This contradiction is a fatal flaw in Mormon scripture that alienates it from God.
Furthermore, 2 Nephi 2:22, 23 and 25 places Adam's fall in a favorable, even liberating light. This contradicts Romans 5:8, 10-12, 15-19 where Adam's fall is described in negative, debilitating terms, even called a "trespass," or "offense," and "disobedience," leading to "condemnation." This contradiction with Romans chapter 5 is another fatal flaw in Mormon scripture that alienates it from God.
(3) There is also the problem of the source language of the Book of Mormon, called "reformed Egyptian," which is described as more compact than Hebrew in the Book of Mormon at Mormon 9:32-33. However, this is impossible. The book By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, by Charles M. Larson (Grand Rapids, 1992), says: "Ancient Egyptian writing is composed of both phonograms ('sound-signs') and ideagrams (signs that convey their meaning pictorially). In this language a word was usually expressed by using one or more phonograms, followed by an ideagram. In this arrangement the ideagram is called a determinative, because it 'determines' the meaning of the foregoing sound-signs and defines their meaning in a general way. ... While some Egyptian words need no determinative, many have more than one; some words even require as many as three determinatives to express a single thought. Egyptian writing was thus cumbersome to use, and lacked any true depth of abstraction. ... Eventually its vast inferiority to other forms of writing, such as Greek or Hebrew, led to its disuse and ultimate disappearance. But no one realized any of this in Joseph Smith's time."—Pp. 88, 89.
Thus, the weight of the evidence indicates that the Hebrew-speaking Israelites would not switch to Egyptian Hieroglyphics and reform that to be more compact than Hebrew which was a superior language and already more compact than Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
(4) Mormonism also retains the Latin name Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12 KJ) for Satan in its scriptures (see 2 Nephi 24:12, Doctrine and Covenants 76:26 and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible at Isaiah 14:12). However, Bible scholarship post-dating Mormonism has shown that Lucifer is not Satan. Rather, Lucifer is merely the translation of the Hebrew word heh·lel′, "shining one," which is not a name or a title but a term describing the boastful position taken by Babylon's dynasty of kings of the line of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet, Mormonism cannot remove this error without serious consequences to its credibility, as divine revelation would not perpetuate error and confusion.

When Someone Says—
'I'm a Mormon (or Latter-day Saint)'
You might reply: 'I remember your "Truth Restored" ad campaign a few years ago. Clearly you value the truth about God, right? So do I. In this regard, notice what Jesus said in John 17:17. (Read it.) So we can trust God's Word; is that how you feel?' Then perhaps add: 'I agree with you that there was a Great Apostasy from the truth, and consequently a need for a restoration. Also, I agree that the cross is inappropriate as a Christian symbol. But I do believe that Jesus was free of Adamic contamination to be the Ransomer. Do you believe that Adam was created without blood and that blood is a product of his transgression?' (Note, do not use the word "sin" here, as they do not believe it was a sin but something Adam had to do.) 'Yet Jesus shed his blood for us?' (Allow for response.) 'Would you agree that Jesus our Savior was free of the affects of Adam's transgression?' (Read Luke 1:35 and Heb. 4:15.) Then why would Jesus have blood if it is the product of Adam's transgression?' (Turn to page 29 under the heading "If Someone Says" under "Adam and Eve" in the book Reasoning From the Scriptures, or to chapter five of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? on page 47, and use this as a basis for discussion, highlighting Jesus' role as Ransomer. Both books are published by Jehovah's Witnesses.)
Or you could say: 'Do you look at Adam and Eve with great appreciation for what they did in the garden of Eden? (Allow for response. Then read Romans 5:18, 19.) How does this scripture describe what Adam did? Why do you think Paul used words like "condemnation" and "disobedience" if we are to appreciate what Adam did?'
Another possibility: 'I appreciate the high value you place on knowing the truth, as your "Truth Restored" ad campaign demonstrated. Do you think that restoring truth would perpetuate error and confusion? (Allow for response.) That would destroy all credibility of restoring truth, right? Then why is it that Mormon scripture preserves the Latin name Lucifer for Satan when Bible scholarship post-dating Mormonism has shown that Lucifer is not Satan, but is merely the Latin translation of the Hebrew word heh·lel′, and is the Babylonian king? (Turn to page 361 under "Satan the Devil" in Reasoning From the Scriptures, or to chapter ten of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? on page 96, and use this as a basis for discussion.)

Footnotes:
[1] "Fall of Adam." LDS Church's Bible Dictionary. http://classic.scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/f/2 [Note: the latest edition of the LDS Church's Bible Dictionary under the corresponding entry "Fall of Adam and Eve" has omitted reference to blood forming in the bodies of the primeval 'transgressors' Adam and Eve. This was doubtlessly done to soften the definition and make it more 'milk-like,' with the 'meatier' no-blood-before-the-Fall doctrine being presented later.] This 'no blood before Adam's Fall' doctrine is also taught in the LDS Church's Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, "Chapter 8 – The Fall," which quotes Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith (http://www.lds.org/manual/doctrines-of-the-gospel-student-manual/chapter-8-the-fall?lang=eng):

"… When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was not subject to death. There was no blood in his body and he could have remained there forever. This is true of all the other creations" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:76–77).

It is also taught in the LDS Church's Ensign magazine in the following articles by Mormon Apostle Russell M. Nelson: "Constancy amid Change," November 1993 issue, page 33 and "The Atonement," November 1996 issue, page 33.

[2] "Christ." LDS Church's Bible Dictionary. (http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/christ?lang=eng) In order for Jesus to be the "last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45), he would have to be what Adam lost and voluntarily sacrifice that to be the ransom. Mormonism makes that impossible.