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Eternal Life: Knowing God

As a prior post mentions, Christ explained “eternal life” as knowing Him: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)

The writers of the New Testament knew Christ. They were taught by Him or He appeared to them. Prior to His death, Christ promised He would continue to be known, because He and His Father would take up their abode with others in the future. “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:22-23.) This promise was intended to be taken literally.

In addition to His followers, the antagonist (Saul) was also visited after Christ’s resurrection. Christ approached him on the road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:1-22.) Christ appeared and then took up His abode with Paul, who was later caught up to heaven and was taught “unspeakable things” of the mysteries of God. (See 2 Cor. 12:1-5.)

A modern prophet explained that Christ’s promise to “take up his abode” with men is not merely figurative or in the heart, but is indeed a personal appearance in which the believer comes to know his Lord: “John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (D&C 130:3.)

Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and he testified of the appearing:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS-History 1:16-17.)

In another appearance to both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, they jointly testified:

the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (D&C 76:19-24.)

Christianity was never intended to be controlled by pastors, ministers, priests, bishops or even apostles. Christianity was intended to be alive, with Christ directly involved with His followers. But the creeds of Historic Christianity have impeded the relationship between a God who wants to be known and religious institutions who preach He is unknowable.

The entire message of Joseph Smith can be reduced to one verse in the Bible: James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph believed this and asked. God answered. Christians can all do the same. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6.)

God has the capacity to answer all prayers addressed to Him. And He will send no one away empty-handed.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matt. 7:7-11.)

What Manner of Being, 2

Christ “lost His body” as a result of the post-Nicaea church philosophers who twisted the scriptures to fit their incorporeal idol. That was neither part of the New Testament teachings nor how Christ was understood in early Christianity.

The post-Nicaea concern was over polytheism. They abhorred the idea of multiple gods, thinking it a pagan idea. Israel had “one God” and not several. Therefore, the idea of the Trinity allowed them (and Historic Christianity ever after) the pretense of monotheism despite the separate beings of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

The “oneness” of God the Father and Christ does not consist, as the Historic Christian creeds suggest, in these being one person of one substance, uncreated, incomprehensible and altogether “other than mankind.” Christ explained His “oneness” with the Father in His intercessory prayer in John 17. Speaking about the immediate disciples who were with Him when He prayed, He petitioned that, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11.) The disciples were not of one substance with Christ, nor uncreated, nor incomprehensible, but were separate individual men. Yet they were to be “one” just as the Father and Son are likewise “one.” Christ’s prayer also referred to future believers who would accept the testimonies of the apostles. Concerning them Christ also prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21.)

Do you believe on the apostles’ testimonies? Are you therefore “one” with other believers? Did you merge into the bodies of other believers in order to become “one” with them? Are you the same substance as your minister or priest? If by belief in the same testimony as other Christians you can become “one” with them, then Christ and the Father can likewise be “one” without disturbing their entirely separate existence from one another.

This is not a heresy and not a recent invention. In The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, he relied on what would later become New Testament scripture as well as common sense to explain that Christ came into the world as a mortal man, although He had been created by the Father and acknowledged by Him as His Only Begotten Son. Here is Ignatius’ explanation:

The Word, when His flesh was lifted up, after the manner of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, drew all man to Himself for their eternal salvation. And I know that He was possessed of a body not only in His being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” “For a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” And He says to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger into the print of the nails, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side;” and immediately they believed that He was Christ. Wherefore Thomas also says to Him, “My Lord, and my God.” And on this account also did they despise death, for it were too little to say, indignities and stripes. Nor was this all; but also after He had shown Himself to them, that He had risen indeed, and not in appearance only, He both ate and drank with them during forty entire days. And thus was He, with the flesh, received up in their sight unto Him that sent Him, being with that same flesh to come again, accompanied by glory and power. For, say the holy oracles, “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen Him go unto heaven.” But if they say that He will come at the end of the world without a body, how shall those “see Him that pierced Him,” and when they recognize Him, “mourn for themselves?” For incorporeal beings have neither form nor figure, nor the aspect of an animal possessed of shape, because their nature is in itself simple. (Chapters II and III, long version as found in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 89; Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, Hendrickson Publishing, Fourth Printing, 2004; emphasis added.)

The idea that Christ is now and will be a physical being when He returns in glory was a fundamental teaching of the New Testament and early Christians. Do not allow the false reasoning of Historic Christian philosophers to change the person of our Lord into an imaginary idol invented by those who hijacked Christianity and changed it into a political, economic and social industry.

Ignatius regarded any who taught to the contrary to be damned: “but blasphemes my Lord, not owning Him to be God incarnate[.]” (Id., Chapter V.)  He declared:

Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life. (Id. Chapter VI.)

This was important precisely because understanding the correct doctrine is required before it is possible to know God. It is as if Ignatius took aim at the heretical and false doctrine in Historic Christian creeds that God is incomprehensible:

Do ye, therefore, notice those who preach other doctrines, how they affirm that the Father of Christ cannot be known, and how they exhibit enmity and deceit in their dealings with one another. (Id.)

Because they deny Christ is a person of flesh and bone, “they make a jest of the resurrection. They are the offspring of that spirit who is the author of all evil.” (Id., Chapter VII.)

Truth comes by the revelation of heaven. Men corrupt it, and it ceases to have the same authority and effect as it would if believed. All men are required to repent and return to God. Part of that repentance will require Historic Christians to forsake the abominable creeds adopted by false priests and come to know Christ Jesus, who was sent by the Father into the world as a man, who lived, died, was resurrected and will return again in glory.

What Manner of Being?

When Christ appeared to His disciples, after His resurrection, they thought He was a ghost (or spirit). He corrected their misunderstanding:

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. (Luke 24:36-43, emphasis added.)

The testimonies of those who saw the risen Lord confirm He was not a “spirit” but composed of “flesh and bone” and could (and did) ingest food, just like a man of flesh and blood would likewise do.

These marks on His body of “flesh and bone” are intended as an identifier of the Savior. Isaiah confirms His wounds are for our benefit and salvation. (Isa. 53:5.) They will certify Him as the Messiah when He returns:

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. (Zech. 13:6.)

A modern revelation on March 7, 1831 explains this future event more fully:

And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake. And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly. And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king. (D&C 45:48-53, emphasis added.)

On the day of His resurrection, Christ spent several hours walking on the road to Emmaus with two disciples. The men regarded Him as a “stranger” with no particular distinction between Him and other mortals as they walked together for hours. He taught them from the Hebrew scriptures about the mission of the Messiah requiring Him to suffer and die. They implored Him to remain for dinner, which He did. When He blessed and “brake bread” –a clearly physical act by a clearly physical being– they recognized Him as Jesus. (See Luke 24:13-31.)

Christ lost His body of “flesh and bone” in the Council of Nicaea when He became “homoousios” (of one substance with the Father) instead of “homoios” (distinct from, but like the Father). And thus the Son of Man (Mark 14:21; Matt. 26:24; Luke 22:22; John 3:13–among many others), as Christ identified Himself,  was transformed by the arguments of men into something altogether “other” from those who descended from Adam. With that development in 325 a.d., the “Trinity” sprang into existence as a fundamental belief of Historic Christianity. This dramatic departure in the definition of God really marks the departure of the original or “Primitive Christianity” from the later “Historic Christianity” which replaced the original.

Fishermen and laborers who saw Christ and testified and described Him as a man, were shunned in favor of the philosophies of men who had not seen Him. But the philosophers controlled Christianity, and could dictate all of its terms.

The newly re-created image was unlike man, thus causing a contradiction between God’s original description of Himself. (Compare Genesis 1:26.) Indeed, how two beings could be one renders Christ “incomprehensible.” This admission was added by another council which adopted the Athanasian Creed, which states in part:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

Whereas Christ said “life eternal” is to “know Him” (John 17:3) Historic Christianity decreed, in effect: “don’t even try to know Him. You can never comprehend Him.” John’s testimony promised men could see and know Christ, because we are like Him: “now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2.) But Historic Christianity’s creeds imposed a barrier upon knowing Him, and therefore a barrier upon “life eternal” for Christians.

Creedal Historic Christianity is like the New Testament Samaritans, whom Christ rebuked saying: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22.) The philosophers of Historic Christianity are like the pagans on Mars Hill whose beliefs were denounced by Paul as “superstitious:”

And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ 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. 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; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 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. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent[.] (Acts 17:19-30, emphasis added.)

Men are of one blood, and all are the offspring of God. God is, therefore, knowable and wants for mankind to know Him. Christ said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)

Christian History

Christianity has a troublesome history. The Christian religion is not a single, monolithic thing, but a cascade of divergent segments with great differences, even contradictions, between them. Christian history can be divided into:

The Apostolic age: This began at 33 a.d., and lasted until shortly after 100 a.d.  During this time, the body of scripture used by the Christians consisted of the Hebrew Old Testament, primarily the Septuagint. The leading figures knew or met Christ, and spread their testimony of Him. Paul was a towering figure, writing two-thirds of the letters which would later become “books” in a new addition to scripture, The New Testament.

The Ante-Nicene Period: This began shortly after 100 a.d., and lasted until the Council at Nicaea in 325 a.d. The testimonies of the Apostolic Fathers were collected and began to be regarded as scripture. By the 300s these writings were respected, but they would not acquire an official status as a “New Testament” canon until the council of Trullan in 692 a.d.

Catholic Christianity: The consolidation of Christianity into a universal, or catholic, tradition followed Constantine’s decision to make it the state religion of Rome. Though splinters remained, the state religion used coercion against the unorthodox groups, and did its best to kill off other versions.

East-West Schism: In 1054 a.d., a split between Rome and Constantinople divided the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian Church. The division remains today. When they parted company, they also parted in beliefs, practices and claims to authority. The Orthodox tradition prized the vision of God, mystic or gnostic knowledge as superior, while Rome prized rational theology, reason and philosophical knowledge, trusting it as the superior route to truth.

The Great Schism: In 1517 a.d., Martin Luther posted a list of 95 abuses the Roman Catholic Church was practicing (known as “The 95 Theses”) which led to his excommunication in 1521 and ultimately to a rebellion in Germany against Roman Christian hegemony. Although he did not intend to found a church, the Lutheran Church claims Martin Luther as their founder. Among other things, the Roman Catholic monopoly on possession of and reading scripture was overthrown by Luther when he translated the New Testament into the common language. The movable type press, invented by Johannes Gutenburg in 1440 a.d., made widespread printing and distribution of the scriptures possible. It was the alignment of Luther’s religious rebellion, the availability of the printing press, and Germany’s desire for independence from Rome that allowed the Protestant Reformation to begin.

Living at the same time as Luther, John Calvin aided in the Protestant fires against Rome. Luther and Calvin initially agreed with each other, but fell into disagreement over the interpretation of the Eucharist.

John Knox also lived at the same time, and led the reformation in Scotland. He is credited as founder of the Presbyterian Church. He was troubled over the authority given a woman king by Catholic Bishops and questioned the “divine right” to rule in those circumstances. He wondered at the duty to serve and obey an idolatrous sovereign, asking John Calvin to counsel him on these topics.

Much of the Protestant Reformation grew out of the abuses inherent in combining church and state. When a state religion claims it is true and approved of God, then anything resisting the state religion is by definition both false and in rebellion against God. It was easy for “Christianity” to torture, kill, imprison and abuse their victim-proselytes for more than a millennium. That was part of governing.

Evangelical Era: One of the most recent Christian developments is the innovation dubbed “Evangelical Christianity” which began in the 19th Century. Credited with laying the foundation for this innovation are John Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. Billy Graham made it spread internationally.

Christianity is anything but a smooth transition from New Testament source to modern denominations. There were serious disconnects from the Apostolic age to the time of Constantine. If there was any legitimacy to the founding of the Roman Catholic Church, then the subsequent rebellion of, and excommunication by Rome of the Reformation founders renders Protestant Christianity powerless to save. And if the Protestant Reformation was justified by the wickedness and apostasy of Rome, then the Roman Catholic Church forfeited their right to claim to be Christ’s one-true-church. If Rome made herself a harlot by selling indulgences or forgiveness of sins, then the Protestant daughters are children of that harlot and hardly able to claim authority derived from Christ’s ordination of apostles. (John 15:16.)

Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Christians should be troubled about the legitimacy of their sects. Their denomination (whichever they accept) has taken a troubling route from the death of the apostles until today. The developing stages are so jarringly different from one another that the modern Evangelicals would be regarded as heretical and either forcibly converted or killed in the first fifteen-hundred years of “Christianity.” Even after the Protestant Reformation, church and state remained intertwined and heterodoxy was still dangerous for the non-Lutheran in Germany, the non-Anglican in England and the non-Presbyterian in Scotland.

The English colonies and early states of the United States likewise had tax-supported state churches. The First Amendment prevented a national religion, but the states were free to adopt their own state religion. Virginia had as the state religion the Anglican or Church of England for 224 years (1606-1830). New York had the same state religion for 225 years (1614-1846). Massachusetts had the Congregationalist Church as their state religion for 204 years (1629-1833). Maryland adopted the Anglican or Church of England as the state creed for 235 years (1632-1867). Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania did not have an official religion, but supported clergy with tax dollars for 155 years, 199 years and 109 years respectively. Connecticut’s state religion was Congregationalist for 179 years (1639-1818). New Hampshire was also Congregationalist for 238 years (1639-1877). Both North and South Carolina were Anglican or Church of England for 212 years (1663-1875) and 205 years (1663-1868) respectively.

Roman Catholicism was discouraged, even persecuted in the American colonies and early states. The Puritans, who fled to the colonies to escape religious persecution, wanted freedom of religion for themselves. But they did not extend that freedom to other faiths, and were intolerant and opposed to religious freedoms for Catholics in particular and other religions generally.

If the divergent Christian positions asserted by various Christian sects are taken at face value, then within the billions who have believed in some form of Historical Christianity almost all will be damned because they have failed to believe in the “correct” version offered by competing groups.

God’s Mysteries

There is a great difference between recognizing the “signs of the times” and knowing the detail of how prophecy will be fulfilled. An example of the difference is found in Matthew. Matthew 2:1-18 tells of “wise men” who studied the scriptures, watched the signs in the heavens, recognized a “star” that testified of the birth of the Messiah or newborn “king of the Jews,” traveled a great distance (perhaps as long as two years) to worship Him, facilitated fulfilling prophecy by their presence in Jerusalem, and were visited by God in a dream. Here is the account:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Despite all the wise men were able to know, they did not know where to find the newborn king. They mistakenly went to Herod’s people to inquire about Christ’s birth. They did not know, and God did not reveal to them, that Christ would be born in Bethlehem.

It is unlikely they would have willingly acted to fulfill the Jeremiah 31:15 slaughter of children. Yet Matthew credits their involvement with fulfilling this prophecy. Can men unwittingly fulfill prophecy? Can anyone, even wise men who are well studied in scripture and prophecy, ever fully understand prophecy.

One of the lessons from this scriptural account is that all “wise men” whose diligence and faithfulness lead them to understand God’s hand is at work may still not understand how or where God will act. There remain “mysteries” which God will accomplish, but men cannot understand beforehand.

If the wise men knew He had been born, but could not identify where Christ’s birth happened, despite all else they were able to do, then how can anyone know how God will accomplish His “strange act” in the last days?

Remember the modern caution in D&C 101:93-95:

What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse; That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered; That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.

Prophecies are not given to know details beforehand. They are given so that when they are fulfilled one may understand that God knows the end from the beginning. (Isa. 48:3-5.)

Addressing Christians

In response to email inquiries for more information about my proposed talks to Christians in California, Texas and Atlanta, I have been providing the following information:
I’d prefer to speak in a theology school or church, if one can be made available. The intended audience would be those who either know little of Mormonism or think they know enough to be “anti-Mormon” because they regard it a false cult. I will pay my own way there and back, and all costs for hotel, food, etc. I do not expect any compensation for speaking.
If possible, I’d like to have 55 minutes to speak. If that is not possible I would like as close to that length of time as is permitted.
In answer to questions about me and addressing Christians, I have provided the following in email responses:
Do you consider yourself a Christian or a Mormon?
A Christian.
Do you think you are saved by grace or works?
It is by grace we do the required works to be saved. As explained in Philip. 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.”  As Paul explained in Romans 6:1-2 concerning those who are born again through Christ: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” We must escape sin by the grace of God and then do the works that testify we are in possession of God’s grace.  As James explained in James 2:17-20: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But will thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” If we are saved by the grace of God our works will testify of that grace within us. Without the works of righteousness, put within us by being born again, a new creation of Christ’s, we may claim to have been saved by grace, but it is without proof.
What do you think about the Book of Mormon ? Do you think it holds the same level of authority as the Bible?
I believe the witness of John: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God”
The Bible testifies of Christ, and I believe its testimony of Him.
The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, and I accept its testimony.
Where is your teaching different from the LDS church ?
The LDS church claims it speaks for God. I do not believe that claim to be true.
The LDS church claims it alone offers salvation to mankind. I do not believe that claim to be true.
The LDS church asks believers to pay tithes of 10% to them. I believe they misuse the widow’s mite and rob God.
I believe the LDS church lies about its history, wrongly conceals its financial misdeeds from the public and encourages and practices idolatry.
What do you want to talk to the Christian churches about?
How the story of Joseph Smith has been misused, mischaracterized, and misunderstood by the LDS corporate church to falsely claim authority for themselves. That the Mormon followers were responsible for persecuting, opposing, and ultimately murdering Joseph Smith. That he believed and taught from the Bible. It was the Bible that was used by Joseph Smith to preach all his public sermons, and that his entire message can be summed up by James 1:5.
______________________
I’m going to offer an introduction to Mormonism by introducing Joseph Smith as a Christian thinker and Biblical preacher.
Below is a description taken from the cover of my last book about Joseph Smith:
 “Smithsonian Magazine identified Joseph Smith as the most significant religious figure in American history. Yet he remains misunderstood by most Christians, primarily because his legacy has been regarded as Mormon property. In many ways his life mirrors the Apostle Paul. He belongs to the Christian community as much as St. Francis of Assisi, Luther, Tyndale, Wesley, Knox, Williams and Calvin. His worst critics were and are Mormons. They abused him, led mobs against him, conspired to have him imprisoned and ultimately murdered. Mormons have slandered his memory with false histories. Joseph declared to the Mormons in April 1844 (two months before he was murdered): “You don’t know me; you never knew my heart.” That audience and its descendants have been self-interested custodians of Joseph Smith’s legacy. This book separates him from the interests of any institution, and allows him to explain his heart, in his own words. When allowed to speak, he is very different from the Mormon version. This book covers Joseph Smith’s three watershed failures and his written responses. The historical stage is set; then he reacts to the trials. The three episodes are: The quest and failure to distribute priesthood, the quest and failure to establish a community called “Zion,” and his half-year imprisonment in Missouri. He has been vilified and praised as the founder of Mormonism. Over eighty-four different religious sects claim him as their founder. But he is seldom thought of as a Christian thinker, writer and preacher. He taught almost entirely from the Bible. Christians can benefit from knowing his struggle to follow Christ while facing discouraging opposition, betrayal by friends, mob violence, imprisonment and repeated failure. He responded with faith, hope and charity.”

All or Nothing, 7-Conclusion

The return of Zion will require sacrifice. If mankind understood the intelligence that God will return to the earth they would be eagerly asking how to help. Zion will not be a place for proud men to pontificate about man’s learning or their conjecture about the meaning of scripture. It will be a place to learn of God’s ways.

Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (Isa. 29:22-24.)

The proud, learned and those who think themselves wise may continue to walk by the poor sparks of their own dying fire, but they will lay down in sorrow for the loss of their opportunity to learn in Zion. (Isa. 50:11, also 2 Ne. 7:11.) The humble and meek, however, will want to learn from God. They will submit in gratitude to what the Lord offers:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.)

This can happen in our day. Or not. One day, some few will be guided by the Lord to accomplish it. But the choice of allowing it to happen is left to us. The journey begins by living the way Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at Bountiful.

Every one of man’s institutions are corrupt. They are led by men and women who rule against the best interests, even the will, of the people over whom they exercise control. They abuse authority and their subordinates lord it over their minions.

The kingdoms of men will be ground to dust because all peaceful men will choose to live above their laws in Zion. There will be no commerce to be taxed, but only labor to feed and clothe one another. No legal agreements because people will honor their promises to one another. No police, no lawyers, courts or prisons. They will “deal justly with one another” never asking for mercy, or pardon for failure. To deal “justly” requires every citizen to hold themselves to the rigorous standard of “justice” instead of the lax standard of “mercy.” Even as they hold themselves to a standard of “justice,” they will show “mercy” and “forgiveness” and “charity” to others. “Justice” is only to be applied internally to make us deal fairly with others. Externally, every man expects to allow his neighbor the kindness and mercy he hopes the Lord will show to him in the day of judgment.

As the best of society gravitates to live in Zion, those who refuse to obey a higher standard will be left behind. They will become increasingly unproductive, unlawful, unkind, unmerciful, and ungovernable. Babylon will collapse into chaos. Zion will thrive. The scenes that went before will be repeated again:

And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion. And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed. (Moses 7:16-20.)

Zion is destined to overthrow the world. But it will happen methodically, with effort, and through a system God established in the beginning returning to the earth. If men will welcome it, and live according to God’s plan for happiness, men will become free and happy indeed.

There can be no king in Zion other than the Lord. The journey is a return to Eden and the beginning. Adam is often referred to in scripture as “father” and not once referred to as “king.” Christ regarded Himself as a “servant” and lifted others around Him by the light of His teaching and godly example. Look carefully at the promise of someone who will be “mighty and strong” found in D&C 85:7:

I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God[.]

Was not our Lord “clothed with light for a covering” because of the intelligence He displayed and the graceful things He taught? Were His words not “eternal words”? Were not His bowels “a fountain of truth”? And did He not “set in order the house of God” by what He explained, did and gave? Yet in all this our Lord was meek and humble. He was apparently ordinary. There was no reason for any of those in positions of authority over Him to admire Him. The Jews rejected Him and very few recognized He was the promised Messiah. There was nothing desirable in Him for the wicked. (Isa. 53:2-3.)

Zion, like our Lord, will receive little attention or regard from the world. The people who will recognize that its foundation is being laid will be very few. While the Jews, Christians, saints and philosophers look to constantly replenish themselves from the east (Isa. 2:6), God will begin His work quietly in the mountains of the west (D&C 133:30-32). Thus the Lord’s great revolution will eventually overthrow all other kingdoms.

All or Nothing, 6

Zion consists of people living in harmony with God. It is defined in revelation as “the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.) But prophecy also confirms it will be an actual location, and a place of gathering. The events of the last days have been known since the time of Enoch. The Lord explained to him:

great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve; And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; (Moses 7:61-63, emphasis added.)

It is a mistake to think of Zion as ONLY the “pure in heart.” It is more. All God’s covenants with the patriarchal fathers will be fulfilled.

Zion will begin with a single seed, but it will eventually fill the whole of North and South America. (See Words of Joseph Smith, p. 362-363; “The Whole of North and South American is Zion”; Wilford Woodruff Journal, April 8, 1844; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 362.)

The kingdom of God will “grind to dust” through persuasion, example and overcoming the world. If there is no need for financial, legal, administrative, or social assistance from the governments of men then the New Jerusalem can break free of man’s corrupt governments.

The way Zion will “grind to dust” the kingdoms of man will not be by force. The “kingdom of God” will progress “by faith & revolutionize the world, not by power, nor by might, but by pure intelligence.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 157.)

Not all the wicked will be persuaded, and there will be violence because of corruption in the coming days. In the future, it will be with the gentiles as it was with the Nephites: the wicked will destroy the wicked:

But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed. (Emphasis added.)

Modern revelation speaks of the coming distress among the wicked:

I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; (D&C 63:33, emphasis added.)

Zion must exist independent of Babylon:

 Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you, whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you; That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world; That you may come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms, saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman; Who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life. (D&C 78:13-16, emphasis added.)

Buying and selling is how men are controlled by Babylon. In the New Jerusalem, exchange will be without money, without price. (Isaiah 55:1–quoted in 2 Ne. 9:50; 26:25.) There will be no commerce to tax, no business to license or regulate in Zion. Because it is independent of everything else under heaven, it will not matter to Zion if Babylon the great falls. (Rev. 18:2.) Zion will not miss her abundant delicacies. (Rev. 18:3.) Zion will not weep over her fall. (Rev. 18:9-11, 15-17.) Zion will not cast dirt on their heads and bewail the loss of riches. (Rev. 18:19.)

The strength of Zion will come from men who are taught correct principles and are able to govern themselves according to the plan of happiness. God will be their protection:

And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy. (D&C 45:66-71.)

Covenants established with Adam by God will be returned and offered again to bind men and make them accountable only to Him. Those in Zion will live in peace with one another because of their relationship to God.

Like the Nephites after the visit by the resurrected Christ, the people of Zion will live without contentions and disputations, dealing “justly with one another. (4 Nephi 1:2.) They will live according to a higher law which will remove all contention. (4 Nephi 1:13.) This defeat of contention will eventually spread to “all the land.” (4 Nephi 1:15.) When there has been “no contention” for a generation, God will “bless mankind in all their doings.” (4 Nephi 1:18.)

The kingdoms of men, ancient and modern, have and do control how men think, engage in commerce, regulate property, tax, govern, make war and interact. Zion will make a complete overthrow of these systems. Other societies will be “ground to dust” because the way of life in Zion will appeal to all peaceful men. Men of peace will abandon the other false systems and join Zion.

It would do little good to teach the religion of Adam to men if they are not willing to live like Adam. Adam did not question, doubt or rebel against God. He intended to live by every word of the Lord, even when he did not understand “why” something was commanded by the Lord. Adam suspended judgment, and obeyed. Few men are like father Adam. It is doubtful many living today will find it appealing to suspend judgment about a commandment if the Lord does not explain “why” something is to be done.

Adam followed direction for years, not knowing why he was given the direction. He trusted God:

And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:5-8, emphasis added.)

When the Lord establishes the foundation of the New Jerusalem, it will require the sacrifice and obedience of the residents. Even if the foundation for that city is laid, if mankind is unwilling to be governed by God, learn from Him and trust His guidance, it is doubtful it will become Zion.

All or Nothing, 5

It may seem ironic that the warning against “kings” on the land of the Americas (2 Ne. 10:11) was recorded by a man who was himself a king (2 Ne. 5:18). However, the gentile model of “kings” is not the same as the Nephite model of “kingship.” The Nephite kingship is well explained by King Benjamin:

I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me. I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you; Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you— And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day. Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day. Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King! (Mosiah 2:10-19.)

In contrast to this model, Christ explained the problem with gentile kings: “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.” (Luke 22:25.)

Nephi’s warning against “kings” occurs in connection with the promised Zion:

And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God. For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words. (2 Ne. 10:11-14.)

Zion cannot be founded on “kingship” other than the Lord, the king of heaven, who will be Zion’s only king.

The return of the “kingdom of God” will be to prepare the earth for Christ’s return in glory. Zion, the New Jerusalem and the “kingdom of God” all relate to each other and will be developed and functioning in the last generation before the Lord returns. If this does not happen, the whole earth will be cursed. (D&C 128:18.)

The “kingdom of God” has been described as a stone “cut out without hands” (Dan. 2:34) which will proceed to “smite the image… and brake them to pieces.” (Id.) The stone will then become “a great mountain, and fill the whole earth.” (Dan. 2:35.) Yet this is all to be accomplished without violence and based on the principles considered by the council in 1844.

Remember, the “kingdom of God” will be a form of Theocracy to be planted with no intention to interfere with any government of the world. It will offer no violence to governments. But its citizens will live far above their laws. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 88.)

How can the “kingdom of God” smite the false governments of the world and grind them to dust without violence? How can it be non-confrontational, yet succeed in filling the whole earth? Such a revolution will be God’s work. God will not need to use violence, compulsion, treachery, unlawful dominion, pride, corruption or any of the other conventions used by the usurping governments of man. Hence the saying it will be a stone “cut without hands” or in other words accomplished by the wisdom of God.

It should be clear from the prophecies that this work will start with a small group chosen to begin the work. A temple and rites will provide the legal, cultural, and covenant foundation for a new society. These people will learn how to become the “kingdom of God” and will learn His ways and to walk in His paths. When they know how to live in peace, and have obtained the original Holy Order, others will be invited to join them and learn how to live according to a new, higher way of life. The challenge of teaching new people this new way of organizing society will be daunting. The community will struggle together to learn how to overcome the social infection that comes from Babylon anytime a new family flees Babylon and comes to Zion.

As the group grows, they will increase their aptitude to assimilate new members. Skills will be gained in helping people overcome the world. The infections from Babylon, the Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans and all modern world governments will be eradicated. People of the New Jerusalem will learn a godly way of governing and holiness of character.

As the New Jerusalem grows, eventually it will divide, and there will be another group established nearby where both communities will be able to take in new families and teach them of the Lord’s way.

Isaiah described these people:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.)

Modern revelation explained it:

And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows. And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever. (D&C 133:29-35.)

The work of obtaining Zion from the Lord is to walk back to Eden. Its purpose is to renew mankind and be redeemed from the fall. The objective is to create a place where God can come and dwell with people, as He once did in the Garden of Eden. Because they lack the knowledge to dwell in righteousness, mankind is held captive by false governments: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” (Isa. 5:13.) Fools prize ignorance and speculation over what the Lord is offering as a gift.

Then will Isaiah’s prophecy be fulfilled:

they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isa. 2:4-5.)

Then too will the 10th Article of Faith be accomplished:

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Everything will need to change before the prophecies can be fulfilled. All the culture, law, social arrangements, ambitions, economies and pride of the nations will need to be rejected by the group. The new way of life must be organized after the original pattern taught in the beginning. The “rights belonging to the fathers,” which Abraham obtained as an inheritance from the first man Adam, will be recovered and lived by the those occupants of the New Jerusalem. They must not only say, but do, what is asked of them by God. His purpose is to make mankind joyful, which cannot be attained by wickedness. “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.)

When God gives mankind this opportunity, they are rarely interested. The last time God offered, the opportunity was spoiled by “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101:6.) Even people who think they would like to see Zion, fight against the truth now being rolled out in plain sight. They err, and prize delusion over active engagement with God.

He offers again. But whether mankind is any better prepared, or more willing than before remains to be seen. It will require all from us, or we will be left with nothing.