BOWbutton

This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

Covenant People

Man does not make covenants with God. God offers a covenant and people either accept or reject God’s offer. But until God offers, mankind can do nothing to create a covenant with or for God.

The preface to the Doctrine and Covenants was a revelation intended to introduce an accompanying volume.

the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord neither his servants neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles shall be cut off from among the people; for they have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness but every man walketh in his own way and after the Image of his own God whose Image is in the likeness of the world and whose substance is that of an Idol which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon even Babylon the great which shall fall. (D&C 1, Emphasis added.)

The Lord cannot fulfill His promises, prophecies and covenants without a covenant people. There are always those who will stray and break His covenant. Among the problems the Lord has to overcome when He makes an effort to gather people together to become His, is the tendency of the proud and defiant to “walk in his own way” and to have an “Image of his own God” as the guide. The path to becoming God’s people does not lie in a solitary walk by those who claim they have their “own way” to follow. It is to be found by living the commandments of Christ among brothers and sisters who grow to have one heart and one mind.

Given the tendency of wicked men to exploit the weak, society has made it impossible to live the Sermon on the Mount or Sermon at Bountiful as a solitary individual. In a godly society where people ‘do unto others other than as they wish to have done to them,’ it is possible to live in peace. Those Sermons by the Lord are meant to change a culture. It is the blueprint for a community that can grow in understanding until they have one heart and one mind. The Lord’s teachings lead inevitably to having “no poor among them” because the society is able to learn to have peace with one another.

Spanish Language Lectures on Faith

An on-line version of The Lectures on Faith (LECTURAS SOBRE LA FE) is now available and linked by clicking on that title.

It is also available as an inexpensive book on Amazon at this link:

Lecturas Sobre La Fe

If you know of a Spanish-speaking reader who would be interested, please share the link.

 

California Talk September 21

I will be speaking on September 21st at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in the Los Angeles area. If you are in that area I would appreciate any effort you can make to let local non-Mormons know about the talk.

The talk is tailored for a Christian audience and is connected with the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was needed, but was only part of what God planned to happen before the Second Coming of the Lord. The Restoration is also necessary.

There are many things about Christian history that the paid, Protestant and Catholic clergy will avoid. I am not a paid minister, and no donations will be solicited at the talk. It is a sacrifice and a labor of love intended solely to help advance preparations for the Lord’s return.

Individual efforts by those of you willing to help inform others in the Los Angeles area will be appreciated. Feel free to use your best efforts to make people aware of the planned talk. It will be at the following address:

Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Sierra Room

12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, California.

More information is available at the “2017 Events” page on the website Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reconciliation (A Little)

A joint accord has been reached by the Lutherans and Catholics on one issue that has divided them since Martin Luther. Luther, because he rejected Catholic authority claims, needed another basis for salvation. He identified God’s grace alone as the solution. Catholicism, however required the accouterments it offered through its claims to priesthood authority, and by extension authoritative ordinances. Therefore the Catholic claims required believers to respond with suitable submission, or works, to be saved.

The joint accord now allows the question of grace vs. works to be buried, as between Catholics and Lutherans. Harmony is found in the statement which contains these words:

“By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part,  we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works.”

The whole accord can be found here: Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church).

Paragraph 25 explains:

“We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God’s gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.”

The entire statement is interesting and can be seen at the link above.

What if salvation is not determined by grace alone, by works alone, or even some combination of the two? What if it comes from the ministry of one sent by God to declare salvation? And faith comes by hearing the message like Paul taught. (See Romans 10:17.) Paul was expounding a passage from Isaiah (Isa. 53:1), a prophet sent by God. Paul was likewise sent with a message from God. What if the meaning is that in order to receive salvation it is essential that the believer receive a message from a minister actually sent by God with a message for our day and time?

What if salvation requires the same thing now as when Isaiah preached and prophesied, and when Paul taught, and when Christ ministered to mankind? What if there is a necessary relationship between the sender of a message (God) and the speaker of the message (one sent by God) in order for the message to actually result in salvation for the hearer-believer?

Who has believed our report, indeed? And who, then, has saving faith?

This is a moment that has been 500 years in the coming. But it does not carry the certifying imprint of God’s word. Instead it carries the authority of compromise between two institutions whose link to God is borrowed from those who did speak with and for God, but who have long been dead. Does living faith require a living message? If so neither Lutheran nor Catholic institutions can save. Nor can their new agreement signal anything important for anyone’s salvation.

Scripture Voting

Some issues raised by the scripture project now underway are most appropriately decided by common consent. Here is the link to voting where the issues are set out:

There will be a second round of voting later this month where additional matters will be addressed.

 

 

New Video

There is a new video on the website for the 500th Anniversary of the Christian Reformation. The video is titled:
Reconsidering Everything

A link is provided by clicking on the name above. You can access all six of the videos on that same page.

Prayer

I received the following email:

Denver,

I know you are used to far more profound questions, but do you have any suggestions on how to make prayer meaningful? I find it hard to pray, given that God knows whats in my head and what I will say, but I have been making an effort to pray more. Any tips?
_______________________________
I sent the following reply:
Talk like you are addressing your most intimate friend and have nothing to hide. Tell Him about your regrets, hopes, frustrations, concerns, fears, and confusion. Before long you will discover that whatever you care about God also cares about. He can give perspective that changes everything. Prayer should not recognize the distance between us and God, but should become the way we close that distance.

Equality?

I received the following email today:

Dear Denver,
 
I know you don’t know me, but there are some things that have been on my mind for quite a while and I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.
 
When you spoke in St. George, you said, “We are all equal, and we are all accountable.”  What did you mean by that?  At the time, I felt the Spirit bear witness to me that what you were saying was true as well as very significant.  Over the past few months, though, I’ve wondered if I didn’t really understand what you were saying.  Could you please clarify for me and maybe others as well?  Obviously, we all have differing degrees of light and truth.  Does that make us unequal?  How can I be equal with someone who has a greater connection to the Lord than I do?  Are we necessarily brought back into a hierarchy because of this inequality?  Do all our voices matter when some might voice mere opinions, others inspired thoughts from God and others revealed truths from the Lord?  How can I be equal with all when some voices are loud and strong and heard by many and others are quiet and reserved and heard by so few?
 
And are we all really accountable for what happens with the scripture project?  About a month ago I read this on the scripture update from the scripture committee:
 
“If we mess things up, we are responsible for that and the Lord cannot hold the assembly responsible. The Lord is capable of making the covenant happen. He wants this. Many on the other side (according to Denver) are eager for this to happen. The Lord can remove any knucklehead(s) that gets in the way or threatens the project. He will also support it. We have seen signs that heaven has compassion on the project and the Committee (Denver receiving corrections to the scriptures is one sign). Trust that the Lord will get His way.”
 
To me, this sounds like we’re not accountable at all.  And it also reminded me of this:
 
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)”
 
In PTR, you asked, “Can we be ‘one’ because we believe in the theory of equality? . . . Is belief enough? Or must there be action?”  I know you were talking about temporal matters, but does it apply here as well?  I also looked up “Equality” on your website and discovered a series of blog posts that discuss this very concept, pointing out errors in the early church.  You talked about how Joseph had initially set up a system where various groups shared power with each other and with the church as a whole.  You said:

“This splintering of authority precluded any single man or small body of men from dominating and dictating to the church. Ultimate authority was vested in ‘the voice of the Church’ who could revoke any man’s position or authority.” (September 21, 2016)
 
Up until now, there hasn’t been a concern about authority and power because we, as a people, have been organized in fellowships and have governed ourselves and have seen ourselves as equals.  But now there is “a small body of men” who are making decisions that affect everyone.  Is their authority splintered so that they don’t have too much power or control?  Are there checks in place to ensure against unrighteous dominion? 
 
In the same blogpost, you said:
 
“There are two great principles this history has proven. First, a body of believers who are equal are not easily governed. If the only tools to employ are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and pure knowledge, it will require the wisdom of God to keep believers together. As soon as they are allowed “to govern themselves” there will be ill-defined margins and straying believers in need of teaching, preaching, persuading and long-suffering. Second, it is easy to aggregate power, wealth, influence and authority if religion is used to control people . . .
 
If Zion is to have people of one heart and one mind, who live in righteousness with one another (Moses 7:18) then however cumbersome, inefficient, difficult or daunting it may prove, only the first principle can be chosen. If it fails, then there is no residual institution to add another abusive tool for the god of this world to employ in deceiving and chaining men using another inherited false tradition.”
 
I can’t imagine any of us in this situation today holding any judgment against the early saints.  It is incredibly difficult to govern with persuasion and long-suffering and all of that.  As a parent, I fail at it daily.  It would be so much easier to establish a hierarchical system and move forward.  But are we following the same pattern in a different way?  I hear fewer and fewer voices because they don’t feel heard.  I see more and more shrugging and saying, “I guess the Lord will take care of everything,” “Just trust the scripture committee.”
 
You said: 
“Zion will be produced by a journey begun in equality, pursued by equals, with no man able to command another man’s actions. Persuasion, meekness, unfeigned love and pure knowledge are the only tools necessary for Zion.”
 
I’m not interested in the theory of equality.  Could the process of getting a new set of scriptures be just important as the scriptures themselves? Are we so interested in the end results that we don’t care how we get there?  You said it better:

“This way is cumbersome and inefficient. But why do gentiles think it is preferable to trade godly equality for administrative efficiency? If the destiny is equality, then the journey must begin with that held paramount. We cannot pursue abusive and controlling means to achieve freedom and equality. The path taken, matters as much as the destination. Struggling with the inefficient and cumbersome tools of persuasion, love, patience and pure knowledge will require a lot of changes to be made voluntarily. That is of course the goal: Voluntarily changing hearts.” (September 22, 2016)
 
Are we really all equal?  Are we really all accountable?  If not, please let me know.  If we are, then how do we change the way we’re doing things so that we operate as equals?
___________________________________________

I responded to this inquiry as follows:

What is the “project” now underway? I believe it to be something other than just recovering the scriptures. But the scriptures are an essential part of the “project” now underway.

As to the scriptures, there were really five different points of origin for what has been accomplished to date. No one began the project because someone was “in control.” All five different points of origin were either an individual or a small group of people who banded together to start some aspect of recovering a more accurate version of the scriptures. I was not involved. I heard that some group was working on a new set of better scriptures, and I thought it was a good idea. But I wasn’t involved.
As work proceeded some of these people learned of the work of others and banded together. Over time the different groups distilled into three: two groups working independently and an individual working alone. They were unaware of each other. The two groups were working on all of the scriptures, and the individual was working on the Joseph Smith Bible text alone.
One of the groups contacted me and turned their “finished” product over to me to publish. They asked to be left unnamed. I was going to respect their wishes, but, while I was still reviewing their work I learned of another project having been completed. I’ve explained already that I contacted the other group, and put the two groups in contact with one another, and that once they were in contact they learned from one another and determined to consolidate and improve the overall project into a single effort.
No one was prevented from doing this work. Everyone was equal and entitled to do the work. There was and is no-one “in charge” including me. In fact, my contributions have been limited and carefully measured by me to allow others to complete their labors uninterrupted by me attempting to exert any control. This has been freely done by volunteers laboring prayerfully as equals in pursuit of a product they have all been led by God to accomplish.
The fellow who labored alone on the Joseph Smith Bible project only recently came to the attention of the others laboring on this scripture undertaking. He stepped up voluntarily, explained what he had been working on, and is now in charge of the JST portion of the project because his work has been better than anything accomplished by either of the groups separately or in their combined efforts. No one elected him to take over. He just appeared with better work having been accomplished, his labors were recognized as better than what others had been able to perform, and he was given by everyone the responsibility to shepherd that part of the project to completion.
The fact that an unknown individual could step forward in the last month and provide valuable and inspired work that everyone who had been previously laboring for over a year and a half to accomplish, and then be recognized as having done a better work, in my estimation PROVES that we are all equal. He did this as a solitary labor of love and devotion. He was not called, controlled, or assigned. He volunteered. Like all others working on the scriptures, he also proceeded as an individual with equal right to contribute. And contribute he has.
The labor on the “D&C” (I use that term for convenience) was turned over to two volunteers sometime after St. George. They were not part of the original two groups, and were only recent volunteers added to the work because they had the desire and willingness to labor on this work. Although they were very recent additions, compared with those who worked for 18 months before these two joined, the entire “D&C” has been turned over to them. They volunteered and have proven by their efforts to be worthy of the labor they are performing. No one called them. No one presides over them. They decided to do the work and have been trusted to accomplish it by everyone who had done the preliminary work.
Everyone has had the same opportunity throughout. And many people now in critically important roles assumed those positions of trust and labor very recently and entirely voluntarily.
No one is getting paid. No one is paying anyone. No one has the right to hire or fire the volunteers. There is no inequality in this project that I can determine from my observations of the work and how it has progressed.
There are a lot of people criticizing because they haven’t been consulted along the way or “included” in the work. But if they rolled up their sleeves and did something to contribute they would soon find themselves laboring alongside those who have done just that for nearly two years now. Everyone is welcomed to the work.
It is not particularly easy work. It involves many hours of reviewing sometimes difficult to read and poor quality documents in order to recover as accurate a transcript as possible. There is no “freelancing” involved in any of this. It is a word-recovery labor in which the person doing the work is attempting to restore original language. It should not matter if someone presently working on the scriptures does the work or if someone else gets out a magnifying glass (or uses a program to increase magnification) to determine what the original document said. The result should be the same.
But I asked at the beginning what “the project” really consists of: because the effort is intended to remove condemnation and rejection. The first step is to respect the Book of Mormon and former commandments, not only to say but to do them. The scriptures project is intended to show the Lord we are willing to recover what “to say” or in other words to recover as best a reconstruction of the scriptures as we can now do. We know that will not be perfect. That opportunity was lost forever. We cannot achieve perfection. What we can do is make a good faith effort to get it as right as presently possible, given the neglect and loss of important information that cannot now be recovered.
We can make as earnest and heartfelt an effort to show our respect as humanly possible in the circumstances. But we know it will not be perfect because of the state of the records now remaining.
So we will do as much as we can, and know that when we present it to the Lord it will be up to Him to determine if He will have mercy on us.
I am very encouraged by the work I have seen done. I have every hope that the scriptures that will result from this effort will be as close as possible to what Joseph Smith left us in his ministry. Not perfect, but close. And I think they will be very valuable, even precious, for anyone who is interested in getting light and truth from the reconstructed materials.
But that is only one step in “the project” and perhaps the easier one at that. The more important step is to distinguish ourselves from those who went before. When you give a fair account of the failure to accomplish Zion, the language of scriptures ascribes the pollution of the earlier saints’ inheritance to contentions, jarrings, envyings, strifes and their lustful and covetous desires. On those qualities I fear we are almost identical to the earlier saints. We have not been able to eradicate those things from ourselves.
I read the foolish opposition that has been and is being advanced and I am astonished at the failure to be grateful and deeply appreciative of the many, many hours of sacrifice that have been freely made by all involved to give something of value to everyone who will receive it. I know the Lord has been displeased by the clamor, the vocal suspicions and the negative assumptions that have been freely published to the world. I mourn because we may succeed in having the best recovered scriptures of all the last-days saints, but still be no better than the worst of them.
So “the project” remains, in my view, still a distant and probably unattainable accomplishment. We seem ill-suited to become “one” and therefore ill-suited to have the Lord consider us for Zion. He will bring it about. But maybe with people who use the scriptures we are able to produce in order to actually “do” what they require for His people.
We take it one step at a time. Right now the remainder of the work to produce the scriptures is daunting. When finished, it will be presented to the Lord. Everyone is welcome to do that individually, collectively in fellowship groups, in families, or among friends. Everyone can present it to the Lord. Equally. And everyone can seek their own answer from Him. I intend to do so. I hope you will choose to do likewise.
If we have scriptures that please the Lord, then it is equally up to us to live according to their commandments, teachings, precepts, advice, counsel and warnings.

 

Trinitarian Impediment

The doctrine of the Trinity which was settled, if not created, in the Council of Nicea is an impediment, and not an advantage, to knowing God. If “life eternal” is to “know God” (as John declared–see John 17:3) then of what value is a doctrine that makes God “incomprehensible?”

Even theologian, James R. White, from the Christian Research Institute makes damning admissions as he labors to defend the Nicene Creed. (See What Really Happened at Nicea? CRI Statement DN-206.) He explains that “every time they came up with a statement that was limited solely to biblical terms” it was unclear. They invented and used new terminology because “they needed to use a term that could not be misunderstood.” Meaning that they had to go outside the scriptures because the scriptures failed to say what they wanted said.

He elaborates that “they sought to clarify biblical truth.” He does not want to admit their extra-biblical creed was a departure, and struggles to claim the council was only accomplishing a limited and clarifying task.

What if instead of debating and focusing on “substance” (or the material of which God is composed), the debate did confine itself solely to biblical terms? Nicene terminology debated the terms homoousios and homoiusios to resolve their extra-biblical debate. The hetereroousios term was easily defeated.

These terms mean:

Homoousios: of the same identical substance

Homoiusios: of similar substance

Heteroousios: of a different substance

Why focus on “substance” at all? What in the New Testament makes that a Christian concern? The only time “substance” enters into the picture is when a very physical Jesus Christ accomplishes very physical acts during His ministry. Touching the eyes and healing (John 9:6), breaking apart loaves of bread (Matt. 14:19), handling a bowl, water, towel and touching feet (John 13:5), or when He was resurrected, allowing the disciples to handle His physical body to confirm it was Him (Luke 24:39). These physical descriptions of a Being composed of material substance, like us, are in the Bible precisely to inform us of Christ’s physical nature. All the biblical texts were discarded because they were insufficient to describe the kind of “substance” the theologians wanted to adopt.

The quest for singular and unknowable “substance” for God was because of the Christian embarrassment at their loss of monotheism. If Christ and the Father were different in any way from one another, then the monotheistic tradition of apostate Judaism would be lost. Earliest Judaism had a Divine Council with a Father who presided, a Divine Son, and angelic hosts. Their theology changed dramatically during the Second Temple period, which has been regarded by many scholars as a time of Jewish apostasy.

Like so many other false notions, however, this one is also solved by the Bible. Christ declared plainly how the Father and the Son were “one”.

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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23; emphasis added.)

The disciples were not of the identical substance. Peter was separate from John, who were both different beings than Andrew. Yet they were to be “one” in the same way the Son and the Father are “one.” Or, in other words, the unity of the Godhead is not clarified by a discussion on “substance” and is utterly confused by making them identical “substance” so as to avoid polytheism. The Godhead is “one” because they are united in purpose, accomplishing the same work jointly, and abiding by the identical principles of truth and righteousness. In that way men can likewise become “godly” by uniting in God’s purpose, working jointly to save the souls of men, and abiding the same standards of truth and righteousness.

Trinitarian theology is not an advantage to Christian orthodoxy. It is an impediment to understanding and knowing God. It alienates you from the Godhead, with whom you are intended to become “one.” And above all else, even the defenders of Trinitarianism admit it is extra-biblical and cannot be proven if the discussion is limited solely to the Bible.

Life eternal is to know Jesus Christ and His Father who sent Him. You cannot know an unknowable god. Trinitarianism was defended by Athanasius at Nicea and advocated by him afterwards. He developed a follow-on creed to help further explain what was done to the orthodox god at Nicea. Here is what he claimed they accomplished with their creedal explanation of god: “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible… As also there are not three … incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.”

The Orthodox Christian god is one great “incomprehensible” and unknowable being who cannot be defined if you limit the description solely to the Bible.  If you are an Orthodox Christian, that ought to trouble you.

You have become like the Samaritans whom Christ told worshipped “they know not what” (John 4:22), or the pagans Paul addressed on Mars Hill who did not know what or who they worshipped. (Acts 17:22-23.)

False traditions cannot save you, however sincerely you may hold them. Knowing God, however, is life eternal.