Thursday, October 7, 2010

Being at One

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. - Third Article of Faith, LDS

The atonement is the most talked about and most misunderstood part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ in GethsemaneI covered a bit about sin in my blog about the Second Article of Faith. It was mostly about what sin is and how we can commit it. To recap it's to act knowingly or willingly against the will of God. We're imperfect and sometimes it seems a better idea to do the wrong thing rather than tough out the right. Guaranteed we've all done something.

Lemme diverge a bit and talk a little about God & Heaven. God knows how to be happy. I know, duh, but it needs to be said. He wants us to be happy and has prepared a place where we can achieve that forever. It doesn't mean that we get to do whatever we want because we will eventually step on someone's toes. The natural answer would be "don't hang around other people", but we're social beings and cannot spend eternity alone. So to boil it all down, some strict ground rules need to be set. For one you have to be capable of following the rules and be clean from trespasses altogether.

Now back to sin. If we have sin, we cannot go to this place. To fix sin you need to be able to reverse your actions or be punished. Reversing actions is impossible and punishment is more than we can bear with our mortal bodies. Eternal consequences and temporal bodies don't mix.

So now what? We sin, we can't be in heaven and God can't just forgive us. Why can't he forgive us? Justice. He is a just God and in so being he cannot be merciful or he contradicts himself. Since we can't pay the debt (being mortal and all) and God has to be just we need a third party to help us fix this.

Enter the Savior. There are a few requirements for this position:

  1. Power Over Death - He needs to be able to withstand the punishment for sin without dying.
  2. Mortal - If there's no risk there's no sacrifice and only morals have the risk of death.
  3. Perfect - How can anyone be expected to give their entire eternal fate over to someone they can find fault with?
  4. Infinite - If you atone for 1 quintillion sins what if there was one more. It is this "what if" that always requires atoning for one more sin. Hence, infinite.

CrucifixionWe all know who fit the bill and did it willingly: Jesus Christ. His father was God, giving him power over death and the ability to avoid sin. His mother was Mary, giving him the ability to die and adding risk to this whole thing. He, by his very nature, is full of charity (the reason why he volunteered). Charity is love without limitation. Love without limitation is infinite and powerful enough to overcome infinite pain.

Now that all the criteria is met we need to look at the act. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ suffered for all the sins of mankind. He had endured 40 days without food, the betrayal of his own people, Satan, hatred and many more things we do not know, but this single event scared him. He knew what needed to be done. His whole existence was spent preparing for this moment and when it arrived he asked if there was another way. This was a big deal and I'm glad he chose to do it.

Now for the second part of the Atonement. So that all could be raised in incorruption never to die again Christ needed to break the bonds of death, by dying. He died on the cross and two days later he rose. There is more to his life, ie. he set the example; He endured all things so he could succor us; He taught how we should be; and most importantly he gave us the conditions of his contract. All these things done because he knew we, his brothers and sisters, could not do it on our own and volunteered to help us out.

Now this deviates strongly from most other Christian faiths in a few ways:

  1. Garden of GethsemaneGarden of Gethsemane - It is believed that Christ went to the Garden to negotiate with God about the Crucifixion the next day and provide a place so Judas could find him.
  2. Crucifixion - It is also believed Christ paid for our sins by dying on the Cross.
  3. Resurrection - This is tied to neither the garden or the Crucifixion. It is believed that ressurrection is just being saved from hell and that the dead rising would be the same as giving our bodies life again.

As stated above, we believe that Christ paid for our sins in the Garden. He died on the Cross so he could break the bonds of death so we all could be resurrected. We are resurrected with perfect bodies so we can live forever.

So now Christ had fulfilled his end of the contract. He had paid for our sins. So what does that mean for us? If we do what he says we can all shake off the sins that bind us down and be raised to incorruption. All the principals and ordinances of his gospel are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as well as those people with the authority to administer them. With these handy tools we can enter into the kingdom of heaven and partake in eternal happiness. Goody for us.

Be One

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Musing on Proposition 8

I was thinking about California's Proposition 8 passed in 2008. I decided to look up how much the LDS Church actually donated to the campaign. I found a letter originally written by Kevin Hamilton and modified by Elizabeth Ogden Agle. Here is that letter:

  1. Yes On 8 - Protect MarriageMormons make up only 2% of the population of California. There are approximately 750,000 LDS out of a total population of approximately 36 million.[1] [2]
  2. If one estimates that 250,000 LDS are registered voters (the rest being children), then out of a total of 5,661,583 yes votes, LDS voters made up 4.4% of the Yes vote and 2.3% of the total Proposition 8 vote (11,050,301).[3]
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) donated no money to the Yes on 8 campaign (only spending legal, non-monetary, in-kind donations totaling $189,903.58, to cover the travel expenses of leaders, website creation and management, YouTube videos, and negligent publicity - a letter and a satellite broadcast). Individual members of the Church were encouraged to support the Yes on 8 efforts and, exercising their constitutional right to free speech, donated whatever they felt like donating.[4]
  4. The No on 8 campaign raised more money than the Yes on 8 campaign. Unofficial estimates put No on 8 at $38 million and Yes on 8 at $36 million, making it the most expensive non-presidential election in the country.[5]
  5. Advertising messages for the Yes on 8 campaign are based on case law and real-life situations. The No on 8 supporters have insisted that the Yes on 8 messaging is based on lies. Every Yes on 8 claim is supported.[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
  6. The majority of our friends and neighbors voted Yes on 8. Los Angeles County voted in favor of Proposition 8. Ventura County voted in favor of Proposition 8. San Diego County voted in favor of Proposition 8. Orange County voted in favor of Proposition 8. San Luis Obispo County voted in favor of Proposition 8. Sacramento County voted in favor of Proposition 8. Fresno County voted in favor of Proposition 8. And the list goes on and on: Merced, San Bernardino, Riverside, Mariposa, Tulare, Imperial, etc.[11]
  7. African Americans overwhelmingly supported Yes on 8. Exit polls show that 70% of Black voters chose Yes on 8. This was interesting because the majority of these voters voted for President-elect Obama. No on 8 supporters had assumed that Obama voters would vote No on 8.[12]
  8. The majority of Latino voters voted Yes on 8. Exit polls show that the majority of Latinos supported Yes on 8 and cited religious beliefs (assumed to be primarily Catholic).[13] [14]
  9. The Yes on 8 coalition was a broad spectrum of religious organizations. Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims - all supported Yes on 8. It is estimated that there are 10 million Catholics and 10 million Protestants in California. Mormons were a tiny fraction of the population represented by Yes on 8 coalition members.[15] [16] [17] [18] [19]
  10. Though the Church urged its members to "do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment," not all Mormons voted in favor of Proposition 8. Our faith accords that each person be allowed to choose for him or her self. Church leaders have asked members to treat other members with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.[20] [21]
  11. The Church did not violate the principal of separation of church and state. This principle is derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, although it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court in recent years. The LDS Church is under no obligation to refrain from participating in the political process, to the extent permitted by law. U.S. election law is very clear that Churches may not endorse candidates, but may support issues. The Church has always been very careful on this matter and occasionally (not often) chooses to support causes that it feels to be of a moral nature.[22] [23] [24]
  12. Supporters of Proposition 8 did exactly what the Constitution provides for all citizens: they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out on an issue that concerned them, make contributions to a cause that they support, and then vote in the regular electoral process. For the most part, this seems to have been done in an open, fair, and civil way. Opponents of 8 have accused supporters of being bigots, liars, and worse. The fact is, we simply did what Americans do - we spoke up, we campaigned, and we voted.

Yes On 8Written by: Kevin Hamilton and edited by Elizabeth Ogden Agle: "[While] I do not know [Kevin] personally...I decided to research them (and tweak a few since I believe they were written before the final vote count) list of sources that concur with the statements [are at] the bottom of the facts...Thank you for any interest. If the media wants to use these facts, they would need to contact Mr. Hamilton. Please also note Mr. Hamilton's disclaimer that accompanied the original text: 'Any errors are mine and in no way reflect official Church policy or doctrine.'"


  6. Parker v. Hurley
  9. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association v. Bernstein and Pester

I knew most of the information above though it was nice to see it all put together in one place. This was posted on a Facebook Group about Proposition 8.

Be tolerant.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gramps was a sinner.

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression. - Second Article of Faith, LDS

I know what you're thinking: "so what?" This was a big deal at one time and has caused many arguments and discussions through the ages. I want to define a couple of terms first:

Sin - To act knowingly or willingly against the will of God. So it's wrong, you know it's wrong and your gonna do it anyway. Sure you might rationalize it somehow, but it is still wrong. That is sin, got it.

Transgression - To act against the will of God. You don't know it's wrong, it is and you are doing it. You'll find out later that you messed up, but for now you are completely ignorant.

Adam and EveOk, back to the the thing at the top. Back in the second century Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lion, came up with the doctrine of Original Sin. This is the belief that we all are born with sin because Adam was kicked out of the Garden of Eden. So that means a 1 minute old infant has sin or in other words has acted knowingly and willingly against the will of God. Bad baby.

This doctrine was not fully realized until the Catholic Church adopted the doctrine of infant baptism around the fourth century. So with this ammunition they taught that babies will go to hell if they are not baptized.

This doctrine was brought into debate during both the First and the Second Great Awakening (during which Christ's Church was restored) making this a very important topic for the last 300 years or so. This is why we felt it necessary to put this in our beliefs.

What we believe is that Adam Transgressed the law. God clearly stated: "thou shalt not eat [or] thou shalt surely die." -Gen 2:17. Meaning that if he ate the fruit he would die. He succumbed to another definition of dying, separation. He was separated from God by being kicked out of the garden. As a result all of us are not in the garden and not with God (eg. fallen), but we are not going to hell.

How is that you ask? We also believe in the innocence of little children. Since they cannot fully understand the laws of God, they cannot act knowingly or willingly against it and therefore are without sin. When they are sufficiently able to make these choices they are capable of sin and need the redemptive power of Christ.

So, we will all be punished for our own sins and not for Adam's transgression. So to sum up there is the Catholic view and our view:

Catholic - Adam sinned by partaking of the fruit so we all have sin and need to be baptized so we don't go to hell.

Mormon - We are not in the garden and are responsible for our actions.

I think it was best said: "Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy."

Be accountable.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. - First Article of Faith, LDS

This statement has caused a lot of controversy and none at the same time. It is really what sets us apart from the Christian community as a whole. Yet most Christians I've asked on the subject believe the same thing. Lemme break it down.

In Catholicism the incredibly confusing Nicean Creed contradicts itself up one side and down the other to reach a consensus about who God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are. The official interpretation of that document is that God has no form, is everywhere, is one being with 3 parts and eternal. That is the official Catholic stance.

Trinity vs. TriuneIn recent years I have heard a new word from the Protestant community: Triune. It is an appropriate term to define what the Catholics believe, which is that God, Jesus & HG are the same being. The reason for this distinction is that the word Trinity means a group of three. Triune means one thing with three distinct parts.

The Mormon Church believes in the Trinity, three distinct beings with one purpose. I do not find this surprising because if you worked with the same two people for hundreds of years (let alone millions) you might be in synch, knowing the will of the others and doing what they would need to be done. Hence also being one in purpose, mind and body.

Many people who read this might say "that's what I believe" and they wouldn't be alone. I have found that whether you're a Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical or other Christian you are inclined to believe in the Trinitarian God over the Triune God because it is easier to comprehend three beings that are one in unity. I also find the one triune being with three incarnations to be confusing as well. This is where Joseph Smith came in.

God and Jesus ChristJoseph was similarly confused about this and religion alltogether. While inquiring in prayer he was visited by the Trinity who cleared up any confusion and confirmed what you all were thinking: that God and Jesus are two different people. They came at the right time to reestablish Christ's Church on the Earth. Any earlier and it would have been snuffed out being called heretics. Any later and it would have met the same fate. This time of the Second Great Awakening provided the opportune moment to restore what was lost with the Apostles.

So to reiterate what Joseph Smith said in the First Article of Faith. The LDS church believes in God and in Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Three distinct beings with one purpose. God being the Father of Jesus Christ and testifying of him just as Christ testifies of his father. The Holy Ghost testifies of the truth which is they are one in mind, body, and purpose, but not substance. I agree for many more reasons than I have stated here.

Be Trinitarian.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Articles of Faith

Back in the beginnings of the Mormon faith there was a lot of buzz about what we actually believed. There were some good rumors, but mostly bad. In 1842 John Wentworth then editor of the Chicago Democrat wanted to know what the LDS church believed in. Instead of going to the man on the street, a baptist minister or a reporter down the hall he did something which would be considered unorthodox in today's journalism: He asked the leader of the Church, Joseph Smith.

Joseph SmithJoseph Smith was also of a mind to let anyone know who asked what we believe. He was cool like that. In writing his response he created probably the clearest list of what we actually believe. It compares well with the beliefs of other churches and doesn't split hairs. So complete and concise was this definititon that the church leaders have included them in the standard set of LDS scriptures.

Enough fanfare, here's the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
  2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
  3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
  4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
  6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
  7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
  8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
  9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
  10. 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.
  11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
  12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
  13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Over the next several months I will be expounding on the information held in these Articles. I hope to further inform and enlighten those interested in what we believe. You can also see LDS beliefs at their website.

Be concise.