Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Defending the Faith

There are many things I do not know, and great deal I still need to learn. This weekend I was privileged to be in the presence of faithful men and women, strong in their convictions and true to their mainstream Christian faiths. As ministers and active believers, their love for God was clearly felt. Admirable, I might add.

And as a Mormon (as I’m commonly referred these days), the topic of legitimacy clearly rose. It was then that I realised that I have much to work on – especially in defending my faith while respecting theirs.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

I failed in that regard this past weekend, as my responses left much to be wanted, much to be answered. I resorted to the same old response the missionaries left me with when I asked the same questions and the conversation died before resolution was made. So that is what I’d like to address today.

From their perspective, the gospel was clearly taught to the disciples and recorded in the Bible. From then, it has been the gospel Christians have lived by until the 1800s came. Then, suddenly, Churches sprang out with new doctrine and new teachings that opposed that which was carried on from the days of the apostles.

Galatians 1:8-9 was presented and I was asked how I felt about having “another gospel”.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

From this perspective, yes, I agree that it can be viewed as a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But this is not how we see it. And foundation of our conclusion resides in the churches that did exist before any such restoration took place. Our understanding of the above verse brings to pass the difference in understanding of the term “gospel”.

Let us go back, back to the days of Joseph Smith, when his journey for truth began.

In his immediate vicinity, the topic of religion was rife and the denominations existing already strong. There were Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians of immediate concern. His family was torn between the splits and his mind was not yet made. These were the days when congregations fought strongly about who was right and who was wrong.

Already, before any “restoration”, there was much confusion regarding the truthfulness of any current denomination. It is not surprising that many began their own search for truth, coming to many of their own conclusions.

In the words of Joseph Smith, “for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.”

The “gospel” had not been preserved. The teachings that now came forth taught that God no longer spoke to man; that dreams and visions were not possible (as opposed to Acts 20:17) and that one should NOT pray (as opposed to 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

This was the reality for Joseph Smith. Clearly, an apostasy had occurred, as these men and women relied on teachings, rather than testimony; teachings that varied greatly, one from another. As we see it, a restoration needed to take place. Man needed God, not the interpretations of man.

So Joseph Smith prayed to God and the first vision came to pass. The Book of Mormon was revealed to reaffirm what the Bible taught. Together, they would stand as scripture to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon was not and is not another gospel, but another testament of Jesus Christ. It is further scripture to teach the same gospel, because the Bible had been through so many hands and preached with so many tongues and interpretations.

So no, I don’t believe Paul was talking about Moroni or Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon in Galatians 1. I don’t believe the Book of Mormon teaches “another gospel”, because it teaches us to come unto Christ, as does the Bible; it teaches us to call on His name so that we can be saved, as does the Bible; it teaches us that He is the focus, He is the centre, and He is the reason for all things, as does the Bible. It teaches us the means by which we can be saved – faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end – and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the same gospel he taught to His disciples and it is the same gospel taught today.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that contemporary Christianity is not the same as Christianity was just prior to the “restoration”. Christianity changed from trusting in reason to trusting in revelation, they went from being Draconian to relying solely on grace, and began developing a relationship with God instead of preaching damnation.

I find this change interesting as the words to Joseph Smith in the First Vision were, “they draw near unto me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

I strongly believe this has changed from then to now. Yes, there are many who fall under this category still, but Christianity today is about the relationship. At least, that is what I’ve noticed.

There are many who seek the Lord and follow Him with all their heart.

Another question was asked, if we believe that a person has to be Mormon in order to get into heaven. And granted, there are many that do believe this. But one thing we do know is that we, LDS, will be surprised at the judgement bar to see those who do, in fact, receive celestial glory (Matthew 5:10).

As important as the three kingdoms are in our faith, I don’t really like discussing them with those who don’t share it; mostly because they don’t exist yet. Rather, I prefer to focus on paradise (Luke 23:43) and prison (1 Peter 3:19), the current heaven and hell. This is where Mormonism and mainstream Christianity works together, for the most part.

There are many things pertaining to the restoration which would require much study, much time, and much discussion. I don’t have the answers to many things, but I know that this is the path God has put me on. For I, myself, had great difficulty in accepting the restored gospel, but when God speaks, you listen. When the Spirit whispers, you pay attention.

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