Western Religions: Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Part 1

The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim a membership of approximately 8.6 million world-wide (How Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses Are There Worldwide?, JW.org).  The number are said to total about 1.2 million in the U.S.A. (2018 Country and Territory Reports, JW.org).  “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America…  36% are white, 32% are Hispanic, 27% are black and 6% are another race or mixed race” (A Closer Look at Jehovah’s Witnesses Living in the U.S., pewresearch.org).

History

1.  Charles Taze Russell (b.1852-d.1916). Russell was born and reared in Pennsylvania.  He was born in Allegheny City (now a part of Pittsburgh) on February 16, 1852.  His father owned a chain of men’s clothing stores.

Russell was brought up in the Presbyterian church but became dissatisfied with it.  “By the time he was 20, Russell had left both Presbyterianism and Congregationalism because he could not reconcile the idea of an eternal hell with God’s mercy” (Charles Taze Russell, Britannica.com).  “His religious background was Presbyterian and Congregational.  However, he was perturbed by such teaching as predestination and eternal torment in hell fire” (Mankind’s Search for God, p. 351, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania).

He met an Adventist preacher when he was 17 or 18 years old (note: not S.D.A., but one of the splinter groups that survived The Great Disappointment). He spent the next 9 years immersing himself in Adventist doctrine (Michael S. Demory, Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘So called,’ p. 25).  It is from the Adventist that Russell received the doctrine of the mortality of the soul (Editor David Brown, 2002 Spring Lectureship, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 101, 103).  “During the 1870’s, Charles Taze Russell established himself as an independent and controversial Adventist teacher.  He rejected belief in hell as a place of eternal torment and adopted a non-Trinitarian theology that denied the divinity of Jesus” (Jehovah’s Witness, britannica.com).

Russell eventually separated from the Adventists.  “Difference arose on Biblical interpretation, especially on the manner and object of the Lord’s return, although the chronology was left intact.  Russell collaborated with the Adventist N.H. Barbour, the two publishing a book together; a year later, in 1878 they parted because they disagreed on the atonement” (Jon Karel Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults, p. 257).  “In 1878 Russell had a major disagreement with one of his collaborators, who had rejected the teachings that Christ’s death could be an atonement for sins… Russell severed all ties with his former collaborator” (Mankind’s Search for God, p. 352, Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society of Pennsylvania).

Russell continued to teach.  He had organized a Bible study group, several years earlier. He continued to work with this group.  “The Jehovah’s witnesses are an outgrowth of the International Bible Students Association, which was founded in 1872 in Pittsburg by Charles Taze Russell” (Jehovah’s Witness, britannica.com).

He also made use of the printed page.  “In 1879 he began publishing a magazine, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence” (Encyclopedia Britannica © 1979, Vol. 10, p. 131).  The first issue was a printing of 6,000 copies (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 38).  Today, the magazine is known as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.  42 million are said to be printed every month (The Watchtower – No Other Magazine Comes Close, JW.org).  “Russell formed the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (1884), with himself as President” (Jehovah’s Witness, britannica.com).  One writer has suggested that “it could perhaps be said that this marked the time of the founding of the Jehovah’s Witness organization” (Leonard White, A Brief History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Guardian of Truth, April 15, 1993).

2.  Joseph Franklin Rutherford A.K.A. Judge Rutherford (b.1869-d.1942).

Rutherford was born and reared in Missouri.  He was born in Versailles on November 08, 1869.  His father was a farmer.  Rutherford was brought up in the Baptist church.

He became a lawyer in 1892.  He was first a prosecutor.  He received the nickname “Judge” due to his temporarily serving as a substitute judge.  He did this on four occasions.  All four times were for one day each (Editor David Brown, 2002 Spring Bible Lectureship, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 141).

His first known contact with the Watch Tower occurred in 1894, when two Watch Tower representatives came to his office.  They sold him a set of Russell’s “Studies in the Scripture” (Cathleen A. Koenig, Judge Rutherford, ewtn.com).

He, in time became a Bible Student.  He was baptized a Bible Student in 1906.  Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York to serve as legal counsel for the Watch Tower (ibid).

Following Russell’s death in 1916, Rutherford became President of the Watch Tower.  He made many changes.  There were doctrinal changes.  “Judge Rutherford discarded some of Russell’s beliefs, such as the notion that the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Egypt verified biblical predictions of the second advent” (Encyclopedia Britannica © 1979, Vol. 10, p. 131).  There were organizational changes.  Bible student congregations went from being “a loose connection of semi-autonomous congregations into a tight-knit organization” (Editor David Brown, 2002 Spring Bible Lectureship, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 143).

These changes led to division.  Several smaller groups broke away.  These include: Chicago Bible Students Association; Pastoral Bible Institute; the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement; the Standfast Bible Students Association (Demory, p. 28; Editor Brown, p. 144).

In 1931, the group, over which Rutherford presided, was renamed the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Editor Brown, p. 144; 1931 Resolution Naming “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” jw-archive.org).  This name is said to be taken from Isaiah 43:10-12 (Why Are We Called Jehovah’s Witnesses? JW.org).

Other personalities could be considered.  To date there have been eight Watch Tower Presidents, seven since it was incorporated in 1884.  However, these two personalities, Russel and Rutherford, may be considered founders of the organization that we know as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

3.  History According to Them

“The modern-day organization of Jehovah’s witnesses began at the end of the 19th century… while Russell took the lead in the Bible education work at that time and was the first editor of The Watchtower, he was not the founder of a new religion.  The goal of Russell and the other Bible students… was to promote the teachings of Jesus Christ and to follow the practices of the first-century Christian congregation.  Since Jesus is the founder of Christianity, we view him as the founder of our organization” (Who Was the Founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses?, JW.org).

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there have been witnesses throughout history, beginning with Abel (cf. Hebrews 11:4; 12:1; Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:15).  “At Hebrews 11:4, Paul identifies Abel as the first witness of Jehovah’s (Why Should Jehovah have Witnesses?, JW.org).  It should be understood that the appearance of the word “witness” does not mean that the reference is to what is today called the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“The Watch Tower teaches that there was no true Christian church on earth at the beginning of the twentieth century… only the Jehovah’s Witnesses emerged as the one true religion” (No True Religion on Earth Until 1919? Jehovah’s Witnesses View of Church History by Robert Bowman Jr., irr.org).  The Watch Tower said this in 1954, “Seventy years ago sincere worshipers of Jehovah were to be found scattered and bewildered in numerous false religious systems of this world, for in those days there was no one organization to which they could assemble together… The truths taught by Christ Jesus and his apostles have been restored” (Restoration of True Religion Today, wol.jw.org).

4.  Persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the civil governments of this earth are part of Satan’s world (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 209-210, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania).  They “refuse to vote, run for public office, serve in any armed forces, salute the flag, stand for the national anthem or recite the pledge of allegiance” (Brittanica © 1979, Vol. 10, p.131).

These positions have brought them into conflict with many governments of the world.  (1) “Rutherford and seven of his colleagues were sentenced to 20 years in prison (U.S. Federal Prison, B.H.) for conspiring to promote draft evasion during a time of war.  These convictions were later overturned” (Religions – Witnesses: History, bbc.com).  “They were freed after nine months, and the government eventually dropped its prosecution” (Britannica © 1979, Vol. 10, p. 131).  (2) “At one time more than 6,000 witnesses were inmates of Nazi concentration camps.  Communist and Fascist states usually forbid Watch Tower activities” (Britannica © 1979 Vol. 10, p. 131).  “By the second half of World War II over 50% of German Witnesses had been sent to concentration camps.  Overall, one in four German Witnesses died during the Nazi period” (bbc.com).  (3) “Witnesses were also persecuted in Britain, Canada, and the United States.  After the war the Witnesses brought several suits in American courts dealing with their beliefs and practices, resulting in 59 Supreme Court rulings that were regarded as major judgments on free exercise of religion” (Jehovah’s Witnesses, britannica.com).  These are just a few examples.

It is easy to come across as overly aggressive when speaking with Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Walter Martin writes, “an intricate part of their belief system is the conviction that Christians will always attack Jehovah’s Witnesses on a personal level as well as a religious level, hence the Witnesses readily assume a martyr or persecution complex the moment an antagonism is manifested toward Russell, Rutherford, their theology, the Watch Tower or themselves… this illusion is made to seem all the more real when unthinking Christians unfortunately accommodate the Witnesses by appearing overly aggressive toward the Watch Tower theology or the Witnesses personally” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, pp. 33-34).  They expect to be mistreated.  We must be careful how we speak, especially to these people.  If we come on very aggressively, they will likely leave never to return.  The opportunity for study with these people is usually found in a mild, less dominating approach.

 

 

 

 

 

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Western Religions: Seventh-Day Adventists, Part 2

Belief and Practice

1.  God. In Questions on Doctrine, they say, “We believe – That God is the sovereign creator, upholder, and ruler of the Universe, and that He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  That the Godhead, the trinity, comprises God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 21-22).

2.  Man. (a) “We believe – That man is free to choose or reject the offer of salvation through Christ; we do not believe that God has predetermined that some men shall be saved and others lost” (QOD, p. 23).  Thus, they believe in free-will.

(b)  “We believe – That man was endowed at creation with conditional immortality; we do not believe that man has innate immortality or an immortal soul” (QOD, p. 23).  “Conditional immortality” is the concept that man is mortal, and that immortality is a gift of God.  It is not given to all.  It is given to those whom God counts righteous through Jesus Christ.

(c) “Seventh-day Adventists hold – That the condition of man in death is one of unconsciousness.  That all men, good and evil alike, remain in the grave from death to the resurrection” (QOD, p. 15).  This is known as “soul sleep.”

3.  Salvation.  “We believe – That salvation through Christ is by grace alone through faith in His blood” (QOD, p. 22).  “Seventh-Day Adventists hold – That every person in order to obtain salvation must experience the new birth; that this comprises an entire transformation of life and character by the recreative power of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (QOD, p. 12).

What about baptism?  “Seventh-Day Adventists hold – That baptism is an ordinance of the Christian Church and should follow repentance and forgiveness of sins” (QOD, p. 12).  They teach that baptism follows forgiveness of sins.  They practice baptism by immersion (ibid). Note: I had a public debate 2012 with Kevin Miller, then V.P. of the Alaskan Conference of S.D.A. Church (He is now President). In that debate, he denied that baptism was essential to salvation.

There is a 13 point baptism vow which is made before baptism. (1) Do you believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, a unit of three coeternal Persons? (2) Do you accept the death of Jesus on Calvary as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, and believe that by God’s grace through faith in His shed blood you are saved from sin and its penalty?  (3) Do you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, believing that God, in Christ, has forgiven your sins and given you a new heart, and do you renounce the sinful ways of the world? (4) Do you accept by faith the righteousness of Christ, your Intercessor in the heavenly sanctuary, and accept His promise of transforming grace and power to live a loving, Christ-centered life in your home and before the world? (5) Do you believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word, the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian? Do you covenant to spend time regularly in prayer and Bible study? (6) Do you accept the Ten Commandments as a transcript of the character of God and a revelation of His will? Is your purpose by the power of the indwelling Christ, to keep this law, including the fourth commandment, which requires the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord and a memorial of Creation? (7) Do you look forward to the  coming of Jesus, and the blessed hope, when “this mortal shall…put on immortality” ( 1 Cor. 15:54 KJV)? As you prepare to meet the Lord, will you witness to His loving salvation by using your talents in personal soul-winning endeavors to help others be ready for His glorious appearing? (8) Do you accept the Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts, and believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church? (9) Do you believe in Church organization? Is it your purpose to support the Church through tithes and offerings, and by your personal effort and influence? (10) Do you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; and will you honor God by caring for it, avoiding the use of that which is harmful, abstaining from all unclean foods; from the use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages; from the use, manufacture, or sale of tobacco in any of its forms for human consumption; and from the misuse of or trafficking in narcotics or other drugs? (11) Do you know and understand the fundamental Bible principles as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Do you purpose, by the grace of God, to fulfill His will by ordering your life in harmony with these principles? (12) Do you accept the New Testament teaching of baptism by immersion, and desire to be so baptized as a public expression of faith in Christ and His forgiveness of your sins? (13) Do you  accept and believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy, and that people of every nation, race, and language are invited and accepted into its fellowship? Do you desire to be a member of this local congregation of the world Church? [Seventh-Day Adventist Church Manual (2015), pp. 45-48] Once the vow has been made, the church votes on accepting the candidate into membership subject to baptism (ibid).

They believe that one can fall.  “It seems abundantly clear that the acceptance of Christ at conversion does not seal a person’s destiny.  His life record after conversion is also important.  A man may go back on his repentance…” (QOD, p. 420).

4.  Morals. S.D.A. members tend to be very moral people.  The believe that the Ten Commandments to be “great moral, unchangeable precepts, binding upon all men in every age” (QOD, p. 12).  The believe that one should abstain from alcohol and tobacco (QOD, p. 24)

5.  Health. They emphasize healthy living and diet. “We feel it is to be our Christian duty to preserve our bodies in the best health for the service and glory of God” (QOD. p. 624).

They have a long history of being health conscious.  Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and W.K. Kellogg were S.D.A.

There are five “blue zones” which have been identified around the world, places where the population live significantly longer than average.  These are: Okinowa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California – which is home to a large number of S.D.A. members (Seventh-Day Adventist Diet: A Complete Guide, healthline.com).

6.  The Sabbath. “We believe – that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath; we do not believe that the Sabbath has been abolished, changed to the first day, or is merely a seventh part of time” (QOD, p. 24).  They believe that the Sabbath was instituted in Eden and continues to be a perpetual memorial of a finished creation (QOD, p. 149).

Sabbath keeping was practiced early on in the S.D.A. church.  James Bates wrote a tract on the subject in 1846 (James Bates, whiteestate.org).  This tract came to the attention of James and Ellen White (ibid).  Ellen White claimed that she had a vision on April 7, 1847 in which she saw The Ten Commandments, and a halo of glory surrounded the fourth commandment (A Vision 1847, egwwritings.org).   This was viewed as confirmation that they  were to keep the Sabbath.

What about those who do not keep the Sabbath?  They believe that currently there are true Christians in all churches and “None are condemned until they have had the light and seen the obligation of the fourth commandment.”  But that the time is coming when there will be no excuse.  “The line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true” (QOD, p. 183 quoting Ellen G. White, Evangelism, pp. 234-235).

7.  The Resurrection. “Seventh-day Adventists hold – That there shall be a resurrection of the just and the unjust.  The resurrection of the just will take place at the second coming of Christ; the resurrection of the unjust will take place a thousand years later, at the close of the millennial” (QOD, p. 14).  The second coming of Christ will be visible, audible, and personal (QOD, p. 451, 452, 459).  “The millennial reign of Christ covers the period between the first and second resurrection during which time the saint of all ages will live with their blessed Redeemer in heaven” (QOD, p. 17). 

The wicked or unjust will be raised and devoured by fire (QOD, p. 17).  This is “eternal punishment” by result.  They do not believe in an eternal existence of being in punishment (QOD, p. 23, 540).

The fire which consumes the wicked will purify the earth.  “The earth, restored to its pristine beauty, will become forever the abode of the Saints of the Lord” (QOD, p. 17).

  *Note: Most of the previous quotes in this article are from Questions on Doctrine.  This book was published in 1957 by “a Representative Group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Bible Teachers and Editors.”  It is still fairly accurately reflects basic S.D.A doctrine.

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Western Religions: Seventh-Day Adventist, Part 1

The Seventh-Day Adventist church claims a membership of approximately 21 million world-wide.  The numbers are said to total about 1.2 million in the U.S.A. and Canada (Who Are Seventh-Day Adventists?, nadadventist.org).

History

1.  The Great Second Advent Awakening

In the first half of the nineteenth century, many preachers in England and America began to proclaim that Christ’s coming was near.  This is known as “The Great Second Advent Awakening.”

One of these preachers was William Miller.  He was a Baptist preacher in Low Hampton, New York.  He concluded from his study of Daniel that Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  When it did not happen, new dates were set – first April 18, 1844 and then, October 22, 1844 (He took the 2,300 days of Daniel 8:14 to refer to 2,300 years.  He started counting with 457 B.C., Artaxerxes decree.  This would make 1843 A.D. 2,300 years later by his calculations).

Failure of these dates resulted in what is known as “The Great Disappointment.”  Many had “their faith and their hearts broken, never to trust man or God again” (Foy Wallace Jr., God’s Prophetic Word, p. 232).

Some regrouped.  Among them were those who formulated explanations or why Christ had not returned.  Among them were also those who began to teach various unique doctrines.

2.  Three Groups

Three of the groups are of interest to our study.  (a) One group, led by Hiram Edson, was located in western New York.  They believed that the problem was not with the date, but with the location.  Walter Martin explains, “They had expected Christ to come to earth to cleanse the sanctuary, but the sanctuary was not the earth but was located in Heaven!  Instead of coming to earth, therefore, Christ had passed from ‘one apartment’ of the sanctuary into the other ‘apartment’ to perform a closing work now known as ‘investigative judgment” [Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 416).  [As a side note: Members of the Bahai Faith believe that the fulfillment of William Miller’s calculations is the Bab (Barron Harper, Did You Miss the Return of Christ? Bahaiteachings.org)].  (b) Another group, led by Joseph Bates, was located in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  They began to advocate Sabbath keeping (Martin, pp. 417-418).  (c) A third group, led by James White and Ellen G. Harmon (later White) was located in Portland, Maine.  This group recognized Ellen “as the possessor of the ‘spirit of prophecy,’ a restoration of the spiritual gift of prophecy” (Martin, p. 418).

3.  Seventh-Day Adventist

The S.D.A. church was formed when these three groups united.  Walter Martin writes, “When the Edson-Crosier, Bates, and White adherents joined forces, the Seventh-day Adventist’ denomination was launched.  Although the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ denomination was not officially assumed until 1860 at a conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan, nevertheless Seventh-Day Adventism had been launched.  In 1855, the Adventist headquarters were established in Battle Creek and remained there until 1903, when they were transferred to Takoma Park, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.” (Martin, p. 418).  Its headquarters is now located in Silver Spring, Maryland (adventist.org).

Authority

1.  The Bible

 “Seventh-day Adventists uniformly believe that the canon of scripture closed with the book of Revelation we hold that all other writings and teachings, from whatever source, are to be judged by, and are subject to the Bible, which is the spring and norm of the Christian Faith” (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 89-90).

2.  Ellen G. White

“Seventh-day Adventists regard her writings as containing inspired counsel and instruction concerning personal religion and conduct of our denominational work…   we base our teaching on the scriptures, the only foundation of all true Christian doctrine.  However, it is our belief that the Holy Spirit opened to her mind important events and called her to give certain instructions for these last days.    And inasmuch as these instructions, in our understanding, are in harmony with the word of God… We as a denomination accept them as inspired counsels from the Lord” (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 92-93).

Credibility

Ellen G. White wrote 53 books.  Some describe her as a plagiarist.  Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Walter Rea so describes her.  He said that he had not found a single major work by White that did not use a previously published source.  He provided examples.  Rea said, “The important thing is that she and the denomination always claimed that she didn’t copy and that she wasn’t influenced by anyone” (John Dart, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet White is Called Plagiarist, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 7, 1980).  Others admit that she borrowed from others but likens it to a New Testament writer quoting from an Old Testament writer (ibid).

Let’s be clear, the real issue is not whether she borrowed from other sources or not.  The real issue is whether or not she had the gift of prophecy.  It is the position of this writer that a proper understanding of 1 Corinthians 13 implies that she did not.

 

 

 

 

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Western Religions: The Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) Part 3

Beliefs and Practices

1.  God. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (The Articles of Faith 1).

The Father and the Son have a body of flesh and bones, like we do (D&C 130:22; The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 6:9).

God has progressed, according to some early Mormons.  Orson Hyde, an early Mormon apostle, said “Remember that God, our Father, was perhaps once a child and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress… until He has arrived at the point He now is” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, p. 123, jod.mrm.org).  Wilford Woodruff said, “God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so world’s without end” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 6, p. 120).  [Note: This doctrine of progression seems contrary to the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:9-10, 19; Moroni 8:18) and The Doctrine and Covenants (20:17,19).

Brigham Young said that Adam of Genesis was “our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, p. 50).  This is the God who beget Jesus (ibid).  Note: Most Mormons today reject this Adam-God view.

2.  Man. Man is said to have a pre-mortal existence (The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 3:22-23).  Weldon Langfield, a former member of the LDS church, writes, “The theory that all humans existed before birth in a spirit world is now a bedrock doctrine of the LDS church.  In fact, Mormon parents, as they have babies, believe that they are providing bodies for those spirits.  That is why they tend to have large families” (Weldon Longfield, The Truth About Mormonism, p. 78).

Man is accountable for himself.  Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions” (The Articles of Faith 2).

Man has free-will.  This is plainly taught in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23; Alma 13:3; 30:8; Helaman 14:30-31).

Man can become like God.  Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the LDS church, said, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” (The Grand Destiny of the Faithful, churchesofjesuschrist.org).

3.  Salvation. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.  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 hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (The Articles of Faith 3-4).

The Living may be baptized for others who have died.  This is how they understand 1 Corinthians 15:29.  This is why they keep genealogy records.  However, The Book of Mormon seems to teach that one’s destiny is sealed at death (Alma 34:35).  I suppose that Baptism for the Dead provides an exception.

Blood Atonement has been taught.  Some sins are believed to require the sinner’s blood for atonement.  Brigham Young taught this (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 247, Vol. 4, p. 54).  Brigham Young said, “Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 247).

4.  Marriage. The LDS church use to condone polygamy (D&C 132:34, 52).  Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives (Mormon Church Polygamy: Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives, bbc.com).  Brigham Young had a total of 55 wives (Polygamy, Brigham Young and His 55 Wives by John G. Turner, huffpost.com).  Wilford Woodruff, President of the LDS church in 1890 gave an official declaration saying, “In as much as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages… I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with members of the church of which I preside to have them do likewise.”

There are two types of marriages.  Civil marriages end at death.  Temple marriages or celestial marriages are for time and eternity (D&C 132).

5.  Morals. Mormons today, tend to be very moral people.  Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men” (The Articles of Faith 13).

They abstain from wine, strong drink, tobacco, and hot drinks (D&C 89).  Hot drinks mean coffee and tea.

6.  Heaven and hell. Their beliefs may be summarized in the following words, “In Mormon theology, there are three heavens: the telestrial, the terrestrial, and the celestrial.  The lowest heaven is designated for the heathen people who reject the Gospel, who are… suffering in hell pending the resurrection.  The second heaven will be inhabited by Christians who did not accept the Mormon message, Mormons who did not live up to their church’s requirements, and men of good will of other religions who rejected the revelation of the saints.  The final or celestrial heaven is itself divided into three levels, the highest of which is godhood or the possession of a kingdom for one’s self and one’s family” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 224).  See D&C 76:67-ff; 88:21-ff.

7.  Other beliefs. (a) They believe in modern-day miracles (The Articles of Faith 6-7).  (b) They are millennial in eschatology (The Articles of Faith 10).  (c) They believe in two classes of priesthood.  The Aaronic priesthood is for younger Mormon.  It is conferred at the age of twelve.  The Melchizedek priesthood is conferred at the age of eighteen.  They seem to believe that this is essential to church restoration (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:71-ff; D&C 13; The Articles of Faith 5).  (d) They believe that it is permissible to use water in place of the fruit of the vine in communion (D&C 27:1-2). (e) Many Mormons wear temple garments (Mormon undergarments or underwear). “Temple garments are worn by adult members who have made sacred promises of fidelity to God’s commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ”(Temple Garments, church of jesuschrist.org). “Mormon undergarments must be worn day and night by members who have received the ordinance of the temple endowment to remind them of the commitment they made to God, according to Brigham Young University. The LDS Church’s handbook states the garments also “provide protection against temptation and evil” (Lindsey Bever, Mormon Church peels back mystery of sacred underwear, Washingtonpost.com).  “The power is in the symbolism of the garments, not any kind of miracles that result from wearing them. Within Mormon folklore, there are stories of garment wearers receiving physical protection…but this isn’t part of official LDS doctrine” (McKay Coppins, A Brief Guide To “Mormon Underwear,” buzzfeednews.com).

Branches of Mormonism

There are many branches to Mormonism.  Wikipedia currently lists twelve.  Religionfacts.com says there are over 100.  Most are small in number.  Here are a few:

1.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is by far the largest branch.  It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

2.  The Community of Christ (Previously known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). This is the second largest branch.  It currently numbers about 250,000.  This branch is headquartered in Independence, Missouri.  They rejected Brigham Young as a prophet.  They were organized by Joseph Smith III.  They reject polygamy, the idea of God progressing, the Adam-God doctrine, and blood atonement, and baptism for the dead.

3.  The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite or Rigdonite). This is the third largest branch.  It currently numbers about 23,000.  This branch is headquartered in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.  They reject polygamy, celestrial marriages, two separate priesthoods, and many other LDS teachings.  They believe that many teachings of Joseph Smith were not from God.  They rejected the leadership of Brigham Young.  They accept only the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture.

4.  Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This branch is estimated to number 10,000.  It is based out of Hildale, Utah.  They are especially known for their practice of polygamy.

5.  Church of Christ, Temple Lot (Hedrickite). This branch numbers about 7,000.  It is headquartered in Independence, Missouri.  They reject polygamy, celestrial marriage, baptism for the dead, and the LDS organization.  They accept only the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture.  They own the lot on which Joseph Smith prophesied that a temple would be built (cf. D&C 84:1-5; 57:1-6).  It is still not built.

[Sources on branches: Encyclopedia Britanica; Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations; Weldon Longfied, The Truth About Mormonism; Religionfacts.com; and Wikipedia].

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Western Religions: The Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) Part 2

Authority

1.  The Bible

There is a claim to believe the Bible.  Joseph Smith declared, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God…” (The Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith, 8).

However, their belief is qualified by the words, “…as far as it is translated correctly” (ibid).  This seems reasonable, but it provides a convenient out when challenged.

Furthermore, they believe that the Bible has been corrupted over time, and that “many plain and precious things” have been taken out of the Bible (1 Nephi 13:25-29).  The burden is upon them to prove this.

 The reality is, one is left wondering whether they really trust the Bible at all.  Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt, said, “No one can tell whether even one verse of either the Old or New Testament conveys the idea of the original author” (Orson Pratt,  Journal of Discourses Vol. 7, p. 28).

2.  The Book of Mormon

They believe that the Book of Mormon is from God.  Joseph Smith declared, “We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” (The Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith, 8).

The Book of Mormon is less than half the size to the New Testament by word count.  It consists of 15 books, and a total of 239 chapters.

The Book of Mormon may be summarized in the following way.  (1) A group of people, led by Jared, migrated to the Americas, at the time of the Tower of Babel, approximately 2200 B.C. by their reckoning..  They were known as Jaredites.  They ended up fighting among themselves, and completely destroying themselves.  (2) Another group led by Lehi, migrated to the Americas in 600 B.C., before the fall of Jerusalem.  Lehi had three sons.  Nephi was righteous.  Laman and Lemuel were unrighteous.  In time, two hostile camps developed in the Americas: the Nephites (who were initially righteous), and the Lamanites (who were unrighteous).  God cursed the Lamanites with dark skin.  (3) After Jesus was resurrected, he appeared in the Americas to the Nephites.  He preached to them.  They were blessed for many years.  (4) The Nephites were annihilated by the Lamanites in about 385 A.D.  The location of the final battle was near the Hill Cumorah, in Manchester, New York.  Mormon hid Nephite records on the hill (B.O.M., Mormon 6:6) other records were also later hid of Moroni, the Son of Mormon (B.O.M., Introduction; B.O.M., A Brief Explanation).  These records were revealed to Joseph Smith, by a reappearing Moroni, centuries later.  They are claimed to be the basis of The Book of Mormon.

3.  The Doctrine and Covenants

It was first published in 1835.  It contains “revelations given to Joseph Smith, the prophet, with some additions by his successors in the Presidency of the church (D&C, Title page).  It currently contains 138 sections and two official declarations.  These span from September 1823 to June 1978.  Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith and Spencer W. Kimball have contributed.  These revelations are considered to be given “by inspiration of God” (D&C, Explanatory Introduction).  These revelations are said to be “in preparation for the re-establishing of the church of Jesus Christ on earth, and later, for the direction of the church so organization” (ibid).

4.  The Pearl of Great Price

It was supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith, but first published in 1851.  It contains four books.  (1) The Book of Moses concerns creation.  It supposedly clarifies the record from hat had been corrupted in the Bible (The remarkable Book of Moses by Richard Draper, churchofjesuschrist.org).

(2) The Book of Abraham is a retelling of the life of Abraham.  Ham’s descendants are excluded from the priesthood [Abraham 1:21, 25-27 (Not until 1978 were blacks allowed into the Mormon priesthood)].  Pre-mortal existence of man is taught (Abraham 3:22-23).

Joseph Smith supposedly translated this book from some Egyptian papyri which he had purchased.  Little was known of Egyptian hieroglyphics at the time.  We now know that these papyri had nothing to do with Abraham.  They were common burial papyri (see Document Difficulties by Bryan Hodge).

(3) The writings of Joseph is the next book.  Part one is Smith’s translation of Matthew 24.  Part two is Smith’s record of personal history, especially concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon.

(4) The Articles of Faith contain a list of 13 basic points of belief.  “The prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s request to know what members of the church believed” (Articles of Faith, churchofjesuschrist.org).

5.  Continued Revelation

Mormons believe that revelation continues (The Articles of Faith, 7, 9).  The President of the church is “a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God” (D&C 107:91-92; Also, continuing Revelation by President James E. Faust, churchofjesuschrist.org).  President George Q. Cannon, “We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; but all these books without the living oracles and a constant stream of revelation from the Lord, would not lead any people into the celestial kingdom of God” (Continuing Revelation, churchofjesuschrist.org).

Trustworthiness

1.  The Moroni Promise (or Challenge, Test)

When one asks for confirmation that the Book of Mormon is from God, one is commonly directed to the Moroni Promise.  Moroni 10:4 reads, “When ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  Usually, it is said that if this book is true, then this prayer will result in a confirming inward feeling.  It may be a peaceful feeling or a burning sensation.

This certainly allows those who want to believe, justification for their belief.  It helps with Cognitive dissonance.

Let’s remember that feelings can be wrong.  The Bible both warns and provides examples of this (Proverbs 16:25; 28:26; Acts 26:9).

This prayer is defended by appealing to James 1:5.  However, James 1:5 is a prayer for wisdom.  Moroni 10:4 is a prayer for knowledge or revelation.

2.  Failed Prophecies

Joseph Smith made some prophecies that did not come true.  Consider: (1) Smith prophesied on December 25, 1832 about a coming war.  He said that war would soon break out between the states.  It would begin at the South Carolina’s rebellion.  It would spread out upon all nations (The Doctrine and Covenants, section 87).  The newspapers of the day were speaking of coming war (Don Simpson, The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 134-ff).  South Carolina was practicing nullification.  Therefore South Carolina was a major concern.  However, while war did develop between the states, it did not spread upon all nations.  (2)  Smith prophecied in September, 1832 that they would build a temple in western Missouri, and that it would be built in that generation (D&C 84:2-5, 31 cf. 57:1-2).  It never happened.  Other failures could be mentioned (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20,22).

3.  Translation Problems

There are reasons to question Joseph Smith’s translation ability.  (1)  The Book of Lehi was supposed to be a part of the Book of Mormon.  The book went missing while in the possession of Martin Harris.  Smith did not reproduce the book as Jeremiah and Baruch did (Jeremiah 36:27-ff).  He said that he was instructed not to do so [D&C 10:16-18, 30 (see – Document Difficulties by B.H.)].  (2) There are problems with the Book of Abraham.  This we mentioned earlier in this writing (see also – Document Difficulties by B.H.).

4.  DNA

The DNA evidence to date does not support the claim that Native Americans descended from ancient Israelites (Bedrock of Faith is Jolted by William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2006).

5.  Archaeology

The Smithsonian Institute has issued this statement, “Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book (of Mormon – B.H.)” (Don Simpson, The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 288). Tens of thousands of people were supposedly killed on or near the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6).  Where is evidence of this?

 

 

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Western Religions: The Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) Part 1

This is a sub-division of a series on the religions of the world.  The sub-title, “Western Religions,” does not mean that these religions are confined to the West.  It indicates that they originated in the West.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is, by far, the largest branch of Mormonism.  There are more than 16 million members world-wide.  There are more than 6.5 million members in the U.S.A., almost a third of these live in Utah (Mormon Population by State, worldatlas.com).  There are many other branches of Mormonism.  Some of these will be mentioned later.  However, the bulk of this study will concern the largest branch.

History

1.  Joseph Smith Jr. (b.1805-d.1844) and the Beginning

He was born in Sharon, Vermont on December 23, 1805.  He was the fourth of nine children born to Joseph and Lucy (Mack) Smith.

In 1816 or 1817, the family moved, and settled in western New York.  They first lived in Palmyra, and then in nearby Manchester.

His first vision or divine appearance supposedly occurred in the spring of 1820.  He was confused by religious division.  He explicitly mentioned the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Methodists.  He went into the woods near Palmyra and prayed for wisdom.  Two personages, he claimed, appeared to him.  These two were the Father and the Son.  Smith asked which sect he should join.  He was told to join none of them, for they were all wrong (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph 2).

His second visitation supposedly occurred on the night of September 21, 1823.  He was, by his account, in his room in prayer.  He claimed to have been visited multiple times on this night by an angel named Moroni.  He was told that God had work for him to do, and of a book which was written on gold plates.  This book was said to contain “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent and the source from which they sprang.”  Moreover, this book was said to contain, “the fullness of the everlasting Gospel… as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.”  However, it was not yet the time for this book to be brought forth.  Such would occur four years in the future.  He was to go each year to the site of the book (Hill Cumorah, Manchester, New York) and the angel would meet him there, and instruct him (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph 2).

The third visitation, that we will consider, supposedly occurred on September 22, 1827.  The book was entrusted to him.  He moved, due to opposition, to his father-in-law’s house in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania and began to translate the book (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph 2).  It was reportedly written in “reformed Egyptian” and other languages (Book of Mormon, Mormon 9:32-33; B.O.M., 1 Nephi 1:2; Pearl of Great Price, Joseph 2:64).

The Book of Mormon, it’s claimed, was the result.  It was published in March, 1830.  The place was Palmyra, New York.

The church was organized on April 6, 1830 (Doctrine and Coventants, 20-21).  It had six members.  The place was the house of Peter Whitmer in Fayette, New York.  It was originally called The Church of Christ.  The name was later changed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1834.

2.  Growth and Opposition

In 1831, Smith fled a mob in New York, relocating in Kirkland, Ohio.  Twenty-seven people, mostly friends and family, relocated with him.  They joined Sidney Rigdon, an early follower, who had established a church there.  Communal living was practiced for a while.

Missionaries were sent out.  Mormon settlements were established in northwest Missouri.

Smith fled from Ohio on January 12, 1838.  There was a warrant for his arrest on charges of bank fraud for his role as cashier at the failed bank, Kirkland Safety Society.  He fled to Missouri.

Things were not good in Missouri.  Tension between non-Mormons and Mormons (which now numbered 3,000) had escalated to bloodshed and war.  Following the battle of Crooked Creek, between the Mormons and the state militia, Governor Boggs issued Executive Order 44 which said that the Mormons, “Must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace.”  This was issued October 27, 1838.  Then, Smith (and some other Mormons) surrendered and were arrested for treason on November 2, 1838.

While being transported in April 1839, Smith bribed his way to escape, fleeing to Commerce, Illinois.  The small town soon grew from less than 3,000 in 1840 to nearly 12,000 by 1844, rivaling Chicago as the largest city in the state.  Smith renamed it Nauvoo (Beautiful).  He organized the Nauvoo Legion, a militia force, with himself as head.  Many followers flowed into this town.  Some area residents believed that it was a safe-haven for thieves and robbers.

It is alleged that in late 1843 Joseph Smith propositioned Jane Law to become his polyandrous wife, while married to her husband William.  Smith had the Laws excommunicated for slander.

William Law responded.  He formed a rival L.D.S. church called the True Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He also created a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor which criticized Smith for polygamy and other things in its first edition June 7, 1844.

Smith responded.  He ordered the printing press of the paper destroyed.  He then instituted martial law.

Governor Ford sent a letter demanding Smith’s surrender.  If he did not surrender, then the state militia would be sent to enforce the warrant.

Smith and his brother, Hyrum, crossed into Iowa planning to flee across the Rockies. Smith’s wife sent him a note urging him to surrender.  The militia might harass Nauvoo, if he did not.

He and his brother surrendered on June 25, 1844.  He was detained in the Carthage, Illinois jail.

Smith was killed by a mob of 200 men who attacked the jail.  His brother was also killed. Smith did not go down without a fight.

On September 1845 delegates from nine counties met in Quincy, Illinois.  They adopted a resolution requesting that the Mormons leave the state (for much of their history, I am indebted to Brandon G. Kinney’s book, The Mormon War).

3.  Brigham Young (b.1801-d.1877) and Utah

He was an early follower.  He became a Mormon, leaving the Methodist church, in 1832.  He directed the relocation of Mormons from Missouri to Illinois in 1838-1839.  He served as a missionary in Great Britain in 1840-1841.  (Brigham Young, history.com).

Beginning February 4, 1846 Brigham Young led 148 Mormon pioneers to the Great Salt Lake.  Most arrived on July 22, 1847.  Young arrived July 24, 1847.  By 1852, 16,000 had settled there.  By 1869, 80,000 had settled there (Mormons Settle Salt Lake Valley, history.com).  Much of the growth came from mission work.  Between 1852 – 1877 approximately 80,000 migrated to Utah from Great Britain, Scandinavia, and continental Europe (Brigham Young, history.com).

Brigham Young was a powerful leader.  He served as President of the church nearly 30 years 1847 – 1877.   He served as the first Governor of Utah territory 1851-1858.  He was removed by President James Buchanan for disregarding federal laws and sanctioning polygamy (ibid).

There were tensions for some time with outsiders.  On September 11, 1857 a group of California-bound settlers were killed in what is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Between 120 and 140 people were killed.  In October, 1857 six Californians were arrested for being U.S. spies.  They were released, but latter robbed and murdered. This is known as the Aiken Party Massacre (Kinney, The Mormon War, p. 201; Utah War, Wikipedia.org).

The situation improved over time.  In 1890, Church President Wilford Woodruff disavowed polygamy.  Utah became a state in 1896.  (Utah’s Very Interesting path to Statehood, constitutioncenter.org).  Today, Mormons are known to be good citizens and good neighbors.

 

 

 

 

 

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Biblical Gender Equality

Let me begin by clarifying what is meant by “gender.”  Cambridge Dictionary’s first listing says, “the male or female sex, or the state of being male or female” (dictionary.cambridge.org).  One certainly can find other definitions.  However, this is how I am using the term.  I mean male and female.  I do not mean the one hundred or more genders, which some now imagine to exist (consider: BBC teaches kids there are ‘over 100’ gender identities by Jessica Chasmar – The Washington Times – Friday, September 13, 2019, washingtontimes.com).  “Male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Home

God created the home (Genesis 2:18, 24).  He assigned different roles to the man and the woman.  Man is to be the leader in the home (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:3-5).  Woman is to be the helper of man (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).  God spoke to Eve about childbirth (Genesis 3:16), and to Adam about farming (Genesis 3:17-19).  This seems to indicate a different focus.  While a woman may help bring in income (cf. Proverbs 31:16, 24), and a man can help with domestic work (cf. Genesis 18:1-8), there are differences in focus or emphasis (cf. Titus 2:5).

The role of the man and the woman is to be respected.  Children are to honor their fathers and mothers (Ephesians 6:1-2).  They are not to be despised, even in old age (Proverbs 23:22).  A virtuous wife should be greatly valued (Proverbs 31:10, 28).

There is equality in spiritual value.  “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them… as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).  The Christian man should regard his Christian wife’s spiritual value.  They are heirs together of the grace of life.  They have different roles.  However, there is equality in spiritual value.

Church

God created the church (Matthew 16:18 cf. Acts 20:28).  He assigned different roles to men and women.  Men are to be leaders in the church (1 Timothy 2:8, 11, 12).  They are to lead the worship (1 Timothy 2:8, 11, 12).  It is qualified men who are to be appointed as elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).  God gave to woman a role that only a woman can fulfill (i.e. childbearing); even so, God gave to man a role that only a man should fulfill in a mixed assembly consisting of male and female Christians.  However, there are many things that a woman may, and even should do.  A woman may teach children and women (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Titus 2:3-4).  She may help explain the Bible to a man in a very private setting (Acts 18:24-27).  She may teach by way of example (1 Peter 3:1-6).  She may do good deeds for others (Acts 9:36, 39).  We should respect God’s sovereignty to make distinctions in the role of men and women in His church.  These distinctions are not merely culturally based (1 Timothy 2:12-14).

The role of both men and women should be respected.  Where would we be without the great things done by godly women?  I suspect that many church building doors would have been shut long ago, if it were not for these godly women.  Remember that women supported the ministry of our Lord (Luke 8:1-3).

Both genders should be treated with respect.  Paul told Timothy to treat older members as fathers and mothers, and to treat younger members as brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-2).  May we do so.

There is equality in spiritual value.  “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).  Both men and women are eligible to become sons of God.  It is possible through faith (lit. the faith) in Christ Jesus one gets into Christ by baptism.  Thereby, one becomes an heir of the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3b cf. Acts 3:25-26).  Both men and women may be baptized (cf. Acts 8:12).  There is equality in salvation’s availability.

Society

Both genders should be treated with respect.  Jesus taught, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  The word “men” is generic.  The NASB reads “people.”  The ESV reads “others.”  Jesus had compassion on a widow at Nain (Luke 7:13).  He spoke to a woman at Samaria (John 4:27).  He healed a woman who had a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:12).  He allowed Mary to sit and learn at his feet (Luke 10:38-42).  The resurrected Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to other women (John 20:16 cf. Mark 16;9; Matthew 28:9).  We are taught to “Honor all people” (1 Peter 2:17).  It literally reads, “Honor all.”

We should understand that there are differences between men and women.  Peter describes the woman as the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7).  The term “vessel” refers to the body (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).  Generally speaking this is true.  Woman, not man, bears children (Genesis 4:1-2; Job 14:1; Matthew 11:11; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 4:4).

There is confusion when differences are not recognized.  Females are now having their sports taken over by “transgender” men.  Nicole Russell writes, “There are… physiological differences men enjoy that enable them to achieve physical feats that women can’t.  For example, men have a slimmer pelvis… larger hearts, larger lungs and a larger skeletal mass – all differences than can aid in a sport like cycling.  Biological males even have more muscle mass… Science supports what most people intuitively understand: that men and women are physiologically different” (A Man Won Gold in Women’s Cycling (Again) by Nicole Russel, October 23, 2019, dailysignal.com).  Selina Soule, a Connecticut high school student said this after losing a track event to a “transgender” male, “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing” (High School Athletes File Complaint over Transgender policy by AP, June 19, 2019, nbc.com).

Many complain about the gender wage gap.  It is often cited that women make only .79 cents for every dollar men make (The State of The Gender Pay Gap in 2019, payscale.com).  Who can argue but that it is only fair to pay equal wages for equal work?  However, the above figure is misleading.  It is the median salary for all men and all women.  Women earn .98 cents for every dollar men make, when the median salaries for men and women are calculated based on the same jobs and the same qualifications (ibid).  Perhaps much of the gender pay gap can be attributed to different choices based on different roles.  Dean Kalahar writes, “What causes the variation in pay?  Personal and workplace choices account for much of the gap… Maybe the biggest reason is biology.  Women make up 50% of the workforce but give birth to 100% of the babies.  And if women choose to have children, their incentives change and this affects their choice of jobs, careers, continual service and hours spent on the job (The Gap is a Major Economic Myth by Dean Kalahar, November 05, 2012, realclearmarkets.com).  Thomas Sowell points out, “Women who have never married have higher average incomes than women who have, and women with no children have higher average incomes than women with children.  Another way of looking at this is that the traditional division of family responsibilities has meant that wives have sacrificed their own income-earning potential possibilities and enhanced that of their husbands, with the resulting family income then being spent jointly” (Thomas Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies, p. 72).

Summary: God created both men and women.  Men and women are different, and have been given different roles.  These differences should not be denied, they are good.  Both men and women have important roles.  Both are to be respected.  Both can be heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).  The ESV Study Bible comments, “Women and men share an equal destiny as heirs… of the grace of life.”

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Memorial Day (Remember)

“Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military… originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades” (History.com, Memorial Day).

A Dennis Prager video, The Fallen Soldier, portrays a fallen soldier saying this: “I sacrificed everything for you.  This Memorial Day remember me, the fallen warrior, not for my sake, but for yours.  Remember what I sacrificed, so that you can truly appreciate the incredible treasures you have – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness… Live a life that honors us, and make every day Memorial Day.”

It is true that we should never forget that many have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Many have given their lives so that we may live in “the land of the free.”

The Bible also calls upon us to remember certain ones.

1. Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is to be partaken “in remembrance” of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26:26).  He said of the cup, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

God did not want Israel to forget what He had done for them, in the Exodus.  He wanted them to “remember” (Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:18; 8:2; 8:18; 9:7; 15:15; 16:3; 16:12; 24:9; 24:18; 24:22; 32:7), and not to “forget” (Deuteronomy 4:9; 4:23; 6:12; 8:11-17; 9:7; 25:19).  To help them remember, He gave them the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12-15), the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-8 cf. Exodus 12:24-26), the Feast of weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-12); and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-17 cf. Leviticus 23:33-44).

Similarly, He wants us to remember and not forget.  To help us, He gave us the Lord’s Supper.  In which, we have communion with the body and blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16).

“Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary” (Song: Lead Me to Calvary by Jennie Evelyn Hussey).

2.  Those who strive to help us. While these may not have given their lives for us (as Jesus), and while these may not be flawless individuals (as Jesus), still they should be remembered and appreciated. I admit that I stand on the shoulders of other. Most of us (if not all of us) do.

Joseph told the chief butler, “Remember me when it is well with you” (Genesis 40:14).  However, he “did not remember him” (Genesis 40:23).  We should not be like this.

We should remember our teachers.  Timothy was instructed, “But you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures, which is able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

We should remember those who watch for our souls.  The writer of Hebrews instructs, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct… obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Some would be willing to spend and to be spent for our souls sake (2 Corinthians 12:15). These should be held in esteem (Philippians 2:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)  May we appreciate such people, and be thankful. “Honor all people, Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

God remembers. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” ( Hebrews 6:10). Jesus said,  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of water in the name of  a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

 

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Sacrificing The Abomination

“Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go sacrifice to your God in the land.’

“And Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God.  If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us?’” (Exodus 8:25-26).

To what does “the abomination of the Egyptians” refer?  (1) Some believe that it is sheep.  It is stated that shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34, cf. 43:32).  It is not clear that sheep, themselves, were an abomination to the Egyptians (Genesis 47:6, 17).  Some believe that shepherds were abomination to the Egyptians “because of the potential damage large flocks and herds could do to Egyptian crop and farm land (William W. Grasham, Truth For Today Commentary, Genesis, Vol. 2, p. 521).  Some have suggested that shepherds were abominable to the Egyptians due to “a common distrust of nomadic peoples by urban dwellers” (G.J. Wenham, The New Bible Commentary quoted by Ferreljenkins.blog).  Perhaps, the more common explanation is that shepherds were abominable because of the eating and sacrificing of sheep and and other animals.  Dennis Prager comments, “Rashi points out that sheep were Egyptian deities, and the twelfth-century commentators Ibn Ezra offers the explanation that ancient Egyptians, ‘like modern Hindus,’ did not eat meat” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible, Genesis, pg. 518).

(2) Some believe that it was cows.  It is well known that the Egyptians worshipped the bull.  The I.S.B.E. states, “The Egyptians, close neighbors of the Hebrews, in all eras from that of the Exodus onwards, worshipped living bulls at Memphis… and Heliopolis as the incarnations of Ptah and Ra, while one of the most elaborate rituals was connected with the life-size image of the Hathor-cow… while the sun was revered as the ‘valiant bull’ and the reigning Pharoah as ‘Bull of Bulls.’” (I.S.B.E., Vol. 1, pg. 543).

Something about their sacrifice was abominable to the Egyptians.  This is true, whether the abomination was the offering of sheep, or cows, or goats, or all of the above

Application For Us

The sacrifices of God’s people are often contrary to the world’s values.  James Burton Coffman comments, “Christians must sacrifice that which the world worships” (Coffman, Exodus, pg. 105).

Consider the following: (1) Christians are taught to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2 cf. Galatians 2:20).  Many in the world have the mindset expressed in the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley – “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  (2) Christians are taught to live a sanctified life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).  Many in the world live by the code, “If it feels good, do it.”  (3) Christians are taught to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).  Many in the world think this is a waste.  There are so many things to be acquired in this life.  (4) Christians are taught to not forsake assembling (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Many in the world say Sunday is my day off.  It is mine to enjoy.  (5) Christians are taught to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Many in the world have little time for this.  There are so many other things that must have priority (school work, sports, band, work, family time, sleep schedule, etc., etc., etc.).

Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

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Rethinking Our Role as a Church

It is my educated opinion that many Christians have much too narrow of a view of the role of the church.  They are comfortable with the church proclaiming the Gospel, what one must do for salvation, how the church is to be organized, and how it is to worship.  They are comfortable with the church educating and edifying by teaching the Bible, typically in a public Bible class setting (“We offer Bible classes”).  However, when people are struggling, they don’t want to get too close.  More than once, I have heard the line, “They church simply isn’t equipped to deal with that.”  Yet a brother or sister really needed help.

Here are some real-life examples of what I am speaking.  (1) A sister went to the elders of the church claiming that she was being physically abused by her husband.  They did not want to get involved.  They said that they were not marriage counselors, and suggested that she find one.  (2) A brother went to the elders of the church asking for help with his drinking problem.  They said that they were not A.A., and suggested that he go to A.A. meetings.  The man knew they were not A.A..  However, he did think that they could become more involved in his life and help him deal with his temptation and help hold him accountable.   He told me that the church was not much help when he really needed it.  (3) A brother suffers from depression.  He turned to a Christian friend for help.  The answer was “just snap out of it.”  (4) A brother wanted to present some lessons on PTSD.  The attitude of some was that he could do that in another setting.  This was not a subject for the church to address.  (5) A sister has mental issues.  She reached out for help.  Not knowing exactly how to help, someone replied, “the church simply isn’t equipped to deal with that.”  That is the easy answer.  Let’s wash our hands and move on.  Here are my thoughts…

 1.  We are a family. We are born into a family, the family of God (Galatians 3:26-28).  We are to treat other members of the church as family members (1 Timothy 5:1).  “Brotherly kindness” should characterize us (2 Peter 1:7).  Remember that “a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  We are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  Paul instructs, “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

2.  We need to have the heart of a servant. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples (John 13:3-17).  Paul instructs “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Some years ago, I was teaching in James.  James 5:14 reads, “Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  I set forth my view that this was teaching that elders are to: (a) depend upon God (pray for the person); (b) Serve [anoint with oil, which I understand to either be done to refresh or for medical purpose (see B.H. article Pray/Sing/Call)].  Someone spoke up and said, so the elders are to be medical experts?  My response was no, but they are to be servants (I believe that this point is true, whether one agrees with my understanding about anointing oil, or not).

3.  It is my belief that many of the issues of life, even many mental health issues (not all, but many) have a spiritual dimension. Some are overwhelmed with grief, guilt, shame, fear, worry or anger.  Some have an improper view of self.  Some have an improper view of God.

Steven Lloyd has come to the same conclusions.  Consider these excerpts from his book, Coping: A Biblical Approach- (a) “Martin and Deidre Bobgan, in their book How to Counsel from Scripture, quote research psychiatrist, E. Fuller Torrey, who argues that about 75 percent of the problems psychiatrists address are problems of living, 5 percent are organic brain disorders, and 20 percent ‘will require closer examination to make a final judgment.’  The Bobgans conclude: ‘Therefore, most people seeking help need the kind of counsel in which the Bible excels: how to live, how to relate to others, how to find meaning in life, how to know God, and how to become the kind of person God wants.”’ (p. 42).

(b)  “It is amazing how many people hinder God by believing that he deals only with those things they believe relate to their initial salvation and ‘spiritual’ matters… and yet… God’s word addresses even the practical matters of life (that is, friendships, marriage, family matters, finances, addiction, unbelief, communication problems, etc.) (p. 45).

(c)  “It has been my experience that those who claim the Bible was insufficient to help them either did not search the scriptures for their answers or they did not search them enough.

“After one man told me he could not find help in the scriptures for his problem, but that he found help through a secular support group, I asked him to look back at what he had learned, to reflect on his knowledge of the word, and to tell me what he could not have found in the Bible.  After reflecting on the question, he admitted that there was nothing he learned that he could not have found in the Bible, if he had only thought through it more completely.  He has become a great advocate for the sufficiency of God’s word.  He came to realize that the only thing the support group supplied for him was other people who could commiserate with his experience as a child of an alcoholic” (pp. 49-50).

(d) “I would have to say that most of the counseling I have ever been a part of centered around helping a person change the way they think.  It has involved correcting some wrong or false notion about God or it has involved correcting someone’s thinking about the very nature of man.  Consequently, most counseling sessions become Bible studies.  Once I have listened to the case and have asked whatever questions I felt were necessary to get at the heart of the problem, I would then direct our attention to the light of the scripture.” (p. 63).

Let us remember this, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

4.  It is my belief that we can do better. We should be able to confess our trespasses to one another, and pray or one another (James 5:16).

Steven Lloyd writes, “Because some Christians think that the church does not deal with their kind of problem they have sought help from support groups outside the fellowship of other Christians.  I have asked some of them, ‘What is it that your support group offers you that you did not find in the church?’  They tell me that they found ‘openness’ and someone to talk to who has been where they have been.  You see, people are not going to open up unless they think they are in a ‘safe’ environment” (pp. 144-145).

Jimmy Jividen gives these thoughts in his book Koinonia – (a) “The need for such openness in relationships is well documented by the rise of counseling professionals. People desire to open their souls to someone who really cares and understands. Psychologists and counselors are more and more filling the void which has been created by the neglect of this important part of Christian fellowship.  These people – helping professionals certainly have their place, but they are only a counterfeit of what God intended Christian fellowship to be” (p. 118).

(b) “An unknown author has penned these words which fit so well what fellowship in       Christ should be.

‘If this is not a place where tears are understood, where do I go to cry?

I this is not a place where my spirit can wing, where do I go to fly?

If this is not a place where my questions can be asked, where do I go to seek?

If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard, where do I go to speak?

If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am, where do I go to be me?

If this is not a place where I can try and fail and learn and grow,

          Where can I be – just me?’”

(p. 119).

 

(c)  “Fellowship in Christ provides a forum of caring Christians with whom he is able to share his real self.  He is able to take the risk of being vulnerable with others… He has a community in which he can let down his guard and still find acceptance.  His concern is not ‘What if people really find out about me?’  It is rather: ‘How can I be more open and honest about my needs?’  In this fellowship there is forgiveness, openness, acceptance, and caring confrontation” (p. 118).  May it be.

 

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