Part 3 "Determining Truth" ~ Followup

The comments on my last post have really started piling up!

I want to do this followup post because I want to summarize some of my thoughts after reading through the comments. First, I'll just list some of my thoughts out, and then I'm going to copy one of my comments. Because I'm vain and you all just must read the brilliance that was my comment? No :-) I'm copying it here because it best describes what I'm feeling and thinking after having this discussion with you. Sorry if this post seems redundant to you.

(1) Bible vs. Book of Mormon - Folks keep reminding me that the Book of Mormon does not replace the Bible. The Bible is also considered Holy Scripture by the LDS faith. I understand what you're saying. However, based on what I've learned about the LDS faith and based on what I know the Bible to say...many LDS teachings contradict the Bible. I hope that I'll make this point more clearly with some future posts on various topics. If you disagree with me on this (and if you're LDS, I'm sure you will), please just stay tuned. Let's talk about the differences on a topic by topic basis, okay?

(2) Just because a book holds some truth, doesn't mean it's all true. And just because a book speaks of a man named Jesus in a flattering way, doesn't mean it's God's Truth. If I were Satan and wanted to deceive? I'd mix some compelling lies in with some beautiful Truth, and pass it off as the real thing.

(3) And finally, I've heard from various LDS believers that the Book of Mormon's mere existence is proof enough of it's divine inspiration. This seems like a wild idea to me. There are MILLIONS of books in existence...just because a book exists is not proof of it's Divine inspiration (even if it's claims so in it's text). It's sort of like saying "Look, I have this giant book that is a compilation of all these stories about Winnie The Pooh...this is such an impressive book, it must be true!" Please, I'm not comparing the LDS church and it's teachings to Winnie The Pooh...I'm just trying to make my point clearly :)


Here's that comment I told you I'd include:

"Yes, God does know the truth. Indeed, he is it's author.

And I agree (and I think Pat would too) that regardless and independent of our "proof"...God is God and the Truth stands. Period.

And I also agree that God speaks to us through his Holy Spirit. I feel the Spirit speaking to me, convicting me, guiding me, healing me, giving me peace and joy...all the time. Thank God!

But...BUT...the Bible tells us to test all things. And when I feel God speaking to me, I have to compare what I'm "hearing" to what Scripture says to avoid being deceived.It is Gods "pattern" his "MO", if you will, to give us opportunity to test all things. As Pat said...faith, yes...blind faith, no.

As a way of comparison, let's look at the Bible since we all agree that it is Holy Scripture - God's very Word.

First, let's look at one of the best examples in the Bible - when God first presented Moses with the law. Did God tell Moses the law, and ask him to pass it on to the people...asking the people to simply believe what Moses said? No. God knew they'd need more than that. He literally wrote them in stone for the people to see for themselves. And when the stone tablets were broken? God gave new ones...they were that important. God knew that people would need something tangible.

And when he was guiding his people through the desert all that time? Was he a "feeling" in their hearts? No. He was a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of smoke by day (or the other way around, I'm not sure). Again, something tangible.

Or how about when Jesus rose from death? Thomas (poor "doubting" Thomas...I prefer to think of him as "critical thinker" Thomas!). But Thomas...he had doubt. And what did God do? He presented himself in physical form to him. He said, "Look, here I am. Put your finger in my hand, inspect the wound in my side." Again...physical, tangible proof.

And the Bible itself...we have tangible items that we can hold in our hand, see pictures of, study. They are NOT items that are "proof positive" that the Bible is God's Word...but they ARE evidence that the basic stuff taught in the Bible at least makes logical sense.

So why would God change his ways with the Book of Mormon? Why are there no gold plates that we can see today? Why can we find no tangible evidence that the stories of the BoM are anything more than from someones imagination? Yes, there are lots of Mormon scholars that can point to things and say "this might be...this could be...". But nothing more? This just doesn't seem to fit with God's way of doing things.

Is my faith weak? Maybe.

Am I "doubting Daiquiri" maybe. But even if I am...God's way of doing things would be to then give me proof that would change my too-critical mind. I'm not looking for God to become my personal circus act. God doesn't "perform" for us just because we want him to. And God does not OWE me some sort of proof...but historically speaking, God has loved me enough to win me over. He's always done everything He could to to capture my heart, soul AND mind. Why not now? Why not with the Book of Mormon?"

David  – (9/17/2008 10:57:00 PM)  

I wrote a comment on Part 1 of your discussion, but have just been quietly lurking since then. I thought I might venture out again and comment to perhaps give some insight on what I think is one of the difficulties of this type of discussion.

I have found that Christians often want to hold LDS beliefs up to a different standard than they apply to themselves and their beliefs. They state that Mormonism can’t be true because (fill in the blank), but don’t apply that same “because” to what they believe.

For example, the comment you quote says, “Why are there no gold plates that we can see today?” Yet there are also no original manuscripts of the Bible. Why is the lack of gold plates any more of a problem than the lack of any of the original writings of Bible authors? Beside Joseph Smith, there were 11 reputable men that signed a statement saying that they saw and held the plates. Why isn’t that as believable as believing that various scribes, over thousands of years were able to preserve and perfectly copy the original texts and retain their intended meaning?

Another example is when you stated, “just because a book exists is not proof of it's Divine inspiration.” That statement should apply to the Bible as well. What is it that *proves* that the Bible is divinely inspired? I believe that the Bible it divinely inspired. You believe that it is, but what proves it? I have often heard Christians say that the Bible proves itself. Is its truthfulness a matter of literary and scientific proofs, or is it more a matter of the Spirit. (Matt 16:17).

Christians are evidently allowed to say things like, “I know it says that women should keep silent in church, but what Paul *really* meant was…” Or, “you have to understand the culture of that time in order to understand what it really means.” Mormons, on the other hand are not allowed to explain what something in the Book of Mormon means.

I don’t want to take up more of your comment space, but I could give many more examples like the two I’ve given where there seems to be a very different standard applied to the LDS faith and scripture than is applied to basic Christian tenants. It seems like it’s hard to have a meaningful and productive discussion in that environment.

Patrick  – (9/18/2008 01:22:00 AM)  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick  – (9/18/2008 01:35:00 AM)  

David,

You make some very valid points about applying the same standard to Christians as Mormons. I can tell you as a Christian, I have been called on to "defend my faith" as you are being called on now. The questions you raise are questions I've been asked by non-Christians. So in that context, the LDS faith is not unique in having to answer TOUGH questions. To the contrary, atheists/antagonists have had 2000yrs to hone their questions and attacks against Christianity (even longer against Judaism). Mormons have only had to deal with it for what ~180yrs? Stand-by, the questions will get tougher as more people read and study what you believe!

You are 100% correct in that none of the original autographs (books) from the New or Old Testament are known to exist. So why do I trust the scribes/Bible is accurate? I guess for me personally, it's because of what does exist. Prior to 1947, the bulk of the Old Testament was translated from the Masoretic Text (dated ~980 A.D.). When the scrolls at Qumran were located (Dead Sea Scrolls dated ~152 B.C to ~68 A.D.), scholars discovered that the "copies" from the Masoretic Text were about 95% identical to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The other 5% consisted of slips of the pen and spelling errors. No doctrinal changes AT ALL were noted. The different texts were dated over 1000 (one-thousand) years apart! So as far as the scribes go... we have proof they were careful, thus, for me, I trust the accuracy.

"Is its truthfulness a matter of literary and scientific proofs, or is it more a matter of the Spirit. (Matt 16:17)". It's all of the above. The Bible can (and has) been tested scientifically, historically, archeologically, and prophetically. And for me, Spiritually as well - Galatians 5:22. :)

Frankly, I don't trust the witness of the 11 witnesses in the Book of Mormon, nor do I trust the way Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. (no need to beat around the bush) In a nutshell, it appears to me as though the witnesses were deceived by Joseph (most apostatized, were excommunicated for calling Smith a false prophet, and/or they started their own churches). I could point to dozens of articles with this information, but to avoid being labeled "anti-mormon", I'll refrain. My number one question about the "correctness" of the Book of Mormon though is this: (correct me if I'm wrong) Smith placed his seer stone into his hat and looked in. He then saw a symbol with the English translation below it. (how am I doing so far?) Joseph then spoke the translation which was copied by a scribe. Now aside from spelling mistakes, how could this process produce any errors? I'd seriously like an honest answer.. doesn't this bother anyone but me??

I've struggled with lots of things in the Bible, including the "cultural issues" questions. I don't have an answer to when Paul was describing something cultural vs. a "command". Should women cover their heads in church Daiquiri? :) But I've learned not to try and talk my way around things I don't really understand (took me awhile). Now I just say "I don't know that answer" or "ya, I don't understand that either". If someone wants to attack me for it, then so be it. I can tell you from numerous discussions with LDS friends, that few will admit to ANY inconsistencies in LDS theology. Or even the possibility of an inconsistency - as if their faith would collapse if they did (it won't, trust me). How refreshing it would be to hear someone say, "you know Pat, it is odd that the Book of Mormon has had so many non-spelling/grammar changes given the way it was created. You're right and I'll study that and get back with you" (Sorry - 31yrs of pent up frustration coming out) - Maybe you study it and find a good answer. Maybe you study and don't & just live with it.

David, if you haven't already sensed it, I think you're right. I don't believe their should be ANY double standards for Christianity or any other religion. I welcome scrutiny because in the end, it's only served to build my faith. I hope you continue to contribute to this discussion as I'd welcome an honest, respectful, no-holds-barred dialog.

I'll end with a quote from one of my favorite LDS talk show hosts "Just say what you mean, and mean what you say". - Glenn Beck

Patrick  – (9/18/2008 01:48:00 AM)  

2nd to last paragraph - "believe their should" - grammar mistake! :( I do know the difference between "their" and "there" :) I'll blame sleep deprivation again! :)

P.S. I hope people reading my comments realize that although I disagree with many of the things taught by the LDS church, I have great respect for its members. If Daiquiri will indulge me later, maybe I could share a little more about my journey growing up around the church.

Fern RL  – (9/18/2008 01:51:00 PM)  

It seems to me that a very important part of "Determining Truth" should be the basics of what we really believe in the first place.

Those of us who have been LDS all our lives were taught as children "The Articles of Faith" and that is what we teach the children now. Such a review is easily done, with 13 points of our basic doctrine on one page.

Then comes the Book of Mormon in its entirety. You know the dangers of taking things out of context, right?

Then there are the other standard works: The D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) and the Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is the one part of our scriptures that we have in common, so, if we understood it the same we shouldn't have any problem with it, right?

Which version or translation of the Bible we each use, might make some difference. I prefer the Martin Luther translation, myself, but not everyone speaks German, and really I am not fluent enough that I can use it totally. I mainly use it when the English language is ambiguous. What Bible do you use?

The biggest point of difference, as I see it, is that we each, you and I and everybody, understands the Bible in terms of our individual backgrounds. To LDS faithful, we see the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Christ and a second witness of the Bible altogether, with nothing at all conflicting with it.

At the same time we have a hard time seeing the justifications that Protestants seem to take for granted that anybody who wants to, has every right to build up whatever church they would like to form, nilly willy without any particular authority except a self-proclaimed "feeling" of having been "called," and having it somehow based on the Bible. Or that it somehow is not so much as important to separate the false prophets from the true ones, but to deny all prophets and prophecy altogether. No, I do believe in "the same God, yesterday, today and forever" who revealed His word through Prophets in times past as well as today.

So, yeah I have not lost all skepticism altogether, and was a teenager once, too, when I really had to investigate thoroughly the claims of the Church of Jesus Christ before I could accept them.

ldsneighbor  – (9/18/2008 08:02:00 PM)  

I appreciate reading the posts and the comments from everyone and the continued kind and respectful tone. I wanted to respond to the notion that "many LDS teachings contradict the Bible". Actually many different Christian denomination teachings contradict each other, which is especially ironic when those denominations claim the Bible to be inerrant and the very last word of a now-silent God. Many of the post-biblical ecumenical "creeds" cherry picked parts of the Bible and ignored other parts, to support their particular sectarian creed view. My point is not to belittle anyone's beliefs, but just to point out that it is no more true that LDS teachings contradict the Bible than that the cherry picked creed subset of the Bible contradicts the Bible. Don't get me wrong. I love the Bible. The Bible is first in our cannon of scripture. I believe it to be the word of God. But you have to look at it in full context and not through a soda straw. And even then, God is not limited to the Bible. God continues to speak, as he has whenever the authorized ministry of Christ was upon the earth. “The doctrine of revelation far transcends the doctrine of no revelation; for one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence.”

Search, ponder, and pray. Listen to the Holy Ghost. Don't be afraid to "feel" his answers. Pray in humility without a spirit of "seeking signs". Go to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Read the Book of Mormon. Read the introduction and the statement of the witnesses who saw the plates and saw and heard the angel. Consider that they were all reputable men. None of them ever denied their witness in the Book of Mormon, even though some of them fell away from the Church and were no longer associated with it. Consider that. Some like to say that "well, even some of the original witnesses fell away from the church". But to me, what is more significant is that they would not then deny their witness of the plates then. Is that not further evidence that their witness was real and sincere?

As with the Pharisees, God does not often give evidence to satisfy the secular carnal mind for sign seekers. He knows that that would not help develop faith. He does give some, though, to those who aren't focused on seeking a sign. The Book of Mormon has credible witnesses and is itself evidence. Read it. Compare it to all of the Bible. Feast upon the words of Christ.

Daiquiri  – (9/18/2008 08:15:00 PM)  

LDS Neighbor,

When you tell people to read, pray, and ask the Holy Ghost to show you if it's true or not...what is that, if not looking for a "sign"?

ldsneighbor  – (9/18/2008 10:25:00 PM)  

Daiquiri, that's an excellent question. And I'm certainly no expert. When you read, pray, and ask God in the name of Jesus Christ your heartfelt questions and when he answers you by the power of the Holy Ghost, that is communication between you and your Heavenly Father. When you receive that communication, that could be considered a "sign" of sorts. I think the main difference between "answers from God through the Holy Ghost" and "seeking a sign" is the heart and motive of the asker.

There is a difference in scripture between A) an honest desire to know an answer to a question; and B) "seeking a sign". In the scriptures, the Lord encourages the one (James 1:5, Moroni 10:4), and he chastens the other (e.g. Luke 1:29, D&C 63:8-9). For example, when the 14 year old boy Joseph Smith went to that grove to pray, he wasn't expecting the grand vision that he saw, he just wanted to know which church to join and he read in the Bible that he can ask God and he will answer.

It's not that "signs are bad". I think it's more that if the focus is cynically primarily on signs then that is the problem. This passage from the Doctrine and Covenants helps clarify:

"Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning; But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe. Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God. Yea, signs come by faith, unto mighty works, for without faith no man pleaseth God; and with whom God is angry he is not well pleased; wherefore, unto such he showeth no signs, only in wrath unto their condemnation. Wherefore, I, the Lord, am not pleased with those among you who have sought after signs and wonders for faith, and not for the good of men unto my glory." (D&C 63:8-12)

Does that help? I hope that clarifies some. That's my understanding.

Hot Air  – (9/20/2008 01:55:00 PM)  

Without reading everyone's comments (I am so strapped for time lately!!) I just wanted to clarify your thought: many LDS teachings contradict {my interpretation of} the Bible. There are many if you haven't noticed. Our teachings correspond when you look at the exact same scripture from a different point of view.

And point 2, "Just because a book holds some truth, doesn't mean it's all true.... mix some compelling lies in with some beautiful Truth, and pass it off as the real thing." How do you know the interpretation you've been given isn't exactly that? Again with the challenge to read the BOM. I know I sound impetuous- I'm not trying to be argumentative. I wish I had some honey-covered way of saying everything.

Daiquiri  – (9/20/2008 03:31:00 PM)  

Hot Air - no need to honey coat around here:)

Can I make a point? I AM reading the BoM! Look at my most recent post about the Fall and Original Sin...it's filled BoM quotes. I'm trying to research topic by topic, while comparing what the BoM says with the Bible. Not with my "interpretation" of the Bible, and not with what "I've been taught". But with what the Bible SAYS.

God said "It is good" when he was finished with his creation. The BoM teaches that there was something yet incomplete...lacking.

The Bible says that God gave two commands, to have children and to avoid that fruit. The Bible also teaches that God is perfect, holy, and that it is against his very nature to sin. For him to sin would be to negate his holiness and perfection. The BoM teaches that those two commands were conflicting...that we couldn't fulfill one without violating the other. According to the BoM, God put us in the position of HAVING to sin one way or another (either by not having children or by eating the fruit). To cause someone to sin...is sin! God does not sin, he would not (could not) cause us to sin.

Again, I am reading the Book of Mormon, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that the Book of Mormon is...98% lies and deception, with 2% sweet truth mixed in to make it seem nice and good and right.

Okay, maybe I'm wishing for some of that honey-coating right about now! I don't know how else to say it though. A lie is a lie.

I'm closing comments here, so we can pick up on this conversation on my most recent post if you'd like. I'm not trying to shut you or a response out. I just like to keep us all commenting in one place so we can all keep track of the conversation without going back and checking all the old posts.

BTW - I'm really enjoying getting to know you. Although we disagree, it's nice to be talking with folks who are able to agree like adults :)

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