Month: March 2009

The Baptist Preacher’s Prediction (Spring LDS General Conference 2009)

General Conference is just around the corner.

Though I am no prophet who foretells the future, may I offer a simple prediction on American Mormonism during this chilly spring in Idaho?

For the LDS Institutionalized Church in America, the pull will not be toward an evangelical Mormonism.  Some evangelical leaders might have fond hopes, Greg Johnson, Craig Blomberg, others, etc.  But it won’t happen.

No, American Mormons will not become more and more Evangelical Mormon.  Here is the realistic story:  American Mormons will increasingly morph toward an Agnostic Mormonism or for some, even towards a “civil” Atheistic Mormonism.

Let’s see how things progress in future generations for LDS in the United States of America.

There might be coming a day when many LDS will consider Jesus “a Jewish apocalyptic prophet” but obviously not deity, for that clearly contradicts both American biblical scholarship and their human reasoning.

An LDS View in 2008 of the Collapse of America

Christopher is talking about Glenn Beck today.  So I need to add my two cents on this Monday.

Chad Daybell, born a year before me (1968) and pioneer of Spring Creek Books, is in the midst of an LDS eschatological series entitled Standing in Holy Places.  I browsed through his second book in the series, The Celestial City (2008).

From the heartland of the West, Chad reports to you that in the American recession, the government will offer financial rebates to its citizens; but you must accept an imbedded microchip.  Unfortunately, the American government collapses.  Natural disasters and disease afflict the land.  And the soldiers of the Coalition ravage the East and West Coasts, easily detecting and exterminating Americans because of their computer chips.  It is a fulfillment of prophecy that Americans are killed.  They are wicked.  They dress immodestly and drink Budweiser.

The only obstacle that stood in the way of the Coalition was the hidden Saints, those who had refused the microchip when the American government offered it them, tucked away in the stronghold of the Mountain West. 

In a pivotal hour, President Johnson, declares at Manti, where an LDS army had assembled:

These men who stand behind me are the next generation of valiant LDS men to defend our land.  Many of us are descendants of faithful soldiers who served in World War I and World War II.  We even have men among us today who served in the wars that followed.  Now we are living through yet another war, known as World War III.  Our prophet has asked these faithful men standing behind me to come forth during this devastating, difficult time to preserve the liberties of our land, and they are to be applauded for accepting the call.

Our United States government may no longer exist, but we are still the inhabitants of this great land.  We will yet raise up a great nation, built upon the principles that our Founding Fathers established.  The principles in the Constitution were divinely inspired, and if necessary, we will defend those ideals with our lives.

According to Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread.  At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from threatened destruction.”  In that regard, I propose that we call this group of soldiers the Manti Men, in honor of the Minutemen from the Revolutionary War.  The last time our land was invaded, the Minutemen played a key role in defeating the British.  Let’s make sure the Manti Men make a little history of their own (39-40).

The Elders of Israel were on the move.  Twelve foot high electrical fences went up around every LDS temple in America.  Enemies were killed or pushed back.  And Elder Smith, speaking for the First Presidency, announces from Rexburg, Idaho about the 144,000 who would become the high priests and search for the pure in heart throughout the whole earth.

Then comes the major trek of wagons back to Missouri.  To Independence.  New Jerusalem is established according to D&C 57:1-3. 

But there is still much work to be done before the Second Coming.

Stay tuned for Book Three:  The Rise of Zion.

(And could this be a future episode on the Glenn Beck Show?)

Whisperings of the Spirit (by Nancy Murphy)

In Whisperings of the Spirit (Deseret, 2008), Nancy writes:

. . . “Who is the Holy Ghost?  There is much on this subject we do not know.  There is, however, much we do know about the Holy Ghost, and we can assume it is sufficient.  The critical issue is not that we have every answer and satisfy every curiosity but simply that learn to his voice, seek his influence, and earn the right to his sanctifying presence in our lives.  The specific details given us concerning him are limited to those that will help us accomplish this task” (17, my emphasis).

In what I have emphasized in this quote, what does Nancy mean by this?  And would LDS accept the Holy Spirit as another Advocate?

On page 19, Nancy teaches,

The Holy Ghost is a personage, not merely an abstract thought or figurative idea.  He exists as surely as you and I do.  Because he has a spirit body, in contrast to a physical body, we sometimes forget he has a body at all.  President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “As a spirit personage the Holy Ghost has size and dimensions.  He does not fill the immensity of space, and cannot be everywhere present in the person at the same time”  (Doctrines, 1:38).

It is the power of the Holy Ghost–not the personage–that can touch us all simultaneously and inspire many hearts at once.  We do not know just how he accomplishes such a task, but therein lies the manifestation of his godhood.

We see evidence in the world today that Satan has distorted the important truth concerning the Spirit’s ability to dwell within us and by so doing has created doubt concerning God himself.  He has given credence to the thought that God the Father can dwell in many places and many hearts at once,  feeding the mistaken idea that God exists without form and shares no similarity with man.  With his usual methods of deception, Satan attempts to depersonalize God and cause confusion about His nature by suggesting that He is an abstract essence of some sort, an incomprehensible being that can be everywhere at once to fill the vast universe and yet dwell in a single heart.  Making Him appear as unlike man as possible (no body), Satan has attempted to remove from us any inkling of our spiritual genealogy, hoping to convince us that we never had and never could have a personal relationship with God.  Unfortunately, many in the world believe Satan’s lie and, as a result, forfeit the opportunity to know their Father in Heaven.  They have forgotten him.  Blind to the blessings of their divine parentage and the importance of that heavenly parent-mortal child relationship, many wander through life completely unaware of what they have given up  (19-20).

Do most LDS believe that the personage of the Holy Spirit is not omnipresent?

Eastern Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism

The famous Gerald R. McDermott, known for his recent dialogue with LDS, writes in The Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions:  What Every Christian Needs to Know  (Baker Books, 2008 ):

Eastern Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism

Until recently Christianity has been said to be divided into three main groups–Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.  But in the last two decades, with the explosive rise of Pentecostal Christianity in China and the Global South, Pentecostalism is becoming a fourth main branch of the worldwide church.

The Eastern Orthodox comprise 220 million believers in Russia, Serbia, Greece, Poland, Georgia, and other areas of Eastern Europe, under “patriarchs” of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  They reject the authority of the Pope at Rome, look to the seven “ecumenical” councils (from AD 375 to 787) and Greek church fathers for teaching, reject the Roman filioque in the Nicene Creed (the Spirit proceeded “also from the Son,” as well as from the Father), have married priests but only celibate bishops, and revere icons.  Icons are paintings of Christ, his apostles, and the saints that are painted by artisans trained both spiritually and artistically, and are regarded by Orthodox as “windows into the divine.”

Pentecostalism represents the fastest growing religious group in the world at six hundred million believers.  It is the largest variety of Christianity in China and may comprise the world’s largest national church (eighty to one hundred million).  It is so named because of its use of the “Pentecostal gifts” described in I Corinthians 12-14 and the book of Acts:  tongues, prophecy, discerning of spirits, healing, and others (95).

Tell me what you think about this brief summary, Greg.

And let me tell you what I think about this:

Evangelicals versus Fundamentalists

. . . While both groups preach salvation by grace,  fundamentalists tend to focus so much on rules and restrictions (dos and don’ts) that their hearers can get the impression that Christianity means following behavioral rules.  Evangelicals, on the other hand, focus on the person and work of Christ and personal relationship with him, as the heart of Christian faith (102).

I think that closing summary statement is sloppy broad brushing.  Let me put forward a sincere, earnest question to Gerald:  “Which American evangelicals and which fundamentalists are you listening to in 2009 to make this generalization?”

(*Two sidenotes: (1) No mention of Mormonism within this small book (2) Interesting definition of Neoplatonism on page 142 in the glossary)

The New York Times on “Together Forever”

Did you guys catch this Sunday’s The New York Times?

You have to pay five bucks.  But within Sunday’s paper (March 22,2009) is the magazine. 

On page 19, Virginia Heffernan’s article begins, “Together Forever: ‘Big Love,’ HBO’s drama about polygamy, explores the American unease with mandatory unity.”

She writes,

Yet in spite of its seeming celebration of diverse family arrangements, the show bristles with so much submerged pain that nearly every character seems marked for spiritual death, the way characters on “The Sopranos” used to be marked for actual death.  The wives’ endurance is wearing thin.  They have lost their capacity to contort themselves for Bill’s orthodoxy.  They can no longer be one, when they are so decisively three.  and you don’t have to object to polygamy on principle, anymore, to see that it’s strangling the women of “Big Love” — even as, maddeningly, it seems to meet their needs. (20)

This sounds like the description of polygamous wives in the Bible.  But God shows how screwed up families can be . . . all the way back to the first family of Israel.

An Explosion of Trinitarian Glory

That is my thought on this Friday afternoon.  I am not yet in heaven, but I feel like I am.  It is the here and now – gracious, miraculous, heavenly union with God.  The Lord’s words in the second half of John 14 are my sweet meditation.

Last Sunday morning, I spent the whole sermon on Jesus’ words in John 14:15, seriously considering the ramifications of this simple declaration. 

This Sunday morning, we move forward, delving into the Person and work of another Paraclete.  The Trinity of verse 16 is directly related with obeying, because of agape, the Lord’s commandments .

First question:  What is the “official” LDS teaching on the Holy Spirit?  Does it matter what LDS believe about the Spirit?

Second question:  Who or what do you think is the Holy Spirit?

Third question:  Where do you stand on the rift between the West and the East wings of Holy Mother Church on the Holy Spirit?

(I can’t wait till Sunday!)