Allow me to Introduce Myself…

I am a married carpenter, parent of ten children (six sons, four daughters) and a currently serving Medic in the National Guard. I currently reside in a metropolitan city in the Midwest, though I’m a native Texan.

In case any are wondering, EngMed is short for Engineer Medic. I’m currently serving as a Platoon Medic in a Combat Engineer Company, so that seemed a fitting name, wouldn’t y’all think?

My interests vary between religion, politics, art, literature, hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, music, writing and serving the Lord. Yes, I am an evangelical Christian and I won’t ever shy away from the subject. I invite any to ask questions, debate and will gladly pray for any who ask.

In terms of politics, I’m a Conservative Constitutionalist. No, I’m not a Republican. I’m actually very disaffected with them, given that their commitment to conservative values tend to disappear faster than water on the surface of the sun.

I’m pro-gun, pro-life, pro-death penalty, and pro-limited government. I believe that the Constitution is the law of the land, not social whim.

I’m anti-Islam (a topic I will expand upon in the future), against virtually all forms of gun control, and I’m totally OK with the idea of legalizing marijuana, though I personally detest the stuff.

Well, I think that’s about all I have at this time. If y’all wanna know more, feel free to ask. I’ll just end with this quote:

“Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” “It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”

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A Practical Refutation of Mormonism Based in Scripture, Part II: Joseph Smith and his Teachings

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Background

This section will provide some of the relevant biographical background of Joseph Smith, and will be coming primarily from LDS.org, for those of you who might not know very much about him. I figure that Mormons might be more inclined to listen to what I have to say if the sources I cite are theirs. According to the website, Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Vermont in 1805, and was murdered in Illinois in 1844. When Joseph was just 14-years-old, he went into some nearby woods to pray to God for guidance on which church to join. He was very concerned with his standing with God, and felt that many of the Gospel teachings were absent in many of the denominations. He found inspiration in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” which led to his trek into the woods that day. He wanted to petition the Lord in prayer, for help in determining which church was the right one. While in the woods, Joseph claimed to have witnessed a theophany, or the visible manifestation of God, during which he claims that God and Jesus appeared in the air above him. He claimed that Jesus’ advice to him was to avoid all of the churches because their teachings were an abomination in His sight. He was also promised that the true Gospel would be revealed in its fullness to him.

Three years later, Joseph claimed to have been visited by a messenger named Moroni, who told him that he had been chosen to be a prophet, in order to help usher in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. Moroni was also supposed to have informed him that there were special golden tablets buried nearby, which had been engraved by the ancient prophets. Of his own education, Joseph Smith admits that his large, poor family’s financial situation meant that he had not been educated beyond just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, “[we] were obliged to labor hard for the support of a large family … , and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the family, therefore we were deprived of the benefit of an education. Suffice it to say, I was merely instructed in reading, writing, and the ground rules of arithmetic.” (Joseph Smith, History 1832, p. 1) This highlights an aspect of this story that is a bit hard to swallow. He had little more than a basic education, but was somehow able to translate from Hebrew to English without the requisite training. To be sure, the official story found on LDS.org states that he underwent a period of training under Moroni that lasted four years, but no one has ever been able to confirm this. As far as anyone can confirm, Joseph Smith was never trained in any foreign languages. In spite of this training, he still needed something known as the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon. This is not the end of his apparent prowess with linguistics, either. There will be more to come.

The Tablets

These tablets were supposed to have been the written record of a group of people known as Nephites, who left Jerusalem 600 years prior to the birth of Jesus, and settled in the Western hemisphere among the tribes native to North America. The story also states that Moroni had been the last prophet of that group, and that he had buried the tablets himself. While this might seem a bit far-fetched, the truth is, it does not stop there. You see, no one has seen these tablets, outside of the precious few who were permitted to work with Joseph Smith in the effort of translating, which overall took more than four years. What’s more, the people supposedly described in this book are reported to have abandoned their Jewish roots entirely, never mind the fact that such a thing would make them unique among any and all Jewish groups who have immigrated to foreign territory. They did not observe any of the feast days, Shabbat (Sabbath), or anything else associated with Jewish culture. It appears that they completely abandoned Mosaic Law in its entirety which is a huge thing, to say the least.

History shows that everywhere they go Jewish people tend to form their own communities. They go to great lengths to maintain their religious and cultural heritage, regardless of the surrounding culture. This is why there are European Jews, Asian Jews, African Jews, American Jews, Russian Jews, etc. They stick together, and tenaciously hang on to and pass on their entire identity to the next generation, all without allowing themselves to be melded into the surrounding populous. In fact, they can be found in nearly every country on this planet, and are typically very successful. This is why I made the statement I made, that the Nephites would be the most unique Jewish community on the planet for giving up their identity as Jews. It almost defies logic that the Nephites would do this.

In spite of this, one cannot ignore the fact that millions of people have willingly bet their salvation on the credibility of one Joseph Smith, Jr. The question is, why? Why do they believe that he was a prophet of God, and by which standard do they judge him so? Scripture shows that there are definite standards for what determines whether or not someone is making a true prophetic claim, so we must look there to clearly demonstrate whether or not he truly was a prophet of God.

The Standard

To review, where we find the standard that a true prophet of God must meet is in the Book of Deuteronomy. First, we begin in Chapter 13, verses 1-5,

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

While the punishment prescribed here may seem harsh to our modern, relativistic sensibilities, you must understand that there is a very clear reason for it. (I’m speaking here in regards to our society, not individuals) A false prophet will, by their very definition, lead people away from God, not toward Him. As He desires nothing less than to have the relationship He had with mankind in the Garden, this is utterly counterproductive, not to mention downright evil. The best example I can give is someone who intentionally directs people down a trail that will lead to their deaths, while assuring them that it’s entirely safe. There is no difference between that person, and a false prophet.

Moving on to Deuteronomy 18, God goes into even greater detail. Deuteronomy 18:20-22, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Chapter 13 makes clear, if a prophet teaches anything which takes people away from what the Lord commands us, they are not to be followed. In fact, it says that such a prophet is to be put to death. Chapter 18 states that another way to determine if a prophet is false is through their accuracy. One false prophecy will render a prophet false, and therefore condemn him or her before God. Overall, it is safe to say that God’s standard for a prophet is that they must teach according to His Word, must not lead people astray, and that they must accurately and faithfully pass on the Word that God sends them. This is the standard by which everyone claiming to be a prophet of God must be judged. This is the standard they must meet each and every day that they serve the Lord as a prophet, and Deuteronomy, Chapters 13 and 18, make that standard a command from God to His people. In other words, it would behoove us to apply that standard when presented with anyone claiming status as a prophet.

Joseph Smith did not meet that standard. In fact, he went so far away from that standard that he leapt into alternate realms of existence. As an example, we will look at one of his most famous sermons, the King Follett Sermon, or King Follett Discourse. This will serve as a prime example of how he failed as a prophet, because he very clearly preached a false god in that sermon, one that is completely at odds with the Lord in the Bible.

To begin, Joseph Smith said, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.”

While it is true that God did take human form on occasion, Scripture is very clear about the very basic nature of God. He is not an exalted man, has never been an exalted man, and will never be an exalted man. In Isaiah 45:18, God speaks clearly to this when He says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

For God to be an exalted man would mean that there would be other gods, that He would have Himself been a created being, which is not borne out in Scripture. This idea points clearly to polytheism, which God repudiates by stating repeatedly that there are no other gods, that He is the only one, and that He exists from eternity to eternity (Isa. 43:13). In Isaiah 44:8,

Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.

Joseph Smith goes a bit further into his sermon, and states,

“…Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.”

Yet again, we have an example of teachings that run counter to the Bible, thereby showing that Joseph Smith is a false prophet. At no point does Scripture state that believers will one day become gods. In fact, God repeatedly affirms His position as the one and only God. There is no ambiguity here, He is the only One, has always been the only One, and will always be the only One. This runs counter to what Joseph Smith taught in the King Follett Discourse, and runs counter to what the Mormon Church teaches today. In the case of a disagreement between a given teaching and the Bible, it is the Bible that always wins out, not the other way around.

False Prophesy

In Deuteronomy 13 & 18, we saw that God’s standard is absolute. One false prophecy and that is all she wrote. If you render one false prophecy, or encourage others to call on anyone but the Almighty God, then you are a false prophet. There are no two ways around that fact. In the case of Joseph Smith, this could not be illustrated more clearly than with the prophecy he gave relating to a certain plot of land located in Independence, Missouri. Had he stood before Moses, he would have been stoned to death, not only on the basis of his teachings which both add to and take away from Scripture, but also because he claimed that the Lord revealed to him a prediction of a future event that still has not happened, all these years later.

A Mormon publication, known as “Doctrine and Covenants” records two separate prophesies revealed by Joseph Smith, Jr. collectively known as the Temple Prophecy. What is “Doctrine and Covenants” you ask? It is a collection of prophesies and revelations from Joseph Smith, Jr., and a few others. Along with the King James Bible, the “Book of Mormon”, and “The Pearl of Great Price”, it is one of the books Mormons count as Scripture. In their minds, these books join the Bible as the Word of God.

In the first part of his prophecy, dated in 1831, Joseph Smith, Jr. instructs his people to begin buying up land around Independence, Missouri, claiming that it would become the site for Zion. (D&C 57:1-6) He then goes into further detail, “Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.” (D&C 57:3) It is worth noting that the lot in question is still empty today. Three separate churches own that lot (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of Christ, and Community of Christ) and will not allow it to be built upon until the appointed time. The question then becomes, when is the appointed time? The answer brings us to the crux of the matter, false prophecy. It’s in the second half of the Temple Prophecy that Joseph Smith, Jr. cements his place as a false prophet, because he chooses to attach a time limit to the prophecy. In 1832, Joseph Smith, Jr. delivers the following prophecy,

“1 A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.

2 Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

5 For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.” (D&C 84:1-5 Italics added for emphasis)

This passage shows that he is predicting that the temple lot will be the beginning of the city of Zion, the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation 21:1-2. Not only that, but he claims that it will occur within the lifetimes of his generation. As this prophesy was delivered nearly 200 years ago, it’s safe to say that none of his generation are still alive, let alone the youngest representatives of succeeding generations present at the time the prophecy was delivered. As I have actually been to the Temple Lot, I can attest to the fact that it is still empty. However, I also insist that you not take my word for it. I strongly recommend that you research it, and if possible, visit the site yourselves. Independence, Missouri certainly has some wonderful historic sites, which makes it very much worthwhile, especially for homeschoolers, and this one is definitely the most interesting empty lot anyone can imagine.

In his article, “Questions and Answers about the Temple Lot in Independence, Missouri”, Aaron L. West remarks, “We do not know exactly how, when, or where these words will be fulfilled, but we do know that that rectangle of land in Independence is sacred. It has been dedicated to the Lord. The Lord’s revelations about that land—and the principles of gospel living that are woven into those revelations—are part of His people’s past, present, and future.” (Questions and Answers, Dec. 2015) Note, “We do not know exactly how, when, or where these words will be fulfilled,” That line is confusing because Joseph Smith, Jr. was not ambiguous in his prediction. He stated the when, where, and how of that prophecy pretty clearly.

Objections

Thus far, the only counterargument I have encountered is that prophets are only human. They like to argue that a prophet’s fallible nature as a human being would lead to the occasional false or failed prophecy, so the prophecy of the Temple Lot cannot be counted against him. The FAIRMormon website, a site that was built with the intent of defending the Mormon faith, asserts, “The LDS do not believe that prophets and apostles are incapable of error, despite being called of God and receiving revelation. Joseph Smith himself taught that ‘a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such’. The Church has always taught that its leaders are human and subject to failings as are all mortals.”

Others within the Mormon church have echoed this idea, going so far as to excuse so-called “prophets” for mistakes they’ve made:

“Relative to these sermons [Journal of Discourses] I must tell you they represent the individual views of the speakers, and the Church is not responsible for their teachings. Our authorized Church works are the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In the Church very wide latitude is given to individual belief and opinion, each man being responsible for his views and not the Church; the Church is only responsible for that which she sanctions and approves through the formal actions of her councils. So it may be that errors will be found in the sermons of men, and that in their over zeal unwise expressions will escape them, for all of which the Church is not responsible” B. H. Roberts, Letter written November 4, 1887, London, Millennial Star 49. 48 (November 28, 1887)

The problem with this position is that it runs counter to the standards found in Deuteronomy 13 & 18, which is to say that their teachings cannot run counter to God’s Word and Law, and that they cannot give a single false prophecy. While Prophets may be human, and therefore fallible in all other aspects of their lives, these standards clearly stipulate that they cannot lead people to a false god, which is exactly what Joseph Smith, Jr. does, as evidenced by the King Follett Discourse. He paints a picture of the Almighty God that is completely false, given that His nature is very clearly shown throughout the Bible. He ascribes a nature to Him that contradicts Scripture in very fundamental ways that simply cannot be ignored.

Case-in-Point

I was once engaged by an angry Mormon who informed me that the reason he took issue with my biblical argument against Joseph Smith as a prophet is that it supposedly condemned other biblical prophets, including Jesus Himself. In support of his position, he pointed to four prophets, Jonah, Nathan, Isaiah, and Jesus, and made the claim that each of them gave a failed prophesy, which he claimed meant I was condemning them, too. Here is the case of Jonah, to illustrate his point.

Jonah

In Jonah 3, we see a much chastened Jonah arriving in Nineveh after his encounter with the fish, inside of which he spent three days. Upon his arrival, he delivers his message from God, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jon. 3:4, NKJV) He had gone there to pronounce upon the people of Nineveh their last chance before final judgement, as evidenced by the phrasing in verse four: YET. The funny thing about the word “yet” is that I was once taught that it stands for “You’re Eligible Too”, a principle which is clearly highlighted here. It is all about the choices you make, whether to follow God or not, and nothing will spare you the consequences of that choice.

In saying “Yet forty days”, he was telling them that this prophecy might come to pass, if their choices are not what God wishes. As it turns out, the message hit home, and this caused everyone in Nineveh to repent of their sins,

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” (Jon. 3:5-10)

As you can see, everyone from the king down chose to lower themselves before God, and cry out for His forgiveness. In verse ten, we see that the Lord chose to forgive them, and forewent judgement. This is what caused that Mormon to insist that this was a failed prophecy, the fact that Jonah declared that Nineveh would be destroyed, and it was not. He refused to take into account the wording of the message that Jonah was ordered to deliver, the fact that the entire population of Nineveh repented and begged for forgiveness, and that God chose to forgive them.

Of course, this brings up an idea that seems odd to some people; the idea of an Almighty God who can change His mind. Many people seem to draw this odd correlation between God’s nature and his thought process, linking the two in such a way that any change in God’s mind would be a sign of fallibility to them. Sadly, this idea is blasphemous because it pigeon-holes God into this entirely rigid position whereupon He is completely unable to change. I would argue that those people would do well to consider something. God has repeatedly demonstrated that He is living, dynamic, super-intelligent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. As such, seeking to limit Him in any way means that you are attempting to bring Him down to your level. God does not exist at our level, He exists well above us, so believing in a god you can understand, one who exists at our level, is not just blasphemous, but also idolatrous! Obviously, this will not do.

The Mormon I debated on this topic simply would not hear the idea that God changed His mind in the instances he provided, choosing instead to cling tenaciously to the idea that I had to be wrong. In the case of Jesus, he tried to make the argument that Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a failed prophecy because the West Wall still stands. My argument to the contrary failed to sway him, even after I pointed out that the West Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, had never been part of the Temple, but rather was a retaining wall built in the days of Herod the Great, meant to hold up part of the defensive outer wall he was building. The Temple itself, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, was torn down until not a single brick stood atop another. The Roman soldiers were so thorough in their work that they even pried up the stones that made up the floor of the Temple. This sounds a lot like the prophecy given by Jesus roughly 40 years prior.

Coming in Part Three, we will cover the debate between Faith-based Salvation and Works-based Salvation, to highlight some of the false teachings of the Mormon Church. We will delved into some of the Book of Mormon, and compare its teachings to that of the Bible.

References:

Biography: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/the-life-and-ministry-of-joseph-smith?lang=eng

King Follett Discourse: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/04/the-king-follett-sermon?lang=eng

Prophets are not infallible: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Mormonism_and_doctrine/Prophets_are_not_infallible

A Practical Refutation of Mormonism Based in Scripture, Part I: Introduction

As I was coming up (Southern speak for growing up) in my hometown of Austin, TX I can recall numerous encounters with people I would eventually learn were Mormons. I can remember seeing clean white shirts, black ties, black slacks and nice shoes as they pedaled around the neighborhood on bikes. More than once, I accepted the tracts they handed out, but I was only a child, so I did not really understand what was going on. I was simply too involved in childish things, as I was in Middle School.

They always struck me as being incredibly nice. Not only were they clean-cut, well-pressed and very studious, they were also unfailingly polite, respectful and completely unobtrusive. It’s no wonder they did not make much of an impression on a 13-yeard-old version of me. That was not my thing back then. It is safe to say that I was not very open to matters of spirituality; I was more concerned with looking good for the girls, and avoiding embarrassment before my peers. Shallow was not the correct term for me at that age, as it implies that there might have been a deep end. If I had been a body of water, no part of me would have been deep enough to drown a cricket, but I digress.

Years later, while going through the trials and tribulations of Basic Combat Training for the Army, I would find myself spending time with a Mormon. While his name escapes me today (nearly thirteen years later), I can recall that we very quickly gave him the nickname “The Stormin’ Mormon”. Again, he was quiet, studious, always respectful, an all-around decent guy. However, he did show a tough side during training that showed he was well-acquainted with the rougher side of human nature, which was something we appreciated under the circumstances. Simply put, the man could ruck, he could fight, and he was not in any way lazy. That was more than enough for any of us.

Throughout all of this, I had labored under the impression that, while they were Christians, they held beliefs that were just a bit odd. I had heard of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and their belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. However, nothing really caught my attention until recently. In recent times, I’ve found new interest in their beliefs because my wife made a new friend: a Mormon woman. Sometime within the next few weeks, this woman and her husband are due to come over and spend time with us. Neither side has any illusions, our intent is the same: to convince the other side of the truth of our own position. In other words, our intent is as much to convert our new-found friends as theirs is to convert us. It seems only fair, all things considered.

Now, you will note that I said I thought they were Christian, implying that I no longer hold that position. If that is what you have gathered, then you would be right. I no longer regard them as Christian because they do not worship the Jesus that is found in Scripture. What they worship is a false image of Jesus, which makes them idolaters. This means that their very belief is not inspired by God, but rather based on a deception from Satan, either in the form of delusion on the part of Joseph Smith, or a deliberate lie. Joseph Smith’s story is really difficult to believe, yet, countless numbers of Mormon missionaries go about the daily business of trying to convince others to believe that Joseph Smith was the real deal. So, without further ado, let’s set about making the case for Joseph Smith as a false and failed prophet, based upon the Bible and the facts of history.

What is a Prophet?

According to Merriam-Webster, a prophet is defined as, “one who utters divinely inspired revelations”. In the Bible, Scripture states that a prophet is someone who God has chosen to speak for Him, to teach from His Word, and to lead His people. Some prime examples are Jonah, Isaiah, Nathan, and even Jesus. All of them were prophets, Jesus being chief among them. This brings up an interesting and very pertinent question. How does one tell when they are dealing with a Prophet of God? Throughout history, there have been singular men, and two women, who bore the distinction of being Prophets of God, but not much is said about what it takes for someone to gain that distinction. How, then, are we to know whether or not the person in front of us is a prophet? As it turns out, there is an absolute standard by which a Prophet of God must be judged, and this standard does not allow for one bit of wiggle room.

Before going any further, there is a need to take a moment and take a look at something Jesus said in Matthew 7. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16) By these two verses, we are given permission to judge for ourselves whether or not someone claiming to be a Prophet of God is truly what they say they are, and this is where we will begin our journey into Mormonism. We will exercise our right, granted by this statement and others like it, to decide for ourselves the true nature of someone who attempts to take on the mantle of prophet.

The Standard

To be able to judge, we must first have a standard with which to judge, not to mention justification. Matthew 7:15-16 contains two articles, both of which are very much of note. Jesus opens with a warning regarding false teachers, because He knew that there would be false teachers after He was gone. Now, it’s worth noting that the word used for “prophets” (προφήτης, prophétés)  could also be used to mean “teachers”, so this is not just a warning against people claiming to speak FOR God, but also a warning against anyone who would dare to teach anything but the Gospel of our Lord and Savior. It is as much a warning for those would-be teachers/prophets as it was for the followers of Jesus.

The second article is how Jesus told us to discern for ourselves whether or not someone is a true prophet. He said that we would know them by their fruits. In other words, we would know them by the end results of their actions. We would know them, not just by their words, but by the deeds that accompany them. Their character would shine through and either highlight their blessing from God, or reveal the heinous nature of their teachings. In either case, it is entirely for us to discern. What we can gain from a careful reading of the passage is that Jesus fully expects us to place on the hot seat anyone claiming to speak for God. This applies to Muhammad, as well as Joseph Smith, Jr, and Joseph Smith is who we are here to discuss.

To find the standard by which we are to apply this judgement, we must roll all the way back to the Torah, specifically in the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapters 13 and 18. It is through these chapters that God outlines clearly the standards by which every prophet is to be judged, which goes along with Jesus’ endorsement of His followers to freely judge prophets.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 says,

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Straightaway, we have the point made, if someone comes along and shows you miracles, you are not to immediately assume that the Lord God sent them. In fact, He says that we are to pay attention to the words that they are saying. In other words, look to what they are teaching, because that will help you determine what to do next. In verse 2, the example is used, “Let us go after other gods,” This is important because they are not necessarily going to say that they want us to follow other gods, they may try to convince us that we are in fact following the Lord God, and that we had not been doing it right before. False prophets are nothing if not clever in their ability to lead people off into the weeds. Obviously, God was telling the Israelite people to be wary, and we should not be any less so. The Enemy is always seeking ways to ensnare us, and it’s up to us to avoid his traps.

God then goes into the statement that we are to love Him above all others, that we are to follow Him above all others, and that we should not listen to those who would tell us to do otherwise. That is the key part, we are not allowed to follow anyone who attempts to lead us away from the Lord, rather than toward Him. The Prophet or dreamer of dreams must hold fast to the Lord’s Word, and teach according to it, or else they shall be put to death. It seems pretty clear, right? To further clarify, Albert Barnes, noted 18th Century preacher and theologian, had this to say regarding this passage:

“A prophet is here supposed who invites the people “to go after other gods.” To such a one no credit is under any circumstances to be given, even should he show signs and wonders to authenticate his doctrine. The standing rule of faith and practice had been laid down once for all – that the people were to hold fast. The prophet who propounded another rule could only be an impostor.”

Bearing that in mind, note that there is no room for error in the language of this passage. When teaching the Word, from the Word, or according to the Word, there can be no variance. This means that anyone who calls themselves a prophet, yet teaches in a way that is contrary to God’s will, His Word, or His commands, is not merely to be regarded as a false prophet, but is to be killed for being such. That is rather serious.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22,

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

If a prophet speaks presumptuously, or in the name(s) of other gods, then they are false, and false prophets must die. Again, not only must they teach according to God’s will and direction, but they cannot be inaccurate in any way, shape, or form. Nowhere in any of this is there room for the idea that human fallibility can somehow intrude on the office of Prophet. Quite the opposite, in fact, human fallibility is not permitted to have anything to do with the execution of one’s duties as a prophet. Humans are fallible, Prophets must not be, at least when acting as a prophet.

Speaking in reference to Deuteronomy 18:21, Albert Barnes has this to say, “The passage evidently assumes such an occasion for consulting the prophet as was usual among the pagan, e. g., an impending battle or other such crisis (compare 1 Kings 22:11), in which his veracity would soon be put to the test. Failure of a prediction is set forth as a sure note of its being “presumptuous.” But from Deuteronomy 13:2 ff we see that the fulfillment of a prediction would not decisively accredit him who uttered it: for the prophet or dreamer of dreams who endeavoured on the strength of miracles to seduce to idolatry was to be rejected and punished. Nothing therefore contrary to the revealed truth of God was to be accepted under any circumstances.”

Again, there is that unyielding language that leaves absolutely no margin for error. Not only must a Prophet teach and lead according to the Word of God, but they must also transmit His Word and His will accurately and faithfully, no matter what. Just one failed prophesy, and they are a false prophet worthy of death. No pressure, right?

Coming up in Part Two, we will go over Joseph Smith’s background, including a brief biography and an overview of his teachings, from his own words. To that end, most of the material I present will come directly from the Mormons themselves, specifically the LDS website. We will also review the standards found in Deuteronomy 13 & 18, as they relate to Mormon teachings.

Did Jesus Have Help?

I was recently confronted by a non-believer with a book that presented an argument against Christianity that I had not heard before, and I admit it floored me. While I was somewhat familiar with the argument, having heard anecdotal references to it, I had not heard it myself. The argument presented was the idea that the Disciples either manipulated the story of Jesus to fit Messianic prophecies, or Messianic prophecies to fit the story of Jesus. In either case, his argument is that the Disciples intentionally manipulated the entire thing to make Jesus fit the bill of the expected Messiah. Here’s the blurb from the Amazon posting:

“It’s obvious that Jesus fulfilled prophecies about the promised Messiah—or so the gospels make it seem. But the real story is more complex, and more compelling. In hindsight we can see that Jesus had help fulfilling prophecy. The gospel writers skillfully manipulated prophecies—carefully lifting them out of context, creatively reinterpreting them, even rewriting them—to match what Jesus would do in fulfilling them.” (“Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy”, Robert J. Miller)

While I have spent the last few weeks working on a series addressing Mormon theology, this was just too good to pass up. I suddenly found myself in the hot seat again, faced with an argument that I simply did not have an answer for. After a bit of digging, and a whole lot of prayer, I came to the realization that the answer had been right in front of me the whole time. In fact, it is such a simple answer that the argument seems absolutely preposterous. The reason why the idea that the Disciples somehow manipulated prophesies is utterly preposterous comes down to a couple of points. First, are you willing to die for something you know is a lie? Second, how many people are too many for a conspiracy to be successful? What will follow is the basic argument I responded with, along with more detail and some corrections that needed to be made.

On the first point, all but one of the Apostles were martyred for their beliefs. They were so absolutely dedicated to the Truth of the Gospel that they refused to recant, even under pain of torture and threats of incredibly painful deaths. As for the one who didn’t die a martyr’s death, John spent more of his life incarcerated for his beliefs than he did free. At any moment, he could have recanted and been set free. Yet, he lived out his life confined to one prison or another, one island or another, forced to sneak his writings out, while refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s review, shall we? Peter and Paul both died in Rome. While Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, neither of which is a particularly pretty way to die. Andrew, having traveled widely, was ultimately crucified in Greece. Thomas was run through by four spearmen in India. It’s uncertain exactly how Philip was executed, but what is known is that the Proconsul who ordered his execution was angry because Peter had converted his wife to Christianity. Though there are conflicting reports as to how and why, it’s most likely that Matthew was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. While the time, method, and location surrounding Bartholomew’s death are uncertain, what is certain is that he was martyred. According to Josephus, James, the son of Alpheus, was reportedly stoned and clubbed to death. Simon the Zealot was executed in Persia for refusing to sacrifice to their sun god. Finally, Matthias, the man chosen to replace Judas, was burned to death in Syria. These men willingly went to their deaths, loudly proclaiming the Gospel all along the way.

On to the next point, the conspiracy itself. According to J. Warner Wallace, a retired homicide detective, former atheist, and now full-time Christian apologist, the success of a conspiracy depends on five specific factors. First, they require a small number of people, because then the chances of someone spilling the beans goes down to it’s lowest number possible. Yet, Gospel accounts point to thousands of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry, and even more to the ministries of the Apostles. Somehow, not one appears to have spilled the beans. It simply didn’t happen, and that is something an historian would have noted, especially if that historian was Flavius Josephus.

Second, the conspiracy must be kept to just a short amount of time. The longer this thing runs, the more likely it is that someone is going to open their mouths, even if only by accident. In this case, we are being asked to believe that someone, or a vast network of them, has managed to keep a conspiracy going for what, 2,000 years? Is he for real?

Next, the group must be contained to ensure the best communication. In a day when long distance communication was accomplished either on foot or horseback, lines of communication stretched pretty thin after a few miles. Without good communication to ensure everyone was on the same page, a conspiracy would fall apart rather quickly. Yet, Thomas traveled as far away as India, Paul and Peter were in Rome, accounts show that Andrew made it as far as Russia, Philip traveled all over Northern Africa, as far away as Carthage, and Bartholomew is known to have traveled to India, Arabia, Armenia, and Ethiopia. These guys got around. If they had a conspiracy, they were rather inept at maintaining communications.

Similarly, a conspiracy needs close relationships to work. These men were brothers in Christ, who knew each other, cared for one another, and who frequently disagreed on many of the finer theological points. For example, James and Paul disagreed with regards to whether Gentile converts should be required to convert to Judaism first. Between the lack of communication due to distance, and some of the minor disagreements, it is clear that they did not have the relationships necessary to keep a conspiracy going.

Finally, he says that low pressure is needed. The fewer questions asked, the better. If you are at all familiar with early Christian history, you will know that the first 300 years of Christian history were anything but low pressure. The Romans and Jews each vied for the distinction of being the most efficient killers of Jesus’ followers. I would almost swear they were comparing body counts, they were so enthusiastic. If that does not count as a high pressure situation, I don’t know what does. Yet, not one Apostle caved, and countless other Christians and Messianic Jews went to their graves in the most public and brutal ways imaginable.

Now, I would like to return to the topic of motivation. Humans have a very limited set of reasons to lie, all centered around self-interest. Those motivations are money, power, sex, and self-preservation. (The first three are also the reasons why people commit murder) This is based on my own personal experience as a Soldier, father, and healthcare worker, as well as some of the ideas presented by J. Warner Wallace in “Cold-Case Christianity”. My fellow Soldiers, children, and patients have all taken their turns lying to me, and all of their reasons boil down to one of those. This leads one to ask why the Disciples would have lied? For what reason? It wasn’t money, because not a one of these men was in any danger of being wealthy. It wasn’t power, as they died relatively unknown, as part of an obscure Jewish sect that would remain little known for some time after. Sex? These men taught pre-marital chastity, marital fidelity, and lived ascetic lives. As neither of these men were living lavish lifestyles, swimming in a sea of women, then it’s safe to say that sex was not a motivator. Finally, we have self-preservation. I’m sorry, but if that were a motivation, they plainly got it wrong. They stuck to their stories, in spite of imprisonment, torture, starvation, and the threat of death. These men proclaimed the Truth of the Gospel all the way to the grave, so, I ask you, does that seem reasonable? Would you, as a seemingly reasonable person, willingly die for something you know for a fact is a lie?

In the end, the book I was presented with is entirely wrong on the subject. The argument is irrational, and it is clear that the author has a bias he is unable or unwilling to work around. The author’s perspective is both skewed and ill-founded. Humans are utterly predictable in their motivations, in that they will do what makes sense to them. The Apostles were all known as reasonable men of varying degrees of education and social standing. Paul was a Pharisee, schooled in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic who hunted down, tortured, and killed fellow Jews for their faith in Christ prior to his own conversion. This group also included a physician, a tax collector, and other skilled men. For them to abandon all reason and stick to a conspiracy, even in the face of their own impending deaths just makes no sense at all.

Beyond that, there are other arguments which can be brought to bear. In some of my previous posts, I’ve included references to Jewish writings which make clear that some of the more famous Messianic texts have always been regarded as Messianic in nature. This hits to the heart of one of the arguments presented, the idea that the prophecies were somehow tampered with. Take, for example, the oft disputed Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. (Isa. 52:13-53:12)

Jewish people I have debated have all insisted the same thing about the Suffering Servant, that he is the Nation of Israel, and I have repeatedly pointed out that a) Israel is not righteous and therefore cannot bear the sins of the world, and b) that the Talmud itself bears out the idea that Isaiah 53 is Messianic in nature. This is not a case of mistaken identity, or misapplied Scripture, this is a case of an expected Messiah fulfilling prophecies that go all the way back to the beginning. Now, has Jesus fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies? No, not yet. He is expected to return, at which point the Lamb will be the Lion, and the remaining prophecies will come true.

In closing, the book “Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy” really is not worth the paper it is printed on. While he cites a great many works as part of his research, it is clear that the only manipulation involved is in his attempt to force thousands of years worth of Jewish and Christian scholarship into a mold it was never meant to be in. It also brings something to mind that I often tell people, “Satan will tell you 99 truths, just to pass one lie.” Not only will he tell you those truths, but he will slant and twist them into such a way as to funnel you into a trap. Avoid that trap, folks, for your own sake.

What is the relationship between the Old Testament and the New?

When I first rededicated my life to Christ, I found that I had a hard time understanding the relationship between the two Testaments. My childhood training on this matter had been sparse at best, so I had absolutely no framework on which to fall back. I have since come to a better understanding through intensive study and prayer. I have determined that the link between the two is Jesus, it has always been Him, and I intend to show all of you how. My hope is that you, the readers, will come away with a better understanding as well.

In recent times, I have had several people declare that there is no connection between the two Testaments. They have also declared that there is absolutely no relationship between the Old Testament, Judaism, and Jesus’ teachings. They seem to think that Jesus and His teachings just sort of appeared out of nowhere, almost as if on cue. In the words of one objector, “His teachings have nothing to do with Judaism. Quite the opposite.”

Truth be told, there was a time when I would have been hard pressed to come up with an answer to this objection. The good news is, that is no longer a problem. If you are someone who has had a hard time understanding the interplay between the two, or if you are one of those who has been taught that there is no interplay, then this post is most definitely for you. As always, I invite comment, regardless of whether or not you agree.

Jesus and the Old Testament

In the First Century, when Jesus was wandering the countryside, preaching on mountains, plains, in cities, synagogues, and on street corners, the Bible consisted solely of the Old Testament, or Tanakh, as it is known in Hebrew. Every time Jesus made reference to Scripture, quoted Scripture, or taught from Scripture, He was teaching from the Old Testament. This is important, because there are too many who try to divorce the Old Testament from the New, and wrongly so. Jesus’ teachings were strongly rooted in the principles of the Tanakh, as He was and is the physical embodiment of the Law.

In his book, “Jewish Literacy”, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says, “The New Testament depiction of Jesus suggests that he was largely a law-abiding and highly nationalistic Jew, and a man with strong ethical concerns. Like many of Judaism’s great rabbis, he saw love of neighbor as religion’s central demand…On at least one specific legal issue, Jesus identified with the stricter rather than the more lenient rabbis. The prevailing School of Hillel taught that divorce was permitted for any reason, while the School of Shammai only permitted it in cases of sexual misconduct (Mishna Gittin 9:10)- the position later attributed to Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 5:31-32).” (“Jewish Literacy”, pg. 126)

As Rabbi Telushkin has pointed out, Jesus’ teachings were in line with Jewish teachings, which means they were grounded in the Old Testament. He goes on to note that there were, of course, exceptions. “Most statements attributed to Jesus in the New Testament conform to Jewish teachings. This is, of course, not surprising, since Jesus generally practiced Pharisaic (rabbinic) Judaism. However, at least three innovative teachings ascribed to Jesus diametrically oppose Jewish teachings.

  1. Jesus forgives all sins…
  2. Jesus’ attitude toward evil people…
  3. Jesus’ claim that people can come to God only through him…” (“Jewish Literacy”, pg. 128) [Note: I shortened the second quote for the sake of brevity. If you wish to see the full text, you will have to acquire your own copy of “Jewish Literacy”, which I highly recommend anyway.]

The Sermon on the Mount

During a recent discussion on the relationship between both Testaments, I had occasion to take a quick tally of how many direct and indirect references to Old Testament Scripture were made by Jesus during His famous Sermon on the Mount. All told, there were more than 50 references made. In case any of you are wondering, the Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew, Chapter Five, and ends in Chapter Seven. I was able to arrive at this number by way of my Study Bible, which has a very thorough cross-reference in the center of each page.

To give an example of the interplay between the Old Testament, and Jesus’ teachings, we will look at a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, along with a corresponding passage a few chapters later, where Jesus deals with the issue of divorce. Matthew 5:31-32 says, “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” As you may have noted, this is the example Rabbi Telushkin gave to highlight his assertion that Jesus’ teachings were Jewish in origin, which is why I chose to use it here.

According to my Study Bible, verse 31 is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,”. As Rabbi Telushkin noted, the School of Hillel believed that one could divorce his wife for any reason he deemed sufficient. This was likely one of the verses Rabbi Hillel used to justify his position. Verse 32 has no Old Testament reference, however, in Chapter 19, Jesus is asked to expound on His position on divorce, and He goes into much more detail there, providing the Old Testament justification for His statement in verse 32.

Matthew 19:4-5, “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” These two verses have two direct references, and one indirect. In verse 4, Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” He is also making reference to Malachi 2:15, “But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit?” In verse 5, Jesus is quoting Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Now, let’s take a moment and delve a little deeper into Malachi 2, specifically verses 15 and 16, “But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

16 “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

To further highlight the interplay of all of these references, let’s turn to my favorite Bible commentator, Alfred Barnes, a noted 18th Century preacher and theologian. With reference to Matthew 19:4-6, he says in part, “The argument of Jesus here is, that since they are so intimately united as to be one, and since in the beginning God made but one woman for one man, it follows that they cannot be separated but by the authority of God. Man may not put away his wife for every cause. What God has joined together man may not put asunder. In this decision he really decided in favour of one of the parties; and it shows that when it was proper, Jesus answered questions without regard to consequences, from whatever cause they might have been proposed, and however much difficulty it might have involved him in. Our Lord, in this, also showed consummate wisdom. He answered the question, not from Hillel or Shammai, their teachers, but from Moses, and thus defeated their malice.”

Clearly, Jesus’ teachings were very much based in the Tanakh, given that He not only directly quotes from Scripture, but also makes indirect reference. That He was also able to use it to speak circles around His opponents only sweetens the deal. There is a certain bit of satisfaction that goes into seeing how they laid out multiple traps for Him, and He was able to stop them in their tracks every time.

Jesus IN the Old Testament

If you have read my previous posts, you may have noted that I make a case for Jesus’ appearance in the Old Testament, in the person of the Angel of the Lord, or Malakh Adonai. I was sent down that particular line of reasoning by something Jesus said in the Gospel according to John. He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:48-59) You may recall that one of the names for the Lord God is “I AM”. This comes from the story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15).

The first thing to note in this story is that this passage states that the one who called out to Moses was the Angel of the Lord. Next, the text somehow shifts over into a conversation between the Lord and Moses, but somehow does not mention anything about a change in who was speaking.

In verse 2, the account states, “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” Then, in verse 4, it states, “So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

While one might believe that this is an indication that there was a switch from the Angel of the Lord to the Lord God, we must remember that there are other points where the Angel of the Lord is called “God” (Genesis 16), and even where He calls Himself “God” (Genesis 22, 31). Given the claims of divinity, it’s safe to infer that the Lord referred to here is the Angel of the Lord.

There is a point in the story where Moses dares to ask who he is to tell his people sent him. The response from the Lord was, “I AM who I AM”. This is the part that I believe is really indicative of what Jesus was intimating to the Jews in John 8:58, especially when you consider that the very next verse shows that the Jews Jesus was speaking with immediately took up stones with which to stone Him. Why did they do that? Because Jesus had just made a claim to divinity, which they took to be blasphemy.

Jesus in the New Testament

While it is obvious that Jesus is every bit the main reason for the existence of the New Testament, the reason why we’re going here is that His every word and deed pointed back to the Old Testament. As we say here in the U.S., “Actions speak louder than words”, and His actions pointed to Messianic texts, while His teachings pointed back to the rest of the Old Testament. For a categorical list of His words, and deeds, as they relate to Messianic texts, we must turn first to the Gospel according to Matthew.

The Book of Matthew is very much a Jewish book, written by a Jew, with the intent of convincing a Jewish audience of the Messiahship of Jesus. This is evidenced by the fact that Matthew’s narration makes reference to Old Testament prophesies every time Jesus fulfilled one, and this goes all the way back to His birth. For example, in Matthew 2:6, “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

This is reference to a prophecy found in Micah 5:2, which states, ““But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” This means that Micah 5:2 is the prophecy that was fulfilled in Matthew 2, with the birth of Jesus. This is just a snapshot, mind you, but you get the point. As Jesus was running through the Messianic checklist, Matthew was keeping track, and Matthew was very thorough.

Conclusion

Throughout this post, I have taken great pains to clearly demonstrate how the two Testaments relate to each other, how Jesus’ Mission was not to do away with the Law, but rather to bring us back into right relationship with God, as the Law was intended to. My hope is that you, the reader, came away from this with a much better understanding of our Lord and Savior. I’ll just finish with this final note.

In John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” What we find is, I think, the greatest correlation between both Testaments, the revelation that Jesus is the one who created the universe. He is our Creator, and to Him we owe our entire existence. As if that was not humbling enough, we then must realize that our Creator CHOSE to clothe Himself in human flesh, come to the earth to live among us, and finally die on the Cross to atone for our sins, all with the goal of returning us to the state of grace that existed prior to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. If the profound nature of that realization is enough to bring you to your knees, that is what is known as an “Aha” moment, and you are welcome.

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Though it’s a bit late in the day, I thought I’d take a few moments to share some of the thoughts running through my head. I’ll begin with the purpose to this day.

This day is to honor the veterans who gave their lives in service to their country, not for those who have served. If you thank a vet today, please let it be while standing at their headstone in the cemetery. Those of us still alive will understand.

Truth be told, I’m always more than a little uncomfortable when thanked for my service. I always feel as if I’ve been put on the spot, and I don’t really deserve it. My stock response is, “Thank you for the support”, but that just feels cheesy.

If you really want to thank a veteran, find one wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat. Go thank those guys, and please be sure to welcome them home. Use those words, “Welcome Home”. Better late than never, right?

They didn’t come home to marching bands, welcoming committees, and warm hugs. They came home to hostility, hatred, and division. Do your bit to help heal the hearts of men and women who came home to abuse from their fellow citizens.

Our Current Situation

This morning, I stumbled across this video on YouTube:

It brought to mind a great many thoughts that I’ve had these past few years. Thoughts relating to the phenomenon of Megachurches, such as the one in this video, known as “Hillsong”.

Far from benefiting Christianity, they are a hindrance, and here is why.  Not only do they highlight a problem with the modern American Church, but the main problem with modern Western Christianity as a whole, in that they have distorted and watered down the Message, allowing the world to dictate doctrine. For some odd reason, we have collectively forgotten what Jesus had to say about the world, and it’s place in our lives.

Jesus made clear, not only are we to expect persecution and hatred, but that we should welcome it. In Matthew 5:11-14, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”

Clearly, we are meant to preserve the Word, even as people revile and persecute us. That is our charge, our mission, to protect and preserve the Word, to share the Word, and to be the truth against the world.

Yet, many have failed in this. Churches like Hillsong have made a fortune by watering down the Gospel Message, and perpetuating a false image of Christ. Jesus’ teachings covered this as well.

Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Imagine, the horror that comes when you realize that so many people have unknowingly been led into condemnation because of these groups. This church enjoys massive attendance, massive amounts of revenue, and is seen by the world as representatives of actual Christianity, when the truth is they are apostates. They are idolators, and they teach that Christians are to be right before the world, even if it means being wrong before God.

They bought into the lie that Christianity is supposed to be a numbers game. They compete for the largest share, and hold up the fact that people stand in line for hours as proof that they are doing it right. This could not be further from the truth.

The truth is that keeping to Jesus’ teachings will leave us open for all manner of hate. Matthew 10:22, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

We definitely see that today. What happens when we stand outside Planned Parenthood and seek to prevent the slaughter of unborn babies? We are reviled and spat upon, called all manner of ugly names, and shown nothing but hate.

What would it look like if we stood outside Planned Parenthood and told the inbound women that God loves them and accepts what they are about to do? We would receive nothing but accolades and acceptance, much like the so-called Christians who stand on the pro-choice side. God, on the other hand, would have something else to say.

What happens when we go to Gay Pride parades, and try to preach the Gospel? We are shouted down, threatened with violence, assaulted, and shown nothing but hate. Why? Because we are seeking to teach the Truth of our Lord and Savior.

What would it look like if we stood with the LGBT community, and told them that God does not in fact condemn their lifestyles as abomination? Again, we would be greeted with hugs, tears, and acceptance. We would be the most beloved liars on the face of the earth, and God would have something to say about it.

That is not what we are called to do. We are called to speak Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to be uncompromising, to show kindness, to be honest, to share the actual message that Jesus commanded us to share with every nation, and every tongue. (Matthew 28:19-20)

It is worth noting, Jesus did not bring a message of niceness and inclusiveness. He did not teach that we ought to accept people, regardless of their beliefs. In fact, He was very intolerant of Sin, and did not mince words about it. Matthew 10:35-40, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”

At what point did we as a civilization lose this message? We have forgotten that this is not a numbers game. We have forgotten that many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14) So, many churches go on this quest to try to attract the greatest numbers, mistakenly believing that this was what Jesus wanted. It truly is not.

Matthew 22:14 illustrates that Jesus knew the reality. He knew that, most people would run away when shown His true message and its actual meaning.

They would believe that He is asking too much of them. Jesus makes clear what He wants in Matthew 16:24-26, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Did you catch that? He wants us to surrender ourselves, to die to self, to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to even be willing to die for His sake. In dying on the Cross, the Lord Jesus set the standard: speak the Truth, and be uncompromising in it, even if it means you must endure physical pain, torture, and/or death. (See Matthew 10:28) In other words, not only did His death on the Cross atone for our sins, but He also set the standard for how we are to live and die!

Finally, John 15:18-22, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.”

The world is meant to hate us because it is fallen, and hates all that is Truth. Jesus is God, God is Truth, and the world hates the Truth. So, when you see some massive church, with thousands in attendance, just know that there is a good chance that they are foreigners to Jesus, as He never knew them.

If you are seeking Truth, that is not where you will find it. Might I recommend you find the tiny old country church in the middle of nowhere with no A/C, seating for 30, and the Holy Spirit permeating every single millimeter of its building? Better still, look in your own communities for those tiny house churches, the ones where people gather in small groups to worship in each other’s living rooms.

Places like Hillsong have abandoned the teachings of Jesus, choosing to please the world instead. They have forgotten that the wages of sin in death. (Romans 6:23) In so doing, they have chosen to ally themselves with darkness.

A prime example is this video, in which the Pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz, tells the ladies of The View that he is pro-choice, along with taking a variety of other stances at odds with Scripture:

They go wrong because they selectively emphasize God’s love, mercy, and grace, while downplaying or outright ignoring what is required in order to become saved. Salvation comes through faith in Christ, through placing trust in Him, and in following what He taught. People like Carl Lentz are busily involved in leading people down the wrong path, and they will one day hear the phrase, “depart from me”.

In the end, you have to ask yourself, “Who is more important, me or God?” If your answer is God, then you must take it upon yourself to learn His standard, and what He has planned for your life. Never forget that He does have a perfect plan for each and every one of us, and that it is ALL for His glory.

May you find peace, Ma’am.

Tuesday, the world lost a bright light. Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed at the age of 92. On that day, she walked among the clouds, and learned more about God than any of us could possibly imagine.

I was in Middle School when she was First Lady, but one thing I can remember is that she had class. Looking back on her, and the women who have followed in her stead, she was definitely one of a kind.

To the Bush family, my sincerest condolences. Don’t worry, she’s walking with the Lord, and I don’t doubt she’s eagerly awaiting the family reunion.

Just how Trinitarian are We? Looking at the Text we Neglect too Often

Stop me if you have heard this one before, “There is no Old Testament evidence for the Trinity”. The assertion is not new, it was the real reason for the Council of Nicea, after all. As the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Old Testament, then it is obviously unsupported they say. Unitarians reason that the word and the concept are inextricably linked, and that you cannot have one without the other.

The question then becomes, are they right? The answer is, yes, and no. The word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament text, but not to worry, because that does not prove the critics right. As it turns out, though not explicitly named, there exists a veritable treasure trove of hints, clues, and even direct references to the members of the godhead, beginning in Genesis and ending in Malachi.

Background

I admit to being a bit of a YouTube junkie, and not just for the cat videos. Much to my wife’s occasional frustration, I have spent hours watching lectures, sermons, and informational videos on a variety of topics ranging from woodworking, to blacksmithing, and especially theology. For the last few years, I have been engaged in an all-you-can-eat learning spree which has helped me catch up on the 20+ years of growth I missed out on when I walked away from the Church as a teen, and I’m still hungry.

In addition to that, I have also spent countless hours studying the Bible, books on apologetics, theology, eschatology, the Trinity, and Messianic prophesies. I have studied Martin Luther, Saint Augustine, and a few others, all in pursuit of a better understanding of the Lord God, in as many of His facets as humans are capable of understanding. While I may not be a Bible scholar, yet, I certainly have seen enough to know from whence I speak.

Proving the Trinity

In 1 Peter 3:15, we are admonished to always be ready to give a good defense for why we believe, and this applies more today than ever before. We have been beset from all sides by the Enemy, through his various avenues of approach. Everything from atheism, Islam, New Age religions, and even popular culture, has taken a turn at attempting to undermine or water down the true Gospel Message.

One such attack is on the Trinity itself, which is significant, because Jesus stated that the only unpardonable Sin is to deny, or blaspheme, the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:28-30) If he is able to drive people away from the true nature of God, then they will not be able to make relationship with Him, which means countless sincere believers will end up condemned. It is a tragedy, and it is up to us to combat this problem.

To that end, I have come up with a list of questions to ask our Unitarian friends. All of these questions are based in Scripture, are framed in such a way as to make looking up the answers very easy, and are designed to clearly demonstrate the Trinity as it appears in Scripture. You need only a Bible to answer these questions; commentaries are optional.

If you are a Unitarian, I hope you will look at these questions, and undertake a serious effort to chase down the answers, so that you may find the living God, and be able to submit yourself to Him.

Without further ado, here are the questions:

1. Who is the Angel of the Lord?
2. In Genesis 16, by what name does Hagar call the Angel of the Lord?
3. In Genesis 22, who orders Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and who later orders him to stay his hand? Why?
4. In Genesis 31:11-13, what does the Angel of the Lord call Himself?
5. In Exodus 3, who calls to Moses from the burning bush?
6. In Exodus 23, God states that the Angel He is sending to lead the Israelites will not pardon their transgressions. Why?
7. In light of the previous question, what do you think of what God says in Isaiah 42:8?
8. In Genesis 19, when the Lord is destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, from where does the Lord rain fire and brimstone?
9. What are the answers to the questions posed in Proverbs 30:4?
10. Take a moment and compare John 1:1, 15 with the creation accounts in Genesis 1. What do you find?
11. As you deny the Trinity, what do you make of Zechariah 12:10?
12. What do you make of Malachi 3:1?
13. What do you think of the Suffering Servant found in Isaiah 53, and how He willingly dies for us?
14. Who can forgive our sins?
15. Who is the Great I AM?
16. For whom are we to reserve our worship?
17. Who has the power to forgive us our sins?
18. In both 2 Samuel 23:2-3, and Ezekiel 11:5, who spoke?
19. In Job 33:4, who does Job say made him?
20. Who is speaking in Isaiah 48:16?

As you can see, these questions point to The Angel of the Lord, and His very divine attributes, many of which clearly point to the idea that the Lord Jesus is The Angel of the Lord. They also point to the very real fact that Jesus is God, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. They show that the Holy Spirit is not just divine, but that He actually does speak. In three of those references, Hagar, The Angel of the Lord, and God Himself, all state that The Angel of the Lord is divine. We know from Scripture that there is only one divine being, the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth. Therefore, Jesus is The Angel of the Lord, and The Angel of the Lord is God. Conclusion: Jesus is God, and God is most certainly a Trinity.

While I have presented these questions to quite a few people, not one Unitarian has actually taken time to try and answer or dispute them. I find this deeply regrettable.

Belated Thoughts

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve been a bit behind the curve, because my unit was involved in Annual Training for most of the month of February. Yes, I spent Valentine’s Day away from my wife and kids, surrounded by 79 other Soldiers.

Things were so busy that I wasn’t able to devote more than a basic level of attention to the events of the day. Rest assured, my prayers have been with all involved since that day. I still feel a sense of horror.

The training period ended last Saturday, and I’ve devoted some time to coming to terms, not only with the abject evil that was allowed to run rampant that day, but also with the fact that this evil was allowed to run rampant at all. It is nothing less than infuriating, the level of moral cowardice displayed, not only on that day, but Every. Day. Before. It!

There is a reason I chose to name my blog after the prophet Ezekiel. That reason can be found in Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.”

My chosen path is that of the watchman, in that I have chosen to sound the alarm about our Lord and Savior, and His Gospel Message. This situation is different.

Imagine my utter outrage as each new link in the chain of failure was revealed in the media! Imagine my grief as each new detail revealed yet another watchman, hands dripping with the blood of innocent people far better than the monster who took them, and the monsters who allowed it. Am I being too harsh? Not in the slightest.

Here, we have a child who did absolutely nothing to hide who he was, what he was, or his plans. He made absolutely no bones about the twisted and demonic evil living inside of him. This child announced his desire, his intent to do exactly what he did; no remorse, no regrets.

This wasn’t a new thing, either. He had been expressing his desire for some time, all to a long list of selectively deaf cowards who gave him the green light simply by letting him be. I’ll be honest, I can’t condemn the choices and actions that enabled this madness in strong enough terms.

These people didn’t merely choose to let this kid run free, they were complicit; silence is consent. Each one of them may as well have fired each and every round that stole away someone’s Baby Girl, Little Man, or Beloved. Each body left where it fell was absolutely precious and priceless to someone who must now go through life with a gaping hole inside that can’t ever be healed by anything on this earth. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can take those wounds and heal them, and I pray that He does.

From beginning to end, this incident highlighted a very real failing in the system that no one seems willing to address: humans. This incident wasn’t a failure of the law, this kid violated every law even somewhat related, it was a failure of humanity.

That he made no secret of his intent is relevant as it renders irrelevant the legality of his firearms purchase. It was made with ill intent, and I’d wager the dealer was among the few people in the dark on the matter. If you buy a gun with the intent of committing mass murder, then that sale isn’t legal.

All throughout, people made very human choices, in this case, choices that led to numerous preventable deaths and injuries. Choices that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives, in an endless game of “What If”. In spite of myself, I feel for them, because I know they were hoping he wasn’t serious, on one level or another.

This isn’t to excuse them, mind you, I still wish to see justice done. Nor should that justice only include that School Resource Officer seen cowering, sidearm drawn, outside of the school while people’s babies were being murdered. Every person who knew, but chose to do nothing, is guilty. Those who did speak up are blameless, it’s as simple as that.

Now, do I agree that gun control would have done anything to stop this? Most emphatically, no. This incident, much like nearly every other mass shooting, was a failure of the system already in place. Tougher laws won’t do a thing if human failure won’t give them a chance to. All it would accomplish is to make life more difficult for hundreds of millions of innocent people, as it slowly erodes away our Constitutionally protected rights.

What needs to happen is that we need to give currently existing laws more teeth. First, where it is a crime to sit on this kind of information, be sure to punish offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Where it isn’t a crime, make it so, and enforce it as if your own life depends on it, because it just might.

Next, look at all sides of the debate. Really listen and find understanding. Pro-2A folks, look at the Anti-gun arguments, and see where they’re coming from. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, just that you understand.

Pro-gun control folks, do the same. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to agree, just that you understand. Once we understand each other, then we can have a meaningful discussion.

Special note to gun control supporters. Don’t fall under the mistaken impression that we are unreasonable because we’re unwilling to compromise our rights. We hold that line as much for you, as we do for ourselves and our loved ones. Bear that in mind, and all will be well.