Setting the Record Straight: Joseph Smith – the Mormon Prophet

Susan Easton Black authored this book (Millennial Press, 2007).  It is part of a series.  With all the misinformation accessible to journalists, this series is suppose to provide truth.

I read the book.  Here are some interesting questions in the book.

Did Joseph Smith prophecy that members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in the millions? (p. 31)

Part of the answer by Joseph . . .

It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America–it will fill the world (31).

Does it fill North America right now?  Is it accurate prophecy or wishful thinking? (Ah, I know.  Wait till the millennium.)

Do the Mormons have a creed? (p. 63)

(You shouldn’t answer yes, Susan.  Then you will become one of those sectarian creedalists.)

What were Joseph Smith’s views on other religions? (p. 66)

Part of the answer by Joseph . . .

Our religion is between us and our God.  Their religion is between them and their God (66).

Then why are there missionaries on the doorsteps of those in my church family requesting to present just a little bit more to the mix?

What is the Mormon belief of authority to act in the name of God? (p. 74)

Part of the answer by Joseph . . .

We believe that no man can administer salvation through the gospel, to the souls of men, in the name of Jesus Christ, except he is authorized from God, by revelation, or by being ordained by someone who God hath sent by revelation (74).

Well, I am a rebel to the local, area, apostle, and first presidency authorities in the I-15 corridor.

Why did Joseph Smith think temple ordinances were so important? (p. 78)

Part of the answer by Joseph . . .

All men who become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory.

The question is frequently asked, “Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances, etc.?”  I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation.  Jesus said, “There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you (78).

Joseph Smith is just trying to manipulate and mangle the precious scriptural text that I just preached this past Sunday morning.  And you don’t need the temple ordinances to be a joint-heir with Jesus Christ.  That is not what the apostles or the Savior in John’s Gospel or Romans proclaim to the world.

79 comments

  1. ” And you don’t need the temple ordinances to be a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. That is not what the apostles or the Savior in John’s Gospel or Romans proclaim to the world.”

    Yeah, well, you get rid of the real thing, the sacraments/mysteries/ordinances which Our Lord himself gave us, and somebody, somewhere, will introduce counterfeit substitutes.

  2. “Yeah, well, you get rid of the real thing, the sacraments/mysteries/ordinances which Our Lord himself gave us, and somebody, somewhere, will introduce counterfeit substitutes.”

    Which is exactly what I hold that early Christians did in the first two centuries of Christianity’s existence. They removed any reading of the Bible through the lens of a TWO-WAY covenant and mangled and distorted it into a bunch of ONE-WAY “sacraments.”

    But the covenant, and the temple is the original worship of God found in the Bible. It is all the later innovations that reject the covenant (or lamely try to argue that the arrival of Christ means we don’t need a covenant any more) and remove the centrality of the temple from Christianity.

  3. The Adamic covenant? The Noachin covenant? The Abrahamic covenant? The Mosaic covenant? The New covenant?

    I don’t think that Joseph Smith properly understood any of them, Seth.

    And Joseph Smith would seek to tell me that the New Covenant with my perfect Savior and his work must involve the big white-tiered tower along the Snake River in downtown Idaho Falls?

    No way is it that kind of externalized, formalized, sanitized, professionalized, worthyized (is that a word?) two-way.

    The true prophet, Jeremiah, speaks of a temple and a new covenant. Look what he says about both. I believe him rather than Joseph.

  4. Seth:

    “one way sacraments?”

    That would be a distinctly reformed understanding, undergirding a rejection, among other things, of the original perception of the Eucharist as sacrifice, strongly implied in the New Testament and clearly stated in some of the earliest post-New Testament Christian writings (Didache, Ignatius of Antioch).

  5. “I think a religious man has a tendency to add tradition: whether Jew, Christian, or Mormon.”

    “Hold fast to the traditions…” St. Paul, writing to the Church at Thessalonika

  6. Greg, Luther had problems with the verse.

    I don’t he could see the beauty of James’ words because of all the rotten church traditions smothering the phrase.

    It was too bad.

  7. Also, the central function of a temple, in Judaism and Apostolic Christianity, is the offering of sacrifice.

    What sacrifice is offered in the temples of the LDS Church?

  8. In answer to Greg’s last question . . . NONE . . . NADA . . . ZIP-O. The big white temple in Idaho Falls willfully removes the central heart of the prophet Ezekiel’s eschatological temple blueprint. Joseph didn’t get his floorplans from the Architect.

    But Greg, I think one of the biggest temples in the world — the temple in Rome — became the greatest monument to the Protestant Reformation. I suppose the world needs such a monument.

    And for the Anabaptists, Luther didn’t throw out enough of the bathwater. But I do appreciate him for having the courage to shake things up a bit. God used him, even in all Luther’s sinfulness, to rock the world. That is grace alone.

  9. And it is all about the flock . . . sheep and the Good Shepherd . . . not an ecclesiastical, organizational fold.

    Unfortunately, the KJV translators did not remove John’s Gospel from all the Vulgate trappings. And you see trappings again in John 14 – mansiones.

    Heaven is not about palatious, gold-gilded mansions, filled with chandeliers, etc.

    Yes, I am a radical. Christianity is way beyond a prophet or pope’s establishment.

  10. Todd – Even if that prophet (or pope, for that matter) has been authorized (even commanded) by God to establish it? The Protestant reaction against ecclesiastical orgnization seems to me like their self-assurance after initial embarassment at having ejected themselves from the organization founded by the Savior.

    Greg – As an inviter to “come and see” myself, I’m always happy to return the favor, and I am always curious about other traditions. I will never forget how well Orthodox believers treated us Mormon missionaries, even if they did not accept our message.

    Todd’s understanding of the Mormon temple is pretty superficial. I would disagree with him and affirm that sacrifice is indeed a central theme in Mormon temples. After all sacrifices in Biblical times were symbolic of covenants made with Abraham, Moses, and of course the New Covenant in Christ. The covenants we make in temples are not to replace those covenants but are rather individualizations of those covenants.

    In fact, my own personal temple experiences have charged me with sacrificing all I have to God not only in ritual but in my daily conduct and life-decisions.

    Now you might ask, “But where’s the *ritual* sacrifice?” You’ve got me there. Most of what happens in Mormon temples is about covenants *to* sacrifice. The actual sacrifice goes on outside the temple.

  11. “Again, that would be most of modern Protestant Christianity. Every Roman Catholic and Orthodox place of worship is a “temple”.”

    Fair enough Greg. I’ve always felt that Orthodoxy would be a close runner-up for me after Mormonism. Theosis, ritual with substance… Good stuff.

    My understanding is still pretty superficial though. An hour long visit on antiochian.org is about the extent of it.

  12. “Fair enough Greg. I’ve always felt that Orthodoxy would be a close runner-up for me after Mormonism. Theosis, ritual with substance… Good stuff.”

    Well, Seth, I’m glad to know this; however, I have to ask, doesn’t such a position radically undermine any belief in a “Great Apostacy”?

    As for the invitation extended to Jondh, there are, if I am not mistaken, several Orthodox temples near you.

    In the meantime, if you’d like to read more, let me suggest two books by Kallistos Ware: “The Orthodox Church” and “The Orthodox Way”.

  13. “doesn’t such a position radically undermine any belief in a “Great Apostacy”?”

    I wouldn’t say it undermines “any” such belief. It does force reinterpretation though. But I parted ways with the conventional LDS view of apostasy quite some time ago.

    Truth is, like Protestants, Mormons have essentially ignored Orthodoxy in their world-view. In terms of interfaith interaction, we got our start by criticizing Catholicism (usually along the same lines that Protestant theologians did). Due to opposition from various Protestants, we have been forced to debate with them as well.

    But Orthodoxy has pretty much been off the radar. So we have never had the occasion to develop a coherent response to Orthodoxy per se.

  14. Hey John F.:

    You, I take it, hold a more “conventional” LDS view of the GA. So, in your opinion, when did the loss of priesthood authority occur?

    I’m still interested in Seth’s answer, however.

  15. It’s up in the air for me in several ways right now.

    I do not think that merely killing off the apostles was sufficient for a loss of authority. After all, I think we can safely assume that the apostles ordained subordinates. So I doubt it was all lost at once.

    However, it seems fairly clear from Paul and Peter’s own writings in the New Testament that the Church was quite a mess even during their own lifetimes. You get a distinct sense that the whole thing was coming down around their ears with the apostles writing panicked epistles to various communities hoping to stem the tide of false doctrine, false practice, and general indifference to the authority of the apostles that was assailing them from all sides.

    Mormon scripture in D&C 64:8 even suggests that the Apostles themselves were to blame for the troubles of the early Church:

    “My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.”

    Then we have D&C 121:34-46:

    34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
    35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
    36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
    37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
    38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
    39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
    40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.
    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
    43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
    44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
    45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
    46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

    A nice and frequently quoted passage in Mormon circles. But the take-home point for today is that it doesn’t matter is Paul ordained someone a bishop. Ordination or not, proper passing of authority or not, you CAN lose Priesthood power and authority.

    My guess would be that this is what happened in many of the early Churches.

    I would also recommend a close reading of D&C 86 and it’s unique retelling of the parable of the wheat and the tares” (compare Matthew 13:24-30 and JST Matt 13).

    The parable in Matthew talks about wheat and tares growing together (apparently without any particular difficulty for either) and then a final gathering after which the field is burned. If I recall correctly, most Christians read this as simply talking about the final stages of the earth where Christ returns, the wicked are burned, and the righteous separated.

    The D&C paints a different picture however, and the parable becomes a prophesy by Christ of the apostasy.

    In the D&C version, the tares actually harm the wheat. They choke it out. They become so thoroughly infested that the only solution is to salvage what wheat you can and burn the field to the ground and plant anew. It’s a prophesy of how the good in the original Church will be choked out requiring that the wheat be gathered out.

    This gathering is the primary mission of the LDS Church.

    But either way you look at it. Mormon scripture seems to be talking in degrees. Not a total apostasy. Good remains in continuing legacy of the original Apostles and Christ himself. But much of it is intermixed with falsehood.

    I don’t consider myself qualified to venture an opinion on how much of Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, or even Protestantism is wheat and how much is tares.

    Some areas, like Calvin’s entire T.U.L.I.P. appear to be tares all around. But other areas, not so much.

    Orthodoxy may have preserved quite a bit of wheat for all I know.

  16. Hey Greg:

    By the time the bishops decided by committee what the nature of God was in the creeds, it was completely gone. Politician bishops were not Jesus Christ’s idea of pure religion and undefiled before God.

    You are correct that Latter-day Saints believe that in embracing the Restored Gospel, we are privy to true priesthood authority once more. The Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthoods are God’s power entrusted to man on earth to act in his name, now as in the times of the Bible, and in the ordinances thereof the power of godliness is manifested today as it was in Moses’ time as well as the time of the Apostles.

  17. Greg, I should mention that, in terms of Gospel truths, Seth seems to be right on. I am distinguishing between revealed truths and priesthood authority and I believe that although much truth was restored or revealed for the first time through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors, the key to the Restoration of the Gospel was the restoration of these two priesthoods at the hands of those authorized to confirm such priesthoods. Thus, it may well be that Greek Orthodoxy preserved much more truth from Christ’s original religion than did the Roman Catholic Church its progeny during their reign of blood and horror on the earth.

  18. John F:

    So marriage, in the time of the Apostles, was for “time and eternity”?

    The Apostles administered various endowments in Temples set apart for the purpose? (Or Moses, for that matter?)

    The Apostles believed and taught that “spirit is matter”?

    See Acts 15. This is the prototype of councilar activity in the early Church, up to, including, and extending beyond Nicea and Constantinople.

    Had the bishops at Nicea been “politicians,” they would have changed the faith and endorsed Arianism, with which Constantine, by his later actions, proved to be highly sympathetic.

    Finally, it seems that Joseph Smith, Junior, had political (and military) aspirations…

  19. I am of the “Reformed” Christian faith (I am a member of an Assoc. Reformed Pres. Church) – and we by no means think the sacraments are “one way.” The sacraments are a means of God’s grace – through which God acts in our lives. We absolutely hold to a covenantal view of our relationship to God. The outward sign of the new covenant is baptism. Our temple is the Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. The veil in the temple was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross providing direct access to the Holy of holies – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I believe Mormon temples have put back up the veil and Joseph Smith introduced temple practices that no one in the Bible would have been familiar with at all. There was only one temple and the Bible tells us about the sacrifices and rituals which occured there. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this sacrificial system. He took my sin in his sacrificial death (just as the sacrifices in the OT symbolized) upon Himself, and I take on the righteousness of Christ. God Himself provided the sacrifice, just as He did with Abraham and Isaac when God provided the lamb caught with his head in a thorn bush (so that Isaac was spared). God came in the flesh and became the lamb for slaughter with a crown of thorns. The entire Bible tells the story of the coming of the Messiah as God’s plan of redemption. God has provided redemption and even draws our hearts to trust in Him. Our works of righteousness can do nothing to save us – God has already provided the way. Once you grasp this, you want to obey God and live by His commandments – what a mighty God we serve, a loving Heavenly Father.

  20. Greg:

    Priesthood authority is the issue with the Restoration, as is the restoration of many truths but also the revelation of truths that had not perviously been revealed.

    Whether marriage for time and eternity was known in the primitive church isn’t particularly relevant although if that perplexity is something for you to hang your hat on in opposing the Church of Jesus Christ then by all means do so if you feel that is the right course.

    One thing is certain: the Christianity emerging from the fourth century A.D. is very much alien to that which was established by Jesus Christ and preached by his Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold to the New Testament Jesus, and not to the Jesus of the later creeds.

  21. john f

    It’s easy to say “we hold to the New Testament Jesus” while the creeds don’t, however, examining what the creeds teach and what Mormons teach I have found quite the opposite. I see nothing in the Bible about the Mormon concept of God, nothing teaching that Jesus was a separate god, nothing about progression to godhood, nothing about secret temple rituals (where were these temples in the early Church? – there is absolutely no record of this type of temple, only the temple in Jerusalem), there is nothing about us existing in heaven as spirit children before our birth as literal brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Bible teaches were are ADOPTED as brother and sisters of Jesus – joint heirs with Christ through spiritual adoption rather than birth right. Where does the Bible teach that men and angels are the same thing? The theology of Mormonism is foreign to the Bible. The scriptures teach there is only one true God – all others are frauds. Mormonism teaches that there are potentially literally millions of gods, and Jesus is just one among many. This is not what the New Testament teaches.

  22. John:

    “One thing is certain: the Christianity emerging from the fourth century A.D. is very much alien to that which was established by Jesus Christ and preached by his Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament”

    Y’all keep asserting that, but that’s not what the evidence shows.

  23. Seth – Nope nothing. When you go from one true God to millions of potential gods with Jesus being but one god among a pantheon of gods that’s a huge leap. Nothing similar about the beliefs at all.

  24. I might just add though that it’s quite remarkable how you have just claimed that millions of fervent believers in Jesus Christ (i.e. members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have no idea what is in the Bible, including scores of Mormons (maybe not Todd’s neighbors there in Idaho, but still) with degrees in theology and other intricate exposure to and knowledge of the content of the Bible, who find LDS doctrine and belief completely viable and supported by the Bible, even if we admittedly believe in angelic messengers, modern-day revelation and the concept that God can and did speak to other prophets than just those whose writings happened to get included in what is now considered the Bible (although no such book existed during the first centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).

    Still, I don’t fault you for your assertions because, frankly, I would say very similar things to a Jehova’s Witness, and, as Todd knows, I say something similar to him when he goes on and on about the One Substance Trinity that doesn’t happen to appear anywhere in the Bible but that is substantially represented in fourth century discourse.

  25. Mobaby,

    If you’d like to see a discussion of one aspect of the issue of biblical notions of God and gods, check out this recent post concerning the divine council in the Hebrew Bible:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-divine-council/

    Greg,

    I have already discussed with you the fact that creatio ex nihilo is not supported by the biblical texts, so I don’t feel the need to rehash that entire discussion here. Nevertheless, because ancient notions of what “spirit” consisted of is somewhat related to that topic, I might additionally point out here that “immaterial” spirit (whatever such a concept might mean in either ancient or modern discourse) is not mentioned or supported by any of the biblical texts that I am aware of either; nor do I know of any scholars making an argument to the contrary. What exactly are you thinking of?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  26. Yellow Dart:

    Your buddy John was indicting the Apostolic Tradition for using a non-biblical word. I simply pointed out to him that a phrase found in the D&C, a foundation, at it turns out, of LDS belief, as you know, is also not found in the Bible.

    Creation ex nihilo may indeed not be explicitly supported by the oldest strata of the Old Testament, but it is the only logical, even possible, conclusion if God is, indeed, God, not simply “an exalted man,” the highest entity in the cosmos, but nonetheless part of the cosmos. Such a “god” is no “god” at all.

  27. No, it is not the only logical conclusion. Unless your argument ultimately winds up in a teminologically sophisticated version of question-begging.

    Mobaby,

    Psalm 82:6 (ref. John 10:34)

    That doesn’t sound like nothing. So I’ll repeat my assertion that you are simply dealing in hyperbole here.

  28. Greg,

    I simply disagree with your final assertion(s).

    But have a good night, and Merry Christmas! I am sure we will have opportunities to talk more in depth on specific issues in the future.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  29. Greg, for Latter-day Saints terms don’t have to be found in the Bible to be religious truth. It strains reason, however, that such could be the case for people who believe in a closed canon and biblical inerrancy and sufficiency. That might not be the case for the Orthodox (see above about the possibility of Greek Orthodoxy having preserved more truth from the primitive Church than Roman Catholicism and its progeny) but this is the blog of an Evangelical creedalist steeped in Bibolatry, so the remark is appropriate here.

    Also, to the extent that you insist that the only possible reading of the Bible on this topic requires adherence to the One Substance Trinity of the fourth-century creeds, then the criticism applies to you as well. Your other comments are encouraging on the points of Bibolatry but on this point you seem to be joining the creedalist crowd.

    Of course I understand that you believe the Church of Jesus Christ to be a counterfeit Gospel. As a religious man, if you didn’t believe that, you would join us in the Restored Gospel and enjoy the fruits of true priesthood power and knowledge of the purpose of life and creation. That will apparently have to wait a little longer. But when you end up reading the entire Book of Mormon carefully and praying about whether it is true and then seek baptism following your witness from the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon is indeed a book of scripture from God containing true doctrine, then hopefully you will convince as many of your parishioners as possible to follow your lead in taking the same steps toward conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through latter-day prophets and apostles.

    Even if that never happens, however, I wish you all the best on your life’s journey in 2009 and harbor you no ill-will for your past disparagements of my religion.

  30. John, those are nice talking points. But a couple of problems…

    First,

    “you would join us in the Restored Gospel and enjoy the fruits of true priesthood power and knowledge of the purpose of life and creation.”

    The human priesthood existed under the Old Covenant and served a particular purpose of mediation. That has been done away with at the cross. We don’t need human high priests, we have the one Great High Priest who intercedes on our behalf. In the same way there is no need for a temple under the New Covenant because the function of the temple under the Old Covenant has been made obsolete by the perfect and complete sacrifice of Christ.

    “But when you end up reading the entire Book of Mormon carefully and praying about whether it is true and then seek baptism following your witness from the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon is indeed a book of scripture from God containing true doctrine”

    of course if that were even a Biblical concept, which it is not, the problem remains that many people sincerely pray and don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling and that the tenets of mormonism run contrary to the Bible so one is left with believing either in mormonism or in the Bible. You cannot hold both to be true.

    You are clinging, as I once did, to a manmade religion that is couched in terminology from the Bible but is nothing but “another gospel” that is no gospel at all. I encourage you to set aside those books that sprang from the fertile imagination of Joseph Smith and read the Word of God. You may find, as I and countless other Christians through the millennia have found, that it is complete and sufficient to reveal who God is and the work of His Son to achieve justification.

  31. Seth,

    “Mobaby,

    Psalm 82:6 (ref. John 10:34)

    That doesn’t sound like nothing. So I’ll repeat my assertion that you are simply dealing in hyperbole here.”

    You are kidding right? Have you read the verse in question in context, especially in the context you reference in John 10:34? The “gods” referred to here are human judges, not divine beings, who also perish like any other human. Look at verse 7. Nor is Jesus asserting that there are other gods in the universe. Mormon apologists take “you are gods” and claim victory for the heresy of exaltation without looking at what the verse actually says. In fact, the reason Christ is citing this verse is to show His own divinity and uniqueness in comparison to human judges.

  32. Wrong Arthur.

    I didn’t take it as any sort of “victory.” The passage is open to multiple interpretations. I’ll admit that freely.

    But that wasn’t Mobaby’s claim. His claim was that NOTHING in the Bible supports Mormon claims.

    Nothing. Zero, zip, nadda. That is an extreme claim to be making.

    Psalm 89 shoots that extreme claim down. And it isn’t the only passage I could cite.

    I’ve heard the whole “human judge” argument from Evangelicals before and I find it to be an argument that only convinces people if you already believed in Evangelical claims to begin with. Of course it looks “obvious” to you.

    It looks less obvious to the rest of us.

    Besides, if the passage only referred to human judges, it makes Christ a pretty lousy debater in John 10. It makes the entire structure of his argument essentially pointless.

    But regardless of how strong you think the argument is or is not, Mobaby’s claim that “nothing” in the Bible supports the Mormon view is clearly ridiculous.

  33. Seth,

    I disagree, I think mobaby’s claim is spot on. The Bible is a unified whole, a consistent record of God’s revelation and as such there are not parts that teach one thing and parts that teach another. There is nothing in the Bible that supports mormonism because the Biblical record rejects mormon doctrines up and down. Psalm 89 has nothing to do with humans progressing to be gods or that other gods exist. Read the context! And John 10 is a strongly worded statement by Christ of His own unique divinity, and His citation of Psalm 89 supports that claim. The only way to try to fit mormon theology into the Bible is to lift verses out of context, as you have done in Psalm 89.

    The Bible gives no aid and comfort, no support whatsoever to mormonism.

    An extreme claim? Perhaps.

    An accurate one. Absolutely.

  34. Arthur,

    First off, Jesus is quoting Psalm 82 (as Seth originally stated before referring to Psalm 89), not Psalm 89. (However, Psalm 89 is also a classic example of the divine council setting.) I don’t know any serious scholars who think that the “elohim” of Psalm 82 refers to human judges (although that is a common later rationalization and reinterpretation). Maybe you should read the context:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-divine-council/

    Your other assertions are just that: assertions. The bible is an entirely “unified whole”? “There is nothing” that supports “mormon doctrines”? Puh-lease. You sound ridiculous.

    TYD

  35. “The Bible is a unified whole, a consistent record of God’s revelation and as such there are not parts that teach one thing and parts that teach another. There is nothing in the Bible that supports mormonism because the Biblical record rejects mormon doctrines up and down.”

    Arthur, that is just truly ridiculous and shows no awareness or knowledge of history or the multiple cultural contexts of the creation of and maintenance of the Bible. As a statement of your faith, I can respect it, but when you use it like some kind of fact with which to bash Latter-day Saints whose knowledge of and adherence to the Bible rivals and, in my opinion, far exceeds your own, then I simply have to state bluntly that it is extraordinarily ignorant.

    Sure, that sounds like an ad hominem attack and you can criticize it all you like but there really is no point in arguing specifics with someone who makes that statement out of the starting blocks.

  36. John and Yellow Dart,

    Lots of talk here but no valid arguments. Being smarmy may make you feel better, but it does nothing to support your arguments. John, I suspect you are ducking discussing specifics because you are unable to. I am fairly familia with the process of assembling the canon of Scripture and have actual read the Word as well. You might give that a try. YD, you rightly point out that I mistakenly typed Psalm 89 instead of Psalm 82, but you fail to deal with the text in any sort of context. For example, Psalm 82: 6-7 reads (in the KJV):

    6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. 7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

    So the subject here are other gods, but these gods will die like men? You see, this is what you find when you get beyond the kneejerk reflex readings of the text. This Psalm is not speaking of Joseph Smith’s fanciful notion of a council in heaven, it is referring to the unjust rulers, the wicked who rule over the weak and needy. Maybe mormon apologists think these are plural gods but you will be hard pressed to find a real scholar that agrees with that assesment.

    What you both are trying to suggest is that the Bible can clearly state over and over that there is one God, unique in all creation, in all existence and yet in some places it says there are a plurality of gods. That is both inaccurate and illogical. At least be honest enough to discard the Bible entirely and let your “modern revelation” stand on it’s own, because in essence that is what you are doing. Instead you resort to prooftexting and dismissive statements that have no grounding in fact. You want to use out of context statements from the Bible on one hand to support your argument and then on the other hand reject passages that clearly refute your point. Pretty convenient.

  37. Arthur,

    “Maybe mormon apologists think these are plural gods but you will be hard pressed to find a real scholar that agrees with that assesment.”

    Actually, you will be hard pressed to find a “real scholar” who believes the the “elohim” (lit. “gods”) of Psalm 82 refers to human judges. You’re assertion that this is the position of merely “mormon apologists” is absurd. You want the names of “real scholar[s]” who disagree with you? Try Simon B. Parker (Boston), Mark S. Smith (NYU), F. M. Cross (Harvard), Jon Levenson (Harvard), Baruch Halpern (Penn State), Hans Joachim-Kraus, William Dever (Arizona), etc. The list goes on and on–this position regarding Psalm 82 is the consensus of biblical scholarship. Even Evangelical scholar Mike Heiser disagrees with you! Maybe you should actually read the link that I mentioned instead of making groundless accusations. What “real scholars” are you thinking of that support your position?

    As for context: verse 1 clearly gives the overall context or setting of the Psalm: the ʿădat ʾēl. This is the “council of El” or the “council of God.” Furthermore, the additional context or setting of the Psalm pertains to the assignment of the gods (who are members of God’s heavenly council) to each nation as overseers and stewards, a theme further seen in other biblical texts such as Deut. 32. 8-9. Additionally, the theme of rebellion and condemnation of the gods is a theme found in other important literary texts in ancient near eastern literature. The punishment or condemnation of the gods is that they are to “die like men”. This simile is fatal to the view that mere humans are being addressed in this Psalm. Had these beings already been human rulers or judges who will eventually die anyway this could hardly be taken as a serious punishment. In connection with all of the above, the crucial discoveries of ancient Ugarit (as I described in more detail in the post that I linked to previously) additionally confirm that “bənê ʾĕlōhîm” or the “ʾĕlōhîm” mentioned in the biblical texts are the gods who surround the (most high) God (for the Canaanites this would have been ‘El). Moreover, the “gods” of Psalm 82 are also described in parallel usage as “sons of the Highest/Most High;” God himself declares that they are gods! Additionally, I think it is worthy of note that the exact same term–ʾĕlōhîm–is used both for God and those to whom he is speaking.

    Thus I agree with the overwhelming scholarly consensus that humans are not being addressed here. Again, feel free to read the post I linked to earlier.

    All you are doing here Arthur is “resort[ing] to prooftexting and dismissive statements that have no grounding in fact. You want to use out of context statements from the Bible on one hand to support your argument and then on the other hand reject passages that clearly refute your point. Pretty convenient. You’re “[l]ots of talk…but [with] no valid arguments.”

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  38. TYD, don’t let this ignoramus provoke you into wasting actual time and ink in spelling out the obvious. His comment about the Bible as “a unified whole, a consistent record of God’s revelation and as such there are not parts that teach one thing and parts that teach another” is laughable though very commonly held among Evangelical creedalists in their Bibolatry.

    That Arthur goes on to suggest that we actually read the Bible is another laughable step for him to take. Apparently, anyone who disagrees with him doctrinally simply must not have ever read the Bible.

    Of course, Arthur is ignoring the fact that Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be scripture while also taking realistic account for the way in which it came into being and the discord that it has caused as a result throughout the millenia. Those are inconvenient pieces of information for Arthur so they are summarily rejected and ignored.

    Luckily, I attend church with Latter-day Saints who are as familiar with the Bible as any Evangelical creedalist but who don’t limit themselves to the bits and pieces of truths about God and his revelations that happen to have been preserved in the manuscripts and scrolls that found their way into the Bible and remained there to eventually become part of the KJV that Evangelical creedalists worship as The Word. That God can, did, and does speak to his disciples in all ages of time and such communication has and is recorded is a wonderful truth that Latter-day Saints embrace. Since Latter-day Saints believe in the Bible as scripture in addition to other revealed truth, we are in a very good position in relation to God. There is no credible argument that God requires adherence to the Trinitarian Creeds to be acceptable to him. Rather, he requires acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which Mormons heartily do, based on both the teachings of the Bible and, of course, the truths contained in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.

    Although Latter-day Saint beliefs might contradict some extra-biblical philosophies and theories held by Arthur and his co-religionists that are at best derivative of some Biblical doctrines and teachings, Latter-day Saint doctrines and teachings do not contradict the Bible itself but rather resonate with the Bible and other revealed truth.

  39. I have been a way for a spell and look what I find when I come back – a rousing debate on John 10.

    Good chapter.

    Thinking of John’s Gospel, I watched the visual Bible last night on John, the extended three hour DVD.

    Loved it when the actors got to John 10.

    I am currently studying John 14 and again the mutual indwelling of Father and Son – it does not at all sound like a typical ANE High Council.

    YD, I just received Blake’s latest book, God and Gods, in the mail; and I am almost through the first chapter. I plan on evaluating and questioning his stuff in this new year.

  40. Arthur and john f.,

    I think this argument is getting too personal and confrontational for my tastes. I thinking I have had enough for now. Have a good one.

    Todd,

    Blake was quite kind to send you his book. Did you ever make it through his first two volumes?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  41. john,

    “TYD, don’t let this ignoramus provoke you into wasting actual time and ink in spelling out the obvious. ”

    Gee, and you look like such a nice fella in your picture!

    “Of course, Arthur is ignoring the fact that Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be scripture while also taking realistic account for the way in which it came into being and the discord that it has caused as a result throughout the millenia. Those are inconvenient pieces of information for Arthur so they are summarily rejected and ignored.”

    On the contrary, mormons believe in the Bible as far as it is translated correctly, a “get out of jail free” card which allows you to ignore huge swaths of the Bible while selectively plucking text out of context. That is a huge difference which is glossed over. The Bible is mined for prooftexts and terminology, and the Biblical record is glossed over. That is why you have been deceived into thinking that the Bible is not a unified record, because you have been deceived by your leaders into a blind distrust of the Bible and been fed a steady dose of mormon teaching that is shown to be false in the Word of God. Mormonism has to discredit the Bible because the Bible refutes mormonism.

    “Luckily, I attend church with Latter-day Saints who are as familiar with the Bible as any Evangelical creedalist but who don’t limit themselves to the bits and pieces of truths about God and his revelations that happen to have been preserved in the manuscripts and scrolls that found their way into the Bible and remained there to eventually become part of the KJV that Evangelical creedalists worship as The Word.”

    Things must have changed a ton in the last 7 years since we left mormonism, because I was amazed at how ignorant of the Bible I and other mormons were. I am still woefully unlearned in the Bible compared to where I should be, but at least I recognize it. (By the way, I rarely use or read the KJV). Listen to your “prophet” and others speak at general conferences and you will hear virtually nothing from the Bible and what you do hear will be mangled in interpretation and application (for an example, see here: http://fo-mo.blogspot.com/2008/11/adventures-in-eisegesis.html ). I sat through the most recent priesthood broadcast and your “prophets” and “apostles” are nothing more than P.R. folks couching their talks in religious, empty language. When we have the missionaries over, or other mormons, they are typically completely ignorant of the Bible, not because they are ignorant people but because quite frankly it is given little attention in mormonism. We lived all over the place when we were mormons, in wards and branches from Wyoming to New Hampshire, and without exception Biblical knowledge was razor thin.

    “There is no credible argument that God requires adherence to the Trinitarian Creeds to be acceptable to him. Rather, he requires acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which Mormons heartily do, based on both the teachings of the Bible and, of course, the truths contained in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. ”

    Even on the nature of the atonement and the person of Christ mormonism disagrees with the Bible. The New Testament, in conjunction with the Old Testament and the sacrificial system, presents a picture of the atonement at the cross (Col 1:20; Col 2:14). Mormonism paints a bizarre picture of the atonement in the garden of Gethsemane. The declaration of Christ as the Son of God, the fulfillment of prophecy, the unique and divine Word that is able to make propitiation for sins all require Him to be fully God as well as fully man. Deny this, and you deny Christ and His cross and remain lost in your sins.

    Ultimately you are presenting nothing but slogans laced with increasingly shrill and strident attacks which serve to discredit your “argument”.

    yellow dart, at least you are trying to interact with the text which I appreciate. I would rather discuss issues with someone who puts forth a cogent argument, even if I think it is wrong, than someone like John who has nothing to argue with but vitriol and talking points. I have honestly not heard of any of the people you reference, but Christian scholars through the ages from Augustine to Calvin to modern day view the “gods” in Psalm 82 as human judges. I didn’t go to your link yet, but I will try to make time to do so. What is your background in Hebrew? You make some pretty bold claims that run contrary to what others who are well-versed in Hebrew would say, so I am curious what your academic background is.

  42. Arthur,

    If you would like to read more about me click on my name for this comment (which leads to my first blog ldskaitabiblia). My name in the other comments which I have posted redirects to another blog (faithpromotingrumor). You can also read this post at ldskaitabiblia:

    http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/back-from-the-dead/

    “I have honestly not heard of any of the people you reference, but Christian scholars through the ages from Augustine to Calvin to modern day view the “gods” in Psalm 82 as human judges.”

    The scholars I referred to previously are very well known and respected in the field of biblical studies. William Dever (Arizona) is a world famous biblical archaeologist. F.M. Cross (Harvard) has done significant work on ancient Hebrew poetry and was involved for a long time with the Dead Sea scrolls, among other things. Jon Levenson (Harvard) is a famous Jewish scholar. J. Tigay (UPenn) is also a well respected Hebrew Bible scholar, as are Baruch Halpern (Penn State), Mark Smith (NYU), Simon Parker (Boston), John Day (Oxford), Marc Brettler (Brandeis), etc. As I said, that Psalm 82 is referring to gods and not to human judges or rulers is the consensus in current biblical scholarship. I am well aware that this runs contrary to what many Jewish and Christian interpreters from medieval times have said. Nevertheless, you claim that “mormon apologists” are alone in this position is simply wrong. I have thus listed a number of “real scholar[s]” who teach at some of the finest academic institutions around. Moreover, the scholarly consensus is strongly contrary to your position.

    TYD

  43. YD, I don’t think scholars are united on anything. 🙂 Take for instance the first name. How many solid biblical archaeologists consider William Dever “a world famous archaeologist”?

    And Arthur, it was an appropriate call on the nicety of John f.’s printed language. Lawyers might think a lot of things in their heads, but they should be more tactful in public discourse, especially when they are on the Baptist preacher’s blog. 🙂

  44. Have you read any Biblical Archaeological Review counterposts to Dever about God and his wife?

    I know LDS scholars put Dever on the category of “world famous” because of his belief assumptions, but I roll my eyes over applause to the man.

  45. Todd,

    Dever has published numerous books and articles over the past forty years in many academic venues on issues pertaining to the Hebrew Bible and biblical archaeology. He interacts with other prominent biblical archaeologists throughout the academic community. If you don’t think he is (or was, since he is semi-retired) a well-known biblical archaeologist both inside and outside the United States–regardless of whether everyone agrees with him or not on this or that issue–then I don’t know what to tell you.

    “Take for instance the first name.”

    Alright Todd, now let’s go on to the other names.

    TYD

  46. TYD,

    Sorry for taking so long to reply. The tenor of the conversation had deteriorated so I just stepped back for a bit and didn’t return until today, so I wanted to make sure no one thought of my silence as capitulating to your points.

    I went through your bio and your post on Psalm 82. Quickj question, you list an impressive set of academic credentials, can I ask where you are studying? It looks like you are studying eight languages at the same time, which is quite a feat for an undergrad.

    As far as your list of scholars, are any of them believers? They all are instructors at secular schools and since I don’t have particular references to read, I am left assuming that we are dealing with secular interpretations of sacred text.

    I also note that your post focuses entirely on 82:1 and does not interact with the rest of the verses, verses that indicates the judges judging unrighteously and falling/dying like any other human prince. That hardly makes the context sound like God is in the presence of other divine beings. The context is the writer appealing to God to judge in righteousness in contrast to the unjust judges.

    There is an interesting conversation between James White and William Hambling that you can read at :

    http://vintage.aomin.org/Psalm82.html

  47. I don’t think that whether the scholars are “believers” or not really matters.

    But if it comes to that, Evangelicals routinely dismiss work done by LDS scholars as “biased.” Is there any particular reason that work done by your “believers” should not also be dismissed as biased?

    I don’t think so, but some Evangelicals I talk to do seem to have this mindset.

  48. Arthur,

    I would bet that you could look up brief biographies of most of the scholars that I listed on wikipedia. Nevertheless, I would say that some of them are “believers” and some of them are not. Jon Levenson, for instance, is an orthodox Jew, while William Dever would probably currently classify himself as a secular humanist (although he originally came from a very conservative Christian group and then later converted to Judiasm). Most of the scholars I mentioned, however, do have some religious affiliation or background with the broader Judeo-Christian tradition. I also briefly referred to Michael Heiser earlier. He happens to be an Evangelical. You can find out more about him and his take on Psalm 82 at his website: thedivinecouncil.com. (Suffice it to say that he does not think that the elohim of Psalm 82 are merely human judges.) As for myself, I don’t wish to disclose my name or where I am studying. I have told it to a handful of persons whom I consider trustworthy and who, I believe, will maintain my anonymity (including Todd actually), but I don’t know you. Sorry if that bothers you. As for the discussion between Mr. White and Dr. Hamblin, I have read it before.

    And as for your comments about my post, I think you have misread it. My post is not about exegeting the entirety of Psalm 82, but about providing the proper historical background for the council in the biblical texts. The divine council is found throughout the Hebrew Bible, and its historical roots and the linguistic terminology used to describe it have deep connections with the ancient Near Eastern context in which the texts were written. However, I will again restate that:

    “verse 1 clearly gives the overall context or setting of the Psalm: the ʿădat ʾēl. This is the “council of El” or the “council of God.” Furthermore, the additional context or setting of the Psalm pertains to the assignment of the gods (who are members of God’s heavenly council) to each nation as overseers and stewards, a theme further seen in other biblical texts such as Deut. 32. 8-9. Additionally, the theme of rebellion and condemnation of the gods is a theme found in other important literary texts in ancient near eastern literature. The punishment or condemnation of the gods is that they are to “die like men”. This simile is fatal to the view that mere humans are being addressed in this Psalm. Had these beings already been human rulers or judges who will eventually die anyway this could hardly be taken as a serious punishment. In connection with all of the above, the crucial discoveries of ancient Ugarit (as I described in more detail in the post that I linked to previously) additionally confirm that “bənê ʾĕlōhîm” or the “ʾĕlōhîm” mentioned in the biblical texts are the gods who surround the (most high) God (for the Canaanites this would have been ‘El). Moreover, the “gods” of Psalm 82 are also described in parallel usage as “sons of the Highest/Most High;” God himself declares that they are gods! Additionally, I think it is worthy of note that the exact same term–ʾĕlōhîm [not “judges,” which in Hebrew is shophetim]–is used both for God and those to whom he is speaking. ”

    At any rate, it is worth noting that gods in the ancient Near East did at times die in certain cycles of stories regarding them. It might further be worth pointing out that even within the Christian tradition this idea is not entirely foreign, since Jesus, who is considered fully God, did indeed become mortal and die.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  49. Oh, and I wanted to ask Todd a question: do you believe that the elohim or Psalm 82 are heavenly beings (of some kind), or merely human “judges”?

    Some of your previous comments have lead me to believe that you reject the notion that these beings are just human judges. What say ye?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  50. Human judges or heavenly beings . . . it makes no difference to me, YD. From the John’s Gospel angle, I see human rulers. From other Psalms and OT scriptures, I see heavenly beings.

    But as a baraminologist (chuckling), not nearly to the expertise of another, Dr. Todd Wood, I am fundamentally opposed to these elohim being of the same kind as Yahweh. Jesus is. But not me.

    By the way, I just finished the first chapter in Blake’s new book (endnotes and all). Maybe the best way to tackle the discussion of this book is chapter by chapter on HI4LDS.

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