“The essence of the Christian faith”

Jesus said on his last night before his crucifixion,

I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world:  again, I leave the world, and go to the Father (John 16:28).

I agree with what Gary Burge says about this declaration by the Lord Jesus Christ:

This is the essence of the Christian faith, distilled in its most essential form.

Yet Joseph Smith rejected this incarnational paradox.  He wanted in on the action by suggesting that he, too, literally came from the Father.  He would tell you that this is one of the biggest things that those early disciples didn’t understand as they sat puzzled over Jesus’ farewell discourse – that they were not grasping that they all came from the Father and heaven’s abode just like Jesus.  The vision of Joseph Smith was to empower every human to literally claim this path for themselves:  (1) I preexisted with my Father, (2) I came from heaven to this earth, (3) I am leaving, and (4) I will return to my Father again.  This is the distilled essence of Joseph Smith’s “Christianity” – that we all have a literal right to John 16:28.

But historic Christianity makes the fundamental assertion that no other human can literally claim what Jesus asserted in John 16:28.  That truth has never needed a restoration.  It is clear in every age.  It has been a black and white theological proposition through the 2000 years of history for the saints of the Church of Jesus Christ who submit to what the Savior says exclusively about himself in John’s Gospel.

18 comments

  1. Todd, Thanks for this thought provoking post about our Savior and your loving confrontation of the LDS with the truth of Scripture. O how I pray that their eyes would be opened to the falsehoods you have exposed.

    I reposted your post and a link to you blog on my new blog: http://magnifythelord.wordpress.com/

    Hope to see you at the NWBM meetings coming up next week and praying for your assignment that you recently mentioned.

    Mark

  2. If the truth was so “clear in every age”, why have so many over the ages disagreed over the same passages of scripture? Where is the clarity of who is right and who is wrong?

    “… historic Christianity makes the fundamental assertion…” by which interpretation? whose authority?

    Why is it so hard to comprehend the pattern that is all around us since the days of Adam and Eve — it’s not an accident that we as mortal parents (male and female), bear children *after our own kind*, and they inherit our traits and one day become like us — parents themselves, bearing children, over and over again.

    The great truth restored by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith is that we are literally children of God, endowed with the ability to become like Him and inherit all that He has.

    Jesus Christ showed us the way — he is our example, a perfect example, of how a literal child of God can do the will of his Father and then return to become like his Father.

    Why is so hard to believe that God can call and speak to a prophet today to restore truths that have been mangled by man? Be careful assuming that Joseph “wanted in on the action by suggesting…” stuff — in reality it was God revealing truth through his chosen prophet, Joseph, to a world deep in apostasy. The fruits of his labors as a Prophet of God are blossoming and continuing to spread throughout the world.

    If you read in Moses 1 (Pearl of Great Price), you will notice that Moses is taught many times by God that he is a “Son of God”, so that when Satan comes tempting and calling Moses a “son of man”, Moses recognizes the lie and does not fall for the trick (i.e. believing that he has no divine heritage). The tactics of Satan are the same as they were in the days of old.

  3. Great post, Todd. One of the most awesome things that God has shown me since coming out of the LDS is that He himself is not a man! Oh what a truth that is! All those years I often wondered “who” parented God the Father, and if He was married with thousands of wives… “which” mother was mine, etc. It made no sense to me! Now I see clearly, as revealed thru scripture that God is not a man, with a body of passions and appetites. Can I just say, how very comforting it is to know that?! To know that my God is so much bigger than man. To know He has always existed, was not created, and is forever more! Oh what a glorious truth that is!

    My kids often asked the same thing when they were LDS : ” mom, who is heavenly father’s father and mother? I would be stunned.. not knowing what to say….”

    Now, they as well as I know that God is not a person, and has no parentage and needs none! What comfort that brings to me.

    When I was LDS God was an exalted being — now I know He is so much more than that. He is GOD!

    In Christ alone,
    gloria

  4. Gloria — would knowing who God’s parents were change your current relationship with God and the way you live your daily life?

    There are many questions in life that we don’t have answer for — we can either choose to have faith and accept that we don’t have an answer right now or we can manipulate our perspective so that the answer doesn’t require faith.

    What do you tell your kids to believe about the purpose of this life and the relationships and experiences we take part in?

    Throughout the scriptures, God uses symbolism and patterns to teach us if we are willing to seek by the Spirit to understand — those patterns are all around us. The fact that you are a daughter of God (Heavenly parents) and of earthly parents with the ability to create offspring with your husband is evidence of one of the great truths and patterns God is trying to teach us about himself and the purpose of life.

  5. Rob – Why do you worship a demigod. That’s like saying you worship your father over your grandfather here on earth. Even though your grandfather is greater than your father. With out him neither your father our you would be here.

    This comes from Jews for Jesus

    It’s the same with the Shema, Deut. 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” It was really a statement that we shouldn’t worship any other God, not a statement about his nature. Ibn Ezra, the great Jewish sage, translated the Shema, “…the Lord our God, the Lord alone,” and it is translated that way also in the New Jewish Translation. It is interesting to me that the real issue in the Shema wasn’t originally the unity of God at all; rather it was the “aloneness” of God, that He was the only God that we would worship. It is a declaration of exclusive allegiance to YHVH, the Lord alone. So, it was in the midst of peoples who worshiped many gods, that our God revealed Himself as the only God, the only one we should worship. That’s why the ten commandments begin with the command… “you shall have no other gods before me.”

    The Shema only came to mean to the Jewish people that God was an absolute unity when it confronted Christianity claiming that God was a plurality. Maimonides did use the word yachid in his principles of faith, but he was doing that clearly in reaction to both Christianity and Islam, which were seen as threats to the Jewish faith and survival of the Jewish people.

    We can also see from the New Testament that Jesus himself recited the Shema, Mark 12:28-30 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ something that he wouldn’t likely do if it contradicted anything he believed about the nature of God. Jesus affirmed the “oneness” of God, that He was the only God to whom all of our allegiance is due.

    I hope you can see from this that the Shema can’t really be used to argue against Christianity’s view of God. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament use the Shema in the exact same way; to pledge allegiance to the one true God of the universe, YHVH.

    As Gloria said, In Christ Alone. He is GOD!

  6. JM — Why do you believe that I worship a demigod?

    I’m grateful for truth restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith that God is a resurrected being with a body of flesh and bone. That God created us in his image as it says in the accounts of the creation. That we have the ability to participate in a small part of the creation as parents bearing children after our own kind and teaching them. That we can become like Him as we seek to know Him and have our will swallowed up in His. God has a plan that is organized and active all around us. He is a God that we can relate to both physically and spiritually. What comfort that gives me.

  7. Rob- this is the definition.

    Main Entry: demi·god
    Pronunciation: \ˈde-mē-ˌgäd\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1530
    1 : a mythological being with more power than a mortal but less than a god

    If he is not the creator of everything, he is a demigod.

    Main Entry: cre·a·tor
    Pronunciation: \krē-ˈā-tər\
    Function: noun
    Date: 13th century
    : one that creates usually by bringing something new or original into being; especially capitalized : GOD 1

  8. Rob- You said,

    I’m grateful for truth restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith that God is a resurrected being with a body of flesh and bone.

    You might want to read this book.

    Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Compiled by Dean Jesse, Deseret Book, 2002, p.17)

  9. jm:

    I am not likely to acquire the book you mention above any time soon, so, in nutshell, does Smith, in his personal writings, contradict what he says in the King Follett discourse and elsewhere regarding the nature of God, the relationship between spirit and matter, etc.?

  10. Rob writes, “Jesus Christ showed us the way — he is our example, a perfect example, of how a literal child of God can do the will of his Father and then return to become like his Father.”

    Rob, don’t you think some LDS get discouraged or have given up in trying to follow and achieve the example of their big brother?

  11. FrGregACCA: Yes, in his on personal writings of the first vision. He see’s only Jesus, 12 year’s after it happened. In the church version wrote 14 year’s after, in somebody’s hand writing that is not Joseph’s. He see’s God and Jesus. This is where they get that God is a resurrected being with a body of flesh and bone.

  12. jm — I am aware of the multiple accounts of the First Vision, however, I am unable to “speculate” on why or for what purpose there were multiple accounts. Even still that does not shake or cause question about my belief that God, the Father, has a resurrected body of flesh and bone. It is part of our scripture, revealed from God, and accepted by Joseph Smith and all the prophets even to the current prophet.

    It is a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel and the plan of Salvation that the prophets today and those old including Jesus Christ knew and taught — not something we just “got” from the third version of an account of the First Vision. The First Vision in itself is a witness that shattered the current belief at the time that God was just a spirit essence and that God and Christ were one spirit.

    Todd — I believe that discouragement comes only when we doesn’t understand the true purpose of this mortal experience. Sure there are discouraging times when life doesn’t go the way we want, but of course, it’s not really about our will and mortal desires.

    I know that LDS do get discouraged and even some give up because they feel like they’ll never measure up, but again that’s because they don’t really understand the atonement. It’s about doing our best and giving our all, however big or small that is and through whatever trials or discouragement we face. That is what the Savior did.

  13. Rob, are you saying that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the sole basis and means for complete glorification?

    This is what I am seeing and believing about the words of Jesus in John 16: Jesus is not just an ideal example and the one I am trying to follow on a natural pre-existent/mortal/celestial path; He is the complete victory from beginning to end for sinful, helpless creatures.

    What I could never do, the eternal Triune God did. Unbelievable, transformational glory.

    (Even if Michael Jordan said, “Todd, just keep practicing, keep doing your best, and you will be slammin’ just like me” – I would have retorted to this fellow creature, “That is not encouraging. 🙂 You are an idiot. It is not about just doing my best.”)

  14. Rob: You wrote (The First Vision in itself is a witness that shattered the current belief at the time that God was just a spirit essence and that God and Christ were one spirit.)

    Joseph Smith’s Handwritten 1832 First Vision
    (click to enlarge)

    Typescript

    marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him (them) and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath thewise man said the (it is a) fool (that) saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that (that) being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in (the) attitude of calling upon the Lord (in the 16th year of my age) a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the (Lord) opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph (my son) thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy (way) walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life (behold) the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not (my) commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which (hath) been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud (clothed) in the glory of my Father and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could reioice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but [I] could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart about that time my mother and but after many days

    Sorry but that is not what Joseph wrote in 1832. If i was going to belive the first vision it would be the one wrote by Joseph in his on handwriting.

  15. Tood: I agree.

    Jhn 16:27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
    Jhn 16:28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

    I hope you noticed it say’s I (I came forth from the Father) and not we?

  16. jm–

    Since neither of us were present during the First Vision, we must have faith and ask God for a witness of the truth. I will not speculate on the frailties of man nor the wisdom of God in establishing his purposes. The doctrine and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the LDS church regarding the nature of the Godhead is set forth in additional revelations and history (i.e. D&C 130:22) and in the words of the living prophet and apostles.

    My point is — are we trusting in man (i.e. historic Christianity making fundamental assertions) or the witness of the Spirit that may contradict man’s understanding of the words of God?

    I disagree that it has been “clear in every age” — especially with respect to this age where there have been and continue to be preached every wind of doctrine from the Bible alone. The need for revelation from God is absolutely required.

  17. Rob: You said (Since neither of us were present during the First Vision, we must have faith and ask God for a witness of the truth.)

    No we were not there, but Joseph was and he wrote it down in his on personal journal.

    I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph (my son) thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy (way) walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.

    As for a witness of the truth. I thought that was Joseph.

    My point is- are we trusting in man (i.e. mormon Christianity making fundamental assertions) or the apostle that knew Jesus personally. Jhn 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

    I know you disagree that it has been “clear in every age” but Jews for Jesus say,s (Sometimes people ask us, “How long has Jews for Jesus been around?” We love that question because it gives us the chance to grin and say: “Since 32 A.D., give or take a year.” The joke reminds people that a minority of Jewish people have always believed and proclaimed the gospel, and that we follow in that same tradition.)

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