Monday, September 13, 2010

We The People

“We the people” three of the most powerful words in the English language.

When these words are used in the United States of America’s constitution, set it apart from any other constitution in the world.

Somehow, over the nearly two and a half centuries of being a Country, “We the People” has somehow diminished to mean nothing more than part of a civics lesson in High School quiz.

When the framers of the Constitution met and as they were working on framing a document that would bring self determining government to the thirteen colonies, one of the intentions was to promote active involvement with the affairs of government. The people were to be responsible for electing representatives to government. The people were to hold those people accountable for their actions, and for seeing that the wishes of the people were carried out.

Over the past few years there has been a growing unrest among American voters that the elected officials in office had somehow forgotten that they were there to represent the people, and not their own special interests.

I don’t think it was ever the intention for “The People” to go on holiday once their votes were cast, but it appears from my own observation that the holiday season is just about over. People have begun to wake up to the fact that without the vigilance of the voter, and needed accountability

Locally in California a small community was outraged to learn that 99% of the city council, the city manager, assistant city manager, and police chief, had voted themselves both pensions and salaries far beyond what could be defined as reasonable.

It also turns out that this was accomplished legally after a referendum was held; however only 400 out of a population of 40,000 voted, with the majority of voters voting in favor of the pay rises. This low number really stands out given that there are only 9000 registered voters in the city of Bell to begin with.

Although there have been recent allegations of possible voter fraud, the fact remains that the vast majority of those registered to vote made the decision not to take part in this special election.

There is a stark warning in the Book of Mormon concerning the consequences of either having an apathetic attitude, or in avoidance of participation in selecting who should represent us in government. We read in Mosiah chapter 29:25-27:

25 Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law--to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

In the 2008 national elections, the number of voters who took part was approximately 131.3 million ballots or 61%. This is a high percentage, helped I would suggest by the fact there was an African American running for office. People tend to gravitate towards such “history making moments” as this.

According to data provided by the Federal Election Commission, from data drawn from Congressional Research Service reports, the average percentage however is a lot lower than 61%.

From the years 1990-2008 the average percentage of voter turn-out was 41.7% In other words, over half of the registered voters, 58.3% in the United States of America, made the decision not to take part in the electoral process over a ten year period. Over half.

Someone once said that if you don’t vote or take part in the political discussion, you don’t have the right to criticize the way that things are going locally, with the State, or nationally.

“We the People” have ended up with exactly the kind of men and women in local, statewide, or national office that we deserve.

It’s time to wake up and take back ground that was willingly given up. It’s time to wake up those elected officials and remind them that they are there because “We the People” elected them to represent us in this Republic.

It’s time for “We the People” to draw a line in the sand and declare that this Republic deserves men and women far better than we have in office.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Burning of A Book: Is it Christian?

From time to time I take part in an online discussion on religion. I have to admit that I enjoy, for the most part, the dialogue that can develop as I discuss with fellow Christians, topics of theology. Occasionally the topic can blend into the secular arena, as well as those areas that religion and secularism seem to blend in.

The events over the past several weeks of a 50 member church in Florida, and the announced plans to do a public book burning on September 11th, has opened up scores of debates and discussions on religious and non-religious forums.

In an effort to learn the mind set of the group that I was with I posted a new topic and asked the question: “Is it ever appropriate for a Christian /Christian Church to either: Take part in Book Burning?

The response was heartening, most took the view that while there is disagreement with the Muslim faith, the burning of the Koran is too extreme and is not representative of the Christian faith. There were a few responses that stood out in my eyes as demanding some sort of response by myself, after all I did ask the question.

The following are both statements that interested me, and my responses to them. I have, due to limitations on that discussion page, had to edit out my reply. Those edited portions have been placed back in their original context.
I don't consider the Koran to be a holy book. If I found a Koran in a box from the same estate sale, I would keep it and have it on hand to mark up/highlight the pages in order to show others (including Muslims) that it is a book of hatred and not love, not religion.
Such emotive rhetoric, as noted above, greatly concerns me.

Pick nearly any part of the first half dozen books of the Old Testament, any translation, and you’ll find tales of genocide, harsh rules that God gave to the children of Israel, capital punishment for wearing cloth with mixed threads, planting crops in the wrong manner, death for touching and eating an unclean animal.

In the New Testament is a story of a husband and wife, who, after failing to give all the money that they had collected to the Church, were struck dead by God.

However, in the Old and in the New Testament are stories of love, redemption, hope, and the words of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest, ever so gently, that we might want to dial back the tone of voice that declares that the Koran is a book of hatred and not of love. If I found a Koran in a box, I’d notice that it has many good things to say about Jesus Christ, that it contains some rather good moralistic values, common sense values to follow, in addition to those so-called negative aspects to it that attention has been drawn to.

Would we have the courage to write the same criticisms against the Bible as we do against the Koran, that it is a book of Hatred, and not of love?

I’m suggesting that while WE may not accept the Koran as containing the words of God, millions do, and our demands for equality and respect can be, and perhaps should be measured against how WE respect the rights of others to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience

They burn Christians, kill Christians, murder their whole families in the 10/40 window all the time. They scream foul when a Christian threatens them with this and the media plays to all of the world's fears. I pray for more mercy and grace on all those who chose not to be in obedience to God's word. "Follow peace with all men and Holiness, without which no one shall see the LORD.
I’d like to gently remind people that our own history as Christians is not without blemish either. And I am not necessarily speaking of the Crusades either.

Christians kill Christians too. The KKK, from what I recall from my history classes, was, in part established by a portion of the Christian community. Anyone who has lived in the South knows how charitable these "Christians" were, and in many instances still are, to people of color.

I think of the way that many within the Baptist community, for example, as recently as the mid 1970's still held onto what is seen as narrow minded bigitory concerning African-Americans. I shudder at this bigoted ignorance.

Our own skirts, as whole, are not without stain and blemish; however it’s what we do TODAY that matters. Repentance does remove those stains.

Finger pointing towards THEM, only serves to remind ourselves that while we are pointing fingers at them, we have three fingers pointing back at us, perhaps reminding us that our own history in this Country as “Christians” isn’t always something to brag or be proud of.

We need to be careful here and perhaps dial back the righteous indignation a bit.

Many of them also which used curious arts brought T H E I R books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
I would suggest placing this particular verse of Acts in context is in order. To wit:

17And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

It’s a far cry from those coverts, in Acts, burning those materials of their own, as an outward sign of repentance, than from a “Christian” burning a book that is seen by others as being Holy.

My own feelings on this subject are rather tender for some reason.

When I hear the phrase “Book Burning” I immediately think of the books written by Freud, Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, along with a score of German Authors, biographies of German and Russian political leaders being thrown into a fire in Germany in the 1930's, and the resultant restriction of thought, speech and movement that the Nazi State brought onto an entire country.

It’s hard for me to fathom that something as disagreeable and, frankly oppressive, can be allowed to happen here, in the United States of America., even if the United States Constitutions First Amendment, governing freedom of speech, doesn’t prohibit the burning of a book.

In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed making it illegal to transport and deliver "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" materials. Comstock claimed to have been responsible for burning 160 tons of "obscene" literature and causing the arrest of over 3000 perpetrators in his lifetime.

In 1935, the library trustees of Warsaw, Indiana ordered that all copies of Theodore Dreiser's novels in their libraries be burned for its obscene and leftist content. As a boy, Dreiser went to school in Warsaw, Indiana.

In 1939 John Steinbeck's landmark novel, "Grapes of Wrath", about the tragic plight of migrant farm workers from the Oklahoma "dust bowl" were burned all over the country for both its political content and "vulgarity."

Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut J.K. Rowling are just a few authors who, over the course of the mid-20th century have had their works consigned to the fire pit because of the words that they’ve written, as if burning a book could remove the idea, or the existence of the story.

Sadly, book burning doesn’t seem to be confined to a Church in Florida. The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina hosts a book burning on Halloween every year.

Their web site, states that:

The purpose of the book burnings/shreddings on Halloween is to collect the "perversions of God's Holy Word", ungodly books by "heretics" and movies and then destroy them because they are satanic. The church believes through them God is helping them "encourage other believers to do what God's Word says in Acts 19
about burning satanic books.
Concerning this year’s book burning, the web site proudly says that:

The annual Book Burning for 2010 will be upon us very soon. This year is going to be much bigger and better. We already have collected more perversions of God’’s Holy Word than we had last year, as well as many books by heretics and
Here’s what they had on their agenda for 2009; one anticipates a repeat of the same for this year:

“We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, ESV, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, and ect. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

“We will also be burning Satan's music such as country, Rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goodies, etc.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson , Charles Swindoll , John Piper , Chuck Colson , Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart , Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers , Brian McLaren , James White, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus , Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, Will Graham , and many more.

We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the original TR. We are not burning the Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the original TR or the KJB.”

And for those who get hungry, after such “holy” work, the web site boasts that:

We will be serving fried chicken, and all the sides.”

An idea should never be feared. Words can convey a great deal of things, love, anger, lust, murder, war, hope, charity, remembrance of family, dreams of a better future, space exploration, and a reminder of our past, and the necessary warnings not to repeat the mistakes of that past.

The burning of a book seems to me, to be an attempt to erase a concept and an ideal. As Orwell and Bradbury have shown us the burning of a book cannot on burn away the idea, once that book has been read. If anything such an act fans the flames, so to speak, of our remembrance and determination to hold on to the very thing that is being destroyed.

Have we reached the point as a society where the very notion of a book frightens us so much that we need to burn it, regardless of how others may see it?

My Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while in its infancy, was subjected to similar treatment that these good “Christian” ministers are doing today.

Not only was the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments, which was an earlier edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, burned, but the religious leaders, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others were tarred and feathered. On one occasion acid was mixed with the tar. Men, women and Children were, at gun point removed from their homes, and farms in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois , solely because of their faith in a book, and in a man who lay claim to being a Prophet of God.

At Hauns Mill in Missouri, an armed militia, or rather an armed mob of several hundred men, conducted a brutal slaughter of the inhabitants. Among the militia were so-called minsters of God.

All this because of a Book and an idea that the Lord had begun His restoration of the Gospel here on the earth.

With all that is going on nationally with the declared outrage of a building site in New York near “Ground Zero”, being used as a center of Islam, this coupled with a book burning, adds fuel to the level of intolerance that is building up.

The atrocities of September 11, 2001 will forever stain the Muslim faith, perhaps as the event of Hauns Mill and the acts of Governor Thomas Ford, in leaving Joseph, Hyrum, Willard, and John, defenseless in Carthidge, will forever stain the States of Missouri and Illinois. However we cannot apply a forty foot wide paint brush and cover the entire Islamic faith, or those two States because of the misguided criminal actions of a few who act, somehow, in the name of the Almighty.

Book burning, no matter what the reason is, in this writers opinion, not the way to combat evil. The burning of a book that is held as being sacred, is not the way to bring people to Christ. If anything, it will only result in ears being deafened, and eyes being shut to those very eternal truths that one would wish to impart upon the non-Christians of the world.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Hardening of a Heart: Was Pharoh Dealt from a Stacked Deck?

Recently, on a profesisonal web page I visit from time to time, a question was placed in the discussion area that caught my interest.

I was reading Exodus 7-8 again this morning and was wondering why God decided to harden Pharaoh's heart prior to Moses going to him to request the release of the children of Israel. Exodus 7:3 says " And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt". Was this done to prove that He is God? I know in latter verses it was said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and did not allow the children of Israel go. E.g Exodus 8:15 "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." But why did God initially harden Pharaoh's heart?”

Let me try to answer this question.

Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the hardness of heart was to help better develop the faith of Moses, as well as the children of Israel.

I have to disagree with the concept, that some have, that God just made an already evil man, just a bit more evil. This removes the gift of choice/agency/dealing with right from wrong that all the Lords' children are given. Using that theory, God must have made the Hitlers of the world just a little crazier, for some devine reason.

I don't find anything in recorded scripture that lends credence to that notion.

Pharaoh had the agency to let the children of Joseph go, but, because of pride, as well as a refusal to accept the word of the Lord from a Prophet of God, events went the way that they did.

Passover came as a by-product of this refusal, which was in turn brought about by the very words of Pharaoh, when he condemned the first born of every house of the children of Israel to be slain. His own words condemned him.

The by-product of this final horrific plague, that was turned on the first born of Egypt, was that we now have an event that is comparable to the sacrifice of God's First Born for the children of the Lord. The prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving that accompanied that first "Passover" are now echoed all over the world for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all people. The burden of sin that was heavy upon our own shoulders, has now Passed Over us, due to the atonement of Christ.

The Lord worked through Moses, and Pharaoh, on different levels, in order to prepare a nation of Spiritual of illiterates, a.k.a. the Children of Israel, for a transition from idol worship, and a secular perspective, towards that of a higher eternal form of worship.

On one level both the Children of Israel AND Pharaoh, had to see with their own eyes that the power of God was far, far greater than that of Pharaoh.

Consider that most of the plagues that the Lord called down, could either be duplicated by the "magicians" who were in the service of Pharaoh, or explained away. However, the final miracle could not be explained nor duplicated, by man, that of the parting of the Red Sea.
On another level, Moses, through these experiences learned to trust in the arm of the Lord more, and less on the arm of man. And even then the lesson wasn't fully learned, as we know from his later experiences in the desert.

I don't believe, and I would suggest that the Bible doesn't teach us, that we are used from time to time as puppets of God.

We have our agency, we can choose to turn right or turn left, to stand, or to sit. We can choose to commit sin, or to walk away from it

Some are born with that ability limited due to mental illness etc., however, I don't think that God will dictate who will have that limitation and who will not. Things happen naturally, and in accordance with the devine nature of the creative process.

Sometimes however the Lord will use a particular circumstance to further His work and His will. It's in these circumstances that we end up working with Him, even if we're not aware of it at the time

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trouble At River City

The Scene: River City USA.

A group of people gathers around Professor Harold Hill, a wise sage of the west who has come into town to perform an act of "compassionate" humanity.

'HOLD ON! My friends either you are blind, or you do not know of the danger of having the "Mormons" living here in this "Christian" community!!

'WHAT?!?!' the crowd cries in shock.

'That's right, friends, the "Mormons" are right here on this very town!! Why the whole thing would make a grown man weep if it weren't so serious!'

'Tell us Professor!' the crowd cries. 'Oh, please tell us about those "Mormons," are they really that bad?'

'Bad?' the Professor says. 'Bad? Why my dear people, if you're not careful they'll deceive you in to thinking that they've got some sort of new fangled Bible or something or other.' The professor looks at the crowd gathering around him. 'Why, it's a good thing I got here in the nick of time. Let me tell you about the 'Mormon' Church, why it's a den of sin, and delusion.'

The gathering crowd gasps in horror. 'Professor,' asks somebody in the crowd. 'Tell us more about this new Bible, Please!'

'Friend, it's a good thing you asked me about it instead of one of them!' The Professor puffs out his chest. 'Why I spent the last ten years reading about it!' 'I have read books written by some of the best minds in River City that tell me everything about the book!' The crowd listens intently. 'The people, who have written about the subject, have heard so much about that Book of Mormon, that it would make a grown man or woman blush with embarrassment. 'The crowd pushes forward, eager to hear all the "truth" about this "new Bible." Hill looks at them with cunning eyes. He thinks that he's got them.

From out of the crowd a young lady, looking a lot like a young Shirley Jones, pushes her way through the mass of people, making her way towards the front. Hill spots her, and focuses his attention upon her. The woman is Marion, the librarian. Hill figures that if he can win the town intellectual over to his side then his job is more than halfway finished.

'Why my friends did you know that they believe that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book ever written?' The crowd gasps. 'Why they even say that a man could draw nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of that book than by any other book!' 'What?!?' The crowd gasps again.

'Yes that's right, my friends. That's what they say. It beggars the mind! I have a book right here in my hand that was written by somebody over one hundred years ago. In it the author says that there are over 4000 changes to that book! The author did a word count and found that some words were actually changed and even removed from this book!' Hill takes a deep breath and continues.

'Yet the "Mormons" would have you believe that this book, the Book of Mormon, is the most correctly translated book ever published!' 'How in the world can they say that when there are over 4000 changes in it?!?' 'Not a single person in the 'Mormon' Church denies it!'

'And do you know what else the "Mormons"' want you to do?' Hill cries out in mock outrage.

'No, tell us professor, what do those "Mormons" want us to do?' Four men in the crowd cry out in Barbershop harmony.

'Why they not only want you to read it for yourselves, but they actually want you to pray about the fool thing and ask God, if it is really a volume of scripture!' 'My friends have you ever heard of such a foolish thing as that?!' 'Does it make your blood boil, well I should say!' 'Imagine, wanting you good people of River City to take time out of your busy lives and actually read a book that is supposed to come from God.' The crowd murmurs in amazement.' And then they actually want you to pray to God, who is pretty busy enough as it is, and ask Him if the Book of Mormon is scripture!'

'It's a good thing that I got here when I did my friends. I can save you all that trouble, and tell you that based upon the books that I've read about the Book of Mormon, that it is entirely false and that it contradicts the Bible!' Hill puffs his chest with prideful glee. 'Oh my friends, I've done you a service today, yes siree!'

'Oh thank you Professor!' Some women in the crowd say in harmony. 'It's a good thing for us that you are here!'

'Why my friends, we all know that It is evil and a-wicked to ask God to give us a witness of his word by the Holy Ghost.' Somebody in the crowds shouts, 'Amen!'

Hill, picking up on that says with as much conviction as he could, '"The Almighty has given us common sense and nearly two thousand years of Christian knowledge to fall back on. Surely you don't believe that He wants us to bother Him with every little trifling detail!'

The crowd murmurs in agreement.

'Excuse me, Professor Hill,' Marion the Librarian says as she pushes her way to the front of the crowd and stands directly in front of Professor Hill. 'But it says right here in the Bible that it is all right to pray for things.' Marion opens the Bible up to the twenty-first chapter of Matthew and reads:

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matt 21:22)

Hill looks upon her with condescending eyes and says, 'My dear, it's obvious to all of us that you've not understood what you've read.' Some of the crowd nod their head. 'Why my dear, if you'll re-read that verse, you'll notice that there is not any mention of the Book of Mormon or of looking for knowledge.'

'But Professor Hill, it says All things , surely that would include the Book of Mormon as well.' Hill begins to look a bit uncomfortable as those around Marion start to shake their heads in agreement.

Hill smiles down on Marion. 'My dear, even if that were true, and I'm not saying it is mind you, but even if that were true, the fact remains that the Book of Mormon contains 4000 changes to it since its first edition in 1829!' The crowd, most of them at least say, 'That's right!' and, 'It must be a phony to contain all those changes in it' Somebody in the back of the crowd says, 'If it came from God then there wouldn't be anything wrong with it wouldn't it?'

Hill smiles, he's back in control. Or is he?

'Professor Hill?' a voice from the crowd calls out. 'Yes, my friend.' 'What about the different Bibles that are in the world today?' 'How do we really know which one of them is the best one to read?'

'Why my friend, it's easy, those Bibles are put together by some of the best minds in the world today, using copies of copies of original copies taken from an original manuscript that is over several thousand years old!' 'Read about these translations and you'll not find a single story about God sending His heavenly messengers to help out with the translations.' Some in the crowd, not as many as there were before though, nod their heads in agreement. 'These committees are some of the best that money could buy!'

Marion the Librarian says, 'Professor Hill, about those changes to the Book of Mormon.' Hill looks deeply into her blue eyes. 'Yes my dear.' Marion blushes slightly, takes a breath and continues.' Isn't it true that all those changes to the Book of Mormon had nothing to do with doctrine but were merely corrections to errors that the printer made when publishing the Book of Mormon?' 'In fact, wasn't the Book of Mormon originally written, without any punctuation at all?'

The crowd begins to look at Marion and wonders if she is on to something.

'My dear, surely if the Book of Mormon is "true" then God would "inspire" "Joe" Smith to spell correctly and have better grammatical skills!' The crowd laughs, well that is to say, some of them laugh. More than a few are not so sure any more.

Marion takes out her Bible opens it to Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 and reads:

13 Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?

'Professor Hill, do you notice anything wrong with that verse of scripture?' Marion asks.

'Why no, my dear.'

'Professor, I am surprised!' Marion says shyly. 'In this sentence the verb 'am' is a 'be' verb which makes the whole sentence intransitive, and an intransitive sentence never takes an object.' 'Either the Lord was a poor speaker, or there is something wrong with the translation.'

The crowd begins to look at Marion in a new way. Suddenly she is beginning to make a bit of sense.

'Professor Hill, I read that it took approximately eighty days for an unschooled young man to produce a 300,000 word, 552 page volume of ancient America without any outside assistance. In fact he only had three years of formalized education, and you expect a grammatically correct translation.' Some in the crowd are beginning to get more interested. 'Being a wise scholarly man, Professor Hill, you of course know that it took 54 learned scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminister, four years to write and translate the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, and there are still grammatical errors in it!'

'What errors Madam Liberian?' Hill asks.

'Professor, I really don't want to intrude, after all, this is your meeting...but since you asked, perhaps when you retire for the evening you might want to look at: Gen.43:25, Gen 18:2, Gen 42:2, 2 Kings 19:35, John 4:2, Luke 23:32, and Acts 19:12 to start with." "There are literally dozens more that I could show you.'

'Marion!' shouts out a chubby man who looks like Buddy Hackett . 'Are there any errors of translation attributed to the Lord himself?' 'Yes there are.' 'The Lord's prayer is wrong. Remember when Christ is supposed to have said "Lead us not into temptation"? 'This contradicts the book of James when he says, "God is neither tempted, neither tempteth he any man."

'Don't you see, all this means is that the Bible is not nearly as perfect as some would have you believe!' A shocked murmur runs through the crowd. 'This does not mean that it is not inspired, only that some human error has crept in, despite the best intentions in the world.' 'Surely we should also be as charitable towards the Book of Mormon.'

Hill is getting a bit desperate now. He's losing his audience. 'If what you say is true, what use is the Book of Mormon anyway?' Hill has a gleam in his eye, he's on to a new idea!. ' I've heard it said that the Book of Mormon doesn't tell us anything new, or anything that is not already in the Bible!'

Marion flips through one of the reference books that she brought with her from the library. 'Alexander Campbell , who founded the Church of Christ said this about the Book of Mormon:

"..It decides all the great controversies: Infant Baptism, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, Church government, the call to ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, even the questions of free masonry, republican government and the rights of man."

'Now, Professor Hill, I don't claim to be as wise as you are, but it seems to me that the Book of Mormon isn't as empty as you say it is.'

Just then, a little boy, looking a lot like a young Ronnie Howard, but without the lisp, spoke out. 'Professor.' Hill looked at the little four year old, thinking that the kids' question would be an easy one. 'Yes son?' The boy looked up at Hill and said, 'Have you actually read the Book of Mormon?'

Hill smiled and said, 'No my boy I haven't.' The boy looked puzzled. 'But professor, how do you know if the Book of Mormon is wrong if you've not read it for yourself?' 'Ma always tells me, if I want to know how to spell a word, to look it up myself in the dictionary, she figures that's the only way that I learn for myself.'
Hill begins to suspect that the good folk of River City are a bit more smarter then he gave them credit for.

Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, Marion speaks again. ' Correct me if I'm wrong Professor, but wasn't it Lord Bacon who said;

"Read not to contradict and confuse, not to believe and take for granted...but to weigh and consider."?

'Forgive me, but if you rely upon the words of others to tell you about the Book of Mormon, but have not read it for yourself to see if the objections are valid ones, how honest is it for you to claim to be an expert?'

The crowd begins to see Hill in a new light. 'Say, the lady's right.'

Hill begins to perspire. 'Hey Professor!' Somebody from the crowd yells. ' You mean to say that you haven't read the thing and yet you're telling us what it's about?' Others in the crowd begin to murmur and say, ' How do we know that you're telling us the truth?' Others say, 'Rather strange if you ask me, claiming that something is a fraud without having first hand knowledge, sounds like prattling gossip if you ask me.'

'Friends, friends!' Hill almost shouts. 'I'm just like you!' 'Trust me! Listen to me, and you'll not go wrong!'

The towns people begin to look at Hill differently, it's as if somebody has told them that the emperor hasn't been wearing any clothes after all.

'Marion,' Says the chubby Buddy Hackett look alike. ' Do you have any copies of the Book of Mormon in the library?' ' If it is as important as you say it is I guess that it wouldn't hurt for me to read it for myself and then make up my own mind.'

Marion nods her head in agreement. 'I've got a few copies in the Religion section, I've had them for a while now.'

'You know, he's right maybe we ought to read it to see what all the fuss is about.' People begin to say. At this moment in time attention turns away from Harold Hill and the crowd drifts away towards the Library.

Hill is left alone. Somehow it went wrong. He had imagined that in the end he would have convinced many people to avoid the Book of Mormon, and that he would have ended up with the girl Marion at his side, marching down the main street leading a big parade of people who were grateful for his wise help. He would've been a hero!

But then again this is real life and not some sort of 1960's musical.

Isn't it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas 1966

1966 will always have a special place in my heart. Surprisingly enough this has nothing to do with English football (soccer)!. ( In 1966 the England Football team beat Germany and won the world football championship. This victory, which is over 42 years in the past, is still talked about with some pride by football supporters herein the UK. Sadly the England Football team has never won a world cup since. It is a source of both pride and sadness that this victory has not been repeated since.)

I was five years old and my parents allowed me to stay up past my bed time on a Thursday evening. There as a new television show on from 8-9pm. This was a show that had clear cut morals taught, Good triumphed over evil. Plus the series was set in outer space. I fell in love with Star Trek, there were many times when I fell asleep watching it.

The second event that took place in 1966 happened on Christmas.

My parents had given me the ultimate toy....Major Matt Mason. He was an astronaut. This was three years before the moon landing, and space ships and men on the moon were still the stuff of dreams for little boys like me.

This gift that my father and mother gave me was fantastic. I had an octagonal two level space station that had clear plastic frames that surrounded a flashing beacon which lit up a picture of the galaxy. There was a "moon walker" a tractor really that was used to travel over rough surfaces, a rocket pack, and of course there was the Major. He was only six inches tall, but he was to me what Buzz Lightyear and Woody, from the film ToyStory were to my son Joseph.

Over time my love and use of the Major faded. Until finally we no longer blasted into space together.

Years passed, but somehow the memory of that precious gift from my parents remained with me. My dad and mom would give me many more presents for Christmas, but for some reason only that one remained in my mind.

When my son Joseph was 2 ½ years old, we flew out to California in February to have a late Christmas. We exchanged gifts with my family. Joseph was given a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was nearly as big as he was. One day as Joseph was running around with it I was talking to my dad about Christmas’ past. I asked "Do you know what the best present you and mom ever gave me?"

Almost before I finished asking the question, my father answered immediately "Yes. Major Matt Mason."

It had been over two decades since I had unwrapped that gift, and to my knowledge we had not spoken about the Major since.

But somehow that night in 1966 had as much an effect on my father as myself.

I began to reflect on that gift, choice above all others that I had, but had let slip through my fingers. I could not get another I though because the good Major was not being made anymore.

A phone call to the toy company got me a photo-copied sales brochure and I could look at the Major and the Space Station. But, somehow it was not the same. I felt that if somehow I could get the action figure back I could almost reclaim my past, and have a link with my father and with my late mother.

A few years ago I came across an internet site that dealt exclusively with auctions of toys. Almost as an afterthought I typed in "Major Matt Mason".

I was suddenly presented with ten pages of the good Major and his accessories. I was in heaven. I downloaded a picture of the Major and used it as a desktop picture, but still I was not happy. I read from page to page on the site and came across an action figure that was made in 1966, the same year as the one that I had.

It was a bit dinged up with age, a leg wire was broken, a bit of the tip of the nose was missing, but it was still the Major. My desire to get back that lost link to my youth got the best of me. I entered the bidding war that was in progress.

Finally, after a week of nervous bidding, I won the bidding war. Two weeks and twenty five pounds later I had him. Major Matt Mason was home. He has pride of place in my study, alongside of a black and white picture of my father and I playing with the space station. That gift, once lost, that meant a lot not only to me, but to my father was back home. It serves as a memory of a joyous time with my parents.

Each of us has been given a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father. Like myself when I was young; each of us has the choice of either cherishing this gift from a loving Father in Heaven, or allowing the meaning of that gift to be lost. We then have the challenge of trying to reclaim that gift. I testify that if we do find ourselves having to reclaim that gift, it will be a struggle, we will need many plasters to hide the bruises.

How much better would it be for us if we never lose this choice gift, the love and light of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How precious was this gift? John the Apostle tells us in John 3:16:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Father has given us the life of His eldest Son Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago He came down to mortality to take upon His shoulders the sins from all, from the days of Adam even to this present day. Not only that He willingly gave up His life so that we might have the blessed opportunity to live forever, as well as to live with our Heavenly Father. What a blessing. What a gift, choice above all others. But what have we done with it? Have we laid it aside, and are we now searching for it again? Or have we nourished and cherished this gift as we should, in applying the teachings of the Saviour in our daily lives?

I think of two peoples who since the days of Jeremiah the Prophet had knowledge of this gift, yet one group were more blessed than another.

The Lord told the Prophet Nephi on the very first Christmas even in 3rd Nephi 1:13:

13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

I have sometimes wondered why He told the people of Nephi directly through a Prophet about his advent, and yet in the land of His birth the message was broadcast only to some shepherds who were abiding in the fields, on the night of His birth. Luke records in Luke 2:8-18:

8 ¶ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Both peoples had been taught by mighty Prophets of God that the Lord would come. Both had been given the same opportunity, yet only one people were blessed with the personal announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then I came to a possible conclusion. Only one of these two people had faith enough and were humble enough to repent when called upon to do so. Only one group was, to paraphrase Nephi, "past feeling" and their hearts were hardened.

The angel and the heavenly host who announced that the Lord was born "this day" went not to general public, but to poor humble shepherds.

As we commemorate the birth of the Lord, and as we give thanks to our Father in Heaven for

This great and glorious condescension of God, to allow His eldest Son to take upon Him the sins of the world, can we also give thanks that we have been given a living Prophet of God?

I testify that Thomas S Monson is the Lord's chosen Prophet, and that if we can abide by the gospel truths that are taught us we need never fear about being past feeling, and we never need fear what man can do for God will be with us forever.

I am always gratified to know that, in the words of the X Files: "The truth is out there." I stand amazed at how the scriptures and the teachings of the Prophets and Apostles provide a rich tapestry of wisdom that can and does answer those questions that can come to the heart and soul of a child of God seeking light in the midst of darkness.

May we always cherish this gift that a loving Heavenly Father has given us. Let us remember that the true spirit of Christmas is not in the gifts, tinsel, trees, or food, but in the birth in a manger of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a gift beyond value and is a living reminder of how much our Heavenly Father loves each of us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Just Who's Running the Asylum?

On March 11th, 2008, after an absence of 19 years I returned to live with my new wife in Southern California. I had, since 1989, lived in the United Kingdom, in Coventry.

Living in England was not without its difficulties and challenges, some minor, and others rather important to myself and my family.

What kind of challenges? Well, to this day I still can’t figure out that pesky beast known as the "round-about". Why on earth anyone should be forced to go in a semi circle just take a right turn is beyond me. Then there’s cricket. Some love it, others, myself included would rather lick boiling tar off of the motor way (free way to the Yanks), or watch paint dry.

There were some issues that were serious enough to warrant concern, not just too myself, but to those who shared my moral values concerning marriage. A few years ago, an act of Parliament passed into law a decree that no made the state of matrimony non-exclusive to men and women.

The system of government in the United Kingdom is such that any legislation to be passed is not voted on by the people, but is the domain of the elected officials. On matters as serious as the institution of marriage, the only thing that the people could do was to mount letter writing campaigns to members of parliament, newspapers etc. This was of limited effect.

Usually in times or moral uncertainty, people look up to religious leaders for some measure of comfort. In this instance, the State Church, the Church of England, took the position that to continue the prohibition of marriage to those of the same gender was unfair and would drive people away from the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury sided with proponents of same gender marriage, and a schism occurred within the Anglian community. Those who maintained that the status quo needed to remain were seen as intolerant and some how behind the times.

I was angry that those who had stewardship over the moral teachings of the nation as a whole, caved in, rather than remain true to Biblical theology, while those Christians, and others of non-Christian faith, who fought for the traditional definition of the family were seen as fanatics or worse..

I was angry that public debate was confined by and large to letter writing campaigns, and that the electorate did not have a direct voice, via referendum, and that ultimately, the legislation was rammed through that the wishes of the many were apparently ignored in favor of political and social expediency.

I was angry that the very people who were shouting intolerance were the very one who were and still are crying "homophobia" to anyone who had a disagreement on either that lifestyle/choice, or who felt that the pendulum of expediency or political correctness had swung too far to the right.

I was sad that this major erosion of a keystone/cornerstone of society was removed with apparently very little notice from the general public.

Still life goes on, and I would return to the United States where this erosion of morality would not perhaps be as wide spread as it was in the United Kingdom.

However, sad to say, such dreams are the stuff of 1930s Jimmy Stewart -Frank Capra movie I fear.

In March of 2000, Proposition 22 , which was known as the "Marriage Defense Act", which was a fourteen word document was placed on the ballot in order to legally codify the definition of marriage. That Proposition declared that: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The political debate of this proposition was lengthily and at times heated. However, even after sides were drawn, debate was heard. In March of 2000, Proposition 22 was ratified by an overwhelming majority of California voters, prevailing by a 23-point margin. Statewide, 4,618,673 votes were cast in favor of the proposition, comprising 61.4% of the total vote.

Opponents garnered 2,909,370 votes, for 38.6% of the vote.

Almost as soon as the results were released, opponents of Proposition 22 began the legal process of overturning this vote on the grounds of discrimination. The process took eight years, and in June of 2008, the California State Supreme Court made their 4-3 decision, and over-turned the wishes of 61.4% of the California electorate.

I find it ironic that as part of the reasoning behind the overturning of Proposition 22, the majority of the California Justices’ used an earlier California State Supreme Court decision that overturned a State law that prohibited inter-racial marriage. In their June 2008 decision, The State Supreme Court Justices cited the the reversal of the inter-racial ban as part of the reason for overturning Proposition 22, and said that the current law that defined marriage as being between a man and woman as also discriminatory.

The irony is that the prohibition of inter-racial marriage was still founded on the legal principle that marriage was between to men and women. The legal definition of marriage was not the issue there.

We are now faced with Proposition 8, which seeks to enshrine in the California Constitution, that same fourteen word statement on marriage that: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

This time however it appears to be an uphill battle as those who opposed Proposition 22 have taken this, cowardly back door approach to overturning the wishes of the majority of California voters.

Personally I would have much preferred proponents of same gender marriage to have taken the more open and honest route and placed on the ballot papers their own proposition concerning marriage.

But nobility and honor seem to be a rapidly vanishing character trait I suppose.

So here we are. The lines have been drawn in the sand and a State wide collation of churches, organizations, and private individuals we currently are working to get this measure passed.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me reafrirm that I am a Christian and am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so my interest in this Proposition has a lot more to do with a religious spiritual reason for my support of this State Constitutional amendment, than with notions of secular nobility, honor, or ethics, important as they all are.

Five years prior to Proposition 22, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued what was to be only the fourth general proclamation to the world in its 170 plus year history. This document entitled " The Family: A Proclamation to the World" codifies the Biblical Christian beliefs of the nature of the family.

The following statements are found on this document: "We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ."

My support of Proposition 8 has nothing to do with seeking to curtail the civil liberties or rights of those men and women who make the choice to live in a same gender relationship. Their rights are already protected by State law. My support of the balloted proposition has to do with my personal belief that it is not for society to decide what the definition of marriage should be, or that the historical theological teachings, both Christian and non Christian are somehow out of date.

My support of the constitutional amendment has more to do with insuring that society doesn’t go so far as to compromise what many see as a cornerstone of a society, the family unit, and when I write "family unit" I am referring to the so-called traditional perspective that this unit includes, to whatever degree, a mother and a father. Marriage cements this unit and solidifies this commitment.

The problem is that many in our society see marriage as either a simple social contract, or a piece of paper. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Marriage is much more than that. It’s more than a cultural contract. It is a divine pattern that has existed since the days of Adam and Eve.

So here is where we are now. The phrase "a turning point in history" is sometimes over used, but guess what? We’re in it. We’re Smack dab in the middle of it, and, to some degree or another, it’s time for all to choose sides. Fence sitting can be comfortable for a season, but sooner or later the time will come to get off the fence and make a decision.

Some may choose to stand in the road, like a startled deer looking at the oncoming head lights, others may choose to do nothing.

I’m opting for the third option, that of activism. I am an activist for the so-called traditional family unit, which unit comprises of a mother and a father.

I’m opting for the so called old fashioned notion that marriage is more than a social contract, that marriage can be expanded to include same gender couples etc., and that nothing will happen to society as a result of this.

If the identity of what makes a marriage a marriage, is to be changed into what can be best termed as a politically correct definition, as those who seek the failure of Proposition 8 are seeking, then there will be a loss of identity for society as a whole. Those who ascribe to the current view of what marriage should be defined as, will , in some form or another, to some degree or another, become outcast and will perhaps somehow be labeled as being intolerant of others.

I sometimes wonder why it is that tolerance seems to be a one way thing insofar as this issue is concerned.

If Proposition 8 fails, the world will not end, life will continue onward, I will still live in the hope that one day, perhaps within my life time, the Los Angeles Dodgers will regain those glory days of old and not only win the pennant, but also the World Series. ( I also believe in Santa Claus too!) However, something importnt, even special, will have been removed, and, in all likelihood, never be restored; the complete identity of what marriage is truly meant to be.

The loss of this definition will, in all likelihood, mean that those who still cling to this so-called "old fashioned" notion of exclusivity will be seen as increasingly intolerant, by those who have, what could be best termed, "liberal" views.

The loss of this definition will mean that one more secular nail has been hammered into the coffin containing a nation founded upon the principles of Christianity.

So what do we choose to do?

Get out and vote.

I’m not concerned or particularly bothered about political party affiliation, there are many good men and women in the State of California, from both the major political parties, and from other political affiliations who are concerned enough about this issue to lay aside their confecting political ideologies enough to take a stand in defense of the family, and of marriage.

Get out and speak with our friends, co-workers, family members, members of our Church congregations.

Take part in the grass roots drive to "spread the word". is THE starting place to go to, to volunteer to do canvassing, post yard signs, bumper stickers, and, more importantly, donate some needed funds to continue the good fight. I’m not connected with them in anyway, but find that, by and large, the information on this site is accurate, and is needed.

There are few moments in history when a society will be called upon to make a decision that will closely define it for future generations. Today. Here. Now. This is the time in California for such a moment.

Join us and preserve the God ordained institution of marriage.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dear Paul

In 1996, I was given a packet of materials from a man who was leaving my employ. We had known of each others religious faith, and I knew that he was reading up on various religions. I had an idea of the types of materials that he used when I saw a copy of The Kingdom of The Cults near his lunch bag. This book is known for its rather distorted view of various religious faiths, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Paul" [Not his real name]gave me the packet containing two cassette tapes, and a "fact" sheet on the Book of Mormon. I listened to both of the tapes and found them to contain some rather extreme misrepresentations of the beliefs of the LDS Church. The sheet contained "proof" that the Book of Mormon conflicts the present day teachings of the LDS Church, and because of this "conflict", that the Book of Mormon must be a fraud.

Over the three decades of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have either read, heard, or viewed filmed presentations of material that would "expose" the truth of Mormonism. None of the material, including the things that Paul gave me, is new, in fact most if not all stems from sources that are over a century and a half out of date. None of the "facts" have discredited the LDS Church.

Paul is an honest man, and is sincerely concerned about my faith and my eternal salvation. He gave me the material in good faith. I felt that there needed to be some sort of reply to him. The trick was in deciding how I would reply.

If I've learned nothing else over the past decade and a half of being a member of the LDS Church it's that refuting lies on a point by point basis simply does not work. All it does is lead to more questions, which in turn only leads to more answers, which leads to an endless cycle of debate with no outcome in sight.

But still, Paul did deserve some sort of an answer.

What follows is my written reply to him. While it may not completely satisfy Paul, or indeed other "Concerned Christians", it does serve its main purpose, that taking the argument away from distortions and half truths, and placing it back where it belongs, that of using the Bible as the standard of truth.

Using the King James edition of the Holy Bible, I asked Paul some questions of my own. I believe that the Saviour laid down a clearly defined blueprint for those who believe in him to follow, and that if Christian belief or Doctrine runs counter to that, then it is not because times have changed or that somehow modern Christian beliefs have progressed beyond what was taught nearly two thousand years ago, but it is because man has changed the beliefs and doctrine to suit himself. God had nothing to do with it.

The letter was written and mailed on the 11th of May, 1996. With the exception of a brief phone call to me telling me that he would answer the letter, there has been, thus far, no response.

Dear Paul;

I realize that some time has passed since you gave me the packet of tapes and written material. The delay in answering you has not been caused by any inability or reluctance on my part to answer you, but by some measure of sadness and disappointment on my part.

I was rather disappointed that you waited until you left, before giving me the material. It would have made for some rather enlightening discussions face to face. Much could have been learned by both of us.

I was saddened that all of the material that you presented to me is stuff that I have already read, seen and heard since my baptism in 1979.

I was a bit saddened because over the past 16 years nothing new has been added by "Concerned Christians" concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or, as you and others are fond of calling it, "Mormonism", that will be the definitive expose of this church.

I am also saddened that much, if not all "anti-Mormon" material currently available is not new, but seems to be a rehash of material already published. Surely if the LDS Church is a fraud, then NEW conclusive evidence could be found to prove the Church a fraud, instead of repackaging half truths, distortions, and old disproved theories about the LDS Church that have been in existence for the past century and a half.

I am saddened that the material that is used in both cassette tapes and in the sheet on the Book of Mormon, stems from dishonest people, Walter Martin, a man whose honesty about his academic background has both been challenged and found to be a fraud; Ed Decker, Jim Richardson, Jerrold and Sandra Tanner, or from material published over a hundred years ago that were written by people who were excommunicated from the LDS Church for immorality.

You extended an invitation to me, given in all sincerity I believe, to become a Christian and abandon the teachings of the LDS Church. Paul, before I can even contemplate leaving a body of believers for something else, I have to know that what I am going to join is better, than what I have presently, and fulfils my desire to serve God, our Heavenly Father.

I would like to ask you some questions Paul. You may of course seek outside help in answering them. These questions are all Biblically based, and are similar to the ones that I had when I was a non-member of the LDS Church, and had some questions about the doctrines of Christianity. I would expect that these questions would be answered through the use of Biblical scripture. As you are no doubt aware, I use the King James edition of the Bible, as do a lot of other Christians, but I do have access to most other Bible translations, so your answers will not be difficult for me to look up.

Paul, it is not my purpose to "trip you up", but since you, and others who claim to want to turn people such as myself and my family, away from "Mormonism" and accept the "Real Jesus", the "Jesus of the Bible", then these questions should and really need to be answered from that source, the Bible, and not from man.

1. Do you believe that the cannon of scripture is closed and the Bible complete? If so, what is your Biblical authority for stating such? Is the Bible complete? If it is, could you explain it in light of John 21:25 in which the Apostle wrote:

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

1a. If you claim Revelation 22:18-19 as the basis of your answer to the questions above, in which John the Revelator writes:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.

How then do these verses then square with Deuteronomy 4:2, in which Mosses writes:

2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Paul, how does Revelation 22:18-19 square with the fact that chronologically it was written before the books of John and the rest of the New Testament? According to your use of this verse, John was in effect condemning himself.

The obvious answer to this usage of scripture Paul is that John was only referring to the adding and taking away from the Book of Revelation itself and not the Bible in total.

2. What Biblical authority do you claim, that nullifies the clear statement for some sort prophetic leadership as plainly stated in Amos 3:7, in which the prophet Amos stated that :

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

3. Paul, Is baptism essential for our salvation? If so, what form of baptism is acknowledged by the Lord Jesus Christ as being the correct one?

4. From whom does your Minister get his/her authority to teach, preach, and baptise in the name of Jesus Christ? Does he/she derive it from the same source as the Apostles did in the New Testament as cited in Acts 6:1-6, Acts 19:1-6, or, more to the point, John 15:16; or has he/she been given authority from a man made institution?

5. Can you explain the divisions and contradictions of Christian doctrine concerning baptism for example, that exist in all branches of Christianity, especially in light of the clear statement that Paul makes in Ephesians 4:4-5 or in Ephesians 4: 11-14?

6. Paul, the leaflet you asked me to read that was entitled, How to become a Christian stated the following:

"When you turn from your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will give you his Holy Spirit; then you will have the power to live the Christian life."

How does this fit in Biblically, with the admonition of the Apostles as found in Acts 22:16; 2:36-38, or the admonition that the Saviour Himself gives in John 3:5, and Mark 16:15-16?

7. Since you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again, do you believe that there will not be any sort of religious organization needed prior to His coming?

7a. If you do, can you please explain what is meant in Acts 3:19-21? We read:

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

This is rather important since most translations of the Bible use the word "Restoration" instead of the word "Restitution" as the King James edition uses. What is going to be Restored when the Saviour comes again?

7b. Can you then explain what is meant in Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 4:11-14? Is there NOW a unity of Christian faith or is the body of main-stream Christianity divided on important points of Biblical doctrine?

8. By what Biblical authority can you cite, that tells me that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are the same being, and are not separate distinct individuals? Does that square with the accounts found in Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 13:32; Acts 2:32-33; or Acts 7:55-56, in which Stephen testified before his death:

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God

Paul, Stephen saw both the Father and Son as separate distinct individuals here. Was Stephen mistaken in what he saw?

9. By what Biblical authority does the presenter of the tapes use, to say that praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is to be avoided? How does that fit in with James 1:5? Is it your belief that this type of prayer is to be avoided because Satan can somehow answer our prayers and make it appear to be from a divine source? If so, please state your Biblical authority.

10. What is your explanation for Ezekiel 37:15-20? I would refer you to the portion of the draft copy of my booklet The coming forth of the Book of Mormon, dealing with Ezekiel 37, which I enclose, in which non LDS archaeological sources tell us about the meaning of the two sticks written as some form of record. Is it your Church's belief that the Bible already has both records? If so, where are they located?

11. What is the Biblical basis for your asking me to join the body of Christ? Which body? Which one should my family and I embrace when 99% of all Christian churches teach conflicting doctrines? Is Christ divided, or was Paul correct when he said in Ephesians 4:5 that there was:

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism...

Paul, there are many, many more questions that I could ask you. Questions concerning your use of inaccurate source materials. Questions concerning the rather blatant use of half truths, undocumented material that exists in most, if not all "anti-Mormon" material.

I would ask you about the logic of asking someone who is clearly against the teachings of the Church, to tell you about the LDS church, rather than going to a member who is in good standing with the Church and has no axe to grind, and then asking them about the doctrines of the LDS Church. To do otherwise is comparable to going to an automobile mechanic for help in performing brain surgery.

Paul, I think that it would have helped your "study" of the LDS Church a lot better if you had perhaps taken the time to ask me about the doctrines and beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I have spent the last sixteen and a half years studying both the doctrines and the history of this Church. I have copies of original sermons that were taught to the membership by the early leaders of the Church by men such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and many others.

I have spent the past sixteen in a half years believing in the knowledge that God, our Father in Heaven, does love us enough that not only has He sent us His only begotten Son to forgive us of our sins, but that also, according to Amos 3:7, God will, and I believe He already has, given to the world, living Prophets, that will reveal the mind and the will of the Lord Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world.

Paul, if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, then where is there in Christianity, a people who worship the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfil the pattern of belief as established by the Saviour himself in the New Testament?

Where is there a people who believe not only that the Lord will come again to rule for a thousand years, but that He will also restore that organization of Apostles and Prophets with Himself as the chief cornerstone, thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy?

Where is there a people who believe that prayer is the only way to receive an answer to some serious questions?

Where is there a people who believe that we are on this planet for a specific reason and purpose, rather than the belief that we are here for a season, and then go on to some existence where we spend all eternity singing hymns.

Where is there a people, who believe in Christ, who invite honest questions of their beliefs, and will not shade the truth in their attempts, sincere or otherwise, to expose the so-called evils of another faith?

Paul, I have spent the past sixteen and a half years searching for eternal truths and I am still searching and learning. I have found answers to my questions both in the Bible, and in the restoration scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You rather casually reject out of hand the beliefs of the LDS Church after reading books such as The Kingdom of the Cults, a book, for example, that was written by a man whose honesty about his academic background has been both challenged and found to be a fraud; as well as his fraudulent mis-use of source materials. You are hardly using an unbiased source.

Your rejection of Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God comes as no surprise to me either, especially since you don't really know that much about him or about the things that he taught for over 20 years.

You reject the beliefs of the LDS Church after listening to a thirty minute tape that has many errors in presentation, and uses material that is hardly new.

Paul, I have already heard these "truths" before, as well as reading it in several books, including your book The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin before coming to this country and am not impressed by either Martins’ flawed "research" or your tape.

There is nothing in terms of "exposing" the so-called "un-Christian" doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paul, in the tape, the leaflets and the book that you rely upon so much, there’s nothing new under the sun...except of course, the repackaging of the material.

You reject out of hand things that are clearly mentioned in the Bible, concerning the Lord, His second coming, the organization that He established whilst here on the earth, as well as that self-same organization that will have to be in place prior to His coming a second time. These pre-conditions are also ignored out of hand by the majority of Christians as well as yourself.

Paul, you ask me to reject the LDS faith "and join the real body of Christ."
What group is therefore qualified to represent the Lord Jesus Christ? What group teaches the things that the Saviour taught in the Bible?

You ask me to be baptised and follow Christ's teachings on the belief that the Bible is the only word of God. Where in Biblical scripture is that statement either made by the Saviour, or implied in His teachings that the Bible would be the only recorded word of God?

These are serious questions that I ask of you Paul, and, frankly, they deserve serious answers.

I have no doubt that you are sincere in your desire for me to renounce "Mormonism" and become "Christian", and that your invitation to me to leave the Church is founded on a sincere desire for my eternal welfare, but it is a desire that is based upon misinformation and blatant lies concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Before I can reject the teachings and beliefs that have sustained me for the past sixteen years, before I can reject the faith that has provided myself and my family with peace and miracles; I need to know that what you have to offer is better than what I already have, and is not some pale shadow of the bright glory that the Son of God has provided the world with already.

Paul, I really look forward to your response to this letter, and hope that you will take the time to answer me - even if you need to go to others to assist you in this; although I will understand if you are unwilling or unable to do so.

Let me close this letter Paul, with the words of a man, far wiser than I, who, when faced with the establishment of a "cult" in the middle of an established religion had this to say in Acts 5:34-38:

34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed unto yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or work be of men, it will come to naught:
37 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

Reuben Dunn.