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The Mormon Faith Un-Decker-Ated
by. James A. Carver
A Reply to Ed Decker's "To Moroni With Love"
To most people, religion is primarily a matter of faith and doing, that is perceived in light of one's experience and needs. Intellectual and empirical studies don't occupy much of the average church members time. As a result, anti-Mormon pamphlets such as Ed Decker's, "To Moroni With Love," will generally have little effect on Latter-day Saints. But for the very same reason, a few will be critically affected; the reason for this being that most people don't have the time or inclination to do the necessary research to prove or disprove certain conclusions. As a result, some, both LDS and non-LDS will ignore a Decker type pamphlet while others will accept its conclusions as true, both LDS and non-LDS; but neither will take the time to verify their conclusions. As would be expected, the non-LDS would be more inclined to accept an anti-Mormon work.
An auxiliary problem is the difficulty in using the scientific method or scholarly approach to matters of faith. Religious truth is spiritually discerned and the "scholarly" game is always suspect. (1 Cor. 2:11-16)
I have spiritual feelings about Ed Decker's, "Too Moroni With Love," but that is an individual matter. My purpose in writing this reply to Mr. Decker's pamphlet is to point out its weakness as a scholarly work. From the spiritual aspect I can only say that the pamphlet is false, subjective, and non-productive, either for the Latter-day Saint or other Christians.
As a scholarly work it is superficial and cursory; and it is an oversimplification as an explanation of a religious faith that has survived persecution and religious intolerance unknown by most religious denominations in the United States and possibly only equaled among a people by the Negro race and the native Americans.
Evangelical Christianity has much more to offer the world than this type of anti-Mormonism. But since Mr. Decker has challenged the Latter-day Saint faith as being non-Christian and false, and his colleagues have seen fit to distribute his literature to thousands, perhaps a reply is in order.
To begin with, I find that the conclusions and judgements of "To Moroni With Love" are by no means decisive, and for those who will prove no further it will provide nothing for them but delusions. Not everyone when presented with the same information will reach the same conclusions, but Decker's pamphlet leaves one with only selected data. This results in distortion and make-believe. If you are interested in knowing the residue of facts not mentioned by "To Moroni With Love," read on and may the Spirit bear witness to the truth, which is the goal of all true Christians. Intellectual honesty is definitely a prerequisite.
After having read many anti-Mormon pamphlets and books, I have observed that a common failing exists -- Joseph Smith is judged by a different set of rules than the Biblical prophets. Those who have studied early Christian history know that anti-Christian writings were as prevalent in the days of the apostles as anti-Mormon articles are today. it is always easier to write anti-literature than a defense since deception has not bounds and truth is precise and exact. Christianity faced the same dilemma as Mormonism does today. It was a living, vibrant religion. Those who claimed inspiration and prophetic callings were also human and subject to the judgements of their contemporaries. Also, there was an enormous amount of current literature for the skeptics to use in their anti-crusade. Today, modern Christianity still has its critics, but it is not longer the vibrant, living religion it was originally. The literature that remains is limited, and most important, selected. This fact limits much of the opportunity for negative response. Even the Bible itself testifies that the living prophets are much harder to accept than dead prophets.
Mormonism is much akin to original Christianity (in fact it is original Christianity restored) by the fact that it too has living prophets and living scriptures, as well as the personal statements and teaching of its prophets published from all types of settings. historically early Christianity did not survive as well as its LDS counterpart today.
In the first place, Mr. Decker overestimates the value of his pamphlet. The reason for this is because a superficial study never leaves an either/or decision as he claims his pamphlet will do. Unless all of the facts are observed, superficiality only renders premature verdicts that may require frequent alterations as additional information is examined. Let us know consider Decker's pamphlet page by page.
GOD pp. 4-10
It appears that Decker's intention in his account of the First Vision is to polarize Latter-day Saints and other Christians by antagonizing them. According to Decker's interpretation, Mormons consider Christianity to be "totally lost," (p.4), "Christian worship is unacceptable and even loathsome." (p.5). I have read all of the historical accounts of the First Vision and I have never been able to make that kind of conclusion. Granted that the Lord told Joseph to join no church, that they were all wrong -- meaning none were organized by the Lord, nor authorized by Him -- "their creeds were an abomination in His sight, that those professors were all corrupt." However, this does not mean that Christian worship is loathsome. Worship is individual and is as precious and sincere from other Christians as it is from the LDS or non-Christians. Instead, what was meant was that the creeds of Christianity that teach that God is a Spirit without body, parts, or passions, and incomprehensible and a great mystery are incorrect, and that those who originated them, their professors, or founders, who in the debate of councils won the vote, but didn't know the true God of Israel. Their lips may have professed, but their hearts were far from Him. It is a fact that God is taught in such a manner that He cannot be comprehended, when in fact John said that is was "life eternal to know God." (John 17:3). The God of the Latter-day Saints is neither incomprehensible nor without body, parts, or passions. The LDS believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Beings but one in purpose and truth, and that their oneness is comprehensible.
In addition, where did modern Christianity get the idea that man's progressing to be like God is a pagan concept; that a literal Father-son relationship is inharmonious with scripture? Paul said that we are children of God and if children, then heirs, even joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:14-19). Since both the Father and the Son are Gods and we are heirs, what does an heir receive?
The LDS teaching of God is more scriptural than the Christian creeds and is certainly more understandable. Most LDS are familiar with how the Christian concept of God came about. They have also read of the many attempts by the scholars and clergy to explain God. I would much rather follow the claims of one who has seen God than to follow the verdict of debates, councils, and votes.
As far as the scriptures used by Decker to support his concept of God are concerned, they disprove his own concept as much as the LDS concept. The three-in-one teaching of Christianity is as difficult to support by Isaiah 44:6 as is the one-in-three concept of Mormonism. John 4:24 restricts Christ from being God since God is a spirit and Christ has a body, and Malachi 3:6 surely can't support Decker's concept since it requires three changes into one, and God does not change.
Decker says that Christians worship an entirely different God than the LDS. That may be true since I have never been able to discover the real nature of Decker's God. Decker says that either Mormonism is correct of the Bible is correct, meaning his interpretation; yet as great a mind as St. Thomas Aquinas was unable to harmonize a Christian concept with the Bible in a comprehensible manner.
SALVATION pp. 10-17
After listening to Mr. Decker attempt to explain the LDS belief in grace and works at one of his "How To Witness To Mormons" sessions, I am convinced that the has a false concept of the Latter-day Saint belief. Even though he was a Mormon for twenty years he is confused about LDS doctrine. This makes it difficult to communicate with Mr. Decker on this subject. I have taught in the Educational System of the LDS Church for eighteen years and I have studied religion all my life. The LDS Church does not teach what Mr. Decker claims it does.
The LDS, contrary to what Mr. Decker says, believe in salvation by grace. No man is capable of saving himself. If is wasn't for the saving atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind would be lost. However, to declare that grace is devoid of any relationship with works is to contradict the scriptures. Even Decker admits that there are some prerequisites for grace. Paul said that we must do "works meet for repentance." (Acts 26:20). The LDS believe that the prerequisites for grace are faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:37-39). Don't confuse Paul's "works of the Law of Moses" with his "works of the Gospel;" they are two separate principles. Paul considered faith to be a work but not a work of the law. (I Thess. 1:3; II Thess. 1:11). The Lord said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:15-16). The author of Hebrews says that perfection comes by works. (Heb. 13:21). Paul also taught that what a man sows is what he will reap, and not to be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap. (Gal. 6:7, 9).
This is precisely what the LDS believe-- that one will reap as one sows, that man will be saved by grace, through faith, but God will render to every man according to his deeds, (Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:13) and he that "overcometh shall inherit all things." (Rev. 21:7) It seems that Decker is "knit-picking" when he speaks of grace and works. Apparently the Apostle James met some "knit-pickers" in his day when he said:
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being along.
Yea, a man may say, Thou has faith, and I have works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:17-26)
Luther called the epistle of James an epistle of straw because he didn't like works, but it appears also to be a straw that breaks Decker's argument.
Latter-day Saints do not confuse grace and works, but I often wonder why some Christians get so uptight about works. See the appendix for a more complete study of the subject of grace and works.
On page 12, Decker indicates that the LDS do not believe that hell is a "place of destination." This is incorrect. Mormons believe just what the Bible teaches about hell. There are three concepts taught about hell in the Bible by the Greek words used in the New Testament for hell. These three words are Hades, Gehenna, and tartarus. Hades is the abode of the dead and is equivalent to the Hebrew word Sheol. Sheol is translated 32 times in the King James Bible as "the grave". Gehenna is a word taken from the Hebrew word Hinnom which was the name of the valley which was located outside Jerusalem where rubbish was burned ad where anciently, children had been sacrificed to Molech. This is metaphorical and depicts the suffering of the wicked. Tartarus, or "outer darkness" as it is translated, is used only once in II Peter 2:4; it is the abode of Satan and those who follow after him.
I do not understand why Mr. Decker says that "hell, as a place of destination is not a part of present-day Mormon theology," except that he just doesn't understand LDS doctrine.
"NEW SCRIPTURE" pp. 17-24
Mr. Decker objects to new scripture in our day and quotes Deut. 4:2; 12:32; and Prov. 30:6 to assert that fact that God does not speak today. But notice that this edict of not adding to the word of God came long before the New Testament was written. Does Decker's logic, that anything added be considered false, include the New Testament? The answer is simple: God can add to his word but man is forbidden to do so. This then in no way restricts latter-day revelations and scripture, unless it is not of God. This restriction is just as applicable to all Bible commentary that is in error with the truth. It is as restrictive of Mr. Decker, and myself, as it is of any other person.
The problem is that the only authoritative basis for most Christians is the Bible, and the "Battle for the Bible" (see the evangelical scholar, Harold Lindsell's book by the same title) has bothered Christians ever since. Latter-day saints claim that the source of truth is not the Bible, but Jesus, and that the same source that gave us the Bible can give us revelation today, which becomes new scripture. Latter-day Saints drink from the source, not just from the residue.
Both Latter-day Saints and other Christians accept the Bible as God's word but the LDS are often criticized for adding the phrase, "as far as it is translated correctly." That shouldn't bother Christians too much since much of their time is spent in producing new translations. I have one Bible with eight translations and another one with twenty-six, which indicates that Christians, as well as Latter-day Saints have some concerns about translation.
TESTS OF A TRUE PROPHET pp. 24-30
Decker's Test No. 1 of a true prophet tries to depict Joseph Smith as being confused about the number of persons in the Godhead. he quotes an apparent conflicting account of Joseph Smith's First Vision that mentions only one God, while a different account mentions both the Father and the Son. It is interesting that Decker cannot accept any variance in Joseph Smith's account -- even though the one account does not rule out the possibility of a second character -- but accepts readily the conflicting statements of the Apostle Paul in the three accounts of his vision. See Acts, chapters, 9, 22, and 26. There are more major discrepancies in Paul's accounts than in Joseph Smith's.
Contrary to what Ed Decker will tell you, Joseph Smith declared:
"I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit; and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. . ." D.H.C. 6:474-475
Test No. 2 is a case of suicidal literalism. By interpreting Deut. 18:20-22 in a very literal and all inclusive way, Decker concludes:
"A true prophet of God cannot utter a single false prophecy, no one! At no time can he give out a 'Thus saith the Lord' and have it not come to pass. . . If even one single one of these prophecies failed to come to pass, the scriptures call Joseph Smith a false prophet." p.30
Likewise, this would also be true if Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John, or any other person claiming to be a prophet makes a statement or prophecy that does not come to pass.
By this rigid, unyielding, and illogical criterion I will demonstrate from the Bible that Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul all fail in their attempts to measure up to Decker's great expectations.
First we will consider Moses, the great law giver who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament.
Moses in Gen. 17:1-14 states that God gave Abraham an everlasting covenant and that the token of that covenant was circumcision; which was also to be everlasting. Verse 14 indicates that any "man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant."
This is perfectly clear, but Paul rejects the everlasting quality of this covenant and indicates in Romans, chapter four and Galatians, chapter five, that circumcision availeth nothing. The covenant was not to be everlasting as predicted by Moses in his writings about Abraham. Moses said it was an everlasting covenant, Paul said it was not. Who was right?
Moses also predicted that the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood was to be an everlasting priesthood. (Numbers 25:10-14 and Exodus 40:12-15). Yet Paul says that the priesthood was changed. (Hebrews 7:12) If the Levitical Priesthood was to be everlasting, why was the priesthood changed? Where is the Levitical Priesthood today? In Judaism or Christianity? If one is locked into Decker's literalism and private interpretation, then Paul or Moses must be denounced as a false prophet.
According to Decker's "rule of thumb", Jeremiah also fails as a prophet. Jeremiah was so upset that his predictions weren't coming to pass that he called God a liar. (Jer. 15:18). If one is an extreme literalist, Jeremiah's prediction of the seventy years of captivity did not come to pass. It was less than seventy years. Jeremiah also predicted that King Zedekiah would die in peace and that odours would be burned for him. (Jer. 34:4-5). Instead, Zedekiah had his eyes put out, his children slaughtered, and he died in a Babylonian prison. On another occasion Jeremiah prophesied that King Jehoiakim "shall have none to sit upon the throne of David," (Jer. 36:30), and yet the very next king was Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim. See 1 Chron. 3:16 and Jer. 37:1. There are others, but according to Decker, one mistake and you are out, so Jeremiah is out.
Jesus prophesied that the only sign he would give the Pharisees concerning his resurrection would be the sign of Jonah, "for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12:39-40). If Christians can make this prophecy work, the Good Friday has to be changed to Good Thursday, however, since the Jewish day begins at sundown, make that Good Wednesday Evening.
It seems that Decker's literalism could leave us with very few prophets to worry about. I don't mind valid criticism of Joseph Smith, but I do dislike double standards. If Joseph Smith was human, and I believe he was, he was in good company. Lest someone misunderstand, I accept Moses and Jeremiah as prophets, and Jesus as the Christ; however, I do not accept the idea that prophets cannot make mistakes. Even Paul admitted to uncertainty at times when after giving counsel to prospective missionaries on the subject of marriage he said, "I think also that I have the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 7:40). And yet, I believe that most prophecies, if properly understood, are supportive of the above prophets we have considered.
Next, Decker takes Joseph Smith to task on four prophecies which he claims are false:
In the first two, as if he had never read Biblical prophecy, Decker insists upon an immediate fulfillment. Unless Joseph Smith's prophecies are immediately fulfilled, they are considered false. Yet there is Biblical precedent to show that some prophecies require more time than was expected to receive fulfillment. Isaiah's prophecy about a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a son whose name would be Immanuel was not completely fulfilled until approximately 700 years had passed away. (Isa. 7:14). It was given to be a sign to King Ahaz, but its fulfillment would not take place until the birth of Christ. Isaiah would not last long with Decker.
A time lag is noticeable in Jeremiah, who prophesied that the sins of King Manasseh would result in the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not destroyed for a number of years after the death of King Manasseh and his people. (Jer. 15:4).
Decker's interpretation of Joseph Smith's prophecy on war is forced and allows for little time interval. If we forced Biblical prophecy in a similar manner to Decker's handling of Section 87, it would prove to be false also. Take for example, Jacob's prophecy about the sceptre of Judah. He said that "the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Gen. 49:10). Interpreting this prophecy in Decker's manner, Shiloh, which is Christ, came approximately 4 B.C. Zedekiah was the last King of Judah holding the sceptre. He died about 575 B.C. Thus, the lawgiver departed from Judah about 600 years before the coming of Shiloh. Conclusion -- Jacob is a false prophet. Wrong! The interpretation is incorrect as is the interpretation Decker places on the prophecy on war. Now let us look at this prophecy on war with the same kind of justice we give the Bible.
War did begin in South Carolina and many lives were lost. Other nations did become involved in war and as time passed, many more nations became engaged until Great Britain did call upon other nations in World War I, and then war was poured out upon all nations. World War II followed closely upon the heels of World War I, and today the nations of the earth are preparing on a greater scale than ever before for World War III. Then, "after many days," (an expression in scripture to represent an undetermined amount of time), slaves shall rise up against their masters. This does not refer to the Negro slaves of the South during the Civil War, but to oppressed peoples from all over the world. These are those who are in political and economic slavery. It does not take a great deal of imagination in our own day to recognize the reality of this. Then the Lord will do what he has prophesied from the beginning. He will gather his remnant of Israel, Babylon shall marshal her forces, and then the last great battles will be fought as prophesied by John, Ezekiel, the Lord and many other Biblical prophets; until the "consumption decreed has made a full end of all nations." See also Jer. 47:28 and 51:20.
The prophecy concludes with the coming of the Lord, and the justice the earth deserves is meted out.
The flow of this prophecy on war is broken by Decker's interpretation, but the fulfillment is remarkable when it is observed as a general prophecy on war and not just a Civil War prophecy, as Decker attempts to make us believe. In its total perspective, this prophecy is equal in dimension and spirit to any of the Bible.
"THE GREASE SPOT PROPHECY" p. 34
Mr. Decker would profit greatly from Peter's advice that prophecy is not of private interpretation. (II Peter 1:20). If I were to use Decker's tactics on Christianity I can honestly say I would not be a Christian.
Let's analyze the prophecy. Joseph Smith said, if Congress does not bring justice to the Saints, "they shall be broken up as a government." "They" refers to Congress. Congress would be broken up as a government. In other words, those in office not voting in favor of the Saints would be broken up, or removed from office; not that the government of the United States, which Joseph considered to be inspired of God, would cease to exist. When Joseph says there won't be so much as a grease spot left, he does not mean the government of the United States; the "them" refers to the individual congressmen who will be removed from power.
B. H. Roberts, a Latter-day Saint historian, made this comment in reference to this prophecy:
"This prediction doubtless has reference to the party in power; to the 'government' considered as the administration; not to the 'government' considered as the country; but the administration party, the Democratic Party, which had controlled the destiny of the country for forty years. It is a matter of history that a few years later the party then in power lost control of the national government, followed by the terrible conflict of the Civil War. The party against which the above prediction was made so far lost its influence that it did not again return to power to a quarter of a century; and when it did return to power it was with such modified views as to many great questions of government, that it could scarcely be regarded as the same party except in name." D.H.C. 6:116
I might add that it was the 28th Congress that was in office when Joseph Smith made this prophecy. Of the 296 that served during this Congress, 177 were Democrats and 111 were Whigs. The 28th Congress ended on March 3, 1845. 86 Democrats lost their seat in government and 59 Whigs, plus 6 others, for a total of 151 Congressmen that did not return to government for the 29th Congress. At the end of the 29th Congress, 50 Democrats, 27 Whigs, and 2 others that were in office during the 28th and 29th Congress lost their seats in Congress. Thus, at the beginning of the 30th Congress in March of 1847, 230 of the original 296 were no longer in power. This amounts to 78 percent of Congress. By 1849, 88 percent of the 28th Congress were no longer in office and by 1851, just 8 years after Joseph's prophecy, 94 percent were gone.
It becomes apparent that the grease spot that was left was not very big. The 6 percent that remained in office may not have voted against the Saints anyway. Nonetheless, as the sins of Manasseh were slow in bringing justice, the Civil War may have been punishment enough for a modern day Israel.
The Lord has said, "And behold, I, the Lord declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not fail . . . all things must come to pass in their time." (Doctrine & Covenants 64:31-32)
JESUS' RETURN pp. 34-35
Once again it is the same tune, only the lyrics are again a verse or two short. It is true that Joseph Smith did lean towards 1890 -- the prophecy quoted by Decker was given in 1834 -- as a possible date for the return of the Lord, but he did not consider this to be infallible. As a matter of fact he was quite confused about the date, as he relates, but Decker forgets. Joseph Smith received the revelation pertaining to the 56 years, or 1890, in the following manner:
"I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
'Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.'
I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.
I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time."
Doctrine & Covenants 130:14-17
Since Joseph was born in 1805, this would have made the year when he would see the Savior as 1890, the same year as his 56 years prophecy. In his Journal History, Joseph commented on this revelation as follows:
"I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make His appearance or I shall go where He is." D.H.C. 5:336
Decker calls this an "exact prophecy." Who is he trying to fool? Joseph Smith never considered it to be such; why should Mr. Decker?
"WHO IS OLIVER GRANGER?" pp. 35-36
Decker calls this prophecy silly, of no importance, and false, unless three out of four Mormons can have a fond remembrance of Oliver Granger. He seems to think importance is determined by publicity.
"Oliver Granger was a man of faith and business ability -- two qualities which form a rare combination. He characterized the Kirtland Camp as the greatest undertaking since the organization of the Church, and he firmly believed that God would bless that endeavor. When the prophet fled from Kirtland, he appointed Granger his business agent, and so well did he perform this duty that he was commended by businessmen. At a conference held at Quincy, May 4th to 6th, 1839, he was appointed to return to Kirtland and take charge of the Temple and Church there. This makes the concluding verses of the Revelation perfectly clear. His is to be held in remembrance for his faithful services as a man of business, having sanctified his talent to the service of the Lord." Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenant Commentary, p. 746
If, however, Oliver Granger is suffering from lack of recognition, the prophecy has now been fulfilled by the wide distribution of "To Moroni With Love". Oliver Granger should become a household name, not only among the Latter-day Saints, but other Christians as well.
In spite of Decker's nonsense, Oliver Granger's name has been held in sacred remembrance. LDS historians and Granger's descendants have held his name sacred, if other Latter-day Saints have not. Oliver Granger died in 1841 in the service of the Lord. But most important is the fact that his name has been held in sacred remembrance by the Lord. That is more important than a great number of mortals remembering his works.
Historically, Squanto's name has been held in sacred honor also, but can three our of four Americans tell you who he is? His befriending of the Pilgrims will always be remembered, but probably not by great numbers. How many Christians can identify Lebbeus Thaddeus, yet his name is held in sacred remembrance as an apostle of the Lord. It seems that Decker is trying to squeeze the Lord's word so much that he is strangling the truth and straining at a gnat.
By the way, my scriptures do have a little note I had written in them extolling the virtues of Oliver Granger. This was before any comment from Decker. Perhaps I am one of the four who remember Oliver Granger, but at least his name is held in sacred remembrance.
"THE MORMON APOSTASY NOT SCRIPTURAL" pp. 36
Latter-day Saints believe that the Church was built upon the Petra and not the Petros, and that the gates of hell -- Hades, meaning the grave -- shall not prevail against it, but that belief does not preclude an apostasy, and certainly the scriptures do in fact speak of an apostasy.
The Apostle Paul said, that day -- Second Coming -- shall not come, except there be a falling away first. (II Thess. 2:3) The Greek word for "falling away" is apostasia, which is the same word used by the Savior in Matt. 5:31 for "bill of divorce." To translate "apostasia" as "falling away" is a little weak. What Paul was saying was that before the Second Coming a divorce would take place with the Church and the people and the Church would be taken away. That this was already happening in Paul's day is clear from the fact that he says, "the mystery of iniquity doth already work", verse 7; and by the time of John's epistle, the last hour for the Church to be upon the earth had arrived:
"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the anti-christ is coming even now many anti-christs have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18, New International Version)
The Epistles of Peter indicates the great trials that faced the Church and the short time there was left to perform their work. With the anti-christ prevailing, the Church did not survive long upon the earth. Thus the restoration spoken of by Paul was necessary before the earth would be ready for the return of Christ.
"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;
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
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." (Acts 3:19-21).
"THE MORMON PRIESTHOOD NOT SCRIPTURAL." pp. 37-38
I am certain that Mr. Decker would rather that we not read and understand the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. Chapter Seven of that Book explains the superiority of the gospel law over the law of Moses and the superiority of the Melchizedek Priesthood to the Levitical Priesthood. Notice chapter seven, verses eleven and twelve.
Christ was after the Order of Melchizedek. Observe that he was after the Order of Melchizedek. For there to be an order, a group of people must belong. The Greek word for "order" is taxis -- which means, "a fixed succession" or "manner". If Christ belonged to an "order" then Jesus was not the only one to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. He established an order of that priesthood in his day. It must be remembered that the New Testament is primarily a missionary tract and not a manual of discipline. Hence, there would be few occasions for the priesthood to be mentioned. The Book of Hebrews is one of those occasions.
Acts 1:3 indicates that during the 40 Day Ministry of Jesus, he taught his disciples those "things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Anyone who has studied the Apocryphal New Testament writings knows that Jesus taught his disciples sacred truths that they were forbidden to teach openly during this time period. These were, in addition to other doctrines, the sacred things pertaining to the priesthood and temples.
Tertullian, an ancient Christian father, said the apostle "had not revealed everything to everyone. That is to say they had entrusted some things publicly to all, but some in secret to a few." Hennecke, The New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2, p. 76.
In the Epistle of Peter to James, Peter says, "I earnestly beseech you not to pass on to any one of the Gentiles the books of my preaching which I forward to you, nor to any one of our own tribe before probation." Op. cit., p.111.
The Nag Hammadi Library, discovered about the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls, mentions ordinances that are in perfect agreement with ordinances performed in Mormon temples.
"JOSEPH THE POLYGAMIST" pp.40-43
Polygamy has always been a much maligned and misunderstood principle practiced by prophets of God besides Joseph Smith. Christians accept the polygamist Abraham, revere the polygamist Jacob, but condemn the polygamist Joseph Smith.
Polygamy was practiced anciently by those under the gospel law -- Abraham, (Gal. 3) -- as well as those under Mosaic Law -- Solomon and David, etc. Some practiced it righteously -- Abraham and Jacob -- and some practiced it not so righteously -- Solomon. But that did not make the principle wrong. If Abraham had live in the days of Joseph Smith he would have faced the same ridicule from his fellow Christians.
Before Christians condemn Joseph Smith they had better examine their own heritage. Jesus is a result of polygamy as is the entire House of Israel, God's covenant people. God established his covenant with polygamist Abraham and said that all nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his seed. Even Gentiles who accept the gospel and are baptized become the seed of Abraham by adoption. (Gal. 3:20). So all Christians claim lineage from a polygamist family.
It is true that the Church denied the practicing of polygamy before they came to Utah, but I also remember Abraham and Isaac denied that Sarah and Rebecca were their wives when they went into foreign lands for fear of the Kings. History has recorded what modern day Pharaohs did to Mormons who practiced polygamy. Had Abraham lived in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, he would have found it necessary to deny that Sarah, or Hagar, or Keturah, was his wife in order not to be persecuted again. However, at the time the Church denied practicing polygamy, the Church, as such, was indeed not practicing plural marriage since only a few of the leaders at that time were commanded to live the principle. The commandment to practice plural marriage had not come to the general body of the Church. That did not take place until later.
"A LIE IS A LIE" p. 43
Decker says that "a lie is a lie is a lie, and when it comes out of the mouth of a man proclaimed to be a prophet of God, that man is sent not of God, neither has God command him." (p.43)
"Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
But he denied them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him. Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly." (Matt. 26:69-75).
"A LIE IS A LIE IS A LIE AND WHEN IT COMES OUT OF THE MOUTH OF A MAN PROCLAIMED TO BE A PROPHET OF GOD, THAT MAN IS SENT NOT OF GOD, NEITHER HAS GOD COMMANDED HIM."
It is unfortunate that Peter, the man Jesus commissioned to "feed his sheep," who was compared to the Petra as a Petros, cannot be accepted as a prophet. But, a lie is a lie is a lie. Thus by Decker's own standards we must reject both Christianity and the Latter-day Saints. But neither Christianity nor the Latter-day Saints are at fault, only Decker's basis for judgment.
Decker concludes his pamphlet by stating that the LDS Church must be either totally correct or totally wrong. It is his belief that we are totally wrong. If that is the case then the fruits of Mormonism must be evil, since an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. (Matt. 7:15-19). This is the test the Savior recommends in the New Testament. Then why is it that the Mormons do so well in so many areas? Compared to other Christians they certainly love the Lord as much, give of their time and talents as much, take care of their own and others as much, love their families as much, they are as honest and humble, and have as much faith, they study the scriptures as much, but they don't spend as much time writing anti-Protestant and Catholic articles. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has produced a virtuous, wholesome, and honest people that are as comparable as any other Christian group, or better. If they are evil, then why are their fruits good?
Regardless of the above, I disagree with Decker's conclusion. The gospel is totally true, but Latter-day Saints are human, as are other Christians. Being human, they are subject to error just as Peter was in error when he denied Christ; or Moses when the Lord sought to kill him for not circumcising his son; or Jonah, who didn't want to preach to Nineveh, or Aaron, who built the golden calf; or the disciples of the Lord who disputed over which of them was the greatest; or as Peter and Paul when they disputed over circumcision. Yet their human qualities did not contradict their prophetic callings, not their righteous deeds.
Being challenged by other Christians is not a new experience for the LDS people. Perhaps it makes us stronger. It was said best by a Church leader who said, "A stately horse, when stung by a fly is still a stately horse and the fly is still a fly. . ."
Where are the prophets today? Jesus cautioned those of the last days to beware of false prophets, yet with this caution is the implication that there would be true prophets. Where are they? Who are they? Despite what anti-Mormon articles claim, an objective study of the life of Joseph Smith indicates that he has accomplished the same things the prophets of old accomplished. Unfortunately, if we can accept only Ed Decker's "perfect" prophets, the only hope would be Jesus. We believe in that hope as much as he does, but the Church was built upon the foundation of Apostles and prophets -- Eph. 2:19-22 -- and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be that Church. The challenge of the LDS Church is that prophets do live in our day. If one is to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet they had better do more than just listen to the Ed Deckers who seemingly reject all prophets. Jesus and his disciples had opposition also. They had their Deckers and Tanners and Frasers and Martins. And those who listened to their arguments and accusations also rejected Jesus and his apostles and prophets. This is not a new phenomenon. Remember that false prophets will always condemn the true ones.
I bear you my witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe this witness, or the witness of any other sincere Latter-day Saint, deserves an objective study. Those who choose to ignore this witness may be as foolish as those who chose to listen to the anti-Christs but rejected the ancient apostles and prophets.
What do you really know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? It isn't so much what we don't know that hurts us as what we know that "ain't" so.
GRACE AND WORKS:
Historically Roman Catholicism has considered grace to be a power conveyed through the sacraments by which justification and sanctification are achieved. Thus faith and works go hand in hand.
The Protestants have more or less believed that the sinner upon belief in Christ activates grace, his sins are forgiven and he is justified. Works then follows the believer as a natural result of his redemption.
Although I can't speak authoritatively for the LDS Church, my understanding is as follows:
Salvation, in any of its capacities or levels, comes by grace, but judgment comes by works. These two principles are harmonious and complement each other. Judgment is not robbed by grace and grace is not nullified by judgment. The two go hand in hand. Grace is an important to the Latter-day Saint as it is to the Protestant or Catholic and it is certainly harmonious with what is taught in the scriptures.
Listed below are a number of scriptures that will help you understand this much-debated subject. It whould become apparent that the LDS understanding of the relationship between grace and works is not heretical.
Rom. 8:1, 5-10, 12-19
I Cor. 3:8
I Cor. 6:9
I Cor. 9:24-27
I Cor. 11:2, 29-30
I Cor. 15:58
II Cor. 5:10
II Thess. 1:11
I Tim. 6:18-20
II Tim. 3:15-17
I Peter 4:17-18
II Peter 2:20-21
I John 2:4, 6, 29
Rev. 2:7, 11, 17