Monday, November 19, 2007

The Bible vs. Mormon Beliefs: A Side-By-Side Comparison

With a candidate for President who is a professing Mormon, it would be good to know what Mormons believe. This isn't a statement about anyone's fitness to serve as President--neither an endorsement nor condemnation--that decision is between you and your God. Making a prayerful, informed decision in such matters, however is crucial. I ran across this article and thought I would pass it on. Sooner or later some fellows on a bicycle will pedal up your driveway and seek to peddle their heresy. So, being forewarned is to be forearmed!

Written by Rob Phillips

What the Bible says about Jesus vs. what Mormonism says about Jesus:

The Bible

--He is the virgin-born Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:34-35).
--Jesus "was born in the same personal, real and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 547, 742)
--"Let it not be forgotten, that He is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or first born; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father …" (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 426).

The Bible
--Satan is a created - and fallen - angel (Isaiah 14:12).
--"Lucifer - this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind." (Milton R. Hunter of the First Council of Seventy, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15)

The Bible
--Jesus did not marry.
--"Jesus was the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana - We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into relation whereby he could see his seed." (Orson Hyde, apostle, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 82)

The Bible
--Jesus is the foundation of the true church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 4:11-12; Colossians 1:18).
--Joseph Smith: "I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." (History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 408-9)

The Bible
--Jesus is the judge of all (John 5:22).
--"No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith … Every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, Junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289)

The Bible
--Jesus is the one who resurrects all (John 5:28-29).
--Joseph Smith will receive the keys of the resurrection. "If we ask who will stand at the head of the resurrection in this last dispensation, the answer is - Joseph Smith, Junior, the Prophet of God. He is the man who will be resurrected and receive the keys of the resurrection, and he will seal this authority upon others, and they will hunt up their friends and resurrect them." (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 116).

The Bible
--Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the Creator, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1:1-13).
--A "council of the Gods" created the world. "In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it … In all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 308, 474).

What the Bible says about the Holy Spirit vs. what Mormonism says about the Holy Spirit:

The Bible
--The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the triune Godhead (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19-20).
--Joseph Smith taught that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit "constitute three distinct personages and three Gods." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370)

The Bible
--The Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son (Acts 5:1-11).
--The Father has a body of flesh and bones. So does the Son. But the Holy Ghost is "a personage of spirit." (Doctrines and Covenants 130:22)

The Bible
--The Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost are two Biblical names for the same person.
--"The Holy Ghost … is a personage distinct from the Holy Spirit. As a personage, the Holy Ghost cannot any more than the Father and the Son be everywhere present in person." (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 76).

The Bible
--The Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost is God (Acts 5:3-4).
--"The Holy Ghost is yet a spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body as the Saviour did or as the gods before them took bodies." (Joseph Smith, April 6, 1843; see Discourses on the Holy Ghost compiled by N.B. Lundwall, p. 73)

What the Bible says about the Gospel of Jesus Christ vs. what Mormonism says about the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

The Bible
--Christ’s death at Calvary paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in the Person and work of Jesus (John 3:16, 5:24; Romans 4:4-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
--Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection made it possible for mankind to be resurrected, but "men will be punished for their own sins." (Article of Faith #2 by Joseph Smith). Through the atonement of Christ "all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel." (Article of Faith #3 by Joseph Smith)

--"There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 670)
--"Baptism … is for the remission of sins … (and) is the gate to the celestial kingdom of heaven." (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 70)
--There is "no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith … No man can eject that testimony without accepting most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, p. 188)

The Bible
--The Bible teaches that at death, man’s eternal destiny is fixed in one of two places: heaven or hell (Luke 16:19-31).
--Virtually all men are saved in "General Salvation … meaning resurrection." (Contributions of Joseph Smith by Stephen L. Richards, p. 5)
--Then, based on works, all men will spend eternity in one of three levels of heaven - telestial, terrestrial or celestial. A few "sons of perdition" will not be saved/resurrected.

The Bible
--All men are sinners by nature and by volition (Romans 3:23, 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
--There is no such thing as original sin. All men are gods in embryo. "God and man are of the same race, differing only in their degrees of advancement." (Apostle John Widtsoe, Rational Theology, p. 61)

The Bible
--There is no second chance for salvation after death (Hebrews 9:27).
--Mormons may be baptized on behalf of the dead for their salvation. "If a man cannot enter the kingdom of God without baptism, then the dead must be baptized." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. II, p. 141)

The Bible
--Once a person is justified, his or her salvation is eternally secure, based on the finished work of Christ at Calvary and the faithfulness of God (John 5:24, 10:27-30; Romans 4:21, 8:28-39; Hebrews 7:25, 10:14; 1 Peter 1:1-5).
--Believers must do works to earn a level of heaven and risk losing their position in that heaven if they are not faithful in service. For example, failure to marry in an LDS church will "damn" persons so that their eternal progression will be stopped short of godhood. (See Doctrine and Covenants 132:16-20)

The Bible
--Each individual is a unique created person whose beginning came at the moment of conception; after death, that person retains his or her personhood and spends eternity in heaven or hell.
--Each individual has four stages of life (eternal progression): 1. Eternally existing intelligence. 2. Pre-mortal spirit born by procreation of God and one of his wives. 3. Mortal probation (present life on earth). 4. Post-mortal status that depends on works done in this life. Eternity is spent in one of three heavens: telestial (everyone makes it at least this far); terrestrial (good and religious folk make it here); and celestial (only Mormons who have fulfilled the requirements for godhood make it here).


Starting To Learn said...

Most of what is stated here as Mormon beliefs, are just one statement attributed to one early church leader. The person compiling this list has ignored the actual teachings of the church that can be easily studied at and, in favor of early theological speculations that have been repeated for years by those opposing the church.

Here is just one of many examples: The list states that Mormons believe that Joseph Smith will be the key to the resurrection, but here is a direct quote from the official church website, on the actual belief of the church:

"Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Under the direction of your Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the earth (John 1:10; Hebrews 1:1–2). Through His Resurrection, Jesus Christ overcame death for you. Everyone, the righteous and wicked alike, will receive the gift of resurrection. When life on this earth is over, Jesus Christ will serve as the final Judge ( Acts 17:31; John 5:21–22; Acts 10:42)."

Just a brief, honest investigation into the teachings and doctrines of the Mormon church from their own websites will demonstrate just how incorrect most of the statements in your post are.

Dennis Thurman said...

What a great user name! "starting to learn." I hope that means you are open to learning. No one can teach someone anything, if they already know it all. My prayer is that you are not just scouring the blogosphere, looking for blogs that question Mormonism, leaving your comments from an already made-up mind. I publish your comments in hope that you will read my response and give it thoughtful consideration.

First, you seem to indicate that the statements of Mormon beliefs are not correct because they are attributed to what you call, "one statement attributed to one early church leader." I am sure you did not mean that, because there are statements from a wide array of Mormon authorites, including several from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, leading lights of LDS. The quotes are accurate and so what is taught must be compared to the Bible. If these men did indeed say these things, why would you deny their authority? Do you consider them to be "false prophets"? That would be the case if their statements are untrue.

Thanks for the invitation to go on the official Mormon websites--which I did. Some of it sounds OK, and some of it does not--though it is very subtle--much like the serpent's words to Eve, "did God say?" They have done a good PR job to cover their ideas with "Christian" vocabulary.
There's a huge issue in discussing these doctrines. Mormons use the same words, but they have a different meaning. When Mormons say God is the Heavenly Father--do most people know that they are claiming that He has a body (which Scripture denies--God is Spirit--He is omnipresent--kind of tough for someone in a body) and that He is producing literal offspring through intercourse? When you say Jesus is the Son of God, would people know (and do you know) that means God had sex with the virgin Mary to produce Jesus (according to Brigham Young)? Of course, that would mean she wasn't a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. God the Father had a father--there are many gods--there is a mother god--and spirit children are produced (by the way, Lucifer is one of those offspring--Jesus' brother). I could go on and on and on--investigate it yourself.

There is not a scrap of evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon--another testament of Jesus Christ--as it's called. Nothing in archeology has ever been found to prove it; nothing in history to corroborate it. If the Book of Mormon is true then why do Native Americans not turn white when they become Mormons? (2 Nephi 30:6, before the 1981 revision). Since we can become gods ourselves--why is Moroni an angel and not a god like good Mormons become? (Doctrines and Covenants 132:17,37). Mormonism holds out the promise given to Eve in the garden--that we can become like god. That is the lie she bought into--Adam followed and all the misery we see on earth is a consequence of that folly.
There are curses promised in Revelation to those who add to God's Word, which Mormonism does. Paul called those who would preach another gospel, "anathema." The Apostle warned us not to believe it even if an angel from heaven should bring it. We might note that holds true even if that angel is called Moroni. He said of those who preach another gospel, "Let them be accursed." Mormonism is another gospel, which is no gospel at all.

That is just a brief, honest investigation that scratches the surface of Mormon deception. My prayer is that you will recognize the incompatibility of Mormonism and Biblical faith--come to the real Jesus, not the pseudo-savior of LDS.

Starting To Learn said...

I also appreciate your willingness to respond to my comment rather than just brush it off. While I am quite confident and comfortable in my current beliefs, I also am interested learning about in the beliefs of others and in civil religious dialog.

What I was trying to convey in my initial comment to this blog was that many people form their opinion about the Mormon church based on books and pamphlets that were written by people that have an agenda. For example, Walter Martin’s books “Kingdom of the Cults” and “The Maze of Mormonism” are mostly just a compilation of quotes from prior anti-Mormon books which quoted earlier anti-Mormon literature, which usually was ultimately written by an early disaffected Mormon. When I read both of these books and others, I don’t see anything that resembles what I believe. One problem that Evangelical Christians have when witnessing to Mormons, is that they usually say, “What you believe is ….” It’s strange to have someone tell you that you believe something that you don’t – that you were never taught. The concept that there is some “secret” doctrine that Mormon’s don’t know about is crazy to me. If the official Mormon literature doesn’t include it; if I, and all of the other Mormons that I know don’t believe it and were never taught it, then obviously it must not be a Mormon belief.

For example, you say that I believe that God had sex with Mary. I don’t. I have never been taught that and you won’t find it in any of the Church scripture or other curriculum. I do believe that Jesus is the Son of God as it very plainly (and often) states in the scriptures. I don’t know exactly how Jesus became the Son of God, except that he was begotten (again as stated in scripture). Jesus is the Son of God and now sits on the right hand of God. He only does what he has seen His Father do. So, even though there is an obvious father-son relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ throughout the scriptures, Mormon theology does not include a requirement to believe any such thing as you stated. Some earlier leaders and members of the church may have speculated on how the virgin birth was accomplished, but the scripture only talks of the Holy Ghost coming upon her and the power of the Highest overshadowing her. Mormons are required to believe nothing more.

You also said that Mormons have done a good PR job to cover their belief with Christian vocabulary. That again seems ridiculous to me. I am hearing and using the same vocabulary that I have throughout my life. The only new thing I have noticed is an effort on behalf of the church to try to point out similarities in doctrines with other faiths, of which I think that there are many. If I were to list the things that I believe about Jesus, I’m certain that you and I would be in nearly complete agreement. Even the belief that often seems so troubling to other Christians might be more similar than first thought (especially if that first thought came from the anti-Mormon literature). For example, you likely believe that there is one God manifest in three persons. I believe that there are three persons that constitute the one God. If I asked you how it is that Jesus sits on the right hand of God if they are one substance, or any number of other questions that arise in a reading of the scriptures, you would likely say that our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite God. If you would ask me how the three distinct persons of the Godhead are “one God” as it says in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, I would probably have to give a similar answer.

I don’t want this post to be too long (maybe it’s already a little late for that), but I did want to give an honest response, since you did. I could address all of the other issues you brought up, and would be happy to do so if you would like. The bottom line for me is that it hurts to be called non-Christian when you know in your heart how much you worship and love Jesus Christ. It is also very frustrating to have people tell you what you believe when it is not true at all. According to the creeds, there is only one Christian Church – the Catholic Church. Does that make all of rest of us who worship Jesus Christ non-Christian?

Dennis Thurman said...

Good to hear from you again. I noticed it was in the "wee hours" of the morning that you posted this--so, I would conclude that you are most sincere and earnest about your beliefs.

Forgive me if I came across as "ridiculing" you--that was not my intent. Believe me--I can be sarcastic (not a good thing by any means) but hopefully I am doing better on that front.

Let me jump in right where you started--this business of agendas. You noted that writers like Walter Martin and other anti-Mormons have an agenda, and of course they do--as do you and I. That is true of the LDS website. We all practice "PR"--certainly our church does. We want to put the best face on for the public and that's not a bad thing, unless it masks another intent.

So, my comments have a definte agenda and I will be upfront about it. They are directed toward three audiences (seems to be a popular number!).

The first audience is the one made up of those who are unprepared to meet God. Some of them are overtly engaged in wickedness, some are atheists, some are the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, and others are religious, moral, good citizens, and even belong to a Baptist church! Some might think I am so narrow-minded that I think only Baptists are going to heaven--but I am more narrow than that--I don't think all of them are going!

There was a time in my life that I believed all the historic doctrines of Christianity, was a church member and regular attender. I knew the Bible stories and believed that Christ died on the cross, rose from the dead--that there was a heaven and a hell, but was also sure that I was going to miss the former and spend eternity in the latter. Scripture teaches that faith without works is dead--and there was a disconnect between the facts of the Gospel in my head which I acknowledged and the living Lord that I denied sovereignty over my will. Though many were instrumental in sowing the seed of eternal life in my heart--it was the pursuit of the Holy Spirit--it was the grace of God alone that brought me to my knees.

The most loving thing I can do for a Baptist, a Mormon, a Roman Catholic--you name it, is share what Christ has done for me in hopes they will experience the same. If you are truly seeking the truth, it is because God's Spirit has drawn you. How loving would it be for me to allow you to head down the wrong path, if I know better? I refuse to give people a pat on the back on the way to hell. The love of Christ constrains me otherwise. I am convinced that LDS is such a dead-end.

A second audience I am trying to reach is the one comprised of church members who may have had a spiritual birth, and so are going to heaven when they die, but there has been no growth in grace and knowledge. They are immature and need to be fed sound doctrine. Evangelism and discipleship are two sides of the same coin of the Great Commission. I have a duty to teach. Christians need to be equipped to know what they believe and why they believe it and be able to articulate it to others.

The third Audience I address is the most important One--a Holy God--the One I will stand before and give account for every word that I speak (or write). Words have such power! We would not be engaged in this activity, if it were not so. I know that I have sometimes said stupid things--you clearly believe I have gone over the top--and so I entreat your forgiveness for the tone you have perceived that I took.

You may not believe some of the things I referenced. Some of what I said, you may not have been taught. It surely is no "secret" for these statements can be documented. But, still you must come to grips with this--did these leaders (apostles and prophets) speak authoritatively for God? Is that not what they claimed? If so--why would their teachings be rejected because someone is uncomfortable with those doctrines? I don't want to hang Warren Jeffs and the teaching of polygamy as an albatross around your neck--I know that view of marriage is not the "official" view now, but that it once was taught and is sometimes practiced by "fundamentalists" of Mormonism is clear. You didn't answer my question about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young--were they not pillars in LDS, and should we not hold their teaching as authoritative over what LDS believes?

I hope you will address several other issues I raised. You were just trying to be brief (as you stated). This is clearly not something I am doing! Hey--it's my blog!

"Starting to learn":
You seem hurt that someone would say that a Mormon is not a Christian. Your words seem to say that you believe the historic creeds of the church. You believe in one catholic church--so do I. But that brings up another problem with LDS. I would be viewed by them as an apostate--our "church" preaches heresy.

Consider this in closing this "sermon" (sorry, it's what preachers do): both of us could be wrong; one of us could be right and one of us could be wrong; but it is impossible for both of us to be right, for what Mormonism and evangelical Christians teach cannot be reconciled. I'm not talking about "denominationalism" where we argue some of the finer points of theology--like modes of baptism, church polity, and the like--which, though having some importance, are not core issues. I am talking about the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, the authority of Scripture--the heart of true faith. These are not negotiable.

Starting To Learn said...

I hesitate to use up too much of your blog space, but again I’m happy to try to respond to your statements and/or discuss matters of doctrine. I’m not sure if you want to continue to extend these comments. You’ll have to let me know.

I appreciate your remarks on your approach to sharing the gospel with the three audience types. I too believe that a true disciple of Christ will share the gospel with others and try to help them to come unto Christ and learn more of Him.

I’d like to respond to the question that you brought up again concerning statements attributed to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (and others, I’m sure.)

Members of the LDS church do indeed consider Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to be prophets in the same sense as the Biblical prophets. Under the right conditions, their words would be considered as scripture to us. What are those conditions?

The first and main condition is rooted in the scripture found in 2 Corinthians 13:1, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” For a statement made by one prophet to be in effect binding on members of the church, it needs to be sustained by one or more other prophets. We take that approach to all statements of the prophets including those in scripture. Many of the statements attributed to the early leaders of the Mormon Church were never validated and thus are not part of our beliefs, yet many outside the church try to force us to admit that they are “core” beliefs.

It is also generally accepted in the church that unless a prophet specifically states that his statement is to be taken as scripture, it is instead taken as good and insightful advice.

The vast majority of the quotes of early leaders of the church in such texts as Martin’s are taken from the “Journal of Discourses.” This 26 volume set is a compilation of addresses given by the early leaders of the church, primarily Brigham Young. Church members don’t consider this set scripture, nor do we depend on it for our doctrine. At times, later leaders have taken quotes from it for use and re-emphasis. As certain statements from the volumes are reiterated by later prophets, they become binding as described above.

Another problem with the JoD is that there were no recording devices available at that time and the talks that church leaders gave were not written out in advance. Most of the time the talks were transcribed by hand by scribes as the speaker spoke impromptu. That technique, of course, didn’t always lead to a completely accurate rendering of what was said. Brigham Young himself said that unless he had opportunity to review and re-publish his remarks, there were not to be taken as scripture. So, many times when someone says that Mormons believe such and such because Brigham Young taught it, he most like actually never did. He might have said it in an address, and he might not have. In any case, if the belief or doctrine does not continue to be taught, then it is not a part of Mormon doctrine. Many of the points you originally raised fit that category. You were ascribing something to be the Mormon belief of “some topic” when it really isn’t.

I hope that you can see that attacking a so-called aspect of Mormon theology that isn’t actually taught or believed by Mormons is kind of a waste of time and energy. If, on the other hand, you want to take issue with something like the actual Mormon belief that God has a body of flesh and bone, it might be a more productive discussion. I’m certain that there a number of valid points of doctrine that could be discussed.

If you would like to continue the discussion, I think it would be helpful if you would allow me to respond to the valid ones and not so much on the invalid (but very sensational) ones. I would be glad to point out which are which, but anyone could determine which are which by looking for the teaching or doctrine on the official church websites, and If they’re not there, then they’re not being taught or believed.

Dennis Thurman said...

Oh, I don't mind at all the length of your comments--mine are not brief! But, today my response will be brief because the turkey is about done and it is my duty to carve it. On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for many things--but above all: the sovereignty of God--in a world seeming out of control, He is firmly in control; the sufficiency of Christ--He is the only Way of salvation and He is enough; the simplicity of the Gospel--genuine faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is enough to save us from sin; the authority of Scripture--I don't have to wonder and waver about eternity for the Bible is the Word of God. I hope you can rejoice in that today as well.

Let me cut to the chase. If you are indeed a "learner" who is seeking answers, I would be glad to continue the discussion. If you are a Mormon "missionary" intent on "converting" me or using this blog as a backdoor attempt at propagating LDS teaching, then our dialogue would be unfruitful. That is not an accusation. It is merely a question. I have been upfront with you--if you are a Mormon and believe what Mormons believe then my intent is to call you to "salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone."

Please, don't hear me saying that I am charging you with wrong motives in your response. I just want to know what they are. The reason I must ask is that there are many who read this blog who never offer any comments--and it is my duty to guard our flock from "wolves" dressed in sheep's clothing.

That sounds harsh I know, but it is not meant that way. Had we opportunity to sit down at a cafe and have a discussion together, it would be much simpler to read body language, tone of voice, etc.--none of which come through in type.

So, what do you want to accomplish through this discussion? That will help us to know where we go from here.

One more thing I am thankful for--the opportunity you have given me to share with you what Christ has done for me. Now, I've got to carve a turkey!

Starting To Learn said...

Sorry to post into your Thanksgiving activities. I likewise had a little turkey carving to look forward to and tried to get my post finished before things got underway.

I’ll respond to your “chase cutting.” I am indeed a learner and am always seeking truth and am interested in beliefs other than my own. To be completely honest, my motive in this dialog isn’t to try to convert you. From these and other posts that you’ve done, you seem quite certain and comfortable in your beliefs, as I am in mine. I also didn’t come into this dialog with the intent to use your blog space as a forum for LDS teaching. What I hoped to accomplish was to try to correct some of the statements made in the initial post that are not at all what Mormons believe, especially those indicating that we don’t believe that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.

I appreciate that you have been very fair in allowing me to respond. As I have mentioned earlier, I would be happy to respond to any of the initial statements if you would like. If not, I will obviously respect that wish.

I would also be interested to pose some questions to you – not to put you on the defensive or to try to entrap or accuse, but rather to help me better understand what Christians like yourself actually believe on certain topics. One such topic that you brought up is the concept of salvation. As I currently understand your theology, you believe that Salvation comes through accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. How exactly does that work? I have heard Christians say that they just have to come forward and confess Jesus as their Savior. From that point, they are saved. Is that true? What if they then later turn far from His teachings or curse His name? Are they still saved, or were they never actually saved in the first place? I have heard some of my Christian friends say that they were saved when they were 12 years old (they went forward at a church to be saved). Is there an age limit? Could a 4 year-old come forward and do the same? Any insight you could give would be helpful.

As I said, if you would like to continue a dialog, I’d be happy to participate. If not, I understand that as well. I know that you view Mormons as misguided at best, and perhaps as worse than that. I just view myself as a humble follower of Christ and view you as the same. I have read, studied, prayed and pondered and have taken the path that I have taken. I’m confident that you have done the same. I have respect for your opinions and beliefs and would hope that you could have the same for mine.

Dennis Thurman said...

Hope you enjoyed the turkey--I sure did! Based on what you've shared I see no reason not to continue the discussion. After all, isn't that what this forum is designed for?

Since I have something even more important than preparing a turkey (preparing a sermon) I'm going to make a beeline to your questions.
The Bible teaches that salvation is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But as to the matter of "accepting" Jesus Christ--that is not really a biblical term. The New Testament speaks of those who "receive" Him. Well-meaning Christians do use the word "accept" and I'm sure that's where you've heard it. Listen to John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (New King James Version)

I became a child of God, not by virtue of a physical birth into the human family, but by virtue of a spiritual birth--a second birth into the family of God.

You recall a man of extraordinary religious zeal, knowledge and morality (he could have made a "good" Mormon or Baptist from a human perspective--he had all the qualities) named Nicodemus wanted to know how it was possible to have a second birth--a spiritual one subsequent to the physical one (see John 3:5-10). Jesus goes on to explain that the new birth happens through belief in Him (John 3:11-21). This is regeneration and apart from that one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. That is clear. It is also clear that the new birth isn't about coming forward in a church service and confessing Christ. Walking down an aisle in a church no more makes a person a Christian than walking down a freeway would make us an automobile. Many have genuinely received Christ as a result of coming forward in a church service and praying for salvation--but it is their faith and not the ritual that saves them. I was born again--not in a church, but in the woods!

We should confess Christ--but demons did--calling Him the Son of God, and they were not "saved" because of it. Judas professed to being a follower of Christ, but was of the devil. Even good religious folks apart from a new birth are not children of God. Jesus said of them, "You are of your father the devil..." (John 8:44).

Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone. That is the thrust of the entire book of James. It is inconceivable that a person could have an experience so radical as to be called a new birth and it not produce transformation(see 2 Cor.5:17). The visible expression of this is repentance--a reorienting of our lives from sin and self--the self-centered life and submitting instead to Jesus Christ as Lord. Certainly, this would lead us to publicly confess Him (Rom.10:9-10,13) lest He one day be ashamed of us! (Matt.10:32-33) If the Spirit of God indwells us (and this is true for every one who receives Christ and has a spiritual birth, (Rom.8:9-17; 1 Cor.2:11-12;12:12-13) then He will make a difference now and in eternity.

What about those who "fall away"? Scripture is again clear--many verses could be cited, but this one sums it up, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (1 John 2:19 NKJV).

As to children--Jesus taught that we have to become as little children to enter the kingdom. That is, we must have a "child-like" faith that simply trusts in the Father. Jesus told us not to forbid the children to come to Him, for of such are the kingdom of God. Could a 4 year old be truly converted? Possibly--but unlikely--I have had a couple of exceptional 5 year olds that I was comfortable in baptizing after questioning them thoroughly--but were they saved? I cannot see into their hearts. Paul commended Timothy for the sincere faith that was his from childhood (2 Tim.1:5,9,12-14;3:14-15). What I do know is that if one trusts in Christ at a young age, they will in adulthood reaffirm their commitment to Christ--Paul had seen that in Timothy. It was true of Moses' faith,(Heb.11:24-26).

Now, what you need to do is not just swallow this or what any other "Christian" says. Check me out according to the Word of God before you "accept" what I say (Acts 17:11).