Archive for the ‘LDS’ Category

Serapion on Addition to Scripture
June 1, 2009

Serapion, bishop of Antioch

Serapion, bishop of Antioch

Serapion, bishop of Antioch at the turn of the third century, has no extant writing outside of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. He gave Christians at Rhossus permission to read the [now apocryphal] Gospel of Peter in their meeting, but, upon reviewing the gospel, changed his mind. Here is his summary reason:

Since we have been furnished with this gospel…, we have been able to go through it and find many things of the correct word of the Savior, but also some things which were added, which we arrange for you below.1

Compare the words of those who stole the 116 pages:

“And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them” (D&C 10:17).

Also the revelation given to Joseph Smith concerning the OT Apocrypha:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men (D&C 91:1–2).

Now, lest anyone jump on me for “parallel-o-mania,” I bring up these parallels only to note 1) that the similarity exists, and 2) to put forth questions.

For instance, does this view of “heretical” gospels exists elsewhere among the early Church fathers? If so, in what context? Why did Serapion choose to highlight the dual nature of the writing instead of denouncing the entire thing as a heresy?


1. Eusebius. Hist. Eccl. 6.12.3–6. Translation is mine. In context, Serapion mentions that he obtained the gospel from the successors of the Docetists, who were using the gospel, and whose doctrine the gospel exemplified. Here is the Greek:

ἐδυνήθημεν γὰρ παρ᾿ ἄλλων τῶν ἀσκησάντων αὐτὸ τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, τοῦτ᾿ ἐστὶν παρὰ τῶν διαδόχων τῶν καταρξαμένων αὐτοῦ, οὓς Δοκητὰς καλοῦμεν (τὰ γὰρ πλείονα φρονήματα ἐκείνων ἐστὶ τῆς διδασκαλίας), χρησάμενοι παρ᾿ αὐτῶν διελθεῖν καὶ εὑρεῖν τὰ μὲν πλείονα τοῦ ὀρθοῦ λόγου τοῦ σωτῆρος, τινὰ δὲ προσδιεσταλμένα, ἃ καὶ ὑπετάξαμεν ὑμῖν.

Nicodemus, Harold Attridge, and Mormons
May 22, 2009

BYU has long televised its Scripture Discussions on KBYU and BYUTV, in which four religion professors discuss some passage of scripture at length. Well, Yale Divinity School has done the same thing with Yale Bible Study, a series of discussions on selected New Testament books between Dean Harold Attridge and Emeritus Professor David Barlett. Since Attridge wrote an excellent commentary on Hebrews and since I’ll be attending YDS in the Fall, I thought I’d check it out. Part of what makes it a good series is the comparison of perspectives from a Baptist (Barlett) and a Catholic (Attridge). The series on Luke is my favorite so far, but you can watch them all via their Youtube channel.

I was folding laundry while listening to the Gospel of John series in the background when the word “Mormons” made me sit up straight and pay attention. Watch from 10:52 to 12:20.

Barlett’s comparison of Attridge’s hypothetical conversion to Nicodemus’ being born again is sound, and I love his point about the meaning of “born again.” I was also impressed by his accurate understanding of the Book of Mormon’s relationship to the Bible, even apparently without much experience with Mormonism (“Sisters and Brothers in Moroni?” wha…?).

As an added point of context, apparently the New Haven ward is, in fact, almost around the corner from Yale Divinity School.

Best Gay Mormon Blog on the Internet
January 1, 2009

The title of this post has to be qualified a little bit, because I am wholly unacquainted with the gay blogging landscape. But when I stumbled across Soy Made Me Gay, I was really interested. Here was Clint, a gay Mormon, who had chosen to take the church’s counsel and remain celibate. I’m sure Clint would loathe to be compared to Abraham, but I can’t help drawing parallels with the faith required to sacrifice Isaac. Clint shares his own disarmingly honest feelings about his own homosexuality and shares some really valuable advice for straight Mormons with gay friends and/or relatives (which, let’s face it, is or will be all of us).

Sadly, he announced today that he will no longer be posting to his blog. I hope this only a temporary hiatus. His voice is a much needed perspective among so many which either cast the LDS church and homosexuals as two groups antithetical by definition, or else identify as Mormon but prefer to ignore the counsel of General Authorities.

The Great Apostasy: Changing Views in Mormonism (part 1)
December 22, 2008

One of the most fundamental Mormon doctrines is that which was first communicated to Joseph Smith through theophany: that none of his contemporary churches were true, because, according to God himself (to quote both Isaiah 29:13 and 2 Tim. 3:5):

They were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed [Joseph] said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (Joseph Smith-History 19)

Couple this with the sixth Article of Faith:

We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, namely apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists and so forth.

From these statements we have deduced the Great Apostasy: that somewhere between the time that Jesus founded his church (another doctrine in Mormonsim) and the time that Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray, the Christian church as a whole apostatized from the true Gospel of Christ. Essential doctrines were lost and the authority of stewardship over God’s economy was taken off the earth in such a way that it could in no way be regained except through direct agency of God himself (i.e. a human “reformation” as through Martin Luther and others was not enough). The result was a Christianity that primitive Christians would have difficulty recognizing. This deduction has been confirmed by various heavenly messengers who have restored key doctrines and authorities taken from the earth when the above mentioned apostasy occurred. (more…)

Christians’ Rejection of the Bible
December 17, 2008

We Mormons are often accused of rejecting the Bible because we do not interpret it the same way as historic Christians. But what about the rest of Christianity? Surely there are some evangelicals and other conservative groups who truly attempt to adhere to the Bible and centralize it in their teaching. But what about the Christian world as a whole? Do they really take the Bible seriously? (more…)

New Book of Mormon Text Discovered!
October 31, 2008

I am pleased to announce that after having the Book of Mormon text in our possession for nearly two centuries and after generations of faithful Book of Mormon scholarship, a new text of the Book of Mormon has been discovered! Through many hours of study and relying heavily on the text-critical work of Morton Smith and the editors of the Book-a-Minute secret Harry Potter text, I have pieced together evidence for what I have provisionally named Secret Book of Mormon. Mormons, scholars of Mormonism, and political scientists alike will doubtlessly benefit from this monumental textual research. (more…)

Two Different Theologies?
October 29, 2008

In my Hebrew class today, our teacher asked us to respond to a certain argument raised concerning the text we were reading. The student who responded hesitated and said:

Are you asking in terms of Mormon theology or academic theology?

The class laughed and emphatically agreed that they were two different things. Our teacher responded that when Academic theology is correct it parallels Mormon theology. I thought the episode was extremely interesting since it raises (or resurrects) an entire host of questions concerning epistimology, the faith vs. reason debate, religion’s place in the academy, and the semantic parameters of those questions.

How would you respond to my classmate’s questions? What are your opinions of the terms, “Mormon theology” or “academic theology?” If you don’t believe in divinely revealed  truth, this question might be easy to answer; but if you believe that truth results from faith as well as the academy, how should each inform the way in which we express truth?

Truthfulness
October 10, 2008

Is truthfulness like truthiness?

My objection to truthfulness was based on my truthiness.

I hate it when I’m wrong.

But I have to be honest.

I started fuming about it when I listened to more and more testimonies in church more critically (and by critically I mean carefully and engagingly rather than maliciously or with intent to malign).  A lot of people, general authorities included, frequently testify of the truthfulness of many things from the Book of Mormon to the Word of Wisdom.

However, I never told one person on my mission that I knew the Book of Mormon was truthful, but rather that I knew it was true. The aforementioned testifiers are no doubt looking for a noun to correspond to the adjective “true.” I just don’t understand how they—or rather how we, since I’ve done it too—chose “truthfulness,” when “truth” seems like the more correct adjective, and nine times out of ten seems more appropriate than “truthfulness”. (more…)

N.T. Wright on the Mormon Plan of Salvation
February 14, 2008

Those of you unfamiliar with N.T. Wright may have not have caught my tongue-in-cheek titling of this post. Wright is a influential theologian and Bible scholar who is also Bishop of Durham, a prominent position in the Anglican church. His words in certain circles carry much more weight than those of 20-year old men in white shirts and black name tags.

It was therefore surprising to read this article from Time: Christians Wrong About Heaven and Hell, Says Bishop. This makes two conservative, mainstream, educated Christians in two weeks siding with Mormons (though not explicitly) on important theological issues. This of course does not, by itself, vindicate Mormonism, but it does chip away at the old adage that Latter-day Saints are not “Biblical” Christians.

In the article, which gives a brief introductory bio of Wright and his influence, Wright mentions some interesting things, including an intermediate state after death, in which we, disembodied, await a literal resurrection. It is this literal resurrection, says Wright, which should be the Christian hope, and afterwards the faithful are to be put to work, administering to world which has been reorganized by Christ.

Dante's CosmologyContrast this with traditional views, of which there seem to be two schools. The first believe that all matter is corrupt and evil and therefore our disembodied spirits should expect no literal physical resurrection after physical death, but are immediately assigned to either Heaven or Hell. Incidentally, the matter=corruption theory is what also prevents belief in an anthropomorphic, material God. Wright says this view is more in line with Greek philosophy than biblical teaching. Greek thought gave rise to opinions such as those in Dante’s Inferno which presents a final judgement immediately after death and consignment to either heaven or hell as an eternal destination.

Some other Christians believe in a physical resurrection but that the soul dies with the body—that there is no life after death before the resurrection, despite the imagery in the parable of dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Wright explicitly expresses his opinion that the state of the soul between death and resurrection is one of consciousness. Ecclesiastes is most often used to illustrate this concept (Ecc. 3:20; 9:5–6, 10). (more…)

Genesis 18 Problem
February 8, 2008

Genesis 18 opens thus:

And the LORD appeared unto him [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. (v. 1 KJV)

Afterwards he entertains three men who seem to inform him about Sarah’s imminent pregnancy as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Conversations with the LORD are interspersed throughout the chapter with mentionings of the LORD in vv. 1, 13, 17, 19–20, 22, 26, 33. But conversations with the travelers are also woven alongside the divine conversations (vv. 3–4, 9–10, 16, 22). Verses 17–19 seem even to feature the LORD counciling with the other travelers by talking about Abraham in the third person:

And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;  Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Verse 22 puts both the travelers and the LORD together, seemingly to indicate that the LORD had actually been there the entire time:

And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

By all accounts, the smoothest interpretation of these events would be, in my opinion, that the LORD was among the travelers who came to visit Abraham. This reading could be problematic for traditions which teach that God is invisible and that no one has seen God. For Latter-day Saints, theophanies (appearances of God) should present no problem. The scriptures teach that they are not only possible but expected. Nevertheless, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: (more…)