Monday, December 5, 2011

Christ is at the bottom of the name “Mormon”

I was reading recently about the people of Alma and their experience of taking the baptismal covenant with God and I came across this verse:

And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever. (Mosiah (18:30)

This tells of the principle that when we make great positive changes in our lives, the place that is associated with that change becomes more precious and beautiful to us. (I can remember the place where I first received my testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the place where I learned about the healing power of the atonement.)


Mormon has a special reason for rhapsodizing about these environs of Mormon. It is the place he was named after. We only find this out much, much later in 3 Nephi though.

And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression. (3 Nephi 5:12)

I think there is something special in that. Mormon was named after a place of conversion, and we might even say it was a place of restoration (though in the personal sense, not in the dispensational sense).


Since Mormon points out the place of Mormon was where the church was established by priesthood authority among the people after their transgression, it becomes a model or type of conversion after having partaken of the fall of Adam.


And how interesting that the book Mormon wrote carries the memory of that place onward. And then, consider the nickname our church carries – Mormon. Even our nickname references back to conversion and being born again.


So when people ever ask us why we are called Mormons if we claim to be Christians, we can tell them:

1) The name “Mormon” was a nickname given to us by others because we believe in the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible.

2) The Book of Mormon is named after the prophet-historian who wrote and compiled it many years ago.

3) That prophet-historian was named after a place where priesthood authority established the church of Christ among a people who had transgressed the commandments. At that place called Mormon, many people came to know Christ, who would redeem them.

4) At bottom, the name “Mormon” is about coming to a place where one is converted to Christ.

11 comments:

Rozy Lass said...

EVERYTHING testifies of the Savior. This is a great analysis.

Steve said...

I have a question about the Mormon concept of Jesus. Don't Mormons believe that Jesus was not always "God"? That he is the spirit-brother of Lucifer? That means that Jesus must have been a sinner at one point. This conflicts with the Bible. For example, John 1:1-2, and verse 14 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".

The Bible says Jesus is and aways was God.

Michaela Stephens said...

It is a good question Steve. If you make the assumption that being spirit brothers with Lucifer means partaking in the same sins, then that would make it seem that we believed that Jesus (as spirit brother to Lucifer) was a sinner at some point. However, that is not our belief. Our belief is that Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers in the sense that they were both spirits born of the same Heavenly Father.

Steve said...

Well, I certainly don't believe that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers, I was just thinking...if Mormons believe so, and think Jesus had to reach exaltation to become one of many gods in the universe, at some point he, and for that matter, God the Father, must have been sinners. Again, I'm not saying I believe that, but logically that's what is seems this "eternal progression" concept leads to.

But back to John, it clearly says that Jesus (as the Word was identified in verse 14) was with God the Father in the beginning. Jesus was not created by God, but with him always.

Michaela Stephens said...

It seems you think that eternal progression implies that a person that is not already perfect must have been imperfect and therefore must have been a sinner. You then draw the conclusion that we think Jesus must have been imperfect (and a sinner) if we believe Jesus had to “reach exaltation.” I can understand why you might think that we believe this; after all it sounds very logical.

However, we believe Jesus, by virtue of His divine character, was able to somehow achieve a fullness of exaltation WITHOUT sinning, that He was somehow able to go from grace to grace until He received the fullness. The rest of us learn by trial and error, and indeed, we would have had no hope of exaltation after a single sin if Jesus had not lived perfectly and then paid for all our sins so that we could repent.

As for your quotation that Jesus was with the Father in the beginning and was not created by God, but was with Him always, you have hit upon one of the mysteries. For if Jesus was co-eternal with God the Father (and we have no problem with this belief), then the rest of us were too. And if the rest of us were too, in what sense can we say that we are children of God? We are not sure exactly how it works, but we have assurance from the words of Jesus that His Father is also ours, as He says “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48), and “pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matt 6:6).

You may find it helpful to read Doctrine & Covenants 93. (http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/93?lang=eng)

Steve said...

Hi Michaela,
I see that you wanted me to read D&C 93 because it "proves" in verses 29-32 that "Man was in the beginning with God". However, I must consider the source of D&C. Section 93 begins "Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet…" Because of Joseph Smith's false prophecies, I cannot accept him as a true prophet. Listing his false prophesies is probably beyond the scope of this post. But it only takes one error for a prophet to fail the test. Deuteronomy 18:22 "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." Has the temple been built in northeastern Missouri yet as prophesied in D&C 84:1-4? I hope you see my point.

The title of your post is “Christ is at the bottom of the name ‘Mormon’”, and you give 4 reasons "...when people ever ask us why we are called Mormons if we claim to be Christians, we can tell them..."

I'd like to address each of those points.

1) The name “Mormon” was a nickname given to us by others because we believe in the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible.

It's not possible to say that one believes in the BOM and the Bible, because in some very important places they conflict. Take, for example, 2 Nephi 25:23, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." If the verse would have stopped after "...it is by grace we are saved", I would be fine with that. But adding "after all we can do", changes the Gospel of Christ into a works-based salvation. Compare 2 Nephi with Ephesians in 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Christians strive to obey the laws of God out of love and gratitude for the sacrifice of his Son. We know that accepting Christ as our Savior is all that is necessary for salvation. Good works are a by-product of that acceptance; good works don't earn a Christian salvation. I know we have different concepts of salvation, but for now, when I say "salvation", you just think "exaltation", OK?

2) The Book of Mormon is named after the prophet-historian who wrote and compiled it many years ago.
OK, but Christians don't belive that the BOM is the inspired Word of God, for many reasons but for a very important one see #1 above.

3) That prophet-historian was named after a place where priesthood authority established the church of Christ among a people who had transgressed the commandments. At that place called Mormon, many people came to know Christ, who would redeem them.

The Church of Christ consists of believers in Christ, those that confess that Christ died for their sins; nothing else is required. The "Church of Christ" is not limited to a certain denomination or "religion". John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." But to the 3rd point, there is no need for a "restoration", because there was no total apostasy after Christ's apostles died. There were predictions of apostasies (Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Peter 2:1-2) but nowhere does the Bible say that there will be a total apostasy on earth.

4) At bottom, the name “Mormon” is about coming to a place where one is converted to Christ.

I sincerely disagree with point number 4, see my response to point number 3.

Michaela Stephens said...

I have not the time to specifically address your objections (which are off-topic and misunderstanding), Steve, but you may find this article fun:

"Out of Nothing: A History of Creation ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought"

(http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=17&num=2&id=590)

By the way, you don't know the full story of D&C 84:1-4, or you wouldn't assert that as a false prophecy.

Steve said...

Hello Michaela,

Don't take my comments personally-I have problems with LDS doctrine, not any particular person.

I don't see that my objections are off-topic. Isn't the title of your post "Christ is at the bottom of the name “Mormon”, and then you make four points about why Mormons are Christians? If I misunderstand the topic of your blog post, please explain.

re: the BYU review of Copan/Craig book, I haven't read the book, and have no plans to read it, so I don't care to read the review. How is this "on-topic"?

And finally, re: D&C 84:1-4, I've heard (from some mormon missionaries) that some mormons were killed when they attempted to build the temple in northeastern Missouri. Is that what you were referring to as the rest of the story? If that's true, I certainly don't celebrate the death of mormons, but on the other hand, that is no excuse for a prophecy, if it truly came from God, not to come true.

Michaela Stephens said...

Off-topic objections—
1) Refusing to engage D&C 93 on the grounds that Joseph Smith is a false prophet because of D&C 84:1-4. (Which he isn’t.) The correct response would be to suspend your personal concerns long enough to give a thoughtful consideration to D&C 93 and what it adds to understanding.

2) Saying that the church of Christ is not limited to a certain denomination or “religion” after I say that Mormon was the place where priesthood authority established the church of Christ among people who transgressed the commandments. ???

In my original post, I said we Mormons claim to be Christians, so for you to say that Christians don’t believe the BofM is contradicting the facts. We consider ourselves Christians (whether or not you agree) and we believe the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

Re your objections to reading the BYU review of Copan/Craig book that you have no plans to read: I merely suggested it because you seemed so interested at the beginning of our exchange in the issue of the creation of spirits versus eternal nature of spirits, so I thought you might like to read a review of the book, and the reviewer’s engagement with the ideas. Sometimes reading how other people examine an idea and its pieces helps us clarify our own ideas, or at least get a sense of what ideas are out there concerning a topic we wonder about.

It occurs to me that your objections to my numbered list of reasons came because my reasons are predicated upon assumptions that you do not share. My assumptions are based upon my personal testimony of the truth of certain principles, as follows: (I am not asking you to AGREE, I am asking you to UNDERSTAND.)

Assumption-based-on-my-testimony #1: It is possible to believe in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible at the same time.
I find it rather silly that you say that we can’t believe both the Bible and the Book of Mormon at the same time. It is an accomplished fact that we already do. To us, for you to say that we can’t (logically) believe both because they contradict is like saying it is impossible to believe both the books in the New Testament written by Paul and the Book of James because Paul argues salvation comes by grace and James says faith without works is dead. How do YOU reconcile the apparent contradiction between Paul and James? I assume that you find some way to reconcile those two together and use the apparent opposition to come to a better understanding of the dynamics between the principles. (You DO do that, don’t you?) If so, is the same with us. We already believe both BofM and Bible to be scripture. To us, when there is contradiction, that means there is a deeper harmony in the two opposing principles that we must discover by deeper study and experience. There may be additional principles intertwined in ways we haven’t realized yet.

But maybe you don’t make an attempt to reconcile Paul and James. Perhaps you ignore James in preference to Paul. You can do that if you want, but if so, that seems like a mighty limited belief in the Bible.

Michaela Stephens said...

Assumption-based-on-my-testimony #2: Mormon (the prophet-historian that compiled the Book of Mormon) was inspired in his writing.

We believe 2 Tim. 3:16 that all scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The Book of Mormon is profitable for all of that. It testifies over and over that Jesus is the Christ. It has important details about repentance, building faith in Christ, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and much much more. You must read it and study it yourself in order to have any understanding as to why we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider it scripture comparable the Bible.


Assumption-based-on-my-testimony #3: Priesthood authority establishes the church of Christ.

Ephesians 4:5 says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Let’s compare that with what you say. You have asserted that “The Church of Christ consists of believers in Christ, those that confess that Christ died for their sins; nothing else is required. The "Church of Christ" is not limited to a certain denomination or "religion". ” I’m sorry, but this is contradictory. There are a huge number of denominations that believe all kinds of contradictory things. Some believe baptism is required, some believe it is not. (It seems you are one of those who believe baptism is not needed.) Even among those who believe baptism is required, there are denominations that believe that infants must be baptized, and there are those who believe that a person must have full knowledge of what baptism is before they undergo it. There are denominations that teach that sprinkling is acceptable baptism, and there are denominations that teach that complete immersion is required. I don’t know how you can say that plethora of beliefs and teachings just on baptism is “one baptism.”

With so many differences, the need for someone who could speak for God (priesthood authority) about what is the right way to do things is obvious. Thus, the need for prophets to speak for God. Thus the need for revelation from God to prophets that can clear up the confusion. Ephesians 4:8,11-14 elaborates on this:
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men….
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Michaela Stephens said...

(cont.)

When I read those verses, I see Paul is saying that when Christ ascended to the Father, He gave gifts to men, some of which were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pasters, and teachers—essentially church organization. These offices were created for the listed purposes: perfecting the saints, ministering to the saints, edifying the saints. The intended result of perfecting, ministering, and edifying was to bring unity to the faith, to disperse wide the knowledge of Christ, to help the saints come to the point that they could measure up to the fullness of Christ, to help them grow up in doctrine so that they wouldn’t be tossed back and forth to extremes by every wind of contradictory doctrine or by any crafty deceit of men.
Stated simply, priesthood authority and church organization helps the church members learn the truth and prevents confusion in doctrine.

I am glad to hear that you are acquainted with the instances in the New Testament where apostasy was predicted. However, I don’t know what it will take to convince you there was an apostasy if you are determined to believe there wasn’t one. I am curious to hear what your definition of apostasy is.

Re: D&C 84:1-4 -- If you are interested in reading about why we don’t consider D&C 84:1-4 a false prophecy, you can read here:
“Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophecies/Independence temple to be built "in this generation"”
(http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Prophecies/Independence_temple_to_be_built_%22in_this_generation%22)
You may also read “Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophesies/Saints left Missouri before the temple was built” (http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Prophecies/Saints_left_Missouri_before_temple_was_built)