I agree with Moroni 8:18!!

Today is I agree with Moroni 8:18 day, Moroni 8:18 is a scripture from the Book of Mormon that yet again teaches something Christian and biblical that goes against modern day Mormonism, here is what it says

“For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

For more information please watch this video and feel free to leave a comment here about it.

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  1. I’m a Mormon, and I agree both with Moroni 8:18 and with Joseph Smith’s later teachings about God. This is what I wrote about Moroni 8:18 on another place on this blog:

    Moroni 8:18 comes in the midst of a discussion by the prophet Mormon about the practice of baptizing infants and little children. Mormon argues that such a practice is wrong because little children have no need of baptism because baptism is the fruit of repentance and little children have nothing to repent of. Mormon then argues that if God required little children to be baptized than God would be a “partial God, and a changeable God, and a respecter of persons” (vs 12).

    After explaining that little children are all alike in the eyes of the Lord (vs 17) Mormon than goes on to explain (vs 18) that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

    So the context of the statement is that of God’s impartiality in saving little children. He doesn’t discriminate against little children who are not baptized, because they simply don’t need baptism in the first place. In this sense, God is not partial and does not change his mind. He is constant in his loving acceptance of little children.

    Now, there are a few ways one could choose to go from here. The first way is to keep in mind the context and the reasons why Mormon uses adjectives like “unchangeable” in his description of God. This methodology is exegetical, because we are not trying to read more into Mormon’s words than he meant. We are using the context to understand what specifically he means. We aren’t stripping the passage from its context in order satisfy an agenda. Using this method, we realize that the word “unchangeable” is in reference to God’s impartiality towards little children.

    A second way we could go is to participate in eisegesis. Instead of keeping in mind Mormon’s context and the thrust of his message, we could ignore all of that and instead introduce a different, foreign, context. We could take the passage and isolate it from the broader discussion it is found in and pretend that our modern sensibilities about God’s nature have a greater weight in how we should interpret Mormon’s words. We could momentarily forget that Mormon is a 4th century American (or an 19th century New York farmer, depending on your view) and pretend that he is a colleague of Athanasius or St. Augustine who were enamored with Hellenistic dogmas regarding God’s static nature, or his inability to learn or to grow in any way. We could pretend that this passage has anything at all to do with God’s possible history as a mortal. This method obviously comes at great sacrifice to the text itself.

    It is up to to each reader of the text to choose how they are going to interpret Moroni 8:18. I choose the first.

  2. It’s pretty simple, and there’s no need to smother the text. Just as Moroni 7:22 speaks of God’s omniscience as something that stands on the fact that God is from everlasting to everlasting, 8:18 speaks of God’s character of being impartial as standing on the fact that God himself is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity. The textual context intensifies this, not lessens it. The broader context of the theology and culture of Mormonism in 1830 further intensifies it.

  3. James, you wrote:

    “So the context of the statement is that of God’s impartiality in saving little children. He doesn’t discriminate against little children who are not baptized, because they simply don’t need baptism in the first place. In this sense, God is not partial and does not change his mind. He is constant in his loving acceptance of little children.”

    While I appreciate the points you make about exegesis and eisegesis I fear you haven’t understood the implications of the argument. Are you suggesting that God is constant in relationship to children but not in other, different contexts?

    The argument made in the 8:18 campaign is that this text is in harmony with what the Bible says about God’s absolute character. He is unchangeable, constant, God from eternity to eternity. This has nothing to do with the Greek idea of a static God, which I know early Christians struggled with. It has to do with the inchangeability of his character and nature.

    God is always good, always just, always merciful, always right, always compassionate. These characteristics of God, according to the texts that agree perfectly with Moroni 8:18, are seen as God’s characteristics “from eternity to eternity.” Which is to say, if he had ever been a man, as JS taught, then he cannot be said to be constant in his nature and character, because he has grown and become a better person. This implies he was once less constant, less just, less merciful, less compassionate etc. This is a thorny issue in Mormon circles I know with GAs disagreeing with each other but, since JS insisted it is the first principle of the gospel to know the character of God it seems odd that men who claim to be God’s sole representatives on earth cannot agree on that character.

    As Aaaron points out, this is a simple issue, easily resolved by adhering to what the Bible consistently teaches and the Book of Mormon agrees with. The problem is you would then be in open rebellion against the teachings of your founding prophet. What do you think?

  4. Hello gang.

    What you call “smother[ing]” the text I call “carefully reading” the text. It simply isn’t right to remove the passage from its context.

    So, I’ve argued that Moroni 8:18 is specifically in reference to God’s impartiality towards children. Aaron thinks that God’s inherent unchangeable nature is what is being called upon by Mormon to argue that God is always impartial. I think that Aaron’s take is not bad, but it isn’t as good. To me, the more immediate answer is that Mormon is simply arguing that God is unchangeable in his impartiality, and that Mormon is not considering how God might be unchangeable in any other way.

    Mike T raises a good question. Is “God is constant in relationship to children but not in other, different contexts?” Well, the obvious answer, at least for me, is “yes”. God is unchangeable in other ways besides his love for little children. When the scriptures describe God as being “unchanging” (or some variation of that) they are generally referring to God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises to mankind. God is always loving. God is always merciful. God is always fair. God is always just. God is undeviating in his character.

    What we don’t find are references to God as being “unchanging” in the sense that he never transitioned from, for example, an incorporeal state to a corporeal state. That sort of unchanging would cause serious problems for all of Christianity given the incarnation of the Son of God.

    I’m unaware of any place in scripture that clearly describes God as being “unchanging” in his “nature”. The word “nature” is a difficult word to define, and LDS and Evangelicals are simply going to disagree about it. As I know you are both aware of, in LDS thought for a person to transition from a mortal human to a “god” (however defined) is not a change of “nature” in the sense of transitioning from a cow to a pig. The fundamental species of “god” and “human” are the same. So, even if we had a passage of scripture describing God as being “unchanging” in his nature I can’t see that as being contrary to any form of LDS theology.

    But Mike T raises an interesting question. If we posit that God the Father was once a mortal man (and I do) does that imply that he was once less loving, less compassionate, less just, less fair, etc.? I think that in some LDS models of God’s theogony it does. I know that Aaron has been on the warpath for some time now to decry the notion that God was ever a sinner. I happen to agree with Aaron and with those LDS who argue that God the Father never sinned. Just as God the Son was able to descend to Earth in a mortal, fleshy body and not waver in his character, I believe that God the Father did likewise. You could lump me into the “Ostler camp” on this issue.

    Joseph Smith taught that it is the first principle to know the “character” of God the Father. I don’t think that this statement is contrary to any particular model of LDS thought regarding God’s history. It is simply important for all of us to know that God is faithful to his promises and intentions for mankind. He loves us, and we should know that.

    Regarding “GA poker”, we could probably pit different GA statements against each other on the issue of God’s past. For me, as a believer in the Restoration and in God’s living oracles, that only shows that the issue has not been settled by revelation. We are free to speculate and work it out for ourselves. We don’t need to know all the details of God’s past. It is a distraction from what we should be focusing on…the here and now. But it is fun to think about and I’ve written about it before (http://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/lds-views-of-gods-past/)

    To summarize, it is possible that Moroni 8:18 contradicts certain models of LDS thought regarding God’s past. I’m not sure. I don’t think Moroni 8:18 should be expanded to include anything God’s love for little children. But, if we must, the idea that God is unchangeable in his character is not contradictory to all models of God’s past in LDS thought.

    I understand the reason for the “I agree with Moroni 8:18!) campaign to be to demonstrate that Moroni 8:18 contradicts later LDS notions of God the Father being a mortal. So, in order for this campaign to be effectual one of two things must be done:

    (1) It must be demonstrated that Moroni 8:18 specifically describes God as being unchanging in his immortal and/or mortal nature.


    (1′) It must be demonstrated that Moroni 8:18 specifically describes God as being unchanging in all aspects of his character.


    (2) It must be demonstrated that all models of God’s past (and there are several) imply that God’s character has changed.

    Both of these objectives (proving 1 or 1’+2) are fraught with difficulties.

  5. “the more immediate answer is that Mormon is simply arguing that God is unchangeable in his impartiality”

    I’m failing to see how this helps the traditional Mormon cause. If God is “unchangeable in his impartiality” from “all eternity to all eternity”, then we’re back to describing the God of traditional Christianity. Mormonism has no official position on whether God the Father was once a grossly immoral, prejudicial person based on race, sex, age, guilt, innocence, etc., while he was in a mortal probation/experience.

    What we’re saying is this: The Book of Mormon is right in that God isn’t a being who had to become the kind of God that he is today, especially with reference to his character. Mormonism suggests otherwise, or at the very least gives a shocking “we don’t know” response to the larger question.

    “You could lump me into the “Ostler camp” on this issue.”

    To a degree I appreciate that, but it is still essentially fringe. Most Mormons aren’t in the Ostler camp, and institutional and historic post-Brigham Mormonism has for the most part promoted a more traditional Lorenzo Snow couplet theology.

  6. Another important aspect of this issue that has been so far overlooked is the meaning of the phrase “from all eternity to all eternity.” We ought to ask ourselves what Mormon means by that phrase, not what Augustine would have meant by that phrase.

    How you interpret Mormon’s words will depend on how you interpret”Mormon” himself. If you believe that Mormon was a 4th century American prophet then you are going to get a different answer than the person who believes that Mormon is an invention of a 19th century New York farmer.

    If you are one who believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon (like me) than you are going to believe that Mormon was writing in an ancient semitic-based script. You are going to believe that Mormon was highly influenced by the Old Testament record that he had before him, as well as ancient American (Mesoamerican?) influences. I’m not really sure how ancient Mesoamericans understood “eternity” so for now we’ll postpone that part of the analysis.

    But we do know how ancient Hebrews conceived of “eternity” and how they used that concept in their writings. The usual word for “eternal” is owlam, which scholars say means something like “time out of mind” or “practically forever”. As I understand it, owlam does not take the meaning of a literal eternity without end. That is not how ancient Hebrews thought, though it is something that ancient Greeks obsessed over. More on this here: http://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/psalm-902/

    And so, within a faithful LDS framework, Moroni 8:18 is not an issue. Obviously you gentlemen are approaching the text from a different framework, one in which Joseph Smith (or perhaps a contemporary) is the author of the text. Moroni 8:18 is really only problematic if you approach it from a nonbeliever’s standpoint….which Mormons obviously don’t.

  7. James

    The first thing that leaps out at me, having read your comment and your article, is the confusion you are sowing by your speculations and theories. Joseph Smith, by your own admission, insists that the first principle of the gospel is to know the nature of God. The message of Mormonism is that, from the so-called first vision to the King Follett discourse and beyond, JS has restored that knowledge. Successive early Mormon prophets, from BY to JT have built on that story, developing and clarifying it.

    Yet 180 years of prophetic leading has brought Mormons to a point where they throw out much of what those prophets taught, describing it as speculation, (Adam/God; the sinner God; the progressing in knowledge God etc.) and replacing it with speculation and guesswork. It is convenient, of course, to say “this is something on which revelation has not thrown light” but do you honestly think that is good enough when early Mormon leaders felt confident that a great deal of light has been cast on the subject?

    When Mormon missionaries visit around the doors do they tell people how equivocal and speculative Mormonism has become? I doubt it. Rather, they paint a picture of an apostate Christendom, long lost in a maze of theological speculation, and a “Restored Gospel” the first revelation of which is a sure knowledge of the nature of God. Only on joining will people discover that their church is every bit as conjectural as the caricatured Christianity Mormons portray as apostate.

    I have to smile when I think of the countless conversations I’ve had with Mormons who are quick enough to charge the Christian Church with coming up with the Trinity by a series of decidedly dodgy because speculative councils. “Because they had killed the prophets and apostles”, comes the charge. “Authority to speak for God had disappeared from the earth”, it continues. Having rejected those councils and caricatured Christianity as “a pack of nonsense” on the basis of such history, Mormons with their prophets and apostles are speculating about the nature of God. Having been a Mormon I can say that this speculation would have appeared strange indeed not thirty years ago when I was teaching Mormon classes.

    I want to lay down a marker here before we all get dragged off down the maze of Mormonism and accept without question the plumb-line Mormons choose to use. The 8:18 campaign is based, not simply on a strict reading of Moroni 8:18, but on the fact that this text is in harmony with what the Bible consistently says about God. What should ensue from this is not a discussion of what this fictional character Moroni meant when JS put those words in his mouth but what is the nature of God.

    This text needs to be looked at in the wider context of what Scripture says about God, what God says about himself. The following points are essential to that understanding:

    1. God can be known because of his self-revelation 1 Jn.5:20; Jn.17:3 and it is dangerous to go beyond that revelation in trying to understand him. It is well to remember that he has communicable attributes and incommunicable attributes. What is communicable is what he chooses to communicate in us. What he does not communicate it is pointless speculating about.
    2. God is personal Jn.14:9 He doesn’t hide himself from his creation but is willing to make himself known to anyone who asks. The primary source of that knowledge is the Bible.
    3. He is an infinite God Ps.147:5 not just in the sense that he has existed for an infinite time but because his qualities are infinite. This text describes his understanding as infinite. He is infinite in all his attributes, his knowledge and wisdom, his goodness and love, his righteousness and holiness Job 11:7-10. These are not things in which he has grown and developed but things in which he is infinitely constant. Were you to go back ever so far in eternity, or go forward into infinity you would meet the same God whose qualities and character would not have changed one jot nor developed one iota.
    4. Ps.90:2 describes him as being God “from everlasting to everlasting” and Ps.102:12 says, “But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.” He is enthroned “forever”, meaning there was never a time when he was not enthroned as God. Joseph Smith disagreed with this and declared that “God was not always God” despite the fact that Moroni 8:18 agrees with Ps.90:2 and Ps.102:12.

    This is not simply about God’s constant qualities with regard children and baptism but about God’s constant qualities in relation to all his creation, qualities that are possible only because he is God “from eternity to eternity.” This is not controversial except when you introduce the unbiblical ideas of Joseph Smith. Were it not for him we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  8. Mike,

    You got at least one thing right…were it not for Joseph Smith we wouldn’t be having this conversation :)

    Actually, as reported in the KFD, Joseph said that the first principle of the gospel is to know the character of God. I know that that isn’t as convenient for your template as it would be if he had said “nature”, but that’s just the way it is. Elsewhere Joseph taught that the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (AoF). That seems to make sense since our faith is based on our knowledge of God’s character, not on our knowledge of God’s metaphysical nature.

    So, skipping to the portion of your comments which are directly relevant to our discussion of Moroni 8:18, you’ve indicated that “from eternity to all eternity” means that there was never a time when God was not God. But you’ve not engaged the points I brought up earlier. I’m arguing that in Hebrew the concept of eternity did not encompass a literal eternity in the sense that there was never a time when X was not X. Instead, the Hebrew word “owlam” which is used in places like Psalm 90:2 to describe God as “everlasting to everlasting” takes the meaning of “time out of mind” or “practically forever” but not literally forever. I’m not making this stuff up. This is what the scholars say, and this is how the word is used in other places in the Bible. I’ve got a few examples of how the word “owlam” is used in the Bible in the sense of something existing for a very long time, but not necessarily forever. I can provide those examples if requested.

    • Whoops. Didn’t mean to make that whole comment italicized.

    • Hi James I think the issue for me in this whole thing is that the Book of Mormon does not actually teach what Mormons do believe. It says a lot of things they dont believe which leads to discussions like this.

      I think if the Book of Mormon taught elsewhere that God was once a man etc I would not have anything to say however yet again it just makes statements that fit in with the Protestant teachings of the time.

      • As a Mormon for 40 years, I always struggled with the Book of Mormon being the “Restored Gospel” I always wondered what exactly was “restored”?? No mention of the word of wisdom, polygamy, temple attendance, three degrees of glory, council in heaven, Jesus being our brother, baptism for the dead etc.

        I was also taught all those years that God is “the SAME yesterday, today and tomorrow.” He never changes. Which fits Moroni 8:18 perfectly. I have to say that reading all of this has really opened my eyes. I only hope that everyday Mormons are reading this as well. I find it really strange that one little verse that seems so straight forward needs so much “explanation”.

  9. Bobby,

    I’m unaware of ANYTHING in the Book of Mormon that I do not believe.

    Getting back on track, I think a better name for the Moroni 8:18 campaign would be: “I agree with my own private interpretation of Moroni 8:18!”

    Yes, that would be more fitting. You guys are reading Moroni 8:18 through the lens of a traditional Christian worldview and superimposing your own assumptions and definitions onto Mormon’s words (by the way, the Moroni 8:18 are the words of the prophet Mormon, even though it is in the book of Moroni). I’ve laid out a case for why Moroni 8:18 is not problematic for Mormonism when read through the lens of Mormonism, which of course is the lens that really counts in any discussion of Mormon scripture.


  10. Kate,

    The Book of Mormon is not the “restored gospel”. In my 26 years in the Church I can’t remember ever hearing it described that way. Rather, the Book of Mormon was the first major step in the lengthy process of the restoration of the gospel. I’ve never, ever, struggled to understand what exactly was restored. I realize that you may have had a different experience, but I hope you don’t project your experience onto all other Mormons. It is more likely that you are an exception and not the rule.

    There is nothing unusual about a passage of scripture requiring explanation. That is part of studying the gospel.

    • In my experience it’s the rule. 99% of everyone I know or have ever known are Mormons. We have all been taught the same thing. I know that the past 10 years or so the LDS Church has been changing so much that most likely what is happening is that I was taught all of the older stuff and you are being taught the new stuff the Church wants out there now. Change is hard for the ones who were taught something totally different, and it raises huge red flags. I have read testimonies of so many that have been in the LDS Church for 35, 40 even 50 years and now they are leaving because of the changes in Doctrine and the way things that we as an older generation have been taught are being said to have never been taught that way, or that was not how so and so meant it when he said it. What was being taught in the past such as Moroni 8:18 and God always being the same, is now being changed to something totally different. How do you know that in 10 years Moroni 8:18 will mean the same as you are saying now? It seems that Mormonism can change it’s mind on a whim. Somethings wrong with that.

  11. “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible …and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel”

    How full is full? What does “fulness of the everlasting gospel” mean?

  12. Kate,
    Can you give an example of a teaching or doctrine that the LDS Church as an institution has changed in the last 10 or so years? I, like you, know many many members. I have relatives and ward members that have been active in the Church for many decades, but I never hear the complaint from them that I hear from you now. Forgive me for insisting on evidence.

    On the flip side, it shouldn’t be so surprising that a Church that claims to be lead by continual revelation would continually be revising and and sharpening their understanding of the mysteries of God. Essentially your complaint boils down to a complaint about continual revelation. You would not have fared well in the ancient, original Christian church which was guided by living oracles who received revelation line upon line, precept upon precept.

    • Can you give an example of a teaching or doctrine that the LDS Church as an institution has changed in the last 10 or so years? I, like you, know many many members. I have relatives and ward members that have been active in the Church for many decades, but I never hear the complaint from them that I hear from you now. Forgive me for insisting on evidence.

      Wow I could have a field day with this one, but for the lack of space and the fact that it’ s a little off topic, I will give you one.

      When I was growing up, we had several “Lamanite” children attending school with us. From Elementary through High School. They were part of the Lamanite program of the LDS Church. Their parents would send them to Utah to live with Mormon families every school year to get a better education. We were taught that these children ARE (not thought to be) the decendants of the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon and we were to embrace them and welcome them into the flock because how else were they going to become a “white and delightsome” people? Oops, I mean a “pure and delightsome people? (another change) By the way, these kids were not from Mesoamerica, they were from Chinle Arizona.

      From 1981 the title page in the Book of Mormon said this:
      “The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of the two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

      The last sentence has been changed to this:
      “…After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

      I remember watching the hoopla about this on the news for weeks. At the time I was confused as to why the church would have to change anything. After all, I had been taught since I was a Sunbeam that the American Indians (In the United States) were Lamanites. What about the “burning in the bosom” feeling I had knowing that the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon were the ancestors of the Lamanite kids I grew up with? I, like everyone around me, decided not to question it because I had been taught that when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done for you. What I should have been doing is asking God why he didn’t know in the beginning who the Lamanites were.

      Now before you start in on me about how Joseph Smith didn’t write the title page and it was just Bruce R. McConkie’s opinion you need to consider 2 things:

      First, It is published between the front and back covers of the Book of Mormon, the most correct book on the face of the earth and therefore you can be assured that it is true because it’s been “Church Approved” otherwise it wouldn’t be in there at all.

      Second, This is what Joseph Smith himself had to say about it:
      He [Moroni] told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.’ (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Diary 1835-1836, pg. 76).

      Please don’t give me any info on DNA, I’m not interested in that, I’m simply giving you some of the “evidence” that you requested.

      • Thanks for sharing Kate. I had anticipated something along the lines of the Introduction to the Book of Mormon having been changed. I’m sure you know that I have *much* to say to you about these topics, but in the interest of staying focused on Moroni 8:18 we’ll postpone that discussion for another time.

        It’s a busy day, and hopefully I can respond to Mike’s latest comments later. It is going to be a long response, and I wrote some of it last night.

  13. Regarding the distinction James wishes to make between nature and character it is worth knowing that Mormon apostle Dallin H Oaks disagrees with him. In a talk published in the January 2011 Ensign and entitled Fundamental to our Faith Oaks writes:

    “For us the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to Him is the key to everything else. Significantly, our belief in the nature of God is what distinguishes us from the formal creeds of most Christian denominations.”

    Character can be defined as “the sum of the distinctive qualities or characteristic of something: its main or essential nature” (New Penguin Dictionary). Nature can be defined as, “the inherent character or constitution of a person or thing: essence” (New Penguin Dictionary). Clearly, in the context in which we find ourselves the terms are interchangeable, with character being defined as “essential nature” and nature as, “inherent character.” In any event, where JS uses “character” Dallin Oaks uses “nature” because he understands the words and concepts in the way I have described them.

    Whether we are talking about nature or character you will find them inextricably linked in the Bible. When Balaam tried to curse Israel God’s response was to demonstrate his constancy, faithfulness and immutability through the oracles of Balaam. Balak sought to curse Israel but God had promised to bless and declared, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind” (Num.23:19)

    What is striking about these words is that God does not contrast his character with that of a particular man (Balak or Balaam for instance) but with “man”. It is as though he was saying that it if he were a man he would be a liar but he is God so he is not. “Man” is being used as a byword for dishonesty. Paul declares “every man a liar” (Ro.3:4) and God vindicated in punishing man’s deceit. The Bible tells us that men are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph.2:3) and it is in man’s nature to lie. By contrast, Jesus is described as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb.1:3) Lying characterises man while glory, constancy, faithfulness and immutability characterise God.

    In insisting that God was once a man a Mormon is denying God’s eternal nature and character as described in Moroni 8:18 and related Bible passages. James has raised the Hebrew word olam and jumped on the definition “practically forever” to support the idea that God is not eternal in nature/character in any absolute sense. Olam does predominate as the Hebrew for eternal and Strong’s does indeed include the definition “(practically) forever” – that is how it appears in Strongs – but it doesn’t “mean” practically forever.

    Olam “originally implied a period of time, one at least of whose boundaries was not fixed” (A Theological Word Book of the Bible, SCM Press). “Its significance changes with the object to which it is applied.” In other words its meaning is determined by the context in which it is used and so it is not “practically eternal” but either “eternal” or “practically eternal”. Three examples will demonstrate how this works. When Hannah promises to take her son to Shiloh to stay there “forever” (1 Sam.1:22) the Hebrew is olam and this means “lifelong.”

    It takes on qualitative significance when the OT refers to “the everlasting hills” (Gen.49:26). The same world, olam is used but it clearly takes on a different meaning. When the word is applied to God, whose existence cannot be thought of as circumscribed by our human limitations, its meaning is absolute, eternal. When the Psalmist tries to write of God’s eternity he says: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps.90:2) To the prophets it was considered a blasphemy to lay claim to everlastingness (Is.47:7). Man is mortal and only God is “everlasting” (see Zech.1:5)

  14. Mike,
    I had assumed that you’d been around the block enough times to be familiar with the LDS take on that. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. Or, maybe you do know the LDS take on that but you are simply hoping I don’t. Either way, I’ll address it.

    The phrase you’ve quoted comes from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, which is not part of the original record. I may be mistaken, but I think it was authored by Bruce R. McConkie. Since we are dealing with the Book of Mormon, we need to take a look at what “gospel” means in the Book of Mormon. There are various ways to understand the word “gospel”, and this is true of the Bible as well. As I’m sure you are aware, Paul defines “gospel” in 1 Cor 15 as the very fundamental concepts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sake. That is all. But clearly there is more to the overall “gospel” than just that. So it depends on what we mean by “gospel”. It can have a broad or a narrow meaning.

    In 3 Nephi 27:13-19 Jesus Christ offers a definition of “gospel” that I think is authoritative for our understanding of how “gospel” is used in the phrase you’ve quoted from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. As we’ve already discovered from Paul’s use of “gospel” in 1 Cor 15, the word “gospel” can have a broad or a narrow meaning, and it all depends on what one means.

    In 3 Nephi 27:13-19 Jesus defines “the gospel” as (I’m borrowing from FAIR):

    (a) Christ came into the world to do the Father’s will.
    (b) The Father sent Christ to be crucified.
    (c) Because of Christ’s atonement, all men will be judged by him according to their works (as opposed to not receiving a judgment at all and being cast out of God’s presence by default; 2 Nephi 9:8-9).
    (d) Those who repent and are baptized shall be filled (with the Holy Ghost, see 3 Nephi 12:6), and
    if they continue in faith by enduring to the end they will be justified (declared “not guilty”) by Christ before the Father, but if they don’t endure they will be subject to the justice of God and cast out of his presence.
    (e) The Father’s words will all be fulfilled.
    (f) Because no unclean thing can enter the Father’s heavenly kingdom, only those who rely in faith on the atonement of Christ, repent, and are faithful to the end can be saved.

    This is “the gospel.” The Book of Mormon teaches these concepts with a plainness and clarity unequaled by any other book. It has therefore been declared by the Lord to contain “the fulness of the gospel.”

  15. Hello Mike. I sort of wish I hadn’t succumbed to your question about the “fulness of the gospel” in the Book of Mormon because it is a distraction and not directly relevant to Moroni 8:18. I’m probably not going to address that issue further if you choose to respond to it.

    A bit later I’ll respond to your latest volley.

    All the best,

  16. I’m not aware in the Mormon that I do not unbelieve.

    I agree to disagree, YES! You are reading Mormon through a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective when really you should forget what you have learned, forget what other religions say and look at the book of Mormon from an atheist point of view. From a Christian point of view it is contradictory. From an atheist point of view it is not only contradictory to common sense it is irrational. Can you see what I’m saying despite most of you disagreeing with not believing in anything. Look whatever floats your boat I guess but try to switch off that part of the brain that keeps you under illusion and read the Book of Mormon as if you were an Inca or a Pagan or a Druid of just a general non-Christian Heathen and see what you come up with.

    A dude says: “the first principle of the gospel is to know the character of God.” Incorrect!!! I would say the first principle is to understand ourselves through the character of God. Although I don’t believe in God I do believe that there are some wise sayings or stories in the Bible and we learn to become better people from reading them. If God wanted us to know him he wouldn’t use examples through parables or used men to write it he would simply conjure up a book called “God: My Life.”

    • Interesting insight Pete although I obviously disagree but it is interesting to have an Atheists perspective, good to have a comment from you thats not just simply insults, at this rate I might have to stop deleting your comments :)

  17. Thanks for reminding me of this Pete. I haven’t forgotten to respond to Mike, and I’ll probably get my response up tomorrow.

  18. This is my reply to your comments Mike. I’m going to number the topics below so we can keep track of the various subtopics. Unfortunately, this is going to be a rather lengthy comment. Such is life.

    (1) Introduction

    Words are symbols for ideas and concepts. Obviously, many words have multiple shades of meaning and nuances. We are dealing with words that are like that. I promise you that I don’t disagree with Dallin Oaks in the least on this issue. The question is not “what does the word ‘nature’ mean?”. Instead, the question is “what do we mean by the word ‘nature’ in this particular context?” You are correct, Mike, to note that these words are sometimes interchangeable. It simply depends on what one means when they use the word.

    You offered some dictionary definitions for those words. Dictionary.com has no less than 20 different definitions for the word “nature”, and no less than 23 definitions for the word “character”. So, instead of playing a game of “dictionary poker” let’s just try and determine what the words mean in the contexts of which they are spoken.

    (2) King Follett Discourse & Elder Oaks

    In the King Follet Discourse, Joseph Smith is recorded as saying, “But it is the simple and first principle of the gospel-to know for a certainty the character of God, that we may converse with him as one man with another. God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible.” To me, this seems pretty obvious that by “character” Joseph Smith has something in mind like “species”. He is arguing against the creedal tradition which states that God is merely an unembodied spirit. Joseph Smith is stressing the fact the God the Father is what we are in the sense that he is an individual being who has I-Thou relationships with others. We can converse with him as one man converses with another because God is embodied and because he is an individual in the same sense that every man is an individual. He is not homoousios with the other members of the Godhead in the sense that they are three persons in one being. Instead, according to Mormonism, they are three persons in three beings. Joseph stresses this idea by explaining that God the Father is so much like us that he even once dwelt on an Earth as a mortal.

    Why would a proper understanding of God’s species, and thus genetic relationship to us, be the first principle of the gospel? Because, as Elder Oaks explains, “the prevailing concepts of the nature of God and the Godhead were untrue and could not lead their adherents to the destiny God desired for them.” It is essentially the same issue that dominated the Nicene council. The underlying issue was salvation, and the “nature” of God was being debated (Arianism vs Trinitarianism) because they believed that the nature of God’s species was vital to man’s salvation. If Christ wasn’t fully god and fully man, so the logic went, he could not turn sinful man into glorious godly beings.

    For the Latter-day Saints the issue is the same. The underlying issue though, instead of being salvation from hell (though that is at stake also), is exaltation. We are thinking about and looking towards exaltation. Exaltation is when an individual enters into an intimate friendship with God and shares all that the Father has. Joseph Smith’s point, and Elder Oaks’ point, is that in order to enter into that relationship it is important to realize that God the Father is actually God the Father. He is our Father. He is the same species that we are. He is a “man” in the sense that he is a more developed form of human being. I like the phrase, “Divinity is the full maturity of humanity.” God is a human being who is fully mature in his development.

    I agree with that. I agree with Elder Oaks, who is taking his cue from Joseph Smith. Understanding that God the Father is ultimately the same species as us helps us to develop the friendship with God (exaltation) that we seek.

    So what about my earlier distinction between “nature” and “character”? I was just trying to point out that the record shows Joseph saying “character” and not “nature”. That doesn’t really matter as long as we figure out what he means by the word. In context, it seems to refer to God’s species as being fundamentally the same as our species.

    (3) God and Balaam

    You’ve brought up the case of Balaam. I’ve seen this brought up on other occasions by Evangelicals as well. You are exactly correct when you say that “man” is used as a byword for “dishonest” in Num 23:19. The general point made by Evangelical critics of Mormonism is something about how Mormons believe God is a man and so this passage contradicts Mormonism. But this criticism fails on several levels.

    First, according to the Hypostatic Union, God in fact is a man. Well, at least God the Son is a man. He is fully man. Yet, even though God the Son is fully man he is not considered to be inherently dishonest or sinful. This is at least one example of a man who is not dishonest.

    Secondly, the belief that man is naturally dishonest and sinful stems from a belief in original sin. The thinking goes that Adam fell and with his fall he brought about a stain of dishonesty and wickedness that plagues all his descendants. But what about before Adam fell? Was Adam inherently dishonest and wicked then? No. He was not. Nevertheless, Adam was still a man. Adam was a man who was not inherently dishonest.

    Third, what about when believers are resurrected? They will dwell in heaven where there is no dishonesty or wickedness. Are they still men? That depends on how you define the word. For me, and I think most Mormons, we consider resurrected, righteous beings to be still be “men” in the sense that they are the same fundamental species as they were while in mortality. They have overcome (through Christ) the struggles of mortality and no longer are plagued by death and sin. Nevertheless they are still “men”.

    That is the sense in which Mormons consider God to be a “man”. He is the same fundamental species as us. We have already seen that the word “man” does not have to be equated to someone who is dishonest or sinful. But, in the case of typical mortal men, it does. When Mormons refer to god as a “man” we mean it in a similar way to Evangelicals who say that Jesus is fully man. He is a man, but he isn’t plagued by death and sin.

    A useful analogy for understanding this issue is to consider the relationship between a caterpillar and a butterfly. At random, let’s choose the species Parnassius epaphus (there are millions of species we could choose). Mortal man is analogous to the caterpillar stage of Parnassius epapus. God the Father is analogous to the butterfly stage of Parnassius epaphus. But, both mortal man and God the Father are members of the same species, and are analogous to the caterpillar and butterfly stages of Parnassius epaphus. Now, leaving our analogy, God and man are two different developmental stages of the species homo sapien. In the King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith is basically declaring that God the Father is a the same species as us. God the Father is a homo sapien, and as such we can converse with him face to face.

    And so, in the case of Balaam, I believe that the text can correctly be understood as saying, “God is a homo sapien, but he is not in the development stage of “mortal man”. He is beyond that, and he doesn’t behave like that. Men lie and cheat, but God is not a man. He is a god. He is a more advanced form of homo sapien.”

    Obviously the text doesn’t say all that, but that is how it can be understood. I’m not arguing that the ancient Israelites understood God in the same way that modern Mormons do, but I do believe their understanding was closer to Mormonism than it was to Trinitarianism. That is a debate for another day.

    (4) Moroni 8:18

    We’ve wandered quite a bit from our initial discussion of Moroni 8:18. But I guess it goes to show how important and influential our respective views of God and his relationship to man are in our interpretation of scripture. Mike said, “In insisting that God was once a man a Mormon is denying God’s eternal nature and character as described in Moroni 8:18 and related Bible passages.” We simply don’t see it that way. There are two ways of interpreting God’s mortality, and I’m sort of defending both of them simultaneously:

    (a) The first view is to believe that God the Father was a mortal on an Earth, but that he never sinned. This would be roughly analogous to what Christ did. As was demonstrated above, to be a “man” does not necessarily mean that one is sinful. Christ was a man who was not sinful. Adam was a man who was not sinful by nature before his fall. In insisting that God was once a man we are not denying God’s unchangeable character.

    (b) The second view is to believe that God the Father was a mortal on an Earth and that during that time he did sin. Under this idea, God the Father repented and was redeemed and is now a perfect being with all that past behind him and being irrelevant to his ability to love and save mankind. Under this idea, the meaning of “eternity” becomes a small issue, as we’ve already begun to discuss. We’ve begun debating the meaning of “olam” in Hebrew. You have correctly pointed out that each use of “olam” ought to be evaluated by its context. You’ve shown some good examples of where “olam” clearly does not describe an actual infinite period of time. But, you’ve tried to argue that when it speaks about God it must take the meaning of an infinite period of time. Your supporting passages are both very questionable.

    Zechariah 1:5 simply contrasts the limited duration of an Israelite prophet to Jehovah’s unlimited (eternal) duration as Israel’s god. But even you would agree that Jehovah was not really Israel’s god before Israel itself existed. I don’t see anything there that would indicate that the word “olam” has to mean an infinite past.

    Isaiah 47:7 has Babylon declaring herself to be the “eternal queen”, but there is no evidence that Babylon actually views herself as having been the supreme city for an infinite period of time in the past. It is simply absurd to suggest that the citizens of Babylon actually believed that about their city. Rather, the claim to being the “eternal queen” is idiomatic boasting, much like their claim in verse 8 that “I am, and there is none beside me.” The reality is that there actually are other cities besides Babylon, but it is idiomatic boasting to declare oneself to be the only city in existence.

    Rather than “olam” taking the meaning of an infinite past whenever it is applied to God in the Hebrew scriptures, I think you are imposing that meaning on the text based on your Trinitarian assumptions. The text doesn’t demand that reading, and doesn’t teach it. The word “olam” is a strange word that doesn’t really fit either Evangelical or Mormon beliefs, but neither should it cause problems for those two traditions.


  19. Pete, I think you raise some interesting points. Of course, it is common for those who have no faith to believe that they bring no preconceptions to the discussion and to presume that those who have faith are already blinded by their prejudices and incapable of making truly objective judgements. The unbeliever will think he is reasonable in taking a position that says, “Whatever rocks your boat”, and comfortable in thinking his views are expansive and inclusive while those of the believer are restrictive and exclusive.

    This is a fallacy because the unbeliever is beset with preconceptions of their own and the believer is quite capable of “seeing the other point of view”, or as capable as anyone can be, because they themselves have not always held the view they hold today. I know what it is to have thought differently, to have “seen” other viewpoints and to have changed my own position on the basis of my experience of God, reasoned thought and discussion. As I grow as a Christian I hold onto the hope that this will continue to happen.

    It is important to realise that there is no neutral ground, no viewing gallery where one can stand apart from the mêlée and issue sounder, better judgement than those who choose to enter the arena of ideas and beliefs. In the very course of taking this illusory position of the neutral observer one is staking a claim, declaring a belief and setting oneself up as opposed to another, different position. As an unbeliever you have tacitly declared that there is no God; that is not a neutral place but a definite statement of belief that stands in opposition to the beliefs of others here. Rather than adopt the posture of a neutral wouldn’t it be better to accept that you have a view and enter the discussion on that basis?

    The point about understanding ourselves through the character of God is excellently made. It gets right to the heart of what the Christian faith is about. Who and what is God and who and what are we in relation to God? The Bible makes plain and the Christian faith has consistently taught that God is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and perfect in all his character and attributes. He has always been God, will always be God and beside him there is no god. He is right in all his judgements and merciful in his dealings with fallen man.

    Man is a creature, made in the image of God in that those aspects of God’s character that are “communicable attributes” are found in men and women. Man is an animal as far as his physicality is concerned and has all the instincts and character traits typical of his kind in the animal kingdom. He is born, he grows and develops eats and sleeps, breeds, rears young, grows old and dies. Yet Hamlet asks, “What is a man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed?”

    Think about the very fact that a man should ask that question, ask any question, and that another would ponder it and muse on its application. We are so used to our thinking processes we forget how incredible it is that we have them to use. Uniquely in creation man is imbued with those godlike attributes that set him apart as steward over creation, co-regent with God charged with husbanding and caring for the creation of which he is a part. Hamlet says it very well when he declares:

    “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

    Man is “this quintessence of dust” and yet so much more than mere creature, “noble in reason, infinite in faculties, in form and moving express and admirable, in action like an angel, in apprehension like a god!” Man is a creature with the apprehension (or understanding) of a god. James wishes to say not that man is a creature displaying what Christians call the communicable attributes of God but that God is a man, of the same species as man, and that the creature man can be a god.

    The implications are enormous and couldn’t be more serious to a believer because man is portrayed in Scripture as a creature fallen from a place of grace, subject to sin and death and in need of saving from a state from which he cannot save himself. If God is a man then implicit in that belief is the idea that God is a sinner (a contentious subject even in Mormon circles). If you were a believer would you want to put your future eternity in the hands of a reformed sinner whose judgement has obviously been questionable in the past or of a God who has always been God and who is perfect in all his ways?

    And so we come to James’ convoluted reply to what is in the end a simple enough point. I have no intention of playing dictionary poker but it is important that words cannot simply mean what you want them to mean. I have looked up dictionary.com and find that it agrees with my own dictionary in that it does not give “over twenty different definitions of the word ‘nature’” and “no less than 23 different definitions of the word ‘character’.” Rather, it gives a variety of different applications of the same definition, i.e. what a thing is like. From the nature of nature to the character of a man, these words always mean those attributes that mark something or someone out from something or someone else. They address the question of what constitutes a thing. It is important to understand this and to understand that dictionaries treat the words as interchangeable.

    I fear you are trying to muddy the water, James, by asserting, “aren’t dictionaries so confusing with their different definitions?” But dictionaries are not confusing and if Joseph Smith, Dallin Oaks, you or anyone else wishes to use a word it had better be used according to universally received and widely understood definitions. You cannot, with Humpty Dumpty, say, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” The question we are addressing is the nature and character of God, meaning those things about God that mark him out as God. Mormonism is mistaken in blurring the distinctions between God and man while the Bible is very clear and quite unequivocal in portraying God as holy and distinct from his creation and Man as part of God’s creation.

    On the issue of Balaam you have rushed to the familiar challenge “the general point made by Evangelical critics of Mormonism”, but that is not my point. I am not using “God is not a man” as an emphatic statement from God denying Mormonism. Rather, I am pointing out that God is not a man in that he cannot sin. It is in the very nature and character of God to be sinless. By your scheme, God cannot make such a statement because it would make him the very thing he is not – a liar. If God lived on an earth as a man and worshipped a god who sent a Saviour to that world then God is a man with the capacity for sin, which God emphatically declares he is not. God is eternally sinless, sinless by nature while man is a redeemed sinner if he turns to and trusts in Christ.

    You have unpacked what you understand Joseph Smith and Dallin Oaks to mean respectively but all you have done is describe Mormonism. But Joseph Smith is not the measure of these things, the Word of God is. Moroni 8:18 is in complete accord with Ps.90:2, that declares “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” There is that word ‘Olam’ again, meaning time out of mind, perpetual, eternal. The context, as I have pointed out, gives the application. You can wish it to mean something else but this is what the Bible says and what Christians believe.

    This is in accord with Gen.1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” While all else had a beginning, before the beginning began God was there. This is the beginning of everything, matter, space and time. God is God “from everlasting to everlasting” while creation had a beginning. The worlds were not made out of any pre-existent material (Heb.11:3) because before the beginning began God alone was there and before the creation there was no other kind of existence. Creation itself was made ex nihilo, out of nothing, the Hebrew bara meaning to create in absolute terms. Man was not made ex nihilo but was made “out of the dust of the ground” (Gen.2:7), as were the other creatures (Gen.2:19).

    Eph.4:6 declares that he is “One God…above all and through all, and in all”, indicating that he stands in a relationship of both transcendence and immanence to Creation. He is “above all” and “over all” (Ro.9:5) transcendent and independent of Creation. That is what the Bible means when it speaks of God. It says nothing of species, that is your word, and nothing of pre-mortal existence for man, that is a Mormon concept not found in Christianity. In the Bible man has a beginning while God does not.

    Now you may wish to believe differently and that is your prerogative but you cannot make the Bible say what you choose to believe any more than you can legitimately make the dictionary define a word in a way that suits you. I find it telling that, after a lengthy peroration concluding:

    “And so, in the case of Balaam, I believe that the text can correctly be understood as saying, “God is a homo sapien, but he is not in the development stage of “mortal man”. He is beyond that, and he doesn’t behave like that. Men lie and cheat, but God is not a man. He is a god. He is a more advanced form of homo sapiens.”

    You then write, “of course the text doesn’t say all that…” You bet the text doesn’t say all that but you seem quite prepared to make the text say what you want it to say. You present alternative ways of looking at it but fail to see that the Bible has already stated clearly how we should understand the subject. Let me deal with the points you raise as examples to back up your argument.

    I would not agree that Jehovah was not really Israel’s God before Israel existed. You can only take that view if you insist on making God a man subject to time. I cannot be my children’s father before I have children, granted, but that is because I must wait for that time when I become a father. God is not subject to time and is God “from eternity to eternity” and therefore is God of all Creation. He is God of Israel even before Israel exists because all time is an eternal now for God who “makes known the end from the beginning” (Is.46:10), who declares “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev.21:6). You seriously mistake Scripture on this point.

    Babylon may indeed declare herself the eternal queen but God shows himself to be eternal by holding the fate of Babylon in the palm of his hand. Babylon may declare of itself “I am and there is no other” but you are seriously mistaken if you understand God to be using these words in this way. You are taking the vaunting, self-regarding words of a kingdom that will, like all earthly kingdoms, pass and comparing them quite inappropriately with the truth uttered by the eternal God. One has nothing to do with the other beyond the words used, the former to express unfounded pride the latter to express eternal truth.

    The whole point is that when Smith wrote Moroni 8:18 he was reflecting a view of God that would be considered orthodox in that it portrays God, correctly, as eternally God. It reflects the influences that still bore on him in his early days. When he preached his King Follett discourse he was reflecting a radical change in his view of God and demonstrating beyond question that he had changed his mind. He was not saying remotely the same thing in those two instances and attempts today to reconcile those two irreconcilable views always end with the sort of convoluted and incredibly speculative arguments you have brought here. But if you go to the Bible the question is answered clearly and unequivocally.

    The problem is that Mormons are not prepared to countenance the idea that their founding prophet might have been wrong, might have contradicted himself and may have been discarding old ideas as quickly as he took up new ones. The starting point for a Christian is that the Bible is reliable and we believe whatever it tells us, the starting point for a Mormon is that Joseph Smith can’t be wrong and so there must be an explanation and, no matter how excruciatingly tortuous it is it must be better than rejecting the teachings of Joseph Smith.

  20. Mike,

    I’m going to leave just a few thoughts, because I think we are beating this to death. I’m going to basically address your comments in the order that you’ve made them. After this I’ll let you have the last word if you want. Anyone interested can email me if they want to carry on the discussion ([email protected]).

    (1) I think you are continuing to conflate “man” with “fallen man”. Man by definition is not fallen. That is why “fallen” is a qualifier for a certain type of man. I think I showed that sufficiently in my last post. So by positing that God is a man I am not positing that God is a fallen man who is sinful.

    (2) All this talk about dictionaries is simply silly. I have no argument with you about dictionary definitions. But, I do think there is truth in Humpty-Dumpty’s dictum.

    (3) You said, “Mormonism is mistaken in blurring the distinctions between God and man while the Bible is very clear and quite unequivocal in portraying God as holy and distinct from his creation and Man as part of God’s creation.”

    Of course, this invites a discussion about whether your interpretation of the Bible is correct or not. I think I can interpret it better than you, while you obviously think the opposite. Perhaps another time and place we can do that.

    (4) On my comments about Balaam, see #1 above. God says to Balaam “I am not a man”, but the clear message is “I am not a fallen man”. I think it is pretty obvious, especially since God (Jesus) is in fact a man.

    (5) On the issue of Moroni 8:18 and Psalm 90:2, you’ve accused of doing nothing more than describing Mormonism. Of course, I think that you are guilty of the same. I think you are simply reading it through the lens of hellenistic Trinitariansim. I think I’m making an effort to read it through the lens of ancient Israel.

    (6) You’ve quoted a number of passages about God, particularly about the creation. That invites an enormous debate, one we might have sometime. I’m especially interested in Genesis 1:1. I wonder, are you familiar with John Walton’s treatment of it?

    (7) You next chastise me for my interpretation of God’s words to Balaam. I think you are being unfair to me there. I was simply offering the framework through which I think the passage ought to be read.

    (8) I’d forgotten that you believe that God is outside of time, so I’ll retract that argument I made earlier. It would be interesting to have a discussion some time about that belief. I believe that God is subject to time.

    (9) As for the statements by Babylon, I think you’ve totally missed the boat. This isn’t about whether or not Babylon was correct in her claim, or about the prideful boasting she was engaging in. This is merely about the meaning of the phrase. The idiomatic expression that Babylon and God both use has the same meaning, even if one of them uses it wickedly and one of them uses it righteously.

    (10) I simply disagree with your take on Moroni 8:18, and I think I’ve made my reasons clear throughout this discussion. I happen to think that Joseph’s theology did in fact evolve, but never in a way that contradicted itself or the Bible.

    (11) I’m totally fine with admitting that Joseph was wrong about some things. This just isn’t one of them.

    As a final comment, I want to highlight something that I think is typical of these sorts of discussions. Many conservative protestants tend to talk about the Bible as if they were the guardians and possessors of it, and that they have cornered the market on biblical interpretation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Evangelicals are just one more group who claims a spiritual heritage from the Bible, along with Mormons and countless others. Please keep in mind that I, and all Mormons, are sincerely striving to correctly interpret the Bible. We aren’t here to play games. We believe that it is scripture just as much as you do.



  21. James

    I am disappointed though not at all surprised at your decision to bow out of this discussion. You were happy enough to lecture everyone at length as long as you thought you had a handle on this but once you come across a robust response and run out of answers you excuse yourself with “this is too involved” and an invitation to anyone who is interested to email you. You make a habit of this don’t you?

    Clearly you want to have your own private audience that you can influence as you see fit. But this is and always has been a public discussion and I will leave it to others to decide why you are withdrawing and why you are so keen to talk to people alone. I say it is foul play on your part and stand prepared to continue this discussion when you are.

    It is not a question of having cornered the market but, yes, I do speak and write as though these are settled issues because they are and have been for centuries and it is a lie to suggest otherwise. Just because you can drag up some dissensious characters who see things differently makes no real difference. They have been there from the beginning but it doesn’t mean anything.

    Only groups like Mormons who want to reinvent Christianity in Joseph Smith’s own image seek to make these issues controversial. I don’t see why a polytheistic treasure-seeking polygamist who died in a gun fight and who has not more than 5 million active followers across the world should dictate to us what we should do with two millennia of teaching. The Mormon disdain for those who have gone before, seeking truth and sacrificing even their lives to maintain it is both distressing and rather ridiculous.

    I will respond to your points if only to clarify for whoever might be following this those things you seem determined to obfuscate. If at some point you wish to come back to this then by all means jump in.

  22. Mike,

    Please, don’t flatter yourself. My reason for wanting to bow out of the discussion has nothing to do with it being “too involved” as you’ve falsely claimed it is. And, it has nothing to do with your “robust” response or because I’ve “run out of answers”. You are fooling yourself if you think this has anything to do with the strength of your arguments.

    I stated precisely why I want to end the conversation, and I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from trying to read my mind and attributing other reasons to my choice. What I said was that we are beating this to death. We are to the point that we are simply repeating things we’ve already said before. I think we are at an impasse. This is becoming a waste of time. I think you have poor arguments, and you think the same of my arguments. Under these circumstances we aren’t likely to get much further, especially with the tone this discussion has taken.

    That leads me to my next point. Discussions like this in a public venue are rarely all that productive. The debate inevitably devolves into a competition for witty soundbites and for getting in the last word. Lou Midgley wrote,

    “We may also make the mistake of not really desiring to understand the opinions of the Other. One reason for this is that debates take place before real or imagined audiences and hence in a kind of theater in which points are scored or awarded. The “winner” in a debate often succeeds by the crafty use of rhetoric. The goal easily becomes winning or appearing to win a contest. Clever, quick, confident responses are at a premium in such exchanges. And often biased, poorly informed audiences serve as the judge and presumably determine a winner.”

    End quote.

    Audiences, whether real or imagined, have a way of destroying true dialogue. We act differently before an audience than we would in a private conversation. We are now trying to beat each other into submission rather than have respectful dialogue. And so for this reason I’ve invited anyone who is still interested to email me so that we can discuss it in private. A truly productive conversation can be had that way. You, Mike, are invited to do the same as well. I’m not trying to control the conversation or any such nonsense you are accuse me of doing, I’m simply trying to turn the vitriol down.

    I also object to your caricature of Joseph Smith. That is the sort of thing I’m talking about. I tend to doubt that you would have made such a needless (and false) remark if we were amicably discussing these issues in private.

    Finally, I want to correct something else you’ve accused Mormons of. We do not have “disdain for those who have gone before, seeking truth and sacrificing even their lives to maintain it…”. That accusation is rather offensive to me. I, and all Mormons, have enormous respect for those icons of Christianity who have battled for truth. At the least, we see them as important contributors to the effort of paving the way for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days.

    Thanks for participating in this discussion Mike. I only wish we could have maintained a more friendly tone. I’m sure you will respond, and I urge those who are interested to email me for my response.


  23. One minute after achieving full exaltation and Godhood, do you think it would be appropriate to say of yourself, “I have been the Almighty God, the Holy of Holies, the Most High, unchangeably so from all eternity to all eternity”?

  24. One only has to read the official version of the first vision to see how Mormonism views all of Christianity. We were brought up to believe that Christianity is an abomination in the sight of God. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Mormons call my Christian church ” that weird little church on the hill” even though they’ve never stepped foot inside it. Sad really. Because the only thing we worship there is Christ. No prophet worship. No self righteous worship. The Bible is front and center, not put last in scripture because it isn’t translated correctly.

    Also, I feel that this public venue has been very helpful to me as I transition out of the LDS church and embrace the Grace of Christ. Thanks to all who participate! I’ve learned TONS on both sides. I’m thankful for the Lord leading me out of the confusion that is Mormonism. Things make sense now. :)

    Hopefully everyday Mormons who are questioning are coming here. I’m sure they will learn a ton of stuff about Mormonism that they have never heard before. Things that will help them see that the religion they are in is so much more “out there” than they realized. At least that is what has happened to me from participating on Bobby’s blog. Mormonism has strayed so far from the simple truth that is in Christ. Why would anyone want to muddle up their lives with so much “stuff”?

  25. I said I would come back and respond to James’ parting shot if only because I think it wrong to leave this midair for anyone who might have been following it. I hardly see how just 32 posts can be said to be “beating this to death” and one has to ask whether I am right, despite his protestations to the contrary, in thinking he simply doesn’t want to continue because he doesn’t have a tame pliable audence.

    Anyone following this – and there may be no one of course – will see that, while I have appealed to both biblical and Mormon authorities, James’ end of the discussion has been marked by speculations, maybes, could have beens etc. The absence of “official” and authoritative Mormon commentary speaks volumes here. Of course, I would expect to enter into a discussion of “Mormonism and the Bible” based on Moroni 8:18 and not a discussion of James’ unorthodox -even by Mormon standards – views. Three points I want to pick up on.

    1. It is typical for a Mormon to cry foul when their Christian credentials are called into question. In the spirit of the age they will insist it simply isn’t Christian, isn’t “nice” to treat anyone else as anything but equal. “How dare you”, they say, “presume that your position is any better or more worthy than mine?” They presume that since they assume it others must accept it. That is a bit rich coming from someone who insists their church alone has authority and authenticity on their side. But there is more to it than that.

    2. The Christian Church has been around continuously for 2 thousand years and from the pew to the pulpit, from the small group study to the academy, from early councils to the latest church plant and evangelistic outreach Christians have hammered out, defined and defended the truth. With some 2.2 billion plus Christians in the world of course there is going to be disagreement but it is remarkable how settled core doctrines are as a result of centuries of deliberation, prayer and sacrifice.

    Mormonism is strange in the extreme when compared with the carefully and prayerfully preserved teachings of the Christian Church and it is for Mormonism to prove its bona fides in the arena of faith. The Christian Church established its credentials long ago and needn’t feel the need to apologise for rejecting heresy and error.

    3. Finally, in light of the above, the Bible makes clear that God is God “from eternity to eternity” (Ps.90:2) and the Book of Mormon agrees – at least in respect of Mormoni’s words in Moroni 8:18. This simple statement, by its very nature, describes a God who stands outside time. The only way then you can make God an exalted man subject to time is to redefine the words of Scripture, indeed the language as a whole to fit in with Mormon preconceptions. Typically, that is what James has set out to do, perhaps without realising himself what he has been doing.

    I am not a dogmatic literalist and I understand the nuances in language but where the language is so plain and the issues so universally settled it is surely not wrong to agree that what the Bible says the Bible means. Of course, our experience of Mormonism is that what Mormonism says today it may well not say tomorow. One can’t help but feel sympathy for the way this must mess with people’s heads.

    The Bible is God’s written word and is fully reliable, giving us all that we need for life and godliness. Anything that comes after must be brought before this judgement bar and if found wanting rejected. Clearly, James doesn’t believe what the Bible tells him, nor indeed what Moroni 8:18 tells him. This not according to this opinion or that but according to what the Bible tells us all.

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