Dealing with Doubt

Have you ever doubted your faith? Is it ok to doubt your faith? 

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Couple talks on the topic:

When Doubts and Questions Arise

Overcoming the Danger of Doubt

How Can I Overcome Doubt with Faith?

Elder Holland gives wonderful insight:

In this broadcast of Giving An Answer broadcast, H.C. Felder interviews Dr. Gary Habermas about his book Dealing with Doubt.  Dr. Habermas talks about his personal struggle with doubt and gives biblical examples of strong men of faith who at some point in their walk struggled with the issue of doubt.

He explains how doubt can be used to develop a stronger faith.  Dr. Habermas also discusses the different types of doubt and how to overcome them.

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Habermas contrasts factual doubt with emotional doubt and how one can lead to the other. Emotions are much more complicated.

Emotional doubt is by far the most common and most painful. Gary has worked with clinical psychologists for years on this topic.

Volitional doubt is the type that can’t be reached. They tried once, and aren’t going to try again.

This is Gary speaking on the topic he’s best known for: the resurrection.

Latter-day Saints are equipped to confront atheism

From the Deseret News story in 2017 by Hyrum Lewis.

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In recent decades, anti-religion books have become best-sellers, the culture has become increasingly secular, and religious affiliation has declined among the population. There are many reasons for this rise in atheism, but it is not because atheists have advanced good arguments. They haven’t.

The basic atheist objection to belief in God is that we don’t see him, but this assumes — for no reason at all — that knowledge comes exclusively through sight. Most religious people believe that revelation — scriptures, personal inspiration or living prophets — can give knowledge just as sight, sound or touch can. Many Latter-day Saints believe in God not necessarily because they have seen him, but because they know through spiritual witness that he is real.

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Atheists don’t take such spiritual experiences at face value, but instead dismiss them as mere illusions — tricks played on us by the brain. The mind evolved to believe nonsense, says the atheist, so we can just discard spiritual experiences accordingly.

But notice that by saying our brains are powerful deception machines, atheists have undercut the validity of the science that forms the very basis of their worldview. If we can dismiss spiritual experiences (such as “feeling the Holy Ghost”) by appealing to brain chemistry, we can also dismiss sensory experiences in the same way and for the same reasons. If our brains are built to trick us, why should we trust anything they tell us, including the evidence for evolution, relativity or any other scientific theory? When it comes to spiritual experiences, the atheist refers to the brain as an all-powerful deception machine; when it comes to science, the atheist refers to the brain as an all-powerful truth machine.

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The atheist claim that “we don’t see God” is also false. The scriptures and LDS traditions are full of accounts of people who have seen, heard or even touched God. Why are atheists willing to accept sensory evidence when it comes to science, but not when it comes to religion? It would appear that, for the atheist, the “seeing is believing” rule only counts when it supports their worldview.

Also note that atheists themselves believe in many things they can’t see. Atheists generally believe in moral principles, but when has anyone ever seen these entities called “good” and “evil”? If our experiences of God are “just feelings” that we can ignore, then why aren’t our experiences of right and wrong also “just feelings” that we can likewise ignore? “Moral” is simply a name we give to certain behaviors we prefer, but isn’t our preference for them, like our belief in God, just a product of evolution that we can now disregard?

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Science works on the principle of falsifiability, but no scientist is willing to falsify morals in the face of new evidence. It’s inconceivable that a scientist would look into a microscope and declare, “I’ve just falsified the theory that murder is wrong.” Since no atheists are willing to falsify their morals, this is evidence that they do exactly what they charge religious people with doing: believing in things for which there is no empirical scientific evidence.

Another common atheist argument says that God can’t exist because he would not allow the suffering and wickedness that are so prevalent in the world. While other Christian denominations teach that God created us from nothing, Latter-day Saints believe that our intelligence and agency are co-eternal with God. This means that God respects our free will. We played a role in coming to earth, with all the risks that entailed.

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We also have the ability to choose, even if we abuse it. If we choose greed, we reap the unhappiness of materialism; if we choose selfishness, we reap the unhappiness of loneliness; if we choose substance abuse, we reap the unhappiness of addiction; if we choose indolence, we reap the unhappiness of poverty. God could not stop this suffering without depriving us of our agency. Human choices explain much (perhaps most) of the suffering in the world.

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must remember that everyone, atheists included, have faith. Humans are wired for worship and we all seek out dogmas that give our lives direction. Our choice is not whether to worship, but what to worship.

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Notice, for instance, that nearly all atheists who ridicule the idea of faith, themselves gravitate to secular faiths such as Marxism, progressivism, humanism, postmodernism, scientism, libertarianism or other such “isms.” Each is based on dogmas that require leaps of faith.

While atheism has grown in America over the past generation, this is not because it has solid arguments behind it. Latter-day Saints are equipped with religious truths that can help them refute even the strongest atheist claims.

What Difference Does it Make if There’s no God?

Our Christian brothers — especially William Lane Craig — share wonderful insight. No atheists can live within a framework of their own world view.

Their world view is that there is no ultimate meaning. They may create a veneer of meaning for this life, but that is artificial and not lasting. Atheism is fundamentally unlivable.

Primary vs. Secondary Questions

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU devotional on Jan. 22, 2019.

Elder Corbridge gave this talk at the BYU devotional yesterday: What to do with your questions, according to 1 General Authority who’s an expert on anti-Church materials.

As part of an assignment, Elder Corbridge read critical material. Lots of critical or anti-Mormon material. In fact, he claims there’s virtually nothing he hasn’t read from critical or anti sources.

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Key point:

Elder Corbridge explained there are primary and secondary questions when it comes to the Church. The primary questions must be answered first, as they are the most important. They include:

  • Is there a God who is our Father?
  • Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
  • Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  • Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?
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In contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, how the Book of Mormon was translated, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, different accounts of the First Vision and so on.

“If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t understand, things you agree with and things you don’t agree with without jumping ship altogether,” Elder Corbridge said.

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More from the talk:

“There are some members of the Church who don’t know the answers to the primary questions, and they spend their time and attention slogging through the secondary questions.

They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt,” Elder Corbridge said.

One cannot prove the Church is true by disproving every claim made against it. Ultimately, there must be affirmative proof. With the things of God, that affirmative proof comes by revelation through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.

Has Anyone Seen God?

Latter-day Saints believe the answer is yes!

Is it true that no man has seen God?

John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

JST: John 1:19 “And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.

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The video above shares several biblical passages in which God is referenced.

Isaiah 6:5 “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

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Acts 7:55-565But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Lehi’s Vision, 1 Nephi 1:8: “And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. “

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Several accounts from the Old Testament:

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This suggests bodily features of God and an ability to see Him. The Children of Israel are still at the foot of Mt. Sinai at the time of this writing. 2

This type of opportunity to see the face of God or his entire body (Stephen’s stoning context) isn’t a casual or common experience. See the verse below in John 6.

John 6:46: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. “

This verse in Hebrews stresses the same point:

Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”

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Jesus himself said the following:

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” 

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Moses was initially fearful to see the Lord, Exodus 3:6:

“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. “

But later in his ministry Moses was permitted to look at the Lord’s back, Exodus 33:23

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Moses’ encounter with God couldn’t be much plainer than read below. Many saw God and survived to tell about it.

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After Jacob’s wrestle with the angel, Jacob shares this account:

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Additional examples:

Numbers 12:8 “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

Deuteronomy 34:10 “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face

1 Kings 11:9 “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice

Summary: The Old and New Testament attest that people do see the Lord under the proper circumstances and when they’re prepared.

Aristotle and his impact on Christian theology

If you understand Aristotle’s views on God, metaphysics, philosophy, and the cosmos you’ll better understand Christianity.  Specifically, you’ll better understand the doctrine of the Trinity, why Christians had the false interpretation of the cosmos (geocentric) for 1500 years, and other errors that were incorporated into a Christian world view.

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After all, Greek thinking spread into the Roman world when the Romans conquered Greece.  Roman leaders had Greek slaves teach them and their kids mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and all other areas of knowledge.

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After Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity spread into a Greek world.  One that believed in things just the way Aristotle did centuries before.  Eventually, Roman leaders persecuted Christians who believed in ideas contrary to the accepted Greek views.

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Jews and Romans labeled Christians polytheists for belief in 2 Gods (Father & Son).  This persecution continued on and off until Christians embraces Greek philosophy, defining God and Jesus being one (2 persons, but one being) and of the same substance.

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Greek medicine has been largely rejected.  So has Greek astronomy.  A Greek view on God’s nature has persisted, however.

Aristotle had many brilliant ideas for his day.  He debated non-believers and laid out proofs for God’s existence.  Aristotle had a theory for nearly everything.  He was correct on many things, but mistaken on many others (including theological, medical, and astronomical concepts).

Many of these errors were adopted without reservation by the educated and a very significant institution:  the Roman Catholic Church.  Nobody at the time conceived the Greeks were wrong.  Indeed, these ideas were held up and propagated for centuries.  These false ideas — geocentricism, Greek medicine, and others — were not rejected till the Scientific Revolution.

A short  12-minute summary:

From Christian Wheaton College.  This is very dry.   Joseph Smith makes it much simpler.  He saw two resurrected beings.

More detail:

 

LDS scholar, Barry Bickmore, discusses the transformation of the Hebrew/Jewish organization into a more Hellenized version of Christianity:

Revelation, not Peter, is the Rock Upon Which the Early Church was Built

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A wonderful talk given by Hyrum W. Smith in 1988 at Rick’s College (now BYU-Idaho), “Why 1820?”

PDF text:

audio on YouTube:

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From 1975 Ensign by Richard Lloyd Anderson:  Simon Peter

A few paragraphs below:

“Was Peter impulsive, pious, or vacillating? Was he the first pope?

These questions reflect distorted opinions of the personality and life of Christ’s chief apostle. The authentic Peter towers in the New Testament, where more information is found on this apostle than any other except Paul.

None of the first disciples is mentioned as frequently in the gospels and the Acts; Peter’s recorded speeches, letters, and deeds exceed what remains from any other original apostle.”

From Elder McConkie in 1981:

Key section of Elder McConkie’s talk:

“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” Jesus says, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)

Then again Jesus alludes to the difference in paternal ancestry between him and Peter and continues his words of blessing and doctrine by saying: “And upon this rock”—the rock of revelation—“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.)

And how could it be otherwise? There is no other foundation upon which the Lord could build his Church and kingdom. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit.

God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. No man can know that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.

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From the LDS Student Manual on Matthew 16-18:

Matthew 16:18. Revelation Is the Rock upon Which the Church Is Built

As the Savior taught Peter about revelation, He used a wordplay on Peter’s name, declaring to Simon, “Thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

The Greek word petros means an isolated small rock or stone. The Greek word petra can also mean “a stone,” but in addition it can refer to stony soil, bedrock, or a large mass of rock.

From these words we learn that it was not upon Peter as a man that the Church would be built, but upon the bedrock of revelation.

To read about the significance of Peter’s name being changed from Cephas, see the commentary for John 1:42.

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President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) taught: “‘And upon this rock I will build my church.’ Upon what rock? Peter? Upon a man?

No, not upon a man, upon the rock of revelation, the thing which they were talking about.

He had just said, ‘… flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ This revelation that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation upon which he would build his Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 112; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 195)

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Gates if hell shall not prevail…

This talk discusses what this part of the verse means.  A few paragraphs below:

“The Greek word used to denote church in Matthew 16:18 is ecclesia, which literally means a “calling out” and originally referred to a civil assembly. Thus Jesus’ use of the phrase “my church” referred to an assembly “called” by him.

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In the present dispensation, the Lord used church in this same sense. He revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. …

“Behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67, 69.)

In these instances the “church” is not so much an institution as it is a group of individuals who repent, come unto Christ through the ordinances of the gospel, and endure in faith to the end. Upon them the adversary has no claim.”

We all must be personally built upon the rock.  Read this 1992 Ensign talk:  Built Upon the Rock.

 

Creeds (and the Trinity) in Christianity

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Elder Holland discusses the LDS doctrine of the Godhead here:

Wikipedia lists the many creeds and highlights the important historical ones here.

The creeds evolved over centuries.  From the Apostles’ Creed (180 AD) to the Athanasian Creed (500 AD).  Latter-day Saints can agree with the early creeds.  The later creeds, however, are deeply influenced by the dominant (at the time) Greek philosophy.

The creed in 180 AD is simple and clear.  The creed in 500 AD is not clear.  Not simple.

Mormons believe in the revealed truth about the Godhead.

Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Athanasian Creed:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

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From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, History of Trinitarian Doctrines:

Very first paragraph:

“This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.)

Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.

 

David Paulsen focuses on  the LDS understanding of God.   He explains that Origin, Augustine (though reluctantly), early Christians, and Jews that God believed was corporeal.   This is not a Trinitarian view.

Blake Ostler has written extensively on this topic.  Fortunately, he created easy-to-listen-to podcasts on the topic here:

A short essay by Blake Ostler:  The Logical Incoherence of Traditional Christianity.

Kerry Shirts always provides fun, enlightening insight:

 

Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?

Is the Pope and Hitler brothers?  Yes and no.  Yes, spiritually.  No, with respect to their mortal parents.  And they’ve followed completely different paths.

The answer to the title above is similar.  It’s not a simple answer.  Let’s look at the context of the Latter-day Saint view of creation and divine councils.

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From the 1986 Ensign:  I Have A Question:

 

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FAIR Mormon has a lengthy explanation here.   Key paragraphs below from an early Church father in which it’s clear God first made his first and greatest Son, then he later made what became the devil.

The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius wrote:

“Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,–inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,–in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father…
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Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father.
 
This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us.
 
God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power…”

We believe in a pre-existence. It’s biblical and also in our restored scriptures. Non-Mormons don’t see this notion of life before mortality — and so many other principles — the way we do. No big surprise.

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We can lovingly agree to disagree with our traditional Christian friends. And traditional Christians, even those very critical of us, should respect our different opinion, though they may disagree.

If they’re hostile and nasty about the differences on a particular religious topic, that is poor social manners on their part. And a poor reflection on them. We should respect others and deserve respect in return.

Some have claimed that Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. But in what context do they mean? Find out what Mormons really believe regarding the divinity of Jesus and the darkness of Satan.

From LDS scholar, Robert Boylan’s blog:

The “Mormon Jesus” being a “Spirit Brother” of Satan–what the Bible really says

 

The Backyard Professor has some interesting insights:

We wish we had more, lots more in the Bible. And one can — and creedal or traditional Christians do — interpret a range of scriptures to mean literally anything they wish. Consider all the 10s of 1000s of Christian churches. How’d they get there? Unique interpretations.

The Council in Heaven, pre-existence, and other related topics are lightly mentioned in the OT. But enough is there to support LDS positions.

Our Pearl of GP, in contrast, is very rich on this subject of councils, pre-earth life, Lucifer, etc. The PGP points out that we were all a part of the Divine Council. Lucifer was a brother to us all, Jehovah was chosen, noble and great ones were leaders long ago, etc.

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Other Christians don’t see things like we do. They shouldn’t, according to their paradigm or limited view. We’re lucky to have more material that is harmonious with the Bible.

The OT points out that multiple gods were also present at this council in heaven — something else that many traditional Christians wildly misinterpret. Certain non-LDS scholars, though, do understand this issue of the most high God (Heavenly Father) and other dieties.

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They’d refer to these other deities as angels or something else. They don’t own what we feel is the true interpretation: a separate deity (God’s son, Jehovah) is completely unique from God (Heavenly Father), and other sons of God. We, fortunately, have modern prophets and much more insight.

If we didn’t have a restoration we’d believe in a mysterious Trinity like everyone else.