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Honest question for my evangelical friends


blooit

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If I take the time to look it up, I'm sure there is a thread somewhere that hits this, but I want to be really specific.

I am teaching an evangelical neighbor and his wife, along with the elders. So far they are just curious and love talking about the Bible. No real deep search for a change, if that makes sense. We've talked about the typical things, especially the apostasy and whether or not it was complete. They are very loving and respectful even though we may disagree. They bring enough questions each time to keep us from really teaching the lessons, and most questions are meant to be stumpers, but we have great talks. We don't fight, but we do discuss differences. But the last visit really had us missing each other, like we just couldn't understand where the other was coming from. They turned our discussion to grace vs. works, and I really want to understand where my evangelical friends are coming from. I think my background and theirs kept either of us from really understanding each other on this one. So here is how I see the grace vs. works, primarily as the Bible discusses it.

My evangelical friends spend (what I would consider) an inordinate amount of time in Romans and the writings of Paul. I think this is largely because Romans is the most "grace-emphasized" book in the Bible. There are clearly scriptures that strongly support the evangelical claims to salvation by grace through faith. I don't think very many of them are stronger than Ephesians 2:8-9.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

On the other end, however, you have many scriptures advocating the importance of works. Probably the most quoted would be in James 2.

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

I won't quote the whole chapter, but to me the entire chapter is a clear explanation of the importance of works, even citing specific examples and repeating the phrase, "faith without works is dead" several times.

OK - so these entries (at least on the surface) appear to contradict each other, not to mention many other scriptures that seem to emphasize the importance of grace and also many emphasizing works. So how do we as christians deal with this apparent contradiction? As a Mormon and a christian, I acknowledge the apparent contradiction and notice that Paul and James were speaking to different audiences and emphasizing different things. Then I read in 2 Peter 3:

16 As also in all his (Paul's) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

To me this is very clear, Peter warns us here that Paul's words can be hard to understand, and that many have and will distort them. In fact, in the next verse, Peter actually cautions the reader to be careful with the words of Paul:

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

OK, so let me get to the point. We all (even though we may deny it) "wrest" many scriptures as we try to establish our own position. Even when our intentions are good, we are often too quick to just dismiss a passage if it goes against what we have been taught. But to me, a very plain reading of the New Testament shows that grace and works MUST both play a role. Even a couple evangelical pastor associates of mine have admitted that they are not entirely clear on the exact role that works play in salvation.

So Mormons turn to 2 Nephi 25:23.

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Evangelicals will immediately see this as the easy out, but ignoring their questions about the validity of the Book of Mormon, is this not a very reasonable explanation of how the two work together. In other words, YES - we are saved by grace, by God - NOT BY WORKS, but God requires us to do all we can (not just say a prayer) in order to receive that salvation.

OK - so my questions:

1) I've explained how Mormons justify many of Paul's references to grace. How do evangelicals explain passages like James 2?

2) My friend cited John 6:65 several times

65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
but I really couldn't get how this related to saved by grace? Is it that grace comes from the Father? Please help.

3) Leaving out your doubts about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and everything else about my faith, from a purely biblical perspective (and coming form someone who reads the Bible each day), isn't the Mormon explanation just as reasonable as the evangelical position? Don't say no just because of tradition or what your pastor said, I mean really, just looking at The Word, doesn't it have as much validity? I mean is avoiding the works passages any less "wresting" than modern revelation and biblical errancy seem to be to you?

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If there is no evidence by our actions of our faith, then our faith is dead. It probably never existed. The demons believe that Christ exists but that does not save them. The only way to be presented to the Father is to go through Christ. The only way to be recognized by Christ is to know him or be known by him in a relationship. Our actions are a fruit of our faith. Faith is not a fruit of our actions. We can do all sorts of wonderful things and the right things but still doubt what we are supposed to believe. If we are made new in Christ and you will know when this happens, then our actions are a fruit of the love we share. It is like having your calling and election made sure, and then the relationship builds from that, because the goal is no longer salvation, but doing the things that will give God pleasure, which is why we were created.

Heartleap...

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I talked with an evangelical friend of mine ad nauseum about grace saving us and not works. He constantly said "I'm saved," I'm saved," I'm saved." As if there is nothing he could do to lose that salvation, all the while he'd be sipping his 24 oz coffee and smoking a cigarette. I debated with him many days, even once with the missionaries. He eventually gave me back my book of mormon after two weeks (he never took the time to read it once despite me pleading with him to do so). Most of the time he doesn't keep the 4th commandment (going to church on Sunday), because he tells me that Moses' law is now void because of Christ. He's so convinced he is saved that when I mentioned works be required he told me I was brainwashed by my mormon cult for thinking so (this really pissed me off). I then was very stern with him in telling him that the coffee and cigarettes needed to stop, for partaking of them breaks a commandment set by God (Word of Wisdom). Surely enough he scoffed at that too.

I still have this friend of mine over the house though, like just this past Saturday night when the Flyers were playing the Blackhawks. As soon as the conversation turns to religion he immediately talks with a false sense of glee how he is saved. I simply told him I don't want to debate with him and invited him to church, which he declined as always.

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I think to often people seek to create a dichotomy of faith and works (not of the law, or the law of Moses, that Paul speaks of) when in fact they are complementary and you can't separate the two. As James shows us, true faith will lead to action, and this continued faith which leads us to continued obedience and repentance is what keeps us on the strait and narrow and in the covenant relationship that we have entered into with Christ. If we were to cease having that faith, we would also cease doing those things that keep us in the faith and thus fall out of that relationship and fall from grace, which Paul and other apostles also warned against. (Matt 10:22; 1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 1:19; Hebrews 6:4-6,10:26,12:15; 2 Peter 1:10)

Also, the ancients understood grace as being reciprocal, which goes along with the concept of grace for grace, if you will.

"The world of the authors and readers of the New Testament...was one in which the personal patronage was the essential means of acquiring access to goods, protection or opportunities of employment and advancement

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I was reading my Student Manual for the Book of Mormon and it gives commentary on 3 Nephi 11: 27- 30, which speaks of church members having no contentions among them. Read 3 Nephi 11: 27- 30:

27 And after this manner shall ye abaptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are bone; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. 28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no adisputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. 29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of acontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things a<A title="Mark 9: 50; John 16: 33." href="http://scriptures.lds.org/en/3_ne/11/30a" type=A mark="a">should be done away.

Now read the commentary from the student manual:;

Sources of contention and false doctorine

''Among the Latter- day Saints, the preachings of false doctorines described as truths of the gospel, may be expected of two classes, and practically from these only; they are:

''First- The hopelessly ignorant, whose lack of intelligence is due to their indolence and sloth, who make but feeble effort, if indeed any at all, to better themselves by reading and studying; those who are afflicted with a dread disease that may devopl into an incurable malady- laziness.

''Second- The proud and self vaunting ones, who read by the lamp of their won conceit; who interpert law unto themselves, as so pose as the sole judges of their own doings. More dangerously ignorant than the first.

"Beware of the lazy and the proud; their infection in each case is contagious; better for them and for all when they are compelled to display the yellow flag of warning, that the clean and uninfected may be protected" (Jospeh F. Smith, Gospel Doctorine, p. 373)

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IDK, I'm reading through this again (post above mine, my last post) and am wondering what exactly does Joseph F. Smith mean when he says:

"Beware of the lazy and the proud; their infection in each case is contagious; better for them and for all when they are compelled to display the yellow flag of warning, that the clean and uninfected may be protected"

Is he saying that it is better from them (the lazy and the proud) to admit they are not sure what the scriptures mean?

Someone help me out on this one. Thnx.

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I talked with an evangelical friend of mine ad nauseum about grace saving us and not works. He constantly said "I'm saved," I'm saved," I'm saved." As if there is nothing he could do to lose that salvation, all the while he'd be sipping his 24 oz coffee and smoking a cigarette. I debated with him many days, even once with the missionaries. He eventually gave me back my book of mormon after two weeks (he never took the time to read it once despite me pleading with him to do so). Most of the time he doesn't keep the 4th commandment (going to church on Sunday), because he tells me that Moses' law is now void because of Christ. He's so convinced he is saved that when I mentioned works be required he told me I was brainwashed by my mormon cult for thinking so (this really pissed me off). I then was very stern with him in telling him that the coffee and cigarettes needed to stop, for partaking of them breaks a commandment set by God (Word of Wisdom). Surely enough he scoffed at that too.

I still have this friend of mine over the house though, like just this past Saturday night when the Flyers were playing the Blackhawks. As soon as the conversation turns to religion he immediately talks with a false sense of glee how he is saved. I simply told him I don't want to debate with him and invited him to church, which he declined as always.

It is not what a person puts in their body but what comes out of his heart. There is nothing that says that someone who smokes and drinks coffee is not saved. It is the condition of their heart towards God and if we love and forgive. We need to be watchful in that we will be judged as we judge others. There is also no commandment in the bible that we have to go to Church on Sunday.

Heartleap...

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It is not what a person puts in their body but what comes out of his heart. There is nothing that says that someone who smokes and drinks coffee is not saved. It is the condition of their heart towards God and if we love and forgive. We need to be watchful in that we will be judged as we judge others. There is also no commandment in the bible that we have to go to Church on Sunday.

Heartleap...

Yet if one sees what they believe to be a commandment from God, and chooses not to obey it just because it may not make sense to them or is inconvenient, that says a great deal about their true heart towards God. Loving Obedience is one of the greatest expressions of Faith.

There is no faith without an associated effort to be obedient to the Lord's expressed will.

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Yet if one sees what they believe to be a commandment from God, and chooses not to obey it just because it may not make sense to them or is inconvenient, that says a great deal about their true heart towards God. Loving Obedience is one of the greatest expressions of Faith.

There is no faith without an associated effort to be obedient to the Lord's expressed will.

But we can not judge a person by our own standards, to our own master we stand or fall. Non Mormons do not see the Word of Wisdom as a commandment or attending Church on Sunday. So if someone is drinking a cup of coffee in front of you and they see it as a normal every day food, is it right to judge their Heart towards God? Our job is to love them and look past any perceived imperfections. No one is perfect and so we all have our grey areas before God. I know obedience is an expression of our love for God but not all have the same way to express our obedience.

Heartleap...

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If there is no evidence by our actions of our faith, then our faith is dead. It probably never existed. The demons believe that Christ exists but that does not save them. The only way to be presented to the Father is to go through Christ. The only way to be recognized by Christ is to know him or be known by him in a relationship. Our actions are a fruit of our faith. Faith is not a fruit of our actions. We can do all sorts of wonderful things and the right things but still doubt what we are supposed to believe. If we are made new in Christ and you will know when this happens, then our actions are a fruit of the love we share. It is like having your calling and election made sure, and then the relationship builds from that, because the goal is no longer salvation, but doing the things that will give God pleasure, which is why we were created.

Heartleap...

I read posts like this, and I wonder if Mormons and Evangelicals are as different as they are portrayed in this regard (no insult intended Heartleap :P ) I mean I am with 95% of what you just said. It seems to me that we both see grace and works playing a role, and even both feel that works are the fruit of faith ? It seems to me the only real difference is that I see works as a result of faith, and necessary for salvation, and many evangelicals see works as the fruits of faith, but mainly simply a manifestation of that faith, not a requirement for salvation.

Did I phrase that right?

I think it could probably also be said that we often overemphasize our positions when we disagree, further polarizing those positions when they are really not that different, and playing into the stereotypes.

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This is how I see the difference when discussing being "saved". The non-LDS view is being "saved" here and now. Once the prayer is said you're saved...here, now and forever through grace. I may be wrong about this but that is the conclusion I have come up with.

My conculusion on the LDS view of being "saved" is after judgement day. The 'after all we can do' part is the here and now. The "saved by grace" part is after judgement and where one goes afterward.

just my 2 cents

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I read posts like this, and I wonder if Mormons and Evangelicals are as different as they are portrayed in this regard (no insult intended Heartleap :P ) I mean I am with 95% of what you just said. It seems to me that we both see grace and works playing a role, and even both feel that works are the fruit of faith ? It seems to me the only real difference is that I see works as a result of faith, and necessary for salvation, and many evangelicals see works as the fruits of faith, but mainly simply a manifestation of that faith, not a requirement for salvation.

Did I phrase that right?

I think it could probably also be said that we often overemphasize our positions when we disagree, further polarizing those positions when they are really not that different, and playing into the stereotypes.

Problem is how much obedience is enough to save you? what if you slip up a week before you die after years of living nearly perfect. I think the Mormon Gospel has most everyone being saved to some Kingdom anyway. It seems that the LDS obedience is more geared to work your way up to the top Kingdom and then to the top of the top of that Kingdom. This is where we disagree, in that Jesus said that the first will be last and the last will be first. There is a story in the Bible how 2 of the disciples wanted to sit one on Jesus left and one on his right in heaven and they wanted to be above the other disciples. That did not set well with Jesus or the other disciples. Jesus said at first that they would not be able to endure what he had to face and then he said then again that they would endure it. He still did not give them those places of honor. What is necessary is to love others and to love God with all our might mind and strength.

Becoming a servant to all as Jesus did, loving and forgiving and being a doer of his personal will for us, putting others above us, turning from our own pride in what we do and giving the glory to God (repentance). is where you will find yourself being invited to the front of the Banquet table of Christ after you have seated your self in the lower ranks.

Heartleap...

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This is how I see the difference when discussing being "saved". The non-LDS view is being "saved" here and now. Once the prayer is said you're saved...here, now and forever through grace. I may be wrong about this but that is the conclusion I have come up with.

My conculusion on the LDS view of being "saved" is after judgement day. The 'after all we can do' part is the here and now. The "saved by grace" part is after judgement and where one goes afterward.

just my 2 cents

You are saved if your heart is made new by Christ. A one time simple prayer can, but does not always begin a series of event's in a persons spiritual life. It is the true intent of the person that determines whether he is saved. The prayer is useless if he does not truly want to believe. If he truly believes he will then have evidence of his faith by what he does with it. Lip service does no good and God is not blind. Are works required? no they are just the evidence of our faith. We can not add to the price that Christ paid for us.

Heartleap...

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But we can not judge a person by our own standards, to our own master we stand or fall. Non Mormons do not see the Word of Wisdom as a commandment or attending Church on Sunday. So if someone is drinking a cup of coffee in front of you and they see it as a normal every day food, is it right to judge their Heart towards God?

Heartleap...

Of course not, and I never suggested as such. I feel Darby's approach was probably not the best, which is why I said "if one sees what they believe to be a commandment from God, and chooses not to obey it just because it may not make sense to them or is inconvenient, that says a great deal about their true heart towards God.". I said nothing about people who don't have a reason to know about the commandments. whence someone has learned by experience that the Restored Gospel is true, along with its scriptures and prophets, you are accountable for what you know, and what the spirit has testified to you is true. Many people deny a knowledge they once had, having justified away their spiritual witnesses. I believe they are still accountable for what they once knew - and still do know.

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Becoming a servant to all as Jesus did, loving and forgiving and being a doer of his personal will for us, putting others above us, turning from our own pride in what we do and giving the glory to God (repentance). is where you will find yourself being invited to the front of the Banquet table of Christ after you have seated your self in the lower ranks.

We believe that a result of obedience to the least of the Lord's commandments is an endowment of greater means and power to serve our fellow man. I know that my continued striving to be more obedient is motivated by a desire to be a more effective servant of the Lord to both my family, and those living around me. When I falter, any associated worrying has nothing to do with my own level of salvation, but rather as to what opportunities to bless the life of another may have been lost by my unrighteous choices.

The man who sits around striving to obey the commandments solely to merit himself a high place in God's Kingdom, rejoicing in how much he loves God does not understand the words of Christ, and is fooling himself. Only the merciful will have mercy, and only saviors will be saved.

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You are saved if your heart is made new by Christ. A one time simple prayer can, but does not always begin a series of event's in a persons spiritual life. It is the true intent of the person that determines whether he is saved. The prayer is useless if he does not truly want to believe. If he truly believes he will then have evidence of his faith by what he does with it. Lip service does no good and God is not blind. Are works required? no they are just the evidence of our faith. We can not add to the price that Christ paid for us.

Heartleap...

Well said, i agree.

I think the biggest difference between many LDS and non-LDS Christians is our disagreement about how God requires us to show our faith through our works and not whether or not showing our faith through our works is required at all.

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I then was very stern with him in telling him that the coffee and cigarettes needed to stop, for partaking of them breaks a commandment set by God (Word of Wisdom).

Keeping the word of wisdom is only a covenant for LDS. He is breaking no commandment by partaking of those substances himself as he has never covenanted to obey that commandment and a person cannot sin in ignorance.

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Keeping the word of wisdom is only a covenant for LDS. He is breaking no commandment by partaking of those substances himself as he has never covenanted to obey that commandment and a person cannot sin in ignorance.

I agree.

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Most evangelicals simply misunderstand the scriptures. When you first tell them our point of view, they blanch, but then they take another look, some of them understand.

The truth is this: Man cannot be saved by works; however, he can't be saved without them.

What are works? They might be doing good deeds for people -- that's the general stuff we do as Christians. The scriptures teach us that if we avail ourselves of God's abundant mercies without feeding the poor or clothing the needy, then our hope is in vain. But works also are ordinances like baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. Will these works save us? No, but we cannot attain eternal life without them. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," said the Lord. (Baptism includes the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well.) We also must be obedient to the counsel of heaven. Just before the Romans descended on Jerusalem, the apostles instructed the saints to leave and to gather at other sites ("holy places"), like Pella. When the Romans came, those who didn't believe in their word were killed (many crucified). In our day, we may be as dependent upon the word of our prophets and apostles as the early saints were. That's one reason we store food.

Thus, all other sayings and writings of the New Testament must be interpreted in this light.

.

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Most evangelicals simply misunderstand the scriptures. When you first tell them our point of view, they blanch, but then they take another look, some of them understand.

The truth is this: Man cannot be saved by works; however, he can't be saved without them.

What are works? They might be doing good deeds for people -- that's the general stuff we do as Christians. The scriptures teach us that if we avail ourselves of God's abundant mercies without feeding the poor or clothing the needy, then our hope is in vain. But works also are ordinances like baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. Will these works save us? No, but we cannot attain eternal life without them. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," said the Lord. (Baptism includes the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well.) We also must be obedient to the counsel of heaven. Just before the Romans descended on Jerusalem, the apostles instructed the saints to leave and to gather at other sites ("holy places"), like Pella. When the Romans came, those who didn't believe in their word were killed (many crucified). In our day, we may be as dependent upon the word of our prophets and apostles as the early saints were. That's one reason we store food.

Thus, all other sayings and writings of the New Testament must be interpreted in this light.

.

So are those who are not baptized LDS or do not have the LDS Holy Ghost evaporated or do they have eternal life in a lower Kingdom? It seems that LDS baptism and receiving the LDS Holy Ghost are only requirements of the LDS Celestial Kingdom and not eternal life.

It is good to honor those who lead us as long as they speak the truth.

Store yourself up treasures in Heaven where they can not rot or be destroyed.

Heartleap...

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Have you ever watched two people argue, from an outside point of view, and thought - "Man, these two people actually agree, they just can't get it that they are arguing the same point, just phrasing it differently."

This is kind of how I feel looking at this argument.

So both Evangelicals and Mormons believe that grace through faith is necessary, and that if works don't follow, then the faith never was really there in the first place. Seems to me it's an argument mainly of semantics, with some Mormons overemphasizing works, and some evangelicals underemphasizing them.

I realize they aren't exactly the same positions, but they are darn close, and no where near the differences we are often led to believe when we stereotype.

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So are those who are not baptized LDS or do not have the LDS Holy Ghost evaporated or do they have eternal life in a lower Kingdom? It seems that LDS baptism and receiving the LDS Holy Ghost are only requirements of the LDS Celestial Kingdom and not eternal life.

THere is no such thing as the "LDS HG". There is only the HG. We might beleive different things about the HG but they are the same HG.

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I have always understood the LDS point of view as: Faith + works = "salvation", and Non-LDS point of view as Faith = "Salvation" + works. Where LDS require faith AND works before "salvation", but non-LDS say only faith is required for "salvation", and works are a fruit or by-product of salvation. Then the non-LDS say that if the fruit is not there, then the faith wasn't either - which to me, is saying the same thing as LDS.

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So are those who are not baptized LDS or do not have the LDS Holy Ghost evaporated or do they have eternal life in a lower Kingdom? It seems that LDS baptism and receiving the LDS Holy Ghost are only requirements of the LDS Celestial Kingdom and not eternal life.

There is no "LDS baptism" as far as we're concerned; rather, it's the same baptism as that offered by John, who was a legal administrator of that ordinance. The difference between ours and everyone else's is that we view ours as being legal. Baptism is an ordinance that binds in Heaven and on Earth. Records must be kept and the administrators of baptisms and confirmations be lawfully ordained.

Anciently, the rites in the Law of Moses were administered by the Levites. The Levites were also ordained to their offices and they were the only ones who could legally handle and move the Ark. Since there were no Levites who accompanied Lehi and his family, we know they held the higher priesthood (see Alma 13).

The idea that anyone can administer baptism is popular with evangelicals and other Protestants. I've often wondered what would happen if a father asked his pastor if he could baptize his children. It might fly with many evangelicals, but I don't suspect a Methodist or non-denominational minister would agree. In the end, it all comes down to authority.

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