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First Of A Series Of Tough Issues Tackled By Lds.org


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Couldn't any judgement of an historical figure's actions be explained away as "shouldism" or the ever-popular "presentism"?

 

No, but that doesn't mean that presentism isn't a real issue -- and a real problem -- as is its little brother 'shouldism' (my term). Let me give you an example from my own research. Jesuit missionaries who spent decades of their lives living on certain islands in the Pacific during the 16th century should have eventually realised that they were dealing with a conception of kingship radically different to the one they had brought with them from Europe. From my vantage point -- having immersed myself in academic literature dealing with Southeast Asian and Pacific notions of ruler and rule from both historical and anthropological perspectives -- it's blindingly obvious right in the very accounts these missionaries recorded. And yet they never seem to have seen it. Year after year they recorded their perplexity that local rulers behaved oddly (meaning contrary to expectations), ascribing various convoluted motives to these rulers in order to try to make their actions seem sensible within the missionaries' own paradigm, including just writing them off as victims of Satanic machinations. The reality of course is that, once one has even a basic grasp of how kingship worked in the Islands, the behaviour of these rulers makes perfect sense. But it didn't make sense to the missionaries because they insisted that local rulers should behave like Europeans rulers.

 

And then I run the risk of committing the same error when I insist that the Jesuits should have realised that local cultures had a different conception of kingship and, moreover, should have come to understand this other paradigm. After all, they were living in the midst of it. For years. And the rulers -- bless them! -- actually explained their behaviour on a number of occasions. I know because these explanations are recorded in the missionaries' accounts. But because the Europeans already knew how things should be, the explanations just sounded like so much nonsense or, worse, attempts to cover up the real motivations of the rulers.

 

Joseph ... was more than capable of realizing that seeing God and Jesus were seperate beings with physical bodies went against much of creedal Christianity.

 

First, may I politely suggest that your apparent understanding of traditional Christian belief may not be accurate. Taken directly from the Encyclopedia of Catholicism: 'The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another'. How exactly did Joseph's experience of seeing two distinct Persons in the Grove challenge any aspect of creedal Christianity?

 

Second, on what are you basing your assumption that Joseph should have understood that the Persons whom he had seen had physical bodies? On the contrary, there seems to be abundant evidence that Joseph only understood and began to teach the corporeality of God after he had received this information much later via revelation.

 

I've heard it described multiple times in church as the most important thing Joseph learned from the FV, but even if one disagrees with assessment it is indisputable that it was important.

 

I don't think you can hold Joseph accountable for something he never expressed regardless of how many times you may have heard it at church. Moreover, I suspect that by the very definition of the word this point is clearly not 'indisputable'. As already pointed out, Joseph himself never seems to have used the First Vision to teach on the nature of God. What did Joseph learn from his experience? Present in the four accounts themselves are two points: that Jesus is the Christ and has power to forgive sin and also that there was then no true church on the earth. This last point is also what Lucy Mack Smith remembers her son to have learnt:

 

When the door opened, I looked up to see my son. His face was pale and his body slumped weakly, yet he glowed, his eyes reflecting a brightness that seemed to spring from deep within him. He struggled to the fireplace and leaned against it. I inquired what was bothering him.

 

"Never mind," he said, "I am well enough off." After what seemed to be a long while he added, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true."

 

I believe most traditional Christians interpret this as metaphor of Jesus supporting the Father.

 

You may then be interested in considering how Stephen's vision of the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God has been repeatedly portrayed in traditional Christian art:

 

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_The_Martyrdom_of_St_

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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It's kinda funny, actually, but still it's a thought I would rather not be having right now. I'm sensitive to thoughts, I think.

When someone says something I can't help but think about it and there are some things I would just rather not think about.

Just think of your favorite hymn....those thoughts should go away. ;)
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I wasn't cherry picking, you asked for an example and I gave you four. If you'd like a more comprehensive list try these:

2 Nephi 31:21

21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the away; and there is bnone other way nor cname given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the ddoctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of theeFather, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is fone God, without end. Amen.

Mormon 7:7

And he hath brought to pass the aredemption of the bworld, whereby he that is found cguiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to ddwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the echoirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which arefone God, in a state of ghappiness which hath no end.

Mosiah 15: 1-5

And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that aGod himself shall bcome down among the children of men, and shall credeem his people.

2 And because he adwelleth in bflesh he shall be called the cSon of God, and having subjected the flesh to the dwill of the eFather, being the Father and the Son—

3 The Father, abecause he was bconceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

4 And they are aone God, yea, the very bEternal cFather of heaven and of earth.

5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, asuffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, andbscourged, and cast out, and disowned by his cpeople.

3 Nephi 11:27

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.

Ether 3:14

Behold, I am he who was aprepared from the foundation of the world to bredeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am thecFather and the Son. In me shall all mankind have dlife, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my esons and my daughters.

 

Each of the above can be understood in terms of what I said before about them being expressions of the Son's own divinity and His unity with (not identity to) the Father, or about the use of the term "Father" conveying the idea that he is Father to those who abide in HIs gospel and who believe in Him. Throwing up more cherry-picked verses and applying the same erroneous interpretation to them does not make your argument more compelling. Are you going to ignore, then, what is said in 3 Nephi and in John 17 about Christ's disciples and He being one, even as He and the Father are one?

 

Now granted none of these explicitly state 'The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are of one substance", ...

 

 

Correction: None of these state even obliquely that They are of one substance. And I remind you, that was the question I put to you that you purported to answer.

 

... however I'm not aware of any scripture that explicitly states they are not of one substance.

 

The classic argument-from-silence fallacy.

 

 

I'm sure you can go through each one and interpret it as it being metaphorical, and that they are "one in purpose" or "Father of divine authority"--such is the nature of scripture, it is beholden to a multitude of interpretations.

 

 

The interpretation about them being one in substance is not sustainable internally by anything within scripture. It is dependent upon the external application of Hellenistic philosophy and post-apostolic creeds.

 

 

This brings us to a another question, why would God inspire his prophets to use such confusing descriptions of the Godhead? One in which 99% of the Christian world disagree with.

 

Those who do (and I'm not certain it's 99 percent) have been influenced over the centuries by the superimposition on pure doctrine of Hellenistic philosophy and post-apostolic creeds. That's not the fault of God or His prophets. As I said, there is nothing internally within scripture that sustains such interpretation. For that, one must go to sources outside of scripture.

 

I could ask in turn why you are continuing to uphold these false notions when you have the inspired teaching and clarification from latter-day prophets to guide you.

 

If you find the scriptural descriptions of the Godhead to be "confusing," are you similarly confused about the commandment in the Bible that a husband and wife shall be "one flesh"? (See Matthew 19:3-8; Mark 10:15; Genesis 2:24.) Do you interpret this to mean that a husband and wife are to meld themselves into one substance? Why or why not?

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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More examples:

Thanks for putting up this art, Hamba. These are gorgeous.

 

And they do make your point quite well.

 

I wonder though, in the spirit of those who complain about artisitic depictions in the Church of the Book of Mormon translation process, should I be expressing indignation about the masters of past ages deceiving us with all those depictions of winged cherubs?

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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First, may I politely suggest that your apparent understanding of traditional Christian belief may not be accurate. Taken directly from the Encyclopedia of Catholicism: 'The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another'. How exactly did Joseph's experience of seeing two distinct Persons in the Grove challenge any aspect of creedal Christianity?

 

 

 

 

May I politely ask you if you are familiar with the Nicene Creed, which is a fundamental creed in historic Christianity?  It uses the term "homoouisia" to describe the relationship among the members of the Trinity == "one substance".

 

They many claim "three persons" but those "persons" are one substance, so Joseph Smith's experience challenges that unBiblical doctrine.

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I say this in complete sincerity, Kevin. You've been a very positive influence in completely re-positioning my perspectives on what a prophet is. It has, in large part, allowed me to accept the limitations of what they do and don't 'see.'

I'm glad to be of service. 

 

Best,

 

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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May I politely ask you if you are familiar with the Nicene Creed, which is a fundamental creed in historic Christianity?  It uses the term "homoouisia" to describe the relationship among the members of the Trinity == "one substance".

 

They many claim "three persons" but those "persons" are one substance, so Joseph Smith's experience challenges that unBiblical doctrine.

 

 

What does "one substance", or "homoousia" mean?

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They many claim "three persons" but those "persons" are one substance, so Joseph Smith's experience challenges that unBiblical doctrine.

 

That would depend on what "one substance" meant and if the difference between them being one being and three beings would be visually discernible.  I don't think you have demonstrated yet that it would make a difference.  I cannot think of a way the human eye could tell the difference.  

 

It seems to me a doctrinal belief that the Father is invisible would be more problematic.

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What does "one substance", or "homoousia" mean?

Kind of essential to know what that is before stating it is challenged by something else.

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I suppose many of us are guilty of this (TMI) to some extent. I was just endeavoring to clarify for canard what cdowis meant -- and perhaps was having a bit of fun with it.

 

It's ok. Mine was also a quip about the twitter comment with a twitter style response (140 characters or less...)

 

Perhaps, like the Godhead scriptures, I was too oblique.

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The Nicene Creed ... uses the term "homoouisia" to describe the relationship among the members of the Trinity == "one substance".

 

What does "one substance", or "homoousia" mean?

 

Kind of essential to know what that is before stating it is challenged by something else.

 

Precisely.

 

From the Catholic Encyclopedia again (because I think it's essential that we let people define their own beliefs):

 

(Gr. homoousion - from homos, same, and ousia, essence; Latin consubstantialem, of one essence or substance), the word used by the Council of Nicaea (325) to express the Divinity of Christ. Arius had taught that the Son, being, in the language of Philo, the Intermediator between God and the world, was not eternal, and therefore not of the Divine substance, but a creature brought forth by the free will of God. (See ARIANISM) Homoousion was indeed used by philosophical writers to signify "of the same or similar substance".

 

Though in this case I think the Protestants make it clearer. From Christian History for Everyman:

 

At the Council of Nicea it was homoousios that was at issue. Is the Son "one substance" with the Father?

 

If the Son was the Word inside of the Father before his begetting in eternity past, then he is one substance with the Father. In other words, he's made of the same divine "stuff," "substance," "material," or "essence" as the Father because he came out of the Father.

 

If he was created from nothing, then God must have used something to create him; probably whatever he created the angels with. Greek Christians simply called that substance "matter." If that's what the Son was made from, the Nicene council reasoned, then he's not really God ...

 

The doctrine of Arius, that the Son was created from nothing, made him matter and not the substance of God. Arianism denied homoousios.

 

The Nicene Creed answers Arianism directly.

 

Being of 'one substance', then, is merely a statement that the Father and the Son are made of the same 'stuff' and therefore are equally divine/eternal.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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If he was created from nothing, then God must have used something to create him; probably whatever he created the angels with. Greek Christians simply called that substance "matter." 

 

I thought the whole point of creation ex nihilo was that God used nothing in creation, not something.  Anyone can create using matter/something, only God would be able to create out of nothing.  Or so I understood it...from the Catholic Catechism IIRC.  I will see if I can find it.

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God created the universe freely with wisdom and love. The world is not the result of any necessity, nor of blind fate, nor of chance. God created “out of nothing” (ex nihilo) (2Maccabees 7:28) a world which is ordered and good and which he infinitely transcends. God preserves his creation in being and sustains it, giving it the capacity to act and leading it toward its fulfillment through his Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 
I remember the comment that God must have created out of nothing because man can create out of something being in the footnotes...but I can't find them online anymore.
 
Found it:

 

296      We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.144 God creates freely “out of nothing”:145 (285)

If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.

 

 

Edited by calmoriah
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I admit to being pretty ignorant of classical Christian theology, but is it really the case that the creeds allow for distinct personages—that is, physically distinct beings—in the Godhead?

 

Allow? No. They actually require distinct persons. The Sabellian heresy (named after Sabellius, its propagator) was specifically the denial of the 'distinction of person' in the Godhead (Catholic Encyclopedia). Sabellius 'denied that such distinctions were ultimate or permanent [and] evidently taught that the Godhead is a monad, expressing itself in three operations: as Father, in creation; as Son, in redemption; and as Holy Spirit, in sanctification' (Encyclopaedia Brittanica).

 

A more thorough explanation from the Catholic News Agency:

 

[sabellianism] was an early Trinitarian heresy that exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son (John 10:30). It was promoted by Sabellius in Rome during the early third century. In the infant Church, the first confession of faith concerning the Divinity of Jesus Christ was based on St. Peter's words: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." [Matt. 16:16] Early Christians worshipped and died for Jesus Christ based on this simple confession without thinking about what it actually implied. If Christ is God, then how does He relate to the God of the Old Testament? Is Christ another God, another Person or just another manifestation distinct from the Father? In the early third century, a few Christians, who included Noetus, were speculating that the Father and the Son are only different aspects or modes of the one Divine Being. The Father became the Son after taking flesh of Mary. This speculation developed further under Sabellius. The Sabellians (also called Monarchians or Modalists) claimed that since there is only one God, there is only one Person in the Godhead. There are no personal relationships between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The only distinguishing relationships were between God and man. The Trinity was not three Persons in one God, but three functional relationships with man. The Father is the mode that created man; the Son is the mode that redeemed man; the Holy Spirit is the mode that sanctified man. Pope Callistus condemned this heresy.

 

Where your question may break down is in the use of the term 'physically distinct'. The divine substance shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not understood to be 'physical' because that would imply that they are actually of the same substance as us and the rest of creation. And this is where we really begin to differ with the creeds, not in the distinction of persons.

 

As one more example, how does the depiction of Deity in the following image differ from the depictions I posted above?

 

first-vision.jpg

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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I thought the whole point of creation ex nihilo was that God used nothing in creation, not something.

 

I'm not certain that all Protestants are as wed to the notion of creation ex nihilo as Catholics. Regardless, I think the point is that the end result of such creation is creatures who are of a different material to God Himself, whose substance is divine and eternal.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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So the short answer to my question, then, is no, the creeds don't contemplate the Father and the Son as being physically distinct. That's what I thought.

 

To be physically distinct would require being physical, and that would make them something other than divine and eternal (thanks in large part, we LDS understand, to Greek philosophy), but they are still 'truly distinct one from another', as quoted above.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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In the specific context of this thread,* the reason why this discussion is important is because the charge has been made that Joseph lied when he recorded his experiences in the Grove. The supposed evidence for this deceit is (1) the existence of differing accounts of the First Vision and (2) especially no unambiguous mention of both Father and Son in the earliest version. People sympathetic to the message of the Restoration can positively spin this accusation by relabelling it an evolution of Joseph's understanding, but the simple reality is that, if young Joseph did not really see two Persons in vision but later claimed to have, then he lied.

 

This is certainly one interpretation of the data, but it is not the only historically valid one. And that's a point very much worth making. Because our enemies are trying their damnedest to convince people that the data demand a single interpretation (theirs) and that therefore this interpretation is the 'true history' that the Church has been attempting to hide from its members and everyone else. Within this paradigm, anyone who continues to accept the reality of the First Vision as Joseph explained it of necessity must be ignorant, must be engaged in self-deceit (for a whole host of convoluted motivations), or must be naive when it comes to history.

 

And this is simply not true. The data do not demand a certain interpretation, pro or con. In fact, as I've attempted to demonstrate throughout this thread, Joseph's varying accounts of the First Vision appear very much like other historical accounts of a single event recorded by the same author, and therefore the only reason for people to be questioning the veracity of them is because they possess an a priori distrust of Joseph and/or his claims. That, or they've been taken in by the very vocal crowd who are loudly crowing in other fora that their interpretation of the data is the only true interpretation, the rejection of which is a denial of 'true history'.

 

The fact is that the 'true history' crowd are standing on very shaky ground when it comes to issues of historical methodology, and not pointing this fact out will allow others potentially to be taken in by their arguments.

 

-----

*The other reason why it is important is to extend to other Christians the courtesy we so often request for ourselves: If one is going to disagree, at least understand the other person's actual position first. Do we have significant disagreements with the Nicene and other post-apostolic creeds? Absolutely. Perhaps the biggest area of disagreement is when we insist that like the Son, we are of 'one substance' with Father, Who is also physical like us -- this physicality not limiting His divinity or His eternal nature. But we don't disagree on the number of Persons in the Godhead.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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    • By kiwi57
      In a now-defunct thread, I pointed out that the only evidence for the accusation that anyone had ever tried to "hide" the 1832 First Vision account was the mere fact that it hadn't been published. I argued from this that there was an implicit assumption on the part of the accusers that non-publication was always intentional, and that "hiding" was the intention that drove it.
      In reality, non-publication is rarely intentional at all; it is the default. Most written accounts never get published. But that is by the way.
      In response, my interlocutor claimed that there were all kinds of reasons why the 1832 account needed to be hidden. Now this isn't really a response to my argument. The fact that in the opinion of some person A some document might be problematic, doesn't even begin to approach evidence that some other person B either agrees, or if s/he does, finds the problems sufficient motivation to "hide" the document. It's rather like saying that since in my opinion Trump shouldn't grope women, Trump must not have actually ever done so.
      Thus, the argument as it stands is settled. The question at had is whether there is any evidence, apart from mere non-publication (and a garbled hearsay story, heavily larded with speculation, about what Joseph Fielding Smith may or may not have done with it) that anyone tried to "hide" the 1832 account; and the answer is no. Whether one person believes (or wishes) that the 1832 account creates problems for the Church's truth claims is not evidence of any kind about another person's actions.
      With that out of the way, though, the question is an interesting one: Does the 1832 account create problem for the Church's truth claims?
      I don't think it does, but I'd be interested to know what others think.
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