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MORMONS AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH

I thought Christmas time would be a good time to talk about the birth of Christ. A common allegation of anti-Mormons is that the LDS Church teaches that God the Father has sexual relations with Mary, and thus deny the virgin birth. This is another issue that is often used to insist that Mormons are not true Christians, and that we believe in a "different" Jesus. The Institute for Religious Research claims that the LDS Church teaches that Jesus was “conceived physically through intercourse between Heavenly Father and the virgin Mary.”[1] Several others have made this claim.

OBJECTIVE VOICES ON THE CHRISTIAN QUESTION

In a previous post, I responded to a question raised by a detractor in an e-mail to Jeff Lindsey regarding how “honest” it is to claim that Mormons are Christians.[1] Another question which was emailed to Lindsey deals with “objectivity.” Lindsey quotes them as follows:

“You only say that you consider yourself a Christian. I'm curious to know why. Objectively speaking, Christianity and Mormonism are different religions. Notice, please, that I am not saying which one is right.”

According to this persons point of view, Mormons are not Christians, “objectively speaking.” Once again, Lindsey gives his own response to this question, but I thought I might share my thought on this.[2]

BLOG UPDATE: OCT 2010

As I am sure many (that is, if there is even "many" who actually read this blog) have noticed that my rate of new posts has gone down since when I first got started. The reason for this is with school having started (among other things), I have much less time for apologetic related activities. My current goal is to post once a month during school, and then I will get back to more frequent posts in the summer.

Also, because I want to make sure all who come across this blog understand clearly what this is about, I have added a new "About" page, which links back to each of my original introductory posts, and provides a brief explanation as to what apologetics is, as this has caused some confusion for some who seem to think that it means to say "we are sorry we believe this way." I recommend that all who are new or first time visitors make the about page your first stop.

Lastly, as I continue to expand and develop this blog into what I hope will be an interes…

ARE LDS SCHOLARS AND APOLOGISTS CREDIBLE/REPUTABLE?

“And PLEASE stop posting these ridiculous links to FAIR/FARMS. They are NOT well respected members of the scientific community. they're LDS Inc. lackeys that are intent on muddying the waters with junk science that is literaly laughed at by credible scholars and scientists.” The above quote is the response I got from a Mormon detractor after I had posted two links (one to a FAIR article, another to a FARMS one) which backed up the arguments I was making. Of course, I am not the first one to be told that LDS scholars are not real scholars, and that they are a joke in the view of all reliable scientific communities. This has been a common tactic by anti-Mormons for years.

NEPHI, JACOB, ISAIAH AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

As many people know, the Book of Mormon quotes heavily from Isaiah. In fact, according to the footnote for 2 Nephi 12:2a, 433 verses of Isaiah are quoted by Book of Mormon prophets. These frequently come in the form of full-length chapters being quoted at a time. Sometimes these verses are word-for-word identical with the King James Version of the Bible, but often the wording has been changed. A few of the verses of Isaiah are actually quoted multiple times, typically by different characters at different times in the Book of Mormon.

THE BOOK OF MORMON PEOPLE'S ENCOUNTER WITH "OTHER" INHABITANTS

The notion that the Book of Mormon peoples were not alone in the Promised Land has been around for decades. LDS Scholars today are basically unanimous in the belief that they (the Nephites and the Lamanites) met and interacted, and even intermixed with other groups and civilizations. However, it must be admitted that most of the evidence drawn out of the Book of Mormon for such a belief is indirect. There seems to be no passage which explicitly mentions an encounter with another group of people (besides the Mulekites, who were from the Old World like the Nephites).[1]
Recently, I came across a passage, which I have yet to see cited by those who support this view, that I believe it the most explicit (not to mention the earliest) reference to other people that the Lehites may have encountered.[2]

WHO “ATTACKED” FIRST?

Early LDS leaders, at times, would speak out against other Christian denominations, often using fierce rhetoric to express their opinion. Personally, I do not feel that such language was an “attack,” in fact, such hyperbolic language was typical amongst religions of the day. Still, many anti-Mormons insist that these aggressive statements were “attacks” on the Christian faith. For the sake of argument, I’ll go along with that accusation.

MEASURING THE DIVIDING LINES

A Review of: Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
When How Wide the Divide? (hereafter HWD?) first came out, it shook the very foundations of Evangelical/Mormon dialogue. Foundations, I might add, that were in desperate need of shaking. In fact, it was first real dialogue between an Evangelical and a Mormon (at least, the first in print). True, not every Evangelical agreed with how Blomberg represented their faith, and not every Mormon agreed with how Robinson represented their faith, a fact that was fully expected by both. In the books conclusion, part of one of the important lessons learned is that “There is considerable diversity among the LDS and bewildering diversity among Christians who attach to themselves the label ‘Evangelical.’”(pg. 192)

CRITICS, APOLOGISTS, AND UTAH STATISTICS

You’ll hear it all the time – on both sides of the coin. “Utah has the highest suicide rate in the nation” chides the critics. “People in Utah live longer than the national average” says the apologist. Heck, sometimes you will even hear Utah statistics come up in sacrament meeting talks and firesides. Regardless of who is using it, the logic seems to always work like this:
Because Utah is predominately Mormon, And because Utah has stat X ------------------------------------------- Stat X must be because of the LDS Church.
Unless one is skeptical of the person speaking/writing in the first place (i.e. if a faithful member hears a statistic from a critic, or vice versa), most of the time this kind of reasoning is simply accepted. But should it be? Should statistical information about the state of Utah be accepted at face value as a reflection on the LDS Church?

PROBLEMS WITH HOW RICHARD ABANES ADDRESSES THE CHRISTIAN QUESTION

A few months ago, I checked out the book One Nation Under Gods – A History of the Mormon Church (New York City, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003) by Richard Abanes from the UVU library. The title itself gives it away as an anti-Mormon publication. Add that to the fact that on the back are raving reviews from professional anti-Mormons Sandra Tanner (who also wrote the foreword to the book), and Hank Hanegraaff, heir the great anti-cultist Walter Martin at Christian Research Institute. No doubt, in an effort to seem more objective, Tanner is identified as the “great-great-grandchild of Brigham Young.” That ought to really impress people.
Anyway, my purpose in picking it up was to study his chapter titled “Is Mormonism Christian?” So, to be clear, I have not read most of the book. Though I casually read through other parts, my main focus has been on that one chapter. However, if this one chapter is at all reflective of the rest of the work (and I suspect it is), then my verdict is tha…

IS THE SPIRIT OF MORMONSIM A FALSE SPIRIT?

Back in April, I had a Facebook conversation with an ex-Mormon who is now some sort of protestant Christian (probably of an Evangelical variety). In this conversation, this individual confessed that when she was a Mormon and prayed about the Book of Mormon, she did feel something. She said, “I don't deny the good feeling. It was there. I just don't think it was God anymore. I think it was a false spirit. Do you believe this is possible?”


The following is my response to her question. She never responded back to me, so I do not know what her thoughts were concerning this answer. So, I just thought I would share it here thinking others may find it helpful in dealing with the same criticism, or that perhaps I may get some kind of response or feedback from someone who disagrees. 


Keep in mind that this response was written to a practicing Christian (as opposed to a non-Christian critic), so the truth of the Bible is assumed in my reasoning of why I feel that it is the Spirit of God t…

MORMONS ARE NOT CHRISTIANS BECAUSE...?

As I was reflecting on some of the reasons why our Evangelical Christian critics insist that Mormons are not Christians, I began to realize that many of the issues raised ultimately boil down to how all-powerful and all-loving we really believe Christ is. When put in that perspective, it seems downright ridiculous to dismiss us as Christians for some of these things. Consider five here…
1. Salvation for the Dead
Critics: Mormons are not Christians because they believe that even after death we have a chance for salvation, and so they perform baptism for the dead so that their ancestors can be saved. 
Response: You mean that because we believe that Christ’s atonement is so powerful that He can – and that His love is so great that He will – even save those who could not accept Him in life (but then did accept Him in the life after), we are not Christians?

WHY DID JOSEPH SMITH NEED THE GOLD PLATES?

While a few LDS scholars and apologist have clung on tight to the traditional perceptions of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon with the Gold plates set out before him, and only by the means of the Urim and Thummim; most seem to have conceded that (at least for a portion of the translation process) he translated using a seer stone in a hat, without having the plates physically present, or at least without him looking at the plates. While I have not yet studied any of the eyewitness accounts for myself, nor have I seriously read and studied any of the scholarly studies on this topic, from the little reading I have done it seems to me that this is an inescapable conclusion.
With that said, the question has naturally arisen from the critics “What was the point of having the Gold Plates at all then, if they we not really needed for the translation process?” 

HONEST COMMUNICATION: CHRISTIAN OR NON-CHRISTIAN?

LDS apologist Jeff Lindsey quotes an email received once from someone who was questioning the LDS Church’s right to claim the label of Christian. In that email, the unidentified critic says:
“The beliefs that you profess are not commonly considered ‘Christian’.... Let us not care who's theology is correct, if in fact either one is. My thought is, simply, that people have ideas that they instinctively associate with the word ‘Christian’ that members of the LDS church do not. A few examples would be their version of the trinity, works not being necessary for salvation, and not being able to achieve Godhood because of the uniqueness of their God. If that is the case, then isn't presenting yourself as a ‘Christian’ to someone who is uninformed of LDS beliefs deceptive?”
They then go on to say,
“Please understand that I am only concerned with allowing truthful communication between members and non-members of the Church to occur. Honestly, I think that the LDS church as a whole needs t…

CATHOLIC MASS AND LDS TEMPLE ORDINANCES[1]

As I was reading in Daniel C. Peterson’s and Stephen D. Ricks’ Offenders for a Word, I read the following quote, which is in response to the accusation that it is unchristian to have “secret rituals:”
“The very word from which ‘mass’ may be derived, missa (in the phrase missa est), appears to have been the point in the Christian worship service when those who were not yet members in full standing were ‘invited . . . to leave the church building. Then the doors were closed, and the ushers assumed their placed in order to inquire of anyone who still desired to entire if he was baptized.’”[2]
This struck me as rather fascinating, since when I was on my mission in Virginia, my second Easter out in the mission field, my companion and I had agreed to go to an Easter Vigil with some recent converts who were formerly Catholic. This was a positive learning experience for me. Afterwords, my companion pointed out several parallels to the LDS Temple ordinances. While I haven’t been to an actual Ma…

MORMONISM: A NEW RELIGIOUS TRADITION OR APART OF CHRISTIANITY?

Many scholars and historians who have studied Mormonism, including Jan Shipps, have concluded that it is an entirely new and distinct religious tradition (a conclusion I do not entirely disagree with). Yet, some of them (Shipps included) still maintain that Mormonism is a form of Christianity. This seems rather confusing – how could it be a new religious tradition all its own, and yet still be a form of Christianity? Perhaps this part of the reason why Shipps views this as a complicated question, without a straightforward answer (See Jan Shipps, “Is Mormonism Christian? Reflections on a Complicated Question,” BYU Studies 33:3 [1993], pg. 438-465).
Anyway, yesterday I was reflecting on this seeming contradiction (as I personally hold a similar view) when the thought occurred. Perhaps it analogous to how Christianity sprung up out of Judaism and became a distinctly different, new religious tradition, yet both Christianity and Judaism both are Abrahamic religious traditions. Or, in other…

MORTALS AS GODS

The title of this post is not in reference to the LDS doctrine of deification (that men can become gods), but rather an interesting trend in the Book of Mormon.
A couple weeks ago, my wife, McKall, was sharing some thoughts with me on Helaman 9, where Nephi has given (as a sign to the apostate Nephites) a revelation of the King's murder by his brother. As the events of this chapter play out, some of the people start to recognize Nephi as a prophet, while others come to believe that he is a god (See Helaman 9:40-41).
As my wife mentioned this (that some people started to think Nephi was a god), a realization began to hit me. This is a common theme in the Book of Mormon. After Ammon defends the Lamanite King’s flocks and servents, and fulfills all his other responsibilities, Lamoni becomes convinced that Ammon is the “Great Spirit” – even after Ammon tells him that he is just a man (See Alma 18:4, 11, 18). King Benjamin had to explain to his people that he was just a mortal man (Se…

MY TESTIMONY

I know you are probably growing tired of introductory material. Don’t worry; we are getting ready to dive into some of the underlying themes of LDS apologetics and criticisms. However, since the vast majority of this blog will be dedicated to my intellectual insights on the Book of Mormon and LDS teachings, I want to make it clear here, at the beginning, that the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church are more than just academic fascinations for me.
In my last post I explained a little bit about my purpose. I explained that although I can’t “prove” to you that the LDS Church’s claims are true, I feel it is my duty to defend them. The words of one of my favorite progressive metal bands sums up my message from the last post quite well: “I may never find all the answers, I may never understand why; I may never prove what I know to be true, but I know that I still have to try.” [1]
Although I can’t prove it to you by any man made methods, I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sa…

THE PURPOSE OF MY BLOG

I would now like to take a moment to explain in greater detail just what I hope to do with this blog. By helping you understand just what my purpose is, I think we could avoid some major misunderstandings down the road.
My Motive
Some of you may be asking “What motivated you to start this blog?” or “What motivated you to get involved in LDS apologetics?” As I explained in my “About Me” post, I come from a strong, active LDS family which is proud of its Pioneer heritage. While on my mission in Virginia, as I previously mentioned, I encountered a great deal of hostility toward the LDS Church (after all, I was in the Bible Belt). Due to my great love for my Pioneer heritage, and my strong testimony in the restored Gospel, this hostility greatly disturbed me; and I had a great desire to refute the misconceptions and distortions of truth to which I was being exposed to. And, at times, I did. Thanks to my training in debate, so long as discussion was focused on doctrines and scripture, I cou…

ABOUT ME

This is where I get to tell you all about myself! Don’t worry, I’ll try and be as brief as possible and only talk about the important stuff.
I recently married the most wonderful young woman in the world: McKall Lynn Brewer Rappleye! I am currently attending Utah Valley University (UVU) and working towards a degree in Political Science, with a minor in Religious Studies. I’m hoping to eventually transfer to Brigham Young University (BYU) and continue towards my degree. Ultimately, I hope that one day I can teach for the LDS Church Education System (CES), as well as teach Political Science in High School and College.
I love football and basketball and try to watch every BYU football game and as many of their basketball games as possible[1]. I also enjoy listening to music. My favorite band is a progressive metal group called Savatage. I currently have more than 6,000 songs on my iPod, which could play for 19 and a half days non-stop! As you can tell from my major, I love politics, and…

WELCOME TO MY BLOG!

Welcome to my blog, and thank you for visiting! As you can tell from the title, this blog is primarily going to be an outlet for me to express my thoughts and insights on several issues involved in LDS scholarship and apologetics.
What’s in a Name?
Some may wonder what is meant by “Reason and Revelation: Insights into LDS Scholarship and Apologetics.” First, let me explain what I mean by “Reason and Revelation” in the context of my blog title.
Reason: The practice of using logic, rational thinking, evidence, and argument to gain knowledge and learn truth and evaluate truth claims to determine their validity.
Revelation: Knowledge and truth given by God. There are two forms of Revelation, general revelation and personal revelation. General revelation is given to the world through God’s chosen servants (i.e. Prophets and Apostles) and personal revelation is given to an individual through the Holy Ghost (or Spirit of God) according their faith.
While my full purpose for this blog will be …