Monday, July 30, 2007

The Power of God

I was struck by something I saw on television the other day while I was flipping through channels. A well known evangelist was answer questions that had been submitted to him. One question was: “The Bible says Adam lived until he was 930 years old. Should that be taken figuratively or literally?” The evangelist chuckled and said something to the effect of “of course it should be taken literally.” He then gave several reasons why he thought Adam would have lived 930 years including a lack or air pollution and processed foods. However, I was amazed that this man, who proclaims to be a man of God, did not cite the power of God as a reason, if not the reason, Adam was able to live for nearly 1,000 years!

This reminded me of what Jesus Christ taught the Prophet Joseph Smith when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet. In response to the 14 year old boy Joseph Smith’s question of which church should he join, he was told by the Savior that he “must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’” (Pearl of Great Price | JS-History 1:19, emphasis added).

The last part of the Savior’s words is what really stood out in my mind. “Having a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.” This is precisely what this evangelist was doing. I think he sincerely does try to be godly and have a form of godliness, I truly do. However, by not acknowledging the power of God in allowing Adam live 930 years, he seemed to not have faith in God’s power and ability to do all, in other words, he “denied the power thereof”.

I know that the power of God is real. I know that God and Jesus Christ did appear to the boy Joseph Smith and teach him many eternal truths. I know that anything God desires can and will be accomplished. Sometimes God’s means seem to be the natural way of doing things on this Earth, other times God’s means are the supernatural. However, it matters not how God’s will is accomplished; only that it always is done. The Savior taught the Prophet Joseph Smith that “the works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught“ (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 3:1). The will of our Father in Heaven will be done. I know this to be true, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

A few weeks ago a good friend told me of a discovery he had made while studying the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ he read 2 Nephi 12:15-16, which are two of the approximately 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon. They read:

And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall; And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

This contrasts Isaiah 2:15-16 which says:

And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

This begs the questions, where did the phrase in the Book of Mormon “upon all the ships of the sea” get added from? I do not pretend to be a scholar. However, my friend is an excellent one. He told me he decided to read the passage in the oldest version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. There the phrase “upon all the ships of the sea” is present.

As the Septuagint is written in Greek and I cannot read Greek, I had to take my friend’s word that this was true. However, soon thereafter I received two other witnesses of the same truth. Sidney B. Sperry confirmed my friend’s account in his book, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Sperry wrote:

Scholars may suggest that Joseph Smith took the first phrase from the Septuagint. The prophet did not know Greek, and there is no evidence that he had access to a copy of the Septuagint in 1829-1830 when he translated the Book of Mormon. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1965, pp. 90-91, qtd. in Bassett Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pg. 68).

Thirty two years after Sperry, in 1997, Terry B. Ball also found where the Book of Mormon matched the Septuagint, adding words upon the King James Version of the Bible. Ball commented:

One can offer several speculations about why both phrases appear in the Book of Mormon. (1) Perhaps Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon and somehow had access to the Septuagint. Discovering there was a discrepancy between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts of the passage, he decided to include both text versions in the Book of Mormon to deceive readers into thinking he was actually translating a more complete ancient record, that is, the gold plates; or (2) maybe while Joseph Smith was fabricating the Book of Mormon he accidentally, by chance, inserted into the Book of Mormon the very phrase left out of the Masoretic text; or (3) while the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon from the gold plates by the gift and power of God, he translated the phrase “upon all the ships of the sea and upon all the ships of Tarshish” because that is exactly what the record said. Both phrases were on the gold plates Joseph Smith was translating because the brass plates of pre-600 B.C. origin, from which the gold plates text was taken, were a more ancient and complete text than either the Masoretic text (ca. A.D. 500-1000) or the Septuagint (ca. 250 B.C.). Apparently the Septuagint had lost the phrase “the ships of Tarshish” and the Masoretic text had lost the phrase “the ships of the sea.” The Book of Mormon restores both.

From a purely logical point of view, the last option, option 3, is the only tenable one. From personal conviction, I testify that option 3 is the truth. (Voices of Old Testament Prophets; The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1997, p. 59, qtd. in Bassett Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pg. 69).

I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a true Prophet. I know that through him Christ’s church, exactly as it was when he walked this Earth, has been restored. I know that God cannot lie and that what his servant Paul, the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians is true: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (New Testament | 2 Corinthians 13:1). Not only does God provide us with truth, he gives us personal revelation if we ask on his word, and he gives us two or three witnesses. Heavenly Father certainly is merciful, kind, and good. I love him and am thankful to be his son, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Better Life Though Jesus Christ

Last week I reread The Great and Terrible Volume 1. It is a fictional account of what the life before this could have been like. As I read, it struck me that Satan is now simply trying to do exactly as he presented in his plan during the pre-Earth life—to take away our agency and give all glory to him.

One of Satan’s tools is addiction. He strives to get us deeply involved in alcohol, pornography, pride, or whichever sins we are most susceptible to. In time, we can become so weakened that it can seem as if there is no way out. The sin controls our life and it seems as if we no longer can choose for ourselves. The alcohol or drugs seemingly make our choices for us. We then can feel as if we have lost our agency, as we repeat or enter deeper into sin. As we sin, and seemingly lose our agency we are giving Satan his victory, which was his plan in the beginning as it is now.

Fortunately, we always have a choice. Heavenly Father has provided us with our agency so that we may always choose. If we trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be delivered from any pain, suffering, or addiction. The atonement Christ made for us covers it all. Forgiveness of our sins is certainly one way we receive grace from God. Of course, we must do our part, we must work at it. However, when have done all that we can do, our elder brother Jesus Christ steps in and covers the rest.

I am so thankful for my older brother Jesus Christ. I know that he knows me personally, probably better than I know myself. He knows what motivates me, what frustrates me, and most importantly he knows my potential. I know the Savior lives. I know he suffered and died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day so I could live again. Like everyone else, I do not remember when happened in the life before this, but I am so thankful and grateful that I choose our Heavenly Father’s plan so that I could be here on this Earth. I testify of Christ and of our eternal nature and the eternal structure of the family of mankind in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.