Thursday, August 23, 2007

RCC Decision Not to Recognize LDS Baptism

In June of 2001 the Catholic Church issued an official statement declaring its decision not to recognise the validity of the baptisms performed by the LDS Church. The complete text of this document, which can be seen on the Vatican website, and is as follows:



on the validity of baptism conferred by

«The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints»,

called «Mormons»

Question: Wheter the baptism conferred by the community «The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints», called «Mormons» in the vernacular, is valid.

Response: Negative.

The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Response, decided in the Sessione Ordinaria of this Congregation, and ordered it published.

From the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 5 June 2001.

+ Joseph Cardinal RATZINGER


+ Tarcisio BERTONE, S.D.B.

Archbishop emeritus of Vercelli


This raises the obvious question of why the Catholic Church, which is a very conservative institution in maintaining its traditions and practices, has decided to go against its long held practice of recognizing the baptisms performed by other churches; and why it has made that decision, with regard to the LDS Church, now?

That decision is odd, because the Catholic Church has traditionally accepted baptisms performed by other churches, such as radical Protestant churches that have broken away from it, and even called it abusive names such as “Whore of Babylon,” and called the Pope the “Antichrist”! The LDS Church treats the Catholic Church with far greater respect than the Protestant Churches have done, or still do.

Traditionally and historically, in fact, the Catholic Church has accepted baptism performed by anyone in an emergency. A Jewish Rabbi, a Moslem cleric, an atheist can perform a valid Catholic baptism in an emergency. If someone is at the point of death, and he has no recourse to a Catholic Priest, he can ask anyone at hand to perform the rite of baptism for him, and the Catholic Church accepts that as a valid baptism. So it is indeed odd that they should single out the LDS Church for an exception to this rule, which after all is a Christ-centered Church, and uses the Trinitarian formula in its baptisms.

Interestingly, the Catholic Church in its official statement published on the Vatican website mentioned above, does not attempt to give a reason, or a theological explanation for its decision; so that the Catholic apologists have been left to their own devices to come up with an explanation for it; and they have latched on to theological differences concerning the Godhead or the Trinity. But that only raises more awkward questions for the Catholic Church, because differences in doctrine have never been considered a justification for not acknowledging the validity of another church’s baptism. In an interesting article by Fr Luis Ladaria, S.J., entitled: “The Question Of The Validity Of Baptism Conferred In The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints,” he makes it clear that doctrinal differences have never been a justification for the Catholic Church to alter its policy of recognizing baptisms performed by other churches. Here is an extract from that article:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given a negative response to a “Dubium” regarding the validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. Given that this decision changes the past practice of not questioning the validity of such Baptism, it seems appropriate to explain the reasons that have led to this decision and to the resulting change of practice.

This explanation becomes even more necessary if one considers that errors of a doctrinal nature have never been considered sufficient to question the validity of the sacrament of Baptism. In fact, already in the middle of the third century Pope Stephen I, opposing the decisions of an African synod in 256 A.D., reaffirmed that the ancient practice of the imposition of hands as a sign of repentance should be maintained, but not the rebaptism of a heretic who enters the Catholic Church. In this way, the name of Christ attains great honour for faith and sanctification because whoever is baptized in the name of Christ, wherever that has taken place, has received the grace of Christ (cf. Denzinger-H√ľngermann [DH] 110–111). The same principle was upheld by the Synod of Arles in 314 (cf. DH 123). Well known also is the struggle of St Augustine against the Donatists. The Bishop of Hippo affirms that the validity of the sacrament depends neither on the personal sanctity of the minister nor on his belonging to the Church.

Even non-Catholics can validly administer Baptism. In every case, however, it is the Baptism of the Catholic Church, which does not belong to those who separate themselves from her but to the Church from which they have separated themselves (cf. Augustine, On Baptism 1, 12, 9). This validity is possible because Christ is the true minister of the sacrament: Christ is the one who truly baptizes, whether it is Peter or Paul or Judas who baptizes (cf. Augustine, Treatise on the Gospel of John VI, 1,7; cf. CCC n. 1127). The Council of Trent, confirming this tradition, defined that Baptism administered by heretics in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does is true Baptism (cf. DH 1617).

The most recent documents of the Catholic Church maintain the same teaching. The Code of Canon Law prescribes that those who have been baptized in non-Catholic ecclesial communities (as long as there is no doubt regarding the matter or the form or the intention of the minister or of the person being baptized) should not be baptized again (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 869 §2), Intrinsically connected to this problem is that of who can be the minister of Baptism in the Catholic Church. According to the Code, in cases of necessity anyone can baptize, provided the intention is correct (cf. can. 861 §2). The Code of Canon Law confirms the fundamental elements of Tridentine teaching and makes more explicit what is the required correct intention: “The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation” (CCC, n. 1256. Evidently, the necessity of Baptism spoken of here is not to be understood in an absolute sense; cf. ibid., nn. 1257–1261). Precisely because of the necessity of Baptism for salvation the Catholic Church has had the tendency of broadly recognizing this right intention in the conferring of this sacrament, even in the case of a false understanding of TRINITARIAN FAITH, as for example in the case of the ARIANS. [Emphasis added.]

Curiously, in this same article, Fr Ladaria then proceeds to justify the decision of the Catholic Church precisely on the basis of the theological differences between the two religions, which negates everything he has just said above! Here is a quote:

We have seen that in the texts of the Magisterium on Baptism there is a reference to the invocation of the Trinity (to the sources already mentioned, the Fourth Lateran Council could be added here [DH 8021). The formula used by the Mormons might seem at first sight to be a Trinitarian formula. The text states: “Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. D&C 20:73). The similarities with the formula used by the Catholic Church are at first sight obvious, but in reality they are only apparent. There is not in fact a fundamental doctrinal agreement. [Emphasis added.]

This negates what he has said before. Either doctrinal differences are significant or they are not. At first he says that they are not, and then he says that they are!

Another (former) Catholic priest by the name of Jordan Vajda*, who writes more sympathetically of the LDS Church, in the introduction to his masters’ thesis: Partakers of the Divine Nature: A Comparative Analysis of the Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization, (pp. xiii–xv), has come up with a different explanation for the Catholic Church’s decision, as follows:

My intuition, however, which I hope to more fully develop into an article in the near future, tells me that the decision of the Catholic Church to not recognize the validity of LDS baptism actually parallels something that the Latter-day Saints have understood since their beginning in 1830. To be specific: in April 1830, within days of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith was taught by means of divine revelation that the baptismal ordinances performed by all other Christians—the current-day adherents of that era or dispensation of salvation history, which was established by Christ during his earthly ministry (and which, from an LDS perspective, has gone into apostasy)—are essentially different and invalid as compared to those performed in the LDS Church, which has ushered in the new “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18). This divine instruction would subsequently appear in the first authorized collection of the Prophet Joseph’s revelations, The Book of Commandments (1833), and can now be found as section 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the four volumes of LDS scripture (along with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and the Pearl of Great Price).

The Catholic Church, albeit a bit inarticulately, has now recognized that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints represents not just another development of Protestantism, but is truly a “new religious tradition” (as also noted by Professor Jan Shipps in her landmark study Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition). Thus, the Catholic Church has recognized that the baptism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the baptism of a different gospel dispensation; and if a person wants to “cross-over” from one gospel dispensation to another, the baptism of the other dispensation will not and cannot be regarded as valid. [Emphasis added.]

This puts a much braver face on it for the Catholic Church, and is certainly the most intelligent and face-saving explanation that a Catholic could give.

Another consideration is, Why did the Catholic Church take so long to come to that momentous decision? This decision is relatively recent. The LDS Church has been around for 180 years. What took them so long to come to that great realization?

But since “guesswork” is now the order of the day; and the Catholic Church, which made that decision in the first place, did not venture to give us an official explanation for its decision; I think that my guesswork is as good a anybody else’s! And I don’t think that either explanation is correct. I believe that there were several factors involved in that decision, which I will try to enumerate as follows:

The main reason for making that decision I believe was in retaliation to the LDS policy of not recognizing the validity their baptism! Long before the Catholic Church decided not to recognize LDS baptism, the LDS Church did not acknowledge Catholic baptism! In fact, the LDS Church has never recognized the validity of baptisms performed by any church other than its own. That is because LDS doctrine teaches that baptism is a sacrament that needs to be performed by proper priesthood authority, and traditional Christianity is apostate and no longer possesses the necessary priesthood authority to perform a valid baptism (or any other sacrament, for that matter). If the Catholic Church was to recognize LDS baptisms, that would amount to a tacit acknowledgement of the authority under which it is performed; which would in turn amount to negating their own! The theological basis of LDS baptism would necessitate that. It is either Catholic baptism or the LDS one. It can’t be both. The Catholic Church was faced with the dilemma of either acknowledging the authority of LDS Baptism, and thereby denying its own; or else to reject the authenticity of LDS baptism in order retain its own. It is either one or the other. If they acknowledge that the LDS Church has the authority, then that means that they don’t!

But that decision does not solve the Catholic Church’s problem. It creates more problems for them than it solves. The Catholic Church is now caught in a quandary of its own making. The reason is that their position is untenable and inconsistent. It is both theologically and historically inconsistent. It is theologically inconsistent because the necessity for priesthood or divine authority has never been a requirement for Catholic baptism; so the Catholic Church cannot now turn around and say to the LDS Church: “We do not recognize your baptism because we think that we have the proper authority to baptize and you don’t!” They have never acknowledged the necessity of that before; therefore they cannot do so now. If they were to make that acknowledgement now, that would mean that all the baptisms that they had performed in the past were invalid!

Their position is also historically inconsistent, because the Catholic Church had traditionally accepted baptism from anyone including a non-Catholic or an unbeliever. So there is no valid reason why they should not accept it from the LDS Church, which is a much more viable institution than many of the radical Protestant churches that have broken away from them; and also uses the correct form and substance (i.e. the Trinitarian formula, and immersion in water). If the Catholic Church had not made that decision, nobody would have said anything or noticed. Things would have continued as they had done before. But now that they have made that decision, they have to give a justifiable explanation for it, and they don’t have one!

The LDS position, on the other hand, has been extremely consistent. From the day that the LDS Church was organized, it has never recognized the baptism of any church, not just of the Catholic Church. The LDS Church did not make that decision as a snub to the Catholic Church (or any other church). It was done in keeping with a commandment given to the Church in a revelation received in April 1830—which is only a few days after the Church was organized. It constitutes section 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the complete text of which is given below (including the introductory note printed in italics):

D&C 22:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Manchester, New York, April 1830. HC 1:79–80. This revelation was given to the Church in consequence of some who had previously been baptized desiring to unite with the Church without rebaptism.

1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.

3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.

4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.

This has been the position of the LDS Church since its inception. Our policies and practices are clear and transparent. The Church hasn’t “changed” its position one little bit. But the Catholic Church is all over the place! It is changing its policies and practices without knowing why it is doing it (or at least telling anybody!) or where they want to go! One doesn’t need to be a genius to figure out who comes out better off in this exchange.

However, I believe that there is still more to this decision than what meets the eye. The curious thing is that previous to this decision being made, representation was made to the “Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” in October 25, 1991, by a Rev. A.J.V. Adjutant Judicial Vicar, of a Mid-Western US diocese for the RCC, to not recognize the validity LDS baptism, to which the said “Congregation” at that time gave a negative response. The text of this exchange apparently comes from pages 17–20 of ROMAN REPLIES AND CLSA ADVISORY OPINIONS 1992 (Canon Law Society of America: 1992), edited by Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D. and Lynn Jarrell, O.S.U., J.C.D. and published on the Internet. The letter is addressed to “Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11 00193 Rome, Italy” and begins with the following words:

Your Eminence:

I am writing regarding the question of the validity of the sacrament of baptism as practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). . . .

The rest of the letter is a long rant against the supposed doctrinal and procedural falsities of the LDS Church (many of which is in fact incorrect), and then proposes that the validity of the baptism of the LDS Church not be recognized. To this the “Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” gave the following reply in April of 1992, addressed to the Bishop of the Diocese from where the original letter was sent:

March 31 1992

Prot. No. 9/90

Your Excellency:

Reverend A.J.V., the adjutant judicial vicar of your diocese had occasion to write to this Congregation last October 25th, raising certain questions regarding the validity of Mormon baptism. We would be grateful if you would pass on to Father A.J.V. the following information, conveying our regrets for the delay in response. While it would be inopportune here to go into all the counter-positions in the several arguments Father A.J.V. brings to bear against the validity of Mormon baptism, suffice it to say that all of the points he raised in his letter were taken into consideration in a recent in-depth examination undertaken by this dicastery, the outcome of which we are pleased to share with you.

On February 15, 1991, in an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect, the Holy Father approved the conclusion of this Congregation’s study that “there are insufficient grounds to change the current practice not to contest the validity of Mormon baptism.” It might be noted that this decision does not indicate simple confirmation of the validity of Mormon baptism. Rather, it points to the lack of reasons necessary to warrant an absolute decision of its invalidity, where the proper form and matter have been used. It should be noted that it can occasionally in fact occur that a particular Mormon baptism may be certainly invalid because of a lack of proper form, for example, where two ministers have divided the words of the Trinitarian formula between them. For this reason each individual case must be examined to ascertain whether the proper form has been observed. This having been said, however, the practice followed in some regions of conditionally baptizing converts from Mormonism to Catholicism may continue.

I hope this information proves useful. Please thank Father A.J.V. for us for bringing his concerns on this topic to the attention of this Dicastery. Happy to have the opportunity to convey cordial regards, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ A. Bovone Secretary [Emphasis added]

So something happened between March 1992 and June 2001 that caused the Catholic Church to change its mind! What could that be? Well, since the RCC has decided to play its cards close to its chest, and chosen not to tell us anything apart from making a declaration, we have to do some detective work to figure that out for ourselves, which is not too hard to do. I think the following factors are significant in this case.

Firstly, that decision was made at the instigation of the Catholic Church in the United States, where churches tend to be more radical and hard line than elsewhere:

“The ruling, made on June 5 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been in response to a question on the validity of LDS baptisms posed by the Bishops’ Conference of the United States.” [Emphasis added.] Deseret News, July 18, 2001.

Secondly, this decision came soon after the three largest Protestant denominations in the United States (Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Church, and Presbyterian) had made the same decision. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 11, 2000.) The United Methodist Church had made that decision a year earlier.

It is now easier to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and see where the whole thing came from. The prime mover behind this decision was the Catholic Churches in the United States, where the Protestant Churches had already made the same decision, who then put pressure on the Catholics in the US to do the same thing. The Protestant churches probably thought that their decision wouldn’t be very effective unless the Catholic Church followed suit—who in turn relented to do as they were asked! But in so doing, the Catholic Church has only harmed itself, not the LDS Church. With that decision the RCC has helped its enemies, not its friends. The Protestant and Evangelical churches, at whose behest the RCC has almost certainly done this, are its worst enemies, and seek its utter destruction. The Catholic Church has no greater friend in the world than the LDS Church. The LDS Church is not an enemy of the Catholic Church; whereas the Protestant Churches are, and have always been.

My guess is that the decision was pushed through with the help of Cardinal Ratzinger. The Vatican is usually pretty cautious and sensible (and very conservative) about making such decisions. They tend not to make decisions that go against their long held traditions and practices. Ratzinger, unlike JP2, has proved himself to be rather gaff prone since he became Pope. He has undone much of the good work that JP2 did to build bridges with other faiths, especially Islam. JP2 was one of the Catholic Church’s greatest Popes. Ratzinger’s performance has been pretty mediocre by comparison.

But the ultimate question is, does anybody care? The LDS Church certainly doesn’t, and I doubt if anybody else does. At the time that the RCC announced its decision, the LDS Church’s official spokesman, speaking on behalf the Church, stated that the LDS Church was “neither concerned nor offended that the Catholic Church has determined not to recognize Latter-day Saint baptisms”. Here are a couple of news clips from that time:

“We are neither concerned nor offended that the Catholic Church has determined not to recognize Latter-day Saint baptisms,” church spokesman Michael Otterson said Thursday. He noted that converts to the Mormon faith must be rebaptized. [Emphasis added.] Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2001.

“We are neither concerned nor offended that the Catholic Church has determined not to recognize Latter-day Saint baptisms,” Dale Bills, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said. “As a fundamental tenet of our faith, we believe that all people have a God-given right to worship how, where or what they may.” [Emphasis added.] Deseret News, July 18, 2001.

I personally see in this a pretty damning and devastating response.


* Father Jordan Vajda, a Dominican Catholic Priest at the time, completed his master’s thesis, “‘Partakers of the Divine Nature’: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization,” in 1998 at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. This work was later republished under the same title as Occasional Paper No. 3 by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies FARMS (Provo, Utah, 2002). The complete work can be read from this site. (Click on the appropriate heading to expand). In 2003 Father Vajda was encouraged to speak to LDS missionaries, and was later baptized a member of the LDS Church. I was not able to determine the date of his baptism. It was either at the end of 2003 or in 2004.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is Jesus the brother of Satan?

The short answer to that is No! LDS believe that the spirits of all men were created by God in the pre-existence, before they were born as mortals on earth. This is made known to us in modern LDS scripture (D&C 93:29; 138:53–55, 56; Moses 3:5; 6:51; Abraham 3:21–24.); and evidence for it also exists in the Bible (Job 38:4–7; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Jeremiah 1:4–5; John 9:1–3; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 1:3; Hebrews 12:9; Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:9). Origen and many other early Christian theologians also believed and taught it.

The spirits which God had made in the pre-existence had freewill, and were capable of following God or rejecting Him. Satan was one of the earliest and brightest of the spirit creations, or sons of God at that time, who later rebelled against God and was cast out of His presence, together with a third of the pre-existent spirits that followed him. That is how the “devil and his angels” came to be (Luke 10:18; Matthew 25:41; D&C 29:36–38; Abraham 3:27–28).

The Bible correctly identifies Satan, together with other pre-existent spirits that God had created, as “sons of God”:

Job 1:

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.

Job 2:

1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.

Job 38:

4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . .

* * *

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The last quote is particularly significant. The events described in this quote took place before the “foundations of the earth” was laid, that is, before the period of mortality had begun. This shows that in the spiritual (pre-existent) realm, there was more than one being who could legitimately be called “son of God;” and that Satan was one of them. Jesus was clearly one; but obviously not the only one.

Jesus, according to the Bible, was the first and greatest of the sons of God in the pre-existence, who became “heir of all things,” and who became the agent in the hand of the Father in the creation of all other things, and who was also chosen to become the Saviour and Redeemer of all things. That is what is taught in Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15–19; Hebrews 2:11–12; Revelation 3:14. However, since Satan has rebelled against God, and been cast out of His presence and become eternally lost, he is no longer the “brother of Jesus,” or of anybody else, except the evil spirits that followed him.

Spiritually speaking, we become “brothers and sisters,” and “sons and daughters,” to those whom we follow and choose to obey. For example, Jesus told the Jews who were plotting to kill Him, that if Abraham was their father (as they protested he was), they would do the “works of Abraham” (John 8:33–44). But now Satan was their father, because they did his works. Similarly, He told those who came seeking him on behalf of His mother and brothers, who had become anxious for His safety; that His mother, and brother, and sister, were those who “did the will of His Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 12:46–60). Thus, in answer to the question, Is Jesus the brother of Satan? The answer is No! Since Satan has rebelled against God, and been cast out of heaven and become lost forever, he is not the “brother” of anybody except the evil spirits which followed him, and those who will continue to follow him hereafter.

A common objection that is raised by the critics to this interpretation of scripture is that Satan is a fallen angel, and that angels are inherently a different class, or order of beings from men, or the spirits of men. Hence Satan and his crew could not have originally been men, or spirits of men; and similarly, that men, when they die, cannot become angels of God. But there is no scriptural basis for that. On the contrary, all the evidence points to the opposite.

First of all, the word “angel,” in both Hebrew and Greek, means simply “messenger”. That is the literal, etymological meaning of the word in both languages. Hence anyone who can act as a messenger of God, be they mortal or immortal beings, can be called angel.

Secondly, whenever angels have appeared to mankind, both in the Old and the New Testaments, they have appeared as men; and even mortal men have been addressed as angels. The three angels that appeared to Abraham (one of whom was apparently God in person), appeared as men (Genesis 18); and the two angels who appeared to Lot to rescue him, and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, appeared as men—so much so, that Lot invited them to lodge with him overnight as guests; and the men of Sodom, thinking they were ordinary men, tried to abuse them (Genesis 19). The angel (or was it God himself!) that appeared to Jacob as he was on his way, and wrestled with him all through the night, appeared as a man (Genesis 32:24). The angel that appeared to Manoah and her husband appeared as a man (Judges 13:6–21); and they only realized that he had been an angel when he performed marvellous wonders before them. The two angels that appeared to the women who went looking for the body of Jesus at His tomb were men (Luke 24:4); and the two angels that appeared to the Apostles as they looked up into heaven while Jesus was taken up from them appeared as men (Acts 1:10). The angel that appeared to Cornelius when he was praying, and instructed him to send for Peter, was a man (Acts 10:30–31). Paul describes certain types of angelic beings as the “sprits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:32); and in the book of Revelation, the Lord addresses the seven bishops of the seven churches (who were mortal men) as angels (Revelation 2). And finally, in Revelation 22:8–9, the angel that appeared to John and showed him the great vision that he wrote down identified himself as “thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book”.

There is not a single recorded instance in the scriptures of an angel ministering to someone that was anything other than a man. Even when it does not specifically say that he was a man, the context implies that he could not have been anything else. Thus angels are, and have always been, nothing other than men; both in their pre-mortal, mortal, and resurrected states; and they are all of the same order of beings—Jesus Himself not being an exception, as these verses testify:

Hebrews 2:

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things [i.e. the Father], in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation [i.e. Jesus] perfect through sufferings.

11 For both he that sanctifieth [i.e. Jesus] and they who are sanctified [i.e. those who believe in Him] are all of one: [i.e. of the same order of beings] for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

John 20:

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Those who shout accusations that LDS believe “Jesus is the brother of Satan,” merely employ cheap sensationalism and shock tactics (in fact dishonesty and deception) to attack Mormonism; and it is unlikely to deceive anyone else but themselves. Nothing further need be said about that.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

“Born of Mary, at Jerusalem”

One criticism that is sometimes made of the Book of Mormon relates to the following verse, which seems to be saying that Jesus will be born in Jerusalem, instead of Bethlehem, where the Bible says He was born:

Alma 7:

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

And LDS have not always been very good at knowing how to answer it. The answer to it, however, is easy! As we study the Book of Mormon carefully, we note that the expression, “land of Jerusalem,” is frequently used by Lehi and his immediate family to indeed refer to the ancient city of Jerusalem and its suburbs, where they had originally come from. Here is a selection, not a complete list:

1 Nephi 3:

9 And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 3:

10 And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another.

1 Nephi 7:

2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.

1 Nephi 16:

35 And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.

1 Nephi 17:

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

As the subsequent history of the Nephites develops, however, we find that the expression, “land of Jerusalem,” begins to be used by the Nephites to refer to the whole territory from which their ancestors came form, meaning the whole of Palestine. Bear in mind that the Nephites lived in a completely different continent, and had no direct contact with, nor acquaintance of the geography and topography of Palestine. The following are some typical examples, not a compete list:

1 Nephi 18:

24 And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

2 Nephi 1:

1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.

2 Nephi 1:

3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.

Jacob 2:

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

Mosiah 1:

11 And moreover, I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord.

Mosiah 7:

20 And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now; and behold, it is because of our iniquities and abominations that he has brought us into bondage.

Alma 7:

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

Alma 10:

3 And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.

Alma 36:

29 Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.

Helaman 16:

19 Yea, why will he not show himself in this land as well as in the land of Jerusalem?

3 Nephi 16:

1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.

Mormon 3:

18 Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.

19 And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem.

Note in particular how in the lasts couple of verses it even says that the Twelve Apostles of the Lord were chosen “in the land of Jerusalem,” thus making it clear that by that is meant the whole of area or part of the world where their ancestors had come from, meaning the Palestinian territories, not the actual city of Jerusalem.

We can dig deeper, and find that the expression “at Jerusalem,” or even just “Jerusalem,” is often used in a context implying the same thing:

2 Nephi 9:

5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

2 Nephi 10:

5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.

Helaman 16:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?

3 Nephi 15:

14 And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem.

3 Nephi 16:

4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, . . .

3 Nephi 17:

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

4 Nephi 1:

31 Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word.

3 Nephi 21:

26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.

In all of the above, the context makes it clear that by “Jerusalem” is meant the entire territory of Palestine from which their ancestors had come from, among whom Jesus had ministered. But the last verse is the most revealing of all. It depicts all of the lost tribes of Israel as having been led away out of Jerusalem, making it clear beyond any controversy that by that term is meant the whole of Palestine, not just the city of Jerusalem. Thus, far from casting doubt on the truth of the Book of Mormon, this extraordinary internal consistency is further evidence of its truth.

Revised February 2008