Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Do We Need Revelation?

I recently had a reader ask some questions/make some comments about the subject of revelation.

Here are 3 talks from General Conference, all by Apostles of Jesus Christ, that give very clear information about what personal revelation is and how we receive it.

Boyd K. Packer http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/guided-by-the-holy-spirit?lang=eng

David A. Bednar http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/the-spirit-of-revelation?lang=eng&query=revelation

Richard G. Scott http://lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/to-acquire-spiritual-guidance?lang=eng&query=write+down+(name%3a"Richard+G.+Scott")

I would like to respond to a few points from an article that this reader shared. The link is here if you would like to read it for yourself. While this is obviously a well thought-out presentation, it is the work of a man. However well-intended and educated this man may be it is not from God in an official sense. I think the writer would have to agree that his work is not revelation, based on his conclusions.

As I thought about this question and how to respond, I was naturally led to ask "Why do we need revelation? Why do we have it?" I have concluded that the the answer lies in another uniquely LDS doctrine, that of our relationship to God. We believe he is our Father, literally the father of our spirits, and that he loves each of us as any father loves his child.

My impression of non-LDS beliefs about God is that he is a distant observer, sometimes interacting with us, sometimes not, depending on his whims. There is a sense that God might be too busy for us or that he will create and destroy according to his impulse. It seems that we are all merely subject to him as servants or pawns and nothing more. I even had one person tell me that God loves those who obey as anyone would love a creation that turned out the way they planned. Many seem to reject the idea that God's love is unconditional and that our relationship to him is significant.

In the book of Moses, part of the Pearl of Great Price, our Heavenly Father has said  "This is my work and my glory -to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Moses 1:39 God has nothing better to do. Everything he has created is for us, his beloved children. (Moses 3:9) Does he get angry with us? Yes. Does he punish the disobedient? Yes. Does he weep for our wickedness? Yes.

 "And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?"  (continue reading Moses 7:28-40)

I have come to understand, at least a little, how much we really depend on God from moment to moment, just as King Benjamin explains. "I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:21) I suspect he is more present than most of us can even imagine.

So, what does this have to do with revelation? Everything! If He is our Father and loves us and wants what is best for us then he will guide us. That doesn't mean that everything we are guided to do will be successful, at least in the worldly sense. The article uses the example of being inspired to start a business. If that business fails then maybe you weren't inspired after all. My thought was that maybe you were inspired to do that so you could learn something or be humbled or interact with someone who you otherwise would not have met. The possibilities are infinite!

This thought led to another concept that differs from many of our Christian counterparts; that we are eternal beings. Some believe we don't exist until conception or birth. While most Christians believe in an afterlife there is much confusion about what it is like and what we will do/be after we die.

LDS doctrine is not so vague. We believe that we lived before we were born as spirit children of God and we can continue to learn and grow and even reproduce for eternity.Our view of "Heaven" or "eternal life" is not floating on clouds playing harps. Nor is it running errands for God. The things in life that bring the most joy -working, learning, being with loved ones, serving one another and serving our Father- are the activities that will continue to bring us joy throughout eternity.

This relates to the question of revelation in a very practical way. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19) In the case of the business, learning valuable lessons that include overcoming failure and trying again will only bring that person blessings in the long run.

Both the article and the reader asked how we can claim divine revelation if we are wrong sometimes. From my personal experience I have learned a few lessons about this.
A) Sometimes I do what seems like the best idea without asking Heavenly Father for guidance. I have had experiences where I didn't see any other option at the moment but I later realized there was a better option. If I had prayed and been guided to act in that way it would have required great faith but it had the better outcome.
B) Sometimes I feel prompted to act a certain way and I don't. Sometimes I later see that I should have done it and  regret my choice. Sometimes I don't see what might have been. A few of those moments have left significant impressions on me.
C) I have had some very intense, undeniable moments when I received a very strong prompting to do or not do something. Again, some of these seemed fruitless or inconsequential. Is that because I misunderstood? NO.  As I said, the impressions were unmistakable. I can't know what the Lord had in mind. I even felt the peace of knowing that I did what the Lord required and it is out of my hands. Most of these are so significant that I can not speculate about other possibilites. That would mean denying the voice of God.

The article said that if a person isn't 100% accurate 100% of the time they can't trust anything to be from God. The longer I think about this the more it makes me sad. Revelation is a process. It also takes practice and effort in the way it might take effort to know and understand our own parents. We learn through study and experience. As our relationship with our Father matures, we come to see his will more clearly and recognize his voice.

This subject has left one very unsettling question in my mind: if this is true, why are so many kidnapped, abused, deceived, even murdered? If God speaks to his children why doesn't he warn them?! This is a tough one! 

Through revelation to his chosen prophet, God has restored the priesthood authority to perform vicarious work for those who died without knowledge of the truth. In a nutshell, those little girls in Asia who are killed for being girls will be able to receive all the blessings of God even though they were not raised in Christian nations. Those young men who are killed in tribal wars in Africa or the Middle East will have a chance to hear and accept the gospel in the Spirit World.

The Lord has also said "Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost." D&C 50:40-42 , emphasis added. (see also Neh. 4:14; Ps. 56:4 (4, 11); 118:6; Jer. 1:17 (17–19); Luke 12:5 (4–5); 2 Ne. 8:7 (7–12); D&C 3:7; 98:14; 122.)

God also looks after each of these as his children. The Atonement of Jesus Christ not only erases sin but erases pain. I like this story best. I was privileged to hear Brother Hoffman tell his story in person. I am including a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing this song. (Now tell me you don't feel the Spirit when you hear this!)
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11)



I know that there are things in this world we can not understand fully. I know that God's ways are higher than our ways. He knows things we don't. He gives commandments we struggle to understand and not only does he forgive us repeatedly, he works with us to change and become what he knows we can be. He is our greatest cheerleader and truest friend. We can rely on him to ALWAYS guide us to what is best for us.

31 comments:

Kristi said...

Well I'm a dork! I've been watching your blog for this post and it was here the whole time. haha I'll sit down and read it as soon as I can.

Kristi said...

I’ve read the articles you linked to. These responses and your own leave me with one important central question that you and they have not answered “What criteria do you apply to determine what is or is not God’s word?” You and the authors of these articles claim to receive God’s words regularly and independent of the Bible. I would say that any revelation that comes independent of the Bible or claims anything not clearly shown by scripture is not God’s words. In response to paragraph 1, you have called the article that I sent man’s works. I would certainly agree and by the standard I have explained above, I would include your writing, my writing, the articles you included, the BofM, the D&C, and the Pearl of Great Price in that category as well. That’s how we got started on this. So I ask again, what is your standard for determining what is God’s word (or revelation to you) vs what is a work of man?
Now let me give an example from my own life of the Holy Spirit’s work in revealing scripture to us. As I read my Bible today, I came to a passage that convicted me of sin in my life. At that moment, the Holy Spirit was revealing His word to me so that I might confess and repent of this sin, turn from it and give Him the honor and glory. This was so that I might be a better representative of Him and know Him better and serve Him better. You have characterized my view of God as a view of Him that is distant and uncaring. Do you really think that anyone who claims to love and follow God would see Him as distant and uncaring? Could I look at Jesus who died on the cross, taking the punishment for my sins as distant and uncaring? You are not discussing the points I made but creating your own by representing my views falsely. This is not an argument for your view over mine but a “straw man” that you have set-up as if you were arguing against my viewpoint. Have I ever described God in anyway that even implies that I see Him as distant or uncaring?! (Wikipedia has a very good definition of a straw man argument.) Everything in your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, paragraph after the links would be a straw man argument as it does not in anyway debate my views or the views of the article that I linked to. You are creating an argument that does not exist and debating it instead.
In P 7, you again misrepresent the article. The author uses the example of starting a business in 2 places and quotes James 4:13-16. The first time the business example is used as an illustration of “becoming a false prophet to oneself” - binding yourself to something that may or may not be the word of God. The second time it is used as an example of how we are “safe in God’s providential care”. Nowhere does the author say that “if the business fails then maybe you weren't inspired after all” as you claim. Read the article again. You are falsely misrepresenting this author’s views. Do you want to debate one of the points the author made or do you want to make up your own?
In P 8&9 you describe some LDS views that I would disagree with because they are not based on the Bible, so that brings me back to the original question “What criteria do you apply to determine what is or is not God’s word?” In P 10 you say “In the case of the business, learning valuable lessons that include overcoming failure and trying again will only bring that person blessings in the long run.” I believe that God directs events in our lives through His perfect providence to teach us valuable lessons so that we might know Him better. Job is a prime example of this. It is in my failures and struggles that I have come to rely on Him more and know Him better. Surely you didn’t think that I would disagree with that? I just don’t think that personal revelation is how God directs events in our lives.

Kristi said...

In P 11 you finally try to deal with the central question.
(A&B) Anytime that we do not follow God’s word or act against his will, we will certainly regret it. But these situations have nothing to do with the central question. “What criteria do you apply to determine what is or is not God’s word?” But I would again point you to the portion of the article called “Becoming a False Prophet to Oneself”. I would say that you are binding yourself and your conscience to a false prophecy. You are saying that you have sinned and failed to follow a command when there was no command given.
(C ) Again you seem to say (as you said in our earlier conversation) that you knew that something was the Word of God because you felt it. Is this your answer to the question “What criteria do you apply to determine what is or is not God’s word?” Is it because you feel it? If that is your final answer to that question then I fear we cannot get any farther in this conversation. I have made my case for this issue already in my comments to the other articles and you have not responded to these. I guess we have to agree to disagree unless we just want to say the same thing over and over.
In P 12, yes, if you are not 100% right 100 % of the time then you cannot claim to be a prophet receiving personal words from God. This is confirmed by Duet 18:20-22. You say that hearing God’s voice takes time and practice. Sorry but according to Deut 18:20 it’s a pass/fail test. If you were wrong once then you can never again claim to speak for God. You say that revelation is a process. I see no where in scripture that would confirm that belief.
I do not understand what P 13-18 have to do with this discussion. They seem to be an entirely separate matter and this answer is getting really long already.
I will end my response with one new question. Your closing sentence was “We can rely on him to ALWAYS guide us to what is best for us.” I would agree with this but how does he guide us? Through (A) personal words from God or (B) by the Bible and His providential care of us? If it is personal words from God as you say then how far are you willing to take it? Do you believe that he has a specific will for every moment that you must find out? Is every second a moment to choose a specific action that God will reveal to you? Or like me do you believe that there are times where he directs the circumstance to keep you safe in his will? If you believe every moment, decision and second require God to reveal his will for you then you better start praying about dinner tonight. Does he want you to serve peas or green beans? Ok now I’m being silly and I’m sure that you would agree that’s silly. (If you don’t then I think you must live under an unbearable weight and bondage.) So when do you trust God’s providence and care over you and when does his personal word to you become the controlling factor?

Kristi said...

I forgot to check the box that e-mails follow-up comments to me and I have to leave another comment to check that box. Sorry.

Wendy Williams said...

I think your post is awesome and although I have not yet read the attached articles and do not know the basis of your conversation with Kristi, I will just say that I think one of the answers to one of her questions is that, in my opinion, I know something is a matter of personal revelation or personal inspiration because of the feeling I have. Those feelings are usually (but not always) confirmed for me after wards. I love the feeling of peace I have when I have decided something and know that it is what The Lord would have me do. And I am touched beyond measure when I am privileged to receive confirmations of that. When I make a decision and pray about it and it is not what The Lord would have me do, I feel horrible, cruddy and confused. That is how it works for me anyways. But these are moral decisions--not everyday ones like what to wear, etc. Decisions about things that affect my spiritual well being. Thanks for letting me intrude into your conversation.

Kristi said...

I found an article by a blogger that seems very relevant. You might not agree with the "drunk in the spirit" stuff, (I sure don't) but your arguements and theirs are very similar. The only thing seperating you from them is what your gut has told you to do vs. what their gut has told them to do.

Kristi said...

hahah I forgot the link!! Here ya go! http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/emotionalism-and-experience-versus-sound-doctrine/

Amy said...

Okay. I have broken this down into smaller portions beacue the response I wrote in Word was 4 pages long!

Pratcial Response: From D&C 8:2-3 "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground."

D&C 9:7-9 "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me."

These are both specific guidelines to recognize the promptings of the Spirit and answers to prayers. (see also Phil.4:7, Luke 24:32, 2 Cor. 3:3, Jer. 31:33) You may classify this as providence. I call it personal revelation.

Amy said...

This part might be relevant to the link you shared. (Which I find very creepy and NOT what I mean when I say I feel the Sprirt. I nver said anything about "gut")

To your main question, “what is the word of God” my first response is simply truth. John 17:17 says “Thy word is truth.”
We might then ask “Is only God’s word (the Bible/words from prophets) truth? Or is all truth the word of God?” I tend to think it is the latter. John 16:13 says “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” The Book of Mormon supports this in Moroni 10: 5 “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
This is kind of general though. I could say that 2+2=4 is a true statement and so this is God’s word. But I won’t. My initial reaction is to make this separate from the “real” word of God but I can’t do that completely. I personally believe that even math and science is inspired by God and that every truth we know is the result of that inspiration.
On the other hand, what exactly is gospel doctrine, straight-from-the-source, true and undeniably the words of God to his children? Can we really rely on anything to be that true without faith? Jesus said in John 7:17 “If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” The proof doesn’t come until after taking that faithful step to “do his will”. We further learn in 1 John 5:6 “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” The verses in the previous paragraph also teach that knowledge of the truth comes from the witness of the Holy Ghost.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma says “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” (Alma 32:27) He then compares this faith to a seed. He explains that it must be planted and nourished continually or it will die. He also explains that if a seed doesn’t thrive it isn’t because the seed is bad but the ground in which it was planted or because of neglect. (Compare with Luke 8:11-15).
Getting back to the question “What is the word of God?” we can’t apply that label to anything and everything evenly. If I say “Only the words spoken by a prophet” you can argue against the authenticity of that prophet. You say “Anything in the Bible” there are hundreds of scholars who will point out flaws in the Bible. We currently disagree about the reliability of our feelings. Honestly, I don’t think there is any physical evidence or scientific proof that can lead me or you or anyone else to accept a single word as being from God.
The evidence is in the testimony of the Holy Ghost. He alone can testify of truth. This conformation of the Holy Ghost comes from faith and actions on our part. For example, if we read in the scriptures that we should serve others and we make an effort to do that, the Lord will pour out his Spirit to confirm that we are indeed doing something that pleases him. Even the inclination to open the book is an exercise in faith.
I have been thinking a lot about this suggestion that we Latter- Day Saints rely on our emotions to discern truth and revelation. I don’t believe the feelings of the Holy Ghost are the same as personal emotions. My personal feelings of fear have been replaced by the comfort of the Holy Ghost which testifies that God knows what I am going through. My personal feelings of doubt are replaced by assurance that I am making the right decision. I have had a few very distinct experiences where I was determined that one answer was right and after a single prayer and spiritual communication I knew that I had been wrong.

Amy said...

Now, you asked the question “How does he guide us? Through (A) personal words from God or (B) by the Bible and His providential care of us? If it is personal words from God as you say then how far are you willing to take it? Do you believe that he has a specific will for every moment that you must find out? Is every second a moment to choose a specific action that God will reveal to you? Or like me do you believe that there are times where he directs the circumstance to keep you safe in his will?”
I really can’t limit the guidance our Father might give us if we sought him every moment. Many passage of scripture tell us to “pray always” 2 Nephi 32:8-9 is one of my favorite. “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”
Does this mean that we spend every moment on our knees or wait to be told every move to make? In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:26-29)
We have the ability to know good from evil and make choices accordingly. I have had promptings to go home instead of finishing my errands only to get a call from the school that one of my kids is sick. I have had promptings to call or email friends and later found out they were having a bad day and needed a friend. I have had people show up at my door in my moments of need. I classify all of these as personal revelation, whispering impression from the Holy Ghost to do something.
I may be misunderstanding again, but it seems that you are saying you can only receive guidance like this when reading the Bible. (“You and the authors of these articles claim to receive God’s words regularly and independent of the Bible. I would say that any revelation that comes independent of the Bible or claims anything not clearly shown by scripture is not God’s words.”) I find this kind of sad. The Bible doesn’t tell you directly to go check on your neighbor after a storm. It doesn’t tell you directly to be a cautious driver or to avoid watching too much TV. These may be implied in certain verses but they are not actually in the Bible at all. It is merely your interpretation based on (wait for it) personal revelation from the Holy Spirit.
To be clear, I would not count these experiences of personal revelation as scripture or something that applies to everyone. I also believe that God would never direct us to do anything contrary to scripture and that Satan will not tempt us to do good.

Amy said...

I will briefly respond to the “prophet test” from Deut 18:21-22 This can be a difficult test. Even Moses made prophesies that were not fulfilled for many years. It took 40 years to get to the Promised Land! As an Israelite, wandering in the desert, I might claim that Moses is a false prophet because everything he prophesied didn’t come true. But a lot had at that point. Is that enough? It doesn’t fit the 100% rule unless you wait 40 years to find out if it is going to happen. Some prophets made prophesies centuries before they were fulfilled. Some, like those pertaining to the second coming of Christ, are still unfulfilled.
What about Jonah? He prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed and it wasn’t…because it was a conditional prophesy. “If they don’t repent then I will destroy them.” Many prophesies are “if…then” prophesies. Does that make them false?
One role of a prophet is to call people to repentance. Another is to expound scripture. Another role (the most important!) is to testify of Jesus Christ. Making prophetic statements (telling the future) is only one small role of a prophet.
I still believe the better test for a prophet is from the Lord himself “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” Matt 7:20 I also like John4:1-3 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (see also Titus 1:16 and 2 Peter 2:1)”

Amy said...

Let me also respond to the “straw man” accusation. While you may not have the attitude I described, many do. I have personally been told that my religion is false because “everything God wants us to know is in the Bible and there is no reason to speak to man again.” I have also been told that we should not pray for an answer to any question as that would be “sign-seeking”. I have been told that none of us are worthy to approach God with our needs and inquiries and that assuming he has time for us is a sin. And yes, I have actually been told that “God has better things to do.”
In my defense, I got the same general message from the article, particularly the end when he says “God has been ruling only providentially (rather than directly through infallible prophets) for over 2000 years and not giving further infallible, special revelation. God could raise up infallible prophets and apostles that meet the criteria of Deuteronomy 18 and 13, but He has not. Rather than seeking to make errant “words from God” authoritative and binding, we would be better off admitting God has not raised up any infallible prophets and accepting His benevolent providential rule.”
To my mind, this says, ‘God is done with us and we should just be happy with whatever attention he decides to give us.’ You might interpret this differently but that really is how it sounds to me. Naturally I assumed you felt the same way as the author and applied this to you as well. It was not my intention to offend or distract from the conversation.

Kristi said...

I want to sit down to respond to all of these but I'm worn out right now and I want to give them all some serious thought. I will start with just the last part of your 4 part answer. (My comments had to be shortened too :) so I get it.)

1st I'm sorry for getting a little wound up about the "distant God" issue. I see now why you got that in the article so let me clarify and get back to the other issues when I can really think about them. So about the "distant God" issue... I don’t see God that way (as I explained) and I don’t think that the author does either. Such people certainly exist but I don't think that this view is in the article.
You seem to be operating with the presupposition that God is only present and caring if there is new revelation. (If I misunderstood you let me know.) I disagree with this. There are significant periods when there was no NEW revelation. I mentioned these in a different comment... the 400 years in Egypt, or between Malachi and Matthew, etc. Now here’s a quote from the article…
“What we see from these examples is that during those periods, without any special revelation other that what had been given previously to others, God worked His plan through people just as effectively as He did through direct revelation. God’s providential rule is NOT A LESSER WAY for God to care for His people.”
The paragraphs above the one I’ve quoted here are really, really helpful too but it is so long that I hesitate to cut and paste it. The Esther example is SO good. The 3 or 4 paragraphs just above the heading “Understanding Providence” might help you see why I do not see any distance from God inspite of my differnt views. The other comments seem to touch on this too so I look forward to looking at them more closely… when I’m not tired from a busy weekend. :)

Kristi said...

And one more thing to clarify, I do believe that everything we need to know is definitely in the Bible IF we are talking about knowledge of God, the way of salvation, and how to serve Him. Now, as an example, the Bible will certainly show me that marriage is a sacred covenant between a husband and a wife but does the Bible tell me what system of education to use in teaching my children or how to provide for their needs? No but it does have guiding principles that I can use to make wise decisions and God will certainly provide me with the resources I need to do what is most honoring and glorifying to him in these and other situations.

Perhaps a difference between us is how we pray. Maybe that will help us understand each other better… You sort of implied that you would feel comfortable praying for a sign or for an answer to a specific question. I would not be comfortable praying quite this way. I would certainly pray about a problem that I am having by talking to God about my concerns. I might ask Him to help me trust them to His care. Or I might ask Him to give me a heart that is like His on the issue. The overall focus is centered on making me more Christ like and a better servant of Him. I think that the focus of the two “methods” is different. I really hope that this comes across right… I think that the focus of praying for a sign or for an answer is not often centered on a person’s desire to serve God but just on their desire for information, resolution, etc. But of course that’s a supposition based entirely on my own experience when I prayed that way and always felt that my attitude was not right in these prayers. I have since changed because of a conviction that my attitude was not content with God’s will or truly desirous of His will in those moments. I am NOT saying that this is your attitude, just that it was mine and I find it hard to understand how a person could pray in the way that you described with an attitude of complete humility and submission to God and His will. (I’ve left the realm of factual debate and I’ve wandered into “experience” based argument. :) oops!) The example of Gideon is often raised as a good reason to ask for a sign. I went looking for the relevant scriptures and stumbled on this article which says it better than me… http://www.gotquestions.org/prayer-fleece.html
I have GOT to go to bed! My munchkins need me to be awake in the morning. Thanks again for the fun discussion and I’ll get back to the other 3 of your 4 comments ASAP!

Kristi said...

Responding to your first comment…
Hi again
It’s busy over here and I have had sick kids so I haven’t been able to spend much time on this. I’ve got a few minutes so I’ll get started and see how much I can do.
Regarding the quotes from the D&C you remember that this started with our post about the BofM being God’s word. I don’t believe that it is. I believe that is the work of man and should be evaluated in that light. You said that you believe that the BofM is God’s word because of how it has affected you and the “testimony of the Holy Spirit”. I said before that I disagree with that method of determining what is or is not God’s word. If you have sound doctrine then it will lead to experiences and emotions from God and His word. But it doesn’t work in reverse! If you have experiences and emotions they do NOT create sound doctrine. So I will address the Bible quotes as they relate to this issue…
Phil.4:7 – When you consider vs 6 you see that this in the context of letting our “request be known to God” but it does not say that we will receive an answer or a solution. It says that we have his peace but that does not mean that we have more information, knowledge, etc. You are equating peace with hearing Him.
Luke 24:32 – Their heart burned in conjunction with hearing Jesus open the scriptures. Talk about sound doctrine! I have already referred to my belief that God certainly still speaks to us through scripture.
2 Cor. 3:3 – The context must be considered so that you get the full meaning. Paul is asserting his authority over the Corinthians. He asked in v 1 if he really needed a “letter of recommendation” to prove himself to them. But THEY were the actual “letter of recommendation”. They were the fruit of Christ’s work of salvation in them through Paul’s ministry. Matt 7:16 And of course salvation is a work of Christ in the heart, not on tablets of stone as the law was.
Jer. 31:33 – This is again referring to salvation, the new covenant, in which we now know Christ as our savior, instead of being bound to the law.

Consider 1 Tim 4:1-7, Romans 10:17, 2 Tim 4:1-4, Titus 2 references many qualities of a sound church but sound doctrine (v 1,7) is certainly required as well.

God’s word often creates an experience but an experience does not create God’s word.

Amy said...

I am going to wait until you have gone through all of this before I respond. I would like you to keep one thing in mind. You are not an authority on what is God's word.(You are not a prophet) While you may not recognize the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants as scripture, I do and I will not limit my side of the discussion to suit you. It is not my intention to prove my beliefs using what I view as a limited source. I will continue to share what I believe and why from every source. I hope that what you gain from this is a deeper understanding of WHY I believe in revealtion, not simply agame to see who can come up with the best scripture verses.

Kristi said...

Responding to your 2nd comment...
There's a BIG difference between "God's Word is Truth” and “Truth is God’s Word”. This is as logical as saying “All dogs are mammals, therefore all mammals are dogs.”

I agree that the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart is definitely different from your emotions. The problem is that you haven’t described it that way. Or at least if you did then I missed it. You have described it in emotional terms like “heart” “feeling” “comfort” or “assurance”. These are emotions but maybe I missed the place where you talked about it differently. I am not arguing for the absence of emotion but for the functioning of emotion under the guidance of reason but more importantly under the guidance of scripture which God enables us to understand by the work of the Holy Spirit.

You have said that you cannot know anything without faith. So it sounds like you believe that faith that is separate from reason. I do not. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-faith/

Kristi said...
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Kristi said...

Forgive me if you feel that I am being flippant and thinking of this as a game. If I sound like I see it as a game then it’s because I’m having fun. I am in an environment that is very intellectually weak and I have enjoyed using my brain for what feels like the first time in a long time. Perhaps I’ve gotten carried away and forgot to be considerate and respectful. If I did then I’m sorry. I am beginning to wonder if we should stop this discussion. You seem very affronted and I don’t want to go there. You see the BofM as vital information so you must use it in your discussion. I see the BofM as less than God’s word so it can’t persuade me. Again that’s how we got started. “How do we determine what is the word of God?” Maybe we need to stop here.

Amy said...

I am not offended, exatly. We have had the flu here too and I am tired. But I have plenty of time while my kids are all laying around! I am fine will continuing this conversation. I only wanted to explain why I use sources other than the Bible. I hope that you will not simply skip over those non-Biblical parts. I use them to clarify and explain. From my point of view the passage in the Bible that describes the "burning" is supported by the D&C verse that explains this as one way we can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. I suspect you have not read the non-biblical verses because D&C9 explains that we must "study it out in you mind" before going to the Lord. This is not faith without reason but rather a unification of both. And yes, sometimes the path God wants us to take is NOT reasonable (Think David and Saul's armor).
Anyway, I don't mind discussing this more but I hope that we can continue with a spirit of understanding and sharing rather than arguement and contention.

Amy said...
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Amy said...

Okay, so it posted afterall. I told you I was tired!!!:)

Kristi said...

It's hard to do this! I think that we have stepped on each other's toes without even realizing it half the time. :) Here's the problem...I can read the D&C verses in the same way that I would hope you read my various links. I will try to do this better than I have. When I send a link it's because the author expresses my viewpoint with more detail or better writing. These articles are not the word of God but people trying to understand it. Now if I see the D&C verses as another expression of your viewpoint then my arguement against these views is the same. For example in the D&C verses I see exactly the viewpoint that you have expressed to me. (Which is what you want I'm sure.) I have expressed my reasons for disagreeing with your viewpoints. It is for those same reasons that I disagree with the D&C. The D&C, BofM, etc. are enough to persuade you because you give it an authority equal to God's. It can't persuade me because I see it's authority as equal to yours. It says the same thing that you say. As for D&C9, I understand that is says "study it out in your mind" but you have not applied this same rule to your acceptance of these LDS books as the word of God. At least if you have then I don't understand how you have studied it out in your mind.

Kristi said...

Responding to your 3rd post…
We’re not exactly talking about any prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. Come to think of it, I don’t think that we have named any specific prophecies, just LDS texts in general and stories that you have mentioned without specifics. I am just saying that if you claim to speak for God then you must be right 100% of the time. And it sounds like you agree with that. Most Personal Revelations that I have heard people share are not easily tested by this part of Deut. So I think I agree with you (  gasp! ) that this verse alone is not enough to argue against personal words from God. But if we are going to judge things by their fruit as the references you mentioned suggest then it gets a little dicey. What fruits are we judging by? If it is physical fruit (or outcomes?) then I bet we could both name people that we have seen follow a personal revelation to their physical (or material, earthly) detriment. Of course spiritual outcomes are of much greater weight. We’ve discussed these briefly as you named times that God brought you closer to him through what might be perceived as a failure. I would add that God will do his will in every situation and nothing will interfere with his work of sanctification. He would have drawn you closer to himself and taught you more of who he is no matter what. And either way we are getting into a “the ends justify the means” validation of the person’s words from God. That doesn’t seem to be a great way to prove that anything was the Word of God. I have to head back to the article that I referred to before. It’s exposition of the Bible on this issue has been a tremendous help to me as I have studied this issue recently.
“The failure of pragmatic tests means that in the end, once someone has received a PWFG, whether something favorable or unfavorable resulted, the person still cannot be sure that it was truly God who spoke. Such personal guidance is impossible to test. This creates a very troubling side effect. People suppose themselves to be authoritatively bound by a “will of God” that is revealed specifically and personally to each Christian. But the Christian can never be sure that he knows he has found this “will of God.” How can errant, non-authoritative words that may or may not be from God be binding? They cannot. To make them so is abusive.
Now here’s another test regarding personal words from God. This is not mentioned in the article but it is something that I consider when I hear someone tell about a special revelation from God. Does this story of personal revelation bring honor and glory to God or does it glorify the individual? In my experience, every telling of such stories was in some way self-glorifying and self satisfying. But of course argument by experience is not a reasonable argument. It’s just experience.

Again I have to wonder if we have reached the end of this discussion. You believe in personal words from God and other extrabiblical revelation because you see it in the D&C, BofM, etc. You believe these works because you believe in continued extra biblical revelation. I believe that I understand your viewpoint and while I do still disagree. Maybe we should quit there since that was the original goal - understanding different viewpoints.

Amy said...

I have suspected all along that we are not as far off in our understanding as it might seem. I am pretty sure taht one of the biggest hinderance between people of different faiths is mostly in the terminology.
I only have one question, which you still haven't answered for me: How do you, persoanlly, know the Bible is the word of God?

Kristi said...

Again for the sake of space here let me share a link... http://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/how-do-you-know-bible-true/ This article briefly summarizes my reasons for believing that the Bible is the word of God. I would say that while you feel the testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding the BofM, etc as I do toward the Bible the place at which we divide is evidence. Quoting the above article with emphasis "All the Holy Spirit does is change my heart, change my disposition toward the EVIDENCE that is already there." I see no evidence that the BofM, D&C, etc. are anything other than a work of human hands.
And here's one more relevant link. Not exactly connected to your question but definitely relevant.

Kristi said...

http://www.ligonier.org/reformation-study-bible/about/introduction-rc-sproul/

Kristi said...

I found some more articles about why I believe that the Bible is the complete word of God. These all go together so I don't know why they are on different pages. It refers to charismatics and while I don't think that you are a charismatic you have very similar views.

http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A231

http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A232/Prophecy-and-the-Closed-Canon-Part-2

http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A233/prophecy-and-the-closed-canon-part-3

Becca said...

forgive me for poking my nose in where it may not be welcome ;)

I am not the sort to argue religion, but I wanted to share some of my testimony about God's word.

I really liked what you said, Kristi, about taking your concerns to the Lord and letting Him help you put them in His care and trusting that He will take care of you. That is a trust in the Lord that I am trying to develop.

The Bible does tell us to ask God :) "Ask, and ye shall receive... knock and it shall be opened unto you." (Luke 11:9, Matt 7:7) "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) I can tell you right now, I lack wisdom on just about every topic in my life. Especially as a mother. I have no clue what I'm doing - so I ask God, and He helps me. I am so grateful for that knowledge that God will answer my prayers.

I can add my testimony to Amy's that I have asked, and I have received answers to many questions - including whether or not the Bible is true, whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, and most importantly, if Christ is my Savior. He is.

Paul said, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." So if we have a testimony of Jesus, we have the spirit of prophecy (when we are testifying of Christ).

I would also add that I do not believe I (or anyone) will ever receive revelation from God that will be contrary to His word in scripture and from His prophets. (i.e., the person receiving "revelation" that he should not marry - that isn't from God, IMO). The scriptures make a really good measuring stick for what is revelation from God, and what is not. The Book of Mormon says, "all things which are good cometh of God...(see James 1:17 & 1 John 4:1-6) that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve Him, is inspired of God... for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." Moroni 7:12-13,16

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:15-20) I think that the author of the article makes a good point that people can become false prophets to themselves, and quite possibly to others. I see it all the time both in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and out of the Church. You have to be very cautious with personal revelation. It is very easy to become a false prophet if you aren't careful. But I think the author throws the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. If we don't have any revelation, how are we to know anything? How do you know the Bible is true? How do you know Christ is your Savior? If you know these things, how did you come to a knowledge of them? Or are you simply just hoping they are true?

Or did you get that knowledge from God? (knowledge from God = revelation)

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that the fullness of that gospel is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that God loves me and that He speaks to me.
Maybe God doesn't speak to me in a burning bush, but He does speak to me through a burning in my heart. And I am grateful for it.

Amy said...

I started to write a post about this a few days ago but I didn't finish it. This link is probably more complete than anything I could write anyway!

http://mormon.org/restoration/

I actually agree with most of what is said in these articles. Where I diverge is at the point where reason comes into play for me and seems to go out the window for most Christians. I simply can NOt accept that the Bible is meant to lead us in so many directions. Even the Reformers disagreed on the message of the Bible. The easiest example is baptism. Some believe in a sprinkling, some believe in immersion, some believe it is unnecessary. But the Bible says "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5) and "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matt 7:14 and "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." 1Cor. 14:33. These are just a few passages that contradict the message that "all Christians are right" or that there is no need for clarification. That just doesn't make sense to me. I know we had this discussion before. Sorry I seem to keep going in circles!
You don't have to respond to this if you don't want to. I am sure we will keep going round and round. But fill free to continue reading my blog and commenting and asking questions!

Kristi said...

Hi Becca! I don't think that anyone is unwelcome to such an important conversation. :) I've discussed all of the things that you mention in my other comments on other posts on Amy's blog. Like Amy said we are starting to go in circles which is why I think that we've reached the limit. There was just one part that I didn't understand, Amy. You said "I simply can NOt accept that the Bible is meant to lead us in so many directions." I agree. Is this back on the circle of saying that the BofM prevents divisions because I already explained why I think that's not logical. To say that the BofM or other works are necessary to know God implies that the Bible was incomplete and imperfect. It is not God's revelation that is imperfect but us. Divisions and denominations are because we do not understand God or his word perfectly. Before the fall Adam knew God intimately. Now we have only an imperfect glimpse of Him because our sin nature prevents us from perfect communion with him. (1 Cor 13:12) It's not until heaven that we will know him even as we are known. And I am quite sure that at that time there will be NO denominations - just a beautiful, perfect knowledge of God. In the meantime we should all strive to know him better (as I'm sure that you would agree) and with all that we are and with all of that he gives us in his word.