Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tithing and Paid Clergy

While serving a LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain; I had the chance to speak with thousands of people concerning the LDS church. I am regularly reminded of things we would focus on and teach. I don’t remember this actually being in the discussions taught to potential converts but one of the things we would make sure to mention is that the LDS church does not have a paid clergy and that it is run by an all voluntary group of men and women. I normally would not have a problem with this but there are a few things that have stuck out in my mind that now make me wonder why it is set up this way.

I have been attending a non-denominational church with my wife and I am amazed at the depth and quality of teaching they do there. They explain and teach with such clarity. Each sermon or lesson is firmly rooted in multiple scriptures which are often explained using the original Hebrew or Greek text to help ensure that the correct connotation of key words are understood. Listening and taking in this information has been amazing. Here is where I am going with this. In the LDS church, every Sunday is like “open mic” night, where amateur speakers are given 5-20 minutes to teach. Some take this very seriously and spend a good amount of time preparing but a large percentage of those asked to speak probably spend only a few hours on their talk at best. The problem with this is that there is no real depth and quality of teaching which leads to members who are not fed spiritually. There also is no quality control so the person selected that Sunday could slip in many opinions or bad interpretations of scripture and doctrine. I think this is part of the reason it is practically impossible to pin down Mormon doctrine. 100+ years of “un-official” teaching will do that. If you look back on the past 5-10 years of General Conference where the prophet and apostles speak, you will see the same basic teachings time and time again. No depth, no substance, just the same lifeless words taught just 6 months before. Why is that? Should the “true church” be able to give their members more? I certainly think so and I would expect them to.

The other thing is part of the temple endowment ceremony (before 1990 when it was removed). I think I have talked about this before but it applies here so I will just mention it again. In the endowment, Satan paid a “sectarian minister” to lead away those looking for God by using false teachings and doctrine. Why put that image and idea into every stalwart LDS member who went to the temple? What was the purpose of that? (You can read the actuall transcript by going to my "temple" section and reading about the changes made over the years.)

With those things in mind, let’s take a look at the following verses from the Bible paying special attention to verse 4.

2 Cronicles 31:2-12

2 Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, [a] to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the LORD's dwelling. 3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD.

4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.

5 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. 6 The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps. 7 They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel.
9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 10 and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over."
11 Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done. 12 Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts.

So, those who lived in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas brought their tithes, which included many different things to the priests and Levites so they could divide it amongst themselves so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.

I find this interesting because they were told to take the tithes given by the people and use it so that they would not have to worry about those basic needs and be able to devote the greater majority of their time studying, teaching and administering the Law of the Lord. This is exactly what churches with paid clergy do with the tithes and offerings they bring in and the amount of preparation and care given to those they pastor can be easily seen.

Why then do Mormons not do the same thing? Interestingly enough, they used to.

D&C 42:71-73
71 And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families asupported out of the property which is bconsecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned;
72 Or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop.
73 And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.

I have not been able to find when and why this changed but it appears that for many years the LDS church did the same thing that they later taught was an abomination in their temple. I will keep looking to see if I can find anything authoritative on why this change happened and post it if I find it.

I don’t think that this is a huge issue personally except for the fact that the members of the LDS church are not getting fed in the way they could or should be and that is a shame. I merely bring it up as another example of where the LDS church strays from the Bible and short changes its faithful tithe payers in the process. Those who have grown up LDS unfortunately have no idea what kind of understanding and knowledge they are missing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

It seems like I keep reading about fruits and vines lately so I thought I would post something that came to my mind this morning. I think everyone knows the phrase, “by their fruits you will know them”. It is a very common phrase in the LDS church and other religious circles. It is something that is used in both a positive and a negative context and can often be self serving as I'm sure some will say that about what I am going to say.

While reading the following passage I had a moment of clarity which is happening more often.

Matthew 7:15-20

15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

17Likewise EVERY good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree CANNOT bear bad fruit, and a bad tree CANNOT bear good fruit.

19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

I’d like to focus some attention on verses 17 and 18. I added some emphasis to highlight some key words. If we are to believe these verses, then I think all would agree on the basic premise that good tree = good fruit and bad tree = bad fruit.

The question I had was; where does the tree get its nourishment? The food it eats is in the soil where it is planted and the roots are what not only anchors the tree but feeds it. Following basic logic, if the food in the soil is not good or sufficient then the tree will be weak and lacking in the ability to produce fruit at all since all of its energy must be spent in just staying alive. If the roots stay at the surface and do not go deep into the soil then it will be vulnerable when droughts, storms and other problems come, which is inevitable.

Understanding this we can also conclude that…

Good food+deep roots = strong tree & good fruit
Bad food+shallow roots = weak tree & bad fruit or no fruit at all

Why am I taking my time to explain this? Because I think it has a direct relationship to Mormonism. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jesus, in the same breath, warns us about false prophets and then tells us how to discern who they are. I have spent almost a year now talking about the Mormon tree’s roots, what it eats, and the fruit it ultimately bears. I have had people ask me in the past, and I think I even blogged about it once, what were some good things in the LDS church? I used to try to find a few “good fruits” but have come to understand that it is incapable of bringing forth good fruits because the food it eats (doctrine, teachings and rituals) contain poison that cripples it. It is further damaged by its roots (history) that are rotten and now only remain on the surface to try to survive.

Again talking about fruit, Matthew 12:33-37 says:

33"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

I know that Mormons look to their leaders, past as present, with adoration and honor but this can only be because they do not know what their past really looked like and who these men were and are still today. It is my hope that some will be filled with enough curiosity to look for themselves at what their church is really founded on and what kind of soil they are taking their “nourishment” from.

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. I can only imagine how black and diseased the hearts of the LDS prophets are to have started and now continue a church founded on false doctrine and deceit. One day, those who aided in the proliferation of the Mormon church will have to give an account of the things they said and did. This blog is my attempt to undo the part I played in "spreading the gospel" so I will not be condemned by my words while I was LDS.

I cannot say enough how glad I am to be free from that toxic religion. While my tree is not yet fully healed from years of malnourishment, it is starting to become stronger and the roots are searching deeper into rich soil to find living water.