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difficultquestionstrialpages (The Trial)

  “The Trial” — answering the challenging questions


During my mission to New Zealand in 1971-1972, I obtained a copy of “THE TRIAL”, a booklet produced by the Auckland Stake Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (P.O. Box 13-119, Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand).  It presents a mock trial in which representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ and representatives of other Christian religions discuss doctrinal differences.  Presented below are the various sections of ‘The Trial’, with the various doctrinal points presented in each section.  You can CLICK HERE to see a chronological index and an alphabetical index of the doctrinal topics presented.  As I have entered the booklet on this website, I have softened some of the confrontational language contained in the original writing.  I have also corrected grammatical and spelling errors.  I have tried to stay true to the core messages of the booklet.

THE TRIAL — A discussion between missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and representatives of other Christian faiths

The Prosecution:  Representatives of all major Christian religions; an agnostic; an atheist.

The Defense:  Missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Judge:  A Jewish Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish faith

INTRODUCTION

Judge: Gentlemen, we are here today to establish truth among a confused Christian world.  The prosecution has chosen for their counsel representatives from all of the major Christian faiths, to question these two young men who represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We will remain until truth is established.  The prosecution has expressed a desire to promote truth today.  In examining my notes, it seems that the questions to be answered today include:  1) the question of current revelation,  2) the question of the authenticity of the Latter-day Saint apostles and prophets, and 3) the question of a need for a latter-day restoration of Christ’s original church and doctrine.  Although all of the prosecution members have claimed inspiration for their churches, none have made the claim of “divine revelation”, nor the appearance of God and his Son, Jesus Christ to your founding leaders, as do these Latter-day Saint missionaries.  I now invite the prosecution to proceed.

SECTION ONE — “All truth” versus ongoing revelation

Representative of a Christian church:
Gentlemen, our friends from the Church of Jesus Christ preach of ‘continuing revelation’ and ‘current revelation’.  It is my belief that the last revelation given to man was given to John on the Isle of Patmos.  John 16:13 states: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”  Christ was speaking to His apostles, and if he gave ALL TRUTH to His apostles, the claims that MORE TRUTH was given to Joseph Smith or that ongoing revelation is needed do not seem plausible.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
We agree that Christ did give all truth to His apostles through the Holy Spirit, but did His apostles give all that truth to man?  Matthew 10:1-4 tells us that Christ chose twelve apostles, and Matthew 10:8 tell us that He gave them great powers.  Acts 2:1-4 affirms that these apostles received the Holy Spirit, and Acts 8:14-17 tells us of the apostles bestowing the Spirit on others.  However, the ‘all truth’ mentioned in John 16:13 was only given to the apostles, and we only have the writings of five of the sixteen apostles chosen in New Testament times.  In Matthew 13:11 Christ says to his apostles, “…it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”   This verse makes it clear that Christ gave truth to His apostles that He did not give to the people.  Additionally, John received his revelation on Patmos in approximately 96 A.D.  Peter was martyred in 66 A.D.  It seems unlikely that Peter and the other martyred apostles had received all of the incredible ‘truth’ revealed to John on Patmos.  Ongoing revelation seems to have been applicable then, as it is now.
We would next have you consider 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 where Paul states that he was taken away in a vision.  The scripture reads: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)  How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  Here is an example of an apostle knowing something that was not recorded in the Bible.

Representative of a Christian church:
I must mention that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”.  If ALL scripture is given, how can you claim that MORE scripture was to come through Joseph Smith?

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Verse 15 in that chapter states: “…from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…”.  Paul was speaking specifically to Timothy.  Also, John had not yet received his revelation on the Isle of Patmos, so “all scripture” could not have been given at that time.  The ‘scripture’ available in the time of Paul and Timothy consisted solely of the Old Testament scriptures.  It is our belief that Paul was telling Timothy that ALL scripture, when it is given and received, rather it be past, present, or FUTURE, it is given by and received with inspiration from God.  Hopefully all now would agree that “all truth” was given only the the apostles, and was not all given to man.  Also, we do not have all the apostle’s writings.

SECTION TWO  — The Nature of God, corporeal body or spirit essence

Representative of a Christian church:
One of the basic beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God has a body of flesh and bones, and that Jesus Christ does as well (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).  This is a difficult position to support.  John 4:24 points out that “God is a Spirit” and nothing more.  No where in the Bible does it state that God has a physical body.  In fact, in Colossians 2:9, speaking of Jesus, it reads, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”  These missionaries will probably use Genesis 1:26-27 to support their belief.  These verses state, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him…”  I believe these verses are speaking of a spiritual creation, not a literal one.  I would also point out that the apostle Paul, in Romans 1:21-25, condemned those who did not glorify God as God, but instead changed the “…glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man…who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator…”.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
We do believe, as stated in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, that, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also”.  Yes, John 4:24 does state that God is a spirit, but the rest of that verse states, “…and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  We do not leave our bodies at home when we go to church to worship.  We worship with our spirits, with our bodies, with our souls.  Since we are created in the image of God, it makes sense that God likewise has a spirit, a body, and a soul.  The context of the scripture in John 4:24 informs us that the people of Samaria were not worshiping the Father in truth, because in John 4:22, Christ told the woman “…ye worship ye know not what.”  In 2 Kings 17:28-24 we learn that these Samaritans were pagan worshipers, so it appears that Christ was pointing out that God also had a spirit, and was not a pagan god.  The scriptures as teach that “…God is love.” (1 John 4:8), “…God is light…” (1 John 1:5), and that “…God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29).  God can be described in many ways and He can do many things.  The statement that “God is a Spirit…”  (John 4:24) points out one of the facets of God’s being, just as these other descriptive verses do.  A close examination of Romans 1:21-25, the verse that you quoted earlier, reveals that these people were worshiping birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, as well as graven images of corruptible men.  Christ was declaring an eternal truth when he told pagan Samaria that God was a spirit, and not a graven image.  Acts 8:13-20 points out that these Samaritans didn’t receive the “…word of God…” until Philip preached to them, much later.  If they had not received the word of God, they were living by another word, or gospel.  You mentioned Colossians 2:9 earlier.  Please note that Colossians 1:18-19 informs us that Christ is the “…head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead;…for it pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell;”.   Thus it pleased the Father that in Christ was the fulness of the Godhead to dwell, during his mortal life with a mortal tabernacle.  The interpretation of the word “bodily” in Colossians 2:9 can be seen as a reference to the Church, as the following verse says, “And ye are complete in Him.”   John 15:15 tells us that Christ gave of this fulness to His followers.  This fulness is the “way, the truth, and the life.”

Representative of a Christian church:
Can you, however, show us any verse in the Bible that states that God has a body of flesh and bone?  Surely something of this importance would be stated clearly in the holy scripture.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
There is no verse in the Bible that categorically states that God has a body of flesh and bone.  Nevertheless, that very concept is plainly and clearly taught for those wishing to understand it.  Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus was in the “express image” of His Father.  In the book of Acts, it is recorded that as Stephen was being stoned, he looked up into heaven and saw “…Jesus standing on the right hand of God,”.  This fact is clearly stated in the next verse also, as it reads, “…and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.”  (Acts 7:55-56).

Representative of a Christian church:
We would state that 1 Peter 4:6 teaches that Christ does not have a body, nor does the Father.  That verses states that, “…for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”  So God lives in the spirit, as a spirit, as would Christ also.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I think we would all agree that Christ had a physical body during His ministry here on earth, and we maintain that He could not have laid down that physical body after His resurrection.  Luke 24:36-39 teaches that after Christ’s resurrection, He said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”  After His resurrection and as He bid farewell to His apostles, two angels declared, “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  Thus, they saw Him ascend into heaven with a resurrected body of flesh and bone, and He will eventually return just like that.  James 2:26 tells us that “…the body without the spirit is dead…”.  The resurrected Jesus has a spirit, united with a perfected body of flesh and bone which He displayed to His apostles, united in perfect life, never to be separated.  His spirit is not dead, His body is not dead.  Luke 23:46 tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, His spirit left His mortal body and death ensued.  Three days later He was gloriously resurrected as His spirit and body were reunited, making Him the “first resurrection”.  Death would have once again played a role if His spirit had separated from His body at this point.  Paul described that scenario as an impossibility in Romans 6:9-10 when he stated, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him.”  These scriptures beautifully demonstrate that Christ now has a perfected body of flesh and bone.

Representative of a Christian church:
Hebrews 5:8-9 informs us that Christ’s perfection did not come until He had suffered on the cross.  It says he ‘learned obedience’ and that He was ‘made’ perfect.  It makes sense that the Father was greater than Christ in all ways, even including perfection.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
We can agree that Christ was ‘perfect’ after His resurrection.  It is very clear that Christ has a body of flesh and bone AFTER His resurrection, and that body of flesh and bone was part of His ‘perfection’.  Now since He returned to His Father, who was also perfect (see Matthew 5:48) and He was also perfect (Hebrews 5:9), isn’t it logical to conclude that the Father also has a body of flesh and bone?  Their ‘perfection’ cannot be of different types or kinds.  They were both perfectly created.  Christ was the ‘express image’ of the Father.

SECTION THREE — Breath and Spirit in the scriptures; are these words interchangeable?

Representative of a Christian church:
The words ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ are used interchangeably in the scriptures.  In Genesis 2:7 it states: “And the Lord God breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
In some instances in the scriptures the words could be used interchangeably, but have used these verses to say that man has no spirit.  Isaiah clearly distinguised between these two words in Isaiah 42:5, which reads, “Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein…”  Zechariah 12:1 tells us that the spirit of man has form: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”  There are many instances where breath and spirit are not interchangeable.  Consider Matthew 5:3.  With an exchange of the two words, it would read: “ Blessed are the poor in BREATH: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  John 4:24 would read, “God is a breath, and they that worship him must worship in breath and in truth.”  We stand firm and scripturally sound in our belief that God and His Son, Jesus Christ, have bodies of flesh and bone, comprised of their perfected bodies and enlivening spirits.

SECTION FOUR — Are the members of the Godhead ‘three in one, one in three’, or separate beings?

Representative of a Christian church:
Let’s address another issue.  The great majority of Christian religions believe in the Triune God.  John 10:30 plainly states that “I and my Father are one”, and other scriptures in John state and teach this same point.  What is more, John 14:5-9 reads, “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way , the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.  Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?  he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”  What other conclusion can be drawn from these verses other than the Father and the Son are one!  Also, 1 John 5:7-8 reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”  Also, the very Book of Mormon supports the belief in a Triune God.  Mosiah 15:3-4 states that Christ is both the Father and the Son.  In several places in the Book of Mormon Christ is referred to as the “Eternal God”  (see 2 Nephi 26:12).  Even in the testimony of the Three Witnesses at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, it states, “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God.  Amen.”  I would now say “Amen” as well, for it is clear that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God.  Even Mormon scripture declares this fact to be true.

Judge:
Your scriptures are quite convincing.  Young men, what is your response?

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Our response will begin in Acts 7:55-56 which reads, “But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.  And said, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  Stephen saw both the Father and the Son in open vision, two separate and distinct beings.  How can the New Testament declare that the three members of the Godhead are one, and yet Stephen see the Father and the Son as separate beings?  In our view, these facts are compatible.  The members of the Godhead are one in unity, in purpose, in doctrine, in their works.  John 8:17-18 sheds light on this doctrine.  In this chapter the Pharisees accuse Jesus of bearing witness of Himself, and thus His witness would not be true.  Jewish law stated that only the testimony of two or three was true.  Jesus responded, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.  I am one that bears witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.”  Here Jesus refers to Himself and to His Father as “two men”.  John 10:30 does state that the Father and the Son are ‘one’, but that doctrine is clarified by the Lord Himself in John 17:20-21.  As Jesus prayed to His Father in behalf of His disciples, He said, “…that they [his disciples] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”  It seems clear that the Savior was praying that His disciples could be ‘one’, not physically or as a conglomerate, but one in love and purpose and desire, even as the Father and the Son are one in that same way.  Notice that the verse just quoted talks of the Father ‘sending’ the Son to earth to accomplish His eternal purposes.  Again, the Father sent the Son!  That speaks of TWO men being involved.  At one point during His ministry, Jesus asked his diciples who He was.  In Matthew 16:15, it states, “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”  At that time Christ was on the earth with a body of flesh and blood, and His Father was in heaven, having revealed to Peter who Christ was.  Two distinct persons.  In answer to the previous mention of John 14:5-9, I would mention that in John 14:12 Jesus stated, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”  This again teaches of Christ and God the Father being separate, as Christ would not say that He was going unto himself.  In Matthew 26:39, during His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleads with the Father, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”   The Savior was not praying to Himself, but to His merciful Father above, the two being separate but closely associated beings.  In the Garden Tomb, the resurrected Lord tells Mary Magdalene not to touch Him, for He had “…not yet ascended to my father.”  (John 20:17)  


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