Well, it’s been a while since my last posting. A lot has happened in the meantime. We have had bombs in Bali and have had to run memorial services here in Singapore.
I have also met with a pair of Mormon missionaries and also met their local Mission President. The meeting was so interesting that I have written a letter in response. This is going to be mailed to the Singapore President of Mission today.
Take care everyone, Sola Fide!!!
President Joseph F Boone
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
253 Bukit Timah Road
29 October 2002
Dear President Boone,
Thank you for your hospitality last Thursday. I am increasingly struck by how pleasant all your missionaries are, whether they are in London or in Singapore. It was also a pleasure to meet your wife and your other volunteers.
I wonder if you would allow me a brief moment to address some of the issues that we discussed that morning. I felt that the topics that were raised did not get the airing that they deserved.
Marriage in the New Creation
Most notably we spoke about eternal marriages. This was as a result of the video that I was shown by Elders Ng and Jensen. As I watched the video I was struck by the apparent contradiction with Jesus’ words in Mark 12. When I spoke to Elder Ng and Elder Jensen about it they suggested that Jesus’ words meant that there was no new marriage in heaven. This is, of course, not what Jesus is saying. The question posed by the Sadducees is “which of these marriages will be present in eternity?” An answer from Jesus of, “there is no new marriage” simply does not make sense in the context.
Your answer when we met seemed equally unconvincing to me. You suggested that only the first marriage was a real marriage and that the subsequent marriages were not real marriages but only ceremonial for the purpose of continuing the line.
The requirement for this marriage to the brother of the deceased is set out in Deuteronomy 25. Allow me to quote from the KJV.
Deu 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
Deu 25:6 And it shall be, [that] the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother [which is] dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
I note that the same process is carried out when Ruth marries Boaz in Ruth 4. Under the same requirement which you have suggested “is not a proper marriage” Boaz takes Ruth and becomes an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it your opinion that this wonderful marriage, one of countless recorded implicitly in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, is not a proper marriage?
Aside from this point and of more consequence you will note that Jesus does not give the answer that you give. His answer is not “you are in error – only the first marriage was a proper marriage”. His answer is “there is no marriage in heaven”.
I would suggest to you that you have asserted an interpretation on the text that simply cannot be supported by the text. Why would one seek to have an interpretation that was not clear and evident but one that was convoluted?
Furthermore, having apparently asserted an interpretation on the text you then switched the tactic of debate to my emotions. I have rarely been insulted in a discussion of this sort but your words on Thursday were very cutting and quite offensive.
You asked me if I loved my wife and I, of course, answered in the affirmative.
You asked me whether I wanted to be with her in eternity. I told you that that is not what scripture says will happen, as evidenced by Jesus’ words that we were discussing.
To which you replied, “well I love my wife and I would want to be with her in eternity” or words to that effect.
I would politely like to point out to you that making statements about my love for my wife based on my take on a certain theology is an extremely rude thing to do. To suggest that I do not really love my wife since I do not “wish” to be with her in eternity shocked me. Had your missionaries not been in the room I would have told you so directly.
However it does not surprise me, on reflection, that such an argument was used. Throughout any discussion with your missionaries there has been a constant appeal to emotions. The video that I was shown also used the same tactic. I was tugged emotionally by the premature death of this young girl and of course it was right that the family should want to be with her…
But emotions do not always constitute the truth, President Boone. Scripture tells us that there will always be plenty of people with “itching ears”.
Last week I had to help with the memorial service of a man who died in the Bali bombing. If the man were not saved, a man who trusted in Jesus Christ, then there would be, you can imagine, great temptation to say what itching ears want to hear – words of comfort that appear to satisfy our desires. Because we desire something does not mean it is true. If that were the case then my favourite soccer team, Sheffield United, would be champions of England.
Furthermore when our desires are contradicted by the very words of Jesus then, surely, they are no longer to be considered reliable.
I look forward to seeing my wife in the New Creation. But we will not be married. Jesus says as much.
The need for additional scripture and extra-scriptural authority
We also spent a small amount of time talking about the need for prophets and apostles. You seemed to have no disagreement with the meaning of Ephesians 2:20.
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone];
Allow me, if you will, to press the point. How many times does one need to lay a foundation President Boone? I would imagine that the correct answer is “once only”. And yet it appears (and please correct me if I am wrong) that the Mormon church is constantly needing it’s foundation to be re-laid if the number of prophets and apostles is anything to go by.
This is also why the canon of scripture is closed. Once the generation of foundational apostles had passed there is no other foundation to be built, there is no more scripture to be written. What more needs to be said?
You may, of course, argue that there is need to give an account of the alleged exodus of Nephi to the New World and the appearance of Jesus to them. In which case I will ask of you what I have asked of Elders Ng and Jensen, that you are supply some archaeological evidence. Both the Elders mentioned that you have spoken to all your missionaries on this subject recently. I would be genuinely pleased to find some evidence of events in the book of Mormon. It would show that I am wrong in my conclusions.
The gospel according to the Mormon church
I save this topic for last since it is the one that causes me most concern. As I understand it the gospel that is proclaimed by yourselves is that Jesus’ resurrection frees me to be able to work my way to perfection. If this is the case then it is a terrible burden that is placed upon men.
I discussed this issue with Elders Ng and Jensen and they were unable to provide an answer. Let me explain my confusion to you. Dr. James E Talmage, in the book “Articles of Faith” given to me by Elder Leicester says the following on page 81 of the 1984 printing,
“The individual effect of the Atonement makes it possible for any and every soul to obtain absolution from the effect of personal sins, through the mediation of Christ; but such saving intercession is to be invoked by individual efforts as manifested by faith, repentance, and continued works of righteousness. The laws under which individual salvation is obtainable have been prescribed by Christ, whose right it is to say how the blessings made possible by his sacrifice shall be administered.”
If we truly do obtain salvation by obedience to the laws that Christ has given then we are set an onerous task. The standards that Jesus sets are impossibly high.
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The standard that Jesus sets is perfection. Who can do this?
In fact the point is pressed home,
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
To break even the least of the commandments is to be least in the kingdom of heaven. Your missionaries then suggested to me that this indictment is restricted to those who would teach. That would, then, at least include Elders Ng, Jensen, Leicester and yourself who all seek to teach what you consider to be truth.
So may I ask a personal question? How are you doing with perfection President Boone? I do not mean to be rude but if salvation is dependent on our obedience then Jesus is very clear that the pass mark is perfection.
And it is not “become perfect” it is “be perfect”. I note that even the Joseph Smith translation has the present imperative, not a future requirement.
Let me stress the crisis that I think this brings.
Jam 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.
The Apostle James is quite clear. The breaking of even one small part of the law brings guilt such as if one had broken the whole law.
It is a very difficult task that your church presents, President Boone. Are you up to such a task? I know that neither I, nor anyone that I know is. I cannot be perfect. I cannot hope to be perfect.
Even the great Apostle Paul could not manage it. Chapter 7 of his letter to the church in Rome makes that abundantly clear.
If you were to die today would you meet Jesus’ requirement to be perfect?
I ask this question because it is the key disagreement that we have. I have no intention to discuss Joseph Smith’s alleged criminal record or the temple endowment or the revisions in Mormon scriptures when far weightier matters are at stake.
I am increasingly convinced that the burden of perfection cannot be met by any man alive.
More than that, such a scheme stands in direct contradiction to the very scriptures themselves. When Paul writes to the church in Galatia he has the following to say,
Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
What is the gospel that the Apostle taught? He tells us himself in the very next chapter.
Gal 2:15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
So Paul, himself a Jew who had every reason to have pride in his own legalistic righteousness (see Phil 3) rejects such a means of righteousness. “For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
You will note, President Boone, the context of what is said. Paul, the Jew who sought to keep the Law as a means to righteousness before his conversion, now says he rejects any works as a means of justification.
Not only is the burden of perfection by works an impossible task it is also not what is required.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter President Boone. I would welcome any comments that you had to make, especially since you yourself have been gracious enough to make the time to consider my response to your words of last Thursday.
Despite our obvious disagreements I trust that this finds yourself, your wife and family, and all those that you work with well and that my letter is received in the spirit in which it was sent – serious yet not wishing to be offensive.
With best wishes