VIDEO: Pastor's HONEST Response to Latter-day Saint Questions

VIDEO: Pastor’s HONEST Response to Latter-day Saint Questions

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This next question wasn’t from one specific commenter. It’s actually from a lot of people asking questions about a recent video that I released, and in less than 24 hours, I took it down. Let me explain. Hello, Saints. My name is Jeff. I am a pastor, exploring everything I can about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I get a lot of comments in the comment section. Latter-day Saints are the primary viewers of my videos, and they’re always very proficient in the words that they want to share to help me understand what I’m exploring, but also in asking questions about what I believe, about what I teach, about Protestant or Evangelical Christianity. I’ve done this in a few other videos, but I want to take a minute to go through some of the comments and answer questions that either caught my attention or represent the type of questions that I feel like I’m getting a lot of anytime I release a video. Let’s dive in. Viky Wanap asks a question that I get quite a bit, especially since I started reading through the Book of Mormon, and it’s this, Have you prayed to God with an open heart and contrite spirit to know if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those things you don’t believe in are true?

Have you searched the scriptures to see the true meaning? Are these things that might be very controversial in your religion and cause you to be afraid or not open up to the truth of them? I’m not trying to be smart or anything, just asking real questions. This is a really good question, Vikki, because it really drives at a really foundational question, and that is how do we arrive at what we believe or what we put our faith in? I’m aware that Vikki is asking this question because in the Book of Mormon and throughout Latter-day teaching, there is a call after reading the Book of Mormon or meeting with missionaries or contemplating Latter-day Saint doctrine to pray and ask the Lord if it’s true. And if you get a feeling that it is true, or if you feel a burning in your bosom, then that is confirmation that the Holy Spirit is giving you faith to believe in these things. The opportunity for someone to embrace a more biblical Orthodox, mainstream Christian understanding of the Gospel doesn’t start with, You’ve heard all these things. Do you think they’re true? It actually starts with, Something is being presented doesn’t match your reality.

Let me explain. The mainstream Christian idea of the gospel starts with this very real and simple concept that ever since the Garden of Eden, all of mankind is lost and dead in their sin, that we are conditionally sinful and separated from God. So really, the consideration to embrace the gospel starts with looking in the mirror that this idea talked about in the scriptures of this conditional reality matches the reality of how we experience existence every day. It’s when we agree with God on our fallen condition and our need for a savior that we then are able to consider taking a step of faith of embracing the invitation that he has given us to put our faith in Jesus as the remedy for our sin. So to answer Vikki’s question, I have thought about and I’ve prayed about and I’m investigating the claims from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. But my lack of embracing those things is more tied to the fact that I believe what the Bible the Bible teaches about my condition that matches my reality. I believe that the faith that I’ve put in Jesus has brought me alive in ways that I never experienced prior to putting my faith in Jesus.

And there’s nothing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saint teaches that in any way augmentsthis joy filled and peace filled reality that I experience on a daily basis as I walk and dwelled by the Spirit, looking forward to the hope of resurrection with him. I appreciate and understand the question and hope that my honest response to that gives insight into how I consider the truth claims of the LDS Church. This next question comes from an individual that I’ve interacted with, not just on YouTube, but also on Facebook. But he’s made this statement a couple of times in some of our interactions, which is why I think it would be good for me to address this in one of these videos. And it’s this, Jeff, it’s important to remember that the LDS doctrine does not teach that our works save us. We are saved by Christ. See Elma 22.14. And Elma 22.14 says, And since man had fallen, he could not merit anything of himself, but the sufferings and death of Christ atoned for their sins through faith and repentance and so forth, and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory.

So I really appreciate Hayden pointing this out because I think this is one of those points that I tried to address in some of my earlier videos, but I could tell the message wasn’t quite getting across. And that is, why do mainstream Christians insist on saying that Latterday Saints are saved by their works? And it really goes back to what is it that we are being saved from? Well, when we look at Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, because of their disobedience, there are two things that put us in a place that we need saving from. The first is sin. Sin is living outside of God’s holy preserving presence and actually leads to death. We believe that the scriptures talk about this time time again, that sin leads to death, that the wages of sin is death, then we need saving from the sin that causes death, both physical and spiritual, in a temporal and an eternal sense. The second thing we need saving from is being thrust outside of God’s presence. When Adam and Eve were in God’s presence, they had everything they needed. When they disobeyed and God cast them out of the garden, we are now outside of God’s presence.

We live in this fractured existence where we know God exists, but we are longing to return to his presence. If we die in our sins, we will be forever separated from God, and we need to be saved from that. When we see God becoming flesh and dying on a cross and through that atoning, loving sacrifice, washed away our sins, he saved us from death, which makes a way for us to return to his full presence. So we believe then that anybody who puts their faith in Jesus has full access to God’s love, his promises, his presence, and the eternal hope of being in an all fulfilled state with him. When Latterday Saints explain the plan of salvation to someone like me, and they say that Jesus came to save us from sin and that almost all of humanity will be in one of three degrees of glory, it does make sense that, okay, well, there’s the grace of God on display. He sent his son to save mankind, and as a result, mankind will be in one of these three degrees of glory. Where it breaks down for us is when Latterday Saints then put an extra emphasis on resultation.

That in order to arrive at the highest level of heaven, you have to go through specific ordin and keep certain promises. And for those who don’t do temple work or go through the saving ordin in the temple, or someone doesn’t do it on their behalf in the temple, that they are in a lower degree of glory with less access to God, is where an evangelical is going to say, Well, that sounds like a works based salvation, because remember, we believe the object of salvation is returning to God’s full presence. So if someone who believes in Jesus dies, but because they haven’t accomplished certain temple work can’t be in God’s full presence because they’re not in the Celestial Kingdom, that’s where from our perspective, it looks like a works based salvation. And it’s not that we don’t believe in exaltation in mainstream Christianity. We just believe that exaltation really is the point when everything is brought to finality. After we are resurrected and we receive a glorified body and the judgment is over and we are now in God’s unbroken presence, we have a ride in an exulted state in his presence in a way that we will eternally live with him like Adam and Eve lived in the garden, but forever.

That to us is exaltation. And it doesn’t require any additional work on our behalf. That doesn’t mean that we can just go on sinning. In fact, the Epistle are very clear that once you have been born again, you shouldn’t continue sinning and that you should walk in obedience and that you should walk bearing the fruit of the Spirit. So it’s not that works don’t matter, but we just believe that works give evidence of faith as opposed to specific works being outlined in order to have full access to God’s unbroken presence. It does make sense to me, though, why, based on a Latterday Saint perspective of things, even reading a passage like that out of Alma, why a Latterday Saint would say, We are not saved by our works. But hopefully that insight, as nuanced as it is, provides a little bit of clarification as to why mainstream Christians and Latterday Saints might talk past each other on that issue. Ronald Kirk asks, Why do you think baptisms are optional when you know better than I that the Savior insisted on being baptized when in Matthew 3 15, he said, Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becomeeth us to fulfill all righteousness.

Then he suffered him. Well, I understand where this question is coming from, and that is I did a whole video on proxy baptism and baptism for the dead, and I provided some commentary and some insight into some of the main views on baptism in mainstream Christianity. I also talked about how in the evangelical world that we don’t believe that someone has to be baptized in order to get to heaven. And the reason for that is because we believe that all saving works necessary for us to be redeemed and reconciled to God were done by Jesus. In other words, what Jesus did in his perfect life his death and his resurrection took care of all the necessary works that will save us. And it is true that we believe that Jesus commanded us to be baptized, but we don’t believe that it’s because being baptized is what saves us. It’s because it is an act of obedience that allows us to proclaim to everyone around us that we’ve not just made some internal decision, but we are professing to everyone and we’ve actually done something to demonstrate that we are entering into this new spiritual reality where we are joined with Christ in his death and also in his resurrection.

We believe that there is something very spiritually significant that takes place when someone is baptized. That being said, it’s not that they’re saved. As much as it is an act of obedience, a step in faith, then in fulfilling that command plays a significant role in our relationship with the Lord and our relationship with others as we take our first steps as disciples of Jesus. I want to clarify that I and the rest of mainstream Christianity does not see baptism as optional. We just don’t see it as what is necessary in order to be saved. Jesus took care of all of that through his death and resurrection. I get this next question quite a bit, and it has to do with mainstream Christianity’s understanding of the various different Bible translations that exist. Colbie Morgan asks, I don’t know if you’ve ever covered it, but as someone that did, I think you mean to say didn’t, have any knowledge of other translations of the Bible other than the King James version, can you help us understand the differences? I do want to touch on that, but I want to tie it to answering another question that I’ve gotten on this topic.

Genealogy Step By Step says, Check out the eighth article of faith that Joseph Smith penned. It says, We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe that the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. As you may know, it is understood by any Bible scholarsthat the Bible went through many translations. Many things were lost in translation of the Bible. It is a miracle that the Bible has survived as well as it has. On the other hand, Latterday Saints assert that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon directly from the source, the golden plates. One more comment that this is all tied to is by somebody else. Literally, the person is named somebody else. Just a quick question, what is your perspective on why there are so many different translations of the Bible? And do you feel that some of these translations contradict other versions of the Bible? All right, so I’m going to try to answer all these questions in one. I’m going to try to kill three birds with one stone. If you open to the first page or the first couple of pages of any English translation, you will see a description of how it was translated and what manuscripts and codices were used in that specific translation.

And when it comes to English translations, you’re going to have two main types. One that is a more formal equivalent. In other it’s very much trying to just match word for word what is talked about in the original text according to the manuscripts that are used. And then there’s also something that’s called a dynamic equivalent, where it’s not necessarily trying to match every word for word, but where doing that becomes a little confusing. There’s a little bit of interpretation that takes place to put it in more common vernacular. And great care is taken to make sure that multiple different manuscripts are looked at that are different ages, that are in different conditions. There’s a priority list of making sure that as all the manuscripts are looked at, that they really are arriving at the best and the closest translation to the original autographs. But when it comes to English translations, the more formal equivalence that are going to match most closely the original language are going to be translations like the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard version, and I would probably put King James pretty close in that formal equivalent as well. More dynamic equivalence are going to be like the NIV, the New International version, or the New Living translation.



When it comes to the question as whether or not those translations contradict one another, they don’t. There’s various wording that might be used that’s a little bit distinct and different, but nothing that impacts major theology or major doctrine, nothing that changes the meaning of the text. Certain scholars might prefer or endorse certain translations more than others, but it’s not because the other ones are necessarily false. It’s just that some scholars prefer whether more formal or dynamic equival are used. I actually use both in addition to the Greek New Testament to make sure I’m fully understanding what’s being stated there. I will say when it comes to the main English translations that includes the King James version, that there are no contradictions or discrepancies of great concern. Which leads to the statement that was made by the individual saying that Joseph Smith said that we can only trust the Bible as far as it was translated correctly. Now, I have to say with my understanding of how manuscripts were preserved and how they were copied throughout time, I find this not only very difficult to believe, I actually find it impossible to believe that things were lost in translation along the way.

I know that sounds like a pretty big statement, but let me explain why I believe that. We have thousands and thousands of manuscripts of the Bible. For the Old Testament, some of them that go all the way back to the intertestamental period prior to Jesus even coming to Earth. And we even have New Testament manuscriptsto go back to even the second or third century, not long after they were originally penned. And all age aside, we also have manuscripts that were scattered all throughout the region in the first few hundred years of the Church’s existence. There was a disbursement of believers who had various copies of the Old and New Testaments, and they would take those copies into their specific regions, and they would then make copies of those copies. Now, all these years later, as we find these manuscripts in various parts of the world that actually were copied at different times in different places, and we compare them to one another, they match up. Now, yes, there are some language discrepancies, and there are some things that don’t always line up, but that’s the beauty of having so many copies. When we take all of them and we set them next to each other, we can very much see which ones agree most in certain areas and where there are outliers, which allows us to get very, very close to the original autographs.

There has yet to be any indication that anything was lost or that major things were taken out of the Bible over time. The reason for that is because in order for things to be lost or be taken out, somebody would have had to track down all of the manuscripts in all of these different regions and to change all of them so that they match one another, but also exclude the things that had either fallen out or had been intentionally taken out. Knowing all of these things and having thousands of scholars, Christian, Jewish, and even secular, who can attest to this process of preserving the scriptures and how we have arrived at recent translations, allows me to say with a great deal of confidence that I don’t agree with this statement, that modern translations of the Bible can’t be trusted as much as the Book of Mormon because things were lost over time or taken out. This next question actually came to me, not from YouTube, but on Instagram. I’m not going to show the person’s name because they did send it to me in a direct message. I want to respect that this is a private message and as a result, not state who it is, but I will read the question.

Hey, Mr. Mccullough, I have a quick question. Say the LDS Faith is considered a false religion. What would happen to all the people that were deceived? This is a really good question. The best way for me to answer this is to point to Ephesians 2, verses 8 through 10. And it’s this whole idea that we are saved by grace through faith and not by our works. The reason I want to point to that passage is because it really clarifies what we believe the Bible teaches about how we can enter into a saving relationship with God, and that is by faith. It’s by recognizing that he has provided everything necessary for salvation through his grace, and he freely gives it to us, though it cost him much because he died on the cross. He freely gives it to us. And the way we enter in to that saving relationship is by putting our faith in what he offers. And one way that I like to clarify what we mean by faith is actually replacing the word faith with dependence. It’s when we stop depending on our own works or even our own understanding on what makes us righteous or on what is true.

But we put our dependence on what God says is true about us and about him. We put our full dependence on what is necessary for salvation, which is Christ and Christ alone, his life, death and resurrection. And it’s when we do that, we can have full assurance that we are saved and that we have an eternal hope beyond this life. So to answer this question, say the LDS faith is considered a false religion, what would happen to the people who were deceived. So someone’s eternal destiny is really in peril when they are not quite simply putting their faith and full dependence on God’s grace for salvation. One way for me to really highlight this is to look at Paul confronted quanting false teachers in Ephesis in the Book of 1 Timothy. Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophesies once made about you so that by recalling them, you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwrecked with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenious and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

What’s being stated here are two false teachers who have gotten a hold of individuals in Ephesis. And as a result, those who are believing these false teachings or these deceptions have a shipwrecked faith. So in other words, the faith of these individuals, which was one floating on the sea of God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus, has run ashore on some false teaching. And as a result, their dependence is no longer in Jesus, but in something else. So what things can shipwreck someone’s faith? What teacher teachings can cause our faith to run aground? Well, it would be putting our dependence on anything other than Jesus. There were some Gospels being taught in the evangelical Church decades ago called the prosperity gospel, which put the emphasis on materialism. That is a deception that takes one’s eyes off of Jesus and on to things. That could cause someone to have a shipwrecked faith. Likewise, another dangerous teaching is any faith that puts an emphasis on religion or works, that we are somehow saved by a religion or saved by religious works that we do. That’s actually what Jesus came to directly combat. The Pharisees and the Jews in the first century had lost sight of the heart of God, and as a result, they began to burden people with the law.

And as a result, they were leading people astray. I would say that this is where mainstream Christians have the biggest problem with the Latter-day Saint Church, and that is there’s the concern that the shipwrecked faith of an individual in the Latter-day Saint Church is someone who is putting more emphasis on saving ordinances or maybe more emphasis on the eternal family as opposed to putting their faith in Christ and in Christ alone. This next question wasn’t from one specific commenter. It was actually from a lot of people asking questions about a recent video that I released. And in less than 24 hours, I took it down. Let me explain. For those of you that didn’t see the video, a fellow evangelical content creator went to a Latterday Saint sacrament meeting, and in the video, she was explaining how the conversation went between herself and two missionaries. My hope with this video was to highlight ways in which evangelical and Latter-day Saints can so frequently talk past one another. And I was pointing out the various things from my vantage point that contribute to that, everything from tone and posture all the way to how certain doctrine were being articulated.

I was trying to reinforce the things that this content creator was saying to make sure there was an understanding about what evangelicals believe. But I was also wanting to give some insight for non Latter-day Saints who might not understand the role of missionaries and why they were giving some of the answers that they gave. Now, this evangelical content creator that I was reacting to is known for putting out content that is very direct, and she would even admit at times she can be a little bit sarcastic or snarky. But when bringing it into the context of this conversation, I started to see right away when I launched the video that a lot of Latter-day Saints were feeling very hurt and offended and confused as to why I was highlighting this content on Hello Saints. So again, where my hope was to show where we talk past one another, there was a difficulty to see the forest through the trees, and the comment section got really rowdy pertaining to this evangelical content creator. I realized this video is not creating the safe space that I desire to create on Hello Saints. The reality is the video was getting pretty good views at the time that I took it down.

But I hope this just reinforces that I’m not interested in making videos that just get views. I’m truly wanting to make sure that anytime we talk about Latterday Saint belief in the context of evangelical belief, that we can come to the table and be honest about our similarities and our differences and where we disagree to be able to do so with dignity and respect. And that’s a tricky balance to find sometimes. And where it goes out of balance, it is more important to me to pull back and to reset than to allow a video to continue to live in the Hello Saint space that isn’t consistent with the goal and the objective of this channel. So whether you saw it or not, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, so I thought that I would address it and just reinforce the commitment that I have to making sure that this is a safe space and that we will continue to have tough conversations, but to do so with kindness, dignity, and respect as we move forward. Hopefully, these answers were helpful, providing any insight that you might be looking for as you’re learning about what I believe or what individuals in mainstream Christianity or evangelical protestant Christianity reality, believe, and teach.

I know that this wasn’t a video where I was doing a lot of exploration. I was doing a little bit more explanation, which means you might have more questions or comments, so leave a comment down in the comments section. Let’s have some conversation, but let’s do so with kindness and respect. Let’s be dignified even if we disagree. I’ll promise to maintain that posture in future videos where I’m exploring the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like this video and subscribe. Until next time, I’ll see you later, Saints.

 


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