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A Wonderful Letter from a Reader

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I recently received (and responded to, as you will see below) the following letter. At the letter writer’s request I have changed the names:

Thank you so much Latayne. I live in (place withheld) and a friend down the street from me  and I were in conversation and she didn’t know I was raised as a devout Mormon, was Seminary President in high school, did Baptisms for the Dead, and went to BYU.  I told her for the past 12 years I haven’t set foot in a Mornon church mainly because I just didn’t believe in the prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings and I don’t believe he was a prophet.  I also believe we are saved by grace and not by works.  My husband (who was never raised in any faith and only goes to the non-denominational church we go to now just to be an example to our two small children) and I have been married for eight years and I’ve always felt that one day I probably would go back to the Mormon church just because it’s what I felt was what I “knew”; and deep down I wondered –well what if it’s totally true after all…what if I won’t know my family after I die because I didn’t get sealed to my husband or children?
I still always defended the church as being “Christian”; because that’ss what I had always been taught.  That is, until last week.

[My friend] told me that she knew you, so I looked you up online and found a WEALTH of information.  I have to honestly tell you Latayne, I haven’t had peace like I feel now.  I didn’t know SO MUCH…mostly what flabbergasted me was the temple rituals being so closely related to Free Masonry.  I never visited the temple as an adult so what goes on was a total mystery to me.  What keeps playing through my mind is how as a child and how as a Young Women’s accompanist I would sing and play “I Love To See the Temple, I’m going There Someday…” and I realized it really is brainwashing!!!!!!!!  I have had PEACE this week from pouring myself into the information you have online.  It’s not hateful at ALL…simply facts that those struggling in faith like me can use. It gives me great comfort feeling that I made a good decision.  What I’ve realized this week is that I truly did accept Jesus Christ as my Lord & Savior years ago even when I was a practicing Mormon, but the definition has changed and I realized I need to get baptized in a CHRISTIAN Church.  So this weekend I am being baptized!!!  I can’t even tell my own mother…it will truly CRUSH her.  But I’m telling you, a woman I dont even know, because of the peace I’ve gained this week from your words.

Thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart!!!

Hello!  You didn’t mention your name (so I for sure won’t include it when I post your letter :) but I am SO glad to get to know you!  What would we do without [friends in] our lives, who give us direction when we need it!  Give her a big hug from me!

I’m so happy my website was helpful to you. Please, let me help  you if questions arise. And I’d love to hear about your baptism afterwards. That is wonderful!

Your letter made my day!

Yours and His,

The Principle of Contravention

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This is an excerpt from a lesson in a series, and “drills down” to some of the principles that we must adopt if we are to have the mind of Christ. Specifically, we must factor into our thinking the fact that, without our knowledge, God contravenes or prevents circumstances in our lives that would overwhelm us. My conclusion:  No matter how bad things are, God has trimmed away or precluded everything that would swamp my fragile faith.

The text under consideration in this lesson is Psalm 105. Teachers must read the psalm repeatedly during the week before the lesson. You must also be familiar with the life of Joseph as depicted in the book of Genesis.

This is a lesson that requires study and leadership. You must feel confident and comfortable with the answers you’ve formulated in response to the discussion questions before you cover them in class.

The point is to be able to see in this psalm three main issues.

  • First, God’s words and His actions are congruent:  When He speaks or commands, reality takes the shape that He says.
  • Secondly, we must deal with the fact that we often find ourselves in situations in which His words apparently have not changed reality.
  • Thirdly, and most important, we will explore ways that God uses His word to actually test us.

We will use generalizations from this psalm to clarify some of these issues.  This is not a lesson with glib answers.  There are no one-size-fits-all explanations of how and why God does what He does.  However, you as a teacher are responsible for pointing students to the impeccable and kind character of a God who often acts in ways we will not understand until we get to heaven.

It may be that you will need two weeks to cover this material, depending on your class time and the discussion involved. If that is the case, assign the students a daily reading of Psalm 105 during the week.

The Lesson

1)   Read Psalm 105 aloud.

2)   Look at verses 1-11. We can say that from reading this psalm, God wants us to understand that there is a congruency between His words and His actions:  He makes promises, covenants and oaths, and fulfills them.  We might even think of them as “words/actions.”

3)   We could also generalize from verse 8 that God’s acknowledgment of those promises bridges the past, present and future.

4)   Here are some other aspects of God’s words/actions as depicted in Psalm 105: (this is by no means an exhaustive list.)

  • His words/actions are preventative and act as contraventions: verses 12-15
  • They are protective:  verses 14-15
  • They are directional (caused the Israelites to act in a certain way and go to Egypt): verse 16
  • They are preclusive (of worse things): verse 17
  • They are probative (they test people): verse 18-19
  • They are productive in a physical way: verse 24
  • They are confrontational and divisive in some cases:  verse 25
  • They compel: verse 26
  • They control the basic elements of life (water, light): verses 28, 29
  • They are judicial (verse 28)
  • They are responsive (to the actions of humans): verse 28
  • They are powerfully invasive: verses 30-31
  • They control meteorology (and, by extension, all of physical science): verse 32
  • They can control/destroy economies: verses 33-35, 37
  • They control and can dispose of our most personal assets: verse 36
  • They enable the weak: verse 35
  • They control human psychologies: verse 38
  • They are by nature providential, thoughtful and kind: verse 39
  • They can provide extraordinary things for even ordinary needs: verse 40
  • They demonstrate God’s delight in demonstrating the unexpected, the antithetical, and the contradictory (more about this in Lesson 10): verses 40- 41.

5)   We want to give particular attention to the story of Joseph in verses 16-22.  Joseph had been given very specific and powerful prophecies about his future in dreams when he was a young boy (Genesis 37:1-11.)  For much of Joseph’s life, what the Lord had told him about his future did not match up with his experience.  Some versions of the Bible (New American Standard, for instance) state that God’s words were testing him.  He is a powerful example of someone living most of his life with a great disparity between the words of God and the actions that fulfilled those words.  In addition, we can generalize about two types of situations that he exemplifies:  the situation of being confined or unable to act, and the situation of being injured by the actions of others.

6)   In the case of Joseph and some others mentioned in this psalm, the words of God and His actions in fulfilling those words was delayed or in some cases even absent in an earthly, temporal sense.  Look at Hebrews 11:32-40 for another depiction of this type of condition.

7)   There is also a startling generalization to be derived from verse 38.  The Egyptians felt better when the Israelites left.  But their feelings misinformed them – when the Israelites left Egypt, so did the presence of the Lord in the cloud and the pillar.  The only real hope for Egypt was out of their reach.

8)   Thus we can see that our feelings about a situation, as well as the situation’s own very facts, often do not tell us the truth about what is going on.   Here is the most important generalization of all:  if we are to be faithful, we must allow the words of God to define reality.  Even when they do not seem to be fulfilled in our own experience (the words of God don’t match the actions of God), even when we do not feel their influence over situations and people.

9)   If we look at Biblical examples of the way that faith or lack of it affected circumstances, is it possible to conclude that God is testing us by His Word, waiting to let us see the connection between our faith in His version of reality and the actions He does to reward us for that realization?  (Or, as Dr. Strawn puts it, “If you do not replace human lived experience with the Word of God, you won’t be able to see the power of God.”) 

Questions for Discussion

1)   Read verses 1-11 and point out examples of congruency between God’s words and His actions.  What aspect(s) of the character of God is He trying to get us to see in these verses?

2)   From verses 1-11, how are we to “manipulate symbols” through language about God?  How could it be said from these verses that when our language expresses glory to Him, that we are activating or making more real to ourselves and others His promises?

3)   The period of time covered by verse 23 is 400 years.  How would the Israelites of those centuries have seen the relationship of God’s words to His actions?

4)   Did you see any examples of the word/action relationship in this psalm that was not covered in the lesson material?

5)   What does verse 38 tell you about the relative importance you should assign to your feelings about a situation?  What part do emotions play in what we see of the Israelites in verses 10-39?

6)   How does Hebrews 11:13-16 link the words of God to actions beyond this lifetime?

7)   What does 2 Chronicles 15:1-8 tell you about the temporal relationship of God’s words to His actions?

8)   Read 2 Corinthians 12:10.  What did the words of God change in Paul’s life?

9)   What points of agreement do you see between Psalm 105 and Isaiah 55:8-11?


The Developing Dangerous Situation: A Lesson from Dr. Mike Strawn

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The Developing Dangerous Situation

Recently I received my first copy of a monthly bulletin from the GBS-CIDP organization. It provides support for those who suffer from Guillain Barre Syndrome (in all its variants) and its ongoing sister-disease, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.

The newsletter had several stories of people’s onsets of these ailments. Like Dan when he first began having GBS symptoms, all the people did not understand the gravity of the first tingles in the fingers, the first weaknesses, the first stumbling steps. Only when the situations became debilitating were they able to recognize, and get others to recognize, the gravity of their conditions.

Recently our dear family friend and spiritual mentor Mike Strawn shared with me a lesson he developed, entitled “The Developing Dangerous Situation.” It is based on Luke 22:54-61, and what follows is Dr. Strawn’s lesson which has been of great encouragement and insight to me (particularly considering that in November of last year I was able to stand in the very place in Jerusalem, in the excavated and restored house of the high priest in Jerusalem, where this actually happened.) I pray that it will help you too.

Peter Disowns Jesus

 54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

   “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Most often when ministers and others teach about this passage, they emphasize that even after Peter publicly denied the Lord Jesus, He later forgave him. And although that is true, it is from a retrospective point of view, that is, reflective of the way that God forgives. But it shouldn’t be used to justify our lack of vigilance against sin in the first place.

Peter didn’t set out to sin against the Lord. The passage says that after Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance. He wanted to see how this situation would develop.

Suddenly he found himself the focus, at least for a few moments, of a developing situation that took him in when people asked him if he was a follower of Jesus. Each time, he denied that he was.

By so doing, he became a symbol of four things:

1)    The failure of faith in a critical moment

2)    Cowardice

3)    Disavowal of revealed truth: He had been with Jesus for 3 years

4)    The love of self and one’s physical safety above the love of the Lord

All of us have at one time or another been guilty of each of these things, and each of us has come to understand it when the rooster crows metaphorically in our own lives.

It is at that point of recognition that Peter, and we, feel remorse and weep bitterly.

The idea of a developing dangerous situation is one that is pictured over and over in the lives of people in the Bible. In fact, finding oneself in such a condition must be a common condition for people of faith. Consider the following example (and, if you have time, examine them in detail):

Elisha and his servant at Dothan

Elijah at Mt. Carmel

David in the valley of Elah

David pursued by Saul

Jeremiah (his whole ministry)

Joseph in the house of Potiphar

Moses when he was called to go back to Egypt

Peter with the prophecy of Agabus

Stephen’s last sermon

Daniel challenged not to pray

The three Hebrew young men before the fiery furnace

Those in Revelation 13 who were told they would soon die

The murder of Hebrew children in Exodus 1

Herod’s murder of children

Paul escaping in a basket in Damascus

And of course, many more situations such as these. Consider the role of God Himself as the Developer of these situations. (It is true that Satan has a role as well, but for the purposes of this study we will concentrate on God’s part.

It is undeniable, scripturally true that God develops such situations not only to test us, but also as vehicles by which He can demonstrate His power in them, and bring glory to Himself so that others will trust Him. (Undoubtedly God is using Dan Scott to do such things.)

Here is the Anatomy of a Developing Dangerous Situation:

First of all, God is the developer of the situation. He shapes it and gives it the form it takes, determines the parameters of it including its limitations and its effects on believers, and sets its course. Nothing about it shocks or surprises Him. And nothing about the situation is autonomous: It does not operate on its own power.

Secondly, human beings are part of the situation and by nature do not always do well when they are stretched beyond what they believe they can tolerate. This was certainly true of Peter. In fact, it was true of Jesus, as He acknowledged in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked that His developing dangerous situation be taken away.

Thirdly, there is the very real nature of the danger itself. In all the situations we’ve discussed, the risks were very real. Nothing was theoretical or imaginary about the danger. For Peter and for Jesus, they did both eventually face abuse, torture, prison, death.

How did Peter fail in his developing dangerous situation in the courtyard of the high priest? He did these things:

1)    He extracted God from the situation. He acted as if God were not part of it, as if he were on his own in solving the situation and getting out of danger.

2)    He looked at the situation and acted as if it were a freestanding machine, not connected to God, that operated on its own. For him, it had its own “necessary” rules, its own course, its own inevitabilities.

Scripture makes it clear that God uses situations in a personal way to either get our attention or that of others who are watching us in the situations (see Hebrews 12, for instance.)

Once you begin looking at a developing dangerous situation as Peter did, it seems to fuel the machine aspect of the situation. Once you mentally extract God and the supernatural as factors in a situation, faithlessness gains its own rationale, its own logic, its own trajectory. It becomes easier and easier to act without faith, to treat a situation on its own terms, to see it as “natural” and as pure history unfolding before your eyes.

In fact, such a view of situations –whether personal situations, political situations, economic situations—is what Marx and others have used to enslave people and remove the thought of God as causative from people’s minds for generations. It becomes an all-inclusive view of not only history but life itself. And it modifies, calibrates, and suppresses any hope in God and the Gospel.

And it trivializes personal faithlessness in developing dangerous situations.

What should someone do in a developing dangerous situation?

1)    Don’t extract God from the situation. Do whatever it takes to keep reminding yourself of His reality and His involvement in the situation.

2)    Infer His involvement in your situation. Acknowledge that He has an eternal point of sight about this. His purposes, and His glory as goals want to include you, for good and not for harm to your soul.

3)    Denature the historical elements of your situation. We look at “facts” and think that they are freestanding machines that we have to work around. Consider the facts about Jesus’s and Peter’s situation: They had been accosted by a well-armed squadron of soldiers who arrested Jesus and physically removed Him from the Garden. The priests and political leaders were powerful and influential. But Jesus knew the truth about their supposed power over Him. In John 19:

So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You 

Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above. . .”

Thus Jesus assessed the situation correctly: No imprisonment, no illness such as GBS, no physical condition, no political condition, not even death had its own inherent power. Jesus’s statements denatured the situation of its hold and control.

4)    Make a personal resolution to remain faithful in spite of any outcomes of the situation – whether dealing with our fear of outcomes, or undesirable outcomes themselves. Sometimes we think that outcomes are inevitable because fiery furnaces burn up people, hungry lions eat people, young boys and smaller untrained armies can’t defeat larger foes. But God determines – and conditions – such outcomes.

5)    When we are in developing dangerous situations, put our trust in God and Him alone, not in any element of the situation.

6)    Acknowledge that causation of a situation is from God, not from the elements of the situation. Although we may do things that seem to set in motion a situation (through our own sin, for instance), for a believer God who foreknew this is not ambushed by it as we are.

7)    Don’t concentrate on escape, look for deliverance. Peter in the courtyard of the high priest wanted to do whatever he could do –lie, get away unnoticed, blend in—so as not to be included in what Jesus would undergo. He looked for all the natural elements in the situation to help him, instead of expecting that God would eventually deliver him, as He indeed did; as He does eventually do for us all. We only look for escape when we concede that the situation itself has both causation and inevitability. When we do that, we lose the blessing of deliverance.

You cannot live by faith, you cannot pray in faith, if you believe that the elements of your crisis, your developing dangerous situation, is causative. You cannot be triumphant if you are in the embrace of the machines of history and physical elements.

One of the least-known characters in the Bible – a person, in fact, who is not even named—exemplified this kind of triumphant attitude in a developing dangerous situation.

The armor-bearer of Jonathan went with Jonathan to view a developing dangerous situation – the armies of the Philistines, in 1 Samuel 14. After Jonathan said, “Nothing can hinder God from saving, whether by many or by few” (thus denaturing the historical and physical elements of the situation), his armor bearer responded.

7 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

That should be our attitude toward our Lord.

Do what YOU have in mind, Lord Jesus.

Go ahead.

I am with you, heart and soul.


Interview on Moody Radio South Florida, Week of March 12

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You may listen to this short interview here.

Reason #197: Count up the Book of Mormon Changes for Yourself

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I’ve seen estimates as high as over 5,000, describing the number of changes in the Book of Mormon from its first “inspired wording” to recent editions. But don’t take my word, or anyone else’s for that. Look on this site and compare multiple digital versions for yourself:

Facsimilies of Historic Book of Mormon Editions

Very interesting!

For more information, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition:  A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today (Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.

Also available by Latayne C. Scott, Latter-day Cipher: A Novel