It’s not every day that we get a visit from the Mormons and you can imagine their shock when they found us engaged in Scripture study with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in. This post is about their visit with us.
“Wow, you are having a Bible study? What are you studying?”, asked one of the Elders.
“Actually, we are studying the Sabbath.” I replied. “You know, Saturday, not to be confused with Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day.”
They smiled politely (likely having no idea what I was talking about!). One of the Elders asked us why we were studying it.
Daniel replied “Because the command to the Jews to observe the Sabbath was given as an everlasting statute throughout the generations and we are studying what the actual observance was commanded by God, separate and apart from what the Pharisees taught.”
Still smiling, and likely still having no idea what we were talking about, one Elder says “You know, that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and that those who wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven needed to follow His new commandments, like in the Sermon on the Mount”.
“Actually,” said Daniel “the word “end” in Greek is “telios” which is more correctly translated “goal” rather than “end” .
“Yes“, I added. “If you look at the end of Matthew 4 you’ll see He was talking to the Jews who had followed Him there from from the Galilee, the Decopolis, Judea and Samaria and from beyond the Jordan. He was saying to them “you have heard it said” meaning ‘in the Law of Moses’ “but I tell you” this is what it means. He wasn’t giving a new law but telling the Jews what the actual meaning of the Law of Moses was.”
Daniel said to the Elder; “Did you know that when Jesus came if He actually taught something different than the Law of Moses taught, that the Old Testament says that we would have been right to kill Him, right?”
Talk about an awkward silence!
Daniel waited an appropriate amount of time for that to sink in then added, “Deuteronomy 13 says that if a prophet comes and says anything that causes us to no longer follow what God had told us previously that this proved he was a false prophet. If Jesus actually taught us to follow a new law instead of the Law of Moses this would have proven He was a false prophet and we would have been right to kill Him. He also couldn’t have been the Messiah because if He is a false prophet, He is also a heretic. And heretics don’t make good Messiahs”.
Then Daniel said, “Did you know what the purpose of the Law was? Genesis 18 says what it is. The purpose of the Law is to reflect God’s character which is righteousness, justice and faithfulness. It says there that God chose the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob to give the Law to because, quote: “Abraham will command his children and his house after him to keep the ways of the Lord by doing what is right and just“. The purpose of the Law was for us to act like God; doing what is right and just. God’s character doesn’t change, and since the purpose of the Law was to reflect His character, there is no reason to do away with it.
“Yes,” I added. “Everything that Jesus taught was in accordance with the Law of Moses. Jesus upheld the Law at every turn. You should have a look at our blog page, we covered that in a recent article about Jesus being a Prophet like Moses“.
Turning the tables a little bit, we gave them the url for our blog.
“So,” said one of the Elders, changing the subject. “Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?“.
“Yes, let me go get it!” replied Daniel.
The two young Mormons were shocked.
Daniel returns with the Book of Mormon, with his notes sticking out of it and two NASB New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs. “Here, a gift to each of you!“. Reaching out they each take one of the New Testaments and replied “wow! Thanks!” One tried to fit it in his shirt pocket behind his name tag but it wouldn’t fit. Thanking Daniel again, they held onto the New Testaments.
“So what did you think of the Book of Mormon?“, asked one of the Elders to Daniel.
“Well I haven’t read the whole thing, because I am going through it very carefully. I mean, if you want me to consider whether this is ‘another testament of Jesus Christ’ I have to make sure it is consistent with what the Old and New Testament say, right?”
“Yes of course!” the Elder replied.
I piped in “you know, I was born and raised in a Jewish home and I have been a believer in Jesus as Messiah and Lord for 33 years. Do you think I just became a believer in Jesus because somebody knocked on my door, told me Jesus was the Messiah and gave me a New Testament?”
There was another pregnant silence.
Having the same talk we had with the Mormons that visited with us in our last house, I asked “how could I know that the New Testament was Scripture?”
There was no reply.
“When I read the New Testament if it contradicted what the Tanakh taught (that’s what Christians call the ‘Old Testament’), then I would have rejected it. I knew the Old Testament was God’s word, so if the New Testament was too, it should not contract it. “
“Yeah, God is not going to contradict Himself“, added Daniel.
I continued, “If the Christians that first talked to me about Jesus being the Messiah promised to the Jewish people had said that Jesus brought in a ‘new law’ instead of the Law of Moses or said that Sunday was the ‘new Sabbath’ in place of Saturday or that Jesus taught that the Jews could eat pork, do you think I would have given them five minutes? That’s why it is important for Christians and you guys as Mormons to read and study what Jesus and Paul said and what it actually meant in its first century Jewish context! If you don’t know the culture and beliefs of the Jews, you’re going to miss it! Using those three examples, Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the day Jesus rose from the dead. If you read through the whole New Testament, the word ‘Sabbath’ only refers to Friday night to Saturday night. The passages people confuse with saying Jews could eat unclean foods either had nothing to do with food at all, or are mixing up the different types of Halakha.”
Daniel continued, “its crazy how many Gentile Christians don’t take the time to learn these things! People will say “Oh, you know the New Testament does away with dietary laws“. They only say that because they haven’t taken the time to study the New Testament in its first century Jewish context. They take passages that are dealing with purity laws and say ‘see, food doesn’t defile you!’, mixing up purity laws and dietary laws! Or they mix up idolatry laws and purity laws, not knowing there is a difference!
Jesus explicitly said in Matthew 5:17-19 that any of you (speaking to the Jews) that keep the least of the commandments and teach others to practice them and keep them themselves will be called great in the kingdom. And those that don’t practice and teach others to practice will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was referring to the commands in the Law and the Prophets.
The Mormons, had absolutely no idea what Daniel or I were taking about. Then doing what they usually do when they don’t like or know anything about the topic, they changed the subject.
One of them asked Daniel; “so what did you think of the Book of Mormon?”
“Well, like my mom was saying, as a Jew when she was presented with the New Testament, the way she determined if it was of God was to compare it to the Old Testament, what we call the Tanakh. If the teachings of the New Testament contradicted what the Old Testament said, then she’d know it could not be from God. God doesn’t change and neither does what He says. What He says through the whole Old Testament and whole New Testament is the consistent, in fact, Jesus teaches from the Law of Moses…everything He says is out of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings — the Old Testament. Even the Early Church made decisions for what was appropriate behaviour for Gentiles, from the Law of Moses! So, the test for the Book of Mormon which you guys call ‘another Testament of Jesus Christ’ is to hold it to the same test and compare what it says with what the Old and New Testament say. If it conflicts, then respectfully, I have to reject it as Scripture or from God.
“And what did you find?”
“Well there were things in the Book of Mormon that didn’t conflict with the Bible and I was fine with those, but let me give you an example of something that stood out to me a couple of pages into the first book.”
“1 Nephi?” one of the Mormons asked.
“Yeah“, replied Daniel opening the Book of Mormon. “It says here in Nephi 1:4 and at the beginning of Chapter 2, that the events took place during the first year of the reign of Zedekiah and that this was in 600 BC, right? But Johoiakim was king of Judah until his death during a siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC according to the Babylonian Chronicles. So the dates in the Book of Mormon are wrong. Furthermore, the Book of Mormon has Nephi prophesying to King Zedekiah, king of Judah in a year that Zedekiah wasn’t yet king about the taking of exiles from the siege, but Zedekiah was only made king by Nebuchadnezzar after the taking of exiles. It’s pretty easy to prophesy about something that already happened but it’s impossible to do it to a king who wasn’t king yet.
You could have heard a pin drop. Silence.
Turning their attention away from Daniel, one of the Elders says to me “I want to read you something from the book of Alma, Alma 25:15-16.
I replied “sure“.
“Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them. Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.” Book of Mormon, Alma 25:15-16
“What do you think?”, the Elder asks me.
Replying I said “First of all, the purpose of the Law wasn’t for salvation, it was so that our people would be a light to the nations by reflecting God’s character of righteousness, justice and faithfulness. Secondly, no where in the New Testament does it say that the Jews must only keep the ‘outer performances’ until a time He would reveal. In fact, Jesus took issue with those that concerned themselves with the ‘outer performances’ of the Law, while neglecting the inner issues of the heart. He never said ‘don’t concern yourself with the ‘outer performance’ but He did say not to neglect the ‘weightier matters of the law’ which are what is happening inside. Paul said something about a future time that is coming and that is “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”, that is when God will turn His attention back to the salvation of Israel”.
Then Daniel added “and as for the Jews not needing to keep the ‘outer performances’, in Matthew 23:23 Jesus said to the Pharisees;
“You tithe mint, dill and cumin, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Daniel continued, “Jesus actually upheld the Law as He always did, in this case saying they should have practiced justice, mercy and faithfulness which are the more important matters but not neglected to tithe mint, dill and cumin“.
Glancing at the time and noticing it was ten to 4, I turned to Daniel and said “we need to get ready to go to services‘.
One of the Mormons was curious why we went on Saturday night. I explained, we keep Saturday as Sabbath because we are Jews and added that there is no requirement for Gentile Christians to do so, and that the early Church met on the first day of the week after Jesus’ resurrection, and since most of the disciples were Jews, for them Sunday began Saturday night at sundown.
Daniel added “yeah even though Shabbat hasn’t ended yet, Saturday night makes more sense for us than Sunday because it is our day of rest. We both work on Sunday.”
They asked if they could return next Saturday, and we said “sure“. I suggested that they come a bit earlier, so we can have a time of study and not be rushed for getting to services. “3 o’clock?” asked one of the Elders. “3 o’clock would be perfect“.
As we walked them to the door, one of them asked “How do you say goodbye in Hebrew?”
Daniel replied “shalom, which means ‘hello‘ or ‘goodbye’ “. I added, “yes ‘shalom’ is hello when the tone goes up and the end and it means goodbye when the tone falls.”
“Shalom! We’ll see you next week.”