Sunday, 27 September 2009

Government Criminalises Quid Pro Quo

In a recent post I discussed a Christian couple running a hotel in Aintree who are being prosecuted for disagreeing with a Muslim guest over issues of faith. It seems it is illegal to hold and express a view that is unpopular, especially if it contradicts the claims of Islam.

Today we discover that this micro-managing government has effectively criminalised quid pro quo! They will be picking the company we keep, the books we read and how late we stay out soon. It was GK Chesterton who declared:

Once abolish the God, and the government becomes God”

BBC NEWS | UK | Childcare help 'could be illegal'

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Why I Left the Mormon Church

In a comment on Monday's post Dayanna asked me about why I left the Mormon Church. Monday's post wasn't about Mormonism and I thought I would post my testimony here and then if there are follow-up comments and questions they will relate directly to Mormonism.

I was a member of the Mormon Church for 14 years, and find myself frequently disappointing people when I tell them that I enjoyed being a Latter-day Saint. You will understand that people expect to hear a little scandal with my kind of testimony, but I have none to offer. My wife was a member for 18 years in all, and we left together in August of 1986. Our time in the church was mostly happy. We started a family there and have much for which to be thankful, and very many happy memories. The church was good to us, being supportive through some very difficult times.

I served in various capacities including various clerical duties. I served as Sunday School teacher, Seminary and Institute teacher, teacher in both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood quorums, and Ward Missionary Leader. At the time of my leaving I was Elder's Quorum President. Up to the time of my leaving I was a temple recommend holder and regularly attended the London Temple (right).

Why I Joined the Mormon Church

I remember my first contact with Mormonism, and the elders who taught me. I remember vividly the conviction with which I embraced the church and it's teachings. I recall experiencing a burning in the bosom, not just once but many times, and can picture to this day where I was kneeling when it first happened. I could barely contain my excitement as I discovered more through the missionary discussions. This revolutionary message that the heavens were not sealed and that God spoke again through living prophets. I recollect my baptism  at the District Centre then, before Wales had a Stake; It has two now.

In the Mormon church I met some of the most wonderful people you could wish to know. I remember my wife and I being prepared for our first visit to the temple by one of the counsellors of the District President. He was a lovely man, larger than life and full of love and encouragement. I remember the young people we grew alongside in the church and the times we had at District and Stake meetings, Gold and Green balls, temple trips, Fathers and Sons camps, even a visit to London to see Spencer W. Kimball (left). We married and grew up and had families and knew tragedies and triumphs, disenchantment and inspiration.

When we left, we left behind a full life, cherished friends, and good memories. Believe me when I say that our decision to go was not made lightly. And unlike some you might come across, we had nothing against the church, no complaints. Our friends were shocked at our leaving - so were we.

It took less than a month for us to make our momentous decision and, whilst this may seem hardly enough time to fully consider the issues, I assure you we were convinced and had no doubts. I realise now that that month was the culmination of a longer period of questioning and seeking. In the end ours was a real "road to Damascus" experience and, like Saul, it was as if scales fell from our eyes.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not part of an anti-Mormon group. I am not an anti-Mormon at all but a Christian. I am a member of a local Baptist church and my life is taken up with full involvement there. My time is not spent pouring over anti-Mormon literature, nor is it spent finding ways to "get at" Mormons. I do, however, share my experiences and findings with others in the same spirit in which Mormon missionaries go around the doors. I have found the truth and, especially in relation to Latter-day Saints, wish to share it.

I am sometimes asked why I now "fight" the Mormon Church. Mormons I meet ask why I try to convert church members who are, after all, already Christians. I might ask the same question of Mormon missionaries. When they find a Christian on the doorstep do they back away saying "Oh, you already know Jesus"? They do not, because they believe that there is no salvation outside the Mormon church. I believe there is no salvation inside the Mormon church and so, by the same token, I proselyte Latter-day Saints.

Why I Became a Christian

I have already said that I was happy as a Mormon and that I have no complaints about the way the church treated me. The inevitable question is, "Why, then, did you leave? There must have been something wrong".

I recall it was one Friday evening, the children were in bed, and there was a quiet moment when we looked at each other apprehensively. We had not been discussing church, either that evening or that week, except in the general way. I remember how we tentatively but finally agreed that there was something wrong. There was an unspoken, undefined, significance to that word "something" precisely because we had nothing to complain about.

One of us, I don't now remember who, said, "It's not working, is it?", and the other one agreed. Again an unspoken understanding of something we had never discussed or given the vaguest expression to, yet we each knew what the other meant. Our faith was not "working". What did we mean by that? We didn't then know or understand, but we felt an earnest desire to put right whatever it was we felt was wrong because our church membership was important to us.

It was then that we made a decision that, to this day, makes people stare. We turned to a Christian friend. It seems almost inconceivable, especially since we had no reason to shun our church friends, that we should do such a thing. I believe God was in all this. Of course I would say that, wouldn't I?

I believe our friend John could barely contain his excitement at being presented with such an opportunity. He did hold himself back, however, and simply invited us to church. "Come and see" he said to us. It was in that church that we experienced such a love for God that we were left wondering what it was that we thought we had been experiencing for all those years. Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that Mormons are loveless, or that they have no genuine desire to serve God. But this was different.

So far we had seen something special in our friend John, something that had caused us, inexplicably, to trust him. We had experienced something amongst John's friends - an intensity of love and devotion that was so new to us as to be heady, like new wine. Now we wanted to understand. If this was right how did it square with what we had experienced and understood until now? If this was wrong how did these poor people come to be so deceived?

John gave us a modern translation of the Bible (NIV) and encouraged us to read it without any commentary or Bible study aids. He suggested we start with Paul's letter to the Romans. It was important to us that we should gain an understanding of things and so we now decided to review what we had already experienced, and what we could say for sure we knew, before we went any further. We had already agreed that God would not condemn us for honestly seeking his face and striving for a better understanding of his will. We now agreed that we would trust God to answer our prayers and resolve for us the, so far undefined, misgivings we had about our faith. Not about the Mormon church, but about our faith.

A Message of Grace

The thought that the Mormon Church might not be true had never entered our minds. No-one had spoken against the church in our hearing and we had not looked at any anti literature. Our struggle was not over doctrine. It was about our experience of God. In this spirit, then, of seeking God and trusting him for direction in a very personal pilgrimage, we read his word. It was here we discovered grace.

For all the Mormon church had going for it there was one area in which it singularly failed me. I was looking for something when I joined and I began to see that it was the one thing the church was incapable of delivering. Peace with God. When my wife and I became troubled we really did not understand why. We just knew - I knew - that something fundamental was missing from our spiritual experience. It was only as we began seeking with a determination we had never known before that we saw how radical would have to be the change in our lives if we were to go on with God.

When I set out to read Romans I was looking for a solution to the problems of my faith as a Mormon. I was not trying to sort out the Mormon Church. I was trying to sort out Mike Thomas. I wanted to get right with God so that I could be a better Latter-day Saint. Now you might say that I had a peculiar way of doing this. After all, going to a non-member etc. But God was in this from beginning to end so how could I do otherwise?

It was now that I did the one thing I had never done before. I knelt before God and asked Jesus to be my Saviour. I had believed in him for years, but I had been taught that the way to salvation was by obedience to the Mormon church. The church had effectively stood between me and God.

I came to see that there is only one mediator between men and God, the man Christ Jesus. I realised that the head of every man is Christ, not an organisation. I saw that all who came to him would not be condemned but would receive eternal life. I had an assurance of eternal life, something I had never known before, something no Mormon knows because the Mormon church teaches that salvation is by obedience, and so it is arrogant and presumptuous to say that you know. The Bible told me that I could know, the Mormon Church told me that I couldn't. I chose to believe the Word of God.

Now I was faced with a dilemma. Could I give up all those things that had been my life up to now? Leave my church friends? People think that obedience is all about the ten commandments and that sort of thing. Really it is about attitude. What really is the most important thing in your life? Put like that there was no other choice. I left the Mormon Church and embraced my newly discovered joy. My life since really coming to know Jesus bears no comparison to all those years when I only thought I knew him. Iremember the sobering realisation of what was happening when my wife one day said, "You realise we can't go back?"

I made the right choice and discovered a God who truly proves his faithfulness. So many scripture promises came true for me when I sought him and and discovered that "if you seek him, he will be found by you" (1 Chron.28:9). Coming from a system that saw obedience to law as the way to God I was brought to rejoice in the fact that "a righteousness from God , apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Romans 3:21). The assurances of God's Word are a blessing to me beyond anything I could hope or ask. I know that through faith in Jesus I have eternal life as a present possession and a guaranteed inheritance (John 5:24). I just thought you would like to know.

What we Discovered in Romans

What did we find in our reading of Paul's letter to the Roman? We travelled what we later found was called The Roman Road. It is one of many journeys through the Bible designed to help us understand the fundamentals of God's Word. I reproduce it here:


This is a simple explanation of the gospel, using scriptures from the Book of Romans - hence the name. It can be easily marked in your Bible by writing the first reference at the beginning of Romans, and then in the margin by each reference writing the reference which follows. Thus when you want to share the gospel message from the scriptures, you do not need to remember a string of references, you just need to look at the book of Romans and follow the road through it. The references and a brief description follows. Feel free to explain them in your own words.

3:10 - There is no-one righteous, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.

3:23 - All have sinned and fallen short. It is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard.

5:12 - Death came to all men, because all sinned. It is our nature to sin.

5:8 - Because of God's love for us, he sent Christ to die for us - while we were still sinners, not because we had done anything to earn it.

6:23 - The wages of sin is death - wages are what you earn as a result of what you do. The gift of God is eternal life - you do not earn a gift, or deserve it. God gives the gift because He loves us. We do not need to work for it, only accept it.

10:13 - Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You only have to call.

10:9,10 - True, heart-felt confession of faith in Jesus is what it takes to be saved, not works.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest | Mail Online

 It started as a religious discussion over the breakfast table at a private hotel.
Several months later, the Christian owners face ruin after a Muslim guest complained that she had been insulted. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are being prosecuted under controversial public order laws designed to target yobbish and abusive behaviour on the streets.

While everyone is making the economy the central issue in the run up to the next election an equally serious issue is going unnoticed; this government’s obsession with policing and micromanaging our lives. This story is a case in point.

A Christian couple who run an hotel in Aintree got involved in a religious discussion with one of their guests, who turned out to be a Muslim lady having treatment in a local hospital. Exchanges were said to be “warm”, the couple insisting they were simply defending their faith against remarks made by the guest. The lady complained to the police and the couple now face a possible £5,000 fine and a police record, as well as losing regular business from the hospital as a result of the incident.

I have to say that if you are running a business that depends on the good will of the public it seems the height of folly to be so forthright in your views as to risk your reputation and damage your livelihood, especially when the woman is a patient in the hospital on which you depend for 80% of your business; you are asking to make her a victim and you a villain. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) I am all for being “fools for Christ” but I don’t see anything in the Christian faith that demands foolishness. That having been said since when was it against the law to be foolish?

The issue here, however, is that the views we hold, the thoughts we have, our right to express them and the common and well-established principle that we all occasionally have to hear things we don’t like without being a girl about it are all under threat. George Orwell observed:

Liberty is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”

The thought police don’t agree and, sponsored by the liberal agenda prevalent across parties today, they are all over us like a rash and they are showing an alarming bias.

You remember the story of the woman caught “in the act” of adultery who was brought before Jesus (John 8:3). The question often asked is, if she was caught “in the act” where was the man? In the same way, since this was a “discussion” why is only one party in the dock?

The newspaper reports, “It is alleged they suggested that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord when the guest challenged them about their Christian beliefs. The woman also claims that the couple, who vehemently deny the allegations and say they were simply defending their faith, described her traditional dress as a form of bondage.”

She said something, they said something, feelings ran a little high and the thought police ran to the defence of the perceived victim. But there is no victim, only an exchange of views, a disagreement and what used to be called, before the world went mad, “ a bit of an argy-bargy”. In political circles such exchanges, when they occur, are euphemistically labelled “a frank exchange of views”, everyone picks up on the sub text and moves on. Why is religious discussion treated differently?

It is because we live in a secular society and officialdom “can’t be asked” to bring wise and equitable judgement to these situations. In their efforts to achieve a “fair” and liberal society they have developed a vision of the future that sees religion effectively privatised. Influenced by such “fine philosophers” as Dawkins and Hitchens (that was a joke) they feel they can dismiss religion as socially insignificant, even dangerous.

The problem is that, notwithstanding the bad-tempered pronouncements of curmudgeons like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens et al, people have faith and express and practice it in a variety of ways.

Notably, both Islam and Christianity are evangelising religions so trying to privatise religions with declared society impacting intentions, and with those religions making up the greater part of the earth’s population, seems ambitious to say the least. I suppose the default position in that case is to placate the religion that is perceived to pose the greatest threat and oppress the religion that is little more than irritating and and inconvenient.

If these darling liberals are determined to defend the rights of Muslims to live and express their faith, sometimes in very offensive and threatening ways it must be said, they must defend the right of Christians to the same degree, even if they can be foolish about it sometimes.

I have said that both both faiths are evangelising religions but that has not always been true of Islam. In his book From Babel to Dragomans the orientalist Bernard Lewis writes of Islam as a conquering religion observing that:

“In traditional Islamic states, the business of government was carried on by two main groups, known as the men of the sword and the men of the pen. The former were the armed forces, the latter the civilian bureaucrats…the two together were commonly considered to be the twin pillars of the state…The Fatimids, for the first time in Islamic history, added a third – the Mission.”

Note that until the coming of the Fatimids mission was not part of the Islamic state. The Fatimids emerged in Egypt towards the end of the first Millennium (Christian calendar), following in the footsteps of the Abbasids whom they attempted to overthrow, and held that other branches of Islam had gone astray. Believing themselves to be the true heads of pure Islam (why does this sound familiar?), they followed the traditional policy of conquest and subjugation against other Muslim states. But the rest of Islam was bigger and better prepared and they resorted to the novel policy of mission.

It is interesting that one of the complaints made by the guest at the hotel was that the proprietors insisted that Islam’s founding prophet was a warrior. Perhaps not a wise thing to say to a paying Muslim guest who might take offense and her business elsewhere nevertheless quite accurate. Which raises the question, are they being prosecuted at least in part for stating, not a religious conviction, but an irrefutable historical fact? Is the state now insisting on a role in defining what is and what is not legitimate historical reporting?

This all leaves me, and I am sure others, in something of a dilemma when it comes to voting. On the one hand I don’t believe the alternatives to this current government are viable for all sorts of reasons (I might be persuaded otherwise). On the other, I am convinced that something must be done to stop this petty-meddling juggernaut before the freedoms we have for so long taken for granted, that our fathers fought and died to preserve, and that make our country great are totally taken from us.

Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest | Mail Online

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

'They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him,' says a midwife to a devastated mother - - Christian Concern For Our Nation

A dystopian society is one in which people experience the worst of all possible worlds while the government condition people to think that everything is as it should be, that they have never had it so good. Welcome to our dystopia.

A devastated mother, who watched her premature baby die when doctors refused to help him because he was born two days early, has condemned medical guidelines which said the baby should not be saved.

'They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him,' says a midwife to a devastated mother - - Christian Concern For Our Nation

Sunday, 13 September 2009

District 9

I am not a science-fiction fan; it always seems so worthy, so two-dimensional, sanitised and precious (beam me up Sooty! Ooh, now that's a handy portal) relying far too much on the device of deus ex machina and on people being dazzled by the unfamiliar. But this weekend I saw the film of the year - District 9. It is more a science-fiction/horror and it is gritty, dirty, gripping and engaging. If all science-fiction ran to this standard I might be a fan.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

BBC NEWS | Wales | Pudding renamed Spotted Richard

It is one of my favourite jokes and is entirely childish, even infantile. Someone is introduced to you as Richard and you respond, “Well, are you a Richard, or are you a Dick?” It is especially effective when the Richard in question is a youth who would blush uncomfortably at your remark, shuffle his feet and mumble “Richy actually.” Apparently there are those who don’t appreciate this kind of humour and I suppose if you have to listen to it day after day it must quickly wear thin.

I cannot tell you how many times people many years ago, on finding that I worked for the now defunct gent’s outfitters John Collier would break into song: “John Collier, John Collier, the window to watch".” That advertisement hadn’t run for years but it demonstrates the power of advertising that it stuck in people’s minds and, even now I am sure, people of a certain age will have sung and not just read that line.

I accepted it and either smiled benignly or responded sardonically with, “That’s the first time I’ve heard that – today.” It would never occur to me to complain since that was the firm I was glad to work for and the song went with the tag. Now, however, canteen staff at Flintshire council, North Wales, have responded to “immature comments” from “a few customers” about the traditional 19th century pudding Spotted Dick by renaming it “Spotted Richard”. I can’t help but think someone is bound to ask, “Is that a Richard, or is it a Dick?”

BBC NEWS | Wales | Pudding renamed Spotted Richard