I have been receiving your bulletins, etc. for some time now - I am currently in graduate school in Hunstville (Houston area), Texas but was raised as a Christian in Salt Lake City. Ironically, in the past few weeks I have spoken to - for the first time ever - "elders!" ....) I am grateful for your web page (and books Beyond Mormonism & Have You Witnessed...) and ALL of it is extrememly useful info -especially the comparison machine! So I wanted to let you know I am making good use of the information you present and am grateful for it.
1 thing: they threw out 1 Peter 3:18-19 as their "Spirit Prison" verse...how do you see that verse now? I've come to understand that it is talking about the people who did not accept Christ during Noah's time and thus were washed away but the wording of the verse is a little confusing. Last time they were here we ran ourselves in circles (in "the maze") - I'm trying to prepare more for next time.
Just wanted to give you an update from the Southwest and see if you might have advice that I have not seen/heard yet. Thank you for your time and ministry.
What I like about this particular discussion is that it gives me a chance to speak to the issue of how we arrive at a doctrinal position when faced with a difficult passage. The first thing we need to realize is that just because the Bible mentions something, it does not follow that it discloses everything there is to know about the subject.
I can think of many examples of difficult passages which we do not understand: Who were the Nephilium? Should we practice foot-washing? What was Paul referring to when he mentioned "the highest heaven?"
I once had a Mormon ask me, "You are so smart, where did God come from?" I said "Huh?" He said, "God came from Teman!" Sure enough, the Bible says God came from Teman. (Hab. 3.3)
But when we try to establish a doctrine by assigning an absolute meaning to an obscure reference, we get into trouble. That is how Mormons can say, "The Bible teaches there are 'gods many and lords many." Yep, that verse is in the Bible. But if you put the verse into context...
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him.
...it all becomes clear.
The truth is that this verse in I Peter 3:19 is obscure. It isn't referenced anywhere else and we are not told what it means. Bible scholars have suggested various meanings, even the Mormon one, that there is a spirit prison, or holding tank, where people wait to hear the Gospel. But the problem with that is that the vast majority of scriptural warrant suggests there is no salvation possible after this life. Even the Book of Mormon teaches that:
Alma 34:32-35 32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. 34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
The truth is, we do not know what that single verse in 1 Peter means. Martin Luther said he did not know what it means. Maybe it means what the Mormons think it means (even though it disagrees with the book of Mormon). But I sure wouldn't stake my soul on it. And even if it turns out that they guessed right on that, does it mean all of Mormonism is right? Of course not. Mormonism teaching consistently disagrees with the Bible. Their plan of salvation is contraty to the biblical plan.
All the cults seem to get into trouble when they try to force unusual verses to fit their unusual doctrine.
Hope that helps. You can study these verses for yourself at: