October 6, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Fundraiser at Rob's folks' home
Last month was a very busy and draining month of ministry. We spent some time visiting family and friends in Texas. We had a couple of fundraisers—one north of Houston at my folks’ place and one in Arlington. Both were well-attended with around 15 to 20 each. It was good to see family and friends, and meet new friends, but staying at 6 places in 2 weeks was a little draining. The real draining, though, happened when we came back home to “Zion” from the Bible Belt. It seems that Satan always seems to work overtime when important ministry is to be done. All three of my girls had got some flu bug near the very end of our trip. Charis got over it pretty quickly, Maddy had it for about a week (she hardly ever gets sick!), and Tara was sick for almost 2 weeks. Thank God I never got it. Tara and I had a big fight before we started leading DivorceCare (we're good now and thankful for the 3 gals we have attending the class), garage door spring broke ($223 to fix), unjust parking ticket while evangelizing in front of Lehi High School (see the video here and pray that they’ll toss it out when I go to contest it on October 18th), many parents and kids were swearing at us there with one huge Pacific-Islander looking for a fight, now dealing with upset in-laws who think religion should be a private matter, and we haven’t been getting much good sleep.

Rob witnessing outside Lehi High School
I also stood out in front of Bingham High School’s LDS seminary with my big sign. Had a great time there as students and a former student kept coming up to me to hear what I had to say and take my literature. One gal said that of course God must be a man in order to know what we go through. I told her that my God is so powerful (in fact, He’s all-powerful) that He doesn’t need something else in order to know something. He doesn’t need to be a human in order to know what goes on with us, since He’s the creator of humans. As such, He’s given us the owner’s manual on humanity. Nonetheless, God did humble Himself by taking on a human nature or attachment, which sympathized with our every weakness and ended up dying for all sin.

Later, a former student and R. M. (“returned [LDS] missionary”) came up to me and wanted my literature. He was very open-minded and nice. I got to share my wife’s testimony of coming out of Mormonism and coming into a personal relationship with Jesus. This R. M. told me that he also had a personal relationship with Jesus, so I asked this R. M. if he prays directly to Jesus. Of course the R. M. said no, since his prayers are addressed directly only to the Father in the name of Jesus, but that is how this R. M. claimed to build his relationship with Jesus. Then I said, “What sort of personal relationship is that? I mean, this reminds me of those interpersonal situations in which one is so upset with the other that one has to relay a message via someone else. How is that a healthy personal relationship?” He sort of laughed at that, but I think he got the point.

We really value your partnership with this ministry. We not only need your prayers, but we need your financial assistance as well. Your investment is not simply for us, but for the lives of others we reach with the gospel. The standard way to financially invest is by writing a check to Courageous Christians United (CCU). But we also have secure electronic funds transfer programs available if you are interested in the simplicity of monthly withdrawals without the stamp. This also helps us with our monthly budgeting. Please also keep in mind that, particularly in this economy, we have no financial guarantees each month. Ministry partners come and go as jobs do. For more information, please see our “Invest” page. At this point, we would like to raise at least $300 each month to cover costs. (Praise God, that’s half of what we started out asking for back in June!) If you’re not a partner, please consider joining our team and let us know soon. Many thanks to those of you who hold us up in prayer and in your financial giving!

Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6),

Rob Sivulka
President, Courageous Christians United
P.O. Box 1374
West Jordan, UT 84084
(801) 708-4865
Rob@CourageousChristiansUnited.org
MormonInfo.org
JWInfo.org
MuslimInfo.org

****ADDITIONAL PRAYER REQUESTS****

1. Health & protection for our whole family
2. Tara’s and Maddi’s families to be saved
3. Wisdom in all our dealings
4. The gals attending our DivorceCare class

****MAILBAG****

thank you for your ministry, your love, support and example. I am praying for you and esteem you highly!
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Hey sister Tara! I just wanted to tell you that, you and brother Rob are true examples of a man and woman of God! Your Love for Christ shows in what you do and the love you have for each other and your ministry. I love you guys and pray that God continues to bless you over and abudently, more then you can ask for or imagine! BiG HuGs
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I find it interesting that you can find problems with Mormon doctrine and none with the things that you teach.

As an example, I challenge you show me anywhere in the Bible that it says that God made everything out of nothing?

I will be interested in seeing your answer.

[I replied:] If God made "all things" as Isa. 44:24, Jn. 1:1-3, Rom. 9:5, 1 Cor. 8:6, & Col. 1:13-8 say, & the Church has understood this as literally everything outside His own Being, then creatio ex nihilo follows not withstanding bizarre *possibilities* like Mormonism. We have no good reason to reject all that and hold to some possibility like Mormonism.

[He replied:] Rob, thanks for getting back to me.. I think that out of the Bible references that you sent, the one that comes the closest to your idea of God creating everything out of nothing is the Colossians 1:13-18 KJB reference,

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

I grew up in the Mormon Church and was very active for over 35 years. In the early 70’s, I was walking in the Sugarhouse neighborhood, when I meet a Minister of the Church of the Brothern. We became acquainted and his scholarship and insight into certain problems with the early Mormon history started me on a religious quest. The only problem that I have found is that it appears to me that every religion has a rocky beginning and they have all twisted their doctrines in order to generate fear into their believers. This in turn gives them control, why, because they have the only answer to salvation. However, It seems to me that no one really has the answers, that they all live on hope and then make up the answers that fits their beliefs.

As an example in my study, I find that the first story of Creation as found in Genesis 1.1 KJB, says,

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

In this story the Hebrew word "bara" is a verb and is usually translated as "create", however the real meaning of the word is to fatten. If you want to take the time to investigate the meaning, I suggest that you read 1 Samuel 2.29 KJB, which reads,

"Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on
the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?

The word "fattening" in the 1 Samuel passage is the Hebrew word "bara" and the word "bara" does not mean, "to create" but "to fatten". So the passage in Genesis 1:1 KJB, should read,

"In the beginning God fattened (or filled up) the heavens and the earth."

So, if he filled up the heavens and earth, then obviously the heavens and earth already existed from him to fill up. Why does it matter if “God created everything out of nothing”, or if he created everything out of “chaotic Physical material and existing energy?” Perhaps we will never have the total understanding of the substance of God in our mortal state.

[I replied:] As anyone who translates languages knows, context is essential when using terms. This is why no reputable translation of Genesis translates "bara" as "fatten" there. Again, if God made all things from the beginning as the Bible consistently teaches, then simply because a term may be used differently in a different context is no reason to think it's used consistently that way throughout the Bible.

Now here's why this matters: if you hold to a God in contrast to the historic position of Western thought, viz., that there's something out there that He didn't create, then you limit God and make Him something less than the One who is responsible for literally everything outside His own Being.

Having said that, I don't think that we will ever have a total understanding of the substance of God in this life or in the life to come. His thoughts and ways will always be infinitely beyond ours.

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Hey Rob, the Moroni 8:18 was a good entree for me to witness to a big group of LDS missionaries here in Chihuahua at the immigration office[.] Of course, I can never see the effects of that seed planting, but it was planted and hopefully with watering and God's grace they will grow[. T]here were like 8 or 10 getting their papers renewed or approved and I just asked them IF they believed EVERY word of the BoM and quoted 8:18[. O]f course, they ALL agreed[. T]hen I asked them if they agreed with EVERY word/teaching of JSjr[. A]gain smiling agreement[. S]o I asked them how 8:18 could be true AND the King Follett could be true, being polar opposite claims about God[. I]t wasn't long before they 'had to go now[,] but it seemed that a few WERE shaken at this revelation of contradiction[.] I was accused of bringing in anti- concepts, but I reminded them that I had said nothing other than the King follett and BoM[.] I was, of course, asked IF I had prayed to have The Holy spirit witness IF the BoM WAS true[.] I told them, yes, and I received the witness that it was NOT true[.] So then they all told me that they have the internal witness that their faith IS the truth, so I asked them HOW was that different than a Muslim's, or JW's [a]ssurity that THEY are right[.]
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I think you wrote a reasonable and charitable response to Rocky Hulse, and you were right to spend time trying to clarify the nature of truth and to distinguish between the metaphysics and the epistemology of truth. One thing you might have added was some discussion of his term “spiritual truth”, which he doesn’t define and which, I suspect, is a source of much mischief in the controversy. (Is a spiritual truth supposed to be a truth about spiritual things? Is it supposed to be a different kind of truth? Is it an epistemologically-laden term, referring to truths that are taught in some direct way by the Holy Spirit? What, exactly?)

Has he responded to your blog post?

[I responded:] Exactly on the "spiritual truth" business. My Evangelical physicist friend basically said the same things on my FB [Facebook] page:

"I haven't read all of the discussion in all the places it's occurring, but an observation I made about Rocky Hulse's "I Agree with Moroni 8:18" critique is that it seems to hinge on the existence of something he repeatedly calls "spiritual truth." As far as I can tell, no one has yet directly challenged this idea -- why not? Truth is truth. The word "truth" cannot meaningfully be paired with an adjective. It means "correspondence to reality." Reality is objective, so to describe some particular truth as "absolute" (for example) is redundant.

Statements can be true. Statements about spiritual things can be true, but despite accurately describing some aspect of reality they still merely constitute "truth" [albeit about spiritual matters], not "spiritual truth." The truth found in the Bible is not a fundamentally different kind of truth from the truth of any other true statement, because no such distinction exists. To say that "something is true because it's in the Bible" is to misunderstand the causal relationship between the Bible and its contents. A true statement is true because it corresponds to reality, and since God correctly describes reality in the words of the Bible, the statements within the Bible are true.

There's another reason I think using the phrase "spiritual truth" sets up a false distinction. The evaluation of statements in determining their truth or falsehood is never done by non-spiritual beings. So truth, whether about spiritual topics or otherwise, is always spiritually perceived and interpreted. Any action resulting from the perception of truth is taken by a spiritual being.

So to claim that "spiritual truth" is found only in the Bible is a doubly flawed statement. Moreover, rephrasing it to claim that "truth about spiritual things" is found only in the Bible is itself contradicted by the Bible, as stated in e.g. Romans 1:20: "For [God's] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made..." [ESV].

We are spiritual beings created in the image of God and capable of perceiving the truth of a statement, regardless of the source of that statement. Even unregenerate individuals are capable of making true statements, and it is intellectually, spiritually, morally irresponsible to refuse to recognize the truth of a statement that corresponds to reality on account of the statement's path in reaching us.

Having said that, let me briefly mention that I do think Rocky's post made some valid points worthy of further consideration. If Christians even disagree with other Christians on what it means to "agree with" a statement that contains words that mean different things to Christians and Mormons, how much more will Christians and Mormons disagree on what the statement is actually saying? The meaning of words like "God" and "eternity" -- or "agree" -- cannot be taken for granted, I've learned.

So I think this is a very valid discussion to have! I just would like to see it proceed without the mutual provocation, retaliation, and emotional investment that have characterized some of the conversations I've had a chance to read so far today. Agreed?
August 29 at 4:02pm • Unlike • 9 people"

Rocky hasn't responded directly to me and won't given what was said [by their ministry] the other day: "In the article below written by an ex-Mormon Rocky Hulse, you do 'NOT' read him naming another ministry. You do "NOT' read him naming another person. You do 'NOT' read him stating anything other than why he and this ministry, chose 'NOT' to agree with Moroni 8:18 and why we choose 'NOT' to use it. You will 'NEVER' find us posting this article up and then allowing others to make outrageous statements against other ministries and their founders because they chose to witness using said method. However, this has been, and continues to be, a shameful pattern by some on FB, their blogs, and by several personal FB pages against us and this ministry. We have kept silent; however, it has been painful to watch and disappointing to see those who call themselves Christians and some who are in fact in Christian ministry themselves to the LDS people, being a part of this and encouraging others to behave likewise."

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Again Rob, you have handled yourself well. You and Aaron keep up the good work! The clock is ticking on these people.
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Please delete my email address from your system. I really thought you were doing something good until I was friends with you on Facebook. When I saw you were quoting from the book of mormon a huge red flag went up. If you are trying to help ex-mormon's then why in the wold would you bring that book back into their lives? Please delete my info, and do not contact me.
Thank you.
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Thanks for sticking up for the truth, brother. It's not only sad that these people aren't using common sense, it's also sad that people like the Hulses have stirred up such division and strife over it.
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Alathea Ministries sides with no side, cares not one whit for these type of activities among brothers, and wants to be left out completely.

Please remove our email from your mailing list.

God bless now and always.
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[Aaron Shafovaloff said concerning the previous post:] I empathize with his desire not to be involved in squabbles, but I wish he had actually read your newsletter, because you make it quite clear that those who are divisive over the issue are the ones in the wrong, and you extend a ton of grace to those who simply disagree over the 8:18 issue. Shawn himself took a side on his TV show on the 8:18 issue (really, he explicitly brought it up) -- he said he personally doesn't use it and implicitly recommended against it, yet he extended grace and liberty to other Christians who thought otherwise. So he basically took a side, but ended up the same place you did: of extending liberty to your brothers. I [think] Shawn agrees with our demeanor on the issue a whole lot more than he realizes.
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I read your September newsletter Rob and am sorry to hear infighting between those who believe in confrontational evangelism. You mentioned that usually the arguments are between confrontational vs. non-confrontational evangelism. I might point out that even that is infighting within the Body of Christ.

My view is this:

The type of Evangelism a person does should depend on what type of person they are and who they are dealing with.

I am not a confrontational evangelist because I am not confrontational by nature. I am more of the sit down and get to know someone type who will evangelize slowly through friendship. That being said I know that this doesn't always work because the person I am dealing with might not want to be friends. In that case I am more confrontational. I just don't understand how someone could be 100% one way or 100% another way.

When I was an LDS missionary I had a born-again Christian push me to the ground in New York. Not only was it physical assault and uncalled for but it didn't reflect well on Christ. I forgive him and know I will tell him that when I see him in Heaven someday.

I had other Christians who sat down with me and explained things in a loving manner. I had others who challenged me on my Mormon faith at their doorsteps but still did so in a kind manner. Though the approaches were different they both had respect and kindness and it had more of an impact than the guy who pushed me to the pavement.

I don't think yelling at people about anything gets anywhere. Just experience I have found.

I like the Moroni 8:18 campaign. I would encourage you to do it with other Book of Mormon verses as well as to branch out to the Doctrine & Covenants and even past General Conference addresses. The reason I like this campaign is because when I was LDS, if someone had pointed out the different between LDS doctrine and what the Book of Mormon said it would certainly cause me to ponder it when I got home. It would have also given me doubt. I would never have renounced the LDS faith after just one occurrence of this however. It took me about three years, starting on my mission, to come to the conclusion that I should leave the LDS Church.
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…a missionary told me once, "All truths are God's truths." That's true with any truths in the false book of Mormon. Whoever wrote the book of Mormon, whether Soloman Spaulding or Joseph Smith or both of them-- they probably had read the Bible at some point in their lives, and that's no doubt where one of both of them got the idea, and truth, that God is unchangeable. Or maybe the author of the Book of Mormon got it from hearing a hymn.
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Really liked the news letter and am glad I didn't get involved in the debate. But I would of been on your side. Paul used and agreed with the Greeks that the monument to the unknown god was his god. Same thing. You are trying to relate to the pigmy's and thus you have to use their lanugauge and culture to relate. Keep preaching bro.
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Just sent prayers for you. You all are an inspiration.
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So sorry Rob, just remember "greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world." Also know there are many of us all over the country praying for you! Be encouraged brother, that Satan is threatened by you!

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