Y Religion Episode 37 – The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ (Jason Combs)

A number of years ago I started to notice that some of my students would talk about Jesus as though he were something other than human something unrelatable distant static emotionless or impervious to The Human Condition I felt like they were missing the boat on an important part of who we worship and why

So I wrote and prepared a talk on the subject and gave it at BYU’s Easter Conference here’s a little excerpt from it Jesus became a mortal like you and like me in every sense of the word in spite of the sentimental Christmas hymn that we sing every year Away in a

Manger as a baby little Lord Jesus probably cried a lot most babies do presumably he fussed and didn’t sleep through the night he probably tried to put everything in his mouth he rolled over and then stumbled to an unsteady walk like all kids do he probably threw temper tantrums and cried

Till he fell asleep on the floor his hair wet with sweat uh just like my kids have done and yours he babbled and then he had to learn how to make word associations ironically think about this the man who made the trees had to learn how to say the word tree

I once held my two-year-old son Calvin in my arms and when he was learning to talk I pointed to a tree and I said what’s that and he said dog and I said no little buddy that’s a tree can you say tree and he said tree and I

Said good job high five and I can imagine Joseph or Mary having a similar conversation with a two-year-old Jesus can you say tree Jesus and Jesus says tree and they say good job Jesus and they probably added a PostScript but Jesus be careful uh what

You say to that tree because you made it and it will obey you after my talk as I was visiting with various attendees a woman came up to me and thanked me for my remarks but then she said something interesting she said something along the lines of I felt like

You made Jesus Too Human to be divine maybe she was right but therein lies the difficulty that Christians have been struggling with for a few millennium we worship a being who is a God after all a member of the godhead but who also was a human and relates with us as

Mortals how do we understand and balance that in our worship Professor Jason Combs from BYU’s Department of ancient scripture has looked into this tension from its earliest Christian centuries until now where does the emphasis fall sometimes we tend to emphasize more his divinity but but if we don’t emphasize enough his

Humanity then then we can forget that he really knows us he really knows what it means to be human of course if we emphasize his Humanity too much we forget that he in fact is our God and savior and has the power to overcome all weakness and and trial and sin and death

On today’s episode prepare yourself to enter the discussion on balancing the humanity and Divinity of the Savior and to understand why both aspects are so crucial to the god that we worship this is why religion foreign each year religion professors at Brigham Young University produce hundreds of Publications on subjects related to the

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this podcast brings this Research into one place to Enlighten the everyday seeker of Truth see learning even by study and also by faith interviewing the author we discuss why this study was done why it matters and why the professor chooses to be both a

Scholar and a disciple this is why religion research to Enlighten your mind recently Professor Ryan sharp from BYU’s Department of ancient scripture sat down with his colleague Professor Jason Combs to discuss his research publication called Christ after the apostles the humanity and Divinity of the savior in

The second century published in the book Thou Art the Christ the son of the Living God the person and work of Jesus in the New Testament in part one Professor Combs discusses why he did this publication including misconceptions about the writings of the early Christian fathers and Believers he

Also explains the concept of christology discussing four types of beliefs about the nature of Jesus Christ that are prevalent in part two he moves a little bit more into why this subject could matter today giving examples of individual and Christian groups about where they fall on the spectrum of Christ’s humanity and

Divinity why this dialogue is still so important and where Latter-Day Saint theology fits in this discussion and in part three Dr Combs will talk more personally telling us about his own academic training what led him to BYU and why he chooses Faith so without any further Ado here is Dr Sharp

Interviewing Dr Jason Combs the title of your chapter and the one that we’re going to be unpacking today is Christ after the apostles the humanity and Divinity of the savior in the second century so I want to actually start by telling you how much I enjoyed this chapter and want to begin by

Reading your opening paragraph sounds good so this is what it says late one evening in the middle of the second Century A.D a small group of Christian priests trained in the philosophy of Plato met in secret in the back room of church in Rome their goal to complete the work of

Transforming the pure doctrine of Christ into a philosophically sound but morally deficient theology they forged documents and altered scripture to suit their needs in the end over the course of that evening they succeeded in Forever altering the true doctrine of the nature of Christ into a fraud that would be

Propagated throughout the centuries unquote so that intro is captivating and I’m sure causes each of us who heard it to be filled with some righteous indignation but in your mind there’s one really important fact about this story that you feel at least ought to be considered what is that yeah uh the most

Important fact about that story is that it’s not true yeah yeah I I made the whole thing up yeah but the reason the reason that I started with that story is because I think a lot of Latter Day Saints have that Vision in their head I think we we

Create this image of early Christians as all being Wicked priests or something like that who are trying to dismantle yeah these secret societies right uh I think we sort of assume that uh we have this time period where Jesus and his apostles were active Jesus dies is is

Resurrected comes back speaks to his Apostles they form a church and then that’s the end of the story and there’s darkness and then years later a few Christians come back on the scene and start writing and by then things have totally changed uh that’s simply not the case once Christians

Start writing they never stop Christians um are are very prolific and so um the the new the New Testament texts span the whole first century and by the beginning of the second century we have other Christians writing many many of whom were Disciples of the early Apostles and they write their

Experiences and and they write advice to other Christians this is a group that’s sometimes called the apostolic fathers because they were so close to the time of of the Apostles and sometimes we’re Disciples of them after them Christians continue writing um there’s a wide variety of writings in

The second century and beyond some Christians continue writing things in the style of some of the text we have in the New Testament so for instance um when you read the gospels oftentimes well let’s just take the example of the Gospel of Luke when you’re reading the

Beginning of the Gospel of Luke you you get these great stories about Jesus birth then it skips ahead a number of years and you get a story about Jesus as a kid then it skips ahead a bunch of years and you get the story of Jesus as

An adult about to be baptized and that’s that’s where the story really picks up and so you can imagine Christians reading that as as we do today and thinking wow I wonder what happened in between uh some Christians wrote stories about what happened in between some tried to fill in the blanks uh

We don’t think that those stories are all that historically accurate we don’t think that they’re representing what Jesus’s infancy was actually like I’m thinking for instance of the infancy Gospel of Thomas um but it does help us to know what Christians in the second century were thinking that Jesus’s childhood was like

And we can go on from there so so there are there are lots of writings that that are patterned after the kinds of writings we have in in the New Testament today uh and then we have other writings we have sermons we have um letters written from one Christian to

Another we have writing some of the writings that are addressed in this particular um chapter that I wrote uh Christ after the apostles some of the writings that I address most frequently here could be called heresyological writings they are they are writings they’re trying to catalog groups of Christians that they believe

Are Heretics that they believe are preaching false Doctrine and this this style of writing becomes quite popular as well this the whole the entire book that this article is published in is is on christology uh christology comes from two Greek words uh the word that we get Christ from

Christos and the word Lagos which can be translated as word or as thought or as study or lots of things so just as theology is is study or talk about God christology is study or talk about Christ and christology tends to focus on understanding the nature of Christ

How is Christ similar to and different from us as as human beings and that’s really helpful and one of my favorite parts from your chapter and I’m going to read it with a warning that it’s it’s a little bit longer of an excerpt uh but I I think it’s well worth

It so this is what you write and then I’d love for you to maybe um take it whichever direction you want after this so this debate was not uh purely intellectual Pursuit this um debate about christology while early Christians certainly brought all of their intellectual resources to bear on these questions their concern

Was far from academic in fact for them the salvation of humanity was at stake were Jesus Christ not sufficiently human how could he have the ability to rescue Humanity were Jesus Christ not sufficiently Divine how could he have the power to rescue Humanity the debates about the nature of Jesus Christ were

Debates about the relationship between humans and God as well as about how humans might be saved and what they might be saved from the christological debates of the second century represent in Latter-Day Saint terminology the work of the early Saints to understand the central role of Jesus Christ within the

Plan of Salvation in end quote and I love this because it underscores that the stakes are high we might even say eternally high in the minds of these early Christians just as they’re eternally high for for us so I’d love for you to take this kind of whatever Direction you want yeah so

That’s right what what’s at stake is is the atonement of Jesus Christ how Jesus Christ saves us so early Christians as we do today acknowledge that there is a great Gulf between us and God and they would explain that in in different ways we of course would think

Immediately of our our sinfulness our sins separate us from God but even before we were sinful we were not exactly like God God is more glorious exalted and powerful than than we are and so how do we bridge that Gap well the answer is Jesus Christ and so early Christians struggle to understand

How exactly Jesus Christ accomplished this for us and one of the answers seems to be in his very nature in his nature of even though he was even though he is God even though he is part of the godhead he condescended and took on Humanity he

Took on human flesh and with human flesh all that comes with that human weakness a veil of forgetfulness we would say is Latter-Day Saints um and and all the struggles and pains of of humanity with one exception that he was without sin that of course doesn’t mean that he wasn’t tempted in

Fact in the Gospels it makes it quite clear that he was tempted but he resisted those Temptations so he experienced fully what it was to be human at the same time he he retained his divinity Jesus Christ was and is God and so Christians throughout time and and we even today uh

Sometimes struggle with how to describe that where where does the emphasis fall sometimes we tend to emphasize more his divinity but but but if we don’t emphasize enough his Humanity then then we can forget that he really knows us he really knows what it means to be human of course if we

Emphasize his Humanity too much we forget that he in fact is our God and savior and has the power to overcome all weakness and and trial and sin and death and so so with this you introduce in this chapter four types of belief about the nature of Christ that that we’re

Prevalent and I I think these are fascinating and I’m wondering if you could introduce these four types and then maybe just Summarize each one of them for our listeners sure so the the most common way to describe this is to take uh ancient heresyological definitions uh while acknowledging that these definitions are extremes

Uh so that’s what I do in the chapter I begin with with these four definitions that are all extremes and then I show how people who are often classified as fitting one of these categories don’t perfectly fit the mold how each one of them uh May emphasize things uh it may emphasize

His divinity a little more than his Humanity or his Humanity a little more than his divinity but but don’t fit the extremes that I’m about to lay out so the two extremes on one side you have what’s called docitism docitism comes from the Greek word doke which means to

Seem or to appear it’s a belief that Christ is So Divine that he only seemed or appeared to be human but he actually didn’t want to have anything to do with with this filthy human flesh or this this material world full of sickness and death and disease and and coronavirus and and what

Have you right um the opposite extreme of this is called adoptionism that’s the belief that Jesus was in fact fully human and that he was just such a good human that God adopted him as his son that God said you know you are doing such a good

Job Jesus I am going to call you my son uh these these are two extreme positions one’s strongly emphasizing his divinity to such an extreme that it’s it’s a denial of his Humanity another emphasizing his Humanity to such an extreme that it’s denying his divinity when you read the New Testament you find

Examples of of statements that could appeal to both of these positions right um and because you find statements that could appeal to both of these positions Christians tried to synthesize them and came up with different with two other positions these are not extremes these are more Centrist

Positions one of them could be called possession christology or it could be called a separationist christology this is the belief that Christ was born human uh just as we all are but that at some point in his life the Holy Spirit entered into him in a way that goes

Beyond the way we talk about the Holy Spirit touching our hearts right that that it literally possessed him such that he took on Divine attributes it it empowered him to do Miracles and was it is it pretty common to think for this group of the baptism being that moment

Or their other yes yes that is that is traditionally the most common point that that these Christians would the most common event that these Christians would point to that uh the Holy Spirit not only descends Upon Jesus but enters into him and therefore and then empowers him uh it’s it’s sometimes called a

Separationist christology because they also believe that the Divine cannot be killed and therefore this Holy Spirit who possessed Jesus and gave him Divine Powers throughout his life left him before he died on the cross so that he could die on the cross so this is a separationist possessionist christology

Finally the one that that we adhere to that also comes out of the second century and early 3rd Century it could be called an incarnation christology and that’s the belief that Jesus being God descended uh and took on flesh through his birth to Mary that he inherited Humanity from his mother Mary

And retained his divinity from his Heavenly Father and that throughout his life he was both human and divine sometimes I’ve I’ve heard Latter-Day Saints say this means he was half human and half Divine that would make any other Christian cringe uh and and probably should make us yes yes

Because because uh in in early Christianity what that would sound like it would sound like you’re describing somebody like Hercules it would sound like you’re describing a Greek demigod who’s half human and half Divine uh the the the Christian the early Christian response to that was no we are we are

Not pagans we we do not believe in Pagan polytheism we do not believe uh in in demigods Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully Divine he he retains his complete divine nature and takes on our human nature again in all things except for sin If you’re interested in more peer-reviewed high quality gospel scholarship about Latter-Day Saint history Doctrine or scripture like this publication BYU’s religious study center is a great place to check out since we have been talking about the nature of Christ in this episode I want to call your attention to a book

Published by the religious study center in 2020 called how and what you worship christology and Praxis in the revelations of Joseph Smith edited by Rachel cope Carter Charles and Jordan Watkins christology has to do with the study of Christ’s nature as we’ve been discussing and Praxis involves religious practice

Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a revelation that insists on both the how and the what of worship section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a revelation that insists on both the how and the what of our worship indicating that knowledge and practice are often Inseparable as this volume

Demonstrates Joseph Smith’s Revelations and teachings constitute a unique textual setting to analyze this relationship this volume focuses on both the person of Christ and the practice of worshiping him as outlined in the revelations of Joseph Smith as we seek to understand and follow a being who

Grew From Grace to Grace again the book is called how and what you worship christology and Praxis in the revelations of Joseph Smith check it out and pick it up at rsc.byu.edu we’ve been listening to Professor Jason Combs discuss his research article called Christ after the apostles the

Humanity and Divinity of the savior in the second century in part two of our religion we typically move a little bit more toward application looking at why this publication could matter to an everyday Saint to help us learn live and apply aspects of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ

In this part Dr Combs gives examples from Christian groups about where they fall on the spectrum of Christ’s humanity and Divinity why this dialogue is important and where Latter-Day Saint theology fits in this discussion so here’s Dr Sharp and Dr Combs could you just summarize maybe three or

Four of the most important things that you think we should know about these discussions and about this dialogue that was happening sure um first I think it’s important to realize that Christians who we would disagree with and who other Christians disagreed with in Antiquity were not inventing their christology their

Beliefs about Christ out of thin air they were coming to conclusions based on careful reading of scripture so a few minutes ago I mentioned that even these extreme positions could find hints in the language of the text of the New Testament so for instance a Christian like marcian who definitely tended to

The side of docitism and was accused of being a docetist even though there are some some suggestions that he may not have been that extreme that he may have believed Christ had some form of a body uh but on the side of docitism you could turn for instance to

Um Paul’s letter to the Romans and Romans 8 3 Paul says Paul describes God as sending his own son into likeness of sinful flesh or in his letter to the Philippians Philippians 2 7. uh Paul describes Christ be who makes himself of no reputation who who took upon himself

The form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men and so that that term in the likeness you can see how a Christian could could take that and say oh well this means he’s not actually a man he’s not actually human he’s only he

Only seems to be he only appears to be he’s kind of like a human right um now of course we would turn to other scriptures and say no that’s that’s not what it means at all but but for a Christian like marcian uh he could point

To that and say well that this is this is what’s going on another thing that’s important to remember is in the second century there is no New Testament the the texts that are in our new testament today all exist but no one yet has has gotten together and said you

Know what these are our official texts in fact marcian may have been one of the first Christians to try to create a new testament and in marcian’s New Testament he had uh his version of the Gospel of Luke and then a collection of Paul’s letters and that was it he said that is

Our scripture No Old Testament um no other gospels no Book of Revelation or or letters of Peter or James or John none of those just the Gospel of Luke and a collection of Paul’s letters and is he is he intentionally leaving some out that don’t fit with that theological

Understanding oftentimes that that that is absolutely a contributing factor in how it was decided what should be in the New Testament um there are lots of factors that that played out in the debate over time over what should be included in the New Testament uh including things like

Whether uh a text could be traced to an apostle uh whether it was used widely in the church um but one of the factors was does the texts support my theology it is the text Orthodox according to my opinion is it is it correct doctor and correct belief

According to my opinion so yeah absolutely that definitely influenced marcian so Marcin is just one example uh who who tended towards the the side of of docitism another example was a group of Jewish Christians called the ebionites who seemed to tend towards the adoptionist side of things or maybe possessionist separationist christology

And they likewise would have turned to scripture for support of this so I think it’s important to remember that all of these Christians are reading their texts their sacred texts and and trying to understand them as best they can another thing that’s really important to realize is that these differing opinions

Contributed to our belief that Jesus is both fully human and fully Divine it was as other Christians disagreed with Martian or with the ebionites and tried to explain why they were wrong that they more carefully organized their own thoughts and came to the conclusion that that Jesus

Was both Divine and human at Birth I I’d like to share real quick just a quotation here from uh one early Christian tertullian is on page 225 of of my chapter um I I want to share this because again this is this is a period that we often

Label apostasy and therefore we don’t read these Christians and yet so much of what they write is is beautiful and and should draw Us in and and help us to understand our own beliefs better so when tertullian summarizes his own view about the humanity and Divinity of Christ here’s what he says

Thus the nature of the two substances displayed in him that is in Christ as man and God in one respect born in the other unborn in one respect fleshly in the other spiritual in one sense weak in the other exceedingly strong in one sense dying in the other living

This property of the two states the Divine the human is distinctly asserted with equal truth of both Natures alike with the same belief in both in respect of the spirit and of the flesh the powers of the spirit prove him to be God his sufferings attested the Flesh of man

And it’s so beautiful so would you say that’s representative of what you’re I don’t know if you’re calling it or if this is a phrase that you mentioned this kind of proto-orthodox position help us situate where Latter-Day Saint theology fits into this yes so uh we absolutely regarding Jesus

Christ I think except this this proto-orthodox position that Christ is both fully human and fully divine I think there are ways in which we would differ from early Christians uh I mentioned before that we see the primary distinction between us and God being one our sinful nature and two even before

Our sinful nature we would describe God as being more exalted and glorious and and perfect right um some Christians come to describe the gulf between us and God as even wider they describe us humans as creation as creatures and God as God the father as uncreated as as not a CR as as

The one who has always existed as Eternal and therefore uncreated and therefore they see a even wider Gap there and and for them for Christians who emphasize the Gap in that way as not seeing us being like God from birth but seeing us as as utterly different in our very Natures from God

For them that emphasizes even more strongly the importance of Jesus Christ coming down and taking on flesh because Jesus Christ in his Incarnation Incarnation literally means him being in fleshed taking on flesh that Bridges the gulf it’s it’s a way of thinking about the beginning of the atonement the beginning of making us

At one with God by Jesus Christ overcoming that Gap and becoming one with us irenaeus who I also talk about here irenaeus is one of the first Christians that describes the necessity of Christ coming down and taking on flesh in this way he says that that Christ became man so that men might

Become God I I want to share one more excerpt from your chapter and then ask kind of one final question about it in your conclusion you write the story of the christological developments of the second century has been told in different ways larde sane authors have sometimes conveyed this story as though

It were a disaster narrative in which all that is good collapses and is lost or scattered the Orthodox Christian telling of this story is one of heroes and villains in which authors such as irinius and tertullian Triumph over the heretical rivals the story that I have related is less

Dramatic and less triumphalist it is not a story of a fight for survival and not a story of good versus evil rather it’s a story of various ancient Christians who worked to understand their relationship with Jesus Christ end quote so I want to give you one more

Opportunity to share why you feel so strongly about this and how some of these ideas that that we’ve discussed and you’ve explored can help our listeners good I I would hope that the model or or the approach that I am modeling in this chapter could apply as much today as it

Does in the study of and today in our relationship with other Christians as it does in the study of ancient Christianity what I’m modeling is trying to understand ancient Christians on their own terms rather than taking the position of irenaeus or tertullian and immediately saying someone like marcian or

Valentinus or the evianites are Heretics and therefore looking for the opportunity to disparage them I’m saying how can we understand their beliefs and how they arrived at those beliefs and I think that is so important for the way we understand each other rather than immediately putting up a wall and declaring another Christian

Denomination apostate try and understand them on their own terms I think that’s what we would hope they would do for us right um too often I think we use our Narrative of a great apostasy as a chance to Pat ourselves on the back and say we’re right everybody else is

Wrong rather than taking the approach of Joseph Smith and bringing Brigham Young and acknowledging there is truth out there let’s go seek it and gather it all up and bring it home to Zion and I I think any time that we feel the need to disparage somebody

Else’s beliefs in order to feel good about our own I think it’s time to check our faith uh we we shouldn’t feel the need to do that in fact um I I would go so far as to say that that is a sin that it’s the sin that that President

Ezra Taft Benson called Pride when we compare ourselves to others in that way in order to put down what somebody else believes in order to feel good about our own beliefs If you want to read Professor Combs article called Christ after the apostles the humanity and Divinity of the savior in the second century go to why religion.byu.edu where we have placed a link to it there you can also get access to past episodes and their available articles

And learn more about the professors who publish them and as usual if you’re on Instagram please give us a follow at why religion podcast to get posts related to episode content get some bonus and behind the scenes material and to comment on why religion episodes that

You’ve liked along with others in the Y religion Community again that’s at why religion podcast all right we’ve arrived at the last part of our religion where we like to talk a little bit about the professor’s academic journey and Faith so here’s Professor Jason Combs giving us some

Insight into his background on why he chose to become a religious educator and why he is a person of Faith tell us a little bit about where you studied and what you studied in your uh in your academic training sure so uh I I served a mission came home from my mission and

Was going to a local community college trying to figure out what to do with my life and at the time was thinking maybe I’d do something with either psychology or I was also really into theater so it’s kind of going between those as possible majors at the time it never

Occurred to me that Latter-Day Saint could study religion as a career um I ended up then transferring to Brigham Young University and uh was was flipping through the catalog at the time we had hard copy catalogs this is back in the 90s yeah yeah yeah exactly

Um and and came came across uh this this Miner called uh the the ancient near Eastern studies minor uh that allowed you to uh to to get a minor just for completing um some Old Testament classes there was a class in biblical archeology a couple of Hebrew classes and I thought wow this

Looks really cool um I can The Psychology major didn’t require any particular minor so I figured hey why not try this plus I learned on my mission I’d come across the fact that Joseph Smith had studied Hebrew I figured well if Joseph’s mistite Hebrews and we all and so uh so

I I started uh taking classes in that minor and and I just got hooked product um I I realized that uh that there was so much more to learn about what I believed about what other Christians believed about the history of of belief and so I I dove in and ended

Up switching switching my major to to near Eastern studies and that’s why I graduated with uh a bachelor’s in here at here at BYU uh at that point I I because I switched that major so late in my undergraduate career I realized I need a little more

Language training and at that point I also realized that I was more interested in the New Testament so I went to UCLA and and studied Greek and Latin there and then Classics post Baccalaureate program uh from there I went to Yale Divinity School and did a master’s

Degree in biblical studies there I then did a Classics Masters at Columbia University and uh did my PhD at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill it was a religious studies PhD but my my emphasis was ancient Mediterranean religions and in particular the study of early Christianity from the New

Testament really up to the 4th Century so you mentioned your graduate training at this is let’s see if I can get it so Yale Colombia and then UNC is that right that’s right um so take us kind of from that point then and how you ended up here at BYU

Good uh I think ultimately I always wanted to be here I phrase it like that because I’m remembering when I originally applied to BYU as an undergraduate including in my application letter a statement that I never wanted to go to BYU fortunately they they didn’t take me too

Seriously and they let me in but uh but the reason I wrote that is I followed It Up by saying because there are too many Mormons there at the time that’s what we called ourselves right I said there are too many Latter-Day Saints there I grew up in Southern California and I enjoyed

Uh the the diversity of religious belief in and and the opportunities that provided to talk about my beliefs with those of other faiths and so do you think by the way that that’s helped you resonate with some of these early Christians I think so I think so um

In fact I may be getting a little bit ahead uh with uh with what I’m about to say but uh my my whole intellectual career my whole desire to know more about religion and about early Christians and and about faith in general it was really born of my

Conversion to the church uh but I think that’s a question you’re about to ask so we can get to that in a minute let’s let’s go back to uh how I end up here at BYU um what I love about BYU is the opportunity to talk about faith to talk about what

We believe to talk about our our deepest most cherished beliefs in both a faithful and an intellectual way uh to to be Unapologetic about why we believe what we believe and yet be Searchers of Truth and willing to question even our most cherished beliefs

In a way that we can grow and build on those beliefs and come to new understanding I love that so maybe help us understand what you’re working on right now so this was published a couple years ago what are some of your current projects that might be of interest sure this this

Project actually has led right into my current project which in fact I was already thinking about at the time I’m currently involved in in co-editing a book that will come out with the Maxwell Institute in uh about a year from now uh the book is titled ancient Christians an introduction for Latter-Day Saint

And it is about the period that we most traditionally refer to as the apostasy it’s about Christianity in really the second up through sixth and a little bit beyond centuries um and it is really an invitation for Latter-Day Saints to find in these ancient Christians are spiritual ancestors

I I think that is let me put it like this when we read the Doctrine and Covenants when we read about the history of the restoration we we read it as a story of our people and I say that as a as a convert to the church

Um in fact let me share real quick an experience I had that this is directly relevant to my approach to ancient Christians this experiences uh one that I had soon after I returned from my mission I I wanted to go and see some of the the uh

Sites of the restoration and so I saved up some money and got together with a friend and and we went on a on a journey across the United States to visit as many church history sites as we could uh we didn’t get as far as New York we

Were starting off in California but we did get far enough to to hit some of the sites in Missouri and Illinois and then as we are making our return trip we arrived at winter quarters a little bit late at night and uh The Visitor Center had just closed down but there were some

Missionaries who were walking a family across the street to the to the cemetery site to a memorial and so we followed them hoping that maybe they could let us into the visitor center or at least to see what they were taking this family to see

And as we are over there looking at the site on this on this hollowed ground where so many pioneers had lost their lives the moment that I remember most is not the memorial I saw there but this young family who the missionaries had taken over to see the memorial

As they left the little girl who is probably only eight or nine years old turned back to us and said goodbye Brothers now of course we commonly refer to ourselves in church as brothers and sisters but to have that little girl call me brother while standing on that site touched me profoundly

And help me to realize that even though I’m a convert to the church even though these people who were buried there and who trekked across the plains were not my literal ancestors that they are my spiritual ancestors and that their Journey matters to me and to my faith today

And that has deeply influenced how I read scripture as well not only the Doctrine and Covenants but the Bible and the Book of Mormon these are stories of our spiritual ancestors of people who who labored in faith to serve our God in in ages past and I think there’s value to looking to

Some of our ancient Christian ancestors outside of the Bible in the seconds in the second century and on as also some of our spiritual ancestors and turning to them to to learn from their faith and their devotion when you read the stories of of what some of these Christians went through

Through the trials and through through periods of persecution and martyrdom it it’s it’s amazing to to see their faith and and the Legacy that they have left for us and thank you for that touching story now you have me crying over here but um so such a beautiful way of making all

Of this relevant uh I just want to give you kind of one one final opportunity to maybe share anything that you want to share about um your faith and why you choose to believe and your conversion uh just the other day in class um I I’m teaching the Jesus Christ and

The Everlasting gospel class this semester and and we conclude the semester talking about uh what it means to Believe In Christ in in today’s day and age in an age of secularism right um so when you when you ask a question like that when you say why you choose to

Believe it immediately makes me think about this this age that we live in I I think there’s value to framing the question like that but it’s interesting that we have to frame the question like that today that there there was a time when the the idea of choosing to believe

Just wouldn’t have made sense like if you would ask Joseph Smith why do you choose to believe you would be what I’m trying to ask which church I should join not whether I should join a church um so why do I choose to believe uh I mean the easiest

Answer to that is to turn to the spiritual experiences I’ve had in in my own life uh the moments that I’ve turned to God for help or for guidance uh the the wrestles that I’ve had in my life the struggles with becoming a better person that struggles with dealing with challenging situations

Whether that be challenging Financial situations or or just challenges of of family life and raising children uh the moments I’ve I’ve turned to God for help and and felt guidance and and power and and Aid uh I’d say I also choose to believe because of the times of Doubt uh the times of

Divine silence that I’ve had to struggle with and and work through and understand uh ultimately I I choose to believe because of a journey of discipleship that began in my teenage years when I agreed to well I’m about to say I agreed to read the book of Mormon but I didn’t I I

Laughed when somebody said will you read this book I said that’s way too long I don’t read my homework I’m not going to read that book she was really quick on her feet she said it’s okay I’ve got it on cassette tape you can listen to it

So uh it’s it’s it’s a journey life is a journey and and experiencing life’s journey as as a Journey of Faith and of trust and of hope in in God and in what lies ahead and Beyond uh brings me peace in difficult times and and inspires me to believe that I can do

More and and help in this challenging world foreign Thank you for listening to why religion this podcast is a production of religious education at Brigham Young University in Provo Utah my name is Anthony Swett I’m the executive producer the why religion podcast team also includes from BYU religious education professors Brad Wilcox Casey Griffis and Ryan Sharp recording and mixing were

Done by BYU students Mitchell Bashford and Connor Miller say hi Mitchell and Connor hi guys hi original music and scoring for why religion podcast was created by the fabulous BYU student musicians Grant Cagle Sam Claussen Colette Jones and Aleister shoyerman if you enjoy what you’ve heard please

Like And subscribe to why religion on wherever you get your podcast and leave us a rating it really helps and join us next time as we continue to bring the everyday Latter-Day Saint fascinating gospel studies done by Brigham Young University religion professors to Enlighten your mind and strengthen your faith

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