The Sounds, the Smells and the Images of Homelessness


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Images from Skid Row in Los Angeles California

     As I entered the Chapel at Los Angeles Mission, the speaker was already speaking. He was blaming the politicians for failed policies and for ignoring the issue. He was blaming the family and friends of homeless folks for ignoring them when they were hurting and, the list of those who he blamed, grew bigger. He was good and correct in partially explaining why the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles exist. However, The sound, the smell and the images of poverty in the streets of Downtown, Los Angeles are the same as everywhere; in some places more and in some places less.

“In 2017, the United States homeless population was estimated to include 553,742        people on any given night. This number includes adults and veterans living on the streets, as well as children and families living in shelters. Overall, homelessness in America has decreased by 13% from 2010 to 2017, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development believe a substantial amount of work still remains in order to eradicate the epidemic. From a nationwide standpoint, these 15 cities have the most homeless people in America.”[1]

10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

9. Boston, Massachusetts

8. Las Vegas, Nevada

7. San Francisco, California

6. San Jose, California

5. District of Columbia

4. San Diego, California

3. Seattle, Washington

2. Los Angeles, California

1. New York City, New York

Other smaller cities with alarming homeless populations include:

5. Santa Rosa, California

4. Salinas, California

3. Huntington, New York

2. Santa Ana, California

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

     Maybe the speaker has a point in blaming the politicians; after all, all of these cities have something in common; they are all democrats and their states are historically democrat. These cities have been infected by liberalism. These liberal and progressive policies do not work against homelessness, but seems to be a magnet for it? They have a solid track record of failure.

     As representatives from over 40 Christian mission around the USA and Canada gathered for our Annual CityGate Conference,  we took that short walk from Los Angeles Mission to the Union Rescue Mission. As we walked through the famous Skid Row, we heard the profanity and the loud voices. You could feel the intimidation. There was trash everywhere and the smell of urine and human feces. I saw a man calmly turning his back, as we were passing by and, right on the sidewalk, he started urinating against a building. No shame and no concern. I saw people everywhere, massive amount of people; heavy traffic, people blowing their car horns; everybody in a hurry to go somewhere. I saw this woman yelling and accusing the white folks in our group of thinking that they were better than anybody; a cry for social justice… I guess!

 

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Images from Skid Row in Los Angeles, California

     I am sure everybody has their story; I am sure you can’t paint everybody with the same brush. I don’t want to be insensitive; but I heard another speaker stating that at the core of homelessness is people that can’t afford housing. Even as we must take a close look at these liberal agendas and, even as we could take a closer look at the cost of housing; at the core of homelessness there are bigger and deeper issues.

     At the core of homelessness there are many broken relationships, many broken bridges, many opportunities given, many opportunities wasted and, countless times using, manipulating and abusing those opportunities. At the core of homelessness there are demonic belief systems, and mindsets that lead to destruction. At the core of homelessness there is sin, transgressions, iniquities and curses. At the core of homelessness there are traumatic experiences, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, tragedy and the lack of preparation for the unexpected crisis of life.

     I have seen poverty before; no greater poverty than what I saw in Mexico; but poverty here in the USA is different. Even at Skid Row folks do not go hungry; these missions are there for them, to feed them every single day. In Los Angeles and around this nation, it seems like the homeless population still have enough physical energy to engage in violence. My co-workers from Fairbanks, witnessed a man getting beaten up and strip of his clothing while people just watched casually, as if this is a normal thing to see.

     In conclusion, we may not have all of the facts of the why of homelessness, but I have no doubt in my heart that the solution is Christ. That’s where I agree with the Los Angeles and the Union Missions; they get it! They seem to understand that God MUST be at the center of this impossible and overwhelming task. May the Lord continue to bless them for their work and may the truth, love, compassion and power of Christ be manifested in all rescue missions around the world.

[1]https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/states-cities/these-15-cities-have-the-most-homeless-people-in-america.html/

Mormonism vs Christianity: Is it the Same?


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It is so easy to state that all religions serve the same God and, that all religions are the same. It is easy to say that Allah is the God of the Bible and that the God of the Bible is Allah and, to include Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons as one more Christian denomination. I argue that to arrive to these conclusions is intellectually lazy and irresponsible. We must, at least, do a basic study on what the diverse religions believe.  Every religion has a belief system and, every religion has a book or books they follow. Today I will focus on comparing the Later Day Saint and the Christian beliefs.

   Let me start by saying that I respect every person and, as a Christian, I am called to love, even my enemies. In my life I have come in contact with a few Mormons, especially here in Fairbanks. I have to admit, I like them. I have not engaged in any spiritual discussion with neither one of them; but as people, I find them honorable, good folks and very helpful. At least that has been my personal experience with them. Because my personal experiences with Mormons have been so positive, I hesitated, for years, to write this article. There is a degree of fear in me to offend the Mormons I know personally. I have been invited to their homes to eat delicious barbecues with them and, they have been in my house as I shared my own barbecues with them. In many aspects, we share the same conservative values.

   It is easy to state that Mormonism and Christianity are the same. After all, Mormons are all about Jesus. Right? However, our doctrinal differences are as far as the east is from the west. There are many differences between our belief systems, I will just point out at a few that should be enough to make my point.

   Let me start by stating that Mormons claim that after the original apostles, the whole church was overcome by total apostasy. They believe Christianity, after the original apostles, lost her way. Furthermore, the Mormons believe that in 1830 they became the true church; they became the restored church.  Only they have the truth; the rest of us are simply victims of apostasy.

   No doubts that through Church History there has always been apostasy; nevertheless, the idea that the church was totally lost is totally unbiblical. No doubt that we are constantly in a battle to maintain the foundational truths in our faith; nevertheless, these attempts must always go back to the Prophets who wrote the Old testament and, to the writings of the original Apostles who wrote the New Testament. In Ephesians 2:19-22 the Bible tells us,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.(NASB)

   We can’t talk about restoration of the church without going back to what was already established. The orthodoxy of our faith is already written. You can’t come up with new stuff, especially when that new stuff clearly and totally contradicts the core values of our faith. This is not a game or something that we should take lightly. The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 22:18-19,

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.(NASB)

   The Mormons are guilty of adding to the Bible and, are also guilty of taking away the authority of Scripture. Mormons recognized four standard works as authoritative: 1) the Bible, as long as it is translated correctly according to the Mormon’s doctrine (Article of Faith 1:8), 2) The Book of Mormons. Joseph Smith declared that this book is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, then by any other book.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194). 3) The Doctrine of the Covenants; this is “a recollection of modern revelations… regarding The Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored in the last days. (GP, p. 54). And lastly, 4) The Pearl of the Great Price; this one claims to be “a clarification of doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and gives added information concerning the creation of the earth.” (GP, p. 54) The adding of these books by the Mormons is a clear violation of Revelation 22:18-19. There are more outrageous believes in the Mormon Church that totally contradicts Christianity.Let’s take a look at some, there are many.

For us Christians God has always been God according to Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were bornOr You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (NASB)

Mormons believe that God was once as we are now and that he became an exalted man. Joseph Smith directly states that he refutes the idea that God was God for all eternity (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

For us Christians Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary according to Isaiah 7:14.

Mormons believe that Jesus was born of a natural birth. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, p. 115). Mormons believe that Christ was begotten by an immortal Father. (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie, p. 547).

For Christians Jesus is the eternal Son.

Mormons believe that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was also created. (Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15)

For Christians salvation is the forgiveness of sin and deliverance of the sinner from damnation. It is a free gift received by God’s grace according to Ephesians 2:8).

Mormons believe in three destinations after death:

  1. Exaltation of Celestial Kingdomfor faithful Mormons ONLY where people become gods or angels. (D&C 132:20)
  2. Terrestrial Kingdomfor righteous non-Mormons; honorable men who were blinded by the craftiness of men. They will be receiving part of God’s glory, but not all. (D&C 76:75-76)
  3. Telestial Kingdomfor the wicket and the ungodly (This is not hell). These are liars, sorceress, adulterous, etc. They will suffer the wrath of God on this earth. (D&C 76:103-104, D7C 76:57-119 and 131:1-4)

For us Christians the church is the Body of Christ; these are Born Again believers.

As stated before, Mormons believe they are the only one true church. Joseph Smith claimed that Jesus told him to join none of the existing denominations, that they were all wrong and that they were all corrupt. (PGP: Joseph Smith – History 1:19-20)

   In conclusion, I respect every religion; I respect non-religious people also. In this country you have the right to believe whatever you want to believe. People even have the right to go to hell if that’s what they want. However, the purpose for this small article is to encourage folks to stop painting all religions with the same brush. There are many differences between the Mormon and the Christian Church. The Mormons are not Christians; they do not qualify as so. Their own doctrines clearly show that even as the church has always been attacked by heresy from within; the Mormons were not and, are not the answer for Christian faith reformation. Mormons do not follow the orthodoxy of Christianity; they claimed to be the ones bringing restoration; they claim that the church lost her way after the apostles. However, they did not go back to the teachings of the original apostles; they came up with a total different set of beliefs that are standing in direct contradiction to our faith.