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General Conference October 2017 – Sunday Morning Session Reviewed by Bobby Gilpin

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Hi there all, from this session I am going to spend a little time specifically looking at 1 talk from this session and a theme that arises from it.

This talk caught my eye as I have been listening to a lot of talks and debates in evangelical circles lately about supernatural or spiritual gifts, and the issues as to whether they are still in effect today, I believe they are which makes me a “continuationist” and many great Christians who I have nothing but respect for think they are not, and they often use the title “cessationist” as a label for this.

The Mormon church I think it’s very safe to say would be call itself a “contunuationist” movement, Mormon’s talk a lot about receiving personal revelation, and the seventh article of faith states:

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy,

revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

Now, I think when Christians consider in whose name or by what power any miracles, or gifts, or healing’s or works of faith are carried out, they would generally give the same answer, “In the Name of Jesus”, or the power of Christ, or the power of God etc.

Here are a few examples from the Bible to give examples of what I am saying:

Acts 4:29-30 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

James 5:14  Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

This also applies to casting out demons:

Acts 16:18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

Even giving commands to Christians in scripture.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

The point I am making is that when we see acts of power or healing being carried out in the New Testament they are made specifically in Jesus name, I think the reason for this is clear, in that it is that Christ Himself is the source of all of the power we rely on as Christians and ultimately the power through which all things were created, and He is the person for whom all things were made, in the heavens and the earth.

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

So what is my point in all this? During Hallstrom’s talk he said something that caught my eye:

Similarly, Elder David A. Bednar once asked a young man who had requested a priesthood blessing, “If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?”

It’s a blink and you might miss it thing, but this young man whom it sounds like is dying, asked for a priesthood blessing and in response he is told you may or may not be healed, which means that the young man was asking for a priesthood blessing, in the hope of healing from it.  To someone from an evangelical background, this might seem strange, why wouldn’t he just ask for prayer for healing you might ask?

This goes further in an April 2010 General Conference talk by Apostle Dallin H Oaks:

Many scriptures teach that the servants of the Lord “shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18).6 Miracles happen when the authority of the priesthood is used to bless the sick. I have experienced these miracles. As a boy and as a man I have seen healings as miraculous as any recorded in the scriptures, and so have many of you.

It’s the authority of priesthood that heals, isn’t that interesting as compared to the New Testament:

Acts 3:16 “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 

In Mormonism it is the power of the priesthood in the New Testament it is the power of Jesus name by which we are healed, and this goes much deeper than that.

Now I know that many Mormons reading this will be saying to themselves:

“You don’t get it Bobby they are the same thing, the power of Jesus name is the power of the priesthood!”

Now the answer to whether that is true or not is found in a simple question, and that is,

Is Jesus the all-sufficient creator of everything, with power in His own right to create, save and heal, or is He a being that started out with limited power and authority and had to be exalted to a position to which He did not hold previously and be given that power?

If Jesus is by nature sufficient, powerful and glorious He needs nothing to be given to Him, if He has gained His power and glory from an external source? What is it?

In Mormonism that external source is priesthood authority, or priesthood power. It’s the power by which God created all things, as we see in a general conference address in April last year by Apostle Russell M. Nelson.

Think of this: the priesthood conferred upon us is the very same power and authority through which God created this and numberless worlds, governs the heavens and the earth, and exalts His obedient children.3

I once had some Mormon missionaries in my living room and I asked them the question, do you think it’s possible that one day you could be as great as Jesus? One of them confidently answered: Yes!

Now I know many Mormons if not most, reading this would not have said that, and I know in the Mormon theological framework we will always be subject to Christ within our own future kingdom should we be exalted, so this missionary I would say even within the Mormon framework is mistaken, however he said yes for a reason, I think Joseph Smith in the now, long out of print work the history of the church helps us find this reason.

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“If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:424).

Jesus Christ obtained this priesthood, He obtained the power to create, He obtained the power to heal, this states by following the commandments and obeying the ordinances of the house of the Lord, which I can only assume but I think I am correct means by going to the temple on whatever world he was on, and going through the endowment and carrying out baptisms for the dead etc, on whatever world He was on as a mortal.

Many Mormons might not phrase it this way today, however the logical implication of how the priesthood works, and how we can hope for our exaltation today extends to this for us and so rightfully it would have to for Jesus as He is not eternal.

In the Mormon framework we are all eternal in that one day if you go far back enough we were all “intelligences” awaiting our spiritual body so we could then await our physical body in order to go through our mortal probation, and hopefully progress to our exaltation as our Heavenly Father did, so when I say Jesus is not eternal in Mormonism, I mean in this sense, in that if you go far back enough we were all in the same place.

The power of God, or any power in Christ’s name is not eternal, the only power that is eternal in Mormonism is the priesthood.

Now in the Bible we never see anything close to this in terms of the priesthood being an external, eternal power through which God created all things, we simply see a God who has power by virtue of who He is.

Hebrews 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

In the early church I am not aware of them having any concept of this either but I am open to correction on that if anyone wants to let me know.

Even the word Priesthood generally refers to a position someone holds that gives them certain authority to act as a go between, between men and God, which is why in the Old Testament it was the priests that went into the temple offering sacrifices to God on behalf of the people in order to connect the people to God.

This role is no longer necessary as we now have one mediator between God and man who is Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5). That is a big theological area which I appreciate I am really quickly covering, however nowhere in the Old Testament would the term priesthood be connected with the power by which the world was created, this is something completely new brought in by Joseph Smith which cannot be found in the Bible or early Christianity.

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This is not a belief that was held straight away in the Mormon church, I believe there in no mention of any of this in the Book of Mormon, and one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer expressed problems with Joseph Smith’s developing ideas of the priesthood in his book An Address to All Believers in Christ.

This is a massive issue which can often get forgotten about when discussing issues such as the nature of God, and salvation which are of course massive, however for Mormons the issue of priesthood authority, priesthood blessings, and priesthood power are fundamental to everything in their faith, not only their power to act and their hope of salvation, but also God’s power to act and create, this is probably the best example there is of a perfectly fine concept such as priesthood, being turned into something false and offering no hope.

The Mormon church bears the name of Christ, and makes mention of His name in so many areas, but strips Him of His power and glory and makes it an external thing which He obtained by obedience, and thus we all can.

Mormons I would ask you please explore this and by all means come back to me with your comments.

General Conference – October 2017 – Saturday Priesthood Session Reviewed by Mike Thomas

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As I listened to the priesthood session of the LDS 2017 semi-annual conference, I was reminded of how aspirational Mormonism is. I recalled how easy it was to be inspired in the comfort of a meeting house, how natural it is for young priesthood holders to think anything possible, what it is to want it to be true, no matter how fantastic it sounds, to look into the eyes of others for affirmation, knowing they look back seeking the same; restless, striving, I-can-do-this Mormonism.

Fawn Brodie, in her seminal work No Man Knows My History observed:

‘Joseph’s clergy was…entirely composed of laymen; moreover, of practically all the laymen in his church.  The result was a pyramidal church structure resting on the broadest possible base and possessing astonishing strength.  By giving each man a share in the priesthood Joseph quickened a sense of kinship and oneness in the church.

 …What Joseph had created was essentially an evangelical socialism…Nearly every man had a New Testament title – deacon, teacher, priest, elder, “seventy”, or bishop.  Each title carried a certain rank, progression from lower to higher being dependent upon a man’s faith, his zeal for the church, and the good will of his superiors in the hierarchy.  Each convert had not only the dignity of a title but the duties attending it.  He was expected to work strenuously for the church, and he did.  His only recompense, and it was ample, was a conviction that he was furthering the work of the Lord in the last days.’  (pp.100-01.)

If we were to talk about the ‘Mormon Dream’ it would be the ‘American Dream’ writ large across eternity, the goal nothing less than executive priesthood power over your own creation, success defined as godhood. Despite recent and increasingly regular protests from some Mormon women, priesthood in the Mormon Church is confined to men, who are encouraged at every turn to press on to such heights, bringing their prospective goddess wives with them. Mormon women should, perhaps, remember they cannot be exalted without their husband and his priesthood:

‘No woman will get into the celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy to have a husband; and if not, somebody will receive her as a servant’ (LDS Apostle Lorenzo Snow, (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p 291)

Mormon men were, in this session, reminded of this daunting weight of responsibility.

Elder Richard J Maynes of the Seventy, in a stirring talk, reminded the room, ‘…perhaps there is no greater compliment we could receive from the Lord than to know He trusts us to be worthy priesthood holders and great husbands and fathers.’

Integrity of heart his theme, he brought the sober reminder that, ‘…earning the Lord’s trust is a blessing that comes through great effort on our part. Trust is a blessing based on obedience to God’s laws. Earning the Lord’s trust comes as a result of being true to the covenants we have made in the waters of baptism and in the holy temple.’

Elder David F Evans of the Seventy insisted each of us, ‘has a personal responsibility to do what is necessary to obtain and keep a strong testimony…Patient covenant keeping,’ he continues later, ‘brings the blessings of heaven into our lives’

Dieter Uchtdorf, second counsellor in the first presidency, in what seemed at times a rambling presentation,  spoke about being light-bearers:

‘Brethren, it is up to us to be in the right place to see the divine light and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even when night has fallen and the world seems dark, we can choose to walk in Christ’s light, keep His commandments, and courageously testify of His reality and His greatness. As a bearer of God’s priesthood and as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are a bearer of light. Keep doing the things that will nurture His divine light.’

 Henry B Eyring, first counsellor in the first presidency (You see now Fawn Brodie’s point about title, rank, and progression) reminded all that ‘The Lord Leads His Church,’ before going on to say, ‘The Lord’s leadership of His Church requires great and steady faith from all who serve Him on earth,’ insisting further, ‘For a leader to succeed in the Lord’s work, the people’s trust that he is called of God must override their view of his infirmities and mortal weaknesses.’

Dale G Renlund of the quorum of the twelve apostles reminded priesthood holders, ‘For Heavenly Father’s purposes to be accomplished, Christ’s atoning power needs to be made available to God’s children. The priesthood delivers these opportunities.’

Priesthood holders are to be worthy, earning God’s trust through great effort, strictly obedient to God’s laws, true to their covenants, taking personal responsibility to do what is necessary. It is up to the priesthood holder to choose to keep the commandments, to have great and steady faith, with a duty to deliver Christ’s atoning power to God’s children, and to keep doing…and doing, and doing.

A Mormon isn’t saved in any sense a Christian would understand. What Christians call resurrected, Mormons call ‘saved,’ what Christians call ‘saved,’ Mormons call ‘exalted,’ and it is this exaltation for which they daily strive, never knowing if they have done enough. This is not a saved people aspiring to fully come into the good of all Christ has won for them. This is an aspirational people striving to prove worthy of all God has for the strongest, fittest, most faithful and accomplished of his children.

What I Once Thought Gain…

I am reminded of Paul’s description of his former self in his letter to Philippi,

‘…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.’ (Philippians 3:5-6)

I imagine a Mormon striving to something similar, ‘baptised at eight, born in the covenant, a Mormon of Mormons; in regard to law, an elder; as for zeal, faithfully carrying out church callings; as for legalistic righteousness, worthy of God’s trust, striving, obedient, covenant-keeping, commandment-keeping, temple worthy, having steady faith, doing, doing, and doing.’

But I remember how Paul goes on to say of his zeal and self-righteousness, ‘But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider them rubbish (Gk. skoo’-bal-on, excrement), that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ (Philippians 3:7-9)

What did Paul see that Nicodemus did not? Remember how the faithful Pharisee Nicodemus, ‘came to Jesus at night…’ and recognised Jesus as having been sent by God. ‘In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”‘ Jesus unpacks this teaching but Nicodemus fails to understand, and Jesus’ response is an indictment, ‘You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?’

This is the passage where Jesus goes on to explain, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert (Num.21:8-9), so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn.3:1-16) This ‘eternal life’ is a quality of life, God’s quality of life, gifted to all who trust in Jesus. What the LDS priesthood-holder strives for, Christ has achieved for us, it is not earned, or merited.

Those Strange ‘Born-Agains’

There is this thing Evangelicals (born-agains) do. With Paul, they insist, ‘No-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law…For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.’ (Romans.3:20-28) They justify this in light of James’ insistence, ‘Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.’ (James.2:1-13) James carefully explains that this is because if you sin you become a law breaker, and its what you have become that marks you unworthy, not how hard you have, or haven’t tried. Its a neat argument, and no getting away from it.

  • No-one is capable of keeping the whole law and ‘your best’ doesn’t cut it.
  • There must, therefore, be some other way of getting right with God.

Paul insists we are ‘justified by faith,’ and though he was a brilliant law-keeper, yet it was all worthless.

Jesus said people gain eternal life by believing in him.

Yet, anyone who pays attention will know the New Testament is full of imperatives to do good works. Peter urges good works, ‘that [men] may see your good deeds and glorify God…’ (1 Peter 2:1

Hebrews encourages,

‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.’ (Heb.10:24)

Jesus taught,

‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ (Mt.5:16)

 

Paul writes we should ‘do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share…’ (1 Tim.6:18)

And, of course, James insists, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ (James 2:17)

Then we see those strange ‘saved-by-grace-not-works’ Christians faithfully gather for worship, giving sacrificially, going the extra mile, being good neighbours, loving their enemies, fasting and praying, striving to be salt and light in the world, and storing up treasure in heaven. What is going on, if they ‘don’t believe in works?’

Christians, it seems, believe in obedience, making and keeping covenants,  growing in faith, taking responsibility, and sharing the good news of Jesus. They know James’ timely reminder, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ They grasp James’ challenge, ‘Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by what I do.’ (Js.2:17-18) And that is what Christians do.

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James makes it clear that living faith issues in action. That is his point; faith is the tree, fruit its product. If the tree is dead, James insists, the fruit will be absent. The fruit is evidence of a living tree. Where Mormons see good works as the emphasis of James’ teaching, the real emphasis is faith. An absence of good works is evidence of a dead faith, the presence of good works is evidence of living faith. It is that living faith that saves, and not the fruit it produces.

Paul writes, ‘It is by grace you have been saved (note the past tense) through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.’ (Eph.2:8) There is no contradiction here. Clearly, Paul agrees with James, urging us to, ‘do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…’ (1 Tim.6:18) Yet he is clear in his teaching – works don’t save. Paul the evangelist is effectively explaining how we are put right with God, James the pastor how a saved people live.

Just as a tree is first planted, then produces fruit, so a Christian is first born-again, then produces the good works that are the natural product of an established and well-nurtured Christian life.

 

 All Things New

When Jesus instituted what we call communion, what Mormons call ‘sacrament,’ he said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.’ (Lk.22:20) He is described as, ‘the mediator of a new covenant.’ (Heb.9:15) Church leaders are, ‘ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ (2 Cor.3:6) Christians are to, ‘Walk in newness of life.’ (Ro.6:4) a new life that is described in some detail in the Sermon on the Mount. To an unregenerate person this can seem every bit as daunting as being told in a priesthood session to be worthy, be great, keep commandments and covenants, obey laws and keep doing, doing, and doing, because its up to us.

But Jesus told Nicodemus, ‘You must be born again.’ This means more than simply coming to a decision to follow him and putting our backs to the task. To be born again is to be a new creature. Paul writes, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.’ Note again the tense (2 Cor.5:16-17 ESV) Warning believers in Galatia against trusting in law-keeping, Paul writes ‘Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.’ (Gal.6:15)

He urges believers in Colossae, ‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off (tense again) the old self, with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.’ (Col.3:9-10) This renewing in knowledge is not simply learning and striving to keep to better ways. To saints in Ephesus Paul describes it as being renewed in the spirit, or attitude, of your minds, ‘and [putting] on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness.’  (Eph.4:23-24)

To be born again is all these and more. It is to be recreated, like the first creation a work of God, and it is this new creature that follows after God, confident in the promise of Jesus:

‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ (John 5:24)

 This text is weighted with incredible promises. The present possession of eternal life, the confidence that we will not be condemned, and the knowledge that death no longer has dominion. All this because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, because of a risen Saviour, and an empty tomb, and the promise of Jesus that,

‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)

One of those priesthood-holders may say, ‘I believe in Jesus, so all this must apply to me. I am saved!’ Two problems immediately present themselves. The first is that this teaching is alien to Mormonism. The Mormon Church simply doesn’t teach it though it is the theme running through the teaching of every New Testament writer. The second is that putting your faith in Jesus totally precludes putting your faith in anything or anyone else. It is Christ or works, not faith and works. The Mormon Church demands, however, that these priesthood holders earn these blessings by great efforts, taking personal responsibility to do what is necessary, to keep their temple covenants, to prove worthy, and gain celestial glory. These are the efforts, this the thinking of the old creature

Eternal life is for that new creature, who has put off the old self, and is being renewed after the image of his creator, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness, having been made alive in Christ, having received the promised Holy Spirit.

Having entered the new covenant mediated by Jesus, experienced the new birth (1 Pet.1:3), this new creation walks through this world in the full assurance of God’s promise that he is making all things new (Rev.21:5) and that, ‘we have the first fruits of the Spirit [and] groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved.’ (Ro.8:23-24)

‘All this from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor.5:17-21)

Michael Thomas is a former Mormon and is chairman of Reachout Trust

General Conference – October 2017 Saturday Afternoon Session, Reviewed by Tony Brown

 

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By President Russell M. Nelson

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In his conference message, Russell M. Nelson President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asks the question: The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?

He shares his view that,

‘In a most miraculous and singular way, the Book of Mormon teaches us of Jesus Christ and His gospel’.

President Nelson begins his message by recalling a time he met and spoke to an African tribal king. After telling this king that he was “…an ordained Apostle of Jesus Christ” he was asked a question. The king asked, “What can you teach me about Jesus Christ?”

President Nelson goes on to say:

I responded with a question: “May I ask what you already know about Him?” The king’s response revealed he was a serious student of the Bible and one who loved the Lord.

President Nelson continued:

I explained that after the Saviour’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, He came to the people of ancient America, where He taught His gospel. He organized His Church and asked His disciples to keep a record of His ministry among them. That record,” I continued, “is what we know as the Book of Mormon. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is a companion scripture to the Holy Bible.

Now here is a thought. If, as President Nelson claimed, this Tribal king was a ‘serious student of the Bible’ and ‘one who loved the Lord’, shouldn’t alarm bells have been going off in his head? If he truly knew his Bible, surely this message brought to him by President Nelson would have at least raised questions. Does the Bible speak of Jesus going to the Americas? Does the Bible say there will be another testament of Jesus Christ, a companion scripture to the Holy Bible? The answer to any student of the Bible would clearly be no.

Yes, the LDS may point you to some Bible verses to show you that the Book of Mormon was a prophesied companion to the Bible, but then they are good at taking verses out of context. The LDS may ask you to turn to Ezekiel 37:15-17 which says:

“The word of the LORD came again to me saying, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ “Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.”

They will tell you that the two sticks that become one stick, mentioned in these verses, are speaking of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. This is eisgesis, that is a reading into the text something that is clearly not there. Contextually and historically, these verses are speaking of a scattered people coming back together. The Northern and the Southern kingdoms will become one, uniting under King David. Nothing whatsoever to do with the Book of Mormon.

President Nelson recalls how he read to the Tribal king from the Book of Mormon. He read to him 3 Nephi chapter 11, ‘the Saviour’s sermon to the Nephites’.

If indeed the king was a lover Scripture, there would have been much familiar to him as the President read 3 Nephi. 3 Nephi is nothing more than a collection of Biblical sayings of Jesus, and thoughts of the Prophet Joseph, put into a different context.

Presenting the Book of Mormon to the king, the President received this response:

“You could have given me diamonds or rubies, but nothing is more precious to me than this additional knowledge about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now if President Nelson had given this Tribal king a Bible and we removed the word ‘additional’, I would have been giving thanks to God, but sadly it was a Book of Mormon and the addition of the word ‘additional’ is troubling.

Is there ‘additional’ knowledge about the Lord Jesus Christ outside of the Bible? And if so, can this ‘additional’ knowledge be verified as authentic? And can this ‘additional’ knowledge be called θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), that is God breathed and inspired?

Questions about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon can be considered here.

Finishing his story about the Tribal king, President Nelson now turns his attention to those before him, asking the questions:

My brothers and sisters, how precious is the Book of Mormon to you? If you were offered diamonds or rubies or the Book of Mormon, which would you choose? Honestly, which is of greater worth to you?

Now, If I had been at the Conference it would have been difficult for me not to jump up at this point and shout ‘diamonds and rubies’. This would not to have been disrespectful to President Nelson or the Conference, but he did ask those hearing to be honest!

The whole tenor of his message was undoubtedly to show that the Book of Mormon is not just a companion to the Bible, but rather that it is superior to the Bible. After all, speaking of the Bible, the Eighth Article of the Mormon faith says:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God. as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon. to be the word of God.

So, it is no surprise that President Nelson reminds the Conference what President Thomas S. Monson said back in April. Monson asked:

each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the

Book of Mormon each day.”

Notice that it is not the Bible, but the Book of Mormon that should be studied and pondered each day. One can understand why this is the message. To study the Book of Mormon keeps you within Mormonism, but to prayerfully study and ponder the Bible each day may lead you out.

Micah

 

Check out the testimony of how this happened to this Mormon Missionary

 

 

President Nelson continues to declare the superiority of the Book of Mormon over the Bible.

“Something powerful happens when a child of God seeks to know more about Him and His Beloved Son. Nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully than in the Book of Mormon.”

This is an interesting statement. He claims that to know more about the Father and the Son one should read the Book of Mormon, for ‘nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully…’

Yet, the Book of Mormon is pretty much silent on the core doctrines concerning the Father and Son as taught in Mormonism and in some places, it even contradicts current LDS teaching. For example:

Image result for the book of mormonThe Book of Mormon nowhere teaches that the Father is a person with flesh and bones, but rather it says He is spirit (Alma 18:26-29; Alma 22:8-11)

The Book of Mormon nowhere teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate gods, “one in purpose” only, but not one in being.

But rather it teaches that there is One God in three persons (Mosiah 15:1-4; Mosiah 16:15; Alma 11:38-40; 3 Nephi 11:27)

The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach that God was once a man on another planet who progressed to become a God. It teaches that God has always been God. (2 Nephi 27:23; 2 Nephi 29:9; Mormon 9:19; Moroni 8:18)

The Book of Mormon also doesn’t teach that God is married and has numerous wives; or that God and his wives procreate spirit children, who live with Him before coming to the earth and receiving a human body to go through mortal probation; neither does it teach that Jesus Christ is the brother of every human being, and is also the brother of Lucifer.

These core teachings of Mormonism, regarding the Father and the Son are nowhere to be found in the Book of Mormon, so let’s revisit President Nelson’s statement:

“Something powerful happens when a child of God seeks to know more about Him and His Beloved Son. Nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully than in the Book of Mormon.”

Considering what the Book of Mormon doesn’t say, how can President Nelson’s statement be true?

In fact, it is astounding what Mormonism teaches about Heavenly Father and the His Son.

In Mormonism, Mary (the mother of Jesus) is the sister of Jesus, whilst God (Heavenly Father) was the one who came to Mary and had an incestuous relationship with her to produce a human body for her ‘brother’ Jesus. None of this is in the Book of Mormon, and it is certainly not in the Bible – but it is Mormonism.

President Nelson says that over the past six months, after President Monson’s challenge to study the Book of Mormon, he has asked various people the following three questions (my suggested answers are in RED)

First, what would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? BETTER

Second, what would you not know?

I WOULD NOT KNOW THAT I MUST WORK REALLY HARD TO BECOME A GOD

And third, what would you not have?   GUILT

Here are some of the answers that he received from fellow Mormons. Strangely they are different to mine.

 “Without the Book of Mormon, I would be confused about the conflicting teachings and opinions about so many things. I would be just like I was before I found the Church, when I was searching for knowledge, faith, and hope.”

Another said: “I would not know about the role the Holy Ghost can play in my life.”

Another: “I would not clearly understand my purpose here on earth!”

Another respondent said: “I would not know that there is continuing progress after this life. Because of the Book of Mormon, I know that there really is life after death. That is the ultimate goal for which we are working.”

Another respondent to my question said: “I did not have a life until I read the Book of Mormon. Even though I had prayed and gone to my church all my life, the Book of Mormon helped me to really communicate with Heavenly Father for the first time.”

Another said: “Without the Book of Mormon, I wouldn’t understand that the Saviour not only suffered for my sins, but He can heal my pains and sorrows.”

And yet another: “I would not know that we have prophets to lead us.”

Now it is questionable that the Book of Mormon gave the answers to all these questions and the thoughts people had. The Book of Mormon is not an answer book, it is merely the tool used to lead people to Mormonism, and it is here that questions are really answered.

It should be noted that the Bible more than answers all these questions and more. That is because the Bible truly is the Word of God. Of course, the LDS claim that the Book of Mormon is also the Word of God, but the fact that it contradicts both the Bible and Mormon Doctrine, shows that it isn’t. For a closer look at The Bible verses The Book of Mormon look here.

What President Nelson says next is interesting:

Immersing ourselves regularly in the truths of the Book of Mormon can be a life-changing experience. One of our missionary granddaughters, Sister Olivia Nelson, promised an investigator that if he would read the Book of Mormon daily, his test scores on his university exams would improve. He did, and they did.

Did I read that correctly? Is President Nelson suggesting that regular reading of the Book of Mormon will lead to University success? If a LDS fails a test, does a Bishop call him into his office and ask him why he is not reading the Book of Mormon enough?  Does the apparent improvement in test scores prove that the Book of Mormon is true? Is that how we test what is true and from God? Of course not. The Bible tells us that we are to test all things. The way of testing what is being said is to test it against what the Bible teaches. It was for this that the Bereans were commended. (Acts 17:11)

President Nelson then goes on to reiterate the superiority of the Book of Mormon over the Bible because:

‘It expands and clarifies many of the “plain and precious” truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible.’

This is often said by LDS but they rarely bring forth any solid evidence to support the assertion that ‘plain and precious’ truths have been lost from the Bible. This is just their way of saying you cannot trust the Bible and therefore the Book of Mormon is superior.

He goes on to hammer home his ‘the Book of Mormon is superior’ point to the gathered faithful:

The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period.

The Book of Mormon both illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary. The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine to dispel false religious traditions—such as the erroneous practice of performing infant baptisms. The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness.” The Book of Mormon shatters the false beliefs that happiness can be found in wickedness and that individual goodness is all that is required to return to the presence of God. It abolishes forever the false concepts that revelation ended with the Bible and that the heavens are sealed today.

Do you get the feeling that he thinks the Book of Mormon is truly of God?  Sadly, to read The Book of Mormon, then receive a ‘feeling’ that it is true and so to join the LDS Church, may lead you to believe that you have truth, but in reality it doesn’t lead you towards Jesus, rather it leads you away from Him. All that President Nelson attributes to the Book of Mormon, the Christian would attribute to a relationship with Jesus.

President Nelson concludes as all faithful LDS should:

I testify that Joseph Smith was and is the prophet of this last dispensation. It was he who, through the gift and power of God, translated this holy book. This is the book that will help to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal and living Son of our living God. He is our Saviour, our Redeemer, our great Exemplar, and our Advocate with the Father. He was the promised Messiah, the mortal Messiah, and will be the millennial Messiah. I testify with my whole soul that in a most miraculous and singular way, the Book of Mormon teaches us of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Unfortunately, for President Nelson and the LDS, the Bible, the Christian Church and Christian history testifies strongly against that which they believe. As much as they claim to believe in Jesus and to teach His gospel, they sadly do not. They have another Jesus and another gospel. A Jesus and a gospel that is powerless to save.

If you are reading this and you are LDS, I implore you to put down the Book of Mormon and to read the Bible. Compare what it says against what you have been taught as a Mormon and as you do, ask the Holy Spirit to enable to see the ‘real’ Jesus.  I cannot promise you that reading the Bible will improve you test scores at University, but I know these words of Jesus are true:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Matthew 7:7,8

This article was written by Tony Brown, a UK-based evangelist to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, if you would like to get in touch or have him speak at your church, check out his website here.

 

General Conference October 2017 – Saturday Morning Session, Reviewed by Bobby Gilpin

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Well, its been a long time since we have had posts on this blog, and we are now under the name of The Blog Of Mormon, just due to some organizational changes this site operates independently, still run by Bobby Gilpin, under this new name.

I am not sure what exactly we are going to cover in the coming months and years, but this is still very much an evangelical Christian website, seeking to offer friendly but critical analysis of the Mormon church from that perspective.

The one thing I do intend to keep going is reviews of General Conference sessions as they happen, and here we are.

The Saturday morning session of General Conference this time around was hosted by First Counselor to the Mormon Presidency Henry B. Eyring, and is the first general conference in a long time to not be attended by President of the Church Thomas S Monson, its been speculated for a while now that Monson has life affecting Dementia, if this is the case it’s no surprise given Monson being 90 years of age at present, and is of course no criticism of the church that their “Prophet” may well be suffering with this. Apart from to say He should have been able to step down some time ago which the system does not seem to allow.

Monson and his office were nonetheless given plenty of mention at the start of this session with the second hymn being “God Bless Our Prophet Dear.” The first verse of this hymn reads:

1. God bless our prophet dear;
May health and comfort cheer
His noble heart.
His words with fire impress
On souls that thou wilt bless
To choose in righteousness
The better part.

If you are a Christian with not much background experience of Mormonism it will understandably seem more than a little strange that in a worldwide conference of a so called Christian movement the second hymn makes no mention of Christ, other than a passing reference in verse 3, but instead pays homage to the President of the movement, well this is Mormonism.

In fairness Monson and Mormon Prophets before him are not worshiped I think that’s true to say, however the level of respect and admiration they get, can be uncomfortable at times as this bears no echo in New Testament Scripture where instead we read:

Romans 11:36

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

This verse in a lot of ways sets the tone of where I am going to go next. In going through all of these talks I do not encounter a lot of what us evangelicals might call “Heresy” there is no mention of God once being a man, I would say not a lot of mention of us working for our salvation, or exaltation though it is there, instead we see a total emphasis on our good, as humans. Our “progression”, becoming better people and serving others to make them better. In so many ways there is nothing bad about this, In the talk “The Needs Before Us”“The Needs Before Us”, we hear the speaker Bonnie. L. Oscarson talk about how members of the Mormon church have been wearing their “yellow” (used when doing work of this kind) shirts and have been going to some of the sites of the recent hurricanes and
Young women with President Eyringhave been helping with the relief efforts for these horrible events in Texas and others areas, this attitude of servanthood is littered throughout all the talks in this session and I can’t help but be impressed by it.

Oscarson goes on to give this piece of, I think very fair social commentary:

We live in a culture where more and more we are focused on the small, little screen in our hands than we are on the people around us. We have substituted texting and tweeting for actually looking someone in the eye and smiling or, even rarer, having a face-to-face conversation.

This is so true and applies to me and many others around me, I think as a humanistic organization the Mormon church has a lot of good stuff to do and say, and so many problematic Mormon beliefs and teachings seem to be absent from this session, and I imagine for the most part the others too, the reasons for that I think is a long story and I don’t think it means those beliefs are gone.

What goes through my mind, talk after talk in these sessions is one thing.

Image result for the chief end of man is to glorify god and enjoy him forever

 

Mormonism is completely and utterly man centered, the church and God, exist for the good of man. I think true Christianity is God centered, and I see in these sessions a faith and a God that is completely man centered.

I don’t mean man centered in the sense that the church does too many good things for people, I mean man centered in the sense that the glory of God in Mormonism is to uplift man, to the expense of uplifting God. Mormons might worship God, but I think the ultimate purpose of their faith is their own progression and exaltation.

In the first talk in this session Dieter F Uchtdorf says:

The Lord has established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help you in this commitment to serve God and fellowmen. Its purpose is to encourage, teach, lift, and inspire.

In the third talk by Elder Dallin H Oaks we hear:

The restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the inspired family proclamation, which I will discuss later, are essential teachings to guide mortal preparation for exaltation.

In the fifth talk by Elder John C Pingree Jr he says:

And fourth, rely on God. When we ask Him in faith with real intent, He will reveal our divine assignments to us.9 Once we discover them, He will help us fulfill those assignments. “All things are present before [His] eyes” (D&C 38:2; see also Abraham 2:8), and at the right times, He will open the doors necessary for us (see Revelation 3:8). He even sent His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we can depend on Him for strength beyond our natural abilities (see Philippians 4:13Alma 26:12).

In this sixth talk by Elder D Christofferson:

The doctrine of Christ expresses what we must do to receive atoning grace. It is to believe and have faith in Christ, to repent and be baptized, and to receive the Holy Ghost, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”10This is the gate, our access to the Savior’s atoning grace and to the strait and narrow path leading to His kingdom..

And finally in the seventh talk Jeffrey Holland interestingly misquotes Moroni 10:32 by saying this:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … ,” Moroni pleads. “Love God with all your might, mind and strength, then … by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.”9 Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven—we can’t “earn” it. Thus, the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also salvation from our own persistent self-criticism.

Are all of these quotes horrible heresy? In a lot of ways they are not, however they capture what I feel the heart of Mormonism is, in that, God, Christ and the church are vehicles to help you, become a better you.

Image result for your best life now

 

President of the Mormon church Thomas S Monson once “tweeted”

Of this be sure: you do not find the happy life—you make it.

(7:12 PM – 5 Feb 2016)

 

 

Humanistically, this is fine, however in terms of Christianity, this is something else altogether, the God of Christianity is the glorious center of the universe, He puts His own glory above all else, and has created us in such a way that we cannot be satisfied by anything other than Him and upholding the glory of His name, the Apostle Paul gets this so clearly here:

Philippians 1:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 [s]But if I am to live onin the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [t]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

Paul’s desire was to depart and behold His God eternally, and be with Christ, not to stay and progress further to make sure his exaltation, not even to depart and be with his family, but rather Paul’s single minded goal was to depart and be with Christ.

And in Isaiah God Himself says:

Isaiah 48

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

And finally:

Ezekiel 36

21 But I had [i]concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went.22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.

I don’t know how the part I put in bold there could be any more foreign to Mormonism, when would the God of Mormonism ever say that? It just would not happen, the God of Mormonism is an exalted man helping His spirit children get to their own exaltation as He did, the God of the Bible is Holy, Exalted, Unique, and put’s His Name above all else.

While we do not see Mormon traditional doctrine on the nature of God and in many ways salvation taught at general conference today, we see that same God in action, the God of Mormonism whose work and glory is to bring to pass the eternal life of man who is completely at odds with the God of the Bible who places His holy name above all else.

This is not to say that the God of the bible does not love humanity, and this is not to say that Jesus did not die and rise again in order that the elect might know Him, this is all the case, however the God of the Bible is a God whose glory is so all-encompassing that His name takes priority above all things, and when we place His name above all else, this does us far more good than any religious programmes and works, and what flows from this is freedom in Christ, resulting in doing the good works he has prepared us to do.

Is Joseph Smith Worthy Of Worship?

Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith? That’s a question that has been asked of many a Mormon, and in many cases the Mormon will kind of groan inside, and very honestly say “No we absolutely do not”!

They will then explain that they worship only God and they will then likely emphasise the significance of Christ in their lives, and this is what Mormons seem to generally do today, emphasise Jesus and their love for Him and generally avoid having too long a discussion about Joseph Smith.

However like many people reading, I have been to a Mormon sacrament meeting when the hymn “Praise to the man” starts being sung, and felt uncomfortable about the words of devotion being sung about a man who Mormons apparently do not worship.

Recently the talk “Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again” Which is going to be the main focus of this article has made me ask the question, In Mormonism, is Joseph Smith worthy of worship? 

This is not me saying do Mormons worship Joseph Smith, but instead I am asking, should they be worshipping him if the statements from their leaders are to be taken seriously.

The talk given by Jayson Kunzler, a business management faculty member at BYU Idaho, was given at a devotional at that location.

I will say from the start that I appreciate Kunzler does not have any authority to speak for the LDS church. However he spends a lot of time quoting people who do.

 

Kunzler starts by saying that in 1984 a number of LDS missionaries were asked to evaluate their testimonies regarding a number of “truths”, it was found that the one that these missionaries were weakest in their certainty of, was that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. Bruce Mcconkie an LDS Apostle at the time said of this result that “Something’s wrong,  something’s terribly wrong”.

This opening story starts what is essentially a lesson to these missionaries and all LDS members in general of just how important Joseph Smith and his ministry is. And seriously, this talk holds nothing back, I recommend you listen to it or read it in full yourself.

Kunzler says this:

“Brothers and sisters, Elder McConkie is right. If Joseph Smith—and the Restoration of the gospel through him—is not a fundamental part of our testimony, then something is definitely wrong. As President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “we link the names of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith.” President Brigham Young taught the same principle. He said, “What I have received from the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith…If I drop him, I must drop these principles…no man on the earth can say that Jesus lives, and deny, at the same time…the Prophet Joseph. This is my testimony.”

So you cannot have Jesus without Joseph according to this. If you drop Joseph, then you drop Jesus. The implications of this are clear, the work  of Christ is useless without Joseph. To some degree this helps explain why so many people who leave Mormonism walk away from all things faith in Christ as well, for years they will have been taught that this is how it is. This is maybe one of the biggest tragedies of Mormonism, that it makes Jesus useless, without Joseph.

I could quote this entire talk as there is so much material here but I will try to stick with a few.

Kunzler goes on to say this:

We should expect intense opposition to surround Joseph Smith because the experiences of his life represent, in the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to salvation and eternal life.” After the angel Moroni introduced himself to Joseph Smith, he told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”

I have heard Mormons before use this as evidence for the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s ministry. Joseph being told by this angel that his name should be had for good and evil is confirmed in the mind of many a Mormon whenever someone speaks critically of Joseph. The problem is that anyone in history that has made bold claims can have this said of them. However here I think it is again used for the purpose of confirming Joseph as a Prophet.

Kunzler then gives this startling quote from Brigham Young, second Mormon Prophet.

No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, Junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are—I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation. 

 

I was blown away when I heard this, I think this is actually the first time I had heard this quote used by someone speaking in favour of the church, generally I have seen this used by critics and seen Apologists trying to explain it away. But here we have it, you do not get into the Celestial kingdom, or the presence of God, without the consent of Joseph. We see in 1 Timothy 2:5 in the New Testament that there is one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus, again Jesus has been found to be insufficient without Joseph.

 

Now if there is one problem the LDS church has had in the last few years in upholding their faithful claims about Joseph Smith, it’s the internet and books, stating the historical aspects of Joseph that have had little or no mention by the LDS church. As a result this has led to a number of “Gospel Topic Essays”  put on LDS.org attempting to state and deal with these issues in a positive light. However what has been particularly uncomfortable, has been faithful LDS members pointing these things out, the likes of D Michael Quinn, Grant Palmer being examples.

 

 

 

Kunzler has this to say about them

“Our beloved President Boyd K. Packer, who departed this life just a few months ago, echoed President Benson’s warning. He said, “I have on occasion been disappointed when I have read in writings of those who are supposed to be worthy members of the Church statements that tend to belittle or degrade…past leaders of the Church.” President Packer continued, “That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weakness and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith—particularly one within the Church—places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities.”

 

 

So LDS members if you write anything negative about Joseph, you must be seeking to destroy faith, and you will not be among the faithful in eternity, your motives must be evil. I am not sure how much closer to being Spiritual blackmail this could be.

Which is something that is often said of anyone speaking critically of the LDS church, their motives must be bad.

 

Carrying on this line of thought Kunzler says that pointing out a “perceived”, character flaw in Joseph to make us feel better about our own sins is the work of the devil, and dwelling on the faults of anyone especially the Lords anointed only leads to destruction. This also seems to assume that to point out character flaws in Joseph must be because of your own sin, rather than just seeking to be true to history.

Which is an interesting point as many faithful LDS scholars such as Richard Bushman have sought to honestly state many aspects of Smiths life, good or bad to show that he was a normal human with faults, but still called as a Prophet. It seems Kunzler has no time for this, he goes on.

“As President John Taylor testified:

I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I traveled with him; I have been with him in public and in private…I was with him when he died…I have seen him under all these various circumstances, and I testify before God, angels, and men that he was a good, honorable, and virtuous man, that his private and public character was irreproachable, and that he lived and died a man of God.”

And then:

“Joseph Smith declared, “I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent…” And he was innocent! “He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people.” He said, “…I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing…Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him.”

So it seems that Joseph was completely without any flaws at all, and never sinned, or at least all accusations of sin are false, does that remind you of anyone? As it seems often with Joseph, the comparison is made, between him and Jesus. As the song “Praise to the man” says. “Endless is His Priesthood”, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” When you stand back and look at the things said of Joseph, you cant help but feel uncomfortable at times.

And remember that while Kunzler cannot bring authoritative teaching as such, he is using quotes from Prophets and Apostles to support everything he says.

Here is Kunzlers concluding point

praise-to-the-manI invite all to gain a sound and enduring witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which has come through him. It is my prayer that each of us will reverence the name of Joseph Smith in word and in deed, that in a future day many of us—perhaps millions—“shall know Brother Joseph again.” In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The concluding hope here is that we might one day know Joseph again, which is of course taken from the hymn “Praise to the man”. In some ways its refreshing to hear a talk like this which is full of such clear and unashamed Mormon teaching, but mostly it’s disheartening to see just how far Mormonism is from Christianity, by robbing Jesus Christ of His absolute sufficiency. I think of these words of the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 1:20-26 (KJV)

“20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”

While it would be unfair to expect Paul to have mentioned Joseph at this point, as he was obviously not born yet and also not of this dispensation as Mormons would say. We can see that Paul had one vision in mind, Christ. Nothing else, no Prophet, no Priest no King, Other than Jesus who is really all of that anyway.

Is Joseph worthy of worship? What do you think? ,

  • Joseph makes the work of Christ efficacious for you
  • He decides whether you go to Gods presence for eternity
  • You must never speak critically of him (or take his name in vain),
  • He was without sin.

If we let anything stand in the way of Christ, or let any human be essential to make Christ effective in our lives, then we have missed the power and glory of Christ completely. I pray that those reading will cast down any desire to know Joseph in the afterlife, and look to Christ alone.

CTR Jesus – By Lucy Marskell

This is well worth a watch. Lucy in this excellent video goes through many of the key theological issues that come up in dialogue with Mormons. Please share this around, also here is the full transcript.

CTR JESUS: A Poem

Call me an investigator
Not a hater
Someone just speaking the truth
So if you’re a Latter Day Saint keeping the faith I’d love to talk to you
I know this conversation might get heated like a fireside
But my purpose ain’t to grill a Stake but to ignite a light
Just like the wristband you’re wearing I agree it’s important we choose the right
In order to get far on the CTR we need to go back to the ABC and ask the basic question of whether you really follow the same Jesus as me?
Because if we don’t see the magnitude of His true worth
Then you’re not really following Jesus at all
The truth might hurt but you need to get a bigger God because yours is too small

See when I dive into scripture and get truly immersed
I find the Jesus who created the entire universe!
You’ll see what I mean when I open up Colossians 1:16
Out of nothing He created all things for Himself
Didn’t need us or anyone’s help
To carve the mountains of Utah or to paint the Northern Lights
To sprinkle the sand of Californian beaches and deserts of Arabian nights
He’s the ultimate Guardian of every galaxy
He’s the Lord of the Rings over the things that exist invisibly
Spinning the hoops of Saturn
Every planet is His cosmic Basketball
One King One God One Mediator to rule them all

Jesus has always been there so don’t get it twisted
He was around before the clock started, before time existed
Yes his timeless hands reached down into the hands of time
Without boasting about his shared equality with the divine
He could scoop up the oceans yet He chose to walk with Peter on the waves
He could have demanded privilege but instead He washed John’s feet like a slave
He could have entered the great city upon a regal steed
But instead He rode in on a donkey humble and meek
He could have showed off His power with violent force but instead He took out His enemies by absorbing death’s cause
Spitting sin out like the poison of a snakebite wound
His foot crushed the serpent’s head that tried to inflict doom
Cheating death’s sting when He walked out that tomb

Many Mormons have told me that Jesus is our brother who wants to adopt us into God’s family
I would agree that He is our brother but only to the extent that He can relate to our humanity
But to say He is on the same level as Lucifer is blasphemy
Jesus has never been Lucifer’s brother like you falsely teach
The prince of darkness has nothing to do with the Prince of Peace.
I know it’s gonna take a lot to believe me
But angels, humans and Jesus are different species
Hebrews chapter 1 demonstrates this distinction
That angels are messengers of fire
But when it comes to Jesus that’s not what the writer is thinking
It’s clear Jesus’ role is much much higher
There’s references here that are taken from Psalms 102 + 45
That shows Jesus commands more than just days and nights
He rules a Kingdom that lasts forever – the Kingdom of Light
If He can eternally reign then that means He was never created in the first place
He’s the the one who carved angel’s wings and breathed life into the human race
He wrote the language of life, drawing U + I into the alphabet
He sees the beginning and end
That’s why I call Him my A-Z

Jesus is the firstborn over all creation
That doesn’t mean there was a start to Him being the Son
It means He’s superior, pre-eminent. He’s number one.
The word
prototokos is the original greek
It means Jesus’ role is at the forefront, eternally unique.

He ain’t a little cub tame and born at the beginning of Spring
He roars with authority as he’s at the top of the food chain
Call Him the Lion King!

See we were always meant to live trusting in God alone but then one day we thought we could do a better job and built our own thrones.
We wanted to become gods ourselves and be at the very centre
If life was a map we went on a detour and said no to God’s adventure
The biggest lie the devil whispered is that all we need to do is trust ourselves, we’re better off without Him
Let’s build our own kingdoms and be King of our mountains
For we think we’re gods
Sons of the most high
Yet just like every other ruler
We’re destined to die
The consequences of our selfishness bring death and separation
Until the creator bridged the gap by entering His creation
Contrary to what is taught in the world of LDS
Jesus didn’t enter our world in order to progress
But to redeem humanity from its sinful mess
To bring wholeness and life to a land that only knew death

The atonement is the centre of Jesus’ mission and here’s the true definition:
On the cross it was our sins He bore that’s what we find in 1 Peter 2:24
Jesus didn’t die so we could have an end time resurrection
On the cross He took on our rejection and exchanged it for His perfection
All because of His one sacrifice
You are made holy, blameless in His sight
Hebrews 10:14 says you can stand worthy to have eternal life
Matthew records the temple veil being ripped from top to bottom in chapter 27 verse 51
Which means you can have full access to the Father, Spirit + Son
Your leaders have forgotten that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough
Why in the temple have you put the veil back up?
God’s presence is yours to embrace. Experience unveiling grace.

It’s like He’s gone outside, taken our dirty laundry off the line
And put on our filthy rags
Clothed us in clean robes
So we can stand inside the house spotless before our dad!

It’s like we need to get back to our home country and Jesus has paid the fare
He got arrested at customs so we could have nothing to declare
No baggage to claim because it’s no longer there
you’re on new soil, new land because of the sacrifice of this one man.

You don’t need that flimsy green card ever again
Why? Because Jesus is your temple recommend.
Hebrews 7: Jesus has made the permanent payment as your permanent high priest
You don’t need to pay a tithe in order to eat at the feast!
Nor do you need to argue about who has the priesthood blessing
Because Jesus’ worthiness is the only one you need to rest in!

If I put the Jesus I know next to Brad Wilcox’s idea of grace it doesn’t match
How can grace be grace if the free piano has strings attached?
Where if you don’t play perfectly you don’t appreciate your mum and dad?

Real, Scandalous, Amazing Grace doesn’t record your mistakes but takes delight in the fact you’re playing in the first place
The loving father takes a step further He books you to perform at the Royal Albert Hall Show
And no matter what you play
He hears Jesus hit the grace note!

Grace is never about relying on your own musical ability
Grace is letting the Composer sing through you His melody!

You have the freedom to pray directly to the Saviour like Stephen did in Acts 7:59
It’s not about being perfect
It’s letting Him say “you’re mine”
Don’t put your trust in feelings because they change like the wind
Ask yourself do you trust an organization or do you trust in Him?


1 John 5:13 is the last thing I’ll write to remind you that you can know for certain that you have eternal life
I pray that after you read this that you would choose to put your ultimate trust in the right Jesus.

Title: Weak Arguments #13: “There’s NOTHING in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”

Lies
An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Fred W. Anson
The Argument:
“There’s nothing in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”

Why It’s Weak:
As stated a number of times throughout this series, exaggeration erodes credibility and overstatement turns strong arguments into weak ones. This is an example of both: The fact of the matter is that there is some good and some truth in Mormonism despite the preponderance of errors and lies. This is just as pioneering cult researcher and lecturer Walter Martin said so well:

Within the theological structure of the cults there is considerable truth, all of which, it might be added, is drawn from biblical sources, but so diluted with human error as to be more deadly than complete falsehood.[1]

And as Bible teacher Don Basham noted, “All cults are at least 10% truth and 90% lie. If they didn’t contain some truth then no one would believe the lies – no one would join them.”[2] And I would add, based on my own experience in a cult, that if they didn’t meet some kind of a need no one would stay. So it shouldn’t surprise us to find some truth and some good in all cults – and the Mormon Church is no exception. Therefore, acknowledging what’s true and what’s good – without underestimating or discounting what isn’t – is simply a matter of common sense. And giving credit where credit is due is a matter of integrity.

1) Point One: There is some truth in the Mormon Church
Focusing exclusively on Christology, here’s what the Mormon Church gets right:

Warner Sallman, Warner Sallman, “The Head of Christ”
(circa 1941)

  1. They believe that Jesus preexisted in Heaven before becoming a man.
  2. They believe that Jesus is Jehovah, the God of Israel.
  3. They believe that we are to pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus.
  4. They believe that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father.
  5. They believe that Jesus was the Messiah, lived a sinless life, and did the miracles reported in the Gospels
  6. They believe that Jesus suffered and died on a cross.
  7. They believe that Jesus rose physically, bodily from the grave.
  8. They believe that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven.
  9. They believe that Jesus will return physically to the earth.[3]

2) Point Two: It’s not all wrong
It tends to get downplayed in the heat of battle but in the area of values, morality, and social issues, the Mormon Church is spot on in a number of areas. Mormon Researcher Eric Johnson, an Evangelical Christian who is generally critical of Mormonism, has gone so far as to identify ten areas (in David Letterman countdown fashion) that the LdS Church excels at and that he believes we can learn from:

10. Dedication to the heritage and the faith.
From a young age, Mormon children are taught about their heritage and the struggles that the early LDS pioneers faced when it came to living their faith. On the other hand, most of us Bible-believing Christians have very little knowledge of our history, including the conflicts and persecutions of the early Christian church. As a result, we do not benefit from the examples of our own past…

9. Overall morality.
While Mormons struggle with sin just like everyone else, they are generally well known for keeping a high moral codes and abstaining from a secular lifestyle. Faithful members are not to partake in drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Remaining chaste, personal modesty, and being honest (along with the other commandments) are important virtues in the LDS lifestyle…

8. Politics and religion mix.
The Mormon Church is willing to put its money where its mouth is when political issues warrant a moral response. Certainly not every member may like the conservative stance that the LDS Church takes. But it is admirable how the Church is willing to support those things it strongly believes in…

7. Organization in its leadership.
The LDS Church is a well-oiled machine when it comes to organization, from the top down to the bottom…

6. Positive peer pressure towards missions.
Many Mormon young people look with anticipation for the day when they can leave on a church mission… Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Christian young person were encouraged to spend two years of his or her life on the mission field? Perhaps many more career missionaries would be a result if short-term missions became a Christian priority…

5. Respecting Sundays as sacred.
Sundays in the Mormon Church are treated as a quiet day, a time to reflect and be with the family after attending the morning service at the local ward. Recreational and sporting activities as well as retail excursions are discouraged… We should not forget that the day of rest was created for the benefit of man…

4. Religious education for the youth.
The LDS Church is very concerned about educating its young people in the ways of its faith… Later, when the college years come and the young adult is challenged in his faith, he will have some possible answers to help him remain faithful to his religion…

3. Helping to supply the needs of the membership.
Mormons are known for being generous, even going out of their way to help their fellow members…

2. Preventing members from falling through the cracks.
When a Mormon fails to attend the services of his designated local ward for several weeks, he is sure to be missed… While I am not suggesting that Christian churches should become legalistic nags in order to force its membership to attend meetings and volunteer for projects, perhaps the general idea of following up on those who all of a sudden are no longer there would fulfill the shepherd role that the church is supposed to have…

1. The importance of families.
And the number-one thing we can learn from the Mormons is (drum roll, please) the priority the Mormon Church places on family life. Certainly many Christian families are very successful. Yet few churches emphasize the importance of the family like the Mormons do; they even set aside every Monday evening for Family Home Evenings to play games, talk, do devotions, etc…[4]

And Mr. Johnson isn’t alone, Christian Commentator Nick Asolas has developed his own list:

The Church Office Building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The Church Office Building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

1. Public Relations
If Christianity had a PR firm, it should have been fired decades ago. The fact that we don’t is so painfully obvious that preaching against our past failures has almost replaced the Gospel itself…

2. Staffing Issues
In the average Christian church, the largest budget section is the salary of the staff. We have managed to take a couple curious verses in the New Testament and turn them into a mandate for creating medium-sized corporations complete with corporate perks and parking spaces. I am not going to make a case against paid staff in this post, but it is possible…

3. Engaging the Community
I think this is because as church leaders, we know what we need to do (talk to our neighbors, etc) but we don’t know how to do it. The Mormons are great at this. Granted, their strategy is simple and hasn’t changed for decades, but they have conditioned their community now to know who they are and what they are about based on looks alone…

4. Social Media
The LDS Church is excellent at talking with people across their social media sites. There are several Facebook pages for the different sections and interests and multiple Twitter feeds users can follow for church news, devotions etc. The official LDS Facebook page is updated daily with videos, polls and conversations and has almost half a million users…

5. Unity
This is the biggest and most important. While there are varying sects of the LDS religion, for the most part, they are one unified body that offers a consistent experience across all regions and wards. The statement of faith for all communities is the exact same and there is no competition among branches…[5]

Now I have been extremely critical of Greg Stier the president and founder of “Dare 2 Share” in the past for his uncritical and discernment impaired “Mormon Envy” of Mormon youth programs[6] but I will acknowledge that in pointing to the finer aspects of those programs he made some good points, including this one:

We need to push our teens. We need to turn them into active activists. We need to build consistent opportunities for service, outreach and training. We need to equip them to share their faith and then go with them, leading the way. After all, we are youth leaders.[7]

And Methodist minister and youth ministry expert Kenda Creasy Dean agrees. In her book “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” she devotes the entire third chapter (entitled “Mormon Envy: Sociological Tools for a Consequential Faith”) to deconstructing and analyzing the Mormon youth enculturation process. In the end she concludes:

By intentionally reinforcing the significance of Mormonism’s particular God-story, by immersing young people in a community of belonging, by preparing them for a vocation and by modeling a forward-looking hope, Mormons intentionally and consistently create the conditions for consequential faith—so much so that Mormon teenagers are more likely than teenagers from any other group to fall in the category of young people the NSYR [National Studies of Youth and Religion] called highly devoted.[8]

In addition to everything that been said above, I would add my own “Mormon Envy” item to the list: Community. It was hinted at in the lists above but I would like to state it plainly: The LdS Church does a great job of creating a faith-based community of belonging that meets members social needs. Further, Mormon culture includes an element that’s missing from far too many of our churches: Good clean, fun. To be exact, they have fun for fun’s sake and nothing else.

When I was a kid I used to secretly hope that my parents would convert to Mormonism because the social events at the Ward Halls of Mormon friends and family members were always so darn fun! My Mormon cousins did Boy Scouting and they regularly had awesome, memory building, family outings. On the other hand my dreary, church meeting addicted, Nazarene parents seemed to think that fun was a sin and boredom a virtue. Their church’s idea of “fun” in my mind was, “Hey, I’ve got it! Let’s have another revival/potluck/prayer/testimony meeting!” Now you boring old religious people might love those things but they’re not exactly a good memory building, family bonding, experience if you’re a kid who’s still undecided about this whole Christianity thing – sorry folks, but there it is!

Even today, decades later, I have to ask: Why are so many of our churches so darn boring? Why can’t we just have some good clean fun every once in a while? Why can’t we just get together and have a good time? Why does everything have to be some form of religious utilitarianism?  I’m sorry fellow mainstream Biblical Christians but on the community thing, in comparison to the Mormon Church, we’re losing badly. This is an area where we can do a lot better in my opinion. I mean, come on, in the Old Testament God commanded the Jews to have seven festivals per year.[9] Yes, that’s right He commanded them! And since God seems to love a party shouldn’t we, His covenant people, love them too?

In fact, I’ve found that the rich community of Mormonism is the one thing that will keep members in the LdS Church long after they stopped believing in Joseph Smith, Mormon doctrine, or even God. Mormon culture is so rich and need fulfilling that it can be hard to leave when you’ve decided that its beliefs are hooey. If we did better in this area we would probably see far more Mormons leave the LdS Church and far less transition into atheism when they do.

The bottom line is this: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t get everything wrong and they get quite a few things right. In fact, in terms of operations, maintaining a family first philosophy, very intentionally and deliberately engaging the surrounding cultural, creating a community of purpose and belonging, and caring for their membership they do some things better than many mainstream Christian churches do.

3) Point Three: It’s not all lies
Well now, okay, okay, okay, yes, there is a lot of deceit that goes on in the LdS Church! I’ve said it, I feel better now. Most egregious of all is how it chronically, even habitually, lies to its own members. Never-the-less, as stated above, since it still contains at least 10% truth, there is some truth in Mormonism.

Further, Mormon Leaders don’t lie all the time.  And official church literature doesn’t lie all the time – but when you do lie they do “go big!” So the problem that I have with the “it’s nothing but a pack of lies!” portion of the weak argument isn’t that it’s not more true than false but that it’s hyperbole.

The Stronger Arguments:
Building a stronger argument in this area involves two things: 1) Not engaging in over-the-top hyperbolic rhetoric, and; 2) Presenting your argument in a way that’s fair and balanced rather than obviously biased.

First Suggested Strong Argument: Present a balanced rather than biased argument 
To illustrate how one does this, let’s consider the list of things that Mormonism gets right in the Christology that was presented above. Rather than arguing that, “There’s nothing in Mormon Christology that’s true!” (which is so extreme that it’s like announcing, “I’m biased, my mind is closed, and I’m unwilling to consider the full body of evidence!”) a more balanced argument would look something like this:

Unknown Artist, Unknown Artist, “Mormon Corporate Jesus”

“Well the LdS Church does get some things right in it’s Christology – including the two most important things, His divinity and His bodily resurrection from the dead. However, it also gets far more wrong, specifically: 

  1. Jesus is one of billions of spirits who preexisted in Heaven before becoming human.
  2. Jesus is one of three Gods ruling the universe (among other Gods that also exist).
  3. We are never supposed to pray directly to Jesus.
  4. God is Jesus’ “literal” father in the flesh—compromising the truth that Mary was a virgin.
  5. Some of Jesus’ statements must be revised according to Joseph Smith’s revelations.
  6. Jesus accomplished the Atonement primarily in the garden of Gethsemane.
  7. Jesus by his resurrection assures immortality in some heavenly kingdom for virtually everyone.
  8. Jesus returned to the earth to preach to the Nephites and start a separate church for them.
  9. Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith, condemned all existing churches, and restored the true church.[10]

Unfortunately, due to what it gets wrong, the Mormon Jesus isn’t the Christ of the bible – he is the type of ‘another Jesus’ that Paul warned us against in 2 Corinthians 11:4.”

Second Suggested Strong Argument: Present both sides of the coin
Closely aligned with the first strong argument is simply giving both sides of the coin. For example, even though the last section presented only the positive side of the coin, an argument regarding the both sides of the LdS Church’s Mormon Missionary program coin might look like this:

“Christian Youth Ministry experts like Greg Stier and Kenda Creasy Dean have praised your missionary program. Even Eric Johnson, who’s a critic of the Mormon Church, has said that it creates ‘positive peer pressure’ within your youth groups and culture. However, it has a dark side too, specifically: 

  1. BandaidMissionaryBadgeIt has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction puts pressure on disenchanted LDS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not. [click here for supporting evidence]
  2. LDS Church Missionary training and policies employ Mind Control techniques and tactics.
  3. The LDS Church focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members. For example, on January 29, 2013, the LDS Church announced that the Benemerito De Las Americas private school in Mexico would be closed and converted into a Missionary Training Center leaving its more than 2,000 LDS students to the mercy of the vastly inferior Mexican public education system.[11]

So while I and other Christians applaud the good impact that your missionary programs have on Mormon young people, at the same time we often wonder if they and others get hurt more often than they get helped by it. After all, isn’t 18-years old awfully young to be taking on a role in life that requires some degree of maturity and life experience? Sometimes I wonder if the price for being a Mormon Missionary is simply too high.”

Another example might go like this:

“One thing that I love about the LdS Church is how it does such a great job of creating a faith-based community of belonging that meets member social needs. As kid I loved how you all know how to have good clean fun for fun’s sake and nothing else. I mean, for goodness sake, even after they’ve left Ex-Mormons still try to find ways to stay engage in Mormon Culture – that says something!

However, what seems to be missing from LdS community is real authenticity and vulnerability. The community relations are social but not intimate. The perfectionist expectations create a culture of “looking good” – where you don’t admit that you aren’t measuring up or that you are  struggling in some way. As former Mormon composer J.A.C. Redford once said, “You get a casserole if you’re sick, but not if you’re doubting.” To be sure, evangelical churches can suffer from the same problem, but from what I’ve seen in the LdS Church it’s both extreme and chronic. Candidly, I think if I’d had to deal with my drug and alcohol addictions as a Mormon I’d still secretly be drunk and using! Have you ever thought about any of this?”

And you can trust me when I say this: They probably have. I know this because I’ve had Mormons talk to me about this when we were in private and they feel safe enough to open up. They can’t talk about this stuff to insiders but they will to outsiders that they feel safe with.

Third Suggested Strong Argument: “So what?”
Now I would imagine that some Mormons reading this article might be tempted to point to the positive things that have been said in this article and crow, “This only proves that we are indeed the only true and living Church!” This isn’t speculation, Mormon are prone to use the good works and positive aspects of their institution as proof of its veracity. How many times have we heard a Latter-day Saint say, “Just inspect the fruit – it’s good!” as evidence of the truthfulness of Mormonism? However, as thesis #70 of the 95 LDS Theses points out:

70. It [the LdS Church] publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work, when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend: “A study co-written by Cragun and recently published in Free Inquiry estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.”
(Caroline Winter, “How The Mormons Make Money”, Business Week; July 18, 2012)
[click here for supplemental evidence]

In the end, this argument proves nothing – it’s just a bad argument. There are a lot of groups that not only do good works but do far more of it than the LdS Church both per capita and in total. To cite one example, let’s talk about WalMart which in 2012 gave 1.7% of its pre-tax profits to charity.[12] Does that make WalMart the only true and living store?

Further, there are many other groups getting similar positive results from their members and in their communities. And this isn’t limited to religious groups, we could point to groups like the Red Cross, the United Way, the Shriners, the Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other institutions that give and do far more than the LdS Church does. And in terms of religious groups the Roman Catholic Church absolutely buries the LdS Church in terms of giving, good works – and some would add, demonstrably positive outcomes – with its membership. So I guess the Roman Catholic Church is really the only true and living church, right?

LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City which was sold off to Intermountain Healthcare. The Mormon Church now owns no hospitals. LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City, which was sold off to Intermountain Healthcare in 1975. The Mormon Church now owns no hospitals. period.

Finally, whenever, a Mormon uses this argument with me I always ask this question: “Where are the Mormon Church owned hospitals and orphanages?” Between where I live and work (a 51-mile stretch) there are seven Catholic hospitals and several Catholic orphanages. And I haven’t even added in the hospitals and orphanages that are owned by Protestant churches in the same area. So how many Mormon equivalents are there? Answer: Zero.  The LdS Church doesn’t even have any church owned hospitals – it sold them all off years ago.[13] And while the Mormon Church offers adoption as part of its family services portfolio it doesn’t own a single orphanage and has even outsourced its adoption agency.[14] In this area the LdS Church is conspicuous in its absence. Thus, its “good works” bravado is most certainly more heat than light – while it may sound good at first, it simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Finally, always remember the Golden Rule of Apologetics
The Golden Rule of Apologetics is:[15]

Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated

All too often I see Christians engaging in the exact opposite of this, in something that apologists call “Scorched Earth Tactics”. This is a tactic whereby one is determined to win the debate no matter what the cost. It’s like dropping napalm or salting the ground after each advance so nothing can grow in your wake. The end result is that all too often you win the debate but lose your debating opponent – forever.

This is a formula for failure since it can take Mormon years, even decades to shake off the mind control of the LdS Church, to unsnap psychologically, and to start considering the body of evidence through clear eyes rather than Mormon sunglasses. And then there are typically several years more after that before they transition out due to family, professional, and cultural entanglements. Therefore, it’s always best to strive to maintain a good relationship even if you’re at loggerheads as debating opponents. Think long, not short term, and always, always, always consider how to maintain the relationship without compromising your message or yourself.

That sounds so easy doesn’t it? It’s not. It can be so hard to keep one’s passions, ego, and pride in check when engaging Mormons. And if you really like the person it can be hard not to soften your message to maintain the relationship.  It’s a balancing act. Which is why we so desperately need the mind of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us rather than our fallen human nature. So for those moments when you feel your adrenaline beginning to pump, your palms beginning to sweat, and your eyes beginning to bulge I would encourage you to remember (or better yet, memorize) what God has said to us through His word:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
(2 Timothy 2:25 NIV) 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(Colossians 4:6 NIV)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
(1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

For as my wiser older sister once said so well, “The church is a mess and always has been. If it wasn’t for Jesus none of us would be Christians!” And that’s the best news of all – nothing depends entirely on you or me!

Summary and Conclusion:
Again, exaggeration erodes credibility and overstatement turns strong arguments into weak ones. The weak argument as presented here is an example of both.  As I have shown here there is some good and some truth in Mormonism despite the mountain of lies and errors in the LdS Church.  There is not only no shame in giving credit where credit is due, but doing so builds credibility. And not only do fair, full arguments demonstrate integrity, they also build trust so that honest relationships can form.  And above all they demonstrate that you’re committed to the truth above all else.

Do these things and your arguments will always be strong and have impact. It’s all about balance.

balanceTruth without love is too hard. Love without truth is too soft
— Jim Spencer, Idaho Pastor and former Mormon

NOTES
[1] Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults”, p.24

[2] Don Basham, “Spiritual Warfare”, lecture at Santa Ana High School 1980, taken from author’s personal notes from the event.

[3] Adapted from Rob Bowman, “The Mormon View of Jesus Christ”, Institute for Religious Research website.  I would encourage the reader to read this article in its entirety as it also discusses in full detail how Mormon Christology is both right and wrong in each of these areas.

[4] Abridged from Eric Johnson, “10 Things Christians Can Learn from the Mormons”, Mormon Research Ministry website. Again, I would encourage the reader to read this article in its entirety as it also discusses the LdS Church’s imbalances and flaws in regard to each of these items.

[5] Abridged from Nick Asolas, “5 Things We Need to Learn from the Mormon Church”, Shrink The Church website.

[6] See “An Open Letter to Greg Stier”

[7] Greg Stier, “Why Mormons Do Better Youth Ministry Than We Do”, Christian Post website.

[8] Kenda Creasy Dean, “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” (p. 50, Kindle position 881). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[9] See “What are the different Jewish festivals in the Bible?”, GotQuestions.org website

[10] Op cit, Rob Bowman.

[11] These three points were taken from “The 95 LDS Theses”.  They are  theses #30, #75  and #2 respectively.

[12] Sarah Frostenson and Megan O’Neil, “10 Companies That Gave the Most Cash in 2013”, The Chronicles of Philanthropy website.

[13] See the “Hospitals” article in the “The Encyclopedia of Mormonism”. BYU Harold B. Lee Library website.

[14] From the LdS Church’s “Adoption Services” website:

Current Services Offered by LDS Family Services
We have made changes to the way we provide services to single expectant parents and prospective adoptive families. As of August 1, 2014, we no longer function as a full-service adoption agency and instead outsource most adoption functions. However, we continue to provide consultation for adoptive couples, screening and registration on an adoption matching website, and counseling for single expectant parents.
(retrieved January 7, 2015)

[15] For a more thorough analysis and explanation of “The Golden Rule of Apologetics” see Kenneth R. Samples‘ seven part series on the subject which starts here, “The Golden Rule of Apologetics Part 1”.

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General Conference April 2014. Sunday Morning Session, by Vince Mccann

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President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As with many of these presentations by modern LDS leaders, given in conference, there is much general content here that any Christian would agree with (and even many non-religious people). Uchtdorf reminds his listeners to be thankful and grateful for the blessings we have even in the hard trying times.

As is often the case in LDS culture, Joseph Smith is held up as a saintly example. In this instance, Uchtdorf speaks of Smith still maintaining an attitude of gratitude despite being held prisoner in the Carthage jail. Without knowing the full story, one would get the impression that Smith was some sort of innocent party or prisoner to injustice. However, the facts are that Smith was being held due to encouraging a mob to destroy printing presses that were publishing a newspaper exposing his activity around polygamy (The Nauvoo Expositor), not because he was suffering persecution for following Christ.

The scripture in 1 Peter 4:12-16 comes to mind regarding this issue:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

It was at this prison that Smith met his untimely death at the hands of a those seeking revenge against him. Also lacking in the commonly accepted airbrushed history of this event in the minds of many Mormons is the fact that Smith retaliated back against his attackers by returning fire back at them. After this, Smith jumped from the window of the Carthage jail in an attempt to escape and gave a common Masonic cry: “O Lord, my God!“ in an apparent attempt to find help or some sort of restraint from possible fellow freemasons that may have been present in the mob (yes, Smith was a Freemason as well!). When Smith was announced dead after this attack he was found with an occultic item called a Jupiter Talisman.

Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of Mormons are unaware of the more accurate picture concerning Smith’s death. Rather, most tend to be exposed to an inaccurate and highly romanticized airbrushed version.




Elder M. Russell Ballard

In this presentation Elder Ballard asserts that we should not refer to Christ’s Church by any other name other than the one that the Lord Himself has declared: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and insists that the use of this name (rather than Mormon Church) identifies them as Christian to others. However, nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus insisting that believers refer to His Church by this title and the Mormon Church was not always known by this name. 

Eric Johnson, of Mormonism Research Ministry, notes the following about the name changes that the Mormon Church has undergone in times past:

Another point is that the LDS Church’s title has not always had Christ’s name since its foundation on April 6, 1830. The Mormon scripture Doctrine and Covenants 20:1 reports that the original name of the church was the “Church of Christ.” In 1834, the name was changed to “The Church of Latter-day Saints” (History of the Church 2:63). This took place at a priesthood conference at which Joseph Smith was present. The vote was unanimous. Note that the name of Christ was completely omitted. This was the church’s official title until April 26, 1838 when it was changed again to its current name. (The Name of God’s Church,)

As for Ballard’s assertion that using the name of Jesus Christ in the title of the Church identifies them as Christian, it is an easy thing for a religious group to claim the name of Jesus but be far removed from a genuine Christian group.  

Ballard then goes on to follow up on a message he gave at the last LDS general conference whereby he urged members to pray and reach out to non-Mormons with the message of the LDS Church. He recounts a story whereby a member reached out to a non-member on Facebook with some success. Mormon leadership have been recently been encouraging members to spend more time in their witnessing endeavours on the internet. This is good news for those of us who seek to evangelize them, as we have more of an opportunity now than ever to share the genuine Gospel of Christ, and make them aware of the errors of Mormonism that many are simply unaware of.

Jean N. Stevens

I didn’t get too much from this presentation and, on the whole, found it to be a very general talk on trusting in God and having faith, which of course Christians in other churches would agree with. 

I did find it interesting that there was a quote by C.S. Lewis and viewed this as another attempt from the Mormon Church to sound more Christian (as with Ballard’s desire for Mormons to be identified as Christian on account of the Church’s name).

Stevens mentions a family who would be together forever on account of the Mormon temple ordinances and belief in the eternal family unit. However, I often think about the numerous problems that this doctrine holds for LDS people when one considers how a family can be together in eternity. For example, how can families be together forever  when each person would inevitably be at various levels of “worthiness” and therefore attain different places in the Mormon plan of eternal progression? What about a family member who denies the teachings of Mormonism?




Bishop Gary E. Stevenson

There appeared to be a little more obvious Mormon doctrine in this presentation than what is often found in the majority of these conference talks. Stevenson speaks about the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence, declaring: “Before you were born you existed as a spirit.” 

Although no scripture is offered up in this particular presentation, the usual biblical passage that is often cited to attempt to back this belief up by the average Mormon is Jeremiah 1:4-5:

Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

However, notice that it is ‘the Lord’ who is saying that He knew Jeremiah before he was born. This shouldn’t surprise us seeing that God is omniscient and eternal. Of course God would know Jeremiah and all people before He even created them. If this text stated that Jeremiah knew God before he was in the womb that would be better evidence of a pre-existence.

Stevenson states: “Your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life.” and: “Certain things are absolutely essential” to attain this prize of eternal life. 

There is quite a list of things that follows that one must do to attain this prize of eternal life: “baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, temple ordinances, and partaking of the sacrament each week” as well as “keeping the commandments” “receive an ordinance” “self discipline” “daily prayer, scripture study and church attendance” and “keeping the covenants.”

In contrast, the Bible states that eternal life is a “gift” not a “prize”:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

We can know that we have eternal life by simple faith in Christ:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

Furthermore, the Bible also states that we are saved by faith alone in Christ not by performing some sort of tick list of good works:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Elder David A. Bednar

Bednar speaks about the load that each person carries and how this is necessary to produce spiritual growth. He then cites Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew: 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29).

However, I find it odd that Bednar cites this passage as the point of it is that Jesus wants to relieve us of our heavy laden and give us rest in Him. However, when one understands LDS theology, with it’s emphasis on performance, and works orientated salvation (whereby Stevenson‘s previous presentation is a prime example of this), it is easy to see how Mormon people tragically miss the simple and liberating beauty of this wonderful passage

President Thomas S. Monson

Monson’s focus is on love in this presentation and how acts of kindness can bring people into the Mormon Church. Monson urges his listeners to love the people that LDS members come into contact with and to take every opportunity to do this.

As with many conference talks, however, I found this presentation to be very general, and one with which the majority of people (including non-religious people) would concur with on many issues (themes such as being forgiving, merciful, patient, kindness, etc.).

Personally, I found that this particular talk (as well as many of the others) lacked any real passion. Without being insulting, I actually found myself losing interest in this talk especially. 

After listening to the entire Sunday morning session I felt that many of the speakers (though not all) simply seemed to be going through the motions, being careful to say what they thought was the right thing to say, trying to fit in as much as possible with other churches, and not really presenting anything very substantial.

General Conference April 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session, by Jim Gourlay

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President Boyd K. Packer

 

 

Mr Packer began his message with his quest for what he calls ‘a personal testimony of the gospel’. He is after religious certainty. The question he raised was a good one: how do we know, of all the competing religious claims in this world, which is true? Is there a certain word from God by which to evaluate the true from the false? Can we know with confidence the path that leads to eternal life?

 

What happened for Mr Packer? He had a religious experience in prayer. He felt something which he described as ‘personal’, ‘intimate’, leaving him with a sense of ‘joy and awe’. We presume that this experience dispelled his personal doubts. Later on he continued his religious quest believing he was hearing the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

The Problem of Subjectivism

 

Mr Packer exemplifies one of the great problems in Mormonism. As the Mormon retreats to his personal experience the more it lies beyond the realm of criticism. The Mormon thinks this is an advantage as he feels safe. After all, you cannot argue with an experience.

 

But what applicability has Mr Packer’s experience for anyone else? This is the problem for the Mormon: he may say, ‘I have had an experience’, but haven’t we all?

 

When I was an atheist I had a conversion experience to atheism. I had struggled with the problem of how there could be a good God who allows evil. In one of those moments of ‘insight’ (so I believed at the time) I saw a resolution to this problem. If there is no God there is no ‘problem of evil’. A Mormon, understandably,  won’t allow my experience to be of universal application. I can’t imagine I would convert a Mormon by my ‘testimony’. But why not? Well, the Mormon will figure, it’s just an experience you had.

 

 

The counter argument could be that Mr Packer experienced God and didn’t just have an ‘insight’. Well then, I have some religious experiences of my own. I have experienced God is ways, I would imagine, every bit as profound as Mr Packer’s. I won’t go into them, but let’s just say I had experiences that gave me great certainty that God exists, even that Jesus has risen from the dead.

 

Do his experiences prove his distinctly Mormon beliefs? Hardly. Why should they? I know a Hindu who had a powerful experience (a miracle) to confirm his belief in a certain guru). Will Mr Packer change his beliefs on the basis of this man’s experience? No. Does his experience prove his Hindu beliefs. Mr Packer can hardly accept that. If he wouldn’t allow someone else’s experiences to contradict his beliefs why should he expect his experiences to carry any weight with anyone else?

 

What of his hearing the ‘whisperings of the Holy Spirit’? Here another, related problem emerges. How confused is God the Holy Spirit? Why are his ‘whisperings’ to Mormons contradicted by his whisperings to mainstream Christians? Why does the mainstream Christian experience the Spirit testifying to the uniqueness of the 66 books of the Bible as breathed out by God but experiences nothing of the sort when reading other religious literature such as the Book of Mormon? When the orthodox Christian experiences the confirmation of the truth of the Spirit-inspired Scripture in his spirit that the whole apparatus of the temple, its sacrifices, priesthood etc has been fulfilled in Christ (and that the LDS priesthood is neither necessary nor efficacious), what criterion adjudicates these competing claims?

 

 

 

William Walker

 

Mr Walker likes church history and has found his faith to be ‘fortified’ by those who have gone before and lived true to the faith. I presume by ‘the faith’ he means ‘the Mormon faith’, for it is church history that provides one of the strongest challenges to Mormon claims. Far from fortifying the Mormon faith, the pages of (universal) church history bear testimony to the novelty and heterodoxy of Mormonism.

 

In essence he told his audience that the  Mormon story of faith and sacrifice is their heritage. No one will deny that Mormon pioneers may have made sacrifices. And we can indeed be inspired by the heroic examples of those who have gone before us.

 

Wilford Woodruff was working in the Liverpool and Preston areas in the early days of Mormonism. He then went south and came to Herefordshire. A group of the United Brethren (former Primitive Methodists) were there who had been praying for light and guidance (shy had they abandoned the gospel of Wesley and Whitefield? Why wasn’t the gospel itself light and guidance?). They believed Woodruff was the answer to their prayers. They converted en mass to Mormonism.

 

The Problem of Displaced Authority

 

One of these men, a forebear of Harris’, joined the Mormon Battalion in the American-Mexican War. Why did he join at great person cost? Because the man believed that Brigham Young spoke as a prophet, as if God himself were speaking.

 

Here lies a great problem for Mormonism. If the Bible alone is not the wholly sufficient Word of God so that the man of God is ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim.3:16-17) then there must be another authority for the believer. Authority in Mormonism is displaced from the Bible (where it ought rightly to be) and is vested in the governing authorities, especially the living prophet, and the other LDS scriptures, also given to us by LDS authorities. When the Prophet speaks, so we are led to believe, God speaks. If he leads the Mormon into war then to stay at home is disobedience to God. If he says, believe this, then to disbelieve is to call God a liar.
There is no higher authority than the governing authorities, if we are to believe the 14 fundamentals of following the Prophet by Ezra Taft Benson where he said: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works. and The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture. The authority placed in the hands of man in the LDS church is staggering, if this talk by a Mormon Apostle is to be taken seriously. 

 

So what is to stop the current governing authorities from teaching falsehood? The believing Mormon will say that the authorities are led by the Holy Ghost and so will lead into truth and give certainty. But weren’t Smith and Young led by this same ‘Holy Ghost’? Did the Holy Ghost inspire those parts of the Doctrines and Covenants that teach polygamy? Did the Holy Ghost direct Young to strenuously deny the priesthood to blacks and teach the Adam-God doctrine? If Young erred on the latter point can’t today’s authorities be found to err in years to come?

 

Mormons claim God has always had a prophet on earth except in times of apostasy and the church is led by the Spirit. A church truly led by the Spirit would have unchanging doctrine. What do we see in Mormonism – constantly changing doctrine and constantly revised Scriptures.

 

 

Tom Perry

 

Mr Perry recounted his grandfather and a story he heard as a boy. He asked his grandfather how to know right from wrong. His grandfather explained with an illustration. A team of horses must always know who is in charge. If a member of a team does not need a driver it will not work as a team.

 

The story has a spiritual application. Who is the driver? The Lord. He knows best. The team member must be obedient. The harness and bit represent the promptings of the Spirit. All that is needed is the ‘small, still voice’ that the Lord speaks to us. Out of respect for our agency it is never a strong or forceful tug’

 

The problem of making the Bible say anything you like

 

Apart from the fact that the small, still voice is not, in context, the whisperings of the Spirit in the conscience of the believer, Mr Perry demonstrates the error of eisegesis – that is the opposite of exegesis. Eisegesis means to read into the Bible what you want it to mean, rather than to take out of it the meaning given by the author.

 

Mr Perry quoted James 3 which mentions putting a bit in a horse’s mouth as if in confirmation of his spiritual analogy. But James 3 is not talking about the promptings of the Spirit. It reads:

 

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6, NIV)

 

It is evident that James is talking about how our words can cause trouble even though the tongue is a small object. But seemingly the meaning of James’ words is irrelevant to Elder Perry. I presume he remembered his grandfather with fondness, wanted to tell a good story, found a reference to bits in horses’ mouths and was determined to force-feed it down his hearers’ throats. I am familiar with the temptation – but it must be resisted. A failure to resist is to rob the Bible of its message. It is to gag God. When this happens the Bible becomes a piece of play-dough fashioned according to the shape the speaker desires. The message reflects the speaker’s opinions, the Bible is quoted supposedly buttressing the speaker’s opinions with divine authority and the hearers are unaware that they have been as effectively conned as by a magician’s sleight of hand.

 

Now people routinely take Scriptures out of context, but isn’t this man a leading figure in the restored church? If this man is willing to twist Scripture against the intention of the Holy Spirit who inspired it, what’s to stop the rank and file of Mormons from doing the same? But more, if the Bible can mean anything you want it to mean then it is meaningless. If  context is irrelevant to determining the meaning of a text then all interpretations are valid. This is because the true intention of an author is found by looking at the context. If all interpretations are valid then that text is no more worth studying than reading your spaghetti soup for  inspiration.

 

Were any of his hearers familiar with James 3? Did any of them check the reference? Or did they take his word for it since he is an ‘authority’ in the church? Shouldn’t we expect a leading figure in the ‘true church on earth’ to not abuse the meaning of a text like this?

 

 

Lawrence E. Corbridge

 

Mr Corbridge recounted the story of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. There has always been opposition to the true faith. Just as Christ was crucified so the dirt will fly in the restored church. Smith was opposed because he brought the truth.

 

The problem of invalid reasoning

 

Now it may be that those who bring the truth face opposition and hostility but it does not follow that those who face hostility bring the truth. A drunkard may be obnoxious and generate hostility but he is not thereby a man sent from God. This is not to imply anything about Joseph Smith’s character – it is merely a fact of logic. To state it more exactly:

 

If situation A always brings about consequence B we are not justified to say that because situation B exists A must have brought it about.

 

Why? Because B may have multiple causes. If I drive my car off a cliff (situation A) I damage my car (B). Now if one day I see a damaged car (B) am I bound to conclude the car has been driven off a cliff (A)? Of course not. The car could have been vandalised or hit by a truck etc.

 

Now a person may not care for this line of reasoning. Mr Corbridge’s hearers may have been persuaded. But he is wrong. They are wrongly persuaded. Now I know that to say anybody else is wrong is a heresy against the orthodoxy of postmodernism, but I don’t care for that. Logic is still logic and if you see a damaged car and always conclude it was driven off a cliff don’t expect me to follow you.

 

 

The problem of claiming continuity with the church Jesus founded

 

Mr Corbridge claimed:

 

The Church of Jesus Christ today is fundamentally the same church he organised during his mortal ministry with prophets and apostles, Melchizedek and Levitical priests and elders, high priests, deacons, teachers, bishops and the seventy – al is described in the Bible’

 

But it isn’t. There is only one high priest – Jesus himself (Hebrews 8:1). There is no priestly cast but rather all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9). There are to be no temples on earth because the one in Jerusalem was merely a copy of the heavenly reality. Now that Jesus has entered into the Holy of Holies on behalf of His people no imperfect sacrifices on earth by a sinful person can do anyone any good. Jesus declared the time of worship in a temple has passed away (John 4:21).

 

The last apostle was Paul (1 Cor.15:8)and none of those claiming the title today has seen the risen Lord or been with him the whole time of his earthly ministry. And the ‘seventy’ was not an enduring office but a temporary witness amongst certain of the Jews before the gospel went to the gentiles (Luke 10).

 

He goes on:

 

“After the death of the apostles, priesthood authority was withheld from the earth”

 

This claim, which lies at the heart of the LDS Church’s legitimacy as a distinct religion, is easily and often asserted. But it has no basis in the teaching of the Bible, Jesus, his apostles and those who came immediately after them.

 

The apostasy mentioned in the New Testament is never described as total or universal (1 Tim.4:1 says ‘some’ not all will depart from the faith). Jesus certainly warned of false prophets to come, but why does He never speak of a universal falling away? How can He promise to be with His church ‘always’ to the end of the age if there was a falling away of nearly 1800 years? Was Christ ‘with’ an apostate church?

 

Why do the early fathers say there was a continuity with the teaching of the apostles? Was Polycarp not a true disciple of John? Why was no warning of a total falling away recorded anywhere in the church fathers?  Why is no mention made of a coming restorer? Why did the Lord not warn the churches in Asia (Rev.1-3) that they would all be entering a time of apostasy?

 

The problem for the LDS church is this: they need a total apostasy to give their organisation a reason to be. But in searching for it in Scripture they must take verses out of context (Amos 8 is about the northern kingdom of Israel) and read into them things that are not there. A final example: the ‘apostasy’ of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is resolved not by a restored church but by ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess. 2:1) which will inaugurate ‘the day of the Lord’ (2 Thess. 2:2). This speaks of the revealing of ‘the lawless one’ whom ‘the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming’ (2 Thess.2:8). Like the other Scriptures, none of them fit a scenario dreamt up by Joseph Smith or any leaders of the LDS church.

 

Mr Corbridge asked a good question:

 

Which is more likely: that he (Smith) dreamed it all up or that he had the help of heaven?…Do the Scriptures he produced sound like the words of man or the words of God? …He was either pretender or prophet. Look at all of the evidence.

 

Well I have looked at the evidence and conclude that the Book of Mormon contains a lot of plagiarism from the King James Bible. The commands given to Emma Smith to give in to the polygamous wishes of her husband have all the marks of ‘revelations of convenience’ (D&C 132:51-54). If you don’t believe that just tell your wife tonight that God told you to get another wife. Accept it or you will be ‘destroyed’.’

 

 

After all is said and done…

 

In summation, though there were a few valid points made here and there, when it came to a proclamation of the true gospel, what was presented was a works-based message. In effect, that message said that the atonement of Christ was a starting point that was to be received but it was not sufficient to save. What man must do is add his good works to it: baptism, tithing etc.

 

The Judaisers added to the gospel. When Paul came across the message of the Judaisers in Galatia he did not spend time commending them for their good morals – though they were likely very moral. He said they had abandoned the gospel and deserted God (Galatians 1:6). They had turned to a different gospel because they added works to faith so as to be justified before God. They had abandoned the true faith which the apostle taught by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and which we all must learn to be saved:

 

…a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16, NIV)

 

The abandonment of the gospel is the consequence of the problems I have highlighted. Subjectivism replaces the objective truths of the Word of God for man-made teachings. A displaced authority makes erring humans with fallible ideas the source of truth instead of the Word of God. Making the Bible say what you wish robs God of His speech and hearers to access to the mind of God and His message. Relying on faulty logic can persuade people of falsehoods. And claiming continuity with Jesus’ church is refuted by the evidence.

 

Dear Mormon reader: please consider it possible that you are in error. Search the Scriptures. They have not been corrupted as you have been taught but contain the true message that will deliver you from eternal death into the kingdom of God’s Son.

 

I bear witness that Jesus Christ is the uncreated, eternal, second person of the Triune God and that by faith in Him alone without the addition of any meritorious works we are justified in God’s sight as the Scriptures teach.

 

 (Sunday Morning session review coming soon!)

 

Updates on the Court Case

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It’s not the intention of this blog to comment on everything with this case (however I will come back to it here and there), fascinating as it is, this blogs purpose has the purpose of seeking to bring Mormons and anyone else for that matter to Christ, by faith. I hope people will tour around this site and come back here and there to see what we are saying.

So I want to start this blog by pointing you towards what I think are the best places to go for regular updates on all of this.

Steven Bloors Blog

Christopher Ralph’s Blog

Mormon Think

There are other great sites but these ones are the most closely connected to those actually pursuing this case.

However one thing has just caught my eye, this article on the exmormon.org site. On the subject of the Book of Abraham it says this:

–1) The Book of Abraham was translated from ancient Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith (as relating to Mormon Church “truth” claims that the Book of Abraham is claimed to be the handwritten autobiographical account of Abraham, penned by Abraham himself.

Proving that this is a false representation by Monson and the Mormon Church is not an attack on the religious doctrine, per se, as found in its canonized Book of Abraham (even though one can assert there are falsehoods contained therein, as well as heinous doctrines); rather, what is being legally challenged is the claim made in the Book of Abraham’s introductory statement that it (the Book of Abraham) was produced as result of direct translation by Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

In an effort to get around its false representation, the Mormon Church is now claiming that Smith did not literally translate the Book of Abraham parchments from actual ancient Egyptian characters. Instead, the Mormon Church is claiming that Smith used those parchments only as a “catalyst” to facilitate an “inspired” translation that was not dependent on what was actually written on the papyri.

In actuality, the Book of Abraham (contrary to what it claims in its introduction), is not an account personally written by the ancient Israelite prophet Abraham by Abraham’s own hand up on papyri but, rather, is a common funerary text from the Egyptian Book of the Dead–of which there are many in existence and which have been accurately translated by professional Egyptologists. Phillips has personally seen such original Egyptian funerary texts in museums in Birmingham and London, England.

Even pro-Mormon Egyptologists have acknowledged that, contrary to Mormon Church truth claims, the Book of Abraham is not an actual translation from ancient Egyptian of Abraham’s life but, instead, the Book of Abraham is falsely represented to have been translated from papyri that are, in reality, from Egyptian Book of Dead, with no relation to at all Abraham’s life and not written by Abraham.

 

 

The Part that’s bolded particularly interested me, just last year a around of changes were made to Mormon scriptures, this as far as I am aware was by no means done in secret and they are available to buy online openly sold as new editions. However before these changes as talked about above, the book of Abraham Introduction said.

The Book of Abraham. A translation from some Egyptian papyri that came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835, containing writings of the patriarch Abraham. The translation was published serially in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842, at Nauvoo, Illinois. See History of the Church, vol. 4, pp. 519-534.

Now it says:

The Book of Abraham. An inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri. The translation was published serially in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842, at Nauvoo, Illinois.

More on this here.

In times past it has been absolutely denied that the papyrus found in the 1960’s were the actual ones that Joseph Smith used. LDS.org here, and Fair the LDS Apologetics organization here deny this to be the case.

So why the change? This idea that the book of Abraham is an inspired translation was never mentioned back in Joseph Smiths time. It seemed to be understood that Smith knew the language and translated it. An excellent article on this whole issue is here.

A very rare interview with a Mormon Apostle on this issue can be seen at the beginning of this video.

Again this idea that its an inspired translation and not a literal one is seeming to be communicated here, rather than boldly saying that Smith translated the plates literally and correctly. The Mormon Church has a long history of changing its doctrines and scriptures in response to social pressures. It seems that they may have seen this one coming.

I have had discussion with an LDS guy on facebook that adamantly denies that this Apostle Jeffrey Holland here is admitting the plates were not literally translated, how do you understand it? Why make that change if the above articles denying the papyrus were found are correct?