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GENERAL CONFERENCE OCTOBER 2017 – SUNDAY AFTERNOON SESSION REVIEWED BY ANDREW BROWN, PART 2

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Essential Truths – Our need to Act

By Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella

 

It is encouraging to see clear teaching on what the LDS Church believes. It makes it much easier to search for truth when beliefs are presented accurately and clearly, for this I applaud Elder Parrella.

The First Vision and the Prophet Joseph Smith brought forth knowledge and truth that are essential to our happiness in this life and to our exaltation.

I’d like to start out by asking a simple question, which vision account are we talking about? Yes I know some will say that they are just different aspect of the same account but I’d ask you to view them chronology along side Joseph’s other written works. For example the first vision account which states it was an angel and doesn’t mention The Father and Son having bodies of flesh and bone Matches Joseph’s written work at the time: like the Book of Mormon which doesn’t mention the bodies of flesh and bone in fact it denies it, more about this below.

When I was about seven years old, I asked my mother, “When you and I die and go to heaven, will you still be my mother?” She was not expecting such a question. But answering to the best of her knowledge, she said, “No, in heaven we are going to be brothers and sisters. I will not be your mother.” That was not the answer I was hoping for.

 

When I first starting meeting with Mormon missionaries, two of the first Elders I met with discussed the idea of the eternal family, I found it very strange as I knew Jesus had discussed the subject with the Pharisees in Matthew 22, Jesus understanding of marriage existing after this life seemed in total opposition to what the missionaries where telling me.

 

“The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died.  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:23-30

 Jesus would seem to hold the same view as Elder Parrella’s mother. It isn’t that there is no marriage in heaven; I believe that there is simply just one marriage in heaven, the marriage between Jesus and his bride the church, if our experience of being with Christ is our greatest joy, then why would we need that earthly inferior joy that comes form the union of husband and wife wonderful as that might be.

As I brought up during a review of last years conference, I believe C.S. Lewis explains this very well when he writes:

“The letter and spirit of scripture, and of all Christianity, forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternatives either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time.

On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard [the] absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”

Parrella says:

Sometime after that short interaction, two young men arrived at the gate of our home. By some miracle, my father allowed them to come in. They said they were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…. They taught us that families truly can be together after this life as father, mother, and sons and daughters.

To continue the analogy of the boy wanting to eat chocolate, here we have the situation where upon hearing from his mother that chocolate doesn’t feature in intercourse, rather than accepting that answer from the parent who would know, he asks other boys if chocolate is involved until he finds one who tells him that really intercourse is all about chocolate. He then decides to believe the other boy along with anything else the other boy has to say because he likes those answers better than his parents.

Jesus clearly taught that families are a construct for this lifetime only, when we love another dearly it might be a hard truth to swallow, however I am going to trust the one who holds the future and is now in the heavens, rather than the teaching of another who claims to follow Jesus but rejects what he taught on the subject.

 

Lets examine the three ‘truths’ of the talk:

 

1, God Calls Prophets to Lead and Guide Us

An essential truth we learn from the First Vision and the Prophet Joseph Smith is that God calls prophets, seers, and revelators to instruct, guide, warn, and lead us. These men are God’s mouthpieces on earth, with the authority to speak and act in the name of the Lord. By strictly following their counsel, we will be protected and receive choice blessings in our journey on this earth.

 Here I believe we have a partial truth. Does God call prophets to instruct, guide, warn and lead us? Yes, the bible is clear on this; many books in the Old Testament are written by such prophets.

In the New Testament we have verses such as Ephesians 4:11

 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”

2 Peter 1:20-21

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Revelation is an entire book filled with prophecies, a proportion of which was future for John but is history for us today.

For a fuller understanding of the prophetic role in the New testament church I’d strongly recommend you check out this link at The Gospel Coalition.

What I would like to address is does Joseph’s vision give us the essential truth that God call’s prophets?

The accepted vision account found in the Pearl of great Price today tells us that Joseph saw “two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

 

John 6:46

“Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he [Jesus] which is of God, he hath seen the Father.”

 

Some have argued that the bible contradicts itself as some places we are told you cannot see God and live and at other time prophets such as Moses are described as having seen God face to face. I believe this is only possible to understand within the Trinitarian view of God. No-one has seen God the father at any time – Exodus 33:20, however Jesus is identified as God and people saw him. So we can see God by seeing Jesus and still live.

So if we evaluate Joseph’s vision based on whether the father can be seen then it falls short.

Another test of a prophet can be found in Deuteronomy 13:1-3

“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

So even if a so-called prophet can performs wonderful signs – perhaps even writing a book, which seems like scripture. Even if he can tell the future as Joseph Smith claimed, if the prophet leads you after other Gods you are to reject him.

Lets continue to the next point raised by Elder Parrella to see what Joseph revealed about God.

 

2, The Knowledge of the True Nature of God

Here we have some truths we all agree on mixed in with teachings unique to the LDS church. Lets examine them one by one.

 Another truth we learn because of the First Vision and the Prophet Joseph Smith is the true nature of God.

Firstly I find it strange that this is presented as a new truth with was only revealed by Joseph’s vision, are you telling me no one before 1830 knew the true nature of God?

Just imagine how blessed we are to know that God is a being with a body of flesh and bones as tangible as ours,

This statement is potentially very confusing, which god is being referred to? In Mormonism there isn’t just one, after all according to the King Follett Discourse, ‘God’ was once a man on another planet and married Mormon men may become gods also. However let us assume the most likely answer and go with God the father or ‘Elohim’ in LDS lingo. Does God the father have a body of flesh and bone according to the bible or indeed the book of Mormon?

Firstly as far as I’m aware this is nowhere taught in the Book of Mormon, like the bible which teaches in John 4:24 “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” the Book of Mormon also refers to God as a spirit.

Alma 18:24-28

And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea.And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

Alma 22:9-11

And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem? And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this? And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

 

I would suggest that the idea of God having a body of flesh and bone was a later doctrinal development. In the first vision account of 1832 it was an angel that appeared to him, no mention of the bodies of flesh and bone. See here for more on this.

Parrella says:

 “…that we can worship a God who is real, whom we can understand, and who has shown and revealed Himself and His Son to His prophets—both prophets of old and prophets in these latter days.”

Here we are in agreement it is wonderful that God the Father has revealed himself to mankind, especially through his Son.

 He is a God who hears and answers our prayers; a God who watches us from heaven above and is constantly concerned about our spiritual and temporal well-being

 That God would listen to each of us and be moved by our experience of the different circumstances of life is truly astonishing. When preparing for a sermon on the resurrection of Lazarus, I was struck again by how much Jesus despite seeing the bigger picture was deeply moved by the sorrow of those around him. See John 11 in particular verses 33-35.

A God who gives us agency to decide for ourselves to follow Him and obey His commandments without coercion; a God who gives us blessings and allows us to face trials so we can grow and become like Him. He is a loving God who provided a plan through which we can enjoy happiness in this life and in eternity.

Here are more points of agreement, we must choose to follow Jesus, It was out of love that he came and without him we are lost. As mentioned in part 1 of the review it was very encouraging to hear from elder Ellis how God uses the hard time for our benefit

 

3, Jesus Christ Is Our Savior

From the First Vision and the Prophet Joseph Smith, we received knowledge of the reality and sacred mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of our religion.

We certainly agree about the totally necessity of Jesus, what we would disagree on is the sufficiency of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament to give us the knowledge necessary for salvation through Jesus. Paul was able to write to Timothy: “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Therefore the scripture that was available to Timothy, without question the Old Testament and I would also argue that the writing of Paul and the other apostles were also being referred to as scripture by the early church given Peter can refer to Paul’s writings as scripture in 2 Peter 3:16. Therefore to claim Joseph needed to bring new information so we could understand Jesus role as Saviour doesn’t seem to have much credibility.

Because death was introduced into the world, as surely as we live now, we will all die one day. One of the effects of death would be the permanent loss of our physical body; we wouldn’t be able to do anything to reclaim it. In addition, because we all sin during our journey here on earth, we would never be able to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence. Can you imagine the consequences of being deprived of God’s presence and never again having a body?

A Savior and Redeemer was needed to free us from death and sin. Under Heavenly Father’s direction, Jesus Christ came to earth, suffered, died on the cross, and was resurrected so that we too can be resurrected and, with sincere repentance and the making and keeping of sacred covenants, be once again in the presence of God.

Here we can agree with all but the final sentence that the keeping of sacred covenants as defined by the LDS church is essential for salvation. For instance baptism, the thief of the cross would be with Jesus in paradise without the opportunity to be baptised. When discussing this issue with missionaries they countered that baptism for the dead could have been preformed for him. However for a fuller understanding of the context of 1 Corinthians 15:29 please see the article on CARM.

Hebrews 9:27 reminds us we die once then comes judgement and in John 9:4 Jesus reminds us we must work while it is day. The need for a second chance is alien to Jesus teaching as he taught that it was all whom the Father gives him will come to him. (John 6:37)

Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Lawgiver, the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our King, our All. May we all continue to act upon these essential truths and knowledge, offering our obedience to God and His Beloved Son. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I too pray that we would all follow the true Jesus Christ, knowing who he truly is. Not one of many gods but the one true God. May we act upon the essential truth recorded in the Old and New Testament that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. , offering our obedience to God the Father and His Beloved Son. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Mormonism – Shadow Or Reality?

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I have been wondering where I am going to go next in this blog, in the past I have had a structure of articles usually theologically focused, following some kind of theme or Mormon teaching book.

This is good but has a lot of commitment in terms of writing long articles and can take away the fun of being spontaneous. I think from now on I am just going to write about whatever I am learning about or reading about in Mormonism, or just anything Mormon related that gets my attention, I think that is actually called blogging haha. However I will keep the general conference reviews going as I love that as a way to keep in touch with up to date Mormon teaching.

The reason I named this Blog, “The Blog of Mormon” was so that I have the freedom to write about anything Mormon related, not just matters relevant to me being an Evangelical Christian, wanting to communicate the true gospel as I see it to Mormons, though of course that is not going away, but not every article will be totally focused on that, I am generally interested in all things Mormonism, and not always just to say how untrue it is, though that is not going away either.

So anyway I have started reading the classic work by Jerald and Sandra Tanner , which is Mormonism: Shadow Or Reality?. I think this was originally written in the 1960’s and is a condensation of lots of the work done by the Tanners around that time.

I am of course very late in reading this, but I have heard it mentioned so much recently that I thought it was time to pick up the copy I have had on the shelf for years.

Long before there was the internet, and ministries like mine, there was Utah Lighthouse Ministry. From its inception to today you could always get Sandra Tanner on the phone just by calling them. Jerald sadly passed away in 2006.

Because of their long standing work in being critical of Mormonism they have been very much demonized by Mormon members and apologists alike, the problem is that whenever people make contact, they speak to a very friendly lady called Sandra who is not at all pushy and just helpful, which has disarmed many people to what she is saying. Meeting Sandra on my mission trips to Utah was a massive high point.

Image result for mormon stories sandra tannerAnyway finally on Sandra Tanner, she was interviewed in the last few years on the Mormon Stories podcast, you can find all 4 parts here, this interview is amazing and goes right through her story, I cant recommend it enough. I think its the most important interview regarding Mormonism and Christianity ever.

My target is to finish Shadow or Reality by the end of the year, which may be tough for me as its about 600 pages long but I will have a go, as I am reading I am planning to post a few articles along the way as topics grab my attention.

A lot of what I post about, Ill be honest will have many posts and articles about it elsewhere, however my intention is simply to get some conversation and fresh awareness going on some issues, many of which may be new to me as well.

Look forward to your comments, and thanks for reading.

 

GENERAL CONFERENCE OCTOBER 2017 – SUNDAY AFTERNOON SESSION REVIEWED BY ANDREW BROWN

Image result for general conference october 2017 sunday afternoon

I’d like to start my saying that I enjoyed listening to the General Conference October 2017 Sunday afternoon session; much of what is said was great advice on Sunday afternoon Elder M. Russell Ballard reminded us we must “heed the words of Jesus”. Elder Joni L. Koch reminded us during his talk: when meet to worship “we should leave behind our differences, including race, social status, political preferences, and academic and professional achievements, and instead concentrate on our common spiritual objectives.”

Elder Stanley G. Ellis very wisely drew our attention to the fact that sometimes: hard times are exactly what we need; spiritually speaking. “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us, and gives us a chance to prove ourselves.” His talked reminded me of Hebrews 12:6 “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Sometimes God uses circumstances to refine our faith and correct us. Even in these times we should remember Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Elder Stanley also reminded us that hard is part of God’s plan, the crucifixion, is possibly the worst experience we can imagine and yet is was God’s plan to save us.

I found what Elder Jose L. Alonso said very encouraging; “I know that our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love us and are willing to help us to act as we love one another as they have loved us. And I know that by serving and forgiving others with real love, we can be healed and receive the strength to overcome our own challenges.” I really do believe we must love one another, the example Jesus left us is so challenge we desperately need his help to follow it especially is our self obsessed, consumer driven culture; to love another like we love ourselves is an alien concept.

I wish all would heed much of what was said at the general conference. So I guess the question remains, If I agree with so much why am I not a Mormon?

For me it all comes down to the topic spoken about by Tad R. Callister. Is the Book of Mormon really true?

Let us examine the arguments put forth by Tad R. Callister.

Image result for “First, the critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events.”.

“First, the critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events.”

The first thing worth noting is that we should not be considering the modern Book of Mormon, which has been through years of editing. You can purchase a 1830 Book of Mormon from Amazon should you wish to compare it. If you do you will immediately notice there are no verses divisions, however if you look further you’ll see changes to the text itself. Many of the changes are grammatical however some change the meaning of the text. For a full list please see here.

Lets now turn to Tad’s points.

Did Joseph smith have limited education?

It has been argued that there is no way Joseph was intelligent enough to write the Book of Mormon, however the evidence we do have suggests otherwise. Many young people have accomplished things that seem beyond their years. Alexander the Great led an army at age of eighteen, and Mozart was composing music by the age of six. In his late teens Joseph Smith showed signs of being a creative and charismatic leader as evidenced by his leadership in various money-digging schemes. According to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, he was a creative storyteller as well:

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.”(1)

 

Even though Joseph Smith had little formal education doesn’t mean that he wasn’t educated. He enrolled in school when he was twenty. Joseph’s father had also been a school teacher and journalist, it is unlikely he wouldn’t have passed on some of his knowledge to his son.

Author Dan Vogel observed: “Certainly, Smith had less schooling than his wife, but he managed to write reasonably well. After examining several letters from the early period of Smith’s life (1831-32), historian Dale Morgan concluded that they exhibit “a flair for words, a measure of eloquence, and a sufficient degree of schooling.” William Smith [Joseph’s brother] challenged the view that his brother was “unlettered” as a “mistake,” remembering that Joseph “wrote [in] a plain intelligible hand.” Still, Smith’s talent lay not in correct orthography but, while telling a story, in his sense of narrative and ability to create memorable images. The book Joseph dictated abounds with examples of his poor grammar and Yankee dialect as well as his penchant for digression, redundancy, and wordiness. Rarely are his characters’ inner moral conflicts reflected. Most often we encounter flat, uncomplicated, two-dimensional heroes and villains. Generally the plots are simple and frequently improbable. However, the point was not to produce a literary masterpiece, although there are occasional passages exhibiting the lyrical quality of romantic writers of the era as well as the rhetorical style of the area’s preachers. Joseph Smith’s creative imagination, years of Bible reading, attendance at various religious meetings, exposure to common ideas about the origin of the Native Americans, prepared him to write the Book of Mormon”. (2)

Callister says:

“Accordingly, many critics propose that he was a creative genius who relied upon numerous books and other local resources to create the historical content of the Book of Mormon. But contrary to their assertion, there is not a solitary witness who claims to have seen Joseph with any of these alleged resources before the translation began.”

Is it significant that we don’t have a list of the books Joseph had access to? Well it would be interesting if we did have a list, which excluded them, but in this case it seems to have little significance, that we don’t have a precise list. Even if we give

Joseph the benefit of the doubt the books where popular in his geographical location at the time, many of us know storylines of books we haven’t read simply because we hear others talk about them often. I believe the influence of the book should be judged not by whether we have an external list but whether we can see the influence of the book within the text.

What other non-religious book were written at the time with similar themes or storylines?

Image result for view of the hebrews

View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith

Not only are there aspects of the Book of Mormon story found within View of the Hebrews, it was a very popular book at the time claiming the Native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel. It was publish just 7 years before the Book of Mormon For a full list of the comparisons see here.

Other books which were available at the time in Josephs Smiths location at the time he was writing the Book of Mormon (all available today on Amazon) include:

The First Book of Napoleon (1809) M. Gruau

It has similar, language, themes and lessons. Additionally it is believed that the book was written by the author Modeste Gruau when he was 14.

Not only is the language similar but entire sentences are identical. For examples of such sentences please see this video. (time stamp 50:00)

 

The Late War (1816) J. G. Hunt.

It has similar: language, themes and many of the battle scenes found in the Book of Mormon are strikingly similar to those described in the book. In fact there is a striking similarity between Jackson and Moroni. Again just like the “First Book of Napoleon” entire phrases and sentences from “The Late War” have found their way into the Book of Mormon see this video. (time stamp 1:02:00)

Again should you doubt what is being said this book it is available on Amazon.

Callister also says:

“How did Joseph read all of these alleged resources, winnow out the irrelevant, keep the intricate facts straight as to who was in what place and when, and then dictate it by perfect memory?”

Reading three books in addition to the bible and combining elements of each storyline is hardly a supernatural feet. Many fiction writers today draw upon each other’s work. If you’ve read both Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books, you can’t help but draw parallels like, the 9 rings and the 7 horcruxes, both having a giant sniper with easily mixed names.

Yes they are stand-alone stories but I doubt anyone would seriously argue J.K. Rowling was unaware of Tolkien’s work given the obvious similarities. Also did Joseph have to dictate it from memory? I’m certainly not suggesting that would have been necessary. In fact had Joseph been able to dictate from memory the Lost 116 pages by Mr. Harris wouldn’t have been an issue. It’s only an issue if he couldn’t remember what he’d made up rather than translated.

Callister says:

“In fact, his wife Emma recalled: “He had neither manuscript nor book to read from. … If he had, had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.”

 

So how did Joseph perform this remarkable feat of dictating a 500-plus–page book without any notes? To do so, he must not only have been a creative genius but also have had a photographic memory of prodigious proportions. But if that is true, why did his critics not call attention to this remarkable talent?”

Is this a fair assertion? Consider the hat he peered into a hat could easily have contained a notebook. Josephs position in relation to the others in the room could also have concealed notes, why the screen? What role did Emma play in the translation? Would the Golden Plates not count as a manuscript?

None of this defense is necessarily true, we have no way of knowing whether Joseph had notes. Secondly as already discussed his own family recorded his love of storytelling and how he could create a story on the spot to entertain then.

The next statement of Tad R. Callister I’d like to pick up on is

“The real issues still remain: how did Joseph produce a book that radiates with the Spirit, and where did he get such profound doctrine, much of which clarifies or contradicts the Christian beliefs of his time?”

The statement seems odd to me, ok it certainly contradicts the gospel message for in the Bible which was taught at the time that man is save my grace not after all he can do, but while he is yet a sinner. Contrast Ephesians 2:9 with  2 Nephi 25:23.

Lets give Joseph the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Lets agree he really did receive the book of Mormon under angelic guidance. The simple fact that the gospel found in the book of Mormon based upon human merit rather than unmerited favor of God should cause us to reject it.

As Paul said 

Galatians 1:8-9

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Secondly I would like to suggest what the Book of Mormon reveals about the nature if God is also in contradiction with that Joseph later taught and is also in contradiction to what is believed by Mormons today.

Lets ask the Book of Mormon some questions

1: Who is God?

  • 2 Nephi 31:21, Mosiah 15:1-4, Alma 11:38-39, Alma 11:44

2: What is the substance of God?

  • John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Once again the Book of Mormon agrees with the Bible, but Mormon doctrine is vastly different. See Alma 18:24-28, Alma 22:9-11

3: Has the nature of God ever changed?

  • Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 Brigham Young said:

The doctrine that God was once a man and has progressed to become a God is unique to this Church. How do you feel, knowing that God, through His own experience, “knows all that we know regarding the toils [and] sufferings” of mortality? (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, Chapter 4, Suggestions for study)

 

I would suggest this is vastly different to what the book of Mormon Teaches

  • See: 3 Nephi 24:6 (Direct quote from Malachi 3:6),
  • Mormon 9:9 (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17) and Moroni 8:18

In addition, one might ask: where did Joseph get the powerful insight that because of Christ’s Atonement, He can not only cleanse us but also perfect us? Where did he get the stunning sermon on faith in Alma 32? Or King Benjamin’s sermon on the Savior’s Atonement, perhaps the most remarkable sermon on this subject in all scripture?

Are not all of these topics covered in the Bible?

Are we now supposed to believe that Joseph Smith just dictated these sermons off the top of his head with no notes whatsoever?

Again this isn’t what is being suggested as the alternative and to a critical eye comes across as a straw man argument.

If Joseph were not a prophet, then in order to account for these and many other remarkable doctrinal insights, the critics must make the argument that he was also a theological genius. But if that were the case, one might ask: why was Joseph the only one in the 1,800 years following Christ’s ministry to produce such a breadth of unique and clarifying doctrines? Because it was revelation, not brilliance, that was the source of this book.

My Muslim friends often make a similar argument of the Quran, ‘its so beautifully worded it has to be revelation’. Uniqueness of doctrine sadly should be a warning to us, not an attraction as we saw from Galatians and the vast majority of the theology of the Book of Mormon mirrors the Bible, as I have argued it is the later developments of Mormon theology that departs from both the bible and the Book of Mormon.

Callister says:

“But even if we suppose that Joseph were a creative and theological genius with a photographic memory—these talents alone do not make him a skilled writer. To explain the Book of Mormon’s existence, the critics must also make the claim that Joseph was a naturally gifted writer at age 23. Otherwise, how did he interweave scores of names, places, and events into a harmonious whole without inconsistencies? How did he pen detailed war strategies, compose eloquent sermons, and coin phrases that are highlighted, memorized, quoted, and placed on refrigerator doors by millions of people”

If this argument holds true then I guess all of these writers are divinely inspired

Callister says:

“Joseph’s wife Emma confirmed the impossibility of such an undertaking: “Joseph Smith [as a young man] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictat[e] a book like the Book of Mormon.”

 

As we have already documented above this statement simply isn’t true, Emma elsewhere herself contradicts this, as dies Josephs Brother.

Finally from Callister:

And finally, even if one accepts all of the foregoing arguments, dubious as they may be, the critics still face another looming obstacle. Joseph claimed that the Book of Mormon was written on golden plates. This claim received unrelenting criticism in his day—for “everyone” knew that ancient histories were written on papyrus or parchment, until years later, when metal plates with ancient writings were discovered. In addition, the critics claimed that the use of cement, as described in the Book of Mormon, was beyond the technical expertise of these early Americans—until cement structures were found in ancient America. How do the critics now account for these and similar unlikely discoveries? Joseph, you see, must also have been a very, very lucky guesser. Somehow, in spite of all the odds against him, against all existing scientific and academic knowledge, he guessed right when all the others were wrong.

 

I’ll happily admit Joseph got many historical details correct and where the Book of Mormon stands up to historical scrutiny, I will happily acknowledge these points. However for the “most correct book of any book on earth” we aren’t looking for some “lucky guesses” but for the entire narrative to be anachronism free. For example not one coin has ever been found in America dating to Book of Mormon times as described in Alma 11. For a fuller list please see here.

To conclude therefore: I’m not a Mormon because the Book of Mormon fails not only to align with what the bible teaches it also fails to align with what is believed by the Church of Later Day saints today. I know that the LDS apologists will twist many of the scriptures so they fit the current doctrine but I ask you would an honest reading of the Book of Mormon ever lead you to many of the core LDS beliefs today? Where is eternal marriage? Where are the two priesthoods? Where are the Gods before Jehovah? Where can I find the doctrine of salvation as presented by the missionaries on the streets?

So many are later additions and I’d suggest total overhauls. Why should anyone consider it reliable scripture? By the same standard we reject the Quran we should reject the Book Of Mormon, it fails the test of truth when compared to God’s revealed word in the Old and New Testament, while claiming to clarify and add to God’s final revelation – the work of His son. (Hebrews 1:2)

 

 

References

1, Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England: S.W. Richards, 1853), p. 85; reprinted under the title Joseph Smith’s History by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry).

2, Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004), p. 119.

 

 

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

Play video

 

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.

Image result for mormon history of the church

“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.

Image result for an address to all believers in christ

 

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 Afternoon Session, Reviewed by Tony Brown

 

Image result for president russell m nelson 2017

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.

General Conference – April 2016 – Saturday Morning Review by Bobby Gilpin

 

It’s that time of the year again where Facebook and all things media and social media go crazy with all things general conference where Mormonism is concerned.

I always think this is a good opportunity for us as a ministry to keep up to date with what is being taught by Mormon general authorities and offer our perspective on this. The talk that caught my eye the most from the Saturday Morning session is “Where are the keys and authority of the Priesthood” given by Elder Gary E Stephenson of the quorum of the 12 apostles.

Needless to say this talk is looking at the whole area of Priesthood authority, Stephenson, opens the talk with a story of him once losing his car keys on a family holiday, and how the car was useless without those keys. As the talk goes on the point is made again and again about how important the “Priesthood keys” are for the Mormon church and its members to function. One of the concluding points which I am going to work back from is this:

I testify that priesthood authority and priesthood keys start the engine, open the gates of heaven, facilitate heavenly power, and pave the covenant pathway back to our loving Heavenly Father.

This talk really labours the absolute significance of the “priesthood keys” here are two other quotes from this talk.

September of last year. There, I felt the power and reality of the heavenly events which took place on that sacred ground. That experience led me to ponder, study, and pray about priesthood authority and priesthood keys, which impressed me with a desire to share with the young men and young women of the Church how priesthood authority and restored keys can bless them.

and

Sealing keys, restored by the Old Testament prophet Elijah, enable ordinances to take place in holy temples. Ordinances performed in these temples enable individuals and families to return to the presence of our heavenly parents

The concept of priesthood keys and priesthood authority are absolutely essential within Mormonism, particularly when it comes to issues such as how might someone be exalted.

Joseph Smith founder of the Mormon Church said:

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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

12th Mormon Prophet Spencer W Kimball said:

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“Men require priesthood for exaltation. No man will ever reach godhood who does not hold the priesthood. You have to be a member of the higher priesthood – an elder, seventy, or high priest – and today is the day to get it and magnify it” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 51).

When I see quotes like this one quote from the apostle Paul keeps going through my head.

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Why did Paul say this? Surely this priesthood authority and these priesthood keys are so significant he would want to share this with the people he was writing to. To be fair this point alone does not mean that Paul never taught anything else, in Acts 20:26-27 Paul makes the point that he did not hold back any of the council of God, meaning there will are a number of different areas that he taught, on which we of course see in his other letters.

However no where in the New Testament do we see Paul emphasise that the Priesthood must be held by Christians to be saved or exalted. Paul instead boldly claims.

1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

The repeated message of the New Testament is the sufficiency of Jesus, we see in Hebrews 7 that He is forever  a high priest, and is therefore following the Old Testament pattern of one high priest existing at a time until death, and so Jesus is the only high priest that we need.

I did a word search on the king James Bible looking for priesthood keys and here is what I found.

priesthood keys

I got the same thing looking for Priesthood authority too. The word Priesthood is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament in the King James version of the New Testament (which Mormons use) here they are.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Both of which refer to a collective priesthood encompassing all believers.

Hebrews 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

Hebrews 7:11  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

Hebrews 7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

Hebrews 7:14 or it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Hebrews 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

This teaching develops as the verses go on (best understood when reading the chapter in full) and shows that Old Testament Priests have now been done away with, and we now have a permanent high priest that continues forever unlike the old Priests that is Jesus. We see no emphasis on the Melchizadek or Aaronic priesthoods as being something we should seek to gain as Christians.

Our salvation, or exaltation or whatever you want to call it only happens by faith in Jesus, He is our Saviour, He is our Prophet, He is our Priest, He is our King. There is no reference here to the significance of Christians holding onto any priesthood authority, but rather Jesus is the one that continues forever as a high priest. A role that previously was held by individuals one at a time until death.

51rTXBc0gVL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_

 

In the FairMormon Book “Restoring the ancient church” by Barry Robert Bickmore, which was written to show how the Mormon church is a restoration of the early Christian church. There is an interesting quote regarding “Priesthood Authority” in the early Christian church. (brackets and bold added)

“While the extant (still existing) early Christian documents  make no mention of the two priesthoods within the Church, it is at least clear that there was a hierarchy of authority at least roughly corresponding to the distinction made by the Lord to Joseph Smith”.p.189

 

 

This is a significant admission, that no early church documents make any mention of these Priesthoods that the Mormon church holds so dear, and as I have shown it’s not in the New Testament in relation to individual believers continuing to hold them, therefore where is the restoration here?

Its not a restoration but rather a fabrication. Absolutely there was leadership in the early church as this quote says, but not in the name of the Aaronic or Melchizadek priesthoods, which are now complete in Christ. Interestingly David Whitmer one of the Book of Mormon witnesses saw this idea of priesthood authority as a fabrication too, more on that here.

I think in reality the simplicity of the good news of the gospel of Christ has been lost on Mormons, This emphasis on Priesthood authority and keys is at the expense of simply proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and is causing Mormon after Mormon to remain in a lost state, unless they see past this and trust in Christ alone for their salvation.

The gospel is a message of a Saviour seeking to save the lost, not a message of an exalted man seeking to give people the authority they need to cause their own exaltation.

Thanks for reading, look forward to your comments.

 

Mormons And The Bible By Mike Thomas

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Just as in other churches, Mormons face the question of what to think of the different Bible translations available today. Most churches have a standard text, a pew Bible, but often encourage members to use and explore other translations. Christians have found this very helpful as each translation brings its own strengths and weaknesses. It is also the case that different translations function in different ways as Bible students grow in, share, and teach their faith. You can read here a helpful account of how this works and how we might choose a translation.

For Mormons it is a great deal more difficult yet straight forward in a strange sort of way. The first question a Mormon asks is not, ‘Which Bible translations are reliable?’ but,’What does the church have to say?’ And this is not a simple seeking after counsel, ‘Pastor, which translation would you recommend?’ We all do that from time to time. What is important to a Mormon is, ‘what is the ‘official’ stance of the church?’ It is this that is ‘right’ in the eyes of your typical LDS believer.

This speaks volumes about the degree of trust Mormons put in their leaders. Its fallen out of fashion now, as has so much old fashioned Mormonism, but it used to be proudly said:

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the Kingdom of God.” (Improvement Era, June 1945)

The (unofficial) Mormon apologetics site FAIR has attempted to refute the idea that this is ‘official’ Mormon thinking, even dragging out from Mormon archives a letter from the Mormon leader George Albert Smith appearing to say as much. You can read it here. But it doesn’t wash because anyone who has dealt with Mormonism, more, anyone who has been a Mormon will tell you this is the attitude of the average True Believing Latter-day Saint to this day. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Mormon approach to Bible translations. Which Bible do Mormons read? The Bible the Mormon leaders tell them to read, because when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done; simple? Well, this is where it gets complicated for them.

Here is the advice of the Mormon Church regarding which version to use, taken from the Institute manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, 1979, 2nd. edition, and still currently in use, with comments added.

WHICH VERSION OF THE BIBLE SHOULD I USE?

There are a large number of Bible translations now in existence. The translation recommended for Latter-day Saints has been clarified many times by the Church leaders. The following are examples of such counsel:

. . . none of these [other] translations surpasses the King James version of the English Bible in beauty of language and spiritual connotation, and probably in faithful adherence to the text available to translators. It is this version which is used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in all of its official work both at home and abroad. The literature of the Church refers invariably to the King James’ translation. Other translations are used by the Church only to help explain obscure passages in the authorized version.”

(Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, pub.1945, p. 120.)

This King James or Authorized Version, ‘as far as it is translated correctly,’ has been the version accepted by this Church since it was organized.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in CR, Apr. 1954, p. 38.)

The Official Bible of our Church is the King James version.” (Editorial, Church News, 14 Nov. 1970, p.16.)

Several things are worth noting:

Standard_Works_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints.jpgFirst, the editorial from the Church News makes clear that the KJV is ‘the official Bible of the Church.’ For most Mormons, this means the debate is over and the question officially answered.

Second, loyalty to the KJV seems founded more on sentiment than scholarship, or spiritual insight. The language is beautiful, who would disagree? ‘Spiritual connotation?’ What does that mean? That the language better conveys the spiritual message underlying the text? If so, why is it that, ‘Other translations are used by the Church…to help explain obscure passages in the authorized version?’

If the spiritual connotations are better conveyed in the KJV what needs explanation? How often I have listened to a sermon delivered from a King James Bible to find the preacher spend half the time explaining the obscurity of the text, rather than delivering the message of the text. In the Mormon Church this is particularly problematic since the other texts they use – Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price – are written in a pigeon King James language (It truly isn’t the real thing).

Third, the KJV is accepted only, ‘as far as it is translated correctly.’ This is one of the many neat little get-out clauses that pepper Mormonism and comes from the eighth Article of Faith: ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’

Fourth, they declare the KJV to be, ‘probably in faithful adherence to the text available to translators.’ They are not even sure it was, but it ‘probably’ was, and only then ‘faithful to the text available.’ Of course, that is the point, surely? ‘…faithful adherence to the text available.’ The KJV just marked its 400th anniversary and textual, historical, archaeological discoveries over 400 years, have given us a wealth of information and sources not available to those translators. Another significant factor is the growing independence of scholars from regal/governmental interference (you really should read the history).

The Mormon Church relies much more on scholarship today than ever it did just fifty years ago. Surely, here is a situation crying out for a rethink on the issue of which Bible translation Mormons use. A problem presents itself, however, in the shape of the inspired authority of church leaders. The manual goes on to state:

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This does not mean that the King James Version is a perfect translation. Elder James E. Talmage gave a reason for this when he wrote the following:

There will be, there can be, no absolutely reliable translation . . . unless it be effected through the gift of translation, as one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost. The translator must have the spirit of the prophet if he would render in another tongue the prophet’s words; and human wisdom alone leads not to that possession.” (Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 237.)

So, the Mormons are left with a Bible translation that is beautiful, if obscure enough to need modern translations to help understanding, probably faithful to the text available to translators 400 years ago, but ultimately not an absolutely reliable translation. For that we need a prophet. The manual states:

Such an effort—to translate the Bible scriptures by the power of the Holy Ghost—was begun by the Prophet Joseph Smith under the direction of, and at the command of the Lord. (See D&C 45:60, 61; 93:53.)

The following is instructive information concerning the status of the Inspired Version in the Church today:

The Inspired Version [as it is called by its publishers] does not supplant the King James Version as the official church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages.

Part of the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith were finally approved before his death; and some of these have been cited in current church instructional materials or may be cited in future church instructional materials.

Accordingly, these cited portions of the Inspired Version may be used by church writers and teachers, along with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, in connection with Biblical interpretations, applying always the divine injunction that ‘whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom.’” (D&C 91:5)

When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.” (Editorial, Church News, 7 Dec. 1974, p. 16.)

References from the Inspired Version are used throughout this manual for clarification of particularly vague or faulty passages of the King James Version.

There you have it again, ‘vague or faulty passages of the King James Version.’

The Mormons have an ‘official’ Bible translation that is beautiful, but peppered with particularly vague or faulty passages, indeed, obscure enough to need modern translations to aid understanding. It is probably faithful to the text available to translators 400 years ago, but ultimately not an absolutely reliable translation. They also have a prophet. Now, you might think this last a game changer. Indeed, Joseph Smith did produce his own translation of the Bible, although the official line is that it was never finished. But why would that matter since the current head of the church, Thomas S Monson, is just 16th in a line of prophets stretching back to the founding of the church.

The natural conclusion is that, since the only reliable Bible would have to come from a prophet and, since the Bible they use is vague, faulty, obscure and 400 years old, surely a modern prophet could solve this problem and we could all throw away our NIVs, ESVs, etc. Not so it seems. Since Joseph Smith, the gift of prophecy has increasingly fallen by the way. His successor, Brigham Young, had plenty to say, enough indeed to take a good deal of space in early Mormon periodicals as well as the familiar Journal of Discourses. He didn’t do anything about Bible translation, indeed, he didn’t add more than one section to the increasingly dated and irrelevant Doctrine and Covenants (Section 136).

Subsequent prophets have not even added so much as a pen stroke to the D&C and not one has felt called to finish the Bible translation work begun by Joseph Smith. So what is the true place of the Bible in the Mormon Church?

The official Bible is the King James Version (Americans say King James Version, English believers say King James Bible) but this is vague, faulty, obscure, and 400 years old. Modern translations can be used to aid understanding but none is going to supplant the vague, faulty, obscure, and 400 year old Bible they clarify.

Meanwhile:

When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.”

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So, ‘living prophets’ define what is ‘official’ and Mormons give this advice precedence in their choice of Bible. These ‘living prophets’ however cannot produce a more reliable translation than the KJV. In the absence of a better Bible, and with no inclination to look at modern scholarship, the priority in Mormonism is to ‘living prophets’ followed by the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, only then turning to Joseph Smith’s ‘Inspired Version,’ and last the KJV, which is only to be understood in light of Mormonism, a Mormonism that cannot correct it, though neither can it completely trust it.

I will finish with a personal note to any Mormon who might read this. I congratulate you for reading this far, as I know your instinctive reaction is to dismiss this article as ‘anti-Mormon.’ It is difficult for you to see it in any other way I know. You see, I have sat where you sit now and have felt much as you probably now feel.

I want to ask you to do something if you will. Just for a moment, I want you to get up out of the seat you occupy, the place of outrage that anyone should criticise your church, of suspicion that the motives of people who would do such a thing are bound to be base, vile, and contemptible. I want you to take another seat, the seat of someone who has been invited to join your church and who already has access to, and regularly reads a modern translation of the Bible. This person understands something of how we got our Bible, the process by which it is translated, and the quality and quantity of research material available to modern Bible translators.

Why should this person join your church? Remember you are sitting in their chair now, outside looking in. Especially in light of the what your leaders have said about the ‘official’ church Bible, why should this person join your church?

You have a message of ‘restoration’ and yet have failed to restore the Bible. You have a message of prophets, and yet they have nothing to contribute to modern Bible translation. Your church rejects modern translations on the basis that, ‘The translator must have the spirit of the prophet if he would render in another tongue the prophet’s words; and human wisdom alone leads not to that possession.” (Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 237.)

Yet your prophets, so called, who presume to have the spirit of the prophet stand idle while church members use a 400 year old translation that is officially vague, faulty, and obscure, and that needs all the help it can get. Why should this person trust your claims and join your church?

The KJV is not, according to the Mormon narrative, ‘inspired’ since it was put together by intelligent, well-meaning, men who ultimately relied upon the ‘human wisdom’ that Talmage insists would disqualify such a work. You have prophets but they have proved silent on the matter of a better and truly inspired translation. Meanwhile, modern scholarship brings us a wealth of resources to achieve what Mormon prophets seem singularly impotent to do. Even the King James Version has been updated after a fashion, in the NKJV.

Why should this person join your church? Why give up better translations for an outdated and difficult one? Why ‘follow the prophet’ when the prophet seems incapable of lighting the way? Sitting in this chair, on the outside looking in, what does the Mormon Church offer that can have any credibility, let alone attraction, when it sets such a high standard for Bible translation then fails, itself, to meet that standard?

Myself, I have used the NIV for the past thirty years, and have, more recently, found the ESV a great help to serious Bible study. In seeking understanding I consult widely among translations, and have never felt the need to find an ‘official’ Bible. After all, look at where it gets you.

Mike Thomas is the Chairman of Reachout Trust a ministry to the cults in the UK, and this article appeared originally on the Reachout website and in the Reachout newsletter.

Weak Arguments #15: “How to Make Weak Arguments for Mormonism – A Primer” – By Fred W. Anson

An article on some common and recurring weak argument and debating tactics that Latter-day Saints use in their defense of Mormonism that result in weak arguments.
by Fred W. Anson

“Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel” by Henry Vidal in Tuileries Garden in Paris, France

“”The non-LDS world has a history of perpetuating criticism, caricature, othering, antagonism and shaming of Mormons. This leads to a reaction on the part of the Latter-day Saints: retrenchment, militancy, withdrawal from civic conversation, and a dynamic I call ‘undergrounding,’ something that happens a lot in our political history where we tell the outside world one story in order to protect our inside story.”
Joanna Brooks, “Violence, Mormonism, and the Sobering Lessons of History”,
Sunstone Magazine, Summer 2015, p.50

Introduction:
The last article in this series created quite a stir. It was “grass catcher” list of weak arguments and debate tactics that mainstream Christians regularly use that undermine their engagements with Latter-day Saints. And while the article was warmly, often even enthusiastically, received on both sides of the Evangelical-Mormon divide, a common response was, “OK, where’s the equivalent list for Mormons?” Well, the wait is over, here it is.

How to Make Weak Arguments for Mormonism:

  1. Attack your debating opponent instead of their evidence or arguments. Use ad-hominem arguments.
  2. Misrepresent or exaggerate your debating opponent’s arguments so they’re easier to overcome. Use straw man arguments.
  3. Misquote and abuse 3 Nephi 11:29.  That is, rail against your debating opponent with a bold “Contention is of the devil” denunciation while you’re contending for the Mormon faith. Oh and, since you’re already playing the “beam in your eye” hypocrite before an amused audience, make sure that you completely ignore the passages in scripture that blatantly advocate (such as Jude 1:3, I Thessalonians 2:2) and model (like most of the Book of Mormon for example) righteous contention. Compromised integrity and duplicity is always so persuasive isn’t it? (NOT!)
  4. Over generalize! If you’re the only Mormon who believes something say that all Mormons do. If an uncorrelated, progressive, or Neo-Orthodox Mormon (like Terryl or Fiona Givens for example) makes an unorthodox claim then point to it as the norm. Claim that a “one off” address by a modern Mormon Leader represents what Mormonism has always taught throughout it’s history. You know, do things like point to Brad Wilcox’s 2011 BYU devotional, “His Grace Is Sufficient” or President Uchtdorf’s, Spring General Conference 2015 address “The Gift of Grace” and claim that they accurately represent official current and historic LDS soteriology.[1]
  5. In a similar vein, stereotype! For example, identify a mainstream Christian who has behaved badly (Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, etc.) and treated God’s grace and mercy as a license to sin, and then claim that all mainstream Christians behave this way. After all, Mormons never do that (think John D. LeePaul H. Dunn, Porter Rockwell, Wild Bill Hickman, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon) do they?
  6. Use your conclusion as evidence for your argument. Engage in circular logic – you know something like, “I know that the only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I have an inner witness that it’s the only true church.” I mean, really, who can argue with logic like that?
  7. Present speculation and conjecture with no supporting evidence to back them as fact. Argue from silence. For example, argue that the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon proves nothing. Even better, argue that the lack of such evidence actually proves that it’s true because God is using it to test our faith.[2]

    book-of-mormon-archaeology-myth
    (click to zoom)
  8. Bifurcate rather than nuance. Claim that there is only black or white, good or evil, on or off. Create false dichotomies.
  9. Argue that because you don’t know or understand something it must be false. Or better yet, to claim that something must be true! Use your ignorance as irrefutable proof that your debating opponent is wrong. When in doubt appeal to ignorance – I mean, sure, it makes you look like an uninformed fool, but what the hey!
  10. Don’t support your arguments with any evidence (let alone objective evidence). And if challenged, act indignant and offended that you should be required to produce any evidence at all! I mean, after all, isn’t the burden of proof on the person not arguing your position? You know, just like it’s the prosecuting attorney’s job to produce evidence for the defense in a criminal case – yeah, it’s like that.[3]
  11. Assert that something is true simply because you’ve said it is. After all, your word is good enough, right? I mean, come on, you’re Mormon, and therefore, you know everything about Mormonism by virtue of that fact – that should be enough, right? Appeal to yourself as authority – use yourself as indisputable, absolutely authoritative, irrefutable evidence! Why does anyone need to research anything when the best, most reliable source is right there in front of them telling them the way it is?
  12. Use testimony bearing or “the witness of the Spirit” as evidence. Argue from feelings, promptings, and impressions and other appeals to emotion.[4]
  13. Assert that your debate opponent “doesn’t get it” and “can’t get it” because they don’t have the Holy Ghost and, therefore, can’t hear His voice. And when you do make sure that you’re as condescending and arrogant as possible in using this variation on the ad-hominem fallacy so they can fully understand and feel the great depth of their state of blindness.
  14. Argue that because something is popular it must be true. Drive that bandwagon fallacy right over your debating opponent! For example, argue that Mormonism must be true or it wouldn’t be growing so fast worldwide. Uh, by the way, about that “growing so fast” claim . . .[5]
  15. Don’t acknowledge when your debating opponent makes a valid point. Never surrender, never give in! After all this war right?

    Subjective v. Objective Evidence. One can proved by means of search, like analysis, measurement, and observation and one can't. One is valid and unchanging regardless of one's feelings, and one isn't.
    Subjective v. Objective Evidence. One can proved by means of search, like analysis, measurement, and observation and one can’t. One is valid and unchanging regardless of one’s feelings, and one isn’t.
  16. Suddenly and without warning disappear from the debate. Let chirping Mormon crickets argue for you instead. If there were a name for this it might be called the “Cop Out” or “Argue with my Back!” Fallacy. And some Mormons seem to like it a lot – especially when they’re issued a “OK, show me where I’m wrong” challenge.[6]
  17. Cyber stalk or conspire against your debating opponents behind the scenes. After all this is war – so sabotage is just par for the course. Of course, it’s just a form of the type of walking in spiritual darkness that’s consistently condemned in scripture but what the hey, it’s so cool to be a modern Gadianton robber ain’t it? (By the way, this is sociopathological behavior – I just thought that you’d like to know)
  18. Don’t give your debating opponent’s evidence any serious consideration. Better yet, just ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist. For example, even though mainstream Christians repeatedly tell you that they believe in, “Salvation by grace alone through faith alone,” continue to argue that they believe in “Salvation by grace alone” and pound away on that straw man argument.
  19. Ditto for challenging questions. Ignore them. Socratic Method is so stupid!
  20. Don’t become familiar with your debating opponent’s culture and language. After all, if they have anything of value to say they can say and do like we do it in Mormon culture! After all we’re better than they are, aren’t we?
  21. Be condescending because, frankly, we really are better than they are – especially all those lousy, despicable “Anti’s” out there who hate and only want to destroy God’s only true and living Church. [7]

    (click to zoom)
    (click to zoom)
  22. Speaking of “Anti’s”, always label. After all labeling is a wonderful defense mechanism since once it’s done you can stereotype and thus deceive yourself into feeling like you have power over them.  And if you use negative labels you can condescend to those below you – even better! And have we recommended arrogant condescension yet? Oh, we did? Well you can never emphasize that one too much can you? It’s a good one – it puts those “Anti’s” right in their place!
  23. Use special pleading fallacies. Argue that rules, laws, evidences and realities that apply everywhere else don’t apply to Mormonism. I mean, come on, why should DNA evidence apply to the Book of Mormon people anyhow? Really people, really?
  24. Assert your Priesthood Authority whenever possible. I mean, it means absolutely nothing to anyone or carries any weight outside of Mormonism but why not? And I assert this in the name of the Royal Priesthood![8]
  25. Use lots and lots of insults and personal attacks! Oh, did we already mention this one? Oh yeah, that was kinda included in the very first one by implication wasn’t it? Well, since this is one the most common weak arguments used by Latter-day Saints, it probably bears repeating doesn’t it?
  26. Troll. Throw out provocative, incendiary arguments of little real substance but high emotional impact with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. (and thank you Wikipedia for that excellent definition)
  27. Appeal to authority from sources that Mormons would never preach from or use in their services since they attack and undermine the fundamental truth claims that undergird Judaism, Mormonism and/or mainstream Christianity. This includes, but isn’t limited to: John Shelby Spong, The Jesus SeminarRobert Price, Margaret Barker, James Tabor, Richard Dawkins, and Bart Ehrman. Yeah, it’s kind of like drinking your own poison or shooting yourself in the foot but it’s better to be hospitalized or lose a foot if it protects Joseph Smith and modern Mormon dogma ain’t it? Besides it’s fun to argue like an atheist!
  28. Cite from unofficial, uncorrelated Latter-day Saint sources as if they’re official voices of the Church. First and foremost do so with with your own personal opinion – state it as if it’s being delivered by the President of the LDS Church at General Conference himself. After that move onto Mormon Apologist websites like FAIRMormon or Lightplanet. Not official? Who cares – after all a rock can be a fork if it gets the job done, right? unofficial-mormon-apologist
  29. Cite from partisan Mormon Apologists but then object strenuously when your debating opponent cites from Mormon Critics. Sure it’s a hypocritical double standard but weak and inexperienced debaters may not catch or call you on it – so go for it. For example, cite from Sorenson’s “Mormon’s Codex” but then throw a hissy fit when someone cites from the Tanner’s “Mormonism Shadow or Reality?”.
  30. Which brings us to another Latter-day Saint rhetorical favorite: Use double standards. For example: First, demand that your debating opponent produce a single verse from the Bible that explicitly proves the Trinity rather than building a case from several verses throughout the Bible; Then claim that they’re making a ridiculous and unfair demand on you when they demand the same “single verse as the standard of proof” for Celestial Marriage.
  31. Use Latter-day Saint scripture (other than the Bible) as if it’s authoritative for your non-Mormon opponent as it is for you. Nothing will silence them as quickly as, “As the Book of Mormon tells us . . . ” will it? (hint: It won’t) Better yet give them quotes from General Conference – surely they’ll listen to and respect the authority of Living Prophets won’t they? (hint: They won’t)
  32. Ignore the rules of sound text interpretation and hermeneutics.  [9]  For example, use lots and lots of eisegesis – inserting meaning that the author didn’t intend and content into the text that the author didn’t say. Sound text interpretation and hermeneutics are based on exegesis – drawing meaning and content directly from the text – but that’s another subject for another day (probably an entire article in fact).
  33. Be inconsistent. For example, bear your testimony as evidence that you have the witness of God that Mormonism is right and true. But when your debating opponent bears their testimony that they have the witness of God that Mormonism isn’t right or true, refuse to accept it claiming that it’s from a source other than God.  [10]
  34. Be confirmation bias driven. For example, argue that Mormon must be truth because Mormons are good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned people genuinely tiring to always be their best and do the right thing.In other words, use the “inspect the fruit” argument while ignoring the fact that most people are good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned people who are genuinely trying to always be their best and do the right thing. The only way that one can be blind to the fact that Mormons are hardly unique in this is to put those confirmation bias blinders on!

    Confirmation driven apologetics.
    Confirmation driven apologetics.
  35. Engage in Drama Queening. To continue from the previous example, get really indignant and offended when your debating opponent points out that one can be a good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned person and still be dead wrong. Better yet, threaten to withdraw from this place of persecution filled with haters! And if you do leave, make sure you cyber bomb social media about how you’ve been unjustly wounded, hounded, and wronged by these modern Korihors. Bleed over everything and everybody – let it flow like a river! Guilt manipulate baby, it works like a Jedi mind trick!
  36. Use Postmodern relativism as a defense. Say something like, “Well if what you believe works for you and what I believe works for me then who’s to say that the other person is wrong?” If that’s the case then all the Mormon Missionaries need to be called in from the field and the program shut down since what all those folks already believe is working for them, right? Who’s to say that they’re wrong, right?
  37. Instead of directly engaging your debating opponent’s arguments try to parry with a, “Well, what about when you and you guys? You do and say such and such!” Tu Quoque fallacy ’em to heck! I mean it’s really a non-argument because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument. But what the hey, if they’re stupid enough to “bite” why not try it if it gets Joseph Smith and Mormonism off the hook? Then again, a trained logician will call you on and you’ll just look foolish . . . oh well!
  38. Use aliases and sock puppet accounts to hide your true identity so you can behave badly online. Yes, it’s yet more sociopathological behavior but, hey man, if you used your real identity you’ve have to behave better in public or your reputation would be ruined wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that!
  39. Lie for the Lord. After all if Muslims can do it and since past Mormon Leaders have done it, why not?
  40. Dismiss an statement as ridiculous or absurd without giving proof or reasoned arguments for why. In other words, engage in an “Appeal to the Stone” fallacy. For example, when a debating opponent produces evidence that Official Declarations 1 and 2 were born out of political, social, and financial expediency rather than anything divine (as evidenced by the fact that they refer to revelations but don’t actually give them) claim that the whole argument is, “Just ridiculous! Utterly absurd!” without offering any countering evidence for your rebuttal. Better yet, combine it with an, “And you’re just a cynical, hate filled ‘Anti’ for saying that!” ad-hominem to make it ridiculous and absurd.
    ME_262_HowToWinAnArgument
  41. Engage in Psychological Projection: Project your behavior onto your debating opponent rather than acknowledging and owning it. For example, if you’re engaging in arrogant condescension accuse your debating opponent of looking down at you and having a superior air about them. If you’re angry, upset, and out of control accuse them of being angry, upset, and out of control. This is a wonderful defense mechanism, use it often! Yeah, it’s a form of self deception that keeps you in denial, but… whatever!
  42. Say things like, “The ends justify the means” to rationalize your bad arguments and behavior. Sure, it’s not scriptural, but why be picky when the defense of your testimony is on the line?
  43. Move the goalposts. For example, insist that your debating opponent only use official Church sources like the official church website. When they do insist that they didn’t interpret the content properly. When they then cite Mormon Leaders who share exactly the same interpretation from the official church website, then pull out #13 and tell them that they can’t possibly truly understand Mormon Leaders or Latter-day Saint Doctrine because they’re not a member and, therefore, don’t have the Holy Ghost giving them the true enlightenment that you possess. And if they overcome that then pick up that goalpost yet again and, “Push ’em back! Push ’em back! Push ’em way back!” Eventually they’ll either call you on this fallacy or give up.
  44. Ignore or refuse to publicly challenge the bad behavior and/or bad arguments that you see fellow Mormons making. After all this is war and who wants to be a traitor to the cause right? Besides “Anti’s” deserve every bit of condescension and disrespect that we can muster don’t they? Hang the Golden Rule!
  45. Make sure that you use a lot of snark and sarcasm! Everyone loves being condescended to by obnoxious smart alecks with bad attitudes. By the way, I hope you’re loving reading this article as much as I am writing it. If not, you’re just a loser who just doesn’t “get it!”[11]

    “Use double standards” (click to zoom)
  46. Use the bad arguments and behavior of mainstream Christians to rationalize, compensate for, and justify any or all of the above.
  47. Assume that any constructive criticism from others on how to better engage outsiders (especially if it’s from “Anti’s”) is meant for everyone else.
  48. Assume that lists like this apply to every other Latter-day Saint but you.

Summary and Conclusion:
If that seemed like a sarcasm filled lesson in logic and rhetoric that’s probably because it was. Stated plainly, that’s what the majority of bad arguments that I’ve seen Latter-day Saints make in public discourse always seem to come down to: Flawed logic and rhetoric combined with incivility and paranoia driven defensiveness. From my experience, I would have to say that award winning Journalists Richard and Joan Ostling were correct when they observed:

Mormon scriptural scholarship functions almost entirely within an enclosed, intramural world… Mormon Bible scholars face serious problems.
— Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America (Revised and Updated Edition”, p.299

This seems odd to me since, generally speaking, Mormons are better educated and higher degreed than the general population.[12] Doesn’t all that good education require some training in logic, critical thinking, and civil rhetoric? If so, you would never know if from the sloppy, adolescent, rude rhetoric that many Latter-day Saints engage in public. Therefore, the first thing that Latter-day Saints could do to improve their public discourse would be to learn and stick to the rules of logic and rhetoric that most assuredly must have been a part of their secular education.

Another contributing factor seems to be the infamous “Mormon Persecution Complex” which has been endlessly discussed in Mormon Studies and elsewhere. As the aforementioned Ostlings said well:

The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.
— Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America (Revised and Updated Edition”, p. 115

Read through the list of bad arguments again asking yourself this question, “Would Mormons be more or less likely to engage in this behavior if they didn’t presume that the world in general and their debating opponent in particular was against them?” I dare say that at least half – perhaps as much as three quarters of the list – would disappear were the Mormon Persecution Complex mindset were set aside. Stated plainly, Many Mormons are far too quick to play the victim, or over react in inappropriately aggressive, and unduly defensive ways simply because they’re perceiving an attack or persecution by their debating opponent when there simply isn’t one.

defaultIn fact, due to this dynamic, and linking it with the logic and rhetoric issue previously discussed, all too often Mormons will play the “victim card” when all their debating opponent has done is expose the holes, gaps, problems, and fallacies in the argument that they’ve just presented. The wounded howls of these self-perceived Mormon victims can be found on just about every inter-faith discussion board (some Mormons lead with it as their opening argument) and the greatest tragedy is that it need not be.

So I challenge you my Latter-day Saint friends, whenever you’re tempted to play that victim card, first take a deep breath, revisit both your arguments and the arguments of your debating opponent, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where and how can my argument be improved?
  2. What valid points has my debating opponent made?
  3. What countering evidence can I present, along with stronger logic and reason, to overcome their points?
  4. Viewing that evidence through their point of view rather than my own, what countering arguments can I expect from my debating opponent after I respond?
  5. How can I word this so that it’s clear that I’m responding rather than reacting to my debating opponent?

I think if you’ll do that rather than assuming that you’re being picked on or attacked and reacting defensively (as opposed to responding productively) you’ll end up making better, more convincing arguments in defense of Mormonism. This isn’t to deny that many outsiders, as the Joanna Brooks epigraph to this article stated, love to Mormon Bash – it’s a fact, many do. However, Mormon friends this isn’t true of all outsiders. And my dear Latter-day  Saint friend you instantly erode your credibility just as soon as you play that card. So here’s the easy solution to the problem: Don’t play the victim card – ever.

Finally, a question must be asked: Why wasn’t this article written by a Latter-day Saint? I know that Latter-day Saints are aware of the issues that I’ve raised above because privately they complain to me about them. In fact, when the last article in this series came out and woodshedded mainstream Christians for their weak arguments against Mormonism I was told, again privately, by several Latter-day Saints that many, if not most, of the items in the list were true of many Latter-day Saints too.

However, publicly most Mormons will draw their Mormon Persecution Complex around them like a quilt, close ranks, and rail at “those nasty Anti’s!” Even worse, they will applaud the efforts of Mormon Apologists who regularly engage in polemics, pejoratives, bullying, and many of the items noted in the list above.[13]

So instead the task falls to the guy who has not only never been Mormon but is known primarily as a critic of Mormonism. In fact, I couldn’t even get a Mormon to co-author this piece with me – I tried!  So here’s the deal Mormons: If you don’t like either the tone or content this article then publish a better one – I challenge you to.

Finally, let me give you a tip: The wrong way to respond to this article is to write protest articles about how unfair I was to Mormons, or how I singled them out for persecution, or how little I understand about what it’s really like to be a Mormon being endlessly picked on by outsiders, or that I’m just a stupid, biased, blind “Anti” and we all know how they are! If you do any of that you’ll just be proving many of the points made in this article.

Further, since I’ve just published fourteen (14) such articles publicly woodshedding the bad arguments of my fellow mainstream Christians I think that it’s fair to say that I’m more than willing to do with my “tribe” what Latter-day Saints refuse to do with theirs: Challenge it to be excellent and not “muff the ball”. So Latter-day Saints, I challenge you to go and do the same!

quote-you-are-people-with-a-present-and-with-a-future-don-t-muff-the-ball-be-excellent-gordon-b-hinckley-237507

NOTES
[1] The fact that these “one off” addresses are like loose spikes sticking up along the rails of historic Mormon orthodoxy can easily be seen by listening to the other addresses by other speakers before and after Mr. Uchtdorf’s at the very same General Conference or reading the articles immediately before and after Mr. Wilcox’s in Ensign magazine. They both contradict and undermine them.

And the problem is even more glaring when compared to other official LDS Church sources and the historic record. As Mormon Researcher Bill McKeever notes:

“The Mormon who believes that Uchtdorf is abandoning all former teaching is making an assumption that is just not verified in this talk.  While his language is certainly ambiguous, it’s hard to believe that this general authority is suggesting that the other leaders and decades of teaching are to be abandoned.”
— Bill McKeever, “Does Mormonism Really Offer a “Gift of Grace”? A Review of Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Talk on Easter Sunday 2015″

The same applies to Brad Wilcox’s BYU address – which was so far askew from historic Latter-day Saint soteriology that it had to be redacted and abridged for publication in the LDS Church’s official publication, Ensign magazine. As Mormon Studies scholar Rob Bowman notes:

“It may seem strange to ask how the doctrine of a popular speech given by a BYU professor and member of the Sunday School General Board compares with other teachings of the LDS Church. However, as a statement by LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy reminds us, “BYU faculty members do not speak for the church.” The question, then, is not necessarily illegitimate. On the other hand, the publication of Wilcox’s speech in Ensign indicates that it is representative of Mormon doctrine—at least in the version published there. That qualification turns out to be at least potentially significant, since the Ensign article omits elements of the speech that appear to have been out of sync with the LDS Church’s general teaching over the years. The significance of such omissions must be considered with some caution, since omissions may have been simply the result of producing a shorter, more concise article for publication in the popular-level church-wide magazine. Nevertheless, the excisions of material appear to have been strategically performed to bring the article into line with the standard Mormon doctrinal paradigm concerning salvation and grace.”
— Rob Bowman, “Mormonism and the Sufficiency of Grace: Brad Wilcox’s Speech ‘His Grace Is Sufficient'”

[2] “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Hitchen’s Razor)

[3] Simply put, it’s the responsibly of the person making an assertion to prove it. It’s not their debating opponent’s role or responsibility. This is just common sense folks! This is the laziest form of scholarship imaginable – if you can even call it “scholarship.”

[4] As Clinton Wilcox noted in “Weak Arguments #8: ‘I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet'”

“[Testimony bearing is] a bad argument against Mormonism because it’s a bad argument, period – which makes it a bad argument even when the Mormon uses it…

You can’t rely on your own subjective experiences to convince somebody else of the truth of your beliefs. The major problem is that in the Mormon’s testimony, they don’t give us any reason to believe Mormonism is true. A subjective experience may give you a reason to believe but it doesn’t give anyone else a reason to accept your beliefs as true. Arguing that it is the correct church doesn’t help. I need to know why it is the correct church.”

And as a Latter-day Saint peer reviewer of this article noted well in his feedback on this point:

“The witness of the spirit while not great evidence for convincing others is a fine answer to: Why do you believe this? Also it is a good lead in to, ‘And you can receive the same witness.’

Mormons need to keep in mind however that a personal witness is not meant for convincing others, its personal and should be kept out of debate except in answer to the above question or proceeding the invitation. It should also be kept in mind that inviting someone to seek their own witness from God does not win the argument, as some Mormons seem to believe.”

[5] It should be noted that the rapid growth argument for Mormonism has been problematic since 1990 when growth flattened and activity rates began to decline. Reliable figures and analysis (derived from official Spring General Conference Reports) can be found here.

[6] To be clear here, temporarily excusing yourself from the conversation due to the rigors of life outside of the debate is one thing (that is unless you overuse this excuse to the point that you’re just using as it as nothing more than an escape hatch) but doing a permanent disappearing act whenever the going gets rough is something else. If you do temporarily excuse yourself due to life’s demands then make a point of returning and continuing the discussion when you can.

However, if you really want to set yourself apart as a civil and accomplished debater, when your debating opponent is presenting arguments and evidence that is so strong and compelling that it’s hard to overcome, then simply acknowledge it and tell them that they’ve given you a lot to consider. This isn’t “throwing in the towel” it’s simply being honest and humble – and people respect honest humility. A simple way to do this is to just say, “Point taken.”

Oh, and by the way, does it really need to be said that putting an Internet block or ban on your debating opponents – and thereby making it impossible for them to engage you or you them online – is the ultimate form of this bad argument? Yes, since this tactic is so commonly used (or put more accurately “abused”) by Mormon debaters on the Internet I think that it probably does!

[7] This tendency by many Mormons so concerned former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley that he publicly addressed it several times:

“We must not only be tolerant, but we must cultivate a spirit of affirmative gratitude for those who do not see things as we see them. We do not in any way have to compromise our theology . . . We can offer our own witness of the truth, quietly, sincerely, honestly, but never in a manner that will give offense to others.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005).

“[There] should never be any cause for self-righteousness, for arrogance, for denigration of others for looking down upon others. All mankind is our neighbor. . . . Regardless of the color of our skin, or the shape of our eyes, of the language we speak, we all are sons and daughters of God and must reach out to one another with love and concern.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005, Ensign May 2005, 102).

“As we recognize our place and our goal, we cannot become arrogant. We cannot become self-righteous. We cannot become smug or egotistical. We must reach out to all mankind. They are all sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father . . . . And as we go forward, may we bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about us who may not be part of this Church.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, October 2001)

“As I have said before, we must not be clannish. We must never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be self-righteous. We must be magnanimous, and open, and friendly. We can keep our faith. We can practice our religion. We can cherish our method of worship without being offensive to others. I take this occasion to plead for a spirit of tolerance and neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths.”
(President Hinckley, Pioneer Day Commemoration, July 2001)

“But we shall go forward, returning good for evil, being helpful and kind and generous. I remind you of the teachings of our Lord concerning these matters. You are all acquainted with them. Let us be good people. Let us be friendly people. Let us be neighborly people.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2001)

“Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2000; Ensign, May 2000, p.87)

[8] For an explanation of that Royal Priesthood reference see “Weak Arguments #12: ‘There is no priesthood anymore.’” And, yeah, since authority can only be given not taken, Mormon Priesthood Authority claims kinda fall flat if the other person doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it doesn’t it? For example, admit it, you kinda yawned or snickered at that “Royal Priesthood” thing when you read it didn’t you my Mormon friend? See my point?

[9] The Eight Rules of Interpretation used by legal experts for more than 2500 years are as follows:

1) Rule of Definition.
Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.

2) Rule of Usage.
Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. What was the common usage in the cultural and time period when the passage was written?

3) Rule of Context.
Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.

4) Rule of Historical background.
Don’t separate interpretation and historical investigation.

5) Rule of Logic.
Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.

6) Rule of Precedent.
Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which their is no precedent.

7) Rule of Unity.
Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.

8) Rule of Inference.
Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.
(source = http://www.apologeticsindex.org/b11.html)

[10] As noted in footnote 4, using testimony bearing as an argument or evidence is just a bad argument. Period.

[11] And before the “You’re a hypocrite – just look at the tone and content of your article!” phone calls, and letters start pouring in, this article was written in a tongue in cheek style that’s intended to mirror the same condescension, disrespect, snark, and sarcasm that are so prevalent in the weak arguments and tactics that are being addressed. If you’re offended by it then please consider how such behavior feels to others when it’s directed at them.

[12]  “Mormons are significantly more likely than the population overall to have some college education. Six-in-ten Mormons (61%) have at least some college education, compared with half of the overall population. However, the proportion of Mormons who graduate from college (18%) or receive postgraduate education (10%) is similar to the population as a whole (16% and 11%, respectively).”
— Pew Research Center, “A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.”, Education and Income

[13]   For example, please consider this polemic and pejorative laden inflammatory prose from Mormon Apologist Russell McGregor of FAIRMormon (which the reader can also consider supporting evidence for many of the points above – #21, 22, 44, and 47 in particular):

“It is not the LDS Christians, but their critics, who need to be concerned about their Christian credentials. This may seem, at first glance, to be a rather odd thing to say; the anti-Mormon movement has defined the debate in such a way that their Christianity is not open to question. Many of them are (or profess to be) clergymen, while most of them are conservative Evangelical Protestants of one sort or another. And yet the question remains and continues to be asked: is anti-Mormonism truly a Christian activity? The answer, both in the general case and in the particulars, is a clear and resounding no…

So we return to the question with which we began this survey: are anti-Mormons Christian? The answer: of course not. They were never even in the hunt. Their clerical collars and pious platitudes are simply a smokescreen to hide the ugly reality that anti-Mormonism is one of the clear manifestations of the darkest side of human nature; the side that made possible the death camps and burning crosses, the massacre of the Hutus and the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans. Just as vicious and repressive dictatorships like to give themselves grandiose and liberal-sounding titles like “The People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of Such-and-such”, so these nasty religious haters appropriate the label of “Christian” in order to claim for themselves a specious respectability that their deeds and attitudes do not merit.”
— Russell McGregor, “Are Anti-Mormons Christians?”; FAIRMormon website

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General Conference April 2015 – Saturday Morning Session Review – by Jamie Lundy

Saturday’s opening lecture was by First Counselor Henry Eyering. Elder Eyering’s assignment was to get church members motivated to keep the “Law of the Fast” (see my Oct. 2014 Review for a description of the Law of the Fast). In support of this he cited Isaiah 58:6ff, Matthew 25:44-45, and this citation from The Miracle of Forgiveness by former president Spencer W. Kimball:

 “Rich promises are made by the Lord to those who fast and assist the needy. … Inspiration and spiritual guidance will come with righteousness and closeness to our Heavenly Father. To omit to do this righteous act of fasting would deprive us of these blessings.” (Spencer W. Kimball The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969, pp. 98).

Elder Eyering continued by telling two sentimental stories. One related to the use of an LDS branch building in Vanuatu being used for shelter by people escaping a tropical storm. The second story was a relating of several church members in Sierra Leone who barely had enough food to live on and very little clothing. It was encouraging to see elder Eyering feeling pain over these situations but I could not help but feel hypocrisy seething out of my computer screen as I followed along. I was listening to a man wearing a thousand dollar suit in a massive million dollar church building, representing a church which has spent billions of dollars on constructing fancy temples all over the world. I was at a temple open house in Kansas City, MO several years ago when I noticed a man wearing military fatigues and carrying a sign. His major protests against the church seemed to revolve around its exorbitant spending, as well as the constructing of million dollar facilities, and the wearing of fancy clothing by its leaders. On his sign was written a selection from the Book of Mormon:

“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up” (1 Nephi 28:13).

At several junctures during the temple open house event we received comments about our clothing not being fancy enough, this seemed to validate the critique all the more. The church has made a name for itself in its disaster relief efforts and various other aid programs. To this I roundly applaud, it is easy to criticize but harder to move with action. From an outsider perspective, this guilt motivating message on the membership to provide for the poor would be better received if the church did not concern itself so obsessively with the wearing of “fine clothing” and the construction of “fine sanctuaries.”

As the Saturday morning conference session “strolled along” I began to notice a certain theme developing in the lectures. This is generally true to some extent but in this case it was incredibly palpable. Many of the lectures centered on the family structure within Mormon practice and theology.
President Boyd K. Packer followed and introduced his lecture with some feel good stories about his wife Donna. President Packer followed this by firmly asserting that “the end of all activity in the church is to see that a man and a woman, their children, are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity.”

The basic LDS cosmology was summed up next,

“The gods went down to organize man in their own image, male and female, we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply. The command to be fruitful and multiply has never been rescinded. It is essential to the plan of redemption. Through this we may experience a fullness of joy, even godhood. Procreation is not part of the plan, it is the plan.”

The Book of Abraham in the LDS Scripture The Pearl of Great Price states,

“And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.” Also, “And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness,” (Book of Abraham 4:1, 26).

For those Christians familiar with the “shema,” in which the oneness of God is firmly established (see Deut. 6), Mormon statements like these sound very shocking indeed. Such teachings do not exist in the formative LDS Scripture, The Book of Mormon, in fact there are clear statements which seem to contradict (See Alma 11:26-31; Moroni 8:18). Despite this fact Mormon general authorities and church manuals have consistently taught a plurality of gods and a “pre-existence” for mankind in heaven. LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks gives a nice summary of the LDS teaching on pre-existence,

Our understanding of life begins with a council in heaven. There the spirit children of God were taught his eternal plan for their destiny. We had progressed as far as we could without a physical body and an experience in mortality. To realize a fullness of joy we had to prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God in a circumstance where we had no memory of what preceded our mortal birth,” (Dallin Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, pp.72).

The church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. himself stated in a now famous sermon:

In the beginning the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people in it. Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is that they are unlearned in the things of God,” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith, 1976, pp. 350).

Many of the statements during this session can only be adequately understood when looking at them through this prism. Later, Packer alludes to D&C 132 when he says,

“Therein are the keys of the holy priesthood, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever.” The text cited continues, “then shall they be gods, because they have no end,” (D&C 132:19-20).

This striving after exaltation to godhood has replaced the Christian hope of being with and worshipping God for all eternity. The LDS Scriptures (See D&C 76) teach three levels to heaven and give instructions relating to the type of person which shall inherit them. It is from the top level of heaven, called “Celestial,” that faithful temple married “worthy” Mormons can possibly earn “eternal lives” by which they mean eternal procreation with their temple sealed spouse(s). This is all performed on the basis of the “Holy Priesthood.”
Joseph Smith claimed to restore to the world the lost Melchizedek Priesthood. It is through the power of this priesthood and its keys that the doors are opened for a person holding such an office to earn exaltation to godhood.

They must maintain a level of worthiness and pass an examination by their bishop to receive a temple recommend and visit the temple periodically to have a temple endowment ceremony performed on them on behalf of someone else who is dead. This ceremony will be transferred upon a willing spirit in the afterlife and earn them the resurrection of their mortal body at the day of the great resurrection.

Spencer Kimball taught,

“It is a great privilege and blessing to hold the priesthood of God. Priesthood is divine authority bestowed upon worthy men that they might officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. The keys that have been given to those who hold the priesthood have come from heaven, for the priesthood is an everlasting principle that has existed with God from the beginning and it will exist throughout all eternity,” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Privilege of Holding the Priesthood,” in Priesthood, 1981, pp. 1).

Kimball later stated,

“that priesthood which is permanent, permanent as long as we are worthy of it, and which can be our shield and our way unto the eternal worlds (ibid., pp. 3).

This explains the frequent reminders placed to the members of the church to attain, to remain worthy. Packer closes his talk this way. “We cannot escape the consequences when we transgress. Every debt of transgression must be paid.” To the believer in Jesus the Bible contrasts earning a wage with receiving a gift.

Romans 4:3-8 puts it this way,

“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Adding to this is the consideration that the New Testament spends most of its time talking about humanities unworthiness before God. This explains the need for God to send a Savior in the first place. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18 which is illustrative toward this end. There are two characters, a Pharisee and a tax-collector. The Pharisee lists his achievements and even thanks God that he is not like the tax-collector. In contradistinction to this the tax-collector cannot even lift up his head but merely beats his breast, confesses that he is a sinner, and asks God to be merciful to him.

Jesus explains:

“this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For all the discussion in the New Testament regarding righteousness and various activities, there is no mention of worthiness. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the importance of works by Mormons. Rather than earning God’s favor we thank him for this undeserved gift (grace and gift are synonymous terms) with our deeds, earning ourselves nothing.

The next lecture I am looking at, was provided by elder Dallin Oaks of the quorum of the twelve apostles. He used “the parable of the sower” in order to encourage members of the church to avoid becoming like those whose root withers in the parable. According to Oaks even long term members can “slip into a condition where they have no root in themselves.” In order to keep one’s root they must be fed by spiritual food. However, the internet has become a dangerous place for people of faith. Oaks warns of “the internet which magnifies messages that menace faith.” Oddly, he next lists texting during sacrament as a potential root withering activity.

Technology has provided many pitfalls to the weary Latter-day Saint as once again Oaks warns that technology has accentuated another danger to the soul, that of questioning leadership or particular doctrines or church practices. This he calls the “keyhole view of the Gospel and the church.” For those aware of the latest concerns in the church these comments have an obvious goal of warding away the LDS faithful from using “technology” and the “internet” to research dubious events and contradictory teachings in the church’s history. Former Church historian Marlin K. Jensen cites an awareness regarding an exodus of church membership out the doors of the church and explains, “Everything’s out there for them to consume if they want to Google it.” Members are discovering Joseph Smith’s many wives and affairs with women like Fanny Alger, his money digging and glass looking, and changes in D&C revelations and are finding them troubling.
Like Packer, Oaks wants members to stay worthy and cites BYU scholar Hugh Nibley in stating that faith is “supposed to be a test, it’s supposed to be hard.” In order to avoid unworthiness Oaks places a challenge before the member, “keep your priorities fixed on the commandments of God and on the leadership of his church.” We can keep ourselves good soil. It’s up to us “to be converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We achieve this through prayer, Scripture reading, serving, and by regularly partaking of the sacrament.”
The final Saturday morning talk was delivered by Apostle L. Tom Perry. The positive position taken by the LDS church in the public sphere is praiseworthy. Perry acknowledges that many faiths have these truths in common. Last November several church authorities were invited to speak at an ecumenical family symposium at the Vatican. Perry explains the church’s participation in these ecumenical organizations by stating that they “want their voice to be heard against counterfeits and alternative lifestyles.”

After recognizing the similarities that all Christians have regarding the sanctity of marriage and importance of a mother and father for child rearing, however, Perry asks, “How are the LDS distinguished?” He provides the answer, “Only we have the eternal perspective on the Gospel.” In this statement he seems to conflate the idiosyncratic idea of “eternal marriage” with the “good news” about Jesus resurrection (Gospel means good news). This regard for marriage is a selling point for Perry. The church eliminates ‘til death do us part and replaces it with “for time and eternity.”

“We make it a subject of eternity, we take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because our belief and understanding [is] that families go back before this earth was and they will go forward into eternities.”

Like previous speakers in this session Perry affirms a belief in a “premortal life” where all people existed as “literal spirits and children of God our eternal father.” In this life the church offers a unique opportunity, namely, “that marriage performed by the proper authority will continue.” In fact, marriage is the “basic unit of the kingdom and government of God.” For head over heels spouses and loving parents this may sound attractive.

To be faithful to God we want to know what he believes about marriage. Jesus upholds marriage in several places including Mark 5 and Matthew 19. Jesus reaffirms the teaching of the Jewish Torah that a man should leave his father and mother and become one flesh with his wife. He also condemns divorce for any other reason than marital infidelity. Jesus sometimes taught things which provided stumbling blocks for his audience.

A difficult text to this concept of marriage exists in Matthew 10:35-37.It reads,

“I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Luke words this challenge this way, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

In the Old Testament Israel frequently got in trouble for worshipping good things that God made. In Exodus and 1 Kings Israel is guilty of worshipping calves. God made calves. In Ezekiel 8 we are showed idolaters worshipping Chemosh, the sun god. God made the sun. Canaanite s led the Israelites to worship other animals and creeping things. God made all of these things as well. Could it be possible to take something fantastic, created by God, and make it an idol? Unequivocally, Israel’s history shows us that the answer is yes! Perhaps the church has led people to love father and mother more than Jesus by subtly replacing the great hope of “eternal life” with the hope for exaltation and “eternal lives.” The LDS Celestial Marriage manual teaches:

By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This our Father in heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children, born to them in the bonds of celestial marriage. The Lord would have all his children attain exaltation,” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, pp. 129).

If it is God’s desire that all of his children gain exaltation then why does the Apostle Paul teach,

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry,” (1 Cor. 7:8-9)?

Likewise, in Mark 12 we see a test put forth to Jesus by the Sadducee’s. The Sadducee’s did not believe in the resurrection on the last day. In order to trap Jesus they tell a little story about a man who had seven brothers. The man died and left his wife a widow. The first brother marries the widow and then dies. This situation repeats itself until all the brothers have married the woman. They then ask Jesus,

“In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Jesus’ reply is instructive,

“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

The doctrine we have been examining states that married couples will be sealed for time and eternity. Jesus does not respond to the Sadducee’s by offering them this hope. Remember, they want to know whose wife she would be, this presents a great opportunity to teach Celestial Marriage but instead Jesus tells us that she would be none of their wife after the resurrection because people are like the angels in the resurrection because they will not be married nor will they be given in marriage. These people were married in time and Jesus is giving them no hope of being married for eternity, neither does he mention temple marriage or binding and sealing of families forever. The clear weight of his teaching rests upon the breaking in of the Kingdom of God which precedes every other human institution in importance.