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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

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

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

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

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy,

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

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

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

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

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

This also applies to casting out demons:

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

Even giving commands to Christians in scripture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Once Thought Gain…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those Strange ‘Born-Agains’

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

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

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

Jesus said people gain eternal life by believing in him.

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

Hebrews encourages,

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

Jesus taught,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 All Things New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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By President Russell M. Nelson

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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

He shares his view that,

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

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

President Nelson goes on to say:

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

President Nelson continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the

Book of Mormon each day.”

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

Micah

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, what would you not know?

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

And third, what would you not have?   GUILT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What President Nelson says next is interesting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Nelson concludes as all faithful LDS should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 11:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this sixth talk by Elder D Christofferson:

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

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

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

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

Image result for your best life now

 

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

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

(7:12 PM – 5 Feb 2016)

 

 

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

Philippians 1:

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

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

And in Isaiah God Himself says:

Isaiah 48

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

And finally:

Ezekiel 36

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

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

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

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

Is Joseph Smith Worthy Of Worship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Kunzler says this:

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

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

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

Kunzler goes on to say this:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Kunzler has this to say about them

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

“As President John Taylor testified:

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

And then:

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

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

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

Here is Kunzlers concluding point

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

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

Philippians 1:20-26 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

Bill McKeever’s 2015 Visit to the UK

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We had a really great time having Bill McKeever of Mormonism Research Ministry over to the UK last month. During this time Bill spoke at our conference days in London and Bradford, and also at events in Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

Bill also recorded an episode of Unbelievable? having dialogue with a Mormon Bishop on the issue of grace.

This was a great week for us as a ministry being able to hold sessions for a number of Christians, equipping them to share their faith with Mormons, and for me to spend time with Bill and learn more from him about his ministry and passion for what God has called him to do.

For those of you that were unable to make the sessions, the recordings for the main things Bill did while over here are below. Also with a few pictures taken during the trip.

2015-09-26 15.19.49

For the first Saturday of Bill’s trip we had our Bradford Conference day, here are the 3 sessions that Bill did, really looking at the hows and whys of communicating the gospel to Mormons.

As well as that there is the recording of a sermon that Bill did at Sunbridge Road Mission on the Sunday Morning.

Bradford Conference Session 1

Download.

Bradford Conference Session 2

Download

Bradford Conference Session 3

Download

Sunbridge Road Mission

Bill’s Sermon “To Speak Boldly”, at Sunbridge Road Mission Church.

Download

2015-09-25 13.23.47

Bill’s dialogue with James Holt, on Unbelievable?

Download

This was an excellent time, and I hope you enjoy the above audio’s. A massive thank you to all that helped make this happen, particularly Russ East of Utah Partnerships for Christ.

While Bill has gone home, we at UPFC UK are here and are very passionate about this ministry. We are very much available to speak at your church or event, please get in touch if this is of interest.

Weak Arguments #14: “How to Make Weak Arguments Against Mormonism – A Primer”

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.
by Fred W. Anson

(c) Mr Russell Falkingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Leslie Cole, “Scorched Earth: Devastated Rubber Plantations” (1946)

“I find myself too often saying about a lot of Christians, ‘I agree with everything you say, but I disagree with the way you’re saying it. There’s a way of saying things that is redemptive and loving and there’s a way saying things that’s not redemptive and loving.’”
Dr. Richard Land
Public spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention in “Us and Them”

Introduction:
While we were preparing for this series we took careful note of the weak arguments, bad behavior, and counter productive debating tactics we saw some Christians using in their public engagement with Mormons. Those deserving of deep analysis became full articles, the rest went onto a special “grass catcher” list which I now present to you for your consideration:

How to Make Weak Arguments Against Mormonism:

  1. Be condescending and disrespectful. These people are obviously blind fools, make sure that they and the whole world knows it by talking down to and sneering at them. After all wasn’t the Apostle Peter just offering a suggestion rather than a mandate when he said: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV italics added)[1]
  2. Don’t back up your arguments with easily verifiable evidence. After all, everyone should just change their beliefs based on just some stranger’s claims and opinions alone, right? Wouldn’t you? Who needs supporting evidence?[2]
  3. “Link bomb” them. That is, copy and paste just the links to evidence rather than carefully selecting and citing the relevant content from those sources and then providing the link so it can be verified. In other words, make ’em work hard to disabuse themselves of their wrongheaded beliefs! After all, isn’t it their job to prove your point for you by digging, mining and sifting through the mountain of words that you’ve so generously brought to their attention? Let them find their own gold like you did – it’s in there somewhere, right? Besides, reading, listening, watching, transcribing, and citing is just such hard, time comsuming work – link bombing is so much easier! Doubt me? Boom! http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/08/01/survey-finds-internet-makes-people-rude-new-yorkers-agree/ You’re been link bombed! (That was easy)
  4. Speak in absolute and authoritative tones on subjects that you’re ignorant or uninformed on. Better yet do it on the Internet so that a worldwide audience can benefit from (or be entertained by) your “insight!” As the ancient proverb says so well, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)
  5. Tell Mormons to “look it up!” rather than serving them by providing the relevant information for your argument. Yes, that’s right, don’t provide a web link, a citation or any other verifiable evidence – why should you? They have eyes don’t they! They have brains don’t they? Of course, they’ll rush right out and do it – right? Isn’t that what you do when other people do this to you? Hey man, 99.9% of those surveyed do! It’s true! Look it up.[3]
  6. Just get right up on that Christian soapbox and set ’em straight! Preach Christian preach! After all, all you should need to do is speak the truth, right? So give to ’em with both barrels with all the best Christianese you know! Why do you need to learn anything about them or their heretical beliefs first? Just declaring God’s good truth should be enough shouldn’t it? In fact, wouldn’t taking an interest in and learning their heresies just validate them and keep them in error? Don’t lower yourself to the level of heretics and blind men – rather, preach Christian preach! Your fellow Christians will slap you on the back and praise you while all the befuddled Mormons are slowly walking away shaking their head wondering all that incomprehensible shouting was about. Mormons are just so blind and deceived aren’t they?[4]soapbox
  7. Only cite from Mormon Critics rather than Mormon friendly sources. After all, if it’s “Mormon Friendly” it must be enemy propaganda, right? All Mormons know how to do is lie and deceive anyhow, right?[5]
  8. Assume that the underlying meaning of the terms that you and Mormons use are the same. And whaddaya know! We use the same words, we must both be Born Again Christians! Who knew?[6]
  9. Give citations without providing the source so it can be verified for accuracy. Oh, and never make it easy by providing a web link to the source! Just throw it out – your word alone should be sufficient, right? By the way, did you know that the Eustace Scrubb character in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” was Mormon? Yep, it’s true![7]
  10. Frame your arguments in outsider Christian language rather than insider Mormon language. So what if it’s like speaking in a foreign tongue to them? Hey, just yell that Christianese LOUDER, slower, and longer like a tourist on vacation in a foreign land. They’ll get it eventually! After all, they can always watch your hand signals right? Oh yeah, about that that hand signals thing when it comes to the internet . . . [8]
  11. Make sure that you never, ever enter a Mormon building like a Ward Building, Chapel, Stake Building, Temple tour, or Church Museum – you might get Mormon cooties or become demon possessed! After all, you can learn everything you need to know by talking to your Mormon neighbor over the backyard fence – they’re all experts on their faith and always represent their theology and practices as accurately as today’s Christians do theirs.[9]
  12. Never attend a Mormon Service or meeting (especially a Fast & Testimony meeting) lest you experience their culture first hand. Empathy is of the devil! Stay in dark ignorance regarding what really happens inside Mormon services so you can get it all wrong whenever you talk about those services. After all, you love it when Mormons make incorrect statements about what goes on in our services don’t you?[10]
  13. Treat antiquated Mormon sources as if they have as much weight and authority as modern official sources. Make sure you regularly quote from “The Journal of Discourses” and McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” as if they’re equivalent to today’s correlated manuals and literature. And if they object, they’re just uninformed about what their church really believes and teaches aren’t they?[11]
  14. Never concede well made arguments and credible evidence from Mormons. You must never, never, never yield an inch! After all this is war! Never give in and never surrender![12]
  15. Use derogatory, insulting terms like MORmON, Joseph’Smyth, Profit (instead of “Prophet”), TSCC (The So Called Church), Jo$eph $mith, Bring’em Young, Breed’em Young, Thoma$ Mon$oon, etc. Or go back in time and use the old 19th Anti-Mormon pejorative terms like “Joe Smith”, “Mormonites”, “Golden Bible”, etc. Conversely, you can merge current popular culture with Mormonism and invent new perjovatives like, “Morg” (Star Trek reference that blends “Mormon” with “Borg”), “Joseph Sith” (Star War reference that suggests that Joseph Smith was an evil Sith), “Darth Monson” (another Star Wars reference there), etc. The more condescending, offensive, and degrading the better – that way it’s clear whose side you’re really on, and of course, that true believing Mormons are stupid idiots who all deserve just what they’re going to get at the great judgment![13]
  16. mormon-meme-generator-and-i-m-a-mormon-7c56a8
    An Internet meme designed to make Mormons look stupid – and this is one of the kinder ones.

    Create and use insulting Internet memes and graphics. Everyone loves getting insulted – be the Don Rickles of Mormon Studies, they’ll love you for it. After all, don’t you just love those angry atheist memes that insult and belittle Christians? They just make you want to run out and become an atheist in the worst way don’t they?

  17. Mock the LdS Temple Endowment ceremony. After all it’s sacred and stupid right? After all one can surely have meaningful conversation with someone’s back as they’re walking away, right? The fact that the endowment ceremony is an off-limits, “nuclear” subject in Mormon Culture is their problem not ours!
  18. Refer to Temple Garments as “Magic Mormon Underwear.” Let ’em them know how stupid and silly they really are! Better yet, wear them in public while donned in a gorilla’s mask, burn them, deface them, stomp and spit on them if you can.[14] After all, Christians never get upset when outsiders do that to clerical vestments, choir robes, or crosses do they?
  19. Show no empathy or understanding for the incredibly high price Mormons must pay for leaving the LdS Church. Hey man, it’s as easy as changing churches right? What’s the big deal? I mean Presbyterian to Baptist to Charismatic to Catholic to Lutheran and then back again – easy, peasy, there’s never much of a price to pay is there? Oh you lost your wife and family when you left the Mormon Church? And your job too? And you’re being shunned by your own family? Now that’s just downright weird isn’t it?[15]
  20. Use a lot of cliches, platitudes, and Christian folklore rather than anything of substance. In other words, use exactly the same kind of thought and emotional control tactics that Mormons use when engaging outsiders. It will really bless them, so they feel the anointing on you when you get out your “sword” and give them the word. Or, better yet, tell them about that angel encounter or Near Death Experience (NDE) that you heard about on Christian TV last week. Get right or be left man, because inch by inch life is a cinch, yard by yard life is hard – it’s in the Book!
  21. Appeal to feelings rather than intellect – after all, it worked so well in getting and keeping them in Mormonism? Maybe lightning will strike twice, so have them read the Bible and pray about if it’s true or not . . .[16]
  22. Hyper-spiritualize everything. For example, rather than using even toned language and verifiable evidence against Mormonism make statements like: “Mormonism is a demonic religious system which has led millions to hell”, or “Mormons are all demon possessed, under the influence of deceiving spirits”, or “The Lord showed me that Mormons will be key leaders in the Antichrist’s one world government – Mitt Romney is just the beginning”, etc. Of course since none of this can be objectively proved or verified it really just pits two competing belief systems, religious cultures, and value systems each other. To transitioning Mormons this just demonstrates (beyond a shadow of a doubt they very often think) that mainstream Christianity is just as fanatical and subjective as Mormonism. Yes, they’ll thank you as they just pass right on by on their way to atheism muttering a dismissive, “There’s no difference between the two, they’re both the same!”[17]
  23. mban997_hiUse double standards. For example, make a big deal over the fact that God the Father isn’t explicitly identified as the personage who says, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:17) in Joseph Smith’s First Vision but ignore the fact that neither is He explicitly identified in Matthew 3:17 as the voice from heaven that says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Why be fair? The ends justify the means, right?
  24. Argue that just one of Joseph Smith’s failed predictions of the future qualify him as a False Prophet per Deuteronomy 18:20-22, but ignore the fact that applying the same criteria in the same way that’s applied to Smith also makes Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Harold Camping and other respected Christian leaders with failed predictions of the future False Prophets too. Again, why be objective and fair?[18]
  25. Engage in what Christian Apologists call a “Scorched Earth Tactics“. That is, win at all costs rather than adhering to the golden rule of Christian apologetics, which is, “Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated” Nothing drives ’em away or drives them into atheism like going “Scorched Earth” on ’em does – go for it! Win at all costs Christian, win!
  26. Criticize, condemn, or praise authors, books, and articles that you haven’t read. And do the same for films, videos, and audio (like podcasts, lectures, and sermons) that you haven’t experienced first hand. Everyone knows that hearsay and innuendo is just as good as direct experience. Better yet, throw in some unfounded bigotry and prejudice! You know say things like, “D. Michael Quinn‘s popularity just baffles me. Not only is he a believing excommunicated Mormon but he’s gay to boot! With that combination you really can’t expect too much can you?”; or, “What’s up with Richard Bushman? ‘Rough Stone Rolling’ should have been published by FAIRMormon it’s so filled with apologetics instead of real honest to goodness history!”; or how about, “Alex Beam‘s ‘American Crucifixion’ disrespects crucifixion in it’s title! Doesn’t he know that Joseph Smith had a gun at Carthage Jail? Who carries a gun to a crucifixion?”; and last but not least, “I’ve heard that that ‘September Dawn’ is the closest thing to an accurate documentary on the Mountain Meadows massacre that we’ll ever get.” You get the idea.[19]
  27. Be just as fanatically Christian as they are fanatically Mormon. Since religious fanaticism is the fuel driving the Mormon belief system your behavior will be like filling up their tank without them even needing to get out of the driver’s seat! Oh, and this has the added “benefit” of driving them right into atheism should they leave since it makes it look like Christianity is just the opposite side of the same fanatical religious coin that Mormonism is on.
  28. In mixed company act like there are no Mormons present. Say things like, “Can you believe how pompous, self-righteous and arrogant Mormons are?”, “Mormons are like lemmings – if the Prophet told them to jump off a bridge they would do it!”, “Those ignorant Mormons, I know more about their religion that they do!” And of course, when the Mormons say, “Uh, I’m right here, I can hear everything you’re saying” and object to such crass prejudice and bigotry don’t apologize and don’t back down – in fact, up the ante, say even more outlandish things about those stupid Mormons right to their face!
  29. Paint with the broadest brush possible. Use wild, spectacular, over-generalizations delivered using the most absolute tone and words possible. You know, things like: “All Mormons lie in their Temple Recommend Interview”, “You’ve gotta know that every Mormon man is secretly addicted to pornography – Utah’s porn statistics are off the chart!”, “All dating BYU couples do the ‘Provo push!'”, “All Mormon women are treated like chattel by their priesthood holding husbands – it’s a holdover of 19th Century polygamy!” etc., etc., etc. The broader the better and the more spectacular is it the more people will be inclined to believe you – so go big, don’t hold back.
  30. Exaggerate and twist. Take something with a modicum of truth in it and expand, embellish, and massage it to the point where even the modicum disappears under an avalanche of hyperbole. For example, say something like “Mormonism replaces the cross with the pentagram!”[20] Or say, “Mormons shun the blood of Christ by using water in their communion service!”[21] Vetting, verifying, and refining your assertions so that they’re accurate and true is just so much work! Plus balance and precision doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as exaggerated hype – so why bother?
  31. Insist that Latter-day Saints should leave Mormonism over a single problem. For example, over the fact that the Book of Mormon anachronistically has the French word “adieu” in it (see Jacob 7:27) or that it incorrectly states that Christ was born in Jerusalem (see Alma 7:10).[22]
  32. 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 a just loser who just doesn’t “get it!”[23]
  33. Say things like, “The ends justify the means” to rationalize your bad arguments and behavior. Sure, it’s not biblical, but why be picky when souls are at stake here?
  34. Use the bad arguments and behavior of Mormons to justify any or all of the above.
  35. Assume that any constructive criticism from fellow Christians on how to better engage Mormons is meant for everyone else but you.

Summary and Conclusion:
Now I confess that in my early days in Mormon Studies I engaged some of these weak arguments – and on my bad days, sometimes I still do. But the fact remains that as Christians we have a higher calling. I would ask the reader to consider the following, knowing full well that while I may be preaching to others I am preaching to myself first and foremost.

First, this form of engagement is unbiblical. Here’s how the Bible instructs us to behave toward those who disagree with us:

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

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

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

Second, it’s just common sense that these tactics are more inclined to drive people away from Christ than draw them near. If and when the roles are reversed I’ve noticed that Christians react the same way that Mormons do: They walk away wanting to have nothing to do with the person, their stance, or their beliefs.

Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock “Lucifer” (1947). What Christian-Mormon dialog looks like when the above tactics are used by either side.

Third, it violates both the Golden Rule which says…

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 NKJV)

… and the Golden Rule of Apologetics which says:

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

Simply put, there’s just no excuse for Christians to be chronically using the type of tactics and arguments that I’ve listed in this article. And I say this knowing full well that Jesus, the Old Testament prophets, and the Apostles used sarcasm – and even some very harsh and pointed words – in their arguments. After all, I’ve followed their lead by using such tactics in this article haven’t I? However, I would suggest to the reader that these tactics were reserved for hard cases and as a kind of last resort, in no case did Christ or any of the other Biblical figures lead with these tactics or use them in every encounter. So if you find yourself doing so I would ask you to stop, consider the mind of Christ, and change direction. As Paul said so well:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phillipians 2:3-11 NKJV)

So I pray that that mind will be in us as engage with our Mormon friends and family members as we navigate through the dangerous land of Mormon Studies – a land where animosity and acrimony rule the day every day. I pray that we would be a healing balm and a exit route to truth rather than fuel on the fire and scorched earth. Maybe we would all do well to remember the ancient prayer that says:[24]

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
(St. Francis of Assisi)

quote-tact-is-the-knack-of-making-a-point-without-making-an-enemy-isaac-newton-285219

NOTES
[1] And before the “You’re a hypocrite – just look at the tone and content of your article!” phone calls, and letters start pouring in, the first part of 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 our Mormon friends and family members when it’s directed at them.

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

[3] NOT! Nobody does this. 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] This was covered by implication in “Weak Arguments #9: “I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon…” However, since Christian soap boxing is so prevalent, it bears repeating. And Utah Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace does a superb job of addressing this and other issues as they relate to street preaching in this episode of “The Ancient Paths”:

Also, as a point of clarification, please understand that public soapboxing does have a place and can be effective if it’s done biblically and appropriately. After all Christ did a lot of soapboxing – but it was always tailored and targeted for the audience that He was addressing. I would encourage you to consider how His tone, methods, and demeanor changed when His audience was the Jewish downtrodden (Matthew 11:25-30), versus the hard hearted (Matthew 11:20-24), versus the Jewish privileged (Luke 11:45-54). Then consider how it changed again when His audience wasn’t Jewish (John 4; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 15:21-28). Then when we look at the Apostles Paul’s writings and message are very different than, say, the public soapboxing we see in his Mars Hill address in Acts 17.

The basic problem here is a lack of social and cultural sensitivity, discernment and respect. If you truly love someone you will speak to them in a way that they understand and can receive your message. Christians who are “one trick ponies” on soapboxes – that is, that only have one approach and one message regardless of the audience – aren’t doing anyone any favors.

[5] This is covered to some degree in “Weak Arguments #11: “I will never, ever use official Mormon Church sources…” However, even unofficial Mormon friendly sources can be rich in content and potent in argument. I particularly recommend the works of D. Michael Quinn, Todd Compton, Richard Bushman, Charles Harrell, Rock Waterman, Denver Snuffer, and many other faithful, but intellectually honest Mormons. Let me put to you this way: Who do you think a Mormon is more likely to listen to: you, a critic, or a fellow believing Latter-day Saint?

[6] Suffice to say, Mormonism takes Christian words and forms and changes their underlying meaning. For a good primer of the terminology differences see “Terminology Differences” by Sandra Tanner. For a more in depth study and analysis of the subject see “Words We Share” by Sharon Taylor and Gerald Van Iwaarden.

[7] Of course, I’m demonstrating how Christians do this in a very tongue in cheek fashion here. And by the way, the speculation about Eustace Scrubb being Mormon is probably wrong. See Michael De Groote, “What C.S. Lewis thought about Mormons” Deseret New/Mormon Times, June 5, 2009. And since it annoyed me to not to be able to include the reference links for Eustace Scrubb and “The Chronicles of Narnia” in the main article (to do so wouldn’t have accurately reflected the behavior I was illustrating) I’ll do so here instead. Whew, I feel better now! Thanks!

[8] Just like no one can hear you scream in space, no one can see your hands in cyberspace – I just thought that you’d like to know.

[9] The unbiblical folly of this thinking was directly addressed in “Weak Arguments #9: “I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon…” As I said there, “if Christ could sit on the edge of a well and talk to Samaritan woman I think that we can somehow manage to stand by the water fountain in a Mormon Ward building and chat with Mormons can’t we?”

[10] Ibid.

[11] This was addressed by Bobby Gilpin in “Weak Arguments #3: “I know what you believe, because Brigham Young, Bruce R. McConkie or some other general authority said…..”

[12] This is addressed in “Weak Arguments #14: “There’s NOTHING in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”

[13] Each and every one of the derogatories used here were copied and pasted from actual Christian posts on Facebook and YouTube.

[14] Again this is not made up. From Wikipedia:

Some church opponents have used public occasions, like the biannual church conferences, to publicly mock and parody the wearing of temple garments. During the October 2003 LDS Church General Conference, some anti-Mormon demonstrators outside the LDS Conference Center reportedly spat and stomped on garments in view of those attending the conference. One protestor blew his nose into a garment he wore around his neck. A scuffle broke out between a protester and two members of the church who attempted to take the garments from him. To avoid a repeat of the conflict, the municipality of Salt Lake City planned stronger enforcement of fighting words and hate speech laws for the April 2004 conference in Salt Lake City with new protest buffer zones.
(Wikipedia, “Temple Garment Use in Protests”)

[15] Please read, “The Death of Reason and Freedom” by Enigma. I believe that it will help even the most hard hearted Christian understand the dilemma that unbelieving “Shadow Mormons” too often fall into. The highest recommended is also given to Azra Evans’ classic essay, “Families Held Hostage”.

[16] Clinton Wilcox discussed why this is not only a bad argument but unbiblical to boot in, “Weak Arguments #8: ‘I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.’”

[17] Again, none of these are made up. They’re all comments that the author has seen posted on the internet by welling meaning but misguided Christians.

[18] And, yes, Mormons use exactly the same apologetic rationalization for Joseph Smith that Christians often use for the Christians named here. Please consider the FAIRMormon portal page, “Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophecies” The arguments that FAIRMormon uses for Smith are similar, and in many cases identical, to the arguments use for those on our side of the divide who have failed predictions of the future. My point here is simple: We can’t apply one standard to those in our group and another to those outside of our group. We must be consistent and be consistent or we’re not credible and lack integrity.

For those looking for a good example of how this weak argument is used by Evangelicals will find one here: The Prophecies of Joseph Smith, by James K. Walker.

For those unfamiliar with the failed prophetic predictions of Evangelical Christian preachers Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping need only click on their names. Gary DeMar has also written a good summary article on their failed predictions. Click here to read this article.

[19] Things to consider in response to these examples:

  1. D. Michael Quinn, is widely regarded as the one of the top Mormon Historians of his day by both Mormons and non-Mormons alike. The consensus is that his work largely reflects a lack of bias despite his belief in and testimony of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. The exception to this consensus position typically comes from Mormon Apologetic groups. And I have never understood why some people think that Quinn’s homosexuality would impact his intellectual integrity or professional objectivity but it seems to get flung out a lot by Mormons and Christians alike. I would ask the reader to just read some Quinn and see if they can see overt bias in it. I don’t. For example, here’s a transcript of the infamous “Plural Marriages After the 1890 Manifesto” paper (aka “The Buffdale Speech”) that many people think was a key factor in him getting excommunicated in 1993.
  2. Richard Bushman has admitted repeatedly in interviews that while he makes every effort to be objective he may tend to give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt in his work due to his faith (click here for one such example). And candidly, his bias does occasionally leak through in his work – Peter Mary does a superb job of demonstrating this in his review of the book (click here). Never-the-less his work is remarkable for it’s level of candor and true Mormon history given his status as a faithful Mormon in good standing with the LdS Church. “Rough Stone Rolling” is always the first book that I recommend to Mormons who express a desire to know the truth from a faithful source and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
  3. Alex Beam is a faithful and practicing Episcopalian and his book “American Crucifixion” has garnered praise for the depth of detail it goes into regarding the circumstances and events surrounding the death of Joseph Smith – including the smuggled guns that Smith and his associates carried and shot at Carthage Jail which wounded several of their attackers. The last thing that Alex Beam intended was to disrespect or degrade anyone or anything, least of all Christ’s crucifixion, with the title. He has explained that the title was intended to be provocative and reflective of the strong feelings and historical impact that Smith’s death generated (click here and then fast forward to 34:10 to hear Mr. Beam’s explanation for yourself). He was also drawing attention to the parallels with Christ’s passion that Smith articulated himself regarding his circumstances during the last days of his life. Joseph Smith was notorious for such over the top hyperbole – much to the delight of his faithful and the scorn of his critics.
  4. “September Dawn” is a Hollywood film that was intended more to entertain than educate. The film contains some historical errors (click here to read Bill McKeever’s excellent analysis and review of the film) and even more unsupportable, speculative embellishment. It’s not a bad film but it’s certainly not a good documentary. In this author’s opinion, the best Mountain Meadows massacre documentary to date is Brian Patrick‘s award winning “Burying the Past”. It isn’t as entertaining as September Dawn but it’s certainly more enlightening – and it’s historically accurate.

[20] Regarding the use of the Pentagram in Mormon architecture: a) The meaning of the inverted 5-pointed star changed in the late 19th Century; b) Other Mormon denominations (like the RLDS/Community of Christ) use the cross in their architecture; c) Pentagrams aren’t used in modern LdS Church architecture. The exception being when a modern structure is being built that’s based on a historic design. For example, the 2002 Nauvoo Temple still retained the pentagrams from the original design but also used upright 5-pointed stars for the new, modern design elements.

The 2002 Nauvoo Temple.  (click to zoom)
The 2002 Nauvoo Temple. (click to zoom)

For example, notice that the stars in the exterior fence in the following photo – which is a new, modern element – are upright but the stars in the upper windows which were in the original 1836 design are inverted.

For a full discussion of the history of the cross in Mormon architecture and culture see Michael G. Reed, “Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo”. His Sunstone presentation on the book can be found here.

Mr. Reed’s explanation of the use of pentagrams in Mormon architecture can be found here. If the reader prefers a Christian analysis of the subject, Bill McKeever’s article on the subject can be found here.

[21] Regarding the use of water instead of wine or grape juice in the Mormon sacrament: a) Wine was originally used in Latter Day Saint communion services; b) Due to an unfounded rumor that Anti-Mormons were trying to poison the sacramental wine in 1830 and then due to the Word of Wisdom they switched to water; c) The use of water a hold over from the 19th Century temperance movement that got institutionalized and concretized by the Salt Lake City Brighamite Mormon denomination; d) Other Mormon denominations use grape juice rather than water in their services; e) Prior to Dr. Welch (a temperate Methodist) discovering a way to stop the fermentation in grape juice many temperate churches used water instead of grape juice in their services – were they “shunning the blood of Christ” by doing so? Glass house meet rock.

To gain a good overview of the subject from a Protestant perspective see Terry Hull, “How Grape Juice was ‘Invented’ to Make the Lord’s Meal Holier”. A good overview Mormon History in this area can be found here.

[22] Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson explain why the “adieu” anachronism alone isn’t sufficient grounds for a Mormon to leave the LdS Church in their January 23rd, 2015 Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast. And I explained why the “Jerusalem” slip of the pen on it’s own isn’t either in “Weak Arguments #10: “The entire Book of Mormon was discredited just as soon as it said that Christ was born in Jerusalem.” As I stated in my article:

“Should Christians declare the entire Bible discredited because of it [a single biblical contradiction]? Even Atheist critics and Muslims don’t suggest such a response because it’s so ‘over the top’. Yet, many Christians would demand exactly that of Mormons over Alma 7:10. To me, such a demand on Mormons reveals an extreme bias on the part of some Christians and the type of unjust, uncharitable treatment that can drive Mormons deeper into the LdS Church if they stay, or right past Christianity and straight into atheism if they leave…

Most ExMormons tell us that there wasn’t just one thing that convinced them that the truth claims of the LdS Church don’t add up, it was a culmination of a lot of little things. They say it’s like a bunch of pebbles being tucked away on a shelf in a deep, dark corner – that is until the shelf finally collapses under the weight of them all.”

Simply put, expecting anyone to leave their faith over a single problem or argument is pretty silly and naive. Politely and respectfully building a case takes longer and requires more effort but it’s ultimately how and why most people are disabused of closely held and comforting error and self-deception.

[23] Please see footnote #1.

[24] And if the Prayer of Saint Francis doesn’t suit you, perhaps 20th Century Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer” will:

serenity

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