Last Supper Paint by Numbers Kit
by Fred W. Anson

There was a time when the Mormon Expression podcasts had a way of provoking thought and challenging me to “go deeper”. For example, a bygone podcast on D&C 8 and 9[1] contained an interesting analysis and spirited panel discussion on how Joseph Smith described and practiced the process of receiving revelation.

Going directly to the source:
“I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.”

(D&C 8:2-3a)

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”
(D&C 9:7-9)

Well that sounds (like all the D&C revelations do) somewhat profound and quite spiritual when taken on it’s own at face value and in isolation. However, when the text is fully considered in light of the historical context given in the headnotes it’s hard to escape the possibility that they’re more indicative of something else: Manipulation.

Here are those headnotes:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829. In the course of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Oliver, who continued to serve as scribe, writing at the Prophet’s dictation, desired to be endowed with the gift of translation. The Lord responded to his supplication by granting this revelation.”
(headnote for D&C 8; retrieved date of post)

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829. Oliver is admonished to be patient and is urged to be content to write, for the time being, at the dictation of the translator, rather than to attempt to translate.”
(headnote for D&C 9; retrieved date of post)

Thus,  when viewed in light of their historical context, is it possible that these two revelations are nothing more than an example of the kind of “thus saith the Lord” style prophetic utterances and made-for-the-moment revelations that have always been used within abusive churches and cults as a means of controlling the membership in general – and chafing, unruly members in particular?

Notice how in these interrelated revelations Oliver Cowdery is first dangled the carrot of the promise that he will be able to translate if he stays faithful (D&C 8) but then given the stick that that this divine gift will have to wait until he’s done fulfilling his current role of service to Joseph Smith as his scribe rather than attempting his own translations (D&C 9:3-5) . Of course, it’s Smith who’s conveniently receiving this timely reprimanding, correcting revelation (D&C 9).  He’s also told not to “murmur” about any of this (D&C 9:6). Folks this is nothing new and has been a standard tool of manipulation by cult leaders since time immortal.

Further, when all the revelations are taken as a whole, the Doctrine & Covenants meta-narrative seems to indicate that this dynamic of manipulation was in play in each of the revelations. This is readily apparent in that they’re all rather formulaic and quite often repetitive. This is even more apparent when one reads them chronologically[2] not skipping over the headnotes, and still more apparent when you combine all that with a good understanding of True Mormon History.[3]

Specifically the pattern that emerges is the following formula:

R=(c+d)t

Where:
R = Revelation
c = challenge
d = desire
t = threat intensity accelerator
(the bigger the threat the bigger, more grandiose, was the resulting R)

I’ve dubbed this pattern, “The Joseph Smith Formula”.

For example, let’s take a look at D&C 132, the infamous revelation sanctioning (more precisely, “mandating”) polygamy. Here is the official church headnote giving the historical context for this revelation:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.
( headnote for D&C 132; retrieved date of post)

Take that and then factor in a good understanding of the true Mormon History that surrounded the coming forth of D&C 132[4] and here’s what emerges:

R = God requires the faithful to practice polygamy.
c = Emma Smith knows of Joseph’s adulterous affairs and isn’t happy with them.
d = Joseph Smith is having adulterous affairs (as are several Mormon Leader insiders), wants to continue them, and wants to have more.
t = Emma Smith might publicly expose Joseph’s adulterous affairs thus causing a scandal that could potentially under mind, even destroy the LdS Church.

Last Supper Paint by NumbersTherefore the Threat Intensity Accelerator is quite high in this case. In fact, I would say that on a scale of 1-10 it’s about an eight or nine, possibly even a ten. And as a result you get a long, rambling, grandiose revelation recast and delivered in the second person voice of God voice rather than the human author’s.

And you see this pattern again and again and again in Doctrine & Covenants. In fact, I would assert that one can take any alleged revelation in Doctrine & Covenants (including the Official Declarations) and this formula applies.

Pick a section and try it.

NOTES:
[1] Episode 139b: D&C 8 and 9 for Dummies Part One
http://mormonexpression.com/2011/06/07/139-dc-8-and-9-for-dummies-part-1/

Episode 139b: D&C 8 and 9 for Dummies Part Two
http://mormonexpression.com/2011/06/07/139b-dc-8-and-9-for-dummies-part-2/

The other podcasts on Doctrine & Covenants revelations as of the date of writing are:
Episode 118a: Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies Part 1
http://mormonexpression.com/2011/03/01/118a-polygamy-manifesto-for-dummies-part-1/

Episode 118b: Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies Part 2
http://mormonexpression.com/2011/03/01/118b-polygamy-manifesto-for-dummies-part-2/

Doctrine and Covenants 132 for Dummies Part 1
http://mormonexpression.com/2010/11/episode-95a-doctrine-and-covenants-132-for-dummies-part-1/

Doctrine and Covenants 132 for Dummies part 2
http://mormonexpression.com/2010/11/episode-95b-doctrine-and-covenants-132-for-dummies-part-2/

The Civil War Prophecy (D&C 87) for Dummies
http://mormonexpression.com/?p=588

[2] A Chronological Listing of D&C can be found at:

Doctrine & Covenants: Chronological Order of Contents
http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/chron-order?lang=eng

[3] I use the term “true Mormon History” here to distinguish and juxtapose against the “Faithful Mormon History” that’s taught by the the LdS Church via it’s Church Educational System and many LdS Mormon Studies Scholars. See “Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History” Edited by George D. Smith; Signature Books, 1992; http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=10550 for a good primer on this topic.

[4] A good, short quick primer on the true Mormon History surrounding D&C 132 can be found in the aforementioned “Doctrine and Covenants 132 for Dummies Part 1″ podcast or in the first few sections of the Wikipedia article on “Mormonism and Polygamy” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism_and_polygamy ) as well “The Wives of Joseph Smith” website (see http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/ )

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs site on June 21, 2011. This edition has been lighted edited, revised, and expanded to reflect the passage of time and  additional insight and knowledge acquired since then.)

sanctify
Sanctify
Here I am in that old place again
Down on my face again
Crying out I want you to hear my plea
Come down and rescue me

How long will it take
How long will I have to wait?

And all I want is all you have
Come to me, rescue me,
Fall on me with your love
And all you want is all I have
Come to me, rescue me,
fall on me with your love

Sanctify I want to be set apart
Right to the very heart
Prophesy to the four winds
And breathe life to this very place

How long will it take?
How long will I have to wait?

And all I want is all you have
Come to me rescue me,
Fall on me with your love
And all you want is all I have
Come to me rescue me,
Fall on me with your love

Lifted up I’ve climbed with the strength I have
Right to this mountain top
Looking out the cloud’s getting bigger now
It’s time to get ready now

Written by Stuart Garrard/Martin Smith ©1997 Curious? Music UK

The legendary performance of this song by Delirious? at Wembley Stadium

The final performance of this song in London

by Cory Anderson
Lead Pastor,  Shadow Mountain Church;  West Jordan, Utah

Introduction:  One of the criticisms that’s often thrown at Shawn McCraney’s critics is that they fail to present their grievances to him privately per the first step in “The Matthew 18 Formula” (see Matthew 18:15-20)  before they go public with them (the second and third steps).  In reality, over the years many have met with Shawn only to be met with resistance, stubbornness, and in some cases hostility.  

A case in point was Shadow Mountain Church Lead Pastor Cory Anderson’s March 4th, 2014 lunch meeting with Shawn which ended in Mr. McCraney creating an embarrassing public scene at the restaurant.  After much consideration and conversation with other Christians Pastor Anderson has made the following appeal public – both as a chronicle of the event and as an attempt to turn Mr. McCraney around from the bad path that he’s currently on.  (Editor) 

The following letter is in response to a letter I received from Shawn after our lunch together on March 4th. Here is the order of events.

1) I attended Inquisition 2014 (like everyone else I was blindsided).
2) I followed up with an invitation to Shawn to join me for lunch so I could address my concerns.
3) Lunch went poorly when Shawn treated me disrespectfully and created a scene.
4) I followed up with an email to Shawn.
5) He replied to let me know his perspective of the lunch (which he has requested remain private).
6) What follows was my reply to him.

Good afternoon Shawn,

I want to offer a reply to your recent email/letter communication with me. See below:

First, I want to thank you for acknowledging your error in not reading my email invitation to lunch. I understand how you felt at lunch because you had a different set of expectations because you did not read the email in its entirety where I had made it plain what my intentions were.

Cory Anderson

Cory Anderson

Second, just for the record, I have never served in the military and the t-shirt I was wearing was not a tight fitting martial arts shirt. It was a baggy one that had Unified Brazilian Jiujitsu on it. I am a practitioner of BJJ. That much is true. I cannot help it if I look the way I do. I often get thought of as a wrestler, football player, hockey player, military man etc…

Third, I did have documents in front of me because I had planned on talking with you about your actual statements instead of trying to do some summation of what you said. I believe it’s good to look at actual quotes and that this is the best way of being fair to you.

Fourth, not everything I addressed with you was spoken by you ‘in the heat of public confrontation’ as you commented in your letter to me. I have watched other shows where you are not in the heat of confrontation and you display the same poor behavior.

Fifth, are we not supposed to approach someone who claims to be brother and speak with them about our concerns? I sought to do this with you and expressed myself with gentleness and you then accused me of coming at you pastorally. Is this not how I am supposed to approach a brother? I approached you that way because I am a pastor and I try to handle things with gentleness and respect.

Sixth, I did address several very important issues with you.

• The Trinity
I spoke at length with you on this subject because of your failure to represent accurately the doctrine of the Trinity. You did make heretical statements and also contradicted yourself. I have the manuscript evidence to prove it. As a teacher it is vital to be able to handle the truth accurately, but you did not do that (James 3:1; Titus 1:5-9). I also addressed the issue because you went on the attack against the doctrine of God and also the men in history who drafted the creeds.

You revealed that you had not done your homework and yet you sought to attack something you know very little about. Please tell me your sources for your comments on the history of the Trinity? I would like to know exact names of authors and titles of papers. I already did a preliminary search online and found very little of anything in support of your jaded view of the history. So, I ask you to please point me to the sources. You cannot go on the attack, make statements that are fallacious, and then fail to offer sources. Whether you like it or not, you will be held accountable for your teaching and as a Pastor the only way I can do that with you is to warn you and then warn my church family. Please, please, please, show me the sources so I might check out the evidence.

• Character
I expressed my concerns over your use of Job 39 because you used this text which does not even speak of human beings and applied it to yourself in a way that appeared to justify your ungodly behavior. I asked you about other texts which speak to Pastors/Elders and broadly to all Christians (not animals) regarding godly character and you seemed to dismiss these. Not once have you expressed godly sorrow (2 Cor 7) over your behavior.

Shawn McCraney and Utah Pastor Jason Wallace at Inquisition 2014.

Shawn McCraney and Utah Pastor Jason Wallace at Inquisition 2014.

It is true that we all make mistakes and we all sin, the problem is that you have not owned your sin and the ungodly way you have behaved. My mistake in standing up at the “inquisition” is acknowledged, but you have gone on to make that a larger issue that it was. Don’t forget that you are the one who went on the attack at the inquisition by calling out Pastor Bryan and then falsely accusing him. You provoked, and I responded by getting up. My only mistake was not staying seated.

The big difference I am seeing is just as I stated it to you when we met. I own what I do that I consider wrong, but I have not heard that from you. As a man of God, this is not about being ‘orderly and exact and demanding excellence, proper conduct and linear thought’, this is about being godly. When I read the text about character I want to do what the text says. I want to be a godly example, even though I know I will never be perfect. I am trying always to mortify the flesh as Paul says in Col. 3:5. I had hoped that you would have met with me, or at least followed up with an email expressing your godly sorrow for your sinful behavior (using the F-word, telling me to shut up, telling me to repent, calling me a hypocrite, talking to me from across the restaurant, calling yourself a wild ass, etc…I could go on) and a desire to change that behavior so your ministry would not be hindered, but thus far you have not done this.

I admit, this deeply saddens me and I don’t think it is too late to publicly repent for your poor character and the way you treat others. By the way, in your email you expressed that I was trying to make you more like me, but that is the last thing I desire for you. I want you to become more like Jesus. I want to become more like him and that also includes godly character. Shawn, can you please show me how your life and what you do on your HOTM [Heart of the Matter] show reflect 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9?

• Divisiveness
I expressed my concern over your divisive behavior in how you have publicly dealt with the churches. While you say you have not mentioned any of them by name, you have still made it clear that they are the top 10 largest churches. It’s not difficult to figure out who you are referring to in a valley like ours.

My concern was not that we express our concern over some of the negative things within evangelicalism today, it was the manner in which you have publicly and privately attacked pastors and churches without talking privately with those pastors. Can I ask you if you have sat down with Paul Robie from SMCC in Draper? Did you respond to Paul’s several attempts to get with you? Did you sit down with any of them to understand what they are doing or express your concerns?

When I asked what your concerns were, you mentioned pastors being money grabbers and interested in their buildings. How can you do this without knowing them, talking with them and first seeking clarification? Can you judge the heart as you have done? A good example of this divisive behavior is how you treated me during our lunch and then what you wrote to me in your last email. You stated:

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney

“I purposely chose to rock little Cory’s world. Admittedly, I smile every time I think about it. But please know it was all purposeful and I truly hold no animus toward you. From my estimation you needed to have a bit of a wake-up call, my friend. You needed someone to call you out on your own shit, someone to let you know that your insights are seem by some as infantile, and that you ought to get the beam out of your own eye before attempting to sit down and remove mine.

The quiver in your face and water in your eyes let me know I struck a nerve on you putting your congregates under a burden with the term tithe – and when this fear, this inner guilt manifested itself on your countenance, I admittedly went in for the jugular. My bad. But it still makes me smile.”

A few notes of clarification. First, just for the record, you definitely did NOT rock my little world. When I read this comment I wondered if we were at the same meeting. Do you really think that being asked about tithing would rock my little world? Do you really think that I have not thought long and hard about tithing? Do you really think I have not had discussions with others about tithing?

Second, I did not receive a wake up call. I have no idea what you mean by this comment. Nothing you said ‘woke me up.’ I am totally awake already. What was I supposed to wake up from?

Third, your character is again showing through in your reference to my dung (sh__).

Fourth, I am again baffled as to the quivering in my face and the watering in my eyes that you refer to. Maybe you are thinking of a different meeting with a different man. No Shawn, I did not quiver or get teary. How bizarre that you would even think this. How odd that you would think that you ‘stuck a nerve’ and that some fear and inner guilt manifested itself in me.

No Shawn, you completely misread everything to such a degree that I honestly think you must be thinking of some other meeting. I have not since changed my view on tithing and have not been given one single reason from you to abandon it. If you wanted we could have had a gracious conversation about tithing, but you escalated it into an attack and pointed your finger in my face and called me to repent. You even judged my motives and accused me of being a money grabber and one who counts the money myself.

Please repent of all this behavior.

A comment or two on Tithing. I wonder if you have so much LDS background still in you that this causes you to immediately assume that a Pastor who preaches tithing is preaching it the same as the LDS church. I don’t preach tithing the same as the LDS church and the pastors I know that do preach tithing do not preach it the same either. We are not putting people under the burden of the law and have a very strong understanding of grace.

I think the real issue here is your LDS background that continues to cause you to overreact without understanding how various Christians understand a subject. I have really good friends who are godly men who preach the tithe and I have other godly men I know who do not preach the tithe. I have amazing fellowship with them as brothers and have never been poorly treated by them for my view and I have never poorly treated them. It is for this very reason that you should have spoken with these pastors you attacked on your show before you attacked them so that you might understand them better.

A word about my public sharing of information: You stated:

“I love you as a brother and hold no animus over the fact that you ran home and immediately (in what could only have been a preemptive strike to protect yourself) posted things about me and our private meeting on Disgracebook. And I have forgiven you for the cowardice of getting on the phone and talking this meeting up with other people in the body who have subsequently contacted me to show their allegiance to you. It’s all okay.”

Shawn, while I appreciate your extension of forgiveness to me, I do not think I need forgiveness for publicly sharing information about our meeting. At some point, people need to be warned about someone with beliefs and behavior like yours.

I am not the first to contact you and attempt to do so privately. You have had many opportunities to humble yourself and repent and yet you still remain unrepentant and freely accuse others as if you are the victim. At some point, when does the church warn the church about such behavior (Matthew 18:15-20)? Titus 1:10 is a good text to consider. If you were dealt with publicly it was because you needed to be dealt with publicly (Galatians 2:11-14).

I did share the information on Facebook[1] and someone called in unknown to me.[2] However, remember that when we met you made it very clear that you were going to talk about me on the show. I am glad you did not, but you still stated you would.

You also said many others things to me during that lunch that were uncalled for and ungodly. I have given you an opportunity to repent and so have others. It is still not too late for you to make amends with everyone on HOTM and all the local pastors. I think you will find a lot of grace. Your behavior is not only affecting the local ministry, but others outside of Utah are taking notice (James White & Rob Bowman).

Shawn, in your letter you mentioned not wanting to discuss this again and that if we ever meet again, then hopefully it will be better than the last time. The only way that we will meet again is if you humble yourself, repent of all your sin and seek to make peace with those of us in this valley who love Jesus deeply and have ministries that champion grace and the gospel. I would honestly welcome that.

I am not concerned if you use this private email publicly and I am also not bound by your desire to keep your letter to me a private one. I will wait for your repentant response to determine if I need to make public your last letter to me so that others can read how you have treated me.

If you do not acknowledge your errors, then I don’t know what you expect us to do as Shepherds in this valley. We have a responsibility to watch out for the flock that God has entrusted to us. Please have a change of heart for the sake of Utah, the LDS community that needs to be reached, and the Pastors who labor so faithfully in the valley.

I will be sharing this information with my elders since I am accountable to them and they need to understand what has transpired with you.

Sincerely,

Cory Anderson

About the Author: 
Cory is the lead pastor of Shadow Mountain Church in West Jordan, Utah. He holds a B.A in Theology from Briercrest Bible College and a M.A in New Testament from Briercrest Biblical Seminary. Prior to launching Shadow Mountain Church, Cory served as an Associate/Youth Pastor for 7 years in Canada. He enjoys teaching the Word of God and providing answers to tough questions regarding theology and doctrine. He has published an article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought entitled “Jude’s Use of the Pseudepigraphal Book of 1 Enoch” (Vol. 36, No.2, Summer 2003). He is married to Trina and has four children.

NOTES:
[1] On the afternoon of March 4th Pastor Anderson posted the following on Facebook:

“Hello everyone, I want to give you an update regarding my meeting with Shawn McCraney.

Things went well initially and then he started attacking me over teaching tithing and got in my face pointed at me called me to repent and became unbelievably obnoxious. He had people looking at us wondering what was going on. He went after this because his assessment of 10 of the biggest churches in the valley are all about money. He wanted to know where I was at. I told him that Christian people have a difference of opinion about this subject but I personally believe in tithing.

I don’t know what to say other than Shawn is an ungodly man. He made it clear that he will be talking about me on his show tonight.

I came to him and attempted to be full of grace and truth and love and treat him as a brother, and give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his misstatements about the doctrine of the Trinity.

When I spoke to him regarding what I perceived as ungodly character displayed on his show, he justified his behavior and sees nothing wrong with what he does. He acknowledged he is fleshly, and yet went on to act as if he did not need to repent of his behavior. He simply said that’s the way I Yamin God chooses to use me that way.

I am shocked!!!

My advice as a pastor: don’t have anything to do with Shawn McCraney. Stay away from him as he is very divisive and doesn’t care. Call him to repentance and that’s it.

He made it clear he is going to talk about me I his show as being a money grabber and a hypocrite.

In my departure I told him that I will be watching the show to see that he does the right thing and repents of his teaching and his behavior and he told me to shut up!

I wish I had the whole thing on video so you could see how hard I worked at being a gracious man with him and how he came out and attacked. However, if you’ve watched his show you know that he does that all the time.

Very sad.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/groups/MormonInfo.org/permalink/10152296096122938/?stream_ref=2 )

[2] During the March 4th ” God Part 3″ Heart of the Matter broadcast at 59:50 a caller referred to the meeting that resulted in the Facebook post in note 1 above and the email exchange that ultimately lead to the above appeal from Pastor Anderson.

by Fred W. Anson

“He [Shawn McCraney] does not realize that the people who are showing him the greatest love are the people who are warning him, ‘You’re goin’ down the wrong road!”
James White, March 6th, 2014[1]

“Let angry people endure the backlash of their own anger;
if you try to make it better, you’ll only make it worse.”
Proverbs 19:19 (The Message)

In part one and part two of this series we focused on Shawn McCraney’s increasingly troubling behavior – up to and including teaching the ancient heresy of modalism. Unfortunately, his behavior has had a negative ripple effect on others – and that will be the focus of the concluding article  in this series.

Q: Why are some Christians saying that Mr. McCraney isn’t fit to teach Christian doctrine and/or lead a church?
A: He not only doesn’t meet all the qualifications set forth in the Bible for church leaders but has consistently violated many of them while in ministry.
Please consider the following from the Apostle Paul:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
– 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)

Let’s break this down shall we? Paul said, “He must not be a recent convert.” Shawn McCraney entered public ministry far too early. As I observed in my 2008 review of “I Was a Born Again Mormon”:

“I found the theological foundation that he presented in this book theologically immature, theoretical, idealistic, and with the exception of his life story, not really fleshed in the real world over time and over a broad sampling of Mormons. In the end this section is problematic and, and it could have been predicted that it would become chum for criticism of Shawn and the movement.

In hindsight I wish that Shawn had slowed down and taken more time to fully develop the Born Again Mormon model and Theology before shooting it like a scud missile into the Morridor.

This was a situation where time was on his side! After all Shawn was voluntarily excommunicated from the LDS Church in 2003 yet after only two years he published a book and launched a Utah based television program. 5-years later he launched a Para-Church Bible Study and Fellowship. All this while juggling a secular “day job”, marriage, and family in Southern California!

Further, when we consider that Paul was prepared for 14-years from the Damascus road experience (Acts 9:1-31) until his first missionary journey (starting in Acts 13), and Jesus was “prepared” for 30-years before he began His public ministry, the lack of wisdom of this “quick to market” ministry decision comes into focus.”[2]
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)

Sound familiar? Six years later we’re simply seeing the same pattern repeat only with Shawn McCraney displaying the same theological immaturity, unrealistic idealism, and loose cannon theorizing in his post-January 2013 broadcasts on American Evangelicalism.

And in regard to “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, … not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” one need only ask one simple question: Have you ever seen Shawn’s show? As Rob Sivulka noted well in a recent article:

“Shawn later said in the evening [that is, Inquisition 2014] that he describes himself as a “wild ass” from the book of Job. He said, “That’s how he has made me. Don’t like it? Freaking turn the channel or go to another church. I don’t care! I don’t care about your thoughts on your YouTubes. I don’t care. I care about people and coming to know the truth” (55). (I was thinking of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” song while Shawn was making this “wild ass” claim about himself.) Shawn should have given me the same benefit of the doubt about caring for LDS in that moment when he found out about me once stomping on the LDS scripture. Furthermore, if Shawn is a wild ass, then how is he a model of winsome behavior toward LDS? Shawn acted like he never offends his LDS audience. However, the fact of the matter is that he hangs up on LDS, yells at and talks over them, pretends like he is falling asleep on boring callers, uses offensive language, etc., etc.”
(Sivulka, Rob, “The “Inquisition” of Shawn McCraney—What the Heck Was That?”)

And on the infamous January 1, 2013 “Price of Truth” Shawn not only acknowledged his rudeness but bragged about it as if it were an asset rather than a liability:

“… we have not held back at all [on Mormons and Mormonism], admittedly I have been rude. I have been acerbic. I have cut you off, I’ve hung up on you. I have called you out. I have mocked your leaders to no end. I have no respect for them. I have done all sorts of things that have abraded you to cause you to try to see the religious idiocy behind the machine called ‘Mormonism’… (25:02-25:30)

But as of tonight at least for 2013, we are done with Mormonism, all of it together… when it comes to my presentation beginning next week I am going to go after another group. I’m going to go after that group with the same amount of tenacity, the same amount of rudeness, the same amount of indifference to people’s feelings…(25:49-26:21)

That group is primarily going to be American Evangelical Christianity. We’re going to go after it’s politicking. We are going to go after it’s demands. We are going to after it’s culture. We are going to go after it’s doctrine relative to what the Bible says. I am going to hold back nothing in my terms of investigating what traditional and contemporary, American, Evangelical Christianity has heaped upon people.” (27:07-27:39) 
(McCraney, Shawn; “The Price of Truth”; air date: January 1, 2013)

Candidly, I was never happy with some of the behavior that Mr. McCraney displayed on his TV Show – although at the time I excused it in the hope that he would eventually calm down as he matured as a Christian. However, this presumption on my part was based on the belief that Shawn was accountable to more mature and established Christians in a local church that he was knit into, and that he was being discipled by a good Pastor. I now say to my shame that I was wrong on all counts.

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it

(click to zoom)

Q: Aren’t you aware that Shawn always tells his supporters to “go to the word” (the Bible) and check everything he says out?
A: I am. I’m also aware that all Christian cults say the same thing.
However, in a cult, if one’s interpretation of the Bible varies from the leader’s then your status in the group is in jeopardy. For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Local Church will all tell you to “go the word” but if your interpretation doesn’t match the “right” interpretation – meaning the one from The Watchtower Society, Ellen G. White, or Witness Lee, depending on which of these three groups that you’re in – then you’re in trouble.

And if one needs proof that Shawn McCraney is trying to establish himself and his interpretation as the only right one for the only true church, one need only watch his TV show.

So this is nothing new – just the uninformed repeating history yet again!

Q: Why weren’t Evangelicals this critical of Shawn when his focus was on Mormonism rather than Evangelicalism?
A: Mr. McCraney is a subject matter expert on Mormonism, but he’s ignorant when it comes to orthodox, mainstream Christianity in general and Evangelicalism in particular.
Mr. McCraney had the benefit of a lifetime of experience in Mormonism and was deeply immersed in the history, theology, issues, controversies, and continuing conversations within modern Mormon culture. Thus, despite his all deficiencies, when he focused on Mormonism he was informed, insightful, and effective.

On the other hand, it’s apparent from his books and shows that when it comes to modern Evangelicalism he’s an ignorant fool – so ignorant and so foolish, in fact, that he’s embarrassing himself and doesn’t even seem to know it. Thus, respected Theologian Rob Bowman was absolutely spot on when he offered Shawn the following advice:

“A little knowledge about the biblical languages and doctrinal subjects, garnered haphazardly from questionable sources, used inconsistently to support what you have already think you know, is not a good thing. It is not ‘loving the Lord your God with all your mind.’ As a teacher, you, like I, will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Let some of us help you. Set aside your planned series of lectures on the nature of God for now. Pursue a sound, well-informed understanding of what Scripture teaches through the God-given ministry of other teachers. Refocus your ministry on what you do so well: reaching out to lost, confused Mormons with the wonderful gift of the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
(Bowman, Rob; public Facebook review of the 3/4/2014 Heart of the Matter “God Part 3″ broadcast)

Q: Those who attend CAMPUS and support Shawn McCraney seem to be getting some criticism too – what’s up with that?
A: Many of them are acting more like members of a cult than anything else.
For better or for worse the teaching of heresy by Mr. McCraney has exposed just how spiritually immature, theologically ungrounded, and discernment challenged many of those who follow and support Shawn McCraney’s ministry are.

For example, not only did many, if not most, of his supporters not bat an eye when Mr. McCraney overtly taught heresy on February 11th, 2014 (see part 2 for an analysis of what was said and why it’s heresy) they have fiercely continued to defend Mr. McCraney’s modern repackaging of modalism. In fact, most couldn’t even see what or why there was a fuss over such a “small” matter like errantly teaching the nature of a god other than the One that’s revealed Himself in the Bible. This is, to me, an obvious indicator of the glaring lack of theological depth  in this group – not to mention its inability to discern error.

Further, when evidence has been presented to them in support of the Trinity  and against modalism by more mature, discerning, theologically grounded Christians,  it has typically been ignored or spun into a defense for why their leader had done nothing wrong and how that they – aka “the accusers” to use Shawn’s label for his critics – are the real problem here.

But perhaps the greatest indicator of the general lack of spiritual immaturity and theological understanding among the “Shawnites”  (a term I will now use going forward as shorthand for “ardent, impassioned supporters of Shawn McCraney”)  is their inability to distinguish between the essentials (the Deity of Christ, Salvation by Grace, Resurrection of Christ, the Gospel, and Monotheism – see “The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith” by Matt Slick) and everything else.

unity_liberty_charityFor example, many Shawnites will dismiss you out of hand as in error if they find out that you’re either a Calvinist or believe in tithing. Yet these aren’t essential doctrines of the faith and Christians can and will disagree on them – it’s really no big deal. However, I think that we would all agree that getting the nature of God right is essential isn’t it? As the late Walter Martin said well:

“The ultimate test of whether something is Christian. If you are corrupt in your doctrine of God and the person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ… it doesn’t make any difference where else you’re right. You are not Christian. If you have the wrong God, the wrong Redeemer, you’re lost. That has been the message of the Christian Church historically.”
(Martin, Walter; Opening Debate Argument, 1987)

Further, choosing to dismiss other Christians over non-essentials is not only silly but unBiblical.[3] As the Apostle Paul said:

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
– Romans 14:1-8 (ESV)

Q: Is this why some Christians calling Mr. McCraney a cult leader?
A: Yes, he and many Shawnites are acting like cultists.

Q: Can’t we all just get along – isn’t this a divisive and embarrassing public spectacle?
A: Well, it was Shawn McCraney who divided himself and his followers off from orthodox, mainstream Christianity wasn’t it?
And yes, we could just ignore Shawn’s false teachings and unrighteous behavior but one must ask: What’s more important looking good or standing for truth? If standing for truth in the long run means that we have to endure some embarrassment in the short run, then I’m willing to be embarrassed. How about you?

Further, unless this situation turns around, it appears that we just might  just be watching history repeat itself in another way as well – it will be Joseph Smith all over again just as James White has observed:

“When Joseph Smith started teaching wild, strange, weird stuff in the 1830′s most people looked at him and ignored him. Thought he was . . .  I mean there were so many people like that.  And to be honest with you, 99% of the people who go flying off the rails end up in a pile of twisted steel someplace and the sands of time covers them over and that’s it.

But sometimes you have a Joseph Smith. And sometimes you have a [Charles Taze] Russell and a [Joseph Franklin] Rutherford. You know if a Smith can end up with a [Brigham] Young and a Russell can end up with a Rutherford how many of millions of people can be influenced thereby and by that blinded from the truth?

Do we have the start of a cult in the Salt Lake Valley?  I don’t know.  I hope not!”
(White, James, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; 1:03:46)

IN CONCLUSION:
So where do we go from here?  I don’t know.  What happens next is largely up to Shawn McCraney and his band of Shawnites isn’t it?  And while agreeing wholeheartedly with Rob Bowman’s earlier advice to Shawn (see above), my personal advice remains the same as it was in 2008:

“Were I on the Born Again Mormon advisory board my biggest piece of advice would be this: SLOW DOWN! This is a ministry that got traction quickly, gained speed, and never slowed down. Well, in my opinion, it needs to.

That’s because I see symptoms that the movement has overwhelmed the slow moving, conservative, and resistant to change Morridor creating unnecessary friction, tension, and anger worldwide (when it comes to Mormonism if you threaten Salt Lake City you threaten the entire Mormon Principality – it’s like attacking the Queen Bee in a hive). In my opinion much of the criticism that this movement has suffered has been because in it’s haste it unintentionally runs over people and once they get up they act out their anger, hurt and frustration via very public, often unreasonably harsh and “over the top” criticism.

I think that if the movement would start moving in a slower, more deliberate, more organic, less forced manner these shrill voices will begin diminish over time AND the fruit will slowly mature as they start to RESPOND rather than REACT to the paradigm shift that Shawn and his movement have introduced. Yes, opportunity does indeed knock BUT if you’ve got something that it wants it will wait around or come back later!

In summary, my advice (for what it’s worth) is slow down, be patient, be strategic and think multi-generationally rather than errantly unBiblically, tactically and impulsively. Resist the temptation (though it can be hard) to think, “If it’s to be or not to be, it’s up to me!” No, friends it’s up to God, it’s God’s work not ours. We’re stewards not owners.

The last problem and most important thing to address is ,of course, the theological sticking points that the Born Again Mormon movement has introduced. I’m sure that some would disagree with this but the biggest problem that I see with the Born Again Mormon movement is that the underlying theology wasn’t full formed before the book, TV show and movement was launched.”
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)

And until Shawn repents and changes course, I offer the same advice to Shawn’s supporters that Utah Pastor Cory Anderson did after his private attempt to correct and reconcile with Shawn McCraney in early March:

“My advice as a pastor: don’t have anything to do with Shawn McCraney. Stay away from him as he is very divisive and doesn’t care. Call him to repentance and that’s it.”
(Anderson, Cory, Facebook Update on Meeting with Shawn McCraney 3/4/2014)

And if that sounds harsh my dear Shawnite friend, I would ask you to open your Bible, turn to the book of Jude, and consider these words in relation to Mr. McCraney’s behavior:

“These men [false teachers] are constant gripers, never satisfied, doing whatever evil they feel like; they are loudmouthed ‘show-offs,’ and when they show respect for others, it is only to get something from them in return.

Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you, that in the last times there would come these scoffers whose whole purpose in life is to enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable. They stir up arguments; they love the evil things of the world; they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them.”
– Jude 1:16-19 (TLB) 

I will also state emphatically to our Shawnite friends that despite Mr. Craney’s ugly caricaturizing and public debasing of modern Evangelicalism, there are many, many, many great churches out there well worth investing your life into.  If you’re having trouble finding one just ask (a comment below will do) and we will do everything in our power to help.

And if you are neither Shawn McCraney or a Shawnite, my advice is this: Pray, pray, and then pray again that God moves and turns this tedious, volatile, and unsettlingly situation and shows His glory yet again.  Amen.

NOTES:
[1] White, James, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; 1:09:09

[2] And as I noted in the footnote for that passage:
“This long disciplining period is even more impacting when you consider that Paul was a disciple of one of the greatest Jewish Teachers of the day – Gamaliel (see Acts 5:33-39) before his conversion. However, he was STILL discipled for 14-years before being called to public ministry. Then think about Jesus’s 30-years of preparation and the wisdom of long term disciplining becomes even more apparent.”
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)

[3] Equally silly and unBiblical is choosing to not denounce and/or distance oneself from heretics over essentials – it is simply unBiblical:

2 Corinthians 6 (ESV)
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

1 Timothy 1 (ESV) 
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

2 Peter 2 (ESV)
2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Jude 1 (ESV)
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

by Fred W. Anson
In the previous article in this series I gave a brief overview of these trials making every effort to simply report as dispassionately as possible without providing any analysis. However, this story is so complex and nuanced that, frankly, it’s hard to make sense of it without deconstructing the issues and history beneath it and trying to sort it all out. Here’s my take on the controversy.

Q: Has Shawn McCraney taught heresy?
A: Yes.
On the February 11, 2014 Heart of the Matter (Episode 381: God – Part 2) Mr. McCraney made the following statement (starting at 25:48 in the broadcast):

“One God. Always only and forever only one God. A monotheist God. He has manifested Himself in all sorts of means and ways to man.

He has appeared as fire.
Spoken as a still small voice.
As clouds, and mist, and wind, and an assortment of other ways.

Were they all God? Yes. Manifestations of One God Were they manifestations of more than one God? No.

One monotheistic God.

Did this God manifest Himself in spirit?

Yes. The second verse in the first chapter of Genesis says:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Hey, listen up – this single monotheistic God also manifested Himself in . . . flesh.

That’s all. Not a new second or third “person” of the singular God co equal with the other persons. Just another manifestation of the single God.

Jesus said it plainly to Philip:

“If you have seen me, you’ve seen the father.”

The Greek word for see in this passage is Horao and is better understood as Jesus saying:

“If you have discerned me, Philip, and not literally seen (which is the Greek word blepo).

That’s all I’m saying. The Spirit – God. One with God. From God, of God, and just God. Jesus – God. One with God. From God, of God – God. Holy Spirit God.

The only deal about God being “a or the Father” is in relation to Him having a Son in flesh.

He was not a Father until He manifested Himself as the Son.

It’s all really no more complicated than this:

“God is one who manifests Himself in a bunch of different ways. If the manifestation is from God, then the manifestation is God, and is sent by the One God to teach us of Him.”

So where did all this stuff about three persons, co-equal, co-eternal, comprising the one true God come from?

Stupid men who want formulae, who love control.”
(the above transcription is from the official Heart of the Matter website http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/)

That, dear reader, is pure unadulterated modalism, and it’s heretical.* He denied that it was modalism before he said it and he’s denied it repeatedly since.  However, pick your cliche:

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck . . .
If the shoe fits . . .
If you’ve made your bed . . .

Modalism by any other name, and no matter how much rhetoric, back spin, and wordsmithing you pile on top of it, is still modalism. Period.

wear-your-modalism[1]

The classic modalist’s example: Water. To be accurately depict the Trinity, the water would have to co-exist as ice, liquid and cloud eternally, distinctly, and simultaneously. Thus this analogy is a fatally flawed illustration that in the end (pun intended) muddies the water and leads to heresy.


Now I understand that since that episode Shawn has claimed that what he taught there was fully compatible with the orthodox Trinitarian view but, simply put, it isn’t. Further, not only has he has yet to recant this teaching, but both in private and public meetings (such as the February 20, 2014 Heart of the Matter episode; INQUISITION 2014 – The Term “Trinity”) he has reiterated and affirmed this stance. For example as Rob Sivulka notes in his report and analysis of Inquisition 2014:

“Shawn clearly does say at one point in the debate that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “are three persons from eternity” (1:43:26, emphasis added).

However, just nine minutes later, Shawn goes on to clearly contradict this. At 1:52:28, a questioner from the audience, James Thompson, asks Shawn, “Would you also say that there are three distinct persons?” Shawn replies, “No.” James asks, “How would you prefer to describe the distinction that you see in Scripture?” Shawn says, “Word and Spirit,” and then in response to my question, “So the Word wasn’t a person then?,” he said, “Not a person, it was the Word.” I asked, “And the Word didn’t have a consciousness?,” and Shawn replied, “It didn’t have a body and a beard either.” I asked, “Okay, but you don’t believe they are different in their identities, so the Father is not different in his identity from the Son.” Shawn said, “When the Son became flesh, when his Word became flesh, yes.” I asked, “Okay, but not before any creation?,” and Shawn simply said, “It was God. …It’s the word ‘person’ were hanging up on here. That’s the word the Nicene Creed used. John himself called him the Logos, not a person. That’s my distinction” (1:55:45ff.).

Whatever Shawn’s god turns out to be (I’m not even sure Shawn knows), it’s clear that he is still a heretic for rejecting that God eternally existed in three distinct centers of consciousness, egos, identities, or persons (whatever term you want to use). This is the crux of the whole debate, not that Shawn was being vilified for rejecting the term “Trinity.”’
( Rob Sivulka, “The ‘Inquisition’ of Shawn McCraney – What the Heck was That?”)

As theologian Rob Bowman explained in his February 26, 2014 statement on his Facebook page regarding his private meetings with Mr. McCraney:

“Some of the things Shawn has been teaching are in error, and it is important that he come to see that and make the necessary corrections. As a teacher, he is answerable to God and is held to a stricter standard with regard to what he says than other believers (James 3:1). Some of the things he said can even be fairly labeled as heretical, though he has also said things that contradicted those seemingly heretical statements.”

And later, in a post on the MormonInfo.org/JosephLied.com Facebook page Mr. Bowman corrected a poster who stated that he had exonerated Mr. McCraney of heresy:

“To clarify, as I said in my post on my own page, in my estimation Shawn has made conflicting statements, some of which could be described as heretical but others of which are orthodox. Thus it is difficult to neatly pigeon-hole Shawn’s position. Moreover, he seems to have already moved at least somewhat away from his most objectionable formulations. I’m therefore of the opinion that we should simply watch to see how things develop, with the hope that his teaching will become more consistently orthodox.”

So in the end, yes, Shawn McCraney did teach heresy. The question of whether he will continue to do so or not remains unanswered at this point – as does the question of whether he will recant and renounce those heresies.

Q: Why didn’t Mr. McCraney’s critics follow the “Matthew 18 Formula” and present their grievances privately rather than just exposing and denouncing his errant teachings publicly before speaking to him?
A: Several did speak with Mr. McCraney in private and he refused to listen.
Many more attempted to meet privately with Mr. McCraney but he refused, telling them to present their grievances at Inquisition 2014 instead.

Further, as renowned theologian D.A. Carson notes:
“The sin described in the context of Matt 18:15–17 takes place on the small scale of what transpires in a local church (which is certainly what is envisaged in the words “tell it to the church”). It is not talking about a widely circulated publication designed to turn large numbers of people in many parts of the world away from historic confessionalism. This latter sort of sin is very public and is already doing damage; it needs to be confronted and its damage undone in an equally public way. This is quite different from, say, the situation where a believer discovers that a brother has been breaking his marriage vows by sleeping with someone other than his wife, and goes to him privately, then with one other, in the hope of bringing about genuine repentance and contrition, and only then brings the matter to the church.

To put the matter differently, the impression one derives from reading Matt 18 is that the sin in question is not, at first, publicly noticed (unlike the publication of a foolish but influential book). It is relatively private, noticed by one or two believers, yet serious enough to be brought to the attention of the church if the offender refuses to turn away from it. By contrast, when NT writers have to deal with false teaching, another note is struck: the godly elder “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9 NIV).”
(D.A. Carson, “Editorial On Abusing Matthew 18″)

Finally, I think it’s important to note that in more than one private meeting Mr. McCraney reiterated his modalistic stance and was told to his face that what he had just articulated was in fact that ancient heresy.  Yet he remained resolute and determined in his error.

So whatever else Mr. McCraney may say going forward, he can’t say that he wasn’t told the truth – and on a number of occasions to boot!

Q: If Shawn McCraney recants his heretical teaching and apologizes for them will that satisfy and silence his critics?
A: I would like to say, “Yes, absolutely!”, but the more realistic answer is, “Probably not.”
Sadly, Shawn McCraney has a pattern of publicly apologizing only to revert to the same behavior shortly thereafter.

For example, on January 23rd, 2013, Shawn issued a public apology for his behavior on the now infamous January 1st, 2013 “The Price of Truth” Heart of the Matter episode which, in part, said:

“I apologize for my tone. In speaking to the Body (no matter how off-putting I find some activities going on within it today) I am (from the Word commanded to use kindness (1st Peter 3:15). I was not kind. Being in sinful flesh (Romans 7) I failed. Please forgive me. I completely accept responsibility for my sinful demeanor and also the end-result resulting from it.”
(Shawn McCraney, UPDATE-Wednesday January 23rd 2013)

He then went on to engage in exactly the same behavior in the Heart of the Matter broadcasts that followed.

And then on the July 7, 2013 “Time To Change” Heart of the Matter broadcast Mr. McCraney once again apologized for his behavior.  He then proceeded to engage in exactly the same behavior that he’d apologized for – twice. Further, his behavior ultimately got even worse – which takes us to where we are now.

As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” At this point, Shawn will need to not only rebuild the trust bridges that he’s burned but will need to show some consistency in terms of changed behavior – that is, “the fruit of repentance”. And Christians aren’t being unreasonable by expecting this, since it’s not only common sense but Biblical. For proof of the latter, one need only consider the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians regarding the issues that he addressed in his first letter to the Church at Corinth: He clearly wasn’t content with merely words, he was clear that he expected ongoing and steadfastly changed behavior.

And while we anxiously pray for and await Shawn McCraney’s public denunciation of his prior heresies, we even more anxiously await a substantive and lasting change of behavior.

There’s been a lot of ink (or if you prefer “pixels”) spilled over former Mormon Shawn McCraney’s recent conflicts and challenges with fellow Christians and I’m sure that there will be a whole lot more spilled before it’s over. In Part Three of this series, we will consider the impact of Shawn McCraney’s false teachings and bad behavior on others.

*  for a primer on the heresy of modalism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabellianism 
for a primer on the orthodox view of the Trinity see http://carm.org/what-trinity

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

An accurate depiction of the Trinity: One Being, God, co-existing eternally and simultaneously as three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

by Fred W. Anson
It’s been an interesting few weeks if you’re a Evangelical Christian in Mormon Studies! For those of you who don’t know well known Utah TV personality, and a former Latter-day Saint who is now a Born Again critic of Mormonism, Shawn McCraney has recently been denounced by many in the Evangelical Christian Mormon Studies community as a heretic and even a cult leader.

Here’s the short, cryptic version of what’s happened so far:

January 9, 2013
Shawn McCraney announces that his new emphasis will be the doctrine and culture of the American Evangelical church rather than Mormonism.
(HOTM #EVC 1: The Price of Truth; http://hotm.tv/episodes/evc/1-the-price-of-truth/ )

Throughout the year of 2013 Mr. McCraney critiques a number of non-essential doctrines such as worship styles, preaching styles, fund raising, etc. He also denounces the doctrines of eternal hell, and the Calvinistic theological system raising the hackles of mainstream orthodox Christians.

January 29, 2014
“Jed” a regular attendee (the group eschews “members” or “membership”) of Shawn McCraney CAMPUS ministry (see http://c-a-m-p-u-s.com/ ) calls into Jason Wallace’s Ancient Paths TV Show and presents a idyllic picture of their group of “Christian Anarchists”. In response Jason Wallace challenges Jed from the Bible and then critiques Shawn McCraney’s lack of accountability.
(The Ancient Paths – The Importance of the Visible Church; currently not internet posted)

February 4, 2014
Mr. McCraney responds to Jason Wallace’s public critique by renouncing all forms of ecclesiological accountability except in regard to finances. Shawn then proceeds to renounce the creedal basis of the doctrine of the Trinity calling it, among other things, “garbage” and derived by committee rather than God.
(HOTM Episode #380: God – Part 1; http://hotm.tv/episode-380-god-part-1/ )

A summation video of these two exchanges can be found here:
“Shawn McCraney TV “Fight” On Accountability”; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYH6w-O-v_4

February 11, 2014
Mr. McCraney claims that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed from pagan sources. He then goes on to teach a form of non-sequential modalism and then denies that what he’s just taught is modalism.
(HOTM Episode #381: God – Part 2; http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/ )

February 12, 2014
Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace gives an overview of Shawn McCraney’s unBiblical behavior and shift from historic Christianity orthodoxy since January 2013. Pastor Wallace explains that, per Shawn’s request, he won’t be addressing Shawn’s new view of God until Mr. McCraney gives the additional details and expands on his beliefs on the next HOTM show – as Shawn as has promised both on the air and in private communication.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney’s Teachings; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFNlhYI8PM )

February 17, 2014
Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka of Courageous Christians United publishes a blog article entitled, “Shawn McCraney is a Heretic and Needs Adult Supervision” becoming the first to formally and publicly label Shawn McCraney a heretic.
(see http://www.courageouschristiansunited.org/blog/Shawn-McCraney-is-a-Heretic-and-Needs-Adult-Supervision-48993 )

The “Heart of the Matter with Shawn McCraney” Facebook page purges all critics of Mr. McCraney from the page.  The page owner Derrick Webster (a key figure in Mr. McCraney’s Alathea Ministries) also blocks those critics  from his personal Facebook profile making communication with him via Facebook impossible (Note: Mr. McCraney doesn’t have a Facebook account).
[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this author was one of those who was purged from the page and blocked by Mr. Webster]

February 18, 2014
Instead of delivering “God – Part 3″, as previously stated and promised, Mr. McCraney remains silent for the entire show. The only voices are those of John updating the viewers on the Monson United Kingdom lawsuit, a few critics, and far more supporters praising Shawn for his “bold stand” in the face of adversity.
(HOTM Episode #382: Silence; http://hotm.tv/episode-382-silence/ )

February 19, 2014
Jason Wallace addresses Shawn McCraney’s behavior and lack of accountability to the visible Church. He also addresses the division that Mr. McCraney is creating in the church through his teachings and behavior. CAMPUS attendee “Jed” calls in again and is unable to respond cogently and Biblically to Pastor Wallace’s questions regarding how CAMPUS is structured, organized, and run relative to Biblical injunctions and models on church structure and practices.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney Part 2; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38DNcJLUjbI )

February 20, 2014
Mr. McCraney hosts a meeting that he and his producers dub “Inquisition 2014″ which is video streamed over the internet. Mr. McCraney’s critics are dubbed “Accusers”. Local Utah Pastors attending the event include Jason Wallace, Dale Finley, Bryan Hurlbutt, Cory Anderson, Chip Thompson, and others. Also in attendance was Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka and several others with Utah-based ministries.
(INQUISITION 2014 – The term “trinity”; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS4YzzBjMzk)

The invitation for the February 21, 2014 "Open Forum" event at CAMPUS

The invitation for the February 21, 2014 “Open Forum” event at CAMPUS

This event was posted on the internet as an “Open Forum”, but the actual format was a largely passive audience merely observing a highly controlled, staged setting. For example, those that wanted to confront Shawn were told to sign up and sit at the front of the room. These “accusers” were given a combined total of 30 minutes to state their “case”. Further, they were told specifically to only address issues about the the trinity, and were forbidden to bring up any other concerns over any of Shawn’s other controversial teachings and statements (such as accountability, Calvinism, hell, etc). This came as a shock to many in attendance as the “invitation” did not specify such a format, nor limit the topics allowed.

February 21, 2014
Derrick Webster posts the following on the Heart of the Matter With Shawn McCraney Facebook page:

“Message from Shawn McCraney

Dear friends,

As a Christian Ministry dedicated to reflecting the ideals of the King, we want to reiterate that our Facebook page is here to share information relative to the LDS/ Christian debate. We would appreciate it if all the ad hominem attacks were entirely eliminated. When or if any of the comments become venomous or personal our administrator will remove you from participating in this forum. Please remember that we are not “warring against flesh and blood,” but against dark principalities in high places. Speak the truth, but please try to do it in love.”

This story is still unfolding and is far from over. As new developments occur I will add updates to this article as comments.

TonightShawnIsConfronted

Pastor Jason Wallace opens the February 20th “Inquisition 2014″ event with a summation of the critic’s case against Shawn McCraney. Please note the “interesting” choice of words in the on-screen captioning.

Coming next: In Part 2 of this series I will present an analysis of the body of evidence as well as the criticism being leveled at Mr. McCraney and explain why I am of the opinion that the criticism and heretic label is justified. I will also present my prayerful hope that Shawn will turn from the heresy of modalism, his unBiblical “Christian Anarchy”, and be restored to a place in the body of Christ where his and his gifts can find their ultimate fulfillment and unique place in God’s purposes and will for this generation.

UPDATES:
February 25, 2014

After having long private discussions with Shawn McCraney, well known and respected Theologian Rob Bowman of the Institute of Religious Research (see http://irr.org/who-we-are ; also see https://irr.org/author/robert-m-bowman-jr ) appears on Heart of the Matter, gives a brief overview of the doctrine of the Trinity and answers questions from Mr. McCraney and his viewers.  The tone and timbre of the show is markedly different than the previous week’s shows.
(Episode 383: Robert M. Bowman Jr. – Director of Research, IRR; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyvo1riNhZI )

February 26, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following statement on his Facebook page regarding the week’s events:

As announced yesterday, last night I was a guest on Shawn McCraney’s TV program “Heart of the Matter” to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity. In this post I’m going to review what has happened and give my take on where things stand at the moment.

Shawn is a former Mormon who became “born again” while he was still in the LDS Church. He eventually came out, went to pastoral training school, and began a teaching and evangelistic ministry focused on reaching Mormons. That ministry evolved into an informal church that is rather out of the mainstream of evangelical church practice. He published a book entitled “Born Again Mormon” that was later retitled “I Was a Born Again Mormon.” By all accounts Shawn’s ministry has been unusually successful not merely in drawing people out of Mormonism but in leading them to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and to experience the new birth in Christ.

During the past year or so, Shawn has offered up his own views on various doctrinal issues and spoken very critically of various evangelical doctrines and movements. This development came to a head a few weeks ago when he did a couple of programs disparaging the doctrine of the Trinity. Shawn referred to the doctrine as “garbage,” as a man-made doctrine defined as a way of controlling people, and argued that the doctrine is more likely to have originated in paganism from the triads of gods in ancient religions than from the Bible. His alternative explanation at least sounded like a form of modalism, although he insisted it was not.

After discussing the matter with my co-workers at the Institute for Religious Research, I emailed Shawn privately and expressed the desire to meet with him in order to get to know him personally and to discuss doctrine with him. Shawn responded very positively, welcomed the interaction, and we made arrangements. In the meantime, there were some swift and in some cases rather sharp responses to Shawn’s statements online, and this was followed up by a program last Thursday night in which Shawn and some of the local Christian ministry leaders who had criticized Shawn had an unfortunately vitriolic confrontation.

I flew from Grand Rapids to Salt Lake City on Monday and met with Shawn for four hours. We made a very good personal connection, frankly recognizing that we are in temperament and experience radically different kinds of men, and had a good, constructive first discussion of the doctrinal issues. Shawn invited me to be a guest on his program Tuesday night, which I did. We met again today for a few hours and talked some more. I was blessed to have an opportunity to present a solid if brief explanation of the biblical basis of the Trinity and to answer a number of Shawn’s objections in front of his audience. Afterwards I spoke with people in attendance for over an hour, and it appears that the event was helpful.

What was said on last night’s program is of course public knowledge. One thing I said at the end, in response to a caller’s question, is that I consider Shawn a brother in Christ. I stand by that statement, but I also don’t want to be misunderstood. Whether Shawn is a believer, and whether he is a sound teacher, are two different questions. Some of the things Shawn has been teaching are in error, and it is important that he come to see that and make the necessary corrections. As a teacher, he is answerable to God and is held to a stricter standard with regard to what he says than other believers (James 3:1). Some of the things he said can even be fairly labeled as heretical, though he has also said things that contradicted those seemingly heretical statements. My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible. Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along. The result is that some of Shawn’s views are at least heterodox (other than the classical, orthodox Christian doctrines). That having been said, I consider him a brother in Christ because I see evidence that God dramatically changed his life, brought him out of Mormonism, and gave him a genuine appreciation of the grace freely bestowed through the gospel. While I don’t know definitively the state of anyone else’s soul, I am inclined to give someone the benefit of the doubt and to accept him as a brother unless forced to conclude otherwise. And I really do think Shawn is a Christian, saved by God’s grace, even though some of his doctrine is seriously flawed.

Theologically, Shawn’s thinking on the Trinity appears muddled. It is probably in flux, perhaps even more so after our discussions, which may be a step in the right direction. He has agreed that he needs to retract publicly and specifically some egregious critical remarks he made in recent weeks on the subject. His explanations at times seemed modalistic, but as we talked he backed away from those explanations, in particular his description of the Logos (Word) as one of many manifestations of God. Shawn rejects the eternal Sonship of Christ, preferring the formulation of the eternal Word. In this regard he is similar to Walter Martin, but unlike Martin, Shawn is uncomfortable designating the Word as a person. For that matter, he is uncomfortable using the term “persons” at all in reference to God, because of its association in Mormonism with physical human beings. Again, his own background and his focus on reaching Mormons have in his case led to some difficulty in coming to terms with orthodox Christian doctrine. This is a problem that I hope can be overcome as our dialogue continues. Meanwhile, at some point I do plan to make available in written form some responses to specific issues raised by Shawn regarding the Trinity, not to attack him personally but to provide substantive responses for the benefit of Shawn and others. I should mention that I have already told Shawn that I expected to do this, and he was supportive of me doing so.

I would appreciate the prayers of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for what follows. Please pray that Shawn will have constructive meetings with local Christian leaders, including some that have been legitimately concerned about his teachings, and that they will develop respect and trust. Please pray that future discussions between Shawn and me will be fruitful. Please also pray that Shawn will be successful going forward in acknowledging past errors and in developing a sound understanding of the theology of Scripture. All of this will be a process; it will not happen overnight. Please pray with me that everyone involved will listen to one another, be gracious and patient with one another, and be willing to learn and to change and even to repent where needed. And if you have some concerns or grievances with regards to anything I have said, please feel free to come to me with them.
(source: https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202633850543390 )

March 4, 2014
Theologian James White weighs in on recent events surrounding the Shawn McCraney situation in general and Inquisition 2014 in particular. He also addresses the email from him that Shawn presented as an example of how other pastors are trying to threaten and control him on the February 11th Heart of the Matter “God Part 2″ broadcast (see http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/) presenting a very different version of the back story and context surrounding what was said and why it was said the way it was. This analysis starts at 38:00 into the show. (“Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”)

Shawn McCraney continues his discourse on the nature of God focusing on Christ as “Light”. He also addresses his recent meetings with Rob Bowman as well as some of the criticism that he had been receiving from local Pastors and others.

In response to the broadcast Rob Bowman issues the following statement immediately afterwards:

“This post and thread is for my fellow evangelical Christians. If you are not an evangelical, while I value your friendship, this thread is not for you.

Tonight on his TV program “Heart of the Matter” Shawn McCraney quoted a Facebook post of mine as follows:

“My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible.”

Shawn’s quotation stopped at that point, and his subsequent comments gave the impression that I was criticizing Shawn for not being open to what he characterizes as “man-made” doctrines or theology. But here is what I said next:

“Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along.”

You see, the issue is not “man-made” doctrines versus the Bible as the sole authority; the issue is whether it is wise to ignore what can be learned about the Bible from teachers who have devoted their lives to pursuing its truth and sharing what they have found with the rest of the body of Christ. Christians in the twenty-first century are not meant to study the Bible in isolation from other believers, as if they were living on an island and the Bible was the only book available. The Bible itself says that God has given teachers to the church as a needed, important part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). To ignore those teachers, and even to dismiss them as irrelevant in one’s study of the Bible, is to go against the Bible itself.

Of course, all of us who are teachers are fallible and our doctrinal understandings can be mistaken. But this is just as true of Shawn as it is of anyone else. In this regard the choice is not between man-made doctrine and the pure doctrine of the word of God. Rather, it is a choice between the doctrine of one man who thinks he can do it on his own and the doctrine of many men who listen to and learn from each other and from those who have gone before them in the pursuit of understanding the word of God.

In a way, Shawn’s position is even less tenable, because he inconsistently appeals to theologians and intellectuals when it suits his purpose. He justifies his refusal to read serious works of Christian theology while seeing nothing wrong with citing the opinions and interpretations of Walter Martin or John MacArthur or even the Emphatic Diaglott if they happen to agree with his own views. In his attack on the Trinity a few weeks ago, Shawn read a string of quotations that I was able to determine he got from an online article published by a Watchtower splinter group that denies that Jesus is God. I privately challenged him for using that article. Tonight he claimed that he thinks it is fine to read books that critique Mormonism but not to read books that teach Christian theology. But is it all right to read articles that attack Christian theology? I was hoping he would understand the inconsistency of his stance on this question, but he seems to be further entrenched in that position.

I will post something separately on Shawn’s lecture on John 8:12 (I don’t know if that will be tonight or tomorrow). Here I simply need to make it clear that I do not see tonight’s program as representing a step in the right direction.

Shawn, I assume this post will be brought to your attention. I still appreciate your graciousness toward me last week, but I must also remind you that I gave you fair and friendly warning that I would be responding publicly to your teaching when I found it to be unsound—and you said you understood and respected that. Well, here we go. A little knowledge about the biblical languages and doctrinal subjects, garnered haphazardly from questionable sources, used inconsistently to support what you have already think you know, is not a good thing. It is not “loving the Lord your God with all your mind.” As a teacher, you, like I, will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Let some of us help you. Set aside your planned series of lectures on the nature of God for now. Pursue a sound, well-informed understanding of what Scripture teaches through the God-given ministry of other teachers. Refocus your ministry on what you do so well: reaching out to lost, confused Mormons with the wonderful gift of the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202669824562718 )

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

March 5, 2014
As promised, Rob Bowman directly addresses the points in Mr. McCraney’s previous night’s lecture on God via the following Facebook post:

“On March 4, 2014, Shawn McCraney gave a lecture (I’m not sure what else to call it) on his TV show Heart of the Matter on the “ontology” of God, apparently a continuation of a series of lectures he is doing giving his own alternative to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. I’d like to share a few observations in response to some things he said. There is more that could be said, but this is all I have time to address for now.

First, let’s be clear that when the Bible speaks of God as “light” or “fire,” this is symbolic language. I think Shawn would agree; at one point he acknowledged that God is not fire in the sense of the combustion of oxygen. It’s important to be clear on this point because sometimes Shawn uses this language as if it is somehow directly denotative of the “ontology” (his term) of God, a description of God’s being or nature. It isn’t. It is figurative language, used to express specific truths about God in his relation to us and our world. So when John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), this is not a statement of ontology or metaphysical description of God, but an affirmation that God is morally perfect—pure holiness, goodness, truthfulness, and love—totally devoid of sin or evil. Read the next few verses and this becomes obvious: to “walk in darkness” means to live in lies and sin (1 John 1:6-7). The statement that “our God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24, quoted in Heb. 12:29) was a warning that God, who had revealed himself in the wilderness and at Sinai in terrifying fire, would judge his people in righteous wrath if they chose to rebel against their covenant with him (see Deut. 5:24-26; Heb. 12:25-28).

Perhaps the closest the Bible comes to making a statement of the form “God is…” that describes his being per se is Jesus’ statement, “God is spirit” (John 4:24; “a spirit,” KJV). Although the derivation of _pneuma_ has to do with moving air (breath, wind, etc.), in the Bible it generally loses this physical sense and refers to nonphysical, incorporeal beings like angels (Heb. 1:7) and God. In context Jesus was saying that the time of God being known and worshiped through special, sacred places at specific locations was coming to an end: God would be worshiped “in spirit and truth.” (In this regard Mormonism, with its temples that are supposedly indispensable to fully experience God’s presence and blessing, are a step backwards spiritually and covenantally.)

Another “God is” statement that Shawn mentioned in passing, but set aside, was John’s affirmation that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It’s too bad he didn’t spend some time on this statement. Unlike the descriptions of God as light and fire, to say that God is love is not figurative or metaphorical. It tells us that love is absolutely essential to God’s being. As Christians have reflected on this idea, they have realized that this idea makes perfect sense in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity. The three persons love one another eternally, so that indeed love is very much of the essence of God. The Bible supports this understanding. For example, Jesus said in his long prayer in John 17 that the Father loved him “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This cannot be fairly or plausibly interpreted as proleptic, i.e., as meaning that God anticipated loving Jesus before Jesus came to exist. We know this is not what Jesus means, because at the beginning of the prayer that he had lived in glory alongside the Father before the world was, and he asked the Father to restore him to that glory (17:5). Thus, the Father and the Son (or the Word; it doesn’t matter) have existed distinct from one another since before creation, and the Father has loved the Son all along.

Shawn spent most of the lecture developing verbal connections between Jesus’ statement in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” and various other texts, notably Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-5, and 2 Peter 1:19. To be frank, I’m not sure how his treatment of these passages clarified his view of the preincarnate Logos. Some of what he said was fine, some of it was not; in some instances I was unclear as to the significance he was deriving from these various texts.

Shawn made an interesting comment regarding John 8:12. He pointed out that the Jewish leaders did not react to Jesus’ statement as if it were blasphemous. Their criticism was that Jesus was testifying to himself and therefore they considered his claim invalid (v. 13). That’s a good observation, but what Shawn thought was the significance of this observation was unclear to me. Looking at the passage historically, Jesus’ statement probably could have been interpreted by the Jews as something less than a claim to deity; they might have thought that Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah as the instrument of God’s “light” to the world. For example, they might have understood Jesus to be claiming that he exercised the function of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah; that Servant is described more than once as a “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; 49:6; cf. 51:4; 60:3). This is in fact correct; however, only upon reflection concerning all that Jesus said and did would it be understood that he was “the light” to the nations or the world because he was God incarnate.

To understand Jesus’ function as the light of the world to be an indication of his deity in no way resolves the question of whether God is triune. Jesus was not the divine light/fire corked in a bottle of flesh. He was the Son sent from the Father into the world to be the light of life and truth (John 5:23; 6:38-40; 8:12-18; 9:5; 12:46; 16:27-28; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:14). Again, the language of light is figurative, indicating that Jesus’ mission was to bring the light of truth and life to the world. He could do this because he was himself God, perfect in truth, the source of all light and knowledge. The New Testament presents this truth in a consistent context of distinguishing Jesus Christ the Son of God from the one called God the Father.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202675490424361?stream_ref=10 )

March 6, 2014
James White offers a lengthy deconstruction of Shawn McCraney’s teachings on the Trinity in general and the Athanasian Creed in particular.   Mr. White looking directly into the camera and addressing Shawn McCraney directly Mr. White states that Mr. McCraney is uninformed and ignorant on both.  This contents begins 5:24 into the broadcast. (“A Little About Brewton-Parker; the Athanasian Creed; the Flaming Toilet of Death”

March 11, 2014
On his Dividing Line broadcast (starting at 1:05:00) James White deconstructs, analyzes and exposes Shawn McCraney’s “God Part 3″ lecture for what it is:  Modalism.  He also states that the reports that he’s getting from the pastors he’s contacted in Utah regarding the situation, “aren’t encouraging.”

On the Heart of the Matter broadcast Shawn McCraney suggests that the reason friction has arisen between he and his critics comes down to a difference of worldviews and personality. He suggests that the latter is manifested in his “Artistic” versus the critic’s “Linear” thinking and approach to the Bible. (Episode 385: Christian Artists)

March 12, 2014
Rob Bowman releases the following article in response to Shawn’s broadcast from the previous evening:

“Shawn McCraney is a former Mormon who became a “born-again” Christian and eventually left Mormonism, received some ministry training through Calvary Chapel, and launched his own ministry in Salt Lake City to evangelize Mormons. In the past few weeks Shawn has gone public on his television show denouncing the term Trinity as “garbage” and explaining his own doctrine of God in ways that have been confused at best. I flew out to Utah to meet with Shawn, had very friendly and enjoyable conversations with him, and appeared on Shawn’s show Heart of the Matter. I also posted a few messages on Facebook regarding the controversy.

On March 11, 2014, Shawn McCraney’s lecture on his TV show was a critical response to his critics, whom he characterized as scholars, theologians, and apologists who impose their exclusively “linear thinking” on the church to rule, control, and dominate. There is a “teachable moment” here because the issues that Shawn’s argument raises have relevance beyond the specific controversy over his teaching.

Shawn professes to value knowledge and the contributions of scholars, but he describes himself as a “Christian artist” who views Christianity in an artistic way that the linear-thinking scholars simply cannot appreciate. But if an “artistic” thinking person can appreciate the “linear” thinking of scholars, why cannot scholars likewise appreciate the “artistic” thinking of people like Shawn? I think they can. But just as people who profess to be scholars can and sometimes do make egregious mistakes, self-described artists who profess to see the world in a fresh and unpredictable way might be fooling themselves. The “Christian artist” label does not excuse Shawn or anyone else from the responsibility of speaking faithfully to the truth. The charge that someone is teaching erroneous doctrine cannot be answered by merely asserting artistic license.

Early in his lecture Shawn asked, “Just how different can a believer be in personality and worldview and still be considered a Christian?” By “worldview” Shawn apparently means the way in which a person views the world, either logically or artistically, although I didn’t catch a definition of the term. The answer to his question, if I understood it correctly, is that believers can be quite different in many ways and still be considered Christians. However, that isn’t the real question here, is it? No one is suggesting that people who are artistic or storytelling or relational or physical in their personal makeup and orientation rather than logical or scholarly cannot be Christians. Most Christians are not intellectually oriented. Believe it or not, we intellectuals noticed that a long time ago. One of the first Christian intellectuals himself commented on that fact, in a passage that Shawn quoted (1 Cor. 1:18-23). Really, we do understand this. That’s not the problem. No, the problem is the content of Shawn’s doctrinal teaching, which at best is unsound and at worst, in the estimation of at least some observers, is heretical. This concern about his teaching is either justified or it is not. How do we tell? Like it or not, we must try to think clearly about the question.

Shawn himself engages in “linear thinking” when he feels comfortable doing so. His lectures are just that, lectures. He has a point he wishes to make, and he presents reasons to support the conclusion he hopes his listeners will accept. Shawn cites the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, appeals to biblical scholars and theologians when he thinks they support his views, and formulates objections to statements made by his critics. He is actually much more capable of engaging in such logical, rational thinking than perhaps people realize and engages in such reasoning far more often than his self-description as a Christian artist would suggest. The appeal to his supposed artistic personality is itself presented as an argument: the logicians are wrong because they overgeneralize from their own experience and preference and don’t recognize that there are different yet equally valid ways of thinking. Which reminds me of the famous observation that there are two kinds of people in the world—those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. (Sorry.) When Shawn argues, for example, that the Bible presents truth in a grand narrative rather than in a systematic theology, he is presenting an argument based on the very kind of logical, linear thinking he complains is being used against him. That argument is either a sound argument or it is not. The value of the argument can be judged only on the basis of its factual support and logical validity; its value is not aesthetic, creative, artistic, emotive, or relational.

It’s really a matter of the right tool for the job. If we want to stir people’s emotions, touch people’s feelings, or appeal to their intuitive sense, we use art – music, story, drama, soaring speech, visual displays, and so forth. If we want to inform people’s minds, then we present facts in a reasoned manner. If we want to explain a text of the Bible, then we use skills relevant to reading and interpreting texts. This doesn’t mean ignoring non-linear elements of biblical texts. It doesn’t mean running roughshod over symbolic language, emotive appeals by the biblical speakers and writers, or forcing the Bible into overly simplistic and rigid philosophical systems. Sound reading of the Bible appreciates the power of its narratives and the color of its poetry. But the Bible also presents didactic material that calls for careful, reasoned thinking about the subject matter. The epistle to the Romans is a theological treatise, not an Easter drama.

According to Shawn, logic and linear thinking came from the Greeks. I’ve heard this one before. Friends, logic came from God, not from the Greeks. Logic, order, rationality, reason, and coherence are all reflections of the nature of God, just as much as beauty, joy, creativity, and artistry. The Greeks did not invent logic; they came up with a formal system for recognizing and teaching logic.

Shawn emphasizes, fairly enough, that knowledge has value only in the context of love. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1b). Amen. Knowledge without love makes people prideful. A person who claims to know God but is devoid of love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Shawn feels that some of his critics have been long on knowledge, or at least in claims to knowledge, but short on love. Perhaps he is right. Yet Shawn also seeks to refute his critics with arguments. Again, perhaps he is right. But there are two issues here: (1) Is Shawn’s doctrine biblically sound? (2) If it isn’t biblically sound, can this point be made in love? It would help if these two questions were kept distinct.

I wish Shawn would discuss whether the category of “heresy” is ever a valid category. If a teacher claims that Jesus did not rise from the dead, is it inappropriate to label this teaching as heresy? Are there any heretics? Shawn says, quite correctly, that Christians should tolerate different views on nonessentials. But what are the essentials and how does one know if something is an essential or not? This is a reasonable question and it requires a reasonable answer, grounded on the teaching of Scripture. Shawn insists that he believes the whole Bible, accepts everything it teaches, and that therefore he should be accepted as a Christian. I view Shawn as a Christian, albeit one whose doctrine is in serious question, but his reasoning here is quite flawed. Jehovah’s Witnesses also insist they believe the whole Bible, accept everything it teaches, and that they are Christians. Is that good enough? Shawn would say, I’m guessing, that they are not really Christians because they deny that Jesus Christ is God. If so, then Shawn is acknowledging the legitimacy of using doctrine to test the claims of those who present themselves as teachers of God’s word. And I assume that Shawn does not think he is being unloving for excluding Mormon teaching from his new television network. Why not? Obviously, he is “imposing” a doctrinal test here, and rightly so. Then is it necessarily unloving or wrong for Christians to express the opinion that Shawn’s denial of the doctrine of the Trinity might be heretical? The question is a valid one, however we answer it.”
(Bowman, Rob, “Shawn McCraney On The Linear Thinking of His Theological Critics”)

March 18, 2014
Drawing from the figure of the cross which somehow transforms into an “X”, which somehow transforms into 3 triangles, (the audio was off for a few minutes while he was developing this concept on the whiteboard) which then somehow comes to represents not just God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) but man (body, soul, spirit). He then uses these figures to develop a new model of two sets of intersecting triangles (one  set for, and one set for man) that he claims represents how God has engaged Himself in the creation, salvation, and sanctification of human kind.  He claims that this Spirit and Bible revealed “artistic” model is just as valid and should be taken just as seriously as any systematic theology from scholars. (Episode 386: It All Starts With “X”)

As Rob Bowman points out in his post-broadcast response to Shawn, what Mr. McCraney has just taught is clearly heresy.  Here is that response:

“Once again I watched Shawn McCraney on his show “Heart of the Matter” tonight. His doctrinal explanation of the nature of God was very disappointing. The audio was off for a few minutes, but apparently Shawn compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma (Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. According to Shawn, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on Shawn’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth.

All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then Shawn threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were Shawn said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, Shawn contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like my body, soul, and spirit (or like they should be!).

In response to a caller, Shawn asserted that Jesus was not himself the “I am”; the “I am” was God fully indwelling him. Jesus is the flesh; God is the divine being dwelling in or housed in the flesh. Yet Shawn also wants to say that Jesus is God. This same incoherence is common in one wing of Oneness Pentecostal theology. Biblically and in orthodox Christian doctrine, Jesus is not simply the flesh; rather, Jesus is the *person* who is both God and man, the eternal Logos-Son who assumed full human nature. True, he was not called “Jesus” before the Incarnation, but that really misses the point: the person we call Jesus was in existence from eternity past, not as a separate entity or being (let alone one in a “spirit body” as Shawn described, perhaps conflating his criticisms of the Trinity and Mormon doctrine), but as a distinct person who was one God with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) (John 1:1-3; 13:1, 3; 16:28; 17:5, 24).

Shawn asserted that he doesn’t like the term Trinity and doesn’t like saying there were three persons before creation. Apparently saying there are three persons now is fine (at one point Shawn said this himself). If so, then the term “person” is not itself the problem; the problem is substantive, not merely semantic. But if God was once not three persons and now he is three persons, then the fundamental nature of God has changed. That implication creates all sorts of theological mischief. This is not comparable to God becoming a man, in which God’s nature remains the same but he assumes human nature (the union of two natures in the one person); Shawn’s idea amounts to God changing the divine nature.

I was hoping that Shawn would move closer to the position he continues to cite in his defense, the “eternal Word” form of Trinitarianism espoused by Walter Martin. That at least would still be orthodox. Instead, in my estimation he has if anything moved further away from it, though he continues to make statements that do not fit neatly into the monarchian or modalist system. Without making any judgment about Shawn as a believer or Christian, and with the hope that he may still change or correct what he has been teaching, I regretfully think that at present what he is articulating about the doctrine of God is heresy.

This isn’t the only problem. At the end, in response to another caller, Shawn affirmed universal reconciliation, a doctrine that is really a form of universalism under a different name. Although Shawn claimed this wasn’t universal salvation, he referred the caller to the website tentmaker.org, which clearly teaches universal salvation. “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world.” The website also appears to endorse the idea that the devil and his fallen angels will also eventually be saved, but apparently not in this age. Shawn seemingly didn’t agree with that view, but he wasn’t completely clear on the issue. In any case, universal salvation is also heresy.”
(see https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202754135350435?stream_ref=10)

March 25, 2014
Shawn begins what he promises will be a multi-part series on the Holy Spirit.  Without going into too much detail he claims that both the LdS Church and Trinitarian Churches are in error and not teaching what the Bible does regarding the Holy Spirit.  He promises to offer a truly Biblical perspective on the Holy Spirit in the coming weeks that the viewers may find completely new and different.

March  27, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues two statements regarding the March 25th Heart of the Matter lecture. The first states:

“I was busy Tuesday night when Shawn McCraney did his weekly TV show “Heart of the Matter,” and this is my first opportunity to comment.

Shawn spent some time discussing Hebrews 13:8, arguing that it could not have been true about Christ until his resurrection. Before that, he was changing — becoming flesh, dying, and rising from the dead.  Makes sense, right?

Well. Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same [hO AUTOS] yesterday and today and forever.” There is only *one* other verse in the New Testament in which someone is said to be hO AUTOS, “the same.” That’s Hebrews 1:12, part of a quotation in 1:10-12 from Psalm 102:25-27 (101:26-28 in the Greek Septuagint):

“And,
‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same [hO AUTOS],
and your years will have no end.’”
(Heb. 1:10-12 ESV)

In the context of Hebrews 1, this is one of a series of OT [Old Testament] quotations that the author says show the Son (Jesus Christ) to be superior to the angels (vv. 4-13). Thus, Hebrews 1:12 is referring to the “Son” (v. 2) as being the one who is “the same” (hO AUTOS). And it does not mean that he is the same only now that he has died and risen from the dead, but that he is the one who made the world and who remains unchanged even as the universe itself wears out (vv. 10-11).

These two affirmations about the Son, Jesus Christ, come near the beginning and the end of the book of Hebrews. They function like a set of bookends. Once this is understood, Hebrews 13:8 clearly must be taken as an affirmation that Jesus Christ is the unchanging Creator, the one absolutely dependable and reliable Reality in a world of constant change and uncertainty. Notice that this is affirmed of the Son (1:1-2, 10-12) and of Jesus Christ (13:8). The Son is eternal, the Maker of all things. That’s who Jesus Christ is.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807297279450 )

And the second statement explains:

“On Tuesday night’s “Heart of the Matter,” Shawn McCraney claimed that “one of our modern-day theologians” told him that in Trinitarian theology the Father and the Son have the same kind of relationship as an earthly father and son.

I’m pretty sure he was referring to me. (Shawn hasn’t talked to a lot of theologians.)

For the record, what I told Shawn was that Trinitarian theology regards the designations “Father” and “Son” for the first two persons of the Trinity, given to us in the New Testament, as meaning that the relationship between the First and Second Persons is *analogous* to the relationship between an earthly father and son. I was quite clear that it was *not* the “same” relationship. Of course, I was also clear that God the Father did not sire or procreate God the Son, as in Mormonism. Trinitarianism denies that the Son owes his existence to a procreative or generative act of the Father. The Son is eternal, absolute deity. He never came into existence at all. He did not “become” the Father’s “Son” in the same way, or even a similar way, as an earthly son becomes his father’s son, because God the Son never “became” the Son. He has always been God the Son.

I confess to being rather unhappy to hear Shawn make this statement. This isn’t the first time he has appealed to something I said out of context for his own purposes (though in this instance he did not mention me by name). It makes it seem that he was listening for things he could find objectionable or for things he could use to defend his view, rather than listening in order to learn something.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807394081870 )

March 28, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following general statement regarding Shawn McCraney’s continuing anti-Trinitarianism:

“Shawn McCraney constantly argues against the Trinitarian view of Jesus by pointing out that Jesus wasn’t called Jesus until he became a human being. Before that, Shawn argues, he wasn’t Jesus, or the Christ, or the Son; he was just God, the Word. But the NT refers to the preincarnate person in question by all three of those designations. It is true that the Word received the name Jesus in history at his birth, but the person called “Jesus” existed and was active in creation and history prior to his incarnation.

1. Jesus: The preincarnate Word is called Jesus in the best reading of Jude 5: “Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that Jesus [most versions say, "the Lord"], who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Many of the earliest manuscripts actually say “Jesus” instead of “the Lord” in verse 5, and this is most likely the original reading. Ed Komoszewski and I give three reasons for this conclusion in our book  “Putting Jesus in His Place”, 98-99.

2. Christ: Paul referred to the preincarnate Word as “Christ” twice in 1 Corinthians 10: ““For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ…. We must not put Christ [many versions have "the Lord" here] to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents” (1 Cor. 10:4, 9). In the first reference to Christ, there is no textual difficulty. In the second, there is significant debate, but the reading “Christ” is probably correct. See endnote 6 on page 312 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”. For comments on the whole passage in context, see page 95.

3. Son: The preincarnate Word is called the “Son” in several passages of the NT, including Colossians 1:12-20 and Hebrews 1:1-3, both of which speak of the Son as active in the creation of the world. On this point, see especially chapter 15 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”.’
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202812378726483 )

by Adam Ford 
Introduction: On January 31st the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a new Gospel Topics page on the official church website entitled “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies”.  For those unfamiliar with these articles, they are a series of brief essays on, as the website states,  “doctrinal subjects, history, and other information about people, places, teachings, and beliefs relating to the [LDS] Church and the [Mormon] gospel.”   We’re also told that these articles are vetted and approved by the church’s General Authorities prior to being published.* While traditionally these articles have shied away from taking apologetic stances on controversial issues, starting in December 2013 several articles have.  Here is Mormon author Adam Ford’s penetrating take on the most recent one. (the editors) 

DNA_cropped

It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”
Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks

Well it certainly could prove the authenticity of the book. Just find Zarahemla with King Mosiah’s inscribed tomb. Or find evidence of a highly literate American civilization that lasted about 1000 years and worshiped Jesus Christ, including a verbatim account of the Sermon on the Mount which they taught to their children and grandchildren in peace and prosperity for over 200 years. It would be very easy to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon via secular evidence if any secular evidence existed. Elder Oaks’ statement seems to admit that such secular evidence will never be found. I agree.

After hundreds of thousands of archeological digs in the Americas, from the Hudson Bay to Patagonia, from Bristol Bay to the Cape of Sao Roque there is not a single civilization that could be the Nephites. There was no literate civilization of millions of people who built major cities and had a developed written language including measurement system, currency system, legal system (with lawyers and judges), and a major proselytizing religion with a living scriptural tradition.

While we will certainly uncover a new ruin next year, a new grave, a new village or city even, it is inconceivable that in all our searching mankind has overlooked an overlooked entire civilization of the size and maturity of the Nephites.

The "DNA vs. The Book of Mormon" video which discusses the issues in detail. (click to watch)

The “DNA vs. The Book of Mormon” documentary which discusses the Book of Mormon DNA issues in detail.
(click to watch)

Secular evidence will never prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, not because it couldn’t, but because it can’t. It didn’t happen.

Now the religious teachings are another story. Nothing would make me happier than to see Church leaders take seriously the teachings of King Benjamin in Mosiah chapter 4 or Moroni’s voice of warning set forth in Mormon chapter 8. I would like greater focus placed on the teachings of the book (in general), not less. I find the discussions of its historicity distract from its message.

The Book of Mormon is scripture. So is the book of Genesis. The world wasn’t created in 7 days and a flood never covered the entire earth. No guy named Lehi sailed with his family to the America’s and had half his kids cursed with a skin of blackness and no highly literate society spent 200 years studying and living and teaching the New Testament sermons of Jesus in the western hemisphere. Just like the vast majority of Mormons don’t have a problem appreciating Genesis while accepting it is nearly all fiction, the same should be true of the Book of Mormon. It is time for Mormonism to grow up and accept the reality of the situation.

Some of my greatest heros are fictional–Alyosha from the Brothers Karamazov, Hugo’s Jean Valjean, Steinbeck’s Tom Joad and Abraham and Joseph and Moses too. I have no problem adding Joseph Smith’s Alma the Younger and both Moronis to that illustrious list. No one should refuse to appreciate the Book of Mormon just because others believe the story literally happened–it would be like refusing to learn from Aslan of Narnia because some people believe there really are portal holes in the back of wardrobes into fantastic worlds of magic. Don’t reject the good because of other people’s mistaken beliefs.

Specifically about this DNA article:
1. Science is never done so reserve judgment.
This is true on its face, but inapplicable here. The fact that we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know some things. We know from the DNA that there wasn’t a population of millions of people in the Americas who came from Jerusalem in 600 BC. For sure. No question about it.

2. There were other migrations of populations from Asia.
Yes. Thanks for finally directly admitting it. My seminary teachers insisted that the “land bridge from Asia” theory was completely false and inspired by Satan to shake our faith. Really.

On this point, I lost all faith in any Church published book last year when I found that the book Articles of Faith by Apostle James E. Talmage had been significantly altered on this point sometime between the first printing and the 1989 edition that I had as part of my missionary library. Talmage was absolutely certain in 1901 that the Nephites and Lamanites filled the whole of North America from east coast to west coast. Pseudo-Talmage in 1989 only says that a traditional belief was that Nephites spread into some part of North America. The book contains no note/forward/appendix/introduction saying that significant passages had been completely rewritten. This is considered completely dishonest without question in the publishing industry. (I wrote a post about this a few months back with exact quotes and page numbers.)

3. There are some very few middle eastern DNA markers, and scientists don’t know when they were introduced.
Yes. This a factually true statement. But we do know that they were not introduced by a single group in 600 BC who came to number in the millions. Again, the Church uses a legitimate scientific uncertainty to suggest an uncertainty that doesn’t exist. No credible DNA scholar suggests that the trace amounts of middle eastern DNA found in native american populations could have been introduced as the Book of Mormon says they were introduced.

4. Scientists believe that small migrations probably happened from time to time.
Yes. It is almost certain that they did. But none of them created a highly educated and refined civilization numbering in the millions with highly advanced economic, legal, political, and religious structures. Citing a sole eskimo grave in Greenland hurts your argument, doesn’t support it.

5. The Founders Effect means that maybe we don’t find the DNA evidence because Lehi, Ishmael, Zoram and all the males among the Mulekites had male ancestors that didn’t come from the Middle East ala Perego’s long lost male ancestor from East Asia.

LdS Molecular Biologist Ugo A. Perego, PhD is cited extensively in the Gospel Topics article

LDS Molecular Biologist Ugo A. Perego, PhD is cited extensively in the Gospel Topics article

Not very likely. We are talking about at least a dozen men from Jerusalem here, some of them from the royal family. What are the odds that all of them, or even most of them, had a male founder with a different haplogroup than modern descendants from those Jerusalem people who stayed behind. This is silly.

Perego’s DNA shows he is European with a distant male ancestor from East Asia. The DNA of modern Native Americans show they are Native Americans with distant East Asian ancestors. Modern Jews have DNA different than either Perego or modern Native Americans.

So, yes, we don’t know the Founders DNA for the Nephite/Mulekite men with certainty because we haven’t found their graves. But for this argument to have any validity, we have to assume they were all, nor nearly all, from male lines that differed from the male lines of the Hebrews that stayed behind. This is really reaching for straws.

6. A population bottleneck could have eliminated the Hebrew DNA.
Yes it could have. But the scriptural record they say is historical doesn’t record such an event. In fact the Lamanites are so numerous they cover the land at the death of Moroni.

The massive deaths in the 15th Century just before and after European contact among native populations might have bottlenecked out Hebrew DNA evidence. But hundreds of genetic samples have been taken that pre-date the 15th Century population crash have been found and evaluated. They do not significantly alter the DNA picture we get from the living DNA. And none of them have come back Hebrew.

The illustration of population bottleneck from the Gospel Topics article. The caption states:  "Due to a dramatic reduction in population, some genetic profiles (represented here by the yellow, orange, green, and purple circles), are lost. Subsequent generations inherit only the DNA of the survivors."

The Illustration of population bottleneck from the Gospel Topics article. The caption states: “Due to a dramatic reduction in population, some genetic profiles (represented here by the yellow, orange, green, and purple circles), are lost. Subsequent generations inherit only the DNA of the survivors.”

7. Genetic drift could have hidden any trace of Hebrew DNA.
The studies I have read say that the population with a dissapeared DNA trail must be very small for genetic drift to take it out. Notice the wording of the article: “When a small population mixes with a large one, combinations of autosomal markers typical of the smaller group become rapidly overwhelmed or swamped by those of the larger. The smaller group’s markers soon become rare in the combined population and may go extinct due to the effects of genetic drift and bottlenecks as described above.” They never say how small the population has to be. According to the scientists, the population has to be smaller than it ever was for the Nephites/Lamanites/Mulekites. There were millions of Nephites/Lamanites/Mulekites spread out over thousands of miles. Genetic drift would have taken over a million years to wipe them out of the DNA record. This isn’t a few dozen marbles in a jar we are talking about.

drift[1]

The illustration of genetic drift using colored marbles from the Gospel Topics article

Conclusion:
There are ambiguities in the DNA analysis. The ambiguities do not rise to the level where the Book of Mormon story is plausible as a history. No non-LDS DNA scientist is going to look at the data and conclude that the historicity of the book is likely. At best they will say it is difficult to prove the negative and by bad luck every male child of the Hebrew line might have died at childbirth in some generation and because they can’t prove this tragedy didn’t happen it is possible. But they won’t be joining the Church on that chance.

Elder Oaks’ fear that secular evidence will never prove the Book of Mormon is well founded. His hope that secular evidence will never disprove the book’s historicity is looking increasingly shaky every year as more and more data come in.

It will be nice when we finally move on from the endless debates about historical veracity and appreciate the beauty in the teachings, just like we do with the Bible. A hundred years ago you would be in very serious trouble if you were to try to say out loud in Mormondom that the Book of Genesis was fictional. Now you would be in the majority of educated Mormons, including the Brethren (although they would prefer the term “metaphorical” to “fictional”). Hopefully it doesn’t take us another hundred years to get to that point with the Book of Mormon.

National Geographic Maps, Atlas of the Human Journey

National Geographic Maps: “Atlas of the Human Journey” which is based on the findings of the Genographic Project

About the Author:
Adam Ford is an attorney practicing law in New York and Utah. He is married with six children: Sariah, Hannah, Rachel, Willard, Heber, and Parley.

NOTES:
* In 2013 LDS Church historian Steven E. Snow verified that these articles have been vetted and approved by church leaders when he stated:

“Most who study our history well understand the context to these matters as far as time and place, but some members of the church, many really, are surprised by some of the things they learn in our history and we want them to be able go to a place where they can read accurate information and be able to seek to understand those historical chapters in the context of time and place and understand that those answers have been approved by the presiding brethren of the church. I think that will give many of our members confidence that they can rely on these answers.”
– Steven E. Snow, Church Historian, Understanding of Events in Church History “What about historical questions?” (video); https://www.lds.org/topics?lang=eng#media=11373505780672488714-eng