Room in the Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Room in the Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

by Fred W. Anson
In their zeal to build their case against Joseph Smith many biblical Christians unintentionally abuse Revelation 22:18 to argue for biblical support of a closed canon. However, when read in context that passage is referring solely to itself – not the Bible in it’s entirety, and not to any other book of the Bible:

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Revelation 22:16-21 (KJV)  

Notice the use of the terms,  “the words of the prophecy of this book” and “the words of the book of this prophecy” limiting the conditions exclusively to “this book” and “this prophecy”.  The language of the text itself limits the scope of these conditions to this book of prophecy – that is, the book that we now know as “The Book of Revelation”.

Because of this awkward misstep by their debating opponents, Latter-day Saints will often feel vindicated that Joseph Smith did not violate Christ’s explicit instructions to future generations in regard to the Book of Revelation. This too is in error. In actual fact, Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), both took away from and added to the the words of the prophecy of the book. Let’s consider where and how he did this.

Joseph Smith’s additions to and deletions from the Book of Revelation
The changes from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible are italicized in their JST equivalents.

Rev 1:1-8
John received a revelation from Jesus Christ and delivered it to the leaders over the seven churches in Asia rather than the book being a revelation of Jesus Christ. 

JST
1 The Revelation of John, a servant of God, which was given unto him of Jesus Christ, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass, that he sent and signified by his angel unto his servant John,

Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

Blessed are they who read, and they who hear and understand the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Now this is the testimony of John to the seven servants who are over the seven churches in Asia. Grace unto you, and peace from him who is, and who was, and who is to come; who hath sent forth his angel from before his throne, to testify unto those who are the seven servants over the seven churches.

Therefore, I, John, the faithful witness, bear record of the things which were delivered me of the angel, and from Jesus Christ the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.

And unto him who loved us, be glory; who washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.

For behold, he cometh in the clouds with ten thousands of his saints in the kingdom, clothed with the glory of his Father. And every eye shall see him; and they who pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

For he saith, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

KJV
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

“Landscape with St John the Evangelist at Patmos” by Gillis Coignet (ca. 1542–1599) from the Hermitage Museum

Rev. 1:16, 20
The seven stars in the Savior’s hand are actually leaders of the seven churches rather than their angels.

JST
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.

20 This is the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the servants of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

KJV
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Rev. 2: 22
Jezebel and the wicked will be cast into hell rather than into a bed.

JST
22 Behold, I will cast her into hell, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

KJV
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

Rev. 2:26–27
Several changes and additions made

JST
26 And to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms;

27 And he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father.

KJV
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

“The Apocalypse of Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos” by Jan Massis (ca. 1563)

Rev. 5:6
Twelve servants of God are sent to all the earth rather than seven Spirits of God. 

JST
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having twelve horns and twelve eyes, which are the twelve servants of God, sent forth into all the earth.

KJV
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Rev. 12:1—17
Several changes and additions, including a reordering of verses. The woman and the man represent the kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.

JST
And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.

And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.

And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;

And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.

Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;

10 For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them.

12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.

14 Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent casteth out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helpeth the woman, and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth up the flood which the dragon casteth out of his mouth.

17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

KJV
1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“Great Day of His Wrath” by John Martin (ca.1851-1853)

Rev. 13:1
The beast of Revelation 13 is in “the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth.”

JST
1 And I saw another sign, in the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth; a beast rise up out of the sea, and he stood upon the sand of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns; and upon his horns ten crowns; and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

KJV
1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

Rev. 19: 15, 21
God uses the word of Christ rather than a sword to smite the nations.

JST
15 And out of his mouth proceedeth the word of god, and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth; and he treadeth the winepress in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

21 And the remnant were slain with the word of him that sat upon the horse, which word proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

KJV
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

Additions via Doctrine & Covenants
And, finally, Doctrine & Covenants 77 is a wholesale addition to the Book of Revelation by claiming to be a divinely inspired interpretation of the book directly from God Himself.  For example, the woman [the Church], the child [the kingdom of God], the rod of iron [the word of God], the dragon [Satan], and Michael are explained. The war in heaven is continued on the earth.

An early copy of Doctrine & Covenants 77 (click to zoom)

An early copy of Doctrine & Covenants 77

Doctrine &Covenants 77
Q. What is the sea of glass spoken of by John, 4th chapter, and 6th verse of the Revelation?

A. It is the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state.

Q. What are we to understand by the four beasts, spoken of in the same verse?

A. They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air; that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.

Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?

A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.

Q. What are we to understand by the eyes and wings, which the beasts had?

A. Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge, that is, they are full of knowledge; and their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.

Q. What are we to understand by the four and twenty elders, spoken of by John?

A. We are to understand that these elders whom John saw, were elders who had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches, and were then in the paradise of God.

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?

A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will,mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?

A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.

Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.

Q. What are we to understand by the angel ascending from the east, Revelation 7th chapter and 2nd verse?

A. We are to understand that the angel ascending from the east is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And, if you will receive it, this is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things.

10 Q. What time are the things spoken of in this chapter to be accomplished?

A. They are to be accomplished in the sixth thousand years, or the opening of the sixth seal.

11 Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe?

A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.

12 Q. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpets, mentioned in the 8th chapter of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things; and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming.

13 Q. When are the things to be accomplished, which are written in the 9th chapter of Revelation?A. They are to be accomplished after the opening of the seventh seal, before the coming of Christ.

14 Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.

15 Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?

A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers.

bible-revelation-1_EDITED

Summary and conclusion
So there is it, Joseph Smith blatantly, overtly, boldly, and without any trace of concern, embarrassment, guilt, or remorse took away from and added to the very biblical book that Christ stated doing so would result in plagues and damnation. Yet, remarkably, the LdS Church not only doesn’t deny this fact, it actually boasts about it:

Acting by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, Joseph Smith corrected portions, but not all, of what is amiss in the King James Version of the Bible. In the book of Revelation corrections, for instance, the angels of the various earthly churches become the servants (presiding officers) of those units. The lamb with seven horns and seven eyes becomes a lamb with 12 eyes and 12 horns, thus perfecting the symbolism to identify Christ and his apostles. Chapter 12 is so revised as to identify the woman as the church of God and the child that she brought forth as the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. And so forth.
– LdS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, “Understanding the Book of Revelation”[1]

What Mr. McConkie failed to mention here is that Joseph Smith had absolutely no manuscript support – or verifiable support of any kind for that matter – for his changes while the King James translators remained faithful to the source manuscripts they translated from. In other words, Mr. McConkie’s arguments are fatally flawed and rooted in blatant confirmation bias – that is, Mr. McConkie comes to the conclusion first and then bends the facts to fit it.

Again, the evidence is clear that Joseph Smith very much disobeyed and violated the explicit instructions of Jesus Christ in Revelation 22:16-22 and one need go no further than official, correlated LdS Church sources to see it.[2]

NOTES
[1] Bruce R. McConkie, “Understanding the Book of Revelation”, Ensign, September 1975. A fuller explanation and analysis of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible can be found on the Mormon Think (click here) and Mormon Research Ministry (click here) websites.

[2] In addition to the McConkie Ensign article referenced in the prior footnote, the reader can also cross reference the passages using the LDS.org website as noted throughout this article. For example this link provides a quick summary of some (but not all) of the changes that Joseph Smith made to the Book of Revelation: Scriptures: JST Revelation.

“Joseph Smith Translating” by Nelson

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We Agree with Moroni 8--18

“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
Moroni 8:18

There was a time when Mormons agreed with Moroni 8:18. As Mormon historian Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”[1]

Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
Psalm 90:2 (JST)

“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”
Isaiah 43:10 (JST)

“I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.”
Isaiah 44:6 (JST)

Doctrine and Covenants
In what was originally read to Church membership as the “Articles and Covenants of the Church,” D&C 20:17 spoke of the God who was always the same unchangeable God: “By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…” D&C 76:4 spoke of this same God: “From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail…”

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Book of Mormon that God is a spirit (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53.) Click on image to zoom and read.

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Bible and the Book of Mormon that God is an eternal, unchanging, triune Being (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53). Click on image to zoom and read.

Lectures on Faith
In what was originally a part of Mormon scripture, Lecture 3 of the Lectures on Faith taught, “A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes” is “…necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” It goes on to quote the word of God, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” The lecture then goes on to say that, “he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”

Book of Mormon
This echoes Mosiah 3:5, which speaks of “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…” Moroni 7:22 also speaks of “God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…” A chapter later we learn in Moroni 8:18 that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.” Other passages in the Book of Mormon also reaffirm God’s eternal, unchangeable nature:

“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 27:23

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 29:9

“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever , and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?”
Mormon 9:9

“And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchanging Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”
Mormon 9:19

Mormonism Radically Changed
The Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830. Fourteen years later, Mormon theology had dramatically changed. On April 7, 1844, Joseph Smith preached his famous King Follett Discourse. In it he taught:

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…

It is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple…

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you…[2]

Lorenzo Snow summarized the big idea that further developed like this: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may be.”

Since then, Mormonism has never been the same. Mormons now radically re-interpret verses like Moroni 8:18 and essentially reject the original teaching that God was unchangeably God from all eternity to all eternity. Mormons are now even in disarray and confusion over whether Heavenly Father was once a sinful mortal.[3]

Again, Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

NOTES
[1] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology.” Sunstone 5:4; July-August 1980

[2] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. On June 16, 1844, Smith went on to teach that Heavenly Father has his own Heavenly Father (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 473-479). Also see Ensign, April 1971 and May 1971.

[3] See http://GodNeverSinned.com

JST = The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (aka “The Inspired Version”)

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Introduction: In 2004, after Richard J. Mouw’s now infamous apology in the Mormon Tabernacle, Ron V. Huggins of  the Salt Lake Theological Seminary wrote an article that the ensuing years has come to be known as “the infamous Pander/Slander Article”. That is, the watershed article on how Christians wishing to enter into interfaith dialogue or relationship with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will slander their brothers and sisters in Christ and pander to Latter-day Saints. Now, one would think that an article written eleven years ago would have little relevance over a decade later wouldn’t you? However, the recent pander/slander tactics of Baptist Theologian Roger E. Olson, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Pastor Chris Duckworth, have prompted us to reintroduce this classic article to a new audience for their edification and enlightenment. Folks, it looks like it’s 2004 all over again! — Editor

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 itby Ronald V. Huggins, B.F.A., Th.D.
On November 14, 2004, well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias appeared in Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle. What might have been a remarkable opportunity for interfaith dialogue between Mormons and Christians was seriously damaged when Dr. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, issued a controversial apology that seemed to portray Evangelicals as commonly bearing false witness against Mormons. Evangelicals present at the event, even some of those sitting on the stage, went away with the clear impression that Mouw was aiming his criticism at them and excluding only the small group of out-of-towners brought in by Greg Johnson’s ministry, Standing Together, which sponsored the event.

Let me make it clear that I agree that some Evangelicals have certainly been unkind to Mormons and have been guilty of inaccurately portraying Mormon beliefs. But this does not characterize the attitudes and actions of most evangelical churches and ministries, which is what made Mouw’s blanket apology inappropriate.

In the days following the event Ravi’s powerful preaching was radically downplayed, as Mouw and his apology moved to center stage. The LDS Church News carried an article entitled “Ravi Zacharias Speaks at the Tabernacle,” that dedicated more than a third of its three columns to Mouw’s remarks and only a single paragraph at the end to Ravi’s message. The official LDS Church web page reported the event as if Richard Mouw had been the main and indeed the only speaker at the event, making no mention of Ravi Zacharias at all. I include here the entire story as it appeared on the official LDS Church website (www.mormonnewsroom.org) on 29 Nov. 2004:

Evangelical Calls for Greater Understanding. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the largest in North America, spoke at Salt Lake Tabernacle November 14 during an ‘Evening of Friendship.’ At the event Mr. Mouw said, ‘I am now convinced that we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. …We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe.’

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

The story is accompanied by a photograph of Dr. Mouw along with a link to Beliefnet.com, where his entire remarks on that occasion are found under the heading: “‘We Have Sinned Against You.’ A leading evangelical speaks at the Mormon Tabernacle and says evangelicals have spread lies about LDS beliefs.”

Richard Mouw is credited with posting the remarks, but the introduction speaks of Mouw in the third person. In that introduction the Southern Baptists are specifically named as representing (apparently) the kind of thing Mouw was attacking in his remarks, despite the fact that South East Baptist Church was one of the sponsors of the Tabernacle event and its pastor, Mike Gray, was included among those seated on the stage.

It’s hard, in light of this reporting, not to view the LDS Church as somewhat self-serving in its backing of Ravi’s appearance. Acting as if it wished to engender good relations between Mormons and Evangelicals before the event (which was co-sponsored by the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Studies at BYU), the LDS Church seemed to quickly drop any interest in Ravi once it was over.

Some Christians in Utah were surprised and disappointed by the apparent bad faith reflected in the LDS Church’s post-event coverage; others, including myself, expected it on the basis of the conviction that, contrary to the belief and hope of many Evangelicals, the LDS Church does not appear ready for, nor does it seem really to desire, authentic dialogue with Evangelicals. What the LDS Church certainly does seem to desire is mainline respectability. It is clearly interested in finding room at its events for those Evangelicals who are willing to publicly disparage their own brethren and so to lend a hand to its own project of marginalizing (rather than interacting with) careful and credible critics like Jerald and Sandra Tanner, the Institute for Religious Research (IRR), and others. As such, the LDS Church appears to be interested in “dialoguing” only with Evangelicals who lack an in-depth knowledge of Mormon history and doctrine, and who are thus more likely to take at face value the representations of its PR people.

This was dramatically illustrated for me at the 2004 regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Association of Religion held at BYU. After the event Dr. James Wakefield and I were talking with another Evangelical scholar visiting from Fuller Theological Seminary. All three of us had presented papers. Suddenly a senior Mormon scholar and apologist very deliberately and ceremoniously reached his hand between Dr. Wakefield and me in order to introduce himself to the scholar from Fuller. He displayed no interest whatever in speaking to Dr. Wakefield or me, despite the fact that he had sat intently taking extensive notes during my entire paper, and also, that I had recently published an article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought that had interacted with, and challenged, some of his writings.

Many pastors in Utah, including those supportive of the Tabernacle event, were deeply disappointed by Dr. Mouw’s apology. On December 3, 2004, some twenty-five pastors and other Christian ministers met with Standing Together director Greg Johnson to discuss the event. A number of those present (including myself) had come from ministries that had financially supported the event. Some had even been present on the stage during the event. There was, I think it is fair to say, a solid majority that felt Dr. Mouw’s apology was both ill-advised and inappropriate; a significant number of those present (again including myself) felt it was highly inappropriate.

After Greg Johnson had assured them that there had been no way to know beforehand that Dr. Mouw would make his unfortunate remarks, the gathered pastors naturally expressed surprise at learning that the faculty of Salt Lake Theological Seminary (SLTS) had communicated with Dr. Mouw in August 2004 and expressed concern that he avoid following the pattern he had established in writing and public events during the past few years of disparaging earlier Christian efforts to reach Mormons for Christ. Regrettably, Dr. Mouw ignored the SLTS faculty’s concern. Nearly all those present at the meeting understood Mouw’s accusation to be directed at ministers in Utah in general.

how-wide-the-divideUnfortunately, Dr. Mouw’s disparaging remarks towards his fellow Evangelicals at the Tabernacle are not the first example of this kind of behavior in an event sponsored by Standing Together. The difficulty is that Evangelicals associated with that ministry have developed unhealthy, lopsided relationships with Mormon apologists. Several years ago I came up with a name for this “evangelistic strategy” – the “Pander/Slander” method: “If you want to pander to the Mormon apologists not ready for real dialogue, the cost is going to be a willingness to slander the Christian brethren that went before you.” Anyone who has read How Wide the Divide? by Evangelical Craig Blomberg and Mormon Stephen Robinson, a project spurred on by Standing Together’s Greg Johnson, will have noticed that Mormon scholar Stephen Robinson very quickly wraps himself in a cloak of victim privilege and makes sure Blomberg understands he is going to regard any challenges to his idiosyncratic expressions of Mormon doctrine as persecution. He acts, in other words, as a victim-bully. Once the book was out there, anyone who criticized Blomberg for not challenging Robinson’s evasions was denounced by Mormon apologists. So the cloak of victim privilege was thrown over the shoulders of Blomberg too. So also now with Richard Mouw and Standing Together.

In saying this I must stress that Craig Blomberg is an excellent scholar and the fact that he behaved in a more scholarly and gentlemanly manner than Robinson did in that exchange should surely not be held against him.

As early as 2002 I cautioned Greg Johnson against belittling earlier Christian efforts at reaching Mormons as a way of buying credibility with Mormon apologists. In 2001 I similarly cautioned Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, two of the editors of The New Mormon Challenge, a work with a Foreword by Richard Mouw, in which he again declares himself “ashamed” of fellow Christians who have labored in the field before him.

Acting, in my view, with similar lack of good faith in relation to the publication of that book, the Mormons first pretended to be supportive of the project and then quickly panned it afterwards as just another anti-Mormon effort. Not only so, but after promising to appear at a public book-launching event in Salt Lake City (The New Mormon Challenge Conference), the major Mormon participants cancelled out at the last minute, leaving only the idiosyncratic Mormon maverick lawyer-theologian-apologist Blake Ostler to represent the Mormon side. When the FARMS Review of Books came out with its take on The New Mormon Challenge in the winter of 2002, one of its authors, Louis Midgley, quoted one of the principles set out in Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley’s 1963 “How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book” against the book’s editors:

“A benign criticism of your predecessors will go far towards confirming your own preeminence in the field. Refer gently but firmly,” Nibley admonishes, “to the bias, prejudices, and inadequate research, however unconscious or understandable, of other books on the subject.” It should be noted that Mosser and Owen began their venture into Anti-Mormonism with an essay in which they neatly positioned themselves to come to the rescue of the evangelicals overwhelmed by the “new Mormon challenge,” by doing what previous writers have lacked the skill and knowledge to accomplish.[1]

The New Mormon ChallengeMidgley’s comments are interesting. Prior to the release of the book, FARMS had singled out Mosser and Owen for high acclaim as if they were the only Evangelicals that ever deserved the name “scholar,” even at the time when neither had his doctorate. It had even re-released and praised the article Midgley now damns as “anti-Mormon.” More than a year before this review I warned Mosser and Owen that they were being used and that all the apparent friendship and support the Mormon apologists pretended to be giving them then would suddenly vanish the moment they ceased being useful. I had hoped I was being too cynical, that there might have been a glimmer of something real in the Mormon apologists’ relationship with Mosser and Owen. Sadly, my fears subsequently appear to have been confirmed.

Mosser and Owen are fine scholars who should not be condemned for being naïve. They are young and it is surely forgivable that they would have wanted to assume that the trusted leaders of a religious organization that claims to represent Jesus Christ on the earth would act with greater ethical integrity in its relationship with outsiders. Alas, we must all live and learn.

In any case, The New Mormon Challenge did represent an important bluff caller. For a long time previous to its release Mormons had been complaining that no one with scholarly credentials had critically and carefully interacted with their scholarship. My own position on that question was that it was incumbent on nobody to interact with the work of Mormon apologists until they produced something of real scholarly significance that could stand on its own outside Mormon circles. I had read a good deal of it and found that in the areas in which I had particular expertise, their work was, with a few exceptions, appallingly inadequate. The New Mormon Challenge at least provided exactly the scholarly interaction the Mormon apologists wanted, and yet since its release they have shown themselves to be as disinterested in real interaction as before. Their only long-term interest seems to be with Evangelicals who, lacking a sufficient understanding of their teaching, will pander to them without challenging them with anything deeper than broad allusions to “serious differences that divide us.”

With Dr. Mouw’s most recent apology at the Tabernacle, I am concerned that Standing Together will become fixed in its commitment to a strategy of disparaging earlier efforts to reach Mormons. If this appearance is correct, it is not a healthy development.

Dr. Mouw’s troubling comments at the recent Tabernacle event have damaged not only his own credibility among ministers in Utah, but also the credibility of the leadership of Standing Together. This is regrettable because their role in fostering Evangelical-Mormon dialogue is an important one. Many Christians in Utah and elsewhere would long for an apology on the part of Dr. Mouw to Utah pastors and mainstream Evangelical ministries to the LDS community affected by his comments. This is especially so in view of his planned participation in a Joseph Smith bicentennial event at the Library of Congress event in May 2005. Robert Millet at BYU has had a leading role in planning this event and the non-Mormon scholars who are participating in it have apparently been carefully hand-picked for what they will not say rather than for what they will say. We should be very troubled if Mouw insists on offering another one of his blanket apologies at that event, although I am concerned that he may very well do so.

Meanwhile, I would urge those at BYU and the Library of Congress who are planning the May 2005 Joseph Smith Bicentennial event to include the participation of legitimate Mormon and non-Mormon scholars whose work is not necessarily “faith promoting.” My desire as a representative of the latter group is to participate in dialogue that is not only respectful, but also authentic.

Postscript: The Joseph Smith Bicentennial event (entitled “The Worlds of Joseph Smith”) was held at the Library of Congress on May 6&7, 2005. And, as the author anticipated, the roster was stacked with scholars whose work and narrative regarding Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church was overwhelmingly skewed toward the “faith promoting” side of the line. The audio and video files from this event are no longer available but a bound volumes of the papers presented at this event can be purchased from Amazon. — Editor

Ron Huggins Bio ShotABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron V. Huggins, is Assistant Professor of Theological & Historical Studies, Salt Lake Theological Seminary and an Executive Board Member at The Institute for Religious Research.

Born in Moscow, Idaho and reared a Roman Catholic, Ron came to know Christ in 1976 during his last year as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho.

Shortly after his conversion Ron read a biography of Martin Luther, and it became clear to him (much to his surprise) that God can use educated people to further His kingdom. This new understanding sparked a desire for further theological education, which was not realized for a number of years while Ron was engaged in various ministries (including a four-year stint on the staff of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho).

In 1984 Ron was able to see his dream fulfilled by beginning to pursue a Masters degree at Regent College, Vancouver. After finishing his doctorate at Toronto in 1997 and before coming to Salt Lake Theological Seminary, Ron taught Church History at Moody Bible Institute Center for External Studies in Spokane Washington. During the same period he also taught Latin in private Christian Schools.

Ron was married in 1980. He and his wife Marguerite have four daughters: Sarah, Anna, Nollie, and Mary.

NOTES
[1] Louis C. Midgley, “Faulty Topography,” FARMS Review of Books, 14.1-2 (2002): 148.

Further Reading
– A transcript of Dr. Mouw’s original November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle apology can be read here.  
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.
– Mike Thomas’ critical analysis and editorial on Dr. Mouw’s methods and mean cans can be read here.
– The Official Statement on Richard Mouw by Evangelical Ministries to New Religions can be read here.
– Fred W. Anson’s apology for Richard J. Mouw can be read here.

a_logo© 2015 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research website. It is republished here per IRR’s usage guidelines and with their express permission. Beggar’s Bread is thankful to IRR their generosity in allowing us to republish Dr. Huggin’s classic article. 

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Mohammed_receiving_revelation_from_the_angel_Gabriel

Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, (c.1307 CE)

by Fred W. Anson
In the wild world of Mormon Studies “parallel-mania” probably no subject has received more scrutiny and scorn than the parallels between Mormonism and Islam. A lot of ink has been spilled over it and there will, no doubt, be a lot more. I have been as guilty as anyone else in this regard. For example, in a previous article I pointed to the following similarities in support of my thesis that Mormonism is in fact more akin to Islam than Christianity and therefore should drop the pretense that it’s Christian and simply assume it’s place as the Fourth, distinct and unique, Abrahamic Religion:

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith were reportedly inspired to start their movements by angelic visits.
The Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the case of Muhammad, and the Angel Moroni for Joseph Smith (following a visit Smith claimed to have received from God and Jesus Christ three years earlier). In each event, the angel in question helped to prepare the prophet to receive a series of revelations from God.[1]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith left behind authorized books they claimed to be direct revelations from God, books that their followers accept as Scripture.[2]
The Koran in the case of Muhammad and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants in the case of Joseph Smith. The Brighamite followers of Joseph Smith (which is represented by today’s Salt Lake City denomination of Mormonism) later added The Pearl of Great Price which is a compilation of various and sundry revelations and scripture generated by Smith during his ministry.

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith were persecuted by hostile locals and later forced to relocate during the formative periods of their careers.[3]
Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, and Joseph Smith from Missouri to Illinois.

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith established theocratic city-states during their respective ministries.
Muhammad was invited to take the rule of Medina turning it into a Theocracy, while Joseph Smith would found Nauvoo, Illinois and assumed absolute power as God’s prophet.[4]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith had humble beginnings.
Neither had formal religious connections or upbringing, and both were relatively uneducated. Yet both founded new religions by creating their own scriptures. In fact, followers of both prophets claim these scriptures are miracles since their authors were the most simple and uneducated of men.[5]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith created new scripture which borrowed heavily from the Bible while simultaneously deviating from it.
In his Koran, Muhammad appropriates a number of Biblical themes and characters—but he changes the complete sense of many passages, claiming to “correct” the Bible. In so doing he changes many doctrines, introducing his own in their place. In like manner, Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon, much of which is plagiarized directly from the King James Bible. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon claims that this same Bible has been substantially corrupted and is therefore unreliable. In addition, Joseph Smith went so far as to actually create his own version of the Bible itself, the Joseph Smith Translation (aka “Inspired Version”) in which he both adds and deletes significant portions of text, claiming he is “correcting” it. In so doing he also changes many doctrines, introducing his own in their place.[6]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith saw themselves as prophesied in scripture, and both saw themselves as a continuation of a long line of Biblical prophets.
Muhammad saw himself as a continuation of the ministry of Moses and Jesus.[7] Joseph Smith saw himself as a successor to Enoch, Melchizedek, Joseph and Moses.[8] Joseph Smith actually wrote himself into his own version of the Bible—by name.[9]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith held up their own scripture as superior to the Bible.
Muhammad claimed that the Koran was a perfect copy of the original which was in heaven. The Koran is therefore held to be absolutely perfect, far superior to the Bible and superceding it. In like manner, Joseph Smith also made the following claim: “I told the Brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding its precepts, than by any other book.”[10]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith, despite their claim that the Bible was corrupt, admonished their followers to adhere to its teachings.
An obvious contradiction, this led to selective acceptance of some portions and wholesale rejection of others. As a result, the Bible is accepted by both groups of followers only to the extent that it agrees with their prophet’s own superior revelation.[11]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith claimed superiority over Jesus Christ.
Muhammad taught that Jesus was just another of a long line of human prophets, of which he was the last. He taught that he was superior to Christ and superseded Him.[12]

In comparison, Joseph Smith also made the following claim:
“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”[13]

– Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith were polygamists who had many wives.
Muhammad had thirteen (13) wives including his first wife, Khadija bint Khuwaylid. Joseph Smith had at least thirty four (34) wives including his only legal wife, Emma Smith.[14]

Other similarities between Islam and Mormonism
– Belief that good deeds are required for salvation just as much as faith.[15]

– Belief that the text of the Bible, as presently constituted, has been adulterated from its original form.[16]

– Belief that their faith represents the genuine, original religion of Adam, and of all true prophets thereafter.[17]

– Belief that one’s marriage can potentially continue into the next life, if one is faithful to the religion.[18]

– Belief that there are multiple degrees or spiritual levels in heaven.[19]

– Both engage in institutionalized testimony bearing. The Shahada in the case of Islam and the formulaic 5-point Mormon Testimony in Mormonism. 

– Lying to outsiders in order to protect the religion is considered acceptable – even virtuous: The Taqiyya in the case of Islam and “Lying for the Lord” in the case of Mormonism.  

– Belief that a believer’s family, if appropriately faithful to the religion, can join them in the next world, only if they are equally faithful.[20]

– Assertions that modern Christianity does not conform to the original religion taught by Jesus Christ.[21]

– Rejection of the Christian doctrines of Original Sin and the Trinity.[22]

– Absolute prohibition of alcoholic beverages,and gambling.[23]

– Incorporation of a sacred ritual of ablution, though each religion’s rite differs in form, frequency and purpose.[24]

– A “top down” clerical hierarchy that is drawn from the laity and placed into leadership roles, without any requirements for completing collegiate or theological training first.[25]

– Special reverence for, though not worship of, their founding prophet.[26]

–  A continuing history of sects, or splinter groups, who claim to be following the “original doctrine” of the founding leaders and whose practices include violence against dissenters and critics, as well as polygamy. [27]

While these parallels are rather broad and general, Lutheran Pastor Hans Fiene found some surgically piercing parallels from Islamic and Mormon sources, bundled them up, and presented them in an amusing video:

Since they flash by so quickly on the screen during the video, here are those references:[28]

Reestablishing the one true religion
Islam
“Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters.”
Surah 3:67

“There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due. That was Allah’s way with those who passed away of old – and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny – Who delivered the messages of Allah and feared Him, and feared none save Allah. Allah keepeth good account. Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever aware of all things.”
Surah 33:38-40

Mormonism
“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’”
Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, 1:18-19, Joseph Smith

Christians changed the Bible
Islam
“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.”
Surah 4:157

Joseph Smith
John 1:1 (Joseph Smith Translation)
“In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.”
(Meaning: Jesus is not God)
– versus-
John 1:1 (KJV)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(Meaning: Jesus is God)

Rejection of the the Trinity
Islam
“And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? He saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right.”
Surah 5:116

Mormonism
“I will preach on the plurality of Gods… I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.”
–  “Sermon in the Grove”; History of the Church 6:474, Joseph Smith

“We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons.”
“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent”
Jeffery R. Holland (LDS Apostle June 23, 1994-present), General Conference, Fall 2007

“where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”
“Godhead”, official LDS Church website

Rejection of justification by grace through faith
Islam
“They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire.”
Surah 5:72

Joseph Smith
“The sectarian dogma of justification by faith alone has exercised an influence for evil.”
“The Articles of Faith”, James Talmage, (LDS Apostle, 1911-33), pg. 432

Good Works Required for Salvation
Islam
“To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward.”
Surah 5:9

Mormonism
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
The Pearl of Great Price, Articles of Faith, article 3

Multiple Levels of Heaven
Islam
Seven Levels: Firdaus, ‘Adn, Na’iim, Na’wa, Darussalaam, Daarul Muaqaamah, Al-Muqqamul, Amin, Khuldi
(click here for supporting evidence from an Islamic source) 

Mormonism
Three Degrees of Glory: Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial
(click here for supporting evidence from an official Mormon source)

Higher levels of heaven based on perfect obedience
Islam
“Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straightness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others). And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults– and who forgives the faults but Allah, and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done. (As for) these– their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and excellent is the reward of the laborers.”
Surah 3:134-136

Mormonism
“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn…These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.”
Doctrines & Covenants 76:51-54, 70

Pro-polygamy
Islam
“And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four.”
Surah 4:3

Mormonism
“And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.”
Doctrines & Covenants 132:61

Change in theology based on political environment
Islam
When politically weak in Mecca: Let’s be friends, Christians and Jews!
“And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.'”
Surah 29:46

When politically strong in Medina: Die, Christians and Jews, die!
“And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.”
Surah 2:191

Mormonism
Before wanting statehood for Utah: God says we must practice polygamy!
“I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant [polygamy]; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
Doctrine & Covenants 132:3, Joseph Smith (July 12, 1843)

“It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: “We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,”—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.”
– Journal of Discourses 11:268-269, Brigham Young, “Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City,” (August 19, 1866), bolding added for emphasis

After wanting statehood for Utah: God says we can’t practice polygamy!
“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice.”
“Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891”, Wilford Woodruff (4th LDS President), Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891

“Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.”
– Doctrine & Covenants, Official Declaration-1, Wilford Woodruff (4th LDS President), October 6, 1890 (date of canonization into LDS Scripture)

The pre-existence of souls
Islam
“And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants, and made them bear witness against their own souls: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes! we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of resurrection: Surely we were heedless of this.”
Surah 7:172

Mormonism
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.”
The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 4:23-26

Mormonism’s explanation for why some people are black, based on the pre-existence:
“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient; more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there [pre-existence] received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less. . . . There were no neutrals in the war in Heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.”
“Doctrines of Salvation”, Joseph Fielding Smith (10th LDS President) 1:61, 65-66

Summary and Conclusion
It’s been said that Satan isn’t very original or creative and his best ideas are stolen. And based on the stunning parallels between Islam and Mormonism alone there seems to be some truth to it. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries Mormonism was often referred to as “The Islam of America” and now you know why.

Joseph Smith receiving the golden plates from the angel Moroni. “The Restoration” by L.A. Ramsey (1873-1941)

NOTES:
[1]
Paul T. Trask, “I Will Be a Second Muhammad”

[2] Wikipedia, “Similarities Between Muslims and Mormons”

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Op cit, Trask

[7] John Ankerberg & John Weldon, “The Facts on Islam”; Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998; pp.8–9. Also see Eric Johnson, “Joseph Smith & Muhammad”; El Cajon, CA: Mormonism Research Ministry, 1998; pp.6–7.

[8] Op cit, Trask

[9] Op cit, Ankerberg & Weldon

[10] History of the Church, vol.4, pp.461

[11] Op cit, Trask

[12] Op cit, Trask

[13] History of the Church, vol.6, pp.408–409

[14] See “Muhammad’s wives” and “Remembering The Wives of Joseph Smith”Also note that Joseph Smith, Jr’s FamilySearch.org record contains the names of his polygamous wives. This is particularly interesting since as of the date of writing FamilySearch.org is owned and managed by the LdS Church.

[15] Op cit, Wikipedia

[16] Op cit, Wikipedia

[17] Op cit, Wikipedia

[18] Op cit, Wikipedia

[19] Op cit, Wikipedia

[20] Op cit, Wikipedia

[21] David Van Biema, “What Is Mormonism? A Baptist Answer”; Time Magazine, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007

[22] Op cit, Wikipedia

[23] Op cit, Wikipedia

[24] Op cit, Wikipedia

[25] Op cit, Wikipedia

[26] Op cit, Wikipedia

[27] Op cit, Trask

[28] The text that follows was derived from Pastor Fiene, “A Latter Day Re-Gift Quotes” with some additions to the Mormon sources by this author.

BACK TO TOP

duh Introduction: On June 12, 2015 Dr. Roger E. Olson, a professor of Theology at Baylor University and award winning Christian author, published a lengthy article on Mormonism based on his recent experiences and encounters with Mormon scholars at Brigham Young University. While such an article isn’t uncommon, Dr. Olson’s piece was unique in his stunningly abrasive, condescending, dismissive, and even rude treatment of those who attempted to reason him out of the less than fully informed understanding of Mormonism that was manifest in the article. This included not only active Latter-day Saints and Ex-Mormons, but fellow Christian scholars who specialize in Mormon Studies. On June 16, 2015, after several frustrating days of interacting with Dr. Olson, Arthur Sido, a former Mormon who is now a Christian, took the time to write about his experiences. — Editor

by Arthur Sido
A few days ago, one Roger Olson, writing for Patheos, wrote a rather lengthy and largely ignorant post titled: Is Mormonism Christian? (Long But Everyone Interested in Mormonism Should Read This). Patheos often is a breeding ground for aberrant teaching, although some of it is decent. This is not one of the decent ones.

Now at the outset let me say that I know of Olson mostly for his Quixotic tilting at the Calvinist windmill. He is a fountain of trite and demonstrably false quips about “Calvinism” so I wasn’t expecting much. I try to stay out of the Calvinist/Arminian wars as best I can but I simply cannot stomach those who mischaracterize those they disagree with. Dr. Olson may get a wide audience and publish a lot of books but based on his interaction with me and with others who know a lot more about Mormonism than he does, he comes across as a middle-schooler on the playground rather than a serious academic. Please refer to the below screenshot of my published moderator approved comment, his response and my rejoinder. And please note that my rejoinder never made it through moderation (although he seemed effusive in his praise of Mormon comments).

(click to enlarge)

“Duh, I know this”? I didn’t think my comment was “Duh” worthy but there you go. I guess that is what passes for academic discourse these days.

Back to the article itself.

From the get-go the question in the title itself is ridiculous. No orthodox Christian tradition has ever considered Mormonism to be Christian in any sense of the word. You might as well have a post titled “Are lemons made of uranium?”. Any theologian with even a cursory understanding of Christian teaching and Mormon teaching knows that we are not talking about two different flavors of ice cream, we are talking about the difference between a rock and a tree. Also, again as anyone who pays attention realizes, the Mormon religion has changed tactics over the last decade or so, moving away from the prior position of emphasizing how different Mormonism is from Christianity to trying to soften the public face of Mormonism to emphasize the alleged similarities. I don’t even know if a lot of younger Mormons realize how much the alleged great apostasy and the vitriolic way that Joseph Smith describes “Jesus” speaking about orthodox Christianity is foundational to their religion. It is all P.R., as the response to LDS teachings becomes more widely disseminated thanks to the internet and their aberrant teachings more clear in the public square, Mormons have had to change tactics to keep bringing in the converts. Olson seems to blithely accept that Millet is in the vanguard of the change in Mormonism to become more orthodox. That is a wonderful idea but it is impossible. Every aspect of Mormonism, from the “prophet” who claims direct revelation from Christ to the temples where pagan ceremonies are held to every bit of the Mormon proselytizing machine would have to be torn down. My fervent prayer is that Mormons as a people leave Mormonism and come to saving faith in Christ but I have no hope for orthodox reform of the religion itself.

BYU Professor Robert Millet

BYU Professor Robert Millet

Second, Olson may consider Millet to be his buddy but Millet has no authority to speak for Mormonism. When the current “prophet” declares that Joseph Smith was a liar, as he was, and that the “Book of Mormon” is a fraud, which it is, and that the teachings of all of those who came before Monson and claimed the title of “prophet” were also liars and deceivers, then we can cheer their progress. Until then this is all just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

Third. Here is the thing about false prophets and wolves. They lie. It is kind of what they do. I don’t know Millet but I imagine that someone that deep in the Mormon hierarchy and with the ear of many top Mormons has to know that what they teach is untrue. He has to. So his continued defense of mormonism, nuanced as it may be, is tantamount to lying and false teaching. He is a wolf, not a slightly confused Christian.

Fourth, Olson’s response to fellow Christians often seemed (as shown above) to be arrogant, juvenile and downright nasty. His use of the term “Anti-Mormon” to describe those who have been doing the heavy lifting of witnessing to Mormons while he hides away in his ivory tower is insulting and childish. I got a chuckle of out the statement he made on his follow-up post, , where he states:

This blog is for civil, respectful, constructive dialogue, not preaching, flaming or advocacy.

Ah, I see. Maybe where Olson comes from “Duh, I know this” qualifies as “civil, respectful, constructive dialogue” but it doesn’t where I am from.

Olson’s final paragraph is his follow-up post, What I Learned from the Responses to My Post about Mormonism tells you everything you need to know.

On the other hand I do not consider the LDS Church a cult. I consider it a quasi-Christian denomination and a Christian-based world religion. I still think there is enough Christianity in Mormonism that there is reason to hope that someday the LDS Church will emerge, as the WCG [Worldwide Church of God] did, as a truly Christian denomination.

Dr. Roger E. Olson

That kind of says it all. In one fell swoop he discounts the cultic behavior that left scars on virtually everyone I know that left Mormonism, myself included. I know of families that are divided and devastated by this cult. I know first hand the cultuc tactics used to scare people into staying in line. On top of this he sees “enough Christianity” in Mormonism and sees it as a “Christian-based world religion”. In what possible way? Taking aside some common terminology with a different meaning, which Roger “Duh, I know this” Olson claims to understand, there is not one shred of Christianity in Mormonism. None. It is a polytheistic, pagan religion more akin to Islam than to Christianity. Trying to find common theological ground with Mormonism is like trying to find common theological ground with ISIS. That is not an exaggeration.

Dr. Olson is not doing anyone any favors with his kid gloves approach to Mormonism coupled with his pompous treatment of fellow believers. Hopefully someone with more time on their hands can disassemble his posting for the benefit of the church because Roger Olson has done Christianity and those trapped in Mormonism an enormous disservice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arthur Sido is a husband of one and the father of eight in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He and his wife are homeschoolers and amateur small scale farmers. A convert in adulthood to Christianity, he has a particular interest in how Christians gather as the church and the ways that our cultural assumptions impact the manner in which we meet. Describing himself as a Particular Anabaptist, his goal is to get Christians to look beyond “church as we know it” so that the church can focus on equipping believers and sending them out to the world. Mr. Sido is also a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

black sheep2(this article was originally published on the author’s “The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia” website, on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015. It is republished here with permission and has been very lightly edited.)

APPENDIX: The Fallout
by Fred W. Anson
The day after the above Arthur Sido article published (that is, June 17th, 2015) Roger E. Olson published a letter from Robert Millet in which Dr. Millett corrected him on some key points. Here are some excerpts:

…we have no desire to become a part of mainstream Christianity. We do want to be better understood and appreciated for what and who we are, but we are not traditional Christians and have never claimed to be. We do in fact see ourselves as Christians with a difference. Mormonism professes to be restored Christianity, and its adherents believe that God has chosen to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ through a modern prophet, Joseph Smith, and that the divine priesthood authority he received—the power and authority to act in the name of God, apostolic authority—has continued in rightful succession to modern apostles and prophets within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

… you seem to have gotten a false impression of my view of the Lorenzo Snow couplet, the notion that “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” I do accept fully as doctrinal the latter part of the couplet, since deification is definitely a part of LDS theology. I do not know very much at all about the first part, and it is not in fact something the Church or its leaders speak of very often.

Further, on the same day (June 17, 2015) the Baptist Standard website picked up on Dr. Olson’s article, loudly proclaiming “Mormonism moving closer to Christianity, Truett prof observes” in the headline. The article concludes with the following quotes from Dr. Olson:

“There is no doubt in my mind but that something is going on in the LDS Church and Mormonism in general that constitutes a gradual but discernable [sic] shift away from those doctrines most anti-Mormon Christian critics like to highlight toward a somewhat more biblical and even evangelical account of Christ and salvation,” he said.

Based on that shift, Olson said: “I can envision someday the LDS Church evolving into a Christian denomination. For now, though, I consider it an alternative religion rooted in Christianity but also rooted, unfortunately, in Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s fantasies.”

Say it with me: “Damage done!”

But, if that weren’t enough, a day later (June 18, 2015), in his typical, “It’s my world – you little people just live in it!” manner, Roger E. Olson issued the following public statement on his blogsite:

Please note that I closed the discussion of Mormonism yesterday. The response to my and Robert Millett’s essays were so voluminous and lengthy that I simply do not have time to moderate that discussion anymore. I think virtually everything that can be said was said by someone. If you are interested in the subject, read the books I recommended in my initial post about Mormonism and Christianity. If you attempt to comment here about Mormonism you will be wasting your time. I will not approve such comments. I have approved many of all kinds already. The subject is closed (here) for now. Thank you.

And that was the last that the world has heard from Dr. Roger E. Olson on the subject of Mormonism – hopefully, it will stay that way for a good, long time. Frankly, forever would be nice in this author’s opinion.

MRM_CropBut this story isn’t quite done yet, there’s still the fallout to deal with. Starting on June 29th and running until July 10th, 2015, Mormon Researchers Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson devoted an audio series to deconstructing and analyzing Dr. Olson’s article on their “Viewpoint on Mormonism” podcast/radio program. This series represents the most thorough, and evidence driven analysis of the flaws and problems with Dr. Olson’s article done to date. Here are the direct links to the shows: Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten.

I was particularly encouraged by the fact that Bill McKeever – who is one of the most objective, even keeled, dispassionate, and even toned Christian scholars in Mormon Studies that I know of – confessed throughout the series that he was having a great deal of trouble governing, his passion and frustration in regard to the arrogant tone and rookie mistakes in Dr. Olson’s Mormon Studies work.

“So why all the animus toward Dr. Olson?” one might ask – and it’s a valid question. As stated in the introduction and Mr. Sido’s piece, Dr. Olson’s article and the discussion board behavior that followed was extraordinary in the level of pomposity, condescension, and rudeness that he displayed toward those of us who were already embedded and engaged in Mormon Studies before he arrived on the scene. Many of us have years, even decades, of study and first hand experience with Mormon culture, history, and religion. Some (including many who were in the Mormon Church at the time) have even lived through events in Mormon history that Dr. Olson can only read about now.

And while the other Evangelical scholars (like Richard J. Mouw, Gregory C. V. JohnsonGerald R. McDermott, Craig L. Blomberg and others) who have participated in Robert Millet’s past joint Mormon/Evangelical academic sessions at BYU have occasionally criticized other Christians in Mormon Studies, they have never shown the level of hamfisted ineptitude coupled with over the top contemptuous disrespect of fellow Evangelicals that Roger E. Olson did.[1] Stated plainly, Dr. Olson seems to have a real knack for alienating friend and foe alike!

For example, I would ask the reader to scroll through the comments underneath Dr. Olson’s article and ask yourself this question: “Why are there so many rebuttals to Dr. Olson’s comments but very few rejoinders?” The answer is simple: When it comes to public discourse Dr. Olson doesn’t play fair. It didn’t take long for those of us who responded to the article to figure out that Dr. Olson had a preferred narrative that he was looking to push. As a result, countering evidence and arguments which didn’t support his agenda were simply deleted. It didn’t matter how cogent, empirically valid, or within board guidelines they were, they just got “nuked”. And, you will notice, that in just about every discussion thread Roger E. Olson gets the last word – that, dear reader, is no coincidence.

Arthur Sido has already provided some examples of this in his article, but let me supplement with one of my own. I submitted this rejoinder for moderator approval on June 13, 2015:

Q: “What do you make of Bob Millett’s claim–to me [Roger E. Olson] directly–that he has the full support and backing of the LDS Church leadership including its president?” [this quote is clipped from Dr. Olson’s rebuttal (which he has since deleted) to the only comment that I had approved by him. Click here to see my approved comment.]

This is no secret, it’s well known in Mormon Studies circles that several years ago Dr. Millett was missioned by Mormon leaders with acting as an Ambassador to mainstream Christian churches and other outside organizations to convince them that the Mormon Church is Christian. His involvement with Greg Johnson’s “Standing Together” as well as his other private efforts with Evangelical Scholars has been the net result.

So, yes, he certainly has the full support and backing of the Brethren, up to and including the First Presidency to engage with outsider scholars. However, this is a non-sequitur since, as previously stated, he and his BYU colleagues, “don’t interpret official doctrine, they don’t define LdS orthodoxy, they don’t dictate LdS Church policy and they have exactly no “Priesthood Authority” over those who do.” They could articulate a systematic theology that’s fully orthodox with historic Christianity and it would still mean nothing.

In fact, don’t be surprised if Dr. Millett arranges private meeting with high ranking Mormon leaders (typically Jeffrey R. Holland, sometimes Dieter F. Uchtdorf, sometimes others) for you where they will reiterate their support for his efforts to your face while behind your back and after you leave absolutely nothing changes.

Further, as I pointed in the aforementioned article Dr. Millet has proven to be less than fully reliable and trustworthy:

“BYU Professor, Robert Millet, who is featured prominently throughout the book, has regularly been “caught in the act” [that is, spin doctoring and lying in his exchanges with outsiders]. Numerous examples could be cited for Mr. Millet but probably the most dramatic example was his presentation to a group of LdS Missionaries preparing for their 2-year mission in which he coaches them on “how to handle anti-Mormon criticism”

(link to referenced video removed to comply with board policy)

In this video Millet speaks about how to handle the tough “anti-Mormon” questions missionaries may face while on their missions (or afterward) using tactics like: “We never provide meat when milk will do”, in other words obfuscation; “We seek to answer any serious question by finding the most direct route to the Sacred Grove”, in other words redirection; “Don’t answer the question they ask, answer the question they should have asked”, in other words deflection. And while we’re not privy to the private sessions between Mouw and Millet’s “teams” it seems reasonable to expect that the Millet team engages in such tactics.”
(see Fred W. Anson, “Scolasticus cum Peter Principle”; Beggar’s Bread, August 13, 2012)

As the saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the tasting” and while Evangelical Scholars may be enamored with the flurry of activity with BYU Scholars in Provo the fact remains that NOTHING has changed, or is changing in Salt Lake City in terms of official, correlated Mormon doctrine. Even the two case studies that typically get cited here – Dieter Uchtdorf’s, “The Gift of Grace” Spring 2015 General Conference address, and BYU Professor Brad Wilcox’s, “His Grace Is Sufficient”, Ensign, Sept. 2013) when carefully considered are nothing more than the same old, same old conditional grace and works intermingled with Evangelical sounding language to make them appear more mainstream Christian.

So Robert Millet can hold a million interfaith meetings and seminars at BYU but ultimately until we see change in the official, correlated doctrine coming out of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City it means nothing.

(Please note that the embedded links that I’ve provided here for the reader’s convenience were not in the rejoinder that was submitted for moderator approval in accordance with Dr. Olson’s board guidelines)

Another Roger Olson tactic that’s invisible to the public is how he privately antagonizes and insults respondents by putting up snide moderator responses to comments submitted for moderation. In other words, he has found a shrewd and creative way to create something like a hidden chat tool that only the commenter and he, the moderator, can see. Unfortunately, rather than using this tool for good, he uses it for private bludgeoning, insults, and other forms of behind the scenes bullying. So after a few rounds of seeing this pattern I started responding to him in kind using the same technique. Here’s an example from June 14, 2015:

I find it interesting that I’m being accused of being cynical by the man who won’t post rejoinders that present an opposing view – even if they’re within board guidelines.

I would say that any cynicism regarding Robert Millet and these interfaith discussions was validated by your behavior yesterday Mr. Olson.Clearly there’s something wrong here.

So I’ll just leave you to the manipulative and deceptive agenda driven public monolog and private censorship that appears to be your standard Modus Operandi.

In short, I expect to see this post and any others that don’t fit your agenda, or that can’t be used to make the commenter look foolish, deleted.

My Approved Comment

“the only comment that I had approved by him”
(click to enlarge)

The last tactic that Dr. Olson engages in has already been hinted at: He selectively deletes comments – even his own comments – after they’ve publicly posted if they no longer suit his purpose. Thus, there is no guarantee that a comment that was approved in the morning, will still be there the same hour, afternoon, evening, day, week, or month. Nothing is certain and everything is subject to change at any time.

Apparently, in Dr. Olson’s mind the comments section of his blogsite isn’t really a public forum, or open exchange of ideas – rather it seems to be his sandbox for building, modifying, and promoting his preferred stance and/or narrative regarding the subject. For example, to the right you will see a screenshot of my aforementioned “only comment that I had approved by him”. Originally, this comment had several responses underneath it – including at least one by Dr. Olson himself. These posts had been moderator approved and could be seen and read by the viewing public.

If you click on this live link you will notice that conspicuous in their absence are all those comments. Yes, they’re gone, Roger E. Olson deleted them all after the fact for reasons known only to himself. In true Orwellian fashion they have gone down the “memory hole” forever. Of course no casual reader would see any of this as the overriding public agenda for this particular blog article seemed to be to make Dr. Olson look like the adult voice of reason in the midst of unruly and less enlightened children. The private agenda, like that of most bullies, seemed to be another matter entirely.

In a nutshell and in conclusion: Scheming, deceiving, manipulative, censoring, spin doctoring, Christian slandering, Mormon pandering, white washing, propagandizing, verbally abusing, condescending, arrogant, myopic, agenda pursuing, pompous, overbearing, and bullying. These are all the descriptors that I and many others have used to describe Dr. Roger E. Olson’s online behavior. Frankly, his absence from Mormon Studies won’t be missed. But should he ever reenter the arena, we will be waiting. And this time, since we know what to expect now, we’ll be ready for him.[2]

NOTES
[1] Craig L. Blomberg may be the exception here. While I am personally unacquainted with the incidents, in the July 9, 2015 Viewpoint On Mormonism broadcast Bill McKeever references two occasions where Dr. Blomberg has made disparaging remarks similar to those of Dr. Olson’s. As Mr. McKeever notes in the broadcast, the lowest common denominators in both of these cases is that they are Christians scholars who rely on Robert L. Millet as their primary source of information regarding both the modern Mormonism being pandered to as well as the Christian Mormon Studies scholars being slandered.

Mr. McKeever terms this form of argumentation “Pander/Slander” and references the Institute of Religious Research’s Ronald V. Huggins‘ well known article, “An Appeal for Authentic Evangelical-Mormon Dialogue” which documents it. In light of the events documented in this article, Dr. Huggin’s article is highly recommended reading.

[2] And it turns out that we won’t be alone in being ready for Dr. Olson – his reputation for engaging in “monolog not dialog” is well known. Calvinists discovered this in 2011 after the release of his book, “Against Calvinism”. On his “Radio Free Geneva” radio show Dr. James Whites describes the same tailoring of a preferred narrative via manipulative online tactics, censorship, misrepresentation of facts, and arrogant condescension toward knowledgeable Christians who try to reason with him. It appears that we are merely seeing history repeat itself. Here are the links to those “Radio Free Geneva” radio shows:

Radio Free Geneva: Roger Olson’s “Against Calvinism” Reviewed (Part 1)
Radio Free Geneva: Roger Olson’s “Against Calvinism” Reviewed (Part 2)

Perhaps it goes without saying that these videos are both very enlightening and highly recommended. While the subject wasn’t Mormonism it still explained a lot about Dr. Olson’s methods and means in general.

BACK TO TOP

McCraneyism

“The bottom line of the whole thing is that Shawn wants to be able to teach whatever he feels like at any given moment, call it “real” Christianity . . . and never have to answer for it.”
Brother Thomas, February 13, 2015

The Short Version
McCraneyism (the system of doctrine and theology taught by Shawn McCraney, and the community that surrounds it) for the purposes of this website will be treated like a Mormon splinter group. That is, no proselytizing for it will be allowed, and it’s heretical teachings will be publicly exposed and denounced as deemed appropriate here. What follows explains the reasoning behind this position. Please read it in full before commenting and/or contacting us with any questions or concerns.

The Long Version
The Dilemma
Since the issue of the false teachings of Shawn McCraney and his McCraneyism movement continue to be an issue it was felt that better clarification and group boundaries from this website on the issue needed to be given.

This is a difficult issue since we all saw the good fruit that Shawn McCraney bore through his Heart of the Matter program prior to January 2013 – that was the time period when Shawn McCraney focused exclusively on the errors of Mormonism. We recognize and appreciate the fact that many of this website’s Ex-Mormon readers wouldn’t have left Mormonism and began their transition into Biblical Christianity had it not been for Mr. McCraney’s good work during this period. However, that was then, this is now.

The Current Problem
Starting in 2013 Mr. McCraney began teaching error and in some cases heresy. Ironically, while the content of those teachings are different, in concept they are the same as what Joseph Smith taught. Specifically:

  • That Christian churches who adhere to historic Christian orthodoxy are wrong.
  • Their creeds are an abomination in God’s sight.
  • Their professors are all corrupt and motivated by things other than the truth.
  • They’re treating Shawn’s communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, even saying it may be of the devil.
  • As a result, there’s prejudice against Shawn among these corrupt, self-interested professors of religion.
  • And that all the above is the cause of a great persecution of Shawn.
  • Further, his circumstances in life are such as to make Shawn of no real consequence in the world.
  • Yet despite all this men of high standing are taking notice sufficient to excite the public mind against him.
  • But Shawn has an inner witness that he can’t deny, lest he offend God and come under condemnation.
  • And so he continues to bring forth new revelations week after week after week.

Sound familiar? Yes, the above list uses Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account as the template in describing Shawn’s basic, recurring message but it does so because the shoe fits. Therefore, this assessment is particularly astute and to the point:

… a former Mormon, he is mainly targeting other former Mormons and disaffected Mormons. Without a ‘nod to Joseph,’ he is playing on their ingrained prejudices and leading them into another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is often categorized as a Christian cult, because it primarily targets those from a Christian background. You don’t see many Mormons trying to evangelize Muslims. Similarly, Shawn is targeting those from a Mormon background. This is why I would loosely call it a Mormon splinter group.
(Jason Wallace in the “Evangelicals Discussing Mormonism” Facebook Group)[1]

Even his familiar recurring exhortation to, “Don’t trust me – read the Bible for yourself and see if this is true!” mirrors Mormonism:

I have heard many followers of Shawn say they don’t agree with Shawn on some things, but they aren’t worried because he tells them not to trust him, but check out the Bible for themselves. This sounds good, until you recognize that Shawn mocks and ridicules every pastor who says he’s teaching error. Though he may allow latitude in individual beliefs, he cannot tolerate any public disagreement with him. Critics are accused of “character assassination.” The subtle pressure in such a community is to conform. Would a false teacher invite someone to test them from the Bible? Most have; Brigham Young said in 1873, “I say to the whole world, receive the truth, no matter who presents it to you. Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Journal of Discourses 16:46).[2]

The Heresies
In addition, in February 2014 with his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity Shawn McCraney crossed the line from “concerning” to “heretical”. Since then he has gone on to teach several other heresies including Universalism and Full Preterism.[3] The best short summation of the errors and heresies of McCraneyism to date is Jason Wallace’s article, “McCraney-ism”.

And for those who would like to get fully up to speed (or review) how and when Shawn McCraney went from Christian orthodoxy to Christian heretic please consider these resources:

Timeline Articles
(the long version)
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part One)
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Four)

Summation and Editorial Articles
(the short “bite sized” version)
Jason Wallace, “McCraney-ism”

Rob Bowman, “Shawn McCraney Against the Personhood of the Holy Spirit”

Cory Anderson, “A Pastor’s Appeal to Shawn McCraney”

Rob Sivulka, “Shawn McCraney is a Heretic and Needs Adult Supervision”
Rob Sivulka, “The “Inquisition” of Shawn McCraney—What the Heck Was That?”

Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two)
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three)
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Five)
Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”

Finally, I want to give a special recommendation to the body of work from Brother Thomas. He is a recovered Shawnite who began to sense problems in Shawn’s teaching, theology and behavior around late 2012. An eyewitness to Shawn McCraney’s transition from orthodoxy to heresy, he wrote about it as things went from good to bad to even worse.

He has produced such a rich, prolific, and insightful analysis of Shawn’s descent from orthodoxy into heresy that I recommend that the reader consider his blog articles from oldest to newest as they act as a kind of “insider’s view” into the development of McCraneyism in much the same way early Mormon documents do Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Click here for a link to his articles on Shawn McCraney and McCraneyism from newest to oldest.

But Brother Thomas is one of the fortunate ones. Unfortunately, our observation of the behavior of Shawn’s remaining followers over several months and situations is that they act and think exactly like Mormons except that they’re now in a new group and religion. The behavior is so similar in fact, that in many of their arguments one need only substitute “Joseph Smith” for “Shawn McCraney”, “Mormon Church” for “CAMPUS”, and “the church teaches” for “Shawn teaches” and you have exactly the same arguments that Latter-day Saints use in defending Mormonism.  This includes a heavy use of labeling, name calling, villainizing, marginalizing, and ad-homineming of critics. Thus we have seen the warning  in “Dear Michelle” fulfilled in real life:[4]

The reason why we former cultists are so prone to this type of error Michelle is because the past – whether we realize it or not – feels comfortable to us. As a result we’re drawn to the old and familiar like a moth to a flame – so we tend to be same moth, new flame.

Same moth, new flame.

Same moth, new flame.

Summary and Conclusion
As a result of the above, McCraneyism (the system of doctrine and theology taught by Shawn McCraney, and the Shawnite community that surrounds it) for the purposes of this website will be treated like a Mormon splinter group. That is, no proselytizing for it will be allowed, and its heretical teachings will be publicly exposed and denounced as deemed appropriate by this website.

Please note that we’re not singling McCraneyism out here: ANY and ALL Mormon splinter groups will receive the same treatment be they the Community of Christ, the various RLDS splinter groups, Christopher Nemelka’s group, Matthew Gill’s group, the Strangites, Bickertonites, or any of the other close to 200 such Latter Day Saint groups currently in existence.[5]

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this policy please contact us. The contact information is on this website’s “About” page.

Thank you.

NOTES
[1] From Fred Anson, “Dear Michelle”

[2] From Jason Wallace, “McCraney-ism”

[3] See Fred Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Five)”  also see Jason Wallace “McCraney-ism”

[4] Op cit, Anson, “Dear Michelle”

[5] See Wikipedia, “Sects in the Latter Day Saint movement”, also see Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration (A History of the Latter Day Saint Movement)”

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney in a Heart of the Matter broadcast from 2014

Appendix A: Shawn McCraney Responds
When an earlier version of this Position and Policy Statement was adopted by two Facebook groups in March 2015 Shawn McCraney addressed it on the March 11, 2015 Heart of the Matter broadcast (that is, Episode 436: Sola Scriptura – Part 2). The following response was posted on the both the HOTM.tv website page for the episode (where it was initially deleted – a repost was done on March 18th, 2015) and YouTube page (where the initial post is currently still up):

In this Heart of the Matter broadcast (@00:02:45) Shawn McCraney issued a statement regarding the recent Position and Policy Statement on McCraneyism which was posted on at least two Facebook groups.

I would ask the reader to first read the FULL VERSION of this statement (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/MormonInfo.org/10153152763992938/) and then watch Mr. McCraney’s public statement (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v_59QXwHAg#t=2m45s) before proceeding further.

Now please consider the following regarding Mr. McCraney’s public response to this statement:

1) He misrepresented the arguments that are being leveled at he and the McCraneyism movement.

2) He failed to address the substance of those arguments.

3) His statement, “Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated” is too broad and general to be accepted as fully “orthodox”. As worded, this confession could refer to the heretical modalism that McCraney teaches, a number of other heretical stances on the nature of God, and/or biblically orthodox Christology. In summary, it fails because of its imprecision.

4) His statement “The Holy Spirit as God in spirit” is skewed to the heretical – especially given the fact that he has taught on the Holy Spirit as an “it” or a “force” rather than a person.

5) He has never apologized for or renounced the content of his heretical teachings, merely the delivery.

6) The errors of his teachings have been addressed from the Bible on the Beggar’s Bread website, on Brother Thomas’ blogsite and elsewhere many, many, many times. However, Mr. McCraney continues to hold to and teach them. The problem isn’t that his error hasn’t been exposed and addressed from the Bible, the problem is that Mr. Craney refuses to listen.

In fact, in 2014 a world renowned and widely respected theologian even flew out to Utah at his own expense to correct Shawn on the heresy he was teaching. These face-to-face sessions were done over the course of several days and this too, ultimately, was to no avail.

In conclusion, Mr. McCraney’s statement was exactly the same kind of spin doctored, obfuscation that we see from the LdS Church and other Mormon splinter groups.

Further, Mr. McCraney engaged in the classic Mormon tactic of using Christian terminology but changing the underlying meaning in this statement.

There is, therefore, no need to withdraw the charge. In fact, Mr. McCraney’s statement actually confirmed it’s validity and veracity.

Thank you.

BACK TO TOP

Inside the Utah State Capitol building

Inside the Utah State Capitol building

by Carl Wimmer
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just passed a pro-LGBT piece of legislation in Utah.

Does that sound odd to you? It does to me, but it is essentially true.

For years, there have been those in the Utah legislature who have pushed for statewide legislation that would prevent businesses and landlords from prohibiting homosexuals from working at their business or renting a home from them; they called it a “statewide anti-discrimination” bill.

And for years the legislation failed.

Year after year the bill sponsor would bring the bill forward simply to have it die before it got off the ground, but this year was different. This year the most powerful entity in the state of Utah, the LDS Church, endorsed the legislation.

This year the legislation passed.

Having served in the Utah legislature, I have been asked several times what role the LDS Church really plays when it comes to Utah politics, and until now I have remained largely silent. While in the legislature I was a faithful member of the LDS Church; to speak of things that might bring embarrassment to the church would have been unwise, not to mention political suicide. Today, the issue is very topical with the recent passage of the pro-LGBT legislation, and I feel it is time to break the silence and provide some insight.

Carl with LDS Apostle L. Tom Perry; 2011 at Dulles Airport

Carl with LDS Apostle L. Tom Perry; 2011 at Dulles Airport

To be absolutely fair, they rarely want things badly enough to engage openly.  The church is very selective regarding the legislation they engage.  This is due to the fact that because most of Utah’s legislators are LDS members, the majority of legislation already aligns with the LDS Church position without their influence.  During the three terms I served in the Utah House of Representatives, I was only approached twice by the LDS lobbyists for a vote.A common question from people is whether or not the LDS Church leadership gets whatever they want when it comes to Utah politics, and the answer is a resounding, “Yes; if the LDS Church wants something in Utah politics, they get it.”

John Taylor and Bill Evans are full-time employees of the LDS Church and their job is to monitor the Utah Government, and to act as the paid lobbyists on behalf of the church. They regularly meet with legislators behind closed doors, (as do other lobbyists, this is nothing nefarious or unusual,) to push the agenda of their employer.

When the LDS lobbyists contact a legislator, the conversation goes like this:

We are here to discuss such-and-such bill. We have received our orders “directly from the top,” and we want you to vote for this bill.

They mention that they received their orders “from the top,” so that the legislator would know unequivocally that the LDS Church’s First Presidency sent them.

The first piece of legislation they contacted me about dealt with alcohol. For better or worse, it is an unarguable fact that legislation regarding alcohol never gets passed without the express consent of the LDS Church. They control all changes to the state alcohol laws.

In 2008, SB 211 was proposed to remove “flavored malt beverages” from grocery stores and place them for sale in state liquor stores only. The day the bill was to be heard in the House of Representatives, I was summoned to the hall, where I was met by the LDS lobbyists. They gave me the “from the top” introduction, and then asked me to support the bill. I told them no. Although not a drinker, I simply could not bring myself to take a profit-producing legal product out of the hands of private business owners and give it to the state to sell. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

Keep in mind, that in 2008 I was a faithful Mormon with a current temple recommend, and had only recently been released from my LDS leadership position as an Elders Quorum President. To tell my church leaders “no,” was anathema to how I was raised. As I turned to walk back into the chambers, one of the lobbyists said to me, “Don’t worry, voting against us will not affect your church membership status,” I was relieved.

SB 211 passed.

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his visit to Salt Lake City. Seated clockwise are: the late Gordon B. Hinckley, President; Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor (obscured); James E. Faust, Second Counselor (obscured), and F. Michael Watson, Executive Secretary.

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a visit to Salt Lake City in 2006.

Learning how powerful the LDS Church was politically, several pro-life legislators and I set up a meeting in my office with the two LDS Church lobbyists. Our intention was to recruit the LDS Church in the battle for the right-to-life.  For weeks we had worked on legislation that would prove to make Utah the leader in the fight against abortion.  We presented our idea and expressed our eagerness to have the LDS church help in the fight to pass a bill that had failed the year before. They turned us down flat, telling us that “the First Presidency has made it clear to them that they will not engage on abortion issues.”

We asked them why they had come out so strongly on alcohol use, but would not engage in the fight for the life of a baby. And in what can only be described as a brief, unguarded moment, the head lobbyist expressed his confusion as to the apparent misappropriation of priorities, but they stuck to their guns.

Then came 2011; the year my rose colored glasses regarding the LDS Church got scratched a bit.

HB116 was an extremely controversial bill dealing with illegal immigration and proposed issuing state worker cards to illegal immigrants. For at least two weeks prior to the final passage of HB116, the two church lobbyists practically lived in the back halls of the state capitol and in the office of house leadership. I was vocally opposed to the legislation, but was still contacted repeatedly by both lobbyists who attempted to change my opposition. The calls became frequent enough from the LDS Lobbyists, that I stopped taking them.

What bothered me most was when my local ecclesiastical leader contacted me and attempted to persuade me to vote for the bill as well. When I asked him, “Who from the Church headquarters had asked you to contact me?” he simply confirmed that he had been asked, but would not say by whom.

The night HB116 was debated for final passage was insane. There was intensity I had never felt before or after on the house floor. It was the intensity that comes only from political bullying, and it killed me to know that this time the “bully” was my own church.

I was approached by a younger representative who was on the verge of tears. He expressed to me that he had just gotten out of a “PPI meeting” and asked if I had had mine yet.  I knew what he meant and I was sorry for him.

My-First-Temple-Recommend-517x268-N13ACA3-alt

A Personal Priesthood Interview

A legitimate “PPI” or “Personal Priesthood Interview” is conducted within the confines of the LDS Church. It is an ecclesiastical meeting between an LDS leader and a male member under their “authority.” When I was an Elders Quorum President, I held PPI’s with the elders under my charge.  A PPI is used to check on the spiritual welfare of the man being interviewed, and to make sure they are on the “straight and narrow.”  But that is not what this legislator meant…

What he had just experienced was an intense, closed-door meeting with select members of house leadership and the LDS Church lobbyists who made it abundantly clear that when HB116 came up for a vote, he was to support the bill, period.

Sometimes, if the legislator felt strongly enough about the legislation, they would allow him to vote against it, but ONLY after the bill had the necessary votes recorded to ensure passage.  This was the deal this particular representative was under, and both he and I knew it. He was clearly shaken and expressed that he had no idea that his “church would do this kind of thing.” I hurt for him.

House leadership was split on HB116, so when I saw a member of house leadership who I knew was opposed to the bill walk onto the house floor, I went up to him and engaged him in conversation. The following is our word-for-word conversation:

Me: Hey, (name of House leader) how much of what is going on tonight regarding HB116 has to do with the LDS church?

Him: All of it; I hate this.

Me: It’s going to pass isn’t it?

Him: Yes, and in fact if the vote is close, I have to vote for it, I have no choice.”

Me: You had a PPI?

Him: Yep…(walks away).

HB116 passed as the LDS Church lobbyists looked on from the gallery.

I was not in the legislature this year, but the look and feel of the passing of HB116 and the current non-discrimination bill are quite the same. One can only guess how many legislators had “PPI’s” before the vote on the church-endorsed LGBT legislation, but there is no doubt in my mind, that as legislators read this blog, one or more of them will know precisely what I am talking about.

So, what role does the LDS Church really play when it comes to Utah politics? From my experience, it all depends on how badly the church wants a specific piece of legislation passed.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson's office in the Church Office Building.

Inside President Thomas S. Monson’s office in the LDS Church Office Building.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carl Wimmer is a former member of the Utah House of Representatives. He resigned from Utah’s legislature in 2012 to run for the United States House of Representatives.  Wimmer was born in 1975 in Salt Lake, Utah. He was raised in Herriman, Utah. He attended Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training and Salt Lake Community College, and is currently working towards his B.A. In Religious studies at Liberty University. (source Wikipedia)

blog header(this article was originally published on the author’s “An American Dream Revealed” website, on Thursday, March 19, 2015. It is republished here with permission.)