“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
— 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV

One of the earliest memories I have of my grandpa is him teaching me a jingle that went like this:

I’m a Mormon
He’s a Mormon
She’s a Mormon
We’re all Mormons
Wouldn’t you like to be a Mormon too?
Be a Mormon
Read The Book of Mormon

I grew up listening to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and in 2014 when the movie “Meet the Mormons” came out, I was thrilled. To me, the nickname Mormon evoked a sense of pride. It was synonymous with virtue and godliness. The Mormon church was the proverbial city on a hill.

Former LDS prophet, Thomas S. Monson unabashedly used the term Mormon in a poem he shared in his General Conference talk “Dare to Stand Alone.”

Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
(Thomas S. Monson, “Dare to Stand Alone”, October 2011 General Conference)

Gordon B. Hinkley, another LDS prophet, defended the nickname when he quoted a friend as saying, “Look, if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon.” He went on to say,

“Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God.”
(Gordon B. Hinkley, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’”, October 1990 General Conference)

I even used the “M-word” in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism.” I didn’t just like the name because of what it represented: the priesthood, new scripture, and temples. I loved it because it was honest. If I told someone I was Mormon, they knew exactly what I believed. I knew the nickname Mormon wasn’t official. It was important to acknowledge Christ in the name of our church to prove we were His followers. But the term Mormon differentiated us from other Christians.

Why would I want to be associated with them anyway? We had the restored gospel. We had eternal marriage and living prophets and apostles. If an organization that was the byproduct of the great apostasy could bear the title Christian, then that designation wasn’t good enough.

Sudden Shift
Things took a drastic turn in 2018 when President Nelson spoke out against and disavowed the word Mormon. He said:

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the ‘LDS Church,’ the ‘Mormon Church,’ or the ‘Church of the Latter-day Saints,’ the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church”, October 2018 General Conference)

The church immediately rebranded and the name Mormon went down the sinkhole. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir changed its name to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Websites like Mormon.org and LDS.org were updated to comeuntochrist.org and churchofjesuschrist.org. The longstanding symbol of the church changed from Moroni holding a trumpet to the Christus statue.

When referring to Latter-day Saints as Mormons online, I’m frequently asked what that is, like they’ve never heard that word in their lives. Not long ago, I might have been called “ex-Mormon” or “anti-Mormon”. Now I guess I’m an antichrist, which is weird since I absolutely love Jesus. Actually, let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s not so much that things are weird, but that this whole metamorphosis reeks of dishonesty.

Let me explain. Before when I said I was Mormon, all the cards were on the table. Yes, there were negative perceptions that went along with that, but it provided a starting place. There was nothing stopping me from explaining that I believed in Christ and then talking over any questions people had. It was honest, and it differentiated me from apostate Christianity.

With the erasure of the name Mormon, no cards go on the table. This is understandable since negative associations with Mormonism exist. But things are actually a lot worse than that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just clearing the table, they’re putting out Protestant cards when they define themselves.

For example, let’s look at the new website domains, starting with churchofjesuschrist.org. Do you realize that all Christians think they form Christ’s church? Then there’s comeuntochrist.org. Again, coming to Christ is the goal of all Christians everywhere. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the church is anything but a typical Protestant denomination.

Another example is the change from “home teaching” to “ministering”, which is a very Protestant word. What was so wrong with Home and Visiting Teaching that a name change was necessary? As an outsider looking in, the game plan is obvious. By putting down Protestant cards, the LDS church is able to trick unsuspecting victims into dropping their guard so they can manipulate them into joining the church with greater ease.

This should be alarming since it’s the same way the devil operates. According to 2 Nephi 26:22 he leads people with flaxen cords before binding them with strong cords forever. Chapter 31 of the Gospel Principles manual has this to say about honesty:

“When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(LDS Church, “Honesty”, Gospel Principles, Chapter 31)

My friends, truth doesn’t operate from the shadows. If you begin a theological discussion and feel the need to hide your views, withhold sensitive information, or mimic someone’s beliefs and engage in spiritual guerrilla warfare, then you need to reconsider whether your religion is true.

Although I’m no longer LDS, I think discarding the name Mormon was a mistake. According to President Nelson if you don’t emphasize Christ you disregard the atonement. But there’s another side to the coin. When your website, logo, and language change to match Protestantism, the most important thing is the absence of revelation and priesthood authority. When you hide or delay what differentiates you from other Christians, you subtly disregard everything Joseph Smith did for you, including the restoration.

To my LDS readers I ask, do you worship a God of confusion? Did everyone who embraced the word Mormon, including Gordon B. Hinkley and Thomas S. Monson disregard the atonement? Were your former prophets deceived into handing victory over to Satan? Certainly, that position is untenable, but so is the alternative. President Nelson has transformed the church into a pseudo-Protestant look-alike and embraced the great apostasy.

If this is where continuing revelation leads, then count me out. I already belong to a real Protestant church and have no need for a knockoff brand. The LDS church is either a restoration of original Christianity, in which case having it stoop to the level of apostate churches is a sin against God, or it’s a parasite that feeds off Christian culture and language.

Which do you think it is?

 

The original 1948 Chevrolet School Bus.

by Michael Flournoy
Imagine you took your old clunker to get restored and the mechanic only did half the job. He promised to continue working on it, but couldn’t give a definite date of completion. In the meantime, you were welcome to keep using it.

Would you proudly drive a partially restored vehicle through town? That’s basically what Latter-day Saints are doing with their faith.

In October of 2018, in a video interview, President Nelson said, “We’re witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come… Wait till next year. And then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.”

With one whip of the tongue, he shattered Mormonism’s foundation. If the restoration started almost 200 years ago, and it’s just starting to gain momentum, how long do we have to wait on the finished product?

My friends, Mormonism is worthless thanks to this revelation. There is no reason anyone should join this religion or give credence to the logic of its apologists and missionaries.

Why? Because we don’t know what’s next. In the past five years, they’ve made changes to the missionary age, made the nickname Mormon anathema, changed “home teaching” to “ministering”, made it a policy not to baptize children of gay parents and reversed it, and they sliced off an hour of church.

At the rate things are going, they could institute the Trinity and the doctrine of forensic righteousness. They may proclaim sola scriptura and trade prophets for pastors.

The “apostate” 1948 Chevrolet School Bus.

Mormons can’t refute this, because no one knows the future. If the LDS church embraces Protestant doctrines, then we were ahead of the curb. Of course, it’s more likely to veer farther off the straight and narrow path.

Either way, it’s nonsense to join. The constant changes impair our freedom of choice because as long as we don’t know what’s coming, we can’t make an informed decision. Embracing Mormonism is like embarking on a road trip without a GPS.

Never again do we have to stand by while Mormons rant that we emerged from Catholicism with a new gospel because they don’t even have a gospel yet. Our message hasn’t changed: Christ forgives all who believe and trades His righteousness for our sins.

Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul makes it pretty simple. The gospel is the power of God’s finished work to save those who believe. If the gospel isn’t finished, then it can’t be trusted and we should be ashamed of it.

So for any Mormon who wants to proselytize me or my fellow Christians, I give this answer: if the gospel is still restoring, how can you know what you have is better than Biblical Christianity? And if the Church isn’t fully restored, aren’t we still in the great apostasy?

You believe you know not what. We know what we believe. So come preach to us when the restoration’s over.

How the “restored” 1948 Chevrolet School Bus would look according to the current LdS President’s definition of the word – except it’s really not complete yet, you understand, it’s still restoring.

This article was originally published on the author’s “From Water to Wine” website on September 3, 2020. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author.

A satirical meme emphasizing this series’s main point from the perspective of a Mormon Critic.

compiled by Fred W. Anson and “Team PFAAS”
As we explained in Part One of this series, if you’ve been following the Presidency of Russell M. Nelson it’s been one misstep and snafu after another. In my opinion, it’s no coincidence that LdS Church’s growth is now stagnant and about to start to go negative (evidence for this claim from objective third party analysis and statistics based on official LdS Church data that’s been captured by a Mormon Archivist can be found by clicking here).

His predecessor, Thomas S. Monson may have been boring but at least he wasn’t actively destroying the LdS Church like his successor is. It’s to the point that it now seems like just about every time that he makes a public appearance, an address, a policy change, and/or a revelation, President Nelson adds another chink to the destruction of the LdS Church. So, the destruction that was once passive is now active thanks to the current LdS Church President. So, in no particular order other than to group events by incident, here’s what we’ve seen so far:

10) President Nelson, the leader of the world’s richest church stuns the world by telling poor Africans that paying a tithe to the LdS Church is the answer to their poverty.
2018-04-16 This stunning teaching came right on the heels of denouncing the African tradition of paying a bridal dowry – a long-standing African practice that is ideally intended to help young married couples avoid destitute poverty and ensure the success of the marriage. As the Encyclopedia Brittanica explains:

“One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of protection for the wife against the very real possibility of ill treatment by her husband and his family. A dowry used in this way is actually a conditional gift that is supposed to be restored to the wife or her family if the husband divorces, abuses, or commits other grave offenses against her. Land and precious metals have often been used in this form of dowry and are frequently inalienable by the husband, though he might otherwise use and profit from them during the marriage.

A dowry sometimes serves to help a new husband discharge the responsibilities that go with marriage. This function assumes special importance in societies where marriages have regularly been made between very young people; the dowry enables the new couple to establish a household, which they otherwise would not have been able to do. In some societies a dowry provides the wife with a means of support in case of her husband’s death. In this latter case the dowry may be seen as a substitute for her inheritance of all or part of her husband’s estate.

In many societies, dowries have served as a reciprocal gesture by the bride’s kin to the groom’s kin for the expenses incurred by the latter in payment of bridewealth. These exchanges are not purely economic but instead serve to ratify the marriage and consolidate friendship between the two families.”
(Encyclopedia Britannica, “Dowry”

And as an African national, has noted well of the African dowry system:

“Marriage in African way thus entails that certain things must be observed, not for the sake of it, but for the very reason that they define the whole spectrum of African identity. This includes African religions and philosophical life, political life as well as African economic systems. Marriage is never viewed as an accident. Accidents get people unaware, and disorganize the entire society. Marriage on the other hand is a planned social action that involves various stakeholders. In view of this, it is an expression of community beliefs, thoughts, and entire heritage that cannot be wished away because of the advent of new civilization or modernity.”
(TheRt. Rev. Johannes Angela, Bishop ACK Diocese of Bondo, “POSITIVE CONSEQUENCES OF DOWRY PAYMENT ON WOMEN AND THE GENERAL SOCIETY”

And so it against this historical and cultural backdrop that LdS Church President, Russell M. Nelson played the role of the ham-fisted, Ugly American, ignoramus when he boldly announced that African should stop paying marriage dowries since that isn’t the Lord’s way (even though the practice can be found in the bible) especially when they could be paying a tithe to the LdS Church instead. From the LdS Church produced, “Church News”:

“President Nelson denounced the practices of paying a dowry or paying a bride price for marriages. He emphasized that cash or commodities shouldn’t be given to the family of a bride or groom.
“That’s not the Lord’s way,” President Nelson said. “The Lord’s way is to be married in the temple, for time and all eternity, with your children sealed to you.”

He added that if he’d had to pay for his wife, “I would have missed five children, because only with my last five was I out of debt.”

He also said tithing can break cycles of poverty in poor nations and families.

“We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation,” he said. “That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing.”’
(Tad Walch, “London and Nairobi Stops of President Nelson’s World Tour Highlight Church’s Cultural Diversity”, Deseret News, 2018-04-23)

An African Mormon and his daughter holding the Book of Mormon. (credit: LdS Church Newsroom)

11) Doing and saying nothing in the face of the revelation about the $124-Billion Church-owned Ensign Peak Advisors fund being brought to light by a whistleblower.
2019-12-17 The Washington Post publishes an article entitled, “Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges”. From the article:

“[Whistleblower David A.] Nielsen’s complaint is sharply critical of church leaders for continuing to ask for tithes, even from members who are struggling financially, while the church sits on a fortune. “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” he wrote in a 74-page narrative that accompanied his complaint.

He suggests church leaders favor continuing to collect tithes to avoid “losing control over their members’ behavior” by releasing them from their financial obligations. In June, the church raised the monthly charge paid by most families to cover the cost of their children serving as missionaries from $400 to $500 per month.

Leaders have consistently tried to downplay speculation about the extent of the church’s wealth. Quoting a former church president during the speech last year, [high-ranking cleric in the church, Bishop Gérald] Caussé, said: “When all is said and done, the only real wealth of the church is in the faith of its people.”
(Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan, and Michelle Boorstein, “Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges”, The Washington Post, December 17, 2020)

And as was noted at the time of the Washington Post article the SEC Publicly reported holdings of the Ensign Peak Advisors fund was $124-Billion, thus making the LdS Church, by far, the richest church in the world (see https://sec.report/CIK/0001454984).

So, in the face of this bombshell revelation, what does President Nelson do? Answer: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Yes, that’s right the Lord’s Prophet, the man who, according to Mormon dogma, has been set aside to lead the Lord’s Church with clarity, honesty, and precision does nothing and says nothing. Rather, he leaves the dirty work to underlings like the Church PR Department and Ensign’s president, Roger Clarke.

The silence was deafening.
And telling.
It didn’t go unnoticed.

12) In direct contradiction with and opposition to 188-years of Mormon History, all of his predecessors, official, correlated LdS Church manuals, and even himself, President Nelson states that the Restored (past tense) Church is still in the process of Restoring (present tense).
2018-10-30 In a video interview recorded as part of the Concepción Chile Temple dedication ceremony, President Nelson said the following:

“We’re witnesses to a process of restoration,” said the prophet. “If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come. … Wait till next year. And then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.”
(LdS Church Newsroom, “Latter-day Saint Prophet, Wife and Apostle Share Insights of Global Ministry: President Nelson says process of Church restoration continuing”)

This is in direct contradiction with the stance of every Mormon Prophet who preceded him – all of whom have stated plainly and explicitly that with the establishment of the LdS Church on April 6, 1830, Christ’s Church was restored (past perfect tense). Further, this claim has been consistently and regularly reflected and reiterated in official, correlated church literature – which has never stated that the LdS Church is still restoring (present tense). Consider:

“The fullness of the gospel has been restored, and the true Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again. No other organization can compare to it. It is not the result of a reformation, with well-meaning men and women doing all in their power to bring about change. It is a restoration of the Church established by Jesus Christ. It is the work of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can receive blessings that were absent from the earth for almost 2,000 years”
(“True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference”, 2004, p. 136)

“Testify that although other churches teach some truths and do many good things, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth because it is the only church that has the complete gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood authority to perform ordinances in the name of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ Church. It has his name and his law, and it is led by his appointed representatives. Express your gratitude to Joseph Smith, the prophet through whom the Lord restored the true Church”
(“Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual”, 1998, p. 99)

“Latter-day Saints hold that Christians in the broadest sense are those who base their beliefs on the teachings of Jesus and who have a personal relationship with him. Within that definition they recognize Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Latter-day Saint Christians, with the understanding that Latter-day Saint Christianity is the restored fulness of Christ’s gospel”
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism 1:271)

“The context of Nephi’s division of churches into one of two camps, those belonging to the Lamb of God and those who are disciples of the devil, comes only after the Church of Jesus Christ was restored in April of 1830”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Joseph Fielding McConkie, Here We Stand, p. 152)

What’s more even shocking is that even President Nelson himself has publicly affirmed that the LdS Church is, past tense, restored:

“The keys and offices of the priesthood have been restored, including the offices of Apostle, Seventy, patriarch, high priest, elder, bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. And women who love the Lord serve valiantly in the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School, and other Church callings—all vital parts of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.”
(Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks”, Fall General Conference 2019, bolding added for emphasis)

A meme reinforcing and affirming President Russell M. Nelson’s, Fall General Conference 2018, Four Invitations to Women – including the 10-day fast from Social Media.

13) Social Media Fasts for Everybody! (Except for dudes, of course, they’re special!)
2018-10-06 After being applauded by Mormon parents everywhere for calling Mormon youth to fast from Social Media in Fall General Conference 2018 he calls on the women of the LdS Church to do the same:

“I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.”
(Russell M. Nelson, “Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel”)

So who’s missing from this picture? Answer: The men of 2018.
(it comes across as a bit misogynist, doesn’t it?)

Oh, and by the way, the timing couldn’t have been worse to engage in this kind of gender directed Social Media exclusivity as this call to women came at the height of the #MeToo movement as a commentator noted so pointedly:

“For over a year since the #MeToo movement began, women have turned to social media with stories of sexual harassment and calls for reform that have powerfully reshaped our society. In recent weeks, women have flooded Facebook and Twitter and Instagram with pleas to #BelieveWomen, as Brett M. Kavanaugh gained a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court amid turmoil over accusations of sexual assault. And with just weeks to go before the Nov. 6 midterms, women are sure to make their presence known online in an election largely centered on female candidates’ surging campaigns and female voters’ intensifying anger.

At this time, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an unusual demand: Women, get off social media.

Russell M. Nelson, the 94-year-old who became president of the church in January, proclaimed Saturday that all Mormon women should try a 10-day “fast” from social media.

His call for a fast has nothing to do with politics, many Mormons say. Still, the timing is a cause of consternation to some.”
(Julie Zauzmer, “In the time of #MeToo and the Year of the Woman, Mormon Church president tells women to get off social media for 10 days”, The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2018)

Nor was the bad timing lost on Mormon women, as a politically active Latter-day Saint who was working the November 2018 mid-term elections noted at the time:

“Crystal Young-Otterstrom, a Mormon who has been active in Utah’s Democratic party for more than 15 years, said many women are talking about the conflict and deciding to do what’s best for their own lives, even if they agree in principle with the fast. That includes opting in on a limiting basis or deciding to put off their fast to a late date, as Nelson didn’t specifically say fasts should immediately begin…

Young-Otterstrom, who is also the director of the Utah Cultural Alliance, is more bothered by the timing. Utah’s November ballot is rich with important ballot measures — including education funding gerrymandering, and Medicaid expansion. Women, who are often the swing voters on Utah issues, need to be part of the online dialogue, not shut out, she said.

In addition, she said, “asking women in particular to be silent, especially in this time of #Metoo and continued gender conflict in our religion and our state, seems not well thought through.”

Young-Otterstrom also hopes that Nelson, who issued a similar call for a fast by church youths in June, will eventually extend the request to Latter-day Saint men.

“I certainly hope that if (church leaders) are going to make a suggestion to one member, they would make it to both,” she said.”
(Jennifer Dobner , “How Mormon women reacted when their prophet urged a social media fast”, The Guardian, 13 Oct 2018)

And care to guess who is still missing from this picture at this time of writing – 3-years later after President Nelson’s calls to the youth and the women of the LdS Church do Social Media fasts? A: Still the men.
(it comes across as really, really, really misogynist, doesn’t it?)

If that’s not bad, to make matters worse, Mormon Critics were quick to note that the Social Media Fast for women came right on the heels of a very public civil suit being filed against President Nelson’s daughter and son-in-law:

“(KUTV) — At least six people are suing the daughter and son-in-law of Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Neither Nelson nor the Church is named as defendants in this 79-page lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday. The allegations of sexual abuse stem back to the early 1980s, accusing Jon and Jane Doe of holding “touching parties” and sexually abusing kids as young as one year old.”
( Jim Spiewak , “Daughter of LDS Church president at center of decades-old sex abuse cover-up allegations”, October 3rd 2018, KUTV)

Ultimately the lawsuit was dismissed by the Utah Courts on June 11, 2020, on a technicality because the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the Utah legislature lacked the legal authority to extend the statute of limitations to 35 years. However, as one source explains:

“The allegations are public and controversial because the lawsuit alleges that President Russell M. Nelson’s daughter and son-in-law were involved in organized sexual abuse in a Mormon congregation in Bountiful, Utah during the mid-1980s.

And, further, the lawsuit alleges that President Nelson, a bishop and a stake president “used their influence in the church and in the community” to protect the abusers from church discipline. Also, as a result of the alleged coverup, the lawsuit alleges that other children were later severely and violently sexually abused by one of the perpetrators between 1988 and (1995?).”
(Anne McMullin, “Lawsuit Against President Nelson’s Daughter — An Introduction to the Allegations”, July 1, 2020)

And Mormon Critics were quick to point out that calling a Social Media fast would be an excellent way to keep the demographic most likely to create a buzz about the October 3rd lawsuit, specifically Mormon women, distracted and ignorant of the facts as they were unfolding on today’s main source of real-time news: the Internet.

So here’s the bottom line here: Even if the speculation and buzz surrounding the timing of President Nelson’s call to the women of the LdS Church to a Social Media Fast is baseless, never the less, the appearance of evil that it created, not to mention, the lousy judgment and common sense it represents, is hardly befitting a divinely call Prophet of the Lord is it? To be specific, it simply makes him look like he’s not what he claims to be, doesn’t it?

Putting things in perspective: LdS Church Membership relative to the World Population as of October 26, 2017.

14) In a stunning act of arrogant hubris, in the aforementioned Chile Temple Dedication event video interview, President Nelson declared himself and his fellow Mormon Prophets not just the Living Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the Living Prophet for the entire world. Yes, that’s right all 7+ billion of us currently residing on the planet.
2018-10-30 In the previously discussed video that was recorded during his Chile Temple Dedication tour, President Nelson also said the following:

“This is a global ministry. We’re prophets for the whole world–all of God’s children–not just the members of the Church.”
(LdS Church Newsroom video, “Interview With President Nelson and Elder Stevenson in Chile” @00:05:09)

So this is how the world’s “Living Prophet” acts? Hubris? Hyperbole? Self-Aggrandizing statements? Grandstanding for the cameras? Well, I hate to burst your bubble President Nelson, but you’re not my Prophet and you never will be – Jesus Christ is doing the job just fine. Oh, and He doesn’t need your help, thank you very much:

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV)

And while President Nelson’s claim elicited guffaws and eye-rolls from the small, minuscule, portion of those 7+ Billion persons that President Nelson claims to be the Living Prophet for who aren’t Mormon, most of us, simply ignore this self-proclaimed Living Prophet for the world and will, no doubt, continue to do so.

And why shouldn’t we? I could care less what Queen Elizabeth II has to say, I’m not British, and she’s not my queen. Nor is Russell M. Nelson my prophet. Never has been, never will be. Wake up smell the Postum, President Nelson. Please, before you do your own church even greater damage than you’ve already done so far.

In fact, as of this writing, this video only has 98,252 views – the majority of those, no doubt, Mormon. And the credibility of the LdS Church in the marketplace of ideas took yet another hit – all thanks to the overblown hyperbole, grandstanding, and ego-driven bluster of LdS Church President and Prophet Russell M. Nelson.

15) The unapologetic NAACP Follies
2019-07-21 At the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Russell M. Nelson continues the courting of the organization that was begun by other high-ranking Mormon Leaders in 2018 (see “First Presidency and NAACP Leaders Call for Greater Civility, Racial Harmony” and “Church and NAACP Leaders Meet in
Salt Lake City”)  by speaking at their annual convention.

While there is no denying that this was a historic occasion conspicuous in its absence was any hint of admission of responsibility or apology for the institutional racism of the LdS Church both religiously and in supporting secular racism in Utah.  If one was lacking this historical knowledge one could easily conclude from the content of President Nelson’s speech that the LdS Church has always been progressive in its racial stances. Consider this salient excerpt:

“At a press conference following that [2018] meeting, I explained that a fundamental doctrine and heartfelt conviction of our religion is that all people are God’s children. We truly believe that we are brothers and sisters—all part of the same divine family.

At that same press conference, President Derrick Johnson and I issued a joint invitation for all people, organizations, and governmental units to work with greater civility, to eliminate prejudice of all kinds, and focus on important interests that we have in common.

Simply stated, we strive to build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation.

As recorded in the Book of Mormon, which we esteem as a scriptural companion to the Holy Bible, the Savior invites “all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he [denies] none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God” (see 2 Nephi 26:33).

May I repeat that last phrase: “All are alike unto God.” You who are gathered here in this room strive to make this heavenly truth an earthly reality. I commend you for it. And yet we all realize that, as a society and as a country, we have not yet achieved the harmony and mutual respect that would allow every man and woman and every boy and girl to become the very best version of themselves.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “NAACP Convention Remarks By President Russell M. Nelson”, LdS Church Newsroom) 

This missed opportunity to do what the Southern Baptist Convention;  States of Virginia and Florida, as well as the US Congress; and several Roman Catholic clerics, have already done: Issue a formal, public apology for past institutional racism, was exacerbated by the fact that in May 2018, well-known Mormon Critic, Jonathan Streeter had exposed the crying need for a formal, public apology by the LdS Church via a well-known satirical fake apology on May 18, 2108 (see “No, the Mormon church did not apologize for having a history of racism; hoaxer says he meant fake message to spark discussion”).

That satirical apology was met with healing weeping and joy before the hoax was exposed.  And Mr. Streeter, very correctly, apologized for the disappointment and wound reopening that it unintentionally caused. But, still, the takeaway was still clear: The need for a public, formal apology from the LdS Church for its past racism remains so that healing can begin. Mr. Streeter made just this point in his follow-up video to the event:

June 1, 2020 President Nelson issues a Social Media statement denouncing racism in the wake of the infamous police brutality murder of George Floyd on May 25. 2020 and the subsequent violent riots that followed in its wake. Without any trace of irony or admission of culpability for the LdS Church’s past institutional racism, the statement contains these words, “The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!” (Russell M. Nelson, “President Nelson Shares Social Post about Racism and Calls for Respect for Human Dignity”, LdS Church Newsroom) 

June 8, 2020 President Nelson and several high-ranking NAACP officials issue a joint statement denouncing racism, calling for its end, and calling for a greater age of racial peace and harmony. Yet again, there was no formal, public apology from President Nelson for past LdS Church racism.

The need for such an apology certainly hasn’t been lost on the NAACP as this Salt Lake Tribune article later reported on the very same day:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ century-long ban barring blacks from its all-male priesthood and from its temples kept the Utah-based faith at odds with the NAACP well after the ban ended in 1978.

Now, 42 years after that prohibition was lifted, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization and the church have become increasingly friendly, but their emerging partnership has not borne the fruits that some NAACP leaders had hoped.

While he supports the sentiments expressed in Monday’s article, Wil Colom, special counsel to the NAACP president, said the group “hasn’t seen very much” progress on joint projects.

The LDS Church has united with the historic black activists, the Medium piece said, to explore “ways to work together to improve self-reliance and upward mobility for inner-city and minority families.”

Indeed, the two organizations have collaborated on a handful of employment and education initiatives. But those were “minor efforts,” Colom said. They “do not befit the stature and magnitude of what the LDS Church can do and should do.”

The NAACP is “looking forward to the church doing more to undo the 150 years of damage they did by how they treated African Americans in the church,” Colom said, and by their “endorsement of how African Americans were treated throughout the country, including segregation and Jim Crow laws.”
(Peggy Fletcher Stack and David Noyce, “Despite joining President Nelson in call to end racism, NAACP would like to see the LDS Church do more”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 8, 2020) 

So when President Nelson has a golden opportunity to issue a formal, public apology so that both sides can bring some closure to the past and start the process of healing begin – as other institutions with racist pasts have done – what does he do, again, again, again, again, and again? Answer: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And there it is, here we are only 3-years into his presidency and President Russell M. Nelson has already exacted a stunningly broad and long swatch of destruction in his wake, hasn’t he? If you’re a critic of the LdS Church, it’s really quite impressive, isn’t it? It’s wonderful. And if you’re a True Believing Latter-day Saint, it’s really quite concerning, isn’t it? It’s sobering. Perhaps, Victor Hugo had it right after all …

About the Authors: 
“Team PFAAS” is the nickname for the “Preaching From An Asbestos Suit” social media groups on Facebook and MeWe. These are coaching and support groups for Biblical Christians who feel called to the Mormon Mission field in general and Internet Evangelism to Mormons in particular. These groups were using as a group sourcing resource for this article as well as a point of accountability for the compiling, final author of this series, Fred W. Anson. 

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum). Raised in the Nazarene Church, Fred later became an Atheist but then returned to the Christian faith during the Jesus Movement in 1976. 

(click here to read Part One of this two-part series)

A tongue in cheek suggested book cover for President Nelson’s autobiography based on his pattern of behavior thus far in his tenure as LdS Church President.

compiled by Fred W. Anson and “Team PFAAS”
If you’ve been following the Presidency of Russell M. Nelson it’s been one misstep and snafu after another. In my opinion, it’s no coincidence that LdS Church’s growth is now stagnant and about to start to go negative (evidence for this claim from objective third party analysis and statistics based on official LdS Church data that’s been captured by a Mormon Archivist can be found by clicking here).

His predecessor, Thomas S. Monson may have been boring but at least he wasn’t actively destroying the LdS Church like his successor is. It’s to the point that it now seems like just about every time that he makes a public appearance, an address, a policy change, and/or a revelation, President Nelson adds another chink to the destruction of the LdS Church. So, the destruction that was once passive is now active thanks to the current LdS Church President. So, in no particular order other than to group events by incident, here’s what we’ve seen so far:

1) Flip-Flopping on the November 2015 “Revelation” Regarding Baptizing the Children of Homosexual Parents.
2016-01-10 Then Highest Ranking Apostle of the Twelve, Russell M. Nelson, Publicly declares that the disastrous November 2015 Policy Change was a revelation:

“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively. And then we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.

This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.”
(Russell M. Nelson, “An Evening with President Russell M. Nelson”, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, January 10, 2016, Brigham Young University–Hawaii)

2019-04-04 Now LdS President Nelson reverses the November 2015 Policy Change:

“Children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may now be blessed as infants and baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without First Presidency approval, President Dallin H. Oaks announced Thursday morning, April 4.
In addition, the Church will no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a Church member as “apostasy” for purposes of Church discipline, although it is still considered “a serious transgression.”
(Sarah Jane Weaver, “Policy Changes Announced for Members in Gay Marriages, Children of LGBT Parents”, Church News, April 4, 2019)

2) Open, Public Practice of Mormon Necromancy
First, let’s define terms, in order to set the baseline/understanding that communicating with the dead is a form of necromancy. And that includes calling out to them.

nec·ro·man·cy
/ˈnekrəˌmansē/
noun: necromancy
the supposed practice of communicating with the dead, especially in order to predict the future.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

So with that baseline established, let’s consider President Nelson’s behavior in two different public meetings against the common, standard dictionary definition of the word, shall we?

2018-04-01 President Nelson, in Spring General Conference, opened the LdS Church to charges of practicing necromancy by calling on “God’s children on both sides of the veil” (the veil being a reference to the Mormon concept of there being a veil between the mortal and spirit worlds that is, “a God-given forgetfulness that blocks people’s memories of the premortal existence”, (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Veil”, LdS Church website).

“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On”, April 2018 General Conference)

2018-09-16 President Nelson doubles down on his Spring 2018 General Conference necromancing behavior by repeating it before a stadium of 50,000 people:

“We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, to receive the blessings of the holy temple and qualify for eternal life, so that they can have enduring joy now and forever,”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “50,000 Come to MLB Stadium to Hear President Nelson Share Vital Message to Those “on Both Sides of the Veil”’, LDS Living, September 16, 2018)

A photograph from the Thomas S. Monson era, “I’m a Mormon” campaign which ran from 2010 to 2018 – when President Nelson put an abrupt halt to it. (credit: LdS Church Newsroom)

3) Trashing the word “Mormon”
2018-08-16 President Nelson throws all of his predecessors – up to and including Joseph Smith – and 188-years of Mormon History under the bus by declaring the word “Mormon” anathema:

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.”
(President Russell M. Nelson quoted in Sarah Jane Weaver, ‘“Mormon” Is Out: Church Releases Statement on How to Refer to the Organization’, Official LdS Church News website, August 16, 2018)

2018-10-07 President Nelson doubles down on his prior declaration regarding the word “Mormon” declaring it “a major victory for Satan” in Fall General Conference:

“The name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.

What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church”, Fall General Conference, October 2018)

Unfortunately, the following guy, not to mention all of the Mormon Prophet who followed him prior to 2018, was born too early to benefit from President Nelson’s “keen” spiritual discernment and “stunning” Prophetic wisdom, and thus gave Satan one major victory after another for the 188-years of Mormon History prior to President Nelson’s revelation:

“Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true “Mormons.”
(Joseph Smith, “Discourse — Burden of the Prophet’s Ministry — Friendship”, “History of the Church”, 5:517); also see “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.316, bolding added for emphasis)

“Mormonism” is the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ; of which I myself am not ashamed.”
(Joseph Smith, “Letter to James Arlington…”, September 8, 1842, “History of The Church”, 5:156)

Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraced it felt himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, falls at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth…. “
(Joseph Smith, “To Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839,” Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 420-421, bolding added for emphasis)

And, then, of course, President Nelson’s immediate predecessor handed Satan a major victory when in Fall 2011 General Conference address he boldly challenged the LdS Church to:

“Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “Dare to Stand Alone”, bolding added for emphasis)

4) The Rome, Italy Temple Dedication Photo Op Fiasco
2019-03-10 As part of the Rome, Italy Temple dedication festivities, President Nelson participates in a photo op event in which he is photographed with a statue of Peter holding a key to the Kingdom of God. Mr. Nelson is gripping one side of the key thus causing the Internet to erupt simultaneously with laughs of derision that (their words) Nelson is trying to steal the key out of Peter’s hand and disgust that Nelson equates himself as Peter’s successor (thus setting himself as in competition and in opposition to the Roman Catholic Pope).

President M. Nelson with hand on the Keys of the Kingdom in the hand of the Apostle Peter’s hand at the LdS Church Temple Visitor’s Center in Rome, Italy. (credit: LdS Church Newsroom)

The photograph is promptly removed from the Church’s website within days but the damage had already been done in the marketplace of ideas.

5) The infamous “President Nelson Puts His Face in a Hat” video.
2020-05-30 The LdS Church releases a video of Russell M. Nelson explaining how the Book of Mormon was translated in which he sticks his face in a white stovetop hat like Jospeh Smith did to prove how perfectly natural, normal, and not weird such a thing is – thus proving that it is not natural or normal and how weird such a thing is
(see The Mormon Channel on YouTube or The LdS Church Media Library at the 00:03:49 mark)

The Internet, especially the Ex-Mormon corner of the Internet, explodes with a combination of shock and horror, mirk and laughter. The problem here is that President Nelson has now implicitly validated that for decades the LdS Church was indoctrinating the membership with wrong information regarding the Book of Mormon translation process and lied to entire generations of Latter-day Saints. As one Ex-Mormon commentator said well of this incident:

“Notice that President Nelson says “suggestions” when it’s a fact that is now accepted by historians and scholars on both sides. Also notice how uncomfortable he is and how he folds and squeezes his hands together as he attempts to disclose a foreign translation process that would shock and surprise the average Chapel Mormon.

After placing the hat near his face, Nelson then awkwardly tries to make the weird seem normal or plausible by taking a page out of Dieter Uchtdorf’s playbook in hilariously comparing this process to cell phones.

There’s no explanation from Nelson on the discrepancy between what he’s now saying versus how the Church indoctrinated generations of Latter-day Saints on the Book of Mormon translation. Also no explanation from Nelson about folk magic treasure digging and how Joseph and his family used the same method in conning people out of their money for buried treasure as he used for “translating” the Book of Mormon.

And just like that, kids, the keystone of our religion literally came out of a hat and we’re now being sold the idea that rocks were 19th-century iPhones.”
(Jeremy Runnells, “Debunking FAIRMormon, Book of Mormon Translation”)

President Nelson demonstrates how Joseph Smith would stick his head in his white stovetop hat to translate the Book of Mormon from the inserted Seer Stone. This is @00:03:49 in the video. (click to watch video)

6) The Surprised Prophet of the Lord
2019-10-06 In his closing remarks for Fall Conference 2019 President Nelson makes the following statement: “General conference next April will be different from any previous conference.” Given the context of the words, at the time the comment was simply taken exactly as it was given: Preparation and promotion for the bicentennial year of Joseph Smith’s First Vision – that is the year 2020.

“The keys and offices of the priesthood have been restored, including the offices of Apostle, Seventy, patriarch, high priest, elder, bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. And women who love the Lord serve valiantly in the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School, and other Church callings—all vital parts of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.

Thus, the year 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. General conference next April will be different from any previous conference. In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.

You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.”
(Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks”)

2020-04-04 In the ensuing months just prior to Spring General Conference 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hits. As a result, the General Conference event is held virtually from a conference room with only a handful of people (mainly speakers) in attendance. As a result of this unusual and wholly situation, prior to the actual Spring General Conference event, President Nelson Fall General Conference words, “General conference next April will be different from any previous conference.” are reframed and recast to refer not to the Joseph Smith First Vision bicentennial year but a fulfilled prophecy from President Nelson.

It is within that existential context that President Nelson steps to the podium and plainly states that he’s just as surprised as everyone else thus blowing that stance all to heck and showing that while “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” apparently the Sovereign Lord doesn’t reveal them to LdS President and claimed “Living Prophet”, Russell M. Nelson:

“My beloved brothers and sisters, as we welcome you to this historic April 2020 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for reasons you know, I stand before you in an empty auditorium!

Little did I know, when I promised you at the October 2019 general conference that this April conference would be “memorable” and “unforgettable,” that speaking to a visible congregation of fewer than 10 people would make this conference so memorable and unforgettable for me!”
(Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Message”)

I doubt that this one requires further comment, it kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

A scene from Spring General Conference 2020. (credit: LdS Church Newsroom)

7) The COVID-19 Fast Fiasco
2020-03-26 President Nelson, a medical doctor, calls for a Worldwide Fast in the midst of a pandemic – at a time when having people’s immunity systems fueled and running optimally is critical to avoiding the COVID-19 virus. From the LdS Church press release:

“Prophet Invites All to Fast and Pray for Relief from COVID-19
In the new video message below, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites the world to join him on Sunday, March 29, 2020, for a day of fasting and prayer for relief from COVID-19. See this video in Spanish and Portuguese.
(LdS Church News Room, “Prophet Invites All to Fast and Pray for Relief from COVID-19”)

COVID-19 infections continue to increase after the fast concludes. (see FDA COVID-19 Round-up for March 30. 2020, and thereafter)

2020-04-08 President Nelson Doubles Down and calls for another worldwide COVID-19 fast. From the LdS Church Press release:

“President Nelson Invites World to Participate in Fast on Good Friday: Prophet’s invitation is second fast for worldwide COVID-19 relief

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is calling people of all faiths and beliefs to join a global fast for COVID-19 relief on Good Friday. He extended the invitation to the world during the Saturday evening session of the 190th Annual General Conference.

This is the prophet’s second invitation to join a worldwide fast. President Nelson first invited the general public to fast in mid-March for the same purpose.

President Nelson has again extended his invitation through his social media accounts, reminding all of the power in calling upon God in faithful prayer and fasting to bring about relief from the current global pandemic.”
(LdS Church News Room, “President Nelson Invites World to Participate in Fast on Good FridayProphet’s invitation is second fast for worldwide COVID-19 relief”)

COVID-19 infections continue to increase after the fast concludes (see FDA COVID-19 Round up for April 13, 2020, and thereafter)

Here’s the burning, common-sense question here given who we’re talking about: Why didn’t renowned Doctor Nelson, who is now not without considerable influence (to put it mildly) thanks to his new role simply put out this call instead? “I am a Medical Doctor as well as the leader of his church.  And in both roles it’s the same: Love for one’s neighbor dictates that we all mask up, social distance, and get vaccinated as soon as a good safe, COVID-19 vaccinate is available to us. If you truly love your neighbor, then you will wear a mask and get vaccinated when it’s your turn – it’s just that simple! I’m doing it and so can you.”

Doesn’t that make more sense than telling the world to potentially compromise their immune system and open themselves up to a potentially deadly virus during a pandemic? But hey, given his track record…

8) Ego-Stroking and Exalting Gratitude as an Idol: The November 2020 Thanksgiving Message
2020-11-13 The LdS Church publishes a video of hope and healing for the nations focusing on the Great Physician: President Nelson. Not God, not Jesus Christ, but President Russell M. Nelson:

2020-11-20 President Nelson gives a Thanksgiving Message and introduces a 7-day hashtag campaign that exalts and extols the power of gratitude to heal us and fix our woes and problems. Not God, not Jesus, but gratitude.

9) The infamous “Lazy Learners” and “Lax Disciple” General Conference Address.
2021-04-04 (Easter Sunday) For his “Easter Sunday 2021 Message” President Nelson chooses to give a pant kicking lecture to the membership that casts Mormon Critics and Doubters as “Lazy Learners” and “Lax Disciples”:

“Your mountains may be loneliness, doubt, illness, or other personal problems. Your mountains will vary, and yet the answer to each of your challenges is to increase your faith. That takes work. Lazy learners and lax disciples will always struggle to muster even a particle of faith…

…choose to believe in Jesus Christ. If you have doubts about God the Father and His Beloved Son or the validity of the Restoration or the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a prophet, choose to believe and stay faithful. Take your questions to the Lord and to other faithful sources. Study with the desire to believe rather than with the hope that you can find a flaw in the fabric of a prophet’s life or a discrepancy in the scriptures. Stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters. Allow the Lord to lead you on your journey of spiritual discovery.”
(Russell M. Nelson, “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains”)

The Internet erupts with jokes about these insulting, dismissive faux-pas. Photographs of “Lazy Learner” Mormon Studies library (often filling an entire wall, even entire rooms) start popping up like mushrooms. A common theme on all the Internet posts is that the REAL “Lazy Learners” and “Lax Disciples” are the ones who allow the leaders of the LdS Church to do their thinking and studying for them rather than thinking and studying for themselves. A common point made is that the ONLY way to remain a True Believing Mormon is to be a Lazy Learner and Lax Disciple.

Frankly, with a Living Prophet, this blatantly and consistently unqualified, inept, and out of touch, who needs enemies? In fact, the LdS Church’s biggest problem is sitting in a corner office at 50 E North Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, isn’t he?  And every time he wanders out of the building he passes out ammo for Mormon Critic guns. And, consider this, we’re only to Intermission in this series, Part Two will give additional evidence for how and why President Russell M. Nelson is slowly but surely destroying the LdS Church one revelation at a time – and it’s even longer than this one was. (no joke!)

One Ex-Mormon’s pointed response to President Nelson labeling them a “Lazy Learner” in lieu of reality.

About the Authors: 
“Team PFAAS” is the nickname for the “Preaching From An Asbestos Suit” social media groups on Facebook and MeWe. These are coaching and support groups for Biblical Christians who feel called to the Mormon Mission field in general and Internet Evangelism to Mormons in particular. These groups were using as a group sourcing resource for this article as well as a point of accountability for the compiling, final author of this series, Fred W. Anson. 

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum). Raised in the Nazarene Church, Fred later became an Atheist but then returned to the Christian faith during the Jesus Movement in 1976.

(click here to read Part Two of this two-part series) 

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.”
(Proverbs 25:11 NKJV)

by Michael Flournoy and Fred W. Anson
In part one of this series we considered some of the harsh “scorched earth” methods, behaviors, and tactics that Christian Mormon Critics often engage in that either drive Mormons deeper into the LDS Church or ensures that when they leave it they go, Atheist, Pagan, whatever rather than anything Christian. 

In response, we outlined and considered a better way: God’s way: The way that we see Evangelism modeled in the New Testament. That model we summarized in the following five concepts:  

1. Love them
2. Listen
3. Promote the good they do
4. Curb your ego
5. Keep it positive

In Part One we briefly mentioned how in Mormon Culture, orthopraxy (the correct practice of what one believes) trumps orthodoxy (correct belief). In other words, Mormons won’t care about what you believe and why it’s better than what they already believe until they see that you care about them as a person. Treat them badly and no matter how right you are, they won’t listen and they won’t care.  

So that’s the concept and theory, now let’s talk about how to actually do in the real world, shall we? Let’s do orthopraxy! 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Paul
Here’s how Paul described his approach in scripture: 

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
(1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ESV)

Paul didn’t shun outsiders. He embraced them to the point of joining their tribe, in a sense. His methods are bound to make my Evangelical counterparts uncomfortable, but it’s brilliant. It destroys the “us vs them” mentality.

This puts the Christian on the same playing field as the Latter-day Saint. It makes them a friend instead of a foe. It was this type of believer that had the greatest impact on article author Michael Flournoy’s journey from Mormonism to grace. 

In contrast, other Christians have told us that they refuse to respect a false religion. We’re not suggesting they should. However, there’s a difference between respecting falsehood and being respectful in dialogue.

Do the Mormons in your life know you love them? When was the last time you jumped to a Mormon’s defense when you saw them being mistreated? When was the last time you offered them an encouraging word? When was the last time you prayed for them by name and asked God’s mercy upon them? Are you preaching in a spirit of rivalry or out of love? When was the last time you challenged a fellow Evangelical for Mormon Bashing Latter-day Saints? 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Jesus
Whenever we hear Christians speculate how Jesus would have evangelized Mormon we tell them that we already know because He showed in scripture. Let us ask you this, who does this sound like? 

    • They’re heretics yet they claim that they are the only true and living church.
    • They claim that all other churches are apostate.
    • The founding of their religion was strongly opposed, criticized, and denounced by the established church at that time.
    • Many members claim to be from the House of Joseph – descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
    • They have a view of God that differs from the larger mainstream orthodox church’s view.
    • They believe in pre-existence.
    • They claim that the current church’s scripture is corrupt – deliberately infused with an apostate agenda. That is, it’s truth intermingled with the vain philosophies of men, not God.
    • They claim to be the sole possessors of the original, pure and uncorrupted Bible – a bible which discards books in the established church’s canon, and that is very different on key points of doctrine relative to that canon.
    • They have additional sacred texts which, while not formally canonized, maintain a quasi-canonical status.
    • Critics claim that portions of their theology is syncretistic, incorporating outside cultures and religions.
    • They have their own priesthood system.
    • They have a temple system that deviates strongly from the Levitical system given in the bible.
    • They claim that their temple, rather than the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, is the correct place set apart by God for special ceremonies and worship.
    • Outside critics and scholars throughout history have disputed the veracity and historicity claims of their scripture as well as their origin story.

They, of course, are the Samaritans of Christ’s day – who did you think we were talking about? But joking aside, it’s not hard to see how much the Samaritanism of Christ’s day parallels today’s Mormonism. And in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus, using the Mormons of His day, models for us how to reach Mormons of our own. So, let’s compare how Christ ministered to the Mormons of His day with the new model that was given in Part One, shall we? 

1. Love them
If there’s anything that we’ve learned in Mormon Studies, it’s that many Evangelicals love, love, love to Mormon Bash. Even if what they’re saying is bigoted, prejudiced, or downright wrong, bash they will – you know, almost as much as the Jews of Jesus’ day loved to bash Samaritans. Consider this:

Later authorities [such as Rabbi Jehuda the Holy a 3rd Century Rabbi] again reproach them [the Samaritans] with falsification of the Pentateuch, charge them with worshipping a dove, and even when, on further inquiry, they absolve them from this accusation, ascribe their excessive veneration for Mount Gerizim to the circumstance that they worshipped the idols which Jacob had buried under the oak at Shechem. To the same hatred, caused by national persecution, we must impute such expressions as that he, whose hospitality receives a foreigner, has himself to blame if his children have to go into captivity. The expression, ‘the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,’  finds its exact counterpart in this: ‘May I never set eyes on a Samaritan;’ or else, ‘May I never be thrown into company with him!’
(Alfred Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”In Judæa and through Samaria – a Sketch of Samaritan History and Theology – Jews and Samaritans chapter) 

Yet in the face of this extreme – one might even say, excessive – bigotry and prejudice we see Jesus showing this morality challenged, untrusting, skeptical Samaritan woman love, respect, and acceptance. Put yourself in her place as you hear these words:

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”’
(John 4:9-15 NKJV)

In the face of an ugly and sarcastic verbal “shove” from the Samaritan Woman, how did Jesus respond? He offered her a gift, He showed her love and compassion.

2. Listen
One of the most stunning aspects of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan, to us, is His restraint. His self-control and compassionate patience in listening to this woman laying out her self-righteous religiosity convicts and challenges me:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
(John 4:16-20 NKJV) 

Wouldn’t Jesus have been well within His rights to blast away both at the woman’s compromised morality and her horrible theology at this point?  And really what could she do but just sit there and take it? After all, she was dead wrong and He was absolutely right, correct?  Instead, what did He do? He listened. Yes, He also spoke the truth but He did so in a spirit of love and compassion, not condemnation. He did as He has taught us: He turned the other cheek (see Matthew 5:38-40) and turned away wrath with a gentle answer (see Proverbs 15:1)

3. Promote the good they do
Notice Christ’s response in the face of the religious dogma that the Samaritan woman spews at him in the following exchange:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:19-24 NKJV) 

Did you see that? Wouldn’t Christ have been perfectly justified in launching into an apologetic about how the false temple of Samaritanism on Mount Gerizim was unbiblical and the seat of, and the idol for, their false religion at this point? Wouldn’t He have been right in pressing in on her ignorance regarding what scripture really says about true and proper Temple worship?  But what does He do instead? He commends her. He implicitly commends her for her devotion to God in the midst of her ignorance. He commends her for being a true worshiper who is being sought by God. Yes, He commends her for her love of the truth. He found the good in the midst of the bad and promoted it.

In fact, this is a common pattern that we see throughout the Bible when it comes to how Christ presents the Samaritans. Yes, they were heretics. Yes, they were in a cult. Yes, they were following compromised scripture, false prophets, and worshiping in a false temple that was in the wrong place according to God’s Word. But even in the midst of this sick, dysfunctional mess, how does Jesus so often speak of them in public? Answer: They’re the-wrong-in-orthodoxy, but right-in-orthopraxy good guys – at least as compared to the right-in-orthodoxy, but wrong in orthopraxy guys that are in front of Him, that is.

Still, doubt us? Then lest us give you these three words: The Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). And let us pose just one question: Who was the good guy in that story, the two biblically orthodox, mainstream religious guys (the Priest and the Levite) or the fringe heretic (the Samaritan)? We rest our case.

4. Curb your ego
What comes next in this exchange is the real stunner to me:

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
(John 4:25-26 NKJV) 

And there it is, Christ’s first explicit declaration that He is the Messiah in the gospels. To a woman. A sinful woman. A half-breed Jewish/Gentile mongrel of the type hated by His people. A sinful mongrel who was born into the religious cult that she is still ensnared in.

Now, given that, wouldn’t the egotist have lead with the “little” fact that they are the Chosen One? Wouldn’t they have presented their credentials to gain the advantage? When she went into her previous tirade about the Temple and how wrong those apostate Jews are versus right we true God worshiping Samaritan, if you were Jesus wouldn’t you have been tempted to say, “Well, that’s all well and good, but hey lady, I’m the Messiah! How do you like them apples, little girl?” We confess, to our shame, that we probably would have.

But not Jesus, he checked His ego at the door and left it there. Yes, that’s right, God Almighty, Lord of the Universe, checked His ego at the door for the sake and out of His love for the Samaritan woman that was right in front of him. One word, and it falls far short: Wow!

5. Keep it positive
Rewind the tape again and consider how Christ first presented His message to the Samaritan woman: He offered her a gift, living water. He knew her need and met her exactly where she was at right then and there – physically (thirsty), spiritually (ensnared in a false religion), and emotionally (looking for love in all the wrong places). And what did He offer her? He offered her hope and life. Through the Messiah (Himself) He offered a way out.

Friend, is this the way that Christ first approached you? It’s sure the way that He approached us – Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist, and Fred the militant Atheist. And we are hardly unique, are we? After all, doesn’t Paul tell us that’s it’s the patience and kindness of God that leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4)?

One thing that we like about “The Chosen” TV series – in fact, maybe the thing we like most about it – is how Christ is portrayed as a genuinely warm, approachable, and attractive person. One can’t help but feel drawn to Him and His message as He is presented in this series. Do you think that real historic Jesus was any different? We don’t. As the saying goes, which draws more flies: Honey or vinegar? Based on your own reading of the gospels do you think that Jesus was vinegar or honey to those who heard His voice? Let’s consider what the text actually says in light of that hovering question, shall we?

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42 NKJV) 

Again for emphasis, “we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world”. Friend do you think that Christ’s words were honey or vinegar to these Samaritans? Were they honey or vinegar to you when He called you? For Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist and Fred, the militant Atheist, those words were honey in the midst of vinegar. We were drawn to Christ because He was far, far, far more attractive than what we currently had. Case in point: Fred is fond of saying that Atheism, for him, was like ordering a pizza and eating the box instead of the pizza. And Michael has said similar things about the Mormonism that was crushing him under the weight of ordinance, commandments, and constant, unrelenting unworthiness.

So my Mormon Bashing Evangelical friend, we will end this with this: Are you Christ to your Mormon friends and family members? Are you honey or vinegar to your Mormon friends and family? We encourage and exhort you: Be Jesus. Be honey. Be the Good Samaritan to the Samaritans. Be a Mormon in order to win Mormons.

An artistic, moving, and powerful depiction of the Woman at the Well story from “The Chosen” TV Series. (click to view)

 About the Authors
Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum). Raised in the Nazarene Church, Fred later became an Atheist but then returned to the Christian faith during the Jesus Movement in 1976. 

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.”
(Proverbs 25:11 NKJV)

by Michael Flournoy
In Disney’s “Hercules”, Hercules battles a monster called a hydra. During the fight he slices its head off with his sword. Bystanders applaud his victory until the beast revives with two heads instead of one. Hercules flies around on his pegasus decapitating one head after another. Each time he does, two more heads spring out until he’s faced with a far more dangerous opponent than before. Hundreds of dragon-like heads stare him down and his trainer Phil yells, “Will you forget the whole head slicing thing?”

I sympathize with Phil. 

I’ve watched Evangelicals debate Mormons for a few years now. I’ve seen them deploy the same flawed tactics over and over. Then they congratulate themselves while Latter-day Saints grow stronger in their faith and more distrustful of Christianity. As someone who knows the LDS mindset from first-hand experience, I can tell you that the sharpest, most direct tactic is not always best. 

Christians value directness and truth. We come from a society that is far more accepting of debate than that of our LDS counterparts. In fact, Latter-day Saints view contention as the devil’s tool. They value orthopraxy as much (if not more) than orthodoxy. This means that our tone can destroy a perfectly good argument. For instance, a common mantra in Mormonism is: “people can leave the Church, but they can’t leave it alone.”

So when an ex-Mormon comes across as angry or bitter, it doesn’t matter how valid his arguments are. He is fulfilling the words of the prophets and proving that life away from Mormonism is bleak. When I was an active member I compared Christians who slandered their former religion to married men who continued to gripe over an old girlfriend. It was an obvious sign that they weren’t fulfilled in their relationship.

The same is true for Christians who have never been Mormon. When we take the position that causing offense and hurting relationships is an acceptable way to promote truth, we alienate the LDS. To be fair, sometimes the blunt approach is exactly what’s needed. It depends on the situation and the personality of the one doing the witnessing. If you’re going that route, be sure to bring a first-class argument with you.

If there’s one thing Mormons love, it’s a bull in a china shop, rampaging blindly against strawman arguments. The LDS will wave that red flag all day, dancing gleefully as you miss their vital organs by a longshot. They’ll use the futility of your attempts to promote their own testimony or add fuel to their dislike for Christians. Worst-case scenario, it gives them an excuse to play the victim and cut off future dialogue with you.

Of course, the truth is offensive. Sometimes a Mormon will be offended no matter how accommodating you are. So where does the balance lie between being honest and being compassionate? It’s quite the juggling act. However, I have a few tips to assist in talking to Latter-day Saints. 

1. Love them
It sounds obvious, but I can’t state this enough. If you’re talking to Mormons to win an argument, validate yourself, or let out steam for hurt the Church has caused you, it’s time to leave the ministry. Now.

We need to be mindful of what happens when a Mormon abandons their faith. They experience a loss of family, identity, and culture. The last thing a Latter-day Saint needs is us as enemies. These are victims we’re talking about here! Mormons need to know there’s a new family waiting to embrace them with open arms. So commit right now to loving your LDS neighbors regardless of whether or not they leave the Church.

2. Listen
Latter-day Saints balk when we tell them what they believe right out of the gate. Instead, ask them to explain the particulars of their faith and why it’s meaningful to them. It might be cringy listening to someone pour out their soul about a false gospel, but it’s helpful. It builds a bond between you and the Latter-day Saint, which puts you in a better position to share the hope you have.

I can promise you this. A Latter-day Saint is far more interested in talking to someone who listens and respects what they say. 

3. Promote the good they do
One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen is when Christians bad mouth the LDS church for doing good. For example, we might find ourselves grumbling when they donate millions of dollars to charity. After all, what’s a couple million compared to the 100 trillion dollars in their vaults? But do you realize how petty that makes us look? When a Latter-day Saint brags about service their church has performed, the correct response isn’t, “Well, it’s still a cult”, or “why didn’t they give more?”

The best response is, “That’s really cool. Tell me more about it.” If you’re appalled by that, please reference point number one on this list. 

4. Curb your ego
Sometimes you’ll be in the middle of a discussion and realize the debate isn’t going well because the point you’ve been making is a strawman. In this scenario the temptation is to push ahead and keep hammering it in, forcing the Mormon to see the light through brute force. This is about as effective as talking louder to someone who speaks a different language. The drive to keep pushing is your ego talking. Don’t let it win. The best option if you’ve misrepresented Mormonism is to apologize. Believe me, losing the battle is better than losing the war. 

When you make a move like this, a Mormon can’t help but respect you. Remember when I said they value orthopraxy? Humbly apologizing when the situation demands will paint you as a true Christian in their eyes. They’ll see you as someone who’s fair and approachable. And that’s exactly the kind of person they’ll want to confide in if their shelf breaks someday. 

5. Keep it positive
It’s important to avoid phrases that come across as overzealous. Telling Latter-day Saints they worship Joseph Smith, believe in a different god, or aren’t Christians is a sure-fire way to get their walls up. What might seem obvious to you, is far from obvious to them. They’ll see you as a raving madman.

In fact, it’s usually best to keep the focus on the positive aspects of your beliefs. A lot of Christians are uncomfortable with this, because of how similar the LDS vocabulary is to ours. However, there are some definite appeals we can highlight. For example, in Christian culture, it is common for people to confess sins and build each other up. Many Mormons long for this kind of fellowship.

But wait, there’s more! In Christianity, God doesn’t send any of His children to hell. In Christianity, God’s love is unconditional, to the point that we can be saved in our sins. In Christianity, everyone who believes holds the priesthood. In Christianity, Christ’s entire life was a vicarious ordinance on our behalf. In Christianity, God’s revelation never changes.   

If a Mormon challenges you on these points, it opens the door to compare beliefs. Invite, don’t incite. 

In Conclusion
I think that when in appealing to his fellow critics in regard to their often horribly unbiblical (sometimes even cruel) treatment of Mormons one Mormon Critic summarized it well he said: 

The Golden Rule of Apologetics is: “Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated“

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

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

That sounds so easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. It can be so hard to keep one’s passions, ego, and pride in check when engaging Mormons. And if you really like the person it can be hard not to soften your message to maintain the relationship.  It’s a balancing act. Which is why we so desperately need the mind of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us rather than our fallen human nature. So for those moments when you feel your adrenaline beginning to pump, your palms beginning to sweat, and your eyes beginning to bulge I would encourage you to remember (or better yet, memorize) what God has said to us through His word.
(Fred W. Anson, “Weak Arguments #13: “There’s NOTHING in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”, Beggar’s Bread website May 3, 2015) 

And in regard to Mormons and Mormonism this is what God through His word says to us: 

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

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

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

Brother and Sister Mormon Critic, I would rather lose the debate in order to win the Mormon over to Jesus, wouldn’t you? I would rather look like a fool than a sage if that’s what it takes. This isn’t about me, it’s about Him, isn’t it?  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV). Can I get an amen? 

About the Author
Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

The Apostle Paul’s Law v. Grace Dichotomy

by Michael Flournoy, Fred W. Anson, and Pam Hanvey
If you’re a Latter-day Saint who has talked theology with Evangelicals, chances are you’ve walked away exasperated more than once. I’m willing to wager you’ve thought, “How can these people misrepresent my church so much? Do they understand my beliefs at all?” Perhaps, you think the most blatant example is when Evangelicals show scriptures that say the Law doesn’t save and then give that smug “gotcha” look. The problem should be obvious, but it isn’t.

You don’t follow the Law of Moses, you believe in the restored gospel. And you’ve said it enough times that Evangelicals should get it by now, right? But we all get stuck in battle debate mode and just have to win, don’t we? So it’s easy to keep pushing an argument in vain.  We all know how it goes, don’t we? 

As a result, we are going to express what Evangelicals have been trying to say all along, but typically don’t know how to because they aren’t bi-lingual and speak both Mormonese and Christianese as your intrepid reporters here do.  

First, both sides agree that Mormonism is a restoration. Yes, you heard that right, it is a restoration. However, Evangelicals see it as a restoration of the Old Testament Law of Moses, not New Testament Christianity. That is, to put it into Mormonese: It’s a restoration of the Lesser Law not the Higher Law as Mormonism claims. (Evangelicals, see BYU Professor Larry E. Dahl’s article, “The Higher Law”, Ensign, February 1991 for a good primer on the difference between the two from the Mormon perspective.) 

Study this out in your mind and see if it is right: When Paul wrote his letters he made a distinction between grace and Law. Since Mormonism claims to be a restoration of New Testament Christianity, not Old Testament Judaism, it stands to reason that it should fit soundly into one of Paul’s categories, right?  So let’s dig in and see why the above thesis is true. 

Similarities with the Law
How dare Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses, right? After all, Latter-day Saints don’t sacrifice animals, nor do they consider circumcision an essential covenant or ordinance of the gospel. Plus, the Word of Wisdom doesn’t require abstinence from consuming pork, shellfish, or other non-kosher food, does it?

So, why do Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses? Evangelicals are not merely looking at outward practices, but rather, they are going deeper; looking at the principal(s) behind the practices. Very early on in the Old Testament, this principle is established in the Law of Moses.  

I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 11:27-28, KJV) 

The principle of blessings for obedience is also included in LDS scripture.  

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
(D&C 130:20-21) 

Comparing the two, the Law of Moses (Old Covenant) clearly delineates laws/commandments to be obeyed in specific situations by a specific group of people (Israelites); obedience or disobedience resulted in temporal blessings or curses for the nation of Israel. 

In Galatians 3:24, Paul explains that the Law of Moses, “was given to be a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. Obedience to the Law has never been the means by which men enter into eternal life. Eternal Life has always been a blessing given by grace through faith.

In contrast, D&C 130 only presents a principle of blessings for obedience (no curses for disobedience). It then takes the principle of blessings for obedience and doubles down on it;  making obedience to laws a requirement for all of God’s blessings – up to and including Eternal Life.2 This leaves no room for eternal life to be granted by grace through faith (see definition below). As a result, many of the practices found in the Law of Moses continue to exist in Mormonism. 

After all, you still covenant to sacrifice all that the Lord blesses you with, don’t you? Doesn’t the LDS Church require a mandatory tithe – even though the tithe was a covenant-keeping ordinance of the lesser Law? Don’t you consider baptism an essential covenant akin to circumcision? And aren’t coffee, tea, and alcohol essentially non-kosher foods that cause one to break covenant if one consumes them? 

Further, don’t both the lesser Law and higher Laws require making and keeping covenants with God in a temple? Weren’t the unworthy Gentiles forbidden from even entering the temple foyer, let alone the washing and anointing area? Ditto for Jews who didn’t keep their covenants? Weren’t women forbidden from holding the Priesthood? Ditto for male children below a certain age?  Wasn’t there a special class of men who could hold the Priesthood out of all the men on earth? Weren’t there classes or castes of priests within the Priesthood rather than a single Royal Priesthood? 

And, aren’t both systems so overwhelmingly arduous, demanding, and ultimately impossible that they drive us to ultimate failure, condemn us and point us to our ever-present, all-surpassing need for a savior. In short, the Law and the LDS gospel serve to bring us to a knowledge of sin. Thus, both systems condemn us just as Paul said so well in his epistles: 

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become ||guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
(Romans 3:19-20, KJV) 

We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted
(1 Timothy 1.8-11, KJV)

As one of our authors (writing under the pen name “Marie Johnson”) said well: 

The Old Covenant sacerdotal system, which came 430 years after God made his promises to Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-3) was never designed to give eternal life. Its purpose was to act as a tutor and a disciplinarian; teaching people about the depths of their sinfulness. As their custodian, it watched over them and kept them in check until the fullness of time came and they could be justified by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:19-24). Just as the promise was not the reality, the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant were only a foreshadow of the good things that were coming in Christ. (Hebrew 10:1-2)

Inaugurated with the shed blood of animals, the Mosaic covenant had a very distinct beginning. When Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled the book of the covenant and all the people, the Israelites were bound to abide by the Law of Moses (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:19). They were required to continually perform sacrifices for the temporary covering of sins (Hebrews 10:11). If they intentionally defied the Mosaic Law, they would be cut off from Israel; that is, put to death (Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 10:28). No Hebrew was exempt from this obligation to the Law until, “the fullness of the time was come, [when] God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5,KJV)
(Pam Hanvey (writing as “Marie Johnson”), “The Bible v. The Book of Mormon Gospel”, Beggar’s Bread website, April 17, 2016) 

The Jews under the Old Covenant had to make a sin sacrifice once a year because they kept sinning. The LDS sacrament is essentially the same thing. It is a repeated ordinance that renews the covenant. The New Covenant, as Paul emphasizes again, again, and again in his epistles, does not need to be renewed at all. In this, Paul merely affirms and validates what Christ, Himself said on the cross, “It is finished” (see John 19:30).

So to review:

      • Both systems have tithing. 
      • Both systems honor the Sabbath. 
      • Both systems uphold the ten commandments.
      • Both systems require making and keeping covenants. 
      • Both systems overwhelm us and condemn us. 
      • And both systems point us our need for a Savior.

Dissimilarities with Grace
The other problem is how dissimilar Mormonism is with grace as the Bible defines it. For example, Mormonism commits a classic “Fallacy by Definition” error by reframing the primary definition of grace as, “the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ” (see “Grace” official LDS Church website

However, the words for grace in the Bible (“charis” in New Testament Greek and “chen” in the Old Testament) are generally defined as first and foremost, “the free and unmerited favour of God” (see “Divine grace” Wikipedia website). That is the definition of the word that not only the Christian world uses, but the world in general does. For example, consider this definition from Dictionary.com) which is about as generic a dictionary as they come: “favor or goodwill; a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior”.1

Can you see what just happened there, my Latter-day Saint friend? By simply defining the word correctly and giving it its true meaning, suddenly the atonement has shifted away from what I must do to gain God’s favor through law-keeping to simply receiving the favor that God has so freely already given me through faith and trust in the atonement of Christ. Suddenly, as two of the authors of this article explained in a previous article, we move from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross of Golgotha: 

Though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, mainstream Christianity locates the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other, there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement, (Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its Meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012). But such a focus denies the Christ-centered redemption narrative that’s at the very core of the gospel message and so rightly cherished by Christians the world over.
(Fred W. Anson & Michael Flournoy, “Behold the Man Upon the Cross”, Beggar’s Bread website, September 30, 2018

And this is a shift that’s reiterated again, again, and again in the Bible: 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV) 

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
(Galatians 2:21, KJV)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
(Galatians 5:4, KJV) 

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
(Romans 11:5-6, KJV) 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:17, KJV) 

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
(Romans 6:14, KJV) 

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
(Galatians 3:18, KJV)

In the aforementioned article, Pam Hanvey summed things up nicely when she said, 

Because Jesus redeemed those under the law, the Old Covenant became obsolete when the New Covenant was ratified in his blood. (Hebrews 8:13, 10:9-10). Jesus addressed this in the parable of the wineskins. New wine can’t be poured into old wineskins: The old skins will burst and both will be ruined. (Matthew 9:14-17). The two covenants can’t be mixed. [Yet] In spite of Paul and Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Mormon asserts that people who were under Old Covenant law could freely partake of the New Covenant and claim remission of sins through Jesus’ atonement…

Splattered throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon, this concocted gospel attempts to mix the Old and New Covenants, only to rip apart the fabric of the Old Covenant and trample underfoot the New Covenant.
(op cit, Hanvey) 

This is the focus of the entire book of Galatians, which may best be summarized by this passage: 

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified…

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
(Galatians 2:16,21, KJV) 

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further to press home the fact that those trying to justify themselves by law-keeping are actually putting themselves under a curse: 

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
(Galatians 3:10-12, KJV) 

He even goes so far as to say that law-keeping is a yoke of bondage, rather than freedom, 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
(Galatians 5:1 KJV) 

So my dear Latter-day Saint friend, if you feel like that pressures and demands of the conflated, mish-mash, of the false Mormon Gospel of intermingled Old Testament Law and New Covenant grace that your church teaches is enslaving and crushing you, Paul would simply say to you, “You’re right, it is!”  

And then I would imagine that he would simply look you in the eye, and ask this paraphrased version of his infamous Galatians 3:1 question,  

“O foolish Mormon, who hath bewitched you?”

NOTES
1 This isn’t to say that the LDS Church’s definition isn’t included in or a subset of the biblical definition grace, it is. However, it’s a secondary effect or by-product of “the free and unmerited favour of God”, nothing more. This is as Louis Berkhof explains so well in his Systematic Theology: 

The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit. The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9.
(Louis Berkhof, “Systematic Theology” (Grand Rapids, 1949), pp. 426-427)

So the problem isn’t so much that the LDS Church’s definition of grace is wrong as much as it’s both “cart before the horse” and incomplete. 

2 For our non-Mormon readers, Even though there are six (6) types of salvation in LDS soteriology, Mormons will still use the generic term “salvation” without specifying which of the six they’re referring to. Here is the list followed by the full explanation from an official, correlated LDS Church source. 

1) Salvation from Physical Death.
2) Salvation from Sin.
3) Being Born Again.
4) Salvation from Ignorance.
5) Salvation from the Second Death.
6) Eternal Life, or Exaltation.

And here, in its entirety is that source: 

Salvation
In the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terms “saved” and “salvation” have various meanings. As used in Romans 10:9-10, the words “saved” and “salvation” signify a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this covenant relationship, followers of Christ are assured salvation from the eternal consequences of sin if they are obedient. “Salvation” and “saved” are also used in the scriptures in other contexts with several different meanings.

Additional Information
If someone were to ask if another person had been saved, the answer would depend on the sense in which the word is used. The answer might be “Yes” or perhaps it might be “Yes, but with conditions.” The following explanations outline six different meanings of the word salvation.

Salvation from Physical Death. All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death. Paul testified, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.

Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives (see Alma 11:36-37). However, through the grace of God, all can be saved from their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Helaman 5:10-11) as they repent and follow Jesus Christ.

Being Born Again. The principle of spiritual rebirth appears frequently in the scriptures. The New Testament contains Jesus’s teaching that everyone must be “born again” and that those who are not “born of water and of the Spirit … cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This teaching is affirmed in the Book of Mormon: “All mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26).

This rebirth occurs as individuals are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of a willingness “to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). Through this process, their “hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, [they] are born of him” (Mosiah 5:7). All who have truly repented, been baptized, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have made the covenant to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and have felt His influence in their lives, can say that they have been born again. That rebirth can be renewed each Sabbath when they partake of the sacrament.

Salvation from Ignorance. Many people live in a state of darkness, not knowing the light of the restored gospel. They are “only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Those who have a knowledge of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the purpose of life, the plan of salvation, and their eternal potential are saved from this condition. They follow the Savior, who declared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Salvation from the Second Death. The scriptures sometimes speak of salvation from the second death. The second death is the final spiritual death—being cut off from righteousness and denied a place in any kingdom of glory (see Alma 12:32; D&C 88:24). This second death will not come until the Final Judgment, and it will come to only a few (see D&C 76:31-37). Almost every person who has ever lived on the earth is assured salvation from the second death (see D&C 76:40-45).

Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words saved and salvation often refer to eternal life, or exaltation (see Abraham 2:11). Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1-4; 132:21-24). This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.

See also Atonement of Jesus Christ; Baptism; Eternal Life; Grace; Kingdoms of Glory; Plan of Salvation
(“True to the Faith” (2004), LDS Church manual, pp. 150-53; retrieved 4/26/2017)

ALSO RECOMMENDED
“Plan of Salvation Overview”,  LDS Church Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), pp. 7–10;

More Notes and Thoughts on The Book of Mormon’s Parable of the Olive Tree

An ancient olive grove in Israel. Some of the trees in this grove are over 1,000-years old.

compiled by Susan Grape, Fred W. Anson, and “Team TOYBOM”
For those unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, the Parable of the Olive Tree is an extended allegory recounted in Chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob, the third book of the Book of Mormon. Jacob states the allegory was one of the teachings of the alleged extra-Biblical, Old Testament era prophet, Zenos found in the brass plates, a lost record. The Brass Plates were a set of plates retrieved by Nephi at the direction of his father, Lehi. They contained Jewish records similar to the Old Testament, up to the time of Jeremiah. Latter Day Saints suggest that it is possible that Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (see chapter 11) is referencing a similar parable. (see Wikipedia, “Parable of the Olive Tree”; also see “List of Plates (Latter Day Saints)”, and “Zenos”). Click here to read the parable in its entirety.

An official, correlated Church manual explains the symbolism of the parable as follows:
Vineyard = The world;
Master of the vineyard = Jesus Christ;
Tame olive tree = The house of Israel, the Lord’s covenant people;
Wild olive tree = Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel);
Branches = Groups of people;
Servants = Prophets and others called to serve;
Fruit = Lives or works of people;
(“Lesson 13: The Allegory of the Olive Trees”, Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), p. 56)

So that’s the backstory. Unfortunately, the parable has a number of issues and problems which we will discuss here in a running commentary type fashion for your consideration.

Other Thoughts and Notes:
An Olive Tree allegory would have had no direct significance to people living in the Americas in 541-421BC and approximately 60-years after the Book of Mormon people left the Middle East.
This is because olive trees aren’t native to the Americas and didn’t exist on the American continent until the 16th Century. From Wikipedia:

“Olives are not native to the Americas. Spanish colonists brought the olive to the New World, where its cultivation prospered in present-day Peru, Chile and Argentina. The first seedlings from Spain were planted in Lima by Antonio de Rivera in 1560. Olive tree cultivation quickly spread along the valleys of South America’s dry Pacific coast where the climate was similar to the Mediterranean. Spanish missionaries established the tree in the 18th century in California. It was first cultivated at Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 or later around 1795. Orchards were started at other missions, but in 1838, an inspection found only two olive orchards in California. Cultivation for oil gradually became a highly successful commercial venture from the 1860s onward.“
(Wikipedia, “Olive”)

An ancient Olive Grove in Israel. This grove is estimated to be about 2,000-years old.

Further, 19th Century Americans not living on the North American Southwest Coast – such as the Book of Mormon’s original, target audience – would be unable to see the flaws in the Parable of the Olive Tree since they can only be grown “landscaped in” (as is the case in Jacob 5) in Mediterranean climates.
From a botanical website on olive tree cultivation and olive oil production:

“Olive trees need a subtropical climate and do best with mild winters and long, warm, and dry summers. They are sensitive to hard freezing environments. They will grow in climate zones 10 and 11 (see map below). Some varieties are hardy enough for zone 9 or even 8. Temperatures below 22ºF (-5ºC) will kill small wood and branches. Freezing conditions lasting days or a hard freeze, below 15ºF (-10ºC), will kill or severely damage an olive tree. It is best to avoid planting olive trees in situations where there is a high risk of frost during bloom (late April to mid-May) or where freezing conditions are likely before harvest. Summer rainfall can cause fungal and bacterial infestations.”
(“Site Selection”, The Olive Oil Source website)

From Wikipedia:

“An estimated 865 million olive trees are in the world today (as of 2005), and the vast majority of these are found in Mediterranean countries, with traditionally marginal areas accounting for no more than 25% of olive-planted area and 10% of oil production.”
(Wikipedia, “Olive”)

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that someone who was born and raised in the North American Northwest (which generally has a Humid Continental Climate) wouldn’t have a good working knowledge of landscaped olive trees or groves since olive tree cultivation is only possible in pots in that climate zone:

“Olive trees thrive in the northeast where they can live outside in containers from spring through early fall, but then they must be moved inside. In winter, they cannot survive outside because of low temperatures in the northeast that range from 10 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 25 F. The northeastern region is in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 though 7; olive trees grow outdoors in climate zones 10 and 11. If you prefer, you can keep the trees indoors year-round. According to a New York Times gardening column, olive trees do well in big pots, so you’re in luck if you have the indoor space.”
(Nellene Teubner Plouffe, “Olive Trees in the Northeast”)

Unlike the other plant and tree parables in the Bible, the botany in Jacob is flawed, inaccurate, and error-filled.
For example, consider Christ’s allegory of the vine and Vinedresser in John 15. As one of this article’s compilers, Fred W. Anson, explained in his October 2019 Faith After Mormon Conference lecture, “From Human Doing to Human Being: Abiding In Jesus After Mormonism” this allegory is so botanically and scientifically correct and precise that a vineyarder could follow it’s instructions and get exactly what the passage claims and promises: Improved grapevine health and fruit production. Here’s what the passage says:

John 15 (KJV)
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

By comparison, if an Olive Tree Arborist followed the instructions given in Jacob 5, it would kill the olive tree – it reeks of ignorance on the very subject that it’s using as an allegory. This fact raises the question of whether this passage in the Book of Mormon is inspired by God at all. After all, surely the Author and Creator of the universe would know how to care for the very olive trees that He designed and created, right?

An ancient olive tree in Spain that is about 2,000 years old.

There is no evidence that the Old Testament Prophet Zenos, who was being quoted from Laban’s Brass Plates as the source for this parable, ever existed.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains:

“Zenos is one of four Israelite prophets of Old Testament times cited in the Book of Mormon whose writings appeared on the plates of brass but who are not mentioned in the Old Testament (see also Zenock; Neum; and Ezias). Zenos is quoted or mentioned by Nephi 1 (1 Ne. 19:10-17), Jacob (Jacob 5:1-77;6:1), Alma 2 (Alma 33:3-11, 13, 15), Amulek (Alma 34:7), Nephi 2 (Hel. 8:19-20), and Mormon (3 Ne. 10:14-17).

Although specific dates and details of Zenos’ life and ministry are not known, the Book of Mormon provides considerable information about him from his teachings and related facts. Evidently he lived sometime between 1600 and 600 B.C. because he was apparently a descendant of Joseph of Egypt and his writings were on the plates of brass taken from Jerusalem to the Americas by Nephi 1 about 600 B.C. He may also have been a progenitor of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi (cf. 3 Ne. 10:16). Zenos spent time “in the wilderness” (Alma 33:4), but also preached “in the midst” of the “congregations” of God (Alma 33:9). Some of his enemies became reconciled to him through the power of God, but others were visited “with speedy destruction” (Alma 33:4, 10). Finally, he was slain because of his bold testimony of the coming of the “Son of God” (Hel. 8:13-19).”
(Daniel H. Ludlow, “Zenos”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1623)

The first problem here is that Zenos isn’t a Jewish name – it’s a Greek name that means, “gift of Zeus” (see Wikipedia, “Zeno (name)”; also see The Bump website, “Zeno – Baby Name”). In fact, the closest historical match for “Zenos” is Zeno of Elea who was referred to by Plato and Aristotle in their work. (see Wikipedia, “Zeno of Elea”)

The second problem is the magnitude, weight, and significance that Mormon leaders and the LdS Church have placed on the work of Zenos during the Old Testament period. Consider the words of influential Mormon Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie:

“I do not think I overstate the matter when I say that next to Isaiah himself-who is the prototype, pattern, and model for all the prophets-there was not a greater prophet in all Israel than Zenos.”
(Bruce R. McConkie,”The Doctrinal Restoration”, in “The Joseph Smith Translation, The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things”, ed My. Nyman and R. Millet. Provo, Utah, 1985, p.17)

So logically, if the prophet Zenos was as the Book of Mormon and the LdS Church claims, then it seems incredulous that there would be no record of him in the Bible, let alone that his body of work won’t have been recorded and as diligently preserved in the biblical canon as the other Old Testament prophets. The same is true of extra-biblical sources, such as well-known Jewish Historian, Josephus or the literature of the cultures and civilizations that surrounded Old Testament Israel.

Given all these problems and logical incongruities, as well as the fact that the Parable of the Olive Tree doesn’t seem to be the work of anyone actually familiar or acquainted with olive tree germination and care, it might be easy to conclude that Zenos is simply a fictional character that the 19th Century author of the Book of Mormon contrived and produced from his imagination and tried to pass off as legitimate using a classic historical revisionism tactic.

Finally, in Jacob 4:1, the alleged author of the book states that he cannot write much because of the difficulty of engraving on the plates.
Yet he writes this allegory that contains over 600 repetitive words (yes, we counted them), consisting of “Behold/beheld/looked/beholdest”, “It came to pass”, “the Lord of the vineyard, said to the servant of the vineyard,” and over a 1,000 if you add the last part of many verses that repeat the first part of the verse.

In the end, there are significant problems and concerns about the Parable of the Olive Tree in the Book of Mormon that simply can’t be ignored by the reader. Jacob chapter 5 creates far more problems than it solves. In fact, because the Zenos character in the Book of Mormon both here and elsewhere acts and speaks more like a 19th Century American Protestant than an ancient Old Testament Prophet. Therefore, it’s very reasonable to conclude that he was simply invented to give voice to Joseph Smith so he could push the Book of Mormon as his prophetic credential – as we know from the historical record that he did.

In other words, we are of the opinion that the Parable of the Olive, like the rest of the Book of Mormon, was written by Joseph Smith, to coin a phrase, for fame and prophet. And though we have come to different conclusions (he faith-promoting, we skeptical), this assertion is fully aligned with the body of historical evidence that Mormon Apologist, Daniel C. Peterson summarized so well regarding the role of the Book of Mormon in early Mormon culture when he said:

“Studies of Latter-day Saint sermons and curriculum from the earliest period of church history well into the 20th century demonstrate surprisingly little use of the Book of Mormon to establish doctrines or as a text from which to preach. Many Saints were converted by reading it, but, thereafter, they tended to overlook its specific content. Early members, mostly converts, knew the Bible well and used it extensively in their teaching and missionary efforts, but the Book of Mormon served mainly as a kind of talisman, its sheer existence pointing to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. Even Joseph Smith used the Bible far more than he used the Book of Mormon in his sermons.”
(Daniel C. Peterson, “Embracing the power of the Book of Mormon”, The Deseret News, published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MST)

The infamous Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 in Berkeley, California. By Olive Grove standards, this is a young grove that’s only a little over a hundred years old.

About the Compilation Team
Susan Grape grew up in a non-church going family. When she became engaged, her fiancé (now husband) and she joined a Christian church. As she was learning about the Bible and Jesus, several friends, and relatives who were either Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientist shared their beliefs with her and challenged her to the point that she knew that their doctrine was different enough to question that someone (perhaps herself) had to be wrong. When Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her home, it forced her to study the scriptures to see what the Bible actually taught. That very intense time of studying gave her the evidence for what Biblical truth is. It sparked the desire to reach out to these groups with the Biblical gospel and the Biblical Christ.

Mrs. Grape served as a board member for ten years with Berean Christian Ministries and she currently is in her eleventh year of serving on the board of Christian Research & Counsel. Her husband Brad also is on the board. The Grape’s adult children are professing Christians, and their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum).

“Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal was to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they could openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense.

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group could speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public whenever Latter Day Saints are present. The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.

An ancient Greek Olive Tree that’s at least 2,000 years old, possibly as old as 3,000 years.

Link to Part One

Notes and Thoughts on The Book of Mormon’s Parable of the Olive Tree

An ancient olive grove in Israel. Some of the trees in this grove are over 1,000-years old.

compiled by Susan Grape, Fred W. Anson, and “Team TOYBOM”
For those unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, the Parable of the Olive Tree is an extended allegory recounted in Chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob, the third book of the Book of Mormon. Jacob states the allegory was one of the teachings of the alleged extra-Biblical, Old Testament era prophet, Zenos found in the brass plates, a lost record. The Brass Plates were a set of plates retrieved by Nephi at the direction of his father, Lehi. They contained Jewish records similar to the Old Testament, up to the time of Jeremiah. Latter Day Saints suggest that it is possible that Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (see chapter 11) is referencing a similar parable. (see Wikipedia, “Parable of the Olive Tree”; also see “List of Plates (Latter Day Saints)”, and “Zenos”). Click here to read the parable in its entirety.

An official, correlated Church manual explains the symbolism of the parable as follows:
Vineyard = The world;
Master of the vineyard = Jesus Christ;
Tame olive tree = The house of Israel, the Lord’s covenant people;
Wild olive tree = Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel);
Branches = Groups of people;
Servants = Prophets and others called to serve;
Fruit = Lives or works of people;
(“Lesson 13: The Allegory of the Olive Trees”, Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), p. 56)

So that’s the backstory. Unfortunately, the parable has a number of issues and problems which we will discuss here in a running commentary type fashion for your consideration.

Verse 3a: An olive tree is planted in a vineyard.

Jacob 5
3a
For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard…”

Commentary: Olive trees are not planted in vineyards because grapevines will choke out young trees. (see The New manners and Customs of Bible Times, p. 43, 1987, Moody Press).

The soil requirements for olive trees and grapevines are very different. Olive trees (or groves) grow best in rocky soil like “chalky marl, with flint, and just mould enough to cover the roots. (see “Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p.224). On the other hand, “Vines (vineyards) like open, loose, soil, so their roots can grow down to the rocks to reach the moisture.” (see Ralph Gower, “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times”, p. 43). Thus, it makes no sense to plant an olive tree in a vineyard – or for that matter, a grapevine in an olive grove. As one Bible commentator notes, this is something that we see reflected in the text of the bible itself, “Olive groves were placed alongside of vineyards not inside of them, cf. I Sam. 8:14.” (ibid, p. 113)

Verses 3b-6: Zenos’ tree fits the description of a very old olive tree, the heart was decaying, and the main top was beginning to perish:

Jacob 5
3b
…and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay.

4 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard went forth, and he saw that his olive tree began to decay; and he said: I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches, and it perish not.

5 And it came to pass that he pruned it, and digged about it, and nourished it according to his word.

6 And it came to pass that after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish.

Commentary: Olive trees are very slow-growing, take years to mature, and then take even longer to decay and die. In fact, there are olive trees – even entire olive groves – in the Mediterranean that are thousands of years old. So to claim that this olive tree grew to full maturity and began to die within the lifetime of the master of the vineyard is simply hard to believe. From the Hunker website:

“In proper growing conditions, olive trees can live a long time—recently on Crete, scientists have been documenting that some olive trees there are as much 1,000 years old. Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, may be older than that, though it’s doubtful that they date from the time of Christ.

Growth Pattern. One drawback of olive trees, however, is that they grow to full maturity quite slowly. During the first few years of its life, an olive tree will grow rather quickly, but growth slows thereafter. If your main interest in growing olives is to harvest the fruit, you can speed the growth somewhat by carefully pruning the tree during its first five years, to create a strong, straight central trunk. People who are more interested in the ornamental value of the olive tree may prefer to let the tree grow naturally, so that it will achieve the gnarly, wizened profile so characteristic of the trees growing in Greece and the Middle East.”
(Cathryn Chaney, “How Long Does It Take for an Olive Tree to Produce Fruit?”, July 17, 2017)

Ancient Olive Trees in Lebanon that are at least 2,000 years old but still fruit-bearing. Notice how the core is completely missing from the trunk but the tree is still healthy and thriving.

Further, the decay of an old olive tree isn’t immediately apparent. It can take years to be visible and all the while, the tree will be fruit-bearing and look just fine from outside. So the statement that “the main top thereof began to perish”, which implies that the decay was outside/inside rather than inside/out is flat out wrong.

“The body of the tree dies at the heart.”
(op cit, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p.224)

“The olive tree…often lives to a very, very, great age, and bears fruit till the last, even when the trunk is nothing but a shell.”
(Barbara M. Bowen, “Strange Scriptures That Perplex the Western Mind”, p. 97)

“The old roots, often throw up new stems…The new shoots were grafted into stock.”
(op cit, “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times”, p. 113)

Verses 6-11: The Lord of the vineyard makes three mistakes trying to save his tree: a) If this description is accurate then the tree was already irrecoverable, it was already a dead loss; b) Grafting from healthy stock – be it domesticated or wild – will do nothing to resuscitate a dying tree, and; c) Digging around the roots is the best way to damage or destroy a tree – any tree, healthy or ailing.

Jacob 5
6
And it came to pass that after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish.

7 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.

10 And it came to pass that the servant of the Lord of the vineyard did according to the word of the Lord of the vineyard, and grafted in the branches of the wild olive tree.

11 And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself, I have done this thing.

Commentary: First, the inside of an old olive tree – that is the core or heart – can be completely gone, and it can still produce fruit as long as the cambium and sap layers are nourishing the branches. If those layers begin to die, so will the branches, and the tree is beyond saving. If the top branches of the Lord of the vineyard’s tree were perishing, then the cambium and sap were also dying. Therefore, It would have made no difference if wild olive branches were grafted onto his tree. (see Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 26, pp. 25-26)

Finally, he dug around the roots not knowing that the young, healthy shoots that are for the tree’s future health and olive output are easily destroyed:

“The fruit is ready for picking…and the branches are beaten to shake the olives onto the cloth…The beating of the branches almost certainly destroyed the tender young shoots, so that there was a poor crop the following year…”
(op cit, New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, p.113)

How much more destruction would there be if someone dug around the roots? For a start, digging around healthy roots can cause disease. Digging around diseased roots will destroy the plant. Therefore, trying to revive a dying plant by digging around the roots is rarely, if ever, a good idea. As an Arborist explains:

“Digging through and cutting tree roots isn’t something to take lightly. Cutting critical roots can interrupt the tree’s water and nutrient uptake, leave permanent damage to the tree’s structure and stability, or, in the worst case, cause the tree to die…

It’s not a good idea to cut the roots of already damaged trees. Also, roots that are more than two inches wide or close to the trunk should not be pruned, cut or dug through because they help anchor the tree.”
(“Is It Safe to Dig Through Tree Roots?” Davey Tree website)

An ancient Greek Olive Grove. Notice the health of the branches despite the hollow trunk cores.

Verses 7-11: Grafting wild branches to save the roots.

Jacob 5
7
And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.

10 And it came to pass that the servant of the Lord of the vineyard did according to the word of the Lord of the vineyard, and grafted in the branches of the wild olive tree.

11 And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself, I have done this thing.

Commentary: Yet again, branch grafts (wild or tame) do not save a tree as the Lord of the vineyard thought. They only revitalize the produce of a healthy tree.

“Grafting is frequently used to combine advantageous characteristics of scion and stock. For example, branches of buds of trees known to produce good fruit are grafted to stronger trees that produce fruit of indifferent quality.” (Funk & Wagnalls New Enc., Vol.12, p. 90; italics added for emphasis)

There is an expert level form of grafting called, “bridge grafting” that can be performed on the trunk of older trees, but it’s not what’s being described in the text here- and it’s rarely done to stone fruit trees, like olive trees, due to the low rate of success. As this excerpt from the Michigan State University Extension website explains:

“Older trees need more involved “surgical” procedure known as – bridge grafting. As hopeful and good as this procedure is, it is not the answer for all trees. Stone fruits (cherry, peach, plum etc.) are very seldom successfully grafted. The other undesirable effect is in creating the opportunity for many disease (i.e. bacterial canker) and insect invasion (borer complex). Pome fruits (apples and pears) are in much better position. Both, young and old trees are easily grafted without too much trouble. For older trees, bridge grafting is an easy operation with high success rate.”
(Mirjana Bulatovic-Danilovich, “Bridge grafting as a life-saving procedure for trees”, Michigan State University Extension website, May 3, 2011, italics added for emphasis)

Verses 31-33: The Lord of the vineyard was gone so long that he did not know how all sorts of bad fruit (according to their “number”) got on the tree. Domestic trees need regular and on-going tending to.

Jacob 5
31
And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard did taste of the fruit, every sort according to its number. And the Lord of the vineyard said: Behold, this long time have we nourished this tree, and I have laid up unto myself against the season much fruit.

32 But behold, this time it hath brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good. And behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit; and it profiteth me nothing, notwithstanding all our labor; and now it grieveth me that I should lose this tree.

33 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto mine own self?

Commentary: After a domestic tree is planted, the planter’s work has just begun – this is even more the case after a domestic forest (aka “grove” or “plantation”) has been planted. If a domesticated tree or forest decays or perishes, there’s really no secret what the cause was: Human neglect. As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations explains:

“Maintenance of forest plantations includes protecting the plants from detrimental climatic conditions, fire, insects and fungi, and animals. Maintenance may include measures that are silvicultural (such as well-timed and careful removal of damaged trees and shrubs), chemical (with insecticides or fungicides), biological (with parasites), or mechanical (removing or destroying pests, erecting fences, etc.). Because trespass by man can threaten the success of a planting programme, planning should also include methods of dealing with this potential problem.”
(“Maintenance of the plantation”, FAO website)

Verse 65: Lord of the vineyard had the bitter fruit cut off because that is the bad fruit.

Jacob 5
65
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.”

Commentary: There are no sweet olives, they are all bitter. To claim that the fruit is “bad” because it’s bitter, therefore, makes no sense. From the World Book Encyclopedia:

“Fresh olives contain oleuropein, a bitter substance that makes them unpleasant to eat before processing…“Olives processed for eating…by the Spanish process…are placed in lye solution. The lye removes most of the bitter taste…The American process…ripens immature…olives artificially. The fruit is alternately submerged in lye and exposed to the air until no bitterness remains…The Greek process…olives undergo a slow fermentation in brine. During fermentation, the fruit’s bitterness decreases until the brine masks it.”
(The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 14 “Olives”)

One of the world’s oldest olive trees in Italy. It is estimated to be at least 4,000-years old.

Verses 65-66: The roots are too strong for the graft.

Jacob 5
65
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

66 For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.

Commentary: The roots keep the tree alive and osmosis and photosynthesis, along with the cambium and sap layers is what provides strength to the branches and fruit; therefore it is impossible for a root to be too strong for the branches. (Funk & Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia, 1983, Vol. 26, pp. 25-26; also see, op cit, The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol.14 “osmosis”; and Vol. 15, “photosynthesis”)

Verses 69-76: Bad fruit is turned into good fruit.

Jacob 5
69
And the bad shall be cast away, yea, even out of all the land of my vineyard; for behold, only this once will I prune my vineyard.

70 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard sent his servant; and the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants; and they were few.

71 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.

72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.

73 And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard; and the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away; and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.

74 And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.

75 And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.

76 For behold, for a long time will I lay up of the fruit of my vineyard unto mine own self against the season, which speedily cometh; and for the last time have I nourished my vineyard, and pruned it, and dug about it, and dunged it; wherefore I will lay up unto mine own self of the fruit, for a long time, according to that which I have spoken.

Commentary: Turning bad fruit into good fruit is simply not possible, Christ Himself explained why:

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire”
(Matthew 7; 15-19 KJV)

 

About the Compilation Team
Susan Grape grew up in a non-church going family. When she became engaged, her fiancé (now husband) and she joined a Christian church. As she was learning about the Bible and Jesus, several friends, and relatives who were either Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientist shared their beliefs with her and challenged her to the point that she knew that their doctrine was different enough to question that someone (perhaps herself) had to be wrong. When Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her home, it forced her to study the scriptures to see what the Bible actually taught. That very intense time of studying gave her the evidence for what Biblical truth is. It sparked the desire to reach out to these groups with the Biblical gospel and the Biblical Christ.

Mrs. Grape served as a board member for ten years with Berean Christian Ministries and she currently is in her eleventh year of serving on the board of Christian Research & Counsel. Her husband Brad also is on the board. The Grape’s adult children are professing Christians, and their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum).

“Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal was to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they could openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense.

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group could speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public whenever Latter Day Saints are present. The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.

An ancient Greek Olive Tree that’s at least 2,000 years old, possibly as old as 3,000 years.

Link to Part Two

An artist’s rendering of King Benjamin addressing the Nephite people from the Book of Mormon about 124 B.C.

Parallels between King Benjamin (The Book of Mormon)
and Bishop M’Kendree (19th Century Methodist Leader)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The similarities between King Benjamin’s (circa 124 B.C.) address that’s recorded in Mosiah 2-5 of the Book of Mormon and Methodist Leader Bishop M’Kendree’s address in Palmyra, New York, on June 7, 1826, which is recorded in American historical archives are remarkable.

As the late Mormon Historian Grant Palmer explains:
“We have not taken Joseph Smith seriously enough when he stated that he had an “intimate acquaintance” with evangelical religion and that he was “somewhat partial” to the Methodists. Protestant concepts appear to abound in his discourses and experiences. For example, a Methodist camp meeting was held one mile from Palmyra, New York, on 7 June 1826— a pivotal time in Joseph Smith’s life. Preparations for a camp meeting included leasing and consecrating the ground. Thus the “ground within the circle of the tents is considered sacred to the worship of God, and is our chapel.” The Methodists referred to these “consecrated grounds” as their “house of God” or temple. The Palmyra camp meeting reportedly attracted over 10,000 people. Families came from all parts of the 100-mile conference district and pitched their tents facing the raised “stand” where the preachers were seated, including one named Benjamin G. Paddock (fig. 20). This large crowd heard the “valedictory” or farewell speech of their beloved “Bishop M’Kendree [who] made his appearance among us for the last time.” He was the Methodist leader who “had presided” over the area for many years. The people had such reverence for this “sainted” man “that all were melted, and … awed in his presence.” In his emaciated and “feeble” condition, he spoke of his love for the people and then delivered a powerful message that covered “the whole process of personal salvation.” Tremendous unity prevailed among the crowd, and “nearly every unconverted person on the ground” committed oneself to Christ. At the close of the meeting, the blessings and newly appointed “Stations of the Preachers” were made for the Ontario district.

This is reminiscent of King Benjamin’s speech to the Zarahemlans in the Book of Mormon, whose chronicler describes the setting:

‘The people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the [last] words which [their beloved] king Benjamin should speak unto them … [T] hey pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family … every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple … the multitude being so great that king Benjamin … caused a tower to be erected … [And he said from the platform,] I am about to go down to my grave … I can no longer be your teacher … For even at this time my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you’ (Mosiah 2: 1, 5-7, 28-30).

The venerated King Benjamin, like Bishop M’Kendree, expresses his love for his people and gives a powerful farewell discourse on personal salvation. The response and unity are such “that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ.” At meeting’s end, Mosiah, Benjamin’s son, “appointed priests to teach the people” (Mosiah 6: 2-3). In Alma 17: 18, Methodist phrasing is used: “Now Ammon being the chief among them, [blessed and appointed the sons of Mosiah] … to their several stations.” Alma 17-26 then gives a detailed recital of the sons’ preaching with the following summary: “And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him” (17: 4).

In evangelical meetings it was common for those who were moved by the preaching to break out in tears and fall to the ground. This was considered to be a state of “conviction.” When a preacher looked up and saw those in the audience under “conviction” or “awakened to their awful state,” he would invite them up to a bench in front of the pulpit, called the “altar” of God (fig. 21). There the penitents would pray and confess their sins, “crying aloud for mercy,” seeking forgiveness from God.”
(Grant Palmer, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”, Kindle Locations 2123-2156)

A Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (hand colored)

And for your reference here’s an extended excerpt from the account from Rev. Benjamin G. Paddock’s memoirs that Mr. Palmer cites from above:
THE Genesee Conference for 1826 was held at Palmyra, Wayne County, N. Y., commencing on the 7th of June, Bishop Hedding presiding. On several accounts it was a rather remarkable session. The venerable Bishop M’Kendree then visited us for the last time. He was too feeble to preside, and occupied the chair only once or twice, and then only for a few minutes at a time. Still, however, at the urgent request of Bishop Hedding and leading members of the Conference, he signed the Journals at the close of the session as one of its presiding officers. Brethren were anxious to secure at least his signature as a memorial of his visit. He had been familiar with the entire history of the Conference, and stated with tearful emotion that he still had great affection for its members, and that to take his final leave of them, so far, at least, as earth was concerned, was the special object of his visit. His whole bearing was at once so lovely, so dignified, and so impressive, that all were melted, and, in a pleasant sense, awed in his presence. Dr. Nathan Bangs was his traveling companion, having come on with him from New York, and watched over him with the greatest tenderness and care. Their respectful, nay, even deferential, treatment of each other was a most lovely sight. The Bishop always spoke of his companion as “the Doctor,” and addressed him as if he were a man of superior rank ; while the doctor’s reciprocal bearing was still more reverential and promptly obedient. But then neither bishops nor doctors of divinity were quite as numerous at that early day as they now are ; and for this reason, perhaps, as well as others, they were possibly both more noticed and more revered.

I have ever regarded it as one of the most memorable privileges of my early ministry that I was allowed to journey with these now sainted men from Palmyra to Utica,«at which latter place I had just been stationed for the second year. The Conference adjourned on Wednesday, and Dr. Bangs agreed to preach for me on the following Sabbath. Finding the captain of a canal boat, who said he would see us into Utica by Saturday afternoon or evening, we concluded to take passage with him. That was before the day of canal packets, so that a small cabin and slow progress were necessarily incidental to our homeward journey. The stage-coach would have given us a speedier transit, but would have been far less friendly to the good Bishop’s age and feebleness. It will be readily admitted, that the difference between such a conveyance and Pullman’s railroad palace-car is considerable. But forty-six years since even the cabin of a freight-boat was quite a .luxury ; while now to put a bishop into such a place would seem much like sending him “to prison and to death.” Our momentum was much less than had been promised, so that we were very late in reaching Utica. But, with such company, the considerable number of junior preachers on board could hardly complain that time hung heavy on their hands. Brief lectures from the Bishop and Dr. Bangs, with spiritual songs and prayers by the younger brotherhood, made our mimic cabin a little Bethel. The school was a rare one ; and, homesick as the students were, they could hardly have complained had the journey been still more protracted.

But to return to the Conference. On another account the session was remarkable. A great camp-meeting was held in connection with it. The ground was only about a mile from the village, so that members of the Conference not immediately and specially employed could take part in its services. At that early day, and previously, meetings of the kind were not unfrequently held in the neighborhood of our Annual Conferences ; but the present one was exceptionally large. There were more than one hundred tents on the ground, and these were occupied by our people from almost all parts of the country, many of them coming from a distance of one hundred miles or more. The. spirit of the meeting was admirable. Conversions were numerous and powerful ; while ministers and people seemed to vie with each other in their efforts to promote the work of God. But the Sabbath was the great day of the feast. Beginning in the morning at eight o’clock, five sermons were preached before the services closed in the evening. Bishop Heddig and Dr. Bangs took the two appointments nearest the meridian of the day, and preached with even more than their ordinary freedom and power. At about five in the afternoon the stand was assigned to the Rev. Glezen Fillmore, then in the vigor of mature manhood, now — for he still lives, a blessing to the Church and the world — trembling on the extreme verge of time. The sermon was in his best style — more carefully prepared and more effectively delivered than were his discourses generally. The latter part of it contemplated the whole process of personal salvation, from its incipiency to its consummation in the world of light. Having traced the track of the believer, all along from the dawn of spiritual life till he had entered the land of Beulah, and was about to plume himself for his flight to the celestial city, the speaker paused as if struggling with irrepressible emotion, and, looking upward, exclaimed, ” O God, hold thy servant together while for a moment he looks through the gates ajar into the New Jerusalem ! ” To describe the effect would be quite impossible. A tide of emotion swept over the congregation that seemed to carry all before it.

I was seated near Bishop Hedding, who, from fatigue, was reclining upon a bed under and a little in the rear of the stand. It had been noticed before that he was much affected by the sermon ; but when the sentence given above was uttered, the- tears almost literally spurted from his eyes, and his noble form shook as if under the resistless control of a galvanic battery. The Rev. Goodwin Stoddard exhorted, and invited seekers within the circle of prayer in front of the stand. Hundreds came forward ; some said nearly every unconverted person on the ground. In the spring of 1828, when I was pastor in Rochester, delegates from New England, on their way to the General Conference in Pittsburgh, called and spent the Sabbath with me. Almost ,the first thing they said after we met was, ” Where is that brother that wanted God to hold him together while he looked into heaven a moment?” It seems that the good Bishop had reported the sermon in more circles than one, for others from the east made a similar inquiry. But though a volume might be written about that Conference, it seems proper now simply to add, that, at the close of it, B. G. Paddock and Hiram May were appointed to the Potsdam Circuit, in St. Lawrence County. The charge was a very large one, including not only the town that gave name to it, but Stockholm, Parishville, Pierrepont, Canton, Russell, Edwards, Fowler, Rossie, Gouverneur, “and De Kalb. The territory was so ample, and my brother’s health so much broken, that it was thought best to divide the work between the two preachers. Accordingly, having the consent of all concerned, he took Potsdam and the four townships lying nearest to it ; and the rest of the circuit, embracing six townships, was placed under the care of his excellent colleague. Let the reader imagine the state of things as it existed in that section of country fifty years since, and he will readily conclude that there was plenty of work for two men. My brother had traveled over most of the same territory some twelve or thirteen years previously, so that he entered upon his work with some special advantages. The cordiality with which he was received was a source of much comfort to him, and really seemed to lighten his toil. The Rev. Hiram May, in a letter to me dated October, 1872, says, “Your brother was not only a dear, good colleague, but was very popular among the people.”

Both divisions of the circuit were greatly prospered. – It was, indeed, a year of jubilee. Revivals swept over the entire field, bearing down all opposition. Such a season of holy triumph had never before been witnessed in the northern wing of the State. Not far from five hundred communicants were admitted to the Church ; so that it was found at the end of the year that the membership had increased from three hundred and eighty-nine to eight hundred and nine, and this notwithstanding a considerable number had removed or withdrawn,” or had been excluded, dropped, or set aside. The circuit remained intact, however, save only in so far as finances and pastoral care were concerned. Hence, at quarterly meetings, all came together ; thus giving the greatest imaginable interest to those occasions. Speaking of them in the letter before referred to, brother May says, ” 0 they were blessed meetings ! God gave efficiency to his word, and great’was the preachers’ crowd.” * Those, and those only, who have attended these great country quarterly meetings can have any adequate conception of the spirit that animated them, or the good that followed them. They were, indeed, especially in olden times, a power in the Church.

I think it proper to say a word further respecting the venerable man from whose letter quotations have just been made. The writer first became acquainted with him in 1817. He had then just commenced the Christian life, was a lovely young man, full of zeal to do good, possessed ,a remarkably fine tenor voice, and, every way, promised much usefulness to the Church and the world. Five years thereafter he was received on trial in the Genesee Conference, and for forty years has performed effective service as a member of that body. He has always aimed at the salvation of souls, and has everywhere been recognized as a good revivalist. Though he is now on the superannuated list, he seems still to burn with zeal both to be and to do good. The closing part of his letter is so characteristic and so excellent, that the transcription of it will, doubtless, both please and profit the reader. Referring to my brother, he says: “We labored together in love, and parted in peace, and now, while ‘ he sleeps his last sleep,’ having ‘fought his last battle,’ I, a poor creature, as I always have been, am still living, and trying, as when you first knew me, to ‘ sound the alarm in God’s holy mountain,’ to ‘ blow the trumpet in Tekoa,’ and* especially to pray, as did David, ‘ Now also, when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not ; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.’ ”
(Benjamn G. Paddock, “Memoir of of Rev. Benjamin G. Paddock”, pp.177-184)

So here’s the question for our Mormon friends: Can you explain the remarkable similarities between King Benjamin’s circa 124 B.C. address that’s recorded in Mosiah 2-5 of The Book of Mormon and Methodist Leader Bishop M’Kendree’s address in Palmyra, New York, on June 7, 1826, that’s preserved for us in the American historical archives?

A summary comparison of the two addresses.