George D. Watt the founding transcriber and publishing editor of the Journal of Discourses.

by Fred W. Anson
One of the most common suite of arguments that Mormons use against the Journal of Discourses involves George D. Watt – the founding transcriber, editor, and publisher of the first several volumes (from 1853-1868). There are two recurring arguments that are used here.

First Argument: “They weren’t recorded correctly!”
The first argument is based on the assumption that because there was no modern recording equipment used back then the sermons couldn’t possibly be captured accurately. Therefore, it’s argued, the Journal of Discourses sermons that were ultimately published can’t be trusted but they’re unreliable, and most certainly flawed.

This is an argument the History Department of the LdS Church itself refutes. The following is from the transcript of a video entitled, “Lost Sermons” that they put out a couple of years ago:

George Watt was a man born in England who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the first baptized member in that country. George D. Watt’s importance in the preservation of the history of the Church is that he learned how to use a new system of shorthand developed by Isaac Pitman.

Pitman’s shorthand is a vast improvement over previous shorthands. Before that, it was impossible to record things verbatim. In Pitman’s shorthand, a skilled reporter could record things verbatim so you would have exactly what the person said.

Before George Watt came on the scene in Nauvoo, people like William Clayton and Martha Coray and Thomas Bullock took notes as fast as they could of what Joseph Smith said. And we know about Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo sermons by taking their notes and combining them to try to get a total picture. George D. Watt became the first person to take down sermons word for word.
(“Lost Sermons” transcript of the video, bolding added for emphasis)

Other Latter-day Saint scholars have also refuted this claim. These excerpts are from, what is currently, the definitive biography of George D. Watt. It was published by Utah State University in 2009.

In November [1851] the Deseret News announced that Watt’s service as a reporter was available not only to the News but anybody who wanted correct reports, and “if the brethren will employ him, and sustain him in his employment, time will prove it a blessing to all concerned.
(“The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion” by Ronald G. Watt, p.135,  bolding added for emphasis)

With permission to publish speeches of the church authorities, Watt needed to concentrate on the Journal of Discourses. The process of publishing each volume was laborious. He needed to be at all the meetings, recording the speeches in shorthand. Then, with the help of President [Brigham] Young, he chose the talks that would be transcribed. In the first volume, twenty-six of the fifty-three sermons were by Young. Heber C. Kimball and Parley P. Pratt had the next most sermons published with six each. In the second volume, Brigham Young had composed seventeen of the fifty-six sermons. Young’s sermons were spoken without notes and from memory. The phonographer had to work very hard to keep up with each speaker. Watt grew accustomed to the delivery style and speed of each speaker. If Young was not the first speaker, Watt sometimes did not arrive at the Tabernacle on time, and when he arrived late for the meeting, he slipped into his desk very quietly.

On July 2, 1854, he noted in his shorthand notes, “Phineas Young spoke but I was too late to report it.” At the same meeting, Young called upon Watt to speak. After he recorded the speeches, Watt transcribed them word for word, spending many hours at his desk. Next he read the sermons to those who gave them and they corrected them. Sometimes Thomas Bullock read Watt’s transcribed sermons, and Watt corrected them again. Albert Carrington copy-edited them, and then Watt sent the final collection of sermons by post to Liverpool for publication. The president of the British Mission also wrote a short preface. The sermons first came out in pamphlet, serial form and were sold to church members both in Britain and Utah by subscription. The publication of the Journal of Discourses meant that the sermons of the Mormon leaders were some of the first religious works to be available for potential world consumption. It helped both the missionary effort and membership.”
(Ibid, pp.135-136, bolding added for emphasis)

This argument is also directly discredited by Brigham Young himself who publicly stated, at least twice, that he reviewed his Journal of Discourses sermons before they were published:

Well, brethren and sisters, try and be Saints. I will try; I have tried many years to live according to the law which the Lord reveals unto me. I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually. In the days of Joseph, revelation was given and written, and the people were driven from city to city and place to place, until we were led into these mountains. Let this [discourse] go to the people with “Thus saith the Lord,” and if they do not obey it, you will see the chastening hand of the Lord upon them. But if they are plead with, and led along like children, we may come to understand the will of the Lord and He may preserve us as we desire.
(President Brigham Young, President Brigham Young, “Latter-Day Saint Families—Preaching the Gospel—Building Up the Kingdom”, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, Page 95, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, January 2, 1870, reported by John Grimshaw, bolding added for emphasis)

Brother Orson Hyde referred to a few who complained about not getting revelations. I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations–that Brigham Young has said ‘when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture.’ I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God, without any special command to one man to go here, and to another to go yonder, or to do this or that, or to go and settle here or there.
(Brigham Young, “Texts for Preaching Upon at Conference—Revelations—Deceitfulness of Riches—One-Man Power—Spiritualism”, Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p.264, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, October 6, 1870, reported by David W. Evans, bolding added for emphasis)

A full set of the Journal of Discourses.

Second Argument: “They weren’t published correctly!”
This second argument comes from either misunderstanding and/or abusing the published and verbal analyses by LaJean Purcell Carruth, the LdS Church’s Pitman shorthand expert who has been transcribing the Journal of Discourses from George D. Watt’s original Pitman Shorthand manuscripts.  Here’s an example of the type of quote that gets cherry-picked and abused:

The published text in the Journal of Discourses simply cannot be relied upon to represent the actual words delivered by the speaker. The edited, published versions may represent ideas similar to what the speaker intended and may occasionally represent the speaker’s own editorial changes, but they do not represent a word-for-word echo. In fact, they often would not be recognizable when compared to the originally spoken words.
(Gerrit Dirkmaat and LaJean Purcell Carruth, “The Prophets Have Spoken, but What Did They Say?”, p.42, BYU Studies Quarterly 54, no.4, 2015)

However, if one keeps reading, on the very same page the authors go on to explain:

The differences between originally recorded shorthand and published versions of a particular document, however, are not unique to the Journal of Discourses. Indeed, in most other instances of nineteenth-century shorthand studied and transcribed by Carruth – ranging from trial testimony in the John D. Lee trails to Quaker sermons delivered in 1850 and 1851 – similar editing can be seen between the shorthand and the published versions.
(Ibid, p.42)

And while Mormon Apologists may try to find escape hatches from the authors’ words, the fact of the matter is that the words that were ultimately published in the Journal of Discourses, regardless of whether they’re a “word-for-word echo” or not, are what the LdS Church and the speakers ultimately wanted to be published for public consumption and future posterity.1 Consider this from the same article:

[Brigham] Young was likely also aware of, and possibly even condoned, Watt’s general practice of editing the sermons in order to present the speakers in a more polished, erudite light. Indeed, Watt’s efforts certainly portrayed to the public more refined discourses, and Young may have expressly charged Watt to make such changes.
(Ibid, p.36)

Third Argument: “The transcriber was a traitor!”
The third argument is that George D. Watt was secretly a traitor all along because he ultimately left the LdS Church and was later excommunicated. That argument usually goes something like this: “The man who wrote the Journal of Discourse was later excommunicated for being a devout Godbeite. Therefore, he was never a truly a Latter-day Saint and was, in fact, a wolf in sheep’s clothing all along.” This argument simply crumbles when exposed to the historical facts:

First, the Godbeite Church (“The Church of Zion”) didn’t even exist until 1869 – that’s after George D. Watt was no longer in the employ of the LdS Church. He had left the Church offices on May 15th, 1868 over a financial dispute with Brigham Young. This was months before the Godbeite Church was formed as this article explains:

In 1868, Godbe and other Mormon merchants began criticizing the economic demands and policies of Brigham Young in Utah Magazine, a periodical that would eventually become The Salt Lake Tribune. That same year, Godbe traveled with his friend (architect, publisher, and fellow Latter-day Saint) Elias L. T. Harrison on an extended business trip to New York. At the time, both men were beginning to question their beliefs in the LDS Church, especially the idea that the church’s president (whom members looked to as God’s prophet on earth) was infallible.

In New York, the two men began attending séances in the hopes of obtaining wisdom and direction from former LDS leaders such as Joseph Smith and Heber C. Kimball who had died. Through the services of a spiritual medium, the men claimed to receive visitations from both Joseph Smith and Heber C. Kimball; also Peter, James, John, and Solomon from the Bible; and finally the German naturalist Alexander Humboldt. The spirits of Smith and Kimball apparently instructed Godbe and Harrison to reform the Mormon Church, while the spirit of Humboldt told the two men he had important information for them that would revolutionize the world’s understanding of evolution (a common theme of 19th Century Spiritualism).

Upon returning to Salt Lake, the two men intensified their criticism of the LDS Church in Utah Magazine. On October 25, 1869, they were called before a council of Mormon leaders and tried for apostasy. Brigham Young reportedly gave Godbe the option of selecting his own jury, including one consisting entirely of women and children, if he so desired. Godbe refused the offer, claiming that the composition of the jury would unlikely affect the trial’s outcome. At the conclusion of the trial, Godbe and Harrison were excommunicated from the church.

Later known as the “Godbeites”, Godbe and several of his followers soon formed The Church of Zion. Initially, the new church based its practices around traditional LDS doctrines, with the intention of reforming those practices and policies that Godbe felt were incorrect. Many of the church’s new members became disenfranchised, however, when Godbe and Harrison attempted to modify those doctrines to accommodate tenets of Spiritualism. By the 1880s, Godbe’s church had ceased to exist.”
(see “Formation of The Church of Zion”, from the Wikipedia article on William S. Godbe)

Again, Watts’ affiliation with the Godbeites began in 1869, that is, after his role as primary editor of the Journal of Discourses had ended in May 1868. This can’t be emphasized enough. He was subjected to church discipline in 1869 and finally ex-communicated in 1874:

In 1869, Watt was disfellowshipped from the LDS Church for following the teachings of dissident William S. Godbe. Watt was identified as one of the leaders of the “Godbeites” and was disciplined by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Although Watt was initially repentant and desired to return to full fellowship in the LDS Church, by 1874 he was a devoted Godbeite and was excommunicated from the LDS Church on May 3, 1874.
(see “George D. Watt” article on Wikipedia; also see: “Sailing ‘The old ship Zion’: The life of George D. Watt” Vol. 018 No. 1 BYU Studies, pp. 48-65; )

Further, George D. Watt was hand picked by Brigham Young for the job of producing the Journal of Discourses. So, if George D. Watt was indeed “a wolf in sheep’s clothing all along”, it raises serious questions about Brigham Young’s prophetic calling and gifting in general, and in his divinely endowed discernment in particular:

Using his skill as a stenographer, Watt began recording the sermons given by Young and other LDS Church leaders. Beginning in 1853, Watt published these sermons in a periodical known as the Journal of Discourses. Watt remained the primary editor of the Journal until 1868.
(see “George D. Watt” article on Wikipedia)

So this argument completely ignores the fact that he was hand selected and retained by the LdS Church to do the Journal of Discourses in 1851. It further ignores that during his entire time as Editor of the Journal of Discourses he was a faithful member of the LdS Church and a trusted friend of Brigham Young:

Watt was baptized a Latter Day Saint on July 30, 1837 by Heber C. Kimball in the River Ribble. Watt won the right to be the first official British Latter Day Saint convert by winning a footrace against eight others from Fielding’s congregation that desired to join the Mormons. In 1840 and 1841 Watt served as a Mormon missionary in Scotland. In 1842, Watt left England to join the gathering of the Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1846, Brigham Young sent Watt and his wife back to England as church missionaries. Watt used his skill at Pitman shorthand in serving as a clerk to mission president George Q. Cannon. In late 1850, the Watts returned to America and joined the new gathering of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah Territory.

In Utah, Watt worked as a reporter for the Deseret News and as a private clerk for Brigham Young. Using his skill as a stenographer, Watt began recording the sermons given by Young and other LDS Church leaders. Beginning in 1853, Watt published these sermons in a periodical known as the Journal of Discourses. Watt remained the primary editor of the Journal until 1868.

In 1852, Watt was appointed by Young to a committee that was charged with creating a new phonetic alphabet that would assist non-English speaking Latter-day Saint immigrants to learn English. The result was the Deseret Alphabet. Although the alphabet was largely a failure, Watt remained a strong promoter of the language system.
(Ibid)

A page of Pittman Shorthand.

What About All The Other Transcribers?
This argument also fails because it doesn’t account for all the other people who transcribed, edited, and published the Journal of Discourses after George D. Watt’s departure. As the quasi-official Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains:

David W. Evans, also an English convert, an associate editor of the Deseret News, and the first violinist in the Salt Lake Theatre Orchestra, succeeded Watt as the main reporter to the Journal from 1867 to 1876. Another major reporter was George F. Gibbs, who was born in Wales and was the secretary to the First Presidency of the Church for fifty-six years. In all, twelve people reported sermons for the Journal of Discourses, including one of Brigham Young’s daughters, “Miss Julia Young,” who reported one of his speeches.
(The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Journal of Discourse)

So are we to believe that Brigham Young’s daughter, the secretary to the First Presidency of the Church, and an associate editor of church-owned Deseret News were also complicit in this alleged secret conspiracy of George D. Watt to undermine the leaders of Mormonism and the LdS Church? And we’re to believe that leaders of the LdS Church who reviewed and approved the sermons before they were published went along with this? For thirty-two years? And they did nothing? Really?

Summary Conclusion
When scrutinized both of these arguments simply unravel. The body of evidence – especially that from official Church sources like the Church History Department – utterly discredits them.

NOTES
1 One need look no further than today’s Ensign magazine to see this pattern and tradition still in play. For example, one can consider BYU Professor Brad Wilcox’s infamous “His Grace is Sufficient” BYU devotional which is markedly different in Ensign (click here to read) than it is in the original version (click here for the transcript or here for the video).

And we can consider the well-known redactions and modifications to Boyd K. Packer’s Fall 2010 “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” (click on this link to view video) General Conference address which was modified for publication in Ensign (click here to read a Salt Lake Tribune article that summarizes what was changed).

And last, but not least, is the famous Pohlman General Conference address where they even went so far as to record the video of the sermon for release to the public. It was the re-recorded version that was published in Ensign, not the original address as originally given in General Conference.

Here’s the original address in two parts:
Part One
Part Two

Click here for the modified version in a side-by-side comparison.

Click here for a transcribed side-by-side comparison:

So if modern Mormons point a finger at George Watt and 19th Century Mormon leaders for engaging in these practices of pre-publication redaction and modification they’ll only find four fingers pointing back at themselves.

The Mormon Tabernacle where many of the addresses in the Journal of Discourses were delivered.

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by Michael Flournoy
Mormonism boasts an incredibly unique story. Its theology includes a pre-mortal existence where humanity lived as God’s literal children before coming to earth. Mormons also believe in eternal families and in the exaltation of man, or the ability to become Gods. Amid this story, there is also an unlikely hero: Lucifer.

Of course, any Latter-day Saint will tell you that Satan is certainly not the hero of their religion, but the facts speak otherwise. Below are three instances where, according to the LDS narrative, Satan is the good guy.

Instance 1: The Pre-Mortal Existence
According to Mormonism, we all lived with God the Father as spirits before coming to earth. All of us, including Jesus and Satan, were siblings, and literal children of God. One day, Jesus presented the Father’s “Earth Plan” to the rest of us.

We would pass through a veil of forgetfulness, which would erase our memories as we were born into mortal bodies on earth. Then we would be tested, to see if we were worthy to return back home. The fall of man was a part of the plan, and as such we would all fall short and sin, thus disqualifying ourselves from God’s presence. Luckily for us, Jesus would also come down and sacrifice himself, which would enable our return. However, tapping into this sacrifice would require that we keep all the commandments and abstain from sin.

One man had the gall to oppose the plan. Lucifer proposed an alternate plan, a plan where everyone would return to live with God because it would either be impossible to sin or said sin wouldn’t count against us.

The reason this makes Satan the good guy, is because the Father’s plan was evil. There is no specific account of what Satan said in Mormon theology, but I imagine it went something like this:

“Are you serious, Father? We’re your children, and you’re going to erase our memories and send us away to test us? And those who fail can never be with you again? Is this a game to you? There is not a single one of us here who denies that you are God, and we would do anything for you. We have already proven our loyalty, and now this? Have you gone mad?”

In Mormon belief, a third of the hosts of heaven sided with Lucifer and fought a war with those who stood with God. This was essentially a war over agency – man’s freedom of choice. In the end, God’s army won and Lucifer and his followers were cast down to earth without bodies. Mormons believe that every person who is born on earth accepted the plan to choose good and evil and that the choices we make are ultimately on our shoulders.

It is widely believed that Satan wanted to take the choice to sin away from us and control us. There has also been some speculation that his plan would allow agency, but our sins would not be imputed to us. President J. Reuben Clark said, “As I read the scriptures, Satan’s plan required one of two things: either the compulsion of the mind, the spirit, the intelligence of man, or else saving in sin.”1 In other words, what the devil may have been advocating is actually the Protestant view of grace: that sin does not count against the salvation of God’s children!

Lucifer front and center from the 2013 Temple Endowment film surrounded by (left to right) Adam & Eve; Peter, James & John, and, last but not least; Elohim (aka “Heavenly Father”).

Instance 2: The Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve were the first spirit children God sent to earth. He placed them in the Garden of Eden and planted the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil there. They were given two commandments: not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and to multiply and replenish the earth.

Here’s where things get dicey. In Mormon theology, Adam and Eve were not capable of having offspring until after they partook of the forbidden fruit. God placed them in a Catch 22 and forbade them to do exactly the thing he wanted them to do. Dishonesty, anyone?

Lucky for them, Lucifer was there to persuade Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and the fall (which the LDS call a “fall upward”) was initiated. However, rather than honor the devil for allowing mankind to procreate, Mormons believe that Satan was tricked into making God’s plan work, but was actually trying to stop it.

The videos in the LDS temples show otherwise. These videos give members an exclusive look at the creation and the fall of man, which you can’t find in the Bible or other LDS scripture. Each video has the same script, and in them when God rebukes Satan for giving Eve the forbidden fruit, he responds angrily, “If thou cursest me, for doing the same thing which has been done in other worlds…”

Satan is clearly aware of God’s plan in the videos, and he is rightfully upset at God for punishing him for doing his will.

Things become even more nefarious later in the temple videos. After the fall God and Jesus are portrayed as being distant from Adam and Eve, usually sending messengers in their stead to check on them. Meanwhile, Lucifer is in their presence almost the whole time.

At one point in the video, Lucifer breaks through the fourth wall and looks directly at the audience. He says, “I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant they make at these altars in this temple this day, they will be in my power.”

By addressing the audience directly, saying “in this temple”, it is implied that Satan is, in fact, present inside the temple.

“I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant they make at these altars in this temple this day, they will be in my power.”
(Lucifer breaking the fourth wall in a scene from the 1991 Temple Endowment film)

Instance 3: The Crucifixion
Fast forward to the end of the Savior’s ministry, and Lucifer does something strange that Mormon doctrine can’t explain. In Luke 22:3-4 we read:

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them.

Why is this so strange? Think about it. According to LDS doctrine, Lucifer was there at the council in heaven. He knew that Jesus had to die in order for God’s plan to work. So why on earth would he convince Judas to betray him? It seems to me that if Lucifer really was the enemy of God, he would do the opposite. His best play would be to make everyone love Jesus so they wouldn’t kill him.

The only logical explanation within Mormonism is that Lucifer, being the good guy that he is, decided to do the right thing. He knew that everyone would go to Outer Darkness if Jesus didn’t die on the cross. Even though he didn’t agree with God’s plan, which necessitated the gruesome death of his brother Jesus from the beginning, it was the only chance mankind had. So he manned up and did the right thing, for which God pinned on him the blame.

Lucifer truly is the hero of the LDS narrative.

My Plea to Mormons
2 Nephi 15:20 in The Book of Mormon states: Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

If you are LDS reading this, I plead with you to open your eyes and accept the simpler explanation. There was no pre-mortal existence. There was no fall upward. It was not Plan A for Jesus to die for mankind. In other words, Jesus was not brutally beaten and crucified because God planned it that way, but because we went astray from God’s plan. God is righteous, and Satan is evil.

I’ll tell you the truth in plainness: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true.

That being said, our God is true! I call on you to put away your trust in a false religion that calls good evil, and evil good, and give your devotion to God instead. He will never fail you, He will never lie to you, and He will never forsake you.

NOTES
1 see Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p.193; also quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual [2010], p.15.

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by Fred W. Anson
Introduction
The conference on Mormonism was in full swing and the speaker had the roomful of Evangelicals in the palm of his eloquent hand hanging on every word. His main thesis? “False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet.” And so he went on and on and on, one failed Joseph Smith prophecy after another, and always ending with this repetitive point, which was thrown out like a mantra that the crowd itself began repeating: “False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet.” Does anyone see a problem here?

I did. After the conference, I sent the speaker this email:

‘”False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet.” (Speaker’s Name)

So what does that say about Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, and other well-known “Soothsayers of the Second Advent”? We can’t apply one standard to cults and another one to Evangelicals. The plumb line is the plumb line.

And if we let Chuck Smith and Hal Lindsay off the hook using the, “Well, they were just speculating or talking out loud not REALLY prophesying!” Then how are we any different than cultists?

I got no response.

Standards Are Standards
The problem here isn’t so much a weak argument as a double standard. For those who don’t know, the speaker’s argument was based on the biblical test for a False Prophet which can be found in Deuteronomy 18:17-22 (NKJV):

And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

And there is no denying that Joseph Smith fulfilled the requirement for a false prophet based on this criteria is there? Here’s a partial list of his failed prophecies from the neutral source Wikipedia:1

Zion in this generation: Zion and its temple will be built at Independence, Missouri, “in this generation”. (September 22 or 23, 1832, see D&C 84:2-5)

Zion built here: Promise that if the Saints are obedient in building a temple in Independence, Missouri, then the City of Zion will prosper and become glorious, and that Zion cannot “be moved” out of its place. (August 2, 1833, see D&C 97:15-20)

Missouri victory: Speaking through Smith, God says regarding Missouri: “I will fight your battles … the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints”. (June 22, 1834, see D&C 105:13-15)

Stated plainly, and Mormon apologetic spin aside, none of these prophecies were fulfilled. In 1838, due to losing the Mormon War in Missouri, Joseph Smith and the period Latter-day Saints were expelled from Missouri by Executive Order of the State Governor sealing the unfulfilled fate of all three prophesies.

And I could keep going, I’ve only given you three failed prophecies from the Missouri period of Early Mormon History that are canonized in Mormon scripture (Doctrine & Covenants). If I were to go to the Church published “History of the Church” (1856) or “Comprehensive History of the Church” (1930) the list gets even longer.

There is simply no question that if the standard is, “False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet” Joseph Smith is indeed guilty.

Joseph Smith

Standards Aren’t Standard If They’re Applied Unequally
But if we apply that standard equally and as stated on the Evangelical side of the divide then we need to add a few names to the list of False Prophets. Let’s start with these:

Hal Lindsey
Hal Lindsey is a well-known Christian teacher who’s probably best known for his books on eschatology (the study of the end times). Hal Lindsey has given several prophetic predictions that failed to come to pass. This is probably his most famous:

A generation in the Bible is something like 40 years. If this is a correct deduction, then within 40 years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so. … The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech ‘fig tree’ has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the ‘fig tree’ put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was ‘at the door,’ ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matt. 24:34, NASB). What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs-chief among them the rebirth of Israel.2

Taking away 7-years for the “Great Tribulation” Hal Lindsey made an implied prediction that the rapture would take place in 1981, that is, seven years prior to the modern state of Israel’s 40th anniversary. Well, 1981 came and went and nothing happened. And 1988 (40-years from 1948) came and went and nothing happened.

Prophecy failed.

Hal Lindsey in banner art from his “The Hal Lindsey Report” website.

Chuck Smith
Following in Hal Lindsey’s wake, the late Chuck Smith (1927-2013) also predicted a 1981 rapture in several of his books. Here are scans of those predictions from those books:

From “Future Survival” (1978)

Page 17.

Page 20.

Page 21.

Page 49.

From “Snatched Away” (1976 and 1980 editions)

Page 45.

Page 23.

From “End Times” (1978):

Page 35.

Clearly, none of this came to pass.

Chuck Smith.

Harold Camping
From Wikipedia:

American Christian radio host Harold Camping stated that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. The Rapture, in a specific tradition of premillennial theology, is the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people.

Camping, who was then president of the Family Radio Christian network, claimed the Bible as his source and said May 21 would be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment “beyond the shadow of a doubt”. Camping suggested that it would occur at 6 pm local time, with the Rapture sweeping the globe time zone by time zone, while some of his supporters claimed that around 200 million people (approximately 3% of the world’s population) would be ‘raptured’. Camping had previously claimed that the Rapture would occur in September 1994…

Following the failure of the prediction, media attention shifted to the response from Camping and his followers. On May 23, Camping stated that May 21 had been a “spiritual” day of judgment and that the physical Rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the destruction of the universe by God. However, on October 16, Camping admitted to an interviewer that he did not know when the end would come, and made no public comment after October 21 passed without his predicted apocalypse.3

Harold Camping meets a supporter before his prophecy failed.

If it’s good for the goose …
So again, if we are to apply the “False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet” standard equally, then Joseph Smith, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping are all, without question False Prophets, aren’t they? And oh, by the way, I can keep going – there are many other Evangelicals who have also made failed prophetic predictions.

So how’s that double standard working for ya Evangelical Christian? But before you answer, please note that I’ve already heard all of the following in the past in response to this evidence, so I’ll spare us both some time here . . .

Apologetic: “They didn’t claim to be a prophet like Joseph Smith did!”
Response: How is allegedly inspired preaching and teaching not acting as God’s oracle – that is, acting in a prophetic role? Further, can you show me where in the Deuteronomy 18 where it says, “But if they meet this criterion but don’t claim to actually be a prophet, it’s cool – you can let it slide!”

Further, I was alive when all of these failed Evangelical prophecies were given and I will tell you plainly that the Evangelicals that I knew who bought into them certainly treated them like they were a prophetic word from the Lord. That’s why some of those same Christians left the faith when the predictions of Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith failed to come to pass, becoming disillusioned not only by their failed prophet but by what they perceived as their prophet’s “failed” Bible as well. Further, since many Christians consider the rapture a more essential doctrine than the Trinity and use eschatology as their core theological integration point, such arguments tend to fall flat given the weight that many give these matters in their daily Christian lives. So, I’m sorry, but this apologetic may sound good in concept but it simply doesn’t stand up to real-world scrutiny.

Apologetic: “They were just giving their opinion.”
Response: No, problem. Then Joseph Smith was just giving his. That is, in fact, a common Mormon Apologist response to this argument. So if we accept this apologetic for the guys in our tribe, then we should accept it for Joseph Smith too, right? That was easy.

Apologetic: “These men were remorseful and repented, Joseph Smith never was and never did.”
Response: Well it is true that Camping showed remorse and repented.4 However, Lindsey never has and Chuck Smith never did.5 Further, since the standard is, “False prophecy is like murder. It only takes one time to make a false prophet” should we start letting remorseful, repentant murders out of jail? If you’re going to set the standard that high and make it that absolute then you need to be consistent, you can’t “fudge” when it’s someone from your own tribe whose head is in the noose.

Apologetic: “They were speaking as a man, not as a prophet.”
Response: Seriously? Did an Evangelical Christian really just say that? (And yes, they have – many, many times as a matter of fact.) Are we Evangelicals, Mormons now? That’s the standard Mormon apologetic against the Deuteronomy 18 test when it’s applied to Joseph Smith, friends! After all, isn’t this really just a more succinct way of saying, “They didn’t claim to be a prophet like Joseph Smith did”?

And this is what I’ve found so interesting whenever I expose this weak argument to those in my own tribe: All of a sudden Evangelicals start using exactly the same arguments for our guys that Mormons use for Joseph Smith and their guys. Double standard anyone? Hypocrisy anyone? Beam in eye anyone?

And, yes, I realize that this point I have probably stepped on quite a few Evangelical toes. However, sore toes aside, I would suggest that there is a better way to apply this standard, that maintains the integrity of the Deuteronomy 18 test, while simultaneously vindicating Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping as the true but flawed and misguided Christian brethren that they are, and that condemns Joseph Smith as the False brother and Prophet that he is. Please keep reading.

“We’re not quite dead yet!”

The Stronger Argument
Here’s an interesting thing: For a group of people that constantly criticize Mormons for their chronically bad hermeneutics, we Evangelicals have been guilty of bad exegesis of the Deuteronomy 18 False Prophet test by cherry picking it and quoting it out of context. Please consider the passage in its full and complete context:

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

“And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
— Deuteronomy 18:9-22 (NKJV)

So the first thing that we see when the “test” is presented in context, that there are, in reality, three criteria for a False Prophet in the passage, not just one:

  1. The true prophet won’t speak to God’s people in the name other gods in order to get them to follow those gods. 
    (who speaks in the name of other gods”
  2. The true prophet won’t use divination. 
    (“… these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you”) 
  3. The true prophet’s predictions of future events will come to pass.
    (“…when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”)

The Messianic clause in Deuteronomy 18 – verse 15 to be precise.

As former Dallas Theological Seminary, now Charismatic Christian Leader and Teacher Jack Deere, explains:

Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is frequently understood as referring to a succession of the prophets from Moses onward who would never make a mistake in their predictions. Several contextual factors militate against this interpretation. First, Moses did not say that God would raise up a line of prophets, but rather a prophet (v. 15). Second, Moses claimed that this future prophet would be like me (v. 15). Moses was not simply a prophet who foretold the future. He was the theocratic founder of Israel’s religion and the mediator of the Old Covenant. The qualifying phrase “like me” leads us to expect someone who is also a covenant mediator. Third, the epilogue to Deuteronomy, chapter 34, which was written in the time of Joshua or later, specifically states:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deut. 34:10-12).

This means that not even Joshua was on a par with Moses, even though God promised to be with him as he was with Moses (Josh. 1:5). The significance of Deuteronomy 34:10-12, according to Patrick Miller, is that “one can hardly see 18:15-22 in terms of a continuing line of prophets through Israel’s history. The only way to resolve the tension between chapters 18 and 34 is to project into the future the announcement that God will raise up a prophet…” (Deuteronomy [Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990], 156-57; author’s emphasis). Fourth, this was how the passage was interpreted in Judaism (see Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976], 263, n.20). Fifth, in the New Testament both the Jews and the apostles understood this passage to refer not to a line of prophets, but to the Messiah (John 1:21, 25; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22-26). Thus the context and later biblical interpretation favor the messianic interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:15.

If that is the case, then the false prophets mentioned in 18:20-22 may not be prophets who simply make a mistake, but rather pretenders to the place of Moses or to the messianic role. At any rate, Craigie cautions us against an inflexible application of 18:20-22. He writes,

‘It would probably be wrong to take these criteria as rules to be applied rigidly every time a prophet opened his mouth. When a prophet announced God’s coming judgment and called for repentance, it would clearly be pointless to wait first to see if the judgment actually came to pass, and then to repent (too late!). Rather the criteria represent the means by which a prophet gained his reputation as a true prophet and spokesman of the Lord. Over the course of a prophet’s ministry, in matters important and less significant, the character of a prophet as a true spokesman of God would begin to emerge clearly. And equally, false prophets would be discredited and then dealt with under the law.’ (Deuteronomy, 263)

Furthermore, there is no evidence in Israel’s history that they ever put to death a prophet for a simple mistake in a prophetic utterance. For example, when David implied to Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord, Nathan said to him, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3). But Nathan was wrong and later that night had to be corrected by the Lord (2 Sam. 7:4ff.). If someone pedantically objects that Nathan did not preface his first prophecy with “Thus says the LORD…,” it should be noted that Nathan did speak in the name of the Lord, for he said, “the LORD is with you.” Besides, would David have spoken to the prophet simply to obtain the prophet’s human opinion? Why did people consult prophets in the Old Testament if not to receive a word from God? Nathan gave a wrong word, but he was not put to death. A wrong word was not automatically classified as a presumptuous word or a word in the name of false gods (Deut. 18:20-22).6

Question: Did Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Harold Camping, and Joseph Smith give predictions of future events that failed to come to pass?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Did Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith and Harold Camping engage in divination in bringing forth their prophecies?
Answer:
No.

Question: Did Joseph Smith engage in divination in bringing forth his prophecies?
Answer:
Yes. In some cases, he used the same Seer Stone technique that he used in “translating” the Book of Mormon and portions of the Book of Abraham. That technique is called “scrying” and it is a form of divination:  

Scrying (also known by various names such as “seeing” or “peeping”) is the practice of looking into a suitable medium in the hope of detecting significant messages or visions. The objective might be personal guidance, prophecy, revelation, or inspiration, but down the ages, scrying in various forms also has been a prominent means of divination …
(“Scrying”, Wikipedia website) 

Question: Did Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping speak in the name of other gods in order to get God’s people to follow them? 
Answer: No.

Question: Did Joseph Smith speak in the name of other gods in order to get God’s people to follow them?
Answer:
Yes. And the way that he did this was quite clever and subtle: First, he redefined who and what God was and then he spoke in the name of this newly revealed god. And not only that, as he was speaking in the name of this new god, he actually bragged about doing so:

Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

‘I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. I am going to inquire after God; for I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him; and if I am bringing you to a knowledge of Him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am His servant; for I speak as one having authority.

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.’
(“The King Follett Sermon”, Ensign, April 1971, italics added for emphasis)

Friends, that is a very different god than the God who revealed Himself to the Children of Israel during the Exodus, the God who said of Himself just a few chapters earlier:

“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.

“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female…
— Deuteronomy 4:11-16 NKJV (italics and bolding added for emphasis) 

Not to mention the God, who Christ, echoing this passage, clearly said in John 4:24 (NKJV) is spirit, not a man: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” That’s the God of Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping, not the false god and exalted man of Joseph Smith.

Summary and Conclusion
Yes, there is a False Prophet here, but it’s not Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith or Harold Camping. Was there poor judgment on their part? Yes. Bad hermeneutics? Definitely. False Teachers? Yes, I think that a case can be made for that if you want to. But False Prophets, no. They simply do not meet all three Deuteronomy 18 False Prophet tests.

Joseph Smith, on the other hand, meets all three of the Deuteronomy 18 test criteria, and is, therefore, clearly a False Prophet. There is just no question about it given the historical body of evidence. And that can be determined by fairly applying the total and complete test for a False Prophet in the text rather than cherry picking from just one part of it.

LateGreatPlanetEarthMoviePoster

The movie poster for the 1979 movie that was based on Hal Lindsey’s best selling book.

NOTES
1 Wikipedia, “List of prophecies of Joseph Smith” (retrieved 2017-08-30)
2 Hal Lindsey, “The Late Great Planet Earth” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1970): pp.53-54.
3 Wikipedia, “2011 end times prediction”
4 As noted on Wikipedia, “In March 2012 Camping “humbly acknowledged” that he had been mistaken, that his attempt to predict a date was “sinful,” and that his critics had been right in pointing to the scriptural text “of that day and hour knoweth no man”. He then said he was searching the Bible “even more fervently… not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.”‘
(Wikipedia, “2011 end times prediction”, retrieved 2017-09-10)
5 In fact, both Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith were strident and assertive in their defense that while naming dates is probably not a good idea, they had, really, done nothing wrong and just moved on.

In the case of Lindsey, as Charisma magazine notes:

In early 1977, when Hal Lindsey was asked by a journalist from Christianity Today what he would do if he was wrong about his end-time predictions, he responded with the following,

There is a split second’s difference between a hero and a bum. I didn’t ask to be a hero, but I guess I have become one in the Christian community. So I accept it. But if I am wrong about this, I guess I’ll become a bum.”

Though undeniably wrong about his end-time predictions over the last 46 years, Lindsey still hasn’t referred to himself as a “bum.” It’s not necessary for this to happen, yet a simple apology might be nice.
(J.D. King, “Learning From Failed End-Time Predictions”, retrieved 2017-09-10) 

And Chuck Smith, a few years later in the late Bill Alnor’s book, “Soothsayers of the Second Advent”, blamed his failed predictions on Hal Lindsay. Here’s what he said:

Page 41.

Page 42.

Endnote citation for the source for the above Chuck Smith quotations.

In fact, both continued to spin up apocalyptic scenarios that hinted at particular events happening based on current events, which never did. Yes, Joseph Smith had several failed prophecies, but, if we’re going to be honest, we have to also admit, so did these members of our tribe.
6 Jack Deere, “Surprised by the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions” (p. 359). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Bibliography and Additional Resources
Wikipedia, “Unfulfilled Christian religious predictions”
Wikipedia, “Predictions and claims for the Second Coming of Christ”
Calvary Chapel Wiki, “Chuck Smith taught Jesus would return in 1981”
Rabbi Stanley Chester, Mosaic Ministries, “Hal Lindsey: False Prophet!”
J.D. King, “Learning From Failed End-Time Predictions”
Gary DeMar, “Before Harold Camping, there Were Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith”

Foolish? Yes. Damnable? No.

BACK TO TOP

Elder Jeffery R. Holland speaking at the October 2017 General Conference.
(click image to watch the full address)

by Michael Flournoy
During last Fall’s General Conference, I had two Latter-day Saints recommend that I listen to the talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of the Mormon faith. The talk, entitled “Be Ye Therefore Perfect- Eventually” was rumored to put the nail in the coffin of the argument levied against the church that it holds to an impossible gospel.

Holland begins his speech by ripping Matthew 5:48 out of context, saying we are to be “…perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” and continues, “yet surely the Lord would never give us a commandment He knew we could not keep.” His main idea throughout the talk is that we can be content with steady improvement. The ironic part is even in the out of context version embraced by the LDS church, Jesus did not say to be perfect- eventually. He simply said to be perfect – that is, right here, right now.

The talk’s title, which I was not aware of until recently, called to mind Alma 13:27 which says, “And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance.” Alma did not suggest shaving off our sins, little by little. I would argue (and I think Alma would agree) that steady improvement is just a fancy word for procrastination.

Now lest any of you get the wrong idea and think I do not like Elder Holland, let me set the record straight. He is far and away my favorite LDS apostle. As far as public speakers go, he is probably the most powerful man in the entire church. And if he showed up at my door on a stormy night, looking for food and shelter, he would have it. No questions asked.

As I listened to his speech, I felt like a hopeless romantic who was peeling petals off a flower. But instead of saying, “She loves me, she loves me not,” I found myself thinking, “he gets the gospel of Christ. He gets it not. He gets it. He gets it not…” Some of his statements were nothing short of inspirational. My favorite quotes from the talk are as follows:

“Every one of us is a debtor, and the verdict was imprisonment for every one of us. And there we would all have remained were it not for the grace of a King who sets us free because He loves us and is ‘moved with compassion toward us.’”

“Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven- we can’t ‘earn’ it.”

“I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the ‘natural man’ and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually”, General Conference, October 2017 on the official LDS Church website) 

This final quote hits the nail on the head and is the hope of all Christians everywhere. And while I do appreciate his humility in admitting he needs mercy and is sometimes an enemy of God who despitefully uses Him, it makes me wonder how any Latter-day Saint can expect to eventually gain perfection. Because if Elder Holland, an apostle, has not obtained it at the age of 77, then seriously, who can?

Things take a particularly precarious turn when Jeffrey R. Holland attempts to explain the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. In the parable, a man is forgiven a 10,000 talent debt, only to harshly punish a debtor who owes him a mere 100 pence. It’s a pointed story about the importance of forgiveness.

Holland, however, puts an unusual twist on the meaning of the parable, rendering it not only unbiblical but contrary to The Book of Mormon as well. First, he compares the debts to what they might be in modern U.S. currency. The debt the man was forgiven would be roughly equivalent to 1 billion dollars, while the amount he refused to forgive would be 100 dollars.

After joking that 1 billion dollars is an incomprehensible personal debt (because no one can shop that much) he states,

“Jesus uses an unfathomable measurement here because His Atonement is an unfathomable gift given at an incomprehensible cost. That, it seems to me, is at least part of the meaning behind Jesus’s charge to be perfect. We may not be able to demonstrate yet the 10,000-talent perfection the Father and the Son have achieved, but it is not too much for Them to ask us to be a little more godlike in little things, that we speak and act, love and forgive, repent and improve at least at the 100-pence level of perfection, which it is clearly within our ability to do.”
(Ibid, bolding added for emphasis, italics in original) 

The implication is that we are capable of making a down payment of 100 pence to God and go from there to eventually come to pay the remaining 10,000 talents.

King Benjamin in The Book of Mormon vehemently opposes the gospel taught by Elder Holland. “Are we not all beggars?” he first asks and then expounds on in Mosiah 4:19-20,

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.”

According to King Benjamin, we are all beggars. And do beggars have the ability to pay 100 pence? No, we do not. Even the servant in the parable used by Jeffrey R. Holland could not pay the 100 pence. What Latter-day Saints are being asked to do essentially, is to be able to leap out of earth’s atmosphere by the end of their lives. But not to worry, a six foot vertical will suffice for now, as it is clearly within our ability to do.

The fact remains that for we fallen, broken, and sin-corrupted children of Adam, perfection is indeed an impossible gospel. Whether it is now, or 50 years down the road, not one of us is up to the challenge – no, not one. We are all beggars.

Perfection has to be granted as a gift – it must be imputed to us. How grateful I am that at least Jesus is impossibly strong and perfect and that He has given me that perfection as a gift. Because if I were trying to obtain it through my own merits, all the time since the creation would not be near enough.

Yes, we are all beggars, but Jesus’ gift of imputed perfection is enough. It is finished.

King Benjamin’s response to Jeffrey R. Holland.
(Mosiah 4:19)

The following article was written a few days after the December 19th, 2017 Heart of the Matter program aired. However, after seeking the Godly counsel, it was determined that it was best to just let Mr. McCraney have the last public word while still holding this article in reserve in the off-chance it should ever be needed again. It was, very correctly, pointed out to me that Shawn McCraney thrives on tit-for-tat responses – they embolden him rather than giving him pause or making him reflect. Since, unlike Shawn McCraney, I choose to walk as a man accountable – as scripture mandates. So, I yielded to this wisdom from my brothers in the Lord.

That was then, this is now. Recent events have made it abundantly clear that is article is needed more now than it was then.  I think that once you read it, you will agree. –Author. 

(click to zoom)

by Fred W. Anson
Well, I’ve just found out that I’m a Pharisee. Boy, am I surprised!

It all started when I put the above post up on Facebook. Now before you proceed any further, please note that the question being asked was: “Thoughts on this? Which Jesus, in your opinion, does Shawn McCraney teach?” It was not, “I think that Shawn McCraney teaches everything on the right, don’t you?” This is an important distinction because I was genuinely interested in how people would respond to the question. In the end, other than one response (and several personal attacks for asking the question) I got “crickets” on the content of this graph.

Yet despite the tepid response to the graphic,  Shawn McCraney still devoted an entire show to it. This, as we found out when the show aired, was based on the assumption that the Pharisee behind this insidious post (me) and the chart accompanying it (done by some anonymous person who I don’t know) were created to trip him up and snare him. It was the typical vain, paranoid, evil suspicion-laden fare that we now see served up weekly on HOTM 2.0 and non-stop by McCraneyism 2.0.

He claimed that the chart contains weasel words. I can find none.

He claimed that the chart was deliberately designed to catch him in his words – the way that Pharisees did with Jesus. Well, I didn’t produce the chart and I don’t know who did. In fact, I seriously doubt that the chart creator has even heard of Shawn McCraney since so few people outside of Mormon Studies have.

He claimed that this was just more evidence of the lengths that the Pharisees will go to oppose needed change and reform – the way that the Pharisees did with Jesus. Oh, you didn’t know that Shawn McCraney is the new Luther, a catalyst for much-needed Reform in the modern American Church? Neither did I, in fact neither have most people since, again, so few people have even heard of him let alone his allegedly new radical message of reform – and those who have heard, have denounced it as error and heresy.

He used the bullet points on the chart that don’t apply to him (such as “Born as a man who was promoted to deity”, “Gives you health, wealth, and happy feelings”, “Offends the world with the truth”) to compensate for those that do (such as . . . well, pretty much the rest of them). This is known as an Inconsistent Comparison fallacy, and by the way, it’s a form of manipulation.

Speaking of fallacies, this episode was full of Mr. McCraney’s favorite fallacy: The Tu Quoque (aka “You too!” or “Appeal to Hypocrisy”) in which he claimed again, again, and again that it was not he, but all those Pharisees out who were guilty of the behavior and teaching on the right side of the chart.

Further, in this episode, we saw the same kind of doublespeak that has become a Shawn McCraney staple. For example, he claimed that he has never taught a Jesus who disregarded repentance of sin, yet this is the same guy who just a few years ago was condemning Christian churches that insist that homosexuals must repent of a sin that the Bible not only condemns as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) but states is symptomatic of a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). Mr. McCraney regularly focuses on the Jesus who says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” but consistently ignores the Jesus who says, “Go, and sin no more.” (see John 8:1-11)

He boasts about the fact that he leads a church doesn’t confront or attempt to correct the sin its midst, yet he denies that he teaches a Jesus who condones and never corrects people’s sin.

He rails against churches that preach obedience then tells us that he doesn’t teach a Jesus who gives suggestions not commandments.

He’s the same person who teaches the false teaching of universalism (ultimately everyone gets saved, hell isn’t eternal) but still claims that he does in fact, teach a Jesus who warns of sin, judgment, and hell.

After, it’s all about love, isn’t it? Wasn’t Jesus more interested in love than righteous obedience according to Mr. Craney? Isn’t that what we’ve been told time after time?

He claims to preach a Jesus of righteousness but irresponsibly publicly rails against other Pastors and Christians, often getting his facts wrong and spreading untrue and malicious gossip. Further, he insists on an uneven playing field by requiring those he disagrees with to come debate him on his show rather than engaging them on neutral turf. Case in point: Since this chart was presented on Facebook, why didn’t he just address it there?

Even more incredibly he claimed in this show that he has never taught a Jesus that exalts signs, wonders, and mysticism above God’s word – or a Jesus that exalts emotion, experience, and opinion above sound doctrine. Yet the Jesus that he teaches rejects Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) as the final authority for Christ’s Church in favor of what Mr. McCraney calls “Subjective Christianity” – a feeling and experience based system whereby one’s subjective inner witness within you trumps all other authority, up to and including the words of the Bible.

In the end, this is all Post-Modern to the hilt, isn’t it? After all, isn’t the core paradigm of Post-Modernism that since there is no absolute truth one is free to construct whatever “reality” works for them? In Post-Modernism, the deception is that are no God-given boundaries and lines that one should drive between if you want to live and flourish. It’s the serpent, hissing ever so seductively that one can kick God off the throne, not die, and decide for yourself what’s good and what’s evil. (Genesis 3:4-6) You’re on the throne and if it looks good, feels good, and tastes good, it is good, right? You decide – you’re on the throne, it’s all about you and your opinions.

Hence, Post-Modernism underlies the unifying principle and railing cry of McCraneyism that appeals the most to fallen humanity’s deepest desires: You can believe whatever you want to and still call it Christianity.

How this is teaching a Jesus who exalts God’s will over your own is anyone’s guess.

Friends, after listening to Shawn McCraney railing against this “Pharisee” (and all those other “Pharisees” out there I might add) and this chart for close to an hour I’m more convinced than ever that he teaches both Post-Modern Christianity and a Post-Modern Jesus. Shawn will decide for himself what’s Christianity and what isn’t. And he’ll tell you that you should do the same.

And if you disagree with each other, 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy, and anyone else who dares challenge you? It’s cool, it’s all good!

This is not the Biblical Jesus or Biblical Christianity, this is the Church of Post-Modernism.

Please click on the above image to watch the HOTM 2.0 broadcast that this article was written in response to. 

 

 

 

“There is a common phenomenon in religious activity, where some converts coming from one extreme tend to overcorrect to the other extreme.”

by Joshua Valentine
Many who consider the issue of Mormons becoming atheists wonder why they go from Mormonism straight to atheism instead of Christianity, which is assumed to be the next closest religion. At wheatandtares.com there is an article that claims that Mormonism is not reversible into Christianity 1. Indeed, when considering all the issues here, it seems obvious that the two, despite their supposed relation, are completely at odds. To a significant degree, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints downplays sin, its seriousness, and its power over humans. The LDS Church does effectively help its members out of certain very visible sins and assists its members in avoiding them in the first place.  While the LDS Church officially recognizes small sins as undesirable and even something Christ died for, the consistent message received in talks, teachings, and perhaps more importantly Mormon culture, is that small, concealable sins are not important, certainly not in comparison to the big visible sins that are constantly emphasized — sexual impurity, adultery, consumption of harmful or illicit substances, theft, lying, and murder. Thus, when a member leaves the LDS Church, he or she may be convinced that they don’t have any real problem that requires real attention. If there is no problem, then no solution is sought. Christianity and all other religions are unneeded.

But it goes further than just that. There is a common phenomenon in religious activity, where some converts coming from one extreme tend to overcorrect to the other extreme: from licentiousness to strictness, or asceticism to hedonism, or from mysticism to rationalism, or religious knowledge to spiritual experience. This is not about the LDS self-serving belief that apostates will become alcoholics, adulterers, or otherwise destroyed and unhappy. Rather, since the LDS Church imposes such an intense and involved program of obedience and dependence on the church for its members to overcome sin and imperfection, ex-Mormons may over correct or overreact by outright refusing their need for anything from any religion.  This is not about simply rebelling against human institutions and authority or preserving one’s power of self-determination as discussed earlier. It is something more than just burnout.  When ex-members are approached by another religion, institution, or simply the Christian Gospel, they may not only reject it out of distrust but also out of this overcorrection to not need any program, authority or truth to give their assent to or conform their life to. In this way, ex-members have been trained by their church to not take their small sins too seriously and, in overreaction to its intensity, may have a subconscious motivation to continue believing that their sins are not important enough to need any help. So they already believe their little sins are ok, and now they deny a need for religious answers, which irrationally motivates them to continue to think their sins are just harmless mistakes. Again, if you are convinced you do not have a problem, then you do not seek a remedy. And if you do not want any more “help,” you may convince yourself you do not have any need for it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches self-reliance, both in temporal and spiritual concerns. Members may not agree with that statement, but the LDS Church does teach a significant place for human effort in obtaining the approval and blessings of God in this life and in the next. Our actions and our strength have a necessary place in our worthiness for salvation and eternal blessings. This “picking your self up by your bootstraps” cosmology was described by an online participant as “trusting in the arm of the flesh.”2 The optimistic humanism of Mormonism, its insistence that humans can and must contribute to their worthiness of salvation and exaltation, can easily fit into the humanistic optimism of atheism that humans can and must solve their own problems and continue as a species and progress on this planet and in this universe.3 Along the lines of trusting in the flesh, Latter-day Saints are taught to trust their leaders. When they leave, they have determined that their LDS leaders have betrayed them and are untrustworthy. This may lead the ex-Latter-day Saint to seek the objectivism of science in order to avoid being fooled or dependent on particular humans or institutions. Interestingly, however, if this confidence in humans, in the flesh of man, is not reevaluated, then it may lead them to put their trust in the men of science and the institutions of human reason. In any case, the LDS-taught optimism about mankind’s ability to progress by its own effort is offended by the Christian Gospel’s diametrically opposite assessment.

Lastly, as regards compatibility with Christianity, the LDS Church teaches consistently, and in many ways, that human happiness is the ultimate goal. It is the goal of the Mormon God. Heavenly Father’s own happiness is found in his children’s happiness. Happiness and good feelings are indicative of truth. Unhappiness or bad feelings indicate that something is wrong or false. Our happiness is generally the purpose of life — overcoming life’s challenges, learning, and progressing being sources of happiness now and in the future. In light of all of this, Christianity’s view of sin is impractical and even morbid; its gospel is still too “easy,” and its truths are disturbing and repugnant to the mind that has been cultivated by Mormonism.  Atheism, however, embraces the significance of personal happiness, the pragmatism of actions called “sin” by Christianity, and puts forth human progress and happiness as the only purpose worthy of our short lives. In these many ways, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught its members how to flourish as atheists.

“Will they reconsider all the Mormon assertions against the reliability of the Bible?  Will they reconsider what their Ford dealer taught them about Chevrolet?”

Because Mormonism claims to be a correction of Christianity, members are incessantly, and often only implicitly, taught to disbelieve Christianity.  It is one thing to be fooled into believing lies, but what if Christianity is actually true? It is quite another to realize that you were fooled to disbelieve the truth.  So there is yet another motivation to not fully reconsider what the LDS Church has taught. Particularly in regards to Christianity, there is strong motivation to not even entertain the idea that what the church convinced you was false and corrupt (and that you may even have mocked and scorned) might actually have been true all along. Thus, there is one less option besides atheism.  With their research Mormons may learn that the restoration was false, but do they reconsider the prerequisite belief of the Great Apostasy?  They may realize that the LDS Church’s claims of unity and consistency are false, but do they question the church’s logic that the existence of many Christian denominations means Christianity is false? They realize that the LDS Church is not the one true Christian church, but do they consider that there may not even be such a church in the traditional institutional sense?  Can they conceive that a religion or gospel may be true even if there is not “one true church” of it? They realize that the LDS Church is not as ordered as it claims, but do they question whether God is really a God of order in the simplistic way they were taught?  Will they reconsider all the Mormon assertions against the reliability of the Bible?  Will they reconsider what their Ford dealer taught them about Chevrolet?

Even LDS apologetics betrays members and, upon leaving, they can discard all apologetics as game-playing, as obfuscation, and as seemingly able to make any falsehood appear to be true.  If they are not careful to understand the techniques of LDS apologists and how they differ from other apologists, then they may write off all apologetics as illegitimate. Members are already trained to use any appearance of evil or inaccuracy as an excuse to stop listening to critics. Although the ex-member had to overcome this conditioning long enough to exit the LDS Church, this developed skill may come back into play as a post-Mormon.  So when they hear certain arguments or even just phrases used by apologists of Christianity (which they recognize as having been used by LDS apologists), they may instinctively disregard that argument or point or the apologist altogether, despite the situation for Christianity being completely different than that of Mormonism.  Even if ex-members do try to understand Christianity for themselves, this conditioning may keep them from going into the depth, and possibly truth, of Christianity — just as it kept them from going too deep into and finding the truth about Mormonism for years.

Finally, people entered into the Mormon faith based on the assumptions that such good people would not lie and “must have the truth,” and that God would surely answer a sincere prayer about the Book of Mormon.  They became members believing that the God that exists answered them.  When they learn that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, they may still believe that if God existed then He would have answered their prayer revealing that the church was false.  Since they got an affirmation of its truth, it must have been from manipulation; and since God did not intervene, there must not be a God.  None of this may be consciously thought out in the ex-members’ minds.  But where did they get the idea that God would answer a prayer about the Book of Mormon?  Who or what so convinced them that God must answer sincere prayer?

There are so many things taught in the LDS Church — so much about the nature of the universe, and of the nature of God and man, about what faith is, what spiritual experience and personal revelation are, about what is credible and how we determine truth, and about our mistakes and wrong-doing — that lean toward naturalism, agnosticism, and atheism, so many prejudices instilled by the LDS Church that disallow unbiased consideration of other religions, that insofar as ex-members do not search out all of the lingering Mormonism in their beliefs, thinking, feelings and perspective, conscious and subconscious, they may find themselves just as manipulated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of it as they were in it.

Mormonism teaches that its members are “gods in embryo.”  At the very least, the doctrines, teachings, and culture originated and proliferated by Mormonism and the LDS Church give us many reasons to consider Latter-day Saints “atheists in embryo.”4

“The doctrines, teachings, and culture originated and proliferated by Mormonism and the LDS Church give us many reasons to consider Latter-day Saints “atheists in embryo.”

NOTES
1 This article by S. Andrew was one of only a few places I could find expanded discussion of this Mormon atheism topic.  The discussion in the comments is also worth reading.

2 by BigMikeSRT.

3 There is a Mormon Expression podcast, toward the end of John Larsen’s time hosting it, in which John speaks of how ex-Mormon atheists must move on boldly into the world. His guest makes the observation that John’s view seems to be a return to Mormonism in its optimism about mankind’s self-determination. I could not find it again, but it is worth the search and listening. It is admittedly moving, certainly connected to Mormonism’s optimism and faith in man (or “the flesh”), and explicitly shows Mormonism’s compatibility with atheism.

4 I first read this apt turn of phrase from Aaron Shafovaloff.

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on

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“The ex-member is motivated to stay away from religion for fatigue, for fear of being duped, and for fear of relinquishing control.”

by Joshua Valentine
Members who learn the truth about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Mormonism most often feel betrayed and duped by their church, friends, and family.  If they leave the church, they often go through a burn out period, not wanting to deal with religion at all.  They are understandably resistant to even considering any other religion any time soon for fear of being taken in again.  Many go through a period of anger.  The realization of being manipulated, being put through so much, and losing so much of their lives for a lie, is understandably infuriating.  The necessary and reasonable thing to do, when ready and rested, is to reevaluate one’s beliefs.  Often this includes a period of studying the LDS Church even more.  Whether before leaving or after, many Mormons feel embarrassed by all the things they did and believed, which they now see as so obviously untrue or even silly.  They understandably never want to be manipulated or to allow their lives to be controlled by anyone else again.

This last, control, is a strong motivation toward atheism.  While in many ways the atheistic worldview can be bleak, in that there is no longer someone watching out for you, there is also a strong sense of self-determination, of your decisions being wholly your own, under your own control.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have relinquished leadership and control of so much of their lives for so long, and upon learning the truth, realized that so much of it was a waste and harmful, that any sense of letting go of their new found control, of submitting themselves to anything — an organization or even a belief — is simply unacceptable.  Ex-Mormon atheists speak of the difficulty of getting atheists to come together and embrace a long-term vision and goal (there is a Mormon Expression podcast, toward the end of his time hosting it, in which John Larsen mentions this issue).  While there may be something about an atheist worldview that inhibits this activity, the victim of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church has all the motivation to keep all control and not relinquish it to anyone or anything, a group, a movement, an ideal, or even the actual God.

The ex-member is motivated to stay away from religion for fatigue, for fear of being duped, and for fear of relinquishing control.  And these can lead to a life of practical, if not consciously chosen, atheism.  But, as we have seen, the very teachings of Mormonism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may set up its members to turn away from faith and even provide the content of an atheistic worldview.  If these teachings are not re-evaluated, then the ex-member may embrace atheism not solely based on rational and accurate arguments and evidence, but also from false biases, skewed perceptions, and feelings trained into them by the LDS Church.  The man or woman who leaves must be resolute and steadfast in rooting out and reconsidering all that they have received from Mormonism; not just doctrines and history, but all of the assumptions and implications of the teachings that they were not even aware of, but that are still determining the way they think about and see the world.  Unfortunately, there are several possible motivations for not re-evaluating everything learned from their church.

No one wants to believe that they believed something false.  No one wants to believe that they believed something obviously false.  No one wants to believe they dedicated their lives to something untrue, let alone a lie.  No one wants to admit that they have been fooled.  No one wants to believe they have perpetuated a lie or been involved in the manipulation and duping of others to believe the same lie.  This self-preservation is one reason why people of all groups hesitate, if not refuse, to really consider the possibility that their beliefs are false, and risk having to leave their church, discard their philosophy, or relinquish their life vision.  Many members of the LDS Church resist the arguments of critics and respond to the evidence against their church often so irrationally, not just because of the way their church has taught them to respond, but for fears like these.  But what about those who leave?

Just as members do not wish to consider that they are wrong and will deny the facts out of self-preservation, those who leave may continue to do the same.  When a member exits the church, they have a subconscious motivation not to discover all of the false beliefs they have embraced.  So, they continue to believe them.  They come to the conclusion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true, that its scriptures, prophets, and gods are not real.  But they may not want to know just how much they were duped into believing, just how much they took for granted, just how many false beliefs they have taught their children and friends.  Most do a lot of research about the church’s history and unique teachings, but they may not reconsider the less explicit teachings and their implications.  This includes what faith is, how it relates to reason, what spiritual experience really is, and when mystery and complexity are acceptable.

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NKJV)

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on

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