… Read the Book of Mormon Without Proper Mormon Grooming!

Social Justice Warrior, Greta “How Dare You!” Thunberg, weighs in on the matter.

by Fred W. Anson
The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. I say this as someone who has read it cover-to-cover not just once but more than once and then only after studying it for decades prior to that. But hey, don’t take my word for it, take the word of the man who is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest authors and creator of some of the best American literature ever written, Mark Twain, who said of the book:

“All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, accourding to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Or how about the assessment of Charles H. Spurgeon, one of the most respected and influential preachers of the late 19th Century:

“One of the most modern pretenders to inspiration is the Book of Mormon. I could not blame you should you laugh outright while I read aloud a page from that farrago.”
(C.H. Spurgeon, “Our Manifesto”, April 25th, 1890)

And if you don’t believe Mark Twain, C.H. Spurgeon, or me, consider the words of Harold Bloom, American’s leading 20th Century Literary Critic:

“With the Book of Mormon, we arrive at the center of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission, but hardly at any center of Mormonism, because of Smith’s extraordinary capacity for speculative development in the fourteen years that remained to him after its publication. The Book of Mormon was not only his first work; it is the portrait of a self-educated, powerful mind at the untried age of twenty-four. It has bravura, but beyond question it is wholly tendentious and frequently tedious. If one compares it closely to Smith’s imaginings in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, it seems the work of some other writer, and I don’t mean Mormon or Moroni.”
(Harold Bloom, “The American Religion”, Chu Hartley Publishers. Kindle Edition, Locations 1184-1189) 

And if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not fair, you and Harold Bloom are critiquing a 19th Century literary style based on today’s modern standards”, consider this from Alexander Campbell, the founder, and leader of Campbellism, who said this of the book only two years after its publication:

“These are but as one drop out of a bucket compared with the amount of Smithisms in this book. It is patched up and cemented with “And it came to pass” — “I sayeth unto you” — “Ye saith unto him” — and all the King James’ haths, dids and doths; in the lowest imitation of the common version; and is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language; but it is a translation made through stone spectacles, in a dark room, and in the hat of the prophet Smith from the reformed Egyptian!!! It has not one good sentence in it, save the profanation of those sentences quoted from the Oracles of the living God. I would as soon compare a bat to the American eagle, a mouse to a mammoth, or the deformities of a spectre to the beauty of Him whom John saw in Patmos, as to contrast it with a single chapter in all the writings of the Jewish or Christian prophets. It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies, or darkness the offspring of night. So much for the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon.”
(Alexander Campbell, “Delusions an analysis of the Book of Mormon…”, (1832), p.14) 

And if that’s still not enough, I would encourage you to speak to anyone who has read the book on its own merits without having Mormon Missionaries or any other Mormon influence hovering around them and telling them what a marvelous work and a wonder this insipid mess of mangled Elizabethan English combined with antiquated 19th Century ideas (such as American Restorationism and American Anglo-Israelism) it really is.

So the question remains, then how and why can millions of Mormons all over the world claim that this horrible book is some kind of inspired glory? Enter the power of suggestion. From the 2004 edition of the current, official LdS Church Missionary Manual:

“This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask in prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. In order to do this, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer.

In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts.

Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.

Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him.”
(LdS Church, “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” (2004 edition), p.39)

Not enough? Then how about this from former LdS Church President and “Living Prophet” Thomas S. Monson?

“This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. I so testify with all my heart in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon”, Spring General Conference 2017)

I mean, with over-the-top hyperbole and gushing like that how can it possibly be anything but one of the greatest, most powerful, stunningly inspired, incredible, works of English literature ever produced, right?

Two words in response: Read it. Yes, read it yourself so you can experience “inspired” prose like this, for yourself:

1 Nephi 14
23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

Wow, how can you argue with circular, over-blown, repetitious, grammar-challenged, gibberish like that?

Missionaries weigh in on the matter.

Back in December 2019, my Mormon Studies colleague, Kathy Petersen, had the brilliant idea of setting up a Book of Mormon daily reading program so non-Mormons could do just that – read it all in a year, cover-to-cover, just like many Bible reading programs out there do. And to do all that without any Mormon influence or interference, so the group could discuss the book honesty without being told (see above) what we should think and feel about it in advance, during, or after it was read. So she did. And, full disclosure here, I agreed to help her get it established, running and maintained because, candidly, I thought that the idea was pure, absolute, genius (still do!) Here’s how the group description, in part, reads:

“The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka “TOYBOM”) is specifically for Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so that we can openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense…

NO MORMONS ARE ALLOWED HERE
Mormons (that is, members of any Latter Day Saint group or denomination) are NOT allowed in this group. Period.

That’s so we can 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.

Our goal here is to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.”
(see Facebook, The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year

The wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth that we got from Latter-day Saints in general, and Mormon Missionaries was swift and to the point: We were told that no one could possibly understand or appreciate this great, soaring, inspired, paradigm-changing work on its own without Latter-day Saints being in the room to explain it to them. We were told by virtue of the fact that Mormons could not be a part of the discussion and conversation the Book of Mormon would, no doubt, be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by the non-Mormons in the group.

To all this, my Latter-day Friends and Mormon Missionary friends I just have one question: Why?

After all, if the Book of Mormon is truly everything that you all claim it is, shouldn’t it speak for itself? Shouldn’t its stunning inspiration and clear veracity be apparent simply by cracking its cover and reading it? Shouldn’t it be exactly as the Moroni 10 Challenge states?

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
— Moroni 10:3-5

Latter-day Saint friends, can you please show us where in the Moroni 10 Challenge it says, “Unless, of course, there are no Latter-day Saints around or present to groom and guide you, in which case, fuggedaboutit!”? I can’t seem to find it, and neither can anyone else.

So, back to the “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” group. We started the daily readings and it didn’t take long before the wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth were soon coming from these intrepid non-Mormons who had committed to reading this overwhelmingly boring and dreadfully written book in a year. They were stunned, absolutely stunned from the front cover to the back cover that anyone could come to anything but the obvious conclusion that (to borrow and paraphrase from Lamoni’s queen in Alma 19:5): As for myself, to me it doth truly stink.

So I will end this article the way that I began it: The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. Or to put it another way, friends, the Emperor has no clothes! And if you doubt that, then just read it for yourself. With no one else around. It speaks for itself, and it says loudly, “These things are not true.”

(click to zoom)

I think that anyone who has actually done it can relate to this.

The almighty Lord our God is our refuge and our strength
An ever-present help in troubled times
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

The almighty God of Jacob is our fortress and our shield
Though the earth give way and mountains quake
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
Because our God is near

(words and music by Tommy Walker from Psalm 46)

As performed on the album “Live at Home” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

An Ex-Mormon Apologist Faces His Most Formidable Foe: His Past Self

by Michael Flournoy
As a Latter-day Saint I believed Christ’s church fell into apostasy after the deaths of the apostles because there was no one left to hold priesthood keys or receive revelation for the organization. Without their leadership, damnable heresies entered the Church and corrupted it completely.

In my book, I approached this topic by examining the prophecy at the end of the Old Testament. I wrote:

“In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the Mount of Transfiguration. At its top they see Moses and Elijah and hear God’s voice, proclaiming Jesus is His Son. On the way down the disciples ask the Master a question, ‘Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?’ Elias is the Greek form of the name Elijah. This question is in reference to the final prophecy of the Old Testament which states:

Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 KJV)

The Jews were under the mistaken impression that the Messiah would only come once and promptly deliver them from Rome. They were looking for Christ to come, but they also seemed to be looking for Elijah to come first. This is evident in the first chapter of John. When John the Baptist confesses he is not Christ, he is immediately asked, ‘What then, art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?’ (John 1:21)

In fact, Jews to this day believe Elijah will arrive as a sign of the Messiah’s coming. From a Christian perspective, and with the knowledge we gain in the New Testament, we understand there will be a second coming of the Messiah, which is often referred to as the great and dreadful day of the Lord in scripture. So the prophecy at the end of the Old Testament could safely be translated: Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the [second coming] of the Lord.

Let’s look at the Savior’s answer to his disciples’ inquiry. In Matthew 17:11 he says, ‘Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.’ By speaking in the future tense, Christ clarifies that the prophecy had yet to be fulfilled. He also explains that not only would Elijah come, he would restore all things. At the time Jesus said this, he was on earth, his apostles were called, and the gospel was being preached; so for all things to be restored, all things had to first be lost.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.60)

Obviously, there’s a lot here to unpack, but the basic points I made were that John the Baptist wasn’t Elijah and that the prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled until much later, presumably during the last days.

My first point that the great and dreadful day is a nod to the second coming, is a non-starter. I hoped to persuade my audience that Elijah didn’t show up until the restoration, but you know what else happened before the great and dreadful day of the Lord? Israel became a nation and was conquered. Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, and Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. Technically, everything in the history of our planet has happened before the second coming. So to that, I say, strike one.

I tried to say that Jesus referred to the prophecy in the future tense, proving that it hadn’t happened. However, let’s bear in mind that he was referencing the prophecy, and not explaining it. I might say, for example, “In Genesis, God says that if Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit, they will surely die.” Although I am speaking in future tense, that does not mean the fall hasn’t happened. In fact, Christ’s next sentence, which my LDS self failed to mention, switches immediately to past tense, “Elijah has come already.” This is exactly the kind of pivot someone would make when explaining God’s decree in the Garden of Eden. That’s strike two.

Now let’s look at the rest of Christ’s response:

“He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”
(Matthew 17:11-13 ESV)

The text of scripture specifically says the prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. This coincides with Luke 1:17 (ESV) where the angel tells Zacharias that John will “go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Not only do we have an angel attributing the same wording to John the Baptist that we find in the Elijah prophecy, we also have Christ reverting to past tense and New Testament scripture indicating that he was speaking of John. So to my intrepid LDS self, I say, strike three.

The Darvaza gas crater also known as “The Gates of Hell”, is a natural gas field that collapsed into a cavern in Darvaza, Turkmenistan. (source: Wikipedia)

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail
For Latter-day Saints to say the church fell into apostasy, they must do so by crawling over or under or around Matthew 16:18 to make that claim. In my Mormon days, I employed various gymnastic feats to weave around this difficult verse. For context, here is the entire passage:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19 ESV)

Latter-day Saints hyper-focus on the rock the church was built on, believing this to be a conditional promise. The gates of hell would not prevail against the church if it remained on the rock. Instead of narrowing the rock down to one thing, Latter-day Saints take bits and parts of all the elements in this passage and build the rock from that.

For instance, flesh and blood not revealing the truth to Peter, but his Father in heaven, must mean that revelation is the rock of the church. The keys to the kingdom of heaven represent priesthood authority. And finally, Peter himself is the rock in the sense that prophets and apostles will always be needed to run things.

Let’s start with prophets and apostles, and why they aren’t the rock Jesus spoke of. In my book I made a case for prophets and apostles by saying:

“Whenever there was a dispute in the Church, the problem was brought to the apostles, and their answers became doctrine. For example, Acts chapter 15 tells us some new Christians began to say circumcision was still essential for salvation, but the matter was brought to the apostles who deemed it unnecessary. The apostles were also largely responsible for writing the New Testament; so clearly they were privileged to know God’s will for the Church and had the authority to implement it.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p. 63)

Here I was trying to kill two birds with one stone, saying that revelation and apostles went hand in hand. However, it wasn’t as simple as that. In Acts 15, after the debate began, Barnabas and Paul were sent to inquire of the apostles at Jerusalem. But wait, wasn’t Paul an apostle by then? Why didn’t he evoke revelation right then? Once the matter is brought to the rest of the apostles, they don’t resort to revelation either. Instead, the text says they argue about it.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

“Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.”
(Romans 4:9-10 ESV)

What’s interesting about this, is revelation wasn’t necessary to end the debate. Instead of appealing to revelation from God, Paul appealed to the scriptures. In this way, he fulfilled the same role that pastors do in Christian churches today.

But what about his new scripture, doesn’t that prove his importance as an apostle? Without a doubt, God used Paul to write amazing scripture. But if that is the sign of an apostle today, then the LDS leadership has failed miserably for decades now. Not only that, but some of the writers of the New Testament aren’t even apostles. Where is Luke’s call to be an apostle? What about Mark and Jude? The fact is, if these men were not ordained apostles or prophets and yet were able to write scripture, then the whole argument for the leadership of the LDS church falls on its face.

To reinforce the necessity of revelation I wrote,

“Revelation is also a very practical way to lead the Church; Acts chapter 10 is a great example of how the early church functioned. A man named Cornelius, a gentile, was visited by an angel and told to seek out Peter, and informed that Peter would tell him what to do. So Cornelius sent three men to Joppa where Peter was staying. Before Peter could be confronted with the situation, and forced to make a decision based on finite reasoning, he was shown a vision in which a great sheet fell before him, which was inhabited by animals deemed unclean and inedible by the Law of Moses.

A voice spoke to him saying, ‘Rise Peter, kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him again, ‘What the Lord hath cleansed, that call not thou uncommon.’ This vision was given to Peter so he might know not to call any man common or unclean because it was time for the gospel to go to the gentiles. Since Christ personally instructed the apostles to go only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6), without indicating an expiration date for the command, it’s impossible to think Peter could have come to this conclusion without revelation.

It’s also quite telling that the Gentile emergence into Christianity happened through Peter. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius to start his own Christian denomination? It’s because apostles were a major part of the Church’s foundation!”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.64)

Let’s start with the easy stuff first. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius to start his own denomination? It makes total sense for Cornelius and the other Gentiles to go to Peter, whether he was an apostle or not. He had more experience being a Christian leader than they did. Not to mention, he knew Jesus personally and was well acquainted with the story and doctrine. Even as an Evangelical, I think it would have been foolish for them to set out on their own.

Now onto the tricky part. Was it really impossible for Peter to know to go to the Gentiles? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the words of the Apostle Paul:

‘For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”

And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”

And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’
(Romans 15:8-13 ESV)

The vision Peter received may have helped him know God’s will faster, but since the Old Testament said the Gentiles would place their hope in God, it’s a certainty that Peter and the apostles would have realized it even without revelation. In fact, all the revelations given by the apostles had a basis in scripture. This is in sharp contrast to the LDS church where practitioners are admonished to pray for a spiritual witness that their prophets are called of God. According to the New Testament, the Bereans tested what Paul said by scripture to see if his words were true, and because of this they were “more noble than those at Thessalonica.” (Acts 17:11 KJV)

I went on to argue that there was a concerted effort to keep the sanctity of the twelve apostles because when Judas took his life, they chose Matthias as a new apostle. Then, when James was martyred, Paul became an apostle.

First off, this is just two instances, and that’s a far cry from proving anything. Secondly, the LDS Church doesn’t even have twelve apostles. They have 15 prophets, seers, and revelators. If the number 12 is so important, why isn’t Mormonism sticking to it? Might I also hammer in the fact that they chose to ordain a new apostle under the direction of scripture and not revelation? If revelation is the foundation of Mormonism, it’s pretty odd to see the apostles sweeping it under the rug all the time.

I also tried to posit, as all Latter-day Saints do, that modern prophets fit the pattern God established throughout the Old Testament. But things aren’t really that black and white. For example, there were a number of women prophets in the Old Testament including Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Noadiah, who God used to speak to His people.

LDS doctrine does not allow women to be prophets or to receive God’s word, and that presents a shift from the Old Testament pattern. Furthermore, at one point the apostles tell Jesus they saw a man casting out demons in His name, and told him to stop because he wasn’t one of them.

Jesus responds, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40 ESV) 

If this man had the authority to cast out demons, despite not being under the apostles’ leadership, what was to stop him from passing out saving ordinances? And if a random man could do all that, what need did there remain for prophets and apostles at all if we presume that LDS hierarchy claims are biblical and true?

“The whole idea that God’s church could fail, is derived from a small, insignificant deity.” (Flournoy’s Fatal Flaw)

Flournoy’s Fatal Flaw
I admitted in my book that Jesus was part of the foundation of the church, constituting the chief cornerstone. When the apostles died, the priesthood keys, revelation, and apostles were lost. Only Jesus remained, but that wasn’t enough to fend off the apostasy of the ancient church.

These days, I take umbrage at the idea that Jesus constitutes ¼ of our foundation. The whole idea that God’s church could fail, is derived from a small, insignificant deity. I wonder if Latter-day Saints would be so quick to call it an apostasy if their precious priesthood had remained. Or revelation through a prophet? Yet somehow, Jesus simply isn’t enough.

Well here’s a newsflash for my LDS readers: If the apostles’ deaths resulted in the Great Apostasy, then Christ stood by and watched as His bride was murdered. He abandoned the wheat to the tares and ignored the wolves that ravaged His flock. He ceased to be the bridegroom and was anything but a good shepherd.

As a Biblical Christian, I proclaim that the opposite is true. The church didn’t collapse because it fell off the rock. The church persevered because the rock it was built upon was Christ, the Son of the Living God. He explains to Peter that “flesh and blood have not revealed this to you…” In other words, Christ’s identity is still the subject at hand and continued to be in the following statement, “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

If Jesus makes up the cornerstone, and everything else falls away, then that still leaves a foundation, and that means the apostasy could not have occurred. And since there was no apostasy, there could have been no restoration. And if there was no need for a restoration then as Joseph Smith, himself said so well, there is no need for the LDS Church:

“Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”
(Joseph Smith, “Comprehensive History of the Church” 1:42)

 

An Ex-Mormon Apologist Faces His Most Formidable Foe: His Past Self

by Michael Flournoy
I confess that I looked away when the Mormon looked at me with a pained look and asked, “Are you saying we’re not Christian?” It’s the most awkward part of discussing theology with Latter-day Saints. As Evangelicals, we’re left speechless. We can’t simply say no because of their reaction. To them, they are so obviously Christian, that any assertion to the contrary is simply absurd – laughable in fact. Ridiculous! Absurd! Stupid beyond words!

To them, it’s just the excuse they need to write us off forever. Clearly, we’re just hateful antis who are more interested in fighting against God than having a fair discussion. I have had many conversations end here, with Latter-day Saints walking away shaking their heads, and I’m not alone, I’m sure.

I have come to realize that our response to that question should be, “That’s an interesting question. Why do you think you’re Christian?” This encourages dialogue instead of stifling it. It opens a door rather than slamming it shut with the sound of deadbolts being pulled. We can then go point by point, and give each argument the attention it deserves rather than simply being shut down and out. To illustrate, let’s consider my old Mormon Apologist arguments through fresh eyes, and explain why the typical Evangelical response left me unconvinced back in the day.

Case in point, in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, Michael the Mormon Apologist attempted to persuade Evangelicals that Mormons were Christian too. I spent half a chapter trying to scare them out of preaching to Latter-day Saints. After all, I argued, Mormons could be Christian. I pointed to the apostle Paul, who persecuted Christians but later said he was the least of the apostles because of it. Clearly, the only thing to be gained by messing with Mormons was a future of shame and regret.

To that, today’s Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist calls, “Baloney!” He says, “You’re telling me that I’m supposed to avoid preaching to someone because they might be saved and that would be embarrassing? How exactly? I would be tickled to find a Mormon I preached to in God’s Kingdom, and I think they’d feel the same about me. No one says ‘I told you so’ in heaven, do they, Mr. Mormon?”

Here’s the reality. The possibility that I didn’t preach to an unsaved sinner because he seemed Christian is the graver error. The end result of that isn’t a little awkwardness. It’s a soul damned for eternity. Christians should be too afraid not to preach the gospel.

I also find it fascinating that my old Mormon Apologist equated preaching with persecution. Granted, there are times Evangelicals heap real persecution on Latter-day Saints, but challenging their theology doesn’t fit the bill. Stated plainly, disagreement is disagreement, not persecution. After all, if it is then Mormon Missionaries are some of the biggest persecutors on the planet, aren’t they? After all, they are called by their church with preaching to those that they disagree with, aren’t they? And that’s exactly what they do, isn’t it?

Latter-day Saints should welcome the challenge. If their theology proves stronger, it’s a chance to win us to their side. The fact that most of them prefer to throw out pejorative names like “anti-Mormon” instead of talking is a major sign they’re in a cult instead of a religion. To this day, I agree with Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt when he said,

“Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will ever have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, p. 15)

In my book, I defined a Christian as someone who believes in Christ and accepts Him as their personal Savior,

“So whether The Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith was a prophet are irrelevant to this specific point.

For this question, all that really matters is whether we believe in Christ or not. As it turns out, we do. We believe Jesus was more than a prophet. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Hope. Nephi of The Book of Mormon said, “…We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins’ (2 Nephi 25:26).”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.34)

It has always amazed me how quick Mormons are to quote the dictionary like it is scripture. The current edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Christian as, “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Yet, my Mormon Apologist self was careful not to define a Christian simply as one who believes in Christ. If he had, I would have pulled out my Bible and read James 2:19 (ESV) which says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

So, according to the dictionary, demons must be Christian, right? But that’s clearly not enough, is it? There’s more to being a Christian than having the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. We must accept Him as Lord and Savior as well, mustn’t we?

Michael the Mormon Apologist did, in fact, assert that “we must accept the Lord”, but he and I have different ideas of what that means. He believed it meant receiving LDS ordinances and keeping the commandments. I believe it’s receiving His righteousness through faith alone.

My old self tried to create a choke point by dismissing the need to talk about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon. To that I say, let’s broaden the playing field. Believing in false scripture and prophets does matter, particularly when they teach a pseudo gospel, just as Paul warned us: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 1:8 ESV)

The Greek word used for accursed is anathema, which implies ex-communication by an ecclesiastical leader. In Mormonism, ex-communication and salvation are mutually exclusive propositions.

My Mormon Apologist counterpart pointed out that many Latter-day Saints think that having Jesus in the name of their church proves they are Christian. I wrote:

“It should come as no surprise then, that Latter-day Saints are flabbergasted when someone says we aren’t Christian. It’s very common for us to say, ‘Look at the name of our church, it has Jesus’ name in it. Of course we’re Christian!'”(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

If your church’s name makes you a Christian, then what’s to stop me from starting my own church and naming it “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Better Latter-day Saint Restoration”? Would that make a Latter-day Saint? Would that make me a Latter-Saint Restorationist? Would naming myself Jesus Christ make me the Messiah? Of course not. Going further, back then I wrote:

“So maybe we do believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and maybe we do believe the Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s. But you know what, it’s still irrelevant…

The Bible places emphasis on knowing God, not knowing about Him. Thus we can assume that a simple disciple who has a relationship with God is better off than a scholar who knows all about Him, but hasn’t bothered to get to know Him personally.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here. In this highly contrived hypothetical situation, it’s true that an unlearned disciple is better off than an unsaved scholar. But that doesn’t mean God will overlook an incorrect ontological view of Him. The Bible says it like this,

“Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
(Acts 17:29-30 ESV)

In other words, it’s a sin to view God incorrectly. And while Michael the Mormon Apologist had no problem classifying Evangelicals as Christian, Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist now sees far too many differences now for us to have the same Jesus. Specifically, our Jesus was never created. Our Jesus was always God. He never had to take a body to become complete. Our Jesus is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Our Jesus saves sinners despite their works, not because of them. Michael the Mormon Apologist would have been appalled at this. Back then I argued,

“How much ignorance are we allowed to have before God withholds His grace?

Here’s why I ask: some Christians believe Melchezidek was Christ, some describe the Trinity in terms of Modalism, some Christians believe God chose who would be saved before we were born, and others think He’s the type to let us choose. Many Christians I’ve been in discussions with have even said the Trinity is mysterious.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.36)

I, the Mormon Apologist, then quoted Acts 17:23 (KJV) where Paul pointed to an altar with the inscription: ‘To the unknown god’, and said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” My argument was that God could be worshipped in ignorance. Otherwise, even Evangelicals couldn’t be called Christian due to their fragmented beliefs. But my arguments were misinformed. The Trinity is mysterious, but not in regards to the descriptions given in the Bible. We know what kind of a Being God is. As far as Modalism, they too are outside the bounds of Christianity and need repentance.

That might sound like nitpicking to Latter-day Saints, but even they have their limits. After all, they wouldn’t consider Muslims to be Christian, but I could use their logic to argue that they are. After all, don’t they believe in Christ? Sure, they don’t think He’s divine, and maybe they mistakenly call Heavenly Father “Allah”, but that’s just ignorant worship. Based on the dictionary, they’re Christians too, right?

Mormons can win the argument for their deviant form of Christianity, but merely on a technicality. Relying on a textbook definition to be saved is like relying on another driver’s blinker to keep from being hit. It’s the intentions that matter, not whether someone has their blinker on.

If I could tell Latter-day Saints anything, I’d remind them that Christ isn’t bringing a dictionary on Judgment Day. If our names aren’t written in the Book of Life, we’ll be damned forever. Salvation is an intensely personal matter. It’s not the name of our church that’s found in the Book of Life. We can’t get in under the prophet’s umbrella. It’s our names we should worry about. 

So the right question isn’t, “Are Mormons Christian?” The real, right question is for the individual, “Are you a Christian? Are you on His right hand? Is your name written in The Book of Life, and if so, by whose merits – your own flawed sin-tainted works, or His flawless, perfect, and holy work?”

There are thousands of nominal Christians in the world today who show up for church and go through the motions. If asked, they’ll claim Christianity as their religious affiliation. But that’s not the same as being born again. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer on this,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Friend, there’s no participation trophy for being in a Christian church. Even if we’ve done good works and ordinances in Christ’s name, they won’t count towards righteousness. In the end, all that really matters is whether or not we know Jesus – that is the real Jesus of time, space, and history that can be found and is revealed in the Bible. Fictional, man-contrived Jesus’s (and, trust me, there are many, many, many false Jesus’s) simply don’t count, do they?1

So in the end, can a Latter-day Saint be a Christian? Absolutely. Christ can save someone anywhere, at any time, be it in a temple, a prison, a mosque, a bar, or a gutter. He can and will save us right when and where we are right now. Just as we are – ugly, broken, bitter, dirty, and damaged. Period. In fact, He does it every day!

So the better question is this: Does the LDS church truly meet the requirements to be called a Christian church since it teaches another God, another Jesus, and another gospel than what is taught in the Bible? In other words, can the true Jesus of the Bible save a Latter-day Saint despite the false teachings of the LDS Church rather than because of those teachings? This is a question that simply never dawned on Michael the Mormon Apologist as a possibility – but it’s intriguing, isn’t it?

However, that also is another conversation for the Ex-Mormon Apologist to have with the Mormon Apologist on another day (or maybe two, or three). Stay tuned to this channel, there’s more – a lot more – to come!

The front cover of “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”


1 Case in point, please consider the False Jesus of Self-Realization Fellowship:

“Jesus Christ is very much alive and active today. In Spirit and occasionally taking on a flesh-and-blood form, he is working unseen by the masses for the regeneration of the world. With his all-embracing love, Jesus is not content merely to enjoy his blissful consciousness in Heav­en. He is deeply concerned for mankind and wishes to give his followers the means to attain the divine freedom of entry into God’s Infinite Kingdom. He is disappointed because many are the churches and temples founded in his name, often prosperous and powerful, but where is the communion that he stressed — actual contact with God? Jesus wants temples to be established in human souls, first and foremost; then established outwardly in physical places of worship. Instead, there are countless huge edifices with vast congregations being indoctrinated in churchianity, but few souls who are really in touch with Christ through deep prayer and meditation.

“To reestablish God in the temples of souls through revival of the original teachings of God-communion as propounded by Christ and Krishna is why I was sent to the West by Mahavatar Babaji….

“Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
(Paramahansa Yogananda, “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You”, Introduction; also see “Spiritual Lineage” Self-Realization Fellowship website)

Banner Art: An image from the iconic Mad Magazine, “Spy v. Spy” cartoon series. (copyright Antonio Prohias, the Prohias Estate, Mad Magazine, and Mad Book) 

by Michael Flournoy
In my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, I tried to downplay the importance of Joseph Smith. I wrote:

“Joseph Smith’s story is a remarkable one. It’s one which Mormon missionaries never fail to teach their investigators. Furthermore, opponents of the Church never tire of attacking Joseph’s character, and members of the Church usually feel obligated to defend him. I think it’s a waste of time.

If I went to my mother’s house for her famous green bean casserole, I wouldn’t denounce her or her specialty if I found out she used canned, instead of fresh green beans. Similarly, Joseph Smith is just a technical detail of the broader picture. A mortal man who is dead was never our central message; God becoming man and rising from the dead is our central message, along with the fact that His bride, the Church, has been restored to her former glory. We’re talking about a wedding here! Heaven forbid one of the guests should get all the attention!

I’m not trying to minimize Joseph since he played an essential role in the restoration of the gospel. Salt is an essential ingredient in bread too, but many a loaf’s been ruined because too much salt was added.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.53)

Looking back, I see a frightened young Mormon who suspected that Joseph was involved in distasteful activities, but suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. I tried to create a choke point by defining what was and what wasn’t important to the debate.

To put things in perspective, Joseph isn’t a guest at the LDS wedding. He’s the best man. In fact, when the bride ran away last time, he’s the one who brought her back. He’s the reason the wedding is even happening. In Mormonism, Christ wasn’t appealing enough to win the bride by Himself, much less keep her from divorcing Him. He required a wingman. And this is the worst kind of wingman there is, because not only are the bride’s eyes on the Groom, they constantly glance back at Joseph. Jesus may have her hand, but Joseph has her heart.

I tried to shield Joseph from attack the same way a chess player tucks away his king. I pointed to other “weasels” in the Biblical narrative. There was Judas Iscariot, who Jesus handpicked as an apostle. There was Jonah who fled from his duty, and Aaron who built a molten calf for Israel to worship. If these men could be called of God despite their evil deeds, then God could use anyone. Arguments against the character of Joseph were irrelevant. In fact, it was preposterous to think someone had to be good to work for God.

Okay, Past Self, hold your horses. While God can use evil men to accomplish his work, that’s a far cry from what the LDS Church teaches about Joseph. He is proclaimed a prophet and must be worthy not only to receive revelation from God but to hold the priesthood keys necessary for governing the Church. The Bible makes it very clear that the works of the flesh are evil, but those who follow the Spirit will exemplify a holier set of traits. It reads:

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
(Galatians 5:18-23 ESV)

Simply stated, it’s erroneous to sweep Joseph’s traits under the rug and only look to The Book of Mormon as his fruit. Jesus said,

Jesus said,

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are   ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”
(Matthew 7:15-18 ESV)

Notice what He didn’t say. Christ didn’t say to sweep a prophet’s misdeeds under the rug. He didn’t say to ignore them when they speak heresy because they’re fallible men. And He certainly didn’t say it was wrong to criticize them even if the criticism is true. Rather, we are to call their works into question.

Granted, all believers are still sinners, and even Biblical prophets made mistakes. But if we look at the accusations against Joseph, we see someone who was anything but a saint. He was charged with treason and conspiracy to murder a former governor. He was arrested 42 times. He was charged with banking fraud and destroying a press that criticized him. He sent men on missions and married their wives in their absence. He lied about his polygamy in public and in private to his wife Emma.

Latter-day Saints denounce these claims as anti-Mormon fabrications designed to ruin Joseph’s reputation. However, the sources for this evidence are all Mormon or Mormon friendly – up to and including Joseph Smith himself in “The History of the Church” (see the online edition of  “The History of the Church” archived at BYU)

Since I didn’t argue for the character of Joseph in my pro-LDS book, it’s not my goal to argue against it here. I did argue that the First vision itself was evidence of Joseph’s prophetic calling. I wrote:

But what about 2 Corinthians 11:14 which says Satan is transformed into an angel of light? If the devil is capable of such trickery, how can we be sure Joseph wasn’t visited by Satan disguised as God? Everyone who’s served a mission has probably heard someone argue along these lines. However, the argument is Biblically unsound. In the New Testament when Jesus casts out demons, the Pharisees accuse him of casting out demons through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. To this Christ replies, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?’ (Matthew 12:25-26 KJV)

Joseph Smith said when he prayed he was first set upon by a dark force before being delivered by God. Since neither God nor Satan is divided, we are left with only two options: first, that God attacked Joseph, but was abolished by Satan, or second, that Smith’s account is true and he was delivered by God.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.57)

This is a classic false dichotomy. This whole argument assumes that Joseph was telling the truth about what happened. It’s a cleverly constructed house that lacks a foundation. The simplest explanation is the First Vision never happened. The whole event was fabricated. Joseph never saw God and was never called to restore Christianity from apostasy. In fact, Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (see Matthew 16:18).

My LDS self believed that the most important fruits to look at were The Book of Mormon and the restored gospel. In this series of articles, I will examine these fruits and show that Joseph brought forth false scripture, a false god, and a false gospel. But the rotten fruit of his life bears witness that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God. It speaks for itself, despite how any Mormon Apologist or stack of books from Mormon Apologist may try to spin.

Joseph Smith was not only not God’s Prophet, according to the Matthew 7 “Fruit Test” he was clearly a False Prophet.1 And he is one of many reasons that I, once a staunch Mormon Apologist, am now an Ex-Mormon Apologist.


1 For those looking for a short, succinct, summary of the bad fruit of Joseph Smith, Fred W. Anson’s, Beggar’s Bread article on the subject: “The Fruit of Joseph Smith” is recommended.

A Position Statement by the XM-Christians Administrators

First, let’s define terms. From Wikipedia: 

“As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age drew heavily upon a number of older esoteric traditions, in particular, those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such prominent occultist influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New Thought, and Theosophy… The exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, but there is general agreement that it became a major movement in the 1970s, at which time it was centered largely in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United States.”
(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Age

Since its inception of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook group (aka “XM-Christians”) back in 2015, a recurring pattern emerged with former Latter-day Saints preaching, teaching, advocating for, and asking questions about New Age teachings and practices in the group. This should have come as no surprise to us given how deeply embedded New Age doctrine and practice is in Mormonism, but it did. Perhaps we should have paid better attention when Harold Bloom, a self-styled Jewish Gnostic, explained:

“The God of Joseph Smith is a daring revival of the God of some of the Kabbalists and Gnostics, prophetic sages who, like Smith himself, asserted that they had returned to the true religion… Mormonism is a purely American Gnosis, for which Joseph Smith was and is a far more crucial figure than Jesus could be. Smith is not just ‘a’ prophet, another prophet, but he is the essential prophet of these latter days, leading into the end time, whenever it comes.”
(Harold Bloom, “The American Religion” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp.99;123

To this thesis, Gnostic author Lance S. Owens noted: 

“Harold Bloom’s coupling of Joseph Smith to the Gnostic tradition has aroused animated disagreement among students of Mormonism and Gnosticism alike. Several questions crucial to modern Gnostic studies are raised by this emerging dialogue: What is the relationship of later “Gnostic” movements to classical Gnosticism? Were rudiments of the tradition conveyed to post-classical groups by historical links (oral transmissions, myths and texts); was it instead the independent product of a recurrent type of creative vision? Or are dual forces of historical transmission and primary Gnostic experience generally interdependent, even occultly linked? While Joseph Smith had historical connection with late remnants of Gnosticism conveyed by Renaissance Hermeticism and Kabbalah, his religious creation nonetheless clearly derived in large part from a personal experience.”
(Lance S. Owens, “Joseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophet”; Gnosis: A Journal of Western Inner Traditions, Spring 1995)

The bottom line is that New Ageism in the form of classic Gnosticism has been and is a part of Mormon from its very inception. But the question is this: How is any of this in any way “Christian”? And the answer is, it’s not. The Bible is quite clear that the type of divination, transcendentalism, and pagan rituals that we see in both the classic Gnosticism of Joseph Smith, as well as its current manifestation in the modern New Age movement, is pagan, not Judeo-Christian. In fact, God denounces these teachings and practices in the strongest terms possible: 

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord…”
(Deuteronomy 18:10-12, ESV, bolding added for emphasis. Also, see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, and;  Isaiah 8:19)

Consider this: Even the Book of Mormon, the very keystone of the Mormon faith, was brought forth via the occult practice of “scrying”: 

‘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 or fortune-telling. It remains popular in occult circles, discussed in many media, both modern and centuries old.’
(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrying

This is the exact type of “peeping” divination that is explicitly condemned in the Bible by name: 

“And when they [false prophets and brethren] say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
(Isaiah 8:19-20 NKJV, bracketed text based on context)

And for 4,000 plus years of Judeo-Christian History, God’s covenant people have been unanimous in their condemnation of these occult practices. Yet despite this, New Ageism has started to creep into our culture, up to and included the Christian Church:

“New Age practices have made their way into almost every area of the culture – sociology, psychology, medicine, the government, ecology, science, arts, the business community, the media, entertainment, sports, education, and even the church. Christians and non-Christians alike have been seduced to accept practices and beliefs that are clearly based on anti-Christian doctrines.

Historically, the New Age Movement can be seen as the modern revival of ancient religious traditions and practices. Its actual original roots are found in the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 3:4-5

‘And the serpent said unto the woman, you shall not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

In the original lie, Satan questions God’s word and authority and, disputes that death results from disobedience, and claims that through the acquisition of secret or Gnostic wisdom man can be enlightened and can be like God. Over the centuries, this lie resulted in a variety of religious traditions and occult practices, which were already strongly condemned in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:9-17; Isaiah 47:9-15) but nevertheless developed in the pagan cultures. It continues to its ultimate state of development and will be revealed as Satan’s one-world system at the end of the age (Revelation 17-18).”
(“What the Cults believe”; Sunday School Notes Tabernacle Baptist Church, Ithaca, NY 14850, Summer 1999

This was reflected in a recent Pew Research that survey shows a majority of Americans now holding to varying degrees of New Age belief: 

“Most American adults self-identify as Christians. But many Christians also hold what are sometimes characterized as “New Age” beliefs – including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees. Many Americans who are religiously unaffiliated also have these beliefs.

Overall, roughly six-in-ten American adults accept at least one of these New Age beliefs. Specifically, four-in-ten believe in psychics and that spiritual energy can be found in physical objects, while somewhat smaller shares express belief in reincarnation (33%) and astrology (29%).”
(“‘New Age’ beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans”, Pew Research website, October 18, 2018)

So yes, it’s pervasive – far more pervasive than we Admins first realized back in the day. And yes it’s become and is becoming increasingly common in Mormonism. We get that now too. And yes, we have come to understand well that those Ex-Mormons coming from a New Age background can often point to their own, often dramatic, experiences in making their case for their beliefs and practices. We get that as well. But as well-known Charismatic Christian Bible Teacher, the late Derek Prince, pointed out poignantly all this is nothing but denial and self-deception: 

“Deception—not sickness, poverty, or persecution—is the greatest single danger in the end of the age. Anyone who denies his vulnerability to deception is already deceived, for Jesus has foretold it and He does not err. Our hearts are incapable of discerning truth on their own. Proverbs 28:26 teaches, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” “We must not be fools by trusting our hearts. Whatever our hearts tell us is unreliable, as on their own. Proverbs 28:26 teaches, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” We must not be fools by trusting our hearts. Whatever our hearts tell us is unreliable, as Jeremiah 17:9 attests: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” In Hebrew, the word deceitful is active rather than passive. The heart is not deceived; rather, the heart is a deceiver, leading you astray. 

It is also important to realize that signs and wonders neither guarantee nor determine truth. Truth is established and unchanging; it is the Word of God. In John 17:17, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth.” The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). No event on earth, whether natural or supernatural, can change the slightest sign or letter in the Word of God. 

True signs attest the truth; lying signs attest lies. Many Christians assume that every supernatural sign must be from God, forgetting that Satan, or the devil, is completely capable of performing supernatural signs and wonders. As Paul wrote in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, 

‘The coming of the lawless one [the Antichrist] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12)”
(Derek Prince, “Protection from Deception”, locations 79-91, Whitaker House, Kindle Edition)

In other words, while all of us are most certainly entitled to our personal feelings, personal experiences, and personal opinions, the real question for truly Biblical Christians is always the same: What does the Bible say? For the true Christian, God’s Word is always the ultimate standard for all matters of Christian faith and life, isn’t it? 

Not our personal feelings.
Not our personal experiences. 
And not our personal opinions. 

This is just as the Apostle Paul pointedly challenges us in God’s Word: 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12:1-2; 21 NKJV)

Friend, this stuff has eternal consequences, if we claim Jesus as Lord, then Jesus is either Lord, or He isn’t, right? After all, wasn’t Christ Himself clear in the Book of Revelation when He warned us about engaging in several often taught and used New Age practices: 

‘And He [Christ] said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”’
(Revelation 21:6-8 NKJV) 

In end, the Got Questions website summed things up nicely when they concluded: 

“The New Age movement is a counterfeit philosophy that appeals to the feelings of individuals, leading them to think that they are God and can enhance their lives through their own person. The reality is that we are born, grow up, live a while on planet Earth, and die. Humans are finite. We can never be God. We need someone greater than we who can provide us forgiveness and life eternal. Praise the Lord for the God-man, Jesus Christ. Through His death and bodily resurrection, He has won for us what we desperately need: forgiveness from God, a life of purpose and meaning in this life, and eternal life beyond the grave. Don’t miss out on who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for you. Read John chapter 3. Ask Christ to be your Savior. Your life will be transformed, and you will know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going.”
(“What is the New Age movement?”)

So while the XM-Christians Admins are empathetic and sympathetic to the confusion that the LdS Church has created within its membership by relabeling and redefining New Ageism as “Christian”, a transition from that type of obfuscation into historic, Biblical Christianity is the goal and purpose of this group. Therefore, while we understand the inner turmoil and misunderstanding a firm affirmation of the biblical stance on these things might cause with Ex-Mormons who were heavily into Mormon New Age practices and teachings when they were members, we will, nonetheless, remain firm. And this is the boundary and stance that we will maintain in this group. 

Thank you.

The XM-Christian Admin Team

Amy Fuller
Michael Stevens
Jackie Davidson
Matthew Eklund
Rachel Miller 
Russ East
Barb Griffith
Fred W. Anson

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:15 NLT)

Recommended Reading: 
“Deceived No More: How Jesus Led Me out of the New Age and into His Word”, by Doreen Virtue
(this is the book that the recovered former New Agers in the XM-Christians group seem to recommend above all others)

“What’s New with the New Age? Why Christians Need to Remain on Guard against the Threat of New Age Spirituality” by Phil Johnson
(a good short primer on the subject)

“A Christian Response to the New Age” by John A. Saliba
(a good short primer on the subject that’s more scholarly than the Phil Johnson article)

‘Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age”’, The Vatican
(a six-year study by the Roman Catholic Church on the New Age movement)

“New Age Beliefs Aren’t Christian, Vatican Finds”, Larry B. Stammer, LA Times, February 8, 2003
(a good synopsis of the above Roman Catholic study that is easier and quicker to read)

“Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality.”

I was first exposed to this parable via Chad Spjut’s Exmormon Foundation 2010 Conference Presidential Greeting.  I offer it to you now  in the hope that this powerful, articulate, and poignant expression of the life experience of so many resonates as deeply for you as it did for me.

by Anonymous Utahan
There once was a boy who lived all his life with a cardboard box over his head. His parents taught him that he should never take the box off, for doing so was dangerous and foolish. The box protected him from the scary world outside of it.

On the inside of the box, he could make out some letters, and he could see the outlines of the box around him. His world was brown cardboard. His parents taught him to study the inside of the box carefully, for in it was all the wisdom he needed to navigate life. Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality.

Some of his friends told him that they had taken off the box and life was much better, but he didn’t believe them. His parents made sure he stayed away from these people, who clearly wanted only to hurt their boy.

But as he grew older, he found that he kept bumping into sharp and painful objects that he couldn’t see because of the box. His parents told him that those things weren’t real, that he was safest and happiest inside the box. But each day brought more injury as he seemed to constantly run into painful things.

“Just take the box off so you can see where you’re going”, said his friends.

“No! You can’t! You’ll hurt yourself, and you might even die!” warned his parents.

After too many painful days, he made up his mind to see what was out there on the other side of the box. The light hurt his eyes briefly, but after a moment, he could see colors, and trees, and sky. It was more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined.

He looked around and saw his friends, who smiled at him and welcomed him to a better world.

And then he saw them. His parents and friends came groping toward him, boxes on their heads.

He called out to them, “Take the boxes off! You’ll see that there’s so much more out here! Trust me!”

But his parents told him sadly, “We have failed as parents. All we ever wanted was for you to be happy, and now you’ve rejected us and everything we hold dear. Please, son, put the box back on, for us. You’ll see that we know what’s best”

“But Mom, Dad, it’s so beautiful out here, and the world is full of possibilities. Can’t you just lift the box, if only for a moment? You’ll see that I’m telling you the truth.”

His parents turned sadly and told their friends, “We have lost our son. Let this be a lesson to you. This is what happens when you take off the box.”

And, turning, they groped their way slowly – away from the shining sun.

“Take the boxes off! You’ll see that there’s so much more out here! Trust me!”

(As originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on July 26, 2011)

BACK TO TOP

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the eighth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

34) Use of the cross in Mormon architecture and fashion
In today’s Mormon Culture the cross is treated more like it’s a radioactive or a symbol of shame, not glory. As LdS President, Gordon B. Hinckley said in a 2005 address:

The cross had been the bitter fruit of Judas’s betrayal, the summary of Peter’s denial. The empty tomb now became the testimony of His divinity, the assurance of eternal life, the answer to Job’s unanswered question: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14)… And because our Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Our Faith”, Ensign, April 2005) 

However, as Mormon Studies Scholar, Michael G. Reed points out this was not always the case – quite the contrary in fact:

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many Latter-day Saints individually used and promoted the symbol of the cross in its visual and material form. The current taboo emerged among Mormons at the grass-roots level around the turn of the twentieth century, and became institutionalized mid-century under the direction of David O. McKay, president of the LDS Church 1951–70.
(Reed, Michael G. “Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo”, John Whitmer Books. Kindle Edition locations 136-143)

And a 2009 Deseret News article on Mr. Reed’s book explains further:

In 1916 a church asked the Salt Lake City Council to allow them to build a huge cross, “the symbol of Christianity,” on Ensign Peak. “We would like to construct it of cement, re-enforced with steel, of sufficient dimensions that it can be readily seen from every part of the city,” the request read.

That request came from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The cross was to honor the Mormon pioneers.

Even though the proposal was approved by the City Council, the monument was never built.

Today there are no crosses on Mormon temples. Yet two are shaped like a cross. Mormon chapels do not have crosses either. But many have prints of the crucifixion hanging on their walls…

It appeared as jewelry on Brigham Young’s wives and daughters. It appeared in floral arrangements in funerals. It appeared as tie tacks on men’s ties and watch fobs on men’s vests. It appeared on cattle as the official LDS Church brand. Crosses were on church windows, attic vents, stained-glass windows and pulpits. They were on gravestones and quilts.

Even two temples, the Hawaiian and the Cardston, Alberta, Canada Temple were described in a 1923 general conference as being built in the shape of a cross.
(Michael De Groote, “Mormons and the cross”, Deseret News, Sep 10, 2009)

And if any further proof of this is required, please consider the photographs that are included throughout the Deseret New article that I’ve just cited from (link provided above).  This article contains several photographs from an earlier age of Mormon History when the cross was a glory, not the symbol of shame that it is today. They’re interesting, to say the least.

LdS President Joseph F Smith at a funeral in the Brigham City Tabernacle with a floral Cross that’s central to the funeral arrangements.

35) Plain identity of extant Native Americans as Lamanites.
Prior to the DNA evidence discrediting the claim that the American Aboriginals were the descendants of the Lamanites claims that was, in fact, THE official, correlated view of the LdS Church. As the Daily Herald summarized so nicely back in 2007:

“The Lamanites, church members have long believed, are the direct ancestors of the indigenous peoples found in North, South and Central America by European explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries.

It’s a matter of some controversy, then, that LDS officials have now changed the text of the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, softening the assertion made when the Introduction was first included, in 1981, that the Lamanites “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” The new text says only that the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

And the historical record backs their claims and documents this now dust binned doctrine well:

“Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my hold priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fullness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous then the gentiles.”
(Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., 1831 revelation, recorded in a letter from W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young, dated August 12, 1861)

“In addition to this, and to co-operate with it, it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the Natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent. It has been made known to one, who has left his wife in the state of N.Y. that he is entirely free from his wife, and he is at liberty to take him a wife from among the Lamanites. It was easily perceived that his permission was perfectly suited to his desires. I have frequently heard him state, that the Lord had made it known to him, that he is as free from his wife as from any other woman; and the only crime that I have ever heard alleged against her is, she is violently opposed to Mormonism.”
(Ezra Booth, Ohio Star, December 8, 1831)

“After the people again forgot the Lord and dissensions arose, some of them took upon themselves the name Lamanites and the dark skin returned. When the Lamanites fully repent and sincerely receive the gospel, the Lord has promised to remove the dark skin. The Lord declared by revelation that, ‘before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as a rose.’ The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts and delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.”
(Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, v. 3, p. 123, 1953)

“The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”
(Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, “Day of the Lamanites”, General Conference, Oct. 1960)

“The Lord has never indicated that black skin came because of being less faithful. Now, the Indian; we know why he has changed, don’t we? The Book of Mormon tells us that; and he has a dark skin, but he has promise there that through faithfulness, that they all again become a white and delightsome people.”
(Apostle LeGrand Richards, Interview by Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos, Aug. 16, 1978, Church Office Building)

“We are greatly conscious of the fact that among the Lamanites – as well as among all peoples of other countries – we have a responsibility to see that the gospel touches their hearts and minds and that they understand it.”
(Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, October 1980 General Conference, Ensign, November 1980, p.76)

“The Lamanites [Native Americans], now a down-trodden people, are a remnant of the house of Israel. The curse of God has followed them as it has done the Jews, though the Jews have not been darkened in their skin as have the Lamanites.”
(Prophet Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, v. 22, p.173)

And if that’s not enough, you will find many more such quotes here: http://www.mormonthink.com/QUOTES/native.htm

A map from the December 1975 Ensign Magazine from the article, “Who and Where Are the Lamanites?” by Lane Johnson. Ensign magazine is an official, correlated LDS Church periodical.

36) D&C 89’s encouragement to drink beer.
As Rock Waterman explains:

“God tells us in Section 89 that beer is one of the reasons He gave us barley.

If you didn’t know that, it’s probably because like many latter day saints, you learned all about the Word of Wisdom in Sunday school, but you’ve most likely never gotten around to really reading the thing.

So let’s look at it again. Remember the part describing the purposes of the various grains, the one that begins “Nevertheless, wheat for man…”? Open your scriptures to Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 and turn to verse 17. Let’s read, in God’s own words, what he created barley for: “…and barley for all useful animals and for mild drinks, as also other grain.”

The early saints would have been astounded that future members would ever conflate their mild barley drink -beer- with the “strong drink” advised against in verses 5 and 7. Early Mormons regularly consumed beer without compunction, as had most of mankind throughout recorded history.

In 1843 the church’s newspaper, the Nauvoo Neighbor, advertised ale and beer available at the Nauvoo Brewery. Joseph Smith oversaw a fully stocked bar located at his home in the Mansion House. In an 1844 journal entry Joseph Smith mentions that he stopped in and “drank a glass of beer at Moesser’s“. He mentions this in passing as if it was no big deal, because to him it wasn’t.

This was eleven years after Joseph received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, so you can’t say he didn’t know better. The fact is, beer was not proscribed by Section 89; it was prescribed.

Within three years of the saints’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, breweries were operating at the mouths of every river canyon from Logan to Nephi. Most of the saints were immigrants from England, Denmark, and Germany, and these Teutonics brought with them their old-world brewing skills. A sizable brewery once sat close to where the Provo temple is now, and the Henry Wagener Brewery took up a massive 150 acres just across the street from where the “This Is The Place” monument now stands. So many breweries appeared so fast that by 1851 the smell emanating from all these operations provoked the city council to declare them a nuisance. Yet they continued to operate.

Beer was manufactured and consumed by faithful members of the church who never gave a second thought to the idea that there might be anything wrong with it. Most would have applied Benjamin Franklin’s famous declaration regarding wine to their beer and ale, that it was “proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy”.

By the time Johnston’s Army arrived in 1857, ushering in a steady stream of thirsty gentiles through Utah, things really took off for the Mormon brewers. Beer was available everywhere, including the church owned ZCMI where both Mormons and gentiles could stop in to grab a brewski any day but Sunday.

So how did the LDS church membership devolve from an appreciation of beer as a gift from God, to our present-day anathema toward it?

Well, we got the idea from the protestants.

Temperance Nation
By the time of the Manifesto in 1890, the LDS conversion rate was practically nil. All anybody knew about Mormons were that they were that crazy bunch of polygamous weirdos off in the desert. Any growth the church experienced was primarily internal, as pretty much the only baptisms Utahns were performing were on eight year old kids who already lived there. Certainly nobody new wanted to join.

The united states government and the eastern newspapers had painted us such pariahs that we couldn’t get anybody to take our religion seriously on a bet. Missionaries couldn’t get anyone to take a pamphlet, let alone read the Book of Mormon. Proselyting was at a standstill. We needed to find some way to get our numbers up.

Meanwhile back in the states, a huge temperance movement was sweeping the sectarian religious world, a backlash against decades of unbridled American alcoholism and public drunkenness. Public vows of abstinence were all the rage. It was no longer cool to profess Christ on Sunday if you spent Saturday night in a saloon; now a man’s spiritual measure was taken by how vociferously he denounced the demon rum.

The motto of virtuous young women everywhere was “lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine”, and young men, whose lips desperately wanted to touch the lips of young women, dutifully fell into line. It was futile to argue with these women that beer and ale, which were brewed, did not belong in the same class as hard liquors such as whiskey, which was distilled. These young ladies had zero tolerance for any of it, it was all the same to them. Talk to the hand, ’cause the lips ain’t listenin‘.

There was a pious war against booze raging in Christian America, and mild drinks were getting caught in the crossfire.

The debate spilled over into Utah where, though public drunkenness was strictly forbidden, wine and distilled spirits had always been available (some members paid their tithing in wine they made themselves; the St George tithing office reported collecting 7000 gallons by 1887). Still, hard liquor was hardly tolerated by Mormons the way beer had traditionally been.

By 1900, the parsing of the Word of Wisdom was well under way in debate among the leaders of the church. According to BYU Professor Emeritus Thomas G. Alexander:

“…All general authorities were not in agreement on all aspects of the word of wisdom…After he became president of the church, Lorenzo Snow again emphasized the centrality of not eating meat…and in 1901 John Henry Smith and Brigham Young, Jr., of the Twelve both thought that the church ought not interdict beer, at least not Danish beer.” Apostle Anthon H. Lund, who happened to be Danish, agreed, especially with the part about Danish beer. So did Mathias F.Cowley and others.

Over the next couple of decades, the Mormon people as a whole jumped on the Temperance bandwagon, and in 1919 Utah enthusiastically ratified the 18th amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages, including beer. Utah breweries closed down and before long all traces disappeared. In time, the descendants of the pioneers forgot they had ever existed. Land once occupied by the sprawling Henry Wagoner Company eventually became home to the Hogle zoo.

The Mormon support of prohibition had a positive effect on missionary work. We could boast to teetotaling Christians that we were way ahead of the curve on the evils of alcohol, having been hip to that scene as far back as 1833. With the hub-bub over polygamy having pretty much quieted down, the church was experiencing a re-branding. Missionaries were no longer fearsome devils come to steal your daughters; they were now those nice young men who didn’t smoke or drink.

Looks like we’d found our gimmick.”
(Rock Waterman, “Too Bad I Don’t Like Beer”, Pure Mormonism website, June 18, 2009) 

37) Paid Clergy.
Mormon scripture explicitly mandates that clergy be paid:

Doctrine & Covenants 42
71 And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned;

72 Or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop.

73 And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.

Yet today, despite the clear command of scripture, today the LdS Church denounces churches with a paid clergy in the strong terms:

“Wherever creeds are found one can also expect to find a paid clergy, the simple truths of the gospel cloaked in the dark robes of mystery, religious intolerance, and a history of bloodshed.”
(Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig Ostler, “Revelations of the Restoration”, p. 964, published 2000)

But as D. Michael Quinn explains this wasn’t always the case:

“In the nineteenth-century West, local officers of the LDS church obtained their support from the tithing they collected. As early as 1859, Brigham Young wondered “whether a Stake would not be better governed when none of the officers were paid for their services.” During Brigham Young’s presidency, ward bishops drew at will from the primarily non-cash tithing Mormons donated. President Young complained at the October 1860 general conference “against a principle in many of the Bishops to use up all the tithing they could for their own families.

Even full-time missionaries benefited from tithing funds in the nineteenth century The senior president of the First Council of Seventy commented in 1879 that the families of married missionaries should be supported from tithing funds.55 However, at best that practice barely kept struggling wives and children out of abject poverty while their husbands and fathers served two-year missions.

In 1884, Church President John Taylor limited bishops to 8 percent of the tithing they collected (now primarily cash), while stake presidents got 2 percent of the tithing collected by all the bishops of the stake. In 1888, Wilford Woodruff established set salaries for stake presidents, and provided that a stake committee would apportion 10 percent of collected tithing between the bishops and the stake tithing clerk. At the April 1896 general conference, the First Presidency announced the end of salaries for local officers, in response to the decision of the temple meeting “to not pay Salaries to any one but the twelve.
(D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Finances from the 1830’s to the 1990’s”, Sunstone Magazine, June 1996, p.21; audio presentation January 1, 1992)

And right into the dustbin a paid clergy, along with beer-drinking for health, clearly identifying American Indians as the descendants of the Lamanites, and glorying in the cross, swish, swish, swish, it goes. It’s just as Mormon Researcher, Aaron Shafovaloff’s Couplet says so well,

“As heresy is, Mormon doctrine once was.
As Mormon doctrine is, heresy will it become.”
— Shafovaloff’s Couplet

Domenico Ghirlandaio, “The Calling of the Apostles” (1481)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
Since few people outside of Restorationist circles have heard of David Bercot here’s a brief primer from his Wikipedia page that will give you his backstory: 

David Bercot was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. After leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1976, he began his university education. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University summa cum laude, and he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree cum laude from Baylor University School of Law.

In 1985, Bercot began an in-depth study of the early Christians who lived before the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. His studies started him on a spiritual pilgrimage. In 1989, he wrote the book, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, which sets forth some of the teachings and lifestyle of the early Christians. That same year, he joined with an Assembly of God pastor to establish Scroll Publishing Company for the purpose of publishing various writings of the pre-Nicene Christians, as well as to publish other Christian books.

Bercot’s studies of the early Christians brought him into contact and dialogue with three different branches of Christianity: the Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, Brethren), the Anglican Church, and the churches of the Restoration Movement (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, International Church of Christ). In 1985, after completing his religious studies through Cambridge University, Bercot was ordained as an Anglican priest. However, he eventually left the Anglican Church and began fellowshipping with various Anabaptist churches.

Today Bercot is a lecturer and author who emphasizes the simplicity of Biblical doctrine and early (ante-Nicene) Christian teaching over against what he would call the heavy and complex body of theological understandings that have built up over the centuries in churches and in academia and that have come to be thought of as orthodoxy. He is particularly notable for his deeply nonresistant understanding of Jesus’s and New Testament teaching.

Bercot’s most widely read work is A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, published in 1998. It is a work that collects together over 7000 excerpts from the writings believed by many to be those of early Christians, arranged alphabetically by topic. According to Bercot, before the publication of his work, the only practical way to determine what the early Christians believed about any given topic was to read the actual writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers themselves. After the publication of A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, the Evangelical Review of Theology stated: “David Bercot has done the church a great service in providing an accessible point of entry into the extant writings of the pre-Nicene church.” The Conservative Theological Journal stated: “This is a must text for everyone interested in modern theological trends in general and especially historical studies.”

Other popular books that Bercot has written are Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, published originally in 1989, and The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down (2003), and Will the Theologians Please Sit Down (2009).
(“David Bercot”, Wikipedia, retrieved 2020-11-12) 

If you saw a recurring Restorationist theme running through that biography, you’re not alone. From Jehovah’s Witness to Pentecostal, to Anabaptist, it’s all there in plain sight. So given that strong Restorationist skew, it should come as no surprise that Bercot has become a kind of go-to source for Restorationist heresy and error the world over. From Anabaptists to Mormons he’s cited as an authority on how Christian ecclesiology should be but now is not. While this is a common Restorationist theme, it’s not without problems – and those problems have left a wide swath of error and heresy in its path.

Suffice to say, there are serious problems and issues with using David Bercot as either an expert witness or final authority on issues of Church History and Ecclesiology. So with that short introduction, I will simply turn the reader over to some critiques of David Bercot, from qualified and credentialed sources to explain why in detail that is. 

From Eastern Orthodox Church Historian and Scholar, Patrick Barnes:
“My opening remarks are on the subject of epistemology. You [DavidBercot] acknowledge (p. 104) that the sole method of teaching for Christ, and the primary method for the Apostles, was oral; yet your arguments are based upon your personal interpretation of only a portion of the written patristic texts that exist in the English language (which is a very small percentage of the overall Patristic corpus in existence today, a corpus itself which is a small percentage of the writings that were available to the majority of the Fathers; cf. Eusebius’ reference to the library at Edessa; Papias’ book, etc.). You furthermore acknowledge in Chapter 11 that the effects of time, language, culture, etc. on one’s ability to properly interpret the Church’s Tradition can be quite pervasive and severe. Does this not apply equally to you and your ability to draw trustworthy conclusions from the small body of English texts you have examined? In short, how can you be even reasonably certain about many of your conclusions, especially the ultimate one that Anglicanism contains the purest “thread”?”

“I am also trying to underscore the seeming precarious nature of your epistemology (which, of course, is related to your ecclesiology). It strikes me as surprisingly uncharacteristic of one as seemingly steeped in the early Fathers as you are. I hope I am wrong in this, but it seems that your approach to discerning the content of the apostolic Faith is quite individualistic and empirical, betraying a distinctly American and certainly post-Enlightenment approach to the acquisition of truth. Do you really trust your own abilities to find the True Faith by merely an appeal to written Tradition—as opposed to finding the Body of God’s People, the Church, which has preserved this Truth—especially when you have consulted only those Patristic texts that are available in English and often interpreted through Protestant eyes?”
(Excerpts from a Letter by Patrick Barnes (1997), ‘A Critique of David Bercot’s “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up?”)

From Church Historian, R.A. Baker, Ph.D:
“My overall critique of Bercot’s book is this: he wants to point to the second century church as some kind of ideal that we should attempt to emulate. While I think there are positives to be seen in every era of church history, I do not think the second century, or any other era, should be pointed to as the “ideal.” In addition to the various specific critiques I have offered, the second century writers also held numerous doctrinal positions that Bercot would NOT want us to embrace: purgatory (Origen), mortal and venal sins (Tertullian), forgiveness of sins rests with the bishop (Ignatius, Cyprian), and many others. It appears to me that Bercot takes the Early Church Fathers on CD and does a “Ctrl + F” to “Find” passages that speak to a particular issue. If he likes the passage, he uses it. If the passage does not support his thesis, he ignores it. The writings of the early church fathers must be used with care. Historical context is critical.”

“Look, my point to Bercot is this: If you want to write a book criticizing modern evangelicals – Just do it. But don’t use early church fathers when you are not qualified to use them. It would be like me glibly citing Martin Luther when I really do not know his writings. Oh I have read about Luther. I have read short excerpts of Luther, but I would NEVER try to use Luther as some kind of proof, especially for theology (another category I am not competent to speak on as an authority).

Many have read Bercot and now think they know something about the early church when all they truly know is the small amount Bercot reveals of what he knows. And Bercot seems to know probably 20% of what I know…and I know such a very small amount about the first three centuries of Christian history…and I have a Ph.D. from a world leader in academic study. And I am not trying to be humble. I KNOW how little I know. My supervisor was an expert in Augustine. I would go across the street for a cup of tea with him, sit for 1-2 hours and just ask him questions about church history. It was awesome, but also very, very humbling and a bit discouraging. I hope I know 20% of what he knows.
(R.A. Baker, Book Review of “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today’s Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, by David Bercot”)

A fresco of Christ, the Apostles, and the Patristic Fathers from an Eastern Orthodox Church building.

From Christian Apologist James Holding:
“ Bercot’s effort otherwise is variously, often badly, misguided. In addition to the behavioral factors above, Bercot insists that we have lost our way in some doctrinal matters as well. His primary sources for this particular book are several patristic writers (i.e., Justin, Tertullian, Origen) and their practice and explication of Christianity. Bercot’s logic: These men were closer in time to the apostles, and closer in language, and closer in culture. Therefore their understanding of the Scriptures is more likely to be correct [101-2] and deserve scrutiny. He writes:

“…the second century Christians were basically only one generation away from the apostles. We’re nineteen generations away! How reasonable is it for us to argue that, after nineteen hundred years, evangelical Christianity is basically unchanged from that of the apostles?”

One senses a certain fallacy of excluded middle here, but more to the point, Bercot is off base, and ironically so. He devotes a single paragraph to the point that we today do not understand early Mediterranean culture, as the patristic writers would have. But he has no conception of a very deep rift between cultures that decidedly affected patristic understanding of the Scriptures: the difference between Jewish thinking and the sort of pagan thinking that the patristic writers were raised in. (The irony is doubled for me because I first read of Bercot through Bickmore, who makes similar errors.)

Where this shows most deeply is in Bercot’s attempt to understand the relationship between faith and works. He makes the same errors concerning baptism that we have covered in Link 1 below — including the same false interpretations of John 3:5, Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, Acts 2:38, and 1 Peter 3:21. His justification for these interpretations is no more or less than that it was how the patristic writers interpreted these verses. But if Bercot wants to use the “closer is better” argument, then how would he respond to someone who said that heretics were equally close in time and culture? He acknowledges that waywards like the Gnostics existed, but does not seen to grasp how his own argument is refuted by their existence. Certainly if heretics were able to distort the meaning of the NT is such a short space, it was possible for the patristics, even in their commitment to Christ and study of the Word, to have made lesser and less significant errors in their understanding.”

“There are many patristic beliefs that David Bercot probably would reject. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, for example, refer to the possibility of people being saved after death. There was widespread acceptance of the belief that salvation could be lost without any possibility of regaining it if particular sins were committed. Such a view was advocated by Hermas, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus, for example. Would David Bercot agree with Irenaeus that Jesus lived to be over 50 years old? Irenaeus claims to have received that information from apostolic tradition, and he cites his own (mis)understanding of John 8:57 in support of it. It’s an example of an *early* church father interpreting scripture, and claiming apostolic tradition in support of that interpretation, yet we know that the interpretation is incorrect. It’s true that many church fathers advocated some type of salvation through works, but not all of them did. Clement of Rome and Mathetes explicitly and repeatedly advocate concepts such as sola fide and the substitutionary righteousness of Christ.

They never even mention baptism in their discussions of salvation. There was no one view of salvation held by all of the church fathers. Many did believe in *some* type of salvation through works, but not all of them did. And among those who did, there were disagreements over just which works must be done and just which sins must be avoided. With some of the later church fathers, like John Chrysostom, we even find them referring to some type of salvation through works in one passage, but advocating sola fide (even with the words “faith alone”) elsewhere.

Some of the church fathers weren’t even consistent with *themselves* on the issue.I know that Bercot focuses on the Ante-Nicene fathers, but below are some examples of both the Ante-Nicene and later church fathers disagreeing with Bercot about the perspicuity of scripture. The fathers do refer to some passages being difficult to understand, but they don’t seem to have thought the problem was as significant as Bercot suggests. They thought that consulting the works of earlier writers was *helpful* in understanding scripture, but they didn’t think it was necessary, nor do they seem to have viewed scripture as being as unclear as Bercot suggests:

“Pay attention, therefore, to what I shall record out of the holy Scriptures, which do not need to be expounded, but only listened to.”
– Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 55)

“A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in acquaintance with them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall plainly under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures….the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all”
– Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 2:27:1-2)

“For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.”
– Lactantius (Divine Institutes, 6:21)

“The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them [the Arians] no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him.”
– Alexander of Alexandria (Epistles on the Arian Heresy and the Deposition of Arius, 1:10)

“Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture”
– Athanasius (De Synodis, 6)

“And this is usual with Scriptures, to express itself in inartificial and simple phrases.”
– Athanasius (Four Discourses Against the Arians, 4:33)

“For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text.”
– Hilary of Poitiers (On the Trinity, 2:3)

“All things are dear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain.”
– John Chrysostom (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)

“For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life,–to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages.” – Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, 2:9)

“For this reason, where they cannot interpret them [the scriptures] otherwise according to their own sentence, be it ever so clear and manifest, they answer that it is obscure and uncertain because wrong and perverse they dare not call it.” – Augustine (Of the Work of Monks, 10)”

(James Holding, “David Bercot: A Critique”)

And last, but not least, here’s a powerful quote from Jason Engwer on why Patristic writings should not be considered equal to, let alone, superior to the Bible:
“Another example of how important it is to follow the scriptures first and foremost, as opposed to following the early church fathers, is the issue of baptismal regeneration, the teaching that baptism is a requirement for salvation. The scriptures are overwhelmingly in opposition to baptismal regeneration. Every scripture passage cited by those who argue that baptism is a requirement for salvation has a reasonable alternate interpretation that reconciles it with the larger number of passages that are in opposition to that doctrine (see Rebutting Baptismal Regeneration). Yet, most of the early church fathers taught baptismal regeneration. (Contrary to popular conception, not everybody in the post-apostolic early church did, however.

The earliest church father, and possibly the only one who wrote during the first century, is Clement of Rome. In the only material we have from him, his letter to the Corinthians, he explicitly teaches salvation through faith alone (1), and he says nothing about baptism being a requirement for salvation. Though people often make generalizations about how ‘everybody’ in the early church believed in baptismal regeneration, the truth is that not everybody did.)

One of the church fathers who taught that baptism is a requirement for salvation was Tertullian. An examination of his treatise On Baptism reveals just how unscriptural and weak were the arguments of those church fathers who did advocate baptismal regeneration.”
(Jason Engwer, “The Fallibility of the Early Church Fathers: Why Christians Should Look to the Bible Alone for Doctrine”)

Dirck van Baburen, “Christ Washing the Apostles Feet” (1616)

A peaceful march of hundreds of supporters and members of the Chicago Freedom Movement along State Street, Chicago, Illinois, July 26, 1965, that resulted in no deaths and no destruction of property. (photo credit: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

A Common Sense Appeal to Biblically Approaching Mormonism

by Fred W. Anson
Let me ask you something: How inclined would you be to listen to someone whose goal is the destruction of your church? If you’re like most people the honest answer is, “Not very, if that!” In fact, a Christian needn’t go further than an atheist discussion board to find out how “receptive” this attitude makes one to listening to anything that someone with such an agenda has to say.

On the other hand, what if the person’s goal is to reform your church so that it’s a better church? While you may still be skeptical of their intentions and motives you would at least be willing to listen. In this case, it would only be the closed-minded die-hard defenders of the status quo – be it right or be it wrong – who would tend to take umbrage at such a stance right? But even in those cases, even the die-hards would be more inclined to listen to someone who’s trying to be constructive rather than someone who’s destructive right?

So here’s the irony: Relative to the largely orthodox Mormonism taught in early Mormonism the modern LdS Church is in a state of apostasy. In fact, and even more ironically, just a few years after the formation of the church Joseph Smith had managed to lead his followers into blatant heresy and error. This is clearly what a former member of the LdS Church First Presidency, William Law, and his associates stated in the Nauvoo Expositor:

‘As for our acquaintance with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we know, no man or set of men can be more thoroughly acquainted with its rise, its organization, and its history, than we have every reason to believe we are. We all verily believe, and many of us know of a surety, that the religion of the Latter Day Saints, as originally taught by Joseph Smith, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments, Book of Covenants [that is the original 1835 Doctrine & Covenants], and Book of Mormon, is verily true; and that the pure principles set forth in those books, are the immutable and eternal principles of Heaven, and speaks a language which, when spoken in truth and virtue, sinks deep into the heart of every honest man…We are earnestly seeking to explode the vicious principles of Joseph Smith, and those who practice the same abominations and whoredoms; which we verily know are not accordant and consonant with the principles of Jesus Christ and the Apostles; and for that purpose, and with that end in view, with an eye single to the glory of God, we have dared to gird on the armor, and with god at our head, we most solemnly and sincerely declare that the sword of truth shall not depart from the thigh, nor the buckler from the arm, until we can enjoy those glorious privileges which nature’s God and our country’s laws have guarantied to us–freedom of speech, the liberty of the press, and the right to worship God as seemeth us good.’
(The Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844) 

As tempting as it might be to chuckle at the amusing irony of a church that claims that all other churches (other than theirs of course) need to be restored to their pure and primitive state, actually needs to be restored to it’s pure and primitive state itself, it’s still a fact. Mormons like D. Michael Quinn, Rock Waterman, Denver Snuffer, and many others see this clearly and have been lobbying for it for years – though I don’t think that many mainstream Christians would completely agree with their vision of what a truly reformed Mormon Church would or should look like.

And while I know that the idea of a “Reformation not destruction” stance isn’t popular among Christian critics of Mormonism – a fact I found out quickly when I asked for feedback on the concept on social media and promptly got thrown back about a mile by the explosive “Destruction not reformation!” outcries – I would ask the reader to still give the idea some thought and consideration despite how incredible it may sound to you now. And as you consider the question, I would point you to the precedence of the Quakers, The Shepherding Movement, and the World Wide Church of God churches as examples of full reformations and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka “RLDS”) as an example of partial reformation.

And to those who are still reluctant to consider a “Reformation not destruction” stance I would ask you to consider a few things:

1) Some at BYU have already taken baby steps toward reform distancing themselves from some Mormonism’s most blasphemous doctrines. They’re also putting a greater emphasis on grace. No, it’s not perfect, and yes, there are still a lot of problems – there is both good reason for hope and good cause for concern at this point. However, if this trend continues (and if they don’t get excommunicated) this could possibly lead to even greater reform over time;

2) There are reformers aplenty in the LdS Church right now. I’ve only mentioned three, there are more. And the engine of internal reformation just seems to be gathering steam. It’s been said that Mormonism is not only emptying out, but it’s also hollowing out and that, combined with the Neo-Orthodoxy movement within Mormonism, is any indication it looks like we’re in for quite a ride!

3) The stranglehold that Mormon Leaders have traditionally had on members of the LdS Church is waning. Yes, it’s alive and well and living in Chapel Mormonism, but one need only engage Mormons outside of those chapel walls to realize that many, if not most, members of the LdS Church in private will decide for themself whether they take or leave whatever the Brethren have to say on any given matter. As one Mormon Researcher said well,

The religion of Mormonism is hollowing out…there is a mass apostasy going on, intellectually and mentally speaking. People are leaving the LDS Church without leaving the LDS Church. Without asking probing questions, I can’t assume any Mormon I talk to even believes in the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus. Even the Mormons who aren’t closet atheists are largely latent atheists (or agnostics) without knowing it.
(Aaron Shafovaloff, “The Creed of Practical Mormon Atheism”, Mormonism Research Ministry, March 14, 2013)

What if the institution were swayed in such a way that it was reformed to comply with biblical authority and absolutes? Is it just possible, that we could see far less latent atheists and agnostics sitting in Mormon pews? Personally, I think we will. Yes, you may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one – and I have learned the hard way to never put limits on the power and sovereignty of God, He is, after all, God, right?

4) If the LdS Church were to fully reform it would be a completely different organization than it is today. Spoken plainly it would cease to exist just as the World Wide Church of God ceased to exist after it became Grace Communion International. So in a sense, one could say that “Reformation of the LdS Church = Destruction of the LdS Church”. So if you’re really, really, really committed to the destruction of the LdS Church as we know it today perhaps one of the best things you could do to advance your agenda would be to push for reform!

But regardless of your stance, motivation, or idea of what the ideal reformed LdS Church would look like, this just makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m going to end this appeal the way that I began it – with this question, how inclined would you be to listen to someone whose goal is the destruction of your church? So friend, if you find that Mormons don’t listen to you and your good arguments, then … well, do I really need to finish that thought?

And if they don’t then I suspect that the words of Christ are just as applicable to Mormons as they are to us:

“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”
(Revelation 3:1b-3 NKJV) 

12th Street, Detroit during the July 23, 1967, Detroit Riots that lead to millions of dollars of destruction and loss of life. (photo credit: Keystone Pictures USA/Alamy)

(portions of this material previously appeared in a slightly different form in Fred W. Anson, “Weak Arguments #6: “Mormon doctrine was heretical from the very beginning.”, Beggar’s Bread website November 16, 2014; it has been lightly edited and expanded for this new context and setting)