by Joshua Valentine
While it does not mirror the atheist worldview as the previous points, the LDS epistemology sets its members up to turn against faith and thus embrace atheistic rationalism. While Mormonism is not strictly speaking a fideistic religion, it relies heavily upon some principles of fideism. For members of the LDS Church, ultimate truth is not discovered, recognized, or even approached by study, evidence, logic, or history. These are only an optional means ultimately to lead a person to pray about the Book of Mormon and the current LDS prophet to learn that the LDS Church is true. Once this testimony is gained by prayer, it is regarded as transcendent or invulnerable to any and all evidence against the object of faith – the LDS Church and its gospel. LDS religious epistemology is fideistic in that this prayer-testimony experience, like faith received in fideism, is independent of the world as it actually is. Investigation into the facts is not required to learn Ultimate Truth; it is not encouraged and may even be discouraged. Once the testimony is received it is independent of evidence and argument; all other concerns and issues are viewed as irrelevant.

It usually takes a lot of time, study, and heartache before all that is left between the member and the exit is that prayer experience. Every ex-member, before they leave the LDS Church, has to reevaluate their testimony and its origin. When the evidence makes it impossible for the member to have faith in that prayer experience, members come to realize that the LDS epistemology of prayer for ultimate truth is woefully insufficient. Ex-members conclude that staking their whole life and the lives of their loved ones on blind faith in a prayer experience is unreliable, irresponsible, and dangerous.

By poor reasoning (e.g. “Wouldn’t God answer a sincere prayer?”) the ex-member made the poor decision to join the religion. By better reasoning, they leave it. Unfortunately, faith and this prayer experience are so strongly tied together by LDS teaching that when the prayer-testimony experience is found wanting and dangerous, so too is faith in general. The improved reasoning that led to leaving the church may only evaluate faith based on a limited form of it as propagated by the LDS Church. When they realize the LDS Church is false, they blame their dependence on that experience which, by the teachings of their church, was precipitated by an initial faithful act and was the foundation of their continued faith. Because the idea of faith taught by their church is so simplistic they don’t even realize that they were “duped” by a bad version of faith, but, instead, believe that faith itself betrayed them. The undiscerning faith espoused by their church that led to accepting the prayer experience as truth is found to be gullible, and, if not re-evaluated, all faith is judged as gullible. Shunning all faith, the ex-LDS member is left only with atheistic rationalism.

Mormonism also shuns all mystery. If a religious truth is mysterious, it is because of the ignorance of man. If it is confusing, it is because it is of Satan. Mormonism assumes that truth is simple and understandable to the mind of man. If it is not understandable to the human mind, it is not true. LDS show these assumptions in the way they discuss topics that most people realize will be difficult to understand, like the nature of God.

When Mormons are presented with an issue in their doctrine by critics, no matter the issue and its improbability, Mormons are often quick to claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is more confusing. Mormons also latch onto the word “incomprehensible” when it is used by Christians to describe God. Christians are simply admitting that God’s nature transcends complete understanding by the human mind. But Mormons argue that this is proof that the Christian teaching of God is false – as if all truth about God should be well within the human mind’s powers of comprehension. They believe that God as a glorified man is easier to understand than that God is three persons in one being. They believe that Jesus is obviously a separate being from God from the fact that he prayed to the Father. Any explanation that hints at complexity or mystery are immediately written off as false.

This shunning of transcendent mystery and insistence that the world makes sense to the human mind is mirrored in atheistic scientism. If it is beyond reason or cannot be tested scientifically, then it cannot be known or considered true or real.

While there is no reason to believe that all spiritual experiences of all Mormons are inauthentic or are insignificant, much of what is described as “feeling the Spirit” indicates a shallow experience of emotion mistaken as spiritual revelation. When church talks, church-produced videos, or even secular movies are described as experiences of “feeling the Spirit,” or criticized as “didn’t feel the Spirit,” it becomes difficult to see how these spiritual experiences differ from any other manufactured emotional event. Many former members have come to the conclusion that these experiences were only that.

Much like the reevaluation of their acceptance of faith based on what was taught by the LDS Church, members who leave also re-evaluate these experiences of “feeling the Spirit.” And as many throw out faith altogether, so too, is all spiritual experience disregarded as only emotional experiences brought about by natural environmental stimulus, psychological states, and manipulation. Because the LDS Church and its culture teaches spiritual experience as being so mundane and so often related to performances that include dramatic techniques, they are easily dismissed and, as with faith, all spiritual experience is discarded because what they experienced as a member is determined to have been inauthentic.

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

The Star Child from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

by Joshua Valentine
Why do so many Mormons become atheists? Whatever the validity of the observation, online discussions of this topic usually only revolve around the answers of not wanting to be fooled again, burnout, and that the same things that deconstruct Mormonism deconstruct all religions. All of these look outside for an answer, but what about Mormonism, itself?  The very doctrines, teachings, and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only directs its members toward atheism but actually gives them atheistic beliefs and atheistic perspectives such that, upon exiting the LDS faith, they find themselves closer to atheism on the spectrum of worldviews than to anything else.

In fact, it is Mormon doctrine that actually provides much of the content of an atheist worldview. Mormonism is the most materialistic worldview next to atheism. In Mormon doctrine, it is not the Mormon God or Gods, but Matter, itself, which is truly eternal, having existed from everlasting to everlasting.  With Matter are Eternal Laws or Principles as well. These exist before and independently of the Mormon God. In fact, the Mormon God, like all Gods before him, is himself made up of this eternal matter and subject to these eternal laws or principles.  Joseph Smith taught that spirit was actually matter, just a more “fine” form of it. God, according to Mormonism, had to obey these Eternal Principles in order to progress from eternal fine matter, or “intelligence,” to a god. This is in stark contrast to many religions that assume that independence from, and being the source of, all creation is definitive of what it means to be “God” or the “Ultimate.” However, in LDS cosmology, Matter and Eternal Law are the true Ultimate, not God.

Thus, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides its members an understanding of the universe that is nearly identical to that of naturalistic atheism, where matter and its inherent properties that are described by humans as universal physical laws are ultimately all there is. When a member realizes that the Mormon God does not exist, when this deity is removed from the materialist LDS worldview, they are left with a materialist atheist worldview already in place, provided by the LDS Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the Plan of Happiness.  One of the main purposes of the Mormon God is to bring about the eternal life and happiness of mankind.  The LDS Church teaches that traditional family is critical to this happiness. Mormons are known for holding the family in high regard.  Outsiders who study the religion find it difficult not to conclude that Mormons practically deify their family by their devotion to it, and how it plays such a prominent role in the purpose of existence, and the definition of happiness, and even heaven, itself. In fact, the Mormon God is subsumed into the human family as the literal physical father of all spirits.  Mormons are also known for their service to others. With the exalted doctrine of family and the principles of greatest good being service to humans and family, the ex-member has already embraced the highest good in atheist practice – loved ones and humankind.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also teaches that God and humans are of the same kind or species. It teaches that God used to be a regular human and that humans can become Gods.  All Gods and humans started as “intelligences,” or fine spirit matter. By an unknown process, this intelligence is embodied in a spirit body provided by a previous God and Goddess’ reproductive activity. The resultant “spirit child” may eventually obtain a physical body, living on a world as a human.  The human may, upon dying and an unknown number of millennia in the afterlife, attain “exaltation” and become another God, and the process repeats. In this way, the LDS Church teaches that humans are the highest form of life in the universe and that our development as individuals and the continuation of our posterity is the highest good. This is strongly analogous to the closest thing to purpose in atheism, the development and continuation of species and, the highest form of life, in particular, humankind.

The primacy and essentiality of the family in the LDS conception of purpose and eternal happiness does not simply give a sense of idolatry but the “eternal round” of gods making spirit babies, who become humans, who become gods, and repeat endlessly is also a sacralizing of reproduction and genetic continuance. The LDS Church teaches that the glory of God is this eternal increase of his posterity. This increase is also only possible through the most worthy members, those who have overcome the challenges of life and flourished in the LDS gospel of laws and ordinances. One could say that Mormonism is a religion of not only individual evolution from spirit to human to god but also a religion of the exaltation of the fittest. Upon leaving the LDS Church and relinquishing belief in its transcendent dimensions of God and afterlife, ex-members are by default evolutionary atheists whose highest good and reason for what they do is their own happiness, which in its greatest form is found in benefiting and continuing the human race.

A scene from the “Stargate” sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

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

The adoration of the magi is depicted in this painting in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

by Graham Kendrick
I discovered this classic in 1990 the same month that we discovered that my leukemia afflicted mother was given only weeks to live. I wept with grief and hope for her then as I listened, played, and sang this song. Now I weep with overwhelming gratitude for myself and my brothers and sister in Christ – including my mother who now watches from the great cloud of witnesses – whenever I encounter it. Because He came and died, my debt He paid, and my death He died that I might live. I can think of no greater gift, can you? — Fred W. Anson

My Lord, what love is this
That pays so dearly
That I, the guilty one
May go free!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

And so they watched Him die
Despised, rejected
But oh, the blood He shed
Flowed for me!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

And now, this love of Christ
Shall flow like rivers
Come wash your guilt away
Live again!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

© 1989 Make Way Music

Other performances of “Amazing Love” by Graham Kendrick
Recorded live in Boston, the album features several recently written songs, two of them brand new, delivering that trademark Kendrick intimacy and richness of content, side by side with some of his best-loved, era-defining classics.

Graham says: “We simply wanted to capture the sound and atmosphere of worship, the sense of being there in the presence of God and in the company of other worshippers. My musicians were on great form and there were some very special moments, so I’m thankful that the tape was running.

Amazing Love (My Lord what love is this) performed by Graham Kendrick, Mark Prentice (Double Bass) and Terl Bryant (Percussion).

by Jason Wallace
I’ve been asked why I bother to respond to Shawn McCraney. In Shawn’s mind, I’m attacking him from jealousy, since he describes me as a “Salieri” to his “Mozart.” Despite Shawn’s high opinion of himself, I don’t see him as a genius, but a boastful, ignorant man who calls the God of the Bible a “monster.” I feel compelled to defend the God I love. I have also been encouraged to see people credit my witness in helping them abandon Shawn’s cult for Biblical churches. But there is another reason that I believe it’s important to respond to Shawn – he is the poster boy for the “Church of Anti-Mormonism.”

Because Mormonism is the majority faith in Utah, it shapes how even non-Mormons think about religion. Mormons have church membership, leadership, calls to holiness, Sabbaths, tithing, and a traditional form of worship. Non-Mormons often reject all of these. Many embrace a “personal relationship with Jesus,” divorced from a visible church. Since Mormons have authoritarian leadership, non-Mormons often stress a radical individualism without personal accountability. Since LDS equate holiness with avoiding coffee and alcohol, non-Mormons tend to downplay any holiness in favor of “freedom in Christ.” Since the Mormons have a Sabbath, any Sabbath must be legalism. Since Mormons use tithes to control access to the temple, all tithing must be rejected. Since Mormons sing traditional hymns, worship must be a rock concert with laser lights and smoke machines for it to be “real.”

Mormons worship another god and follow another gospel, but this does not mean everything they do must be wrong. They are a counterfeit church that bears at least some resemblance to Christ’s true Church. People in the New Testament were baptized not just into Christ, but into a visible church, which Jesus commanded them to hear (Matthew 18:17). Just because Mormon leaders lord themselves over their people, that doesn’t mean there is no leadership in the church. Jesus had his apostles ordain elders in every city (Titus 1:5). The elders were not to lord themselves over the people (1 Peter 5:3), but the people were to submit to them (Hebrews 13:17). Holiness is not found in “touch not, taste not (Colossians 2:21),” but it does involve keeping ourselves from sexual immorality (Acts 15:20) and keeping ourselves unspotted by the world (James 1:27). Freedom in Christ involves not only justification (freedom from the guilt of sin), but sanctification (freedom from the power of sin). Just because the Pharisees and Mormons abused the Sabbath and tithing doesn’t invalidate them. The Sabbath was supposed to be a delight (Isaiah 58:13). Jesus condemned the Pharisees for tithing of the smallest spices and neglecting the weightier matters of the law, but he said, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23).” Worship is not only in spirit and truth (John 4:24) but with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

Shawn is simply an extreme, “grunge” version of what defines a lot of non-Mormon religion in Utah. He seems to recognize that his Christianity isn’t really Biblical. I think that helps explain his full preterism. By claiming that the Second Coming was in 70 A.D., he can ignore anything that conflicts with his totally “spiritual” religion. All these things passed away with the Second Coming. By attacking “Sola Scriptura,” he can also add new revelations that allow him to redefine things according to his desires. The irony is that in the end, McCraney’s “Church of Anti-Mormonism” ends up looking a lot like Mormonism.

Not all of the “Church of Anti-Mormonism” is as radical as Shawn, but it is so clearly unbiblical that it helps Mormons justify staying in Mormonism. Instead of overreacting against Mormonism, we need to proclaim the whole counsel of God – a Jesus who saves us in our sins, but also from them – the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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

by Michael Flournoy
When I was a child, I frequently fought with my younger brother. I’m not talking about play battles, I mean we were trying to destroy each other. My parents had tried to make us stop, to no avail. One night, amid World War 3, my mother made a startling announcement: she and our father had decided they were going to leave us and never come back. My siblings and I shrieked and wailed as they stalked out the door. Within seconds, the feeling of dread was overwhelming. As the oldest, the burden of feeding and educating the others probably fell on me, and it was a burden I had no hope of carrying.

I threw open the sliding glass door and plunged into the unforgiving night. On the back patio, I screamed their names, fairly certain they could not hear me and that I’d never hear their voices again. When I went back in, my parents were there, consoling my brothers and sister, saying they would never leave us.

Looking back, I do not fault my parents for what happened that night. Parenting is a tough thing to do. It doesn’t come with a manual, and half the time it’s like making your way through a pitch black room littered with Legos. Besides, we are all fallible human beings. What I cannot excuse, however, is a god who abandons his children.

A year ago I sat down with an LDS coworker who told me he couldn’t even visit a church that taught that God sends people to hell forever. This was exactly the sentiment I had felt as a Mormon, and it’s probably the way most Latter-day Saints see it too. A God who thrusts people to eternal hell just doesn’t seem merciful. I’ll be the first to admit that hell is a harsh punishment in Protestant Christianity, but it’s even harsher in Mormonism, where God sends his own children there.

According to Mormonism, every person on the face of the planet is literally the offspring of God. This of course, stands in opposition to orthodox Christianity where only saved believers are His children. God is believed to be omniscient and omnipotent; a being who loves everyone perfectly. Yet despite this, in Mormonism, only a small percentage of God’s children will have the chance to live with him in eternity.

Mormons do try to soften the blow of this by espousing a belief in three levels of heaven. Even though Heavenly Father only resides in the highest kingdom, and only the most righteous people will go there, they believe virtually all mankind will go to at least some degree of heaven. The lowest level, the Telestial world, is thought to be so beautiful that if we could see it, we would kill ourselves to get there. In the LDS mindset, this is far more merciful than being sent to a place of fire and torment.

But is it? Elder Holland, an apostle of the LDS church, once said, “I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife and my children. It would not be heaven for me” (Temple Open House video – click here to view). This is exactly how Christians view any place devoid of God the Father, it would not be heaven for us. Well guess what folks, in Mormonism eternal families and fellowship with Heavenly Father are both restricted to the Celestial Kingdom alone. So ask yourselves, is a beautiful world where the Father does not come, really heaven? And is it really less painful than a hell made of fire and brimstone?

Whether literal or metaphorical, The Book of Mormon describes the suffering God’s children will endure after the final judgment in Alma 12:16-18.

And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining to righteousness.

Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them to his will.

Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.

Latter-day Saints may argue that this is a temporary “everlasting destruction” or it’s only talking about the few who go to Outer Darkness with Satan and his angels, but either way it’s a moot point. In Mormonism these are God’s children who are being abandoned, and left chained by the power of the devil.

Mormons also claim that everyone essentially goes to the degree of heaven they are most comfortable in, and it’s not really God abandoning us, it’s us abandoning him. What concerns me about this approach, is I believe there are people who honestly want God, but cannot abandon their sins, despite all desires to the contrary. These will have the doors to the Celestial Kingdom shut in their face and God will say, “I’m sorry, but you chose this.”

At least the Mormon god is consistent. Assuming that humanity does comprise God’s children, Jesus’ words to the Pharisees are incredibly harsh in John 8:42 where he denounces their heritage, “If God were your Father, you would love me…” In verse 44 he goes on to say their father is none other than the devil. Mormon doctrine also teaches that the Holy Ghost abandons us when we break the commandments, leaving us in the very teeth of sin when we need him the most. I would expect this kind of behavior from a teenage girl. I would not expect it from the highest being in the universe, the Alpha and the Omega.

In 1 John 4:8 we learn that God is love. I’m not talking about the “love” Mormons attribute to him: where he lovingly abandons his children to hell and puts the blame on their shoulders, I’m talking about a noble kind of love. This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It is not wrong for Latter-day Saints to struggle with the justice of God and the eternal nature of hell. It is, however, hypocritical to cast stones at Christianity while excusing the problems in their own theology. As for me, I cannot even visit a church that teaches God sends his own children to hell.

A satirical take on a popular Neo-Orthodox Mormon bestseller.

 

 

McCraneyism 2.0

Introduction: On this past Tuesday, November 7th, Shawn McCraney engaged in a long personal attack on a much beloved and iconic Mormon Studies figure: Sandra Tanner. Before reading Pastor Jason Wallace’s response to Shawn below it’s recommended that you click on the video below this intro and watch this attack first hand so you can put Pastor Wallace analysis and critique into its historical context. This will also help you fully appreciate how vitriolic, biased, imbalanced, over the top, and unfair Mr. McCraney’s attack on Ms. Tanner really was. — Editor

by Jason Wallace
Out of my great respect for Sandra Tanner, I hesitate to relate this, but many people do not realize how far Shawn McCraney has gone in attacking Biblical Christianity.

Last night, Shawn dedicated a show to “going after a sacred cow that has been impervious to Christian scrutiny for 40 years. . . 50 years”: Sandra Tanner. What are her great sins that deserve such public rebuke? She “attacked his person” when she privately described him as “an irresponsible leader.” She also “hangs out with Calvinists,” refusing to join him in publicly denouncing the God who sends people to an eternal Hell as “a monster.”

In order to make sense of Shawn, you need to recognize his double standard. He can describe pastors generally and by name as wolves and money-hungry charlatans, but he immediately qualifies that by saying he loves us all as brothers. This supposedly makes everything he says okay. If someone responds to what he says, they’re “attacking his person.” When he denounces people by name on his Internet podcast, that’s different from someone responding to it on the Internet. He’s brave, but we’re supposedly cowards. It’s striking that you can say almost anything about God, and Shawn seems fine with that, but if you dare say that Shawn is wrong, that is the highest blasphemy. Shawn can say Shawn is wrong, but no one else can.

Shawn has a new theme with which he opens his show; he presents himself as a new Martin Luther.* The reality is that Shawn is the antithesis of Luther. Martin Luther was a brilliant scholar who had no fear to debate his opponents. Shawn won’t debate James White at all and only allows critics who challenge him to do so on his terms. Martin Luther was a reformer, recognizing that the church of his day had wandered not just from the Scriptures, but from the historic faith of the church. Shawn isn’t a Reformer, but a Restorationist. He essentially argues for a great apostasy and claims he’s restoring the Holy Spirit to the church. Martin Luther argued for Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Shawn puts his private revelations above Scripture. Luther disagreed with Shawn on Hell, the Second Coming, and the nature of the church. The reality is that Shawn has far more in common with the enemies of Luther, the Zwickau Prophets, than with Luther.

Shawn may take my attempts to love even my enemies as cowardice, but I want to make clear that I go much further than Sandra. Shawn is not just an irresponsible leader; he is a heretic. He is not my brother in Christ. Jesus said if anyone won’t hear the church, they are to be treated as a heathen and a tax collector (Matthew 18). Shawn refuses to hear any church anywhere. Simply saying he is a Christian doesn’t make Thomas Monson one, nor does it make Shawn one.

People need to recognize that Shawn has essentially repackaged Mormonism. He claims all the churches are wrong. All their creeds are “heinous.” The God of historic Christianity is “a monster” (a claim also made by Joseph Smith). Pastors are all in it for the money (cf.”hirelings of Satan”). There was a great apostasy, but now he’s restoring the Spirit. He claims to have the “best approach to Christianity on the face of the earth” (cf. “only true and living church upon the face of the earth”). Shawn is labeling his show “Heart of the Matter 2.0.” The reality is that he is presenting Mormonism 2.0. He is not the new Luther, but the new Joseph Smith. He uses a few bad churches to condemn all churches. He may not have temples and tithing, but he makes people feel pious in their hatred. He helps them rationalize all this as love while breathing out contempt.

Shawn has called me a coward for denouncing his teachings on the Internet, while “boldly” denouncing me on the Internet. I will gladly confront him in person whenever he likes. I could not care less what he says about “my person,” but I will defend the glory of the Jesus of the Bible with everything in me. Instead of picking on Sandra Tanner in absentia, how about we argue this out face to face?

* Editor’s note click on the image below to see this new, referred show intro. 

A meme based on Shawn McCraney’s new show intro for HOTM 2.0. Click on image to view the full video.

Final

lying_croppedby Fred W. Anson
It’s been said that “Sex and crime seem to be the perfect recipe for broadcast success in the 21st century!” So it’s no wonder that a recent Mormon Expression podcast appears to be so popular. It features a “Top 10 Count Down” of famous Mormon criminals and sure enough, despite the occasional “downer” moment (some of the criminal behavior is truly appalling), it’s fascinating thought-provoking stuff!

On several occasions the panel tangents from the central topic into the meta-question of “Why?” as in, “Why does there seem to be something in Mormonism that disproportionally contributes to these behaviors?”; and as in, “Why do Mormons – including some ‘golden’ Mormons – demonstrate a propensity toward these extreme behaviors?”, etc. And while I thought that several good theories are offered in the podcast, an analysis on the discussion board is, to my way of thinking, particularly insightful:

Mormonism has a very real problem in this regard: its central book of scripture opens with a story of justification of murder [that is, a divine directive to Nephi commanding him to behead Laban] and the rest of the book is so bland that it doesn’t overcome that message or it reinforces that message with the continual battles between the Nephites and Lamanites. The problem is that if God can justify murder he can justify any lesser sin as well. And that’s where Mormonism fundamentally departs from traditional Protestantism (and perhaps Catholicism as well) where God must be a moral God.

In Protestantism … God must conform to all the standards of morality that we hold or else He/She is not God.1

That said, in addition to the Book of Mormon example, I would propose that the following passage from The Pearl of Great Price be considered in regard to the “lesser sin” of lying:

And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon;

Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say — She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise:

Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live.

And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me — Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.
Book of Abraham 2:22-25

That passage is troubling because it portrays the Mormon god giving a divine directive to Abraham that he lie to Pharoah in a manner that’s quite similar to the way he instructed Nephi to murder Laban.2 This is in direct violation of the moral criteria that the Jewish God established in the Bible via the 10 Commandments3 and the Mormon god reinforced via The Book of Mormon.4 Further, and as a practical matter, it’s vexing because I’ve found that some Mormons use it as a divine justification for lying. In other words, Book of Mormon “Blood Atonement” meet Book of Abraham “Lying for the Lord”.5

On the Delicate Matter of “Lying for the Lord”
A Mormon Wiki describes the Mormon practice of “Lying for the Lord” as follows:

Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith’s denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by “anti-Mormons” and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley’s dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism’s history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light.
(Link to Source; bolding added for emphasis)

Now I’m not here to rehash the aforementioned historical record of Mormon Leaders engaging in “Lying for the Lord” – that’s been done well enough by others and I have no interest in reinventing the wheel.6 My interest is far more immediate, practical, and close to home – more “grassroots” if you will.

And I know that modern Mormons typically bristle when critics accuse the members of the LdS Church of “Lying for the Lord”. The typical response involves citing The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article Thirteen which states:

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men
(Link to Source; bolding added for emphasis)

And I will readily admit that most of the members I know personally would consider deviating from the Article Thirteen standard unthinkably unethical and integrity compromising. Never-the-less just as soon as the “Enemy of the eternal gospel and only true Church” label is slapped on someone or something, somewhere out there from the deep, dark lunatic fringes of the Mormon Church a “Liar for the Lord” will quickly emerge.

A recent firsthand experience served as a painful reminder.

The Blue Devil and Dr. Jones: A Grassroots Tale
For some reason, the Internet tends to bring out the worst in people. As a result of that sad fact one of the Mormon-centric websites that I frequent eventually tired of the constant, seemingly endless, often childish bickering that goes on between Mormon Defenders and Mormon Critics. So, being predisposed to the critical stance (which is in fact implied by the site’s purpose statement), the website owner decided to bring peace to the proceedings by making the discussion board exclusive to critics. The announcement was made, the user accounts of the Mormon defenders were revoked, a banner explaining the new policy was posted on the main page of the website and life went on for all. We remaining members were then left to continue in our misguided efforts to critique and discuss the history, doctrine, and practices of the only “perfect” church on earth in peace and harmony.7

But apparently, the stress and anxiety of seeing the LdS Church publicly analyzed, criticized, deconstructed, reconstructed – and in some cases even denounced – without challenge was just too much for some members so a solution had to be found – and that fix was (of course) “Lying for the Lord”.

In the latest such case, a new board member “BlueDevil” (claiming to be from the great state of North Carolina of course) registered and posted on the board. He came roaring in with both guns blazing – clearly a “Porter Rockwell” Mormon who was “ready to rumble” with these despicable eternal darkness bound “Children of the Devil” and “Enemies of the only true Church!” In his wake, a “DrJones0” (from the great state of Texas) arrived with a quieter, gentler, more tempered and reasoned approach with the members.

The regular members first reminded BlueDevil that Mormons apologists weren’t allowed on this particular board and encouraged him to comply with the rules by not posting. These requests were met with a number of angry and hostile posts calling down judgment on high on these blind deceivers. He then disappeared. Poof! Gone! Just like that!

Well, that was easy!

Oddly Dr. Jones’ posts then slowly began to drift into a more decidedly pro-Mormon, apologetic stance. He eventually began using stock and standard Latter-day clichés and language. He then was asked directly if he was a Mormon. At first, he demurred and then flatly denied it – not once, not twice, but three times. Yet, at the same time, his posts were simultaneously becoming more and more fanatical. By the day three, they had collapsed into a shard pile of stock word-for-word LdS Apologist pabulum. Finally, he simply spammed the discussion board with the same copy and paste “REPENT and be baptized ye apostates destined for outer darkness!” post (well over 100-times in fact) before the board SysAdmin could stop the bleeding via a well-deserved ban.

Given the awful mess that he’d been left with the (solo) SysAdmin enlisted my help (I’m an IT guy in my day job) in scrubbing the site of the spam that Dr. Jones had left behind. The SysAdmin duly “Deputized” me and gave me full administrative privileges on the board. We then got to the hard work of purging the “faith-promoting graffiti” off of the site one virtual urban scrawl at a time.

Now, I hope it doesn’t shock or surprise anyone that Internet discussion boards enable administrators to see the IP address of the computer that the users post from. So I did some quick forensics and discovered that not only were “BlueDevil” and “DrJones0” the same person 8, their posts were all coming through the same Internet Service Provider in (drum roll puh-lease) central Salt Lake City.

(Yes, yes, I’m sure that you’re as surprised as we were!)

This was a clear case of not just “Lying for the Lord” but blatantly, repeatedly, and overtly doing so.

“It’s Like Getting Married”
Now, all fairness, given the number of anonymous unregistered hits that this site and other such sites receive each day, this case – and the others like it – are the exception, not the norm. Never-the-less this case study demonstrates one way that “Lying for the Lord” is practiced in modern Mormonism.

And, of course, the whole issue of using deceit in the name of God, regardless your religious stance, is never a good idea because as one person put it:

Joining a religious group is much like a marriage, often including a type of “falling in love”. When two people are seriously involved and contemplating marriage, is it really the ethical responsibility of each to, say, hire a private investigator to fully investigate the background of their loved one to make sure there are no ugly surprises after the wedding? Or is it the moral and ethical responsibility of each party to make that disclosure? 9

Or put another way, “If someone claims to have the truth you should probably first make sure that they’re not lying to you.”10

Gordon B Hinckley Lying

Fifteenth LDS President (1995-2008) Gordon B. Hinckley lying for the Lord in Time Magazine.

NOTES:
1 Post by Mike Michaels dated June 23, 2011; retrieved 6/23/2011; the bracketed text summarizes the prior paragraph for clarity. Mr. Michael later explained in another post, “I was/am not responding as a believing Christian for I am not. I am merely trying to explain the difference in mindset that I held as a believing Christian before I converted to Mormonism (subsequently followed by 20 years of active participation).”

2 It should be noted that it’s generally conceded in the Biblical narratives that parallel this Book of Abraham account the biblical characters took it upon themselves to lie since only did God not mandate the lies but went so far as to expose the attempt at deceit to the unsuspecting victim. (see Genesis 12:10-19, Genesis 20, and Gen 26:1-10) As a result, most expositors exegete these passages as morality plays regarding failures of faith on the part of the humans that did not please God. (see http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0120.htm ; http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/genesis-mwks3-lbw.htm )

3 See Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:2

4 See Ether 3:12 and 2 Nephi 9:34

5 One need go no further than Dallin H. Oaks’ September 12, 1993 BYU address, “Gospel Teachings About Lying” for an example how arguments for lying are exegesed from LdS Scripture. And though it may seem extreme to some “Blood Atonement” p. 93, by Independent Mormon Fundamentalist, Ogden Kraut provides us with an excellent example of how an argument for murder can be developed from the Laban narrative.

6 Former Church Educational System employee Ken Clark’s list of such case studies is an excellent overview as is the aforementioned MormonWiki.org article.

7 This, as I’m sure anyone familiar with the Internet knows is not unusual as there are many Latter-day Saint discussion boards where the opposite has been the case. This is no big deal – it’s just life on a planet whose inhabitants would rather bicker than agree to disagree (or so it seems).

8 Another charge that he had angrily denied.

9 As cited from “Missionary Sophistry?” (see http://www.mormonwiki.org/Lying_for_the_Lord  from an original post now scrolled off discussion thread of a blog post at “Latter-day Saint Liberation Front”; Accessed 8/23/2006).

10 Richard Packham, ExMormon Foundation Conference 2009. Mr. Packham’s full case against Mormonism’s use of lying can be found here.

(This was originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on June 27, 2011) 

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