Front Cover Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Author: Rob and Kathy Datsko
Publisher: eBookIt.com
Genre: Non-fiction, religion
Year Published: 2012
Length: 402 pages
Binding: Paperback, Kindle, Nook, PDF, ePub, Mobi
ISBN10: 1456613413
ISBN13: 9781456613419
Price: $2.99 eBook, $23.95 paperback

I know that this may seem like an odd book to review. It’s self-published and a niche of a niche, of a subset of a subset, to boot! Not to fear, the appendix below explains how I found this quirky little imprint and why I’ve bothered to write a review for it. Sometimes things are not always as they appear and that’s the case here. So segueing off of that, let’s first consider the “About the Authors” information from the back of the book and maybe things will start to gel, come together, and start making sense here:

“Rob and Kathy Datsko met at the University of Michigan, and were married in 1976. As of 2012, they have enjoyed over 35 years of Christian marriage. Between the two of them, they have a combined total experience within the Spirit-filled Christian community of 74 years. They have a combined 17+ years of experience as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were sealed in the Denver temple in 2004. They reside in Loveland, Colorado, and have two wonderful sons, Rephaiah and Jon.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 7444-7449)

Friends, this information is conspicuously missing from the book’s description and the author’s page on Amazon. Yes, that’s right, I had to buy the book to find out that I was reading what was essentially -no scratch that, there’s no “essentially” about it, that is – an agenda driven propaganda piece from a “Charismatic cum Latter-day Saint” married couple. So armed with this new found knowledge I found their full backstory elsewhere on the Internet. This is from the wife:

“I’m a born again Spirit-filled Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian who came into the LDS Church 10 years ago because the Holy Spirit, whom I have loved since I was 24 led me here. I’ve known and loved Jesus since I was 16, and tried to follow Him my entire life. I was baptized in 2002, endowed in 2003, a month later my husband was baptized, and we were sealed in 2004. We go to the temple regularly.

I could not stay within this oppressive culture if I did not have the gift of tongues which I received at age 24. Praying in tongues regularly gives me the strength to live with the full knowledge that I was willing to give up worship, the wonderful presence of the Lord in our services, the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, Word of knowledge, laying on of hands healing (yes, a brain tumor disappeared after I joined several others and we all laid hands on a friend’s head and prayed), etc. to gain the Book of Mormon and the LDS Gift of the Holy Spirit and the sealing ordinance.

I would come into the Church again even though we have lost so much: We had prophetesses in our other churches, priestesses, and 50% of all the leadership was women. My husband was told by MD Anderson Cancer Center that research had shown that the very strange cancer he contracted two years ago was most likely caused by a traumatic loss. We immediately knew the “loss” was the presence of Jesus, the worship and Power of the Holy Spirit that we willingly sacrificed to obtain the Restoration. He was sobbing last week again- from the pain of missing the Holy Spirit in this our “new” church. He has the gifting and anointing to help invite the Holy Ghost in, through worship, and his gift is not welcomed. It is not in the almighty Manual.

We have sacrificed all things, including family *and* liberty for both women and men – and come into a camp where everyone is afraid to even talk to the Holy Spirit – but just talks about duties and obeying the commandments and the leadership. I know the Restoration is true. I *know* the Church is not. The Church will only be true when all are encouraged to embrace their agency and follow the Lord with all their hearts, rather than just follow the Prophet (who is an ‘honest but imperfect man’ as Neil Andersen stated in Oct Conference [2012]).”
(Kathy Datsko, comment on “Ask Mormon Girl” website, “Ask Mormon Girl: Time to come out of the closet as a Mormon feminist. How do I tell my husband?”, February 20, 2013 at 12:36AM. Lightly reformatted to improve legibility for this context)

"Confusion Bridge" by Tuah Roslan

“The Confusion Bridge” by Tuah Roslan

And trust me, folks the opening salvo of my review wasn’t too harsh, this book is propaganda – the authors are attempting to get the LdS Church to become Charismatic (as stated above) while getting Charismatics to accept the LDS Church as mainstream Christian. The net result is, “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view” – which is what the Oxford English Dictionary gives as the definition of propaganda. For example, let me demonstrate how again, again, and again the authors misrepresent both Biblical Christianity and official, correlated Mormon Church doctrine in this book via direct quotes:

“Today when a SFC [Spirit Filled Christian] states, “I believe in the Trinity,” he is often asserting he believes there is a distinction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When stating, “I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity,” I am saying “I believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate, yet distinct beings, and I believe that somehow They are one.”   Most LDS [Latter-day Saints] have an outdated understanding of what SFC mean when they use the word Trinity, as the LDS understanding stems from a definition that was held 30-50 years ago. In fact, this definition is no longer accepted by Spirit-filled Christians today. LDS generally believe that the doctrine of the Trinity or belief in the Trinity implies that somehow there is no distinction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They think Trinity refers to some weird nebulous oneness in the Godhead, in which all distinction has been lost. They often believe that Trinity refers to the creeds that used to be so prevalent in many churches prior to the 1970’s (see SFC view under ‘Restoration’). Perhaps this was what Trinity meant before the 1960’s or even the 1970’s, but it is no longer true among Spirit-filled Christians.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 5909-5918)

Mormon friends this is simply wrong! And I am saying this as a Spirit-filled Charismatic Christian. The doctrine of the Trinity is, and always has been, as it’s defined in the Bible and summarized in the (circa 4th Century AD) Athanasian Creed. The doctrine, in a nutshell, is as follows: God is one eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Being consisting of three co-eternal, co-omnipotent, co-omnipresent Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is one in essence, but three in person. And creeds aside, each of these points can be proven directly from the Bible. This doctrine has never changed. Ever.1

And if that’s not enough, the authors then go on to misrepresent both groups:

“The term ‘Trinity’ does not even exist in the Bible, which means that each group has developed their own understanding of what it actually means. SFC would state emphatically, “I believe in the Trinity,” and LDS would say, “I do not believe in the Trinity.” They are each saying the exact same thing: that they believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate, distinct Persons (Personages), yet (somehow) deeply united in covenant as “one.”   When LDS state they don’t believe in the concept of the Trinity, SFC think they are teaching against the Godhood of Jesus Christ and/or the Holy Spirit. When a Latter-day Saint states, “I don’t believe in the Trinity,” his SFC friend will wonder “Which person of the Godhead does he not believe in?” The Spirit-filled Christian will most likely assume his Latter-day Saint friend is not a Christian, since he has just stated that he does not believe in at least one of the three Persons within the Godhead.

LDS generally express their belief in the ‘oneness’ of God by saying they believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “one in purpose.” This makes complete sense to LDS. However, the concept “one in purpose” can be very frustrating and confusing to SFC. They think their LDS friends are implying that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are willing to work together with the same purpose on a project, but that there is no deep covenant of oneness between the three of Them. SFC may therefore think LDS have the belief that Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are like business partners; there is deep respect between Them, but certainly no affection. The phrase “One in purpose” (for SFC) implies the idea that there is no deep communion between the three of Them, and certainly never any demonstrations of tenderness.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 5920-5934)

At this point, I would hope that any mainstream Christian reading that is rolling their eyes at how egregiously they and the doctrine of the Trinity have been presented yet again! The members of the Trinity are no more, “deeply united in covenant as ‘one'” than my soul is “covenanted” with my body, or my head is “covenanted” with my neck. Your nature and being is what it is. Period. No covenant or agreement is required.

And I suspect that Latter-day Saint eyes are also rolling, since what the authors have given as Latter-day Saint Godhead doctrine bears little to no resemblance to the official, correlated definition which is as follows:

“The Mormon view of the members of the Godhead corresponds in a number of ways with the views of others in the Christian world, but with significant differences. Latter-day Saints pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship, the Son as Lord and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the messenger and revealer of the Father and the Son. But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.

The true doctrine of the Godhead was lost in the apostasy that followed the Savior’s mortal ministry and the deaths of His Apostles. This doctrine began to be restored when 14-year-old Joseph Smith received his First Vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:17). From the Prophet’s account of the First Vision and from his other teachings, we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings. The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22).

Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.”
(official LDS Church website, Gospel Topics, “Godhead”)

To be clear here Mormon friends, there’s really no bridge to be built or crossed since that tritheistic definition, according to mainstream Christian orthodoxy, is both heretical and blasphemous. It changes the only one true God into a council of polytheistic gods with Heaven Father as the “Head God”. In other words, the Godhead is a henotheistic council. Changing your presentation to make it more palatable for mainstream Christian ears won’t change that offensive heresy. And when your Christian friend finds out that you have attempted to obfuscate official Mormon Doctrine and orthodox Christian Trinitarianism in the manner in which the Datskos do in this book, they will most likely feel betrayed, angry, and may even call you a liar. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Making a splash! In preparation for the explosion, a stretch of I-270 crossing from St. Louis, Missouri, to Granite City, Illinois, was demolished in February 2015.

“Mormon friends, there’s really no bridge to be built or crossed here…”

But wait, it gets even “better” when the authors then advise you, my Mormon friend, to point your “SFC” friend to early (pre-1834) Mormon scripture in the Book of Mormon and D&C in which Joseph Smith and Mormonism held to a largely Trinitarian view of the Godhead (albeit with a strong modalist skew). It is common knowledge that Joseph Smith’s view of the Godhead shifted radically between 1834-1835 resulting in the previously”leaky” Trinitarianism in early Mormonism being supplanted by the aforementioned henotheistic tritheism.2 So you and I both know that if you’re truly honest you would turn instead to sources like these (post-1834) scriptures which more accurately reflect the current LDS Church position on the Godhead – which, as previously stated, is both tritheistic and henotheistic:

The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham Chapter 4:1-4
“And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.

And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.

And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.”

“The King Follett Sermon”; Ensign, April 1971, p.13
“A Council of the Gods. In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.”
— Joseph Smith

“Sermon in the Grove”; History of the Church 6:474
“I will preach on the plurality of Gods… I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.”
— Joseph Smith, “Sermon On Plurality of Gods,” June 16, 1844

“Sermon in the Grove”; History of the Church 6:476
“The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us…”
— Joseph Smith, “Sermon On Plurality of Gods,” June 16, 1844

So stated plainly, what the authors are coaching you to do is lie and obfuscate what Mormonism really believes, aren’t they? And this is just one of innumerable examples that I could cite from this book. So, if you really, feel comfortable violating Gospel Principles, Chapter 31 which says . . .

“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when He was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

… then buy this book and follow it’s advice.

Speaking as a Spirit-filled Charismatic Christian, I simply can not recommend this book to Christians. And speaking as a Mormon Studies Scholar I can’t recommend this book to Latter-day Saints either. Rather, I advise you to save your $2.99 (the current price as this is being written) and look elsewhere if you’re looking for credible work on Mormon/Evangelical intrafaith discussions. Here are a few suggestions:

How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation
Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation between a Mormon and an Evangelical
The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement

None of these recommended alternatives are perfect but they’re much, much, much better than this messy, poorly crafted, misleading, and agenda laden book.

The net result of following the advice given in this book whether you’re “SFC” or “LDS”. Any questions?

APPENDIX: What It Is And Why It Matters
Here’s the backstory on how I found this book and why I have burned a fair amount of time reading, analyzing, and exposing it per the above, admittedly scathing, review.

First, a little about myself. I am a Christian Mormons Studies Scholar. I am also a Charismatic Christian with a strong Reformed Theology (I usually tell people, “Just think ‘Charismatic Presbyterian’ and you’ve pretty much got it”). So it was with great interest that when I read the following in John MacArthur’s controversial book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship:

“Similarities between the two groups [Charismatic Christians and Mormons] have led some to seek for greater unity. In their book ‘Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints’, authors Rob and Kathy Datsko assert, “Although there is an incredible language and culture barrier between LDS [Latter-day Saints] and SFC [Spirit-filled Christians], often these two groups believe many of the same basic doctrines.” Though Pentecostalism has traditionally rejected the Latter-day Saints, comments like those made by Joel Osteen suggest that a new wave of ecumenical inclusivism may be on the horizon. It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.”
(MacArthur, John F., “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”, pp. 51-52)

Strange Fire Front CoverWell after writing articles about the errors of cessationists Richard J. Mouw and Roger E. Olson, as well as Pentecostals Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richardson, and Cal Fullerton I thought that I’d pretty much covered all the active Christian voices that had been seduced by Mormonism in the way that MacArthur describes. And I felt no need to address the error of Joel Osteen since he was so thoroughly shellacked within Evangelical Christianity, by cessationists and Charismatics alike, for making such blatantly stupid statements about Mormonism. Inclusivism? Sorry, Mr. MacArthur but no.

So who were these new players, the Datskos, who I had never heard of? I asked my Christian friends and colleagues in Mormon Studies and got crickets chirping. I asked my Mormon friends and got the same. No one, and I mean no one, knew who these people were – they were a mystery to everyone.

So I did an Amazon search, found the book and started reading. I also did a Google search and found a September 2012 Deseret News article entitled, “LDS converts write about building bridges with other Christian faiths” as well as Kathy Datsko’s February 2013 comment from Joanna Brooks’, “Ask Mornon Girl” website that’s cited above. And the result is the review that’s now before you.

All this raises some questions for John MacArthur and his Strange Fire collaborators:
1) Why are the Datskos implicitly presented as Charismatic Christians in your (circa 2013) book when, in fact, they have been Mormons since 2003?
Mr. MacArthur, this was a manipulative obfuscation and a misrepresentation of the facts – and as I will show later you knew that they were Latter-day Saints when you wrote this. Respectfully but directly sir, you have attempted to manipulate and have thereby borne false witness here.

2) Where are the rest of the Charismatic Christians that you declare, are seeking greater unity with Mormons?
Sir, I can name three: Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richards, and Cal Fullerton. And all three of these men are not only not leaders but are considered, marginalized, lunatic fringe, Charismaniacs by mainstream Charismatics. In this author’s case, I have now written twice on Lynn Ridenhour’s errors,3 and once on the errors of Paul Richards and Cal Fullerton.4 In fact, Mr. MacArthur, you will be pleased to note that I cite a selection from your Strange Fire book that I agree with in support of my case against these men in the latter article. And, sir, if those articles don’t get the job done, I’ll write more. This is hardly an issue where Charismatics in Mormon Studies have been lax or negligent – despite your misleading and polemic rhetoric.

"Talking Doctrine" the latest offering from Richard J. Mouw and his team of cessationists who are seeking closer ties with Mormonism.

“Talking Doctrine” is the latest offering from Richard J. Mouw and his team of cessationists who are seeking greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.

3) Why do you single out Charismatics when, in fact, it’s cessationists who are taken a far greater, more active role in seeking greater unity with Mormons?
For example, you hide a reference to former Fuller University President, Richard J. Mouw (who is a cessationist) back in the footnotes (see footnote 61 on p. 285) in reference to this misleading prose in the main text of p.52, “It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians”, somehow implying that it’s the Charismatics at Fuller rather than their liberal theology that’s the problem.

In actual fact, the leaders of this movement are cessationist not Charismatics. Let me name names: Craig Blomberg (Denver Theological Seminary), Christopher Hall (Episcopalian theologian), Gerald R. McDermott (Beeson Divinity School), and James E. Bradley (Fuller Theological Seminary). And there’s more where that came from. Mr. MacArthur – the people on the vanguard of this “inclusive” initiative are cessationists. So I just don’t see how Pentecostal Theology is the root cause here. Rather, I think that the problem is generally bad theology combined with a good ol’ fashioned lack of common sense and/or good judgment. Honestly, Mr. MacArthur there’s enough “stupid” on both sides of the cessationist/continuationist divide to go around isn’t there?

4) Where are all these Charismatic Latter-day Saints that you refer to on p.73 of Strange Fire? That’s where you claim, “Today there are even charismatic Mormons. Regardless of what else they teach, if they have had that experience, they are in.”
And most interesting Mr. MacArthur, footnote 53 for that passage takes us to this: “See, for example, “Hi. I’m Kathy, I’m a born again, Spirit-filled, Charismatic Mormon” at Mormon.org, accessed March 2013” (p.290) and one clicks on the link that’s provided in the footnote and it takes us to (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) Kathy Datsko’s Mormon testimony! Sir, no many how many times you count her Kathy Datsko is one, and only one, Charismatic Latter-day Saint. Add in her husband Rob and now you have two. Are we now to believe that two people in a church of 15-million people somehow represents a major trend meritorious of your claim?

Further, as stated previously you knew that these authors were Mormon converts when you dishonestly tried to pass them off as Charismatic Christians didn’t you? So, in a similar manner Mr. MacArthur, no matter how many times you attempt to count the Datskos as Charismatic Christians, zero plus zero still equals zero. Finally, as Kathy Datsko stated plainly in her February 2013 comment, and as I have repeatedly observed myself, Latter-day Saints have absolutely no interest in Pentecostalism and stay as far away from it as possible – they treat it like kryptonite. So in the end, Mr. MacArthur your evidence that mainstream Charismatics Christians are seeking closer ecumenical ties with Charismatic Mormons isn’t just exaggerated, it’s non-existent.

Making a Mountain out of … Absolutely Nothing at All
Case in point: The book being reviewed here appears to have been published stillborn. There is absolutely no interest in it from either side of the Mormon/Evangelical divide and the only review that I could find of it anywhere prior to mine was the empty and inane 5-Star September 2012 review which said, “Wow! Awesome Read! Thanks for writing this much NEEDED book! May our Heavenly Father BLESS you and Keep you! May His Face shine upon you and give you Peace!!!” review that preceded mine here on Amazon. Stated plainly no one seems to care about this poorly conceived, poorly executed, and hopelessly flawed book. So to refer to it as if it somehow has a following and/or some influence in Charismatic/Mormon dialog is just silly. More than that, it’s absurd.

In the end Mr. MacArthur, not only is this passage in your book making a mountain out a molehill, it’s just flat out wrong. As is the case with so much of Strange Fire, you have exaggerated, misrepresented, and borne false witness in your mindless polemic tirade against Pentecostalism. Sir, this isn’t truth, this isn’t reason, and this isn’t biblical Christianity. Rather, this is nothing more than agenda driven prejudice and bigotry.

"When beliefs are formed, confirmation biases kick in and begin to look for information that supports our views, and selectively ignore everything which doesn’t."

“When beliefs are formed, confirmation biases kick in and begin to look for information that supports our views, and selectively ignore everything which doesn’t.” — Rachael Murphy

NOTES:
1 I would refer the reader to “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Rob Bowman on the Institute for Religious Research website for a good exposition of this.

2 To see a full analysis of this see Chapter 6 (Kindle Location 2941) of “The Godhead and Plurality of Gods” of Latter-day Saint Charles Harrell’s watershed work, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Part 1). Also see Johnny Stephenson’s excellent summary on the Mormon Coffee website entitled, “What Happened to the Trinity in Mormonism?”, or Ronald V. Huggins’ classic essay, “Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?” on the Institute for Religious Research website.

3 See “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour” and “Weak Arguments #7: “The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.”’

4 See “Pentecostal Charismaniacs: Mormons Gone Bad”.

(an earlier edition of  this review was previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

BACK TO TOP

Authorship page from an 1849 European edition of the Book of Mormon

Authorship page from an 1849 European edition of the Book of Mormon

by Bob Betts and Fred Anson
As theologian R.C. Sproul points out, the issue of hell is a critically important, albeit disturbing, one:

No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.
(R.C. Sproul, “What Is Hell?”)

But still, what could possibly be more unsettling than the eternality of hell? As Dr. Sproul goes on to explain:

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.”

Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.
(Ibid)

"Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" from "The Book of Mormon The Musical"

“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from “The Book of Mormon The Musical”

Given this it should probably come as no surprise that many attempt to lessen the disquieting effect of biblical truth. For example, the Mormon religion today claims that hell is not eternal for the vast majority of people. Consider, for example, consider how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describes hell:

Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways. First, it is another name for spirit prison, a temporary place in the postmortal world for those who died without a knowledge of the truth or those who were disobedient in mortality. Second, it is the permanent location of Satan and his followers and the sons of perdition, who are not redeemed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
(“Hell”, Gospel Topics article, Official LdS Church website)

And as influential Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explained in his classic work, “Mormon Doctrine”:

Hell will have an end… After their resurrection, the great majority of those who have suffered in hell will pass into the telestial kingdom; the balance, cursed as sons of perdition, will be consigned to partake of endless wo with the devil and his angels. Speaking of the telestial kingdom the Lord says: “These are they who are thrust down to hell. These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work. These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times.” (D. & C. 76:84-85, 106.) As to the sons of perdition, the revelation says that after their resurrection “they shall return again to their own place” (D. & C. 88:32, 102), that is, they shall go back to dwell in the lake of fire with Perdition and his other sons. Thus those in hell “are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.” (D. & C. 88:101.)

Thus, for those who are heirs of some salvation, which includes all except the sons of perdition (D.&C. 73:44), hell has an end…
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Mormon Doctrine” (Second Edition, 1966), pp.249-251) 

The Book of Mormon and the Eternality of Hell
However, the following Book of Mormon passages speak of the eternality of hell for not only the most wicked but for anyone and everyone who either rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ during their mortal life – who or fails to live up to it’s demands.

An 1830 first edition Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

An 1830 first edition Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

1 Nephi 14:3
And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell — yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

1 Nephi 15:29,35
And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked…

And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

2 Nephi 2:29
And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

2 Nephi 9:12,19
And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel…

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

2 Nephi 28:19-23
For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;

For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well — and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he [the devil] flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none — and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

Jacob 7:18
And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment.

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to the Book of Alma

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to the Book of Alma

Alma 5:6-10
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

Helaman 6:28
And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.

Moroni 8:13
Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

Supporting Book of Mormon Texts
And while the following verses do not speak of the actual eternality of hell, they lend additional proof that “hell” should be a taught Mormon doctrine, since, the alleged prophet “Mormon”, formed a book that speaks so extensively about the subject. This is not an exhaustive list.

19th Century Anti-Mormons had their own ideas about where hell was and who resided there.

19th Century Anti-Mormons had their own ideas about where hell was and who resided there.

2 Nephi 1:15
But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

2 Nephi 24:15
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

2 Nephi 26:10
And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell.

2 Nephi 28:15
O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!

2 Nephi 33:6
I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.

Jacob 3:11
O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death.

Alma 13:30
And may the Lord grant unto you repentance, that ye may not bring down his wrath upon you, that ye may not be bound down by the chains of hell, that ye may not suffer the second death.

Alma 14:6
And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

Alma 26:13-14
Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?

Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.

3 Nephi 12:22,30
But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your across, than that ye should be cast into hell.

One can only wonder why the book that Joseph Smith claimed contains “the fullness of the gospel” contradicts the other standard works and what Mormons are taught today.

Bob Betts

Bob Betts

About The Authors
Robert “Bob” Betts received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, in 1970, at the age of 18. After one year of Bible college (’72-’73), Bob was forced to discontinue that education due to a severe bout with valley fever. By 1974, the fever had dissipated, and in 1975, Bob met and married his wife, Patricia (Patty), and started a family. Bob and Patty have been married for 40 years as of 2015, with three children and seven grandchildren.

In the mid ‘90s, God developed within Bob, an interest in the study of the religion of Mormonism. The interest became a passion, and a compassion for the Mormon people. In 2,000, Bob went into full time ministry to Mormons, and to any people directly affected by Mormonism’s outreach (families, friends, Christians, non-Christians, ex-Mormons, inactive Mormons, etc.). He oversaw a website “discussion board,” debating and challenging (and being challenged by) devout Mormons for over 10 years, and thousands of hours, seeing the fruit of salvation in a few, for which he readily gives God all the glory.

After 12 years, Bob left that ministry, but continues on social media to reach out to Mormons and ex-Mormons with the hope and truth of pure, biblical Christianity, honing the gift that God gave him to reasonably and logically dismantle the impossible gospel and theology of Mormonism.

Fred W. Anson is a Mormon Studies Scholar and the publisher of Beggar’s Bread. 

"Christ’s Descent into Hell" Unknown Artist in the style of Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlandish, ca. 1550–60) click to zoon

“Christ’s Descent into Hell” Unknown Artist in the style of Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlandish, ca. 1550–60) click to zoon

BACK TO TOP

Strange Fire Front CoverReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship
Author: John F. MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 2013
Length: 352 pages
Binding: Digital, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook
ISBN10: 1400205174
ISBN13: 978-1400205172
Price: $10.99 (Digital), $22.99 (Hardcover),  $6.99 (Paperback), $9.99 (Audiobook)

My pastor could have been speaking of John MacArthur when he said to me, “Your message is usually substantive and true but the way that you deliver it often leaves the other person so in reaction to the messenger that they can’t receive the message.” Yes, friends, I empathize with John MacArthur since I’m on of that those annoying “truth first, grace and mercy second, and let the pieces fall where they will third” guys too. And try as I may to not react to the messenger rather than the message in this review I will warn you in advance that I may not succeed.

The More Things Change . . . 
Anti-Charismatic books are nothing new to John MacArthur. In 1978 he published “The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective” In 1992 it was “Charismatic Chaos” and in 2013, his latest offering, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”. So three titles and thirty five years later and what has changed? Obviously, not a lot since the twenty one old words of Vineyard Pastor, Rich Nathan are just as applicable to “Strange Fire” as they were of “Charismatic Chaos”:

“Ultimately it is MacArthur’s rancorous, bombastic style that undermines his objectivity and any value this book may have had as a necessary corrective to excesses or errors in the charismatic, Pentecostal and Third Wave movements. Rabid anti-charismatics will love this book. It provides wonderful sermon illustrations for the already convinced. For those not so zealously anti-charismatic, this book serves only as a painful reminder of the lovelessness that characterizes too much of contemporary Christianity.”
(Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993, p.27)

And this is a pity because MacArthur has always done a very good job of indentifying and condemning the excesses in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. In “Charismatic Chaos” it was the immature abuses of “out there” Vineyard churches (like the bizarre Holy Laughter of the Toronto Airport Vineyard and the insanity of the Kansas City Prophets), the zaniness of The Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the charlatanism of Benny Hinn – who has very appropriately returned as the favored punching bag and dart board target of Strange Fire. To all this, like so many other, mainstream, theologically cautious and conversative Charismatics, I can only stand, applaud, and yell, “Bravo!” These are things that we are in complete agreement with Mr. MacArthur on. In fact, these are things that we ourselves have publicly and repeatedly condemned and denounced ourselves. Bravo Mr. MacArthur, bravo!

John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Broad Brush Polemics
However, MacArthur isn’t content with reprimanding just a few bad apples. It quickly becomes apparent that in his mind, if you’re a Charismatic, you’re a bad apple – period. Consider these excerpts:

“The Charismatic Movement began barely a hundred years ago, and its influence on evangelicalism can hardly be overstated. From its inception by Charles Fox Parham to its most ubiquitous modern representative in Benny Hinn, the entire movement is nothing more than a sham religion run by counterfeit ministers. True biblical interpretation, sound doctrine, and historical theology owes nothing to the movement— unless an influx of error and falsehood could be considered a contribution. Like any effective false system, charismatic theology incorporates enough of the truth to gain credibility. But in mixing the truth with deadly deceptions, it has concocted a cocktail of corruption and doctrinal poison— a lethal fabrication— with hearts and souls at stake.”
(John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 113)

“the gospel that is driving these surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was a farce and a scam from the outset; it has not changed into something good.”
(Ibid, p.xix)

As one commenter on The Pneuma Review website said well of such over the top polemics:

“There are excesses in the charismatic group that need to be addressed, but Strange Fire is devoid of any hint on J[ohn] M[cArthur]’s part to meet with these whom he feels are in error to try to make sure he understands them. In taking this to the extreme that he has, he has become an example of the extreme he is trying to point out in others.”
(Rick Collins, Aug 24, 2014 8:27pm comment, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”)

And again, Rich Nathan’s description of “Charismatic Chaos” yesterday is just as true of “Strange Fire” today:

“MacArthur doesn’t rebuke charismatics as a person would rebuke a member of one’s own family. The book reads like hostile fire shot by an outsider. The tone, as will be seen by the numerous pejorative adjectives that MacArthur uses to describe charismatics, is anything but familial or irenic. It is one thing to have your child spanked by your spouse. It is quite another thing to have your child spanked by a stranger. Charismatics understandably react to being spanked by someone who intentionally positions himself as a stranger and not as a “dear friend, fellow worker… and [brother]” (Philem. 1:1).”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.3)

Folks, I could stop right there and you would have an apt brief review of Strange Fire. Unfortunately, when the specifics are considered Strange Fire gets even worse.

Double Standards
Adding insult to injury is MacArthur’s use of Double Standards. He spends an entire chapter pounding away at the scandals in the continuationist camp while utterly ignoring his own shattered cessationist glass house. As Time Magazine observed:

“Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Rochester in New York believes Pentecostals are no more trouble-prone than other Protestants. “The same sort of thing is happening to Baptists and Presbyterians,” she says. “Except for one big thing. They are not media figures.”
(David Van Biema, “Are Mega-Preachers Scandal-Prone?”, Time magazine, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007)

One need go no further than the dedication page of MacArthur’s first Anti-Charismatic book (“The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective”, circa 1978) to see MacArthur’s blind hypocrisy. It reads as follows:

“To Dave Hocking,
A true and beloved friend
with whom I share a common love
for the Word of Christ
and the purity of His church.”

Yet just fourteen year later, and just 6 months after MacArthur’s second Anti-Charismatic book (“Charismatic Chaos”, circa April 1992), fellow hard cessationist and Anti-Charismatic David (aka “Dave”) Hocking was involved in a scandal that involved not one, but two high profile Southern California churches:

“In Oct 1992, the elders of Calvary Church [Santa Ana, California] caught David Hocking in a major scandal involving marital infidelity. The elders of the church told Hocking that he would no longer be the Senior Pastor of Calvary Church and would have to undergo a three-year restoration process.

Refusing to accept the restoration plan of the elders at Calvary Church, Hocking’s long-time buddy Chuck Smith [the founding Pastor of Calvary Chapel and the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California at the time] took him in. Reportedly, Smith said that this great man of God should not be wasted, and took in David Hocking as a Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa staff member. Hocking was excommunicated by Calvary Church of Santa Ana after he refused to submit to the elders of the church in their restoration process…

This was a major point of contention between Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa and other local churches in the community (particularly CCSA [Calvary Church Santa Ana]). This caused a major scandal here in Southern California where the results are still being felt.”
(“The Calvary Church of Santa Ana/David Hocking Incident”, Calvary Chapel Wiki website)  

And this is just the tip of the cessationist iceberg of scandals. We could also talk about Southern Baptist Charles Stanley’s divorce, R.C. Sproul, Jr.’s  (whose father R.C. Sproul, Sr. spoke at the Strange Fire Conference) “Ashley Madison indiscretion”, or the scandals of Baptists, Kent Hovind, Lonnie Latham, Coy Privette, or Joe Barron (see “List Of Christian Evangelist Scandals” for details).

Further, and speaking as someone in the same Reformed camp that MacArthur is in (yes, I’m one of those dreaded “Charismatic Calvinists” that Steve Lawson woodshedded at the Strange Fire conference) it pains me to admit that Frank Viola was largely correct when he observed:

“Using MacArthur’s logic and approach, one could easily write a book about the toxicity of the Reformed movement by painting all Reformed Christians as elitist, sectarian, divisive, arrogant, exclusive, and in love with “doctrine” more than with Christ.

And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R.T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. Or Peter Ruckman and Jack Hyles, et al. to characterize Fundamentalist Baptists. Or William R. Crews and L.R. Shelton Jr., et. al. to represent Reformed Baptists.

My point is that charismatic, Reformed, and Baptist people would strongly object to the idea that any of these gentleman could accurately represent their respective tribes as each of them have strong critics within their own movements. Even so, the game of burning down straw man city with a torch is nothing new.”
(Frank Viola, “Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire” p.9; also cited in Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.157)

But probably no one summed it up better than Rich Nathan when he said:

“Immorality is, tragically, a phenomenon that seems to know no denominational boundaries. Indeed, several very prominent dispensational and fundamentalist leaders have had to step down from radio ministries, para-church leadership, and pastorates because of sexual immorality. One might more realistically point to the sex-drenched culture of the modern western world, the cult of sexual self expression, and the absence of the practice of spiritual disciplines as more likely explanations for the fall of charismatic pastors than their experience of speaking in tongues.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.8)

Treating the Extreme as the Norm
This treating extremes as the norm is the biggest problem with MacArthur’s approach to Pentecostalism in general and his Anti-Charismatic books in particular. Consider this example from Strange Fire:

“More moderate charismatics like to portray the prosperity preachers, faith healers, and televangelists as safely isolated on the extreme edge of the charismatic camp. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Thanks to the global reach and incessant proselytizing of religious television and charismatic mass media, the extreme has now become mainstream. For most of the watching world, flamboyant false teachers— with heresies as ridiculous as their hairdos— constitute the public face of Christianity. And they propagate their lies in the Holy Spirit’s name.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 13)

Again, writing of “Charismatic Chaos” Rich Nathan’s response is just as applicable:

“MacArthur rarely acknowledges a mainstream view within the charismatic or Pentecostal movements that’s balanced, Biblical, and mature. MacArthur, moreover, rarely admits that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement – now over 400 million strong – has borne tremendous fruit for the kingdom of God. He simply does not permit himself to acknowledge positive contributions by this enormous and varied movement.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.2)

And as this review is being written, Pentecostals and Charismatics not only number over 500 million adherents but represent the fastest growing segment of the modern Christian Church. All this while mainline denominations are shrinking and cessationist numbers are flattening. No numbers and don’t equal veracity but, if nothing else, it bespeaks an ability to meet needs and bear fruit – something that John MacArthur sees as a net negative due to his antipathy toward continuationism in all forms. Such prejudice driven hard hardheartedness and blindness is heartbreaking.

Exaggeration, Data Manipulation, and Guilt by Association Fallacies
Equally concerning is how MacArthur repeatedly engages in gross exaggeration and “Guilty by Association” fallacies. Please consider this example:

“[Joel] Osteen’s muddled comment about Latter-day Saints introduces an interesting point of discussion— especially since the founders of Mormonism claimed to experience the same supernatural phenomena that Pentecostals and charismatics experience today. At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, Joseph Smith reported various types of charismatic phenomena— including tongues, prophecy, and miraculous visions. Other eyewitness accounts of that same event made similar claims: “There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels”; and, “There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of Elders spoke in tongues.” More than half a century before Charles Parham and the Pentecostals spoke in tongues, the Latter-day Saints reported similar outbursts, leading some historians to trace the roots of Pentecostalism back through Mormonism.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Well the “some historians” referenced in the footnote for that last sentence is exactly one historian, and one historical work (Hard Cessationist, Thomas R. Edgar’s Anti-Pentecostal treatise, “Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit”, p.218 and p.108)

Further, speaking as a Mormon Studies Scholar, the fact is that the early Mormons were merely one of many tongues speaking groups in the Second Great Awakening. Joseph Smith and the earliest Mormons didn’t speak in tongues at all until Brigham Young and his tongues speaking brothers arrived on the scene along with their tongues speaking friend Heber C. Kimball. And, for the record, Young and his brothers were Restorationist Pentecostals (specifically tongues speaking Primitive Methodists in most cases) before joining the Mormon Church – so the phenomenon didn’t, I repeat, did not originate in Mormonism.

Rather, it’s generally conceded that the fountainhead for all this 19th Century, Second Great Awakening tongues speaking was the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival. So for a historian to claim that the roots of modern Pentecostalism can be traced back to early Mormonism isn’t just ludicrous, it’s hack scholarship.

But wait, MacArthur isn’t done yet, there’s more:

“Even today, similarities between the two groups have led some to seek for greater unity. In their book Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints, authors Rob and Kathy Datsko assert, “Although there is an incredible language and culture barrier between LDS [Latter-day Saints] and SFC [Spirit-filled Christians], often these two groups believe many of the same basic doctrines.” Though Pentecostalism has traditionally rejected the Latter-day Saints, comments like those made by Joel Osteen suggest that a new wave of ecumenical inclusivism may be on the horizon. It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Regarding this passage, as I pointed out in my review of Rob and Kathy Datsko’s book, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints” MacArthur’s argument is based on data manipulation, flawed evidence, and good old fashioned exaggeration. Please consider the following questions I posed to Mr. MacArthur in this regard:

1) Why are the Datskos implicitly presented as Charismatic Christians in your (circa 2013) book when, in fact, they have been Mormons since 2003?
Folks as soon as these folks converted to Mormonism, they were no longer Charismatic Christians, they were Latter-day Saints who were following another Jesus and preaching another gospel.

2) Where are the rest of the Charismatic Christians that you declare, are seeking greater unity with Mormons?
Friends I’m a Mormon Studies scholar and I will tell you plainly: Any that have tried this (such as Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richardson, and Cal Fullerton) are now considered, marginalized, lunatic fringe, Charismaniacs by mainstream Charismatics. They have no significant power or influence among us.

3) Why do you single out Charismatics when, in fact, it’s cessationists who are taken a far greater, more active role in seeking greater unity with Mormons?
I’ll name names: Craig Blomberg (Denver Theological Seminary), Christopher Hall (Episcopalian theologian), Gerald R. McDermott (Beeson Divinity School), and James E. Bradley (Fuller Theological Seminary). Oh, and let me add newcomer, Baptist Author and Educator, Roger E. Olson, to the list.

4) Where are all these Charismatic Latter-day Saints that you refer to on p.73 of Strange Fire?
That’s where you claim, “Today there are even charismatic Mormons. Regardless of what else they teach, if they have had that experience, they are in.” Footnote 53 for the passage on p.73 takes us to this: “See, for example, “Hi. I’m Kathy, I’m a born again, Spirit-filled, Charismatic Mormon” at Mormon.org, accessed March 2013” (p.290) and one clicks on the link that’s provided in the footnote and it takes us to (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) Kathy Datsko’s Mormon testimony! Folks, no many how many times you count her Kathy Datsko is one, and only one, Charismatic Latter-day Saint. Add in her husband Rob and you now have not one but two Charismatic Mormons.

This is far from a trend or even a pattern people! In fact, other than these two I know of no other Charismatic Latter-day Saints. That’s because Latter-day Saints have absolutely no interest in Pentecostalism and stay as far away from it as possible – they treat it like kryptonite. So in the end Mr. MacArthur’s evidence that there’s a major trend involving mainstream Charismatics Christians are seeking closer ecumenical ties with Charismatic Mormons isn’t just exaggerated, it’s non-existent.

Confirmation Bias Driven Evidence Presentation
As continuationist Bible scholar Craig S. Keener notes:

“MacArthur’s selective approach to history is meant to substantiate his approach. Yet his appendix on church history, if intended to be representative, cherry-picks only statements that agree with him. Yes, cessationists existed; but not all orthodox believers have been cessationists. Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian all claimed eyewitness accounts of healings and exorcisms. Historian Ramsay MacMullen shows that these sorts of experiences constituted the leading cause of Christian conversion in the third and fourth centuries.

MacArthur cites Augustine as an advocate of cessationism (252-53) without noting that he later changed his mind and reported numerous miracles, including raisings from the dead and some healings that he personally witnessed. John Wesley valued weighing prophecy rather than rejecting it, reports healings, and offers his own firsthand report of what he believed to be a raising from the dead. Late nineteenth-century evangelical leaders such as Baptist A. J. Gordon (for whom Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is named) and A. B. Simpson, founder of Christian and Missionary Alliance, were continuationists and recounted healing reports.”
(Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website)

And it’s not in the book but in the follow up video on to the book and conference that Mr. MacArthur did at The Master’s Seminary entitled, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” (it can be seen on YouTube) John MacArthur said of Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel movement that in 1967 “a bunch of Jesus freak people.. go to Calvary Chapel…and for the first time…that I know of in history, the church lets the very defined subculture dictate what it will be,” citing “the hippie culture, communal living…kids coming out of drugs and free sex, and all that” as displacing “all the normal and formal things,” and typifying the charismatic church, with the movement becoming Calvary Chapel. (video transcription from Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I was at Calvary Chapel in the 1970’s during the height of Jesus Movement and what Mr. MacArthur has just said is nonsense! Chuck Smith’s friend and colleague Jacob Prasch has called it “false witness” and I agree with him. Folks, it simply isn’t true. Anyone who thinks that staid, culturally and theologically conservative Pastor Chuck wasn’t fully in control of things and wasn’t keeping a leash on the insanity that we hippies brought in tow with us simply wasn’t there! Case in point: Chuck Fromm (the founder of Maranatha! Music and Chuck Smith’s son in law) once told me that Pastor Chuck didn’t like the rock music that was on the label and was always trying to convince him to shut that side of the ministry down and focus on just worship music – which Fromm eventually did.

While we all loved and respected Pastor Chuck, we still thought that he was a bit of an establishment square, a stick in the mud, and even an encumbrance to all our “grooviness” at times. To suggest that we children were leading a strong willed, in command, personality, father figure, and leader like Pastor Chuck is just laughable! And if there’s any doubt on any of this please see watch the “Pastors Perspective 4/3/2014” video on the K-Wave Radio YouTube Channel and you can hear it straight from Brian Brodersen, Don Stewart, Steve Mays, and Ray Bentley who were there at a much higher level than I ever was.

Conclusion and Other Perspectives
Since the Strange Fire conference and publication of the book John MacArthur has stated that they were supposed to be “the catalyst for conversation” (see “John MacArthur on Making an Informed Response to Strange Fire” on YouTube). Well if that’s the case, given the harsh, polemic, condemning tone then this “conversation” started with all the charm and grace of an alley mugging by a bully.

Equally amusing is how in the aforementioned, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” video Mr. MacArthur complains about the ad-hominems leveled at him in the reviews on Amazon. This coming from a man who spends, pages, chapters, and even the greater part of a book engaging in personal attacks, character assassination, and some of the most derogatory and insulting slurs against fellow Christians imaginable. Mr. MacArthur that thing sticking out of your eye is what’s called a “beam”.

That said, I have one last piece of advice to my Charismatic friends: Read the Strange Fire book. Yes, read the book. I think it speaks for itself. Please don’t take my word for it, read the book and see for yourself if all the criticism that this book has garnered from myself and others is justified or not.

Finally, probably no one summed up the mindset, spirit, and content of “Strange Fire” better than the late, great, first editor of Christianity Today, Carl F.H. Henry who said in 1957:

“The real bankruptcy of fundamentalism has resulted not so much from a reactionary spirit – lamentable as this was – as from a harsh temperament, a spirit of lovelessness and strife contributed by much of its leadership in the recent past. One of the ironies of contemporary church history is that the more fundamentalists stress separation from apostasy as a theme in their churches, the more a spirit of lovelessness seems to prevail.

The theological conflict with liberalism deteriorated into an attack upon organizations and personalities. This condemnation, in turn, grew to include conservative churchmen and churches not ready to align with separatist movements. It widens still further, to abusive evangelicals unhappy with the spirit of independency in such groups as the American Council of Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches. Then came internal debate and division among separatist fundamentalism within the American Council. More recently, the evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham and [the] efforts of other evangelical leaders, whose disapproval of liberalism and advocacy of conservative Christianity are beyond dispute, have become the target of bitter volubility.

This character of fundamentalism as a temperament and not primarily fundamentalism as a theology, has brought the movement into contemporary discredit… Historically, fundamentalism was a theological position; only gradually did the movement come to signify a mood and disposition as well. In its early [years] leadership reflected ballast, and less of bombast and battle… If modernism stands discredited as a perversion of the scriptural theology, certainly fundamentalism in this contemporary expression stands discredited as a perversion of the Biblical spirit.”
(Carl F.H. Henry, Editor of “Christianity Today” magazine in 1957)

Appendix: Other Voices
Here are some other quotes on and about John MacArthur and Strange Fire that I thought the reader might find interesting:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

“The problem I have is that, at least in my admittedly limited observation, some members or follow[er]s of the MacArthur circle suffer from Richard Dawkins syndrome. Dawkins has such contempt for Christianity that he can’t bring himself to take Christianity seriously even for the sake of argument.

And some members/followers of the MacArthur circle reflect the same mindset. They exhibit such unbridled contempt for charismatic theology that they can’t take it seriously even for the sake of argument. They demand evidence, yet they don’t make a good faith effort to be informed. So the objection is circular, given their studied ignorance.

There’s a word for that: prejudice.”
(Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.8; Charisma House. Kindle Edition)

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says [Pastor John] Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

“In his “Strange Fire” conference (that starts today), book (upcoming), and ensuing promotions, John MacArthur has, I believe, acted very irresponsibly and is doing incredible damage to the body of Christ.

It is no secret that John MacArthur pushes the polemic line and causes many of us to be uncomfortable. This is just who he is and I don’t really expect him to change. But this conference is an excessively eristic and unnecessarily divisive crusade against charismatics. And, to be frank, it is even over the top for him…

Because of all this, John MacArthur is losing his voice, and I don’t want him to. His reputation dismantles his platform to speak at just about any conference. He has worked himself into a corner where every time he writes a book or opens his mouth, many of us say, “Oh no!” before anything else. His radio program is called “Grace to You” and we are often left thinking “grace to who?”

John MacArthur says the charismatic movement “blasphemes the Holy Spirit” and “attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan.” Maybe he should think about who is actually attributing the work of the Spirit to Satan. I am not a charismatic, but such a statement really scares me. And because of this it would seem (even though the conference is sold out) that John MacArthur may be losing his voice.”
(C. Michael Patton, “Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice”, Reclaiming the Mind website, October 15, 2013)

“I’m not just talking from the sidelines as a bystander but as someone who has had a lot of experience and education in both [the Charismatic and Reformed] traditions and still embraces a respect for each while feeling free to critique both.

As I watched the video [of John MacArthur’s opening address at the “Strange Fire Conference”] I felt a growing anger as well as a disgust for what MacArthur was saying and how he was saying it. His speech is as lofty as his demeanor. His criticism of charismatics is as old as the charismatic movement itself. So it’s nothing new. It is a familiar flame. What I found dismaying is his complete dismissal of the movement and all its adherents in a single one hour dignified gesture. With one speech he purged the rolls of salvation of over 500 million believers.

Basically his argument is that charismatics dishonor God. Since they are therefore not in Christ, their theology is demonic. So since they are serving Satan and promoting him, there is a hotter hell reserved for them. He claims that the charismatic movement has done nothing to advance sound doctrine or biblical theology but in fact has caused more damage than anything else ever has because it has only delivered confusion, distortion and error to the church. He questions the church: You have always defended God. You have always defended Jesus Christ. Why do you not defend the Holy Spirit? Instead, the church opens the gates to the charismatics and they have taken over the city of God and set up an idol in its center. He doesn’t understand why God doesn’t just strike all these people down. He sadly supposes his ways aren’t our ways…

I’m not just angry. I’m not just disappointed. I’m sad. After watching MacArthur I was tempted to throw in the towel. Even though many people would distance themselves from MacArthur and his position on charismatics, it’s still a sign that the church and its leaders may use anything at their disposal to elevate themselves above their brothers and sisters, even if it means separating themselves from them forever.

I thought we were better than this.”
(David Hayward, “John MacArthur Sends 500,000,000 Charismatics to Hell”; nakedpastor website, October 18, 2013

“MacArthur’s latest book does not represent an honest search for truth. It is obvious that his mind was already made up when he began his research for Strange Fire, and he found what he was looking for. He presents a circular argument, beginning with a faulty premise and proceeding with selective anecdotal evidence that determines the outcome. He begins with a commitment to cessationism, the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the twelve apostles and the completion of the writings of the New Testament. Since that is the case for him, that means modern expressions of Spiritual gifts must be false. He then utilizes the selective anecdotal evidence to buttress his presupposition, which leads him back to his starting point of cessation.

It seems that MacArthur wants to believe the worst about the movement of which he writes. At times I felt he was embellishing the bad to make it even worse. For example, Oral Roberts was not a Christian brother with whom he had profound differences but a heretic who did much damage to the body of Christ, “the first of the fraudulent healers to capture TV, paving the way for the parade of spiritual swindlers who have come after him” (p.155). Make no mistake about it, MacArthur is not out to bring correction to a sector of Christianity with which he disagrees; his goal is to destroy a movement he considers false, heretical and dangerous.”
(Eddie L. Hyatt, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Eddie L. Hyatt”, The Pneuma Review website, October 23, 2013)

And while Pastor Jack Hayford didn’t call out John MacArthur (who by the way he’s close personal friends with) directly, for anyone who’s read the Strange Fire book or watched the conference videos there’s no mistaking what prompted the following response:

“It is essential to note: as with any sector of the church, at times ungodly and wholly unworthy leaders rise and gain a following. From local pastorates to notable media ministries one can find shameful violations of the Word and personalities lauded as ‘anointed’ who ignore biblical standards regarding morality, financial accountability, and biblical integrity. Pop culture themes that compromise the whole truth of God’s Word on subjects that lead to human, financial, lifestyle, and attitudinal shoddiness are often paraded in the name of ‘charismatic.’ This is a tragic miscarriage of a biblically rooted word (charismata) and shameless rejection of the charismatic lifestyle modeled by the apostles’ own first-century ministry—one lived without compromise of truth, character, behavior, or morality, and devoid of any self-serving ways.

May it be known and affirmed here: such biblically inconsistent leaders, be they men or women, who violate God’s Word—and any who follow them—are not and should not (no matter what ‘signs following’ are claimed) be seen or understood to be a valid definition of what charismatic or Pentecostal life or leadership is about.

It is grieving to all who seek to live and walk in humility and holiness as members of the Spirit-filled community of believers, when there is evidence of a leader’s doctrinal, ecclesiastical, moral, or financial compromise, and yet nothing of confrontation, discipline, or disapproval appear to be administered. However, truth is that this is not at all the case among the vast majority of those within the Pentecostal or charismatic community. For the most part, existing denominations and structured nondenominational networks do administer correction and discipline, as well as directing recovery and restoration programs where repentance is shown by the errant or fallen.

The most flagrant cases of violation and neglect of discipline occur in the glaring instances where independent, self-directed, self-ruled, and self-governed leaders move. The absence of structures requiring accountability to fellow leaders, or the ‘cronyism’ of some who unite, but do so forming small circles of equally errant ministers who ‘measure themselves by themselves’ (2 Cor. 10:12) and smugly exercise a self-affirming tolerance and grace that refuses the legalism of critics; these are of the nature of those the Epistle of Jude identifies as ‘dreamers’ who ‘defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries,’ and as having ‘gone in the way of Cain, run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah . . . for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever’ (Jude 4-13, NKJV).

Further, it is an egregious exercise in unkindness when categorical charges or institutional ‘blackballing tactics’ are leveled against charismatics as though all are given to indifference concerning Bible interpretation or moral recklessness. Even those differing theologically know full well that such broad brush treatment is a violation of facts—that the few characterize neither the values nor lifestyle of the many, i.e., charismatics who love, honor, and live for Christ, the Lord of us all—charismatic or otherwise. May God extinguish the foul incense from the ‘strange fire’ offered by voices among leaders at either group’s altars, and may His ‘holy fire’ baptize us all with a fresh baptism of His unifying love, whatever our doctrinal differences.”
(Jack Hayford’s foreword for R.T. Kendall, “Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives”, Kindle Locations 3477-3504)

Recommended Reading
The following books have been written in response to “Strange Fire”. They offer a fuller, richer perspective on the book and address in greater detail MacArthur’s errors – up to and including his confirmation bias driven hard cessationist exegesis of scripture.

“Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire” by Michael L. Brown
This book directly addresses the issues raised by the Strange Fire book, conference, and camp in a calm, even toned, and scholarly manner. (note: I have also reviewed this book)

“Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives” by R.T. Kendall
A thoughtful scriptural exegetical response to MacArthur’s hard cessationist arguments from a theologian in the Reformed tradition who is Charismatic.

“The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit: God’s Miraculous Gifts at Work Today” by Randy Clark
A combination defense of continuationism and practical, scriptural guidelines which, if followed, would eliminate would eliminate many of the abuses and excesses that MacArthur correctly criticizes in Strange Fire.

Christian Historian William De Arteaga’s short analysis of how John MacArthur abuses and misrepresents Church History in “Strange Fire” is very informative and enlightening.

William De Arteaga, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire as Parody of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology”, The Pneuma Review website, November 8, 2013

And, finally, while I would like to believe that my review is pretty good, I’m not sure that these reviews of John MacArthur’s last two Anti-Charismatic books can be topped. I’ve cited from some of them above but I encourage a full read in order to fully appreciate them for yourself: 

Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website, November 15, 2013

Monte Lee Rice, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Monte Lee Rice”, The Pneuma Review website, December 26, 2013

Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993

(this review was previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

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"The History of Redemption in Four Words" by David Arms

“The History of Redemption in Four Words” by David Arms (click to zoom)

by Michael Flournoy
I was born and raised in the Mormon church, served a mission in Anaheim California, and was married in the San Antonio Temple. In 2012 I began a “career” in LDS apologetics when I published a book entitled, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism.” The book is no longer on the market, but to this day you can find old podcasts of me defending the Mormon church.1 In my mind, Mormonism was 100% true.

Then I heard the impossible gospel argument, which is based on the conditional statements in 2 Nephi 25:23 and Moroni 10:32.2

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
— 2 Nephi 25:23

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
— Moroni 10:32

 The impossible gospel argument says these verses teach that grace is only available after the beneficiary has extended every ounce of effort he can muster. According to the Moroni verse, all ungodliness has to be denied before grace becomes sufficient, therefore, according to Mormonism, grace is only for the perfect who don’t need it. The obvious dilemma is nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect. If you were, there would be no need to take the sacrament. The very act of taking it, is an admission that we have sinned and need to do better. Unfortunately, the Mormon church makes Christ’s admonition to be perfect seem like an attainable goal, when in reality 1 John 1:8 says: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The impossible gospel argument really got me thinking about how grace works. In Mormonism grace is an enabling power, that strengthens us to overcome our weaknesses little by little. In theory, we might start the week with sins A and B, and if we resolve problem B, we’ll only have A left, and we’ll be that much closer to perfection. Reality, however, is far different. What I noticed, is I might solve sin B, but by the next week I had committed sins C, D, and F. If I stepped back and looked at my life, it wasn’t the stairway to heaven that Mormonism promotes, but rather a roller coaster of highs and lows.

Not one person I knew had denied themselves of all ungodliness. Not one. And being particularly weak myself, I knew that I wasn’t going to be the first normal person to do it. Then something clicked. I stopped thinking “if, then”, and started thinking, “what if?” “What if” Christians are on to something with their doctrine of imputation, and “what if” The Book of Mormon supports it? Imputation, by the way, is the doctrine that during the atonement, our sins were attributed to Christ, and His righteousness was attributed to us. Suddenly I saw 2 Nephi 25:23 and Moroni 10:32 in a new light. Maybe being saved after all we could do didn’t mean keeping every commandment flawlessly. “What if” it simply meant doing the only thing we *could* do: which was throwing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and accepting his mercy?

2 Nephi 25:23 makes a very simple statement: …we are saved by grace… It doesn’t say we are saved by grace and all we can do, it says we are saved by grace after all we can do. So it’s not a question of whether we’re saved by grace alone, but when we’re saved by grace alone. In conjunction with this, the Moroni verse says to “…come unto Christ, and be perfected in him…” That sounds a lot like imputation to me. So “what if” denying yourself of all ungodliness is really just accepting Jesus’ gift of grace? According to the Christian doctrine of imputation, doing so makes us 100% righteous, or “perfected in him” as The Book of Mormon puts it.

The truth is the impossible gospel isn’t a uniquely Mormon problem, it’s the problem for all mankind. We’ve all sinned and accumulated a debt we have no hope of paying on our own. And Jesus’ grace is the only solution to the impossible gospel. I believe the Bible and The Book of Mormon present a unified message about the problem of sin, and its solution.

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The Problem: from the Bible and The Book of Mormon
The great dilemma we have as human beings is that God will accept nothing less than perfection for admittance into His kingdom, but we have inherited a sin nature from the fall that makes it impossible for us to obey God’s laws 100% of the time.

“Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.”
— 1 Nephi 10:21

“Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.”
— 1 Nephi 10:6

Nephi, who supposedly wrote these verses, is a prime example of obedience in Mormonism. He is attributed as saying, “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). This verse near the beginning of The Book of Mormon has set the stage for the idea that man is capable of keeping every commandment God gives us, even the admonition to be perfect!

But even Nephi would later state, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh, my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:17-19).

The apostle Paul also calls himself a wretched man after admitting that instead of doing the good things that he should be doing, he’s doing the evil things that he shouldn’t be doing (Romans 7:24). James 2:10 says: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

Our sins, whether great or small, are also the instruments of Christ’s death. Our hands are dripping with innocent blood, and our verdict is guilty.

The Answer from the Bible
The Bible makes it very clear that salvation is by the grace of Christ alone.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

Being justified freely by his grace (The Joseph Smith Translation renders it: only by his grace) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
— Romans 3:23-28 KJV

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
— Romans 4:4-5 KJV

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
— Ephesians 2:8 KJV

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be the righteousness of God in him.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV

 Hebrews 10 contrasts the old covenant with the new covenant. In Old Testament times, God’s people were required to make a sin offering once a year. This continued to be necessary year after year, because they continued to sin. As a Mormon, this should sound familiar, as it parallels the practice of taking the sacrament once a week. Regarding the sacrifice of Christ, however, Hebrews 10:12-14 says:

“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
— Hebrews 10:12-14 KJV

Because of his offering, recurring ordinances to wipe away our sins are not necessary.

billy-graham-its-impossible

 The Answer from The Book of Mormon
Surprisingly, The Book of Mormon also has passages that fall in line with this doctrine.

2 Nephi 2:4-7 for example, states:

“And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. And men are instructed sufficiently that they may know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”
— 2 Nephi 2:4-7

 Helaman 8:14-15 says:

“Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.”
— Helaman 8:14-15

Alma 37:46 proclaims the ease of living the gospel:

“O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever. ”
— Alma 37:46

Helaman 8:14-15 and Alma 37:46 equate the gospel with looking, and being saved. By comparing salvation in Christ to looking at the brass serpent, salvation becomes an issue of trust and belief, rather than an issue of works and covenants. Also of note, is the conversion of Alma the Younger in Alma 36:16-20 where he says, “And now, for three days and for three nights I was racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as my pain!”

This conversion story is filled with things we’ve been taught to avoid, like deathbed repentance, praying directly to Jesus, and “easy believism”. Most importantly of all, there’s no mention of a repentance process. The forgiveness and the salvation is instantaneous!

Concerning the doctrine of being born again, The Book of Mormon says in Mosiah 27:25-26:

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”
— Mosiah 27:25-26

our-impossible-dream-is

Why it’s Important
You may be thinking, “wow, The Book of Mormon really does support the Bible in promoting salvation by grace alone… that proves the Church is true”, but does it?

The truth is, these verses about grace in the Bible and The Book of Mormon deeply oppose the actual doctrines of the LDS Church. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 says:

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

According to this passage, all blessings must be earned. Contrast that with the God of the Bible, who sends rain on the just and the unjust!

Spencer W. Kimball wrote, “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation”
(The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.206).

Joseph Fielding Smith agreed when he said, “One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’, which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called ‘reformation’” (The Restoration of All Things, p.192).

Even the 3rd article of faith states: We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

There’s no denying that Mormon doctrine states that we must continuously repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, receive our endowments, be sealed for time and eternity, and keep the covenants we make in the temple to inherit the Celestial Kingdom.

Since The Book of Mormon contradicts LDS doctrine, we are left with only two possibilities. First, The Book of Mormon is false, even though it happens to have some Biblical truth, in which case the Church is also false. Or second, The Book of Mormon is true, and therefore the Church is in a state of apostasy. Either way though, if salvation is by grace alone, Mormonism is not necessary.

My Testimony
As I compared Christian doctrine to Mormon doctrine, one thing really began to eat at me. In the LDS Church I was taught that God ‘loves’ everyone. I was also taught that when we fall into sin, the Holy Ghost abandons us until we get our act together. However, in John 10:12-14 Christ says it’s actually the hireling who flees when he sees the wolf coming, because he doesn’t care about the sheep. Jesus, in contrast, is the good shepherd. In 1 Corinthians 13 we read that charity endures all things and never fails. So a god that cannot endure my shortcomings, and fails me when I’m caught in the very teeth of sin, is a god who doesn’t love me.

I for one, would choose the good shepherd over a hireling any day. After all, what power does a sheep have to defend itself when the wolf comes prowling? None.

When I was 16 I attended Especially for Youth, a week-long retreat for teenage Latter-day Saints. One night they showed us a video about Christ. In it, people testified that he had changed them. That night the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus to me for the 1st time. I found myself faced with his perfection and holiness, and as a natural byproduct I think, I was also made aware of my own imperfections, and by comparison, my filthiness.

Mentally I thought, I must be detestable to this Holy God, but simultaneously I was being showered in his love. I was shocked, because I knew I didn’t deserve it, and yet there it was, full and unrestrained, proof that my sins carried no weight when determining God’s love for me. At 16 years old, it was the first time I had ever experienced unconditional love.

There have been so many times I have fallen short of God’s standard, and each time, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve thought: I’m going to put God on the shelf, just for a moment, and I’m going to choose this instead. But God has never placed me on the shelf. In fact, he placed his glory and his life on the shelf, and he chose me instead.

So how can I not love someone who puts me first, even when my heart is far from him? Someone who has suffered on all points what I have, and who, like me, still has some scars that have never healed? How can I not love someone who has forgiven me 7 times 70 million times? How can I not love someone who went as my proxy through mockery, through scourging, to death on the cross, and who vicariously on my behalf, descended below all things because I owed a debt I couldn’t pay?

I tried, really, really, really tried to find that kind of love, grace, and devotion to the Savior in the current teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but I couldn’t – I had to look elsewhere. I didn’t want to but I had to. Which is why today I can testify that under his banner there is no condemnation, but love unconditional and grace freely given. And I testify, that His grace is enough.

My name is Michael Flournoy, and I’m a former Latter-day Saint. Today I am a bond servant of Jesus, a humbled recipient of the gift of His possible gospel. I am now a Born Again Christian.

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NOTES
1 See The Mind Renewed, “TMR 110 : Debate : Bobby Gilpin Vs Michael Flournoy : Mormonism & The Gospel”; Premier Christianity, “The Mormon: Why I believe in Jesus Christ Faith Explored”, and; Premier Christian Radio, “Is the Mormon gospel the Biblical gospel?”
2 See Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, “The Mormon View of Salvation: A Gospel That Is Truly Impossible”, Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 04 (2011). Also see YouTube Playlist of Videos on the Impossible Gospel of Mormonism (video play list)

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ministry_logo-01_EDITED_REDby Fred W. Anson and Jackie Davidson
She was a really nice lady and a wonderful friend. But she wouldn’t stop talking about her “ministry”. He was a really great guy, warm, friendly, outgoing and really, genuinely cared about people. But he couldn’t stop talking about his “ministry”. I could stop right now and you could give us names, places, and “ministries” couldn’t you? That’s right even if we’ve never met, even if we live in different states, go to different churches and are theologically at odds we could both tell each other stories about Christians we’ve known that fit the scenario that I’ve just described. Isn’t that interesting?

Or how about this one?

She had a dramatic, born again experience. Her life was dramatically changed and she became a different person it seemed, almost instantly. There was no doubt that God had intervened like a bolt of lightning and performed a miracle. That was a month or two ago and now she was telling me, “I’ve just got to find my ministry!”

Sound familiar?
Maybe it was you.
Maybe it’s you right now.

Modern American Christians (we can’t speak for other cultures, we don’t know them well enough) are obsessed with finding, having, and growing their “ministry”. The lady that we described in our opening couldn’t tell you if the Book of Hebrews was in the Old or New Testament, couldn’t tell you why the doctrine of the Trinity was important, and thought that Joel Osteen was a wonderful man of God and gifted Bible teacher – and for the record, he’s a heretic. Another lady that we knew was bouncing from one seminary to another trying to get her credential so she could have a public “ministry” and start preaching at churches. All this while divorced and the single mother of two kids who, we suspect, were feeling the neglect that comes from being sacrificed for “ministry”.

Fred Anson was one of those kids. His father was in many ways a wonderful man but everything and everyone got sacrificed for his “ministry”. As his mother used to say, “Why is he down at the church building repairing a pipe when our pipes are leaking here at home? Why is he over at the house of the co-worker doing a remodel so he can witness to him when our house is falling apart?” And Fred would add, “Why was he always off doing volunteer work for children’s charities rather than explaining to his own kids how to survive in this broken and fallen world?” Oh yes, friends, we know all too well what happens when “ministry” becomes the ultimate thing in a Christian’s life. As well known Presbyterian Pastor Timothy Keller notes:

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. . . .

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.1

"Counterfeit Gods" by Timothy Keller

“Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller

Isn’t this really what’s so often happening with “ministry” these days in modern American Christian culture? We’ve turned a good thing into an ultimate thing – and by doing so have turned it into an idol. Thankfully Keller also gives the solution to the problem:

Idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced. If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be supplanted. By what? By God himself, of course. But by God we do not mean a general belief in his existence. Most people have that, yet their souls are riddled with idols. What we need is a living encounter with God.2

OK, the concept is good but how can we make this real? What worked for us was thinking through this whole “ministry” thing and coming to realize that the the word “ministry” simply means “to function in the office of a servant”. So if we’re “ministering” I’m really doing nothing more than serving – which is biblical, just as Bob Deffinbaugh explains:

The predominant word for ministry in the New Testament is diakoneo (the noun form of which is diakonia). From this root, the term, deacon, (in Greek, diakonos) is derived. One of many possible expressions, it most accurately conveys the New Testament function of ministry. Our Lord and the apostles employed diakoneo to invest ministry with a meaning to both the Jews, and the Greeks.

To the Greeks, there was no dignity in service. In the words of the Greek sophist:

“How can a man be happy when he has to serve someone?”

The only service deemed to be of high value was that rendered in behalf of the state.

How different was our Lord’s concept of the ministry:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served (passive form of diakoneo) but to serve (active form of diakoneo), and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus taught His followers that serving was a vital part of discipleship:

“If anyone wants to serve (diakoneo) me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant (diakonos) will be too. If anyone serves (diakoneo) me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

In the teaching of Jesus, greatness was to be measured in terms of service:

“Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (diakonos), and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44).

All of this invested New Testament ministry with a dignity unimagined by the Greeks of that day.3

So if one wants a “ministry” for any other reason other than out of an attitude of service something isn’t right. Further, the question is this, “service to who?” Trust us, we speak from hard experience when we say that it’s entirely possible to think that you’re serving others when you’re really just serving yourself. And we will state plainly that the praise and gratitude of those people that you help can be intoxicating! It can be easy to serve to get the high that comes from it. And yes, the recognition that one can get from “ministry” have you breathing rarefied air if you’re not careful – you might even start believing that you actually deserve the praise that you’re getting.

So tell me friend, who’s getting the glory there?

And here’s a question: Who gave you the talents that you’re now sharing with others? Remember this?

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
(Matthew 25:14-15 NKJV)

We are, of course, only speaking to ourselves since we know no one else has ever forgotten or taken for granted the fact that without the Master we would be nothing and have nothing. He owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. So it’s only logical that when in service our attitude must always be, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV) Friend, without Jesus we are nothing!

In the end the real question is this: Why do you need a “ministry” if you have a Master?

Dirck van Baburen, "Christ Washing the Apostles Feet" (c.1616)

Dirck van Baburen, “Christ Washing the Apostles Feet” (c.1616) Here Christian, is the Master’s ministry model.

The Way of The Master
Now here’s the thing about having a Master: He gets to tell you what to do when to do it, and how to do it. And, here’s the part that modern Christians don’t seem to like much, He can tell you when to stop or not do it all. Example, let’s consider the Apostle Paul.

While the exact chronology and dating of the events in the Apostle Paul’s life are still a topic of dispute among biblical scholars,4 the fact remains that there was a significant gap between when Paul became a Christian and when he became a missionary. Remember the Book of Acts covers events that occurred between around 30-62AD.5 That puts Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-9) around 33AD and his first call to missions (Acts 13:2-3) at about 47AD. Folks that’s a 14-year gap!

Think about that! Here is a guy who was schooled by one of the most famous and respected Jewish Rabbis not just of his time but of all time, Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3). A man to whom Jesus Christ personally appeared to in a vision and whose life Christ completely overturned and transformed. This is a guy that today would be on the Christian talk show, church, and book circuits within a year or two of his conversion. Yet what was the Master’s bidding during that 14-year period? What “ministry” did he have? Apparently, it was the “ministry” of being trained, equipped, and prepared for what was to come because once the Master said, “Go!” he went – and he performed masterfully when he did.

Still not convinced? Then let’s talk about this guy called Moses who spent 40-years exiled in the wilderness until God called him to his “ministry”.6 Or how about Abraham who had to wait for 19-years from the promise of Isaac until his birth?7 Or, last but not least, how about Christ – God incarnate – who had to wait for 30-years for His “ministry” only to have it last 3-years? The way of the Master is not our way my friend – it’s far better!

Yes, it’s tempting for a new Christian to want to go into some sort of ministry. Baby Christians are on fire for the Lord. They want to spread their new found joy to everyone. And this is especially true for former Mormons or those who come from other works-based religions. Ex-Mormons are used to having their Bishop tell them what to do – and remember in Mormonism if you say no to a calling there will be hell to pay down the road. So when Ex-Mormons become Christian, if they’re asked they just say yes to everything. Their pastor loves it! However, a year later they end up with too many ministries, an overloaded plate, and none of it being done well. Plus they are not doctrinally trained enough to actually minister to others.

And we could talk about all those “zombie” Facebook groups that were started and then abandoned because someone who just had to have a “ministry” created the group on a whim. Then they discovered the hard way that they weren’t equipped to lead or sustain such an endeavor either practically or theologically. So there the group sits, doing nothing, going nowhere, benefiting no one, crickets chirping, existing but not alive. If there were dust, rust, and wood-rot in cyberspace it would be covered with it.8

Finally, since it’s so common, we want to warn our transitioning Mormon friends about well-meaning Christians who will try to turn them into weapons against Mormonism immediately after they leave the LdS Church. This isn’t idle speculation – expect it, it will happen. Simply put, don’t listen to them.

Consider this: Could Christ have had a better weapon than Paul against the apostate Judaism of his day? Or a better weapon than Moses, a former Prince, against pagan Egypt for that matter? Yet the Master waited until they were properly equipped and trained before He missioned them – think about that my friend. We know that it is so, so, so easy to pick up the sword against the LdS Church after you exit and even easier to swing it, but here’s a word of advice learned from hard experience: Don’t.9

"Moses Flees" (unknown artist)

“Moses Flees” (unknown artist) Can anyone else relate to what Moses must have been feeling here?

Equipping the Saints (and Other Stuff That Everyone Seems to Want to Ignore)
We have seen a lot of harm come from Baby Christians (and sorry Ex-Mormon but after you exit you are a baby Christian no matter how long you were in the LdS Church and what your callings were) who have no firm theological foundation, don’t know their Bible, have no knowledge of proper hermeneutics, Christian Church history, historic Christian orthodoxy, modern Christian culture, or even proper Christian terminology, create a “ministry” for themselves. We have seen them destroy their own faith while they’re destroying the faith of others – usually taking themselves and their parishioners and into the morass of atheism. We have seen them alienate themselves from the community of saints due to their unteachable attitudes and recalcitrant behavior. We have even seen them end their own marriages because they were so driven to have a “ministry” that they ran over their spouse. We have seen them do exactly as Jesus said they would:

“They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
(Matthew 15:14 NKJV)

Ironically, even the infidels know better than to act with such folly! One of Fred’s mentors – an apostate, cultural Jew – once challenged him with this, “How do you know what to do about what’s going on until you know what’s going on?” And in a similar vein, a secular, materialist, agnostic mentor, counseled him to, “Do nothing for the first 90-days except watch, listen, and learn. That way you’ll know exactly what to do on day 91.” This, of course, is nothing more than an echo of the biblical wisdom which says:

“Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others.”
(Proverbs 12:15 NLT)

“A wise man doesn’t display his knowledge,
but a fool displays his foolishness.”
(Proverbs 12:23 TLB)

“Sensible people always think before they act,
but stupid people advertise their ignorance.”
(Proverbs 13:16 GNT)

“Become wise by walking with the wise;
hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”
(Proverbs 13:20 The Message)

“Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.”
(Proverbs 18:2 NLT)

So you want a ministry? Here’s a tip, change the 90-days to 9-years from Fred’s secular mentor’s advice and wait patiently on the Lord while you’re doing it. And if you have any questions while you’re waiting just open up your Bible and start reading. But trust us, friend, while you’re waiting you will still have plenty to do – life happens!

"Christ Washing The Feet of His Disciples" (unknown artist) Mosiac, Basilica di San Marco, Venice

“Christ Washing The Feet of His Disciples” (unknown artist) Mosiac, Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Equipped But Not Called
It’s also common for mature Christians to try to make those that they haven’t really been called to, a target for “ministry”. They do so by not spending the time required to learn the worldview and theology of the people that they’re approaching. Instead, they just go out and act as if these people are clones of them self. As Nancy Pearcey observes:

What would you think of a missionary in a Muslim country who refused to learn about Muslim culture? He would not be very effective in communicating a biblical message. Cultivating a missional mind-set means being willing to learn both the language and the thought patterns of our mission field.

When Paul said, “I have become all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22), he did not mean dressing like the locals. Nor was he embracing cultural relativism. Instead he was taking the assumptions of his audience into consideration in his language and approach. He tried to see the world through their eyes so he could communicate more persuasively.10

The harm that this presumption causes is unbelievable. We have seen one transitioning Mormon after another driven into atheism due to well meaning but ignorant and culturally insensitive Christians disrespecting and offending them in this manner. They figure that if Christians can’t be bothered to learn about them then obviously Christianity doesn’t have anything to say to them. And frankly, we don’t blame them having once been on the receiving end of this closed-minded, myopic, and often bigoted, behavior ourselves. If you have any doubts about this just go up on just about any Mormon/Evangelical internet discussion board and you’ll see it. If that doesn’t do it then go on YouTube and watch the “Street Screechers” driving Mormons away from God and deeper into Mormonism on Temple Square.

Simply put dear mature Christian brother or sister, taking it upon yourself to go into “ministry” without the proper equipping, training, and divine calling is not only poor stewardship of your talents, it can actually harm the very people that you think you’re helping. Whether it’s people in Africa, the homeless, or well to do Ex-Mormons, they are precious souls to be loved and cared for. It is extremely important that the person who is shepherding these people be prepared to shepherd them in accordance with the Golden Rule. And if all this has made you realize that you need more time to prepare yourself for the mission field then just sit back and rest in the arms of the Lord while He prepares you like He did Paul.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
(Psalm 27:14 NKJV) 

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 NKJV)

Further, the Bible tells us both plainly and repeatedly that we are to be under pastoral oversight not just in our ministry but in general.11 Be accountable, be teachable, be shepherded yourself. Never stop researching and pray for God’s guidance constantly. If and when the Master says “Go!” then go. If and when the Master says, “Stop” then stop. If He says, “Speak” then speak. And if He says, “Be quiet” then stop speaking and remain silent. After all, friend this really isn’t your “ministry” at all is it? It’s His, always has been, always will be. So say it with me, dear Christian:

“I have no ministry, I have the Master. And that’s enough.”

servant

NOTES
1 Timothy Keller, “Counterfeit Gods”, pp.xvii-xviii
2 Ibid, Chapter 7
3 Bob Deffinbaugh, “The Meaning of New Testament Ministry”
4 Timeline of the Apostle Paul
5 Chronology of Acts and the Epistles
6 Exodus Bible Timeline
7 Complete Bible Timeline
8 And by the way, before you start one yourself, speaking as people who have been administrating multiple Facebook groups over a number of years (and have the scars to prove it) please know there’s a reason why they call Internet administration, “feeding the beast” when it comes to providing content and “taming the beast” when it comes to monitoring and administrating it. It’s not for the fainthearted or ill-equipped!
9 Please see Fred W. Anson’s article, “On Taking Up The Sword” for a fuller explanation and caution on this. Want to guarantee that you will remain a Baby Christian forever our newly exited Ex-Mormon friend? No problem, just pick up that sword and start swinging it!
10 Nancy Pearcey, “Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes”, p.250, Kindle Edition. In specific regard to Mormonism, the reader may also be interested in Fred Anson’s article, ‘Weak Arguments #9: “I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon…”’
11 Please consider the following:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
(Hebrews 13:17-21 ESV) 

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
(Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
(Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
(James 5:16 ESV)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
(James 5:19-20 ESV)

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
(Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
(Romans 12:3-8 NKJV)

BACK TO TOP

21-reasons-to-leave-the-mormon-church-03

by Michael Flournoy
Recently an article entitled “21 Reasons it Doesn’t Matter if the Church is True” came out of a popular Mormon website. It lists several reasons, regardless of the truth, that someone might want to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my opinion, this is mind boggling. The primary reason to join the church, one would think, would be because it is true. While I was serving my mission in Anaheim, California I never told people they should join because we have great casseroles or a famous choir. You know why? Because if the LDS Church is false, none of those things matter! If Mormonism is not true, it is a fraudulent version of Christianity and an enormous sham.

So without further ado, here is my list of 21 reasons leaving the Mormon Church might be a great idea, even if it is true.

1) Formal Dress
It takes 20% longer to get ready for Mormon church…. maybe. Probably. Especially when you factor in all the kids. And really, who wants to be sitting in church with a tie that’s choking you to death the whole time and those starchy, formal clothes? Maybe God doesn’t care what we look like on the outside as much as he looks on the heart.

2) Formal Prayers
Who wants to be spoken to in thees and thous? Someone who’s not very personable, that’s who. In LDS Church literature about prayer, it is often explained that thees and thous are used in prayer because they used to be informal. Well, guess what people? Not anymore! Get with the times!

3) Formal Testimonies
Are you seeing a trend yet? LDS testimonies have so many restrictions on them, that they’ve lost all potency. No “storymonies”, no travelogues, no confessions, etc. This has been done to stop the crazies from going up to the pulpit and wasting hours of our time, but wouldn’t you know it, they go up anyways! And they ignore the restrictions! Last time I attended fast and testimony meeting, a crazy lady got up and shared story after story about nothing at all. The alternative, of course, is the standard, “I know the Church is true, I know Joseph was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, and Jesus is the Christ.” If you think these were the testimonies that defeated the armies of Satan, you’re kidding yourself!

4) Praise to the Man
The very fact that they have a hymn praising Joseph Smith (that they sing on a semi-regular basis) is reason to leave. Especially when you consider that God (allegedly) said in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 that the song of the righteous is a prayer to Him. Thus, the opening hymn is actually a prayer, and when we sing about Joseph Smith, the opportunity to pray to God is sacrificed.

dying-church-15) Three Hours of Church Services
You read that correctly, three hours of Church.

One …

Two …

Three …

By hour 2.5, are we really still getting spiritually fed? Really?

6) Meetings, Meetings, Everywhere
If you’re unlucky enough to be in leadership in the LDS church, you’re required to go to extra meetings aside from the three hours of church on Sunday. When I was a Ward Mission Leader, I had to attend Ward Council (at 6:30 am, I might add) and I had to conduct a missionary meeting on Thursday evenings. I’ve had meetings go for hours as well, and all this detracts from time with family, and God.

7) Kiss Saturdays Goodbye
I remember once trying to start a soccer league in the ward on Saturday mornings. For whatever reason, it never picked up steam. First, there was the week we had to go put mulch around the church building, then the next week there was that move, then the next week… well, you get the picture. It is physically impossible to do anything not churchy on Saturdays.

8) Judgment/Gossip
If there’s one overarching negative thing about Mormon culture, it’s judgment. Mormonism has a lot of rules, and so there’s a lot of room to judge people for breaking those rules. For example, if I go to church with a Dr. Pepper in my hand, I’ll be judged (by some LDS) for drinking caffeine. I’m also likely to be judged if my kid is dirty, if I come without my spouse, or if I don’t take the sacrament. In fact, this culture of nosiness and judgment causes folks to hide their sins and keep up a very good outward mask of righteousness.

9) The Book of Morm..zzzzz
The Boring of Mundane, oops… The Book of Mormon is the most uninspiring piece of literature on the planet. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. There’s a reason most members can’t make it past 2 Nephi. But sadly, Mormons have to pretend that they like it because it just so happens to be the keystone of their religion.

10) King James English
Everything in the Mormon Church is in King James English. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, and every prayer ever said. Unless you’re a huge fan of Shakespeare, this one will drive you nuts!

11) Home/Visiting Teaching
The men and women in the church are generally assigned 2-4 families that they are assigned to go visit once a month. Not only is this extremely awkward, it often doubles as a way for the bishop to spy on families in the ward.

12) Where does the Money Go?
The LDS Church requires members to pay 10% of their incomes and contribute a fast offering once a month. There is, however, no public record of what the church uses that money for.

13) Building Cleaning
One place the church does not use its money for is janitors. Members are required to “volunteer” to clean the church on assigned days. It’s never fun, because most families skip out, leaving the faithful to do an unfair portion of the work.

mormonsuv_edited

(click to zoom)

14) Too Many Children
I like children, I really do. But when there are 100 of them in the pews, with no child care provided, it can turn into quite the choir of loud cries and babbling. Mormons believe they have a duty to bring spirit children into righteous homes, and it can make church seem like a giant day care. Not only that but if you don’t have enough kids, it’s one of those things you could end up judged for.

15) Volunteer Opportunities are Chosen for You
In Mormonism, you don’t get to pick how you’re going to serve in the congregation, it’s chosen for you. You could be given the calling that you absolutely dread (like when I was placed over the ward’s thirty 2-year olds) and you have to do it anyway because it was “inspired”. If you’re bad at it, it’s just a sign that God wants you to grow in that area in your life. Right? Then when you finally get into leadership, you find out that people are chosen for callings out of necessity. What, we need a pianist? Okay, the next person who moves in who can tickle the ivories is our person!

16) Micromanagement
In the religion of agency, everything is chosen for you. You don’t have to think, because what the prophet says is law. You are told where to go to church and when. Even what underwear you put on is chosen for you. Sure, you get to choose between different “styles” of the same brand of underwear, and what seat you take in your required church time, but that’s just the illusion of agency!

17) Children of Gay Parents Cannot be Baptized
The 2nd Article of faith says, “We believe that a man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Yet the LDS church punishes children due to their parent’s choices, by not allowing them to be baptized, and gain a stronger relationship with God. By so doing, they claim they are protecting the children…. better than God, apparently.

18) Depression
Utah, home of the religion of happiness, has an extremely high suicide rate. Since the church has a no-nonsense stance on keeping the commandments and makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world, everyone who doesn’t measure up finds themselves questioning their self-worth and abilities.

19) BYU Football
Seriously, who wants to be a Mormon when you have such a lame team representing your faith? “B-Y-Lose! B-Y-Lose!”

20) The Word of Wisdom
The Word of Wisdom, according to Doctrine & Covenants 89:2 is not even a commandment, yet the LDS Church has made it a requirement for entering the temple, and therefore to enter heaven. However, Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 that what comes out of a man defiles him, not what goes in. Leaving Mormonism means the freedom to drink tea, caffeine, even a beer once in a while.

21) Jesus
I saved the best for last even though He should be the #1 reason. Jesus was not mentioned in the article that inspired this one, and that’s probably because in Mormon culture Jesus is often left out. I’ve been through entire Sunday worships were the only time Jesus is mentioned is at the close of a prayer! I’ve even seen investigators come to church and ask, “Why doesn’t your church talk about Jesus?” The truth is Jesus deserves to be emphasized, not hidden behind covenants and ordinances!

brooklyn_museum_-_jerusalem_jerusalem_jerusalem_jerusalem_-_james_tissot

“Jerusalem Jerusalem” by James Tissot (1836-1902)

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

BACK TO TOP

by Dave and Iola Brubeck
To say that this is my favorite Dave Brubeck tune is an understatement. I hope that you dig it as much as I do. Merry Christmas! — Fred W. Anson

 The swingin’ instrumental version by The New Brubeck Quartet.

God’s love made visible!
Incomprehensible!
Christ is invincible!
His love shall reign!

From love so bountiful,
blessings uncountable
make death surmountable!
His love shall reign!

Joyfully pray for peace and good will!
All of our yearning he will fulfill.
Live in a loving way!
Praise him for every day!
Open your hearts and pray.
His love shall reign!

God gave the Son to us
to dwell as one of us –
a blessing unto us!
His love shall reign!

To him all honor bring,
heaven and earth will sing,
praising our Lord and King!
His love shall reign!

Open all doors this day of his birth,
all of good will inherit the earth.
His star will always be guiding humanity
throughout eternity!
His love shall reign!

 The traditional vocal version by New York Voices.

Appendix I: A tribute to Presbyterian-friendly Dave Brubeck
by John M. Buchanan, December 14, 2012
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died Dec. 5, the day before his 92nd birthday. His impact on the world of music in general and jazz in particular was profound, marked by the front-page announcement of his death in newspapers all over the world. Along with millions of others, I was a Dave Brubeck fan, a life-long lover of his music since I first heard it in the late ‘50s, and, I am honored to say, a friend.

Brubeck changed jazz by his “cool” sound produced in collaboration with alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond playing counterpoint to Brubeck’s piano, by his innovative use of unusual rhythms, and by capturing the imagination of a whole generation of college students in the ’50s and ’60s. In the process his 33rpm record, “Time Out,” became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies.

Following a State Department tour to India and the Middle East, Brubeck began to experiment with unusual rhythmic structures in his jazz composition and playing. His signature piece, “Take Five,” perhaps the most popular jazz single ever, broke out of the standard jazz genre and employed an innovative 5\4, a five beat measure instead of the standard 4. Later, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” was written in a surprising and engaging 9/8. Brubeck once suggested that children sing naturally in 5/4 rhythm and wrote one of his liveliest Christmas pieces, “God’s Love Made Visible,” in that time.

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Brubeck’s musical and personal life gradually found religious expression. His father, a California cattle rancher, was an avowed atheist. His mother was a Christian Scientist who directed the choir in a local Presbyterian Church, so Brubeck’s earliest religious exposure was to Presbyterianism. His first professional job was playing the organ at a local Reformatory Chapel at the age of fourteen. He remembered favorite hymns sung by the inmates at Sunday services, “Just as I Am” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

In the middle of his critically acclaimed career as a jazz musician and composer, religious themes and motifs began to appear in Brubeck’s music. While composing a complete Mass, “To Hope,” he was so struck by the beauty and power of the liturgy that he joined the Roman Catholic Church and for the rest of his life was a regular worshipper in his home parish church, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, Connecticut. His funeral was celebrated in that church Dec. 12 and included some of Brubeck’s sacred music compositions including, “The Desert and the Parched Land,” “Psalm 23” and the Gloria from “To Hope.”

I first met Dave Brubeck when the church I was serving, The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, invited him to play during the annual Festival of the Arts. Brubeck agreed and he and his quartet played a magnificent concert of favorite jazz and sacred music with the Morning Choir singing the choral numbers with the quartet.

He returned to play at the church several times and during one of those early visits Brubeck had a minor heart incident and was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for observation on the very day of the concert. It was my duty that evening to greet a sanctuary full of people who had purchased tickets to hear Dave Brubeck and announce that the Brubeck Quartet was a trio for that performance, without Brubeck himself. There was a little grumbling but the trio presented a great concert of Brubeck music.

I asked Brubeck’s manager and conductor, Russell Gloyd, who later married a Fourth Church Choir member and became a faithful church member himself, if a visit in to Brubeck in the hospital would be appropriate. Russell assured me that a pastoral call would not only be appropriate but that Brubeck, a believer and a man of faith, would be grateful.

So, with some fear and trepidation and a bit of awe at the great jazz artist himself, I visited him in Intensive Care. He was gracious, seemingly grateful for the visit as Russell predicted, and we talked about music and faith, and when I asked him if I could pray he immediately agreed. We prayed, and thereafter he began to call me his pastor.

Every time he played in Chicago, we were invited to attend the concert as his guests and to visit back stage afterward. Without fail he would greet me with a lively, “It’s my pastor!” He telephoned once to discuss appropriate scripture passages for future compositions and one of our dearest memories is of a lunch Sue and I shared with Brubeck and his wife, Iola. In addition to being the mother of their six children, Iola was a trusted business consultant and the author of many of the lyrics to his sacred music. We talked, of course, about our six children and theirs and the joys and challenges of parenting, and we talked about music, church and faith.

At the end of my term as Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I inquired of Russell Gloyd and Brubeck about the possibility that the Brubeck Quartet might play for the 209th General Assembly (1997) meeting in Syracuse. To my absolute delight, they accepted the invitation and played a wonderful evening program for the General Assembly commissioners and guests. With a local choral group Brubeck presented several sacred works, “All My Hope” from the Mass, To Hope; “God’s Love Made Visible” from Fiesta de la Posada; and a powerful “The Peace of Jerusalem” from The Gates of Justice. It was a memorable evening for which I, and all those privileged to be present, will be forever grateful.

In every age religion and the arts have been partners and collaborators in the great vocation of expressing human wonder and awe at the mystery of human existence, and giving voice to adoration, praise, and gratitude to God: from the ancient poets who wrote:

Sing to the Lord, bless his name…
Let the earth rejoice,
Let the sea roar…
Let the fields exult…
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,

to J.S. Bach, whose “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” occasionally emerged in the middle of a Brubeck improvisation, to Dave Brubeck himself, who is now part of the music department, instrumental division, in the great company of heaven.

The Rev. John Buchanan is editor and publisher of “The Christian Century.” He is former pastor of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and served as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 208th General Assembly (1996).

(this article was originally published on the Presbyterian News Service)

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Appendix II: Iola Brubeck, a Christmas Woman
by Leslie Clay, December 16, 2014
Iola Brubeck, wife of famed jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, was featured in Sisters in Song. Since its publication, she died of cancer in March, 2014. My book didn’t give justice to the great contributions she made to Christian music using the jazz genre. Let’s give her another try.

Iola Whitlock was born in 1923 in Corning, California where her father was a forest ranger. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school, she enrolled at what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton studying drama and radio production. It was there that she met Dave Brubeck and they married in 1942. While he was shipped out to the European Theater in WWII, she honed her management skills and knowledge of jazz by working in radio. Their 70 year marriage was fruitful both personally and musically. Though they started out dirt poor, literally living for a while in a tin shack with a dirt floor and washing in a nearby stream, she propelled Dave’s career. In 1950, she developed one of the country’s first courses in jazz appreciation at the University of California at Berkeley. Iola lectured while Dave, who was shy, played the piano. This brought them $15 a week and started Iola’s role as lyricist. She suggested that his newly formed quartet do concerts at college campuses. She wrote to every college on the West Coast. Her work as manager, booker and publicist launched Dave’s career. She also was Dave’s chief librettist and lyricist. By the mid 1950s, they were doing well. As champions of racial justice they refused to play at colleges where black musicians were treated differently. In 1958, the State Department sent them on a people to people cultural exchange tour of Eastern Europe, the first time jazz musicians were used as emissaries of the U.S. behind the Iron Curtain. Four years later, Dave and Iola co-wrote a musical, The Real Ambassadors starring Louis Armstrong, a reaction to racial segregation in the U.S. It premiered in 1962 at the Monterrey Jazz Festival to critical acclaim, but it never reached Broadway.

As time went on, she collaborated with Dave on several oratorios and cantatas, including La Fiesta de la Posada (Festival of the Inn) in 1975. Included within this Christmas Choral Pageant is “God’s Love Made Visible.” In a PBS interview, Dave said, “My wife was driving, and I said, ‘I’ve finished this (La Posada).’ And she said, ‘No, you haven’t finished it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what did I leave out?’ And she said, ‘God’s love made visible. He is invincible.’” Her lyrics resonate well with me, from the very title of the piece to the emphasized phrase, “His love shall reign.” Though it could be sung any day of the year, it is still a Christmas song for a Christmas pageant, as it declares, “Open all doors this day of his birth.”

Leslie Clay a musician and the author of the book “Sisters in Song: Women Hymn Writers”

(originally published on the “Sisters in Song” website)

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