Lt General Joseph Smith

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith, Commander in Chief of the Nauvoo Legion.

by Bob Betts
One of the signature virtues of true Christians is loving our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 (KJV) Jesus taught His followers, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” No doubt, Joseph Smith had many enemies wherever he went, from local neighbors, to dissident Mormons, to the highest levels of state and federal governments. How did Joseph Smith respond? Did he love them? Did he bless them? Did he do good to them? Did he pray for them? Or, did he speak and act vengefully against them, and attempt to silence Mormon dissidents? In this article, I explore some of the reasons why Joseph Smith had so many enemies, but more about whether or not his treatment of them was in obedience to Christ’s command.

In the book “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, Mormon author Stephen C. LeSueur explained the atmosphere and mood between both Mormon and Missourian vigilantes, “In Caldwell County [Missouri], Mormon leaders dominated local politics, while the Danites, a secret Mormon vigilante organization, enforced religious orthodoxy, thus reinforcing the Missourians’ perception of Mormonism as a fanatic and un-American religion. The Mormon army and the Danite band inspired a terrific fear among the non-Mormon settlers, who regarded the Mormon soldiers as ruthless cutthroats. Although Mormon military action was generally initiated in response to reports of violence, the Mormons tended to overreact and in some instances retaliate against innocent citizens. Their perception of themselves as the chosen people, their absolute confidence in their leaders, and their determination not to be driven out led Mormon soldiers to commit numerous crimes. The Mormons had many friends among the Missourians, but their military operations undercut their support in the non-Mormon communities. In the introduction to his book Mr. LeSueur observes:

“The degree of Joseph Smith’s complicity in the Mormon military activities has long been debated by historians. Evidence now available, however, demonstrates that he directed much of the plundering and burning committed by Mormon soldiers in Daviess County [Missouri]. He viewed these actions necessary for the defense of his people. In addition, Smith and other Mormon leaders knew and approved of the activities of the Danite organization, including the forcible expulsion of [Mormon] dissenters from the Mormon county of Caldwell. Mormon leaders justified the Danite actions with the claim that a republican people have the right to remove undesirable citizens from their communities– the same principle cited by the Missourians to expel the Mormons.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 4) 

And just what was that Danite organization that Joseph Smith directed? Stephen C. LeSueur wrote, “A group of Mormons met secretly in Far West [Missouri] to discuss how to get rid of [Mormon] dissenters. The group adopted the name Daughters of Zion, which they later changed to Sons of Dan, or Danites” (page 38). On page 39, LeSueur continued, “The expulsion of these [Mormon dissenters] from Far West reflected a growing militant spirit among the Mormons, revealed a rigid intolerance for those who opposed their practices and teachings, and demonstrated their willingness to circumvent the law to protect their interests.”

In the third chapter, page 50, LeSueur records that Sidney Rigdon gave a speech on July 4, 1838, which “Joseph Smith and his counselors had carefully prepared…and afterward had it published and distributed to their people. (p. 51)” In that speech, enemies of the Church who would come against it were warned, “The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And, that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us; for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed–Remember it then all Men.” Joseph Smith dictated an oration threatening a war of extermination. In it’s text, Joseph Smith promised to hunt down men in order to spill every last drop of their blood. Even to go after their families. These actions are a total violation of Christ’s command in Matthew 5.

General Joseph Smith with Sword

General Joseph Smith with Sword

Joseph Smith followed up with an article in the Elders’ Journal, page 54, “We are absolutely determined no longer to bear [persecution], come life or come death, for to be mobed (sic) any more without taking vengeance, we will not.” These are the documented words of Joseph Smith. Were these the words of a Christian man, who was obeying a fundamental command of Jesus Christ? Romans 12:19 (KJV) “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Curiously, Stephen C. LeSueur wrote,

“The evidence suggests, however, that the Mormon leaders’ fear of violence was exaggerated, even unfounded, at that time. The journals and reminiscences of the Saints do not mention any trouble with non-Mormons prior to the Fourth of July oration. W. W. Phelps testified that throughout the summer and fall he received assurances from the citizens of Ray and Clay counties that no mobs were being raised against the Saints in the quarter. William Swartzell, a Mormon resident of Diahman, recorded that the Mormons were the only ones talking about mobs at this time–he had heard nothing from the Missourians. In later years, Mormon leaders such as Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff [fourth LDS prophet], [LDS apostles] Orson Hyde and Jedediah M. Grant condemned Rigdon’s speech as a foolish and overly aggressive statement of Mormon rights that unnecessarily provoked anti-Mormon violence.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 51)  

And, who wrote that speech? None other than Joseph Smith and his counselors.

In Matthew 5:38-39 (KJV), Jesus also taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

But, Joseph Smith ignored that teaching of Jesus Christ, as well, admitting, “I am not so much a ‘Christian’ as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him. David did so, and so did Joshua. My only weapon is my tongue.” (April 6, 1843, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 335)

First, whatever retaliation that Joseph Smith was alleging that David and Joshua committed, should he have been a follower of their examples, or obedient to Christ’s command to not resist an evil person, but to turn the other cheek?

Second, as you will see, Joseph Smith’s claim that his only weapon was his tongue, was far from the truth.

In the book “Conflict at Kirtland”, page 268, Mormon author Max Parkin quoted an original apostle, Luke Johnson, telling that Smith “boxed his [a minister’s] ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street,…”

In another incident, “Smith then came up and knocked him [Calvin Stoddard] in the forehead with his flat hand – the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard – made him blind – that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness…” (Ibid, p. 132)

Joseph Smith, himself, tells of some confrontations he had with his enemies, confirming his above boast, “When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him,” but further refuting his claim that “My only weapon is my tongue.”:

“Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street.” March 28, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 316)

“[Walter] Bagby called me a liar, and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so engaged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us. I told the Esquire to assess the fine for the assault, and I was willing to pay it. He not doing it, I rode down to Alderman Whitney, stated the circumstances, and he imposed a fine which I paid, and then returned to the political meeting.” August 1, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 524)

Kirtland Temple early 1900's

Kirtland Temple early 1900’s

“I met him [Walter Bagby], and he gave some abusive language, taking up a stone to throw at me: I seized him by the throat to choke him off.” Joseph Smith, August 13, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 531)

Brigham Young knew Joseph Smith, and revealed, “Some may think that I am rather too severe; but if you had the Prophet Joseph to deal with, you would think that I am quite mild….He would not bear the usage I have borne, and would appear as though he would tear down all the houses in the city, and tear up trees by the roots, if men conducted to him in the way they have to me.” (October 6, 1860, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, pp. 317-318). Given Young’s hyperbole, his description confirms Smith’s own assessment of himself, “I am not so much a Christian.”

Joseph Smith was elected Mayer of Nauvoo, Illinois. “The (City) Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshall to destroy it without delay,…

“About 8 p.m., the Marshall returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them.” Joseph Smith, June 10, 1844, (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 432)

“The Expositor allegations and the subsequent reaction triggered the immediate events leading to the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum….

“The publication of the Expositor put Smith in a dilemma. If he did not stop its publication, exposure of the secrets of polygamy and the political kingdom of God might well rend the church asunder…When Smith convinced his rubber-stamp city council, in a trial without lawyers, witnesses, or jury, that the paper should be declared a public nuisance,…he may not have been prepared to pay for such a course of action with his life; but there is no question that he was prepared to pay a high price for the preservation of the kingdom… “In destroying the press Smith had over-stepped both his authority and the bounds of propriety.” (Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire, pp. 156,158-159)

NOTE: Then Illinois Governor Thomas Ford ordered the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They were taken into custody in Carthage, Ill., about 7 miles southeast of Nauvoo and held in jail to await a hearing. The events of the afternoon of June 27, 1844 are told by John Taylor (the eventual third “prophet”) in volumes six and seven of History of the Church, edited to highlight the actions of Joseph Smith:

“Immediately there was a little rustling at the outer door of the jail, and a cry of surrender, and also a discharge of three or four firearms followed instantly. …Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel,… Joseph reached around the door casing, and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire.When Hyrum fell, Joseph exclaimed; ‘Oh dear, brother Hyrum!’ and opening the door a few inches he discharged his six-shooter in the stairway (as stated before), two or three barrels of which missed fire…. Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor, and sprang into the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming, ‘O Lord, my God.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 617-618)

“…I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges (from Joseph’s six-shooter), two of whom, I am informed died.” (History of the Church, Vol. 7, p. 103)

More history of Joseph Smith would further expose him as a false believer. And, I may add more history as time permits. For now, the evidence is overwhelming that Joseph Smith ignored Jesus’ teachings, and proved himself to not be a child of our heavenly Father. And, Mormonism stands or falls on Joseph Smith’s story.

With all of the above evidence about the real Joseph Smith, what does this say about the LDS leadership’s movie-portrayals, teaching-manual portrayals, and other write-ups and pictorials of Joseph Smith as a mild-mannered, gentle, kind, level-headed, peace-making, Christ-centered gentlemen?

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

About The Author
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.

Bob Betss

Bob Betts

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 the year 2000, 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.

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Joseph Smith made this statement at the conclusion of a speech in the public square at Far West, Missouri on October 14, 1838. This particular quote is documented in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, second edition, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), pp.230–231.

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LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward

LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward
(click to watch video)

“Bearing testimony is ‘Declarationism’.
And ‘Declarationism’ is the last bastion of the unreasonable fanatic.”

— Lyndon Lamborn, ExMormon Foundation 2008 Conference Keynote

by Fred Anson
Mormon Testimony bearing is the cornerstone of Latter-day Saint (LdS) Theology, culture and experience – it is the “lens” through which the world is perceived – the very core of LdS epistemology.  As composer, free thinking Latter-day Saint, and cultural observer William Call explains:

“A Mormon’s ‘testimony’ feigns certainty via a supposed knowledge that negates real understanding. He who knows ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’ has no need to comprehend, discern, or master . . . Both rank and file Mormons and their leaders are dependent on their testimonies. They cannot question what they already ‘know’ is true. And so it is that a Mormon testimony is more than a denial of life’s uncertainties; it is a denial that a critical evaluation of any kind is effective or necessary so far as discovering religious truth is concerned.”
(William Call, “The Cultural Revolution”; Freethinkers Press, 2000)

It is also the primary means of converting others according to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

“Spoken testimony is the foundation of faith and with written testimony becomes the essence of scripture…
Latter-day Saint missionaries, in particular, rely on testimony bearing, rather than on logic or artifice, to reach their listeners.”
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Testimony Bearing)

Thus Mormon Testimony Bearing does many things including:
1) The Mormon Testimony acts as a “trump card” that over rides logic, reason, even physical evidence. 
Which explains why so many non-Mormons have observed that when trying to reason with Mormons about their religion that any evidence – Biblical, historical, archaeological, scientific, psychological, or otherwise that contradicts their “testimony” gets trumped by it. Others have described trying to use reason and logic with True Believing Mormons as, “like talking to someone behind a wall of glass.” Jerry Benson, a Pastor involved in outreach to Mormons in Southern California describes the phenomenon like this:

“To the Mormon, the ultimate test for truth is an “INNER FEELING” or a “BURNING IN THE BOSOM” which tell him that every facet of Mormonism is true.”1

2) The Mormon Testimony acts as a metaphysical “panic room” that the Latter Day Saint can retreat to should anything get in that unsettles them or causes Cognitive Dissonance.
For those unfamiliar with the term or concept, Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a fundamental cognitive drive to reduce this dissonance by modifying an existing belief, or rejecting one of the contradictory ideas. Once the Mormon retreats to this “panic room” nothing gets in (like new disturbing evidence) and nothing gets out (like old comfortable beliefs) until the crisis has passed and/or Cognitive Dissonance has dissipated. Again, Jerry Benson:

“When the Mormon is confronted with scripture from the Bible that refutes the teachings of the Mormon Church, or when he is faced with documentation proving the unreliability of the Mormon books of scripture, or when you have shown him a dozen absolute contradictions from Mormon sources, you will probably be treated with ‘THE MORMON TESTIMONY.'”2

3) The Mormon Testimony acts as the active agent in converting others to the Mormon religion.
As President James E. Faust Second Counselor in the First Presidency stated in a March 1997 Ensign article:

“Perhaps we do not always remember that it is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others. Our testimony is our own. It cannot be challenged by someone else. It is personal and real to us. But it is the Holy Spirit that gives a similar witness to another.”
(James E. Faust, “First Presidency Message: The Importance of Bearing Testimony”; Ensign, March 1997)

quote-testimony-bearing-is-the-key-to-missionary-work-thomas-s-monson-68-92-05

However, Ex-Mormons – including Returned Missionaries and Stake Mission Presidents – have suggested that quite another force is at work here – human psychology. In fact, these Ex-Mormons assert that one of the LDS Missionary’s core tools – the so-called, “Book of Mormon Challenge” is nothing more than emotional and psychological manipulation. For those of you unfamiliar with “The Book of Mormon Challenge” (also, and often more commonly known as “The Moroni 10 Formula”) it’s as follows:

The Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:2-6: 
And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

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

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

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

This formula is intermingled with Missionary Coaching as Jerry Benson points out:

“In the Mormon Missionary handbook in the mid 1980’s, “The Uniform System for Teaching Families,” instructions were given to the missionary on how to “bring the people you teach to a knowledge and conviction of the truth” effectively. (Page A-l) “Keep in mind how you want the family to FEEL… help them FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE GOSPEL.” (Page A-l, No. 4)

Further instructions encouraging this FEELING were given:
“As the Spirit confirms to you that those you are teaching are receiving a witness of the Spirit, pause in the discussion and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brown, what you are FEELING right now is the Spirit of the Lord testifying to you that we are teaching you the truth. You are beginning to receive YOUR OWN TESTIMONY of the truthfulness of this message.” (Page A-3, No. 4)

NO LESS THAN 84 DIFFERENT TIMES in the series of missionary lessons given to “Mr. Brown,” the missionaries were instructed to “TESTIFY” of the truthfulness of their message. Over and over and over again, they reinforced virtually every point they make of a personal assurance that it is true–that the Book of Mormon is true, that God did speak to Joseph Smith, that the true church was restored, etc., etc.

Although modern missionary handbooks [editor’s note  “The Uniform System for Teaching Families” was replaced by “Preach My Gospel” in 2005] have removed these embarrassing statements, they are still encouraged to “bear witness” to the truthfulness of their message as they feel the spirits prompting.”3

Benson’s outsider’s voice is joined by a multitude of former Mormons who have analyzed deconstructed this approach to “revelation”.    Consider the cases of Bob McCue (a former Bishop and Stake Mission President, and now an agnostic) and Shawn McCraney (a former Born-into-the-Covenant Mormon, Returned Missionary, Temple Mormon, and now a Born Again Christian). Their methods and styles are as different as these ExMormon men are. McCue, a Canadian Tax Lawyer, has written a series of calm, even toned articles on the Mormonism. Excerpts from his most comprehensive article on the subject of Mormon Testimony Bearing comprises a major part of this paper’s final section.

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney

McCraney, on the other hand hosts a popular Salt Lake City based television program where he has been passionately – even aggressively – outspoken in his criticism of Mormon Testimonies. There was no better example of this than the August 26, 2008 show entitled “By Their Fruits – Part 3 – Revelation Unsupported by Scripture” where @13:01 into the program McCraney slowly and methodologically deconstructs not only how he developed his own Mormon Testimony but the techniques that he and his fellow Missionaries used to induce those investigating the LDS Church into developing a personal Testimony experience.

One of the keys to this proselytizing process, according to McCraney is that if an investigator’s testimony that doesn’t produce the desired result is simply rejected as either “false” or the investigator is told that they didn’t fully meet the requirements of The Moroni 10 Formula – such as praying with real intention or real faith. Therefore, and this can’t be emphasized enough, in Latter-day Saint culture only one result is valid when it comes to Mormon Testimonies!

This moved from abstract to real for me when a Mormon on a now defunct internet discussion board challenged me when I bore my Mormon Testimony which went like  this:

“I would like to bear my testimony.

I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have read the Bible and prayed regularly for over 30-years. I have also studied, sought God and prayed about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, as well as many other official LDS Church documents. I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life. And it is that which I feel when I testify to this:

I bear witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a man made religion synthesized by Joseph Smith, a false prophet. To that end I also bear witness that all the Mormon “living prophets” that followed Joseph Smith up and until today have been false prophets. Further, I bear witness that the Book of Mormon is a work of non-inspired 19th Century fiction. Finally, I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as all it’s splinter groups are non-Christian cults.

Here I stand before God and before men. Thank you for letting me share what I know to be true.”

Ironically, I was only one of five board members who bore similar testimonies as a result of taking “The Book of Mormon Challenge”. Every single one was rejected as “invalid” by the Latter Day Saint thread participants. In the lightly edited board exchange that follows you’ll find my deconstruction of the psychological dynamics underlying the typical Mormon Testimony as well as the typical LDS reaction to it.

LdS:
“When you took the Book of Mormon challenge did you go in skeptical or did you think as I did, “How could this book come from anywhere but God?” That is what I asked myself, and that was the beginning of a revealed testimony which transcends the arguments of Man!”

My Response:
What you’re describing is what’s known as a “presupposition”:

pre-sup-pose
verb (used with object), -posed, -pos-ing.
1. to suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance.
2. (of a thing, condition, or state of affairs) to require or imply as an antecedent condition: An effect presupposes a cause.
(Dictionary.com)

The problem that I see here is that when you took the “Moroni 10 Challenge” you didn’t read the Book of Mormon objectively simply reading and considering the words on the page you presupposed that it was from God and guess what – that’s exactly what you found!

Moroni's Grammatically Correct Promise

This is a known psychological phenomenon called a “gestalt closure” where your mind “closes the loop” with a known recognizable object, desired or predetermined conclusion. This is normal and natural – we all do it. It’s actually it’s an indicator that God is a God of order because He designed our minds to seek out order even in the midst of randomness or even chaos. Here’s an example:

GESTALT PRINCIPLE OF CLOSURE
The Gestalt principle of closure means that the mind is able to derive meaning from objects or pictures that are not perceived in full. For example:

I-m s-re th-t y-u w-ll be a-le to und-rst-nd th-s s-nt-nce

Most people are still able to read, “I am sure that you will be able to understand this sentence”, in the above sentence although nearly 25 percent of the letters have been omitted.

That’s because the mind is quite able to bridge the gaps that were left in the sentence. That’s due to Gestalt Closure. Here’s an example: In the figure above you should see an integrated figure thanks to Gestalt Closure:

Graphic_Closure_Cropped

An example of gestalt closure. The mind bridges the gap to fill in or complete the “white” figure in the middle.

Gestalt Closure and Snapping
However, Gestalt Closure also has a dark side. For example, in Mind Control Cults it’s used to guide the investigator to a “snapped” psychological state as their mind projects into, or brings to closure a predetermined conclusion that they conditioned to “presuppose” by the person in the cult guiding them to “snap”.

Such as, “If you will read the Book of Mormon with an open heart and open mind then I’m sure that you too will see – as we do – that an inspired book like this, revealed to an ignorant, uneducated farm boy, could have ONLY come from God!”

So you dutifully go off and start reading the same Book of Mormon and guess what, you’re sudden struck with the new “reality” is no ignorant, uneducated farm boy could write this great book of inspiration – it could have ONLY come from God!

Yet, others who just read the book without any Mormon preparation think that it’s (take your pick):

What’s the difference? One person reads the book with presuppositions and see inspiration and another takes it at face value and doesn’t. Same book, completely different results.4

LdS:
“For the record (and good laugh) could you please explain, or give us a practical example of a ‘stereotypical Gestalt Closure/Cult Snapping experience?'”

My Response:
Sure let’s look at the infamous ‘Moroni 10 Formula’ that’s at the core of ‘The Book of Mormon Challenge’ shall we?

shutterstock_book_of_mormon-1280x960STEP 1: The “Moroni 10 Formula” is introduced to the Investigator/Born-Into-The-Covenant-Mormon (I/BIC).
Look at the language of the passage it’s quite interesting – note, in particular, the bolded words and especially the bolded and redded words.

Moroni 10
2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

STEP 2:
These instructions implant random patterns into the subconscious of the I/BIC:

This book will open me to “wisdom”. […if it be wisdom in God…]

This this book will open my memory […ye would remember…]

This book will cause me to receive some things. […ye shall receive these things…]

This book will open my “heart” […and ponder it in your hearts.]

If I do the above I will receive something as it says, “And when ye shall receive these things”. Not“if” but “will” – an absolute emphatic.

Once I receive that “something” I must seek “spiritually”, (not intellectually) as it says, “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;”

However, if I want to keep the things that I’ve received my “heart” must be sincere as it says, “. . . and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart . . “

And I have to be intentional or I’ll not only not receive but not keep what I receive, as it says, “. . . with real intent . . . “

So if I don’t receive anything it’s my fault – I wasn’t sincere or intentional enough in my heart.

Or I didn’t have enough “faith”. [. . . having faith in Christ . . .]

But if I’m really sincere and really intentional and really have faith then I will have truth revealed to me, [‘…he will manifest the truth of it unto you . . .

And it will be from God [. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost…]

And if I’m “good” I will acknowledge this “truth”, if I’m “bad” I will “deny” it! [“…whatsoever thing is good is just and true…”]

And if I do deny it, I am denying Jesus Christ Himself! [‘…wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.’]

Again, these random prepositional parts and pieces are called “implants” – they create random but concrete forms so that Gestalt Closure can fill in the gaps via psychological projection.

More examples of how the mind engages in Gestalt Closure.

More examples of the mind gestalts to create a unified whole out of bits and pieces of information.

STEP 3:
So with these implants rolling around their subconscious, the I/BIC trots off to seek this transcendent experience.  And very often they find it . . .

STEP 4:
Then all these, loose, random, implanted patterns work until a recognized pattern merges and concertizes in the conscious mind and “BAM!” the I/BIC “Gestalts” the desired result: An emotional, non-intellectual, irrational witness that Joseph Smith is a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is from God.

OPTIONAL LOOP BACK TO STEP 1:
AND if they don’t receive it, per the Moroni 10 Formula, the I/BIC knows to do it again until they “get it right” and do it with enough. . .

  • Sincerity
  • Intention, and
  • Faith

. . . to achieve Gestalt Closure.  And this step is often done repeatedly until the I/BIC “gets” a Mormon Testimony that they can bear. Even if the Moroni formula isn’t fully understood, or only partially understood, or not understood at all, the I/BIC still has the random implanted thought, “There MUST be something here! The Missionaries/My Parents/My Friend/The Internet/etc. told me that there’s something here so there MUST be!”

The Mormon preparatory technique is a fine example of how to create a situation where Gestalt closure has a high probability of success.

But probably the most telling evidence that The Mormon Testimony is a guided Gestalt event is the uniformity. Sit through the typical (3-hour) “Fast and Testimony” meeting at your local LDS Ward Meeting House and nearly all of the testimonies given will match the following template with only the slightest modification:

“I know that God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth today. I know that this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation.”
(“Testimony Glove”, Friend magazine, October 2008)

As Jerry Benson says plainly from years of working with Mormons, “Almost all Mormon testimonies are identical.”5

Were this truly a “personal” testimony rather than a “implanted” testimony based on a corporate template that has been reinforced by Gestalt closure wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect less uniformity and more originality? Just compare and contrast the heartfelt but often rambling, disorganized, fragmented, even confusing testimonies given in Churches, 12-Recovery Groups, even ExMormon groups to the equally heartfelt but neat, concise and formulaic Mormon Testimony and the contrived, induced nature of the latter becomes even more apparent.

LdS:
“You claim that when overwhelmed with evidence, logic and reason, a Mormon will retreat into their testimony like someone retreating into ‘A Panic Room’. This ‘Panic Room’ concept is a crock and just show how truly ignorant and uninformed you really are!”

My Response:
Well, I’m not the only person who’s seen this behavior from Mormons – it’s nearly universal.

When the facts, evidence, and feelings of Cognitive Dissonance get too hard to process Mormons retreat into the “Panic Room” of their “Internal Witness/Testimony” until they feel safe and settled enough to come out again.

I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve lost count – so have many others.

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

From A Former Mormon Bishop
The insight and observations from former Latter-days has been remarkable. Bob McCue (a former Mormon Bishop and Mission Stake Mission President) had far more to say about how this works than I ever have. What follows are excerpts from a lengthy 128-page paper that he wrote on the subject which validates much of the above.

Nowhere is the “saying is believing” paradigm more visible in Mormon culture than in the Mormon custom of “bearing testimony”. Young people who were raised as Mormons but do not “have a testimony” are encouraged to “bear their testimony” until the find it. That is, they should publicly state that they believe Mormonism to be God’s one and only true religion, etc., or that they want to believe this, even if they do not. This is the one of the primary techniques used by missionaries and members of the Mormon Church to “strengthen the faith” of prospective members and young Mormons, including Mormon missionaries who do not yet believe. A large percentage of the Mormon missionaries who started their missionary service with me in 1977 fell into this category.

Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard referred to this practise by telling a story that dates to Brigham Young, near the beginning of Mormonism, that is fair to assume has been told many times since then. He told this story at a Mormon General Conference on October 3, 2004. It is important to note that anything said by a Mormon Apostle at a General Conference is more important than scripture from a Mormon point of view. That is, to the extent that it does not contradict scripture it is on par with it, and to the extent that it contradicts or “clarifies” scripture, the scripture is overridden. Ballard’s remarks were as follows:

My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.

Many years ago Brigham Young told of an early missionary in the Church who was asked to share his testimony with a large group of people. According to President Young, this particular elder “never had been able to say that he knew Joseph [Smith] was a Prophet.” He would have preferred to just say a prayer and leave, but the circumstances made that impossible. So he started to speak, and “as soon as he got out ‘Joseph is a Prophet,’ his tongue was loosened, and he continued talking until near sun-down.”

President Young used this experience to teach that “the Lord pours out His Spirit upon a man, when he testifies that [which] the Lord gives him to testify of” (Millennial Star, supplement, 1853, 30).

The lesson, I believe, is clear: having a testimony alone is not enough. In fact, when we are truly converted, we cannot be restrained from testifying. And as it was with Apostles and faithful members of old, so is it also our privilege, our duty, and our solemn obligation to “declare the things which [we] know to be true”
(D&C 80:4).

Brothers and sisters, join together with the missionaries in sharing your precious testimony every day, witnessing at every opportunity the glorious message of the Restoration. The fire of your testimony is all that you need in order to introduce the gospel to many more of our Father’s children. Trust in the Lord, and never underestimate the impact your testimony can have upon the lives of others as you bear it with the power of the Spirit. Doubt and fear are tools of Satan. The time has come for all of us to overcome any fear and boldly take every opportunity to share our testimonies of the gospel.

So, Ballard is saying several things. First, Mormons have a duty to say they “know” the Mormon Church is true more often. Second, they should say that even if they don’t believe it is true. Third, they should ignore the feelings of fear and doubt that indicate they do not know the Mormon Church is what it claims to be. And fourth, the act of saying something is true will cause them to “know” that they did not previously know.

And most of all, Ballard is saying that the basic premises of Mormonism are sacred, and hence unquestionable, as far as Mormon leaders are concerned.

I recall being told that story, and others like it, when I was a young person and did not believe that Mormonism was “true”. However, my testimony did not spring from saying things I did not believe. Rather, the dynamics described by the short story “The Missionary” are closer to what I experienced. And so, I was never a fan of the “say it even though you don’t believe it” philosophy that is prevalent within Mormonism.

As noted above, when I served my mission a large percentage of the missionaries who entered Mormon missionary service do not have a “testimony”. It is commonly believed within the Mormon community that young men are sent into the mission field first and foremost for their own good ? that is, to get their own testimony and become firm in the faith. And, they are encouraged to find their testimony by bearing it. That Ballard would say this at a Mormon General conference is not surprising since he has been a key player in the formation of Mormon missionary strategies for decades and has consistently taught this principle in that context at least since I was a missionary in the late 1970s.

Think of how the principles Aronson outlined above would be likely to apply to one of the many Mormon missionaries who starts his missionary service without a testimony. He doesn’t yet have a testimony of his own, and many times each week for two years he stands in public wearing an authoritative looking suit and bears solemn testimony in God’s name with regard to the truthfulness of the Mormon Church. He is not paid to do this. In fact, he knows that he is sacrificing his and his family’s money and time in order to have the privilege of bearing this testimony. So, either what he says is true, or he is a liar (or fool) to have said it. Since few people like to admit that they have been fooled or are a liar, the easiest conclusion to reach is that the statements made must be true. He also knows he is encouraging the people who hear him to make a commitment that will absorb a huge percentage of their lives and will change the course of their lives in dramatic fashion. This situation is calculated to produce the maximum attitudinal change in those young missionaries.

Something similar happens when regular Mormon members bear testimony to their friends and neighbours, and it is intensified if any of those friends become Mormons as well. This is why Mormon leaders like Ballard are constantly after the members to do missionary work with the friends, and to bear their testimonies. That is not to say this is a conscious strategy on the part of Mormon leaders. Rather, there is a strong correlation between members who bear regular testimony and members who remain faithful, hence testimony bearing is encouraged. Cognitive dissonance theory and the principle of insufficient justification in particular provide a cogent explanation as to why this is the case, and it has nothing to do with the truth of Mormonism’s claims. Not surprisingly, a similar strategy works well for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many other religious groups.

oaksMormon leaders justify the practise of encouraging people to say things that they don’t believe on the basis that those things are certain to be true, so even if the person saying them does not believe them to be true, she is still telling the truth. So, testimony bearing is a fundamental part of the Mormon culture. Each meeting, class, Mormon activity, etc., is opened with prayer. Most Mormon prayers are an implicit bearing of testimony; a certification that the Mormon Church is the Mormon Church’s God’s true Church. From the time they are able to speak their first words, little children are encouraged to utter such prayers. They do so at their meetings on Sunday, and at home on a daily basis with their families. Those occurs both in private, with Mom and Dad initially saying the words for the child, and in public before family members in the home each day and later in larger groups at Church. Formal testimony bearing is part of every lesson presented at Mormon Church or activity, and every speech (talks by Mormons) presented in Church services. Young people, again, begin to give these talks on a regular basis starting at age three or four. They are encouraged to bear their testimony each time they stand up and give a talk. Most adults have teaching responsibilities within the Mormon Church. They also bear their testimony each time they stand before the congregation to teach.

Mormon hymns are another form of testimony bearing. Starting at age 18 months, Mormon children are taught to mouth the words to songs that testify to the truth of the Mormon message. Each week these songs are sung at Mormon worship services for children, teenagers and adults. Mormon are encouraged to sing these songs in their homes during weekly Family Home Evenings and to have them playing in the background at other times.

Once a month, each Mormon congregation has a “fast and testimony” meeting. This is a meeting held at the end of a Sunday on which food and water are abstained from for a period of 24 hours by faithful Mormons. Toward the end of that period, the testimony meeting occurs. Going without food weakens body and the intellect, making it more susceptible to emotional experiences. These meetings are intended to provoke emotional experience. Feelings are shared with regard to the importance of family, community and a part of every testimony is a formula which has been laid down by Church leaders respecting belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the current prophet (whoever he may be) is also God’s only prophet on Earth and that the Mormon Church is the one and only true Church of God on the Earth. No dissenting opinion is permitted. And a steady stream of members approach the pulpit to express their faith in public. It is thought “cute” to have small children to stand up before the congregation to utter the words “I know the Church is true; I know the Book of Mormon is true; etc.” Special, and highly charged testimony meetings are held for teenagers at “Youth Conferences” and other special youth meetings which for many young Mormons is where the first visible glimmers of testimony are felt, and magnified. The short story “The Missionary” explores this process.

The "Testimony Glove" a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

The “Testimony Glove” a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

A variety of other similar examples from within Mormon culture could be described. I do not accuse Mormons of consciously planning to brainwash their children and those who investigate the merits of the Mormon Church; however, the system just described could hardly be better designed for that purpose. Again, I do not accuse Mormons of dishonesty or deceit. There may be a few at the top that are guilty of this, but the vast majority are certainly not.

Other Mormon Behaviours Related to the Principle of Insufficient Justification
Mormon culture includes many other behaviours that are likely to bring the principle of insufficient justification to bear on the creation of belief in the key tenets of the Mormon Church. For example, Mormons go through odd temple rituals that require promises of faithfulness and obedience to be made in front of other members of the community of faith; Mormons act as lay leaders of their congregations and commit enormous amounts of time and effort to Mormonism in this way; Mormons spend two years as full time missionaries while bearing testimony daily and baptizing new members who look up to the missionaries as their literal saviours; Mormons hand out Books of Mormons to their friends and otherwise encourage their friends to join the Mormon Church because it is God?s one and only true Church; and Mormons engage in many other behaviours that are part of Mormon culture and that publicly commit them to the Mormon Church. In each of these cases, the principle of insufficient justification will kick in to make Mormons feel that the Church must be ?true? and otherwise more valuable that it should objectively or rationally seem in their lives. Were this not the case, they were either liars or fools to do and say the things they did, and it is hard for most humans to consider that as a viable alternative.

I engaged in many of the behaviours just indicted while I was a faithful Mormon. The principle of insufficient justification would predict that this behaviour on my part would have created a powerful cognitive dissonance barrier to any information that indicates that the Mormon Church is not “true”. This is because if the Church is not true, I have been either dishonest or foolish by virtue of having done what I did, and I “know” that I am neither dishonest nor foolish! And, as noted in greater detail below, the more important to me is my image as a smart person, the more effective that cognitive dissonance barrier will be.
(excerpted from “Do Smart Mormons Make Mormonism True? And Answers to Other “Tough Gospel Questions” in Reply to a Faithful Mormon Scholar’s Defence of Mormonism”; Bob McCue; June 20, 2004; Version 3)

Holy Bible_Edited

What Does The Bible Say About The Mormon Testimony?
For the Christian, Deuteronomy 13:1-14 (NIV) is as good a description of The Mormon Testimony as you could hope for. It says:

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

Perhaps the most interesting phrase in this Bible passage is, “. . . if the sign or wonder of which he was spoken of takes place . . .” In other words, God, through the human instrument Moses, was saying, “There will be false prophets who can produce signs and wonders!” But then God goes on to explain how you can tell what criteria for veracity you’re to use when you’re confronted with one of these false but able to produce signs and wonders Prophets, “. . . and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,'” God says (paraphrasing), “Regardless of what signs and wonders the prophet produces you are to judge him by his behavior and on the content of his words. Specifically, does this prophet push you toward Me the true God of Israel or does he push you away from Me and toward other gods?” So at the end of the day, the issue with anyone who claims to be a divine prophet isn’t miracles or how the prophet makes you feel, it’s what he says and does – it’s it’s behavior and content not feelings, signs, or wonders!

So I have no doubt that Mormons and Investigators really do feel something when they apply The Moroni 10 Formula. I have no doubt that the infamous Mormon “burning in the bosom” is real. In fact, Christian Apologist and Ex-Mormon Timothy Oliver to this day says that the “burning in the bosom” that he felt as a Mormon was undeniably real! In fact I have felt that same sensation myself and I know for a fact that it’s real! It is a legitimate sign I do not deny or denigrate that fact at all. It is indeed a legitimate wonder. However when we apply the Biblical test these very real, undeniable “signs and wonders” are irrelevant because Joseph Smith:

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

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

  1. Prophesied another God
  2. Prophesied another Jesus
  3. Prophesied another Gospel
  4. Prophesied using Biblical words but changed their meaning
  5. Prophesied new revelations that are not in the Bible and, in fact, are contrary to it

Now was this call to “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” from Smith clearer than in the King Follett Discourse when he said:

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

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

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

Though I have had Mormon after Mormon deny it, the content of what Joseph the Prophet preached in the King Follett Discourse was clearly, “‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known).”6 As a result he was clearly a False Prophet. Therefore, the church that he founded are based on false revelations from a False Prophet.  And we have been specifically commanded by God not to join institution that holds to “other” gods. This is called “idolatry” – and dear reader, the Bible is clear what the consequences of following a false prophet into idolatry are dire both in this world and the next. If you have any questions, just see Revelation 21:8.

Conclusion
The Mormon Testimony experience is a real phenomenon. However, applying the Gestalt psychological model to it, the experience and sensations surrounding it are easily explainable. Further, and to review, the Biblical witness is that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Therefore a Mormon Testimony event is ultimately an emotionally induced psychological experience accompanying a testimony to a false prophet and other gods whom God has commanded His people not to follow. To do so is to take your fate upon yourself.

proper-application-of-the-moroni-10-challengeNOTES:
1 Jerry Benson, “The Mormon Testimony: ‘I Testify to You…’.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 My LdS Brother – who had been “prepped” by my Mormon Uncle – felt the infamous “burning in the bosom while my other brother – who had not been prepped by my Mormon Uncle – just picked it up and read it. He called it, “Like reading a book about a bunch of Jews on the Planet of the Apes.”
5 Op Cit, Jerry Benson.
6 And subsequent Mormon Leaders have further validated this by explicitly acknowledging that the Mormon Church follows another Jesus. Since the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is God, this Mormon Jesus is also another God.

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages’”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads”, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some sub­stance to what they say”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90; )

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard P. Brockbank, LdS Seventy, “The Living Christ”, Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26; )

MormonTestimonyBasedOnChurch

(This is the Second Edition of this article. The First Edition was originally published on September 26, 2008 on the now defunct Concerned Christians discussion board)

BACK TO TOP

An Election Day 2016 prayer 

20130301-023109

Lord, You have told us,
Lord, You have promised
That if Your people would pray
That You would hear from heaven,
You would send Your mercy and
Touch us with Your strong, healing hand

So we’re calling out to You,
Crying out to you,
Forgive us of our sin, heal our land
As we seek your holy face,
We turn from all our wicked ways
Hear from heaven even now as we pray

Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now

(words and music by Tommy Walker)

From the album “Calling Out To You” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

Luther Wittenberg Door_CroppedIntroduction:
Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”. It was on this day that Martin Luther nailed the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. So it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that we offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that is badly in need of it.

And while we offer these theses to the public in general for discussion, debate, and consideration, we offer them even more specifically to the LDS Church and its members in light of Joseph Smith’s challenge …

“. . . call upon them [Mormon Critics] to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against”
(Doctrine & Covenants 71:7)

… and in agreement with Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt who said:

“. . . convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, pp. 15-16)

So without further ado we present . . .
The Disputation of Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Ninety-Five Theses for consideration, discussion, and action regarding a modern church badly in need of reform
(aka “The 95 LDS Theses”)

Question: What’s wrong with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Answer:
BEHAVIOR CONTROL ISSUES
1. LDS President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Brothers and sisters, pray for the critics of the Church” (“Remember the Mission of the Church”, Ensign, May 1982, p.4) but today’s LDS Church is quick to label and denounce internal and external critics as “enemies out to destroy” even when they’re simply speaking the truth, seeking to gain understanding, and/or trying to make the church a better place. [click here for supplemental evidence]

2. The LDS Church focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members. For example, on January 29, 2013, the LDS Church announced that the Benemerito De Las Americas private school in Mexico would be closed and converted into a Missionary Training Center leaving its more than 2,000 LDS students to the mercy of the vastly inferior Mexican public education system. [click here for supplemental evidence]

3. D&C 121:39 says: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Yet the modern LDS Church tolerates abuse of ecclesiastical power by LDS church leaders through various means from refusing to directly answer troubling questions from its members up to and including excommunication of members who speak truth to power. [click here for supporting evidence]

4. LDS President, John Taylor, said, “I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 264) but today’s LDS leaders refuse to publicly address members concerns about difficult facts of Mormon History and suppresses loyal dissent from within its ranks via disciplinary action up to and including excommunication. [click here for supplemental evidence]

5. The LDS Church website says, “Those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship.” Never-the-less, due to the doctrine of Celestial Marriage members often feel pressured to choose between the potential to be exalted into the Celestial Kingdom and their apostate (or non-member in the case of a convert) spouse. Choosing the former all too often results in divorce. [click here for supplemental evidence]

6. LDS Church leaders denounce and scorn former members and encourage members to do the same. To cite one example, the chapter in the official church curriculum “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith” entitled “Beware The Bitter Fruit of Apostasy” (pp. 315-326) is a demonstration of how church leaders do this. [click here for supplemental evidence]

7. It asserts in the strongest language that doctrinal differences, criticisms, or questions about LDS Church policies and/or leaders are sin, for the ‘prophet’ is always right. Those who engage in such behaviors – or refuse to comply with the status quo – are subject to discipline up to and including ex-communication. An example of this is the recent excommunication action taken against Denver Snuffer.
[click here for supplemental evidence]

8. It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members. Ex-Mormon family members in particular are to be avoided but the LDS Church also encourages members to steer clear of “Never Mormon” family members who are openly critical of the LDS Church. For example, one Temple Recommend Question asks, “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The wording of this question strongly implies that temple worthiness requires eschewing those with beliefs opposing the LDS church. This often includes former members and/or family members critical of the church. [click here for supplemental evidence]

9. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout units with over 30,000 units nationwide. Conversely, the Young Women’s Personal Progress Program receives significantly less funding and attention and demonstrates pronounced gender inequality. Why, for example, aren’t there an equal number of church sponsored Girl Scout units for girls? [click here for supplemental evidence]

10. The culture that results from LDS doctrine pressures members to marry too quickly often resulting in marriage between incompatible strangers. For example, 12th LDS President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “It was never intended by the Lord that a large portion of one’s life should be spent in the unmarried state… Long-delayed marriages are certainly not approved of the Lord.” (“The Marriage Decision”, Ensign, Feb. 1975) [click here for supplemental evidence]

11. The Lord, it is claimed, said, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27) But today LDS Leaders use the Temple Recommend process as a subtle, barely discernible means of manipulative coercion rather than allowing members to engage their free will. [click here for supplemental evidence]

12. It puts its untrained clergy in a position where they must give counsel on vital life issues that they are not qualified or equipped to competently address. The result, all too often, is ecclesiastical malpractice. [click here for supplemental evidence]

13. The LDS churches places an inordinate amount of emphasis on a commandment that enriches itself financially – the tithe. It is the only commandment that requires a yearly meeting with the bishop and must be paid without regard to a person’s personal welfare: “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.” (“Sacred Transformations”, Ensign, Dec 2012. p.38) [click here for supplemental evidence]

14. The original 1835 D&C 101 said, “all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting” but today’s church drives a wedge between friends and family members by compelling Latter-day Saints to get married in private Temple services that exclude not only all non-members and their families, but even non-Temple Recommend holding LDS family members in addition to all children below a certain age – Mormon and non-Mormon alike. [click here for supplemental evidence]

15. The Apostle Paul wrote “there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Yet the LDS Church gives men an exalted status over women; refuses them the Priesthood; denies that women are co-equals; and chooses instead to subordinate them to men. [click here for supplemental evidence]

16. LDS church leaders replace “ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves” (Helaman 14:30) with obedience to trivial and arbitrary rules. Things like ear piercings, movies, tattoos, and clothing choices have nothing to do with salvation – therefore, these are areas where individual Free Agency and the leading of the Spirit should prevail. [click here for supplemental evidence]

17. It imposes vague, scientifically discredited 19th Century dietary regulations on members via the “Word of Wisdom” (Doctrine & Covenants section 89). This isn’t a trivial matter since a lack of compliance to these standards can result in the loss of one’s temple recommend – per the Temple Recommend Worthiness Interview question which directly asks, “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?” [click here for supplemental evidence]

18. It quells and compromises good scholarship within its rank by demonizing, disfellowshipping and excommunicating members who produce scholarly works discussing Mormon History, Theology, or culture that have scholastic integrity. The classic example of this are The September Six – the six esteemed, respected, and in some cases award winning, Latter-day Saint scholars who were excommunicated in September 1993 for producing such work. [click here for supplemental evidence]

19. D&C 58:27 states “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” and Joseph Smith stated “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” (“The Organization of the Church”, Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339). However, the church often does exactly the opposite: Such as rewarding Paul H. Dunn with a General Authority position for his compliant use of “faith promoting” lies, but excommunicating D. Michael Quinn for continuing to tell the authentic truth despite being told by Mormon leaders to stop. [click here for supplemental evidence]

20. By requiring a full tithing to participate in the temple endowment ceremony, and thereby achieve exaltation, the LDS church disregards Moroni’s censure: “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”(Mormon 8:32[click here for supplemental evidence]

21. It uses employment in LDS Church and member owned institutions and businesses to coerce obedience to its dogma and leaders. An example of this is John P. Hatch being terminated from Deseret Book for simply expressing his opinion regarding, “the Church’s efforts to suppress access to honest history.” in a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune without warning or asking for clarification on the letter. [click here for supplemental evidence]

22. Its leaders and members use ad-hominems, insults, slurs, derogatories, labeling, and character assassination in their dealings with critics and apostates and then deny that they do so – often going so far as to claim that those who call them on this behavior are persecuting them. [click here for supplemental evidence]

23. It allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LDS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LDS Church. [click here for supplemental evidence]

24. It privately judges and abandons members that have life problems rather than patiently, encouraging, undergirding, supporting, and attempting to restore them to a healthy, productive place. This while publicly declaring that the LDS Church treats all such cases with benevolent kindness.  For example, many prisoners are excommunicated in absentia once convicted of a crime. And while a small number of individual members may volunteer for a local prison-ministry in their area, there is currently no formal church sponsored outreach to prisoners.  The same can be said for those suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, etc., etc., etc.  Further, many snared in these life situations simply experience church discipline in various forms and are told to repent – nothing more. [click here for supplemental evidence]

25. It tends to view any doubt, character flaw, or personal deficiency as “sin” rather than as a normal expression of the human condition and life experience. Thus it has created an implied and unstated expectation that members must always be perfect and/or “all together” or they’re in sin and unworthy of advancement within the organization. [click here for supplemental evidence]

26. It practices graceless, merciless, condemning, legalistic disciplinary extremes – far beyond Biblical standards – in regard to those who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage that, as has been reported by many, often leads to a “no-win” double-bind spiral into hopeless despair.  Seventh LDS President Heber J. Grant articulated this extremism well when he said, “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.” (Heber J. Grant quoted in, Gospel Standards”, complied by G. Homer Durham, p. 55) [click here for supplemental evidence]

27. The Apostle Jude commanded “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22, NIV). Instead LDS leaders often demand blind compliance from those questioning and wavering. Failing at that they will expose, quarantine, isolate – and if necessary expel – doubters rather than encouraging, supporting, and protecting them while they work through their doubt. [click here for supplemental evidence]

28. It preaches extreme, legalistic, and arbitrary sexual standards regarding masturbation that are not scripturally or scientifically supportable. [click here for supplemental evidence]

29. Via the Priesthood Correlation Program it tries to turn everyone into a Utah Mormon and every Chapel, Ward, and Stake into a Utah Chapel, Ward, and Stake rather than encouraging – even celebrating – each culture’s unique distinctives. [click here for supporting evidence]

30. It has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction puts pressure on disenchanted LDS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not. [click here for supplemental evidence]

31. Women are inappropriately subordinate, not equals, with men in the LDS church. For example, in the Temple Endowment Ceremony women swear obedience to God and to her husband while the man swears obedience only to God. Additionally women may not act as a voice in prayer circles and instead must veil their faces[click here for supplemental evidence]

 32. It claims to be “pro-family” while simultaneously creating a culture that breaks up both Mormon and non-Mormon families via the aforementioned. [click here for supplemental evidence]

33. It has a double standard for treating non-members with charitable benevolence (as a means of proselytizing and public relations) while exacting, high, often unattainable standards that members must meet to receive the same levels of attention, aid, and assistance. [click here for supplemental evidence]

34. Despite the fact that The Book of Mormon says, “For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Moroni 8:37) the First Presidency choices to invest billions in building ornate malls and temples rather than using that money to show love to the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
[click here for supplemental evidence]

INFORMATION CONTROL ISSUES
35. Although the LDS church sates that “we believe in being honest” (13th Article of Faith), it regularly substitutes faith promoting “spin” to its members, the media, and investigators instead of telling the full truth regarding its history and theology. [click here for supplemental evidence]

36. The LDS Church has suppressed – and allegedly has even destroyed – church owned documents and artifacts that would expose the fact that it’s not telling the full truth regarding its history and theology. Examples of suppressed documents include: a) the contents of the First Presidency’s Vault; b) The Mark Hofmann forgeries that the church purchased from him, and; c) The Joseph Smith seer stones that were used to “translate” the Book of Mormon and receive many of the revelations in Doctrine & Covenants, and many others. [click here for supplemental evidence[click here for additional supplemental evidence]

37. Since 1959 it has suppressed its financial records in the United States and other countries where churches aren’t required to publicly disclose such records, thus eliminating full accountability in terms of how member contributions are used. [click here for supplemental evidence]

38. I Nephi 13:9 warns, “for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity,” yet the behavior of today’s LDS Church would suggest its core unifying principle seems to be “Image over truth always and in all things.” Could today’s Latter-day Saints be captives destroyed by their quest for the praise of the world rather than a peculiar people? [click here for supplemental evidence]

39. It contrives man-created “revelations” and claims that they are of divine origin. Two examples of this are Official Declarations 1 and 2 – one (OD-1) of which is essentially a policy statement in the form of a press release that addresses, “To whom it may concern” and the other (OD-2) which hints at a revelation but fails to produce it in any form within the actual declaration. [click here for supplemental evidence]

40. Hymn #292, “O My Father” acknowledges the LDS doctrine of a heavenly mother. Mormon leaders throughout history have confirmed this doctrine. However, Heavenly Mother is rarely discussed, is demonstrative of male bias within the LDS Church, and is illustrative of how the church deceives investigators and others. [click here for supplemental evidence]

41. It allows unsubstantiated “faith promoting” stories to run unchecked. Examples include Three Nephite sightings, attribution of magic protective power to temple garments, and falsely implying that all the apostles have been personally visited by Jesus. [click here for supplemental evidence]

42. It restricts distribution of the LDS “Church Handbook of Instruction Book 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops” (aka “Handbook 1”) to only the Bishopric level and higher. This eliminates transparent “bottom up” accountability enabling ecclesiastical abuse because lay members can’t confront local leaders and/or report policy violations to higher authorities for rectification. [click here for supplemental evidence]

43. Gospel Principles explains, “Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.” (see Chapter 31) yet LDS Church leaders mandate that Mormon History must always be presented to members (even privately) in a manner that’s uplifting and only presents the LDS Church in a favorable light – even if the resulting narrative is not true. [click here for supplemental evidence]

44. It deceptively claims to be “Christian” when in reality it has taken Christian words, terms and forms and then changed the underlying meaning and content to an extent that they’re no longer congruent with historic, mainstream, Christian orthodoxy. [click here for supplemental evidence]

45. When it claims, “No tithing dollars were used for this building or project – the funds came from for-profit, church-owned entities” it ignores and/or obfuscates the fact that the seed, start-up, or acquisition funds logically and ultimately came from member tithes – a fact which negates the original claim. [click here for supplemental evidence]

46. It wavers on whether its ultimate authority for doctrine is the Bible, Mormon scriptures, statements of former Mormon prophets, statements of living Mormon prophets, and individual “revelation” even though these sources are often mutually contradictory. [click here for supplemental evidence]

47. It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the role of high ranking church leaders in the massacre of 120 innocent people in 1857 at Mountain Meadows[click here for supplemental evidence]

48. It makes extraordinary – even outrageous – truth claims that are easily discredited by science, history, and the Biblical record.  For example: The genomics project has a vast body of DNA evidence that conclusively demonstrates that the American aborigines were from Asia not the Middle East; Those aborigines had already migrated and were well established in the Americas thousands of years prior to the alleged arrival of the Book of Mormon people, and; The Bible plainly states that the gospel, with its inclusion of Gentiles, was not fully revealed until after Christ’s death (see Ephesians 3:3-7). [click here for supplemental evidence]

49. It excuses, rationalizes, justifies, and white washes the crimes of its founder, famous members, and past leaders.  To cite just one of many such examples, polygamy was never legal whenever and wherever it was practiced by Latter-day Saint leaders and members.
[click here for supplemental evidence]

50. On August 17, 1949, the First Presidency of the LDS Church stated: “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord” Yet the LDS Church refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that until 1978 – as a point of official doctrine (not folklore, opinion, or speculative theology) and policy – the church taught racism and excluded blacks from the priesthood and temple. [click here for supplemental evidence]

51. It has used home teachers and the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” as a means of surveillance on and control of members. [click here for supplemental evidence]

52. It hypocritically claims that polygamy has no place in the contemporary LDS Church even though Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132) is still canonized scripture and “Celestial Polygamy” (being eternally married to at least one more woman after being widowed or divorced) is practiced. Currently, three widowed Mormon Apostles (Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson) are Celestial Polygamists. [click here for supplemental evidence]

53. It claims that the LDS Church is patterned after the early church of Jesus’ apostles, but there are major differences. To cite just one of many examples, Christ only had 12-apostles but the LdS Church has 15. [click here for supplemental evidence]

54. It rationalizes and excuses the sin, bad behavior, errors of judgment, and disastrous decisions of its prophets. They are buried, ignored, or ‘spun’ as “well-meaning human error with no need for apology or confession”. [click here for supplemental evidence]

55. It rationalizes away the revelations – even those that were fully canonized – of present or past “Living Prophets” that contradict contemporary LDS Church teachings and culture. The no-longer-in-vogue revelations are buried, ignored, or recast as “opinion not divine”. The “He was speaking as a man not a prophet” apologetic is typically used as the rationalization in these cases. Hence the critic’s couplet: “As heresy is, Mormon doctrine once was. As Mormon doctrine is, heresy will it become.” [click here for supplemental evidence]

56. It tolerates the chronic practice of eisegesis (injecting words and ideas into the text that the author did not intend, use or mean) by LDS Church Leaders as their standard hermeneutic in interpreting the Biblical, historical, and scientific record. [click here for supplemental evidence]

57. It rationalizes the failed prophecies of future events by past “Living Prophets” by burying, ignoring, or spin doctoring them as “just his opinion”, or as requiring more time for fulfillment. [click here for supplemental evidence]

58. It undermines intellectual integrity when, by following the example learned from LDS Church Leaders and Church Educational System (CES) curriculum  members engage in eisegesis as a lifestyle in all areas of life – not just scriptural interpretation but just about anything, and everything. Well known LDS Apologist Hugh Nibley is one of many examples of how this works: “…Nibley often uses his secondary sources the same way he uses his primary sources–taking phrases out of context to establish points with which those whom he quotes would likely not agree. I asked myself frequently what some authors would think if they knew that someone was using their words the way Nibley does…”
(Kent P. Jackson, “Review of Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies,” BYU Studies 28 no. 4 (1988), pp.115-17; also see http://lds-mormon.com/nibley1.shtml) [click here for supplemental evidence]

59. It uses the term “official doctrine” as a means of silencing critics and dissents even though there is no formal, codified definition for what constitutes “official doctrine”. [click here for supplemental evidence]

60. It tolerates an untenable situation whereby the canonization process isn’t officially defined or codified yet is used to deny past publications, prophetic revelations, and other utterances from past Mormon Leaders that are no longer in vogue. For example, despite the fact that the twenty-six volume “Journal of Discourses” contains General Conference addresses from 1854-1886 that were vetted and approved by the General Authorities at the time, they are soundly now rejected as “unofficial”. This despite Brigham Young’s assertion that, “I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . “ (“Journal of Discourses”, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95) [click here for supplemental evidence]

61. Alma 41:8 says, “Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.” yet the LDS Church keeps changing its scripture. Examples include the 1921 removal of the “Lectures on Faith”; the “Santa Biblia: Reina Valera 2009” which deviates wildly from both the source 1909 edition and the English LDS Edition of the Bible; the 2013 changes to all the English editions of The Standard Works; and the changes to the Book of Mormon that have been ongoing since 1830 – such as the 1981, post OD-2 change of “white and delightsome” to “pure and delightsome” in 2 Nephi 30:6. [click here for supplemental evidence]

62. It has failed to officially, publicly, and directly address the ever mounting discrepancies between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the archaeological, historical, theological, and scientific body of evidence. [click here for supplemental evidence]

63. It has failed to explain the incriminating consistency between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the empirical 19th Century, political, literary, cultural and theological record. For example, the Book of Mormon was so infused with 19th Century Campbellite doctrine and ideas that primitive Mormonism was referred to as “Campbellism Improved” by outsiders. [click here for supplemental evidence]

64. It has failed to provide an adequate, rational explanation for how Joseph Smith could “translate” the Book of Abraham from a set of Egyptian Book of Breathings papyri. [click here for supplemental evidence]

65. It has failed to reasonably explain how Joseph Smith could, via The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, append the Bible with “translations” of entire new books and chapters that have utterly no manuscripts backing them while simultaneously purging words, verses – even entire books – that are substantially supported by the extant manuscript base. [click here for supplemental evidence]

66. D&C 42:71-73 commands paid clergy: Saying in part, “they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services”. And while in actual fact the LDS Church compensates leaders via employment in church owned businesses, generous honoraria, stipends, grants, scholarships, gifts, company cars, free travel and lodging, housing and other non-cash contributions, in public it deceptively claims that “The LDS Church has no paid clergy”. [click here for supplemental evidence]

67. It hypocritically denounces those who claim to bring forth new scripture and revelations using the same methods and means that Joseph Smith did because they fail to conform to established LDS Church orthodoxy. This, while simultaneously criticizing the mainstream Christian Church for rejecting Mormonism because the revelations and scripture of its founder and subsequent “prophets” fail to conform to established Christian orthodoxy. One such example of this is Christopher Nemelka’s “The Sealed Portion”[click here for supplemental evidence]

68. It allows LDS Church leaders and the Church Educational System (CES), to distance themselves from the work of LDS Apologists so as – it is believed – to create a “plausible deniability” escape hatch should the work of said Apologists be discredited by more qualified, objective scholarship. Nevertheless, both cite from the work of LDS Apologists (albeit typically not credited) while allowing the LDS Church to quietly fund the work of said apologists through indirect cash flows. [click here for supplemental evidence]

69. It engages in political action via direct and indirect cash flows and privately exhorts members to organize and engage in particular causes and then publicly denies any involvement. California’s Propositions 22 (circa 2000) and 8 (circa 2008) are two cases in point. [click here for supplemental evidence]

70. It publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend: A study co-written by Cragun and recently published in Free Inquiry estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.
(Caroline Winter, “How The Mormons Make Money”, Business Week; July 18, 2012) [click here for supplemental evidence]

71. It has allowed LDS Church leaders to obfuscate, spin-doctor, and blatantly lie to the media rather than standing with integrity and bolding telling the world what the LDS Church really believes, teaches, and practices.  Such behavior should be denounced and condemned not tolerated, justified, or praised. One example of this Gordon B. Hinckley lying to journalists about the role and function of the Lorenzo Snow couplet within LDS Theology. [click here for supplemental evidence]

72. It fails to recognize the over sixty (60) active Latter Day Saint movement denominations (aka “splinter groups”) while hypocritically condemning the denominationalism of Christianity as a proof of apostasy and lack of divine legitimacy. This hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers that over the 180+ year history of the LDS movement there have been over 200 Latter Day Saint denominations in total with new ones forming at a rate will be eventually far exceed and outpace the total number of Christian denominations.  [click here for supplemental evidence]

THOUGHT CONTROL ISSUES
73. It teaches an irrational and subjective epistemological system while simultaneously belittling epistemology based on reason, objectivity, and empiricism. [click here for supplemental evidence]

74. It employs circular logic.  For example, consider its core truth claim: “The only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it’s the only true church.”  Another poignant example of circular logic is the infamous Doctrine & Covenants 9:8 “burning in the bosom” truth test that (in the vernacular) goes something like this:  “If you don’t get it, you did something wrong. If you do, that proves the church is true.” Further, when taking this test, you don’t ask God if the church is true, but rather to show you that it is true: “I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” [click here for supplemental evidence]

75. LDS Church Missionary training and policies employs Mind Control techniques and tactics. [click here for supplemental evidence]

76. It keeps members so busy with LDS Church related activities that they don’t have time for personal reflection and self-autonomy. This is especially true of men as the demands of lay leadership tend to deprive them of real, regular, authentic family time. [click here for supplemental evidence]

77. It erroneously asserts that former members didn’t leave the LDS Church for any thoughtful or legitimate reasons but rather that they were thin skinned reactive, malcontents who left the LDS Church because they wanted to sin with impunity, or because of a perceived offense. Stated plainly, this is a hypocritical double standard: It’s OK to be troubled by, doubt, criticize, and even leave other churches, but this one can’t be questioned or left. [click here for supplemental evidence]

78. It discourages intellectual self-autonomy and self-responsibility and encourages dependency on LDS Church Leaders. [click here for supplemental evidence]

79. It engages in Mind Control tactics and techniques in recruiting, indoctrinating, and retaining members. [click here for supplemental evidence]

80. The LDS Church denies being man centered or exalting – claiming that it only lifts up Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as worthy of its worship. Yet its Hymnal contains songs of praise and adoration that exalts both dead (#27 “Praise to the Man”) and living men (#19 “We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet”).  [click here for supplemental evidence]

81. It requires members to remain in a “snapped” psychological state in order to remain believing members. For example, when members encounter troubling facts about Mormon History and/or doctrine they’re either told to pray about it or “put it on the shelf”. This is called “Thought Stopping” and it’s a technique that Mind Control Cults use to avoid the rigors of logic, reason, and uncomfortable realities. [click here for supplemental evidence]

82. The Book of Mormon warns, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (2 Nephi 15:20) yet the LDS Church requires members to adhere to moral relativism, loose ethics, and intellectual dishonesty in support of a belief system that lacks ethical congruity, consistency, and integrity. Some of the most obvious examples of this are: The practice of polygamy and the rationalization of that past polygamy today; A failure to acknowledge and apologize for its pre-1978 institutionalized racism, and finally; The practice known as “Lying for the Lord” throughout Mormon History. [click here for supplemental evidence]

83. It hypocritically rails against sound logic and reason as “the hollow and vain philosophies of men, not God” and then hypocritically attempts to (albeit poorly and inconsistently) employ logic and reason in its arguments and rhetoric. [click here for supplemental evidence]

84. It poisons members who leave the LDS Church against all other Theistic religions. This is best illustrated by the cliché used by both members and former members that goes something like this, “If the Mormon Church isn’t true then nothing is true.” [click here for supplemental evidence]

EMOTIONAL CONTROL ISSUES
85. It damages member psychology via the use of manipulative fear and unachievable standards of “worthiness”. Sadly, this lament is all too common: “Of course I do [have a testimony]! That’s what’s so terrible. I know the gospel’s true. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I can’t do it all, all of the time.” (Stephen E. Robinson, “Believing Christ”; Ensign, April 1992) [click here for supplemental evidence]

86. Whereas, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young preached, “A good man, is a good man, whether in this church, or out of it.” (“The Lions of the Lord: A Tale of the Old West” by Harry Leon Wilson, chap XXVIII, par 2) the modern LDS Church engenders arrogance and self-righteousness in members by telling them that they’re more enlightened and morally superior relative to the general population – including other good people of faith. [click here for supplemental evidence]

87. It uses guilt as a means of controlling members. [click here for supplemental evidence]

88. It “love bombs” investigators and new converts as a means of drawing them in. [click here for supplemental evidence]

89. It uses arbitrary, capricious, and ever changing criteria for Temple Recommend “worthiness”. For example Brigham Young’s 1856 worthiness questions (also see this ByteLine article)  are almost completely different than the current set of Temple Recommend Interview questions[click here for supplemental evidence]

90. The Book of Mormon speaks of those who, “do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts …yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8: 36) Despite this the LDS Church culture engenders clannish, elitist, and pride in members via it a Temple, Priesthood, and oligarchical calling system that puffs member up rather than encouraging and rewarding humility. [click here for supplemental evidence]

91. It encourages arrogant, condescending pride in members at all levels by telling them that they “have the whole and restored truth” that “apostates” only have in part and “gentiles” lack entirely. [click here for supplemental evidence]

92. It teaches that a rape victim has “lost her chastity” and that a woman should fight off her attacker or be killed in the attempt.  For example, Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, in his book “The Miracle of Forgiveness” said, “far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” (p. 196)  Thus, young Mormon women are taught that their chastity is more valuable than their life. The result is that a Mormon woman who survives a rape is made to feel guilty, and is thus victimized again, this time by her church. [click here for supplemental evidence]

93. It bestows the title “Elder” onto adolescent men (typically 18-years old) with little to no real life experience, thus puffing them up with arrogance and deluding them with prideful ignorance. [click here for supplemental evidence]

LutherReformacion

Long live the Reformation!

94. It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics and those of other faiths. For example, consider how it trains its missionaries to speak of other churches:

“Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost. Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.”
(“Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service”; Official LDS Church Missionary Training curriculum, p.35) [click here for supplemental evidence]

95. It creates undue demands as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual stress and strain on members via all the above. [click here for supplemental evidence]

BACK TO TOP

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
— Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms

1521 THE DIET OF WORMS
by Eric W. Gritsch
A complex constellation of events and circumstances dominated Europe in the first two decades of the sixteenth century. The rediscovery and study of Christian and Roman culture, known as “renaissance” and “humanism,” called into question much of the contemporary Christian culture. Discovery and exploration of a new, nonEuropean world expanded trade and led to what was later called “capitalism.” The Holy Roman Empire, a symbiotic relationship between spiritual and temporal rulers—pope and emperor—was being threatened by a massive invasion of Muslims led by Turkish sultans. Moreover, the unity of Christendom was being imperiled by the fast-growing reform movement started by Martin Luther. In this turbulent era, the diet (assembly) held at Worms in 1521 was one attempt to preserve that unity.

Pressures for the Diet
Politics and religion had become strange bedfellows in Germany. The “Golden Bull” of 1356 had provided for the election of an emperor by majority vote of four secular and three ecclesiastical princes. Two years before the Diet of Worms, the elector Frederick “the Wise” cast the deciding vote in favor of Charles I of Spain to become Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Luther was Frederick’s subject; thus, when the papacy moved to silence him, Frederick insisted that his professor—a growing attraction at the University of Wittenberg, newly founded by Frederick—be heard on German soil and treated fairly.

As a result, Luther had a hearing before a cardinal in Augsburg in 1518, and he could debate the issue of papal authority at a well-publicized event at the University of Leipzig in 1519. He was also free, in 1520, to publish his ideas on church reform through bestselling treatises such as The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (a stinging critique of the hierarchical system of sacraments) and The Freedom of the Christian (the exposition of a Christian stance liberated from bondage to a church claiming to have an inerrant structure).

In 1520, Rome threatened to excommunicate Luther unless he recanted, but the Wittenberg professor refused to do so. The letter threatening excommunication was burned in a festive bonfire staged by faculty and students in December. Luther’s actual excommunication by papal bull in January 1521 only fueled the opposition to Rome. Under pressure from Elector Frederick and other princes, Emperor Charles V agreed to hear Luther at a German diet scheduled to meet in Worms in the spring of 1521.

Proceedings of the Diet
Rome hoped that the diet would reject Luther’s cause, thus easing the task of a general council of bishops, chaired by the pope, who would be dealing with the religious issues raised. Virtually all of Germany was supporting Luther. As the official papal representative to the diet, Jerome Meander, put it in his secret message to Rome, “Nine-tenths of the people are shouting ‘Luther!’ and the other tenth are crying ‘Death to the Roman Court!’ “

Luther appeared before the diet on April 17 at 4:00 P.M., after a triumphant journey from Wittenberg. Silence descended on the room where the diet was meeting. A representative of the emperor asked Luther to respond to two questions: Did he acknowledge the authorship of books that had been brought to the diet and bore his name? Would he stand by them or retract anything in them?

Luther asked for time to reflect before answering, and he was granted twenty-four hours. On April 18, 6:00 P.M., he gave his now-famous answer:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason (for I trust neither pope nor council alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have cited, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since to act against one’s conscience is neither safe nor right. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me.”

The next day, the 19-year-old emperor called Luther “a notorious heretic” who would have to be silenced. A rump session of the diet approved a condemnation edict on May 26. The edict called Luther a criminal who had committed high treason; it demanded the capture of Luther and his disciples; and it condemned the “demon in the appearance of a man” as the leader of a notorious heresy that must be exterminated.

In short, Luther was condemned to death, albeit in absentia, for he had been persuaded to leave Worms earlier. Elector Frederick arranged a “kidnapping” of the homeward-bound Luther and hid him at Wartburg, his castle in Thuringia. Luther stayed there until March 1522 when unrest drove him to return to Wittenberg.

Practical Consequences of the Diet
The Diet of Worms revealed two radically differing world views: Charles V, armed with the powerful weapons of ecclesiastical ban and imperial edict, embodied institutional authority; Luther stood for the Word of God as revealed in Holy Scripture, which promised freedom from all human bondage, including death. Luther summarized his view in two seemingly contradictory propositions: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” For Luther, faith in Christ frees humans from their human righteousness by binding them to the righteousness of Christ. Believers are subject to no human powers, although they are to serve neighbors in need as if they were slaves.

Luther’s dissent at Worms was a testimony to Christian freedom. Subsequent dissent has often been grounded in notions of human rights like freedom of speech. Luther might or might not have agreed with these notions. It is clear, however, that he clung to the ancient biblical mandate to honor no power other than the power of the Word of God.

Dr. Eric W. Gritsch is Maryland Synod Professor of Church History and director of the Institute for Luther Studies at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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“Luther at the Diet of Worms” by Anton von Werner (1877)

(reprinted from Church History #28

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by Fred W. Anson

Personally, I find it helpful to get the “Is the LdS Church a cult or not” discussion out of the arena of doctrine and theology. After all very often arguing doctrine with religionists ultimately always seems to come down to a “my opinion v. your opinion” stale mate.

So let’s see if we can put the question on a more objective, dispassionate plane.

Instead why don’t we choose to label “cults” based not on doctrine, but whether or not the group exercises the mental and sociological control elements common in cults and recognized by secular counter-cult experts.

There are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan. In his book “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” Mr. Hassan calls his mind-control model, “BITE“, which stands for “Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions.” This diagnostic model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer, Leon Festinger and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to any group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter. Here is the Steven Hassan BITE Model:1

“Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan

“Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan

BEHAVIOR CONTROL
• Regulation of individual’s physical reality
• Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
• Need to ask permission for major decisions o Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
• Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques positive and negative)
• Individualism discouraged; “group think” prevails
• Rigid rules and regulations
• Need for obedience and dependency

INFORMATION CONTROL
• Use of deception
• Access to non cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
• Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
• Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
• Spying on other members is encouraged
• Unethical use of confession

THOUGHT CONTROL
• Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
• Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
• Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
• Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
• Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
• Use of thought stopping techniques, which shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts o Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.
• No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

EMOTIONAL CONTROL
• Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings
• Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s
• Excessive use of guilt o Excessive use of fear
• Extremes of emotional highs and lows
• Ritual and often public confession of “sins”
• Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

Steven Hassan

Steven Hassan

BITE Anayses by Former Latter-day Saints
Mr. Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. Furthermore, since one aspect of Mind Control Cults is lying, deceit, misinformation, “spin” and other obfuscating techniques for hiding “insider” secrets, active members and official group resources (such as websites, tracts, and other public facing materials) typically only allow an investigator to see a false, friendly facade rather than true, harsh internal reality. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analyses that have been completed by former Mormons. I would politely suggest that these analyses answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

The BITE Model and Mormon Control
by Luna Lindsey (an ExMormon)
http://www.rationalrevelation.com/library/bite.html (retrieved 2012-09-25)

The BITE model applied toward Momonism’s two-year missionary program as submitted by an ex-Mormon
https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=372 (retrieved 2014-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism as submitted by an ex-Mormon https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=370 (retrieved 2014-08-09)

Below: Steven Hassan speaking at the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference in 2008.

NOTES
1 Steven Hassan, “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves”, Ch.2.  Also see http://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php.

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by Fred W. Anson
Well I’ve just found out that I’m an Anti-Mormon. Boy am I surprised!

It all started with Facebook. Some Mormon family members saw some things in my news feed that they didn’t like and BAM! just like that I’m an Anti-Mormon.1

Well since it appears that I’ve been judged, labeled, and pigeonholed I’ve got some work to do – some “heavy lifting” penitence for my “sin” if you will! Specifically I need to answer the questions – the really big ones – that I think every Anti-Mormon, like myself, shoud ask:

1) Who am I?
2) Where did I come from?
3) Why am I here?
4) Where am I going?
(and, of course, if you have a filmstrip that will help me in my search for happiness . . . ) 2

Who am I?
Well, I thought that I was a Mormon Studies Scholar specializing in Mormon History and Culture. After all doesn’t the dictionary tell us that a scholar is:

schol·ar
[skol-er]
–noun
1. a learned or erudite person, especially one who has profound knowledge of a particular subject.
2. a student; pupil.
3. a student who has been awarded a scholarship.

You see, studying Mormonism and interacting with Mormons and doing the same with non-Mormons involved in Mormon Studies is pretty much what I do, whenever I’m not doing anything else. It’s my passion. My joy. My calling. So I certainly qualify for #2.

#1, from what I’ve seen, always seems to be a matter of opinion depending on whether the work of the “learned or erudite person” is approved of by the person doing the assessment (“Yes, they are!”) or not (“What are you crazy? They’re clearly a hack!”). In my case I’m even “loopy” enough to publicly talk about and write on the results of my research with others. But apparently I’m no scholar since sometimes my work upsets people who disagree with it – especially True Believing Mormons. So that, apparently, automatically makes me an “Anti-Mormon” rather than a “scholar”.

However, I suppose I should take some consolation in the fact that in recent years I’ve heard the following people labeled “Anti-Mormon” by True Believing Mormons:

– D. Michael Quinn
– Grant Palmer
– Gordon B. Hinckley3

And oddly enough these are all believing Mormons! So apparently even being a believing Mormon doesn’t immunize one from being an “Anti-Mormon”. In fact, I’m sure that if queried these men would all declare (as they have) that they have a profound and love and respect for the Mormon people, culture and history – and I echo those sentiments. So how then are we all “Anti”? To me, it’s both illogical and irrational.

So I can’t help but wonder if this, “I’m upset because I don’t like what you’re saying so you must be an Anti-Mormon!” is a validation of that infamous quote:

“All too often [Latter-day] Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(“Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling; p. 115)

“Man’s Search For Happiness” (1964 Mormon Missionary filmstrip)

Where did I come from?
I’ve never been a Latter-day Saint but I’ve had Mormon family members and friends my whole life. I like them, I get along with them (at least I think I do), and I like to think that my main concern is my Mormon friends and family member’s best interests. Further, I can’t help but believe that what’s true for me is even more true for the distinguished gentlemen in the above list.

Never-the-less, I do have something else in common with all those men: I’ve criticized the LdS Church and suggested that all isn’t well in Zion. Yes, I have had the gall and the audacity to criticize “God’s perfect Church” and call it to account for I see as it’s deficiencies. In addition, I have this in common with all but one of them: Whenever I study and discuss Mormon History it’s always true rather than faithful Mormon History.4 And since I have been on a quest to acquire and speak truth my entire life, I’m not inclined to give that up.

You see, to me, to present the white washed, spin-doctored view of the LdS Church that’s presented to the membership and the public as well as limiting one’s self to the “Faithful” history pontificated by the Church Educational System is akin to lying via omission or commission. Now I’m far from perfect but to the best of my ability I speak the truth as I see it, as I understand it, and as it’s aligned with the best available evidence – if that makes me an “Anti-Mormon” in the eyes of some . . . oh well!

Why am I here?
So how in the world did I get here at all? To answer that question we must “rewind” to the passing of Gordon B. Hinckley . . .

A Mormon family member sent out a mass email praising him and expounding on the time that he shook his hand. The “hook” that got me was when this normally rational, logical relative used these words, “When I looked into his eyes it was if I was he and I were the only people in the room – it was if I were looking into the eyes of Christ himself.”

That was wake up call #1.

Then a few months later Mitt Romney drops out of the Presidential race on the same week that the Wall Street Journal publishes an article revealing that most Americas consider Mormon beliefs troubling and thus would have second thoughts about having a Latter-day Saint as President of the nation.

Apparently the Mormon Leadership sent out some type of communique to the Wards about this article and Romney’s departure from the race because that Sunday that same Mormon family member sent out another email about how Mormons are just normal, average people and how we non-Mormons shouldn’t persecute them for their faith.5

That was bad.

What was worse when someone else in my family (who’s not Mormon) immediately replied with words of comfort and reassurance ending with, “… after all we all worship the same Christ”6 I sat there stunned and realized that I wasn’t equipped to reply intelligently to either of these bright, intelligent, well read family members even if I wanted to.

So I resurrected my long dormant (it had fallen to the side decades ago due to pressure of finishing college, starting a career and raising a family) study of Mormonism and got to work.  Well to my shock and surprise I found that I had discovered a new passion: Mormon Studies.

I’m hooked.

My favorite Mormon Studies quote – and the one the epitomizes my philosophy and experience – comes from LdS Scholar Kathleen Flake who said:

Superficially, one thinks of revealed religions as providing answers, and Smith provides as many questions as he does answers. Nobody is exempt from struggling with who he is. Whether you’re an insider or an outsider, thinking about Smith causes you to struggle, and that struggle brings as much of you into the question as it does Smith himself. He’s a bit of a religious Rorschach test.
— Kathleen Flake, Historian 
(from the PBS Series “The Mormons”)

That quote matches my experience to a “T”. I have been changed, I believe for the better, through the craft and discipline of Mormon Studies – it touches on everything and it stretches you everywhere! It’s funny that way. Further, I just find Mormonism downright fascinating in and of itself – period.

So, yes, Mormon Studies has become my “thing” – it’s what I really enjoy and, frankly, I seem to be pretty good at it. So, for better or worse, here I am pursuing what seems to be a unique gifting and doing the best that I can to steward that gift well. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed, but whatever happens I just keep learning, struggling, growing, and stretching.

Where am I going?
In addition, I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad. After all isn’t that what happened to the Worldwide Church of God?7

falsely-accused-on-social-mediaHowever, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And that, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I’m find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.

I also know that time is on my side since the LdS Chuch keeps changing – and, it seems, usually for the better. Thus, I think that we will see a better more mainstream Mormon Church in 1-2 generations (that’s 40-80 years for those of you who are counting). That also means that I won’t be around to see it so I must be content to shoot arrows into the future via ideas carried on written words.

And you dear reader have just picked one of those arrows up. May I ask you to please carry it into the future for me? And if you do, on behalf of myself, my family, my Mormon friends, and my Mormon family members: Thank you!

And if anyone ever asks you where you got it from just say, “From some guy on the Beggar’s Bread website. I don’t know much about him – but I do know that he’s no Anti-Mormon!”

NOTES:
1 Now those of you have listened to the recent “The History of Online Mormonism: The Board Wars” podcast will know what I mean by “the problem of Facebook”, for those who haven’t here’s the short version: The great thing about Facebook is that it connects us. The problem is sometimes, those connections can be awkward (as any teenager who’s had their Mom friend them on Facebook will tell you!)

2 Yes folks, that was coded language. Link here (or see the embedded video above) to decode that great mystery!

3 Yes, believe it or not, some Mormons consider Gordon B. Hinckley an Anti-Mormon. When John Dehlin reported this in an early episode of Mormon Stories I didn’t believe it either. That was, until I saw this YouTube page – wow, just wow!

4 The best discussion of the differences between “True” and “Faithful” Mormon History is “Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History” Edited by George D. Smith which can be read online here or purchased from Amazon here. Marvin Hill’s Dialogue Article, “The ‘New Mormon History’ Reassessed in Light of Recent Books on Joseph Smith and Mormon Origins” (Dialogue volume 21, number 3, p.117) is also a good short overview.

5 Though I didn’t realize it at the time this was reflective of the infamous “Mormon persecution complex” which was described thusly in the first part of the aforementioned Mormon America quote:

“The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal ‘polyg’ police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(“Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling; p. 115)

6 Big topic. Controversial topic. However, I would encourage the reader to please consider the following articles from the critical perspective on this point:
What is the difference between the Mormon Jesus and the Jesus of the Bible?
Hinckley says Mormons Believe in a Different Jesus
The Biblical Jesus vs. the Book of Mormon Jesus
Is Mormonism Christian?: A Comparison of Mormonism and Historic Christianity
A Comparison Between Christian Doctrine and Mormon Doctrine
Differences Between Mormonism and Christianity

7 A portal page on the Worldwide Church of God’s transition to mainstream orthodoxy can be found can here. It’s a fascinating and inspiring story. If the LdS church will go this way is anyone’s guess but I holding out hope that the answer is, “Yes!”

(As originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on July 11, 2011)

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