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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

McCraneyism 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent firsthand experience served as a painful reminder.

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

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

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

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

Well, that was easy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon B Hinckley Lying

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

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

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

3 See Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:2

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

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

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

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

8 Another charge that he had angrily denied.

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

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

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

BACK TO TOP

“And they fell down before me, and were about to worship me, but I would not suffer them, saying: I am thy brother, yea, even thy younger brother; wherefore, worship the Lord thy God…”
— 1 Nephi 17:55

I was a Latter-day Saint for thirty years before becoming an Evangelical Christian in 2016. I was a faithful member who magnified his callings, served a mission, married in the temple, and held a temple recommend. I wrote a book defending LDS truth claims and debated Protestants in online forums, podcasts, and a couple of times in public.

I enjoyed being LDS, but there was one thing that always bothered me: the culture of prophet worship. For many years, my eyes were closed to it, but as time went on it became more and more unbearable. I remember sitting in a BYU Pathways class and a young man made a comment about one of the apostles working a pitiable job in his youth. Enthused by the idea, he said, “It just goes to show that the prophets and apostles aren’t that different from us, they could have worked miserable jobs or sinned… I mean, I’m sure they never committed any major sins, but…”

His comment got me thinking. Where had the idea that the prophets and apostles had not committed major sins come from? Wasn’t that what made repentance so great? You could be the worst sinner on earth, and repentance could transform you into a great apostle or a prophet. I thought of Alma the younger and the apostle Paul, who had anything but flawless pasts. Yet somehow, the LDS mindset no longer considered that a valid possibility for its leaders.

Near the end of my tenure in Mormonism, someone got up to teach a lesson in Elder’s Quorum about Joseph Smith. He started the lesson saying he was going to teach us 15 things about the prophet that we probably didn’t know. My interest piqued. I wondered if he would mention that Joseph had a gun the day he was killed, or that he married other men’s wives. However, as he plunged through the points it became obvious that only good things were being said. Thus the Joseph we were learning about was not a man, but God.

Assuming that Joseph really was a prophet, and his mission was to divert attention away from himself to God, I cannot help wondering what he would think about the young man’s comments in college, or the Elder Quorum instructor’s lesson that day. Furthermore, if he was a prophet of God, I cannot imagine any reaction short of humiliation from him at the sound of hymn 27, “Praise to the Man” being sung in church.

Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 says: For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.

In other words, hymns are prayers to God according to the Doctrine and Covenants. So instead of a hymn and an opening prayer, there are actually two opening prayers. One’s just set to music. That’s why I have a problem with hymn 27, and you should too. A song about a man does not qualify as a prayer to God, so every time it is sung in church an opportunity is missed to receive the blessings promised in D&C 25:12.

Singing “Praise to the Man” is more than a problem of simple opportunity cost. No matter how you slice it, the song is worshipful in nature, and since Joseph is the subject of the song, the worship goes to him. Consider the fact that if Jesus became the song’s subject instead of Joseph, the lyrics would largely remain true, and would certainly be worshipful.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Great, another fallacious argument that Mormons worship Joseph Smith”. However, that’s not quite what I’m saying. To be fair, Mormon don’t typically have Joseph shrines in their houses. I have never heard a Mormon say, “So and so really needs Joseph in their lives,” or “save us, Lord Joseph.” Nor do I consider singing hymn 27 as idolatrous as praying to saints.

However, we read in Exodus 20:3-5 that we are to have no other gods before God, for He “is a jealous God.” You may think that since Joseph was God’s prophet, reverencing him is a way to worship God, but I would caution you against that mindset. If a man had a servant, and his bride slept with that servant, that would not be honoring her husband. This analogy is especially applicable because the church is the bride of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 Paul says, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

I plead with you my friends, not to be taken by the subtle culture of prophet worship. When hymn 27 is sung, don’t sing along. In Matthew 6, we are taught that if our eye is single, our whole body will be filled with light. Immediately after, in verse 24 Jesus says no man can serve two masters, “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” If your praise and your hymns are directed at Joseph Smith, then your eye is not single to the glory of God.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
— Joshua 24:15 (KJV) 

In Christ’s Bond Service,

Michael Flournoy

Computer wallpaper promoting the 2005 LDS film, “Praise to the Man”.

Mormon Testimony, The King Follett Discourse, and Deuteronomy 13

“…if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you…” (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8)

by Fred W. Anson
The Mormon Testimony experience 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 and 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)

This testimony experience is derived mainly from two passages of Mormon scripture, the first is from the Moroni 10:2-6 from the Book of Mormon. It has been dubbed, “The Moroni 10 Formula” by some in Mormon Studies:

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.

And the second passage is from Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-9. It describes the infamous “burning in the bosom” that it’s believed should result from the Moroni 10 Formula if it’s applied correctly:

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

Now, 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” (the sensation that completes the total Mormon Testimony experience) 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 and wonder – I do not deny or denigrate that fact at all.

In fact, I would assert that Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (KJV) is about as good a description of The Mormon Testimony experience as you could hope for:

“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”

Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”

Perhaps the most interesting phrase in this Bible passage is, “And the sign or the wonder come to pass.” 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, “. . . saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them,”

God says (paraphrasing), “Regardless of what signs and wonders the prophet produce 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 what he does – it’s behavior and content, not feelings, signs, or wonders!

And in the case of Joseph Smith, nowhere was this call to “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” 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, again, clearly, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known.” As a result he was clearly a False Prophet, wasn’t he?

Therefore, the church that he founded is based on false revelations from a False Prophet. And we have been specifically commanded by God not to join an institution that holds to “other” gods, haven’t we?  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 21:7&8 (KJV) which says:

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

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

NOTES
1 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)

(The above article is excerpted and expanded from, Fred W. Anson, “Deconstructing Mormon Testimony Bearing”)

BACK TO TOP

by Michael Flournoy
Latter-day Saints take communion once a week in remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ as admonished in Luke 22:19 and Doctrine and Covenants 20:75. This is not, however, the only reason they take it. Mormons also take communion in order to renew their baptismal covenant.

This covenant, made at baptism, is a two-way promise that they will take upon them the name of Christ, bear each other’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn and keep the commandments. In return, God promises eternal life (Mosiah 18:8-9).

There are two schools of thought as to why Latter-day Saints need to renew their covenant. The first theory says the covenant is broken by sin. When I was LDS, I thought my sins canceled my protection and taking communion would renew the agreement, much like renewing my car insurance. Taking communion was absolutely essential, hence it’s common name among the LDS: the sacrament.

The second theory says the covenant is not broken by sin. Renewing Covenants is like renewing wedding vows, which means the original agreement wasn’t damaged in any way. Communion is merely a chance for Latter-day Saints to recommit to the Lord.

Both theories are deeply problematic for Latter-day Saints.

The Problem with “Wedding Vow” Communion
The most glaring issue with the covenant not being broken by sin is it makes the covenant unbreakable. Thus the promise of eternal life is assured, regardless of whether man keeps his part of the agreement. This falls directly in line with the Protestant view of eternal security, which Mormons oppose vehemently.

To enter the highest heaven, the Celestial Kingdom, a Mormon must have faith, repent of their sins, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and last but not least, endure to the end.

2 Nephi 31:16, in The Book of Mormon says: And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Doctrine and Covenants 14:7 says: And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

According to LDS scripture, we must endure to the end with our own might. There is no solace in the idea of an unbreakable covenant enduring on our behalf. The responsibility is placed on the shoulders of Latter-day Saints.

The Problem with “Car Insurance” Communion
I took communion weekly for 30 years as a Latter-day Saint. Whenever I partook of the broken bread I thought of Jesus. Though perfect, he was broken so that I, being broken, could be made whole. Every week I was damaged, and so was my covenant with God. With my covenant renewed by the sacrament, I was pure once again. Here’s how Mormon Apostle, Dallin H. Oaks explained this:

No one lives without sin after his or her baptism, however. Without some provision for further cleansing, each of us is lost. How grateful we are that the Lord has provided a process for each baptized member of His Church to be cleansed from the soil of sin. The sacrament is an essential part of that process. We are commanded to repent of our sins, to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and to partake of the sacrament. When we renew our baptismal covenants this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. We are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us.
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Renewing Our Covenants”, Friend magazine, August 1999) 

There is a paradox in “car insurance” communion. It is a way to repair our unworthiness, but at the same time, it is never to be taken unworthily. Many Latter-day Saints justify taking communion despite having sin in their lives. They feel that as long as they are not committing major sins, and are on the path to righteous living, they are worthy enough to take communion.

Alma 45:16 in The Book of Mormon, tells a different story. It specifies that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” In other words, God is not satisfied with improvement from the week before. If we show him our spiritual report card and it’s an A-, we are still unworthy in his sight.

2 Nephi 28:8 says: And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – he will justify in committing a little sin… The following verse calls this “false and vain and foolish” doctrine.

I was in an institute class one semester, watching a video about a drunk driver who killed a man’s family when the truth hit me: I had been judging the man for his depravity, and my own sins were just as vile. My sins were bad enough that Jesus had to die on my behalf! I realized that my righteousness was an illusion, and I had no right to judge anyone.

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV) states: As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

LDS President, Joseph Fielding Smith once said,

“The sacrament meeting is the most sacred and the most important meeting required of all the members of the Church. If any of the members are not in good standing; if they have in their hearts any feeling of hatred, envy, or sin of any kind, they should not partake of these emblems. If there are any differences or feelings existing between brethren, these differences should be adjusted before the guilty parties partake; otherwise, they will eat and drink unworthily and bring upon them the condemnation spoken of by Paul…”
(Joseph Fielding Smith, “Doctrines of Salvation”, vol.2, p.343)

The problem this poses, is if the covenant has been broken, and the partaker has any sin in his life, he has no right to take communion. In fact, the covenant can never be renewed again, because as 1 John 1:8 (ESV) says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The Good News
In some ways, LDS communion is a resurrection of the law of Moses. Under the law, ancient Israelites had to make a sin offering once a year to renew their covenant. The new covenant, however, is quite different. Hebrews 10:11-18 (ESV) says:

And every high priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting for that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them in their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

I wept the first time I took communion in a Christian church. It was my first time taking it without feeling guilty. The symbolism overwhelmed me. It was not an offering that I was making to God, it was the offering God had given me. The Lord’s amazing grace was upon me, forgiving me of my trespasses. Jesus was not waiting for me to come to his level, he was meeting me at mine, and granting me full acceptance.

I was the prodigal son, who had returned from feeding pigs in the mire. I was a long way off, but God ran to me. I was filthy, but he embraced me. I was estranged, and he put a ring on my finger. I was naked, and he put his robe on me. I was dead, and he brought me to life.

Rembrandt, “The Return Of The Prodigal”

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