Archive for October, 2014

Presbyterian 95 ThesesOn October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 theses or propositions against the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences – – the claim that for the right amount of money you could buy forgiveness of sins. Indulgences were hostile to the very heart of the Christian faith. Martin Luther challenged this practice from the Scriptures and called men back to the Bible and back to Jesus. In the spirit of that challenge, we present 95 theses against the claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We implore you to search the Scriptures to know what is true (Acts 17:11) and seek the real Jesus while He may be found.

1. Your god is not the God of the Bible, nor even truly a god. He is not the creator and sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16-17), but an exalted man or “super-man” who transformed eternal matter. Your god is more akin to the Norse god Thor than the God of the Bible.

2. On dedicating the temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon stated that the “heavens of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this house that I have builded.” (1 Kings 8:27) Yet, your god could have easily fit inside that temple.

3. The Lord, through the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:22, condemns the pagans, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. . .” Yet, you take pride that your god is man with a body of flesh and bone (D&C 130:18).

4. Even if your god existed, he would be pitifully small.

5. Jesus was God before He took a body (John 1:1). There is no similarity between God condescending to become a man, and a man exalting himself to become a god.

6. Your god is one among many gods, but the God of the Bible states, “ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8)

7. Your god had a father, who had a father. The Bible states, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6)

8. Your god had a wife. The Bible states, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.” (Isaiah 45:5)

9. You twist Psalm 82 to claim a multitude of gods, yet it does not say, “ye may become gods,” but “ye are gods.” Even your apostle, James Talmage, wrote that these are human judges (Jesus the Christ, p.501) who die like men.

10. Your god has not always been a god. Achieving A Celestial Marriage states, “God was once a man who, by obedience, advanced to his present state of perfection. . .” Psalm 90:2 states, “. . . from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

11. This concept of your god having to obey a law external to himself sets something superior to your god. There is nothing higher than the God of the Bible (Hebrews 6:13).

12. Your God is subject to human free agency, but the God of the Bible works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Those who crucified Christ were guilty, yet Jesus was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)

13. Joseph Smith in his “inspired translation” changed the Bible to remove the statement that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus. The Apostle Paul in Romans 9 confirms the reading in Exodus, contrary to Joseph Smith.

14. You claim that the Bible contradicts itself because it says that no man has seen God at any time. You ignore the context and figures of speech. The Lord “spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11), but it is only nine verses later that God explicitly states, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

15. You confuse seeing Jesus with seeing the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father (John 14:9), but there is a difference. Jesus, the Word, is God (John 1:1); “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. . . (John 1:14). Yet, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)

16. You confuse sentimentality with reverence, since you seek to rob God of His unique glory.

17. Your religion seems to be more focused on God as a means to your own glory, rather than us being the means of revealing His glory.

18. You claim we undergo a mortal probation to become a god, and yet Jesus already was God before his incarnation (John 1:1-14).

19. Because John 1:1 contradicted Joseph Smith, in his “inspired” translation of John 1:1 Smith tried to make the gospel rather than Jesus the focus. Nowhere in any of the thousands of Greek manuscripts of this passage do we find anything resembling Smith’s translation.

20. Jesus was worshiped by angels before His incarnation and was so holy that they had to cover their faces in His presence. (Isaiah 6, John 12:41) Yet you have reduced him to our elder spirit brother, along with Satan.

21. Since you believe that we all began as eternal intelligences, all that really separates us from Elohim and Jesus are time and exaltation.

22. Your god is limited in time, power, justice, holiness, love, and glory.

23. You assert that we existed before this world because God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee. . .” It is only because your god is too small that you cannot fathom a God who “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17) God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and Adam “became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:17)

24. You twist the words of Jesus and the apostles to claim that we can become gods. Christians will become like Jesus, yet God explicitly states, “Before me there was no god formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)

25. Isaiah 43:10 and 44:8 also debunk your idea that Jesus became a god at some later date. In the beginning, Jesus already was God (John 1:1), yet the Bible is also clear that there is one God.

26. You ignore what Christians really say about the Trinity and seek to portray it as modalism: one God playacting in three different roles. Christians believe what the Bible teaches: that there is one God, who exists eternally as three distinct persons. We do not believe Jesus was “talking to Himself” in His prayers, but speaking to the Father.

27. You claim there is only one god for this planet, but don’t you claim that Elohim and Jesus are different gods?

28. You are unclear whether Jesus is to be worshiped, and yet He and the Father are worshiped in the Bible by the people of this world.

29. Your god is not holy; he is the author of sin. He gave Adam two contradictory commands, so that Adam had to rebel against God to obey the command to be fruitful and multiply (2 Nephi 2:25). The God of the Bible does not tempt, much less command men to sin (James 1:13).

30. Your apostle, Bruce McConkie stated, “Properly understood, it becomes apparent that the fall of Adam is one of the greatest blessings ever given of God to mankind.” The Bible presents the Fall of Adam, not as a “fall upward,” but treason against God.

31. Our Creator declared all things good, except for man to be alone. When that was resolved, God declared everything “very good.” Adam, in his rebellion, believed things were not good and substituted his judgment for the revelation of God. Mormons agree with sinful Adam.

32. You trivialize sin. The Fall of Adam was not a blessing, but ushered in this world of rape, lies, murder, cancer, and death. Jesus wept over death, but you would have us believe the Fall that brought it a blessing.

33. Your God is the author of lies. He commanded Abraham to lie to Pharaoh (Abraham 2:24). The God of the Bible does not lie (Titus 1:2). Numbers 23:19 states, “ God is not a man, that he should lie. . .” You believe he is both a man and a liar.

34. You trivialize the effect of sin on us. Rather than working out our free agency, the Bible presents man as dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), and insensible to the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).

35. You see men as seeking after God, but God tells us, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

36. You characterize all those who disagree with you as presenting a cheap grace that does not involve repentance. This is as unfair as your critics refusing to differentiate between Thomas Monson and Warren Jeffs.

37. You equate regeneration and the new birth with water baptism and ignore the need for a new heart and new life.

38. You make salvation a matter of grace, only after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23) and ignore that even our best works are only “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

39. Since your god is not holy, sin is not that bad, and man is not lost, you do not understand grace as the unmerited love of God. Moroni 10:31 states, “. . .if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you . . .”

40. You ignore that we are not merely sick, but dead in our sins. The things of God are foolishness to us and cannot be understood. The gospel is not about God helping good people save themselves, but raising the spiritually dead to life and justifying the ungodly.

41. Joseph Smith in his “inspired translation” guts the gospel of grace by changing Romans 4:5 to say that God “ justifieth not the ungodly.” None of the thousands of Greek manuscripts of this passage support his reading. It also contradicts everything around it and the rest of the New Testament.

42. You are currently unclear as to what you believe about the cross. Your emphasis in the atonement used to be on Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. You present a moving target in terms of anything substantive in your teaching. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine has been allowed to go out of print, and no substitute has been offered.

43. You make salvation to mean only resurrection and ignore the reconciliation between God and man.

44. You claim that we are all spirit children of God by birth, but the Bible says that Christians are creatures who are adopted as children of God. (Ephesians 1:5)

45. Your claim that we all pre-existed as spirit children does not fit with what Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “If God were your Father, ye would love me. . . Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”

46. You equate godliness with the Word of Wisdom, not with true love for God as He is.

47. Your Word of Wisdom creates man-made traditions forbidding wine that God gave as a blessing (Psalm 104, Ecclesiastes 9) and part of the Lord’s Supper.

48. You ignore the biblical warnings of legalism, such as Colossians 2:20, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

49. You pride yourself against other groups because of the law of consecration, but do you practice it? Do your apostles and other leaders live the law of consecration?

50. You claim the three heavens are degrees of glory. You ignore the Jewish understanding to which Paul referred: the first heaven as the sky, the second heaven where the stars and planets are, and the third heaven (heaven of heavens) being the abode of God.

51. You think that you have a higher view of heaven, because you get to become gods, but you have to redefine the term god. The reality is that God promises far better to Christians. It is only because you don’t know Him that you think an eternity of His presence would be boring.

52. You promote James 1:5 as grounds to pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true. You ignore that the rest of the Bible contradicts this idea.

53. James 1:5 does not lead us to ignore “the Scriptures . . .[which] are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)

54. Trusting in the feelings of our hearts is contrary to God’s Word. Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Proverbs 28:26 states, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. . .”

55. You claim to believe the Bible “as far as it is translated correctly,” yet you dismiss arguments from the original languages.

56. You claim the Bible has been corrupted, yet ignore that it is the best authenticated ancient text and was sufficiently preserved for Jesus and the apostles to cite it as authoritative.

57. You claim that God has not preserved His Word in His church, but you believe He preserved it in a hillside and in a traveling Egyptian sideshow.

58. You believe your god preserved records for hundreds of years only to be thwarted when Lucy Harris stole the first 116 pages of translation. Rather than retranslating the same plates, Smith claimed he had to translate others that were similar.

59. You dismiss the Bible as authoritative since people disagree over it, yet there are over 200 groups who claim to follow the Book of Mormon, and they disagree about many, many things.

60. You assert contradictions in the Bible, but will not hear any response to your claims.

61. You are not a religion of any book, but of a man; and your prophets have contradicted themselves and one another.

62. You claim that the church lost its priesthood authority through a great apostasy. Once again, your God is too small. Jesus stated that all authority was given to Him in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18) and the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. (Matthew 16:18)

63. You claim that the church lost its priesthood authority, yet your concepts of priesthood and temples are hostile to the Bible. Solomon’s temple had nothing to do with celestial marriage or baptism for the dead, but offering sacrifices and worship to God.

64. Your temples are more rooted in pagan Freemasonry than in the Bible.

65. Your interpretation of “baptism for the dead” in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is hostile to the rest of the Bible.

66. Celestial marriage is not mentioned in the Bible, nor in the Book of Mormon.

67. You build temples made with hands and do not understand that the temple in Jerusalem was replaced with a temple not made with hands – – the church of which Christians are living stones. (1 Peter 2:5)

68. If your temple ceremonies came from God, why were they changed by men? Why do you no longer refer to Protestant ministers as “hirelings of Satan” and take oath to have your throats slit “from ear to ear”?

69. You argue that a true church has apostles, but ignore that the church did not have apostles in the Old Testament, nor did the apostles appoint new apostles, except one in preparation for Pentecost.

70. Your apostles do not meet the biblical qualifications. They are not witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

71. Your apostles do not have the gifts of the apostles. They do not have miraculous powers of healing the sick or raising the dead.

72. You falsely claim to be the fastest growing church in the world and think this proves the truth of your church. The false prophet Mohammed has 1.6 billion followers. Seventh-day Adventists trace their origins to the Great Disappointment in 1844 and the false prophet Ellen G. White; they have over 18 million members. The Assemblies of God traces its roots to the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 and has over 66 million members.

73. According to Deuteronomy 13, Joseph Smith was a false prophet because he declared a god different from the God of the Bible.

74. According to Deuteronomy 18, Joseph Smith was a false prophet, since he predicted things that did not come to pass.

75. Joseph Smith gave false prophecies, declaring the Second Coming of Christ in the generation of those alive in the 1830’s. Apostle Parley Pratt said in 1838, “Now, Mr. Sunderland, you have something definite and tangible, the time, the manner, the means, the names, the dates; and I will state as a prophecy, that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure overthrown, within five or ten years from this date, then the Book of Mormon will have proved itself false.”

76. The accusations of Joseph Smith’s false prophecies are based not merely on our reading of him, but your own general authorities. For decades, your prophets and apostles declared in General Conference that the generation alive in 1832 would see both the building of a temple in Independence, Missouri, and the Second Coming of Jesus.

77. The best claim you have to Smith’s prophetic gifts is Doctrine & Covenants 87. You claim that Joseph Smith predicted the American Civil War in 1832, but you ignore that this prediction was made in the midst of the Nullification Crisis, when the newspapers were speculating about civil war and President Andrew Jackson was threatening to invade South Carolina. The fact that these tensions eventually did lead to war does not undermine the other issues of false prophecies and declaring a false god.

78. Brigham Young taught over and over that Adam was God, but you dismiss this as not being canonized. He stated, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.”

79. Does it concern you that the prophet to whom you trust your souls and the souls of your children could be so wrong on who God is?

80. Your recent statements on the Book of Abraham seek to confuse the issues.

81. Decades before the rediscovery of the papyri, Egyptologists pointed out the errors in Facsimile 1, and these are the places where the papyrus was missing and images clearly drawn in.

82. You hold open the possibility Smith’s “translation” came from lost papyri. Did Smith not claim that Facsimile 1 came at the beginning of the record? Is not all the text connected with that image from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and has nothing to do with Abraham?

83. Doesn’t Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Grammar translate characters from the existing papyri into the Book of Abraham?

84. Your church lied about polygamy before 1852. Joseph Smith publicly denied that he practiced polygamy. (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411)

85. The original Doctrine and Covenants lied about the practice of polygamy in Section 101. Apostle and future prophet John Taylor publicly cited this to dismiss accusations of polygamy while secretly practicing it.

86. Though the original section 101, can be “spun” to allow polygamy (it does not say “but” one wife), it specifically prohibited a woman from having more than one husband. Neither Joseph Smith, nor Brigham Young obeyed this.

87. Your church lied about polygamy after the Manifesto in 1890. Polygamy was still secretly practiced by general authorities until the Second Manifesto.

88. Brigham Young stated at General Conference, “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110). Yet this and numerous revelations about Blacks have been relegated to the dustbin of LDS history.

89. Christians in the early church chose torture and death rather than compromise their faith, but the LDS church only had to be threatened with jail to give up polygamy. Jimmy Carter only had to threaten the LDS church tax status to spur a new revelation on blacks in the priesthood.

90. You display a double standard when others criticize you. You declare that you are “sharing” when you claim that God said Joseph Smith should join none of the existing churches because all their professors are corrupt and all their creeds are an abomination. When others respond to your claims, you accuse them of being “anti-Mormons,” or “Mormon-bashers.”

91. Your Scriptures state “Presbyterianism is not true,” (Joseph Smith – History 1:20), but you become upset when others state that Mormonism is not true.

92. You portray yourselves as victims, because Governor Boggs issued an extermination order if Mormons did not leave Missouri. Yet Governor Boggs’ took this language from a sermon by Sidney Rigdon, threatening non-LDS in Missouri with extermination.

93. You portray yourselves as victims, but Mormons killed far more non-Mormons in the name of religion in one day at the Mountain Meadows Massacre than non-Mormons have ever killed Mormons in the name of religion.

94. You insist that Brigham Young did not order the massacre, but he was clearly an accessory after the fact, blaming the Indians. After the massacre, the California Militia found the bones of the victims and gathered them together and placed stones over them. They placed a cross with a sign on top that said “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord; I will repay.” According to eyewitnesses, when Brigham Young found the monument, he supervised its destruction. According to your future prophet, Wilford Woodruff, in his journal, Brigham Young stated about the sign, “it should be vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.”

95. You have the wrong god, the wrong Jesus, and the wrong gospel. You have been deceived by false prophets who lie and tell you that you have peace with God by following them.

We say these things out of love for Christ, love for the truth, and love for you. Jesus describes the sincerely deceived in Matthew 7:21: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

We plead with you to search the Scriptures. You will find that God is far greater and more holy than the LDS believe. You will find that sin is far worse than you ever thought, but you will also find that Jesus is far more loving and glorious than you can imagine.

The Elders of Christ Presbyterian Church
A Congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Magna, UT
(801) 969-7948
http://www.gospelutah.org

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Graphic.OpenBible.16x9_Edited
An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Fred W. Anson
The Argument:
“The Bible says that my sectarian, partisan, non-essential doctrine is the only true truth!”

First A Little Background:
A few years ago I was listening to the audio recordings from a conference that was held in Utah to educate Christians on the differences between Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity. The vast majority of the presentations were given in a non-partisan manner that any Christian – even non-Evangelical Christians – could agree with. That’s because they focused solely on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith or simply on the actual text of the Bible itself.

But then there was this one . . .

While the conference was non-denominational and featured speakers from a number of groups, it was held at a Calvary Chapel. One of the speakers (the wife in a husband and wife team who were members of the host church) gave a presentation that, frankly, had me grinding my teeth. That’s because she would first give the Mormon position on something, then say, “But the Bible says . . . ” and proceed to spew pure Calvary Chapel dogma and jargon (most notably on eschatology and demonology) as if it were absolutely and universally held to by all Christians in the way that she was articulating it.

By the end of the presentation, I was so frustrated by such overt “in yer face” bias that whenever she said, “But the Bible says . . . ” I would just talk over her voice on the recording with my own, “But Calvary Chapel says . . . ”

Now on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith there’s clearly no “wiggle room”. In their case, please dear reader, by all means, say “The Bible says” all you like – I do. However, on the non-essentials isn’t it better to preface our statements with a more gracious and qualified, “As I understand it the Bible says” or “To me the Bible says”? If that dear but sincerely misguided sister had done so, I would have had no issues with her presentation and wouldn’t be using it as an illustration of how not to do it.

Why It’s Weak:
1) It needlessly buries the essential doctrines of Christianity underneath a pile of non-essentials.
Here’s a question for my fellow Christian readers: Do you know what the essential doctrines of the Christian faith are? Do you know what the non-essentials are? If you were asked to do so could you list them? Please don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if the answer to any or all of these questions is no – I didn’t have a good grasp on them when I entered Mormon Studies.  But boy, oh boy, did I learn them, and learn them fast – I had to in order to survive in this rough and tumble world where acrimony too often reigns supreme!

What was most helpful to me was Theologian Matt Slick’s primer on the subject where he explains:

The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith.  They are 1) the Deity of Christ, 2) Salvation by Grace, 3) Resurrection of Christ, 4) the gospel, and 5) monotheism.  These are the doctrines the Bible says are necessary.  Though there are many other important doctrines, these five are the ones that are declared by Scripture to be essential. [1]

(click for larger view)

Figure A: The Different Types of Essentials and Non-Essentials by C. Michael Patton (click on chart to enlarge)

Once again for emphasis, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith are as follows:

The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith
1) The Deity of Jesus Christ.
2) Salvation by Grace.
3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4) The gospel of Jesus Christ, and
5) Monotheism.

On these issues there is – and always has been – unity among Christians. Simply put if you’re not aligned with these Biblical essentials you and/or your group isn’t aligned with orthodox, mainstream, Biblical Christianity. As Mr. Slick goes on to explain, “A non-regenerate person (i.e., Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness, atheist, Muslim), will deny one or more of these essential doctrines.   Please note that there are other derivative doctrines of scripture that become necessary also and the Trinity being one.”[2]

Everything else is non-essential.  As theologian C. Michael Patton’s chart illustrates (see Figure A above) that’s not to say that the non-essentials are unimportant, it’s just to say that the Bible is silent, ambiguous, or unclear on them – or that they’re not essential for salvation.  Therefore, there’s “wiggle room” on them. We’re talking about things like:

  • Eschatology (how and when the end times will unfold, the rapture, the millenium, the role of Israel today, etc.)
  • Earth Age (young v. old earth creationism, etc.)
  • Bible translation preferences (King James v. modern translations, word-for-word v. thought-for-thought, etc.)
  • Ecclesiology (church government models, the roles of clergy and laity, are Apostles and Prophets for today, etc.)
  • Soteriological Systems (Arminianism v. Calvinism, etc.)
  • Demonology (can a Christian have a demon or not, teachings on various kinds of spiritual warfare, etc.)
  • Sacrament practices (wine v. grape juice, leavened v. unleavened bread, who can administer, etc.)
  • Modes of baptism (sprinkling v. full immersion, infant baptism, etc.)
  • Worship styles (liturgical  v. contemporary, hymns v. choruses, choirs, drums v. organs, etc.)
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues v. no tongues, cessationism v. continuationism, etc.)
  • Worship observances (Sabbatarianism v. Sunday worship, observance of special holy days, tithing, etc.)
  • Food and drink (consumption of alcohol v. abstinence,  kosher v. non-kosher food, etc.)
  • Various do’s and don’ts (tobacco consumption, playing cards, dancing, makeup, “acceptable” dress, movies, etc.)
  • Etc., etc., etc. This is far from an exhaustive or comprehensive list of Christian non-essentials – it seems endless at times!

On these issues there’s liberty. Christians can and will have legitimate differences of opinion and beliefs on them.  Thus for modern Christians, the words of 17th century Theologian Rupertus Meldenius still ring true today:

In essentials, unity;
In non-essentials, liberty;
In all things, charity

Or as Christian Theologian C. Michael Patton explains, “I often tell people that there are some things which I believe that I would die for; there are some things which I believe that I would lose an arm for; there are some things which I believe that I would lose a finger for; and then there are some things which I believe that I would not even get a manicure for.”[3]

2) It takes the focus off of the essentials.
Mormon Researcher Bill McKeever has a a great saying, “The gospel is offensive enough – let’s make sure we offend Mormons with what really matters!”  Arguing from dogma, preferences, and non-essential doctrine dilutes the message to Mormons that really matters, specifically:

1) Mormonism teaches another Jesus. Jesus Christ wasn’t the procreated son of God. He’s not an exalted man who acheived deification. He is, and always has been, God eternal. (The Deity of Jesus Christ)

2) Mormonism teaches another salvation – specifically that additional works (baptism into a church, temple ordinances, temple marriage, etc.) are all required for full salvation. Rather, the Bible teaches repeatedly that we are saved by grace through faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross, plus nothing. (Salvation by Grace)

3) Mormonism gets Christ’s resurrection mostly right but is still wrong. Thank you our Mormon friends for getting the resurrection of Jesus Christ mostly right! However, the teaching that Jesus by his resurrection assures immortality in some heavenly kingdom for virtually everyone not isn’t biblical, it’s universalist heresy. (The resurrection of Jesus Christ)[4]

4) Mormonism teaches another gospel. Paul told us plainly what the gospel is: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”[5] Mormonism requires works in addition to Christ’s atonement (by making observance of laws and ordinances a salvific issue) thus nullifying God’s grace and putting Mormons back under the law. (The gospel of Jesus Christ)

5) Mormonism teaches a form of henotheistic idolatry. The Bible is clear from cover-to-cover that there is one – and only one – eternal being known as God who consists of three co-equal, co-eternal persons.  The Bible does not teach that there is a plurality of gods, be they exalted, deified men or otherwise. In fact, the Bible repeatedly denounces such teaching. (Monotheism)

6) Mormonism follows a false prophet. And of course, since all the errant, unbiblical, and heretical doctrines above were introduced to the world by Joseph Smith, the Christian message to Mormonism has also first and foremost always been:  You’re following a false prophet!  While that’s not directly tied to the essentials of the Christian faith it’s still an important Biblical distinctive[6] and has always been at the core of Christian arguments against Mormonism.

3) Making non-essentials essential is a very Mormon thing to do.
Stop for a moment and consider this:  Mormonism specializes in making molehills into mountains and non-essentials into essentials.  There’s a reason for this: Because systematic theology is impossible in Mormonism, it’s also impossible to distinguish essential doctrines from non-essential doctrines.[7]

To cite just one of many examples let’s consider baptism.  Mormonism is absolute in its belief that getting baptized in the right way, with the right words, by the right person, into the right church is essential for salvation. Consider this from the official LdS Church website:

Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to receive eternal salvation. All who seek eternal life must follow the example of the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.[8]

In fact, baptism is so critically important in Mormon soteriology that Latter-day Saints make proxy baptism for dead folks (that is, the ones who got it “wrong” while they were alive) a major focus and priority. They consume countless hours and expend untold resources in this effort. Just notice how in the following excerpt from the LdS Church website the criticality of proper baptism for the dead is dogmatically stressed:

Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf.[9]

Yet, when one considers the Biblical record, baptism isn’t nearly as cut and dry – or even as vital – as Mormon doctrine makes it:

Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say that baptism is necessary for salvation is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus’ death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ payment for our sins is appropriated to our “account” by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation but cannot be a requirement for salvation.

Yes, there are some verses that seem to indicate baptism as a requirement for salvation. However, since the Bible so clearly tells us that salvation is received by faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), there must be a different interpretation of those verses. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. In Bible times, a person who converted from one religion to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he did not have true faith.[10]

Trust me, I have very strong opinions on baptism – how it should be done, when it should be done, etc. – and I’m pretty darn certain in my little mind that they’re utterly biblical and totally legitimate. However, I still qualify them as my opinion as such when dealing with Mormons because I understand that other Christians can have equally biblical, equally legitimate positions on baptism.   After all, I would much rather have them focusing on what really matters rather than whether someone should be dunked, sprinkled, or doused after they’ve accepted the gospel and made the decision to follow Jesus – wouldn’t you?

4) The argument unravels when and if it’s challenged by Christians who hold to equally valid positions.
This has happened to us all hasn’t it?  On more than one occasion when presenting an argument to a Mormon I’ve glossed poetic giving the logic, reason, and language of my church’s views on a particular non-essential of the faith. I’ve uttered the very words that gets the congregation nodding their heads in agreement and giving a hardy “Amen!” in our church.  I’ve been articulate. I’ve been clever. I’ve been witty.  I’ve been wise. And I’ve rested my case and sat back down smug and self-satisfied only to have some “loser” from another church or group say, “Really?  Well what about . . . ?” and then proceed to present evidence that demonstrates that’s there’s more than one valid view on the matter.  And so there I’ll sit, frowning with egg on my face while I watch while my beautiful and glorious “watertight” argument springs a leak right before my eyes (not to mention a worldwide audience). Yes folks, if humbling experiences build character then I must have a lot of character by now!

Curb Your DogmaIn the end, and to paraphrase and abuse an oft quoted Mormon colloquialism, “When your pastor has spoken all the thinking hasn’t been done!”  I know you love your pastor – I love mine too; I know you love your church – I love mine too, and; I know you think you’re absolutely, positively right in your theology – so do I.  But the fact remains that on the non-essentials there are a lot of good, thoughtful, valid positions out there. Getting too dogmatic on them will only get you in trouble in the marketplace of ideas and make you unpleasant to be around. If you do it too much, you’ll simply be ignored. And like I said, that egg on the face thing has happened to us all hasn’t it? So, perhaps when it comes to the non-essentials we would all do well to “curb our dogma”.

5) It reinforces the Mormon Great Apostasy dogma.
Most Mormons think, and the LdS Church teaches, that all Christian churches other than theirs are a big ball of confusion. Consider this from the official LdS Church website:

During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ.[11]

Public bickering in front of Mormons on non-essentials just validates and reinforces this stereotype and prejudice.

Further, watching Christians do their “in house” debating over non-essentials on Mormon discussion boards is what some (manipulative) Mormons live for. I’m an administrator on several Mormon themed discussion boards and I have seen more than one Mormon deliberately bait the Calvinists to get them arguing with the Arminians (or vice versa) simply so they can sit back and watch the Christian fur flying and get the heat off of the errors of Mormonism.  They love it because the spatting, hair pulling, caterwauling cat fight the Christians are giving to a worldwide audience is something that they can point to and (incorrectly) say, “See what I mean? Mormons never bicker like this! We have a living prophet to guide us! We have unity, peace, and serenity in our church! We’re homogenized and boring – and we love it that way!”

The Stronger Arguments:
Normally at this point in the articles in this series we provide a series of suggested arguments to use instead of the weak argument that was originally presented.  However, this article is really more of an introduction to an overall problem that we see in weak arguments that Christians regularly make – just go onto a Mormon themed discussion board on Facebook after you’re done reading this and within minutes you’ll see what I mean.

Coming articles will echo this article in that we will present some common weak arguments that we’ve seen regularly that fall into the general category of arguing dogmatically over non-essentials.

That said, it should also be said that strong arguments against Mormonism are always rooted and grounded firmly in the essentials of the Christian faith.  Specifically, strong arguments will always be some variation on the themes we introduced earlier in this article:

1) Mormonism teaches another Jesus.
2) Mormonism teaches another salvation.
3) Mormonism gets Christ’s resurrection mostly right but is still wrong.
4) Mormonism teaches another gospel.
5) Mormonism teaches polytheism.
6) Mormonism follows a false prophet.

Like the notes in a musical theme these six points can be woven into a seemingly endless array of strong, persuasive arguments. Use them skillfully and creatively and your arguments against Mormonism will be as moving as a Mozart symphony. But if you deviate too far from them, we’re talking Spike Jones.

in-essentials-unity-in-non-essentials-liberty-in-all-things-charity-43988

NOTES
[1] Matt Slick, “Essential Doctrines of Christianity”, CARM website. While Mr. Slick’s article is an excellent short vernacular primer, C. Michael Patton’s “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell” article is the better resource for those seeking a fuller, more nuanced understanding of the subject. Finally for those who find Mr. Slick’s outline format a bit too cryptic and Mr. Patton’s article too long should consider the short but insightful “What are the essentials of the Christian faith?” article on the “Got Questions?” website instead.

[2] Ibid, Slick

[3] C. Michael Patton, “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell”, Credo House website

[4] Yes, Mormonism gets this one mostly right – let’s give some credit where credit is due. Never-the-less, Theologian Rob Bowman of the Institute for Religious Research (IRR) explains how and why Mormonism still manages to get the resurrection of Christ wrong:

According to the LDS Church, Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees resurrection to immortal life for practically everybody—Christian or not, moral or not—in one of three heavenly kingdoms. (The only exception are the “sons of perdition,” incorrigibly evil people that include some ex-Mormons.) We cannot discuss the three Mormon heavenly kingdoms here, but the Bible is clear that the wicked will be resurrected only to face, in their bodies, their condemnation to eternal punishment (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 10:28; 25:46; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). They derive no benefit from Christ’s atoning death. Only the righteous “in Christ”—those who belong to Christ—will be made alive and given immortality (1 Cor. 15:22-23, 53-54).

Finally, although the LDS Church affirms that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven and will return bodily to the earth one day, it wrongly claims that Jesus has visited the earth bodily on other occasions between his ascension and second coming. The Book of Mormon claims that Jesus visited the Nephites in the Americas several separate times, destroyed whole cities of the wicked, preached to the righteous, and formed a church for them. In the First Vision story, Joseph Smith claimed that Jesus (and God the Father!) appeared personally to him to instruct him to join none of the existing churches. These LDS claims may seem innocent enough, but their significance is that they call into question the sufficiency and, ultimately, the reliability of the New Testament revelations of Jesus Christ.
(Rob Bowman, “The Mormon View of Jesus Christ: The Bottom-Line Guide to Mormonism, Part 5”, IRR website article)

[5] 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (New International Version)

[6] Please consider Deuteronomy 13:1-5 in light of this which says:

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
(New King James Version)

[7] Systematic Theology is impossible in Mormonism because any established theological system or doctrine within that system can be overturned at any time via a new revelation from the current “Living Prophet”.  The latest example of this is Official Declaration 2 which overturned long standing doctrine which banned Negroes from holding the Mormon Priesthood.  Due to the Mormon doctrine that new continuing revelation from the Mormon god can contradict his past revelation(s) no Mormon doctrine is safe from such potential action. Mormon history is rife with examples which BYU Professor Charles Harrell has done a masterful job of documenting in his two-volume, “This Is My Doctrine” book series. (link to Amazon pages for these titles: Volume 1; Volume 2)

Hence the saying:
“As heresy is, Mormon doctrine once was.
As Mormon doctrine is, heresy will it become.”

[8] Official LdS Church website, “Topics: Baptism”

[9] Official LdS Church website, “Topics: Baptisms for the Dead”

[10] “Got Questions?” website, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?”

[11] Official LdS Church website, “Apostasy”

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Mormon Doctrine Large_Edited

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Bobby Gilpin
The Argument:
“I know what you believe, because Brigham Young, Bruce R. McConkie or some other general authority said…..”

Why It’s Weak:
In making this argument you are assuming the beliefs of an individual you have likely only just met. This is never a good thing to do. If you’re an LDS member with any experience of speaking with Evangelicals, or any other critics of Mormonism before, you have likely had a discussion like this before.

Beheld-Virgin-Bearing-AD

Scenario One
Critic You deny the virgin birth don’t you?
LDS No, as a matter of fact I don’t, please let me explain to you my belief on this.
Critic I don’t need to hear it, I have a great quote from Brigham Young when He says the birth of Christ was as natural as anyone else’s.[1] I know what you guys believe.
LDS As I said that is not my view, would you please let me explain my view on this?

This far from only applies to Brigham Young quotes. Lets try another – one that I have personally experienced and learned from by my mistakes:

Scenario Two
Critic Ah, so you’re a Mormon. Well I think it’s totally heretical that you believe God was once a man.
LDS As a matter of fact I don’t believe that either. As Moroni 8:18 and Psalm 90:2 say, God has always been God.
Critic I ‘m sorry but I think you’re just being dishonest, Joseph Smith taught this in the King Follett Discourse, so you must believe it.
LDS There are some renderings of Joseph Smith’s sermons that seem to suggest this. I’m not too persuaded by them as these are not scripture. Would you please let me explain what I believe.

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

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

1) Point One.
We as evangelicals often have this notion that Mormons are all brainwashed and are in some big mind controlling cult, where they all believe the exact same thing – that they would never dream of questioning anything that their leadership says. This is not the case, there is a mass diversity of views within the LDS Church, some people take everything the general authorities say literally, some do not.

It’s always worth bearing this in mind when conversing with LDS people. Some are of the view that if it’s not in the Standard works, then it’s not binding; some may take a lot from the likes of Bruce R. Mcconkie and his book, “Mormon Doctrine”; some may look to James E. Talmage and his writings; some may take closer stock of Gordon B. Hinckley. It often depends on when they grew up or developed their faith.

2) Point Two.
This does not, for a second, take away the validity of your arguments against the teaching of Mormon leaders. What it does mean is that you need to word your argument a little differently. Rather than saying, “I already know what you believe Mr./Ms. Mormon”, instead say: “Here is what your leaders have taught, can we talk about it?”

3) Point Three.
You will inevitably come across the issue of what is official doctrine in the LDS Church. This is a question that no one really has an answer too, LDS or not. And can be a bit of a red herring in discussions. I could not possibly put forward a response to this that’s better than what Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries has done here – this is well worth a watch.

The Stronger Arguments:
First Suggested Strong Argument:
So with all this in mind lets try that first scenario again.

Critic Do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?
LDS No, as a matter of fact, I don’t. I affirm what the Bible says that Jesus was born without an earthly parent.
Critic Could you explain what you mean by an earthly parent?
LDS As a latter-day Saint I do not accept the idea that the Holy Ghost somehow “overshadowed” Mary then making her parent – no child is ever born this way. I believe that Jesus was a literal son of His Heavenly Father, and thus in the way that we would usually understand a birth to occur, Jesus was in fact born of a virgin. Bruce R. McConkie said this:

“For our present purposes, suffice it to say that our Lord was born of a virgin, which is fitting and proper, and also natural, since the Father of the Child was an Immortal Being”
(Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, pg. 466)

This sums it up well for me.
Critic Thank you for explaining this. This to me still very much sounds like Jesus was not actually born of a virgin if you are saying that Heavenly Father impregnated Mary naturally.
LDS I guess we define virgin birth differently then, but this is my belief.

(Quick disclaimer: I know this last paragraph does not represent all LDS people – however it will some. It’s more the style of conversation than the content that I am attempting to model here.)

Do you see the difference? Rather than presuming what the Mormon believes, you ask, and then in the ensuing process you get them to tell you their view so you can discuss it from there. More often than not you will still have plenty of places to go with that based what the LDS person says. And sometimes you will even speak with a Mormon who is very “Evangelical savvy” and will give answers that sound identical to your view. That’s where the second stronger argument comes in.

Second Suggested Strong Argument:
While it is not good to make the assumption that Mormons believe something on the basis of a Mormon leader saying it, there is still a lot of ground for discussion on the back of what Mormon leaders have said. Lets try my scenario two again.

Critic Ah so you’re a Mormon, well I think it’s totally heretical that Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man, what is your view on this?
LDS As a matter of fact I don’t believe that. As Moroni 8:18 and Psalm 90:2 say, God has always been God.
Critic I appreciate your response, its good to know that LDS people can look past some of these statements and hold onto the truth about God. But is it not then an issue to you that people who are modern-day Prophets and Apostles are clearly teaching falsehoods about God?
LDS I don’t see LDS leaders as infallible, they are men and sometimes speak as such.
Critic That does not seem to measure up with the teachings of your church. For instance the 2013 LDS Manual, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, said this:

President Snow later recalled, “the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me. …

“As man now is, God once was:
“As God now is, man may be.”

Feeling that he had received “a sacred communication” that he should guard carefully, Lorenzo Snow did not teach the doctrine publicly until he knew that the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught it. Once he knew the doctrine was public knowledge, he testified of it frequently. [2]

Critic It seems that one of your Prophets saw that as a sacred communication, if he is the one with the authority to speak for your church, and this was reprinted in 2013 by your church, where is your authority to say that this is wrong?
LDS I guess I have no authority to say that this is wrong, I just don’t believe it.
Critic Ok I respect your view, however this seems to be what your church teaches, can we please focus on that as I see some massive issues there.

Dallin H Oaks Tweet

LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks’ tweet of September 26, 2014 regarding the upcoming Fall General Conference. (click to zoom)

Again not all LDS people will respond this way. Many LDS people will simply affirm that God was once a man, stop there and go no further. It’s more in LDS apologetic circles today where it’s being completely denied that it ever was or still is doctrine. But the point here is that while an LDS member may not believe what their leaders have taught on an issue, that does not change the massive issue that their leaders have actually taught it or that it’s still taught in current church manuals.

LDS Missionaries all over the world are knocking on doors talking about how amazing it is that they have a Prophet in their church that brings revelation today. So it’s not sufficient for LDS members to simply shrug off their Prophet’s statements past and present in discussion.

The fact is that those prophets have taught so many problematic things – such as Adam being God, black skin being a curse, and so many more issues – that there’s massive ground for discussion. Don’t just assume that the person you are speaking too holds this view, whatever it may be.

In fact, just this week Dallin Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “tweeted” that they only say what the Spirit directs them to say at general conference, that’s well worth noting for these discussions.

So in conclusion there is massive ground for discussion with LDS members. There are so, so many areas that you can discuss with them, challenge them on, and help them to know who Jesus really is and what His grace really means. Just don’t assume because you may have read a book about Mormonism, or read some quotes somewhere that you know where any given Mormon comes from on that issue. Ask where they are coming from and then take it from there.

NOTES
[1] “The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood – was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers” (Brigham Young, July 8, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:115).

[2] Official LDS Church Manual, “Teaching of the Presidents of the Church”, Chapter 5: The Grand Destiny of the Faithful 

This article originally appeared on the Mormonism Investigated UK website.
Beggar’s Bread wishes to express it’s appreciation to the author and this website for allowing us to republish it here.

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