Archive for August, 2020

Shawn McCraney Doesn’t Understand Contradictions

by Isaac Farley
This article has taken an unusually long time to write – even for me, someone who hasn’t updated his supposedly monthly demonology series in nearly 12 months. The reason for my delay is that this is a monstrous topic and I’ve found myself doing way more research than intended and I wanted to include more detail than what has made it in but several rounds of editing have put this thing on a diet.

Origin story
I was casually reading over Facebook one morning before work when I came across a post in a Utah Christian group. The post warned members about a new “Shawnite tactic” whereby using a website called CheckMyChurch.org McCraneyism was aiming to cast doubt on the validity of different mainstream Christian congregations. I started looking into the website. My first thought was that, given his post-2013 track record, if it was associated with Shawn McCraney it was going to be a complete mess!

Well, it turns out that in one of his webcasts, McCraney made an off-handed comment about how there should be a website that rates of all congregations as good or bad based on his standards of what qualifies as a good church. One of his followers, a woman by the name of Sarah Young took his comment to heart and has started this website that is in question. Young claims to be doing “unbiased and biblical reviews” but it doesn’t take much to find that none of this is true. The framework by which she is rating churches is McCraneyism a sub-biblical-at-best and the false doctrinal system taught by McCraney at worst. Moreover, and on top of that, this women doesn’t even visit the congregations that she is rating. Seeing the clear problems with this tactic I had a fun idea to do a “church check” on the “church” that Young associates herself with – Shawn McCraney’s church, C.A.M.P.U.S. But first I took the egalitarian move of requesting that CheckmyChruch.org review the congregation that I myself attend: Living Faith Discipleship Community, in Ogden, Utah.

Flawed Methodology and Broken Theology
The “Quick Check” review of my congregation went online in early May (editor’s note, a full review was later published on the CheckMyChurch website in August 2019) and I will not directly be responding to it here. Rather I will be discussing Ms. Young’s methodology as a whole and interacting with an exchange we had in the comments of her review. You can read my full comments to Ms. Young here. I will simplify it here for the sake of word count.

A March 5, 2019 screenshot of the CheckMyChurch website “About Us” page that directly links them to Shawn McCraney’s Church C.A.M.P.U.S. As you can see, they even go so far as to promote their church here. This information was deleted from the page after word got out that CheckMyChurch was, in reality, nothing more than a Shawnite initiative to impose their flawed, unbiblical ecclesiology onto other churches.

Me to Young
‘I didn’t physically attend the […] service at Living Faith Discipleship Community’”

Stop. This should be your whole review. How can you “review” something you know nothing about and have never experienced?

Let me review the next Avengers movie for you but I haven’t actually seen it I’m only going to quote reviews I found online. Nonsense.”

Young to Me
“What more could I possibly do besides physically attend an entire service..”

Oh, by the way,  it’s my understanding that according to Ms. Young’s most recent newsletter to CMC subscribers that she finally has left her home for one of these reviews. Good for her, this is an improvement in methodology. If she keeps it up will remain to be seen. Let’s hope that she does.

Now, remember there is a lot of context around her above comments. Please go read the whole exchange. Again, here is the link to it.

In the end, knowing that I was in the process of writing this review I did not reply to Ms. Young’s comment because I didn’t need a pre-emptive flame war. I know for a fact that she will find this post and for that reason let me share what I would have said to her then if the situation had been different:

Me hypothetically and rhetorically to Young
(again, this is what I was tempted to say at the time but didn’t – so I’m saying it now)
Ms. Young you are propping yourself above everyone else, acting like you are the sole arbiter of truth, you presume that you know better than anyone else what makes a church biblical and not.

Your ego is large and for that, I’d expect you to have the common courtesy to walk in the building before you wash your hands of it. It seems to me that God always sent the prophets to places that need truth (eg Jonah and Nineveh). If I was to write a review of C.A.M.P.U.S. my starting point would be walking up to Shawn McCraney, shaking his hand and introducing myself.

And that’s exactly what I did on Mar 31, 2019.

The Check
The remainder of this article is format to match, as closely as possible, how Ms. Young does her CMC reviews in order to maintain an even playing field as well as an equivalent methodology. 

WEBSITE REVIEW
Logging on to the C.A.M.P.U.S. website, I was able to navigate to the bottom of the page and find the address and service times. This is all I needed from the website and will not need to go into as much detail as someone who is only, essentially, reviewing church websites.

THE MEETING
It feels very strange to be writing an article criticizing Shawn McCraney because I once looked up to him as a pastor figure. I used to regularly watch him on television back in the day. Most of what I know about Mormonism came from the original Heart of the Matter program. In fact, way before there was a WalkingChristian.com I was a contributor to a now-defunct website known as SCAEMinistries. The first article I wrote for them covered was “A Critique of Mormon Cosmology” which was largely based on what I learned from Shawn’s TV program.

I was watching when he got kicked off the air for criticizing the Evangelical Church. Then I kind of forgot about him for a time and was reminded of him when Dr. James White (my favorite Calvinist) on his webcast commented on a scandal that had been going on right under my nose. Shawn McCraney had come out publicly and denied the doctrine of the trinity. After debating many real theologians, apologists, and people who care about Shawn he kept going down the same wrong road and found himself way out in the spiritual wilderness. Today he holds to unbiblical teachings – up to and including the heresy of modalism – and is, therefore, a false teacher. (very detailed links provided below).

When I made it down to C.A.M.P.U.S. meeting hall Mr. McCraney was the first one to pull up and I immediately walked up to his car. I offered him my hand and said “You’re Shawn. I used to watch you on TV. I’m Isaac and I came down to check your church.” We talked for a brief moment before entering the building.

OBSERVATIONS
Upon entering and grabbing a coffee and a bagel I talked with a few of the congregants for about 20 minutes. One of the members is openly bisexual and continuing to engage in this blatantly immoral behavior relative to the sexual ethics taught in the Bible. Several C.A.M.P.U.S. members told this person they were proud of their decision.

Meanwhile, off in the corner, Shawn was talking loudly with other members about how he had gotten drunk that Saturday night and “drunk texting” people. Getting drunk is a sin (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20; 29–32; Isaiah 5:22, Ephesians 5:18) and pastors are called to a higher standard (James 3:1).

Another member told me she loved C.A.M.P.U.S because it was an accepting place to be she said she looked at many denominations and couldn’t accept their “Patrichal bull ****” (her words) and finally closed with “I absolutely will not and could never be part of a church that doesn’t accept homosexuality.”

Everyone was very nice and easy to talk to and you could tell their (over) emphasis on love is genuine and that they intend well. When it was time for the service I sat down with coffee in hand.

Worship Service
Mr. McCraney introduced the service and welcomed the first time guests, me and my associate included. Then they launched into the worship segment, for which they play a pre-recorded song that is simply the words of the day’s passage set to music. So, for example, if the passage for consideration on the day is 2 Corinthians 13 – which in this case it actually was – they will listen to the chapter sung to music three times and have a moment of silence to reflect on its meaning before the sermon is preached. I actually thought this was really great, all things considered. It’s no secret that I am a fan of a certain Christian movement that started in China and this practice of scripture-hymns reminded me a lot of prayer-reading as observed by the Chinese believers.

Let me just say as an aside, just because a false teacher or controversial personality originates a practice doesn’t mean the practice is necessarily false, that is the genetic fallacy. So even if Mike Bickel of the International House of Prayer, Witness Lee (founder of the Local Church Movement), or Shawn McCraney teach prayer-reading or scripture-hymns doesn’t mean it’s a fruitless practice. And I thought this worship method was actually pretty cool.

Sermon
Oh boy, this has been one of the most complicated things I’ve ever had to write. On the way back home after our visit, my associate and I attempted to untangle McCraney’s muddle mess of a sermon we just had the displeasure of sitting through. The only thought running through my head was “Shawn McCraney doesn’t understand the law of non-contradiction.” McCraney is like someone who went through brain surgery and had the two halves of his brain disconnected, one half controls one side of his mouth and the other side controls the rest of his mouth and they both try to speak at the same time. His views make no sense when you try to use them to build a house on the rock – the pieces do not fit together and I can’t understand how he and his followers cannot see this.

Imagine my sense of vindication when I went back and looked at the actual scholars who have interacted with and tried to correct Shawn have noted the same thing that I did. Dr. James White, for example, provides these comments in an episode of Radio Free Geneva from September 20, 2018, @10:39: “I mean there’s a huge amount of confusion in Shawn’s teaching there’s no question about that but … To use the word ‘confused’ for Shawn McCraney is the understatement of the century.”

Or consider this comment from a former follower of Shawn known as “Brother Thomas” shared this insight in a series of blog articles on his direct, first-hand experience, at C.A.M.P.U.S.:  “The bottom line of the whole thing is that Shawn wants to be able to teach whatever he feels like at any given moment, call it ‘real’ Christianity . . . and never have to answer for it.” (Brother Thomas “Brother Thomas” blogsite, February 13, 2015)

Before I interact with his sermon I think the greatest contribution that I could possibly make on this topic, is to try and explain to Shawn and all his potential followers what exactly the law of noncontradiction is. Please know I’m not a professional philosopher unlike my colleague Gil Sanders. So I am a dummy trying to dumb this down even further. Here we go.

An amusing, real-world example of the confusion and insanity that ensues from violating the Law of Non-Contradiction.

A contradiction is a term used in the study of logic to describe hypothetical situations when two opposing things are true at the same time and in the same way. For example, if it is raining in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 and it is sunny with a high of 99 in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 cannot both be true at the same time. There is no possible way. In the same way, the old question can God (who is all-powerful) make a rock so big He can’t lift it. This is a meaningless sentence, you’re essentially asking “can God do something He cannot do?” It’s just words that can have no meaning in objective reality.

Likewise, Shawn, many of the things you believe contradict other things you believe, and therefore you’re theology doesn’t work – you do not believe reality. Why does it matter? Well God is the truth is He not? So if we worship He who is the truth then we must love truth in all ways, shapes, and forms. Contradictions cannot be the truth. It is literally, physically, and ontologically impossible to confirm a contradiction. When John writes that “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” The word — word in Greek is ‘logos’ and it means logic, reason as well as word. This means God by his nature is reasonable and logical because he is the Word and the Word is logic. So God’s true scripture teaches us that God Himself is logic by his nature. So the truth and the doctrines that He reveals to us MUST be logical, otherwise, they are not from Him and they are not true. Now that this is out of the way. Let’s get on with it…

In the video above Shawn first begins interacting with 2 Cor 13 @10:11. Regarding verses 1-2 he provides the following comments.

”This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Remember Paul was a jew of jews, he’s citing the old testament and for some reason, he is citing this passage […] about witnesses. It’s obvious Paul has been to Corinth once before so he has resolved to going [TO] them a second time. He says this is the third time I’m coming to you, the third time I’m trying to get to you and he suddenly cites this passage out of Deut 19:15. Now, we don’t know why he cites this passage here.”

@13:09 into the video I must pause and say this with all respect and kindness possible… But Shawn what are you smoking, friend? How clear can it be what Paul means? He says “I’m coming to you a third time and like the Scripture says let two or three witnesses establish a truth.” You claiming that scholars don’t know what Paul means by this and spending several minutes postulating all the possible explanations is just flat out dumb. don’t know how it could be any clearer that Paul considers his first visit and teaching at Corinth to be the first witness, his second visit to be the second witnesses, and this final visit to be the last witnesses necessary to establish what he’s saying as true. He’s clearly about to repeat something he’s already said to them and so he cites the Old Testament as a way of validating his third visit and third teaching. Dear reader, I hope the meaning of this passage is as clear to you as it is to me.

@14:11 while still trying to explain verse 1 Shawn makes the off-handed remark that “That apostolic discipline was for them in that age. We don’t have apostolic discipline now except by the Word that we read and the Spirit in our hearts.” Hold this comment in your mind for later.

Editorial commentary on Shawn McCraney’s June 4, 2019, HOTM 2.0 announcement to rebrand and relaunch his show for the third time since its debut in 2005.

Shawn spends the next several minutes responding to verse 2 saying that it was the job of the apostles to discipline the church and keep it together in that day and age. He talks about how one of the ways they did this is by ex-communication aka not having fellowship with people who are willful hypocrites. @18:03 he says “we have some churches today that insist on doing this. The reason it doesn’t work today is that if I excommunicate [someone] from this church … all he’s going to do is he’s going to leave and he’s going to go to Calvary Chapel across the street and if they don’t want him he’ll go down the street to the next one.”

A few thoughts, 1) this passage is not about ex-communication. 2) if ex-communication is taught in the scripture as proper church practice then it is our obligation to God to follow His word regardless of our modern 21st-century environment 3) I have been saying for years now that Biblically speaking there is one church in every city. The Church in our community is made out of the churches in our community. The bride of Jesus is the Community of communities and we need to be doing a better job of getting on the same page with clear issues of sin and work together more often to help counsel and edify our whole city not just the 10 people in our Sunday school class. /soapbox.

@18:33 “We don’t have apostolic authority keeping the bride together anymore and so this is no longer effective in a non-apostolic church. Which is why we don’t take it just it was part of the NT church and do it now.” Yes, we do still have apostolic authority Shawn, it’s called the Bible. Sure we can disagree on secondary issues but if the Bible is the true word of the Living God then if we seek to honor Him and handle his word properly then believers should agree on 98% of things.

In a comment on verses 3-4, @21:20 he said, “Now these are apostolic words to believers at that time so to get what he’s meaning is really tough.” Shawn if the words of Paul have no relevance to us today then what in God’s green earth are you doing? Why are you standing up there “teaching”? Didn’t you yourself say that the Word is binding on us today when you called it our “apostolic authority” back @14:11 but every time it says something you don’t want to believe, you claim “it’s cultural and not for us today.” This is the height of stupidity my friend.

I’m being 100% honest with this question I’m about to ask Shawn and if you happen to read this I’d love to hear your answer in the comments or via email or whatever. Here’s the question, how do you know that Jesus died for your sins? Will you answer it’s in the Bible? Because what’s stopping someone from telling you that “That was cultural for the church, on that day. We in the modern day have no hope.” This problem gets even worse when we take into account that you’re a hyper-Preterist who believes the church stopped existing around 70 AD when the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In that context, the case gets even stronger that Salvation and the Gospel were only for people living in the Roman Empire in the first century CE. Your view of the Bible, Shawn, cuts off the branch you’re sitting on. Your only way out is to contradict yourself…. but as we know now contradictions cannot exist.

@23:03 Shawn says some good stuff about how Jesus was a man – so weak he couldn’t even carry his own cross. God didn’t give us a superman. He came as an ordinary man. These are good comments.

A satirical take on the actual words of Shawn McCraney from the June 4, 2019, HOTM 2.0 broadcast.

Commenting on verse 4, @24:30 Shawn says “…’we also are weak in him’ Now I’d like to apply that to you but I can’t because Paul is talking about the apostles, ‘also’ and ‘we’ he’s talking about the Apostles himself included not the general population.”

OK again my friends I want to be as kind as possible but this is just more abject stupidity. What exactly about this passage gives you any indication that Paul is talking about the apostles only in verse 4? Is verse 5, literally the very next sentence not addressed to the ‘general populace?’ so I can’t understand Shawn’s thinking on this whatsoever. Again Shawn is taking a verse and saying it only applies to one group of people at one time in history. So I have to ask again if it has no relevance to you today, why exactly are you even ‘teaching’ this passage? Here’s an even more direct question, how much of the Bible is for us today? Can you put a percentage to it? I’m assuming you’d say all of the Old Testament is out, so there goes 85% of all of Scripture. And you keep chopping pieces out of the New Testament. So really what does have practical application for us today? Is it just the gospels? Or are you one of those that say Jesus was teaching law to people under the Mosiac Law? In which case is just the passion story for us today? These are questions that you need to answer.

@26:12 Shawn shows his true self with this comment, “But for this reason what he (Jesus) accomplished on our behalf, in fact, I think he accomplished for behalf of the whole world.”

Again friends… I’m at a loss to respond to this sophomoric statement. Shawn is a universalist – a position which is so clearly and obviously not Biblical that it’s incredible that people even try to push it. Again I have to say to you Shawn if the whole world will be saved why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the point? Why did you devote so much of your post LDS life trying to convince Mormons of the truth of Christianity? You contradict yourself in thought, word, and deed.

For several minutes Shawn goes on somewhat of a tangent and quotes Philippians 2. My only comment here is @31:09 he says ” that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So we see that relationship again, in and through God the father working all this in and through Jesus his only son to accomplish for us on our behalf…”

Shawn doesn’t believe the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet he quotes this passage that clearly shows the Father is called God, and the son being called Lord (read God) and but they are not the same person because they interact. And then Shawn goes on to talk about the “relationship” between the Father and Son. Shawn, are you contradicting yourself again?

Shawn spends some time talking about how we know what we know while commenting on verse 5. I have no comments on this section.

@42:04 Shawn makes the passing comment “The latter-day was Jesus day those were the true latter days we’re not in them now.”

Shawn is a hyper-preterist. He believes the whole book of Revelation has been fulfilled before the year 70 AD. You have to really wonder why Shawn even bothers with the Bible if he believes even all the future stuff was “for them in that age.” Utter stupidity.

@42:45 Shawn affirms a version of the doctrine of Assurance. I like John Wesley and I can agree with Shawn’s comments on this.

@43:26 Shawn says “…if hell exists…”

So in the midst of talking about how we can be sure of what we know to be true he also questions a doctrine clearly taught in scripture. Contradictions abound with this one.

OK, enough I’m ending @45:00 just a little before two thirds into the sermon. You folks should get the point by now. Let’s move on to my final score…..

Final Ratings
I won’t call them a cult, as others have, but Shawn is without a doubt a heretic and needs to read the Bible a lot slower and try to break down some of the big words.

Final Recomendation
Never Attend unless you’re writing a church check!

Issac Farley is the founder and chief contributor of the WalkingChristian website. This article was originally published on his website on August 10, 2019. It has been edited from the original to enhance clarity and legibility. It has been republished here with the kind permission and approval of the author. 

APPENDIX: UPDATE AND PUBLICATION NOTES
The CheckMyChurch rebuttal to the above article, including further comment interaction between WalkingChristian founder Isaac Farley and CheckMyChurch founder Sarah Young,  can be read here.

The “Where It All Began” section of the Check My Church website About page as of May 10, 2020.

Also of interest is Ms. Young’s April 2019 review of Shawn McCraney’s church CAMPUS – which is glowing, at times even gushing, while simultaneously downplaying or ignoring the heresies and error that’s taught there. It can be read here. In addition, a second review was published in October 2019 and can be read here.

These reviews are also noteworthy because she not only doesn’t deny her relationship to Mr. McCraney and his church in them, she speaks with a warm affinity toward them in both. The second review is basically nothing more an apologetic for why her relationship with CAMPUS and Mr. McCraney (and by implication Mr. McCraney’s heretical teachings and error) are really no big deal and should be ignored.

The timing of this second review appearing shortly after Mr. Farley’s challenging review was originally published in August 2019 was interesting then and it’s interesting now.  That’s probably because Mr. Farley’s review made quite a splash and, no doubt, put more unwanted attention on the issue of the Check My Church website at a time when the initial wave of criticism was slowly starting to subside.

The reader may also find it of interest to know that when her affiliation with Mr. McCraney and his church was initially publicly questioned by her critics after the inception of the Check My Church website, steps were taken to distance herself from both. Thus, the tight relationship with McCraneyism that was originally “out there” and plain on the Check My Church website was simply quietly redacted and tucked away in the first CAMPUS review instead.

Probably the most telling evidence of this was the elimination of either in the website’s original “About” page. To that point, a screenshot from March 5, 2019, can be seen in the Isaac Farley article above. Now compare and contrast that to how the same page on the Check My Church website read as of this time of writing (May 10, 2020) with only the following passing reference to anything Shawn McCraney or Shawnite:

“… when our pastor, Shawn McCraney, came up with the same exact idea, we knew it had to be a good one. What are the chances, right? So, here we are. Checking every church, so you don’t have to.”
(see provided screenshot)

It’s just more proof that if the history of McCraneyism has shown us anything it’s that Shawn McCraney and his disciples simply can not be trusted, isn’t it?

Finally, it’s important to note that in May 2020, Sarah Young published a letter of apology on the Check My Church website that concluded as follows:

There are wolves in our local churches, dear Christians, but our approach of writing opinionated reviews of local churches wasn’t working the way we intended, and it was having a negative impact at the same time. We are not the judge or authority on what makes churches good or bad, but we do have a passion for defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ, defending God’s sheep against wolves (especially those in sheep’s clothing), and telling the truth for God’s glory, but always in love. As it turns out, that love wasn’t showing. Now, we hope it will.
(Sarah Leann Young, “CMC Announcement & Apology Letter”, May 10, 2020)

Sounds good, doesn’t it? However, the fact remains that Sarah Young is still a member of a heretical cult judging other churches by their heretical cult standards. Her Check My Church website remains the relative equivalent of a Mormon starting a Church Checking website that’s based on the standards of the LdS Church using Floyd Weston’s “17-Points of the True Church”.

The apology letter and change in methodology has done nothing to address or change any of that.  Therefore, Isaac Farley’s article is just as relevant today as it was a year ago – perhaps even more so.  Check My Church has just been rebranded and repackaged to appear softer and less polemic, that’s it. The Check My Church website remains a snare rather than an aid, benefit, or an edifying service to the Body of Christ. Yellow warning tape and orange cones have now been put up around this disaster, just as Beggar’s Bread did so with the burgeoning cult of McCraneyism back in 2013. What you, dear reader, do with it is entirely up to you. Choose wisely.
— Fred W. Anson, Publishing Editor

A “We Agree With Moroni 8:18” Day Special Edition

A common Latter-day Saint apologetic in response to the “We Agree With Moroni 8:18” initiative goes something like this:

“Then how do you deal with the changes in God through time? This is a serious question that cannot be answered by posting an odd verse or two. It requires in-depth consideration of all that God has done over time from the beginning until today.

Those Christians that believe in the incarnation are the greatest of believers in the changeability of God. Why, then, are they blind to basic exegesis and the purpose of this verse and its expression in Hebrews 13:8 which in the KJV Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”, when the Bible also contains many passages of God’s changing, such as BECOMING man, SUFFERING, DYING, being Raised from the dead, and then being EXALTED? Trinitarians accept a changeable God.”
(Mormon Apologist arguments posted on the “We Agree With Moroni 8:18” Facebook page on 2020-05-01)

Other related arguments that we hear are that because God appears as a burning bush, cloud, pillar of fire, rock, Captain of the Lord’s Host, as a man striving with Jacob, as a man appearing to Abraham and Sarah, etc., etc., etc., He clearly changes in the Bible.

To this, we would simply assert that neither in theophanies nor in the incarnation did any of God’s essential divine attributes change. And the most important of all those attributes is explicitly stated in John 4:24 by Christ Who clearly and blatantly stated: “God is a Spirit”. Further, the Bible is quite clear that that Spirit is: eternal; omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

Given that omnipotence, that Spirit can most certainly manifest Himself in any form or in any way that He chooses to. After all, a potent Being can most certainly choose to control His potency just as a human parent must choose to restrain theirs when they play or handle a small child who would be harmed, even killed, if they failed to do so. In other words, they must choose to humble themself for the sake and out of their love for the child and the purpose and role that they currently engaged in for that time, place, and audience. Similarly, and logically, if God can’t limit the expression of Himself then He isn’t authentically omnipotent because He lacks potency over Himself. Isn’t this precisely what Paul was describing in Philippians 2 when he spoke of God’s condescension as the incarnate Christ?

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3-5 KJV) 

Further, Biblical orthodoxy is clear that Christ was both fully God and fully man. The divinity in Christ (which is spiritual) remained unchanged even though He took on human flesh (which is physical). Thus God could come become fully human without changing any divine attributes. God did not change. God the Son freely and permanently added a human nature to himself without modifying his divine nature. Nothing in the incarnation improved upon any of his essential attributes.

To that last point, the Bible also teaches that God is an uncreated, eternal omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being consisting of three uncreated, co-eternal, co-equal, co-omnipotent, co-omniscient, co-omnipresent and distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are one in essence, yet three in person – one God.

Thus, God the Son can take on and possess a physical human body without it having any impact on the overall ontology of God any more than God the Spirit taking on the form of a dove, cloud, or fire does.

For a Being who is physical, all the above is impossible. However, again, the Bible is clear that “God is spirit”. And that Spirit, even though He has manifested Himself in many ways and has taken on many different forms, has never changed just as the Bible so clearly states:

Malachi 3:6
“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

Psalm 90:2
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

Numbers 23:19
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Psalm 102:25-27
“Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.

Psalm 33:11
“The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”

Isaiah 46:10
“Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;”

Isaiah 43:10
“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.

Psalm 138:8
“The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

Philippians 1:6
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Exodus 3:14
“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Romans 11:29
“…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Titus 1:2
“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,”

Hebrews 6:17
“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,”

James 1:17
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Hebrews 13:8
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Further, the Book of Mormon is in complete agreement with the Bible:

Moroni 8:18
“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

2 Nephi 27:23
“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

2 Nephi 29:9
“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Mormon 9:9
“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever , and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?”

Mormon 9:19
“And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchanging Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”

Moroni 7:22
“For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.”

Mosiah 3:5
“The Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…”

As is Doctrine & Covenants:

D&C 20:17
“By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them.”

D&C 76:4
“From eternity to eternity he is the same and years never fail…”

Again, and to end where we began, we would simply assert the Bible is clear that neither in theophanies nor in the incarnation did any of God’s essential divine attributes change. To claim otherwise isn’t exegesis, it’s eisegesis. Stated plainly neither the Bible or the Book of Mormon teach that God changes. Rather, they are both emphatic that God is immutable and does not change.

So now that we have that settled, the real question that remains is this: Why does the modern LDS Church disagree with and contradict both the Bible and the Book of Mormon? No, God may not change according to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but, yes indeed, according to Mormon Doctrine sure He sure does, doesn’t He?

So, to our Mormon friends, we would simply ask, why is that? Why does modern Mormonism contradict both the Bible and the Book of Mormon in regard to God’s immutability?

by Matthew Eklund
As we saw in part one of this series, the Mormon Gospel is impossible because a Latter-day Saint can never really an absolute assurance of their salvation. A common response to the point to this observation by outsiders is that some Latter-day Saints who say it isn’t about obedience to all the commandments but, instead, is just about “doing your best”. However, this isn’t what the LDS scriptures teach whatsoever. As Mormon Prophet Kimball said in his book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness” (which we covered in some detail in part one) Jesus’ commandment to be perfect in Matthew 5:48 to mean you must actually rid yourself of sin, and that no commandment has been given to men that cannot be kept. Not only is this Mr. Kimball’s interpretation in his book, but this concept is also taught in the Book of Mormon and is often used by LDS members and missionaries:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
(1 Nephi 3:7, emphasis mine)

Thus, if God commanded you to be perfect, you really can achieve it. LDS will say they can’t do anything without God’s help, but it still ultimately lies upon their shoulders to achieve it. LDS scriptures also say that, if you repent of a sin and return to it, the guilt of all your former sins returns upon your head:

“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”
(D&C 82:7, emphasis mine)

So, according to LDS doctrine, not only are you enabled to keep all God’s commandments, you must keep them all, every single one of them, and if you break any one of them, then the guilt of all the sins you’ve already repented of come back upon you. Thus, you can never truly achieve a state of forgiveness or a mended relationship with God, because humans are sinful creatures that sin many, many times every day. Those who deny this don’t really understand the absolute holiness of God or the depravity of man in their sin. Even a lustful or jealous thought is a sin against a holy God. Everything we do is tainted by sin. There is no complete freedom from the grasp of sin in this life. Thus, there is no true and lasting forgiveness in the LDS gospel.

To summarize, the LDS gospel according to their own materials, then, it would be:

1. Faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Repentance.
3. Baptism by water for the remission of sins.
4. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of someone with priesthood authority.
5. Receive other ordinances such as priesthood (for men), temple initiatories (washing and anointing), temple endowment, celestial marriage/temple sealing for husband and wife.
6. Continue to be faithful, attend sacrament meetings, fulfill your church callings, etc.
7. Strive to reach for perfection by working and keeping the covenants you’ve made and keep all the commandments not just to the best of your ability but striving for absolute perfection, knowing that God actually makes it possible for you to achieve perfection in this life, since he cannot give you a commandment you cannot keep (according to 1 Nephi 3:7).

If you do all of these things, then, you might have a shot at achieving exaltation.

Does this sound too radical? Too ridiculous? “They cannot possibly believe all this”, you may say. Well, if it sounds like I am misrepresenting them, then I will quote the list of directions for achieving exaltation given by the LDS church manual, “Gospel Principles”, the book they use to teach aspiring and new members of the LDS church the basics of what they believe. In chapter 47 titled “Exaltation”, pages 278-279, it says thus:

To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in Him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey His commandments.

“He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:

1. We must be baptized.
2. We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
4. We must receive the temple endowment.
5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to:
1. Love God and our neighbors.
2.
Keep the commandments.
3. Repent of our wrongdoings.
4. Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.
5. Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
6. Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.
7. Have family and individual prayers every day.
8. Teach the gospel to others by word and example.
9. Study the scriptures.
10.
Listen to and obey the inspired words of the [modern] prophets of the Lord.

“Finally, each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow His direction in our individual lives.” (emphasis mine; a note was added to indicate when LDS speak of “following the prophets”, they speak of their modern leaders, which they consider to be as much prophets as Moses or Paul and receive revelation directly from God)

In that same chapter on page 279, it states:

The Lord has said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If we will continue in God; that is, keep his commandments, worship him and live his truth; then the time will come when we shall be bathed in the fulness of truth, which shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:36).” (emphasis mine)

Could it be any clearer that salvation (eternal life with God and the fullness of happiness and glory with your eternal family) according to the LDS gospel certainly does depend on you, your faithfulness, your works, your struggles, your efforts to become perfect? When Christians point out that grace and the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is insufficient to grant eternal life according to Latter-day Saints, and that you must provide your own works of obedience to receive eternal life, we are often accused of misrepresenting them. But do these quotes from the LDS church’s own resources (which you can easily find on their website or buy in an LDS bookstore) provide enough evidence for our case?

Does this “gospel” sound like “good news” to you? To spend an entire life yoked with an immense set of commandments and covenants that you must keep perfectly according to your own faithfulness, or else you will receive a lower kingdom of glory? This is the exact kind of religion that Jesus came to abolish. The Pharisees believed it was their devotion to the 613 commandments in the law of Moses that made them right before God, but their hearts and devotion were far from Him who gave the law as a schoolmaster to bring Israel to the true Messiah. They were devoted, obedient, but they put their tradition on the same level of scripture, and they did not keep everything perfectly as they should. Jesus said of them that they are like “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside [they] appear to be righteous, but on the inside [they] are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)

When I bring up this importance of obedience in the LDS gospel, I am criticized. “You never truly understood the gospel”. “That isn’t what we believe”. Then they present one of the myriad of explanations (as I gave above) of what they think the gospel really is. That is the kind of response I invariably receive when attempting to discourse with them.

They can label me as an “ex-Mormon”, an “anti-Mormon”, an “apostate” (which is technically true, as I did leave their faith) in an attempt to disparage me, but this is merely an ad hominem attack to avoid the substance of my argumentation. But do not the Latter-day Saints’ scriptures and leaders themselves (as I’ve quoted above) show that it is “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” that prepares them for eternal life? If this isn’t the case, how do they explain these statements from their scriptures, their leaders, and the official LDS church’s website?

When I attempt to address what the LDS church officially teaches and I’m told I’m misrepresenting them and what they believe, I wonder why this is the case. Why not just honestly describe what your church teaches? Does the LDS church not teach that you can become gods as D&C 132:19-20 state? Does it not teach you that obedience to the law is how you achieve such a status? Does it not also teach that God’s grace alone cannot save you, but you must also do works and receive ordinances to make eternal life possible? Why try to make the focus all about grace, all about God’s mercy, etc., and minimize the importance of your contribution and your obedience to your salvation when it has been made so abundantly clear by your church’s teachings?

For example, if I point out that LDS believe you need works to be saved and it is dependent on what you do (as I previously described), they rebut that I “never understood the [LDS] gospel” and that the gospel is more about being transformed by God’s grace to become like Him than obedience. So then I show that the gospel according to the Bible is indeed salvation by God’s grace [as they seem to be indicating], but that it is not just by God’s grace we are saved; it is by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone through which we are saved and receive eternal life. They then immediately point to James 2 to show you can’t just be saved by faith alone; you need good works to receive eternal life [this passage being taken completely out of context in their attempt to show our works contribute to our righteousness and receiving eternal life, which they don’t; that is a topic for another discussion]. It feels like playing a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole”, where one argument presents itself, and so you attempt to address it, but before you can address it, it has disappeared and been replaced by another.

If I try to show them what their own church teaches, it is repudiated, but then when I show them what the Bible teaches and how it refutes what they just stated that they believe, they claim that either what I’m understanding from the Bible is incorrect, or try to cast a different light upon their church’s gospel in an attempt to make the Bible fit with what they believe instead of what I believe. Or they will assert [albeit more rarely these days] that the Bible is corrupted or missing the entirety of the restored gospel from it; in their Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi chapter 13 teaches the Bible had many “plain and precious truths” removed from it by the “great and abominable church”, which was historically understood by Latter-day Saints to be the Roman Catholic church but, in recent years, has been changed to be any church that fights against them.

This is why I refer to the LDS gospel in these articles as the “chameleon gospel”. It isn’t because the LDS gospel isn’t well defined; it certainly is well defined by the LDS church’s leaders, scriptures, and teaching manuals, as the quotation from the LDS “Gospel Topics” manual above and the passage from the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 31:17-20 show. But the LDS gospel is presented as one of many different things in a variety of fashions by each Latter-day Saint, and the way they present it might change depending on what the topic is, and may even change within the course of the same discussion. This makes it incredibly difficult to do apologetics with Latter-day Saints because they each have their own version of what the LDS gospel “really” is. If we attempt to identify what their church believes, we are often accused of misrepresentation, lying, etc.

If you are a Latter-day Saint and you are reading this, I plead with you, read at least this paragraph: I love you. I try to discuss the Bible with you because I care about you and your eternal welfare. I truly believe what the Bible says, and what Jesus says in the Bible is that if you don’t have the correct belief of Him and of the gospel, you don’t go to a “lower glory” of heaven; you will burn in hell for your sins for all eternity (see John 8:24, Matthew 25:31-46). There are no second chances after we die. There is no gospel preached in the afterlife. This life, this time, now is the time to believe in the true Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe that created absolutely every created thing, everything that exists other than God (the only uncreated being) according to Colossians 1:15-17, He who is God from all eternity to all eternity and not a spirit child of Elohim and his wife (and definitely not the spirit brother of Lucifer). It is through faith in Him and His death on the cross alone that will make you righteous before God as it occurred with Abraham:

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.
(Romans 4:1-8, ESV, emphasis mine)

I implore you if you do not know Christ [the Biblical Christ, as described above] as your Savior: turn to Him with an open hand, knowing you have nothing to offer God but only your dirty hands covered in the filth of your sins. Turn to Him as a Savior to pull you from the wretched muck that surrounds you. Trust in Him and in Him alone to save and keep you as your only hope. Reject your past works and accomplishments, which are as “filthy rags” before God (Isaiah 64:6). They will do nothing but condemn you. Rely on the mercy of God alone to save you from them. The perfection which is required in Matthew 25:48 can only be fulfilled by the One who did keep all the commandments, Christ Jesus, and receiving His spotless, perfect righteousness credited to your account through faith alone. This is how all your past, present, and future sins may be forgiven. If you are in Christ, the punishment for all these sins is placed on the Lord’s death on the cross on your behalf.

This is the Biblical gospel. This is how I and all saved Christians keep the command to be perfect. This is how we have a right relationship with God. This is how we are considered righteous. I am not righteous by what I do, because all my sinful deeds ever do is condemn me. Even after being saved, even my best efforts are tainted by my sinfulness. But I am saved because the Lord has died for my sins and I place all my trust in what He was done to save me. And God has made this promise for all those who do put all their faith and trust in Him:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6, ESV)

I pray that God will open your hearts to this message and that you will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved, as did the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-40) and countless others, including me, have done. Turn to Christ before it is too late.

About the Author
Matthew Eklund is a graduate student in nuclear engineering and a Utah native who converted to the LDS faith at the age of 10. He served a faithful two-year mission to Belgium and France and served in various teaching callings prior to being saved by God’s grace through faith in the Biblical Christ in 2016. He is now an active member of a Reformed Baptist Christian congregation in Albany, New York and is passionate about defending and sharing the truth of God’s saving grace to friends and family.

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