Archive for October, 2020

A Caution to Transitioning Ex-Mormons

A collection of “Jesus Calling” books in various and sundry languages.

The book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young is a phenomenon in modern Christianity publishing. Its mass-market appeal can clearly be seen just about everywhere in Christian Culture. You can barely turn left or right on Social Media without bumping into a meme or a pull quote from the book along with gushing from an Evangelical Christian over how blessed they were by it. And transitioning Ex-Mormons aren’t immune either. The Administrators of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook Group (a support group for transitioning and transitioned Ex-Mormons) became concerned enough by all this to issue a warning to their members. It’s an item of interest because it succinctly outlines and explains the dangers of this book as it relates to the Latter Day Saint experience in general and the Ex-Mormon experience in particular. Even if you aren’t an Ex-Mormon, I think that you’ll find it interesting and of some value in your own consideration of this book despite its original, focused audience. — Editor.

compiled by the Admins of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook Group
The Administrators are very concerned by the book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young in relation to the Ex-Mormon transition process. After private consideration, we have decided to compile our concerns and share them with you all publicly. Please note what we’ve just said: We are expressing concern only, we are not trying to control anyone or tell them what to do. Rather, we are simply trying to give you all some food for thought to concern when it comes to this controversial – but still wildly popular – book:

First, it must be said, that we are unaware of any overt heresies or contradictions with the Bible that are taught in the book. However, something that’s not heretical can still be in error and should be avoided if you want to maintain a Christian walk that’s safe and secure. This is true no matter how sincerely and passionately you genuinely want to follow the God of the Bible. As Billy Graham used to say well (paraphrasing), just because you sincerely reach into the medicine cabinet and take cyanide rather than aspirin tablets with the purest and best of intentions doesn’t mean that you’re not still just as sincerely dead with the purest and best of intentions. Error is error, and sometimes it’s lethal.

The first concern that we have for Ex-Mormons is the fact that the book is voiced in exactly the same way that Joseph Smith did in Doctrine & Covenants and in portions of other Mormon scripture: In the voice of Jesus Christ. We can’t wonder if perhaps that’s part of the appeal of this book for many Ex-Mormons – “Jesus Calling” sounds and feels familiar to someone whose background is in Mormon Culture – it just seems comfortable.

The second concern, and it’s related to the first one is that the author actually credits God as the source for these devotional messages. Again, this is very Joseph Smith, isn’t it? I’m sure that if your Pastor this coming week got up in the pulpit and said, “Here is today’s sermon, I will be reading from a message that’s not in the Bible (but that doesn’t contradict the Bible, you can trust me) that God gave me this week in my prayer closet. I wrote down and here it is. Please be seated,” you would be a bit shocked. You might even walk out, wouldn’t you? However, that’s essentially what Jesus Calling (and author Sarah Young in her other books) claim to be.

If you have any doubts about the validity of these two things, please consider the words of the author herself from the original, 2004 Introduction of “Jesus Calling”:

“…I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.

My journaling had changed from monologue to dialogue. Soon, messages began to flow more freely, and I bought a special notebook to record these words. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day. I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God.

I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him.”
(Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling”, Introduction (2004 first edition))

The third, concern is that the author didn’t stop at one and two, she actually went on to have these extra-biblical “messages from God” published for public consumption. Again, how is this any different than what Joseph Smith did with his alleged messages from God?

The anonymous New Age book that was the inspiration for “Jesus Calling”.

The fourth concern is one that you have to go back to the early history of the book to uncover because the author and her publisher have done such a good job of trying to cover it up: Its New Age Folk Religion roots. As Amy Spreeman of Berean Research explains:

“In 2004, in one of her rare, carefully staged interviews, Sarah Young was asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network “How did you learn to ‘dialogue’ with God?” She answered that it was from reading the book God Calling:

‘My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they “listened.”’ (parenthesis hers)

Also, in the original introduction to Jesus Calling that stood from 2004-2013, Young specifically praised God Calling as “a treasure to me.” However, The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs published by Christian publisher Harvest House, describes God Calling as a channeled New Age book that was spiritually dictated by a deceptive spirit pretending to be the real Jesus Christ. In their lengthy Encyclopedia chapter on channeling and spiritual dictation, Christian authors/apologists John Weldon and John Ankerberg explain that channeling is a form of New Age “mediumship” which the Bible clearly defines as a “forbidden” practice (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). Under a subheading titled “Impersonations of Christianity,” the authors describe God Calling as a New Age book “replete with denials of biblical teaching” that “subtly encourages psychic development and spiritistic inspiration under the guise of Christ’s personal guidance . . . and often misinterprets Scripture.”’
(Amy Spreeman, “10 Scriptural reasons Jesus Calling is a dangerous book”, Date Unknown, Berean Research website) 

Which leads us to our last concern: The book has already undergone several “stealth” modifications and changes over its short history to cover up or whitewash its questionable origins and less than fully biblical theology. Spreeman continues:

“Soon after Sarah Young’s endorsement of this New Age book was widely publicized in 2013, all references to God Calling were completely removed from all subsequent printings of Jesus Calling. Like the missing 18 ½ minutes from Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes, God Calling suddenly disappeared from Young’s book. There was no explanation, no apology, no anything. But what was even more disturbing than their obvious damage control, was that Young and her publisher expressed absolutely no concern for the countless people who had already read or were currently reading God Calling because of Young’s previous endorsement. Nor was there any expressed concern that—thanks to Young—God Calling had been resurrected from semi-obscurity and had become a best-selling book in its own right. It was being printed in multiple editions by multiple publishers and was frequently featured alongside Jesus Calling in Christian bookstores and other retail outlets. To this day, Sarah Young has yet to publicly renounce, much less even acknowledge, her previous involvement with and endorsement of God Calling

The removal of any mention of God Calling from Jesus Calling was not an isolated incident. It was obviously part of a concerted plan to evade some of the questions being raised about the legitimacy of Young’s book. For example, in all the post-2013 printings of Jesus Calling, what Young had originally described as “messages” she received from “God” were suddenly being presented as her own “writings” and “devotions.” This change in wording seemed to remove any suggestion that Young was doing the same kind of channeling that is described in God Calling. Yet Young made it clear in her original introduction to Jesus Calling that this was exactly what she was doing.” (Ibid)

In the end, doesn’t this all sound and look very “Book of Mormon Lite” to you? Well, it sure does to us! Isn’t this exactly the same kind of thing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does with the problematic history of the Book of Mormon and any now controversial, suddenly out of vogue language in Mormon scripture? Why, yes it is!

And the reason why we take umbrage at all this is that this is not how things are typically done in historic, mainstream Christianity! Ex-Mormon friends and colleagues, this far more Mormon than Christian behavior- which is why you will see so many other mainstream Christians expressing concern about this book as well. We’re actually just the latest is a whole chorus of voices.

So there is it, please consider and think about these things, that’s all we ask. Again, we are not trying to tell anyone what to do or think, we are merely expressing our concerns regarding Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” book and the works that followed it: Take what you want, and leave the rest.

The Admins
Fred W. Anson,
Barb Griffith,
Michael Stevens,
Jackie Davidson,
and Amy Fuller

“The Hand of God” by Yongsung Kim. The Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook group uses this classic painting as its group banner since it encapsulates the Ex-Mormon journey into mainstream, historic Biblical Christianity so very well.

Finally, here are some other voices of concern on this issue to consider in addition to ours:
Tim Challies, “The Bestsellers: Jesus Calling”, June 22, 2014, @Challies website.

Randy Alcorn, “Some Concerns about Jesus Calling, and Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture”, June 18, 2018, Eternal Perspective Ministries website.

Amy Spreeman, “10 Scriptural reasons Jesus Calling is a dangerous book”, Date Unknown, Berean Research website.

Susan Brinkmann, ‘“Jesus Calling” Book Purged of Occult References’, January 28, 2015, Women of Grace website.

Ruth Graham, “The Strange Saga of ‘Jesus Calling,’ the Evangelical Bestseller You’ve Never Heard Of”, April 14, 2017, The Daily Beast website.

Marcia Montenegro, “Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: A False Jesus?”, April 25 (year unknown), South Evangelical Seminary & Bible College website.

Matt Slick, “Book Review on The Jesus Calling”, May 30, 2015, CARM website.

Steven Hudgik, “RUN! It’s Jesus Calling! Why You Should Throw Away Your Copy of Jesus Calling”, date unknown, Cannon Beach Church website.

The gospel of Imputation v. the gospel of Amputation

“And he said unto me: Behold, there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
— 1 Nephi 14:10

by Michael Flournoy
The above verse is perhaps the truest statement in The Book of Mormon. There are only two churches: the church of God, and the church of the devil. But how do we differentiate between the two?

Doctrine and Covenants 18:5 sheds some light on this. It says: Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

In other words, the gospel and the church are fundamentally connected. Thus, a true church cannot have a false gospel and vice versa. By honing in on the gospel itself, we can determine whether a church is from God, or of the devil. It should come as no surprise, that there are only two gospels: amputation and imputation.

The gospel of amputation says we cannot be saved in sin, so we must eradicate it from our lives to be worthy. Imputation is the opposite. Instead of taking something off, it’s about putting something on, namely the righteousness of Christ. This gospel teaches that we can be saved despite our sins because Christ’s worthiness is accredited to us vicariously.

At their most basic definitions, one gospel says man participates in his salvation, the other says we do not. Thus, the truth cannot exist outside these dimensions, and it cannot be a combination of the two as that would be a contradiction.

The Amputation Heresy
A Latter-day Saint might argue that their covenants and ordinances place them outside the bounds of amputation theology. However, there are two types of sin. There are sins of omission and commission, so in order to amputate sin from our lives, not only must we stop doing bad things, we must stop not doing good things. Since LDS covenants are considered good things that are required to gain the presence of Heavenly Father, they fall directly in line with amputation.

Some Latter-day Saints have adopted the idea that imputation occurs at some point in their journey to exaltation, like at baptism. The problem with this is Jesus is an infinite being of infinite righteousness, and infinity can’t be divided. The moment Jesus gives us any percentage of His righteousness, He gives it all. So, if imputation occurs at baptism it negates the need for any ordinances afterward. To say otherwise is to deny the total worthiness of Christ.

Even if Latter-day Saints embrace imputation, they still fall under the dominion of amputation theology because imputation cannot occur until man does something first.

With amputation theology, your worthiness hinges on your obedience. So as long as you have sin in your life, you’re in trouble. With imputation, sin doesn’t harm salvation, because worthiness hinges on faith.

This puts a damper on LDS efforts to say we believe the same thing. In fact, the divide between these gospels is so great that Mormons have more in common with every religion on earth than with Biblical Christianity.

This is a major problem, because in Galatians 1:8 Paul says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” In Galatians 5:4 he says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

When Paul spoke about the law and grace, he was talking about amputation vs imputation. Even though Latter-day Saints don’t follow the law of Moses, Paul’s statements still condemn them on principle.

Romans 3:19-20 says: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law reveals God’s standards and is meant to stop our mouths and make us guilty before Him. Ironically, the covenants of the restored gospel do exactly the same thing. And assuming God doesn’t change, whether He reveals His standards through the law or LDS covenants, it still condemns us.

The gospel of amputation is an impossible gospel – because no matter how hard we try we can never eradicate the sin from our lives. 1 John 1:8 says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Thus, a gospel that can’t save us despite our sins cannot save us at all.

The Gospel of Imputation
In Romans 3:23-25, Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

There are a number of doctrines being stated here. None of us are up to achieving God’s perfect standard, and as a result, we are pronounced guilty. God’s grace is given as a gift to us, even though we don’t deserve it. And grace is received through faith. There is no mention of baptism, endowment, or temple sealings.

In Romans 4:4-5 Paul says, “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.”

The message is simple. Faith is not an action word that includes LDS covenants or obedience. It is completely separate from anything we do. If we will just believe, we will be counted righteous.

Of course, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible corrupts Romans 4:5, changing it to say that God does not justify the ungodly. Not only does this go against the context of Romans 4, but it also doesn’t make sense. Why would God need to justify the godly anyway?

During his ministry, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12-13).”

The restored gospel is a doctrine of sacrifice. Latter-day Saints must abstain from tea, coffee, and alcohol. They must sacrifice 10% of their incomes to the church. They must sacrifice Sunday as a holy day to the Lord. In the temple, Latter-day Saints covenant to consecrate their time, talents, and anything else the Lord has blessed them with, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith 6:7).” This is not the gospel taught in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t require a gospel of sacrifice. He gave us a gospel of mercy.

Here’s the million-dollar question for Latter-day Saints. If there are only two churches and only two gospels for these churches to be founded on, then where does that leave you? Either Christianity is true, and you believe in a false gospel, or you are right and so is every other religious group on earth that teaches man must do something. Either way, it’s a lose-lose proposition, because the gospel you claim was restored already existed long before Mormonism came on the scene.