Concerns About “Jesus Calling”

Posted: October 25, 2020 in Amy Fuller, Barb Griffith, Ex-Mormons, Fred Anson, Jackie Davidson, Michael Stevens, Mormon Studies, Theology
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.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.