Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

compiled by Eric Johnson
Joseph Smith
“Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God —he would be a giant or a monster”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372).

First Presidency
“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

Mormon Apostles
“The Bible, if read fully and intelligently, teaches that the Holy Trinity is composed of individual Gods”
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 58).

“If Christians are people (and this is the standard definition of the clergy of the day) who believe in the holy trinity as defined and set forth in the Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostles creeds, meaning that God is a three-in-one nothingness, a spirit essence filling immensity, an incorporeal and uncreated being incapable of definition or mortal comprehension — then Mormons, by a clergy chosen definition, are ruled out of the fold of Christ”
(Bruce R.McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:113).

“May I divorce myself for the moment from the mainstream of present-day evangelical Christianity, swim upstream as it were, and give forth some rather plain and pointed expressions on this supposedly marvelous means of being saved with very slight effort. But before zeroing in on this religious mania that has now taken possession of millions of devout but deluded people, and as a means of keeping all things in perspective, let me first identify the original heresy that did more than anything else to destroy primitive Christianity. This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity — and truly it is the father of all heresies — swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian Era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is. It was the doctrine, adapted from Gnosticism, that changed Christianity from the religion in which men worshipped a personal God, in whose image man is made, into the religion in which men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity. This new God, no longer a personal Father, no longer a personage of tabernacle, became an incomprehensible three-in-one spirit essence that filled the immensity of space. The adoption of this false doctrine about God effectively destroyed true worship among men and ushered in the age of universal apostasy”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of Salvation By Grace?” BYU Devotional Address given January 10, 1984; Transcribed from original speech. See also Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 69-70).

“In common with the rest of Christianity, we believe in a Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. However, we testify that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings. We also testify that God the Father is not just a spirit but is a glorified person with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition, May 1995, p. 84).

“We maintain that the concepts identified by such nonscriptural terms as ‘the incomprehensible mystery of God’ and ‘the mystery of the Holy Trinity’ are attributable to the ideas of Greek philosophy. These philosophical concepts transformed Christianity in the first few centuries following the deaths of the Apostles”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1995, p. 84).

“Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “The One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

“Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].’ So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post-New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

Mormon Seventies
“The ancient prophets knew that the Godhead consisted of three separate and distinct personages, each of whom had a definite work to perform, and yet they all worked in perfect unity as one. The three Gods constituted the Holy Trinity”
(Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, p. 52).

Other Sources
“THE TRINITY CREATION. They believe in the trinity creation. The trinity was voted on in the Council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ’s death. A bunch of church leaders and government officials got together and voted on ‘who God was?’, and it wasn’t even a unanimous vote. There were about four different versions of God that they voted on. The version that is used by Catholics and Protestants today only won by about a 40 percent margin. Their view of God, as you may know, is that He is like a formless mass of spirit that fills the whole universe and when He comes to earth, part of it breaks off and forms itself into Jesus”
(Scott Marshall, Tracting and Member Missionary Work, p. 73).

“If an acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity makes one a Christian, then of course Latter-day Saints are not Christians, for they believe the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in modern Protestant and Catholic theology is the product of the reconciliation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, p. 171).

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

(source for this article = https://www.mrm.org/trinity-in-their-own-words)

 

 

Appendix: Hacking Through the Jungle of Mormon Trinity Obfuscation

by Fred W. Anson
A common Mormon tactic in Mormon argumentation regarding the Trinity is either what we see in this Hugh B. Brown’s quote from Eric Johnson’s above compilation…

“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

… or, this one from BYU Professor Rodney Turner:

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

In both cases, an obfuscating Semantic Fallacy is used whereby the Mormon source changes the definition of the term “Trinity” so that it no longer fits the existing, common, generally accepted definition, which is:

“There are three persons within the Godhead. These persons are understood in theology as distinct characters. The differences among the three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are real differences but not essential differences. In other words, there is only one essence to the Godhead, not three. In our experience as human beings, each person we meet is a separate being. One person means one being, and vice versa. But in the Godhead, there is one being with three persons.”
(R.C. Sproul, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” (Crucial Questions Series Book 13) (pp. 5-6). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition).

Again, and even more directly, succinctly, and a bit more expansively:

“Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and co-eternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(James R. White, “The Forgotten Trinity” (p. 26). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition).

That one being, three persons may seem like theological hairsplitting but it’s vital, as Mr. Sproul goes on to explain:

“We must maintain this distinction lest we slip into a form of polytheism, seeing the three persons of the Godhead as three beings who are three separate gods.”
(Op. Cit., Sproul).

Can you see how Mormon Leaders simply ignore the “one being” part of the definition in order to create a Law of Contradictions Fallacy like the one that Rodney Turner has engaged in? Stated plainly, one simply cannot be simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic, can they? This claim is self-defeating and irrational, isn’t it?

Thankfully, the current LdS Church has attempted to damage control these past missteps by issuing this clearer statement on their official and correlated website:

“…where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being… The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22).
(“Godhead”; retrieved December 15, 2016).

And while that’s a good thing, they immediately attempt to engage in the same old-school muddying of the water with this “gem”:

“Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.”
(Ibid)

A Screenshot of the Gospel Topic “Godhead” article on the official LdS Church website as of the date of this article.

Unfortunately, that closing, “Oh by the way… one in purpose and doctrine!” obfuscation has emboldened some Latter-day Saints to claim, “See we’re monotheists!” which relative to the actual definition of the Trinity is analogous to saying, “See the Los Angeles Rams are united in their purpose and game plan doctrine, therefore they are one football player!” Friends, eleven (11) distinct persons with distinct roles playing in Sofi Stadium are still also eleven (11) distinct beings, not just one, aren’t they? That means that there are, therefore, eleven (11) football players on the fields, not just one (1), correct? It’s as I said in an article on this very issue:

“Many Mormons claim incorrectly that the Mormon Godhead is Three Persons and Three Beings which equals One God.

That is three Beings and three Persons = One God. Monotheism.

Again, this is simply NOT possible. It is a logical contradiction because it is both internally contradictory and self-contradictory given the definition and nature of “being” and/or “person”.”
(Fred W. Anson, “Trinitarian Godhead v. Mormon Godhead Logic Exercise”).

Of course, the double bind that the LdS Church has put itself in here is due to its uber-dogmatism that God is an exalted man whose ontology is corporeal rather than spiritual despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God is not only not an exalted man but is ontologically a spirit, not a corporeal being as we humans are. Please compare and contrast the following unique LdS scripture…

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
(D&C 130:22).

… to God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible:

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent…”
(Numbers 23:19a KJV)

“I am God, and not a man — the Holy One among you.”
(Hosea 11:9 NIV)

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
(John 4:24 KJV)

“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully.”
(Deuteronomy 4:15 KJV)

Further, the Bible is clear that changing the spiritual, invisible God into the physical image of a man is a sign of a foolish and darkened heart in addition to being a knowing denial of the only true and living God the Creator, isn’t it?

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God INTO AN IMAGE MADE LIKE TO CORRUPTIBLE MAN…”
(Romans 1:21-23b KJV caps added for emphasis)

In addition, they will point to Jesus Christ and say, “Oh yeah, well what about Jesus Christ, are you going to tell us that He isn’t an exalted man? And the simple answer is, ‘Why yes, Christ’s human nature most certainly is! However, Christ’s divine nature never has been a man, it is spirit just as the Bible says. Thus, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man just as the Apostle Paul said:

“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.”
(Philippians 2:5-8 KJV)’

Thus, the quick and easy response to this particular Latter-day Saint argument is simple: Simply ask them to show you from the Bible where it says the same of Heavenly Father. That is, where does it say that He ever condescended from His divinity, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men? I can save you some time, it doesn’t. Anywhere.

So can you now see the gas lighting obfuscation that the LdS Church and its Apologists engage in here? They start with the conclusion that God, “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and then try bending the facts to fit it (hoping that no one will scrutinize, let alone notice it, of course) rather than simply letting the evidence lead them to the conclusion.  That, my friends, is Mormon Apologetics in a nutshell.

But stated plainly, as soon as you brush away the Mormon Apologetic smokes and mirrors, current Brighamite Latter-day Saint theology is neither Trinitarian nor monotheistic, no matter how much, “See we’re monotheists, just like you, just in a different kind of way!” sleight of hand and pontificating that they may do. Logically, and rationally, it is simply not possible, is it? 

You have the word of Mormon Leaders on it.

How the new Mormon Missionary social media tactics are like the COVID-19 coronavirus.

by Fred W. Anson and Michael Flournoy
In October 2020, Columbia University Irving Medical Center published their findings on how and why the COVID-19 coronavirus is so infectious and so lethal:

“Coronaviruses are adept at imitating human immune proteins that have been implicated in severe COVID-19 disease, a study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has found…

Many plants and animals use the art of mimicry to trick their prey or predators. Viruses employ a similar strategy: Viral proteins can mimic the three-dimensional shapes of their host’s proteins to trick the host into helping the virus complete its life cycle.

“Viruses use mimicry for the same reason as plants and animals—deception,” says Sagi Shapira, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We hypothesized that identifying viral-protein look-alikes would give us clues to the way viruses—including SARS-CoV-2—cause disease.”
(“Coronaviruses Are Masters of Mimicry, New Study Finds”, October 27, 2020, CUIMC website)

To translate all that medical speak into plain English, the COVID-19 coronavirus tricks its human host’s body into thinking that it is something benign – just a plain ol’ body protein (“nothing to see here, immune system – I’m just like you are!”) rather than a counterfeit foreign invader that seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. To put it bluntly, it dishonestly presents itself as what it’s not to deceive itself past the body’s natural defenses so it can invade and harm it.

But wait, there’s more! The article explains how after it has invaded the body via dishonesty and deceit COVID-19 then persuades the immunity system that it’s there to help and begins to trigger the body’s own natural defenses in aiding the demise of its human host:

‘Coronaviruses… are particularly good at it and were found to mimic over 150 proteins, including many that control blood coagulation or activate complement—a set of immune proteins that help target pathogens for destruction and increase inflammation in the body.

“We thought that by mimicking the body’s immune complement and coagulation proteins, coronaviruses may drive these systems into a hyperactive state and cause the pathology we see in infected patients,” Shapira says.’
(ibid)

So given all this is it any wonder that it’s hard not to think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as coronavirus-like whenever it claims to be, “Christian, just like you all”? Case in point, there’s been a recent pandemic of LDS-run pages pretending to be orthodox Christianity without indicating their Mormonism. Again, coronaviruses are masters of mimicking our body’s defense proteins, so instead of fighting them off, our own natural defense system actually helps it develop and replace healthy cells with diseased, counterfeits. So when the LDS church functions the same way, it acts like a virus, a predator, the archetypical wolf in sheep’s clothing.

This would be akin to ex-Mormon Atheists creating pages called, “Latter-day Saints of the Second Anointing” or “Ascended Latter-day Saints” and putting in the description that they have embraced greater truth and light without indicating that it’s antagonistic to not only Mormonism in particular, but theism in general.

Or, if you prefer, it’s like, Evangelical Christians, say, in the North San Francisco bay area, setting up a Facebook page called, “North Bay Latter-day Saints” to proselytize to local Mormons without fully disclosing upfront that they are, in fact, Evangelical Christians. Or maybe, Oklahoma? I mean, after all, Evangelicals do, in fact, consider themselves Saints living in the Latter-days, and therefore, Latter-day Saints, right? So what’s the problem?

Any Latter-day Saint would be very rightly and justifiably infuriated at such a play. They would scream that it is dishonest. This is the pinnacle of hypocrisy. And they would be right, wouldn’t they?

So given that can anyone see the problem with these Mormon-founded and run Facebook groups?

And if the reader doubts that these groups are in fact, Mormon front groups, then I would encourage you to consider the About Page for the North Bay Christians group:

Yes, that’s right the website link that’s given points to the official, LDS Church website in Salt Lake City. Oh and if you GPS that street address, you’ll find this there…

Well, what do you know this “Christian” church is actually a Mormon Ward Hall, isn’t that interesting? But friends, this is just the beginning, Appendix A contains a listing of the Facebook groups that the authors discovered while they were researching this article. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

What’s especially interesting about this tactic is that, according to the standard of honesty established by the LdS Church, it is a form of lying:

“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when He was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(Gospel Principles, Chapter 31: Honesty; http://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-31-honesty)

Again, for emphasis, “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

This is even more surprising given the fact that Mormon Leaders throughout the years took great pains to distance themselves from those no-good, rotten, lousy, apostate Christians out there. Here’s a small sample:

“What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world”
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 270

“…all the priests who adhere to the sectarian religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels.”
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., The Elders Journal, v. 1, no. 4, p. 60

“Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 176

“When the light came to me I saw that all the so-called Christian world was groveling in darkness.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 73

“With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 199

“Christians—those poor, miserable priests brother Brigham was speaking about—some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on the earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the children of men. The poor devils, they could not get up here and preach an oral discourse, to save themselves from hell; they are preaching their fathers’ sermons —preaching sermons that were written a hundred years before they were born. …You may get a Methodist priest to pour water on you, or sprinkle it on you, and baptize you face foremost, or lay you down the other way, and whatever mode you please, and you will be damned with your priest.
– Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 89

“Christianity…is a perfect pack of nonsense…the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 167

“Where shall we look for the true order or authority of God? It cannot be found in any nation of Christendom.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 10, p. 127

“What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

“What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing… Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

“After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christendom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common origin. They all belong to Babylon.”
– Apostle George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p. 324

“Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls.”
– Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, see pp. 45-46

“… all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ…. in large part the worship of apostate Christendom is performed in ignorance, as much so as was the worship of the Athenians who bowed the Unknown Gods.”
– Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 269, 374-375

And if there’s still any lingering doubt what the goal of what payload this mimicking “virus” group is carrying, the founder of the Latter-day Saint religion couldn’t have been any clearer when he claimed that these were the very words of God, could he?

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?”
(Joseph Smith – History 1:17-20)

In true “virus” fashion, the rather obvious goal of this deceptive and dishonest mimicry is to invade, replace the real with the counterfeit, and then ultimately destroy the original.

Any questions?

To be fair, Mormon missionaries do not realize their tactics are deceptive. But the fact that so many of these pages exist proves that this is a concerted effort by the church, and not delinquent missionaries acting on their own. The “Elders” are just pawns in this game of chess. They are taught to teach line upon line, and precept upon precept. They see it as giving people the information they are ready to commit to but are blinded to the fact that it’s really a deceptive and deliberate virus infection.

To any Latter-day Saints reading this, I ask a simple question. If this approach by your missionaries is not dishonest, then what is? What does shady proselytizing look like, and how does it differ from this? If this type of guerrilla warfare is acceptable because they believe the church is true, then aren’t anti-Mormons justified in bending the truth if they believe it to be inferior to what they have to offer – or even false?

If The Book of Mormon is true and the Spirit bears witness of it, shouldn’t that be on the forefront of these pages? When Joseph Smith, the restoration, and The Book of Mormon take a backseat as a principle for later, it gives the impression that you’re embarrassed by your own religion or don’t believe its message is powerful enough to change hearts on its own. When you mimic our faith, you concede that we have a greater message. If I were a Latter-day Saint I would be upset with all this: If not at the blatant deception these missionaries employ, then at the indignity of my cherished beliefs being swept under the rug by my own representatives.

Remember what Jesus said, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” (Luke 11:33 KJV) What are we non-LDS supposed to think when your missionaries behave like a virus, imitating orthodox Christianity and hiding its core beliefs under a bushel?

After all, didn’t Jesus also say, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20 KJV)?

So, Latter-day Saints, if you’re sick of your church being called a cult, I have a simple piece of advice for you: stop acting like one. You can start by ceasing and desisting with this sleazy, unethical, and deceptive tactic.

Appendix A: Roster of Mormon “Christian” Front Groups
Here is a roster of the known instances of these groups as of today’s date and listed in the order that they were discovered:

Full-On Deceptive Groups
These are groups that use the word “Christian” in their name and deceptively lead the unsuspected to think that they are a mainstream Christian group based on their name and their “About” page description.

North Bay Christians
(North San Francisco Bay Area, California; live link at the time of writing, now dead as of 2022-06-06)
https://www.facebook.com/northbaychristians

Oklahoma Christians
(Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/526053168052630

North East Ohio Christians
(North East Ohio Area, Ohio)
https://www.facebook.com/NorthEastOhioChristians

Christians in Barry County, Michigan
(Barry County, Michigan; live link at the time of writing, now dead as of 2022-06-06)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1037071850409374

“Deception Lite” Groups
These are groups that don’t use the word “Christian” in their name but use other terms instead to get those ignorant of Mormonism to think that they are a mainstream Christian group based on their vague, ambiguous, rather generic name and their “About” page description.

Followers of Jesus Christ
(Worldwide. This is an extremely large group with over 27,000 members)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1634088103506681

Followers of Christ in Greater Cleveland
(Cleveland, Ohio)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofChristinGreaterCleveland/

Followers of Jesus Christ in Kpong, Ghana
(Kpong, Ghana)
https://www.facebook.com/TheChurchofJesusChristKpong/

Followers of Christ in Southern India
(Southern India)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfChristInSouthernIndia/

Followers of Jesus Christ in New Hampshire
(New Hampshire)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofJesusChristinNH

Followers of Jesus Christ in Bighorn Basin
(Bighorn Basin, Wyoming)
https://www.facebook.com/FOJCBighornBasin

Followers of Christ in the West Valley
(Phoenix, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowingChristPHX

Believers of Jesus Christ in The Gila Valley
(Gila Valley, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristinTheGilaValley

ASL Believers of Jesus Christ in Tucson
(Tucson, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/418941586493015

Believers of Christ in Metro Detroit
(Detroit, MI)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofChristinMetroDetroit

Believers of Jesus Christ in Nogales & Sahuarita
(Nogales, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristinNogalesandSahuarita

Believers of Jesus Christ in the CNMI
(Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristintheCNMI

Believers of Jesus Christ in the Desert
(Silver City, NM)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristintheDesert

Followers of Christ in Walla Walla, Pendleton, and Hermiston
(Hermiston, OR)
https://www.facebook.com/JesusChristEasternWAandOR

Followers of Jesus Christ in Middle Georgia
(Macon, GA)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfChristInMidGA

God’s Love in Southern California
(Arcadia, CA)
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLoveSoCal

Coming Unto Christ on the North Shore
(Slidell, LA)
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristNorthShore/

Coming Unto Christ in Baton Rouge
(Baton Rouge, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristBatonRouge

Coming Unto Christ
(no location given) 
https://www.facebook.com/HopeIsAhead

Coming Unto Christ in New Orleans
(New Orleans, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristNewOrleans/

Coming Unto Christ in Alexandria
(Alexandria, VA) 
Coming Unto Christ in Alexandria

Coming Unto Christ in Monroe
(Monroe, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristMonroe

Coming Unto Christ in Denham Springs
(Denham Springs, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/CominguntoChristinDenhamSprings/

Come Follow Christ In Virginia 3
(Midlothian, VA)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfJesusChristInFredericksburg/

Come Unto Christ in Northeast Oklahoma
(Owasso, Bartlesville, Skiatook, Pawhuska, Cleveland, Claremore and Independence, KS) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComeUntoChristinNEOK

Come Follow Christ In Virginia
(Midlothian, VA)
https://www.facebook.com/comefollowchristinvirginia

Coming Unto Christ in Jackson
(Jackson, MS)
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristJackson/

Come Unto Christ – St. Croix
(St. Croix, US Virgin Islands)
https://www.facebook.com/ComeUntoChristStCroix

Come Unto Christ – Northern Virginia
(Northern Virginia) 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/203355213895521

Followers of Christ in Corpus Christi
(Corpus Christi, TX) 
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofChristCorpus

Disciples of Jesus Christ – Paducah, KY
(Paducah, KY)
https://www.facebook.com/DisciplesofJesusChristPaducah/

Cristianos en Ohio
(Grove City, OH) 
https://www.facebook.com/CristianosenOhio

Follow Christ in Chico
(Chico, CA) 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/followchristchico

Follow Christ in NorCal
(Roseville, CA) 
https://www.facebook.com/FollowChrist.NorCal

Seekers of Christ in Laredo
(Laredo, TX) 
https://www.facebook.com/SeekersofChristLaredo

The Church of Jesus Christ in Roanoke
(Salem, VA) 
https://www.facebook.com/TheChurchInRoanokeVA/

Coming Unto Christ in Gulfport
(Gulfport, MS) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristGulfport

Draw Near Unto Christ
(no location given)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2393666370923960

Christ in State College
(State College, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/Christ.in.StateCollege

Come Unto Christ – Plum PA
(Plum, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/P.3missionaries

Followers of Christ in Hershey, PA
(Hershey, PA) 
https://www.facebook.com/HersheyMissionaries

Disciples of Christ in Lebanon
(Lebanon, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/disciplesofchristinlebanon

The Church of Jesus Christ in Harrisville
(Harrisville, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/jesuschristinharrisville

Church of Jesus Christ in Southern Cache Valley
(Providence, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinSouthernCacheValley

Church of Jesus Christ in Logan
(Logan, UT)
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinLogan

Church of Jesus Christ in North Ogden
(Ogden, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchOfJesusChristInNorthOgden

Come Unto Christ in Northern Cache Valley
(Richmond, UT)
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinNorthernCacheValley

Finding Jesus Christ in Fallon and Fernley
(Fallon, NV)
https://www.facebook.com/FindingJesusChristinFallon/

Appendix B: An Example Exchange with A Mormon Front Group Admin or Moderator
The following exchange took place with a group Administrator or Moderator of one of these Mormon Front Groups on December 18, 2021, on Facebook (aka “Meta”) Messenger. The red arrow at the end was added to indicate where they blocked one of the article authors, Fred W. Anson, from Direct Messaging any longer.

This content is included in this document to illustrate the kind of evasion and obfuscation that the Mormons running these groups engage in. We found it enlightening – and I suspect that you will too.

Figure 1 of 6

Figure 2 of 6

Figure 3 of 6

Figure 4 of 6

Figure 5 of 6

 

Figure 6 of 6 (please note the red arrow – this is the point at which I was blocked from chatting with them any longer)

Appendix C: Another Example Exchange with A Mormon Front Group Admin or Moderator
The following exchange took place with a group Administrator or Moderator of one of these Mormon Front Groups in December 2021 on Facebook (aka “Meta”) Messenger with a member of the “Preaching From An Asbestos Suit” Facebook group with, it is assumed, an entirely different set of Group Administrators and/or Moderators in another Facebook group. In this, the investigator wasn’t blocked from further Direct Messaging the Mormon(s) on the other side but was simply “ghosted” (got no response or reply at all) instead.

That said, please note the consistency in the verbiage and tactics (evasion, deflection, obfuscation, etc.) between these two exchanges. The Church Office Building in Salt Lake City will surely deny it but these groups appear to be following a common, uniform, template and set of instructions in terms of both the execution and day-to-day handling of these groups.

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9 At this point the investigator was “ghosted” by the Latter-day Saint on the other side of this exchange.

Appendix D: The “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” Bait and Switch Group
Of all the Mormon “Christian” Front Groups that we have encountered so far, the Facebook group, “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” (see https://www.facebook.com/MySoulDelightsInPlainness)  is by far the most blatantly misleading.

Consider this, based on the group name alone, what would you expect to find in this group? Passages from the Christian canon perhaps? Or perhaps devotional excerpts from well-known Christian writers and/or speakers? Well, here’s what you actually get when you click through:


A collection of screenshots from the “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” Facebook group (click on the images to zoom them) 

Yes, that’s right in this “Christian” group you get passage after passage from the uniquely Latter-day Saint scripture, The Book of Mormon. So like all the others, this group is nothing more than a Mormon front group deceptively masquerading as a “Christian” group.

To their credit, their “About” page does contain this disclosure, “*Not an official page of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints*” but it’s my understanding this was only added after they had been confronted by their dishonesty and deceit by mainstream Christians.

And yet again, the reader will note the consistency of the branding in both the name of the group and the “About” page. Clearly, despite any disclaimers or denials, these Mormon “Christian” front groups are too consistent and uniform in their formatting, content, and methodology to just be a bunch of rogue Latter-day Saints who all somehow got this ‘wild hare’ to set up and run front groups that brand and position themselves as “Christian” when they’re not, they are Latter-day Saints.

And if the reader is thinking that this assessment is unbalanced or unfair, I would ask them to consider this: From the inception of this group on September 14th, 2021 until this date of writing, December 31, 2021, this group hasn’t contained a scrap of any “devotion” from anything but Latter-day Saint sources, and that includes anything from the Bible, which common scripture to both Mormonism and mainstream Christianity. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

Doubt me? If so then click here to go to the very first post in their newsfeed and then start scrolling through the rest of the page timeline. Friends, now once is an anomaly, but twice is a pattern, isn’t it? And if it’s pattern after pattern after pattern, then what is it? Stated plainly a consistent pattern of deceit can clearly be seen here, can’t it?  And to be blunt, this is not a Christian page, it is a Latter-day Saint group through and through, isn’t it?

Appendix E: A Sign of Deceit in Gilbert, Arizona
In late February 2022, an Ex-Mormon posted a photograph of a very mainstream-looking Christian street sign that was placed in front of the Mormon Meeting Hall that’s on the corner of Ocotillo and Higley Roads in Gilbert, Arizona (5656 S Higley Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85298, to be exact). This sign contains all the elements of mimicry discussed above up to and including:

  1. Failing to fully, openly, and candidly disclose that the religious group that meets in that Baptist-looking building behind the sign is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than a mainstream Christian church.
  2. In the same vein, using not the full name of the church on the sign. That is, using the generic official LdS Church URL (ChurchOfJesusChrist.org) on the sign to describe the religious organization behind the sign and the building rather than explicitly stating that the meeting house is, in fact, a Mormon church.
  3. Using traditional Christian iconography on the sign (an image of a Christ-like figure) rather than anything that’s distinctly Mormon – such as Moroni blowing his trumpet, for example.
  4. Not disclosing that the meeting times given on the sign are the meeting times for three separate and distinct Mormon Wards and services, rather than three options for the same service for the same church congregation – as is the practice in mainstream Christian churches.

This last point hides the fact that if the investigator were to join this church they would be told which ward and which service that they would be required to attend at this church based on their street address. To explain further, in mainstream Christian churches, those meeting times on their street signage are the times for the same service for the same church congregation because the church membership is too large to meet all at once in just one meeting to you have the option of any of three different meeting times for the exact same service in the same building. However, in the LdS Church, those are the meeting times for different congregations (aka “Wards”), in this case, three of them, and maybe even different services.

Furthermore, you can go to any of the three meetings as a member of a mainstream church congregation, it’s entirely up to you and what works for your family. However, in the LdS Church if you become a member you will be told which of the three meetings you and your family must attend because that’s when your assigned Ward meets in the building based on what ward boundaries you reside in.

Yes, it’s a subtle distinction, perhaps even a minor one, but still different than what most American churchgoers might expect given how church services are typically done in modern Protestant churches. The LdS Church is more closely aligned with the Roman Catholic Parish system which seems foreign, even odd, to the Protestants that history has shown Mormonism is more prone to convert.

So you can see that this seemingly innocuous street sign is hiding a whole host of deceptive practices which are designed to lure the unsuspecting investigator into Mormonism. As several people on Facebook very rightly pointed out, this type of bait and switch misrepresentation isn’t the stuff of mainstream religious groups, it’s the type of bait and switch tactics that Mind Control Cults use to snare new members.

And, again, as the saying goes, “Mormon Church if you don’t want to be called a cult, then stop acting like one.” You can start by knocking off all of the practices discussed in this article, beginning with integrity compromised street signs like this one.

This street sign was placed in front of the Mormon Meeting House at 5656 S. Higley Road, Gilbert, Arizona in late February 2022.

This article was originally published on the “From Water to Wine” website on 2021-12-30.
This updated edition of the article has been greatly expanded from the original.  

How the Doctrines & Covenants 10:37 Apologetic
For the Hofmann Case Destroys Mormonism

The original Book of Commandments and Revelations and the corresponding section of the Doctrine and Covenants are shown. (credit: Jason Olson, Deseret News)

by Fred W. Anson
A common, recurring, Mormon apologetic for why if Mormon Leaders were true prophets of God, they couldn’t discern the real nature of the Hofmann forgeries goes like this…

“The Lord made it clear to Joseph Smith that a prophet is not granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church:

‘But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.’ (DC 10:37)

The LDS doctrine of agency requires that those who plot evil be allowed a certain latitude, though (as President Hinckley prophetically noted) permanent harm to the Lord’s work will not be permitted.”
(FAIRMormon website, “Forgeries Related to Mormonism/Mark Hofmann”

Here is my response to this argument:
1) In the Hofmann case, Mormon Leaders (up and including the LdS First Presidency) did NOT “hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”.
Putting out Press Releases so the news of Hofmann’s “finds” can be blasted out around the world and publishing articles about Mark Hofmann manuscripts in the Church produced, “The Church News” (see the “Week Ending May 3, 1980” edition, for example) is anything but “holding your peace”, isn’t it? So this premise is simply false, they not only didn’t hold their peace, they shouted it from the rooftops, didn’t they? If you doubt me, please consider the image below from The Church New insert to the Deseret News from the Week Ending May 3, 1980. 

The article regarding the Mark Hofmann “Anthon Transcript” find in the Week Ending May 3, 1980 edition of The Church New insert to the Deseret News, the Church-owned newspaper.

2) The folks who have claimed that Mormon Prophets have extraordinary powers of discernment and who have set the bar, high, higher, even highest, aren’t Mormon Critics it’s the Mormon Leaders themselves.
The expectation that a prophet has the type of unique type of discernment required to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church so that it can’t be lead astray HAS been set by Mormon Leaders in general, and Mormon Prophets in particular. It has not been set by Mormon Critics. Consider the words of these official, correlated LdS Church manuals and publications:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”
(“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff”, p.199, “Gospel Principles”, p.41, and “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, p.20)

“President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church:“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught this same principle:

“You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 533).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) gave similar assurance to Church members:“The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 46; emphasis added).”
(LdS Church, “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church)

Friends, these aren’t the claims of Mormon Critics, are they? They are the word of Mormon Prophets in official, LdS Church publications aren’t they? So tell me, who is setting this extremely high “we have the highest level of spiritual discernment that’s so unique and special that we can never lead you astray” expectation? Is it Mormon Critics or is it the Mormon Prophets themselves?

This is REALLY the biggest enemy of the LdS Church, isn’t it?

3) As a result of #2, the unstated, implied argument that D&C 10:37 is arguing against (again, “a prophet IS granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church”) is, in reality, a Strawman Argument, isn’t it?
Thus, Mormon Apologists’ REAL debate opponent when they use the D&C 10:37 apologetic is their own Church’s Prophets, isn’t it? Again, and in actual fact, Mormon Critics are simply holding Mormon Prophets to the standard that those Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, nothing more, aren’t they? 

Mormons Leaders, you have met the enemy and he is you, not your critics, haven’t you? 

4) D&C 10:37 is in direct contradiction with the oft-cited Latter-day Saint application of the bible proof text that, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
The practical, real-world, application that Mormonism gives this text is that the current living Mormon Prophet possesses some kind of special discernment that the rest of us lack. Thus, if they truly possess the type of highly tuned and refined Amos 3:7 spiritual discernment that they claim they do, then the Lord should have revealed to the prophet the secret that Hofmann and his manuscripts were fraudulent and about to lead the LdS Church astray, correct?

After all, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets”, right? Again, this isn’t the Amos 3:7 application standard established by Mormon Critics, is it? However, it is the standard that Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, isn’t it?

So if it ain’t true, then why are Mormon Prophets saying it?

5) Since D&C 10:37 absolves Mormon Prophets of, in reality, possessing the type of special and unique, highly tuned spiritual discernment that they so often claim they do elsewhere, then in reality Mormon Prophets are simply nothing special.
They are, in fact, just as common and ordinary as you and I, aren’t they? That’s because anyone “can hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”, can’t they? Stated plainly “holding your peace” and saying nothing until after all the facts about the matter are known, doesn’t require any kind of special gifting at all, does it? In fact, it’s just good old common sense, isn’t it? Anyone can do it, it doesn’t require any type of special divine anointing or gifting at all, does it?

6) Due to #5, D&C 10:37 is really saying that there is really nothing special about Mormon Prophets at all. They are, in reality, no different than any other Religious Leader on the planet, are they?
So whether the religious leader is a Latter-day Saint, Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, the Prophet of some other Mormon Denomination, or that weird independent Pentecostal guy running the church downtown out of the converted movie theatre, they are what they are, and nothing more: Just ordinary men running churches, aren’t they?

And the LdS Church leaders are just one of the boys, aren’t they? They have absolutely no special or unique spiritual discernment that the other guys in this religious scrum, do, do they? Yes, they have said they do since the inception of Mormonism, but no, in reality, they clearly don’t. The Hofmann case proved it.

7) The LdS Prophet was clearly leading the LdS Church astray by starting to change doctrine based on being deceived by Hofmann.
I mention this one because this is an apologetic argument that Mormons like to use regarding the Hofmann case which is another false premise when it’s examined against the evidence. Specifically, in addition to leading the Church astray in regard to the authenticity of the forgeries (see above, #1 in particular), the LdS Church leaders were also changing Church origin doctrine (see above) based on Hofmann’s deceit. This is an easily documented fact.

The most blatant example of this is Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History” 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, which was given at BYU and is now being suppressed by the LdS Church on its official Church website, in which he said this:

“Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word salamander in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W. W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word salamander in the modern sense of a “tailed amphibian.”

One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of salamander, which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s. That meaning, which is listed second in a current edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a spirit supposed to live in fire” (2d College ed. 1982, s.v. “salamander”). Modern and ancient literature contain many examples of this usage.

A spirit that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the angel Moroni: a personage in the midst of a light, whose countenance was “truly like lightning” and whose overall appearance “was glorious beyond description” (Joseph Smith-History 1:32). As Joseph Smith wrote later, “The first sight [of this personage] was as though the house was filled with consuming fire” (History of the Church, 4:536). Since the letter purports only to be Martin Harris’s interpretation of what he had heard about Joseph’s experience, the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship with or membership in the Church? The media should make more complete disclosures, but Latter-day Saint readers should also be more sophisticated in their evaluation of what they read. For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni’s declaration that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History”, 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, BYU; also see https://si.ldschurch.org/performance/Talks%20For%20Teachers/reading-church-history_eng.pdf [restricted link on official LdS Church website])

And the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America in regard to the Mormon Church origin story, if you change Mormon History then Mormon Theology must shifts too in order to accommodate it.

“History, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is more than pageants, parades, trail markers, monuments, and restored homesteads. There is a very real sense in which the church’s history is its theology, and that not merely the supernatural events surrounding the church’s beginnings with the Angel Moroni and the golden plates at Hill Cumorah. In a body that believes itself the recipient and expression of continuing revelation, it is everything that has happened to the church ever since. And just as creedal churches have official statements of faith, the Mormon Church tends to have official versions of sacred history.”
(Richard & Joan Ostling, “Mormon American (Rev. Ed.)”; Nook Edition position 638.8-640.0/1200)

8) Therefore, and as a result of all of the above, D&C 10:37 is REALLY the complete undoing of Mormonism, isn’t it?
Isn’t it, in fact, telling us that at the end of the day, the LdS Church in general and its Prophets in particular, have nothing special or unique to offer that you can’t get from any other human institution when it comes to special insight, spiritual discernment, or revelation? D&C 10:37 is really telling us that Mormon Leaders can lead the LdS Church astray, isn’t it?

Further, and that said, the Hofmann case also shows us that they have led the Church astray in the past, haven’t they? So, once you fully analyze and deconstruct this Mormon Apologist D&C 10:37 argument it not only doesn’t vindicate or absolve Latter-day Saint Prophets from performing to the extremely high standards and expectations that they have set for themself, does it? Rather, it exposes, indicts, and condemns them and their religion, doesn’t it?

Neither are what they claim to be, are they?

Spencer W. Kimball, the LdS President at the time, examines the Mark Hofmann forgery known as “The Anthon Transcript” with a magnifying glass. Surrounding him (left to right) are Mark Hofmann, Eldon Tanner, Marion Romney, Boyd Packer, and Gordon B. Hinckley

Based on a True Story (Many, Many, Many of Them, Actually)

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1. Immediately resort to personal attacks. If your opponent is ex-Mormon tell him every apostate leaves because of Word of Wisdom or chastity issues. Whether or not he’s ex-Mormon, question his intelligence, maturity, or even his commitment to his spouse. Nothing is off-limits. The goal is to demoralize your foe in the first few minutes.

2. Be as arrogant and condescending as possible. Claim that you’ve been an apologist for however many years and have never seen a valid argument against the church. Intimidate your opponent by saying they will be embarrassed if they choose to continue the conversation because you know your stuff.

3. Make sure your responses are novel-length so your opponent loses the energy to respond. Even if they do, they won’t be able to respond to everything, granting you an easy win on unchallenged statements.

4. Remember, context is not your friend. Twenty scattered, cherry-picked Bible verses that support your point is a much better way to go than exegeting a particular passage from within its full and complete context.

5. If your opponent uses Bible verses that are critical of Mormon doctrine, inform him that the Bible has been corrupted and that what he is citing is wrong. Tell him that your prophet and personal revelation are much more credible than the Bible is.

6. If your opponent uses quotes from your former or current prophet to cast the church in a negative light, inform him that the prophet was speaking as a man. Revelation isn’t infallible after all, because it has to be filtered through our finite human understanding. Also, point out that whoever transcribed the prophet’s words probably messed up what he was actually saying.

7. Mock your opponent when they bring up proof that Mormons believe in doctrines like human deification or polygamy in heaven. Say things like, “Wait, you actually think we believe that? What else do you believe, that Mormons have horns?”

8. Make sure to create rabbit trails to derail the topic as often as possible.

9. Don’t hesitate to quote agnostic scholars like Bart Ehrman because the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Don’t worry that agnostic/Atheistic arguments run parallel to Mormon ones. It’s probably a coincidence.

10. Never answer a direct criticism. Avoid, deflect, dodge, and ignore. Better yet, pull a “Millett” and answer the question they should have asked instead.

11. When cornered, use Protestant language to convince Bible believers that you’re just a normal Christian too. Say things like “I believe I am saved by grace.” Hopefully, they won’t catch on that your definitions are wildly different from theirs.

12. If you get into trouble, find 10-20 of your Mormon apologist friends and gang up on the critic using tactics 1-11 repeatedly. No one can withstand that. Logic is unnecessary when you have numbers on your side!

About Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
The Ex-Mormon Apologist was a Born Into The Covenant Mormon. His Mormon heritage dates back to a family member, Jones Flournoy, who sold Joseph Smith land for the Temple Lot temple. He faithfully served a mission in Anaheim, CA. When he returned from his mission he became a published Mormon Apologist. He served several callings faithfully and successfully in his 30+ years in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. He still has Mormon friends and family members to this day. And he is still in Mormon Studies despite leaving the LdS Church.

A cover from dime novels and the NY Detective Library (Courtesy of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collection)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In my last article, I considered the interesting genre parallels between the Book of Mormon and 19th Century Dime Novels (which in Joseph Smith’s day were known as “Story Novels” and typically were serialized in newspapers)1. In that article, I gave examples of frontier and historical fiction. However, Dime Novels were also the birthplace of crime fiction, detective stories, and today’s modern mystery story. While this particular Dime Novel genre didn’t really come into its own as a standalone genre later in the 19th Century it was still present earlier in the century as well. As Wikipedia explains:

“The genre of mystery novels is a young form of literature that has developed since the early-19th century. The rise of literacy began in the years of the English Renaissance and, as people began to read over time, they became more individualistic in their thinking. As people became more individualistic in their thinking, they developed a respect for human reason and the ability to solve problems.

Perhaps a reason that mystery fiction was unheard of before the 19th century was due in part to the lack of true police forces. Before the Industrial Revolution, many of the towns would have constables and a night watchman at best. Naturally, the constable would be aware of every individual in the town, and crimes were either solved quickly or left unsolved entirely. As people began to crowd into cities, police forces became institutionalized, and the need for detectives was realized – thus the mystery novel arose.”
(see Wikipedia, “Mystery Fiction”

In Joseph Smith’s day, the genre was just in its infancy and the setting was more typically rural than urban. So the setting for a Story Novel mystery in his day would be a crime on the American Frontier rather than say, Chicago, or New York.

So what does any of this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Well, nothing, except for the fact that we have an archetypical 19th Century Dime Novel detective story anachronistically in a work that claims to be ancient – the entire ninth chapter of the book of Helaman in fact. Sadly, due to its length, I couldn’t include it in my prior article, but I also didn’t want it to get away either. So here we are.

In the Book of Mormon, our intrepid Dime Novel detective is Nephi, the son of the Prophet Helaman (the second), who was the son of the Prophet Helaman who was the son of King Benjamin – got all that? (if nothing else, Joseph Smith was great at recycling Book of Mormon names wasn’t he?). This Wikipedia synopsis will set the stage for our story:

Upon returning to the “land of his nativity”, Nephi found the people in a state of “awful wickedness.” The Gadianton robbers had usurped positions of power and the government had, therefore, become full of corruption. [see Helaman 7:4] 

Being filled with sorrow because of the wickedness of the people, Nephi ‘bowed himself’ and prayed upon a tower in his garden, which was by the highway leading to the ‘chief market’ in the city of Zarahemla. In the ‘agony of his soul,’ Nephi lamented the state of the people and wished that he could have lived during the time of Lehi, the forefather of his people. [see Helaman 7:6-10]

Those passing by heard his prayer of anguish, and they ran and called others together to determine the cause of this great mourning. Upon seeing the gathering people, Nephi turned his attention from praying to preaching. He counseled the onlookers to repent and to overcome the attraction of pride and riches. He prophesied of the loss of their great cities if they did not repent and earn the protection of the Lord. He also explained that the Lamanites, who were traditionally more wicked, would enjoy a better fate in the afterlife, and live longer in the promised land because they had not “sinned against that great knowledge” that the Nephites had received – representing a principle of the accountability that comes with knowledge. Lastly, he testified that he knew what he had spoken was true “because the Lord God has made them known” unto him. [Helaman 7:7-19]

Upon hearing Nephi’s words, there were some judges, who were members of the Gadianton robbers against whom Nephi taught, who roused others to opposition in an attempt to have Nephi arrested and tried. Others, however, were convinced of the truth of his words to the extent that those who were opposed feared to lay their hands on him. [see Helaman 8:1-10]

Seeing that he had convinced at least some of the crown, Nephi continued his preaching. He began by addressing the skeptics in the group who did not believe in his status as a prophet of God by comparing himself to Moses using the example of the parting of the Red Sea. From there he transferred into a discussion of different prophecies that had been made concerning the coming of Christ, first by teaching of the parallels between the serpent staff Moses raised in the wilderness and then teaching of the Priesthood given to Abraham, which was after the order of Christ. He also mentioned prophecies by Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah he addressed specifically with respect to the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, something the people knew of from the descendants of Mulek in their own land. Lastly, he taught of the people’s ancestors, including Nephi and Lehi, as witnesses of the “coming of Christ.” [see Helaman 8:11-24]

Then, after reminding the people of their wickedness due to choosing riches and pride rather than following the counsel of these prophets, he testified that their destruction was “even at [their] doors” and reveals the secret murder of their Chief Judge by his brother – both of whom were Gadianton robbers. [see Helman 8:25-28]

Five members of the crowd ran to the judgment-seat to test Nephi’s words.
(Wikipedia, “Nephi, son of Helaman”

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the game is afoot!

An artist’s rendering of a scene from Helaman 9. (“Seantum” by Briana Shawcroft)

Helaman 9:1-41
Behold, now it came to pass that when Nephi had spoken these words, certain men who were among them ran to the judgment-seat; yea, even there were five who went, and they said among themselves, as they went:

Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.

And it came to pass that they ran in their might, and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood.

And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge.

But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth.

Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered—he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled, and the servants ran and told the people, raising the cry of murder among them;

And behold the people did gather themselves together unto the place of the judgment-seat—and behold, to their astonishment they saw those five men who had fallen to the earth.

And now behold, the people knew nothing concerning the multitude who had gathered together at the garden of Nephi; therefore they said among themselves: These men are they who have murdered the judge, and God has smitten them that they could not flee from us.

And it came to pass that they laid hold on them, and bound them and cast them into prison. And there was a proclamation sent abroad that the judge was slain, and that the murderers had been taken and were cast into prison.

And it came to pass that on the morrow the people did assemble themselves together to mourn and to fast, at the burial of the great chief judge who had been slain.

And thus also those judges who were at the garden of Nephi, and heard his words, were also gathered together at the burial.

And it came to pass that they inquired among the people, saying: Where are the five who were sent to inquire concerning the chief judge whether he was dead? And they answered and said: Concerning this five whom ye say ye have sent, we know not; but there are five who are the murderers, whom we have cast into prison.

And it came to pass that the judges desired that they should be brought; and they were brought, and behold they were the five who were sent; and behold the judges inquired of them to know concerning the matter, and they told them all that they had done, saying:

We ran and came to the place of the judgment-seat, and when we saw all things even as Nephi had testified, we were astonished insomuch that we fell to the earth; and when we were recovered from our astonishment, behold they cast us into prison.

Now, as for the murder of this man, we know not who has done it; and only this much we know, we ran and came according as ye desired, and behold he was dead, according to the words of Nephi.

And now it came to pass that the judges did expound the matter unto the people, and did cry out against Nephi, saying: Behold, we know that this Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge, and then he might declare it unto us, that he might convert us unto his faith, that he might raise himself to be a great man, chosen of God, and a prophet.

And now behold, we will detect this man, and he shall confess his fault and make known unto us the true murderer of this judge.

And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.

Nevertheless, they caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death—

Saying unto him: Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him.

But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?

O ye ought to begin to howl and mourn, because of the great destruction which at this time doth await you, except ye shall repent.

Behold ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should murder Seezoram, our chief judge. But behold, I say unto you, that this is because I have testified unto you that ye might know concerning this thing; yea, even for a witness unto you, that I did know of the wickedness and abominations which are among you.

And because I have done this, ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should do this thing; yea, because I showed unto you this sign ye are angry with me, and seek to destroy my life.

And now behold, I will show unto you another sign, and see if ye will in this thing seek to destroy me.

Behold I say unto you: Go to the house of Seantum, who is the brother of Seezoram, and say unto him—

Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, who doth prophesy so much evil concerning this people, agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother?

And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay.

And ye shall say unto him: Have ye murdered your brother?

And he shall stand with fear, and wist not what to say. And behold, he shall deny unto you; and he shall make as if he were astonished; nevertheless, he shall declare unto you that he is innocent.

But behold, ye shall examine him, and ye shall find blood upon the skirts of his cloak.

And when ye have seen this, ye shall say: From whence cometh this blood? Do we not know that it is the blood of your brother?

And then shall he tremble, and shall look pale, even as if death had come upon him.

And then shall ye say: Because of this fear and this paleness which has come upon your face, behold, we know that thou art guilty.

And then shall greater fear come upon him; and then shall he confess unto you, and deny no more that he has done this murder.

And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.

And it came to pass that they went and did, even according as Nephi had said unto them. And behold, the words which he had said were true; for according to the words he did deny; and also according to the words he did confess.

And he was brought to prove that he himself was the very murderer, insomuch that the five were set at liberty, and also was Nephi.

And there were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison.

And now there were some among the people, who said that Nephi was a prophet.

And there were others who said: Behold, he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things. For behold, he has told us the thoughts of our hearts, and also has told us things; and even he has brought unto our knowledge the true murderer of our chief judge.

And there you have it folks: Nephi, Son of Helaman, Dime Novel Detective Extraordinaire! Nick Carter, Allan Pinkerton, and William J. Burns (aka “America’s Sherlock Holmes”) would be proud.2

NOTES
1 “Throughout the Victorian period, novels in serial parts were published in abundance in newspapers and magazines—by far the most popular form—or in discreet parts issued in installments, usually 20 monthly issues.

Many 19th century authors established themselves by first publishing original fiction in serial format. Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson and more, all published serial novels, either in monthly magazines or as discreet serial parts.”
(University of Victoria Library, “19th Century Serial Novels”

2 For those unfamiliar with these names, here’s a primer:

Nick Carter
“Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years, and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990. Films were created based on Carter in France, Czechoslovakia and Hollywood. Nick Carter has also appeared in many comic books and in radio programs.”
(Wikipedia, “Nick Carter (literary character)”

Allan Pinkerton
“Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency…

Pinkerton produced numerous popular detective books, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriters, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his views.”
(Wikipedia, “Allan Pinkerton”

Willliam J. Burns
“Despite the fact that Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters, though, their cultural influence can even be discerned in the history of the world outside of the printed page. Ever since the end of the Victorian age, real detectives and police officials have often been held to the standards of fiction and have even seen their exploits re-cast as updated versions of one of Doyle’s many gaslight era tales. One American law-enforcement figure, in particular, bore the burden of living up to Holmes’s legacy: William J. Burns, an Irish-American sleuth who bore more than a passing resemblance to Doyle himself.

According to William R. Hunt’s biography Front-Page Detective: William J. Burns and the Detective Profession, 1880-1930, Burns was a friend of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Doyle—the latter of whom publicly hailed Burns as “America’s Sherlock Holmes.” For much of his career, Burns was almost guaranteed a headline each time he caught on to a forgery or risked his life in the line of duty…”
(Benjamin Welton, “The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes'”, The Atlantic, November 20, 2013) 

An Honest Take on “The Articles of Faith
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”  Based on Current LDS Church Doctrine and Practice

A young girl reads the Articles of Faith from the Pearl of Great Price in the printed scriptures.

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, and in Heavenly Mother. We believe we are the same species as God and may ascend to Godhood someday, just as countless other heavenly beings have done.

2 We believe that neither Adam’s transgression nor Christ’s obedience is imputed to mankind. Both of these events are merely incentives that entice us to do good or evil.

3 We believe that the Atonement of Christ merely opens a path for us to repent of our sins and reach perfection through our own righteousness.

4 We believe the path to heaven consists of faith, repentance, baptism, a temple endowment, marriage, and honoring and keeping all of the temple covenants because Jesus isn’t enough.

5 We believe that we solely have the authority to preach the gospel and baptize. Christ’s Great Commission and Royal Priesthood (see Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10) aren’t enough, you must also have the LDS priesthood or any and all claimed authority is utterly illegitimate.

6 We rely on bishops, apostles, prophets, and so forth because we reject Jesus as our living prophet and high priest.

7 We theoretically believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, and so forth. These things are not seen in our church and our prophet doesn’t prophecy, but that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t working in mundane yet significant ways that we just can’t witness.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it supports LDS doctrine. The rest of it has been corrupted and is no longer trustworthy. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God inasmuch it is interpreted correctly, which only the Prophet can do. All this is why the Prophet is ultimately our highest authority.

9 We believe all that God has revealed unless it contradicts what the prophet teaches today. As far as tomorrow, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

10 We believe that 99.9% of us are from the tribe of Ephraim and are tasked with the gathering of Israel, or in other words, missionary work. When someone is baptized into our church, they become the seed of Abraham. Yes, we are that arrogant.

11 If cornered, we will say we believe all the same things as Christianity. It’s our similarities that really matter, outsiders should act like the differences aren’t important, just like we do!

12 We believe in fashioning God’s decrees after the laws of the land in general, and the United States in particular. God’s command to stop practicing polygamy and the parallel laws of the U.S. government make for excellent plausible deniability for Official Declaration 1. Ditto for dropping the Priesthood ban on those of African descent for Offical Declaration Two.

13 We believe in appearing honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous. In essence, we mimic Christian ideals and language in order to ensnare and confuse Christians into joining our ranks. We follow the morally compromised admonition of Joseph Smith — “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is.” (History of the Church, 5:135)

An artist’s depiction of Joseph Smith writing the Wentworth Letter which later became the canonized, “Articles of Faith”.

Appendix I: The Backstory of the Articles of Faith
by Fred W. Anson
From the official LdS Church website:

The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s request to know what members of the Church believe. They were subsequently published in Church periodicals. They are now regarded as scripture and included in the Pearl of Great Price.
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Topics: The Articles of Faith”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2022-02-05) 

It has been noted that the Articles of Faith, which was originally called “The Wentworth Letter”, was deliberately word crafted by Joseph Smith to sound “Christian” and downplay any unorthodox or controversial Latter-day Saint doctrine because it was written for an outsider, Christian audience. As the neutral source Wikipedia explains: 

“The “Wentworth letter” was a letter written in 1842 by Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith to “Long” John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. It outlined the history of the Latter Day Saint movement up to that time, and included Mormonism’s Articles of Faith.

The letter was written in response to Wentworth’s inquiry on behalf of one of his friends, George Barstow, who was writing a history of New Hampshire. The letter was first published on March 1, 1842, in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Illinois.

A similar letter (with some slight revisions) was published by Daniel Rupp in 1844 in a book called An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States.”
(Wikipedia, “Wentworth letter”; retrieved 2002-02-05) 

In addition, the Wikipedia article notes that “The wording of some of the articles was modified in 1851 and 1902” (Ibid). Regardless, the fact of the matter remains that the Articles of Faith have never truly been reflective of Mormon Theology or orthodoxy. And it has always been used as a kind of Public Relations tool to buttress and protect the LdS Church from outside criticism of its unique doctrine – the stuff that mainstream Christians might find offensive or evidence of the lack of true biblical orthodoxy. In other words, it has never met the standard of honesty that the LdS Church itself teaches which includes the following criterion:

“There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Principless” Chapter 31, “Honesty”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2013-06-29) 

Therefore, Michael Flournoy’s “The LDS Articles of Faith: Honest Version” may, in fact, be the first version of the Articles of Faith that is truly representative of current Brighamite doctrine, theology, and practices. 

note: The current canonized version of “The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” can be read by clicking here.

About Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
The Ex-Mormon Apologist was a Born Into The Covenant Mormon. His Mormon heritage dates back to a family member, Jones Flournoy, who sold Joseph Smith land for the Temple Lot temple. He faithfully served a mission in Anaheim, CA. When he returned from his mission he became a published Mormon Apologist. He served several callings faithfully and successfully in his 30+ years in the LdS Church. He still has Mormon friends and family members to this day. He is still in Mormon Studies despite leaving the LdS Church.

by Fred W. Anson
Dime Novels are as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They are so entrenched in the American psyche and culture that most consumers of American Pop Culture have been exposed to the Dime Novel genre even if they have never actually seen or read a Dime Novel. As Wikipedia explains: 

“The dime novel is a form of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S. popular fiction issued in series of inexpensive paperbound editions. The term dime novel has been used as a catchall term for several different but related forms, referring to story papers, five- and ten-cent weeklies, “thick book” reprints, and sometimes early pulp magazines. The term was used as a title as late as 1940, in the short-lived pulp magazine Western Dime Novels. In the modern age, the term dime novel has been used to refer to quickly written, lurid potboilers, usually as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized but superficial literary work.”
(Wikipedia, “Dime Novel”

If you have ever seen an early 20th Century Western, or Mystery that was produced in America you have been exposed to Dime Novel fiction. American Television, Radio, Movies, popular literature, and plays all followed the Dime Novel formula which was as follows: 

“[Western] Protagonists would often come into conflict with Native Americans, which would become a recurring feature of the genre and lend it a reputation for racism and jingoism. These stories are occasionally fictional accounts of real historical figures, such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but more often the characters are completely fictional, like Nick Whiffles. It wasn’t long before the setting of these novels shifted to the contemporary Western frontier, especially mining camps in the Dakotas and California. At first, outlaws, gamblers, and other anti-heroes were especially popular, such as Edward L. Wheeler’s Deadwood Dick or real-life gang leader Jesse James. These characters were almost always driven to a life of crime by their circumstances, but often had basically good intentions. With growing concerns about the moral appropriateness of dime novels for children, however, stories about cowboys and plainsmen came to replace outlaws…

At the dawn of the dime novel era, historical fiction was almost as popular as Western stories, with tales about the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 predominating. In many ways, America’s popular conception of its early history can be attributed to these novels, which often focused on the exploits of self-reliant patriots, either spies or privateers, who would heroically stand up against English and Tory oppression…

Real historical figures sometimes featured in these novels, like George Washington or Ulysses S. Grant, but more often these stories deal with few real historical events or characters, even sometimes leaving the date unspecified (e.g. 187-). When historical figures do appear, their character is often based on their popular conception, with seldom any relation to reality.”
(North Illinois University, “Nickels and Dimes: Genre”)

For those of us who have read through the Book of Mormon at least once is this all beginning to sound eerily familiar: 

      • Morality Plays
      • War Rhetoric
      • Battlefield Narratives
      • Racism
      • Jingoism
      • Patriotism
      • Cardboard, Two-Dimensional characters
      • Heroes (the “White Hats”) 
      • Outlaws (the “Black Hats”) 
      • Self Reliant Patriots (fighting to defend their religion, freedom, peace, and families)
      • Spies 
      • Privateers
      • Real Historical Figures inserted into fictional settings

Interesting, isn’t it? Now consider all the above in light of the following excerpts from the Book of Mormon: 

Mosiah 19:4-7
And now there was a man among them whose name was Gideon, and he being a strong man and an enemy to the king, therefore he drew his sword, and swore in his wrath that he would slay the king.

And it came to pass that he fought with the king; and when the king saw that he was about to overpower him, he fled and ran and got upon the tower which was near the temple.

And Gideon pursued after him and was about to get upon the tower to slay the king, and the king cast his eyes round about towards the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land.

And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.

Now just recontextualize that for the Old West with guns, Sheriffs and Desperados and you have a great Western story, don’t you? 

Helaman 6:16-20
And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.

For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.

And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers.

And it was they who did murder the chief judge Cezoram, and his son, while in the judgment-seat; and behold, they were not found.

And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that there were robbers among them they were exceedingly sorrowful; and they did use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.

And there it is, another otherwise good territory has privateering outlaws running amuck. So the good guys have to hunt down them and clear them out. Several exciting armed conflicts ensue. Sound familiar?

Alma 46:19-24, 34-36
And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.

Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment…

Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them.

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.

I can almost feel the flag fluttering in the air while Moroni proudly hugs his scripture to his chest, can’t you? Haven’t we all seen this scene before somewhere… 

The Jay Ward cartoon characters Dudley Do-Right and his nemesis Snidely Whiplash were satirical takes on Dime Novel heroes and villains as they manifested themselves in the American Silent Film era.

1 Nephi 4:6-27
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.

And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.

And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins.

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.

And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban.

And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls.

And I also bade him that he should follow me.

And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.

And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.

And there you have it, a good and righteous man is forced to slay an evil villain for the sake of the greater good due to circumstances beyond his control. Surely this is one that we’ve never heard before, well, except for in just about every Dime Novel Western Hero story ever, that is, of course.

I think you get the idea, here. I would encourage you to read (or reread) the Book of Mormon in light of these Dime Novel genre formulations and consider how they just pop out at you. 

Consider, for example, The “Dudley Do-Rightism” of the courageous and righteous Nephi against the constant malice and murmurings of the scheming and the conniving “Snidely Whiplash” characters of Laman and Lemuel in the opening books of the Book of Mormon. 

Then compare and contrast those simplistic protagonists and antagonists against the deep, complex, characters in the Bible. The biblical characters are never cardboard, they’re deep and conflicted. Case in point, King David was a man after God’s whole heart due to his devotion and passion for God, but he was also a murderer and an adulterer. This isn’t a superficial, shallow, easily understood, literary figure, is it? 

Ditto for Noah who God calls just and perfect (see Genesis 6:9) but who still manages to get crazy, drunk, and naked in the midst of God’s calling on his life. Furthermore, the Noah narrative in the Bible, it has been noted, has strong parallels to the Sumerian and Babylonian flood narratives (see Wikipedia, “Gilgamesh Flood Myth”)And let’s not forget the book of Job for which there are similar “lamentation songs” and stories from the ancient Mesopotamian basin (see, for example, Morris Jastrow, Jr., “A Babylonian Parallel to the Story of Job”)Thus, regardless of whether you believe that it’s divinely inspired or not, the body of evidence is clear that the Bible is indeed ancient, Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand, The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient work of Middle Eastern origin but is actually more reflective of a uniquely American literary genre from the 19th Century – which would suggest that it is neither. Rather, it is strongly suggestive of American culture in general and 19th Century American culture in particular. Couple that with the fact that as of a decade ago, 150-Million copies of The Book of Mormon had been published (see LdS Newsroom, “Book of Mormon Reaches 150-Million Copies”) and you will understand why my assertion is that based on the body of evidence, The Book of Mormon is, quite simply, the most successful 19th Century Dime Novel in history. 

Presenting the Most Successful 19th Century Dime Novel in History.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common refrain from the LdS Church and other Latter Day Saint sources is that founding Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. wasn’t motivated by money in the founding and perpetuation of Mormonism in general and in his role as the Great Prophet of the Restoration in particular. If this is the case then why does the historical record clearly indicate that he benefited financially from both? Please consider the following two summations of the body of evidence.

First, from renowned Mormon Historian, D. Michael Quinn’s last book:

“The municipal assessment rolls for taxation from 1841 to 1843 show an unprecedented divergence between the church president’s assessed wealth and everyone else’s (table 1.4). This was not simply due to Joseph Smith’s role as trustee-in-trust after 1841, because LDS assessors itemized his personal real estate as distinct from each parcel of land he owned as the church’s trustee. . . . in 1842 and 1843, Smith’s personal ownership of land remained at least twenty-one times higher than for Nauvoo’s average resident. His personal property (non-land wealth) remained at least 2.7 times greater than for Nauvoo’s non-hierarchy. During those years, he also owned at least twice as much personal property than the average general authority, and his personal ownership of land remained at least 4.9 times their average.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power”, Kindle Locations 507-516. Signature Books. Kindle Edition)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part one)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part two)

Second, from the RfM (Recovery from Mormonism) website archives:

1. Joseph Smith cleared over $73,000 in debt by filing for bankruptcy in 1842 (his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, along with other LDS dignitaries took advantage of a brief window where Congress enacted a lenient bankruptcy law only to rescind it months later when $440 million in liabilities in the country were wiped clean for $44 million in assets). Joseph’s $73k debt represented nearly $2 million in 2010 dollars. [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

2. By Joseph’s own account, he owed approximately $70,000 again by the time he was killed just 2 years later in 1844 (over $1.84 million in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

3. LAND SPECULATION. Nauvoo land purchased for $2 per acre, lots sold for average price of $500 per acre (minimum $200 per acre | maximum $800 per acre) multiply by factor of 25 to 28 for value in 2010 dollars—this is how frontier land speculation works when masses of people are gathered by revelation.

SPIRITUAL BLACKMAIL TO PROMOTE SALES.
February 13, 1843: I spent the evening at Elder Orson Hyde’s. In the course of conversation I remarked that those brethren who came here having money, and purchased without the Church and without counsel, must be cut off. This, with other observations, aroused the feelings of Brother Dixon, from Salem, Massachusetts, who was present, and he appeared in great wrath. [“History of the Church”, vol 5., ch.14, p.272; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-5-chapter-14]

The Front Page of the Nauvoo Neighbor.

SPIRITUAL COERCION TO PROMOTE SALES.
[NOTE: “ The Nauvoo Neighbor was a weekly newspaper edited and published by Latter Day Saint Apostle John Taylor in Nauvoo, Illinois from 1843 to 1845. While it was not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Neighbor was consistently pro-Mormon and its primary target audience was the Latter Day Saint residents of Nauvoo. When The Wasp ceased publication in April 1843, the Neighbor replaced it as Nauvoo’s premier secular newspaper.” (Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Neighbor”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Neighbor )]

———-BEGIN NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

20 December 1843, Nauvoo Neighbor 37: To Emigrants and Latter-Day Saints Generally: I feel it my duty to say … that there is in the hands of the trustee in trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining townships in this county, which is for sale, some of which belongs to the Church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also to liquidate debts owing to the Church, for which the trustee in trust is responsible. Some, also, is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple and the Nauvoo House.If the brethern who move in here and want an inheritance, will buy their lands of the trustee in trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple, and the Nauvoo House, and even then only will be doing that which is their duty, and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in days to come. Let all the brethern, therefore, whey they move into Nauvoo, consult President Joseph Smith, the trustee in trust, and purchase their lands of him; and I am bold to say that God will bless them. …We hold ourselves ready at any time to wait upon the brethern and show them the lands … and can be found any day, either at President Joseph Smith’s bar-room, or the Temple Recorder’s office at the Temple.

———- END NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

4. ABUSE OF POWER.
Nauvoo city council awarded Joseph Smith sole right to sell liquor in city limits. He established bar in Mansion House/Hotel for that purpose, but Emma forced him to remove it by threatening to take the kids and move back to the Homestead house.

5. ASSETS OWNED BY JOSEPH/EMMA:
• Joseph Smith Mansion House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_House)
• Nauvoo House built by order of revelation at the Church’s expense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_House)
• Homestead house in Nauvoo (http://cofchrist.org/js/homestead/default.asp)
• Brigham Young claimed that Emma owned $50,000 in *city property* when they finished settling the assets with Emma ($1.4 million in 2010 dollars). This apparently referred to the Hugh White purchase which Joseph had deeded to her before his death (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N03_89.pdf).
• Quincy property (aka Cleveland farm)
• One or more additional farms (Brigham Young twice used the plural when referring to farms given to Emma, saying that “besides these farms she owned city property worth fifty thousand dollars”).
• Owned at least two steamships: the Maid of Iowa and the Nauvoo (Joseph Smith owed a debt on the latter at the time of his death that was settled for over $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]
• Steamship docks (ownership was under dispute—still looking for more info on this one).• Egyptian papyrus and mummies purchased by friends of Joseph Smith for $2,400 in 1835 ($60,000 in 2010 dollars).
• Mother Smith would charge admission (25 cents or around $7 in 2010 dollars) to see the Egyptian mummies and papyrus. Lying, Joseph reportedly told visitors that his mother had purchased them herself for $6,000 ($150,000 in 2010 dollars).
• They remained in the Smith family until Emma sold them shortly after Lucy Mack Smith’s death in 1855.
(source = http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1190844,1220856 )

Banner Art: A fictional Million-Dollar Bill featuring Joseph Smith’s profile that was produced by Mormonism Research Mormonism (MRM) a few years ago.

An Explanation of Sanctification for Latter-day Saints

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

by Michael Flournoy
In a previous article, I described two types of gospels: the gospel of amputation and the gospel of imputation. The gospel of amputation says we must remove the sin from our lives in order to become righteous. Since this includes sins of omission, we must also do all that God requires. In short, this is the gospel of obedience rewarded by grace. It also happens to be the gospel Latter-day Saints adhere to.

If you’re LDS reading this, there’s about a 50% chance you take umbrage at what I just said. However, I can be reasonably sure that I’ve spoken the truth based solely on the fact that the LDS church is a religion. 

Let me ask you a few questions. Does an ordinance bring you into a covenantal relationship with God? Can major sins overturn that relationship? If another religion showed up that did baptisms and sealings for the dead, would they be discredited as a false church? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re an adherent of amputation. I’m fully aware that some Latter-day Saints prefer grace over obedience. But even if you only have to keep one commandment and it’s the equivalent of clipping a fingernail, that still falls within the bounds of amputation. 

Imputation is the opposite proposition. Instead of cutting off sin, we put on the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness drowns out our wickedness and immediately makes us worthy of the Father’s presence. What’s more, it occurs before we obey commandments or undergo a single ordinance. Since obedience doesn’t lead to salvation, our sin can’t undo salvation. It’s not even in the equation. And if another religion pops up that does ordinances like baptism, but claims they’re saved by faith first, they are considered a legitimate faith. 

This is why many Protestant denominations can coexist, but the LDS Church can’t tolerate another organization appropriating their temples and performing their rites. If another religion does baptisms, those baptisms are considered illegitimate by the LDS church. Again, this is because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ties the ordinances themselves to eternal life. Once a religion does this, they must claim exclusive rights to their rituals, or else there would be no need for their faith. This is true not only of your religion but of every belief system on earth. 

The exception is those that believe in imputed righteousness. Those who accept Christ and His vicarious work on the cross become His children and are immediately and forever worthy of eternal life.  After we are declared perfect in Christ, we enter a sanctification process whereby we grow closer to God in love and trust. Our hearts are gradually changed so we desire the things of God. In practice, this isn’t all that different from how Latter-day Saints live out their lives. 

The difference is twofold. First, grace acts as a safety net to catch us when we fall, thus keeping us inside the covenant. And second, we don’t have to reach a certain stage of sanctification to gain eternal life, since we are worthy the moment we’re born again through faith. 

A painting by Jerry Thompson depicting Lehi reaching for the fruit of the tree of life while holding onto the iron rod; (from the official and correlation LdS Church “Primary Manual 4-14”).

The Iron Rod
To demonstrate these two gospels, let’s look at a well-known Book of Mormon analogy: the iron rod. Lehi has a dream in 1 Nephi 8, where he sees a rod of iron leading to the tree of life. Throngs of people hold tight to this rod as they make their way to the tree. This is a good representation of the gospel of amputation.

The tree symbolizing the love of God lies at the end of the path and effort is required to get there. The journey is treacherous, and many fall into forbidden paths and are lost. Others wander into filthy waters and drown therein. Even after reaching the tree and partaking of the fruit, some are embarrassed by the mocking of onlookers in a great and spacious building. They discard the fruit and enter the building, which later collapses.

The point is, there’s no assurance in the gospel of amputation. There’s no point in the journey where anyone can rest in the knowledge that their salvation is secure. Even after reaching the end of the journey and partaking in the love of God, they can be coaxed away. But what if I told you there’s another route to the tree?

After wandering around in the darkness for hours, Lehi prays for mercy and the darkness subsides. He finds himself in a spacious field near the tree. He simply walks up and eats the fruit. And he’s not the only one to forgo the rod. Nephi, Sam, and Sariah also approach the tree without using it. Of the four of them, none are lost to forbidden paths or drowned in the filthy waters, making this path far superior to the iron rod.

Imputation teaches that Christ already did the hard work of obeying God’s word. He made it past the iron rod, planted the tree of life, and built an escalator to heaven. This is the path of mercy. Justice is satisfied that Christ walked the path, and now Jesus can take us straight to the tree. The tree isn’t the end of the path, it’s the beginning.

Once we board the escalator through faith, we can rest assured that our salvation is secure in the blood of the lamb. There’s no way to get off and wander into the swamps of damnation. Our future in heaven with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an absolute certainty. 

Sealed for Eternity
When faced with salvation by faith alone, Latter-day Saints often ask what role obedience plays. Allow me to answer that with an analogy about marriage.  When we get married to someone, all we have to do is say the words, “I do.” We don’t enter this relationship to earn the other person’s love, rather we marry as a result of that love.

Contrary to what fairy tales teach, the story doesn’t end at marriage. It’s the beginning of the adventure. It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows. It’s an opportunity to grow closer to your spouse and learn to trust each other. But even during the tumultuous drops, the marriage covenant remains intact.  Nothing changes within us when we enter this relationship. There’s no transformation of character shouting to the world that we’re married. A couple may wear rings as an outward sign of their devotion, but that isn’t what makes them married. What makes them married is simply a legal declaration that they are. 

Now let’s pretend the bride was 100,000 dollars in debt on the day of the wedding but she married a billionaire. By virtue of her husband’s name, she is now a billionaire too despite all that debt. That’s how imputation works. We take Christ’s name upon us and acquire His righteousness. The difference is, His righteousness is infinite. So there’s nothing we can do to make up the difference or slide back into spiritual debt. 

In my analogy, the husband may teach his bride to be wiser with money, but that comes after the marriage. In the same way, God’s word is a standard to teach us morality, but our covenantal relationship with Him predates our obedience. Consider this question by the apostle Paul: when was Abraham counted righteous? Was it before or after he was circumcised? He answers that it was before circumcision and explains why in Romans 5:11-13 (KJV) which reads:

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:  

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.  

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” (John 9:37-38 KJV)

Can Salvation Be Lost?
Most Latter-day Saints balk at the idea that grace is sufficient for eternal life. They consider sola gratia to be “cheap grace” and a license to sin. Let’s shift over to a parent/child analogy. Some Latter-day Saints have told me they give rules to their children to teach them discipline, and argue that our loving Heavenly Father employs the same methods.

I agree, but with a caveat. Disobedience doesn’t undo the covenantal relationship. Can you imagine kicking your kid out of the house because he didn’t clean his room? Or disowning him because he told a lie? Or is your love unconditional? Do you value your relationship with your children, even when they do things you’re ashamed of? If your child grew up and said they hated you and walked away, wouldn’t they still be a son or daughter in your eyes?

I believe this resembles the relationship we have with God. When we sin, God doesn’t abandon us until we get our act together. If anything, He’s closer to us in these times, giving us the comfort and direction we desperately need. As Paul so eloquently preaches in Romans 5:20, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

This is evidenced in the story of David and Bathsheba. Not only does King David commit adultery, but he puts the woman’s husband on the front lines of the battle to die. When Nathan the prophet confronts him, David confesses his sin and Nathan replies: “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13) How great is God’s grace, and how boundless is His mercy that He could forgive so great a sin! Surely there is nothing cheap about grace like this. 

So to my LDS reader I ask, does the same God who forgave David of murder and adultery really take away salvation when we do less evil than that? Does the Jesus who died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) abandon us because we’re still sinners? Jesus prayed for the very people who condemned him to death saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) And I posit that it’s against Christ’s nature to turn around and disown His own children. 

But what about us? Can’t we turn our backs on Him? We can leave him, but He will move heaven and earth to bring us back to the fold. Ultimately, the question that needs to be asked is this: do we adopt God or does He adopt us? If God adopts us, what right do we have to nullify that? We can complain or act out in disobedience, but nothing we do can sever our relationship with Him. Even if we walk down an escalator, the stairs still work to bring us up.

Another disagreement Latter-day Saints have with Evangelicals is our tendency to say those who leave Christianity never believed in Jesus at all. But let me explain, using marriage as an example again. I was married to my first wife for nine years. At the end of it, she informed me that she wanted to date other men. When I protested, she filed for divorce. I spent months in a state of agony, reliving our most cherished memories, and yet they meant nothing to her. She saw my sorrow and wasn’t fazed. 

Did she fall out of love? No. The simpler explanation is she never loved me at all. What she felt for me was actually infatuation. Many people have an infatuation with the idea of God, but as soon as being a disciple becomes inconvenient, they abandon their Christian ideals. My friends, do not be deceived. Someone like this could never have loved God. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. If it doesn’t endure then it isn’t true love, is it? 

As a Latter-day Saint, you may say: people get divorced all the time. Doesn’t that prove someone can walk away from God’s covenantal relationship? Can’t we reject His love? The question of divorce was posed to Jesus by the Pharisees and He replied,

“For the hardness of your heart [Moses] wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
(Mark 10:5-9 KJV)

In other words, divorce is not a God thing, but a man thing. And according to the New Testament, Christ is our bridegroom (Matthew 25:5). If we have been sealed to Him, how can we be separated?

I would also note that love can’t be rejected. If someone loves us, that love is present whether we feel it or not. It’s there whether we want it or not. However, the rod of the iron gospel teaches the opposite. Since the tree in Lehi’s vision represents the love of God, we can infer that God’s love only covers those who make it to the shade the tree provides. He doesn’t love those who walk away from Him. He doesn’t love the lost, or even the ones obeying His word, because they haven’t endured to the end. This love must be earned, and therefore is not love at all. This resembles an abusive, narcissistic relationship more than it resembles real charity. Like the iron rod itself, this love will inevitably rust.  Contrast that with what Paul writes in Romans 8:35-39 (KJV):

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ‘As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'” Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you’re tired of fighting a losing battle to reach perfection, if broken covenants condemn you, if your sins have traded your peace with fear, and if a love that runs at the sight of your imperfections is what you’re used to, then I invite you to flee from it. You will never be or do enough in a gospel like that and you will never finish proving your worthiness. Instead, I invite you to embrace the unconditional, unending, fully accepting, ever merciful, totally sufficient, and all-encompassing love of Christ.

“Security” by David Bowman

An artist’s interpretation of what downtown Cahokia would have looked like in the late Sterling period after the palisade wall had been built around Monk’s Mound and the Grand Plaza. credit: National Geographic (click to zoom)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common body of evidence that’s often presented by some Mormon faithful as the best evidence for The Book of Mormon is the Hopewell Mound Builder culture in general and the mount builder complex of Cahokia in particular. A well-known case in point is Rock Waterman’s article in which he attempts to make that very case, starting his lengthy treatise like this:

“What struck me when I first arrived in Cahokia was the incredible stink.

I had been called to serve in the Missouri-Independence Mission, but my first area, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, was far from any of the historic church locations I had expected to to see when I got my call. Now, near the end of 1973, I had been transferred to my second location. I would spend my first winter as a missionary in smelly Cahokia, Illinois; as far from Far West or Independence or Adam-Ondi-Ahman as a guy could possibly get.

The small town of Cahokia was located next to East St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, famous for its slaughterhouses. The smell of bovine death and gore hovered in the air long after slaughtering had ceased for the day, floating up and mixing with the rancid smoke spewed from the smokestacks of the nearby Monsanto chemical plant, then slowly settling down over the hapless town of Cahokia to choke its residents while they slept. “It’s something you just get used to,” my new companion told me.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have been delighted to find myself in Cahokia instead of dreading it. As it turns out, I had landed smack dab in the middle of Book of Mormon Central and never even knew it.”
(Rock Waterman, “Best Evidence For The Book of Mormon”, Pure Mormonism website, November 1, 2011)

Mr. Waterman then goes on to point to a long list of secular and Mormon Apologist sources, especially Heartland Apologists like Rod Meldrum, to support the case that Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture as stunning historical and archaeological support for The Book of Mormon. There’s only one problem: It’s been already been soundly discredited by both those inside and outside of Mormonism. Consider, for example, well-known RLDS/CoC scholar “Uncle” Dale Broadhurst, who concluded thusly:

“The Mississippian Culture was NOT a “civilization.” Its members did not live in cities.

Cahokia was NOT Teotihuacan nor Pekin nor Rome — it was a ceremonial center surrounded by farmers’ huts and connected by waterways to other, smaller villages.

We should not think of its residents as engaging in city life, with artisans, shops, government workers, city planning, etc.

If you want to look at a culture on the verge of becoming a civilization, look at the Valley of Mexico at the time Cortez arrived.

No reputable paleo-anthropologist will resort to exotic, transoceanic dispersions to account for the technology, social structure, language, etc., of American Indians associated with the Adena, Hopewell, or Mississippian cultures.

Take a minute to address letters of inquiry to the topmost cultural anthropologists at Brigham Young University, asking them what aspects of the Mississippian Culture necessarily depended upon importation from elsewhere — in other words, what parts of their society could not have been “home-grown” from the ground up.

The answer you will get back is: maize agriculture.

That, and perhaps some external “hints” on how to make better pottery, or weave better baskets, or better shape native copper into ornaments.”
(Dale Broadhurst, Mormon Discussions, Thu Feb 25, 2010 12:39 pm; link now dead)

And then there’s this from secular Science Journalist, Charles Mann, in his award-winning book, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”:

“The Hopewell apparently sought spiritual ecstasy by putting themselves into trances, perhaps aided by tobacco. In this enraptured state, the soul journeys to other worlds. As is usually the case, people with special abilities emerged to assist travelers through the portal to the numinous. Over time these shamans became gatekeepers, controlling access to the supernatural realm. They passed on their control and privileges to their children, creating a hereditary priesthood: counselors to kings, if not kings themselves. They acquired healing lore, mastered and invented ceremonies, learned the numerous divinities in the Hopewell pantheon. We know little of these gods today, because few of their images have endured to the present. Presumably shamans recounted their stories to attentive crowds; almost certainly, they explained when and where the gods wanted to build mounds. “There is a stunning vigor about the Ohio Hopewell …,” Silverberg wrote,

‘a flamboyance and fondness for excess that manifests itself not only in the intricate geometrical enclosures and the massive mounds, but in these gaudy displays of conspicuous consumption [in the tombs]. To envelop a corpse from head to feet in pearls, to weigh it down in many pounds of copper, to surround it with masterpieces of sculpture and pottery, and then to bury everything under tons of earth—this betokens a kind of cultural energy that numbs and awes those who follow after.’

Vibrant and elaborate, perhaps a little vulgar in its passion for display, Hopewell religion spread through most of the eastern United States in the first four centuries A.D. As with the expansion of Christianity, the new converts are unlikely to have understood the religion in the same way as its founders. Nonetheless, its impact was profound. In a mutated form, it may well have given impetus to the rise of Cahokia.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” (Kindle Locations 5242-5255). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

In regard to The Book of Mormon, Mann explains elsewhere in the same book:

“Contact with Indians caused Europeans considerably more consternation. Columbus went to his grave convinced that he had landed on the shores of Asia, near India. The inhabitants of this previously unseen land were therefore Asians—hence the unfortunate name “Indians.” As his successors discovered that the Americas were not part of Asia, Indians became a dire anthropogonical problem.

According to Genesis, all human beings and animals perished in the Flood except those on Noah’s ark, which landed “upon the mountains of Ararat,” thought to be in eastern Turkey. How, then, was it possible for humans and animals to have crossed the immense Pacific? Did the existence of Indians negate the Bible, and Christianity with it?

Among the first to grapple directly with this question was the Jesuit educator José de Acosta, who spent a quarter century in New Spain. Any explanation of Indians’ origins, he wrote in 1590, “cannot contradict Holy Writ, which clearly teaches that all men descend from Adam.” Because Adam had lived in the Middle East, Acosta was “forced” to conclude “that the men of the Indies traveled there from Europe or Asia.” For this to be possible, the Americas and Asia “must join somewhere.”

If this is true, as indeed it appears to me to be, … we would have to say that they crossed not by sailing on the sea, but by walking on land. And they followed this way quite unthinkingly, changing places and lands little by little, with some of them settling in the lands already discovered and others seeking new ones.

Acosta’s hypothesis was in basic form widely accepted for centuries. For his successors, in fact, the main task was not to discover whether Indians’ ancestors had walked over from Eurasia, but which Europeans or Asians had done the walking. Enthusiasts proposed a dozen groups as the ancestral stock: Phoenicians, Basques, Chinese, Scythians, Romans, Africans, “Hindoos,” ancient Greeks, ancient Assyrians, ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of Atlantis, even straying bands of Welsh. But the most widely accepted candidates were the Lost Tribes of Israel. Tribes of Israel.

The story of the Lost Tribes is revealed mainly in the Second Book of Kings of the Old Testament and the apocryphal Second (or Fourth, depending on the type of Bible) Book of Esdras. At that time, according to scripture, the Hebrew tribes had split into two adjacent confederations, the southern kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria. After the southern tribes took to behaving sinfully, divine retribution came in the form of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, who overran Israel and exiled its ten constituent tribes to Mesopotamia (today’s Syria and Iraq). Now repenting of their wickedness, the Bible explains, the tribes resolved to “go to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws.” True to their word, they walked away and were never seen again.

Because the Book of Ezekiel prophesizes that in the final days God “will take the children of Israel from among the heathen … and bring them into their own land,” Christian scholars believed that the Israelites’ descendants—Ezekiel’s “children of Israel”—must still be living in some remote place, waiting to be taken back to their homeland. Identifying Indians as these “lost tribes” solved two puzzles at once: where the Israelites had gone, and the origins of Native Americans.

Acosta weighed the Indians-as-Jews theory but eventually dismissed it because Indians were not circumcised. Besides, he blithely explained, Jews were cowardly and greedy, and Indians were not. Others did not find his refutation convincing. The Lost Tribes theory was endorsed by authorities from Bartolomé de Las Casas to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and the famed minister Cotton Mather. (In a variant, the Book of Mormon argued that some Indians were descended from Israelites though not necessarily the Lost Tribes.) In 1650 James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, calculated from Old Testament genealogical data that God created the universe on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. So august was Ussher’s reputation, wrote historian Andrew Dickson White, that “his dates were inserted in the margins of the authorized version of the English Bible, and were soon practically regarded as equally inspired with the sacred text itself.” According to Ussher’s chronology, the Lost Tribes left Israel in 721 B.C. Presumably they began walking to the Americas soon thereafter. Even allowing for a slow passage, the Israelites must have arrived by around 500 B.C. When Columbus landed, the Americas therefore had been settled for barely two thousand years.

The Lost Tribes theory held sway until the nineteenth century, when it was challenged by events. As Lund had in Brazil, British scientists discovered some strange-looking human skeletons jumbled up with the skeletons of extinct Pleistocene mammals. The find, quickly duplicated in France, caused a sensation. To supporters of Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution, the find proved that the ancestors of modern humans had lived during the Ice Ages, tens of thousands of years ago. Others attacked this conclusion, and the skeletons became one of the casus belli of the evolution wars. Indirectly, the discovery also stimulated argument about the settlement of the Americas. Evolutionists believed that the Eastern and Western Hemispheres had developed in concert. If early humans had inhabited Europe during the Ice Ages, they must also have lived in the Americas at the same time. Indians must therefore have arrived before 500 B.C. Ussher’s chronology and the Lost Tribes scenario were wrong.

The nineteenth century was the heyday of amateur science. In the United States as in Europe, many of Darwin’s most ardent backers were successful tradespeople whose hobby was butterfly or beetle collecting. When these amateurs heard that the ancestors of Indians must have come to the Americas thousands of years ago, a surprising number of them decided to hunt for the evidence that would prove it.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”, positions 331.0-334.2/1222 Kindle Edition)

Therefore, it should come as no surprise when modern amateur scientific voyeurs retread the same path trod by those after 1492 and prior to better, more complete evidence arising that discredits these now long-discredited American Lost Tribes theories. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In short, and in conclusion, the only way to turn Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture into evidence for The Book of Mormon is to come to the conclusion first and then both cherry-pick the body of evidence for “hits” while ignoring the far more numerous “misses”. In other words, this is yet another one where Mormon Confirmation Bias reigns supreme over logic and reason. Cahokia and the Hopewell Mount Builders are not only not a bull’s eye for The Book of Mormon, but they’re also not even in the same pub where the dartboard resides.

An artist’s recreation of downtown Cahokia, with Monk’s Mound at its center. (click to zoom)

 Artwork courtesy of ArsTechnica