Archive for the ‘Fred Anson’ Category

Joakim Skovgaard (1856-1933) “Christ in the Realm of the Dead”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
INTRODUCTION
1 Peter 3:18-19 is the foundational, biblical proof text for Mormon “spirit prison” and “proxy baptism for the dead” dogma. Here is how that passage reads:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
— 1 Peter 3:18-20 (NKJV)

MORMON PERSPECTIVE
Here’s how the passage is typically interpreted and applied by Mormon Leaders:

Christian theologians have long wrestled with the question, What is the destiny of the billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus? With the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has come the understanding of how the unbaptized dead are redeemed and how God can be “a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).

While yet in life, Jesus prophesied that He would also preach to the dead. Peter tells us this happened in the interval between the Savior’s Crucifixion and Resurrection (see 1 Peter 3:18–19). President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) witnessed in vision that the Savior visited the spirit world and “from among the righteous [spirits], he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness. …

‘These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, [and] the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands’ (D&C 138:30, 33).

The doctrine that the living can provide baptism and other essential ordinances to the dead vicariously was revealed anew to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 124; 128; 132). He learned that the spirits awaiting resurrection are offered not only individual salvation but they can be bound in heaven as husband and wife and be sealed to their fathers and mothers of all generations past and have sealed to them their children of all generations future. The Lord instructed the Prophet that these sacred rites are appropriately performed only in a house built to His name, a temple (see D&C 124:29–36).
(D. Todd Christofferson (Mormon Apostle), “Why Do We Baptize for the Dead?”, New Era magazine, March 2009)

Again, that’s how you will see Mormons interpret and apply this passage in your discussions with them on the Internet and in person. However, and frankly, no one seems to know with absolute certainty what this passage means. While we have may all have opinions, I don’t think that many mainstream Christians would build an entire theological system on it – as the LdS Church has – or die for their interpretation of it. I know I wouldn’t.

Frankly, a tight, precise interpretation of this vague, enigmatic, and unusual passage is just not that important since no essential doctrine of the faith is impacted by it or derived from it. As the saying goes: The main things are the plain things – and this thing just ain’t plain!

That said, here is a compilation of a number of perspectives that Evangelicals may want to consider in responding to Mormons on the Internet and elsewhere when they bring up 1 Peter 3:18-20.

"The Harrowing of Hell" National Gallery, Washington D.C.

Benvenuto di Giovanni, “Harrowing of Hell” (1490) oil on canvas (National Gallery, Washington D.C.)

CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVES
“I understand, then, the “proclamation” [to the spirits in prison] to be in the resurrection/ascension itself. It is precisely this which announced to the demons that their world had been ravaged and that Christ is Lord and that they are subject to Him. I think this gives due consideration to all the details of the text and allows the simplest understanding of the words. The “harrowing of hell” idea and the idea of “Christ preaching through Noah” are ideas that must be imported into this text; they do not come out of it.

One Final Contextual Note
So how does all this fit in context? Peter has been dealing with the sufferings of Christians at the hands of the world. He no doubt sees behind it all the activities of Satanic forces. But not to worry — Christ also suffered at their hands and as our example. Moreover, He has invaded their very own realm and has emerged triumphant over them. Even they are subject to Him. Peter wants to assure “you”10 that your enemy will not survive forever; he is a defeated foe.”
(Fred Zaspel, “Christ’s Message to the Spirits in Prison: An Analysis of 1 Peter 3:18-19”)

3:19 preached. Between Christ’s death and resurrection, His living spirit went to the demon spirits bound in the abyss and proclaimed that, in spite of His death, He had triumphed over them (see notes on Col. 2:14, 15). spirits in prison. This refers to fallen angels (demons), who were permanently bound because of heinous wickedness. The demons who are not so bound resist such a sentence (cf. Luke 8: 31). In the end, they will all be sent to the eternal lake of fire (Matt. 25: 41; Rev. 20: 10).”
(John MacArthur, “NKJV, The MacArthur Study Bible, eBook: Revised and Updated Edition” (Kindle Location 203794). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

3:19 Proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. Who or what were these “spirits,” and where were they “imprisoned”? There is an important connection with Peter’s words and the noncanonical book of Enoch, which elaborates on the story of Ge 6:1–4, claiming that fallen angels were imprisoned in a terrible place of darkness (1 Enoch 10:4–6; 21:10; see note on Ge 6:4). 4 It’s possible Peter had in mind nonhuman spirits or angels, much like the book of Enoch (compare 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6). It is not clear, however, where the spirits were imprisoned. The author may have had in mind what we would consider “hell,” or he may have been indicating a place to await judgment, much like the book of Revelation suggests (see Rev 20:1– 2). Many of the church fathers, however, understood that Christ descended into hell, which eventually became the dominant view as stated in the Nicene Creed.
(“NIV First-Century Study Bible: Explore Scripture in Its Jewish and Early Christian Context” (Kindle Locations 107406-107416). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

Andrea Da Firenze, “Descent into Hell” (1366-67), Fresco (Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence)

3:19 he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. The three most common views on this passage are: (1) Between Jesus’ death and resurrection, he preached to the dead in Hades, the realm of the dead (the view of many church fathers, citing 4:6). Greeks had myths about heroes such as Heracles or Orpheus descending temporarily to Hades. (2) Christ preached through Noah to people in Noah’s day (the view of many Reformers). (3) Before or (more likely) after his resurrection, Jesus proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels (the view of most scholars today, citing v.22) Early Christians nearly always used “spirits” for angelic or demonic spirits rather than human ones, except when explicitly stating the latter. The Spirit raised Jesus; by the Spirit (and thus, in this context, presumably after his resurrection) Jesus “made proclamation”; in v.22, his exaltation declared his triumph over fallen angels. Most ancient Jewish readers believed that Ge 6:1– 3 refers to angels who fell in Noah’s day (v. 20); after the flood, they were said to be imprisoned (so also 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6), either below the earth or in the atmosphere (cf. v.22; note on Eph 2:2). Then, according to a well-known Jewish tradition, Enoch was sent to proclaim God’s judgment to them; here Christ is the one who proclaims their demise.
(“HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible”, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 282228-282241). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

3:19 The familiar Apostles’ Creed affirmation that Jesus descended into hell is based chiefly on two references from 1 Peter, one of which (3:19) is more direct than the other (4:6), supported by implications to be taken from two other New Testament verses (Ac 2:27; Ro 10:7). The term is in harmony also with the language of Paul, where he spoke of Christ’s descending “to the lower, earthly regions” (Eph 4:9), and with John’s mention of “the First and the Last,” who holds “the keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:17–18). The lowest regions were recognized as the habitation of the disembodied spirits of the dead, but 1 Peter 4:6 may instead refer to fallen angels (cf. Jude 6).)
(Kaiser Jr., Walter C.; Garrett, Duane, “NIV, Archaeological Study Bible, eBook: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture”, (Kindle Locations 156585-156593). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

3:19–20a Three main interpretations of this passage have been suggested: (1) Some hold that in his preincarnate state Christ went and preached through Noah to the wicked generation of that time. (2) Others argue that between his death and resurrection Christ went to the prison where fallen angels are incarcerated and there preached to the angels who are said to have left their proper state and married human women during Noah’s time (cf. Ge 6:1–4; 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6). The “sons of God” in Ge 6:2,4 are said to have been angels, as they are in Job 1:6; 2:1 (see NIV text notes there). The message he preached to these evil angels was probably a declaration of victory. (3) Still others say that between death and resurrection Christ went to the place of the dead and preached to the spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries. What he proclaimed may have been the gospel, or it may have been a declaration of victory for Christ and doom for his hearers. The weakness of the first view is that it does not relate the event to Christ’s death and resurrection, as the context seems to do. The main problem with the second view is that it assumes sexual relations between angels and women, and such physical relations may not be possible for angels since they are spirits (see note on Ge 6:2). A major difficulty with the third view is that the term “spirits” is only used of human beings when qualifying terms are added. Otherwise the term seems restricted to supernatural beings.
Perhaps a more satisfactory view would be to translate v. 19: “And in that [resurrection] state, by means of (his) ascension [see v.22, where the same Greek verb form is used of Christ’s ascension] he made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.” The latter phrase most likely refers to the disobedient spirits (“ angels, authorities and powers,” v.22). Thus Christ’s ascension “into heaven” (v.22) was itself a victory proclamation to them (cf. Eph 3:10 and note).
(“Zondervan. NIV Study Bible”, eBook (Kindle Location 303325-303345). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

Fresco of Christ’s descent into hell in an Eastern Orthodox Church. (painter and location unknown)

3:19,20 There are various interpretations of the meaning of these verses, primarily because of the ambiguity of the phrase spirits in prison. The Greek term translated spirits can refer to human spirits, angels, or demons. There are three main interpretations: (1) Some interpret these verses as describing Jesus as going to the place where fallen angels are incarcerated and declaring His final victory over evil in His work on the Cross. These commentators suggest that Peter is referring to the days of Noah because these fallen angels were typified by the gross immorality of those “spirits” who married human women at that time (see Gen. 6:1– 4; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6). Depending on the commentator, this proclamation is assigned to the time between Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, or to a time after Christ’s ascension to heaven. (2) Others hold that spirits refers to human spirits. Thus Christ preached to human beings who had died in Noah’s day and were in the realm of the dead (hell or Hades). Although some have insisted that Christ’s preaching included an offer of salvation to these people, this is at best unlikely and at worst misleading, for Scripture never concedes a “second chance” for sinners after death. The content of Christ’s preaching was most likely a proclamation of His victory over sin. (3) Finally, another major interpretation understands this passage as describing Christ preaching through Noah to the unbelievers of his day. Since they rejected Noah’s message of salvation, they were presently in prison— that is, hell.
(Nelson, Thomas, “NKJV Study Bible, eBook: Full-Color Edition” (Kindle Locations 279460-279464). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

3:19–20 spirits in prison. The Greek term translated spirits can refer to human spirits, angels, or demons. There are three main interpretations: (1) Some interpret these verses as describing Jesus as going to the place where fallen angels are incarcerated and declaring His final victory over evil in His work on the cross; (2) others hold that spirits refers to human spirits; thus Christ preached to human beings who had died in Noah’s day and were in the realm of the dead (hell or hades); and (3) another major interpretation understands this passage as describing Christ preaching through Noah to the unbelievers of his day.
(Nelson, Thomas, “KJV, Foundation Study Bible”, eBook (p. 1338). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

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And preached to the spirits in prison. The meaning of this preaching and the spirits to whom he preached are much debated. It is commonly understood to be: (1) Christ’s announcement of his victory over evil to the fallen angels who await judgment for their role in leading the Noahic generation into sin; this proclamation occurred sometime between Christ’s death and ascension; or (2) Christ’s preaching of repentance through Noah to the unrighteous humans, now dead and confined in hell, who lived in the days of Noah. The latter is preferred because of the temporal indications in v. 20a and the wider argument of the book. These verses encourage Christians to stand for righteousness and try to influence their contemporaries for the gospel in spite of the suffering that may come to them. All who identify with them and their Savior will be saved from the coming judgment, just as in Noah’s day.

tn after they were disobedient long ago. This reflects a Greek participle, literally “having been disobedient formerly,” that refers to the “spirits” in v. 19. Many translations take this as adjectival describing the spirits (“ who had once been disobedient”; cf. NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, TEV), but the grammatical construction strongly favors an adverbial interpretation describing the time of the preaching, as reflected above.”
(Biblical Studies Press, “NET Bible First Edition (with notes)”, (Kindle Locations 202282-202291). Biblical Studies Press. Kindle Edition)

3:18–20 As Noah preached righteousness, suffered unjustly, and rescued those who were with him, so also does Christ. Christ descended to those in darkness and death that light might shine on them and He might deliver them from death. As Christ fearlessly faced His tormentors, death, and hell, so we through Him can confidently face mockers and tormentors— and, yes, bring His light to them.
(Nelson, Thomas, “NKJV, The Orthodox Study Bible, eBook: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World”, (Kindle Locations 103704-103707). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

Maestro dell’ Osservanza, “The Harrowing” (c. 1445) Painting (Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

3:19 Verses 19, 20 constitute one of the most puzzling and intriguing texts in the NT. It has been made the pretext for such unbiblical doctrines as purgatory on the one hand and universal salvation on the other. However, among evangelical Christians, there are two commonly accepted interpretations.

According to the first, Christ went to Hades in spirit between His death and resurrection, and proclaimed the triumph of His mighty work on the cross. There is disagreement among proponents of this view as to whether the spirits in prison were believers, unbelievers, or both. But there is fairly general agreement that the Lord Jesus did not preach the gospel to them. That would involve the doctrine of a second chance which is nowhere taught in the Bible. Those who hold this view often link this passage with Ephesians 4:9 where the Lord is described as descending “into the lower parts of the earth.” They cite this as added proof that He went to Hades in the disembodied state and heralded His victory at Calvary. They also cite the words of the Apostles’ Creed—“ descended into hell.”

The second interpretation is that Peter is describing what happened in the days of Noah. It was the spirit of Christ who preached through Noah to the unbelieving generation before the flood. They were not disembodied spirits at that time, but living men and women who rejected the warnings of Noah and were destroyed by the flood. So now they are spirits in the prison of Hades.

This second view best fits the context and has the least difficulties connected with it. Let us examine the passage phrase by phrase.

By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The relative pronoun whom obviously refers back to Spirit at the end of verse 18. We understand this to mean the Holy Spirit. In 1:11 of this Letter the “Spirit of Christ,” that is, the Holy Spirit, is described as speaking through the prophets of the OT. And in Genesis 6:3, God speaks of His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, as nearing the limit of endurance with the antediluvians.

He went and preached. As already mentioned, it was Christ who preached, but he preached through Noah. In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is described as a “preacher of righteousness.” It is the same root word used here of Christ’s preaching.

To the spirits now in prison. These were the people to whom Noah preached— living men and women who heard the warning of an impending flood and the promise of salvation in the ark. They rejected the message and were drowned in the deluge. They are now disembodied spirits in prison, awaiting the final judgment.

So the verse may be amplified as follows: by whom (the Holy Spirit) He (Christ) went and preached (through Noah) to the spirits now in prison (Hades).” But what right do we have to assume that the spirits in prison were the living men in Noah’s day? The answer is found in the following verse.

3:20 Here the spirits in prison are unmistakably identified. Who were they? Those who formerly were disobedient. When were they disobedient? When once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.  What was the final outcome? Only a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. It is well to pause here and remind ourselves of the general flow of thought in this Letter which was written against a general background of persecution. The Christians to whom Peter wrote were suffering because of their life and testimony. Perhaps they wondered why, if the Christian faith was right, they should be suffering rather than reigning. If Christianity was the true faith, why were there so few Christians? To answer the first question, Peter points to the Lord Jesus. Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake, even to the extent of being put to death. But God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him in heaven (see v. 22). The pathway to glory led through the valley of suffering.

Next Peter refers to Noah. For 120 years this faithful preacher warned that God was going to destroy the world with water. His thanks was scorn and rejection. But God vindicated him by saving him and his family through the flood. Then there is the problem, “If we are right, why are there so few of us?” Peter answers: “There was a time when only eight people in the world were right and all the rest were wrong!” Characteristically in the world’s history the majority has not been right. True believers are usually a small remnant, so one’s faith should not falter because of the small number of the saved. There were only eight believers in Noah’s day; there are millions today.

At the end of verse 20, we read that a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. It is not that they were saved by water; they were saved through the water. Water was not the savior, but the judgment through which God brought them safely.

To properly understand this statement and the verse that follows, we must see the typical meaning of the ark and of the flood. The ark is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The flood of water depicts the judgment of God. The ark was the only way of salvation. When the flood came, only those who were inside were saved; all those on the outside perished. So Christ is the only way of salvation; those who are in Christ are as saved as God Himself can make them. Those on the outside could not be more lost.

The water was not the means of salvation, for all who were in the water drowned. The ark was the place of refuge. The ark went through the water of judgment; it took the full brunt of the storm. Not a drop of water reached those inside the ark. So Christ bore the fury of God’s judgment against our sins. For those who are in Him there is no judgment (John 5:24). The ark had water beneath it, and water coming down on top of it, and water all around it. But it bore its believing occupants through the water to safety in a renewed creation. So those who trust the Savior are brought safely through a scene of death and desolation to resurrection ground and a new life.
(MacDonald, William. “Believer’s Bible Commentary” (p. 2258-2259). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

Christians are to live their lives according to the shape of Jesus’ own passion, resurrection, and ascension. It is not only that Christ’s sacrificial acts are worthy of imitation but also that these acts are atoning. “For Christ also suffered … in order to bring you to God” (3:18).

There follows a description of the passion and resurrection of Christ that has puzzled Christian commentators through the ages. The first part is clear enough. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (3:19). The claim is not strikingly different from that in Rom. 1:3–4. Peter is not arguing that only Jesus’ spirit was made alive, but that he was made alive in the power of the Spirit.

Now comes the particularly puzzling description of what the living Jesus did after his resurrection: “he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (v. 19). The connection of these spirits with the flood (Genesis 6–9) suggests one of two possibilities. Perhaps these spirits are those of the disobedient people who perished in the flood. Or perhaps these spirits are the offspring of the “sons of God” and mortal women described in the puzzling passage Gen. 6:1–4. William Joseph Dalton argues persuasively that this passage fits with other first-century texts that speculate on the fate of these human/divine offspring. He further suggests that when the risen Christ preaches to these spirits, they are imprisoned in a kind of holding place located between earth and the upper heaven, where God the Father dwells. Jesus preaches to the spirits as part of his ascent.

The author now uses the reference to the ark and the flood to remind the readers of their own baptism. The flood prefigures baptism, but of course only in a kind of striking reversal. Noah and his family were actually saved from water; Christians are saved through water.
(Gale A. Yee (Author), Matthew J. M. Coomber (Editor), Margaret Aymer (Editor), Jr. Page, Hugh R. (Editor), et. al, “Fortress Commentary on the Bible: Two Volume Set”, Kindle positions 56143 -56152, Fortress Press. Kindle Edition)

Jacopo Tintoretto (Robusti), “The Descent into Hell”, (1568) oil on canvas

A Caution and a Path for Transitioning Ex-Mormons

by Fred W. Anson
Best selling author John Bradshaw is fond of saying, “You are a human being, not a human doing.” For those of us coming from legalistic, high-demand religious groups where personal performance is the yardstick by which value is judged these words sound like nonsensical gibberish. I mean, all after, doesn’t “doing” mean that you have the right to “be”? And if you do more won’t you be more? Isn’t, “The one who does the most and gets the most stuff wins!” the rule of life? Jesus said, “No!”

To the ever-increasing demands of “Do!” that the world screams at us Christ quietly says, “Abide”. Further, He says, paradoxically, that the key to bearing fruit is abiding:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
— John 15:5-8 (NKJV) 

This is something that those of us coming from high demand, performance-oriented, image-conscious religious settings tend to struggle with. The idea of simply “abiding” rather than constantly “doing” tends to be something uncomfortable – even repulsive – to us, doesn’t it? I mean, after all, didn’t Christ also say that nasty things will happen to those who don’t bear fruit? So the answer must be to go out there, find your new calling,  and get busy with it, right? I mean come on you need to be doing something to bear fruit, right? And doesn’t the more fruit you produce mean that God will love and bless you more? Isn’t that how this religion thing is supposed to work?

A: Yes, that is indeed how the religions of men work;
No, that’s not how the religion of Christ does.

Rather, Jesus calls us to know him, to abide in Him, and thereby bear good fruit through Him organically as our walk with Him unfolds under His divine tutelage. It is His work in us that slowly and naturally bears fruit like grape clusters on a vine ripening in the sun.

The Ex-Mormon Struggle
Not inconsequentially, in Mormonism, so much time is spent in constantly doing things that the member doesn’t have time to think, feel, or enjoy the kind of slow, genuine, quiet, intimate, steadfast, communion with Christ that taught in John 15. This is no accident, Mormon leaders encourage this from the pulpit, don’t they?  And constantly being crazy busy and uber-productive is a point of pride in Mormon Culture, isn’t it? As a result, downshifting from this constant swirl of activity can be challenging for many former members, can’t it?

This PowerPoint presentation, given at the Faith After Mormonism Conference on October 12, 2019, in Murray, Utah, gives the solution from both the words of Jesus in tandem with the practical, hard-won experience of Ex-Mormons who have made this, not always easy and frequently bumpy, transition, into “being not doing”.

Click the above image for the video recording of this presentation from the Faith After Mormonism Conference.

Main Presentation (with Bonus Content)
This is the main presentation that was given at the 2019 Faith After Mormonism Conference during the Saturday morning Workshop Sessions.

The Bonus Content section is a map of where the post-Mormon bear traps lie based on the hard-won, real-world experience of successfully transitioned Ex-Mormons.  It also contains a treasure trove of wisdom borne out of their (often painful) Post-Mormon life experiences. The design and intent of this section isn’t to replace the Ex-Mormon’s old Mormon To-Do List with a new Evangelical version, but to invite them to learn from those who have gone before them.  This content also demonstrates clearly how while abiding in Christ may be as natural as eating, drinking, walking and breathing, it’s not always passive.

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

Supplemental Content
This is a grass-catcher collection of content that was compiled, “just in case” for the Q&A portion of the main presentation. This presentation, combined with the Main Presentation, represent a kind of mini-crash course or road map of resources and reference materials to assist in helping the Ex-Mormon successfully make a full transition into mainstream historic Christianity.

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

About the Presenter
Fred W. Anson (Lake Forest, California) is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum).  

 

About the Conference
Our purpose is to provide hope and wisdom for people leaving Mormonism to explore a new faith home in historic, biblical Christianity. Through speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and individual interactions,
you will receive helpful resources and meet others on a similar journey.

 

The Presenter would like to acknowledge and thank the following people for their assistance in producing this presentation (in no particular order): Michael and Briana Flournoy; Tina Edgar; the Admins of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook Group (Jackie Davidson, Amy Fuller, Barb Griffin, and Michael Stevens); Charlotte Pardee and the Ex-Mormons for Jesus, Orange, California chapter; Ross Anderson for making all this possible; and as always, I thank my wonderful wife Sue, who not only keeps me honest and humble but even-keeled to boot!

But above all else: Soli Deo Gloria.
Thank you, Jesus, for saving a wretch like me from my own worst enemy – myself.

 

An early 20th Century Postcard of the Baptismal Font in the Salt Lake City Temple.

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the fifth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

21) Doctrine &Covenants 20:37’s explicit and hard requirement of repentance from sin as a prerequisite to baptism.
Mormonism claims Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) Section 20 as its great mandate from Christ as to how His restored Church was to be structured and organized. As the section header for this revelation states:

Revelation on Church organization and government, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at or near Fayette, New York. Portions of this revelation may have been given as early as summer 1829. The complete revelation, known at the time as the Articles and Covenants, was likely recorded soon after April 6, 1830 (the day the Church was organized). The Prophet wrote, “We obtained of Him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to His will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once more here upon the earth.”

Included in this revelation, in verse 37 it is stated that one must repent prior to baptism:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.
(D&C 20:37, bolding added for emphasis) 

In Early Mormonism, it was explicitly taught that one must fully repent prior to baptism as  the Book of Mormon explicitly states:

But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
(2 Nepi 31:14, italics and bolding added for emphasis) 

Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
(Alma 7:15, italics and bolding added for emphasis) 

And the teachings of Mormon leaders tightly reflected this pattern:

If you have been righteous from your birth up, and have never committed known sins and transgressions, be baptized to fulfil all righteousness, as Jesus was. If you can say you have no sins to repent of, forsake your false theories, and love and serve God with an undivided heart
(Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.159; bolding added for emphasis)

Has water, in itself, any virtue to wash away sin? Certainly not; but the Lord says, “If the sinner will repent of his sins, and go down into the waters of baptism, and there be buried in the likeness of being put into the earth and buried, and again be delivered from the water, in the likeness of being born—if in the sincerity of his heart he will do this, his sins shall be washed away.” Will the water of itself wash them away? No; but keeping the commandments of God will cleanse away the stain of sin
(Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.159; bolding added for emphasis)

But oddly, in modern Mormonism water baptism has morphed from something that one does after one has already repented to becoming the actual act of repentance itself resulting from remorse over past sin. Just consider these quotes from modern Church Leaders and literature:

Each ordinance and requirement given to man for the purpose of bringing to pass his salvation and exaltation is a covenant. Baptism for the remission of sins is a covenant. When this ordinance was revealed in this dispensation, the Lord called it “a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” This covenant was given in the beginning and was lost to men through apostasy, therefore, when it was revealed again, it became to man a new covenant, although it was from the beginning, and it is everlasting since its effects upon the individual endure forever. Then again, whenever there is need for repentance, baptism is the method, or law, given of the Lord by which the remission of sins shall come, and so this law is everlasting. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:152)

In addition to recognizing our sins, we must feel sincere sorrow for what we have done. We must feel that our sins are terrible. We must want to unload and abandon them. The scriptures tell us, “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and … have truly repented of all their sins … shall be received by baptism into his church” (D&C 20:37).
(“Repentance”, “Gospel Principles (2011 edition)”, ellipses in original, bolding added for emphasis.) 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. It begins with faith in Christ. We believe in Him, trust Him, and depend on Him. Such faith leads us to repent—to stop doing things that are wrong and continue doing things that are right. Our faith in Him also makes us want to show our love by keeping His commandments, including baptism.
(“Lesson 3: The Gospel of Jesus Christ,”Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2018)”)

“… Sincere repentance will lead to the waters of baptism and forgiveness; but the need for repentance will continue while life lasts. Through baptism we may obtain forgiveness for past sins but it does not guarantee against future folly. Repentance is a vital requisite to the growing life. …”
(Hugh B. Brown, “Eternal Quest”, p.102, quoted in “Chapter 14: Repentance,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000)”, ellipses in original, bolding added for emphasis.) 

Granted, in modern Mormonism, this can all be a bit fuzzy with Mormon authors sometimes seeming to refer to the Early Mormon doctrine of repentance as a hard prerequisite for baptism and other authors seeming to refer to baptism as the evidence of the act of repentance but the fact remains that there has been a subtle, but distinct shift away from the former. What used to be hard black and white is now gray and gooey. One can’t wonder if modern Mission Baptism quotas and other such pressures to generate baptisms – which didn’t exist in the much looser Early Mormon Mission system – aren’t at least in part responsible for sweeping the clear words of D&C 20:37 and the Book of Mormon regarding repentance as a hard prerequisite for baptism into the dustbin.

22) Baptism for health.
Are you sick? Do you need to be healed? What should you do? Why go to the Temple and receive a Baptism for Health of course! Being baptized for health was started by Joseph Smith in the early 1840s and ended in 1922. Here’s an account of the practice:

“SHORTLY AFTER HER HUSBAND returned home from a British mission in 1890, thirty-six-year-old Eleanor Cannon Woodbury Jarvis entered the St. George Temple font. This mother of eight sought a miracle. She remembered: “In the spring of 1884 my health failed and I had very poor health for the next 17 or 18 years. I was very near death’s door several times, but by the power of Faith my life was spared. . . . I was taken to the Temple in a wheelchair, was carried into the Font, baptized for my health & walked out & dressed myself, the first time for six months.”’
(Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, ‘“They Shall Be Made Whole”: A History of Baptism for Health”, The Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2008, p.69)

At its popularity baptism for health was the most common and popular form of Mormon Baptism. The practice quietly ended in the early 1920’s:

“The ultimate demise of healing by immersion was a top-down phenomenon, originating among the upper echelons of Church leadership. Early Mormons lived in a dynamic period of literal restoration: new scripture, charismata, a biblical exodus, and the return of the healing pools of old. As their healing liturgy became separated from the temple, Latter-day Saints did not completely forsake the curative nature of these edifices but sought the temple as a place of spiritual, not physical, healing and renewal. Although not part of modern LDS praxis, baptism for healing is an integral feature of Mormon history and played an important role in the development of the modern Church’s rituals and conceptualizations of healing. It was born of Mormonism’s charismatic restoration, received Joseph Smith’s revelatory support, and was promoted by generations of Church leaders. Although it was ultimately eliminated from the lexicon of the faithful, it provides an illuminating window through which historians can view the health, life, and death of Mormon men and women.”
(Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, ‘“They Shall Be Made Whole”: A History of Baptism for Health”, The Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2008, p.112)

Today this practice has simply been swept into the dustbin.

23) Church members in good standing being rebaptized for the remission of sin and/or the renewal of covenants.
This was a practice that Joseph Smith started:

In late 1839, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (by an 1838 revelation) was relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois. Many who were already baptized members of the church, were rebaptised either to show a renewal of their commitment to the movement or as part of a healing ordinance.
(“Rebaptism (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia) 

That small precedent developed into a widespread ordinance under Brigham Young:

After the death of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, in 1844, rebaptism became a more important ordinance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), as led by Brigham Young. Young led his group to the Great Basin in what is now Utah, and most of his followers were rebaptized soon after arriving as a sign that they would rededicate their lives to Christ. During the “Mormon Reformation” of 1856–57, rebaptism became an extremely important ordinance, signifying that the church member confessed their sins and would live a life of a Latter-day Saint. Church members were rebaptized prior to new covenants and ordinances, such as ordination to a new office of the priesthood, receiving temple ordinances, getting married, or entering plural marriage.
(“Rebaptism (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia) 

Finally, the First Presidency deemed such widespread use of rebaptism improper, so in 1893 they changed it – although under extenuating circumstances it lingered on for a while before it finally tickled down and dried up. As a result, today about the only time you see a Latter-day Saint rebaptized is when somebody already known to have been previously baptized in accordance with LDS doctrine is excommunicated rejoins the church.

Other than that, Mormon rebaptism has been brushed right into the dustbin – or, if you prefer, has gone down the drain and then straight down the memory hole to never be seen again.

A contemporary photo of the Baptismal Font in the Provo City Center Temple.

The “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In a nutshell, the case of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon is as follows:

1. All of the 11 witnesses were related either by blood or by business interests. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were cousins. Joseph Smith, Sr. was Joseph Smith’s father. The Whitmers were former business associates of the Smith family. Hiram Page was married to the Whitmer’s sister, Catherine. And Martin Harris was financially invested in the success of the Book of Mormon in a way that it would ruin his estate if it failed.

2. The three witnesses were of questionable character – this assertion is based on what fellow Mormons said about them. For example, Joseph Smith said on Dec 16, 1838: “Such characters as [his former personal secretary William] McLellin, John Witmer, David Witmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (see “History of the Church”, vol 3, p.232)

3. All three denied the Latter Day Saint faith at some point converting to other religions. This was confirmed by Brigham Young who, in 1859 said, “Some of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterward left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel.” (Brigham Young, “Want of Governing Capacities Among Men—Elements of the Sacrament—Apostasy, Etc.”, Journal of Discourses, vol 7, p.164)

4. All of the three witnesses were eventually excommunicated from the Mormon church. (details below)

5. Two of the three excommunicated witnesses later returned after denying their testimony and joining other churches. This is roughly equivalent to Peter, James, and John denying their testimony that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead, joining Samaritanism (or another middle eastern religion), then reversing themselves and returning to the Church that they had denied and denounced. (details below)

And when you consider the corpus of evidence for each individual, the case against them gets even stronger:

Martin Harris
1. Was known for being very unstable religiously. Over his lifetime he changed his religious affiliation over 13 times. (see Wikipedia, “Martin Harris”)

2. Before joining Mormonism, Martin Harris was first a Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationist, then a Baptist, and then a Presbyterian. (E. D. Howe, “Mormonism Unvailed”, pp.260-261)

3. After Martin Harris’ excommunication from the Mormon Church in 1837, he changed his religion eight more times, going from the Shakers to one Mormon splinter group to the next, and back to the main group in 1842. (see “Improvement Era”, March 1969, p.63; also see Brigham Young, “Journal of Discourses”, vol.7, p.164)

4. In 1846, (after his excommunication in 1837) Martin Harris was preaching among the Saints in England for the Apostate James J. Strang. (see Andrew Jenson, “Church Chronology”, p.31; also see “Millennial Star”, vol.8, Nov. 15, pp.124-128)

5. He signed his name to the following statement: “Testimony of three witnesses: We Cheerfully certify… The Lord has made it known to me that David Witmer is the man. David was then called forward, and Joseph and his counselors laid hands upon him, and ordained him to his station, to succeed him… He will be prophet, seer, Revelator and Translator before God.” Signed Martin Harris, Leonard Rich, Calvin Beebe. As we know from history, this never came to pass as Brigham young became Joseph Smith’s successor. (“Saints’ Herald, Volume 17”, p.555)

6. The Mormons stated of Martin Harris and a few other men within the pages of the church’s official newspaper at the time, “a lying deceptive spirit attend them…they are of their father, the devil…The very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him.” (“Millennial Star”, vol 8, pp.124-128)

7. Phineas Young wrote to his older brother Brigham Young on December 31, 1841, from Kirtland, Ohio: “There are in this place all kinds of teaching; Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was for the Book of Mormon” (see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

8. Martin Harris testified that his testimony for Shakerism was greater than it was for Mormonism. The Shaker’s “Sacred Roll and Book” was also delivered by an angel. (see Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “The Case Against Mormonism”, vol.2, pp.50-58; also see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

9. In the Elder’s Journal for August 1838, Joseph Smith denounced Martin Harris as “so far beneath contempt that to notice him would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make. The Church exerted some restraint on him, but now he has given loose to all kinds of abominations, lying, cheating, swindling, and all kinds of debauchery.” (see J. A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way”, pp.256-257)

10. Like David Whitmer, Martin Harris later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: He said he saw the plates with “the eyes of faith and not with the natural eyes”, that is, with spiritual eyes. (see E.L. Kelley and Clark Braden, “The Braden & Kelly Debate”, p.173)

David Whitmer
1. David Whitmer said in 1887: “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints…'” (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, p.27)

2. David Whitmer belonged to at least three Mormon splinter groups at different times, but he died in opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – that is the original church started by Joseph Smith as well as what later became today’s Brighamite denomination of that church – and its priesthood doctrine and claims.  (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, also see John Farkas, “Fabricating The Mormon Priesthood: By God Or By Man?”, Beggar’s Bread website) 

3. Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: Whitmer told Theodore Turley that the plates were shown to him by a “supernatural power”, “…all I know, you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.” Whitmer replied “I now say I handled those plates. there was fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.” and he described how they were hung “and they were shown to me by a supernatural power.” he acknowledged all. Turley asked him why the translation is not now true, & he said “I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.” (see “Theodore Turley’s Memorandums” LDS Church Archives, in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking for Turley in late 1843; also cited in Dan Vogel (editor), “Early Mormon Documents” vol.5, p.241.; also, with minor editing, Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol.3, pp. 307–308)

4. David Whitmer changed his story about seeing the plates and later told of finding them lying in a field and later still, told Orson Pratt that they were on a table with all sorts of brass plates, gold plates, the Sword of Laban, the ‘Director’ and the Urim and Thummim. (Millennial Star, vol.40, pp.771-772)

5. During the summer of 1837, while in Kirtland, David Whitmer pledged his new loyalty to a prophetess (as did Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery) who used a black seer stone and danced herself into ‘trances.’ (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches”, pp.211-213)

6. His association with the aforementioned prophetess was the beginning of the end for Whitmer in regard to the Mormon Church. It ended in 1847 in his declaration to Oliver that he (Whitmer) was to be the Prophet of the New Church of Christ and Oliver a Counselor. (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, by David Whitmer, Sept. 8, 1847, printed in the “Ensign of Liberty”, 5/1848, p.93; also see “Ensign of Liberty”, 8/1849, pp.101-104)

7. In the meantime, he was excommunicated and roughly put out. He and Oliver Cowdery’s families were driven into the streets and robbed by the Mormons while they were away trying to leave to make arrangements for a safe place to flee to. (see “John Whitmer’s History of the Church”)

8. Cursed by leaders such as Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer was denounced by the Prophet Joseph Smith as a “dumb ass to ride ” and someone “prays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass!” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.228)

9. David Whitmer never returned to the LDS Church but joined splinter groups that denied and denounced the original Latter Day Saint church he helped found. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

10. He went to his grave denying his testimony of Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God, while still affirming his testimony of the book of Mormon. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

Oliver Cowdery
1. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Mormon church and joined the Methodist church. (see Wikipedia, “Oliver Cowdery”)

2. In 1841 the Mormons published a poem which stated: “Or Book of Mormon, not his word, because denied by Oliver”. (see “Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482)

3. The Mormon church accused Oliver Cowdery of Adultery and claimed he, David Whitmer, and Lyman E. Johnson (another Early Mormon Leader) had joined “a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs”. (see Rollin J. Britton, “Early Days on Grand River and the Mormon War”, p.77)

4. Oliver Cowdery was the Church’s second Elder, often called the “Second President.” The early day companion of Joseph Smith, he was a scribe for the Book of Mormon, present at the “Restoration of the Priesthood,’ and as close to the real truth as any man. (see “Pearl of Great Price”, Joseph Smith – History 1:66–75; Joseph Smith History vol.2, pp. 72-76)

5. However, in 1838 in Kirtland, Oliver Cowdery confronted Joseph Smith with the charge of adultery with Fanny Alger, and with lying and teaching false doctrines. (see Private Letter to Brother, Warren Cowdery, by Oliver Cowdery, Jan. 21, 1838)

6. Joseph Smith denied this and charged Cowdery with being a liar. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3 pp.16-18; also see “Elder’s Journal”, Joseph Smith, July 1838, p.45)

7. Church records now show Miss Alger was Smith’s first “spiritual wife.” Cowdery was telling the truth. (see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record”, 1886, vol.6, p.233; also see Wikipedia, “Fanny Alger”)

8. Cowdery was excommunicated for this and other “crimes”. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3, pp.16-18)

9. Later, as a Methodist, he denied the Book of Mormon. (“Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482; also see “Improvement Era”, Jan. 1969, p.56; and Joseph Greehalgh, “Oliver Cowdery-The Man Outstanding”, p.28)

10. Cowdery publicly confessed his sorrow and shame for his connection with Mormonism. (Charles Shook, “The True Origin of The Book of Mormon”, pp.58-59)

11. While the Mormon church claims he rejoined them in the fall of 1848, ( see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record” vol.5, p.201) they also accused him later that year, with trying to “raise up the Kingdom again” with the Apostate, William E. McLellin. (see Juanita Brooks, “On The Mormon frontier, Diary of Hosea Stout”, vol.2, p.336)

12. Oliver Cowdery was publicly charged by Joseph Smith and leading Mormons with stealing, lying, perjury, counterfeiting, adultery, and being the leader of a gang of “scoundrels of the deepest degree!” (see “Senate Document 189”, Feb. 15, 1841, pp.6-9; also see B. H. Roberts, “Comprehensive History of the Church”, vol.1, pp.438-439)

13. Joseph Smith listed Oliver Cowdery as among those, “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.232)

14. Oliver Cowdery died claiming that the book of Doctrines & Covenants must be discarded. This was a stance that he first publicly articulated in “An Address to All Believers in Christ” in 1887 and never wavered from until his death a year later. (see David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ”)

Stated plainly, with witnesses like this, who needs enemies?

Compiled by Fred W. Anson from the author uncredited “The Case Against the Three Witnesses to The Book of Mormon”. Editing was required to eliminate or minimize the original’s polemic rhetoric, inconsistent formatting, and to improve overall clarity and the quality of the presentation. All that to say, with the greatest sense of appreciation to the unknown, original author who did the heavy lifting of original research for this piece: Thank you! 

Richmond, Missouri, is the location of the log cabin in which Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were imprisoned before being taken to Liberty Jail. David Whitmer and his family lived in Richmond for many years, and Oliver Cowdery lived here for a time before his death. Both David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery are buried in Richmond. A monument honoring Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon—was erected in Richmond under the direction of Junius F. Wells. On November 22, 1911, the monument was dedicated under the direction of Elder Heber J. Grant. In this photograph, taken during a light rain, prayer is being offered at the dedication ceremony. A metal box within the base of the monument contained copies of the Latter-day Saint scriptures, the History of the Church, and other documents. (photograph by George Anderson, 1911)

banksy_2_EDITED

Banksy, “Sweeping it Under the Carpet”, Mural, Chalk Farm, London England

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the fourth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

 “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God.”
(Joseph Smith, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.345)

17) Adam-God Doctrine
I’m still stunned at the number of Ex-Mormons who have never heard that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God. But I’m not nearly as stunned as they are when they find out that he did. The following summary is from Wikipedia:

The Adam–God doctrine (or Adam–God theory) was a theological doctrine taught in mid-19th century Mormonism by church president Brigham Young, and accepted by later presidents John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, and by apostles who served under them in the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Although the doctrine is rejected by the LDS Church today, it is still an accepted part of the modern theology of some Mormon fundamentalists.

According to Young, he was taught by Joseph Smith that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.”

According to the doctrine, Adam was once a mortal man who became resurrected and exalted. From another planet, he then came as Michael to form Earth. Adam brought Eve, one of his wives, with him to Earth, where they became mortal by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. After bearing mortal children and establishing the human race, Adam and Eve returned to their heavenly thrones, where Adam serves as God and is the Heavenly Father of humankind. Later, Adam returned to the Earth to the ancient prophets and to become the literal father of Jesus.

During the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Adam–God doctrine was taught in some LDS Church meetings, sung in church hymns, and featured as part of the church’s endowment ceremony. However, the doctrine was startling to Mormons when it was introduced and remained controversial. Other Mormons and some breakoff groups, the most notable being apostle Orson Pratt, rejected the doctrine in favor of other theological ideas. Eventually, the Adam–God doctrine fell out of favor within the LDS Church and was replaced by a theology more similar to Pratt’s, as codified by turn-of-the-century Mormon theologians James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts, and John A. Widtsoe. In 1976, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball stated the LDS Church does not support the doctrine. Most Mormons accept Adam as “the Ancient of Days,” “father of all,” and “Michael the Archangel” but do not recognize him as being “God the Father.”
(“Adam-God Doctrine”, Wikipedia website)

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William Blake, “God Judging Adam” (1795)

18) The original (pre-Adam-God) Elohim/Jehovah/Adam naming distinctions
It surprises many Mormon to learn that in Early Mormonism, Elohim was identified as Jesus Christ and Jehovah as Heavenly Father – the exact opposite of today’s Mormon teachings. The following is from Boyd Kirkland’s, watershed, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine essay on this subject:

Today in Mormon theology, Jesus Christ is considered to be Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets.

Elohim is considered to be God the Father, the father of Jehovah (or Jesus Christ) and of the human race. The Church promotes this point of view in all of its current lesson manuals, periodicals and literature.1 While there is a natural tendency to assume that this current theology has been the position of Mormonism from 1830 to the present, actually several divergent views have been held…

Other Mormon writers during the 1830s followed this same pattern. They most often used Jehovah as the name of God the Father, and only occasionally used the name Elohim. They evidently also considered the Father to be the god who appeared in the Old Testament. For example, the following was published in the Times and Seasons as the Mormon belief in 1841: “We believe in God the Father, who is the Great Jehovah and head of all things, and that Christ is the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father.” [Times and Seasons 3 (15 November 1841): 578.]

During the Nauvoo period of Church history (1839-44), Joseph Smith’s theology of the Godhead once again changed dramatically. He began to denounce and reject the notion of the trinity. He emphasized that God the Father, as well as the Son, both had tangible bodies of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22). He also began to teach the plurality of gods and the related concept that men could become gods. God himself had a father upon whom he depended for his existence and authority. The Father had acted under the direction of a “head god” and a “council of gods in the creation of the worlds.” The plurality of creation gods is dramatically depicted in the Book of Abraham, chapters 2-5, which Joseph translated in 1842. All of these ideas were summed up by Joseph in April, 1844, in perhaps his most famous sermon: The King Follett Discourse.

In connection with these ideas, the Prophet began to use the title Elohim as the proper name for the head god who presided at the creation of the world. He also taught that Elohim in the creation accounts of Genesis should be understood in a plural sense as referring to the council of the gods, who, under the direction of the head god, organized the heaven and the earth. Once the earth had been organized, “the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us.” From the context of Joseph’s discussions of this head god, it is apparent that the Prophet considered this being to be a patriarchal superior to the father of Jesus.

The gods involved in the creation were designated in Joseph’s temple endowment ceremony as Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. Joseph had previously identified Michael as “Adam the ancient of days” (D&C 27:11). Whether he identified either this Elohim or Jehovah to be God the Father as he had previously used these titles is unclear. We have seen that he used the title Elohim in various modes, none of which included Jesus, and he also used the name Jehovah to refer to the Father. Given all of these possibilities, to Joseph’s endowment ceremony, then, did not seem to include Jesus among the creation gods. This is a curious situation, since many scriptural passages previously produced through Joseph, as well as the Bible, attribute a major role in the creation to Jesus. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith was killed before he was able to elaborate further on these newer, more esoteric ideas…

The theological problems concerning the Book of Mormon’s identification of Jesus as the Father, the identity of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the roles and identities of the temple creation gods as connected with the Adam-God doctrine were all finally “resolved” in a carefully worked out statement written by James E. Talmage. This statement was submitted to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve for their approval on 29 June 1916. It was corrected and then issued the following day as “A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the is Twelve” on “The Father and the Son.” This exposition minimized the sense in which Jesus is called the Father in the Book of Mormon through harmonizing techniques. These same techniques were used to support the position that Jesus Christ was Jehovah, the God of Israel, and that Elohim was his father. Little biblical support for these ideas could be given, as the exposition was mainly dealing with problems inherent in the early LDS scriptures and the theology of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Achieving harmony was the chief goal of the 1916 doctrinal exposition. It therefore contains no historical, critical analysis and understanding of the problems it addresses. Its definitions of Elohim and Jehovah still remain the official position of Mormonism.

Today, Mormons who are aware of the various teachings of LDS scriptures and prophets are faced with a number of doctrinal possibilities. They can choose to accept the Book of Mormon theology, which varies from biblical theology, as well as from Joseph Smith’s later plurality-of-gods theology. Adding to this confusion is Brigham Young’s Adam-God theology with its various divine gods using the names Elohim and Jehovah interchangeably. Finally, they are left to resolve the teachings of current General Authorities who identify Jesus as Jehovah with former-day General Authorities who spoke of Jehovah as the Father. While most are blithely unaware of the diversity that abounds in the history of Mormon doctrine, many Latter-day Saints since 1916 have, despite the risk of heresy, continued to believe privately or promote publicly many of the alternative Godhead theologies from Mormonism’s past.
(Boyd Kirkland, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine, Vol.9, No.2, Autumn 1984

Jesus-takes-the-scroll_JWs_EDITED

“Jesus Takes the Scroll”, an image from The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Online Library. Unlike Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is God – be it Jehovah, Elohim, or otherwise.

19) The First President’s 1916 doctrinal statement “The Father and The Son,” as authored and defined by James E. Talmage
Yes, the doctrinal content of this watershed statement is most certainly taught, but without ever referencing its origin – this doctrinal statement. Thus, Mormons wrongly assume that the teaching of that relationship is given by revelation, when it was, in fact, authored by Talmage, then approved by the First Presidency. This treatise had to be written to remediate the confusion and infighting that Brigham Young’s aforementioned disastrous Adam-God doctrine had wrought, as well as other problematic theologies that had crept into Mormonism over the years. This exposition was published as a “Gospel Classic” in the official LdS Church periodical Ensign in 2002. Here is the link.

The Father and the Son (Ensign, April 2002)

While this watershed doctrinal exposition itself is rarely discussed today, at the time it represented a seismic shift in Mormon Theology, this as one commentator on a Mormon Studies board explained, using the Third Century Council of Nicaea as a point of comparison:

One way the 1916 [vote to sustain the “The Father and the Son” as official LdS Church doctrine] event was all the more worse than the actual Council of Nicaea is that soon after it the Mormon Church removed a part of its own scripture, the Lectures on/of Faith.

So they reversed prior Mormon theology, they rejected the teaching of their founding prophet, they voted on their own Mormon theology, and then they subsequently removed some of their own Mormon scripture. And it wasn’t ~292 years after the death of Christ. It was 1,883+ years after the death of Christ. And members or representatives from wards or stakes didn’t even get to practically participate in any meaningful public debate with higher leaders at their Conference. Like other Conferences members voted to accept the statement largely out of submission to and trust of the leadership, not through any helpful, serious member-driven scrutiny or vetting.

All that within a theological framework that traditionally teaches we sinners can become Almighty Eternal Everlasting Most High Gods of our own 40 billion spirit children expecting our own prayer and worship.

That makes the Council of Nicaea look relatively angelic. Even more so once you learn that many of the LDS assumptions about Nicaea are false.
(Aaron Shafovaloff, “2009 Gospel Principles criticizes the “pagan beliefs” of those “called Christians” in “false Christianity”’, comments section February 15, 2019, Mormon Coffee, blog site)

1899 Edition of The Articles of Faith by Talmage_EDITED

An 1899 First Edition of Talmage’s, “The Articles of Faith”.

20)  The original 1899 version of James E. Talmage’s “The Articles of Faith”
The reach and scope of Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage’s book, “The Articles of Faith”, is hard to overstate. As the Encyclopedia of Mormon explains:

The canonization of the Wentworth Letter as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1880 reflected and assured its undisputed priority. And when James E. Talmage was asked by the First Presidency in 1891 to prepare a work on theology for use as a textbook in Church schools, it was to these Articles of Faith that he turned for the outline of his volume. First published in 1899 and still in use today, Talmage’s Articles of Faith greatly elaborate on the themes of Joseph Smith’s Wentworth list. In twenty-four chapters, Talmage provides extensive commentary and scriptural references regarding each of the concepts mentioned in the thirteen articles, plus sections on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and resurrection (as in Flanigan’s listing), and finally a section on practical religion (benevolence, tithes and offerings, consecration, social order within the Church, eternal marriage, sanctity of the body, and keeping the Sabbath day holy).
(David J. Whittaker, “Articles of Faith”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1992) 

But today if you went down to Deseret Book or onto the official LdS Church website and started reading Mormon Apostle, Jame E. Talmage’s classic book, “The Articles of Faith” you would no longer be reading the same book that Mr. Talmage wrote and published in 1899. The current edition was heavily edited and abridged by unknown parties (the correlation committee at work perhaps?) in 2009. And earlier editions were modified by Talmage during his lifetime and unknown parties afterward. Here is one of many examples that one with find if you take the time to look:

1899 Original Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1919 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1990 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for; though as to possible progress from one kingdom to another the scriptures make no positive affirmation. Eternal advancement along different lines is conceivable. We may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(p.371)

By the way, special thanks to Latter-day Saint Scholar, Scott Woodward, for the above example, which the reader can find here in its original form and format on Mr. Woodward’s website.  That said, please notice how not only have Talmage’s words changed here, the doctrine has changed too. We’ve gone from being able to progress within and between the three posthumous Mormon Kingdoms of Glory in the original edition, to only limited progression within the Kingdoms in later editions. No doubt, the 1919 change was done by Talmage himself for the 1919 edition as near the end of his life his position was aligned with that view:

The Lord has told us of places prepared for those entitled to salvation. He has told us that those who will keep all the laws and commandments of God can come where he is and shall be heirs of celestial glory and power. And he has told us of lesser degrees unto which others who have failed to rise to the occasion of laying hold on the blessing of eternal life, in its fulness, shall come; and concerning the last of these kingdoms of glories, known to us as the Telestial, the Lord has said that it excels all that the human mind can conceive in glory, and yet the one in the Telestial Kingdom is condemned so far as his actions have rendered him incapable of attaining to the higher glories and blessings which mean power and advancement.
(Elder James E. Talmage, “Conference Report, April 1930″, p.96, underlining added for emphasis)

However, the author of the change in the 1990 edition is unknown.

Now Talmage’s 1899 original is still available if you look for it, but the only one being published by the LdS Church today in paper and its website is the “annotated” version with the abridgments and changes. But not to worry, here’s a link to the eBook edition of the original 1899 edition back from the dustbin (click here). And here’s where you can buy a paper edition of the same (click here). And you really, really, really want to read the paper edition of the most current edited and abridged “annotated” version you can buy a copy here (click here).

And with that, Mr. Talmage’s classic is now dustbin fodder, along with all the other items listed in this article, the ones that preceded it, and the ones that will soon follow. Happy sweeping LdS Church – if you keep sweeping, we’ll just keep growing the list!

sweep

Yeah . . . it’s kinda like that, ain’t it?

 

A painting by C.C.A. Christensen of the original Nauvoo Temple burning after being set to flame by an unknown arsonist on October 9, 1848.

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging Mormon Doctrine on the Dustbin (Part Three)principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the third in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

10) The original 1835 D&C 101
The following is an excerpt from the LDS periodical, Times and Seasons dated Saturday, October 1, 1842 (3:939). This edition included section 101 (CI) from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, plus an addendum denouncing John C. Bennett’s “secret wife system.” The date is significant because by October 1, 1842, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was already “married” secretly to several women.

ON MARRIAGE.
According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority.-We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil [fulfill] your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”

The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.

[This is where D&C 101 ends]

We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

S. Bennett, N. K. Whitney,
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon, John Taylor,
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
W. Woodruff, Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.

Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor [Counselor],
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor [Counselor],
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
Mary C. Miller, Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler, Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon, Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter, Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law, Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks, Rosannah Marks

(the above write up and analysis is courtesy of our friends at Mormonism Research Ministry)

11) Pre-1990 Temple Endowment Blood Oaths
On May 4, 1842, Joseph Smith instituted the endowment ritual in Nauvoo, Illinois. At three different stages of the endowment, participants were asked to take an oath of secrecy regarding the gestures of the ceremony (Kearns 1906, p. 8). The participants promised that if they were ever to reveal the gestures of the ceremony, would be subject to the following:

  • Stage 1: “my throat … be cut from ear to ear, and my tongue torn out by its roots;”
  • Stage 2: “our breasts … be torn open, our hearts and vitals torn out and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field;”
  • Stage 3: “our body … be cut asunder and all your bowels gush out.”

Each of the penalties was accompanied by gestures known as the “execution of the penalty” which simulated the actions described in the oath (Kearns 1906, p. 8).

  • Stage 1: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb just under the left ear. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the tip of the thumb swiftly across the throat until the thumb was just under the right ear, then dropping the hand and arm quickly to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 2: The participant placed his or her hand in a cup form over the left breast. The execution of the gesture was made by pulling the hand-cup swiftly across the breast, then quickly dropping the hand and arm to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 3: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb on the left of the torso, just above the left hip. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the thumb swiftly across the stomach until the thumb was just above the right hip, and the hand and arm were quickly dropped to the side of the participant’s body.
    (source: “Penalty (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website)

A side-by-side comparison of the pre and post-1990 ceremonies can be found by clicking here.

12) Pre-1927’s Temple Endowment Oath of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance that was used in the in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 went as follows:

You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

The Oath of Vengeance against the American people and the Government for the death of Joseph Smith was a very important part of the temple ceremony for many years. Because of this temple ceremony vow of vengeance upon this nation, a protest was filed in 1903 in the United States Senate to have Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle who had been elected a Senator from Utah, removed from office on the grounds that he had taken this treasonous oath in the endowment ritual. It became the subject of a United States Senate Investigation.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906).

John Hawley, a former Mormon, made these statements in his Congressional testimony concerning the Smoot investigation:

I went to Salt Lake City in 1856. They gave the endowments of washing and anointing, and then there was an oath taken in Utah to avenge the blood of the prophet… In taking the endowments at Salt Lake there was the oath required, and the oath that was required was to ‘avenge the death or blood of the prophet.’ We were made to swear to avenge the death of Joseph Smith the Martyr, together with that of his brother Hyrum, on this American nation, and that we should teach our children and children’s children to do so. ‘The penalty for this grip and oath was disembowelment,’ I would not have discussed the method of these endowments when I was a member of the Utah Church. The penalty for revealing or disclosing these secrets was disembowelment. The grips and tokens of the priesthood were what we were not to disclose… I kept the obligation while living in Salt Lake City.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906)

However, and bizarrely, despite this seditious oath being publicly exposed during the Reed Smoot hearing the LdS Church still continued to use the vow of vengeance in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 after which it was dropped.

13)  Blood Atonement
In Mormonism, blood atonement is a controversial doctrine that taught that some crimes are so heinous that the atonement of Jesus does not apply. Instead, to atone for these sins the perpetrators should be killed in a way that would allow their blood to be shed upon the ground as a sacrificial offering.

The doctrine is no longer accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), but it was significantly promoted during the Mormon Reformation, when Brigham Young governed the Utah Territory as a near-theocracy. Sins that Young and other members of his First Presidency mentioned as meriting blood atonement included miscegenation [the mixing of different racial groups through marriage], apostasy, theft, murder, fornication, and adultery.

Young taught that the doctrine was to be a voluntary choice by the sinner, and only to be practiced under a complete theocracy (which has not existed in modern times). Young considered it more charitable to sacrifice a life than to see them endure eternal torment in the afterlife. In a full Mormon theocracy, the practice would be implemented by the state as a penal measure.

The blood atonement doctrine was the impetus behind laws in the territory and state of Utah allowing capital punishment by firing squad or decapitation. Though people in Utah were executed by firing squad for capital crimes under the assumption that this would aid their salvation, there is no clear evidence that Young or other top theocratic Mormon leaders enforced blood atonement for apostasy or non-capital crimes like miscegenation. There is, however, some evidence that the doctrine was enforced a few times at the local church level without regard to secular judicial procedure. The rhetoric of blood atonement may have contributed to a culture of violence leading to the Mountain Meadows massacre.
(source: “Blood Atonement”, Wikipedia website, bracketed text added for clarity.) 

14) Pre-1978 OD-2 Black Priesthood Ban
Beginning in the late 1840s, individuals of black African descent were prohibited from ordination to the LDS Church’s priesthood—normally held by all male members who meet church standards of spiritual “worthiness”—and from receiving temple ordinances such as the endowment and celestial marriage (sealing). The origins of the policy are still unclear: during the 20th century, most church members and leaders believed the policy had originated during founding prophet Joseph Smith’s time, but church research in the 1960s and 1970s found no evidence of the prohibition before the presidency of Brigham Young

On September 30, 1978, during the church’s 148th Semiannual General Conference, the following was presented by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:

In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously. [Official Declaration 2Doctrine and Covenants, a standard work of the LDS Church]

On that day, the general conference unanimously voted to accept the revelation “as the word and will of the Lord.”

Following the revelation, black male members were allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. Black members and their spouses regardless of race were allowed to enter the temple and undergo the temple rituals, including celestial marriages. Black members could be adopted into a tribe of Israel through a patriarchal blessing. Black members were also allowed to serve missions and hold leadership positions. Proselytization restrictions were removed, so missionaries no longer needed special permission to teach black people, converts were no longer asked about African heritage, and marks were no longer made on membership records indicating African heritage.
(source: “1978 Revelation on Priesthood”, Wikipedia website) 

The 1978 Official Declaration 2 revelation also sent the 1949 and 1969 First President’s statements on race to the dustbin. Here they are in full:

First Presidency statement (President George Albert Smith)
August 17, 1949

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

The First Presidency

(Statement of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, August 17, 1949, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City)

First Presidency statement (President David O. McKay)
December 15, 1969

To General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops.

Dear Brethren:

In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

First, may we say that we know something of the sufferings of those who are discriminated against in a denial of their civil rights and Constitutional privileges. Our early history as a church is a tragic story of persecution and oppression. Our people repeatedly were denied the protection of the law. They were driven and plundered, robbed and murdered by mobs, who in many instances were aided and abetted by those sworn to uphold the law. We as a people have experienced the bitter fruits of civil discrimination and mob violence.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired, that it was produced by “wise men” whom God raised up for this “very purpose,” and that the principles embodied in the Constitution are so fundamental and important that, if possible, they should be extended “for the rights and protection” of all mankind.

In revelations received by the first prophet of the Church in this dispensation, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Lord made it clear that it is “not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.” These words were spoken prior to the Civil War. From these and other revelations have sprung the Church’s deep and historic concern with man’s free agency and our commitment to the sacred principles of the Constitution.

It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.

However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not within the purview of the civil law. The first amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affecting those of the Negro race who choose to join the Church falls wholly within the category of religion. It has no bearing upon matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation.

This position has no relevancy whatever to those who do not wish to [p.223] join the Church. Those individuals, we suppose, do not believe in the divine origin and nature of the church, nor that we have the priesthood of God. Therefore, if they feel we have no priesthood, they should have no concern with any aspect of our theology on priesthood so long as that theology does not deny any man his Constitutional privileges.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principle of continuous revelation. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, “The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God….

“Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state.”

President McKay has also said, “Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood.”

Until God reveals His will in this matter, to him whom we sustain as a prophet, we are bound by that same will. Priesthood, when it is conferred on any man comes as a blessing from God, not of men.

We feel nothing but love, compassion, and the deepest appreciation for the rich talents, endowments, and the earnest strivings of our Negro brothers and sisters. We are eager to share with men of all races the blessings of the Gospel. We have no racially-segregated congregations.

Were we the leaders of an enterprise created by ourselves and operated only according to our own earthly wisdom, it would be a simple thing to act according to popular will. But we believe that this work is directed by God and that the conferring of the priesthood must await His revelation. To do otherwise would be to deny the very premise on which the Church is established.

We recognize that those who do not accept the principle of modern revelation may oppose our point of view. We repeat that such would not wish for membership in the Church, and therefore the question of priesthood should hold no interest for them. Without prejudice they should grant us the privilege afforded under the Constitution to exercise our [p.224] chosen form of religion just as we must grant all others a similar privilege. They must recognize that the question of bestowing or withholding priesthood in the Church is a matter of religion and not a matter of Constitutional right.

We extend the hand of friendship to men everywhere and the hand of fellowship to all who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein.

We join with those throughout the world who pray that all of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ may in due time of the Lord become available to men of faith everywhere. Until that time comes we must trust in God, in His wisdom and in His tender mercy.

Meanwhile we must strive harder to emulate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose new commandment it was that we should love one another. In developing that love and concern for one another, while awaiting revelations yet to come, let us hope that with respect to these religious differences, we may gain reinforcement for understanding and appreciation for such differences. They challenge our common similarities, as children of one Father, to enlarge the out-reachings of our divine souls.

Faithfully your brethren,
The First Presidency

By Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner

(source: FAIRMormon website)

15) Male-to-Male Adoptive Sealings per “The Law of Adoption
The law of adoption was a ritual practiced in Latter Day Saint temples between 1846 and 1894 in which men who held the priesthood were sealed in a father–son relationship to other men who were not part of nor even distantly related to their immediate nuclear family…

Brigham Young had been sealed by the law of adoption to Joseph Smith, and in January and early February 1846 (before leaving for the Rocky Mountains on 15 February 1846), Young was sealed to 38 young men by the law of adoption in the Nauvoo Temple.[Brooks, Juanita (1992) [1961], John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, p. 73, ISBN 0-87421-162-XOCLC 42329435] On 23 February 1847, Young “went to see Joseph” in a dream and Young said that he spoke with Smith about the law of adoption.[Manuscript History of Brigham Young, February 23, 1847]

On April 6, 1862, Young said of the law of adoption: “By this power men will be sealed to men back to Adam, completing and making perfect the priesthood from this day to the winding up scene.”[ Journal of Discourses, volume 9, page 269.] It is reported by Young’s grandson, Kimball Young (chairman of the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University) that Brigham Young stated in a letter that there will be a future time “when men would be sealed to men in the priesthood in a more solemn ordinance than that by which women were sealed to men, and in a room over that in which women were sealed to man.”[Young, Kimball (1954), Isn’t One Wife Enough?, New York: Holt, pp. 278–280, OCLC837920]…

In a church general conference address on 8 April 1894, Wilford Woodruff stated that “I have not felt satisfied, nor has any man since the Prophet Joseph Smith who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt there was more to be revealed on this subject than we have received … and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is let every man be adopted to his father.”[Irving, Gordon (Spring 1974), “The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation”, BYU Studies, 14 (3), p.312]

Thus, as of 1894, the practice of the law of adoption ceased in the LDS Church.
(source: “Law of Adoption (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website) 

(click to view full image)

16) Polyandry: The Practice of One Woman Being Married to More Than One Husband
The gospel/church sealing ordinance of polyandry created and practiced by Joseph Smith was discontinued after the Nauvoo Illinois period according to Mormon apostle John Widstoe (“Evidences And Reconciliations”, p. 343).

Mormon researcher and apologist Brian Hales claims that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s known polygamous wives were still married to living husbands:

My research supports that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives had legal husbands. It could be that in Joseph Smith’s history, polygamy is the most difficult thing to understand. Within polygamy, Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women, is the most difficult. So we’re talking about a pretty tough subject today. And I can tell you already, that if it were easy, someone would have already explained it decades ago. But I think we’ve got it figured out.

Now there are two questions: “Why did he do it”, and “Did the women really have two husbands?” Answering the question of why he did it requires us to introduce some new topics. Joseph taught that marriage can be eternal and that everyone must be sealed to be exalted. These are not new to us, we’ve all heard these. But outside of Mormondom, these are kind of new ideas. Emmanuel Swedenborg had talked about eternal marriage and he died in 1772. But really, nobody talked about eternal marriage. The idea that you had to be married to get the highest salvation, that’s still a really new and somewhat different teaching.
(Brian C. Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?”, Proceedings of the 2012 FAIR Conference”, August 2012)

Why polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo is a mystery just as much as to why it was discontinued after the Saints left Illinois. It is an odd and unusual anomaly that now lays in the dustbin.

The charred remains of the Provo Tabernacle after it was gutted by a fire on December 17, 2010.

 

Lt. General Joseph Smith, Command in Chief of the Nauvoo Legion

compiled by Fred W. Anson
Controversy still swirls around if Joseph Smith sent an order to Nauvoo Legion acting General Jonathan Dunham to march on Carthage Jail and free him from what would ultimately be his assassination by an Anti-Mormon mob. FAIRMormon weighs with a resounding negative in this rather lengthy article: “Question: Did Joseph order Jonathan Dunham, head of the Nauvoo Legion, to rescue him?” (please click on link to read and consider this article) 

However, that hardly settles the matter. Below is evidence that counters FAIRMormon’s claims. It’s mentioned in their article but they discount and attempt to explain it away. So I will leave it to you, dear reader, to consider both sides and make up your own mind.

Allen J. Stout 
(December 5, 1815, December 18, 1889. A former Danite and member of the Nauvoo Legion, Joseph Smith’s private militia)
Now, there began to be excitement in the regions round about, so that the [Nauvoo] Legion was called out, which occupied my time as I had command of one company of footmen. The mob was determined to have the Prophet and we were determined they should not, so we kept under arms day and night for many weeks, but finally Joseph and Hyrum gave themselves up to be tried by the persuasion of false brethren and were taken out to Carthage.

And while they were in jail, Brother Joseph wrote an official order to Jonathan Dunham to bring the Legion and reserve him from being killed, but Dunham did not let a single man or mortal know that he had received such orders, and we were kept in the city under arms, not knowing but all was well, until the mob came and forced the prison and slew Joseph and Hyrum Smith and wounded John Taylor severely.
(Allen J. Stout, “Manuscript Journal, 1815-89”, p. 13)

T.B.H. Stenhouse
(21 February 1825 – 7 March 1882. Early Mormon convert, pioneer, and Missionary)
As the shadows on the prison walls, announced the receding day, the approach of death was sensibly felt by the Prophet and his friends. Dr. Richards, one of the apostles, proposed to Joseph that if his life might be accepted in the Prophet’s stead, he would freely give it. The apostle Taylor asked only permission, and “in five hours he would take him from his prison.” These were no idle offers. Life and deliverance were his for half a word; but at this critical moment Joseph seemed to forget all thoughts of life and of the world. It is claimed by the believing Saints that he had premonitions of his approaching end, and that on some occasions previous to the Expositor difficulty, he had spoken of the termination of his mission. So long had his bow been strung to its utmost tension, that this feeling of indifference can readily be appreciated without either miracle or divine manifestation; but to him and his, impressions had special interpretations. Add to this the galling humiliation of being chided by some brethren as a “coward” when he attempted to escape on the presentation of the sheriff’s writ, and then the weariness of earthly things is easy to comprehend. Life at last had lost its charm; the charge of cowardice had stung him, and he was ready to die. It was neither want of friends nor want of ability to secure his escape. He was weary, and with his fertile faith it was easy to listen to the suggestion of those ever-ready words – “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Besides, a “prophet” never dies. The portals of another world hail him as the advancing conqueror, and the field of his labours becomes more extended. Joseph was ready for the change.* It is stated that on leaving Nauvoo for Carthage he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer morning. I have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me He was murdered in cold blood.”’**

*Notwithstanding this apparent readiness to meet death, and the deep and clear divine impressions claimed to have been imparted to the Prophet of his forthcoming end, it is understood that he managed to send from prison a communication to the Mormon officer in military command at Nauvoo, to bring with all possible dispatch a portion of the Legion to protect him from treachery, and from that assassination which he had then so much cause to apprehend. This military commander put the Prophet’s communication into his pocket and gave no heed to the call for help. No one was acquainted with the contents of the paper, and the officer was, therefore, he presumed, safe in disregarding it.

After the Prophet’s death, by some accident or other, this communication was lost and was picked up on the street and read. The intelligence that Joseph had called for aid and none had been rendered him was soon bruited among the Saints, and excited their deepest indignation, as they were not only ready to march at a moment’s notice, but were eager for the opportunity.

Some time afterwards, when all was quiet, this coward and traitor as some of the Mormons called him, or “fool and idiot” as others said, was sent on a mission to the Western frontiers, accompanied by a faithful elder. While travelling alone with his companion, he fell ill and died, it is said of dysentery. His companion buried him.

**“Doctrine and Covenants,” p. 335.
(Thoma B.H. Stenhouse, “The Rocky Mountain Saints [1887]: A Full & Complete History of the Mormons from First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young & Development of the Great Mineral Wealth of Utah”, Kindle Locations 2698-2725. D. Appleton and Company. Kindle Edition)

Fawn Brodie
(September 15, 1915-January 10, 1981. Mormon Historian, infamous Biographer of Joseph Smith, and niece of 9th LdS President, David O. McKay)
Dull and heavy-spirited, the prisoners finally sent for some wine, and all except Hyrum sipped a little.* When Richards handed the bottle to the guard, he started down the stairs. At that moment there was a noise at the outer door, followed by shouts to surrender and the sound of shots.

It was not the Nauvoo Legion galloping up for a dramatic rescue. For some reason never divulged, Jonathan Dunham had pocketed the order and neglected to act upon it**, and no other man in Nauvoo knew of his prophet’s peril. It was the men of the Warsaw militia, who had marched out of the town as a token to the Governor, waited until he was well on his way to Nauvoo, and then come roaring back to join the Carthage Greys.

* According to John Taylor’s account. History of the Church, Vol. VII, p.101.

** This story is told by Allen J. Stout in his manuscript journal, 1815-89, a transcript of which may be seen in the Utah State Historical Society Library. See p. 13. It is confirmed by T. B. H. Stenhouse in his Rocky Mountain Saints (New York, 1873), p. 164.
(Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith”, Kindle Locations 8842-8854. Barvas Books. Kindle Edition)

General Joseph Smith reviewing the Nauvoo Legion – which at the time was larger than the Illinois State Militia.