Archive for the ‘Fred Anson’ Category

The Apostle Paul’s Law v. Grace Dichotomy

by Michael Flournoy, Fred W. Anson, and Pam Hanvey
If you’re a Latter-day Saint who has talked theology with Evangelicals, chances are you’ve walked away exasperated more than once. I’m willing to wager you’ve thought, “How can these people misrepresent my church so much? Do they understand my beliefs at all?” Perhaps, you think the most blatant example is when Evangelicals show scriptures that say the Law doesn’t save and then give that smug “gotcha” look. The problem should be obvious, but it isn’t.

You don’t follow the Law of Moses, you believe in the restored gospel. And you’ve said it enough times that Evangelicals should get it by now, right? But we all get stuck in battle debate mode and just have to win, don’t we? So it’s easy to keep pushing an argument in vain.  We all know how it goes, don’t we? 

As a result, we are going to express what Evangelicals have been trying to say all along, but typically don’t know how to because they aren’t bi-lingual and speak both Mormonese and Christianese as your intrepid reporters here do.  

First, both sides agree that Mormonism is a restoration. Yes, you heard that right, it is a restoration. However, Evangelicals see it as a restoration of the Old Testament Law of Moses, not New Testament Christianity. That is, to put it into Mormonese: It’s a restoration of the Lesser Law not the Higher Law as Mormonism claims. (Evangelicals, see BYU Professor Larry E. Dahl’s article, “The Higher Law”, Ensign, February 1991 for a good primer on the difference between the two from the Mormon perspective.) 

Study this out in your mind and see if it is right: When Paul wrote his letters he made a distinction between grace and Law. Since Mormonism claims to be a restoration of New Testament Christianity, not Old Testament Judaism, it stands to reason that it should fit soundly into one of Paul’s categories, right?  So let’s dig in and see why the above thesis is true. 

Similarities with the Law
How dare Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses, right? After all, Latter-day Saints don’t sacrifice animals, nor do they consider circumcision an essential covenant or ordinance of the gospel. Plus, the Word of Wisdom doesn’t require abstinence from consuming pork, shellfish, or other non-kosher food, does it?

So, why do Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses? Evangelicals are not merely looking at outward practices, but rather, they are going deeper; looking at the principal(s) behind the practices. Very early on in the Old Testament, this principle is established in the Law of Moses.  

I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 11:27-28, KJV) 

The principle of blessings for obedience is also included in LDS scripture.  

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
(D&C 130:20-21) 

Comparing the two, the Law of Moses (Old Covenant) clearly delineates laws/commandments to be obeyed in specific situations by a specific group of people (Israelites); obedience or disobedience resulted in temporal blessings or curses for the nation of Israel. 

In Galatians 3:24, Paul explains that the Law of Moses, “was given to be a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. Obedience to the Law has never been the means by which men enter into eternal life. Eternal Life has always been a blessing given by grace through faith.

In contrast, D&C 130 only presents a principle of blessings for obedience (no curses for disobedience). It then takes the principle of blessings for obedience and doubles down on it;  making obedience to laws a requirement for all of God’s blessings – up to and including Eternal Life.2 This leaves no room for eternal life to be granted by grace through faith (see definition below). As a result, many of the practices found in the Law of Moses continue to exist in Mormonism. 

After all, you still covenant to sacrifice all that the Lord blesses you with, don’t you? Doesn’t the LDS Church require a mandatory tithe – even though the tithe was a covenant-keeping ordinance of the lesser Law? Don’t you consider baptism an essential covenant akin to circumcision? And aren’t coffee, tea, and alcohol essentially non-kosher foods that cause one to break covenant if one consumes them? 

Further, don’t both the lesser Law and higher Laws require making and keeping covenants with God in a temple? Weren’t the unworthy Gentiles forbidden from even entering the temple foyer, let alone the washing and anointing area? Ditto for Jews who didn’t keep their covenants? Weren’t women forbidden from holding the Priesthood? Ditto for male children below a certain age?  Wasn’t there a special class of men who could hold the Priesthood out of all the men on earth? Weren’t there classes or castes of priests within the Priesthood rather than a single Royal Priesthood? 

And, aren’t both systems so overwhelmingly arduous, demanding, and ultimately impossible that they drive us to ultimate failure, condemn us and point us to our ever-present, all-surpassing need for a savior. In short, the Law and the LDS gospel serve to bring us to a knowledge of sin. Thus, both systems condemn us just as Paul said so well in his epistles: 

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become ||guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
(Romans 3:19-20, KJV) 

We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted
(1 Timothy 1.8-11, KJV)

As one of our authors (writing under the pen name “Marie Johnson”) said well: 

The Old Covenant sacerdotal system, which came 430 years after God made his promises to Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-3) was never designed to give eternal life. Its purpose was to act as a tutor and a disciplinarian; teaching people about the depths of their sinfulness. As their custodian, it watched over them and kept them in check until the fullness of time came and they could be justified by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:19-24). Just as the promise was not the reality, the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant were only a foreshadow of the good things that were coming in Christ. (Hebrew 10:1-2)

Inaugurated with the shed blood of animals, the Mosaic covenant had a very distinct beginning. When Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled the book of the covenant and all the people, the Israelites were bound to abide by the Law of Moses (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:19). They were required to continually perform sacrifices for the temporary covering of sins (Hebrews 10:11). If they intentionally defied the Mosaic Law, they would be cut off from Israel; that is, put to death (Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 10:28). No Hebrew was exempt from this obligation to the Law until, “the fullness of the time was come, [when] God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5,KJV)
(Pam Hanvey (writing as “Marie Johnson”), “The Bible v. The Book of Mormon Gospel”, Beggar’s Bread website, April 17, 2016) 

The Jews under the Old Covenant had to make a sin sacrifice once a year because they kept sinning. The LDS sacrament is essentially the same thing. It is a repeated ordinance that renews the covenant. The New Covenant, as Paul emphasizes again, again, and again in his epistles, does not need to be renewed at all. In this, Paul merely affirms and validates what Christ, Himself said on the cross, “It is finished” (see John 19:30).

So to review:

      • Both systems have tithing. 
      • Both systems honor the Sabbath. 
      • Both systems uphold the ten commandments.
      • Both systems require making and keeping covenants. 
      • Both systems overwhelm us and condemn us. 
      • And both systems point us our need for a Savior.

Dissimilarities with Grace
The other problem is how dissimilar Mormonism is with grace as the Bible defines it. For example, Mormonism commits a classic “Fallacy by Definition” error by reframing the primary definition of grace as, “the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ” (see “Grace” official LDS Church website

However, the words for grace in the Bible (“charis” in New Testament Greek and “chen” in the Old Testament) are generally defined as first and foremost, “the free and unmerited favour of God” (see “Divine grace” Wikipedia website). That is the definition of the word that not only the Christian world uses, but the world in general does. For example, consider this definition from Dictionary.com) which is about as generic a dictionary as they come: “favor or goodwill; a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior”.1

Can you see what just happened there, my Latter-day Saint friend? By simply defining the word correctly and giving it its true meaning, suddenly the atonement has shifted away from what I must do to gain God’s favor through law-keeping to simply receiving the favor that God has so freely already given me through faith and trust in the atonement of Christ. Suddenly, as two of the authors of this article explained in a previous article, we move from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross of Golgotha: 

Though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, mainstream Christianity locates the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other, there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement, (Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its Meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012). But such a focus denies the Christ-centered redemption narrative that’s at the very core of the gospel message and so rightly cherished by Christians the world over.
(Fred W. Anson & Michael Flournoy, “Behold the Man Upon the Cross”, Beggar’s Bread website, September 30, 2018

And this is a shift that’s reiterated again, again, and again in the Bible: 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV) 

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
(Galatians 2:21, KJV)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
(Galatians 5:4, KJV) 

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
(Romans 11:5-6, KJV) 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:17, KJV) 

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
(Romans 6:14, KJV) 

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
(Galatians 3:18, KJV)

In the aforementioned article, Pam Hanvey summed things up nicely when she said, 

Because Jesus redeemed those under the law, the Old Covenant became obsolete when the New Covenant was ratified in his blood. (Hebrews 8:13, 10:9-10). Jesus addressed this in the parable of the wineskins. New wine can’t be poured into old wineskins: The old skins will burst and both will be ruined. (Matthew 9:14-17). The two covenants can’t be mixed. [Yet] In spite of Paul and Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Mormon asserts that people who were under Old Covenant law could freely partake of the New Covenant and claim remission of sins through Jesus’ atonement…

Splattered throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon, this concocted gospel attempts to mix the Old and New Covenants, only to rip apart the fabric of the Old Covenant and trample underfoot the New Covenant.
(op cit, Hanvey) 

This is the focus of the entire book of Galatians, which may best be summarized by this passage: 

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified…

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
(Galatians 2:16,21, KJV) 

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further to press home the fact that those trying to justify themselves by law-keeping are actually putting themselves under a curse: 

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
(Galatians 3:10-12, KJV) 

He even goes so far as to say that law-keeping is a yoke of bondage, rather than freedom, 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
(Galatians 5:1 KJV) 

So my dear Latter-day Saint friend, if you feel like that pressures and demands of the conflated, mish-mash, of the false Mormon Gospel of intermingled Old Testament Law and New Covenant grace that your church teaches is enslaving and crushing you, Paul would simply say to you, “You’re right, it is!”  

And then I would imagine that he would simply look you in the eye, and ask this paraphrased version of his infamous Galatians 3:1 question,  

“O foolish Mormon, who hath bewitched you?”

NOTES
1 This isn’t to say that the LDS Church’s definition isn’t included in or a subset of the biblical definition grace, it is. However, it’s a secondary effect or by-product of “the free and unmerited favour of God”, nothing more. This is as Louis Berkhof explains so well in his Systematic Theology: 

The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit. The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9.
(Louis Berkhof, “Systematic Theology” (Grand Rapids, 1949), pp. 426-427)

So the problem isn’t so much that the LDS Church’s definition of grace is wrong as much as it’s both “cart before the horse” and incomplete. 

2 For our non-Mormon readers, Even though there are six (6) types of salvation in LDS soteriology, Mormons will still use the generic term “salvation” without specifying which of the six they’re referring to. Here is the list followed by the full explanation from an official, correlated LDS Church source. 

1) Salvation from Physical Death.
2) Salvation from Sin.
3) Being Born Again.
4) Salvation from Ignorance.
5) Salvation from the Second Death.
6) Eternal Life, or Exaltation.

And here, in its entirety is that source: 

Salvation
In the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terms “saved” and “salvation” have various meanings. As used in Romans 10:9-10, the words “saved” and “salvation” signify a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this covenant relationship, followers of Christ are assured salvation from the eternal consequences of sin if they are obedient. “Salvation” and “saved” are also used in the scriptures in other contexts with several different meanings.

Additional Information
If someone were to ask if another person had been saved, the answer would depend on the sense in which the word is used. The answer might be “Yes” or perhaps it might be “Yes, but with conditions.” The following explanations outline six different meanings of the word salvation.

Salvation from Physical Death. All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death. Paul testified, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.

Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives (see Alma 11:36-37). However, through the grace of God, all can be saved from their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Helaman 5:10-11) as they repent and follow Jesus Christ.

Being Born Again. The principle of spiritual rebirth appears frequently in the scriptures. The New Testament contains Jesus’s teaching that everyone must be “born again” and that those who are not “born of water and of the Spirit … cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This teaching is affirmed in the Book of Mormon: “All mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26).

This rebirth occurs as individuals are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of a willingness “to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). Through this process, their “hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, [they] are born of him” (Mosiah 5:7). All who have truly repented, been baptized, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have made the covenant to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and have felt His influence in their lives, can say that they have been born again. That rebirth can be renewed each Sabbath when they partake of the sacrament.

Salvation from Ignorance. Many people live in a state of darkness, not knowing the light of the restored gospel. They are “only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Those who have a knowledge of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the purpose of life, the plan of salvation, and their eternal potential are saved from this condition. They follow the Savior, who declared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Salvation from the Second Death. The scriptures sometimes speak of salvation from the second death. The second death is the final spiritual death—being cut off from righteousness and denied a place in any kingdom of glory (see Alma 12:32; D&C 88:24). This second death will not come until the Final Judgment, and it will come to only a few (see D&C 76:31-37). Almost every person who has ever lived on the earth is assured salvation from the second death (see D&C 76:40-45).

Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words saved and salvation often refer to eternal life, or exaltation (see Abraham 2:11). Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1-4; 132:21-24). This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.

See also Atonement of Jesus Christ; Baptism; Eternal Life; Grace; Kingdoms of Glory; Plan of Salvation
(“True to the Faith” (2004), LDS Church manual, pp. 150-53; retrieved 4/26/2017)

ALSO RECOMMENDED
“Plan of Salvation Overview”,  LDS Church Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), pp. 7–10;

More Notes and Thoughts on The Book of Mormon’s Parable of the Olive Tree

An ancient olive grove in Israel. Some of the trees in this grove are over 1,000-years old.

compiled by Susan Grape, Fred W. Anson, and “Team TOYBOM”
For those unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, the Parable of the Olive Tree is an extended allegory recounted in Chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob, the third book of the Book of Mormon. Jacob states the allegory was one of the teachings of the alleged extra-Biblical, Old Testament era prophet, Zenos found in the brass plates, a lost record. The Brass Plates were a set of plates retrieved by Nephi at the direction of his father, Lehi. They contained Jewish records similar to the Old Testament, up to the time of Jeremiah. Latter Day Saints suggest that it is possible that Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (see chapter 11) is referencing a similar parable. (see Wikipedia, “Parable of the Olive Tree”; also see “List of Plates (Latter Day Saints)”, and “Zenos”). Click here to read the parable in its entirety.

An official, correlated Church manual explains the symbolism of the parable as follows:
Vineyard = The world;
Master of the vineyard = Jesus Christ;
Tame olive tree = The house of Israel, the Lord’s covenant people;
Wild olive tree = Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel);
Branches = Groups of people;
Servants = Prophets and others called to serve;
Fruit = Lives or works of people;
(“Lesson 13: The Allegory of the Olive Trees”, Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), p. 56)

So that’s the backstory. Unfortunately, the parable has a number of issues and problems which we will discuss here in a running commentary type fashion for your consideration.

Other Thoughts and Notes:
An Olive Tree allegory would have had no direct significance to people living in the Americas in 541-421BC and approximately 60-years after the Book of Mormon people left the Middle East.
This is because olive trees aren’t native to the Americas and didn’t exist on the American continent until the 16th Century. From Wikipedia:

“Olives are not native to the Americas. Spanish colonists brought the olive to the New World, where its cultivation prospered in present-day Peru, Chile and Argentina. The first seedlings from Spain were planted in Lima by Antonio de Rivera in 1560. Olive tree cultivation quickly spread along the valleys of South America’s dry Pacific coast where the climate was similar to the Mediterranean. Spanish missionaries established the tree in the 18th century in California. It was first cultivated at Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 or later around 1795. Orchards were started at other missions, but in 1838, an inspection found only two olive orchards in California. Cultivation for oil gradually became a highly successful commercial venture from the 1860s onward.“
(Wikipedia, “Olive”)

An ancient Olive Grove in Israel. This grove is estimated to be about 2,000-years old.

Further, 19th Century Americans not living on the North American Southwest Coast – such as the Book of Mormon’s original, target audience – would be unable to see the flaws in the Parable of the Olive Tree since they can only be grown “landscaped in” (as is the case in Jacob 5) in Mediterranean climates.
From a botanical website on olive tree cultivation and olive oil production:

“Olive trees need a subtropical climate and do best with mild winters and long, warm, and dry summers. They are sensitive to hard freezing environments. They will grow in climate zones 10 and 11 (see map below). Some varieties are hardy enough for zone 9 or even 8. Temperatures below 22ºF (-5ºC) will kill small wood and branches. Freezing conditions lasting days or a hard freeze, below 15ºF (-10ºC), will kill or severely damage an olive tree. It is best to avoid planting olive trees in situations where there is a high risk of frost during bloom (late April to mid-May) or where freezing conditions are likely before harvest. Summer rainfall can cause fungal and bacterial infestations.”
(“Site Selection”, The Olive Oil Source website)

From Wikipedia:

“An estimated 865 million olive trees are in the world today (as of 2005), and the vast majority of these are found in Mediterranean countries, with traditionally marginal areas accounting for no more than 25% of olive-planted area and 10% of oil production.”
(Wikipedia, “Olive”)

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that someone who was born and raised in the North American Northwest (which generally has a Humid Continental Climate) wouldn’t have a good working knowledge of landscaped olive trees or groves since olive tree cultivation is only possible in pots in that climate zone:

“Olive trees thrive in the northeast where they can live outside in containers from spring through early fall, but then they must be moved inside. In winter, they cannot survive outside because of low temperatures in the northeast that range from 10 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 25 F. The northeastern region is in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 though 7; olive trees grow outdoors in climate zones 10 and 11. If you prefer, you can keep the trees indoors year-round. According to a New York Times gardening column, olive trees do well in big pots, so you’re in luck if you have the indoor space.”
(Nellene Teubner Plouffe, “Olive Trees in the Northeast”)

Unlike the other plant and tree parables in the Bible, the botany in Jacob is flawed, inaccurate, and error-filled.
For example, consider Christ’s allegory of the vine and Vinedresser in John 15. As one of this article’s compilers, Fred W. Anson, explained in his October 2019 Faith After Mormon Conference lecture, “From Human Doing to Human Being: Abiding In Jesus After Mormonism” this allegory is so botanically and scientifically correct and precise that a vineyarder could follow it’s instructions and get exactly what the passage claims and promises: Improved grapevine health and fruit production. Here’s what the passage says:

John 15 (KJV)
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

By comparison, if an Olive Tree Arborist followed the instructions given in Jacob 5, it would kill the olive tree – it reeks of ignorance on the very subject that it’s using as an allegory. This fact raises the question of whether this passage in the Book of Mormon is inspired by God at all. After all, surely the Author and Creator of the universe would know how to care for the very olive trees that He designed and created, right?

An ancient olive tree in Spain that is about 2,000 years old.

There is no evidence that the Old Testament Prophet Zenos, who was being quoted from Laban’s Brass Plates as the source for this parable, ever existed.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains:

“Zenos is one of four Israelite prophets of Old Testament times cited in the Book of Mormon whose writings appeared on the plates of brass but who are not mentioned in the Old Testament (see also Zenock; Neum; and Ezias). Zenos is quoted or mentioned by Nephi 1 (1 Ne. 19:10-17), Jacob (Jacob 5:1-77;6:1), Alma 2 (Alma 33:3-11, 13, 15), Amulek (Alma 34:7), Nephi 2 (Hel. 8:19-20), and Mormon (3 Ne. 10:14-17).

Although specific dates and details of Zenos’ life and ministry are not known, the Book of Mormon provides considerable information about him from his teachings and related facts. Evidently he lived sometime between 1600 and 600 B.C. because he was apparently a descendant of Joseph of Egypt and his writings were on the plates of brass taken from Jerusalem to the Americas by Nephi 1 about 600 B.C. He may also have been a progenitor of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi (cf. 3 Ne. 10:16). Zenos spent time “in the wilderness” (Alma 33:4), but also preached “in the midst” of the “congregations” of God (Alma 33:9). Some of his enemies became reconciled to him through the power of God, but others were visited “with speedy destruction” (Alma 33:4, 10). Finally, he was slain because of his bold testimony of the coming of the “Son of God” (Hel. 8:13-19).”
(Daniel H. Ludlow, “Zenos”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1623)

The first problem here is that Zenos isn’t a Jewish name – it’s a Greek name that means, “gift of Zeus” (see Wikipedia, “Zeno (name)”; also see The Bump website, “Zeno – Baby Name”). In fact, the closest historical match for “Zenos” is Zeno of Elea who was referred to by Plato and Aristotle in their work. (see Wikipedia, “Zeno of Elea”)

The second problem is the magnitude, weight, and significance that Mormon leaders and the LdS Church have placed on the work of Zenos during the Old Testament period. Consider the words of influential Mormon Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie:

“I do not think I overstate the matter when I say that next to Isaiah himself-who is the prototype, pattern, and model for all the prophets-there was not a greater prophet in all Israel than Zenos.”
(Bruce R. McConkie,”The Doctrinal Restoration”, in “The Joseph Smith Translation, The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things”, ed My. Nyman and R. Millet. Provo, Utah, 1985, p.17)

So logically, if the prophet Zenos was as the Book of Mormon and the LdS Church claims, then it seems incredulous that there would be no record of him in the Bible, let alone that his body of work won’t have been recorded and as diligently preserved in the biblical canon as the other Old Testament prophets. The same is true of extra-biblical sources, such as well-known Jewish Historian, Josephus or the literature of the cultures and civilizations that surrounded Old Testament Israel.

Given all these problems and logical incongruities, as well as the fact that the Parable of the Olive Tree doesn’t seem to be the work of anyone actually familiar or acquainted with olive tree germination and care, it might be easy to conclude that Zenos is simply a fictional character that the 19th Century author of the Book of Mormon contrived and produced from his imagination and tried to pass off as legitimate using a classic historical revisionism tactic.

Finally, in Jacob 4:1, the alleged author of the book states that he cannot write much because of the difficulty of engraving on the plates.
Yet he writes this allegory that contains over 600 repetitive words (yes, we counted them), consisting of “Behold/beheld/looked/beholdest”, “It came to pass”, “the Lord of the vineyard, said to the servant of the vineyard,” and over a 1,000 if you add the last part of many verses that repeat the first part of the verse.

In the end, there are significant problems and concerns about the Parable of the Olive Tree in the Book of Mormon that simply can’t be ignored by the reader. Jacob chapter 5 creates far more problems than it solves. In fact, because the Zenos character in the Book of Mormon both here and elsewhere acts and speaks more like a 19th Century American Protestant than an ancient Old Testament Prophet. Therefore, it’s very reasonable to conclude that he was simply invented to give voice to Joseph Smith so he could push the Book of Mormon as his prophetic credential – as we know from the historical record that he did.

In other words, we are of the opinion that the Parable of the Olive, like the rest of the Book of Mormon, was written by Joseph Smith, to coin a phrase, for fame and prophet. And though we have come to different conclusions (he faith-promoting, we skeptical), this assertion is fully aligned with the body of historical evidence that Mormon Apologist, Daniel C. Peterson summarized so well regarding the role of the Book of Mormon in early Mormon culture when he said:

“Studies of Latter-day Saint sermons and curriculum from the earliest period of church history well into the 20th century demonstrate surprisingly little use of the Book of Mormon to establish doctrines or as a text from which to preach. Many Saints were converted by reading it, but, thereafter, they tended to overlook its specific content. Early members, mostly converts, knew the Bible well and used it extensively in their teaching and missionary efforts, but the Book of Mormon served mainly as a kind of talisman, its sheer existence pointing to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. Even Joseph Smith used the Bible far more than he used the Book of Mormon in his sermons.”
(Daniel C. Peterson, “Embracing the power of the Book of Mormon”, The Deseret News, published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MST)

The infamous Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 in Berkeley, California. By Olive Grove standards, this is a young grove that’s only a little over a hundred years old.

About the Compilation Team
Susan Grape grew up in a non-church going family. When she became engaged, her fiancé (now husband) and she joined a Christian church. As she was learning about the Bible and Jesus, several friends, and relatives who were either Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientist shared their beliefs with her and challenged her to the point that she knew that their doctrine was different enough to question that someone (perhaps herself) had to be wrong. When Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her home, it forced her to study the scriptures to see what the Bible actually taught. That very intense time of studying gave her the evidence for what Biblical truth is. It sparked the desire to reach out to these groups with the Biblical gospel and the Biblical Christ.

Mrs. Grape served as a board member for ten years with Berean Christian Ministries and she currently is in her eleventh year of serving on the board of Christian Research & Counsel. Her husband Brad also is on the board. The Grape’s adult children are professing Christians, and their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.

Fred W. Anson 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).

“Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal was to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they could openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense.

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group could speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public whenever Latter Day Saints are present. The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.

An ancient Greek Olive Tree that’s at least 2,000 years old, possibly as old as 3,000 years.

Link to Part One

Notes and Thoughts on The Book of Mormon’s Parable of the Olive Tree

An ancient olive grove in Israel. Some of the trees in this grove are over 1,000-years old.

compiled by Susan Grape, Fred W. Anson, and “Team TOYBOM”
For those unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, the Parable of the Olive Tree is an extended allegory recounted in Chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob, the third book of the Book of Mormon. Jacob states the allegory was one of the teachings of the alleged extra-Biblical, Old Testament era prophet, Zenos found in the brass plates, a lost record. The Brass Plates were a set of plates retrieved by Nephi at the direction of his father, Lehi. They contained Jewish records similar to the Old Testament, up to the time of Jeremiah. Latter Day Saints suggest that it is possible that Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (see chapter 11) is referencing a similar parable. (see Wikipedia, “Parable of the Olive Tree”; also see “List of Plates (Latter Day Saints)”, and “Zenos”). Click here to read the parable in its entirety.

An official, correlated Church manual explains the symbolism of the parable as follows:
Vineyard = The world;
Master of the vineyard = Jesus Christ;
Tame olive tree = The house of Israel, the Lord’s covenant people;
Wild olive tree = Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel);
Branches = Groups of people;
Servants = Prophets and others called to serve;
Fruit = Lives or works of people;
(“Lesson 13: The Allegory of the Olive Trees”, Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), p. 56)

So that’s the backstory. Unfortunately, the parable has a number of issues and problems which we will discuss here in a running commentary type fashion for your consideration.

Verse 3a: An olive tree is planted in a vineyard.

Jacob 5
3a
For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard…”

Commentary: Olive trees are not planted in vineyards because grapevines will choke out young trees. (see The New manners and Customs of Bible Times, p. 43, 1987, Moody Press).

The soil requirements for olive trees and grapevines are very different. Olive trees (or groves) grow best in rocky soil like “chalky marl, with flint, and just mould enough to cover the roots. (see “Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p.224). On the other hand, “Vines (vineyards) like open, loose, soil, so their roots can grow down to the rocks to reach the moisture.” (see Ralph Gower, “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times”, p. 43). Thus, it makes no sense to plant an olive tree in a vineyard – or for that matter, a grapevine in an olive grove. As one Bible commentator notes, this is something that we see reflected in the text of the bible itself, “Olive groves were placed alongside of vineyards not inside of them, cf. I Sam. 8:14.” (ibid, p. 113)

Verses 3b-6: Zenos’ tree fits the description of a very old olive tree, the heart was decaying, and the main top was beginning to perish:

Jacob 5
3b
…and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay.

4 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard went forth, and he saw that his olive tree began to decay; and he said: I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches, and it perish not.

5 And it came to pass that he pruned it, and digged about it, and nourished it according to his word.

6 And it came to pass that after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish.

Commentary: Olive trees are very slow-growing, take years to mature, and then take even longer to decay and die. In fact, there are olive trees – even entire olive groves – in the Mediterranean that are thousands of years old. So to claim that this olive tree grew to full maturity and began to die within the lifetime of the master of the vineyard is simply hard to believe. From the Hunker website:

“In proper growing conditions, olive trees can live a long time—recently on Crete, scientists have been documenting that some olive trees there are as much 1,000 years old. Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, may be older than that, though it’s doubtful that they date from the time of Christ.

Growth Pattern. One drawback of olive trees, however, is that they grow to full maturity quite slowly. During the first few years of its life, an olive tree will grow rather quickly, but growth slows thereafter. If your main interest in growing olives is to harvest the fruit, you can speed the growth somewhat by carefully pruning the tree during its first five years, to create a strong, straight central trunk. People who are more interested in the ornamental value of the olive tree may prefer to let the tree grow naturally, so that it will achieve the gnarly, wizened profile so characteristic of the trees growing in Greece and the Middle East.”
(Cathryn Chaney, “How Long Does It Take for an Olive Tree to Produce Fruit?”, July 17, 2017)

Ancient Olive Trees in Lebanon that are at least 2,000 years old but still fruit-bearing. Notice how the core is completely missing from the trunk but the tree is still healthy and thriving.

Further, the decay of an old olive tree isn’t immediately apparent. It can take years to be visible and all the while, the tree will be fruit-bearing and look just fine from outside. So the statement that “the main top thereof began to perish”, which implies that the decay was outside/inside rather than inside/out is flat out wrong.

“The body of the tree dies at the heart.”
(op cit, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p.224)

“The olive tree…often lives to a very, very, great age, and bears fruit till the last, even when the trunk is nothing but a shell.”
(Barbara M. Bowen, “Strange Scriptures That Perplex the Western Mind”, p. 97)

“The old roots, often throw up new stems…The new shoots were grafted into stock.”
(op cit, “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times”, p. 113)

Verses 6-11: The Lord of the vineyard makes three mistakes trying to save his tree: a) If this description is accurate then the tree was already irrecoverable, it was already a dead loss; b) Grafting from healthy stock – be it domesticated or wild – will do nothing to resuscitate a dying tree, and; c) Digging around the roots is the best way to damage or destroy a tree – any tree, healthy or ailing.

Jacob 5
6
And it came to pass that after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish.

7 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.

10 And it came to pass that the servant of the Lord of the vineyard did according to the word of the Lord of the vineyard, and grafted in the branches of the wild olive tree.

11 And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself, I have done this thing.

Commentary: First, the inside of an old olive tree – that is the core or heart – can be completely gone, and it can still produce fruit as long as the cambium and sap layers are nourishing the branches. If those layers begin to die, so will the branches, and the tree is beyond saving. If the top branches of the Lord of the vineyard’s tree were perishing, then the cambium and sap were also dying. Therefore, It would have made no difference if wild olive branches were grafted onto his tree. (see Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 26, pp. 25-26)

Finally, he dug around the roots not knowing that the young, healthy shoots that are for the tree’s future health and olive output are easily destroyed:

“The fruit is ready for picking…and the branches are beaten to shake the olives onto the cloth…The beating of the branches almost certainly destroyed the tender young shoots, so that there was a poor crop the following year…”
(op cit, New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, p.113)

How much more destruction would there be if someone dug around the roots? For a start, digging around healthy roots can cause disease. Digging around diseased roots will destroy the plant. Therefore, trying to revive a dying plant by digging around the roots is rarely, if ever, a good idea. As an Arborist explains:

“Digging through and cutting tree roots isn’t something to take lightly. Cutting critical roots can interrupt the tree’s water and nutrient uptake, leave permanent damage to the tree’s structure and stability, or, in the worst case, cause the tree to die…

It’s not a good idea to cut the roots of already damaged trees. Also, roots that are more than two inches wide or close to the trunk should not be pruned, cut or dug through because they help anchor the tree.”
(“Is It Safe to Dig Through Tree Roots?” Davey Tree website)

An ancient Greek Olive Grove. Notice the health of the branches despite the hollow trunk cores.

Verses 7-11: Grafting wild branches to save the roots.

Jacob 5
7
And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.

10 And it came to pass that the servant of the Lord of the vineyard did according to the word of the Lord of the vineyard, and grafted in the branches of the wild olive tree.

11 And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself, I have done this thing.

Commentary: Yet again, branch grafts (wild or tame) do not save a tree as the Lord of the vineyard thought. They only revitalize the produce of a healthy tree.

“Grafting is frequently used to combine advantageous characteristics of scion and stock. For example, branches of buds of trees known to produce good fruit are grafted to stronger trees that produce fruit of indifferent quality.” (Funk & Wagnalls New Enc., Vol.12, p. 90; italics added for emphasis)

There is an expert level form of grafting called, “bridge grafting” that can be performed on the trunk of older trees, but it’s not what’s being described in the text here- and it’s rarely done to stone fruit trees, like olive trees, due to the low rate of success. As this excerpt from the Michigan State University Extension website explains:

“Older trees need more involved “surgical” procedure known as – bridge grafting. As hopeful and good as this procedure is, it is not the answer for all trees. Stone fruits (cherry, peach, plum etc.) are very seldom successfully grafted. The other undesirable effect is in creating the opportunity for many disease (i.e. bacterial canker) and insect invasion (borer complex). Pome fruits (apples and pears) are in much better position. Both, young and old trees are easily grafted without too much trouble. For older trees, bridge grafting is an easy operation with high success rate.”
(Mirjana Bulatovic-Danilovich, “Bridge grafting as a life-saving procedure for trees”, Michigan State University Extension website, May 3, 2011, italics added for emphasis)

Verses 31-33: The Lord of the vineyard was gone so long that he did not know how all sorts of bad fruit (according to their “number”) got on the tree. Domestic trees need regular and on-going tending to.

Jacob 5
31
And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard did taste of the fruit, every sort according to its number. And the Lord of the vineyard said: Behold, this long time have we nourished this tree, and I have laid up unto myself against the season much fruit.

32 But behold, this time it hath brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good. And behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit; and it profiteth me nothing, notwithstanding all our labor; and now it grieveth me that I should lose this tree.

33 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto mine own self?

Commentary: After a domestic tree is planted, the planter’s work has just begun – this is even more the case after a domestic forest (aka “grove” or “plantation”) has been planted. If a domesticated tree or forest decays or perishes, there’s really no secret what the cause was: Human neglect. As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations explains:

“Maintenance of forest plantations includes protecting the plants from detrimental climatic conditions, fire, insects and fungi, and animals. Maintenance may include measures that are silvicultural (such as well-timed and careful removal of damaged trees and shrubs), chemical (with insecticides or fungicides), biological (with parasites), or mechanical (removing or destroying pests, erecting fences, etc.). Because trespass by man can threaten the success of a planting programme, planning should also include methods of dealing with this potential problem.”
(“Maintenance of the plantation”, FAO website)

Verse 65: Lord of the vineyard had the bitter fruit cut off because that is the bad fruit.

Jacob 5
65
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.”

Commentary: There are no sweet olives, they are all bitter. To claim that the fruit is “bad” because it’s bitter, therefore, makes no sense. From the World Book Encyclopedia:

“Fresh olives contain oleuropein, a bitter substance that makes them unpleasant to eat before processing…“Olives processed for eating…by the Spanish process…are placed in lye solution. The lye removes most of the bitter taste…The American process…ripens immature…olives artificially. The fruit is alternately submerged in lye and exposed to the air until no bitterness remains…The Greek process…olives undergo a slow fermentation in brine. During fermentation, the fruit’s bitterness decreases until the brine masks it.”
(The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 14 “Olives”)

One of the world’s oldest olive trees in Italy. It is estimated to be at least 4,000-years old.

Verses 65-66: The roots are too strong for the graft.

Jacob 5
65
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

66 For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.

Commentary: The roots keep the tree alive and osmosis and photosynthesis, along with the cambium and sap layers is what provides strength to the branches and fruit; therefore it is impossible for a root to be too strong for the branches. (Funk & Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia, 1983, Vol. 26, pp. 25-26; also see, op cit, The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol.14 “osmosis”; and Vol. 15, “photosynthesis”)

Verses 69-76: Bad fruit is turned into good fruit.

Jacob 5
69
And the bad shall be cast away, yea, even out of all the land of my vineyard; for behold, only this once will I prune my vineyard.

70 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard sent his servant; and the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants; and they were few.

71 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.

72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.

73 And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard; and the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away; and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.

74 And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.

75 And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.

76 For behold, for a long time will I lay up of the fruit of my vineyard unto mine own self against the season, which speedily cometh; and for the last time have I nourished my vineyard, and pruned it, and dug about it, and dunged it; wherefore I will lay up unto mine own self of the fruit, for a long time, according to that which I have spoken.

Commentary: Turning bad fruit into good fruit is simply not possible, Christ Himself explained why:

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire”
(Matthew 7; 15-19 KJV)

 

About the Compilation Team
Susan Grape grew up in a non-church going family. When she became engaged, her fiancé (now husband) and she joined a Christian church. As she was learning about the Bible and Jesus, several friends, and relatives who were either Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientist shared their beliefs with her and challenged her to the point that she knew that their doctrine was different enough to question that someone (perhaps herself) had to be wrong. When Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her home, it forced her to study the scriptures to see what the Bible actually taught. That very intense time of studying gave her the evidence for what Biblical truth is. It sparked the desire to reach out to these groups with the Biblical gospel and the Biblical Christ.

Mrs. Grape served as a board member for ten years with Berean Christian Ministries and she currently is in her eleventh year of serving on the board of Christian Research & Counsel. Her husband Brad also is on the board. The Grape’s adult children are professing Christians, and their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.

Fred W. Anson 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).

“Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal was to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they could openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense.

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group could speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public whenever Latter Day Saints are present. The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.

An ancient Greek Olive Tree that’s at least 2,000 years old, possibly as old as 3,000 years.

Link to Part Two

An artist’s rendering of King Benjamin addressing the Nephite people from the Book of Mormon about 124 B.C.

Parallels between King Benjamin (The Book of Mormon)
and Bishop M’Kendree (19th Century Methodist Leader)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The similarities between King Benjamin’s (circa 124 B.C.) address that’s recorded in Mosiah 2-5 of the Book of Mormon and Methodist Leader Bishop M’Kendree’s address in Palmyra, New York, on June 7, 1826, which is recorded in American historical archives are remarkable.

As the late Mormon Historian Grant Palmer explains:
“We have not taken Joseph Smith seriously enough when he stated that he had an “intimate acquaintance” with evangelical religion and that he was “somewhat partial” to the Methodists. Protestant concepts appear to abound in his discourses and experiences. For example, a Methodist camp meeting was held one mile from Palmyra, New York, on 7 June 1826— a pivotal time in Joseph Smith’s life. Preparations for a camp meeting included leasing and consecrating the ground. Thus the “ground within the circle of the tents is considered sacred to the worship of God, and is our chapel.” The Methodists referred to these “consecrated grounds” as their “house of God” or temple. The Palmyra camp meeting reportedly attracted over 10,000 people. Families came from all parts of the 100-mile conference district and pitched their tents facing the raised “stand” where the preachers were seated, including one named Benjamin G. Paddock (fig. 20). This large crowd heard the “valedictory” or farewell speech of their beloved “Bishop M’Kendree [who] made his appearance among us for the last time.” He was the Methodist leader who “had presided” over the area for many years. The people had such reverence for this “sainted” man “that all were melted, and … awed in his presence.” In his emaciated and “feeble” condition, he spoke of his love for the people and then delivered a powerful message that covered “the whole process of personal salvation.” Tremendous unity prevailed among the crowd, and “nearly every unconverted person on the ground” committed oneself to Christ. At the close of the meeting, the blessings and newly appointed “Stations of the Preachers” were made for the Ontario district.

This is reminiscent of King Benjamin’s speech to the Zarahemlans in the Book of Mormon, whose chronicler describes the setting:

‘The people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the [last] words which [their beloved] king Benjamin should speak unto them … [T] hey pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family … every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple … the multitude being so great that king Benjamin … caused a tower to be erected … [And he said from the platform,] I am about to go down to my grave … I can no longer be your teacher … For even at this time my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you’ (Mosiah 2: 1, 5-7, 28-30).

The venerated King Benjamin, like Bishop M’Kendree, expresses his love for his people and gives a powerful farewell discourse on personal salvation. The response and unity are such “that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ.” At meeting’s end, Mosiah, Benjamin’s son, “appointed priests to teach the people” (Mosiah 6: 2-3). In Alma 17: 18, Methodist phrasing is used: “Now Ammon being the chief among them, [blessed and appointed the sons of Mosiah] … to their several stations.” Alma 17-26 then gives a detailed recital of the sons’ preaching with the following summary: “And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him” (17: 4).

In evangelical meetings it was common for those who were moved by the preaching to break out in tears and fall to the ground. This was considered to be a state of “conviction.” When a preacher looked up and saw those in the audience under “conviction” or “awakened to their awful state,” he would invite them up to a bench in front of the pulpit, called the “altar” of God (fig. 21). There the penitents would pray and confess their sins, “crying aloud for mercy,” seeking forgiveness from God.”
(Grant Palmer, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”, Kindle Locations 2123-2156)

A Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (hand colored)

And for your reference here’s an extended excerpt from the account from Rev. Benjamin G. Paddock’s memoirs that Mr. Palmer cites from above:
THE Genesee Conference for 1826 was held at Palmyra, Wayne County, N. Y., commencing on the 7th of June, Bishop Hedding presiding. On several accounts it was a rather remarkable session. The venerable Bishop M’Kendree then visited us for the last time. He was too feeble to preside, and occupied the chair only once or twice, and then only for a few minutes at a time. Still, however, at the urgent request of Bishop Hedding and leading members of the Conference, he signed the Journals at the close of the session as one of its presiding officers. Brethren were anxious to secure at least his signature as a memorial of his visit. He had been familiar with the entire history of the Conference, and stated with tearful emotion that he still had great affection for its members, and that to take his final leave of them, so far, at least, as earth was concerned, was the special object of his visit. His whole bearing was at once so lovely, so dignified, and so impressive, that all were melted, and, in a pleasant sense, awed in his presence. Dr. Nathan Bangs was his traveling companion, having come on with him from New York, and watched over him with the greatest tenderness and care. Their respectful, nay, even deferential, treatment of each other was a most lovely sight. The Bishop always spoke of his companion as “the Doctor,” and addressed him as if he were a man of superior rank ; while the doctor’s reciprocal bearing was still more reverential and promptly obedient. But then neither bishops nor doctors of divinity were quite as numerous at that early day as they now are ; and for this reason, perhaps, as well as others, they were possibly both more noticed and more revered.

I have ever regarded it as one of the most memorable privileges of my early ministry that I was allowed to journey with these now sainted men from Palmyra to Utica,«at which latter place I had just been stationed for the second year. The Conference adjourned on Wednesday, and Dr. Bangs agreed to preach for me on the following Sabbath. Finding the captain of a canal boat, who said he would see us into Utica by Saturday afternoon or evening, we concluded to take passage with him. That was before the day of canal packets, so that a small cabin and slow progress were necessarily incidental to our homeward journey. The stage-coach would have given us a speedier transit, but would have been far less friendly to the good Bishop’s age and feebleness. It will be readily admitted, that the difference between such a conveyance and Pullman’s railroad palace-car is considerable. But forty-six years since even the cabin of a freight-boat was quite a .luxury ; while now to put a bishop into such a place would seem much like sending him “to prison and to death.” Our momentum was much less than had been promised, so that we were very late in reaching Utica. But, with such company, the considerable number of junior preachers on board could hardly complain that time hung heavy on their hands. Brief lectures from the Bishop and Dr. Bangs, with spiritual songs and prayers by the younger brotherhood, made our mimic cabin a little Bethel. The school was a rare one ; and, homesick as the students were, they could hardly have complained had the journey been still more protracted.

But to return to the Conference. On another account the session was remarkable. A great camp-meeting was held in connection with it. The ground was only about a mile from the village, so that members of the Conference not immediately and specially employed could take part in its services. At that early day, and previously, meetings of the kind were not unfrequently held in the neighborhood of our Annual Conferences ; but the present one was exceptionally large. There were more than one hundred tents on the ground, and these were occupied by our people from almost all parts of the country, many of them coming from a distance of one hundred miles or more. The. spirit of the meeting was admirable. Conversions were numerous and powerful ; while ministers and people seemed to vie with each other in their efforts to promote the work of God. But the Sabbath was the great day of the feast. Beginning in the morning at eight o’clock, five sermons were preached before the services closed in the evening. Bishop Heddig and Dr. Bangs took the two appointments nearest the meridian of the day, and preached with even more than their ordinary freedom and power. At about five in the afternoon the stand was assigned to the Rev. Glezen Fillmore, then in the vigor of mature manhood, now — for he still lives, a blessing to the Church and the world — trembling on the extreme verge of time. The sermon was in his best style — more carefully prepared and more effectively delivered than were his discourses generally. The latter part of it contemplated the whole process of personal salvation, from its incipiency to its consummation in the world of light. Having traced the track of the believer, all along from the dawn of spiritual life till he had entered the land of Beulah, and was about to plume himself for his flight to the celestial city, the speaker paused as if struggling with irrepressible emotion, and, looking upward, exclaimed, ” O God, hold thy servant together while for a moment he looks through the gates ajar into the New Jerusalem ! ” To describe the effect would be quite impossible. A tide of emotion swept over the congregation that seemed to carry all before it.

I was seated near Bishop Hedding, who, from fatigue, was reclining upon a bed under and a little in the rear of the stand. It had been noticed before that he was much affected by the sermon ; but when the sentence given above was uttered, the- tears almost literally spurted from his eyes, and his noble form shook as if under the resistless control of a galvanic battery. The Rev. Goodwin Stoddard exhorted, and invited seekers within the circle of prayer in front of the stand. Hundreds came forward ; some said nearly every unconverted person on the ground. In the spring of 1828, when I was pastor in Rochester, delegates from New England, on their way to the General Conference in Pittsburgh, called and spent the Sabbath with me. Almost ,the first thing they said after we met was, ” Where is that brother that wanted God to hold him together while he looked into heaven a moment?” It seems that the good Bishop had reported the sermon in more circles than one, for others from the east made a similar inquiry. But though a volume might be written about that Conference, it seems proper now simply to add, that, at the close of it, B. G. Paddock and Hiram May were appointed to the Potsdam Circuit, in St. Lawrence County. The charge was a very large one, including not only the town that gave name to it, but Stockholm, Parishville, Pierrepont, Canton, Russell, Edwards, Fowler, Rossie, Gouverneur, “and De Kalb. The territory was so ample, and my brother’s health so much broken, that it was thought best to divide the work between the two preachers. Accordingly, having the consent of all concerned, he took Potsdam and the four townships lying nearest to it ; and the rest of the circuit, embracing six townships, was placed under the care of his excellent colleague. Let the reader imagine the state of things as it existed in that section of country fifty years since, and he will readily conclude that there was plenty of work for two men. My brother had traveled over most of the same territory some twelve or thirteen years previously, so that he entered upon his work with some special advantages. The cordiality with which he was received was a source of much comfort to him, and really seemed to lighten his toil. The Rev. Hiram May, in a letter to me dated October, 1872, says, “Your brother was not only a dear, good colleague, but was very popular among the people.”

Both divisions of the circuit were greatly prospered. – It was, indeed, a year of jubilee. Revivals swept over the entire field, bearing down all opposition. Such a season of holy triumph had never before been witnessed in the northern wing of the State. Not far from five hundred communicants were admitted to the Church ; so that it was found at the end of the year that the membership had increased from three hundred and eighty-nine to eight hundred and nine, and this notwithstanding a considerable number had removed or withdrawn,” or had been excluded, dropped, or set aside. The circuit remained intact, however, save only in so far as finances and pastoral care were concerned. Hence, at quarterly meetings, all came together ; thus giving the greatest imaginable interest to those occasions. Speaking of them in the letter before referred to, brother May says, ” 0 they were blessed meetings ! God gave efficiency to his word, and great’was the preachers’ crowd.” * Those, and those only, who have attended these great country quarterly meetings can have any adequate conception of the spirit that animated them, or the good that followed them. They were, indeed, especially in olden times, a power in the Church.

I think it proper to say a word further respecting the venerable man from whose letter quotations have just been made. The writer first became acquainted with him in 1817. He had then just commenced the Christian life, was a lovely young man, full of zeal to do good, possessed ,a remarkably fine tenor voice, and, every way, promised much usefulness to the Church and the world. Five years thereafter he was received on trial in the Genesee Conference, and for forty years has performed effective service as a member of that body. He has always aimed at the salvation of souls, and has everywhere been recognized as a good revivalist. Though he is now on the superannuated list, he seems still to burn with zeal both to be and to do good. The closing part of his letter is so characteristic and so excellent, that the transcription of it will, doubtless, both please and profit the reader. Referring to my brother, he says: “We labored together in love, and parted in peace, and now, while ‘ he sleeps his last sleep,’ having ‘fought his last battle,’ I, a poor creature, as I always have been, am still living, and trying, as when you first knew me, to ‘ sound the alarm in God’s holy mountain,’ to ‘ blow the trumpet in Tekoa,’ and* especially to pray, as did David, ‘ Now also, when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not ; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.’ ”
(Benjamn G. Paddock, “Memoir of of Rev. Benjamin G. Paddock”, pp.177-184)

So here’s the question for our Mormon friends: Can you explain the remarkable similarities between King Benjamin’s circa 124 B.C. address that’s recorded in Mosiah 2-5 of The Book of Mormon and Methodist Leader Bishop M’Kendree’s address in Palmyra, New York, on June 7, 1826, that’s preserved for us in the American historical archives?

A summary comparison of the two addresses.

An appeal to the translation shamers of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message”

by Fred W. Anson
For years I’ve watched as well-meaning but largely uninformed Christians have torn into Eugene Peterson’s highly vernacular translation of the Bible, “The Message”. I’m old enough to have been around when he was just beginning his work on this unique translation and loved it from the first time I saw his very first translations of the Psalms published in Christianity Today back in the day (I even clipped the very first article and tucked it away in one of my many Bibles, I liked it that much). So from before even the very first imprints rolled off the presses and hit the shelves at Christian bookstores I “got” what Peterson was trying to do – after all, he never made it any secret.

However, a whole lotta folks never seem to have bothered to try to understand, let alone listen to what Mr. Peterson himself said about the translation. The term that he frequently used to describe it is that it’s a “Pastoral Translation” of the Bible that’s intended to speak to the reader in a way that more literal, formal translations can’t and don’t. Thus, it was intended to be more a devotional Bible than anything else.

And nowhere did he express his intentions, translation philosophy, or goals better than in the Preface – you know, the one that no one ever bothers to actually read because they’re either too busy blissfully loving and benefiting from The Message or misunderstanding and publicly shaming and bashing it – typically, out of uninformed ignorance.

To use an imperfect analogy, one need only read that preface to will see that what the latter group is doing is condemning The Message for not being a Mercedes Benz when it was never intended or meant to be one. Rather, it was meant to be a Volkswagen – that is, steadfast, simple, direct, approachable, readily available, and uncomplicated. And like a Volkswagen, it was never intended to replace or compete with a Mercedes Benz, it’s only meant to complement them and fill a niche that they can’t or won’t.

Thus, whenever someone compares The Message to the many excellent tighter more formal word-for-word translations of the Bible it’s very much the same. But however you slice it, both a Mercedes Benz and a Volkswagen will get you to your destination even though the ride may be very different. Both serve a function and a niche in the market. They are designed to serve their particular audience well, and they do.  And, to stretch this analogy even further, if you’re older, more mature, and more established in life (like this author is) while your current car might be a Mercedes, is it really a problem if your first car was a Volkswagen? Your Mercedes meets you where you are today, just as the Volkwagen did back in the day.

So then, tell me, given all this why is it that well-meaning but misguided, more mature and established Christians so often translation shame fragile new Christians – like those coming out of controlling Churches, like the former members of the LdS Church that this author specializes in –  for using the Message? Why do they use insensitive language like, “You really should be using a good translation, you know!” Friend, can you feel the condescension and arrogance just dripping like acid in those words? Well, guess what, so can these often struggling baby Christians who just trying to find an English translation of the Bible that speaks to them and meets them where they’re at! They’re trying to figure out this new Christian thing that they’ve gotten themselves into and instead, they’re being Bible translation shamed by their elder siblings. No one likes being “should” on, and given where they’re at and given where they came from these folks are particularly sensitive to it. I see it all the time – and it makes me cringe all the time.

So older, more mature, and more established in the Christian faith friends, I appeal to you – no, I plead with you in Jesus’ Name – if The Message connects with someone and helps them in their walk with Jesus, please, please, please just let them be. Please!

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t recommend that they also get a more literal, word-for-word translation for meetings and Bible Studies (since The Message isn’t designed for or a good choice for those functions) but if they like the Message for devotional and other personal reading (which is specifically what it was designed for an how it was intended to be used); if they find that it meets them where they; and if they find that they’re growing in the faith through The Message in private outside of meetings, then why oh, why can’t you just let them be?  Can you find it in your heart to have a little empathy for these dear new ones in Christ, please? Be the older, wiser, more compassionate brother or sister in Christ, not the shaming, judgmental, intolerant Church Lady.

So with that introduction, it’s my hope by republishing the Preface to “The Message” in its entirety (and sharing it whenever I encounter a “The Message” basher – of which there are many these days) perhaps I can do my own small part in bringing some peace and understanding to this increasingly ridiculous situation. Friends, if you’re going to criticize something don’t you think that you should first make at least some attempt at understanding it first? And when it comes to “The Message” all you have to do to gain that understanding is simply read the preface – it’s all right there.

“The Daily Message” is the one year devotional Bible that Eugene Peterson produced using The Message as a basis. (click to zoom images)

Preface
TO THE READER
If there is anything distinctive about The Message, perhaps it is because the text is shaped by the hand of a working pastor. For most adult life I have been given a primary responsibility for getting the message of the Bible into the lives of the men and women with whom I worked. I did it from pulpit and lectern, in home Bible studies and at mountain retreats, through conversations in hospitals and nursing homes, over coffee in kitchens and while strolling on an ocean beach. The Message grew from the soil of forty years of pastoral work.

As I worked at this task, this Word of God, which forms and transforms human lives, did form and transform human lives. Planted in the soil of my congregation and community the seed words of the Bible germinated and grew and matured. When it came time to do the work that is now The Message, I often felt that I was walking through an orchard at harvest time, plucking fully formed apples and peaches and plums from laden branches. There’s hardly a page in the Bible I did not see lived in some way or other by the men and women, saints and sinners, to whom I was pastor — and then verified in my nation and culture.

I didn’t start out as a pastor. I began my vocational life as a teacher and for several years taught the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary. I expected to live the rest of my life as a professor and scholar, teaching and writing and studying. But then my life took a sudden vocational turn to pastoring in a congregation.

I was now plunged into quite a different world. The first noticeable difference was that nobody seemed to care much about the Bible, which so recently people had been paying me to teach them. Many of the people I worked with now knew virtually nothing about it, had never read it, and weren’t interested in learning. Many others had spent years reading it but for them it had gone flat through familiarity, reduced to clichés. Bored, they dropped it. And there weren’t many people in between. Very few were interested in what I considered my primary work, getting the words of the Bible into their heads and hearts, getting the message lived. They found newspapers and magazines, videos and pulp fiction more to their taste.

Meanwhile I had taken on as my life work the responsibility of getting these very people to listen, really listen, to the message in this book. I knew I had my work cut out for me.I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today. I had always assumed they were the same world. But these people didn’t see it that way. So out of necessity I became a “translator” (although I wouldn’t have called it that then), daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.

And all the time those old biblical languages, those powerful and vivid Hebrew and Greek originals, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imagination of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible.

I did that for thirty years in one congregation. And then one day (it was April 30, 1990) I got a letter from an editor asking me to work on a new version of the Bible along the lines of what I had been doing as a pastor. I agreed. The next ten years was harvest time. The Message is the result.

The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was earlier in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again. But I haven’t tried to make it easy — there is much in the Bible that is hard to understand. So at some point along the way, soon or late, it will be important to get a standard study Bible to facilitate further study. Meanwhile, read in order to live, praying as you read, “God, let it be with me just as you say.”
(Eugene Peterson, “The Daily Message”, Preface, Navpress. Kindle Edition)

In the foreword to “The Message Devotional Bible” Peterson continued that same Pastoral approach to scripture:

Our conversations with each other are sacred. Those that take place in the parking lot after Sunday worship are as much a part of the formation of Christian character as the preaching from the sanctuary pulpit. The small talk that happens around the ritual of putting children to sleep for the night is as sacred as the most solemn of Eucharistic liturgies.

But conversation, as such, though honored by our ancestors, is much neglected today as a form of Christian discourse. If we’re to be in touch with all the parts of our lives and all the dimensions of the gospel, conversation requires equal billing (although not equal authority) with preaching and teaching.

The conversations I would like to have with you are more casual than formal—the kinds of conversations we would have if we walked through the mountains together, stopping here and there to catch our breath. We’ll travel a lot of terrain together, some of it breathtakingly scenic, some of it ploddingly plain, and some of it precariously uncertain. Here and there along the way I’ll point out details in the biblical landscape, drawing attention to a particular word, pointing out a pertinent piece of historical background, pausing a moment to talk with you and to lead you in prayer.

With that in mind, it’s my personal joy to come alongside you in the wondrous and perilous journey that is your life and my pastoral privilege to walk with you through the Scriptures. I come as a guide as well as a fellow traveler.

Traveling mercies for us both.

Eugene H. Peterson
(Eugene H. Peterson, “The Message Devotional Bible: featuring notes & reflections from Eugene H. Peterson . The Navigators”)

And this is the reason why I love The Message, why I use it, and why I will continue to include it in my devotions – period. My “default setting” is to analyze and study scripture rather than enter into a conversation with God through scripture in my devotions. My natural tendency is to go deep into the text rather than just let God speak through the text.

So, I was challenged by a good, discerning Pastor to stop doing this during my daily devotions and simply start reading scripture experientially rather than intellectually – after all, goodness knows, that I do enough of the latter in my Religious Studies work. Reading a more literal, formal translation (such as the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Bible, or my beloved New King James) tends to keep in that “default setting”. However, reading a high vernacular translation like J.B. Phillip’s New Testament, The New Living Translation, or The Message tends to push me out of my default setting and approach the biblical text like a conversation rather than a textbook – it skews me into a more visceral mode that for guys like me that like to live in their head can be very balancing. It works, try it.

Oh, and by the way, my Pastor was 100% right, treating my daily devotions strictly like my daily devotions, and nothing more has changed my life for the better.  We all need both bible study and daily devotions and my spiritual life was suffering from a full experience of the latter. I cycle through all good translations as I read the Bible each time through in my devotions – that means both formal and vernacular translations, and that includes The Message.

The bottom line to all this is this: The Message, though not a tight, formal translation of the Bible serves a purpose: personal devotional Bible reading. Just like a Volkswagen if it’s used within its role, limits, and purpose it’s a great resource. Yes, outside of those boundaries, it’s no longer an appropriate resource – and like a Volkswagen, The Message can and will be abused from time to time – we have all seen that. Regardless, Bible Translation shaming someone for using The Message and hating on it because it’s a Volkswagen rather than a Mercedes Benz not only makes no sense, it’s rude, insensitive, and inappropriate behavior. The very antithesis of what Jesus would do.

Perhaps no version of The Message captures the purpose, intention, and role of The Message like the Devotional Bible edition. It’s here where Eugene Peterson’s vision of the translation as “Pastoral” and “devotional” come together. (click images to zoom)

compiled by Fred W. Anson and “Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook* with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal is to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they can openly and honestly discuss it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense. 

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group can speak freely, evaluate, analyze and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias-driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon whenever True Believing Mormons are present.  The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly, and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.  The results were both surprising and expected, but that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

About a month into the first year of reading I could see a lot of value in non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon based both on my own direct experience as well as the comments that the group was making as we went along. So I group sourced the article that you’re about to read. I suspect that you’ll find it just as interesting as I did. — Fred W. Anson

Why Non-Mormons Should Read The Book of Mormon

1. To Experience the Book of Mormon directly for yourself without outside Mormon influence or pressure. Need I say more about this? I don’t think so. We’re talking about the pure Book of Mormon, devoid of Mormon or Mormon Missionary HeartSell (which we’ll talk about later) and other emotional grooming tactics here. Anyone who’s met or talked with the Missionaries or a Mormon friend in regard to the Book of Mormon will know exactly what I’m talking about here.

2. To gain the ability to engage in honest, candid, even blunt analysis and discussion of the Book of Mormon.  Reading the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover gives you the right to do this. If you haven’t read it, you’re just criticizing what you don’t know and have never directly experienced. That is, you’re speaking out of ignorance. Christians very rightly get upset with Atheists who criticize the Bible but who have never actually read it – if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. We can’t, on one hand, criticize critics of the Bible who are ignorant of it, and then hypocritically engage in exactly the same behavior, can we? Just read the book and you earn the right. It’s that simple.

3. To have fun (Yes, fun!) Experiencing this dreadfully boring, ridiculously absurd book requires a good sense of humor. If you don’t have one before you start reading it, you will by the time you’re done. The candid, blunt, even brutal discussion of the narrative of the Book of Mormon in the TOYBOM group was (and is) in a word, hilarious.

Psychologists tell us that humor is a coping mechanism and suffice to say, good coping mechanisms are required to read from 1 Nephi 1:1 to Moroni 10:34 in a year. The humor and camaraderie in the group was the only thing that kept many of us going in those moments (and trust me there were many of them, it was a constant topic of discussion) when it would have been a lot easier to throw in the towel and move on with our lives.

So do you want a good sense of humor? Want a better, richer, sense of humor? Read the Book of Mormon. Better yet, read it in a group with a bunch of non-Mormons.

4. To get support, encouragement, and make new friends while struggling, scraping, and scrapping to make it to the back cover.  That is if you read it with other Non-Mormons rather than just on your own, of course! Candidly, even most True Believing Mormons don’t get past 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon (for reasons that we often discuss in the group but I’ll spare you here). The Book of Mormon is an easy book to get frustrated with, get fed up with and quit on. If you read it with another person or two you can – actually must – encourage each other to stick with it despite all that, if you have any hope of “enduring to the end”.

5. To, at the very minimum, gain a basic knowledge of the Book of Mormon, thanks to having actually have read it. No, you won’t be an expert after a one-time read through, but you’ll at least be able to talk to it with some degree of direct experience with the text. I know this one almost goes without saying, but it’s still important to reemphasize it by saying it right out loud.

6. To gain an understanding of the Biblical doctrines that disprove both the Book of Mormon and Mormonism. Stated plainly, the Mormon dogma that the Book of Mormon doesn’t contradict the Bible is ridiculous to the point of absurdity. If you have even a basic, working knowledge of the Bible these contradictions pop out at you all the time as you’re reading the Book of Mormon. They are an asset to know and to keep on hand for future discussions with Mormons. Doubt me? Just read the book and you’ll see it for yourself.

A montage of the Isaiah passages that the LdS Church officially acknowledges are plagiarized from the biblical book of Isaiah via the chapter headers of the affected portions of the book of 2 Nephi. (click to zoom)

7. To discover first hand how much of the Book of Mormon has been plagiarized from the Bible. It’s so far and wide in the Book of Mormon that without reading it, it’s impossible to understand just how much the Book of Mormon, directly and indirectly, plagiarizes from the King James Version of the Bible. Entire chapters of Isaiah are directly plagiarized; Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount is plagiarized; ditto for other portions of Matthew. It is glaring: So glaring, in fact, the LdS Church even notes it (without calling it plagiarism) in their header summary of some chapters. For example, consider this summary header for 1 Nephi 20:

“The Lord reveals His purposes to Israel—Israel has been chosen in the furnace of affliction and is to go forth from Babylon—Compare Isaiah 48. About 588–570 B.C.”

Or this for 1 Nephi 21:

“The Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles and will free the prisoners—Israel will be gathered with power in the last days—Kings will be their nursing fathers—Compare Isaiah 49. About 588–570 B.C.”

And we realize that it may sound odd to say that the Bible disproves the Book of Mormon when so much of it is actually in the Book of Mormon, but it does. After all, ripping something out of context and then contorting it into something completely else isn’t unknown or unheard of in this world, is it? If you want to see how the Book of Mormon does it, you’ll have to see it for yourself. It’s actually pretty interesting at times and hilarious at other times.

8. To become familiar with the content of the Book of Mormon so you can ask Mormons sincere questions about it that are meant to help you understand their viewpoint. Since this isn’t an attack on them or their religion, it also builds trusting relationships with Mormons. How’s that for a cherry on top? After all, you have shown them the respect and honor of reading their holy writ, right? Even when it was tough and trying, right? That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

9. To discover things that can be used in debate settings. Such as the places where the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible (as mentioned above), modern Mormonism, the Book of Mormon itself (the internal contradictions are really something to behold!), or just simply don’t make any sense (Shiz, anyone? Jaredite Barges anyone?). It can be fun watching Mormons squirm as they have to give an account for their own scripture once you’re empowered like this.

On the second point, most people who haven’t actually read the Book of Mormon typically don’t understand that the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism. Rather, the Book of Mormon teaches 19th Century American Restorationism in a way that’s generally aligned with historic mainstream Protestant Christian orthodoxy. For example:

  • The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus is Eternal God. And as such, Christ was neither created nor procreated.
  • The Book of Mormon says that God is eternal and unchanging.
  • The Book of Mormon states that God is a Spirit.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that there is only one God.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that the One God consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that is, the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity (albeit with a strong modalistic skew).
  • The Book of Mormon states that God created via nothing but His word – that is, “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing).
  • The Book of Mormon condemns Polygamy.
  • The Book of Mormon states that there is only heaven and hell.
  • The Book of Mormon denounces universalism as a “false doctrine”.
  • The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns the type of secret oaths and combinations that are found in the current Latter-day Saint Temple Endowment ceremony in the strongest terms.
  • The Book of Mormon denies that there is a second chance to repent and receive the gospel in the next life.
  • The Book of Mormon states that baptism isn’t an absolute requirement for salvation.
  • The Book of Mormon states that man was created by the power of God’s word not procreated by spirit parents.
  • The Book of Mormon makes a clear distinction between men and angels.
  • The Book of Mormon states clearly that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world on the cross.
  • The Book of Mormon discredits key points of the First Vision.

So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to a really bad version of “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”. Again, doubt me? Read it.

10. To Demystify the Book of Mormon. Because Mormons hype the Book of Mormon and its alleged power I would guess to the average non-Mormon they’re under the impression that it offers some kind of amazingly potent and life-changing transcendent experience if you will just pick it up and read its amazing, astounding transformative words. Many Mormons are under the utter delusion that one only need to read the Book of Mormon to be utterly and completely persuaded that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon, Latter Day Saint Restorationism (not to mention their Mormon Denomination’s expression of the Restoration) must be true.

I have even had non-Mormon Evangelical Christians tell me that they would never read it out of fear of being deceived by powerful demonic forces leaping forth from its pages and latching onto their face like something from an Alien movie – yes, I’m exaggerating that for effect, but it’s not too far off!

Well, as a group of people who have now actually read it we can now tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. The Book of Mormon is so poorly written, plodding, dull, and downright boring that its only real potency is in its ability to put the reader to sleep. The group agreed on this unanimously! Probably no one explained this better than Mark Twain when speaking of the book he wrote:

All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Trust us, friend, you have nothing to fear from the Book of Mormon – except the possible exception of being bored to death by it. If you doubt me, just pick it up and read it, it’s about as threatening as having to sit through a really, really bad religious play that was written, produced, and performed by a bunch of Junior High Sunday School students whose favorite filler line is, “it came to pass.”

11. To expose Mormon HeartSell and other forms of Mormon emotional manipulation so that you’re inoculated against them. So after the last point, you’re probably wondering, “Then how and why does anyone fall for this ridiculous book?” The answer to that is the power of emotional manipulation, such as the LdS Church’s trademarked (no joke, it really is a trademarked product that they sell through Church-owned subsidiary, Bonneville Communications) “HeartSell” system of persuasion. Here’s how the Bonneville Communications website described HeartSell back in 2015 before it got exposed and they went underground with it:

The now-defunct Bonneville Communications webpage that contained the above verbiage. (click to zoom)

At Bonneville Communications, our ability to touch the hearts and minds of audiences makes us an essential resource for organizations with vital messages.

For more than 30 years, our creative professionals have designed public service and direct response messages for national nonprofit organizations such as the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Boy Scouts of America, National Hospice Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Salvation Army.

Our unique strength is the ability to touch the hearts and minds of our audiences, evoking first feeling, then thought and, finally, action. We call this uniquely powerful brand of creative “HeartSell”® – strategic emotional advertising that stimulates response.”
(“AFFECTING CHANGE BY REACHING THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OUR AUDIENCES”, Bonneville International website, 2016-02-19)

One critic of the LdS Church explained how HeartSell works using the Missionary curriculum of that particular time as a case study:

In the Mormon Missionary handbook in the mid 1980’s, “The Uniform System for Teaching Families,” instructions were given to the missionary on how to “bring the people you teach to a knowledge and conviction of the truth” effectively. (Page A-l) “Keep in mind how you want the family to FEEL… help them FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE GOSPEL.” (Page A-l, No. 4)

Further instructions encouraging this FEELING were given:

“As the Spirit confirms to you that those you are teaching are receiving a witness of the Spirit, pause in the discussion and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brown, what you are FEELING right now is the Spirit of the Lord testifying to you that we are teaching you the truth. You are beginning to receive YOUR OWN TESTIMONY of the truthfulness of this message.” (Page A-3, No. 4)

NO LESS THAN 84 DIFFERENT TIMES in the series of missionary lessons given to “Mr. Brown,” the missionaries were instructed to “TESTIFY” of the truthfulness of their message. Over and over and over again, they reinforced virtually every point they make of a personal assurance that it is true–that the Book of Mormon is true, that God did speak to Joseph Smith, that the true church was restored, etc., etc.

Although modern missionary handbooks [editor’s note “The Uniform System for Teaching Families” was replaced by “Preach My Gospel” in 2005] have removed these embarrassing statements, they are still encouraged to “bear witness” to the truthfulness of their message as they feel the spirits prompting.”
(Jerry Benson, “The Mormon Testimony: ‘I Testify to You…’“ (caps in original))

Reading this incredibly dull and boring work of badly written 19th Century religious fiction without the burden of Mormon emotional grooming and manipulation will immunize you against these tactics.

12. To gain the “Street Cred” of actually having read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover. If you haven’t read it, in Mormon eyes, you simply don’t have Street Cred.

Screenshot of a poll posted in a Mormon Debate group on Facebook on January 6th, 2020. The name has been withheld here, but if you click on the image you can view the poll in its original context on Facebook.

Period.
No, if’s.
No, and’s.
No, but’s.
Over and done!

Consider the screenshot of a Facebook poll by a True Believing Mormon (TBM) in one of the debate groups that I’ve included here. Trust me, this survey was a litmus test that was driven by an agenda. And that agenda is this, “Any Non-Mormon here in this group that hasn’t read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover is ignorant, unenlightened, probably bigoted, prejudiced, and most certainly biased and can, therefore, be ignored.”

No, it’s not logical. No, it’s not rational, and it is fallacious but it is also an escape hatch. And there’s nothing Mormons love more than an escape hatch, is there? So how do you close this one? Easy, just read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover to eliminate it. This is the #1 reason group to read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. And it’s what kept us all going until we were to the back cover. In fact, over the course of the year, we all had stories about how the fact that we were in this group and committed to reading the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover had given us an added level of credibility in the eyes of our Mormon friends and family.

Summary and conclusion: I saved the best reason for last in that list on purpose: Gaining Street Cred with Mormons is by far the most important reason why an outsider to Mormonism – any outsider to Mormonism – should read the Book of Mormon. Mormons are very rightly skeptical about and suspicious of outsiders who refuse to read this book given the weight and value that they place on it. Just consider these words from an official, correlated LdS Church manual in this regard:

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) stated, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461; Book of Mormon introduction).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that the Book of Mormon “should be considered the most remarkable and important religious text to be revealed since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago. Indeed, in its role of restoring plain and precious biblical truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths about Jesus Christ and preparing the way for the complete restoration of his gospel and the triumphant day of his millennial return, the Book of Mormon may be considered the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 9–10).
(Lds Church, “Book of Mormon Student Manual (Religion 121–122)”, Chapter 1: The Keystone of Our Religion)

So given all that, I can think of no better way to process and respond to this most hyped of all Latter Day Saint scripture – and the book that has always represented Joseph Smith’s prophetic credential than to read it for yourself. And if you find that you need a helping hand to get through it, Team TOYBOM stands ready to help. Join us, click here to put in an Add Request. And trust me, if you do, you will learn a lot and have a lot of fun getting through what is surely one of the worse pieces of English literature ever published.

So in the end I couldn’t agree more with Mormon Apostle, soon to be LdS Church President, Ezra Taft Benson when he said:

“We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it! The Book of Mormon is not on trial-the people of the world, including the members of the Church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ”
(Ezra Taft Benson, “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p. 63. See also “Ensign”, November 1984, p.8)

Indeed, all you have to do is read it to know that, “these things are not true.” (Mormon 10:4)

The landing page for “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” (aka “TOYBOM”) Facebook group. Click on the image to visit this group and put in an Add Request to join if you’re interested. If you prefer MeWe, the link is https://mewe.com/join/toybom

* A MeWe edition was also added later. It can be accessed here: https://mewe.com/join/toybom

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Biblical Jesus who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) is now our advocate with the Father. So, unlike the Old Testament’s era of justice and retribution, (i.e. the Flood); or, the final judgment at the Second Coming. The New Testament Era that we are now in is a period of grace. It centers on Jesus who came to “give us life more abundantly,” (John 10:10) therefore, mercy is prevalent until He returns. That said, the character of Jesus in the Book of Mormon is very different. In 3 Nephi, before he left heaven (right after His ultimate act of grace and love—His death on the cross), the Book of Mormon Jesus is pouring out wrath in the Americas comparable to the Apocalypse that will occur at the end of the world (see the Book of Revelation).

To this point, please consider the following comparison of the Book of Mormon (BoM) Jesus of 3 Nephi versus the Jesus of the New Testament (NT).

BoM #1. Killed those who murdered the prophets and saints to avenge them. (3 Nephi 9:5-11)
3 Nephi 9
5
And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

6 And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

7 Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

8 And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

9 And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.

10 And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.

11 And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.

NT #1. Reserves vindication for the martyred saints until His Second Coming. (Revelation 6:9-11; 19:1-8)
Revelation 6 (KJV)
9
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

Revelation 19 (KJV)
1
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:

2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

3 And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.

4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

“Jesus Christ visits the Americas” by John Scott. Please note the hint of prior destruction in the foreground of the painting. (click to zoom)

BoM #2. Killed multitudes for doubt (3 Ne. 8:1-25) and wickedness by burning them and their cities. (3 Nephi 9:3-11)
3 Nephi 8
1
And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—

2 And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away;

3 And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea, for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land.

4 And there began to be great doubtings and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given.

5 And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.

6 And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.

7 And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.

8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.

9 And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned.

10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.

11 And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward.

12 But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;

13 And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough.

14 And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.

15 And there were some cities which remained; but the damage thereof was exceedingly great, and there were many in them who were slain.

16 And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away.

17 And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

18 And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.

19 And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.

20 And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.

24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.

25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible.

3 Nephi
3
Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.

4 And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned.

5 And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

6 And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

7 Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

8 And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

9 And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.

10 And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.

11 And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.

NT #2. Called those who scorned the prophets, rejected Him to His face, and successfully plotted to kill Him, “hypocrites”, and held their generation responsible for the deaths of the saints. (Matthew 23:34-36)
Matthew 23 (KJV)
34
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

BoM #3. Killed multitudes around the time of his death (3 Nephi 9-12)
3 Nephi 9
1
And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying:

2 Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!

3 Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.

4 And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned.

5 And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

6 And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

7 Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

8 And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

9 And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.

10 And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.

11 And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.

12 And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.

NT #3. While dying on the cross, He forgave those who physically crucified Him. (Luke 23:33-35)
Luke 23 (KJV)
33
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

BoM #4. After he died, many were buried in the earth. (3 Nephi 9:5-8)
3 Nephi 9
5
And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

6 And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

7 Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

8 And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

NT #4. When He died, the earth shook and many rose from the dead. (Matthew 27:50-53)
Matthew 27 (KJV)
50
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

BoM #5. When the earth stopped shaking (3 Nephi 10:9) he summarized his killing and destruction to the grieving, remorseful survivors, and then told them to repent so he could heal them. (3 Nephi 9:13)

3 Nephi 10
9
And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away.

3 Nephi 9:13
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

The nutshell version of this article.

NT #5. Did not kill and destroy to bring about repentance. In fact, His disciples asked Him to destroy some who rejected Him, and Jesus told them: “the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:51-56)
Luke 9 (KJV)
51
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

BoM #6. Wept over them after he killed them (3 Nephi 10:4-6)
3 Nephi 10
4
O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.

5 And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.

6 O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.

NT #6. Wept over them after pronouncing judgment and allowed them to live. (Luke 19:41-44; Matthew 23:29-39)
Luke 19 (KJV)
41
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Matthew 23:29-39 (KJV)
29
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Last but not least, I recommend this video summation from Jonathan Streeter’s “Thinker of Thoughts” YouTube channel. It illustrates the above issues visually using images and words, rather than just words. It contains an emotional and visceral impact that mere words lack.

(compiled from the research of Susan Grape, who has granted this author permission to use her work in this form)

A Caution to Transitioning Ex-Mormons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Hudgik, “RUN! It’s Jesus Calling: Why You Should Throw Away Your Copy of Jesus Calling”, 2015

Following Jesus After Mormonism

“But there’s bear traps lying in those woods. Most of ’em already been used” (Steve Taylor, “I Just Wanna Know”)

by Fred W. Anson
This presentation, given as part of the Faith After Mormonism Conference on September 26, 2020, via webcast (due to the ongoing COVID-16 crisis) is based on the actual, real-life experience of a cross-section of Ex-Mormons who have successfully transitioned into mainstream Christianity. This is a map of where the post-Mormon bear traps lie based on their stated hard-won, real-world experience.

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 video recording of this presentation from the Faith After Mormonism Conference.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

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, represents 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. 

Bonus Content
Prior to this event, the presenter was interviewed by Russ East of KUTR “Truth Radio” on his “Passion For Christ” program. This interview touched on content that wasn’t covered in the Faith After Mormonism conference presentation and that may be of interest to transitioning Ex-Mormons.
Click here to listen to Part 1
Click here to listen to Part 2

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.

by Fred W. Anson
Yes, there were pre-Columbian horses in parts of the American continent. No, they weren’t as the Book of Mormon depicts them. How can I say that so emphatically and with such finality?

A: I have seen the skeletal remains of those pre-Columbian horses – and so can you. The footer art for this article is a photograph that I took of a skeleton of one at the George C. Page La Brea Tar Pit Museum in Los Angeles in 2016. It was exhumed from the Tar Pits back in the day and put on display. They have found several such skeletons in the Tar Pits, this is just the one that they have put on public display.

It’s about the size of a large dog – say a large Saint Bernard or a small Great Dane – and it would have been harmed if you used it the way the Book of Mormon describes the use of Pre-Columbian American horses: Riding them like a horse or using them to pull chariots.

Further, we know how and why these horses went extinct as soon as human beings arrived on the American continent: They were hunted down and eaten by the new human inhabitants of the continent. We know this not only because they suddenly go extinct shortly after the arrival of humans, but because they have found human teeth marks on the bones of these exhumed skeletons.

Evolution of the Pre-Columbian American Horse. The horses in the banner and footer photos from the La Brea Tar Pit Museum are Equus simplicidens skeletons.

The biggest nail in the coffin, in regard to Book of Mormon horses, is the timeline. From the neutral source Wikipedia:

“Equidae in North America ultimately became extinct, along with most of the other New World megafauna during the Quaternary extinction event during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago.”
(see Wikipedia, “Horses in the United States”)

This is well before the events of the Book of Mormon start to unfold. This is from the header notes of the current LdS Church edition Book of Mormon for 1 Nephi 18:

“The people arrive in the promised land. About 591–589 B.C.”
(see header notes for 1 Nephi 18, official LdS Church website)

Therefore, horses were long gone and extinct prior to the Book of Mormon people arriving on the American continent.

They were not to be seen again in the Americas until 1519. Again, from the neutral source, Wikipedia:

“Horses returned to the Americas thousands of years later, well after domestication of the horse, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1493. These were Iberian horses first brought to Hispaniola and later to Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and, in 1538, Florida. The first horses to return to the main continent were 16 specifically identified horses brought by Hernán Cortés in 1519.”
(see Wikipedia, “Horses in the United States”)

So the bottom line is that horses simply did not exist on the American continent in any form during the Book of Mormon period. The timeline is off – and by not just a few years, but by thousands of years.

In addition to all the above, another problem that the Book of Mormon has is that not all horse breeds can be domesticated. For example, you may have wondered why you don’t see them riding Zebras in Africa. The answer is simple: They are mean ornery creatures that don’t like people and will flee, bite, and fight even in captivity. The following article explains the difference:

“The kick of a zebra can break a lion’s jaw. They can be savage biters and possess a ‘ducking’ reflex that helps them avoid being caught by lasso. Familiarity with human hunter-gatherers may also have fostered a strong avoidance response in the zebra.

All of this means that zebra are not really “people friendly” and as a species they do not fit the criteria for domestication.

According to the English explorer and polymath Francis Galton (a relative of Charles Darwin), these requirements include displaying a desire for comfort, being easy to tend, being useful and showing a fondness for man.

Galton uses the zebra as an example of an unmanageable species, stating that the Dutch Boers repeatedly tried to break zebra to harness. Although they had some success, the wild, mulish nature of the animals would frequently break out and thwart their efforts. Although it appears possible to tame individual zebra, this species was not a good candidate for domestication.”
(Carol Hall, “Here’s Why Zebras Have Never Been Domesticated”, Science Alert website, September 23, 2016; )

At this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with the Pre-Columbian horses of America. Quite simply, everything. The last species of Pre-Columbian horses on the American continent was Equus simplicidens which is also known as the “Hagerman horse”, the “Hagerman zebra” and the “American zebra” – the last two because in terms of speciation it’s closer to modern zebras than modern horses. Again from the neutral source Wikipedia:

“The Hagerman horse first appeared about 3.5 million years ago. It was approximately 110–145 centimeters (43–57 inches) tall at the shoulder. It weighed between 110 and 385 kilograms (243 and 849 pounds). An average Hagerman horse was about the same size as an Arabian horse. It also was relatively stocky with a straight shoulder and thick neck, like a zebra, and a short, narrow, donkey-like skull.

The horse probably lived in grasslands and floodplains, which is what Hagerman was like between three and four million years ago. Native North American horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago, at the same time as many other large-bodied species of the period.”
(see Wikipedia, “Hagerman Horse”)

Of course, we don’t have any Equus simplicidens horses to observe or test for temperament, but if the speciation is correct, then its entirely possible that the reason why they were killed off for food by the American aboriginals is that since they couldn’t be domesticated they were more valuable as a protein source than as beasts of burden and/or other forms of human helper.

Size comparison between the earliest Pre-Columbian American horse and a modern horse.

To summarize and review:

  1. The indigenous American horses were too small to be safely ridden by people or pull chariots as they are depicted doing so in the Book of Mormon.
  2. Regardless of the prior point, not all breeds of horses are capable of being domesticated. Given their speciation it’s entirely possible that indigenous Pre-Columbian horses were more akin to undomesticable modern zebras than domesticated modern horses.
  3. The above two points aside, and for whatever reason, the American aboriginals hunted the indigenousness American horses to extinction.
  4. Even without the above three points, the timeline is still WAY off. There simply were NO indigenous American horses on the American continent when the Book of Mormon people arrived here. Period.

Conclusion
No matter how you slice it, or how you consider the evidence, the nature and use of horses in the Book of Mormon are both at odds with and in conflict with the empirical body of evidence. The problem isn’t that we’re lacking the evidence to prove the Book of Mormon’s claims, the problem is that the wide, broad, and deep body of evidence that we have regarding pre-Columbian horses on the American continent utterly discredits the Book of Mormon’s equestrian claims.

A photo of one of the La Brea Tar Pit Museum horse skeletons taken by the author in 2016.

Appendix: References to Horses in the Book of Mormon
“And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.”
— 1 Nephi 18:24&25

“Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots.”
— Alma 20:6

“Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.”
— 2 Nephi 12:7

“None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken;

Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.”
— 2 Nephi 15:27&28

“And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses.
— Enos 1:21

“And the Lord began again to take the curse from off the land, and the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong, insomuch that they became exceedingly rich—

Having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things;

And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.”
— Ether 9:16-19

“Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land; and thus the eighteenth year did pass away.”
— 3 Nephi 4:4

“And it came to pass in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies.”
— 3 Nephi 3:22

“And now it came to pass that the people of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the twenty and sixth year, every man, with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle, and all things whatsoever did belong unto them.”
— 3 Nephi 6:1

“Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;

And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds.”
— 3 Nephi 21:14&15

Size comparison of a modern man relative to the last of the Pre-Columbian American horses, the Hagerman horse (aka “Equus simplicidens”)

(Banner art: Infographic for the “Hagerman Horse” which was the last of the Pre-Columbian American horses and the animal whose skeleton you will see the author’s photograph of in the footer art of this article)