Archive for the ‘Fred Anson’ Category

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.

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

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)

Fred W. Anson
For those unfamiliar with the Didache, here is a brief description and overview by Evangelical Theologian, Matt Slick:

The Didache” (also called the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) was written around 65 – 80 A.D. and is supposed to be what the twelve apostles taught to the Gentiles concerning life and death, church order, fasting, baptism, prayer, etc. There is debate as to its authenticity. The work is cited by Eusebius who lived from 260 – 341 and Athanasius 293-373. It seems to be referenced by Origen who lived from 185-254. In the Didache, 16:2-3 is quoted in the Epistle of Barnabas in 4:9, or vice versa. The Epistle of Barnabas was written in 130-131 A.D. The Didache is not inspired, but is valuable as an early church document.
(from “The Didache” by Matt Slick; lightly edited for this format)

With that established, let’s consider the following from an official, correlated LdS Church manual:

According to Jude, he had originally intended to write about “the common salvation” (Jude 1:3), meaning the idea that “salvation is available to all men, not just a select few” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:416). However, Jude instead found it needful to exhort his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Here Jude was referring to the faith that was taught originally by Christ Himself and then by His Apostles. The same faith that we read about in the New Testament has been restored in our day and is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
(“New Testament Student Manual” (2014), Chapter 52: 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude)

Then if this is the case why is there no trace of Mormonism – past or present – found in the earliest Christian Church History? To illustrate my point let’s look at some specifics of the Didache and compare and contrast them to the modern LdS Church. After all, it was most likely written while at least some of Christ’s original Apostles were still alive (if we assume that John the Beloved died around 100AD as tradition claims) so if Mormonism’s restorationist claims are true, then it should be reflective of LdS Church doctrine and practices, right?

DIDACHE: Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets Must Teach What Has Been Said Before
“Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not.” (Didache, Chapter 11) 

LDS CHURCH: What Was Taught Before Can Be Replaced With And Sub-Ordinated to New Revelation
Mormonism teaches another Jesus and another gospel than what’s taught in the Bible. As a result, it rejects historic Christian orthodoxy – including the very core orthodoxy that was taught during the Apostolic era that the Didache was written in. One need only consider the fact that the polytheism taught in Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, The Sermon in the Grove, The Book of Abraham (see Chapter 4),  and elsewhere – and that is still echoed in today’s Church literature and manuals – flies in the face of the key distinctive of normative, historic, Judeo-Christian orthodoxy: Monotheism.

Furthermore, Mormonism isn’t even internally consistent – with Mormon Prophets from one age contradicting those from an earlier age and claiming that it’s new “revelation”. This even includes Mormon scripture – the classic case study being how the Book of Mormon discredits and contradicts both modern Mormonism and the LdS Standard Works that followed it. And recently we have even seen the Mormon Prophet change gospel ordinances claiming new revelation. Stated plainly the only constant in Mormon teachings (aka “doctrine”) is change.

DIDACHE: Apostles Shall Not Remain More Than Two Days
“Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. ” (Didache, Chapter 11) 

LDS CHURCH: Apostles Have Remained For More Than Two Days
The word Koine Greek word “apostlos” means, “a messenger, one sent on a mission, apostle” (see Strong’s Greek 652). Strong’s concordance goes on to explain:

Usage: a messenger, envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; an apostle. (ibid) 

The Didache here not only reflects the very meaning of the word but the application given to it by Christ Himself:

Jesus came and spake unto them [the Apostles], saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Matthew 28:18-20 KJV) 

Christ’s Apostles weren’t supposed to be settlers, they were supposed to constantly in motion, out fulfilling their mission of bringing the message of the Good News to the nations. And two days in any one place before moving on to the next place, according to the Didache, was enough.

And this is a pattern that we see in Church History as well with the Apostles of the Lamb moving from place to place and eventually dying miles – even several entire countries – away from where they were originally called. Paul (the former “Saul of Tarsus”) died in Rome after a lifetime of travel. Ditto for Peter the fisherman from Bethsaida. John the Beloved, who was also from Bethsaida, died in Ephesus (now in Turkey). The Apostle Thomas, originally from Gailee, died in India. Etc., etc., etc. the pattern is the same through across twelve Apostles. They lived constantly in motion, constantly carrying the message, and all eventally dying on the move as pilgrim and wanderers throughout their apostolic mission until the very end.

Yet Mormon Apostles have most certainly remained in one place – Salt Lake City – for more than two days, haven’t they? And we only see them moving from place to place sporadically, intermittently and occasionally, don’t we? And then it’s right back to Salt Lake City. Just to cite one case in point, former Mormon President, Thomas S. Monson’s stay in Salt Lake City as a Church Apostle was so extensive – a lifetime to be exact – that he had amassed multiple real estate holdings in Utah by the time of his death:

LDS Prophet and Mega-Corporate-Sole President Thomas S Monson is aged. Rumors abound that he may suffer from severe health limitations in his capacity as “prophet”. He may even be convalescing in his many residences—by my count now standing at 4 addresses.

That’s a lot of property for a man whose 60-year career spent most of its time, since his 30th birthday, employed as a “clergy” of the LDS Church (starting as a mission president). The four residences total in value just under $2 million by most recent assessments. Most of you already know about his primary home in Salt Lake City at 4125 S Carter Cir, Salt Lake City, UT 84124. (Parcel 22-04-202-080-0000). Many know about his latest vacation home at 140 W Farm Rd. Midway, UT 84049. (Parcel 00-0001-3776 ). And his old family property up Provo Canyon at 6742 North Fairfax Dr (Parcel 540370053007 ).

However, as most do not know, the LDS Church apparently also granted Tommy a condo worth upwards of $600K at Gateway Condos, on 40 North State Street in Salt Lake. Now, he doesn’t outright own this penthouse, but he’s lived there for many years rent free and does as he wishes there.
(David Twede, “Tommy’s Big Move”, Mormon Disclosures website; retrieved 2019-02-24) 

If one was snarky, one might be tempted to ask what the Apostle Paul’s real estate holdings were at the the time of his death. Peter’s? John’s? Thomas’? But I digress…

And, finally, to drive this point to its final conclusion we need only compare and contrast the end state of Mormon Apostles to the original Biblical Apostles – the guys whose shoes Mormon Apostles claim to be standing in: The latter died scattered all over the world like seed scattered to the wind within the first hundred years of the movement. But where do we overwhelmingly see Mormon Apostles dying within the first hundred years of the Mormon Restorationist movement? Answer: One place, Salt Lake City. One set of Apostles reflect constant movement and risk, the other reflects constant settlement and power consolidation. The contrast is telling, isn’t it?

DIDACHE: Itinerate Apostles Are To Take Nothing But Bread
“And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.” (Didache, Chapter 11) 

LDS CHURCH: Itinerate Apostles Receive A Stipend And Other Forms Of Compensation
All Mormon Apostles receive a generous stipend from the membership worldwide that’s certainly more than “nothing but bread” isn’t it? The following is a from a Salt Lake Tribune article that was written after the pay stub of a Mormon Apostle and a letter regarding a Mormon General Authority’s increase in pay was leaked to the public by MormonLeaks:

Mormons and others who wonder about the salaries of top LDS leaders got a possible peek at those numbers Monday, when purported pay stubs for a high-ranking church official emerged online.

Copies of the biweekly stubs for Henry B. Eyring — then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — report that he earned $83,132.75 from the start of 2000 until the first week of December. Two more pay periods at $3,096.15 each would have put Eyring’s salary at $89,325.05 for the year.

The 16-year-old records were posted by MormonLeaks and show Eyring’s biweekly salary broken down into a living allowance ($2,192.31), parsonage or clergy housing, ($826.92) and a child allowance ($76.92).

A second newly leaked document, from a more recent year, is a 2014 memo from the church’s Presiding Bishopric (which handles all financial issues for the faith), noting that the “base living allowance” for all Mormon general authorities was being raised from $116,400 to $120,000.

It is unclear from the leaked documents what additional income or perks these men might make, including health care benefits, free cars or book royalties.
(Peggy Fletcher Stack, “How much do top Mormon leaders make? Leaked pay stubs may surprise you.”, Salt Lake Tribune, January 26, 2017; retrieved 2019-02-24) 

The Pay Stub of Mormon Apostle Henry B. Eyring that was leaked by MormonLeaks in January 2017.


DIDACHE: The Local Church Is Obligated To Pay Local, Resident Prophets

“But every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have no prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.” (Didache, Chapter 13) 

LDS CHURCH: Claims That Local, Resident Paid Clergy Is A Sign Of Apostasy
While earlier the LdS Church was criticized for paying what should be itinerant clergy (that is, Apostles) the Didache also stipulates that having paid, local, resident professional clergy (that is, prophets) is not only not a problem, but is a good thing, a responsibility under God.

Herein lies the irony: Despite the fact that the Bible (see First Timothy 5:17–18), the Didache, and even scripture unique to Mormonism (see D&C 42:71-73) demand that local, resident, clergy are to be paid, the LdS Church is not only disobedient to them, it actually teaches publicly that such compensation is a sign of apostasy, corruption, and worse:

Wherever creeds are found one can also expect to find a paid clergy, the simple truths of the gospel cloaked in the dark robes of mystery, religious intolerance, and a history of bloodshed.
(Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig Ostler, “Revelations of the Restoration”, p. 964, published 2000)

In short, the Mormon Church has it “topsy turvy”: They don’t pay local, resident clergy, while they do pay remote itinerant clergy. And then, to add insult to injury, they hypocritically condemn other churches for being obedient to the very scripture that they, themselves, ignore.

DIDACHE: Prophets Must Do In Private What They Teach In Public
“And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets.” (Didache, Chapter 11) 

LDS CHURCH: Prophets Have Done in Private The Exact Opposite Of What They Teach In Public
Joseph Smith and other Mormon Prophets have taught one thing in public and practiced the exact opposite in private, haven’t they? The most blatant example is how they lied about and denied practicing polygamy publicly after 1890 while still practicing it privately until 1904 – a fact that was acknowledged in the 2014 “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage” Gospel Topics essay on the official LdS Church website.

And in terms of post-polygamy Mormonism, we can talk about how until recently Mormon Prophets have publicly denied that they were paid clergy until they were forced to come clean thanks to the information being leaking to the Internet (as previously mentioned). Yet, given all this, consider what they were teaching at the time:

“I explained also that our Church has no paid ministry…”
(Thomas S. Monson, “Our Sacred Priesthood Trust”, April 2006, General Conference; retrieved 2017-01-29)

“We have no professional clergy…”
(Henry B. Eyring, “Watch Over and Strengthen” Liahona Magazine, July 2000; retrieved 2017-01-29)

“All of the work in the Church is voluntary. No one is paid for such service.”
(“Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” (Official LDS Missionary Manual) Lesson 5: Laws and Ordinances; retrieved 2019-02-24)

“Personal sacrifice is vital to the religious faith of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members volunteer their time to serve in various positions in tens of thousands of congregations throughout the world. Their service is critical at the local level because the Church has no full-time paid clergy.”
(LDS Church Newsroom, “The Church’s Unpaid Clergy”, retrieved 2017-01-29)

“One of the important and distinguishing features of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that its affairs are administered by the lay members of the Church rather than by paid clergy.
(Franklin D. Richards, “Conference Reports”, October 1968, p.113)

“‘Did they also tell you that we have no professional clergy? All of us contribute our time, our talents, our means, and travel—all to help the work. And we’re not paid for it in money.’”
(From a story told by Boyd K. Packer, found in “Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders”, Part B, Lesson 30: Tithes and Offerings, pp.251-256, published 2000; retrieved 2019-02-24) 

“Out of this body of priesthood, now great, were drawn, and are drawn the administrative workers of the Church: the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve Apostles, the Council of the First Quorum of the Seventy; the Presiding Bishopric; the stake and ward officers, and the many others needed, but only for such time as they are needed. The Church has carried on successfully with such a voluntary, unpaid body of officers and teachers.”
(John A. Widtsoe, “Joseph Smith: Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God”, 1951, p.128)

DIDACHE: True Prophets Hold The Ways Of The Lord
“But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known.” (Didache, Chapter 11) 

LDS CHURCH: Mormon Prophets Have Not Held The Ways Of The Lord
Joseph Smith most certainly did NOT “hold the ways of the Lord” did he? Neither have many of his successors, have they?

For the former, one need only consider the fact that Joseph Smith publicly lied about practicing polygamy. We know this because he denied that he was practicing polygamy in a sermon on Sunday, May 26, 1844. Specifically, he said, “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” And he said this while at least sixteen (16) of his polygamous wives were still members of his church and most likely in attendance. (see History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412, or Millennial Star No. 42 Vol. 23 pp. 672-674, also see Utah Lighthouse Ministry website “Joseph Smith’s Boasting and Polygamy Denial Sermon”)

And for the latter, one need only point to that fact that LdS Church leaders are so corrupt that they will brazenly violate their own canonized scripture – as, again, they have illustrated by ignoring the scriptural injunction to pay local clergy.

Another example is the November 2015 policy that barred the children of homosexual parents from receiving baptism into the LdS Church until they are 18-years old – and even then only after they have formally renounced their parent’s homosexual behavior. In other words, in direct violation of the first clause of the canonized Article of Faith 2 (“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins”), the LdS Church now punishes the child of homosexuals for their parent’s sin. (see official LdS Church website, “Articles of Faith” and LA Times, “New Mormon policy bans acceptance of children of same-sex couples”, November 06, 2015) 

And to make things even worse, Mormon Leadership declared this policy change a “revelation” thus validating yet again the fact that they do not teach members all the things that have been said before. (see Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says”; Salt Lake Tribune, February 3, 2016)

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

DIDACHE: Full Immersion Baptism Is Preferred, But Pouring Is Also Acceptable
“Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.” (Didache, Chapter 7) 

LDS CHURCH: Only Full And Complete Immersion Baptism Is Acceptable
From the official LdS Church website:

The Savior revealed the true method of baptism to the Prophet Joseph Smith, making clear that the ordinance must be performed by one having priesthood authority and that it must be done by immersion:

“The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water” (D&C 20:73–74).
(“Baptism”, LdS Church website article; retrieved 2019-02-24) 

And the LdS Church takes the full immersion requirement so literally that the Church’s Handbook of Instruction even stipulates that the entirety of the person – including their clothing – must be fully immersed:

[The presiding Mormon Priesthood holding authority,] Has the person hold his or her nose with the right hand (for convenience); then the priesthood holder places his right hand high on the person’s back and immerses the person completely, including the person’s clothing.
(LdS Church, “Handbook 2: Administering the Church”, section 20.3.8; retrieved 2019-02-24)

They even go so far as to have a spotter monitoring the baptism to make sure that every piece of the person (including every strand of hair for those with long hair) and every thread of clothing is immersed. And if anything is missed then they must redo the baptism in order for it to be legitimate.

DIDACHE: Priesthood Authority Is Not Required To Speak Or Act For God
Finally, please consider the following analysis by Didache expert Wyatt North in light of Mormon Priesthood authority dogma – especially as it relates to the authority to baptize.

“Before the baptism, moreover, the one who baptizes and the one being baptized must fast, and any others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.” (Didache 7:4)

Very importantly, the text does not identify who is to perform the baptism. It specifically does not indicate anyone with an official office, such as a deacon or bishop. This absence of an official functionary indicates a very primitive time in the life of the Church. The reference to “any others who can” appears to indicate the communal nature of baptism: it occurred with the participation of the community. Those participants were also to try to fast. It is not entirely clear if this is an indication of the community celebrating the neophyte or the need for witnesses to the act of baptism. Rabbinic conversion in Judaism requires legal witnesses, although information about how Jewish conversion would have been conducted at the time of the Didache is limited.
(Wyatt North, “Christian Writing Decoded: The Didache”, Kindle Locations 447-455, Wyatt North Publishing, LLC.)

LDS CHURCH: Priesthood Authority Required In Order To Speak or Act For God
The following is from the official, correlated LdS Church manual entitled, “Gospel Principles”, though similar language can found across many Church publications and curriculum:

We must have priesthood authority to act in the name of God when performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and temple marriage. If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs (see Matthew 7:21–23; Articles of Faith 1:5). These important ordinances must be performed on the earth by men holding the priesthood.
(Gospel Principles (2011 edition), Chapter 13: The Priesthood, p.67)

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The hard fact of the matter is this: No trace of the unique distinctives that Mormonism declares as “restored” can be found in Church History prior to the advent of Joseph Smith. Further, those distinctives contradict what we find in recorded Early Church History up to and including the Didache.

(all Didache selections from — Didache 11-13, Roberts-Donaldson English Translation)

The Living Allowance increase letter sent to Mormon General Authority Bruce D. Porter in 2014 and leaked by MormonLeaks in 2017 that clearly shows that Mormon Apostles and Prophets are, in fact, professional, paid, full-time clergy despite what they publicly teach and declare.

Banner Art: Icon Painting of Christ and the Early Church Fathers

Yeah . . . that’s how the receiving end often feels to we Theists.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A few years ago, the good folks at the Zelph on the Shelf did a fantastic article entitled, “15 Things Ex-Mormons are Tired of Hearing” which was a superb compilation of the bad arguments that Ex-Mormons typically hear from True Believing Mormons (aka “TBMs”). As the author noted in her introduction, these are things that not only don’t facilitate constructive debate, they distract from it.

I loved the article. So did my friends. We ate it up!

Now my friends, like me, are mainly mainstream Christians and most are Ex-Mormons as well. And they suggested that we put together a list of the top 15 things that Christians are tired of hearing from ex-Mormon atheists/agnostics. So I slapped together a crowdsourced poll, posted it on the Internet, and the results will be discussed and considered over this short series of articles.

By the way, if you missed any of the first three parts of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three.

2) “There’s no evidence that Jesus ever existed – it’s all just a myth like the Book of Mormon.”
Well, my atheist friends, I must tell you that scholarly consensus and the historical record both discredit this assertion – and I’m talking about hostile, extra-biblical sources and scholars. Consider, for example, agnostic Bart Ehrmann: In a National Public Radio interview for his 2012 book, “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” he summarized the issue like this:

I wanted to approach this question as an historian to see whether that’s right or not,” Ehrman tells weekends on “All Things Considered” host Guy Raz.

The answer is straightforward and widely accepted among scholars of all faiths, but Ehrman says there is a large contingent of people claiming that Jesus never did exist. These people are also known as mythicists.

“It was a surprise to me to see how influential these mythicists are,” Ehrman says. “Historically, they’ve been significant and in the Soviet Union, in fact, the mythicist view was the dominant view, and even today, in some parts of the West – in parts of Scandinavia — it is a dominant view that Jesus never existed,” he says…

In his book, Ehrman marshals all of the evidence proving the existence of Jesus, including the writings of the apostle Paul.

“Paul knew Jesus’ brother, James, and he knew his closest disciple, Peter, and he tells us that he did,” Ehrman says. “If Jesus didn’t exist, you would think his brother would know about it, so I think Paul is probably pretty good evidence that Jesus at least existed,” he says.

In [his book] Did Jesus Exist?, Ehrman builds a technical argument and shows that one of the reasons for knowing that Jesus existed is that if someone invented Jesus, they would not have created a messiah who was so easily overcome.

“The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies – and so if you’re going to make up a messiah, you’d make up a powerful messiah,” he says. “You wouldn’t make up somebody who was humiliated, tortured and the killed by the enemies.”
(“Did Jesus Exist?’ A Historian Makes His Case”, All Things Considered, Radio Broadcast, April 1, 2012

Then there is the historical record outside of the Bible from hostile sources:1

Tacitus (55/56–c. 118 C.E.)
[N]either human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered [by Nero]. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ [Christus in Latin], had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate … Suppressed for a time, the deadly superstition erupted again not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city [Rome], where all things horrible and shameful from everywhere come together and become popular.
(Tacitus, “Annals”, XV.44, Written c. 116–117 C.E., as translated in Robert E. Van Voorst, “Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Studying the Historical Jesus)”, pp. 42–43)

Josephus (37-c.100 C.E.)
“Being therefore this kind of person [i.e., a heartless Sadducee], Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting [literally, “sanhedrin”] of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned.”
(Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities”, XX.9.1. Written c. 93-94 C.E.)

“Around this time there lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who did surprising deeds, and a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who in the first place came to love him did not give up their affection for him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, have still to this day not died out.”
(Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities”, XVIII.63–64 (in Whiston’s translation: XVIII.3.3); this redacted version of The Testimonium Flavianum is from, Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, “Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide”, pp. 65–66, after deleting the apparent, later, Christian additions to the original text.)

Lucian of Samosata (c. 115–200 C.E.)
“It was then that he learned the marvelous wisdom of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And— what else?—in short order he made them look like children, for he was a prophet, cult leader, head of the congregation and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books, and wrote many himself. They revered him as a god, used him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector—to be sure, after that other whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…

For having convinced themselves that they are going to be immortal and live forever, the poor wretches despise death and most even willingly give themselves up. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living according to his laws.”
(Lucian, Passing of Peregrinus, §11, as translated in Craig A. Evans, “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources,” in Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, eds., “Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research, 2nd impression, New Testament Tools and Studies, vol. 6”, Boston: Brill, 1998, 1994, p. 462)

Celsus (c. 176) as quoted by Origen:
“Next he makes the charge of the savior that it was by magic that he was able to do the miracles which he appeared to have done, and foreseeing that others also, having learned the same lessons and being haughty to act with the power of God, are about to do the same thing, such persons Jesus would drive away from his own society.

For he says, “He was brought up in secret and hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and having tried his hand at certain magical powers he returned from there, and on account of those powers gave himself the title of God”’
(Origen, “Against Celsus”, 1.6, 38, as translated in Evans, Ibid, “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources,” p.460)

Pliny (c. 61–113 C.E.)
“They [the Christians] assured me that the sum total of their error consisted in the fact that that they regularly assembled on a certain day before daybreak. They recited a hymn antiphonally to Christus as to a god and bound themselves with an oath not to commit any crime, but to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and embezzlement of property entrusted to them. After this, it was their custom to separate, and then to come together again to partake of a meal, but an ordinary and innocent one.”
(Pliny, “Epistles”, X.96, as cited in Evans, Ibid, “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources,” p. 459)

Mara bar Serapion (c. 73 C.E.)
“For what advantage did the Athenians gain by the murder of Socrates, the recompense of which they received in famine and pestilence? Or the people of Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, because in one hour their country was entirely covered in sand? Or the Jews by the death of their wise king, because from that same time their kingdom was taken away? God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”
(Mara bar Serapion, “Letter to His Son”, (cited in Evans, Ibid, “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources,” pp. 455–456). The phrase “death of their [the Jews] wise king” is believed to refer to Christ.) 

If you still have any lingering doubt on this matter, perhaps you’ll find the modern opinion of famous Jewish scientist, Albert Einstein on this question of some value. When answered the question, do you accept Jesus as a historical figure? This his reply: “Absolutely! No one can read the Gospels without feeling Jesus’ presence. His character lives in every word. No legend is full of such life… No one can deny the fact that Jesus existed, or that His words were enlightened. Even if some of His sayings were said before, no one expressed them in such Godly way like He did.” (Walter Isaacson, “Einstein: His Life and Universe”, p.386)

I think that it’s fair to say given the broad consensus among scholars as well as the compelling body of evidence outside of the Bible that Jesus Christ most certainly did exist as a real, historical figure. So to claim that His existence is as fatuous as comparing the Book of Mormon people to Plato and claiming that they’re equivalent.

Click the above link to see a brief explanation from Bart Ehrman as to why Jesus Christ was indeed a real, historical figure. 

1) “You’re just stupid and ignorant. Once you’re enlightened you’ll be an atheist too!”
Wow! I think that I’ve just had a flashback or have just stepped through a time warp: I’m hearing echoes of my Atheist self from bygone days. Yes, my Atheist friends, you read that right, I am a former Atheist. And I’m not alone. So, at the risk of being accused of a Gish Galloping bandwagon fallacy, you have to admit that I have some pretty prestigious (and in some cases notorious) company:2

  • Steve Beren – former member of the Socialist Workers Party (United States) who became a Christian conservative politician
  • Kirk Cameron – actor noted for his role in Growing Pains
  • Francis Collins – physician-geneticist, noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes; director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; former atheist
  • Ray Comfort – evangelist and author.
  • Bo Giertz – Swedish Confessional Lutheran Bishop, theologian, and writer
  • Simon Greenleaf – one of the main founders of Harvard Law School
  • Keir Hardie – raised atheist and became a Christian Socialist
  • Paul Jones – musician, of Manfred Mann; previously atheist; in 1967 he argued with Cliff Richard about religion on a TV show
  • Kang Kek Iew (also known as Comrade Duch) – Cambodian director of Phnom Penh’s infamous Tuol Sleng detention center
  • Akiane Kramarik (and family) – American poet and child prodigy raised as an atheist and converted to Christianity
  • Jonny Lang – blues and rock singer who professed to once “hating” Christianity, before later claiming to have a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ which led to his conversion
  • Chai Ling – Chinese student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989; converted to evangelical Christianity in 2009
  • John Warwick Montgomery – renowned Christian apologist, Lutheran theologian, and barrister; as a philosophy major in college, he investigated the claims of Christianity “to preserve intellectual integrity” and converted
  • William J. Murray  – author and son of atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair
  • Marvin Olasky – former Marxist turned Christian conservative; edits the Christian World magazine
  • George R. Price – geneticist who became an Evangelical Christian and wrote about the New Testament; later he moderated his evangelistic tendencies and switched from religious writing to working with the homeless
  • Mira Sorvino – Academy Award-winning actress who had been on Humanist lists
  • Lee Strobel – former avowed atheist and journalist for the Chicago Tribune; was converted by his own journalistic research intended to test the veracity of scriptural claims concerning Jesus; author of such apologetic books as The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ
  • Lacey Sturm – musician, former vocalist and lyricist for alternative metal band Flyleaf
  • Emir Kusturica – filmmaker, actor, and musician; although of Muslim ancestry, his father was atheist; took the name “Nemanja” on conversion in 2005
  • Seraphim Rose – Hieromonk and religious writer; in early adulthood he considered non-theist ideas of God and the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche that God is dead; became Russian Orthodox in 1962
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Nobel Prize-winning dissident author who converted to Russian Orthodoxy
  • Mortimer J. Adler – American philosopher, educator, and popular author; converted to Catholicism from agnosticism, after decades of interest in Thomism
  • G. E. M. Anscombe – analytic philosopher, Thomist, literary executor for Ludwig Wittgenstein, and author of Modern Moral Philosophy; converted to Catholicism as a result of her extensive reading
  • Benedict Ashley – raised humanist; former Communist; became a noted theologian associated with River Forest Thomism
  • Maurice Baring – English author who converted to Catholicism in his thirties
  • Mark Bauerlein – English professor at Emory University and the author of 2008 book The Dumbest Generation, which won at the Nautilus Book Awards
  • Léon Bloy – French author who led to several notable conversions and was himself a convert from agnosticism
  • Paul Bourget – French author who became agnostic and positivist at 15, but returned to Catholicism at 35
  • Alexis Carrel – French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912
  • Alfred Döblin, German novelist, essayist and doctor, a former convert from Judaism to atheism
  • Avery Dulles – Jesuit priest, theologian, and cardinal in the Catholic Church; was raised Presbyterian, but was an agnostic before his conversion to Catholic Christianity
  • Alice Thomas Ellis – born Anna Haycraft, raised in Auguste Comte‘s atheistic “church of humanity”, but became a conservative Catholic in adulthood known as Alice Thomas Ellis
  • Edward Feser – Christian philosopher and author, wrote The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
  • André Frossard – French journalist and essayist
  • Maggie Gallagher – conservative activist and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage
  • Eugene D. Genovese – historian who went from Stalinist to Catholicism
  • Dawn Eden Goldstein – rock journalist of Jewish ethnicity; went from an agnostic to a Catholic, who was particularly concerned with the moral values of chastity
  • Bill Hayden – The 21st Governor-General of Australia. In 1996 he was recognised as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies. Baptized September 2018.
  • Mary Karr – author of The Liars’ Club; Guggenheim Fellow; once described herself as an “undiluted agnostic”, but converted to a self-acknowledged “Cafeteria Catholicism” who embraces Pro-Choice views, amongst others
  • Ignace Lepp – French psychiatrist whose parents were freethinkers and who joined the Communist party at age fifteen; broke with the party in 1937 and eventually became a Catholic priest
  • Leah Libresco – popular (former) atheist blogger; her search for a foundation for her sense of morality led her to Christianity; she continues her blog under a new name, Unequally Yoked. Her blog readership has increased significantly since her conversion.
  • Arnold Lunn – skier, mountaineer, and writer; as an agnostic he wrote Roman Converts, which took a critical view of Catholicism and the converts to it; later converted to Catholicism due to debating with converts, and became an apologist for the faith, although he retained a few criticisms of it
  • Gabriel Marcel – leading Christian existentialist; his upbringing was agnostic
  • Claude McKay – bisexual Jamaican poet who went from Communist-leaning atheist to an active Catholic Christian after a stroke
  • Vittorio Messori – Italian journalist and writer called the “most translated Catholic writer in the world” by Sandro Magister; before his conversion in 1964 he had a “perspective as a secularist and agnostic”
  • Czesław Miłosz – poet, prose writer, translator and diplomat; was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and in 1980 the Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Malcolm Muggeridge – British journalist and author who went from agnosticism to the Catholic Church
  • Bernard Nathanson – medical doctor who was a founding member of NARAL, later becoming a pro-life proponent
  • Fulton Oursler – writer who was raised Baptist, but spent decades as an agnostic before converting; The Greatest Story Ever Told is based on one of his works
  • Giovanni Papini – went from pragmatic atheism to Catholicism, also a Fascist
  • Joseph Pearce – anti-Catholic and agnostic British National Front member who became a devoted Catholic writer with a series on EWTN
  • Charles Péguy – French poet, essayist, and editor; went from agnostic humanist to a pro-Republic Catholic
  • Sally Read – Eric Gregory Award-winning poet who converted to Catholicism
  • E. F. Schumacher – economic thinker known for Small Is Beautiful; his A Guide for the Perplexed criticizes what he termed “materialistic scientism;” went from atheism to Buddhism to Catholicism
  • Peter Steele – lead singer of Type O Negative
  • Edith Stein – Phenomenologist philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun; declared a saint by Pope John Paul II
  • John Lawson Stoddard – divinity student who became an agnostic and “scientific humanist;” later he converted to Catholicism; his son Lothrop Stoddard remained agnostic and would be significant to scientific racism
  • R. J. Stove – raised atheist, converted to Catholicism
  • Allen Tate – American poet, essayist and social commentator; Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
  • Victor Turner – A British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals and rites of passage.
  • Sigrid Undset – Norwegian Nobel laureate who converted to Catholicism from agnosticism
  • Evelyn Waugh – British novelist who converted to Catholicism from agnosticism
  • John C. Wright – science fiction author who went from atheist to Catholic; Chapter 1 of the book “Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion”, edited by Rebecca Vitz Cherico, is by him
  • Joy Davidman – poet and wife of C. S. Lewis
  • Tamsin Greig – British actress raised as an atheist; converted at 30
  • Nicky Gumbel – Anglican priest known for the Alpha course; from atheism
  • Peter Hitchens – journalist who went from Trotskyism to Traditionalist conservatism; estranged brother of the late outspoken anti-theist and Vanity Fair writer Christopher Hitchens
  • C. E. M. Joad – English philosopher whose arguing against Christianity, from an agnostic perspective, earned him criticism from T. S. Eliot; turned toward religion later, writing The Recovery of Belief a year before he died and returning to Christianity
  • C. S. Lewis – Oxford professor and writer; well known for The Chronicles of Narnia series, and for his apologetic Mere Christianity
  • Alister McGrath – biochemist and Christian theologian’ founder of “scientific theology” and critic of Richard Dawkins in his book Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life
  • Enoch Powell – Conservative Party (UK) member who converted to Anglicanism
  • Michael Reiss – British bioethicist, educator, journalist, and Anglican priest; agnostic/secular upbringing
  • Dame Cicely Saunders – Templeton Prize and Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize-winning nurse known for palliative care; converted to Christianity as a young woman
  • Fay Weldon – British novelist and feminist
  • Peter Baltes – former heavy metal musician, member of Accept
  • Anders Borg  – Sweden’s Minister for Finance
  • Julie Burchill – British journalist and feminist
  • Nicole Cliffe – writer and journalist who co-founded The Toast
  • Jeffery Dahmer – serial killer and convict who was baptized by Churches of Christ minister Roy Ratcliff
  • Bruce Cockburn – Canadian folk/rock guitarist and singer/songwriter (former agnostic)
  • Karl Dallas – British music journalist, author and political activist
  • Larry Darby – former Holocaust denier and former member of the American Atheists
  • Terry A. Davis – American computer programmer who created and designed an entire operating system, TempleOS, by himself. Davis grew up Catholic and was an atheist before experiencing a self-described “revelation”. He described the experience as seeming “a lot like mental illness … I felt guilty for being such a technology-advocate atheist … It would sound polite if you said I scared myself thinking about quantum computers.”
  • Andrew Klavan – Jewish-American writer who went from atheist to agnostic to Christian.
  • Nina Karin Monsen – Norwegian moral philosopher and author who grew up in a humanist family, but later converted to Christianity through philosophic thinking
  • Rosalind Picard – Director of the Affective computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab; raised atheist, but converted to Christianity in her teens
  • Vladimir Putin – current President of the Russian Federation
  • Allan Sandage – prolific astronomer; converted to Christianity later in his life, stating, “I could not live a life full of cynicism. I chose to believe, and a peace of mind came over me.”
  • Rodney Stark – a formerly agnostic sociologist of religion.
  • A. N. Wilson – biographer and novelist who entered the theological St Stephen’s House, Oxford before proclaiming himself an atheist and writing against religion; announced his return to Christianity in 2009

So there it is. It’s quite a list, isn’t it? Further, given the background of many of the personalities on this list, how it is reasonable or credible to claim that true enlightenment – not to mention logic, reason, and evidence – always leads to Atheism? Are we to believe that all the personalities represented here were the type of irrational, fanatical, confirmation bias driven, evidence denying, culturally ensnared dullards that many Ex-Mormon Atheists are so quick to label all theists as? Or could it be that the body of evidence and human experience can and will reasonably lead somewhere else than Atheism?

Click above to watch former Atheist Ray Comfort’s answer to his former worldview and belief system.

Speaking only for myself, that initial rush of Atheist liberation after growing up in what I perceived as oppressive, irrational religious fanaticism (is this sounding familiar my Ex-Mormon Atheist friends?) eventually faded. And I soon found the relativism and worship of one’s own perceptions and opinions, unfulfilling, and unsatisfying. Atheism, at least for me, was like ordering a pizza and eating the box that it came in rather than the pizza itself. The rational Christianity that I chose (or perhaps better said, “choose me”) after Atheism only keeps getting richer, deeper, more satisfying, more fulfilling, more nuanced, and, yes, more rational.

The gaping hole that I found in Atheism was the lack of recognition for transcendence, wonder, or mystery in life. I knew that there had to be more than just pure, raw, logic, reason, and evidence interspersed with moments of pleasure-seeking. This was especially apparent when I experienced true romantic love and knew that it was more than just some kind of evolutionary impulse to mate bond in order to create a stable society so that the species could survive – as the atheist voices that I heard claimed. It was far deeper and far more profound than that! It was, simply stated, transcendent, even spiritual.

Thus, and stated plainly, not everything can be entirely explained by empiricism, logic, and reason – which is why, I think, many hardcore Atheists are just as likely to buy into whacky non-theistic schemes and conspiracy theories – as the Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, “Look Who’s Irrational Now”, The Wall Street Journal article cited way back in Part One of this series documented so nicely. But perhaps Atheist cum Evangelical Christian and renowned physician-geneticist, Francis Collins said it best when he said of hardcore, militant Atheism:

I think strong atheism, of the kind that says, “I know there is no God,” suffers from two major logical flaws. And the awareness of those flaws might be reassuring to believers who are somehow afraid that these guys may actually have a point.

The first of those is the idea that anyone could use science at all as a conversation-stopper, as an argument-ender in terms of the question of God. If God has any meaning at all, God is at least in part outside of nature (unless you’re a pantheist). Science is limited in that its tools are only appropriate for the exploration of nature. Science can therefore certainly never discount the possibility of something outside of nature. To do so is a category error, basically using the wrong tools to ask the question.

Secondly, I think the logical error that atheists of the strong variety commit is what English writer G.K. Chesterton calls the most daring dogma of the universal negative. I often use a visual analogy to explain this. Suppose you were asked to draw a circle that contains all the information, all the knowledge that exists or ever will exist, inside or outside the universe – all knowledge. Well, that would be a pretty enormous circle. Now, suppose on that same scale, you were asked to draw what you know at the present time. Even the most assertive person will draw a rather tiny circle. Now, suppose that the knowledge that demonstrates that God exists is outside your little circle today. That seems pretty plausible, doesn’t it, considering the relative scale? How then – given that argument – would it be reasonable for any person to say, “I know there is no God”? That is clearly going outside of the evidence.
(David Masci, “The ’Evidence for Belief’: An Interview with Francis Collins”, Pew Research Center website, April 17, 2008)

Amen Brother Collins, amen!

Click on the link above to watch Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, former Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, describe his personal journey from atheism to Christianity when he was a young doctor and an aspiring academic.

NOTES
1 An important primary source for this section was Purdue Bible Scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk’s superb article, “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible”,  Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2015. For those interested in a more comprehensive treatise on this subject than was possible in a short article, I highly recommend considering this primary source – especially the endnotes which add much-needed depth and nuance to the cited historical sources and their provenance. Mr. Mykytiuk’s final answer to the question of Christ’s existence is wonderfully understated, but yet pointed, in regard to the evidence deniers: “As a final observation: In New Testament scholarship generally, a number of specialists consider the question of whether Jesus existed to have been finally and conclusively settled in the affirmative. A few vocal scholars, however, still deny that he ever lived.”

2 Wikipedia, “List of converts to Christianity from nontheism”

Again, if you missed any part of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three.

 

Dear Mr. Ex-Mormon Atheist, It may not be this, but it very often feels like this to those you’re processing your Post Mormon anger at in public.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A few years ago, the good folks at the Zelph on the Shelf did a fantastic article entitled, “15 Things Ex-Mormons are Tired of Hearing” which was a superb compilation of the bad arguments that Ex-Mormons typically hear from True Believing Mormons (aka “TBMs”). As the author noted in her introduction, these are things that not only don’t facilitate constructive debate, they distract from it.

I loved the article. So did my friends. We ate it up!

Now my friends, like me, are mainly mainstream Christians and most are Ex-Mormons as well. And they suggested that we put together a list of the top 15 things that Christians are tired of hearing from ex-Mormon atheists/agnostics. So I slapped together a crowdsourced poll, posted it on the Internet, and the results will be discussed and considered over this short series of articles.

By the way, if you missed any of the prior segments of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, and here for Part Two.

5) “The Bible is just as credible as Mormon scripture is – as in not at all!”
And yet we have mountains of artifacts and manuscripts from the Biblical periods; the DNA evidence matches the historical record to a T; science generally supports rather than discredits the Bible, and; Archaeology validates rather than contradicts the biblical record. How is does that not, at the very minimum, make the Bible credible? Further, the theology of the Bible is in continuity with Old Testament theology rather than being a radical break from it as all Mormon scripture after the Book of Mormon is and it doesn’t contain the type of doctrinal errors and snafus that the Book of Mormon does. More than that, the Bible may be a challenging book to read due to its antiquity but at least it’s well-written, unlike the rambling repetitive prose of the Book of Mormon in particular and other Mormon scripture in general. And regarding science that so many Ex-Mormon Atheist point to as evidence for their claims, I would ask them to consider this from Francis Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute:

I don’t believe there is an inherent conflict [between belief in God and science], but I believe that humans, in our imperfect nature, sometimes imagine conflicts where there are none. We see something that threatens our own personal view, and we figure that there must be some reason why that alternative view has to be wrong, or even why it has to be evil.
(David Masci, “The ’Evidence for Belief’: An Interview with Francis Collins”, Pew Research Center website, April 17, 2008) 

Again, I could be wrong here but I often think that many Ex-Mormons simply project their bad experiences with Mormon scripture onto the Bible and assume that they’re the same when, stated plainly, they’re not. I’ve also noticed that many Ex-Mormons coming out of the Latter-day Saint bubble are simply unaware of the vast body of literature that’s been built over the last 2,000-years in support of the Bible. Christian apologists are nothing new and can even be found in the pages of the New Testament (see Paul’s Mars Hill discourse in Acts 17 as one of many examples). So, there’s a lot more that could be said about this, but it’s probably been said better elsewhere. For example, I would recommend Joel Kramer’s excellent documentary “The Bible vs. Joseph Smith” to those interested in pursuing the subject further.

Click above to watch a documentary that compares and contrasts Biblical truth claims against the claims of Joseph Smith. 

4) “The Christians that I engage with are just as fanatically blind, irrational, and anti-intellectual as True Believing Mormons. Therefore, Christianity is just the other side of the same fanatical coin.”
Sadly, there’s some truth to this. Trust me, all too often I get just as irritated and frustrated with this as you Ex-Mormon Atheists do on this point. That said, please note my use of the words, “some truth”.  My Atheist friends, I would hope that you have been exposed to enough Christians to realize that what’s true of some isn’t necessarily true for all. Not all Christians are hunkered down in the Christian Tank in true Mormon fashion holding onto their closed minds and open Bibles and refusing to consider anyone or anything outside of said Tank, are they?

I would point to the work of well Christian authors like C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, John Lennox, Gary Habermas, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, and Francis Schaeffer as evidence of this. Let me outline just a few key works briefly:

  • C.S. Lewis was an atheist who was converted to Christianity as a result of the transcendence of life articulated in works of literature – including non-Christian authors, including pagan authors. His book The Abolition of Man argues against what he perceived as the corrosive nature of modernistic relativism and for universal ethical absolutes (which he called “the Tao”) using not only Christian sources but pagan sources as well. In his book Mere Christianity he gets even more specific, making the case that Christianity is the most rational and moral worldview. He makes this not from Christian sources but from logic, reason, and historical evidence that is outside of the Bible.
  • Gary Habermas was a historian and a skeptic who was forced to concede that not only was the resurrection of Christ reasonable but compelling. He came to this conclusion using sources that are not only critical of the resurrection but antagonistic to it – an approach that he calls the “minimal facts” method. His book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (which he co-authored with Mike Liacona, one of his students) is a good introduction to Mr. Habermas’ work.
  • Lee Strobel was an atheist journalist who, angered by his wife’s conversion to Christianity, set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ but in the end was forced to concede that it was not only possible but highly likely. As a result, he converted to Christianity. The book that outlines his journey as well as the evidence that he discovered, The Case for Christ, is good but, candidly the movie is even better.
  • J. Warner Wallace was, to use his own words, “an angry atheist” who took it upon himself to disabuse his Christian friends of their misguiding beliefs. Ultimately, using the skills that he had acquired as a trained Cold Case Detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, he was compelled to admit that the case for Christ was more cogent and credible than the case against Him. He has published his findings in the book “Cold Case Christianity“.

Now notice something here, my atheist friends, in all these cases they were outside of the Christian Tank and using the same epistemological tools that you do: logic, reason, and evidence. Further, not only that but in almost all cases not only were they hostile to the Christian worldview and belief system, they were also considering sources that were too. And yet when confronted with new evidence that contradicted their current preferred narrative, they changed their mind, didn’t they?

How is this fanaticism? How is this the same kind of subjective, thought-stopping, close-minded, anti-intellectual, feelings-centric approach to truth that you knew in Mormonism? Clearly, my atheist friends, these are not just “two sides of the same fanatical coin” are they? And clearly, not all Christians are as fanatically blind, irrational, and anti-intellectual as you say they are, are they?

Again, there are bad apples in all bushels so to broad brush and overgeneralize as you have in your argument is always going to get one into trouble, isn’t it? And if you doubt me, perhaps we should talk about the Ex-Mormons that we’ve seen who hold to and proselytize for atheism with the same blind passion and zeal that they did Mormonism back in the day. Shall I proceed, or would you like to just click through to just about any atheist Ex-Mormon discussion group and see it for yourself?1

Or put another way: Stone meet glasshouse.

Click above to watch an October 3, 2007 debate between Neo-Atheist Richard Dawkins and Christian Theist John Lennox.

3) “The God of Christianity is a moral monster. How can you worship such an egotistical hater and murderer?”
Unless I’m mistaken, your assertion is a variant of this famous quote from well-known Neo-Atheist, Richard Dawkins in his bestselling book, “The God Delusion”:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
(Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, p.31; Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 

There’s a lot there to unpack there, so for the sake of brevity (after all, entire books have been written in response to this statement from Mr. Dawkins), I will limit myself to just one portion – the “vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser” claim.

One of the key principles for properly interpreting literature – any piece of literature, including the Bible – is that the text must be interpreted within its historical context.2 When one fails to do so one is engaging in the fallacy known at “Presentism” which is defined as follows:

In literary and historical analysis, presentism is the anachronistic introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Some modern historians seek to avoid presentism in their work because they consider it a form of cultural bias, and believe it creates a distorted understanding of their subject matter. The practice of presentism is regarded by some as a common fallacy in historical writing.
(Wikipedia, “Presentism (literary and historical analysis)”)

Yes, my atheist friends, I agree: To modern 21st Century ears and by today’s values, the language of the Biblical God can sound harsh, unreasonable, even immoral. However, Biblical Scholar Paul Copan explains, using the exaggerated war rhetoric in the Old Testament as a case study, by ancient standards, the biblical rhetoric was just par for the course:

Most Christians read Joshua’s conquest stories with the backdrop of Sunday school lessons via flannel graph or children’s illustrated Bible stories. The impression that’s left is a black-and-white rendition of a literal crush, kill, and destroy mission. A closer look at the biblical text reveals a lot more nuance—and a lot less bloodshed. In short, the conquest of Canaan was far less widespread and harsh than many people assume.

Like his ancient Near Eastern contemporaries, Joshua used the language of conventional warfare rhetoric. This language sounds like bragging and exaggeration to our ears. Notice first the sweeping language in Joshua 10:40: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded.” Joshua used the rhetorical bravado language of his day, asserting that all the land was captured, all the kings defeated, and all the Canaanites destroyed (cf. 10:40–42; 11:16–23: “Joshua took the whole land . . . and gave . . . it for an inheritance to Israel”). Yet…Joshua himself acknowledged [later in the narrative] that this wasn’t literally so.
(Paul Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God”, p.170. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

Mr. Copan then goes on to compare and contrast the war rhetoric of other countries from the same period to Joshua’s:

Ancient Near Eastern accounts readily used “utterly/completely destroy” and other obliteration language even when the event didn’t literally happen that way. Here’s a sampling:

• Egypt’s Tuthmosis III (later fifteenth century) boasted that “the numerous army of Mitanni was overthrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) not existent.” In fact, Mitanni’s forces lived on to fight in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BC.

• Hittite king Mursilli II (who ruled from 1322–1295 BC) recorded making “Mt. Asharpaya empty (of humanity)” and the “mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of humanity).”

• The “Bulletin” of Ramses II tells of Egypt’s less-than-spectacular victories in Syria (around 1274 BC). Nevertheless, he announces that he slew “the entire force” of the Hittites, indeed “all the chiefs of all the countries,” disregarding the “millions of foreigners,” which he considered “chaff.”

• In the Merneptah Stele (ca. 1230 BC), Rameses II’s son Merneptah announced, “Israel is wasted, his seed is not,” another premature declaration.

• Moab’s king Mesha (840/830 BC) bragged that the Northern Kingdom of “Israel has utterly perished for always,” which was over a century premature. The Assyrians devastated Israel in 722 BC.

• The Assyrian ruler Sennacherib (701–681 BC) used similar hyperbole: “The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with the sword; and not one escaped.”

You get the idea. Let’s now return to the Old Testament text to press this point further. It’s true that Joshua 9–12 utilizes the typical ancient Near Eastern literary devices for warfare. But at the book’s end, Joshua matter-of-factly assumes the continued existence of Canaanite peoples that could pose a threat to Israel. He warns Israel against idolatry and getting entangled in their ways: “For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you” (Josh. 23:12–13).
(Ibid, pp.171&172)

Finally, in his chapter summary from chapter 17, (“Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? The Killing of the Canaanites (III)”) Mr. Copan further explains that the historical reality doesn’t match the rhetoric any more than the rhetoric of other leaders of the region and era did:

• The language of the consecrated ban [against allowing any living thing to survive] (herem) includes stereotypical language: “all,” “young and old,” and “men and women.” The ban could be carried out even if women and children weren’t present.

• As far as we can see, biblical herem was carried out in particular military or combatant settings (with “cities” and military “kings”). It turns out that the sweeping language of the ban is directed at combatants.

• The ban language allows and hopes for exceptions (e.g., Rahab); it isn’t absolute.

• The destruction language of ancient Near Eastern warfare (and the Old Testament) is clearly exaggerated. Groups of Canaanite peoples who apparently were “totally destroyed” were still around when all was said and done (e.g., Judg. 1).

• The greater concern was to destroy Canaanite religion, not Canaanites per se, a point worthy of elaboration (see the next chapter).

• The preservation of Rahab and her family indicates that consecration to the ban wasn’t absolute and irreversible. God had given ample indications of his power and greatness, and the Canaanites could have submitted to the one true God who trumped Egypt’s and Canaan’s gods, sparing their own lives.

• The biblical text, according to some scholars, suggests that peace treaties could be made with Canaanite cities if they chose to, but none (except Gibeon) did so (Josh. 11:19). The offer of peace was implicitly made to Jericho.

• The biblical text contains many references to “driving out” the Canaanites. To clear away the land for habitation didn’t require killing; civilians fled when their military strongholds were destroyed and soldiers were no longer capable of protecting them.

• From the start, certain (more cooperative) Canaanites were subjected to forced labor, not annihilation (Judg. 1:27–36; 1 Kings 9:20–21; Josh. 15:63; 16:10; 17:12–13; cf. Ps. 106:34–35). This was another indication that the ban wasn’t absolute.

• Joshua carried out what Moses commanded (Deut. 7 and 20), which means that Moses’s language is also an example of ancient Near Eastern exaggeration. He did not intend a literal, all-encompassing extermination of the Canaanites.

• The archaeological evidence nicely supports the biblical text; both of these point to minimal observable material destruction in Canaan as well as Israel’s gradual infiltration, assimilation, and eventual dominance there.

We have many good reasons to rethink our paradigm regarding the destruction of the Canaanites. On closer analysis, the biblical text suggests that much more is going on beneath the surface than obliterating all the Canaanites. Taking the destruction of anything that breathes at face value needs much reexamination.
(Ibid, Kindle edition, p.184)

So, yes, my atheist friends, if you engage in fallacious presentism then you can make this poor argument. However, if you limit yourself to proper historical and hermeneutical scholarship, this argument unravels.

Sadly, Mr. Dawkin’s Neo-Atheist work doesn’t appear to be interested in an honest, nuanced approach to the issues that he raises. Rather, he seems to prefer bombastic, over-heated polemics, hyperbole, and misrepresenting both those he disagrees with and his sources. I would hope that you can be better than that – more thoughtful intellectually honest, to be specific. As the saying goes, there really are two sides to every story.

In the last article in this series, we will cover the top two things that we’re tired of hearing from Ex-Mormon Atheists.

Click above to watch Bible Scholar and Christian Apologist Paul Copan address the question, “Is God a Moral Monster” at Apologetics Canada Conference 2012.

NOTES
1 I wrote about the dynamic of Atheist fanaticism in my article, “Why I Steer Christians Away from Non-Christian, Ex-Mormon Bulletin Boards”.

2 For reference, here are the Eight Rules of Interpretation from the book “Who Said Women Can’t Teach?” by Charles Bromley.

The Eight Rules of Interpretation Used by Legal Experts for Over 2,500 Years
1) Rule of Definition.
Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.
2) Rule of Usage.
Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. What was the common usage in the cultural and time period when the passage was written?
3) Rule of Context.
Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.
4) Rule of Historical background.
Don’t separate interpretation and historical investigation.
5) Rule of Logic.
Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.
6) Rule of Precedent.
Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which there is no precedent.
7) Rule of Unity.
Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.
8) Rule of Inference.
Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.

Again, if you missed any part of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, and here for Part Two.

Again, if you missed any part of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Four.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A few years ago, the good folks at the Zelph on the Shelf did a fantastic article entitled, “15 Things Ex-Mormons are Tired of Hearing” which was a superb compilation of the bad arguments that Ex-Mormons typically hear from True Believing Mormons (aka “TBMs”). As the author noted in her introduction, these are things that not only don’t facilitate constructive debate, they distract from it.

I loved the article. So did my friends. We ate it up!

Now my friends, like me, are mainly mainstream Christians and most are Ex-Mormons as well. And they suggested that we put together a list of the top 15 things that Christians are tired of hearing from ex-Mormon atheists/agnostics. So I slapped together a crowdsourced poll, posted it on the Internet, and the results will be discussed and considered over this short series of articles.

By the way, if you missed Part One of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here.

10)“It’s religious fanatics like you that fly airplanes into skyscrapers!”
Yes, it is true that some religious fanatics do commit violence, there is no denying this. However, what this argument fails to account for is that so do some atheist fanatics. There are bad apples in every bunch. But does that make all the apples bad? Isn’t this, in reality, nothing more than a cherry-picked, broad-brush, guilty by association faulty that either side can use? As Christian Professor and Apologist Alistair McGrath and his wife Joanna noted well of famous Atheist, Richard Dawkins’ use of this argument in his book, “The God Delusion”:

Dawkins treats this as the defining characteristic of religion, airbrushing out of his somewhat skimpy account of violence any suggestion that it might be the result of political fanaticism – or even atheism. He is adamant that he himself, as a good atheist, would never, ever fly airplanes into sky-scrapers, or commit any other outrageous act of violence or oppression. Good for him. Neither would I. Yet there are those in both our constituencies who would. Dawkins and I may both disavow violence, and urge all within our groups to do so. But the harsh reality is that religious and anti-religious violence has occurred and will continue to do so.
(Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, “The Dawkins Delusion?, Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine”, pp.59-60

Later in the same book the McGraths expand this out further:

As someone who grew up in Northern Ireland, I know about religious violence only too well. There is no doubt that religion can generate violence. But it’s not alone in this. The history of the twentieth century has given us a frightening awareness of how political extremism can equally cause violence. In Latin America, millions of people seem to have ‘disappeared’ as a result of ruthless campaigns of violence by right-wing politicians and their militias. In Cambodia, Pol Pot eliminated his millions in the name of socialism.

The rise of the Soviet Union was of particular significance. Lenin regarded the elimination of religion as central to the socialist revolution, and put in place measures designed to eradicate religious beliefs through the ‘protracted use of violence’. One of the greatest tragedies of this dark era in human history was that those who sought to eliminate religious belief through violence and oppression believed they were justified in doing so. They were accountable to no higher authority than the state.

In one of his more bizarre creedal statements as an atheist, Dawkins insists that there is ‘not the smallest evidence’ that atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. It’s an astonishing, naïve and somewhat sad statement. Dawkins is clearly an ivory-tower atheist, disconnected from the real and brutal world of the twentieth century. The facts are otherwise. In their efforts to enforce their atheist idealogy, the Soviet authorities systematically destroyed and eliminated the majority of churches and priests during the period 1918–41. The statistics make for dreadful reading. This violence and repression was undertaken in pursuit of an atheist agenda – the elimination of religion.

This hardly fits in with another of Dawkins’ creedal statements: ‘ I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca – or Chartres, York Minster, or Notre Dame.’ Sadly, this noble sentiment is a statement about his personal credulity, not the reality of things. The history of the Soviet Union is replete with the burning and dynamiting of huge numbers of churches. His pleading that atheism is innocent of the violence and oppression that he associates with religion is simply untenable, and suggests a significant blind spot.
(Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, “The Dawkins Delusion?, Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine”, pp.78-79

And I think that what can be said of Dawkins’s use of this argument can be said of its use by atheists in general. As the saying goes, “There’s reality, and then there’s your reality. Apparently, never the twain shall meet!”

Click on the click above to watch Rod Liddle’s 2006 documentary in which he investigates and debates whether atheists can be considered as intolerant and fanatical as some established religious groups.

9) “If you consistently applied your standards you would be just as critical of Christianity as you are Mormonism.”
I absolutely agree – and thankfully I’m not alone. This is probably why you see so much loyal dissent, debate, and disagreement within Christianity. If you doubt me I would encourage you to pick up just about any issue of Christianity Today magazine and start reading. If there’s anything that Christians have demonstrated well over the millennia is what a bunch of cranky, cantankerous, contentious, navel-gazing, critical thinkers and self-critics they are. One need only consider William D. Hendricks’ book “Exit Interviews: Revealing Stories of Why People are Leaving the Church” or Ron Enroth’s book, “Churches That Abuse” to see this.

Candidly, whenever I hear this argument from Ex-Mormon Atheists I can’t help but wonder if they’re projecting Mormonism onto Christianity. After all, in Mormonism, critical thinking in regard to the religion isn’t just discouraged, it’s militantly suppressed. As the Ostler’s said so well in their classic work, “Mormon America”:

The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.
(Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise” (2007 Edition), p. 115)

So, I suspect, though I could be wrong, that whenever an Ex-Mormon Atheist sees a mainstream Christian playing the persecution card, as candidly some do, they assume that the entire religion is Mormonism all over again – and it ain’t.

8) “Live and let live – stop harassing my Mormon family and friends will ya? Stop trying to disabuse them of their chosen lifestyle! Move on with your life, get over it!”
Fair enough.
You first!

Of all the Double Standards that we’ll see in this series this one, to me, is the most glaring. I’ve always found it fascinating that Atheist Ex-Mormons get their knickers in a twist over others – especially Evangelicals – attempting to disabuse their Mormon family and friends of their faith, but think nothing of attempting to do the same themselves.

So, Kettle, meet Pot.

Further, I’m grateful for the Atheists who understand why Christians are only being consistent with their worldview and values when they evangelize. Take, for example, the famous magician and outspoken Atheist, Penn Jilette (of Penn & Teller) who probably said it best when he said:

I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.
(Penn Jilette, YouTube video, Nov 13, 2009)

My Ex-Mormon Atheist friends, we don’t begrudge you all for behaving in ways consistent with your worldview. Heck, we don’t even begrudge you all attempting to proselytize and persuade us of the superiority of the atheist worldview and/or disabuse us of what you see as our false beliefs, values, and misguided point of view. And we don’t criticize and condemn you for doing so with our Mormon family members and friends. So why do you begrudge, criticize, and condemn us for behaving in ways consistent with ours?

7) “Moses was a cult leader, Jesus was a cult leader, Mohammed was a cult leader, and Joseph Smith was a cult leader – so what’s the difference? A cult is a cult.”
If you’re using the dictionary definition of, “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)” (the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary definition of “cult”)? Sure, I agree. However, if we use that definition shouldn’t we add names like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Bill Maher to the list too? After all, we see the same kind of dogmatic devotion to them in some Atheist circles that we see from Muslims, Christians, and Mormons in theirs, don’t we?

And if you’re using the sociological definition as determined by something like, say, the BITE Model, then yes, some Christian groups are indeed cults, but not all. For example, one can think of Westboro Baptist Church which clearly qualifies as such according to that criteria.

However, if you’re using the theological definition of, “Christian cults are new religious movements which have a Christian background but are considered to be theologically deviant by members of other Christian churches”? (see the Wikipedia article on the word “Cult“) No, I don’t agree. Unlike Mormonism, mainstream Christianity has boundaries, and if a group or a leader falls outside of those boundaries, as far as we’re concerned they’re a cult. Period. For example, we consider Shawn McCraney and his McCraneyism movement to be just as much a cult as the Mormon Church is according to this criterion.

So tell us, Mr. Ex-Mormon Atheist, exactly why are standard boundary definition and maintenance problems here? After all, if someone claims to believe in a deity then they’re no longer an Atheist, are they? And if someone denounces Joseph Smith as a true prophet, then they’re no longer Mormon, are they? Why are others allowed to maintain boundaries around their group or culture, but mainstream Christians aren’t? I find this puzzling.

Click the link above to see Whiteboard Animation explaining the BITE Model.

6) “No one listens to Mormon Critics! When I was a Mormon I hated and ignored people like you!”
And yet here you are! Are you seriously going to tell me that the work of Mormon Critics had no influence on your decision to leave? Would you prefer that the Tanners hadn’t have put pressure so much pressure on the LdS Church that it had no choice but to acknowledge and release previously suppressed manuscripts like the 1832 handwritten Joseph Smith, First Vision account? Would you prefer that Wesley Walters (a Presbyterian minister) hadn’t tracked down and published the Joseph Smith 1826 Bainbridge, New York Trial Record? Or that he hadn’t encouraged well known Mormon Historians like Michael Marquardt, Dan Vogel, Will Bagley, and others and helped get them established in the discipline? Or perhaps you would prefer that Christian Mormon Critics hadn’t pressured the LdS Church to give up polygamy in the 19th Century, or racial discrimination in the 20th?

Would you prefer that the Joseph Smith Papers Project – which was to a large part a reaction to the common refrain that the LdS Church wasn’t open and transparent with its archives – didn’t exist? Or perhaps the Mormon Think website, which would be impossible without the body of evidence from Mormon Critics that makes it possible? And can you honestly say that if you hadn’t been confronted by all this evidence and the arguments that flow out of it from the Mormon Critics that you used to hate you wouldn’t be free of Mormonism now?  Apparently, you didn’t do as good a job of ignoring as you seem to think you did, did you? And can you honestly say that you aren’t glad that Christian Mormon Critics like me persisted despite your “in yer face” hatred and attempts to ignore us back in the day?

So Mr. Atheist . . . you’re welcome. It was our pleasure. Really! We’re just glad to see that you’re out, aren’t you?

In the next installment of this series, we will cover the next set of things that Christians are tired of hearing from Ex-Mormon Atheists.

Click on the above link to see Mormon Apologist Mike Ash’s 2002 FAIRMormon presentation on how and why the body of work from Mormon Critics has improved the quality of Mormon Scholarship over the years.

Again, if you missed any part of this series and would like to read it in order, from the beginning, click here for Part One, here for Part Three, and here for Part Four.