Archive for the ‘Michael Flournoy’ Category

Justice Isn’t a Myth. But Neither is Grace and Mercy

by Michael Flournoy
Introduction
Mormonism is fueled by faith-promoting stories. No one said this better than Mormon Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, “We have in the Church an untapped, almost unknown, treasury of inspiring and faith-promoting stories. They are the best of their kind and there are thousands of them.” (“The How and Why of Faith-promoting Stories”, New Era magazine, July 1978). Unfortunately, some of them, as another Mormon Apostle said well, only provide “…a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories?” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God”, Spring General Conference 1998). This series exposes the following ten “Twinkies”…

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

  1. Biblical Christianity apostatized.
  2. The Bible has been corrupted.
  3. Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.
  4. Biblical Christians believe Christ prayed to Himself.
  5. The Biblical Christian God is a monster who sends good people to hell just because they never had a chance to hear the gospel.
  6. Biblical Christians worship the cross and the Bible.
  7. Biblical Christians have no priesthood.
  8. Biblical Christian Pastors and Apologists practice Priestcraft – they’re only in it for the money.
  9. Biblical Christians hate Mormons.
  10. Biblical Christianity is divided into 10,000+ sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.

… and replaces them with nourishing truth. Let’s talk about the one that’s bolded, shall we?

The Myth
“Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.”

Justice Isn’t a Myth…
I’ve been in countless conversations with Latter-day Saints where I’ve stated my position on the gift of grace, and they’ve accused me of believing that grace is a license to sin. It bothered me that Mormons viewed grace with such little regard when it was so precious to me. Then I thought more about it and realized that logically, their argument held up.

Objectively, the Evangelical position seems preposterous. How can we claim that God is holy, but teach that He forgives sin without requiring anything in return? And what leads us to believe that sinners would turn from their wicked ways without fear of punishment as a motivation?

Imagine that a hardened criminal was taken to court. All the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty, but the judge decided to forgive him. Not only that, but the courts would turn a blind eye to any evil he did in the future. The judge’s pronouncement of innocence would be legal fiction. It’s unlikely that the man would change his ways just because he was forgiven. If anything, he would become more brazen in his crimes since there would be no fear of consequences. So wouldn’t a sinner behave the same way if God forgave his trespasses, past, and future, just like that? If we are honest, the only answer that makes sense is yes!

However, this really only tells part of the story. Yes, we are forgiven and justified freely by God through no effort on our own, even in the midst of sin and while fully deserving of condemnation.

But there’s so much more. Not only are we forgiven and given a clean slate, but we are also accredited with the actual righteousness of Christ! In other words, God sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness and nothing more. Therefore we are deemed worthy, not on our merit, but because of our faith in Christ. This immediately makes us worthy of any reward Jesus earned through His merits. Latter-day Saints often mock the idea of imputed righteousness, saying it makes God a liar because He is proclaiming someone righteous who really isn’t. This changes my earlier analogy from a criminal who is given a clean slate, to that same criminal being given the key to the city.

Doesn’t this idea render God unjust and His disciples hypocrites? The short answer is no.

…But Neither is Grace and Mercy
Please allow me to posit that forensic righteousness is taught in scripture, lest my Mormon readers are given an out to say it’s a nice concept that isn’t true.

Let’s start in Romans 4. In this chapter, Paul asks a significant question: when was Abraham justified, before or after he was circumcised? He answers that he was justified before circumcision. Circumcision itself is not the emphasis of this chapter, but rather an example Paul uses to convey a wider question. Does obedience justify us before a holy God? The answer is no. Abraham was justified before he did anything to obey God. In verse 5 (ESV) Paul drills in this point:

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
(Romans 4:5 ESV)

Mormons believe that faith is essentially an action verb that includes works, but Paul makes three points in this verse that refute that notion. First, he deconstructs faith down to its basic elements. Belief and an absence of work are described as the genetic makeup of faith. Second, faith is described as being the catalyst for one to become righteous. And third, he makes the shocking statement that God justifies the ungodly.

Paul doesn’t only equate an absence of works to faith, he also attributes it to grace.  Later in Romans, he states:

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
(Romans 11:6 ESV)

Just as oxygen loses its integrity and becomes something else with the addition of hydrogen, when works are added to faith and grace they too become something different.

Latter-day Saints are quick to argue from James 2 that people are justified by their works. But consider this, if people were justified for doing noble things, would they still be wicked? Certainly not! Such a position does nothing but cast suspicion on Paul, who says that God saves the ungodly.

If we make the necessary assumption that Paul and James agree on the gospel, we must conclude that the people James references did good deeds because they were already righteous. Take this passage in James for example:

And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
(James 2:23 ESV)

This scripture again points to belief as the catalyst for making someone righteous. In fact, the passage referenced here is Genesis 15:6, which occurred several years before the sacrifice of Isaac. This confirms that Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac to gain favor with God, but because he was already righteous. This righteousness acts like insurance, protecting us when we sin and still keeps us in God’s favor despite our shortcomings and failures. To illustrate this point, Paul quotes King David:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
(Romans 4:7-8 ESV).

David is perhaps the greatest evidence of God’s mercy having nothing to do with our performance. Not only did he commit adultery, but he put the woman’s husband on the front lines of the battle to die. When the prophet Nathan confronted him, David confessed his sin and Nathan replied:

“The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
(2 Samuel 12:13 ESV)

I’ve had Latter-day Saints argue that Nathan was merely pardoning David from physical death. This flies in the face of the statement that God put away his sin. If God excused physical punishment but kept David’s sin in his back pocket for Judgment Day, that isn’t really putting the sin away, is it? Likewise, David would be misguided for praising God for forgiving lawless deeds, covering sin, and for not counting his sins against him.

Mormons would protest this line of thinking. After all, isn’t it more reasonable that a just God always metes out righteous judgment? How can He forgive heinous sins like David’s without some kind of recompense?

This was the same assumption the Prodigal Son had in Luke 15 when he returned to his father asking to be hired on as a servant. He believed that because he sinned against his father, he was no longer worthy to be called his son. However, the father puts his ring and his robes on the Prodigal and announces a feast in honor of his return. He is brought back into the family without having to pay back a single coin of his father’s inheritance.

But despite this extreme show of mercy, there is an element of truth in the Prodigal Son’s assumption. For justice to be satisfied, someone has to pay. If God merely looked the other way, He would not be good. This is where Jesus comes in as Paul explains:

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
(Romans 3:23-26 ESV)

 There is a lot to unpack in this passage, but basically, the full wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. He willingly took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to. This does two things. First, it makes God just because He punishes every sin. And second, it allows us to be justified freely.

But what does it mean to be justified freely? Simply put, it means we don’t have to do anything to escape God’s wrath, because there is no more wrath. His righteous anger for our sins has already been depleted on Christ. This is why Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. The above passage in Romans 3 spells out clearly what enables us to benefit from the atonement. Verse 25 says this propitiation is received by faith. There is no mention of commandments or temple ordinances being required for salvation.

Through faith alone, we become the beneficiaries of God’s favor at Christ’s expense. And what a heavy cost it was. He was whipped, tortured, mocked, and killed. That doesn’t even account for taking our sins. There is nothing remotely cheap about this. In fact, I would argue that what cheapens the atonement is saying our actions make it function. If this is true then Jesus isn’t enough.

Why It Matters
Jesus paid a heavy price for salvation, but what’s to keep us from wasting that gift and living unrepentant lives, especially if we’re as ungodly as Paul says? Here’s the game-changer. When we come to saving faith, we are filled with the Holy Ghost. This initiates rebirth into a new life where we are convicted of sin and given righteous desires. The groundwork for this rebirth is laid out by another Apostle, John:

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
(John 1:11-13 ESV)

 Spiritual rebirth and adoption into the family of God occur simultaneously when we receive Jesus, thus the gift of the Holy Ghost is received by “[belief] in his name.”

Paul goes into specifics on when this spiritual rebirth takes effect:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
(Romans 8:14-17 ESV) 

Paul indicates that we become sons of God when we are led by the Spirit. This presents a dilemma for Latter-day Saints because even they must admit that the Spirit leads people prior to them entering the baptismal font. If we become children of God and joint-heirs with Christ before baptism, then there are no eternal rewards to be gained through priesthood ordinances. In fact, there is no exclusive benefit to being LDS at all.

Some Mormons will say that temple ordinances are for our sanctification and not associated with salvation. While this doesn’t seem to be the orthodox LDS position, it’s worth noting that even this statement is demonstrably false. Consider, again, the words of Paul:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
(Romans 8:26-30 ESV)

Nowhere in this passage do we see ordinances helping us in our weakness, interceding between us and God, conforming us to the image of the Son, justifying, or glorifying us. However, the Spirit is associated with these things. Romans 8:10 (ESV) tells us, “although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

It is certain that a hardened sinner would naturally want to continue sinning if offered unconditional forgiveness. However, the Spirit works supernaturally in the hearts of saved sinners to conform them to the image of Christ. Because of this, Christians are spiritually reborn to desire the things of God, and thus justice is both satisfied and fulfilled in the best way possible: A corrupt criminal’s heart of stone becomes a fresh and renewed heart of flesh.

Summary and Conclusion
God’s word cannot be dismissed, so we can decisively come to two conclusions. First, the claim that Christians believe in cheap grace is a myth. And second, the LDS gospel of obedience to covenants in order to become joint heirs with Christ is equally fallacious.

If you are a Latter-day Saint reading this, you are without excuse. The Biblical gospel has been laid out, and if you reject it you also deny Christ. I implore you to repent of the pride that entices you to establish your own righteousness and surrender yourself to His.

You can accept Jesus at this very moment by trusting fully in Him and putting aside your attempts at worthiness. He will love and accept you as you are, warts and all.

So given all that, let’s return to the analogy that I started with: Again imagine that a hardened criminal is taken to court. All the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty and the legally mandated penalty is the death sentence – justice must be served. But before he can be led to death row, the guilty party breaks down sobbing, “I did it all and deserve nothing but death and damnation! I am indeed guilty as sin!”

The judge asks the sobbing man, “If someone were to take your place and take your punishment would that change your wicked heart and evil thoughts? Will you turn from your old ways and truly live rightly?”

“Yes! And I would be eternally grateful to the end of my days, your honor! But who would have such love? It’s impossible, not to mention ridiculous!”

“Is it?” the judge responds “What if I did? I only ask two things: 1) Let this love control you for the rest of your life through that gratitude 1, and; 2) Remember the slavery that your past sin has led you to – you’ll be free to live again, but you mustn’t return to it or you will be enslaved by it just as you were before2 This is my gift to you, will you believe and receive my unmerited favor and mercy?”3

“Yes! Yes! Absolutely, yes!” exclaims the man.

“Then so be it.” And with that, the judge takes off his robe and puts it on the man. “You are pardoned and are free to go, and as long as you are clothed in me, this pardon stands and you have the power to resist your old life. Bailiff, please remove his handcuffs, put them on me, and lead me to the electric chair. I will see that justice is served. Friend, go and sin no more.”4

And just like Barabbas of old, the pardoned scapegoat goes free while the Lamb of God marches to His death. That, my friends, is the love of God toward us. He has already stood in your place for punishment and completed all of the necessary work vicariously on your behalf. The only question is this:  Will you accept God’s free gift or not?

And if you do, why on earth would you want to continue in sin? Why would any truly saved person do that? Lord, knows that we don’t, so why, my Mormon friends do you accuse us of being what we aren’t?

“And with that, the judge takes off his robe and puts it on the man. ‘You are pardoned and are free to go, and as long as you are clothed in me, this pardon stands and you have the power to resist your old life.'”

END NOTES
1 2 Corinthians 5:13-14a (KJV) ” For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us”

2 Romans 6:1-3 (KJV) “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

3 Romans 6:23 (KJV) “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

4 If you are objecting to this analogy and saying, “Obviously no human judge would be holy enough to behave this way! This is ridiculous, it makes no sense!” you’re absolutely right. But that’s what’s so amazing about God. He is that holy, that merciful, and that praiseworthy. It is what Paul referred to as “the foolishness of God” that He would love us this much – it just makes no sense! But the fact of the matter is this: He does.

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
(1 Corinthians 1:17-25 KJV)

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
(1 Corinthians 2:13-15 KJV)

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

by Michael Flournoy
Latter-day Saints often complain that Evangelicals misrepresent their beliefs, and they aren’t wrong. Mormon doctrine is flexible and nuanced, and it consists of moving parts that shift over time.

What keeps Christians from fully grasping Mormonism, is it exists in a different paradigm than what we’re used to. The problem is exacerbated by the tendency of Mormons to use words associated with our paradigm to describe their beliefs. However, it should come as no surprise that this rampant misunderstanding is a double-edged sword that plagues both our communities. When Mormons try to disprove Christian ideals, they come across like archers intoxicated with wine, missing their marks by a long shot.

This can leave Christians flabbergasted, wondering if Mormons even know what they’re aiming at. My diagnosis is that Mormons don’t understand Christian doctrine, and it’s more problematic for them than misunderstanding Mormonism is for us. Why? Because their whole belief system hinges on us being wrong.

Mormonism boasts that it is a restoration of true Christianity. It teaches that the church Jesus established fell into apostasy after the apostles died because there was no more priesthood or revelation. Allegedly, when Christ appeared to Joseph Smith he told him not to join any of the Christian sects because they were all wrong, their creeds were an abomination, and their professors were corrupt. He went on to say, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:19)

Such an occurrence depicts Christians the world over as lost in a doctrinal maze of misunderstanding and lacking any semblance of faith. One must ask: if Mormons are so eager to hedge their bets on a restoration, why haven’t they researched Christianity to see if it’s truly as corrupt as they’re told? This behavior is akin to betting your life savings on a racehorse without seeing its stats. Only this carries more risk because Mormons are gambling away their souls.

I spent ten years as a Mormon apologist, and six years after that debating Mormons after I converted to Christianity. In that time I have identified 10 pervasive myths that Latter-day Saints believe about Christianity. They are as follows:

    1. Biblical Christianity apostatized.
    2. The Bible has been corrupted.
    3. Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.
    4. Biblical Christians believe Christ prayed to Himself.
    5. The Biblical Christian God is a monster who sends good people to hell just because they never had a chance to hear the gospel.
    6. Biblical Christians worship the cross and the Bible.
    7. Biblical Christians have no priesthood.
    8. Biblical Christian Pastors and Apologists practice Priestcraft – they’re only in it for the money.
    9. Biblical Christians hate Mormons.
    10. Biblical Christianity is divided into over 10,000 sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.

These myths are so vital to Mormonism, that disproving even a few of them would be detrimental to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

If Biblical Christianity didn’t apostatize, then there was no need for a restoration. Joseph’s prophetic mission becomes suspect and his First Vision account loses credibility. Every unique LDS doctrine collapses.

The overarching point of these myths is to prove that Christianity fell away. But by addressing these points, we can prove that the gates of hell did not prevail against Christ’s church, and therefore Mormonism is false.

In this series, Christians from a diversity of denominations and theological camps will join together for the purpose of refuting these myths, one article at a time. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, I encourage you to read them with an open mind. Ask yourself this question: “If I’ve misunderstood these ten points, how would that affect my faith?” Here is my response, in the form of a series of propositions, to that question as a former Latter-day Saint:

  • If the Bible has been preserved and is sufficient, it does not need other scripture or living prophets to interpret, remediate, or expound upon it.
  • If Christians are saved by grace and changed by grace, it takes away whatever moral high ground Mormons think they have. At best, it leaves them equal with other Christians, at worst, Mormons are found lacking in their understanding of grace. And if Mormons miss the mark on grace, then they don’t understand the gospel.
  • If the Christian understanding of the Trinity is true, it disproves many LDS concepts: namely, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and that the Father and the Son possess bodies of flesh and bone identical to those of human beings. One God who has always been the sole God of the universe also hurts their concept of eternal marriage, divine lineage, and the ability to become gods.
  • If God is justified in condemning sinners, whether they have heard the gospel or not, and despite them being good by human standards, it disproves the three degrees of glory. It means God did not have to set up missionary work in the afterlife to make things fair. And it leaves any Mormons insisting that they “could never worship a God like that” without any excuse besides hating God.
  • If our work was done vicariously on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness is accredited to our accounts, it means there is nothing we must do but accept it. The LDS ordinances are rendered worthless. Even the idea of exaltation fails because there is no righteousness we can obtain that exceeds Christ’s.
  • If Biblical Christians have the priesthood, they have the right to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances, rendering the LDS church, and its prophets and apostles with their priesthood keys unnecessary.
  • If pastors aren’t in it for the money, but because the Spirit calls them into ministry, it hurts the LDS narrative that only their leaders are inspired by God.
  • If Christians they deem as “anti-Mormon” are actually reaching out in love, it leaves Latter-day Saints without excuses to ignore their preaching.
  • Finally, if the Protestant sects are unified in their primary doctrines, it dismantles the view that the church fell away because of conflicting ideas, that every sect interprets the Bible differently, and that their disunity is proof of apostasy.

Of course, any Mormon examining this list will think there is no valid Christian defense. They will, no doubt be thinking things like,

    • How could there be no apostasy when the Bible explicitly prophecies it?
    • How could the Bible be preserved when there are so many variations and missing books?
    • How can Christians believe grace is given regardless of obedience and not abuse it?
    • What could possess a loving God to throw His own children into a lake of fire and brimstone?
    • How can Protestants even claim priesthood when they broke away from a church they admit is apostate?
    • How can Christians claim to love Mormons when they’re so rude to them?
    • If Christianity is unified, then why are there so many denominations?

If you’re a Latter-day Saint, all I ask is that you give us a chance to defend our position. No pressure, but it’s really a matter of agency isn’t it? You can choose to read these articles or not. However, if you choose not to, you cannot truly choose between your religion and ours because knowledge is the lifeblood of agency, isn’t it?

It also falls in line with the Golden Rule. If we said your beliefs were an abomination, wouldn’t you want the chance to defend them? And wouldn’t you want us to approach your arguments with an open mind, with the humility to lay down our pride and admit we could be wrong?

Truth is always worth the risk. If Protestants really are apostates, we won’t be able to defend our beliefs logically or satisfactorily. Therefore, you have nothing to fear if you are right. The only reason not to read is for fear of being wrong. If there is hesitancy, there is the question I must ask you: If Mormonism were false, would you want to know about it? Will you step out of your comfort zone and seek knowledge, regardless of the outcome? Do you accept this challenge?

The articles that follow this brief introduction will give you ample opportunity to do exactly that. And on that note I will simply leave you with the well-known words of the late, great Latter-day Saint First President (in the David O. McKay administration), J. Reuben Clark to ponderize on…

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
(J. Reuben Clark, “The Church Years”, p 24. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, edited by D. Michael Quinn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 1 of 6

Figure 2 of 6

Figure 3 of 6

Figure 4 of 6

Figure 5 of 6

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

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

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

Figure 7

Figure 8

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Explanation of Sanctification for Latter-day Saints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Security” by David Bowman

An Ex-Mormon Apologist Faces His Most Formidable Foe: His Past Self

by Michael Flournoy
As a Latter-day Saint I believed Christ’s church fell into apostasy after the deaths of the apostles because there was no one left to hold priesthood keys or receive revelation for the organization. Without their leadership, damnable heresies entered the Church and corrupted it completely.

In my book, I approached this topic by examining the prophecy at the end of the Old Testament. I wrote:

“In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the Mount of Transfiguration. At its top they see Moses and Elijah and hear God’s voice, proclaiming Jesus is His Son. On the way down the disciples ask the Master a question, ‘Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?’ Elias is the Greek form of the name Elijah. This question is in reference to the final prophecy of the Old Testament which states:

Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 KJV)

The Jews were under the mistaken impression that the Messiah would only come once and promptly deliver them from Rome. They were looking for Christ to come, but they also seemed to be looking for Elijah to come first. This is evident in the first chapter of John. When John the Baptist confesses he is not Christ, he is immediately asked, ‘What then, art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?’ (John 1:21)

In fact, Jews to this day believe Elijah will arrive as a sign of the Messiah’s coming. From a Christian perspective, and with the knowledge we gain in the New Testament, we understand there will be a second coming of the Messiah, which is often referred to as the great and dreadful day of the Lord in scripture. So the prophecy at the end of the Old Testament could safely be translated: Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the [second coming] of the Lord.

Let’s look at the Savior’s answer to his disciples’ inquiry. In Matthew 17:11 he says, ‘Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.’ By speaking in the future tense, Christ clarifies that the prophecy had yet to be fulfilled. He also explains that not only would Elijah come, he would restore all things. At the time Jesus said this, he was on earth, his apostles were called, and the gospel was being preached; so for all things to be restored, all things had to first be lost.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.60)

Obviously, there’s a lot here to unpack, but the basic points I made were that John the Baptist wasn’t Elijah and that the prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled until much later, presumably during the last days.

My first point that the great and dreadful day is a nod to the second coming, is a non-starter. I hoped to persuade my audience that Elijah didn’t show up until the restoration, but you know what else happened before the great and dreadful day of the Lord? Israel became a nation and was conquered. Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, and Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. Technically, everything in the history of our planet has happened before the second coming. So to that, I say, strike one.

I tried to say that Jesus referred to the prophecy in the future tense, proving that it hadn’t happened. However, let’s bear in mind that he was referencing the prophecy, and not explaining it. I might say, for example, “In Genesis, God says that if Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit, they will surely die.” Although I am speaking in future tense, that does not mean the fall hasn’t happened. In fact, Christ’s next sentence, which my LDS self failed to mention, switches immediately to past tense, “Elijah has come already.” This is exactly the kind of pivot someone would make when explaining God’s decree in the Garden of Eden. That’s strike two.

Now let’s look at the rest of Christ’s response:

“He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”
(Matthew 17:11-13 ESV)

The text of scripture specifically says the prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. This coincides with Luke 1:17 (ESV) where the angel tells Zacharias that John will “go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Not only do we have an angel attributing the same wording to John the Baptist that we find in the Elijah prophecy, we also have Christ reverting to past tense and New Testament scripture indicating that he was speaking of John. So to my intrepid LDS self, I say, strike three.

The Darvaza gas crater also known as “The Gates of Hell”, is a natural gas field that collapsed into a cavern in Darvaza, Turkmenistan. (source: Wikipedia)

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail
For Latter-day Saints to say the church fell into apostasy, they must do so by crawling over or under or around Matthew 16:18 to make that claim. In my Mormon days, I employed various gymnastic feats to weave around this difficult verse. For context, here is the entire passage:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19 ESV)

Latter-day Saints hyper-focus on the rock the church was built on, believing this to be a conditional promise. The gates of hell would not prevail against the church if it remained on the rock. Instead of narrowing the rock down to one thing, Latter-day Saints take bits and parts of all the elements in this passage and build the rock from that.

For instance, flesh and blood not revealing the truth to Peter, but his Father in heaven, must mean that revelation is the rock of the church. The keys to the kingdom of heaven represent priesthood authority. And finally, Peter himself is the rock in the sense that prophets and apostles will always be needed to run things.

Let’s start with prophets and apostles, and why they aren’t the rock Jesus spoke of. In my book I made a case for prophets and apostles by saying:

“Whenever there was a dispute in the Church, the problem was brought to the apostles, and their answers became doctrine. For example, Acts chapter 15 tells us some new Christians began to say circumcision was still essential for salvation, but the matter was brought to the apostles who deemed it unnecessary. The apostles were also largely responsible for writing the New Testament; so clearly they were privileged to know God’s will for the Church and had the authority to implement it.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p. 63)

Here I was trying to kill two birds with one stone, saying that revelation and apostles went hand in hand. However, it wasn’t as simple as that. In Acts 15, after the debate began, Barnabas and Paul were sent to inquire of the apostles at Jerusalem. But wait, wasn’t Paul an apostle by then? Why didn’t he evoke revelation right then? Once the matter is brought to the rest of the apostles, they don’t resort to revelation either. Instead, the text says they argue about it.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

“Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.”
(Romans 4:9-10 ESV)

What’s interesting about this, is revelation wasn’t necessary to end the debate. Instead of appealing to revelation from God, Paul appealed to the scriptures. In this way, he fulfilled the same role that pastors do in Christian churches today.

But what about his new scripture, doesn’t that prove his importance as an apostle? Without a doubt, God used Paul to write amazing scripture. But if that is the sign of an apostle today, then the LDS leadership has failed miserably for decades now. Not only that, but some of the writers of the New Testament aren’t even apostles. Where is Luke’s call to be an apostle? What about Mark and Jude? The fact is, if these men were not ordained apostles or prophets and yet were able to write scripture, then the whole argument for the leadership of the LDS church falls on its face.

To reinforce the necessity of revelation I wrote,

“Revelation is also a very practical way to lead the Church; Acts chapter 10 is a great example of how the early church functioned. A man named Cornelius, a gentile, was visited by an angel and told to seek out Peter, and informed that Peter would tell him what to do. So Cornelius sent three men to Joppa where Peter was staying. Before Peter could be confronted with the situation, and forced to make a decision based on finite reasoning, he was shown a vision in which a great sheet fell before him, which was inhabited by animals deemed unclean and inedible by the Law of Moses.

A voice spoke to him saying, ‘Rise Peter, kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him again, ‘What the Lord hath cleansed, that call not thou uncommon.’ This vision was given to Peter so he might know not to call any man common or unclean because it was time for the gospel to go to the gentiles. Since Christ personally instructed the apostles to go only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6), without indicating an expiration date for the command, it’s impossible to think Peter could have come to this conclusion without revelation.

It’s also quite telling that the Gentile emergence into Christianity happened through Peter. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius to start his own Christian denomination? It’s because apostles were a major part of the Church’s foundation!”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.64)

Let’s start with the easy stuff first. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius to start his own denomination? It makes total sense for Cornelius and the other Gentiles to go to Peter, whether he was an apostle or not. He had more experience being a Christian leader than they did. Not to mention, he knew Jesus personally and was well acquainted with the story and doctrine. Even as an Evangelical, I think it would have been foolish for them to set out on their own.

Now onto the tricky part. Was it really impossible for Peter to know to go to the Gentiles? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the words of the Apostle Paul:

‘For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”

And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”

And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’
(Romans 15:8-13 ESV)

The vision Peter received may have helped him know God’s will faster, but since the Old Testament said the Gentiles would place their hope in God, it’s a certainty that Peter and the apostles would have realized it even without revelation. In fact, all the revelations given by the apostles had a basis in scripture. This is in sharp contrast to the LDS church where practitioners are admonished to pray for a spiritual witness that their prophets are called of God. According to the New Testament, the Bereans tested what Paul said by scripture to see if his words were true, and because of this they were “more noble than those at Thessalonica.” (Acts 17:11 KJV)

I went on to argue that there was a concerted effort to keep the sanctity of the twelve apostles because when Judas took his life, they chose Matthias as a new apostle. Then, when James was martyred, Paul became an apostle.

First off, this is just two instances, and that’s a far cry from proving anything. Secondly, the LDS Church doesn’t even have twelve apostles. They have 15 prophets, seers, and revelators. If the number 12 is so important, why isn’t Mormonism sticking to it? Might I also hammer in the fact that they chose to ordain a new apostle under the direction of scripture and not revelation? If revelation is the foundation of Mormonism, it’s pretty odd to see the apostles sweeping it under the rug all the time.

I also tried to posit, as all Latter-day Saints do, that modern prophets fit the pattern God established throughout the Old Testament. But things aren’t really that black and white. For example, there were a number of women prophets in the Old Testament including Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Noadiah, who God used to speak to His people.

LDS doctrine does not allow women to be prophets or to receive God’s word, and that presents a shift from the Old Testament pattern. Furthermore, at one point the apostles tell Jesus they saw a man casting out demons in His name, and told him to stop because he wasn’t one of them.

Jesus responds, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40 ESV) 

If this man had the authority to cast out demons, despite not being under the apostles’ leadership, what was to stop him from passing out saving ordinances? And if a random man could do all that, what need did there remain for prophets and apostles at all if we presume that LDS hierarchy claims are biblical and true?

“The whole idea that God’s church could fail, is derived from a small, insignificant deity.” (Flournoy’s Fatal Flaw)

Flournoy’s Fatal Flaw
I admitted in my book that Jesus was part of the foundation of the church, constituting the chief cornerstone. When the apostles died, the priesthood keys, revelation, and apostles were lost. Only Jesus remained, but that wasn’t enough to fend off the apostasy of the ancient church.

These days, I take umbrage at the idea that Jesus constitutes ¼ of our foundation. The whole idea that God’s church could fail, is derived from a small, insignificant deity. I wonder if Latter-day Saints would be so quick to call it an apostasy if their precious priesthood had remained. Or revelation through a prophet? Yet somehow, Jesus simply isn’t enough.

Well here’s a newsflash for my LDS readers: If the apostles’ deaths resulted in the Great Apostasy, then Christ stood by and watched as His bride was murdered. He abandoned the wheat to the tares and ignored the wolves that ravaged His flock. He ceased to be the bridegroom and was anything but a good shepherd.

As a Biblical Christian, I proclaim that the opposite is true. The church didn’t collapse because it fell off the rock. The church persevered because the rock it was built upon was Christ, the Son of the Living God. He explains to Peter that “flesh and blood have not revealed this to you…” In other words, Christ’s identity is still the subject at hand and continued to be in the following statement, “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

If Jesus makes up the cornerstone, and everything else falls away, then that still leaves a foundation, and that means the apostasy could not have occurred. And since there was no apostasy, there could have been no restoration. And if there was no need for a restoration then as Joseph Smith, himself said so well, there is no need for the LDS Church:

“Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”
(Joseph Smith, “Comprehensive History of the Church” 1:42)

 

An Ex-Mormon Apologist Faces His Most Formidable Foe: His Past Self

by Michael Flournoy
I confess that I looked away when the Mormon looked at me with a pained look and asked, “Are you saying we’re not Christian?” It’s the most awkward part of discussing theology with Latter-day Saints. As Evangelicals, we’re left speechless. We can’t simply say no because of their reaction. To them, they are so obviously Christian, that any assertion to the contrary is simply absurd – laughable in fact. Ridiculous! Absurd! Stupid beyond words!

To them, it’s just the excuse they need to write us off forever. Clearly, we’re just hateful antis who are more interested in fighting against God than having a fair discussion. I have had many conversations end here, with Latter-day Saints walking away shaking their heads, and I’m not alone, I’m sure.

I have come to realize that our response to that question should be, “That’s an interesting question. Why do you think you’re Christian?” This encourages dialogue instead of stifling it. It opens a door rather than slamming it shut with the sound of deadbolts being pulled. We can then go point by point, and give each argument the attention it deserves rather than simply being shut down and out. To illustrate, let’s consider my old Mormon Apologist arguments through fresh eyes, and explain why the typical Evangelical response left me unconvinced back in the day.

Case in point, in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, Michael the Mormon Apologist attempted to persuade Evangelicals that Mormons were Christian too. I spent half a chapter trying to scare them out of preaching to Latter-day Saints. After all, I argued, Mormons could be Christian. I pointed to the apostle Paul, who persecuted Christians but later said he was the least of the apostles because of it. Clearly, the only thing to be gained by messing with Mormons was a future of shame and regret.

To that, today’s Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist calls, “Baloney!” He says, “You’re telling me that I’m supposed to avoid preaching to someone because they might be saved and that would be embarrassing? How exactly? I would be tickled to find a Mormon I preached to in God’s Kingdom, and I think they’d feel the same about me. No one says ‘I told you so’ in heaven, do they, Mr. Mormon?”

Here’s the reality. The possibility that I didn’t preach to an unsaved sinner because he seemed Christian is the graver error. The end result of that isn’t a little awkwardness. It’s a soul damned for eternity. Christians should be too afraid not to preach the gospel.

I also find it fascinating that my old Mormon Apologist equated preaching with persecution. Granted, there are times Evangelicals heap real persecution on Latter-day Saints, but challenging their theology doesn’t fit the bill. Stated plainly, disagreement is disagreement, not persecution. After all, if it is then Mormon Missionaries are some of the biggest persecutors on the planet, aren’t they? After all, they are called by their church with preaching to those that they disagree with, aren’t they? And that’s exactly what they do, isn’t it?

Latter-day Saints should welcome the challenge. If their theology proves stronger, it’s a chance to win us to their side. The fact that most of them prefer to throw out pejorative names like “anti-Mormon” instead of talking is a major sign they’re in a cult instead of a religion. To this day, I agree with Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt when he said,

“Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will ever have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, p. 15)

In my book, I defined a Christian as someone who believes in Christ and accepts Him as their personal Savior,

“So whether The Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith was a prophet are irrelevant to this specific point.

For this question, all that really matters is whether we believe in Christ or not. As it turns out, we do. We believe Jesus was more than a prophet. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Hope. Nephi of The Book of Mormon said, “…We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins’ (2 Nephi 25:26).”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.34)

It has always amazed me how quick Mormons are to quote the dictionary like it is scripture. The current edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Christian as, “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Yet, my Mormon Apologist self was careful not to define a Christian simply as one who believes in Christ. If he had, I would have pulled out my Bible and read James 2:19 (ESV) which says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

So, according to the dictionary, demons must be Christian, right? But that’s clearly not enough, is it? There’s more to being a Christian than having the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. We must accept Him as Lord and Savior as well, mustn’t we?

Michael the Mormon Apologist did, in fact, assert that “we must accept the Lord”, but he and I have different ideas of what that means. He believed it meant receiving LDS ordinances and keeping the commandments. I believe it’s receiving His righteousness through faith alone.

My old self tried to create a choke point by dismissing the need to talk about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon. To that I say, let’s broaden the playing field. Believing in false scripture and prophets does matter, particularly when they teach a pseudo gospel, just as Paul warned us: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 1:8 ESV)

The Greek word used for accursed is anathema, which implies ex-communication by an ecclesiastical leader. In Mormonism, ex-communication and salvation are mutually exclusive propositions.

My Mormon Apologist counterpart pointed out that many Latter-day Saints think that having Jesus in the name of their church proves they are Christian. I wrote:

“It should come as no surprise then, that Latter-day Saints are flabbergasted when someone says we aren’t Christian. It’s very common for us to say, ‘Look at the name of our church, it has Jesus’ name in it. Of course we’re Christian!'”(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

If your church’s name makes you a Christian, then what’s to stop me from starting my own church and naming it “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Better Latter-day Saint Restoration”? Would that make a Latter-day Saint? Would that make me a Latter-Saint Restorationist? Would naming myself Jesus Christ make me the Messiah? Of course not. Going further, back then I wrote:

“So maybe we do believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and maybe we do believe the Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s. But you know what, it’s still irrelevant…

The Bible places emphasis on knowing God, not knowing about Him. Thus we can assume that a simple disciple who has a relationship with God is better off than a scholar who knows all about Him, but hasn’t bothered to get to know Him personally.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here. In this highly contrived hypothetical situation, it’s true that an unlearned disciple is better off than an unsaved scholar. But that doesn’t mean God will overlook an incorrect ontological view of Him. The Bible says it like this,

“Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
(Acts 17:29-30 ESV)

In other words, it’s a sin to view God incorrectly. And while Michael the Mormon Apologist had no problem classifying Evangelicals as Christian, Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist now sees far too many differences now for us to have the same Jesus. Specifically, our Jesus was never created. Our Jesus was always God. He never had to take a body to become complete. Our Jesus is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Our Jesus saves sinners despite their works, not because of them. Michael the Mormon Apologist would have been appalled at this. Back then I argued,

“How much ignorance are we allowed to have before God withholds His grace?

Here’s why I ask: some Christians believe Melchezidek was Christ, some describe the Trinity in terms of Modalism, some Christians believe God chose who would be saved before we were born, and others think He’s the type to let us choose. Many Christians I’ve been in discussions with have even said the Trinity is mysterious.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.36)

I, the Mormon Apologist, then quoted Acts 17:23 (KJV) where Paul pointed to an altar with the inscription: ‘To the unknown god’, and said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” My argument was that God could be worshipped in ignorance. Otherwise, even Evangelicals couldn’t be called Christian due to their fragmented beliefs. But my arguments were misinformed. The Trinity is mysterious, but not in regards to the descriptions given in the Bible. We know what kind of a Being God is. As far as Modalism, they too are outside the bounds of Christianity and need repentance.

That might sound like nitpicking to Latter-day Saints, but even they have their limits. After all, they wouldn’t consider Muslims to be Christian, but I could use their logic to argue that they are. After all, don’t they believe in Christ? Sure, they don’t think He’s divine, and maybe they mistakenly call Heavenly Father “Allah”, but that’s just ignorant worship. Based on the dictionary, they’re Christians too, right?

Mormons can win the argument for their deviant form of Christianity, but merely on a technicality. Relying on a textbook definition to be saved is like relying on another driver’s blinker to keep from being hit. It’s the intentions that matter, not whether someone has their blinker on.

If I could tell Latter-day Saints anything, I’d remind them that Christ isn’t bringing a dictionary on Judgment Day. If our names aren’t written in the Book of Life, we’ll be damned forever. Salvation is an intensely personal matter. It’s not the name of our church that’s found in the Book of Life. We can’t get in under the prophet’s umbrella. It’s our names we should worry about. 

So the right question isn’t, “Are Mormons Christian?” The real, right question is for the individual, “Are you a Christian? Are you on His right hand? Is your name written in The Book of Life, and if so, by whose merits – your own flawed sin-tainted works, or His flawless, perfect, and holy work?”

There are thousands of nominal Christians in the world today who show up for church and go through the motions. If asked, they’ll claim Christianity as their religious affiliation. But that’s not the same as being born again. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer on this,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Friend, there’s no participation trophy for being in a Christian church. Even if we’ve done good works and ordinances in Christ’s name, they won’t count towards righteousness. In the end, all that really matters is whether or not we know Jesus – that is the real Jesus of time, space, and history that can be found and is revealed in the Bible. Fictional, man-contrived Jesus’s (and, trust me, there are many, many, many false Jesus’s) simply don’t count, do they?1

So in the end, can a Latter-day Saint be a Christian? Absolutely. Christ can save someone anywhere, at any time, be it in a temple, a prison, a mosque, a bar, or a gutter. He can and will save us right when and where we are right now. Just as we are – ugly, broken, bitter, dirty, and damaged. Period. In fact, He does it every day!

So the better question is this: Does the LDS church truly meet the requirements to be called a Christian church since it teaches another God, another Jesus, and another gospel than what is taught in the Bible? In other words, can the true Jesus of the Bible save a Latter-day Saint despite the false teachings of the LDS Church rather than because of those teachings? This is a question that simply never dawned on Michael the Mormon Apologist as a possibility – but it’s intriguing, isn’t it?

However, that also is another conversation for the Ex-Mormon Apologist to have with the Mormon Apologist on another day (or maybe two, or three). Stay tuned to this channel, there’s more – a lot more – to come!

The front cover of “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”


1 Case in point, please consider the False Jesus of Self-Realization Fellowship:

“Jesus Christ is very much alive and active today. In Spirit and occasionally taking on a flesh-and-blood form, he is working unseen by the masses for the regeneration of the world. With his all-embracing love, Jesus is not content merely to enjoy his blissful consciousness in Heav­en. He is deeply concerned for mankind and wishes to give his followers the means to attain the divine freedom of entry into God’s Infinite Kingdom. He is disappointed because many are the churches and temples founded in his name, often prosperous and powerful, but where is the communion that he stressed — actual contact with God? Jesus wants temples to be established in human souls, first and foremost; then established outwardly in physical places of worship. Instead, there are countless huge edifices with vast congregations being indoctrinated in churchianity, but few souls who are really in touch with Christ through deep prayer and meditation.

“To reestablish God in the temples of souls through revival of the original teachings of God-communion as propounded by Christ and Krishna is why I was sent to the West by Mahavatar Babaji….

“Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
(Paramahansa Yogananda, “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You”, Introduction; also see “Spiritual Lineage” Self-Realization Fellowship website)

Banner Art: An image from the iconic Mad Magazine, “Spy v. Spy” cartoon series. (copyright Antonio Prohias, the Prohias Estate, Mad Magazine, and Mad Book) 

by Michael Flournoy
In my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, I tried to downplay the importance of Joseph Smith. I wrote:

“Joseph Smith’s story is a remarkable one. It’s one which Mormon missionaries never fail to teach their investigators. Furthermore, opponents of the Church never tire of attacking Joseph’s character, and members of the Church usually feel obligated to defend him. I think it’s a waste of time.

If I went to my mother’s house for her famous green bean casserole, I wouldn’t denounce her or her specialty if I found out she used canned, instead of fresh green beans. Similarly, Joseph Smith is just a technical detail of the broader picture. A mortal man who is dead was never our central message; God becoming man and rising from the dead is our central message, along with the fact that His bride, the Church, has been restored to her former glory. We’re talking about a wedding here! Heaven forbid one of the guests should get all the attention!

I’m not trying to minimize Joseph since he played an essential role in the restoration of the gospel. Salt is an essential ingredient in bread too, but many a loaf’s been ruined because too much salt was added.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.53)

Looking back, I see a frightened young Mormon who suspected that Joseph was involved in distasteful activities, but suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. I tried to create a choke point by defining what was and what wasn’t important to the debate.

To put things in perspective, Joseph isn’t a guest at the LDS wedding. He’s the best man. In fact, when the bride ran away last time, he’s the one who brought her back. He’s the reason the wedding is even happening. In Mormonism, Christ wasn’t appealing enough to win the bride by Himself, much less keep her from divorcing Him. He required a wingman. And this is the worst kind of wingman there is, because not only are the bride’s eyes on the Groom, they constantly glance back at Joseph. Jesus may have her hand, but Joseph has her heart.

I tried to shield Joseph from attack the same way a chess player tucks away his king. I pointed to other “weasels” in the Biblical narrative. There was Judas Iscariot, who Jesus handpicked as an apostle. There was Jonah who fled from his duty, and Aaron who built a molten calf for Israel to worship. If these men could be called of God despite their evil deeds, then God could use anyone. Arguments against the character of Joseph were irrelevant. In fact, it was preposterous to think someone had to be good to work for God.

Okay, Past Self, hold your horses. While God can use evil men to accomplish his work, that’s a far cry from what the LDS Church teaches about Joseph. He is proclaimed a prophet and must be worthy not only to receive revelation from God but to hold the priesthood keys necessary for governing the Church. The Bible makes it very clear that the works of the flesh are evil, but those who follow the Spirit will exemplify a holier set of traits. It reads:

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
(Galatians 5:18-23 ESV)

Simply stated, it’s erroneous to sweep Joseph’s traits under the rug and only look to The Book of Mormon as his fruit. Jesus said,

Jesus said,

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are   ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”
(Matthew 7:15-18 ESV)

Notice what He didn’t say. Christ didn’t say to sweep a prophet’s misdeeds under the rug. He didn’t say to ignore them when they speak heresy because they’re fallible men. And He certainly didn’t say it was wrong to criticize them even if the criticism is true. Rather, we are to call their works into question.

Granted, all believers are still sinners, and even Biblical prophets made mistakes. But if we look at the accusations against Joseph, we see someone who was anything but a saint. He was charged with treason and conspiracy to murder a former governor. He was arrested 42 times. He was charged with banking fraud and destroying a press that criticized him. He sent men on missions and married their wives in their absence. He lied about his polygamy in public and in private to his wife Emma.

Latter-day Saints denounce these claims as anti-Mormon fabrications designed to ruin Joseph’s reputation. However, the sources for this evidence are all Mormon or Mormon friendly – up to and including Joseph Smith himself in “The History of the Church” (see the online edition of  “The History of the Church” archived at BYU)

Since I didn’t argue for the character of Joseph in my pro-LDS book, it’s not my goal to argue against it here. I did argue that the First vision itself was evidence of Joseph’s prophetic calling. I wrote:

But what about 2 Corinthians 11:14 which says Satan is transformed into an angel of light? If the devil is capable of such trickery, how can we be sure Joseph wasn’t visited by Satan disguised as God? Everyone who’s served a mission has probably heard someone argue along these lines. However, the argument is Biblically unsound. In the New Testament when Jesus casts out demons, the Pharisees accuse him of casting out demons through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. To this Christ replies, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?’ (Matthew 12:25-26 KJV)

Joseph Smith said when he prayed he was first set upon by a dark force before being delivered by God. Since neither God nor Satan is divided, we are left with only two options: first, that God attacked Joseph, but was abolished by Satan, or second, that Smith’s account is true and he was delivered by God.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.57)

This is a classic false dichotomy. This whole argument assumes that Joseph was telling the truth about what happened. It’s a cleverly constructed house that lacks a foundation. The simplest explanation is the First Vision never happened. The whole event was fabricated. Joseph never saw God and was never called to restore Christianity from apostasy. In fact, Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (see Matthew 16:18).

My LDS self believed that the most important fruits to look at were The Book of Mormon and the restored gospel. In this series of articles, I will examine these fruits and show that Joseph brought forth false scripture, a false god, and a false gospel. But the rotten fruit of his life bears witness that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God. It speaks for itself, despite how any Mormon Apologist or stack of books from Mormon Apologist may try to spin.

Joseph Smith was not only not God’s Prophet, according to the Matthew 7 “Fruit Test” he was clearly a False Prophet.1 And he is one of many reasons that I, once a staunch Mormon Apologist, am now an Ex-Mormon Apologist.


1 For those looking for a short, succinct, summary of the bad fruit of Joseph Smith, Fred W. Anson’s, Beggar’s Bread article on the subject: “The Fruit of Joseph Smith” is recommended.

Reconsidering Mormon Spiritual Conversion

Edward Henry Corbould, “Saul And The Witch Of Endor” (1860)

“For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.”
— Mark 13:22 (KJV)

 by Michael Flournoy
In a YouTube video entitled “The Scripture That Saved My Life From Human Traffickers”, Tim Ballard tells a story about going undercover to gain intel on human traffickers.

As he finished his mission, the traffickers decided to kill him and his fellow operatives in order to acquire their belongings. Tim went to his car and grabbed his worn-out Book of Mormon. In the midst of the chaos, he remembered Alma 58:11,

“Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.”

 Tim Ballard got out of the car and was surprised to find the traffickers had left. In the video, he says, “There’s power in just holding the book.” Tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints claim they’ve gained a spiritual witness that The Book of Mormon is true. This testimony comes by utilizing “Moroni’s Promise” in Moroni 10:3-5,

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

The Book of Mormon compels the reader to abandon logic, and instead balance their testimony of the restored gospel on the tightrope of subjective feeling. Faith-promoting experiences are a dime a dozen in Mormonism. Parents get uneasy feelings and discover their toddler’s mere steps from busy roadways. The men use the priesthood to heal the sick. Those who pay their last pennies on tithing get magical checks in the mail that cover their expenses. Under this mountain of spiritual evidence, one must conclude that Mormonism is true, right? Not so fast, hold your cureloms! It turns out even non-LDS folks experience these spiritual events.

I once worked with a lesbian named Kourtney who didn’t believe in God. Instead, she believed in the universe. One day she said she asked the universe for money and found 20 dollars on the side of the road. I chastised God inwardly. “Where’s my 20 dollars?” I asked. I was an obedient member of the true church. If anyone deserved 20 dollars, it was me. “Don’t you know she’s living in sin, God? Besides, she believes in the universe. You know this is going to reinforce her false beliefs, so why bless her?” My black and white viewpoint couldn’t make sense of the situation. God was supposed to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. My mistake, it turned out, was trying to force God inside a box. In Matthew 5:44-45 (KJV) Jesus says:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

 The problem with this is it dismantles most of the experiences used to justify the LDS church. Luckily, there are still miracles. Certainly, the act of casting out demons and priesthood healing is evidence of the validity of the restored gospel, right? Wrong again. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 (KJV) says:

“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

This passage makes it clear that a sign or wonder can be employed by a false prophet. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to perform miracles. They made a stick turn into a snake and turned water into blood. If Moses hadn’t been there, it would have been easy to assume these magicians had God on their side.

Joseph Smith certainly could have produced a book that gave individuals a burning in the bosom, whether it was true or not. But what about the temple? What about all the stories about spirits appearing to family members and thanking them for doing their ordinances? That’s problematic as well.

In 1 Samuel 28, Saul asks a witch to conjure up the deceased Samuel so he can speak to him. The spirit of Samuel appears and foretells of Saul’s death. According to the LDS Church’s Bible Dictionary, under the heading Samuel we read:

“The account in 1 Sam. 28:5–20 of the prophet being brought back from the dead by the witch of Endor, at King Saul’s request, presents a problem. It is certain that a witch or other medium cannot by any means available to her bring up a prophet from the world of spirits. We may confidently be assured that if Samuel was present on that occasion, it was not due to conjuring of the witch. Either Samuel came in spite of and not because of the witch, or some other spirit came impersonating him.”

The fact that it can’t be definitely stated whether it was Samuel or another spirit is terrifying. This means evil spirits are so good at impersonating people, that it’s impossible to tell the difference. So when you see a spirit in the temple, how can you be certain it’s not a demon in disguise?

The Book of Mormon prophecies of itself in 2 Nephi 26:16:

“For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.”

The fact that it expressly mentions familiar spirits in conjunction with the coming forth of The Book of Mormon should tell you all you need to know. This is as a well known early Mormon Apostle once infamously said:

“Willard Richards (1804–54), [a future LDS Church Apostle and] son of Joseph and Rhoda Howe Richards, became acquainted with the gospel in 1835 when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon near Boston, Massachusetts. “God or the devil has had a hand in that book,” he said, “for man never wrote it.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “They Served: The Richards Legacy in the Church,” Ensign, Jan. 1980, p.25)

Since a familiar spirit is a demon, that settles the dispute.

Let’s return to the story I shared at the beginning of the article. Even if God was sending inspiration to Tim Ballard through Alma 58:11, it’s still not a point for Mormonism. We need to stop mistaking the tree for the forest. The experience Tim shares about isn’t about a book, it’s about a principle. Alma 58:11 talks about assurance, and ironically, that’s the one thing Mormons don’t have. Latter-day Saints must obey God’s commandments. They must eradicate their sins. They must pay 10% of their incomes to the Church. They must endure to the end. This is nothing short of human trafficking on a spiritual level.

I invite all Latter-day Saints to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. His grace is free, and it endures forever on our behalf. Only Christ can speak peace to our souls – thanks to His vicarious atonement we can hope for deliverance in Him.

“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.”
Hebrews 6:17-19 (KJV)