Archive for the ‘Michael Flournoy’ Category

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)

“The modern equivalent would be Jesus going to an LDS temple and doing the same thing in the distribution center.”
–Michael Flournoy

“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children.”
(Luke 7:34-35 KJV)

by Michael Flournoy
Imagine you come home on your birthday. The lights are off and as you enter the kitchen you see a cake lit with candles. All your friends and family are present and break into a jovial song of “Happy Birthday.”  They sing your name, but they aren’t singing to you. Rather, they are celebrating a cardboard cutout of you leaning against the wall. The song ends and everyone cheers. One by one everyone offers best wishes to the cardboard.

At first, you think it’s a joke. But soon the horrifying truth sets in. They really believe the cutout is you. You ask what’s gotten into them. Can’t they see they’re talking to an inanimate object? They respond angrily, accusing you of ruining their beloved’s birthday. “Who invited you anyway,” they shout. They force you out and lock the door.

In some ways, this scenario represents what the Mormon church has done to Jesus.

When I debate Latter-day Saints, I’m often accused of not being Christlike. After all, Jesus “never tore down anyone’s faith.” All he ever did was “inspire and uplift.” Sometimes I wonder if Mormons have read about Jesus in the Bible. He did all kinds of things their church would frown upon. The fact is people don’t get crucified for uplifting and inspiring others. So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the anti-Mormon behaviors of Jesus, starting with the most obvious example.

Aggression At The Temple
In John chapter 2:13-16 (KJV) we read:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

The modern equivalent would be Jesus going to an LDS temple and doing the same thing in the distribution center. After all, the animals for sale in John 2 were for temple rituals and the distribution center sells temple ritual clothing, among other things. Jesus going in and causing a scene would certainly land him in the bishop’s office, if not a court of love.

Making Wine
Earlier in the same chapter, there was a wedding where they ran out of alcohol. Jesus came to the rescue by changing pots of water into wine. It was of such excellent quality that the guests chided the bridegroom for holding out on the good stuff. If this happened today, the LDS church wouldn’t be thrilled. It’s against the word of wisdom to drink alcohol, and they wouldn’t want the publicity this scene would bring. To fit the Mormon mold, Jesus should have whipped up a nice apple cider, grape juice, or better yet, green jello.

Debating The Critics
Look through the New Testament and you’ll find Pharisees and Sadducees trying to corner Jesus, and he had some solid comebacks. For instance, in Mark 7 the Pharisees chide Jesus because his disciples eat without washing their hands, defiling their traditions.

Jesus shoots back that they’re defiling God’s laws with their traditions. After all, the fourth commandment is to honor father and mother, but the tradition at the time allowed Jews to designate their treasures as “Corban”. In other words, they could say it was a gift for God and this loophole allowed them to avoid the responsibility of caring for their parents. However, 3 Nephi 11:29-30 has this to say about debating:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Mormons might argue that Jesus wasn’t contending in anger, but as we’ll see later on, He was clearly stirring His adversaries to anger. This is problematic if it is indeed the devil’s tactic.

Stirring The Pot
There are a couple of instances where Jesus seems to intentionally stir the pot. For instance, he goes to the synagogue in Luke 6 (verses 6-10) and asks if it’s lawful to heal on the Sabbath. He could have simply debated it with the Pharisees, but without waiting for an answer, He heals a man with a withered hand. The passage specifically says Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew they would get upset, but He did it anyway. If I didn’t know better, I’d think He wanted to die. It’s almost like it was His whole purpose coming to earth.

Teaching About Other Faiths
In Matthew 16:6 Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A few verses later they realize He’s warning them against their doctrine. Later He goes into more detail about the errors of the Pharisees.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
(Matthew 23:2-7 KJV)

Teaching about other faiths is a huge no-no in Mormonism. You’re supposed to avoid telling people they’re wrong and rely on your own message to convert people. LDS missionaries passive-aggressively tiptoe around claiming they have “more truth” to share. Jesus, on the other hand, told the Samaritan woman she didn’t know what she worshipped in John 4:22. So Mormons shouldn’t take offense to being told they’re wrong since their critics are only following in Christ’s footsteps.

Calling Out The Pharisees
Jesus goes even farther in the following verses. Calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, telling them they’re responsible for keeping people from heaven and calling them children of hell. He calls them blind guides, fools, and neglecters of mercy, justice, and faithfulness. He calls them greedy and self-indulgent  Jesus compares them to tombs that are beautiful inside, but full of death inwardly. He refers to them as a brood of vipers and for a cherry on top, He calls out their fathers as murderers. This flies in the face of the 11th Article of Faith which states:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

There was no “live and let live” mentality with Christ. He didn’t just teach “more truth”. He fought aggressively against hypocrisy and false beliefs. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, you probably think I’m casting Jesus in a bad light, but I’m not. This is simply what the Bible describes Jesus saying and doing. Your religion has enthroned a false Christ. It has taken the qualities it likes and made a cardboard cutout, banishing the real Person!

I fear a deep sleep has overcome you. If the Christ I’ve shown in this article doesn’t fit in your religious box, it’s time to wake up. Open the door, and let the real Jesus in. A faux Jesus can’t save you, can He?

“Jesus going in and causing a scene would certainly land him in the bishop’s office, if not a court of love.”
— Michael Flournoy

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
— 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV

One of the earliest memories I have of my grandpa is him teaching me a jingle that went like this:

I’m a Mormon
He’s a Mormon
She’s a Mormon
We’re all Mormons
Wouldn’t you like to be a Mormon too?
Be a Mormon
Read The Book of Mormon

I grew up listening to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and in 2014 when the movie “Meet the Mormons” came out, I was thrilled. To me, the nickname Mormon evoked a sense of pride. It was synonymous with virtue and godliness. The Mormon church was the proverbial city on a hill.

Former LDS prophet, Thomas S. Monson unabashedly used the term Mormon in a poem he shared in his General Conference talk “Dare to Stand Alone.”

Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
(Thomas S. Monson, “Dare to Stand Alone”, October 2011 General Conference)

Gordon B. Hinkley, another LDS prophet, defended the nickname when he quoted a friend as saying, “Look, if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon.” He went on to say,

“Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God.”
(Gordon B. Hinkley, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’”, October 1990 General Conference)

I even used the “M-word” in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism.” I didn’t just like the name because of what it represented: the priesthood, new scripture, and temples. I loved it because it was honest. If I told someone I was Mormon, they knew exactly what I believed. I knew the nickname Mormon wasn’t official. It was important to acknowledge Christ in the name of our church to prove we were His followers. But the term Mormon differentiated us from other Christians.

Why would I want to be associated with them anyway? We had the restored gospel. We had eternal marriage and living prophets and apostles. If an organization that was the byproduct of the great apostasy could bear the title Christian, then that designation wasn’t good enough.

Sudden Shift
Things took a drastic turn in 2018 when President Nelson spoke out against and disavowed the word Mormon. He said:

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the ‘LDS Church,’ the ‘Mormon Church,’ or the ‘Church of the Latter-day Saints,’ the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church”, October 2018 General Conference)

The church immediately rebranded and the name Mormon went down the sinkhole. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir changed its name to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Websites like Mormon.org and LDS.org were updated to comeuntochrist.org and churchofjesuschrist.org. The longstanding symbol of the church changed from Moroni holding a trumpet to the Christus statue.

When referring to Latter-day Saints as Mormons online, I’m frequently asked what that is, like they’ve never heard that word in their lives. Not long ago, I might have been called “ex-Mormon” or “anti-Mormon”. Now I guess I’m an antichrist, which is weird since I absolutely love Jesus.

Actually, let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s not so much that things are weird, but that this whole metamorphosis reeks of dishonesty. Let me explain. Before when I said I was Mormon, all the cards were on the table. Yes, there were negative perceptions that went along with that, but it provided a starting place. There was nothing stopping me from explaining that I believed in Christ and then talking over any questions people had. It was honest, and it differentiated me from apostate Christianity.

With the erasure of the name Mormon, no cards go on the table. This is understandable since negative associations with Mormonism exist. But things are actually a lot worse than that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just clearing the table, they’re putting out Protestant cards when they define themselves.

For example, let’s look at the new website domains, starting with churchofjesuschrist.org. Do you realize that all Christians think they form Christ’s church? Then there’s comeuntochrist.org. Again, coming to Christ is the goal of all Christians everywhere. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the church is anything but a typical Protestant denomination.

Another example is the change from “home teaching” to “ministering”, which is a very Protestant word. What was so wrong with Home and Visiting Teaching that a name change was necessary? As an outsider looking in, the game plan is obvious. By putting down Protestant cards, the LDS church is able to trick unsuspecting victims into dropping their guard so they can manipulate them into joining the church with greater ease.

This should be alarming since it’s the same way the devil operates. According to 2 Nephi 26:22 he leads people with flaxen cords before binding them with strong cords forever. Chapter 31 of the Gospel Principles manual has this to say about honesty:

“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.”
(LDS Church, “Honesty”, Gospel Principles, Chapter 31)

My friends, truth doesn’t operate from the shadows. If you begin a theological discussion and feel the need to hide your views, withhold sensitive information, or mimic someone’s beliefs and engage in spiritual guerrilla warfare, then you need to reconsider whether your religion is true.

Although I’m no longer LDS, I think discarding the name Mormon was a mistake. According to President Nelson if you don’t emphasize Christ you disregard the atonement. But there’s another side to the coin. When your website, logo, and language change to match Protestantism, the most important thing is the absence of revelation and priesthood authority. When you hide or delay what differentiates you from other Christians, you subtly disregard everything Joseph Smith did for you, including the restoration.

To my LDS readers I ask, do you worship a God of confusion? Did everyone who embraced the word Mormon, including Gordon B. Hinkley and Thomas S. Monson disregard the atonement? Were your former prophets deceived into handing victory over to Satan? Certainly, that position is untenable, but so is the alternative. President Nelson has transformed the church into a pseudo-Protestant look-alike and embraced the great apostasy.

If this is where continuing revelation leads, then count me out. I already belong to a real Protestant church and have no need for a knockoff brand. The LDS church is either a restoration of original Christianity, in which case having it stoop to the level of apostate churches is a sin against God, or it’s a parasite that feeds off Christian culture and language.

Which do you think it is?

 

The original 1948 Chevrolet School Bus.

by Michael Flournoy
Imagine you took your old clunker to get restored and the mechanic only did half the job. He promised to continue working on it, but couldn’t give a definite date of completion. In the meantime, you were welcome to keep using it.

Would you proudly drive a partially restored vehicle through town? That’s basically what Latter-day Saints are doing with their faith.

In October of 2018, in a video interview, President Nelson said, “We’re witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come… Wait till next year. And then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.”

With one whip of the tongue, he shattered Mormonism’s foundation. If the restoration started almost 200 years ago, and it’s just starting to gain momentum, how long do we have to wait on the finished product?

My friends, Mormonism is worthless thanks to this revelation. There is no reason anyone should join this religion or give credence to the logic of its apologists and missionaries.

Why? Because we don’t know what’s next. In the past five years, they’ve made changes to the missionary age, made the nickname Mormon anathema, changed “home teaching” to “ministering”, made it a policy not to baptize children of gay parents and reversed it, and they sliced off an hour of church.

At the rate things are going, they could institute the Trinity and the doctrine of forensic righteousness. They may proclaim sola scriptura and trade prophets for pastors.

The “apostate” 1948 Chevrolet School Bus.

Mormons can’t refute this, because no one knows the future. If the LDS church embraces Protestant doctrines, then we were ahead of the curb. Of course, it’s more likely to veer farther off the straight and narrow path.

Either way, it’s nonsense to join. The constant changes impair our freedom of choice because as long as we don’t know what’s coming, we can’t make an informed decision. Embracing Mormonism is like embarking on a road trip without a GPS.

Never again do we have to stand by while Mormons rant that we emerged from Catholicism with a new gospel because they don’t even have a gospel yet. Our message hasn’t changed: Christ forgives all who believe and trades His righteousness for our sins.

Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul makes it pretty simple. The gospel is the power of God’s finished work to save those who believe. If the gospel isn’t finished, then it can’t be trusted and we should be ashamed of it.

So for any Mormon who wants to proselytize me or my fellow Christians, I give this answer: if the gospel is still restoring, how can you know what you have is better than Biblical Christianity? And if the Church isn’t fully restored, aren’t we still in the great apostasy?

You believe you know not what. We know what we believe. So come preach to us when the restoration’s over.

How the “restored” 1948 Chevrolet School Bus would look according to the current LdS President’s definition of the word – except it’s really not complete yet, you understand, it’s still restoring.

This article was originally published on the author’s “From Water to Wine” website on September 3, 2020. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.”
(Proverbs 25:11 NKJV)

by Michael Flournoy and Fred W. Anson
In part one of this series we considered some of the harsh “scorched earth” methods, behaviors, and tactics that Christian Mormon Critics often engage in that either drive Mormons deeper into the LDS Church or ensures that when they leave it they go, Atheist, Pagan, whatever rather than anything Christian. 

In response, we outlined and considered a better way: God’s way: The way that we see Evangelism modeled in the New Testament. That model we summarized in the following five concepts:  

1. Love them
2. Listen
3. Promote the good they do
4. Curb your ego
5. Keep it positive

In Part One we briefly mentioned how in Mormon Culture, orthopraxy (the correct practice of what one believes) trumps orthodoxy (correct belief). In other words, Mormons won’t care about what you believe and why it’s better than what they already believe until they see that you care about them as a person. Treat them badly and no matter how right you are, they won’t listen and they won’t care.  

So that’s the concept and theory, now let’s talk about how to actually do in the real world, shall we? Let’s do orthopraxy! 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Paul
Here’s how Paul described his approach in scripture: 

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
(1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ESV)

Paul didn’t shun outsiders. He embraced them to the point of joining their tribe, in a sense. His methods are bound to make my Evangelical counterparts uncomfortable, but it’s brilliant. It destroys the “us vs them” mentality.

This puts the Christian on the same playing field as the Latter-day Saint. It makes them a friend instead of a foe. It was this type of believer that had the greatest impact on article author Michael Flournoy’s journey from Mormonism to grace. 

In contrast, other Christians have told us that they refuse to respect a false religion. We’re not suggesting they should. However, there’s a difference between respecting falsehood and being respectful in dialogue.

Do the Mormons in your life know you love them? When was the last time you jumped to a Mormon’s defense when you saw them being mistreated? When was the last time you offered them an encouraging word? When was the last time you prayed for them by name and asked God’s mercy upon them? Are you preaching in a spirit of rivalry or out of love? When was the last time you challenged a fellow Evangelical for Mormon Bashing Latter-day Saints? 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Jesus
Whenever we hear Christians speculate how Jesus would have evangelized Mormon we tell them that we already know because He showed in scripture. Let us ask you this, who does this sound like? 

    • They’re heretics yet they claim that they are the only true and living church.
    • They claim that all other churches are apostate.
    • The founding of their religion was strongly opposed, criticized, and denounced by the established church at that time.
    • Many members claim to be from the House of Joseph – descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
    • They have a view of God that differs from the larger mainstream orthodox church’s view.
    • They believe in pre-existence.
    • They claim that the current church’s scripture is corrupt – deliberately infused with an apostate agenda. That is, it’s truth intermingled with the vain philosophies of men, not God.
    • They claim to be the sole possessors of the original, pure and uncorrupted Bible – a bible which discards books in the established church’s canon, and that is very different on key points of doctrine relative to that canon.
    • They have additional sacred texts which, while not formally canonized, maintain a quasi-canonical status.
    • Critics claim that portions of their theology is syncretistic, incorporating outside cultures and religions.
    • They have their own priesthood system.
    • They have a temple system that deviates strongly from the Levitical system given in the bible.
    • They claim that their temple, rather than the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, is the correct place set apart by God for special ceremonies and worship.
    • Outside critics and scholars throughout history have disputed the veracity and historicity claims of their scripture as well as their origin story.

They, of course, are the Samaritans of Christ’s day – who did you think we were talking about? But joking aside, it’s not hard to see how much the Samaritanism of Christ’s day parallels today’s Mormonism. And in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus, using the Mormons of His day, models for us how to reach Mormons of our own. So, let’s compare how Christ ministered to the Mormons of His day with the new model that was given in Part One, shall we? 

1. Love them
If there’s anything that we’ve learned in Mormon Studies, it’s that many Evangelicals love, love, love to Mormon Bash. Even if what they’re saying is bigoted, prejudiced, or downright wrong, bash they will – you know, almost as much as the Jews of Jesus’ day loved to bash Samaritans. Consider this:

Later authorities [such as Rabbi Jehuda the Holy a 3rd Century Rabbi] again reproach them [the Samaritans] with falsification of the Pentateuch, charge them with worshipping a dove, and even when, on further inquiry, they absolve them from this accusation, ascribe their excessive veneration for Mount Gerizim to the circumstance that they worshipped the idols which Jacob had buried under the oak at Shechem. To the same hatred, caused by national persecution, we must impute such expressions as that he, whose hospitality receives a foreigner, has himself to blame if his children have to go into captivity. The expression, ‘the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,’  finds its exact counterpart in this: ‘May I never set eyes on a Samaritan;’ or else, ‘May I never be thrown into company with him!’
(Alfred Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”In Judæa and through Samaria – a Sketch of Samaritan History and Theology – Jews and Samaritans chapter) 

Yet in the face of this extreme – one might even say, excessive – bigotry and prejudice we see Jesus showing this morality challenged, untrusting, skeptical Samaritan woman love, respect, and acceptance. Put yourself in her place as you hear these words:

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”’
(John 4:9-15 NKJV)

In the face of an ugly and sarcastic verbal “shove” from the Samaritan Woman, how did Jesus respond? He offered her a gift, He showed her love and compassion.

2. Listen
One of the most stunning aspects of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan, to us, is His restraint. His self-control and compassionate patience in listening to this woman laying out her self-righteous religiosity convicts and challenges me:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
(John 4:16-20 NKJV) 

Wouldn’t Jesus have been well within His rights to blast away both at the woman’s compromised morality and her horrible theology at this point?  And really what could she do but just sit there and take it? After all, she was dead wrong and He was absolutely right, correct?  Instead, what did He do? He listened. Yes, He also spoke the truth but He did so in a spirit of love and compassion, not condemnation. He did as He has taught us: He turned the other cheek (see Matthew 5:38-40) and turned away wrath with a gentle answer (see Proverbs 15:1)

3. Promote the good they do
Notice Christ’s response in the face of the religious dogma that the Samaritan woman spews at him in the following exchange:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:19-24 NKJV) 

Did you see that? Wouldn’t Christ have been perfectly justified in launching into an apologetic about how the false temple of Samaritanism on Mount Gerizim was unbiblical and the seat of, and the idol for, their false religion at this point? Wouldn’t He have been right in pressing in on her ignorance regarding what scripture really says about true and proper Temple worship?  But what does He do instead? He commends her. He implicitly commends her for her devotion to God in the midst of her ignorance. He commends her for being a true worshiper who is being sought by God. Yes, He commends her for her love of the truth. He found the good in the midst of the bad and promoted it.

In fact, this is a common pattern that we see throughout the Bible when it comes to how Christ presents the Samaritans. Yes, they were heretics. Yes, they were in a cult. Yes, they were following compromised scripture, false prophets, and worshiping in a false temple that was in the wrong place according to God’s Word. But even in the midst of this sick, dysfunctional mess, how does Jesus so often speak of them in public? Answer: They’re the-wrong-in-orthodoxy, but right-in-orthopraxy good guys – at least as compared to the right-in-orthodoxy, but wrong in orthopraxy guys that are in front of Him, that is.

Still, doubt us? Then lest us give you these three words: The Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). And let us pose just one question: Who was the good guy in that story, the two biblically orthodox, mainstream religious guys (the Priest and the Levite) or the fringe heretic (the Samaritan)? We rest our case.

4. Curb your ego
What comes next in this exchange is the real stunner to me:

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
(John 4:25-26 NKJV) 

And there it is, Christ’s first explicit declaration that He is the Messiah in the gospels. To a woman. A sinful woman. A half-breed Jewish/Gentile mongrel of the type hated by His people. A sinful mongrel who was born into the religious cult that she is still ensnared in.

Now, given that, wouldn’t the egotist have lead with the “little” fact that they are the Chosen One? Wouldn’t they have presented their credentials to gain the advantage? When she went into her previous tirade about the Temple and how wrong those apostate Jews are versus right we true God worshiping Samaritan, if you were Jesus wouldn’t you have been tempted to say, “Well, that’s all well and good, but hey lady, I’m the Messiah! How do you like them apples, little girl?” We confess, to our shame, that we probably would have.

But not Jesus, he checked His ego at the door and left it there. Yes, that’s right, God Almighty, Lord of the Universe, checked His ego at the door for the sake and out of His love for the Samaritan woman that was right in front of him. One word, and it falls far short: Wow!

5. Keep it positive
Rewind the tape again and consider how Christ first presented His message to the Samaritan woman: He offered her a gift, living water. He knew her need and met her exactly where she was at right then and there – physically (thirsty), spiritually (ensnared in a false religion), and emotionally (looking for love in all the wrong places). And what did He offer her? He offered her hope and life. Through the Messiah (Himself) He offered a way out.

Friend, is this the way that Christ first approached you? It’s sure the way that He approached us – Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist, and Fred the militant Atheist. And we are hardly unique, are we? After all, doesn’t Paul tell us that’s it’s the patience and kindness of God that leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4)?

One thing that we like about “The Chosen” TV series – in fact, maybe the thing we like most about it – is how Christ is portrayed as a genuinely warm, approachable, and attractive person. One can’t help but feel drawn to Him and His message as He is presented in this series. Do you think that real historic Jesus was any different? We don’t. As the saying goes, which draws more flies: Honey or vinegar? Based on your own reading of the gospels do you think that Jesus was vinegar or honey to those who heard His voice? Let’s consider what the text actually says in light of that hovering question, shall we?

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42 NKJV) 

Again for emphasis, “we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world”. Friend do you think that Christ’s words were honey or vinegar to these Samaritans? Were they honey or vinegar to you when He called you? For Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist and Fred, the militant Atheist, those words were honey in the midst of vinegar. We were drawn to Christ because He was far, far, far more attractive than what we currently had. Case in point: Fred is fond of saying that Atheism, for him, was like ordering a pizza and eating the box instead of the pizza. And Michael has said similar things about the Mormonism that was crushing him under the weight of ordinance, commandments, and constant, unrelenting unworthiness.

So my Mormon Bashing Evangelical friend, we will end this with this: Are you Christ to your Mormon friends and family members? Are you honey or vinegar to your Mormon friends and family? We encourage and exhort you: Be Jesus. Be honey. Be the Good Samaritan to the Samaritans. Be a Mormon in order to win Mormons.

An artistic, moving, and powerful depiction of the Woman at the Well story from “The Chosen” TV Series. (click to view)

 About the Authors
Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum). Raised in the Nazarene Church, Fred later became an Atheist but then returned to the Christian faith during the Jesus Movement in 1976. 

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.”
(Proverbs 25:11 NKJV)

by Michael Flournoy
In Disney’s “Hercules”, Hercules battles a monster called a hydra. During the fight he slices its head off with his sword. Bystanders applaud his victory until the beast revives with two heads instead of one. Hercules flies around on his pegasus decapitating one head after another. Each time he does, two more heads spring out until he’s faced with a far more dangerous opponent than before. Hundreds of dragon-like heads stare him down and his trainer Phil yells, “Will you forget the whole head slicing thing?”

I sympathize with Phil. 

I’ve watched Evangelicals debate Mormons for a few years now. I’ve seen them deploy the same flawed tactics over and over. Then they congratulate themselves while Latter-day Saints grow stronger in their faith and more distrustful of Christianity. As someone who knows the LDS mindset from first-hand experience, I can tell you that the sharpest, most direct tactic is not always best. 

Christians value directness and truth. We come from a society that is far more accepting of debate than that of our LDS counterparts. In fact, Latter-day Saints view contention as the devil’s tool. They value orthopraxy as much (if not more) than orthodoxy. This means that our tone can destroy a perfectly good argument. For instance, a common mantra in Mormonism is: “people can leave the Church, but they can’t leave it alone.”

So when an ex-Mormon comes across as angry or bitter, it doesn’t matter how valid his arguments are. He is fulfilling the words of the prophets and proving that life away from Mormonism is bleak. When I was an active member I compared Christians who slandered their former religion to married men who continued to gripe over an old girlfriend. It was an obvious sign that they weren’t fulfilled in their relationship.

The same is true for Christians who have never been Mormon. When we take the position that causing offense and hurting relationships is an acceptable way to promote truth, we alienate the LDS. To be fair, sometimes the blunt approach is exactly what’s needed. It depends on the situation and the personality of the one doing the witnessing. If you’re going that route, be sure to bring a first-class argument with you.

If there’s one thing Mormons love, it’s a bull in a china shop, rampaging blindly against strawman arguments. The LDS will wave that red flag all day, dancing gleefully as you miss their vital organs by a longshot. They’ll use the futility of your attempts to promote their own testimony or add fuel to their dislike for Christians. Worst-case scenario, it gives them an excuse to play the victim and cut off future dialogue with you.

Of course, the truth is offensive. Sometimes a Mormon will be offended no matter how accommodating you are. So where does the balance lie between being honest and being compassionate? It’s quite the juggling act. However, I have a few tips to assist in talking to Latter-day Saints. 

1. Love them
It sounds obvious, but I can’t state this enough. If you’re talking to Mormons to win an argument, validate yourself, or let out steam for hurt the Church has caused you, it’s time to leave the ministry. Now.

We need to be mindful of what happens when a Mormon abandons their faith. They experience a loss of family, identity, and culture. The last thing a Latter-day Saint needs is us as enemies. These are victims we’re talking about here! Mormons need to know there’s a new family waiting to embrace them with open arms. So commit right now to loving your LDS neighbors regardless of whether or not they leave the Church.

2. Listen
Latter-day Saints balk when we tell them what they believe right out of the gate. Instead, ask them to explain the particulars of their faith and why it’s meaningful to them. It might be cringy listening to someone pour out their soul about a false gospel, but it’s helpful. It builds a bond between you and the Latter-day Saint, which puts you in a better position to share the hope you have.

I can promise you this. A Latter-day Saint is far more interested in talking to someone who listens and respects what they say. 

3. Promote the good they do
One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen is when Christians bad mouth the LDS church for doing good. For example, we might find ourselves grumbling when they donate millions of dollars to charity. After all, what’s a couple million compared to the 100 trillion dollars in their vaults? But do you realize how petty that makes us look? When a Latter-day Saint brags about service their church has performed, the correct response isn’t, “Well, it’s still a cult”, or “why didn’t they give more?”

The best response is, “That’s really cool. Tell me more about it.” If you’re appalled by that, please reference point number one on this list. 

4. Curb your ego
Sometimes you’ll be in the middle of a discussion and realize the debate isn’t going well because the point you’ve been making is a strawman. In this scenario the temptation is to push ahead and keep hammering it in, forcing the Mormon to see the light through brute force. This is about as effective as talking louder to someone who speaks a different language. The drive to keep pushing is your ego talking. Don’t let it win. The best option if you’ve misrepresented Mormonism is to apologize. Believe me, losing the battle is better than losing the war. 

When you make a move like this, a Mormon can’t help but respect you. Remember when I said they value orthopraxy? Humbly apologizing when the situation demands will paint you as a true Christian in their eyes. They’ll see you as someone who’s fair and approachable. And that’s exactly the kind of person they’ll want to confide in if their shelf breaks someday. 

5. Keep it positive
It’s important to avoid phrases that come across as overzealous. Telling Latter-day Saints they worship Joseph Smith, believe in a different god, or aren’t Christians is a sure-fire way to get their walls up. What might seem obvious to you, is far from obvious to them. They’ll see you as a raving madman.

In fact, it’s usually best to keep the focus on the positive aspects of your beliefs. A lot of Christians are uncomfortable with this, because of how similar the LDS vocabulary is to ours. However, there are some definite appeals we can highlight. For example, in Christian culture, it is common for people to confess sins and build each other up. Many Mormons long for this kind of fellowship.

But wait, there’s more! In Christianity, God doesn’t send any of His children to hell. In Christianity, God’s love is unconditional, to the point that we can be saved in our sins. In Christianity, everyone who believes holds the priesthood. In Christianity, Christ’s entire life was a vicarious ordinance on our behalf. In Christianity, God’s revelation never changes.   

If a Mormon challenges you on these points, it opens the door to compare beliefs. Invite, don’t incite. 

In Conclusion
I think that when in appealing to his fellow critics in regard to their often horribly unbiblical (sometimes even cruel) treatment of Mormons one Mormon Critic summarized it well he said: 

The Golden Rule of Apologetics is: “Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated“

All too often I see Christians engaging in the exact opposite of this, in something that apologists call “Scorched Earth Tactics”. This is a tactic whereby one is determined to win the debate no matter what the cost. It’s like dropping napalm or salting the ground after each advance so nothing can grow in your wake. The end result is that all too often you win the debate but lose your debating opponent – forever.

This is a formula for failure since it can take Mormon years, even decades to shake off the mind control of the LdS Church, to unsnap psychologically, and to start considering the body of evidence through clear eyes rather than Mormon sunglasses. And then there are typically several years more after that before they transition out due to family, professional, and cultural entanglements. Therefore, it’s always best to strive to maintain a good relationship even if you’re at loggerheads as debating opponents. Think long, not short term, and always, always, always consider how to maintain the relationship without compromising your message or yourself.

That sounds so easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. It can be so hard to keep one’s passions, ego, and pride in check when engaging Mormons. And if you really like the person it can be hard not to soften your message to maintain the relationship.  It’s a balancing act. Which is why we so desperately need the mind of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us rather than our fallen human nature. So for those moments when you feel your adrenaline beginning to pump, your palms beginning to sweat, and your eyes beginning to bulge I would encourage you to remember (or better yet, memorize) what God has said to us through His word.
(Fred W. Anson, “Weak Arguments #13: “There’s NOTHING in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”, Beggar’s Bread website May 3, 2015) 

And in regard to Mormons and Mormonism this is what God through His word says to us: 

“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:25 NIV) 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
(Colossians 4:6 NIV)

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
(1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Brother and Sister Mormon Critic, I would rather lose the debate in order to win the Mormon over to Jesus, wouldn’t you? I would rather look like a fool than a sage if that’s what it takes. This isn’t about me, it’s about Him, isn’t it?  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV). Can I get an amen? 

About the Author
Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

The Apostle Paul’s Law v. Grace Dichotomy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“O foolish Mormon, who hath bewitched you?”

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

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

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

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

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

And here, in its entirety is that source: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Descent from the Cross” (1634) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV

by Michael Flournoy
Have you ever talked with Evangelicals and become the victim of aggressive preaching? Perhaps they went so far as to attack your faith and regurgitated a hundred reasons why you aren’t a Christian. You may have been accused of worshiping Joseph Smith and participating in a cult.

I’ve been in that situation a hundred times as an LDS missionary, and later while defending the faith online. I’m familiar with the bad taste it leaves in your mouth and the knot that forms in the stomach. You’re left knowing nothing of Evangelical beliefs, except they don’t seem to like Mormons very much.

In 2015, I began a serious study on the topic of grace. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Within a year my convictions shifted and I found myself embracing the Evangelical position. I came to realize there are two kinds of gospels. One gospel teaches that we must cut all the sin out of our lives to become worthy. The other is about putting something on, namely, the righteousness of Christ. This gospel says that we can be saved despite our sins.

I discovered this second gospel, which I call the gospel of imputation, all over The Book of Mormon. The Bible also testified of its truthfulness. In this article, I’ll be explaining the Evangelical position using LDS scripture and language. As an added bonus, I’ll avoid the usual accusations and name-calling.

The main difference in our soteriology is Evangelicals believe in only one temple. This temple only needed to be used once, and it transferred all the saving ordinances to everyone who believes in Christ. That temple was the cross.

The Gospel Of Amputation
Growing up as a seventh-generation Latter-day Saint, I believed I needed to keep the commandments perfectly. If I sinned, I needed to repent and stop doing them. In essence, I needed to amputate the sinful behavior from my life. After all, Jesus commanded us to be perfect in Matthew 5:48.

I knew no unclean thing could enter God’s kingdom (3 Nephi 27:19). In fact, The Book of Mormon stated that God could not save us in our sins (Alma 11:37), nor could He look upon sin with allowance (Alma 45:16). That meant if I went to Judgment Day with sin, I would be cast out. Even my sins of omission had to stop. 2 Nephi 25:23 said we were saved by grace “after all we [could] do.” Moroni 10:32 said grace was sufficient after we denied ourselves of all ungodliness. After all, doesn’t James 2:10 (KJV) say, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”?

The Book of Mormon made it clear that God wouldn’t be impressed if my spiritual report card was a B+. James 2:10 said that a score of B+ was impossible. If I had one red mark, my score would become an F. Unfortunately for me, God was a holy being, and I was anything but that. In Matthew 5:18 Jesus said that until heaven and earth passed, not one jot or tittle of the law would pass. In other words, it was unacceptable to break even one iota of God’s law.

That wouldn’t have been a problem if God’s laws were easy, but they weren’t. In Matthew 5 Jesus said if we looked upon a woman to lust after her, we committed adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:28) and if we called our brothers fools we’d be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22).

In his sermon in Alma 5:28-29, Alma says:

“Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.”

Despite the strictness of God’s commands, I gained comfort in the idea of enabling grace as defined in the Bible Dictionary. It was a power God gave his disciples so they could accomplish impossible feats. However, as time dragged on I found myself falling short again and again. I would repent of my sins only to find myself trapped in them again, or trespassing against God in new ways. This led me into greater despair and guilt than I originally felt. Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 says: “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”

No matter how hard I tried, or how desperately I prayed for God’s enabling grace, I couldn’t approach God’s standard. It felt like the odds were stacked against me like I’d been given an impossible gospel to carry out. Of course, I believed I’d get a second chance at repenting in the next life, but that didn’t carry much hope. I’d always been taught it was harder to repent in Spirit Prison. If I couldn’t reach perfection here, how could I do it there?

It was no wonder Romans 3:10 said there were none righteous and 1 John 1:8 said we deceived ourselves if we claimed we had no sin. That left me in a pitiable position since, according to the Bible, the wages of sin was death (Romans 6:23). If you find yourself in a similar position, take heart. The message of the Vicarious Atonement is for you.

“…it was unacceptable to break even one iota of God’s law.”

The Law Our Schoolmaster
Evangelicals used to tell me God gave the Israelites the Law of Moses to show them they couldn’t keep it. That statement is antithetical to everything Latter-day Saints believe. Why would a loving Heavenly Father give us commandments we can’t keep?

To answer that question, let me point to a simple equation. 1+1=2. This equation has two parts, the problem, and the solution. You can’t find the answer without the problem, and when it comes to salvation, the problem is the law. The more we try to amputate sin from our lives, the more aware we become of our enslavement to it.

The New Testament teaches that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). As a Latter-day Saint, I thought that meant I became righteous by obeying God’s laws. However, the opposite is true. The law doesn’t make us righteous, it exists to condemn us.

Galatians 3:21-24 (KJV) says:

“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

This is a shocking revelation. Paul says that righteousness doesn’t come by keeping the law, in fact no law can be enacted that generates it. In verse 22 he says it’s because we’re sinners that we can receive faith. In other words, we have to be beaten down and pinned against the wall before we realize we can’t do it ourselves. Faith is realizing we have nothing to offer. We acknowledge we have received the due wages of our sin and only Jesus can bring us to life.

In Colossians 2:13 Paul says we were dead in our sins. As a Latter-day Saint, you are uniquely equipped to understand the implications of this because it coincides with your doctrine about temples. A vicarious ordinance can only be performed for a dead person. Once the ordinance is done, the dead person merely has to accept what was done on their behalf.

This is called imputation. In other words, your act of righteousness (i.e. getting baptized, endowed, or sealed) is accredited to the dead as if they did it themselves. But wait, there’s more. In LDS theology there’s never talk of the dead having to repent if they break the covenants associated with ordinances. In fact, Alma 42:13 says repentance can only occur in mortality. It logically follows that the dead don’t accept a covenant that can condemn them, but a covenant that acts as though it’s been kept perfectly.

This is essentially what Jesus did for us. He lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father, and on the cross, he traded His righteousness for our sin. This is why Romans 5:10 associates salvation not only with Christ’s death but with His life. Since He was obedient, we are endowed with perfect righteousness. It is as if we obeyed every commandment God ever gave.

Nephi’s Courage
After leaving Jerusalem, Lehi and his family come to a valley with a river running into the ocean. He says to his son Lemuel, “Oh that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” (1 Nephi 2:9)

The Fountain of all Righteousness is God, He is the source. The imagery of a river flowing endlessly into the sea is symbolic of what Christ does for us. Even though we continue to sin, His righteousness flows into us, drowning out our wickedness.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well he said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 KJV)

If we’re trying to drink from the well of human righteousness, that well will run dry. However, Christ’s righteousness is infinite and never ceases to quench our parched souls.

In Philippians 3:8-9 (KJV) Paul says:

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

Here he claims that the righteousness he has is not his own, but that it comes from Christ. Furthermore, he obtained righteousness through faith. This idea is echoed in Enos. After praying to God, the Lord tells Enos his sins are forgiven. Bewildered, Enos asks how it is done. The Lord answers in Enos 1:8: “And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Enos wasn’t justified because of ordinances or obedience to commandments. If he were, he wouldn’t have been surprised when he was forgiven. When we work to become righteous, forgiveness becomes a wage instead of a gift. In this instance, it was faith alone that made Enos whole. All he had to do to receive the Vicarious Atonement was believe in Christ.

This idea of imputed righteousness is heavily emphasized in 2 Nephi chapter 2. Verse 3 says we are “redeemed because of the righteousness of [our] Redeemer.” Verse 4 says “salvation is free”, and verse 8 says, “there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.”

Perhaps the greatest metaphor ever written about imputation comes from 1 Nephi in chapters 3 and 4. It tells a story of Nephi and his brothers going to Jerusalem to get a set of brass plates from a powerful man named Laban.

Their initial attempts meet with failure because Laban is unwilling to part with his treasure. Nephi’s family comes back with their riches, intent on purchasing the plates. Laban takes their money but drives them out of his presence.

Just when things look hopeless, an angel appears saying Laban will be delivered into their hands. Nephi creeps into the city and finds Laban passed out drunk in the street. At the urging of the Spirit, Nephi takes Laban’s sword and decapitates him.

He then puts on Laban’s clothing and equipment and makes his way to the treasury. Once he’s inside, he is mistaken for Laban and given the brass plates.

In this metaphorical story, the brass plates represent salvation and Laban represents Christ. When they offer their riches to purchase the plates, they are driven off. Such will be the case if we try to offer God our obedience as a currency to enter heaven.

But then the story takes a turn. Nephi slays Laban and puts on his clothes. This symbolizes putting on Christ’s righteousness. Suddenly we are no longer judged as imposters trying to break into heaven, but as if we were Christ Himself. The Book of Mormon calls this “putting on the robes of righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:14).

Laban even has to die in order for this to take place. The parallels are really astounding.

In one of the more heartfelt monologues in The Book of Mormon, Nephi confesses that he is easily beset by sin, and tells us what it is that gives him courage in the face of his human frailty.

2 Nephi 4:17-19 says:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

There is no comfort in the gospel of amputation. It leaves us sorrowing over our wretched state. However, when we trust in Christ, he overcomes our sins and becomes our bedrock of courage.

The Tree Of Life
In his vision, Lehi saw an iron rod leading to a tree with fruit that gave joy to all those who ate of it. There was an iron rod that led to this tree. In 1 Nephi 11:22, it’s revealed that the tree represents the love of God. If I can expound on this imagery further, I think the tree represents the cross of Christ, and the fruit is His grace. The iron rod ends at the cross because there’s nowhere to go beyond that.

Colossians 2:13-14 teaches the Vicarious Atonement in a nutshell. It reads:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.”

Romans 10:4 asserts that Jesus “is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Where does this leave the LDS Church, with its saving ordinances and covenants? In one sense, it renders the Church obsolete. The gospel of imputation puts the emphasis on Jesus and hangs salvation on His merits alone. He effectively becomes our baptism, sealing, and endowment. He becomes our priesthood and our temple. Romans 4:24-25 teach that Christ’s righteousness is accredited to our accounts when we believe in Him.

However, Mormonism isn’t a bad thing either, if it’s viewed in its proper context. There’s no system or religion that can generate righteousness, not even the covenants of the restored gospel. However, Mormonism is extremely useful when identified as a schoolmaster bringing us to Christ. There are so many ways being raised as a Latter-day Saint has helped me understand and appreciate grace in a way I never could have if I’d been raised Protestant.

In Galatians 3:25 Paul says that once faith is obtained, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. If viewed this way, the LDS Church must be given up in order to gain something better. Thanks to the Vicarious Atonement your work has been done. The only question that remains is: will you accept it?

“Your work has been done. The only question that remains is: will you accept it?”

Why the Mormon god is a Seven-Point Failure

Tim Enthoven, The New York Times, November 24, 2018 (after Gustave Dore’)

by Michael Flournoy
The God of Christianity is a flawless Being of perfect righteousness. If there is one unholy speck in His countenance or one fallibility, He does not qualify as God. After all, didn’t Christ Himself say, “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV)? Therefore, and again, any imperfection immediately disqualifies God from being God, doesn’t it? 

It only takes one.

This is unfortunate for Latter-day Saints, as their God has not one, but seven weaknesses that disqualify him from being the deity described in the Bible. The seven failings of the Mormon god are as follows:

One: He can Fall from Godhood
The Book of Mormon states that if God changes, he will cease to be God: 

And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
— Mormon 9:19

And in Alma it then goes on to explain that if God’s justice is destroyed, He will stop being God: 

Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
— Alma 42:13

From the Latter-day Saint (LDS) perspective, this is only logical. After all, God was a man who earned his Godhood, and any position you earn can be taken away. When you take a possibility and spread it through eternity, it becomes a certainty. In other words, it isn’t a question of whether the Mormon god will fall, but when. 

This is not something a true believer needs to worry about. The God of Christianity has always existed as God. He is not under the authority of a “Grandfather God” or a universal law that can demote Him. Because He is secure in His position, we are secure in his promises. 

Based on a few of the weaknesses I’ll be describing, the god of Mormonism has fallen from his exaltation already. 

Two: He Sent an Unworthy Sacrifice for Sin
I expect Latter-day Saints to take offense at this charge. After all, Jesus lived a perfect life as an unblemished lamb, right?

However, in Mormon theology, Jesus didn’t just atone for our sins, he came to earn his own exaltation. They are quick to point out that Jesus never referred to himself as perfect, or complete, until after his resurrection. The implications are staggering. A being who was working out his own salvation was not qualified to work out ours. Do the math. A finite being cannot perform an infinite atonement.

Again, this isn’t a problem for Christians because Jesus was complete before, during, and after mortality. If Mormonism were true, we might have expected Jesus to say, “I am finished” instead of “It is finished.”

Three: He’s a God of Confusion
If there’s one religion that should have all the answers, it’s Mormonism. It has additional scripture besides the Bible and a prophet who receives direct revelation from God. If that’s not enough, every member is capable of hearing from God. It looks great on paper, but too many truth sources cause confusion. One might wonder why scripture and/or a living prophet are necessary at all since God talks to everyone. 

The common LDS answer is a chain of command. Yes, we all receive revelation, but only fathers can get it for their families and only prophets get it for the church. But what happens when sources of truth contradict?

What if the Bible says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31 ESV) but The Book of Mormon says “…they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” (1 Nephi 13:26)? What if the Book of Mormon says, “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” (Jacob 2:24), but Doctrine and Covenants condones it like this?

David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
— D&C 132:38-39

What if the living prophet received a revelation in 2015 that homosexuals were apostates…

The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.
(“First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes”, November 13, 2015, Official LDS Church website) 

… and in 2019 he received another revelation that they weren’t? 

… the Church will no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a Church member as “apostasy” for purposes of Church discipline, although it is still considered “a serious transgression.”
(“Policy Changes Announced for Members in Gay Marriages, Children of LGBT Parents”, April 4, 2019, Official LDS Church website) 

It almost feels like two opposing entities are fighting to control Latter-day Saint doctrine. That, or maybe humans are so incapable of interpreting revelation, that no truth sources are reliable. Perhaps God simply changes his mind from time to time. 

None of these options bode well for the LDS faith.

Four: He’s a Liar
The current LDS Church Gospel Principles manual, which is both official and correlated, has this to say about honesty in Chapter 31:

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.”
(“Honesty” in Gospel Principles, 2011 edition)

The manual is absolutely right, and it condemns the god of Mormonism. According to the Pearl of Great Price, the Lord spoke to Abraham as he journeyed into Egypt.

The Book of Abraham conveys the conversation:

And it came to pass when I [Abraham] was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon; Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say—She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise: Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live.
— Abraham 3:22-24 (bracketed text added to clarify context)

Technically, the statement was partly true. Sarai was Abraham’s half-sister. But the Gospel Principles manual makes it clear that a half-truth is still a lie. The LDS scriptures portray God as purposely deceiving the Egyptians into thinking Sarai was not Abraham’s wife. 

This seems like an odd thing for the most powerful Being in the universe to do. Why not promise to protect Abraham instead? Typically, we resort to lying when we feel powerless. So maybe the god of Mormonism couldn’t protect him. 

This instance with Abraham pales in comparison to the Mormon god’s Eden deception. In the garden, he told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit lest he die. He left out the fact that he couldn’t procreate without doing so, and that by obeying he would frustrate the whole plan of salvation. 

The New Testament says:

So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
— Hebrews 6:18 (ESV)

If God lies, we have no reason to trust His promises. After all, you can never really know if a liar is telling the truth or not, can you? 

Wenceslas Hollar, “Abimelech Rebuking Abraham”.
An illustration of the biblical story of King Abimelech rebuking Abraham for lying to him about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife (see Genesis 20:1-16)

Five: He’s a Slave
In the gospels Jesus asks:

How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
— Matthew 12:29 (ESV)

In context, Jesus is explaining that he casts out demons through the Spirit of God. The point being made is in order to subdue a strong man, a stronger man must bind him. Jesus is that stronger man. 

Here’s where things get dicey. In Doctrine and Covenants we read: I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). In other words, we can bind God through our obedience, thus removing his ability to condemn us. The Book of Mormon states plainly that God can’t save us in our sins:

Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins. And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
— Alma 11:36-37

So whether we are good or evil, we bind God and force him to save or condemn us. If men have the power to bind God, we, mere mortal men, must be His superior. 

Six: He Relies on Evil to Exist
The Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi explains that there must be opposition in all things. Verse 13 is of particular interest:

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
— 2 Nephi 2:13

To summarize, if there is no sin and misery, then there is no God. This puts a whole new twist to the problem of evil where God creates evil because he needs it. We can conclude that our sins enable God to exist. And since the existence of God outweighs whatever bad things we do, we’re actually performing righteousness. However, instead of thanking us, God punishes us for sinning. Given this line of logic isn’t the LDS god is actually the evil one? 

Seven: He is Unjust
The Book of Mormon is clear that an unjust deity ceases to be God: 

Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
— Alma 42:13

This verse states that if mercy extends beyond repentance in this life, it destroys justice. Despite this warning, Mormonism emphatically teaches that repentance can occur in the Spirit World.

This isn’t the only way Mormon god fails the justice test. Doctrine and Covenants tells us:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.
— D&C 132:26

This passage is referring to an ordinance called the second anointing where a Mormon’s “calling and election” is made sure. In this condition, mercy completely overrides justice. The anointed person can commit all kinds of sin. They can rape, steal, and deceive as much as they want, as long as they don’t kill anyone. And a world where people can participate in human trafficking and still enter the Celestial Kingdom is a world where God’s justice has been destroyed, isn’t it? 

Only the Christian view makes sense of a God who justifies the ungodly just as Paul plainly stated when he said, 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). Our position is that Jesus was obedient on our behalf, and his righteousness is imputed to our account. Mormonism does not have the luxury of an imputation doctrine.

This leaves Mormonism’s god in a rough spot. Not only is he an enslaved liar whose sustenance is wickedness he’s also unjust. He is simply not worthy of our worship. 

Conclusion
Clearly, this is a much different god than the God of the Bible. Yet Latter-day Saints will point to spiritual experiences – such as their Mormon Testimony that’s rooted and grounded in the infamous “burning in the bosom” phenomenon as a kind of “trump card” for the above evidence that the Mormon god is a failed imposter and stay unmoved. And in doing so – even though it may be a real and legitimate spiritual experience – they fail the test that God stated clearly He would use to prove them:  To know whether they love the only true and living Lord God revealed in the Bible with all their heart and with all their soul by not departing from Him despite any experience that a seducing False Prophet might be able to manufacture or produce: 

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. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
– Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (KJV, bold italics added for emphasis)

So Mormon friends, I’m here to warn you – which means that I must respectfully but firmly inform you, that if you are following this failed Mormon god, you too have failed. Stated plainly, if you are following the god of Mormonism, you have failed God’s test. You have been drawn into following another god. 

A false god. And it breaks my heart.

More than that, it breaks God’s heart too.

Gustave Dore’, “The Saintly Throng in the Shape of a Rose”
(colorized illustration from the Dore’ 1868 edition of Dante’s “Inferno”)

 

The gospel of Imputation v. the gospel of Amputation

“And he said unto me: Behold, there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
— 1 Nephi 14:10

by Michael Flournoy
The above verse is perhaps the truest statement in The Book of Mormon. There are only two churches: the church of God, and the church of the devil. But how do we differentiate between the two?

Doctrine and Covenants 18:5 sheds some light on this. It says: Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

In other words, the gospel and the church are fundamentally connected. Thus, a true church cannot have a false gospel and vice versa. By honing in on the gospel itself, we can determine whether a church is from God, or of the devil. It should come as no surprise, that there are only two gospels: amputation and imputation.

The gospel of amputation says we cannot be saved in sin, so we must eradicate it from our lives to be worthy. Imputation is the opposite. Instead of taking something off, it’s about putting something on, namely the righteousness of Christ. This gospel teaches that we can be saved despite our sins because Christ’s worthiness is accredited to us vicariously.

At their most basic definitions, one gospel says man participates in his salvation, the other says we do not. Thus, the truth cannot exist outside these dimensions, and it cannot be a combination of the two as that would be a contradiction.

The Amputation Heresy
A Latter-day Saint might argue that their covenants and ordinances place them outside the bounds of amputation theology. However, there are two types of sin. There are sins of omission and commission, so in order to amputate sin from our lives, not only must we stop doing bad things, we must stop not doing good things. Since LDS covenants are considered good things that are required to gain the presence of Heavenly Father, they fall directly in line with amputation.

Some Latter-day Saints have adopted the idea that imputation occurs at some point in their journey to exaltation, like at baptism. The problem with this is Jesus is an infinite being of infinite righteousness, and infinity can’t be divided. The moment Jesus gives us any percentage of His righteousness, He gives it all. So, if imputation occurs at baptism it negates the need for any ordinances afterward. To say otherwise is to deny the total worthiness of Christ.

Even if Latter-day Saints embrace imputation, they still fall under the dominion of amputation theology because imputation cannot occur until man does something first.

With amputation theology, your worthiness hinges on your obedience. So as long as you have sin in your life, you’re in trouble. With imputation, sin doesn’t harm salvation, because worthiness hinges on faith.

This puts a damper on LDS efforts to say we believe the same thing. In fact, the divide between these gospels is so great that Mormons have more in common with every religion on earth than with Biblical Christianity.

This is a major problem, because in Galatians 1:8 Paul says, “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.” In Galatians 5:4 he says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

When Paul spoke about the law and grace, he was talking about amputation vs imputation. Even though Latter-day Saints don’t follow the law of Moses, Paul’s statements still condemn them on principle.

Romans 3:19-20 says: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law reveals God’s standards and is meant to stop our mouths and make us guilty before Him. Ironically, the covenants of the restored gospel do exactly the same thing. And assuming God doesn’t change, whether He reveals His standards through the law or LDS covenants, it still condemns us.

The gospel of amputation is an impossible gospel – because no matter how hard we try we can never eradicate the sin from our lives. 1 John 1:8 says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Thus, a gospel that can’t save us despite our sins cannot save us at all.

The Gospel of Imputation
In Romans 3:23-25, Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

There are a number of doctrines being stated here. None of us are up to achieving God’s perfect standard, and as a result, we are pronounced guilty. God’s grace is given as a gift to us, even though we don’t deserve it. And grace is received through faith. There is no mention of baptism, endowment, or temple sealings.

In Romans 4:4-5 Paul says, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

The message is simple. Faith is not an action word that includes LDS covenants or obedience. It is completely separate from anything we do. If we will just believe, we will be counted righteous.

Of course, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible corrupts Romans 4:5, changing it to say that God does not justify the ungodly. Not only does this go against the context of Romans 4, but it also doesn’t make sense. Why would God need to justify the godly anyway?

During his ministry, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12-13).”

The restored gospel is a doctrine of sacrifice. Latter-day Saints must abstain from tea, coffee, and alcohol. They must sacrifice 10% of their incomes to the church. They must sacrifice Sunday as a holy day to the Lord. In the temple, Latter-day Saints covenant to consecrate their time, talents, and anything else the Lord has blessed them with, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith 6:7).” This is not the gospel taught in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t require a gospel of sacrifice. He gave us a gospel of mercy.

Here’s the million-dollar question for Latter-day Saints. If there are only two churches and only two gospels for these churches to be founded on, then where does that leave you? Either Christianity is true, and you believe in a false gospel, or you are right and so is every other religious group on earth that teaches man must do something. Either way, it’s a lose-lose proposition, because the gospel you claim was restored already existed long before Mormonism came on the scene.