Archive for the ‘Michael Flournoy’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

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

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

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

To reinforce the necessity of revelation I wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The front cover of “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reconsidering Mormon Spiritual Conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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. 

Click here to read Part One

“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.

Click here to read Part Two

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;