Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 3:21-24 (KJV) says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Nephi 4:17-19 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traveling mercies for us both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Non-Mormons Should Read The Book of Mormon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or this for 1 Nephi 21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further instructions encouraging this FEELING were given:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When God spoke and brought the world into existence, Christmas was on His heart. Christmas is all about Jesus, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world! It’s about Jesus, God’s gift of redemption–born to die in my place and your place, for my sins and your sins, because the wages of sin is death. Write it down; post it on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror: “Jesus–born to die that I might live!” No matter who you are, what you have done, you were pre-loved by God!”
(Kay Arthur, “Born to Die That I Might Live”, Decision Magazine, December 1, 2008)

At The Cross
I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There at the cross

At the cross,
At the cross
He died for our sin
At the cross,
At the cross
He gave us life again

I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There at the cross

At the cross,
At the cross
You died for our sin
At the cross,
At the cross
You gave us life again

(Words and Music by Randy and Terry Butler)

Performed by Terry Butler on “Change My Heart Oh God, Volume 2”

(c) 1993 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

Why the Book of Mormon Jesus isn’t the Christ of the Bible

by Susan Grape
There are three reasons why the Jesus in the Book of Mormon is not the Christ of the Bible:

  1. The biblical history of the tribes of Israel, and the claims of the LDS1 position
  2. Jesus descending out of heaven to the Americas after his Ascension
  3. The character of the Jesus in the Bible vs. the Jesus in 3 Nephi


1. The biblical history of the tribes of Israel, and the claims of the LDS position
Israel’s history after Solomon’s reign
As a consequence of Solomon’s idolatry in his later years, the nation split apart. The northern kingdom, “Israel,” was torn from the rule of Solomon’s descendants and consisted of ten tribes. The southern kingdom, “Judah,” was left for his line to rule and consisted of two tribes. (1 Kings 11:26-39)

The northern kingdom would have had God’s blessing if their king and the ten tribes remained faithful, but Jeroboam did the opposite of faithfulness by immediately erecting a pagan altar with pagan priests to attend it (1 Kings 12:25-33). Within four centuries Israel and Judah became so idolatrous, that Israel was exiled in 722BC by the Assyrian Empire, and Judah was exiled by the Babylonian Empire around 588BC. The purpose of Judah’s exile was to purge idolatry and preserve the righteous by removing them from Jerusalem to avoid the destruction of the conquering nation. (Jeremiah 24)

Both nations were exiled within the boundaries of Babylon. Ezekiel prophesied among them (Ezekiel 4:1-7) concerning God’s promise of restoring Israel after Judah’s 70-year captivity. He proclaimed the twelve tribes would rise up together, united (Ezek. 37:1-14) and return to the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 36) as one nation, under one king (Ezek. 37:15-24).2

Ezra however, recorded that only 52,000 men returned from three tribes, so where were the others? Many supposed the missing tribes were absorbed into the cultures they were exiled in; that is until the indigenous peoples in the Americas were discovered. A new theory developed that assumed Native Americans were descendants of the tribes of Israel.

This theory began to fade away as the sciences of linguistics, migration, and genetics gave concrete evidence that Native Americans were not of Israelite origin. Sometimes the sciences aren’t trusted because they aren’t divine revelation; however, the Bible is, and it divinely reveals what befell the tribes.

What happened to the tribes after Solomon’s reign?
Usually, populations increase as time goes by; but this did not happen with Israel or Judah:

  • Wars were the biggest reason for the population reduction of Israel. (2 Chron. 13:13-17)
  • The northern kingdom lost people, even entire tribes to Judah until they only had 10,000 soldiers left when Assyria invaded them. (2 Chron. 11:13-15, cf. 16-17, 12:7; 15:9-15; 17:14-19; 1 Kings 12:24; 2 Kings 13:7)
  • Even though those who joined Judah caused Judah’s population to increase, by the time of Babylon’s last invasion, several devastating wars had reduced its numbers by the hundreds of thousands. (2 Kings 24:3-4; 10-15; 2 Chron. 24:23-24 with 25:5; 2 Chron. 28:5-6; Joel)

After the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, scattered tribes did not become geographically lost

    • Some were never deported. (Jer. 39:10; 40:7; 2 Kings 25:22; 2 Chron. 30:1-6, 10-11, 18; 31:1 1 Chron. 4:41-43
    • Two-thirds of those in Jerusalem died during Babylon’s second deportation. They died at other times as well: Israel, 2 Kings 13:7; and Judah, Ezekiel 5:11-12; 6:8-10.
    • Some, not listed in Ezra, returned at different times than Ezra’s, Zerubbabel’s, and Nehemiah’s groups did. (1 Chron. 9:1-3)
    • The Book of Esther records where the locations of the exiles were; and, where they remained. (Esther 1:1, 3:6-15; 8:7-14; 9:16-32)3
    • From Esther’s era until the New Testament period, the Bible reveals that they continued to migrate/flee all around the Mediterranean. Acts 2:5-12; 13:5-6, 14-15; 14:1; 16:1-, 14; 17:1-2, 10, 16-17; 21:2; James 1:1.


H
ow the lost tribe theory in the Book of Mormon claims a relationship to the tribes of Israel
The Book of Mormon’s narrative begins around 600 BC., with the story of Lehi, and his remnant that left Jerusalem after Babylon’s first exile. It is one thing for a small group of Jews to become isolated in a remote area. It is quite another story when the claim is that God commanded a person to leave Jerusalem and go to a new “land of promise.” This parting from Biblical principle and history begins in 1 Nephi 1:4:

“For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days)…”

Lehi (and family) were living in Jerusalem when Zedekiah was king! Lehi was righteous, rich and had trained skills (1 Nephi 1:1, 15; 2:4; 1 1:2-3, 1:16-17) His relative Laban was so wealthy, he owned a guarded treasury house, was a man of valor and an officer (1 Nephi 4:20; 3:31-4:1, 8-9) Nephi was highly skilled (2 Nephi 5:15-17)

But, the residents of Jerusalem during the early reign of Zedekiah were poor, unskilled, and unrighteous! Why? During the previous king’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar deported all the noble, all military officers, all who were strong for war, and all craftsmen and smiths—10,000, with their families to Babylon, leaving only the “unrighteous” poor behind (2 Kings 24:8-18; Jer. 29:6).

Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne after this deportation.

The people that the Book of Mormon claims were at Jerusalem were there at the wrong time. They fail authenticity.

In this “land of promise” – that is, the Americas, starting around 588 BC (1 Nephi 2:11-20) – Lehi’s descendants grew and split into two nations and were ruled by their own kings. By 400 AD, one nation was wiped out of existence, and the other utterly lost its faith, language, and identity.

They likewise fail authenticity, for this defies God’s promise of preservation; and, restoration His reuniting the twelve tribes as one nation under one king on the mountains of Israel4 (Ezekiel; 36, note: vv. 8-11, 24, 33; 37:1-24; Jeremiah 29:10-14; Isaiah 10:20-22, 51:11; Daniel 9, note: vv. 2, 24-25). Those who remained in foreign lands never formed another nation because they were ethnically and spiritually linked to that one nation, and journeyed there if possible to attend the high festivals. (Acts 2:5-12)

This map of the Persian Empire shows that the tribes were never really lost. Some isolated pockets of Jews such as the modern expatriate communities in India and Africa have been confirmed as Jews. Their locations are exactly where the Book of Esther says their ancestors were deported to during the exile (see Esther 1:1; 3:6-15; 8:7-14; 9:16-32). (click on image to read the Wikipedia article about these recently found lost tribes)


What about the “other sheep?” (John 10:16)
Latter-day Saints claim that Jesus had to preach to these alleged tribes so they could audibly hear his voice in order to become one with those in Jerusalem:

“Other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice…” (John 10:16)
”… And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand…and they all shall have one shepherd.” (Ezekiel 37:16,24)
“… But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd…” (3 Nephi 16:3)

John 10:16 does not correlate to 3 Nephi 16:3 because it is based on Isaiah 56:1-115 not the Ezekiel passage. It’s about the blind man Jesus healed that the false shepherds, the Pharisees threw out of the synagogue; and, their failure to tend the sheep (John 9:35-10:18). Jesus, therefore, was not privately instructing His disciples how “lost” Israelites must literally hear His voice! Instead, He was rebuking the Pharisees for hindering the Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah; and the Gentiles because they turned the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace (John 2:13-16; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46, cf. Isaiah 56:7). In verse 16, Jesus referenced Isaiah 56:8 to the Pharisees: “The Lord God which gathereth the out casts of Israel saith, ‘Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered to him’.”

Due to their rejection of Him and bad shepherding, Jesus was rejecting their leadership. He would now be the True Shepherd and unite the “others”—believing Gentiles (John 2:12-16, 3:16) with the “out casts of Israel”—those thrown out of the synagogue. All the “sheep” in both folds (Acts 2:5-12; Acts chap. 10) would now be one fold. (Eph. 2:11-19)

2. Jesus descending out of heaven to the Americas after his Ascension6
3 Nephi 11:8-12 states that Jesus Christ bodily descended “out of heaven” “after his ascension” in the same way Acts 1:9-11 describes. Then, he did such works as preaching repentance, the gospel, teaching, instituting baptism, and calling twelve disciples. (3 Nephi. 8-28)

Jesus taught, however, that it was “expedient” that He must “go away” so the Holy Spirit would come and “guide them into all truth.” (John 16:7-14; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3). So after Jesus ascended, the Spirit is the one who teaches truth and glorifies Christ through:

  • Christians preaching the gospel to ALL nations through planned missionary journeys, daily witnessing, and also unplanned ways like persecution and “accidents” like Paul’s shipwreck. (Matt. 10:6-7; Matt. 28:19-20)
  • Spirit-led visions and miracles. Paul had a vision, then went to Ananias and was converted (Acts 9:3-7; 22:4-16; 26:9-18). Paul was forbidden to go to Mysia, but was beckoned in a vision by a Macedonian to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Phillip was told by an angel to head south. After witnessing to an Ethiopian, he was miraculously taken away by the Holy Spirit to another city to preach there (Acts 8:26-40).

The redeeming work of the Son for all of Israel (and Gentiles) took place on the cross. Since His Ascension, Jesus has “sat down” (signifying His earthly work is complete) on the throne, and the Holy Spirit now reveals who Christ is.


Verses used to support the claim that Jesus left heaven after His Ascension (like 3 Nephi describes) are not proof texts for that belief
First, 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 (KJV) reads as follows:

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Jesus did not have to descend out of heaven to show His self to the 500 because they (excluding Paul) saw Him before He ascended during the forty days He was still on earth.

Next, Revelation 1:10-18, which reads as follows:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

John saw Jesus; however, Jesus did not bodily descend out of heaven. Instead, John was “in the Spirit” and saw Jesus in an apocalyptic-style vision.

An Eastern Orthodox fresco of Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus. Artist and location unknown.

Next, there’s Christ’s Post-Ascension appearance to Paul (see Acts 9:3-7; 22:6-9; and 26:12-14). Jesus appeared to Paul after His Ascension. All three accounts of Paul’s vision explicitly document what he saw:

“…suddenly there shined round about him a light from HEAVEN…heard a voice” (see Acts 9:3&4)
“…suddenly there shone from HEAVEN a great light round about…heard a voice” (see Acts 22:6&7)
“…a light from HEAVEN…heard a voice” (see Acts 26:13&14)

And Acts 9:7 adds that the men with Paul also heard the voice, but saw “no man”.

3 Nephi 11:8-12 claims:

“… as they cast their eyes up again towards heaven, behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him and they durst not open their mouths… it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them AFTER his ascension into heaven.” Then, they touched his wounds. (vv. 14-15)

This was not a vision; it was a narrative; and, it matches the description of how Christ will bodily descend out of heaven at the Second Coming in Acts 1:9-11. This is especially so because just before his descent, he avenged the blood of the saints. (3 Nephi 9:5-11).

Then there’s the word “appear/appearance” in Paul’s accounts

In the first two accounts of his vision, Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles—through Ananias. In Acts 26:12-19 Paul shortens his testimony by stating that Jesus said, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose to make thee a witness…” (v. 16), making it sound like Jesus physically appeared and preached to him. First, verses thirteen and fourteen verify that Jesus appeared as “…a light from heaven…heard a voice”. Second, the other two accounts explain that that message was given to Paul through Ananias.

Finally, there is Acts 23:11 (KJV) which says: “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

This was more than likely a manifestation. Unlike the Mormon Jesus, the Biblical Jesus is omnipresent; and can manifest himself somewhere while His resurrected body is in heaven.  More important, this encounter lasted a few seconds to simply assure Paul; unlike the narrative in 3 Nephi, where Jesus continued his work and was there for several days.

These “appearances” of Jesus after His Ascension in the Bible were not ones of Him bodily descending, so they do not conflict with Jesus remaining in heaven “till his enemies are made his footstool” (Ps. 110:1-31 Cor. 15:25-26). The story in 3 Nephi is in opposition to this.


3. The character of the Jesus in the Bible vs. the Jesus in 3 Nephi of the Book of Mormon

The Biblical Jesus who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14-17) is now our advocate with the Father. So, unlike the Old Testament’s era of justice and retribution, (i.e. the Flood); or, the final judgment at the Second Coming, we are now in a period of grace. This New Testament Era centers on Jesus who came to “give us life more abundantly,” therefore, mercy is prevalent until He returns. The character of the Book of Mormon Jesus is different. In 3 Nephi, before he left heaven (right after His ultimate act of grace and love—His death on the cross), the Book of Mormon Jesus is pouring out wrath in the Americas comparable to the Apocalypse:

The Book of Mormon Jesus

    1. Killed those who murdered the prophets and saints to avenge them. (3 Nephi 9:5-11)
    2. Killed multitudes for doubt (3 Ne. 8:3-4) and wickedness by burning, drowning, and burying them and their cities. (3 Nephi 9:3-11)
    3. Killed multitudes around the time of his death. (3 Nephi 9-12)
    4. After he died, many were buried in the earth. (3 Nephi 9:5-8)
    5. When the earth stopped shaking (3 Nephi 10:9) he summarized his killing and destruction to the grieving, remorseful survivors, and then told them to repent so he could heal them. (3 Nephi 9:13)
    6. Wept over them after he killed them (3 Nephi 10:4-6)

The New Testament Jesus

    1. Reserves vindication for the martyred saints until His Second Coming. (Revelation 6:9-11; 19:1-8)
    2. Called the wicked who scorned the prophets, rejected Him to His face, and successfully plotted to kill Him, “hypocrites”, and held their generation responsible for the deaths of the saints. (Matthew 23:34-36)
    3. While dying on the cross, He forgave those who physically crucified Him. (Luke 23:33-35)
    4. When He died, the earth shook and many rose from the dead. (Matthew 27:50-53)
    5. Did not kill and destroy to bring about repentance. In fact, His disciples asked Him to destroy some who rejected Him, and Jesus told them: “the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:51-56)
    6. Wept over them after pronouncing judgment and allowed them to live. (Luke 19:41-44, Matthew 23:37)

Clearly, the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is another Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. Mormon leaders were quite right when they said:

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages’”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads”, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90)

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard P. Brockbank, LdS Seventy, “The Living Christ”,  Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26)

The nutshell version of the last section of this article.

NOTES
1 Latter-day Saints (LDS); aka, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church.
2 The two sticks in Ezek. 37:15-22 are not the Book of Mormon (the stick of Joseph), and the Bible (the stick of Judah) becoming one as the LDS Church claims. Verses 18-22 explain what they are: the two divided nations! “…Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? God will make the two sticks “one stick,” and that one stick is “one nation, [not books/scrolls] in the land on the mountains of Israel and one king shall be king to them all and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”
3 Non-Biblical reference: The Works of Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Books X-XV.
4 The idea of a second promised land has been a foreign notion to Jews (and Christians) throughout history. All of the Old Testament prophets were in divine agreement that Israel’s only inheritance forever was the land of Canaan; and, that they would return to that same land promised to Abraham as one restored nation.
5 Isaiah 56:1-11 (KJV) reads as follows:

Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

6 S. Kent Brown, “When Did Jesus Visit the Americas?” in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 146–156.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The nutshell version of this article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

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

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

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

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

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

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

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

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

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

Why the Mormon god is a Seven-Point Failure

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

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

It only takes one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of these options bode well for the LDS faith.

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

Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when He was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(“Honesty” in Gospel Principles, 2011 edition)

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

The Book of Abraham conveys the conversation:

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

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

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

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

The New Testament says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the Christian view makes sense of a God who justifies the ungodly just as Paul plainly stated when he said, And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). Our position is that Jesus was obedient on our behalf, and his righteousness is imputed to our account. Mormonism does not have the luxury of an imputation doctrine.

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

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

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
– Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (KJV, bold italics added for emphasis)

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

A false god. And it breaks my heart.

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

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

 

A Caution to Transitioning Ex-Mormons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gospel of Imputation v. the gospel of Amputation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a major problem, because in Galatians 1:8 Paul says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” In Galatians 5:4 he says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following Jesus After Mormonism

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

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

It also contains a treasure trove of wisdom borne out of their (often painful) Post-Mormon life experiences. The design and intent of this section isn’t to replace the Ex-Mormon’s old Mormon To-Do List with a new Evangelical version, but to invite them to learn from those who have gone before them.  This content also demonstrates clearly how while abiding in Christ may be as natural as eating, drinking, walking, and breathing, it’s not always passive.

Click the above image for the video recording of this presentation from the Faith After Mormonism Conference.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

Supplemental Content
This is a grass-catcher collection of content that was compiled, “just in case” for the Q&A portion of the main presentation. This presentation, combined with the Main Presentation, represents a kind of mini-crash course or road map of resources and reference materials to assist in helping the Ex-Mormon successfully make a full transition into mainstream historic Christianity.

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

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

About the Presenter
Fred W. Anson (Lake Forest, California) is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum).  

About the Conference
Our purpose is to provide hope and wisdom for people leaving Mormonism to explore a new faith home in historic, biblical Christianity. Through speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and individual interactions,
you will receive helpful resources and meet others on a similar journey.

The Presenter would like to acknowledge and thank the following people for their assistance in producing this presentation (in no particular order): Michael and Briana Flournoy; Tina Edgar; the Admins of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook Group (Jackie Davidson, Amy Fuller, Barb Griffin, and Michael Stevens); Charlotte Pardee and the Ex-Mormons for Jesus, Orange, California chapter; Ross Anderson for making all this possible; and as always, I thank my wonderful wife Sue, who not only keeps me honest and humble but even-keeled to boot!

But above all else: Soli Deo Gloria.
Thank you, Jesus, for saving a wretch like me from my own worst enemy – myself.