Archive for the ‘Christian History’ Category

If using symbols and scripture is worshiping them
then Mormonism has a beam-in-eye problem

“The Crucifixion”, by Harry Anderson. This is one of two paintings that Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland referred to in his Fall 2022 General Conference address that, “…serve as backdrops for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in their sacred weekly temple meetings each Thursday in Salt Lake City,” (see Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”). So if symbolic reminders of Christ’s sacrifice like this aren’t a problem when Latter-day Saint leaders use them, then why is it a problem when others do too? (credit: LDS Church Media Library)

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

Sixth LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith speaking at the pulpit of a funeral service in the Brigham City Tabernacle surrounded by cross symbols in the architecture and floral arrangement. Please note the highlighted floral cross that’s at the center of the proceedings. (credit: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection)

The Myth
“Biblical Christians worship the cross . . .”

In the mid-twentieth century, LDS leaders began suggesting that Biblical Christians worship the cross.1 Prior to that many Latter-day Saints embraced the cross as a symbol of their religion, similar to Protestants and Catholics. In 1957, LDS Prophet and Church President, David O. McKay, responded to a question about a Salt Lake City jewelry store advertising cross necklaces for girls, (see “Mormons and the Cross” by Michael De Groote). Following McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

This custom of adoring the cross seems to have grown out of the purported vision given to Constantine when it is stated that he saw a cross in the heavens and was told that by it he was to conquer. From that time the use of the cross as an object of reverence grew and, when the rebellion against the Catholic Church commenced, the adoration of the cross continued more or less among the Protestant churches.

To many, like the writer, such a custom is repugnant and contrary to the true worship of our Redeemer. Why should we bow down before a cross or use it as a symbol? Because our Savior died on the cross, the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship. [ . . . ] We may be definitely sure that if our Lord had been killed with a dagger or with a sword, it would have been very strange indeed if religious people of this day would have graced such a weapon by wearing it and adoring it because it was by such a means that our Lord was put to death.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, “Your Question: The Wearing of the Cross, Answered by Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve,” The Improvement Era, Volume 64, 1961 March (No. 3), bolding added for emphasis)

Latter-day Saints often paraphrase Smith’s statement as a question, “If a member of your family was shot with a gun would you wear it around your neck to remember them?” In 1975, Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley”, “Chapter 8 We Look to Christ”)

Very recently, Jeffrey R. Holland attempted to explain why Latter-day Saints do not use the cross as a symbol of their faith:

As I attempt to explain why we generally do not use the iconography of the cross, I wish to make abundantly clear our deep respect and profound admiration for the faith-filled motives and devoted lives of those who do.

One reason we do not emphasize the cross as a symbol stems from our biblical roots. Because crucifixion was one of the Roman Empire’s most agonizing forms of execution, many early followers of Jesus chose not to highlight that brutal instrument of suffering. The meaning of Christ’s death was certainly central to their faith, but for some 300 years they typically sought to convey their gospel identity through other means.2

By the fourth and fifth centuries, a cross was being introduced as a symbol of generalized Christianity, but ours is not a “generalized Christianity.” Being neither Catholic nor Protestant, we are, rather, a restored church, the restored New Testament Church. Thus, our origins and our authority go back before the time of councils, creeds, and iconography.
(Jeffrey R Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross” October 2022 General Conference, bolding added for emphasis)

First, in his General Conference address, Elder Holland says, “…the absence of a symbol that was late coming into common use is yet another evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of true Christian beginnings.” Then, he immediately appeals to the cross in the left panel as a symbol of the price that Christ paid for us as evidence of the superiority of his “restored” church stating, “These portrayals serve as constant reminders to us of the price that was paid and the victory that was won by Him whose servants we are,” (see Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”, click on the above image to view this portion of his address in context)

“Biblical Christians worship the Bible . . .”
The Book of Mormon accuses those who reject it of having a closed-minded devotion to the Bible alone: “And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (see 2 Nephi 29:3).

The argument by Latter-day Saints that Biblical Christians engage in bibliolatry is often tied to three positions:

    1. Biblical authority
    2. Biblical inerrancy
    3. Biblical sufficiency3

Jeffrey R. Holland laid out the full argument that the bibliolatry charge sets up. Namely, that the Bible is insufficient to answer all of life’s questions. Enter stage left: LDS Scripture.4

The Bible is the word of God. It is always identified first in our canon, our “standard works.” Indeed, it was a divinely ordained encounter with the fifth verse of the first chapter of the book of James that led Joseph Smith to his vision of the Father and the Son, which gave birth to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our time. But even then, Joseph knew the Bible alone could not be the answer to all the religious questions he and others like him had. As he said in his own words, the ministers of his community were contending—sometimes angrily—over their doctrines. “Priest [was] contending against priest, and convert [was contending] against convert … in a strife of words and a contest about opinions,” he said. About the only thing these contending religions had in common was, ironically, a belief in the Bible, but, as Joseph wrote, “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question [regarding which church was true] by an appeal to the Bible.” Clearly the Bible, so frequently described at that time as “common ground,” was nothing of the kind—unfortunately it was a battleground.
(Jeffrey R Holland, “My Words . . . Never Cease” April 2008 General Conference, bolding added for emphasis)

Photography of Amelia White Young, Brigham Young’s 51st wife, wearing a cross in 1895. (credit: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection)

Does the Use of Symbols Necessarily = Idolatry?
The main thrust of this LDS polemic is that use of the cross as a Christian symbol is too late to have been part of original Christianity, and is therefore a sign of apostasy. LDS leaders tie its use to the influence of the fourth-century Roman Emperor, Constantine, whom Latter-day Saints believe introduced pagan influences to the Church.

But is the use of the cross as a symbol by Christians in fact late? Much of the argument that the cross as iconography is late is based on archaeological data that shows that the earliest artistic depictions of the crucifixion itself were not made until around 400 years after Christ’s death. But literary data shows that prior to Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, Christians were already using the cross, among others things, as a symbol of their faith. Christian historian and theologian Everett Fergusson notes, “Writings from the early church show how central the cross was to Christian preaching and confession.”5

In his letters, the apostle Paul—the earliest New Testament author—referred eleven times to the cross of Christ as symbolic of the Christian faith. Why does Paul tie persecution of Jesus’ followers to the cross (see Galatians 5:11, 6:12 & 14)—or mention enemies of the cross—if association with the cross of Christ was not an early symbol of the Christian faith?6

Latter-day Saints use various symbols to represent aspects of their belief and practice: the beehive, CTR rings, sunstones, and moonstones—statues of Moroni adorn LDS temples. Are Latter-day Saints worshipping these symbols by their use? Clearly, no. So the claim that Biblical Christians worship the cross is a myth.

Does Having a Defined Canon of Scripture = Bibliolatry?
The charge of bibliolatry, or the worship of the Bible, is an attack against those who hold to biblical authority, inerrancy, and supremacy. Those Christians who hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura will hear this charge from Latter-day Saints. As believers in revealed religion, Latter-day Saints and Biblical Christians should share some common ground with regard to the authority of Scripture.

The authority and inerrancy of Scripture derive from its divine Author. R. C. Sproul summed it up nicely:

The authority of the Bible is based on its being the written Word of God, and because the Bible is the Word of God and the God of the Bible is truth and speaks truthfully, authority is linked to inerrancy. If the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is a God of truth, then the Bible must be inerrant [ . . . ].
(R.C. Sproul, “Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine” (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2005), p.121)

Why then do Latter-day Saints attack the authority and inerrancy of the Bible? It is odd!7 By doing so, they cut off the very argument for revealed religion that they adopt when arguing for the authority of Joseph Smith from the Book of Mormon by the oft-repeated axiom “If the Book of Mormon is true, then it follows that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church.8

Does using a text as the basis for authority amount to worshiping that text?
Clearly not, lest the Latter-day Saints be guilty of the very charge they levy against Biblical Christians. This is another myth!

Maybe it is the fact that Biblical Christians affirm the inerrancy of the Bible that rightly brings the charge of bibliolatry. Latter-day Saints believe that an ancient prophet named Moroni wrote the title page of the Book of Mormon, and included this warning, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.” (see Title Page to The Book of Mormon). The author attributes any faults in the Book of Mormon to the mistakes of men and also implies perfection in the things of God.

Christians who hold to the inerrancy of the Bible—the divine nature of Scripture—do so on the basis of God’s absolute perfection and ability to convey His Word perfectly. They do not deny the human nature of Scripture. Sproul stated the position well:

The process of inspiration did not make the biblical writers automatons, for their books reveal differences of vocabulary, style, and other matters of variation between one human author and another. But inspiration did overcome any tendency they may have had to error, with the result that the words they wrote were precisely what God, the divine Author, intended us to have.
(Ibid. R.C. Sproul, 135)

Is it idolatrous to trust wholeheartedly in the reliability of God’s Word?
Isn’t that the equivalent of saying that leaning on God’s own trustworthiness is wrong? Surely not! Yet, another myth.

But what about the supremacy of the Bible? Are Biblical Christians engaging in idolatry when they claim that the Bible is the sole source of God’s Word? Many texts claim to be revelations from God. The Quran of Islam and the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism are two ancient examples. Indeed, the LDS Church is beset by many would-be successors to Joseph Smith’s role as producer of hidden, ancient, scriptural writings.

The Book of Mormon indicates that the plates from which Joseph Smith translated had a sealed portion, and looks forward to a time when that sealed portion would be translated (see 2 Nephi 27). Individuals have stepped forward making conflicting claims to having translated the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon or other additional records.9

The LDS Church has not added the Quran or the Zend-Avesta to its canon. Nor does it accept the writings of other “latter-day translators.” In fact, it has from its very beginning exercised discrimination relative to the authority claims of others claiming revelations within the broader Latter-day Saint Restoration Movement (see for example the incident of Hiram Page’s seer stone recounted in Doctrine and Covenants 28).

By rejecting other would-be additions to the LDS canon of Scripture, and holding that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are the only modern Scriptural sources of official LDS doctrine, are Latter-day Saints worshiping their canon? No. Clearly, the claim that Biblical Christians are idolaters for exercising discernment is a myth.

‘Why then do Latter-day Saints attack the authority and inerrancy of the Bible? It is odd! By doing so, they cut off the very argument for revealed religion that they adopt when arguing for the authority of Joseph Smith from the Book of Mormon by the oft-repeated axiom “If the Book of Mormon is true, then it follows that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church.’ (Paul Nurnberg)

How It’s a Myth
Christians wear the cross as a symbol of their faith in their Lord, Jesus Christ, who hung and died upon it—suffering death for their sins. We worship “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:2 and Revelation 5:11-14). The authority that Biblical Christians ascribe to the Bible is based on the nature and perfection of God. It is not illegitimate to appeal to God’s nature as a presupposition of the reliability of His Word. Having established that, let’s look at some of the Biblical data that supports the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of God’s Word.

When the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus for teaching in the temple and challenged his authority, Jesus told the parables of the two sons and the tenants. When his accusers rightly perceived the action the master of the vineyard would take towards the wicked tenants, Jesus appealed to the authority of the Word of God (see Matthew 21:42).

In John 10, Jesus declared the unity of himself with his Father, claiming that he will give eternal life to his sheep and that no mere human can pluck them out of his hand. He makes his identification with Deity explicit when he states that his Father gave his sheep to him, and his Father is greater than all, and no mere human is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand. The implication of these claims of Jesus was not lost on those who heard him. When he stated, “I and my Father are one,” they picked up stones to kill him. Their reasoning is conveyed clearly by Matthew, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself, God.”

Jesus then cited Psalm 82 as justification for identifying himself with God, and asked his accusers: “If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (see John 10:23-39).

If Scripture is necessarily errant in places because God used human authors to produce it, then we could say that Scripture could be set aside or nullified. But here the Lord Jesus declared that Scripture cannot be set aside or nullified. Jesus reminded those prepared to stone him what Scripture said and reminded them that it cannot be a mistake. As Sproul noted in the above quote, the authority of Scripture is tied to its inerrancy.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote to his ministry partner that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” By use of the Greek word theopneustos (lit. “breathed out by God”), Paul highlights the divine nature of Scripture. Paul provided Timothy with the implications of that important fact. Scripture is profitable for doctrine or teaching, for reproof (the Greek word used here implies that by which disputes may be resolved), correction (restoration to an upright state or improvement of life or character), and for instruction in righteousness.

When Biblical Christians affirm the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), they highlight God’s intended role for Scripture in the life and faith of the Church as the sole God-breathed source for doctrine, teaching, correction, and instruction. They affirm the authority of Scripture because its divine Author is perfect and speaks truthfully.

Why It Matters
Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “[ . . . ] the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley”, “Chapter 8 We Look to Christ”.

Latter-day Saints are presented with a never-ending spiral staircase of attempts at obedience, sin, and repentance—followed by more attempts at full obedience. Rinse and Repeat. CTR rings remind them that their church teaches obedience as the means of salvation and exaltation. The hope is that they will eventually reach the top of the staircase and achieve exaltation (see Come Follow Me Insights – Staircase).

Don’t misunderstand what I wrote above. Obedience and sanctification are important to Biblical Christians. But obedience isn’t the means by which we are justified before God (see Romans 4:1-5) Those who believe in Him who justifies the ungodly are saved from the effects of sin and are justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As Paul the Apostle wrote “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (see 1 Cor. 1:18). Paul wrote that letter and sent it to the church at Corinth well before Constantine was born. Revering the cross as the symbol of what Christ accomplished on behalf of believers is not idolatry!

The key takeaway I want my LDS readers to think about is this: In accusing Biblical Christians of idolatry for using the cross as a symbol of our faith and bibliolatry for accepting the Bible as the sole source of God’s revealed Word, the aim of LDS leaders is not to engender trust in their people in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross or trust in God’s Word in the Bible. Rather, it is a polemical device aimed at making space for LDS teaching. And LDS teaching about the cross and about the nature of Scripture is unbiblical. It leads people to place their trust in their own efforts to be obedient as the means by which they will be exalted. It leads people to question the reliability of God’s promise of salvation to those who believe on his Son (see John 6:28-29).

Summary and Conclusion
The polemic aim of these charges is to try to demonstrate that the LDS Church has a better claim to undefiled worship (no pagan influence) and a better (more complete) canon of Scriptures. These charges are myths that cut both ways. They are misrepresentations of the positions of Biblical Christians. Latter-day Saints should not perpetuate these myths if they wish others to treat their own positions with charity (see Matthew 7:12).

“An inconvenient truth is still truth” (Paul Nurnberg)

NOTES
1 The rejection of the cross by LDS leaders and the argument that its use is representative of apostasy followed a period of doctrinal development in which several influential LDS leaders, B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, and Joseph Fielding Smith, developed a distinctly LDS narrative of a “Great Apostasy” from the Christian faith, necessitating restoration. (see Eric R. Dursteler “Historical Periodization in the LDS Great Apostasy Narrative” in “Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy”). It is interesting to note that this period of narrative building came directly after the LDS cessation of polygamy and during the period when the LDS leaders were working to build a new identity after ceasing what had been Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrine and practice from the 1840’s through the early 1900’s. LDS leaders needed to affirm how they stood apart from broader Christianity without polygamy. During the early decades of the twentieth century, the challenge posed to the authority of LDS Church leadership by an emerging LDS Fundamentalist movement over the cessation of the practice of polygamy necessitated a narrative of apostasy and restoration that was more heavily focused on priesthood authority. That development continues to influence LDS narrative and practice today.

2 This is assumed but not supported by Holland. In his General Conference address, Lifted Up upon the Cross”, Holland recounted an anecdote in which a graduate school student asked him why Latter-day Saints do not adopt the cross as a symbol of their faith. In responding to the young person’s question, Holland recounts that he read to him passages from the Book of Mormon that touch on the cross. In his spoken remarks, Holland elicited laughter from the crowd in the Conference Center when he said, “I was about to quote the Apostle Paul when I noticed that my friend’s eyes were starting to glaze over.” That is the last time in his spoken address that Holland mentions the apostle Paul. Why? Holland goes on to argue that Latter-day Saints don’t use the cross as a symbol because it represents an admixture of pagan religion into pure Christianity, and argues:

“Being neither Catholic nor Protestant, we are, rather, a restored church, the restored New Testament Church. Thus, our origins and our authority go back before the time of councils, creeds, and iconography. In this sense, the absence of a symbol that was late coming into common use is yet another evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of true Christian beginnings.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”, Fall General Conference of the LDS Church) 

This argument is ludicrous for several reasons. First, Holland quoted the Book of Mormon to the graduate student and even stated his own belief that Nephi wrote about the cross 600 years before Jesus Christ lived. If the Book of Mormon really were an ancient record that would imply that there is pre-Christian literary evidence of the cross as symbolic of salvation. Citing the Book of Mormon as Holland did undercuts his own argument.

Second, in his spoken remarks, Holland ignores (except for his joke) the literary evidence provided by the letters of the apostle Paul that the cross was understood by the earliest Christian writer as symbolic of their faith in the work of Christ on the cross. Instead, Holland relegates that evidence to a footnote in the transcript of his talk. Why? Again, it doesn’t fit his agenda.

Finally, Holland is just wrong about the use of the cross as a symbol of Christian faith coming only after the time of “councils, creeds, and iconography.” But these facts don’t fit the polemic of painting the LDS Church as restored and pure Christianity and all other Christian sects and denominations as “apostate”. Inconvenient truth is still truth!

3 Although “bibliolatry” is not a term used by LDS leaders, it is one used often by online LDS apologists. The below quote from a Facebook discussion group is representative of Latter-day Saints who accuse Biblical Christians of bibliolatry:

“[Evangelicals] exalt the Bible to the level of bibliolatry: They derive their purported authority from it, they claim it is inerrant and complete, they claim it is the sole source of God’s word (Sola Scriptura). None of these claims is true.”
(Anonymized LDS Facebook user in the LDS and Biblical Christians Facebook group, link to source withheld to maintain anonymity of the commenter) 

4 In the quote cited, Holland argues that theological disagreements among Christians of Joseph Smith’s day are evidence of the need for a restoration and for new Scripture. Since Joseph Smith kicked it off, there have been at over 500 branches or denominations of the Latter Day Saint Restoration Movement (see Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement” for an encyclopedic roster and descriptions of these groups) all of which disagree on key aspects of theology, such as the nature of God, locus of priesthood authority, line of succession, the scope, and authority of the Latter Day canon, and even on the nature of the restoration itself.

If one considers Holland’s argument for a brief moment, one realizes that the sword begins turning in on Holland himself. Is another restoration needed? There are some in the Latter Day Saint Restoration Movement who are calling for or claiming to lead just that, hence the constant, non-stop splintering and schisming that has led to over 500 new Latter-Day Saint denominations in just the first 192 years of the movement.

5 Everett Ferguson, “When did the cross supplant the ichthus (fish) as a symbol of the Christian faith?”, Christianity Today magazine, February 2009.

6 In addition to the apostolic era represented by Paul’s letters, other early Christian writings show widespread use of the cross as a Christian symbol. Ignatius (c. 50 AD to c. 98 – 140 AD) wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians “Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.” (Philip Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection,” London, England: Catholic Way Publishing. 2014. Kindle Edition.).

In the already cited article, Everett Fergusson notes:

Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist writing in the 150s–160s, argued that God had providentially put the shape of the cross in everyday objects, such as the masts of ships, tools like the plough and the axe, and the standards of Roman legions. Christians would often pray standing up with their arms stretched out in the form of a cross. As early as the 200s, Christians were making the sign of the cross with their hands. The cross was so important that pagans charged Christians with worshipping the cross.
( Ibid, Ferguson, “When did the cross supplant the ichthus (fish) as a symbol of the Christian faith?”

Justin also saw the shape of the cross built into human anatomy formed by the forehead and the nose and related this to Lamentations 4:20 “The breath of our nostrils, the LORD’s anointed, was captured in their pits, of whom we said, ‘Under his shadow, we shall live among the nations.’”

The Epistle of Barnabas dated from internal evidence (16.3-4) after the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 but before the Bar Kokhba revolt in AD 132 argues that baptism and the cross were prefigured in Psalm 1. Of the Psalmist, Barnabas states:

“Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them.”
(Ibid, Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection,”, bolding added for emphasis) 

Tertullian, writing To the Nations (Ad Nationes) in approximately AD 197 juxtaposes the symbols of Roman religion with the wearing of simple unadorned cross necklaces:

“Your victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities; and they are the more august in proportion to the joy they bring you. The frames on which you hang up your trophies must be crosses: these are, as it were, the very core of your pageants. Thus, in your victories, the religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship; your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its oaths; your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself. But all that parade of images, and that display of pure gold, are (as so many) necklaces of the crosses. In like manner also, in the banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less sacred care, you have the streamers (and) vestments of your crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses.”
(Ibid, Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection”, bolding added for emphasis)

7 Both of the myths covered in this article are perpetuated by Latter-day Saints not because the positions of Biblical Christians are wrong or fallacious. Rather, the arguments are made to make room for LDS positions. The argument against inerrancy is not made because the argument from God’s nature as a speaker only of truth breaks down. Instead, Latter-day Saints argue against inerrancy because the teaching of the Book of Mormon about the Bible does not allow them to adopt the position. If a Latter-day Saint were to affirm the position of inerrancy, they would be contradicting what the Title Page of the Book of Mormon says about the nature of Scripture and inspiration.

8 See, for example, Thomas S. Monson, “You Can Know It Is True,”

9 Just to name a few: Christopher Nemelka has published The Sealed Portion – The Final Testament of Jesus Christ, and claims to have received the Urim and Thummim by which he translated the sealed plates; Mauricio Berger claims that on April 6, 2007, the angel Raphael led him to the summit of a hill and led him to pray, upon doing which, he was visited by the Angel Moroni who gave him the plates, the interpreters, and the sword of Laban—his published The Sealed Book of Mormon claims to be a translation from the Plates of Mormon; Matthew Gill claims that at the age of twelve, he was visited by the angel Moroni and told that he would one day complete a mission like that of Joseph Smith—many years later he claims that the angel Raphael delivered to him many revelations as well as The Chronicles of the Children of Araneck: A Further Testimony of Jesus Christ & A Record of the Early Inhabitants of the British Isles.

About the Author
Paul Nurnberg was born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. He served a two-year proselytizing mission for the LDS Church in Hungary. After converting to Biblical Christianity, he studied at Cincinnati Christian University. He holds a M.Div. in Biblical Studies and a BBA from Thomas More University where he graduated summa cum laude. He is a member of Lakeside Christian Church in Kentucky, which belongs to the Independent Christian Churches / Churches of Christ, which has roots in the American Restoration Movement. He has enjoyed a long career in the health insurance industry, and since 2019 has produced the podcast, Outer Brightness: From Mormon to Jesus. He has been happily married to his best friend, Angela, for 22 years. They have five children and three dogs.

Neither the Bible nor Christian Church History support Restorationist Great Apostasy claims

The interior of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church, in Palayur, India. This East Indian church building has serviced Christian worshipers continuously since, it is claimed, it was established in 52AD by Christ’s Apostle Thomas.

by Fred W. Anson

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

The Myth
No one said it better than Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith:

“Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”
— Joseph Smith, Jr.
(quoted in B.H. Roberts, “History of the Church” 1:XL)

And modern Latter-day Saint scholars have echoed Joseph Smith’s words nearly word-for-word:

“It is the apostasy of early Christianity which creates the very need for the [Mormon] faith. If there had not been an apostasy, there would have been no need for a restoration.”
— Kent P. Jackson, Mormon Scholar and BYU Professor
(“‘Watch and Remember’: The New Testament and the Great Apostasy,” in “By Study and Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday”, ed. J. M. Lundquist and S. D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1990), p.81)  

The interior of St. Thomas Kottakavu Church in Kochi, India. This is another East Indian church that was founded by the Apostle Thomas and has been in continuous use since.

Why It’s a Myth
I actually agree with misters Smith and Jackson, they are 100% correct on every point here. The problem is that when Restorationist Great Apostasy claims1 are scrutinized against objective Christian Church history no complete apostasy ever took place. As the Early Church Father Irenaeus explained in 180 AD:

“It is possible, then, for everyone to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors [down] to our own times; men who neither taught anything like these heretics rave about.”
(Against Heresies Book III, ch.3, p.1)

As one Roman Catholic2 author writes,

“The Mormon Church simply has no convincing answer to the ocean of the biblical and historical evidence of which this is just a drop. All of it contradicts the complete apostasy theory. Yet there’s another problem with the theory: the problem of silence. There’s no evidence of any outcry from the first or second-century “Mormons” denouncing the introduction of “Catholic heresies.”

Mormons might respond that, since Catholics gained the upper hand in the struggle for control of the true Church, they simply expunged any trace of the Mormons—a comforting but inviable argument. We have records of many controversies that raged in the early days of the Church (we know in great detail what turmoil the early Church passed through as it fought off various threats to its existence), and there just is no evidence—none at all—that Mormonism existed prior to the 1830s.

It’s unreasonable to assume the Catholic Church would allow the survival of copious records chronicling the history, teachings, and proponents of dozens of other heresies, but would entirely destroy only the records of early Mormonism.

If Mormons want their claim of a complete apostasy as to be taken seriously, they must evince biblical and historical evidence supporting it. So far they’ve come up empty-handed. Honest investigators will see the unavoidable truth: The Mormon “great apostasy” doctrine is a myth. There never has been—nor will there ever be—a complete apostasy. Jesus Christ promised that his Church, established on the solid rock of Peter, will remain forever. We have his Word on it.”
(Patrick Madrid, “In Search of ‘The Great Apostasy’”, EWTN website)

Both Roman Catholics and Protestants affirm that the Christian Church has always, regardless of which side of the Reformation one is on, that true Christianity has always been beholden to the Bible and the teachings of the Apostles as their plumb line and standard for life and faith. From Jesus Christ until today this has been the case. And we haven’t even brought in the Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodox, and other non-Western Christian traditions that are in complete agreement with us despite being untouched by either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism.

In short, while Christian Church shows Christianity has gone, and will no doubt, continue to go through cycles of error and even corruption, reform has always followed in its wake. However, there has never, I repeat never, been a period of time in which “the common salvation… the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (see Jude 1:3 KJV) was ever missing from the planet or that a complete apostasy from the original Apostolic Christian faith established by Christ Himself existed as Mormonism claims. As our Roman Catholic source said so well, “The Mormon ‘great apostasy’ doctrine is a myth.”

How It’s a Myth
A further problem is that the proof texts used by the LdS Church to support Great Apostasy claims fall short of a complete, universal, apostasy themselves. I am specifically referring to passages like these:3

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
— 1 Timothy 4:1-3 KJV

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
— 2 Timothy 3:1-7 KJV

“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
— 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 KJV

But as Latter-day Scholar and BYU Professor, Charles Harell has noted well:

“On careful examination, none of the New Testament passages referring to heresies within the church or persecution from without seems to predict a wholesale departure from the faith; all seem to assume that there would be faithful saints who remain on the earth until Christ comes”
(Charles R. Harrell, “This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology,” p. 34)

 To validate, Professor Harrell’s point, consider how in each of these passages it’s not just assumed but explicitly states that apostasy would only touch some members of the Christian faith not all (“some shall depart from the faith”; “this sort are they”; “Let no man deceive you by any means”). Furthermore, consider the biblical passages that Restorationists conveniently ignore when they are cherry-picking the bible to support their Great Apostasy case:4

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
— Matthew 16:18b KJV

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 KJV

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have  commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
—  Matthew 28:18-20 KJV

Could Christ have been any clearer: The Church that He was establishing could not be shaken nor would the gates of hell prevail against it. Why? Answer: Because He would be with us always to the end of the age. Therefore, to suggest that there was a complete, universal apostasy as Mormon leaders have in light of the words of Jesus is to suggest that He was lying in the above passages, isn’t it?

Coptic Christians worship at The Monastery of Saint Simon (also known as the Cave Church) located in the Mokattam Mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt. The Coptic Egyptian Church is traditionally believed to be founded by St Mark around AD 42.

 Why It Matters
In reality, the only way that Mormon Great Apostasy dogma works is if one first makes modern Mormonism the standard for what constitutes, “True Christianity” and then compares everything else against it. And guess what, using that confirmation bias driven, “come to the conclusion first and then bend the facts to fit it” methodology everything really is apostate, it would be amazing if it weren’t so blatantly fallacious, wouldn’t it? And in fact, this isn’t the way that all Restorationist churches claim that all other churches but theirs are apostate?

However, when one uses both the Bible and Christian Church History as the objective standard then this methodology fails because Mormonism (past or present) simply can’t be found anywhere in the body of historical evidence that we have for the primitive Christian church. This is just as I noted in another article:

“The hard fact of the matter is this: No trace of the unique distinctives that Mormonism declares as “restored” can be found in Church History prior to the advent of Joseph Smith. Further, those distinctives contradict what we find in recorded Early Church History up to and including the Didache.”
(Fred W. Anson, “The Didache v. Mormonism”, Beggar’s Bread website, July 5, 2020)

Thus ironically, the very type of apostasy that Latter-day Saints accuse others of is exactly what they have fallen into, just as some of their favorite proof-texts for their claimed Great Apostasy state:

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
— Acts 20:29-30 KJV

“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
— 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 KJV

Summary and Conclusion
Simply stated Christian Church History doesn’t support Restorationist Great Apostasy claims. Plainly stated, the LdS Church doesn’t just lie about its own history, it lies about the history of other churches as well. There never was the type of complete, universal apostasy of the Christian Church that Restorationism teaches, and if the words of Christ are true, there never will be.5

“I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 16:18b KJV) [photo: A National Geographic photo of the Darvaza “Gates of Hell” gas crater]

ENDNOTES
1 I’m using the term “Restorationist” rather than Latter-day Saint throughout this article because this Great Apostasy dogma didn’t originate with Joseph Smith, it was already in place thanks to the Stone-Campbell restorationist movement which congealed during the Cane Ridge Revival in 1801 at Cane Ridge Kentucky. Joseph simply “borrowed” a doctrine that had already been in place before he was even born on December 23, 1805, as the neutral source, Wikipedia, explains:

“The ideal of restoring a “primitive” form of Christianity grew in popularity in the US after the American Revolution. This desire to restore a purer form of Christianity played a role in the development of many groups during this period, known as the Second Great Awakening. These included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptists and Shakers.

The Restoration Movement began during, and was greatly influenced by, this second Awakening. While the Campbells resisted what they saw as the spiritual manipulation of the camp meetings, the Southern phase of the Awakening “was an important matrix of Barton Stone’s reform movement” and shaped the evangelistic techniques used by both Stone and the Campbells.

James O’Kelly was an early advocate of seeking unity through a return to New Testament Christianity.  In 1792, dissatisfied with the role of bishops in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he separated from that body. O’Kelly’s movement, centering in Virginia and North Carolina, was originally called Republican Methodists. In 1794 they adopted the name Christian Church.

During the same period, Elias Smith of Vermont and Abner Jones of New Hampshire led a movement espousing views similar to those of O’Kelly. They believed that members could, by looking to scripture alone, simply be Christians without being bound to human traditions and the denominations brought by immigrants from Europe.”
(“Restoration Movement”, Wikipedia)

And for those of you unfamiliar with the Cane Ridge Revival, here’s a primer  from Wikipedia:

“The Cane Ridge Revival was a large camp meeting that was held in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, from August 6 to August 12 or 13, 1801. It has been described as the “[l]argest and most famous camp meeting of the Second Great Awakening.” This camp meeting was arguably the pioneering event in the history of frontier camp meetings in America.”
(“Cane Ridge Revival”, Wikipedia)

Finally, for those who would like to do a deep dive into the American Restorationist Movement that was already in place prior to the advent of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, I would recommend Church History magazine, Issue 106, “The Stone-Campbell Movement”. The reader can read this issue online and/or download an Adobe Acrobat edition of this issue by clicking here.

Meanwhile in the Membership Class of another non-LDS Restorationist group down the street from the Mormon Chapel…

2 Yes, you read that right, to drive my point home I, a Protestant, and a Reformed Protestant at that, am citing from the very folks that Latter-day Saint love to hate the most, that great “Church of the Devil” (at least according to Mormon, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, that is): The Roman Catholic Church. Here are Mr. Madrid’s Roman Catholic credentials:

“Patrick Madrid has been a Catholic apologist since 1987. He hosts The Patrick Madrid Show on Relevant Radio weekdays 9-noon ET, discussing current events, modern culture, apologetics, and a variety of “God topics.” Madrid does not have guests or conduct interviews on his show, but instead, engages listeners with personal commentary and interacts extensively with callers. He has conducted thousands of apologetics seminars in English and Spanish at parishes, conferences, and universities across the United States, as well as throughout Europe, Canada, in Latin America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. Since 1990, he has been a regular presenter at the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s “Defending the Faith” summer apologetics conferences[4] and has been a guest lecturer in theology at Christendom College in their “Major Speakers” program. Madrid has engaged in at least a dozen formal public debates with Protestant, Mormon, and other non-Catholic spokesmen.”
(“Patrick Madrid”, Wikipedia) 

3 For the sake of brevity, these Latter-day Saint Great Apostasy proof texts are just a sampling. For a comprehensive roster of proof texts, I would refer the reader to Mormon Research Ministry’s excellent online compilation here: https://www.mrm.org/great-apostasy

4 Again, for the sake of brevity, these proof texts refuting Great Apostasy teachings are just a sample. For a comprehensive roster of yet more refuting proof texts along with some superb analysis of both the LdS proof texts and the texts that refute them, I would refer the reader to Mormon Research Ministry’s excellent online compilation here: https://www.mrm.org/great-apostasy

5 One need go no further than how LdS Church leaders lie about what happened at the first Council of Nicea in 325AD to see this:

“The collision between the speculative world of Greek philosophy and the simple, literal faith and practice of the earliest Christians produced sharp contentions that threatened to widen political divisions in the fragmenting Roman empire. This led Emperor Constantine to convene the first churchwide council in a.d. 325. The action of this council of Nicaea remains the most important single event after the death of the Apostles in formulating the modern Christian concept of deity. The Nicene Creed erased the idea of the separate being of Father and Son by defining God the Son as being of “one substance with the Father.”

Other councils followed, and from their decisions and the writings of churchmen and philosophers there came a synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine in which the orthodox Christians of that day lost the fulness of truth about the nature of God and the Godhead. The consequences persist in the various creeds of Christianity, which declare a Godhead of only one being and which describe that single being or God as “incomprehensible” and “without body, parts, or passions.” One of the distinguishing features of the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is its rejection of all of these postbiblical creeds (see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols., New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992, s.v. “Apostasy,” “doctrine,” “God the Father,” and “Godhead”).

In the process of what we call the Apostasy, the tangible, personal God described in the Old and New Testaments was replaced by the abstract, incomprehensible deity defined by compromise with the speculative principles of Greek philosophy. The received language of the Bible remained, but the so-called “hidden meanings” of scriptural words were now explained in the vocabulary of a philosophy alien to their origins. In the language of that philosophy, God the Father ceased to be a Father in any but an allegorical sense. He ceased to exist as a comprehensible and compassionate being. And the separate identity of his Only Begotten Son was swallowed up in a philosophical abstraction that attempted to define a common substance and an incomprehensible relationship.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration”)

Now, since, the LdS Church has repeatedly and consistently taught that Apostasy came out of the 325AD Council of Nicea via the corrupting influence of the Doctrine of the Trinity, then consider this:

In addition, if Christ’s Church turned away from what the LdS Church teaches about God at Nicaea, then why there was no denunciation or defense of the following Mormon doctrines at the Council of Nicaea:

  • God was once a man.
  • God is now an exalted, deified man.
  • Jesus Christ is the spiritual son of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
  • Jesus Christ, Lucifer, and all other human beings are the spiritual children of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
  • The Godhead consists of three gods – in other words, “God” is Tri-Theistic, not Monotheistic.
  • Heavenly Father had intercourse with Mary in order to produce the incarnated Jesus.

These issues were simply never discussed at all. The one and one theological issue, according to the author, John Anthony McGuckin, in his article: “The Road to Nicaea” (see Church History magazine, Issue 85, “Council of Nicaea: Debating Jesus’ Divinity”) was how Jesus Christ could be both divine and human. That was it. Period.

Even the agnostic, skeptic Bart Ehrman validates all this in his writing:

“Constantine did call the Council of Nicea, and one of the issues involved Jesus’ divinity. But this was not a council that met to decide whether or not Jesus was divine…. Quite the contrary: everyone at the Council—in fact, just about every Christian everywhere—already agreed that Jesus was divine, the Son of God. The question being debated was how to understand Jesus’ divinity in light of the circumstance that he was also human. Moreover, how could both Jesus and God be God if there is only one God? Those were the issues that were addressed at Nicea, not whether or not Jesus was divine. And there certainly was no vote to determine Jesus’ divinity: this was already a matter of common knowledge among Christians, and had been from the early years of the religion.”
(Bart Ehrman, “Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine”, 14-15)

So as you can the LdS Church doesn’t just lie about its own history, it lies about the history of other churches as well. If you doubt me just read up on what really happened at the First Council of Nicea to see this.

An icon of the Bishops of the First Council of Nicaea with Constantine (in the crown).

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
The following resources are recommended for exposing the Restorationist Great Apostasy myth. Yes, Christian Church History is messy, there is just no question about that. However, no, there never has been – and if the Bible is true, will be – the type of complete, universal apostasy that Mormon leaders claim justified the advent of Mormon Restorationism. Furthermore, these resources will show that mainstream Christianity, unlike Mormonism, doesn’t lie about its own history – warts and all, it’s all there to be seen, read, and openly discussed.

Church History Magazine
Subscriptions to the Christian History Institute’s quarterly journal “Church History” are done on a donation basis. For every issue, they do a deep dive into a chosen issue. I read every single issue cover-to-cover, and I suspect that you will too. Christian Church History is just fascinating stuff. Click here to subscribe.

For those who would like a deep dive into the deep dive not only do they give additional resources to consider in every issue, but you can also download Adobe Acrobat editions of all their back issues going all the way back to their very first issue by clicking here.

Church History in Plain Language, Fifth Edition Kindle Edition
by Bruce L. Shelley
Shelley’s book has been the textbook of choice for Christian Colleges for General Christian History Survey courses across denominations and traditions for decades. There’s a reason for that, it’s fair, it’s objective, and it’s a good read, Shelley is just a great writer.

The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation
The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day Kindle Edition
by Justo L. González
While Bruce L. Shelley’s book gives a quick, short overview of Christian History, Justo L. González’s two-volume set represents a deeper dive into the particulars. It is the logical next step after the shorter and more succinct Shelley book.

Church History Boot Camp
Michael Patton and Tim Kimberley
For those who prefer a real-time lecture format, this Credo House course is an overview of Church history in four parts. This course gives people a much-needed introduction to the entire history of the Christian church, looking at the major events and turning points that have brought us to where we are today.

The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation
Luke Timothy Johnson, Ph.D. Professor, Emory University
In this Great Courses course, Professor Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory University follows the dramatic trajectory of Christianity from its beginnings as a “cult of Jesus” to its rise as a fervent religious movement; from its emergence as an unstoppable force within the Roman Empire to its critical role as an imperial religion; from its remarkable growth, amid divisive disputes and rivalries, to the ultimate schism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism; and from its spread throughout the Western world to its flowering as a culture that shaped Europe for 800 years.

The History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Modern Megachurch
Molly Worthen, Ph.D. Professor, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
This Great Courses course features Professor Molly Worthen who is a marvelous storyteller that brings individuals to life as she shares broader points in the story. For example, in a lecture on the Cold War, she considers how Pope John Paul II’s moral courage helped bring about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. In another lecture, she shares the story of Rebecca, an American slave whose story offers a representative glimpse of religion among people whose stories have largely gone untold.

Whether it’s Mormons in the American West, Catholics in Latin America, or a Nigerian megachurch, this course examines the actors and ideas that have made Christianity a global religion—and offers a clearer perspective on our own time and place. Professor Worthen introduces you to scientists and theologians, revolutionaries and social justice crusaders, intellectuals, and ordinary people living out the great drama of Christian history. From Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to Latin American liberation theology, The History of Christianity II is a magisterial course, and a great resource for students of history and religion, as well as philosophy, literature, culture, and life.

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

A 19th Century etching of Alexander Campbell preaching at the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival, the birthplace of the American Restorationist Movement.

From “Andrew” A Mormon Source

What follows is an excerpt from a review of David Bercot’s book, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” that was published on the Mormon-friendly website “Mormon Matters” in 2009. The full, original article can be found by clicking here. — Fred W. Anson

“Another movement to restore primitive Christianity sprung up in America in the early 1800s out of the Presbyterian church. . . . Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister, began a movement in Kentucky to restore apostolic Christianity. Stone’s chief objective was to restore the holy living and separation from the world that had marked early Christianity.

In the 1820s, Stone’s movement merged with a separate movement begun by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who were also seeking to restore primitive Christianity. One of Alexander Campbell’s primary objectives was to achieve unity among all Christians, forsaking all man-made creeds and traditions and returning to the forms, structures, and doctrines of the apostolic church.”
(David Bercot, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up”, p. 151)

Both Stone and the Campbells published journals urging a Restoration of the Early Church in the early 1800’s (The Christian Baptist, Millennial Harbinger, and The Christian Messenger).

Those familiar with Mormon history will recognize the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell as the founders of the “Campbellite” Restoration movement that Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and at one point a majority of all Mormons belonged to before converting to Mormonism. When Sidney Ridgon read the Book of Mormon in 1830 while he was a Campbellite preacher, he converted to Mormonism as did many other Campbellites. This enormous influx of former Campbellites into Mormonism doubled the Church’s membership in three weeks and resulted in Joseph Smith relocating the Saints’ gathering place by joining the former Campbellite converts in Kirtland, Ohio.

Why was Mormonism so appealing to Campbellites? Starting in 1823, Campbell’s publication The Christian Baptist advocated an abandonment of all creeds and sects that divided Christendom and a restoration of a unified Church in which the “original gospel and order of things” are present. (Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Alexander Campbell explained the Campbellites’ “distinguishing views and practices” as follows:
“They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls “the apostasy.” . . .

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship. . . .

Thus while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed after the glorification of Jesus, “Be immersed every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The immersed believers are congregated into societies according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet the first day of every week in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and hear the living oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregations; and every church, either from itself or in co-operation with others, sends out, as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the word, to preach the word and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it is necessary, as far as their means extend.”
(Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Although the Campbellites and Mormons held many other beliefs in common, the above provides a sampling of the types of similarities that have presented religion historians with a fascinating chicken-or-the-egg question: did Joseph Smith’s teachings resemble the Early Church’s “original gospel and order of things” because Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God whose authentic revelations enabled him to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ, or because contemporary Restorationists like Alexander Campbell first identified correct Early Christian beliefs and practices that were later adopted by Joseph Smith? In other words, did God use the broader Restoration movement of the American frontier as an “Elias” that prepared Rigdon and eventually thousands of souls to embrace the true Church of Jesus Christ restored later by Joseph Smith, or was Joseph Smith’s success in duplicating many Early Christian beliefs and practices the result of his simply mimicking the beliefs and practices of contemporary Restorationist preachers who got it right first.

Because Campbellite converts to Mormonism such as Parley Pratt reported that they were converted Mormonism because they were inspired by the truthfulness of the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon (Parley Pratt, “Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt”, Chapter 1), it seems the answer to that question depends on whether the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation of an authentic record compiled by Early Christians living on the American continent, or is a fabrication cobbled together by Smith and possibly others inspired by the Restorationist ethos that pervaded the American frontier when it was published. (We know where Alexander Campbell stood on that question: in 1831 he denounced the Book of Mormon as a fraud because it all-too-coincidentally addressed “every error and every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” (Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millenial Harbinger 2, (January 1831): 93.)

(source: Andrew, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (Book Review), Mormon Matters website)

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) from a period life portrait painting.

A stained glass window in the Salt Lake 2nd Ward depicting the First Vision. The First Vision is where God, according to Joseph Smith, said that all if the existing Christian Creeds, were an abomination in his sight (see Joseph History 1:19). This would have included the Apostle’s Creed which is discussed in the following article.

The following article was written in 2007 and is so significant and relevant to Mormon Studies that it’s surely deserving of the greater and broader audience that follows Beggar’s Bread. I think that after you’ve read it that you’ll agree.  –Editor

by Bryan Stout
There is an interesting exchange going on at Beliefnet.com about the age-old question “Are Mormons Christian?”, between Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Orson Scott Card, LDS writer. While I have some thoughts I’d like to share about the main issue, here I want to point out a perhaps surprising convergence between two things, one of which is rejected by each side, namely the Book of Mormon, and one of the ancient Christian creeds.

The LDS objection to ancient creeds is probably better stated as an objection to conciliar creeds, that is the creeds defined by the Ecumenical Councils, where bishops from throughout the ancient church met together to resolve doctrinal debates. We do reject the decisions made at those councils, and we reject the whole process as a fundamentally flawed substitute for prophetic revelation.

But there was another type of creed, the baptismal creed. These creeds were used as concise summaries of beliefs (similar to our Articles of Faith), as an outline of concepts to teach potential converts (similar to the missionary lessons), and as a quiz of important beliefs before baptism (similar to the baptismal interview questions). The most famous of these is the Apostles’ Creed, which reached a stable wording by the 8th century but has roots reaching back to the 2nd. Here is one of several translations of the creed; I have numbered its traditional 12 articles for reference:

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

If you showed this to the average Mormon-on-the-street, I reckon they would say they believe in all but a couple of these claims. If you go on to point out that “descended into hell” means “descended into the grave, ie. the world of dead spirits”, that “catholic Church” means “universal church”, and that “the communion of saints” means “the fellowship of believers”, they would say they believe the entire thing. We Latter-day Saints believe every claim in the Apostles’ Creed, because they are both taught in the Bible, and reaffirmed in latter-day scripture. Indeed, they are almost contained in our scriptures, since the doctrinal summary in D&C 20:17-36 echoes most of the themes of the Apostles’s Creed, and vv. 22-24 are a close paraphrase of AC 4-6.

Finding Book of Mormon passages that teach each of these basic Christian concepts is an easy exercise, so much so that the problem is choosing which ones to use. Here are the selections I made:

AC 1 –
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth” (Mosiah 4:9)

AC 2 –
“I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth.” (Alma 5:48)

“There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17)

AC 3 –
“And behold, he shall be born of Mary … she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.” (Alma 7:41)

AC 4 & 5 –
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people … the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:12-13)

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” (1 Nephi 11:33)

“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings” (2 Nephi 25:13)

AC 6 –
“Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men” (Moroni 7:7)

AC 7 –
“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross … that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (3 Ne 27:14)

AC 8 –
“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him” (1 Nephi 10:17)

Joseph Smith’s First Vision, depicted in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City
(LDS Media Library)

AC 9 –
“Notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.” (Mosiah 25:22)

“And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” (Moroni 6:5-6)

AC 10 –
“They all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified … After they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:2-3)

AC 11 –
“The death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, … the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form … this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; … now, behold, I have spoken unto you … concerning the resurrection of the mortal body.” (Alma 11:42-45)

AC 12 –
“Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41)

“Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life … Amen.” (Mosiah 5:15)

To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences not covered in the Apostles’ Creed. Mormon doctrine about the nature of God and Man is radically different from that of most Christian groups. We believe that God exists in space and time, and that every person is literally God’s spirit child, having the potential of becoming like him — “gods, even the sons of God”. Therefore, Dr. Mohler is quite right in pointing out that we have different answers to the biggest questions debated in the Ecumenical Councils regarding the divinity of Christ: 1) How can God be both One and Three at the same time? 2) How can Christ be both divine and human at the same time?

Those were important questions. Nevertheless, I believe that much more important were the issues that the ancient bishops did not have to debate, because they were mostly in agreement about them. There is a God who created the world, and who will hold us accountable for how we live our lives. There is a savior, Jesus Christ, who literally atoned for our sins, who taught the principles for living the abundant life in mortality and achieving eternal life hereafter. There is a Spirit who can lead us to truth and sanctify our souls. If we follow that Spirit, trust our lives to Christ and keep the commandments of God, we will be led to stand at his right hand at the judgment day. Doing this is the most significant meaning of term “Christian”.

About The Author
I received a BS in Math at Brigham Young University in 1981, and went to grad school in Computer Science at the University of Illinois. I did all the coursework for a PhD, but left without doing a dissertation, to do applied Artificial Intelligence research for Martin Marietta near Denver, followed by computer game development for MicroProse. I was part of a big down-sizing in 1993, but instead of moving on I continued courting, and married, my wife Meg. After a couple of years of figuring out that two jobs weren’t worth it, we decided I’d be the stay-at-home parent while Meg continued working as an engineer for the Navy (she’s now a program manager). I keep in touch with my interests in both AI and games, frequently participating at the annual Game Developer Conference on various game AI topics. Other secular interests include science fiction and fantasy, dance (I toured several times with the BYU Ballroom Dance Co.), and astronomy. Now that our oldest daughter (my stepdaughter) is in college, and the other two going on to 4th and 5th grades, I will be trying once again to figure what to be when I grow up. — Bryan Stout

Palmyra New York Temple First Vision Stained Glass Window.

Originally published as, “Guest Post: The Apostles’ Creed and the Book of Mormon” on the “Times and Seasons” website by Julie M. Smith on July 11, 2007. In accordance with their reblogging policy, the article content has been republished in its original form. The title was changed to it more intriguing, and provocatively interesting to potential readers, as well as to tie this article into the other “Abominable Creed” articles in this series.

Also of interest: The Abominable Creed of Doctrine and Covenants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An icon of the Bishops of the First Council of Nicaea with Constantine (in the crown).

by Fred W. Anson
One of the most common Mormon arguments is that they have no creeds. They further argue that the creeds of other churches are an abomination as well as evidence of their corrupt and apostate state. Probably no one has articulated this stance better than BYU professors Craig Ostler and the late Joseph Fielding McConkie when they wrote:

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

And of the many “abominable creeds” of Christendom to chose from, I think one would be hard pressed to find one that Latter-day Saints more pour contempt on than the Nicene Creed:

“Men with keen intelligence got together… [at] Nicea and created a God. They did not pray for wisdom or revelation. They claimed no revelation from the Lord. They made it just about like a political party would do, and out of their own mortal minds created a God which is still worshiped by the great majority of Christians”
(Spencer W. Kimball, “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”, p. 426. Ellipsis and brackets in original)

“The trinity was voted on in the Council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ’s death. A bunch of church leaders and government officials got together and voted on ‘who God was?’, and it wasn’t even a unanimous vote. There were about four different versions of God that they voted on. The version that is used by Catholics and Protestants today only won by about a 40 percent margin. Their view of God, as you may know, is that He is like a formless mass of spirit that fills the whole universe and when He comes to earth, part of it breaks off and forms itself into Jesus.”
(Scott Marshall, “Tracting and Member Missionary” Work, p.73)

“The knowledge of God and His physical separateness from His Son and the Holy Ghost was lost after the death of Christ and His Apostles. Confusion and false doctrines about the Godhead were fashioned out of the Nicene Creed and Constantinople councils… I know that heaven-sent revelations have replaced the gross errors of man-made doctrines concerning the Godhead”
(Gary J. Coleman, “Mom, Are We Christians?” Ensign, May 2007, pp.92-93)

“If Christians are people (and this is the standard definition of the clergy of the day) who believe in the holy trinity as defined and set forth in the Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostles creeds, meaning that God is a three-in-one nothingness, a spirit essence filling immensity, an incorporeal and uncreated being incapable of definition or mortal comprehension — then Mormons, by a clergy chosen definition, are ruled out of the fold of Christ”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” 2:113)

“Our Catholic friends, our Protestant friends, give us their definition of deity in the Nicene Creed. But that’s just a creed that came of the discussions of men. The marvelous thing is that the boy Joseph was able to testify of the real nature of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And that makes it possible for you and for me to understand our relationship to them. Each of us is a child of God. A son or a daughter of God in a very real sense and we can pray to Him and He will hear and answer our prayers.”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Nature of God”, Church News, July 1, 2006, p.2)

“We do not accept the Athanasian Creed. We do not accept the Nicene Creed, nor any other creed based on tradition and the conclusions of men.”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are People Asking About Us?” Ensign, November 1998, pp.70-71)

But if the Nicene Creed is such an abomination, why is so much of it found in D&C 20:17-28? A side-by-side comparison is very surprising.

Doctrine & Covenants 20:17-28
(from the 1835 edition of D&C) 

Nicene Creed
(from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)

By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth, And all things visible and invisible;

 

And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man.

Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them. He was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; And ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father; That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved– And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation he came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered, and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
Not only those who believed after he came in the meridian of time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came, who believed in the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who truly testified of him in all things, should have eternal life, As well as those who should come after, who should believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son;
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end.
And I believe in one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come.
Amen. Amen.

source: Owen D. West III, “Questions to Gospel Answers: Are all their creeds an abomination in God’s sight?”1

So if the Nicene Creed is abominable, then what does that make D&C 20? And if it’s a creed that’s, according to former LdS President Gordon B. Hinckley, “based on tradition and the conclusions of men” that “came of their discussions” then what does that say about an alleged revelation that has it embedded right in it?2

Speaking of Ecclesiastical Councils…
(the Quorum of the Twelve Latter-day Saint Apostles and the First Presidency circa 2017)

NOTES
1 Here are the original end notes of  Owen D. West, III, the creator of this table, regarding it’s background and content:

(The Nicene Creed is also based almost entirely on scripture, much more so than the Articles of Faith. Almost every phrase is taken word for word from the Bible. All phrases have Biblical supporting scriptures).

At first I used the Nicene Creed as used in English by the Roman Catholic Church today. I then realized that the Roman Catholic Church would have been using Latin in 1830, and since we have already seen a strong tie to the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer for the Sacramental prayers (Rite I), and since this book has been available in the U.S. since 1789, I changed to this version, which (should come as no surprise) is much closer on a word by word basis to D&C 20 than is the modern English Roman Catholic version. I then compared to the even older Book of Common Prayer from the Church of England and found it to be word for word the same as the old Episcopalian version (with different capitalization and punctuation and spelling, e.g. Catholic and Apostolic for Catholick and Apostolick). [It is the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer that is the source of so much animosity in the early LDS writing. Polemics against a God “without body, parts or passions”, or the emphasis on the Creed of Athanasius are related to this book.] I have used the Church of England Nicene creed above.

D&C 20 is obviously related to the Nicene Creed in both word and organization. Joseph Smith used the format of the Nicene Creed in writing D&C section 20 in the same way that I did when I wrote my own statement of faith. I wrote my statement of faith without referring to the Nicene Creed because after saying it so many times and having memorized it is easy to use these familiar phrases, blending them into my own belief statement. I believe Joseph Smith (or whoever actually wrote this part of D&C 20) did not have to refer to this well known Christian creed because it was part of his background. I believe this is also why we find familiar phrases from the “Doxology” in the modern scriptures published by Joseph Smith. These phrases were already a part of his religious “vocabulary”.

2 Oh, and by the way, the way that Mormon leaders portray the events of the Council of Nicea bears little to no resemblance to the historical record. As Christian author James White notes:

Nicea was not creating some new doctrine, some new belief, but clearly, explicitly, defining truth against error. The council had no idea that they, by their gathering together, possessed some kind of sacramental power of defining beliefs: they sought to clarify biblical truth, not to put themselves in the forefront and make themselves a second source of authority.

This can easily be seen from the fact that Athanasius, in defending the Nicene council, does so on the basis of its harmony with Scripture, not on the basis of the council having some inherent authority in and of itself. Note his words: “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.”

The relationship between the sufficient Scriptures and the “Nicene Bishops” should be noted carefully. The Scriptures are not made insufficient by the council; rather, the words of the council “remind” one of the “religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.” Obviously, then, the authority of the council is derivative from its fidelity to Scripture…

Modern Christians often have the impression that ancient councils held absolute sway, and when they made “the decision,” the controversy ended. This is not true. Though Nicea is seen as one of the greatest of the councils, it had to fight hard for acceptance. The basis of its final victory was not the power of politics, nor the endorsement of established religion. There was one reason the Nicene definition prevailed: its fidelity to the testimony of the Scriptures.

And as Dr. White concludes:

Why do Christians believe in the deity of Christ today? Is it because they have been forced to do so by legislated theology from councils and popes? No, it is because the Scriptures teach this truth. When orthodox believers affirm the validity of the creed hammered out at Nicea, they are simply affirming a concise, clear presentation of scriptural truth. The authority of the Nicene creed, including its assertion of the homoousion, is not to be found in some concept of an infallible church, but in the fidelity of the creed to scriptural revelation. It speaks with the voice of the apostles because it speaks the truth as they proclaimed it.
(James R. White, “What Really Happened at Nicea?”, Christian Research Institute Journal, June 2009) 

16th Century Fresco in the Sistine Chapel depicting the First Council of Nicea.

16th Century Fresco in the Sistine Chapel depicting the First Council of Nicea.

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A caution to transitioning Ex-Mormon Christians

freedom-resistance_00418234_EDITED

It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion.”
— C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

by Fred W. Anson
In 1980 ordained Lutheran minister, Robert N. Hullinger published an award-winning analysis of Joseph Smith. He approached Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon skeptically, but the same time, as he explained in this thought-provoking re-evaluation of early Mormonism, “I prefer to put the best construction on Joseph Smith and let his expressed motives speak for themselves, then draw conclusions from the evidence. This approach may not always rule out a negative opinion of Joseph Smith, but it allows for a more charitable estimate of his intentions.”1 His conclusion?

In defense of God, Joseph Smith assailed the natural revelation of deism and the static revelation of traditional Christianity. To enable revealed religion to overcome natural religion, however, he supported the deistic attack upon the view that the present Bible is God’s complete and errorless revelation to mankind. Destruction of the traditional view left him free to preserve special revelation by his own means.2

And one need go no further than Joseph Smith himself for validation of this:

Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine
(Joseph Smith, “History of the Church”, 5:340)

It was this spirit of rebellion against the established orthodoxy that appealed to early Mormons and drew in new members. To the early Mormons, this was glorious, heady stuff – a conquering, up-heaving rebellion usurping the world as early Mormon leader W.W. Phelps noted at the time:

Mormonism is the wonder of this world, and the great leveling machine of creeds, constitutions, kingdoms, countries, divisions, notions, notorieties and novelties; and praise it, talk about it, lie about it, exalt it, degrade it, blow at it, sneer at it, fear it, love it, hate it, persecute it, or laugh at it, still it is Mormonism, true as heaven, powerful as Jesus, eternal as element, going on conquering and to conquer.
(W.W. Phelps, “Times and Seasons”, 5:758)

Thus Hullinger explains and summarizes this seismic shift thusly:

Fifteen hundred years of church history had encrusted revelation with the weight of tradition and institutional inertia. In spite of Protestant efforts to let God speak through the Bible, some perceived him as more remote than ever. Deism rejected special revelation but accepted a remote god who could communicate through nature. Orthodoxy reacted by developing its science of textual criticism and relying on its doctrine of biblical inspiration to assure contact with God. Catholicism guaranteed the institution as the assurance. Pietism looked within the human heart.

Joseph Smith sided with Pietism in favoring his own inner assurance. But after he won the changes and freedom he wanted, Smith set in motion the very forces he once had decried in the churches of his day. The principle of personal revelation led to power struggles within the infant latter-day church until Smith received revelations allowing only him to get instruction, teaching, or revelation for the church (D&C 28:11; 43:3-6) He taught that no one could receive revelation for someone of higher authority. Secure within the church, Smith was able to lead as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.3

And thus this strange mix of the oil of personal revelation intermingled with the water of heavy handed authoritarianism continues today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On one hand, members are told – no encouraged – to seek out personal revelation in private but on the other hand will be disciplined if that personal revelation publicly conflicts with the current official, correlated Mormon doctrine that’s been approved by Mormon leaders. The net result is a kind of quiet rebellion in which you may have an entire Mormon Chapel of members who privately believe entirely different things but publicly profess whatever they must to remain a member in good standing. LDS Thesis #23 articulates this strange, paradoxical brew like this:

Mormon Atheism is Not an OxymoronLDS Thesis #23: It [the LdS Church] allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LDS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LDS Church.

In fact, this particular thesis was written by a former member of the LDS Church who was called to teach the Elders Quorum in his ward even though the Bishop knew that he was an atheist. He was bright, articulate, personable, tithing, active, a successfully former Gospel Doctrine teacher, and was toeing the party line in public, so as far as this Bishop was concerned all was well. Since then we have heard of several other such situations in a variety of callings in the LdS Church. As strange as it seems, a membership heavily peppered with atheists doesn’t seem to be a problem for many Mormon Leaders.

Thus, it’s clear that orthopraxy (the practice of one’s faith) is far more important in Mormonism than orthodoxy (adherence to an established set of beliefs). In other words, Mormons will tolerate wrong belief as long the errant believer is doing all the right stuff. It sounds something like this, “I mean the dude may be an atheist but, hey, isn’t he a great Elders Quorum teacher – I always get so much out of his lessons!”

Stated plainly, Mormonism has no theological boundaries.

So why is this a problem for Ex-Mormons transitioning out of the LdS Church and into mainstream Christianity? Simple: Because they’re not aware of this dynamic they often view attempts to conform their beliefs to established Christian orthodoxy as “legalism” or “oppression”. As soon as they bump into the wall of Christian orthodoxy their “inner Joseph Smith” manifests itself.

Consider, for example, the issue of the doctrine of the Trinity. Many Ex-Mormons simply don’t understand why mainstream Christians make such a fuss about it. I mean, after all, people in Mormonism had all kinds of screwy ideas about the Mormon Godhead and how the members of the Godhead related to each other. However, as long as at the end of the day, as long as those screwy ideas were capped with, “but they’re united in purpose”, the public line was toed and all was good. But these nick picky mainstream Christians get “bent” if you don’t get the classic formula of, “God is one eternal Being, consisting of three co-eternal persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,” exactly right. They’ll even correct you if you get “person” and “being” flipped around! And if you say something like, “God reveals Himself as the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit: One God” they go bonkers on you, call it heresy, and accuse you of modalism. And if after having it explained you say that you still reject the doctrine of the Trinity, they’ll question if you’re even a Christian at all! What’s up with that?4

The answer is that mainstream Christianity has boundaries. Those boundaries are set and established by the Bible and were forged, formed, refined,  and perfected through the intense fire of Christian Church history.5 As I stated in another piece for Ex-Mormons:

As the Apostle Peter said, “… no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20 KJV) and as a Christian you are joining a community of Spirit-filled saints that for over 2,000 years has read, loved, struggled with, and sought God over the correct interpretation of His written revelation of Himself to man… we’re all fallen sinners prone to error and the great “cloud of witnesses” (the one that Hebrews 12:1 describes) can be of great value and benefit in guiding us in sound Biblical interpretation if we’ll listen to them through their creeds, sermons, writings, and lives. In fact, even their flaws, foibles, follies, and mistakes can be instructive! No, Church History isn’t the Bible but it’s important. After all, as Elizabeth Browning said well: “Always learn from experience – preferably someone else’s”6

Thus, for the biblical Christian, being knit into that great “cloud of witnesses” is critical. Yes, I appreciate the fact that one tends to be “gun shy” after coming out a Mind Control Cult.  And yes, I realize that it takes time to heal and start trusting again after being burned by the said cult – after all, I came out of one myself. However, the fact remains that the Bible is clear that all Christians need to be a part of and accountable to the visible, living Church:

“…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
(Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

“…encourage one another and build one another up…”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
(Acts 2:42 ESV)

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints…”
(1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV)

"It's just me, Jesus, and my Bible."

“It’s just me, Jesus, and my Bible.”

So it’s one thing to temporarily isolate, heal and learn to trust again, but quite another to make this a permanent position. Unfortunately, the latter is where Ex-Mormon tend to stay, ultimately becoming “Just me and Jesus” Lone Ranger Christians.7

The irony here is how Mormonism, while outwardly appearing to be a system of oppressive conformity, actually fosters internal Lone Rangers and rogues within its ranks. This is done via the “magic” of Mormon passive aggressivity.  As Latter-day Saint and Professor of Organizational Behavior, Michael J. Stevens  explains in his watershed article on the subject:

A passive-aggressive person will generally deploy such behavioral tactics as: keeping one’s distance and remaining silent or aloof; hiding one’s true thoughts, feelings, or emotions; suppressing, setting aside, or ignoring issues that otherwise should be addressed; postponing or ignoring decisions; resisting change and otherwise championing the status quo; citing rules, policies, procedures, or higher authority as both a defensive and offensive tactic; and providing little meaningful or worthwhile feedback.8

Stevens goes on to explain:

If we consider modern LDS culture to be an anthropologically “tight” culture (that is, one in which there are many strong norms proscribing behavior and conduct, along with a low tolerance for deviance from those norms), then it’s easy to see how norms favoring conflict avoidance are combined with very strong social pressures against the expression of contrary opinions, views, or preferences. To state such differences openly means that one should anticipate the strong sanctions and social ostracism that will inevitably follow. The message of an obedience and submission culture is clear: No Devil’s Advocates allowed! Quit asking questions and challenging things—just nod your head and say “yes.”9

So here’s the strange irony: A key survival skill among Mormons is the ability to appear to be in compliance and conformity to established norms while simultaneously being in rebellion. So what happens when the Mormon exits this sick, dysfunctional system? Answer: They just bring those hard won, hard learned, survival skills with them.  That is, they either continue the behavior in their new church or because there no consequences for doing otherwise in this new culture become overtly aggressive and unteachable. Neither is extreme is healthy or productive – and both are ultimately destructive.10

So that’s the problem, what’s the solution? Answer: Healthy boundaries. As Christian Psychologists Townsend and Cloud explain:

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for, gives me freedom. If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. However, if I do not “own” my life, my choices and options become very limited.11

On a personal level, boundaries determine where you end and others begin. In a group, or sociological, context they determine where the group begins and ends. So, for example, one can’t reject the doctrine of the Trinity and still claim to be a Christian. That’s because the doctrine creates a safe, well-defined area between pagan polytheism (such as Mormon tritheism), and heresy (such as modalism). The doctrine creates a healthy boundary that determines who’s in the group and who’s out.

In a similar vein, boundaries allow us to be in a group without being run over by it:

Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7: 6) so that people will not steal them. They keep the pearls inside, and the pigs outside.12

The Lone Ranger Christian credo.

The Lone Ranger Christian credo.

Boundaries enable us to remain humble and teachable because they give us the self-confidence and internal assurance that we can listen and learn to know that in the end, we will only let what we want inside our fence. And because in the end we alone are the gatekeeper, there’s no point in engaging in rude, childish rebellion. That’s because if someone tries to control us we can end the control by simply shutting the gate. Thus we can be in a group without being dominated by it. If the group becomes too much of a problem, the solution is easy: Just walk away.

The key word here is “balance”. Health requires quiet, steady moderation rather than bombastic, erratic skewing from extreme to extreme. So if you find yourself always on the outline looking in then you know that you’ve gone overboard with the “walking away” thing. If, on the other hand, you find yourself angry, frustrated, and unable to find your own voice then you probably haven’t walked away enough. And finally, it should be noted that healthy boundaries mean that we don’t tell others what they’re going to do (that’s control), it means that we tell others what we’re going to.

Bringing it back around, it was selfish, arrogant, irrational, and unbiblical of Joseph Smith to think that he could just discard 1,900-plus years of Christian orthodoxy and reinvent Christianity on his own from scratch wasn’t it? So how is it any different for an Ex-Mormon who does the same thing today? Respecting Christianity’s boundaries isn’t legalism or being oppressed by overbearing, controlling, and legalistic religionists, it’s just good old-fashioned common sense. More than that, it’s biblical, isn’t it?

Consider for a moment what would have happened if Joseph Smith had heeded this advice and would have had a humble, teachable spirit guarding by healthy boundaries – instead of having to be the lead rebel in rogue’s gallery of religious rebels? I suspect that he would have had the “knots” in his bad theology worked out over time, he would have found his place in a good 19th Century church and would have lived a long, healthy, and happy life. Instead, he left us with the aftermath of a religious rebellion that has destroyed countless families and lives.

1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) says that, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” In the end that’s really what we’re talking about here isn’t it? The spirit of Mormonism is the spirit of rebellion. And Mormon style rebellion has consequences.

My dear transitioning Mormon friend, after watching Lone Ranger Ex-Mormon after Lone Ranger Ex-Mormon “crash, boom, bang” due to theological rebellion, I don’t recommend it.

This is not the solution.

No matter how tempting, this ISN’T the solution.

NOTES
1 Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p.ix

2 Ibid, p. 150

3 Ibid, p.172

4 My intention here isn’t to start a debate or dogmatize the doctrine of the Trinity, merely to use to it as an example of a legitimate Christian theological boundary. If the reader is interested in a good resource that explains the doctrine of the Trinity from the Bible I recommend Rob Bowman’s excellent web series, “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity: An Outline Study”.

5 In my opinion, one of the best things that every Ex-Mormon can do is learn Christian Church History. Not only does this help expose and purge the propaganda style revisionist history that Mormons are taught in the LdS Church, it helps the transitioning Mormon understand how and why these theological boundaries exist at all. A good resource here is Dr. Bruce L. Shelley’s classic work, “Church History in Plain Language”.

6 Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”, Beggar’s Bread website

7 This may not be easy but it is worth it! A big help in easing the transition here is to realize that the churches and denominations in mainstream Christianity are as culturally distinct as Mormon culture is. A useful model to use when transitioning is that of an immigrant living their native country and transitioning into a new culture. You will experience culture shock when you visit non-Mormon churches, be prepared for it. That said, there are some things you can do to lessen the impact. Here’s the advice that I gave in the aforementioned “Dear Michelle” article:

“I would recommend that you try to find a church that’s in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. I make this recommendation because the Mormon Chapel liturgy was “borrowed” from the 19th Century Methodist church. Specifically, that means finding and attending a Methodist, Nazarene, Wesleyan, or Holiness church. And I would recommend that you stick with the “Traditional” (rather than the “Contemporary”) service as it’s closest to the 19th Century style liturgy that you’re familiar with in the Mormon Church.

Again, the most important thing with any church that you attend is that they love, respect, teach, and obey the Bible. Never the less, all too often transitioning Mormons are off-put by modern expressions of worship that are too far afield from the traditional Latter-day Saint Chapel service. If you want to try or move on to a different, more contemporary type of corporate worship later it’s up to you but I would recommend that you stick with the traditional “Methodist style” until you find your “sea legs” in modern mainstream Christianity.”

8 Michael J. Stevens, “Passive-aggression among the Latter-day Saints”, Sunstone magazine, April 2013

9 Ibid

10 Please note that with the advent of Postmodernism one will find the same problem of theological rebellion in the mainstream Christian Church as well. As Theologian, Matt Slick as rightly observed:

…postmodernism is relativism. Postmodernism is a reaction against the logical truth structures of modern thought that gave us absolute propositions about nature, time, space, mathematics, knowability, repeatability of experimentation, predictability, etc. As modernism developed the sciences, technology, and medicine, it has helped to produce a comfortable and predictable society–wherein people tend to become complacent, comfortable, and predictable. But there are always people who ask questions rather than blindly follow the status quo. They look for different ways of expression, different interpretations of truth, teach the idea that truth is not necessarily absolute and that reality can be reinterpreted. It is within the postmodern context that the Emerging Churches are seeking to work.

It is a difficult venture to try to reach the hearts and minds of those who are less open to absolutes than previous generations. So, instead of absolute truth propositions, Emerging Churches tend to focus on relationships, expressiveness, and new ways of trying to reach God. Is it good? Yes and no. It is good only so far as it is consistent with Scripture. It is bad whenever it deviates from it.
(Matt Slick, “The Emerging Church and postmodernism”; CARM website)

The key difference here is the reality of boundary maintenance that biblical absolutes and 2,000-plus years of doctrinal refinement provide. Further, theological rebellion typically isn’t enculturated into the membership, reinforced by leaders, and at the root of the entire theological system as it is in Mormonism. Stated plainly, if you take away theological rebellion then Mormonism is no longer Mormonism. Add theological rebellion to mainstream Christianity and it is no longer Christian.

However, there are still glaring exceptions – especially in the case of theological liberal churches and denominations. In those cases, you will notice that many Biblical Christians are just as quick to denounce these theologically rebellious churches and denominations as they are errant individuals. There’s no double standard here, the rules apply equally to Mormon, Ex-Mormon and Christian alike.

11 Henry Cloud and John Townsend, “Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No”, p.29

12 Ibid, p.31

boundaries

THIS is the solution.

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Strange Fire Front CoverReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship
Author: John F. MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 2013
Length: 352 pages
Binding: Digital, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook
ISBN10: 1400205174
ISBN13: 978-1400205172
Price: $10.99 (Digital), $22.99 (Hardcover),  $6.99 (Paperback), $9.99 (Audiobook)

My pastor could have been speaking of John MacArthur when he said to me, “Your message is usually substantive and true but the way that you deliver it often leaves the other person so in reaction to the messenger that they can’t receive the message.” Yes, friends, I empathize with John MacArthur since I’m on of that those annoying “truth first, grace and mercy second, and let the pieces fall where they will third” guys too. And try as I may to not react to the messenger rather than the message in this review I will warn you in advance that I may not succeed.

The More Things Change . . . 
Anti-Charismatic books are nothing new to John MacArthur. In 1978 he published “The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective” In 1992 it was “Charismatic Chaos” and in 2013, his latest offering, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”. So three titles and thirty five years later and what has changed? Obviously, not a lot since the twenty one old words of Vineyard Pastor, Rich Nathan are just as applicable to “Strange Fire” as they were of “Charismatic Chaos”:

“Ultimately it is MacArthur’s rancorous, bombastic style that undermines his objectivity and any value this book may have had as a necessary corrective to excesses or errors in the charismatic, Pentecostal and Third Wave movements. Rabid anti-charismatics will love this book. It provides wonderful sermon illustrations for the already convinced. For those not so zealously anti-charismatic, this book serves only as a painful reminder of the lovelessness that characterizes too much of contemporary Christianity.”
(Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993, p.27)

And this is a pity because MacArthur has always done a very good job of indentifying and condemning the excesses in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. In “Charismatic Chaos” it was the immature abuses of “out there” Vineyard churches (like the bizarre Holy Laughter of the Toronto Airport Vineyard and the insanity of the Kansas City Prophets), the zaniness of The Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the charlatanism of Benny Hinn – who has very appropriately returned as the favored punching bag and dart board target of Strange Fire. To all this, like so many other, mainstream, theologically cautious and conversative Charismatics, I can only stand, applaud, and yell, “Bravo!” These are things that we are in complete agreement with Mr. MacArthur on. In fact, these are things that we ourselves have publicly and repeatedly condemned and denounced ourselves. Bravo Mr. MacArthur, bravo!

John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Broad Brush Polemics
However, MacArthur isn’t content with reprimanding just a few bad apples. It quickly becomes apparent that in his mind, if you’re a Charismatic, you’re a bad apple – period. Consider these excerpts:

“The Charismatic Movement began barely a hundred years ago, and its influence on evangelicalism can hardly be overstated. From its inception by Charles Fox Parham to its most ubiquitous modern representative in Benny Hinn, the entire movement is nothing more than a sham religion run by counterfeit ministers. True biblical interpretation, sound doctrine, and historical theology owes nothing to the movement— unless an influx of error and falsehood could be considered a contribution. Like any effective false system, charismatic theology incorporates enough of the truth to gain credibility. But in mixing the truth with deadly deceptions, it has concocted a cocktail of corruption and doctrinal poison— a lethal fabrication— with hearts and souls at stake.”
(John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 113)

“the gospel that is driving these surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was a farce and a scam from the outset; it has not changed into something good.”
(Ibid, p.xix)

As one commenter on The Pneuma Review website said well of such over the top polemics:

“There are excesses in the charismatic group that need to be addressed, but Strange Fire is devoid of any hint on J[ohn] M[cArthur]’s part to meet with these whom he feels are in error to try to make sure he understands them. In taking this to the extreme that he has, he has become an example of the extreme he is trying to point out in others.”
(Rick Collins, Aug 24, 2014 8:27pm comment, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”)

And again, Rich Nathan’s description of “Charismatic Chaos” yesterday is just as true of “Strange Fire” today:

“MacArthur doesn’t rebuke charismatics as a person would rebuke a member of one’s own family. The book reads like hostile fire shot by an outsider. The tone, as will be seen by the numerous pejorative adjectives that MacArthur uses to describe charismatics, is anything but familial or irenic. It is one thing to have your child spanked by your spouse. It is quite another thing to have your child spanked by a stranger. Charismatics understandably react to being spanked by someone who intentionally positions himself as a stranger and not as a “dear friend, fellow worker… and [brother]” (Philem. 1:1).”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.3)

Folks, I could stop right there and you would have an apt brief review of Strange Fire. Unfortunately, when the specifics are considered Strange Fire gets even worse.

Double Standards
Adding insult to injury is MacArthur’s use of Double Standards. He spends an entire chapter pounding away at the scandals in the continuationist camp while utterly ignoring his own shattered cessationist glass house. As Time Magazine observed:

“Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Rochester in New York believes Pentecostals are no more trouble-prone than other Protestants. “The same sort of thing is happening to Baptists and Presbyterians,” she says. “Except for one big thing. They are not media figures.”
(David Van Biema, “Are Mega-Preachers Scandal-Prone?”, Time magazine, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007)

One need go no further than the dedication page of MacArthur’s first Anti-Charismatic book (“The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective”, circa 1978) to see MacArthur’s blind hypocrisy. It reads as follows:

“To Dave Hocking,
A true and beloved friend
with whom I share a common love
for the Word of Christ
and the purity of His church.”

Yet just fourteen year later, and just 6 months after MacArthur’s second Anti-Charismatic book (“Charismatic Chaos”, circa April 1992), fellow hard cessationist and Anti-Charismatic David (aka “Dave”) Hocking was involved in a scandal that involved not one, but two high profile Southern California churches:

“In Oct 1992, the elders of Calvary Church [Santa Ana, California] caught David Hocking in a major scandal involving marital infidelity. The elders of the church told Hocking that he would no longer be the Senior Pastor of Calvary Church and would have to undergo a three-year restoration process.

Refusing to accept the restoration plan of the elders at Calvary Church, Hocking’s long-time buddy Chuck Smith [the founding Pastor of Calvary Chapel and the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California at the time] took him in. Reportedly, Smith said that this great man of God should not be wasted, and took in David Hocking as a Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa staff member. Hocking was excommunicated by Calvary Church of Santa Ana after he refused to submit to the elders of the church in their restoration process…

This was a major point of contention between Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa and other local churches in the community (particularly CCSA [Calvary Church Santa Ana]). This caused a major scandal here in Southern California where the results are still being felt.”
(“The Calvary Church of Santa Ana/David Hocking Incident”, Calvary Chapel Wiki website)  

And this is just the tip of the cessationist iceberg of scandals. We could also talk about Southern Baptist Charles Stanley’s divorce, R.C. Sproul, Jr.’s  (whose father R.C. Sproul, Sr. spoke at the Strange Fire Conference) “Ashley Madison indiscretion”, or the scandals of Baptists, Kent Hovind, Lonnie Latham, Coy Privette, or Joe Barron (see “List Of Christian Evangelist Scandals” for details).

Further, and speaking as someone in the same Reformed camp that MacArthur is in (yes, I’m one of those dreaded “Charismatic Calvinists” that Steve Lawson woodshedded at the Strange Fire conference) it pains me to admit that Frank Viola was largely correct when he observed:

“Using MacArthur’s logic and approach, one could easily write a book about the toxicity of the Reformed movement by painting all Reformed Christians as elitist, sectarian, divisive, arrogant, exclusive, and in love with “doctrine” more than with Christ.

And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R.T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. Or Peter Ruckman and Jack Hyles, et al. to characterize Fundamentalist Baptists. Or William R. Crews and L.R. Shelton Jr., et. al. to represent Reformed Baptists.

My point is that charismatic, Reformed, and Baptist people would strongly object to the idea that any of these gentleman could accurately represent their respective tribes as each of them have strong critics within their own movements. Even so, the game of burning down straw man city with a torch is nothing new.”
(Frank Viola, “Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire” p.9; also cited in Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.157)

But probably no one summed it up better than Rich Nathan when he said:

“Immorality is, tragically, a phenomenon that seems to know no denominational boundaries. Indeed, several very prominent dispensational and fundamentalist leaders have had to step down from radio ministries, para-church leadership, and pastorates because of sexual immorality. One might more realistically point to the sex-drenched culture of the modern western world, the cult of sexual self expression, and the absence of the practice of spiritual disciplines as more likely explanations for the fall of charismatic pastors than their experience of speaking in tongues.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.8)

Treating the Extreme as the Norm
This treating extremes as the norm is the biggest problem with MacArthur’s approach to Pentecostalism in general and his Anti-Charismatic books in particular. Consider this example from Strange Fire:

“More moderate charismatics like to portray the prosperity preachers, faith healers, and televangelists as safely isolated on the extreme edge of the charismatic camp. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Thanks to the global reach and incessant proselytizing of religious television and charismatic mass media, the extreme has now become mainstream. For most of the watching world, flamboyant false teachers— with heresies as ridiculous as their hairdos— constitute the public face of Christianity. And they propagate their lies in the Holy Spirit’s name.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 13)

Again, writing of “Charismatic Chaos” Rich Nathan’s response is just as applicable:

“MacArthur rarely acknowledges a mainstream view within the charismatic or Pentecostal movements that’s balanced, Biblical, and mature. MacArthur, moreover, rarely admits that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement – now over 400 million strong – has borne tremendous fruit for the kingdom of God. He simply does not permit himself to acknowledge positive contributions by this enormous and varied movement.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.2)

And as this review is being written, Pentecostals and Charismatics not only number over 500 million adherents but represent the fastest growing segment of the modern Christian Church. All this while mainline denominations are shrinking and cessationist numbers are flattening. No numbers and don’t equal veracity but, if nothing else, it bespeaks an ability to meet needs and bear fruit – something that John MacArthur sees as a net negative due to his antipathy toward continuationism in all forms. Such prejudice driven hard hardheartedness and blindness is heartbreaking.

Exaggeration, Data Manipulation, and Guilt by Association Fallacies
Equally concerning is how MacArthur repeatedly engages in gross exaggeration and “Guilty by Association” fallacies. Please consider this example:

“[Joel] Osteen’s muddled comment about Latter-day Saints introduces an interesting point of discussion— especially since the founders of Mormonism claimed to experience the same supernatural phenomena that Pentecostals and charismatics experience today. At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, Joseph Smith reported various types of charismatic phenomena— including tongues, prophecy, and miraculous visions. Other eyewitness accounts of that same event made similar claims: “There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels”; and, “There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of Elders spoke in tongues.” More than half a century before Charles Parham and the Pentecostals spoke in tongues, the Latter-day Saints reported similar outbursts, leading some historians to trace the roots of Pentecostalism back through Mormonism.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Well the “some historians” referenced in the footnote for that last sentence is exactly one historian, and one historical work (Hard Cessationist, Thomas R. Edgar’s Anti-Pentecostal treatise, “Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit”, p.218 and p.108)

Further, speaking as a Mormon Studies Scholar, the fact is that the early Mormons were merely one of many tongues speaking groups in the Second Great Awakening. Joseph Smith and the earliest Mormons didn’t speak in tongues at all until Brigham Young and his tongues speaking brothers arrived on the scene along with their tongues speaking friend Heber C. Kimball. And, for the record, Young and his brothers were Restorationist Pentecostals (specifically tongues speaking Primitive Methodists in most cases) before joining the Mormon Church – so the phenomenon didn’t, I repeat, did not originate in Mormonism.

Rather, it’s generally conceded that the fountainhead for all this 19th Century, Second Great Awakening tongues speaking was the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival. So for a historian to claim that the roots of modern Pentecostalism can be traced back to early Mormonism isn’t just ludicrous, it’s hack scholarship.

But wait, MacArthur isn’t done yet, there’s more:

“Even today, similarities between the two groups have led some to seek for greater unity. In their book Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints, authors Rob and Kathy Datsko assert, “Although there is an incredible language and culture barrier between LDS [Latter-day Saints] and SFC [Spirit-filled Christians], often these two groups believe many of the same basic doctrines.” Though Pentecostalism has traditionally rejected the Latter-day Saints, comments like those made by Joel Osteen suggest that a new wave of ecumenical inclusivism may be on the horizon. It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Regarding this passage, as I pointed out in my review of Rob and Kathy Datsko’s book, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints” MacArthur’s argument is based on data manipulation, flawed evidence, and good old fashioned exaggeration. Please consider the following questions I posed to Mr. MacArthur in this regard:

1) Why are the Datskos implicitly presented as Charismatic Christians in your (circa 2013) book when, in fact, they have been Mormons since 2003?
Folks as soon as these folks converted to Mormonism, they were no longer Charismatic Christians, they were Latter-day Saints who were following another Jesus and preaching another gospel.

2) Where are the rest of the Charismatic Christians that you declare, are seeking greater unity with Mormons?
Friends I’m a Mormon Studies scholar and I will tell you plainly: Any that have tried this (such as Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richardson, and Cal Fullerton) are now considered, marginalized, lunatic fringe, Charismaniacs by mainstream Charismatics. They have no significant power or influence among us.

3) Why do you single out Charismatics when, in fact, it’s cessationists who are taken a far greater, more active role in seeking greater unity with Mormons?
I’ll name names: Craig Blomberg (Denver Theological Seminary), Christopher Hall (Episcopalian theologian), Gerald R. McDermott (Beeson Divinity School), and James E. Bradley (Fuller Theological Seminary). Oh, and let me add newcomer, Baptist Author and Educator, Roger E. Olson, to the list.

4) Where are all these Charismatic Latter-day Saints that you refer to on p.73 of Strange Fire?
That’s where you claim, “Today there are even charismatic Mormons. Regardless of what else they teach, if they have had that experience, they are in.” Footnote 53 for the passage on p.73 takes us to this: “See, for example, “Hi. I’m Kathy, I’m a born again, Spirit-filled, Charismatic Mormon” at Mormon.org, accessed March 2013” (p.290) and one clicks on the link that’s provided in the footnote and it takes us to (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) Kathy Datsko’s Mormon testimony! Folks, no many how many times you count her Kathy Datsko is one, and only one, Charismatic Latter-day Saint. Add in her husband Rob and you now have not one but two Charismatic Mormons.

This is far from a trend or even a pattern people! In fact, other than these two I know of no other Charismatic Latter-day Saints. That’s because Latter-day Saints have absolutely no interest in Pentecostalism and stay as far away from it as possible – they treat it like kryptonite. So in the end Mr. MacArthur’s evidence that there’s a major trend involving mainstream Charismatics Christians are seeking closer ecumenical ties with Charismatic Mormons isn’t just exaggerated, it’s non-existent.

Confirmation Bias Driven Evidence Presentation
As continuationist Bible scholar Craig S. Keener notes:

“MacArthur’s selective approach to history is meant to substantiate his approach. Yet his appendix on church history, if intended to be representative, cherry-picks only statements that agree with him. Yes, cessationists existed; but not all orthodox believers have been cessationists. Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian all claimed eyewitness accounts of healings and exorcisms. Historian Ramsay MacMullen shows that these sorts of experiences constituted the leading cause of Christian conversion in the third and fourth centuries.

MacArthur cites Augustine as an advocate of cessationism (252-53) without noting that he later changed his mind and reported numerous miracles, including raisings from the dead and some healings that he personally witnessed. John Wesley valued weighing prophecy rather than rejecting it, reports healings, and offers his own firsthand report of what he believed to be a raising from the dead. Late nineteenth-century evangelical leaders such as Baptist A. J. Gordon (for whom Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is named) and A. B. Simpson, founder of Christian and Missionary Alliance, were continuationists and recounted healing reports.”
(Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website)

And it’s not in the book but in the follow up video on to the book and conference that Mr. MacArthur did at The Master’s Seminary entitled, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” (it can be seen on YouTube) John MacArthur said of Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel movement that in 1967 “a bunch of Jesus freak people.. go to Calvary Chapel…and for the first time…that I know of in history, the church lets the very defined subculture dictate what it will be,” citing “the hippie culture, communal living…kids coming out of drugs and free sex, and all that” as displacing “all the normal and formal things,” and typifying the charismatic church, with the movement becoming Calvary Chapel. (video transcription from Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I was at Calvary Chapel in the 1970’s during the height of Jesus Movement and what Mr. MacArthur has just said is nonsense! Chuck Smith’s friend and colleague Jacob Prasch has called it “false witness” and I agree with him. Folks, it simply isn’t true. Anyone who thinks that staid, culturally and theologically conservative Pastor Chuck wasn’t fully in control of things and wasn’t keeping a leash on the insanity that we hippies brought in tow with us simply wasn’t there! Case in point: Chuck Fromm (the founder of Maranatha! Music and Chuck Smith’s son in law) once told me that Pastor Chuck didn’t like the rock music that was on the label and was always trying to convince him to shut that side of the ministry down and focus on just worship music – which Fromm eventually did.

While we all loved and respected Pastor Chuck, we still thought that he was a bit of an establishment square, a stick in the mud, and even an encumbrance to all our “grooviness” at times. To suggest that we children were leading a strong willed, in command, personality, father figure, and leader like Pastor Chuck is just laughable! And if there’s any doubt on any of this please see watch the “Pastors Perspective 4/3/2014” video on the K-Wave Radio YouTube Channel and you can hear it straight from Brian Brodersen, Don Stewart, Steve Mays, and Ray Bentley who were there at a much higher level than I ever was.

Conclusion and Other Perspectives
Since the Strange Fire conference and publication of the book John MacArthur has stated that they were supposed to be “the catalyst for conversation” (see “John MacArthur on Making an Informed Response to Strange Fire” on YouTube). Well if that’s the case, given the harsh, polemic, condemning tone then this “conversation” started with all the charm and grace of an alley mugging by a bully.

Equally amusing is how in the aforementioned, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” video Mr. MacArthur complains about the ad-hominems leveled at him in the reviews on Amazon. This coming from a man who spends, pages, chapters, and even the greater part of a book engaging in personal attacks, character assassination, and some of the most derogatory and insulting slurs against fellow Christians imaginable. Mr. MacArthur that thing sticking out of your eye is what’s called a “beam”.

That said, I have one last piece of advice to my Charismatic friends: Read the Strange Fire book. Yes, read the book. I think it speaks for itself. Please don’t take my word for it, read the book and see for yourself if all the criticism that this book has garnered from myself and others is justified or not.

Finally, probably no one summed up the mindset, spirit, and content of “Strange Fire” better than the late, great, first editor of Christianity Today, Carl F.H. Henry who said in 1957:

“The real bankruptcy of fundamentalism has resulted not so much from a reactionary spirit – lamentable as this was – as from a harsh temperament, a spirit of lovelessness and strife contributed by much of its leadership in the recent past. One of the ironies of contemporary church history is that the more fundamentalists stress separation from apostasy as a theme in their churches, the more a spirit of lovelessness seems to prevail.

The theological conflict with liberalism deteriorated into an attack upon organizations and personalities. This condemnation, in turn, grew to include conservative churchmen and churches not ready to align with separatist movements. It widens still further, to abusive evangelicals unhappy with the spirit of independency in such groups as the American Council of Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches. Then came internal debate and division among separatist fundamentalism within the American Council. More recently, the evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham and [the] efforts of other evangelical leaders, whose disapproval of liberalism and advocacy of conservative Christianity are beyond dispute, have become the target of bitter volubility.

This character of fundamentalism as a temperament and not primarily fundamentalism as a theology, has brought the movement into contemporary discredit… Historically, fundamentalism was a theological position; only gradually did the movement come to signify a mood and disposition as well. In its early [years] leadership reflected ballast, and less of bombast and battle… If modernism stands discredited as a perversion of the scriptural theology, certainly fundamentalism in this contemporary expression stands discredited as a perversion of the Biblical spirit.”
(Carl F.H. Henry, Editor of “Christianity Today” magazine in 1957)

Appendix: Other Voices
Here are some other quotes on and about John MacArthur and Strange Fire that I thought the reader might find interesting:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

“The problem I have is that, at least in my admittedly limited observation, some members or follow[er]s of the MacArthur circle suffer from Richard Dawkins syndrome. Dawkins has such contempt for Christianity that he can’t bring himself to take Christianity seriously even for the sake of argument.

And some members/followers of the MacArthur circle reflect the same mindset. They exhibit such unbridled contempt for charismatic theology that they can’t take it seriously even for the sake of argument. They demand evidence, yet they don’t make a good faith effort to be informed. So the objection is circular, given their studied ignorance.

There’s a word for that: prejudice.”
(Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.8; Charisma House. Kindle Edition)

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says [Pastor John] Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

“In his “Strange Fire” conference (that starts today), book (upcoming), and ensuing promotions, John MacArthur has, I believe, acted very irresponsibly and is doing incredible damage to the body of Christ.

It is no secret that John MacArthur pushes the polemic line and causes many of us to be uncomfortable. This is just who he is and I don’t really expect him to change. But this conference is an excessively eristic and unnecessarily divisive crusade against charismatics. And, to be frank, it is even over the top for him…

Because of all this, John MacArthur is losing his voice, and I don’t want him to. His reputation dismantles his platform to speak at just about any conference. He has worked himself into a corner where every time he writes a book or opens his mouth, many of us say, “Oh no!” before anything else. His radio program is called “Grace to You” and we are often left thinking “grace to who?”

John MacArthur says the charismatic movement “blasphemes the Holy Spirit” and “attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan.” Maybe he should think about who is actually attributing the work of the Spirit to Satan. I am not a charismatic, but such a statement really scares me. And because of this it would seem (even though the conference is sold out) that John MacArthur may be losing his voice.”
(C. Michael Patton, “Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice”, Reclaiming the Mind website, October 15, 2013)

“I’m not just talking from the sidelines as a bystander but as someone who has had a lot of experience and education in both [the Charismatic and Reformed] traditions and still embraces a respect for each while feeling free to critique both.

As I watched the video [of John MacArthur’s opening address at the “Strange Fire Conference”] I felt a growing anger as well as a disgust for what MacArthur was saying and how he was saying it. His speech is as lofty as his demeanor. His criticism of charismatics is as old as the charismatic movement itself. So it’s nothing new. It is a familiar flame. What I found dismaying is his complete dismissal of the movement and all its adherents in a single one hour dignified gesture. With one speech he purged the rolls of salvation of over 500 million believers.

Basically his argument is that charismatics dishonor God. Since they are therefore not in Christ, their theology is demonic. So since they are serving Satan and promoting him, there is a hotter hell reserved for them. He claims that the charismatic movement has done nothing to advance sound doctrine or biblical theology but in fact has caused more damage than anything else ever has because it has only delivered confusion, distortion and error to the church. He questions the church: You have always defended God. You have always defended Jesus Christ. Why do you not defend the Holy Spirit? Instead, the church opens the gates to the charismatics and they have taken over the city of God and set up an idol in its center. He doesn’t understand why God doesn’t just strike all these people down. He sadly supposes his ways aren’t our ways…

I’m not just angry. I’m not just disappointed. I’m sad. After watching MacArthur I was tempted to throw in the towel. Even though many people would distance themselves from MacArthur and his position on charismatics, it’s still a sign that the church and its leaders may use anything at their disposal to elevate themselves above their brothers and sisters, even if it means separating themselves from them forever.

I thought we were better than this.”
(David Hayward, “John MacArthur Sends 500,000,000 Charismatics to Hell”; nakedpastor website, October 18, 2013

“MacArthur’s latest book does not represent an honest search for truth. It is obvious that his mind was already made up when he began his research for Strange Fire, and he found what he was looking for. He presents a circular argument, beginning with a faulty premise and proceeding with selective anecdotal evidence that determines the outcome. He begins with a commitment to cessationism, the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the twelve apostles and the completion of the writings of the New Testament. Since that is the case for him, that means modern expressions of Spiritual gifts must be false. He then utilizes the selective anecdotal evidence to buttress his presupposition, which leads him back to his starting point of cessation.

It seems that MacArthur wants to believe the worst about the movement of which he writes. At times I felt he was embellishing the bad to make it even worse. For example, Oral Roberts was not a Christian brother with whom he had profound differences but a heretic who did much damage to the body of Christ, “the first of the fraudulent healers to capture TV, paving the way for the parade of spiritual swindlers who have come after him” (p.155). Make no mistake about it, MacArthur is not out to bring correction to a sector of Christianity with which he disagrees; his goal is to destroy a movement he considers false, heretical and dangerous.”
(Eddie L. Hyatt, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Eddie L. Hyatt”, The Pneuma Review website, October 23, 2013)

And while Pastor Jack Hayford didn’t call out John MacArthur (who by the way he’s close personal friends with) directly, for anyone who’s read the Strange Fire book or watched the conference videos there’s no mistaking what prompted the following response:

“It is essential to note: as with any sector of the church, at times ungodly and wholly unworthy leaders rise and gain a following. From local pastorates to notable media ministries one can find shameful violations of the Word and personalities lauded as ‘anointed’ who ignore biblical standards regarding morality, financial accountability, and biblical integrity. Pop culture themes that compromise the whole truth of God’s Word on subjects that lead to human, financial, lifestyle, and attitudinal shoddiness are often paraded in the name of ‘charismatic.’ This is a tragic miscarriage of a biblically rooted word (charismata) and shameless rejection of the charismatic lifestyle modeled by the apostles’ own first-century ministry—one lived without compromise of truth, character, behavior, or morality, and devoid of any self-serving ways.

May it be known and affirmed here: such biblically inconsistent leaders, be they men or women, who violate God’s Word—and any who follow them—are not and should not (no matter what ‘signs following’ are claimed) be seen or understood to be a valid definition of what charismatic or Pentecostal life or leadership is about.

It is grieving to all who seek to live and walk in humility and holiness as members of the Spirit-filled community of believers, when there is evidence of a leader’s doctrinal, ecclesiastical, moral, or financial compromise, and yet nothing of confrontation, discipline, or disapproval appear to be administered. However, truth is that this is not at all the case among the vast majority of those within the Pentecostal or charismatic community. For the most part, existing denominations and structured nondenominational networks do administer correction and discipline, as well as directing recovery and restoration programs where repentance is shown by the errant or fallen.

The most flagrant cases of violation and neglect of discipline occur in the glaring instances where independent, self-directed, self-ruled, and self-governed leaders move. The absence of structures requiring accountability to fellow leaders, or the ‘cronyism’ of some who unite, but do so forming small circles of equally errant ministers who ‘measure themselves by themselves’ (2 Cor. 10:12) and smugly exercise a self-affirming tolerance and grace that refuses the legalism of critics; these are of the nature of those the Epistle of Jude identifies as ‘dreamers’ who ‘defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries,’ and as having ‘gone in the way of Cain, run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah . . . for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever’ (Jude 4-13, NKJV).

Further, it is an egregious exercise in unkindness when categorical charges or institutional ‘blackballing tactics’ are leveled against charismatics as though all are given to indifference concerning Bible interpretation or moral recklessness. Even those differing theologically know full well that such broad brush treatment is a violation of facts—that the few characterize neither the values nor lifestyle of the many, i.e., charismatics who love, honor, and live for Christ, the Lord of us all—charismatic or otherwise. May God extinguish the foul incense from the ‘strange fire’ offered by voices among leaders at either group’s altars, and may His ‘holy fire’ baptize us all with a fresh baptism of His unifying love, whatever our doctrinal differences.”
(Jack Hayford’s foreword for R.T. Kendall, “Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives”, Kindle Locations 3477-3504)

Recommended Reading
The following books have been written in response to “Strange Fire”. They offer a fuller, richer perspective on the book and address in greater detail MacArthur’s errors – up to and including his confirmation bias driven hard cessationist exegesis of scripture.

“Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire” by Michael L. Brown
This book directly addresses the issues raised by the Strange Fire book, conference, and camp in a calm, even toned, and scholarly manner. (note: I have also reviewed this book)

“Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives” by R.T. Kendall
A thoughtful scriptural exegetical response to MacArthur’s hard cessationist arguments from a theologian in the Reformed tradition who is Charismatic.

“The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit: God’s Miraculous Gifts at Work Today” by Randy Clark
A combination defense of continuationism and practical, scriptural guidelines which, if followed, would eliminate would eliminate many of the abuses and excesses that MacArthur correctly criticizes in Strange Fire.

Christian Historian William De Arteaga’s short analysis of how John MacArthur abuses and misrepresents Church History in “Strange Fire” is very informative and enlightening.

William De Arteaga, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire as Parody of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology”, The Pneuma Review website, November 8, 2013

And, finally, while I would like to believe that my review is pretty good, I’m not sure that these reviews of John MacArthur’s last two Anti-Charismatic books can be topped. I’ve cited from some of them above but I encourage a full read in order to fully appreciate them for yourself: 

Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website, November 15, 2013

Monte Lee Rice, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Monte Lee Rice”, The Pneuma Review website, December 26, 2013

Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993

(this review was previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

BACK TO TOP

by Dave and Iola Brubeck
To say that this is my favorite Dave Brubeck tune is an understatement. I hope that you dig it as much as I do. Merry Christmas! — Fred W. Anson

 The swingin’ instrumental version by The New Brubeck Quartet.

God’s love made visible!
Incomprehensible!
Christ is invincible!
His love shall reign!

From love so bountiful,
blessings uncountable
make death surmountable!
His love shall reign!

Joyfully pray for peace and good will!
All of our yearning he will fulfill.
Live in a loving way!
Praise him for every day!
Open your hearts and pray.
His love shall reign!

God gave the Son to us
to dwell as one of us –
a blessing unto us!
His love shall reign!

To him all honor bring,
heaven and earth will sing,
praising our Lord and King!
His love shall reign!

Open all doors this day of his birth,
all of good will inherit the earth.
His star will always be guiding humanity
throughout eternity!
His love shall reign!

 The traditional vocal version by New York Voices.

Appendix I: A tribute to Presbyterian-friendly Dave Brubeck
by John M. Buchanan, December 14, 2012
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died Dec. 5, the day before his 92nd birthday. His impact on the world of music in general and jazz in particular was profound, marked by the front-page announcement of his death in newspapers all over the world. Along with millions of others, I was a Dave Brubeck fan, a life-long lover of his music since I first heard it in the late ‘50s, and, I am honored to say, a friend.

Brubeck changed jazz by his “cool” sound produced in collaboration with alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond playing counterpoint to Brubeck’s piano, by his innovative use of unusual rhythms, and by capturing the imagination of a whole generation of college students in the ’50s and ’60s. In the process his 33rpm record, “Time Out,” became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies.

Following a State Department tour to India and the Middle East, Brubeck began to experiment with unusual rhythmic structures in his jazz composition and playing. His signature piece, “Take Five,” perhaps the most popular jazz single ever, broke out of the standard jazz genre and employed an innovative 5\4, a five beat measure instead of the standard 4. Later, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” was written in a surprising and engaging 9/8. Brubeck once suggested that children sing naturally in 5/4 rhythm and wrote one of his liveliest Christmas pieces, “God’s Love Made Visible,” in that time.

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Brubeck’s musical and personal life gradually found religious expression. His father, a California cattle rancher, was an avowed atheist. His mother was a Christian Scientist who directed the choir in a local Presbyterian Church, so Brubeck’s earliest religious exposure was to Presbyterianism. His first professional job was playing the organ at a local Reformatory Chapel at the age of fourteen. He remembered favorite hymns sung by the inmates at Sunday services, “Just as I Am” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

In the middle of his critically acclaimed career as a jazz musician and composer, religious themes and motifs began to appear in Brubeck’s music. While composing a complete Mass, “To Hope,” he was so struck by the beauty and power of the liturgy that he joined the Roman Catholic Church and for the rest of his life was a regular worshipper in his home parish church, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, Connecticut. His funeral was celebrated in that church Dec. 12 and included some of Brubeck’s sacred music compositions including, “The Desert and the Parched Land,” “Psalm 23” and the Gloria from “To Hope.”

I first met Dave Brubeck when the church I was serving, The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, invited him to play during the annual Festival of the Arts. Brubeck agreed and he and his quartet played a magnificent concert of favorite jazz and sacred music with the Morning Choir singing the choral numbers with the quartet.

He returned to play at the church several times and during one of those early visits Brubeck had a minor heart incident and was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for observation on the very day of the concert. It was my duty that evening to greet a sanctuary full of people who had purchased tickets to hear Dave Brubeck and announce that the Brubeck Quartet was a trio for that performance, without Brubeck himself. There was a little grumbling but the trio presented a great concert of Brubeck music.

I asked Brubeck’s manager and conductor, Russell Gloyd, who later married a Fourth Church Choir member and became a faithful church member himself, if a visit in to Brubeck in the hospital would be appropriate. Russell assured me that a pastoral call would not only be appropriate but that Brubeck, a believer and a man of faith, would be grateful.

So, with some fear and trepidation and a bit of awe at the great jazz artist himself, I visited him in Intensive Care. He was gracious, seemingly grateful for the visit as Russell predicted, and we talked about music and faith, and when I asked him if I could pray he immediately agreed. We prayed, and thereafter he began to call me his pastor.

Every time he played in Chicago, we were invited to attend the concert as his guests and to visit back stage afterward. Without fail he would greet me with a lively, “It’s my pastor!” He telephoned once to discuss appropriate scripture passages for future compositions and one of our dearest memories is of a lunch Sue and I shared with Brubeck and his wife, Iola. In addition to being the mother of their six children, Iola was a trusted business consultant and the author of many of the lyrics to his sacred music. We talked, of course, about our six children and theirs and the joys and challenges of parenting, and we talked about music, church and faith.

At the end of my term as Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I inquired of Russell Gloyd and Brubeck about the possibility that the Brubeck Quartet might play for the 209th General Assembly (1997) meeting in Syracuse. To my absolute delight, they accepted the invitation and played a wonderful evening program for the General Assembly commissioners and guests. With a local choral group Brubeck presented several sacred works, “All My Hope” from the Mass, To Hope; “God’s Love Made Visible” from Fiesta de la Posada; and a powerful “The Peace of Jerusalem” from The Gates of Justice. It was a memorable evening for which I, and all those privileged to be present, will be forever grateful.

In every age religion and the arts have been partners and collaborators in the great vocation of expressing human wonder and awe at the mystery of human existence, and giving voice to adoration, praise, and gratitude to God: from the ancient poets who wrote:

Sing to the Lord, bless his name…
Let the earth rejoice,
Let the sea roar…
Let the fields exult…
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,

to J.S. Bach, whose “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” occasionally emerged in the middle of a Brubeck improvisation, to Dave Brubeck himself, who is now part of the music department, instrumental division, in the great company of heaven.

The Rev. John Buchanan is editor and publisher of “The Christian Century.” He is former pastor of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and served as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 208th General Assembly (1996).

(this article was originally published on the Presbyterian News Service)

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Appendix II: Iola Brubeck, a Christmas Woman
by Leslie Clay, December 16, 2014
Iola Brubeck, wife of famed jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, was featured in Sisters in Song. Since its publication, she died of cancer in March, 2014. My book didn’t give justice to the great contributions she made to Christian music using the jazz genre. Let’s give her another try.

Iola Whitlock was born in 1923 in Corning, California where her father was a forest ranger. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school, she enrolled at what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton studying drama and radio production. It was there that she met Dave Brubeck and they married in 1942. While he was shipped out to the European Theater in WWII, she honed her management skills and knowledge of jazz by working in radio. Their 70 year marriage was fruitful both personally and musically. Though they started out dirt poor, literally living for a while in a tin shack with a dirt floor and washing in a nearby stream, she propelled Dave’s career. In 1950, she developed one of the country’s first courses in jazz appreciation at the University of California at Berkeley. Iola lectured while Dave, who was shy, played the piano. This brought them $15 a week and started Iola’s role as lyricist. She suggested that his newly formed quartet do concerts at college campuses. She wrote to every college on the West Coast. Her work as manager, booker and publicist launched Dave’s career. She also was Dave’s chief librettist and lyricist. By the mid 1950s, they were doing well. As champions of racial justice they refused to play at colleges where black musicians were treated differently. In 1958, the State Department sent them on a people to people cultural exchange tour of Eastern Europe, the first time jazz musicians were used as emissaries of the U.S. behind the Iron Curtain. Four years later, Dave and Iola co-wrote a musical, The Real Ambassadors starring Louis Armstrong, a reaction to racial segregation in the U.S. It premiered in 1962 at the Monterrey Jazz Festival to critical acclaim, but it never reached Broadway.

As time went on, she collaborated with Dave on several oratorios and cantatas, including La Fiesta de la Posada (Festival of the Inn) in 1975. Included within this Christmas Choral Pageant is “God’s Love Made Visible.” In a PBS interview, Dave said, “My wife was driving, and I said, ‘I’ve finished this (La Posada).’ And she said, ‘No, you haven’t finished it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what did I leave out?’ And she said, ‘God’s love made visible. He is invincible.’” Her lyrics resonate well with me, from the very title of the piece to the emphasized phrase, “His love shall reign.” Though it could be sung any day of the year, it is still a Christmas song for a Christmas pageant, as it declares, “Open all doors this day of his birth.”

Leslie Clay a musician and the author of the book “Sisters in Song: Women Hymn Writers”

(originally published on the “Sisters in Song” website)

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church_sign-wideby Fred W. Anson
Since I’m known in most circles for my strong Reformed theological stance, a lot of people are surprised to discover that I’m also full blown, tongues speaking non-cessationist Charismatic.

There’s a reason for that: I’m embarrassed. Yes folks, I’m embarrassed by so much of the insanity that goes on among my Charismatic/Pentecostal Brethren these days that I find myself wanting to distance myself from a movement that I once was proudly part of. If anyone has any doubts about why, just pick the latest copy of Charisma Magazine skip the editorial content (which is generally written by sane, reasonable people), and read the ads (which in many cases seem to written by people who are neither).1 If that doesn’t convince you, just flip to the Trinity Broadcasting Network (aka “TBN”) on your television and try to last for more than about 15-minutes – them folks is all nuts from what I can tell!

Yes, the lack of biblical theological, sound doctrine, discernment, and good old common sense that some of today’s Pentecostals and Charismatics engage in is embarrassing folks, truly embarrassing – and I’m saying this as someone who’s part of the tribe! The term that we thinking Charismatics use for these lunatic fringe nutballs is “Charismaniacs” – and trust me, they have legitimately earned the title! In fact, a few have even go so far off the rails that they openly embrace – and even promote – Mormon error. Let’s look at a couple of these.

Paul Richardson and Lynn Ridenhour

Advertisement for a joint Paul Richardson, Lynn Ridenhour seminar. (click to zoom)

The Errors of Paul Richardson
In previous articles2 Beggar’s Bread readers were introduced to Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, an allegedly ordained Baptist Minister who has a testimony of Joseph Smith as prophet due to being introduced to the Book of Mormon by one of his Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ neighbors in Missouri. Dr. Ridenhour merited his own article because he’s the most notorious personality in this regard. In fact, it was through Lynn Ridenhour’s Facebook page that I discovered Dr. Paul Richardson, of whom he wrote:

MEET A DEAR FRIEND. Meet Dr. Paul Richardson, Pentecostal minister who loves and preaches out of the Book of Mormon. A few years back we hosted a Book of Mormon seminar in Independence. Two protestant preachers—a Baptist and a Pentecostal—preaching out of the Book of Mormon. I remember the night. The place was packed! We had an LDS Bishop there, missionaries were there. RLDS brothers and sisters were there. A Catholic priest came.

I consider Dr. Paul and his lovely wife, Faye, the dearest of friends. What a John the Baptist they are! Forerunners ahead of their time—spreading the good news of the restoration gospel and the message of the precious Book of Mormon throughout the southern states of this nation. Dr. Richardson publishes his monthly newspaper and mails it out to Pentecostals, mostly pastors all over southern United States. He also gives away free “Record of the Nephites,” as he calls the Book of Mormon.

Dr. Richardson is the chancellor of Spirit of Truth Institute, a Bible School. His school has ordained over 430 Pentecostal ministers. What a friend!3

Now it should probably be noted here that Dr. Ridenour actually transitioned from being a cessationist Baptist to continuationist Pentecostal during the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970’s. So if you attended that seminar what you really got, despite Lynn Ridenhour’s spin doctored rhetoric, was not one, but two Pentecostals who have fallen into Mormon error. And Dr. Ridenhour isn’t joking about any of the stuff he said about Paul Richardson, let’s consider some “gems” from his website:

El Greco, "The Pentecost"

“The Pentecost” by El Greco

OUR DISTINCTIVE STAND
We accept the Book of Mormon, which we also refer to as “The Record of the Nephites” or “The Nephite Record.” Why? Because …

  • It is a companion to and comparable to the traditional 66 books of our Holy Bible, as Sacred Writ
  • It is obviously inspired of God and from heaven.
  • It is in harmony with our Holy Bible, confirms and supports fundamental Christian teachings and is another powerful witness unto our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It is a fascinating true account of ancient Israelites who migrated by ship to America about 600 B.C.
  • This authentic account was dug up, supernaturally translated by the power of the Holy Ghost, and first printed in 1830. Sadly, the Utah “Mormons” have made many little alterations in their version of it, but we still have copies that conform to the original manuscript.
  • It authoritatively corrects a number of old false teachings that have plagued the Church for generations.
  • It is theologically sound, full of spiritual light, and very edifying to the soul.
  • It is the first installment of much more extra-Biblical Revelation prophesied to come forth in this end time.4

And how does Paul Richardson support his claims that the Book of Mormon is an “authentic account”, “obviously inspired of God and from heaven”, and a “true account”? Archaeology? Science perhaps? Cross referencing the historic records? Evaluating the linguistics of the Book of Mormon relative to Native American linguistics maybe? Theological consensus perhaps?

Of course not! Rather, given the fact that it’s been soundly discredited archaeologically, scientifically, historically, linguistically, theologically, and just about every other way, he just does it the same way that all true believing Mormons do: He elevates his feelings and experience above all else. He simply ignores the fact that not only isn’t there a scrap of evidence to validate the Book of Mormon, there’s a mountain of evidence that discredits it. Here’s an example of the type of feellings driven, Mormon style, mental gymnastics that he engages in:

SOMEONE HAD TO WRITE THE BOOK OF MORMON
—It did not just drop down out of Heaven. There are only three possible origins: 1. God, 2. Man, or 3. the devil.

Joseph Smith, Jr. did not write the Book of Mormon. He only translated it. Then soon afterward his life became such a lie that the Book he translated was stigmatized causing the Christian church to rejected [sic] it.

What does the Book of Mormon do for me?
• Well, it inspires me to pray and to be loving and kind.
• It convicts me of any selfishness, fleshly disposition or worldly attitudes.
• It builds up my faith and gives me courage to trust the Lord.
• It puts me in a Heavenly frame of mind and kindles a strong desire in me to walk with God and to live holy for Him.

Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service. Reading the Book of Mormon does all the same things for me as reading the Holy Bible does.5

But the fact of the matter is that objective evidence simply can’t be ignored. And if that evidence contradicts your emotional decision it still has to be dealt with somehow. Given that, consider how arbitrary and inconsistent he is in accepting the divine calling of Joseph Smith as inspired translator of the Book of Mormon while simultaneously throwing him under the bus as a fallen prophet:

Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and a great Seer.

His gift was utterly supernatural!

He had an amazing gift from God to translate the ancient Nephite Record. His great contribution was incomparable, for which we are very grateful.

But not long after he translated the Book of Mormon, he clearly became deceived and misguided and no one should follow either his personal example or his false teachings, which clashed with both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I prefer to follow the pure Word of God!6

Wiggin-Pentecost-smaller

“Pentecost” by Mark Wiggin

This is pretzel logic at it’s finest! This is like saying that Mohammed was a divinely inspired moralist when he received the Koran but lost the anointing when he started slaughtering infidels. Or that L. Ron Hubbard was an expert in human psychology when he wrote Dianetics but suddenly became a manipulative hack after it fell off the bestseller list. Neither narrative is true: The moral character of neither man changed before or after the these works were published, they remained the same. Likewise, the historical record demonstrates that Joseph Smith was a con-man and a shyster before, during, and after the creation of the Book of Mormon. In all cases, the only thing that really changed was the amount of power and influence that these men were able to consolidate to themselves as a result of the publication of their defining work. And once they had that power consolidation protecting them, their true nature manifested itself.

So apparently in Richardson’s mind the rationale goes something like this: “So what if Joseph Smith didn’t live a life that produced good fruit (per Matt 7:15-20)? So what if the rotten fruit he produced has resulted in a plethora of abusive Mind Control Cults that have followed him in engaging in the practice of polygamy? So what if he taught that the God of the Bible is just an exalted man who is just one of an infinite number of such gods throughout the cosmos (in violation of Deut 13:1-11)? So what if Joseph Smith destroyed fortunes and families through failed prophecies (in violation of Deut 18:18-22)? Brother, his book sure makes me feel like I’m in a really good church meeting when I read it, so it must be of God, right?”

Clearly Dr. Paul Richardson is failing to plumb line any of his beliefs against the absolute and objective standard of the Bible. I can say this emphatically because while the Book of Mormon is an interesting example of 19th Century American Protestant Restorationism, it simply isn’t fully “in harmony with our Holy Bible”. As Donna Morley noted in her analysis of similar claims by Lynn Ridenhour:

Here’s what Alma 13:13 actually says:

“And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”
(Alma 13:13, RLDS, bolding added)

Further, here’s something else Alma says in chapter 13:

“Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.”
(Alma 13:10, RLDS, bolding added)

In the above, Alma stated that the high priests escaped damnation only by working righteousness. The righteousness is credited as “their righteousness.” This isn’t the unconditional grace that’s taught in the Bible this is conditional grace where one must perform good works in order to merit grace rather than it being a unilateral gift of unmerited favor and mercy from God Himself!

True Christianity isn’t based upon our righteousness. The prophet Isaiah says that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). Because we don’t have righteousness of our own, true followers of Christ are given His righteousness:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
(Romans 3:22, NASB)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB)7

pentecost 2

“Pentecost 2” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998)

The Book of Mormon also contradicts with biblical theology on other key points as well. For example, it’s view of the Godhead is modalistic8 and it rejects salvation by grace alone through faith alone (that is unconditional grace) for Roman Catholic style conditional grace ( that is, salvation by grace plus works):

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
(2 Nephi 25:23 LDS bolding added for emphasis)

This is in direct contradiction with the Bible:

“For it is by faith you are saved through faith, not that of yourselves it is the gift of God”
(Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB bolding added for emphasis)

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

So it’s clear that Dr. Paul Richardson is in very grave error. He isn’t following the “pure Word of God” at all. I would respectfully suggest that he reconsider his feelings regarding the Book of Mormon in light of what the pure Word of God actually says regarding using feelings as the ultimate means of discerning truth:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
(Jeremiah 17:9, KJV)

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
(Proverbs 28:26, KJV)

Dr. Paul Richardson pitches the “Record of the Nephites” without explicitly stating that it’s the Book of Mormon.

The Errors of Cal Fullerton
While he’s not well known, probably the most interesting of the Charismatics who have been snared by the spirit of Mormonism is Cal Fullerton. Unlike Lynn Ridenhour and Paul Richardson, his justification for his stance isn’t quite as eye rollingly, face palmingly, ham fistedly inane, absurdist, and irrational. Rather, like non-Charismatic LdS Church advocates Richard J. Mouw and Roger E. Olson, he has been seduced into an odd form of theological liberalism and eyes wide shut ecumenicalism that’s rooted in feelings and experiences trumping both biblical orthodoxy and reality. One need go no further than the home page of his website to see this:

“Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Christian?” This question and others about Christianity in the Mormon Church are reverberating worldwide.

The answers given are usually polarizing. Those who say no are primarily evangelical Christians. Those who say yes are primarily Mormons . . . but not all of them.

Respected evangelical leaders such as Joel Osteen have said yes.

The president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, who has been recognized as an important voice among reform-oriented evangelicals, confessed that evangelicals have spread lies about LDS beliefs…

In order to do this completely and most effectively, there must be unity among us. Jesus prayed, “I have given them [my disciples] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:22-23 NIV).9

"Icon-Pentecost" by Phiddipus

“Icon-Pentecost” by Phiddipus

So there you have it, an Evangelical Scholar whose work in Mormon Studies has been discredited and denounced by recognized and respected Evangelical Mormon Studies Scholars (Richard J. Mouw)10 and an ear tickling heretic (Joel Osteen)!11 I mean if these guys say it’s true, then it must be – right? I mean, with “evangelical leaders” like this who needs wolves, we have them right in the flock!

But, wait it gets, even better: Though it’s rarely mentioned in public, Cal Fullerton also bases his stance regarding the LdS Church on a prophecy from an errant Charismatic prophetess. Here’s how he relayed this incident on a Mormon/Evangelical discussion board:

I heard the prophecy (not a dream or vision) by the prophetess long after the Word of God—printed & living—revealed to me God’s perspective on the LDS.

Incidentally, the prophetess fell short of saying the LDS is Christian and should be accepted into the Christian fold. Rather, she rebuked the church of Christ for pointing fingers at Mormons. At one point she yelled, “THROW DOWN YOUR STONES!” I liked it so much that I asked permission to use her prophecy in something I was writing. She denied permission, which is why, for the sake of integrity, I’m not mentioning her name now. (She is well known and highly respected among charismatics.)12

And there you have it – classic Charismaniac error. When push comes to shove, Biblical absolutes get shoved to the side and are subordinated to feelings and experiences. This theme can be found again, again, and again on Mr. Fullerton’s website. Again one need go no further than his home page:

Helen [Cal Fullerton’s wife] and I are not taking this stand because we have another opinion– opinions are already too easy to find–it’s because the Spirit of the living God has revealed it to us. Have you ever noticed that virtually all non-Mormons who say the Mormon Church isn’t Christian, don’t say that God told them so? The reason is He didn’t!13

So it came as no surprise to me when Mr. Fullerton offered the same, “Pray about it my friend” defense of the Mormon Church in the aforementioned online discussion that one would expect from a Mormon. Here was my response:

[Your challenge that I pray about the Mormon Church] deserves special, detailed attention. With this statement you have demonstrated WHY some Charismatics/Pentecostals and nearly all Latter-day Saints fall into error.

Cal, I don’t HAVE to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I have to pray about whether I should lie, cheat, steal, or commit adultery. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to told to pray about Biblical absolutes.

Rather, for a true Christian the Bible is his/her absolute authority – not feelings, not experiences, not relationships, and not . . . whatever. And in this case Joseph Smith failed to pass every Biblical test for a true prophet and he passed every test for a false one:

1) Deceiving God’s covenant people into following another God. (Deu 13:1-11)
2) Giving future predictions that failed to come to pass. (Deu 18:18-22)
3) A life that produces bad fruit. (Mat 7:15-20)
4) Denying that Jesus Christ was God eternal incarnated in human flesh. (1 John 4:1-3)

In addition we can add:
5) Use of Occult practices like scrying and Shamanism.
6) Incorporating Freemasonry into the LDS Temple ceremonies.
(Freemasonry is rooted in Kabbalah which is occultic)

As I’m sure you know occult practices are soundly condemned throughout both the Old and New Testament so I won’t bore you and the other readers with a list of proof texts on this. In regard to Joseph Smith’s involvement with these practices here’s a good write up by former Mormon, Janis Hutchinson that ends with this closing statement: “No individual, knowing the truth about the Mormon Church’s occult background, could possibly follow Joseph Smith as a prophet or embrace his teachings.”
http://www.janishutchinson.com/joeoccult.html

So no Cal, there’s no need to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I need to pray to determine if Branch Davidianism, Christian Spiritualism, Freemasonry, or Scientology are. Sure there are good, moral, admirable people in each of these religions but that doesn’t make them Christian any more than it makes their founders true prophets of the God of the Bible.

And, I must say it, suggesting that I – or any other Christian for that matter – disregard Biblical absolutes and pray about whether the false religion started and based on the teachings of the false prophet Joseph Smith simply demonstrates how flawed, errant, and unbiblical your theology has become.14

At this point, I’m not quite sure what to add in regard in regard the Errors of Cal Fullerton. One need only parse through his website to see error, after error, after error.

"Pentecost" (Unknown Artist)

“Pentecost” (Unknown Artist)

Good Theology? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Good Theology!
Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richards, and Cal Fullerton represent the Charismaniac extremism that John MacArthur and his supporters pointed to with glee in their “Strange Fire” book and conferences in indicting Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement as a fountainhead of error. They’re easy targets since, unlike many Charismatics, they seem to lack any real theological depth. For example, consider this “gem” from Cal Fullerton:

It has been said that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is not a Christian organization because Mormonism denies one or more of the “essential” doctrines of the gospel. To determine if that statement is correct, we need to have a good grasp of what actually is essential. To correctly classify the LDS we need to be sure which doctrines of the Holy Bible are absolutely mandatory in order for someone to become a Christian and enter heaven. Roughly seventy percent of Mormon teachings agree with evangelical teachings. But that does not prove that the LDS is a Christian denomination. The tenets and members have to agree with the Bible’s essentials.

I have assembled these essentials into four.

Essential Number 1: Believe God Rewards…
Essential Number 2: Repent to Faith in Jesus…
Essential Number 3: Receive Jesus (the Holy Spirit) Into Your Heart (Be Born Again)…
Essential Number 4: Believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ…

According to the Bible, if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the four essentials I’ve listed above, we must classify it as a Christian denomination instead of an unchristian cult. That is because God has plainly promised that if you do the essential requirements I have outlined, he will accept you into his eternal family.

Back when I thought the Mormon Church wasn’t Christian, I didn’t pay much attention to whether each of their doctrines had to do with a mandatory requirement for entering heaven. That was one of the reasons I made a tragic mistake of judgment.15

I can hear the sound of palms hitting faces throughout cyberspace as those grounded in historic, biblical theology read that “masterpiece”. I know of no credible theologian who would accept that list as fundamentally sound criteria for soteriology, let alone mainstream Christian orthodoxy! He apparently has no clue that the Essential Doctrines of the Christian faith have recognized throughout Christian Church History as the following:16

"Pentecost 4" William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 - 1998)

“Pentecost 4” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 – 1998) (click to zoom)

The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith
1) The Deity of Jesus Christ.
2) Salvation by Grace.
3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4) The gospel of Jesus Christ, and
5) Monotheism.

In the end Cal Fullerton only demonstrates his own ignorance and destroys his own case by doing a Mormon style “redefining the terms to fit the predetermined conclusion”. In fact, Mormonism doesn’t even get through the Judeo-Christian gate because of it’s rejection of monotheism in favor of henotheistic polytheism.

Likewise, as pointed out in a previous article, Lynn Ridenhour can’t even properly articulate the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by mainstream Christianity without speaking heretically. And he then one ups that heresy by concluding that Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead is correct.17 Finally, as noted previously, Paul Richardson seems quite happy with the modalistic version of the Trinity presented in the Book of Mormon, as well as its denial of salvation by grace alone. Folks, if you’re looking for theological depth from these three, look elsewhere! The aforementioned John MacArthur could well have been writing specifically about them when he said:

We ought to begin with the Word of God, allowing a proper interpretation of the text to govern our experiences. A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture.

Charismatics downplay doctrine for the same reason they demean the Bible: they think any concern for timeless, objective truth stifles the work of the Spirit. They envision the Spirit’s ministry as something wholly free-flowing, infinitely pliable— so subjective as to defy definition. Creeds, confessions of faith, and systematic theology are seen as narrow, confining, not elastic enough for the Spirit to work within. Acknowledging this tendency within charismatic circles, one author wrote, “A college student once warned me of the ‘dangerous doctrine of demons’— his description of systematic theology. ‘The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture,’ he explained. ‘Teaching doctrine is Satan’s attempt to use our minds to understand the Bible rather than relying on the Holy Spirit.” (William E. Brown, “Making Sense of Your Faith”, Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1989, p.55)

That is a shocking statement. In reality, the only thing good theology stifles is error, which is why sound doctrine is the single greatest antidote to charismatic deviations. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16: 13). Any work of His will elevate biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people.18

Pentecostal Charismaniacs: Mormons Gone Bad
But now it should be apparent that these men are more Mormon than Christian in their epistemology. This should come as no surprise since as noted in prior articles19 Mormonism was a byproduct of the same 19th Century American Restorationist Pentecostalism that birthed today’s modern Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. That epistemology, in a nutshell, can be described thusly: Feelings, faith, facts – in that order. As Lutheran Pastor, Don Matzat (who has past involvement with the Charismatic Movement) observed well:

There is nothing wrong with Christians desiring feelings, emotions, and experience. In fact, the lack of any experience is in itself an experience. The lack of feeling is a feeling. The lack of emotion is an emotion. Any cursory reading of the New Testament demonstrates that love, joy, peace, hope, contentment are to be the Christian’s experience, feeling, and emotion…

Rather than coming against a feel-good faith, we should clearly teach that true Christian feelings, emotions, and Holy Spirit experience are the product of sound theology. Rather than confronting imbalance in the church by promoting the alternative and pushing the pendulum to the other side, we should begin with a balanced perspective which means recognizing that feelings will follow a faith that clings to the objective promises of God in Scripture. The person who believes and confesses that his sins are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross should feel guilt-free and experience the joy of having a cleansed conscience. Feelings and emotions. while not the cause of our faith, are the expression of our faith. Martin Luther writes, “We can mark our lack of faith by our lack of joy; for our joy must necessarily be as great as our faith.” Again he writes, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.” (Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), Vol. 2, p. 692.)…

Hopefully the present conflict between sound doctrine and feel-good experience will lead to a balanced perspective on both sides. Those who minimize sound doctrine and promote feelings and experience must recognize that they are plotting a course for deception and disaster. Those who focus on sound doctrine must begin teaching people to apply those great truths of Scripture to their daily living so that the experience of God’s people matches what the Word of God commands.20

And Charisma magazine more directly and forcefully articulated the same sentiment in a web article by Joseph Mattera entitled, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”. In fact, according to Mr. Mattera, this is the #1 characteristic of a Charismaniac:

1. You put prophecies and extra-biblical leadings on the same level as the written Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 says if we speak not according to the Scripture then we have no light. Second Timothy 3:16 teaches that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The Scriptures are our rule for life and the highest standard for judging truth.

Unfortunately, some in the charismatic camp seem to be led more by personal prophecies and supernatural visions and dreams than by the Scriptures. I have known some people who would record personal prophecies by well-known “prophets” and—without praying about it or comparing it to Scripture or getting discerning counsel from more seasoned leaders in the kingdom—would just obey the prophecy as if it were as inspired as the Bible.21

Jean_II_Restout_-_Pentecôte

“Pentecost” by Jean II Restout, (c.1732)

In other words, biblical epistemology is facts, faith, feelings – in that order. To see the contrast, just consider Paul Richardson’s “evidence” that the Book of Mormon must be true because, “Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service.”22 Now compare this to his lack of any acknowledgement that the Book of Mormon does in fact contradict both the Bible and Christian orthodoxy. When you take that and then factor in the reality that there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon – a glaring omission that somehow fails to be addressed on his website or in any of his articles – the work’s rejection as holy writ should be fait accompli. Instead, again, again, and again in his articles Mr. Richardson endorses the book as scripture equivalent to scripture based on subjective analysis that’s devoid of any objective evidence. As I said to Cal Fullerton regarding this same kind of lack of discernment and failure to plumb line such impressions against objective evidence:

I, a fellow Charismatic who believes in modern prophetic utterances and the other gifts of the Spirit say to you now as I did back on the [now defunct] Concerned Christians board [in 2010]: I don’t care WHO that prophetess was, I could care less what her reputation is among Charismatics or anyone else for matter, she gave a false prophecy – period.

When plumblined against the Bible it was a false prophecy. Period.

And most distressingly she validated a false prophet and a heretical non-Christian group in the name of (and allegedly in the voice of) God. She is, therefore, a false prophet and a deceiver. Period.23

This blatant disregard of objectivity (especially biblical objectivity) over personal subjectivity is very Mormon isn’t it? In fact, Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel and a Charismatic with Pentecostal roots, could have been describing these men when he wrote:

It is of utmost importance that we allow the Bible to be the final authority for our faith and practice. Any time we begin to allow experiences to become the criteria for doctrine or belief, we have lost biblical authority, and the inevitable result is confusion. There are so many people today who witness of remarkable and exciting experiences. The Mormons, for example, “bear witness” to the experience of the truth of the Book of Mormon. They encourage people to pray in order to experience whether or not their Book of Mormon is true. One person says he has experienced that it is true, and another says he has experienced that it is false. Which one am I to believe? Each swears he has had a true experience from God; yet one has to be wrong. Whenever you open the door for experience to become the foundation or criterion for doctrinal truth, you are opening a Pandora’s box. The result is that the truth is lost in the conflicting experiences, and the inevitable consequence is total confusion. We know that God is not the Author of confusion.24

Further, didn’t Christ stress the importance of evidence throughout His sermons? And could Paul have been any clearer when he said that if our Christianity isn’t empirically true then “we are of all men the most pitiable”?

If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
(1 Corinthians 15:14-19, NKJV)

In summary and conclusion, this unbiblical, feeling affirming, evidence denying pattern can be seen plainly in the writings and public instruction of all three men – again, one need only spend some “quality time” on their websites to see this clearly. By embracing false scripture from a False Prophet – and even worse, encouraging others to do the same – these men have become false teachers themselves. And the Bible was quite clear what God’s people are to do when we encounter a false teacher, false prophet, false apostle, or false anything for that matter:

You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
(Deuteronomy 13:3&4, NKJV) bolding added for emphasis

pentecost

A primitive fresco of Pentecost.

NOTES
1 Full disclosure and clarification: I worked as a Music Reviewer for “Worship Leader Magazine”, which is also owned by Strang Publications, the publisher of Charisma Magazine, from 1992-1993. During that time I found John Strang and his staff to be reasonable, personable, and theologically sound. I think that’s why you will find the editorial content of Charisma Magazine to be generally sound.

That’s why I’ve specifically recommended that you just view the advertisements in the magazine instead – they’re an unvetted, raw picture of the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church at the grassroots level and, frankly, it’s scary. Whenever someone asks (or challenges) me about my (admittedly blunt) assessment of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement I just point them to there. After seeing them, nothing else need be said. For example, let’s look at a couple of them from the December 2015 issue of Charisma magazine:

“Blood Moons are not about the end – they are about the beginning.

For over 3,000 years God has used the blood moon tetrads on His feast days of Passover and Tabernacles as a sign of special revival coming to His people. The last great blood moon revival came in 1967, when God poured out His Spirit to begin the charismatic renewal. Today there are over 600 million charismatic Christians who are the fruit of this revival, including most of the readers of this magazine.

The blood moon tetrad of 2014-2015 occurred in troubled time, as have most the previous 14 blood moon tetrads. Yet we can see the beginning of a new revival coming based on unity in Christ in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Don’t miss it!

we invite you to study the Scriptures, the heavenly signs, and the history of the blood moon tetrads in our new book . . . ”
(Charisma, December 2015, p.9)

But, wait folks, if blood moons aren’t enough, there’s more! Consider this “gem”:

“Discouraged?
Need a miracle?
Lack the faith to believe?
Desire to be empowered to heal?

– Receive step by step Biblical Instruction to activate God’s healing power in your life.
-Be encouraged as you read the amazing testimonies that are in this book.

Afraid?
Feel defeated?

– Tap into the supernatural potential of your faith.
– Unleash the power of God.
– Experience the impossible.
– Overcome in these Last Days.
(Charisma, December 2015, p. 15)

Even more disturbing are the titles and subtitles of the latter books being advertised in the second advertisement: “Dare to Believe: The True Power of Faith to Walk in Divine Healing and Miracles” and “Greater Than Magic: The Supernatural Power of Faith”. Apparently, the Bible isn’t enough any more, now we need the equivalent of “How To” Charismatic cookbooks and computer manuals! Further, if one didn’t know in advance one might even assume from the title alone that these are books from pagans on how to cast spells or channel metaphysical powers and forces. Yet there they are, being advertised in the flagship periodical of American Pentecostals and Charismatics! And not only does no one seem to care, but judging by the reviews of these books on Amazon, my Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters seem to be delighted by it! It is any wonder that prudent and conservative continuationists distance themselves from such things?

My dear Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters we can do better than this! Brothers and sisters we must do better than this in the Name of, and for the cause of, Christ alone!

2 See “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour” and “Weak Arguments #7: ‘The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.’” in particular.

3 Lynn Ridenhour, Facebook post October 20, 2014

4 Paul Richardson, “Our Distinctive Stand”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived). The reader may also be interested in reading Dr. Richardson’s biography (which for or some unknown reason he calls a “News Release”) by clicking here.

5 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had To Write The Book of Mormon”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

6 Paul Richardson, “The Charm of Joseph Smith”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

7 Donna Morley, “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, Appendix: Is the Book of Mormon Really “Baptist”?”

8 See Ronald V. Huggins, B.F.A., Th.D., “Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?”; Also see Bill McKeever, “Modalism in the Book of Mormon”.

9 Cal Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page. Bolding retained from original.

And in accordance with the usage guidelines of that website we post the following: “Copyright © 2008 Cal Fullerton. Permission is granted, and you are encouraged, to print the above article in hard copy form, as well as send it to your own email lists and post it on your own websites. We only ask that you include the name of the originating website (EvangelicalsandMormonsforJesus.com) and this copyright and permission notice.”

10 Please see the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions “Statement On Richard Mouw And Evangelical Countercult Ministries”; And for a good analysis and deconstruction of Richard J. Mouw’s claim that Evangelical Christians have lied about and misrepresented the Mormon Church see Fred W. Anson, “Scolasticus cum Peter Principle”; Also recommended: Mike Thomas, “That Apology and How Liberal Theolgians “Go Native”’, and; Fred W. Anson, “Apologizing For Richard J. Mouw”.

11 See Matt Walsh, “Joel Osteen and his Wife are Heretics, and that’s why America Loves Them”; Also see “Joel Osteen-Preaching a False-Positive, with a Smile”.

12 Cal Fullerton comment, September 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm on the article “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons” by Jared C. on the LDS and Evangelical Conversations website.

13 Op Cit, Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page.

And by the way, and for the record Mr. Fullerton, there are thousands of Christians who can subjectively claim that the Mormon Church is neither true or Christian because God told them so. I’m one of them:

I would like to bear my testimony . . .
I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have studied the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon and I have prayed consistently for over 30-years. I have taken the “Moroni 10 Challenge” and I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life.

… and my testimony is this:
I am utterly convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a non-Christian cult, that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, as is Thomas S. Monson. Further, I am utterly convinced that the Book of Mormon is an uninspired, man created work of 19th Century fiction.

Here I stand before God and before men – I can do no other.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.

And if my testimony isn’t enough, I can provide similar testimony from other Christians with little to no effort at all. Further Mr. Fullerton, please note that -unlike your testimony of the LdS Church – the body of objective evidence, including the bible itself, supports and verifies our subjective testimony. So in the end where has all this subjective testimony bearing of contrary positions gotten either of us? Answer: Absolutely nowhere.

What I have said to countless Mormons, I will now say to Misters Ridenhour, Richardson, and Fullerton: That Mormon testimony of yours plus a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee at Denny’s and that’s about it! And what’s true for you is just as true for my contra-Mormon testimony: Testimony bearing in and of itself proves nothing. Rather, let’s see the objective evidence that supports and verifies it – because in the end that’s all that really matters.

14 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

15 Cal Fullerton, “Essentials for Salvation”“Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” website. Bolding from original retained.

16 See Matt Slick, “Essential Doctrines of Christianity”, CARM website. While Mr. Slick’s article is an excellent short vernacular primer, C. Michael Patton’s “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell” article is the better resource for those seeking a fuller, more nuanced understanding of the subject. Finally for those who find Mr. Slick’s outline format a bit too cryptic and Mr. Patton’s article too long should consider the short but insightful “What are the essentials of the Christian faith?” article on the “Got Questions?” website instead.

17 In his article, “God of the Philosophers: Brief Comments on the Godhead” (now archived) Lynn Ridenhour writes:

“The God of the Trinity wallows in modalism, stumbling to give its advice to new converts. Listen to Cyril of Jerusalem:

“…For there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Ghost; the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on; it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.” –Catechetical Lectures 16:24

Enough.

What kind of Being is God?

Let Joseph answer. The Prophet preached that “…if you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form,” and that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22).

As I said in the beginning, this may be old hat to most, and not unlike the tour guide, some may be tempted to say “…O, we see it all the time…” and walk away, but for me—it’s like seeing the Niagara Falls for the very first time.”

In case you didn’t notice that a heretical definition of the Trinity followed by an endorsement of Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead.

18 John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship” (pp. 73-74) Kindle Edition.

I would ask the reader to note that while I find much to soundly applaud in this work, overall I was disappointed by John MacArthur’s extremist stances, exaggerations, misrepresentations and generally ungracious, polemic attitude in both this book and the conferences that preceded it. Perhaps Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the “Reformation Commentary on Scripture” as well as several other books said it best when he wrote:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

I also agree with Reformed Theologian John Piper who wrote:

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

I’m trying hard in this article to tread a fine line between being too polemic and too tolerant regarding Charismatic practices that I consider imbalanced or outright unbiblical. I will leave it to the reader’s judgment to determine if I’ve succeeded or not.

19 See Fred W. Anson, “Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad”“Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad [The Sequel]”; Also see John Farkas, “Speaking in Tongues and The Mormon Church”.

20 Don Matzat, “Feelings, Emotions and Christian Truth”

21 Bishop Joseph Mattera, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”, Charisma magazine’s “Charisma News” website. Bolding from original retained.

22 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had to Write The Book of Mormon”.

23 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

24 Chuck Smith, “Charisma Versus Charismania”, Kindle Locations 1282-1289.

The Bible

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:1, KJV)

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