Archive for the ‘Christology’ Category

Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Introduction: The greatest exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity is the Athanasian Creed. Unfortunately, many modern readers often feel overwhelmed and confused by it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that good modern translations of the creed can be hard to find. The translation below is both modern and breaks the creed into paragraphs by theme – thereby making it more legible and easier to digest. If you will read it slowly, considering each line and paragraph before proceeding to the next one, we suspect that you will find it not only easy to comprehend but will come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the Trinity. Finally, please note that the term “catholic faith” in this translation is correct meaning, “on the whole, according to the whole or in general”, or more simply, “universal”. It is not referring to the Roman Catholic Church – which didn’t appear for hundreds of years, long after this creed was written. — Editor

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Athanasius_the_Confessor_of_Constantinople_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)

Athanasius the Confessor of Constantinople
(from Menologion of Basileiou an 11th century illuminated byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures, now in the Vatican library)

BACKGROUND
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him. It is not from Greek (Eastern), but from Latin (Western) origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine. The translation above was adopted by the CRC Synod of 1988. 

© 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. www.crcna.org. Reprinted with permission.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/braedostokby Fred W. Anson
Introduction
The LdS Church has a dirty little secret:  The Book of Mormon not only doesn’t teach current Mormon doctrine, it discredits much of it.    

THE NATURE OF GOD
– God the Father was once a man, on another world (Kolob), and progressed to godhood by following perfectly the commands and precepts of his Father God.

The Book of Mormon says that God is eternal and unchanging
Moroni 8:18
For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.

2 Nephi 27:23
For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

2 Nephi 29:9
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Mormon 9:9
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

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

Moroni 7:22
For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Book of Mormon that God is a spirit (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53.) Click on image to zoom and read.

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of Doctrine & Covenants from 1835-1921, agreed with the Book of Mormon that God is a spirit (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53.) Click on image to zoom and read.

– God the Father is a person with a body of flesh and bones.

The Book of Mormon states that God is a Spirit.
Alma 18:26-29
26 And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?

27 And he said, Yea.

28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

29 And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.

Alma 22:8-11
8 And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said: Behold, assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God.

9 And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?

10 And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?

11 And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

– The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate gods, “one in purpose” only but not one in being.

The original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon states that God the Father and Jesus Christ are the same person:
(note: click here for a photo facsimile copy of the 1830 Book of Mormon)[1]

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

1 Nephi 11:18
“the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of God

1 Nephi 11:21
“Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!”

1 Nephi 11:32
the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people, yea, the Everlasting God was judged of the world.

1 Nephi 13:40
“that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.

Current edition of the Book of Mormon says the same thing in other verses:
Mosiah 15:1-4
1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son

3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

Mosiah 16:15
Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

2 Nephi 10:2-7
2 For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.

3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.

5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.

6 Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.

7 But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance.

God the Father and Jesus Christ, by Mormon Artist Del Parson. This is NOT what the Book of the Mormon teaches about God's nature.

God the Father and Jesus Christ, by Mormon Artist Del Parson. This is not what the Book of the Mormon teaches about God’s nature.

2 Nephi 26:12
And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.

Alma 11:38-40, 44
38 Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?

39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Ether 3:14
Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

Mosiah 3:5
For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

Mosiah 5:15
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, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all . Amen.

Mosiah 13:34
Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

– There are a plurality of gods but we only worship the God of this world, God the Father (aka “Heavenly Father”)

The Book of Mormon states plainly that there is only one God…
Alma 11:26-39, 44
26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?

Zeezrom asking Amulek and Alma questions (Alma 11) 

Amulek and Alma answering Zeezrom’s questions (illustration from “Book of Mormon Stories” LdS Church primary manual)

27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

29 And he answered, No.

30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

31 And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me.

32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?

33 And he said unto him, Yea.

34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.

35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.

36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.

37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

38 Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?

39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

…and it states plainly that One God consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that is, the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity (albeit with a strong modalistic skew). 

Mormon 7:7
And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

2 Nephi 31:21
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

3 Nephi 11:27
And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.

2 Nephi 2:14
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God [notice: singular not plural], and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

Jacob 4:9
For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God [again, notice: singular not plural] being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

The "three witnesses" to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

The “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

OLIVER COWDERY
DAVID WHITMER
MARTIN HARRIS

THE CHURCH
– Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ physically appeared to Joseph Smith (aka “The First Vision”).

The First Vision is conspicuous in it’s absence in the Book of Mormon. Further, key points of the First Vision are discredited by the Book of Mormon:
First, the Book of Mormon teaches that God the Father (aka “Heavenly Father”) and Jesus Christ are the same person.(see the “The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate gods, ‘one in purpose’ only but not one in being” section above)

Further the Book of Mormon teaches that God the Father is a spirit not a physical being.
(see the “God the Father is a person with a body of flesh and bones” section above)

THE CREATION
– God the Father, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and other sons of the Father did not create the universe and earth out of nothing, but “organized” them from eternally existing matter that pre-existed God the Father.

The Book of Mormon states that God created via nothing but His word – that is, “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing).
Jacob 4:8-9
8 Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.

9 For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

MEN CAN BECOME GODS (aka “Celestial Exaltation”)
– The LdS Church teaches that the most faithful and worthy Mormons can progress to godhood in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, where they can obtain their own world and with their wife (or wives) procreate spirit children for eternity.

This is known as “Celestial Exaltation”. And LdS Scripture (in Doctrine & Covenants 132) states that the “new and everlasting covenant” of polygamy is necessary for this exaltation to godhood.

"Achieving a Celestial Marriage" LdS Church manual (1992)

“Achieving a Celestial Marriage” LdS Church manual (1992)

Polygamy is condemned in the Book of Mormon:

Jacob 1:15
And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.

Jacob 2:24
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord

Jacob 3:5
Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.

Mosiah 11:2
For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. and he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.

Ether 10:5
And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.

HEAVEN AND HELL
– There are three degrees (or “levels” in plain English) in heaven consisting of:
1. Telestial Kingdom- lowest degree
2. Terrestrial Kingdom – middle degree
3. Celestial Kingdom – highest degree, of which there are also three degrees

The Book of Mormon states that there is only heaven and hell.
1 Nephi 15:35
And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the foundation of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

– Every human being will find a place in one of the three degrees of glory (or “heaven” in plain English).

This doctrine is a form of universalism which The Book of Mormon denounces as a “false doctrine”.
The first chapter of the book of Alma describes a Universalist preacher named Nehor who is condemned for teaching “priestcraft” – including universalism:

A large, strong man named Nehor went about teaching lies. He said that everyone would be saved, whether they were good or bad. Alma 1:2–6 (Liahona magazine August 1992)

“A large, strong man named Nehor went about teaching lies. He said that everyone would be saved, whether they were good or bad.”
(Liahona magazine August 1992)

Alma 1:4, 12-16
4 And he [Nehor] also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.

12 But Alma said unto him; Behold, this is he first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction.

13 And thou has shed the blood of a righteous man; yea, a man who has done much good among the people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance.

14 Therefore thou are condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law.

15 And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the world of God; and there he suffered and ignominious death.

16 Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.

– The only people not in one of the three degrees of glory will be the Devil and his angels as well as those Mormons who have held the priesthood and become apostate. The latter are referred to as “the sons of perdition” in Mormon doctrine.

The Book of Mormon is clear that far more people will be sent to hell other than just the Devil, his angels and “the sons of perdition”:
1 Nephi 14:3
And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell — yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

1 Nephi 15:29,35
29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

"Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" from "The Book of Mormon The Musical"

“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from “The Book of Mormon The Musical”

2 Nephi 9:12,19
12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.

19 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

2 Nephi 28:19-23
19 For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;

20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.

21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well — and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

22 And behold, others he [the devil] flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none — and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

23 Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

Alma 5:6-10
6 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

8 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

9 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

19th Century Anti-Mormons had their own ideas about where Mormon hell was and who resided there.

19th Century Anti-Mormons had their own ideas about where Mormon hell was and who resided there.

Helaman 6:28
And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.

Moroni 8:13
Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

Mosiah 2:36-39
36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—

37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

Mosiah 16:11
If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation

Alma 34:32-35
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

LDS_Temple– Temples and temple ordinances pertaining to endowments are necessary in order to pass through the veil and enter the presence of God the Father, and consist of Temple Marriage, new names, secret key words and handshakes that will be used as an identification of the person in the next life.

The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns the type of secret oaths and combinations that are found in the Latter-day Saint Temple Endowment ceremony in the strongest terms.
Specifically, it states that it is Satan who puts it into the hearts of the people to form secret oaths and covenants.  It also states that secret combinations aren’t the work of God, are forbidden, are a form of evil, are destructive, and lead to God’s judgment.

Ether 8:18-24
18 And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;

19 For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.

20 And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.

21 And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

22 And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

A handshake engraved onto the SLC Temple – symbolic of the “secret combinations” used in the LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony.

Helaman 6:21–31
21 But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.

22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant.

23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God.

24 And whosoever of those who belonged to their band should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness, which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen.

25 Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction.

26 Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit—

27 Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.

28 And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.

29 Yea, it is that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the work of darkness, and of secret murder; and he has brought it forth from the beginning of man even down to this time.

30 And behold, it is he who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men.

2 Nephi 9:8-9
8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.

9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

Alma 37:29-31
29 Therefore ye shall keep these secret plans of their oaths and their covenants from this people, and only their wickedness and their murders and their abominations shall ye make known unto them; and ye shall teach them to abhor such wickedness and abominations and murders; and ye shall also teach them that these people were destroyed on account of their wickedness and abominations and their murders.

30 For behold, they murdered all the prophets of the Lord who came among them to declare unto them concerning their iniquities; and the blood of those whom they murdered did cry unto the Lord their God for vengeance upon those who were their murderers; and thus the judgments of God did come upon these workers of darkness and secret combinations.

31 Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction, except they repent before they are fully ripe.

Salt_Lake_temple_baptismal_font

Baptismal font in the Salt Lake Temple, circa 1912, where baptisms for the dead are performed by proxy. The font rests on the backs of twelve oxen representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

– Baptisms for the dead must be performed by proxy in this life for those who did not accept the gospel in this life, so that their sins can be forgiven and they can enter the Celestial Kingdom after they accept the Mormon gospel message in the next life.

The Book of Mormon not only denies that there is a second chance to repent and receive the gospel in the next life…
2 Nephi 9:38
And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.

Mosiah 16:5
But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefor he is as thoughthere was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.

Mosiah 27:31
Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.

Alma 34:31-35
31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hears any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given to us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune 5/19/2008

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune 5/19/2008

Alma 41:4-8
4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

Alma 42:16
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

The Book of Mormon calls this a “dead work” and states that baptism is not required for little children to be saved.

… the Book of Mormon also states that baptism isn’t an absolute requirement for salvation:
Moroni 8:22-23
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—

23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.

2 Nephi 9:25-26
25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.

26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

Mosiah 15:24-27
24 And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord.

25 And little children also have eternal life.

26 But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection.

27 Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim.

THE NATURE OF MAN
– Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother procreated the spirits of every human being that has lived, is now living or will ever live on this earth.

The Book of Mormon states that man was created by the power of God’s word.
Jacob 4:9
For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

Alma 18:28, 34-36
28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;

35 And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God.

36 Now when Ammon had said these words, he began at the creation of the world, and also the creation of Adam, and told him all the things concerning the fall of man, and rehearsed and laid before him the records and the holy scriptures of the people, which had been spoken by the prophets, even down to the time that their father, Lehi, left Jerusalem.

– The spirits procreated by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother lived with their father on his world as angels in the “pre-existence” before being sent to earth to inhabit human bodies.

The Book of Mormon makes a clear distinction between men and angels.
Further it states that man was created (not procreated) and placed on earth by God as his created dwelling place – just as heaven is the created dwelling place of God and his Angels  (who were also created, not procreated).

Alma 18:28-36
28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

29 And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.

30 And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.

31 And king Lamoni said: Is it above the earth?

32 And Ammon said: Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning.

33 And king Lamoni said: I believe all these things which thou hast spoken. Art thou sent from God?

34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;

35 And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God.

36 Now when Ammon had said these words, he began at the creation of the world, and also the creation of Adam, and told him all the things concerning the fall of man, and rehearsed and laid before him the records and the holy scriptures of the people, which had been spoken by the prophets, even down to the time that their father, Lehi, left Jerusalem.

Jesus tempted in the desert. According to current Mormon Doctrine these two are brothers.

Jesus tempted in the desert by Lucifer. According to current Mormon Doctrine not only are these two brothers, they’re the siblings of all human beings past and present.

JESUS CHRIST
– Jesus Christ is the brother of Lucifer (Satan), every human being past and present, and the angels.

The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus is Eternal God. And as God, Christ was neither created or procreated.

3 Nephi 19:18
And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.

(also see “The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate gods, ‘one in purpose’ only but not one in being” and “There are a plurality of gods but we only worship the God of this world, God the Father” sections above)

Jesus Christ made atonement for sins in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Book of Mormon states that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world:
1 Nephi 11:33
And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.

2 Nephi 9:5
Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creatorthat he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

3 Nephi 27:13-15
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been 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—

15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

MISCELLANEOUS 
– Consumption of wine is a violation of a commandment of God (see D&C 89:5) that’s so egregious that it can result in having your access to Latter-day Saint Temples (and thereby your potential for full salvation via Celestial Exaltation) revoked. 

The Book of Mormon has Christ, the Apostles, and all Christians consuming wine in both sacred and secular fashion. In fact, Christ even commands them and us to consume wine as part of the sacrament.

3 Nephi 18:1-10
And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.

And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.

And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.

And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.

And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.

And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.

And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.

And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.

And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.

10 And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
At this point the reader may be scratching their head wondering how the work that is held up as the “keystone of our religion” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only contains very little of that religion (see the first article in this series) but discredits much of it.  The answer to that question is pretty simple:  The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism, rather it teaches 19th Century American Restorationism[2]

As Latter-day Saint scholar Thomas G. Alexander explains, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”[3] So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”.  In the end it’s very much as  Shawn McCraney described it when he said, “[We] recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ. We reject the story of its origins.”[4]

"Mormons visit a country carpenter" (1856) by Christen Dalsgaard, depicting a mid-19th century visit of a missionary to a Danish carpenter's workshop. The first missionaries arrived in Denmark in 1850.

“Mormons visit a country carpenter” (1856) by Christen Dalsgaard, depicting a mid-19th century visit of a missionary to a Danish carpenter’s workshop. The first missionaries arrived in Denmark in 1850.

What’s even more surprising is what little weight and influence the Book of Mormon carried in early Mormon culture. As Latter-day Saint scholar Rock Waterman explains:

“As it happens, few early converts to Mormonism bothered to read the Book of Mormon and had little idea of its contents. Most hadn’t been converted through a reading of the book itself, but rather by what they thought the book represented. They saw the coming forth of ancient scripture on gold plates as evidence of God working miracles among men at the dawn of the millennial age. No need to actually read the book; the miracle was the message. Meanwhile, those converts who did read the Book of Mormon tended to scrounge around in it looking for parts that confirmed beliefs they already held. …a surprising amount of what we think is quintessentially “Mormon,” actually turns out to be more Protestant than LDS.”[5]

Mormon Apologist and scholar Daniel C. Peterson agrees and further observes:

“Studies of Latter-day Saint sermons and curriculum from the earliest period of church history well into the 20th century demonstrate surprisingly little use of the Book of Mormon to establish doctrines or as a text from which to preach. Many Saints were converted by reading it, but, thereafter, they tended to overlook its specific content. Early members, mostly converts, knew the Bible well and used it extensively in their teaching and missionary efforts, but the Book of Mormon served mainly as a kind of talisman, its sheer existence pointing to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.

Even Joseph Smith used the Bible far more than he used the Book of Mormon in his sermons.”[6]

Mr. Peterson is being generous, in actual fact other than passing references to Book of Mormon figures and stories, Joseph Smith never used it in his sermons.  Rather, then as now, the Book of Mormon was used as a kind of proof of Joseph Smith’s prophetic callings via a lengthy but familiar sounding tract.[7]

For the uninformed the Book of Mormon can be a powerful recruiting tool.[8]  But for the informed that power is quickly lost.

 

NOTES: 
[1] The 0riginal 1830 Book of Mormon was first modified by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1837 and has undergone regular modifications since (most recently in 2013).  Some changes have been material – resulting in major theological or meaning change – while others haven’t.   

John S. Dinger’s excellent introduction to the book “Significant Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon” provides a good overview of these changes.

Jim Spencer’s “1830 Book of Mormon Comparison Machine” is a valuable resource for doing a side-by-side comparison of the 1830 and modern editions of the Book of Mormon.

[2] The Book of Mormon is rife with 19th Century Campbellite doctrine – see “Campbellite Doctrine in The Book of Mormon”; Also see Daymon Smith, “Volume One: A Cultural History of The Book of Mormon, Setting, a Foundation, of Stones to Stumble Over”

[3] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology” Sunstone 5:4 (July-August 1980)

[4] Shawn McCraney, Born Again Mormon: Our Faith, The Book of Mormon (website)

[5] Rock Waterman, “The Book Of Mormon Bait & Switch”; Pure Mormonism blog, October 22, 2013

[6] Dan Peterson, “Embracing the power of the Book of Mormon”; The Deseret News, Thursday, Jan. 5 2012

 [7] The Jacobean English that the Book of Mormon shares with the King James Bible was as far from daily English vernacular then as it is now.  However, then like now, it’s peculiar cadence and vocabulary was considered more “holy” than common English – like some kind of special or sanctified religious dialect if you will.  For those English speakers looking for a religious experience, speaking in “Jacobean tongues” can feel like grandma’s warm comforter wrapped up around “that old time religion” – it feels like home. 

[8]  This is especially true when combined with the polished, HeartSell spin doctored marketing that’s delivered to the investigator through the Mormon Missionary lessons contained in the LdS Church’s “Preach My Gospel” curriculum.

Mormon Researcher Sharon Lindbloom’s article, “Strategic Emotional Advertising”, offers a good primer of how the LdS Church uses HeartSell in recruiting and retaining members.  And while the language is strong (and the editorial comments even stronger) Mormon Expression podcast #250 offers a thorough overview and analysis of how HeartSell works and how it saturates all aspects of Mormon Church culture.

 

Acknowledgements:
The author would like to acknowledge the following internet web pages – which this article was inspired by, based on, and built from: “Current Mormon Doctrines Not Found in the Book of Mormon” and “Contradictions in LDS Scriptures”.

Lead photo credit: Shutterstock/braedostok

worshipIntroduction:
I’ve been a Christian a long time and this simple song of Christ’s mercy, grace, and unmerited forgiveness still reduces me to a grateful, humbled puddle of devoted tears everytime I sing or hear it. Even after all these years I still come empty handed and unworthy of the great gift that I’ve been freely given or the tender mercies I’m daily shown.
— Fred W. Anson 

Majesty (Here I Am)
Words & Music by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard

Here I am
Humbled by your majesty
Covered by your grace so free

Here I am
Knowing I’m a sinful man
Covered by the blood of the lamb
Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine

Majesty
Majesty
You grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands


Here I am
Humbled by the love that you give
Forgiven so that I can forgive

Here I stand
Knowing I’m your desire
Sanctified by glory and fire

Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life the greatest sacrifice

Majesty
Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your majesty
Majesty

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Your grace has found me just as I am
I’m nothing but alive in your hands

We’re singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever
I am changed by your love
In the beauty of your majesty

Hillsong++Delirious+unified+praise

Video performance by Martin Smith with Delirious? and Hillsongs

Other inspiring performances of this classic praise chorus by Martin Smith

(Martin Smith with full orchestra)

(Martin Smith with Delirious? live at Willow Creek in 2006) 

by Steve Taylor

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Introduction
It all began with a simple magazine cover. I don’t recall ever being so moved by a photo as when I saw the image on the cover of Time Magazine of the Pope in a prison cell forgiving the man who tried to assassinate him. That single photo ended up being the inspiration for “To Forgive”.[1]

That one image really struck me, and it said so much to the world. It occurred to me that in many cases–I mean you’ve got this cycle of violence in Lebanon, in India, in northern Ireland, and when it comes down to it, the only possible solution for that is forgiveness, because otherwise the retribution and the cycle of revenge just keeps going. And here was a picture of the Pope shaking hands with a guy who tried to kill him. Regardless of who the Pope is–and some cynical people would say, you know, “well that’s his job” or something like that–it was a very, very powerful image.[2]

To Forgive
I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

(The original version by Steve Taylor)

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

(the cover by The Wayside that I prefer to the original version) 

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
To forgive
(words & music by Steve Taylor)

51eo+Ajf-GL._SL500_AA280_Original version from the album “On The Fritz”

51ITnXzdCFLCover version from the album “I Predict A Clone”

NOTES
[1] Clone Club News Flash Winter 1986
[2] Steve Taylor, Crosswalk Syndicated Radio Interview, 1985

Almighty God,

I am loved with everlasting love,
clothed in eternal righteousness,
my peace flowing like a river,
my comforts many and large,
my joy and triumph unutterable,
my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation,
my sense of justification unclouded.

I have scarce anything to pray for;
Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven
and my supplications are swallowed up in praise.

How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election
when based upon thy Word
and wrought inwardly within the soul!

LockedDoorWithLight

I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner
thou hast loved,
and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee,
else I would never get to heaven.

I wrong the work of grace in my heart
if I deny my new nature and my eternal life.

If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption,
I would sink into nethermost hell
by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove;

If Jesus were not by the power of his Spirit
my sanctification,
there is no sin I should not commit.

O when shall I have his mind!
when shall I be conformed to his image?

All the good things of life are less than nothing
when compared with his love,
and with one glimpse of thy electing favour.

All the treasures of a million worlds could not
make me richer, happier, more contented,
for his unsearchable riches are mine.

One moment of communion with him, one view
of his grace,
is ineffable, inestimable.

But O God, I could not long after thy presence
if I did not know the sweetness of it;

And such I could not know except by thy Spirit
in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst
elect me,
call me,
adopt me,
save me.

I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Fred W. Anson
A review of Andy Stanley’s
“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You”

Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and son of Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Andy is also the author of several books including “How Good Is Good Enough?” which I read several years ago and, I thought, a solid vernacular treatise on grace versus works. He has an engaging, approachable style and his theology is sound – which, I suppose it could be said, is hardly a surprise given his pedigree, training, and life experience.

enemies-of-the-heart-andy-stanley-i10“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” was published in 2011 so this review is admittedly late to the game. Never-the-less I found that prior reviews had missed an important – but blatant – weakness in this book that this reviewer felt worthy of consideration.

The four “enemies” are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy which Stanley unpacks like this:
Guilt = “I owe you”
Anger = “You owe me”
Greed = “I owe myself”, and
Jealousy = “God owes me”

The book is short, concise, engaging, thought provoking, easy to read and practical. There’s much sage wisdom here grounded solidly in Biblical truth.

What’s missing – though it’s admittedly a minor irritation – is balance. While the author lightly, and it seemed to me somewhat grudgingly, acknowledges that transitive guilt, greed, and jealously in some contexts and in moderation can be good, even healthy, I could find no admission in the book that this is equally true of anger. Rather, the author seems to have bought into the false modern Christian doctrine that anger is always sin. If so, may I introduce you to Sinner #1, His name is God Almighty:

God’s anger was kindled [against Balaam] because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
— Numbers 22:22, ESV

“Then my [God’s] anger will be kindled against them in that day [that God’s people worship other gods], and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured.”
— Deuteronomy 31:17, ESV

“They have made me [God] jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.”
— Deuteronomy 32:21, ESV

“But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
— Ezra 5:12, ESV

“In the temple he [Christ] found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
— John 2:14-16, ESV

I will spare the reader any more proof texting but suffice to say the Bible is full of references to God’s anger. Simply put, God gets angry, yet doesn’t sin, and even speaks openly of His anger as if it’s a good, normal, and healthy thing.

Further, and some of you might want to sit down for this one, no where – again, no where – in the Bible is anger defined as sin. In fact, Ephesians 4:26-27 (which Stanley cites in the book) states plainly, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Did you catch that – the Apostle Paul states plainly “be angry”. That’s mind blowing stuff if you, like me, were raised to believe the false doctrine that anger is a sin. Think about it: If anger is in fact sin, then Paul is giving the Ephesians flawed, even reprobate, counsel.

Rather, the Bible is clear that anger, like guilt, greed, and jealousy can lead to sin if it’s not processed in a righteous manner. What God models for us in the Bible is that anger is normal and healthy when something of value is threatened or requires protection. That’s why we see God getting angry with Israel over their idol worship in the Old Testament and why we see God the Son getting angry over His holy temple being transformed from a sacred space into a common strip mall in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Put another way, would you be sinning for getting angry if a bully starts beating up your child on the playground for no reason? Or at a pickpocket trying to take your wallet? Or at a vandal spraying graffiti on the side of your house? Or at your spouse flirting with another person in front of you? Or, or, or . . . see my point?

So it’s clear that when expressed in healthy, transitive ways anger is normal, productive, and even godly. It’s only when it becomes chronic, permanent, or gets expressed in sinful ways that the problems begin.

I saw this first hand when I was a DivorceCare counselor at a local church. On one hand, many of the Christians there (including me, I confess) would have benefited greatly from this book because they were holding onto and expressing their anger in ways that were unproductive: Needlessly extending legal action out of spite, drawing their divorcing spouses into conflict, damaging community property, making a “scene” in public, using the children as weapons in their war with the other party, choosing to hate and distrust all men/women, etc., etc., etc. Their anger fueled sin was easy to see, easy to understand  and easy to identify. Yet believe it or not, they were actually the easy ones to counsel to a place of balance.

Far harder were the Christians who had been told that anger was a sin and, as a result, they refused to fight for their marriage, their children, their property, or even their basic, inherent rights as a person created in the image of God. These poor souls would simply let their aggressive divorcing spouses roll over them like a steamroller and do nothing. In some cases they had marriages worth fighting for yet they wouldn’t fight! And no amount of logic, reason, or prayer would convince them that there is, “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7&8, ESV) In their mind tearing was sin, speaking was sin, hate was sin, and war was sin because they all involved anger.

And this is the nuance that Andy Stanley “whiffs” on badly in this book. In his quest to make his point it seemed to me that the author got it right in three cases and struck out on one – normal, protective, transitive, even godly, anger. In fact, had he made this distinction I would have no complaints with the book.

Never-the-less, and regardless this flaw, this is a book that I heartily recommend with this suggestion: Whenever the author uses the words, “guilt”, “anger”, “greed” or “jealousy” simply insert the clarifying adjective “chronic” in front of each of them.

by George S. Rasmussen
I post these two letters so others may glimpse what I and my family went through from 1978, when I found my grandfathers 1903 D&C and from its pages read for the first time ever the Lectures on Faith, to 1982 when Mr. Featherstone wrote and challenged us with his various arguments for not turning our backs on Mormonism.

Following is our response to Vaughn J. Featherstone’s letter
(which comprised Part 1 of this 2-Part series)

Tempe, Arizona where the author lives

Tempe, Arizona where the author lives

George S. Rasmussen
Tempe, AZ

July 21, 1982

Vaughn J. Featherstone
47 East South Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Dear Brother Featherstone:
Deon and I thank you for your letter of June 30. That you would take time from your busy schedule to dictate a letter and include under separate cover a copy of your book, “Charity Never Faileth,” is most sincerely appreciated.Your concern for our decision to part company with the LDS church was prompted apparently by information from a third party.

We recognize that the concern you express, reflecting that of your informant, is genuine and prompted by what you view as the highest of motives. We pray that our response to your letter may be received in the same spirit, and may convey to you some sense of our increased insight into the church we grew up in, the church we find we must now separate ourselves from. We invite your careful and prayerful consideration of our response and look forward to further dialogue if such should be your desire.

Our decision to leave the LDS church was not lightly arrived at I assure you. Your information seems to have it that our present argument with Mormon doctrine and practice somehow centers on the Lectures on Faith. Such is not the case.

While it is true that in early 1978 our introduction to the conflicts found in an in-depth study of Mormonism was by way of the discovery of my grandfather’s 1903 edition of the D.&C, and through the pages of that book our first encounter with the Lectures on Faith, it is also a fact that our search to discover the roots and the truth of Mormonism has taken us far beyond the pages of that single volume. It was the spark that set ablaze our desire to know the truth, but it was only the spark.

While you mentioned in passing that you have somehow “come to grips” with personal concerns you apparently once had with the conflicts in doctrine between the Lectures on Faith and present day LDS theology, you fail to say what your concerns were or how you managed to resolve them. Instead you suggest that we might somehow benefit by a rereading of the Book of Mormon.

I must admit, Brother Featherstone, that your suggestion seems a bit strange since the Lectures on Faith are not a part of the Book of Mormon. In addition, since the theology of God as found in the Lectures on Faith is in fact very much the same as that found in the Book of Mormon, and since these writings no longer agree with popular Mormon doctrine as to the nature and being of Deity, I’m a bit puzzled by how such a rereading of the Book of Mormon could possibly affect someone’s understanding of the Lectures on Faith in the manner you appear to suggest.

However I do want to return shortly to the subject of the Book of Mormon. I agree that it is a keystone element in the religion founded by Joseph Smith, the very symbol used by the Mormon church to “prove” Joseph a prophet, and as such requires our attention.

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants (D&C). The “Lectures on Faith” comprised the “doctrine” part of D&C until it was removed starting with the 1921 edition.

Deon and I desire to share with you by way of this letter something of that which we have discovered in our studies, beginning in 1978 with the reading of my grandfather’s 1903 D&C. You may find some of our conclusions difficult to deal with from a personal standpoint, but we assure you that our intent in responding thusly to your letter is motivated by feelings of love and concern such as you have expressed to us, and we invite you to consider all we have to say before drawing any conclusions. It is in exactly this manner that we have approached your letter to us, and we now pray that the Holy Spirit will employ what we write to touch your heart.

It is true that I served a mission for the LDS church in Southern Brazil from late 1959 until early 1962. And it is also true that Deon and I were married in the Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple in 1963. These bare facts do not however reveal anything about our backgrounds or our experiences with life except on an extremely surface level. While I assure you that I have no intention of detailing our histories for you here and now, I believe you should know that we are two rather normal people for the most part. We have four children, three boys and a girl, and live in a 20 year old section of Tempe. Until some time after discovering grandfather’s old D.&.C., we maintained a rather ordinary family profile in the church. I was teaching a Blazer B class, Deon was instructing the Beehive girts, and our two older children were in the presidencies of their respective classes.

At the time we finally concluded that we could no longer continue attending the Mormon church, Deon and I held current Temple recommends. To say that our decision was without doubt the most trying that we have ever gone through would be to say too little.

Deon and I both were raised in the church, she by reason of multi-generation ties on both sides of her family, and I by reason of multi-generation ties on my mother’s side. Our religious experience and training until 1978 had consisted of current surface level LDS orthodoxy, and nowhere in this training had we been prepared to deal with controversy of substance except for the admonition that we not permit ourselves to be influenced by what “others” might say. We were never told that the real danger lay not in what “others” had to say about Mormonism, but in what lay concealed just beneath the surface of present day LDS practice and belief.

How we managed to stay so uninformed so long is now a puzzle to me! It seems that if people can be kept busy enough in an organization to insure that they have neither the time nor the inclination to seek to inform themselves in more depth than is “authorized” as to the true nature of the system, then control is rather easy. In our case I believe that had we failed to come across the 1903 D&C, that we would doubtless still be engaged in unquestioning local LDS doings. But I also believe that God intended that we discover the things we have about Mormonism, and that He saw to it that the circumstances of finding my grandfather’s old volume of LDS scripture were in place.

The Lectures On Faith today: Decanonized and a stand-alone book

The Lectures On Faith today: Decanonized and a stand-alone book

In early 1978 I uncovered grandfather’s D&C and the Lectures on Faith while looking through a number of old books that had belonged to him. Sitting with his book open in my lap as I finished reading Lecture on Faith #5, suddenly I recalled a verbal correction received at the intercession of my grandfather into a conversation I was having with a cousin one Sunday while visiting his home when I was 12 years of age. This memory came flooding back to me in such detail that it was as if I were momentarily reliving the event. I had heard that morning in Sunday School the story of Joseph Smith seeing the Father and the Son in the sacred grove and finding they had “bodies just like you and me,” as our teacher related it. As I entered the house excitedly relaying my newly acquired knowledge of the nature and being of Deity to my cousin, grandfather stopped me as I was parroting the phrase “…bodies just like you and me,” and loudly said, “NO CHILDREN, GOD IS SPIRIT!”

I had no way of knowing it at the time, and grandfather offered no further commentary on the subject, but I had been introduced all in the same day to the crux of the controversy that would ultimately provide the spark setting ablaze our desire to learn the truth about Mormonism. Even though I had not recalled that event from the day of its occurrence until I found and read grandfather’s book, when I discovered the source of his understanding and the door to that hidden memory was keyed open, it came forth so fresh and in such undisturbed condition that it was as if grandfather revisited me at that moment in order to repeat his instruction in the truth of God in a way that I would never again have cause to doubt. In a way wonderfully impossible to express I knew at that moment that God is Spirit.

The room in Newel K. Whitney's  Kirtland, Ohio home-based store where the seven lectures presented by Joseph Smith at the School of the Prophets were originally given.  They came to be published as the "Lectures on Faith".

The “School of the Prophets” room in Newel K. Whitney’s Kirtland, Ohio home-based store where seven lectures by Joseph Smith were given to the students. They were later published as the “Lectures on Faith” and included in Doctrine & Covenants.

Discovering the Lectures on Faith and having to deal with the questions they generated led us to approach a few people in our Ward whom we hoped might be able to help us resolve the conflict between early and later LDS doctrine as to the nature and being of God. After all, if eternal life depends upon a correct knowledge of God, allowing one to worship Him in spirit and in truth, then it was of the utmost importance that we come to grips with the problems we had inadvertently uncovered. Why had my grandfather, a Seventy and a well-respected missionary for the local church, been taught that “God is a Spirit,” if in fact Joseph Smith had learned that God is not a Spirit being but a “glorified man” many years before the Mormon church was founded? Why did the Lectures on Faith (which were employed to instruct the early LDS church in doctrine, and included in every edition of the D&C from their insertion in 1835 by vote of the conference of the church, to their removal in 1921 without a similar vote) say what they did about God if in fact Joseph Smith actually knew better years before they were first written and used to instruct in the Kirkland LDS School of the Prophets?

Such questions of course must have answers, and the truth of the matter is that for many months we trusted that the church would be able to provide answers allowing us to keep intact our desire to believe Joseph Smith really did see God the Father and Jesus the Son in 1820, just as we had been taught and deeply believed as ultimate, absolute truth. In discussions with those we hoped would be able to help, we sought answers that would allow us to continue believing what we had trusted all along to be true.

One day as I was reading and praying I found myself impressed in my spirit to go to The Carpenter’s Shop, a Christian book store not far from our home. Having never been in such a store I was unsure what to expect, but the Spirit’s prompting to go there was unmistakable. After looking through that bright and well appointed store, all the while quite sure that ­others were aware of how out of place I felt, I headed at last for the door thinking God somehow hadn’t been notified and what I’d been directed to had been moved out prior to my arrival. As I traversed that final aisle towards the door a book rack loomed in front of me. The label on that rack read “CULTS”, and prominently displayed were a number of books dealing with “Mormonism.” “What?,” I thought, “We’re no Cult!!”

Nevertheless I felt that God had led me to this place, so I spent time looking over the selections. Finally settling on Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s book, “The Changing World of Mormonism,” I purchased it and left for home, prayerful that it might provide answers to those questions that our LDS contacts could not honestly deal with.

After reading the book through twice in two weeks, saying little about what I was learning because I still wasn’t ready to admit to the impact it was having, I turned it over to my wife suggesting that she read it. I warned her that if she thought there were problems with the changing nature of the doctrine of God in LDS teachings, that she should “buckle her seat belt” because she was about to be utterly amazed as she discovered how little either of us really knew about problems in LDS history, practice and doctrine that face a person who decides to truly investigate. As she began to read that book, I returned to the store and bought the Tanner’s larger volume, “Mormonism – Shadow or Reality?” For the next three weeks we compared notes on things we were finding out about our church, things that on our own we never would have discovered, things that everyone should be aware of so informed choices respecting the church can be rightly made.

Stained glass depiction of the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Museum of Church History and Art).

Stained glass depiction of the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Museum of Church History and Art).

We found for example that Joseph Smith had given a number of accounts of the “first vision” prior to dictating the “official account” of 1838, which was first published in 1842. This alone amazed us. We had been taught that Joseph had given only one account of this key event, the one found in the Pearl of Great Price. We had no idea there were other earlier accounts which differed in critical detail from the 1838 “official account.” The earliest known account, which surprisingly proved to be the only one actually written by Joseph Smith himself, was dated 1831-32, some six to seven years nearer the event in question than the so called “official account” that Joseph caused to be written in 1838. And it says nothing about him seeing God the Father! In actual fact the 1831-32 account is so dissimilar to the 1838 “official” version that one would wonder upon reading the two accounts side by side if indeed they can by any stretch of the imagination be seen as describing the same supposed event.

Add to this the fact that there are yet other “first vision” accounts dictated by Joseph between 1831-32 and 1838, once again supposedly detailing this keystone Mormon event, each of which tells a story different in critical details to the others, and what do you have? The knowledge that Joseph Smith either wrote or caused to be written various versions of his supposed “first vision” between 1831 and 1838, each differing in such a manner from the others that one is hard pressed to tie them together – except in the sense that when put in order of production they show a definite evolutionary development of the story line now subscribed to in the “official account” – caused us to discredit the actuality of the 1838 “first vision” story as it is now dutifully taught as ultimate truth. These discoveries did however help us understand why the doctrine of God found in the Lectures on Faith is so contrary to current teachings, as later we studied the development of that doctrine in the early LDS church.

Our immediate desire upon reading the Tanner’s books was to find answers to these things from the church’s point of view. I had almost forgotten the promise God had given on directing me to the Carpenter’s Shop, that what He was leading me to contained the answers needed. I found myself driven by my sense of loyalty to the church, and also by a growing desire, fostered I suppose out of the sense of disorientation I felt and the panic I knew to be lying just beneath the surface of our still outwardly normal approach to life and living, to “prove” that in the face of all I had now examined the church was somehow still true. Deon shared my drive in this respect, and so began our long period of growing disaffection and disillusionment with the establishment which claims to intimately care for the membership of the church.

Our questions by this time were many and varied, as well as extremely detailed. We sought out some of those we had talked with when our questioning had been limited to the Lectures on Faith, as well as others we came to be aware of through our ongoing studies. Most of those we spoke with, wrote to, or telephoned admitted that what we had found was solid, factual, well documented material – and that the church had not been able to rebut the Tanner’s contentions. We still didn’t want to believe this to be true, but to that time we had avoided speaking our concerns directly to other than those we felt we could trust. We were still afraid to openly ask questions. After all, Mormons are not supposed to openly question the church, at least that’s what we thought at the time.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner in front of their Salt Lake City store in the 1980’s. Jerald Tanner is now deceased.

We finally ventured to ask a few questions, limiting ourselves to things such as the Lectures on Faith, the “first-vision,” and the Book of Abraham, to local LDS authorities whom we felt might be able to point us towards the answers we sought. It was terribly frustrating to find in all this a general lack of feeling or understanding for our plight, and quite often hostile disregard for the questions we put forward, at least judging by certain reactions. Later we were to conclude that many of these had been more deeply impacted by what we related, as we laid out our questions and asked concerning church programs or materials to provide help or guidelines, than they let on at the time. However we continued to be rebuffed, told there was “no need” for the church to respond to the material the Tanners were publishing. All we had to do, according to these, was read the Book of Mormon and pray over it. That was how we would know Joseph Smith was a prophet, if we were “sincere.”

After a number of such experiences we made the mistake of asking the local Mission Office for assistance with our questions. I called, explaining what we were looking for, and was told by the young man who answered the phone that they knew of “a man in Mesa” who made it his task to help people such as ourselves, people who were honestly troubled with the charges the Tanners had made about the church and who were seeking honest answers. I was almost beside myself with joy, for I actually believed their intentions were honorable and above board.

For the next three weeks we waited anxiously to be called and told by Elder Simmons, our contact at the Mission Office, that my appointment with Brother Ron Brown was set. Then, quite by accident, I discovered that Brother Brown was a member of a committee headed up by Elder Mark E. Peterson, a committee whose task it is to ferret out supposed “enemies of the church” and make short shift of them. I did not in any way consider us to be enemies of the church. Instead we honestly sought answers to questions that we believed the church had to respond to intelligently if it hoped to maintain its claims in the field of religion. Nor do I now believe that we have become enemies of the Mormon people by virtue of our decision not to continue in support of what amounts to institutionalized untruth and half truth. Since when is one who seeks to make others aware of the truth called an “enemy”?

I want to spend a few minutes with you Brother Featherstone, exploring an issue you raised early on in your letter. You suggested that we might do well to go back and re-read the Book of Mormon, “pray and ponder over every page”, then ask ourselves, “Could Joseph Smith possibly have written this?” As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t sure how you tied this exercise into the concerns you felt we were still dealing with regarding to the Lectures on Faith. Nevertheless I feel your suggestion is valid if you are intending by use of the word “ponder” that one engage in a carefully considered study which employs the complete mental faculty of the student. The reason I hope your suggestion, thus understood, would appeal to many both in and outside the Mormon church, is that having uncovered the truth about the Book of Mormon in the process of such a study we desire that many discover for themselves what we have come to know.

While it is obvious that our suggestion would carry little weight with persons who desperately desire to believe the Book of Mormon is all the LDS church claims it to be (for such a study will unfailingly illustrate the fact that the book is not what the church claims it to be), there is a source within Mormonism itself to whom those who doubt us may be more willing to look for guidance in such a test, someone who cannot be accused of being an “enemy” of the church. That someone is none other than the one time President of the quorum you now are a part of. Of course I speak of former President Brigham H. Roberts of the First Quorum of The Seventy.

"Studies Of The Book of Mormon" by B.H. Roberts

“Studies Of The Book of Mormon” by B.H. Roberts

Ask yourself how someone who knows little or nothing about the realities of the pre-historic Americas, who is not familiar with the body of well developed “common knowledge” of Joseph Smith’s day respecting the native inhabitants of these continents, and who is ignorant of the fact that Ethan Smith produced two publishing’s of his “View of the Hebrews” during the eight years preceding the Book of Mormon (which publishing’s had considerable impact in Joseph’s locale, and which are shown by Brother Roberts to so closely parallel in so many suppositions and details the story line later written into the Book of Mormon), ..how anyone who is unaware of these vital background facts could possibly pick up the Book of Mormon as you suggest and “ponder” over it in the true sense of the word? And not being able to study it in a careful and considered manner for lack of the type of information that B. H. Roberts’ study would provide if they had it in hand, how do you propose that such a person can truly pray over such a critical matter?It is a shame that LDS leaders failed to make this incredibly valuable study available long ago, however it is clear they were concerned for the impact B. H. Roberts’ observations and conclusions would have on many within the church, persons who would willingly read what he had to say on the subject while continuing to faithfully avoid any such observations from outside sources. Nevertheless the fact is that with Roberts’ study in hand one is far better prepared to “ponder” whether Joseph Smith could have produced the Book of Mormon on his own.

LDS doctrine holds that issues in question are to be studied out by the questioner prior to going to the Lord to seek His confirmation or denial of conclusions reached. If however the church withholds vital information that would assist in reaching a truly studied conclusion, in this case B. H. Roberts’ manuscript Book of Mormon study, how then can it pretend that the unaware person seeking to know the truth about the Book of Mormon could possibly arrive at a pondered and carefully considered conclusion over which prayer may rightly be offered?

Title page for the 1825 edition of "View of The Hebrews" by Ethan Smith

Title page for the 1825 edition of “View of The Hebrews” by Ethan Smith

As you must certainly be aware, B. H. Roberts answered the question, “Could Joseph Smith possibly have written this (Book of Mormon)?”, in the affirmative. He said Joseph Smith could have produced the book on his own given his demonstrated native intelligence, his knack for storytelling, the access he had to the wealth of “common knowledge” surrounding the native inhabitants of these lands, and the doubtless access he had to Ethan Smith’s “View of the Hebrews,” the earlier volume that so closely parallels, in ways not attributable to mere chance, the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith’s book is a product of the times and circumstances surrounding its production, and of Smith’s ability to utilize what he had at hand in the way of schematic materials. As such it is forever stamped a product of nineteenth century America, “Author…, Joseph Smith, Jr.,” as B. H. Roberts clearly demonstrates.

In addition to the claims he made for the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith also laid claim to being a prophet of God. One desiring to test that claim would do well to lay aside personal prejudice and go directly to the one place where we find the only true test available, the Word of God. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 records God’s own statement regarding the test of a prophet. This test was as fitting in Joseph Smith’s or Brigham Young’s day, or is for that matter in our own day, as it was in the days of Moses. God says:

“But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.

“And you may say in your heart; ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD; if that thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

How anyone, after reading the test God has laid out by which we may know of a certainty the validity of the claims of anyone who professes to speak in the name of the Lord, could then fail to apply that test to Joseph Smith in light of the claims he made is beyond me. Yet I know many who simply look the other way when confronted with God’s Word in this matter, and refuse to submit Joseph’s claims to God’s test.

What could anyone possibly fear in such an examination? Could it be their confidence is just a bit shaken in the face of such a proof positive way of testing their “prophet”? Or are they so “system dependent” when it comes to the LDS church that they are blinded to the truth of God’s Word in this matter? Actually I suspect that anyone who refuses to put Joseph Smith to God’s test does so for reasons that are often hidden, even from themselves. This however does not impact upon the validity of calling him into account and critically examining that which he spoke “in the name of the Lord.”

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

What did we find when we put Joseph Smith to the God’s test? We discovered first of all that he gave well over 60 prophecies “in the name of the Lord”, and that a study of these first 60 of shows that over 50 have failed to come to pass as he set them forward. Persons who have claimed far less elevated gifts of prophecy than Joseph Smith have compiled much better records of fulfillment in their predictions than he did. But that’s not the real point here. Joseph Smith claimed to be a “Prophet of God,” and in that capacity to speak “for the Lord.” The Word of God says however that just one failed prophecy issued in the name of the Lord forever brands the one who makes it a false and presumptuous prophet.

God’s word declares two things about such a deceiver, first: that he “shall die” – that he shall be removed or cut off from among the people. And in point of fact Joseph Smith was cut off – killed in the very prime of his life – even though he issued prophecy immediately preceding his death in which he has the Lord promising that he will live many additional years. Secondly, God commands that we are “not to be afraid” of such a false prophet.

Your letter proposes a list of 17 questions which you suggest we ask ourselves and the minister of the church we presently attend. As I have already explained, we have no intention of joining the Church of The Nazarene or any other church at this time, nevertheless I view the questions you ask as legitimate spring boards to worthwhile dialogue, and in that spirit will address myself to one or two of them at this point. Because my time is limited and the hour late, I will defer the others until another day and concentrate on what we could label “keystone issues” in any examination of Mormon claims.

Your first question, “Where does the Nazarene Church pastor receive his authority?,” leads us into what may be the heart and soul of the matter from the LDS point of view. I suggest however that your question should in reality be rephrased, for the real question is, Where do the LDS get their authority?

The question of authority is a favorite “hobby horse” of Mormon doctrine, and it would be of benefit to trace the LDS claim “all the way back to the beginning,” just as you have suggested. Since the doctrine of the “one true church” is part and parcel with the LDS claim to “priesthood authority,” such a review may allow us to bag two birds with one stone.

"The Great Apostasy" by James E. Talmage

“The Great Apostasy” by James E. Talmage

LDS author and General Authority James Talmage writes, in the preface to his book “The Great Apostasy,” that “the primitive Church lost its power, authority, and graces as a divine institution,” and that the “evidence of the decline and final extinction of the primitive Church among men is found in scriptural record and secular history.”

In an attempt to support the doctrine of “total apostasy” the LDS church quotes such scripture as Amos 8:11-12; Isaiah. 60:2; Acts 20:29-30; Gal. 1:6-9; etc., (LDS Topical Guide to the Scriptures). However an examination of these verses finds not one which says there is to be a complete or total apostasy. In fact, some of these verses do not even refer to the church.

The Bible teaches that apostasy had already begun in New Testament times, and that it would increase in the last days (see II Tim. 3 & 4). Nowhere does the Bible even infer that this apostasy would be total as Talmage and other Mormon teachers and leaders insist.

Speaking of the extended history of Christ’s True Church, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Unto Him (God) be glory in the Church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). Clearly Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired declaration could not prove true if the “total apostasy” for several centuries that Mormonism leans on was historic truth.

Jesus spoke to the subject when He said, “Upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Paul further writes, “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

With Jesus Christ as the foundation of the Church, pray tell how could that foundation possibly “collapse”? How could Christ lose “the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood”? (Acts 20:28)

Mormon scripture itself denies the very concept of “total apostasy.” In 3 Nephi 28, and D&C Section 7, we find the stories of John the Apostle and the three Nephites. These were to remain alive on the earth bringing souls to Jesus Christ until the second coming of the Lord. Even a conservative estimate of the numbers of persons such witnesses of the good news of Christ would have been able to bring to the Lord during the centuries of their ministry among men would have to be staggering to contemplate. And add to that the number converted to Christ by the testimonies of those who had been converted under the preaching of these special witnesses – well, you can see what I’m getting at. There is simply no way that the true Church of Christ, that body of believers who have been called out to Him in faith believing on His Name to salvation throughout all ages, can be said to have fallen into “total apostasy,” even from the context of Mormon scripture.

Joseph F. Smith, Jr. said the following in respect to the question of total apostasy. “As long as one Elder remains on earth today, he would have the priesthood and could organize the church even though all of the apostles and first presidency, etc., were killed off” (Latter Day Prophets Speak, p. 213).

Pray tell why would this be true for the LDS Church but not for the New Testament church after which the LDS Church claims to be patterned? If we look to Mormon scripture alone we find that there remained on earth throughout the centuries at least four men who can surely be said to hold the same level of authority that an Elder in the Mormon Church claims to hold. And the commission of these men is said to be that of bringing souls to Christ until He returns (adding these souls to the true Church). So there was no “total apostasy,” and true authority has never been lost from the earth, even from the standpoint of LDS scripture — not forgetting that the Bible itself does not support such a concept.

Although the Mormon Church cannot demonstrate a “total apostasy,” and consequently the need for a “restoration” like Mormonism claims is not in evidence, the claim is nevertheless loudly trumpeted that “priesthood authority” was indeed “restored” through Joseph Smith. Therefore the question you opened with Brother Featherstone is that which most occupies the minds of Mormons. “Where did you get your authority?”

How many times I’ve asked that of others in my lifetime I simply cannot know. I am forever grateful that in Jesus Christ alone is found the true joy of the power and authority of God’s priesthood of believers, that “royal” or “holy” priesthood and spiritual house in which all those in Christ are set as “living stones” (I Peter 2:1-10). No longer do I look to other than the Lord Jesus Christ as the Rock of True Authority in my life.

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

The LDS church claims that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, giving them the Aaronic priesthood. The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:68-73, says that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred the Aaronic priesthood on them, even though they had not been baptized. The Mormon church teaches that baptism is essential to salvation (John the Baptist’s name clearly bespeaks his mission), so why do we not see John baptizing Joseph and Oliver prior to the confirmation of the Aaronic priesthood? Surely if the Spirit of the Lord could baptize Adam (see Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:64-65), John the Baptist could have first baptized Smith and Cowdery.

The Mormon church teaches that baptism must precede the receipt of the priesthood, since baptism is said to be preceded only by faith and repentance in the life of a believer. Therefore Joseph and Oliver were not “washed of their sins” when John is said to have ordained them. Joseph and Oliver, with John the Baptist apparently only looking on, are then told to baptize one another. Strange when you think about it. These two are said to be in the presence of the one who baptized Jesus Christ, and yet they are told to baptize themselves. When they get through baptizing each other, then they “ordain” each other yet again with the same priesthood that John the Baptist is said to have already bestowed on them. I’m not trying to make light of this account, as you well know Brother Featherstone, it’s just the way it reads — I didn’t make it up. But the real questions are, is all this necessary – and did it actually happen?

Since the “total apostasy” Mormons depend on to demonstrate a need for such a “restoration” never took place, we find in that alone enough to refute the claim of “priesthood restoration.” But to those who will not believe that the true Church of Christ has since New Testament times been found on the face of the earth, who find themselves clinging to the false hope offered in the “restoration” story dutifully repeated by those who look to Joseph Smith for salvation, once again I say, “look to God’s Word.”

The basic work of the priesthood has always been that of mediator between God and men. Levitical Priests in the Old Testament were such mediators, and had to be of the tribe of Levi and of the sons of Aaron (Num. 3:6-12). Since Mormons generally claim to be of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh they are not qualified even by supposed lineage to hold the Levitical Priesthood. Furthermore LDS priests have never fulfilled the duties of the “priests” or the “high priests” in offering sacrifices (Ex. 29:38-44 & Heb. 5:1; 8:21). The Levitical priesthood cannot be separated from the sacrifices. Yet even if the LDS were to offer such Levitical sacrifices today, they would be of no value because the Levitical or Aaronic Priesthood was replaced or superseded in the Church by Jesus Christ, the Great Eternal High Priest. Christ is now the only Mediator (Priest) between God and men (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25; John 14:6).

Although Aaronic priests functioned until 70 AD, when God allowed the Roman Army to destroy the Jerusalem Temple, their priesthood actually ended at the time of Christ’s crucifixion when “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:50-51).

"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom"  (Matthew 27:51, KJV)

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51, KJV)

Apparently the Aaronic priests didn’t get the message for they patched the heavy temple curtain separating the “Most Holy Place” from the “sanctuary” (Heb. 9:2-3) and went on offering sacrifices that were only figures of what Jesus Christ had already completed (Heb. 9:1-10:21). On the other hand true followers of Christ “enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20). When Jesus died on the cross, God ripped the great temple veil, which was 60 feet high, from top to bottom exposing the “Most Holy Place,” thereby declaring that through Christ’s death believers have access directly to God.

In Old Testament days there was only one high priest on earth at a time. Once each year He went into the “Most Holy Place” to offer blood sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Ex. 30:10; Heb. 9:7,19-22). However in the New Testament Church Jesus Christ is both the High Priest and the final sacrifice (Heb. 3:1; 9:11-12, 25-26). His body was offered once for all, and now there is no more sacrifice for sin (Heb. 7:26-27; 9:11,12,26; 10:10-14). Because that work is finished I there is no more need for a high priest on earth.

Hebrews 8:1-6 says that Christ, the only High Priest, is in heaven. The Book of Hebrews repeatedly declares Jesus Christ to be the only High Priest after the order (manner) of Melchizedek. His Priesthood is declared to be “unchangeable” (literally, “untransferable” or “passeth not from one to another” Heb. 7:24). Jesus never gave this Priesthood to anyone. It was His alone on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. He is consecrated forevermore (Heb. 7:25) after the manner of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:15-17), and lives forever as the believer’s One and Only High Priest. To those who put their faith and trust in Jesus there is no need for other high priests!

Mormons teach that Joseph Smith had to have the priesthood before he could establish the church. However the Bible never says that apostles, bishops, deacons, or any other New Testament office held either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood. So why did Joseph Smith need it? Even the Book of Mormon is silent about the Aaronic priesthood, and it mentions the Melchizedek priesthood only once in a direct reference to the person of Melchizedek. If as Mormons claim the Book of Mormon contains “the fullness” of the everlasting gospel (D&C 20:9; 27:5; 42:12; and P. of G.P. Joseph Smith 2:34) and it doesn’t mention Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood in the church, why insist on it now?

Every believer in Christ for life and salvation possesses the “holy” or “royal” priesthood (I Peter 2:1-10). However that priesthood is neither Aaronic nor Melchizedek, and it does not exclude women and children (see Gal. 3:18; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Eph. 6:9). The Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi 26:33 and Jacob 2:21, declares that God sees all mankind alike, whether they are black or white, male or female, bond or free. The exclusion of Negroes prior to 1978 and the continuing exclusion of women from the LDS priesthood says plainly enough that the Mormon view of mankind is not the same as God’s view.

Let’s get back to the claim of the “restoration” of the priesthood. Is it necessary to depend solely on the story told by Joseph Smith if one wants to examine the issue from the LDS viewpoint? Of course not. There are many Mormon sources from which to draw evidence weighing on the truthfulness of Joseph’s story. For example, the Mormon Church maintains mountains of records, but in these nearly countless volumes we search in vain for we find no record whatsoever of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood, explaining when and where Peter, James, and John were supposed to have visited Joseph Smith.

D.&C, 27:12, where the visit is mentioned, is dated August 1830. Mormons use this as historical evidence. However when we go back to the Book of Commandments, where the revelation was originally published in 1833, we find Peter, James and John nowhere mentioned in these original verses. Mention of them first appears in the D&C as published in 1835.

By comparing the original revelation as published in 1833 with the same revelation reprinted in 1835 we discover that 13 verses have been added, verses containing the names of Peter, James and John. This modification of the 1833 revelation, to make it appear when reprinted in 1835 that the “restoration” of the Melchizedek priesthood had been known prior to August 1830, casts a huge shadow over the scene even from the LDS standpoint.

Of tremendous interest in this whole thing is the account of David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon and “third Elder” in the Church of Christ (the original name of the LDS church) as founded in 1830. David Whitmer writes that “priesthoods” and “high priests” were unknown to and not a part of the Church of Christ for almost two years following its establishment (An Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 64. — This is the same book the LDS church uses to show that Whitmer never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon.)

David Whitmer "An Address To All Believers In Christ"

“An Address To All Believers In Christ” by Book of Mormon Witness David Whitmer

If, as Whitmer claims, the Church of Christ knew nothing about “priesthoods” for the first two years of its existence, and when it was introduced into the church it came as the brainchild of Sidney Rigdon through his influence with Joseph Smith, then we see that the Mormon claim of priesthood authority being restored prior to the founding of the LDS church is once again proven false.

D&C 20, which originally was chapter 24 of the 1833 “Book of Commandments,” mentions nothing about high priests in its original form, nor did it mention high priesthood. Only when it was reprinted in the 1835 as the “Doctrine & Covenants” do we find verses 65, 66 and 67 inserted, verses that bringing the subjects of high priesthoods and high priests into the picture for the first time — with no indication of a change. Joseph Smith himself recorded in June of 1831 that “the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders” (D.H.C. vol. 1, pp. 175,176). In the Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, page 4, we learn that Ezra Booth, a Methodist minister, was present when the elders first received the High Priesthood in June, 1831. This is more than a year too late to support LDS claims since the Church of Christ was founded in April, 1830.

It’s not hard to boast about a “restored priesthood,” but quite impossible for the Mormon Church to demonstrate the validity of such claims from either the text of God’s Word or from critical examination of LDS scripture and history. In fact the record shows that Oliver Cowdery’s assessment of the situation is accurate, that the whole matter of priesthood was “gotten up” by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith some time after their church was established, after Sidney “explained the old scriptures to Joseph in his own way”, causing Joseph to “ask of the Lord” concerning these things. Whitmer adds, “They received the answer just as they had it fixed in their hearts.”

Had Rigdon and Smith left well enough alone they would have been alright as far as history would have been concerned. After all they had a perfect right to call authority in their church “priesthood” if they wanted to. But by going back and changing the revelations in the 1833 Book of Commandments to make it appear, in 1835 when the D&C was first published, that their “priesthood restoration” had been accomplished prior to the 1830 founding of the church, they carried the ball a bit too far out of bounds, becoming their own worst witnesses in this whole matter.

Brother Featherstone, you say that you are a “special witness” that “Joseph Smith’s testimony is true.” You also declare that you bear a “sacred testimony” to this effect and would “do so with (your) life..” Believe me when I tell you that I know you are sincere in your testimony, and I do not in the least question your sincerity when I point out that sincerity has never been the final test of the truth or untruth a question. We can all name many “sincere” people that history records as being in the wrong.

In evaluating a subject as complex as Mormonism, we would do well to remember that the plumb line of the Word of God is in place to assure believers that our feet are planted on the Foundation Rock which is Jesus Christ. There is only one Lord and Savior, while there are many pretenders.

My special witness to you and to the world, Brother Featherstone, is that Jesus Christ alone is Savior and Lord, and I’ve come to know Him as I never did before, through the witness of God’s word and the testimony of the Holy Spirit of Truth. Opening my heart to the saving Truth of God’s word, I ask Christ into my life as Savior and Lord. Just as promised He came to dwell in me by God’s Holy Spirit, and has remained with me from that moment on.

The Bible His gentle knock at the doorway to my heart was heard one day as I witnessed, by the power of God’s word, the awesome majesty of His sinless life and His perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who believe God’s testimony. On that day, by the living Word of God, I watched my Savior die in my place, nailed to Calvary’s cross in agony, yet without resistance or complaint, accomplishing in the eyes of God what no one else ever can or will, sacrificing His body and spilling His blood to cleanse me from sin, loving me as no one else ever can or will. And I wept in anguish of soul as I saw myself for what I am, a sinner separated from God. From the depths of my soul I cried, “Lord Jesus, I’m wrong, I’m sorry, forgive me, take away my sin, be Savior and Lord in my life. Dwell with me and make of me what You will.”

Although my prayer was far from eloquent Christ knew my heart and touched me with the assurance of His holy presence. I experienced the perfect love and healing power of Jesus Christ in the deepest possible sense, with various “thorns in the flesh” that brought torment prior to coming to Christ swept aside as God’s Holy Spirit did His work in my life. I praise the Lord Jesus with all my heart and soul for His ongoing work in and through me. That I may be of service in leading hearts and souls to Him is my desire.

Early on in your letter you suggested, “Though argument does not change belief, the lack of it destroys belief.” Deon and I agree, and in that spirit we invite you to correspond further as you see fit. Even if you decide not to do so we want to say a sincere thank you for your evident caring heart, and prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit of God to touch you deeply and in a most unexpected way as you ponder and pray over His Biblical Word of Saving Truth.

George S. Rasmussen today

George S. Rasmussen today

To this greatest of all Truths I bear sacred testimony.

In the Love of Christ,

George S. Rasmussen