Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

by Fred W. Anson
April 2014-October 2015
This article continues the running timeline of events surrounding Shawn McCraney’s departure from mainstream Christian orthodoxy into error and heresy which was comprised Part 1 of this series. While the reader is encouraged to read through the previous timeline from the beginning (which can be found by clicking here) to gain a fuller historical context, the events, issues and actions outlined here, I believe, speak for themselves.   

April 22, 2014
After a long hiatus Shawn McCraney resumed teaching on the nature of God.  While prior lectures were primarily on God the Father and Christ, this lecture focused on the Holy Spirit – who Mr. McCraney asserts isn’t a person due to certain gender neutral Greek words that are used in the original languages that our English Bible is translated from.

April 23, 2014
This author leaves the following comments on the YouTube page for this show.  They are promptly hidden from public view by the Heart of the Matter personnel who administrate the page for Mr. McCraney:

First Comment by Fred W. Anson
As the saying goes, “If you point one finger at others you’re just pointing four fingers back at yourself.” 

The posturing quotes that preceded Shawn’s appearance on this show certainly demonstrated that principle given what Shawn taught about the Holy Spirit in this episode.* Those quotes, once again, were:

Chuck Colson
“The greatest friend of truth is time, her greatest enemy is prejudice, and her constant companion humility.”

Goethe
“There is more frightening than active ignorance.”

J.L. Borges
“Truth never penetrates an unwilling mind.”

Now I know for a fact that Charles Colson would most certainly not agree with what Shawn taught about the Holy Spirit tonight or how he’s behaving in his ministry. In fact, having read quite a bit of Colson’s work over the years it’s easy to imagine him telling Shawn that he’s ignorant, confused, and in need of some quality training and discipling before he does any more damage by errantly and heretically teaching Christian doctrine.

And I doubt that even the pantheistic humanist Goethe** or the agnostic humanist Jorge Luis Borges*** would agree with much, if anything, that Shawn taught in this show either. Rather, they would reject it if nothing more than for the fact that his reasoning and logic is so blatantly flawed and fallacious.

Further, Shawn abused every source that he cited in support of his position. I can safely say that every Christian source that Shawn cited in his lecture would tell him that he’s in error, teaching heresy regarding the nature of God, and drawing wrong conclusions based on their work based on his own confirmation bias – or, if you prefer, prejudice.

No, Mr. Craney those of us who are publicly criticizing your work aren’t perfect but neither are we close minded. We’re challenging and denouncing what you’re teaching not out of prejudice or because we’re proud but because what you’re saying simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

So feel free to rally your followers behind manipulative pull quotes if you wish, however, if I were you, I would pay more attention to those four fingers that are pointing back at you – they’re trying to tell you something.

* Shawn taught that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person separate and distinct from God the Father and God the Son.

** See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe

*** See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Luis_Borges

Second Comment by Fred W. Anson
Shawn’s argument that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person is hardly new. In fact, among other places, it has been addressed and rebutted rather nicely in this article from December 12, 2013:
How Do We Know the Holy Spirit Is a Person?
by Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
One potential argument that the Holy Spirit is a person is to look at the Greek words in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13-14. There we see that the antecedent of the masculine ἐκεῖνος (a masculine word for “that person”) is πνεῦμα (a neuter word for “Spirit”). Hence, so the argument goes, the Spirit is a person. Unfortunately, that argument likely doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

A more fruitful approach is first to ask a question almost no one asks: how do we know that the Father is a person? How about the Son?

The answer is that the Bible presents a person as a substance that can do personal and relational things (such as speaking, thinking, feeling, acting). Something that does these personal things in relationship—like God, angels, and human beings—is a person.

How does the Holy Spirit fare up under this criteria?

1. The Spirit teaches and reminds.
John 14:26, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

1 Corinthians 2:13, “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

2. The Spirit speaks.
Acts 8:29, “the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’

Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

3. The Spirit makes decisions.
Acts 15:28, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements.”

4. The Spirit can be grieved.
Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

5. The Spirit can be outraged.
Hebrews 10:29, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has . . . outraged the Spirit of grace?”

6. The Spirit can be lied to.
Acts 5:3, 4, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? . . . You have not lied to men but to God‘”

7. The Spirit can forbid or prevent human speech and plans.
Acts 16:6-7, “they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition

Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition

8. The Spirit searches everything and comprehends God’s thoughts.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11, “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. . . . no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

9. The Spirit apportions spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:11, “the same Spirit . . . apportions [spiritual gifts] to each one individually as he wills.”

10. The Spirit helps us, intercedes for us, and has a mind.
Romans 8:26-27, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

11. The Spirit bears witness to believers about their adoption.
Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

12. The Spirit bears witness to Christ.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

13. The Spirit glorifies Christ, takes what is Christ, and declares it to believers.
John 16:14, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
(source = http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/12/12/how-do-we-know-the-holy-spirit-is-a-person/)

I’m sure that are equally good – possibly superior – articles on this subject, but this one is short, sweet and to the point. It’s also fully supported by scripture.

I challenge Shawn to address the issues raised in this article on his next show. 

April 25, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues the following 3-part statement on Facebook regarding this episode: 

I watched Shawn McCraney’s broadcast from Tuesday, April 22, in which he laid out several objections to the Trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit as a person. I sent Shawn an email in response the next day. Having not heard from Shawn, and having not received any response from him to my previous efforts to offer constructive criticism, I am sharing here what I said to him in that email. I will present my response in three posts here.

I have been waiting for Shawn’s lecture on the Holy Spirit for weeks, because I fully expected that he would have greater difficulty with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit due to the fact that there is no Incarnation involved. That is, I expected that he would have greater difficulty maintaining some sort of distinction involving the Holy Spirit while rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. I was correct. Since during the broadcast he explicitly mentioned me as a scholar who might offer him some insight or correction on at least one point he made, I gave him plenty to consider.

Rob Bowman lecturing on the February 25, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Rob Bowman lecturing on the February 25, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Let me begin by quoting my summary of his lecture on March 18 (which I posted here on Facebook). Sorry I don’t have a transcript of his remarks, but I think this is a fair summary of what he said then.

“The audio was off for a few minutes, but apparently Shawn compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma (Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. According to Shawn, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on Shawn’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth. All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then Shawn threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were Shawn said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, Shawn contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like my body, soul, and spirit (or like they should be!).”

Now, the above doctrine was problematic enough, but at least in some of what Shawn said one could optimistically hope that he viewed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as genuinely distinct, as each someone in relationship with the other two, and therefore as largely orthodox in substance even if he rejects orthodox theological terms. At one point in that broadcast he even referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “three persons,” though only after creation, not before it. However, in his most recent lecture he moved even further away from orthodox doctrine (and, I emphasize, biblical doctrine, as I shall explain). The Holy Spirit, he claimed, is simply God’s power or presence, an “it,” just a way of describing God expressing his presence or power. He claimed this to be true in both the Old and New Testaments. Sadly, there is no way this can be salvaged as anything but heretical.

Shawn asserted, “The Holy Spirit is the power, the DUNAMIS, of God. Scripture talks about it being the power of God.” Yes, Scripture does talk about the Holy Spirit as the power of God. It also calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Does that make God or Christ impersonal? Of course not. Here is a blog article I wrote on this point:

http://www.religiousresearcher.org/2013/03/19/definition-by-parallelism-bad-arguments-against-the-personhood-of-the-holy-spirit-5/

In my next two posts, I will address the other arguments he presented.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992044018003?stream_ref=10 )

The second of three posts by Rob Bowman
Shawn argued—and this was his main point—that PNEUMA is neuter and that the Greek New Testament uses neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. On this basis, Shawn concluded that the Holy Spirit is not a person, because “it’s an it.” Well, if PNEUMA is neuter and if neuter means “it’s an it,” as he claimed, then Shawn has just proved that God is an it! After all, Jesus said, “God is PNEUMA” (John 4:24)! Notice that this is the second argument he used against the personhood of the Holy Spirit that, if applied consistently, would disprove the personhood of God as well. But Shawn went on immediately to answer his own argument, though he didn’t seem to realize he had done so. He pointed out that languages like Greek commonly assign masculine or feminine gender to nouns that do not denote persons, such as _la bicicleta_ (“the bicycle”) in Spanish. This was apparently his rebuttal to the observation that “Comforter” is masculine in Greek (PARAKLETOS). There’s a problem with that rebuttal, as I will explain in my third and last post. But his point about nouns having gender is a good observation, but one he did not take far enough. It is also the case that languages can assign “neuter” gender to nouns denoting persons. In German, _das Mädchen_ means “the maiden, the girl,” and obviously denotes a person, yet it is neuter in grammatical form. Similarly, the Greek PAIDION is grammatically neuter, but it denotes “child,” again referring to a person. Jesus is called a PAIDION eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [PAIDION] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun AUTO (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun AUTO in reference to Jesus as PAIDION twice (Luke 2:28, 40). Translators use masculine pronouns in English to represents neuter pronouns in Greek if the antecedent of the pronoun refers to a person. It’s as simple as that. Here’s an article I wrote that goes into this subject further:

http://www.religiousresearcher.org/2013/03/14/neuter-pronouns-mean-not-a-person-bad-arguments-against-the-personhood-of-the-holy-spirit-1/
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992048538116?stream_ref=10 )

The third of three posts by Rob Bowman
A third argument Shawn presented was an objection to the use of the definite article “the” in English translations with the title “Holy Spirit.” He asserted that the article is “often added by translators, leading the reader to think that ‘the Holy Spirit’ is referring to a separate person.” Well, there are many places where the Greek has the article in front of the words for “Holy Spirit,” such as Matthew 28:19 (TOU hAGIOU PNEUMATOS), Mark 3:29 (TO PNEUMA TO hAGION), John 14:26 (TO PNEUMA TO hAGION), and quite a few others. (TOU and TO are both forms of the Greek article.) I assume Shawn would agree with me that the Greek writers of these books were not misleading readers by using the article. The fact is that Greek uses the article in a different way than English does. We normally use the article in front of what we call titles (the Father, the Messiah, the Lord, the king, etc.) but not in front of what we call proper names (Jesus, Peter, Shawn, Rob). Greek doesn’t work that way. Proper names and titles in Greek can occur with or without the article; usage is quite complicated and sometimes little more than a matter of style. The expression “in Christ” in Paul usually does not have the article (EN CHRISTW), but of course this doesn’t mean that Christ is something other than a person. And sometimes Paul writes “in the Christ” (EN TW CHRISTW), but English versions nearly always omit the article (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:10, 12, 20).

Shawn also argued that if translators had simply used impersonal pronouns to translate the neuter pronouns referring to the Spirit (it, its, itself, etc.), “the case for the personality of the Holy Spirit, the person, would largely disappear from Christian belief.” That is true only of the most superficial popular way that contemporary English-speaking Christians try to defend the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The KJV often used neuter pronouns when the Greek pronoun was neuter, and the KJV translators and their readers were all Trinitarians. They had no trouble seeing the person of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Finally, Shawn suggested that it is only “a few comparative difficult verses in the Gospel of John” that seem to refer to the Holy Spirit as a person, and he stated somewhat disparagingly that “those verses are used over and over again to prove that the Spirit is a person.” Later he suggested these could be explained away as personifications, like wisdom in Proverbs 8. But Jesus was not speaking in poetry in John 14-16, and the same things that Jesus says about the Spirit in John 14-16 are said about Jesus himself in the same book. For example, the noun PARAKLETOS clearly refers to a person, and Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another PARAKLETOS” (John 14:16), meaning another besides himself. In his epistle, John – the same author as the Gospel of John, of course – refers explicitly to Jesus Christ as our PARAKLETOS (1 John 2:1). PARAKLETOS is not a noun that just happens to be masculine but that normally refers to something impersonal, like _la bicicleta_ (“the bicycle”) happens to be feminine. PARAKLETOS is a personal noun, denoting someone who provides support, assistance, counsel, agency, mediation, or the like. If Shawn wished to claim that the noun doesn’t refer to the Spirit as a person, this would be something he would need to show exegetically from the context, which he has not done.

Moreover, the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit does not depend on John 14-16 alone. His personhood can be shown from many other parts of the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. But John 14-16 is in the Bible and must be taken seriously, not shoehorned into a doctrinal system derived from the superficial observation that the Old Testament doesn’t advance a specific doctrine of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Such an approach denies God the right to unfold his self-revelation in history and in Scripture progressively, as though God should have front-loaded Genesis 1 with a systematic theological exposition.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992049818148?stream_ref=10 )

Closing Thoughts
Perhaps it should be noted in closing that the doctrine that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person is only held to by Christian Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Oneness followers, Hebrew Roots, Christadelphians, The Way and other Anti-Trinitarian groups.  This is hardly an encouraging sign for those of us who are hoping and praying that Shawn McCraney will find his way back to Biblical orthodoxy and bring those that he has led astray through such false teaching along with him.

Further, engaging in censorship of critics and those who are trying to help him find that way back is certainly an unwelcome trend – and one that’s odd for someone who has been so free in his condemnation and criticism of the LdS Church for engaging in such tactics with their critics.

We will continue to monitor the situation with Shawn McCraney and will add updates to this article as noteworthy events unfold.

UPDATES
April 29, 2014
Shawn McCraney states emphatically the Holy Spirit isn’t a person separate and distinct from God the Father and God the Son and reiterates his rejection of the Trinity.  Shawn also explains the reasoning behind shutting down the “Heart of the Matter with Shawn McCraney” page on Facebook.   This episode is also unique in that it is the first Heart of the Matter YouTube posting with comments disabled on the page.

Following the broadcast Rob Bowman issues the following response on this Facebook page:

Shawn McCraney (“Heart of the Matter”) concluded his series of lectures against the doctrine of the Trinity a couple of hours ago (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up again). He gave a list of arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit. I won’t go through them all right now. However, I will point out that many of Shawn’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, if applied consistently, would also “disprove” that God the Father is a person, or that Christ is a person.

(a) Shawn makes a big deal of the fact that “Holy Spirit” is never capitalized in the Greek. Neither is “God,” “Christ,” “Jesus,” or “Father.” For that matter, neither is “Peter,” “Paul,” or “Mary” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Ancient Greek manuscripts were written with all block letters, and later a cursive form developed that used what we call lower-case letters. But in biblical times, there was no upper-case and lower-case lettering system.

(b) Shawn points out that Christ and the Spirit are both called Parakletos; both are said to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26, 34); both are said to have been given to us by God. How these things prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, I don’t know. If anything they might seem to prove that the Holy Spirit is Jesus. (They don’t. For example, John 14:16 calls the Holy Spirit “ANOTHER Parakletos,” making it clear that the Holy Spirit is not Jesus but is someone like him.) But Shawn doesn’t (usually) make that claim. At one point, though, Shawn cites 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and concludes that it means that Jesus is the Spirit. If so, then, by Shawn’s own reasoning, either Jesus is not a person or the Holy Spirit is a person.

(c) Shawn repeated his argument from the previous week that the Holy Spirit is called the power of God in Luke 1:35. This is not correct, but if it were, it should be noted that the Bible calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). So by Shawn’s reasoning, God and Christ are not persons.

(d) Also last week, Shawn had argued that the Holy Spirit is not a person because the Bible uses a neuter noun, PNEUMA, and neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible also uses the neuter noun PAIDION (“child”) and neuter pronouns in reference to Jesus. Jesus is called a PAIDION eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [PAIDION] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun AUTO (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun AUTO in reference to Jesus as PAIDION twice (Luke 2:28, 40). So once again, by Shawn’s reasoning, Jesus, at least when he was a child, was not a person.

The tragedy is that all of these errors could easily have been avoided, if Shawn would have listened to sound teachers and studied these things carefully before publicly teaching on matters he doesn’t understand.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203026200951905?stream_ref=5 )

April 30, 2014
Rob Bowman offers this clarification and response to one of the call-in questions regarding the doctrine of the Trinity that was asked on  the April 29th Heart of the Matter broadcast:

In response to a caller’s question last night about Matthew 28:19, Shawn McCraney resorted to the claim that the fourth-century writer Eusebius supposedly testified to an original form of the text in which Jesus said to baptize disciples “in my name” instead of what we find in all of the Greek manuscripts. Many anti-Trinitarians continue to repeat this claim today, though it is difficult to find contemporary exegetical commentators or textual critics who will support it. Eusebius quotes the triadic phrase in full five times when quoting Matthew 28:19; the one place he doesn’t is simply a paraphrase, not a full quotation. The triadic phrase is found in all Greek manuscripts of Matthew that contain the passage and is attested in several second-century Christian writings. For a critical scholarly refutation of the abuse of Eusebius, see Benjamin Jerome Hubbard, _The Matthean Redaction of a Primitive Apostolic Commissioning: An Exegesis of Matthew 28:16-20_, SBL Dissertation Series 19 (Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1974), 151-75.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203029256908302?stream_ref=10 )

May 6, 2014
Prior to his weekly Heart of the Matter lecture Shawn McCraney offers an Anti-Trinitarian critique of Matthew 28:19 claiming that it is a deliberate post-Nicene Trinitarian manuscript corruption that didn’t appear in the original. That verse reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (ESV), and is theologically noteworthy as a direct apostolic affirmation of the Trinity by Matthew.  

The lecture that followed is difficult to summarize because it was such a jumble of mixed metaphors and ideas – it was essentially on how no one has the right to judge or criticize the theology of anyone who professes Christ or claim that they’re going to hell as a result of their doctrine or beliefs. He did this by starting with a full whiteboard of different groups (Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Arminians, Calvinists, Seventh-day Adventists, Calvary Chapel, Latter-day Saints, etc.) all boarding the “Jesus Plane” that later crashes killing everyone on board.  

He then asked the following series of open ended questions:

“Who would you say is gonna go to hell?”

“What would determine their entrance into heaven?” 

“Wouldn’t everyone of these active, faithful religionists lay claim to Jesus?”

“What would be the trait that proves that they had faith in Jesus?”

Shawn stated the answer to getting into heaven is through grace by having faith in Christ’s atonement which  manifests itself in one’s life by exhibiting the kind of  Christian love that Christ taught and practiced.

Further, he insists that true Christianity manifests itself in the kind of love that wouldn’t throw or keep others off the Jesus Plane and wouldn’t criticize those that are on it.  He went on to strongly imply that those who who insist on orthodoxy in theology and doctrine are false loving, hard hearted, pride filled, hypocritical, controlling, power hungry Pharisees who have no right to criticize the doctrine of the others on the plane – and are in fact, getting in the way of leading themselves and others to true, saving love.  That is, their hearts aren’t right.

But he then went to say that in coming weeks he will criticize and speak out against those that claim to be Christians but deviate from “what’s right according to the Bible” – like the LdS Church for example.  This assertion was also reiterating during the call-in section of the show.

At the end of his lecture he stated that the majority of those on the “Jesus Plane” are going to hell. But that’s OK because those who go to hell will be OK in the end because hell is much different than what others have taught about it in the past.  He promised to explain this more fully in the weeks to come.

This author is persuaded that much of this lecture was yet another attempt by Shawn to silence his critics – this was more apparent in the tone, timbre, snide comments, and attitudes in the lecture than the content alone.  The reader is encouraged to watch the lecture yourself and determine if the author’s assessment is accurate or not.

Episode 393 White Board_edited

May 9, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues the following statement on Facebook regarding Mr. McCraney’s critique of Matthew 28:19:

On May 6, Shawn McCraney reiterated more emphatically his acceptance of the anti-Trinitarian claim that Matthew 28:19 did not originally say “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” According to this argument, Matthew 28:19 originally said “baptizing them in my name,” and the text was changed by the Trinitarians in the fourth century following the Council of Nicaea in 325. In support, Shawn offered two arguments that are commonly made. The first is that no NT Greek manuscript from prior to Nicaea contains the triadic wording in Matthew 28:19. The second point is that Eusebius of Caesarea often quoted Matthew 28:19 using the words “in my name,” and only began quoting it with the three names after Nicaea. As with most of his other arguments against the Trinity, Shawn is simply repeating arguments commonly made by anti-Trinitarians, especially in this case Unitarians and Oneness Pentecostals.

It is true that no Greek manuscripts prior to Nicaea contain the traditional text of Matthew 28:19. However, that is not as shocking as it sounds, and this fact in no way undermines the reliability of the traditional text. The fact is that we have no extant pre-Nicene Greek manuscripts of Matthew containing Matthew 28:19 at all. We have pre-Nicene Greek papyri fragments covering about a fifth of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 28:19 just happens to be one of the passages not among the extant papyri. There is an easy to understand reason why: Matthew 28:19 comes at the very end of the Gospel. Papyrus manuscripts were highly fragile, and it was common for them to be damaged especially at the beginning and end. This is why, for example, there are Greek manuscripts of Matthew that end earlier in Matthew 28, just a few verses from the end: the last page was lost or highly damaged.

ALL of the extant Greek NT manuscripts that have Matthew 28:19 have the traditional wording. There is no exception. The earliest extant Greek manuscripts containing Matthew 28:19 date from the fourth and early fifth centuries. One notable fact about these manuscripts is that they represent three different textual “families” or scribal traditions, conventionally known as the Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Western text types. This includes Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (Alexandrian text type), dated 325-360, Alexandrinus (which, despite its name, is Byzantine in type in the Gospels), dated ca. 375-450, Washingtonianus, another Byzantine text dated about 400, and Bezae, a Western-type text also dated about 400.

We also have manuscripts of the NT in Coptic and Latin containing Matthew 28:19 that date from the fourth century. These manuscripts, especially one of the Coptic texts, attest to an independent scribal tradition of translation from before Nicaea. They confirm that the traditional text of Matthew 28:19 is correct.

If the anti-Trinitarians were right, it would mean that the correct wording of Matthew 28:19 was not preserved in a single ancient manuscript in Greek or in any of the languages into which the NT was translated. That claim requires a conspiracy theory to work, but such a conspiracy theory simply doesn’t fit the facts.

When Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 without the three names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he also omits the words “baptizing them,” and only sometimes includes the words “in my name.” It is evident from a careful study of his quotations generally that weight should not be put on his exact wording. That there was no conspiracy involved is proved by the fact that Eusebius sometimes uses the full quotation with the three names and sometimes his shorter version even in the same writing!

Finally, Shawn claimed that no one before Nicaea quoted Matthew 28:19 in its traditional form. That was simply false. The traditional form is attested in the Didache (ca. 80-120), Justin Martyr’s First Apology (155-57), and Tertullian’s On Baptism (ca. 200), to name just three texts dating not only before Nicaea but within about a century of the NT writings.

It is very sad to see Shawn repeating such distortions of the facts of Scripture to support his rejection of the Trinity.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203090956370750 )

NOTE: As excellent as Mr. Bowman’s statement is on it’s own, the reader is strongly encouraged to use the link to the original post and consider the equally superb comments that others – many whom are Theological Heavyweights – added beneath his statement. I think the reader will find them to be a wealth of wisdom as well as instructive and enlightening.

January 7, 2015
Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace gives a superb overview of Shawn McCraney’s slide into heresy, rebellion, and error on his “The Ancient Paths” television show. He very rightly identifies Shawn’s methods and teachings as nothing more than a modern, repackaged form of of Mormon-style Restorationism combined with Christian Gnosticism.

January 21, 2015
Continuing from his last broacast, Jason Wallace examines Shawn McCraney’s new teaching that “Christianity is not a physical reality”. Pastor Wallace identifies this as more evience of the gnosticism that McCraney is now teaching regularly. He shows how Mr. McCraney is now saying that the fundamental problem of the Evangelical church is that it tries to apply an ancient and outdated Bible to the modern world in terms of church and Christian practice. Thus Mr. McCraney is saying the Bible is really the problem and that instead we just need to follow the “Spirit.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s very much akin to Joseph Smith’s stance toward the bible which Lutheran minister Robert N. Hullinger summarized like this:

“In defense of God, Joseph Smith assailed the natural revelation of deism, which excluded the supernatural, and the static revelation of traditional Christianity contained in a closed canon. But to enable revealed religion to overcome natural religion, Smith supported the deistic attack on the Bible’s being complete and errorless. Rejection of the traditional view left him free to pursue special revelation specific to his own cause.”
(Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p. 150)

Calvin demonstrates how Gnostic dualism works - or doesn't work.

Calvin demonstrates how Gnostic dualism works – or, in this case, doesn’t work.

February 3, 2015
Jason Wallace appears on a special two hour edition of Heart of the Matter that features a moderated debate between he and Shawn McCraney. The event descends into chaos (some later referred to it as “a circus” others “a Soap Opera”) when the moderator allows members of Shawn’s family (his wife and daughter), known instigators (like CAMPUS member Jed), and rank and file Shawnites to confront and denounce Mr. Wallace rather than the type of questions appropriate to a formal debate setting.

Further, the moderator (who is supposed to maintain neutral during debate proceedings) gave a supportive hug to Shawn McCraney’s wife immediately after she had ripped into Jason Wallace and allowed her to whisper something in his ear – all this while the debate was continuing right in front of them. This can hardly be described as neutral behavior. To make matters worse, this “neutral” moderator also made comments (some of them snide) in support of Shawn’s position during the closing moments of the debate. Thus the general consensus of those outside of Shawn’s camp is that Mr. McCraney and his followers acted very inappropriately – even cult-like – during this event.

February 5, 2015
Theologian James White weights in on the debate on his “Radio Free Geneva” broadcast (@04:50-15:27) concluding, “Listening to Shawn McCraney it’s hard to even recognize any more any meaningful element of Christian truth left in his theology. It’s just sad to watch. It really is.”

February 10, 2015
Shawn McCraney takes the entire broadcast to debrief on the February 3rd debate and address what he sees as the key issues that came up. Most surprising is his assertion that the apex of the event were the very things that in the days following most people pointed to as the low points, specifically: Loose cannon, pot stirring, Shawnite Jed asking Jason Wallace if he loved him, and Shawn’s wife and daughter dressing down Jason Wallace before a worldwide audience [@09:10-12:00]. Also surprising is Shawn’s claim that he’s mentally ill [@38:47], that’s he’s proud of it, and that the world would be a better place if it would appreciate mentally ill people (like him) and their unique way of seeing things rather than trying to get them to conform to normalcy [@33:30-41:10].

February 18, 2015
Pastor Jason Wallace is joined by Pastor Curtis Eggelston (of Berean Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ogden, Utah) on his Ancient Paths television show to debrief on the February 3rd debate and analyze Shawn McCraney’s teachings and practices.

February 19, 2015
Jason Wallace issues the following statement on Facebook in tandem with posting the prior evening’s Ancient Paths broadcast on YouTube:

Last night’s episode of The Ancient Paths is now available on YouTube. Curtis Eggleston and I started our review of what was said in my exchange with Shawn McCraney. The main focus was on Shawn insisting on labeling me a Calvinist. He pushed me to accept the label at “The Inquisition” a year ago, then again in “The Confrontation” two weeks ago. His wife shoved a microphone in my face demanding I answer “yes or no” whether I am a Calvinist. All through “The Confrontation” Calvin and Calvinism were mentioned by Shawn. In Shawn’s show the following week, he described me as having “an absolute allegiance to Calvinism.” Why does Shawn, who hates being labeled, insist on labeling me a Calvinist? Why was I hesitant to embrace his label? I believe if you look at what Shawn has publicly taught about Calvinism, it all makes sense.

First, let me say, I don’t like the label, because it gives the impression I am following John Calvin instead of Jesus. At the same time, though Shawn twists things, the essence of what he insists on calling Calvinism is just biblical Christianity. It was taught by Calvin, but also by Martin Luther and all the Protestant reformers. It was taught by Augustine and a host of others throughout the early church. It is the faith of Jonathan Edwards & George Whitefield (leaders of the Great Awakening), Charles Spurgeon, William Carey (founder of the modern missions movement), David Livingston, and a host of more modern saints.

Shawn dedicated seven shows to Calvinism in 2013. In his show from October 1, 2013, he told a caller. . .

Now let me offset what you’re saying to me with what you believe, which is that God sovereignly creates men and women to burn in Hell. That that is His sovereignty – – that He has them and let’s them live here, but it’s His joy to have them burn in Hell while His other chosen ones get to live in bliss. And He knew that before creating one single person. If you want to follow that God, have at it, but not me.

Shawn cannot reconcile God being love with God knowing people will go to an eternal Hell, so Shawn portrays such a God as a sadistic monster. Dale Finley, an Arminian Baptist pastor, called in to say this is not a Calvinist/Arminian issue, but that Shawn has rejected the God of the Bible in his teaching. Shawn explicitly says he will not follow a sovereign God who sends people to an eternal Hell.

Please be clear, our purpose is not to judge Shawn’s heart, but to respond to his public teaching and speak the truth against his errors. Shawn said at “The Confrontation” that we were arguing over “the color of God’s eyes,” but it is clear the issues are the most fundamental in the faith.

February 24, 2015
Shawn McCraney makes the following statement (@1-minute, 59-seconds) on his Heart of the Matter broadcast:

I called Pastor Jason Wallace last week and asked him a simple question – Are we done? (meaning,“Are we done with all this between us?”).

To my surprise he said that he was going to do a follow-up on the shows where he aired our time together (which I admitted was reasonable) and then added, “then I don’t see any reason to continue.”

I couldn’t help but say, “Praise God” and felt our time together was not in vain . . . that just maybe I could accept Jason as a brother and he might see me as the same – even though we do not agree with one another.

I was really pleased.

I was then informed that last week my brother announced on his program that he in fact going to continue to pursue me on future shows – this time with another Orthodox pastor.

I hope this was incorrect but in the face of it I can say this – and I mean it:

I accept Jason as a brother and think he sincerely believes he is going God’s will.

And I will refrain from ever criticizing Jason or any other brother directly (or in public) but will ardently strive to see them as meaning well. . . and let God be their judge for the good and evil they may do.

I believe in order for subjective Christianity to be seen as viable it has to be lived. And it has to start somewhere.

So there it is.
(Episode 434: The Bible – Part 6, from the official HOTM transcription)

February 25, 2015
Pastor Jason Wallace is again joined by Pastor Curtis Eggelston on his Ancient Paths television program to finish up their debriefing on the February 3rd debate. Among other things, they tackle Jed’s agenda driven, pot stirring, “do you love me?” tactic (and it’s resulting fall out) from the debate head on. The reader will find this at 13-minutes and 10-seconds into the broadcast. Those interested will also find a fuller analysis of Shawnite Jed’s continuing pattern of public manipulation and grandstanding in part 5 of this series.

February 28, 2015
Jason Wallace publishes the following summary assessment of the issues surrounding Shawn McCraney’s movement and teachings:

“McCraney-ism”
by Jason Wallace
Many former Mormons have escaped the institution, but not the mindset of Mormonism. All their lives, they have been fed stories of how bad other churches are. Protestant pastors have been caricatured at the Mormon Miracle Pageant and in endless stories they have heard from their youth. After years of being told all other churches are wrong, many LDS simply add Mormonism to the list of false churches and embrace atheism. They abandon the claims of the LDS church to truth, but they blindly accept all its criticisms of the Bible and other churches as true. They breathe out contempt for Christianity with the old fervor of Brigham Young and Parley Pratt.

Though the vast majority of those who abandon Mormonism try to convince themselves there is no God, some recognize that they cannot escape His reality. They see the foolishness of an atheism that pretends to find meaning and value in a world devoid of purpose. They instead read the Bible and see an explanation for the world before them. Man is capable of greatness and perversity – – Bach and Hitler, DaVinci and Stalin. They discover that the world was created good, but it has been corrupted through sin.

In that same Bible, they find the one who has come to undo the Fall of man and reconcile sinful men to a holy God – – Jesus Christ. They hear His words and recognize their truth. The problem is that all too often, they do not recognize that they still carry with them the prejudices that were inculcated in them from youth. They view the Bible, Jesus, and His church through “Mormon glasses.” It is into this confusion that Shawn McCraney has stepped. He has been the instrument of helping many people see the errors of Mormonism, but in its place he is teaching a Jesus who plays to these prejudices, but is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Shawn McCraney is a passionate and charismatic man. These traits led to him being thrust into public ministry with very little experience. He has publicly stated that he had only attended five Evangelical worship services in his life before being offered an Evangelical television ministry. He had never even been baptized outside the Mormon church. Evangelicalism’s fascination with “star converts” pushed Shawn into the spotlight without proper preparation. His denunciations of Mormonism and promotion of a vague “personal relationship” with Jesus was considered orthodox enough for his promoters.

Over time, Shawn’s theology has become more clear and more developed. He claims all churches are wrong and all their creeds are “heinous.” He claims that the church has been blinded by “the physical” for 1800 years, but now he is helping usher in a new “spiritual” understanding of Christianity. He denounces churches as trying to insert themselves between the believer and God, and denounces pastors as motivated by pride and greed, while being blinded to the Spirit by their “scholarship.”

Despite Shawn’s rejection of many of the trappings of Mormonism, he has kept much of what made it popular in its founding. The early LDS made people feel pious in their contempt of educated pastors. Instead of “theology,” the LDS claimed to offer direct, personal experiences of God. Christianity was presented as a dark chaos of conflicting opinions. Something new was needed that would unite everyone. The Bible was appealed to, but was subject to what they considered the direct witness of the Spirit. This allowed them to ignore what they wanted from the Bible, while using it to attack their critics. In place of “doctrines of men,” the Mormons offered a vague, personal spirituality and a community that did not make the traditional demands upon them. Over time, Mormonism’s demands became much higher, but they were not so high in the beginning.

Many former LDS have a great personal loyalty to Shawn, because he is the one who opened their eyes to the errors of Mormonism. He offers them acceptance and community when they have lost both from the LDS. This loyalty leads them to ignore the hypocrisy of Shawn denouncing others in the harshest terms, but then playing the victim when someone responds. No one was trying to force Shawn to use the term “Trinity.” He took it upon himself to go on television and denounce the doctrine as “heinous” and “garbage.” He claimed it was rooted in “polytheistic paganism.” When I responded by saying that Shawn was teaching “grave error,” Shawn claimed I would kill him if I could and I would burn him at the stake. None of this was true. Rather than admitting that he had attacked the concept of the Trinity, Shawn tried to claim the whole issue was over “the use of an unbiblical term.” Just as the LDS claim never to attack anyone, many of Shawn’s followers see any response to his charges as “attacking Shawn.”

I named this review “McCraney-ism” because Shawn seeks to dismiss everyone who has gone before him as holding to an “-ism” or being an “-ist.” He, on the other hand, rejects all labels. This allows him to savage others’ beliefs, but then claim he is only attacking the “-ism.” When someone challenges his public teachings, he claims they are attacking “his person.” The reality is that Shawn is promoting a system of doctrine, an “-ism,” as much as anyone else.

Shawn has repeatedly tried to hang the label of Calvinist on me. I hold to the doctrines of grace held by Calvin, Luther, and all the Protestant reformers, but I have been hesitant to embrace what Shawn has described as “Calvinism.” He said of the doctrine that he has “not seen a bigger pile of garbage since the King Follett Discourse.” He says “Mormons and Biblical Christians” are united in their rejection of Calvinism’s “insane doctrine.”

I have heard many followers of Shawn say they don’t agree with Shawn on some things, but they aren’t worried because he tells them not to trust him, but check out the Bible for themselves. This sounds good, until you recognize that Shawn mocks and ridicules every pastor who says he’s teaching error. Though he may allow latitude in individual beliefs, he cannot tolerate any public disagreement with him. Critics are accused of “character assassination.” The subtle pressure in such a community is to conform. Would a false teacher invite someone to test them from the Bible? Most have; Brigham Young said in 1873, “I say to the whole world, receive the truth, no matter who presents it to you. Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Journal of Discourses 16:46).

Shawn dismisses everyone else’s interpretation of the Bible as the “doctrines of men,” while he is just “sharing” what he sees. This plays to the prejudices of former Mormons and others who feel burned by “traditional” churches, but it is misleading. In a recent episode, Shawn asked, “. . . who do I think I am that I could actually spit in the wind of 1800 years plus of religious tradition and biblical scholars and learned men and women and suggest that they have been misled in the way they have applied the Bible to doing Christian life? I don’t know who I am when it comes to this. I might be crazy. I might be a fool. I might be inspired. I’m not sure. But I can say this is how it comes together for me. This is how when I sit down and read it, this is what speaks to me, and I’m going to be true to that. If I’m crazy, discover that and don’t listen to me, If I’m wrong in spots, you can call me out on it and go on and love me, or you can choose to fight it. But just understand I pray to God that it’s from Him and not Satan, who gives me the perspectives, and sometimes I don’t know . . .” This is disarming on the surface, but if heaven and hell are at stake, would he still be teaching others if he wasn’t convinced what he was saying was true? Shawn claims he’s “wrong 90% of the time,” but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing what the Bible teaches and demonizing churches and pastors. It also doesn’t stop him from demonizing the attempts of his critics to specify those errors.

Shawn claims all his critics care about is doctrine, but he cares about love and people. When I appeared on Heart of the Matter, one of his group asked “how many of you here love me,” I didn’t raise my hand. Since the immediate context was Shawn asking if I counted him as a Christian brother, I understood the question in that context and did not raise my hand since I did not really know the man. This was immediately interpreted in the worst possible light and Shawn later claimed that I choose not to love people. He says he thinks it’s unbiblical, but he “respects” my right to do so. I have tried to make clear that I love my neighbors and even my enemies, but I do not love them in the same way I love those of the household of faith. Love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling for all people everywhere. I show love even to those who mock everything I stand for, including Shawn. I tried to correct him privately over 7 years ago. I have prayed for him for years. I have repeatedly tried to respond fairly and in love to Shawn’s denunciations. I have tried to speak the truth in love, but all that some of his group can see is hate when any criticisms are offered. Their own hatred of their critics seems to escape them.

What makes others’ interpretation of the Bible better than Shawn’s? The Bible is not unclear, and Shawn stands against the united witness of nearly 2,000 years of Christians on basic issues. Many of these Christians, unlike Shawn, could read the Bible in its original languages. These Christians also allow the Bible to interpret the Bible; they don’t impose a meaning on the texts that allows them to ignore passages that contradict them. They don’t let their conception of the love of God trump clear teachings about the wrath of God. Shawn seems to realize the Bible does not really support some of his new teachings, so he is attacking the inerrancy of the Bible as “crazy.” He is pitting the subjective testimony of the Spirit in you against the objective witness in the Bible. For those who recognized that a burning in their bosom was no assurance of truth, this should be troubling. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures and cannot contradict them.

Why does all this matter? First, Shawn is presenting a different Jesus. He has stated that the Lake of Fire is in the presence of Jesus, so unless Jesus has some sadistic pleasure in torturing people, sinners must be ultimately reconciled to Him. He ignores that in Revelation 14, those who receive the Mark of the Beast are tormented “in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Shawn says he will not follow a God who creates people He knows are going to an eternal Hell. Since this is the only God seen in Scripture by Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics, Orthodox, and practically everyone in church history, this should be seen as a problem. Shawn has taken the truth that God is love and used it to undermine anything that does not fit his idea of love.

The Jesus that Shawn presents is also a failure. His Holy Spirit apparently failed to lead the church into truth until now. His Second Coming in 70 A.D. (according to Shawn) failed to end the curse or to crush the head of the serpent. Shawn leaves open a “third coming,” but says there’s nothing about it in the Bible. Shawn’s Jesus also fails to resurrect our physical bodies, which makes Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 15 nonsensical.

Second, Shawn is giving false assurance to unbelievers. He tells them if they have a “personal relationship” with Jesus they’re right with Him, and if they’re wrong, Hell is only temporary. Jesus does offer us a personal relationship, but He also warns us of those who draw near to Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. Shawn does not answer the warnings in 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5 of those who profess faith but exhibit sins that show their hearts are unchanged. Jesus indwells His people. They are not free from sin in this life, but there are sins from which they are freed. Shawn uses James 2:10 to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5. All sins are worthy of Hell, but there are sins, such as the continued practice of homosexuality, that demonstrate someone has been given over by God to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:24).

Finally, Shawn is robbing Christians of the means God has appointed for their edification. There are churches out there that are no better than the Mormon church, but that does not mean there are none who tremble at God’s Word. As Joseph Smith before him, Shawn tends to paint all churches with the same brush to confuse and frustrate people, so that he can offer an alternative. He plays on the divisions to make people give up on the idea of finding a true church. The irony is that most of these divisions are the work of others like him.

We need more than the community Shawn offers. Shawn says no one can tell someone else they are in sin, because if we’re going to talk righteousness, “you damn well better be righteous.” This is not what Jesus commanded. He established a visible church and said if a professing Christian would not hear it, they were to treated as “a heathen and a tax collector.” This does not mean they are hated, but that they are prayed for and called to repentance. Our Lord, through the Apostle Paul, commands his church to judge a man who married his father’s wife and not to eat with him as a brother in Christ. This was an expression of love that Shawn rejects, and it led to his repentance and restoration.

Many former Mormons tend to view any accountability in the context of how they have been abused. Biblical elders are commanded not to lord themselves over the congregation; they are to be the servants of all. They are warned they will have to give account to God (Hebrews 13:17) for having kept watch over His people.

The Apostle Paul called out Hymenaeus, Alexander the Coppersmith, and a host of others by name for their errors. Shawn is presenting a different Jesus and a different gospel. My plea to you is to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures for yourself. Brigham Young made the invitation, because he knew most people wouldn’t really test what he was telling them. I plead with you to read the Bible for yourself.

It is not enough to be against Mormonism. It is not enough to substitute new lies for old. It is not enough to claim a personal relationship with Jesus while refusing to do the most basic things he tells us. In the pages of God’s Word, you will find the truths rejected by Joseph Smith and Shawn McCraney, but embraced by countless saints who sealed their faith with their blood. You will find a Jesus far more glorious, and a gospel far more awesome. You will find the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
(source: GospelUtah.org website)

March 10, 2015
On his Heart of the Broadcast (@00:02:45) Shawn McCraney issues the following statement regarding the ongoing charge that he is employing Joseph Smith’s tactics and techniques in his ministry and methods:

There is a small movement afoot that is seeking to categorize me and my beliefs as an offshoot of Mormonism.

These Christian brothers have gone so far as to take Joseph Smith’s claims and assign them to me.

The longer I live the more readily I believe that we will always see and hear and believe what we want to see, and hear and believe, and it takes a real effort to remain in truth.

In any case it seems that this is intended to remove me and what I teach from Christianity by attempting to categorize me as an offshoot of Mormonism rather than an accepted brother in Christ.

I want my assailants to know I love them and will not retaliate – but I do want to quickly make things clear:

The similarities I have with the views of Joseph Smith are not limited to Smith. Anyone who is frustrated with church history, creedal Christianity, or man’s interference into the subjective relationship people have with God through Christ share Smith’s frustration.

Do such frustrations make me a Mormon? Common.

But in the name of clarity I personally renounce Mormonism as a counterfeit gospel.

This includes everything that makes it distinct including its priesthoods, its temples, its extra biblical books, its views on God (or God head) and the ontology of God, its soteriology, its baptisms . . . I mean, I really share nothing with Mormon doctrine and little with their practices.

Turning the tables, I have almost everything in common with Bible believing Christians.

The Good news

Monotheism – One God.

Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated.

The Holy Spirit as God in spirit.

The Bible is His trusted Word.

Jesus is the only way, truth and life.

He is the author AND finisher of the faith.

His death, resurrection, ascension,.

Salvation is by grace through faith.

The importance of love in believers.

But because I disagree with two non-essentials (eternal punishment and the dating of Christ’s return) and one element some claim is an essential (the term and definition of the Trinity) some have tried to literally push me out of Christianity (the faith I embrace and love) and back into a schism of Mormonism (the faith I renounce).

Like I said to the LDS, if you don’t accept my views on eternal punishment PROVE THEM WRONG.

If you don’t agree with my Preterest Stance PROVE THEM WRONG.

Same with the Trinity. But stop the infighting. Accept my apologies, my differences, and try to see what we are doing and why.

I read a poem the other day I think is fitting. It was written by Edwin Markham in 1913 and is titled, “Outwitted.”

“He drew a circle that shut me out –

Heretic! Rebel! A thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

We drew a circle that took him in.”
(Episode 436: Sola Scriptura – Part 2, from the official HOTM transcription)

The exact charges that Mr. McCraney is responding to can be found in this author’s “Dear Michelle” article which states:

I would ask you to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and think about what Shawn McCraney’s has been saying in both in concept and in words lately:

  • That Christian churches who adhere to historic Christian orthodoxy are wrong.
  • Their creeds are an abomination in God’s sight.
  • Their professors are all corrupt and motivated by things other than the truth.
  • They’re treating Shawn’s communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, even saying it may be of the devil.
  • As a result, there’s prejudice against Shawn among these corrupt, self-interested professors of religion.
  • And that all the above is the cause of a great persecution of Shawn.
  • Further, his circumstances in life are such as to make Shawn of no real consequence in the world.
  • Yet despite all this men of high standing are taking notice sufficient to excite the public mind against him.
  • But Shawn has an inner witness that he can’t deny, lest he offend God and come under condemnation.
  • And so he continues to bring forth new revelations week after week after week.

Sound familiar? Yes, I’ve used Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account as my template in describing Shawn’s basic, recurring message but I’ve done so because the shoe fits. Tell me, is there anything is that list that doesn’t match the themes and principles Shawn has been teaching lately?

Thus I found this assessment particularly astute and to the point:

“… a former Mormon, he is mainly targeting other former Mormons and disaffected Mormons. Without a ‘nod to Joseph,’ he is playing on their ingrained prejudices and leading them into another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is often categorized as a Christian cult, because it primarily targets those from a Christian background. You don’t see many Mormons trying to evangelize Muslims. Similarly, Shawn is targeting those from a Mormon background. This is why I would loosely call it a Mormon splinter group.”
[Daniel Jason Wallace in the “Evangelicals Discussing Mormonism” Facebook Group.]

Further, have you noticed how Shawn launches pre-emptive strikes against his critics? Joseph Smith did that too didn’t he Michelle?

In fact, essentially wasn’t that the gist of how he responded to your email on the air?  Of course it was couched in terms of how you will be subjected to the same “persecution” that he has if you continue to “seek truth” in the same deaf, stubborn, rebellious, rogue, and obstinate “wild ass” (his description of himself at “Inquisition 2014″) fashion that he has.  Make no mistake about it Michelle, he was only talking to you tangentially – his real audience was his critics. And in the end, didn’t it all seem and sound something like this:

“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”
— Joseph Smith, 1836
[History of the Church, vol. 2, p.460; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to John Thornton and others, July 25, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio, published in Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, p.358.]

Yes, it’s all very “Joseph Smith” isn’t it Michelle? I would ask you to think about that.
(Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”

Given the full body of evidence, please consider the following regarding Mr. McCraney’s response:

  1. He misrepresented the arguments that are being leveled at he and the McCraneyism movement.
  2. He failed to address the substance of those arguments.
  3. His statement, “Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated” is too broad and general to be accepted as fully “orthodox”. As worded, this confession could refer to the heretical modalism that McCraney teaches, a number of other heretical stances on the nature of God, and/or biblically orthodox Christology. In summary, it fails because of its imprecision.
  4. His statement “The Holy Spirit as God in spirit” is skewed to the heretical – especially given the fact that he has taught on the Holy Spirit as an “it” or a “force” rather than a person.
  5. He has never apologized for or renounced the content of his heretical teachings, merely the delivery.
  6. The errors of his teachings have been addressed from the Bible on this website and elsewhere many, many, many times yet he continues to hold to and teach them. The problem isn’t that his error hasn’t been exposed and addressed from the Bible, the problem is that Mr. Craney refuses to listen.

Other all, this statement was the same kind of spin doctored, obfuscation that we see from the LdS Church and other Mormon splinter groups. Further, as noted, Mr. McCraney engaged in the classic Mormon tactic of using Christian terminology but changing the underlying meaning. There is, therefore, no need to withdraw the charge. In fact, Mr. McCraney’s statement actually confirmed it’s validity and veracity.

April 23, 2015
Respected Mormon researcher and critic Bill McKeever offers his assessment of Shawn McCraney and the McCraneyism movement on the The Eternal Planner w/ Rob Rennie radio show. In his assessment he also gives some of the local history that pre-dates Mr. McCraney’s pre-heresy days. This historical perspective may be enlightening to those who were outside of the Evangelical Christian community in Utah (or those who were in it but not “in the know”) while it was occurring.

Shawn McCraney’s October 6th, 2015 response to this critique can be found below.

May 5 – June 2, 2015
Shawn McCraney broadcasts a series of discussions/exchanges/debates on Calvinism with Theologian Matt Slick:

05/05/2015 Episode 444: Matt Slick – Total Inability (aka “Total Depavity”)
05/12/2015 Episode 445: Matt Slick – Unconditional Election
05/19/2015 Episode 446: Matt Slick – Limited Atonement
05/26/2015 Episode 447: Matt Slick – Irresistible Grace
06/02/2015 Episode 448: Matt Slick – Perseverance of the Saints

To deconstruct, analyze, and respond to the fallacious logic and bad arguments by Mr. McCraney would require a whole new series of articles – so we’ll let an excerpt of Brother Thomas’ insightful analysis suffice instead:

Shawn, as usual answered [Slick’s solid presentation] with his mocking exasperation argument where he cites a few random verses out of context and then mostly ends up citing himself as the authority, saying things like, “it doesn’t make sense”, “I don’t see how” while straw-manning various supposed Reformed propositions. I’ve heard his complaints (against the God of the Bible/”the God of Calvinism”) many, many times before–it’s the same old rant. . . . From atheists . . . humanists . . . wiccans . . . feminists . . . militant homosexuals . . . agnostics . . .. pagans . . . universalists . . . Satanists . . . and any number of God-hating, man-exalting unbelievers. “What kind of God sends people He created to Hell?!” is basically it. . . . Which is why I’m not so sure Shawn IS a “brother” in Christ . . . as so many who’ve tried to reach him . . . seem so reticent to clarify. He is a likable, humorous, charismatic guy . . . and I know it is not a small thing to call someone a heretic or, worse, a “wolf” among the flock . . . but I’m beginning to wonder what is the difference between Shawn’s Jesus and the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or New Age Jesus? Okay, the details are different . . . but in the end IT’S A DIFFERENT JESUS just the same.

Why do “we” say that Mormons or JW’s or Catholics “aren’t Christian” even though they claim to believe in “Jesus”?

Because they teach a different Jesus than the one shown in the Bible. They have added or detracted from The Word and created a God to suit themselves and thus cannot be considered “of the faith.”

Well, how is what Shawn is doing any different? Not because of his rejection of Reformed theology . . . but because of the leaning aggregate of all his errant assertions: “The doctrine of the Trinity is garbage”, . . . “the 2nd Coming has already happened” . . . “Christianity is totally subjective” . . . “Everyone will ultimately be saved/there is no eternal damnation” . . . “The Bible isn’t really relevant for us today–it was written by and for those prior to 70 A.D.” . . . “you can lose your salvation” and so on. . . .

If God is the author of the Bible, and Jesus is God . . . and Shawn teaches a growing body of doctrines that contradict orthodox Christian belief–at what point is he no longer believing and teaching “Christianity” . . . but something else instead, just as we say the cults and heretics do?

I’ll tell you what “makes sense to me”. . . . It is that he [Shawn McCraney and others who rely on the natural man] who has made an idol of himself and his own reasoning and hates the sovereignty of God, rails and mocks and jeers and wars against God ever still, as such always have and will continue to . . . until He finally puts them down . . . and every knee finally bows and every mouth confesses that HE is Lord . . . not “me”.”
(Brother Thomas, “Matt Slick vs. Shawn McCraney”)

October 6, 2015
On his Heart of the Broadcast (@00:28:46) Shawn McCraney announces that he’s a “committed modalist” verifying and confirming the charges of heresy that resulted in him being publicly challenged and denounced as a heretical teacher in early 2014:

Here is that announcement from the official HOTM transcript of this show:

At this point I will publicly admit that I am a committed modalist but refuse the Trinitarians pejorative that claims I err by “confounding the persons.”

I would reply they err by creating “three persons deserving worship” rather than the one true and living God deserving it alone.

In Smith’s life modalism was a popular alternative to trinitarianism but the differences are not easily observed by most Christians then or even today.

I can’t tell you how many people who are devout followers of Christ who cannot articulate the fundamentals of creedal trinitarianism and who typically, when asked to define their beliefs on the subject describe modalist thinking instead.

Anyway, the main difference between modalists and Trinitarians is Trinitarians label Father, Son and Holy Spirit “persons” and modalists label them all expressions or manifestations of the One God.

In reality, modalists do not deny three in one – they simply do not see the three as individual entities entirely separate from each other.

Also, there are differences between sabellian modalism – which says that the Father became the son and the son became the Holy Spirit and plain modalism which asserts that God manifested Himself in and through the Son and in and through the Holy Spirit.

I am certainly of the later form.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

We drew a circle that took him in.
(Episode 466: Ontology of God – Part 1, from the official HOTM transcription; bolding and redding added for emphasis)

For those unfamiliar with the heresy of modalism here’s a brief primer:

Modalism, also called Sabellianism, is the unorthodox belief that God is one person who has revealed himself in three forms or modes in contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine where God is one being eternally existing in three persons. According to Modalism, during the incarnation, Jesus was simply God acting in one mode or role, and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was God acting in a different mode. Thus, God does not exist as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time. Rather, He is one person and has merely manifested himself in these three modes at various times. Modalism thus denies the basic distinctiveness and coexistence of the three persons of the Trinity.

Modalism was condemned by Tertullian (c. 213, Tertullian Against Praxeas 1, in Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. 3). Also known as Sabellianism, it was condemned as heresy by Dionysius, bishop of Rome (c. 262).” [Note it was formally denounce
(source, Modalism article on Theopedia)

So let’s be clear here: Despite, the spin doctoring, well poisoning, and posturing that he engaged in before and after this announcement, this is the equivalent of Mr. McCraney appearing before a worldwide audience and publicly announcing, “I am a committed Christian heretic”.

But if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the show (@00:47:30) Mr. McCraney proceeded to throw Mormon Research Ministry’s (MRM) Bill McKeever (in particular) and just about every other Utah based ministry and church (generally) under the bus:

Aaron Shafovaloff, Bill McKeever’s colleague at MRM responded to Mr. McCraney via the following YouTube comment – which was immediately deleted:

“He [Shawn McCraney] sets up a straw man for what it means for him to live the virtue of submission, as though that means abandoning all the idiosyncratic ideas of his own for ministry. It’s about being in a community of discipleship and accountability. Shawn should humble himself and participate in a local church with qualified elders. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) Submission to others is a Christian virtue for all believers.

He misrepresents the controversy over “Born Again Mormon” as if whether there are born again Christians within Mormonism. At this point, he arrogantly and mockingly misrepresents Bill McKeever’s concerns. The real controversy was whether such born again Christians should be counseled to leave the LDS Church. Honest and forthright discipleship should encourage any believer to get into a healthy Bible-believing church.

At least in his video, he failed to distinguish his universalism from Rob Bell’s universalism. It’s hard to see why he was refuting McKeever’s description. “I never said that.” But you didn’t have to. The issue wasn’t whether you explicitly aligned yourself, by name, with Rob Bell’s position on hell / universalism. But the issue was whether Bell’s universalism was a fitting analogy for your own.

So much arrogance. Please exit this cult-following and join a healthy local church that unashamedly lives according to the commands of the pastoral epistles for the life of the local church.”

Further, Mr. McCraney’s representation of the historical facts regarding him being challenged, confronted, and corrected regarding the descent into heresy that he started down in 2013 are flat out wrong. This can easily be proven because the “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney” series of articles on Beggar’s Bread (of which you’re currently reading Part 4) has been documenting this descent as it has been occurring – that is, in the historical moment and with supporting evidence. One need only start at the beginning of this series and start reading, watching, and listening to see how badly Shawn McCraney’s HOTM episode 466 recitation abused and misrepresented historical reality. Simply put, the body of evidence just doesn’t match Mr. McCraney’s spin doctored, revisionist “facts”.

October 14, 2015
The Ancient Paths publishes a short video composite of Heart of the Matter broadcasts that document Mr. McCraney’s February 2014 radical flip into modalism while simultaneously and aggressively denying it. This lasted until October 2015. For those counting that’s a year and half of self and public denial/deceit:

March 25, 2016
Unaware of the problems with Mr. McCraney’s ministry that started in 2013, the “Christian Utah” podcast schedules Shawn McCraney to appear on the show to discuss Heart of the Matter and CAMPUS. After being brought up to speed by several concerned colleagues and listeners the show’s producer reports his concerns to Shawn and suggests that they discuss them on the show. As he explains to Shawn in an email, “If there was some understanding, this [upcoming interview] would be a great opportunity to clear your name and help people see your ministry through a new light.”

Instead Mr. McCraney simply cancels the interview.

As as a result of these events “Christian Utah” schedules Jason Wallace as a replacement and they spend about half the show discussing the history of Shawn McCraney’s slide into heresy and error and the other half discussing the unique culture of Mormonism (in general) and Utah (in particular) that lends itself to the type of Christian antinomianism taught and practiced by Shawn McCraney as well as so many others in the state.

This show is also a superb primer for those who want to get up to speed quickly on the history of Shawn McCraney in Utah, the Shawnites, and McCraneyism as it stood as of that date. Click here to listen to this show.

May 17, 2016 “So much heresy, so little time!” 
Theologian Matt Slick the founder and director of CARM (The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) participates in a free form, ad-hoc debate/dialogue/discussion which is described as follows on the Heart of the Matter website:

Shawn and Matt come together for a dialogue about orthodoxy and Shawn’s refusal to fully embrace it. They see things very differently relative to a number of teachings and doctrines in the Christian faith. Shawn is convinced that modern Christianity has misappropriated the Bible and assigned to it power and authority that was never intended to have from the start of the faith.

He maintains that:
1) The Spirit is primary and preferential in the Christian’s life,
2) The Bible is secondary and referential,
3) Church history is at best tertiary and inferential, and
4) Modern material religion is actually unnecessary and quite inconsequential. Shawn and Matt will compare several Christian topics to see how vital they really are to a person being viewed as a true Christian, to salvation, and to being received in the Body.

It’s hard to summarize something this loose, sloppy, disjointed, and chaotic into a few sentences. That said, the general consensus after it aired was that this event clearly demonstrated how unfit Shawn McCraney is to teach anyone anything.

Plainly stated, every time Shawn spoke during this event it simply demonstrated his incompetence, irrationality, ignorance, pugnaciousness, lack of self control, and, most importantly, inability to engage in sound biblical hermenuetics. As Matt Slick said so well at the 1:34:20 mark, “So much heresy, so little time.”  However, that said, it wasn’t Mike Slick who exposed Shawn McCraney as a heretic in this broadcast, Mr. McCraney did a wonderful job of doing that himself.

In the end this broadcast made it abundantly clear that to watch to Shawn McCraney teach is to see a fool in his folly. If you doubt this simply watch the show.

 BACK TO TOP

LutherMovie-CROPPEDTHE 95 LDS THESES
Introduction:
Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”, 2013. It was on this day 496 years ago that Martin Luther nailed the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. So it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that we offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that is badly in need of it.

And while we offer these theses to the public in general for discussion, debate, and consideration, we offer them even more specifically to the LDS Church and its members in light of Joseph Smith’s challenge …

“. . . call upon them [Mormon Critics] to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against”
(Doctrine & Covenants 71:7)

… and in agreement with Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt who said:

“. . . convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, pp. 15-16)

So without further ado we present . . .
The Disputation of Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Ninety-Five Theses for consideration, discussion, and action regarding a modern church badly in need of reform
(aka “The 95 LDS Theses”)

Question: What’s wrong with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Answer:

BEHAVIOR CONTROL ISSUES
1. LDS President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Brothers and sisters, pray for the critics of the Church” (“Remember the Mission of the Church”, Ensign, May 1982, p.4) but today’s LDS Church is quick to label and denounce internal and external critics as “enemies out to destroy” even when they’re simply speaking the truth, seeking to gain understanding, and/or trying to make the church a better place.

2. The LDS Church focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members. For example, on January 29, 2013, the LDS Church announced that the Benemerito De Las Americas private school in Mexico would be closed and converted into a Missionary Training Center leaving its more than 2,000 LDS students to the mercy of the vastly inferior Mexican public education system.

3. D&C 121:39 says: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Yet the modern LDS Church tolerates abuse of ecclesiastical power by LDS church leaders through various means from refusing to directly answer troubling questions from its members up to and including excommunication of members who speak truth to power.

4. LDS President, John Taylor, said, “I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 264) but today’s LDS leaders refuse to publicly address members concerns about difficult facts of Mormon History and suppresses loyal dissent from within its ranks via disciplinary action up to and including excommunication.

5. The LDS Church website says, “Those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship.” Never-the-less, due to the doctrine of Celestial Marriage members often feel pressured to choose between the potential to be exalted into the Celestial Kingdom and their apostate (or non-member in the case of a convert) spouse. Choosing the former all too often results in divorce.

6. LDS Church leaders denounce and scorn former members and encourage members to do the same. To cite one example, the chapter in the official church curriculum “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith” entitled “Beware The Bitter Fruit of Apostasy” (pp. 315-326) is a demonstration of how church leaders do this.

7. It asserts in the strongest language that doctrinal differences, criticisms, or questions about LDS Church policies and/or leaders are sin, for the ‘prophet’ is always right. Those who engage in such behaviors – or refuse to comply with the status quo – are subject to discipline up to and including ex-communication. An example of this is the recent excommunication action taken against Denver Snuffer.

8. It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members. Ex-Mormon family members in particular are to be avoided but the LDS Church also encourages members to steer clear of “Never Mormon” family members who are openly critical of the LDS Church. For example, one Temple Recommend Question asks, “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The wording of this question strongly implies that temple worthiness requires eschewing those with beliefs opposing the LDS church. This often includes former members and/or family members critical of the church.

9. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout units with over 30,000 units nationwide. Conversely, the Young Women’s Personal Progress Program receives significantly less funding and attention and demonstrates pronounced gender inequality. Why, for example, aren’t there an equal number of church sponsored Girl Scout units for girls?

10. The culture that results from LDS doctrine pressures members to marry too quickly often resulting in marriage between incompatible strangers. For example, 12th LDS President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “It was never intended by the Lord that a large portion of one’s life should be spent in the unmarried state… Long-delayed marriages are certainly not approved of the Lord.” (“The Marriage Decision”, Ensign, Feb. 1975)

11. The Lord, it is claimed, said, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27) But today LDS Leaders use the Temple Recommend process as a subtle, barely discernible means of manipulative coercion rather than allowing members to engage their free will.

12. It puts its untrained clergy in a position where they must give counsel on vital life issues that they are not qualified or equipped to competently address. The result, all too often, is ecclesiastical malpractice.

13. The LDS churches places an inordinate amount of emphasis on a commandment that enriches itself financially – the tithe. It is the only commandment that requires a yearly meeting with the bishop and must be paid without regard to a person’s personal welfare: “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.” (“Sacred Transformations”, Ensign, Dec 2012. p.38)

14. The original 1835 D&C 101 said, “all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting” but today’s church drives a wedge between friends and family members by compelling Latter-day Saints to get married in private Temple services that exclude not only all non-members and their families, but even non-Temple Recommend holding LDS family members in addition to all children below a certain age – Mormon and non-Mormon alike.

15. The Apostle Paul wrote “there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Yet the LDS Church gives men an exalted status over women; refuses them the Priesthood; denies that women are co-equals; and chooses instead to subordinate them to men.

16. LDS church leaders replace “ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves” (Helaman 14:30) with obedience to trivial and arbitrary rules. Things like ear piercings, movies, tattoos, and clothing choices have nothing to do with salvation – therefore, these are areas where individual Free Agency and the leading of the Spirit should prevail.

17. It imposes vague, scientifically discredited 19th Century dietary regulations on members via the “Word of Wisdom” (Doctrine & Covenants section 89). This isn’t a trivial matter since a lack of compliance to these standards can result in the loss of one’s temple recommend – per the Temple Recommend Worthiness Interview question which directly asks, “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?”

18. It quells and compromises good scholarship within its rank by demonizing, disfellowshipping and excommunicating members who produce scholarly works discussing Mormon History, Theology, or culture that have scholastic integrity. The classic example of this are The September Six – the six esteemed, respected, and in some cases award winning, Latter-day Saint scholars who were excommunicated in September 1993 for producing such work.

19. D&C 58:27 states “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” and Joseph Smith stated “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” (“The Organization of the Church”, Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339). However, the church often does exactly the opposite: Such as rewarding Paul H. Dunn with a General Authority position for his compliant use of “faith promoting” lies, but excommunicating D. Michael Quinn for continuing to tell the authentic truth despite being told by Mormon leaders to stop.

20. By requiring a full tithing to participate in the temple endowment ceremony, and thereby achieve exaltation, the LDS church disregards Moroni’s censure: “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”(Mormon 8:32)

21. It uses employment in LDS Church and member owned institutions and businesses to coerce obedience to its dogma and leaders. An example of this is John P. Hatch being terminated from Deseret Book for simply expressing his opinion regarding, “the Church’s efforts to suppress access to honest history.” in a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune without warning or asking for clarification on the letter.

22. Its leaders and members use ad-hominems, insults, slurs, derogatories, labeling, and character assassination in their dealings with critics and apostates and then deny that they do so – often going so far as to claim that those who call them on this behavior are persecuting them.

23. It allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LDS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LDS Church.

24. It privately judges and abandons members that have life problems rather than patiently, encouraging, undergirding, supporting, and attempting to restore them to a healthy, productive place. This while publicly declaring that the LDS Church treats all such cases with benevolent kindness.  For example, many prisoners are excommunicated in absentia once convicted of a crime. And while a small number of individual members may volunteer for a local prison-ministry in their area, there is currently no formal church sponsored outreach to prisoners.  The same can be said for those suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, etc., etc., etc.  Further, many snared in these life situations simply experience church discipline in various forms are and told to repent – nothing more.

25. It tends to view any doubt, character flaw, or personal deficiency as “sin” rather than as a normal expression of the human condition and life experience. Thus it has created an implied and unstated expectation that members must always be perfect and/or “all together” or they’re in sin and unworthy of advancement within the organization.

26. It practices graceless, merciless, condemning, legalistic disciplinary extremes – far beyond Biblical standards – in regard to those who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage that, as been reported by many, often leads to a “no-win” double-bind spiral into hopeless despair.  Seventh LDS President Heber J. Grant articulated this extremsim well when he said, “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.” (Heber J. Grant quoted in, Gospel Standards”, complied by G. Homer Durham, p. 55)

27. The Apostle Jude commanded “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22, NIV). Instead LDS leaders often demand blind compliance from those questioning and wavering. Failing at that they will expose, quarantine, isolate – and if necessary expel – doubters rather encouraging, supporting, and protecting them while they work through their doubt.

28. It preaches extreme, legalistic, and arbitrary sexual standards regarding masturbation that are not scripturally or scientifically supportable.

29. Via the Priesthood Correlation Program it tries to turn everyone into a Utah Mormon and every Chapel, Ward, and Stake into a Utah Chapel, Ward, and Stake rather than encouraging – even celebrating – each culture’s unique distinctives.

30. It has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction puts pressure on disenchanted LDS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not.

31. Women are inappropriately subordinate, not equals, with men in the LDS church. For example, in the Temple Endowment Ceremony women swear obedience to God and to her husband while the man swears obedience only to God. Additionally women may not act as a voice in prayer circles and instead must veil their faces.

 32. It claims to be “pro-family” while simultaneously creating a culture that breaks up both Mormon and non-Mormon families via the aforementioned.

33. It has a double standard for treating non-members with charitable benevolence (as a means of proselytizing and public relations) while exacting, high, often unattainable standards that members must meet to receive the same levels of attention, aid, and assistance.

34. Despite the fact that The Book of Mormon says, “For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Moroni 8:37) the First Presidency choices to invest billions in building ornate malls and temples rather than using that money to show love to the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

INFORMATION CONTROL ISSUES
35. Although the LDS church sates that “we believe in being honest” (13th Article of Faith), it regularly substitutes faith promoting “spin” to its members, the media, and investigators instead of telling the full truth regarding its history and theology.

36. The LDS Church has suppressed – and allegedly has even destroyed – church owned documents and artifacts that would expose the fact that it’s not telling the full truth regarding its history and theology. Examples of suppressed documents include: a) the contents of the First Presidency’s Vault; b) The Mark Hofmann forgeries that the church purchased from him, and; c) The Joseph Smith seer stones that were used to “translate” the Book of Mormon and receive many of the revelations in Doctrine & Covenants, and many others.

37. Since 1959 it has suppressed its financial records in the United States and other countries where churches aren’t required to publicly disclose such records, thus eliminating full accountability in terms of how member contributions are used.

38. I Nephi 13:9 warns, “for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity,” yet the behavior of today’s LDS Church would suggest its core unifying principle seems to be “Image over truth always and in all things.” Could today’s Latter-day Saints be captives destroyed by their quest for the praise of the world rather than a peculiar people?

39. It contrives man-created “revelations” and claims that they are of divine origin. Two examples of this are Official Declarations 1 and 2 – one (OD-1) of which is essentially a policy statement in the form of a press release that addresses, “To whom it may concern” and the other (OD-2) which hints at a revelation but fails to produce it in any form within the actual declaration.

40. Hymn #292, “O My Father” acknowledges the LDS doctrine of a heavenly mother. Mormon leaders throughout history have confirmed this doctrine. However, Heavenly Mother is rarely discussed, is demonstrative of male bias within the LDS Church, and is illustrative of how the church deceives investigators and others.

41. It allows unsubstantiated “faith promoting” stories to run unchecked. Examples include Three Nephite sightings, attribution of magic protective power to temple garments, and falsely implying that all the apostles have been personally visited by Jesus.

42. It restricts distribution of the LDS “Church Handbook of Instruction Book 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops” (aka “Handbook 1”) to only the Bishopric level and higher. This eliminates transparent “bottom up” accountability enabling ecclesiastical abuse because lay members can’t confront local leaders and/or report policy violations to higher authorities for rectification.

43. Gospel Principles explains, “Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.” (see Chapter 31) yet LDS Church leaders mandate that Mormon History must always be presented to members (even privately) in a manner that’s uplifting and only presents the LDS Church in a favorable light – even if the resulting narrative is not true.

44. It deceptively claims to be “Christian” when in reality it has taken Christian words, terms and forms and then changed the underlying meaning and content to an extent that they’re no longer congruent with historic, mainstream, Christian orthodoxy.

45. When it claims, “No tithing dollars were used for this building or project – the funds came from for-profit, church-owned entities” it ignores and/or obfuscates the fact that the seed, start-up, or acquisition funds logically and ultimately came from member tithes – a fact which negates the original claim.

46. It wavers on whether its ultimate authority for doctrine is the Bible, Mormon scriptures, statements of former Mormon prophets, statements of living Mormon prophets, and individual “revelation” even though these sources are often mutually contradictory.

47. It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the role of high ranking church leaders in the massacre of 120 innocent people in 1857 at Mountain Meadows.

48. It makes extraordinary – even outrageous – truth claims that are easily discredited by science, history, and the Biblical record.  For example: The genomics project has a vast body of DNA evidence that conclusively demonstrates that the American aborigines were from Asia not the Middle East; Those aborigines had already migrated and were well established in the Americas thousands of years prior to the alleged arrival of the Book of Mormon people, and; The Bible plainly states that the gospel, with its inclusion of Gentiles, was not fully revealed until after Christ’s death (see Ephesians 3:3-7).

49. It excuses, rationalizes, justifies, and white washes the crimes of its founder, famous members, and past leaders.  To cite just one of many such examples, polygamy was never legal whenever and wherever it was practiced by Latter-day Saint leaders and members.

50. On August 17, 1949, the First Presidency of the LDS Church stated: “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord” Yet the LDS Church refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that until 1978 – as a point of official doctrine (not folklore, opinion, or speculative theology) and policy – the church taught racism and excluded blacks from the priesthood and temple.

51. It has used home teachers and the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” as a means of surveillance on and control of members.

52. It hypocritically claims that polygamy has no place in the contemporary LDS Church even though Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132) is still canonized scripture and “Celestial Polygamy” (being eternally married to at least one more woman after being widowed or divorced) is practiced. Currently, three widowed Mormon Apostles (Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson) are Celestial Polygamists.

53. It claims that the LDS Church is patterned after the early church of Jesus’ apostles, but there are major differences. To cite just one of many examples, Christ only had 12-apostles but the LdS Church has 15.

54. It rationalizes and excuses the sin, bad behavior, errors of judgment, and disastrous decisions its prophets. They are buried, ignored, or ‘spun’ as “well-meaning human error with no need for apology or confession”.

55. It rationalizes away the revelations – even those that were fully canonized – of present or past “Living Prophets” that contradict contemporary LDS Church teachings and culture. The no-longer-in-vogue revelations are buried, ignored, or recast as “opinion not divine”. The “He was speaking as a man not a prophet” apologetic is typically used as the rationalization in these cases. Hence the critic’s couplet: “As heresy is, Mormon doctrine once was. As Mormon doctrine is, heresy will it become.”

56. It tolerates the chronic practice of eisegesis (injecting words and ideas into the text that the author did not intend, use or mean) by LDS Church Leaders as their standard hermeneutic in interpreting the Biblical, historical, and scientific record.

57. It rationalizes the failed prophecies of future events by past “Living Prophets” by burying, ignoring, or spin doctoring them as “just his opinion”, or as requiring more time for fulfillment.

58. It undermines intellectual integrity when, by following the example learned from LDS Church Leaders and Church Educational System (CES) curriculum  members engage in eisegesis as a lifestyle in all areas of life – not just scriptural interpretation but just about anything, and everything. Well known LDS Apologist Hugh Nibley is one of many examples of how this works: “…Nibley often uses his secondary sources the same way he uses his primary sources–taking phrases out of context to establish points with which those whom he quotes would likely not agree. I asked myself frequently what some authors would think if they knew that someone were using their words the way Nibley does…”
(Kent P. Jackson, “Review of Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies,” BYU Studies 28 no. 4 (1988), pp.115-17; also see http://lds-mormon.com/nibley1.shtml)

59. It uses the term “official doctrine” as a means of silencing critics and dissents even though there is no formal, codified definition for what constitutes “official doctrine”.

60. It tolerates an untenable situation whereby the canonization process isn’t officially defined or codified yet is used to deny past publications, prophetic revelations, and other utterances from past Mormon Leaders that are no longer in vogue. For example, despite the fact that the twenty-six volume “Journal of Discourses” contains General Conference addresses from 1854-1886 that were vetted and approved by the General Authorities at the time, they are soundly now rejected as “unofficial”. This despite Brigham Young’s assertion that, “I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . “ (“Journal of Discourses”, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95)

61. Alma 41:8 says, “Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.” yet the LDS Church keeps changing its scripture. Examples include the 1921 removal of the “Lectures on Faith”; the “Santa Biblia: Reina Valera 2009” which deviates wildly from both the source 1909 edition and the English LDS Edition of the Bible; the 2013 changes to all the English editions of The Standard Works; and the changes to the Book of Mormon that have been ongoing since 1830 – such as the 1981, post OD-2 change of “white and delightsome” to “pure and delightsome” in 2 Nephi 30:6.

62. It has failed to officially, publicly, and directly address the ever mounting discrepancies between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the archaeological, historical, theological, and scientific body of evidence.

63. It has failed to explain the incriminating consistency between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the empirical 19th Century, political, literary, cultural and theological record. For example, the Book of Mormon was so infused with 19th Century Campbellite doctrine and ideas that primitive Mormonism was referred to as “Campbellism Improved” by outsiders.

64. It has failed to provide an adequate, rational explanation for how Joseph Smith could “translate” the Book of Abraham from a set of Egyptian Book of Breathings papyri.

65. It has failed to reasonably explain how Joseph Smith could, via The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, append the Bible with “translations” of entire new books and chapters that have utterly no manuscripts backing them while simultaneously purging words, verses – even entire books – that are substantially supported by the extant manuscript base.

66. D&C 42:71-73 commands paid clergy: Saying in part, “they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services”. And while in actual fact the LDS Church compensates leaders via employment in church owned businesses, generous honoraria, stipends, grants, scholarships, gifts, company cars, free travel and lodging, housing and other non-cash contributions, in public it deceptively claims that “The LDS Church has no paid clergy”.

67. It hypocritically denounces those who claim to bring forth new scripture and revelations using the same methods and means that Joseph Smith did because they fail to conform to established LDS Church orthodoxy. This, while simultaneously criticizing the mainstream Christian Church for rejecting Mormonism because the revelations and scripture of its founder and subsequent “prophets” fail to conform to established Christian orthodoxy. One such example of this is Christopher Nemelka’s “The Sealed Portion”.

68. It allows LDS Church leaders and the Church Educational System (CES), to distance themselves from the work of LDS Apologists so as – it is believed – to create a “plausible deniability” escape hatch should the work of said Apologists be discredited by more qualified, objective scholarship. Nevertheless, both cite from the work of LDS Apologists (albeit typically not credited) while allowing the LDS Church to quietly fund the work of said apologists through indirect cash flows.

69. It engages in political action via direct and indirect cash flows and privately exhorts members to organize and engage in particular causes and then publicly denies any involvement. California’s Propositions 22 (circa 2000) and 8 (circa 2008) are two cases in point.

70. It publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend: A study co-written by Cragun and recently published in Free Inquiry estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.
(Caroline Winter, “How The Mormons Make Money”, Business Week; July 18, 2012)

71. It has allowed LDS Church leaders to obfuscate, spin-doctor, and blatantly lie to the media rather than standing with integrity and bolding telling the world what the LDS Church really believes, teaches, and practices.  Such behavior should be denounced and condemned not tolerated, justified, or praised. One example of this Gordon B. Hinckley lying to journalists about the role and function of the Lorenzo Snow couplet within LDS Theology.

72. It fails to recognize the over sixty (60) active Latter Day Saint movement denominations (aka “splinter groups”) while hypocritically condemning the denominationalism of Christianity as a proof of apostasy and lack of divine legitimacy. This hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers that over the 180+ year history of the LDS movement there have been over 200 Latter Day Saint denominations in total with new ones forming at a rate will be eventually far exceed and outpace the total number of Christian denominations.

THOUGHT CONTROL ISSUES
73. It teaches an irrational and subjective epistemological system while simultaneously belittling epistemology based on reason, objectivity, and empiricism.

74. It employs circular logic.  For example, consider its core truth claim: “The only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it’s the only true church.”  Another poignant example of circular logic is the infamous Doctrine & Covenants 9:8 “burning in the bosom” truth test that (in the vernacular) goes something like this:  “If you don’t get it, you did something wrong. If you do, that proves the church is true.” Further, when taking this test, you don’t ask God if the church is true, but rather to show you that it is true: “I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

75. LDS Church Missionary training and policies employs Mind Control techniques and tactics.

76. It keeps members so busy with LDS Church related activities that they don’t have time for personal reflection and self-autonomy. This is especially true of men as the demands of lay leadership tend to deprive them of real, regular, authentic family time.

77. It erroneously asserts that former members didn’t leave the LDS Church for any thoughtful or legitimate reasons but rather that they were thin skinned reactive, malcontents who left the LDS Church because they wanted to sin with impunity, or because of a perceived offense. Stated plainly, this is a hypocritical double standard: It’s OK to be troubled by, doubt, criticize, and even leave other churches, but this one can’t be questioned or left.

78. It discourages intellectual self-autonomy and self-responsibility and encourages dependency on LDS Church Leaders.

79. It engages in Mind Control tactics and techniques in recruiting, indoctrinating, and retaining members.

80. The LDS Church denies being man centered or exalting – claiming that it only lifts up Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as worthy of its worship. Yet its Hymnal contains songs of praise and adoration that exalts both dead (#27 “Praise to the Man”) and living men (#19 “We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet”). 

81. It requires members to remain in a “snapped” psychological state in order to remain believing members. For example, when members encounter troubling facts about Mormon History and/or doctrine they’re either told to pray about it or “put it on the shelf”. This is called “Thought Stopping” and it’s a technique that Mind Control Cults use to avoid the rigors of logic, reason, and uncomfortable realities.

82. The Book of Mormon warns, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (2 Nephi 15:20) yet the LDS Church requires members to adhere to moral relativism, loose ethics, and intellectual dishonesty in support of a belief system that lacks ethical congruity, consistency, and integrity. Some of the most obvious examples of this are: The practice of polygamy and the rationalization of that past polygamy today; A failure to acknowledge and apologize for its pre-1978 institutionalized racism, and finally; The practice known as “Lying for the Lord” throughout Mormon History.

83. It hypocritically rails against sound logic and reason as “the hollow and vain philosophies of men, not God” and then hypocritically attempts to (albeit poorly and inconsistently) employ logic and reason in its arguments and rhetoric.

84. It poisons members who leave the LDS Church against all other Theistic religions. This is best illustrated by the cliché used by both members and former members that goes something like this, “If the Mormon Church isn’t true then nothing is true.”

EMOTIONAL CONTROL ISSUES
85. It damages member psychology via the use of manipulative fear and unachievable standards of “worthiness”. Sadly, this lament is all too common: “Of course I do [have a testimony]! That’s what’s so terrible. I know the gospel’s true. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I can’t do it all, all of the time.” (Stephen E. Robinson, “Believing Christ”; Ensign, April 1992)

86. Whereas, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young preached, “A good man, is a good man, whether in this church, or out of it.” (“The Lions of the Lord: A Tale of the Old West” by Harry Leon Wilson, chap XXVIII, par 2) the modern LDS Church engenders arrogance and self-righteousness in members by telling them that they’re more enlightened and morally superior relative to the general population – including other good people of faith.

87. It uses guilt as a means of controlling members.

88. It “love bombs” investigators and new converts as a means of drawing them in.

89. It uses arbitrary, capricious, and ever changing criteria for Temple Recommend “worthiness”. For example Brigham Young’s 1856 worthiness questions (also see this ByteLine article)  are almost completely different than the current set of Temple Recommend Interview questions.

90. The Book of Mormon speaks of those who, “do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts …yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8: 36) Despite this the LDS Church culture engenders clannish, elitist, and pride in members via it a Temple, Priesthood, and oligarchical calling system that puffs member up rather encouraging and rewarding humility.

91. It encourages arrogant, condescending pride in members at all levels by telling them that they “have the whole and restored truth” that “apostates” only have in part and “gentiles” lack entirely.

92. It teaches that a rape victim has “lost her chastity” and that a woman should fight off her attacker or be killed in the attempt.  For example, Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, in his book “The Miracle of Forgiveness” said, “far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” (p. 196)  Thus, young Mormon women are taught that their chastity is more valuable than their life. The result is that a Mormon woman who survives a rape is made to feel guilty, and is thus victimized again, this time by her church.

93. It bestows the title “Elder” onto adolescent men (typically 18-years old) with little to no real life experience, thus puffing them up with arrogance and deluding them with prideful ignorance.

94. It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics and those of other faiths. For example, consider how it trains its missionaries to speak of other churches:

“Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost. Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.”
(“Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service”; Official LDS Church Missionary Training curriculum, p.35)

95. It creates undue demands as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual stress and strain on members via all the above.

Word and Music by Martin Smithwith_arms_wide_open_by_taorax-d2yg1sr-CROPPED
Is it true today that when people pray
Cloudless skies will break
Kings and queens will shake
Yes it’s true and I believe it
I’m living for you

Is it true today that when people pray
We’ll see dead men rise
And the blind set free
Yes it’s true and I believe it
I’m living for you

(this performance by Lindell Cooley and the Brownsville Worship Team)

I’m gonna be a history maker in this land
I’m gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind
I’m gonna stand, I’m gonna run
Into your arms, into your arms again
Into your arms, into your arms again

Well it’s true today that when people stand
With the fire of God, and the truth in hand
We’ll see miracles, we’ll see angels sing
We’ll see broken hearts making history
Yes it’s true and I believe it
We’re living for you

More inspiring performances of this history making song by the composer in performance with Delirious

by Fred Anson
Greg Stier is the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share. This open letter is in response to his January 26th, 2013 article, “Why Mormons Do Better Youth Ministry Than We Do” which was published on the Christian Post website. 

Greg Stier

Greg Stier

Dear Mr. Stier,

I am absolutely shocked and appalled that you have reposted this article!

As you will recall, when this article was originally posted 5-years ago I contacted you privately and asked you this simple question: “Doctrine and/or theology aside the LdS Church is (using sociological criteria alone) a Mind Control Cult. What’s the point of comparing our behavior with such a group – let alone holding up their practices as an example of things that we should/could be doing?”
(yes, I’m paraphrasing from memory – I don’t have the original correspondence)

In 2008 you reviewed the data that I provided to support these claims, agreed that I had a valid point and immediately took the article down. Yet, here we are 5-years later and here it is all over again – I’m utterly baffled by this Mr. Stiers, especially since not only has NOTHING changed in the LdS Church in this regard, things have actually gotten worse.

You see in October of 2012, the LdS Church dropped the age requirement for males missionaries to only 18-years old (down from 19-years old) and to 19-years old for female missionaries (down from 21-years old).
(see http://www.lds.org/church/news/church-leaders-share-more-information-on-missionary-age-requirement-change )

There has been great speculation as to why this decision was made but the general consensus is that is was because the LdS Church – whose retention rate is bad and getting worse (more on this later) – is losing too many young members after they’re exposed to the Internet and/or critical thinking in Universities after they graduate from High School.

A Missionary System For Future Atheists
In that vein, I must take issue with this statement:
“Maybe that’s why we don’t meet a lot of ex-Mormons, while there are hundreds of thousands of former church attendees in the true church of Jesus Christ (of everyday saints) who flee the church after graduating from high school.”

Mr. Stier, that’s because due to social pressure exerted on young people (young men in particular) to go on an LdS Mission many young people go into their missionary “without a testimony” (that’s Mormon-speak for, “an unbelieving Mormon”) hoping to get one.

I would ask you Mr. Stier, is this REALLY what we to see in our missionaries – unbelievers simply lip syncing dogma and the rhetoric that they learned during their Missionary Training and who don’t believe a word they’re saying?

In addition, your statement ignores the fact that a high percentage of LdS Missionaries (according to Mormon Historian and 34-year LdS Church Educational System teacher Grant Palmer the figure is now around 30%) leave the LdS Church within 5-years after their mission never to return.
(see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHsvZooc4Bc for support for the Grant Palmer assertion)

And since, according to a recent Pew Trust Survey, around 50% of those who leave the LdS Church become atheist, I think it fair to infer that’s true of these Returned LdS Missionary apostates as well.
(see http://www.pewforum.org/mormons-in-america/ for the Pew Trust Poll results mentioned)

Further, if you haven’t met a lot of ex-Mormons it’s probably because you’re not looking in the right place. So let me recommend these:

PostMormon.org
http://www.postmormon.org

The ExMormon Foundation 
http://www.exmormonfoundation.org

I Am An ExMormon
http://www.iamanexmormon.com/

Life After Mormonism
http://www.lifeaftermormonism.net/

And, BTW, most of them are atheists – I have yet to find a religion that poisons it’s former members against all forms of theism like Mormonism does, it’s really quite amazing! Again, is this really what you want – a youth missionary system that drives people away from God into atheism?

Why It’s A Mind Control Cult
And as I explained to you 5-years ago, there are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan in his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, published in 2000 by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA.

In chapter two, he gives four basic components of mind control, which form the acronym BITE. You can read more about the BITE Model here:
http://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php (retrieved 2012-09-25)

This model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to ANY group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter.

Steven Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. Furthermore, since one aspect of Mind Control Cults is lying, deceit, misinformation, “spin” and other obfuscating techniques for hiding “insider” secrets, active members and official group resources (such as websites, tracts, and other public facing materials) typically only allow an investigator to see a false, friendly fascade rather than true, harsh internal reality. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analysis’s that have been completed by former Mormons.

I would politely suggest that these analysis’s answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

The BITE Model and Mormon Control
by Luna Flesher
(an ExMormon and now a credentialed Cult Exit Counselor)
http://www.rationalrevelation.com/library/bite.html
(retrieved 2012-09-25)

The BITE model applied toward Momonisms’s two-year missionary program
as submitted by an ex-Mormon
http://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=372&title=Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter_Day_Saints_-_The_BITE_Model_Applied_Toward_Mormonism%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s_Two-Year_Missionary_Program (retrieved 2012-09-25)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism
as submitted by an ex-Mormon
http://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=370&title=Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter_Day_Saints_-_The_BITE_Model_Applied_Toward_Mormonism
(retrieved 2012-09-25)

ARE MORMONS (LDS OR LATTER-DAY SAINTS) A [Mind Control] CULT?
http://www.4witness.org/jehovahs_witness/jw_lds_cults.php
(retrieved 2012-09-25)

Finally Mr. Stiers, I must say that it pains me to have to make all this matter public. However, since it appears that nothing was learned in our private discussion 5-years ago I have no choice.

I would hope that this will be the end of this matter once and for all.

Thank you

Fred W. Anson

Grant Palmer discusses (among other things) the increasing apostasy of LdS Missionaries

(all web links retrieved date of post except where noted) 

I think that 2013 may well mean that it’s time
(I can hear the calling – do you?) 

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley

It’s time for the dead and gone
Time for the broken ones
to live again
It’s time time for the dead to rise
Time for the wings to fly
to live again

I can hear the calling
I can hear the sound of rain
Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to sing
Time for the walls
to ring
With the songs of freedom

It’s time for the numb
to feel
Time for the wounds
to heal
With the songs of freedom

It’s time time for the tide
to turn
Time for our hearts to burn
with a desperation
It’s time it’s time for a sacrifice
It’s time that we paid the price
for our generation

Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the numb
to feel
It’s time for the wounds
to heal
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time that we paid
a price
It’s time for
a sacrifice
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for children
to return home
It’s time for the prodigals
to come back
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time to break down
the walls
It’s time to see them all
fall down
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities
and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley) 

by Fred W. Anson

“Even when you lose you’re still the winner
At least you’ve got the makin’s of a song”
Waylon Jennings & Willy Nelson
[1]

Luther posting the 95-Theses onto the door of Wittenberg Castle Chapel (circa 1517)

Sit back, relax, and let me tell you a little story . . .
THE STORY
On the last two Reformation Days[2] I have released a list of 95-Theses very loosely based on Martin Luther’s which offers some concerns and grievances that I and a random collection of active Mormons, inactive Mormons, former Mormons, and never Mormons see in the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LdS Church). This began as and has always been a group effort, it has never been a solo act. Rather, it’s the result of many, many, many kind and generous collaborators (many whom are, no doubt, reading this article) however, inevitably – and no matter how much I stress this fact – both the praise and the blame for the published piece tends to be directed solely at me.   Please don’t understand me, there’s no harm, no foul here – after all I did willingly, and deliberately sign up for this gig!

The response to this list is always been interesting but this year it was particularly so, leaving me with the fine “makin’s of a song,” or more precisely, a mighty fine Mormon Studies case study.

Generally speaking, this year the feedback was positive and affirming with very little “push back” from faithful Mormons or suggestions for improvement from disaffected and former Mormons – which was the case last year.  So there’s not much to report there except that it was unexpected.

Rather, the big surprise came in the closed “Mormon Stories” Facebook group the day after I posted the standard promotional blurb (“With hope and prayer that we will see true reform by this time next year . . .”) with a link to the article. Again, for the most part the responses there were pretty much in line with what I was seeing elsewhere with the exception of a clarification on why I use the term “LdS Church” rather than “LDS Church”[3] and a lengthy discussion with one group member on how Mormon leaders and members tend to engage in eisegesis[4] when they interpret holy writ, history, science, and life in general. It’s a complex subject, and I think an interesting one, so I was happy to try to satisfy her interest in the subject.

Then, the next day, I received this private Facebook message from Mormon Stories founder and board administrator John Dehlin:[5]
“Fred – I’m getting lots of complaints about your participation on the MS board. I don’t mean to offend, but I feel like it might not be a good fit. It feels to many like your intent really is to lead people out of the church (whether that is your intent or not…that’s how it comes across). And that’s just not what this forum is about. Do you mind if we part ways? There are LOTS of forums out there….I feel like your engagement in this forum is driving away many of the people that I’m trying to include/reach.

Now, before I go any further I should probably explain that I’ve always felt I had a good understanding of the Mormon Stories mission. After all, it’s clearly outlined on their website starting with this summary statement, “Mormon Stories is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create online and in-person environments that allow for authentic self-expression and the open discussion of Mormonism.” It then proceeds to expand and describe in further detail the purpose and intention of the organization in some detail including, “… we endeavor to ensure that the projects we undertake 1) support individuals in Mormon-related faith crises, 2) save marriages, 3) heal families, and 4) celebrate, challenge, and advance Mormon culture in healthy ways.”[6]

Some thoughts immediately occur at this point:
1) Nowhere in their mission statement was I able to find a clause about how a tenet of the Mormon Stories mission is to help people stay in the LdS Church.

2) The declaration read before the August 12th, 2011 Mormon Stories event honoring D. Michael Quinn[7] explicitly affirmed the right to self identify as “Mormon” regardless of one’s state of membership in the LdS Church, again affirming the idea that Mormon Stories isn’t a membership retention organization.

3) I have always been sensitive to the fine line that John Dehlin walks in trying to help Mormons come to grips with true Mormon History and the issues in the LdS Church in a productive way. He takes “hits” from all sides that, frankly, I have frequently thought unjust, unfair, and unduly harsh.

4) Based on the rhetoric that John Dehlin has regularly used publicly, I had always thought that the Mormon Stories agenda included lobbying internally and externally for reform in the LdS Church. Personally, I had always thought of John Dehlin as an ally not an adversary.

4) The article in question was, to my way of thinking, very much presented and aligned with Mormon Stories stated intention to “challenge, and advance Mormon culture in healthy ways.”

So I immediately responded with the following, “Sorry about that is there something I can do to rectify the situation?”

I then attempted to enter the Facebook Mormon Stories discussion board only to find that my membership in the group had been revoked – in the vernacular, I had been banned. I then received notification from a friend who was still a member of the group that the following had been newly posted at the tail end of the aforementioned thread discussing the Reformation Day article:

Ms. D
“By the way, folks, I just want to point out to you that Fred W. Anston (sic) is NOT , and never has been a Mormon-LDS, LdS, or anything like that. You might want to keeep (sic) that in mind when considering his comments, his motives, his empathy and friendship. He does NOT know what it is like to be LDS, just so you know that, in case it makes a difference to you.”

So I contacted John Dehlin and asked him to remove the comment – which he did. My request to John was worded as follows:
“This is, quite simply, an ad-hominem AND a not too subtle attempt at character assassination.

I think that you and I can agree that this is inappropriate. Frankly, whether I’ve ever been LdS or not is irrelevant. Further, Ms. D doesn’t know my full background, my motives, or anything else about me. If she bumped into me at the supermarket tomorrow she might not even know it was me.

This is, quite simply, inappropriate.”

I was then contacted again, by a friend who was still in the group. That person provided me with the following discussion which immediately followed after John Dehlin deleted the aforementioned Ms. D’s comment:
Mr. P
“You can still have a Mormon Story without having been a member.”

Ms. H
“how?”

Ms. D
“So, as I was saying, Fred W. Anson is not, nor has he ever been a Mormon or LDS, or LdS or anything like that. You might want to keep that in mind when you read his comments, about how much he empathizes with you, understands you, is your friend, etc. He does NOT understand what it is like to be a member because he never has been one. He takes great care to conceal that fact–have you ever seen him reveal his status here? No, of course not. Not only that, but he avoids answering the direction question put to him in this thread above. Not only that, but he deleted my earlier, briefer comment in which I said that Fred W. Anson is not and never was Mormon. Let’s see if he takes this one down, too.[8]

Fred Ason (sic) is totally agenda driven , and his agenda is to fight against the Mormon Church and to dissuade people from the CHurch (sic). He takes umbridge (sic) at being called anti Mormon, and calls himself a scholar. Yet he does not act like a scholar. An example of a non Mormon scholar on Mormonism is Jan Shipps, a professor, and former president of the Mormon History Association. I don’t recall her tearing down the CHurch.(sic) Scholars STUDY things, they don’t wage war on things.”[9]

Ms. H
“thank you Ms. D…lets see how long before your comment disapears (sic) again.”

Mr. MH
“Another interesting conversation! Wow! I think Ms. D, Fred said NeverMO. I think that means he’s not a Mormon? He talks like a person who studies religion not a person who is religious. I think there is much difference. I read all of these posts and him and Ms. M, and he studies a lot, and posts a lot, but he does not have the spirit of Mormonism. Just sayin’…”

Ms. D
“OK, I went back and read everything more carefully, and I see where he mentions the Never Mo. my bad; missed it the first time. He is very cagey about what he reveals and when he reveals it. He studies a lot, yes, but with only one purpose in mind, to bolster his claims about what is wrong with the Mormon Church. That is not the way a scholar operates; a scholar studies to understand, and is objective and not emotional about the subject.

Fred uses a lot of fawning comments to garner trust. He uses false modesty and flattery. But his writing give me the impression of someone who is not what he says he is, but rather someone who is a narcissistic syncophant (sic).”

So I contacted John Dehlin via private message again and the following conversation ensued:

Fred W. Anson
“John, if you would please deal with the continuing vitriol from Ms. D I would appreciate it. But, of course I only say this because I am apparently a brown nosing, self-absorbed, self-loving Narcissistic Sycophant. Well now I know – my self awareness has chinked [up] a notch!

And, of course, the person who deleted her prior litany of ad-hominems wasn’t I – if you would clear that up I would appreciate that too.”

John Dehlin
“Thanks, Fred. Sorry things didn’t work out.”

Fred W. Anson
“Me too John. I really loved your group. Be well.”

And that was that. In the end , it just left me wonderin’, to paraphrase from one of my Country Western music heroes, “Did ol’ Luther really do it thisa way?”

FROM STORY TO CASE STUDY …
There’s a lot here isn’t there? In the end, this story makes a fascinating case study – it is, to use a tired cliche, quite revealing.

For a start, could someone explain to me why someone who’s just compiled and published a paper lobbying for internal reform of the LdS Church would being trying to push everyone out of it? If we assume that’s my goal and “hidden agenda” then it’s flawed because in the end there won’t be anyone left in the organization to reform it. I’d like to believe that I’m just not that stupid.

Rather, I would suggest, there seems to be a perception within Mormon Culture that criticism – and it seems ANY criticism – is a cry for an exodus from the organization.  To me, this mindset belies the deeply seeded propensity within Mormon Culture to bifurcate: That is, either you’re good or you’re evil; either you’re faithful or you’re an “Anti”; either you’re all in you’re all out. Though, thankfully there are exceptions, it seems like the typical Latter-day simply can not fathom the concept of a nuanced stance, loyal opposition, a full, free talk, and/or good willed investigation and criticism by outsiders. As journalists Richard J. and Joan Ostling observe:

“Such [scrutiny, analysis, commentary, and criticism by outsiders] is the give-and-take of a free and freewheeling society. The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormons can still display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is yet untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.

Nor are the Mormons alone in facing cultural despisers. Catholics put up with continual insults without complaint (except from the Catholic League). And the Protestant Evangelicals, who are not organized enough to create their own anti-defamation league, have had to endure the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind, Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, a recent onslaught of books claiming they seek to destroy American democracy in favor of “theocracy,” and the crude stereotypes in the latest made-for-TV movie.”[11]

And this author found it curious that Ms. D claims to be familiar with my work yet shows such incredible ignorance of it. For example, I have publicly and clearly stated my stance in regard to the Mormon Church on numerous occasions in my work – simply put it’s “Reformation not Destruction”. Or if you prefer the long version:

“I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad. After all isn’t that what happened to the Worldwide Church of God?

However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I’m find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.”[12]

Further, another interesting irony is that Ms. D both demonstrated and validated several of the grievances that were made in the offending document in question. Specifically:

#3) It [the LdS Church] villainizes critics – even constructive critics – both within and without its ranks.

#37) Its leaders and members use ad-hominems, insults, slurs, derogatories, labeling, and character assassination in their dealings with critics and apostates and then deny that they do so – often going so far as to claim that those who call them on this behavior are persecuting them.

#87) It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics.[13]

What seems to be lost on most Mormons is that even if you successfully discredit  the messenger it still doesn’t discredit either their message or the evidence presented in support of that message.  Ultimately ad-hominem arguments in any form are logically fallacious because they relate to the opponent’s person and/or character – neither of which have  anything to do with the logical merit of the opponent’s argument.[14] That is, even if 100% of the claims about your debating opponent’s person and/or character are true, in the end logic, reason, and evidence is what produces rational, cogent argument not personality, credentials, or character.

For example, Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger‘s labeling of Daniel Ellsberg, “The most dangerous man in America” as well as President Richard Nixon‘s labeling him a traitor didn’t make the Pentagon Papers any less true. In fact, they still would have been just as true if the Nixon Administration had successfully produced evidence that Ellsberg was mentally unstable – or even completely insane.  In the end such ad-hominem attacks said more about Mr. Nixon and his staff than they did about Mr. Ellsberg didn’t they?

In a similar vein, to assert that someone is a Narcissistic Sycophant and launching into a campaign of character assassination while utterly ignoring their evidence and arguments says far more about the ad-hominemer than the ad-hominee doesn’t it?

Please don’t misunderstand me – I would be the last to deny some narcissistic tendencies, I’m human and some degree of narcissism is normal and healthy. However, I would hope that mine is in the healthy range and not a clinical “disorder” such as Narcissism Personality Disorder (aka “NPD”).[15] But better safe than sorry so I “reality checked” with my accountability partners, (which includes a credentialed Mental Health Professional), and was assured that if narcissism were electricity I might power a light bulb (in the healthy range) but I wouldn’t power a marque (definitely not in the healthy range).

Further, and you can trust me on this one folks, if you want to have your ego kicked around and run over like a can in the street just get into Mormon Studies – it’s guaranteed to keep you humble!  Most of the Mormon Studies Scholars I know are humble, down-to-earth, folks not pathologists with an inner NPD fire underscoring their work.

As for the equally telling assertion that I engage in sycophancy[16] in support of my alleged pathological narcissism.  In response, I would simply point to my body of work: Tell me, does a sycophant compile a body of work that agitates, provokes, and challenges the status quo? Rather, my mentors have consistently encouraged me to use more tact as well as a kinder, gentler approach with those I’m trying to reach.  I am painfully aware that my default style is to shoot first and ask questions later. Therefore, I’m doing my best to listen more, talk less, and when I do talk be kinder and gentler in my demeanor and choice of words. Perhaps it’s this conscious – probably clumsy – effort to be a better man that she mistakenly perceived as sycophancy.

And if more evidence is required for my defense, when I reality checked this with my wife she howled with laughter – nearly fell out of bed in fact – because she’s seen me “in action” both online and in person (it came  at the end of a hard day  for her so she’d like to thank my accuser for the good laugh by the way – it was sorely needed)

Narcissistic Sycophant? Sorry, but my case apparently the answer is, “No.”

And adding to the growing list of comedic ironies is that very behavior she’s accusing me of is the diagnosis that Latter Day Saint forensic health professionals (Robert Anderson, C. Jess Groesbeck, and William Morain, M.D.) and historians (Fawn Brodie topping the long list) have stamped on Joseph Smith, Jr.’s file.[17] Further, there’s a difference between being civil, kind and respectful, as I believe I was on the Mormon Stories discussion board – and manipulating people through, as the ad-hominemer put it so well, “fawning comments to garner trust … false modesty and flattery” which the historical record demonstrates Joseph Smith did so adroitly throughout his life.

So I would suspect that the dynamic that’s really in play here is psychological projection.[18] Indeed, she has the right diagnosis but the wrong patient.

… TO PRACTICAL APPLICATION
In the end this story really makes me wonder just what is going with Mormon Stories. As previously stated, I’ve always had the utmost respect for John Dehlin’s work. I have always felt that he’s reasonable and has a sense of justice and equity.

However, by first banning me from the group and then leaving a litany of derogatory, inflammatory personal attacks on me, my motives, and my character (after I’d specifically asked for their removal no less) was the cyber-equivalent of handcuffing me and then walking away while I was beat up. This isn’t just “bad form” it’s unjust and unfair.

This is even more telling when you consider that Ms. D didn’t post in the thread before Mr. Dehlin banned me from the Mormon Stories Facebook group – her sole purpose in posting, therefore, was clearly to character assassinate me thereby, in her mind, discrediting my work simply because she disagreed with it.  This is hardly a mature, rational approach to public disagreement but sadly these days it’s common.

Further, I find Mr. Dehlin’s behavior particularly puzzling given what transpired earlier this year in June:
“In 1998, FARMS was brought into BYU under the umbrella of the Maxwell Institute, and the Mormon Studies Review came with it. Review writers responded to critics’ allegations by dissecting their arguments — and motives — sometimes writing scathing and often personal attacks on those who challenged LDS origins. It was, they believed, the essence of apologetics.

The tipping point against that approach may have been a 100-page article about John Dehlin, a church member in Logan who launched Mormon Stories, which welcomes those who question aspects of LDS history, practice and theology. Dehlin’s group has published articles about reasons Mormons leave the fold and research on gay members, among other topics.

After hearing about the piece, Dehlin called an LDS general authority who was a personal friend. Eventually, Maxwell Institute Director Gerald Bradford pulled the article from the journal, leaving a giant hole and putting it behind in its publishing schedule.

‘I have had enough conversations with general authorities to know,” Dehlin said this week, “that they don’t view ad hominem attacks as a constructive way to do apologetics.'”[19]

So is it reasonable to now conclude that while Mr. Dehlin feels that ad-hominem attacks aren’t appropriate or constructive when he’s the target of such attacks, that’s not the case for others?

Cases in point:  In June Daniel C. Peterson was terminated from his position at Maxwell amidst a chorus of ad-hominems from the Mormon Stories community.  Then in November I was terminated from the Mormon Stories Facebook group as ad-hominems flowed. In both cases some hand wringing and regret was expressed by Mr. Dehlin but the end result was the same – as they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Further, a consensus is building that the tone, nature, and content of Mormon Stories after the Daniel C. Peterson firing became noticeably less critical and more and more an advocate for the LdS Church. More and more critical voices it seems are being pruned from all things Mormon Stories and being replaced with those who skew toward a conciliatory, occasionally even apologetic stance. Nothing has been said but this trend has been noted by many.  Simply put, Mormon Stories “ain’t what it used to be” and even seems to drifting further and further away from it’s mission statement.

For me, this is disappointing. Like so many others I have trusted, liked, and respected the Mormon Stories founder, and I have supported Mormon Stories to the best of my ability (including financially I might add), and defended both against critics from all sides. Now I find that I must reconsider that stance as I have discovered the hard way that perhaps my trust and support was misguided.

For myself and others who watched this story unfold the final take away seems to be: “Well now we know what we’re really dealing with”

Further, and in a similar vein, the final lesson learned here seems to be just how incredibly elitist and exclusive Mormon Culture can be. Let’s consider a few more of the statements that were made in the thread:

“Fred W. Anston (sic) is NOT , and never has been a Mormon-LDS, LdS, or anything like that. You might want to keeep (sic) that in mind when considering his comments, his motives, his empathy and friendship.”

Depersonalizing that and taking it at face value, I take that to mean that someone who’s never been a Latter-day Saint can’t possibly be knowledgeable about and/or trusted to have a legitimate perspective about Mormon Culture. The contemporary LdS mindset still seems to be, as the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America, “the wilderness is yet untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail.”  The idea that outsiders could be watching, hoping, praying, and lobbying for positive reform in the LdS Church seems to be lost on some Mormons.

Further, I’ve seen similar but even more vitriolic language used by true believing Mormons to describe both former and active members that publicly express their criticism of the institution – so it seems to be that having a reasonable understanding of the LdS Church and it’s resulting culture isn’t the real issue here.[20] Rather, I think, that what’s being demonstrated here is Anson’s long held view of how many Mormons practically define “Anti-Mormon,” which is: “I’m upset because I don’t like what you’re saying so you MUST be an Anti-Mormon!”[21]

The next assertion is even more telling: “He does NOT know what it is like to be LDS.” Though Mormons don’t like hearing it the former members of other Mind Control Cults who educate themselves on the LdS Church typically react with an, “I can’t believe it – the Mormon Church is just like <name of the group that they’re from> only with different words, leaders, and sacred books!”[22] In fact, every cultist is utterly and completely convinced that there has never – in the entire history of the world – been a group like theirs, never will be, and only insiders can truly understand and appreciate that fact. However, this type of exclusivist, insular, myopic thinking, we’re told by experts is one of the biggest indicators that a group is cult.

And this was certainly true in my case. I was a member of a Mind Control Cult from 1976-1989[23] and to this day it stuns me how much like the LdS Church we were. And the more Mormon History I read, the more similarities I see in the developmental paths of our group and the LdS Church – it is simply amazing. And yes, I thought that both my group and my experience in that group was utterly and completely unique in world history. So in the end, no, I can’t say that I know EXACTLY what it’s like to be a Latter-day Saint, but yes, I can certainly empathize and relate based on my experience in a group that was so similar that at times it seems like I was really in the LdS Church by another name.

And I’m reminded of how when I was exiting my group in I frequently used the defense mechanism know as “Ugly Sister Syndrome” in which I critiqued, criticized, condemned, even mocked my “ugly sister” but if you – someone who had never been a member – did I would do a “18o” come to her defense, and attack you instead.  Perhaps that was one of the dynamics in play here – after all some of the critical commentary by current and former Latter-day Saints in the closed Mormon Stories Facebook group that I saw while I was still a member was absolutely brutal – far, far, far more extreme than any rhetoric that I’ve ever used.

Perhaps this explains the commonly observed phenomenon of Jack, Ex, New Order, and Atheist LdS Church members who will passionately and bluntly criticize LdS leaders, the organization, policies, culture – even their own families – endlessly but turn around and defend them with the same level of passion if an “outsider” does.

Further, and in support of my case, I would ask those in Mormon Culture to consider what one Ex-Mormon observed: “Mr. IT [my alias on PostMormon.org] did something even more remarkable. He is a nevermo with Mo relatives. He went directly from unaffiliated to apostate without experiencing all the pain and surreal experience of being a member.”[24] And since I’m nothing special I would suggest that what’s true for me may be true of other “NeverMo’s” too.

That’s why I find the objection that someone who has never been a member of the Mormon Church couldn’t possibly have a “Mormon Story” closed minded and elitist to the extreme. The final comment in the thread (as of the time of writing that is) said it so well that I will simply echo and endorse it as, in a nutshell, it describes my Mormon Story:

Mr. P
Ms. H, Nevermos have Mormon Stories too. They may have family or close friends that are Mormon and it can affect their lives deeply. Others may have investigated with a close encounter to baptism.

Yes friends it’s true, NeverMo’s have their own Mormon Stories and if you doubt me just start at the top of this article and read to the bottom. And, yep, in the end and yessiree, I reckon ol’ Luther really did do it thisa way!

Martin Luther at The Diet of Worms (circa 1521)

NOTES
[1] Lyrics from the chorus of “The Makin’s of a Song” by Jennings, Seals, Barnes, Nelson as recorded on the album “Clean Shirt” by Waylon Jennings & Willy Nelson.

[2] Reformation Day is October 31st of each year. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_Day

[3] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka, “LDS Church”) is the name of the Strangite Church (see http://www.strangite.org ). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “LdS Church”) is the official name of the Brighamite church (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints ) that was being addressed in the article. To not honor this distinction would have been a incongruent contraction with #93 on the list which says:

“93) It fails to recognize the over sixty (60) active Latter Day Saint movement denominations (aka “splinter groups”) while hypocritically condemning the denominationalism of Christianity as a proof of apostasy and lack of divine legitimacy. This hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers that over the 180+ year history of the LDS movement there have been over 200 Latter Day Saint denominations in total with new ones forming at a rate will be eventually far exceed and out pace the total number of Christian denominations.”

[4] “Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” as opposed to exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisegesis (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[5] Should anyone object to the disclosing of private messages in response to public ad-hominems I would simply point to John Dehlin’s disclosure of private messages in response to the threat of public ad-hominems that were to be published in a The Maxwell Institute publication:

Grindael, “Of Mice And Egos”, Mormon Musings, July 20, 2012
http://mormonitemusings.com/tag/john-dehlin/ (retrieved 2012-11-05)

MormonStories, “Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, John Dehlin, & Lou”, Mormon Dialogue, thread started May 10, 2012; private emails are disclosed by John Dehlin and others throughout the entire 29 page discussion thread.
http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/57768-greg-smith-dan-peterson-john-dehlin-lou/page__st__40 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[6] Mormon Stories Podcast About page: http://mormonstories.org/about (retreived 2012-11-03)

[7] John Dehlin, “285-287: D. Michael Quinn – 21st Century Mormon Enigma”; Mormon Stories Podcast, September 17, 2011
http://mormonstories.org/register-now-an-evening-with-d-michael-quinn-august-12th-2011 (retreived 2012-11-03)

[8] She is, of course, referring to the post that John Dehlin deleted at my request. Since I wasn’t a Administrator of the group I couldn’t have deleted her post. I find this projection of a  power onto me that I have never possessed – and never will possess – to be telling.

[9] By the way, I addressed this argument in “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”, Mormon Expression Blogs, July 11, 2011; http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/07/11/falsely-accused-my-life-as-an-anti (retrieved 2012-11-04)

[10] Here’s an example of Ms. D’s continuing character assassination campaign that was posted on November 6th in another discussion thread in the closed Mormon Stories Facebook page:
“Yeah, here in Oklahoma people like to tell us what we believe. It’s the southern Baptist/Evangelical thing–their preacher preaches against Mormons in Church and tell them what Mormons believe, what the Book of Mormon is about, etc. They even have some people who specialize in “Mormonism” who do it like full-tme (sic) (like that Fred Anson guy–I never understood what he gets out of “studying” Mormonism all the time and trying to convince people to get out of the church. I don’t miss him one bit). Anyway, my kids grew up with this all the time in school. But yeah, you can sometimes see where they actually have some stuff “right”, but usually a bit distorted or out of context, so it sounds even wierder. (sic)”

I found this particularly amusing since: a) I’ve never been Baptist – and if I have a choice in the matter I never will be; b) Like most in Mormon Studies, I don’t do it full time – it’s solely an avocation; c) My objective isn’t, and never has been, “to convince people to get out of the [LdS] church.”  I have made very clear in my body of work – more on this later.

And, to this author, it’s amusing that Ms. D starts her argument complaining about those who “shoot first and ask questions later” while she is in fact engaging in the very behavior that she’s so incensed about. I have advised many a ranting Mormon flamer to “ask not tell” but I’ve noticed common sense and practical wisdom tend to fall on deaf ears once someone has been labeled an “Anti” by a Mormon – after all, sociologists tell us that facts, respect, and civility are secondary once the other party is psychologically labeled “enemy”.

[11] Richard and Joan Ostling, “Mormon America, Revised Edition”, position 310.7/1158 Kindle edition

[12] Op Cit, Fred W. Anson, “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”

[13] “What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?” (2012 edition)
https://beggarsbread.org/2012/10/31/whats-wrong-with-the-mormon-church-2012-edition
(retrieved 2012-11-07)

[14] “Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponents in order to attack their claims or invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This is logically fallacious because it relates to the opponent’s personal character, which has nothing to do with the logical merit of the opponent’s argument, whereas mere verbal abuse in the absence of an argument is not ad hominem nor any kind of logical fallacy.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem (retrieved 2012-11-16)

[15] For a primer on Narcissist Personality Disorder please see the following U.S. National Library of Medicine  article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001930  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

[16]  The definition of “sycophant” or “sycophancy” with links to other resources regarding sycophantic behavior can be found here: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sycophant  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

In this context Ms. D is referring to sycophancy as a psychological supply system for narcissism.  The relationship between the behaviors is discussed here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_supply (retrieved 2012-11-23)

[17] Those interested in a short primer on the case for Joseph Smith’s NPD should consider Appendix A  below.

[18] Psychological projection or projection bias (including Freudian Projection) is the unconscious act of denial of a person’s own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.

Projection is considered one of the most profound and subtle of human psychological processes, and extremely difficult to work with, because by its nature it is hidden. It is the fundamental mechanism by which we keep ourselves uninformed about ourselves. Humor has great value in any attempt to work with projection, because humor presents a forgiving posture and thereby removes the threatening nature of any inquiry into the truth.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

[19] Peggy Fletcher-Stack, “Shake-up hits BYU’s Mormon studies institute”, The Salt Lake City Tribune, June 26, 2012; http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/utes/54358137-78/mormon-institute-peterson-studies.html.csp (retrieved 2012-11-04)

[20] Op Cit, Fred W. Anson, “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”; the list of “Anti-Mormons” so described even includes former LdS President, Gordon B. Hinckley – believe it or not!

[21] Ibid. Please note that I expanded on this further in my article, “Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?” ( http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/10/20/can-a-mind-control-cult-reform-itself )

[22] Please consider the following:

Anonymous, “Scientology-Lite”; Mormon Expression, February 19, 2011
http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/02/19/scientology-lite (retrieved 2012-11-05)

John Larsen and “Joe”; “Episode 80: Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses”, September 14, 2010
http://mormonexpression.com/2010/09/14/80-leaving-jehovah-witnesses (retrieved 2012-11-05)

“Teddy”, “My Former Cult (World Wide Church of God)”, Sam Harris Forum, May 25, 2007
http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/6839 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[23] I’ve written two articles that reference my experiences in the Mind Control Cult known as “The Shepherding Movement” thus far:

Fred W. Anson, “My Life as a Mind Control Cultist Part 1”, Mormon Expression, August 22, 2011
http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/08/22/my-life-as-a-mind-control-cultist-part-1 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

Fred W. Anson, “Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?”, October 20, 2011
http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/10/20/can-a-mind-control-cult-reform-itself (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[24] “HikerR” Posting on PostMormon.org 2007-11-26; link now dead – this quote was captured at the time. And. yes, I am rather proud of it.

APPENDIX A: THE NARCISSISM AND SYCOPHANCY OF JOSEPH SMITH, JR.

C. Jess Groesbeck, M.D.

The subject of Joseph Smith Narcissistic Sycophancy is one that this author feels is best covered in Robert Anderson’s book, “Inside The Mind of Joseph Smith” and William D. Morain’s book, “The Sword of Laban“. While both of these books, in my opinion are watershed, Jungian Psychiatrist, C. Jess Groesbeck also compiled an impressive supporting body of work on the subject via his Sunstone lectures and articles prior to his death in 2009. Let the reader note that all of these men are Latter Day Saints – two (Anderson and Groesbeck) are Latter-day Saints and the third (Morain) is a member of the Community of Christ. What now follows is a brief, far from comprehensive, overview and primer on the subject that I hope will spur the reader to consider the aforementioned esteemed works in it’s wake.

“[‘Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith’ author Robert] Anderson theorizes that Joseph Smith suffered from the narcissistic personality disorder. He points out that there is a danger in attempting to explain human behavior through psychodynamic theory. Accepting such theory as fact can cause damage. A few decades ago psychiatrists speculated that some serious mental illnesses were caused by the influence of the mother or of the environment. Now we know that chemical treatments such as lithium can effectively treat some of these illnesses. It is possible that in the future narcissistic personalities may respond favorably to specific medications. The fact is that the cause and source of the narcissistic personality are not known. However, the psychodynamic setting provides an unusual laboratory for studying this emotional problem, and some individuals do seem to respond to prolonged intensive psychotherapy.

In his analysis of Joseph Smith, Anderson draws upon the body of literature, especially the Book of Mormon, produced by observation, experiment, theory, and psychiatric experience in his attempt to understand the founder of Mormonism. He says that splitting, a fundamental of personality weakness, is a major psychological defense demonstrated by the prophet. Its most obvious manifestations are:

1) the division of the world into polar opposites and
2) the lack of integration of the various parts of the patient’s psyche.

The individual may oscillate between two opposite positions. This behavior can be seen in the polarized opposites of the Nephite and Lamanite people depicted in the Book of Mormon, as well as in Smith’s ability to present one face in public (such as denying polygamy) while simultaneously converting associates and new plural wives to the principle in private.

The individual may also exhibit psychological reversal of attitudes toward particular persons, by switching instantly from compliments to vilification, or of oscillation in moral positions, yet not be troubled in the contradiction. Examples are the instantaneous conversions of Alma, Jr., Zeezrom and the whole Lamanite population in 30 BCE in the Book of Mormon. Another example was Smith’s strong opposition to Masonry as a young man, followed by his later becoming a Mason himself and drawing on Masonic ritual for temple ceremonies.”
(Robert Layton, “Discussion Group Report: Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith”; http://www.humanistsofutah.org/2002/InsideTheMindOfJosephSmith_DiscGrp_9-02.html (retrieved 2012-11-03)

And Smith’s tendencies in this regard are well documented in the historical record. For example, in 1843 Charlotte Haven wrote some letters from Nauvoo which contain some candid observations about Joseph Smith:

“Joseph Smith … is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped going to and from Springfield people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was so ‘handsome and good looking'”
(Overland Monthly, December 1890, p.621).

“He talked incessantly about himself, what he had done and could do more than other mortals, and remarked that he was “a giant, physically and mentally.” In fact, he seemed to forget that he was a man…. They say he is very kindhearted, and always ready to give shelter and help to the needy. We may hope so, for a kind heart in this place can always be active.”
(p.623).

I rushed out with the umbrella to shield Mrs. Smith, the others followed…. Mrs. Smith was pleasant and social, more so than we had ever seen her before…. while her husband is the greatest egotist I ever met.”
(p.631)

And for evidence of Joseph Smith’s sycophantic tendencies one need only refer to passages like this in Doctrine & Covenants:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou [Oliver Cowdery] for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been benlightened by the Spirit of truth;

Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee—that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.

Therefore be diligent; astand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word’s sake.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 6:14-18 ; http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/6.14-18?lang=eng#13 )

Now if this revelation wasn’t divinely inspired then it’s about as fine an example of narcissistic sycophancy as one could hope for. Further, this is just one of many such examples of Smith’s use of sycophantic language (albeit using the voice of God) in Doctrine & Covenants.  If this thesis is correct then the following resources can be used to read through other examples of how Smith used sycophancy to manipulate his followers:

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Study Guide
“People and Terms in the Doctrine and Covenant”
https://www.ldsces.org/manuals/doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history-seminary-student-study-guide/dc-ssg-8-people.asp

Susan Easton Black, “Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants” [Kindle Edition]
http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Who-Doctrine-Covenants-ebook/dp/B004BDOZEY

Again, this appendix is intended to be a short primer and overview.  If the reader is interested in further study of this complex and nuanced issue, the books, articles, and lectures mentioned at the start of this short primer are recommended.

by Fred W. Anson
Introduction
Eight years ago today on November 14, 2004 for the first time in 105 years, non-Latter-day Saint “gentiles” stood at the pulpit of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. The focus of the event was to be an address by Christian Apologist and Philosopher Ravi Zacharias entitled, “The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ”. However, Mr. Zacharias’ superb address was eclipsed by a short, slightly less than seven-minute address by Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard J. Mouw.

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Dr. Mouw, in what the Deseret News referred to as “stunningly candid” comments, apologized to Mormons on behalf of evangelicals for what he sees as less than Christian treatment of Latter-day Saints and the LdS Church throughout Mormon History. His language, in this writer’s opinion, was overly broad, general, universal, and lacking nuance. The royal “we” was used extensively and qualifying terms like “some”, “a few”, or their equivalent were conspicuous in their absence.

Essentially all evangelicals (with the exception of Dr. Mouw and his associates, who were praised directly or indirectly) were thrown under the bus creating the impression among Mormons that their worst fears about Evangelicals that challenge and confront Mormonism are true after all: Specifically, that they are bigoted liars who are driven by deeply seeded animosity toward Mormons. This, in most cases, is not only unfair but untrue.

In reality, regardless his thoughts and intentions, Dr. Mouw has made relations between Mormons and Evangelicals worse not better. In this author’s opinion he has done both sides a disservice and created a volatile and confused environment that didn’t exist prior to his apology. Dr. Mouw’s poor choice of words and bad judgment created this unfortunate situation and I, for one, think it high time that someone did something about it.

Now since Dr. Mouw seems to think it perfectly acceptable and appropriate to apologize for others without their permission, consent, or foreknowledge, I’ll simply borrow a page from his play book and, using the template that he created and precedent that he established, set the record straight:

The Apology
It is difficult for me to find adequate words to express how thrilled I am to be in Mormon Studies in this ‘Mormon Moment’! Here we are, evangelical Protestants and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gathered together on the Internet and elsewhere dialoguing, discussing, debating – it’s an exciting time to be alive!

So I am not being melodramatic when I say that this is surely an historic period. To be sure, there have long been friendships between evangelicals and Latter-day Saints but they generally haven’t appeared on the public radar screen. Often the public relations between our two communities have been, to put it mildly, decidedly strained. This is hardly surprising given the mutually contradictory belief systems and theological world views that we hold to.

From the very beginning, when Joseph Smith organized his church in 1830, my evangelical forebearers very correctly and rightly confronted he and his followers with the incongruity between their beliefs and practices relative to the absolute standard of the Bible. This is a practice that continues from most quarters of mainstream Christianity even into this present day. And I think it is fair to say that most Mormons haven’t always “appreciated” these efforts no matter how well intended. As a result, friendship with each other has not always come easily for our two communities – but, never-the-less and thankfully, it has come.

In recent times things have begun to change both for the better and for the worse. The good news is that evangelicals and Mormons have continued to work together on important matters of public morality and policy. However, the bad news that some evangelicals have mistakenly believed that such interaction requires compromise with and pandering to Mormonism. For example in Utah, the Standing Together ministry seems to have chosen a path of appeasement and accommodation with the LdS Church. Further it has embraced Mormons who seem to make manipulation and deception their stock-in-trade. That has only not been inappropriate it has created needless confusion on both sides of the divide and with the public.

Thankfully like the town squares of old we can all gather via the gracious hospitality of the internet and hold these errant, counter-productive groups and people accountable for their folly. When appropriate there’s been a loud evangelical outcry on those occasions when groups like Standing Together accommodate LdS Church error.  And I’ve noticed that a ground swell of Mormon voices is slowly building regarding how the LdS Church (as well as some of it’s members) present itself, its history and its teachings to both it’s membership and the public. This is encouraging!

On a personal level, over the past half-dozen years I have been a member of a group of evangelical scholars who have been engaged in lengthy public discussions about spiritual and theological matters with Latter-day Saints. We have not been afraid to argue strenuously with each other, but our arguments have been conducted in a sincere desire genuinely to understand each other-and in the process some deep bonds of friendship have been formed in the midst our disagreements.

I know that I have learned much in this continuing dialogue, and I am a far better person today as a result of it. And I am now convinced that despite the fact that some evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community the majority have not. And, personally, whenever I’ve encountered that small minority I have been as direct and to the point as I have been with those Mormons who misrepresent the beliefs and practices of the evangelical community.

On that note, and to get specific regarding observed behavior on our side of the divide  I’ve watched in stunned disbelief as the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard J. Mouw has seriously, publicly, and repeatedly misrepresented the beliefs and practices of both the evangelical and Mormon communities. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the evangelicals and Mormons reading this: Richard J. Mouw has sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and he has been guilty of that sort of transgression in things he has said about all of us – evangelical and Mormon alike.

The body of evidence indicates that He has accepted the personal opinions, spin doctored and “milk before meat” version about what the Lds Church believes from honesty challenged Mormons without making a sincere effort to fact check what he’s been told against official, correlated LdS Church sources.

Further, while he has recognized that we evangelicals have made much of the need to provide Mormons with a strong defense of traditional Christian convictions, regularly quoting the Apostle Peter’s mandate that we present them a reasoned account of the hope that lies with in us, Dr. Mouw hasn’t been careful to also recognize how most evangelicals throughout the ages have always endeavored to follow the Apostolic counsel that immediately follows that mandate, when Peter tells us that we must always make our case with “gentleness and reverence” toward those with whom we are speaking.[1]

Further, and most distressingly, he has demonized those evangelicals who have confronted the Mormon teachings that the Bible condemns as false. He has even woven bizarre conspiracy theories that suggest that those in the Christian Counter Cult community are “really” motivated by and trafficking in covert bigotry, exaggeration and lies. This also is simply not true, therefore and in my opinion, Mr. Mouw needs to repent of bearing false witness against his brothers and sisters in Christ.

In fact, most in the Counter Cult community are committed to speaking the truth in love. By doing so over the years they have formed some wonderful friendships with both Mormons and ExMormons. These friendships have helped us to see the ways in which Mr. Mouw has misinterpreted and misrepresented the true perception and impact of these evangelicals in Mormon Culture. To be sure, as a result of those conversations we also remained convinced that there are very real issues of disagreement between us-and that some of these issues are matters of eternal significance. But we can continue to discuss these topics as friends and fellow seekers of the truth – and the Internet has been a Godsend in this regard. God be praised!

Next month will mark the 207th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. We know and understand that Mormon culture typically uses the month as an occasion to pay special attention to Joseph’s life and teachings. However, please hear my heart when I tell you that we evangelicals are praying and long for the day when the month will be far, far, far less about Joseph Smith for our Mormon friends, but all about the One whose incarnation Christians celebrate each year instead. This is the One about whose birth we sing and whom we exalt above all. I should add, that there is nothing more that we long for more than our Mormon friends to join us with swelled hearts and spiritual eyes solely fixed on that One when we sing -“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

What a wonderful thing it is that we can meet together to talk about the Lord Jesus and about who he is and what he has done on behalf of all who have accepted His free gift of salvation through faith by grace plus nothing and can thus now know with complete certainty that they will spend eternity securely and completely in the presence of God. There is much here to talk about for we pray for the day when our Latter-day friends and family members will receive this free gift without believing that it must be paid for with good works.

I personally take great encouragement for hope of a Great Restoration in the LdS Church – for in the words of LdS Scholar Thomas G. Alexander, “…before about 1835 the LDS doctrines on God and man were quite close to those of contemporary Protestant denominations.”[2] And I’m reminded of the words that Joseph Smith uttered on the occasion of the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1830 when he said: “…we know,that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.”[3] He then added: “And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, and we know also that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.”[4] Thus, it is my prayer that Mormonism will be restored to true, historic Christian, Biblical orthodoxy within my lifetime.

Thus I greet you in that spirit-as one who wants more than anything else to love and serve God with all my might, mind and strength, in the power made available by the amazing grace that sent the Lord Jesus first to Bethlehem’s manger and then ultimately to the Cross of Calvary, where he shed his blood and sacrificed himself to fully pay the debt of my sin and yours -a debt that we can never, never pay on our own.

This is the spirit in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us all -the spirit of devotion to the One whose name is above every name, the One who alone is mighty to save, and before whom someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord to the glory of the Father. May our continuing dialog and conversations point us all to that great day.

Thank you and God bless you.

NOTES
[1] 
“… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:15&16; New American Standard Bible (NASB)
[2] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology”; Sunstone Magazine, July-August 1980,  p.24
[3] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 29; April 1830
[4] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 30&31: April 1830

Further Reading
– A transcript of Dr. Muow’s original November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle apology can be read here.  
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.
– A critical analysis and editorial on Dr. Muow’s methods and mean cans can be read here.

(all links retrieved 2012-11-12)