Archive for the ‘Jesus Christ’ Category

21-reasons-to-leave-the-mormon-church-03

by Michael Flournoy
Recently an article entitled “21 Reasons it Doesn’t Matter if the Church is True” came out of a popular Mormon website. It lists several reasons, regardless of the truth, that someone might want to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my opinion, this is mind boggling. The primary reason to join the church, one would think, would be because it is true. While I was serving my mission in Anaheim, California I never told people they should join because we have great casseroles or a famous choir. You know why? Because if the LDS Church is false, none of those things matter! If Mormonism is not true, it is a fraudulent version of Christianity and an enormous sham.

So without further ado, here is my list of 21 reasons leaving the Mormon Church might be a great idea, even if it is true.

1) Formal Dress
It takes 20% longer to get ready for Mormon church…. maybe. Probably. Especially when you factor in all the kids. And really, who wants to be sitting in church with a tie that’s choking you to death the whole time and those starchy, formal clothes? Maybe God doesn’t care what we look like on the outside as much as he looks on the heart.

2) Formal Prayers
Who wants to be spoken to in thees and thous? Someone who’s not very personable, that’s who. In LDS Church literature about prayer, it is often explained that thees and thous are used in prayer because they used to be informal. Well, guess what people? Not anymore! Get with the times!

3) Formal Testimonies
Are you seeing a trend yet? LDS testimonies have so many restrictions on them, that they’ve lost all potency. No “storymonies”, no travelogues, no confessions, etc. This has been done to stop the crazies from going up to the pulpit and wasting hours of our time, but wouldn’t you know it, they go up anyways! And they ignore the restrictions! Last time I attended fast and testimony meeting, a crazy lady got up and shared story after story about nothing at all. The alternative, of course, is the standard, “I know the Church is true, I know Joseph was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, and Jesus is the Christ.” If you think these were the testimonies that defeated the armies of Satan, you’re kidding yourself!

4) Praise to the Man
The very fact that they have a hymn praising Joseph Smith (that they sing on a semi-regular basis) is reason to leave. Especially when you consider that God (allegedly) said in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 that the song of the righteous is a prayer to Him. Thus, the opening hymn is actually a prayer, and when we sing about Joseph Smith, the opportunity to pray to God is sacrificed.

dying-church-15) Three Hours of Church Services
You read that correctly, three hours of Church.

One …

Two …

Three …

By hour 2.5, are we really still getting spiritually fed? Really?

6) Meetings, Meetings, Everywhere
If you’re unlucky enough to be in leadership in the LDS church, you’re required to go to extra meetings aside from the three hours of church on Sunday. When I was a Ward Mission Leader, I had to attend Ward Council (at 6:30 am, I might add) and I had to conduct a missionary meeting on Thursday evenings. I’ve had meetings go for hours as well, and all this detracts from time with family, and God.

7) Kiss Saturdays Goodbye
I remember once trying to start a soccer league in the ward on Saturday mornings. For whatever reason, it never picked up steam. First, there was the week we had to go put mulch around the church building, then the next week there was that move, then the next week… well, you get the picture. It is physically impossible to do anything not churchy on Saturdays.

8) Judgment/Gossip
If there’s one overarching negative thing about Mormon culture, it’s judgment. Mormonism has a lot of rules, and so there’s a lot of room to judge people for breaking those rules. For example, if I go to church with a Dr. Pepper in my hand, I’ll be judged (by some LDS) for drinking caffeine. I’m also likely to be judged if my kid is dirty, if I come without my spouse, or if I don’t take the sacrament. In fact, this culture of nosiness and judgment causes folks to hide their sins and keep up a very good outward mask of righteousness.

9) The Book of Morm..zzzzz
The Boring of Mundane, oops… The Book of Mormon is the most uninspiring piece of literature on the planet. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. There’s a reason most members can’t make it past 2 Nephi. But sadly, Mormons have to pretend that they like it because it just so happens to be the keystone of their religion.

10) King James English
Everything in the Mormon Church is in King James English. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, and every prayer ever said. Unless you’re a huge fan of Shakespeare, this one will drive you nuts!

11) Home/Visiting Teaching
The men and women in the church are generally assigned 2-4 families that they are assigned to go visit once a month. Not only is this extremely awkward, it often doubles as a way for the bishop to spy on families in the ward.

12) Where does the Money Go?
The LDS Church requires members to pay 10% of their incomes and contribute a fast offering once a month. There is, however, no public record of what the church uses that money for.

13) Building Cleaning
One place the church does not use its money for is janitors. Members are required to “volunteer” to clean the church on assigned days. It’s never fun, because most families skip out, leaving the faithful to do an unfair portion of the work.

mormonsuv_edited

(click to zoom)

14) Too Many Children
I like children, I really do. But when there are 100 of them in the pews, with no child care provided, it can turn into quite the choir of loud cries and babbling. Mormons believe they have a duty to bring spirit children into righteous homes, and it can make church seem like a giant day care. Not only that but if you don’t have enough kids, it’s one of those things you could end up judged for.

15) Volunteer Opportunities are Chosen for You
In Mormonism, you don’t get to pick how you’re going to serve in the congregation, it’s chosen for you. You could be given the calling that you absolutely dread (like when I was placed over the ward’s thirty 2-year olds) and you have to do it anyway because it was “inspired”. If you’re bad at it, it’s just a sign that God wants you to grow in that area in your life. Right? Then when you finally get into leadership, you find out that people are chosen for callings out of necessity. What, we need a pianist? Okay, the next person who moves in who can tickle the ivories is our person!

16) Micromanagement
In the religion of agency, everything is chosen for you. You don’t have to think, because what the prophet says is law. You are told where to go to church and when. Even what underwear you put on is chosen for you. Sure, you get to choose between different “styles” of the same brand of underwear, and what seat you take in your required church time, but that’s just the illusion of agency!

17) Children of Gay Parents Cannot be Baptized
The 2nd Article of faith says, “We believe that a man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Yet the LDS church punishes children due to their parent’s choices, by not allowing them to be baptized, and gain a stronger relationship with God. By so doing, they claim they are protecting the children…. better than God, apparently.

18) Depression
Utah, home of the religion of happiness, has an extremely high suicide rate. Since the church has a no-nonsense stance on keeping the commandments and makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world, everyone who doesn’t measure up finds themselves questioning their self-worth and abilities.

19) BYU Football
Seriously, who wants to be a Mormon when you have such a lame team representing your faith? “B-Y-Lose! B-Y-Lose!”

20) The Word of Wisdom
The Word of Wisdom, according to Doctrine & Covenants 89:2 is not even a commandment, yet the LDS Church has made it a requirement for entering the temple, and therefore to enter heaven. However, Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 that what comes out of a man defiles him, not what goes in. Leaving Mormonism means the freedom to drink tea, caffeine, even a beer once in a while.

21) Jesus
I saved the best for last even though He should be the #1 reason. Jesus was not mentioned in the article that inspired this one, and that’s probably because in Mormon culture Jesus is often left out. I’ve been through entire Sunday worships were the only time Jesus is mentioned is at the close of a prayer! I’ve even seen investigators come to church and ask, “Why doesn’t your church talk about Jesus?” The truth is Jesus deserves to be emphasized, not hidden behind covenants and ordinances!

brooklyn_museum_-_jerusalem_jerusalem_jerusalem_jerusalem_-_james_tissot

“Jerusalem Jerusalem” by James Tissot (1836-1902)

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

BACK TO TOP

lP1aw
“You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.”
— 2 Corinthians 11:4 (NLT) 

by Fred W. Anson
It’s the Christmas season. And like most Christmas seasons Mormon Critics will no doubt set online boards aflame with the accusation that Mormons preach and worship another Jesus. Unfortunately, since the allegation is so often made without any supporting evidence it all too often leaves Latter-day Saint scratching their head in wonder. After all, what other Jesus is there than the one that they’ve been taught and know? Thankfully, some Mormon Leaders have had the integrity to speak the truth:

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

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

That said, here’s a topical reference that will, hopefully, facilitate discussion between the two sides, give Mormon Critics a place to send their Mormon friends for evidence to support this oft used claim, and help Latter-day Saints understand why the Mormon Jesus isn’t the Jesus preached in the Bible. 

Mormon Jesus:  Is God’s first spirit child – that is, Jesus Christ has not always been God.
Where you’ll find it
Jesus Christ is the firstborn spirit son of God.”

(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.”
(Gospel Principles [1986 edition], p.9, Official LdS Church manual) 

“Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon President), Gospel Doctrine, p.70; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, 9-10)

“As far as man is concerned, all things center in Christ. He is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state. As such he became, under the Father, the Creator of this earth and of worlds without number; and he was then chosen to work out the infinite and eternal atonement, to come to this particular earth as the literal Son of the Father, and to put the whole plan of redemption, salvation, and exaltation in operation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), Mormon Doctrine, p.129; also cited in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of humankind. That He is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any or all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.

Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.”
(“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”, Improvement Era, August 1916; condensed edition reprinted in Ensign, April 2002)

“The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God”
(Joseph F. Smith, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith”, p. 335)

Biblical Jesus: Has always been God and always will be – that is, He had no beginning and has no end.
Where you’ll find it
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(John 1:1, KJV)

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:8, KJV)

Jesus Tempted In the Desert

Jesus tempted in the desert. According to current Mormon Doctrine these two are brothers. “The Temptation of Christ” by Ary Scheffer (c.1854)

Mormon Jesus: As God’s first spirit child, the Mormon Jesus is the “older brother” with all of God’s other spirit children – which includes you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“In the grand council called to ratify the Father’s plan, a great difference arose. The majority, led by the First Born of the Father, our Elder Brother, Jesus the Christ, was ready to accept the plan with all its conditions. The minority, led by Lucifer, a ‘son of the morning,’ feared the isolation and the pains and ills of earth. For them Lucifer proposed that they should be sent to earth, but that provisions should be made by which they would suffer no pain and would not have to make any sacrifices. All of them would be returned with earthly bodies irrespective of their works on earth. This latter plan seemed desirable that one-third of those present favored it, in direct opposition of God’s plan. Lucifer and his followers were thrown out of the council, and as opponents of God’s plan, became the devil and his angels, who strive ever to tempt men to disobey the laws of God.”

(John A. Widtsoe (Mormon Apostle), “Joseph Smith – Seeker After Truth”, pp.156-157

“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? [see Matthew 4:1–11.] He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept – but I’ll listen.’”
(“Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327”, chapter entitled, “Moses 1:12 – 23 – Satan Commanded Moses to Worship Him”, Official LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual; also see “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”, p.163;  and “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball”, pp.107-108, Official LdS Church manual)

“Our Father said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, ‘Here am I, send me’…”
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 edition], NOTE: this passage is missing from the current – that is, 2009 – edition, Official LdS Church manual)

“Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, ‘Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor’ (Moses 4:1).” [1997 and 2009 editions]
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 and 2009 editions], Official LdS Church manual)

“After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first.’ (Abraham 3:27).”
(“Gospel Principles” p.15 [2009 edition], Official LdS Church manual)

“The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind.”
(Milton R. Hunter (Mormon Seventy), “The Gospel Through the Ages”, p.15

“According to our teachings, Satan and an army of supporters were cast down to earth from the premortal spirit world. They are spirit brothers of ours, and are real persons having spirit bodies.”
(Joseph F. Merrill (Mormon Apostle), “Conference Report”, April 1941, p.49)

Biblical Jesus:  Is the creator of all –  including you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
(
John 1:3, KJV)

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
(Colossians 1:16-17, KJV

Mormon Jesus: Is the literal Son of God begotten by an immortal Father – this doctrine compromises the virgin birth.
Where you’ll find it

“Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God in the flesh.”
(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the ‘Son of the Highest.’”
(James E. Talmage (Mormon Apostle), Jesus the Christ, p.81; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“We believe absolutely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of God, the first-born in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh; that He is the Son of God just as much as you and I are the sons of our fathers”
(Heber J. Grant (Mormon Prophet), “Analysis of the Articles of Faith,” Millennial Star, January 5, 1922, p.2; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“Christ Not Begotten of Holy Ghost… Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!”
(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon Prophet), Doctrines of Salvation”, 1:18)

“I am bold to say to you… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost”
(Ezra Taft Benson (Mormon Prophet), “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p. 7; “Come unto Christ”, p. 4; “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ”, Ensign, Dec. 2001, p.8)

1972-family-home-evening

An official LDS Church manual (Family Home Evening Manual, 1972) carried the above illustration showing the figure of a man, woman, and child on page 126. LDS parents are told they should use this to explain to their children “how Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.” Daddy plus Mommy equals you; Heavenly Father plus Mary equals Jesus.

“You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The Christian denominations believe that Christ was begotten not of God but of the spirit that overshadowed his mother. This is nonsense. Why will not the world receive the truth? Why will they not believe the Father when he says that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son? Why will they try to explain this truth away and make mystery of it? …

“Now, little boys and girls, when you are confronted by infidels in the world who know nothing of how Christ was begotten, you can say he was born just as the infidel was begotten and born, so was Christ begotten by his Father, who is also our Father—the Father of our spirits—and he was born of his mother Mary.

“The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: Our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death; but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven. Therefore Jesus, as he declared, received the power of life from his Father and was never subject unto death but had life in himself as his father had life in himself. Because of this power he overcame death and the grave and became master of the resurrection and the means of salvation to us all.

“Shall we as Latter-day Saints deny the truth and then claim that God made man in his likeness in the beginning? Shall we come under the impression that God possesses the power of creation, and yet did not literally create? He is not without his companion any more than I am without my companion, the mother of my children…

“Now, by and by you will be able to understand this far better than you can today. Some of us grandparents find it difficult to conceive the truth we want to think of something marvelous. We want to try to make it appear that God does not do things in the right way, or that he has another way of doing things than what we know, we must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His son Jesus Christ, and He was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father…

“Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ.

“Mary was married to Joseph for time. No man could take her for eternity because she belonged to the Father of her divine Son. In the revelation that has come thru Joseph Smith, we learn that it is the eternal purpose of God that man and woman should be joined together by the power of God here on earth for time and eternity.”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon Prophet) at the Box Elder Stake conference of December 20, 1914, as recorded in the Box Elder News”, January 28, 1915; Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia”, p. 398; Messages of the First Presidency” 4:330)

Biblical Jesus: Was born of a virgin via a miraculous conception. Thus God the Son was incarnated, born, and lived as a human being through that miracle without compromising Mary’s virginity in any way.
Where you’ll find it
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost…

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
(Matthew 1:18,22-23, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is one of three Gods ruling the universe (among other Gods that also exist)
Where you’ll find it
“The Church’s first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” These three beings make up the Godhead. They preside over this world and all other creations of our Father in Heaven… But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”

(Gospel Topics article on “Godhead”, Official LdS Church website) 

“Latter-day Saints believe in God the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (A of F 1). These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other (AF, chap. 2).”
(The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Godhead” article, p.552)

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural: and who can contradict it!”
(“Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.372; also see History of the Church”, Vol. 6, p. 473) 

Trinity Triangle_edited

The Trinity Triangle: “We believe in the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This window uses the Latin Pater, Filius, and Spiritus Sanctus to name the persons in the Trinity. One God and Three Persons is a great mystery of the Church. The window explains that the Persons are not each other, but each is God (Deus).”

Biblical Jesus: Is, and always has been, God eternal.
In Biblical Theology God is one, and only one, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being that consists of three co-omnipresent, co-omniscient, co-omnipresent persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a form of theological short hand, the term “the Trinity” is used to describe His nature. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. While it would require it’s own article to adequately document the biblical case for the doctrine of the Trinity, here are some key proof texts and expository points for it as a kind of appetizer. If you would like the full meal I recommend “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Rob Bowman. 

Where you’ll find it
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

(Genesis 1:26, KJV

– Angels do not create.
– We are not made in the image of angels.
– There is no place in the Old Testament where a leader refers to himself with the term “us.”

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.
(Deuteronomy 6:4, KJV

– In Hebrew: “shmo ishral ieue alei·nu ieue achd”. And the last Hebrew word “achd” means “united one”.

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
(Psalm 45:6-7, KJV

– This is quoted in Heb. 1:8, “But unto the Son he [God] saith, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
(Isaiah 6:8, KJV

– Notice the juxtaposition of “Whom shall I send” and “who will go for us?” 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
(Matthew 28:19, KJV)

– Note that there is one name and three persons.

Jesus-Baptism-Cropped

Apparently John the Baptist was a Freemason (notice the “arm to the square”) and Jesus a modern Mormon (notice the modern baptism grip).

Mormon Jesus: Earned his own salvation.
Where you’ll find it

“Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fulness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fulness”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.68. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p.153)

“God the Eternal Father, the Father of the Firstborn and of all the spirit hosts, as an exalted and glorified Being, having all power and dominion, possessing all knowledge and all truth, personifying and being the embodiment of all godly attributes, did, of his own will, ordain and establish the plan of salvation whereby Christ and all his other spirit children might have power to advance and progress and become like him.

(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings. (Eborn Books Mormon Classics Series, Volume 6)”, p.354)

“These laws [of salvation], instituted by the father, constitute the gospel of God, which gospel is the plan by which all of his spirit children, Christ included, may gain eternal life.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 2:215) 

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God… He came to earth to work out his own salvation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 3:238) 

Biblical Jesus: As God, Christ required no salvation.
Where you’ll find it
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”
(
1 John 3:5, KJV)

“For we have not an high priest [that is, Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
(
Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV

Mormon Jesus:  Christ came to condemn and exact judgment.
Mormon Jesus: Returned to the earth to preach to the Book of Mormon people and start a separate church for them in America.
Where you’ll find it
In the Book of Mormon Jesus descends from the clouds exacting judgment on the cities that he’s condemned due to their unbelief and sin. He then delivers a sermon (comprised mainly of plagiarized text from Isaiah and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount narrative) that establishes his church on the American continent before ascending to heaven again in anticipation of establishing his eternal kingdom on earth at the end of the age. 

3 Nephi 9:1-22, Book of Mormon
And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying:

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

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

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

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

(credit: LDS Church)

Christ appears to the Nephites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.

Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.”

I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.

And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.

thesecondcoming_2560x1600

The Mormon view of the second coming. This is separate and distinct from him coming to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.

I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”

Biblical Jesus: Came to save, not condemn the world.
Where you’ll find it
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
(John 3:16-17, KJV)

Biblical Jesus: The physical return of Christ is still to come, there have been no physical returns since His ascension.
Where you’ll find it
“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11, KJV

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
(Revelation 1:7, KJV

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
(Hebrews 9:28, KJV)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
(Matthew 25:31-32, KJV

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, KJV

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
(Matthew 16:27, KJV

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew 24:30, KJV

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The Latter-day Saint version of the atonement

Mormon Jesus: Accomplished the Atonement primarily in the garden of Gethsemane.
Where you’ll find it
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 19:17-19

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body,hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.”
(Mosiah 3:7-8)

“Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” 1:774)

“Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world”
(M. Russell Ballard (Mormon Apostle), “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul”, Ensign, May 2004, p.85)

“As terrible as Christ’s suffering on the cross was, perhaps it was not as great as His suffering in Gethsemane. When he sweat drops of blood as He bore the weight of all the sins of mankind, the great agony of the Atonement took place”
(Joseph C. Winther, “Because of His Love”, Ensign, April 2002, p.19)

El-Greco-Christ-on-the-cross-2

The biblical version of the atonement. “Christ on the Cross” by El Greco (c.1577 – 1579)

Biblical Jesus: Procured our atonement or redemption specifically by his death on the cross.
Where you’ll find it
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28, KJV)

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”
(Romans 5:6-10, KJV)

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV)

“For I determined not to know any thing among you,save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2, KJV)

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4, KJV)

“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
(Ephesians 2:16, KJV)

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
(Colossians 1:20, KJV)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is never supposed to be directly prayed to.
Where you’ll find it
There need not be any confusion in our minds regarding these important things. It is important that we should know something about the Being whom we worship—the Father, for it is the Father whom we worship. We do not pray to the Son nor to the Holy Ghost; we pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost.”
(Charles W. Penrose (Mormon Apostle), General Conference, April 1915)

“The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to pray and covenants that answers will be forthcoming. “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name,” He declares (3 Ne. 18:19). “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Ne. 18:21).”
(L. Edward Brown (Mormon Seventy) , “Pray unto the Father in My Name”, General Conference, April 1997)

Bloch Christ the Consoler

“Christ the Consoler” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (19th Century)

Biblical Jesus: Receives both worship and prayers.
Where you’ll find it
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”
(Romans 10:12-13, KJV)

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”
(John 14:14, ESV)

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
(1 John 5:13-15, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is only one of many Saviors.
Where you’ll find it
“We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring”

(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon President), “Doctrines of Salvation” 1:62)

“Sin is upon every earth that ever was created … Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter”
(Brigham Young (Mormon President), “Journal of Discourses Volume 14”, p.71)

Biblical Jesus: Is the one and only Savior.
Where you’ll find it
 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

(John 14:6, KJV)

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 2:5, KJV)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12, KJV)

The First Vision

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

Mormon Jesus: Appeared to Joseph Smith, condemned all existing churches, and restored the only true church in what is known as “The First Vision”.
Where you’ll find it
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.”
(Joseph Smith – History 1:17-20, The Pearl of Great Price

Biblical Jesus: Stated that He alone was true and that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.
Ignoring the fact that not only is there no evidence that the First Vision ever happened; an abundance of evidence that it was contrived embellished by Joseph Smith over time (see “A Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision”); and the fact that it contradicts the Book of Mormon and the Bible in regard to the nature of God (see “Joseph’s doctrine of the Godhead changed”), it also contradicts the Bible in the following ways:

  1. Christ said that He is true. He never claimed in the Bible that His Church was. He further claimed that the way to the Father was by Him not His Church.
    “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
    (John 14:6, KJV
  2. Christ said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church:
    “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
    (Matthew 16:18, KJV)
    This contradicts Christ’s words in the First Vision that, “they were all wrong”.
  3. Finally, the Book of Revelation shows Christ working to reform not replace errant churches (see Revelation 2:1-3:22, KJV). 
JST_EDITED

Room in Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Mormon Jesus: Some of Jesus’ statements and acts in scripture must be revised according to Joseph Smith’s revelations.
Mormonism accepts the Gospels and their reports of Jesus’ sayings and miracles. However, Joseph Smith felt that the Bible had been corrupted and that its text was unreliable, so he produced his own version of the Bible (called the Joseph Smith Translation or “JST”). Most of his changes were additions to the text, but in some cases Joseph deleted words and even rewrote Jesus’ sayings and acts to fit his own theology. This was done despite any source, original language manuscript support to justify them. Here are some examples:

“God is spirit” (John 4:24, KJV)
“For unto such hath God promised his spirit” (John 4:26, JST)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52, KJV)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures” (Luke 11:52, JST)

“for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, KJV)
“for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 5:8, JST) 

“Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:15, JST) 

“Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the light of the world” (Matthew 5:16, JST) 

“When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed” (Matthew 8:10, KJV) 
“And when they that followed him, heard this, they marvelled” (Matthew 8:9, JST) 

“be ye therefore wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16, KJV) 
“be ye therefore wise servants” (Matthew 10:14, JST) 

mormon-bible-book

“Scriptures” by Grant Heaton

“and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched” (Matthew 13:5–6, KJV)

“and forthwith they sprung up; and when the sun was up, they were scorched, because they had no deepness of earth” (Matthew 13:5, JST) 

“the which when a man hath found, he hideth” (Matthew 13:44, KJV) 
“And when a man hath found a treasure which is hid, he secureth it” (Matthew 13:46, JST) 

“teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9, KJV)
“teaching the doctrines and the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8, JST) 

“as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, KJV)
 “as touching any thing that they shall ask, that they may not ask amiss, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, JST) 

“Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matthew 25:12, KJV)
“Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not.” (Matthew 25:11, JST) 

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, . . . but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29, KJV) 

“For unto every one who hath obtained other talents, shall be given. . . . But from him that hath not obtained other talents, shall be taken away even that which he hath received.” (Matthew 25:29–30, JST) 

“and were all baptized of him” (Mark 1:5, KJV) 
“and many were baptized of him” (Mark 1:4, JST) 

“except they wash, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, KJV) 
“except they wash their bodies, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, JST) 

“There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mark 8:12, KJV) 
“There shall no sign be given unto this generation, save the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Mark 8:12, JST) 

“And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.” (Mark 8:29, JST) 
“And Peter answered and said unto him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mark 8:31, JST) 

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“The Bible and the Book of Mormon Testify of Christ” by Greg K. Olsen

“for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not” (Luke 8:18, KJV)

“for whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given; and whosoever receiveth not” (Luke 8:18, JST) 

“passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:32, KJV)

“passed by on the other side of the way; for they desired in their hearts that it might not be known that they had seen him.” (Luke 10:33, JST) 

“we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, KJV)
“We have done that which was no more than our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, JST) 

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17, KJV) 
“And ye shall be hated of all the world for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16, JST) 

“that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31, KJV) 
“that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat.” (Luke 22:31, JST) 

“and no man receiveth his testimony.” (John 3:32, KJV) 
“and but few men receive his testimony.” (John 3:32, JST) 

“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (John 5:31, KJV) 
“Therefore if I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true.” (John 5:32, JST) 

“which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27, KJV) 
“which the Son of Man hath power to give unto you” (John 6:27, JST) 

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11, KJV)
“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name.” (John 8:11, KJV) 

“ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again?” (John 9:27, KJV) 
“ye did not believe: wherefore would you believe if I should tell you again?” (John 9:27, JST) 

Biblical Jesus: Upheld and affirmed God’s revelation of Himself in scripture as divinely inspired, reliable, and authoritative.
The Bible is clear that claiming inspiration from God and speaking in His voice when God has not authorized it or given you the words to speak makes you are a False Prophet. The Bible gives several tests for a False Prophet that involve testing the content of claimed prophetic utterances against God’s existing revelation of Himself. If there’s a contradiction, then the person speaking isn’t speaking God’s words, or with God’s authority – their source is something other than God. While this principle can be found throughout the Bible, here are some key passages:

“Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar”
(Proverbs 30:6, KJV)

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

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, KJV) 

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, KJV) 

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2, KJV) 

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this Book” (Revelation 22:18-19, KJV)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)

“The entirety of Your word is truth.” (Psalms 119:160, KJV)

“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5-6, KJV)

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Credits and bibliography:
Mormonism Research Ministry,
“Temple Square Visitor’s Guide”, p.4
Bill McKeever and Aaron Shafovaloff, Redefining the Virgin Birth: Mormonism on the Natural Conception of Jesus”
Grant Palmer, The Ancient Paths – 2nd Interview with Grant Palmer, Former LDS Institute Director”
Rob Bowman, “The Mormon View of Jesus Christ”
Matt Slick, “Verses showing the plurality of God in the Old and New Testaments”
Michael Davis, “References: Mormon vs Biblical Teachings about Jesus
Thomas E. Sherry and W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Precious Truths Restored: Joseph Smith Translation Changes Not Included in Our Bible”

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An Election Day 2016 prayer 

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Lord, You have told us,
Lord, You have promised
That if Your people would pray
That You would hear from heaven,
You would send Your mercy and
Touch us with Your strong, healing hand

So we’re calling out to You,
Crying out to you,
Forgive us of our sin, heal our land
As we seek your holy face,
We turn from all our wicked ways
Hear from heaven even now as we pray

Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now

(words and music by Tommy Walker)

From the album “Calling Out To You” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

what-is-the-gospel1_edited
“Beer is made by men, wine by God.”
― Martin Luther

by Marie Johnson
The Book of Mormon claims to be, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” but when it is put to the test, the gospel it embodies is nothing more than a man made concoction of of law mixed with grace; a tainted gospel that is condemned by the Apostle Paul.

In Galatians 5:4 (AKJV) Paul writes, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.” He reiterates his point in Romans 4:13-14 (KJV), “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”

The Bible teaches that before, during and after God made covenants with Israel, people were counted righteous by believing the promises of God (Romans 4); not by obedience to the the law of Moses (Romans 3:20). In the book of Hebrews we read that, prior to Christ, God’s people looked forward to the promise of a heavenly city; the Old Testament version of eternal life (Hebrews 11:9-16). In addition to God’s promise of a heavenly city, the Messiah and the New Covenant were also promised (Galatians 3:8, Hebrews 8:6-13). The people of God who lived before Christ were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (Hebrews 11:1, 13-16, 39).

The Old Covenant sacerdotal system, which came 430 years after God made his promises to Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-3) was never designed to give eternal life. Its purpose was to act as a tutor and a disciplinarian; teaching people about the depths of their sinfulness. As their custodian, it watched over them and keep them in check until the fullness of time came and they could be justified by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:19-24). Just as the promise was not the reality, the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant were only a foreshadow of the good things that were coming in Christ (Hebrew 10:1-2).

Inaugurated with the shed blood of animals, the Mosaic covenant had a very distinct beginning. When Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled the book of the covenant and all the the people, the Israelites were bound to abide by the law of Moses (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:19). They were required to continually perform sacrifices for the temporary covering of sins (Hebrews 10:11). If they intentionally defied the Mosaic law, they would be cut off from Israel; that is, put to death (Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 10:28). No Hebrew was exempt from this obligation to the law until, “the fulness of the time was come, [when] God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5,KJV).

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Because Jesus redeemed those under the law, the Old Covenant became obsolete when the New Covenant was ratified in his blood. (Hebrews 8:13, 10:9-10). Jesus addressed this in the parable of the wineskins. New wine can’t be poured into old wineskins: The old skins will burst and both will be ruined. (Matthew 9:14-17). The two covenants can’t be mixed.

In spite of Paul and Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Mormon asserts that people who were under Old Covenant law could freely partake of the New Covenant and claim remission of sins through Jesus’ atonement. One example can be found in the introduction to 2 Nephi 25, “The Nephites keep the law of Moses and believe in Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel. About 559–545 B.C. [about 575-580 years before the New Covenant existed].”

BYU Professor Noel B. Reynolds gives a nice summary of this teaching explaining how it is found throughout the Book of Mormon (emphasis mine):

Because of the great visions and revelations he rebloodd, Nephi shared a role with his father as a founding prophet. At a young age he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and believed his father’s words. He heard the voice of the Lord telling him that he would become a ruler and teacher over his brothers (1 Ne. 2:22). He witnessed the vision of the tree of life shown earlier to his father (1 Ne. 8), which showed him the future birth, baptism, and ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as the future rise and demise of his own people. He was shown also the future establishment of the Gentiles in the Western Hemisphere and the restoration of the gospel in their midst (1 Ne. 11-14). Because of these revelations, Nephi was able to teach his people the gospel or “doctrine of Christ”-the means by which they could come unto Christ and be saved (2 Ne. 30:5; 31:2-32:6). His carefully formulated teaching of this doctrine provided a model that other Nephite prophets invoked repeatedly (see Gospel of Jesus Christ).

Because the Nephites had received the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, their strict observance of the law of Moses was oriented toward its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, and Nephi explained to his people that they should observe the law of Moses as a means of keeping Christ’s future atonement always in their minds (2 Ne. 25:29-30). The law itself had become “dead”to those who were “made alive in Christ” and who knew that Jesus was the one to whom they could look dirctly for “remission of thier sins” (2 Ne. 25:25-27).”
(Reynolds, Noel B., “Nephi 1”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

Here is another example from Mosiah 3:13-16, 28 where, “strict observance of the law of Moses” is taught (that is the Old Covenant) while a direct appeal is made to the atonement of Christ for the remission of sins (which is the New Covenant):

“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them…and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the The law of Moses availath nothing except it were through his atonement. And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins…. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.”

“King Solomon Dedicates the Temple” by or in the style of James Tissot (c.1896–1902)

Splattered throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon, this concocted gospel attempts to mix the Old and New Covenants, only to rip apart the fabric of the Old Covenant and trample underfoot the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant was bound together and structured around the temple, the priests and the sacrifices. It was inaugurated in and kept by the blood of animals. Before the High Priest could enter God’s presence (The Most Holy Place in the temple), the blood of animals had to be spilled as a sin offering. If the High Priest had tried to enter the Most Holy Place without first making a sin offering, if he tried to enter by promising a future animal sacrifice and not by the literal shedding of animal blood, he would have died. (Leviticus 16:2-3).

The New Covenant was also inaugurated in and kept by blood; the blood of Jesus (Mark 14:24). Just as no one could enter into the Old Covenant without the literal shedding of animal blood, no one could enter into the New Covenant and gain the blessings of the atonement without the literal shedding of Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 9:16-28).

However, as seen in Mosiah 3:16 above, The Book of Mormon teaches that, before Jesus died, the, “blood of Christ atoneth for their sins“ and the children of men received, “remission of sins,… even as though he had already come among them.” This was impossible. For, as the writer of Hebrews explains, “without shedding of blood, there is no remission [of sin].” (Hebrews 9:22, KJV) 

Claiming to receive remission of sins based on blood which had not been shed, makes Jesus’ death into nothing more than a token or a symbol. Remission of sins and the gift of eternal life are not given through tokens or symbols. They are given based on the reality of a vital union with the one who shed his blood and died to take away our sins; the one and who is eternal life (1 John 1:2, 3:5, 5:9-12).

The claim that Nephi was given a revelation about Jesus Christ does not change how the covenants were ratified. The terms of ratifying the New Covenant were not, “Nephi will receive a vision about the restoration of the gospel” or “Nephi will be able to teach his people of the ‘Doctrine of Christ’.” The New Covenant came into effect only when Jesus was dead. (Hebrews 9:15-17).

In Alma 22:14, the missionary Aaron preaches the the gospel of The Book of Mormon to King Lamoni’s father and tells him, “…the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their [fallen men’s] sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth..” In response, King Lamoni’s father asks, what he should do that he might have eternal life, be born of God and receive [God’s] spirit (All blessings of the New Covenant. They were not available under the Old Covenant. See eternal redemption in Hebrews 9:12-26; see the requirement for Jesus death to be born again in Jn 3; see Jesus promise of the Spirit in John 14:16-18). Aaron responds to Lamoni’s father, “If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.”…and Lamoni’s father does so.

This story is infused with the Biblical concepts of calling on God’s name in faith, repentance, bowing down, believing and receiving. It has a strong air of authenticity. However, when tested, it is missing the most essential ingredient required for the forgiveness of sins: a sacrifice.

Aaron’s gospel overlooks the fact that under Mosaic law animal blood must be shed to make atonement for sins (Leviticus 17:11). Instead of requiring an animal sacrifice, Aaron tells King Lamoni’s father he is covered by Jesus’ sacrifice; a sacrifice that has not taken place and does not exist.

1886-1894 --- A painting from a series of Bible illustrations by James Tissot. --- Image by © Brooklyn Museum/Corbis

“The Crucifixion” by James Tissot
(c.1886-1894)

Today, we look back on Jesus’ death and from our perspective we see that the people of faith who lived under the Old Covenant are now covered by the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice. When they lived under the Old Covenant they were counted righteous because they believed God’s promises; not because those promises were a reality. As a demonstration of their faith in the promises of God, they performed the animal sacrifices required under the covenant they had with God. They did not claim remission of sins based on blood that had not been shed or a covenant that did not exist.

This is the bitter gall The Book of Mormon asks us to swallow – wrapped in catch phrases and words that have been lifted from the Bible. In 1982 the LdS Church labeled the Book of Mormon, “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. The word, “testament,” is Latin for covenant. The Book of Mormon is not another covenant of Jesus Christ. It is not , “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. The Book of Mormon teaches a gospel that violates both the Old and the New Testaments of God. Those who imbibe it’s false gospel will stumble and fall short of the pure grace and truth that are offered to us by Jesus Christ.

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28, KJV).

The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Another gospel comes by the Book of Mormon.

About the Author
Marie Johnson is a free lance writer and researcher in Utah who specializes in Latter-day Saint culture and theology.

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Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

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

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

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

Now this is the catholic faith:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now this is the true faith:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athanasius_the_Confessor_of_Constantinople_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)

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

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

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

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President Uchtdorf delivering “The Gift of Grace” during General Conference, Sunday morning, April 5th, 2015

by Bobby Gilpin
There has been a lot of interest and excitement that has arisen on the back of a talk given on Sunday Morning by Dieter. F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to the first presidency. His talk focused on the subject of grace. This is a key issue that often comes up in Evangelical/LDS dialogue, and I thought I would jump right in with some thoughts on this.

I am going to assume people reading this have seen or heard the talk, if not I really recommend that you watch it before proceeding further:

(or if you prefer, the official transcript can be read here,  or just the audio heard here)

I think if I listened to this talk without much of a background knowledge of Mormonism I probably would not bat too much of an eyelid at this, in a lot of ways it sounds like a basic good talk on grace. I guess inevitably then I am going to have some bias, however I hope that bias is reasonable based on my past knowledge of Mormonism.

Firstly at 3:43 Uchtdorf says this about grace

The grace of God, the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now, into exalted beings of truth and light…

This is an immediate difference between the LDS and I would say the Biblical view of grace. I see the Biblical view as being that grace is the unmerited favour of God, placed upon us by faith. Instead Uchtdorf calls it the means by which we become something better, this from my understanding is the general LDS view on grace. We see this quote from an article on Grace on LDS.org.

No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives.

Really this means that grace is what makes you do good enough, in order that you might gain or earn exaltation, this is a contradiction in terms if you are seeking to show that it’s not by works, as this is really how you become able to do the works, thus the works are still necessary.

The website GotQuestions.org says:

the word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness. We can all extend grace to others; but when the word grace is used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

True Biblical grace is the merit of God imputed to you, when you put your trust in Him, you become righteous by virtue of His saving work in you. Which absolutely should produce a changed life, resulting in good works. Without this there is no way of knowing that someone truly has accepted Christ. However Uchtdorf is putting the cart before the horse here, saying that grace is all about making you perform, in order that you might receive eternal blessings.

This is further reinforced at 9:11 when he says:

His grace helps us become our best selves. (bold added)

This reminds me of a story that Thomas Monson told in the 2012 Priesthood session, he says this about a missionary who was asked why he was so successful.

Brother Tanner asked him what was different about his approach—why he had such phenomenal success when others didn’t. The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, “When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart.”

This missionary looked at someone’s outward and focused on that, I think this is the essence of Mormonism, working to make people behave better outwardly, while leaving people lost inwardly.

In the Bible we see this in Romans 4:5

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness

Yet Joseph Smith’s “inspired” translation for this verse says:

But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

All of a sudden, God does not justify the ungodly. Because in Mormonism people need to make themselves Godly (with the help of grace), in order that they might become acceptable to God, As Alma 11:37 in the book of Mormon says: he cannot save them in their sins.

This is what Uchtdorf is really saying here, but he is dressing it up in a way that many uninformed evangelicals and LDS members alike will love.

At around 15:50 during the talk, Uchtdorf talks about how people have so often misunderstood 2 Nephi 25:23 saying how its not really saying we have to do all that we can, this is a misinterpretation.

In October 2010 Dallin Oaks said this:

Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, ‘after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23).

And Oaks was simply echoing Jorge F.  Zeballos who, a year earlier, said:

Salvation and eternal life would not be possible if it were not for the Atonement, brought about by our Savior, to whom we owe everything. But in order for these supreme blessings to be effective in our lives, we should first do our part, ‘for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’

And Thomas Monson in “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p.53 agreed:

It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned. (bold added)

As did Lowell L. Bennion in “Introduction to the Gospel” (1955; LDS sunday school material), chapter 20, “The Way of Salvation”:

We believe in individual merit as a means of gaining salvation

The reason people have been “misinterpreting” this for so long, is that their Leaders have consistently been teaching it that way throughout Mormon history.

A Mormon Church Temple Recommend

A Mormon Church Temple Recommend

To finish off, I think if the Mormon church really wants to prove to the world that they believe we do not become acceptable to God by our works, and its all of the merit of Christ, they need to ditch Temple recommend interviews, letting everyone in who professes Christ. They need to get rid of tithing settlement meetings where people have to show they have given a full 10% of their income, instead just telling people to give according to their conscience. Also get rid of Sunday dress codes, as we come to God as we are.

Also what about removing the “Requirements For Exaltation” part of the Gospel Principles manual that lists all of the things people need to do in order to be exalted.

They need to show by their actions as well as their words that this is a grace filled movement, otherwise they are simply saying that Jesus is full of grace, but the LDS church wants its piece of you.

About the Author
Bobby Gilpin is the founder and director of U.K. Partnerships for Christ which seeks to educate Christians about the beliefs and difficulties within Mormonism both biblically and historically, and seeks to engage with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) with respectful discussion but also seeking to challenge them lovingly with the biblical gospel.

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(this article was originally published on the U.K. Partnerships website, “Mormonism Investigated UK” on April 7, 2015. It has been lightly edited and republished here with the permission of the author) 

Samaritan Woman at the Well

“Jesus Teaches a Samaritan Woman” The Mormon Channel video (LDS Church, circa 2012). Click to watch.

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Fred W. Anson
The Argument:
“I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon! I won’t stoop to the level of heretics – after all, Jesus and the Apostles never did!”

Why It’s Weak:
This stance is impossible to defend since Jesus and the Apostles did learn other cultures and related to them where they were in order to reach them with the gospel – and this included heretics.

Meet the Samaritans
Who does this sound like?

  • They’re heretics yet they claim that they are the only true and living church.
  • They claim that all other churches are apostate.
  • The founding of their religion was strongly opposed, criticized and denounced by the established church at that time.
  • Many members claim to be from the House of Joseph – descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
  • They have a a view of God that differs from the larger mainstream orthodox church’s view.
  • They believe in pre-existence.
  • They claim that the current church’s scripture is corrupt – deliberately infused with an apostate agenda. That is, it’s truth intermingled with the vain philosophies of men not God.
  • They claim to be the sole possessors of the original, pure and uncorrupted Bible – a bible which discards books in the established church’s canon, and that is very different on key points of doctrine relative to that canon.
  • They have additional sacred texts which, while not formally canonized, maintain a quasi-canonical status.
  • Critics claim that portions of their theology is syncretistic, incorporating outside cultures and religions.
  • They have their own priesthood system.
  • They have a temple system that deviates strongly from the Levitical system given in the bible.
  • They claim that their temple, rather than the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, is the correct place set apart by God for special ceremonies and worship.
  • Outside critics and scholars throughout history have disputed the veracity and historicity claims of their scripture as well as their origin story.

They, of course, are the Samaritans of Christ’s day – who did you think I was talking about? But joking aside, it’s not hard to see how much the Samaritanism of Christ’s day parallels today’s Mormonism.[1] Thus whenever I hear someone rhetorically ask, “I wonder how Christ would have engaged Mormonism had it been around in His day?” I say, “We already know!”

Scene of the meeting of Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well from a fresco in the side wall of the refectory in the Monastery Ambramowickiego, Przypusta, Poland

That said, here’s a short debriefing on the Samatarians:

The Samaritans occupied the country formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The capital of the country was Samaria, formerly a large and splendid city. When the ten tribes were carried away into captivity to Assyria, the king of Assyria sent people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings 17:24;Ezra 4:2-11). These foreigners intermarried with the Israelite population that was still in and around Samaria. These “Samaritans” at first worshipped the idols of their own nations, but being troubled with lions, they supposed it was because they had not honored the God of that territory. A Jewish priest was therefore sent to them from Assyria to instruct them in the Jewish religion. They were instructed from the books of Moses, but still retained many of their idolatrous customs. The Samaritans embraced a religion that was a mixture of Judaism and idolatry (2 Kings 17:26-28). Because the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion, Samaritans were generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally despised by the Jews.[2]

And in addition to these racial and theological issues, the Jews had plenty of other good reasons to stay in hardhearted, ignorant, bigotry toward the Samaritans:

1. The Jews, after their return from Babylon, began rebuilding their temple. While Nehemiah was engaged in building the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans vigorously attempted to halt the undertaking (Nehemiah 6:1-14).

2. The Samaritans built a temple for themselves on “Mount Gerizim,” which the Samaritans insisted was designated by Moses as the place where the nation should worship. Sanballat, the leader of the Samaritans, established his son-in-law, Manasses, as high priest. The idolatrous religion of the Samaritans thus became perpetuated.

3. Samaria became a place of refuge for all the outlaws of Judea (Joshua 20:7;21:21). The Samaritans willingly received Jewish criminals and refugees from justice. The violators of the Jewish laws, and those who had been excommunicated, found safety for themselves in Samaria, greatly increasing the hatred which existed between the two nations.

4. The Samaritans received only the five books of Moses and rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions.[3]

“The Woman at the Well” by Diego Rivera
(Mexican, 1886-1957)

To see how deeply seated the Jewish animosity, prejudice, and bigotry was toward the Samaritans, we need look no further than Christ’s “before Abraham was, I AM” debate with the Jews (John 8:37-59).  The Jews felt that they can do no worse than fling a “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” insult at Jesus.  And as Jewish convert to Christianity Alfred Edersheim notes, the Jewish view of the Samaritans continued to degrade in the ensuing years:

Later authorities [such as Rabbi Jehuda the Holy a 3rd Century Rabbi] again reproach them [the Samaritans] with falsification of the Pentateuch, charge them with worshipping a dove, and even when, on further inquiry, they absolve them from this accusation, ascribe their excessive veneration for Mount Gerizim to the circumstance that they worshipped the idols which Jacob had buried under the oak at Shechem. To the same hatred, caused by national persecution, we must impute such expressions as that he, whose hospitality receives a foreigner, has himself to blame if his children have to go into captivity.

The expression, ‘the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,’  finds its exact counterpart in this: ‘May I never set eyes on a Samaritan;’ or else, ‘May I never be thrown into company with him!’ A Rabbi in Cæsarea explains, as the cause of these changes of opinion, that formerly the Samaritans had been observant of the Law, which they no longer were; a statement repeated in another form to the effect, that their observance of it lasted as long as they were in their own cities. Matters proceeded so far, that they were entirely excluded from fellowship. The extreme limit of this direction, if, indeed, the statement applies to the Samaritans, is marked by the declaration, that to partake of their bread was like eating swine’s flesh. This is further improved upon in a later Rabbinic work, which gives a detailed story of how the Samaritans had conspired against Ezra and Nehemiah, and the ban been laid upon them, so that now not only was all intercourse with them forbidden, but their bread declared like swine’s flesh; proselytes were not to be received from them; nor would they have part in the Resurrection of the dead.[4]

Got the picture yet or should I keep going?  And I’m sure that if you  and I compared “war stories” we could find plenty of similar reasons to find fault with Mormons. And the same thing is true on their side of the divide – many Mormons have no love lost toward critics and give as good as they get.  It didn’t take too many steps into Mormon Studies before I realized that it’s a land where animosity and acrimony rule the day – every day!  It’s Israel and Samaria all over again.

Passing through…
Christ certainly wasn’t unaware of the intense Jewish animosity and bigotry toward the Samaritans. He knew his Samaritan history well and was well versed in the Jewish cultural norms that one was to engage in in regard to the Samaritans.  This is reflected in the gospels where it states, “But he had to pass through Samaria.” (John 4:4 bolding added) As Kenneth Boa notes:

Now there were other ways in which one could go. You could take the coast or more often Jews would bypass Samaria by going into Perea or perhaps going all the way through Jericho and up along the Jordan River on the extreme west, just next to the river and then cutting across bypassing the whole province of Samaria. The most direct and quickest route would be to go through Samaria. Typically Jews would avoid it because of the hostility that was there.[5]

“Woman at the Well” by Rick Griffin
(American, 1944-1981)

So Christ had options, He could have avoided Samaria entirely – after all that’s what was expected.  And by doing so He would have reinforced the bitter animosity of the Jews – which included His own disciples toward the Samaritans.  After all, if the Samaritans wanted the truth that He carried they could always come to him, right?  It’s not like it was any secret where He was! Yet the bible tells us that He had to pass through Samaria. And I think that Dr. Boa has it right in his continuing commentary on this story:

He [Christ] went there [Samaria] because it was the shortest route and also there are appointments that take place. God has divine appointments. He didn’t necessarily leave Judea with any fixed intention of ministering in Samaria, He just planned to pass through but the Spirit will always blow wherever He wishes. True messengers of God are never subject to fixed programs and to prejudices.[6]

The key thing here is that, prejudices aside, Christ went to the Samaritans, He didn’t wait for them to come to Him. Yes, He went to them just like when He “passed through” to save us:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8, NKJV) 

… speakin’ the lingo…
Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well reveals how well He understood Samaritanism. His words to the woman masterfully target and address key Samartian dogmas and doctrines. In other words, He spoke her lingo:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
(John 4:19-21, NET Bible)

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown Japanese Artist

The key point of division between the Jews and Samaritans was where the proper place for temple worship was located. The Samaritans asserted that Mount Gerizim was the original Holy Place of Israel from the time that Joshua conquered Israel and the ten tribes originally settled the land.

According to the Bible, the story of Mount Gerizim takes us back to the story of the time when Moses ordered Joshua to take the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the mountains by Shechem and place half of the tribes, six in number, on the top of Mount Gerizim (Mount of the Blessing), and the other half in Mount Ebal (Mount of the Curse). The two mountains were used to symbolize the significance of the commandments and serve as a warning to whoever disobeyed them. The quasi-canonical Samaritan Chronicle Adler (aka “New Chronicle”, aka “Book of Joshua”) summarizes the Samaritan position as follows:

And the children of Israel in his [Joshua’s] days divided into three groups. One did according to the abominations of the Gentiles and served other Gods; another followed [Jewish Priest] Eli the son of Yafni, although many of them turned away from him after he had revealed his intentions; and a third remained with the [Samaritan] High Priest Uzzi ben Bukki, the chosen place, Mount Gerizim Bethel, in the holy city of Shechem.[7]

Therefore, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, according to the Samaritans, was an illegitimate temple sitting on an illegitimate place of worship. To all this Christ tells the woman (paraphrasing), “This is a non-issue, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  Then He goes on to explain:

You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
(John 4:22-24, NET Bible)

In other words, He tells her directly that Samaritanism doesn’t have the truth and doesn’t save: “You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews.” (bolding added)  But He then goes on to reinforce and validates a key tenet of Samaritanism: The spiritual, non-corporeal nature of God, “God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  To Samaritan ears this would sound like validation of their view of God and would resonate deeply.  As  James A. Montgomery explains:

“[In Samaritan Theology] God’s essence is pure spirit. Contrary to much Old Testament phraseology, and especially to apocalyptic Judaism, which located God in the highest, — the third or seventh heaven, — the Samaritan generally can find no local place for him. This spiritual notion receives noble expression in a verse published by Gesenius: “The abode which I shall have is the place of thy power; no ocean is there, nor sea [cf. Rev. 21,1], nor the very heavens themselves.” In his relation to creation, God ” fills the world.” Most particularly does the Samaritan theology dwell upon the incorporeality and impassibility of God, surpassing Judaism in this respect. The earliest evidence of this tendency is the Samaritan Pentateuch with its Targum, which latter exceeds even the Jewish Targumists in the avoidance of original anthropomorphisms.”[8]

Of course this extreme incorporeality of God is just as imbalanced, in error, and unbiblical as Mormonism’s extreme corporeality of God is. Hence, Christ ends with “and truth” because that’s where He’s about to lead this woman now that He’s confronted her error.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.”
(John 4:25-26, NET Bible)

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown African artist

So there stands God incarnate – that is, God in corporeal form – before this woman.[9] The irony is stunning.  Even more stunning is the fact that the first person that Jesus explicitly tells that He is the Messiah is not only a Gentile,  but a hated Samaritan Gentile to boot!  And, even worse, not just a hated Samaritan Gentile, but a lowly, looked down upon, outcast Samaritan Gentile woman! Further he, again, validates Samaritan doctrine – in this case, their Messiah doctrine.  Now to fully understand the Samartian mindset on the Messiah first requires an understanding of the central figure in Samaritan theology , that is, Moses:

In the Samaritan sect Moses takes a place parallel to that enjoyed by Mohammed in Islam : ” Moses is the Prophet of God,” and there is none other like him. But the Samaritan doctrine even surpasses Islam in reverence for its prophet. For while Muslim orthodoxy thinks of the Arabian prophet with rational soberness, the Samaritan advances the great Lawgiver to a position where he becomes an object of faith. He is rather like the Christ of Christianity, one whose origin is often held to be mysterious, who now lives to make intercession for his brethren, who will appear effectually for the saints at the last day; the Messiah himself will be but an inferior replica of that absolute Prophet…

Moreover the doctrine approaches that of a real pre-existence; he is ” the man in whom the Spirit of God was established since creation; the eyes of God were upon him with the generations of the days and years.” Further, the connection between the pre-existent state and that in the flesh was mediated by a species of metempsychosis, the sacred germ of divine light being transmitted through his forbears until it fully incarnated itself in the prophet.[10]

Sound familiar? Specifically, doesn’t this sound a bit like the veneration that Mormonism gives to Joseph Smith? Consider this:

“It was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that [Joseph Smith] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people and receive the fullness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. [Joseph Smith] was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation.”
(Brigham Young, Deseret News, Oct. 26, 1859, p. 266) 

He Qi -SamaritanWomanAtTheWell

“Samaritan Woman at the Well” by He Qi
(Chinese, 20th/21st Century)

So ironically, with both Mormonism and Samaritanism a human prophet must be displaced so that the Messiah can assume His proper place.

A prophet after the manner of Moses (Dt. 18) was what the Samaritans desired in their Messiah; this notion accordingly limited the Samaritan ideas. He was to be a Revealer of hidden or lost truths like the one the Samaritan woman had in mind, and inasmuch as there could be no greater prophet than Moses nor one equal to him, the Messiah is an entirely inferior personage. Accordingly, in contrast with the developed Jewish doctrine of the Messiah, such as was abroad since the Danielic prophecy of the Son of Man, the Samaritan Messiah never attains the character of a divine personality. He always remains human and the thought concerning him moves in a prosaic plane.[11]

And, like the Jews, the Samaritans were expecting the advent of the latter days to coincide with the appearance of the Messiah:

It is thus the chief function of the Taeb [the Samaritan term for the Messiah meaning “He who returns” or” He who restores”] to introduce the Millennium, which, as our Midrash proceeds to relate, is to be disturbed by the grand final conflict between God and the forces of evil. Here we have the replica of the Jewish and Christian notions of Gog and Magog and of Antichrist. The happy condition above described shall last for many days. But at last God’s wrath will wax hot against the Gentiles, for the earth will again corrupt itself, as in the days of the Flood. Then will come the Day of Vengeance, the Great Day, accompanied with cosmic cataclysms…

Thus [4th Century CE Samaritan theologian] Marka makes the advent of the Messiah a time of woe to the Gentiles, and regards his coming as contemporaneous with the resurrection. We also note in correspondence with the assertion of Jn. 4, 42 concerning the Samaritan expectation of the Taeb as the Saviour of the world, that an Epistle teaches that all peoples will make submission to the Prophet of the Last Days and believe in him.[12]

So Christ has quite a job here doesn’t He?  Not only does He have to overcome misplaced priorities and over (one might even say “extreme”) adulation of Moses, He also has to deal with the same type of wrong headed Messiah dogma and eschatology[13] that his own Jewish disciples are burdened with.  And what is His solution to this sticky wicket? Answer: Relationship.

Then the woman left her water jar, went off into the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Surely he can’t be the Messiah, can he?” So they left the town and began coming to him.

Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the report of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they began asking him to stay with them. He stayed there two days, and because of his word many more believed. They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:28-30; 39-42, NET Bible, bolding added) 

“Woman at the Well ii” by Hyatt Moore
(American, 20th/21st Century)

The bible doesn’t tell us exactly what happened in those two days but something profound did: Christ went from prophet, to Messiah, to Savior of the world. Now, I would speculate that this was much as it is when one has a house guest for a few days –  one gets to know them well enough to know what they’re really all about.  So, I suspect, this was how it was for the Samaritans with Christ. I’ve seen a lot of bad theology and doctrine get dealt with without a word by good relationship, and I suspect that was the case here. Spend enough time with Jesus and things change – this is a recurring pattern in the gospels.

… and breaking bad
My observation is that for many modern Christians given a choice, between taking or leaving Mormons they would be just fine with the latter – it’s Christ’s disciples all over again:

Now at that very moment his disciples came back. They were shocked because he was speaking with a woman. However, no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you speaking with her?”
(John 4:27, NET Bible)

Actually, we should give them credit for holding back for given the period’s bigotry against Samaritans in general and Samaritan women in particular:

Jews do not use (utensils) with Samaritans. This was built into a regulation in A.D. 65 or 66: “The daughters of the Samaritans are (deemed unclean as) menstruants from their cradle” (Mishnah, Nidd. 4:1); in other words, they are all regarded as ceremonially unclean.[14]

And Jewish attitudes toward even their own women weren’t much better:

The rabbis regarded women as inferior to men in every way. A very ancient prayer (still found in the Jewish prayer book) runs, “Blessed art thou, Ο Lord . . . who hast not made me a woman.” The corresponding prayer for a woman was “Blessed art thou, Ο Lord, who hast fashioned me according to thy will.”[15]

“St. Photine” Russian Icon

But here was Jesus breaking bad[16] and turning all this on it’s ear: He’s talking to a woman, in public – and a Samaritan woman no less!  And here He is asking to drink water from her well – which would require sharing the same drawing and drinking utensils with this morally compromised outcast.  This outcast who is so despised by her own people that she has to draw water mid-day – when it was so hot that all the “good and normal” people stayed safely sheltered away.

Yet by passing through this dreaded land and seeking out this sinful misfit Christ found a harvest and a feast where others could only scrape together a road side snack on the highway named, “anywhere but here”:

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work. Don’t you say, ‘There are four more months and then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, look up and see that the fields are already white for harvest! The one who reaps receives pay and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. For in this instance the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
(John 4:31-38, NET Bible) 

As Leon Morris notes:

S.D. Gordon has a suggestive comment : “The disciples had just been down to the town — they who knew the Master much longer and better. They brought back some loaves. That was all. The woman went down; she brought back some men” (The Sychar Revival [London, n.d.], p. 25).

[John] Calvin sees a hint “at how much more careful men’s minds are for earthly things than for heavenly. For they are so consumed with looking for harvest that they carefully count up the months and days. But it is surprising how lazy they are in reaping the wheat of heaven.”[17]

Suffice to say our prejudice and bigotry can blind us to what really matters can’t it? And if that woman at the well thing wasn’t enough of a throw down on smug, self-righteous, religious bigotry Jesus also had to go and introduce us to this guy:

“Le bon Samaritain” by Aimé Morot
(French, 1850-1913)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the expert, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side. So too a Levite, when he came up to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’ Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
(Luke 10:25-37, NET Bible)

So not only did Jesus understand Samaritan culture, speak like a Samaritan, and “break bad” by very deliberately, and intentionally invading Samaritan space (and taking other good Jewish boys with Him too) with the gospel, He actually chose to challenge the bigotry of His day by holding one of these cultists up an example of Christian mercy, charity, integrity, and compassion! Were He alive today would He challenge us in the same way by telling the story as “The Good Mormon”?  One can only wonder.[18]

Christ’s Rx for Bigotry: The Samaritans
In summary, it’s been my observation that the weak argument being addressed in this article tends to be rooted in at least one of the following four things: 1) Ignorance, 2) Hardheartedness, 3) Bigotry, 4) Amnesia regarding the universal inclusiveness of Christ’s gospel.  In the gospels Christ kept prescribing the same thing over and over whenever He found any or all of those four bullies loitering: The Samaritans. As Church Historian Phillip Schapp notes:

“The Samaritan Woman at the Well” by Annibale Carracci
(Italian, 1560-1609)

For three years he mingled freely with his countrymen . Occasionally he met and healed Gentiles also, who were numerous in Galilee; he praised their faith the like of which he had not found in Israel, and prophesied that many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness. He conversed with a woman of Samaria, to the surprise of his disciples, on the sublimest theme, and rebuked the national prejudice of the Jews by holding up a good Samaritan as a model for imitation

It is the Gospel of universal humanity. It breathes the genuine spirit of charity, liberty, equality, which emanate from the Saviour of mankind, but are so often counterfeited by his great antagonist, the devil. It touches the tenderest chords of human sympathy. It delights in recording Christ’s love and compassion for the sick, the lowly, the despised, even the harlot and the prodigal. It mentions the beatitudes pronounced on the poor and the hungry, his invitation to the maimed, the halt, and the blind, his prayer on the cross for pardon of the wicked murderers, his promise to the dying robber. It rebukes the spirit of bigotry and intolerance of the Jews against Samaritans, in the parable of the good Samaritan. It reminds the Sons of Thunder when they were about to call fire from heaven upon a Samaritan village that He came not to destroy but to save. (bolding added)[19]

And I would also add to the list that in response to the aforementioned, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jewish insult, He didn’t disassociate or distance Himself from identifying with the Samaritans in His response (“I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” see John 8:48&49) Rather, that part of the insult was simply ignored. 

We also see this same anti-bigotry prescription applied to Peter’s prejudice toward the Gentiles (see Acts 10) when God says to him, “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!” (Acts 10:15).  And we see Christ’s Samaritan evangelistic approach applied by Paul with the Greeks on Mars Hill (see Acts 17:16-34) when he proclaimed, “what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands.” (Acts 17:23&24).  We even see Phillip returning to Samaria (see Acts 8:4-25), reapplying Christ’s methods and starting such an overwhelming revival that Peter and John had to help him bring in this second Samaritan harvest.

The Stronger Arguments:
(Well, no so much arguments as strategies and tactics and a general change of attitude in this case)
Brothers and sisters, the fields are white. In Mormonism we have one of the largest mission fields on earth literally sitting in our own backyards just like the Jews did with the Samaritans.  And in my opinion, it all too often it gets ignored (which is bad), napalmed, (which is worse), or catered to (which is a disaster and an embarrassment) by Christians depending their level of indifference, animosity, or ignorance. The template that Christ gave us with the “Mormons” of His day, offers us a balanced and biblical “higher calling” for evangelizing the Mormons of ours.  Let’s take a good look at that template.

Pass through…
Just as Christ made a conscious decision to enter Samaritan space shouldn’t we too enter Mormon space?  However, before doing so I recommend becoming familiar with the basics of Mormon culture.  Thankfully, a Pastor in Utah, Ross Anderson (who just so happens to be a former Mormon) has provided us with a wonderful resource:  A short little 144-page book on Latter-day Saint culture entitled, “Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor” that can easily be read in a couple of hours. Here’s an excerpt:

mormon-church-meeting21

A Mormon Fast and Testimony meeting in Africa.

On the first Sunday of each month, [the normal weekly] Sacrament Meeting takes a different twist. This Sunday is set aside as a day of fasting and prayer. Members typically go without two meals and donate the money they would have spent on food to the Church to help the poor . Sacrament Meeting becomes “Fast and Testimony Meeting.” On this Sunday , babies are blessed and newly baptized members are confirmed. In place of the regular Sacrament Meeting talks, members bear their testimonies. One at a time, they spontaneously go to the podium to give thanks for personal blessings, talk about faith-promoting experiences, and affirm their confidence in the truth of Mormon claims.

Members declare that they know the LDS Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the current Church president is a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, or similar affirmations about the core principles of the Restoration. These monthly testimonies reinforce the speaker’s identification with the history and beliefs of the group while bolstering the confidence of those listening. Often testimony bearing is an emotional experience, accompanied by faltering voice and tears.

While Fast and Testimony Meeting can be a moving experience, Sacrament Meeting in general lacks the sense of transcendence that most traditional Christians associate with worship. In the biblical Christian worldview, God is infinitely above and distinct from his creation, but the LDS worldview collapses the distance between God and human beings. One LDS scholar, commenting on the implications for artists of a God who is the same kind of being as us, writes: If God is shorn of ineffability and transcendence , or is construed in human terms, how does one find the reverential awe that moves one to true worshipfulness? If Jesus is our “big brother,” how can he be our Lord and God? Reverence before the Almighty must be freshly conceptualized in such a reconfigured heaven and earth. But the dilemmas for the artist are especially vexing: in a universe devoid of transcendence and sacred distance (at least as conventionally constructed), how can wonder flourish?[20]

And I would recommend that you also read Mr. Anderson’s other excellent little book (only 116-pages this time) “Understanding the Book of Mormon” which will give you a quick overview of that book and a bit more insight into the Mormon mind and culture. That way  if you decide to a meeting at the local Mormon Church you’ll have at some basic knowledge of that book and it’s role in Mormonism.

And, yes, you read that last paragraph correctly, if we are truly going to pass through Mormonism like Christ passed through Samaria it is incumbent on us to go just as He went.  After all, if Christ could sit on the edge of a well and talk to Samaritan woman I think that we can somehow manage to stand by the water fountain in a Mormon Ward building and chat with Mormons can’t we?

In fact, I would recommend that if you’ve never been to a Mormon Church service before that you jump right into the deep end and attend an aforementioned Fast & Testimony meeting.  Not only will you come away with a better understanding of Mormonism you’ll also be inoculated against two things: 1) Ever wanting to join the Mormon Church because F&T’s (to use Mormon slang for them) are probably one of the boring things you’ll ever experience in this or any other lifetime – they even make the uptight Nazarene church that I grew up in seem lively, and; 2) Ever wondering if Mormonism is a cult or not.  All it will take for the latter is one of these:

In my opinion, until one has attended a Mormon Chapel service I don’t think it’s possible to fully grasp Mormon culture.  In fact, if you can, I would recommend that you also attend a Mormon Sunday School class (by the way, they’re usually not boring), a regular (that is non-Fast and Testimony) Chapel meeting, and watch at least one General Conference Address (which you can do after reading this article by clicking here). Do all that and you’ll have a rather nice immersion into Latter-day Saint church culture.

…speak the lingo…
To paraphrase from George Bernard Shaw,  just as Israel and Samaria were two countries separated by a common language, so too are Christianity and Mormonism.  As Sandra Tanner explains:

Whenever an evangelical Christian and a Latter-day Saint engage in a doctrinal discussion they encounter the problem of terminology. LDS leaders use the standard  vocabulary of Christianity but with radically different definitions. A Christian should never take for granted that his/her LDS friend understands common Christian terms in the biblical way.[21]

For example, and to cite from Ms. Tanner’s article, let’s consider the differences between how Jesus Christ is defined in both Latter-day Saint and Christian theology:

LDS: He is literally our elder brother, born to Heavenly Parents in the pre-existence. Jesus, Lucifer, angels and humans are all the same species and are brothers and sisters.

Christian: Jesus is fully God, not a subordinate deity. He eternally exists as God and is our creator.

Folks, this is not the same Christ![22] And like Christ, whose understanding was so great that He was both strategic and tactical in how He deconstructed and corrected the errors in Samaritan theology,  a good understanding of the “language differences” between the two groups are essential so we can do the same.

16402_10152868918113115_616651833807347885_nHowever, a word of warning: I’ve seen Christians overdo it on on this point too. Notice how in His conversation with the woman at the well Christ didn’t insist on correcting her bad theology into the minutiae right then and there.  Rather, He seemed to be content to leave things “loose” in order to build a common foundation for relationship.  This is typical with Mormons too – all too often you have to leave some loose ends dangling with the hope that you’ve planted enough seeds that they’ve yield fruit later.  It can take Mormons years, even decades, and multiple contacts with different Christians over that time frame to transition out of Mormonism since the personal price they pay they pay for leaving can be so high.

So a big part of “passing through” and “speaking the lingo” means being empathetic to the fact that for many Mormons the price for leaving can include divorce, being shunned by friends and family members, loss of income, loss of employment, feeling lost and alienated in the new non-Mormon culture that they’re suddenly thrust out into, and a whole host of other issues. As former BYU Professor Arza Evans‘ classic white paper  “Families Held Hostage” explains:

A man or a woman who comes to the conclusion that Mormonism is based upon deception and who then decides to leave the LDS Church must also be willing to give up his or her family. It may turn out that the doubter is able to persuade some family members to change their minds about Mormonism, but the odds are against this happening. Instead, a person usually learns that family members have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that their highest loyalty is to the Church, not to a husband, wife, son, daughter, or even to the truth. And a Church member who associates or sympathizes with an “apostate” risks failing his or her temple worthiness interview. (This is one of the questions.)[23]

This leads to the phenomenon known as “Shadow Mormonism” – members of the LdS Church who secretly no longer believe that all of it is true but are held hostage to Mormonism due to family, social, and vocational ties. Here’s how one such Mormon described his plight:

To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute…

To those of you on the outside, I thank you. I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your wisdom and insight. I thank you for your compassion and understanding. I thank you for your stories. I thank you for showing me the truth and allowing me to bask in its warmth, even if for a small moment. I love you all. I hope that truth will ultimately prevail. I hope that you and I will live to see it.[24]

… and break bad.
Perhaps I’m wrong but it seems to me that the woman at the well might have also felt like a hostage to Samaritanism. She was clearly an outcast or she wouldn’t have been drawing water in the heat of the day. And her multiple “marriages” seem to be a misguided attempt to fill some kind of existential void to me. But where could she go? She was trapped.

So when I read that Shadow Mormon plea I think of the “Mormons at the well” who must be suffering in like manner. I think of all the true believing Mormons who think that by oppressing and keeping them captive that they’re serving God.  I think of the blindness of those all those Mormons – believing and unbelieving – who are in sinking sand but don’t know it because they can’t see it. And I think of how they’re too often treated by well meaning but misguided Christians.

“Woman at the Well” by Sieger Köder
(German Catholic Priest, 1925-)

Sadly, the most common form of engagement by many Christians with Mormons – especially those new to Mormon Studies – tends to be one of three things: 1) Mormon bashing; 2) Soapboxing, and; 3) Placating. Bashing doesn’t require much of an explanation, just visit any internet page where Mormons and Christians are dialoging and you’ll both groups gleefully punching each other in the nose – all in the name God and with the love of Christ of course! You’ll also see both groups getting up on their soapboxes and spewing the dogma of their respective group in their native tongue.  There they’ll be Christians spewing Christianese, Mormons spewing Mormonese while those in their group smile and nod – and while those in the other group either glare angrily at such insensitive folly, or look bemused at the blizzard of meaningless words whizzing over their heads and splatting unproductively against the wall behind them.

But the most damaging of them all are the placators who “mangle Mormonese” (that is take everything at face value without realizing that while the words are the same, the underlying meaning is different) and then smile and gleefully declare, “Well whaddya know! You guys are pretty much just like us!”  Richard Mouw comes to mind here.

Christ’s  “Samaritan Template” offers us a better way: Break out of the unbiblical social conventions of Evangelical Christianity and be different if that’s what it takes to reach Mormons with the gospel.  In other words, “break bad!”  Now be forewarned that this may get you in trouble with Christians who misunderstand what you’re doing – and some Mormons may like it even less.

I’m speaking from experience. Occasionally Christians who first encounter me online think that I’m Mormon because I speak Mormonese and I don’t bash. And some Mormons think the same thing.  Further, I break bad whenever I tug at the sleeve of Christian soapboxers and say (in effect), “You do realize that they’re not ‘getting’ a single word you’re saying, right? Have you ever thought about learning their culture and learning their native tongue first?” Finally, I have the even more annoying habit of standing between Christians who are bashing Mormons and their targets and saying, “Why are you hitting that blind man?”  (by the way, sometimes they’ll just hit you instead when you do this). And, yes, I’ve learned how to recognize all these behaviors because, to my shame, I’ve done all these things in abundance – and on bad days I still do.

“Christ and Woman at the Well” Byzatine Icon

It is to such zealotry that Heavenly Father (through the Apostle Paul) says:

“God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.”
(2 Timothy 2:24-26, The Message)

And the Holy Spirit (through the Apostle Peter) says:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
(1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

Thus, it is to all the well meaning but misguided zealots like myself that the Master beckons saying, “Follow Me! If you speak the lingo, know the culture, and if will ‘break bad’ by humbling yourself as I, did then come with Me – there are some Latter-day Saint captives waiting to be freed.”

Summary and Conclusion:
Clearly the weak argument presented at the beginning of this article is unbiblical. We do need to understand Mormon culture. We do need to speak their language. And if we’re to have the mind of Christ hadn’t we must be willing to get out of the Christian ghetto and walk into “Zion” as boldly as Christ walked into Samaria – or more pointedly as He was willing to humble Himself for a planet full of sinners that included you and I.

Shouldn’t we have the good sense to understand their culture and language well enough to preach the gospel in a way that really, really reaches them rather than just doing things make us feel good about ourselves but doesn’t bear fruit? Shouldn’t we go against the social conventions and biases of our own culture if they’re getting the way of reaching the lost that God loves so much with the gospel? Shouldn’t we model ourselves after the Apostle who said so well:

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
(1 Corinthians 9:20-23, The Message, bolding added)

What I hope to see is revival in “Zion” due to an occupying army of Christians who speak the native tongue and love Mormons enough to move with comfort and ease within their culture while still keeping their bearings in Christ.  I long to see the captives in “Zion” set free – and I hope that you do too. After all, Christ has already showed us how to do it – it all started at a well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henryk_Siemiradzki

“Christ and the Samaritan Woman” (1890) by Henryk Siemiradzkizki (Polish, 1843-1902)

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”
— Mother Teresa

NOTES
[1] Some rhetorical liberties were taken here. For example, the use of the term “church” to describe pre-Christian era Samaritanism is presentist spin. As is true with most “parallel-mania” type comparisons, reality is far more complex and nuanced than the cryptic shorthand version given here. This is a big, complex topic so I would refer the interested reader to the following bibliography (from most relevant to least) from which this list derived:

Uncredited, “Differences Between Samaritan-Israelites and  Jews  of their Religious Beliefs”, TheSamaritans.com website
(compares modern Samaritanism and Judaism)

James A. Montgomery, “The Samaritans the earliest Jewish sect their history, theology, and literature”, The J.C. Winston Co.1907, pp.204-251

Wikipedia, “Eli (biblical figure)”, Samaritan Sources section

Wikipedia, “Samaritans”

Samaritan Sacred Texts (web portal page)

“Who were the Samaritans?” Gotquestions.org web article

Abraham Tal, “The Emergence of the Samaritan Community” (Lecture given at Mandelbaum House, August 2001)

J.E.H. Thomson, D.D., “The Samaritans (Being the Alexander Robertson Lectures , delivered before the University of Glasgow in 1916)”

Jacob, Son of Aaron High Priest of the Samaritans, “The Messianic Hope of the Samaritans”

John R. Sampey, D.D., “The Samaritans”

Stefan Schorch, “The Origin of the Samaritan Community” (2005)

[2] Uncredited, “Who were the Samaritans?” Gotquestions.org web article

[3] Op cit, Gotquestions.org

[4] Alfred Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”In Judæa and through Samaria – a Sketch of Samaritan History and Theology – Jews and Samaritans chapter

[5] Kenneth Boa, “Studies in the Book of John: John – Chapter 4”

[6] Ibid

[7] As cited in The Keepers, An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans, by Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, Hendrickson Publishing, 2002, p.12.  An online English translation of  the “Samaritan Chronicles” (aka the “Book of Joshua”) can also be found here.

[8] James A. Montgomery, “The Samaritans the earliest Jewish sect their history, theology, and literature”, The J.C. Winston Co., (1907), pp.210-211

[9] Here’s a quick explanation of this phenomenon from Wikipedia:

Christianity takes exception to a strict adherence to belief in God’s incorporeality when it comes to the Incarnation. According to traditional Christianity, in the Incarnation, the second member of the Trinity… became infleshed (the Latin meaning of incarnatus) and thus, in a sense, came to be “with body.” While this pivotal claim about the union of God and man at the heart of Christianity marks a dramatic departure from a radical transcendent theology of God according to which any such union is metaphysically impossible, it does not commit Christians to denying God’s immateriality. In traditional Christianity, God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (apart from the Incarnation) are clearly understood as lacking material structure and composition.
(Wikipedia article on “Incorporeality” bolding added)

[10] Op Cit, James A. Montgomery, pp.225-226, 228

[11] Ibid, pp.244-245

[12] Ibid, pp. 249,250

[13] New Testament scholar Leon Morris notes:

There is no reason for thinking that Samaritan ideas of the Messiah were with out nationalistic aspects. But the Taheb was primarily a teacher, a restorer of true worship, a priest. Macdonald says, “no king was looked for and no royal prerogatives” (The Theology of the Samaritans, p. 362). Clearly to accept the title “Messiah” in Samaritan surroundings in a discussion with a woman about worship was a very different matter from accepting the title among Jews.
Leon Morris, “The Gospel According to John” (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)” (Kindle Locations 6770-6773). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[14] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6621-6623

[15] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6791-6793

[16] “Breaking bad” comes from the American Southwest slang phrase “to break bad,” meaning to challenge conventions, to defy authority and to skirt the edges of the law. Example: “What, you just decided to break bad one day?”
(source: Urban Dictionary)

[17] Op Cit, Leon Morris, Kindle Locations 6808-6810 and 6837-6840

[18] I understand well those who might take umbrage to the idea that Christ might tell the parable of “The Good Mormon” were He to tell it today.  Despite the similarities, there are some substantial differences as well.  For example, unlike modern Mormonism, the Samaritans didn’t insist in trumpeting and promoting their charities and other good works every chance they get. Further, I doubt (though I don’t know with certainty) that they used charity as a means of coercion like the LdS Church has throughout it’s history has.  I thought that we summarized both of these points well in The 95 LDS Theses (circa 2013) when we said:

70. It [the LDS Church] 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) [click here for supplemental evidence]

33. It [the LDS Church] 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.

So while my rhetorical stance in this article may have put too positive a spin on Mormonism on this point I’m not naive – I really do realize how complex the issues here really are.

[19] Philip Schaff, “History Of The Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes In One)” (Kindle Locations 2248-2267 and 9332-9338).  . Kindle Edition.

[20] Ross Anderson, “Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor: A Quick Christian Guide for Relating to Latter-day Saints” (Kindle Locations 626-643)

[21] Sandra Tanner, “Terminology Differences”

[22] For an even more granular analysis of the differences between the Mormon and Biblical Jesus see, “Mormonism and Jesus Christ” by Rob Bowman.

[23] Arza Evans, “Families Held Hostage”, p.2; Mr. Evans has a unique insider’s view as he’s one of the best connected ExMormons that I know of.  As Richard Packham explains in the introduction for this article that he has on his website, “Mr. Evans is a retired college professor who grew up thoroughly indoctrinated with Mormonism. He went on a full-time mission for the Mormon church, served in several bishoprics, and was also a temple worker. About age forty he began some serious research into early Mormon history that led to traumatic but liberating changes in his life. His article (written 2004).”  This biography fails to mention that Mr. Evan’s father was the President of the Temple System for the LdS Church during the 1970’s and part of the 1980’s and that Mormon General Authorities, and Presidents were, and in some cases still are, family friends and neighbors of Mr. Evans.

[24] Enigma, “The Death of Reason and Freedom”

This article is dedicated to my dear friend Martin Jacobs without whom I never would seen any connection between the Samaritans and the Mormons. Thank you mate! 

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