Archive for the ‘Jesus Christ’ Category

The Chosen Season 3 Official Trailer. The scene in question starts @1:29.

Concerns About “The Chosen: Season 3 Official Trailer”

by Fred W. Anson
Introduction
A week ago The Chosen broadcast series posted its official Season 3 trailer. At the one minute, twenty-nine second mark a scene starts in which the actor playing Jesus Christ says, “I am the Law of Moses”. And with those words the Internet, erupted in a hail of words with one side denouncing all or part of The Chosen and its creator/producer/showrunner Dallas Jenkins and the one side defending both. 

I find myself in the middle because let’s face it, none of us (including me) have seen the final version of the scene yet and we don’t, therefore, know the full and complete context for this line. Who knows, given the context of the full scene perhaps this line is perfectly fine. However, that said, just taken at face value, it is extremely problematic. This article explains why. 

That said, I must add, that fanning the fire has been The Chosen team’s weak canned response to inquiries from myself and others regarding the question which thus far has been as follows: 

“Jesus does not say he’s the law of Moses in the Book of Mormon (which Dallas hasn’t read), nor does he use those exact words in Scripture (like most things he says in the show). But either way, Dallas wrote the line for two reasons: one, he thought it was really cool and the kind of thing Jesus could say in response; and two, it’s theologically plausible. He’s the Word, he’s the Creator, he’s the Law.”
(see screenshots included elsewhere in this article) 

This article is, in fact, an expanded (though more tightly edited and polished) version of my own reply to this less-than-satisfactory explanation. I hope that it helps brings clarity to this situation, as well as an impetus to The Chosen team to rectify this problem before this particular episode airs. 

Why This is a Problem
Some have suggested that Jesus saying “I am the Law of Moses” isn’t much of a problem at all – a molehill, not a mountain. Here’s why it is, in fact, the latter:

1) It’s not only unbiblical, it’s utterly unbiblical – foreign in word and concept.
Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say this and neither do the Apostles, the Old Testament Prophets nor the Patriarchs – up to and including Moses Himself in the Torah. This is true both explicitly AND implicitly. It can be found nowhere in the Bible in either word or in concept, it is a teaching that is totally and completely foreign to the Bible.

So why then is Mr. Jenkins putting words in the mouth of The Chosen’s Christ when there is no biblical support or justification for it? It raises some real issues about Dallas Jenkins’ commitment to biblical fidelity, doesn’t it? Does this mean that we can expect to see more “missteps” like this going forward? That is more speculative theology that has utterly no basis in biblical reality?

Time will only tell.

2) Taken to its logical conclusion it teaches another gospel and another Jesus.
The Chosen team’s explanation for the line in their canned response to inquiries on it is as follows,

“Dallas wrote the line for two reasons: one, he thought it was really cool and the kind of thing Jesus could say in response; and two, it’s theologically plausible. He’s the Word, he’s the Creator, he’s the Law.”

This flippant, dismissive (one might even say adolescent) justification is fraught with big theological problems. Yes, we readily acknowledge and accept the fact that the Bible does say that Christ is the Word (Greek: “logos” meaning “word,” “reason,” or “plan” according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica), and He is the Creator just as John 1 so clearly states:

John 1 KJV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

However, again, nowhere does the Bible state that Jesus Christ is the Law of Moses, because, plainly stated, biblically speaking He’s not, never was, and never will be. Rather, both the words of the Bible and Christ Himself are quite clear that He was both under the Mosiac Law and fulfilled the Law of Moses so that He might redeem those who were likewise born under it by living a sinless life and atoning for our sin by redeeming us with through His sacrificial death. This isn’t just some guy on the Internet’s opinion it is precisely and explicitly what the Bible says:

Galatians 4:4-5 KJV
“But when the fulness of the time was come, 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.”

Luke 24:44 KJV
‘And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.’

Furthermore, theologically, to say that Jesus is the Law of Moses doesn’t just run counter to that, it means that disobeying the Law of Moses in whole or in part is a form of rejecting Christ Himself in part or in whole as well. This is fraught with theological problems and the potential for heresy – such as the intermingling of Mosaic Law and the gospel that Paul so boldly and directly denounced as heresy in the book of Galatians (as well as Romans, Ephesians, and other New Testament books) and that the other Apostles echoed Paul in doing so in their own New Testament books. Or, as Bryan Catherman on the “Salty Believer” website said so well: 

‘Now, the Bible does say Jesus is the Word, the revelation of the living God to his creation (John 1:1), but that is by no means the same as suggesting Jesus is the Law. Jesus is not the Law. There is a clear contrast between the Old and the New Covenants. There is a compelling difference between the Law that “came along to multiply the trespass” and the grace reigning “through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).’
(Bryan Catherman, “Jesus Is the Law of Moses? Did The Chosen Get This Right?”

And Lutheran Theologian Steven Paulson, referring to neither The Chosen nor the Book of Mormon, was even more expansive when he said:

“Luther in his …Galatians Commentary …directly asserts, ‘Christ is not the Law…Christ is not my work.’ Much earlier in this sermon from 1 Timothy, he makes the same assertion, but he also adds in case we are in need of clarification, “The Holy Spirit is not the Law nor vice versa.” God is not the Law nor vice versa.

Therefore, the proper use of the Law consists of not introducing it where it does not belong. To understand this use rightly, you must divide man into two parts and make a sharp distinction between both, namely, the old and the new, as Paul divided them [e.g., Eph. 4:22-24]. Leave the new man completely unentangled by laws; urge the old man ceaselessly with laws and give him no rest from them. Then you have used the Law properly and well. The new man cannot at all be helped by works; he must have something higher, namely, Christ, who is not a law or a work but a gift and present, nothing but grace and mercy of God…”
(Steve D. Paulson, “LW 56, 105, 106-107 Sermons III 1 Timothy 1:8-11”)

And, ironically, this “blurring of the lines” that these authors are warning us about is the very false gospel that the Book of Mormon teaches, as Pam Hanvey summarized so nicely in her classic article on the topic:

‘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.”’
(Pam Hanvey (writing as “Marie Johnson”), “The Bible v. The Book of Mormon Gospel”)

So the fact that Dallas Jenkins and his staff could or would call this statement from The Chosen’s Jesus “theologically plausible” and “really cool and the kind of thing Jesus could say” is extremely troubling, to say the least. 

3) While it’s never taught in the Bible, it is taught in the Book of Mormon
The biggest question for many folks, especially those with concerns about Dallas Jenkin’s affiliation with Mormons and the LdS Church, is this: Why is The Chosen’s Christ teaching something that is in The Book of Mormon but not the Bible? Does this subtle shift represent the long-feared syncretism of Biblical Christianity with Mormonism that some of The Chosen’s more brazen critics have been warning would eventually manifest on the screen given Mr. Jenkins’ oft-questioned alliance with Mormons and their church? 

Even more concerning is that when I and others have contacted The Chosen team on their Facebook page (see https://www.facebook.com/InsideTheChosen) this is the canned, boilerplate response that we received on this point:

“Jesus does not say he’s the law of Moses in the Book of Mormon (which Dallas hasn’t read)”.

Respectfully, friends, this is the kind of manipulative deflection and obfuscation that preys on the presumed ignorance of the other party that those of us in Mormon Studies see pretty much non-stop from rank-and-file Mormon Apologists. Stated plainly, given the Book of Mormon source (3 Nephi 15:9) in its full and complete context this statement is simply not true. That is “I am the Law of Moses” is indeed exactly what the Book of Mormon Jesus is saying when he says the shortened version “I am the law” in the Book of Mormon. If you doubt me, here is that passage for your consideration: 

3 Nephi 15
2 And it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he perceived that there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses; for they understood not the saying that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.

5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.

6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.

7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.

8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.

9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

10 Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.

What’s more, the declaration that Dallas Jenkins hasn’t read the Book of Mormon is relevant how exactly? The fact of the matter is that he is citing from the Book of Mormon – be it intentionally or accidentally.  Christians in Mormon Studies who know the Book of Mormon saw the connection immediately and it gave us all pause – a big, long, stunned pause as in, “Did he really, really, really just say that?” And, yes, he did! 

So if Dallas Jenkins really, really, really wanted to hand those in Mormon Studies (and this author, for the record, has not been one of them, I have been a public supporter since Season 1) who have been concerned about his cozy relationship with the LdS Church and its members, bullets to snipe at The Chosen with, then it’s Mission Accomplished! Well done, Mr. Jenkins, well done indeed, your most vocal critics are locked, loaded, and ready to go – and they’ll be yelling, “Thanks for the free ammo, bro!” when they go full “Bonnie and Clyde” on y’all. 

But let’s back up and get “real” here, are they seriously telling us that the Mormons on The Chosen team, didn’t point all this out to him? Really? Seriously? Please paint me skeptical. Those of us who know and understand how Mormon Culture works, know better and we know that “small” details like quotes from the Book of Mormon in popular media are almost never missed by Latter-day Saints – heck they’ll even eisegete them into things if they need to! This is especially incredulous when you consider the fact that the official 2020 LdS Church Home Ministry manual “Come Follow Me” has a lesson entitled, “September 21–27. 3 Nephi 12–16: “I Am the Law, and the Light” in it which references the 3 Nephi 15:9 passage directly: 

“Like the law of Moses, this law points us to Christ—the only One who can save and perfect us. “Behold,” He said, “I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live” (3 Nephi 15:9).”
(LdS Church, “September 21–27. 3 Nephi 12–16: “I Am the Law, and the Light”, in the “Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020″ manual) 

So, I call either baloney – or at least, “major fail” – on Mr. Jenkins’ Mormon friends and colleagues. You all win the tallest Dundie in the box, for the biggest fumble of Season 3 so far.  So if y’all are wondering who provided that hell storm of live rounds that you’re now seeing coming from the Biblical Christian side of the divide came from, you keep just go look in a mirror and you’ll find the culprit. Self-inflicted wounds are the worst, aren’t they Team Chosen?   

4) Regardless of whether or not The Book of Mormon was the source for this line or not, this raises serious questions about the soundness of Dallas Jenkins’ theology in general.
Dallas Jenkins claims that his scripts are vetted by a panel of Christians from various traditions and denominations prior to being shot. If that’s true then how in the world did they not catch a rather blatant misstep into an area of theological speculation that is as unbiblical and fraught with problems as this one?

Now if The Chosen Jesus had said to the Pharisee in the scene, “I am here to fulfill the Law of Moses” (or something like that) we wouldn’t be having this conversation because that’s biblical. But he didn’t, he is teaching a false gospel from The Book of Mormon instead, isn’t he? Mr. Jenkins and team, how could you all not see that would be a major problem? Why didn’t you woodcraft this line so that it was biblical rather than a squirming can of worms? 

And trust me, I know them well, the Biblical Christians are going to be howling about this if the rest of the scene in the final cut that actually airs, doesn’t remediate this major misstep somehow. It ain’t gonna get better, Team Chosen, it’s gonna get worse! In fact, even I may be withdrawing my long-held support of The Chosen and joining your critics in denouncing it as, minimally, theologically compromised, and, maximally, tainted with Mormon heresies. Team Chosen, I am not going to sit idly by while Dallas Jenkins allows Mormon dogma slowly begin to infect and degrade what to this point has been, at least in my opinion, a biblically sound television series. 

So, I highly recommend and would politely and respectfully (but pointedly) suggest that you all fix this before this episode of Season 3 drops. And, no, that doesn’t mean yet another long-winded rambling post-show “rap” from Dallas explaining why “it’s all OK after it, kids!” airs that we all now just roll our eyes at (that tactic has “played”, Mr. Jenkins, please stop – more walk less talk, please!).

That means that it needs to be fixed in post-production before it goes “gold”, like that. No, it’s cheap; no, it’s not easy; but, yes, it’s the right thing to do. And if you do, I can assure you that I will continue to support, and even defend, The Chosen TV series despite the misgivings about Mr. Jenkins’ theology and judgment that I have had for some time despite my great love for the screen product that he has given us. 

Again, and to sum it all up, if it’s true that Dallas Jenkins hasn’t read The Book of Mormon then putting these words into the mouth of Jesus raises some real issues about just how theologically sound Dallas Jenkins is and just how much discernment this showrunner who claims to hold to biblical orthodoxy actually possesses. If so, does this “ball drop” mean that we can expect to see more facepalm moments like this going forward? More really, really, really bad theology that has no biblical basis or justification at all, is that what we should expect from The Chosen? 

Time will only tell.

Friends, this is a problem. A big problem. And, with all due respect, Mr. Jenkins you need to fix it.

Now. 

Screenshot of the trailer at the exact time when the actor playing Christ says, “I am The Law of Moses” (@1:42).

 

APPENDIX 1: My Direct Message Session With The Chosen Staff on Their Facebook Page
Here are the screenshots of my direct message conversation with The Chosen staff on 2022-10-22 for the record – typos and all. Click on the images to zoom them if you are still having trouble reading them. If you’re on a small-screen mobile device (like a phone or tablet) turn it sideways into “landscape” mode as well. 

This was The Chosen team’s final response to all my concerns and my reasons for them.

APPENDIX 2: Why the Term “Canned Response” Isn’t Hyperbole
For those who may be of the opinion that my use of the term “canned response” was hyperbolic, here’s another example of it from another person on Facebook (name redacted upon request) who received the exact same response from The Chosen team that I did. We are two such examples of this, but others have confirmed that they too received exactly the same response as well. 

Another example of The Chosen’s canned DM response whenever queried about this issue via Facebook Messenger.

APPENDIX 3: The Exact Time in the Trailer Where It’s Said
At the end of the article is a screenshot of the Season 3 Trailer at the exact timestamp @1:42 where The Chosen Christ says, “I am the Law of Moses”. The quoted text has been added to this screen capture by this author because the YouTube closed caption and subtitling systems weren’t working for this video when it was screen captured on 2002-10-23 at approximately 2:15PM US Pacific time. You can click on the image or the link on the timestamp in the image caption to validate all this.

 
 
 
Justice Isn’t a Myth. But Neither is Grace and Mercy

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

The Myth
“Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.”

Justice Isn’t a Myth…
I’ve been in countless conversations with Latter-day Saints where I’ve stated my position on the gift of grace, and they’ve accused me of believing that grace is a license to sin. It bothered me that Mormons viewed grace with such little regard when it was so precious to me. Then I thought more about it and realized that logically, their argument held up.

Objectively, the Evangelical position seems preposterous. How can we claim that God is holy, but teach that He forgives sin without requiring anything in return? And what leads us to believe that sinners would turn from their wicked ways without fear of punishment as a motivation?

Imagine that a hardened criminal was taken to court. All the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty, but the judge decided to forgive him. Not only that, but the courts would turn a blind eye to any evil he did in the future. The judge’s pronouncement of innocence would be legal fiction. It’s unlikely that the man would change his ways just because he was forgiven. If anything, he would become more brazen in his crimes since there would be no fear of consequences. So wouldn’t a sinner behave the same way if God forgave his trespasses, past, and future, just like that? If we are honest, the only answer that makes sense is yes!

However, this really only tells part of the story. Yes, we are forgiven and justified freely by God through no effort on our own, even in the midst of sin and while fully deserving of condemnation.

But there’s so much more. Not only are we forgiven and given a clean slate, but we are also accredited with the actual righteousness of Christ! In other words, God sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness and nothing more. Therefore we are deemed worthy, not on our merit, but because of our faith in Christ. This immediately makes us worthy of any reward Jesus earned through His merits. Latter-day Saints often mock the idea of imputed righteousness, saying it makes God a liar because He is proclaiming someone righteous who really isn’t. This changes my earlier analogy from a criminal who is given a clean slate, to that same criminal being given the key to the city.

Doesn’t this idea render God unjust and His disciples hypocrites? The short answer is no.

…But Neither is Grace and Mercy
Please allow me to posit that forensic righteousness is taught in scripture, lest my Mormon readers are given an out to say it’s a nice concept that isn’t true.

Let’s start in Romans 4. In this chapter, Paul asks a significant question: when was Abraham justified, before or after he was circumcised? He answers that he was justified before circumcision. Circumcision itself is not the emphasis of this chapter, but rather an example Paul uses to convey a wider question. Does obedience justify us before a holy God? The answer is no. Abraham was justified before he did anything to obey God. In verse 5 (ESV) Paul drills in this point:

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
(Romans 4:5 ESV)

Mormons believe that faith is essentially an action verb that includes works, but Paul makes three points in this verse that refute that notion. First, he deconstructs faith down to its basic elements. Belief and an absence of work are described as the genetic makeup of faith. Second, faith is described as being the catalyst for one to become righteous. And third, he makes the shocking statement that God justifies the ungodly.

Paul doesn’t only equate an absence of works to faith, he also attributes it to grace.  Later in Romans, he states:

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

Just as oxygen loses its integrity and becomes something else with the addition of hydrogen, when works are added to faith and grace they too become something different.

Latter-day Saints are quick to argue from James 2 that people are justified by their works. But consider this, if people were justified for doing noble things, would they still be wicked? Certainly not! Such a position does nothing but cast suspicion on Paul, who says that God saves the ungodly.

If we make the necessary assumption that Paul and James agree on the gospel, we must conclude that the people James references did good deeds because they were already righteous. Take this passage in James for example:

And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
(James 2:23 ESV)

This scripture again points to belief as the catalyst for making someone righteous. In fact, the passage referenced here is Genesis 15:6, which occurred several years before the sacrifice of Isaac. This confirms that Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac to gain favor with God, but because he was already righteous. This righteousness acts like insurance, protecting us when we sin and still keeps us in God’s favor despite our shortcomings and failures. To illustrate this point, Paul quotes King David:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
(Romans 4:7-8 ESV).

David is perhaps the greatest evidence of God’s mercy having nothing to do with our performance. Not only did he commit adultery, but he put the woman’s husband on the front lines of the battle to die. When the prophet Nathan confronted him, David confessed his sin and Nathan replied:

“The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
(2 Samuel 12:13 ESV)

I’ve had Latter-day Saints argue that Nathan was merely pardoning David from physical death. This flies in the face of the statement that God put away his sin. If God excused physical punishment but kept David’s sin in his back pocket for Judgment Day, that isn’t really putting the sin away, is it? Likewise, David would be misguided for praising God for forgiving lawless deeds, covering sin, and for not counting his sins against him.

Mormons would protest this line of thinking. After all, isn’t it more reasonable that a just God always metes out righteous judgment? How can He forgive heinous sins like David’s without some kind of recompense?

This was the same assumption the Prodigal Son had in Luke 15 when he returned to his father asking to be hired on as a servant. He believed that because he sinned against his father, he was no longer worthy to be called his son. However, the father puts his ring and his robes on the Prodigal and announces a feast in honor of his return. He is brought back into the family without having to pay back a single coin of his father’s inheritance.

But despite this extreme show of mercy, there is an element of truth in the Prodigal Son’s assumption. For justice to be satisfied, someone has to pay. If God merely looked the other way, He would not be good. This is where Jesus comes in as Paul explains:

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
(Romans 3:23-26 ESV)

 There is a lot to unpack in this passage, but basically, the full wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. He willingly took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to. This does two things. First, it makes God just because He punishes every sin. And second, it allows us to be justified freely.

But what does it mean to be justified freely? Simply put, it means we don’t have to do anything to escape God’s wrath, because there is no more wrath. His righteous anger for our sins has already been depleted on Christ. This is why Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. The above passage in Romans 3 spells out clearly what enables us to benefit from the atonement. Verse 25 says this propitiation is received by faith. There is no mention of commandments or temple ordinances being required for salvation.

Through faith alone, we become the beneficiaries of God’s favor at Christ’s expense. And what a heavy cost it was. He was whipped, tortured, mocked, and killed. That doesn’t even account for taking our sins. There is nothing remotely cheap about this. In fact, I would argue that what cheapens the atonement is saying our actions make it function. If this is true then Jesus isn’t enough.

Why It Matters
Jesus paid a heavy price for salvation, but what’s to keep us from wasting that gift and living unrepentant lives, especially if we’re as ungodly as Paul says? Here’s the game-changer. When we come to saving faith, we are filled with the Holy Ghost. This initiates rebirth into a new life where we are convicted of sin and given righteous desires. The groundwork for this rebirth is laid out by another Apostle, John:

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
(John 1:11-13 ESV)

 Spiritual rebirth and adoption into the family of God occur simultaneously when we receive Jesus, thus the gift of the Holy Ghost is received by “[belief] in his name.”

Paul goes into specifics on when this spiritual rebirth takes effect:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
(Romans 8:14-17 ESV) 

Paul indicates that we become sons of God when we are led by the Spirit. This presents a dilemma for Latter-day Saints because even they must admit that the Spirit leads people prior to them entering the baptismal font. If we become children of God and joint-heirs with Christ before baptism, then there are no eternal rewards to be gained through priesthood ordinances. In fact, there is no exclusive benefit to being LDS at all.

Some Mormons will say that temple ordinances are for our sanctification and not associated with salvation. While this doesn’t seem to be the orthodox LDS position, it’s worth noting that even this statement is demonstrably false. Consider, again, the words of Paul:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
(Romans 8:26-30 ESV)

Nowhere in this passage do we see ordinances helping us in our weakness, interceding between us and God, conforming us to the image of the Son, justifying, or glorifying us. However, the Spirit is associated with these things. Romans 8:10 (ESV) tells us, “although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

It is certain that a hardened sinner would naturally want to continue sinning if offered unconditional forgiveness. However, the Spirit works supernaturally in the hearts of saved sinners to conform them to the image of Christ. Because of this, Christians are spiritually reborn to desire the things of God, and thus justice is both satisfied and fulfilled in the best way possible: A corrupt criminal’s heart of stone becomes a fresh and renewed heart of flesh.

Summary and Conclusion
God’s word cannot be dismissed, so we can decisively come to two conclusions. First, the claim that Christians believe in cheap grace is a myth. And second, the LDS gospel of obedience to covenants in order to become joint heirs with Christ is equally fallacious.

If you are a Latter-day Saint reading this, you are without excuse. The Biblical gospel has been laid out, and if you reject it you also deny Christ. I implore you to repent of the pride that entices you to establish your own righteousness and surrender yourself to His.

You can accept Jesus at this very moment by trusting fully in Him and putting aside your attempts at worthiness. He will love and accept you as you are, warts and all.

So given all that, let’s return to the analogy that I started with: Again imagine that a hardened criminal is taken to court. All the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty and the legally mandated penalty is the death sentence – justice must be served. But before he can be led to death row, the guilty party breaks down sobbing, “I did it all and deserve nothing but death and damnation! I am indeed guilty as sin!”

The judge asks the sobbing man, “If someone were to take your place and take your punishment would that change your wicked heart and evil thoughts? Will you turn from your old ways and truly live rightly?”

“Yes! And I would be eternally grateful to the end of my days, your honor! But who would have such love? It’s impossible, not to mention ridiculous!”

“Is it?” the judge responds “What if I did? I only ask two things: 1) Let this love control you for the rest of your life through that gratitude 1, and; 2) Remember the slavery that your past sin has led you to – you’ll be free to live again, but you mustn’t return to it or you will be enslaved by it just as you were before2 This is my gift to you, will you believe and receive my unmerited favor and mercy?”3

“Yes! Yes! Absolutely, yes!” exclaims the man.

“Then so be it.” And with that, the judge takes off his robe and puts it on the man. “You are pardoned and are free to go, and as long as you are clothed in me, this pardon stands and you have the power to resist your old life. Bailiff, please remove his handcuffs, put them on me, and lead me to the electric chair. I will see that justice is served. Friend, go and sin no more.”4

And just like Barabbas of old, the pardoned scapegoat goes free while the Lamb of God marches to His death. That, my friends, is the love of God toward us. He has already stood in your place for punishment and completed all of the necessary work vicariously on your behalf. The only question is this:  Will you accept God’s free gift or not?

And if you do, why on earth would you want to continue in sin? Why would any truly saved person do that? Lord, knows that we don’t, so why, my Mormon friends do you accuse us of being what we aren’t?

“And with that, the judge takes off his robe and puts it on the man. ‘You are pardoned and are free to go, and as long as you are clothed in me, this pardon stands and you have the power to resist your old life.'”

END NOTES
1 2 Corinthians 5:13-14a (KJV) ” For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us”

2 Romans 6:1-3 (KJV) “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

3 Romans 6:23 (KJV) “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

4 If you are objecting to this analogy and saying, “Obviously no human judge would be holy enough to behave this way! This is ridiculous, it makes no sense!” you’re absolutely right. But that’s what’s so amazing about God. He is that holy, that merciful, and that praiseworthy. It is what Paul referred to as “the foolishness of God” that He would love us this much – it just makes no sense! But the fact of the matter is this: He does.

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
(1 Corinthians 1:17-25 KJV)

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
(1 Corinthians 2:13-15 KJV)

About Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
The Ex-Mormon Apologist was a Born Into The Covenant Mormon. His Mormon heritage dates back to a family member, Jones Flournoy, who sold Joseph Smith land for the Temple Lot temple. He faithfully served a mission in Anaheim, CA. When he returned from his mission he became a published Mormon Apologist. He served several callings faithfully and successfully in his 30+ years in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He still has Mormon friends and family members to this day. And he is still in Mormon Studies despite leaving the LdS Church.

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

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

by Fred W. Anson

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one Roman Catholic2 author writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does Joseph Smith Fare Against the Biblical Tests for a False Prophet?

MissJo, “Joseph Smith Rendered in the Style of a Medieval Religious Icon”

by Fred W. Anson
The Bible has four (4) tests for determining if a claimed prophet really is one or not. They are as follows:

Deu 13:1-11
Seducing God’s people into following a god other than the one that they’ve known:

Deu 18:18-22
Giving predictions of the future in order to deceive God’s people into following another god that fail to come to pass:

Mat 7:15-20
Living a life that doesn’t produce good fruit:

1 John 4:1-3
Denying that God eternal was incarnated as Jesus Christ:

Let’s see how Joseph Smith fares against these biblical criteria, shall we?

TEST 1: Seducing God’s people into following a God other than the one that they’ve known

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (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.

EVIDENCE AGAINST JOSEPH SMITH
Smith explicitly taught another God in the King Follett Discourse – he even bragged about doing so.

“I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. I am going to inquire after God; for I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him; and if I am bringing you to a knowledge of Him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am His servant; for I speak as one having authority.

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.”
(“The King Follett Sermon”, Ensign, April 1971)

TEST 2: Giving predictions of the future that fail to come to pass

Deuteronomy 18:18-22 (KJV)
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

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.

EVIDENCE AGAINST JOSEPH SMITH
Joseph Smith made several failed predictions for the future, but probably the most damning of Smith’s failed prophecies is the prophecy that the Centerpoint temple would be built in Missouri within Smith’s Generation:

“Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house . . .

Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed,”
(Doctrines and Covenants 84:2-5, 31)

As Theologian and Christian Apologist, Matt Slick observes:

The Mormons were driven out of Jackson County in 1833. They were not gathered there in accordance with this prophecy dealing with building the temple.

The prophecy clearly states that the generation present when the prophecy was given would not pass away until the temple was built at the western boundaries of the state of Missouri which is in Independence.

This clearly failed.”
(Matt Slick, “Joseph Smith’s False Prophecies, CARM website)

An aerial photograph of the Temple Lot in Independence, Missouri where Joseph Smith and the Saints failed to build a temple in the generation of 1832.

TEST 3: Living a life that doesn’t produce good fruit

Matthew 7:15-20 (KJV)
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

EVIDENCE AGAINST JOSEPH SMITH
So many to pick from here but I think that this one, from an official LdS Church source, shall suffice:

“Careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40 [polygamous wives of Joseph Smith]. See Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2:272–73.”

“Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.”
(LdS Church, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”; official church website, retrieved 2016-01-02)

And let’s be clear, he married them and he had sex with them:

Sexuality in Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages
Joseph Smith’s first wife, Emma, allegedly told the wife of Apostle George A. Smith, Lucy, that Joseph Smith’s plural wives were “celestial” only, that he had no earthly marital relations with them. “They were only sealed for eternity they were not to live with him and have children.” Lucy later wrote that when she told this to her husband:

He related to me the circumstance of his calling on Joseph late one evening and he was just taking a wash and Joseph told him that one of his wives had just been confined and Emma was the Midwife and he had been assisting her. He [George A. Smith] told me [Lucy Smith] this to prove to me that the women were married for time [as well as for eternity], as Emma had told me that Joseph never taught any such thing.

Because Reorganized Latter Day Saints claimed that Joseph Smith was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Smith’s wives) affirmed repeatedly that he had physical sexual relations with them—despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American culture which ordinarily would have prevented any mention of sexuality.

For instance, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner stated that she knew of children born to Smith’s plural wives: “I know he had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I know he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.” Melissa Lott Willes testified that she had been Smith’s wife “in very deed.” Emily Partridge Young said she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him, and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him.

Other early witnesses also affirmed this. Benjamin Johnson wrote “On the 15th of May … the Prophet again Came and at my hosue [house] ocupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister that the month previous he had ocupied with the Daughter of the Later Bishop Partridge as his wife.” According to Joseph Bates Noble, Smith told him he had spent a night with Louisa Beaman.

When Angus Cannon, a Salt Lake City stake president, visited Joseph Smith III in 1905, the RLDS president asked rhetorically if these women were his father’s wives, then “how was it that there was no issue from them.” Cannon replied:

All I knew was that which Lucy Walker herself contends. They were so nervous and lived in such constant fear that they could not conceive. He made light of my reply. He said, “I am informed that Eliza Snow was a virgin at the time of her death.” I in turn said, “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked her the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’”

Cannon then mentioned that Sylvia Sessions Lyon, a plural wife of Smith, had had a child by him, Josephine Lyon Fisher. Josephine left an affidavit stating that her mother, Sylvia, when on her deathbed, told her that she (Josephine) was the daughter of Joseph Smith. In addition, posterity (i.e., sexuality) was an important theological element in Smith’s Abrahamic-promise justification for polygamy.”
(Todd Compton, “In Sacred Loneliness”)

The Wives of Joseph Smith (click to view full image)

Test 4: Denying that God eternal was incarnated as Jesus Christ

The almighty Lord our God is our refuge and our strength
An ever-present help in troubled times
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

The almighty God of Jacob is our fortress and our shield
Though the earth give way and mountains quake
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
Because our God is near

(words and music by Tommy Walker from Psalm 46)

As performed on the album “Live at Home” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

An Ex-Mormon Apologist Faces His Most Formidable Foe: His Past Self

by Michael Flournoy
I confess that I looked away when the Mormon looked at me with a pained look and asked, “Are you saying we’re not Christian?” It’s the most awkward part of discussing theology with Latter-day Saints. As Evangelicals, we’re left speechless. We can’t simply say no because of their reaction. To them, they are so obviously Christian, that any assertion to the contrary is simply absurd – laughable in fact. Ridiculous! Absurd! Stupid beyond words!

To them, it’s just the excuse they need to write us off forever. Clearly, we’re just hateful antis who are more interested in fighting against God than having a fair discussion. I have had many conversations end here, with Latter-day Saints walking away shaking their heads, and I’m not alone, I’m sure.

I have come to realize that our response to that question should be, “That’s an interesting question. Why do you think you’re Christian?” This encourages dialogue instead of stifling it. It opens a door rather than slamming it shut with the sound of deadbolts being pulled. We can then go point by point, and give each argument the attention it deserves rather than simply being shut down and out. To illustrate, let’s consider my old Mormon Apologist arguments through fresh eyes, and explain why the typical Evangelical response left me unconvinced back in the day.

Case in point, in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, Michael the Mormon Apologist attempted to persuade Evangelicals that Mormons were Christian too. I spent half a chapter trying to scare them out of preaching to Latter-day Saints. After all, I argued, Mormons could be Christian. I pointed to the apostle Paul, who persecuted Christians but later said he was the least of the apostles because of it. Clearly, the only thing to be gained by messing with Mormons was a future of shame and regret.

To that, today’s Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist calls, “Baloney!” He says, “You’re telling me that I’m supposed to avoid preaching to someone because they might be saved and that would be embarrassing? How exactly? I would be tickled to find a Mormon I preached to in God’s Kingdom, and I think they’d feel the same about me. No one says ‘I told you so’ in heaven, do they, Mr. Mormon?”

Here’s the reality. The possibility that I didn’t preach to an unsaved sinner because he seemed Christian is the graver error. The end result of that isn’t a little awkwardness. It’s a soul damned for eternity. Christians should be too afraid not to preach the gospel.

I also find it fascinating that my old Mormon Apologist equated preaching with persecution. Granted, there are times Evangelicals heap real persecution on Latter-day Saints, but challenging their theology doesn’t fit the bill. Stated plainly, disagreement is disagreement, not persecution. After all, if it is then Mormon Missionaries are some of the biggest persecutors on the planet, aren’t they? After all, they are called by their church with preaching to those that they disagree with, aren’t they? And that’s exactly what they do, isn’t it?

Latter-day Saints should welcome the challenge. If their theology proves stronger, it’s a chance to win us to their side. The fact that most of them prefer to throw out pejorative names like “anti-Mormon” instead of talking is a major sign they’re in a cult instead of a religion. To this day, I agree with Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt when he said,

“Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will ever have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, p. 15)

In my book, I defined a Christian as someone who believes in Christ and accepts Him as their personal Savior,

“So whether The Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith was a prophet are irrelevant to this specific point.

For this question, all that really matters is whether we believe in Christ or not. As it turns out, we do. We believe Jesus was more than a prophet. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Hope. Nephi of The Book of Mormon said, “…We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins’ (2 Nephi 25:26).”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.34)

It has always amazed me how quick Mormons are to quote the dictionary like it is scripture. The current edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Christian as, “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Yet, my Mormon Apologist self was careful not to define a Christian simply as one who believes in Christ. If he had, I would have pulled out my Bible and read James 2:19 (ESV) which says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

So, according to the dictionary, demons must be Christian, right? But that’s clearly not enough, is it? There’s more to being a Christian than having the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. We must accept Him as Lord and Savior as well, mustn’t we?

Michael the Mormon Apologist did, in fact, assert that “we must accept the Lord”, but he and I have different ideas of what that means. He believed it meant receiving LDS ordinances and keeping the commandments. I believe it’s receiving His righteousness through faith alone.

My old self tried to create a choke point by dismissing the need to talk about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon. To that I say, let’s broaden the playing field. Believing in false scripture and prophets does matter, particularly when they teach a pseudo gospel, just as Paul warned us: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 1:8 ESV)

The Greek word used for accursed is anathema, which implies ex-communication by an ecclesiastical leader. In Mormonism, ex-communication and salvation are mutually exclusive propositions.

My Mormon Apologist counterpart pointed out that many Latter-day Saints think that having Jesus in the name of their church proves they are Christian. I wrote:

“It should come as no surprise then, that Latter-day Saints are flabbergasted when someone says we aren’t Christian. It’s very common for us to say, ‘Look at the name of our church, it has Jesus’ name in it. Of course we’re Christian!'”(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

If your church’s name makes you a Christian, then what’s to stop me from starting my own church and naming it “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Better Latter-day Saint Restoration”? Would that make a Latter-day Saint? Would that make me a Latter-Saint Restorationist? Would naming myself Jesus Christ make me the Messiah? Of course not. Going further, back then I wrote:

“So maybe we do believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and maybe we do believe the Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s. But you know what, it’s still irrelevant…

The Bible places emphasis on knowing God, not knowing about Him. Thus we can assume that a simple disciple who has a relationship with God is better off than a scholar who knows all about Him, but hasn’t bothered to get to know Him personally.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.35)

Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here. In this highly contrived hypothetical situation, it’s true that an unlearned disciple is better off than an unsaved scholar. But that doesn’t mean God will overlook an incorrect ontological view of Him. The Bible says it like this,

“Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
(Acts 17:29-30 ESV)

In other words, it’s a sin to view God incorrectly. And while Michael the Mormon Apologist had no problem classifying Evangelicals as Christian, Michael the Ex-Mormon Apologist now sees far too many differences now for us to have the same Jesus. Specifically, our Jesus was never created. Our Jesus was always God. He never had to take a body to become complete. Our Jesus is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Our Jesus saves sinners despite their works, not because of them. Michael the Mormon Apologist would have been appalled at this. Back then I argued,

“How much ignorance are we allowed to have before God withholds His grace?

Here’s why I ask: some Christians believe Melchezidek was Christ, some describe the Trinity in terms of Modalism, some Christians believe God chose who would be saved before we were born, and others think He’s the type to let us choose. Many Christians I’ve been in discussions with have even said the Trinity is mysterious.”
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.36)

I, the Mormon Apologist, then quoted Acts 17:23 (KJV) where Paul pointed to an altar with the inscription: ‘To the unknown god’, and said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” My argument was that God could be worshipped in ignorance. Otherwise, even Evangelicals couldn’t be called Christian due to their fragmented beliefs. But my arguments were misinformed. The Trinity is mysterious, but not in regards to the descriptions given in the Bible. We know what kind of a Being God is. As far as Modalism, they too are outside the bounds of Christianity and need repentance.

That might sound like nitpicking to Latter-day Saints, but even they have their limits. After all, they wouldn’t consider Muslims to be Christian, but I could use their logic to argue that they are. After all, don’t they believe in Christ? Sure, they don’t think He’s divine, and maybe they mistakenly call Heavenly Father “Allah”, but that’s just ignorant worship. Based on the dictionary, they’re Christians too, right?

Mormons can win the argument for their deviant form of Christianity, but merely on a technicality. Relying on a textbook definition to be saved is like relying on another driver’s blinker to keep from being hit. It’s the intentions that matter, not whether someone has their blinker on.

If I could tell Latter-day Saints anything, I’d remind them that Christ isn’t bringing a dictionary on Judgment Day. If our names aren’t written in the Book of Life, we’ll be damned forever. Salvation is an intensely personal matter. It’s not the name of our church that’s found in the Book of Life. We can’t get in under the prophet’s umbrella. It’s our names we should worry about. 

So the right question isn’t, “Are Mormons Christian?” The real, right question is for the individual, “Are you a Christian? Are you on His right hand? Is your name written in The Book of Life, and if so, by whose merits – your own flawed sin-tainted works, or His flawless, perfect, and holy work?”

There are thousands of nominal Christians in the world today who show up for church and go through the motions. If asked, they’ll claim Christianity as their religious affiliation. But that’s not the same as being born again. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer on this,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Friend, there’s no participation trophy for being in a Christian church. Even if we’ve done good works and ordinances in Christ’s name, they won’t count towards righteousness. In the end, all that really matters is whether or not we know Jesus – that is the real Jesus of time, space, and history that can be found and is revealed in the Bible. Fictional, man-contrived Jesus’s (and, trust me, there are many, many, many false Jesus’s) simply don’t count, do they?1

So in the end, can a Latter-day Saint be a Christian? Absolutely. Christ can save someone anywhere, at any time, be it in a temple, a prison, a mosque, a bar, or a gutter. He can and will save us right when and where we are right now. Just as we are – ugly, broken, bitter, dirty, and damaged. Period. In fact, He does it every day!

So the better question is this: Does the LDS church truly meet the requirements to be called a Christian church since it teaches another God, another Jesus, and another gospel than what is taught in the Bible? In other words, can the true Jesus of the Bible save a Latter-day Saint despite the false teachings of the LDS Church rather than because of those teachings? This is a question that simply never dawned on Michael the Mormon Apologist as a possibility – but it’s intriguing, isn’t it?

However, that also is another conversation for the Ex-Mormon Apologist to have with the Mormon Apologist on another day (or maybe two, or three). Stay tuned to this channel, there’s more – a lot more – to come!

The front cover of “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”


1 Case in point, please consider the False Jesus of Self-Realization Fellowship:

“Jesus Christ is very much alive and active today. In Spirit and occasionally taking on a flesh-and-blood form, he is working unseen by the masses for the regeneration of the world. With his all-embracing love, Jesus is not content merely to enjoy his blissful consciousness in Heav­en. He is deeply concerned for mankind and wishes to give his followers the means to attain the divine freedom of entry into God’s Infinite Kingdom. He is disappointed because many are the churches and temples founded in his name, often prosperous and powerful, but where is the communion that he stressed — actual contact with God? Jesus wants temples to be established in human souls, first and foremost; then established outwardly in physical places of worship. Instead, there are countless huge edifices with vast congregations being indoctrinated in churchianity, but few souls who are really in touch with Christ through deep prayer and meditation.

“To reestablish God in the temples of souls through revival of the original teachings of God-communion as propounded by Christ and Krishna is why I was sent to the West by Mahavatar Babaji….

“Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
(Paramahansa Yogananda, “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You”, Introduction; also see “Spiritual Lineage” Self-Realization Fellowship website)

Banner Art: An image from the iconic Mad Magazine, “Spy v. Spy” cartoon series. (copyright Antonio Prohias, the Prohias Estate, Mad Magazine, and Mad Book) 

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the seventh in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

30) Women holding, partaking, and practicing Priesthood authority.
Renowned Mormon Studies Scholar, D. Michael Quinn explains;

For 150 years Mormon women have performed sacred ordinances in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every person who has received the LDS temple endowment knows that women perform for other women the “initiatory ordinances” of washing and anointing.1 Fewer know that LDS women also performed ordinances of healing from the 1840s until the 1940s.2 Yet every Mormon knows that men who perform temple ordinances and healing ordinances must have the Melchizedek priesthood. Women are no exception.3

Two weeks after he organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith announced his intention to confer priesthood on women. He told them on 30 March 1842 that “the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” and that he was “going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day.” In printing the original minutes of the prophet’s talk after his death, the official History of the Church omitted Joseph’s first use of the word “Society” and changed the second “Society” to “Church.” Those two alterations changed the entire meaning of his statement. More recently an LDS general authority removed even these diminished statements from a display in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art which commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Relief Society.

On 28 April 1842 the prophet returned to this subject. He told the women that “the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them that they may be able to detect everything false, as well as to the Elders.” The keys “to detect everything false” referred to the signs and tokens used in the “true order of prayer,” still practiced in LDS temples. Then Joseph Smith said, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time …” For nineteenth-century LDS women, Joseph’s words were prophecy and inspiration to advance spiritually, intellectually, socially, professionally, and politically.

Mormon women did not request priesthood—Joseph Smith would soon confer it on them as part of the restoration of the gospel. His private journal, called the Book of the Law of the Lord, specified the priesthood promise in his instructions to the women on 28 April 1842: “gave a lecture on the pries[t]hood shewing [sic] how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto these blessings. by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments.” Joseph clearly intended that Mormon women in 1842 understand their healings were to be “gifts of the priesthood,” not simply ministrations of faith.

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks observed in a 1992 general conference talk, “No priesthood keys were delivered to the Relief Society. Keys are conferred on individuals, not organizations.” The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as organizations are not even exempt from the limitation he describes for the Relief Society. Elder Oaks noted, for instance, that “priesthood keys were delivered to the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, not to any organizations.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843”, Chapter 17 of “Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism”, Maxine Hanks, editor)

Quinn then goes on to explain how and why the Priesthood was slowly but surely denied to Mormon women:

By the early 1880s death had taken all the general authorities who had specifically stated that the endowment conferred priesthood upon women. Joseph and Hyrum Smith died in 1844, and John Smith joined them a decade later. Heber C. Kimball died in 1868, and Brigham Young in 1877. Sidney Rigdon had been excommunicated in 1844 but continued to affirm Nauvoo’s “female priesthood” until his death in 1876. In 1881, both Orson Pratt and Joseph Young died.

By 1888 Mormon misogyny was linked with denials of women’s authority, and this resulted in a public comment by Apostle Franklin D. Richards. He said: “Every now and again we hear men speak tauntingly of the sisters and lightly of their public duties, instead of supporting and encouraging them.” Apostle Richards added: “There are also some who look with jealousy upon the moves of the sisters as though they might come to possess some of the gifts, and are afraid they [LDS women] will get away with some of the blessings of the gospel which only men ought to possess.” Because of this “envy and jealousy,” Apostle Richards said some Mormon men “don’t like to accord to them [Mormon women] anything that will raise them up and make their talents to shine forth as the daughters of Eve and Sarah.” Franklin D. Richards is the only general authority to publicly acknowledge that jealousy and fear are the basis for the opposition of some Mormon men against the spiritual growth of all Mormon women.
(Ibid)

In current Mormon Theology Mormon women only have the Priesthood through her husband rather than apart from him, as Quinn explains:

In today’s church a woman who has received the temple endowment has more priesthood power than a boy who holds the office of priest. However, the priest has more permission to exercise his priesthood than does the endowed woman to exercise hers.
(Ibid)

31) The Mormon gospel law of Mormon men forbidden to marry black women.
LdS President and Living Prophet  Brigham Young, couldn’t have been clearer in his March 8, 1863, Mormon Tabernacle address:

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. (Brigham Young, “The Persecutions of the Saints—Their Loyalty to the Constitution—the Mormon Battalion—the Laws of God Relative to the African Race”, Journal of Discourses 10:110)

In 1954, Mormon Apostle, Mark E. Peterson’s rhetoric was less extreme but still to the point:

“I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after. He is not just seeking the oppor[t]unity of sitting down in a café where white people sit. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. From this and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not. be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for Negroes that, we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that they used to say about sin, “First we pity, then endure, then embrace.”’
(Mark E. Peterson, “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church”, Address By Elder Mark E. Petersen Given At: The Convention of Teachers of Religion On The College Level, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954)

An inter-racial couple takes wedding photos in front of the Salt Lake Temple.

“When He placed the mark upon Cain, He engaged in segregation. When he told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation. When He forbade intermarriages as He does in Deuteronomy, Chapter 7, He established segregation. You remember when the Israelites were about to come into Palestine and there were evil nations there, the Lord was anxious to preserve his people by an act of segregation. He commanded His people Israel: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. Thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.” It was a law for the preservation of Israel and it certainly was an act of segregation.”
(Ibid)

“The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence, at least in the bases of the Lamanites and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord himself that He placed a dark skin upon then: as a curse — as a sign to all others. He forbade inter-marriage with them under threat of extension of the curse (2 Nephi 5:21) And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an iron curtain there. The Negro was cursed as to the Priesthood, and therefore, was cursed as to the blessings of the Priesthood. Certainly God made a segregation there.”
(Ibid)

“Now what is our policy in regard to intermarriage? As to the Negro, of course, there is only one possible answer. We must not intermarry with the Negro.”
(Ibid)

But in today’s LdS Church not only are inter-racial marriages common but as of June 1, 1978, no one can be denied the Mormon Priesthood based on their race.

32) Couples should refrain from physical intimacy a week or so before attending the Temple.
Church archives document the prerequisites for Temple work during the 19th Century.

From 1868: 
“Pres[iden]ts [Brigham] Y[oung][,] [Heber C.] K[imball] & [Daniel H.] W[ells] Spoke on the impropriety of our youth marrying [for time], instead of getting sealed [for eternity]; also spoke of cleanliness in person before going to get their endowments; a woman should not go for a week after her menses were upon her; a man should not have intercourse with his wife for several days; but should be clean in body and exercised in spirit previous thereto. His clothing should be changed once or twice before going there. —Historian’s Office Journal, Jan. 31, 1868″
(Devery S. Anderson. “The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History”, Signature Books, Kindle Edition location 1470-1482, bolding added for emphasis)

From 1877:
“We herein embody a few instructions which we wish you to strictly enjoin upon the brethren and sisters who come to the Temple to officiate for themselves or their friends: Those who wish to receive endowments for themselves or friends should be provided with oil or means to purchase it. The sisters should be provided with two or three white skirts and the brethren should have their garments to button from the back, clear round and up the front, and skirts made to reach down to the knees or a little below or one may be pieced to this length for the occasion. Before the brethren or sisters go into the Temple to receive their endowments; they must wash themselves all over, perfectly clean, so as to enter the Temple clean. Men and women should have no sexual intercourse for a week or more previous to their going into the Temple to receive their endowments. —Brigham Young, John W. Young, Wilford Woodruff, Erastus Snow, and Brigham Young Jr. to Bishops, Jan. 13, 1877″
(Ibid, location 1649-1651, bolding added for emphasis)

Today, no such restrictions exist.

33) During his earthly ministry Jesus Christ was not only married but also a polygamist in order to fulfill all righteousness in modeling and demonstrating the Plan of Salvation for us – acts which eventually lead to His persecution and crucifixion.
This doctrinal principle was clearly taught in a  discourse by Mormon Apostle, Jedediah M. Grant in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle on Aug. 7, 1853:

The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion was evidently based upon polygamy, according to the testimony of the philosophers who rose in that age. A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers. We might almost think they were “Mormons”.
(Jedediah M. Grant, “Uniformity” “Journal of Discourses” 1:346)

And this teaching was validated and reaffirmed in a circa 1857, Salt Lake City address by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Orson Hyde:

“It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction, it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it. I will venture to say that if Jesus Christ were now to pass through the most pious countries in Christendom with a train of women, such as used to follow him, fondling about him, combing his hair, anointing him with precious ointment, washing his feet with tears, and wiping them with the hair of their heads and unmarried, or even married, he would be mobbed, tarred, and feathered, and rode, not on an ass, but on a rail. What did the old Prophet mean when he said (speaking of Christ), “He shall see his seed, prolong his days, &c.” Did Jesus consider it necessary to fulfil every righteous command or requirement of his Father? He most certainly did. This be witnessed by submitting to baptism under the hands of John. “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,” said he. Was it God’s commandment to man, in the beginning, to multiply and replenish the earth? None can deny this, neither that it was a righteous command; for upon an obedience to this, depended the perpetuity of our race. Did Christ come to destroy the law or the Prophets, or to fulfil them? He came to fulfil. Did he multiply, and did he see his seed? Did he honour his Father’s law by complying with it, or did he not? Others may do as they like, but I will not charge our Saviour with neglect or transgression in this or any other duty. At this doctrine the long-faced hypocrite and the sanctimonious bigot will probably cry, blasphemy! Horrid perversion of God’s word! Wicked wretch! He is not fit to live! &c, &c. But the wise and reflecting will consider, read, and pray. If God be not our Father, grandfather, or great grandfather, or some kind of a father in reality, in deed and in truth, why are we taught to say, “Our Father who art in heaven?” How much soever of holy horror this doctrine may excite in persons not impregnated with the blood of Christ, and whose minds are consequently dark and benighted, it may excite still more when they are told that if none of the natural blood of Christ flows in their veins, they are not the chosen or elect of God. Object not, therefore too strongly against the marriage of Christ, but remember that in the last days, secret and hidden things must come to light, and that your life also (which is the blood) is hid with Christ in God.”
(Orson Hyde, “Man the Head of Woman—Kingdom of God—The Seed of Christ—Polygamy—Society in Utah”, “Journal of Discourses” 4:259)

What did the old Prophet mean when he said (speaking of Christ), “He shall see his seed, prolong his days, &c.” Did Jesus consider it necessary to fulfil every righteous command or requirement of his Father? He most certainly did. This be witnessed by submitting to baptism under the hands of John. “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,” said he. Was it God’s commandment to man, in the beginning, to multiply and replenish the earth? None can deny this, neither that it was a righteous command; for upon an obedience to this, depended the perpetuity of our race. Did Christ come to destroy the law or the Prophets, or to fulfil them? He came to fulfil. Did he multiply, and did he see his seed? Did he honor his Father’s law by complying with it, or did he not? Others may do as they like, but I will not charge our Savior with neglect or transgression in this or any other duty.
(Ibid, p.260)

But today, hardly a peep is said about this essential aspect of fulfilling all righteousness by obedience to the Plan of Salvation. And so it goes: swish, swish, swish when polygamy is a requirement of the gospel, the doctrine is taught. But should the requirement suddenly change – by say, Official Declaration 1 in 1890, for example – then swish, swish, swish it goes right into the dustbin.  Thus the only certainty in Mormonism is that it’s sure to change. And into the rubbish bin goes what was once essential doctrine it lands in the pile marked “heresy.”

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the sixth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

24) God has always been God.
Originally the gospel truth in Mormonism about God was that He was always God. Psalms 90:2 and Moroni 8:18 reflect this and Missionaries taught this truth about God for several years. For example, the 1835 Lectures on Faith, Lecture three clearly states:

The Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3
13. First, he was God before the world was created, and the same God he was after it was created…

15. Thirdly, he does not change, neither does he vary; but he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday, today, and forever; and his course is one eternal round, without variation.

And the immutability of God was consistently still reaffirmed in the other unique Mormon scripture of the day. Specifically:

“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
(Moroni 8:18)

“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
(2 Nephi 27:23)

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
(2 Nephi 29:9)

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

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

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

“The Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…”
(Mosiah 3:5)

“By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them.”
(D&C 20:17, 1830)

“From eternity to eternity he is the same and years never fail…”
(D&C 76:4, February 16, 1832) 

But this doctrine was dramatically changed by Joseph Smith in 1844 in both the King Follett Sermon and the Sermon Grove. Consider this excerpt from the former:

“God himself WAS ONCE AS WE ARE NOW, AND IS AN EXALTED MAN, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.”

“In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I AM GOING TO TELL YOU HOW GOD CAME TO BE GOD. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

These ideas are incomprehensible to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that HE WAS ONCE A MAN LIKE US; YEA, THAT GOD HIMSELF, THE FATHER OF US ALL, DWELT ON AN EARTH, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible”
(see “The King Follett Sermon”, Ensign magazine, April 1971; caps added for emphasis)

25) The superiority of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible over the KJV Bible.
It’s clear that Joseph Smith full intended his “inspired” translation of the Bible – known as “The Joseph Smith Translation” (JST) in the LdS Church – to displace the King James Version (KJV) when it was completed. And, yes, he did say that it was completed – not just once but twice. First, he wrote this in his personal journal, “I completed the translation and review of the New Testament, on the 2nd of July, 1833, and sealed it up; no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p.324)

Then, in a letter dated July 2, 1833, signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams, the following statement is found:  “We this day finished the translation of the Scriptures, for which we return gratitude to our Heavenly Father …”
(History of the Church, vol. 1, p.368)

Further, unique Mormon scripture is filled with commandment after commandment that exalts the JST over all other English translations of the Bible and stressing the importance of its publication and distribution:

“… I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to shinelah [print] my words, the fulness of my scriptures …”
(Doctrine & Covenants, 104:58)

“…. the second lot … shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures … “
(Doctrine & Covenants, 94:10)

“…. hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph,… and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth”
(Doctrine & Covenants, 124:89)

Further, as late as the 1980s, Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie testified, the JST is “a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie”, ed. Mark L. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989, p.289)

Finally, the JST translation published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka, “RLDS” now known as The Community of Christ, aka “CoC”) has been validated by LdS Scholars. Thus Brigham Young’s original claim that it was maliciously corrupted by Emma Smith and the RLDS has been completely discredited. This was the conclusion of LdS Church Scholars, Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews who were hand-picked by the General Authorities of the LdS Church. Robert J. Matthews, the head of the LdS Team stated in the April 1977 issue of the official LdS Church publication “New Era”:

“…research in the past few years with the original manuscripts has indicated that the Inspired Version of the Bible, published by the RLDS church, is an accurate representation of the sense of the original manuscripts prepared by Joseph Smith and his scribes. Furthermore, it seems to be increasing in use and acceptance in our church today.”
(“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Apr 1977, p.46)

And elsewhere Matthews said:

“I have examined the original manuscript carefully, comparing every word with its published counterpart, and I feel that the printed editions by the RLDS church are correct and careful representations of the Prophet’s work.”
(Matthews, Robert J., “A Bible! A Bible!”, Ensign, January 1987; p. 90)

And yet despite all this, and in defiance of claimed commandments via revelations from God in their own scripture, the modern LdS Church continues to use the KJV Bible rather than the JST. This, despite the fact that other Mormon Denominations (such as the aforementioned RLDS/CoC) have made the JST their chosen, preferred translation for their churches. Still, into the dustbin, the JST goes! It makes no sense, does it?

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

26) God’s uniqueness lowered.
Mormonism originally taught that there is only one true Lord Almighty God as the Bible does:

And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.”
(The Book of Mormon, Alma 11:26-29)

“Fear ye not; neither be afraid. Have not I told thee from that time and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
(Isa 44:8 Joseph Smith Translation) 

“But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and an everlasting King; at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”
(Jeremiah 10:10-11 Joseph Smith Translation) 

However, after the aforementioned King Follet Sermon and Sermon in the Grove, Alma 11:26-31 was changed to teaching that there are many, many, many Gods – an infinite progression of gods. This planet’s God, Elohim, even has Gods above Him.

Consider Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt in 1854:

The Gods who dwell in the Heaven from which our spirits came, are beings who have been redeemed from the grave in a world which existed before the foundations of this earth were laid. They and the Heavenly body which they now inhabit were once in a fallen state. Their terrestrial world was redeemed, and glorified. and made a Heaven: their terrestrial bodies, after suffering death, were redeemed, and glorified, and made Gods. And thus, as their world was exalted from a temporal to an eternal state, they were exalted also, from fallen men to Celestial Gods to inhabit their Heaven forever and ever.
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”)

And Mormon Apostle, Milton R. Hunter in 1945:

No prophet of record gave more complete and forceful explanations of the doctrine that men may become Gods than did the American Prophet, and, furthermore, he definitely pointed the course which men must follow. A small portion of his teachings is as follows:

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. . . .

They shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? “Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.”

So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all of his children.  Thus we do not become Godlike in this world, nor Gods in the world to come, through any miraculous or sudden gift, but only through the slow process of natural growth brought about as a result of righteous living. Some people may think that when they die they will instantaneously get rid of all their bad habits and become purified. Such is not the case. We can become purified in this world, and the same holds true in the next life, only through repentance; that is, overcoming our faults and sins and replacing them with virtues. Charles W. Penrose sustains these thoughts in the following words: “Men become like God not by some supernatural or sudden change, either in this world or another, but by the natural development of the divinity within. Time, circumstances, and the necessary intelligence are all that are required.
(Milton R. Hunter, “The Gospel Through the Ages”, p.116, Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition)

And, finally, Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie in 1966:

Commonly we are in the habit of considering man as a human being only and stopping there. Actually the gospel perspective is far broader. In the language of Adam, two of the names of God the Father are, Man of Holiness, and Man of Counsel (Moses 6:57; 7:35); that is, God is a holy Man, a Man who is perfect in counsel. All beings who are his offspring, who are members of his family, are also men. This applies to the pre-existent spirits, including those who rebelled and were cast out with Lucifer to suffer eternally as sons of perdition (Isa. 14:16); to embodied spirits living on earth as mortal men; to translated beings such as those who are awaiting the day of their resurrection; and to the beings whom we call angels, beings who either as spirits or having tangible bodies are sent as messengers to minister to mortal men.

Even mortal man has a higher status than a finite perspective sometimes gives him. Speaking of such earth-bound creatures the scriptures say: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Ps. 8:4-5.) The marginal reading, giving a more accurate translation, reads: “Thou hast made him but little lower than God [meaning Elohim].” Man and God are of the same race, and it is within the power of righteous man to become like his Father, that is to become a holy Man, a Man of Holiness.
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Mormon Doctrine (Second Edition, 1966)”, p.334)

“The Gospel Through the Ages” by Milton R. Hunter, pp.114-115 (click on image to zoom)

27) Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are/were Polygamists.
Once Joseph Smith lowered God the Father to be only an exalted human male, and that he ( Smith) could become also a god, it came as no surprise when Mormon leaders started teaching that God the Father was married to a Goddess. After Brigham Young’s public announcement in 1852 that the LDS were practicing polygamy, he defended their practice by teaching that even Jesus Himself was a polygamist. Not surprisingly Brigham endorsed the teaching that Heavenly Father was also a polygamist, and allowed several of his under officers and some others to teach such:

For example, on October 6, 1854,  Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde stated,

How was it with Mary and Martha, and other women that followed him [that is, Christ]? In old times, and it is common in this day, the women, even as Sarah, called their husbands Lord; the word Lord is tantamount to husband in some languages, master, lord, husband, are about synonymous… When Mary of old came to the sepulchre on the first day of the week, instead of finding Jesus she saw two angels in white, ‘And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?’ She said unto them,’ Because they have taken away my Lord,’ or husband, ‘and I know not where they have laid him.’ And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.’ Is there not here manifested the affections of a wife. These words speak the kindred ties and sympathies that are common to that relation of husband and wife…

Now there was actually a marriage; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. If any man can show this, and prove that it was not the Savior of the world, then I will acknowledge I am in error. We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before he was crucified.
(Orson Hyde, “The Marriage Relations” Journal of Discourses 2:81-82)

And in the same year, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt concurred:

“One thing is certain, that there were several holy women that greatly loved Jesus — such as Mary, and Martha her sister, and Mary Magdalene; and Jesus greatly loved them, and associated with them much; and when He arose from the dead, instead of showing Himself to His chosen witnesses, the Apostles, He appeared first to these women, or at least to one of them — namely, Mary Magdalene. Now it would be natural for a husband in the resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were His wives”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, p.159).

“We have now clearly shown that God, the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His First Born… We have also proved most clearly that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the great Bridegroom to whom kings’ daughters and many honorable Wives to be married.”
(Ibid, p.172)

A few years later on July 22, 1883, future LdS President, Wilford Woodruff recorded the words of Joseph F. Smith in his journal. At the time Woodruff was an LDS apostle while Smith was a member of the First Presidency serving as the second counselor to President John Taylor. Woodruff wrote:

Evening Meeting. Prayer By E Stephenson. Joseph F Smith spoke One hour & 25 M. He spoke upon the Marriage in Cana at Galilee. He thought Jesus was the Bridgegroom and Mary & Martha the brides. He also refered to Luke 10 ch. 38 to 42 verse, Also John 11 ch. 2 & 5 vers John 12 Ch 3d vers, John 20 8 to 18. Joseph Smith spoke upon these passages to show that Mary & Martha manifested much Closer relationship than Merely A Believer which looks Consistet. He did not think that Jesus who decended throug Poligamous families from Abraham down & who fulfilled all the Law even baptism by immersion would have lived and died without being married.
(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 8:187, July 22, 1883, spelling left intact as cited on the Mormonism Research Ministry website)

28) Mormonism’s early Trinitarianism
The Book of Mormon does indeed state plainly that One God consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that is, the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, albeit with a strong modalistic skew. Here are some key passages with caps added for emphasis:

“And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, UNTO THE FATHER, AND UNTO THE SON, AND UNTO THE HOLY GHOST, WHICH ARE ONE GOD, in a state of happiness which hath no end.”
(Mormon 7:7)

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, THIS IS THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST, AND THE ONLY AND TRUE DOCTRINE OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST, WHICH IS ONE GOD, WITHOUT END. Amen.”
(2 Nephi 31:21)

“And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT THE FATHER, AND THE SON, AND THE HOLY GHOST ARE ONE; AND I (Jesus) AM IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IN ME, AND THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE.”
(3 Nephi 11:27)

“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for THERE IS A GOD [notice: singular not plural], and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”
(2 Nephi 2:14)

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

…Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. AND THE HONOR BE TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY GHOST, WHICH IS ONE GOD. Amen.
(Testimony of Three Witnesses)

And then there’s this from an official LdS Church publication from 1832:

“Through Christ we understand the terms on which God will show favour and grace to the world, and by him we have ground of a PARRESIA access with freedom and boldness unto God. On his account we may hope not only for grace to subdue our sins, resist temptations, conquer the devil and the world; but having ’fought this good fight, and finished our course by patient continuance in well doing, we may justly look for glory, honor, and immortality,’ and that ‘crown of righteousness which is laid up for those who wait in faith,’ holiness, and humility, for the appearance of Christ from heaven. Now what things can there be of greater moment and importance for men to know, or God to reveal, than the nature of God and ourselves the state and condition of our souls, the only way to avoid eternal misery and enjoy everlasting bliss!

“The Scriptures discover not only matters of importance, but of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. There are many wonderful things in the law of God, things we may admire, but are never able to comprehend. Such are the eternal purposes and decrees of God, THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the manner of the operation of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men, which are all things of great weight and moment for us to understand and believe that they are, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, as to the particular manner of them.”
(Joseph Smith, Jr. (Editor), “The Evening And Morning Star”, Vol. I, INDEPENDENCE, MO. JULY, 1832. No. 2. page 12, caps emphasis mine)

But today’s LdS Church denounces any form of the Trinity in the loudest, most strident terms. Consider this from Mormon Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie:

“This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity—and truly it is the father of all heresies—swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is. It was the doctrine, adapted from Gnosticism, that changed Christianity from the religion in which men worshipped a personal God, in whose image man is made (Gen. 1:26-27; James 3:9; Mosiah 7:27; Ether 3:15; D&C 20:18; Moses 6:8-9), into a religion in which men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity. This new God, no longer a personal Father, no longer a personage of tabernacle (D&C 130:22), became an incomprehensible three-in-one spirit essence that filled the immensity of space. The adoption of this false doctrine about God effectively destroyed true worship among men and ushered in the age of universal apostasy”
(Mark L. McConkie (Editor), “Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie”, pp.69-70)

1830 Mormonism v. Modern Mormonism.

29)  “Divine Investiture” is well buried, as in never clearly identified as “The Doctrine of Divine Investiture.”
Here’s an explanation of this doctrine from a Latter-day Saint source:

Neal A. Maxwell summarizes the concept:

Divine investiture is defined as that condition in which –in all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. … Thus. .. Jesus Christ spoke and ministered and through the Father’s name; and so far as power, authority and Godship is concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father.”

The concept was first explained in a 1916 First Presidency message drafted by James Talmage: “The Father and the Son’: A Doctrinal Exposition of the First Presidency and the Twelve”. It was “subsequently championed by Joseph Fielding Smith and, to a much greater extent, by his son-in-law.”

It is well known that the 1916 doctrinal exposition “came about as a response to questions about the Godhead.” Members were confused about conflicting views of God between the Lectures on Faith, the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and later important sources of doctrine. The doctrine of divine investiture is seen by non-Mormons as an effort to account for the modalism of the Book of Mormon, wherein the person of the Father is indistinguishable from the person of the Son, as well as to account for tension heightened by the Elohim/Jehovah distinction, a convention which, like the divine investiture concept, was created in 1916. That the Son, being Jehovah in the Old Testament, demands and accepts prayer and worship, would be awkward for LDS theology, since the Father is the one who is to be worshiped and prayed to.

Mormons Ari D. Bruening and David L. Paulsen (BYU professor) both admit this was a new doctrine, although both disagree that it was needed to reconcile Book of Mormon passages:

“None of these doctrines, excepting perhaps divine investiture of authority, was new at the time [1916]. Divine investiture of authority is the process by which the Father allows the Son or the Holy Ghost to speak in his name, as if the Son or the Holy Ghost were the Father. This doctrine provides an interesting explanation through which to understand the apparently modalistic verses in the Book of Mormon, but it certainly is not a necessary explanation; the Book of Mormon itself describes Christ as creator (see Mosiah 3:8) and as father of those who abide in the gospel (see Mosiah 15:10–11). Thus, the principle of divine investiture of authority was a new doctrine, but it was certainly not a doctrine needed to reconcile ‘contradictory Book of Mormon passages.'”

Mormon Jeffrey D. Giliam writes:

“This principle [of divine investiture] was obviously invented (at least partially) to help harmonize the doctrine that Christ is Jehovah. Thus Christ can call himself the Father whenever he wants. This doctrine has been taken to the extreme wherein we now say that all revelation since the fall of Adam has come through the Son and not the Father. If the Father wants to reveal something, He send[s] Jesus to do it (again). If the Father appears to someone, it is only to introduce Jesus and let him take over.”
(MormonWiki, “Divine Investiture”)

In other words, the doctrine was originally developed in Mormonism as an attempt to reconcile Joseph Smith’s original modalistic trinitarian with the hedonistic polytheism which came later, and then that historic reality was denied. And what better way to deny it than to just sweep it in the dustbin? So there it goes into the dustbin and right down the memory hole as if it never happened at all.

“The modern equivalent would be Jesus going to an LDS temple and doing the same thing in the distribution center.”
–Michael Flournoy

“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children.”
(Luke 7:34-35 KJV)

by Michael Flournoy
Imagine you come home on your birthday. The lights are off and as you enter the kitchen you see a cake lit with candles. All your friends and family are present and break into a jovial song of “Happy Birthday.”  They sing your name, but they aren’t singing to you. Rather, they are celebrating a cardboard cutout of you leaning against the wall. The song ends and everyone cheers. One by one everyone offers best wishes to the cardboard.

At first, you think it’s a joke. But soon the horrifying truth sets in. They really believe the cutout is you. You ask what’s gotten into them. Can’t they see they’re talking to an inanimate object? They respond angrily, accusing you of ruining their beloved’s birthday. “Who invited you anyway,” they shout. They force you out and lock the door.

In some ways, this scenario represents what the Mormon church has done to Jesus.

When I debate Latter-day Saints, I’m often accused of not being Christlike. After all, Jesus “never tore down anyone’s faith.” All he ever did was “inspire and uplift.” Sometimes I wonder if Mormons have read about Jesus in the Bible. He did all kinds of things their church would frown upon. The fact is people don’t get crucified for uplifting and inspiring others. So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the anti-Mormon behaviors of Jesus, starting with the most obvious example.

Aggression At The Temple
In John chapter 2:13-16 (KJV) we read:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

The modern equivalent would be Jesus going to an LDS temple and doing the same thing in the distribution center. After all, the animals for sale in John 2 were for temple rituals and the distribution center sells temple ritual clothing, among other things. Jesus going in and causing a scene would certainly land him in the bishop’s office, if not a court of love.

Making Wine
Earlier in the same chapter, there was a wedding where they ran out of alcohol. Jesus came to the rescue by changing pots of water into wine. It was of such excellent quality that the guests chided the bridegroom for holding out on the good stuff. If this happened today, the LDS church wouldn’t be thrilled. It’s against the word of wisdom to drink alcohol, and they wouldn’t want the publicity this scene would bring. To fit the Mormon mold, Jesus should have whipped up a nice apple cider, grape juice, or better yet, green jello.

Debating The Critics
Look through the New Testament and you’ll find Pharisees and Sadducees trying to corner Jesus, and he had some solid comebacks. For instance, in Mark 7 the Pharisees chide Jesus because his disciples eat without washing their hands, defiling their traditions.

Jesus shoots back that they’re defiling God’s laws with their traditions. After all, the fourth commandment is to honor father and mother, but the tradition at the time allowed Jews to designate their treasures as “Corban”. In other words, they could say it was a gift for God and this loophole allowed them to avoid the responsibility of caring for their parents. However, 3 Nephi 11:29-30 has this to say about debating:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Mormons might argue that Jesus wasn’t contending in anger, but as we’ll see later on, He was clearly stirring His adversaries to anger. This is problematic if it is indeed the devil’s tactic.

Stirring The Pot
There are a couple of instances where Jesus seems to intentionally stir the pot. For instance, he goes to the synagogue in Luke 6 (verses 6-10) and asks if it’s lawful to heal on the Sabbath. He could have simply debated it with the Pharisees, but without waiting for an answer, He heals a man with a withered hand. The passage specifically says Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew they would get upset, but He did it anyway. If I didn’t know better, I’d think He wanted to die. It’s almost like it was His whole purpose coming to earth.

Teaching About Other Faiths
In Matthew 16:6 Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A few verses later they realize He’s warning them against their doctrine. Later He goes into more detail about the errors of the Pharisees.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
(Matthew 23:2-7 KJV)

Teaching about other faiths is a huge no-no in Mormonism. You’re supposed to avoid telling people they’re wrong and rely on your own message to convert people. LDS missionaries passive-aggressively tiptoe around claiming they have “more truth” to share. Jesus, on the other hand, told the Samaritan woman she didn’t know what she worshipped in John 4:22. So Mormons shouldn’t take offense to being told they’re wrong since their critics are only following in Christ’s footsteps.

Calling Out The Pharisees
Jesus goes even farther in the following verses. Calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, telling them they’re responsible for keeping people from heaven and calling them children of hell. He calls them blind guides, fools, and neglecters of mercy, justice, and faithfulness. He calls them greedy and self-indulgent  Jesus compares them to tombs that are beautiful inside, but full of death inwardly. He refers to them as a brood of vipers and for a cherry on top, He calls out their fathers as murderers. This flies in the face of the 11th Article of Faith which states:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

There was no “live and let live” mentality with Christ. He didn’t just teach “more truth”. He fought aggressively against hypocrisy and false beliefs. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, you probably think I’m casting Jesus in a bad light, but I’m not. This is simply what the Bible describes Jesus saying and doing. Your religion has enthroned a false Christ. It has taken the qualities it likes and made a cardboard cutout, banishing the real Person!

I fear a deep sleep has overcome you. If the Christ I’ve shown in this article doesn’t fit in your religious box, it’s time to wake up. Open the door, and let the real Jesus in. A faux Jesus can’t save you, can He?

“Jesus going in and causing a scene would certainly land him in the bishop’s office, if not a court of love.”
— Michael Flournoy

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.”
(Proverbs 25:11 NKJV)

by Michael Flournoy and Fred W. Anson
In part one of this series we considered some of the harsh “scorched earth” methods, behaviors, and tactics that Christian Mormon Critics often engage in that either drive Mormons deeper into the LDS Church or ensures that when they leave it they go, Atheist, Pagan, whatever rather than anything Christian. 

In response, we outlined and considered a better way: God’s way: The way that we see Evangelism modeled in the New Testament. That model we summarized in the following five concepts:  

1. Love them
2. Listen
3. Promote the good they do
4. Curb your ego
5. Keep it positive

In Part One we briefly mentioned how in Mormon Culture, orthopraxy (the correct practice of what one believes) trumps orthodoxy (correct belief). In other words, Mormons won’t care about what you believe and why it’s better than what they already believe until they see that you care about them as a person. Treat them badly and no matter how right you are, they won’t listen and they won’t care.  

So that’s the concept and theory, now let’s talk about how to actually do in the real world, shall we? Let’s do orthopraxy! 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Paul
Here’s how Paul described his approach in scripture: 

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
(1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ESV)

Paul didn’t shun outsiders. He embraced them to the point of joining their tribe, in a sense. His methods are bound to make my Evangelical counterparts uncomfortable, but it’s brilliant. It destroys the “us vs them” mentality.

This puts the Christian on the same playing field as the Latter-day Saint. It makes them a friend instead of a foe. It was this type of believer that had the greatest impact on article author Michael Flournoy’s journey from Mormonism to grace. 

In contrast, other Christians have told us that they refuse to respect a false religion. We’re not suggesting they should. However, there’s a difference between respecting falsehood and being respectful in dialogue.

Do the Mormons in your life know you love them? When was the last time you jumped to a Mormon’s defense when you saw them being mistreated? When was the last time you offered them an encouraging word? When was the last time you prayed for them by name and asked God’s mercy upon them? Are you preaching in a spirit of rivalry or out of love? When was the last time you challenged a fellow Evangelical for Mormon Bashing Latter-day Saints? 

Keepin’ it Real: The Orthopraxy of Jesus
Whenever we hear Christians speculate how Jesus would have evangelized Mormon we tell them that we already know because He showed in scripture. Let us ask you this, 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 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 we were talking about? But joking aside, it’s not hard to see how much the Samaritanism of Christ’s day parallels today’s Mormonism. And in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus, using the Mormons of His day, models for us how to reach Mormons of our own. So, let’s compare how Christ ministered to the Mormons of His day with the new model that was given in Part One, shall we? 

1. Love them
If there’s anything that we’ve learned in Mormon Studies, it’s that many Evangelicals love, love, love to Mormon Bash. Even if what they’re saying is bigoted, prejudiced, or downright wrong, bash they will – you know, almost as much as the Jews of Jesus’ day loved to bash Samaritans. Consider this:

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!’
(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) 

Yet in the face of this extreme – one might even say, excessive – bigotry and prejudice we see Jesus showing this morality challenged, untrusting, skeptical Samaritan woman love, respect, and acceptance. Put yourself in her place as you hear these words:

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”’
(John 4:9-15 NKJV)

In the face of an ugly and sarcastic verbal “shove” from the Samaritan Woman, how did Jesus respond? He offered her a gift, He showed her love and compassion.

2. Listen
One of the most stunning aspects of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan, to us, is His restraint. His self-control and compassionate patience in listening to this woman laying out her self-righteous religiosity convicts and challenges me:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
(John 4:16-20 NKJV) 

Wouldn’t Jesus have been well within His rights to blast away both at the woman’s compromised morality and her horrible theology at this point?  And really what could she do but just sit there and take it? After all, she was dead wrong and He was absolutely right, correct?  Instead, what did He do? He listened. Yes, He also spoke the truth but He did so in a spirit of love and compassion, not condemnation. He did as He has taught us: He turned the other cheek (see Matthew 5:38-40) and turned away wrath with a gentle answer (see Proverbs 15:1)

3. Promote the good they do
Notice Christ’s response in the face of the religious dogma that the Samaritan woman spews at him in the following exchange:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:19-24 NKJV) 

Did you see that? Wouldn’t Christ have been perfectly justified in launching into an apologetic about how the false temple of Samaritanism on Mount Gerizim was unbiblical and the seat of, and the idol for, their false religion at this point? Wouldn’t He have been right in pressing in on her ignorance regarding what scripture really says about true and proper Temple worship?  But what does He do instead? He commends her. He implicitly commends her for her devotion to God in the midst of her ignorance. He commends her for being a true worshiper who is being sought by God. Yes, He commends her for her love of the truth. He found the good in the midst of the bad and promoted it.

In fact, this is a common pattern that we see throughout the Bible when it comes to how Christ presents the Samaritans. Yes, they were heretics. Yes, they were in a cult. Yes, they were following compromised scripture, false prophets, and worshiping in a false temple that was in the wrong place according to God’s Word. But even in the midst of this sick, dysfunctional mess, how does Jesus so often speak of them in public? Answer: They’re the-wrong-in-orthodoxy, but right-in-orthopraxy good guys – at least as compared to the right-in-orthodoxy, but wrong in orthopraxy guys that are in front of Him, that is.

Still, doubt us? Then lest us give you these three words: The Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). And let us pose just one question: Who was the good guy in that story, the two biblically orthodox, mainstream religious guys (the Priest and the Levite) or the fringe heretic (the Samaritan)? We rest our case.

4. Curb your ego
What comes next in this exchange is the real stunner to me:

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
(John 4:25-26 NKJV) 

And there it is, Christ’s first explicit declaration that He is the Messiah in the gospels. To a woman. A sinful woman. A half-breed Jewish/Gentile mongrel of the type hated by His people. A sinful mongrel who was born into the religious cult that she is still ensnared in.

Now, given that, wouldn’t the egotist have lead with the “little” fact that they are the Chosen One? Wouldn’t they have presented their credentials to gain the advantage? When she went into her previous tirade about the Temple and how wrong those apostate Jews are versus right we true God worshiping Samaritan, if you were Jesus wouldn’t you have been tempted to say, “Well, that’s all well and good, but hey lady, I’m the Messiah! How do you like them apples, little girl?” We confess, to our shame, that we probably would have.

But not Jesus, he checked His ego at the door and left it there. Yes, that’s right, God Almighty, Lord of the Universe, checked His ego at the door for the sake and out of His love for the Samaritan woman that was right in front of him. One word, and it falls far short: Wow!

5. Keep it positive
Rewind the tape again and consider how Christ first presented His message to the Samaritan woman: He offered her a gift, living water. He knew her need and met her exactly where she was at right then and there – physically (thirsty), spiritually (ensnared in a false religion), and emotionally (looking for love in all the wrong places). And what did He offer her? He offered her hope and life. Through the Messiah (Himself) He offered a way out.

Friend, is this the way that Christ first approached you? It’s sure the way that He approached us – Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist, and Fred the militant Atheist. And we are hardly unique, are we? After all, doesn’t Paul tell us that’s it’s the patience and kindness of God that leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4)?

One thing that we like about “The Chosen” TV series – in fact, maybe the thing we like most about it – is how Christ is portrayed as a genuinely warm, approachable, and attractive person. One can’t help but feel drawn to Him and His message as He is presented in this series. Do you think that real historic Jesus was any different? We don’t. As the saying goes, which draws more flies: Honey or vinegar? Based on your own reading of the gospels do you think that Jesus was vinegar or honey to those who heard His voice? Let’s consider what the text actually says in light of that hovering question, shall we?

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42 NKJV) 

Again for emphasis, “we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world”. Friend do you think that Christ’s words were honey or vinegar to these Samaritans? Were they honey or vinegar to you when He called you? For Michael, the militant Mormon Apologist and Fred, the militant Atheist, those words were honey in the midst of vinegar. We were drawn to Christ because He was far, far, far more attractive than what we currently had. Case in point: Fred is fond of saying that Atheism, for him, was like ordering a pizza and eating the box instead of the pizza. And Michael has said similar things about the Mormonism that was crushing him under the weight of ordinance, commandments, and constant, unrelenting unworthiness.

So my Mormon Bashing Evangelical friend, we will end this with this: Are you Christ to your Mormon friends and family members? Are you honey or vinegar to your Mormon friends and family? We encourage and exhort you: Be Jesus. Be honey. Be the Good Samaritan to the Samaritans. Be a Mormon in order to win Mormons.

An artistic, moving, and powerful depiction of the Woman at the Well story from “The Chosen” TV Series. (click to view)

 About the Authors
Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” 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.

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

Click here to read Part One