Archive for the ‘Jesus Christ’ Category

Samaritan Woman at the Well

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

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

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

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

Meet the Samaritans
Who does this sound like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown Japanese Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown African artist

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

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

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

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

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

He Qi -SamaritanWomanAtTheWell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“St. Photine” Russian Icon

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

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

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

As Leon Morris notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mormon-church-meeting21

A Mormon Fast and Testimony meeting in Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Christ and Woman at the Well” Byzatine Icon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia, “Samaritans”

Samaritan Sacred Texts (web portal page)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Op cit, Gotquestions.org

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

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

[6] Ibid

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

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

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

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

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

[11] Ibid, pp.244-245

[12] Ibid, pp. 249,250

[13] New Testament scholar Leon Morris notes:

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

[14] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6621-6623

[15] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6791-6793

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[21] Sandra Tanner, “Terminology Differences”

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

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

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

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

BACK TO TOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 And he said, Yea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mosiah 5:15
Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent , may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all . Amen.

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

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

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

Zeezrom asking Amulek and Alma questions (Alma 11) 

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

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

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

29 And he answered, No.

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

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

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

33 And he said unto him, Yea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLIVER COWDERY
DAVID WHITMER
MARTIN HARRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polygamy is condemned in the Book of Mormon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salt_Lake_temple_baptismal_font

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune 5/19/2008

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune 5/19/2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 And little children also have eternal life.

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

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

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

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

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Nephi 11:14
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

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

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

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Lead photo credit: Shutterstock/braedostok

by Steve Taylor

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

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

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

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

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

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

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

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

(The original version by Steve Taylor)

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

Oh, He said live
I forgive

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

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

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

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

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

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

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

Almighty God,

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

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

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

LockedDoorWithLight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Fred W. Anson
Here’s a challenge: Read through the following and try to guess who wrote it.

When It’s Love
Hey, everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’
Somethin’ to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don’t talk much about it
’til things get out of control, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just somethin’ you feel together
When it’s love

You look at every face in a crowd
Some shine and some keep you guessin’
Waiting for someone to come into focus
And teach you your final love lesson, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together

Oh, when it’s love
You can feel it, yeah
Nothin’s missin’, yeah

Yeah, you can feel it
Oh, when it’s love
When nothin’s missing

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

Ooh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together, hey

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

When it’s love
Ooh, when it’s love
Hey, it’ll last forever

When it’s love
Give it up
We’re gonna feel this thing
Together

When it’s love, ooh
When it’s love, baby
You can feel it, yeah

We’ll make it last forever
Ooh, when it’s love

a_hole_in_my_soul_by_Alx_GFX_Cropped

Who did you guess?  Perhaps it was Blaise Pascal who I quoted in my last recontextualization article as saying…
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

… after all the poem starts with, “everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’, somethin’ to fill in the holes” in true Pascalian fashion. 

Or perhaps, you thought of St. Augustine who wrote…
“Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”
— from “Confessions”

… when you considered the lines that said, “You look at every face in a crowd – some shine and some keep you guessin’. Waiting for someone to come into focus and teach you your final love lesson.” Isn’t that how Augustine might have put it had he written in the English vernacular of 20th Century America rather than in 4th Century Latin?

Or perhaps when you considered the words, “how does it feel when it’s love? It’s just something you feel together,” you thought of Jesus Christ who said of His covenant relationship with those who believe in and live for Him, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4 NASB) – that would certainly explain and make the recurring line, “it lasts forever” even more poignant given the fact that Christ also said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NASB)

Yes, all these themes and ideas are certainly there – surprisingly there’s great depth in this simple yet powerful song.  I confess that I have listened to this song through tears on many an occasion since, for me, it echoes all these themes and resonates deeply within.  Here, try it for yourself:

Yes, folks believe it or not, this deep and beautiful song was written and performed by Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Sammy Haggar, and Michael Anthony – that is, to use the words of one reviewer, that “band of idiots” known to the world as Van Halen.

After all they’re not immune to the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance. Whether it’s a straight arrow, feet-on-the-ground world pastor  or a jelly brained, out-of-touch rock star we all feel this need – and clearly the guys in Van Halen do too.

Nor, apparently, is Van Halen any more immune to incorrectly diagnosing the “fix” as romantic love than anyone else is – as the video illustrates well. My hope and prayer for these guys that someday, somehow, the they “get” the wisdom of St. Augustine that  “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”  Perhaps on that day they’ll join us in singing this song through tears of fulfilled joy rather than longing, despair, and confusion.

by Fred Anson
In a prior post, I introduced the idea of recontextualizing works of music pointing out not only how Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby recontextualized the music of their day – some of it secular with no discernible religious roots – and turned them into songs of praise and worship, but how modern Christians have been doing the same thing with secular rock music.

I pressed this point further stating, “I confess a certain frustration when fellow Christians take diminish or take umbrage at the idea that unbelievers, with whom we share common life experiences not the least being “the human condition”, can find small echoes of divine truths within His fallen creation.”

Personally, I can think of no experience more common to the human condition than the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance.  Be it the silver spooned debutante or the beggar rummaging for his next meal in the trash we have all feel this need at some time, some place – perhaps you’re even feeling it now. I would go so far as to say that this may be the deepest most persistent need that human beings feel – and my observation is that it’s certainly the most common.

Now I suppose it will shock no one when I assert that most rock artists incorrectly diagnose the “fix” for this “hole in the soul” as romantic love.  However, as anyone who’s had their heart broken by a lover or spouse who left them will tell you, “That ain’t it!”

Nor can we find the fix in the love of parents for parents get old and die (as I type through my tears since both of mine have “passed”).  And I know from the 12-Step groups I’ve been in that a heartbreaking fact is that one of the things affected by the fall was the relationship between parent and child – as a result, some adult children are looking for healthy love from a broken parent that, sadly, may never come.

The fact of the matter is that human love simply won’t fill that hole in the human condition that it seems God has reserved for Himself.   As French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal said well:

 “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

And though it was written from quite a different context[1] no song comes closer to expressing this crying need than this one . . .

Lover Reign O’er Me from the 1979 movie “Quadrophenia” 

Love Reign O’er Me
(Pete’s theme)
Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers’
Laying in the fields.

Love, reign o’er me.
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me.

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky.
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high.

Love Reign O’er me.

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool cool rain.
The nights are hot and black as ink
I can’t sleep and I lay and I think
Oh God, I need a drink of cool cool rain.

Love!

… and I’m continuing to hope and pray that the composer of this classic, perhaps even inspired, song may someday know the peace, serenity, and love of God that I, Blaise Pascal, and others have found for himself some day soon.

Ethan-Russell_04(“Love O’er Me” by Pete Townshend was originally released on the 1973 album “Quadrophenia” by The Who) 

NOTES:
[1]  As Pete Townshend, the song’s composer once explained:
(strong language alert for those of you with sensitive ears and eyes) 
“‘Love Reign O’er Me’ is similar to ‘Drowned’ [editor: another song on the Quadrophenia album] in meaning. This refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God’s Voice. It’s another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness. He’s in danger of maturing.” 
(from http://www.thewho.net/linernotes/Quad.htm )

Click here or a more thorough analysis of Pete Townshend and his religious affiliation with Meher Baba.