Archive for the ‘Joseph Smith’ Category

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

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

by Fred W. Anson

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one Roman Catholic2 author writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (KJV)
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Theologian and Christian Apologist, Matt Slick observes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Honest Take on “The Articles of Faith
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”  Based on Current LDS Church Doctrine and Practice

A young girl reads the Articles of Faith from the Pearl of Great Price in the printed scriptures.

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, and in Heavenly Mother. We believe we are the same species as God and may ascend to Godhood someday, just as countless other heavenly beings have done.

2 We believe that neither Adam’s transgression nor Christ’s obedience is imputed to mankind. Both of these events are merely incentives that entice us to do good or evil.

3 We believe that the Atonement of Christ merely opens a path for us to repent of our sins and reach perfection through our own righteousness.

4 We believe the path to heaven consists of faith, repentance, baptism, a temple endowment, marriage, and honoring and keeping all of the temple covenants because Jesus isn’t enough.

5 We believe that we solely have the authority to preach the gospel and baptize. Christ’s Great Commission and Royal Priesthood (see Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10) aren’t enough, you must also have the LDS priesthood or any and all claimed authority is utterly illegitimate.

6 We rely on bishops, apostles, prophets, and so forth because we reject Jesus as our living prophet and high priest.

7 We theoretically believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, and so forth. These things are not seen in our church and our prophet doesn’t prophecy, but that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t working in mundane yet significant ways that we just can’t witness.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it supports LDS doctrine. The rest of it has been corrupted and is no longer trustworthy. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God inasmuch it is interpreted correctly, which only the Prophet can do. All this is why the Prophet is ultimately our highest authority.

9 We believe all that God has revealed unless it contradicts what the prophet teaches today. As far as tomorrow, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

10 We believe that 99.9% of us are from the tribe of Ephraim and are tasked with the gathering of Israel, or in other words, missionary work. When someone is baptized into our church, they become the seed of Abraham. Yes, we are that arrogant.

11 If cornered, we will say we believe all the same things as Christianity. It’s our similarities that really matter, outsiders should act like the differences aren’t important, just like we do!

12 We believe in fashioning God’s decrees after the laws of the land in general, and the United States in particular. God’s command to stop practicing polygamy and the parallel laws of the U.S. government make for excellent plausible deniability for Official Declaration 1. Ditto for dropping the Priesthood ban on those of African descent for Offical Declaration Two.

13 We believe in appearing honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous. In essence, we mimic Christian ideals and language in order to ensnare and confuse Christians into joining our ranks. We follow the morally compromised admonition of Joseph Smith — “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is.” (History of the Church, 5:135)

An artist’s depiction of Joseph Smith writing the Wentworth Letter which later became the canonized, “Articles of Faith”.

Appendix I: The Backstory of the Articles of Faith
by Fred W. Anson
From the official LdS Church website:

The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s request to know what members of the Church believe. They were subsequently published in Church periodicals. They are now regarded as scripture and included in the Pearl of Great Price.
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Topics: The Articles of Faith”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2022-02-05) 

It has been noted that the Articles of Faith, which was originally called “The Wentworth Letter”, was deliberately word crafted by Joseph Smith to sound “Christian” and downplay any unorthodox or controversial Latter-day Saint doctrine because it was written for an outsider, Christian audience. As the neutral source Wikipedia explains: 

“The “Wentworth letter” was a letter written in 1842 by Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith to “Long” John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. It outlined the history of the Latter Day Saint movement up to that time, and included Mormonism’s Articles of Faith.

The letter was written in response to Wentworth’s inquiry on behalf of one of his friends, George Barstow, who was writing a history of New Hampshire. The letter was first published on March 1, 1842, in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Illinois.

A similar letter (with some slight revisions) was published by Daniel Rupp in 1844 in a book called An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States.”
(Wikipedia, “Wentworth letter”; retrieved 2002-02-05) 

In addition, the Wikipedia article notes that “The wording of some of the articles was modified in 1851 and 1902” (Ibid). Regardless, the fact of the matter remains that the Articles of Faith have never truly been reflective of Mormon Theology or orthodoxy. And it has always been used as a kind of Public Relations tool to buttress and protect the LdS Church from outside criticism of its unique doctrine – the stuff that mainstream Christians might find offensive or evidence of the lack of true biblical orthodoxy. In other words, it has never met the standard of honesty that the LdS Church itself teaches which includes the following criterion:

“There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Principless” Chapter 31, “Honesty”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2013-06-29) 

Therefore, Michael Flournoy’s “The LDS Articles of Faith: Honest Version” may, in fact, be the first version of the Articles of Faith that is truly representative of current Brighamite doctrine, theology, and practices. 

note: The current canonized version of “The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” can be read by clicking here.

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

by Fred W. Anson
Dime Novels are as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They are so entrenched in the American psyche and culture that most consumers of American Pop Culture have been exposed to the Dime Novel genre even if they have never actually seen or read a Dime Novel. As Wikipedia explains: 

“The dime novel is a form of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S. popular fiction issued in series of inexpensive paperbound editions. The term dime novel has been used as a catchall term for several different but related forms, referring to story papers, five- and ten-cent weeklies, “thick book” reprints, and sometimes early pulp magazines. The term was used as a title as late as 1940, in the short-lived pulp magazine Western Dime Novels. In the modern age, the term dime novel has been used to refer to quickly written, lurid potboilers, usually as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized but superficial literary work.”
(Wikipedia, “Dime Novel”

If you have ever seen an early 20th Century Western, or Mystery that was produced in America you have been exposed to Dime Novel fiction. American Television, Radio, Movies, popular literature, and plays all followed the Dime Novel formula which was as follows: 

“[Western] Protagonists would often come into conflict with Native Americans, which would become a recurring feature of the genre and lend it a reputation for racism and jingoism. These stories are occasionally fictional accounts of real historical figures, such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but more often the characters are completely fictional, like Nick Whiffles. It wasn’t long before the setting of these novels shifted to the contemporary Western frontier, especially mining camps in the Dakotas and California. At first, outlaws, gamblers, and other anti-heroes were especially popular, such as Edward L. Wheeler’s Deadwood Dick or real-life gang leader Jesse James. These characters were almost always driven to a life of crime by their circumstances, but often had basically good intentions. With growing concerns about the moral appropriateness of dime novels for children, however, stories about cowboys and plainsmen came to replace outlaws…

At the dawn of the dime novel era, historical fiction was almost as popular as Western stories, with tales about the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 predominating. In many ways, America’s popular conception of its early history can be attributed to these novels, which often focused on the exploits of self-reliant patriots, either spies or privateers, who would heroically stand up against English and Tory oppression…

Real historical figures sometimes featured in these novels, like George Washington or Ulysses S. Grant, but more often these stories deal with few real historical events or characters, even sometimes leaving the date unspecified (e.g. 187-). When historical figures do appear, their character is often based on their popular conception, with seldom any relation to reality.”
(North Illinois University, “Nickels and Dimes: Genre”)

For those of us who have read through the Book of Mormon at least once is this all beginning to sound eerily familiar: 

      • Morality Plays
      • War Rhetoric
      • Battlefield Narratives
      • Racism
      • Jingoism
      • Patriotism
      • Cardboard, Two-Dimensional characters
      • Heroes (the “White Hats”) 
      • Outlaws (the “Black Hats”) 
      • Self Reliant Patriots (fighting to defend their religion, freedom, peace, and families)
      • Spies 
      • Privateers
      • Real Historical Figures inserted into fictional settings

Interesting, isn’t it? Now consider all the above in light of the following excerpts from the Book of Mormon: 

Mosiah 19:4-7
And now there was a man among them whose name was Gideon, and he being a strong man and an enemy to the king, therefore he drew his sword, and swore in his wrath that he would slay the king.

And it came to pass that he fought with the king; and when the king saw that he was about to overpower him, he fled and ran and got upon the tower which was near the temple.

And Gideon pursued after him and was about to get upon the tower to slay the king, and the king cast his eyes round about towards the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land.

And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.

Now just recontextualize that for the Old West with guns, Sheriffs and Desperados and you have a great Western story, don’t you? 

Helaman 6:16-20
And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.

For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.

And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers.

And it was they who did murder the chief judge Cezoram, and his son, while in the judgment-seat; and behold, they were not found.

And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that there were robbers among them they were exceedingly sorrowful; and they did use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.

And there it is, another otherwise good territory has privateering outlaws running amuck. So the good guys have to hunt down them and clear them out. Several exciting armed conflicts ensue. Sound familiar?

Alma 46:19-24, 34-36
And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.

Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment…

Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them.

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.

I can almost feel the flag fluttering in the air while Moroni proudly hugs his scripture to his chest, can’t you? Haven’t we all seen this scene before somewhere… 

The Jay Ward cartoon characters Dudley Do-Right and his nemesis Snidely Whiplash were satirical takes on Dime Novel heroes and villains as they manifested themselves in the American Silent Film era.

1 Nephi 4:6-27
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.

And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.

And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins.

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.

And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban.

And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls.

And I also bade him that he should follow me.

And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.

And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.

And there you have it, a good and righteous man is forced to slay an evil villain for the sake of the greater good due to circumstances beyond his control. Surely this is one that we’ve never heard before, well, except for in just about every Dime Novel Western Hero story ever, that is, of course.

I think you get the idea, here. I would encourage you to read (or reread) the Book of Mormon in light of these Dime Novel genre formulations and consider how they just pop out at you. 

Consider, for example, The “Dudley Do-Rightism” of the courageous and righteous Nephi against the constant malice and murmurings of the scheming and the conniving “Snidely Whiplash” characters of Laman and Lemuel in the opening books of the Book of Mormon. 

Then compare and contrast those simplistic protagonists and antagonists against the deep, complex, characters in the Bible. The biblical characters are never cardboard, they’re deep and conflicted. Case in point, King David was a man after God’s whole heart due to his devotion and passion for God, but he was also a murderer and an adulterer. This isn’t a superficial, shallow, easily understood, literary figure, is it? 

Ditto for Noah who God calls just and perfect (see Genesis 6:9) but who still manages to get crazy, drunk, and naked in the midst of God’s calling on his life. Furthermore, the Noah narrative in the Bible, it has been noted, has strong parallels to the Sumerian and Babylonian flood narratives (see Wikipedia, “Gilgamesh Flood Myth”)And let’s not forget the book of Job for which there are similar “lamentation songs” and stories from the ancient Mesopotamian basin (see, for example, Morris Jastrow, Jr., “A Babylonian Parallel to the Story of Job”)Thus, regardless of whether you believe that it’s divinely inspired or not, the body of evidence is clear that the Bible is indeed ancient, Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand, The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient work of Middle Eastern origin but is actually more reflective of a uniquely American literary genre from the 19th Century – which would suggest that it is neither. Rather, it is strongly suggestive of American culture in general and 19th Century American culture in particular. Couple that with the fact that as of a decade ago, 150-Million copies of The Book of Mormon had been published (see LdS Newsroom, “Book of Mormon Reaches 150-Million Copies”) and you will understand why my assertion is that based on the body of evidence, The Book of Mormon is, quite simply, the most successful 19th Century Dime Novel in history. 

Presenting the Most Successful 19th Century Dime Novel in History.

A 19th Century etching of Alexander Campbell preaching at the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival, the birthplace of the American Restorationist Movement.

From “Andrew” A Mormon Source

What follows is an excerpt from a review of David Bercot’s book, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” that was published on the Mormon-friendly website “Mormon Matters” in 2009. The full, original article can be found by clicking here. — Fred W. Anson

“Another movement to restore primitive Christianity sprung up in America in the early 1800s out of the Presbyterian church. . . . Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister, began a movement in Kentucky to restore apostolic Christianity. Stone’s chief objective was to restore the holy living and separation from the world that had marked early Christianity.

In the 1820s, Stone’s movement merged with a separate movement begun by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who were also seeking to restore primitive Christianity. One of Alexander Campbell’s primary objectives was to achieve unity among all Christians, forsaking all man-made creeds and traditions and returning to the forms, structures, and doctrines of the apostolic church.”
(David Bercot, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up”, p. 151)

Both Stone and the Campbells published journals urging a Restoration of the Early Church in the early 1800’s (The Christian Baptist, Millennial Harbinger, and The Christian Messenger).

Those familiar with Mormon history will recognize the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell as the founders of the “Campbellite” Restoration movement that Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and at one point a majority of all Mormons belonged to before converting to Mormonism. When Sidney Ridgon read the Book of Mormon in 1830 while he was a Campbellite preacher, he converted to Mormonism as did many other Campbellites. This enormous influx of former Campbellites into Mormonism doubled the Church’s membership in three weeks and resulted in Joseph Smith relocating the Saints’ gathering place by joining the former Campbellite converts in Kirtland, Ohio.

Why was Mormonism so appealing to Campbellites? Starting in 1823, Campbell’s publication The Christian Baptist advocated an abandonment of all creeds and sects that divided Christendom and a restoration of a unified Church in which the “original gospel and order of things” are present. (Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Alexander Campbell explained the Campbellites’ “distinguishing views and practices” as follows:
“They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls “the apostasy.” . . .

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship. . . .

Thus while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed after the glorification of Jesus, “Be immersed every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The immersed believers are congregated into societies according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet the first day of every week in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and hear the living oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregations; and every church, either from itself or in co-operation with others, sends out, as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the word, to preach the word and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it is necessary, as far as their means extend.”
(Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Although the Campbellites and Mormons held many other beliefs in common, the above provides a sampling of the types of similarities that have presented religion historians with a fascinating chicken-or-the-egg question: did Joseph Smith’s teachings resemble the Early Church’s “original gospel and order of things” because Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God whose authentic revelations enabled him to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ, or because contemporary Restorationists like Alexander Campbell first identified correct Early Christian beliefs and practices that were later adopted by Joseph Smith? In other words, did God use the broader Restoration movement of the American frontier as an “Elias” that prepared Rigdon and eventually thousands of souls to embrace the true Church of Jesus Christ restored later by Joseph Smith, or was Joseph Smith’s success in duplicating many Early Christian beliefs and practices the result of his simply mimicking the beliefs and practices of contemporary Restorationist preachers who got it right first.

Because Campbellite converts to Mormonism such as Parley Pratt reported that they were converted Mormonism because they were inspired by the truthfulness of the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon (Parley Pratt, “Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt”, Chapter 1), it seems the answer to that question depends on whether the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation of an authentic record compiled by Early Christians living on the American continent, or is a fabrication cobbled together by Smith and possibly others inspired by the Restorationist ethos that pervaded the American frontier when it was published. (We know where Alexander Campbell stood on that question: in 1831 he denounced the Book of Mormon as a fraud because it all-too-coincidentally addressed “every error and every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” (Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millenial Harbinger 2, (January 1831): 93.)

(source: Andrew, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (Book Review), Mormon Matters website)

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) from a period life portrait painting.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common refrain from the LdS Church and other Latter Day Saint sources is that founding Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. wasn’t motivated by money in the founding and perpetuation of Mormonism in general and in his role as the Great Prophet of the Restoration in particular. If this is the case then why does the historical record clearly indicate that he benefited financially from both? Please consider the following two summations of the body of evidence.

First, from renowned Mormon Historian, D. Michael Quinn’s last book:

“The municipal assessment rolls for taxation from 1841 to 1843 show an unprecedented divergence between the church president’s assessed wealth and everyone else’s (table 1.4). This was not simply due to Joseph Smith’s role as trustee-in-trust after 1841, because LDS assessors itemized his personal real estate as distinct from each parcel of land he owned as the church’s trustee. . . . in 1842 and 1843, Smith’s personal ownership of land remained at least twenty-one times higher than for Nauvoo’s average resident. His personal property (non-land wealth) remained at least 2.7 times greater than for Nauvoo’s non-hierarchy. During those years, he also owned at least twice as much personal property than the average general authority, and his personal ownership of land remained at least 4.9 times their average.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power”, Kindle Locations 507-516. Signature Books. Kindle Edition)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part one)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part two)

Second, from the RfM (Recovery from Mormonism) website archives:

1. Joseph Smith cleared over $73,000 in debt by filing for bankruptcy in 1842 (his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, along with other LDS dignitaries took advantage of a brief window where Congress enacted a lenient bankruptcy law only to rescind it months later when $440 million in liabilities in the country were wiped clean for $44 million in assets). Joseph’s $73k debt represented nearly $2 million in 2010 dollars. [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

2. By Joseph’s own account, he owed approximately $70,000 again by the time he was killed just 2 years later in 1844 (over $1.84 million in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

3. LAND SPECULATION. Nauvoo land purchased for $2 per acre, lots sold for average price of $500 per acre (minimum $200 per acre | maximum $800 per acre) multiply by factor of 25 to 28 for value in 2010 dollars—this is how frontier land speculation works when masses of people are gathered by revelation.

SPIRITUAL BLACKMAIL TO PROMOTE SALES.
February 13, 1843: I spent the evening at Elder Orson Hyde’s. In the course of conversation I remarked that those brethren who came here having money, and purchased without the Church and without counsel, must be cut off. This, with other observations, aroused the feelings of Brother Dixon, from Salem, Massachusetts, who was present, and he appeared in great wrath. [“History of the Church”, vol 5., ch.14, p.272; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-5-chapter-14]

The Front Page of the Nauvoo Neighbor.

SPIRITUAL COERCION TO PROMOTE SALES.
[NOTE: “ The Nauvoo Neighbor was a weekly newspaper edited and published by Latter Day Saint Apostle John Taylor in Nauvoo, Illinois from 1843 to 1845. While it was not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Neighbor was consistently pro-Mormon and its primary target audience was the Latter Day Saint residents of Nauvoo. When The Wasp ceased publication in April 1843, the Neighbor replaced it as Nauvoo’s premier secular newspaper.” (Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Neighbor”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Neighbor )]

———-BEGIN NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

20 December 1843, Nauvoo Neighbor 37: To Emigrants and Latter-Day Saints Generally: I feel it my duty to say … that there is in the hands of the trustee in trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining townships in this county, which is for sale, some of which belongs to the Church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also to liquidate debts owing to the Church, for which the trustee in trust is responsible. Some, also, is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple and the Nauvoo House.If the brethern who move in here and want an inheritance, will buy their lands of the trustee in trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple, and the Nauvoo House, and even then only will be doing that which is their duty, and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in days to come. Let all the brethern, therefore, whey they move into Nauvoo, consult President Joseph Smith, the trustee in trust, and purchase their lands of him; and I am bold to say that God will bless them. …We hold ourselves ready at any time to wait upon the brethern and show them the lands … and can be found any day, either at President Joseph Smith’s bar-room, or the Temple Recorder’s office at the Temple.

———- END NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

4. ABUSE OF POWER.
Nauvoo city council awarded Joseph Smith sole right to sell liquor in city limits. He established bar in Mansion House/Hotel for that purpose, but Emma forced him to remove it by threatening to take the kids and move back to the Homestead house.

5. ASSETS OWNED BY JOSEPH/EMMA:
• Joseph Smith Mansion House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_House)
• Nauvoo House built by order of revelation at the Church’s expense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_House)
• Homestead house in Nauvoo (http://cofchrist.org/js/homestead/default.asp)
• Brigham Young claimed that Emma owned $50,000 in *city property* when they finished settling the assets with Emma ($1.4 million in 2010 dollars). This apparently referred to the Hugh White purchase which Joseph had deeded to her before his death (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N03_89.pdf).
• Quincy property (aka Cleveland farm)
• One or more additional farms (Brigham Young twice used the plural when referring to farms given to Emma, saying that “besides these farms she owned city property worth fifty thousand dollars”).
• Owned at least two steamships: the Maid of Iowa and the Nauvoo (Joseph Smith owed a debt on the latter at the time of his death that was settled for over $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]
• Steamship docks (ownership was under dispute—still looking for more info on this one).• Egyptian papyrus and mummies purchased by friends of Joseph Smith for $2,400 in 1835 ($60,000 in 2010 dollars).
• Mother Smith would charge admission (25 cents or around $7 in 2010 dollars) to see the Egyptian mummies and papyrus. Lying, Joseph reportedly told visitors that his mother had purchased them herself for $6,000 ($150,000 in 2010 dollars).
• They remained in the Smith family until Emma sold them shortly after Lucy Mack Smith’s death in 1855.
(source = http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1190844,1220856 )

Banner Art: A fictional Million-Dollar Bill featuring Joseph Smith’s profile that was produced by Mormonism Research Mormonism (MRM) a few years ago.

The Apostle Paul’s Law v. Grace Dichotomy

by Michael Flournoy, Fred W. Anson, and Pam Hanvey
If you’re a Latter-day Saint who has talked theology with Evangelicals, chances are you’ve walked away exasperated more than once. I’m willing to wager you’ve thought, “How can these people misrepresent my church so much? Do they understand my beliefs at all?” Perhaps, you think the most blatant example is when Evangelicals show scriptures that say the Law doesn’t save and then give that smug “gotcha” look. The problem should be obvious, but it isn’t.

You don’t follow the Law of Moses, you believe in the restored gospel. And you’ve said it enough times that Evangelicals should get it by now, right? But we all get stuck in battle debate mode and just have to win, don’t we? So it’s easy to keep pushing an argument in vain.  We all know how it goes, don’t we? 

As a result, we are going to express what Evangelicals have been trying to say all along, but typically don’t know how to because they aren’t bi-lingual and speak both Mormonese and Christianese as your intrepid reporters here do.  

First, both sides agree that Mormonism is a restoration. Yes, you heard that right, it is a restoration. However, Evangelicals see it as a restoration of the Old Testament Law of Moses, not New Testament Christianity. That is, to put it into Mormonese: It’s a restoration of the Lesser Law not the Higher Law as Mormonism claims. (Evangelicals, see BYU Professor Larry E. Dahl’s article, “The Higher Law”, Ensign, February 1991 for a good primer on the difference between the two from the Mormon perspective.) 

Study this out in your mind and see if it is right: When Paul wrote his letters he made a distinction between grace and Law. Since Mormonism claims to be a restoration of New Testament Christianity, not Old Testament Judaism, it stands to reason that it should fit soundly into one of Paul’s categories, right?  So let’s dig in and see why the above thesis is true. 

Similarities with the Law
How dare Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses, right? After all, Latter-day Saints don’t sacrifice animals, nor do they consider circumcision an essential covenant or ordinance of the gospel. Plus, the Word of Wisdom doesn’t require abstinence from consuming pork, shellfish, or other non-kosher food, does it?

So, why do Evangelicals equate the LDS gospel with the Law of Moses? Evangelicals are not merely looking at outward practices, but rather, they are going deeper; looking at the principal(s) behind the practices. Very early on in the Old Testament, this principle is established in the Law of Moses.  

I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 11:27-28, KJV) 

The principle of blessings for obedience is also included in LDS scripture.  

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
(D&C 130:20-21) 

Comparing the two, the Law of Moses (Old Covenant) clearly delineates laws/commandments to be obeyed in specific situations by a specific group of people (Israelites); obedience or disobedience resulted in temporal blessings or curses for the nation of Israel. 

In Galatians 3:24, Paul explains that the Law of Moses, “was given to be a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. Obedience to the Law has never been the means by which men enter into eternal life. Eternal Life has always been a blessing given by grace through faith.

In contrast, D&C 130 only presents a principle of blessings for obedience (no curses for disobedience). It then takes the principle of blessings for obedience and doubles down on it;  making obedience to laws a requirement for all of God’s blessings – up to and including Eternal Life.2 This leaves no room for eternal life to be granted by grace through faith (see definition below). As a result, many of the practices found in the Law of Moses continue to exist in Mormonism. 

After all, you still covenant to sacrifice all that the Lord blesses you with, don’t you? Doesn’t the LDS Church require a mandatory tithe – even though the tithe was a covenant-keeping ordinance of the lesser Law? Don’t you consider baptism an essential covenant akin to circumcision? And aren’t coffee, tea, and alcohol essentially non-kosher foods that cause one to break covenant if one consumes them? 

Further, don’t both the lesser Law and higher Laws require making and keeping covenants with God in a temple? Weren’t the unworthy Gentiles forbidden from even entering the temple foyer, let alone the washing and anointing area? Ditto for Jews who didn’t keep their covenants? Weren’t women forbidden from holding the Priesthood? Ditto for male children below a certain age?  Wasn’t there a special class of men who could hold the Priesthood out of all the men on earth? Weren’t there classes or castes of priests within the Priesthood rather than a single Royal Priesthood? 

And, aren’t both systems so overwhelmingly arduous, demanding, and ultimately impossible that they drive us to ultimate failure, condemn us and point us to our ever-present, all-surpassing need for a savior. In short, the Law and the LDS gospel serve to bring us to a knowledge of sin. Thus, both systems condemn us just as Paul said so well in his epistles: 

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become ||guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
(Romans 3:19-20, KJV) 

We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted
(1 Timothy 1.8-11, KJV)

As one of our authors (writing under the pen name “Marie Johnson”) said well: 

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

Inaugurated with the shed blood of animals, the Mosaic covenant had a very distinct beginning. When Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled the book of the covenant and all the people, the Israelites were bound to abide by the Law of Moses (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:19). They were required to continually perform sacrifices for the temporary covering of sins (Hebrews 10:11). If they intentionally defied the Mosaic Law, they would be cut off from Israel; that is, put to death (Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 10:28). No Hebrew was exempt from this obligation to the Law until, “the fullness of the time was come, [when] God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5,KJV)
(Pam Hanvey (writing as “Marie Johnson”), “The Bible v. The Book of Mormon Gospel”, Beggar’s Bread website, April 17, 2016) 

The Jews under the Old Covenant had to make a sin sacrifice once a year because they kept sinning. The LDS sacrament is essentially the same thing. It is a repeated ordinance that renews the covenant. The New Covenant, as Paul emphasizes again, again, and again in his epistles, does not need to be renewed at all. In this, Paul merely affirms and validates what Christ, Himself said on the cross, “It is finished” (see John 19:30).

So to review:

      • Both systems have tithing. 
      • Both systems honor the Sabbath. 
      • Both systems uphold the ten commandments.
      • Both systems require making and keeping covenants. 
      • Both systems overwhelm us and condemn us. 
      • And both systems point us our need for a Savior.

Dissimilarities with Grace
The other problem is how dissimilar Mormonism is with grace as the Bible defines it. For example, Mormonism commits a classic “Fallacy by Definition” error by reframing the primary definition of grace as, “the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ” (see “Grace” official LDS Church website

However, the words for grace in the Bible (“charis” in New Testament Greek and “chen” in the Old Testament) are generally defined as first and foremost, “the free and unmerited favour of God” (see “Divine grace” Wikipedia website). That is the definition of the word that not only the Christian world uses, but the world in general does. For example, consider this definition from Dictionary.com) which is about as generic a dictionary as they come: “favor or goodwill; a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior”.1

Can you see what just happened there, my Latter-day Saint friend? By simply defining the word correctly and giving it its true meaning, suddenly the atonement has shifted away from what I must do to gain God’s favor through law-keeping to simply receiving the favor that God has so freely already given me through faith and trust in the atonement of Christ. Suddenly, as two of the authors of this article explained in a previous article, we move from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross of Golgotha: 

Though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, mainstream Christianity locates the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other, there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement, (Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its Meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012). But such a focus denies the Christ-centered redemption narrative that’s at the very core of the gospel message and so rightly cherished by Christians the world over.
(Fred W. Anson & Michael Flournoy, “Behold the Man Upon the Cross”, Beggar’s Bread website, September 30, 2018

And this is a shift that’s reiterated again, again, and again in the Bible: 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV) 

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
(Galatians 2:21, KJV)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
(Galatians 5:4, KJV) 

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
(Romans 11:5-6, KJV) 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:17, KJV) 

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
(Romans 6:14, KJV) 

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
(Galatians 3:18, KJV)

In the aforementioned article, Pam Hanvey summed things up nicely when she said, 

Because Jesus redeemed those under the law, the Old Covenant became obsolete when the New Covenant was ratified in his blood. (Hebrews 8:13, 10:9-10). Jesus addressed this in the parable of the wineskins. New wine can’t be poured into old wineskins: The old skins will burst and both will be ruined. (Matthew 9:14-17). The two covenants can’t be mixed. [Yet] In spite of Paul and Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Mormon asserts that people who were under Old Covenant law could freely partake of the New Covenant and claim remission of sins through Jesus’ atonement…

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

This is the focus of the entire book of Galatians, which may best be summarized by this passage: 

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified…

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
(Galatians 2:16,21, KJV) 

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further to press home the fact that those trying to justify themselves by law-keeping are actually putting themselves under a curse: 

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
(Galatians 3:10-12, KJV) 

He even goes so far as to say that law-keeping is a yoke of bondage, rather than freedom, 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
(Galatians 5:1 KJV) 

So my dear Latter-day Saint friend, if you feel like that pressures and demands of the conflated, mish-mash, of the false Mormon Gospel of intermingled Old Testament Law and New Covenant grace that your church teaches is enslaving and crushing you, Paul would simply say to you, “You’re right, it is!”  

And then I would imagine that he would simply look you in the eye, and ask this paraphrased version of his infamous Galatians 3:1 question,  

“O foolish Mormon, who hath bewitched you?”

NOTES
1 This isn’t to say that the LDS Church’s definition isn’t included in or a subset of the biblical definition grace, it is. However, it’s a secondary effect or by-product of “the free and unmerited favour of God”, nothing more. This is as Louis Berkhof explains so well in his Systematic Theology: 

The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit. The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9.
(Louis Berkhof, “Systematic Theology” (Grand Rapids, 1949), pp. 426-427)

So the problem isn’t so much that the LDS Church’s definition of grace is wrong as much as it’s both “cart before the horse” and incomplete. 

2 For our non-Mormon readers, Even though there are six (6) types of salvation in LDS soteriology, Mormons will still use the generic term “salvation” without specifying which of the six they’re referring to. Here is the list followed by the full explanation from an official, correlated LDS Church source. 

1) Salvation from Physical Death.
2) Salvation from Sin.
3) Being Born Again.
4) Salvation from Ignorance.
5) Salvation from the Second Death.
6) Eternal Life, or Exaltation.

And here, in its entirety is that source: 

Salvation
In the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terms “saved” and “salvation” have various meanings. As used in Romans 10:9-10, the words “saved” and “salvation” signify a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this covenant relationship, followers of Christ are assured salvation from the eternal consequences of sin if they are obedient. “Salvation” and “saved” are also used in the scriptures in other contexts with several different meanings.

Additional Information
If someone were to ask if another person had been saved, the answer would depend on the sense in which the word is used. The answer might be “Yes” or perhaps it might be “Yes, but with conditions.” The following explanations outline six different meanings of the word salvation.

Salvation from Physical Death. All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death. Paul testified, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.

Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives (see Alma 11:36-37). However, through the grace of God, all can be saved from their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Helaman 5:10-11) as they repent and follow Jesus Christ.

Being Born Again. The principle of spiritual rebirth appears frequently in the scriptures. The New Testament contains Jesus’s teaching that everyone must be “born again” and that those who are not “born of water and of the Spirit … cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This teaching is affirmed in the Book of Mormon: “All mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26).

This rebirth occurs as individuals are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of a willingness “to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). Through this process, their “hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, [they] are born of him” (Mosiah 5:7). All who have truly repented, been baptized, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have made the covenant to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and have felt His influence in their lives, can say that they have been born again. That rebirth can be renewed each Sabbath when they partake of the sacrament.

Salvation from Ignorance. Many people live in a state of darkness, not knowing the light of the restored gospel. They are “only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Those who have a knowledge of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the purpose of life, the plan of salvation, and their eternal potential are saved from this condition. They follow the Savior, who declared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Salvation from the Second Death. The scriptures sometimes speak of salvation from the second death. The second death is the final spiritual death—being cut off from righteousness and denied a place in any kingdom of glory (see Alma 12:32; D&C 88:24). This second death will not come until the Final Judgment, and it will come to only a few (see D&C 76:31-37). Almost every person who has ever lived on the earth is assured salvation from the second death (see D&C 76:40-45).

Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words saved and salvation often refer to eternal life, or exaltation (see Abraham 2:11). Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1-4; 132:21-24). This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.

See also Atonement of Jesus Christ; Baptism; Eternal Life; Grace; Kingdoms of Glory; Plan of Salvation
(“True to the Faith” (2004), LDS Church manual, pp. 150-53; retrieved 4/26/2017)

ALSO RECOMMENDED
“Plan of Salvation Overview”,  LDS Church Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), pp. 7–10;

Lt. General Joseph Smith, Command in Chief of the Nauvoo Legion

compiled by Fred W. Anson
Controversy still swirls around if Joseph Smith sent an order to Nauvoo Legion acting General Jonathan Dunham to march on Carthage Jail and free him from what would ultimately be his assassination by an Anti-Mormon mob. FAIRMormon weighs with a resounding negative in this rather lengthy article: “Question: Did Joseph order Jonathan Dunham, head of the Nauvoo Legion, to rescue him?” (please click on link to read and consider this article) 

However, that hardly settles the matter. Below is evidence that counters FAIRMormon’s claims. It’s mentioned in their article but they discount and attempt to explain it away. So I will leave it to you, dear reader, to consider both sides and make up your own mind.

Allen J. Stout 
(December 5, 1815, December 18, 1889. A former Danite and member of the Nauvoo Legion, Joseph Smith’s private militia)
Now, there began to be excitement in the regions round about, so that the [Nauvoo] Legion was called out, which occupied my time as I had command of one company of footmen. The mob was determined to have the Prophet and we were determined they should not, so we kept under arms day and night for many weeks, but finally Joseph and Hyrum gave themselves up to be tried by the persuasion of false brethren and were taken out to Carthage.

And while they were in jail, Brother Joseph wrote an official order to Jonathan Dunham to bring the Legion and reserve him from being killed, but Dunham did not let a single man or mortal know that he had received such orders, and we were kept in the city under arms, not knowing but all was well, until the mob came and forced the prison and slew Joseph and Hyrum Smith and wounded John Taylor severely.
(Allen J. Stout, “Manuscript Journal, 1815-89”, p. 13)

T.B.H. Stenhouse
(21 February 1825 – 7 March 1882. Early Mormon convert, pioneer, and Missionary)
As the shadows on the prison walls, announced the receding day, the approach of death was sensibly felt by the Prophet and his friends. Dr. Richards, one of the apostles, proposed to Joseph that if his life might be accepted in the Prophet’s stead, he would freely give it. The apostle Taylor asked only permission, and “in five hours he would take him from his prison.” These were no idle offers. Life and deliverance were his for half a word; but at this critical moment Joseph seemed to forget all thoughts of life and of the world. It is claimed by the believing Saints that he had premonitions of his approaching end, and that on some occasions previous to the Expositor difficulty, he had spoken of the termination of his mission. So long had his bow been strung to its utmost tension, that this feeling of indifference can readily be appreciated without either miracle or divine manifestation; but to him and his, impressions had special interpretations. Add to this the galling humiliation of being chided by some brethren as a “coward” when he attempted to escape on the presentation of the sheriff’s writ, and then the weariness of earthly things is easy to comprehend. Life at last had lost its charm; the charge of cowardice had stung him, and he was ready to die. It was neither want of friends nor want of ability to secure his escape. He was weary, and with his fertile faith it was easy to listen to the suggestion of those ever-ready words – “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Besides, a “prophet” never dies. The portals of another world hail him as the advancing conqueror, and the field of his labours becomes more extended. Joseph was ready for the change.* It is stated that on leaving Nauvoo for Carthage he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer morning. I have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me He was murdered in cold blood.”’**

*Notwithstanding this apparent readiness to meet death, and the deep and clear divine impressions claimed to have been imparted to the Prophet of his forthcoming end, it is understood that he managed to send from prison a communication to the Mormon officer in military command at Nauvoo, to bring with all possible dispatch a portion of the Legion to protect him from treachery, and from that assassination which he had then so much cause to apprehend. This military commander put the Prophet’s communication into his pocket and gave no heed to the call for help. No one was acquainted with the contents of the paper, and the officer was, therefore, he presumed, safe in disregarding it.

After the Prophet’s death, by some accident or other, this communication was lost and was picked up on the street and read. The intelligence that Joseph had called for aid and none had been rendered him was soon bruited among the Saints, and excited their deepest indignation, as they were not only ready to march at a moment’s notice, but were eager for the opportunity.

Some time afterwards, when all was quiet, this coward and traitor as some of the Mormons called him, or “fool and idiot” as others said, was sent on a mission to the Western frontiers, accompanied by a faithful elder. While travelling alone with his companion, he fell ill and died, it is said of dysentery. His companion buried him.

**“Doctrine and Covenants,” p. 335.
(Thoma B.H. Stenhouse, “The Rocky Mountain Saints [1887]: A Full & Complete History of the Mormons from First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young & Development of the Great Mineral Wealth of Utah”, Kindle Locations 2698-2725. D. Appleton and Company. Kindle Edition)

Fawn Brodie
(September 15, 1915-January 10, 1981. Mormon Historian, infamous Biographer of Joseph Smith, and niece of 9th LdS President, David O. McKay)
Dull and heavy-spirited, the prisoners finally sent for some wine, and all except Hyrum sipped a little.* When Richards handed the bottle to the guard, he started down the stairs. At that moment there was a noise at the outer door, followed by shouts to surrender and the sound of shots.

It was not the Nauvoo Legion galloping up for a dramatic rescue. For some reason never divulged, Jonathan Dunham had pocketed the order and neglected to act upon it**, and no other man in Nauvoo knew of his prophet’s peril. It was the men of the Warsaw militia, who had marched out of the town as a token to the Governor, waited until he was well on his way to Nauvoo, and then come roaring back to join the Carthage Greys.

* According to John Taylor’s account. History of the Church, Vol. VII, p.101.

** This story is told by Allen J. Stout in his manuscript journal, 1815-89, a transcript of which may be seen in the Utah State Historical Society Library. See p. 13. It is confirmed by T. B. H. Stenhouse in his Rocky Mountain Saints (New York, 1873), p. 164.
(Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith”, Kindle Locations 8842-8854. Barvas Books. Kindle Edition)

General Joseph Smith reviewing the Nauvoo Legion – which at the time was larger than the Illinois State Militia.

Scientology v. Scientology Lite

By Fred W. Anson
The A&E show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been nothing short of a phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the show, here’s the description from the show’s website:

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath gives a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them.

Leah Remini, along with high level former Scientology executives and Church members, explores individual accounts from ex-Church members and their families through meetings and interviews with Leah. Each episode features stories from former members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s harmful practices, even well after they left the organization. Along with a team of former high-ranking Scientology insiders who understand the inner workings and policies of the organization, Leah gives the victims a chance to be heard.
(A&E website; “About Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

And anyone who’s watched the show will testify that it’s riveting stuff to watch. There’s intrigue, enlightenment, and horror all at once and usually in the same show. More than one box of Kleenex has undoubtedly been emptied over the heart-wrenching stuff that these people have had to endure both as members of the cult of Scientology and as former members – and often it’s hard to tell which is worse! And, of course, to the surprise of no one, current members and the Church of Scientology deny that any of it is true. Rather, they would have us believe, everyone involved in the show is either an enemy of the Church and/or an angry, bitter apostate – a “Suppressive Person” to use Scientology’s lingo.

Scientology Lite
Does any of this sound familiar Mormon Critics and Ex-Mormons? If so, you’re not the first to recognize the parallels between Scientology and Mormonism. Back in February 2011 (two-years before Leah Remini left Scientology) an article entitled, “Scientology Lite” on the Mormon Expression Blogsite listed the following parallels between Mormonism and Scientology:

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Coverts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees
  • Requires sincerity for it all to work
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership. Focus changes over time
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non-ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault. All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds power the of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)
    (Dad Primal, “Scientology Lite”, Mormon Expression website, February 19, 2011)

Lt. General Joseph Smith, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, and Commodore L. Ron Hubbard of the Sea Org.

That article was based on this Ex-Mormon author’s dinner with an Ex-Scientologist co-worker during which they compared notes and were floored by the similarities between their two religions.  As he states in the article, “She’s a very successful businesswoman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.” That dinner was later augmented by the February 14, 2011, New Yorker article about infamous Scientology Apostate, Paul Haggis (Lawrence Wright, “The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology”). That’s where the bullet points related to apostates were drawn from in his analysis.

So when it’s all said and done, Dad Primal’s article was new, fresh, eye-opening, enlightening – even shocking. Thus the article resonated strongly with Ex-Mormons and was soon being discussed extensively across the Mormon Bloggernacle.

Things had settled down a bit when the 2015 award-winning HBO documentary, “Going Clear” (which was based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”) aired resulting in a fresh new crop of comparisons between the two groups. Then, once again, the Bloggernacle erupted with new articles and discussion based on the revelations of that excellent documentary.

But if that weren’t enough, later that year, Leah Remini’s book, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” hit the bookstores with the aforementioned “Scientology and the Aftermath” hitting cable TV a year later to the month. It was around that time that the influential MormonThink website published a full analysis and explanation of the issues focusing on the following points of comparison:

10 Things common to both Scientology and Mormonism
1) Keeping secrets about the religion from its members.
2) You’ll be lost without the Church.
3) Excessive financial conditions for Church membership.
4) Believers often defend the religion with the comment that “it’s a good organization”, whether or not it is literally true.
5) Read only faith-promoting materials produced by us.
6) Churches use Internet filters to block some websites that frankly discuss some of the problems of their organization.
7) Detractors of the faith are labeled as liars and “anti.”
8) The founders and top leaders are hero-worshiped.
9) Tears families apart.
10) Have been labeled as a cult and the members as brainwashed.
(“Scientology and Mormonism”, MormonThink website)

So what started as a spark in 2011 has erupted into the full-on wildfire that we see burning today. Go to just about any Mormon-centric website and within a few minutes, you’ll find someone making a Mormon/Scientology comparison. It’s almost become a cliché.1

But if the parallels are so obvious to outsiders then why are active, believing Mormons so oblivious to them?

Mormon “Plan of Salvation” (circa the 1950’s) v. Scientology “Bridge” (circa the 1970s) [click to zoom]

Why They Stay (and Other Unsolved Mysteries)
One of the most common questions asked of those of us who have left Mind Control Cults is, “Why did you stay so long?” And very often, candidly, we don’t know ourselves! I have spent decades trying to unravel why I couldn’t see what outsiders could see so clearly about my cult. And I’m not alone, in my work with recovering Ex-Mormons I very often see them struggling to untie that knot too.

One explanation is that we were all in a “Snapped” psychological state. This isn’t a concept and term that I came up, nor is it a term that journalists, Flo Conway, and Jim Siegelman invented when they wrote the watershed book “SNAPPING America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” in 1978. Rather, it’s the term that ex-cultists often use to describe the shift in thinking that lead them into, and kept them in their group. Here’s how Conway and Siegelman describe it:

In all the world, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.
(Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, “Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change”Kindle Location 1302, Stillpoint Press. Kindle Edition.)

And to their point is there any greater cultist defense mechanism than that of thought-terminating clichés? As cult researcher Luna Lindsey explains:

A thought-terminating cliché is a phrase that halts argument or prevents clear thought. It can be a short “bumper sticker slogan”, seeming to deliver a profound message without really meaning much. Or it can represent a larger concept that can’t be expressed in words. In either case, it is a shortcut to prevent deeper exploration or discussion.
(Luna Lindsey, “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”p. 194. Kindle Edition.) 

Anyone who has attempted to reason with cultists has encountered these. They’re pat responses that get thrown up when the cultist is presented with discomforting evidence that challenges their group’s claims. Each group has there their own unique set but often there’s crossover between groups. Leah Remini talks about them throughout her book ( the aforementioned “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”) and Lindsey, a former Mormon, has an entire chapter of Mormon thought-terminating clichés in her book, things like:

  • The church is perfect, man is not.
  • The hardhearted hate the truth.
  • Satan is raging in the hearts of men.
  • Choose the right.
  • These are plain and precious things.
  • Cast not your pearls before swine.
  • It will be sorted out in the next life.
  • Wickedness never was happiness.
  • All will be revealed in due time.
  • You will not be tempted more than you are able to bear.
  • Are those feelings/thoughts/teachings in line with the gospel?
  • Leaving the Church is the easy way out.

But really, we’re still just describing symptoms rather than answering the question, aren’t we? Perhaps Christian Apologist, J. Warner Wallace, in a July 2018 radio interview, cut straight to the chase when he proposed that there are really only three reasons why we believe anything:

  • Rational Reasons.
  • Emotional Reasons.
  • Volitional Reasons.

And Mr. Wallace makes the point that typically Emotional and Volitional Reasons trump Rational Reasons. This is true even for non-cultists, it’s just not as extreme. Thus the issue when it comes to cults is really degree. For example, in healthy religious settings, you can leave the group pretty much without consequence. As the saying goes, “Cults have many entrances but few exits.” And, in fact, many experts claim that this is the key criteria in determining if a group is a cult or not.

Some Ex-Mormons have suggested this re-branding of their former religion.

Now consider that in light of Scientology and Mormonism, where leaving may result in loss of family, vocation, and social standing. As a result, many members simply choose to stay in the group even though they no longer believe in it. Leah Remini explains in her book that she stayed in Scientology even though she no longer believed in it because she knew that to do so would get her labeled a “Suppressive Person” which would result in her family “disconnecting” (Scientology’s policy-mandated form of extreme shunning) from her. Thus she stayed for volitional reasons.

We see a similar phenomenon in Mormonism with “Shadow Mormons” – Mormons who no longer believe the Church is true but remain members and play the game rather than risk losing their marriage, families, jobs, or social standing in the community. The cult has them trapped and they know it, as the words of one Shadow Mormon demonstrate so well:

REMEMBER US! 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.
(‘Enigma’, “The Death of Reason and Freedom”, Beggar’s Bread website, October 18, 2013, caps in original)

And speaking from my own personal experience, and factoring in the many conversations that I’ve had with recovering cultists over the years as well, I will tell you that probably the #1 reason why we all stayed in our cults even when confronted with a mountain of discrediting evidence was that we wanted to. The reasons were emotional.

When I was a cultist I could rationalize and justify anything that didn’t conform to my preferred narrative. Thus I could bury any logic, reason, or evidence underneath feelings and will. In the aforementioned radio interview, J. Warner Wallace refers to this as “remediating the evidence”. And chillingly, he says that it’s the same mental process that criminals use to justify their crimes. It is, simply stated, a form of self-delusion – as former Branch, Ward, Stake and Regional Mormon leader Jim Whitefield explains:

I have become convinced that each individual Mormon must have his or her own personal epiphany which comes from uncertainty and questioning that arises along the way. Until something triggers the desire to ‘seek’, a member will never ‘find’ the ultimate truth.

If you try to face a believer with the truth, that person invariably rejects the messenger and the message. Something may get through sometimes, but generally members will not thank you for trying to ‘destroy’ their testimony. The messenger is under the influence of Satan, the message is fraught with lies, and members already ‘know’ and cling to the truth – just as they were taught to. That is called faith.

As long as people want the Mormon Church to be true, more than they are willing to face the possibility that it is not, they will not entertain evidence or reason. Delusion becomes a choice.”
(Jim Whitefield, “The Mormon Delusion: Volume 4: The Mormon Missionary Lessons – A Conspiracy to Deceive”, Kindle Locations 10297-10305)

So in summary and conclusion, the bottom line for to why cultists don’t leave is simply this: They choose to stay.

And whether we’re talking about Scientology, “Scientology Lite”, or any other cult, therein lies the problem. As funny as it sounds some folks actually prefer a cage to freedom. Yet, ironically, they’re utterly blindly convinced that outsiders are the ones who are caged. This is as writer and university instructor, David Foster Wallace famously said so well,

Blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”
(David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Commencement Address, May 21, 2005)

And it is that blind certainty, my friends, that keeps Scientologists; Mormons; people in the abusive Shepherding Movement that I was in; and everyone else who’s ever been a cult from leaving it. Take away that certainty and suddenly everything changes.

NOTES
1 And to add my own contribution to the growing body of observed parallels, here’s another one: The book that is held up to investigators as the best introduction to and/or the foundational text for the religion is not only largely tangential to the current doctrine of said religion but may at points even contradict it. This just as true of “Dianetics” as it is “The Book of Mormon”. As Sociologist of Religion, Bryan R. Wilson noted:

In 1952, Hubbard launched Scientology, and this new, expanded, and more encompassing belief-system subsumed Dianetics, providing it with a more fully articulated metaphysical rationale…

In a collection of scholarly papers edited by the Jesuit sociologist, Professor Joseph H. Fichter, S.J., of Loyola University, New Orleans, (Alternatives to American Mainline Churches, New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1983), Frank K. Flinn, now Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, addresses directly the question of the religious status of Scientology in great detail. He considers first the religious status of Dianetics…

‘While Dianetics had religious and spiritual tendencies, it was not yet a religion in the full sense of the term… Dianetics did not promise what may be called ‘transcendental’ rewards as the normal outcome of its therapy. It did, however, promise ‘trans-normal’ reward… Secondly, in the Dianetics stage of the movement, engrams were traced back to the fetal stage at the earliest… Thirdly, Dianetics had only four ‘dynamics’ or ‘urges for survival’—self, sex, group and Mankind… Fourthly, the auditing techniques in the Dianetics phase [did not use] the ‘E-Meter’’
(Bryan R. Wilson, Ph.D., “Scientology: An Analysis and Comparison of its Religious Systems and Doctrines”, University of Oxford England, February 1995 pp.32,48) 

And I documented the many conflicts and contradictions between the Book of Mormon and modern Latter-day Saint doctrine in my article “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine” which I concluded like this:

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 … 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.

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.” 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…”

… For the uninformed, the Book of Mormon can be a powerful recruiting tool.  But for the informed that power is quickly lost.
(Fred W. Anson, “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine”, Beggar’s Bread website, June 26. 2014) 

Thus, rather than being an accurate encapsulation of the religion, both “introductory” texts are really just a vehicle to get the investigators to talk to the full-time evangelists for these organizations: Auditors for Scientology, Missionaries for Mormonism.  Those evangelists use the book (even if it ultimately ends up going unread) as a means to begin the process of indoctrination into the religion and groom the investigator for the more esoteric and less comfortable “truths”, which will be only be revealed after so much of the investigator’s time, money, emotional energy, and personal effort have been invested into the organization that it’s hard for them to leave. Different organizations, different books; same tactic, same result.

BACK TO TOP

by Fred W. Anson
Citing Matthew 7:20 (“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”) Mormons challenge us to “inspect the fruit” of Mormonism. So I did, and this is what I found:

  1. A church that teaches the blasphemy that God was once a man. And that further teaches that good Latter-day Saints can likewise be exalted to Godhood. (see official LdS Church website “Becoming Like God”)
  2. Via the doctrine of “Continuing Revelation” is a church that engages in and teaches moral relativism based on the example and teaching of its founder who once said, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.” (see History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.135
  3. A church that hides sensitive topics like it’s pagan “Mother in Heaven” doctrine from investigators and recent converts. (see official LdS Church website, “Mother in Heaven”)
  4. To the last point, a church that in the LdS Church’s official Missionary Training curriculum “Preach My Gospel”, LdS Missionaries are specifically told to withhold information from investigators on key doctrines:
    “…you will not teach all you know about the doctrine [of the LdS Church] …” (p.19, 2004 edition)
    “When first teaching this doctrine [Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve], do not teach everything you know about it.” (p.50, 2004 edition)
  5. A church that engaged in institutionalized racism until 1978, has never apologized for it and is now lying by claiming that it was never official doctrine. (see official LdS Church website, “Race and the Priesthood”
  6. A church that implicitly makes God a racist by claiming that the LdS Priesthood Ban against People of Color that ended in 1978 was of divine origin – that is God’s will – rather than due to human error. (see Jana Riess, “Commentary: Most Mormons still believe the racist priesthood/temple ban was God’s will, survey shows”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 11, 2018) 
  7. A church that lied about no longer practicing polygamy in 1890 and secretly continued to practice it until 1904. (see official LdS Church website “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”)
  8. A church that murdered 120 innocent people at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857 and then plundered their belongings but spared any children who were younger than 8-years old intending to raise them as Latter-day Saints. (see official LdS Church website, “Mountain Meadow Massacre“; also see “Peace and Violence Among 19th Century Latter-day Saints”
  9. A church that to this day refuses to acknowledge or apologize for the role of high ranking Mormon leaders in the aforementioned Mountain Meadows Massacre. (see Mormon Coffee website, “Mormon Church Does Not Apologize”)
  10. A church movement that has resulted in 400+ denominations over its 180+ history – a fragmentation rate that will easily surpass Non-Mormon, mainstream Christian denominationalism eventually. (see Wikipedia, “List of Denominations in the Latter Day Saint Movement”; also Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration”)
  11. A church that hypocritically points to the denominationalism of mainstream Christianity as a “proof” of its apostasy while simultaneously ignoring it’s own rapidly spreading denominationalism. (see Mormon Reformation Day, Facebook website, Thesis #72)  
  12. A church that allows and condones lying to outsiders by its leaders. (see Mormon Reformation Day, Facebook website, Thesis #71)
  13. A church that allowed their founding prophet to violate state and local law by giving him every political office in Nauvoo from Justice of the Peace to Mayor. The result was that he was able to ignore every writ of Habeus Corpus that crossed his desk – many of which were in regard to warrants for his arrest. (see John S. Dinger, “Joseph Smith and the Development of Habeus Corpus in Nauvoo 1841-1844”, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 36, no. 3 (Summer 2010), pp. 135-171)
  14. A church that defends a founding Prophet who had at least 34-wives, about a third of them minors (the youngest being 14-years old), and another third of them already the wives of living husbands who were members of his church. (see official LdS Church website “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”)
  15. A church that defends a founding Prophet who brought about the Book of Mormon via the Occult practice of scrying (the Peep Stone in a Hat). (see official LdS Church website, “Book of Mormon Translation”; also see Wikipedia, “Scrying”)
  16. A church that defends a founding Prophet who deceptively claimed that his contrived translation of a common Egyptian “Book of Breathings” funerary papyrus was a legitimate translation of the source text. (see official LdS Church website, “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham”)
  17. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered his fellow leaders to engage in illegal polygamy with him. And, oh, by the way, polygamy was illegal everywhere the Mormons practiced it. (see official LdS Church website, “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”; also see MormonThink website “Polygamy”)

    In a scene from Lehi’s dream from The Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 8:4-35), Lehi reaches for the white and desirable fruit on the Tree of Life while holding onto the Iron Rod alongside the strait and narrow path that’s enveloped in mists of great darkness.

  18. A church that defends a founding Prophet who publicly declared, “I will be to this generation a second Muhammad, whose motto in treating for peace was the Alcoran [Koran] or the Sword. So shall it eventually be with us Joseph Smith or the Sword!” (Joseph Smith, October 14, 1838,  History of the Church, Vol 3, p.176). It was inflammatory public rhetoric like that from Smith and other Mormon leaders – such as Sidney Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon” – that lead to the 1838 Mormon War of Missouri. (see official LdS Church website, “Peace and Violence Among 19th Century Latter-day Saints”; also see Wikipedia, “Salt Sermon”)
  19. A church that defends a founding Prophet who boasted that he was greater than Christ and the Apostles when he said, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (see History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412, or Millennial Star No. 42 Vol. 23 p. 672-674, also see Utah Lighthouse Ministry website “Joseph Smith’s Boasting and Polygamy Denial Sermon”)
  20. A church that defends a founding Prophet who publicly lied when he denied that he was practicing polygamy in a sermon on Sunday, May 26, 1844. Specifically, he said, “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” And this while at least 16 of his polygamous wives were in attendance. (see History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412, or Millennial Star No. 42 Vol. 23 p. 672-674, also see Utah Lighthouse Ministry website “Joseph Smith’s Boasting and Polygamy Denial Sermon”)
  21. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered a “hit” on Governor Boggs of Missouri by his private bodyguard, Porter Rockwell. Thankfully it failed. (see Wikipedia, “Attempted Assassination of Lilburn Boggs”)
  22. A church that defends a founding Prophet who, in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, had a private printing press destroyed because it was telling the truth about his secret polygamy and abuse of power. (see Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Expositor”)
  23. A church that defends a founding Prophet who in violation of Federal and Illinois sedition and treason laws illegally mustered the Nauvoo Legion (a private army that was bigger and better armed than the Illinois State Militia) and declared Marital Law in Nauvoo in case the State of Illinois should attempt to arrest him for the destruction of the aforementioned printing press. (see History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 532; Joseph Smith, “Personal Narrative of Joseph Smith (June 22, 1844) (End of Smith’s Personal Narrative)”  hosted on the University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Law website; also see Wikipedia, “Death of Joseph Smith”)
  24. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered the Commander of the Nauvoo Legion to march on the Carthage Jail where he was being held a free him and his brother Hyrum from jail. This would have been an act of treason and sedition under State and Federal law which the Commander wisely ignored. (see Allen J. Stout, “Manuscript Journal, 1815-89”, p. 13; also see Thoma B.H. Stenhouse, “The Rocky Mountain Saints”, Kindle Locations 2698-2725), and; Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith“, Kindle Locations 8848-8854)
  25. A church that defends a founding Prophet who defrauded his own church members out of monies – even entire estates – via the fraudulent Kirtland Safety Society. (see Wikipedia, “Kirtland Safety Society”)
  26. A church that’s so desperate for continuing revelation from their current “Living Prophet” that its members will declare minor church policy changes like lowering the Missionary age of eligibility for boys from 19 to 18-years of age and from 21 to 19-years old for girls, a “revelation”. (see President Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference” for this policy change announcement. Also so “History, Hearsay and Heresy, Conclusion: Hastening What Work?” for one Mormon’s commentary on the ongoing claim in Mormon Culture that this was a “revelation”) 
  27. A church with leaders so corrupt that they will brazenly violate their own canonized scripture. The most recent example is the November 2015 policy that barred the children of homosexual parents from receiving baptism into the LdS Church until they are 18-years old – and even then only after they have formally renounced their parent’s homosexual behavior. In other words, in direct violation of the first clause of the canonized Article of Faith 2 (“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins”), the LdS Church now punishes the child of homosexuals for their parent’s sin. (see official LdS Church website, “Articles of Faith” and LA Times, “New Mormon policy bans acceptance of children of same-sex couples”, November 06, 2015) And to make things even worse, Mormon Leadership declared this policy change a “revelation” (see prior point). (see Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says”; Salt Lake Tribune, February 3, 2016)
  28. A church with leaders that are so misguided and out of touch with reality that of all the issues confronting the world today, their biggest concern and priority is what they want people to call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. And yet again, the claim is made that this minor, largely irrelevant, and insignificant policy change is a “revelation”. Does anyone else see a pattern here? (see Mormon Newsroom, “The Name of the Church”
  29. A church that is so corrupt and badly in need of reform, that this “short” list is just the tip of the iceberg – as the 95 LDS Theses point out (see “The 95 LDS Theses”). And even then, that’s just the tip of the iceberg too – not only could yet more could be said in regard to the problems in the LdS Church alone, the other 60+ still active Mormon denominations have problems and issues that are just as bad, or worse than what we see in it.

Conclusion: Stated plainly, when one inspects the fruit of Mormonism, it may look good at first glance, but what one finds when it’s closely inspected is quite the opposite.

A couple look over the Tree of Life at Draper City Park in Draper on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. A lone willow tree lights the air with over 1,000 strands of lights in a non-fruit bearing re-creation of Lehi’s Dream from the Book of Mormon.