Archive for the ‘LdS Temple Theology’ Category

Samaritan Woman at the Well

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

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

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

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

Meet the Samaritans
Who does this sound like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown Japanese Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” Unknown African artist

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

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

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

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

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

He Qi -SamaritanWomanAtTheWell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“St. Photine” Russian Icon

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

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

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

As Leon Morris notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mormon-church-meeting21

A Mormon Fast and Testimony meeting in Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Christ and Woman at the Well” Byzatine Icon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia, “Samaritans”

Samaritan Sacred Texts (web portal page)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Op cit, Gotquestions.org

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

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

[6] Ibid

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

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

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

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

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

[11] Ibid, pp.244-245

[12] Ibid, pp. 249,250

[13] New Testament scholar Leon Morris notes:

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

[14] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6621-6623

[15] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6791-6793

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[21] Sandra Tanner, “Terminology Differences”

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

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

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

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

BACK TO TOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pope5-460x288

“You know . . . it’s good to be the Pope!”
(which, of course, is why I’m resigning!)

by Fred W. Anson
The recent February 16th Mormon Reformation Day coupled with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI reminded me of  one of my old Mormon Expression blogs in which I made some pretty bold statements:

“…I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad…

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

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Sounds interesting but exactly what kind of  ’reform’ are we talking about? And what kind of ‘end state’ do you have in mind Mr. Smarty Pants?”

Fair enough.

What follows is a bit “yesterday’s news” since I’ve already posted it on the Internet a few times[1],  but never-the-less to get that “ongoing dialog” started I offer to you, for your consideration, my answer to the following question:

Q: If you were suddenly called to be the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what, if anything, would you change?

A: If I were “Mope” I would . . .
(that is, Mormon Pope – a la Stephen Colbert)

1) Boldly declare as a new key tenet of the church, “A group that claims to have the truth doesn’t lie!  From this point onward we will, without exception, be open and honest with everyone.”  To this end I would mandate that Gospel Principles Chapter 31: Honesty be strictly adhered to by all members of the LdS Church from the First Presidency on down – period.  That’s right folks, it ain’t just a public relations “front” or “escape hatch” for pushing back when people say that Mormons “Lie for the Lord” anymore more – it’s actually going to mean something!

2) Proclaim “Camelot II” and open up the Church Archives to all Scholars not just those who agree to write “Faithful” Mormon History.

3) Mission the Church Educational System with publishing truthful Mormon History rather than the white washed, spin doctored “Faithful” Mormon History that they currently publish.

4) I would offer to merge with the RLDS/Community of Christ[2] and as a result take the following actions:

* Declare Joseph Smith a remarkable man and charismatic leader but not a Prophet of God.

* Decanonize “The Pearl of Great Price” and admit that the papyri that the “Book of Abraham” was translated from are nothing more than copies of the “Egyptian Book of Breathings” that Joseph Smith used to retain leadership of the Early Saints and keep the movement going. In other words, he “lied for the Lord” for what he thought was a worthy cause.

* Decanonize both the LdS and RLDS versions of “Doctrine and Covenants” and reclassify them as historical records useful for better understanding Joseph Smith and the Early Church but nothing more than that.

* Declare the Holy Bible as the ultimate authority for the LDS Church and encourage members to use modern translations rather the inaccurate and antiquated 1611 King James Version of the Bible.

* Declare “The Book of Mormon” to be a fascinating work of 19th century fiction akin to, say “Pilgrim’s Progress” but not real history. This, of course, would decanonize it by implication.

* Declare that continuing revelation must be weighed against the absolutes of the Bible and rejected if there’s a contradiction and/or discrepancy – just as in done is today’s Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches.

* Declare Baptism for the Dead to be unBiblical and a colossal waste of time because it’s based on a corrupt interpretation of Paul’s tongue-in cheek parenthetical clause contained in I Corinthians 15:29.

* Declare the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods unBiblical as they directly contradict the Book of Hebrews (Chapters 5-7 in particular) and declare all such past and present endowments null and void .

* Release all endowed LdS from their Temple oaths and vows and encourage them to share their Temple experiences with the public so that all the silly rumors and speculations are dealt with once and for all. Oh, and whoever wishes to can feel free to remove their Temple Garments.

* Shut down the LdS Temple system since it was initiated primarily to cover up Joseph Smith’s secret polygamous marriages as well as a means of injecting Masonic teachings into Mormonism.

* Convert all LdS Temples to public meeting halls and wedding chapels. And declare that everyone is welcome at LdS Weddings regardless of sect, race, or creed. ALL are worthy!

* Apologize to people of color for the LdS Doctrine of, “The Curse of Cain” and state that the racist passages in the Book of Mormon are reflections of 19th Century race based Theology in general and the expansion of the “Curse of Cain” due to Brigham Young’s personal racism in particular.

* Acknowledge that according to the Apostles (see 1 Peter 2:9 in particular) all Christians are Priesthood holders. As a result the LdS Church will join the Community of Christ in treating women like co-equals, like co-heirs in Christ, and like partners in stewarding God’s Kingdom.  

* As a result of the aforementioned, it will be publicly announced that women can pray in General Conference (as well as all other church meetings and functions) and can run the Relief Society (including the Relief Society General Conference meeting) on their own. They can also give blessings just as they did in Joseph Smith’s day.   

* Make tithing as well as monthly Fast and  Testimony offerings voluntary and without repercussion should one choose not to give.

* Reverse all past excommunication and dis-fellowhship actions and apologize to all who suffered under this system.

* Restore the New Testament charismata (Spiritual Gifts) to the LdS Church making it Pentecostal as it originally was.

5) Mission the General Authorities with realigning LdS Theology with mainstream Biblical Christian Theology while still retaining the unique aspects of the legacy LdS Church that were Biblical, positive distinctives.  To this end I would suggest Todd Wood’s excellent “95-Theses for the LDS I-15 Corridor” as a guideline to this end.

6) Invite reputable Biblical Christian Theologians to aid and assist the General Authorities with the previous action (#5 above).

7) Remind LdS Missionaries and parents of Missionaries that such service should be completely voluntary and that should be no stigma for not serving a mission. I would also encourage any active Missionaries who felt like they were pressured, manipulated, or coerced into going on a Mission to return home – at Church expense.

8) Apologize to ExMormons and encourage them to try the “New, Improved and Biblically based” Mormonism.

9) Apologize to the entire Latter Day Saint movement (main Salt Lake City “Brighamites” and splinter groups alike) for the “false revelation” of Polygamy and the harmful fall out that has ensued since.

10) Lobby all Southwest State Attorney Generals to actively begin prosecuting Polygamists within their states.

11) Mission the Relief Society with developing the means and methods of helping the women and children who want to escape from Polygamist Communities to do so with LdS Church support – including financial support for a set period of time.

12) Liquidate LdS Church holdings in non-religious assets to back fill for reduced revenues due to a significantly smaller membership and tithing base.

13) I would go to the Mormon Tabernacle and publicly apologize for Richard J. Mouw and how he has mislead both Mormons and Christians through his naivete and bad scholarship from the very same pulpit where he started the embarrassing insanity that followed in the wave of his November 14, 2004 apology.

14) I would also relieve those Latter-day Saints who deceived and mislead Dr. Mouw of all their callings and positions within the LdS Church and within church owned institutions – like Bingham Young University. And as I do so,  I would say,  “Thank you, it’s been nice!” to them . . .  but then again, I wouldn’t want to violate #1 above.

The good news is that from now on these guys (and you know who you are fellas!) won’t be in a position to hurt anyone or embarrass the  LdS Church any more – we’ll see you liars, deceivers, and manipulators at Church on Sunday but that’s about all.  Hey, come to think of it a little Sunday School might do you guys some good!

15) Consolidate LdS meeting houses to accommodate the smaller attendance base and sell extraneous real estate to back fill for lost tithes and offerings.

16) And, oh yeah, in keeping with #1 I would join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and comply with their “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship” which includes public, financial transparency among other things.   Those public financial statements will be a first for the LdS Church in the United States since 1959!

And if I managed to dodge all the neo-Danite Assassination attempts, the internal political coups,  as well as the stress from the angry public outcry and condemnation of splinter groups breaking off  and reorganizing in every which way (just like they did when the RLDS reformed) I might even live to see some or all of this fulfilled!

And I believe through these changes I that we would finally see a truly authentic Biblical Restoration of the LdS Church.

So that’s my list.

What would your list look like if you were “Mope”?

NOTES
[1] This “revisited” edition is more refined and polished than prior versions.  In addition I have annotated where I thought it appropriate, relevant to the discussion, and/or there’s been a “sticking point” in past discussions.  I hope that the extensive hyper-linking doesn’t distract too much from the overall narrative and I apologize in advance to those who feel that it does.

[2] My intention here is to enable the LdS Church to gain from the “lessons learned” by the RLDS/Community of Christ – which I feel is headed in a generally positive direction and ‘further up the road’ than the LdS Church. However, on this point RLDS/CoC Historian John Hamer has remarked:

“On the point about merging the LDS and Community of Christ churches, that’s really like asking Taiwan to “merge” with China. Both Taiwan and China are legitimately Chinese countries and heirs to the China that existed before WW2. However, like Taiwan, we’re a tiny democracy, and like China, they’re a giant authoritarian regime. Even if the bigger polity was supposedly going to be absorbed into the leadership structure of smaller, i.e., if the Chinese Communist Party and the LDS hierarchy were abolished and the merged groups were restructured under the leadership of the smaller party, the smaller groups (Taiwan and the Community of Christ) wouldn’t have anything near the capacity to reform or assimilate the larger group.

That said, I do think that the Community of Christ is being called to provide a spiritual home for liberal Mormon seekers who are disaffected from their church’s authoritarian leadership and its sexism.”
(from Concerned Christians discussion board circa 2010 – link now dead) 

(BTW, click on the picture of the Pope at the top to see a hidden “Easter Egg”.
See it how it pays to read to the end?) 

by George S. Rasmussen
I post these two letters so others may glimpse what I and my family went through from 1978, when I found my grandfathers 1903 D&C and from its pages read for the first time ever the Lectures on Faith, to 1982 when Mr. Featherstone wrote and challenged us with his various arguments for not turning our backs on Mormonism.

Following is our response to Vaughn J. Featherstone’s letter
(which comprised Part 1 of this 2-Part series)

Tempe, Arizona where the author lives

Tempe, Arizona where the author lives

George S. Rasmussen
Tempe, AZ

July 21, 1982

Vaughn J. Featherstone
47 East South Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Dear Brother Featherstone:
Deon and I thank you for your letter of June 30. That you would take time from your busy schedule to dictate a letter and include under separate cover a copy of your book, “Charity Never Faileth,” is most sincerely appreciated.Your concern for our decision to part company with the LDS church was prompted apparently by information from a third party.

We recognize that the concern you express, reflecting that of your informant, is genuine and prompted by what you view as the highest of motives. We pray that our response to your letter may be received in the same spirit, and may convey to you some sense of our increased insight into the church we grew up in, the church we find we must now separate ourselves from. We invite your careful and prayerful consideration of our response and look forward to further dialogue if such should be your desire.

Our decision to leave the LDS church was not lightly arrived at I assure you. Your information seems to have it that our present argument with Mormon doctrine and practice somehow centers on the Lectures on Faith. Such is not the case.

While it is true that in early 1978 our introduction to the conflicts found in an in-depth study of Mormonism was by way of the discovery of my grandfather’s 1903 edition of the D.&C, and through the pages of that book our first encounter with the Lectures on Faith, it is also a fact that our search to discover the roots and the truth of Mormonism has taken us far beyond the pages of that single volume. It was the spark that set ablaze our desire to know the truth, but it was only the spark.

While you mentioned in passing that you have somehow “come to grips” with personal concerns you apparently once had with the conflicts in doctrine between the Lectures on Faith and present day LDS theology, you fail to say what your concerns were or how you managed to resolve them. Instead you suggest that we might somehow benefit by a rereading of the Book of Mormon.

I must admit, Brother Featherstone, that your suggestion seems a bit strange since the Lectures on Faith are not a part of the Book of Mormon. In addition, since the theology of God as found in the Lectures on Faith is in fact very much the same as that found in the Book of Mormon, and since these writings no longer agree with popular Mormon doctrine as to the nature and being of Deity, I’m a bit puzzled by how such a rereading of the Book of Mormon could possibly affect someone’s understanding of the Lectures on Faith in the manner you appear to suggest.

However I do want to return shortly to the subject of the Book of Mormon. I agree that it is a keystone element in the religion founded by Joseph Smith, the very symbol used by the Mormon church to “prove” Joseph a prophet, and as such requires our attention.

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants (D&C). The “Lectures on Faith” comprised the “doctrine” part of D&C until it was removed starting with the 1921 edition.

Deon and I desire to share with you by way of this letter something of that which we have discovered in our studies, beginning in 1978 with the reading of my grandfather’s 1903 D&C. You may find some of our conclusions difficult to deal with from a personal standpoint, but we assure you that our intent in responding thusly to your letter is motivated by feelings of love and concern such as you have expressed to us, and we invite you to consider all we have to say before drawing any conclusions. It is in exactly this manner that we have approached your letter to us, and we now pray that the Holy Spirit will employ what we write to touch your heart.

It is true that I served a mission for the LDS church in Southern Brazil from late 1959 until early 1962. And it is also true that Deon and I were married in the Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple in 1963. These bare facts do not however reveal anything about our backgrounds or our experiences with life except on an extremely surface level. While I assure you that I have no intention of detailing our histories for you here and now, I believe you should know that we are two rather normal people for the most part. We have four children, three boys and a girl, and live in a 20 year old section of Tempe. Until some time after discovering grandfather’s old D.&.C., we maintained a rather ordinary family profile in the church. I was teaching a Blazer B class, Deon was instructing the Beehive girts, and our two older children were in the presidencies of their respective classes.

At the time we finally concluded that we could no longer continue attending the Mormon church, Deon and I held current Temple recommends. To say that our decision was without doubt the most trying that we have ever gone through would be to say too little.

Deon and I both were raised in the church, she by reason of multi-generation ties on both sides of her family, and I by reason of multi-generation ties on my mother’s side. Our religious experience and training until 1978 had consisted of current surface level LDS orthodoxy, and nowhere in this training had we been prepared to deal with controversy of substance except for the admonition that we not permit ourselves to be influenced by what “others” might say. We were never told that the real danger lay not in what “others” had to say about Mormonism, but in what lay concealed just beneath the surface of present day LDS practice and belief.

How we managed to stay so uninformed so long is now a puzzle to me! It seems that if people can be kept busy enough in an organization to insure that they have neither the time nor the inclination to seek to inform themselves in more depth than is “authorized” as to the true nature of the system, then control is rather easy. In our case I believe that had we failed to come across the 1903 D&C, that we would doubtless still be engaged in unquestioning local LDS doings. But I also believe that God intended that we discover the things we have about Mormonism, and that He saw to it that the circumstances of finding my grandfather’s old volume of LDS scripture were in place.

The Lectures On Faith today: Decanonized and a stand-alone book

The Lectures On Faith today: Decanonized and a stand-alone book

In early 1978 I uncovered grandfather’s D&C and the Lectures on Faith while looking through a number of old books that had belonged to him. Sitting with his book open in my lap as I finished reading Lecture on Faith #5, suddenly I recalled a verbal correction received at the intercession of my grandfather into a conversation I was having with a cousin one Sunday while visiting his home when I was 12 years of age. This memory came flooding back to me in such detail that it was as if I were momentarily reliving the event. I had heard that morning in Sunday School the story of Joseph Smith seeing the Father and the Son in the sacred grove and finding they had “bodies just like you and me,” as our teacher related it. As I entered the house excitedly relaying my newly acquired knowledge of the nature and being of Deity to my cousin, grandfather stopped me as I was parroting the phrase “…bodies just like you and me,” and loudly said, “NO CHILDREN, GOD IS SPIRIT!”

I had no way of knowing it at the time, and grandfather offered no further commentary on the subject, but I had been introduced all in the same day to the crux of the controversy that would ultimately provide the spark setting ablaze our desire to learn the truth about Mormonism. Even though I had not recalled that event from the day of its occurrence until I found and read grandfather’s book, when I discovered the source of his understanding and the door to that hidden memory was keyed open, it came forth so fresh and in such undisturbed condition that it was as if grandfather revisited me at that moment in order to repeat his instruction in the truth of God in a way that I would never again have cause to doubt. In a way wonderfully impossible to express I knew at that moment that God is Spirit.

The room in Newel K. Whitney's  Kirtland, Ohio home-based store where the seven lectures presented by Joseph Smith at the School of the Prophets were originally given.  They came to be published as the "Lectures on Faith".

The “School of the Prophets” room in Newel K. Whitney’s Kirtland, Ohio home-based store where seven lectures by Joseph Smith were given to the students. They were later published as the “Lectures on Faith” and included in Doctrine & Covenants.

Discovering the Lectures on Faith and having to deal with the questions they generated led us to approach a few people in our Ward whom we hoped might be able to help us resolve the conflict between early and later LDS doctrine as to the nature and being of God. After all, if eternal life depends upon a correct knowledge of God, allowing one to worship Him in spirit and in truth, then it was of the utmost importance that we come to grips with the problems we had inadvertently uncovered. Why had my grandfather, a Seventy and a well-respected missionary for the local church, been taught that “God is a Spirit,” if in fact Joseph Smith had learned that God is not a Spirit being but a “glorified man” many years before the Mormon church was founded? Why did the Lectures on Faith (which were employed to instruct the early LDS church in doctrine, and included in every edition of the D&C from their insertion in 1835 by vote of the conference of the church, to their removal in 1921 without a similar vote) say what they did about God if in fact Joseph Smith actually knew better years before they were first written and used to instruct in the Kirkland LDS School of the Prophets?

Such questions of course must have answers, and the truth of the matter is that for many months we trusted that the church would be able to provide answers allowing us to keep intact our desire to believe Joseph Smith really did see God the Father and Jesus the Son in 1820, just as we had been taught and deeply believed as ultimate, absolute truth. In discussions with those we hoped would be able to help, we sought answers that would allow us to continue believing what we had trusted all along to be true.

One day as I was reading and praying I found myself impressed in my spirit to go to The Carpenter’s Shop, a Christian book store not far from our home. Having never been in such a store I was unsure what to expect, but the Spirit’s prompting to go there was unmistakable. After looking through that bright and well appointed store, all the while quite sure that ­others were aware of how out of place I felt, I headed at last for the door thinking God somehow hadn’t been notified and what I’d been directed to had been moved out prior to my arrival. As I traversed that final aisle towards the door a book rack loomed in front of me. The label on that rack read “CULTS”, and prominently displayed were a number of books dealing with “Mormonism.” “What?,” I thought, “We’re no Cult!!”

Nevertheless I felt that God had led me to this place, so I spent time looking over the selections. Finally settling on Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s book, “The Changing World of Mormonism,” I purchased it and left for home, prayerful that it might provide answers to those questions that our LDS contacts could not honestly deal with.

After reading the book through twice in two weeks, saying little about what I was learning because I still wasn’t ready to admit to the impact it was having, I turned it over to my wife suggesting that she read it. I warned her that if she thought there were problems with the changing nature of the doctrine of God in LDS teachings, that she should “buckle her seat belt” because she was about to be utterly amazed as she discovered how little either of us really knew about problems in LDS history, practice and doctrine that face a person who decides to truly investigate. As she began to read that book, I returned to the store and bought the Tanner’s larger volume, “Mormonism – Shadow or Reality?” For the next three weeks we compared notes on things we were finding out about our church, things that on our own we never would have discovered, things that everyone should be aware of so informed choices respecting the church can be rightly made.

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

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

We found for example that Joseph Smith had given a number of accounts of the “first vision” prior to dictating the “official account” of 1838, which was first published in 1842. This alone amazed us. We had been taught that Joseph had given only one account of this key event, the one found in the Pearl of Great Price. We had no idea there were other earlier accounts which differed in critical detail from the 1838 “official account.” The earliest known account, which surprisingly proved to be the only one actually written by Joseph Smith himself, was dated 1831-32, some six to seven years nearer the event in question than the so called “official account” that Joseph caused to be written in 1838. And it says nothing about him seeing God the Father! In actual fact the 1831-32 account is so dissimilar to the 1838 “official” version that one would wonder upon reading the two accounts side by side if indeed they can by any stretch of the imagination be seen as describing the same supposed event.

Add to this the fact that there are yet other “first vision” accounts dictated by Joseph between 1831-32 and 1838, once again supposedly detailing this keystone Mormon event, each of which tells a story different in critical details to the others, and what do you have? The knowledge that Joseph Smith either wrote or caused to be written various versions of his supposed “first vision” between 1831 and 1838, each differing in such a manner from the others that one is hard pressed to tie them together – except in the sense that when put in order of production they show a definite evolutionary development of the story line now subscribed to in the “official account” – caused us to discredit the actuality of the 1838 “first vision” story as it is now dutifully taught as ultimate truth. These discoveries did however help us understand why the doctrine of God found in the Lectures on Faith is so contrary to current teachings, as later we studied the development of that doctrine in the early LDS church.

Our immediate desire upon reading the Tanner’s books was to find answers to these things from the church’s point of view. I had almost forgotten the promise God had given on directing me to the Carpenter’s Shop, that what He was leading me to contained the answers needed. I found myself driven by my sense of loyalty to the church, and also by a growing desire, fostered I suppose out of the sense of disorientation I felt and the panic I knew to be lying just beneath the surface of our still outwardly normal approach to life and living, to “prove” that in the face of all I had now examined the church was somehow still true. Deon shared my drive in this respect, and so began our long period of growing disaffection and disillusionment with the establishment which claims to intimately care for the membership of the church.

Our questions by this time were many and varied, as well as extremely detailed. We sought out some of those we had talked with when our questioning had been limited to the Lectures on Faith, as well as others we came to be aware of through our ongoing studies. Most of those we spoke with, wrote to, or telephoned admitted that what we had found was solid, factual, well documented material – and that the church had not been able to rebut the Tanner’s contentions. We still didn’t want to believe this to be true, but to that time we had avoided speaking our concerns directly to other than those we felt we could trust. We were still afraid to openly ask questions. After all, Mormons are not supposed to openly question the church, at least that’s what we thought at the time.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner in front of their Salt Lake City store in the 1980’s. Jerald Tanner is now deceased.

We finally ventured to ask a few questions, limiting ourselves to things such as the Lectures on Faith, the “first-vision,” and the Book of Abraham, to local LDS authorities whom we felt might be able to point us towards the answers we sought. It was terribly frustrating to find in all this a general lack of feeling or understanding for our plight, and quite often hostile disregard for the questions we put forward, at least judging by certain reactions. Later we were to conclude that many of these had been more deeply impacted by what we related, as we laid out our questions and asked concerning church programs or materials to provide help or guidelines, than they let on at the time. However we continued to be rebuffed, told there was “no need” for the church to respond to the material the Tanners were publishing. All we had to do, according to these, was read the Book of Mormon and pray over it. That was how we would know Joseph Smith was a prophet, if we were “sincere.”

After a number of such experiences we made the mistake of asking the local Mission Office for assistance with our questions. I called, explaining what we were looking for, and was told by the young man who answered the phone that they knew of “a man in Mesa” who made it his task to help people such as ourselves, people who were honestly troubled with the charges the Tanners had made about the church and who were seeking honest answers. I was almost beside myself with joy, for I actually believed their intentions were honorable and above board.

For the next three weeks we waited anxiously to be called and told by Elder Simmons, our contact at the Mission Office, that my appointment with Brother Ron Brown was set. Then, quite by accident, I discovered that Brother Brown was a member of a committee headed up by Elder Mark E. Peterson, a committee whose task it is to ferret out supposed “enemies of the church” and make short shift of them. I did not in any way consider us to be enemies of the church. Instead we honestly sought answers to questions that we believed the church had to respond to intelligently if it hoped to maintain its claims in the field of religion. Nor do I now believe that we have become enemies of the Mormon people by virtue of our decision not to continue in support of what amounts to institutionalized untruth and half truth. Since when is one who seeks to make others aware of the truth called an “enemy”?

I want to spend a few minutes with you Brother Featherstone, exploring an issue you raised early on in your letter. You suggested that we might do well to go back and re-read the Book of Mormon, “pray and ponder over every page”, then ask ourselves, “Could Joseph Smith possibly have written this?” As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t sure how you tied this exercise into the concerns you felt we were still dealing with regarding to the Lectures on Faith. Nevertheless I feel your suggestion is valid if you are intending by use of the word “ponder” that one engage in a carefully considered study which employs the complete mental faculty of the student. The reason I hope your suggestion, thus understood, would appeal to many both in and outside the Mormon church, is that having uncovered the truth about the Book of Mormon in the process of such a study we desire that many discover for themselves what we have come to know.

While it is obvious that our suggestion would carry little weight with persons who desperately desire to believe the Book of Mormon is all the LDS church claims it to be (for such a study will unfailingly illustrate the fact that the book is not what the church claims it to be), there is a source within Mormonism itself to whom those who doubt us may be more willing to look for guidance in such a test, someone who cannot be accused of being an “enemy” of the church. That someone is none other than the one time President of the quorum you now are a part of. Of course I speak of former President Brigham H. Roberts of the First Quorum of The Seventy.

"Studies Of The Book of Mormon" by B.H. Roberts

“Studies Of The Book of Mormon” by B.H. Roberts

Ask yourself how someone who knows little or nothing about the realities of the pre-historic Americas, who is not familiar with the body of well developed “common knowledge” of Joseph Smith’s day respecting the native inhabitants of these continents, and who is ignorant of the fact that Ethan Smith produced two publishing’s of his “View of the Hebrews” during the eight years preceding the Book of Mormon (which publishing’s had considerable impact in Joseph’s locale, and which are shown by Brother Roberts to so closely parallel in so many suppositions and details the story line later written into the Book of Mormon), ..how anyone who is unaware of these vital background facts could possibly pick up the Book of Mormon as you suggest and “ponder” over it in the true sense of the word? And not being able to study it in a careful and considered manner for lack of the type of information that B. H. Roberts’ study would provide if they had it in hand, how do you propose that such a person can truly pray over such a critical matter?It is a shame that LDS leaders failed to make this incredibly valuable study available long ago, however it is clear they were concerned for the impact B. H. Roberts’ observations and conclusions would have on many within the church, persons who would willingly read what he had to say on the subject while continuing to faithfully avoid any such observations from outside sources. Nevertheless the fact is that with Roberts’ study in hand one is far better prepared to “ponder” whether Joseph Smith could have produced the Book of Mormon on his own.

LDS doctrine holds that issues in question are to be studied out by the questioner prior to going to the Lord to seek His confirmation or denial of conclusions reached. If however the church withholds vital information that would assist in reaching a truly studied conclusion, in this case B. H. Roberts’ manuscript Book of Mormon study, how then can it pretend that the unaware person seeking to know the truth about the Book of Mormon could possibly arrive at a pondered and carefully considered conclusion over which prayer may rightly be offered?

Title page for the 1825 edition of "View of The Hebrews" by Ethan Smith

Title page for the 1825 edition of “View of The Hebrews” by Ethan Smith

As you must certainly be aware, B. H. Roberts answered the question, “Could Joseph Smith possibly have written this (Book of Mormon)?”, in the affirmative. He said Joseph Smith could have produced the book on his own given his demonstrated native intelligence, his knack for storytelling, the access he had to the wealth of “common knowledge” surrounding the native inhabitants of these lands, and the doubtless access he had to Ethan Smith’s “View of the Hebrews,” the earlier volume that so closely parallels, in ways not attributable to mere chance, the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith’s book is a product of the times and circumstances surrounding its production, and of Smith’s ability to utilize what he had at hand in the way of schematic materials. As such it is forever stamped a product of nineteenth century America, “Author…, Joseph Smith, Jr.,” as B. H. Roberts clearly demonstrates.

In addition to the claims he made for the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith also laid claim to being a prophet of God. One desiring to test that claim would do well to lay aside personal prejudice and go directly to the one place where we find the only true test available, the Word of God. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 records God’s own statement regarding the test of a prophet. This test was as fitting in Joseph Smith’s or Brigham Young’s day, or is for that matter in our own day, as it was in the days of Moses. God says:

“But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.

“And you may say in your heart; ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD; if that thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

How anyone, after reading the test God has laid out by which we may know of a certainty the validity of the claims of anyone who professes to speak in the name of the Lord, could then fail to apply that test to Joseph Smith in light of the claims he made is beyond me. Yet I know many who simply look the other way when confronted with God’s Word in this matter, and refuse to submit Joseph’s claims to God’s test.

What could anyone possibly fear in such an examination? Could it be their confidence is just a bit shaken in the face of such a proof positive way of testing their “prophet”? Or are they so “system dependent” when it comes to the LDS church that they are blinded to the truth of God’s Word in this matter? Actually I suspect that anyone who refuses to put Joseph Smith to God’s test does so for reasons that are often hidden, even from themselves. This however does not impact upon the validity of calling him into account and critically examining that which he spoke “in the name of the Lord.”

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

What did we find when we put Joseph Smith to the God’s test? We discovered first of all that he gave well over 60 prophecies “in the name of the Lord”, and that a study of these first 60 of shows that over 50 have failed to come to pass as he set them forward. Persons who have claimed far less elevated gifts of prophecy than Joseph Smith have compiled much better records of fulfillment in their predictions than he did. But that’s not the real point here. Joseph Smith claimed to be a “Prophet of God,” and in that capacity to speak “for the Lord.” The Word of God says however that just one failed prophecy issued in the name of the Lord forever brands the one who makes it a false and presumptuous prophet.

God’s word declares two things about such a deceiver, first: that he “shall die” – that he shall be removed or cut off from among the people. And in point of fact Joseph Smith was cut off – killed in the very prime of his life – even though he issued prophecy immediately preceding his death in which he has the Lord promising that he will live many additional years. Secondly, God commands that we are “not to be afraid” of such a false prophet.

Your letter proposes a list of 17 questions which you suggest we ask ourselves and the minister of the church we presently attend. As I have already explained, we have no intention of joining the Church of The Nazarene or any other church at this time, nevertheless I view the questions you ask as legitimate spring boards to worthwhile dialogue, and in that spirit will address myself to one or two of them at this point. Because my time is limited and the hour late, I will defer the others until another day and concentrate on what we could label “keystone issues” in any examination of Mormon claims.

Your first question, “Where does the Nazarene Church pastor receive his authority?,” leads us into what may be the heart and soul of the matter from the LDS point of view. I suggest however that your question should in reality be rephrased, for the real question is, Where do the LDS get their authority?

The question of authority is a favorite “hobby horse” of Mormon doctrine, and it would be of benefit to trace the LDS claim “all the way back to the beginning,” just as you have suggested. Since the doctrine of the “one true church” is part and parcel with the LDS claim to “priesthood authority,” such a review may allow us to bag two birds with one stone.

"The Great Apostasy" by James E. Talmage

“The Great Apostasy” by James E. Talmage

LDS author and General Authority James Talmage writes, in the preface to his book “The Great Apostasy,” that “the primitive Church lost its power, authority, and graces as a divine institution,” and that the “evidence of the decline and final extinction of the primitive Church among men is found in scriptural record and secular history.”

In an attempt to support the doctrine of “total apostasy” the LDS church quotes such scripture as Amos 8:11-12; Isaiah. 60:2; Acts 20:29-30; Gal. 1:6-9; etc., (LDS Topical Guide to the Scriptures). However an examination of these verses finds not one which says there is to be a complete or total apostasy. In fact, some of these verses do not even refer to the church.

The Bible teaches that apostasy had already begun in New Testament times, and that it would increase in the last days (see II Tim. 3 & 4). Nowhere does the Bible even infer that this apostasy would be total as Talmage and other Mormon teachers and leaders insist.

Speaking of the extended history of Christ’s True Church, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Unto Him (God) be glory in the Church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). Clearly Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired declaration could not prove true if the “total apostasy” for several centuries that Mormonism leans on was historic truth.

Jesus spoke to the subject when He said, “Upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Paul further writes, “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

With Jesus Christ as the foundation of the Church, pray tell how could that foundation possibly “collapse”? How could Christ lose “the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood”? (Acts 20:28)

Mormon scripture itself denies the very concept of “total apostasy.” In 3 Nephi 28, and D&C Section 7, we find the stories of John the Apostle and the three Nephites. These were to remain alive on the earth bringing souls to Jesus Christ until the second coming of the Lord. Even a conservative estimate of the numbers of persons such witnesses of the good news of Christ would have been able to bring to the Lord during the centuries of their ministry among men would have to be staggering to contemplate. And add to that the number converted to Christ by the testimonies of those who had been converted under the preaching of these special witnesses – well, you can see what I’m getting at. There is simply no way that the true Church of Christ, that body of believers who have been called out to Him in faith believing on His Name to salvation throughout all ages, can be said to have fallen into “total apostasy,” even from the context of Mormon scripture.

Joseph F. Smith, Jr. said the following in respect to the question of total apostasy. “As long as one Elder remains on earth today, he would have the priesthood and could organize the church even though all of the apostles and first presidency, etc., were killed off” (Latter Day Prophets Speak, p. 213).

Pray tell why would this be true for the LDS Church but not for the New Testament church after which the LDS Church claims to be patterned? If we look to Mormon scripture alone we find that there remained on earth throughout the centuries at least four men who can surely be said to hold the same level of authority that an Elder in the Mormon Church claims to hold. And the commission of these men is said to be that of bringing souls to Christ until He returns (adding these souls to the true Church). So there was no “total apostasy,” and true authority has never been lost from the earth, even from the standpoint of LDS scripture — not forgetting that the Bible itself does not support such a concept.

Although the Mormon Church cannot demonstrate a “total apostasy,” and consequently the need for a “restoration” like Mormonism claims is not in evidence, the claim is nevertheless loudly trumpeted that “priesthood authority” was indeed “restored” through Joseph Smith. Therefore the question you opened with Brother Featherstone is that which most occupies the minds of Mormons. “Where did you get your authority?”

How many times I’ve asked that of others in my lifetime I simply cannot know. I am forever grateful that in Jesus Christ alone is found the true joy of the power and authority of God’s priesthood of believers, that “royal” or “holy” priesthood and spiritual house in which all those in Christ are set as “living stones” (I Peter 2:1-10). No longer do I look to other than the Lord Jesus Christ as the Rock of True Authority in my life.

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

The LDS church claims that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, giving them the Aaronic priesthood. The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:68-73, says that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred the Aaronic priesthood on them, even though they had not been baptized. The Mormon church teaches that baptism is essential to salvation (John the Baptist’s name clearly bespeaks his mission), so why do we not see John baptizing Joseph and Oliver prior to the confirmation of the Aaronic priesthood? Surely if the Spirit of the Lord could baptize Adam (see Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:64-65), John the Baptist could have first baptized Smith and Cowdery.

The Mormon church teaches that baptism must precede the receipt of the priesthood, since baptism is said to be preceded only by faith and repentance in the life of a believer. Therefore Joseph and Oliver were not “washed of their sins” when John is said to have ordained them. Joseph and Oliver, with John the Baptist apparently only looking on, are then told to baptize one another. Strange when you think about it. These two are said to be in the presence of the one who baptized Jesus Christ, and yet they are told to baptize themselves. When they get through baptizing each other, then they “ordain” each other yet again with the same priesthood that John the Baptist is said to have already bestowed on them. I’m not trying to make light of this account, as you well know Brother Featherstone, it’s just the way it reads — I didn’t make it up. But the real questions are, is all this necessary – and did it actually happen?

Since the “total apostasy” Mormons depend on to demonstrate a need for such a “restoration” never took place, we find in that alone enough to refute the claim of “priesthood restoration.” But to those who will not believe that the true Church of Christ has since New Testament times been found on the face of the earth, who find themselves clinging to the false hope offered in the “restoration” story dutifully repeated by those who look to Joseph Smith for salvation, once again I say, “look to God’s Word.”

The basic work of the priesthood has always been that of mediator between God and men. Levitical Priests in the Old Testament were such mediators, and had to be of the tribe of Levi and of the sons of Aaron (Num. 3:6-12). Since Mormons generally claim to be of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh they are not qualified even by supposed lineage to hold the Levitical Priesthood. Furthermore LDS priests have never fulfilled the duties of the “priests” or the “high priests” in offering sacrifices (Ex. 29:38-44 & Heb. 5:1; 8:21). The Levitical priesthood cannot be separated from the sacrifices. Yet even if the LDS were to offer such Levitical sacrifices today, they would be of no value because the Levitical or Aaronic Priesthood was replaced or superseded in the Church by Jesus Christ, the Great Eternal High Priest. Christ is now the only Mediator (Priest) between God and men (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25; John 14:6).

Although Aaronic priests functioned until 70 AD, when God allowed the Roman Army to destroy the Jerusalem Temple, their priesthood actually ended at the time of Christ’s crucifixion when “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:50-51).

"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom"  (Matthew 27:51, KJV)

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51, KJV)

Apparently the Aaronic priests didn’t get the message for they patched the heavy temple curtain separating the “Most Holy Place” from the “sanctuary” (Heb. 9:2-3) and went on offering sacrifices that were only figures of what Jesus Christ had already completed (Heb. 9:1-10:21). On the other hand true followers of Christ “enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20). When Jesus died on the cross, God ripped the great temple veil, which was 60 feet high, from top to bottom exposing the “Most Holy Place,” thereby declaring that through Christ’s death believers have access directly to God.

In Old Testament days there was only one high priest on earth at a time. Once each year He went into the “Most Holy Place” to offer blood sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Ex. 30:10; Heb. 9:7,19-22). However in the New Testament Church Jesus Christ is both the High Priest and the final sacrifice (Heb. 3:1; 9:11-12, 25-26). His body was offered once for all, and now there is no more sacrifice for sin (Heb. 7:26-27; 9:11,12,26; 10:10-14). Because that work is finished I there is no more need for a high priest on earth.

Hebrews 8:1-6 says that Christ, the only High Priest, is in heaven. The Book of Hebrews repeatedly declares Jesus Christ to be the only High Priest after the order (manner) of Melchizedek. His Priesthood is declared to be “unchangeable” (literally, “untransferable” or “passeth not from one to another” Heb. 7:24). Jesus never gave this Priesthood to anyone. It was His alone on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. He is consecrated forevermore (Heb. 7:25) after the manner of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:15-17), and lives forever as the believer’s One and Only High Priest. To those who put their faith and trust in Jesus there is no need for other high priests!

Mormons teach that Joseph Smith had to have the priesthood before he could establish the church. However the Bible never says that apostles, bishops, deacons, or any other New Testament office held either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood. So why did Joseph Smith need it? Even the Book of Mormon is silent about the Aaronic priesthood, and it mentions the Melchizedek priesthood only once in a direct reference to the person of Melchizedek. If as Mormons claim the Book of Mormon contains “the fullness” of the everlasting gospel (D&C 20:9; 27:5; 42:12; and P. of G.P. Joseph Smith 2:34) and it doesn’t mention Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood in the church, why insist on it now?

Every believer in Christ for life and salvation possesses the “holy” or “royal” priesthood (I Peter 2:1-10). However that priesthood is neither Aaronic nor Melchizedek, and it does not exclude women and children (see Gal. 3:18; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Eph. 6:9). The Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi 26:33 and Jacob 2:21, declares that God sees all mankind alike, whether they are black or white, male or female, bond or free. The exclusion of Negroes prior to 1978 and the continuing exclusion of women from the LDS priesthood says plainly enough that the Mormon view of mankind is not the same as God’s view.

Let’s get back to the claim of the “restoration” of the priesthood. Is it necessary to depend solely on the story told by Joseph Smith if one wants to examine the issue from the LDS viewpoint? Of course not. There are many Mormon sources from which to draw evidence weighing on the truthfulness of Joseph’s story. For example, the Mormon Church maintains mountains of records, but in these nearly countless volumes we search in vain for we find no record whatsoever of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood, explaining when and where Peter, James, and John were supposed to have visited Joseph Smith.

D.&C, 27:12, where the visit is mentioned, is dated August 1830. Mormons use this as historical evidence. However when we go back to the Book of Commandments, where the revelation was originally published in 1833, we find Peter, James and John nowhere mentioned in these original verses. Mention of them first appears in the D&C as published in 1835.

By comparing the original revelation as published in 1833 with the same revelation reprinted in 1835 we discover that 13 verses have been added, verses containing the names of Peter, James and John. This modification of the 1833 revelation, to make it appear when reprinted in 1835 that the “restoration” of the Melchizedek priesthood had been known prior to August 1830, casts a huge shadow over the scene even from the LDS standpoint.

Of tremendous interest in this whole thing is the account of David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon and “third Elder” in the Church of Christ (the original name of the LDS church) as founded in 1830. David Whitmer writes that “priesthoods” and “high priests” were unknown to and not a part of the Church of Christ for almost two years following its establishment (An Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 64. — This is the same book the LDS church uses to show that Whitmer never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon.)

David Whitmer "An Address To All Believers In Christ"

“An Address To All Believers In Christ” by Book of Mormon Witness David Whitmer

If, as Whitmer claims, the Church of Christ knew nothing about “priesthoods” for the first two years of its existence, and when it was introduced into the church it came as the brainchild of Sidney Rigdon through his influence with Joseph Smith, then we see that the Mormon claim of priesthood authority being restored prior to the founding of the LDS church is once again proven false.

D&C 20, which originally was chapter 24 of the 1833 “Book of Commandments,” mentions nothing about high priests in its original form, nor did it mention high priesthood. Only when it was reprinted in the 1835 as the “Doctrine & Covenants” do we find verses 65, 66 and 67 inserted, verses that bringing the subjects of high priesthoods and high priests into the picture for the first time — with no indication of a change. Joseph Smith himself recorded in June of 1831 that “the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders” (D.H.C. vol. 1, pp. 175,176). In the Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, page 4, we learn that Ezra Booth, a Methodist minister, was present when the elders first received the High Priesthood in June, 1831. This is more than a year too late to support LDS claims since the Church of Christ was founded in April, 1830.

It’s not hard to boast about a “restored priesthood,” but quite impossible for the Mormon Church to demonstrate the validity of such claims from either the text of God’s Word or from critical examination of LDS scripture and history. In fact the record shows that Oliver Cowdery’s assessment of the situation is accurate, that the whole matter of priesthood was “gotten up” by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith some time after their church was established, after Sidney “explained the old scriptures to Joseph in his own way”, causing Joseph to “ask of the Lord” concerning these things. Whitmer adds, “They received the answer just as they had it fixed in their hearts.”

Had Rigdon and Smith left well enough alone they would have been alright as far as history would have been concerned. After all they had a perfect right to call authority in their church “priesthood” if they wanted to. But by going back and changing the revelations in the 1833 Book of Commandments to make it appear, in 1835 when the D&C was first published, that their “priesthood restoration” had been accomplished prior to the 1830 founding of the church, they carried the ball a bit too far out of bounds, becoming their own worst witnesses in this whole matter.

Brother Featherstone, you say that you are a “special witness” that “Joseph Smith’s testimony is true.” You also declare that you bear a “sacred testimony” to this effect and would “do so with (your) life..” Believe me when I tell you that I know you are sincere in your testimony, and I do not in the least question your sincerity when I point out that sincerity has never been the final test of the truth or untruth a question. We can all name many “sincere” people that history records as being in the wrong.

In evaluating a subject as complex as Mormonism, we would do well to remember that the plumb line of the Word of God is in place to assure believers that our feet are planted on the Foundation Rock which is Jesus Christ. There is only one Lord and Savior, while there are many pretenders.

My special witness to you and to the world, Brother Featherstone, is that Jesus Christ alone is Savior and Lord, and I’ve come to know Him as I never did before, through the witness of God’s word and the testimony of the Holy Spirit of Truth. Opening my heart to the saving Truth of God’s word, I ask Christ into my life as Savior and Lord. Just as promised He came to dwell in me by God’s Holy Spirit, and has remained with me from that moment on.

The Bible His gentle knock at the doorway to my heart was heard one day as I witnessed, by the power of God’s word, the awesome majesty of His sinless life and His perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who believe God’s testimony. On that day, by the living Word of God, I watched my Savior die in my place, nailed to Calvary’s cross in agony, yet without resistance or complaint, accomplishing in the eyes of God what no one else ever can or will, sacrificing His body and spilling His blood to cleanse me from sin, loving me as no one else ever can or will. And I wept in anguish of soul as I saw myself for what I am, a sinner separated from God. From the depths of my soul I cried, “Lord Jesus, I’m wrong, I’m sorry, forgive me, take away my sin, be Savior and Lord in my life. Dwell with me and make of me what You will.”

Although my prayer was far from eloquent Christ knew my heart and touched me with the assurance of His holy presence. I experienced the perfect love and healing power of Jesus Christ in the deepest possible sense, with various “thorns in the flesh” that brought torment prior to coming to Christ swept aside as God’s Holy Spirit did His work in my life. I praise the Lord Jesus with all my heart and soul for His ongoing work in and through me. That I may be of service in leading hearts and souls to Him is my desire.

Early on in your letter you suggested, “Though argument does not change belief, the lack of it destroys belief.” Deon and I agree, and in that spirit we invite you to correspond further as you see fit. Even if you decide not to do so we want to say a sincere thank you for your evident caring heart, and prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit of God to touch you deeply and in a most unexpected way as you ponder and pray over His Biblical Word of Saving Truth.

George S. Rasmussen today

George S. Rasmussen today

To this greatest of all Truths I bear sacred testimony.

In the Love of Christ,

George S. Rasmussen

by George S. Rasmussen
During the summer of 1982 my wife and I received the following unsolicited letter from Vaughn J. Featherstone, a member of the LDS First Quorum of the Seventy in Salt Lake City. In his letter Featherstone questioned us closely about a report he had received, apparently from a third party, expressing concern for our ongoing investigation of Mormon claims. I will post our reply to Mr. Featherstone’s letter as Part Two.

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
The First Quorum of the Seventy
47 East South Temple Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

June 30,1982

Mr. and Mrs. George Rasmussen
Tempe, AZ

Dear Brother and Sister Rasmussen:

Your decision to leave the “Mormon” Church and join another Christian church has come to my attention. Someone has said, “Though argument does not change belief, the lack of it destroys belief.” I understand that the removal of the Lectures on Faith from the Doctrine and Covenants was your major concern. Let me raise some questions, in love, that you should ask yourself before making this choice that has eternal consequences. Possibly you would want to be as thorough in your investigation of a new found “faith” as you were in your study that led you out of the Church.

It is my understanding, Brother Rasmussen, that you served a mission for the Church and that you were married in the temple. Lest what I write next seem too simplistic, please continue on. Your concern over the Lectures on Faith is one I have personally come to grips with. Those faced with such concerns have used the principle in Book of Mormon, Key to Conversion. That is, go back and again read the Book of Mormon, pray and ponder over every page, then ask, “Could Joseph Smith possibly have written this?” I am a special witness that Joseph Smith’s testimony is true. I bear a sacred testimony and would do so with my life, if necessary, that he was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true.

Vaughn Featherstone at the 1984 Minneapolis Regional Confernence

Vaughn Featherstone at the 1984 LdS Church Minneapolis Regional Conference

Now, to the possibly less simplistic questions I would ask myself if I were you:

1. Where does the Nazarene Church pastor receive his authority? Trace it all the way back to the beginning. Your normal thoroughness would dictate this.

2. Have the pastor explain and teach you the church’s concept of God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Have them teach you their concept of the Holy Ghost.

3. Ask your minister about the doctrine of the Nazarene Church regarding the myriads of souls who lived in ages past that have died without ever hearing of the Nazarene Church, or even of Christ. Have him explain the interpretation of the scripture, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead if the dead rise not at all?” Does this church practice baptism for the dead? Only one Church that I know of does and you understand why (I Corinthians 15). Ask your minister to explain the three degrees of glory talked about by Paul, again in I Corinthians 15.

4. Ask him if he would continue to be a pastor in the church if his salary were discontinued. As you know, we do not have a paid ministry.

5. Have the minister explain the term Melchizedek as mentioned in Hebrews 7:1-6, Hebrews 5:6,10, etc., etc.

6. Ask the minister if he pays a tithing. As you know, our stake presidents, bishops, and General Authorities do. Are the people in the church tithed?

7. What is his interpretation of Isaiah 58:6-9? Does his church have a fast and an offering?

8. You understand the Bible. In Ephesians 4:11-13, we are to have apostles and prophets in the Church till we all come in the unity of the faith. This has not happened yet. Also, all the other officers including evangelists (patriarchs).

10. Ask the minister if his church has “sealing” powers as mentioned in the 16th chapter of Matthew. I testify to you, in the name of Christ, that there is no other church on the earth that has sealing powers that can seal a man and woman together for time and all eternity.

11. Does the Nazarene Church have a missionary program to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people? It should if it is the only true and living church of Christ on the earth. (See Matthew 25 the last few verses).

12. What does Malachi mean by “turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers?” You know but the minister doesn’t. Over the years you have been taught the hidden treasures of knowledge-the Word of Wisdom, sealing powers, the plan of salvation, genealogy and temple work, etc. etc. These things are common to you, but not so with the minister.

13. Show me another church that even approaches the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ welfare program. You know that we teach self reliance, thrift, and independence.

14. Ask him about temples in his church and what takes place there. Ask him to tell you about the “coat of skins” that clothed Adam and Eve.

15. Ask him to explain where his church received the baptismal prayer, the sacramental prayers, and determine how shallow or deep his understanding is of the sacrament.

16. What mode of baptism is used? “Buried with him in baptism,” as in Colossians 2:12?

17. Have your minister explain what you already know:
Daniel 2:28-35,44 The stone is this church

Ezekiel 37:15-19 Two records

Isaiah 2:2-3 You know where the mountain of the Lord’s house is. Does the
minister?

Genesis 49:22-26 Who is the seed of Joseph which will be “separate” from his
brethren “unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills?”

You know, but the minister does not.

Isaiah 29:4 & 11-14 The Angel Moroni delivering the Book of Mormon.

Now, I could go on and on taking scriptures from the Bible that you both understand but the ministers do not. You have had the Pearl of Great Price all along. Don’t sell five generations of a birthright for a mess of pottage. Look into your souls. Have you faithfully lived the Word of Wisdom? Have you faithfully paid your tithing? Were you regularly attending meetings in the Mormon Church? Is your life free from transgression? Are you pure in your thinking? Were you faithfully holding quality family home evenings, family prayer, and personal prayers. Were you keeping every covenant you made in the temple? Only you can look deep in your hearts and make certain that there is not a “real” reason other than the “reason given” for leaving the Church.

President Heber J. Grant said, “If you get on a hobbyhorse it will ride you right out of the Church.” It doesn’t matter whether it is the Lectures on Faith, the Word of Wisdom, the Equal Rights Amendment, or any other hobby.

My friends, think back on the Book of Mormon. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Nephi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Ammon, Alma, Samuel, Mormon, and Moroni. These and all the other prophets in the Book of Mormon were some of the greatest prophets who ever lived. What a tragedy it would be to remove the prophets and teachings of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price from my life or from yours. I know that these prophets lived and that the Book of Mormon is true.

It is my opinion, learning of your story, that your experiences with your faith in Christ are valid. No church on the earth believes in Christ, the literal, physical Son of God like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We know he was sired by God, our Heavenly Father, and that Mary was his mother.

Under separate cover, I am sending you a copy of a book I have written, Charity Never Faileth. Perhaps it will share with you my love and tender feelings for the Church.

Vaughn J. Featherstone (left) takes in a 2009 Young Men's address by LdS President Thomas S. Monson

Vaughn J. Featherstone (left) takes in a 2009 Young Men’s address by LdS President Thomas S. Monson

I remember hearing the story of a bishop who was released after six years of service. He felt lonely and unneeded. He said that Satan tempted him, saying, “Read the Doctrine and Covenants and I will prove to you that it is not true.” He said that Satan took him through the Doctrine and Covenants, page by page, and raised every question he could. When the bishop laid down the Doctrine and Covenants, he said his testimony hung in the balance and he was no longer absolutely certain that it was true. He knelt down in prayer and pled with the Lord to help him know whether or not it was true. He said, “I pled like I never had before in my life. Then I went back and read again the Doctrine and Covenants, only this time the Savior took me through it. Every page confirmed that it was divinely inspired and I had regained my testimony.” Then the Lord revealed to this bishop that a change was being made in the stake and he would be the new stake president. A few weeks later he was called as stake president.

Please, my wonderful Latter-day Saint friends, this is a test. Do not fail. All eternity is hanging in the balance.

I am sending a copy of this letter to your stake president so that someone can visit you and be available to respond to whatever questions you may have.

Sincerely and with great faith,

Vaughn J. Featherstone

– Go to Part 2 –

Introduction:
Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”, 2012.

Martin Luther hanging the The Ninety-Five Theses unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany
(scene taken from the 2003 MGM movie “Luther”)

It was on this day 495 years ago that Martin Luther nailed the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it.

And while  I offer these theses to the public in general for discussion, debate, and consideration, I offer them even more specifically to the LdS Church and its members in light of  Joseph Smith’s challenge …
“… call upon them [Mormon Critics] to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against …”
(Doctrine & Covenants 71:7)

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

… and finally in agreement with third LdS Church President John Taylor who said:
“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” 
(John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 264)

So with no further adieu we present . . .
The Disputation of Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Ninety-Five Theses for consideration, discussion, and action regarding a modern church badly in need of reform
(aka “What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?”)

Question:
What’s Wrong With The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Answer:
1) It lies to and attempts to deceive its own members and investigators regarding Mormon History and Theology.

2) It focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members.

3) It villainizes critics – even constructive critics – both within and without its ranks.

4) It engages in Mind Control tactics and techniques in indoctrinating and retaining members.

5) It suppresses its financial records eliminating full accountability in terms of how member contributions are used.

Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer

6) It tolerates abuse of ecclesiastical power by LdS Church Leaders.

7) It suppresses loyal dissent from within its ranks via disciplinary action up to and including excommunication.

8) It forces members to choose between the LdS Church and apostate spouses.

9) LdS Church Leaders denounce and shun former members and encourages members to do the same.

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

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

11) It erroneously asserts that former members didn’t leave the LdS Church for any thoughtful or legitimate reasons but rather that they were thin skinned reactive, malcontents who left the LdS Church because they wanted to sin with impunity, or because of a perceived offense.

12) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members. Ex-Mormon family members in particular are to be avoided but the LdS Church also encourages members to avoid “Never Mormon” family members who are openly critical of the LdS Church.

13) It encourages arrogance and self-righteousness in members by preaching that they’re more enlightened and morally superior relative to the general population – including other people of faith.

14) It suppresses – and has even destroyed – LdS Church owned documents and artifacts that would expose #1.

LdS Church Handbook of Instruction (2010 edition)

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

16) It practices graceless, merciless, condemning, legalistic disciplinary extremes – far beyond Biblical standards – in regard to those who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage that, as been reported by many, often leads to a  “no-win” double-bind spiral into hopeless despair.

17) It uses guilt as a means of controlling members.

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

19) It preaches doctrine that leads to unhealthy, aberrant, dating and courtship behavior.

20) It uses the LdS Temple system (via the Temple Recommend process) as a means of coercing members into compliance with the will of the extant Mormon leaders.

21) It discourages intellectual self-autonomy and self-responsibility and encourages dependency on LdS Church Leaders.

22) It puts undue financial strain on member families via manipulative doctrine and coercive policy that makes tithing mandatory rather than voluntary.

23) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members via exclusionary and highly restrictive American LdS Church marriage policies – which, paradoxically, are more flexible and inclusionary outside of the United States.

24) It teaches an irrational and subjective epistemological system while simultaneously belittling epistemology based on reason, objectivity, and empiricism.

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

26) It uses LdS Priesthood Authority dogma to devalue women thus subordinating them to “second class” status in the LdS Church.

27) It values and praises “total obedience to leaders” as one of its more important core values even though this is the first symptom that a group is a Mind Control Cult.

28) It imposes discredited and unbiblical 19th Century dietary regulations on members.

29) It contrives man created “revelations” and claims that they are of divine origin.

30) It uses employment in LdS Church and member owned institutions and businesses to coerce obedience to its dogma and leaders.

31) It quells and compromises good scholarship within its rank by shunning, dis-fellowshipping and excommunicating members who produce scholarly works discussing Mormon History, Theology, or culture that have scholastic integrity.

32) It rewards inauthentic compliance and punishes authentic self-autonomy.

33) It punishes doubt and questioning – especially when it’s publicly expressed – and rewards blind compliance.

The LdS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

34) LdS Church Missionary training and policies employ Mind Control techniques and tactics.

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

36) It requires members to remain in a “snapped” psychological state in order to remain believing members.

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

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

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

40) It damages member psychology via the use of manipulative fear and unachievable standards of “worthiness”.

Mountain Meadows Massacre drawing by T.B.H. Stenhouse, 1873

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

42) It makes extraordinary – even outrageous – truth claims that are easily discredited by science, history, and the Bible.

43) It requires members to adhere to moral and intellectual relativism in order to create the delusion that its incongruous and inconsistent belief system works, has integrity, and is both moral and ethical.

44) It excuses, rationalizes, justifies, and white washes the crimes of its founder, famous members, and past leaders.

45) It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that until 1978 as a point of official doctrine and policy the church excluded from the priesthood and from the temple any member who had “Negro” blood.

46) It privately judges and abandons members that have life problems rather than patiently, encouraging, undergirding, supporting, and attempting to restore them to a healthy, productive place. This while publicly declaring that the LdS Church treats all such cases with benevolent kindness.

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

48) It tries to expose, quarantine, isolate, shun – and if necessary expel – those who doubt rather than creating a safe place when they can honestly and openly work through their doubts and questions.

49) It asserts in the strongest language that doctrinal differences, criticisms, or questions about LdS Church policies and/or leaders are sin, for the ‘prophet’ is always right. Those who engage in such behaviors – or refuse to comply with the status quo – are subject to discipline up to and including ex-communication.

50) It has used home teachers and the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” as a means of spying on members.

The LdS “Quorum of Twelve Apostles”
The Celestial Polygamists: Dallin H. Oaks, front row, third from right; L. Tom Perry, front row, second from left; Russell M. Nelson, front row, third from left

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

52) It uses arbitrary, capricious, and ever changing criteria for Temple Recommend “worthiness”.

53) It preaches extreme, legalistic, and arbitrary sexual standards regarding masturbation that are not Biblically or Scientifically supportable.

54) It has created a clannish and elitist “authority” system via its unbiblical Temple and Priesthood system that results in unhealthy elitist pride in men and their wives.

55) It claims that the LdS Church is patterned after the early church of Jesus’ apostles, but there are major differences.

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

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

58) It has so exalted things over people that, in the words of a former LdS Bishop, “The Mormon Church would leave you dead by the side of the road if that’s what it took to protect the institution.”

Former LdS First Presidency member, William Law who was excommunicated in 1844 for publicly exposing uncomfortable truths about Joseph Smith

59) It dis-fellowships and excommunicates its true prophets.

60) It mandates that LdS Church History be presented by members to members (even in private) in a manner that’s uplifting and only presents the LdS Church in a favorable light – even if the resulting narrative is no longer factual and/or supported by the body of evidence.

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

62) It rationalizes away the revelations – even those that were fully canonized – of present or past “Living Prophets” that contradict contemporary LdS Church teachings and culture. The no-longer-in-vogue revelations are buried, ignored, or recast as “opinion not divine”. The “He was speaking as a man not a prophet” apologetic is typically used as the rationalization in these cases.

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

64) It employs circular logic in its core truth claim: “The only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it’s the only true church.”

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

“Also far-reaching is the effect of the loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest… It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”
– Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, p.196

66) It teaches that a rape victim has “lost her chastity” and that a woman should fight off her attacker or be killed in the attempt. Thus, young Mormon women are taught that their chastity is more valuable than their life. The result is that a Mormon woman who survives a rape is made to feel guilty, and is thus victimized again, this time by her church.

67) It undermines intellectual integrity when, by following the example learned from LdS Church Leaders and Church Educational System (CES) curriculum  members engage in eisegesis as a lifestyle in all areas of life.

68) It poisons members who leave the LdS Church against all other Theistic religions.

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

70) It tolerates an untenable situation whereby the canonization process isn’t officially defined or codified yet is used to deny past publications, prophetic revelations, and other utterances from past Mormon Leaders that are no longer in vogue.

71) Its behavior throughout history demonstrates that there are no unchanging, absolute, objective truths in the LdS Church. Rather, “truth” is subjective, relative, in flux, and subject to change.

72) It has allowed Mormon folklore to take on pseudo-scriptural equivalency.

73) It has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction forces disenchanted LdS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not.

74) It has created a culture whereby a man or a woman who decides to leave the LdS Church must also be willing to give up his or her family.

75) It so thoroughly indoctrinates members that their highest loyalty is to the LdS Church (not to a husband, wife, son, daughter, or even to the truth) that a member who associates or sympathizes with an “apostate” or a non-Mormon family member who is critical of the LdS Church risks failing his or her temple recommend interview.

76) It preaches a soteriological system that incentivizes converts to Mormonism to divorce their unbelieving spouse and marry a believing Mormon instead.

A LdS Temple Sealing Room where the Mormon marriage ceremony is performed and where only “Temple Worthy” Mormon adults can attend

77) It doesn’t allow young Mormon siblings (usually under 18) to see an older sister or brother get married in an LdS Temple – even if the younger person is a faithful Mormon in good standing.

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

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

80) It has failed to explain the incriminating consistency between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the empirical 19th Century, political, literary, cultural and theological record.

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

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

83) It compensates leaders via employment in LdS Church owned businesses, generous honoraria, stipends, grants, scholarships, gifts, company cars, free travel and lodging, housing and other non-cash contributions then deceptively claims that “The LdS Church has no paid clergy”. This is nothing more than deception via manipulative semantics and a sophisticated financial “shell game”.

“The Book of Mammon” by former LdS Church employee Daymon M Smith exposes how the Mormon Church’s “Unpaid Clergy” are indirectly compensated

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

85) It hypocritically denounces those who claim to bring forth new scripture and revelations using the same methods and means that Joseph Smith did because they fail to conform to established LdS Church orthodoxy. This, while simultaneously criticizing the mainstream Christian Church for rejecting Mormonism because the revelations and scripture of its founder and subsequent “prophets” fail to conform to established Christian orthodoxy.

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

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

88) It allows LdS Church leaders and the Church Educational System (CES), to distance themselves from the work of LdS Apologists so as – it is believed – to create a “plausible deniability” escape hatch should the work of said Apologists be discredited by more qualified, objective scholarship. Never-the-less, both cite from the work of LdS Apologists (albeit typically not credited) while allowing the LdS Church to quietly fund the work of said apologists through indirect cash flows.

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

90) It publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend.

The First Presidency of the LdS Church at the City Creek Center ribbon cutting

91) It sent the wrong message in 2003 by pledging to spend $1-Billion US dollars to redevelop downtown Salt Lake City (via the City Creek Center mall and housing redevelopment project). Due to cost over runs the final project cost is now forecast to be around $8-Billion US dollars.

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

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

94) Based on its observed behavior its core unifying principle seems to be “Image over truth always and in all things.”

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

Compiled by Fred W. Anson, with the generous aid and assistance of current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as knowledgeable outsiders, all whom long to see the Mormon Church reform for the sake of all its members – but especially for the sake of their Latter-day Saint friends and family members.

by John Farkas

INTRODUCTION
One of the unique doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons or LDS) is their Aaronic and Melchizedek [1](This is an endnote) Priesthoods, one of which is held by most male members 12 years and older. The Mormon church teaches that this is their authority from God to act in his name and do his work.[2] The Aaronic Priesthood was allegedly given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist on May 15, 1829, and sometime later, but before August 1830, they received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Apostles Peter, James and John. The exact date for this important event is not known (for more on this see the last part of end note #4).

There are seven revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) (a Mormon Scripture) on these priesthoods. Although five of them were allegedly received before October 1832, one as early as 1823, and one as late as September 1832, none of these five were included in the 1833 Book of Commandments.[3] Two of them did not showup in the D&C until the 1876 edition, three were first included the 1835 edition.

THE PRIESTHOOD IN LDS REVELATION
The Doctrine and Covenants (1981 edition) has the following about the early history of the LDS priesthoods. These revelations are in their chronological order.

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah [4] the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” 
(Sept. 21, 1823, Doctrine and Covenants 2:1)

Even though this revelation is dated September 21, 1823 it was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments or the 1835 and 1844 Doctrine and Covenants. It did not get into Scripture until the 1876 D&C and was not approved by the membership until 1880 (Robert J. Woodford, “The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants”, Ensign, Dec. 1984, pages 37-39).

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

A second alleged revelation has:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [5]; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”
(May 15, 1829, Doctrine and Covenants 13).

The first written account of this revelation does not have the phrase the “Priesthood of Aaron.” There is more on this below under “LDS Leaders On The Priesthood” and “Differences In Description.” It also was not included in LDS Scripture until the 1876 D&C even though it is dated May 15, 1829. It also was not approved by the membership until 1880
(Ensign, Dec. 1984, pages 37-39).

A third alleged revelation has:
“Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron [6];…And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;”
(August & September, 1830, Doctrine and Covenants 27:8, 12)

This revelation was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments. It is first found in the 1835 D&C, section 50, page 179. There is more on this below under “Historical Evidence.”

A fourth alleged revelation has:
“There remain hereafter, in the due time of the Lord, other bishops to be set apart unto the church, to minister even according to the first; Wherefore they shall be high priests who are worthy, and they shall be appointed by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, except they be literal descendants of Aaron. Wherefore they shall be high priests who are worthy, and they shall be appointed by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, except they be literal descendants of Aaron. And if they be literal descendants of Aaron they have a legal right to the bishopric, if they are the firstborn among the sons of Aaron; For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same. No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant and the firstborn of Aaron. But, as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power, under the hands of the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
(Nov. 1831, Doctrine and Covenants 68:14-19)

Bronze statue in Temple Square, Salt Lake City, representing Peter, James, and John in the act of conferring the Melchizedek priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as envisioned by most modern Latter-day Saints

The first account of this revelation was in the LDS newspaper Evening and Morning Star, Oct. 1832, page 35. Even then It did not include any of the bolded words. It was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments but was included in the 1835 D&C, section 22, page 147.

A fifth alleged revelation has:
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live [7]…And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb…

And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood…

And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons…

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.”
(Nov. 22-23, 1832, Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-22, 26, 27, 29, 30, 33-40).
[NOTE: modern paragraphing added to improve legibility – editor]

Even though this is dated November 1832 it was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments. It was in the 1835 D&C, section 4, page 89.

A sixth alleged revelation has:
“There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.”
(March 28, 1835, Doctrine and Covenants 107:1).

This was first in the 1835 D&C, section 3, page 82.

A seventh alleged revelation has:

“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah!

Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets–the book to be revealed.

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants

A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book!

The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!

The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!

And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!”
(Sept. 6, 1842, Doctrine and Covenants 128:20-21).
[NOTE: modern paragraphing added to improve legibility – editor]

Note the date this revelation was given and that it includes a summary of the two priesthoods. Also note that there is no support found for these statements in the two early “new Scriptures” of the Mormon church, the Book of Mormon and the 1833 Book of Commandments.

LDS LEADERS ON THE PRIESTHOOD
William Phelps, as the editor of the Mormon newspaper Evening and Morning Star (Independence, Missouri), provides the first public evidence of the two priesthoods, the Aaronic and Melchizedek.

William Wines Phelps (February 17, 1792 – March 7, 1872) was an early leader of the Latter Day Saint movement. He was an assistant president of the church in Missouri, scribe to Joseph Smith, Jr., and a church printer, editor, and song-writer

After the high priesthood comes elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. Now the offices are separate, for the edification and benefit of the whole church, and, though the elders and bishops are appendages to the high priesthood, & the teachers and deacons are appendages to the lesser priesthood, yet these offices are important to their places, and regular in their gradation: from deacon to teacher, from teacher to priest, from priest to elder, from elder to high priest.
(March, 1833, page 74)

While not directly named, this is the first apparent mention together of the two LDS priesthoods in an official Mormon publication. The Book of Mormon, in the book of Alma, does mention the “high priesthood,” but the “lesser priesthood” is not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon.

Phelps’ article does require the reader to know the meaning of “high priesthood” and “lesser priesthood.” The priesthood revelations from God were allegedly received in 1823, 1829, 1830, 1831 and September 1832. The Evening and Morning Star was first published June 1832, so there was a nine-month opportunity to mention all of them sooner than Phelps’ article.

Oliver Cowdery, the only other human participant with Smith in the restoration of the priesthood,[8] as the editor of a Mormon newspaper in Kirtland, Ohio (near present day Cleveland) said:

“But, dear brother think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his [John the Baptist] hand the holy priesthood, as he said, “upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord [9] in righteousness!”‘
(Messenger and Advocate, Oct., 1834, pages 15 and 16 and Joseph Smith-History page 59, footnote by Oliver Cowdery)

The reliability of this statement by Mr. Cowdery is supported by an earlier statement in this same paper.

“That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. Smith jr. has offered to assist us…With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.”
(ibid, page 13)

DIFFERENCES IN DESCRIPTIONS
Now compare the statement just above by Oliver Cowdery on the priesthood to the following LDS Scripture:

Photograph of Oliver Cowdery found in the Library of Congress, taken in the 1840s by James Presley Ball

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [10]; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 13, May 15, 1829 and Joseph Smith-History 1:39)

“I confer the Priesthood of Aaron” is not the same as “I confer this priesthood and this authority.” As will be shown below, Oliver Cowdery’s quotation is consistent with the claim of David Whittmer, another top leader in the early Mormon church.

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
It should be evident by now that the scriptural foundation for the bestowal of the priesthoods is on shaky ground. To give you a sense of the changes made and the confusion in the revelations on the priesthood let us look at one of them, Doctrine and Covenants 27, as it appeared chronologically in LDS Scripture. The 1833 Book of Commandments has:

“A Commandment to the church of Christ, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1830,
“LISTEN to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.

2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory;

3 Remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins:

4 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine, neither strong drink of your enemies:

5 Wherefore, you shall partake of none, except it is made new among you, yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

6 Behold this is wisdom in me, wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with, all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world:

7 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and be faithful until I come:- even so. Amen.”
(Book of Commandments, chapter 28, verses 1-7, page 60)

Notice that this alleged revelation has nothing about the LDS priesthood. It was later changed. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants has the following for the same revelation. The bold type words are the added ones; the ones in brackets { } were removed.

Revelation given, {A Commandment to the church of Christ, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania,} September {4}, 1830.

1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory–remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

LdS President (March 1, 1807 – September 2, 1898) Wilford Woodruff’s copy of The Book of Commandments

2 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim; And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days; And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias; Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron; And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse; And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain; And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days:

3 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the

Image from the LdS Church Educational System Institute Manual “Gospel Doctrines” with this caption, “Righteousness is the key to priesthood power and eternal life.”

which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. {even so.} Amen.”
(1835 Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-3, pages 179-180. The present 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants 27:1-18 reads the same except for the heading, verse numbering and some punctuation.)

Note that the historical heading of this revelation was changed, the day was omitted and many significant additions were made in the text with no notes or comments of any kind as to why.

Some Mormons may point to Doctrine and Covenants 13 to support the restoration of the Mormon priesthood, it has:

“Ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood along the bank of the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. HC 1:39-42. The ordination was done by the hands of an angel, who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time the Priesthood of Melchizedek would be conferred upon them. See also Section 27:7, 9, 12…..

Contemporary painting of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood

UPON you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 13, May 15, 1829)

As stated at the start of this article, this revelation was not in the Mormon Scriptures until the 1876 edition, and not accepted “by common consent” until 1880. The same idea is also in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History, verses 68-69, which was also not in LDS scripture until 1876.

There are no reasons given why it was not in the two earlier collections of LDS revelations, A Book of Commandments (1833) and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. I believe the historical reliability of these verses is significantly in question because of their late canonization.

These are key foundational revelations. If they existed they should have been in the first collection of new revelation.

WHAT DO OTHERS SAY?
Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. In 1846 Brigham Young lead many of the Mormons on their way to what was to become Salt Lake City. Not all Mormons chose to go, including Joseph Smith’s wife and children. In 1860 Joseph Smith’s oldest son, Joseph Smith III, became the president and prophet of a newly founded church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). They claim to be the true continuation of the Church Joseph Smith founded. They deny that Peter, James and John “restored” the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph Smith. The following statement by Mormon historian and then Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith explains their position:

“‘REORGANITES’ DENY RESTORATION OF MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD
Was the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John?

In the History of the Church, no account is given of the date when the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored. For this reason certain parties not of the Church, who profess to believe in the divine mission of the martyred Seer, in order to bolster up their weak position, have made the claim that this priesthood was not restored by those heavenly messengers, but that it grew out of the Aaronic Priesthood, which was restored by John the Baptist on the 15th day of May 1829. According to this claim, the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, having received the Aaronic Priesthood, did, by virtue of that priesthood, on the 6th day of April 1830, ordain each other elders, and that this eldership ordained high priests and apostles.”[a]

The actual statement, as officially published by the so-called “Reorganized” Church, is:

“In justification of the course taken, and the principles involved on `the question of authority,’ we have ever courted, and still do, investigation of the rigid character of the facts in the first organization. Here they are: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the lesser priesthood by an angel; then, by this authority and a commandment they, on the 6th day of April, ordained each other elders, and this eldership ordained high priests and apostles, and this high priesthood ordained, by commandment, the President of the High Priesthood — the highest office in the church; so that the alleged lesser ordained [sic][11] the greater, is common to both the first organization and the Reorganization alike. The same class of facts justify both or condemn both.”
(Doctrines of Salvation, 3:95)

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

David Whitmer, one of the “Three Witnesses” (found right after the Introduction of the Book of Mormon) of the Book of Mormon and an early leader in the Mormon church, had this to say about the priesthoods in the Mormon Church.

“Now Brethren, seeing they had no High Priests in the church of Christ of old, and none in the church of Christ [12] in these last days until almost two years after its beginning [13] — when the leaders began to drift into error; remembering the fact of the revelation being changed two years after it was given to include High Priests;…

In no place in the word of God does it say that an Elder is after the order of Melchisedec, or after the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood….This matter of ‘priesthood,’ since the days of Sydney [sic] [Sidney] Rigdon[14], has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints. …This matter of the two orders of priesthood….all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon. He explained these things to Brother Joseph in his way, out of the old Scriptures, and got Brother Joseph to inquire, etc. He would inquire and as mouthpiece speak out the revelations just as they had it fixed up in their hearts…How easily a man can receive some other spirit, appearing as an Angel of Light, believing at the time that he is giving the revealed will of God…..”
(An Address to All Believers in Christ, pages 64)

The RLDS’ and David Whitmer’s position are supported by the historical evidence previously presented and support the idea that the high priesthood was first given at the Kirtland conference of June 3-7, 1831 (D&C 52 historical heading; 1833 Book of Commandments 54, page 123; Far West Record, page 7 and end notes 4 and 5 on page 8; Deseret Book Co., 1983, edited by D. Q. Cannon & L. W. Cook. ).[15]

It also seems reasonable to believe that the priesthood, if it really existed, would also clearly and frequently show up in many of the other publications by the Mormon Church. Those to be examined below are the Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible, Book of Commandments and a collection of early teachings called the Lectures on Faith.

THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Book of Mormon, one of the unique scriptures of the Mormon Church, also does not show the present day Mormon priesthood. The following terms and phrases used in describing their priesthood could not be found in a search of the text of the Book of Mormon.

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to the Book of Alma

a. “Aaronic Priesthood”, with of without capitals.
b. “Melchizedek/Melchisedec Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
c. “the fulness of the everlasting gospel,” except in the Introduction of the current edition of the Book of Mormon. The term is also not in the 1830 edition.
d. “new and everlasting covenant”
e. “married”, “marriage”, “marry”, “marrying”, “divorce”.
f. “wife and husband,” or “husbands and wife,” or “husband and wives” in the same paragraph.
g. “gospel of salvation”
h. “fulness of salvation”
i. “fulness of eternal glory”
j. “celestial”
k. “Aaronic,” with or without capitals.
l. “deacon”
m. “seventy,” or “seventies” as an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
n. “highpriest” as one word.

It is interesting to find the Book of Mormon has nothing on the Aaronic Priesthood and deacons. It does have teachers and priests, positions/offices that a present day Mormon would recognize, which are ordained by the laying on of hands (Moroni 3). But nothing is said through the one thousand years plus period of the Book of Mormon about the priesthood (and the term “lesser priesthood), that these offices are part of in present day Mormonism. Moroni 3 would have been a logical place to include instructions on conferring the Priesthood, but nothing is given.

Similarly, there is no direct wording in the Book of Mormon on the Melchizedek Priesthood. It does describe a priesthood, but it is different from the present day Mormon Church’s priesthood.

Terms like Melchizedek (as the name), order of God, order of his Son and high priesthood are used, but then only in the Book of Alma, which only covers the time period of about 91 BC to about 52 BC. Moroni 3; Alma 13 and 6:1 and Mosiah 18:18 give instructions for ordaining teachers, priests, elders, and high priests but there is nothing about conferring a priesthood. These would have been logical places for this, but they only give instruction for ordination to an office.

It seems reasonable to think that the Melchizedek Priesthood, at the very least using the terminology used in the Book of Alma, would be frequently mentioned in all parts of the Book of Mormon, especially during Jesus Christ’s visit to the New World (3 Nephi 8 and following chapters) and in the period of peace and tranquility that supposedly followed it (4 Nephi 1). Not only are they not mentioned in these books, but there is little said in other parts of the Book of Mormon (except Alma).

Simulated LdS Temple scene with examples of full LdS Temple Garments attire from the “Big Love” television show

It appears, in almost all uses, that the terms high priest, high priesthood and high priests are only used as part of the Mosaic law that the first Book of Mormon people would have brought with them when they traveled from Jerusalem to the New World (see 1 Nephi chapters 1-18). But they are surprisingly missing once the alleged visit of Jesus Christ occurs as related in 3 Nephi. 3 Nephi 12:1 does say: “…now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize was twelve…I have given power that they may baptize you…”.

While a present day Mormon may understand these words to mean the Melchizedek Priesthood and apostles, the text does not say this. How were the Book of Mormon people, or even non-Mormons now, to understand this?

The Book of Mormon is still considered to be “the most correct of any book on earth”! This idea and wording has been in use since 1844 and are still being used, and were clearly stated by the late President Benson (Ensign, October 1992, page 2).

Throughout the entire Book of Mormon nothing is said about the Melchizedek Priesthood offices of seventies, patriarchs, president and apostles. Jesus does appoint twelve men in the New World, but they are called disciples all the way through 3 and 4 Nephi. If New World disciples were also considered apostles by the Lord, this would have been the place to find it, not about 370 years later from Mormon. Mormon 9:18 may at first look like an exception, but this appears to be referring to apostles in the Old World, the one Jesus called in the Jerusalem area, as shown in verse 22.

Moroni 6:1 has a very unique statement on who may be baptized. He says:
“And now I speak concerning Baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.”

This has people who apparently held the priesthood, by present day Mormon Church teachings, in the offices mentioned, being baptized. In the present day Mormon Church men must be baptized before they receive a priesthood and an office in it!

All of this has to lead to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon has a different priesthood than currently taught by the Mormon Church. While this difference is significant now, it did not exist to the same extent in 1833 between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments.

A close examination of each will show a close similarity in how the priesthood is described. There are only two significant differences. The Book of Mormon has twelve disciples, a high priesthood and no deacons while the Book of Commandments names apostles and deacons but no high priesthood. They both have nothing on the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood.

THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE BIBLE
The following Mormon phrases and keywords could not be found in the text of the King James Version [16] of the Bible:

High Priest’s garments as described in the Bible

a. “Aaronic Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
b. “Melchizedek/Melchizedek Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
c. “fulness of the everlasting gospel”
d. “fulness of the gospel”
e. “fulness of eternal glory”
f. “fulness of salvation”
g. “new and everlasting covenant”
h. “gospel of salvation”
i. “holy order of God”
j. “highpriest,” as one word.
k. “high priesthood”

The New Testament is very clear that the Aaronic priesthood (including laws and ordinances) was abolished when our Lord died on the cross (Gal 3:19, 23-25; Col 2:14-17; Heb 10:1-10). There was in fact a change in the priesthood – it was abolished and even Christ did not hold the Aaronic priesthood (Heb 7:11-14). The New Testament tells us that all true born-again Christians are priests by the blood of Christ (Rev 1:5-6). This priesthood has nothing to do with the old Aaronic priesthood because it is far superior! It is a royal priesthood of believers in the Living Christ, our Great High Priest forever (1 Pet 2:9-10).

The Bible does say a little about Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-20, Ps 110:4, Heb 4:14 to 8:4). The only Melchizedek priest in the Old Testament was the King of Salem. In the New Testament only Jesus Christ has the Melchizedek priesthood and he was appointed by God (Heb 5:5-6, 10). No priestly succession is mentioned. These ideas were summarized in a paper given by David Crump, as published in Christian Institute for Mormon Studies, Proceedings and Papers, Vol 1, page 35, where he said:

“In the New Testament, Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews tells us what personal qualities are required to hold the Melchizedek priesthood:

Artist’s speculative depiction of Jesus Christ acting as High Priest in heaven

1. You must live forever. This does not mean that you have somehow gained eternal life; it means that you have no beginning as well as no end. You endure forever through the inherent, self-possessed power of your own indestructible, eternal life. (Is there anyone who still hopes to be in the market for this job?)

2. You need to have personally received an oath from God promising that he has made you the Messiah of the world.

3. You must be holy. Mind you, you are not just trying to be holy; you must already share in God’s own character, in his inherent perfection, which means that you are free of all sin. There can be no blemish of inadequacy in your life; you have never done anything even slightly wrong.

4. You must be the eternal Son of God who meets the seven qualifications of sonship outlined in Hebrews 1:1-4. In other words, you must be the eternal mediator of creation, who continues to sustain the creation through the power of your own spoken word.

The position of Melchizedek Priesthood is taken; it is held by God’s Son Jesus Christ, and he has chosen not to share it with us.”

THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE LECTURES ON FAITH
The Lectures on Faith were prepared by Joseph Smith (probably with help from others) and delivered to a class of elders in Kirtland, Ohio in the winter of 1834-1835. [17] They were first included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The preface of this book has:

“The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work.”
(Preface of 1835 D&C)

This preface was signed by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams. These men were the top leaders (first presidency and assistant president) of the Mormon Church at that time. Note that they said the Lectures on Faith had the important doctrine of salvation.They thought them important enough to make them scripture.

The Lectures on Faith do not use any of the important terms and phrases used to describe the Mormon priesthood and its offices. This is amazing seeing they were to contain “the important doctrine of salvation.” For example, according to the present day Mormon Church, baptism is a necessary part of a Mormon’s “salvation.”[18] Without the priesthood no one has the authority to baptize, hence no “salvation.”

THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS
The 1833 Book of Commandments was the first published collection of alleged revelations received by Joseph Smith. In its time it was considered one of the three LDS Scriptures (the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Commandments). As shown above it does not contain the Mormon priesthood as currently known.

Sidney Rigdon, founding member of the First Presidency, Joseph Smith’s First Counselor and the person suspected to be the chief fabricator of LdS Priesthood theology according to David Whitmer

Priesthood revelations that are now Doctrine and Covenants 2, 13, 27, 68 and 84 were not in it. Apostles were called elders (chapter 24:1-2, 22:1, 12, 14) and the only priesthood offices mentioned were elders, priests, teachers and deacons (chapter 24:31). There is nothing about the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood, lesser and higher priesthoods, seventies and high priests as currently exists.

God allegedly made it clear that the revelations were “true and faithful” (Book of Commandments 1:7), “neither doth he vary from that which he hath said” (Book of Commandments 2:1) and “now the decrees of God are unalterable” (Alma 41:8). We have God’s word that he would not change and alter what he had said. It should be clear by now that changes and additions were made. What then is the only possible conclusion?

SUMMARY
We have shown how two key alleged revelations about the restoration of the LDS priesthood were not in the first and second published collections and two others were not in the first collection. David Whitmer and the RLDS church stated a similar view.

All this can only lead to the clear conclusion that the present day Mormon Church’s priesthood is not the same one that existed from 1829 to about 1833. It was changed about 1833 and then support was inserted into the LDS scriptures after the fact.[19] In some case this was done 43 years later.

Both 1 Cor 14:33 and Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 say that God is not the author of confusion. We are then left with the only conclusion possible, the confusion in the early LDS Church, particularly the teachings about the priesthood, can only be by man.

THE LDS RESPONSE
The Mormon response to this paper will probably be harsh, for it will be an emotional subject for most LDS, particularly men. This strikes at the heart of Mormonism.

Many will seem to be incredulous and just reject everything out right. On the other end of the spectrum others will take the information and seriously examine it in detail. Some to find reasons to reject it, but some to better understand it and grow from it. All anyone can do as they present the above information is to keep bringing the discussion back to the subject and the facts presented. You will need to dwell on the facts and their accuracy.

There is only one clear conclusion. The priesthood now taught by the Mormon Church is significantly different from the one taught by the Mormon Church from 1830 (their start date) to roughly 1835. It also appears that they tried to hide the changes by post dating the early alleged revelations and making new ones to support the change.

END NOTES
[1] Melchisedec is the New Testament spelling of the Old Testament Melchizedek. The Mormon Church uses this latter spelling.

[2] Gospel Principles, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1978, page 73. The majority of Bible believing Christians, however, believe that only Jesus Christ held the Melchizedek Priesthood which is “unchangeable”; and that ALL true Christians, men and women, are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Heb. 4:14, 7:24, 6:20, 10:10; Rev 1:5-6).

[3] The Book of Commandments, a Scripture published in 1833, was the first collection of alleged revelations received by Joseph Smith. Following editions were titled The Doctrine and Covenants. In the early years of the Mormon church in the United States there were editions in 1833, 1835, 1844 and 1876. There were several British editions, with an 1854 printing that was sent to Utah (Ensign, December 1984, pages 36-37) .

[4] Joseph Smith-History 1:68-72 said it was John the Baptist that ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood and Peter, James and John (who held the keys for this) ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood supposedly on May 15, 1829. The exact date for the Melchizedec Priesthood restoration is not know. The best date that most LDS scholars think this happened is between May 15, 1829 and April 1830, and one said, “probably June 1829” (A Joseph Smith Chronology, by J. Christopher Conkling, Deseret Book Co. 1979, page 10-11).

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 says we receive the remission of sins by faith in Jesus Christ, by repentance and service to the Lord, all before we are baptized. Which one is correct?

[6] From Lev 8:33 and Ex 29:37 we learn that Aaron’s ordination took 7 days. Mormon Aaronic Priesthood ordinations that I (John Farkas) saw or participated in took less than 15 minutes.

[7] Then how did Joseph Smith see the Father and Son in 1820 and live as he related in Joseph Smith-History 1:17. He did not, as officially taught, get the priesthood until May 1829 (Joseph Smith-History 1:72).

[8] Cowdery was the Second Elder (D&C 20:3 ) and assistant president of the High Priesthood. He was one of Smiths scribes during the alleged “translation” of the Book of Mormon from the “gold plate.” They were both together when the priesthood was allegedly restored.

[9] Mormons have said that these are animal sacrifices, as done in the Jerusalem temple, which are to be restored. (Mormon Doctrine, page 666).

[10] Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 says we receive the remission of sins by faith in Jesus Christ, by repentance and service to the Lord, all before we are baptized.

[a]  Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, “Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3” pp.94-95, (this citation was missing from Mr. Farkas’ original article — Editor)

[11] The bracket is in the quote.

[12] The Mormon Church since its beginning has had three names: Church of Christ, 1830-1834; Church of Latter Day Saints, 1834-1838; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1838 to the present.

[13] If David Whitmer by “beginning” means the formal start of the Mormon Church on April 6, 1830, them 1832 is the approximate start of High Priests.

[14] Sydney Rigdon probably came into the Mormon Church December, 1830 (The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876, by F. Mark McKiernan, Herald House, 1979, pages 41-44). This is the earliest date for the change discussed by David Whitmer.

[15] While History of the Church 1:175-176 uses the term “authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested,” D&C 53 does not use the term at all or “high Priesthood.” The Far West Record, page 7, in the meeting minutes only uses the term “high Priesthood.”

[16] This is the version used by the Mormon Church.

[17] Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1955, 2:304; the book Lectures on Faith, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, page v.

[18] For the importance of baptism see: Mormon Doctrine, page 69. Salvation means spending eternity with God in the Celestial Kingdom (Gospel Principles, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1976, pages 124-130).

[19] This same idea of after the fact changes is also supported by D. Michael Quinn in his book The Mormon Hierarchy, Signature Books, 1994, pages 7-38.

About the Author
John R. Farkas (1932-2011) was a convert to Mormonism in 1975 and served in several callings up to and including Elder’s Quoruom President of  the Rochester 1st Ward, New York Stake. In 1984 he left the LdS Church and became involved with Berean Christian Ministries where he served until his death. Mr. Farkas is the author of several books on Mormonism and other subjects which can be found on his Author’s page on Amazon. Beggar’s Bread is grateful that before he passed Mr. Farkas granted us the permission to republish the articles from his now defunct website. 

John Farkas is of one the giants on whose shoulders we stand and to whom we owe a debt that we simply can never repay!  We look forward to thanking him again in heaven for the example of his life and treasure of wisdom that he left behind for our benefit.

[Please note that while this article has been very lightly reformatted and re-paragraphed to improve overall legibility no content has been changed from Mr. Farkas’ original, March 27, 1998 source article — Fred W. Anson, editor]