Archive for the ‘Mormon Studies’ Category

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

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

The Myth
“Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have a Biblical text that is faithful to the original

A scroll from The Dead Sea Scrolls archives. Scholarly consensus dates the scrolls from the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. The Dead Sea Scrolls are astonishingly similar to the standard Masoretic Hebrew texts 1,000 years later, proving that Jewish scribes were accurate in preserving and transmitting the text of the Old Testament.

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

The Myth
One need go no further than the Book of Mormon to find the myth that the Bible has been corrupted:

Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.”
(1 Nephi:28-29) 

So, given that, how do we know that our copies of the Bible are reliable?  How do we know that no plain or precious parts have been taken out of the copies that we have, or changed irretrievably?  What about Bart Ehrman’s claim that there are 400,000 variations in the Biblical text?  Doesn’t that leave us hopelessly confused as to what God actually said?

Why It’s a Myth
The claim that the Bible has been “corrupted” is a lie if it claims that so much has been altered, added, or removed that it is no longer reliable as the authoritative source of God’s word to us.  The hard evidence shows, however, that God has given us a wealth of manuscript evidence for the reliability of today’s text of God’s word.  The vast majority of supposed corruptions are actually variations of spelling and word order that do not affect the meaning of passages.  A large portion of the others are harmless additions of words or entire sentences from elsewhere within the Bible itself.  But God has given us so much evidence for the Biblical text that wherever such variations happen, we can easily trace the original, and nowhere is what we need to know from God’s word jeopardized.

A portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is the oldest complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. It is also notable in being the only scroll from the Qumran Caves to be preserved almost in its entirety. The variants between this scroll and the Masoretic text that followed about a millennia later were minor with most due to scribal error.

How It’s a Myth
Let’s start with the Hebrew Bible.  Our oldest complete copies of the Hebrew text date to around 900-1000 AD.  I call these the “Temple-quality” texts.  They were preserved for us by scribes known as the Masoretes.  They are the ones who invented vowel markers for the Hebrew text (which was originally written without vowels).  These scribes counted every letter of the text to make sure it was accurate.  They preserved the best quality copies that were handed down to them from the time God’s word was stored in the Jerusalem temple.  That’s the standard Hebrew text we have.

God has also given us the Dead Sea Scrolls to prove how accurate our standard Hebrew text was.  The Dead Sea Scrolls date from about 150 BC to 100 AD.  There are around 230 pieces from every Old Testament book except Esther, including 104 pieces of the Pentateuch, and one very good copy of Isaiah.  How well did our scribes do in over 1000 years of copying?  Take a look at Isaiah 53.  Compare the Dead Sea Scroll version with our standard text.  Other than differences in spelling, there is only 1 word in question (out of 166 words) in over 1000 years of recopying (verse 11 says either “he shall see” or “he shall see light”).  The rest of the Dead Sea Scroll material backs up the amazing accuracy of our standard Hebrew Bibles from 1000 years later.

God has also given us the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint.  Scholars in Egypt started by translating the Law of Moses about 280 BC and then did the prophets and other books over the next 150 years or so.  The Greek Old Testament gives us a snapshot of what the Hebrew text they had looked like at the time.  Sometimes the Greek version gives us a different reading that agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls; when the Greek version and the Dead Sea Scrolls agree, they may have preserved a better reading than the standard Hebrew text.

For the Law of Moses, God has also given us the Samaritan Pentateuch, which also dates from more than a century before Christ. We also have the Latin version, the Vulgate, which dates from 400 AD and gives us a snapshot of what the Hebrew text looked like in Jerome’s day.  Finally, we have loose translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic, which are called targumīm; again, they date to around the time of Christ.  God has given us a lot of textual evidence to work with for the Hebrew Bible!

For the New Testament, we start with pieces of the Greek text (we call them the papyri).  The very oldest is about 2 verses of John that date to 125 AD, barely 30 years after John was written.  The rest of our papyri date to 200-300 AD, including almost complete copies of the Gospels and the letters of Paul.  Parts of almost every book in the New Testament can be found at this time.

Next, God has given us complete copies of the entire New Testament on sheepskin starting in 300 AD.  We have almost 300 New Testaments or portions thereof from over the next 5 centuries.  After this, there are hundreds of mass-produced copies in Greek from 800-1500 AD, on which our KJV is based.  We also not only have the Latin Vulgate (400 AD), but several Latin translations that are earlier than the Vulgate.  We also have early translations into Syriac and Coptic.  Finally, the vast majority of the New Testament can be reconstructed just from quotes from early church writers.

God has given us so much evidence for the original text of the Bible, that very few words are left in question.  The chances of us changing the original text in any given place without being found out are so great, that it would be like dumping a pillow full of feathers out the window of a speeding car, and then trying to get every feather back.

When variations take place in the text of the Bible, they normally leave behind evidence, and the burden of proof lies on those who would claim that such changes happened without leaving a trace.  Nobody was ever in a position of being able to change all of the copies of a Biblical passage, without the original reading being preserved somewhere.

A good example of how tracing the original reading works where there are variations in a Biblical text can be found in Deuteronomy 9:24.  In the earliest complete copies of our standard Hebrew text, we read that Moses says to the Israelites, “You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.”  But both the Greek translation and the Samaritan Pentateuch (both of which are very early) read, “from the day that he knew you” (meaning God).  (Fragments of Deuteronomy in the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain this verse.)

Which reading is more likely to have been changed to which?  “From the day I knew you,” or “from the day he knew you?”  It’s about a 50/50 tossup, both in terms of logic and of evidence from the copies we have.  The case for both readings is strong.  Whether it is God or Moses who has always known Israel to be rebellious does not make much difference to our faith (probably both are true).  But notice how such an early change was caught and preserved in the manuscript evidence we have.  Such changes do not go undetected.

The heretic Marcion (150 AD) is proof that no one could have pulled off a major chop-job revision of the Bible, without being detected.  Marcion believed that there were two gods: the evil creator god of the Hebrew Bible, and the sweetness-and-light God of Jesus Christ.  So Marcion throws away the entire Old Testament, and accepts only a mutilated Gospel of Luke and seven mutilated letters of Paul, with everything Jewish removed.  His attempt to remove these plain and precious teachings, however, was a colossal failure.  There were too many unaltered copies floating around to correct his version.

The Codex Sinaiticus or “Sinai Bible”, is one of the four great uncial codices, ancient, handwritten copies of a Christian Bible in Greek. It is the oldest complete copy of the New Testament dating to the 4th Century AD.

So the chance that huge changes were made in the Bible undetected without leaving behind telltale evidence, is virtually zero.  If someone claims there was originally a prediction of a famous prophet in Genesis 50 that is no longer in our Bibles, we can ask: why is there no evidence for it in our oldest complete Hebrew scrolls, nor in the Greek translation, nor in the Dead Sea Scrolls, nor in the Samaritan Pentateuch or the Vulgate?  If such a prophecy had been “plain and precious,” the evidence that it was ever part of the original text is non-existent.

God has sometimes given us evidence in the text of the Bible that makes us wonder.  The Greek version of Jeremiah is 16% shorter than our Hebrew version, and the chapters about foreign nations from the end of the book have been moved to the middle.  At some points, some of the fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls back up the short version.  My theory is that Jeremiah wrote both a standard version and a “director’s cut,” and God made sure that neither one of those versions got lost. (There is nothing new in the long version, just repetition.)

In Genesis 4, the words that Cain says to his brother Abel, “Let us go to the field,” are missing from some of our earliest Hebrew manuscripts, but they are found in the Greek version, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Vulgate, and the other Hebrew copies we have.  So one of the questions we always have to ask is: Which is more likely?  Which version best explains how the other one came about?  One general rule is that words are far more likely to be added to the holy text than taken out.  When Paul says in Galatians 6, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus,” that easily grew from “Jesus” to become “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sometimes words do drop out.  But the shorter reading is usually the best.  So in famous cases such as the ending of Mark, or the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8, both of which are missing from the earliest and best copies of Mark and John, we have to ask: Is it more likely that somebody took out a whole section that was originally there, or is it more likely that somebody added that section?

The last 12 verses of Mark are missing from our 2 earliest Greek manuscripts, and from our earliest Syriac and Latin manuscripts.  They have some details that don’t seem to fit with the rest of what we know from the Gospels.  They say that Jesus appeared to 2 men on the road (which sounds like the Emmaus Road), but when the men report back, it says the rest “did not believe.”  They also tell us that Jesus appears to the apostles and chews them out for their lack of faith, which doesn’t sound like any scene we know from the Gospels.  So was this section edited out of our earliest manuscripts?  Or was it added because, otherwise, if Mark ends at verse 8, it sounds like Mark leaves us hanging there?  Either way, God gave us both versions, to make sure we have enough information for what we need to believe and do.

The same is true of the passage where Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery.  The evidence indicates that this passage was not an original part of the Gospel of John.  It is missing from our two oldest texts of John (200 AD).  It is missing from Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and at least 8 other major Greek manuscripts. These verses are missing from four Old Latin manuscripts, as well as from the early Syriac version and half of our Coptic manuscripts. No Greek commentary on John mentions the passage until 1100 AD, and even copies that contain this passage mark it off to show doubt that it belongs in the original text.  The earliest Greek text where we find this story is from 400 AD, along with four other major Greek manuscripts, the rest of our Latin manuscripts (including the Vulgate), half of our Coptic manuscripts, and the large number of Greek texts on which the KJV is based.

While the copies we have seem to show that the account of Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery was not part of John’s original, what we read here fits all of the historical criteria of authenticity except for multiple independent witnesses. So this appears to be a genuine incident from the life of Jesus that almost fell through the cracks.  It was too good to lose.  Think how much less we would know about Jesus if we had lost it!  God made sure it found its way into God’s word.  If we had found it on papyrus scraps in some Egyptian garbage dump, we would have added it to our Bibles.

Jesus’ words as he is being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” are only found in Luke 23:34, and even there, they are missing from a large portion of the earliest manuscripts. They are missing from our oldest manuscript of Luke, from 200 AD. They are missing from Codex Vaticanus (300’s AD), and from the original text of manuscript D (they are added into the margin by a later scribe). They are also missing from two of the oldest Latin manuscripts, from the earliest Syriac version, and from most Coptic manuscripts. However, they can be found in the earliest text of Codex Sinaiticus (300’s AD), in the vast majority of Latin manuscripts, in manuscript 33 (a late copy of a very early Greek manuscript), and in the majority of Greek copies mass-produced after the fourth century AD, plus they are quoted by Hippolytus, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus in the second century AD, which is evidence that early writers knew this passage.

In cases like this, we must weigh the evidence rather than count the manuscripts. The fact that these words of Jesus were included in the Majority Text on which the KJV is based proves nothing; 100 copies can be based on a late and unreliable original. We must also ask why copyists might have added or tried to remove these words. It is probable that some in the early church rejected this saying due to their own animosity toward Jesus’ killers.  It is rare for words in an early Bible manuscript to be deleted by a copyist; usually, the tendency is to add words. But in this case, we can see why strong conviction could have led some copyists to leave this saying out as they recopied this text.  But God made sure that this all-important sound bite did not get lost from God’s word, and God preserved the evidence that someone tried to remove it.

What about books the Bible quotes that we no longer have, such as the Book of the Wars of the Lord, or the book of Jasher, or the many sources quoted in Kings and Chronicles?  Are we missing out on some lost volumes of inspired Scripture?  I would say, God has already given us the gold nuggets we needed from those books.  If we needed more, God would have given us more.  The Bible gives us quotes from Enoch and Epimenides (the guy who said “Cretans are always liars”).  We have those books.  See for yourself: they are not inspired.

The same is true for so-called lost words of Jesus (floating sayings outside the canonical Bible).1 None of these left-out sayings gives us anything we really needed to know about Jesus that we don’t already have in the canonical Gospels.

The Bodmer Papyri contains segments from the Old and New Testaments, early Christian literature, Homer, and Menander. The oldest, P66 dates to c. 200 AD.

Why It Matters
If the Bible is really God’s word, then why did God allow so many variations to happen?  If God’s word is without error, how can we explain this?  Why didn’t God keep the text perfect?  The short answer is that God didn’t need a perfect text.  God gave us a text that was accurate enough to do the job it was intended to do.  Besides, if every copy read exactly the same, we’d smell a rat – we’d wonder whether somebody had monkeyed with the text, and then cleaned up the scene of the crime and got rid of all copies that didn’t read exactly the same.  The rough edges we find in the copies of God’s word that God has given us are proof that they were copied independently.

How reliable are the copies we have of God’s word?  Based on the Bibles we use in our everyday reading, minor problems in the text are far less than one per page, and most of them are easy to tell what the correct reading is.  Major issues in the text amount to only a few dozen for the entire Bible, and we have examined here many of the most famous ones.  Wherever we find a variation, God gives us enough evidence to catch the change and to figure out what the original reading is.  And nowhere are any of our essential beliefs or moral teachings jeopardized by the accuracy of the Biblical text that God has given us.  No challenge to Biblical teaching, from the Deity of Christ to sexuality, hangs on a textual variation where the Bible’s teaching is not made abundantly clear elsewhere.

Summary and Conclusion
There is zero evidence that any plain or precious parts have been taken out of God’s word.  God has given us too much evidence that backs up the text we have, for us to fear that the Bible God has given us has been altered, added to, or subtracted from.2  We have a Biblical text that is faithful to the original, a Bible we can rely on for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness.

The Codex Vaticanus is one of the oldest copies of the Bible, one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named after its place of conservation in the Vatican Library, where it has been kept since at least the 15th century. It is written on 759 leaves of vellum in uncial letters and has been dated paleographically to the 4th century.

ENDNOTES

1 For a discussion of these, see Tom Hobson, The Historical Jesus and the Historical Joseph Smith, pages 17-19.

2 Bart Ehrman himself solidly backs up this conclusion:

“Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by any textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”
(Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus”, Appendix to first paperback, second edition)

For the full and complete historical and textual context surrounding this quote, see Frank Turek, “Is the New Testament Reliable? Even Bart Ehrman Says Yes” on the crosstalk.org website.

About the Author
Tom Hobson is a retired Presbyterian pastor and host of the radio program “Biblical Words and World” on radio station KUTR in Salt Lake.  He is currently the Moderator of ECO’s Presbytery of Mid America.*  He holds degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Concordia Seminary St Louis (Ph.D.).  He attends local ECO and Methodist congregations, plus he preaches monthly at a UCC church.  He also served 4 years as Professor and Chair of Biblical Languages and Literature at non-denominational Morthland College.  He is the author of “What’s on God’s Sin List for Today?” and “The Historical Jesus and the Historical Joseph Smith”, plus numerous other articles and blog posts packaged together on his website www.biblicalethic.org.

*for those unfamiliar with “ECO”, its official name is ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.  It is a conservative Christian denomination that has split off from the mainline PCUSA church, like the EPC and the PCA. You can read more about ECO by clicking here.

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

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

by Fred W. Anson

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one Roman Catholic2 author writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Michael Flournoy
Latter-day Saints often complain that Evangelicals misrepresent their beliefs, and they aren’t wrong. Mormon doctrine is flexible and nuanced, and it consists of moving parts that shift over time.

What keeps Christians from fully grasping Mormonism, is it exists in a different paradigm than what we’re used to. The problem is exacerbated by the tendency of Mormons to use words associated with our paradigm to describe their beliefs. However, it should come as no surprise that this rampant misunderstanding is a double-edged sword that plagues both our communities. When Mormons try to disprove Christian ideals, they come across like archers intoxicated with wine, missing their marks by a long shot.

This can leave Christians flabbergasted, wondering if Mormons even know what they’re aiming at. My diagnosis is that Mormons don’t understand Christian doctrine, and it’s more problematic for them than misunderstanding Mormonism is for us. Why? Because their whole belief system hinges on us being wrong.

Mormonism boasts that it is a restoration of true Christianity. It teaches that the church Jesus established fell into apostasy after the apostles died because there was no more priesthood or revelation. Allegedly, when Christ appeared to Joseph Smith he told him not to join any of the Christian sects because they were all wrong, their creeds were an abomination, and their professors were corrupt. He went on to say, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:19)

Such an occurrence depicts Christians the world over as lost in a doctrinal maze of misunderstanding and lacking any semblance of faith. One must ask: if Mormons are so eager to hedge their bets on a restoration, why haven’t they researched Christianity to see if it’s truly as corrupt as they’re told? This behavior is akin to betting your life savings on a racehorse without seeing its stats. Only this carries more risk because Mormons are gambling away their souls.

I spent ten years as a Mormon apologist, and six years after that debating Mormons after I converted to Christianity. In that time I have identified 10 pervasive myths that Latter-day Saints believe about Christianity. They are as follows:

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

These myths are so vital to Mormonism, that disproving even a few of them would be detrimental to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

If Biblical Christianity didn’t apostatize, then there was no need for a restoration. Joseph’s prophetic mission becomes suspect and his First Vision account loses credibility. Every unique LDS doctrine collapses.

The overarching point of these myths is to prove that Christianity fell away. But by addressing these points, we can prove that the gates of hell did not prevail against Christ’s church, and therefore Mormonism is false.

In this series, Christians from a diversity of denominations and theological camps will join together for the purpose of refuting these myths, one article at a time. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, I encourage you to read them with an open mind. Ask yourself this question: “If I’ve misunderstood these ten points, how would that affect my faith?” Here is my response, in the form of a series of propositions, to that question as a former Latter-day Saint:

  • If the Bible has been preserved and is sufficient, it does not need other scripture or living prophets to interpret, remediate, or expound upon it.
  • If Christians are saved by grace and changed by grace, it takes away whatever moral high ground Mormons think they have. At best, it leaves them equal with other Christians, at worst, Mormons are found lacking in their understanding of grace. And if Mormons miss the mark on grace, then they don’t understand the gospel.
  • If the Christian understanding of the Trinity is true, it disproves many LDS concepts: namely, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and that the Father and the Son possess bodies of flesh and bone identical to those of human beings. One God who has always been the sole God of the universe also hurts their concept of eternal marriage, divine lineage, and the ability to become gods.
  • If God is justified in condemning sinners, whether they have heard the gospel or not, and despite them being good by human standards, it disproves the three degrees of glory. It means God did not have to set up missionary work in the afterlife to make things fair. And it leaves any Mormons insisting that they “could never worship a God like that” without any excuse besides hating God.
  • If our work was done vicariously on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness is accredited to our accounts, it means there is nothing we must do but accept it. The LDS ordinances are rendered worthless. Even the idea of exaltation fails because there is no righteousness we can obtain that exceeds Christ’s.
  • If Biblical Christians have the priesthood, they have the right to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances, rendering the LDS church, and its prophets and apostles with their priesthood keys unnecessary.
  • If pastors aren’t in it for the money, but because the Spirit calls them into ministry, it hurts the LDS narrative that only their leaders are inspired by God.
  • If Christians they deem as “anti-Mormon” are actually reaching out in love, it leaves Latter-day Saints without excuses to ignore their preaching.
  • Finally, if the Protestant sects are unified in their primary doctrines, it dismantles the view that the church fell away because of conflicting ideas, that every sect interprets the Bible differently, and that their disunity is proof of apostasy.

Of course, any Mormon examining this list will think there is no valid Christian defense. They will, no doubt be thinking things like,

    • How could there be no apostasy when the Bible explicitly prophecies it?
    • How could the Bible be preserved when there are so many variations and missing books?
    • How can Christians believe grace is given regardless of obedience and not abuse it?
    • What could possess a loving God to throw His own children into a lake of fire and brimstone?
    • How can Protestants even claim priesthood when they broke away from a church they admit is apostate?
    • How can Christians claim to love Mormons when they’re so rude to them?
    • If Christianity is unified, then why are there so many denominations?

If you’re a Latter-day Saint, all I ask is that you give us a chance to defend our position. No pressure, but it’s really a matter of agency isn’t it? You can choose to read these articles or not. However, if you choose not to, you cannot truly choose between your religion and ours because knowledge is the lifeblood of agency, isn’t it?

It also falls in line with the Golden Rule. If we said your beliefs were an abomination, wouldn’t you want the chance to defend them? And wouldn’t you want us to approach your arguments with an open mind, with the humility to lay down our pride and admit we could be wrong?

Truth is always worth the risk. If Protestants really are apostates, we won’t be able to defend our beliefs logically or satisfactorily. Therefore, you have nothing to fear if you are right. The only reason not to read is for fear of being wrong. If there is hesitancy, there is the question I must ask you: If Mormonism were false, would you want to know about it? Will you step out of your comfort zone and seek knowledge, regardless of the outcome? Do you accept this challenge?

The articles that follow this brief introduction will give you ample opportunity to do exactly that. And on that note I will simply leave you with the well-known words of the late, great Latter-day Saint First President (in the David O. McKay administration), J. Reuben Clark to ponderize on…

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
(J. Reuben Clark, “The Church Years”, p 24. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, edited by D. Michael Quinn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Theologian and Christian Apologist, Matt Slick observes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

compiled by Eric Johnson
Joseph Smith
“Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God —he would be a giant or a monster”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372).

First Presidency
“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

Mormon Apostles
“The Bible, if read fully and intelligently, teaches that the Holy Trinity is composed of individual Gods”
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 58).

“If Christians are people (and this is the standard definition of the clergy of the day) who believe in the holy trinity as defined and set forth in the Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostles creeds, meaning that God is a three-in-one nothingness, a spirit essence filling immensity, an incorporeal and uncreated being incapable of definition or mortal comprehension — then Mormons, by a clergy chosen definition, are ruled out of the fold of Christ”
(Bruce R.McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:113).

“May I divorce myself for the moment from the mainstream of present-day evangelical Christianity, swim upstream as it were, and give forth some rather plain and pointed expressions on this supposedly marvelous means of being saved with very slight effort. But before zeroing in on this religious mania that has now taken possession of millions of devout but deluded people, and as a means of keeping all things in perspective, let me first identify the original heresy that did more than anything else to destroy primitive Christianity. This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity — and truly it is the father of all heresies — swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian Era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is. It was the doctrine, adapted from Gnosticism, that changed Christianity from the religion in which men worshipped a personal God, in whose image man is made, into the religion in which men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity. This new God, no longer a personal Father, no longer a personage of tabernacle, became an incomprehensible three-in-one spirit essence that filled the immensity of space. The adoption of this false doctrine about God effectively destroyed true worship among men and ushered in the age of universal apostasy”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of Salvation By Grace?” BYU Devotional Address given January 10, 1984; Transcribed from original speech. See also Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 69-70).

“In common with the rest of Christianity, we believe in a Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. However, we testify that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings. We also testify that God the Father is not just a spirit but is a glorified person with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition, May 1995, p. 84).

“We maintain that the concepts identified by such nonscriptural terms as ‘the incomprehensible mystery of God’ and ‘the mystery of the Holy Trinity’ are attributable to the ideas of Greek philosophy. These philosophical concepts transformed Christianity in the first few centuries following the deaths of the Apostles”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1995, p. 84).

“Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “The One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

“Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].’ So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post-New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

Mormon Seventies
“The ancient prophets knew that the Godhead consisted of three separate and distinct personages, each of whom had a definite work to perform, and yet they all worked in perfect unity as one. The three Gods constituted the Holy Trinity”
(Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, p. 52).

Other Sources
“THE TRINITY CREATION. They believe in the trinity creation. The trinity was voted on in the Council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ’s death. A bunch of church leaders and government officials got together and voted on ‘who God was?’, and it wasn’t even a unanimous vote. There were about four different versions of God that they voted on. The version that is used by Catholics and Protestants today only won by about a 40 percent margin. Their view of God, as you may know, is that He is like a formless mass of spirit that fills the whole universe and when He comes to earth, part of it breaks off and forms itself into Jesus”
(Scott Marshall, Tracting and Member Missionary Work, p. 73).

“If an acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity makes one a Christian, then of course Latter-day Saints are not Christians, for they believe the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in modern Protestant and Catholic theology is the product of the reconciliation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, p. 171).

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

(source for this article = https://www.mrm.org/trinity-in-their-own-words)

 

 

Appendix: Hacking Through the Jungle of Mormon Trinity Obfuscation

by Fred W. Anson
A common Mormon tactic in Mormon argumentation regarding the Trinity is either what we see in this Hugh B. Brown’s quote from Eric Johnson’s above compilation…

“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

… or, this one from BYU Professor Rodney Turner:

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

In both cases, an obfuscating Semantic Fallacy is used whereby the Mormon source changes the definition of the term “Trinity” so that it no longer fits the existing, common, generally accepted definition, which is:

“There are three persons within the Godhead. These persons are understood in theology as distinct characters. The differences among the three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are real differences but not essential differences. In other words, there is only one essence to the Godhead, not three. In our experience as human beings, each person we meet is a separate being. One person means one being, and vice versa. But in the Godhead, there is one being with three persons.”
(R.C. Sproul, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” (Crucial Questions Series Book 13) (pp. 5-6). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition).

Again, and even more directly, succinctly, and a bit more expansively:

“Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and co-eternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(James R. White, “The Forgotten Trinity” (p. 26). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition).

That one being, three persons may seem like theological hairsplitting but it’s vital, as Mr. Sproul goes on to explain:

“We must maintain this distinction lest we slip into a form of polytheism, seeing the three persons of the Godhead as three beings who are three separate gods.”
(Op. Cit., Sproul).

Can you see how Mormon Leaders simply ignore the “one being” part of the definition in order to create a Law of Contradictions Fallacy like the one that Rodney Turner has engaged in? Stated plainly, one simply cannot be simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic, can they? This claim is self-defeating and irrational, isn’t it?

Thankfully, the current LdS Church has attempted to damage control these past missteps by issuing this clearer statement on their official and correlated website:

“…where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being… The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22).
(“Godhead”; retrieved December 15, 2016).

And while that’s a good thing, they immediately attempt to engage in the same old-school muddying of the water with this “gem”:

“Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.”
(Ibid)

A Screenshot of the Gospel Topic “Godhead” article on the official LdS Church website as of the date of this article.

Unfortunately, that closing, “Oh by the way… one in purpose and doctrine!” obfuscation has emboldened some Latter-day Saints to claim, “See we’re monotheists!” which relative to the actual definition of the Trinity is analogous to saying, “See the Los Angeles Rams are united in their purpose and game plan doctrine, therefore they are one football player!” Friends, eleven (11) distinct persons with distinct roles playing in Sofi Stadium are still also eleven (11) distinct beings, not just one, aren’t they? That means that there are, therefore, eleven (11) football players on the fields, not just one (1), correct? It’s as I said in an article on this very issue:

“Many Mormons claim incorrectly that the Mormon Godhead is Three Persons and Three Beings which equals One God.

That is three Beings and three Persons = One God. Monotheism.

Again, this is simply NOT possible. It is a logical contradiction because it is both internally contradictory and self-contradictory given the definition and nature of “being” and/or “person”.”
(Fred W. Anson, “Trinitarian Godhead v. Mormon Godhead Logic Exercise”).

Of course, the double bind that the LdS Church has put itself in here is due to its uber-dogmatism that God is an exalted man whose ontology is corporeal rather than spiritual despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God is not only not an exalted man but is ontologically a spirit, not a corporeal being as we humans are. Please compare and contrast the following unique LdS scripture…

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
(D&C 130:22).

… to God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible:

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent…”
(Numbers 23:19a KJV)

“I am God, and not a man — the Holy One among you.”
(Hosea 11:9 NIV)

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
(John 4:24 KJV)

“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully.”
(Deuteronomy 4:15 KJV)

Further, the Bible is clear that changing the spiritual, invisible God into the physical image of a man is a sign of a foolish and darkened heart in addition to being a knowing denial of the only true and living God the Creator, isn’t it?

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God INTO AN IMAGE MADE LIKE TO CORRUPTIBLE MAN…”
(Romans 1:21-23b KJV caps added for emphasis)

In addition, they will point to Jesus Christ and say, “Oh yeah, well what about Jesus Christ, are you going to tell us that He isn’t an exalted man? And the simple answer is, ‘Why yes, Christ’s human nature most certainly is! However, Christ’s divine nature never has been a man, it is spirit just as the Bible says. Thus, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man just as the Apostle Paul said:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
(Philippians 2:5-8 KJV)’

Thus, the quick and easy response to this particular Latter-day Saint argument is simple: Simply ask them to show you from the Bible where it says the same of Heavenly Father. That is, where does it say that He ever condescended from His divinity, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men? I can save you some time, it doesn’t. Anywhere.

So can you now see the gas lighting obfuscation that the LdS Church and its Apologists engage in here? They start with the conclusion that God, “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and then try bending the facts to fit it (hoping that no one will scrutinize, let alone notice it, of course) rather than simply letting the evidence lead them to the conclusion.  That, my friends, is Mormon Apologetics in a nutshell.

But stated plainly, as soon as you brush away the Mormon Apologetic smokes and mirrors, current Brighamite Latter-day Saint theology is neither Trinitarian nor monotheistic, no matter how much, “See we’re monotheists, just like you, just in a different kind of way!” sleight of hand and pontificating that they may do. Logically, and rationally, it is simply not possible, is it? 

You have the word of Mormon Leaders on it.

How the new Mormon Missionary social media tactics are like the COVID-19 coronavirus.

by Fred W. Anson and Michael Flournoy
In October 2020, Columbia University Irving Medical Center published their findings on how and why the COVID-19 coronavirus is so infectious and so lethal:

“Coronaviruses are adept at imitating human immune proteins that have been implicated in severe COVID-19 disease, a study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has found…

Many plants and animals use the art of mimicry to trick their prey or predators. Viruses employ a similar strategy: Viral proteins can mimic the three-dimensional shapes of their host’s proteins to trick the host into helping the virus complete its life cycle.

“Viruses use mimicry for the same reason as plants and animals—deception,” says Sagi Shapira, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We hypothesized that identifying viral-protein look-alikes would give us clues to the way viruses—including SARS-CoV-2—cause disease.”
(“Coronaviruses Are Masters of Mimicry, New Study Finds”, October 27, 2020, CUIMC website)

To translate all that medical speak into plain English, the COVID-19 coronavirus tricks its human host’s body into thinking that it is something benign – just a plain ol’ body protein (“nothing to see here, immune system – I’m just like you are!”) rather than a counterfeit foreign invader that is seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. To put it bluntly, it dishonestly presents itself as what it’s not to deceive itself past the body’s natural defenses so it can invade and harm it.

But wait, there’s more! The article explains how after it has invaded the body via dishonesty and deceit COVID-19 then persuades the immunity system that it’s there to help and begins to trigger the body’s own natural defenses in aiding the demise of its human host:

‘Coronaviruses… are particularly good at it and were found to mimic over 150 proteins, including many that control blood coagulation or activate complement—a set of immune proteins that help target pathogens for destruction and increase inflammation in the body.

“We thought that by mimicking the body’s immune complement and coagulation proteins, coronaviruses may drive these systems into a hyperactive state and cause the pathology we see in infected patients,” Shapira says.’
(ibid)

So given all this is it any wonder that it’s hard not to think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as coronavirus-like whenever it claims to be, “Christian, just like you all”? Case in point, there’s been a recent pandemic of LDS-run pages pretending to be orthodox, mainstream Christianity without indicating that they are, in fact, Mormon. Again, coronaviruses are masters of mimicking our body’s defense proteins, so instead of fighting them off, our own natural defense system actually helps it develop and replace healthy cells with diseased, counterfeits. So when the LDS church functions the same way, it acts like a virus, a predator, the archetypical wolf in sheep’s clothing.

This would be akin to ex-Mormon Atheists creating pages called, “Latter-day Saints of the Second Anointing” or “Ascended Latter-day Saints” and putting in the description that they have embraced greater truth and light without indicating that it’s antagonistic to not only Mormonism in particular, but theism in general.

Or, if you prefer, it’s like, Evangelical Christians, say, in the North San Francisco bay area, setting up a Facebook page called, “North Bay Latter-day Saints” to proselytize to local Mormons without fully disclosing upfront that they are, in fact, Evangelical Christians. Or maybe, Oklahoma? I mean, after all, Evangelicals do, in fact, consider themselves Saints living in the Latter-days, and therefore, Latter-day Saints, right? So what’s the problem?

Any Latter-day Saint would be very rightly and justifiably infuriated at such a play. They would scream that it is dishonest. This is the pinnacle of hypocrisy. And they would be right, wouldn’t they?

So given that can anyone see the problem with these Mormon-founded and run Facebook groups?

And if the reader doubts that these groups are in fact, Mormon front groups, then I would encourage you to consider the About Page for the North Bay Christians group:

Yes, that’s right the website link that’s given points to the official, LDS Church website in Salt Lake City. Oh and if you GPS that street address, you’ll find this there…

Well, what do you know this “Christian” church is actually a Mormon Ward Hall, isn’t that interesting? But friends, this is just the beginning, Appendix A contains a listing of the Facebook groups that the authors discovered while they were researching this article. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

What’s especially interesting about this tactic is that, according to the standard of honesty established by the LdS Church, it is a form of lying:

“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when He was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(Gospel Principles, Chapter 31: Honesty; http://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-31-honesty)

Again, for emphasis, “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

This is even more surprising given the fact that Mormon Leaders throughout the years took great pains to distance themselves from those no-good, rotten, lousy, apostate Christians out there. Here’s a small sample:

“What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world”
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 270

“…all the priests who adhere to the sectarian religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels.”
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., The Elders Journal, v. 1, no. 4, p. 60

“Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 176

“When the light came to me I saw that all the so-called Christian world was groveling in darkness.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 73

“With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.”
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 199

“Christians—those poor, miserable priests brother Brigham was speaking about—some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on the earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the children of men. The poor devils, they could not get up here and preach an oral discourse, to save themselves from hell; they are preaching their fathers’ sermons —preaching sermons that were written a hundred years before they were born. …You may get a Methodist priest to pour water on you, or sprinkle it on you, and baptize you face foremost, or lay you down the other way, and whatever mode you please, and you will be damned with your priest.
– Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 89

“Christianity…is a perfect pack of nonsense…the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 167

“Where shall we look for the true order or authority of God? It cannot be found in any nation of Christendom.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 10, p. 127

“What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

“What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing… Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

“After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christendom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common origin. They all belong to Babylon.”
– Apostle George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p. 324

“Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls.”
– Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, see pp. 45-46

“… all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ…. in large part the worship of apostate Christendom is performed in ignorance, as much so as was the worship of the Athenians who bowed the Unknown Gods.”
– Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 269, 374-375

And if there’s still any lingering doubt what the goal of what payload this mimicking “virus” group is carrying, the founder of the Latter-day Saint religion couldn’t have been any clearer when he claimed that these were the very words of God, could he?

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

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

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

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?”
(Joseph Smith – History 1:17-20)

In true “virus” fashion, the rather obvious goal of this deceptive and dishonest mimicry is to invade, replace the real with the counterfeit, and then ultimately destroy the original.

Any questions?

To be fair, Mormon missionaries do not realize their tactics are deceptive. But the fact that so many of these pages exist proves that this is a concerted effort by the church, and not delinquent missionaries acting on their own. The “Elders” are just pawns in this game of chess. They are taught to teach line upon line, and precept upon precept. They see it as giving people the information they are ready to commit to but are blinded to the fact that it’s really a deceptive and deliberate virus infection.

To any Latter-day Saints reading this, I ask a simple question. If this approach by your missionaries is not dishonest, then what is? What does shady proselytizing look like, and how does it differ from this? If this type of guerrilla warfare is acceptable because they believe the church is true, then aren’t anti-Mormons justified in bending the truth if they believe it to be inferior to what they have to offer – or even false?

If The Book of Mormon is true and the Spirit bears witness of it, shouldn’t that be on the forefront of these pages? When Joseph Smith, the restoration, and The Book of Mormon take a backseat as a principle for later, it gives the impression that you’re embarrassed by your own religion or don’t believe its message is powerful enough to change hearts on its own. When you mimic our faith, you concede that we have a greater message. If I were a Latter-day Saint I would be upset with all this: If not at the blatant deception these missionaries employ, then at the indignity of my cherished beliefs being swept under the rug by my own representatives.

Remember what Jesus said, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” (Luke 11:33 KJV) What are we non-LDS supposed to think when your missionaries behave like a virus, imitating orthodox Christianity and hiding its core beliefs under a bushel?

After all, didn’t Jesus also say, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20 KJV)?

So, Latter-day Saints, if you’re sick of your church being called a cult, I have a simple piece of advice for you: stop acting like one. You can start by ceasing and desisting with this sleazy, unethical, and deceptive tactic.

Appendix A: Roster of Mormon “Christian” Front Groups
Here is a roster of the known instances of these groups as of today’s date and listed in the order that they were discovered:

Full-On Deceptive Groups
These are groups that use the word “Christian” in their name and deceptively lead the unsuspected to think that they are a mainstream Christian group based on their name and their “About” page description.

North Bay Christians
(North San Francisco Bay Area, California; live link at the time of writing, now dead as of 2022-06-06)
https://www.facebook.com/northbaychristians

Oklahoma Christians
(Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/526053168052630

North East Ohio Christians
(North East Ohio Area, Ohio)
https://www.facebook.com/NorthEastOhioChristians

Christians in Barry County, Michigan
(Barry County, Michigan; live link at the time of writing, now dead as of 2022-06-06)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1037071850409374

“Deception Lite” Groups
These are groups that don’t use the word “Christian” in their name but use other terms instead to get those ignorant of Mormonism to think that they are a mainstream Christian group based on their vague, ambiguous, rather generic name and their “About” page description.

Followers of Jesus Christ
(Worldwide. This is an extremely large group with over 27,000 members)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1634088103506681

Followers of Christ in Greater Cleveland
(Cleveland, Ohio)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofChristinGreaterCleveland/

Followers of Jesus Christ in Kpong, Ghana
(Kpong, Ghana)
https://www.facebook.com/TheChurchofJesusChristKpong/

Followers of Christ in Southern India
(Southern India)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfChristInSouthernIndia/

Followers of Jesus Christ in New Hampshire
(New Hampshire)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofJesusChristinNH

Followers of Jesus Christ in Bighorn Basin
(Bighorn Basin, Wyoming)
https://www.facebook.com/FOJCBighornBasin

Followers of Christ in the West Valley
(Phoenix, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowingChristPHX

Believers of Jesus Christ in The Gila Valley
(Gila Valley, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristinTheGilaValley

ASL Believers of Jesus Christ in Tucson
(Tucson, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/418941586493015

Believers of Christ in Metro Detroit
(Detroit, MI)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofChristinMetroDetroit

Believers of Jesus Christ in Nogales & Sahuarita
(Nogales, AZ)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristinNogalesandSahuarita

Believers of Jesus Christ in the CNMI
(Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristintheCNMI

Believers of Jesus Christ in the Desert
(Silver City, NM)
https://www.facebook.com/BelieversofJesusChristintheDesert

Followers of Christ in Walla Walla, Pendleton, and Hermiston
(Hermiston, OR)
https://www.facebook.com/JesusChristEasternWAandOR

Followers of Jesus Christ in Middle Georgia
(Macon, GA)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfChristInMidGA

God’s Love in Southern California
(Arcadia, CA)
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLoveSoCal

Coming Unto Christ on the North Shore
(Slidell, LA)
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristNorthShore/

Coming Unto Christ in Baton Rouge
(Baton Rouge, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristBatonRouge

Coming Unto Christ
(no location given) 
https://www.facebook.com/HopeIsAhead

Coming Unto Christ in New Orleans
(New Orleans, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristNewOrleans/

Coming Unto Christ in Alexandria
(Alexandria, VA) 
Coming Unto Christ in Alexandria

Coming Unto Christ in Monroe
(Monroe, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristMonroe

Coming Unto Christ in Denham Springs
(Denham Springs, LA) 
https://www.facebook.com/CominguntoChristinDenhamSprings/

Come Follow Christ In Virginia 3
(Midlothian, VA)
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersOfJesusChristInFredericksburg/

Come Unto Christ in Northeast Oklahoma
(Owasso, Bartlesville, Skiatook, Pawhuska, Cleveland, Claremore and Independence, KS) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComeUntoChristinNEOK

Come Follow Christ In Virginia
(Midlothian, VA)
https://www.facebook.com/comefollowchristinvirginia

Coming Unto Christ in Jackson
(Jackson, MS)
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristJackson/

Come Unto Christ – St. Croix
(St. Croix, US Virgin Islands)
https://www.facebook.com/ComeUntoChristStCroix

Come Unto Christ – Northern Virginia
(Northern Virginia) 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/203355213895521

Followers of Christ in Corpus Christi
(Corpus Christi, TX) 
https://www.facebook.com/FollowersofChristCorpus

Disciples of Jesus Christ – Paducah, KY
(Paducah, KY)
https://www.facebook.com/DisciplesofJesusChristPaducah/

Cristianos en Ohio
(Grove City, OH) 
https://www.facebook.com/CristianosenOhio

Follow Christ in Chico
(Chico, CA) 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/followchristchico

Follow Christ in NorCal
(Roseville, CA) 
https://www.facebook.com/FollowChrist.NorCal

Seekers of Christ in Laredo
(Laredo, TX) 
https://www.facebook.com/SeekersofChristLaredo

The Church of Jesus Christ in Roanoke
(Salem, VA) 
https://www.facebook.com/TheChurchInRoanokeVA/

Coming Unto Christ in Gulfport
(Gulfport, MS) 
https://www.facebook.com/ComingUntoChristGulfport

Draw Near Unto Christ
(no location given)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2393666370923960

Christ in State College
(State College, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/Christ.in.StateCollege

Come Unto Christ – Plum PA
(Plum, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/P.3missionaries

Followers of Christ in Hershey, PA
(Hershey, PA) 
https://www.facebook.com/HersheyMissionaries

Disciples of Christ in Lebanon
(Lebanon, PA)
https://www.facebook.com/disciplesofchristinlebanon

The Church of Jesus Christ in Harrisville
(Harrisville, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/jesuschristinharrisville

Church of Jesus Christ in Southern Cache Valley
(Providence, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinSouthernCacheValley

Church of Jesus Christ in Logan
(Logan, UT)
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinLogan

Church of Jesus Christ in North Ogden
(Ogden, UT) 
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchOfJesusChristInNorthOgden

Come Unto Christ in Northern Cache Valley
(Richmond, UT)
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChristinNorthernCacheValley

Finding Jesus Christ in Fallon and Fernley
(Fallon, NV)
https://www.facebook.com/FindingJesusChristinFallon/

Appendix B: An Example Exchange with A Mormon Front Group Admin or Moderator
The following exchange took place with a group Administrator or Moderator of one of these Mormon Front Groups on December 18, 2021, on Facebook (aka “Meta”) Messenger. The red arrow at the end was added to indicate where they blocked one of the article authors, Fred W. Anson, from Direct Messaging any longer.

This content is included in this document to illustrate the kind of evasion and obfuscation that the Mormons running these groups engage in. We found it enlightening – and I suspect that you will too.

Figure 1 of 6

Figure 2 of 6

Figure 3 of 6

Figure 4 of 6

Figure 5 of 6

Figure 6 of 6 (please note the red arrow – this is the point at which I was blocked from chatting with them any longer)

Appendix C: Another Example Exchange with A Mormon Front Group Admin or Moderator
The following exchange took place with a group Administrator or Moderator of one of these Mormon Front Groups in December 2021 on Facebook (aka “Meta”) Messenger with a member of the “Preaching From An Asbestos Suit” Facebook group with, it is assumed, an entirely different set of Group Administrators and/or Moderators in another Facebook group. In this, the investigator wasn’t blocked from further Direct Messaging the Mormon(s) on the other side but was simply “ghosted” (got no response or reply at all) instead.

That said, please note the consistency in the verbiage and tactics (evasion, deflection, obfuscation, etc.) between these two exchanges. The Church Office Building in Salt Lake City will surely deny it but these groups appear to be following a common, uniform, template and set of instructions in terms of both the execution and day-to-day handling of these groups.

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9 At this point the investigator was “ghosted” by the Latter-day Saint on the other side of this exchange.

Appendix D: The “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” Bait and Switch Group
Of all the Mormon “Christian” Front Groups that we have encountered so far, the Facebook group, “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” (see https://www.facebook.com/MySoulDelightsInPlainness)  is by far the most blatantly misleading.

Consider this, based on the group name alone, what would you expect to find in this group? Passages from the Christian canon perhaps? Or perhaps devotional excerpts from well-known Christian writers and/or speakers? Well, here’s what you actually get when you click through:


A collection of screenshots from the “My Soul Delights in Plainness: Daily Christian Devotionals” Facebook group (click on the images to zoom them) 

Yes, that’s right in this “Christian” group you get passage after passage from the uniquely Latter-day Saint scripture, The Book of Mormon. So like all the others, this group is nothing more than a Mormon front group deceptively masquerading as a “Christian” group.

To their credit, their “About” page does contain this disclosure, “*Not an official page of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints*” but it’s my understanding this was only added after they had been confronted by their dishonesty and deceit by mainstream Christians.

And yet again, the reader will note the consistency of the branding in both the name of the group and the “About” page. Clearly, despite any disclaimers or denials, these Mormon “Christian” front groups are too consistent and uniform in their formatting, content, and methodology to just be a bunch of rogue Latter-day Saints who all somehow got this ‘wild hare’ to set up and run front groups that brand and position themselves as “Christian” when they’re not, they are Latter-day Saints.

And if the reader is thinking that this assessment is unbalanced or unfair, I would ask them to consider this: From the inception of this group on September 14th, 2021 until this date of writing, December 31, 2021, this group hasn’t contained a scrap of any “devotion” from anything but Latter-day Saint sources, and that includes anything from the Bible, which common scripture to both Mormonism and mainstream Christianity. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

Doubt me? If so then click here to go to the very first post in their newsfeed and then start scrolling through the rest of the page timeline. Friends, now once is an anomaly, but twice is a pattern, isn’t it? And if it’s pattern after pattern after pattern, then what is it? Stated plainly a consistent pattern of deceit can clearly be seen here, can’t it?  And to be blunt, this is not a Christian page, it is a Latter-day Saint group through and through, isn’t it?

Appendix E: A Sign of Deceit in Gilbert, Arizona
In late February 2022, an Ex-Mormon posted a photograph of a very mainstream-looking Christian street sign that was placed in front of the Mormon Meeting Hall that’s on the corner of Ocotillo and Higley Roads in Gilbert, Arizona (5656 S Higley Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85298, to be exact). This sign contains all the elements of mimicry discussed above up to and including:

  1. Failing to fully, openly, and candidly disclose that the religious group that meets in that Baptist-looking building behind the sign is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than a mainstream Christian church.
  2. In the same vein, using not the full name of the church on the sign. That is, using the generic official LdS Church URL (ChurchOfJesusChrist.org) on the sign to describe the religious organization behind the sign and the building rather than explicitly stating that the meeting house is, in fact, a Mormon church.
  3. Using traditional Christian iconography on the sign (an image of a Christ-like figure) rather than anything that’s distinctly Mormon – such as Moroni blowing his trumpet, for example.
  4. Not disclosing that the meeting times given on the sign are the meeting times for three separate and distinct Mormon Wards and services, rather than three options for the same service for the same church congregation – as is the practice in mainstream Christian churches.

This last point hides the fact that if the investigator were to join this church they would be told which ward and which service that they would be required to attend at this church based on their street address. To explain further, in mainstream Christian churches, those meeting times on their street signage are the times for the same service for the same church congregation because the church membership is too large to meet all at once in just one meeting to you have the option of any of three different meeting times for the exact same service in the same building. However, in the LdS Church, those are the meeting times for different congregations (aka “Wards”), in this case, three of them, and maybe even different services.

Furthermore, you can go to any of the three meetings as a member of a mainstream church congregation, it’s entirely up to you and what works for your family. However, in the LdS Church if you become a member you will be told which of the three meetings you and your family must attend because that’s when your assigned Ward meets in the building based on what ward boundaries you reside in.

Yes, it’s a subtle distinction, perhaps even a minor one, but still different than what most American churchgoers might expect given how church services are typically done in modern Protestant churches. The LdS Church is more closely aligned with the Roman Catholic Parish system which seems foreign, even odd, to the Protestants that history has shown Mormonism is more prone to convert.

So you can see that this seemingly innocuous street sign is hiding a whole host of deceptive practices which are designed to lure the unsuspecting investigator into Mormonism. As several people on Facebook very rightly pointed out, this type of bait and switch misrepresentation isn’t the stuff of mainstream religious groups, it’s the type of bait and switch tactics that Mind Control Cults use to snare new members.

And, again, as the saying goes, “Mormon Church if you don’t want to be called a cult, then stop acting like one.” You can start by knocking off all of the practices discussed in this article, beginning with integrity compromised street signs like this one.

This street sign was placed in front of the Mormon Meeting House at 5656 S. Higley Road, Gilbert, Arizona in late February 2022.

This article was originally published on the “From Water to Wine” website on 2021-12-30.
This updated edition of the article has been greatly expanded from the original.  

How the Doctrines & Covenants 10:37 Apologetic
For the Hofmann Case Destroys Mormonism

The original Book of Commandments and Revelations and the corresponding section of the Doctrine and Covenants are shown. (credit: Jason Olson, Deseret News)

by Fred W. Anson
A common, recurring, Mormon apologetic for why if Mormon Leaders were true prophets of God, they couldn’t discern the real nature of the Hofmann forgeries goes like this…

“The Lord made it clear to Joseph Smith that a prophet is not granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church:

‘But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.’ (DC 10:37)

The LDS doctrine of agency requires that those who plot evil be allowed a certain latitude, though (as President Hinckley prophetically noted) permanent harm to the Lord’s work will not be permitted.”
(FAIRMormon website, “Forgeries Related to Mormonism/Mark Hofmann”

Here is my response to this argument:
1) In the Hofmann case, Mormon Leaders (up and including the LdS First Presidency) did NOT “hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”.
Putting out Press Releases so the news of Hofmann’s “finds” can be blasted out around the world and publishing articles about Mark Hofmann manuscripts in the Church produced, “The Church News” (see the “Week Ending May 3, 1980” edition, for example) is anything but “holding your peace”, isn’t it? So this premise is simply false, they not only didn’t hold their peace, they shouted it from the rooftops, didn’t they? If you doubt me, please consider the image below from The Church New insert to the Deseret News from the Week Ending May 3, 1980. 

The article regarding the Mark Hofmann “Anthon Transcript” find in the Week Ending May 3, 1980 edition of The Church New insert to the Deseret News, the Church-owned newspaper.

2) The folks who have claimed that Mormon Prophets have extraordinary powers of discernment and who have set the bar, high, higher, even highest, aren’t Mormon Critics it’s the Mormon Leaders themselves.
The expectation that a prophet has the type of unique type of discernment required to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church so that it can’t be lead astray HAS been set by Mormon Leaders in general, and Mormon Prophets in particular. It has not been set by Mormon Critics. Consider the words of these official, correlated LdS Church manuals and publications:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”
(“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff”, p.199, “Gospel Principles”, p.41, and “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, p.20)

“President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church:“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught this same principle:

“You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 533).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) gave similar assurance to Church members:“The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 46; emphasis added).”
(LdS Church, “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church)

Friends, these aren’t the claims of Mormon Critics, are they? They are the word of Mormon Prophets in official, LdS Church publications aren’t they? So tell me, who is setting this extremely high “we have the highest level of spiritual discernment that’s so unique and special that we can never lead you astray” expectation? Is it Mormon Critics or is it the Mormon Prophets themselves?

This is REALLY the biggest enemy of the LdS Church, isn’t it?

3) As a result of #2, the unstated, implied argument that D&C 10:37 is arguing against (again, “a prophet IS granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church”) is, in reality, a Strawman Argument, isn’t it?
Thus, Mormon Apologists’ REAL debate opponent when they use the D&C 10:37 apologetic is their own Church’s Prophets, isn’t it? Again, and in actual fact, Mormon Critics are simply holding Mormon Prophets to the standard that those Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, nothing more, aren’t they? 

Mormons Leaders, you have met the enemy and he is you, not your critics, haven’t you? 

4) D&C 10:37 is in direct contradiction with the oft-cited Latter-day Saint application of the bible proof text that, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
The practical, real-world, application that Mormonism gives this text is that the current living Mormon Prophet possesses some kind of special discernment that the rest of us lack. Thus, if they truly possess the type of highly tuned and refined Amos 3:7 spiritual discernment that they claim they do, then the Lord should have revealed to the prophet the secret that Hofmann and his manuscripts were fraudulent and about to lead the LdS Church astray, correct?

After all, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets”, right? Again, this isn’t the Amos 3:7 application standard established by Mormon Critics, is it? However, it is the standard that Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, isn’t it?

So if it ain’t true, then why are Mormon Prophets saying it?

5) Since D&C 10:37 absolves Mormon Prophets of, in reality, possessing the type of special and unique, highly tuned spiritual discernment that they so often claim they do elsewhere, then in reality Mormon Prophets are simply nothing special.
They are, in fact, just as common and ordinary as you and I, aren’t they? That’s because anyone “can hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”, can’t they? Stated plainly “holding your peace” and saying nothing until after all the facts about the matter are known, doesn’t require any kind of special gifting at all, does it? In fact, it’s just good old common sense, isn’t it? Anyone can do it, it doesn’t require any type of special divine anointing or gifting at all, does it?

6) Due to #5, D&C 10:37 is really saying that there is really nothing special about Mormon Prophets at all. They are, in reality, no different than any other Religious Leader on the planet, are they?
So whether the religious leader is a Latter-day Saint, Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, the Prophet of some other Mormon Denomination, or that weird independent Pentecostal guy running the church downtown out of the converted movie theatre, they are what they are, and nothing more: Just ordinary men running churches, aren’t they?

And the LdS Church leaders are just one of the boys, aren’t they? They have absolutely no special or unique spiritual discernment that the other guys in this religious scrum, do, do they? Yes, they have said they do since the inception of Mormonism, but no, in reality, they clearly don’t. The Hofmann case proved it.

7) The LdS Prophet was clearly leading the LdS Church astray by starting to change doctrine based on being deceived by Hofmann.
I mention this one because this is an apologetic argument that Mormons like to use regarding the Hofmann case which is another false premise when it’s examined against the evidence. Specifically, in addition to leading the Church astray in regard to the authenticity of the forgeries (see above, #1 in particular), the LdS Church leaders were also changing Church origin doctrine (see above) based on Hofmann’s deceit. This is an easily documented fact.

The most blatant example of this is Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History” 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, which was given at BYU and is now being suppressed by the LdS Church on its official Church website, in which he said this:

“Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word salamander in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W. W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word salamander in the modern sense of a “tailed amphibian.”

One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of salamander, which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s. That meaning, which is listed second in a current edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a spirit supposed to live in fire” (2d College ed. 1982, s.v. “salamander”). Modern and ancient literature contain many examples of this usage.

A spirit that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the angel Moroni: a personage in the midst of a light, whose countenance was “truly like lightning” and whose overall appearance “was glorious beyond description” (Joseph Smith-History 1:32). As Joseph Smith wrote later, “The first sight [of this personage] was as though the house was filled with consuming fire” (History of the Church, 4:536). Since the letter purports only to be Martin Harris’s interpretation of what he had heard about Joseph’s experience, the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship with or membership in the Church? The media should make more complete disclosures, but Latter-day Saint readers should also be more sophisticated in their evaluation of what they read. For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni’s declaration that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History”, 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, BYU; also see https://si.ldschurch.org/performance/Talks%20For%20Teachers/reading-church-history_eng.pdf [restricted link on official LdS Church website])

And the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America in regard to the Mormon Church origin story, if you change Mormon History then Mormon Theology must shifts too in order to accommodate it.

“History, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is more than pageants, parades, trail markers, monuments, and restored homesteads. There is a very real sense in which the church’s history is its theology, and that not merely the supernatural events surrounding the church’s beginnings with the Angel Moroni and the golden plates at Hill Cumorah. In a body that believes itself the recipient and expression of continuing revelation, it is everything that has happened to the church ever since. And just as creedal churches have official statements of faith, the Mormon Church tends to have official versions of sacred history.”
(Richard & Joan Ostling, “Mormon American (Rev. Ed.)”; Nook Edition position 638.8-640.0/1200)

8) Therefore, and as a result of all of the above, D&C 10:37 is REALLY the complete undoing of Mormonism, isn’t it?
Isn’t it, in fact, telling us that at the end of the day, the LdS Church in general and its Prophets in particular, have nothing special or unique to offer that you can’t get from any other human institution when it comes to special insight, spiritual discernment, or revelation? D&C 10:37 is really telling us that Mormon Leaders can lead the LdS Church astray, isn’t it?

Further, and that said, the Hofmann case also shows us that they have led the Church astray in the past, haven’t they? So, once you fully analyze and deconstruct this Mormon Apologist D&C 10:37 argument it not only doesn’t vindicate or absolve Latter-day Saint Prophets from performing to the extremely high standards and expectations that they have set for themself, does it? Rather, it exposes, indicts, and condemns them and their religion, doesn’t it?

Neither are what they claim to be, are they?

Spencer W. Kimball, the LdS President at the time, examines the Mark Hofmann forgery known as “The Anthon Transcript” with a magnifying glass. Surrounding him (left to right) are Mark Hofmann, Eldon Tanner, Marion Romney, Boyd Packer, and Gordon B. Hinckley

Based on a True Story (Many, Many, Many of Them, Actually)

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1. Immediately resort to personal attacks. If your opponent is ex-Mormon tell him every apostate leaves because of Word of Wisdom or chastity issues. Whether or not he’s ex-Mormon, question his intelligence, maturity, or even his commitment to his spouse. Nothing is off-limits. The goal is to demoralize your foe in the first few minutes.

2. Be as arrogant and condescending as possible. Claim that you’ve been an apologist for however many years and have never seen a valid argument against the church. Intimidate your opponent by saying they will be embarrassed if they choose to continue the conversation because you know your stuff.

3. Make sure your responses are novel-length so your opponent loses the energy to respond. Even if they do, they won’t be able to respond to everything, granting you an easy win on unchallenged statements.

4. Remember, context is not your friend. Twenty scattered, cherry-picked Bible verses that support your point is a much better way to go than exegeting a particular passage from within its full and complete context.

5. If your opponent uses Bible verses that are critical of Mormon doctrine, inform him that the Bible has been corrupted and that what he is citing is wrong. Tell him that your prophet and personal revelation are much more credible than the Bible is.

6. If your opponent uses quotes from your former or current prophet to cast the church in a negative light, inform him that the prophet was speaking as a man. Revelation isn’t infallible after all, because it has to be filtered through our finite human understanding. Also, point out that whoever transcribed the prophet’s words probably messed up what he was actually saying.

7. Mock your opponent when they bring up proof that Mormons believe in doctrines like human deification or polygamy in heaven. Say things like, “Wait, you actually think we believe that? What else do you believe, that Mormons have horns?”

8. Make sure to create rabbit trails to derail the topic as often as possible.

9. Don’t hesitate to quote agnostic scholars like Bart Ehrman because the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Don’t worry that agnostic/Atheistic arguments run parallel to Mormon ones. It’s probably a coincidence.

10. Never answer a direct criticism. Avoid, deflect, dodge, and ignore. Better yet, pull a “Millett” and answer the question they should have asked instead.

11. When cornered, use Protestant language to convince Bible believers that you’re just a normal Christian too. Say things like “I believe I am saved by grace.” Hopefully, they won’t catch on that your definitions are wildly different from theirs.

12. If you get into trouble, find 10-20 of your Mormon apologist friends and gang up on the critic using tactics 1-11 repeatedly. No one can withstand that. Logic is unnecessary when you have numbers on your side!

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

A cover from dime novels and the NY Detective Library (Courtesy of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collection)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In my last article, I considered the interesting genre parallels between the Book of Mormon and 19th Century Dime Novels (which in Joseph Smith’s day were known as “Story Novels” and typically were serialized in newspapers)1. In that article, I gave examples of frontier and historical fiction. However, Dime Novels were also the birthplace of crime fiction, detective stories, and today’s modern mystery story. While this particular Dime Novel genre didn’t really come into its own as a standalone genre later in the 19th Century it was still present earlier in the century as well. As Wikipedia explains:

“The genre of mystery novels is a young form of literature that has developed since the early-19th century. The rise of literacy began in the years of the English Renaissance and, as people began to read over time, they became more individualistic in their thinking. As people became more individualistic in their thinking, they developed a respect for human reason and the ability to solve problems.

Perhaps a reason that mystery fiction was unheard of before the 19th century was due in part to the lack of true police forces. Before the Industrial Revolution, many of the towns would have constables and a night watchman at best. Naturally, the constable would be aware of every individual in the town, and crimes were either solved quickly or left unsolved entirely. As people began to crowd into cities, police forces became institutionalized, and the need for detectives was realized – thus the mystery novel arose.”
(see Wikipedia, “Mystery Fiction”

In Joseph Smith’s day, the genre was just in its infancy and the setting was more typically rural than urban. So the setting for a Story Novel mystery in his day would be a crime on the American Frontier rather than say, Chicago, or New York.

So what does any of this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Well, nothing, except for the fact that we have an archetypical 19th Century Dime Novel detective story anachronistically in a work that claims to be ancient – the entire ninth chapter of the book of Helaman in fact. Sadly, due to its length, I couldn’t include it in my prior article, but I also didn’t want it to get away either. So here we are.

In the Book of Mormon, our intrepid Dime Novel detective is Nephi, the son of the Prophet Helaman (the second), who was the son of the Prophet Helaman who was the son of King Benjamin – got all that? (if nothing else, Joseph Smith was great at recycling Book of Mormon names wasn’t he?). This Wikipedia synopsis will set the stage for our story:

Upon returning to the “land of his nativity”, Nephi found the people in a state of “awful wickedness.” The Gadianton robbers had usurped positions of power and the government had, therefore, become full of corruption. [see Helaman 7:4] 

Being filled with sorrow because of the wickedness of the people, Nephi ‘bowed himself’ and prayed upon a tower in his garden, which was by the highway leading to the ‘chief market’ in the city of Zarahemla. In the ‘agony of his soul,’ Nephi lamented the state of the people and wished that he could have lived during the time of Lehi, the forefather of his people. [see Helaman 7:6-10]

Those passing by heard his prayer of anguish, and they ran and called others together to determine the cause of this great mourning. Upon seeing the gathering people, Nephi turned his attention from praying to preaching. He counseled the onlookers to repent and to overcome the attraction of pride and riches. He prophesied of the loss of their great cities if they did not repent and earn the protection of the Lord. He also explained that the Lamanites, who were traditionally more wicked, would enjoy a better fate in the afterlife, and live longer in the promised land because they had not “sinned against that great knowledge” that the Nephites had received – representing a principle of the accountability that comes with knowledge. Lastly, he testified that he knew what he had spoken was true “because the Lord God has made them known” unto him. [Helaman 7:7-19]

Upon hearing Nephi’s words, there were some judges, who were members of the Gadianton robbers against whom Nephi taught, who roused others to opposition in an attempt to have Nephi arrested and tried. Others, however, were convinced of the truth of his words to the extent that those who were opposed feared to lay their hands on him. [see Helaman 8:1-10]

Seeing that he had convinced at least some of the crown, Nephi continued his preaching. He began by addressing the skeptics in the group who did not believe in his status as a prophet of God by comparing himself to Moses using the example of the parting of the Red Sea. From there he transferred into a discussion of different prophecies that had been made concerning the coming of Christ, first by teaching of the parallels between the serpent staff Moses raised in the wilderness and then teaching of the Priesthood given to Abraham, which was after the order of Christ. He also mentioned prophecies by Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah he addressed specifically with respect to the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, something the people knew of from the descendants of Mulek in their own land. Lastly, he taught of the people’s ancestors, including Nephi and Lehi, as witnesses of the “coming of Christ.” [see Helaman 8:11-24]

Then, after reminding the people of their wickedness due to choosing riches and pride rather than following the counsel of these prophets, he testified that their destruction was “even at [their] doors” and reveals the secret murder of their Chief Judge by his brother – both of whom were Gadianton robbers. [see Helman 8:25-28]

Five members of the crowd ran to the judgment-seat to test Nephi’s words.
(Wikipedia, “Nephi, son of Helaman”

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the game is afoot!

An artist’s rendering of a scene from Helaman 9. (“Seantum” by Briana Shawcroft)

Helaman 9:1-41
Behold, now it came to pass that when Nephi had spoken these words, certain men who were among them ran to the judgment-seat; yea, even there were five who went, and they said among themselves, as they went:

Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.

And it came to pass that they ran in their might, and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood.

And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge.

But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth.

Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered—he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled, and the servants ran and told the people, raising the cry of murder among them;

And behold the people did gather themselves together unto the place of the judgment-seat—and behold, to their astonishment they saw those five men who had fallen to the earth.

And now behold, the people knew nothing concerning the multitude who had gathered together at the garden of Nephi; therefore they said among themselves: These men are they who have murdered the judge, and God has smitten them that they could not flee from us.

And it came to pass that they laid hold on them, and bound them and cast them into prison. And there was a proclamation sent abroad that the judge was slain, and that the murderers had been taken and were cast into prison.

And it came to pass that on the morrow the people did assemble themselves together to mourn and to fast, at the burial of the great chief judge who had been slain.

And thus also those judges who were at the garden of Nephi, and heard his words, were also gathered together at the burial.

And it came to pass that they inquired among the people, saying: Where are the five who were sent to inquire concerning the chief judge whether he was dead? And they answered and said: Concerning this five whom ye say ye have sent, we know not; but there are five who are the murderers, whom we have cast into prison.

And it came to pass that the judges desired that they should be brought; and they were brought, and behold they were the five who were sent; and behold the judges inquired of them to know concerning the matter, and they told them all that they had done, saying:

We ran and came to the place of the judgment-seat, and when we saw all things even as Nephi had testified, we were astonished insomuch that we fell to the earth; and when we were recovered from our astonishment, behold they cast us into prison.

Now, as for the murder of this man, we know not who has done it; and only this much we know, we ran and came according as ye desired, and behold he was dead, according to the words of Nephi.

And now it came to pass that the judges did expound the matter unto the people, and did cry out against Nephi, saying: Behold, we know that this Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge, and then he might declare it unto us, that he might convert us unto his faith, that he might raise himself to be a great man, chosen of God, and a prophet.

And now behold, we will detect this man, and he shall confess his fault and make known unto us the true murderer of this judge.

And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.

Nevertheless, they caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death—

Saying unto him: Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him.

But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?

O ye ought to begin to howl and mourn, because of the great destruction which at this time doth await you, except ye shall repent.

Behold ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should murder Seezoram, our chief judge. But behold, I say unto you, that this is because I have testified unto you that ye might know concerning this thing; yea, even for a witness unto you, that I did know of the wickedness and abominations which are among you.

And because I have done this, ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should do this thing; yea, because I showed unto you this sign ye are angry with me, and seek to destroy my life.

And now behold, I will show unto you another sign, and see if ye will in this thing seek to destroy me.

Behold I say unto you: Go to the house of Seantum, who is the brother of Seezoram, and say unto him—

Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, who doth prophesy so much evil concerning this people, agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother?

And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay.

And ye shall say unto him: Have ye murdered your brother?

And he shall stand with fear, and wist not what to say. And behold, he shall deny unto you; and he shall make as if he were astonished; nevertheless, he shall declare unto you that he is innocent.

But behold, ye shall examine him, and ye shall find blood upon the skirts of his cloak.

And when ye have seen this, ye shall say: From whence cometh this blood? Do we not know that it is the blood of your brother?

And then shall he tremble, and shall look pale, even as if death had come upon him.

And then shall ye say: Because of this fear and this paleness which has come upon your face, behold, we know that thou art guilty.

And then shall greater fear come upon him; and then shall he confess unto you, and deny no more that he has done this murder.

And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.

And it came to pass that they went and did, even according as Nephi had said unto them. And behold, the words which he had said were true; for according to the words he did deny; and also according to the words he did confess.

And he was brought to prove that he himself was the very murderer, insomuch that the five were set at liberty, and also was Nephi.

And there were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison.

And now there were some among the people, who said that Nephi was a prophet.

And there were others who said: Behold, he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things. For behold, he has told us the thoughts of our hearts, and also has told us things; and even he has brought unto our knowledge the true murderer of our chief judge.

And there you have it folks: Nephi, Son of Helaman, Dime Novel Detective Extraordinaire! Nick Carter, Allan Pinkerton, and William J. Burns (aka “America’s Sherlock Holmes”) would be proud.2

NOTES
1 “Throughout the Victorian period, novels in serial parts were published in abundance in newspapers and magazines—by far the most popular form—or in discreet parts issued in installments, usually 20 monthly issues.

Many 19th century authors established themselves by first publishing original fiction in serial format. Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson and more, all published serial novels, either in monthly magazines or as discreet serial parts.”
(University of Victoria Library, “19th Century Serial Novels”

2 For those unfamiliar with these names, here’s a primer:

Nick Carter
“Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years, and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990. Films were created based on Carter in France, Czechoslovakia and Hollywood. Nick Carter has also appeared in many comic books and in radio programs.”
(Wikipedia, “Nick Carter (literary character)”

Allan Pinkerton
“Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency…

Pinkerton produced numerous popular detective books, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriters, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his views.”
(Wikipedia, “Allan Pinkerton”

Willliam J. Burns
“Despite the fact that Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters, though, their cultural influence can even be discerned in the history of the world outside of the printed page. Ever since the end of the Victorian age, real detectives and police officials have often been held to the standards of fiction and have even seen their exploits re-cast as updated versions of one of Doyle’s many gaslight era tales. One American law-enforcement figure, in particular, bore the burden of living up to Holmes’s legacy: William J. Burns, an Irish-American sleuth who bore more than a passing resemblance to Doyle himself.

According to William R. Hunt’s biography Front-Page Detective: William J. Burns and the Detective Profession, 1880-1930, Burns was a friend of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Doyle—the latter of whom publicly hailed Burns as “America’s Sherlock Holmes.” For much of his career, Burns was almost guaranteed a headline each time he caught on to a forgery or risked his life in the line of duty…”
(Benjamin Welton, “The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes'”, The Atlantic, November 20, 2013)