Archive for the ‘Mormon Studies’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

salt-lake-city-temple-terrestrial-room_EDITED

The veil in the Terrestrial Room of the Salt Lake City Temple.

necromancy
(nɛkrəmænsi)
Necromancy is magic that some people believe brings a dead person back to this world so that you can talk to them.
— Collins English English Dictionary

by Fred W. Anson
For those who are unfamiliar with the Mormonese term, “both sides of the veil”, it is a reference to the living and the dead on their respective sides of the veil of mortality. As Mormon Apostle, Neil L. Andersen explains:

One of the most magnificent doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that every man, woman, and child who has ever lived on the earth—every person who has breathed the air of this world—will have the opportunity to clearly understand and to accept or reject the life, teachings, and ordinances of the Savior. How amazing! No one will be set aside or coerced; no one will be forgotten!

To bring the ordinances of the gospel to every living soul is not an assignment for the faint of heart. This work is advancing on both sides of the veil and will continue through the 1,000 years of the Millennium. The Lord has invited each of us to be a part of it, and He has given us the tools and the ability to assist Him in “hastening His work of salvation.”
(Neil L. Andersen, “Sharing the Temple Challenge: Full Talk”, Family Discovery Day at RootsTech, February 2015) 

Out of this doctrine, a system of Mormon Necromancy has sprung up that promotes the belief that communication with the dead (especially in LdS Temples where the veil is said to “be thin”) is not only a normal, positive thing but something to be desired and hoped for. Mormons describe these encounters as “sacred” even though the Bible explicitly denounces such communication with the dead as an abomination:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord
(Deuteronomy 18:10-12, ESV, bolding added for emphasis. Also, see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, and;  Isaiah 8:19)

To overcome this problem many Mormons claim that they’re not really engaging in necromancy since it’s the dead who are approaching the living to communicate with them rather than vice versa. It is claimed that these encounters are akin to the type of angelic visitation that we see in the Bible. As “The Encyclopedia of Mormon” essay on Angels explains, “Another kind of angel may be an individual who completed his mortal existence but whose labors continue in the spirit world while he awaits the resurrection of the body.” However, Evangelical Theologians, Ken Boa and Rob Bowman have explained the disparity between what the LdS Church teachings and what the Bible actually says like this:

Mormonism teaches that all human beings existed as male and female spirit children of God in heaven before coming to the earth. This key element of their doctrinal system, as unobjectionable as it may seem to many in our culture, is at odds with the biblical view of humanity.

Perhaps even more common today is the notion that human beings become angels after they die. In popular angel mythology, human beings die and then come back to the earth as angels, either to help those they left behind or others in similar difficulties. According to the Bible, angels are a class of beings who existed before any humans had ever died. We know this because some of those angelic beings rebelled against God, and their leader, the Devil, tempted Eve (Gen. 3).

Moreover, the Bible makes it clear that departed human spirits, unlike angels, are generally not permitted to visit or communicate with human beings. In Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man, for example, the rich man’s request for someone to visit his brothers and warn them of the judgment to come was turned down (Luke 16:19 – 31). The Old Testament forbids communication with the dead (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:11; Isa. 8:19).”
(Kenneth D. Boa and Rob M. Bowman, “Sense and Nonsense about Angels and Demons” (Kindle Locations 611-622). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

Furthermore, in response to the Mormon claim that no pursuit or conjuring of the dead occurs in Mormonism, I would ask the reader to consider the fact that while no overt or direct conjuring occurs, the fact remains that all of the elements are still there:

1) A sacred space is set up where it’s understood that the living can and will have encounters with the dead: Mormon Temples.

2) A sacred ritual is practiced that facilitates such encounters as a byproduct, or if you prefer, “side effect”: Proxy Baptism in Mormon Temples.

3) Practitioners are told by their leaders to expect such encounters as a result of said practice: “The veil is thin between those who hold the priesthood and divine messengers on the other side of the veil.” (David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1948, p.172; also click here for more variations on this theme from Mormon leaders) 

4) Practitioners report such encounters.
(In addition to the examples from President Nelson below, you see find more here

How does that not, in fact, meet the criteria for pursuing communication with the dead – that is, necromantic “conjuring”?

Given all that, let it never be said that we don’t live in interesting times since no Mormon Leader in recent history has done more to teach, promote, and publicly practice Mormon Necromancy than current LdS President Russell M. Nelson. What follows are examples of Mr. Nelson publicly speaking about this unusual and unique form of necromancy as if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world. All sources are Latter-day Saint publications – up to and including official, correlated sources.

The Mormon Necromancy of President Russell M. Nelson
“We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, to receive the blessings of the holy temple and qualify for eternal life, so that they can have enduring joy now and forever,”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “50,000 Come to MLB Stadium to Hear President Nelson Share Vital Message to Those “on Both Sides of the Veil”’, LDS Living, September 16, 2018)

“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On”, April 2018 General Conference) 

“This “precious gift” President Nelson shared was one his grandfather Andrew Clarence Nelson, or A.C. Nelson, shared with his family through his journal.

Through this entry, President Nelson and his family were able to learn of a visitor from the spirit world his grandfather received 27 years before President Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of the redemption of the dead and gain important answers to what life after death is really like:

“When my Grandfather A. C. Nelson was a young husband and father, just 27 years old, his father died. Then, about three months later, his father, now deceased, came to visit him. The date of that visit was the night of April 6, 1891. Grandfather Nelson was so impressed by his father’s visit that he wrote the experience in his own journal for his family and his friends. And thanks to your encouragement, I took his journal entry and created this document and made copies of this document for every member of the family.

Listen to my grandfather’s words about that sacred experience:

“I was in bed when Father entered the room. He came and sat on the side of the bed. He said, ‘Well, my son, as I had a few spare minutes I received permission to come and see you for a few minutes. I am feeling well, my son, and have had very much to do since I died.'”

“What have you been doing since you died, Father?”

“I’ve been traveling together with Apostle Erastus Snow ever since I died. That is, since three days after I died. I received my commission to preach the gospel. You cannot imagine, my son, how many spirits there are in the spirit world that have not yet received the gospel. But many are receiving it, and a great work is being accomplished. Many are anxiously looking forth to their friends who are still living to administer for them in the temples. I’ve been very busy preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“‘Father, can you see us at all times, and do you know what we’re doing?”

“Oh, no, my son. I have something else to do. I cannot go when and where I please. There is just as much and much more order here in the spirit world than in the other world. I have been assigned work to do, and it must be performed.”

“We intend to go to the temple and get sealed to you, Father, as soon as we can.”

“That, my son, is partly what I came to see you about. We will yet make a family and live throughout eternity.”

“‘Father, is it natural to die?”

“‘It is just as natural to die as it is to be born, or for you to pass out of that door.’ And here he pointed at the door. ‘When I told the folks that I could not last long, it turned dark and I could not see anything for a few minutes. Then the first thing I could see was a number of spirits in the spirit world. The paper you gave me, my son, is dated wrong. But it makes no particular difference. Correct records are kept here.”

“‘Father, is the gospel as taught by this Church true?’

“‘My son, do you see that picture?’ Pointing to a picture of the First Presidency of the Church hanging on the wall.“

“Yes, I see it.”

“‘Just as sure as you see that picture, just as sure is the gospel true. The gospel of Jesus Christ has within it the power of saving every man and woman that will obey it, and in no other way can they ever obtain salvation in the kingdom of God. My son, always cling to the gospel. Be humble, be prayerful, be submissive to the priesthood, be true, be faithful to the covenants you have made with God. Never do anything that would displease God. Oh, what a blessing is the gospel. My son, be a good boy.’”
(Katie Lambert, “The Questions President Nelson’s Grandfather Asked a Visitor from the Spirit World + the Surprising Answers”, LDS Living website, Jun. 19, 2017; see video below for the actual address)

(What follows is set up for the necromancy story that follows it in the next citation)
“Throughout my life, I have been blessed by such women. My departed wife, Dantzel, was such a woman. I will always be grateful for the life-changing influence she had on me in all aspects of my life, including my pioneering efforts in open-heart surgery.

Fifty-eight years ago I was asked to operate upon a little girl, gravely ill from congenital heart disease. Her older brother had previously died of a similar condition. Her parents pleaded for help. I was not optimistic about the outcome but vowed to do all in my power to save her life. Despite my best efforts, the child died. Later, the same parents brought another daughter to me, then just 16 months old, also born with a malformed heart. Again, at their request, I performed an operation. This child also died. This third heartbreaking loss in one family literally undid me.
I went home grief stricken. I threw myself upon our living room floor and cried all night long. Dantzel stayed by my side, listening as I repeatedly declared that I would never perform another heart operation. Then, around 5:00 in the morning, Dantzel looked at me and lovingly asked, ‘Are you finished crying? Then get dressed. Go back to the lab. Go to work! You need to learn more. If you quit now, others will have to painfully learn what you already know.’” (Apostolic Quorum President Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters”, General Conference, October 2015; also see “President Nelson Shares the Miraculous Night When Two Girls Visited Him from Beyond the Veil”, LDS Living)

“Six months ago in the October 2015 general conference, I spoke to the sisters of the Church about their divine role as women of God. Now I wish to speak to you brethren about your divine role as men of God. As I travel the world, I marvel at the strength and sheer goodness of the men and boys of this Church. There is simply no way to number the hearts you’ve healed and the lives you’ve lifted. Thank you!

In my last conference message, I related my devastating experience many years ago when, as a heart surgeon, I was not able to save the lives of two little sisters. With permission of their father, I would like to say more about that family.

Congenital heart disease afflicted three children born to Ruth and Jimmy Hatfield. Their first son, Jimmy Jr., died without a definitive diagnosis. I entered the picture when the parents sought help for their two daughters, Laural Ann and her younger sister, Gay Lynn. I was heartbroken when both girls died following their operations.1 Understandably, Ruth and Jimmy were spiritually shattered.

Over time, I learned that they harbored lingering resentment toward me and the Church. For almost six decades, I have been haunted by this situation and have grieved for the Hatfields. I tried several times to establish contact with them, without success.

Then one night last May, I was awakened by those two little girls from the other side of the veil. Though I did not see or hear them with my physical senses, I felt their presence. Spiritually, I heard their pleadings. Their message was brief and clear: “Brother Nelson, we are not sealed to anyone! Can you help us?” Soon thereafter, I learned that their mother had passed away, but their father and younger brother were still alive.

Emboldened by the pleadings of Laural Ann and Gay Lynn, I tried again to contact their father, who I learned was living with his son Shawn. This time they were willing to meet with me.

In June, I literally knelt in front of Jimmy, now 88 years old, and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. I spoke of his daughters’ pleadings and told him I would be honored to perform sealing ordinances for his family. I also explained that it would take time and much effort on his and Shawn’s part to be ready and worthy to enter the temple, as neither of them had ever been endowed.

The Spirit of the Lord was palpable throughout that meeting. And when Jimmy and Shawn each accepted my offer, I was overjoyed! They worked diligently with their stake president, bishop, home teachers, and ward mission leader, as well as with young missionaries and a senior missionary couple. And then, not long ago, in the Payson Utah Temple, I had the profound privilege of sealing Ruth to Jimmy and their four children to them. Wendy and I wept as we participated in that sublime experience. Many hearts were healed that day!”
(Apostolic Quorum President Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power”, April 2016 General Conference; also see “The Dream President Nelson Had That United a Family on Both Sides of the Veil”, LDS Living, Aug. 20, 2018; “President Nelson Shares the Miraculous Night When Two Girls Visited Him from Beyond the Veil”, LDS Living, and; Russell M. Nelson Facebook Page, May 4, 2016)

“In 1844, Joseph Smith asked, “What is this office and work of Elijah?” The Prophet promptly answered his own question: “It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. …
‘This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven. … This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah.’

Some among us still have neither perceived the Spirit of Elijah nor its power. Yet, we are bound by this warning:
‘These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over. … For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation … they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.’

Joseph Smith’s responsibility was to “lay the foundation” for this great work. Important details were to be revealed later. At April conference 1894, President Wilford Woodruff announced this revelation: “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. … This is the will of the Lord to his people.”. . .

No mortal mind could have conceived this divine work. It is evidence of the restoration of the gospel in its fulness and is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people … offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead … worthy of all acceptation.”41 Then we shall bless and be blessed as saviors upon mount Zion, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Apostle Russell M. Nelson, “The Spirit of Elijah”, Fall General Conference 1994; tight ellipses in original, loose ellipses mine)

Russell M Nelson Both Sides of the Veil

Both sides of the veil: LdS President Russell M. Nelson and a playful “Dia de los Muertos” take on a figure in popular culture that he is often compared to due to their similar appearance, Mr. Burns of The Simpsons fame.

Also recommended: Fred W. Anson, “Let The Dead Bury The Dead: A Biblical Response to Mormon Communion With the Dead Teachings”

The blind man, now healed, hugging Christ in a gesture of gratitude.

by Michael Flournoy
On August 14, 2017, an article entitled, “A Message to the Most Ardent Critic of the Mormon Church” was posted by Ben Arkell on his blog “Mormon Light”. This faith-promoting “masterpiece” is about a two-minute read, and it focuses on the experience of dropping sons and daughters off at the Missionary Training Center.

He gives a second-hand experience from a Mormon who shared his testimony from the pulpit. This unnamed brother was dropping off his son and daughter to serve as missionaries for about two years.  While at the MTC, he saw other families doing the same thing.

He said, “I was completely overcome with emotion as the reality of what these families were doing set in. These families, which come from all walks of life and arrive in anything from a beat up mini-van to a $60,000 SUV, send their children off to unknown countries where they trudge through mud, eat bugs, and endure poor living conditions.”

Feeling the weight of the sacrifice being made, this Mormon wished Ex-Mormon critics were by his side so they could see what he was seeing. In this hypothetical scenario, he would tell them, “You mean to tell me these people are brainwashed? These individuals and families who in all other walks of life, in their education, in their careers, and in their communities are successful, smart, and industrious – you mean to tell me in this one area they are so ignorant and brainwashed that they could send away their sons and daughters?”

He replies, “Never. They would never do it. But the reason they do allow their children to sacrifice two years of their lives is because the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.”

Before I left the faith in 2016, I felt the same way about apostates as every other Latter-day Saint: they were deceived by Satan, they were trapped in sin, or they had just plain been offended. When they left, the devil warped them into hateful maniacs who could never leave the church alone again.

It was all fun and games until suddenly I was an apostate. I didn’t leave because I was offended or trapped in sin. I simply found something better, namely the doctrine of imputed righteousness. Nevertheless, I have been accused of intellectualizing my way out of the church. One woman had the audacity to tell me I’d left for the enticing of an easier path.

I wish sometimes that ardent followers of Mormonism could stand by my side and see what I see in the Ex-Mormon community. There are people from all walks of life, driving anything from a mini-van to an SUV, who have left the church. Their stories are far more diverse than you would think. I see people leaving all the time, and the weight of their sacrifice hangs heavy on my heart.

It takes a lot to leave a religious system that means everything to you. I know people who have lost everything meaningful in their lives because they left the faith, and yet they are accused of taking the easy way out.

In all fairness, I understand what the author is getting at. I was a Mormon missionary myself. I’ve had all the same experiences and the same testimony. It’s not like I woke up one morning and mists of darkness covered those feelings up. I walked away with them intact, and it was excruciating. So why did I do it? Like so many others, I was compelled to follow my conscience and take up the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to ask ardent followers of the LDS church, “You mean to tell me these people are brainwashed? These individuals and families who in all other walks of life, in their education, in their careers, and in their communities are successful, smart, and industrious – you mean to tell me in this one area they are so deceived and brainwashed that they could leave the most important thing in their lives behind?”

Never, they could never do it. The reason they do is that they discover the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true.

A Response to Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “Behold the Man” 2018 Easter Sunday Address

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaking on Easter Sunday at the April 2018 General Conference.
(click image to watch the full address)

by Fred W. Anson & Michael Flournoy
For me, Fred, every General Conference there’s always one speaker that I always look forward to hearing from, Dieter F. Uchtdorf. To say that he’s my favorite Mormon Leader is an understatement. In fact, I once offended an entire Internet group by suggesting that all the other Mormon leaders with seniority in front of him should choose the right by stepping aside and letting him assume his clearly rightful place as the President of the LDS Church. The non-Mormons were offended that I would implicitly endorse the LDS system of church governance and the Mormons were offended that I would suggest that their system is anything less than ideal. Toes stepped on all around. Well done, Fred!

My enthusiasm is due to what I see as his clear focus on Jesus Christ and His redeeming grace above all else. In my opinion, if there is any voice in General Conference that can be counted on to exalt Jesus it is Dieter F. Uchtdorf. So you can imagine my excitement when there was a buzz on Facebook that in his Spring 2018 General Conference – on Easter Sunday, no less – address Elder Uchtdorf, had preached the clear, pure, gospel of the Bible. And we can see why they would come to that conclusion when words like this are spoken:

To find the most important day in history, we must go back to that evening almost 2,000 years ago in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus Christ knelt in intense prayer and offered Himself as a ransom for our sins. It was during this great and infinite sacrifice of unparalleled suffering in both body and spirit that Jesus Christ, even God, bled at every pore. Out of perfect love, He gave all that we might receive all. His supernal sacrifice, difficult to comprehend, to be felt only with all our heart and mind, reminds us of the universal debt of gratitude we owe Christ for His divine gift…

Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins.

All of them.

On that most important day in history, Jesus the Christ opened the gates of death and cast aside the barriers that prevented us from passing into the holy and hallowed halls of everlasting life. Because of our Lord and Savior, you and I are granted a most precious and priceless gift—regardless of our past, we can repent and follow the path that leads to celestial light and glory, surrounded by the faithful children of Heavenly Father.

Because of Jesus Christ, we will rise from the despair of death and embrace those we love, shedding tears of overwhelming joy and overflowing gratitude. Because of Jesus Christ, we will exist as eternal beings, worlds without end.

Because of Jesus the Christ, our sins can not only be erased; they can be forgotten.

We can become purified and exalted.

Holy.
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Behold the Man!” Spring 2018 General Conference)

But friends, there are some real problems here! For a start, not only does the Bible affirm that the atonement took place on the cross, not the Garden of Gethsemane, so does the Book of Mormon:

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world”
— 1 Nephi 11:33

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

And there’s a good reason for this, though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, mainstream Christianity locates the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

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

Further, and in the end, Elder Uchtdorf shifts the focus of his address off of the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ and places it squarely on what Christ can do for us:

So, when you ponder the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, what do you see?

Those who find a way to truly behold the Man find the doorway to life’s greatest joys and the balm to life’s most demanding despairs.

So, when you are encompassed by sorrows and grief, behold the Man.

When you feel lost or forgotten, behold the Man.

When you are despairing, deserted, doubting, damaged, or defeated, behold the Man.

He will comfort you.

He will heal you and give meaning to your journey. He will pour out His Spirit and fill your heart with exceeding joy.

He gives “power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”

When we truly behold the Man, we learn of Him and seek to align our lives with Him. We repent and strive to refine our natures and daily grow a little closer to Him. We trust Him. We show our love for Him by keeping His commandments and by living up to our sacred covenants.

In other words, we become His disciples…

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify that the most important day in the history of mankind was the day when Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, won the victory over death and sin for all of God’s children. And the most important day in your life and mine is the day when we learn to “behold the man”; when we see Him for who He truly is; when we partake with all our heart and mind of His atoning power; when with renewed enthusiasm and strength, we commit to follow Him. May that be a day that recurs over and over again throughout our lives.

I leave you my testimony and blessing that as we “behold the man,” we will find meaning, joy, and peace in this earthly life and eternal life in the world to come. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Behold the Man!” Spring 2018 General Conference)

So, in the end, the message preached here is that when we “behold the man”, Jesus Christ becomes something of a magic talisman or cosmic “turbo button” that we can push to get past our problems and press on to both temporal and eternal achievement and accomplishment. In such a scenario God gets pushed right off of the throne of our lives so we can sit down.

This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is the gospel of I, me, mine. It is a false gospel.

Further, despite Elder Uchtdorf’s use of the scripture elsewhere in his address, this is not, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26), this is the gospel of “It’s all about what Christ can do for me!” And, speaking as those with Mormon family and friends, it is this false gospel that breaks our heart.

For you see, the gospel isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus. Perhaps another German said it best when he so plainly and directly stated, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And his words are even more powerful and plainer when considered in their full context:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”, p.71, Nook edition)

A gospel than culminates in the garden rips the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ out of it. Mr. Bonhoeffer, might not be the Bible but he most certainly understood this. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
— Galatians 2:20&21 KJV

Or, better yet, consider the words of Jesus Himself:

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
— Luke 9:23&24 KJV

Garden theology and cross theology are completely at odds. The disciples were with Jesus in the garden. They were admonished to watch and pray. An angel came and strengthened Jesus. If the atonement happened in the garden, then Jesus was incapable of ransoming mankind alone. He needed help. This gospel makes grace an enabling power instead of a saving power, and salvation becomes a joint effort.

Cross theology has Jesus suffering alone. He even calls out saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” No one is present to strengthen the Savior or lighten his load. The burden is His, and His alone to carry. This gospel crowns him King of the Jews, the author, and finisher of our faith, and the sole rescuer of men.

Garden theology is a gospel of never-ending striving. In Mormonism, Jesus bled from every pore as He took the sins of mankind, but even after that he said to Peter, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11)  Speaking in the future tense, he admitted he yet had a cup to drink. He describes this bitter cup in 3 Nephi 11:11 as “taking upon me the sins of the world.” Mormonism, therefore, is a theology of never truly having salvation. Just as Jesus still had to drink the bitter cup, Mormons still have to keep the commandments and endure to the end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, and salvation is always something you aim for but can never possess.

Cross theology has Jesus definitively saying, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) It is a gospel of peace and rest, a gospel of trust, knowing that God has our salvation firmly in His grip. Salvation is a gift, it’s something believers can possess and be assured of in mortality.

Perhaps most dangerous of all, garden theology makes Jesus into a mere man. In the garden, he says to God, “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) This is a theology where men are on a journey to become Gods themselves, and Jesus is on the same path trying to align Himself with the Father. In this vein, in the aforementioned 3 Nephi 11:11 passage Christ even goes so far as to say, “I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” which implies that the atonement was a contest of his will v. Heavenly Father’s. Cross theology, in contrast, has Jesus in full submission to the Father. The wills are aligned. Jesus even says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34). In this theology, Jesus is already one with the Father. He is already fully God.

I, Michael, always thought it was amazing how Pontious Pilate could stare Jesus, the author of all truth, in the face and say, “What is truth?” It was this utter blindness that led him to say, “Behold the man!” What irony, that Pilate said these words, and nearly 2,000 years later they were repeated multiple times by a Mormon “pilot”. The true gospel of the cross does not inspire us to behold the man, it inspires us to behold the Son of God!

Garden theology teaches that God’s work is to exalt mankind. Everything is filtered through this lens. Every trial we go through is about our growth and learning. In cross theology, everything is for the glory of God alone. We are bidden to take up our cross, for only in losing our life can it be found – a paradox that requires a total and complete trust in God alone, even when the trial makes no sense to us or others. Thus, the gospel isn’t about personal achievement, it isn’t about self-actualization, it isn’t even about achieving personal perfection, it’s about dying to self, and being resurrected to live in Christ (see Romans 6:1-11). If the atonement culminates by simply achieving a life of self-glorifying obedience to religious laws and ordinances, then what need is there for the cross at all?

Friend, the gospel isn’t about using Christ as an enabling power, or a benevolent older brother to guide your way. The gospel isn’t about Jesus punching your E-ticket so you can be resurrected and spend eternity with your family and friends. The gospel isn’t about living a happy, self-actualized, prosperous life in the here and now. The gospel is about dying. The gospel can’t be found in the garden. Nor is it found in choosing the right. The gospel is found on Golgotha. On a cross. In a tomb. In death. The gospel is about dying to self and being raised to live with Christ in His righteousness. The gospel is Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and He is the end. As C.S. Lewis, said well,

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
(C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)“, pp. 226-227, Kindle edition)

Friend, He calls to you, to me, to us, and to anyone who will listen, “Come and die.”


dvd-god_makersReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: The Godmakers
Authors: Ed Decker and Dave Hunt
Studio for film: Jeremiah Films
Publisher for book: Harvest House Publishers
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year film released: 1982
Year book Published: 1983
Film Length: 56:00
Book length: 304-pages
Film Price: $21.99 DVD
Book Price: $14.99 Kindle, $14.99 Paper

The review that follows was originally published on the Amazon website on April 23, 2008. At the time I thought that the public had become sufficiently informed about the dubious tactics of Ed Decker to not use him as a resource. This is the man who respected Mormon Studies scholar, Jerald Tanner publicly criticized for his “ability to make up stories,” “his ability to fabricate evidence to support his own opinions,” and choosing to follow “the path of sensationalism in his work on Mormonism.”1

But in the intervening years, I have still seen some citing his work as if it’s respected and credible. It’s neither. If I were to rewrite this review today, I would be far more direct and to the pointed than I was then. Stated plainly, if you want to instantly discredit yourself with anyone in Mormon Studies in general, or with Latter-day Saints in particular, simply cite or use content from the Godmakers film or book. That said, here is that now, decade old and aging review for your consideration. — Fred W. Anson

Consider the Time
To fully appreciate this work you have to first put it in its 1982 historical context. The early-1980’s have come to be considered a transition period by many Church Historians. The Jesus Movement of the 1970’s was maturing as was the Charismatic Movement of the same decade. Both Movements were mellowing and casting off some of the excesses of their infancies. At the same time, the Vineyard movement had exploded on the scene bringing some new infant excesses to both challenges and refine the Church Universal. At the same time, traditional mainline denomination membership was beginning to see the first signs of decline as an interest in the more intimate, demonstrative worship of the Charismatic/Vineyard Churches and a unifying “Evangelical” Theology was diminishing denominational uniqueness.

However, some of the infantile excesses of all the above lingered. Specifically, the sensationalism of the “Bible Thumping” past was still in vogue. The memory of such best selling books as “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970) and “The Kingdom of the Cults” (1965) dominated Christian Publishing. The popular Apocalyptic “End Times” preaching of Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey and others were pulling in huge crowds and influenced many. On the air, TBN, PTL, “The 700 Club” and a whole host of radio personalities boasted audiences of literally millions (remember the Baaker and Swaggert scandals had not hit yet).

Finally, the boomers were hitting their late 20’s and early 30’s – looking back an awkward age where you know just enough to be dangerous and not nearly enough to be truly wise. As a result, I recall that the spirit of the age was still very much “in your face”, idealistic and rather judgmental.

On the popular culture side, shows like “That’s Incredible!” were all the rage.

In a nutshell, sensationalism was “in”, “good scholarship” and “reason” was viewed skeptically. In fact, the scholarship of the day could generally best be described as “good enough, is good enough!” And please remember this was in an age where Personal Computers were only available to a small segment of the population of and the Internet was only known in government and academic settings. “Nuanced” was a word that you looked up in the dictionary rather than lived – everything was either “black or white” or “us versus them”. Not a dark age, just another human age and one that contains many lessons for us today.

Ed Decker and Dave Hunter (who co-authored the Godmakers script and then the book with Ed Decker) were unquestionably influenced by all this (just read Hunt’s books from this period compared to his more recent work) and, therefore, produced two works on Mormonism that are sensational, abrasive, and lacking in a high degree of scholarship. Yes, they overstate things A LOT. Yes, they miss nuance again, again, and again. Yes, they exaggerate. Yes, their writing and film documentary style of the film can best be described as “National Enquirer”. Yes, they are often unkind, insensitive – even downright mean.

Yes! Yes! Yes! All true.

However, for the time it could have been A LOT worse! (Trust me on this one – I was there)

Is this the place I would go to get educated about Mormonism? Not now, but it was back then and I benefited greatly from the quick overview despite its horribly flawed style. And the meta-message that they brought is objectively and empirically true despite those horrible flaws – Mormonism is better off avoided if you’re not in it and exited if you are. Unfortunately, the style that that message was delivered in is rather ugly and unappealing.2

So this is another sad case where bad judgment overshadows good intention and reasonable content. Both Mormon and non-Mormon alike deserved better. As Mormon Studies Scholar, Carl Mosser summed things up so well years later:

Decker’s name alone is enough to discredit a book. Decker is infamous for the mistakes he makes describing Mormon doctrine, the sensationalist claims he has made about Mormon rituals and leaders, and the generally uncharitable attitude with which he conducts his ministry. Most Mormons are inoculated against anything with Decker’s name on it. I think it is foolish to give Decker’s materials to Mormons and unwise to give them to Christians to read. The Mormon will be repulsed and hardened, the Christian misinformed.3

Personally, I prefer the following “starter” books on Mormonism and would steer the reader to them and away from the Godmakers film or book, or anything with Ed Decker’s name on it:

Mormon America – Rev. Ed.: The Power and the Promise
Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints
Mormonism 101 for Teens: The Religion of the Latter-day Saints Simplified
The Changing World of Mormonism (FREE online edition)
The Changing World of Mormonism (FREE Adobe Acrobat eBook edition)
The Changing World of Mormonism (Paper edition)

And if you’re looking for something in a film-format instead:

The Mormons: Who They Are And What They Believe
The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon
The Mormons (PBS documentary)
The Bible v. Joseph Smith
DNA v. The Book of Mormon
The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating a Remarkable Mormon Claim

And last, but certainly, not least, if you’re interested in exactly how and where Ed Decker misrepresents Mormonism in the Godmakers film, Evangelical Apologist Rob Sivulka’s concise review contains point-by-point specifics. Click here to read his analysis,

(click to zoom)

NOTES
1 Jerald Tanner, “Serious Charges against the Tanners: Are the Tanners Demonized Agents of the Mormon Church?” (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1991), pp.32, 29.

2 As Utah Pastor Jason Wallace recently said so well of Decker’s methods:

One of my great frustrations with Ed Decker was that he tried to make Mormonism worse than it was. Just because it is an antichristian cult doesn’t mean we get to accuse its prophet of homosexual orgies (The Godmakers 2). “Pay lay el” did not mean “we praise thee, Satan.” I seriously doubt that Mormon spires were meant to impale Jesus on his return. When Decker’s exaggerations were challenged by Christians, he condemned them as defenders of Mormonism. I applaud the Tanners that they did defend the Mormon church against lies, even while standing clearly against its lies. Decker’s exaggerations actually made it easier for Mormons to ignore the truth. The Tanners caught flack, but their love of truth meant they had to stand against Decker’s slanders.
(Pastor Jason Wallace on Facebook, January 8, 2018

3 Carl Mosser, cited on “Saint Alive in Jesus”, Apologetics Index website from a comment in the AR-talk mailing list, February 28, 1998. 

(This article has been lightly revised, expanded, and updated for republication in this format)

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“#37 Even though it’s like punching Mormons in the face, you take great delight in over the top polemic and pejorative rhetoric that alienates and repels Mormons rather than drawing them to the Good News of the Gospel.”

by Michael Flournoy and Fred W. Anson
It’s the most frustrating thing imaginable, you’re challenging Mormon thought and preaching the truth, and you’re labeled an “Anti-Mormon”. In just four syllables you are discredited as a bigot and a deceiver who can’t leave the church alone. It’s annoying to be called Anti-Mormon when you actually like the LDS people, and you weren’t engaging in ad hominem attacks or being snarky.

On the flip side, Anti-Mormonism is a real thing, and it isn’t pretty. In fact, we believe Anti-Mormonism bolsters the testimony of Latter-day Saints. Why you ask? Mormons believe they are persecuted because they have the truth, and anytime they are treated unfairly in a discussion they think, “This proves I’m right.” It is the responsibility of Christians engaged in Mormon studies to know where the line is and avoid Anti-Mormonism like the plague. The following list contains some behaviors that we’ve seen Anti-Mormons engage in over the years. It can be used as a self-diagnostic as well as a set of things to avoid if you don’t want to be written off, dismissed, and ignored as “just another Anti!” by your Mormon friends and family.

You Might be an Anti-Mormon if…

  1. You can’t say anything good about the LDS Church even though it has some praiseworthy qualities and attributes.
  2. You weaponize freshly minted Ex-Mormons and encourage them to attack the Mormon Church rather than letting them heal and fully transition out of it first.
  3. You’re a snarky Anti-Mormon meme-generating machine.
  4. You’ll stay in Internet groups where Mormon Bashing is allowed – even encouraged – rather than voting with your feet by leaving.
  5. You divorce your True Believing Mormon (TBM) husband or wife despite the Apostle Paul’s clear directive to not divorce an unbelieving spouse (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
  6. You get angry whenever your TBM family and friends try to proselytize you, then whine because they get angry when you try to proselytize them.
  7. You get dizzy reading the Deseret News because your eyes are constantly rolling.
  8. You put your life on hold twice a year so you can watch General Conference live and find fault with it in real time.
  9. You only refer to Mormon Apologists by their Ex-Mormon culture nicknames (“Tapirman”, “Crazy Gordon”, “Michael R. Ass”, etc.) thereby dehumanizing and marginalizing them socially and psychologically.
  10. You speak in Ex-Mormonese rather than English. (“TSCC”, “LD$”, “MORmONism”, “Joseph’s Myth”, “The Profit”, “The Morg”, “God’s Only True Cult”, etc., etc.)
  11. You present Ed Decker’s “The Godmakers” in part or in full as an accurate depiction of what today’s Mormon Church teaches and believes.
  12. You present Jack Chick’s “The Visitors” and “The Enchanter” tracts as “balanced and true” depictions of Mormon doctrine, culture, and history.
  13. You think that the best (and possibly the only) biblical models for dealing with Mormons are Elijah on Mount Carmel and Christ Cleansing the Temple.
  14. You think that “The ends justify the means” even if that means exaggeration or outright lying about Mormon beliefs and practices.
  15. Your Social Media content is designed to provoke conflict rather than conversation with Latter-day Saints.
  16. You have to win the argument. Period.
  17. You won’t apologize to Latter-day Saints when you err with them lest you show weakness or acknowledge the possibility that you could be wrong.
  18. You stand idly by while others berate, abuse, and bully Mormons publicly.
  19. You refuse to learn, understand, appreciate, and respect Mormon Culture and smugly look down your nose at those who do.
  20. You belittle and mock all aspects of Mormonism – often in ugly, bigoted, and condescending ways.
  21. You take the biblical mandates to treat those in error with grace, gentleness, and respect (see 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:25, and Colossians 4:6) as optional or just suggestions.
  22. You treat other Christians who aren’t as vitriolic, rude, and insensitive to Mormons as you are with contempt.
  23. You take God’s place by judging and declaring the eternal fate of all Mormons simply based on the fact that they’re Mormon before you even know the particulars of their individual situations and personal beliefs.
  24. You go out of your way to offend Mormons with things that have little to nothing to do with the biblical gospel.
  25. You will fight to the death over secondary issues where Biblical Christianity and Mormonism disagree.
  26. You can’t say anything good about Joseph Smith.
  27. You can’t say anything good about Mormon Leaders despite their achievements and accomplishments outside of Mormonism or despite their role as positive agents of change within Mormonism.
  28. You chronically engage in over the top, hyperbolic language regarding Mormons and Mormonism.
  29. You deliberately misrepresent what Mormons believe and do in order to enhance your arguments.
  30. Even when your facts are straight your tone is shrill, condemning, and judgmental.
  31. You lobby for treating Mormons differently even if it’s unjust, unfair, uncivil, or downright bigoted.
  32. The majority of sources that you read and cite from in your work are Anti-Mormon sources that engage in all or some of the above tactics.
  33. You refuse to read and cite from Mormon friendly sources for a whole litany of reasons even when they are the most effective sources in persuading Mormons of how intellectually and spiritually bankrupt modern Mormonism is.
  34. You never give Mormons the benefit of the doubt when discussing theology with them.
  35. You make a point of telling Mormons they are in a cult.
  36. You consistently tell Mormons what they believe instead of asking them what they actually believe.
  37. Even though it’s like punching Mormons in the face, you take great delight in over the top polemic and pejorative rhetoric that alienates and repels Mormons rather than drawing them to the Good News of the Gospel.
  38. You can’t speak about your own faith without bringing up and putting down Mormonism in some form or fashion.
  39. If someone points out to you that you’re more in “The Church of Anti-Mormonism” than Christ’s Church you say, “Amen, to that!”
  40. You go into every engagement with Mormons wondering how you can triumph over them and set them straight rather than how you can love and serve them.
  41. You don’t think that you have anything to learn from Mormons or Mormonism since, “It’s all wrong, and there’s nothing good or true in it!”
  42. The thought of deceased Mormons realizing they were wrong and are being sent to hell amuses and/or pleases you.
  43. You’re an Ex-Mormon who rushed right into “ministry” rather than taking the time and effort to heal from Mormonism and fully transition into mainstream, Biblical Christianity first. That “ministry”, of course, involves relentlessly attacking the Mormon Church rather than taking up your cross and dying to yourself daily as Christ said is our first call as His disciples.
  44. Your stance is that even if the Mormon Church reforms and becomes biblically orthodox it should still be destroyed.
  45. You criticize other Christians who engage in the opposite of the above set of behaviors calling them “sissies” (or worse).
  46. You hate the Mormon Church more than you love Jesus.

The last one is probably the most important one – and the most telling one of all because it really speaks to one’s heart condition. Question: Who are you doing this for, yourself, the Mormon, or Christ? As Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers so famously said, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.” Can you say the same friend? Can you call Mormons “friends”? Can you call them “victims of Mormonism”? Or can you only call them “enemy”? If it’s the last one then please do us all a favor: Get out of Mormon Studies until you call them the other two.

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by Michael Flournoy
I sat around feeling dazed after two Mormon missionaries left my house one evening. The conversation had not gone as well as I would have liked. Despite being an Ex-Mormon apologist, I had been outclassed during the discussion.

As I replayed the night’s dialogue in my head, it became clear why I had struggled. I had allowed the two Elders to go on the attack when I should have been pressuring them. Their victory had been assured in the first few moments of the discussion. Since I failed to pin them down, they were able to engage in guerrilla warfare. This made it impossible to counter-attack, because I never knew exactly where they were coming from.

It’s been said that pinning down LDS theology is like nailing Jello to the wall, and that’s true. My new approach “The Possible Gospel”, is a way to pin a Latter-day Saint down so you can focus your message appropriately.

Step 1: Pin them Down
The first question you need to ask a Latter-day Saint is, “What type of righteousness do you believe gets you Eternal Life?”

The 5 types are as follows (in order from most accurate to least accurate):

Imputed Righteousness: God accredits all His righteousness to the believer up front.

Infused Righteousness: God gives His righteousness to His followers little by little as a reward for their obedience.

Joint Righteousness: The believer does his best and Christ makes up the rest.

Enabled Righteousness: Christ’s atonement enables or empowers believers to keep the commandments and obtain their own worthiness.

Self Righteousness: Righteousness can be obtained without Jesus.

As an aside, the words “saved” and “salvation” are almost worthless in this discussion. They may believe in imputed righteousness for salvation an in another righteousness for eternal life and exaltation, which are more important in their theology. You are always better off saying “exaltation” or “eternal life”.

You may need to specify that you are talking about the righteousness needed to enter the highest heaven: the Celestial Kingdom.

I don’t recommend trying this with more than one or two Mormons at a time, because different answers will complicate the process.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Latter-day Saint tries to squirm out of answering this question. Mormon do not like being pinned down. They will always want to leave some windows open to leap through if they get in a tough spot. For example, they might say, “I believe in a combination of these.”

If this happens, simply explain that the types of righteousness are exclusive to each other. Infused and imputed righteousness is God’s righteousness, joint righteousness is a combination of the two, and enabled and self-righteousness belong to the individual person. Suggest that perhaps what they believe in is joint righteousness.

The worst thing a Mormon can say is, “Maybe it’s none of those. Maybe it hasn’t been revealed yet.” If this occurs, remind the Mormon that the gospel is the means of salvation. If Mormonism is the “restored gospel” there must be a solid answer to this question.

In short, you must get the Latter-day Saint to commit to one of these answers or there is no point in continuing the discussion.

Step 2: Sink the other Boats
Once you get the Mormon to commit to one of the 5 types of righteousness, it’s time to play some Battleship. Sink the other types of righteousness until there is nothing left except the answer they picked and imputed righteousness. This is to prevent them from switching answers later in the discussion.

Refer to Step 3 to get a feel for refuting the different types of righteousness.

What’s nice about this step, is you are temporarily siding with the Mormon against these other false types of righteousness, and it’s likely they will actually help you complete this step. If they do, make sure to use their own words if they try to change positions later.

Step 3: Sink their Boat
Sinking Self Righteousness
Chance of them choosing this: Very Low
You won’t need to spend a lot of time on self-righteousness because the Mormon will agree that salvation is impossible apart from Jesus. You will want to discuss this first, as it sets the stage to sink the other types of righteousness (hint: enabled, joint, and infused righteousness are really just fancy types of self-righteousness at the end of the day).

A good verse to bring up is Galatians 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

Sinking Enabled Righteousness
Chance of them choosing this: High
I recommend using the “Impossible Gospel” approach to deal with enabled righteousness.

Start with this question: If you believe in enabled righteousness, you must be perfect. Right?”

On the off chance they say, “yes”, point to 2 Nephi 4:17-19 in The Book of Mormon. It says:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

Note: This is a great verse to bring up at some point in the discussion even if they admit to being imperfect, because the theme of this verse “trusting God while still in sin” goes against enabled, joint, and infused righteousness.

You can pressure the Mormon and say, “Do you really believe you’re more righteous than Nephi?”

You can also point out 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Of course, the Mormon will usually admit they are not perfect yet. When this happens, ask them why not. After all, if they are covered in the enabling grace of Christ, then keeping the commandments should be easy, so why do they struggle?

Sometimes Mormons will say they are getting a little better at obeying God each day. If this happens, ask for their ETA on reaching perfection.

Ask them if God will be satisfied with just improvement on judgment day when they are still in sin. Be prepared with Alma 45:16 in The Book of Mormon, which says God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

Some more verses to hammer in the impossibility of the enabled gospel are as follows:

James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

2 Nephi 25:23 (Book of Mormon): “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

Moroni 10:32 (Book of Mormon): “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

Note: These Book of Mormon verses are great to use if the Mormon chose joint righteousness because they promote it more than enabled righteousness.

You’ll want to explain to your LDS friend that reaching perfection so we can have grace is actually the same thing as self-righteousness, and a perfect person doesn’t need grace.

Mormons may protest and say you are twisting their scriptures, and they rely on Christ. They may argue that commandments and covenants are simply part of faith because faith is an action word and not merely belief.

If this happens, ask if the Jews felt the same way. Didn’t they believe in the law and in God? Therefore Galatians 2:21 applies to them. If righteousness comes through the law, or commandments, or LDS covenants then Christ died in vain.

Challenge the Latter-day Saint to show you a passage in scripture that calls Jesus the great Empowerer or the Enabler.

Sinking Joint Righteousness
Chance of them choosing this: High
If the Latter-day Saint chooses joint righteousness, I recommend referring them to the talk “His Grace is Sufficient”, by Brad Wilcox. Although Mr. Wilcox is LDS, he is an enemy to joint righteousness, and he refutes the idea within the first six minutes of his talk. Mormons tend to be more receptive to correction from their own people.

Start with the question, “How much do you have to do before Christ makes up the difference?”

The Mormon will usually say they have to do their best. 2 Nephi 25:23 says we are saved after all we can do, and Moroni 10:32 says we must deny ourselves of all ungodliness for Christ’s grace to suffice.

Use the Impossible Gospel argument to point out that they aren’t doing “all they can do”. Could they have spent 5 more minutes praying this morning? Could they have read 10 more minutes of scripture? Could they have spent last weekend at the temple or feeding the homeless? Do they ever indulge in self-gratification when they could be serving God?

Use the arguments in my section about enabled righteousness to show that God cannot look upon sin with allowance, and if we falter in one point we are guilty of breaking His whole law.

Ask the Mormon if we can be saved in our sins and be prepared with Alma 11:37 in The Book of Mormon that says we cannot be saved in our sins. Explain to your LDS friend that joint righteousness is synonymous with salvation in sin.

Explain further that joint righteousness is impossible. Either we are worthy by ourselves and God doesn’t need to intervene, or we are sinners, and thus in the red. If we are in the red, God is saving us in sin, and fully on His own.

Sinking Infused Righteousness
Chance of them choosing this: Medium
Most Latter-day Saints have never heard of infused righteousness, but sometimes when it’s explained to them they’ll jump on the bandwagon.

If they choose infused righteousness, build it up first. Use Philippians 3:9 to show that Paul didn’t have a righteousness of his own, but a righteousness that came from God. Explain that infused and imputed righteousness are the only two viable options.

The trouble is, even though infused righteousness has a Biblical appearance, it still has the same practical problems as the other types of righteousness. For instance, if we are having righteousness infused into us, why would we still struggle? And why would God mix His righteousness with someone who is in sin?

If you are familiar with Catholicism (they believe in infused righteousness), use some comparisons. Catholics believe in a holding place for Spirits that aren’t righteous enough, just like Mormons. Catholics believe in ongoing communion to cancel out sin and add righteousness, just like Mormons.

The dilemma with infused righteousness is it never quite gets you all the way to perfect worthiness. Eternal life is always something you strive for, but never something you achieve.

The apostle Paul dismantles infused righteousness in Romans 4:4-5:

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

In other words, if God hands out His righteousness as a result of our obedience, that’s a wage. However, Paul stresses over and over again that grace is a gift, and it has nothing to do with our works.

(click to zoom)

Step 4: Teach them Imputed Righteousness
At this point, the Mormon will be confused or anxious so offer them a way out. Tell them they might like imputed righteousness more than they think because it’s all over The Book of Mormon and it’s a major theme in the temple.

A Mormon likely won’t be familiar with imputed righteousness, so you’ll have to explain it a little. I do it like this:

“Imputation is kind of the opposite of amputation. Instead of having something taken off you, you’re having something put on, or accredited to you. It’s kind of like marrying a millionaire. Even if you were tens of thousands of dollars in debt before, you are now a millionaire by virtue of your spouse.

You actually do believe in it. You believe that when Jesus died, He took our sins upon Him. That’s imputation. The big difference between us, is I believe in double imputation. So not only did Jesus take the full weight of my sins, he also gave me the full weight of His righteousness when I became a believer.”

A good example of double imputation is the story of Barabbas, a guilty criminal, in the New Testament. Christ took the death penalty that Barabbas deserved, while Barabbas received the freedom that Jesus deserved.

Imputation is a major theme in LDS temples because Mormons do saving ordinances for the dead who can’t receive them. The dead do not have to physically perform any works, they just have to accept what has been done on their behalf. It is a flawless representation of imputed righteousness.

Mormons will probably push back a little by emphasizing obedience, sanctification, and repentance. Sometimes the phrase, “I believe that too,” is your best tool. This way Mormons come to realize that imputation covers all the bases that are important to them. The difference is, it provides a safety net for the believer while they are being sanctified.

Show the Mormon Moroni 10:32-33 in The Book of Mormon. The same passage that refutes joint and enabled righteousness, fits imputed righteousness perfectly. Especially verse 33 which says,

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”

According to this verse, perfection comes before sanctification, and both are the result of grace and the shedding of Christ’s blood. I’ve told LDS before, “If that’s not imputed righteousness, then I don’t know what is!”

This passage in Moroni echoes Hebrews 10:14: “For by a single offering [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

The fact is imputed righteousness immediately satisfies the worthiness requirement to enter God’s presence, while allowing the believer to grow in his walk with God.

Step 5: Get out of God’s Way
This approach isn’t very flashy, and it’s not going to make anyone too defensive. You never really get to a resolution, it’s more about planting a seed and letting God grow it. Instead of attacking Mormonism, you are showing the virtues of a Biblical doctrine.

This is the belief that stole me away from Mormonism, it was the antidote to a works-based religion. Mormons say they are saved by grace, but they also believe ordinances like baptism are required to enter the Celestial Kingdom. Imputation is the missing puzzle piece that emphasizes grace and negates works and covenants.

Challenge the Latter-day Saint to study imputed righteousness. Tell them you have a testimony of the doctrine, and let them know you are available if they have questions about it.

The more a Latter-day Saint comes to embrace imputation, the more precarious their position becomes. If imputation is true, there is no requirement for temple ordinances because we already have sufficient righteousness. If imputation is true there was no need for a restoration because Christians already had the true gospel.

If imputation is true we don’t need a priesthood to seal us to God because Christ’s righteousness already does that. Simply stated, if imputation is true then Mormonism is false.

“Sinking of HMS Hood” by J.C. Schmitz-Westerholt

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