Archive for the ‘Mormon Studies’ Category

We Agree with Moroni 8--18

“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
Moroni 8:18

There was a time when Mormons agreed with Moroni 8:18. As Mormon historian Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”1

Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
Psalm 90:2 (JST)

“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”
Isaiah 43:10 (JST)

“I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.”
Isaiah 44:6 (JST)

Doctrine and Covenants
In what was originally read to Church membership as the “Articles and Covenants of the Church,” D&C 20:17 spoke of the God who was always the same unchangeable God: “By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…” D&C 76:4 spoke of this same God: “From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail…”

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

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

Lectures on Faith
In what was originally a part of Mormon scripture, Lecture 3 of the Lectures on Faith taught, “A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes” is “…necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” It goes on to quote the word of God, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” The lecture then goes on to say that, “he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”

Book of Mormon
This echoes Mosiah 3:5, which speaks of “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…” Moroni 7:22 also speaks of “God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…” A chapter later we learn in Moroni 8:18 that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.” Other passages in the Book of Mormon also reaffirm God’s eternal, unchangeable nature:

“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 27:23

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 29:9

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

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

Mormonism Radically Changed
The Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830. Fourteen years later, Mormon theology had dramatically changed. On April 7, 1844, Joseph Smith preached his famous King Follett Discourse. In it he taught:

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…

It is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple…

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you…2

Lorenzo Snow summarized the big idea that further developed like this: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may be.”

Since then, Mormonism has never been the same. Mormons now radically re-interpret verses like Moroni 8:18 and essentially reject the original teaching that God was unchangeably God from all eternity to all eternity. Mormons are now even in disarray and confusion over whether Heavenly Father was once a sinful mortal.3

Again, Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

NOTES
1 Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology.” Sunstone 5:4; July-August 1980
2 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. On June 16, 1844, Smith went on to teach that Heavenly Father has his own Heavenly Father (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 473-479). Also see Ensign, April 1971 and May 1971.
3 See http://GodNeverSinned.com

JST = The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (aka “The Inspired Version”)

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

by Fred W. Anson
One of the most common Mormon arguments is that they have no creeds. They further argue that the creeds of other churches are an abomination as well as evidence of their corrupt and apostate state. Probably no one has articulated this stance better than BYU professors Craig Ostler and the late Joseph Fielding McConkie when they wrote:

“Wherever creeds are found one can also expect to find a paid clergy, the simple truths of the gospel cloaked in the dark robes of mystery, religious intolerance, and a history of bloodshed”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig Ostler, “Revelations of the Restoration”, p.964)

And of the many “abominable creeds” of Christendom to chose from, I think one would be hard pressed to find one that Latter-day Saints more pour contempt on than the Nicene Creed:

“Men with keen intelligence got together… [at] Nicea and created a God. They did not pray for wisdom or revelation. They claimed no revelation from the Lord. They made it just about like a political party would do, and out of their own mortal minds created a God which is still worshiped by the great majority of Christians”
(Spencer W. Kimball, “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”, p. 426. Ellipsis and brackets in original)

“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)

“The knowledge of God and His physical separateness from His Son and the Holy Ghost was lost after the death of Christ and His Apostles. Confusion and false doctrines about the Godhead were fashioned out of the Nicene Creed and Constantinople councils… I know that heaven-sent revelations have replaced the gross errors of man-made doctrines concerning the Godhead”
(Gary J. Coleman, “Mom, Are We Christians?” Ensign, May 2007, pp.92-93)

“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)

“Our Catholic friends, our Protestant friends, give us their definition of deity in the Nicene Creed. But that’s just a creed that came of the discussions of men. The marvelous thing is that the boy Joseph was able to testify of the real nature of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And that makes it possible for you and for me to understand our relationship to them. Each of us is a child of God. A son or a daughter of God in a very real sense and we can pray to Him and He will hear and answer our prayers.”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Nature of God”, Church News, July 1, 2006, p.2)

“We do not accept the Athanasian Creed. We do not accept the Nicene Creed, nor any other creed based on tradition and the conclusions of men.”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are People Asking About Us?” Ensign, November 1998, pp.70-71)

But if the Nicene Creed is such an abomination, why is much of it found in D&C 20:17-28? A side-by-side comparison is very surprising.

Doctrine & Covenants 20:17-28
(from the 1835 edition of D&C) 

Nicene Creed
(from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)

By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth, And all things visible and invisible;

 

And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man.

Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them. He was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; And ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father; That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved– And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation he came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered, and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
Not only those who believed after he came in the meridian of time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came, who believed in the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who truly testified of him in all things, should have eternal life, As well as those who should come after, who should believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son;
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end.
And I believe in one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come.
Amen. Amen.

source: Owen D. West III, “Questions to Gospel Answers: Are all their creeds an abomination in God’s sight?”1

So if the Nicene Creed is abominable, then what does that make D&C 20? And if it’s a creed that’s, according to former LdS President Gordon B. Hinckley, “based on tradition and the conclusions of men” that “came of their discussions” then what does that say about an alleged revelation that has it embedded right in it?2

Speaking of Ecclesiastical Councils…
(the Quorum of the Twelve Latter-day Saint Apostles and the First Presidency circa 2017)

NOTES
1 Here are the original end notes of  Owen D. West, III, the creator of this table, regarding it’s background and content:

(The Nicene Creed is also based almost entirely on scripture, much more so than the Articles of Faith. Almost every phrase is taken word for word from the Bible. All phrases have Biblical supporting scriptures).

At first I used the Nicene Creed as used in English by the Roman Catholic Church today. I then realized that the Roman Catholic Church would have been using Latin in 1830, and since we have already seen a strong tie to the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer for the Sacramental prayers (Rite I), and since this book has been available in the U.S. since 1789, I changed to this version, which (should come as no surprise) is much closer on a word by word basis to D&C 20 than is the modern English Roman Catholic version. I then compared to the even older Book of Common Prayer from the Church of England and found it to be word for word the same as the old Episcopalian version (with different capitalization and punctuation and spelling, e.g. Catholic and Apostolic for Catholick and Apostolick). [It is the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer that is the source of so much animosity in the early LDS writing. Polemics against a God “without body, parts or passions”, or the emphasis on the Creed of Athanasius are related to this book.] I have used the Church of England Nicene creed above.

D&C 20 is obviously related to the Nicene Creed in both word and organization. Joseph Smith used the format of the Nicene Creed in writing D&C section 20 in the same way that I did when I wrote my own statement of faith. I wrote my statement of faith without referring to the Nicene Creed because after saying it so many times and having memorized it is easy to use these familiar phrases, blending them into my own belief statement. I believe Joseph Smith (or whoever actually wrote this part of D&C 20) did not have to refer to this well known Christian creed because it was part of his background. I believe this is also why we find familiar phrases from the “Doxology” in the modern scriptures published by Joseph Smith. These phrases were already a part of his religious “vocabulary”.

2 Oh, and by the way, the way that Mormon leaders portray the events of the Council of Nicea bears little to no resemblance to the historical record. As Christian author James White notes:

Nicea was not creating some new doctrine, some new belief, but clearly, explicitly, defining truth against error. The council had no idea that they, by their gathering together, possessed some kind of sacramental power of defining beliefs: they sought to clarify biblical truth, not to put themselves in the forefront and make themselves a second source of authority.

This can easily be seen from the fact that Athanasius, in defending the Nicene council, does so on the basis of its harmony with Scripture, not on the basis of the council having some inherent authority in and of itself. Note his words: “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.”

The relationship between the sufficient Scriptures and the “Nicene Bishops” should be noted carefully. The Scriptures are not made insufficient by the council; rather, the words of the council “remind” one of the “religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.” Obviously, then, the authority of the council is derivative from its fidelity to Scripture…

Modern Christians often have the impression that ancient councils held absolute sway, and when they made “the decision,” the controversy ended. This is not true. Though Nicea is seen as one of the greatest of the councils, it had to fight hard for acceptance. The basis of its final victory was not the power of politics, nor the endorsement of established religion. There was one reason the Nicene definition prevailed: its fidelity to the testimony of the Scriptures.

And as Dr. White concludes:

Why do Christians believe in the deity of Christ today? Is it because they have been forced to do so by legislated theology from councils and popes? No, it is because the Scriptures teach this truth. When orthodox believers affirm the validity of the creed hammered out at Nicea, they are simply affirming a concise, clear presentation of scriptural truth. The authority of the Nicene creed, including its assertion of the homoousion, is not to be found in some concept of an infallible church, but in the fidelity of the creed to scriptural revelation. It speaks with the voice of the apostles because it speaks the truth as they proclaimed it.
(James R. White, “What Really Happened at Nicea?”, Christian Research Institute Journal, June 2009) 

16th Century Fresco in the Sistine Chapel depicting the First Council of Nicea.

16th Century Fresco in the Sistine Chapel depicting the First Council of Nicea.

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Evangelical Christians Praying for Mormons at the Manti Miracle Pageant in 2016.

by Jaxon Washburn
Nowadays, I tend to peruse and engage in many online forums and discussion groups geared towards Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. I actively read and study from various biblical commentaries, historical works, and books on theology, apologetics, and Church history (both churches included). I have been able to have many acquaintances from both sides of the divide that I am happy to call “friend”, one being Fred Anson, the founder, and publisher of Beggar’s Bread – who graciously invited me to write this open letter to Evangelicals.

Now, it is not unknown that Fred is generally critical of Mormonism as well as a non-professional student of Mormon Studies. There are myriad areas in which he and I are sure to disagree, and yet such doesn’t prohibit the two of us from respectful, genuine conversation, and occasionally friendly banter. There are sure to be individuals from both camps which are astounded to hear that such is possible. To them, I would share a quote from Thomas Jefferson that I wholly attempt to live by: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

I understand that I am the first active True Believing Mormon (or “TBM” as some jokingly call it) to write for Beggar’s Bread. I am happy to be, what is hopefully, a trendsetter here since I’m a firm advocate for meaningful and positive cross-denominational interactions.

It is my hope that I will be able to squeeze in a few more appearances here before I depart on my mission in the coming months after I complete some schooling at Arizona State University (ASU). And in saying so, I should include that my message today is not at all antithetical for my plans on serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; despite what the click-bait title might have you think! No, I wish instead to offer some serious reflection and advice I believe will be valuable to Evangelicals in their fellowshipping with members of my own faith community.

I often find that too often what could have been substantial discussions, real relationships, and even legitimate spiritual experiences are traded through an expectation of quick conversions with shallow conversations and insincere outreach. Thus I will be answering the following question I consider to be vital if any Evangelical wishes to engage with their Latter-day Saint friends: “How would I, as a Mormon, like to be preached to?” and provide practical suggestions for facilitating dialogue between adherents of both respective faith groups.

The Language Barrier
The ability to clearly communicate our demands, emotions, questions, statements, conjecture and abstract concepts is a constant task required by all members of society. In conveying those ideas with enough coherence and precision so as to effectively convey those same ideas into the minds of those whom we are speaking with, most find themselves at a loss for words. This can often come with great difficulty when we find ourselves unable to express ourselves at times, or else subject ourselves and other to a series of unfortunate events due to a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication. Now consider the difficulty when speaking completely different languages and the imagery of the confusion at the Tower of Babel is sure to come to mind., most involved in interfaith dialogue enter into such speaking the same actual language, however that doesn’t mean that they will speak the same theological or religious language.

The odds are, both parties will be walking into the discussion carrying different baggage whether that be preconceived ideas about the other, presuppositions about their own faith, past spiritual experiences, and a different vocabulary to communicate such. This is what I refer to as “the Language Barrier of Faith”, and it is an individual’s responsibility to overcome it if they wish to speak with a person of another worldview. I am no stranger to the confusion and frustration that can come when two or more well-meaning people, when engaging in active discussion about their beliefs, fail to speak to each other in clearly defined and mutually understood terms. Unfortunately, many of the conversations held between Mormons and their Evangelical neighbors go along these same lines.

Let’s take Portuguese and Spanish for example: did you know that it is easier for someone who speaks only Portuguese to understand someone speaking only Spanish, than for a Spanish-speaking individual to understand a native of Portugal or Brazil? The two languages are strikingly similar in a variety of ways and are close relatives within the same Romance language family, however, it is noticeably easier for a native of one to understand the other, and noticeably more difficult when the positions are switched. Why is this? Simply put, Portuguese itself is a more complex relative of Spanish with a high amount of possible variation in its verb, noun and adjective endings that prove more challenging for Spanish speakers to pick up on. Pronunciation also makes things more challenging as Portuguese have more phonemes (sounds) than Spanish, equipping the natives of that tongue with an early ability to comprehend and “decode” differences in sounds such as nasal and regular verb endings. All in all, the two languages pose a unique situation and challenge for their respective native speakers when wishing to dialogue; exemplifying a concept that I believe to be comparable to Mormons and Evangelicals, and their respective theological languages.

It is a common experience for many Evangelicals or Protestants in general that, after speaking with either missionaries or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presumably hearing a testimony given on the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, they walk away with feelings of surprise and confusion at the apparent similarity of much of what was said in comparison to their own beliefs. This is due to the similar vocabulary held between both Mormons and Evangelicals in matters of scripture, theology, and faith. Words like God, Christ, sin, Atonement, Grace, faith, prayer, repentance, baptism, salvation, heaven, Resurrection, scripture, revelation, and the Holy Spirit, all frequent the standard Mormon religious vernacular as often as they do the Evangelical. Where the confusion comes in though is due to the – at times large – differences in the definitions that are behind such words.

As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints historically stems from the Latter Day Saint Movement of 19th Century American Restorationism, it naturally carries with it a multitude of terms, concepts, and practices not at all uncommon within Mainline Protestantism from which many of its early converts were derived from. With its religious vernacular being akin to that of King James English, (the KJV Bible being its official translation) Mormon theological and scriptural phraseology is not too distant from most Evangelicals. It is this similarity with language -mixed with many unique Mormon terms- that can often be perplexing to most other Christians in active discussion with them. On the flip side, apart from more complex and technical Protestant theological terms, Mormons are usually already aware or familiar with much of the Evangelical vernacular, or at least enough to not experience the same confusion as their neighbors.

Unfortunately, both groups can and have, at times, come to the theological table with their own share of ignorance, misconceptions, or simplified understanding of the other’s position. Take soteriological views, for example. I have often heard many Mormons describe the Evangelical concept of Sola Gratia (Salvation by Grace Alone) to be one of “Hey man! We are saved! Now let’s party and do whatever we want!” Any informed Latter-day Saint on the subject would now that this is a stark mischaracterization of the true meaning of Grace to Evangelicals. As equally as untrue is the understanding of the Mormon view of salvation from many within the Evangelical crowd as one based entirely on works; in other words, a legalistic system in which individuals must earn their way to heaven by performing the set amount of righteous works. Both views are incorrect and often falsely paint the individuals of the two groups to either be adherents to a cheap and hypocritical form of Christianity, or just a revival of pharisaical believers who are adding a Law unto themselves.

How members of both faith traditions might combat this common scenario is first by clearly defining the terms that they are using, a necessity for any philosophical and theological discussion. As both individuals define words like Grace, faith, righteousness, works, salvation etc, they will quickly find that while there are many similarities in the manners and meanings they use such words in, likewise there are many essential differences that can be overlooked during superficial and quick interactions. Hence my admonition to 1) understand the other’s position in depth, 2) familiarize yourself with the unique religious vernacular (terms such as stake center, testimony, baptisms for the dead and others for the Mormon, and terms like communion, imputation, and others for the Evangelical,) and finally be able to actually speak and explain yourself in ways and terms that the other will understand. The Evangelical must learn what is jokingly referred to as “Mormonese”, and likewise, the Mormon must learn to speak like an Evangelical and speak “Christianese”.

Often, Evangelicals are astounded when I, as a Mormon, speak as if I myself am an Evangelical. This is due to the fact that I have attended various other Christian churches, including my mother’s own nondenominational church for many years. Likewise, I have gone to multiple Christian summer camps and attended youth Bible study during the same time. Essentially it just reflects the amount of time I have spent reading, studying, interacting with, and immersed in an Evangelical environment. The same rule applies to learning an actual language: the quickest way to learn is by living in that country and immersing yourself with its people!

Study and Research
Prerequisite to any informed conversation about a subject is the active study and research of it beforehand. Said research is best accomplished when undertaken by the proper, balanced study of materials coming from a variety of perspectives. Unfortunately, it is my experience that many of the Evangelicals who often perform direct outreach to Latter-day Saints do so with having only a superficial understanding of Mormon beliefs and teachings, which are often studied only through the lens of polemic and counter-cult materials and tracts. If explanations are given from either source, they are often basic, and lacking in both full comprehension and quick reference to valuable sources, making the end-result varied in clarity and uniformity.

This can’t be considered fully the fault of the average Mormon in accidentally misrepresenting or being somewhat ignorant to the full teachings of their Church. It is quite unreasonable to expect the standard member to be a master historian, scriptorian, or theologian, and this can often be met with unmet expectations. This is especially accurate when speaking to missionaries who are presupposed by some to have undergone a similar amount of devotional education as many clergy and pastors from theological seminaries, when in reality they are little more than youth fresh out of high school with a simple testimony of Christ and the Restored Gospel, and a desire to serve and share with others.

Thus it is my advice to the Evangelical to read. Read from Latter-day Saint sources. I don’t say this out of my own bias, but rather to speak to the credibility that comes with having an understanding based directly from knowing the same materials and literature that Latter-day Saints will be familiar with: Stated plainly, that means that you need to read the Standard Works first – that is, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Any Mormon would be more than happy to provide these for you at no cost. Read other important works from Latter-day Saint history as well as modern objective scholarly sources. THEN, if you so wish, move to polemic and counter-cult material so that you can both recognize misleading or inaccurate representations of actual Mormon beliefs as described and taught by Mormons themselves, while also drawing from whatever database of apologetical information and arguments that one might choose to use against Mormonism.

A real-life scenario might be seen in the pretend (but all too common) dialogue held between an Evangelical and a Mormon to whom they might be proselytizing:

E: The Book of Mormon is clearly false as it teaches a false gospel not found in the New Testament. (Galatians 1:6-9) This can be simply seen where in 2nd Nephi 25:23, it teaches a completely different understanding of Grace than found in Ephesians 2:8-9. Mormonism teaches that you are only saved by grace after all you can do, whereas Biblical Christianity teaches that by grace, ye are saved through faith and not of yourselves. Mormons rely on their own merit for salvation and not on the Grace of God.

M: Well, you are certainly correct that 2nd Nephi, Galatians, and Ephesians all contain those words, I am just wondering though where you learned that we believe that? Have you ever read the Book of Mormon yourself? There are actually some places which very much agree with you, that we cannot rely on our own merits and works to be saved but that we can only be saved by and through Christ.

E: No, I have never read the Book of Mormon. I have only read a few small parts, but I know from what I have seen that it teaches a completely different Gospel than the one taught in the Bible!

It is in this moment, that I can say as a Mormon, that any credibility held by the Evangelical is likely to have been lost in the eyes of the average Mormon. This is due to the simple matter of hearing that the mere courtesy of fully researching and reading the sacred scripture recognized by the Latter-day Saint in question, was not taken, and instead of seeing a loving though respectfully disagreeing Christian neighbor, they see a polemical and ignorant antagonist that is misrepresenting their faith. Consider, for example, how you, as an Evangelical, regard atheists who have never read the Bible but feel free to criticize – even condemn it – sight unseen.

Now, how could have some extensive and quality research have changed this situation? The Evangelical might have understood the historical, theological, or devotional context and understanding of the Book of Mormon verse in question. They may have studied how Latter-day Saints can and have interpreted the 2nd Nephi 25:23 in various ways, and not have treated it as a scriptural monolith. They might have avoided blanket statements on the Mormon faith at large so as to allow for more diversity in thought, interpretation, and understanding. As a Mormon, I will tell you that Mormon doctrine is not always uniform, in fact on certain issues, the split in thought might be reminiscent to that of the Calvinist-Arminian debate in that the far majority do not consider full agreement or uniformity to be necessary to be a fully believing Mormon in good standing.

Bottom-line in what I’m advising is this: before you pull a quote or verse off of a tract, polemical book, or website, at least check the source you are reading to have a solid understanding of context and interpretation. Just as I imagine it would irk an Evangelical if an Atheist quoted Bible verses out of context without regard to how Christians see it, so too does the same occur for Mormons who often find supposed words and teachings insisted down their throats outside of their respective context.

Avoid Common Pitfalls
As a matter of fact, I would advise discarding the following approaches. Though at times commonly undertaken by certain Evangelicals, I do not believe as a Latter-day Saint that they are ultimately in their favor of using, when attempting to share their beliefs with Mormons:

“Shock-and-Awe” Approach: This can manifest itself in a variety of forms, the most common of which though lie in either tracts, handouts, or in conversations held with Mormons. The point of this methodology is to so utterly overwhelm one’s opponent with points and arguments fired in such rapid succession so as to disallow for qualitative responses and examination. The individual such a barrage is aimed at has not the time, nor the means to realistically respond to each point in question, and so many either remain unanswered or superficially rebutted. This serves as a quick way to put up walls between the Mormon and the Evangelical, as many would rather keep walking or disengage than be verbally beaten with Bible verses and varied quotations laced with unfamiliar spins.

An example of what NOT to do: Tactless Outreach.

Tactless Outreach: Frankly, most Mormons aren’t too excited to see demonstrating or proselyting done outside their sacred spaces. At times when a Mormon is seeking to be spiritually uplifted during important cultural and religious occasions, such as during Christmas and Easter pageants, Temple Dedications, attending General Conference, or other large gatherings, the last thing many wish to see or hear are individuals likewise gathered to meet them and just to invalidate their beliefs and experiences, looking to sway them from their faith, and debate them in matters of their religious beliefs. Now, I completely understand just how tempting an opportunity it often is given the higher number of “unsaved” Mormons that one can reach, however, I often don’t find it as efficacious as one might think. Again, the presence of foreign and opposing groups at Mormon sacred spaces and community events often will lead many within the LDS community to just keep walking, and worse: make generalizations about who and what they see that often go uncorrected. First impressions are everything, and if my first impression as a Mormon is associating Evangelicals with extreme fundamentalist sects of Christianity such as the Westboro Baptist church due to the methodology of their outreach, it would literally take an act of Divine Intervention to take sincere interest.

Scripted Discussion, “Gotcha” Discourse, and Condescending Rhetoric: Much of this is common sense although I find these three also worth mentioning as each will likely do more harm than good in opening up the Mormon to further discussion. Just as I -and the LDS Church- strongly advise outgoing missionaries, don’t rely on scripted or rehearsed discussion when talking to individuals about your beliefs, instead have an open, free-flowing, and honest conversation. Be a Disciple of Christ, not a door-to-door vacuum salesman looking to squeeze a sale out of an unsuspecting, and a begrudging, customer. Nothing better idealizes this than 1st Peter 3:15 (NIV) “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Give answers from the heart, not a tract; from the Word of God, not a hand-out. Mormons will respect and be more open to you for it, and they will appreciate a genuine conversation.

Likewise avoid what I call “gotcha” discourse, or essentially asking leading questions for the sole purpose of entrapping a Mormon into a corner. The scriptures are full of examples of people who carry out questioning and dialogue in this way, and the majority of the time they are not looked favorably upon. It was the Pharisees who sought to entrap and entangle the Savior in his words so that they might condemn Him. My hope is that when outreach to Mormons is undertaken that the focus for the Evangelical might be on winning them to Christ, rather than winning the argument.

In fact, there shouldn’t be an argument at all. When anger or irritation becomes the predominant feeling in the conversation, the Mormon will quickly remove themselves from the situation. Mormons refer to this as the “Spirit of Contention” and it is basically a term for when a person or discussion’s focus has shifted to foster an air of hostility, toxicity, disrespect, or otherwise unkindness. You can actively disagree, you can share your lack of acceptance of belief in various aspects of Mormonism, and you can elaborate on concerns you have regarding points of Mormon doctrine and for the salvation of Mormons themselves, all without being contentious.

Finally to this same point, avoid belittling or condescending rhetoric. This is one of the quickest to both shut a Mormon off from a potential conversation and in fulfilling negative stereotypes many Mormons might have developed towards Evangelicals based oft limited, though negative, interactions with them. Despite an Evangelical’s likely opinion of Joseph Smith being a false prophet and a charlatan, the Book of Mormon being a falsified and illegitimate book of scripture, and the Mormon Jesus as a false-Christ, put all those aside and don’t “shoot yourself in the foot” by saying them outright to a Mormon’s face. It is as effectual and convincing as an Atheist approaching an Evangelical and calling the Bible a fairy-tale, Jesus as a myth, and Christianity as just wishful thinking at best. Pejoratives don’t work, they offend. Belittling doesn’t convert, it closes doors and hearts. As a Mormon, I love to see Evangelicals bold in sharing their own beliefs, without boldly attacking the beliefs that I hold sacred and dear as a Mormon. Which leads us into the next segment…

Invalidating Other’s Spiritual Experiences: Personally speaking, I can look back at many profound and life-changing spiritual experiences that I have had thus far in my life. Moments that have formed the basis for my testimony or faith in Jesus being the Risen Savior, of dying for my sins, of rising from the dead, and being the sole Rock in which I place my faith. I have had deep and intimate experiences where I have felt his unwavering and unconditional love for me, which I cannot deny. The majority of these have taken place within the context of Mormonism.

Without going into further detail, it amazes me when the born-again experiences of many Evangelicals and the descriptive language they use in retelling them so closely parallel what I have felt. The surprise comes in sharing them with Evangelicals, who then dismiss or invalidate them as not being real or legitimate experiences with Christ. It’s as if some Evangelicals wish to claim a monopoly on experiencing God, Christ, and Truth. Imagine if Paul did that in response to Cornelius’ claims of his own spiritual experiences? (Acts 10) I will further illustrate this through someone who is a great example of such within my own life: Michael Flournoy.

Former Latter-day Saint Michael Flournoy has written a few times now for Beggar’s Bread and is as well-known as one could probably be within Evangelical-Mormon Facebook Discussion Groups for being an amateur Mormon apologist of many years who recently converted to Evangelical Christianity. Michael and I are on great and amicable terms, and I am glad to call him a friend of mine whom I have gotten to know and interact with (albeit across some distance) for many months now. One thing that Michael has observed though has been the interesting change in the perspective of Evangelical Christians towards his spiritual experiences while as a Mormon. One, in particular, occurred when he was 16-years old and serves as the first time that Michael had a profound and life-changing experience with the Savior. He says,

When I was 16 I attended Especially for Youth, a week-long retreat for teenage Latter-day Saints. One night they showed us a video about Christ. In it, people testified that he had changed them. That night the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus to me for the 1st time. I found myself faced with his perfection and holiness, and as a natural byproduct I think, I was also made aware of my own imperfections, and by comparison, my filthiness.

Mentally I thought, I must be detestable to this Holy God, but simultaneously I was being showered in his love. I was shocked because I knew I didn’t deserve it, and yet there it was, full and unrestrained, proof that my sins carried no weight when determining God’s love for me. At 16 years old, it was the first time I had ever experienced unconditional love.”

This is an experience that I have heard Michael share many times now, both from his days as a Mormon and now as an Evangelical. While I completely validate and recognize Michael’s experience, unfortunately, such has not always been the case. Whether while on his mission, hosting discussions in various Facebook groups, or even debating ex-Mormons such as Lynn Wilder, many have suggested or quickly written off his experience as not being with the “Real Jesus” or just being mere emotions. Or such was said while he was a Mormon. Now that he is an Evangelical, Michael has observed a stark change in the validation that he receives from those same Evangelicals, that his Especially For Youth (EFY) experience was indeed an authentic encounter with the real Jesus reaching out to him.

A complete 180-degree turn has taken place in comparison to what used to be said, just because his religious identity has now also changed! My hope is that Evangelicals see the double-standard in this and leave themselves open to recognizing or at least considering that Mormons can (and in my opinion do) have legitimate and real spiritual experiences with the Risen Savior. Just as Evangelicals will find the far majority of Mormons invalidating their own spiritual experiences, my hope is that the same respect towards one’s sacred and life-changing moments might be extended, instead of quickly writing them off as false or trivial.

Extending Shallow Fellowship: This is the final point that I will touch on but perhaps may be the most important towards retaining Mormon exposure and interest into Evangelical Christianity. I wish to explain what I mean in making sure to avoid extending shallow fellowship. I say this to describe the outreach or active fellowship towards Mormons that is only extended so long as the topic is regarding Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. Real fellowship should not be dependent on the interest level of the Mormon in discussing topics of a religious nature, rather it should be extended at all times and be based on feelings of sincere compassion, love, and service.

The common (though likely misquoted) saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind in which he says, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” The same is applicable here as an Evangelical can perform the same amount of outreach to Mormons if they provide them with positive examples of discipleship through daily Christ-like living; being witnesses of the active power of His Grace in their own lives. Open conversations will flow more naturally this way, seeds will be gently planted and not forced into unready soil, and overall bridges will take the place of walls that so often impede meaningful relationships.

It is my hope that the Evangelical will always be looking to extend the hand of true friendship and service, whether among neighbors, coworkers, classmates, or strangers. The quickest way for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of those present will be in an environment where the love of Christ is fostered. This entails a lifetime commitment to the cause for the Evangelical, and I would remind them that any potential conversions will never be the result of their own efforts, their own rhetoric, arguments, or criticisms of Mormonism. Rather, it is the result of the Grace of God alone that an Evangelical must look to in touching the hearts and lives of Mormons.

If you ever find yourself impatient or irritated, if you ever feel like no matter what you do or say that the Mormon just won’t budge, stop! Trust in God, say a prayer, and refocus your efforts on making a positive experience in the life of the Mormon. If it is meant to be, then as a Mormon, I believe that hearts and beliefs can change. Finally, never ask or expect of a Mormon what you wouldn’t do yourself. If you wish to invite a Mormon to your church service, then offer to attend their sacrament meeting as well. If you want to do a close read of the New Testament with them, likewise offer to read the Book of Mormon. Remember the Golden Rule and trust in the power of God to bring souls to Christ.

I am a fully believing and active Mormon. I hold a temple recommend and will be serving a mission in the coming months for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most importantly, I am a firm believer in God’s Plan for all His children and I believe that this plan includes both Mormons, non-Mormons, and ex-Mormons alike. My hope and prayer is for members of the Evangelical community to foster better relations with the Mormon neighbors built on feelings of mutual respect, love, and true fellowship. Hopefully, as a Mormon, I have been able to offer reflections on the various forms and techniques of outreach to members of my faith community, and ultimately what I find most effective. At the end of the day, it is all about the relationships we have and the Work of Christ in our lives that will make the difference. This is something that I find both Evangelicals and Mormons to be in full agreement on, and if such is our focus, I have full faith that everything will work out in the end.

About The Author
Jaxon Washburn is an 18-year old faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After being raised in an interfaith household for part of his life following his mother’s departure from Mormonism to Evangelical Christianity, Jaxon has been acquainted and involved with Mormon-Evangelical dialogue and relations for many years now.

Jaxon will be attending the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University to major in Religious Studies in fall 2017. This will be prior to serving his 2-year Mormon Mission.  All this while continuing his hobbies of interfaith dialogue, Mormon and Christian Studies, and the occasional dabble in Mormon apologetics. Yep, he’s busy! 

He has a clear passion for the interfaith movement and religious studies: He founded and has led the World Religion and Tolerance Society, a high school interreligious student group built around the values of respect, openness, cooperation, and understanding among individuals of various religious and nonreligious backgrounds, since 2014. This has allowed him to speak at venues such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT; the United Nations in New York City; and many others on the topic of youth involvement in the interfaith. You can follow his journey and writings from on his personal blog at The Apotheosis Narrative.

The author speaking at a United Nation Youth Conference on Interfaith Relations in February 2017.

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theosisandjustification

An Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the theosis of the saints.

“As man now is, God once was:
“As God now is, man may be.”
— Lorenzo Snow (5th Mormon President)
1

by Fred W. Anson
There are days when I wonder if the confirmation bias that undergirds so much Latter-day Saint apologetic work has any limits. Most recently I had one of these days when a Mormon Apologist boldly and publicly declared on social media that Mormon Celestial Exaltation – that is, the Latter-day Saint doctrine that men can become Gods in the next life2 – is nothing more than the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of Deification (aka “Theosis”) in another form. This is nothing new, those of us in Mormon Studies have been hearing this argument for some time now. Here’s how Mormon Apologists Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks explained it in the March 1988 issue of the Mormon Church’s Ensign magazine:

As even a cursory glance at early Christian thought reveals, the idea that man might become as God—known in Greek as theosis or theopoiesis—may be found virtually everywhere, from the New Testament through the writings of the first four centuries. Church members take seriously such passages as Psalm 82:6, John 10:33–36, and Philippians 2:5–6, in which a plurality of gods and the idea of becoming like God are mentioned.

The notion of theosis is characteristic of church fathers Irenaeus (second century A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (third century A.D.), and Athanasius (fourth century A.D.). Indeed, so pervasive was the doctrine in the fourth century that Athanasius’s archenemies, the Arians, also held the belief and the Origenist monks at Jerusalem heatedly debated “whether all men would finally become like Christ or whether Christ was really a different creature.”

According to an ancient formula, “God became man that man might become God.” Early Christians “were invited to ‘study’ to become gods” (note the plural).

Though the idea of human deification waned in the Western church in the Middle Ages, it remained very much alive in the Eastern Orthodox faith, which includes such Christian sects today as the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches. Jaroslav Pelikan notes, “The chief idea of St. Maximus, as of all Eastern theology, [was] the idea of deification.”

Is the subject of deification truly a closed question? After all, echoes of man becoming like God are still found in the work of later and modern writers in the West. For instance, C. S. Lewis’s writings are full of the language of human deification. Even Martin Luther was capable of speaking of the “deification of human nature,” although in what sense it is not clear.3

"Mormon America" by Richard and Joan OstlingHowever, commenting on this very article, journalists Richard and Joan Ostling make the following observation in their well known and widely respected book “Mormon America”:

BYU professors Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks in a 1988 issue of Ensign, have often expressed a kinship to Eastern Orthodoxy in that branch of Christendom’s use of the term “deification.” Peterson and Ricks traced deification to such early church fathers as Irenaeus (second century a.d.) and to the notion of theosis, which is “very much alive” in the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches.

The embrace, however, is one way. The Eastern Orthodox tradition is also firmly rooted in a distinction of kind, rather than of degree, between man and God. “The idea of deification must always be understood in the light of the distinction between God’s essence and His energies. Union with God means union with the divine energies, not the divine essence,” wrote Timothy Ware (Bishop Ware), who was the longtime lecturer in Orthodox Studies at Oxford University, in The Orthodox Church. “The human being does not become God by nature, but is merely a ‘created god,’ a god by grace or by status.”

Bishop Ware elaborated on Orthodoxy and deification in response to a query:

‘It is clear to me that C. S. Lewis understands the doctrine of theosis in essentially the same way as the Orthodox Church does; indeed, he probably derived his viewpoint from reading such Greek Fathers as Athanasius. On the other hand, the Mormon view is altogether different from what Lewis and the Orthodox Church believe.

Orthodox theology emphasizes that there is a clear distinction—in the current phraseology “an ontological gap” — between God the Creator and the creation which He has made. This “gap” is bridged by divine love, supremely through the Incarnation, but it is not abolished. The distinction between the Uncreated and the created still remains. The Incarnation is a unique event.

“Deification,” on the Orthodox understanding, is to be interpreted in terms of the distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies. Human beings share by God’s mercy in His energies but not in His essence, either in the present age or in the age to come. That is to say, in theosis the saints participate in the grace, power, and glory of God, but they never become God by essence.’4

So who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s let our Eastern Orthodox friends speak for themselves, shall we? What follows, in its entirety, is an essay on Deification from The Orthodox Study Bible which was written by Eastern Orthodox theologians for Eastern Orthodox readers. It explains plainly, in layman’s terms, exactly what the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification is and is not.

Deification
Deification is the ancient theological word used to describe the process by which a Christian becomes more like God. St. Peter speaks of this process when he writes, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness  .  .  .   you may be partakers of the divine nature” (1:3,4).

What does it mean to partake of the divine nature, and how do we experience this? To give an answer, let us first address what deification is not, and then describe what it is.

51gju0bne6l-_sx329_bo1204203200_What deification is not. When the Church calls us to pursue godliness, to be more like God, this does not mean that human beings become divine. We do not become like God in His nature. That would not only be heresy, it would be impossible. For we are human, always have been human, and always will be human. We cannot take on the nature of God.

St. John of Damascus makes a remarkable observation. The word “God” in the Scriptures refers not to the divine nature or essence, for that is unknowable. “God” refers rather to the divine energies— the power and grace of God that we can perceive in this world. The Greek word for God, theos, comes from a verb meaning “run,” “see,” or “burn.” These are energy words, so to speak, not essence words.

In John 10:34, Jesus, quoting Psalm 81:6, repeats the passage, “You are gods.” The fact that He was speaking to a group of hypocritical religious leaders who were accusing Him of blasphemy makes the meaning doubly clear: Jesus is not using “god” to refer to divine nature. We are gods in that we bear His image, not His nature.

What deification is. Deification means we are to become more like God through His grace or divine energies. In creation, humans were made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26) according to human nature. In other words, humanity by nature is an icon or image of deity: The divine image is in all humanity. Through sin, however, this image and likeness of God was marred, and we fell.

When the Son of God assumed our humanity in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, the process of our being renewed in God’s image and likeness was begun. Thus, those who are joined to Christ, through faith, in Holy Baptism begin a process of re-creation, being renewed in God’s image and likeness. We become, as St. Peter writes, “partakers of the divine nature” (1:4).

Because of the Incarnation of the Son of God, because the fullness of God has inhabited human flesh, being joined to Christ means that it is again possible to experience deification, the fulfillment of our human destiny. That is, through union with Christ, we become by grace what God is by nature— we “become children of God” (Jn 1:12). His deity interpenetrates our humanity.

Historically, deification has often been illustrated by the example of a sword in the fire. A steel sword is thrust into a hot fire until the sword takes on a red glow. The energy of the fire interpenetrates the sword. The sword never becomes fire, but it picks up the properties of fire. By application, the divine energies interpenetrate the human nature of Christ. When we are joined to Christ, our humanity is interpenetrated with the energies of God through Christ’s glorified flesh. Nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, we partake of the grace of God— His strength, His righteousness, His love— and are enabled to serve Him and glorify Him. Thus we, being human, are being deified.5

I think it’s important to note, at the risk of being overly didactic, that neither Mormons or Mormon Doctrine was on the radar when this essay was written – the authors simply couldn’t have cared less about addressing either. It is what it is, nothing more and nothing less: An article written for use within Eastern Orthodox congregations and for the personal edification and education of their parishioners. And in doing so it utterly discredits Mormon Apologist claims that Eastern Orthodox Deification/Theosis teachings are in any way equivalent to modern Latter-day Saint Celestial Exaltation doctrine.

Conclusion
The Mormon assertion that Mormon Celestial Exaltation is in any way derived from or related to either the Patristic Fathers and/or modern Eastern Orthodox’s Deification doctrine is pure fantasy. There simply is nothing in Orthodox theosis that asserts that men can become gods – and thereby take on God’s nature as the modern LdS Church teaches. Further, Orthodox Christianity, just like Catholic and Protestant Christianity, considers Latter-day Saint Celestial Exaltation heretical. As stated plainly by the Ostlings in the aforementioned “Mormon America”;

The most radical chasm between Mormon belief and the orthodox Judeo-Christian tradition centers on the doctrine of God. This is the great divide… Educated Mormons are well aware that their doctrine concerning God the Father, particularly the idea that he was once a mortal man and has a literal [but exalted, deified] body, is offensive to traditional Judeo-Christian believers.6

Misrepresenting the theology of others in this manner does nothing to bridge that divide – in fact, it only makes it worse. Therefore, I would politely and respectfully encourage our Mormon Apologist friends to stop doing so.

transfiguration

A Serbian Orthodox fresco of The Transfiguration. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the Transfiguration is considered to be a foreshadowing of the theosis that is possible for all saints.

NOTES
1 From the LdS Church’s official, correlated Church Manual, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow”, p.68.
2 An LdS Church official, correlated Church Manual explains the Latter-day Saint doctrine of Exaltation like this, “When we lived with our Heavenly Father, He explained a plan for our progression. We could become like Him, an exalted being.” (Gospel Principles Chapter 47, “Exaltation” 2011 edition, p.275)
3 Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, “Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity”; Ensign, March 1988.
4 Richard & Joan Ostling, “Mormon American (Rev. Ed.)”; Nook Edition positions 356-357.
5NKJV, The Orthodox Study Bible, eBook: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World“, Kindle Locations 104077-104110.
6 Op cit, Ostling, Nook Edition position 341.

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A Critique of Brad Wilcox’s “His Grace is Sufficient”

“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
(Matthew 12:7 ESV) 

by Michael Flournoy
I was born and raised in the Mormon Church, and in early 2015 I began a serious study on the topic of grace. One of the first videos I watched was a BYU devotional given by Brad Wilcox called “His Grace is Sufficient”. Not only did Mr. Wilcox revolutionize the way I viewed grace, his talk was largely responsible for my journey out of Mormonism and into mainstream Christianity.

I was surprised when I listened to it recently, to see how it sounded to my Protestant ears. I caught myself saying “amen” half a dozen times. I was struck by how useful his catchphrases were for explaining my own transition. He says for instance, that we aren’t earning heaven, we’re “learning heaven.” He uses a piano analogy where Mom pays for lessons and requires us to practice. Practicing does not pay for the lessons, nor does it pay back Mom. He goes on to say that we’re keeping the commandments for a different reason, “it’s like paying a mortgage instead of rent, making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt…”

To this day Brad Wilcox is a favorite LDS speaker of mine. However, I found a few problems with his speech. Namely, the way he describes Evangelical Christians is mostly false. He says his Born Again friends often ask him if he has been saved by the grace of Christ, and he replies with a question they haven’t fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?”

This is a common misconception about Evangelical Christianity. Having been LDS, I recall thinking the Christian model of salvation was very 2-dimensional. Having passed through the veil so to speak, to the other side, I see now that Christianity is not what Brad portrays it to be.

In fact, as an Evangelical, my day to day lifestyle is not so different from how I lived as a Mormon. What has changed is my motivation for living the way I do: before, I was trying to earn heaven, and now I’m learning it. I was obeying from a place of condemnation, but now it’s from a place of acceptance. Before it was about fear, now it’s about appreciation. When I embraced Brad Wilcox’s grace, I found that I fit in with Evangelicals much more than my fellow Latter-day Saints. So in answer to his unconsidered question, here is my unexpected answer: yes, the grace of Christ is changing me.

As a Latter-day Saint, I scoffed at the idea that we were created for God’s glory alone. As I mentioned previously, it seemed 2-dimensional. I thought those who were “saved” would have no motivation to be better spouses, parents, employees, and disciples. I assumed as Brad stated, that Christians believed “God required nothing of [them]”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, God’s abundant grace motivates Christians to improve and give their lives to Jesus.

He goes on to explain that Latter-day Saints can sometimes view God’s commandments as overbearing and say, “Gosh, none of the other Christians have to tithe. Gosh, none of the other Christians have to go on missions…” Actually, we do. To set the record straight, “other Christians” do understand the importance of obedience.

I was shocked the first time tithing was discussed at my Protestant church. I thought I had gotten away from all that! My pastor explained that we don’t pay tithing to get into heaven, but because we’re free. As a Latter-day Saint, my perception was that Christians viewed grace as a license to sin. I see now that grace is better described as insurance, covering us in case we sin.

In his speech, Brad Wilcox mentions several people who don’t understand grace: there are those who are giving up on the LDS church because they are tired of falling short, young men and women who graduate from high school and slip up time and again and think it’s over, return missionaries who slip back into bad habits and break temple covenants and give up on hope, and married couples who go through divorce.

He chides anyone who thinks there are only two options: perfection, or giving up. He does not seem concerned that such a huge swath of Latter-day Saints are ignorant about grace, even after admitting he used to picture himself begging to be let into heaven after falling short by two points. My idea of grace was not dissimilar to his. Ironically, he belittles Christians for having the same view of grace he has now, while turning a blind eye to Latter-day Saints who hold an opposing view, as if it were a coincidence.

However, these views against grace are not a coincidence, but a byproduct. My diagnosis is that Brad Wilcox understands grace, but he doesn’t understand Mormonism.

After all, Alma 5:28-29 in The Book of Mormon says if we are not stripped of pride and envy we are not prepared to meet God, nor do we have eternal life. Where’s the grace in that? Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 says if we sin our former sins return to us. Where’s the grace in that? Moroni 8:14 states that should someone die while thinking children need baptism, his destination is hell. Where’s the grace in that? Alma 11:37 says that Jesus cannot save us in our sins. My friends, there is no grace in a religion that says we must amputate all sin from our lives before Jesus can save us.

Mr. Wilcox conveniently leaves out covenants in his speech, which form the foundation of eternal life in Mormonism. According to LDS doctrine, covenants like baptism and temple sealings are required to enter the Celestial Kingdom. These covenants are two-way promises where God gives us eternal life if we keep our end of the bargain. The temple covenants include keeping the commandments, so a Latter-day Saint who fails by 2 points on judgment day will have no right to plead for grace. In Mormonism, grace is not enough.

I do love Brad Wilcox’s speech. I would not be where I am today without it. That said, I call upon him to repent for his false witness against Evangelical Christians and I pray he will see the error in defending an organization that tramples the grace of God. I can say from experience that coming into Protestant Christianity from Mormonism is like “…paying a mortgage instead of rent, making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt…”, it’s the difference between being a servant of your own free will, and being a slave.

mercy-and-grace-heat-map

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

A Biblical Response to Mormon Communion With the Dead Teachings

Moroni Temple Shadow Red and Grainy

“Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'”
(Matthew 8:22, NKJV)

by Fred W. Anson
It often comes as a shock to many transitioning Ex-Mormons that contact and communication with the dead is prohibited in the strongest terms in the Bible. Please consider the following:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.
(Deuteronomy 18:9-12, NKJV)

And lest the connection to Mormonism be missed, on April 6, 1853, at the ceremony for laying the Northeast Corner Stone of the Salt Lake City Temple, Mormon Apostle Parley Pratt bragged that Mormonism was ahead of the spiritist curve when,

A quarter of a century since, an obscure boy and his few associates, in the western wilds of New York, commenced to hold converse with the dead.” He further stated that, “The Lord has ordained that all the most holy things pertaining to the salvation of the dead, and all the most holy conversations and correspondence with God, angels, and spirits, shall be had only in the sanctuary of His holy Temple on the earth, when prepared for that purpose by His Saints; and shall be received and administered by those who are ordained and sealed unto this power, to hold the keys of the sacred oracles of God.” Thus temple endowed Latter-day Saints, “By one holding the keys of the oracles of God, [act] as a medium through which the living can hear from the dead.
(Parley Pratt, “Spiritual Communication”, Journal of Discourses, 2:43-46; bolding added for emphasis)

The Impassable Chasms
Yet in the gospel of Luke Jesus tells the following story which states explicitly that there are impassable chasms that separate the living from the dead and those in heaven from those in hell:

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Lazaraus and the Rich Man EDITED

“Lazarus and the Rich Man” (unknown artist)

Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’
(Luke 16:19-31, NKJV)

Again, please notice these words, “there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” So the Bible explicitly states that there’s a gulf that the living can’t cross to get to the dead, or those in hell can’t pass to get to those in heaven (and vice versa). That pretty much precludes any notions of the dead being guardian angels for the living or the dead being able to communicate with the living in Mormon Temples or anywhere else doesn’t it?

Angels and Humans Are Different Species and Beings
And as the Compelling Truth website explains, human beings and angels are not the same species:

Angels are created beings. They are an entirely separate type of creature from humans. People do not become angels after death, and angels do not become human. They are as different from us as we are from the animals. Angels are intelligent beings (Matthew 8:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12), they are emotional beings (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17), and each has an individual personality and will (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Timothy 2:26; Jude 6). Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14) and do not have physical bodies.
(“What are angels according to the Bible?”, Compelling Truth website)

Further, as Mormon Researcher, Bill McKeever explains, the Bible does not teach that humans can become angels:

While the belief in angels is not unique to the Christian faith, Mormonism drastically differs from orthodox doctrine by espousing the concept that humans have the capability to end up as angels. Certainly Mormonism cannot be credited with originating this erroneous concept. This “human to angel” idea has long been a part of the folklore of many countries. Upon the loss of a loved one, how many children have been comforted by well-meaning people who have said this particular loved one “is an angel now”?
…the concept of men and women turning into angels has no biblical support. To begin with, the Bible declares that angels are a distinct creation of God; in other words, an angel was created as such, and is not a being that has undergone some sort of spiritual development or physical evolution. Psalm 148:2,5 clearly demonstrates that angels were created as angels when it says, “Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts…Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.”

In his epistle to the church at Colosse, the Apostle Paul expounds the fact that it was through Christ that all things were created by Him and for Him (2:15). These include what Paul refers to as ‘principalities.’ W.E. Vine notes that the word translated principality in the KJV ‘is used of supramundane beings who exercise rule, called principalities.’ He states that this word can denote holy angels or evil angels. (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1966, pg. 213). As with many other doctrines unique to Mormonism, there is no biblical justification for the claim that angels were once humans.
(Bill McKeever, “Angels and Humans”, Mormonism Research Ministry website)

So If I’m Not Contacting the Dead What Are They?
The name for what Mormonism teaches is “Necromancy”. As the GotQuestions website explains:

Necromancy is defined as the conjuring of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events. In the Bible, necromancy is also called ‘divination,’ ‘sorcery’ and ‘spiritism’ and is forbidden many times in Scripture (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; Galatians 5:19-20; Acts 19:19) as an abomination to God. It is something that the Lord speaks very strongly against and is to be avoided as much as any evil. The reason for this is twofold.

First, necromancy is going to involve demons and opens the one who practices it to demonic attack. Satan and his demons seek to destroy us, not to impart to us truth or wisdom. We are told that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Second, necromancy does not rely on the Lord for information, the Lord who promises to freely give wisdom to all who ask for it (James 1:5). This is especially telling because the Lord always wants to lead us to truth and life, but demons always want to lead us to lies and serious damage.

The idea that dead people’s spirits can be contacted for information is false. Those who attempt such contact inevitably contact demonic spirits, not the spirits of dead loved ones. Those who die go immediately to heaven or hell—heaven if they believed in Jesus as Savior, and hell if they did not. There is no contact between the dead and the living. Therefore, seeking the dead is unnecessary and very dangerous.”
(“Necromancy”, GotQuestions? Website)

Still Stinging From the Shock?
Many transitioning Ex-Mormons feel stung, shocked, even angry when they learn what the Bible really says about contact and communication with the dead. This shock is, no doubt, due to the casual acceptance – even encouragement – of such contact and communication in Mormon culture that contrasts so markedly with the Bible’s sound condemnation and loud, repeated warnings against these practices. For example, consider what sixth President of the LdS Church, Joseph F. Smith, taught:

“We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission. The dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them [see D&C 128:18]. We have a mission to perform for and in their behalf; we have a certain work to do in order to liberate those who, because of their ignorance and the unfavorable circumstances in which they were placed while here, are unprepared for eternal life; we have to open the door for them, by performing ordinances which they cannot perform for themselves, and which are essential to their release from the ‘prison-house,’ to come forth and live according to God in the spirit, and be judged according to men in the flesh [see D&C 138.-33-34].”
(“Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Joseph F. Smith; Chapter 46: Redeeming Our Dead through Temple Service”, p.410; Official LdS Church manual)

And as the Life After website notes:

The prevalence of necromancy in Mormonism is quite astonishing and can be seen in everything Mormons do. From Joseph Smith and the average Mormon talking to dead people to the Mormon temple endowment ceremonies; there’s always something you can spend countless hours researching.

Moreover, leaders of the Church never miss a chance reminding adults and grooming the young that dead ancestors are waiting for Mormons to redeem them. To make matters even worse they’re also told they can’t be saved without performing works for deceased ancestors.”
(“Necromancy and Mormonism”, Life After website)

And Mormon Researcher, Sharon Lindbloom notes this casual acceptance of and positive indoctrination toward Necromancy starts at a very young age in Mormon Culture:

People who have died are very important to members of the Mormon Church. The dead are a very important aspect of the Mormon gospel. Because the dead are such an integral part of Mormonism, it makes sense that Mormon children would be taught about the Church’s doctrine of baptism for the dead.

In a Mormon Church manual produced for teaching children ages 8 through 11 (“Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants and Church History”; Lesson 34: Joseph Smith Teaches about Baptism for the Dead”, pp.193-197)

"Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff" by Ken Corbett

“Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff” by Ken Corbett

The lesson teaches children both the historical background on the development of Mormonism’s baptism for the dead as well as the scriptures that Mormons understand to be support for the doctrine. As part of the lesson, the manual offers a few “enrichment activities” designed to enhance the children’s grasp of the importance of baptizing the dead. Two of the offered enrichment activities focus on telling the children what most of us would call ‘ghost stories.1

Mormons are inspired by these stories. Unlike Christianity, which recognizes a biblical prohibition against contact with the dead (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:9-14), Mormonism embraces it. Joseph Heinerman, whose book is quoted (above) in the Primary 5 manual, states,

‘These temple manifestations signify God’s distinct approval of the temple labors performed by His people here upon the earth. Hopefully, these inspiring stories will edify the readers as they have me and motivate them to perform temple work more diligently on behalf of both the living and the dead.’ (Temple Manifestations, Preface)

God says communication with the dead is a sin, yet Mormonism teaches little children to welcome necromantic contact, be inspired by it, and interpret it as God’s direction and/or approval of proxy ordinance work for the dead. Does anyone else find this troubling?
(Sharon Lindbloom, “Mormonism and Visitations from the Dead”; Mormon Coffee website)

Grieve With Those Who Grieve – But Be Wise!
Finally, and given all this, I would encourage the reader always be patient and sympathetic to people who grieve. Often people who are grieving will have dreams, maybe even some emotionally driven experiences, that are just normal psychological processing that’s rooted in the physiology of the brain. This is normal human biology and psychology, nothing more.

For example, a friend’s mother claimed to have had a posthumous visitation by a cat she loved, and then a vivid, reassuring dream about her mother while she was still grieving their demise. She interpreted these incidents as being miraculous or supernatural in nature. But were they? What does the Bible say?
Speaking personally, each time after I lost a parent I dreamed about them repeatedly when I was early into the grieving process and still working through my loss. Sometimes they would talk to me and comfort me in those dreams. Other times I felt like I could feel them watching over me with love during times of stress and sadness. This wasn’t demonic activity, this was just my mind and emotions coming to grips with a major, emotional jolt and sudden life change. I know this now but in the overheated emotion of the moment, it was easy to think otherwise.

So one shouldn’t jump at the notion of demons when they have or hear of these experiences. Whether it’s a demon is neither here nor there – that’s not why the experience has such meaning and pull for the person who’s had it. The reason the experiences seem so striking is due to their grief and pain. What in normal circumstances would be dismissed due to stress or fatigue in a state of intense emotional pain can easily be interpreted as something it’s not. And that’s why we have to work through without swinging the pendulum too far to either the “God told me” or “I’m being harassed by demons” extreme during those seasons. The important thing is to resist being fooled by these psychologically induced experiences. They are bittersweet and fleeting.

FURTHER STUDY
This article was just a short primer on this subject. The Life After website has compiled a series of articles that covers this subject in depth. It is highly recommended for those who would like to learn more about this important subject. Click here for the portal page for these articles.

mormon3

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The LdS Church got in trouble with the worldwide Jewish community for vicariously proxy baptizing victims of the holocaust .

NOTES:
1 Ms. Lindbloom’s article continues at this point as follows:

The first [ghost story] is about two friends, Brigitte and Carla.

Brigitte and Carla met in the third grade in Europe. Carla had just been baptized and wanted everyone to know she was a member of the “only true church.” Some of Carla’s classmates made fun of her for saying this, but Brigitte became her friend.

Brigitte’s family was active in their own church, but they were respectful of other religions. Brigitte even went to Church activities with Carla a few times. Brigitte and Carla remained friends all through their school years. Then, at seventeen years of age, Brigitte died.

Two months later Carla awoke in the night to see Brigitte standing at the foot of her bed. She did not speak, and Carla wondered why she had appeared to her. The following year Brigitte visited Carla again, and she came a third time the next year.

Carla later moved to the United States and was married in the Salt Lake Temple. After Carla had been through the temple, Brigitte appeared to her more often. Then, a week before Carla and her husband were planning to go to the temple again, Brigitte appeared to Carla three nights in a row.

On the third night Carla woke her husband and told him about Brigitte’s visits. They both felt Brigitte had been taught the gospel plan in the spirit world and had accepted it. Now she wanted to be baptized. Carla and her husband prayed and asked the Lord how to obtain the necessary records. They were inspired to contact a researcher and were able to get Brigitte’s death certificate. Carla was now able to send in Brigitte’s name to the temple so her temple work, including baptism, could be done.

A few weeks later Carla again awoke to see Brigitte. This time Brigitte was dressed in a white gown and was standing in a place that looked like a baptismal room. The next morning Carla received a letter from the temple telling her that the baptism for Brigitte had been done. (See Carla Sansom, “From Beyond the Veil,” Ensign, Feb. 1978, pp. 49–50.)

The second enrichment story for the children is about the experience of a temple recorder in the Manti Temple:

Brother J. Hatten Carpenter, who served as a recorder in the Manti Temple, told of a patriarch who was watching baptisms for the dead being performed in the temple one day.

The patriarch saw “the spirits of those for whom they were officiating in the font by proxy. There the spirits stood awaiting their turn, and, as the Recorder called out the name of a person to be baptized for, the patriarch noticed a pleasant smile come over the face of the spirit whose name had been called, and he would leave the group of fellow spirits and pass over to the side of the Recorder. There he would watch his own baptism performed by proxy, and then with a joyful countenance would pass away [to] make room for the next favored personage who was to enjoy the same privilege.”

As time went on, the patriarch noticed that some of the spirits looked very sad. He realized that the people in the temple were finished with baptisms for the day. The unhappy spirits were those whose baptisms would not be performed that day.

“‘I often think of this event,’ says Brother Carpenter, ‘for I so often sit at the font, and call off the names for the ordinances to be performed which means so much to the dead’” (quoted in Joseph Heinerman, Temple Manifestations [Manti, Utah: Mountain Valley Publishers, 1974], pp. 101–2; see also The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 11 [July 1920]: 119).”
(“Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants and Church History”; Lesson 34: Joseph Smith Teaches about Baptism for the Dead”, pp.193-197; official LdS Church manual)

"Transfiguration" by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1824

“Transfiguration” by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1824

APPENDIX: What About Elijah and Mose on the Mount of Transfiguration and Samuel Appearing to King Saul and the Witch of Endor?
A common objection to the impassable chasm Christ spoke of in Luke and the idea that the dead can’t visit us in this world goes something like this:

“Well, what about dead Elijah and Moses appearing to the living Jesus, Peter, James and John? And what about dead Samuel appearing to the living Saul at the house of the Witch of Endor?”

This is an excellent question! Let’s consider it shall we? First, let’s consider the Mount of Transfiguration passage:

The Mount of Transfiguration
Here’s the passage in question from the Gospel of Luke:

“Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.”
(Luke 9:28-36, NKJV)

Of course, the emphasis in this passage is on Moses (representing the Old Testament Law) and Elijah (representing the Old Testament Prophets) endorsing and encouraging Christ’s earthly ministry not the how’s and why’s of how they came to be there. The text just gives us a lot of information on the latter, however, there are several possible explanations that we consider here.

First Possibility: God Made An Exception
The first possible explanation I would offer is, to my way of thinking, the easiest. It’s God’s chasm, if He wants to send or carry dead folks across it He can. However, this would be the rare exception, not the rule. This is hinted at in the Luke 16:19-31 passage which we covered at the beginning of this article: Notice that nowhere in the text does it state that God can’t make an exception, it just says that He didn’t.

However, it seems clear from that same text that, generally speaking, this would not only be exceptional but pointless. Further, in the case of Moses and Elijah appearing to Christ there was a very specific purpose for their appearance which is explained when the narrative says:

“And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
(Luke 9:30-31, NKJV)

Second Possibility: They Appeared In A Spiritual Vision
Ex-Mormon Christian Facebook group member Annette Welburn offered this explanation for this possibility which we liked so much that we offer it here with only light editing so it fits the format here:

Yes, they saw Elijah and Moses, but I would suggest that Moses and Elijah’s appearance was not in spirit form in the sense that many people today think people can become guardian angels when they die. We never have any occurrences in scripture of earthly people conversing spiritually – i.e. praying to, or hearing from or getting guidance or protection from dead friends or relatives. However, that said, please correct me please if I’ve missed something. I guess in my mind the transfiguration was a unique, one time event in scripture. Jesus was there, and God was revealing to a few of his disciples that this was indeed His son. I see the whole point of that being summed up with what God said:

“And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”
(Luke 9:35-36, ESV)

The transfiguration is definitely a spiritual earthly experience, but it is vastly unique in that it was to demonstrate God’s power. Of course God can do anything. Even natural laws He created he is not bound by. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say there is a definite natural law that God never sends people back to earth, but I would suggest that it is just not how he does it. And in the case of the transfiguration, it was not at all normal. I think the important distinction is that God does not allow dead humans to lead or watch over in a protective sense those still living on earth. Here are verses to that effect:

“For his spirit goes out and he returns to his earth and in that day all his thoughts are destroyed.”
(Psalm 146:4, Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.”
(Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, NIV)

“As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again. He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.”
(Job 7:9-10, HCSB)

And direct textual support for Annette’s suggestion that Moses and Elijah appeared spiritually (or in vision) rather than physically can be supported by the phrase, “Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory.”

"The Transfiguration" by 1480 (oil on panel) by Bellini, Giovanni (c.1430-1516); 115x154 cm; Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy; Italian, out of copyright

“The Transfiguration” by Bellini, Giovanni (oil on panel, 1480)

Third Possibility: Neither Moses Or Elijah Are Dead
While this last possibility is highly, highly speculative (and from an odd “outside of the box” source to boot) it’s still intriguing enough to be offered for consideration:

To make sense of this, we must first understand two important principles. The first is that, while the general resurrection of God’s people will happen at the end of time, there have been individual resurrections recorded in the Bible. Christ’s resurrection, for instance, was not part of the general one. Neither were those of the saints who came forth from the grave after Christ’s resurrection (see Matthew 27:52, 53). The prophets Elijah and Elisha both performed resurrections during their ministries (see 1 Kings 17:17–22 and 2 Kings 4:32–35). Individual resurrections throughout history do not invalidate the general resurrection when Christ returns.

The second principle to understand is that some people have left the earth without dying, and therefore are not in need of a resurrection.

Moses and Elijah each fit one of these two categories.

The story recorded in 2 Kings 2 tells us unmistakably that Elijah was taken to heaven without first dying. Verse 11, specifically, says he was caught in a heavenly whirlwind and taken to heaven in sight of Elisha, his successor. Appearing with Christ at the transfiguration would not have posed a problem for Elijah; he had already spent much time with Jesus in heaven before His human birth in Bethlehem.

Moses, on the other hand, died in the wilderness before the Israelite people entered into the Promised Land. The story of his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5, 6, reveals something extraordinary. The Bible says that God Himself buried Moses, and that none of the Israelites were ever aware of his gravesite. This is the first biblical hint that something special awaited Moses after death.

The New Testament, however, gives us more information. In Jude 9, we’re told that the archangel Michael contended with Satan over the body of Moses. In other words, Satan claimed Moses as his own, worthy of death just like everyone else. Michael, however, thought differently. As the archangel, He has the power to resurrect God’s people. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16; the voice of the archangel raises the dead in Christ at Christ’s return.) Moses was not meant to stay dead. Indeed, he was resurrected from the dead and has been living in heaven since that time. Truly, he has already experienced life after death.

Therefore, the presence of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration does not answer the question “What is death?” because neither one was dead! Elijah never tasted death at all, and Moses was given a new life at his resurrection, just like Christ’s people will receive at His return.

While the transfiguration doesn’t directly give us information on the state of the dead, it retains theological significance nonetheless. When Peter recounted his experience in 2 Peter 1:16–18, he writes that he witnessed Christ’s coming at that time. In other words, he understood the experience to represent the return of Jesus Christ. Moses and Elijah represent the two classes of God’s people who will be present at that miraculous event: Moses represents the “dead in Christ” who rise to new life, and Elijah represents “those who are alive and remain” who will be translated to heaven and eternal life without ever experiencing death in the first place (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Understanding that the transfiguration is a representation of the second coming of Christ also helps us understand Christ’s promise that “some standing here … shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God,” spoken a few days before the transfiguration (Luke 9:27).
(“If the Dead Don’t Go Immediately to Heaven How Did Moses and Elijah Appear at the Transfiguration”, Truth about Death, Seventh-day Adventist website)

"The Spirit of Samuel Appearing to Saul" by William Blake, 1783 Pen and watercolor

“The Spirit of Samuel Appearing to Saul” by William Blake, 1783

Samuel Appearing To Saul And The Witch of Endor
The final biblical incident to consider in regarding to biblical instances of the dead appearing to the living is the story of the dead prophet Samuel appearing to Kind Saul and the Witch of Endor. This incident can be found in 1 Samuel 28:3-25 (NKJV):

Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.

Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.

Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”

And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”

So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”

Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”

And Saul swore to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”

Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”

And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”

And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?”

And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.”

So he said to her, “What is his form?”

And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.

Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”

Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.

And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled, and said to him, “Look, your maidservant has obeyed your voice, and I have put my life in my hands and heeded the words which you spoke to me. Now therefore, please, heed also the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.”

But he refused and said, “I will not eat.”

So his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he heeded their voice. Then he arose from the ground and sat on the bed. Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it. So she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.

The Possibilities
Clearly, in this case, the third option (he wasn’t dead) won’t work since the Bible is clear that Samuel was dead and buried. And while it is possible that God allowed an exception here and let Samuel cross the chasm, the circumstances surrounding the event would seem to discount this option since God would be endorsing a practice that He calls an abomination elsewhere in the Bible. For that matter, that would preclude the second possibility that Samuel appeared as a spiritual vision sent from God.

In the end, there’s really only one possibility left: The “Samuel” that appeared to King Saul was a demon mimicking the appear of Samuel and appearing specifically to deceive Saul. Support for this can be found in the familiarity that the Witch of Endor has with this “Samuel”. In fact, this event follows the typical template for seances and other forms of necromancy doesn’t it? This lends further support for the idea that what the Witch of Endor conjured up was a deceiving spirit manifesting itself physically.

So when considered in that light, this story mirrors and echoes many of the Mormon communion with the dead stories that one hears in Mormon cultures doesn’t it? In the end, the biblical story of Samuel appearing to King Saul and the Witch of Endor is a cautionary tale to us. If you read on, things didn’t end well for King Saul, this incident most certainly didn’t result in a happy ending. In fact, most stories of necromancy don’t.

Bible teacher Don Basham once called involvement in occult practices like necromancy, “The most dangerous game.” And when it comes to necromancy, in the words of the movie War Games, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

From the movie WarGames (1983)

From the movie WarGames (1983)

BACK TO TOP

A caution to transitioning Ex-Mormon Christians

freedom-resistance_00418234_EDITED

It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion.”
— C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

by Fred W. Anson
In 1980 ordained Lutheran minister, Robert N. Hullinger, published an award winning analysis of Joseph Smith. He approached Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon skeptically, but the same time, as he explained in this thought-provoking re-evaluation of early Mormonism, “I prefer to put the best construction on Joseph Smith and let his expressed motives speak for themselves, then draw conclusions from the evidence. This approach may not always rule out a negative opinion of Joseph Smith, but it allows for a more charitable estimate of his intentions.”1 His conclusion?

In defense of God, Joseph Smith assailed the natural revelation of deism and the static revelation of traditional Christianity. To enable revealed religion to overcome natural religion, however, he supported the deistic attack upon the view that the present Bible is God’s complete and errorless revelation to mankind. Destruction of the traditional view left him free to preserve special revelation by his own means.2

And one need go no further than Joseph Smith himself for validation of this:

Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine
(Joseph Smith, “History of the Church”, 5:340)

It was this spirit of rebellion against established orthodoxy that appealed to early Mormons and drew in new members. To the early Mormons this was glorious, heady stuff – a conquering, up-heaving rebellion usurping the world as early Mormon leader W.W. Phelps noted at the time:

Mormonism is the wonder of this world, and the great leveling machine of creeds, constitutions, kingdoms, countries, divisions, notions, notorieties and novelties; and praise it, talk about it, lie about it, exalt it, degrade it, blow at it, sneer at it, fear it, love it, hate it, persecute it, or laugh at it, still it is Mormonism, true as heaven, powerful as Jesus, eternal as element, going on conquering and to conquer.
(W.W. Phelps, “Times and Seasons”, 5:758)

Thus Hullinger explains and summarizes this seismic shift thusly:

Fifteen hundred years of church history had encrusted revelation with the weight of tradition and institutional inertia. In spite of Protestant efforts to let God speak through the Bible, some perceived him as more remote than ever. Deism rejected special revelation but accepted a remote god who could communicate through nature. Orthodoxy reacted by developing its science of textual criticism and relying on its doctrine of biblical inspiration to assure contact with God. Catholicism guaranteed the institution as the assurance. Pietism looked within the human heart.

Joseph Smith sided with Pietism in favoring his own inner assurance. But after he won the changes and freedom he wanted, Smith set in motion the very forces he once had decried in the churches of his day. The principle of personal revelation led to power struggles within the infant latter-day church until Smith received revelations allowing only him to get instruction, teaching, or revelation for the church (D&C 28:11; 43:3-6) He taught that no one could receive revelation for someone of higher authority. Secure within the church, Smith was able to lead as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.3

And thus this strange mix of the oil of personal revelation intermingled with the water of heavy handed authoritarianism continues today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On one hand, members are told – no encouraged – to seek out personal revelation in private but on the other hand will be disciplined if that personal revelation publicly conflicts with the current official, correlated Mormon doctrine that’s been approved by Mormon leaders. The net result is a kind of quiet rebellion in which you may have an entire Mormon Chapel of members who privately believe entirely different things but publicly profess whatever they must to remain a member in good standing. LDS Thesis #23 articulates this strange, paradoxical brew like this:

Mormon Atheism is Not an OxymoronLDS Thesis #23: It [the LdS Church] allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LDS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LDS Church.

In fact, this particular thesis was written by a former member of the LDS Church who was called to teach the Elders Quorum in his ward even though the Bishop knew that he was an atheist. He was bright, articulate, personable, tithing, active, a successfully former Gospel Doctrine teacher, and was toeing the party line in public, so as far as this Bishop was concerned all was well. Since then we have heard of several other such situations in a variety of callings in the LdS Church. As strange as it seems, a membership heavily peppered with atheists doesn’t seem to be a problem for many Mormon Leaders.

Thus, it’s clear that orthopraxy (the practice of one’s faith) is far more important in Mormonism than orthodoxy (adherence to an established set of beliefs). In other words, Mormons will tolerate wrong belief as long the errant believer is doing all the right stuff. It sounds something like this, “I mean the dude may be an atheist but, hey, isn’t he a great Elders Quorum teacher – I always get so much out of his lessons!”

Stated plainly, Mormonism has no theological boundaries.

So why is this a problem for Ex-Mormons transitioning out of the LdS Church and into mainstream Christianity? Simple: Because they’re not aware of this dynamic they often view attempts to conform their beliefs to established Christian orthodoxy as “legalism” or “oppression”. As soon as they bump into the wall of Christian orthodoxy their “inner Joseph Smith” manifests itself.

Consider, for example, the issue of the doctrine of the Trinity. Many Ex-Mormons simply don’t understand why mainstream Christians make such a fuss about it. I mean, after all, people in Mormonism had all kinds of screwy ideas about the Mormon Godhead and how the members of the Godhead related to each other. However, as long as at the end of the day, as long as those screwy ideas were capped with, “but they’re united in purpose”, the public line was toed and all was good. But these nick picky mainstream Christians get “bent” if you don’t get the classic formula of, “God is one eternal Being, consisting of three co-eternal persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,” exactly right. They’ll even correct you if you get “person” and “being” flipped around! And if you say something like, “God reveals Himself as the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit: One God” they go bonkers on you, call it heresy, and accuse you of modalism. And if after having it explained you say that you still reject the doctrine of the Trinity, they’ll question if you’re even a Christian all all! What’s up with that?4

The answer is that mainstream Christianity has boundaries. Those boundaries are set and established by the Bible and were forged, formed, refined,  and perfected through the intense fire of Christian Church history.5 As I stated in another piece for Ex-Mormons:

As the Apostle Peter said, “… no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20 KJV) and as a Christian you are joining a community of Spirit filled saints that for over 2,000 years has read, loved, struggled with, and sought God over the correct interpretation of His written revelation of Himself to man… we’re all fallen sinners prone to error and the great “cloud of witnesses” (the one that Hebrews 12:1 describes) can be of great value and benefit in guiding us in sound Biblical interpretation if we’ll listen to them through their creeds, sermons, writings, and lives. In fact even their flaws, foibles, follies, and mistakes can be instructive! No, Church History isn’t the Bible but it’s important. After all, as Elizabeth Browning said well: “Always learn from experience – preferably someone else’s”6

Thus, for the biblical Christian, being knit into that great “cloud of witnesses” is critical. Yes, I appreciate the fact that one tends to be “gun shy” after coming out a Mind Control Cult.  And yes, I realize that it takes time to heal and start trusting again after being burned by said cult – after all, I came out of one myself. However, the fact remains that the Bible is clear that all Christians need to be a part of and accountable to the visible, living Church:

“…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
(Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

“…encourage one another and build one another up…”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
(Acts 2:42 ESV)

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints…”
(1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV)

"It's just me, Jesus, and my Bible."

“It’s just me, Jesus, and my Bible.”

So it’s one thing to temporarily isolate, heal and learn to trust again, but quite another to make this a permanent position. Unfortunately, the latter is where where Ex-Mormon tend to stay, ultimately becoming “Just me and Jesus” Lone Ranger Christians.7

The irony here is how Mormonism, while outwardly appearing to be a system of oppressive conformity, actually fosters internal Lone Rangers and rogues within its ranks. This is done via the “magic” of Mormon passive aggressivity.  As Latter-day Saint and Professor of Organizational Behavior, Michael J. Stevens  explains in his watershed article on the subject:

A passive-aggressive person will generally deploy such behavioral tactics as: keeping one’s distance and remaining silent or aloof; hiding one’s true thoughts, feelings, or emotions; suppressing, setting aside, or ignoring issues that otherwise should be addressed; postponing or ignoring decisions; resisting change and otherwise championing the status quo; citing rules, policies, procedures, or higher authority as both a defensive and offensive tactic; and providing little meaningful or worthwhile feedback.8

Stevens goes on to explain:

If we consider modern LDS culture to be an anthropologically “tight” culture (that is, one in which there are many strong norms proscribing behavior and conduct, along with a low tolerance for deviance from those norms), then it’s easy to see how norms favoring conflict avoidance are combined with very strong social pressures against the expression of contrary opinions, views, or preferences. To state such differences openly means that one should anticipate the strong sanctions and social ostracism that will inevitably follow. The message of an obedience and submission culture is clear: No Devil’s Advocates allowed! Quit asking questions and challenging things—just nod your head and say “yes.”9

So here’s the strange irony: A key survival skill among Mormons is the ability to appear to be in compliance and conformity to established norms while simultaneously being in rebellion. So what happens when the Mormon exits this sick, dysfunctional system? Answer: They just bring those hard won, hard learned, survival skills with them.  That is, they either continue the behavior in their new church or, because there no consequences for doing otherwise in this new culture, become overtly aggressive and unteachable. Neither is extreme is healthy or productive – and both are ultimately destructive.10

So that’s the problem, what’s the solution? Answer: Healthy boundaries. As Christian Psychologists Townsend and Cloud explain:

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. However, if I do not “own” my life, my choices and options become very limited.11

On a personal level, boundaries determine where you end and others begin. In a group, or sociological, context they determine where the group begins and ends. So, for example, one can’t reject the doctrine of the Trinity and still claim to be a Christian. That’s because the doctrine creates a safe, well defined area between pagan polytheism (such as Mormon tritheism), and heresy (such as modalism). The doctrine creates a healthy boundary that determines who’s in the group and who’s out.

In a similar vein, boundaries allows us to be in a group without being run over by it:

Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7: 6) so that people will not steal them. They keep the pearls inside, and the pigs outside.12

The Lone Ranger Christian credo.

The Lone Ranger Christian credo.

Boundaries enable us to remain humble and teachable because they give us the self confidence and internal assurance that we can listen and learn knowing that in the end we will only let what we want inside our fence. And because in the end we alone are the gatekeeper, there’s no point in engaging in rude, childish rebellion. That’s because if someone tries to control us we can end the control by simply shutting the gate. Thus we can be in a group without being dominated by it. If the group becomes too much of a problem, the solution is easy: Just walk away.

The key word here is balance. Health requires quiet, steady moderation  rather than bombastic, erratic skewing from extreme to extreme. So if you find yourself always on the outline looking in then you know that you’ve gone overboard with the “walking away” thing. If, on the other hand, you find yourself angry, frustrated, and unable to find your own voice then you probably haven’t walked away enough. And finally, it should be noted that healthy boundaries mean that we don’t tell others what they’re going to do (that’s control), it means that we tell others what we’re going to.

Bringing it back around, it was selfish, arrogant, irrational, and unbiblical of Joseph Smith to think that he could just discard 1,900-plus years of Christian orthodoxy and reinvent Christianity on his own from scratch wasn’t it? So how is it any different for an Ex-Mormon who does the same thing today? Respecting Christianity’s boundaries isn’t legalism or being oppressed by over bearing, controlling, and legalistic religionists, it’s just good old fashioned common sense. More than that, it’s biblical isn’t it?

Consider for a moment what would have happened if Joseph Smith had heeded this advice and would have had a humble, teachable spirit guarding by healthy boundaries – instead of having to be the lead rebel in rogue’s gallery of religious rebels? I suspect that he would have had the “knots” in his bad theology worked out over time, he would have found his place in a good 19th Century church, and would have lived a long, healthy, and happy life. Instead he left us with the aftermath of a religious rebellion that has destroyed countless families and lives.

1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) says that, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” In the end that’s really what we’re talking about here isn’t it? The spirit of Mormonism is the spirit of rebellion. And Mormon style rebellion has consequences.

My dear transitioning Mormon friend, after watching Lone Ranger Ex-Mormon after Lone Ranger Ex-Mormon “crash, boom, bang” due to theological rebellion, I don’t recommend it.

This is not the solution.

No matter how tempting, this ISN’T the solution.

NOTES
1 Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p.ix

2 Ibid, p. 150

3 Ibid, p.172

4 My intention here isn’t to start a debate or dogmatize the doctrine of the Trinity, merely to use to it as an example of a legitimate Christian theological boundary. If the reader is interested in a good resource that explains the doctrine of the Trinity from the Bible I recommend Rob Bowman’s excellent web series, “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity: An Outline Study”.

5 In my opinion, one of the best things that every Ex-Mormon can do is learn Christian Church History. Not only does this help expose and purge the propaganda style revisionist history that Mormons are taught in the LdS Church, it helps the transitioning Mormon understand how and why these theological boundaries exist at all. A good resource here is Dr. Bruce L. Shelley’s classic work, “Church History in Plain Language”.

6 Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”, Beggar’s Bread website

7 This may not be easy but it is worth it! A big help in easing the transition here is to realize that the churches and denominations in mainstream Christianity are as culturally distinct as Mormon culture is. A useful model to use when transitioning is that of an immigrant living their native country and transitioning into a new culture. You will experience culture shock when you visit non-Mormon churches, be prepared for it. That said, there are some things you can do to lessen the impact. Here’s the advice that I gave in the aforementioned “Dear Michelle” article:

“I would recommend that you try to find a church that’s in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. I make this recommendation because the Mormon Chapel liturgy was “borrowed” from the 19th Century Methodist church. Specifically, that means finding and attending a Methodist, Nazarene, Wesleyan, or Holiness church. And I would recommend that you stick with the “Traditional” (rather than the “Contemporary”) service as it’s closest to the 19th Century style liturgy that you’re familiar with in the Mormon Church.

Again, the most important thing with any church that you attend is that they love, respect, teach, and obey the Bible. Never the less, all too often transitioning Mormons are off-put by modern expressions of worship that are too far afield from the traditional Latter-day Saint Chapel service. If you want to try or move on to a different, more contemporary type of corporate worship later it’s up to you but I would recommend that you stick with the traditional “Methodist style” until you find your “sea legs” in modern mainstream Christianity.”

8 Michael J. Stevens, “Passive-aggression among the Latter-day Saints”, Sunstone magazine, April 2013

9 Ibid

10 Please note that with the advent of Postmodernism one will find the same problem of theological rebellion in the mainstream Christian Church as well. As Theologian, Matt Slick as rightly observed:

…postmodernism is relativism. Postmodernism is a reaction against the logical truth structures of modern thought that gave us absolute propositions about nature, time, space, mathematics, knowability, repeatability of experimentation, predictability, etc. As modernism developed the sciences, technology, and medicine, it has helped to produce a comfortable and predictable society–wherein people tend to become complacent, comfortable, and predictable. But there are always people who ask questions rather than blindly follow the status quo. They look for different ways of expression, different interpretations of truth, teach the idea that truth is not necessarily absolute and that reality can be reinterpreted. It is within the postmodern context that the Emerging Churches are seeking to work.

It is a difficult venture to try to reach the hearts and minds of those who are less open to absolutes than previous generations. So, instead of absolute truth propositions, Emerging Churches tend to focus on relationships, expressiveness, and new ways of trying to reach God. Is it good? Yes and no. It is good only so far as it is consistent with Scripture. It is bad whenever it deviates from it.
(Matt Slick, “The Emerging Church and postmodernism”; CARM website)

The key difference here is the reality of boundary maintenance that biblical absolutes and 2,000-plus years of doctrinal refinement provide. Further, theological rebellion typically isn’t enculturated into the membership, reinforced by leaders, and at the root of the entire theological system as it is in Mormonism. Stated plainly, if you take away theological rebellion then Mormonism is no longer Mormonism. Add theological rebellion to mainstream Christianity and it is no longer Christian.

However, there are still glaring exceptions – especially in the case of theological liberal churches and denominations. In those cases you will notice that many Biblical Christians are just as quick to denounce these theologically rebellious churches and denominations as they are errant individuals. There’s no double standard here, the rules apply equally to Mormon, Ex-Mormon and Christian alike.

11 Henry Cloud and John Townsend, “Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No”, p.29

12 Ibid, p.31

boundaries

THIS is the solution.

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