Archive for the ‘Richard J. Mouw’ Category

A Response to Richard Mouw


by Robert M. Bowman Jr.
The May 2016 issue of the Christian periodical First Things (appearing online in April) includes an article Richard Mouw, President Emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary, entitled “Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy.” As I will document here, the Institute for Religious Research figures largely in Mouw’s article even though he never mentions IRR (or me) by name. As the spokesman for IRR in past efforts by our organization to dialogue with and respond to Professor Mouw, I have a special interest in Mouw’s article and a direct responsibility to offer this response.

The focus of Mouw’s article is on the question of whether Mormonism is still committed to the view of God represented by Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” Mouw’s main claim is that the LDS Church is quietly moving away from the notion that God was a mortal man who became exalted to Godhood in a process open to us as well. Mouw recognizes that this doctrine is incompatible with Christianity but insists that Mormons are doing what they can to retire this false doctrine.

If only it were so.

In this article I will be critically reviewing Mouw’s article, correcting the historical record, explaining the issues, summarizing the evidence as it pertains to those issues, and responding to Mouw’s arguments.


Richard J. Mouw

Richard Mouw: Dialogue with Mormons but Not with Their Evangelical Critics
Mouw begins by giving a brief recitation of the history of the Snow couplet. Joseph Smith’s father had told Snow that he would become “as great as God,” an idea that Snow felt he came to grasp four years later, leading to his formulation of the couplet. He reports that Parley Pratt “not long after that” affirmed that “God, angels and men are all of one species” and that Joseph Smith taught that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man.” (The order here is a little misleading: Snow composed his couplet in 1840, Joseph Smith delivered the sermon quoted in 1844, and Pratt published his book making the quoted statement in 1855.) Mouw admits that this view “denies an essential Jewish and Christian teaching,” namely that God is ontologically unique, a fundamentally different kind of being than humans, and that we will never become the same kind of being as God.

Yet Mouw argues that this doctrine, which he admits was taught by Joseph Smith as well as by Snow and Pratt, need not divide evangelicals and Mormons, because Mormons are at least in the process of abandoning it. As I shall explain, Mouw’s argument blithely ignores facts that have been presented to him and that flatly disprove his claim.

Mouw recounts the history of this controversy as follows:

I’ve been involved for a long time in an Evangelical-Mormon dialogue. When that dialogue began fifteen years ago, we were told by the Mormon participants that the Lorenzo Snow couplet has no canonical status in Mormon theology. I reported that assessment in print, arguing that the apparent denial of any ontological difference between God and man in the Snow couplet need not prevent Evangelical-Mormon dialogue.

Right away, Evangelical “countercult” groups responded in a sharply critical way. One issued a “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries,” stating that “the evidence is voluminous that the LDS Church has been continuously teaching the doctrine of eternal progression, as it is commonly known, represented by the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet from 1844 right up to the present.” An extensive critique appeared in an essay by Ronald V. Huggins, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, “Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: ‘As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be’; ‘No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?’ A Response to Richard Mouw.”

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle (2004)

This account is rather misleading. Mouw’s original statement denying that the Snow couplet had no canonical status in LDS theology was made in an email in late 2004, following his controversial remarks at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on November 14, 2004. On that occasion, Mouw accused his evangelical brethren of “bearing false witness” against Mormons in the way they characterized Mormon doctrine. In a subsequent email responding to challenges to his criticism, Mouw asserted that evangelicals in countercult ministry had misrepresented Mormonism as teaching “that God was once a human being like us, and we can become gods just like God is now.” Mouw claimed that this idea had “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine.” Huggins responded in the article Mouw mentions, which appeared in the September 2006 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.1 That periodical, of course, is not published by a “countercult” group, but by the premier academic society of evangelical scholars. Huggins himself was at the time a professor at Salt Lake Theological Seminary and had published two articles on the Book of Mormon in the academic periodicalDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.2 Referring to Huggins in the context of a general swipe at evangelical “countercult” groups comes across as an attempt to broad-brush all evangelical criticism of Mouw as unscholarly. It also ignores the fact that many evangelicals engaged in so-called countercult work care about scholarship and that many evangelical scholars are supportive of countercult ministry. For example, Huggins himself has been a member of the board of our organization, the Institute for Religious Research, since before Mouw’s appearance at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

In an attempt to frame the controversy as one stoked by “countercult” groups, Mouw claims that after his publicly asserting that the idea of man becoming gods just like God is now is not a part of present-day LDS doctrine, “Right away, Evangelical ‘countercult’ groups responded in a sharply critical way.” He then cites the “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries.” However, that Statement was issued in April 2013, more than eight years after Mouw’s comment about Mormon doctrine (and more than six years after Huggins’s article). That is hardly “right away.”

Perhaps this is a good place to point out that Mouw made his critical remarks about the evangelical countercult movement without having engaged anyone in that movement in the kind of friendly dialogue he has pursued with Mormon scholars. He made no effort to explain to the evangelicals he criticized what he thought they were doing wrong. Between 2004 and the present he has not pursued such dialogue and has not welcomed overtures from those evangelicals who have expressed a desire to have such dialogue with him.

Talking With The Mormons Front Cover

“Talking with Mormons” by Richard J. Mouw (2012)

The Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries3 was prompted not by Mouw’s email in 2004 but by his very public campaign in 2012 and early 2013 to promote the notion that Mormonism was moving away from the doctrine of God and man as the same species. In 2012 Mouw published a book entitled Talking with Mormons that criticized the way most evangelicals have viewed Mormonism. That same year and in early 2013 he made some public appearances with LDS scholar Robert Millet in which the two of them discussed some of the subjects addressed in Mouw’s book. In effect, the book and appearances were a public relations campaign to argue that evangelicals should view Mormonism in a more positive way religiously and theologically. In both the book and his public appearances, Mouw expanded on his claim that evangelical “countercult” organizations were misrepresenting Mormon doctrine, especially with regard to the issue of the nature of God.

In early 2013, the Institute for Religious Research reached out to Mouw and attempted to pursue dialogue with him about his critical stance toward countercult ministry. On February 14 of that year I sent to Mouw on behalf of IRR a three-page letter along with a 36-page documentation packet that had been specially prepared to address the comments he had made regarding the LDS doctrine of God and man. Perhaps I might mention that I am a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary (1981), where Mouw later served as president, and I had met with Mouw in his office at Fuller and discussed Mormonism with him in about 2001. After receiving no response to my letter, I sent Mouw a follow-up letter on March 14, which was answered by an email to me from Mouw on April 9. Mouw declined our invitation to dialogue, complaining about a number of things he thought we had said about him. After I responded with an email explaining that we had made none of the statements to which he took offense, Mouw wrote back and admitted that he had indeed confused us with someone else. However, he still chose not to engage us in dialogue or even to respond to the documentation we had provided him.

In the wake of Mouw’s unwillingness to participate in dialogue with evangelicals on the subject of Mormonism whose views he had been criticizing for years, we had a lengthy discussion on the matter at the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions conference in April 2013. EMNR is a consortium of evangelical organizations and researchers who are committed to supporting Christians in mission to people in a variety of new religious movements, including Mormonism. On April 12, 2013, EMNR issued a statement (which I drafted) responding to Mouw. After explaining briefly why we disagreed with Mouw’s comments about Mormonism, the statement concluded as follows:

"Talking Mormon Doctrine" edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet (circa 2015)

“Talking Mormon Doctrine” edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet (2015)

Evangelical Ministries to New Religions applauds Dr. Mouw for his salutary call for Christian civility and his thoughtful engagement in dialogue with Mormon scholars and leaders. At the same time, EMNR respectfully yet strongly disagrees with Dr. Mouw’s generalizations about evangelicals misrepresenting Mormon beliefs and practices, and specifically with his own misrepresentation of the standard LDS doctrine of eternal progression as “folk Mormonism” having no official or functioning place in Mormon belief today. We invite Dr. Mouw to engage evangelical ministries to Mormons in general, and those of us who are part of EMNR in particular, in the same kind of civil dialogue he has rightly championed between evangelicals and Mormons. Furthermore, we encourage Latter-day Saints to engage a wider circle of evangelicals in open and candid dialogue.

Mouw has never taken us up on this invitation.

Ironically, Mouw continues to claim, as he did in his 2012 book, that unnamed evangelical critics of Mormonism disagree with him because they are closed in principle to engaging Mormons in respectful dialogue. Here is how he put it in his book:

Again, there are many evangelicals who are convinced that those of us on the evangelical side who are involved in these dialogues have been duped by the Mormons. Worse than that, they’re convinced that by engaging in friendly—and hopeful—dialogue with representatives of Mormonism, we’re hurting the cause of the gospel…. Promoting the idea of friendly dialogue with Mormons isn’t a popular thing to do.4

In his recent article in First Things, Mouw again criticizes unnamed evangelicals who think dialogue with Mormons is impossible:

At stake in this dispute is a choice between two approaches to Mormon teachings and practice. One is skeptical and presumes that Mormonism is a ­deeply heretical form of Christianity, so much so that dialogue is impossible. The other is more trusting and is willing to entertain the possibility that Mormonism has the resources for theological self-criticism and self-correction, and that dialogue might help in this process.

I do not know of a single evangelical in “countercult” ministry who thinks that dialogue with Mormons is a bad idea, let alone that it is impossible. Indeed, every such evangelical I know seeks opportunities to engage Mormons in dialogue. It seems here that Mouw is using the term “dialogue” as code for something else. Note that Mouw’s comment implies that he disagrees about Mormonism being “deeply heretical.” This implication is confirmed by the title of his article, “Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy.”

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his visit to Salt Lake City. Seated clockwise are: the late Gordon B. Hinckley, President; Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor (obscured); James E. Faust, Second Counselor (obscured), and F. Michael Watson, Executive Secretary.

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a visit to Salt Lake City in 2008. Seated clockwise are: the late Gordon B. Hinckley, President; Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor (obscured); James E. Faust, Second Counselor (obscured), and F. Michael Watson, Executive Secretary.

The Real Issue: What Do Mormons Actually Teach?
Here’s what is really “at stake in this dispute.” It is a choice between accepting what official LDS Church publications and its leading theologians actually teach their members or accepting what Richard Mouw says he thinks is happening based on his conversations with his “Mormon friends” despite the public record of LDS Church teaching.5 Mouw gives lip service to the importance of considering what the LDS Church teaches its own members when he writes, “The test for me is not what Mormons say to me, but what they say to each other.”6 However, he doesn’t actually show that this is the basis on which he has formed his theological judgments about Mormonism. Instead, he repeatedly appeals to the assurances of his Mormon friends, as in the following telling comment:

Mormonism is often portrayed as a self-deification program—and not without some legitimacy, given the popularity of the Lorenzo Snow couplet: “What Man now is, God once was; what God now is, Man may become.” My Mormon friends are quick to point out, however, that this couplet has no official canonical status—indeed, Gordon Hinckley famously told Time magazine that he had no idea what it means to say “As God is, man may become.”7

With all due respect, what Mouw’s Mormon friends told him carries no authority as far as defining what has official or canonical status in Mormonism. Gordon Hinckley’s statement to Time magazine also does not pass what Mouw himself says is the test, which is what Mormons say to each other—not what they say to the secular media.

Yet there is more to the story with regard to Hinckley’s supposed denial of the doctrine. As we explain in a separate article,8 Hinckley did not disavow any understanding of the Snow couplet. We will summarize the issue briefly here. In Hinckley’s 1997 interview, he was asked, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?” Here is what he said:

I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.9

In saying that he didn’t “know a lot about it,” Hinckley was admitting implicitly that he did know something about it, while at the same time saying that Mormonism doesn’t provide much in the way of details about God the Father’s life before he became a God. Thus, Hinckley was not suggesting that the doctrine expressed in the Snow couplet was not part of Mormon doctrine. It may not be something the LDS Church emphasized, but it is still part of their belief system.

In his recent First Things article, Mouw interprets Hinckley’s remarks as “signaling a decision on the part of the Mormon leadership to downplay the Snow couplet within the corpus of Mormon teachings about the deity,” suggesting that they are “interested in joining the broad Jewish and Christian consensus that God is ontologically different from man—or at least that Mormons today don’t want to directly contradict that consensus.” Since Hinckley’s comment to Time was made in 1997, we have had nearly twenty years to see if the LDS Church actually has pivoted away from its earlier doctrine. The record of the past twenty years demonstrably contradicts Mouw’s interpretation. Some of the evidence comes from sources surprisingly close to Mouw himself.

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet

Robert Millet: God Was Once a Mortal Being
If Gordon Hinckley was signaling in 1997 that the LDS Church was moving away from the doctrine that God was once a man as taught by Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow, Mouw’s LDS friend Robert Millet did not get the message. The very next year Millet and Noel Reynolds, another BYU scholar, published a short book addressing “10 basic issues” including number 6, “What do Latter-day Saints mean when they say that God was once a man?” After quoting approvingly both the King Follett Discourse and the Snow couplet, Millet and Reynolds wrote:

That God was once a mortal being is in no way inconsistent with the fact that he now has all power and all knowledge and possesses every virtue, grace, and godly attribute. He acquired perfection through long periods of growth, development, and progression, “by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation,” as Joseph Smith explained…. Not much has been revealed about this concept beyond the fact that God was once a man and that over a long period of time he gained the knowledge, power, and divine attributes necessary to know all things and have all power…. These doctrines are not clearly stated in the Bible. Mormons believe, however, that this knowledge was once had among the ancients and that it has been restored through modern prophets.10

This is not the only place where Millet has affirmed the doctrine of the King Follett Discourse and the Snow couplet. In his 2005 book A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Millet offered the following comments for the benefit primarily of evangelical readers:

The tougher issue for many Christians to deal with is the accompanying doctrine set forth in the King Follett Sermon and the Lorenzo Snow coupletnamely, that God was once a man. Latter-day scriptures state unequivocally that God is a man, a Man of Holiness (Moses 6:57) who possesses a body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22). These concepts are clearly a part of the doctrinal restoration. We teach that man is not of a lower order or different species than God. This, of course, makes many of our Christian friends extremely nervous (if not angry), for it appears to them that we are lowering God in the scheme of things and thus attempting to bridge the Creator/creature chasm.11

Mouw definitely knew about this statement from Millet, because Mouw wrote a foreword and afterword to the book! Moreover, in his afterword Mouw acknowledged that Mormonism teaches that we human beings are of the same species as God:

At the heart of our continuing disagreements, I am convinced, are very basic worldview issues. Judaism and Christianity have been united in their insistence that the Creator and the creation—including God’s human creatures—are divided by an unbridgeable “being” gap. God is the “Wholly Other”—eternal and self-sufficient—who is in a realm of existence that is radically distinct from the creation that was brought into being out of nothing by God’s sovereign decree. On this view of things, to confuse the Creator’s being with anything in his creation is to commit the sin of idolatry. Mormons, on the other hand, talk about God and humans as belonging to the same “species.” Inevitably, then, the differences are described, not in terms of an unbridgeable gap of being, but in the language of “more” and “less.”12

Mouw and Millet were obviously working on this book in 2004 (if not before) in order for it to be published in 2005. This means that at the time Mouw spoke at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in November 2004 and shortly thereafter sent out an email claiming that the doctrine epitomized in Snow’s couplet had “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine,” Mouw knew that in fact that doctrine was “clearly a part of the doctrinal restoration,” as Millet put it in his book. Less than a year after Mouw had denied that the doctrine had any functioning place in current Mormon doctrine, a book appeared clearly affirming that very doctrine as part of the Mormon doctrinal restoration, with a foreword and afterword by Mouw himself. Mouw’s own statement that in Mormon belief God and humans are members of the same species clearly presupposes the doctrine that God was once a mortal man like us who then became a God and that we as his children can do the same.

"Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow" official LDS Church manual (circa 2012)

“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow” official LDS Church manual (2012)

God Was Once a Man: It’s Still Being Taught
The doctrine of eternal progression—that God the Father was once a mortal man, that he became a God, and that we can become Gods like him—has continued to be taught by Mormons right up to the present. In his May 2016 article in First Things, Mouw devotes several paragraphs to explaining why the inclusion of the Snow couplet in the 2012 curriculum manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, part of a series of manuals on the past presidents of the LDS Church, was not necessarily endorsing the first half of the couplet. According to Mouw, the discussion of the couplet in the manual focuses entirely on the second half, neither affirming nor denying the first half. Mouw’s analysis of this particular manual’s treatment of the Snow couplet has some weaknesses, but the bigger point to be made is that this is only one of many publications of the past twelve years in which the LDS Church has reaffirmed the validity of the Snow couplet, the King Follett Discourse, and the traditional LDS doctrine of eternal progression. As I pointed out to Mouw in my first letter to him in 2012:

The 2004 manual Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475 stated that “there are approved and inspired writings that are not in the standard works” that “also are true and should be used along with the scripturesthemselves,” among the five most important of which it says are “the ‘King Follett Sermon’ and the ‘Sermon in the Grove.’” At least eight teaching manuals currently available on teach the King Follett Discourse, the Lorenzo Snow couplet, or (in most cases) both, including six manuals published since 2003.13

For example, the LDS curriculum manual Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual (2011), which is still on the official LDS website, states:

What we know about God is limited to what he has chosen to tell us through his prophets. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision in 1820 (see Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20) and the famous King Follett discourse given shortly before Joseph’s martyrdom in 1844 (see Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 343–62) are significant doctrinal teachings on the nature of God. From the beginning of his ministry until its end, the Prophet shared his increasing understanding of his Heavenly Father…. In the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith declared that the first principle of the gospel consists of knowing the character of God. Joseph taught that God “was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself” (Teachings, p. 346…).14

In 2014, the LDS Church posted a “Gospel Topics” article on its website with the title “Becoming Like God.” Here is some of what that article stated:

What kind of a being is God?” he asked. Human beings needed to know, he argued, because “if men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves.” In that phrase, the Prophet collapsed the gulf that centuries of confusion had created between God and humanity. Human nature was at its core divine. God “was once as one of us” and “all the spirits that God ever sent into the world” were likewise “susceptible of enlargement.” Joseph Smith preached that long before the world was formed, God found “himself in the midst” of these beings and “saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” and be “exalted” with Him…. Since that sermon, known as the King Follett discourse, the doctrine that humans can progress to exaltation and godliness has been taught within the Church. Lorenzo Snow, the Church’s fifth President, coined a well-known couplet: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” Little has been revealed about the first half of this couplet, and consequently little is taught. When asked about this topic, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley told a reporter in 1997, “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” When asked about the belief in humans’ divine potential, President Hinckley responded, “Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly.15

The above statement provides a convenient basis for a review of the main points that have been made here:

  • The LDS Church continues to cite approvingly both the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet. Mouw’s claim that the Snow couplet or the idea it expresses has “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine” is still false.
  • Joseph Smith is credited with having “collapsed the gulf…between God and humanity” found in traditional (orthodox) Christian theology. The statement here, in attributing that “gulf” to “centuries of confusion,” obviously is approving of and affirming Joseph’s teaching that collapsed that gulf.
  • The LDS Church affirms here that human nature is divine; this is another way of saying that God and humans are the same kind or species of being, albeit at very different stages of development.
  • Hinckley’s point that not much is known about God’s life before becoming God is affirmed. To say that little has been revealed or is taught about this doctrine is not to deny that the doctrine exists. The LDS Church is still committed to teaching that God was once a man like us and became exalted to Godhood, even though it has little more to say about the matter than that.
  • The LDS Church also affirms strongly the doctrine of eternal progression, which includes the idea that human beings can become like God in his essential attributes. God is an exalted man, and we who are mortals can likewise become exalted like him. This doctrine clearly goes outside the boundaries of orthodox theology, according to which redeemed human beings will become like God morally (perfect in love, holiness, etc.) and become immortal but will not become ontologically the same kind of being as God.

Toward the end of his First Things article, Mouw writes:

My own sense is that many in the LDS community, including several of its leaders, recognize that the first half of the Snow couplet, the statement about God having been like man, is incompatible with what they genuinely want to sing about: spiritual reliance on the all-sufficient Savior. They also see that it works against the spiritual outlook they want to nurture in new generations of Mormons. Evangelicals may wish for an explicit denial by the LDS leadership of the first half of the couplet. But it is important to recognize that another option—to be sure, a less stabilizing one theologically—is simply to ignore that first half and focus on the second and potentially more orthodox half in what is affirmed and taught in Mormonism.

Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Up to now, what Mouw says is his “sense” conflicts with the direct statements made by the LDS Church’s leaders, curriculum manuals, and official website statements. The LDS Church continues to affirm the validity and truth of the first half of the Snow couplet even while acknowledging that it does not have anything to offer in the way of elaboration or details as to what God the Father’s life was like or what he did prior to attaining Godhood. The problem here is not merely that the LDS Church has yet to repudiate or explicitly deny the first half of the couplet. The problem is that it continues to affirm its validity, as well as the validity of Joseph Smith’s teaching along the same lines in the King Follett Discourse.

Thus, there is simply no basis for thinking that Mormonism is “approaching orthodoxy.” There has been no significant theological change on the controversial issue at hand. At the very time that Richard Mouw began asserting (in 2004) that the idea of God as a former mortal man had no functioning place in contemporary Mormon doctrine, he was working with Mormon theologian Robert Millet getting his book published by a Christian publisher (Eerdmans), and even writing a foreword and afterword to it, that flatly contradicted Mouw’s claim.

Mouw’s claim about the Snow couplet and eternal progression was refuted by Ronald Huggins in his excellent 2006 article. In the ten years that have passed since that time, Mouw has not rebutted Huggins or offered anything along the lines of a scholarly treatment of the subject. Meanwhile, throughout those ten years the LDS Church has repeatedly reaffirmed their belief in the theology set forth in the King Follett Discourse and epitomized in Lorenzo Snow’s couplet. Except for the 2012 manual on Lorenzo Snow, Mouw has yet to comment on any of the documentary evidence that contradicts his claim.

Forced to choose between accepting Mouw’s assurance that the sense he gets from his Mormon friends is that they would like to abandon the doctrine that God was once a man like us or accepting what the LDS Church’s leaders and theologians (including some of Mouw’s friends!) say is their position on the subject, the only reasonable course is to accept what the Mormons themselves say. Mouw may have his reasons for taking the position he does, and he may sincerely think he is doing the right thing. Regardless, the truth is that Mormon doctrine still stands opposed to the orthodox Christian belief that God is ontologically unique and radically different from his creation. Genuine dialogue between evangelicals and Mormons must begin by coming to terms with what each other actually believes.

Richard J. Mouw

Richard J. Mouw

1. Ronald V. Huggins, “Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: ‘As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be’; ‘No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?’ A Response to Richard Mouw,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49/3 (Sept. 2006): 549-68.
2. Ronald V. Huggins, “Did the Author of 3 Nephi Know the Gospel of Matthew?” Dialogue 30 (1997): 137-48; “‘Without a Cause’ and ‘Ships of Tarshish’: A Possible Contemporary Source for Two Unexplained Readings from Joseph Smith.” Dialogue 36 (2003): 157-79.
3. The statement is available on IRR’s website: see “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries,” Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, 13 April 2013.
4. Richard J. Mouw, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 41.
5. Mouw’s book Talking with Mormons makes references to his Mormon “friends” over twenty times. By contrast, he cites Joseph Smith only twice and has only one or two other references to authoritative LDS sources.
6. Mouw, Talking with Mormons, 41.
7. Ibid., 55.
8. Robert M. Bowman Jr., “Gordon Hinckley, Richard Mouw, and Eternal Progression” (IRR, 2016).
9. This is the full answer in the unedited transcript provided to IRR by the interviewer for Time, Richard N. Ostling, and quoted in Luke P. Wilson and Joel B. Groat, “Dodging and Dissembling Prophet?” (IRR, 1997). See David Van Biema, “Kingdom Come: Salt Lake City was just for starters,” Time, 4 Aug. 1997.10. Robert L. Millet and Noel B. Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University—FARMS, 1998), chapter 6, emphasis added.
11. Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 144, emphasis added.
12. Richard J. Mouw, “Afterword,” in ibid., 182, emphasis added.
13. Letter from Robert M. Bowman Jr. to Richard J. Mouw, 14 Feb. 2013.
14.Chapter 3: God the Eternal Father,” in Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual (2011), 7–8.
15.Becoming Like God” (, 2014).

The Los Angeles, California LDS Church Temple at Sunset

The Los Angeles, California LDS Church Temple at Sunset

About the author: 
Rob Bowman is the Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research (IRR). He has been with IRR since 2008 and is IRR’s Executive Director. Previously he served as Manager of Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board (2006-2008). For ten years Rob taught graduate courses in apologetics, biblical studies, and religion at Luther Rice University (1994-99) and Biola University (2001-2005). He has also worked with other apologetics and discernment ministries, most notably the Christian Research Institute (1984-91), the Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project (1994-99), and Watchman Fellowship in Alabama (1999-2000). Rob has spoken at over a hundred churches and at some three dozen conferences and debates. He has five years of experience hosting call-in radio talk shows focusing on apologetics, including the nationally famous Bible Answer Man show.

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman earned the M.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, did doctoral studies in Christian Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at South African Theological Seminary. He is the author of roughly 60 articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Review of Biblical Literature, Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal, Mission Frontiers, and Journal of Evangelism and Missions) and 13 books pertaining to apologetics, religion, and biblical theology, including two winners of the Gold Medallion Award, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World (1997) and Faith Has Its Reasons (2001; 2d ed., 2006). His most recent books are Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ(co-authored with Ed Komoszewski, 2007), which received numerous endorsements from such scholars as Ravi Zacharias and Richard Bauckham, and What Mormons Believe (2012).

Rob and his wife, Cathy, have been married since 1981 and have four children, three of them still living at home.
(source: “Who We Are: The People of IRR and What We Are All About”

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research (IRR) website. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author.

church_sign-wideby Fred W. Anson
Since I’m known in most circles for my strong Reformed theological stance, a lot of people are surprised to discover that I’m also full blown, tongues speaking non-cessationist Charismatic.

There’s a reason for that: I’m embarrassed. Yes folks, I’m embarrassed by so much of the insanity that goes on among my Charismatic/Pentecostal Brethren these days that I find myself wanting to distance myself from a movement that I once was proudly part of. If anyone has any doubts about why, just pick the latest copy of Charisma Magazine skip the editorial content (which is generally written by sane, reasonable people), and read the ads (which in many cases seem to written by people who are neither).1 If that doesn’t convince you, just flip to the Trinity Broadcasting Network (aka “TBN”) on your television and try to last for more than about 15-minutes – them folks is all nuts from what I can tell!

Yes, the lack of biblical theological, sound doctrine, discernment, and good old common sense that some of today’s Pentecostals and Charismatics engage in is embarrassing folks, truly embarrassing – and I’m saying this as someone who’s part of the tribe! The term that we thinking Charismatics use for these lunatic fringe nutballs is “Charismaniacs” – and trust me, they have legitimately earned the title! In fact, a few have even go so far off the rails that they openly embrace – and even promote – Mormon error. Let’s look at a couple of these.

Paul Richardson and Lynn Ridenhour

Advertisement for a joint Paul Richardson, Lynn Ridenhour seminar. (click to zoom)

The Errors of Paul Richardson
In previous articles2 Beggar’s Bread readers were introduced to Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, an allegedly ordained Baptist Minister who has a testimony of Joseph Smith as prophet due to being introduced to the Book of Mormon by one of his Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ neighbors in Missouri. Dr. Ridenhour merited his own article because he’s the most notorious personality in this regard. In fact, it was through Lynn Ridenhour’s Facebook page that I discovered Dr. Paul Richardson, of whom he wrote:

MEET A DEAR FRIEND. Meet Dr. Paul Richardson, Pentecostal minister who loves and preaches out of the Book of Mormon. A few years back we hosted a Book of Mormon seminar in Independence. Two protestant preachers—a Baptist and a Pentecostal—preaching out of the Book of Mormon. I remember the night. The place was packed! We had an LDS Bishop there, missionaries were there. RLDS brothers and sisters were there. A Catholic priest came.

I consider Dr. Paul and his lovely wife, Faye, the dearest of friends. What a John the Baptist they are! Forerunners ahead of their time—spreading the good news of the restoration gospel and the message of the precious Book of Mormon throughout the southern states of this nation. Dr. Richardson publishes his monthly newspaper and mails it out to Pentecostals, mostly pastors all over southern United States. He also gives away free “Record of the Nephites,” as he calls the Book of Mormon.

Dr. Richardson is the chancellor of Spirit of Truth Institute, a Bible School. His school has ordained over 430 Pentecostal ministers. What a friend!3

Now it should probably be noted here that Dr. Ridenour actually transitioned from being a cessationist Baptist to continuationist Pentecostal during the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970’s. So if you attended that seminar what you really got, despite Lynn Ridenhour’s spin doctored rhetoric, was not one, but two Pentecostals who have fallen into Mormon error. And Dr. Ridenhour isn’t joking about any of the stuff he said about Paul Richardson, let’s consider some “gems” from his website:

El Greco, "The Pentecost"

“The Pentecost” by El Greco

We accept the Book of Mormon, which we also refer to as “The Record of the Nephites” or “The Nephite Record.” Why? Because …

  • It is a companion to and comparable to the traditional 66 books of our Holy Bible, as Sacred Writ
  • It is obviously inspired of God and from heaven.
  • It is in harmony with our Holy Bible, confirms and supports fundamental Christian teachings and is another powerful witness unto our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It is a fascinating true account of ancient Israelites who migrated by ship to America about 600 B.C.
  • This authentic account was dug up, supernaturally translated by the power of the Holy Ghost, and first printed in 1830. Sadly, the Utah “Mormons” have made many little alterations in their version of it, but we still have copies that conform to the original manuscript.
  • It authoritatively corrects a number of old false teachings that have plagued the Church for generations.
  • It is theologically sound, full of spiritual light, and very edifying to the soul.
  • It is the first installment of much more extra-Biblical Revelation prophesied to come forth in this end time.4

And how does Paul Richardson support his claims that the Book of Mormon is an “authentic account”, “obviously inspired of God and from heaven”, and a “true account”? Archaeology? Science perhaps? Cross referencing the historic records? Evaluating the linguistics of the Book of Mormon relative to Native American linguistics maybe? Theological consensus perhaps?

Of course not! Rather, given the fact that it’s been soundly discredited archaeologically, scientifically, historically, linguistically, theologically, and just about every other way, he just does it the same way that all true believing Mormons do: He elevates his feelings and experience above all else. He simply ignores the fact that not only isn’t there a scrap of evidence to validate the Book of Mormon, there’s a mountain of evidence that discredits it. Here’s an example of the type of feellings driven, Mormon style, mental gymnastics that he engages in:

—It did not just drop down out of Heaven. There are only three possible origins: 1. God, 2. Man, or 3. the devil.

Joseph Smith, Jr. did not write the Book of Mormon. He only translated it. Then soon afterward his life became such a lie that the Book he translated was stigmatized causing the Christian church to rejected [sic] it.

What does the Book of Mormon do for me?
• Well, it inspires me to pray and to be loving and kind.
• It convicts me of any selfishness, fleshly disposition or worldly attitudes.
• It builds up my faith and gives me courage to trust the Lord.
• It puts me in a Heavenly frame of mind and kindles a strong desire in me to walk with God and to live holy for Him.

Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service. Reading the Book of Mormon does all the same things for me as reading the Holy Bible does.5

But the fact of the matter is that objective evidence simply can’t be ignored. And if that evidence contradicts your emotional decision it still has to be dealt with somehow. Given that, consider how arbitrary and inconsistent he is in accepting the divine calling of Joseph Smith as inspired translator of the Book of Mormon while simultaneously throwing him under the bus as a fallen prophet:

Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and a great Seer.

His gift was utterly supernatural!

He had an amazing gift from God to translate the ancient Nephite Record. His great contribution was incomparable, for which we are very grateful.

But not long after he translated the Book of Mormon, he clearly became deceived and misguided and no one should follow either his personal example or his false teachings, which clashed with both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I prefer to follow the pure Word of God!6


“Pentecost” by Mark Wiggin

This is pretzel logic at it’s finest! This is like saying that Mohammed was a divinely inspired moralist when he received the Koran but lost the anointing when he started slaughtering infidels. Or that L. Ron Hubbard was an expert in human psychology when he wrote Dianetics but suddenly became a manipulative hack after it fell off the bestseller list. Neither narrative is true: The moral character of neither man changed before or after the these works were published, they remained the same. Likewise, the historical record demonstrates that Joseph Smith was a con-man and a shyster before, during, and after the creation of the Book of Mormon. In all cases, the only thing that really changed was the amount of power and influence that these men were able to consolidate to themselves as a result of the publication of their defining work. And once they had that power consolidation protecting them, their true nature manifested itself.

So apparently in Richardson’s mind the rationale goes something like this: “So what if Joseph Smith didn’t live a life that produced good fruit (per Matt 7:15-20)? So what if the rotten fruit he produced has resulted in a plethora of abusive Mind Control Cults that have followed him in engaging in the practice of polygamy? So what if he taught that the God of the Bible is just an exalted man who is just one of an infinite number of such gods throughout the cosmos (in violation of Deut 13:1-11)? So what if Joseph Smith destroyed fortunes and families through failed prophecies (in violation of Deut 18:18-22)? Brother, his book sure makes me feel like I’m in a really good church meeting when I read it, so it must be of God, right?”

Clearly Dr. Paul Richardson is failing to plumb line any of his beliefs against the absolute and objective standard of the Bible. I can say this emphatically because while the Book of Mormon is an interesting example of 19th Century American Protestant Restorationism, it simply isn’t fully “in harmony with our Holy Bible”. As Donna Morley noted in her analysis of similar claims by Lynn Ridenhour:

Here’s what Alma 13:13 actually says:

“And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”
(Alma 13:13, RLDS, bolding added)

Further, here’s something else Alma says in chapter 13:

“Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.”
(Alma 13:10, RLDS, bolding added)

In the above, Alma stated that the high priests escaped damnation only by working righteousness. The righteousness is credited as “their righteousness.” This isn’t the unconditional grace that’s taught in the Bible this is conditional grace where one must perform good works in order to merit grace rather than it being a unilateral gift of unmerited favor and mercy from God Himself!

True Christianity isn’t based upon our righteousness. The prophet Isaiah says that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). Because we don’t have righteousness of our own, true followers of Christ are given His righteousness:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
(Romans 3:22, NASB)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB)7

pentecost 2

“Pentecost 2” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998)

The Book of Mormon also contradicts with biblical theology on other key points as well. For example, it’s view of the Godhead is modalistic8 and it rejects salvation by grace alone through faith alone (that is unconditional grace) for Roman Catholic style conditional grace ( that is, salvation by grace plus works):

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

This is in direct contradiction with the Bible:

“For it is by faith you are saved through faith, not that of yourselves it is the gift of God”
(Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB bolding added for emphasis)

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

So it’s clear that Dr. Paul Richardson is in very grave error. He isn’t following the “pure Word of God” at all. I would respectfully suggest that he reconsider his feelings regarding the Book of Mormon in light of what the pure Word of God actually says regarding using feelings as the ultimate means of discerning truth:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
(Jeremiah 17:9, KJV)

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
(Proverbs 28:26, KJV)

Dr. Paul Richardson pitches the “Record of the Nephites” without explicitly stating that it’s the Book of Mormon.

The Errors of Cal Fullerton
While he’s not well known, probably the most interesting of the Charismatics who have been snared by the spirit of Mormonism is Cal Fullerton. Unlike Lynn Ridenhour and Paul Richardson, his justification for his stance isn’t quite as eye rollingly, face palmingly, ham fistedly inane, absurdist, and irrational. Rather, like non-Charismatic LdS Church advocates Richard J. Mouw and Roger E. Olson, he has been seduced into an odd form of theological liberalism and eyes wide shut ecumenicalism that’s rooted in feelings and experiences trumping both biblical orthodoxy and reality. One need go no further than the home page of his website to see this:

“Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Christian?” This question and others about Christianity in the Mormon Church are reverberating worldwide.

The answers given are usually polarizing. Those who say no are primarily evangelical Christians. Those who say yes are primarily Mormons . . . but not all of them.

Respected evangelical leaders such as Joel Osteen have said yes.

The president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, who has been recognized as an important voice among reform-oriented evangelicals, confessed that evangelicals have spread lies about LDS beliefs…

In order to do this completely and most effectively, there must be unity among us. Jesus prayed, “I have given them [my disciples] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:22-23 NIV).9

"Icon-Pentecost" by Phiddipus

“Icon-Pentecost” by Phiddipus

So there you have it, an Evangelical Scholar whose work in Mormon Studies has been discredited and denounced by recognized and respected Evangelical Mormon Studies Scholars (Richard J. Mouw)10 and an ear tickling heretic (Joel Osteen)!11 I mean if these guys say it’s true, then it must be – right? I mean, with “evangelical leaders” like this who needs wolves, we have them right in the flock!

But, wait it gets, even better: Though it’s rarely mentioned in public, Cal Fullerton also bases his stance regarding the LdS Church on a prophecy from an errant Charismatic prophetess. Here’s how he relayed this incident on a Mormon/Evangelical discussion board:

I heard the prophecy (not a dream or vision) by the prophetess long after the Word of God—printed & living—revealed to me God’s perspective on the LDS.

Incidentally, the prophetess fell short of saying the LDS is Christian and should be accepted into the Christian fold. Rather, she rebuked the church of Christ for pointing fingers at Mormons. At one point she yelled, “THROW DOWN YOUR STONES!” I liked it so much that I asked permission to use her prophecy in something I was writing. She denied permission, which is why, for the sake of integrity, I’m not mentioning her name now. (She is well known and highly respected among charismatics.)12

And there you have it – classic Charismaniac error. When push comes to shove, Biblical absolutes get shoved to the side and are subordinated to feelings and experiences. This theme can be found again, again, and again on Mr. Fullerton’s website. Again one need go no further than his home page:

Helen [Cal Fullerton’s wife] and I are not taking this stand because we have another opinion– opinions are already too easy to find–it’s because the Spirit of the living God has revealed it to us. Have you ever noticed that virtually all non-Mormons who say the Mormon Church isn’t Christian, don’t say that God told them so? The reason is He didn’t!13

So it came as no surprise to me when Mr. Fullerton offered the same, “Pray about it my friend” defense of the Mormon Church in the aforementioned online discussion that one would expect from a Mormon. Here was my response:

[Your challenge that I pray about the Mormon Church] deserves special, detailed attention. With this statement you have demonstrated WHY some Charismatics/Pentecostals and nearly all Latter-day Saints fall into error.

Cal, I don’t HAVE to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I have to pray about whether I should lie, cheat, steal, or commit adultery. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to told to pray about Biblical absolutes.

Rather, for a true Christian the Bible is his/her absolute authority – not feelings, not experiences, not relationships, and not . . . whatever. And in this case Joseph Smith failed to pass every Biblical test for a true prophet and he passed every test for a false one:

1) Deceiving God’s covenant people into following another God. (Deu 13:1-11)
2) Giving future predictions that failed to come to pass. (Deu 18:18-22)
3) A life that produces bad fruit. (Mat 7:15-20)
4) Denying that Jesus Christ was God eternal incarnated in human flesh. (1 John 4:1-3)

In addition we can add:
5) Use of Occult practices like scrying and Shamanism.
6) Incorporating Freemasonry into the LDS Temple ceremonies.
(Freemasonry is rooted in Kabbalah which is occultic)

As I’m sure you know occult practices are soundly condemned throughout both the Old and New Testament so I won’t bore you and the other readers with a list of proof texts on this. In regard to Joseph Smith’s involvement with these practices here’s a good write up by former Mormon, Janis Hutchinson that ends with this closing statement: “No individual, knowing the truth about the Mormon Church’s occult background, could possibly follow Joseph Smith as a prophet or embrace his teachings.”

So no Cal, there’s no need to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I need to pray to determine if Branch Davidianism, Christian Spiritualism, Freemasonry, or Scientology are. Sure there are good, moral, admirable people in each of these religions but that doesn’t make them Christian any more than it makes their founders true prophets of the God of the Bible.

And, I must say it, suggesting that I – or any other Christian for that matter – disregard Biblical absolutes and pray about whether the false religion started and based on the teachings of the false prophet Joseph Smith simply demonstrates how flawed, errant, and unbiblical your theology has become.14

At this point, I’m not quite sure what to add in regard in regard the Errors of Cal Fullerton. One need only parse through his website to see error, after error, after error.

"Pentecost" (Unknown Artist)

“Pentecost” (Unknown Artist)

Good Theology? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Good Theology!
Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richards, and Cal Fullerton represent the Charismaniac extremism that John MacArthur and his supporters pointed to with glee in their “Strange Fire” book and conferences in indicting Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement as a fountainhead of error. They’re easy targets since, unlike many Charismatics, they seem to lack any real theological depth. For example, consider this “gem” from Cal Fullerton:

It has been said that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is not a Christian organization because Mormonism denies one or more of the “essential” doctrines of the gospel. To determine if that statement is correct, we need to have a good grasp of what actually is essential. To correctly classify the LDS we need to be sure which doctrines of the Holy Bible are absolutely mandatory in order for someone to become a Christian and enter heaven. Roughly seventy percent of Mormon teachings agree with evangelical teachings. But that does not prove that the LDS is a Christian denomination. The tenets and members have to agree with the Bible’s essentials.

I have assembled these essentials into four.

Essential Number 1: Believe God Rewards…
Essential Number 2: Repent to Faith in Jesus…
Essential Number 3: Receive Jesus (the Holy Spirit) Into Your Heart (Be Born Again)…
Essential Number 4: Believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ…

According to the Bible, if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the four essentials I’ve listed above, we must classify it as a Christian denomination instead of an unchristian cult. That is because God has plainly promised that if you do the essential requirements I have outlined, he will accept you into his eternal family.

Back when I thought the Mormon Church wasn’t Christian, I didn’t pay much attention to whether each of their doctrines had to do with a mandatory requirement for entering heaven. That was one of the reasons I made a tragic mistake of judgment.15

I can hear the sound of palms hitting faces throughout cyberspace as those grounded in historic, biblical theology read that “masterpiece”. I know of no credible theologian who would accept that list as fundamentally sound criteria for soteriology, let alone mainstream Christian orthodoxy! He apparently has no clue that the Essential Doctrines of the Christian faith have recognized throughout Christian Church History as the following:16

"Pentecost 4" William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 - 1998)

“Pentecost 4” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 – 1998) (click to zoom)

The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith
1) The Deity of Jesus Christ.
2) Salvation by Grace.
3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4) The gospel of Jesus Christ, and
5) Monotheism.

In the end Cal Fullerton only demonstrates his own ignorance and destroys his own case by doing a Mormon style “redefining the terms to fit the predetermined conclusion”. In fact, Mormonism doesn’t even get through the Judeo-Christian gate because of it’s rejection of monotheism in favor of henotheistic polytheism.

Likewise, as pointed out in a previous article, Lynn Ridenhour can’t even properly articulate the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by mainstream Christianity without speaking heretically. And he then one ups that heresy by concluding that Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead is correct.17 Finally, as noted previously, Paul Richardson seems quite happy with the modalistic version of the Trinity presented in the Book of Mormon, as well as its denial of salvation by grace alone. Folks, if you’re looking for theological depth from these three, look elsewhere! The aforementioned John MacArthur could well have been writing specifically about them when he said:

We ought to begin with the Word of God, allowing a proper interpretation of the text to govern our experiences. A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture.

Charismatics downplay doctrine for the same reason they demean the Bible: they think any concern for timeless, objective truth stifles the work of the Spirit. They envision the Spirit’s ministry as something wholly free-flowing, infinitely pliable— so subjective as to defy definition. Creeds, confessions of faith, and systematic theology are seen as narrow, confining, not elastic enough for the Spirit to work within. Acknowledging this tendency within charismatic circles, one author wrote, “A college student once warned me of the ‘dangerous doctrine of demons’— his description of systematic theology. ‘The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture,’ he explained. ‘Teaching doctrine is Satan’s attempt to use our minds to understand the Bible rather than relying on the Holy Spirit.” (William E. Brown, “Making Sense of Your Faith”, Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1989, p.55)

That is a shocking statement. In reality, the only thing good theology stifles is error, which is why sound doctrine is the single greatest antidote to charismatic deviations. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16: 13). Any work of His will elevate biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people.18

Pentecostal Charismaniacs: Mormons Gone Bad
But now it should be apparent that these men are more Mormon than Christian in their epistemology. This should come as no surprise since as noted in prior articles19 Mormonism was a byproduct of the same 19th Century American Restorationist Pentecostalism that birthed today’s modern Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. That epistemology, in a nutshell, can be described thusly: Feelings, faith, facts – in that order. As Lutheran Pastor, Don Matzat (who has past involvement with the Charismatic Movement) observed well:

There is nothing wrong with Christians desiring feelings, emotions, and experience. In fact, the lack of any experience is in itself an experience. The lack of feeling is a feeling. The lack of emotion is an emotion. Any cursory reading of the New Testament demonstrates that love, joy, peace, hope, contentment are to be the Christian’s experience, feeling, and emotion…

Rather than coming against a feel-good faith, we should clearly teach that true Christian feelings, emotions, and Holy Spirit experience are the product of sound theology. Rather than confronting imbalance in the church by promoting the alternative and pushing the pendulum to the other side, we should begin with a balanced perspective which means recognizing that feelings will follow a faith that clings to the objective promises of God in Scripture. The person who believes and confesses that his sins are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross should feel guilt-free and experience the joy of having a cleansed conscience. Feelings and emotions. while not the cause of our faith, are the expression of our faith. Martin Luther writes, “We can mark our lack of faith by our lack of joy; for our joy must necessarily be as great as our faith.” Again he writes, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.” (Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), Vol. 2, p. 692.)…

Hopefully the present conflict between sound doctrine and feel-good experience will lead to a balanced perspective on both sides. Those who minimize sound doctrine and promote feelings and experience must recognize that they are plotting a course for deception and disaster. Those who focus on sound doctrine must begin teaching people to apply those great truths of Scripture to their daily living so that the experience of God’s people matches what the Word of God commands.20

And Charisma magazine more directly and forcefully articulated the same sentiment in a web article by Joseph Mattera entitled, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”. In fact, according to Mr. Mattera, this is the #1 characteristic of a Charismaniac:

1. You put prophecies and extra-biblical leadings on the same level as the written Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 says if we speak not according to the Scripture then we have no light. Second Timothy 3:16 teaches that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The Scriptures are our rule for life and the highest standard for judging truth.

Unfortunately, some in the charismatic camp seem to be led more by personal prophecies and supernatural visions and dreams than by the Scriptures. I have known some people who would record personal prophecies by well-known “prophets” and—without praying about it or comparing it to Scripture or getting discerning counsel from more seasoned leaders in the kingdom—would just obey the prophecy as if it were as inspired as the Bible.21


“Pentecost” by Jean II Restout, (c.1732)

In other words, biblical epistemology is facts, faith, feelings – in that order. To see the contrast, just consider Paul Richardson’s “evidence” that the Book of Mormon must be true because, “Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service.”22 Now compare this to his lack of any acknowledgement that the Book of Mormon does in fact contradict both the Bible and Christian orthodoxy. When you take that and then factor in the reality that there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon – a glaring omission that somehow fails to be addressed on his website or in any of his articles – the work’s rejection as holy writ should be fait accompli. Instead, again, again, and again in his articles Mr. Richardson endorses the book as scripture equivalent to scripture based on subjective analysis that’s devoid of any objective evidence. As I said to Cal Fullerton regarding this same kind of lack of discernment and failure to plumb line such impressions against objective evidence:

I, a fellow Charismatic who believes in modern prophetic utterances and the other gifts of the Spirit say to you now as I did back on the [now defunct] Concerned Christians board [in 2010]: I don’t care WHO that prophetess was, I could care less what her reputation is among Charismatics or anyone else for matter, she gave a false prophecy – period.

When plumblined against the Bible it was a false prophecy. Period.

And most distressingly she validated a false prophet and a heretical non-Christian group in the name of (and allegedly in the voice of) God. She is, therefore, a false prophet and a deceiver. Period.23

This blatant disregard of objectivity (especially biblical objectivity) over personal subjectivity is very Mormon isn’t it? In fact, Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel and a Charismatic with Pentecostal roots, could have been describing these men when he wrote:

It is of utmost importance that we allow the Bible to be the final authority for our faith and practice. Any time we begin to allow experiences to become the criteria for doctrine or belief, we have lost biblical authority, and the inevitable result is confusion. There are so many people today who witness of remarkable and exciting experiences. The Mormons, for example, “bear witness” to the experience of the truth of the Book of Mormon. They encourage people to pray in order to experience whether or not their Book of Mormon is true. One person says he has experienced that it is true, and another says he has experienced that it is false. Which one am I to believe? Each swears he has had a true experience from God; yet one has to be wrong. Whenever you open the door for experience to become the foundation or criterion for doctrinal truth, you are opening a Pandora’s box. The result is that the truth is lost in the conflicting experiences, and the inevitable consequence is total confusion. We know that God is not the Author of confusion.24

Further, didn’t Christ stress the importance of evidence throughout His sermons? And could Paul have been any clearer when he said that if our Christianity isn’t empirically true then “we are of all men the most pitiable”?

If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
(1 Corinthians 15:14-19, NKJV)

In summary and conclusion, this unbiblical, feeling affirming, evidence denying pattern can be seen plainly in the writings and public instruction of all three men – again, one need only spend some “quality time” on their websites to see this clearly. By embracing false scripture from a False Prophet – and even worse, encouraging others to do the same – these men have become false teachers themselves. And the Bible was quite clear what God’s people are to do when we encounter a false teacher, false prophet, false apostle, or false anything for that matter:

You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
(Deuteronomy 13:3&4, NKJV) bolding added for emphasis


A primitive fresco of Pentecost.

1 Full disclosure and clarification: I worked as a Music Reviewer for “Worship Leader Magazine”, which is also owned by Strang Publications, the publisher of Charisma Magazine, from 1992-1993. During that time I found John Strang and his staff to be reasonable, personable, and theologically sound. I think that’s why you will find the editorial content of Charisma Magazine to be generally sound.

That’s why I’ve specifically recommended that you just view the advertisements in the magazine instead – they’re an unvetted, raw picture of the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church at the grassroots level and, frankly, it’s scary. Whenever someone asks (or challenges) me about my (admittedly blunt) assessment of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement I just point them to there. After seeing them, nothing else need be said. For example, let’s look at a couple of them from the December 2015 issue of Charisma magazine:

“Blood Moons are not about the end – they are about the beginning.

For over 3,000 years God has used the blood moon tetrads on His feast days of Passover and Tabernacles as a sign of special revival coming to His people. The last great blood moon revival came in 1967, when God poured out His Spirit to begin the charismatic renewal. Today there are over 600 million charismatic Christians who are the fruit of this revival, including most of the readers of this magazine.

The blood moon tetrad of 2014-2015 occurred in troubled time, as have most the previous 14 blood moon tetrads. Yet we can see the beginning of a new revival coming based on unity in Christ in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Don’t miss it!

we invite you to study the Scriptures, the heavenly signs, and the history of the blood moon tetrads in our new book . . . ”
(Charisma, December 2015, p.9)

But, wait folks, if blood moons aren’t enough, there’s more! Consider this “gem”:

Need a miracle?
Lack the faith to believe?
Desire to be empowered to heal?

– Receive step by step Biblical Instruction to activate God’s healing power in your life.
-Be encouraged as you read the amazing testimonies that are in this book.

Feel defeated?

– Tap into the supernatural potential of your faith.
– Unleash the power of God.
– Experience the impossible.
– Overcome in these Last Days.
(Charisma, December 2015, p. 15)

Even more disturbing are the titles and subtitles of the latter books being advertised in the second advertisement: “Dare to Believe: The True Power of Faith to Walk in Divine Healing and Miracles” and “Greater Than Magic: The Supernatural Power of Faith”. Apparently, the Bible isn’t enough any more, now we need the equivalent of “How To” Charismatic cookbooks and computer manuals! Further, if one didn’t know in advance one might even assume from the title alone that these are books from pagans on how to cast spells or channel metaphysical powers and forces. Yet there they are, being advertised in the flagship periodical of American Pentecostals and Charismatics! And not only does no one seem to care, but judging by the reviews of these books on Amazon, my Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters seem to be delighted by it! It is any wonder that prudent and conservative continuationists distance themselves from such things?

My dear Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters we can do better than this! Brothers and sisters we must do better than this in the Name of, and for the cause of, Christ alone!

2 See “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour” and “Weak Arguments #7: ‘The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.’” in particular.

3 Lynn Ridenhour, Facebook post October 20, 2014

4 Paul Richardson, “Our Distinctive Stand”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived). The reader may also be interested in reading Dr. Richardson’s biography (which for or some unknown reason he calls a “News Release”) by clicking here.

5 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had To Write The Book of Mormon”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

6 Paul Richardson, “The Charm of Joseph Smith”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

7 Donna Morley, “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, Appendix: Is the Book of Mormon Really “Baptist”?”

8 See Ronald V. Huggins, B.F.A., Th.D., “Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?”; Also see Bill McKeever, “Modalism in the Book of Mormon”.

9 Cal Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page. Bolding retained from original.

And in accordance with the usage guidelines of that website we post the following: “Copyright © 2008 Cal Fullerton. Permission is granted, and you are encouraged, to print the above article in hard copy form, as well as send it to your own email lists and post it on your own websites. We only ask that you include the name of the originating website ( and this copyright and permission notice.”

10 Please see the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions “Statement On Richard Mouw And Evangelical Countercult Ministries”; And for a good analysis and deconstruction of Richard J. Mouw’s claim that Evangelical Christians have lied about and misrepresented the Mormon Church see Fred W. Anson, “Scolasticus cum Peter Principle”; Also recommended: Mike Thomas, “That Apology and How Liberal Theolgians “Go Native”’, and; Fred W. Anson, “Apologizing For Richard J. Mouw”.

11 See Matt Walsh, “Joel Osteen and his Wife are Heretics, and that’s why America Loves Them”; Also see “Joel Osteen-Preaching a False-Positive, with a Smile”.

12 Cal Fullerton comment, September 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm on the article “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons” by Jared C. on the LDS and Evangelical Conversations website.

13 Op Cit, Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page.

And by the way, and for the record Mr. Fullerton, there are thousands of Christians who can subjectively claim that the Mormon Church is neither true or Christian because God told them so. I’m one of them:

I would like to bear my testimony . . .
I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have studied the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon and I have prayed consistently for over 30-years. I have taken the “Moroni 10 Challenge” and I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life.

… and my testimony is this:
I am utterly convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a non-Christian cult, that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, as is Thomas S. Monson. Further, I am utterly convinced that the Book of Mormon is an uninspired, man created work of 19th Century fiction.

Here I stand before God and before men – I can do no other.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.

And if my testimony isn’t enough, I can provide similar testimony from other Christians with little to no effort at all. Further Mr. Fullerton, please note that -unlike your testimony of the LdS Church – the body of objective evidence, including the bible itself, supports and verifies our subjective testimony. So in the end where has all this subjective testimony bearing of contrary positions gotten either of us? Answer: Absolutely nowhere.

What I have said to countless Mormons, I will now say to Misters Ridenhour, Richardson, and Fullerton: That Mormon testimony of yours plus a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee at Denny’s and that’s about it! And what’s true for you is just as true for my contra-Mormon testimony: Testimony bearing in and of itself proves nothing. Rather, let’s see the objective evidence that supports and verifies it – because in the end that’s all that really matters.

14 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

15 Cal Fullerton, “Essentials for Salvation”“Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” website. Bolding from original retained.

16 See Matt Slick, “Essential Doctrines of Christianity”, CARM website. While Mr. Slick’s article is an excellent short vernacular primer, C. Michael Patton’s “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell” article is the better resource for those seeking a fuller, more nuanced understanding of the subject. Finally for those who find Mr. Slick’s outline format a bit too cryptic and Mr. Patton’s article too long should consider the short but insightful “What are the essentials of the Christian faith?” article on the “Got Questions?” website instead.

17 In his article, “God of the Philosophers: Brief Comments on the Godhead” (now archived) Lynn Ridenhour writes:

“The God of the Trinity wallows in modalism, stumbling to give its advice to new converts. Listen to Cyril of Jerusalem:

“…For there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Ghost; the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on; it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.” –Catechetical Lectures 16:24


What kind of Being is God?

Let Joseph answer. The Prophet preached that “…if you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form,” and that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22).

As I said in the beginning, this may be old hat to most, and not unlike the tour guide, some may be tempted to say “…O, we see it all the time…” and walk away, but for me—it’s like seeing the Niagara Falls for the very first time.”

In case you didn’t notice that a heretical definition of the Trinity followed by an endorsement of Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead.

18 John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship” (pp. 73-74) Kindle Edition.

I would ask the reader to note that while I find much to soundly applaud in this work, overall I was disappointed by John MacArthur’s extremist stances, exaggerations, misrepresentations and generally ungracious, polemic attitude in both this book and the conferences that preceded it. Perhaps Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the “Reformation Commentary on Scripture” as well as several other books said it best when he wrote:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

I also agree with Reformed Theologian John Piper who wrote:

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

I’m trying hard in this article to tread a fine line between being too polemic and too tolerant regarding Charismatic practices that I consider imbalanced or outright unbiblical. I will leave it to the reader’s judgment to determine if I’ve succeeded or not.

19 See Fred W. Anson, “Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad”“Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad [The Sequel]”; Also see John Farkas, “Speaking in Tongues and The Mormon Church”.

20 Don Matzat, “Feelings, Emotions and Christian Truth”

21 Bishop Joseph Mattera, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”, Charisma magazine’s “Charisma News” website. Bolding from original retained.

22 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had to Write The Book of Mormon”.

23 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

24 Chuck Smith, “Charisma Versus Charismania”, Kindle Locations 1282-1289.

The Bible

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:1, KJV)


In April 2013, the leaders at the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) put together an offiical statement regarding Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw. The statement is located here and printed below.

Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, April 12, 2013
Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) was formed in 1982 as “a consortium of Christians in North America, seeking to help people distinguish authentic from inauthentic Christianity and strengthen evangelical Christian ministries to new religionists and cultists.” It serves as an umbrella group for about three dozen such ministries and over a dozen additional individual scholars, researchers, and evangelists also working in this field. It does not claim to speak for all evangelicals engaged in such ministry, but seeks to coordinate efforts among like-minded evangelicals and to promote high standards of accountability, scholarship, and ethics in ministry to people of new religious movements. EMNR includes several organizations devoted largely or entirely to apologetic and evangelistic ministry to active and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons.

Over the past ten years or so Richard J. Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary and a respected evangelical theologian, has made a number of statements both explicitly and implicitly critical of evangelical ministries to Mormons. In remarks made at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on November 14, 2004, Dr. Mouw stated that “we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community.” When challenged later as to the nature of these misrepresentations, Dr. Mouw stated that one such misrepresentation was the claim that “Mormonism teaches that God was once a human being like us, and we can become Gods just like God is now.” He has recently repeated and expanded on this criticism in joint lectures with LDS scholar Robert L. Millet in 2012 and 2013. In these public lectures, Dr. Mouw characterized his “evangelical critics” as misrepresenting Mormon teaching with regard to Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet, “What man now is,God once was; as God now is, man may be.” According to Dr. Mouw, the couplet is only “popular Mormonism” or “folk Mormonism,” has “never been endorsed” by the LDS Church, and “doesn’t have official status” or a “functional place today” in Mormon teaching. He similarly argues that the LDS Church is distancing itself from the theology of Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, in which Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man like us and that human beings can and should progress to become Gods like him. Dr. Mouw suggests that Mormons today embrace a theology more like that of the Eastern Orthodox deification doctrine, or a theology in which the goal is simply to be become“more Christ-like.” Again, these comments were made in the context of upbraiding evangelicals who are supposedly guilty of misrepresenting Mormonism.

Richard J. Mouw

Richard J. Mouw

However, the evidence is voluminous that the LDS Church has been continuously teaching the doctrine of eternal progression, as it is commonly known, represented by the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet from 1844 right up to the present. Joseph Smith himself “endorsed” Snow’s couplet as a “revelation,” a point made in the LDS teaching manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow released in 2012. In 1982 the Ensign magazine published an article explaining that Snow’s couplet “is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.” The 2004 manual Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings: Religion 370, 471, and 475 stated that “there are approved and inspired writings that are not in the standard works” that “also are true and should be used along with the scriptures themselves,” among the five most important of which it says are “the ‘King Follett Sermon’ and the ‘Sermon in the Grove.’” At least eleven teaching manuals currently available on, the official website of the LDS Church, teach the King Follett Discourse, the Lorenzo Snow couplet, or (in most cases) both, including at least six manuals published since 2003.

The issue here is by no means peripheral. Joseph Smith claimed in the King Follett Discourse that understanding God to have been a man who progressed to Godhood was “the first principle of the gospel.” LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that “the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood,” and specifically cited both the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet in support (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 46). Thus, what Dr. Mouw claims is “folk Mormonism” wrongly treated as LDS doctrine by other evangelicals is actually central to the LDS conception of the gospel.

Evangelical Ministries to New Religions applauds Dr. Mouw for his salutary call for Christian civility and his thoughtful engagement in dialogue with Mormon scholars and leaders. At the same time, EMNR respectfully yet strongly disagrees with Dr. Mouw’s generalizations about evangelicals misrepresenting Mormon beliefs and practices, and specifically with his own misrepresentation of the standard LDS doctrine of eternal progression as “folk Mormonism” having no official or functioning place in Mormon belief today. We invite Dr. Mouw to engage evangelical ministries to Mormons in general, and those of us who are part of EMNR in particular, in the same kind of civil dialogue he has rightly championed between evangelicals and Mormons. Furthermore, we encourage Latter-day Saints to engage a wider circle of evangelicals in open and candid dialogue.
link to article as originally posted on the Mormonism Research Ministries website


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

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

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

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

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

Fair enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s my list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Fred W. Anson
Eight years ago today on November 14, 2004 for the first time in 105 years, non-Latter-day Saint “gentiles” stood at the pulpit of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. The focus of the event was to be an address by Christian Apologist and Philosopher Ravi Zacharias entitled, “The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ”. However, Mr. Zacharias’ superb address was eclipsed by a short, slightly less than seven-minute address by Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard J. Mouw.

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Dr. Mouw, in what the Deseret News referred to as “stunningly candid” comments, apologized to Mormons on behalf of evangelicals for what he sees as less than Christian treatment of Latter-day Saints and the LdS Church throughout Mormon History. His language, in this writer’s opinion, was overly broad, general, universal, and lacking nuance. The royal “we” was used extensively and qualifying terms like “some”, “a few”, or their equivalent were conspicuous in their absence.

Essentially all evangelicals (with the exception of Dr. Mouw and his associates, who were praised directly or indirectly) were thrown under the bus creating the impression among Mormons that their worst fears about Evangelicals that challenge and confront Mormonism are true after all: Specifically, that they are bigoted liars who are driven by deeply seeded animosity toward Mormons. This, in most cases, is not only unfair but untrue.

In reality, regardless his thoughts and intentions, Dr. Mouw has made relations between Mormons and Evangelicals worse not better. In this author’s opinion he has done both sides a disservice and created a volatile and confused environment that didn’t exist prior to his apology. Dr. Mouw’s poor choice of words and bad judgment created this unfortunate situation and I, for one, think it high time that someone did something about it.

Now since Dr. Mouw seems to think it perfectly acceptable and appropriate to apologize for others without their permission, consent, or foreknowledge, I’ll simply borrow a page from his play book and, using the template that he created and precedent that he established, set the record straight:

The Apology
It is difficult for me to find adequate words to express how thrilled I am to be in Mormon Studies in this ‘Mormon Moment’! Here we are, evangelical Protestants and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gathered together on the Internet and elsewhere dialoguing, discussing, debating – it’s an exciting time to be alive!

So I am not being melodramatic when I say that this is surely an historic period. To be sure, there have long been friendships between evangelicals and Latter-day Saints but they generally haven’t appeared on the public radar screen. Often the public relations between our two communities have been, to put it mildly, decidedly strained. This is hardly surprising given the mutually contradictory belief systems and theological world views that we hold to.

From the very beginning, when Joseph Smith organized his church in 1830, my evangelical forebearers very correctly and rightly confronted he and his followers with the incongruity between their beliefs and practices relative to the absolute standard of the Bible. This is a practice that continues from most quarters of mainstream Christianity even into this present day. And I think it is fair to say that most Mormons haven’t always “appreciated” these efforts no matter how well intended. As a result, friendship with each other has not always come easily for our two communities – but, never-the-less and thankfully, it has come.

In recent times things have begun to change both for the better and for the worse. The good news is that evangelicals and Mormons have continued to work together on important matters of public morality and policy. However, the bad news that some evangelicals have mistakenly believed that such interaction requires compromise with and pandering to Mormonism. For example in Utah, the Standing Together ministry seems to have chosen a path of appeasement and accommodation with the LdS Church. Further it has embraced Mormons who seem to make manipulation and deception their stock-in-trade. That has only not been inappropriate it has created needless confusion on both sides of the divide and with the public.

Thankfully like the town squares of old we can all gather via the gracious hospitality of the internet and hold these errant, counter-productive groups and people accountable for their folly. When appropriate there’s been a loud evangelical outcry on those occasions when groups like Standing Together accommodate LdS Church error.  And I’ve noticed that a ground swell of Mormon voices is slowly building regarding how the LdS Church (as well as some of it’s members) present itself, its history and its teachings to both it’s membership and the public. This is encouraging!

On a personal level, over the past half-dozen years I have been a member of a group of evangelical scholars who have been engaged in lengthy public discussions about spiritual and theological matters with Latter-day Saints. We have not been afraid to argue strenuously with each other, but our arguments have been conducted in a sincere desire genuinely to understand each other-and in the process some deep bonds of friendship have been formed in the midst our disagreements.

I know that I have learned much in this continuing dialogue, and I am a far better person today as a result of it. And I am now convinced that despite the fact that some evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community the majority have not. And, personally, whenever I’ve encountered that small minority I have been as direct and to the point as I have been with those Mormons who misrepresent the beliefs and practices of the evangelical community.

On that note, and to get specific regarding observed behavior on our side of the divide  I’ve watched in stunned disbelief as the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard J. Mouw has seriously, publicly, and repeatedly misrepresented the beliefs and practices of both the evangelical and Mormon communities. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the evangelicals and Mormons reading this: Richard J. Mouw has sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and he has been guilty of that sort of transgression in things he has said about all of us – evangelical and Mormon alike.

The body of evidence indicates that He has accepted the personal opinions, spin doctored and “milk before meat” version about what the Lds Church believes from honesty challenged Mormons without making a sincere effort to fact check what he’s been told against official, correlated LdS Church sources.

Further, while he has recognized that we evangelicals have made much of the need to provide Mormons with a strong defense of traditional Christian convictions, regularly quoting the Apostle Peter’s mandate that we present them a reasoned account of the hope that lies with in us, Dr. Mouw hasn’t been careful to also recognize how most evangelicals throughout the ages have always endeavored to follow the Apostolic counsel that immediately follows that mandate, when Peter tells us that we must always make our case with “gentleness and reverence” toward those with whom we are speaking.[1]

Further, and most distressingly, he has demonized those evangelicals who have confronted the Mormon teachings that the Bible condemns as false. He has even woven bizarre conspiracy theories that suggest that those in the Christian Counter Cult community are “really” motivated by and trafficking in covert bigotry, exaggeration and lies. This also is simply not true, therefore and in my opinion, Mr. Mouw needs to repent of bearing false witness against his brothers and sisters in Christ.

In fact, most in the Counter Cult community are committed to speaking the truth in love. By doing so over the years they have formed some wonderful friendships with both Mormons and ExMormons. These friendships have helped us to see the ways in which Mr. Mouw has misinterpreted and misrepresented the true perception and impact of these evangelicals in Mormon Culture. To be sure, as a result of those conversations we also remained convinced that there are very real issues of disagreement between us-and that some of these issues are matters of eternal significance. But we can continue to discuss these topics as friends and fellow seekers of the truth – and the Internet has been a Godsend in this regard. God be praised!

Next month will mark the 207th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. We know and understand that Mormon culture typically uses the month as an occasion to pay special attention to Joseph’s life and teachings. However, please hear my heart when I tell you that we evangelicals are praying and long for the day when the month will be far, far, far less about Joseph Smith for our Mormon friends, but all about the One whose incarnation Christians celebrate each year instead. This is the One about whose birth we sing and whom we exalt above all. I should add, that there is nothing more that we long for more than our Mormon friends to join us with swelled hearts and spiritual eyes solely fixed on that One when we sing -“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

What a wonderful thing it is that we can meet together to talk about the Lord Jesus and about who he is and what he has done on behalf of all who have accepted His free gift of salvation through faith by grace plus nothing and can thus now know with complete certainty that they will spend eternity securely and completely in the presence of God. There is much here to talk about for we pray for the day when our Latter-day friends and family members will receive this free gift without believing that it must be paid for with good works.

I personally take great encouragement for hope of a Great Restoration in the LdS Church – for in the words of LdS Scholar Thomas G. Alexander, “…before about 1835 the LDS doctrines on God and man were quite close to those of contemporary Protestant denominations.”[2] And I’m reminded of the words that Joseph Smith uttered on the occasion of the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1830 when he said: “…we know,that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.”[3] He then added: “And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, and we know also that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.”[4] Thus, it is my prayer that Mormonism will be restored to true, historic Christian, Biblical orthodoxy within my lifetime.

Thus I greet you in that spirit-as one who wants more than anything else to love and serve God with all my might, mind and strength, in the power made available by the amazing grace that sent the Lord Jesus first to Bethlehem’s manger and then ultimately to the Cross of Calvary, where he shed his blood and sacrificed himself to fully pay the debt of my sin and yours -a debt that we can never, never pay on our own.

This is the spirit in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us all -the spirit of devotion to the One whose name is above every name, the One who alone is mighty to save, and before whom someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord to the glory of the Father. May our continuing dialog and conversations point us all to that great day.

Thank you and God bless you.

“… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:15&16; New American Standard Bible (NASB)
[2] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology”; Sunstone Magazine, July-August 1980,  p.24
[3] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 29; April 1830
[4] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 30&31: April 1830

Further Reading
– A transcript of Dr. Muow’s original November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle apology can be read here.  
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.
– A critical analysis and editorial on Dr. Muow’s methods and mean cans can be read here.

(all links retrieved 2012-11-12) 

by Mike Thomas
(as previously published on “The Mormon Chapbook”

Richard Mouw, offered this apology at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Nov. 2004 just before Ravi Zacharias stood and gave an inspired and inspiring sermon on the gospel:

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

I am now convinced that we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you. We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe.”

The first question that springs to mind is who gave Professor Mouw the right to speak for Evangelicals? Mormons make great play of the fact that they “do not speak for the church.” On every blog and website, in every book, periodical and article you will find a version of this disclaimer.

Given the Mormons’ history of leaving hostages to fortune, from the self-aggrandising pronouncements of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to the scandalous statements of Bruce R McConkie in his Mormon Doctrine and the shocking prevarications and obfuscations of Gordon B Hinckley, you can understand this. Of course, such disclaimers are now ubiquitous leaving us wondering if anyone actually speaks for the Mormon Church.

But Richard Mouw apologising on behalf of Evangelicals makes about as much sense as Hans Kung apologising on behalf of Catholics, or Mitt Romney on behalf of Mormons. The connection of one with the other is tenuous at best.

Fuller Seminary is the seed bed of the Church Growth Movement in which pragmatism trumps truth and spirituality trumps spiritual integrity. It promotes the Emerging Church Movement and celebrates the questionable teachings of Rob Bell and others. How can Mouw say such a thing?

Buying the Mormon Idiom
This is a classic example of someone parroting the Mormon line instead of critically examining the facts. Mormonism didn’t start when, in 1820, Joseph Smith claimed he had a vision. The first reliable mention of the Book of Mormon outside Smith’s immediate circle was June 11th 1829 when he obtained a copyright for it at the US District Court. Before that time all we have are fables, unsubstantiated claims, all of which came to light after the establishment of the church.

It was only later that he told the story of the vision because he had to have some account of how he obtained the book. Yet we all too easily do the Mormons’ work for them by telling the story of Mormonism the way they tell it, even as we criticise and challenge Mormon beliefs. This is what Richard Mouw does here.

BYU Professor Robert Millet

BYU Professor Robert Millet

Richard Mouw has said, “For the past dozen years, I’ve been co-chairing, with Professor Robert Millet of Brigham Young University – the respected Mormon school – a behind-closed-doors dialogue between about a dozen evangelicals and an equal number of our Mormon counterparts.”

He tells the story of persecuted and misrepresented Mormonism because that’s the way Mormons tell it and he has spent so much time with them he has simply gone native. Ironically, in making his apology he demonstrates eloquently why Mormons engage in these exercises, i.e. not to find truth together but, as Jude 16 tells it, to win over respectable names to their cause.

Mormons have not been misrepresented and there is very little misunderstanding of Mormonism. If Mormons wish to claim that critics don’t understand Mormonism I would issue a counter challenge and say that Mormons cannot honestly and reasonably answer Mormonism’s critics!

So, to answer the question posed by the title of this short series, Mormonism is a cult in terms established and understood by sociologists, by Christian leaders and academics alike. “Cult” is not a pejorative but a description. The only “Christians” saying otherwise are liberals who would rather be branded with hot irons than define a doctrine, identify an orthodoxy or draw a line in the sand.

The full video of the November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle event.
(note, the uncredited gentleman at the podium in the opening scene is Greg Johnson of “Standing Together”)

About the Author:
Mike Thomas was a convert to Mormonism but eventually left it.  As he describes this process:
“I was a member of the Mormon Church for 14 years, and find myself frequently disappointing people when I tell them that I enjoyed being a Latter-day Saint. You will understand that people expect to hear a little scandal with my kind of testimony, but I have none to offer. My wife was a member for 18 years in all, and we left together in August of 1986. Our time in the church was mostly happy. We started a family there and have much for which to be thankful, and very many happy memories. The church was good to us, being supportive through some very difficult times. 

Mormons sometimes ask me, ‘Why did you turn your back on the church?’ I always reply, ‘I didn’t turn my back on the Mormon Church. I turned my face to Christ and found the Mormon Church behind me.’ “
(note the full story can be read by clicking here)

Today, he describes himself like this:
“A son not a dog (Rev.21:7,8;22:15), ‘Sanctification is the progressive restoration of a man’s rationality so that he become a man’ (J I Packer). Mormonism because I was a Mormon. Christian Apologetics because I am a Christian who dares to think. Tea for the cheer and conviviality.”

This article was reprinted with the kind permission of Mr. Thomas.

– This article was Part 4 of Mr. Thomas’ series, “Is Mormonism a Cult?” which can be read on his Mormon Chapbook blog.
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.

BOOK REVIEW: “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation To Evangelicals” by Richard J. Mouw
Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Scolasticus Consummati
Richard J. Mouw’s book “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals” represents his maiden voyage into the vast sea of Mormon Studies books.  As such, anticipation of a valuable  and timely message was high given his bio:

Richard J. Mouw

“Richard J. Mouw has served as president of Fuller Theological Seminary since 1993, after having served the seminary for four years as provost and senior vice president. A philosopher, scholar, and author, Mouw joined the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics in 1985. Before coming to Fuller he served for 17 years as professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has also served as a visiting professor at the Free University in Amsterdam.

A graduate of Houghton College, Mouw studied at Western Theological Seminary and earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Alberta. His PhD in philosophy is from the University of Chicago.

Mouw has a broad record of publication. He has been an editor of the Reformed Journal and has served on many editorial boards, including currently Books and Culture. He is the author of 19 books…”[1]

Indeed, Dr. Mouw has had a long and distinguished career and many of his books, particularly those on Reformed, Creedal Theology are recommended reading.

Out Of His League
Of course, given such an impressive resume, there’s an expectation that this book should be well written, and it is. Dr. Mouw writes in a tight, succinct, engaging style and his arguments are logical, clear, and understandable. Dr. Mouw is a craftsman of style and rhetoric, however the substance of his argument fails to satisfactorily address those issues with Mormonism that present the greatest challenges to Evangelicals and others with years of experience in the field. Ultimately this new entry into the arena is clumsy and counter-productive. It’s quickly apparent that Dr. Mouw has exceeded the limits of his competency.

For a start, Dr. Mouw is talking to the wrong Mormons. “College Professor” and/or “Scholar” has no place in the hierarchy of the LdS Church.[2]  They don’t interpret official doctrine, they don’t define LdS orthodoxy, they don’t dictate LdS Church policy and they have exactly no “Priesthood Authority” over those who do. Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson made this quite clear when he said:

“Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church. If Church members would remember that, we could do away with a number of books which have troubled some of our people”[3]

In expecting the learned lay person to have any influence on the theology, doctrines and practice of the LdS Church, Dr. Mouw appears to have psychologically projected his own Evangelical tradition onto the Mormon movement. He doesn’t appear to grasp that Mormonism is, and always has been governed magisterially by its First Presidency. It is a “top down” institution that simply does not answer to the professors in its private university.[4]

To illustrate this point, it should be noted that of all the myriad changes to LdS theology that have been enacted in Salt Lake City (home of the Church Office Building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)[5], I can think of none that have originated in Provo (home of Brigham Young University).[6]

A Fine Example Of … What Exactly?  
This isn’t to say that Dr. Mouw limits himself exclusively to leading LdS academics. He also relates his interaction with Elder Jeffrey Holland, who is a member of the “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” and occupies one of the top positions in the Mormon hierarchy:[7]

‘Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the LDS General Authorities, not only has talked privately with some of us about the ways in which LDS leaders are placing a much stronger emphasis these days on the “finished work” of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, as well as the need for fallen sinners to rely completely on the grace of God for salvation; he and his colleagues have also publicly preached that kind of message in unambiguous terms to tens of thousands of Mormons in their addresses in recent years at the annual General Conferences. The evidence is available to anyone who has access to YouTube!’[8]

However, there’s an incongruity between what Dr. Mouw claims and the supporting evidence he produces to support it.[9]

Specifically, the address that Dr. Mouw presents as “a fine example” of this new trend in Mormonism was the 2009 General Conference Easter Message.[10]  If you watch the video, Holland doesn’t present the mainstream Christian view of “the ‘finished work’ of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, as well as the need for fallen sinners to rely completely on the grace of God for salvation”, instead what he gave was the  type of generic LdS Easter Message that’s been given at Annual General Conference sessions for decades.

And in accordance with LdS Theology, the main emphasis (please note the graphics in the video in particular) is on the Garden of Gethsemane where – in direct contradiction to what’s taught in the New Testament – LdS General Authorities have always taught that the atonement took place.[11] Further, the message that Mouw claims is clearly presented here is hardly “unambiguous” – Holland’s words can be interpreted to refer to either Gethsemane or Golgotha depending on your presuppositions.

And notice that Holland doesn’t mention, or reference grace in this address at all!  Nor, is the atonement presented as all sufficient and final.  Rather, when Holland uses the word, “finished” it’s given in the context of Christ finally ending the suffering.[12] So, Jeffrey Holland simply does not use the type of orthodox, mainstream Christian language that Mouw credits him with in the address.

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

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As one recent commentator noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement,[13] but such a focus denies the redemption narrative that is so highly valued by Evangelicals.

And oddly, the fact that Holland’s address doesn’t mention or refer to grace at all doesn’t seem to trouble Dr. Mouw in the least. Rather he seems to prefer to detect a “shift” towards the Reformed Christian understanding of grace somewhere between the lines in a place, apparently, where no one else can see it.

Nothing New to See Here!
Given this propensity, one might suggest that he ought to listen more closely to the 2011 Easter message given by Thomas S Monson, the ultimate authority in the LdS Church, in which he states that: “He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again.” [14]  Could this be what Dr. Mouw is looking for?

But again and alas, this is nothing new, the LdS Church has always taught that Christ died and extended unconditional grace to the world so that ALL human would be resurrected and judged. This is often referred to as “General Salvation” in LdS Theology, as opposed to “Individual Salvation” which is only for a select few (that is faithful, righteous, endowed, commandment keeping Mormons) who earn eternal life in the presence of God via their good works.[15] Thus, when considered in context and in total, every single one of the references to the atoning work of the cross in these Conference Addresses is referring to General Salvation rather than Individual Salvation – this is a distinction that continues to land Mormonism in the theological cult category.[16]

So, ultimately, Elder Holland’s so-called ‘fine example’ combined with all the other General Conferences addresses, the continued teaching of LdS Leaders and the body of official, correlated[17] Church Educational System manuals[18] discredit Mouw’s assertions. There’s just nothing new here – nothing has changed! So why is Dr. Mouw getting so excited?

Now About Your Choice of Friends…
Further, Dr. Mouw ought to be more discerning in seeking authoritative voices within Mormonism. Elder Jeffrey Holland has demonstrated the greatest pattern of manipulation both within and without the LdS Church.

For example, his infamous “Safety for the Soul” address from the Fall 2009 General Conference [19] is now held up by many Mormon Studies Scholars as a modern example of the Mormon practice of rhetorical manipulation as well as “Lying for the Lord”.[20] And I found it ironic that the “Safety For The Soul” address was given in the Fall General Conference a mere 6-months after the Spring Easter Message that Dr. Mouw presents as ‘Exhibit A’ of alleged movement toward mainstream Christian orthodoxy by The Brethren.[21]

Another example of Holland blatantly lying is his videotaped interview with BBC journalist John Sweeney about whether Mitt Romney took blood oaths when he went through the Temple. Mitt Romney took these oaths before becoming a missionary for the LDS Church in 1966. The Temple penalties were removed in 1990, well after Mitt Romney took them.[22]

BYU Professor, Robert Millet, who is featured prominently throughout the book, has regularly been “caught in the act”. Numerous examples could be cited for Mr. Millet but probably the most dramatic example was his presentation to a group of LdS Missionaries preparing for their 2-year mission in which he coaches them on “how to handle anti-Mormon criticism”[23]

Robert Millet
(click to view referenced video)

In this video Millet speaks about how to handle the tough “anti-Mormon” questions missionaries may face while on their missions (or afterward) using tactics like:  “We never provide meat when milk will do”, in other words obfuscation; “We seek to answer any serious question by finding the most direct route to the Sacred Grove”, in other words redirection; “Don’t answer the question they ask, answer the question they should have asked”, in other words deflection.  And while we’re not privy to the private sessions between Mouw and Millet’s “teams” it seems reasonable to expect that the Millet team engages in such tactics.

Regarding that team, concern has also been expressed about BYU Professor J. Spencer Fluhman of whom Mouw writes:

“Spencer Fluhman is a young Mormon scholar who recently earned his Ph.D. and is now a history professor at Brigham Young University. A participant in our Mormon-evangelical dialogue, Spencer converses easily with evangelicals, showing a willingness to entertain new – and old! – questions in a self-critical spirit. There’s no question about his fidelity to his Mormon faith, but he also clearly wants to link his Mormon convictions to what he sees as the deep concern in the Christian tradition to acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” [24]

Based on that analysis, wouldn’t you think that Mouw is right to have great hope for future change in Mormonism given the presence of open-minded young men like this?  Perhaps we should consider what Mr. Fluhman had to say about Evangelicals in a recent New York Times article before we draw any hard conclusions:

“Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan’s minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.” [25]

Based on that one, is tempted to ask, “Dr. Mouw, while it appears that this young Mormon scholar seems to be ‘impressed’ with your hearts, he seems to be somewhat less than impressed with your heads (not to mention Evangelical heads in general). It would seem that Mr. Fluhman is of the opinion that the LdS Church has Evangelicalism on the ropes, that we’re fading fast and that we don’t really have much of value to add to society relative to Mormonism – now one can only wonder where he got these ideas from Dr. Mouw!”

“Peace for our time”

Adding it all up, Dr. Mouw’s uncritical acceptance of what these rather notorious Mormon figures say in their private discussions, combined with how he appears to use “reading between the lines” as definitive evidence of a major shift taking place in the LdS Church one could easily lead one to conclude that he is ignorant, naive, and lacks good judgment as well as discernment.  One need only recall the picture of Neville Chamberlain declaring “Peace for our time” as a tutorial as to where having such deficiencies in an Ambassador can lead.[26]

For The Sake Of Brevity (really!)  
It’s an important subject, but for the sake of brevity I haven’t broached on how Dr. Mouw insists on publicly misrepresenting, slandering and libeling fellow Evangelicals.  The late Walter Martin who died in 1989 seems to be a favorite target for the wheels of Mouw’s bus but there are others. This pattern of behavior had already gotten him labeled everything from a “Pandering Slanderer” to “the LdS Church’s best Apologist” so I expect this book will simply add fuel to the fire. Suffice to say, Dr. Mouw’s infamous November 4th, 2004 Tabernacle apology to Mormons sounds hypocritical given how thoroughly and repeatedly he’s borne false witness of his own people!

Another complaint I have with this book is how Dr. Mouw is constantly lamenting Christians for not really understanding official LdS Theology, then filling page after page with misinformation derived solely from the unofficial, private, uncorrelated, personal opinions of LdS intellectuals while ignoring the vast body of approved, public, correlated LdS materials (books, magazines, manuals, etc.) — the latter being the material that defines what constitutes official LdS doctrine and theology and that contradicts what he’s hearing in those private meetings.

So tell me, who would you advise Dr. Mouw to listen to: A bunch of BYU Professors sequestered away and privately arguing over their personal opinions out in Provo, or the LdS Church First Presidency publicly dictating official Church dogma and doctrine to the membership in Salt Lake City?

If It Walks Like A Duck 
Finally, it’s hard to take Dr. Mouw seriously when he uses criteria like this to conclude that Mormonism isn’t a cult:

“In fact, even the label ‘cult’ seems inappropriate for describing the Mormonism that we’ve seen up close. Jehovah’s Witnesses – they’re a cult. They stick to a party line. You don’t find them arguing among themselves – at least in a way the rest of us can see and hear. If someone does insist on raising questions from within about Jehovah’s Witness teachings, they’re quickly expelled from the group. And the very idea of a world-class Jehovah’s Witness university is a hard one to entertain.

Mormonism is a different story altogether. Brigham Young University is world class. It has an excellent faculty, with doctorates from some of the best graduate programs in the world. Some devout Mormons are well-known scholars at major secular schools.” [27]

Ambassador College

What about the Worldwide Church of God?  They had a respected and accredited University too, but they were still a cult.[28] And let’s not forget “The September Six” (all academics and most BYU Professors) who were excommunicated on September 1993 for not sticking to the Mormon party line.[29]

Then there’s the recent Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn on August 19, 2007 for “raising questions from within” about official church accounts of Mormon History that didn’t reconcile with reality – what about that?[30]

If the LdS Church isn’t a cult, then why has 13th LdS Church President Ezra Taft Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” been quoted from at least once in every recent General Conference and continues to be cited and reprinted regularly in official, correlated LdS Church books, periodicals, and manuals? [31] Dr. Mouw, if President Benson’s pervasive and highly influential address isn’t a formula for mind control, I don’t know what is!

And let’s not forget the countless Mormons who have had their Temple Recommends pulled – or have even been excommunicated – because they gained a testimony of Jesus Christ but lost their testimony of Joseph Smith. Why is belief in and loyalty to a human being (the founder) so paramount if the Mormon Church isn’t a cult?

Finally we have the BITE Model[32] and other Sociological models for Mind Control Cults that we can “use as a plumb line” against.  Mormonism has consistently met the criteria when evaluated against such tests.[33]


The Peter Principle circa 1994

Michael Jordan Shouldn’t Play Baseball . . .
Much more could be said about just how flawed and misguided the substance of this book is – Mouw exposes his naiveté and ignorance on virtually every page. It’s hard for this reviewer to see a scholar of Dr. Mouw’s stature embarrass himself so thoroughly by stumbling and bumbling around in an arena where he’s so obviously so unqualified.  Dr. Mouw appears to be in very deep denial on a great many things – not the least being his qualifications to work in an area that’s outside of his area of accomplishment, training, expertise and skills.

Or put another way, just as Michael Jordan shouldn’t play baseball, Richard J. Mouw shouldn’t talk with Mormons.

So despite my respect for many of Dr. Mouw’s other accomplishments, in the end I simply cannot recommend this book. However, I have a book recommendation for Dr. Mouw:  Please read “The Peter Principle”[34] because, to me it explains what’s really going on when you’re talking with Mormons.

[1] See
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[2] For a more complete description – including a superb graphical representation – of the hierarchy of the LdS Church see
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[3] “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson“, p.317; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message”, also cited in “Charge to Religious Educators”, p.14, and; The LdS Church manual, “Teachings of the Living Prophets”, pp.51-52;
(retrieved 2015-09-19)

[4] A case in point is how the LdS Church treated BYU Professor Randy Bott’s Washington Post comments on race in February 2012 (see ; retrieved 2012-08-12)  In their church statement, the LdS Church clearly stated, “BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church.”

[5] See Wikipedia “Church Office Building” (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[6] See Wikipedia “Brigham Young University” (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[7] Richard J. Mouw. “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”, Kindle Locations 873-877

[8] See Wikipedia, “Jeffrey R. Holland: LDS Church Leadership”
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

[9] The accompanying endnote then references the YouTube video ; Op Cit, Holland, “Talking with Mormons”, Kindle Location 961

[10] “None Were With Him” by Jeffrey R. Holland
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[11] “[It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ] “suffered as only as God would suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied.

It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him”
(Ezra Taft Benson, “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, pp.14&15; )
(retrieved 2012-8-08)

[12] “But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was ‘finished.’”
(Op cit, Holland, “None Were With Him”)

[13] Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012;
(retrieved 2012-08-12)

[14] “At Parting” by Thomas S. Monson
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[15] For a good overview of Mormon Soteriology see “Salvation According to Mormonism” by Mormon Research Ministry;
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

Here’s a salient excerpt:
“Mormonism teaches of a general salvation and an individual salvation. General salvation refers to the unconditional, universal gift of resurrection to all. Individual salvation refers to the process one must go through to receive exaltation in the highest heavenly kingdom of the afterlife, the Celestial Kingdom, where one may eternally enjoy family and become a God over his own spirit children. While Mormonism teaches that this process is made possible by the necessary merits of Christ and blessings of his atonement, and that gracious guidance, encouragement, and strengthening is granted throughout the journey, it nevertheless teaches that the decisive factor which determines one’s final destination is one’s personal, meritorious righteousness and worthiness.”

Also see,  Marvin W. Cowan, “Mormon Claims Answered”, Chapter 8
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

[16] See Alan W. Gomes, “Unmasking The Cults”;  Kindle Locations 103-106
Mr. Gomes is a graduate of Dr. Mouw’s University (Fuller Seminary) who teaches at Talbot Seminary and Biola  University.  He defines a cult as, “… is a group of people who claim to be Christian, yet embrace a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”

[17] See “Priesthood Correlation Program”
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[18] These are the manuals used in Sunday School, LdS Seminary, and all other church related instruction see
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[19] See for the address as it was given.

Some good deconstructions, analyses and critiques of the address can be found at:
“An LDS Gem Elder Holland’s Opus”

“Examing Holland’s Talk” (Part 1 of 5)

“Understanding Elder Holland’s Address The Book of Mormon”
(all above links retrieved 2012-08-07)

The official transcript of the address can be found here:
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[20] See “Lying for the Lord” MormonWiki Article
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[21] Op Cit, Richard J. Mouw. “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”, Kindle Locations 314-318; also see Kindle Location 961 for relevant endnote

[22] This video can be viewed at
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[23] This video can be viewed at
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[24] Op Cit, Richard J. Mouw, “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”; Kindle Locations 892-895

[25] J. Spencer Fluhman, “Why We Fear Mormons”; The New York Times, June 3, 2012;
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

Elsewhere in this article Mr. Fluhman exposes one of his underlying presuppositions with this astounding statement, “… evangelical hatred has been the driving force behind national anti-Mormonism.”

To that assertion I would first respond, “Disagreement is disagreement, not hatred.” Further, I would echo in agreement the words of Richard and Joan Ostling in when they observed:

“The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal ‘polyg’ police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; p. 115;
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

And I would remind those that use it that “Anti-Mormon” is the Mormon “N-word” – it’s the equivalent of an Evangelical calling a Mormon an “Anti-Evangelical”.  If you really want to demonstrate that you are a person of good intent and good will (not to mention not prejudiced or bigoted) please refrain from name calling and replace it with the far more accurate terms, “Mormon Critic” or “Critic of Mormonism.”

Finally, I would point out again to the reader that this is the type of up-and-coming-Mormon that Dr. Mouw places hope for a bright future in. One is tempted to ask Dr. Mouw, “Exactly WHAT are you seeing in a person that we, members your people group, fellow Christians and allies for the Reformed faith are missing? Candidly he seems to be too contentious for respectful dialog!”

[26] See “Peace for our time” Wikipedia article
(retrieved 2012-08-12)

[27] Richard J. Mouw. Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals; Kindle Locations 314-318

[28] See “Ambassador College” Wikipedia article ; (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[29] See “September Six” Wikipedia article
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[30] See the Lyndon Lamborn webpage on Mormon Think
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

Or read Mr. Lamborn’s book, “Standing For Something More: The Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn”
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[31] Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, Liahona, June 1981;
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[32] There are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan in his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, published in 2000 by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA.  (see )
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

In chapter two, he gives four basic components of mind control, which form the acronym BITE. You can read more about the BITE Model here:
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

This model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to ANY group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter.

[33] Steven Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analysis’s that have been completed by former Mormons.

I would politely suggest that these analyses answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

The BITE Model and Mormon Control
by Luna Flesher
(an ExMormon and a Cult Exit Counselor at the time this analysis was completed)
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism’s two-year missionary program as submitted by an ex-Mormon
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism as submitted by an ex-Mormon
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

Are Mormons (LDS or Latter-day Saints) A Cult?
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[34] Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull, “The Peter Principle”
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

From the Amazon product description:
“The Peter Principle, the eponymous law Dr. Laurence J. Peter coined, explains that everyone in a hierarchy—from the office intern to the CEO, from the low-level civil servant to a nation’s president—will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence.”

Also see: Wikipedia Article, “Peter Principle”
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

(And last but not least, while taking full responsibility for this article’s content, the author would like express his sincere appreciation to his editors and peer reviewers for making it far, far, far better, they are:  Martin Jacobs and Keith Walker)