Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

by Fred W. Anson
Here’s a challenge: Read through the following and try to guess who wrote it.

When It’s Love
Hey, everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’
Somethin’ to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don’t talk much about it
’til things get out of control, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just somethin’ you feel together
When it’s love

You look at every face in a crowd
Some shine and some keep you guessin’
Waiting for someone to come into focus
And teach you your final love lesson, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together

Oh, when it’s love
You can feel it, yeah
Nothin’s missin’, yeah

Yeah, you can feel it
Oh, when it’s love
When nothin’s missing

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

Ooh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together, hey

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

When it’s love
Ooh, when it’s love
Hey, it’ll last forever

When it’s love
Give it up
We’re gonna feel this thing
Together

When it’s love, ooh
When it’s love, baby
You can feel it, yeah

We’ll make it last forever
Ooh, when it’s love

a_hole_in_my_soul_by_Alx_GFX_Cropped

Who did you guess?  Perhaps it was Blaise Pascal who I quoted in my last recontextualization article as saying…
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

… after all the poem starts with, “everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’, somethin’ to fill in the holes” in true Pascalian fashion. 

Or perhaps, you thought of St. Augustine who wrote…
“Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”
— from “Confessions”

… when you considered the lines that said, “You look at every face in a crowd – some shine and some keep you guessin’. Waiting for someone to come into focus and teach you your final love lesson.” Isn’t that how Augustine might have put it had he written in the English vernacular of 20th Century America rather than in 4th Century Latin?

Or perhaps when you considered the words, “how does it feel when it’s love? It’s just something you feel together,” you thought of Jesus Christ who said of His covenant relationship with those who believe in and live for Him, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4 NASB) – that would certainly explain and make the recurring line, “it lasts forever” even more poignant given the fact that Christ also said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NASB)

Yes, all these themes and ideas are certainly there – surprisingly there’s great depth in this simple yet powerful song.  I confess that I have listened to this song through tears on many an occasion since, for me, it echoes all these themes and resonates deeply within.  Here, try it for yourself:

Yes, folks believe it or not, this deep and beautiful song was written and performed by Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Sammy Haggar, and Michael Anthony – that is, to use the words of one reviewer, that “band of idiots” known to the world as Van Halen.

After all they’re not immune to the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance. Whether it’s a straight arrow, feet-on-the-ground world pastor  or a jelly brained, out-of-touch rock star we all feel this need – and clearly the guys in Van Halen do too.

Nor, apparently, is Van Halen any more immune to incorrectly diagnosing the “fix” as romantic love than anyone else is – as the video illustrates well. My hope and prayer for these guys that someday, somehow, the they “get” the wisdom of St. Augustine that  “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”  Perhaps on that day they’ll join us in singing this song through tears of fulfilled joy rather than longing, despair, and confusion.

by Fred Anson
In a prior post, I introduced the idea of recontextualizing works of music pointing out not only how Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby recontextualized the music of their day – some of it secular with no discernible religious roots – and turned them into songs of praise and worship, but how modern Christians have been doing the same thing with secular rock music.

I pressed this point further stating, “I confess a certain frustration when fellow Christians take diminish or take umbrage at the idea that unbelievers, with whom we share common life experiences not the least being “the human condition”, can find small echoes of divine truths within His fallen creation.”

Personally, I can think of no experience more common to the human condition than the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance.  Be it the silver spooned debutante or the beggar rummaging for his next meal in the trash we have all feel this need at some time, some place – perhaps you’re even feeling it now. I would go so far as to say that this may be the deepest most persistent need that human beings feel – and my observation is that it’s certainly the most common.

Now I suppose it will shock no one when I assert that most rock artists incorrectly diagnose the “fix” for this “hole in the soul” as romantic love.  However, as anyone who’s had their heart broken by a lover or spouse who left them will tell you, “That ain’t it!”

Nor can we find the fix in the love of parents for parents get old and die (as I type through my tears since both of mine have “passed”).  And I know from the 12-Step groups I’ve been in that a heartbreaking fact is that one of the things affected by the fall was the relationship between parent and child – as a result, some adult children are looking for healthy love from a broken parent that, sadly, may never come.

The fact of the matter is that human love simply won’t fill that hole in the human condition that it seems God has reserved for Himself.   As French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal said well:

 “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

And though it was written from quite a different context[1] no song comes closer to expressing this crying need than this one . . .

Lover Reign O’er Me from the 1979 movie “Quadrophenia” 

Love Reign O’er Me
(Pete’s theme)
Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers’
Laying in the fields.

Love, reign o’er me.
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me.

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky.
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high.

Love Reign O’er me.

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool cool rain.
The nights are hot and black as ink
I can’t sleep and I lay and I think
Oh God, I need a drink of cool cool rain.

Love!

… and I’m continuing to hope and pray that the composer of this classic, perhaps even inspired, song may someday know the peace, serenity, and love of God that I, Blaise Pascal, and others have found for himself some day soon.

Ethan-Russell_04(“Love O’er Me” by Pete Townshend was originally released on the 1973 album “Quadrophenia” by The Who) 

NOTES:
[1]  As Pete Townshend, the song’s composer once explained:
(strong language alert for those of you with sensitive ears and eyes) 
“‘Love Reign O’er Me’ is similar to ‘Drowned’ [editor: another song on the Quadrophenia album] in meaning. This refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God’s Voice. It’s another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness. He’s in danger of maturing.” 
(from http://www.thewho.net/linernotes/Quad.htm )

Click here or a more thorough analysis of Pete Townshend and his religious affiliation with Meher Baba.

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley and Lenny LeBlanc

Father I just want to be where You are
My life is filled with everything but You
Lord I really want to see Your glory
Let the fire of Heaven fall on me

Can You feel my passion
Can You see my hunger
Do You know how I long for You
No walls between us
Take away this darkness
Come break this heart of stone
Hear my cry open up the sky

Everywhere I go there is a feeling
That soon we’re gonna see Your kingdom come
Can You hear the sound of desperation
A prayer on the lips of every nation

Lord we really want to see Your glory
So let the fire of Heaven fall on me
Open up the sky

© 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music
(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley)

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493

I think that 2013 may well mean that it’s time
(I can hear the calling – do you?) 

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley

It’s time for the dead and gone
Time for the broken ones
to live again
It’s time time for the dead to rise
Time for the wings to fly
to live again

I can hear the calling
I can hear the sound of rain
Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to sing
Time for the walls
to ring
With the songs of freedom

It’s time for the numb
to feel
Time for the wounds
to heal
With the songs of freedom

It’s time time for the tide
to turn
Time for our hearts to burn
with a desperation
It’s time it’s time for a sacrifice
It’s time that we paid the price
for our generation

Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the numb
to feel
It’s time for the wounds
to heal
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time that we paid
a price
It’s time for
a sacrifice
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for children
to return home
It’s time for the prodigals
to come back
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time to break down
the walls
It’s time to see them all
fall down
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities
and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley) 

As Christians all over the world gather this Christmas to celebrate the first advent, like God’s covenant people of that great day, we long for the promised arrival our Great Love . . .

We cry out to You . . .

Deep within
There’s a fire
That can’t be quenched
And there’s a love for You
Jesus
That’s as strong as death

Hear us Lord
Hear the longing of our hearts
We want to be where You are
And not apart

We feel You near
Oh, Your presence all around us
Oh Lord, we want to see Your face
Come Take us away

The Spirit and the Bride
Cry out to You
Lord, we cry out to You
Come quickly

We long for the day
When we will see Your face
We long to be with You
Come quickly

Breathe on us until You come
Breathe on us until You come

Words and Music by Tom Dickson
Copyright © 1997 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

(The Lindell Cooley cover of this song recorded during the Brownsville Revival)

by Andy Park
Many waters cannot quench Your love,
Rivers cannot overwhelm it
Oceans of fear cannot conceal
Your love for me

Many waters cannot quench Your love,
Rivers cannot overwhelm it
Oceans of fear cannot conceal
Your love for me
Your love for me

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

Many sorrows cannot quench Your love,
Darkness cannot overwhelm it
I will not fear,
Your love is here to comfort me

Many sorrows cannot quench Your love,
Darkness cannot overwhelm it
I will not fear,
Your love is here
To comfort me

You comfort me

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

When I find you I find healing
When I find you I find peace

And I know that there’s
No river so wide,
No mountain so high,
No ocean so deep
That you can’t part the sea

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

jesus-love-new

Copyright © 1995 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

 

 

Thou great I Am,
Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day,
A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds,
and the revolutions of empires,
feels no variableness,
but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives;
that, while all creatures are broken reeds,
empty cisterns,
fading flowers,
withering grass,
he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain
of living waters.

PolarSea

Turn my heart from vanity,
from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and
unforeseen,
and is only an opportunity for usefulness;

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time,
to awake at every call to charity and piety,
so that I may feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
instruct the ignorant,
reclaim the vicious,
forgive the offender,
diffuse the gospel,
show neighbourly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,
dependence on thyself,
mortification,
crucifixion,
prayer.

DakotaTerritoryTrails_BenClareUnitedMethodistChurch(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Fred W. Anson
Introduction
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.

NOTES
[1] 
“… 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) 

O Lord God,

The first act of calling is by thy command
in thy Word,
‘Come unto me, return unto me’;

The second is to let in light,
so that I see that I am called particularly,
and perceive the sweetness of the command
as well as its truth,
in regard to thy great love of the sinner,
by inviting him to come, though vile,
in regard to the end of the command,
which is fellowship with thee,
in regard to thy promise in the gospel,
which is all of grace.

Therefore, Lord,
I need not search to see if I am elect, or loved,
for if I turn thou wilt come to me;

Christ has promised me fellowship if I take him,
and the Spirit will pour himself out on me,
abolishing sin and punishment,
assuring me of strength to persevere.

It is thy pleasure to help all that pray for grace,
and come to thee for it.

When my heart is unsavoury with sin, sorrow,
darkness, hell,
only thy free grace can help me act
with deep abasement under a sense
of unworthiness.

Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing
my heart to a duty
because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.

Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
with every exactement tempered to my soul,
every rod excellently fitted to my back,
to chastise, humble, break me.

Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell
on Christ,
and drew me to him.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LdS Church Handbook of Instruction (2010 edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LdS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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