Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

If using symbols and scripture is worshiping them
then Mormonism has a beam-in-eye problem

“The Crucifixion”, by Harry Anderson. This is one of two paintings that Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland referred to in his Fall 2022 General Conference address that, “…serve as backdrops for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in their sacred weekly temple meetings each Thursday in Salt Lake City,” (see Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”). So if symbolic reminders of Christ’s sacrifice like this aren’t a problem when Latter-day Saint leaders use them, then why is it a problem when others do too? (credit: LDS Church Media Library)

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

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

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

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

Sixth LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith speaking at the pulpit of a funeral service in the Brigham City Tabernacle surrounded by cross symbols in the architecture and floral arrangement. Please note the highlighted floral cross that’s at the center of the proceedings. (credit: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection)

The Myth
“Biblical Christians worship the cross . . .”

In the mid-twentieth century, LDS leaders began suggesting that Biblical Christians worship the cross.1 Prior to that many Latter-day Saints embraced the cross as a symbol of their religion, similar to Protestants and Catholics. In 1957, LDS Prophet and Church President, David O. McKay, responded to a question about a Salt Lake City jewelry store advertising cross necklaces for girls, (see “Mormons and the Cross” by Michael De Groote). Following McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

This custom of adoring the cross seems to have grown out of the purported vision given to Constantine when it is stated that he saw a cross in the heavens and was told that by it he was to conquer. From that time the use of the cross as an object of reverence grew and, when the rebellion against the Catholic Church commenced, the adoration of the cross continued more or less among the Protestant churches.

To many, like the writer, such a custom is repugnant and contrary to the true worship of our Redeemer. Why should we bow down before a cross or use it as a symbol? Because our Savior died on the cross, the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship. [ . . . ] We may be definitely sure that if our Lord had been killed with a dagger or with a sword, it would have been very strange indeed if religious people of this day would have graced such a weapon by wearing it and adoring it because it was by such a means that our Lord was put to death.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, “Your Question: The Wearing of the Cross, Answered by Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve,” The Improvement Era, Volume 64, 1961 March (No. 3), bolding added for emphasis)

Latter-day Saints often paraphrase Smith’s statement as a question, “If a member of your family was shot with a gun would you wear it around your neck to remember them?” In 1975, Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley”, “Chapter 8 We Look to Christ”)

Very recently, Jeffrey R. Holland attempted to explain why Latter-day Saints do not use the cross as a symbol of their faith:

As I attempt to explain why we generally do not use the iconography of the cross, I wish to make abundantly clear our deep respect and profound admiration for the faith-filled motives and devoted lives of those who do.

One reason we do not emphasize the cross as a symbol stems from our biblical roots. Because crucifixion was one of the Roman Empire’s most agonizing forms of execution, many early followers of Jesus chose not to highlight that brutal instrument of suffering. The meaning of Christ’s death was certainly central to their faith, but for some 300 years they typically sought to convey their gospel identity through other means.2

By the fourth and fifth centuries, a cross was being introduced as a symbol of generalized Christianity, but ours is not a “generalized Christianity.” Being neither Catholic nor Protestant, we are, rather, a restored church, the restored New Testament Church. Thus, our origins and our authority go back before the time of councils, creeds, and iconography.
(Jeffrey R Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross” October 2022 General Conference, bolding added for emphasis)

First, in his General Conference address, Elder Holland says, “…the absence of a symbol that was late coming into common use is yet another evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of true Christian beginnings.” Then, he immediately appeals to the cross in the left panel as a symbol of the price that Christ paid for us as evidence of the superiority of his “restored” church stating, “These portrayals serve as constant reminders to us of the price that was paid and the victory that was won by Him whose servants we are,” (see Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”, click on the above image to view this portion of his address in context)

“Biblical Christians worship the Bible . . .”
The Book of Mormon accuses those who reject it of having a closed-minded devotion to the Bible alone: “And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (see 2 Nephi 29:3).

The argument by Latter-day Saints that Biblical Christians engage in bibliolatry is often tied to three positions:

    1. Biblical authority
    2. Biblical inerrancy
    3. Biblical sufficiency3

Jeffrey R. Holland laid out the full argument that the bibliolatry charge sets up. Namely, that the Bible is insufficient to answer all of life’s questions. Enter stage left: LDS Scripture.4

The Bible is the word of God. It is always identified first in our canon, our “standard works.” Indeed, it was a divinely ordained encounter with the fifth verse of the first chapter of the book of James that led Joseph Smith to his vision of the Father and the Son, which gave birth to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our time. But even then, Joseph knew the Bible alone could not be the answer to all the religious questions he and others like him had. As he said in his own words, the ministers of his community were contending—sometimes angrily—over their doctrines. “Priest [was] contending against priest, and convert [was contending] against convert … in a strife of words and a contest about opinions,” he said. About the only thing these contending religions had in common was, ironically, a belief in the Bible, but, as Joseph wrote, “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question [regarding which church was true] by an appeal to the Bible.” Clearly the Bible, so frequently described at that time as “common ground,” was nothing of the kind—unfortunately it was a battleground.
(Jeffrey R Holland, “My Words . . . Never Cease” April 2008 General Conference, bolding added for emphasis)

Photography of Amelia White Young, Brigham Young’s 51st wife, wearing a cross in 1895. (credit: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection)

Does the Use of Symbols Necessarily = Idolatry?
The main thrust of this LDS polemic is that use of the cross as a Christian symbol is too late to have been part of original Christianity, and is therefore a sign of apostasy. LDS leaders tie its use to the influence of the fourth-century Roman Emperor, Constantine, whom Latter-day Saints believe introduced pagan influences to the Church.

But is the use of the cross as a symbol by Christians in fact late? Much of the argument that the cross as iconography is late is based on archaeological data that shows that the earliest artistic depictions of the crucifixion itself were not made until around 400 years after Christ’s death. But literary data shows that prior to Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, Christians were already using the cross, among others things, as a symbol of their faith. Christian historian and theologian Everett Fergusson notes, “Writings from the early church show how central the cross was to Christian preaching and confession.”5

In his letters, the apostle Paul—the earliest New Testament author—referred eleven times to the cross of Christ as symbolic of the Christian faith. Why does Paul tie persecution of Jesus’ followers to the cross (see Galatians 5:11, 6:12 & 14)—or mention enemies of the cross—if association with the cross of Christ was not an early symbol of the Christian faith?6

Latter-day Saints use various symbols to represent aspects of their belief and practice: the beehive, CTR rings, sunstones, and moonstones—statues of Moroni adorn LDS temples. Are Latter-day Saints worshipping these symbols by their use? Clearly, no. So the claim that Biblical Christians worship the cross is a myth.

Does Having a Defined Canon of Scripture = Bibliolatry?
The charge of bibliolatry, or the worship of the Bible, is an attack against those who hold to biblical authority, inerrancy, and supremacy. Those Christians who hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura will hear this charge from Latter-day Saints. As believers in revealed religion, Latter-day Saints and Biblical Christians should share some common ground with regard to the authority of Scripture.

The authority and inerrancy of Scripture derive from its divine Author. R. C. Sproul summed it up nicely:

The authority of the Bible is based on its being the written Word of God, and because the Bible is the Word of God and the God of the Bible is truth and speaks truthfully, authority is linked to inerrancy. If the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is a God of truth, then the Bible must be inerrant [ . . . ].
(R.C. Sproul, “Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine” (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2005), p.121)

Why then do Latter-day Saints attack the authority and inerrancy of the Bible? It is odd!7 By doing so, they cut off the very argument for revealed religion that they adopt when arguing for the authority of Joseph Smith from the Book of Mormon by the oft-repeated axiom “If the Book of Mormon is true, then it follows that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church.8

Does using a text as the basis for authority amount to worshiping that text?
Clearly not, lest the Latter-day Saints be guilty of the very charge they levy against Biblical Christians. This is another myth!

Maybe it is the fact that Biblical Christians affirm the inerrancy of the Bible that rightly brings the charge of bibliolatry. Latter-day Saints believe that an ancient prophet named Moroni wrote the title page of the Book of Mormon, and included this warning, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.” (see Title Page to The Book of Mormon). The author attributes any faults in the Book of Mormon to the mistakes of men and also implies perfection in the things of God.

Christians who hold to the inerrancy of the Bible—the divine nature of Scripture—do so on the basis of God’s absolute perfection and ability to convey His Word perfectly. They do not deny the human nature of Scripture. Sproul stated the position well:

The process of inspiration did not make the biblical writers automatons, for their books reveal differences of vocabulary, style, and other matters of variation between one human author and another. But inspiration did overcome any tendency they may have had to error, with the result that the words they wrote were precisely what God, the divine Author, intended us to have.
(Ibid. R.C. Sproul, 135)

Is it idolatrous to trust wholeheartedly in the reliability of God’s Word?
Isn’t that the equivalent of saying that leaning on God’s own trustworthiness is wrong? Surely not! Yet, another myth.

But what about the supremacy of the Bible? Are Biblical Christians engaging in idolatry when they claim that the Bible is the sole source of God’s Word? Many texts claim to be revelations from God. The Quran of Islam and the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism are two ancient examples. Indeed, the LDS Church is beset by many would-be successors to Joseph Smith’s role as producer of hidden, ancient, scriptural writings.

The Book of Mormon indicates that the plates from which Joseph Smith translated had a sealed portion, and looks forward to a time when that sealed portion would be translated (see 2 Nephi 27). Individuals have stepped forward making conflicting claims to having translated the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon or other additional records.9

The LDS Church has not added the Quran or the Zend-Avesta to its canon. Nor does it accept the writings of other “latter-day translators.” In fact, it has from its very beginning exercised discrimination relative to the authority claims of others claiming revelations within the broader Latter-day Saint Restoration Movement (see for example the incident of Hiram Page’s seer stone recounted in Doctrine and Covenants 28).

By rejecting other would-be additions to the LDS canon of Scripture, and holding that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are the only modern Scriptural sources of official LDS doctrine, are Latter-day Saints worshiping their canon? No. Clearly, the claim that Biblical Christians are idolaters for exercising discernment is a myth.

‘Why then do Latter-day Saints attack the authority and inerrancy of the Bible? It is odd! By doing so, they cut off the very argument for revealed religion that they adopt when arguing for the authority of Joseph Smith from the Book of Mormon by the oft-repeated axiom “If the Book of Mormon is true, then it follows that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church.’ (Paul Nurnberg)

How It’s a Myth
Christians wear the cross as a symbol of their faith in their Lord, Jesus Christ, who hung and died upon it—suffering death for their sins. We worship “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:2 and Revelation 5:11-14). The authority that Biblical Christians ascribe to the Bible is based on the nature and perfection of God. It is not illegitimate to appeal to God’s nature as a presupposition of the reliability of His Word. Having established that, let’s look at some of the Biblical data that supports the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of God’s Word.

When the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus for teaching in the temple and challenged his authority, Jesus told the parables of the two sons and the tenants. When his accusers rightly perceived the action the master of the vineyard would take towards the wicked tenants, Jesus appealed to the authority of the Word of God (see Matthew 21:42).

In John 10, Jesus declared the unity of himself with his Father, claiming that he will give eternal life to his sheep and that no mere human can pluck them out of his hand. He makes his identification with Deity explicit when he states that his Father gave his sheep to him, and his Father is greater than all, and no mere human is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand. The implication of these claims of Jesus was not lost on those who heard him. When he stated, “I and my Father are one,” they picked up stones to kill him. Their reasoning is conveyed clearly by Matthew, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself, God.”

Jesus then cited Psalm 82 as justification for identifying himself with God, and asked his accusers: “If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (see John 10:23-39).

If Scripture is necessarily errant in places because God used human authors to produce it, then we could say that Scripture could be set aside or nullified. But here the Lord Jesus declared that Scripture cannot be set aside or nullified. Jesus reminded those prepared to stone him what Scripture said and reminded them that it cannot be a mistake. As Sproul noted in the above quote, the authority of Scripture is tied to its inerrancy.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote to his ministry partner that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” By use of the Greek word theopneustos (lit. “breathed out by God”), Paul highlights the divine nature of Scripture. Paul provided Timothy with the implications of that important fact. Scripture is profitable for doctrine or teaching, for reproof (the Greek word used here implies that by which disputes may be resolved), correction (restoration to an upright state or improvement of life or character), and for instruction in righteousness.

When Biblical Christians affirm the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), they highlight God’s intended role for Scripture in the life and faith of the Church as the sole God-breathed source for doctrine, teaching, correction, and instruction. They affirm the authority of Scripture because its divine Author is perfect and speaks truthfully.

Why It Matters
Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “[ . . . ] the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley”, “Chapter 8 We Look to Christ”.

Latter-day Saints are presented with a never-ending spiral staircase of attempts at obedience, sin, and repentance—followed by more attempts at full obedience. Rinse and Repeat. CTR rings remind them that their church teaches obedience as the means of salvation and exaltation. The hope is that they will eventually reach the top of the staircase and achieve exaltation (see Come Follow Me Insights – Staircase).

Don’t misunderstand what I wrote above. Obedience and sanctification are important to Biblical Christians. But obedience isn’t the means by which we are justified before God (see Romans 4:1-5) Those who believe in Him who justifies the ungodly are saved from the effects of sin and are justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As Paul the Apostle wrote “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (see 1 Cor. 1:18). Paul wrote that letter and sent it to the church at Corinth well before Constantine was born. Revering the cross as the symbol of what Christ accomplished on behalf of believers is not idolatry!

The key takeaway I want my LDS readers to think about is this: In accusing Biblical Christians of idolatry for using the cross as a symbol of our faith and bibliolatry for accepting the Bible as the sole source of God’s revealed Word, the aim of LDS leaders is not to engender trust in their people in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross or trust in God’s Word in the Bible. Rather, it is a polemical device aimed at making space for LDS teaching. And LDS teaching about the cross and about the nature of Scripture is unbiblical. It leads people to place their trust in their own efforts to be obedient as the means by which they will be exalted. It leads people to question the reliability of God’s promise of salvation to those who believe on his Son (see John 6:28-29).

Summary and Conclusion
The polemic aim of these charges is to try to demonstrate that the LDS Church has a better claim to undefiled worship (no pagan influence) and a better (more complete) canon of Scriptures. These charges are myths that cut both ways. They are misrepresentations of the positions of Biblical Christians. Latter-day Saints should not perpetuate these myths if they wish others to treat their own positions with charity (see Matthew 7:12).

“An inconvenient truth is still truth” (Paul Nurnberg)

NOTES
1 The rejection of the cross by LDS leaders and the argument that its use is representative of apostasy followed a period of doctrinal development in which several influential LDS leaders, B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, and Joseph Fielding Smith, developed a distinctly LDS narrative of a “Great Apostasy” from the Christian faith, necessitating restoration. (see Eric R. Dursteler “Historical Periodization in the LDS Great Apostasy Narrative” in “Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy”). It is interesting to note that this period of narrative building came directly after the LDS cessation of polygamy and during the period when the LDS leaders were working to build a new identity after ceasing what had been Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrine and practice from the 1840’s through the early 1900’s. LDS leaders needed to affirm how they stood apart from broader Christianity without polygamy. During the early decades of the twentieth century, the challenge posed to the authority of LDS Church leadership by an emerging LDS Fundamentalist movement over the cessation of the practice of polygamy necessitated a narrative of apostasy and restoration that was more heavily focused on priesthood authority. That development continues to influence LDS narrative and practice today.

2 This is assumed but not supported by Holland. In his General Conference address, Lifted Up upon the Cross”, Holland recounted an anecdote in which a graduate school student asked him why Latter-day Saints do not adopt the cross as a symbol of their faith. In responding to the young person’s question, Holland recounts that he read to him passages from the Book of Mormon that touch on the cross. In his spoken remarks, Holland elicited laughter from the crowd in the Conference Center when he said, “I was about to quote the Apostle Paul when I noticed that my friend’s eyes were starting to glaze over.” That is the last time in his spoken address that Holland mentions the apostle Paul. Why? Holland goes on to argue that Latter-day Saints don’t use the cross as a symbol because it represents an admixture of pagan religion into pure Christianity, and argues:

“Being neither Catholic nor Protestant, we are, rather, a restored church, the restored New Testament Church. Thus, our origins and our authority go back before the time of councils, creeds, and iconography. In this sense, the absence of a symbol that was late coming into common use is yet another evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of true Christian beginnings.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lifted Up upon the Cross”, Fall General Conference of the LDS Church) 

This argument is ludicrous for several reasons. First, Holland quoted the Book of Mormon to the graduate student and even stated his own belief that Nephi wrote about the cross 600 years before Jesus Christ lived. If the Book of Mormon really were an ancient record that would imply that there is pre-Christian literary evidence of the cross as symbolic of salvation. Citing the Book of Mormon as Holland did undercuts his own argument.

Second, in his spoken remarks, Holland ignores (except for his joke) the literary evidence provided by the letters of the apostle Paul that the cross was understood by the earliest Christian writer as symbolic of their faith in the work of Christ on the cross. Instead, Holland relegates that evidence to a footnote in the transcript of his talk. Why? Again, it doesn’t fit his agenda.

Finally, Holland is just wrong about the use of the cross as a symbol of Christian faith coming only after the time of “councils, creeds, and iconography.” But these facts don’t fit the polemic of painting the LDS Church as restored and pure Christianity and all other Christian sects and denominations as “apostate”. Inconvenient truth is still truth!

3 Although “bibliolatry” is not a term used by LDS leaders, it is one used often by online LDS apologists. The below quote from a Facebook discussion group is representative of Latter-day Saints who accuse Biblical Christians of bibliolatry:

“[Evangelicals] exalt the Bible to the level of bibliolatry: They derive their purported authority from it, they claim it is inerrant and complete, they claim it is the sole source of God’s word (Sola Scriptura). None of these claims is true.”
(Anonymized LDS Facebook user in the LDS and Biblical Christians Facebook group, link to source withheld to maintain anonymity of the commenter) 

4 In the quote cited, Holland argues that theological disagreements among Christians of Joseph Smith’s day are evidence of the need for a restoration and for new Scripture. Since Joseph Smith kicked it off, there have been at over 500 branches or denominations of the Latter Day Saint Restoration Movement (see Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement” for an encyclopedic roster and descriptions of these groups) all of which disagree on key aspects of theology, such as the nature of God, locus of priesthood authority, line of succession, the scope, and authority of the Latter Day canon, and even on the nature of the restoration itself.

If one considers Holland’s argument for a brief moment, one realizes that the sword begins turning in on Holland himself. Is another restoration needed? There are some in the Latter Day Saint Restoration Movement who are calling for or claiming to lead just that, hence the constant, non-stop splintering and schisming that has led to over 500 new Latter-Day Saint denominations in just the first 192 years of the movement.

5 Everett Ferguson, “When did the cross supplant the ichthus (fish) as a symbol of the Christian faith?”, Christianity Today magazine, February 2009.

6 In addition to the apostolic era represented by Paul’s letters, other early Christian writings show widespread use of the cross as a Christian symbol. Ignatius (c. 50 AD to c. 98 – 140 AD) wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians “Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.” (Philip Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection,” London, England: Catholic Way Publishing. 2014. Kindle Edition.).

In the already cited article, Everett Fergusson notes:

Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist writing in the 150s–160s, argued that God had providentially put the shape of the cross in everyday objects, such as the masts of ships, tools like the plough and the axe, and the standards of Roman legions. Christians would often pray standing up with their arms stretched out in the form of a cross. As early as the 200s, Christians were making the sign of the cross with their hands. The cross was so important that pagans charged Christians with worshipping the cross.
( Ibid, Ferguson, “When did the cross supplant the ichthus (fish) as a symbol of the Christian faith?”

Justin also saw the shape of the cross built into human anatomy formed by the forehead and the nose and related this to Lamentations 4:20 “The breath of our nostrils, the LORD’s anointed, was captured in their pits, of whom we said, ‘Under his shadow, we shall live among the nations.’”

The Epistle of Barnabas dated from internal evidence (16.3-4) after the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 but before the Bar Kokhba revolt in AD 132 argues that baptism and the cross were prefigured in Psalm 1. Of the Psalmist, Barnabas states:

“Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them.”
(Ibid, Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection,”, bolding added for emphasis) 

Tertullian, writing To the Nations (Ad Nationes) in approximately AD 197 juxtaposes the symbols of Roman religion with the wearing of simple unadorned cross necklaces:

“Your victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities; and they are the more august in proportion to the joy they bring you. The frames on which you hang up your trophies must be crosses: these are, as it were, the very core of your pageants. Thus, in your victories, the religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship; your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its oaths; your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself. But all that parade of images, and that display of pure gold, are (as so many) necklaces of the crosses. In like manner also, in the banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less sacred care, you have the streamers (and) vestments of your crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses.”
(Ibid, Schaff, ed. “The Church Fathers. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection”, bolding added for emphasis)

7 Both of the myths covered in this article are perpetuated by Latter-day Saints not because the positions of Biblical Christians are wrong or fallacious. Rather, the arguments are made to make room for LDS positions. The argument against inerrancy is not made because the argument from God’s nature as a speaker only of truth breaks down. Instead, Latter-day Saints argue against inerrancy because the teaching of the Book of Mormon about the Bible does not allow them to adopt the position. If a Latter-day Saint were to affirm the position of inerrancy, they would be contradicting what the Title Page of the Book of Mormon says about the nature of Scripture and inspiration.

8 See, for example, Thomas S. Monson, “You Can Know It Is True,”

9 Just to name a few: Christopher Nemelka has published The Sealed Portion – The Final Testament of Jesus Christ, and claims to have received the Urim and Thummim by which he translated the sealed plates; Mauricio Berger claims that on April 6, 2007, the angel Raphael led him to the summit of a hill and led him to pray, upon doing which, he was visited by the Angel Moroni who gave him the plates, the interpreters, and the sword of Laban—his published The Sealed Book of Mormon claims to be a translation from the Plates of Mormon; Matthew Gill claims that at the age of twelve, he was visited by the angel Moroni and told that he would one day complete a mission like that of Joseph Smith—many years later he claims that the angel Raphael delivered to him many revelations as well as The Chronicles of the Children of Araneck: A Further Testimony of Jesus Christ & A Record of the Early Inhabitants of the British Isles.

About the Author
Paul Nurnberg was born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. He served a two-year proselytizing mission for the LDS Church in Hungary. After converting to Biblical Christianity, he studied at Cincinnati Christian University. He holds a M.Div. in Biblical Studies and a BBA from Thomas More University where he graduated summa cum laude. He is a member of Lakeside Christian Church in Kentucky, which belongs to the Independent Christian Churches / Churches of Christ, which has roots in the American Restoration Movement. He has enjoyed a long career in the health insurance industry, and since 2019 has produced the podcast, Outer Brightness: From Mormon to Jesus. He has been happily married to his best friend, Angela, for 22 years. They have five children and three dogs.

The almighty Lord our God is our refuge and our strength
An ever-present help in troubled times
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

The almighty God of Jacob is our fortress and our shield
Though the earth give way and mountains quake
He will hear our desperate cry

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Be still and know that He is God
The Almighty Lord, He is with us

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
For our God is near

Therefore we have hope and will not fear
Because our God is near

(words and music by Tommy Walker from Psalm 46)

As performed on the album “Live at Home” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

“When God spoke and brought the world into existence, Christmas was on His heart. Christmas is all about Jesus, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world! It’s about Jesus, God’s gift of redemption–born to die in my place and your place, for my sins and your sins, because the wages of sin is death. Write it down; post it on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror: “Jesus–born to die that I might live!” No matter who you are, what you have done, you were pre-loved by God!”
(Kay Arthur, “Born to Die That I Might Live”, Decision Magazine, December 1, 2008)

At The Cross
I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There at the cross

At the cross,
At the cross
He died for our sin
At the cross,
At the cross
He gave us life again

I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There at the cross

At the cross,
At the cross
You died for our sin
At the cross,
At the cross
You gave us life again

(Words and Music by Randy and Terry Butler)

Performed by Terry Butler on “Change My Heart Oh God, Volume 2”

(c) 1993 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.

For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

(words and music by Robin Mark)

Revival In Belfast

As originally performed on “Revival in Belfast”

A Prayer of Release for Former Mormons and their Descendants

by Tracy Tennant
The following is a prayer of release for former Mormons and their descendants. This can be used in conjunction with healing and deliverance ministry sessions or can be used by individuals who have left or are in the process of leaving Mormonism, or those with Mormon ancestry.

As with all forms of inner healing, forgiveness is key to breaking any “legal” rights the Enemy (unclean spirits, etc.) have to harass us or keep us in spiritual bondage. Being able to forgive LDS parents and/or ancestors for their participation in Mormonism is essential to being set free. So is forgiving yourself! Forgiveness can be stated out loud in private or in the presence of other Christians. This prayer should be spoken out loud.

Praise be to You Lord my God, King of the universe! I come to You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to seek cleansing and deliverance from the spiritual bondage of Mormonism and the curses related to the temple ceremonies.

I renounce every oath and vow made by my ancestors and myself as Mormons and rebuke every spiritual power consequently affecting me and my family.

I renounce my baby dedication into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the status of being “born in the covenant.”

I renounce my baptism and confirmation into the Mormon Church, and all priesthood blessings I received by the laying on of hands from Mormon priesthood holders.

I renounce the temple initiatory “washing and anointing,” and the sealing of the anointing,  done for myself and on behalf of the dead. I renounce the prayers, proclamations, and pronouncements made over me during the initiatory ceremony.

I renounce the New Name given to me in the temple.

I renounce the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or sign of the nail, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal grip or sure sign of the nail, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce all oaths made in the Temple, and all their accompanying signs, blessings, and penalties (curses).

I renounce all vows made at the various altars of the temple.

I renounce the True Order of Prayer spoken around the altar in the temple.

I renounce all covenants made to obey the five Laws given in the temple ceremony.

I renounce all the work done at and through the veil, with all the names, signs, and tokens.

I renounce all vows made over the altar during the sealing ceremony, with all its names, signs, and tokens, and any soul ties that were formed as a result.

I renounce the false marriage covenant of Mormonism, the “New and Everlasting Covenant,” and any unholy soul tie formed.

I renounce all temple work done by me on behalf of the dead.

I renounce all secrecy, work, rituals, vows, pagan symbolism, bondages, and blessings and curses of the Mormon temple ceremonies done for myself or on behalf of my ancestors and for the deceased, both known and unknown to me.

I renounce all sacraments, oaths, vows, covenants, promises, penalties, curses, prophecies, blessings, pronouncements, and laying on of hands done under the authority of the Mormon Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.

I renounce and reject Mormonism and all false teachings, rites, and ordinances therein.

Father God, I ask for the holy blood of Your Son, Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ) to cleanse me from all residue of Mormonism. Cleanse my spirit, soul, and mind, my will, emotions, and every part of my body that has been affected by my participation in Mormonism. I ask You to dissolve all legal rights over me obtained by the Adversary and all unclean spirits; in Jesus’ name, I pray, amen!

(originally published on the “Equipping Christians” website. Republished here with the permission of the author.)

About the Author
Tracy Tennant holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication; Associate of General Studies, with a focus on early childhood education; and Certificate of Achievement in Practical Nursing. Her greatest accomplishment is being the mother of ten children. While an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 26 years, Tracy held many positions, including: Young Married Adult Activities Leader, Primary Teacher, Nursery Assistant, Assistant Ward Librarian, Ward Bulletin Specialist, Cub Scout Den Leader, Ward Music Chairman, Visiting Teaching Supervisor, Relief Society Teacher, and Relief Society President, among others. Tracy was a frequent vocalist and speaker at special youth and adult firesides.  She was serving as Relief Society President when she left Mormonism for a Biblical faith in Jesus Christ in November of 2000. She currently writes, blogs, and speaks on motherhood, family, and health, as well as shares her experience and knowledge of Mormonism.

Merry Christmas everyone! And since this is the last article of 2018, Happy New Year too. As we celebrate the holidays and move into the new year, let’s not forget to look back and remember Who has brought here, His faithfulness to us through thick and thin, and His promised faithfulness to us to the end – and then beyond. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. Amen? 

Performed by Brian Doerksen. 

Good To Me (I Cry Out) 
I cry out,
For Your hand of mercy to heal me.
I am weak,
I need Your love to free me.
Oh, Lord, my Rock,
My strength in weakness,
Come rescue me, oh Lord.

You are my hope,
Your promise never fails me.
And my desire is to follow You forever.

For You are good,
For You are good,
For You are good to me
For You are good,
For You are good,
For You are good to me

(Words and Music by Craig Musseau)

prayer-hands

Performed by Brian Doerksen on “Change My Heart Oh God, Volume 2”

© 1990 Craig Musseau ION Publishing &Vineyard Music.

The adoration of the magi is depicted in this painting in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

by Graham Kendrick
I discovered this classic in 1990 the same month that we discovered that my leukemia afflicted mother was given only weeks to live. I wept with grief and hope for her then as I listened, played, and sang this song. Now I weep with overwhelming gratitude for myself and my brothers and sister in Christ – including my mother who now watches from the great cloud of witnesses – whenever I encounter it. Because He came and died, my debt He paid, and my death He died that I might live. I can think of no greater gift, can you? — Fred W. Anson

My Lord, what love is this
That pays so dearly
That I, the guilty one
May go free!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

And so they watched Him die
Despised, rejected
But oh, the blood He shed
Flowed for me!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

And now, this love of Christ
Shall flow like rivers
Come wash your guilt away
Live again!

Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live

© 1989 Make Way Music

Other performances of “Amazing Love” by Graham Kendrick
Recorded live in Boston, the album features several recently written songs, two of them brand new, delivering that trademark Kendrick intimacy and richness of content, side by side with some of his best-loved, era-defining classics.

Graham says: “We simply wanted to capture the sound and atmosphere of worship, the sense of being there in the presence of God and in the company of other worshippers. My musicians were on great form and there were some very special moments, so I’m thankful that the tape was running.

Amazing Love (My Lord what love is this) performed by Graham Kendrick, Mark Prentice (Double Bass) and Terl Bryant (Percussion).

Authentic_Fire_Book_png_grandeReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire
Author: Michael L. Brown
Publisher: Creation House
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 2015
Length: 426 pages
Binding: eBook
ISBN10: 1629984558
ISBN13: 978-1629984551
Price: $9.99 (Digital), $19.99 (Print) 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to review this book or discuss the book that it’s in response to (“Strange Fire” by John MacArthur) without talking about personalities. That said, while I am a Charismatic, Michael Brown is far more Pentecostal than I will ever be – or want to be. And while I’m Reformed, John MacArthur is far more Calvinistic than I will ever be – or want to be. After reading this book and considering the output from the Strange Fire camp (including the book of that title) I find myself somewhere between the two men.

Let’s start with this book. While I concur with most of what Michael Brown and his appendix authors present in this book – particularly their superb exegesis of scripture – I was troubled by the recurrence of that oldest of Pentecostal fallacies: An over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. This is particularly troubling to me since, as a Mormon Studies Scholar, I’m all too familiar with cults and other unorthodox groups citing anecdotes and experiences as though they’re conclusive, objective, empirical evidence. Folks, they’re not, they’re just not. While to some this may seem a niggling gnat straining point, it’s not since Charismatics are often (and not without reason) accused of elevating experience above biblical authority. This the very thesis that forms the core of MacArthur’s book and the one which he gleefully hammered away at for 352 pages, through an entire conference, and now continues through countless tweets and articles.

For example, I was troubled by Brown’s frequent reference to being slain in the Spirit (or “falling under the power of God” as he more often referred to it in the book) as if it were a “biblical given” based on his experiences and stories.  The fact is that it appears exactly nowhere in the Bible (that is unless you eisegete it into the text). This is a glaring hole in this book. By relying on anecdotes, in my opinion, Brown and some of his co-contributors have left themselves open and exposed for even more criticism from the Strange Fire camp.

That said, I thought that they did an excellent job of exposing the glaring hole in MacArthur’s book in particular and his stance in general:  His failure to exegete from the entirety of scripture and tendency to exegete only from select texts. For example, nowhere in his book does he address 1 Corinthians 14 where the public use of the “sign gifts” (to use a cessationist term that never appears in the Bible) of congregational prophetic utterances and tongues is not only commended, encouraged, and endorsed but given a practical framework in which they are to work in the local church.

Another example is his failure to address the last words in the Bible on the practice of charismata which are: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39, NASB) Respectfully, Mr. MacArthur, if you truly respect the authority of scripture and the authority of the foundational teachings of the Apostles of the Lamb then you can neither ignore this Biblical mandate or criticize others when they respect and obey it.

So clearly there’s bias on both sides – to the surprise, I’m sure, of no one. So the question is, who makes the most compelling case? In my opinion, it’s Michael Brown and his appendix authors. They present a compelling and cogent case that’s truly “sola scriptura” rather than “sola scriptura AND”.  The “AND” in this case are renowned historical figures of the Protestant Reformation in general and John Calvin in particular (for example, consider “Calvin’s Critique of Charismatic Calvinists” by Steve Lawson from the Strange Fire conference for a glaring example of this).

Yes, I’m Reformed but I refuse to put a pinch of incense on the altar of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, or anyone else in addition to declaring Jesus Lord and the scripture His gave us the absolute, final authority for this mortal passage. Michael Brown and the appendix authors very rightly call the Strange Fire camp to task for this.


Above: In contrast to Michael Brown’s calm, reasoned, and thoughtful response to Strange Fire, Pentecostal preacher Perry Stone demonstrates how NOT to respond. 

Last but not least, I’m not as nice as Michael Brown (after all I am one of those cranky, scholarly, truth-oriented, confessing, and Bible thumping, Reformed folks). So I’m just going to say it: John MacArthur can be a real bully. I say this while at the same time happily acknowledging all the wonderful benefit that I’ve derived from listening to more than my fair share of his excellent books and sermons over the years. I honor his gifting as a Bible teacher, expositor, and theologian. However, I’m not blind, nor am I deaf and it’s hard to miss the harsh, ungracious, even mean-spirited jabs that I have heard him take at those he differs with over the years – and that includes cessationists, continuationists, and even other Reformed theologians. It seems that you risk a declaration of war if you dare disagree with Mr. MacArthur. Pentecostals and Charismatics may be his favorite target but they’re far from his only target.

Further, after the harsh and uncharitable hatchet job that he did on John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement in 1993 (full disclosure, I and many other Charismatics were critical of the excesses in the Vineyard at the time as well) in “Charismatic Chaos” as well as the seemingly endless stream of exaggerated, unkind, unmerciful, and ungracious articles and sermons he has preached against Pentecostalism over the years neither his book or his conference came as any surprise – it was just par for the course only with a new club.

Particularly troubling was his comment in “Strange Fire Panel Question and Answer, Session 1” that, “I believe that we are not dividing the body of Christ in this conference.  We are trying to identify the body of Christ and show that these people aren’t part of it“. With that statement (which garnered applause from the audience) Mr. MacArthur has just thrown a half a billion Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians under the bus as not belonging to the body of Christ.

This isn’t theory or hyperbole, the fruit of the “license to kill” and relentless unkind, vitriol that he has  on Pentecostals and Charismatics can readily be seen in the mean spirited memes and posts that fill the Reformed groups on social media. Clearly John MacArthur and the Strange Fire camp has unleashed something is hard to describe as “Christian”. This is unfortunately and, frankly, I would expect more of someone of Mr. MacArthur’s maturity, stature, and position within the body of Christ. However, given the prejudiced model of bigoted bullying that MacArthur has modeled in Strange Fire and his two prior works on the Charismatic Movement (1978’s “The Charismatics” and 1993’s “Charismatic Chaos”) it’s no wonder less mature Christians feel the freedom to do the same.

But with that said is this response to all this bludgeoning perfect? No. However, given the ungracious, unkind, and unfair nature of the Strange Fire onslaught it needed to be written and, as other reviewers have noted, it does a fine job of addressing, as one pastor put it so well, “the strange theology of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”. But more than that it stands up to a bully – and that’s never a bad thing.

A few final thoughts:

First, please read John MacArthur’s book and consider the Strange Fire conference addresses (which can easily be found on the internet). Please don’t take my, Michael Brown, or anyone else’s word for what they’ve said and the way they’ve said it. Frankly, I think that it speaks for itself. Suffice to say, in my opinion, the strong criticism that these materials have received from both the cessationist and continuationist camps is well deserved! MacArthur has since tried to reposition it all as “the start of a conversation”, however, the tone, content, and rhetorical style is clearly something else.

Second, some of the best material in this book (Authentic Fire) is in the appendices. Don’t skip them. In fact, I recommend that you first read through them starting with, “Why NT Prophecy Does NOT Result in ‘Scripture-quality’ Revelatory Words (A Response to the Most Frequently Cited Cessationist Argument against the Contemporary Validity of Spiritual Gifts)” by Sam Storms. This is Appendix B. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with Craig S. Keener’s Appendix A (“The Ongoing Evidence of Miracles, with Thoughts on African Charismatic Christianity”) due to its over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. In fact, in my opinion, you could just skip it without missing too much. However, I should probably add that Keener’s review of Strange Fire (which be read by clicking here) is superb and brings much to the conversation – it more than compensates for any deficiency in his contribution to Authentic Fire.

Third, The Pneuma Review published a superb panel discussion of Charismatic leaders and thinkers back in October 2013 in the fall out of the Strange Fire Conference (circa October 16-18, 2013) as web portal page. Everyone from Tim Challies to Adrian Warnock is present. There are hours of reading and it’s well worth your time. Click here.

Finally, in addition to this book I highly recommend that the reader works through Don Horban’s superb teaching series, “The Strange Theology of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire” which can be found by clicking here. Pastor Horban addresses many issues and points that were missed in this book. It is an excellent supplement to the Authentic Fire book and a masterful response to the Strange Fire camp.

(versions of this review have also been previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

BACK TO TOP

by Dave and Iola Brubeck
To say that this is my favorite Dave Brubeck tune is an understatement. I hope that you dig it as much as I do. Merry Christmas! — Fred W. Anson

 The swingin’ instrumental version by The New Brubeck Quartet.

God’s love made visible!
Incomprehensible!
Christ is invincible!
His love shall reign!

From love so bountiful,
blessings uncountable
make death surmountable!
His love shall reign!

Joyfully pray for peace and good will!
All of our yearning he will fulfill.
Live in a loving way!
Praise him for every day!
Open your hearts and pray.
His love shall reign!

God gave the Son to us
to dwell as one of us –
a blessing unto us!
His love shall reign!

To him all honor bring,
heaven and earth will sing,
praising our Lord and King!
His love shall reign!

Open all doors this day of his birth,
all of good will inherit the earth.
His star will always be guiding humanity
throughout eternity!
His love shall reign!

 The traditional vocal version by New York Voices.

Appendix I: A tribute to Presbyterian-friendly Dave Brubeck
by John M. Buchanan, December 14, 2012
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died Dec. 5, the day before his 92nd birthday. His impact on the world of music in general and jazz in particular was profound, marked by the front-page announcement of his death in newspapers all over the world. Along with millions of others, I was a Dave Brubeck fan, a life-long lover of his music since I first heard it in the late ‘50s, and, I am honored to say, a friend.

Brubeck changed jazz by his “cool” sound produced in collaboration with alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond playing counterpoint to Brubeck’s piano, by his innovative use of unusual rhythms, and by capturing the imagination of a whole generation of college students in the ’50s and ’60s. In the process his 33rpm record, “Time Out,” became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies.

Following a State Department tour to India and the Middle East, Brubeck began to experiment with unusual rhythmic structures in his jazz composition and playing. His signature piece, “Take Five,” perhaps the most popular jazz single ever, broke out of the standard jazz genre and employed an innovative 5\4, a five beat measure instead of the standard 4. Later, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” was written in a surprising and engaging 9/8. Brubeck once suggested that children sing naturally in 5/4 rhythm and wrote one of his liveliest Christmas pieces, “God’s Love Made Visible,” in that time.

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Brubeck’s musical and personal life gradually found religious expression. His father, a California cattle rancher, was an avowed atheist. His mother was a Christian Scientist who directed the choir in a local Presbyterian Church, so Brubeck’s earliest religious exposure was to Presbyterianism. His first professional job was playing the organ at a local Reformatory Chapel at the age of fourteen. He remembered favorite hymns sung by the inmates at Sunday services, “Just as I Am” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

In the middle of his critically acclaimed career as a jazz musician and composer, religious themes and motifs began to appear in Brubeck’s music. While composing a complete Mass, “To Hope,” he was so struck by the beauty and power of the liturgy that he joined the Roman Catholic Church and for the rest of his life was a regular worshipper in his home parish church, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, Connecticut. His funeral was celebrated in that church Dec. 12 and included some of Brubeck’s sacred music compositions including, “The Desert and the Parched Land,” “Psalm 23” and the Gloria from “To Hope.”

I first met Dave Brubeck when the church I was serving, The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, invited him to play during the annual Festival of the Arts. Brubeck agreed and he and his quartet played a magnificent concert of favorite jazz and sacred music with the Morning Choir singing the choral numbers with the quartet.

He returned to play at the church several times and during one of those early visits Brubeck had a minor heart incident and was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for observation on the very day of the concert. It was my duty that evening to greet a sanctuary full of people who had purchased tickets to hear Dave Brubeck and announce that the Brubeck Quartet was a trio for that performance, without Brubeck himself. There was a little grumbling but the trio presented a great concert of Brubeck music.

I asked Brubeck’s manager and conductor, Russell Gloyd, who later married a Fourth Church Choir member and became a faithful church member himself, if a visit in to Brubeck in the hospital would be appropriate. Russell assured me that a pastoral call would not only be appropriate but that Brubeck, a believer and a man of faith, would be grateful.

So, with some fear and trepidation and a bit of awe at the great jazz artist himself, I visited him in Intensive Care. He was gracious, seemingly grateful for the visit as Russell predicted, and we talked about music and faith, and when I asked him if I could pray he immediately agreed. We prayed, and thereafter he began to call me his pastor.

Every time he played in Chicago, we were invited to attend the concert as his guests and to visit back stage afterward. Without fail he would greet me with a lively, “It’s my pastor!” He telephoned once to discuss appropriate scripture passages for future compositions and one of our dearest memories is of a lunch Sue and I shared with Brubeck and his wife, Iola. In addition to being the mother of their six children, Iola was a trusted business consultant and the author of many of the lyrics to his sacred music. We talked, of course, about our six children and theirs and the joys and challenges of parenting, and we talked about music, church and faith.

At the end of my term as Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I inquired of Russell Gloyd and Brubeck about the possibility that the Brubeck Quartet might play for the 209th General Assembly (1997) meeting in Syracuse. To my absolute delight, they accepted the invitation and played a wonderful evening program for the General Assembly commissioners and guests. With a local choral group Brubeck presented several sacred works, “All My Hope” from the Mass, To Hope; “God’s Love Made Visible” from Fiesta de la Posada; and a powerful “The Peace of Jerusalem” from The Gates of Justice. It was a memorable evening for which I, and all those privileged to be present, will be forever grateful.

In every age religion and the arts have been partners and collaborators in the great vocation of expressing human wonder and awe at the mystery of human existence, and giving voice to adoration, praise, and gratitude to God: from the ancient poets who wrote:

Sing to the Lord, bless his name…
Let the earth rejoice,
Let the sea roar…
Let the fields exult…
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,

to J.S. Bach, whose “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” occasionally emerged in the middle of a Brubeck improvisation, to Dave Brubeck himself, who is now part of the music department, instrumental division, in the great company of heaven.

The Rev. John Buchanan is editor and publisher of “The Christian Century.” He is former pastor of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and served as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 208th General Assembly (1996).

(this article was originally published on the Presbyterian News Service)

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Appendix II: Iola Brubeck, a Christmas Woman
by Leslie Clay, December 16, 2014
Iola Brubeck, wife of famed jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, was featured in Sisters in Song. Since its publication, she died of cancer in March, 2014. My book didn’t give justice to the great contributions she made to Christian music using the jazz genre. Let’s give her another try.

Iola Whitlock was born in 1923 in Corning, California where her father was a forest ranger. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school, she enrolled at what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton studying drama and radio production. It was there that she met Dave Brubeck and they married in 1942. While he was shipped out to the European Theater in WWII, she honed her management skills and knowledge of jazz by working in radio. Their 70 year marriage was fruitful both personally and musically. Though they started out dirt poor, literally living for a while in a tin shack with a dirt floor and washing in a nearby stream, she propelled Dave’s career. In 1950, she developed one of the country’s first courses in jazz appreciation at the University of California at Berkeley. Iola lectured while Dave, who was shy, played the piano. This brought them $15 a week and started Iola’s role as lyricist. She suggested that his newly formed quartet do concerts at college campuses. She wrote to every college on the West Coast. Her work as manager, booker and publicist launched Dave’s career. She also was Dave’s chief librettist and lyricist. By the mid 1950s, they were doing well. As champions of racial justice they refused to play at colleges where black musicians were treated differently. In 1958, the State Department sent them on a people to people cultural exchange tour of Eastern Europe, the first time jazz musicians were used as emissaries of the U.S. behind the Iron Curtain. Four years later, Dave and Iola co-wrote a musical, The Real Ambassadors starring Louis Armstrong, a reaction to racial segregation in the U.S. It premiered in 1962 at the Monterrey Jazz Festival to critical acclaim, but it never reached Broadway.

As time went on, she collaborated with Dave on several oratorios and cantatas, including La Fiesta de la Posada (Festival of the Inn) in 1975. Included within this Christmas Choral Pageant is “God’s Love Made Visible.” In a PBS interview, Dave said, “My wife was driving, and I said, ‘I’ve finished this (La Posada).’ And she said, ‘No, you haven’t finished it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what did I leave out?’ And she said, ‘God’s love made visible. He is invincible.’” Her lyrics resonate well with me, from the very title of the piece to the emphasized phrase, “His love shall reign.” Though it could be sung any day of the year, it is still a Christmas song for a Christmas pageant, as it declares, “Open all doors this day of his birth.”

Leslie Clay a musician and the author of the book “Sisters in Song: Women Hymn Writers”

(originally published on the “Sisters in Song” website)

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lP1aw
“You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.”
— 2 Corinthians 11:4 (NLT) 

by Fred W. Anson
It’s the Christmas season. And like most Christmas seasons Mormon Critics will no doubt set online boards aflame with the accusation that Mormons preach and worship another Jesus. Unfortunately, since the allegation is so often made without any supporting evidence it all too often leaves Latter-day Saint scratching their head in wonder. After all, what other Jesus is there than the one that they’ve been taught and know? Thankfully, some Mormon Leaders have had the integrity to speak the truth:

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say”
— Gordon Hinckley, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p.90

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshiped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
— Bernard P. Brockbank, “The Living Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26

That said, here’s a topical reference that will, hopefully, facilitate discussion between the two sides, give Mormon Critics a place to send their Mormon friends for evidence to support this oft used claim, and help Latter-day Saints understand why the Mormon Jesus isn’t the Jesus preached in the Bible. 

Mormon Jesus:  Is God’s first spirit child – that is, Jesus Christ has not always been God.
Where you’ll find it
Jesus Christ is the firstborn spirit son of God.”

(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.”
(Gospel Principles [1986 edition], p.9, Official LdS Church manual) 

“Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon President), Gospel Doctrine, p.70; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, 9-10)

“As far as man is concerned, all things center in Christ. He is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state. As such he became, under the Father, the Creator of this earth and of worlds without number; and he was then chosen to work out the infinite and eternal atonement, to come to this particular earth as the literal Son of the Father, and to put the whole plan of redemption, salvation, and exaltation in operation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), Mormon Doctrine, p.129; also cited in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of humankind. That He is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any or all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.

Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.”
(“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”, Improvement Era, August 1916; condensed edition reprinted in Ensign, April 2002)

“The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God”
(Joseph F. Smith, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith”, p. 335)

Biblical Jesus: Has always been God and always will be – that is, He had no beginning and has no end.
Where you’ll find it
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(John 1:1, KJV)

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:8, KJV)

Jesus Tempted In the Desert

Jesus tempted in the desert. According to current Mormon Doctrine these two are brothers. “The Temptation of Christ” by Ary Scheffer (c.1854)

Mormon Jesus: As God’s first spirit child, the Mormon Jesus is the “older brother” with all of God’s other spirit children – which includes you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“In the grand council called to ratify the Father’s plan, a great difference arose. The majority, led by the First Born of the Father, our Elder Brother, Jesus the Christ, was ready to accept the plan with all its conditions. The minority, led by Lucifer, a ‘son of the morning,’ feared the isolation and the pains and ills of earth. For them Lucifer proposed that they should be sent to earth, but that provisions should be made by which they would suffer no pain and would not have to make any sacrifices. All of them would be returned with earthly bodies irrespective of their works on earth. This latter plan seemed desirable that one-third of those present favored it, in direct opposition of God’s plan. Lucifer and his followers were thrown out of the council, and as opponents of God’s plan, became the devil and his angels, who strive ever to tempt men to disobey the laws of God.”

(John A. Widtsoe (Mormon Apostle), “Joseph Smith – Seeker After Truth”, pp.156-157

“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? [see Matthew 4:1–11.] He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept – but I’ll listen.’”
(“Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327”, chapter entitled, “Moses 1:12 – 23 – Satan Commanded Moses to Worship Him”, Official LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual; also see “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”, p.163;  and “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball”, pp.107-108, Official LdS Church manual)

“Our Father said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, ‘Here am I, send me’…”
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 edition], NOTE: this passage is missing from the current – that is, 2009 – edition, Official LdS Church manual)

“Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, ‘Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor’ (Moses 4:1).” [1997 and 2009 editions]
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 and 2009 editions], Official LdS Church manual)

“After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first.’ (Abraham 3:27).”
(“Gospel Principles” p.15 [2009 edition], Official LdS Church manual)

“The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind.”
(Milton R. Hunter (Mormon Seventy), “The Gospel Through the Ages”, p.15

“According to our teachings, Satan and an army of supporters were cast down to earth from the premortal spirit world. They are spirit brothers of ours, and are real persons having spirit bodies.”
(Joseph F. Merrill (Mormon Apostle), “Conference Report”, April 1941, p.49)

Biblical Jesus:  Is the creator of all –  including you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
(
John 1:3, KJV)

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
(Colossians 1:16-17, KJV

Mormon Jesus: Is the literal Son of God begotten by an immortal Father – this doctrine compromises the virgin birth.
Where you’ll find it

“Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God in the flesh.”
(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the ‘Son of the Highest.’”
(James E. Talmage (Mormon Apostle), Jesus the Christ, p.81; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“We believe absolutely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of God, the first-born in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh; that He is the Son of God just as much as you and I are the sons of our fathers”
(Heber J. Grant (Mormon Prophet), “Analysis of the Articles of Faith,” Millennial Star, January 5, 1922, p.2; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“Christ Not Begotten of Holy Ghost… Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!”
(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon Prophet), Doctrines of Salvation”, 1:18)

“I am bold to say to you… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost”
(Ezra Taft Benson (Mormon Prophet), “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p. 7; “Come unto Christ”, p. 4; “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ”, Ensign, Dec. 2001, p.8)

1972-family-home-evening

An official LDS Church manual (Family Home Evening Manual, 1972) carried the above illustration showing the figure of a man, woman, and child on page 126. LDS parents are told they should use this to explain to their children “how Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.” Daddy plus Mommy equals you; Heavenly Father plus Mary equals Jesus.

“You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The Christian denominations believe that Christ was begotten not of God but of the spirit that overshadowed his mother. This is nonsense. Why will not the world receive the truth? Why will they not believe the Father when he says that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son? Why will they try to explain this truth away and make mystery of it? …

“Now, little boys and girls, when you are confronted by infidels in the world who know nothing of how Christ was begotten, you can say he was born just as the infidel was begotten and born, so was Christ begotten by his Father, who is also our Father—the Father of our spirits—and he was born of his mother Mary.

“The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: Our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death; but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven. Therefore Jesus, as he declared, received the power of life from his Father and was never subject unto death but had life in himself as his father had life in himself. Because of this power he overcame death and the grave and became master of the resurrection and the means of salvation to us all.

“Shall we as Latter-day Saints deny the truth and then claim that God made man in his likeness in the beginning? Shall we come under the impression that God possesses the power of creation, and yet did not literally create? He is not without his companion any more than I am without my companion, the mother of my children…

“Now, by and by you will be able to understand this far better than you can today. Some of us grandparents find it difficult to conceive the truth we want to think of something marvelous. We want to try to make it appear that God does not do things in the right way, or that he has another way of doing things than what we know, we must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His son Jesus Christ, and He was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father…

“Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ.

“Mary was married to Joseph for time. No man could take her for eternity because she belonged to the Father of her divine Son. In the revelation that has come thru Joseph Smith, we learn that it is the eternal purpose of God that man and woman should be joined together by the power of God here on earth for time and eternity.”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon Prophet) at the Box Elder Stake conference of December 20, 1914, as recorded in the Box Elder News”, January 28, 1915; Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia”, p. 398; Messages of the First Presidency” 4:330)

Biblical Jesus: Was born of a virgin via a miraculous conception. Thus God the Son was incarnated, born, and lived as a human being through that miracle without compromising Mary’s virginity in any way.
Where you’ll find it
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost…

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
(Matthew 1:18,22-23, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is one of three Gods ruling the universe (among other Gods that also exist)
Where you’ll find it
“The Church’s first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” These three beings make up the Godhead. They preside over this world and all other creations of our Father in Heaven… But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”

(Gospel Topics article on “Godhead”, Official LdS Church website) 

“Latter-day Saints believe in God the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (A of F 1). These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other (AF, chap. 2).”
(The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Godhead” article, p.552)

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural: and who can contradict it!”
(“Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.372; also see History of the Church”, Vol. 6, p. 473) 

Trinity Triangle_edited

The Trinity Triangle: “We believe in the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This window uses the Latin Pater, Filius, and Spiritus Sanctus to name the persons in the Trinity. One God and Three Persons is a great mystery of the Church. The window explains that the Persons are not each other, but each is God (Deus).”

Biblical Jesus: Is, and always has been, God eternal.
In Biblical Theology God is one, and only one, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being that consists of three co-omnipresent, co-omniscient, co-omnipresent persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a form of theological short hand, the term “the Trinity” is used to describe His nature. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. While it would require it’s own article to adequately document the biblical case for the doctrine of the Trinity, here are some key proof texts and expository points for it as a kind of appetizer. If you would like the full meal I recommend “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Rob Bowman. 

Where you’ll find it
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

(Genesis 1:26, KJV

– Angels do not create.
– We are not made in the image of angels.
– There is no place in the Old Testament where a leader refers to himself with the term “us.”

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.
(Deuteronomy 6:4, KJV

– In Hebrew: “shmo ishral ieue alei·nu ieue achd”. And the last Hebrew word “achd” means “united one”.

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
(Psalm 45:6-7, KJV

– This is quoted in Heb. 1:8, “But unto the Son he [God] saith, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
(Isaiah 6:8, KJV

– Notice the juxtaposition of “Whom shall I send” and “who will go for us?” 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
(Matthew 28:19, KJV)

– Note that there is one name and three persons.

Jesus-Baptism-Cropped

Apparently John the Baptist was a Freemason (notice the “arm to the square”) and Jesus a modern Mormon (notice the modern baptism grip).

Mormon Jesus: Earned his own salvation.
Where you’ll find it

“Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fulness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fulness”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.68. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p.153)

“God the Eternal Father, the Father of the Firstborn and of all the spirit hosts, as an exalted and glorified Being, having all power and dominion, possessing all knowledge and all truth, personifying and being the embodiment of all godly attributes, did, of his own will, ordain and establish the plan of salvation whereby Christ and all his other spirit children might have power to advance and progress and become like him.

(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings. (Eborn Books Mormon Classics Series, Volume 6)”, p.354)

“These laws [of salvation], instituted by the father, constitute the gospel of God, which gospel is the plan by which all of his spirit children, Christ included, may gain eternal life.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 2:215) 

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God… He came to earth to work out his own salvation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 3:238) 

Biblical Jesus: As God, Christ required no salvation.
Where you’ll find it
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”
(
1 John 3:5, KJV)

“For we have not an high priest [that is, Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
(
Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV

Mormon Jesus:  Christ came to condemn and exact judgment.
Mormon Jesus: Returned to the earth to preach to the Book of Mormon people and start a separate church for them in America.
Where you’ll find it
In the Book of Mormon Jesus descends from the clouds exacting judgment on the cities that he’s condemned due to their unbelief and sin. He then delivers a sermon (comprised mainly of plagiarized text from Isaiah and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount narrative) that establishes his church on the American continent before ascending to heaven again in anticipation of establishing his eternal kingdom on earth at the end of the age. 

3 Nephi 9:1-22, Book of Mormon
And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying:

Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!

Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.

And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned.

And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

(credit: LDS Church)

Christ appears to the Nephites.

And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.

And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.

And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.

And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.

O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.

Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.”

I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.

And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.

thesecondcoming_2560x1600

The Mormon view of the second coming. This is separate and distinct from him coming to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.

I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”

Biblical Jesus: Came to save, not condemn the world.
Where you’ll find it
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
(John 3:16-17, KJV)

Biblical Jesus: The physical return of Christ is still to come, there have been no physical returns since His ascension.
Where you’ll find it
“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11, KJV

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
(Revelation 1:7, KJV

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
(Hebrews 9:28, KJV)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
(Matthew 25:31-32, KJV

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, KJV

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
(Matthew 16:27, KJV

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew 24:30, KJV

he-atoned-eng-large

The Latter-day Saint version of the atonement

Mormon Jesus: Accomplished the Atonement primarily in the garden of Gethsemane.
Where you’ll find it
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 19:17-19

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body,hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.”
(Mosiah 3:7-8)

“Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” 1:774)

“Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world”
(M. Russell Ballard (Mormon Apostle), “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul”, Ensign, May 2004, p.85)

“As terrible as Christ’s suffering on the cross was, perhaps it was not as great as His suffering in Gethsemane. When he sweat drops of blood as He bore the weight of all the sins of mankind, the great agony of the Atonement took place”
(Joseph C. Winther, “Because of His Love”, Ensign, April 2002, p.19)

El-Greco-Christ-on-the-cross-2

The biblical version of the atonement. “Christ on the Cross” by El Greco (c.1577 – 1579)

Biblical Jesus: Procured our atonement or redemption specifically by his death on the cross.
Where you’ll find it
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28, KJV)

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”
(Romans 5:6-10, KJV)

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV)

“For I determined not to know any thing among you,save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2, KJV)

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4, KJV)

“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
(Ephesians 2:16, KJV)

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
(Colossians 1:20, KJV)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is never supposed to be directly prayed to.
Where you’ll find it
There need not be any confusion in our minds regarding these important things. It is important that we should know something about the Being whom we worship—the Father, for it is the Father whom we worship. We do not pray to the Son nor to the Holy Ghost; we pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost.”
(Charles W. Penrose (Mormon Apostle), General Conference, April 1915)

“The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to pray and covenants that answers will be forthcoming. “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name,” He declares (3 Ne. 18:19). “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Ne. 18:21).”
(L. Edward Brown (Mormon Seventy) , “Pray unto the Father in My Name”, General Conference, April 1997)

Bloch Christ the Consoler

“Christ the Consoler” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (19th Century)

Biblical Jesus: Receives both worship and prayers.
Where you’ll find it
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”
(Romans 10:12-13, KJV)

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”
(John 14:14, ESV)

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
(1 John 5:13-15, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is only one of many Saviors.
Where you’ll find it
“We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring”

(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon President), “Doctrines of Salvation” 1:62)

“Sin is upon every earth that ever was created … Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter”
(Brigham Young (Mormon President), “Journal of Discourses Volume 14”, p.71)

Biblical Jesus: Is the one and only Savior.
Where you’ll find it
 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

(John 14:6, KJV)

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 2:5, KJV)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12, KJV)

The First Vision

Stained glass depiction of the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Museum of Church History and Art)

Mormon Jesus: Appeared to Joseph Smith, condemned all existing churches, and restored the only true church in what is known as “The First Vision”.
Where you’ll find it
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

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

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

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.”
(Joseph Smith – History 1:17-20, The Pearl of Great Price

Biblical Jesus: Stated that He alone was true and that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.
Ignoring the fact that not only is there no evidence that the First Vision ever happened; an abundance of evidence that it was contrived embellished by Joseph Smith over time (see “A Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision”); and the fact that it contradicts the Book of Mormon and the Bible in regard to the nature of God (see “Joseph’s doctrine of the Godhead changed”), it also contradicts the Bible in the following ways:

  1. Christ said that He is true. He never claimed in the Bible that His Church was. He further claimed that the way to the Father was by Him not His Church.
    “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
    (John 14:6, KJV
  2. Christ said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church:
    “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
    (Matthew 16:18, KJV)
    This contradicts Christ’s words in the First Vision that, “they were all wrong”.
  3. Finally, the Book of Revelation shows Christ working to reform not replace errant churches (see Revelation 2:1-3:22, KJV). 
JST_EDITED

Room in Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Mormon Jesus: Some of Jesus’ statements and acts in scripture must be revised according to Joseph Smith’s revelations.
Mormonism accepts the Gospels and their reports of Jesus’ sayings and miracles. However, Joseph Smith felt that the Bible had been corrupted and that its text was unreliable, so he produced his own version of the Bible (called the Joseph Smith Translation or “JST”). Most of his changes were additions to the text, but in some cases Joseph deleted words and even rewrote Jesus’ sayings and acts to fit his own theology. This was done despite any source, original language manuscript support to justify them. Here are some examples:

“God is spirit” (John 4:24, KJV)
“For unto such hath God promised his spirit” (John 4:26, JST)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52, KJV)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures” (Luke 11:52, JST)

“for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, KJV)
“for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 5:8, JST) 

“Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:15, JST) 

“Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the light of the world” (Matthew 5:16, JST) 

“When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed” (Matthew 8:10, KJV) 
“And when they that followed him, heard this, they marvelled” (Matthew 8:9, JST) 

“be ye therefore wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16, KJV) 
“be ye therefore wise servants” (Matthew 10:14, JST) 

mormon-bible-book

“Scriptures” by Grant Heaton

“and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched” (Matthew 13:5–6, KJV)

“and forthwith they sprung up; and when the sun was up, they were scorched, because they had no deepness of earth” (Matthew 13:5, JST) 

“the which when a man hath found, he hideth” (Matthew 13:44, KJV) 
“And when a man hath found a treasure which is hid, he secureth it” (Matthew 13:46, JST) 

“teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9, KJV)
“teaching the doctrines and the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8, JST) 

“as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, KJV)
 “as touching any thing that they shall ask, that they may not ask amiss, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, JST) 

“Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matthew 25:12, KJV)
“Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not.” (Matthew 25:11, JST) 

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, . . . but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29, KJV) 

“For unto every one who hath obtained other talents, shall be given. . . . But from him that hath not obtained other talents, shall be taken away even that which he hath received.” (Matthew 25:29–30, JST) 

“and were all baptized of him” (Mark 1:5, KJV) 
“and many were baptized of him” (Mark 1:4, JST) 

“except they wash, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, KJV) 
“except they wash their bodies, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, JST) 

“There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mark 8:12, KJV) 
“There shall no sign be given unto this generation, save the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Mark 8:12, JST) 

“And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.” (Mark 8:29, JST) 
“And Peter answered and said unto him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mark 8:31, JST) 

bible-book-of-mormon-39683-gallery

“The Bible and the Book of Mormon Testify of Christ” by Greg K. Olsen

“for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not” (Luke 8:18, KJV)

“for whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given; and whosoever receiveth not” (Luke 8:18, JST) 

“passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:32, KJV)

“passed by on the other side of the way; for they desired in their hearts that it might not be known that they had seen him.” (Luke 10:33, JST) 

“we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, KJV)
“We have done that which was no more than our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, JST) 

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17, KJV) 
“And ye shall be hated of all the world for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16, JST) 

“that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31, KJV) 
“that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat.” (Luke 22:31, JST) 

“and no man receiveth his testimony.” (John 3:32, KJV) 
“and but few men receive his testimony.” (John 3:32, JST) 

“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (John 5:31, KJV) 
“Therefore if I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true.” (John 5:32, JST) 

“which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27, KJV) 
“which the Son of Man hath power to give unto you” (John 6:27, JST) 

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11, KJV)
“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name.” (John 8:11, KJV) 

“ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again?” (John 9:27, KJV) 
“ye did not believe: wherefore would you believe if I should tell you again?” (John 9:27, JST) 

Biblical Jesus: Upheld and affirmed God’s revelation of Himself in scripture as divinely inspired, reliable, and authoritative.
The Bible is clear that claiming inspiration from God and speaking in His voice when God has not authorized it or given you the words to speak makes you are a False Prophet. The Bible gives several tests for a False Prophet that involve testing the content of claimed prophetic utterances against God’s existing revelation of Himself. If there’s a contradiction, then the person speaking isn’t speaking God’s words, or with God’s authority – their source is something other than God. While this principle can be found throughout the Bible, here are some key passages:

“Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar”
(Proverbs 30:6, KJV)

“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, KJV) 

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

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

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, KJV) 

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2, KJV) 

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this Book” (Revelation 22:18-19, KJV)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)

“The entirety of Your word is truth.” (Psalms 119:160, KJV)

“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5-6, KJV)

Jesus-1

Credits and bibliography:
Mormonism Research Ministry,
“Temple Square Visitor’s Guide”, p.4
Bill McKeever and Aaron Shafovaloff, Redefining the Virgin Birth: Mormonism on the Natural Conception of Jesus”
Grant Palmer, The Ancient Paths – 2nd Interview with Grant Palmer, Former LDS Institute Director”
Rob Bowman, “The Mormon View of Jesus Christ”
Matt Slick, “Verses showing the plurality of God in the Old and New Testaments”
Michael Davis, “References: Mormon vs Biblical Teachings about Jesus
Thomas E. Sherry and W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Precious Truths Restored: Joseph Smith Translation Changes Not Included in Our Bible”

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