In my Bible reading I came to this text in James and realised there was such a clear application to the problems of dealing with the disingenuous answers routinely given by Mormons.
James is writing here about oaths and particularly the way we represent ourselves to others. When he writes “Do not swear” he doesn’t have in mind bad language but the making of oaths designed to guarantee the truth of what we are saying. We hear this sort of thing a lot in certain circles; “On my mother’s life!” someone might insist when something they have said is challenged, a particularly obnoxious oath inasmuch as it indicates that neither their word nor their mother’s life means much to them. This reaches its extreme noxiousness when it’s expressed as “On my baby’s life!” something I have overheard all-too-often.
In particular James means invoking the name of God for this purpose. We often hear this in the form of, “As God is my witness!” How often does the oath giver know the God whose name they invoke and if he was known to them would they so casually invoke his name?
Building on the Anabaptist tradition, some Christians take this verse as meaning that a Christian shouldn’t swear an oath of any kind even in a courtroom. Others believe that it is the indiscriminate and casual taking of oaths and of avoiding the more serious consequences of oath taking by invoking less sacred things that James has in mind (Mt.23:16-22). Jesus addressed this issue in his Sermon on the Mount:
“Again, you have heard that it was said, to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord’”
Clearly he is addressing the issue of people discriminating between oaths to the Lord and other, “lesser” oaths. However, Jesus went on to say:
“But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair black or white. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Mt.5:33-37)
The similarities with what James writes are clear and the lesson here is that, whichever view you take on oaths, whether they should be taken sparingly and seriously or not at all. A Christian’s word should be so consistent and dependable that we should need no oath to support it. In this way we are left with no excuse for making oaths or statements that avoid absolute truthfulness. Mormons present a very good example of this less than frank approach so roundly condemned in Scripture.
Mormon Lies that can blind us
In our conversations with Mormons we are bound to test what they believe about key issues and how they stand on things we might have heard about Mormonism. It pays to know that it is easy for a Mormon, on the pretext of giving you “milk before meat”, or simply because they don’t know their own faith very well, to be disingenuous in their answers. Here are a few typical “answers” on key subjects:
“We believe in the same God as you. ‘We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost’ (Mormon First Article of Faith)”
Although it has the appearance of a Trinitarian confession this does not come close to what Mormons believe about God. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, said:
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God…and that he was once a man like us…and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves…the same as all Gods before you." (King Follett Discourse)
“Of course we trust and believe in the Bible” This, again, is a disingenuous answer. The Eighth Article of faith of Mormonism declares:
"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God"
The Bible is the only book of Scripture in Mormonism that is regarded as unreliable and its content is only respected so far as it appears to confirm the Mormon message. The message of Mormonism, such as their teaching on the nature of God, is brought to the Bible and if the Bible does not agree then it is the Bible that is considered wanting. While the Book of Mormon is considered the book of the restoration the Bible is regarded as the book of the apostasy.
“We are Christians and respect other Christian denominations. We would never attack other churches as some attack us.” The Book of Mormon however declares:
"Behold, there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth" (1 Nephi 14:10)
There doesn’t appear to be any room for “other denominations” here and it might be worthwhile asking a Mormon which church they think you belong to. Certainly, anyone who has studied Mormonism knows that it is founded on harsh and uncompromising attacks on other churches. In his official history Joseph Smith uncompromisingly declared that God said of other churches:
“All their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘the draw near 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.’” (Joseph Smith History, 1:19)
It seems Mormonism “doesn’t play well with others” despite their protestations to the contrary.
“Of course Mormons aren’t polygamists. We renounced polygamy in the nineteenth century and those who practice it today have nothing to do with us.”
Two things worthy of note:
1. Polygamy is still an integral part of Mormon Scripture. Mormons might argue that the practice of circumcision is part of Christian Scripture but is no longer practised. This is comparing apples and oranges because circumcision was a mark of the Old Covenant, which was superseded by baptism under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Polygamy, however, is taught as an eternal principle and regarded as the order of heaven. It is described as the “new and everlasting covenant”:
"And again, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation. Then shall they be gods." (D&C 132)
The reference to Mormons becoming gods by the “new and everlasting covenant” is instructive in light of what we have already seen of the teaching that men become gods. While the familiar Salt Lake City Mormons do not currently practise polygamy, it seems it will be reinstated, if not in this life then in glory.
It seems that the polygamist groups currently denounced and disowned by SLC Mormons are just keeping the practice warm for the day when all Mormons return to the principle. Meanwhile it is not uncommon for a SLC Mormon male to be “sealed” to more than one wife in the next life while practicing monogamy in this.
It does seem less than honest to deny liability when the very texts that teach polygamy still form an integral part of Mormon “Scripture”.
There is a curious irony in the fact that the familiar SLC Mormons have much in common with breakaway polygamist groups and yet they deny any family connections, instead trying at every turn to associate with the Evangelical Christian Church, with which Mormons have nothing in common.
Scripture makes clear that there is a base instinct that drives the unregenerate person. It is unreasoning, visceral and majors on preservation of self. It only values those things that serve its own purposes and speaks abusively against the truth it doesn’t understand. There is an urgent need for Christians to contend for the faith against such instincts and those who act on them. How often we have heard Christians declare that they had spoken to Mormons and discovered that they found so much common ground; but there is no common ground.
The fact is we cannot simply be decent and civilised, not make a fuss and take people on face value. If individuals do not consciously lie then cults do lie through them as they mimic their leaders, toe the party line, and convince perhaps even themselves to accept the lie as the truth. Don’t hold it against them because they don’t know what they are doing. But neither should we be naive, especially when there are eternal consequences attached to how people respond to these things.