Saturday, 27 February 2010

Mormon Lies Through the Eyes of James (James 5:12)

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:

God

“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)

The Bible

“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.

Other Churches

“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.

Polygamy

“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.

Conclusion


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.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Is the Book of Mormon “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”?

In the early 1980’s at the instigation of Gordon B. Hinckley, The Book of Mormon became The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Most people today, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, would be unaware that it was ever any other way. To Mormons at the time this marked a welcome clarification that their faith is centred on Jesus Christ. It also served to strengthen in the public mind the claim that Mormonism is restored Christianity.

‘Another Testament’ implies another of the same kind and conjures in people’s minds thoughts of the original “testaments” to which this ‘other’ testament clearly alludes. We have already seen that the Book of Mormon is described as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible”. It takes no great imagination, therefore, to make the connection thus, Old Testament, New Testament, Another Testament and of course this is exactly the train of thought the Mormon Church wants us to follow. But is the Book of Mormon another of the same kind?

Novum Testamentum

The word testament comes from the Latin testamentum. The Latin Bible comprises the Vetus Testamentum and the Novum Testamentum, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Greek for testament is diathéké and the Greek Bible comprises the hépalaia diathéké and the hé kainé diathéké. The Latin testamentum and the Greek diathéké in the biblical context both mean covenant, as in a solemn and binding agreement between two parties. The New Testament can then be called the collection of the books of the New Covenant. This is borne out in some key New Testament passages:

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant [testament, KJV] in my blood” (Luke 22:20, ESV)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor.3:6,NIV)

The new “covenant” is established in the pouring out of Jesus’ blood and those who minister the gospel are ministers of this new “covenant”. And in Galatians 4 we have a clear picture of the old covenant, which is “from Mount Sinai and bears children who are slaves”, and the new covenant whose children are “children of promise”. The Old Testament is the old covenant, which is of the law and which brings slavery and the New Testament is the new covenant which is of the Spirit and which brings freedom in Christ.

Another Covenant?

Given that we now have in The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ it seems appropriate to ask what the nature of this other covenant is.

Of course, any Mormon challenged with such a question would readily explain that they mean testimony, not covenant. The Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ. But can testament mean testimony? Yes it can and according to Webster’s third New International Dictionary one definition of testament is, “a tangible proof or tribute: EVIDENCE, WITNESS…an expression of conviction: AFFIRMATION, CREDO…”

But given this definition of testament can we say, as we are clearly meant to believe, that The Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, i.e. another of the same kind as the first two testaments? Having led us by that word “another” to think of the other testaments of our Christian experience, the Old and New Testaments, it seems reasonable to understand testament in the full biblical sense. In the Bible testament means covenant. The Old Testament is the old covenant whilst the New Testament is the new covenant “in my blood”. The Old Testament is not the Old Testimony and neither is the New Testament the New Testimony.

Credibility by Association

Again we have here an example of Mormon doublespeak. It is clear that the addition of “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon is designed to help people associate the Book of Mormon with the Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament. It is clear from the introduction to the Book of Mormon that this other testament is meant to be viewed as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible”. It is an attempt at achieving credibility by association. Yet the Mormon word testament means testimony while the biblical word testament means covenant. Once again, an attempt on the part of the Mormon Church to appear orthodox, when closely examined, shows anything but an orthodox, Bible-based religion.

In the June 2000 Ensign Gordon B Hinckley was quoted as saying of the Book of Mormon:

“Believe in the Book of Mormon as another witness of the Son of God. This book has come forth as an added testimony to the world of the great truths concerning the Master as set forth in the Bible. The Bible is the Testament of the Old World. The Book of Mormon is the Testament of the New World, and they go hand in hand in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ensign. June 2000, pp.18/19)

But this is an abuse of the language used to describe the Bible. In consulting Vine’s Expository Dictionary we found the following simple entry under the word Testament:

For TESTAMENT see COVENANT

Easton's Bible Dictionary helpfully clarifies the NT use of the word:

Testament: occurs twelve times in the New Testament (Heb. 9:15, etc.) as the rendering of the Gr. diatheke, which is twenty times rendered "covenant" in the Authorized Version, and always so in the Revised Version. The Vulgate translates incorrectly by testamentum, whence the names "Old" and "New Testament," by which we now designate the two sections into which the Bible is divided.

Nave's Topical Bible gave the following information:

TESTAMENT: A will: Heb 9:16-18

The new: Mt 26:28; Mr 14:24; Lu 22:20; 1Co 11:25

See COVENANT

Testament occurs in the following verses in the NT:

Mat 26:28; Mar 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1Cr 11:25; 2Cr 3:6; 2Cr 3:14; Heb 7:22;

Heb 9:15; Heb 9:16; Heb 9:17; Heb 9:18; Heb 9:20; Rev 11:19 .

We will look at four key verses:

Matt.26:28 and Luke 22:20 recount how the Lord, the night before he died, “took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new Covenant (testament) in my blood”.

1 Cor. 11:25 is Paul’s account of that same event, an account he claims he “received from the Lord” (v.23) in which he repeats the words, “This cup is the new covenant (testament) in my blood”.

2 Cor. 3:6 is Paul’s account of his ministry wherein he refers to himself and his companions as “competent as ministers of a new covenant (testament)…”

In each instance the Greek word used is diatheke which commentators already quoted translate covenant. Interestingly, there is an instance in Revelation where Jesus himself uses the word testimony in its true meaning (Rev:22:16). The Greek word used here is martureo which means to testify. The Old Testament, therefore, is the Old diatheke, the New Testament the New diatheke. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand is no diatheke but a martureo, and cannot, then be another Testament. Furthermore, whatever it testifies to it is not complimentary to the Bible but clearly contradicts it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Mormon “Gordian Knot”

Is the Book of Mormon true? Who knows! Were there such people as Nephites and Lamanites? It’s anybody’s guess! Did Israelites migrate to the Americas from Jerusalem? It is a vexed question. At least a growing number of Mormons seem to think so. A conference talk by apostle Jeffrey Holland has provoked a storm of speculation about the official attitude to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

“When Elder Holland delivered his stinging rebuke to Book of Mormon critics in his General Conference address last Sunday, reactions ranged from woots” and “double woots” by literalist believers of the Book of Mormon, to disappointment by those who felt Elder Holland was backtracking on his prior statement that Church members who don’t believe the traditional story of its origins should not be considered “unacceptable . . . as a Latter-day Saint if [they] can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” However, after listening carefully to Elder Holland’s address again, I think both camps might be mistaken about what Elder Holland was intending to say, particularly with regard to the “Inspired Fiction” theory of the Book of Mormon.”

Inspired Fiction? Hmm. A thoughtful account of this theory can be found at Mormon Matters. In summary, some Mormons have so come to recognise the insuperable difficulties presented by the Book of Mormon that they have come up with an alternative explanation of its nature and purpose. Given the complete absence of archaeological evidence, the implausibility of its provenance and the growing evidence against Mormon claims for it that they have hit upon the idea that it is a sort of allegory; a work of fiction that conveys eternal truths.

The article at Mormon Matters gives a very good account of this idea and the speculation surrounding it but here is the problem. These days Mormons seem to be endlessly speculating about such things; might God have meant this, or that, or something else? But aren’t Mormons supposed to have prophets that make such speculation redundant? If the Book of Mormon is Inspired Fiction, more allegory than history, what does that tell us about Joseph Smith who taught that it was history?

The Mormon Church is founded on the scathing criticism of Christendom for indulging in such speculation. If speculation is the problem, they argue, then prophets are the answer; so what’s the problem? That some Mormons can feel comfortable in thinking that an apostle and prophet of the Mormon Church allows for their wild speculations should prove worrying. But today’s Mormon Church seems increasingly broad and tolerant of dissent. Bruce R McConkie would turn in his grave.

Did Elder Holland Denounce or Carefully Avoid the “Inspired Fiction” Theory? at Mormon Matters

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sensational Dispensationalism

Last time we began to look at Mormonism and Judgement. Having seen what the Bible has to say on judgement and compared it with Mormonism we now look at why Mormons take such a peculiar and unbiblical view of judgement. Mormons believe that God is an exalted man and that he became God by obeying his God. They also believe that men can become gods. In other words, to a Christian God is sublimely different, “other” than us, whose ways are as different to and higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8), different in quality.

To a Mormon God differs from us only in that he has grown so much further than we have, and is different only in quantity. In the same way, while Christians regard Christ as God the Son, this sublime and supreme creator-God come in the flesh, Mormons use similar phrases to describe an entirely different Jesus who is, again, different only in that he has “progressed” further than us. God is a man and Joseph is a man. The only difference between the two is that of magnitude and sphere of existence (note that word sphere. We are about to come across it again).

God’s Plan of Happiness

To a Mormon God has a “great plan of happiness” and Jesus has a role in that plan just as Joseph has a role in that plan. Mormonism isn’t about God but about the plan. Everyone is subservient to the plan, even God himself. For it is by keeping to the plan that God became God. The Mormon priesthood is executive power to administer and carry through the plan, and each dispensation, or ecclesiastical age of the world is administered by those holding this priesthood. Even God himself is subservient to the priesthood, for it is by the priesthood that he had “authority” to create the world.

Christ carried out his office by the power of the priesthood and could not be our Saviour without it. In this scheme - where God and his Christ are only greater than us in development, and priesthood and the plan are greater than all - it seems natural to say in one breath that Joseph is acting under the authority of Christ, and in the next to say that we must have Joseph’s permission to enter heaven. He is at the head of the dispensation in which we live and holds the executive power for it.

Justified by Joseph

Because Mormons understand the judgement by the saints to mean juridical jurisdiction they have no problem ascribing to Joseph the role of judge as they do. Look again at the quote from Brigham Young:

”If I can pass brother Joseph, I shall stand a good chance for passing Peter, Jesus, the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and all back to Father Adam, and be pretty sure of receiving his approbation.... If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here’; if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel.”

Keys, Passwords, Grips and Angels

There is a pyramidal structure here in which people must pass a series of dispensational key-holders to gain heaven. Joseph, Peter, Jesus, the prophets, Moses, Abraham, Adam. In the Mormon temple, prior to 1990, those attending learned a series of handgrips and passwords “to pass the angels who stand sentinel”. And, although God stands at the head of this structure he is by no means at the head of everything, for his God has progressed beyond him, as has his God in turn, and so on into infinity. No one that Mormons speak of is ever all in all, the prime mover, the uncreated creator of all things. They know no such being, and if they did he would be a man.

Brigham Young said,

If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here’; if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel.”

How can Joseph’s passport guarantee us entry? What of all the others mentioned in the list? The authority of every dispensation from Adam onwards is conferred upon Joseph Smith. This is what Joseph Fielding Smith had to say:

If all things are to be restored, and if the dispensation of the fulness of times is made up of, and is a uniting of, all dispensations, with their keys and powers, since the days of Adam, then those who held the keys of these various dispensations would have to confer them upon the head of one who stands at the head of the last dispensation, and the prophet Joseph Smith is that one. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol.3, p.97, emphasis in original)

men and gods

He then quotes Doctrine and Covenants 128:20-21which describes this happening. In this scheme the idea that men and gods are the same species gives a completely different view of things. It doesn’t seem so audacious for Mormons to make such incredible claims for Joseph. Indeed, they are not incredible at all if God is only a greater man than us, Christ is playing his, albeit greater role, and Joseph playing his, and all progressing to even greater glory. Again, read Brigham Young:

He (Joseph) holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation - the keys to rule in the spirit-world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. (That word “sphere” again).

Praise to the Man!

There is a hymn in the Mormon Church, sung to the tune of “Scotland the Brave”, in which Joseph is lauded for his achievements. I took the opportunity recently of asking two men for their thoughts on it. Both are Christians of long-standing, one an experienced chorister of many years, the other a pastor in a local Baptist Church, and neither knew much about Mormonism.

I interviewed them separately. Without comment or preamble, I simply handed them a copy of the Mormon Hymnbook. They leafed through the book, finding such familiar hymns as “Onward Christian Soldiers, The First Noel, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, Now Thank We All Our God”. I think they were impressed. Then I asked them to turn to hymn 27 where they found the following:

Praise to the Man who communed with Jehovah!

Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.

Blessed to open the last dispensation,

Kings shall extol him and nations revere.

Praise to his memory he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever-great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.

Ever and ever the keys he will hold.

Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,

Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;

Earth must atone for the blood of that man.

Wake up the world for conflict of justice.

Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.

Chorus:

Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven!

Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vein.

Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;

Death cannot conquer the hero again.

For both men silence ensued for what seemed an age. One was prompted to ask “Is this about Jesus?” The other, on coming across the fourth verse, expressed amazement that Mormons made so much of Joseph of Egypt. It just didn’t sink in until I told them who Joseph was. Nothing more, I simply said, “This is Joseph Smith.” Another silence followed. Then the comments came. Responding to the chorus, one said, “But there is only one who plans for us, that is Jesus.”

The same man drew a parallel between this element and the Catholic view of Mary as co-redemptrix. The pastor wanted to know where Jesus was in all this.

“They are worshipping Joseph”, he said.

I objected that all faiths have their heroes, Christians have their “Saints”, Peter, Augustine, etc. He didn’t see it that way.

“We don’t ‘praise’ them, we don’t ‘hail them’ like this”, he said.

“Whose blood are we talking about here?” one asked.

“Joseph’s”, I replied. The word “Blasphemy” came out.

“This is shocking”, said the pastor, “I knew they weren’t right about some things but I had no idea they were this wrong.”

I asked the chorister whether he, in his many years of singing hymns and worship songs, had come across anything like it in Christian hymnology. He spoke of hymns that praised God for certain men, prayed to God for people, even told, in song, stories from the Bible (the breadth of his knowledge impressed me), but nothing that praised, extolled, revered a man.

I think that Mormons, who are so inured to this way of thinking, have no idea how shocking it is to people who know only the orthodox, traditional Christianity. These men were “seasoned” and experienced Christians, not new to the faith, not ivory tower dwellers. They were stunned.

What Man is This?

If you were to ask a Christian who it was that fitted the main elements of this song,

  • Someone to be praised and honoured and whose name is “ever-great”;
  • Who is to be extolled and revered by kings and nations;
  • Whose blood pleads to heaven;
  • Whose priesthood is endless;
  • Who will enter into and be crowned in his kingdom;
  • Whose death must be answered for by the world;
  • Who has ascended to heaven;
  • Whom death cannot conquer;
  • And who plans for his brethren

What name do you think they would come up with?

 

Previously: Mormonism and Judgement

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Mormonism and Judgement

Mormons argue that it is reasonable to expect Joseph Smith to have a role in the Judgement since several Bible texts refer to apostles, as well as the saints in general, judging. The references they use are Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 22:29-30; 1 Cor.6:1-3; Rev.20:4. From this “Biblical evidence” they argue their case for Joseph Smith having authority delegated to him to judge with Christ.

The Bible and Judgement

Let us first look at what the Bible has to say about “Judgement” in its various meanings. The first thing Scripture makes clear is that all will be judged by Christ.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it…And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (Rev.20:11-13)

Everyone appears before the throne on which Christ alone sits and issues judgement.

But Scripture does say that others will “judge”, apostles (Matt.19:27-28; Luke 22:29-30), as well as the saints (1 Cor.6:1-3). How are we to understand the role of believers in the judgement? If all the dead, great and small and including the saints, have already been judged how are the saints to judge? Who are they to judge and what form does this judgement take?

Judges or Rulers?

In reference to 1 Cor.6:2, the Oxford Bible Commentary explains:

The consistent understanding of “Judge the World” here is that it is a reference to ruling rather than handing down judgements. Clearly, only Christ will judge in a juridical fashion because all judgement has been given to him, and “the dead, great and small” will stand before him on that day. (Rev.20:11-15, c.f. 2 Cor.5:10)

It goes on to explain:

The Old Testament understanding of judge is “ruler”. Therefore in Daniel 7:22, “the saints of the most high…possessed the kingdom”, and in Rev.2:26-7, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – he will rule with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery just as I have received authority from my father.” (c.f. Psalm 2:9)

The role of saints and apostles, then, is that of rulers in Christ’s established kingdom, not judges alongside Christ on the Day of the Lord. Expanding on this theme, it explains that Paul underlines this inheritance in 1 Cor.3:1-3 as he portrays the Corinthian saints as underestimating their own importance.

If they remembered their destiny in judging the world, even angels, they would not consider themselves incompetent to judge the trivial matters which they now ask others to decide.

NB There is a juridical setting here in that legal disputes are in view. However, this is not a precedent for believing the saints will judge in the final judgement. It is also worth noting that Paul is likely talking about cases involving property (v.7), i.e. a situation is being judged and not a man. This is the very situation in which a judge in the context of ruler would adjudicate. They settle matters, keep order and mete out justice. The whole thrust of Scripture signifies they will “rule” after judgement. This is shown in Daniel 7:22&27 (see above).

Judges in Israel

In reference to Matt.19:28, the Oxford Bible Commentary says:

The crucial verse 28, which alludes to Daniel 7:9-27, refers not to a one-time judgement but lordship. The text is not about Israel’s condemnation at the consummation but the disciples’ exercise of authority in the future (c.f. 20:20-21 “When you come into your kingdom”.) As the twelve Phylarchs once directed the twelve tribes under Moses, and as Israel was once ruled by judges, so shall it be at the end.

In reference specifically to judges we see this working out in the Book of Judges 2:16-19, where the Lord raised up rulers, or judges, to lead the people. The explanation in the introduction to this book in the NIV Study Bible states, The title describes the leaders Israel had from the time of the elders who outlived Joshua until the time of the monarchy.

In Isaiah 1:21 in the KJV we read of Jerusalem:

How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgement; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.

In the NIV the word judgement is given as justice. The Amplified Bible gives, “she was full of justice! Uprightness and right standing with God [once] lodged in her.” The New Century Bible gives the verse as:

“The city of Jerusalem once followed the Lord. But she is no longer loyal to the Lord. She used to be filled with fairness. People there lived the way God wanted.”

What judgement means here is the ongoing administration of justice and right living rather than the meting out of final judgement. Thus the judges are to rule in Christ’s kingdom.

The Consent of Joseph?

In their book Mormonism 101 Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson remark on this subject:

”The Bible clearly states that every person - both believer and non-believer - will be judged by Jesus, not Joseph! There is no hint that somebody like Smith would assist in the judgement. Jesus said in John 5:22-23a, ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”

Scripture plainly shows us that all judgement, in the sense of juridical work, is committed to the Son, while judgement in the administrative sense of sharing in the rule of Christ’s kingdom, is given to the saints.

Justified by Joseph

Now let us look, in light of what we have said above, at what Mormons think of Joseph.

Brigham Young said:

”If I can pass brother Joseph, I shall stand a good chance for passing Peter, Jesus, the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and all back to Father Adam, and be pretty sure of receiving his approbation.... If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here’; if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel.”

He declares further:

No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are - I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation - the keys to rule in the spirit world.”

LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon concurred:

“He stands, therefore, at the head of this dispensation and will throughout all eternity, and no man can take that power away from him. If any man holds these keys, he holds them subordinate to Joseph Smith.... If we get our salvation, we shall have to pass by him; if we enter into our glory, it will be through the authority that he has received. We cannot get around him.”

And LDS prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said that nobody could reject this "testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

There will be those who will be reading this, who will wonder where these ideas come from and what this all means. Evangelical commentators are objecting that Mormons make too much of Joseph, while Mormons protest that their beliefs are misrepresented and that Joseph is subservient to Jesus and acts only on authority given by Jesus. There are even quotes that say as much. But there are also quotes that do, to the Evangelical mind, seem to clearly venerate Joseph to a position no Evangelical believer would ascribe to any man, no matter who he is or what he has done. One correspondent on this subject makes a point worth considering when he asks whether, if we were to render the words of Brigham Young substituting the name Peter for Joseph, we would take a very different view of things, thus:

“Whosoever confesseth that Peter was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit of God; and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Peter, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist..."

But, of course, that proposition is never put in Scripture! We do have the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:40, “He who receives you receives me”, and in Luke 10:16, “He who listens to you listens to me.” But look at that Luke quote again, “He who listens to you listens to me.” Listens to what? What were people listening to? What were the apostles saying? Brigham Young knows:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1)

“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” (1 John 4:2)

“New Scripture”

These are the very references Young uses to build up to his incredible proclamation, his “new scripture”, concerning the role of Joseph Smith:

”For unbelievers we will quote from the Scriptures - "Whoso ever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Again - "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God." I will now give my scripture - "Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit of God; and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist, no matter whether it is found in a pulpit or on a throne, nor how much divinity it may profess, nor what it professes with regard to revealed religion and the account that is given of the Savior and his Father in the Bible."

But nowhere is our future in eternity dependent upon accepting a man. It is dependent on accepting the message of Jesus as preached through these men – and that is a completely different proposition. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we must gain the approbation of a man; nowhere are we told that we enter God’s heaven only with the permission of a man; nowhere, certainly, are we told that we must look to a man to justify us. It is to the God-man Christ Jesus we look, and it is to him faithful men of God point. “But we point to Jesus, Joseph points to Jesus”, protests the Mormon. Which brings me back to the question, where do these Mormon ideas come from and what does this all mean? Why do Mormons appear orthodox one minute in proclaiming Jesus, and the next totally unorthodox in proclaiming Joseph? Why are the arguments of one side so compelling – until I hear the arguments of the other?

Coming up: Sensational Dispensationalism

Monday, 15 February 2010

Why Mormons aren’t Christians

There are many and significant differences between Christianity and Mormonism. Christians do not build temples (1 Cor.3:17), Mormons do; Christians form an open society whose beliefs and practices are readily accessible (2 Cor.4:2), while Mormons have layers of doctrine, practice and ritual that are hidden except for those initiated into them; Christians do not add to God’s word in the Bible (Dt.4:2;12:32; Rev.22:18), Mormons do; Christians believe in one eternal God (Is.43:10-11), Mormons believe in many gods; Christians regard God as Creator and us his creatures (Gen.1:27), Mormons believe themselves of the same species as God and that God is an exalted man. Yet the Mormon claims to be a Christian.

All this will be alarming to the Christian and cause for great consternation and sometimes loud protestation. On these, and many other distinguishing differences a Christian might legitimately feel moved to challenge the Mormon faith but there is one great difference between the Christian message of the Bible and the message of Mormonism that is of paramount importance. It is this, more than any other distinction, that disqualifies the Mormon from that blessed society of Christians described in the Bible. It is this that our Mormon friends need to hear.

What is a Christian?

A Christian is one who trusts fully in the finished work of Christ on the Cross (Ro.10:9-13), depending wholly on him and not one jot on anything in themselves for salvation (Ro.3:21-28). Someone who has been Born Again (John 3:5-6), who has crossed over from death to life and no longer fears judgement (John 5:24), who has peace with God through faith in Christ and stands in a place of grace and assurance (Ro.5:1-2) and knows free and open access to the Father because of Christ our great high priest, approaching God with confidence (Heb.4:14-16). Someone for whom the journey of faith is a walk of service and sacrifice and who, because of God’s grace, abounds in good works, the fruit of salvation and not the root from which salvation springs (2 Co.9:8).

What is a Mormon?

A Mormon is one who trusts in his own efforts to gain a place with God, who is “saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the [Mormon] gospel” (8th Article of Faith) and not by grace. Whose activities and works of service are understood to be the root of his salvation:

“Some degree of salvation will come to all who have not forfeited their right to it; exaltation is given to those only who by active labors (sic) have won a claim to God's merciful liberality by which it is bestowed.” (Articles of Faith, 1977, p.91)

A Mormon is someone who believes that Christ’s work on the Cross is insufficient to atone for all sins, that for certain sins a man must atone for himself:

“Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins...that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offences are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood, shed to atone...on their behalf” (JF Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vo.1, p.135)

A Christian has a Saviour who saves to the uttermost while the Mormon saviour fails to atone for the uttermost offense no matter that the sinner repents in tears. A Christian, through faith in Christ, stands in life (John 5:24) while the Mormon strives to gain by his own effort the ground on which the Christian stands. This is the great tragedy of the Mormon message, that God’s offer of eternal life as a gift (Rom.6:23) becomes for the Mormon God’s offer of life to those who strive to earn it. A Mormon cannot say with Paul:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom.5:1-2)

It is this justification, this peace, this access, joy and hope that we seek to share with every Mormon we meet. It is this that every Mormon needs to hear above all else.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Why I Left the Mormon Church

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

I served in various capacities including various clerical duties. I served as Sunday School teacher, Seminary and Institute teacher, teacher in both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood quorums, and Ward Missionary Leader. At the time of my leaving I was Elder's Quorum President. Up to the time of my leaving I was a temple recommend holder and regularly attended the London Temple (right).

Why I Joined the Mormon Church

I remember my first contact with Mormonism, and the elders who taught me. I remember vividly the conviction with which I embraced the church and it's teachings. I recall experiencing a burning in the bosom, not just once but many times, and can picture to this day where I was kneeling when it first happened. I could barely contain my excitement as I discovered more through the missionary discussions. This revolutionary message that the heavens were not sealed and that God spoke again through living prophets. I recollect my baptism  at the District Centre then, before Wales had a Stake; It has two now.

In the Mormon church I met some of the most wonderful people you could wish to know. I remember my wife and I being prepared for our first visit to the temple by one of the counsellors of the District President. He was a lovely man, larger than life and full of love and encouragement. I remember the young people we grew alongside in the church and the times we had at District and Stake meetings, Gold and Green balls, temple trips, Fathers and Sons camps, even a visit to London to see Spencer W. Kimball (left). We married and grew up and had families and knew tragedies and triumphs, disenchantment and inspiration.

When we left, we left behind a full life, cherished friends, and good memories. Believe me when I say that our decision to go was not made lightly. And unlike some you might come across, we had nothing against the church, no complaints. Our friends were shocked at our leaving - so were we.

It took less than a month for us to make our momentous decision and, whilst this may seem hardly enough time to fully consider the issues, I assure you we were convinced and had no doubts. I realise now that that month was the culmination of a longer period of questioning and seeking. In the end ours was a real "road to Damascus" experience and, like Saul, it was as if scales fell from our eyes.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not part of an anti-Mormon group. I am not an anti-Mormon at all but a Christian. I am a member of a local Baptist church and my life is taken up with full involvement there. My time is not spent pouring over anti-Mormon literature, nor is it spent finding ways to "get at" Mormons. I do, however, share my experiences and findings with others in the same spirit in which Mormon missionaries go around the doors. I have found the truth and, especially in relation to Latter-day Saints, wish to share it.

I am sometimes asked why I now "fight" the Mormon Church. Mormons I meet ask why I try to convert church members who are, after all, already Christians. I might ask the same question of Mormon missionaries. When they find a Christian on the doorstep do they back away saying "Oh, you already know Jesus"? They do not, because they believe that there is no salvation outside the Mormon church. I believe there is no salvation inside the Mormon church and so, by the same token, I proselyte Latter-day Saints.

Why I Became a Christian

I have already said that I was happy as a Mormon and that I have no complaints about the way the church treated me. The inevitable question is, "Why, then, did you leave? There must have been something wrong".

I recall it was one Friday evening, the children were in bed, and there was a quiet moment when we looked at each other apprehensively. We had not been discussing church, either that evening or that week, except in the general way. I remember how we tentatively but finally agreed that there was something wrong. There was an unspoken, undefined, significance to that word "something" precisely because we had nothing to complain about.

One of us, I don't now remember who, said, "It's not working, is it?", and the other one agreed. Again an unspoken understanding of something we had never discussed or given the vaguest expression to, yet we each knew what the other meant. Our faith was not "working". What did we mean by that? We didn't then know or understand, but we felt an earnest desire to put right whatever it was we felt was wrong because our church membership was important to us.

It was then that we made a decision that, to this day, makes people stare. We turned to a Christian friend. It seems almost inconceivable, especially since we had no reason to shun our church friends, that we should do such a thing. I believe God was in all this. Of course I would say that, wouldn't I?

I believe our friend John could barely contain his excitement at being presented with such an opportunity. He did hold himself back, however, and simply invited us to church. "Come and see" he said to us. It was in that church that we experienced such a love for God that we were left wondering what it was that we thought we had been experiencing for all those years. Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that Mormons are loveless, or that they have no genuine desire to serve God. But this was different.


So far we had seen something special in our friend John, something that had caused us, inexplicably, to trust him. We had experienced something amongst John's friends - an intensity of love and devotion that was so new to us as to be heady, like new wine. Now we wanted to understand. If this was right how did it square with what we had experienced and understood until now? If this was wrong how did these poor people come to be so deceived?

John gave us a modern translation of the Bible (NIV) and encouraged us to read it without any commentary or Bible study aids. He suggested we start with Paul's letter to the Romans. It was important to us that we should gain an understanding of things and so we now decided to review what we had already experienced, and what we could say for sure we knew, before we went any further. We had already agreed that God would not condemn us for honestly seeking his face and striving for a better understanding of his will. We now agreed that we would trust God to answer our prayers and resolve for us the, so far undefined, misgivings we had about our faith. Not about the Mormon church, but about our faith.


A Message of Grace

The thought that the Mormon Church might not be true had never entered our minds. No-one had spoken against the church in our hearing and we had not looked at any anti literature. Our struggle was not over doctrine. It was about our experience of God. In this spirit, then, of seeking God and trusting him for direction in a very personal pilgrimage, we read his word. It was here we discovered grace.

For all the Mormon church had going for it there was one area in which it singularly failed me. I was looking for something when I joined and I began to see that it was the one thing the church was incapable of delivering. Peace with God. When my wife and I became troubled we really did not understand why. We just knew - I knew - that something fundamental was missing from our spiritual experience. It was only as we began seeking with a determination we had never known before that we saw how radical would have to be the change in our lives if we were to go on with God.

When I set out to read Romans I was looking for a solution to the problems of my faith as a Mormon. I was not trying to sort out the Mormon Church. I was trying to sort out Mike Thomas. I wanted to get right with God so that I could be a better Latter-day Saint. Now you might say that I had a peculiar way of doing this. After all, going to a non-member etc. But God was in this from beginning to end so how could I do otherwise?

It was now that I did the one thing I had never done before. I knelt before God and asked Jesus to be my Saviour. I had believed in him for years, but I had been taught that the way to salvation was by obedience to the Mormon church. The church had effectively stood between me and God.

I came to see that there is only one mediator between men and God, the man Christ Jesus. I realised that the head of every man is Christ, not an organisation. I saw that all who came to him would not be condemned but would receive eternal life. I had an assurance of eternal life, something I had never known before, something no Mormon knows because the Mormon church teaches that salvation is by obedience, and so it is arrogant and presumptuous to say that you know. The Bible told me that I could know, the Mormon Church told me that I couldn't. I chose to believe the Word of God.

Now I was faced with a dilemma. Could I give up all those things that had been my life up to now? Leave my church friends? People think that obedience is all about the ten commandments and that sort of thing. Really it is about attitude. What really is the most important thing in your life? Put like that there was no other choice. I left the Mormon Church and embraced my newly discovered joy. My life since really coming to know Jesus bears no comparison to all those years when I only thought I knew him. Iremember the sobering realisation of what was happening when my wife one day said, "You realise we can't go back?"

I made the right choice and discovered a God who truly proves his faithfulness. So many scripture promises came true for me when I sought him and and discovered that "if you seek him, he will be found by you" (1 Chron.28:9). Coming from a system that saw obedience to law as the way to God I was brought to rejoice in the fact that "a righteousness from God , apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Romans 3:21). The assurances of God's Word are a blessing to me beyond anything I could hope or ask. I know that through faith in Jesus I have eternal life as a present possession and a guaranteed inheritance (John 5:24). I just thought you would like to know.

What we Discovered in Romans

What did we find in our reading of Paul's letter to the Roman? We travelled what we later found was called The Roman Road. It is one of many journeys through the Bible designed to help us understand the fundamentals of God's Word. I reproduce it here:

THE ROMAN ROAD

This is a simple explanation of the gospel, using scriptures from the Book of Romans - hence the name. It can be easily marked in your Bible by writing the first reference at the beginning of Romans, and then in the margin by each reference writing the reference which follows. Thus when you want to share the gospel message from the scriptures, you do not need to remember a string of references, you just need to look at the book of Romans and follow the road through it. The references and a brief description follows. Feel free to explain them in your own words.

3:10 - There is no-one righteous, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.

3:23 - All have sinned and fallen short. It is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard.

5:12 - Death came to all men, because all sinned. It is our nature to sin.

5:8 - Because of God's love for us, he sent Christ to die for us - while we were still sinners, not because we had done anything to earn it.

6:23 - The wages of sin is death - wages are what you earn as a result of what you do. The gift of God is eternal life - you do not earn a gift, or deserve it. God gives the gift because He loves us. We do not need to work for it, only accept it.

10:13 - Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You only have to call.

10:9,10 - True, heart-felt confession of faith in Jesus is what it takes to be saved, not works.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Why Mormons Don’t Wear Dog Collars – Yet!

I recall, many years ago, a priesthood quorum meeting at the local Mormon Church where a discussion revolved around the question of how we could raise the profile of our church and make ourselves more visible to the wider world. We sat there lost for ideas (so much for priesthood) until one man said, “We could wear badges!”

All eyes turned on him with a mixture of scorn and pity and, with a depth of derision usually reserved for talking about the ministers of other churches, someone said sarcastically, “Oh! Why don’t we go the whole hog and walk around in dog collars?” The idea was quashed there and then and nothing more said as the culprit skulked away into the night to think about his apostate ways.

Not long afterwards we saw the first Mormon missionaries turn up wearing those badges so familiar these days. Typically, this innovation came in with no comment and no one remembered the scorn and derision that had been poured on the idea. This was different. This was at the behest of “the prophet”.

The story illustrates something that is so difficult to put across in a seminar or article; the sneering contempt in those words, “why don’t we go all the way and wear dog collars!” It wasn’t a case of “Mormons don’t do that sort of thing” but undisguised disdain and disrespect for those who do.

On another occasion the local church held a fancy dress event and the highlight was two missionaries who turned up wearing their white shirts and suit waistcoats back-to-front, making them look, with their jackets on, for all the world like two young Anglican or Catholic priests. Oh, how we laughed at this sneering piece of cant.

Such contempt is a thread that runs throughout Mormonism like the writing in a stick of Blackpool rock. In barely veiled references to “men that preach for money!” and “Christians that take the easy option” Mormons informally and routinely speak contemptuously (among themselves of course) of Christian churches. Where does this self-reverential attitude come from?

It begins with the defining story of Joseph Smith who taught that all the creeds of all the churches were an abomination and all who profess those creeds corrupt (Joseph Smith History 1:19). Without this account of the Christian Churches Mormonism would be superfluous since it is claimed to be a restoration of things lost in the apostasy of those churches. It continues with the statement in the founding book of Mormonism, The Book of Mormon that the Christian churches are part of the “great and abominable church” founded by the devil and that  it slays the saints and corrupts the Bible and is the mother of abominations (1 Nephi chs.13-22)

It progresses through the statements of other Mormon leaders who proclaim that Christianity is “a sounding brass...as corrupt as hell” and an agent of the devil (John Taylor, 3rd Mormon president) and who identify the Catholic Church as a satanic organisation, the whore of Babylon, and Protestant churches as harlot daughters (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon apostle, Mormon Doctrine).

Mormons, Satan and the “Orthodox Religion”

Finally, it comes via the infamous portrayal in Mormon temple ceremonies of a Christian minister being in the pay of Satan. This portion of the temple ceremony involved a dramatisation, originally played by live actors but latterly shown on film, showing a Christian minister, complete with dog collar, being summoned onto the scene by Satan who offers to pay him if he will preach “the orthodox religion” to Adam and Eve.

The minister proceeds to preach the Christian message which Adam finds “incomprehensible” and rejects in favour of the message brought by two agents from God who preach Mormonism. The conversation between Satan, the minister and Adam when I went through the temple in the 1970’s went like this:

ADAM: Who are you?

          LUCIFER: I am the God of this world.
ADAM: You, the God of this world?
LUCIFER: Yes, what do you want?
ADAM: I am looking for messengers.
LUCIFER: Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you? I will have preachers here presently.
(Lucifer turns his head as a sectarian minister approaches the group)
LUCIFER: Good Morning sir!
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Good morning!
(The preacher turns and looks into the camera.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: A fine congregation!
LUCIFER: Yes, they are a very good people. They are concerned about religion. Are you a preacher?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am.
LUCIFER: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Certainly! A man cannot preach unless has been trained for the ministry.
LUCIFER: Do you preach the orthodox religion?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Yes, that is what I preach.
LUCIFER: If you will preach your orthodox religion to these people, and convert them, I will pay you well.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I will do my best.
(Lucifer guides the preacher to Adam and Eve, who stand nearby.)
LUCIFER: Here is a man who desires religion. He is very much exercised, and seems to be sincere.
(As Lucifer presents the preacher to Adam and Eve he steps back and observes the ensuing conversation. The preacher is made to sound sincere, although misguided and credulous. Adam appears humble, faithful and immovable in his determination to serve God. He is not swayed by the preacher, and is astounded by the doctrines espoused by the preacher.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I understand that you are inquiring after religion.
ADAM: I was calling upon Father.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am glad to know that you were calling upon Father. Do you believe in a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who sits on the top of a topless throne; whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere; who fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved by grace, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure. Do you believe in such a great Being?
ADAM: I do not. I cannot comprehend such a being.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: That is the beauty of it. Perhaps you do not believe in a devil, and in that great hell, the bottomless pit, where there is a lake of fire and brimstone into which the wicked are cast, and where they are continually burning, but never consumed?
ADAM: I do not believe in any such place.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: My dear friend, I am sorry for you.

To find out more about the ceremony and its different incarnations and to hear an audio you can visit Mormon Coffee, the blog of Mormonism Research Ministry

But the Melody Lingers on

There you will discover that this portion of the ceremony was finally removed, one of several radical changes made in 1990. Nevertheless, it defines the Mormon attitude to other churches and explains that conversation back in the early 1970’s when that minister was still routinely mocked and portrayed as a lackey of Satan.

As I have said, this is the hardest thing to put across in an article, attitudes passed from generation to generation, but it is an important insight. Another instance of it involves an encounter I had with Mormon missionaries earlier this year.

A young man of 20 approached me outside my house to talk about his religion and I told him I was a Christian. With a display of hubris that took my breath away he asked had I ever before met anyone like him who was giving up two years of his life to serve a fulltime mission. I thought of the many people I know who gave up half a lifetime to serve missions in places a good deal less comfortable and more dangerous than the second city of Wales. I answered that I had and it seemed to take the wind out of his sails for a moment.

I then told him that I had been a Mormon but had long left that church to become a Christian. He asked me why I had left and I was glad to share with him the message of grace that had won me to the Lord. This was when his whole demeanour changed and, his face contorted in a mocking sneer, he began barracking me about turning my back on “the church”. When I began to respond he positively bellowed at me, “DON’T YOU QUESTION MY AUTHORITY!” It was quite comical to see this 20 year old really believing he was an “elder” and had authority.

His companion, who had been pretty quiet throughout this exchange, I use the term ‘exchange’ loosely, at least had the good grace to shuffle his feet and look embarrassed. The young missionary then pointed imperiously at the house I had left and told me in no uncertain terms that my faith meant that I could sit at home for the rest of my life unconcerned for the lost since I had my ticket to heaven, unlike his which urged him on to go bravely to - Swansea?

You see, contempt is the attitude of the typical Mormon towards other churches and my missionary encounter confirms that it is not peculiar to older generations but colours the thinking of young Mormons coming through today to represent their church to the world.

But Mormons are so very nice, so very upstanding and responsible and of course this is true. But they still look upon Christians with that peculiar mix of pity and haughty disapproval typical of a people who know that they are God’s best and we are the rest. Perhaps one day, as with the badges, Mormons will adopt dog collars, but you can be sure that when they do they will hold in as much contempt those who don’t as they now do those who do.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Mormons Restore Temples – But Which Ones?

The Mormon Church has announced its latest temple build in Payson, Utah, the fifteenth in Utah, bringing to 152 the number of built or planned temples around the world. These temples are costly to build and maintain and demand of Mormons a level of commitment that is exceptional, both in proving worthy to attend and in the sacrifices involved in attending; travel, financial sacrifice, time commitment and physical effort. It is not called temple “work” for nothing.

This illustrates a point often overlooked by those who comment only casually on religious issues. Faith is a commitment unlike anything else in life. Of course, there are always those nominal members whose involvement is marginal, but for a great many believers of any persuasion it is a life-defining, heart-felt commitment.

It is worth asking whether our loyalty is wisely placed, our commitment wisely invested. The apostle Paul urged Christians to, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor.13:5) Wise advice when your faith will shape profoundly your life and determine your eternity. For that is what Mormon temples are about, time and eternity. Presenting the familiar Mormon view of temples, the official Mormon web site report on this latest temple said:

The Old and New Testaments include many references to temples. The children of Israel used a portable temple, the tabernacle of Moses, during their journey in the wilderness; later Solomon’s temple was built in Jerusalem, and Jesus Himself was found teaching in Herod’s temple at a young age...”

Referring to the sacred nature of temples, Elder David Bednar, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says:

“There were particular special ceremonies, rites and sacraments that were administered only in this sacred, set-apart place. That was the purpose of the temples. It provided that supernal special place to be able to perform those sacred rites.

Mormons believe their faith is a restoration of Christ’s New Testament Church and therefore build temples just as Christians did in ancient times.”

Elder Bednar adds that Mormon temples are primarily places of learning and instruction and likens them to the Lord’s university:

“We learn about our relationship with God. We learn about the purposes of our life here upon the earth. Questions such as where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die? Those questions are addressed and answered in the instruction that’s presented in the temple. We also make promises to live honest, upright and virtuous lives.” (Emphasis added)

If this is true then Christians should be building temples. Indeed we should put down whatever we are doing and make every effort to become a worthy temple Mormon – no mean feat I assure you. The temple is at the centre of the Mormon faith and the impression is given that temples have always been at the centre of worship for God’s people. But did ancient temples fill the role attributed to them by Mormons and did Christians in ancient times build temples?

Ancient Temples

Temples were plentiful in Ur of the Chaldee, in Mesopotamia, the place Abraham left to follow the Lord (Gen.11:27-12:4) There were many gods and each had a temple.

From the time of Abraham, the patriarchs were nomadic and God appeared to them as and when he pleased, sometimes at the scene of a sacrificial altar (Gen.28:22)

When Israel became a people called out of slavery they had, by God’s command, a central shrine in the desert in the form of a portable tabernacle (Ex.25-30), but during the time of the judges God was still worshipped at different shrines and was not confined to one place (e.g. Shechem Josh.8:30; Shiloh 1 Sam.1:3)

Settled Israel finally built a temple, prepared for by King David (2 Sam.24:18-25) and built by his son Solomon (1 Ki.5-8). After 300 years this temple was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Ki.25:8,9).

In the 25th year of Israel’s exile Ezekiel saw in vision a temple which is described in some detail (Ez.40-43) but it was never built.

The second temple was built by the returning exiles (Ezra and Nehemiah) and stood for almost 500 years only to be finally destroyed by Pompey in 63 BC.

The building of Herod’s temple was begun in 19 BC but was more an attempt to reconcile Jews to the idea of having an Idumaean king than to glorify God. It took nine years to build, although work continued until 64 AD, finally being destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

‘Temple’ in the New Testament

When Jesus came he respected the temple, calling it God’s house (Mt.12:4; Jn.2:16). He cleansed the temple declaring, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mk.11:11-19).

But Israel’s refusal to repent issued in Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple and the whole order that accompanied it (Mk.12:1-12; 13:2). The new temple was to be the congregation of the people of God, Christians (Mt.18:20; Jn. 14:23)

Although early Christians continued to meet at the temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:12) they were already realising the implications of what Jesus had said about the temple. Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was already reported as having spoken against the temple (Acts 6:11). At his martyrdom Stephen recounted the history of Israel and the temple and concluded:

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says:

‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all things’” (Acts 7:48-51)

Finally, Paul fully develops the idea when he writes:

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Cor.3:16,17, c.f. 6:19)

This idea is especially strong in a later letter:

“What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (2 Cor.6:16)

Since Christians are now the temple of God our lives should reflect holiness (2 Cor.7:1) and we should seek unity in the Spirit (1 Cor.3:5-17). Old Testament language describing the ingathering of Israel and the nations (e.g. Is.57:19, ‘far’ Gentiles, and ‘near’ Israel) is employed to describe the ingathering of God’s people from every nation (foreigners and aliens) to be part of God’s household and living temple (Eph.2:13.17,19-22). Here the pictures of the temple and of the body are juxtaposed as Paul describes the temple as being built of believers and those believers being ‘built up’ and “growing up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” ((Eph.4:12,16).

The thought is carried on in 1 Peter 2:4-10, where the apostle tells believers, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”, with the addition of the priestly and sacrificial elements of the OT temple being redefined in the Christian life.

Shadow and Reality

In Ex.25:8 we read that the tabernacle in the desert was made after a pattern revealed by God. In Hebrews we read that this sanctuary is, “a copy and a shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb.8:5). The true sanctuary is the heavenly one (Heb.9:24), which Christ entered as our Great High Priest (v.23, 24). This sanctuary belongs to the people of the new covenant (Heb.6:19, 20) and because Christ has “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” our souls have hope as an anchor (Heb.9:26; 6:19)

“Just as man is destined once to die once, and after that face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb.9:27,28)

The temple was part of a sacrificial system that was a shadow of a heavenly pattern. A shadow that pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Christ, his entering the true heavenly sanctuary on our behalf and the building of a temple made without hands, comprised of the people of God being built up and growing into their Head, who is Christ; A temple of people drawn from near and far, Jew and Gentile, in whom God dwells by his Spirit, and who exercise a royal priesthood in offering sacrifices of praise.

Mormon Temples in the Bible

Abraham left behind a temple-building culture to follow the Lord. These were the famous ziggurats, of which the Tower of Babel is the most famous example (Gen.11:4). They symbolised man’s self-confidence and pride, “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves...” Gen.11:4). They were man-made stairways to heaven. The names of other such structures reflect this attempt by man to reach up to heaven, “The House of the link between Heaven and Earth” at Larsa; “The House of the Seven Guides of Heaven and Earth” in Borsippa; “The House of the foundation-Platform of Heaven and Earth” at Babylon; “The House of the Mountain of the Universe” at Asshur.

These all reflected man’s attempts to reach the heavens by his own effort, achieve his own renown and a dominant godlike status. The temples of Mormonism are described as:

“...primarily places of learning and instruction and like...the Lord’s university: ‘We learn about our relationship with God. We learn about the purposes of our life here upon the earth. Questions such as where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die? Those questions are addressed and answered in the instruction that’s presented in the temple. We also make promises to live honest, upright and virtuous lives.’”

Joseph Smith said:

“Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves...the same as all gods have done before you” (Journal of Discourses, Vo.6. p.4 1844)

Mormon temples have their pattern in the Bible, but it is not after the pattern of heaven but of Ur of the Chaldees. 134 modern Ziggurats designed that man may make a name for himself, learn to be a god and exercise dominion.

Friday, 5 February 2010

I Am An Anti-Mormon

I am an anti-Mormon, not by choice but by reputation. A few years ago a good friend left the Mormon Church (I never call it "the church" because it isn't) and insisted that she was going to do things differently.

She was going to be conciliatory ("Done that", I said).

She was going to give the full name of the Mormon church ("Done that", I said).

She was going to ask honest questions and not meddle with side issues and hearsay ("Done that too" I said).

All-in-all she was going to be the sweet and charitable person she is in her witnessing.

"It won't make any difference", I said.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because no matter how you wrap it up, couch it in endearing terms and make it smell nice you will be an anti-Mormon unless you agree 100% with the Mormons."

Nonsense!" she replied.

Sometime later I got a phone call and a plaintive voice at the other end said, "They called me an anti-Mormon. I don't understand it."

I allowed my silence to speak for me. Eventually she asked, "What's the matter with these people?"

They're Mormons", I replied. "It’s all they know how to be."

I became a Christian 24 years ago and left the Mormon Church. I love Mormons and that is why I witness to them. They call me anti-Mormon because I love them enough to tell them the truth.

"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Mt.5:11)

I am not an anti-Mormon in truth. Someone asked me once, "Why did you turn your back on the church?" I replied, "I didn't turn my back on the church. I turned my face to Christ and found the church behind me." I am a Christian and I want my Mormon friends to be Christians too.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Mormon God’s Dysfunctional Family

You know those moments when you look at something you’ve looked at a thousand times before and suddenly see something new?

I was looking at a blog I found via the Google Blog Alerts service and it told the familiar story of the Mormon “Plan of Salvation”; you can read it here. There really was nothing surprising until I started thinking about what people might think if a family they knew conducted themselves the way the Mormon “family of God” do in this story.

People from abusive backgrounds have problems enough with the idea of God as a Father but this story would put anyone off the idea forever! As I recount this story think about what the typical dad would do as his kids are growing up and compare it with this “exalted man.”

According to Mormonism “God created our spirits” and we lived with him in a pre-mortal existence (Mormons say “pre-existence” but it is not possible to pre-exist, i.e. to exist before you exist)

The Anonymous Mother

Mormons traditionally have believed that more than “creation” went on back in the pre-mortal existence and have a hymn that celebrates the existence of a heavenly mother. No one has any idea who she is and she may be one of any number of God’s polygamous wives. The hymn just insists:

“In the heavens are parents single?

No the thought makes reason stare

Truth is reason truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there”

The picture of the nuclear family unit, then, is complete. There he is, with his wife and children, “literally our loving Father in heaven”. Well, let’s see if that is true.

The Pedagogue Patriarch

In heaven we were taught the “gospel” and decided whether we were going to be obedient or rebellious – Now I am a dad and I can tell you that whether my children were going to be obedient or rebellious was never a great priority with me. It seemed to be more important to know whether they learned to love, cared about others and felt secure and appreciated in the family. I didn’t give them a “gospel” to test them but told them the gospel to bless them. After all, they are my children and not my cattle.

In order to progress and grow further it was necessary that we left our heavenly home and came into the great wide world. That sounds familiar enough. All my children have left home to make their way in the world. But what would you think of me if I hid from them and only communicated with them through third parties and ancient texts, or agents I sent out to tell them “your dad told me to tell you…”

The Absentee Father

But that is what the Mormon God does. He tells his family his plan and when some of them don’t like it he just throws them out and makes them pariah’s! The rest are sent out into the world and, here’s the weird part, he makes them forget him and then sends messengers to teach them all over again who he is even though they knew in the first place!

He has them pass on a formula for finding out who their dad is and what he wants (Js.1:5) and gives them a list of commandments to follow so they can go back to him. That’s like your son or daughter arriving at university and looking blank when someone asks, “So what does your dad do?” Would you want to go back after being treated like that?

Actually, the university analogy is popular with Mormons, this life being a learning experience, the Mormon Church being a sort of tertiary college and the temple being a university. First student asks, “So what are you studying at university?” Mormon replies, “I came to find out who my dad is.”

Finally, this dad stands at his front door with a clipboard, tick box and pen, checking to see, on their return from university, if they come up to his exacting standards, have straight A’s etc. before he allows them back into the house where they were “born”. Can you imagine an earthly dad standing at the door and asking his children, “Can I see your temple recommend?”

The Good News


Now compare this with the Christian gospel.

In the beginning God created everything, including man (Gen.1&2) We are not “the literal offspring of God” but creatures of God’s making, created in His image and to be stewards of His creation, but created nevertheless. There is no pre-mortal existence, only mortality, where we live, and eternity, where God dwells.

Mankind rebelled against God by simply but tragically choosing to put man’s will above God’s, thus losing the role of steward over creation and bringing creation crashing down in ignominy with him. From the beginning God has promised and worked for the redemption of man and creation and every act of God is bent to this purpose so that God may have his will and receive the glory due his name. The condition we now find ourselves in and the work of God to effect our rescue are described in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Ro.3:10 - There is no-one righteous, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.

Ro3:23 - All have sinned and fallen short. It is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard.

Ro.5:12 - Death came to all men, because all sinned. It is our nature to sin.

Ro.5:8 - Because of God's love for us, he sent Christ to die for us - while we were still sinners, not because we had done anything to earn it.

Ro.6:23 - The wages of sin is death - wages are what you earn as a result of what you do. The gift of God is eternal life - you do not earn a gift, or deserve it. God gives the gift because He loves us. We do not need to work for it, only accept it.

Ro.10:13 - Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You only have to call.

Ro.10:9,10 - True, heart-felt confession of faith in Jesus is what it takes to be saved, not works.

There is no exam to find your grades, no test to see if you will be obedient or rebellious, only the simple yet profound question of whether we have trusted in Jesus and the finished work of the Cross.