Yesterday the Church issued a brief note, “Response to DVD,” referring to the major anti-Mormon campaign being launched by some of our Christian friends with a distasteful DVD (see my previous post about the FAIRLDS site that deals with the attacks on the DVD). Here is the statement from the Newsroom at LDS.org (hat tip to Mike Parker):
Several news reports have appeared over the past few days in Utah and Arizona about a Christian activist group that has been distributing anti-Mormon DVDs throughout Utah and in some other states.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League in Phoenix promptly condemned the distribution, saying that “hate directed at any of us is hate directed at all of us.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has weathered such attacks throughout its history. At a time when the Church is growing strongly throughout the world, it’s not surprising that some groups try to curb that growth in such ways.
Throughout the history of the United States, the rights of free speech and freedom of religion have been pre-eminent. Groups opposed to the Church have a perfect right to distribute their materials in ways that are legal.
The issue is not one of rights. Rather, it is that one religious group chooses to target another with a DVD full of distortions of its doctrine and history, and misrepresentations so stark that they call into question the integrity of the producers.
When Latter-day Saint missionaries visit homes or engage others in conversation, they studiously avoid criticism of other faiths. They do not attack and they do not condemn. Instead, they declare their own message honestly and openly and allow people the freedom to choose. Above all, they encourage each person to find out for themselves through personal research as well as prayer.
That will continue to be the Church’s approach, not just because honest and open dialogue is what most people want, but because in our view it best represents the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
49 thoughts on “The Church Responds to an Anti-Mormon Campaign”
Maybe these Christian friends of yours took Osrson Pratt‘s invitation seriously: “…convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God…” (The Seer [Jan. 1853], 15).
If they took it seriously, one would expect them to act with integrity, not with distortions and misrepresentations.
Taken Orson Pratt’s invitation they certainly did not. The Word of God does not contain distortions or misrepresentations. Neither do logical arguments distort facts.
Why are people from mainstream Christianity so vehemently against the LDS church?
Whilst plain ignorance seems to be the pervading argument from an LDS perspective, it can’t surely be the only reason. From my limited research into LDS (only a few weeks’ worth), it seems there are many, many mainstream Christians who do not accept Mormonism as Christianity because they claim that Mormon doctrine go against all major biblical doctrines i.e. the triune God etc. If such discrepancies really do exist (and I’m inclined to agree that there are some very obtuse differences), then I can almost empathise with their motivation to spread such DVDs with the sole purpose to make people aware that differences do exist.
Again, I’d really appreciate it if someone/anyone (preferably a member of the LDS community) could take some time to teach me some of their own perspectives of their faith. At the moment, I only have information from what some might label: anti-mormon sources and, of course, the main LDS.org page.
nathanielmacrae, I think you’ll find our view of the Godhead not much different than that of the trinity. We believe in a Father, Son (created, same substance as the Father), and Holy Ghost, all one, but 3 separate beings. Reading through some Catholic definitions of the Trinity, I have found we really have pretty close to the same definition, with one major difference – Mormons believe God and Christ have a body (Christ not having a body before He was on earth). I think you can find evidences in the Bible, and early Christian theology of both theories, so I don’t think Mormons or other Christian religions are wrong in either belief, based on scripture alone. However, Mormons have one item of credibility that makes their viewpoint even more viable – they believe in modern Revelation, and have the testimony of Joseph Smith as to the divinity of God the Father, and Jesus Christ as they appeared to him with physical bodies, even further attesting to the teachings in the Bible and creeds established in early Christianity, with greater detail and more revelation than any of the remaining records we have of God. Mormons believe this to be “The Dispensation of Fullness of Times” as revealed in Ephesians, preparatory to the Second Coming of Christ. The vision to Joseph Smith was the kickoff of that dispensation.
uncle_jesse, thank you for your effort to respond; I really appreciate it.
To suggest that there is “not much difference” in your view of Godhead doesn’t actually resolve the issue. Even if there is little difference still means that there is a difference. To the Evangelical Christian, this not much difference remark might be refuted.
“Mormons have one item of credibility that makes their viewpoint even more viable – they believe in modern Revelation”
I think most mainstream Christians would also hold to the same thing. The one issue that they assert is that such revelation must agree with what has already been revealed in the Bible. I guess this leads me to this next question:
Can I ask how the LDS church tackles Paul’s letter to the Galatian church? This, of course, is just one of a few examples of Paul’s warning against men or angels who bring another gospel of Jesus Christ. I ask this question with all humility and sincerity with the hope that you or someone might respond.
I keep referring to John Piper (and I’m pretty sure Jeff might be gettin’ tired of me doing this) but his sermon about false doctines pretty much about sums up the assertion that the LDS movement is false according to mainstream Christianity. If you have chance, please listen to it, if only to understand the perspective of these so called Christian friends that Jeff referred to!
Again, thank you for your response, I really appreciate it.
…same substance as the Father…
I’ve always thought that this phrase implies Christ’s complete oneness with the Father (i.e. they are the same person). Obviously we don’t believe that.
Think “substance” – same matter, in otherwise if the Father has a body, the Son has a body. If the Father is a Spirit, the Son is a Spirit. This was put in the various early Christian Creeds to contradict Arian views that the Son was not divine, and not of the Father.
The argument, I would submit, is not whether we are mainstream CHristian or not. That is a moot point of semantics. Such questions are better settled in public relations campaigns than in theological discussions.
Rather, are we right? Do we essentially represent historic (pre-Nicene) Christianity? Certainly, there will be differences given that we live in a different time and place, but are our big “terrible questions” of life, death, and eternity the same questions the ancients asked?
Before we discuss the Church’s role in mainstream Christianity, we must all be sure that we are asking the right questions.
nathanielmacre, You’ve got some great questions. I ask you, what in our church do you believe is not consistent with the Gospel, as taught by Paul? We believe in the Old and New Testament, just as others. I don’t think we would believe in it if only some of it were true.
In fact, I will go out on a limb even further and state that contrary to most other Christian religions out there, just as in Paul’s days, we have a Prophet and 12 Apostles, along with ordained Priesthood, all ordained of God with authority to Preach this Gospel as Paul did. I now question with this in mind, how do other churches interpret this scripture without ordained Apostles and Prophets to preach the Gospel, as Paul did in those days? Verse 12 of that same chapter says, “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”. How can a church know what is of God, or of man without revelation to a Prophet or Apostle such as Paul? When His church is led by man and not directly by God through His ordained Prophets and Apostles (as in the Bible), sooner or later, as it did among the Galatians, the truth will be lost.
Mormons have prayed and asked God Himself if Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. From this personal revelation from God our personal testimony of Him and this Church has stood strong and unmovable. We also do not need to question the “mysterious” things about the nature of God that have so plagued Christians for centuries, as we have a Prophet of God who sees and talks to God today, and can testify of Him and His Gospel as it truly was in the days of Paul. This challenge to pray and ask God is out there for all to try that sincerely want to know.
Water can exist in three forms: as a gas, as a liquid and as a solid.
So it is with the Trinity. Three forms, but still the same substance.
Why can’t Mormons see how plain and simple this truth is???
Water doesn’t talk to itself.
anonymous, I don’t see how any of the early Christian theology states that explicitely. That seems to be a doctrine that came to be understood later on – where do you get that understanding from? The Nicene creed only says same substance as the father, not 1 being with 3 different forms. In fact, even on Catholic.com I don’t see anything that seems to mention that. Is that a protestant belief? I’m genuinely curious to understand where that interpretation of the trinity comes from – it seems to be somewhat Athenasian. Is that the source?
When you listen to the Catholic mass they refer to the Trinity as the “mystery of the Trinity”. One cannot satisfactory explain a mystery. The sacrament being the actual body and blood of Christ is also referred to as a “mystery”. Therefore it is not an arguable point.
The reason the LDS church doesn’t believe in the tradition trinity is simple, modern revelation has told us what is correct. This isn’t an intellectual argument where it can go either way. We’ve had deity actually explain the truth to us (through his servants the prophets). Either you believe that happened or you don’t.
I left a message on your blog a couple weeks back saying how much your site had helped me learn about the LDS Church and how grateful I was for that. I’d like to tell you that I was baptized today and look forward to embarking on this new journey with God! Thank you so much.
Water can exist in three forms: as a gas, as a liquid and as a solid.
So it is with the Trinity. Three forms, but still the same substance.
IIRC this is an almost exact quote from one of the last chapters of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.”
Whether he coined the phrase trying to explain the Trinity or got it from somewhere else, I don’t know.
One distinguishing characteristic of Joseph’s story is that he, and believers since him, insisted that people pray and ask God to tell them whether he’s a lunatic, prophet, or false prophet.
I know it’s incomprehensible to many evangelical Christians how LDS people can have certain viewpoints, especially about revelation and additional scripture, but it goes the other way as well.
To us, it is just as incomprehensible that so many people do not think that asking God is a reasonable way to determine whether a person is the prophet they claim to be.
First off, your assertion that we don’t need to discuss the issue “using the hermeneutics of Scripture” is incorrect, because the LDS Church affirms that it is the RESTORATION of ancient Christianity. Mormons reject the beliefs of modern Christianity precisely because we believe they are contrary to the bible. As a “mainstream Christian” I don’t think you should get a pass on having to defend why the only correct interpretation of the Bible can come from applying the filter of a non-biblical creed.
Furthermore, to your point about mental health issues: psychotic episodes don’t produce a set of gold plates that are seen and hefted by additional witnesses, nor do they produce complex narratives claiming to be ancient, which can stand up to extensive scholarly scrutinity.
For further on the last point, I would recommend checking out FARMS at http://farms.byu.edu/
Kiddo–Congratulations on your baptism!!!! Jeff’s site helped me with a few questions I had as well when I was having the discussions. They finally allowed me to understand things enough to ask Heavenly Father of what my course of action should be.
To Ryan and to Mr./Mrs. Anonymous,
Thank you for all your feedback. I’ll look into farms now; and I’ll mull over what you have written to me. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss such points.
Again thank you,
I have learned there is not much point in argueing scripture with others. The Book of Mormon also has passages in it that can confuse the issue of the Trinity…if the Holy Ghost is left out of the interpretation.
The only way to find truth in this confusing world of religion is to use the Spirit to guide, and then have the strength to follow. This is a concept that seems to be lost to many in these days. I have read official documents from other religions poking fun at the LDS missionaries challange of praying about it and feeling for the answer. “You have to use your common sense.” is the answer of other non-LDS church leaders. Common sense has a place in this world, but I have learned that when communicating with God….common sense can go out the window.
Joseph Smith was not psychotic. He followed NT scripture advice http://scriptures.lds.org/en/james/1 and prayed. His answer was much different than the answer that most of us will recieve to his prayer, but we wont be used as a tool to restore the true church on earth here either. This story sounds unbelievable. I am a convert to this church myself. I have had to deal with the doubts. I had to open myself up and get on my knees and have the strength to follow through on the answer. I have recieved that answer. The peace that I feel because of it is overwhelming. I have a lot of family that thinks I am crazy. They think I am brain washed….but this peace is in my heart… and I am a better husband, father and friend because of it.
If you would like to ask more pointed questions invite some missionaries to your house. They I promise you will not get offended by pointed questions.
Aaron, thank you for your response. It was heartfelt; I empathise and can almost imagine the transformation it must have had through your faith in Mormonism.
The whole reason for this quest: to find out more about the LDS church, is because I had the privilege of having been visited by two very clean-cut looking gentlemen. They told me that they held the position of elders within the LDS church. After some excellent exchanges, we agreed to continue our discussion via email as I told them that I am at the moment very busy with academia and holding the fort, as it were, being the father to three children under the age of five! The fact that they have not responded to my emails makes me think whether my questions were a litte too pointed! While they were here, we got to talk about subjective and objective truth, this that n’ the other…In fact, I was a little surprised when one of the elders (when talking about the subject of faith and referring to the bike that was standing up against my front door) questioned me if I thought that it existed despite the fact that we were both able to see it. He also mentioned something about Australia: he said that, “just because you have read about it or seen it on television, doesn’t mean that it exists” Hmmm…personally, I thought he was treading on dangerous grounds. I wonder if was inadvertently mixing existentialism with LDS doctrine…
Well as I have said, to this day, I have sent two emails to them but they have not responded. This must have been two months ago now.
I also have two really great friends (a brother and sister)who are both LDS. We have known each other since our junior school days. And I’d say that they are one of my very best friends as we were growing up together.
Everytime I broach the subject of the LDS church, the one friend always seems annoyed by my types of questions. I can appreciate that it maybe because she has limited knowledge, but I seem to get the feeling that maybe she thinks that I am out to disprove the LDS religion to her, when my motivations are not! Again, my motivation is to learn. I’m an empty and open book – people just need to write whatever it is they want to write.
To Mr/Miss Anonymous,
It’s interesting that you should bring up the subject that there were witnesses to the golden plates. Again, I don’t know much about the witnesses. I have only just read about the three of the eleven via the mighty wikipedia.
I don’t know what to say about them but I can’t help but feel not to put my trust in them. Take Martin Harris for example: his biographer describes Harris’s imagination as excitable and fecund? And that he once imagined that a sputtering candle was the work of the devil and another description: “Martin was a man that would do just as he agreed with you. But, he was a great man for seeing spooks.” (Lorenzo Saunders Interview, November 12, 1884, Early Mormon Documents 2: 149) Hmm, something smells a little fishy to me. It also seems that this same Martin Harris who had given many specific descriptions of the plates, had now publicly denied having seen them at all?!
Moving on to our second witness:David Whitmer. Please read the account. There is SO MUCH ambiguity, I’m not even sure that he would stand as a good witness in a court of law…
…please remember, I have only just this minute looked at wikipedia for these three witnesses…I don’t claim to know anything apart from what has been presented to me…
And for our third witness:Oliver Cowdery. “Cowdery was also a treasure hunter who had used a divining rod in his youth.”!? I can’t help but feel that Cowdery was also involved with occultic practices. What do others think about this?
“Some modern interpreters of Mormonism have argued that, along with other Americans during this period, the three Witnesses had a magical worldview. One of these, Grant Palmer, a former director of LDS Institutes of Religion who was disfellowshiped by the LDS Church in 2004, argues that “we tend to read into their testimonies a rationalist perspective rather than a nineteenth-century magical mindset….They shared a common world view, and this is what drew them together in 1829.”
From what I have read so far, I can’t help but see that they were all active participants of occultism before they all met. Again, please remember, I am only presenting what I have just recently read!
What I CAN say is that, from what I have read so far, I don’t trust the three witnesses, especially when one of the witnesses denied ever seeing them at all! What’s all that about!? Now all sorts of questions are piling up in my tiny head!
I’d like to know your comments please….
Links to YouTube videos usually aren’t welcome in comments here – especially if they are from sources with anti-Mormon content. Videos that slam other religions are also generally unwelcome here.
I care about the content that this site sends traffic to, and am often not willing to spend the time to screen videos, so please refrain from YouTube links unless it’s from a source I’m likely to trust – like a video I make!
I appreciate your comments about seeking for truth. It can be hard found in this lifetime, but is well worth the search.
You bring up some interesting questions about the 3 witnesses that you read about on wikipaedia. I have spent some time contemplating and studying the original sources I could find on this subject, which were few. No one claims that these men were perfect. Most had issues with the Prophet Joseph and the Church at one time in their lives. Yet, the official Church teaching, which is documented, is that none of them denied their role as witness to the plates.
Much has been written by those who are not of our faith to disparage these men. Much is written to disparage men of faith in all times for their belief in things that others do not understand, believe or comprehend. I would caution that wikipaedia is not an authoritative source in these matters. Its contents, though nicely cited, may come from material written by anti-mormons just as easily (perhaps easier) than material written by Mormons or Mormon apologists.
It is hard for me to believe that the growth of the Church would have been as it was if it were so easy to discredit and debunk Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer in their own time. I expect this was not the case, and that the many writings in support of these men and their testimonies maintained by the Church are true.
I would suggest that you search the many writings and statements maintained at lds.org for another side of this matter.
I applaude you for your open discussion. In the end, I must conclude by saying that the discussion, though helpful, may always ring hollow. Knowledge of the truth of God comes into our hearts and minds as “pure intelligence flowing from God”. I think this is what makes us seem so different to the rest of the world. We believe with conviction, not because someone else said it was so, but because we have asked Him, and He has answered us in our hearts and minds.
I wish you all the best in your search, and add only that my search, my faith and my conviction have made me a far better father, husband, son, neighbor, friend, worker, etc… then I otherwise would have been. In my own life I see this as an answer to the Lord’s statement “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:20 and 3 Nephi 14:20).
Feng, or kidd05, thanks so much for letting me know! I’m always thrilled when someone makes the tough decision to follow Christ in a covenant relationship through baptism, and hope that your journey is wonderful. I’m glad if my site or blog was of some help along the way.
Let me know how things work out for you later on. May God bless you always!
Before any judgments are made re: the witnesses, Richard Anderson’s MUST be consulted. The best scholarship performed from the paradigm of the faithful (a paradigm as respectable as any other).
Censorship will always be a contraversial subject and as much as I agree that it has its place in society, I don’t quite understand why Jeff continues to delete posts that link to videos. Censorship to uphold decency – yes, but censorship to with-hold material that needs no censorship could almost be mistaken for propaganda.
Jeff, if truth is truth (no matter what it is bombarded with), will stand. And if Mormonism is true…then let it stand.
Saying that, I know that I need to respect your wishes and ask if I could repost what you deleted without the hyper-links to the videos.
I hope you accept my apology and further hope that you could let me re-post what you have deleted.
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I am not surprised that you would be unconvinced by witnesses’ testimony when you choose to uncritically accept background information on the witnesses that comes from anti-mormon sources. In philosophy this is a logical fallacy known as “poisoning the well.” What would be your response (assuming your are a Catholic for example) if I told you that I felt unconvinced about the truthfulness of Christianity after reading an article on Christianity written by a Muslim?
In your browsing, you seem to have overlooked the fact that there were eight additional witnesses, whose witness was of a very different nature. They are often ignored for the very reason that it is impossible to spiritualize away their testimony. But I digress.
Your multiple responses seem to be constantly using non sequiturs that go far afield from your original implicit assertions of the non-Christian nature of Mormonism. Whether or not Joseph was a pyschotic or the 3 Witnesses believed in magic is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not Mormons are Christians. There are evangelical Christians that believe in UFOs, Catholics that believe in Yoda, etc.
To get back to that issue, I am still waiting for your defense of a creeds-only interpretation of the Bible.
Can I ask how the LDS church tackles Paul’s letter to the Galatian church? This, of course, is just one of a few examples of Paul’s warning against men or angels who bring another gospel of Jesus Christ. I ask this question with all humility and sincerity with the hope that you or someone might respond.
The simple answer is that you’re begging the question. We don’t believe we are preaching a different gospel, so we don’t have any problem with what Paul said.
Thank you for your response. The reason I keep going off on tangents is because I keep receiving different responses from different people who offer things to me that I have never even considered! ‘The 3 witness’ post was in response to another anonymous person’s (unless it was you of course) assertion that Joseph could not have been undergoing psychoses because he had witnesses…THAT post was made (literally) after five minutes’ worth of googling!
My intention is NOT to diverge, but people’s responses create even more questions! And such issues that I have never, ever even heard of. Information overload! Would it be ok if you could identify yourself? It’s just that there are many people here who seem to like to be called anonymous…it’s pretty hard to keep a track of who is who.
But, to satisfy you, I shall indeed look into the other 8 witnesses. These eight people were from Joseph Smith’s immediate family and also members of the Whitmer family, right?
…I shall continue to read…
“There are evangelical Christians that believe in UFOs, Catholics that believe in Yoda, etc.”
Really? That’s quite somethin’.
“…if I told you that I felt unconvinced about the truthfulness of Christianity after reading an article on Christianity written by a Muslim?”
This is a fair comment. Again, to re-itterate: my response was after 5 minutes’ worth of googling! I’m sorry that I ‘poisoned the well’. And I shall look into it with more depth.
I don’t fully understand how wikipedia works, it’s a useful source of information that undergoes peer review. I know that if there are items that are contentious, it would be flagged, but seeing as there were no flags, I just assumed that such information were legit.
Thanks again, (and please could you at least give me your first initials? That way, I know who to direct my responses to)
Wikipedia is a valuable source, but anybody can edit anything to add junk at any time. In some cases, the errors have been horrendous and can go uncorrected for quite a while. But it’s still an amazingly good source on many topics.
As for the concern expressed about censorship, deletions of comments are actually pretty rare here. You can see all sorts of things I disagree with. But I still reserve the right to control what is done here. Please note that this does not come close to actual censorhip. It’s no more censorship than Newsweek or Atlantic Monthly refusing to print an article you submit to them. Those who control an outlet of information have no obligation to print or post everything others want published. But you are still free to share your views in a thousand other ways or to even start your own blog.
In addition to some unwanted YouTube links, a deleted post seemed rather off topic. If you can keep comments on topic, they are more likely to stay.
Meanwhile, I appreciate the civil tone of the commenters here and am grateful for the dialog.
When I first really investigated the LDS religion, I read a lot of anti-Mormon literature, probably for much the same reason you have: it was the most prevalant and most easily found. Often I would read sites just to get ANY information (not knowing sites like Jeff’s, LDS.org, or Mormon.org) and even after reading I wouldn’t always know which side the author’s were on so it was hard to know how much truth I could find in what was being said. In the end, my now-wife then-friend gave me some good advice regarding the things I read (and very often shared with her). She said, “How does it make you feel when you read those things? Do you feel uplifted and edified by it, or do you feel darkened and saddened by what you read?” Her purpose, rather than to take down their arguments point by point, was simply to point out something to me. I can honestly say I never felt good when I read anti-Mormon literature. I similarly don’t feel good reading anti-Jewish literature, anti-Muslim literature, or anti-Evangelical Christian literature. The reason, at least for me (which my friend/wife was pointing out), was that Christ was not in the message being shared, even if what was being shared might have truth. In the end, I have found mountains of evidence for the Book of Mormon (many of them also supportive of the Bible and its teachings), while the mountains of anti-Mormon literature seem so often seated on sand. I joined the church after a full year of soul searching, prayer, study, more prayer, and questioning of numerous people (members and non-members) who I felt I trusted. In the end, though, I joined for one simple reason: I asked Heavenly Father to tell me if I should join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I got back an answer twice (being the stubborn and doubtful person I was and sometimes still am, I asked twice). Both times it was a definite yes with no ambiguity. Take that for what you will; that is my testimony of the truthfulness of this church.
As to answers to particular questions, I think many LDS people have trouble with them because they simply accept the truth and see no point in debating it. Many don’t even like affirming their faith through evidence, which I can understand because of the dangers of trusting non-scriptural material as a bedrock of one’s faith. They simply prefer to accept the truthfulness of faith in answers they have received to personal prayer. Such faith, in my opinion, is far stronger in many cases than the most studied Christian scholar’s. My experiences in the church have helped me accept more and question less because I can feel the Spirit more strongly when I listen more with my heart than question with my head. I truly believe that is why some of your experiences with LDS have been such as they are. Missionaries, in particular, shy away from people who seem (not saying you are, but your emails might have come off that way) to attack the church, and for good reason. They are trying to share the good word of the Lord to those who want to listen. I expect that is probably why you did not hear back.
To answer you directly regarding Mormonism as a Christian faith or not: Jesus taught things in his day that were not accepted by the Jewish leadership, so you might note that even the Savior himself did not come to be “popular”. What is popular is not always right. Other churches may not accept Mormons as Christian, but in my experience many Christians do. But it is not important if other churches accept us; it is only important if Christ and Heavenly Father accept us as their people. The letter from Paul to the Galatians is, as another writer here stated, not inconsistent with our teachings because our teachings are not (as Paul warned) inconsistent with “this gospel”. Many people have tried to tell me (and, I admit I was guilty of this misinterpretation) that Revelation 22 clearly states that nothing should be added to the Bible. I believe it was placed in scripture where it was for that reason by those who placed it there, but it was by no means intended to mean what the modern Christian groups take it to mean. If it did, we should throw out everything else in the Bible besides Revelation, and perhaps John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. Because in that sense, the book of Revelation, or John’s writings, would be the only acceptable scripture. What Revelation 22 states, however, is that nothing should be added to the Revelation to John itself, and nothing taken away, lest the person doing so suffer interminably. We do not seek to add to that book specifically, but instead to the gospel library as a whole. To ignore what are called “extra-Biblical texts” by scholars is to ignore a great deal written even by Paul, as many of his letters were excluded because they were repetitive or for other reasons. The first time someone was told to stop writing in the Bible as in the first five books of the Old Testament, yet we have so many more after it. Why? Because it was not meant to say “stop adding here forever.” It was meant to say “don’t write any more in this text.” The Book of Mormon is full of writings that bring more out of the Bible, not things that tear it down. The two together are beautiful messages of love from our Heavenly Father and our Savior to us, his people.
I realize this post has been long, but I hope it has shed some light on some of what you have discussed here. I am happy to write back and forth, even on “tough questions”, if you want someone to do that with. I am busy, like yourself, with family and work, but I will do my best to be prompt in responding to questions. I do not pretend to know all the answers, nor do I speak for the Church itself. I just enjoy discussing my faith with people who are honestly interested to learn more. I will check back here in the coming days for any posts indicating you would like to correspond.
General Conference just repeats the same messages every 6 months. There is nothing new there.
Nothing can be proven by a “feeling”. The LDS church is based on false teachings that have changed many times over the years. Even the “First Vision” has many versions even though the LDS church only talks about the currently published version.
If I saw God and Jesus, I would not forget any of the details. I doubt anyone would. Why did JS have such a hard time getting the facts straight? Easy, it was all a lie.
ruadamu2: Would you be able to verify your statements? And what is the General Conference? Changes in the ‘First Vision’? I take it these mean JS’s first revelation? Too much information!
robert: I will work on my response later on tonight. You have given me some things I need to chew on.
Mormanity (Jeff): I will honour your wishes.
General Conference is a gathering we have as a church every six months, and we just had our first of this year over the past weekend. It is not “the same thing every six months”, but sometimes similar topics are covered because 1) the subject warrants further elucidation or 2) new matters have come up in regard to some topic. You can view General Conference on BYU.tv (look at the archived sessions somewhere on the screen). It’s two hours a session, four sessions, but it’s really uplifting to listen to, in my experience.
I have heard the supposition that the church has changed its position on things like the First Vision and other matters several times. Most of the sources, though, are anti-Mormons who have twisted words from talks. One thing I would point out is that many anti-Mormon writers that cite LDS writings (including the Book of Mormon) use elipses “…” to break up the passages they are citing. What they’ve left out with those elipses, however, is often the words that make the passage make a great deal more sense. For instance, I can quote the Bible as stating quite plainly “There is no God.” It is there, and there is no denying that. Does that mean the Bible is an atheistic text? No, because the quote comes from the context “A fool says there is no God.” Paul said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” But he said that in the context of saying “if this is the only existence we have, we should live it up, but it is not, so we should live appropriately as the Savior has taught us to. So you can take things out of context and twist them to your designs, if your intent is to distort the truth. I hope and pray you listen to the Spirit as you analyze anything you read about the Book of Mormon or the Bible or the LDS Church, and decide for yourself what is true.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to respond to my equally long winded questions. I appreciate that all my questions seem rather naive but I guess there’s only one way anyone can know more about the LDS from an objective standpoint. I’m also quite aware that I’m taking up quite a lot of Jeff’s blogging space; I also realise that some of the subjects I have covered and may like to cover in future discussions are not at all relevant to Jeff’s original post. So, with that in mind, I don’t mind, Robert, if we take this discussion elsewhere. I do have a blog over at Livejournal, but I have recently had to lock it because of my profession as a mental health worker and the kind of clients, which have severe mental health problems that I reflect upon. We could, as another possibility discuss issues at my blogspot blog. (I can almost feel the big sigh of relief from Jeff) and as ever, you just have to click on my username to drop a comment.
So, on with the show, as it were:
My first point: is this use of the word anti-mormon. I was talking to my good friend (who is a LDS and lives in Utah) about the fact that most, if not ALL LDS remain very cautious when approached to talk about their faith. He said that caution is almost an automatic reflex reaction because of all the flack that the LDS receive from the general public. That said, I know I must appreciate and acknowledge the kind of persecution LDS people must feel, but I can’t help but think that by LDS individuals using the term, anti this n’ that, adds fuel to the already blazing fire. The mere use of the word anti concocts the idea that LDS people are narrow-minded and prejudiced. I hope that this is not the case. There should be no use of the word anti. I’ve mentioned this to Jeff, that if truth is truth, then it will stand. And if Mormonism claims to be true, then let it stand.
So, if we take this premise that Mormonism is true, then it must be true in all situations of life. First though, we need to know what we mean by ‘truth’ because as you know, there is subjective truth and there is objective truth. If something claims to be objectively true, then it must be at least reasonable, rational and logical. There must be enough evidence outside of personal experience to show that Mormonism is at least reasonably true. Just as a side note: I have on my computer (and I don’t know if you’re interested) a video footage of a debate between William Lane Craig, a professor of philosophy and theology and also an evangelical Christian and Anthony Flew, a professor of philsophy from Oxford University and a once ardent atheist. Their subject of debate was to show whether Christian theism (the biblical view that God is eternal and that there are no other Gods, i.e. not the Mormon God) is a reasonable account for life on earth against the subconsciously more accepted view in evolution. It’s also worth noting that because of this debate, Anthony Flew, this once ardent atheist has now upgraded from atheist to deist! Deism?! Believe me, that’s quite a leap! I’ll send you the file if you like, so you can see it. So, why am I including this, I hear you ask? Well, I’m not really into huge debates; all in all, they can be quite useless…but they do serve as a good spring board to make people aware that christian theism (the biblical viewpoint) is a reasonable faith. Again, if something claims to be objectively true, then it should withstand the onslaught of exporative questions no matter how apparently insulting they seem to be.
I get the feeling that because of this accepted use of the word anti within LDS, it has almost served to automatically rule out ANY explorative questions. Can I tell you something Robert? If I read something that seems to run against Biblical Christianity, I don’t automatically think, “Oh no! This is anti-Christian”. Such a word wouldn’t even enter into my head, instead, I weigh up what they say and see if it is done with sincerity. One can automatically tell if the other is being insincere. If they do seem sincere, then I ask whether what they say does impact my christian world-view.
Don’t automatically rule out these so called, anti-Mormon literature: they might hold truth that will one day save your life.
Point number 2: “Jesus taught things in his day that were not accepted by the Jewish leadership, so you might note that even the Savior himself did not come to be ‘popular’. What is popular is not always right”
Hmmm, Jesus was sentenced to death BECAUSE of what he said. According to the Pharisees, Jesus said the most outrageous things about Himself, i.e. in the book of Mark when Jesus proved his point about being able to forgive sin, by asking a rhetorical question that stunned the pharisees, (paraphrased) “What is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?” To the pharisees, the claim to be God Himself (because it is only God who can forgive sin) is blasphemy! So what does Jesus do? He heals the guy!! Jesus, through Marks account never ceases to amaze me.
Anyway, I have digressed.
Point 3: “Other churches may not accept Mormons as Christian, but in my experience many Christians do”
Really? I can tell you now Robert that there are people who attend church, who go and do Christian activities and who might also go and do some very charitable acts under the banner of Christendom, but are not actually Christians. They do not have a relationship with their Savior. The Christian life isn’t about doing things to attain salvation…this is of course, the gospel of works, something that Catholicism is guilty of. The Christian life is a life of thanksgiving, the Christian is someone who can’t help but thank God and does good works in response to what God has already done. And what is this thing that God has done? God, in His holiness and someone who abhors the sight of sin, who DEMANDS perfection because He is perfect does an outrageous act: He shows grace. Excellent book by Philip Yancey called, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, if you get the chance to read it…then do so. God, effectively, absorbed the punishment of sin!? In Christ, ALL of sin was placed on His head. And I stress: ALL SIN. Can you imagine that? What? Even Hitler’s sins? Even the child molester? The internet peadophile? The prostitute? The murderer? Absolutely. God has done ALL the work. And because God has done all the work, there is nothing else that we can do except to accept it; all we have to do is to accept his grace and repent of our sins. The whole point of biblical Christianity is Jesus. The old testament prophets pointed to his coming and the new testament writes about the effect of his arrival and also points to his second coming. The buck stops with Jesus – no one else. He is the only one who takes the role of prophet, priest and king.
Point 4: “Revelation 22 clearly states that nothing should be added to the Bible. I believe it was placed in scripture where it was for that reason by those who placed it there, but it was by no means intended to mean what the modern Christian groups take it to mean. If it did, we should throw out everything else in the Bible besides Revelation, and perhaps John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. Because in that sense, the book of Revelation, or John’s writings, would be the only acceptable scripture. What Revelation 22 states, however, is that nothing should be added to the Revelation to John itself, and nothing taken away, lest the person doing so suffer interminably. We do not seek to add to that book specifically, but instead to the gospel library as a whole.”
Yes, I, my elders and many of my christian collegues also recognise this.
This adding to the book refers only to his book, ie John’s revelation about the second coming of Jesus.
So, for my first question: based on everything that I have said about who Jesus is and what He has done, what is the point of Joseph Smith?
My second question: if there is such a thing as modern revelation, what makes Joseph Smith stand out above the likes of Moon and his Unification church or even Mohammad and Islam?
If you don’t know anything about the Unification Church, I will upload a google video or a hyper link on to my blogspot site to show you the kind of influence he has had on the world!
Again, I’m sorry if these question so sound naive, but thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do this. I really, really appreciate it.
To any reading the discussion between Nathaniel and myself and taking an interest, I took his offer to move the discussion to his blog. I don’t know that Jeff minds either way, but I did it just so he had control over what he and I shared.
The purpose of this post, other than to explain what I just have, is to point out something I just happened to see on the FARMS website on a side banner listed as a Frequently Asked Question. It happens to speak to the point made here by ruadamu2 about the First Vision. It states, when you click the link:
Why do Joseph Smith’s various accounts of the first vision differ so much?
There are fewer differences between the various accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision than between the five different accounts of the apostle Paul’s first vision and his trip to Damascus (Acts 9:1-30; 22:5-21; 26:12-20; Galatians 1:11-24; and 2 Corinthians 11:32-33) or in the various accounts of Christ’s resurrection found in the four gospels. (For example, did the men with Paul hear the voice but see no man, as in Acts 9:7, or did they see the light but not hear the voice, as in Acts 22:9?) Indeed, there are no blatant contradictions between Joseph Smith’s accounts–only different emphasis–as would be expected when someone recounts an event from his life at different times and in different circumstances.
Thus, for example, the fact that Joseph says in one account that he saw “the Lord” and in another that he saw “two personages” is not contradictory, only a matter of emphasis. And there is no real contradiction between Joseph Smith believing, when he went to pray in the grove, that he should join none of the churches, and the Lord confirming that thought by revelation. After all, he went into the woods to get an answer. If his mind was already made up and he merely needed confirmation, then it fits the pattern in D&C 9:8, where the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right.” The point of the “official” version of Joseph Smith’s story is that he received a revelation on the issue. But even that version does not preclude the idea that he had already determined the answer and needed confirmation.
I just thought this answer spoke very well to the point raised about contradictions in accounts of the First Vision.
First there are dozens of references proving that the commonly held version of the first vision (revelation) is not the original. Many of these are from early LDS prophets and Joseph’s own brother. People that know Joseph first hand. I won’t give elipse filled references here but will list a few things you can look up in your own research:
Journal of Discourses (JOD), Vol 18, pg. 239
You can find the JOD at: http://www.journalofdiscourses.org/
JOD Vol 2, pg. 171
JOD Vol 20, pg. 167
William Smith on Mormonism pg. 5
Church Historical Record, Vol 7, Jan. 1888 (Make sure you read this version as it changed first from “angel” to “holy being” then to “the Christ”.)
The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, BYU Studies, 9:280 – from the Kirtland Letter Book 1829-1835
This list goes on and on. This should be enough.
Notice that these are all LDS Church Documents, not “anti-mormon” documents.
One last thing. Your suggestion on good viewing/reading will fall on deaf ears. It is frowned upon in the Mormon church to read religious books that are not written by Mormons…sad, but true.
Just wanted to chime in on nathanielmacrae’s Point 3: …
Kind of using an “anti-Christian” tact there, eh? (bad joke)
I would hope you can see it is hurtful, almost cruel, to call people who do “Christian” things “not actually Christian”. How could you know anything about their “relationship with their Savior”. It’s a very personal thing. There is no way you can judge or know the level of someone’s “Christianity” except maybe by their actions.
For that matter, I don’t understand how people buy into the duplicitous statement of “saved through grace” (a.k.a “you don’t have to do anything”) yet “all we have to DO [an action] is to accept his grace and repent [another action] of our sins”. True repentance, btw, is not just an apology but actually requires work, humility, restitution, and a change of behavior.
Paul said, “Faith without works is dead.” Those words cannot be twisted. Yes, there is no way we can save ourselves. Yes, we are all destined to sin. But God is not an ENABLER of sin. “Look Ma, I can sin all I want, even directly oppose God, as long as I believe I’m gonna be saved by Christ!” God already has a “relationship” with every living soul because we are all His sons and daughters. God’s grace extends to the followers of Christ, not just those that claim to have a relationship. Even Satan knew and believed in Christ and tried to tempt Him as such.
My opinion… One must do his/her best to follow Christ knowing and believing that Christ’s atoning sacrifice will make up the vast difference. Anything short of that smacks of hypocrisy and mocks God.
And without the again revealed doctrine of Baptism for the Dead, billions of people are castigated to the “mainstream” Christian understanding of Hell, many of which probably live / have lived very worthy lives but have never accepted His grace.
Sorry for the rant. 🙂
I think you are missing the point here. Mormons believe that ALL men/women will escape the bonds of death, be ressurected, and recieve their judgement. This will happen regardless of what they believe, their level of righteousness, or how they lived their lives. Kinda sounds like they will be saved by grace.
The level of reward is where the differentiation comes to play. Mainstream Christianity doesn’t profess to know anything about this, but rather leaves it up to God to sort that out. Mormons claim to know all about it. They know all the different types of rewards, what it takes to get there, and who will and will not be given a golden ticket. None of that has anything to do with being saved by grace. If you believe the whole God/Jesus thing, then “Saved by Grace” makes sense regardless of your denomination. Mormons think they have the insider information on all things. Here is a good example of that not being the case.
Thank you for your comment. I have been rebuked. I stand down.
The Christian comment was a comment that had no basis. It was an off the cuff response. I think my intention was to show that just because someone is born into a religion or just because someone was dedicated/christened as a child into a church, doesn’t automatically mean that you are a Christian-christian. Do you know what I mean? Certainly a few years ago, this country of Britain was known as a Christian country because of its majority’s belief in a personal God but I hardly think that this was the case…it might have had a historical past in Christian theism, but I think by the 60s and certainly by the 80s, Britain was well within the confines of secular humanism and post-modernity!
Anyway, I accept your wise words.
Are you a member of the LDS church?
Every person gets to choose how much of the atonement they accept. Jesus suffered for all our pain and all our sins. I know many people, both Mormon and “main stream Christians” who have accepted Christ as their Savior from sin, but they haven’t given him their pain, so he can, take our yokes upon him. Just as much as they’ve only given him some of their sins. Jesus and Heavenly Father love us, and they won’t force us to do anything we don’t desire to do. At the same time, they know our hearts and our personal dreams and our deepest desires, and they fulfill them if we are receiving their help. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” He won’t force us to open the door for him, and that goes for as wide as we want to choose to receive him. He will only come in as much as we accept his grace, but part of accepting his grace is doing the work to open the door and keep it open. We have to show Jesus we mean it. We’re on the earth to learn, and it’s a worthless atonement if we don’t learn from our mistakes as we accept His Grace. Also, Mormons do read books by non-LDS authors. CS Lewis was never LDS, and he’s commonly quoted by many LDS people. We believe in finding and defending truth.
I find it very ironic that you, who from the tenor of your posts about the LDS Church I would guess to be someone with a negative opinion of Mormons, did an excellent job of summarizing LDS positions.
You are correct, Mormons DO believe in unconditional grace that will save all mankind from physical death and will also save all manking (with a handful of exceptions) from spiritual death. It is unfortunate the many members of the LDS faith continue misunderstand this point. I suspect it is in large part influenced by the Latter-Day Saints trying to distinguish themselves from Christians denominations that jubilantly affirm that all one has to do to be saved is confess Jesus (and then ignore everything else in the Bible).
You are also correct in claiming that Mormons believe they have “insider information” on details that other Christians don’t have. That really is the crux of the argument, isn’t it: Does the LDS Church receive relevation from God through modern prophets?
Lastly, you surmised that Mormons claim to have “insider information” on everything. This is, unfortunately, often the case as well.
Just want to congratulate you on a job well done.
le35, Mr. Anonymous, Shawn and ruadamu2:
I’d love to have you all over at my blogging space. It would be just dandy…
I think you’ll appreciate this one:
C.S. Lewis wrote in ‘Mere Christianity’
“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”
And yes, I agree: repentance is all about a ‘change of mind’, moving that ‘central part of you’ into line with God rather than self.
Not missing the point. Mainstream Christianity claims in several ways one must be “born again” or hell awaits. Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Are you stating the requirement no longer exists and that mainstream Christianity now believes grace is going to save all regardless of religious affiliation or belief (or behavior)?
I believe what Christ said in John 14:6. I also believe as you stated that “ALL men/women will escape the bonds of death.” (Yes Nat, I’m a member). And I believe that we must “do” something so we are not left unprepared and displaced like the 5 from Christ’s parable of the 10 virgins.
Nat: I enjoy your thoughts and posts. I, too, am a big C.S. Lewis fan. 🙂
You stated that you didn’t get the “saved by grace” declaration. I merely pointed out that LDS believe “saved by grace” too. Why is this hard to understand when you believe the same thing?
Born again was not the topic.