Recommended Books About Mormonism


Every now and then I get asked what books I would recommend about Mormonism, here are what I would consider to be some of the most helpful books on getting to grips with Mormonism, the books here are from various perspectives. I will give a bit of an explanation why for each of them too.

This list is a work in progress, and will have books added over time. I will also add a link to the Amazon UK page for these books in their titles.

Finally by way of introduction this is part of a wider plan I have to put reviews on this site, if you have recommendations, or you are writing a book and want to pass me a review copy, I would love to hear from you.


Christian Perspective

These are books written by evangelical Christians looking at how to witness to Mormons giving some good basic introduction about Mormonism along the way, all of these books are good places to start.

Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson



This is a classic book that gives an outstanding introduction to Mormonism and some key beliefs, also giving a Biblical response, looking at how we can have meaningful dialogue with Mormons. The authors Bill McKeever And Eric Johnson are I would say among the worlds best resources for this subject.




Speaking The Truth In Love To Mormons by Mark Cares.



Outstanding book, that not only gives an introduction to Mormon beliefs and how we might respond, but focuses a lot on our approach, and the significance of keeping up to date with current Mormon teachings.





I Love Mormons by David Rowe



This book is one of the most influential books I have read in my 12 years or so of ministry. There is very little in this book about Mormon doctrine etc, but a lot about our approach and how we view Mormons and how we dialogue with them, I stopped thinking of Mormonism as a cult when I read this, and started thinking of it more as a culture, or a people group, that need reaching, I cannot recommend this book enough.




Mormon Perspective

One thing which I think is very helpful when beginning to learn about Mormonism is not just to read books by non Mormons talking about problems in Mormonism, but also to read books by Mormons, explaining their faith, what they believe and why they believe it. I think doing this gives us a clearer perspective on what Mormons believe, and more credibility when having dialogue with them.

Our Search For Happiness by Russell Ballard



This is written by current Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard, and gives a good overview of basic Mormon belief from a more devotional perspective, interesting place to start.





Offenders For A Word by Daniel Peterson



Many may not realise this but Mormon Apologetics, or the defence of the Mormon faith is a big deal within Mormonism. This is a classic book in that field by Daniel Peterson, who many consider to be the worlds top Mormon Apologist. This book is a response to the evangelical claim that Mormons are not Christians, he makes some points here worthy of consideration, which if thought about will prepare you well for discussions about this.



Changes in Mormonism

One of the key indicators of a lack of divine guidance in the Mormon church is the changes over time to key texts and beliefs, these books are simply outstanding in showing this and have taught me a lot.

This Is My Doctrine – The Development Of Mormon Theology – Charles R Harrell



Written by a faithful Mormon BYU Professor, this book is incomparable with clearly stating how Mormon beliefs have changed and developed over the years, this is by no means intending to be a critical book, but is very honest and so worth a read.





Mormonism and The Nature Of God – A Theological Evolution – Kurt Widmer



Every bit as good as the book above, but focusing exclusively on the nature of God within Mormonism, I learned a lot from this book, really good.






The Changing World Of Mormonism – Jerald And Sandra Tanner

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A classic book that just goes through everything, this is a decent enough sized book that is an abridgement of the Tanners Classic book Mormonism Shadow Or Reality, which is massive.

You can actually download this free as a PDF at Sandra Tanners site here.




Ex-Mormon Stories


Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder



If you have not heard the story of the Wilder’s yet then please get this book, this is by far the most inspiring and encouraging book of its kind that I have ever read. As a result of one Mormon missionary coming to Christ on his mission, pretty much his whole family did the same, this is his ex BYU Professor mother Lynn’s story.


Book of Mormon Evidence by Mike Thomas

Book-of-Mormon_thumb.jpgFrom time to time Mormons come up with what they regard as ‘substantive’ evidence for the Book of Mormon. When ministries inevitably challenge and refute that evidence, Mormons insist that someone can only know the Book of Mormon is true by sincere prayer, citing Moroni’s promise from the end of the book:

‘And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.’ (Moroni 10:4)

Of course, if you have prayed and received no such confirming answer, the sincerity of your heart, the reality of your intent, and the faith you express in Christ are all called into question. Very quickly you move from their providing evidence to their doubting your integrity, followed by their challenging you to disprove their claims: ‘An unschooled youth couldn’t possibly have written it, so if it didn’t come from God, where did it come from?’

This is a classic ploy in which you build premises that can be reasonably accepted and then draw a conclusion yourself that others would not have drawn.

  1. Here is a book – yes
  2. Mormons regard it as Scripture – yes
  3. It is controversial – yes
  4. An alternative provenance cannot be shown than that claimed for it – yes
  5. Therefore the provenance claimed for it must be true –

But it is not for those who challenge Mormon claims to prove anything. It is for those who wish to add this book to the established Word of God to demonstrate that their claims, even if questioned, are yet reasonable. Not everyone believes in the Bible yet there are reasons to believe the Bible is at least an historical document and, where it speaks historically, an accurate document. No one doubts the Bible’s historicity, no one claims it is a product of the 19th century, the work of medieval reformers, or of early medieval monasticism. We cannot speak so confidently about the Book of Mormon.

Ancient Money Systems

I came across this blog post which references a larger article claiming to bring ‘surprising evidences for the Book of Mormon.’ The first blog pulled out two ‘evidences’ they found especially compelling. One is the money system in the Book of Mormon. The claim is that ancient money systems were binary because ancient civilisations, such as that of the Egyptians, did not know about fractions as we understand them today. Evidence, they insists, that ‘the money system described in the Book of Mormon is definitely an ancient one due to its binary system.’

Showing that the money system in the Book of Mormon has ancient parallels because of its binary nature does not prove the book itself to be ancient. That is rather like finding a first edition Gutenberg Bible on my shelf and claiming I must, therefore, have been around when it was printed. I know I am old but… Indeed, if ‘a barely literate farm-boy,’ as Joseph Smith is fondly portrayed, were to invent a money system surely it would be a simple system. If his sources for the work were themselves ancient, such as the Bible, surely a binary system would be inevitable.

Book of Mormon Archaeology


widows mite
The Bible’s Widow’s Mite

Unlike the Bible, not a scrap of archaeological evidence has been found to verify the historical claims of the Book of Mormon. Not a city, not a town, not a building, not a brick or a stone, not a pot or a shard, not an arrowhead – not a coin. Perhaps before speculating about the ancient nature of Mormon money some should be produced to show its existence.


The rebuttal to that argument is that the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim to be talking about coins but about weights and measures. These can be found in Alma 11 where we find:

‘Now the reckoning is thus—a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold.

A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver.

A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain.

Now the amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine…’

And so forth.

The problem is the Book of Mormon, in the same chapter, refers to money: ‘Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain…that they might get more money according to the suits which were brought before them…’ (referring to unjust judges Alma 11:20) The claim is that these means of exchange comprise ‘commodity money,’ an ancient form of exchange the worth of which comes from the intrinsic value of the object of exchange; gold, silver, etc.

But the chapter heading refers to ‘Nephite coinage set forth.’ This is the relatively modern fiat money system in which tokens are exchanged such as a cheque, paper bill, or coins which have no intrinsic value but which represent, or are tokens of an agreed value. And even if the coins have an intrinsic value because they are made of precious metals they are still coins, and none have ever been found. Yet, the chapter heading says ‘coins.’

Oh, the argument goes, but the chapter headings are not part of the original Book of Mormon. Like the introduction, they were added latterly by Bruce R McConkie. Of course, anyone who knows Mormonism will know that McConkie is the favourite whipping boy when it comes to Mormon doctrinal controversies.‘Oh, brother McConkie wrote it. weeaall…’ And so he is dismissed. But consider this statement from no greater authority than Robert Millet, professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, and Monte S Nyman , former professor of religion at BYU:

‘I think it would be no breach of etiquette or of confidentiality if I were to say with pleasure that Elder Bruce R. McConkie produced those headings. Now I don’t know anybody else who could do it so well. All of the headings are definitive and interpretive; they are a valuable part of the new edition of the scriptures. Occasionally people say to me, “We have a marvelous topical guide” (and let me say that there are people here who helped on the topical guide), “there are a lot of other good things in this new edition of the scriptures, but there is no commentary.” It struck me one day that the commentary is in the chapter headings. In fact, try this exercise sometime. Start with Genesis and just read the headings–Genesis 1, then Genesis 2, Genesis 3, and do this for about fifteen chapters. You’ll see that those headings are not only good for the chapter in which they are placed, but they are consecutive and relate well to one another.’ (Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet, The Joseph Smith Translation, p.300-301)

If McConkie’s headings are good enough for the Joseph Smith Translation they must surely be good enough for the Book of Mormon.

The problem here, of course, is not this rabbit-hole chasing game we often end up playing but the overall picture that emerges when you step back and take a good look. There is evidence, compelling evidence, until it is challenged and then it doesn’t matter and the inquirer is directed to the prayer room, but when the ‘right’ answer is not forthcoming their integrity is questioned. There is evidence to the contrary but that is questioned even if it means denouncing one of their own, a Mormon apostle. All the time they cannot see that if what an apostle has included in the book cannot be trusted, the evidence they wished would impress us proves worthless, and the contrary evidence proves strong we will not believe their claims.

[Mike Thomas is the Chairman of Reachout Trust a ministry to the cults in the UK]

General Conference, April 2016 – Sunday Afternoon Session by Mike Thomas

Paul V Johnson SeventyAnd There Shall Be No More Death

The stand out talk in this session of the Mormon General Conference was delivered by Paul V Johnson of the Seventy, a man being strong in the face of great adversity. Surely, everyone would have been moved as he spoke passionately about the resurrection in the context of the death from cancer, a little under a year earlier, of his daughter.

Last year at Easter time, a little over a month before she passed away, Alisa wrote: “Easter is a reminder of all that I hope for myself. That someday I will be healed and someday I will be whole. Someday I won’t have any metal or plastic inside of me. Someday my heart will be free of fear and my mind free of anxieties. I am not praying that this happens soon, but I am so glad I truly believe in a beautiful afterlife.”

It is a reminder that, whatever we believe, the sometimes crushing trials of life are the common lot. It also challenges us about how we view judgement, the question of what is the ultimate fate of people who don’t believe as we believe. Jesus said, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ (Mt.7:1-2)

Jesus is not speaking here about the evaluations we must make in the course of our every day lives. He is speaking about putting ourselves in the place of God to issue ultimate judgement. My prayer is, as always, that God’s generosity and mercy for me will be likewise tasted by those with whom I profoundly disagree. But I am still called upon to give a clear message and warning to those whose trust is misplaced, whose understanding is mistaken, whose hope is misguided. Paul Johnson goes on to say:

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ ensures the very things Alisa hoped for and instills in each of us “a reason [for] the hope that is in [us].” President Gordon B. Hinckley referred to the Resurrection as “the greatest of all events in the history of mankind.”

The Resurrection is brought to pass by the Atonement of Jesus Christ and is pivotal to the great plan of salvation.

Blink and you will miss the significance of what he said. ‘The resurrection is brought to pass by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.’ The atonement, in other words, brings resurrection. Well, of course, it does but John Taylor, 3rd LDS president, explained:

‘Transgression of the law brought death upon all the posterity of Adam, the restoration through the atonement restored all the human family to life…so that all men…may be placed upon the same footing, and all men may have the same privilege…of accepting the conditions of the great plan of redemption provided by the Father.’ (Meditation and Atonement, pp 178,181)

What are the conditions of the great plan of salvation? Any Mormon will tell you, ‘We believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.’ (3rd Article of Faith) Saved – by – Obedience.

LDS apostle James Talmage wrote:

‘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.’ (The Articles of Faith, 1977, p.91)

When Mormonism speaks of salvation they mean resurrection, salvation from death. Immortality is the lot of everyone who hasn’t openly rebelled. What Christians call salvation, being lifted up to be with God for eternity, Mormons call exaltation. This is earned by faithful obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

Mormon ‘salvation’ is a form of Universalism. All are saved inasmuch as all are resurrected. But Paul wrote, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.’ (Eph.2:8) It is where you put your trust that determines salvation and, while all will be resurrected (1 Cor.15:22) some will be raised to life (Rev.20:6) and others to condemnation (Rev.20:15)

What does the Mormon view look like?

Opposition in All Things

Dallin H Oaks ApostleDallin H Oaks answers our question with a three point sermon. As a Baptist, this warmed my heart.

His first point is: The purpose of mortal life for the children of God is to provide the experiences needed “to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”

This life is a testing ground so we may prove ourselves worthy of that exaltation we spoke of. The Book of Mormon teaches:

“It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Dallin Oaks goes on to explain:

‘Opposition was necessary in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve had not made the choice that introduced mortality, Lehi taught, “they would have remained in a state of innocence, … doing no good, for they knew no sin”’ (2 Nephi 2:23).

His second point is:

‘Opposition in the form of difficult circumstances we face in mortality is also part of the plan that furthers our growth in mortality.’ In other words, opposition helps us, sin tests us, and passing the test exalts us.

In Mormonism the fall of man is a good thing, part of the plan:

‘Some people believe that Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Because of the fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life,. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.’ (Gospel Principles, 1993, p.33)

One Mormon leader from a previous generation explained, ‘Adam fell, but he fell in the right direction. He fell toward the goal…Adam fell, but he fell upward.’ (Sterling W Sill, Deseret News, 31 July 1965, p.7) A Mormon prophet declared, It is not always a sin to transgress a law…Adam’s transgression…was in accordance with law.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1 p.114) The Book of Mormon tells us, ‘Adam fell that men might be; men are that they might have joy.’ (2 Nephi 2;25)

His third point:

‘All of us experience various kinds of opposition that test us. Some of these tests are temptations to sin. Some are mortal challenges apart from personal sin. Some are very great. Some are minor. Some are continuous, and some are mere episodes. None of us is exempt. Opposition permits us to grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.’

There is a famous text:

‘And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And if they keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.’ (Abraham 3:25-26)

This ‘first estate’ is the life Mormonism teaches we had with God as spirit children before the creation. The life we now live is our second estate and our future, eternal, state will be determined, not by whom we have trusted but by how we have performed. It is a spiritual quid pro quo. Nothing demonstrates this better than this Mormon text:

‘There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven, before the foundations of this world, upon which every blessing is predicated-and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it predicated.’ (Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21)

This is the ‘Great Plan of Happiness’ in which all Mormons put their trust. When Paul V Johnson speaks so passionately about his faith, and that of his late daughter, this is what is in view. I wonder, how do you feel about that? Perhaps you wonder how Mormons feel about it? Such a great burden on the shoulders of weak sinners.

The Lord Will Do Wonders – Tomorrow.

Jeffery R HollandLDS apostle Jeffrey R Holland throws some light on it.Summing up the conference, he congratulates warmly the attendees and others watching around the world for their faithfulness. Quoting Hebrews 10:32, he goes on to speak of ‘post-illumination affliction,’ those days when the thrill of following the Great Plan fades and reality kicks in.

‘Realizing that we all have to come down from peak experiences to deal with the regular vicissitudes of life, may I offer this encouragement as general conference concludes…With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying,even if we don’t always succeed.’

Urging Mormons to do their best, he says, ‘We take some solace in the fact that if God were to reward only the perfectly faithful, He wouldn’t have much of a distribution list.’

‘Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them.’

It was the late Mormon prophet Spencer W Kimball who wrote in his notorious and now pulped book The Miracle of Forgiveness:

 ‘To “try” is weak. To “do the best you can” is not strong. We must always do better than we can.’

Mormon scripture warns, ‘…Unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.’ (D&C 82: 7).

A plan to test mankind with sin then; blessings predicated on obedience; its not enough to do your best; every past sin ‘added upon’ the abiding sin of today. No wonder Jeffrey Holland seeks to reassure the saints to simply want to improve, try to obey, strive to nurture virtues.

This is the heart-cry of every honest Mormon. ‘I am doing my best but I will be happy simply to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.’ Its the cry of those who have settled, accepted their inevitable lot, seen themselves as Mormon middle management at best. Just as they never expect to rise above local bishop, or stake president in this life, so they are resigned to a lower kingdom in the next.

The Gospel

What does the Bible say? Paul writes eloquently of the struggle Mormons experience:

‘I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ro.7:18-25)

It is the heart-cry of everyone who comes finally to realise that they don’t need a plan of happiness, they need a Saviour; ‘Who will deliver me..?’ Where Spencer Kimball insists on the impossible, and Jeffrey Holland asks for your best, Paul writes:

‘No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law, rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that that came by Christ Jesus.’ (Ro.3:20-24)

Here is the hope that any family member would wish for their dying loved one, that they should have a sure hope to cling to, one that saves to the uttermost because that is where they have put their trust. And that is the promise of Jesus himself:

‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ (John 5:24)

Take each clause as it is on the page.

Q. To whom is the promise given?

A. Whoever hears and believes.

Q. What is promised?

A. Eternal life.

Q. When is this life delivered?

A. Has eternal life; it is a present possession.

Q. What of future judgement?

A. Will not be condemned; the future assured.

Q. What about my present condition?

A. Has crossed over from death to life; Standing in life from the moment you heard and believed.

It is my prayer that, at the last, all who truly trust in him, however wrongheaded their ideas, will know the assurance of eternal life. My fear is that some continue to trust in chariots (Ps.20:7)

Mike Thomas is the Chairman of Reachout Trust a ministry to the cults in the UK


General Conference – April 2016 – Sunday Morning Review by Andrew Brown

580 OctConference

When I first met Mormon missionaries over two years ago I was surprised that they seemed so focussed on worship in a temple, the need for a distinct priesthood and the fact you could be eternally married in a Mormon temple. I hadn’t at the time studied the beliefs of the Mormons, but I simply asked them to explain beliefs that seemed to contradict my understanding of what the Bible taught. In my opinion the same questions the missionaries left unanswered are the same questions that come to mind after listening to this Sunday morning session.

The main question that the morning session raised for me was:

Do we need a man made temple or temples today?

President Thomas S. Monson – Choices

“Brothers and sisters, before I begin my formal message today, I would like to announce four new temples which, in coming months and years, will be built in the following locations: Quito, Ecuador; Harare, Zimbabwe; Belém, Brazil; and a second temple in Lima, Peru.

When I became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1963, there were 12 operating temples in the entire Church. With the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple two weeks ago, there are now 150 temples in operation throughout the world. How grateful we are for the blessings we receive in these holy houses.”

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell – A Pattern for peace

Please read or listen to (03:00-6:30) the portion of the talk entitled: First Step: “Learn of Me” available hereas it discusses one of the ordinances carried out in the temple.

Elder Quentin L. Cook – See Yourself in the Temple

I’d recommend reading or listening to the entire talk given that this is precisely what he is talking about.

I’d like to start by acknowledging that the idea of a temple is certainly biblical, a temple was built by the command of God in the Old Testament. We see in Exodus 25:8,9 God commands the children of Israel: “…make me a sanctuary [Hebrew; miqdosh a holy place], that I may dwell in their midst”

In verses 10-22 we read of the construction of the Arc of the Covenant.

Just like the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that guided the people; the carrying of the Arc and the erecting of the tabernacle was a constant reminder that God was with them.


We then have the construction of a physical temple by Solomon, however this was David’s plan. Lets look however at how God responds to this desire to build a house for Him.

In 2 Samuel 7 God tells David:

the LORD (Jehovah) declares to you that the LORD (Jehovah) will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”

Why does the Jehovah here say that the son will build for Him a house? Partly we know the prophesy was fulfilled in Solomon, however Solomon died his kingdom did come to an end, the prophesy found its greater fulfilment in Christ. Did Jesus ever instruct the building of temples?

On the contrary in Mark 13:1-2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus also in John 4:20-23 states that a time is coming were people won’t worship at the temple in Jerusalem or any other mountain but would worship in spirit and in truth.

We know from history that Jesus prophecy came true in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple by the Romans. Surely if the temple was so crucial to the worship of God and the plan of salvation, God could easily have protected it, could not the same power which protected the holiness of the arc of the convenient (2 Samuel 6:7) protected the temple? Was there another, greater, temple that was destroyed and yet God rebuilt it? John 2:18-22: “destroy this temple and in three days I will raised it up… He was referring to the temple of his body”

I would suggest that what Jesus was referring to in John 4 was the end of temple worship, in the sense of a particular location, add to this in John 2 Jesus referring to himself as a temple and we start to see what a new convent temple really is.

Why do I believe we no longer need a physical temple? The main function of the temple was to make sacrifices for the atonement of sin, (Leviticus 1:4) the animal would in effect die for the sins of the one making the sacrifice. The idea that God would provide a substitution goes back even further to Genesis 22:13. These sacrifices were pointing towards Jesus, as John the Baptist declared when he saw Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul in his writing makes it abundantly clear that the sacrifices in the temple were only provision until Christ came (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 9:15; 10:8-14)  

Perhaps my favourite verse in the Bible is Colossians 1:22

Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (NLT)

Contrast this with temple worship where only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). Not only does the sacrifice of Jesus allow us to stand before God without fault, it allows the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Looks back at Exodus 25 it was the creation of a holy place, the sacrifice of Jesus made us that place – 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul writes “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

You see today Christians don’t have a temple, we are the temple. Under the Mosaic Law God commanded the Israelites to built him a house where he could dwell, in 2 Samuel 7 I would suggest the house that Jesus built was his people – the church (Matthew 16:18) You see when Jesus was on the cross the temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) we now have access to the presence of God because of Jesus’ shed blood. What caused the separation – our sin, has been paid for, as Hebrews 10:14 puts it “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”

Justified-and-SanctifiedI would like to take a quick detour to define sanctification and justification as I believe the LDS definition of grace confuses the two. Justification is God declaring us righteous when we put our trust in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, not based on our righteous but on Jesus’ this is God’s grace, it’s not after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23) but it’s despite our inability. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast

When it comes to sanctification this is God’s work in our lives to make us what he has already declared us. This takes place even before we see yourselves as believers (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2), it is the work of God that continues in the life of a believer (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, John 17:17, Ephesians 5:26, 2 Corinthians 3:18) and finally it is the future work of God when we receive our resurrected bodies ( I John 3:2, Ephesians 5:25-27)

In Quentin L. Cooks message “See Yourself in the Temple” he talks about mirrors that people would look in and see themselves in an outline of a temple they were then advised to “make the necessary lifestyle changes and spiritual preparations to meet this goal. While the desire for holiness is admirable there is an inherent problem here. How holy is holy enough? If we are talking about entering the presence of the almighty God, then nothing short of prefect holiness will do (Exodus 33:20). What is the standard then that must be met to get into the temple?

As only God knows the heart surely it is only an outward change that is necessary to meet this human standard, with all due respect the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:27 could then apply, really all that is necessary is to look good on the outside or as Quentin put it they need to “self-certify their worthiness when they answer the temple recommend questions”. How different to Colossians 1:22 were despite our sinful condition God chooses to see us as righteous. See also 2 Corinthians 5:21

W. Christopher Waddell stated in his talk: President Thomas S. Monson has taught:

“The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. … As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace.” He also quotes Gordon B. HinkleyGo to the house of the Lord and there feel of His Spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.”


While I admit removing ourselves from distractions helps us focus on God I would suggest it is in truly knowing Jesus that we find our peace, rather than in a particular location. Like Paul could say in Philippians 3:8 “I count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus”

For more information on this topic please see here.

This leads us to my next question: Do we have a priesthood today and if so who are they?

When we know Christ we have a high priest, lets look at Hebrews 4:14-16

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Not only is Jesus our high priest but we have no mention of another priesthood amongst the early church. Jesus himself is described as: “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:6)

Why don’t we have a distinct human priesthood today? Firstly it is clear from the Old Testament (Leviticus 18) that the priests acted as a mediator between the Israelites and God, particularly to offer the sacrifices. Jesus fulfilled this role perfectly in offering his body as the sacrifice for sin and he is now in heaven mediating for us (1 Timothy 2:5). Secondly all believers are referred to as a holy priesthood. 1 Peter 2:5: “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For a fuller review of this subject please see this review of The Saturday Morning Session:

My final question comes from the talk Do I Believe?” by Bonnie L. Oscarson.

Do Families last forever?

She stated that “families are forever” and that this one of the distinguishing features that makes the gospel of the LDS faith the greatest message of hope and help that the world has ever known.

I’d like to start out by saying that I believe that those who have placed their trust in Jesus will last forever and that we may recognise one another in our resurrected bodies. However Jesus words in Matthew 22 make it clear that human relationships like those on earth now will not take place in Heaven.

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died.  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:23-30

It isn’t that there is no marriage in heaven; I believe that there is simply just one marriage in heaven, the marriage between Jesus and his bride the church, if our experience of being with Christ is our greatest joy, then why would we need that earthly inferior joy that comes form the union of husband and wife wonderful as that might be.

I believe C.S. Lewis explains this very well when he writes:

“The letter and spirit of scripture, and of all Christianity, forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternatives either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time.

On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard [the] absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”

General Conference – April 2016 – Priesthood Session Review by Jamie Lundy


Dieter F. Uchtdorf Second Counselor in the First Presidency

“[Marriages are] the order of heaven. They are an echo of celestial pattern and an emulation of God’s eternal family.”  

This session prompted in me the desire to consider what appears, after much review, to be a major foundational distinction between the basic theological underpinnings in classical Christian beliefs and those of Mormonism. It was my original intention to provide a “blow-by-blow” synopsis of the “General Priesthood Session” of this year’s Spring General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, a central concept kept creeping to the foreground of the discussions which, to my understanding, so clearly illustrated why these belief systems remain separate and why many Evangelicals and Catholics do not consider Mormonism to be, in fact, Christian.

Before I ever learned a single fact about Mormon teachings or the unique Mormon scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) I had been exposed to the importance of families in the LDS (short for Latter-day Saint) worldview. As many can likely relate, I remember viewing commercials for the church sometime in my childhood which portrayed a wholesome and integrated family system as a primary sales pitch.

This portrayal has proved more than tempting for many who have eventually joined the church. In the LDS visitor’s centre in Independence, Missouri stands a large display, complete with video, in which the viewer is introduced to this important LDS tenant, “families are forever.” This is a common phrase used by members in the church and is the first place to start in understanding the LDS gospel.

This statement flows from the LDS conception of the “pre-existence” and its derived teachings about God and man. Those not in the church may notice some major discrepancies from what they learned in the Bible or at church. The LDS church manual, Achieving a Celestial Marriage, explains the church’s basic anthropology and cosmology thus:

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that man is an eternal being made in the image and likeness of God. It also holds that man is a literal child of God and has the potential, if faithful to divine laws and ordinances of becoming like his heavenly parent. God is an exalted man who once lived on an earth and underwent experiences of mortality. The prophet Joseph Smith refers to this as ‘the great secret.’

It goes on to explain why the church believes in eternal families:

By definition exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This, our Father in heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children, born to them in the bonds of celestial marriage. The Lord would have all his children attain exaltation, but men must have their agency. Only those who subscribe by ordinance and by faithful adherence to covenant are worthy of ‘a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (D&C 132:19) 

Without understanding this basic foundation it becomes easy to speak passed one another with regard to basic Christian terms. It is easy to take for granted that “the sense or meaning of a word is not its referent but the mental context with which that word is associated.” Words only have meaning in their respective contexts and only in the sense meant by the author or speaker. Good interpreters must ensure they have the correct understanding.

BYU professor Robert Millet illustrates the crucial nature of this endeavour when he says regarding the term “salvation” that, “Here as in other theological matters, we use the same or similar words as our Christian neighbours to describe a Christian concept but discover upon more serious investigation that what we mean is at least slightly different.”

WhereIsJesusChristlessChristianity_zpsd1874114It may come as a surprise to lifelong Latter-day Saints to learn that many Protestant Evangelicals listen to a message from an LDS church authority and to share surprise at how little the speaker spoke of Jesus. In this particular session the observation was apropos. Only in Young Men’s President, Stephen Owen, was Jesus truly featured in the teaching. Christ only was used to say the church’s name or to talk about how Mormons need to make themselves worthy to be with Jesus.

To Christians, this completely misses the point of his atonement altogether. To add anything to Christ’s finished work, whether it be our own works, our families, or anything else good, bad, or otherwise, completely diminishes and in fact remakes Christianity into a distorted, disfigured shadow of itself. In quoting Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, John Stott writes, “Faith in the mediator—in the event which took place once for all, a revealed atonement—is the Christian religion itself; it is the ‘main point;’ it is not something alongside of the centre; it is the substance and kernel, not the husk.”

In contradiction to this we hear repeated statements from First Counselor Henry Eyring which reveal a viewpoint in which the family, temple ordinances, and the Melchizedek Priesthood, and a preoccupation with personal worthiness, rivals and possibly even eclipses the Savior himself. The viewer is informed by Counselor Eyring that everything the Latter-day Saint does “should have celestial marriage as its focus and purpose.”

Every priesthood holder’s obligation, he continues, is to put our families at the center of our concern and to be concerned with other families. This is the most important concern and what we need to “qualify” for life with Heavenly Father and with Jesus. Every major decision must concern itself with how to craft eternal families. In fact, this is the greatest of the gifts of God. He states, “There is no more important commitment in time or eternity than marriage.”

download (1)Marriage is a wonderful gift of God. Is it truly his “greatest” gift? Does Jesus teach his followers the importance of eternal families and to keep them at the centre of their concern and that there is no more important commitment or does he teach something else? Here, in this one topic we find a remarkable “Rosetta stone opportunity to discover if the LDS general authorities are speaking the language of heaven.

The evidence, in comparison to what we have just discussed, is overpowering in its opposition to the high, overemphasized importance placed upon the family unit. Clearly, God designed and upholds marriage as an important bedrock institution for society. Jesus confirmed this in Matthew 19

when he cited the Torah and stated that a man should leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. What, however does the New Testament say is the purpose of such a union in eternity? Paul instructs the believing husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. This mystery of marriage is said in Ephesians 5:32 to refer to Christ and the church. If marriages are eternal and at the centre of the Gospel, why then does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is good for a man to not marry and that in the present circumstance (whatever that may be) it is advantageous to remain single?

These questions are further compounded when we consider the words of Jesus. He, when given the opportunity, continued to teach that the kingdom of God far outweighed marriage in importance and taught a Gospel which did not seem to include marriages as the key to eternal life. Consider first that in Matthew 10:34-36 that Jesus himself would divide a family and would not send peace but a sword.

In verse 37 Jesus states, He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Does it sound as though Jesus has a higher priority to place above marriages? This is exacerbated in other places in the Gospels.

In Luke 14:26 Jesus says,

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” In another place, when Jesus’ earthly family comes looking for him we learn this, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Many have read these texts and surmised that Jesus is not in actuality teaching the hatred of families in this text. He instead is teaching the preeminence of the Kingdom of God, and therefore himself, to all other loves. Mark Strauss comments, “Jesus sets out the extraordinarily high cost of discipleship. Commitments to him must far exceed devotion to family or to self. In light of such demands everyone should weigh the cost carefully before making such a commitment.”

These texts are making the likelihood that God believes in eternal families look quite tenuous but Jesus deals with marriage in his eternal kingdom in the Gospels. The context involves a group of Sadducees which come to attempt a covert operation in order to catch Jesus in a quandary. The religious leaders craft a scenario that they are sure will catch Jesus in a no win position. There is a woman with terrible luck in love who marries seven men, all of whom died. The question is then posed, “In the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven?”

One might suspect that Jesus would answer this question thus,

“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 and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed the keys of the priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers, dominions, all heights and the depth—then shall it be written in the lamb’s book of life. Which glory shall be a fullness and continuation of seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting because they continue.”

However, Jesus responded to their questioning quite differently then what the LDS scriptures would have him respond.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30).

Notice, after the resurrection these are neither married neither are they given in marriage. Remember the question, whose wife will she be. According to the eternal order of heaven, she should be the first man’s wife in the afterlife. Jesus does not say this. Instead he teaches that she will not be anyone’s wife because in the resurrection they shall be like the angels which are neither married nor given to marrying.

I’ve recently been reading a book on marriage from a Christian perspective by popular author Francis Chan and his wife Lisa. I came across a striking portrayal of marriage in its appropriate eternal setting they state:

When we consider the biblical storyline as a whole, our over-prioritization of our human relationships looks absurd. The Bible begins with a being so powerful that his words command non-existent things to exist, and they obey. It presents to us a being so holy and just that he once drowned every person on earth, sparing only the eight people who still looked to him. And the Bible concludes with visions of a terrifying future judgment, where every person is cast eternally into either a place of perfect pleasure in union with God or a place of ultimate pain apart from him. God takes center stage in every story of Scripture. He is the creator of life, the judge, and the savior. So while the Bible does talk about marriage, there is a much, much bigger picture. 

This is the worldview of the Bible. The same book which has Jesus teaching that anyone who loves father and mother more than him is not worthy of him and who teaches that in the resurrection we shall be like angels which do not marry. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, teaches routinely and portrays families as the centre of God’s program. Biblically, this could not be further from the truth. Jesus wants you to be free of human tradition and to experience what a girl named Katie once learned when she realized that the religion of Mormonism did not match up with the teachings of the Bible:

unveiling-grace“She found that the religion she had followed had fooled her into believing that she needed church leaders, a bishop, a stake president, apostles, priesthood, and a prophet between her Lord and herself. It was all a lie. But Jesus sought her out to free her. Once her eyes were opened to see that Jesus alone was enough, then Jesus alone became all she wanted—and he was better than anything she thought she already had.” 


1 Church Educational System, Achieving a Celestial Marriage: Student Manual (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976), pp. 129

2 Ibid.

3 D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), pp. 63

4 Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus: The Christ of the Latter-day Saint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 81

5 John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), pp. 48

6 Mark Strauss, “Luke” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), pp. 444

7 Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20

8 Francis and Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity (San Francisco: Claire Love, 2014), pp. 38

9 Lynn K. Wilder, Unveiling Grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), pp. 252

General Conference – April 2016 – Saturday Afternoon Review by Tony Brown

Play video

Having listened to the message by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold (of the Seventy) given at the General Conference, I felt compelled to action.

His message entitled ‘To the Rescue: We Can Do It’, was a clarion call to reach the lost sheep. Quoting Matthew 18:11 and 14:

“The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. …

“[For] it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”

Elder Arnold spoke of rescuing ‘less-active’ and ‘non-member’ LDS friends.

His was an emotional, stirring and challenging talk and I couldn’t help but be drawn in to the need to share the Gospel whilst we have the chance.

I was reminded of the hymn:

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Sadly, as much as I was agreeable to much of what was said in this discourse, Elder Arnold’s message was not about pointing people to, and leading people to Christ but rather bringing ‘lost people’ back to, or into, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is something altogether different!

Though speaking to a LDS audience, much of what he says in terms of the urgency of the Gospel, can be agreed upon by Bible believing Christians. There is an urgent necessity to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ. But what must be shared is the Biblical Christ and the Biblical Gospel, neither of which can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Surely the words of the Apostle to the church at Galatia, are as much relevant to the LDS, as they were to those to whom Paul wrote:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-9

 Elder Arnold shares a number of personal stories, both tragic and joyous. In doing so, he moves his hearers to consider the mission to which, he claims, they have been called.

He speaks about his mother who visited, ministered and encouraged lost ones back into the fold. It is very challenging when we find such determination, desire and enthusiasm amongst those in falsehood, but find only apathy amongst those who truly profess to know Christ. Shouldn’t those who have been truly born again of the Spirit of God have the same passion for the lost?

For those who may claim ‘I cannot do it’ or ‘It is not my gift’, Elder Arnold uses the example of Moses to point out that you can do it, as Moses did, because it is God who equips.

The Elder then shares stories and principles that he claims, will help in the rescue effort.

Using an emotive and tragic true story of lives lost at sea because of a delayed rescue, Elder Arnold shares the reaction of Elder Alejandro Patanía, whose brother Daniel sadly lost his life in the story. Elder Patania is said to have compared the tragedy to the words found in Ezekiel 34 verses 4 and 10:

, “Ye [have] not strengthened, … [or] brought again that which was driven away, … [or] sought that which was lost; … and I will require my flock at [your] hand.”

Although it is right that all Christians should look out for each other, Ezekiel 34 is a challenge specifically to the shepherds, not the sheep. Shepherds are to look after their flocks, having a special concern for the lost, the sick and the weak sheep.

Elder Arnold though applies Ezekiel 34 to all his hearers challenging them not to delay in going to the rescue, because there will be consequences if they do.

A call to rescue implies an imminent danger and/or peril, but let us consider how the LDS and the Bible believing Christian understand this danger.

For the Latter Day Saints, people need to be rescued, not because they are not saved – to the LDS all are saved, but rather people need to be rescued because they are not part of the one true ‘restored’ church. If you are not part of this ‘restored’ church, you cannot reach exaltation.

What is exaltation?

Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation. (Gospel Principles – Chapter 47)

So you are saved as a lapsed Mormon, you are saved as a non-Mormon, but you cannot reach your full potential if you are not a Mormon. To get to the celestial kingdom, where Heavenly Father dwells, and become a god like him, you need to be following all the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel; not forgetting the endorsement you need from Joseph Smith:

“No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith…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” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 289

With this context in mind, we see that Elder Arnold’s call to rescue is not what it might appear to hearers outside of the LDS fold.

For the Christian, the call to rescue means something very different. People ‘outside’ of Christ are in imminent danger.The Bible teaches that we are all sinners in rebellion towards God:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.     Romans 3:23

 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.  Romans 5:12

Sin brings with it death and judgement. Everyone will stand before Heavenly Father to give an account of their life.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment… Hebrews 9:27

We will stand before Heavenly Father clothed in our own ‘righteousness’ or clothed in the ‘righteousness’ of another. The Bible does not speak well of our own righteousness:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…  Isaiah 64:6

To stand before Heavenly Father on the basis of our own righteousness is a fearful thing, for we are not made right with God on the basis of our own righteousness, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.          Titus 3:4-7

Only Christ can rescue us from the imminent danger. To trust in Christ alone is to have eternal life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 5:24

Those who trust in their own righteousness, have not passed from death to life and so remain condemned, with their destiny being outer darkness.

The Mormon gospel is another gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that cannot save. Elder Arnold’s challenge to his LDS hearers was to rescue the lost, but who is going to rescue them?

To the Christian:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!       Romans 10;14,15

To the Mormon:

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

“Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.  Ephesians 2:8,9

General Conference – April 2016 – Saturday Morning Review by Bobby Gilpin


It’s that time of the year again where Facebook and all things media and social media go crazy with all things general conference where Mormonism is concerned.

I always think this is a good opportunity for us as a ministry to keep up to date with what is being taught by Mormon general authorities and offer our perspective on this. The talk that caught my eye the most from the Saturday Morning session is “Where are the keys and authority of the Priesthood” given by Elder Gary E Stephenson of the quorum of the 12 apostles.

Needless to say this talk is looking at the whole area of Priesthood authority, Stephenson, opens the talk with a story of him once losing his car keys on a family holiday, and how the car was useless without those keys. As the talk goes on the point is made again and again about how important the “Priesthood keys” are for the Mormon church and its members to function. One of the concluding points which I am going to work back from is this:

I testify that priesthood authority and priesthood keys start the engine, open the gates of heaven, facilitate heavenly power, and pave the covenant pathway back to our loving Heavenly Father.

This talk really labours the absolute significance of the “priesthood keys” here are two other quotes from this talk.

September of last year. There, I felt the power and reality of the heavenly events which took place on that sacred ground. That experience led me to ponder, study, and pray about priesthood authority and priesthood keys, which impressed me with a desire to share with the young men and young women of the Church how priesthood authority and restored keys can bless them.


Sealing keys, restored by the Old Testament prophet Elijah, enable ordinances to take place in holy temples. Ordinances performed in these temples enable individuals and families to return to the presence of our heavenly parents

The concept of priesthood keys and priesthood authority are absolutely essential within Mormonism, particularly when it comes to issues such as how might someone be exalted.

Joseph Smith founder of the Mormon Church said:


“If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:424

12th Mormon Prophet Spencer W Kimball said:

655348 (1)

“Men require priesthood for exaltation. No man will ever reach godhood who does not hold the priesthood. You have to be a member of the higher priesthood – an elder, seventy, or high priest – and today is the day to get it and magnify it” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 51).

When I see quotes like this one quote from the apostle Paul keeps going through my head.

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

Why did Paul say this? Surely this priesthood authority and these priesthood keys are so significant he would want to share this with the people he was writing to. To be fair this point alone does not mean that Paul never taught anything else, in Acts 20:26-27 Paul makes the point that he did not hold back any of the council of God, meaning there will are a number of different areas that he taught, on which we of course see in his other letters.

However no where in the New Testament do we see Paul emphasise that the Priesthood must be held by Christians to be saved or exalted. Paul instead boldly claims.

1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

The repeated message of the New Testament is the sufficiency of Jesus, we see in Hebrews 7 that He is forever  a high priest, and is therefore following the Old Testament pattern of one high priest existing at a time until death, and so Jesus is the only high priest that we need.

I did a word search on the king James Bible looking for priesthood keys and here is what I found.

priesthood keys

I got the same thing looking for Priesthood authority too. The word Priesthood is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament in the King James version of the New Testament (which Mormons use) here they are.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Both of which refer to a collective priesthood encompassing all believers.

Hebrews 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

Hebrews 7:11  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

Hebrews 7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

Hebrews 7:14 or it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Hebrews 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

This teaching develops as the verses go on (best understood when reading the chapter in full) and shows that Old Testament Priests have now been done away with, and we now have a permanent high priest that continues forever unlike the old Priests that is Jesus. We see no emphasis on the Melchizadek or Aaronic priesthoods as being something we should seek to gain as Christians.

Our salvation, or exaltation or whatever you want to call it only happens by faith in Jesus, He is our Saviour, He is our Prophet, He is our Priest, He is our King. There is no reference here to the significance of Christians holding onto any priesthood authority, but rather Jesus is the one that continues forever as a high priest. A role that previously was held by individuals one at a time until death.



In the FairMormon Book “Restoring the ancient church” by Barry Robert Bickmore, which was written to show how the Mormon church is a restoration of the early Christian church. There is an interesting quote regarding “Priesthood Authority” in the early Christian church. (brackets and bold added)

“While the extant (still existing) early Christian documents  make no mention of the two priesthoods within the Church, it is at least clear that there was a hierarchy of authority at least roughly corresponding to the distinction made by the Lord to Joseph Smith”.p.189



This is a significant admission, that no early church documents make any mention of these Priesthoods that the Mormon church holds so dear, and as I have shown it’s not in the New Testament in relation to individual believers continuing to hold them, therefore where is the restoration here?

Its not a restoration but rather a fabrication. Absolutely there was leadership in the early church as this quote says, but not in the name of the Aaronic or Melchizadek priesthoods, which are now complete in Christ. Interestingly David Whitmer one of the Book of Mormon witnesses saw this idea of priesthood authority as a fabrication too, more on that here.

I think in reality the simplicity of the good news of the gospel of Christ has been lost on Mormons, This emphasis on Priesthood authority and keys is at the expense of simply proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and is causing Mormon after Mormon to remain in a lost state, unless they see past this and trust in Christ alone for their salvation.

The gospel is a message of a Saviour seeking to save the lost, not a message of an exalted man seeking to give people the authority they need to cause their own exaltation.

Thanks for reading, look forward to your comments.


Mormons And The Bible By Mike Thomas


Just as in other churches, Mormons face the question of what to think of the different Bible translations available today. Most churches have a standard text, a pew Bible, but often encourage members to use and explore other translations. Christians have found this very helpful as each translation brings its own strengths and weaknesses. It is also the case that different translations function in different ways as Bible students grow in, share, and teach their faith. You can read here a helpful account of how this works and how we might choose a translation.

For Mormons it is a great deal more difficult yet straight forward in a strange sort of way. The first question a Mormon asks is not, ‘Which Bible translations are reliable?’ but,’What does the church have to say?’ And this is not a simple seeking after counsel, ‘Pastor, which translation would you recommend?’ We all do that from time to time. What is important to a Mormon is, ‘what is the ‘official’ stance of the church?’ It is this that is ‘right’ in the eyes of your typical LDS believer.

This speaks volumes about the degree of trust Mormons put in their leaders. Its fallen out of fashion now, as has so much old fashioned Mormonism, but it used to be proudly said:

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the Kingdom of God.” (Improvement Era, June 1945)

The (unofficial) Mormon apologetics site FAIR has attempted to refute the idea that this is ‘official’ Mormon thinking, even dragging out from Mormon archives a letter from the Mormon leader George Albert Smith appearing to say as much. You can read it here. But it doesn’t wash because anyone who has dealt with Mormonism, more, anyone who has been a Mormon will tell you this is the attitude of the average True Believing Latter-day Saint to this day. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Mormon approach to Bible translations. Which Bible do Mormons read? The Bible the Mormon leaders tell them to read, because when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done; simple? Well, this is where it gets complicated for them.

Here is the advice of the Mormon Church regarding which version to use, taken from the Institute manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, 1979, 2nd. edition, and still currently in use, with comments added.


There are a large number of Bible translations now in existence. The translation recommended for Latter-day Saints has been clarified many times by the Church leaders. The following are examples of such counsel:

. . . none of these [other] translations surpasses the King James version of the English Bible in beauty of language and spiritual connotation, and probably in faithful adherence to the text available to translators. It is this version which is used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in all of its official work both at home and abroad. The literature of the Church refers invariably to the King James’ translation. Other translations are used by the Church only to help explain obscure passages in the authorized version.”

(Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, pub.1945, p. 120.)

This King James or Authorized Version, ‘as far as it is translated correctly,’ has been the version accepted by this Church since it was organized.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in CR, Apr. 1954, p. 38.)

The Official Bible of our Church is the King James version.” (Editorial, Church News, 14 Nov. 1970, p.16.)

Several things are worth noting:

Standard_Works_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints.jpgFirst, the editorial from the Church News makes clear that the KJV is ‘the official Bible of the Church.’ For most Mormons, this means the debate is over and the question officially answered.

Second, loyalty to the KJV seems founded more on sentiment than scholarship, or spiritual insight. The language is beautiful, who would disagree? ‘Spiritual connotation?’ What does that mean? That the language better conveys the spiritual message underlying the text? If so, why is it that, ‘Other translations are used by the Church…to help explain obscure passages in the authorized version?’

If the spiritual connotations are better conveyed in the KJV what needs explanation? How often I have listened to a sermon delivered from a King James Bible to find the preacher spend half the time explaining the obscurity of the text, rather than delivering the message of the text. In the Mormon Church this is particularly problematic since the other texts they use – Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price – are written in a pigeon King James language (It truly isn’t the real thing).

Third, the KJV is accepted only, ‘as far as it is translated correctly.’ This is one of the many neat little get-out clauses that pepper Mormonism and comes from the eighth Article of Faith: ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’

Fourth, they declare the KJV to be, ‘probably in faithful adherence to the text available to translators.’ They are not even sure it was, but it ‘probably’ was, and only then ‘faithful to the text available.’ Of course, that is the point, surely? ‘…faithful adherence to the text available.’ The KJV just marked its 400th anniversary and textual, historical, archaeological discoveries over 400 years, have given us a wealth of information and sources not available to those translators. Another significant factor is the growing independence of scholars from regal/governmental interference (you really should read the history).

The Mormon Church relies much more on scholarship today than ever it did just fifty years ago. Surely, here is a situation crying out for a rethink on the issue of which Bible translation Mormons use. A problem presents itself, however, in the shape of the inspired authority of church leaders. The manual goes on to state:



This does not mean that the King James Version is a perfect translation. Elder James E. Talmage gave a reason for this when he wrote the following:

There will be, there can be, no absolutely reliable translation . . . unless it be effected through the gift of translation, as one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost. The translator must have the spirit of the prophet if he would render in another tongue the prophet’s words; and human wisdom alone leads not to that possession.” (Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 237.)

So, the Mormons are left with a Bible translation that is beautiful, if obscure enough to need modern translations to help understanding, probably faithful to the text available to translators 400 years ago, but ultimately not an absolutely reliable translation. For that we need a prophet. The manual states:

Such an effort—to translate the Bible scriptures by the power of the Holy Ghost—was begun by the Prophet Joseph Smith under the direction of, and at the command of the Lord. (See D&C 45:60, 61; 93:53.)

The following is instructive information concerning the status of the Inspired Version in the Church today:

The Inspired Version [as it is called by its publishers] does not supplant the King James Version as the official church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages.

Part of the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith were finally approved before his death; and some of these have been cited in current church instructional materials or may be cited in future church instructional materials.

Accordingly, these cited portions of the Inspired Version may be used by church writers and teachers, along with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, in connection with Biblical interpretations, applying always the divine injunction that ‘whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom.’” (D&C 91:5)

When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.” (Editorial, Church News, 7 Dec. 1974, p. 16.)

References from the Inspired Version are used throughout this manual for clarification of particularly vague or faulty passages of the King James Version.

There you have it again, ‘vague or faulty passages of the King James Version.’

The Mormons have an ‘official’ Bible translation that is beautiful, but peppered with particularly vague or faulty passages, indeed, obscure enough to need modern translations to aid understanding. It is probably faithful to the text available to translators 400 years ago, but ultimately not an absolutely reliable translation. They also have a prophet. Now, you might think this last a game changer. Indeed, Joseph Smith did produce his own translation of the Bible, although the official line is that it was never finished. But why would that matter since the current head of the church, Thomas S Monson, is just 16th in a line of prophets stretching back to the founding of the church.

The natural conclusion is that, since the only reliable Bible would have to come from a prophet and, since the Bible they use is vague, faulty, obscure and 400 years old, surely a modern prophet could solve this problem and we could all throw away our NIVs, ESVs, etc. Not so it seems. Since Joseph Smith, the gift of prophecy has increasingly fallen by the way. His successor, Brigham Young, had plenty to say, enough indeed to take a good deal of space in early Mormon periodicals as well as the familiar Journal of Discourses. He didn’t do anything about Bible translation, indeed, he didn’t add more than one section to the increasingly dated and irrelevant Doctrine and Covenants (Section 136).

Subsequent prophets have not even added so much as a pen stroke to the D&C and not one has felt called to finish the Bible translation work begun by Joseph Smith. So what is the true place of the Bible in the Mormon Church?

The official Bible is the King James Version (Americans say King James Version, English believers say King James Bible) but this is vague, faulty, obscure, and 400 years old. Modern translations can be used to aid understanding but none is going to supplant the vague, faulty, obscure, and 400 year old Bible they clarify.


When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.”


So, ‘living prophets’ define what is ‘official’ and Mormons give this advice precedence in their choice of Bible. These ‘living prophets’ however cannot produce a more reliable translation than the KJV. In the absence of a better Bible, and with no inclination to look at modern scholarship, the priority in Mormonism is to ‘living prophets’ followed by the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, only then turning to Joseph Smith’s ‘Inspired Version,’ and last the KJV, which is only to be understood in light of Mormonism, a Mormonism that cannot correct it, though neither can it completely trust it.


I will finish with a personal note to any Mormon who might read this. I congratulate you for reading this far, as I know your instinctive reaction is to dismiss this article as ‘anti-Mormon.’ It is difficult for you to see it in any other way I know. You see, I have sat where you sit now and have felt much as you probably now feel.

I want to ask you to do something if you will. Just for a moment, I want you to get up out of the seat you occupy, the place of outrage that anyone should criticise your church, of suspicion that the motives of people who would do such a thing are bound to be base, vile, and contemptible. I want you to take another seat, the seat of someone who has been invited to join your church and who already has access to, and regularly reads a modern translation of the Bible. This person understands something of how we got our Bible, the process by which it is translated, and the quality and quantity of research material available to modern Bible translators.

Why should this person join your church? Remember you are sitting in their chair now, outside looking in. Especially in light of the what your leaders have said about the ‘official’ church Bible, why should this person join your church?

You have a message of ‘restoration’ and yet have failed to restore the Bible. You have a message of prophets, and yet they have nothing to contribute to modern Bible translation. Your church rejects modern translations on the basis that, ‘The translator must have the spirit of the prophet if he would render in another tongue the prophet’s words; and human wisdom alone leads not to that possession.” (Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 237.)

Yet your prophets, so called, who presume to have the spirit of the prophet stand idle while church members use a 400 year old translation that is officially vague, faulty, and obscure, and that needs all the help it can get. Why should this person trust your claims and join your church?

The KJV is not, according to the Mormon narrative, ‘inspired’ since it was put together by intelligent, well-meaning, men who ultimately relied upon the ‘human wisdom’ that Talmage insists would disqualify such a work. You have prophets but they have proved silent on the matter of a better and truly inspired translation. Meanwhile, modern scholarship brings us a wealth of resources to achieve what Mormon prophets seem singularly impotent to do. Even the King James Version has been updated after a fashion, in the NKJV.

Why should this person join your church? Why give up better translations for an outdated and difficult one? Why ‘follow the prophet’ when the prophet seems incapable of lighting the way? Sitting in this chair, on the outside looking in, what does the Mormon Church offer that can have any credibility, let alone attraction, when it sets such a high standard for Bible translation then fails, itself, to meet that standard?

Myself, I have used the NIV for the past thirty years, and have, more recently, found the ESV a great help to serious Bible study. In seeking understanding I consult widely among translations, and have never felt the need to find an ‘official’ Bible. After all, look at where it gets you.

Mike Thomas is the Chairman of Reachout Trust a ministry to the cults in the UK, and this article appeared originally on the Reachout website and in the Reachout newsletter.

Is Joseph Smith Worthy Of Worship?

Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith? That’s a question that has been asked of many a Mormon, and in many cases the Mormon will kind of groan inside, and very honestly say “No we absolutely do not”!

They will then explain that they worship only God and they will then likely emphasise the significance of Christ in their lives, and this is what Mormons seem to generally do today, emphasise Jesus and their love for Him and generally avoid having too long a discussion about Joseph Smith.

However like many people reading, I have been to a Mormon sacrament meeting when the hymn “Praise to the man” starts being sung, and felt uncomfortable about the words of devotion being sung about a man who Mormons apparently do not worship.

Recently the talk “Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again” Which is going to be the main focus of this article has made me ask the question, In Mormonism, is Joseph Smith worthy of worship? 

This is not me saying do Mormons worship Joseph Smith, but instead I am asking, should they be worshipping him if the statements from their leaders are to be taken seriously.

The talk given by Jayson Kunzler, a business management faculty member at BYU Idaho, was given at a devotional at that location.

I will say from the start that I appreciate Kunzler does not have any authority to speak for the LDS church. However he spends a lot of time quoting people who do.


Kunzler starts by saying that in 1984 a number of LDS missionaries were asked to evaluate their testimonies regarding a number of “truths”, it was found that the one that these missionaries were weakest in their certainty of, was that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. Bruce Mcconkie an LDS Apostle at the time said of this result that “Something’s wrong,  something’s terribly wrong”.

This opening story starts what is essentially a lesson to these missionaries and all LDS members in general of just how important Joseph Smith and his ministry is. And seriously, this talk holds nothing back, I recommend you listen to it or read it in full yourself.

Kunzler says this:

“Brothers and sisters, Elder McConkie is right. If Joseph Smith—and the Restoration of the gospel through him—is not a fundamental part of our testimony, then something is definitely wrong. As President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “we link the names of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith.” President Brigham Young taught the same principle. He said, “What I have received from the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith…If I drop him, I must drop these principles…no man on the earth can say that Jesus lives, and deny, at the same time…the Prophet Joseph. This is my testimony.”

So you cannot have Jesus without Joseph according to this. If you drop Joseph, then you drop Jesus. The implications of this are clear, the work  of Christ is useless without Joseph. To some degree this helps explain why so many people who leave Mormonism walk away from all things faith in Christ as well, for years they will have been taught that this is how it is. This is maybe one of the biggest tragedies of Mormonism, that it makes Jesus useless, without Joseph.

I could quote this entire talk as there is so much material here but I will try to stick with a few.

Kunzler goes on to say this:

We should expect intense opposition to surround Joseph Smith because the experiences of his life represent, in the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to salvation and eternal life.” After the angel Moroni introduced himself to Joseph Smith, he told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”

I have heard Mormons before use this as evidence for the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s ministry. Joseph being told by this angel that his name should be had for good and evil is confirmed in the mind of many a Mormon whenever someone speaks critically of Joseph. The problem is that anyone in history that has made bold claims can have this said of them. However here I think it is again used for the purpose of confirming Joseph as a Prophet.

Kunzler then gives this startling quote from Brigham Young, second Mormon Prophet.

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. 


I was blown away when I heard this, I think this is actually the first time I had heard this quote used by someone speaking in favour of the church, generally I have seen this used by critics and seen Apologists trying to explain it away. But here we have it, you do not get into the Celestial kingdom, or the presence of God, without the consent of Joseph. We see in 1 Timothy 2:5 in the New Testament that there is one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus, again Jesus has been found to be insufficient without Joseph.


Now if there is one problem the LDS church has had in the last few years in upholding their faithful claims about Joseph Smith, it’s the internet and books, stating the historical aspects of Joseph that have had little or no mention by the LDS church. As a result this has led to a number of “Gospel Topic Essays”  put on attempting to state and deal with these issues in a positive light. However what has been particularly uncomfortable, has been faithful LDS members pointing these things out, the likes of D Michael Quinn, Grant Palmer being examples.




Kunzler has this to say about them

“Our beloved President Boyd K. Packer, who departed this life just a few months ago, echoed President Benson’s warning. He said, “I have on occasion been disappointed when I have read in writings of those who are supposed to be worthy members of the Church statements that tend to belittle or degrade…past leaders of the Church.” President Packer continued, “That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weakness and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith—particularly one within the Church—places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities.”



So LDS members if you write anything negative about Joseph, you must be seeking to destroy faith, and you will not be among the faithful in eternity, your motives must be evil. I am not sure how much closer to being Spiritual blackmail this could be.

Which is something that is often said of anyone speaking critically of the LDS church, their motives must be bad.


Carrying on this line of thought Kunzler says that pointing out a “perceived”, character flaw in Joseph to make us feel better about our own sins is the work of the devil, and dwelling on the faults of anyone especially the Lords anointed only leads to destruction. This also seems to assume that to point out character flaws in Joseph must be because of your own sin, rather than just seeking to be true to history.

Which is an interesting point as many faithful LDS scholars such as Richard Bushman have sought to honestly state many aspects of Smiths life, good or bad to show that he was a normal human with faults, but still called as a Prophet. It seems Kunzler has no time for this, he goes on.

“As President John Taylor testified:

I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I traveled with him; I have been with him in public and in private…I was with him when he died…I have seen him under all these various circumstances, and I testify before God, angels, and men that he was a good, honorable, and virtuous man, that his private and public character was irreproachable, and that he lived and died a man of God.”

And then:

“Joseph Smith declared, “I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent…” And he was innocent! “He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people.” He said, “…I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing…Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him.”

So it seems that Joseph was completely without any flaws at all, and never sinned, or at least all accusations of sin are false, does that remind you of anyone? As it seems often with Joseph, the comparison is made, between him and Jesus. As the song “Praise to the man” says. “Endless is His Priesthood”, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” When you stand back and look at the things said of Joseph, you cant help but feel uncomfortable at times.

And remember that while Kunzler cannot bring authoritative teaching as such, he is using quotes from Prophets and Apostles to support everything he says.

Here is Kunzlers concluding point

praise-to-the-manI invite all to gain a sound and enduring witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which has come through him. It is my prayer that each of us will reverence the name of Joseph Smith in word and in deed, that in a future day many of us—perhaps millions—“shall know Brother Joseph again.” In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The concluding hope here is that we might one day know Joseph again, which is of course taken from the hymn “Praise to the man”. In some ways its refreshing to hear a talk like this which is full of such clear and unashamed Mormon teaching, but mostly it’s disheartening to see just how far Mormonism is from Christianity, by robbing Jesus Christ of His absolute sufficiency. I think of these words of the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 1:20-26 (KJV)

“20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”

While it would be unfair to expect Paul to have mentioned Joseph at this point, as he was obviously not born yet and also not of this dispensation as Mormons would say. We can see that Paul had one vision in mind, Christ. Nothing else, no Prophet, no Priest no King, Other than Jesus who is really all of that anyway.

Is Joseph worthy of worship? What do you think? ,

  • Joseph makes the work of Christ efficacious for you
  • He decides whether you go to Gods presence for eternity
  • You must never speak critically of him (or take his name in vain),
  • He was without sin.

If we let anything stand in the way of Christ, or let any human be essential to make Christ effective in our lives, then we have missed the power and glory of Christ completely. I pray that those reading will cast down any desire to know Joseph in the afterlife, and look to Christ alone.

Weak Arguments #15: “How to Make Weak Arguments for Mormonism – A Primer” – By Fred W. Anson

An article on some common and recurring weak argument and debating tactics that Latter-day Saints use in their defense of Mormonism that result in weak arguments.
by Fred W. Anson

“Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel” by Henry Vidal in Tuileries Garden in Paris, France

“”The non-LDS world has a history of perpetuating criticism, caricature, othering, antagonism and shaming of Mormons. This leads to a reaction on the part of the Latter-day Saints: retrenchment, militancy, withdrawal from civic conversation, and a dynamic I call ‘undergrounding,’ something that happens a lot in our political history where we tell the outside world one story in order to protect our inside story.”
Joanna Brooks, “Violence, Mormonism, and the Sobering Lessons of History”,
Sunstone Magazine, Summer 2015, p.50

The last article in this series created quite a stir. It was “grass catcher” list of weak arguments and debate tactics that mainstream Christians regularly use that undermine their engagements with Latter-day Saints. And while the article was warmly, often even enthusiastically, received on both sides of the Evangelical-Mormon divide, a common response was, “OK, where’s the equivalent list for Mormons?” Well, the wait is over, here it is.

How to Make Weak Arguments for Mormonism:

  1. Attack your debating opponent instead of their evidence or arguments. Use ad-hominem arguments.
  2. Misrepresent or exaggerate your debating opponent’s arguments so they’re easier to overcome. Use straw man arguments.
  3. Misquote and abuse 3 Nephi 11:29.  That is, rail against your debating opponent with a bold “Contention is of the devil” denunciation while you’re contending for the Mormon faith. Oh and, since you’re already playing the “beam in your eye” hypocrite before an amused audience, make sure that you completely ignore the passages in scripture that blatantly advocate (such as Jude 1:3, I Thessalonians 2:2) and model (like most of the Book of Mormon for example) righteous contention. Compromised integrity and duplicity is always so persuasive isn’t it? (NOT!)
  4. Over generalize! If you’re the only Mormon who believes something say that all Mormons do. If an uncorrelated, progressive, or Neo-Orthodox Mormon (like Terryl or Fiona Givens for example) makes an unorthodox claim then point to it as the norm. Claim that a “one off” address by a modern Mormon Leader represents what Mormonism has always taught throughout it’s history. You know, do things like point to Brad Wilcox’s 2011 BYU devotional, “His Grace Is Sufficient” or President Uchtdorf’s, Spring General Conference 2015 address “The Gift of Grace” and claim that they accurately represent official current and historic LDS soteriology.[1]
  5. In a similar vein, stereotype! For example, identify a mainstream Christian who has behaved badly (Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, etc.) and treated God’s grace and mercy as a license to sin, and then claim that all mainstream Christians behave this way. After all, Mormons never do that (think John D. LeePaul H. Dunn, Porter Rockwell, Wild Bill Hickman, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon) do they?
  6. Use your conclusion as evidence for your argument. Engage in circular logic – you know something like, “I know that the only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I have an inner witness that it’s the only true church.” I mean, really, who can argue with logic like that?
  7. Present speculation and conjecture with no supporting evidence to back them as fact. Argue from silence. For example, argue that the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon proves nothing. Even better, argue that the lack of such evidence actually proves that it’s true because God is using it to test our faith.[2]

    (click to zoom)
  8. Bifurcate rather than nuance. Claim that there is only black or white, good or evil, on or off. Create false dichotomies.
  9. Argue that because you don’t know or understand something it must be false. Or better yet, to claim that something must be true! Use your ignorance as irrefutable proof that your debating opponent is wrong. When in doubt appeal to ignorance – I mean, sure, it makes you look like an uninformed fool, but what the hey!
  10. Don’t support your arguments with any evidence (let alone objective evidence). And if challenged, act indignant and offended that you should be required to produce any evidence at all! I mean, after all, isn’t the burden of proof on the person not arguing your position? You know, just like it’s the prosecuting attorney’s job to produce evidence for the defense in a criminal case – yeah, it’s like that.[3]
  11. Assert that something is true simply because you’ve said it is. After all, your word is good enough, right? I mean, come on, you’re Mormon, and therefore, you know everything about Mormonism by virtue of that fact – that should be enough, right? Appeal to yourself as authority – use yourself as indisputable, absolutely authoritative, irrefutable evidence! Why does anyone need to research anything when the best, most reliable source is right there in front of them telling them the way it is?
  12. Use testimony bearing or “the witness of the Spirit” as evidence. Argue from feelings, promptings, and impressions and other appeals to emotion.[4]
  13. Assert that your debate opponent “doesn’t get it” and “can’t get it” because they don’t have the Holy Ghost and, therefore, can’t hear His voice. And when you do make sure that you’re as condescending and arrogant as possible in using this variation on the ad-hominem fallacy so they can fully understand and feel the great depth of their state of blindness.
  14. Argue that because something is popular it must be true. Drive that bandwagon fallacy right over your debating opponent! For example, argue that Mormonism must be true or it wouldn’t be growing so fast worldwide. Uh, by the way, about that “growing so fast” claim . . .[5]
  15. Don’t acknowledge when your debating opponent makes a valid point. Never surrender, never give in! After all this war right?

    Subjective v. Objective Evidence. One can proved by means of search, like analysis, measurement, and observation and one can't. One is valid and unchanging regardless of one's feelings, and one isn't.
    Subjective v. Objective Evidence. One can proved by means of search, like analysis, measurement, and observation and one can’t. One is valid and unchanging regardless of one’s feelings, and one isn’t.
  16. Suddenly and without warning disappear from the debate. Let chirping Mormon crickets argue for you instead. If there were a name for this it might be called the “Cop Out” or “Argue with my Back!” Fallacy. And some Mormons seem to like it a lot – especially when they’re issued a “OK, show me where I’m wrong” challenge.[6]
  17. Cyber stalk or conspire against your debating opponents behind the scenes. After all this is war – so sabotage is just par for the course. Of course, it’s just a form of the type of walking in spiritual darkness that’s consistently condemned in scripture but what the hey, it’s so cool to be a modern Gadianton robber ain’t it? (By the way, this is sociopathological behavior – I just thought that you’d like to know)
  18. Don’t give your debating opponent’s evidence any serious consideration. Better yet, just ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist. For example, even though mainstream Christians repeatedly tell you that they believe in, “Salvation by grace alone through faith alone,” continue to argue that they believe in “Salvation by grace alone” and pound away on that straw man argument.
  19. Ditto for challenging questions. Ignore them. Socratic Method is so stupid!
  20. Don’t become familiar with your debating opponent’s culture and language. After all, if they have anything of value to say they can say and do like we do it in Mormon culture! After all we’re better than they are, aren’t we?
  21. Be condescending because, frankly, we really are better than they are – especially all those lousy, despicable “Anti’s” out there who hate and only want to destroy God’s only true and living Church. [7]

    (click to zoom)
    (click to zoom)
  22. Speaking of “Anti’s”, always label. After all labeling is a wonderful defense mechanism since once it’s done you can stereotype and thus deceive yourself into feeling like you have power over them.  And if you use negative labels you can condescend to those below you – even better! And have we recommended arrogant condescension yet? Oh, we did? Well you can never emphasize that one too much can you? It’s a good one – it puts those “Anti’s” right in their place!
  23. Use special pleading fallacies. Argue that rules, laws, evidences and realities that apply everywhere else don’t apply to Mormonism. I mean, come on, why should DNA evidence apply to the Book of Mormon people anyhow? Really people, really?
  24. Assert your Priesthood Authority whenever possible. I mean, it means absolutely nothing to anyone or carries any weight outside of Mormonism but why not? And I assert this in the name of the Royal Priesthood![8]
  25. Use lots and lots of insults and personal attacks! Oh, did we already mention this one? Oh yeah, that was kinda included in the very first one by implication wasn’t it? Well, since this is one the most common weak arguments used by Latter-day Saints, it probably bears repeating doesn’t it?
  26. Troll. Throw out provocative, incendiary arguments of little real substance but high emotional impact with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. (and thank you Wikipedia for that excellent definition)
  27. Appeal to authority from sources that Mormons would never preach from or use in their services since they attack and undermine the fundamental truth claims that undergird Judaism, Mormonism and/or mainstream Christianity. This includes, but isn’t limited to: John Shelby Spong, The Jesus SeminarRobert Price, Margaret Barker, James Tabor, Richard Dawkins, and Bart Ehrman. Yeah, it’s kind of like drinking your own poison or shooting yourself in the foot but it’s better to be hospitalized or lose a foot if it protects Joseph Smith and modern Mormon dogma ain’t it? Besides it’s fun to argue like an atheist!
  28. Cite from unofficial, uncorrelated Latter-day Saint sources as if they’re official voices of the Church. First and foremost do so with with your own personal opinion – state it as if it’s being delivered by the President of the LDS Church at General Conference himself. After that move onto Mormon Apologist websites like FAIRMormon or Lightplanet. Not official? Who cares – after all a rock can be a fork if it gets the job done, right? unofficial-mormon-apologist
  29. Cite from partisan Mormon Apologists but then object strenuously when your debating opponent cites from Mormon Critics. Sure it’s a hypocritical double standard but weak and inexperienced debaters may not catch or call you on it – so go for it. For example, cite from Sorenson’s “Mormon’s Codex” but then throw a hissy fit when someone cites from the Tanner’s “Mormonism Shadow or Reality?”.
  30. Which brings us to another Latter-day Saint rhetorical favorite: Use double standards. For example: First, demand that your debating opponent produce a single verse from the Bible that explicitly proves the Trinity rather than building a case from several verses throughout the Bible; Then claim that they’re making a ridiculous and unfair demand on you when they demand the same “single verse as the standard of proof” for Celestial Marriage.
  31. Use Latter-day Saint scripture (other than the Bible) as if it’s authoritative for your non-Mormon opponent as it is for you. Nothing will silence them as quickly as, “As the Book of Mormon tells us . . . ” will it? (hint: It won’t) Better yet give them quotes from General Conference – surely they’ll listen to and respect the authority of Living Prophets won’t they? (hint: They won’t)
  32. Ignore the rules of sound text interpretation and hermeneutics.  [9]  For example, use lots and lots of eisegesis – inserting meaning that the author didn’t intend and content into the text that the author didn’t say. Sound text interpretation and hermeneutics are based on exegesis – drawing meaning and content directly from the text – but that’s another subject for another day (probably an entire article in fact).
  33. Be inconsistent. For example, bear your testimony as evidence that you have the witness of God that Mormonism is right and true. But when your debating opponent bears their testimony that they have the witness of God that Mormonism isn’t right or true, refuse to accept it claiming that it’s from a source other than God.  [10]
  34. Be confirmation bias driven. For example, argue that Mormon must be truth because Mormons are good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned people genuinely tiring to always be their best and do the right thing.In other words, use the “inspect the fruit” argument while ignoring the fact that most people are good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned people who are genuinely trying to always be their best and do the right thing. The only way that one can be blind to the fact that Mormons are hardly unique in this is to put those confirmation bias blinders on!

    Confirmation driven apologetics.
    Confirmation driven apologetics.
  35. Engage in Drama Queening. To continue from the previous example, get really indignant and offended when your debating opponent points out that one can be a good, warm, loving, sincere, well intentioned person and still be dead wrong. Better yet, threaten to withdraw from this place of persecution filled with haters! And if you do leave, make sure you cyber bomb social media about how you’ve been unjustly wounded, hounded, and wronged by these modern Korihors. Bleed over everything and everybody – let it flow like a river! Guilt manipulate baby, it works like a Jedi mind trick!
  36. Use Postmodern relativism as a defense. Say something like, “Well if what you believe works for you and what I believe works for me then who’s to say that the other person is wrong?” If that’s the case then all the Mormon Missionaries need to be called in from the field and the program shut down since what all those folks already believe is working for them, right? Who’s to say that they’re wrong, right?
  37. Instead of directly engaging your debating opponent’s arguments try to parry with a, “Well, what about when you and you guys? You do and say such and such!” Tu Quoque fallacy ’em to heck! I mean it’s really a non-argument because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument. But what the hey, if they’re stupid enough to “bite” why not try it if it gets Joseph Smith and Mormonism off the hook? Then again, a trained logician will call you on and you’ll just look foolish . . . oh well!
  38. Use aliases and sock puppet accounts to hide your true identity so you can behave badly online. Yes, it’s yet more sociopathological behavior but, hey man, if you used your real identity you’ve have to behave better in public or your reputation would be ruined wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that!
  39. Lie for the Lord. After all if Muslims can do it and since past Mormon Leaders have done it, why not?
  40. Dismiss an statement as ridiculous or absurd without giving proof or reasoned arguments for why. In other words, engage in an “Appeal to the Stone” fallacy. For example, when a debating opponent produces evidence that Official Declarations 1 and 2 were born out of political, social, and financial expediency rather than anything divine (as evidenced by the fact that they refer to revelations but don’t actually give them) claim that the whole argument is, “Just ridiculous! Utterly absurd!” without offering any countering evidence for your rebuttal. Better yet, combine it with an, “And you’re just a cynical, hate filled ‘Anti’ for saying that!” ad-hominem to make it ridiculous and absurd.
  41. Engage in Psychological Projection: Project your behavior onto your debating opponent rather than acknowledging and owning it. For example, if you’re engaging in arrogant condescension accuse your debating opponent of looking down at you and having a superior air about them. If you’re angry, upset, and out of control accuse them of being angry, upset, and out of control. This is a wonderful defense mechanism, use it often! Yeah, it’s a form of self deception that keeps you in denial, but… whatever!
  42. Say things like, “The ends justify the means” to rationalize your bad arguments and behavior. Sure, it’s not scriptural, but why be picky when the defense of your testimony is on the line?
  43. Move the goalposts. For example, insist that your debating opponent only use official Church sources like the official church website. When they do insist that they didn’t interpret the content properly. When they then cite Mormon Leaders who share exactly the same interpretation from the official church website, then pull out #13 and tell them that they can’t possibly truly understand Mormon Leaders or Latter-day Saint Doctrine because they’re not a member and, therefore, don’t have the Holy Ghost giving them the true enlightenment that you possess. And if they overcome that then pick up that goalpost yet again and, “Push ’em back! Push ’em back! Push ’em way back!” Eventually they’ll either call you on this fallacy or give up.
  44. Ignore or refuse to publicly challenge the bad behavior and/or bad arguments that you see fellow Mormons making. After all this is war and who wants to be a traitor to the cause right? Besides “Anti’s” deserve every bit of condescension and disrespect that we can muster don’t they? Hang the Golden Rule!
  45. Make sure that you use a lot of snark and sarcasm! Everyone loves being condescended to by obnoxious smart alecks with bad attitudes. By the way, I hope you’re loving reading this article as much as I am writing it. If not, you’re just a loser who just doesn’t “get it!”[11]

    “Use double standards” (click to zoom)
  46. Use the bad arguments and behavior of mainstream Christians to rationalize, compensate for, and justify any or all of the above.
  47. Assume that any constructive criticism from others on how to better engage outsiders (especially if it’s from “Anti’s”) is meant for everyone else.
  48. Assume that lists like this apply to every other Latter-day Saint but you.

Summary and Conclusion:
If that seemed like a sarcasm filled lesson in logic and rhetoric that’s probably because it was. Stated plainly, that’s what the majority of bad arguments that I’ve seen Latter-day Saints make in public discourse always seem to come down to: Flawed logic and rhetoric combined with incivility and paranoia driven defensiveness. From my experience, I would have to say that award winning Journalists Richard and Joan Ostling were correct when they observed:

Mormon scriptural scholarship functions almost entirely within an enclosed, intramural world… Mormon Bible scholars face serious problems.
— Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America (Revised and Updated Edition”, p.299

This seems odd to me since, generally speaking, Mormons are better educated and higher degreed than the general population.[12] Doesn’t all that good education require some training in logic, critical thinking, and civil rhetoric? If so, you would never know if from the sloppy, adolescent, rude rhetoric that many Latter-day Saints engage in public. Therefore, the first thing that Latter-day Saints could do to improve their public discourse would be to learn and stick to the rules of logic and rhetoric that most assuredly must have been a part of their secular education.

Another contributing factor seems to be the infamous “Mormon Persecution Complex” which has been endlessly discussed in Mormon Studies and elsewhere. As the aforementioned Ostlings said well:

The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.
— Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America (Revised and Updated Edition”, p. 115

Read through the list of bad arguments again asking yourself this question, “Would Mormons be more or less likely to engage in this behavior if they didn’t presume that the world in general and their debating opponent in particular was against them?” I dare say that at least half – perhaps as much as three quarters of the list – would disappear were the Mormon Persecution Complex mindset were set aside. Stated plainly, Many Mormons are far too quick to play the victim, or over react in inappropriately aggressive, and unduly defensive ways simply because they’re perceiving an attack or persecution by their debating opponent when there simply isn’t one.

defaultIn fact, due to this dynamic, and linking it with the logic and rhetoric issue previously discussed, all too often Mormons will play the “victim card” when all their debating opponent has done is expose the holes, gaps, problems, and fallacies in the argument that they’ve just presented. The wounded howls of these self-perceived Mormon victims can be found on just about every inter-faith discussion board (some Mormons lead with it as their opening argument) and the greatest tragedy is that it need not be.

So I challenge you my Latter-day Saint friends, whenever you’re tempted to play that victim card, first take a deep breath, revisit both your arguments and the arguments of your debating opponent, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where and how can my argument be improved?
  2. What valid points has my debating opponent made?
  3. What countering evidence can I present, along with stronger logic and reason, to overcome their points?
  4. Viewing that evidence through their point of view rather than my own, what countering arguments can I expect from my debating opponent after I respond?
  5. How can I word this so that it’s clear that I’m responding rather than reacting to my debating opponent?

I think if you’ll do that rather than assuming that you’re being picked on or attacked and reacting defensively (as opposed to responding productively) you’ll end up making better, more convincing arguments in defense of Mormonism. This isn’t to deny that many outsiders, as the Joanna Brooks epigraph to this article stated, love to Mormon Bash – it’s a fact, many do. However, Mormon friends this isn’t true of all outsiders. And my dear Latter-day  Saint friend you instantly erode your credibility just as soon as you play that card. So here’s the easy solution to the problem: Don’t play the victim card – ever.

Finally, a question must be asked: Why wasn’t this article written by a Latter-day Saint? I know that Latter-day Saints are aware of the issues that I’ve raised above because privately they complain to me about them. In fact, when the last article in this series came out and woodshedded mainstream Christians for their weak arguments against Mormonism I was told, again privately, by several Latter-day Saints that many, if not most, of the items in the list were true of many Latter-day Saints too.

However, publicly most Mormons will draw their Mormon Persecution Complex around them like a quilt, close ranks, and rail at “those nasty Anti’s!” Even worse, they will applaud the efforts of Mormon Apologists who regularly engage in polemics, pejoratives, bullying, and many of the items noted in the list above.[13]

So instead the task falls to the guy who has not only never been Mormon but is known primarily as a critic of Mormonism. In fact, I couldn’t even get a Mormon to co-author this piece with me – I tried!  So here’s the deal Mormons: If you don’t like either the tone or content this article then publish a better one – I challenge you to.

Finally, let me give you a tip: The wrong way to respond to this article is to write protest articles about how unfair I was to Mormons, or how I singled them out for persecution, or how little I understand about what it’s really like to be a Mormon being endlessly picked on by outsiders, or that I’m just a stupid, biased, blind “Anti” and we all know how they are! If you do any of that you’ll just be proving many of the points made in this article.

Further, since I’ve just published fourteen (14) such articles publicly woodshedding the bad arguments of my fellow mainstream Christians I think that it’s fair to say that I’m more than willing to do with my “tribe” what Latter-day Saints refuse to do with theirs: Challenge it to be excellent and not “muff the ball”. So Latter-day Saints, I challenge you to go and do the same!


[1] The fact that these “one off” addresses are like loose spikes sticking up along the rails of historic Mormon orthodoxy can easily be seen by listening to the other addresses by other speakers before and after Mr. Uchtdorf’s at the very same General Conference or reading the articles immediately before and after Mr. Wilcox’s in Ensign magazine. They both contradict and undermine them.

And the problem is even more glaring when compared to other official LDS Church sources and the historic record. As Mormon Researcher Bill McKeever notes:

“The Mormon who believes that Uchtdorf is abandoning all former teaching is making an assumption that is just not verified in this talk.  While his language is certainly ambiguous, it’s hard to believe that this general authority is suggesting that the other leaders and decades of teaching are to be abandoned.”
— Bill McKeever, “Does Mormonism Really Offer a “Gift of Grace”? A Review of Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Talk on Easter Sunday 2015″

The same applies to Brad Wilcox’s BYU address – which was so far askew from historic Latter-day Saint soteriology that it had to be redacted and abridged for publication in the LDS Church’s official publication, Ensign magazine. As Mormon Studies scholar Rob Bowman notes:

“It may seem strange to ask how the doctrine of a popular speech given by a BYU professor and member of the Sunday School General Board compares with other teachings of the LDS Church. However, as a statement by LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy reminds us, “BYU faculty members do not speak for the church.” The question, then, is not necessarily illegitimate. On the other hand, the publication of Wilcox’s speech in Ensign indicates that it is representative of Mormon doctrine—at least in the version published there. That qualification turns out to be at least potentially significant, since the Ensign article omits elements of the speech that appear to have been out of sync with the LDS Church’s general teaching over the years. The significance of such omissions must be considered with some caution, since omissions may have been simply the result of producing a shorter, more concise article for publication in the popular-level church-wide magazine. Nevertheless, the excisions of material appear to have been strategically performed to bring the article into line with the standard Mormon doctrinal paradigm concerning salvation and grace.”
— Rob Bowman, “Mormonism and the Sufficiency of Grace: Brad Wilcox’s Speech ‘His Grace Is Sufficient'”

[2] “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Hitchen’s Razor)

[3] Simply put, it’s the responsibly of the person making an assertion to prove it. It’s not their debating opponent’s role or responsibility. This is just common sense folks! This is the laziest form of scholarship imaginable – if you can even call it “scholarship.”

[4] As Clinton Wilcox noted in “Weak Arguments #8: ‘I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet'”

“[Testimony bearing is] a bad argument against Mormonism because it’s a bad argument, period – which makes it a bad argument even when the Mormon uses it…

You can’t rely on your own subjective experiences to convince somebody else of the truth of your beliefs. The major problem is that in the Mormon’s testimony, they don’t give us any reason to believe Mormonism is true. A subjective experience may give you a reason to believe but it doesn’t give anyone else a reason to accept your beliefs as true. Arguing that it is the correct church doesn’t help. I need to know why it is the correct church.”

And as a Latter-day Saint peer reviewer of this article noted well in his feedback on this point:

“The witness of the spirit while not great evidence for convincing others is a fine answer to: Why do you believe this? Also it is a good lead in to, ‘And you can receive the same witness.’

Mormons need to keep in mind however that a personal witness is not meant for convincing others, its personal and should be kept out of debate except in answer to the above question or proceeding the invitation. It should also be kept in mind that inviting someone to seek their own witness from God does not win the argument, as some Mormons seem to believe.”

[5] It should be noted that the rapid growth argument for Mormonism has been problematic since 1990 when growth flattened and activity rates began to decline. Reliable figures and analysis (derived from official Spring General Conference Reports) can be found here.

[6] To be clear here, temporarily excusing yourself from the conversation due to the rigors of life outside of the debate is one thing (that is unless you overuse this excuse to the point that you’re just using as it as nothing more than an escape hatch) but doing a permanent disappearing act whenever the going gets rough is something else. If you do temporarily excuse yourself due to life’s demands then make a point of returning and continuing the discussion when you can.

However, if you really want to set yourself apart as a civil and accomplished debater, when your debating opponent is presenting arguments and evidence that is so strong and compelling that it’s hard to overcome, then simply acknowledge it and tell them that they’ve given you a lot to consider. This isn’t “throwing in the towel” it’s simply being honest and humble – and people respect honest humility. A simple way to do this is to just say, “Point taken.”

Oh, and by the way, does it really need to be said that putting an Internet block or ban on your debating opponents – and thereby making it impossible for them to engage you or you them online – is the ultimate form of this bad argument? Yes, since this tactic is so commonly used (or put more accurately “abused”) by Mormon debaters on the Internet I think that it probably does!

[7] This tendency by many Mormons so concerned former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley that he publicly addressed it several times:

“We must not only be tolerant, but we must cultivate a spirit of affirmative gratitude for those who do not see things as we see them. We do not in any way have to compromise our theology . . . We can offer our own witness of the truth, quietly, sincerely, honestly, but never in a manner that will give offense to others.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005).

“[There] should never be any cause for self-righteousness, for arrogance, for denigration of others for looking down upon others. All mankind is our neighbor. . . . Regardless of the color of our skin, or the shape of our eyes, of the language we speak, we all are sons and daughters of God and must reach out to one another with love and concern.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005, Ensign May 2005, 102).

“As we recognize our place and our goal, we cannot become arrogant. We cannot become self-righteous. We cannot become smug or egotistical. We must reach out to all mankind. They are all sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father . . . . And as we go forward, may we bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about us who may not be part of this Church.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, October 2001)

“As I have said before, we must not be clannish. We must never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be self-righteous. We must be magnanimous, and open, and friendly. We can keep our faith. We can practice our religion. We can cherish our method of worship without being offensive to others. I take this occasion to plead for a spirit of tolerance and neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths.”
(President Hinckley, Pioneer Day Commemoration, July 2001)

“But we shall go forward, returning good for evil, being helpful and kind and generous. I remind you of the teachings of our Lord concerning these matters. You are all acquainted with them. Let us be good people. Let us be friendly people. Let us be neighborly people.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2001)

“Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance.”
(President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2000; Ensign, May 2000, p.87)

[8] For an explanation of that Royal Priesthood reference see “Weak Arguments #12: ‘There is no priesthood anymore.’” And, yeah, since authority can only be given not taken, Mormon Priesthood Authority claims kinda fall flat if the other person doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it doesn’t it? For example, admit it, you kinda yawned or snickered at that “Royal Priesthood” thing when you read it didn’t you my Mormon friend? See my point?

[9] The Eight Rules of Interpretation used by legal experts for more than 2500 years are as follows:

1) Rule of Definition.
Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.

2) Rule of Usage.
Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. What was the common usage in the cultural and time period when the passage was written?

3) Rule of Context.
Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.

4) Rule of Historical background.
Don’t separate interpretation and historical investigation.

5) Rule of Logic.
Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.

6) Rule of Precedent.
Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which their is no precedent.

7) Rule of Unity.
Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.

8) Rule of Inference.
Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.
(source =

[10] As noted in footnote 4, using testimony bearing as an argument or evidence is just a bad argument. Period.

[11] And before the “You’re a hypocrite – just look at the tone and content of your article!” phone calls, and letters start pouring in, this article was written in a tongue in cheek style that’s intended to mirror the same condescension, disrespect, snark, and sarcasm that are so prevalent in the weak arguments and tactics that are being addressed. If you’re offended by it then please consider how such behavior feels to others when it’s directed at them.

[12]  “Mormons are significantly more likely than the population overall to have some college education. Six-in-ten Mormons (61%) have at least some college education, compared with half of the overall population. However, the proportion of Mormons who graduate from college (18%) or receive postgraduate education (10%) is similar to the population as a whole (16% and 11%, respectively).”
— Pew Research Center, “A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.”, Education and Income

[13]   For example, please consider this polemic and pejorative laden inflammatory prose from Mormon Apologist Russell McGregor of FAIRMormon (which the reader can also consider supporting evidence for many of the points above – #21, 22, 44, and 47 in particular):

“It is not the LDS Christians, but their critics, who need to be concerned about their Christian credentials. This may seem, at first glance, to be a rather odd thing to say; the anti-Mormon movement has defined the debate in such a way that their Christianity is not open to question. Many of them are (or profess to be) clergymen, while most of them are conservative Evangelical Protestants of one sort or another. And yet the question remains and continues to be asked: is anti-Mormonism truly a Christian activity? The answer, both in the general case and in the particulars, is a clear and resounding no…

So we return to the question with which we began this survey: are anti-Mormons Christian? The answer: of course not. They were never even in the hunt. Their clerical collars and pious platitudes are simply a smokescreen to hide the ugly reality that anti-Mormonism is one of the clear manifestations of the darkest side of human nature; the side that made possible the death camps and burning crosses, the massacre of the Hutus and the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans. Just as vicious and repressive dictatorships like to give themselves grandiose and liberal-sounding titles like “The People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of Such-and-such”, so these nasty religious haters appropriate the label of “Christian” in order to claim for themselves a specious respectability that their deeds and attitudes do not merit.”
— Russell McGregor, “Are Anti-Mormons Christians?”; FAIRMormon website

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