Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith


Heretical Christians


     Meridian Magazine is an online LDS magazine.  This week it contained which to me was a surprising article.  It was reporting on an article in a journal called “First Things” that consisted of a discussion between Elder Bruce D. Porter, a LDS General Authority (member of the First Quorum of Seventy) and Gerald McDermott, a Christian professor.  The discussion was whether Mormonism was Christian or not.

     The thing that I found surprising was the following quote from Elder Porter.  After saying that Mormons were Christians, he added.  “To the title Christian a critic of Mormonism may add any modifiers he deems appropriate – unorthodox, heretical, non-Nicene, different – but blanket assertions that we are Christians are a poor substitute for informed argument and dialogue.”  I read it about three times to make sure I read it correctly.  A LDS General Authority prefers that critics of Mormonism describe it as heretical Christianity rather than non-Christian?  It would seem logical that he would then say that critics of Mormonism may call Joseph Smith a heretic.

      Not only did I find that quote surprising but also the fact that Meridian Magazine reported it with approval.  By this am I to conclude that it won’t bother most Mormons to use those terms?  I personally have difficulty seeing Mormons not object if Christians regularly began to describe Mormonism as heretical and Joseph Smith as a heretic.  But that sure seems to be what Elder Porter is saying.  He would prefer that to being called non-Christian.

      To see the article, go to



Mormonism’s Sources of Authority


     Seth, a regular on this blog, asked an important question.  He asked:  “Imagine you are an active Mormon (or at least try for a moment).  Imagine you had to rank Mormon sources of teaching and doctrine on a numbered scale.  How would you rank the following:

            *Accepted Mormon scriptures – the “Standard Works”

            *Statements by Joseph Smith on doctrinal matters

            *Statements by Brigham Young on doctrinal matters

            *Statements made by current or recent Prophets and Apostles in General Conference, or in the Ensign

            *Explanations made in books published by General Authorities. Statements made by official Church organs (such as the Church website, or press room)

            *Statements included in currently used manuals or lesson materials.”

     This is an important question because if there is an agreed-upon answer then that establishes common ground for discussion.  In my experience, however, both Mormons and Christians don’t agree on the relative importance of the things listed.  This results in ever-increasing frustration for all involved as everybody, it seems, cites different authorities.  Sometimes it even appears as if the same person will cite different authorities at different times to suit his purpose.  This switching of authorities, whether real or perceived, creates not only frustration but also suspicion.

     What I find perplexing about all this is that it seems to me that the LDS Church has spoken clearly about this very question.  One of its basis tenets is the idea of ongoing revelation.  I have lost count of the number of LDS members who have talked to me about their benefit of having a living prophet who can receive revelation for the current day.  This is a universally accepted idea.  At least I have never seen or heard of a LDS member not sustaining the current living prophet.

     Building on this teaching of ongoing revelation, the LDS church has published numerous statements like the following.  These are all taken from the official church manual, Teachings of the Living Prophet

      “The most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us.”  Ezra Taft Benson, P. 13

     “The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.”  P. 15

      “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.” P. 15

      “The prophet does not have to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture. P. 16

      “The most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.”  P. 19

      “President Ezra Taft Benson counseled the Saints to ‘beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always takes precedence.’” P. 20

     “It is the latest word from God that must be heeded, in preference to any former revelation, however true.  The same God ways do thus and so today, can repeal that commandment tomorrow, without being changeable or inconsistent.”  P. 20

     “Today the Lord is revealing his will to all the inhabitants of the earth, and to members of the Church in particular, on the issues of this our day through the living prophets, with the First Presidency at the head.  What they say as a presidency is what the Lord would say if he were here in person.  This is the rock foundation of Mormonism.”  P. 25 (My emphasis)

     There are other similar quotes from other current and official manuals. These are not taken from obscure and outdated documents. There are numerous quotes, for example, that describe General Conference talks as scripture.  One of the newest LDS manuals, True to the Faith, says, “Your greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church.” P. 130

     Back to the original question.  It sure seems to me, if I were a faithful member of the LDS church, the church itself is telling me loud and clear where to look – at what is currently being taught by the First Presidency.  In that regard, I would pay special attention to everything the First Presidency officially endorses – as is the case with many church manuals.  In fact, if I put something above them, it seems to me that I would not be a faithful member.  As the church itself teaches: “The living prophet always takes precedence.” 


Romans 4:5 and the JST


     One of the most striking passages in the Bible is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”  What is so striking about this passage is that it describes God as “him that justifieth the ungodly.”  Justifies is a courtroom term that means to acquit or declare not guilty.  In other words, this passage startles us by describing God as acquitting the ungodly.  That doesn’t seem right!

     But it is.  This is what makes the Bible unique.  Where else do we hear about a God who acquits the ungodly?  The common picture shared by other world religions is of a God who keeps a record of rights and wrongs and judges accordingly. 

     Only the Bible says this because only the Bible talks about a Savior who has taken all our sins on himself and paid their terrible price for us.  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

     Interestingly this is a verse that Joseph Smith changed.  The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of this verse is:  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Note especially how he changed the description of God.  “him who justifieth not the ungodly.”  With the addition of not, he changed the meaning of this phrase completely and aligned it with the concept of God common to other world religions.

      Here then is another striking difference between Christianity and Mormonism.  Christianity’s God is the one who justifies the ungodly. Mormonism’s god doesn’t.


Judging a Prophet’s Words

      This is a continuation of my last post.  There I talked about how the fruit of a prophet – the fruit by which we recognize whether a prophet is true or false – is not his character or even his success, but his words.  But how do we go about looking at his words?

     The LDS church cites James 1:5 and tells people to pray about it.  But nowhere in the context does James apply this to judging a prophet’s words.  No, when the subject is judging whether or not a prophet is true the Bible is consistent in its approach.  You judge his words by comparing them with the Bible. 

      Isaiah 8:19-20: “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?  20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  The law and the testimony were terms for Old Testament Scripture.  That was the standard to be used.  They were not told to pray about it.

     We see the same thing in the New Testament.  In Acts 16 Paul comes to the Greek city of Berea.  In regard to his visit we read:  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” (v.11)  They examined Paul’s word in light of scripture to determine the truthfulness of them.  Searching the Scriptures rather than praying about it was their method of discerning truth.  For a fuller discussion of this see

     When one compares Joseph Smith’s teachings and subsequent LDS teaching to the Bible, there are major conflicts.  The Bible says we are saved without works, the Book of Mormon says we are saved by grace after all we can do.  Mormonism teaches that God was once a man – the Bible teaches that God has always been God.  The Bible says that there is only one God – Mormonism teaches that there are countless gods.  On and on it goes.

     One can’t help but think that Joseph Smith saw these conflicts and that is why he taught that many plain and precious things were taken from the Bible.  Or why Mormonism teaches that “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” 

     When his teachings are compared with the teachings of the Bible, Joseph Smith is revealed as a false prophet.


Recognizing False Prophets

     A question that naturally arises when discussing Mormonism is:  was Joseph Smith a true prophet of God?  When answering this question, many Mormons point to his accomplishments and ask how a young teen could do such things if he wasn’t a true prophet.  Others point to the growth of the LDS Church and say that such growth proves its truthfulness.  On the other hand, many critics of Mormonism focus on problems they see in Joseph Smith’s history in an attempt to prove that he wasn’t. 

     But there’s an even more preliminary question that needs to be asked, namely, how should one go about determining if someone is a true or false prophet?  Is that determined by their character. . .by their success?  If, for example, successful growth is the evidence than we would have to say that Mohammed was a great prophet – a statement I don’t think many Christians or Mormons would endorse.

     Jesus talks about false prophets in Matthew 7.  There he gives some vital information.  First of all, he says that they come in sheep’s clothing.  In other words, they will appear harmless and good.  Many false prophets will have exemplary characters.  They will be “good” people.  We see that in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees were the conservative, moral people of the day.  But Jesus spoke very sternly to and about them.

     A few verses later Jesus gives us more pertinent information.  “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  (Matthew 7: 22-23)  Note how these false prophets spoke and acted in Jesus’ name.  They even did miracles in Jesus’ name – casting out devils and the like!  In spite of that, however, Jesus didn’t accept them.  Rather he angrily casts them away.  Therefore using Jesus’ name and even doing spectacular works in Jesus name isn’t the mark of a true prophet.

    In verse 20 Jesus tells us what to look for.  “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  I didn’t begin with this verse because people often hear that and immediately identify fruit with a person’s character, work, or outward success.  But it’s obvious from the context those things aren’t “fruit”.  What then is a prophet’s fruit?  To answer this question, let me ask a couple of other questions first.  What is a plumber’s fruit?  What is a teacher’s fruit?  Isn’t a plumber’s fruit his plumbing and how well he does it?  Isn’t a teacher’s fruit her teaching and how well she does it?  A prophet’s fruit is what he says!  To determine if someone is a true or false prophet, what need to be examined are his words.  That is why when evaluating Joseph Smith, what needs to be put under the microscope is not so much his character or work, but his words – his teachings.  And it’s his teachings that have convinced me that he was a false prophet.

      To be continued.


Contending or Contentious

The LDS church commonly warns its members about being contentious.  LDS missionaries sometimes will leave a house because they say its inhabitants have a spirit of contention.  And the Bible indeed warns against being contentious.


But the Bible also tells us to contend for the faith.  See, for example, Jude 3.  My dictionary defines contend with words like strive, debate, assert, struggle and even argue.  The root of the Greek word that Jude used is one from which our English word “agonize” is derived.  Obviously contend involves more than having a pleasant, light conversation.  It involves vigor and passion.


How then can one contend for the faith without being contentious?  It’s all in the attitude.  A contentious person is belligerent (my dictionary) – he is looking for a fight and enjoys the fight.  On the other hand, a person who is contending for the faith doesn’t really enjoy the battle but engages in it because he is passionate about his beliefs and thinks they are worth fighting for.


I will be the first to admit that I have often seen a contentious spirit exhibited by Christians as they talk with Mormons.  It is painfully obvious that they have no concern for the Mormons or even, at times, the faith.  They just want to win the battle.  But this has not been limited to Christians.  Over the years I have received numerous letters, emails, and even pictures from LDS members that are blatantly contentious. 


Why do I bring this up?  Because I feel the need to regularly state why I am doing this blog.  My goal is to contend for the faith without being contentious.  I want the differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity to be clearly seen.  My prayer is that many Mormons see the wonderful truth that we are saved without any works on our part.


The other reason why I am writing this today is because in the next series of posts I am planning on examining Mormonism’s claims that Joseph Smith and his successors are true prophets of God.  Obviously that is something that I don’t believe.  But up front I want to say that I state that not just to be contentious and get Mormons’ blood boiling but because I think this is a serious issue that needs discussing – that here too we need to contend for the faith.

May 2020

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