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2008 A year of scrutiny for the LDS Church

If 2002 was Mormonism’s debutante ball, 2008 may go down as its first semester of college.

The Utah-based church made new friends, endured back-stabbing from would-be friends, joined some clubs, got a taste of fame and had a few wrenching exams.

From the possibility of a Mormon in the White House to a stream of Latter-day Saints on reality television, from being attacked as belonging to a cult (or mistaken for a polygamous sect in Texas) to participating in California’s bitter battle for traditional marriage, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would see their faith in the nation’s mirror. To many, such scrutiny was unlike any they had seen in their lifetime.

“The church emerged on the center stage of public consciousness in a way we hadn’t seen before,” says Chase Peterson, former University of Utah president and lifelong Latter-day Saint. “The full consequences of this new public awareness probably will not be understood for some time.”

Indeed, it was a “wild, eventful year for the church,” says Philip Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, “quite beyond its perpetual efforts in spreading its message, looking after its members, managing its vast resources, building its facilities and addressing catastrophes at home and abroad.”

The crucial question is: How will the LDS Church and its individual members respond to the year’s events?

For example, Mormons, who in recent decades have been staunchly Republican, were cast as pariahs during Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign by controlling sectors of the Republican Party. Though he had won widespread political and financial support across the nation, most Evangelicals in the party bitterly opposed him, and between 37 percent and 43 percent of Americans said they would never vote for a Mormon, any Mormon.

Even after Romney bowed out of the race, many Mormons continued to smart from the accusations and misrepresentations of their faith that flourished during his run. They developed a serious distaste for Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who, they believe, fueled anti-Mormon hostility while playing innocent.

Others were more straightforward. The Rev. Robert Jeffress repeatedly called Mormonism a “cult,” and evangelist Bill Keller famously said, “A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.”

Will Latter-day Saints now begin to question their allegiance to the Republican Party, Barlow wonders, or even move into the Democratic Party in the future, especially if Barack Obama is successful in his first term?

Life was changing inside the church as well.

LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley died at the end of January.

At 97, Hinckley was Mormonism’s oldest prophet and the most vigorous to the end. He had transformed the church’s public image, giving interviews to reporters everywhere he went.

 

Hinckley’s longtime associate, Thomas S. Monson, ascended to the LDS presidency, choosing Dieter Uchtdorf, a German member, as a counselor. The leadership focus began to shift.

Where Hinckley met with the media and immediately traveled outside the country, Monson held an awkward, scripted news conference and stayed closer to home, running the church from its Salt Lake City headquarters. He dedicated four temples and announced eight more, while also opening a new welfare services compound and sending humanitarian aid across the globe.

Despite such goodwill efforts, conflicts occasionally erupted.

In March, Mormon leaders were chagrined by news accounts of three Mormon missionaries in Colorado who apparently desecrated a Roman Catholic shrine. Though the Catholics ultimately forgave the missionaries for their vandalism, a month later the Vatican issued an order, blocking LDS access to Catholic parish records because of the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. The move caused widespread hand-wringing among genealogists everywhere, including Catholics.

Catholics and Mormons later put aside their differences to become allies on a different political issue — gay marriage.

In June, Mormons joined the Preserve Marriage Coalition at the request of Archbishop George Niederauer, the San Francisco Catholic leader who had previously led the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The First Presidency sent a letter to all California Mormons, urging them to support a ballot measure known as Proposition 8, which defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

The same Evangelical groups that had demeaned Mormonism as a cult during Romney’s campaign were now the LDS Church’s allies in the California fight.

“These new defenders of the Mormon faith have long been the most prolific Mormon-bashers in the nation,” said Wayne Besen, executive director of the Brooklyn-based gay-rights group Truth Wins Out. “[The two groups] have nothing in common but their anti-gay rhetoric.”

The measure passed on Nov. 4, and in the ensuing days, angry supporters of gay marriage protested outside LDS temples across the nation.

“The church’s support of Proposition 8 created a loud backlash and may make the church a symbol for the constriction of civil rights,” Barlow says. “Will the church dig in on what it sees as a moral and constitutional issue or will common cause help repair or forge new allegiances with Evangelicals?”

Not many years from now, 2008 may be seen as a turning point for the LDS Church in addressing the reality of homosexuality, he says.

The church’s theology was formed at a time when homosexuality could only be construed in biblical terms as “abomination,” he says. “Because of experience and science, today church leaders see the issue in a more complex light. They distinguish between feelings and actions, and they acknowledge that we do not know the originating causes of same-sex attraction.”

LDS founder Joseph Smith once said that ” ‘by proving contraries, truth is made manifest,’ ” Barlow says. “As is the past, this may be a painful but auspicious moment in LDS history.”

By Peggy Fletcher Stack

The Salt Lake Tribune

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Which Mormon group is the “Restored Church”?

Introduction

We will study this question by first (in Part 1) looking at the various divergent Mormon sects, then (in Part 2) examining why this division constitutes further proof that Mormonism can in no way be considered a “restoration” of Christianity.

Part 1: How many Mormon sects are there?

The more important Mormon groups

1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)

2. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)(Independence, Missouri, USA) now renamed to the Community of Christ, under president W. Grant McMurray,

This groups came into existence in the 1850s under the leadership of Joseph Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III. This group believes Joseph Smith II was nominated by the founding Joseph Smith as his successor. The Utah-based LDS group, however, disagrees.

Interestingly this group owns the historical Mormon properties in Kirtland, Ohio; this being the outcome of court case with the LDS group, the courts having decided the then RLDS had more claim (from a doctrinal standpoint) to be the church founded by Joseph Smith Jr. than the Utah–based LDS group.

In the 1970’s the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began to experience what many lay members considered to be serious problems with the hierarchy of the church trying to change the church. The main changes were “a major shift in the General Church teachings a de-emphasis of the Book of Mormon, the Second Advent and celestial life in favor of more conventional Protestant-like Christianity” (Saints Herald, January 1974, p. 52).

What Is The Difference between the LDS and the RLDS (now Community of Christ)?

Salt-Lake City based LDS uses KJV or Joseph Smith’s Translation (aka the “Inspired Version”); their second President, Brigham Young, taught God the Father was once a man (Adam), a doctrine which has never been revoked; teaches “eternal progression” to godhood; use secret temple rites; practises baptism for the dead; temple marriage is for eternity; God the Father Son and Holy Spirit are three separate “Gods”; accepts the Pearl of Great Price as Scripture.

Independence Missouri- based RLDS (now Community of Christ):uses “Inspired Version”; do not believe God was once a man; does not believe in “eternal progression” claim never to have used secret temple rites; claim Zion is Missouri; does not and never did, condone baptism for the dead; marriage only for earthly life; believes God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists in three different “modes” not Persons; rejects the Pearl of Great Price.

Both sects of course claim to be the “restored” church. When the LDS missionaries come knocking, they wil not tell you that the second largest Mormon group (the Community of Christ) believes very much differently from the Utah based LDS group.

3. Church of Christ -Temple Lot (Temple Lot, Independence, Missouri)- one early leader, Granville Hedrick, called Joseph Smith a “fallen prophet”. This group teaches that there has been apostasy from the restored gospel faith. This group was also involved in a lawsuit with the RLDS over ownership of the Temple Lot. By 1869 they purchased the original “temple lot” in Independence Missouri.

How does the Temple Lot church differ doctrinally from the LDS and RLDS?

In contrast to the LDS and RLDS, the Temple Lot group have no first presidency, high priests or patriarchs, and no prophet as leader (having 12 “apostles” instead). In common with the RLDS group, they reject the Pearl of Great Price, the doctrines of celestial marriage and eternal progression, and baptism for the dead.

Lesser known groups

The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, Missouri, USA) Founded 6 April 1991 at the Waldo Avenue Church in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS Church was declared “out of order” and the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded in its place. In 1992 and 1994, two small schismatic groups, in their turn, left this group.

There also exist fundamentalist groups that do not accept the revelation which ended the practice of polygamy.

The Church of Christ With the Elijah Message (Blue Springs, Missouri, USA).

The Church of Jesus Christ (based in Pittsburgh, USA).

The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times (Mexico) now defunct.

The Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerites) (Independence, Missouri) founded by Alpheus Cutler, 1853 – distinguished between church and kingdom

The Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (based in Louisiana USA). Rejects the Doctrines and Covenants standard LDS work

The Restored Church of Jesus Christ (Independence, Missouri, USA) – also claims to be founded by Joseph Smith, Jr.

The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (Manti, Utah, USA) these believe “that the fullness that Joseph Smith Jr. restored has been corrupted”. The Manti group split into two groups in late 1994.

Further information on several of these groups can be found at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dbowie/restore/restoration.html . For a comprehensive list of Mormon sects, please see the book “Divergent Paths of the Restoration” by Steven L. Shields (1990) which discusses more than a hundred different mormon sects.

So we see that there exist many Mormon sects, with even the main groups differing widely on doctrinal points.

Part 2: What do the divisions in Mormonism tell us?

Mormons will point to the apparent unity of their church and say it is proof theirs is the one true church. Mormon missionaries will not tell you, however, that the Utah-based LDS church is one of over a hundred mormon sects, or that there are numerous differences in doctrine between the Utah-based LDS group and the next largest group, the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS).

Do not for one moment, dear reader, believe that the Mormon religion resents a unified faith system that consists in some “restored gospel”. Mormon claims therefore to hold the true “restored” and “everlasting” gospel ring very shallow indeed when we discover that their doctrines are products of the 19th century, and that, like so many other religious sects, divided into multitudinous doctrinally divergent sects after the death of their first leader in 1844 and subsequent decades.

Is it not so much easier to simply conclude that there never was any “restoration” because there never was any apostasy?

This is the obvious answer, and the correct one. (Other pages on this website deal with this subject also.) None of the Mormon sects claiming to be the “restored” church are what they say, precisely because there was no “restoration”!

It is also of no value for LDS to counter that the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism are as great, if not greater, than the divisions betweent the Mormon sects.

(Important to remember: it is not necessary for a Catholic to defend the divisions of Protestantism; Protestantism, in the same way as Mormonism, is divided because it is in error.) This Mormon argument can be a bit confusing when first encountered: in witnessing to the truth, a Catholic only has to point to the unity of Catholicism, not the disunity of Protestantism.

Also, the authority of the Catholic Church had been accepted for the first 15 centuries; the authority of the sect of Joseph Smith’s followers was repudiated as soon as he was dead. The authority of 15 centuries will not be broken by the rebellion of a few Protestant leaders whose teachings themselves subeequently underwent countless divisions.

Remember, the Mormons claim to present the “restored gospel” so any divisions among them is automatic proof they do not have this. In contrast, the sects which left the Catholic Church over the centuries present no proof that the original teaching of the Church has been corrupted, a requirement for the Mormon “restoration” in the first place. (We will not even begin to discuss the glaring absence of Mormon doctrines from the early centuries of the Church)

It is also of no use for Mormons to claim one sect is true, and all other groups broke away from it. This view requires that the original sect be known. But both the RLDS and the LDS claim this title, as well as many other groups! Historically there were many sects after the death of Joseph Smith. The US courts ruled that the RLDS (now Community of Christ) was the closest to Smith’s original church. Where does that leave the Utah-based LDS group? Which was first?

Even more importantly, the Mormon sects cannot show that there was an “apostasy” in the early days of the Church. Without this evidence, of course, all their talk about “restoration of the gospel” is pointless.

So what do we see? The doctrine of the Catholic Church has been maintained a unified whole for 20 centuries, the doctrines of Mormonism split in every direction after the death of its founder Joseph Smith. The doctrines of Protestantism likewise split in every direction after the Protestant revolt established a foothold.

The one true Church has exhibited doctrinal unity through 2,000 years and now has over a billion adherents. That is the Holy Catholic Church. Her source of unity is not the empty boasting of some self-appointed prophet but the Holy Spirit. Those who seek the truth need look no further. Herein is unity as given by the Holy Spirit. Outside is chaos. The sincere Mormon reader is urged to look at the claims of the Catholic Church and to prayerfully seek the true Christ where He may be found.

Conclusion

Mormonism has split into a variety of sects since its foundation less than two centuries ago. Such division bears the hallmark of a religion invented by man. Mormon founder Joseph Smith once boasted:

“Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” Joseph Smith, Mormon founder, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 408-409

The followers of the Latter – Day Saints did run away from him, into over a hundred different sects.

The Catholic Church, in contrast, has preserved a supernatural unity throughout 2000 years, a unity promised not by man, but by the Holy Spirit.

http://www.angelfire.com/ms/seanie/mormon/mormonsects.html 

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Legislators’ anti-gay sentiments come back to haunt Mormons
Paul Rolly

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 12/05/2008 10:13:14 PM MST

Had the Utah Legislature not balked so vehemently at any hate-crime legislation that included protections for gays and lesbians, the state might now have better tools to prosecute those committing hate crimes against members and property of the LDS Church.

That’s the irony emerging from the ugly aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 vote banning gay marriage in that state. Because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the urging of their ecclesiastical leaders, played such a prominent role with their money and time in the passing of the proposition, their church is now a target.

Church services have been disrupted by protesters, members have been blocked from entering churches, glue has been poured into the locks of church buildings, glass doors of churches have been shattered by BB guns, LDS temples have received packages containing mysterious white powder that proved harmless, and church buildings and signs have been spray-painted.

But the perpetrators, if caught and charged in Utah, don’t face penalty enhancements for targeting a specific group for harassment. That is because a majority of Utah legislators, not wanting to appear to be coddling people who are gay, refused to include them in hate-crime legislation as a special class.

The best that LDS victims of hate crimes can hope for in Utah is that their suffering be considered an aggravating factor when judges sentence a perpetrator and parole boards determine how much of the guilty party’s sentence must be served before granting parole.

Legislators could have included a penalty enhancement for a hate crime. If, for example, a crime normally would be charged as a third-degree felony, it could be bumped to a second-degree felony if committed against a protected class.

Indeed, that was the model of hate-crimes legislation that proponents tried for a decade to pass. But in order to constitutionally justify a penalty enhancement, which most states include in such laws, protected groups must be defined.

That was always the stumbling block on Capitol Hill. For a hate-crime enhancement, it had to be shown the victim was targeted because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability or — the bill killer — sexual preference.

Rep. David Litvak, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored the bill that finally passed in 2007. He acknowledges it is not as tough as it could have been, but the compromise was necessary to get it through the Legislature. There are no protected groups defined in the marshmallow law and prosecutors must show the crime had a negative effect on a whole class of people before it can be considered an aggravating factor.

Many of the legislators who fought against the hate-crimes bills expressed concern about discrimination against Mormons.

A few years ago, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Provo, led the move to force a legislative audit of the University of Utah’s medical school because of speculation that male Mormon applicants were being discriminated against. So now, because of the anti-gay sentiments expressed at the Mormon-majority Legislature, when LDS Church members actually are singled out for harassment or discrimination, their tormentors get a pass, pretty much, even if their actions can be proven to be hate crimes.

LDS Church leaders did not oppose including sexual orientation in the earlier versions of the bill. When the church issued a statement to that effect, Gayle Ruzicka, head of the right-wing Eagle Forum, said the church was implicitly opposing the legislation because its statement did not say it supported the language.

That prompted a church spokesman to say that the Eagle Forum does not speak for the LDS Church.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_11149778

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Lies I Told as a Mormon Missionary
by Loren Franck

The Bible predicts a dreadful fate for liars. For instance, while banished on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John saw that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Similarly, the beloved disciple writes, liars are doomed to an eternity outside of God’s presence (Revelation 22:15). Because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), lying is extremely serious sin.

As a full-time Mormon missionary from 1975 to 1977, I lied for the church countless times. Like my colleagues in the South Dakota-Rapid City Mission, which served the Dakotas and adjacent areas, I spoke truthfully about my background, but touted many Mormon teachings that contradict the Bible. After my mission ended, however, I examined these doctrines more closely. The harder I tried to reconcile the contradictions, the more evident they became. So, after extensive prayer and study, I resigned my church membership in 1984. Cheated and betrayed, I lacked spiritual life for the next 17 years. But God, knowing those who are His (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19), drew me to Christ (John 6:44) and saved me in 2001. My spiritual emptiness was replaced by the abundant life only the Savior can give (John 10:10). And now, like millions of Christians worldwide, I have everlasting life through my faith in Him (John 3:36; 6:47).

I can’t remember all of my missionary lies. Some were small, others grandiose, but all were false and misleading. Here are ten I’ll never forget.

1. We’re Not Trying to Convert You

Of all my lies, this was the most frequent. I learned it well while in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which was my first assignment. A standard door-to-door proselyting pitch began with, “We represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Interrupting, many people said they had their own religion. “Oh, we’re not trying to convert you,” I responded. “We’re sharing a message for all faiths.”

But Mormon missionaries have one overriding goal, and that’s to bring converts into the church. Clearly, this was the purpose of my mission. I didn’t trade the Southern California sunshine for the Dakota snow merely to build interfaith relations. My calling was to teach the church-approved missionary lessons and then baptize the people I taught.

2. The Bible is Insufficient

According to their eighth Article of Faith, Mormons accept the Bible as the word of God only when it’s translated correctly. How convenient for a missionary. When a non-Mormon’s interpretation of scripture differed from mine, I frequently blamed faulty Bible translation. And since I believed the Bible was missing “many plain and precious things,” as the Book of Mormon claims in 1 Nephi 13:28-29, I urged prospective converts not to trust it completely.

And yet, Mormon proof texts had few translation problems. Throughout my mission, I used only those Bible verses that steered prospects away from their church and toward Mormonism. But what kind of Christian believes that an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving God gave mankind an inadequate version of His word. Actually, the Bible is more than sufficient. With its 66 books, 1,189 chapters and nearly 740,000 words, it’s the divine road map to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

3. We’re the Only True Christians

For decades, the Mormon Church has tried to blend with mainstream Christianity. Accordingly, during my mission a quarter-century ago, I worked hard to convince prospects that Mormons believe in the biblical Jesus. But Paul warned of deceivers who would lure Christians away from “the simplicity that is in Christ.” These false teachers preached “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11: 3-4) and were accursed (see Galatians 1:8-9). How interesting that Paul also cautions against false apostles, such as those in the Mormon Church (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

So which Jesus and gospel do Mormons preach? While a missionary, I taught that Christ was the firstborn spirit child of the Father in a premortal life. (The remainder of humanity was born as spirits later in this “pre-existence.”) But I didn’t tell prospects this was a literal birth, the result of literal fathering, as Mormon prophets and apostles have claimed. If asked, I taught that the devil was born as one of God’s noble spirit sons during the pre-existence, but had rebelled and started a war in heaven.

Consistent with Mormon doctrine, then, Christ and Satan are spirit brothers. But the Bible teaches that Christ is God (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; John 1:1), that He has always been God (Psalm 90:2), and that He always will be God (Hebrews 13:8). Born into mortality some 2,000 years ago, Jesus is “God… manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). He is far grander and holier than “our Elder Brother,” as Mormons dub Him. Jesus and Satan aren’t spirit brothers, and true Christians don’t believe such blasphemy.

4. We’re the Only True Church

I usually told this lie during the first of seven 30-minute missionary lessons, which presented the Joseph Smith story. According to our script, Smith prayed in 1820 about which church to join. He claimed the Father and Son appeared and told him that all Christian churches of the day were wrong. Smith said he was forbidden to join any of them, that their creeds were abominable and their professors all corrupt. “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” the Lord allegedly added. “They teach for doctrines the commandments of men” (Joseph Smith — History, verse 19). In subsequent lessons, I told prospects that Mormonism is the true church God restored through Smith.

But the Bible says such a restoration was unnecessary. Admittedly, there was partial apostasy after Christ’s resurrection, but never a complete falling away. In fact, shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). During my mission, however, I argued that the gates of hell did prevail against Christ’s church.

Shortly after renouncing Mormonism, I learned a scriptural death blow to notions of universal apostasy. Addressing Ephesian believers 30 years after the Ascension, the Apostle Paul writes, “Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21). God received glory in the Christian church from the time of Paul’s writing to the present day, and He will receive such glory throughout all succeeding generations. Therefore, the church must exist from Paul’s day throughout eternity. This annihilates Mormon claims of complete apostasy and makes restoration of Christ’s church impossible.

5. We Have a Living Prophet

Whether in wintry Winnipeg or the balmy Black Hills of Rapid City, I criticized Christians because their church lacked a living prophet. Mormons claim the true church must have one. My favorite Bible proof text to back this claim was Amos 3:7, which reads, “Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

When prospective converts remained skeptical of living prophets, I quoted Ephesians 4:11-14, which apparently requires living apostles and prophets until believers unify in the faith and understand Christ completely. However, writing in the past tense, Paul is actually referring to apostles and prophets of Jesus’ day. Otherwise, verse 11 would read that the Lord “is giving” or “will give” apostles and prophets. Of course, God did reveal His will through Old Testament prophets, as Amos 3:7 affirms. But for the last 2,000 years, He has spoken to believers through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The truth about Mormonism’s living prophets is further illuminated in Deuteronomy 18:22. “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord,” the scripture reads, “if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Isaiah 8:20 contains a similar warning: “To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

False prophets who led ancient Israel astray received the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20), and all who profess to be living prophets should consider the consequences. Mormon prophets might appear grandfatherly and sincere, but they’re not God’s living oracles. Since the Mormon Church was founded in 1830, its prophets have uttered a striking number of false prophecies. (See chapter 14 of Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s “The Changing World of Mormonism.”)

6. The Book of Mormon is Scripture

Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth, adding that man would become closer to God by following its precepts than by obeying any other book (“History of the Church,” Vol. 4, p. 461). Replace “Book of Mormon” with “the Bible” and Smith would have told the truth.

When teaching missionary lessons, I boldly maintained that the Book of Mormon is scripture. I spent myriad hours convincing prospects that it’s a sacred record of Christ’s activities in the western hemisphere. Yet many Christians I contacted realized the book “borrows” heavily from the Bible and other sources. And in stark contrast to the Old and New Testaments, virtually no archaeological and anthropological evidence supports the Book of Mormon. Why not? Because it’s fiction. When Christians want to read scripture, they turn to the Bible.

7. You’re Saved By Works

More than any other Mormon lie, this undermines Christ’s atonement, which is the most sacred doctrine of the Bible. Mormons usually equate salvation with resurrection. Likewise, they refer to eternal life as “exaltation.” I did both while teaching prospective converts. I relished the church’s third Article of Faith, which claims, “through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

Trying to bridge the doctrinal divide between Mormons and Christians, I emphasized that salvation is by grace “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). What classic Mormon double-talk. Unmistakably, the Bible says eternal life is a gift from God (Romans 5:15; 6:23) to those who believe in Christ (John 6:47), call upon Him (Romans 10:13) and receive Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Contrary to Mormon dogma, this gift cannot be awarded meritoriously.

Equally clear is that salvation results from God’s grace through each believer’s faith, not from obeying a checklist of laws and ordinances (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). All who confess Christ and believe in Him from the heart shall be saved (Romans 10:8-13).

Most Mormons know little about imputed righteousness — and neither did I during my mission. Essentially, as Christians know, the Lord credits believers with His perfect righteousness and charges their transgressions to His sinless spiritual “account.” Paul explains this doctrine masterfully in Romans 4 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.

When teaching the Mormon gospel, though, I emphatically denied imputed righteousness, which is the essence of the atonement. I stressed that eternal life is earned by perfect obedience to all gospel laws and ordinances. Yet the Bible says that “there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). As the Psalmist writes: “They are all gone aside. They are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3; compare Romans 3:10-18).

How many Mormons perfectly obey all gospel laws? None. As the Bible asserts, even the church’s current prophet can’t keep God’s laws thoroughly enough to merit heaven (1 John 1:8). And if he can’t, how can anyone else?

8. People Can Become Gods

Given its explosive nature, this tenet was rarely shared with prospective converts. Missionaries try to entice people into Mormonism gradually, and presenting the doctrine of plural gods is seldom the best way. Several contacts learned the concept from their pastors or read about it on their own, but it was new to most prospects.

“Our Father in heaven loves us so much,” I often said, parroting our lesson script, “that He provided a plan [Mormonism] for us to become like him.” I didn’t mention that Mormon godhood includes spirit procreation throughout eternity. Neither did I hint that the Mormon God was formerly a mortal man, had lived on an earth like ours, and had earned salvation through good works. However, such polytheism strips God of glory and sovereignty. No wonder the Bible condemns it so strongly. When discussing plural gods on my mission, I sidestepped Isaiah 44:8 whenever possible. “Is there a God beside me?” the passage reads. “Yea, there is no God; I know not any.” Other verses amply testify that only one God exists in the universe (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-23).

When confronted with these scriptures as a missionary, I usually countered with, “Those verses mean we worship only one God, that there’s only one God to us.” And if that failed, I lied further: “The Bible isn’t clear on this subject. Fortunately, the Lord told Joseph Smith that mortals can become gods.” Smith might have had a revelation, but not from God.

9. You’re Born Again By Becoming a Mormon

One of my favorite missionary scriptures was John 3:5. “Verily, verily I say unto you,” the Savior explains, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” To Mormon missionaries everywhere, being born of water means baptism into the Mormon Church. Birth of the Spirit refers to the gift of the Holy Ghost, allegedly bestowed after baptism.

Unfortunately, during my mission, I didn’t know what it means to be born again. I completely misinterpreted Paul’s declaration that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17; compare Galatians 6:15). According to the Bible, believers in Christ are reborn spiritually as sons and daughters of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). They experience a complete Christian conversion of mind and heart. Membership in a church organization might foster social activity and fellowship, but it’s not spiritual rebirth.

10. Temple Marriage is Required for Eternal Life

I participated in well over 100 Mormon temple ceremonies from 1975 to 1982, including my own marriage in 1977. Based heavily on freemasonry, temple rites are the church’s most carefully guarded secrets. And “celestial marriage,” which supposedly weds men and women eternally, is probably the most important temple ordinance. While a missionary, I frequently told prospects they needed temple marriage to gain eternal life.

Yet the Lord says marriage between men and women is irrelevant to the hereafter. “The children of this age marry, and are given in marriage,” He declares. “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage… for they are equal unto the angels….” (Luke 20:34-36.)

The Bible does teach eternal marriage, but not the Mormon version. The union is between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His collective body of believers, who are the bride (Matthew 25:1-13; John 3:29; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2).

False Testimony

I close with a few words about “testimony,” which is a missionary’s emergency cord. When I couldn’t rebut an antagonistic statement scripturally, I fell back on my testimony. For instance, while proselyting in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I was once asked where the Bible mentions the secret undergarments Mormons wear. Caught off guard, I admitted that the Bible says nothing about them. I could merely testify that God revealed the need for these garments through living prophets. But my testimony wasn’t based on scripture or other hard evidence. Rather, it was founded on personal revelation, which is extremely subjective. Essentially, my testimony was nothing more than a good feeling about the church and its teachings. In Mormon parlance, it was a “burning in the bosom.” But burning or not, it wasn’t from God.

If you’re a Christian, I urge you to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). That faith, the pathway to heaven, is found only in the biblical Jesus (John 14:6). But if you’re a Mormon, it’s time to prayerfully re-examine your beliefs. Do you know you have everlasting life? No. Can you obey all the commandments perfectly and earn a place in heaven? You can’t.

I regret the many lies I told during my Mormon mission. When I received Christ, though, I confessed them (and my other sins) and received His forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:13-14). “He that heareth my word,” Christ assures us, “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).

Loren Franck lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Verlette, and their young son.

http://www.mrm.org/topics/evangelism-issues/ten-lies-i-told-a-mormon-missionary

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JOSEPH SMITH’S FIRST VISION AND THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING IT

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Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fulness [sic] of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by, is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and his Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life. (Quote from LDS President Hinckley, at the world-wide General Conference on October 4, 1998 by the Church News, October 10, 1998, page 17.)

Contrary to the above statement, a study of the history of the early years of the LDS church reveals that during the first twelve years of their existence nobody knew anything at all about what is now known as “the official version” of the first vision, where God had supposedly talked with Joseph Smith. Instead Mormons were told that Joseph Smith’s first vision concerned an angel and the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. For that reason their focus was on the Book of Mormon. The “Messenger and Advocate,” the principle LDS publication during that period, never mentioned a first vision from God the Father and his Son.

There are presently nine known different versions of Joseph Smith’s first vision. And these are not minor variations of the same basic story that could be explained away. They are different stories. The differences include his age at the time, where he was when he had the vision, how many beings he saw, whether they were angels or deity, and what was actually said to him. Moreover, one of the versions that was written in his own handwriting contradicts the official version featured in the Pearl of Great Price. Evidence reveals that he changed his story radically each time he retold it, until it finally evolved to what the LDS now calls the “official version.”

The fact that he couldn’t stick to the same basic story indicates that he wasn’t telling the truth. If he’d genuinely had this incredible vision, it would have been indelibly printed on his mind. For instance, he wouldn’t have been confused as to whether it was a single angel who had appeared to him or whether both God the Father and His Son had appeared to him together, and so on. Nor would he have been confused as to whether he’d had the vision in his bedroom or in a grove.

Although some of the earlier versions of his first vision were known by the early LDS church, Mormon literature reveals that up until 1838, eighteen years after the event was supposed to have taken place, not a single soul had heard of the official version that they believe in today. It was news to everyone. Not even Smith’s own family had heard of it. We know that the story he told his mother bore little resemblance to it.

Most Mormons are unaware of the fact that for the first twelve years of their church’s existence, i.e. right up until twenty-two years after his supposed first vision, Joseph Smith led the LDS in the worship of the trinitarian deity. Then on the strength of his newly revealed vision (that was supposed to have happened twenty-two years before), he persuaded them to abandon his previous teachings in favour of his revolutionary, man-centred doctrine of eternal progression, that described God as being a man of flesh and bone, who had once needed salvation from sin. His latest version of the controversial vision fitted his new doctrines as if it had been tailor-made for them. But, as previously mentioned, it is invalidated by an earlier, completely different story, recorded in his own handwriting.

In the official version of his first vision Smith says that he’d had no idea that all of the religious sects were wrong. But in the earlier version written in his own handwriting in 1832, he maintained that he’d been an avid reader of the Bible from the age of twelve, and that by the time he’d reached fifteen years of age he’d come to understand, solely through his own studies of the scriptures, that all the Christian denominations were wrong. Furthermore, he only mentioned one being appearing to him, who identified Himself as the Lord who was crucified, in other words, Christ. (c/f “The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith” by Dean C. Jessee, Salt Lake Deseret Books, page 14).

His mother traces the origin of Mormonism to a visit to his bedroom by an angel, who told him that none of the churches were true. (First draft of Lucy Smith’s History, page 46, LDS Church Archives).

Yet another differing version was published in 1834-35 in the periodical, “Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate,” Volume 1, pages 42, and 78-79, that was written by his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, assisted by Joseph Smith. This indicates that Smith had dictated it to Cowdery as he wrote it down, which was the way they had worked. It tells of a revival in 1823 that caused the then 17 year old Joseph to become concerned about religion. He wanted to know for himself the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion and prayed that if a supreme being did exist, he would have an assurance of being accepted by him and a manifestation that his sins were forgiven. He said it was then that he had his “first vision,” when an angel appeared to him in his bedroom to tell him that his sins were forgiven. But this account has nothing in common with the official version.

JOSEPH SMITH, THE MAN

It is a well recorded fact that Joseph Smith came from a family of occultists and that he was deeply involved in both the occult and spiritism. He was a persuasive orator and was also a known confidence trickster. Before his LDS days he would convince his victims that for a cash consideration he would be able to divine the whereabouts of hidden treasure through the use of an occultic peep stone. But the hidden treasure never ever materialized.

Because of complaints about his fraudulent activities he was formally charged and found guilty in a court of law. The relevant court records are still in existence. There are also affidavits that confirm his dubious ways of earning a living, as well as his involvement in the occult. The LDS’s excuses that these records are all counterfeits, and that everybody keeps on making up lies about their prophet and founder because the true church is always persecuted, just do not hold water.

THE METHODIST CHURCH

In his official version of his first vision, Joseph Smith maintains that he was persecuted by all the churches in his area because of his claim to have had this vision. However, Orsemus Turner, an apprentice printer in Palmyra until 1822, had belonged to the same juvenile debating club that Smith had frequented. He recalled that “after catching a spark of Methodism, Joseph became a very passable exhorter in evening meetings” (History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, 1851, page 214).

Furthermore, in June, 1828, eight years after he had maintained that God had told him in this first vision that he should not join any of the churches because they were all wrong and that their teachings were an abomination in His sight, he nevertheless joined the probationary class of the Methodist Church.

At this stage the subject of his bad reputation was raised by one of the church members. The Minister had a talk to him, pointing out that his questionable way of earning a living and his involvement in the occult were contrary to what the church stood for. Nevertheless they were prepared to keep him in membership provided he confessed his misdemeanours, repented and promised to reform. He was given the choice of either appearing before a committee to clarify his intentions, or of formally requesting that his name be removed from their membership list. He asked for his name to be taken off their list.

It is quite clear from the above that he was not persecuted by the churches of the day. Instead, the opposite was the truth. He deliberately and voluntarily separated himself from the Christian churches for the sole reason that he was unwilling to give up the unethical type of lifestyle to which he was so strongly drawn.

Smith’s participation in their mid week evening meetings and his joining the Methodist church utterly destroys the validity of his so-called first vision that he claimed to have had eight years previously. Furthermore, it leaves us with the firm conviction that his story of having had a vision was just another one of his many deceptions.

As a matter of interest, he never did give up his old practices. It is common knowledge that he used the same occultic seer stone that he had used in his treasure seeking scams to enable himself to write the Book of Mormon, as well as to receive so-called “revelations from God” during the time that he was leading the church. Furthermore, when he died he had an occultic talisman coin in his pocket, which was claimed by his mother as he’d always carried it on his person and she wanted to keep it in remembrance of him.

Mormons need to bear in mind that the Bible groups the occult in the same category as witchcraft, spiritism and idolatry, as they are all influenced by deceiving spirits.

PERSECUTION

The following is an extract from Smith’s History in the Pearl of Great Price, written approximately twenty years or so after the supposed events:
“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects, all united to persecute me.” Joseph Smith – History 1:22).

Common sense tells us that if a mere boy had been persecuted as bitterly as he claims he had been for having had a vision from God, the local newspapers would have made some mention of it at the time. It’s the sort of thing that the press thrives upon. But there is no record anywhere, not even in Mormon publications, either of this supposed vision or of any persecution arising because of it. Nor is there any evidence whatsoever that Smith had ever related the official version of his first vision to anyone at all, not even to his nearest and dearest.

The LDS publications, “Dialogue,” Autumn 1966, pages 30-31 and “Saints’ Herald,” June 29, 1959, page 21 both confirm that there had been no knowledge of the official version of his first vision until eighteen years later. Furthermore, pages 30-34 of “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,” Autumn 1966, reveal that the general church membership did not receive any information about it until the 1840’s, a full twenty years after the supposed event.

LDS STATEMENTS ABOUT THE FIRST VISION

Mormon Apostle Hugh B. Brown declared:
“The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith constitutes the groundwork of the Church which was later organized. If this First Vision was but a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination, then the Mormon Church is what its detractors declare it to be — a wicked and deliberate imposture” (“The Abundant Life,” pages 310-311). (Italics inserted by author.)

LDS Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith stated:
“Mormonism as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an imposter cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures. ” (LDS Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, 1954, page 188. (The author’s italics)

But Joseph Smith’s many, varying versions of his first vision are filled with contradictions and his doctrines do not stand up to the light of God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Furthermore, Mormonism itself is full of contradictions, i.e. the Book of Mormon contradicts Smith’s revelations in Doctrine and Covenants, as well as the Pearl of Great Price, and they all contradict the Bible. Also, Smith taught Mormons to worship two different Gods at different periods in their history. They worshipped the eternal spirit God of the trinitarian deity for the first twelve years, yet today they ridicule that teaching and worship an exclusively Mormon God of flesh and bone, who was once a sinner. If that isn’t a contradiction, then what is it? Furthermore, Smith’s Book of Abraham has been unanimously declared to be fraudulent by every Egyptologists who has examined it. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence is necessary?

The following links will take you to articles discussing Joseph Smith’s false prophecies, the various Gods worshipped by the LDS during their early history, and his fraudulent “Book of Abraham”:

Joseph Smith, the Latter-day False Prophet

The Mormon Gods, Past and Present

The Book of Abraham and its Rejection by Egyptologists

Copyright 2007, by Mormonism and Biblical Truth. All rights reserved.

http://www.bibtruth.com/1vis.html

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