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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 18
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Response to claims made in "Chapter 18: The Church and Its Leadership"
|Chapter 17: Joseph Smith||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 18: The Church and Its Leadership"
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- Response to claim: 264-268 - The authors conclude that trusting in these men, their teachings and their counsel, is a foolish and destructive path
- Response to claim: 266 - The authors attempt to paint a picture of restriction for members of the Church
- Response to claim: 266 - Ezra Taft Benson said, "No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"
- Response to claim: 266 - "Do most Mormons accept this role of such authority, even to trust these men to lead them to eternal life? Apparently so. What if they are wrong?"
- Response to claim: 266 - "for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself"
- Response to claim: 267 - While the Mormon leaders may say that they and their organization are above reproach, such a position of ultimate authoritarianism is not a New Testament trait
- Response to claim: 267-268 - If the leaders of the early church had claimed ultimate authority, then we could rightly conclude that Paul would never have become an apostle
- Response to claim: 268 - "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed"
- Response to claim: 268 - the New Testament apostles did not have any special authority to declare doctrine and teach the gospel
- Response to claim: 270 - Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory"
- Response to claim: 270-271 - Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," while Bruce R. McConkie states that God's knowledge and power is full and complete
- Response to claim: 273-275 - Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
The authors spend the first five or six pages of this chapter quoting former leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These quoted statements exhort members of the Church to trust their leaders (accepted by Church members as apostles and prophets, just as those who wrote the Bible) and follow their teachings. The point, the authors conclude, is that trusting in these men, their teachings and their counsel, is a foolish and destructive path. Literally, 90 percent of these first pages are quotes from Church leaders. For example, Gordon B. Hinckley, is quoted by the authors:
Never let yourselves be found in the position of fighting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You cling to it and be faithful to it. You uphold and sustain it. You teach its doctrines and live by it. And I do not hesitate to say that your lives will be the richer and happier because of that. You cannot find happiness fighting the work of God.
- Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 6:32.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, address to Ricks College regional conference, 29 October 1995, quoted in Ensign (April 1996), 73.
- "Mormon President Warns Students of Pornography, Criticizing Church Leaders," Salt Lake Tribune, 27 January 1996, p. C1.
- Ensign (May 1996), 4.
On the one hand, the authors profess a belief, trust and faith in the writings of apostles and prophets. Yet, on the other hand, the authors take a position in direct opposition to the first, by suggesting that we should not put our lives in the prophets' hands; implying that the writers of the Bible would not want us to trust what they say.
If a Baptist leader were to make this statement regarding the Baptist church, would a Baptist find cause for concern? Of course not. Should a Methodist leader teach that it is acceptable to fight against the Methodist church? Would it be appropriate for this Methodist leader to teach anything less than faithfulness to the church's teachings? No, of course not. The fact that the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that its teachings are true and that its members should follow its teachings only demonstrates the faith of the leaders in the accuracy of its teachings. Shouldn't every member of a church believe in the teachings of that church?
Question: In Mormonism, when our leaders speak, has the thinking been done?
The prophets themselves have counseled us to think for ourselves
It is clear the Church leaders counsel us to follow the guidance of the prophet. It is also clear that the prophets themselves have counseled us to think for ourselves. James E. Talmage summarized it well when he said that "God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons, nor to exact from them blind obedience. Albeit, blessed is the man who, while unable to fathom or comprehend in full the Divine purpose underlying commandment and law, has such faith as to obey. So did Adam in offering sacrifice, yet, when questioned as to the significance of his service, he answered with faith and assurance worthy the patriarch of the race: "I know not, save the Lord commanded me." Each one of us will ultimately be responsible for the decisions that we ourselves have made—not those that the prophet have made. As the Prophet Joseph Smith once said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
Critics use a statement made in the Ward Teachers' Message published in the Improvement Era in June 1945 to claim that members must do whatever Church leaders say without question
Critics use a statement made in the Ward Teachers' Message published in the Improvement Era in June 1945 to claim that members must do whatever Church leaders say without question. The statement is presented by the critics as follows:
Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy.... Lucifer ... wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to "do their own thinking."...
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.
We provide the complete quote below, with the phrases emphasized by the critics in bold type:
Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the Lord's anointed and retain the Holy Spirit in his heart.
It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is Satan's favorite pastime, and he has practiced it on believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to "do their own thinking." He specializes in suggesting that our leaders are in error while he plays the blinding rays of apostasy in the eyes of those whom he thus beguiles. What cunning! And to think that some of our members are deceived by this trickery.
The following words of the Prophet Joseph Smith should be memorized by every Latter-day Saint and repeated often enough to insure their never being forgotten:
I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 156-157.)
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.
Response from President George Albert Smith regarding the statement: "The passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church"
When the ward teaching message was published, concerns were raised regarding how this statement would be interpreted. President George Albert Smith responded to a concern expressed by Dr. Raymond A. Cope of the First Unitarian Society:
The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not "prepared" by "one of our leaders." However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.
I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.
Finally, we should point out that, in a 1946 letter to Dean Brimhall, Elder Albert E. Bowen of the Quorum of the Twelve rejected the ward teachers' message even more forcefully than had President Smith and explained that it had been written by a young clerk in the Presiding Bishop's office and sent out without anyone in authority having approved it.
Brigham Young: "I exhort you to think for yourselves"
Brigham Young made the following statements:
Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves, and read your Bibles for yourselves, get the Holy Spirit for yourselves, and pray for yourselves.
The great masses of the people neither think nor act for themselves. . . . I see too much of this gross ignorance among this chosen people of God.
Joseph Smith said the following:
All have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. . . . We are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive anyone of exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts.
Dallin H. Oaks: "We can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves."
Dallin H. Oaks shared the following in the April 2008 conference:
Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.
Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.
Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1).
Additional quotes from both early and modern Church leaders may be found here.
In the area of doctrine and interpreting scripture for doctrinal purposes, the authors attempt to paint a picture of restriction for members of the Church. They frame this painting with the idea that members are not allowed to "[trust] in their own rationale." The authors portray Church leaders as those who do not permit freethinking in scripture interpretation and do not allow the members to declare doctrine for themselves.
- Ensign, (November 1994), 63,65.
The authors cite Aldin Porter in documenting this view, as saying:
While we are members of the Church, we are not authorized to publicly declare our speculations as doctrine nor to extend doctrinal positions to other conclusions based upon the reasoning of men and women, even by the brightest and most well-read among us. ...When you see any document, any address, any letter, any instruction that is issued by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, it should be recognized for what it surely is-the mind and the will of the Lord to his people in this day.
Once again, the authors would have their readers believe that the members of the Church are to be blind sheep, just doing what they are told and nothing else. And, true to form, these critical authors follow the same pattern as do others. While quoting leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, critical authors like to omit sections that would, if read, shed additional light. Let's see what we find when we look at the entire quote as opposed to the edited version the authors provided for us above. Looking at the entire statement, we find Aldin Porter making the following statement. The bold sections are what the authors excised from their version of the quote:
While we are members of the Church, we are not authorized to publicly declare our speculations as doctrine nor to extend doctrinal positions to other conclusions based upon the reasoning of men and women, even by the brightest and most well-read among us. On one occasion during the Savior's mortal ministry, he was challenged by those who were opposing him. They wondered how a person could speak with such certainty without the education of the world. When you see any document, any address, any letter, any instruction that is issued by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, it should be recognized for what it surely is-the mind and the will of the Lord to his people in this day. "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:16-17) We must learn the will of our Father in Heaven by earnest study. Next, we must act upon it. Study alone is not sufficient; we must act upon the words of revelation before we know of a surety of the truthfulness of the doctrines…If we will follow, with diligence, the counsel and instruction that is the united voice of these Brethren, we will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether they speak of themselves.
There is no suggestion of any blind-sheep mentality in this statement. We find a scriptural example of how we are to know the doctrine of Jesus, even the doctrine of God. This is the counsel of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, you won't find this in the authors' book. Rather, they would have their readers believe that the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a cultish "put on your blinders, follow, and don't ask any questions," approach. That is not the case. The authors apparently determined the need to omit this portion of the statement, because it doesn't square with their agenda. It actually demonstrates how wrong they are. So, their solution is to take that portion out altogether, they take the corners off this square peg, so they can fit it into their round hole.
Response to claim: 266 - Ezra Taft Benson said, "No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"
*Continuing on this subject, the authors refer to a quote from Church leader, Ezra Taft Benson, as follows:
Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church.
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Gospel Teacher and His Message," 51-52, quoted in Teachings of the Living Prophets, 25.
The authors question the "role of such authority," and wonder how people can "trust these men." One ought to ask the question…is it so difficult to believe that a religious leader would counsel the adherents of the religion to follow the teachings of the religion? Would Billy Graham be found preaching his interpretation of the word of God, yet following up his sermons with a statement, "but you folks interpret this stuff however you want…don't mind me…this is just a guess…faith, works, baptism…your guess is as good as mine?" Of course not! Would Jerry Falwell teach his doctrine and his interpretation of scripture, but say to his teachers, "Go teach what you want…you can change anything you see fit because the doctrine I declare isn't any better than what you could come up with…feel free to declare whatever you think." Ridiculous, isn't it? Yet, the authors put forth such an argument.
The authors follow the Ezra Taft Benson quote with the following remark:
"Do most Mormons accept this role of such authority, even to trust these men to lead them to eternal life? Apparently so. What if they are wrong?"
The authors ask a fair question here. Put yourself in Jerusalem, two thousand years ago, witnessing the preaching of Peter unto people of Jerusalem as recorded in the second chapter of Acts. The people are "pricked in their heart," (Acts 2:37) and ask Peter and the other apostles, "what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) Peter answers with three simple, yet direct commands, "Repent," "be baptized," and "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38) Did the people trust Peter and the apostles? Should they have trusted them? What if Peter was wrong? These are the questions the authors would have us ask.
Let's ask the same question that the authors ask, in a more current setting, yet referring to these words of Peter: Do most Christians, today, "accept this role of such authority" (of Peter and the apostles), "even to trust these men" (Peter and the apostles) "to lead them to eternal life?" Apparently so ( if one believes in the Bible). "What if they are wrong?"
Brigham Young, himself, delivered wisdom on this subject. Now, you will find this statement to be contrary to what the authors want their readers to believe but, nonetheless, it demonstrates how the Latter-day Saints are asked to follow. (This quote was cited again in 1950, in the General Conference of the Church, almost one-hundred years after Young's original statement):
I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him...Let every man and woman know themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually.
This is certainly a different tune than the one that the authors would have their readers believe that LDS leaders sing, isn't it? The authors would rather have their readers believe that LDS leaders want the members to just close their eyes and follow, without questions.
The real concern is that many people reading this book by the authors are accepting the authors' self-appointed role as such authority, even to trust the authors to lead them to eternal life. Many people will read this book and put their trust in the authors…the very trust the authors advise us not to instill in anyone. What if they are wrong? I tell you that they are indeed wrong. They are very wrong. That is the travesty.
Response to claim: 266 - "for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself"
The true colors of the authors shine through as they conclude this section of the chapter. After asking the questions above, the authors make this statement:
Some seem to think that they (LDS Leaders) will be forgiven and the issue will be forgotten. Speaking at an LDS Sunstone Symposium on 8 August 1997, Clay Chandler said, 'Our leaders can be forgiven for occasionally deceiving us if they don't violate our trust." Some Christians may not completely understand such rationale, but it must be remembered that for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself.
- Clay Chandler, speaking at the "LDS Sunstone Symposium" on 8 August 1997.
First of all, let us state unequivocally that this is pure dishonesty. This is an intentional attempt to deceive people who don't know any better. As anyone who has studied The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would know (and the authors tout themselves as "experts"), the Sunstone Symposium is NOT a Church-sponsored symposium…it is far from it. The Sunstone Symposium is held every year by the Sunstone Foundation and provides a forum where a variety of topics among Sunstone subscribers (these include dissident LDS members, excommunicated LDS members, current LDS members, atheists, humanists, etc.) are discussed.
Let us look to the Deseret News, a local Salt Lake City newspaper owned by the LDS Church, an interview with Sunstone's chairman of the board of directors, J.F. "Toby" Pingree:
Although the symposium and journal have made headlines in the past for its open discussion of topics such as feminism and dissident members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pingree said he doesn't think Sunstone is "on the church's radar screen" right now. "But I think there's even more of a need for (the symposium and journal)," he said, "because BYU is even more restrictive now." According to Pingree, "the faculty at BYU have been led to understand that they shouldn't be participating in Sunstone."
Is it reasonable to conclude that a symposium that Brigham Young University (BYU), a Church-owned university, faculty isn't even participating in should be considered a valid source to represent the LDS membership as a whole? Most certainly not. The symposium representative, quoted above, seemed to be entirely grateful that the Church is not targeting it, at this time.
Suffice it to say that the Sunstone Symposium is made up of many people, among others, who oppose the Church's positions on a variety of topics. To use a Sunstone source as representative of the LDS membership is nothing less that deceptive and dishonest scholarship. And Chandler, the source of the Sunstone statement used by the authors, is not even an active member of the Church. He describes himself as a "disengaged" Mormon and is married to a Lutheran pastor (most certainly not representative of the LDS membership). Without researching the source used by the authors, which most of their readers will not do, one would accept this as a common LDS view, which it is not. Once again, this is the type of scholarship that is to be expected from anti-Mormon authors. Using a dissident Mormon, now turned humanist, as a representative of LDS views is illusory. The view expressed by Chandler in the quote from the authors is not representative of a Latter-day Saint.
The authors continue to quote leaders of the Church stating the importance of members to follow the Church's teachings and counsel, while supporting the leaders of the Church. Attempting to contrast this view with the New Testament, the authors then make the following statement:
At the conclusion of the October 1994 general conference, President Howard W. Hunter proclaimed: 'Let us study their words [the prophets and other general authorities], spoken under the Spirit of inspiration, and refer to them often. The Lord has revealed his will to the Saints in this conference.' While the Mormon leaders may say that they and their organization are above reproach, such a position of ultimate authoritarianism is not a New Testament trait.
- Hunter, Ensign (November 1994), 87.
The authors take a ridiculous position that we would never find with biblical church leaders. Would we find Moses addressing the children of Egypt in a manner counter to the above statement by Hunter? Perhaps Moses would have advised the Israelites, "the Lord has not revealed his will through my words…The God of Israel is not guiding us…do not refer to my teachings and admonitions to you." Perhaps when Moses came down from the mount with the tablets, he urged the Israelites not to heed the commandments written upon them.
Perhaps Peter would rather those from Jerusalem, in the second chapter of Acts, have questioned his words and his command to repent and be baptized. Perhaps, in some statement that we no longer have, Paul advised the Romans, Corinthians and others not to trust his words. "Do not study my words," he must have suggested, "and do not refer to them often. In fact, throw them away."
Yet this is what the authors would have the leaders of the LDS Church advise its members, for it is the only alternative to advising the members to study, take heed, and follow their teachings.
Let's look at the authors' examples of how New Testament writers "opposed" such a position taught by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ. There are three examples posted. Here is the first:
If the leaders of the early church had claimed ultimate authority, then we could rightly conclude that Paul would never have become an apostle. After his conversion, Acts 9:26 says Paul tried to join the disciples but he was rebuffed due to a lack of trust. The apostles were reluctant to believe that Paul had actually converted. Although it is unclear as to the role Barnabas played in leading the early church, he did stand up for Paul and defended him before the apostles."
As a point of clarification, the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not claim "ultimate authority." That would be God who holds that type of authority. However, if, by "ultimate authority," the authors mean authority from God to declare doctrine and interpret scripture for the purposes of teaching the people, then I have no problem. I felt the need to clarify that term.
Now, anyone familiar with this story, of Paul's first arrival to Jerusalem, knows that the authors' portrayal is a misrepresentation of the facts. It requires a further misrepresentation of the Bible in order to make a point.
Paul did come to Jerusalem "to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him," (Acts 9:26) and rightfully so. Paul had persecuted them a few years earlier. However, notice that this verse does not say the apostles were afraid. For the apostles were not even present at that instance. It was directly after his frightening the disciples, when "Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles," (Acts 9:27)) and told the apostles of Paul's experiences in the Lord.
Nowhere do we find the apostles "reluctant to believe" Paul had converted. And nowhere do we find Barnabus "defending" Paul. The authors are trying to mix the "disciples" with the "apostles" which is distorting the picture. Simply put, the disciples were afraid, Barnabus took Paul to the apostles and told them what he knew about Paul's conversion, and Paul was accepted as a disciple. Even if the apostles were cautious regarding Paul, due to his previous persecution of the saints, what would that prove? That they were prudent men?
The authors would have us believe this little incident proves that the apostles of the New Testament didn't claim ultimate authority in declaring doctrine and teach the people truth from God. First, this instance with Paul's introduction to the disciples and apostles has nothing whatever to do with their authority to teach doctrine. Second, this is such a backwards argument. The authors are impeaching the writers of their own Bible. Of course the writers of the New Testament claimed to have the authority to declare and teach true doctrine to the people…of course the people could trust them.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews clearly advised that "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." (Hebrews 2:1) That sounds strikingly similar to the quotes above from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The people are urged to abide by the things they have been taught by the leaders of the Church.
Paul praised the members of the Church in Rome for their obedience and loyalty to the doctrine he had taught them:
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Romans 6:17)
There was no request made by this leader (Paul) of the Roman saints to critique his doctrine, as McKeever and Johnson would have them do…only to abide by it and they were commended for doing so.
Additionally, Paul gave strict instructions to Timothy (a local leader of the Church…a bishop) to exhort the members of the church to conform to and comply with the doctrine they had been taught by the leaders of the Church:
As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:3)
As Peter was teaching the people, admonishing them to "add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity," (2 Peter 1:5-6) he concluded with a strong command to, "give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" (2 Peter 1:10)
Is it possible that, rather than actually trust and follow these instructions, Peter wanted the people to doubt, question and not heed his remarks? Perhaps Peter wanted the people to first go test his directions versus the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament, that would have been available to the people) and then try to figure out if his statement could be trusted. Obviously, counter to the conclusion of McKeever and Johnson, Peter's words are plain and sufficiently direct.
Paul not only commanded the saints in what they should do, but went so far as to command them not to have company with those who disobey the apostle's commands (McKeever and Johnson must be appalled at such direction):
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly…for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us…And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-14)
Paul makes a similar demand to the Roman saints regarding those who follow different doctrines:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)
It appears clear, consistent with Peter's declaration (cited earlier), that Paul did not want the members of the Church to privately interpret doctrine. Paul's instructions are certain: follow the doctrine that the leaders of the Church (apostles) taught them, which is perfectly consistent with the statements by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Response to claim: 268 - "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed"
The authors attempt to demonstrate that the New Testament apostles were in opposition to such a view:
Paul took a position opposite to that held by the leaders of Mormonism. He invited his followers in Galatians 1:8-9 to closely scrutinize his teachings: 'But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed.' He made it clear that even he was not above criticism.
The authors miss the point and their statement begs the question: What gospel is Paul talking about? The one HE taught them. I am completely baffled how these two men, who run a "Christian Ministry," can entirely miss the plain meaning of this passage and contradict the rest of Evangelical Christianity (of which they claim to be a part). Let's take a look.
Paul opens his letter to the saints at Galatia, with a rebuke (I can just see him shaking his head):
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. (Galatians 1:6-7)
"I can't believe you Galatians are already distorting the doctrines of Christ that I taught you," he seems to be saying. Paul is not praising these members of the Church for scrutinizing his teachings; he is not inviting them to criticize the gospel he delivered to them. Paul is rebuking them because they were indeed scrutinizing the gospel and perverting it. This is made clear when one reads the next verses in their entirety, as opposed to omitting parts (once again the authors omit the portions that don't agree with their position).
Paul thus continues his reprimand in the same chapter:
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 1:8-9)
Is there any way for Paul to make his directive more certain? Paul is effectively warning the members of the Church by saying that the doctrines "we" taught you are not up for debate or discussion. The gospel "we" taught you is not to be scrutinized. That which "we" taught you is indeed above reproach. The Galatians are not to listen to anything else.
Paul concludes his censure to the saints with this truth:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12
What Paul and the apostles taught to the saints at Galatia was the Lord's doctrines. He testified that what they learned from their leaders (the apostles) was revealed by the Lord. Compare Paul's words to the statement made by Howard W. Hunter at the conclusion of the 1994 General Conference (this is the quote that the authors had such a problem with):
Let us study their words [the prophets and other general authorities], spoken under the Spirit of inspiration, and refer to them often. The Lord has revealed his will to the Saints in this conference.
This is exactly what Paul is saying. The LDS leaders (apostles and prophets) are admonishing the members of the Church (saints) in precisely the same way that the New Testament leaders (apostles and prophets) were admonishing the members of the Church (saints). Unfortunately, McKeever and Johnson want people not to trust their leaders. They want us to scrutinize and criticize the apostles of the New Testament. This is not how the Lord's Church worked two thousand years ago, nor is it how the Lord's Church works today.
One is left to wonder which of Paul's writings the authors feel need to be scrutinized and criticized? What parts of Paul's writings do the authors disagree with? Certainly, if Paul is not above reproach, the authors must have some criticism of Paul.
*The authors' last attempt to demonstrate that the New Testament apostles did not have any special authority to declare doctrine and teach the gospel is in the following statement:
When he [Paul] saw an inconsistency in Peter's behavior among the Gentiles, Paul saw no problem in confronting Peter "to the face" about the matter (Gal. 2:11).
Are the authors wanting us to believe that a small inconsistency in the behavior of an apostle must disqualify the apostles from having the special authority to teach and declare correct doctrine and principles of the gospel? Apparently. It is necessary to remind the authors and the readers that no one should expect the apostles and prophets to be perfect men. They are human and only Jesus was perfect. But this does not prohibit the leaders of the church (apostles and prophets) from having the authority to lead the people, to teach the people, to declare correct doctrine to the people and to instruct the people to follow their teachings.
The New Testament is replete with these directives from the apostles (as documented by the passages I shared above). Take for example, Paul's strict warning to the members of the Church in Corinth:
I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. (1 Corinthians 4:14-16)
Take heed of the doctrines that he teaches, Paul exclaims. The members of the Corinthian Church were not to stray from the path Paul had made for them.
Indeed, if we should question, scrutinize and criticize the leaders of the church, as McKeever and Johnson would have us do, one would correctly question the purpose of the apostles, prophets and the leaders of the Church. What benefit are they? Fortunately, we have a crystal clear description of just why the Lord "ordained" them to give them this special "power" and "authority" to preach, teach and declare doctrinal truth of the gospel. (Luke 9:1-2, Mark 3:14, John 15:16)
The most clear and concise description of the purpose of the apostles and prophets is as follows:
And he [Jesus Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15)
What a powerful declaration of truth! The very reason why we have apostles, prophets and other leaders that work together in unity is so that we may know the truth to prevent division and dissension and so we may all be united in the faith, not all confused with our own "private interpretation" of doctrines. However, the conclusions of McKeever and Johnson lead us straight into the storm where we are "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
Response to claim: 270 - Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory"
Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory."
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:50.
This is correct. The Adam-God theory was never accepted as Church doctrine.
Question: What is the Adam-God Theory?
Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father
Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father. Since this teaching runs counter to the story told in Genesis and commonly accepted by Christians, critics accuse Brigham of being a false prophet. Also, because modern Latter-day Saints do not believe Brigham's "Adam-God" teachings, critics accuse Mormons of either changing their teachings or rejecting teachings of prophets they find uncomfortable or unsupportable.
Brigham never developed the teaching into something that could be reconciled with LDS scripture and presented as official doctrine
Brigham Young appears to have believed and taught Adam-God, but he never developed the teaching into something that could be reconciled with LDS scripture and presented as official doctrine. Therefore, we simply don't know what Brigham Young meant, and modern leaders have warned us about accepting traditional explanations of Adam-God. Since the Church has rejected it, we won't be able to answer the question until the Lord sees fit to reveal more about it.
The Church's official position is that Adam-God is not the doctrine of the Church
Regardless of which approach the reader prefers to accept, the Church's official position on Adam-God is clear: as popularly understood, Adam-God (i.e., "Adam, the first man, was identical with Elohim/God the Father") is not the doctrine of the Church. If there are any particles of truth to anything surrounding the Adam-God doctrine, one would expect those things to harmonize with what has already been revealed. Only further revelation from the Lord's anointed would be able to clear up many points surrounding that doctrine.
Response to claim: 270-271 - Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," while Bruce R. McConkie states that God's knowledge and power is full and complete
The authors quote Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," which is consistent with Wilford Woodruff's remarks that God is "increasing and progressing." These statements are contrasted, by the authors, with the more recent views expressed by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie that God's knowledge and power is full and complete. Smith said God "knows all things and that his understanding is perfect," while McConkie is quoted as saying God is not "progressing in knowledge," and is not "learning new truth."
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:286.
- McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies," (speech given at BYU), 1 June 1980.
First of all, Bruce R. McConkie attempts to clarify the matter in his book, Mormon Doctrine. McConkie states:
It should be realized that God is not progressing in knowledge, truth, virtue, wisdom, or any of the attributes of godliness. He has already gained these things in their fullness. But he is progressing in the sense that his creations increase, his dominions expand, his spirit offspring multiply, and more kingdoms are added to his domains.
Unfortunately, the authors decided to leave this explanation of McConkie's teachings on the matter out of their book. This is a sad attempt to portray LDS leaders as inconsistent and contradictory.
Perhaps the issue is deeper that it appears, however. Perhaps there are some differences of opinion between the leaders of the Church (I'm certain that there are) on the deeper matters of God. But, to deal with them in this manner, as the authors do in this case, is disappointing. To say that small, differing personal opinions among Church leaders on the deeper elements of the gospel diminishes from their calling of God to lead His children and declare official doctrine is completely unfounded and unbiblical. ( Keep in mind that none of these statements were canonized or made official Church doctrine.) Prophets are fallible men with their own opinions on many matters. They are not perfect…only one was perfect.
Response to claim: 273-275 - Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
At the end of their book the authors present their final "witnessing tip" for those who would seek to "convert" a "Mormon" to the "Christian" church. Their witnessing technique involves Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
Clark Pinnock's comments below are a fitting response to that challenge: "frozen theological development" is no excuse for ignoring the voice of a living Prophet. A couple of papers from a recent work by evangelical scholars; the ones by Terry Miethe and I. Howard Marshall, both speak of the atonement as being universal, or unlimited, in its effect. Clark Pinnock is the editor of the book in which Miethe's and Marshall's papers appeared. Pinnock is a well-known and well-respected evangelical scholar, of the Baptist tradition. His paper deals with the personal "pilgrimage" he took in arriving at the position he had reached at the time he edited this volume.
Pinnock considered himself to be a fairly orthodox Calvinist until about 1970. He became aware that some of the passages of scripture indicated that "once saved always saved" might not be a scriptural doctrine. "The exhortations and the warnings could only signify that continuing in the grace of God was something that depended at least in part on the human partner.":17 This led him to rethink his position on several other inherited doctrines. At first he returned to Calvin's writings, and then he was "driven back to the Scriptures to reconsider." Five different areas of his inherited theology were re-examined. He writes:
Obviously what is happening here is a paradigm shift in my biblical hermeneutics. I am in the process of learning to read the Bible from a new point of view, one that I believe is more truly evangelical and less rationalistic. Looking at it from the vantage point of God's universal salvific will and of significant human freedom, I find that many new verses leap up from the page, while many old familiar ones take on new meaning.:21
Interestingly, another writer in the same volume in which Pinnock's article appeared, Fritz Guy, also refers to the "paradigm shift" which occurred in his own study. The fifth change Pinnock found necessary was "the atoning work of Christ. The easy part was accepting the obvious fact that contrary to Calvinian logic Jesus died for the sins of the whole world according to the New Testament." He began by asking where the element of human response fit into the new theme. He first concluded "if Christ really took away the guilt of the sins of the race, is the whole race then not now justified by virtue of that fact?" Unfortunately, he decided that was 'too' universalistic for him. "Christ's death on behalf of the race evidently did not automatically secure for anyone an actual reconciled relationship with God, but made it possible for people to enter into such a relationship by faith.":22-23  Continuing the paradigm shift mentality, Pinnock says, "when I went to the Scriptures with this question in mind, I found more support than I had expected." :25
Clark Pinnock's comments near the end of his paper are applicable to the attitude that McKeever and Johnson take to the discussion of another's religion. Pinnock writes: "I guess it is time for evangelicals to grow up and recognize that evangelical theology is not an uncontested body of timeless truth." He continues a little further on:
I have no remedy for those who wish to walk by sight because they find the way of faith too unnerving, or for those who wish to freeze theological development at some arbitrary point in past history. I have no comfort for those who, afraid of missing eternal truth, choose to identify it with some previous theological work and try to impose it unchanged on the present generation or desire to speak out of the past and not to come into contact with the modern situation. I have no answer for those who are frightened to think God may have more light to break forth from his holy Word.:28
This concluding remark from Clark Pinnock is essential to any understanding of the restored Gospel. One must realize that there may be more light coming from the living "Word," that is Jesus Christ Himself, the Word made flesh, who came to earth "for us and for our salvation" as the Nicene Creed states. We must realize that not all that we have been taught may be agreeable to the truth as taught by Him; a paradigm shift of our own might be necessary; the scriptures refer to this paradigm shift as conversion (metanoia). For those who are too frightened to exercise the necessary faith to make that "leap of faith" the Latter-day Saints have an answer: it is called the Book of Mormon, and in its Foreword there is the testimony of a modern day Prophet.
- James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, (Deseret News Press, 1919), 42.
- George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet (Salt Lake City, Utah: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 529.
- Ward Teachers' Message for June, 1945, "SUSTAINING THE GENERAL AUTHORITIES OF THE CHURCH" Improvement Era, June 1945, p.354
- Letter from President George Albert Smith to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945 (emphasis added).
- Albert E. Bowen to Dean Brimhall, 26 October 1946, p. 1. Dean R. Brimhall papers, MS 114, box 12, folder 21, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:107.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:295.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 49. off-site
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Testimony," Ensign (May 2008).
- "The Revelations of Heaven," Ensign (November 1994), 62. This issue covered the conference addresses that took place in the October 1994 General Conference.
- Brigham Young, "Eternal Punishment-'Mormonism,' Etc.," Journal of Discourses 9:150. Cited by Harold B. Lee, Conference Report (October 1950), 129-130.
- Elaine Jarvik, "Sunstone Publisher Resigns," Deseret News (13 June 13 2001), B2.
- "Sunstone List of Speakers and Topics, 2001 Washington DC Symposium," .
- "Council for Secular Humanism Events," . While FairMormon does have not access to Chandler's membership status, other works by him demonstrate that he is some type of secular humanist, which is hardly an LDS view.
- Howard W. Hunter, "Follow the Son of God," Ensign (November 1994), 87.
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 239. GL direct link
- Clark H. Pinnock, "From Augustine to Arminius: a Pilgrimage in Theology," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989).
- Fritz Guy, "The Universality of God's Love," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 35. Could this 'paradigm shift,' which necessitates a re-reading of the Bible, which then results in a new understanding of the Bible, be anything like that which the First Presidency of the LDS Church wrote in their Christmas Message of 1910: "Men must be susceptible to truth in order to receive truth." [Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark, Vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970), 220. GL direct link] To receive new light one must first rid oneself of the old darkness. Compare also Crawford Knox, Changing Christian Paradigms and their Implications for Modern Thought (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1993).
- The last line is a theme that runs throughout the papers in the volume edited by Pinnock, and is consistent with the LDS position: Pinnock says that "we are co-workers with God, participating with him in what shall be hereafter" (page 20).
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