Criticism of Mormonism/Video/Search for the Truth DVD/Witnessing to Mormons

Table of Contents

Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith or Search for the Truth DVD


Witnessing to Mormons

Attacks on Joseph Smith

Claim: "Joseph Smith was a liar, again and again he lied. Joseph Smith said that there were cities all over America that held many, many people in South and Central America. Not one city has ever been found. Not one crumb, not one remain, and yet in the Bible multitudes of cities have been found just as the Bible said." - Floyd McElveen

Despite the assertion to the contrary, cities existed throughout South and Central America during the Book of Mormon timeframe and these cities were in fact filled with people. Whether or not Book of Mormon people lived in a particular city is debatable and has been addressed here.

Joseph Smith's conception of what pre-Columbian America was like was unusual for his era. When he discovered an 1842 book describing Central American ruins, he was surprised and pleased to have someone from the secular world confirm the Book of Mormon's portrait of pre-Columbian life. When the Book of Mormon was published, Amerindians were perceived as being generally without high culture, writing, cities, and other trappings of advanced civilization.

To read more:

Claim: "Joseph Smith was a complete deceiver. He deceived people into believing that he had a revelation from God when he did not. The Book of Abraham has been proven false and Joseph Smith along with it. The DNA evidence showed he was false about what he said that the Lamanites and then the Indians descended from Israel—from the Jews. It was proven that they did not. He lied about that. He was a liar from the very beginning." - Floyd McElveen

These issues have all been addressed in the sections referenced below.

To read more:

Claim: "Now I just ask you a simple question, do you want to trust Joseph Smith who is a fraud, a womanizer, many wives, a false prophet, the Book of Mormon? There's nothing to support it, all the evidence says to the contrary. Or would you trust Jesus Christ who is the Savior, who is God, who became a man? ...Now where do you want to rest your hope for eternity? In Joseph Smith or in Jesus Christ and His word?" - Dave Hunt (Author and Founder, Berean Ministries)

Once again this is a false dilemma and begs the question of Joseph's prophetic authority. Was Joseph Smith an imperfect mortal? Certainly. Was Paul an imperfect mortal? Of course. Do we trust Paul's record of his encounter with the divine? Is there evidence to support Paul's theophany? Do we trust Paul instead of Christ?

The charges which Mr. Hunt hopes will stick if he just repeats them often enough have all been answered earlier.

To read more:

Claim: "Why would you trust Joseph Smith over the Bible?" - Sandra Tanner (President, Utah Lighthouse Ministry)

This is a false dilemma and begs the question. If Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, then we can trust him and the Bible.

Latter-day Saints do not choose between the two, any more than they choose between Peter and Paul, or Matthew and Mark.

Claim: "What is the criteria for testing a prophet? Let's look at that and I would hope the person would then be able to see Joseph Smith doesn't deserve the honor and recognition that they've always given to him. He doesn't measure up against what God said in the Bible." - Sandra Tanner (President, Utah Lighthouse Ministry)

No examples are given here, so one cannot assess the claim that Joseph does not match "what God said in the Bible."

It is easy to guess, though, that the critics have a self-serving interpretation of what makes a prophet, and the Latter-day Saints have a different interpretation.

As Joseph Smith noted, settling such questions by an appeal to the Bible is futile. The Holy Bible can provide guidance and insight, but we must check our conclusions with God. Only revelation can guide us into correct conclusions and then confirm them.

Claim: "I would greatly encourage any Mormon or any person who is thinking about Mormonism to examine objectively the life of Joseph Smith, the reliability and the teachings of the Book of Mormon over against the Jesus of the New Testament and the reliability of the Bible and its truthfulness." - Dr. Phil Roberts (President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Latter-day Saints also encourage Mormons and investigators to examine, as objectively as possible, the life of Joseph Smith. This requires accurate information, not sensationalized distortions. And, it requires a willingness to seek God's opinion during the process.

To read more:

  • "Joseph Smith: Prophet of God" off-site
  • Matthew Brown, "Historical or Hysterical—Anti-Mormons and Documentary Sources" FairMormon link

Claim: "It's a question of what the truth is. It's a question of what the evidence is. It's a question of, did a man come along 1800 years into the history of Christianity and totally revise what Christianity says and what the Bible says? And that's what we believe Joseph Smith did." - Dr. Phil Roberts (President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Joseph did not claim to revise Christianity, or alter what the Bible says. He claimed to restore Christianity to its original state. LDS doctrine does not alter Biblical doctrines, but it does offer a different interpretation of the Biblical data.

Dr. Roberts' Baptist denomination is hardly younger than Joseph Smith's denomination, with historical roots in the 17th century at the earliest. Are we to instead believe that someone could reform Christianity without prophetic authority? Either Christianity persisted, uncontaminated, from the days of the apostles, or it was corrupted. If it became corrupted, by what authority did Dr. Roberts' denomination correct it? And, how can a neutral observer know if that authority is legitimate?

If Christian doctrines were altered since Jesus and the apostles taught them, should they not be revised (or, more properly, restored) to their previous state?

To read more:

Apostasy on-line articles
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp: Three Bishops between the Apostles and Apostasy," Ensign (August 1976), 51. off-site
  • Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., "I Have A Question: What Was There in the Creeds of Men that the Lord Found Abominable, as He Stated in the First Vision?”," Ensign (July 1987), 65–67. off-site
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Early Signs of the Apostasy," Ensign (December 1984), 8. off-site
  • Roger D. Cook, "How Deep the Platonism? A Review of Owen and Mosser's Appendix: Hellenism, Greek Philosophy, and the Creedal "Straightjacket" of Christian Orthodoxy," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 265–299. off-site
  • William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, "The Evangelical Is Our Brother (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 178–209. off-site
  • Hyde M. Merrill, "The Great Apostasy as Seen by Eusebius," Ensign (November 1972), 34. off-site
  • Hugh W. Nibley, "Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum," Vigiliae Christianae 20 (1966):1-24; reprinted in "Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum: The Forty-day Mission of Christ-The Forgotten Heritage," in Mormonism and Early Christianity (Vol. 4 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Todd Compton and Stephen D. Ricks, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987),10–44. direct off-site
  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Apostasy and Restoration," Ensign (May 1995), 84. off-site
  • David Stewart, Jr., "The Christian Apostasy," cumorah.com off-site

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  • Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).

Claims of Biblical Inerrancy

Claim: "Do you want to know truth about who God is and how to know Him and how to be with Him forever? Then listen to this book, which is free of error because God can't lie. He makes no mistakes." - Dr. John Whitcomb

Latter-day Saints accept the Bible as the Word of God. We, like other Christians, believe that studying the Bible will draw us closer to the divine. We also agree that God doesn't lie or make mistakes. Can a book, however, that was written by imperfect mortals, in imperfect languages, copied by imperfect copyists, translated by imperfect translators, and interpreted by imperfect readers be "free of error"? The Bible itself does not claim to be error-free, and studies of the Bible and the inherent ambiguity which exists in all languages demonstrates that no writing is truly free of error.

Furthermore, even if one could have a perfect scripture, one would still have to interpret it. Even the most well-intentioned people (as most Christians have been) do not agree on the proper interpretation of many Biblical passages.

As one non-Mormon scholar noted:

Christians have argued, often passionately, over every conceivable point of Christian doctrine from the filioque to the immaculate conception. There is scarcely an issue of worship, theology, ethics, and politics over which some Christians have not disagreed among themselves.
—David Steinmetz, "Christian Unity: A Sermon by David Steinmetz," News and Notes 5/6 (April 1990)

This constant disagreement between Christians demonstrates that interpretation of the Bible is not straightforward, and leads honest men and women to many different places.

To read more:

Claim: "Virtually every verse I quote in scripture is [given to my congregation] because you need to go home and check me out. You need to see what the Bible has to say not what Jon says, not what Joseph says, not what anybody says but God. What does God say about these issues? You need to check these things out. It is your soul—your eternal soul—that is on the line and there is no reset button at the judgment. There is no finger pointing: 'But he misled me.' You have an obligation for the sake of your soul as well as to be able to share the truth with your family, people you love, to check out what God's word has to say on these issues and not what somebody else had to say and the answers are found only in the word of God which is the Bible." - Jon McCartney (Pastor, First Baptist Church of Tooele, Utah)

Sincere seekers of truth should verify the claims made by others. FAIR has prepared these resources so that no one need rely on the word of those who distort the teachings, beliefs, and history of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Teachings should be compared with the Bible, but this is not the final step. How can we know if our interpretation of the Bible is the correct one? There are thousands of Christian sects, each with their own interpretation of certain scriptures.

The only way in which we can be assured of following God's will is to have God Himself tell us. He has promised that He will. The DVD producers hope that you will not do this, and spend a great deal of time here trying to convince you that revelation from God cannot be relied upon.

Claim: "And the Bible is supported by hundreds, even thousands of prophecies, proofs, evidence, history, archaeology—we can prove it." - Dave Hunt (Author and Founder, Berean Ministries)

While Latter-day Saints would agree that there is evidence—both secular and spiritual—to support the Bible as a mostly accurate narrative and as the Word of God, it is false to imply that the Bible has been proven to be the Word of God by secular means. It is likewise inaccurate to claim that we can "prove" the Bible by archaeology and history. Many biblical scholars and archaeologists believe that numerous Bible stories are myths or fabrications. Some question various parts of its history or doubt the reality of miracles and the resurrection. Archaeology and history certainly can not prove that Jesus is the Son of God, or that He atoned for our sins.

Only a witness from the Spirit of God can prove spiritual things:

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

To read more:

Saved by Faith Alone?

Claim: "My faith that I will be spending eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ is dependent upon understanding who He is and what He's done. The shed blood of Jesus Christ, His life was sacrificed upon the cross, His blood was shed, He died, He is resurrected—He lives today. And if I would believe in Him and who He is and what He's done and acknowledge who I am and what I've done and ask for forgiveness then I can spend eternity with him." - Roger Oakland (President, Understand the Times)

Latter-day Saints believe all of these things.

The only additional belief is that Latter-day Saints insist that because they love Jesus and believe what He tells them, they should strive to obey the commandments He gives them. Critics try to portray this as a rejection of Christ's grace—it is not. It is an expression of our gratitude for it.

Distorted ideas about the Latter-day Saints' views on salvation have already been addressed here.

Claim: "All you have to do is believe in Christ and be saved and confess it and then that's it." - Tim Howard (Former Mormon)

Mr. Howard is entitled to his opinion. Of course, hundreds of millions of other Christians—such as the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, the early Christians, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—have the same Bible scriptures, and come to a different conclusion.

This demonstrates that Biblical interpretation is the key issue. Even those who agree that the Bible is the Word of God cannot agree on what it means.

To read more:

Distorting the LDS View of Salvation

Claim: "It don't have to be I've got to join this Church and then on top of that I've got to pay my tithing to get a Temple recommend and then I've got to have a Temple recommend to get into the Temple and then I've got to go to the Temple so that I can live with God so that I can become a God so that I can go have a planet to not be with God. It just don't make sense." - Tim Howard (Former Mormon)

Mr. Howard's misrepresentation of the early Christian and Latter-day Saint doctrine of theosis makes it clear that he does not understand it.

Latter-day Saints do not view such matters as joining Christ's church, worshipping Christ in the temple, or making financial donations to the cause of Christ to be things they have "got to" do.

Rather, they are things which they do joyfully because:

  • they express their love for Christ and His marvelous atonement
  • they wish to imitate Christ and act as much like Him as possible
  • the Lord gives His Spirit in even greater abundance when they obey Christ's teachings
  • serving the Lord and others gives them joy.

They do not do these things hoping that Christ will forgive them. They do them because they have been forgiven.

To read more:

Claim: "There is a tremendous amount of respect that I have for them and their dedication and how hard they are seeking and the burden that they are willing to carry in their impossible attempt to live up to their impossible gospel demands." - Joel Kramer (Director, Living Hope Ministries)

Latter-day Saints do not consider the demands which a merciful Christ puts upon them to be impossible, or even onerous. As Jesus taught, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30).

Distorted ideas about the Latter-day Saints' views on salvation have already been addressed here.

Claim: "And so my heart is that any Mormon who would be hearing this would be going back to the scriptures, challenging the words of Joseph Smith, comparing them to the words of Jesus—the one who died for you, the one who loves you. The one who is praying for you right now, interceding, he ever lives to make intercession for you right now."

These are all doctrines believed and taught by the Latter-day Saints:

More attempts to dismiss LDS ideas about salvation through Jesus Christ—which are strikingly similar to the views advocated by the DVD—can be seen here.

Claim: "And I'm sure that if you do that if you truly seek Him out in the Bible I'm sure that Jesus would begin to speak to you and you would know the truth." - Scott Gallatin (Pastor, Calvary Chapel)

How does Pastor Gallatin know that Jesus does not speak to the Latter-day Saints as they read the Bible? (According to The Barna Group, a Christian research firm, a Latter-day Saint is statistically more likely to read the Bible during the week than Catholics or Protestants.) off-site

Unless Pastor Gallatin is getting revelation from God (i.e., not from the Bible) he cannot know what God does or does not tell the Latter-day Saints.

Claim: "When Jesus says if the Son set you free you should be free indeed He really means it. The thing that broke forth on me was that the Bible really is the real thing there's no fantasy to it. It reveals reality to us." - Randy Gavin (Former Salt Lake Stake Mission President)

Latter-day Saints likewise believe that the Bible is the real thing, with no fantasy to it as it reveals reality to us. They also believe that they have been made free by Jesus Christ.

Claims about Family

Claim: "I was born and raised a Mormon for 37 years.... Everything took a back seat to the Church including, as I look back, my family." - Randy Gavin (Former Salt Lake Stake Mission President)

If Mr. Gavin put his family in the back seat to Church duties, the Church is not to blame for that. In fact, Mr. Gavin violated the clear teachings of the Church by not putting family before Church duties.

Interested readers may wish to review the Church's teachings on family below.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the LDS church and it's lay ministry, a stake mission president was a part-time position held by assignment, for a period of time, in every LDS stake. The person in this position helped coordinate member-missionary efforts within the stake boundaries. A stake is an ecclesiastical unit of roughly ten congregations. Thus, in Salt Lake City alone there were dozens of stakes and hundreds of stake mission presidents. The position of stake mission president was done away with in approximately 2001, and missionary work focused within wards instead of stakes.

To read more:

Claim: "You know, I thought to myself I'm teaching these kids, let alone my own kids, this song about a prophet that I don't even believe is true." - Karen Howard (Former Mormon)

This is a bizarre objection. Ms. Howard was teaching her children something she didn't believe? No parent ought to teach children things that they don't believe are true. However, that Ms. Howard did so is no fault of the Church's. The Church constantly emphasizes the necessity of knowing for oneself if one is following the path approved by God.

Ms. Howard's belief or disbelief says nothing about the truth or falsehood of any belief. It merely says that in her case she was relying on poor grounds for her actions.

Denying Testimony and the Witness of the Spirit

Claim: "What I've discovered is when you counter Mormon theology with biblical fact and you back them up into a corner they most always go back to, 'Well I've experienced a testimony.'" - Roger Oakland (President, Understand the Times)

The reader is invited to consider whether any reply to any of the so-called facts presented by the Search for the Truth DVD have been answered with "Well, we at FAIR have a testimony."

Members of FAIR do have testimonies, but there are legitimate Biblical and historical answers to all the questions posed by the critics. No member can answer every objection from a hostile critic, especially one who is so convinced that their interpretation of the Bible is the only way in which an honest, Christian, God-fearing person could understand the text. But, an individual's inability to answer to the satisfaction of self-appointed "Christian" judges says nothing about the merits of any position.

Above all else, the DVD producers want you to rely on them and their interpretations of scripture, history, and doctrine. They spend a lot of effort here trying to convince you that getting answers directly from God is unreliable.

Claim: "...when you ask them, 'Well what do you mean by “the testimony?” Is that the burning in the bosom?' They say, 'Yes, of course, and you too could have the experience of the burning in the bosom all you need to do is ask God if what Joseph Smith said is true.' Now isn't this amazing? To stake your eternal life based on some kind of a feeling, a subjective feeling? Where would you find that in the scriptures? Absolutely nowhere." - Roger Oakland (President, Understand the Times)

Note that the DVD intro text says: We pray that it will touch the hearts of all who watch through the grace and truth of Christ Jesus.

The DVD spends much effort here trying to convince the Latter-day Saints not to trust their feelings. Why, then, do they hope their feelings are touched?

Could it be that they realize that the Holy Ghost does work (in part) through the sentiments of the heart?

At any rate, basing one's eternal life on direct revelation from God is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine, as discussed at length here.

Lying

Claim: "I remember sitting on the edge of my bed and weeping as the recognition that I had been lied to crept in upon me." - Randy Gavin (Former Salt Lake Stake Mission President)

If Mr. Gavin believed he was lied to, then he can doubtless understand how offensive it is for the Latter-day Saints when their doctrine and their history is repeatedly lied about over the course of a ninety minute DVD.

What is harder to understand is why Mr. Gavin would participate in a venture which lies about the beliefs of others.

One can only hope that he still does not understand LDS doctrine and practice, as he evidently did not prior to leaving the Church.

Claim: "My heart, to see that people could know the truth because Jesus said if you know the truth the truth will set you free." - Scott Gallatin (Pastor, Calvary Chapel)

If the truth is all that is necessary to set us free (and Latter-day Saints believe that it is), why has Pastor Gallatin chosen to lend his name to a DVD that blatantly (and demonstrably) misrepresents the faith of the Latter-day Saints?

Why does he not refuse to associate with those who bear false witness?

Why does he not present all the facts?

Why does he help those who will not?


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