Sunday, October 5, 2008
In 1996, I was given a packet of materials from a man who was leaving my employ. We had known of each others religious faith, and I knew that he was reading up on various religions. I had an idea of the types of materials that he used when I saw a copy of The Kingdom of The Cults near his lunch bag. This book is known for its rather distorted view of various religious faiths, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Paul" [Not his real name]gave me the packet containing two cassette tapes, and a "fact" sheet on the Book of Mormon. I listened to both of the tapes and found them to contain some rather extreme misrepresentations of the beliefs of the LDS Church. The sheet contained "proof" that the Book of Mormon conflicts the present day teachings of the LDS Church, and because of this "conflict", that the Book of Mormon must be a fraud.
Over the three decades of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have either read, heard, or viewed filmed presentations of material that would "expose" the truth of Mormonism. None of the material, including the things that Paul gave me, is new, in fact most if not all stems from sources that are over a century and a half out of date. None of the "facts" have discredited the LDS Church.
Paul is an honest man, and is sincerely concerned about my faith and my eternal salvation. He gave me the material in good faith. I felt that there needed to be some sort of reply to him. The trick was in deciding how I would reply.
If I've learned nothing else over the past decade and a half of being a member of the LDS Church it's that refuting lies on a point by point basis simply does not work. All it does is lead to more questions, which in turn only leads to more answers, which leads to an endless cycle of debate with no outcome in sight.
But still, Paul did deserve some sort of an answer.
What follows is my written reply to him. While it may not completely satisfy Paul, or indeed other "Concerned Christians", it does serve its main purpose, that taking the argument away from distortions and half truths, and placing it back where it belongs, that of using the Bible as the standard of truth.
Using the King James edition of the Holy Bible, I asked Paul some questions of my own. I believe that the Saviour laid down a clearly defined blueprint for those who believe in him to follow, and that if Christian belief or Doctrine runs counter to that, then it is not because times have changed or that somehow modern Christian beliefs have progressed beyond what was taught nearly two thousand years ago, but it is because man has changed the beliefs and doctrine to suit himself. God had nothing to do with it.
The letter was written and mailed on the 11th of May, 1996. With the exception of a brief phone call to me telling me that he would answer the letter, there has been, thus far, no response.
I realize that some time has passed since you gave me the packet of tapes and written material. The delay in answering you has not been caused by any inability or reluctance on my part to answer you, but by some measure of sadness and disappointment on my part.
I was rather disappointed that you waited until you left, before giving me the material. It would have made for some rather enlightening discussions face to face. Much could have been learned by both of us.
I was saddened that all of the material that you presented to me is stuff that I have already read, seen and heard since my baptism in 1979.
I was a bit saddened because over the past 16 years nothing new has been added by "Concerned Christians" concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or, as you and others are fond of calling it, "Mormonism", that will be the definitive expose of this church.
I am also saddened that much, if not all "anti-Mormon" material currently available is not new, but seems to be a rehash of material already published. Surely if the LDS Church is a fraud, then NEW conclusive evidence could be found to prove the Church a fraud, instead of repackaging half truths, distortions, and old disproved theories about the LDS Church that have been in existence for the past century and a half.
I am saddened that the material that is used in both cassette tapes and in the sheet on the Book of Mormon, stems from dishonest people, Walter Martin, a man whose honesty about his academic background has both been challenged and found to be a fraud; Ed Decker, Jim Richardson, Jerrold and Sandra Tanner, or from material published over a hundred years ago that were written by people who were excommunicated from the LDS Church for immorality.
You extended an invitation to me, given in all sincerity I believe, to become a Christian and abandon the teachings of the LDS Church. Paul, before I can even contemplate leaving a body of believers for something else, I have to know that what I am going to join is better, than what I have presently, and fulfils my desire to serve God, our Heavenly Father.
I would like to ask you some questions Paul. You may of course seek outside help in answering them. These questions are all Biblically based, and are similar to the ones that I had when I was a non-member of the LDS Church, and had some questions about the doctrines of Christianity. I would expect that these questions would be answered through the use of Biblical scripture. As you are no doubt aware, I use the King James edition of the Bible, as do a lot of other Christians, but I do have access to most other Bible translations, so your answers will not be difficult for me to look up.
Paul, it is not my purpose to "trip you up", but since you, and others who claim to want to turn people such as myself and my family, away from "Mormonism" and accept the "Real Jesus", the "Jesus of the Bible", then these questions should and really need to be answered from that source, the Bible, and not from man.
1. Do you believe that the cannon of scripture is closed and the Bible complete? If so, what is your Biblical authority for stating such? Is the Bible complete? If it is, could you explain it in light of John 21:25 in which the Apostle wrote:
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
1a. If you claim Revelation 22:18-19 as the basis of your answer to the questions above, in which John the Revelator writes:
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
How then do these verses then square with Deuteronomy 4:2, in which Mosses writes:
2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Paul, how does Revelation 22:18-19 square with the fact that chronologically it was written before the books of John and the rest of the New Testament? According to your use of this verse, John was in effect condemning himself.
The obvious answer to this usage of scripture Paul is that John was only referring to the adding and taking away from the Book of Revelation itself and not the Bible in total.
2. What Biblical authority do you claim, that nullifies the clear statement for some sort prophetic leadership as plainly stated in Amos 3:7, in which the prophet Amos stated that :
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
3. Paul, Is baptism essential for our salvation? If so, what form of baptism is acknowledged by the Lord Jesus Christ as being the correct one?
4. From whom does your Minister get his/her authority to teach, preach, and baptise in the name of Jesus Christ? Does he/she derive it from the same source as the Apostles did in the New Testament as cited in Acts 6:1-6, Acts 19:1-6, or, more to the point, John 15:16; or has he/she been given authority from a man made institution?
5. Can you explain the divisions and contradictions of Christian doctrine concerning baptism for example, that exist in all branches of Christianity, especially in light of the clear statement that Paul makes in Ephesians 4:4-5 or in Ephesians 4: 11-14?
6. Paul, the leaflet you asked me to read that was entitled, How to become a Christian stated the following:
"When you turn from your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will give you his Holy Spirit; then you will have the power to live the Christian life."
How does this fit in Biblically, with the admonition of the Apostles as found in Acts 22:16; 2:36-38, or the admonition that the Saviour Himself gives in John 3:5, and Mark 16:15-16?
7. Since you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again, do you believe that there will not be any sort of religious organization needed prior to His coming?
7a. If you do, can you please explain what is meant in Acts 3:19-21? We read:
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
This is rather important since most translations of the Bible use the word "Restoration" instead of the word "Restitution" as the King James edition uses. What is going to be Restored when the Saviour comes again?
7b. Can you then explain what is meant in Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 4:11-14? Is there NOW a unity of Christian faith or is the body of main-stream Christianity divided on important points of Biblical doctrine?
8. By what Biblical authority can you cite, that tells me that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are the same being, and are not separate distinct individuals? Does that square with the accounts found in Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 13:32; Acts 2:32-33; or Acts 7:55-56, in which Stephen testified before his death:
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Paul, Stephen saw both the Father and Son as separate distinct individuals here. Was Stephen mistaken in what he saw?
9. By what Biblical authority does the presenter of the tapes use, to say that praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is to be avoided? How does that fit in with James 1:5? Is it your belief that this type of prayer is to be avoided because Satan can somehow answer our prayers and make it appear to be from a divine source? If so, please state your Biblical authority.
10. What is your explanation for Ezekiel 37:15-20? I would refer you to the portion of the draft copy of my booklet The coming forth of the Book of Mormon, dealing with Ezekiel 37, which I enclose, in which non LDS archaeological sources tell us about the meaning of the two sticks written as some form of record. Is it your Church's belief that the Bible already has both records? If so, where are they located?
11. What is the Biblical basis for your asking me to join the body of Christ? Which body? Which one should my family and I embrace when 99% of all Christian churches teach conflicting doctrines? Is Christ divided, or was Paul correct when he said in Ephesians 4:5 that there was:
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism...
Paul, there are many, many more questions that I could ask you. Questions concerning your use of inaccurate source materials. Questions concerning the rather blatant use of half truths, undocumented material that exists in most, if not all "anti-Mormon" material.
I would ask you about the logic of asking someone who is clearly against the teachings of the Church, to tell you about the LDS church, rather than going to a member who is in good standing with the Church and has no axe to grind, and then asking them about the doctrines of the LDS Church. To do otherwise is comparable to going to an automobile mechanic for help in performing brain surgery.
Paul, I think that it would have helped your "study" of the LDS Church a lot better if you had perhaps taken the time to ask me about the doctrines and beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I have spent the last sixteen and a half years studying both the doctrines and the history of this Church. I have copies of original sermons that were taught to the membership by the early leaders of the Church by men such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and many others.
I have spent the past sixteen in a half years believing in the knowledge that God, our Father in Heaven, does love us enough that not only has He sent us His only begotten Son to forgive us of our sins, but that also, according to Amos 3:7, God will, and I believe He already has, given to the world, living Prophets, that will reveal the mind and the will of the Lord Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world.
Paul, if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, then where is there in Christianity, a people who worship the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfil the pattern of belief as established by the Saviour himself in the New Testament?
Where is there a people who believe not only that the Lord will come again to rule for a thousand years, but that He will also restore that organization of Apostles and Prophets with Himself as the chief cornerstone, thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy?
Where is there a people who believe that prayer is the only way to receive an answer to some serious questions?
Where is there a people who believe that we are on this planet for a specific reason and purpose, rather than the belief that we are here for a season, and then go on to some existence where we spend all eternity singing hymns.
Where is there a people, who believe in Christ, who invite honest questions of their beliefs, and will not shade the truth in their attempts, sincere or otherwise, to expose the so-called evils of another faith?
Paul, I have spent the past sixteen and a half years searching for eternal truths and I am still searching and learning. I have found answers to my questions both in the Bible, and in the restoration scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
You rather casually reject out of hand the beliefs of the LDS Church after reading books such as The Kingdom of the Cults, a book, for example, that was written by a man whose honesty about his academic background has been both challenged and found to be a fraud; as well as his fraudulent mis-use of source materials. You are hardly using an unbiased source.
Your rejection of Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God comes as no surprise to me either, especially since you don't really know that much about him or about the things that he taught for over 20 years.
You reject the beliefs of the LDS Church after listening to a thirty minute tape that has many errors in presentation, and uses material that is hardly new.
Paul, I have already heard these "truths" before, as well as reading it in several books, including your book The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin before coming to this country and am not impressed by either Martins’ flawed "research" or your tape.
There is nothing in terms of "exposing" the so-called "un-Christian" doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paul, in the tape, the leaflets and the book that you rely upon so much, there’s nothing new under the sun...except of course, the repackaging of the material.
You reject out of hand things that are clearly mentioned in the Bible, concerning the Lord, His second coming, the organization that He established whilst here on the earth, as well as that self-same organization that will have to be in place prior to His coming a second time. These pre-conditions are also ignored out of hand by the majority of Christians as well as yourself.
Paul, you ask me to reject the LDS faith "and join the real body of Christ." What group is therefore qualified to represent the Lord Jesus Christ? What group teaches the things that the Saviour taught in the Bible?
You ask me to be baptised and follow Christ's teachings on the belief that the Bible is the only word of God. Where in Biblical scripture is that statement either made by the Saviour, or implied in His teachings that the Bible would be the only recorded word of God?
These are serious questions that I ask of you Paul, and, frankly, they deserve serious answers.
I have no doubt that you are sincere in your desire for me to renounce "Mormonism" and become "Christian", and that your invitation to me to leave the Church is founded on a sincere desire for my eternal welfare, but it is a desire that is based upon misinformation and blatant lies concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Before I can reject the teachings and beliefs that have sustained me for the past sixteen years, before I can reject the faith that has provided myself and my family with peace and miracles; I need to know that what you have to offer is better than what I already have, and is not some pale shadow of the bright glory that the Son of God has provided the world with already.
Paul, I really look forward to your response to this letter, and hope that you will take the time to answer me - even if you need to go to others to assist you in this; although I will understand if you are unwilling or unable to do so.
Let me close this letter Paul, with the words of a man, far wiser than I, who, when faced with the establishment of a "cult" in the middle of an established religion had this to say in Acts 5:34-38:
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed unto yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or work be of men, it will come to naught:
37 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.