Archive for July, 2010


LDS Priesthood: Power and Pain

   Posted by: Joel Groat    in Mormonism

The pain came off the paper in waves. It was just one of several similar contacts we’ve gotten recently — candid, revealing, heart-rending.

“I accidentally came across your website and wish I’d known about it sooner. I was born to militant Mormon parents and basically didn’t know anything except what I was taught by them and at church. …I used to be a very trusting soul. … I was given some answers that only made me uneasy. I went to BYU and was uncomfortable there but my parents wanted me to stay so I did. I ended up marrying a returned missionary who was hiding a dark side. …My marriage imploded after trying for 16 years and I raised my 4 children alone. … I felt like I was never good enough. …It made me angry that no one would discuss anything controversial and was warned about looking “too deeply and in the wrong places”. …[I] soon found it difficult to go to church and listen to the airbrushed versions of things. I have been feeling like Neo in the Matrix when he finds out that what he believed to be reality all his life is a sham. I turned in a letter to my bishop a month ago requesting that my name be removed from the membership records of the church. He attempted to heap guilt and threats of damnation on me and unleashed the visiting teachers and home teachers to talk sense into me. I want out of a church that is based on fabrication, control and guilt trips. I am VERY distrusting of any organized religion and am trying to sort through fact vs. fiction. Is there a God and what is He like? Where does Jesus fit in and what am I doing here really? I am a very confused person right now. The only thing I know is right is leaving the LDS church. My sisters and brother (all militant Mormons) have no clue any of this is going on with me and I dread when I am forced to tell them. A mentor would be a great lifeline right now when everything else is crumbling. Thanks for your assistance with this!”

How does a lifetime in a religion that claims to be “the one and only true church” lead to this level of pain and despair? The answer in part: Being subject to an authority structure that cannot be questioned whose claims of unique divine power lends itself to a lack of authenticity and a lack of integrity. For this person it led to being given answers that left them uneasy, feeling pushed to remain where they were uncomfortable, trusting someone who was hiding a dark side, an atmosphere that stifled honest inquiry with an unwillingness to face controversial topics, spiritual leaders who heaped guilt and threats of damnation in an effort to control those who raise questions they can’t or won’t answer. Is any of this unique to LDS religion? Hardly. It can happen anywhere there is a trusted spiritual leader – but much more so when the leader or leaders claim special spiritual power or authority that is uniquely theirs and is inherent to their position or calling.

This for me is one of the most troubling aspects of the Mormon priesthood hierarchy structure, a system where every leader is told he is vested with special power that has come from the leader above him, that has come from the leader above him – all the way up to the President, Prophet, and Seer, of whom it is taught that God will not allow him to lead the people astray. The potential for abuse is obvious. What does a Home Teacher do if the assignment he’s been given by his bishop borders on harassment? What recourse does a young Mormon Missionary have when his Mission president endorses or encourages unethical or less than honest proselytizing methods?** After all, these leaders have been “divinely called” and they have been given special “keys” to which those below them have no access. They possess “priesthood power” – the very power that transformed their God from man to Deity – and it authorizes and often justifies their actions. To question them is tantamount to questioning God himself.

There is only one answer to this type of authority and power structure – re-evaluate the whole system in light of a higher and absolutely reliable authority – the Bible. Bottom line: there is no support in the Bible for the LDS conception and practice of priesthood authority. It’s the invention of the very leaders who devised the Mormon religion. And that should give us pause.

You can access a detailed biblical and historical evaluation of the Mormon priesthood system here.

It just might save you some pain.

** For more on questionable LDS missionary activity over the past 50 years do Google searches on “Mormon Baseball baptisms,” “oaksletter guatemala soccer baptism” “LDS Groberg Kikuchi Tokyo South Mission”, and/or “LDS Lure English Korea”

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Gospel Principles and the Priesthood

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

Mormons are studying chapter 13 of their Gospel Principles manual this weekend, the first of two chapters focusing on the LDS priesthood. I have written a response to that chapter that is now available on the IRR website. In my article I make a number of observations that I will merely summarize here:

  • In LDS doctrine, “priesthood” is an impersonal divine power, the power that Heavenly Father obtained in the process of his exaltation to Godhood and that he used in creation, and that human beings can also obtain through the ordinances of the LDS Church.
  • The above conception of priesthood appears nowhere in the Bible, the LDS scriptures, or the teachings of Joseph Smith.
  • In New Testament teaching, there is no such thing as an earthly office of priest in the Christian church.
  • Priesthood in the Bible was an earthly type of the heavenly ministry of salvation that Jesus Christ alone performs for us. Christians now have something better than that priesthood.
  • The LDS Church distorts the words of Jesus and other passages of the Bible to support its notion of priesthood.

This is an extremely important issue in LDS religion. I offer my analysis and response in the hope that some members of the LDS Church will take a good hard look at what they have been taught.

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Sometimes a researcher is looking for one thing and stumbles on something unexpected. This was my experience last week when I was researching Joseph Smith’s teachings about the temple. I knew that Joseph was looking for a rebuilt temple as part of the Restoration and that he also claimed that God had restored the Aaronic priesthood. However, the two didn’t seem to have much if any connection in LDS religion. My impression was that Mormons accepted the traditional Christian belief that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ had made animal sacrifices obsolete, and I assumed this had been Joseph Smith’s teaching as well.

It turns out I was mistaken (hey, it happens!). Well, partly mistaken. For most of his career as a prophet, Joseph Smith apparently did hold that animal sacrifice had become obsolete following the death of Christ. I found an explicit statement from him making this point in 1834 (four years after he founded the LDS Church). However, in 1840 he took a different position, arguing that animal sacrifices would be performed in the restored temple. It’s right there in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Surprised, I did some searching in LDS publications to see what LDS authorities and theologians made of this. The answer was, not much: hardly anyone seems to have noticed it. The only well-known LDS teachers to have commented on it at all appear to have been Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, two of the most prolific LDS authorities who commented on just about everything Joseph Smith ever said. Even they had very little to say about it. Meanwhile, most of the LDS sources I found that addressed the general topic of animal sacrifices stated that Christ’s atonement had made them obsolete.

I have written up my research in a new article that we’ve added to IRR’s website, entitled “I Didn’t Know He Said That! Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Animal Sacrifice.” The article documents what Joseph taught on the subject and what other LDS teachers have said about it. I also offer some thoughts about why LDS authorities have said so little about this question in the 170 years since Joseph presented his view that animal sacrifices would be performed in the restored temple.

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