Posts Tagged ‘Mormonism’


Mormonism’s Road to God: Rituals and Rules

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

Your Path to Heavenly Father

The July 2016 issue of Friend, a Mormon periodical for teaching children, includes an article entitled “Your Path to Heavenly Father.” The article presents a game to teach children to recognize the “necessary steps” to salvation or to going back to Heavenly Father, and to distinguish those steps from other mundane activities such as biking or reading. Here is the list of “steps to salvation”:

  1. Premortal life
  2. Get a body
  3. Be baptized
  4. Receive the Holy Ghost
  5. Take the sacrament
  6. Keep the commandments
  7. Go to the temple
  8. Be sealed to your husband or wife
  9. Be resurrected

Strikingly, the list says nothing about repenting of one’s sins or putting faith in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior. Instead, the “steps” are all about undergoing rituals and following rules. Read the rest of this entry »

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So You Think the Book of Mormon Is Authentic?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in apocrypha, Mormonism

Greg Trimble, a Latter-day Saint who blogs on Mormon topics, recently posted on the question, “So…You Think the Book of Mormon Is a Fraud?” After some poisoning of the well against critics of the Book of Mormon (they jeer at testimonies to its truth; the loudest critics have never even read it), Trimble asks eleven questions apparently meant to vanquish doubt about the truth of the Book of Mormon.

It is easy to ask short questions that seem just in the asking to provide evidence; it is another thing to back up the claims. Refuting them thoroughly in some instances might take whole books. Still, something must be said. The reader is warned in advance that what is offered here are brief, bottom-line responses, not academic treatises. Trimble’s questions are quoted below, followed by my responses.

  1. Could an uneducated boy come up with 531 pages of ancient scripture on his own that was historically accurate and prophetic in nature?

No, but that’s not what Joseph Smith did. He came up with 531 pages of material that copied extensively from both the Old and New Testaments, with a narrative that is historically implausible in the extreme, and that does not pass reasonable tests of being prophetic in nature. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ben Witherington III, a well-known evangelical New Testament scholar, recently posted an article on “Why Mormonism is not Christianity.” William J. Hamblin, a Mormon scholar, swiftly responded on his blog with a critique of Witherington’s six criticisms of Mormon belief. The two articles may be read here:

Ben Witherington III, “Why Mormonism Is Not Christianity—the Issue of Christology,” Patheos, 27 Aug. 2012.

Bill Hamblin, “Are Mormons Christians? Witherington Says No,” Mormon Scripture Explorations (blog), 28 Aug. 2012.

For the most part, Hamblin misses the point, as I shall explain. In fact, much of Hamblin’s response misses the context of Witherington’s six points, which are not presented as “six reasons why he believes Mormons are not Christians,” as Hamblin claims. In fact Witherington is very clear as to what the six points represent. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mormon Belief: New Overview of LDS Doctrine

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism, theology

On IRR’s website, we now have a new resource giving an overview of Mormon doctrine. Entitled Mormon Belief: The Doctrine of the LDS Church, this web article lists 13 basic doctrines of the Mormon faith and provides select quotations from LDS Church publications documenting these doctrines. One notable feature of this article is that all of the quotations can be found at the LDS Church’s official website. For each of the 13 points the doctrine is briefly stated, then a paragraph of explanation is given, followed by the quotations. This article gives no critique or refutation of the Mormon doctrines, instead referring readers to other sources on the site. Thus, the article can be especially useful as a starting point for those who are looking for objective information on Mormon beliefs.

Constructive criticisms and suggestions for improving this or any other article on IRR’s website are welcome.


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Let’s Turn to the Handbook

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

In his General Conference address “Gospel Learning and Teaching” in October 2010, David M. McConkie, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency (and nephew of Bruce R. McConkie), made the following comments:

Soon after I was called to be a stake president, our stake presidency received training from an Area Seventy. During the training, I asked a question to which he responded, “That is a good question. Let’s turn to the Church Handbook of Instructions for the answer.” We then went to the handbook, and there was the answer to my question. A little later in our training, I asked another question. Once again he responded, “Good question. Let’s turn to the handbook.” I did not venture to ask any more questions. I thought it best to read the handbook.

I have thought since that the Lord could give a similar response to each of us as we go to Him with concerns or questions. He could say, “That’s a good question. If you will review Alma chapter 5 or Doctrine and Covenants section 76, you’ll remember that I have already spoken to you about this.”

Brothers and sisters, it is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what He has already revealed to us collectively. The scriptures contain the words of Christ. They are the voice of the Lord. Studying the scriptures trains us to hear the Lord’s voice. (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 14-15)

Some obvious questions come to mind in reflecting on these statements by David M. McConkie. Has it always been “contrary to the economy of heaven” for the Lord to respond to questions already addressed in scripture? If it has always been so, then (assuming the accuracy of the official account of the beginning of the LDS faith), did not Joseph Smith err by asking the Lord questions on doctrinal matters already addressed in the Bible? Should he not have gone to Scripture for his answers instead of asking the Lord to provide these answers to him individually? Had Joseph Smith believed what David M. McConkie asserts, then the LDS religion would never have gotten off the ground.

If it has not always been “contrary to the economy of heaven” for the Lord to answer such questions, what has changed? One possible answer is that the LDS Church now has reliable and comparatively complete scriptures in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The traditional view among Mormons appears to be that while these scriptures are reliable, the Bible is reliable only where it agrees with (current) LDS teaching. Many if not most Mormons view the Bible as less reliable than the other three “standard works” of the LDS Church. Another possible answer is that the LDS Church now exists, so that there is a collective organization with the priesthood, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and so forth, whose members now have the spiritual ability to read the scriptures and understand them. I suppose Mormons might accept both answers together.

What I would say to Mormons on this issue is this: When we who are evangelical, Bible-believing Christians have questions, or are asked questions, about doctrinal and practical matters, our answer will sound very similar to what David M. McConkie says: “Good question. Let’s turn to the Handbook.” For us, the Bible is the Lord’s Handbook of Instructions (among other things). It is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what he has already revealed to us in the Bible. The Bible is the word of God—the written revelation of the loving heart of God, the holy standards of God, and the merciful works of God by which he reconciles us to himself through Christ and empowers us for life and ministry through the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, we hear the voice of the Lord. In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, we find Christ.

Thus, when someone asks us, “Do you believe that all worthy males can hold the Aaronic priesthood today?” we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Hebrews 5-8, you’ll remember that God has already spoken to you about this.” When someone asks, “Will all of the redeemed live together in one glorious kingdom of God or will they be separated into three different glorious kingdoms?” we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Colossians 1:12-14 or Revelation 21:1-7, you’ll remember that the Lord has already spoken to you about this.” If someone wants to know if there is any God other than Jehovah, we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8, you’ll remember that Jehovah has already spoken to you about this.”

If LDS doctrine simply went beyond the Bible to provide additional revelations that agreed with and supplemented what the Bible teaches, that would be one thing. If, however, we find that LDS doctrine repeatedly conflicts with the teaching of the Bible, then our stance needs to be uncompromising. If you’ll study the Bible, you’ll find that the Lord has already spoken on a number of subjects on which the LDS Church claims to have the truth. Time and time again, a careful comparison of LDS teaching with the Bible turns up disconnects, discrepancies, and deviations of LDS doctrine from what the Lord has already said on these issues. I present just such a comparison in the Gospel Principles Scripture Study Guide, a resource on the website of the Institute for Religious Research. The method of that study guide can be summed up in five words: Let’s turn to The Handbook.

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Why Are We Still Talking about Polygamy?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

In the July 2010 issue of Ensign, an official magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard has an article entitled “Sharing the Gospel with Confidence.” Ballard’s main point is that Mormons should not get defensive when telling others what they believe. His first suggestion for talking about faith without being defensive is this: “Don’t let irrelevant issues drown out more important subjects.” What would be an example of an irrelevant issue? Ballard’s example is polygamy:

“This ended in the Church as an official practice in 1890. It’s now 2010. Why are we still talking about it? It was a practice. It ended. We moved on. If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge that it was once a practice but not now and that people shouldn’t confuse any polygamists with our church” (47).

Why are we still talking about polygamy? Let us count the reasons:

  1. Polygamy was practiced by the founder and supposed first prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith. Joseph had over thirty “wives” in addition to his legal wife Emma. Any “practice” of someone who claims to be a prophet of God and the founder of the only true church on the earth today is fair game.
  2. Joseph Smith lied about polygamy, including lying about it in scripture. Joseph practiced polygamy for several years, engaging in covert sexual relationships with women for years while lying about it, even in his own scripture. In 1835, Joseph had the following statement on marriage placed in Doctrine & Covenants: “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” Yet Joseph had been engaging in extramarital relations under the cover of plural marriage for three or four years. (The statement no longer appears in D&C, of course.) Joseph deceptively denied being a polygamist as late as a month before he died: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one” (History of the Church 6:411; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 119).
  3. As practiced by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other LDS leaders, plural marriage was on any reasonable judgment both illegal and grossly immoral. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that polygamy can be an acceptable practice (as many people argue by appealing to the dubious examples of Abraham, David, and Solomon). This doesn’t negate the fact that Joseph’s practice was both illegal and immoral. Both bigamy and adultery were crimes under state laws where Joseph engaged in the practice. The statement on marriage added in 1835 to D&C admits that these behaviors were illegal (“the crime of fornication, and polygamy”). Furthermore, Joseph claimed at least eight women as his wives who were already married to other men. Mormon apologists’ attempts to defend Joseph on this point (he was doing it to test their faith, or only for the women’s celestial salvation, etc.) are unconvincing. In addition to taking other men’s wives, Joseph also took several teenage girls, including several who were as young as 13 or 14 years of age. Plural marriage was not merely “a practice”; it was an immoral, illegal practice that raises serious, troubling questions about the founders of the LDS religion.
  4. LDS Church leaders continued the practice of plural marriage long after their supposedly “officially” ended it. The “Manifesto” of 1890 may have discouraged Mormon men from entering into plural marriages, but it did not stop the practice. In 1891, President Wilford Woodruff, who issued the Manifesto, lied under oath (as did other LDS leaders) by claiming that polygamy had ended when it had not. Only in 1904 did the LDS Church actually stop authorizing new plural marriages and begin excommunicating members who did not comply. Even after that date, most LDS men who had plural wives maintained those relationships until death. The first President of the LDS Church who was not a polygamist was George Albert Smith, whose presidency began in 1945! Polygamy was a reality in the LDS Church for well over a century, and has been completely absent from it for only about sixty years.
  5. It is clear that the LDS Church ended polygamy for pragmatic reasons, not because of any new revelation. Essentially, the United States federal government forced the LDS Church to comply with anti-polygamy laws. After decades of deception and defiance, the LDS leadership very reluctantly acceded to the government because, as Woodruff admitted in the Manifesto, they were afraid of losing their properties and being thrown in jail. In short, the Mormons did not admit to practicing polygamy until they were caught, and they did not stop the practice until they were forced to do so.
  6. Polygamous LDS splinter groups are simply being faithful to the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor. Such groups as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which made national headlines in 2008) and the Apostolic United Brethren make a very strong case that they are simply practicing what their founding prophets both practiced and taught.
  7. Even now, LDS doctrine clearly allows for a return to polygamy, should it become legal. It would actually be more accurate to say that the LDS Church suspended polygamy than that it ended it. The LDS scriptures still contain statements teaching and justifying plural marriage as a divinely authorized institution (D&C 131:2-4; 132:37-39, 60-66).

For these reasons, Mormons cannot plausibly claim that polygamy is an “irrelevant issue.” Polygamy in America is the cultural offspring of the LDS Church, and they cannot divest themselves of their responsibility for it by disowning the child.

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Mormon Forever Families – Too good to be true?

   Posted by: Joel Groat    in ethics, Mormonism

From free balloons handed out at a Cinco de Mayo festival with “Families are Forever” on them in English and Spanish, to Temple Open Houses to Missionary Flip Charts – oh right, flip charts went out with the 90s – the Mormon Church has attracted new converts with the idea of eternal family togetherness. But a careful look at the LDS theological system when it comes to how the hereafter is going to work raises serious questions about whether the Mormon church can deliver on its offer.  Our new article explores the various scenarios for Mormon families and their children and offers an alternative to the Mormon forever family plan – one that actually works.  The full article and some pertinent documentation from LDS sources is here:

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Mormons frequently cite a list of references in the Bible (taken from their Topical Guide) to books that are not part of the canon of the Bible as we know it to establish that the Bible is now incomplete. In order for these books to support the LDS position, there must be some evidence that the books were once considered part of the canon of Scripture. Below I will survey these references, placing them into six categories, and then offer concluding comments on this line of argument. Biblical quotations are from the KJV.


References to Parts of Existing Books of the Bible

Some of the alleged “lost books” of the Bible are probably books or parts of books that are still found in the existing canon of the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

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In my February 16 entry on this blog, I listed ten suggestions that Mormons have offered over the years to explain the apparent failure of Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple prophecy. These included the suggestions that the LDS Church was unable to build the temple because of opposition from enemies or disobedience of the LDS people themselves; that the prophecy referred to the Kirtland temple rather than one in Independence; and that it was not a predictive prophecy at all but rather a command for the Saints to (try to) build a temple in Independence. (Mormons occasionally suggest that no answer is needed because scripture need not be inerrant; this view admits that the prophecy is in error but denies that the mistake is evidence against Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet.) I have argued up to this point that all of these suggested strategies for handling the problem fail.

The explanations that remain attempt to resolve the difficulty by stipulating definitions of the word generation that overcome the problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the most interesting explanations of Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple prophecy is the suggestion that the words “shall be reared” and “shall be built” (D&C 84:4, 5) may be imperatives rather than indicatives. In other words, they may express commands of what the Saints were told to do, not predictions as to what would certainly occur. One LDS apologetics web site offers this explanation with some tentativeness: Read the rest of this entry »

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