Not long after leaving my screenwriting career in Hollywood, I was hired to assist on a documentary produced by a Christian film company. The subject was Mormonism and the company's initial screenings were not very successful. They hoped that my film experience and input would help improve the project. I was familiar with the theology of Mormonism through my previous work on a documentary addressing multiple cults; so after reviewing the docudrama a couple of times, my solution was to re-edit the film so that it focused primarily on the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, simply what Mormons believe. That hardly seems like a brilliant idea, or even a particularly interesting one. Perhaps but then you may not be familiar with the teachings of Joseph Smith and LDS 's so-called Apostles and Prophets. Historians have marveled at how quickly so many people flocked to Joseph Smith's new theology.
Within a decade he had thousands of followers. A principle reason for this rapid rise in popularity was Mormonism's startling and distinct contrast with what the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and various other Christian denominations believe. To begin with, Smith taught that most of the beliefs of Christianity had become hopelessly corrupted, including the Bible, and that which had been supernaturally revealed to him would restore God's truth. The main attraction, however, was theological novelty. Today the LDS Church has taken a different tactic involving new name preferences (play down Mormonism, play up Church of Jesus Christ) and other strategies (e.g., create an image of being a part of mainstream Christianity through advertising campaigns).
It's working. After Islam, Mormonism is now the fastest growing religion in the world, although little has changed doctrinally from the Church's novel beginnings. Mormonism teaches that God has a physical body and lives on a planet near a star called Kolob. He is but one of an infinite number of Gods, each ruling over his own world located somewhere in the universe. Supposedly, each God has untold numbers of goddess wives who produce millions of spirit children. Amazingly, these spiritual offspring of God and his goddesses must then be birthed through physical beings (non-gods) on earth. This obtains for them the physical bodies necessary to become Gods and goddesses, who create and rule over their own worlds.
Polygamy was a major part of Mormonism. It met the need for producing bodies for the spirit babies birthed by multiple mother goddesses. It is still practiced among Mormon sects today. The Latter-day Saints' focus on the family has more to do with the Church's biblically unorthodox theology than with domestic well-being. According to LDS teaching, Jesus was one of those spirit babies (as was his spirit brother Lucifer, who became Satan). The conception of Jesus was unique but not virginal; God, who is physical, had intercourse with Mary. Furthermore, since producing children is critical to a Mormon male's progression to godhood, Jesus had children through the women (the sisters Mary and Martha, Mary Magdelene, etc.) who accompanied him. Supposedly, he married them at the wedding feast of Cana. Mormonism's salvation accommodates nearly everyone in one heaven or another.
The death of Jesus on the cross was redemptive only in that it provided physical resurrection (bodies) for all. Obeying the commandments and performing Church duties and rituals are necessary in order to reach the Celestial Kingdom. Those who fall short of such requirements may still enter in as Celestial servants, and, if not, they can abide in the Terrestrial Kingdom. Moral non- Mormons may spend eternity in the Telestial Kingdom. Hell is a purgatory-like place and is eternal only for those few who commit the 'unpardonable sin,' such as apostasy. Nearly everyone has a chance to improve his eternal status after death. Although we've heard the saying, 'Truth is stranger than fiction,' Mormonism seriously challenges this idea.
The most sacred scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is The Book of Mormon, which reads like rather bizarre but poor fiction trying its best to be taken as revealed truth. If that opinion sounds a bit 'intolerant,' bear with me. The Book of Mormon claims to be a record of two migrations of ancient people to the Americas: the family of Jared around 2000 B.C. and, 1,500 years later, the family of Lehi. The first migration supposedly took place when the Tower of Babel was being constructed. A central character, curiously referred to only as the 'brother of Jared,' is instructed by God to build eight watertight, rudderless 'barges' to carry people and animals (including bees and fish) to the promised land. The brother of Jared realized that breathing and seeing might become a problem aboard the all-wooden, 'tight like unto a dish' crafts and asked God for some design modifications. God told him to bore a hole that could be plugged in the top and bottom of the barges for air, and to place a shining stone in the end of each vessel for light.
Chapter 2 of Ether states that the barges were tossed about and 'buried in the depths of the sea' many times. This rather implausible sea journey (even for a super- naturally guided one) took nearly a year and delivered the people to the uninhabited Americas. There the Jaredites grew from 30 or so to multiple thousands and then perished because of their wickedness. I
n the second migration to the prom- ised land, Israelites left Jerusalem around 600 B.C. on a single vessel guided by a supernaturally provided 'brass ball'. Soon after their arrival, Lehi's sons, Laman and Lemuel, rebelled against God; they and their followers were cursed by God, which resulted in a skin of blackness to come upon them. They were called Lamanites, and Mormonism claims that these dark-skinned Hebrews are the original ancestors of the Native Americans of the Western Hemi- sphere. The followers of Nephi remained 'white, exceedingly fair and delightsome' and throughout their history these groups were at enmity with each other.
Shortly after his resurrection, the Book of Mormon claims that Jesus came to America, where he taught the Nephites the gospel (of works salvation), ordained disciples and gave instructions concerning the sacraments of communion and baptism. Around the fifth century A.D., the Lamanites finally destroyed all the Nephites so that only the dark-skinned people remained in the Americas. Following the final battle, the last surviving Nephite, Moroni, finished record- ing on plates the events of his people and hid them beneath a rock on the Hill Cumorah (located in upstate New York).
Approximately 1,400 years later Moroni appeared And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:4 Page 2 to Joseph Smith, Jr., giving him the location of the 'gold plates' and instructing him to translate them into English. The process of translation involved Smith's putting a 'seer stone' into a hat and covering the opening with his face. The stone would then glow, Reformed Egyptian symbols would appear, and the English rendering would manifest below them. Smith dictated the translation and the image remained until it was transcribed correctly. Written in the introduction to The Book of Mormon are these words of Joseph Smith: 'I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.' Is this 'the most correct' book on earth?
The veracity of that statement is critical to the faith of 11 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 10th President of the Mormon Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, made plain what is at stake: 'Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. Yet when the 'ground' of his having been 'prophet of God' is examined reasonably, it begins to look more and more like swampland. The errors found within the Book of Mormon have filled volumes. Even the LDS Church has made thousands of corrections since the book's first edition in 1830. Some problems, however, can't be resolved without expunging major parts of the book. For example, first and second Nephi were supposedly recorded in the fifth century B.C.; yet, astonishingly, these books quote passages from the New Testament, which was written in the first century A.D!
The book recorded by Alma dates between 92 and 53 B.C. , yet uses the word 'Christians.' Acts (covering the timespan A.D. 33-62) tells us that name was first used in Antioch to refer to the followers of Christ. Moreover, Nephi, supposedly a Hebrew prophet writing from America, used Greek terms such as 'Christ' rather than 'Messiah.' It's also more than odd that these transplanted Hebrews knew far more about Jesus prior to his coming (and alleged later visitation to America) than their brethren in Israel did, while at the same time, details in the Book of Mormon regarding the Mosaic and Levitical laws are almost nonexistent.
One glaring example: the necessity of keeping the Passover is nei- ther endorsed nor even mentioned. All of this adds up to an obvious New Testament bias on the part of the writer of this Mormon sacred scripture. There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that Joseph Smith had more than supernatural assistance in compiling the Book of Mormon. Speculative writings concerning the origins of the Indians were popularized in his day through such works as Ethan Smith's The View of the Hebrews and the writings of Rev. Solomon Spaulding. These and other relevant works were certainly available to the Mormon prophet. However, his plagiarism of the Bible is the most convincing indication that Joseph Smith fraudulently produced the Latter-day Saints' holy writ. Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Joseph Smith's Plagiarism of the Bible (see resource page) provides exact quotes and parallels found in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. They write, 'in the Book of Mormon we have Lehi, the father of Nephi, quoting from the New Testament book of Revelation almost seven centuries before it was written!'
Thousands of other examples follow. Furthermore, some KJV quotes include italicized words not found in the Hebrew, Greek or Latin manuscripts from which they were translated, but were inserted by the A.D. 1611 translators sim- ply to clarify the text. Did the inspiration process include translating Reformed Egyptian, written by Hebrew-speaking scribes, into the centuries-later King James English (including some Greek and Latin terms) complete with italicized words, or did Joseph Smith simply contrive the Book of Mormon together with ample help from a KJV Bible and other sources? The Bible has been scrutinized, analyzed and criticized for thousands of years, yet nothing has been exposed which under- mines the Book that declares itself to be God's Word. Moreover, mountains of evi- dence from diverse fields of study support its claims of supernatural origin. Nothing of the kind can be said for the Book of Mormon.
Archaeologists have found nothing to support the land, cities, monu- ments, or peoples the book presents. History, anthropology and linguistics are likewise silent. But one field, molecular biology, has had much to say lately, and it's not good news for defenders of the Mormon faith. The introduction to the Book of Mor- mon underscores an important claim made by this alleged sacred text: 'After thousands of years, all [i.e., the white Hebrew descendants of Lehi] were destroyed except the [dark-skinned] Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.' When Joseph Smith was young, one of the popular mysteries of his day was the origin of the Native Americans. It made for interesting speculation but seemed far beyond the possibility of proof. Not so today. The science of DNA supplies such proof which will stand up in a court of law. It is now possible to trace a person's DNA back through centuries to accurately determine one's ancestry. There is a stunning new video now avail- able on this subject titled DNA vs. The Book of Mormon (see resource page) , which is both groundbreaking and powerful in its simplicity.
Among the featured scientists is Dr. David Glenn Smith, a molecular anthropologist and researcher from the University of California at Davis who has studied Native Americans for 30 years, and whose lab is this country's leading test center for Indian genetics. Here is his view, as well as the con- sensus of scientists in his field: 'If you look at genes in Native Americans they came from their ancestral populations'.You can look for those genes in Jewish populations but you don't find them,.they don't coincide at all. The homeland of Native Americans is East Asia. The video includes anthropologist and Mormon scholar, Thomas Murphy, who summarizes the dilemma for the LDS Church: '¦we don't have a single source from ancient America outside the Book of Mormon validating a single place, a single person, a single event.We don't have any of that, so the problem that DNA poses for the Book of Mormon, in a sense, exemplifies the difficulties that we already have.There's never been any evidence that would show us that there had been an Israelite migration to the New World.
Not in genetics or for that matter in any other source, historical, archaeological, or linguistic. If there was no Israelite migration, then there were no Nephite or Lamanite people; therefore, Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Book of Mormon. Another Testament of Jesus Chris' is patently false. Worse yet, it is souldamning fiction. That's the grievous plight of millions of Latter-day Saints faithful to Joseph Smith's teaching.
If the opportunity arises for you to interact with Mormons, please don't avoid them. Christ died for them. Although most Mormons cling to their false faith in the Book of Mormon based upon feelings (a 'burning in the bosom' experience), their irrationality is being confronted more and more by irrefutable evidence from science. Increasing numbers are facing the fact that they were duped by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, et al. Show them the love of the biblical Jesus by being informed about their beliefs and, most importantly, share with them the truth which set you free (Jn 8:31,32) .
Pray for a mass exodus from the bondage of Mormonism. TBC Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:17 Page 3
Question [composite of several]: I must disagree with your very excellent article on 'One Thing' [May 02] in which you said concerning the rich young ruler, 'The issue was not the young man's salvation, but rather service to Christ. In fact, salvation is in view and not service, for this ruler asked, 'What shall I do to inherit eternal life?'
Answer: Thank you for your letter. Yes, the young ruler did ask what he should do to inherit eternal life. But there was nothing he could do. Having already broken the law, keeping it perfectly in the future (even if that could be done) would not pay for past sin or justify anyone.
Though he claimed that he kept the law perfectly, that wasn't true, for 'all have sinned'. Nor was Christ giving him conditions for salvation, for âby the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight (Rom 3:19-23) . If selling all and giving to the poor is essential to salvation, then none of us is saved. It was Christ's means of revealing to the young man his love of riches and that he didn't love his neighbor as himself. Certainly Christ was not telling him that if he sold all he had and gave to the poor he would be saved. It would merely be the In some circles, the fear of controversy is so great that preachers, and congregations following after them, will settle for peace at any cost even at the cost of the truth, God's truth.
The idea is that peace is all important. Peace is a biblical ideal (Rom 12:18 makes that clear: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with everybody), but so is purity. The peace of the Church may never be bought at the cost of the purity of the Church. That price is too dear. But why do we think that we can get along in this world or for that matter, even in the Church, without conflict and contro- versy? Jesus didnât. Paul didnât. None of the preachers of the apostolic age who faithfully served their Lord were spared controversy.
Who are we to escape controversy when they did not? The story of the advance of the Church across the Mediterranean world from Jerusalem to Rome is a story of controversy. When the gospel is preached boldly, there will be controversy. The life of Paul is a life of controversy. Tradition tells us that every apostle, except John, who was exiled for his faith, died a violent death. Jay Adams, Preaching to the Heart, p. 17. means of starting to follow Christ. I appreciate your thoughts. You make a good point. Thank you very much.
Most of all, we appreciate your prayers that the Lord will use us to His glory and to the salvation and edification of many.
Question: What about the observance by Muslims of Ramadan today? President Bush honored it, as did Clinton and others before him. You said last month that the hajj simply carries on pagan practices. But isn't the Holy Month of Ramadan with its fasting between sunrise and sunset purely Islamic?
Answer: No. Ramadan was practiced by pagan Arabs for centuries before Muham- mad was born. Both history and the Quran confirm this. During Ramadan, Muhammad received the first inspiration for the Quran: 'The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran... (Surah 2:185) . Equally interesting is Surah 2:217: 'They question thee (O Muhammad) [about] warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn men from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the inviolable Place of Worship [is] worse than killing....
Obeying this revelation, Muhammad led his followers in attacking a caravan during that 'sacred month,' surprising the pagan Arabs who for centuries had refrained from fighting in that period. This was Muhammad's first success after three previous failed attacks upon caravansthe start of his rise to power as others joined him in Islam to share in the booty. President Bush hosted an Iftaar dinner for Muslim leaders at the White House last November honoring what he called 'the holy month of Ramadan.' In his speech he said, 'According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the holy Quran to the prophet, Muham- mad, during the month of Ramadan.' To call Allah 'God,'s the Qur'an 'holy' and God' 'word,' and to honor
Muhammad as the prophet is inexcusable. Bush further extolled Islam: 'The world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements. In fact, this 'faith' is the bloodiest religion the world has ever seen, being responsible for the slaughter of many millions of persons in the past and of most terrorism worldwide today. Please write to our President to complain about his continued praise of Islam. Question: The most obvious fallacy of your book, What Love Is This?, is its denial to God of the freedom to choose whom and in what way He will love. John MacAr- thur, J.I. Packer and others have pointed out that we may love in different ways and degrees (love for one's husband or wife is different from love for one's neighbor or for ice cream), yet your book insists that God's love is the same for all people.
Answer: The analogy doesn't fit. Love to friend or foe must still be love. But Calvinism insists that God 'loves' those He has predestined to eternal torment before they were even born. That isn't love! John MacArthur, Jr. writes: 'He [God] loves the elect in a special way reserved only for them. But that does not make His love for the rest of humanity any less real' (The Love of God, p. 16) . Can he be serious?! Those for whom Christ didn't die, from whom He withholds salvation and whom He has predestined to eternal torment, God nevertheless loves because He gives them earthly benefits? Is it rational to say that God loves in any way those He has pre- destined to eternal doom? Of what value would it be to own the whole world for a few short years if eternity will be spent in the lake of fire?!
Calvinism denies that John 3:16 says God loves all mankind, for that would mean He died for all 'heresy to Calvinists. But some Calvinists are embarrassed into saying that God loves everyone, though the tenets of Calvinism deny it. Thus we have contradictions, such as the following from John Piper: 'Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportu- nity for salvation' (What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, p. 14) . Preaching the gospel gives 'opportunity for salvation' to those for whom Christ didn't die and whom God predestined to eternal torment before they were born? Yet such madness is Calvinism's only defense.
Question: In your June article you took a rather dim view of the 'road map to peace' that the U.S., EU, UN and Rus- sia are promoting in the Middle East. Yet real progress is being made between Israel and the Palestinians. Isn't there some hope for genuine peace over there, or must this horrible conflict continue indefinitely?
The coming false peace will be guaran- teed and enforced by Antichrist. Whether the Rapture is so near that this 'peace' will grow out of the current negotiations is speculation. But the scriptures make it clear that 'peace' will eventually be established in conjunction with the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and reestablishment of the Jewish sacrificial system (Dn 8:25; 9:27) . That will ultimately lead to Armageddon as Antichrist ends the temple sacrifices, puts his image in the temple and demands that the world worship him as God (2 Thes 2:4; Rev 13:14,15) .
Question: Doesn't Calvin's assertion that the children of the elect are automatically elect open up a huge can of worms? In thousands if not millions of family trees there must be at least one believer, that is, one person who, perhaps centuries ago, by Calvin's definition, was one of the elect and was enabled to believe. By Calvin's own reasoning, every son or daughter of that parent, as long as he or she didn't 'manifest to the contrary' (whatever that means) would also be among the elect, and thus all their descendants after them Surely one could find a believer somewhere in the genealogy of most people in the Western world. Upon tracing that line forward to all of the sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, greats, great-greats and onward we would find that practically everyone, at least in the Western world, was and is one of the elect! That causes me to wonder why we are surrounded by so much immorality, considering the vast number of elect in the world throughout history and today. Is there something wrong with this picture?
Answer: I'm sure most Calvinists, seeing the logical consequences, would object to your scenario. The section of Calvin's Institutes (IV: xvi, 21-32) from which you arrived at this idea is rather complex and contradictory. On the one hand, Calvin presents baptism of infants as the sure means of their salvation, provided they have faith in their baptism when they mature (xv, 3) . On the other hand, he declares that 'Our children, before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own [without baptism]....In this promise their salvation is included....How much evil has been caused by the dogma...that baptism is necessary to salvation... (xv, 20) ; 'children of believers are not baptised, in order that...they may...for the first time, become children of God, but rather are received into the Church by a formal sign, because, in virtue of the promise, they previously [i.e., from birth] belonged to the body of Christ' (xv, 22) ; '...God is so good and liberal to his people, that he is pleased...to extend their privileges to the children born to them (xvi, 15) ; 'whereas children, deriving their origin from Christians, as they are im- mediately on their birth received by God as heirs of the covenant, are also to be admitted to baptism' (xvi, 24) ; 'it is no slight stimulus to us to bring them [children] up in the fear of God, and the observance of his law, when we reflect, that from their birth they have been considered and acknowledged by him as his children (xvi, 32) .
The child's subsequent faith in his baptism would not effect salvation inasmuch as regeneration/salvation must precede faith; and regeneration seems automati- cally to be passed from elect parents to their children, who are themselves elect. Moreover, the elect cannot be lost. This doctrine, however, is titled 'Perseverance of the Saints,' not perseverance of God, and can only be certain for those who maintain good works a contradiction. You certainly point out a problem for Calvinists to ponder. Perhaps we will hear from some Calvinist readers who will give us their answer. News Alert Chicago Tribune 7/6/03 [Excerpts from More literary woes for Mormon elders]: It has been a difficult literary summer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only has the celebrated writer Jon Krakauer parsed the church's violent history in Under the Banner of Heaven, but so have two lesser-known authors, Sally Denton in American Massacre: The Trag- edy at Mountain Meadows and Dorothy Allred Solomon in Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy The Krakauer book in particular has so disturbed Mormon elders that last week they took the unusual step of issuing an early broadside, hoping to discredit the book even before it was published. Krakauer said in response to the Mormon elders the church has long endeavored to retain proprietary control over how [its] history is presented to the world....
In evidence Krakauer quotes Apostle Boyd Packer, second in line to head the church, as declaring in 1981 that some things that are true are not very useful...In the Church we are not neutral....There is a war going on, and we are engaged in it. One ongoing battle is over what, before Sept. 11, 2001, was called the worst religious atrocity ever committed in America: the slaughter in 1857 of 140 Arkansas emigrants in a wagon train at a Utah pass called Mountain Meadows. [In addition to the book on the subject by Krakauer] Sally Denton (herself of Mormon descent) is the latest writer to contend persuasively in her case that the responsibility did not lie just on an outcast Mormon named John Doyle Lee and the Indians he led. The ultimate she writes, belongs to Brigham Young, the absolute monarch of Utah who, pressured by financial crises and increasing scrutiny from the federal government, incited the attack himself.
"We were ACTING UNDER ORDERS from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Lee said in a confession just before his execution by a firing squad. "The horrid deeds then committed were done as a duty which we believed we owed to God and our Church" This carefully documented book also explores how today's Mormon church has refused to acknowledge Young's culpability. History plagues the Mormons in other ways, especially the offshoots of the church that still practice polygamy. I am the daughter of my father's fourth plural wife, twenty-eighth of forty-eight children a middle kid, you might say, with the middle kid's propensity for identity crisis, begins Dorothy Allred Solomon's Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk. After a series of FBI raids in the 1950s, Solomon's physician-preacher father, Rulon Allred, was sentenced to prison. His family was scattered to Mexico, Las Vegas and Montana. In 1977 he was shot to death by members of a rival sect of polygamists. The people Solomon tells us about are not hairy, wild-eyed monsters but fully fleshed, sometimes obstinate, often admirable human beings caught in the grip of religious absolutism. She shows brilliantly how we can loathe what they believe but also hope for their eventual enlightenment.