Latter-day Saints – Mormons – 2

WHO ARE THEY?

A Mormon is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Officially they believe that they are the restored Christian Church on earth today; the only church holding the authorityofthe priesthood and therefore able to serve God. To reflect this they are called Latter-day Saints to distinguish them from the Saints, or Christians, of the former days. Whilst the nickname Mormon has come to be used by church members themselves there has been a concerted effort to have everyone, both inside and outside the church, use the correct title. Another title that is increasingly being used and encouraged is LDS Christian. This reflects the current attempts by the church to be recognised as a main stream Christian church as opposed to its traditional image as a cult. The church ‘PR’ people have made such a good job of presenting this message that many accept the Mormons as just another denomination. [See separate article].

When they meet you, the Mormons will show concern for family life and one evening a week is given over to a home evening with the family. Normally you will meet clean cut young men, missionary ‘Elders’, committed to serving overseas for two years (young women serve for 18 months). They will hold regular Sunday meetings at their ‘church’ buildings but at first, they will not reveal many of the less orthodox things that they believe. These buildings are not to be confused with the Temples where the secret, or they would say sacred, ceremonies are held. Britain’s first Temple, called the London Temple, was dedicated in 1958 and is situated in Lingfield, Surrey. A second Temple, the largest outside of Salt Lake City was opened in Chorley, Lancashire in June 1998. This is known as the Preston Temple and was built here, near Preston, because in 1837 the first Mormon converts in Britain were baptised in the River Ribble at Preston.

Mormons will, for the most part, be genuine and believe what they say. They will be deceived themselves, having had a spiritual ‘burning in the bosom’ experience. Some will have gone through special Temple ceremonies and received sacred undergarments with Masonic symbols to remind them of the vows they have made. Maybe they have been sealed in marriage for eternity or been baptised for dead relatives. To them, Mormonism is the only way to God.

Today the Mormons claim to be one of the fastest growing religious groups in Britain.

The Mormon Church in Britain is beginning to catch up with the mainstream Christian churches. Worldwide there are more Mormons outside of America than in, according to figures released today by the Church, which is based at Salt Lake City, Utah. Although the Church was founded in New York State, the oldest continuos branch is in Preston, Lancashire. Numbers of Mormons in Britain have grown thirtyfold in 30 years from 6,500 in the mid-Sixties to more than 170,000. This puts the Mormons… roughly level with Pentecostalists in Britain, and catching up the country’s 240,000 Baptists. – The Times, 26 February 1996, p.8.

According to the church’s official web site – www.lds.org – membership as of 31 December 2004 was 12,275,822 in 26,670 congregations worldwide. US membership stood at approx. 5,599,177 and non-US approx. 6,676,645. 53% were female and 47% male. Current figures show a UK membership of approx. 179,000 in 371 congregations.

Modern Day Structure

Development of the organisation has led to the following structure that runs the Latter-Day Saints today. [See Ensign November 1997, pp.56-57.] These offices constitute the General Authorities of the Church.

The church is organised around “restored” priesthood authority based on the Ephesians 4 ministries. At the head is a Prophet. Two counsellors, also regarded as prophets, accompany him.. These three form the First Presidency. Their New Testament model is Peter, James and John. Below them is a quorum of twelve Apostles who are also prophets and who, as a quorum, have the same authority as the First Presidency.

There is a quorum of seventy men under a presidency of seven men who form the First Council of Seventy. They assist the twelve Apostles, especially in the area of missionary work.

The Presiding Bishopric, a Bishop and two counsellors, are directed by the First Presidency and the twelve Apostles. They preside over the Aaronic Priesthood of the church and administer various practical matters, such as membership records, tithes, budgets, operation and maintenance programmes. Below this level of “General Authorities” the church is organised into regions. Each region is supervised by a representative of the twelve Apostles. These people represent the General Authorities in giving counsel and direction to the local church.

Until May 1994 the living prophet was Ezra Taft Benson. When he died, he was succeeded by 86 year-old Howard H. Hunter. He did not last long and since his death in March 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley is the prophet. The living prophet can bring revelation that can add or change any Mormon doctrine or ‘scripture’ from the past.

The Local Church

The local church is organised into Stakes and Wards. The Stake may be likened to a diocese and is organised to mirror the General Authorities. There is a Stake President and two counsellors. A quorum of twelve High Priests forms the Stake High Council and jointly holds equal authority to the Stake Presidency. Quorums of Seventy also operate on the Stake level with responsibility for missionary work.

The ward may be likened to a parish and is presided over by a Bishop and two counsellors. In the ward the various priesthood and auxiliary organisations of the church operate with oversight from the stake level. Each organisation in turn is presided over by a president and two counsellors and at each level, from Ward to General Authority, various clerical posts are filled to attend to administration.

Where there are not enough members for a ward, a branch is formed. A stake will have many wards and some branches. Where there are not enough members for a stake, branches are organised into districts, with a District President etc. Districts are supervised by the mission, which is also responsible for full time missionaries. The goal of every branch is to be a ward and of every district to be a stake. Then the goal is to grow large enough to divide (or multiply).

Priesthood And Auxiliary Organisations

Most local meetings are held during a three-hour programme on Sundays. This is to encourage full attendance at all meetings and minimise travel. It also facilitates the double use of the church building. Two wards can use the same facilities by having one meet in the morning and one in the afternoon. Families are encouraged to “plan and carry out appropriate Sabbath-day family activities” during the rest of the day.

The first meeting a child will attend will be Primary. This caters for children up to 12 years of age. They meet for religious instruction on Sunday, while their parents are in their own meetings. There is a short service with children’s songs and talks, and then classes for different ages, followed by an activity period. Special activity nights are held occasionally during the week. The president and counsellors of Primary are always women.

At the age of
12 the boys will go on to the Aaronic Priesthood Quorums and the girls to the Young Women’s meeting. These have classes for religious instruction, with an activity night during the week.

The Aaronic Priesthood Quorums are in three age groups: Deacons 12-14 years old, Teachers 15-17 years old, and Priests 17-19 years old. All worthy male members of the church hold the priesthood and advance according to age and worthiness.

The Young Women meet in similar age groups: 12-13, 14-15, and 16-17 years old. Combined activities for Young Men and Young Women are under the direction of the bishopric youth committee, assisted by the activities committee and the ward physical activities specialist. Special emphasis is placed on the development of talents, music, drama, speech etc.

The weekday activity for boys and young men is ideally to be Scouting. Every ward is encouraged to have its own Cub Scout pack and Scout troop, where possible. At 19, young men join the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, consisting of Elders, Seventies, and High Priests. The majority of men are Elders. They meet for instruction in their priesthood duties and the responsibilities of fatherhood, as well as religious instruction.

At 18, the young women join the Relief Society, one of the oldest women’s organisations in the world. Their lessons are taught on successive weeks each month: spiritual living (including testimonies), mother education, social relations, and cultural refinement. In months with a fifth Sunday, home management is taught. Once a month a homemaking session is held during the week.

Aaronic Priesthood Quorums, Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, Young Women and Relief Society, are all held at the same time. Following these meetings there is a short break and then everyone goes to Sunday School where there are classes for all age groups. The Primary meeting for those under 12 continues over both sessions. The president and two counsellors of the Sunday School are always men. At the end of the second session, including Primary, there is another short break and then the whole church meets for Sacrament Meeting. This is the main religious service, in which the Sacrament (bread and water (1) ) is taken. In some localities the schedule is run the other way around, with Sacrament meeting first, then Sunday School and Primary, and then the auxiliary meetings.

Family Home Evening

Monday evening is set apart for families, an abiding theme in LDS thinking. No meetings are held on these evenings and parents are encouraged to meet together with their families for religious instruction and wholesome family activities. Where members have no families in the church they are encouraged to form groups and be a family for that night. There is a family home evening manual with suggested programmes and activities.

Missionaries

The missionaries of the LDS church are a familiar sight to most people. They are usually young men and women of between 19 years and 21 years who voluntarily serve full time for 18 months (women) to two years (men). They are supported by their families while on the mission.

There are, however, older missionaries. Even retired couples or individuals are encouraged to consider serving missions. Apart from proselytising missionaries there are teaching missionaries, health care missionaries, building missionaries and others. Along with those who hold office on the local level they constitute a huge unpaid workforce.

A Complete Programme

The church offers an almost unimaginably full programme of activities designed to involve its members. Almost everyone holds office or serves in some capacity and every need is catered for. The proud boast is that no one need go outside the church to seek fulfilment in any part of their lives.

HISTORY

Mormonism began with the ‘First Vision’ that Joseph Smith claimed to have received when he went into the woods to pray. The official version is found within one of their scriptures, The Pearl of Great Price. It tells how fourteen year-old Joseph Smith received a vision of Jesus and His Father. In response to his question, “which church shall I join” he claimed he was informed that all were apostate and he should start his own. The Mormon Church was officially organised on 6 April 1830 by Smith and five of his followers. Thus, began The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Mormons believe that the former-day church passed away in complete apostasy and they alone are the true, ‘restored’, church today. Restoration is an abiding theme in LDS thinking. The church, they say, is neither Catholic nor Protestant but Restored.

Several broad statements have been made, by officials within the Mormon Church, concerning this first vision. For instance according to Joseph Fielding Smith,

… the church stands or falls on the reality of this first vision – Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.188.

However, there are problems because of the number of different versions of the first vision and this can be investigated further in Reachout Trust’s What’s Through the Veil, and in Mormonism, A Gold-Plated Religion.

This first vision was supposed to have taken place in 1820. Joseph claimed that in 1823, he had a heavenly visitation telling him about some golden plates that were hidden nearby. He is said to have located the plates the day after the visitation but was not allowed to take them home until September 1827. These golden plates were purportedly translated into the Book of Mormon.

Mormons set up their headquarters briefly in New York and Pennsylvania before moving to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831. The State of Missouri was called the land of Zion and the first temple site was dedicated in August 1831 and finally opened in 1836. Persecution forced the church out of Missouri and they settled in Commerce, Illinois in 1839. Commerce was renamed Nauvoo and began to grow at a rapid pace. However, all was not well within the camp and in 1844 several discontented members printed charges of polygamy and strange doctrines in the Nauvoo Expositor. Enraged, Joseph Smith incited a mob to destroy the printing press, which caused him to be jailed in Carthage in 1844. Mormons believe today that Joseph Smith died a martyr’s death but this like so much else is a fabrication. On 27 June 1844 Joseph Smith, armed with a gun, was shot in the upstairs window of the jail as he tried to evade the lynch mob that had broken in downstairs.

There are also clear historical links between Freemasonry and Mormonism, which helps to explain many of the symbols and ceremonies of Mormonism.

By 1839 the Mormons had. moved to a site in Illinois that they named Nauvoo. Immediately, those of them who were Masons petitioned the Grand Lodge of Illinois for the founding of a lodge at Nauvoo. Despite local Masonic opposition, a lodge was established under dispensation in 1842, but its irregular activities – and those of other newly formed Mormon lodges – led within two years to the Grand Lodge of Illinois revoking their dispensations. The Nauvoo lodges, however, ignored the Grand Lodge instructions and went their own way until they came to an end after the murder of Joseph Smith in June 1844. Smith himself had been made a Mason
at the first meeting of the Nauvoo Lodge and proceeded to utilize Masonic ceremonies in the inner rituals of his own sect. After his death the process was evidently continued for the Obligations and other parts of the temple ceremonies as used at Nauvoo in 1846 are taken almost directly from the rituals of the Craft degrees. – World Freemasonry, John Hamill and R.A.Gilbert, 1991, p.201.

The Mormons arrived in Britain at the very beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria when, in July 1837, the first sermon was preached in Vauxhall Chapel, Preston, Lanacshire. The minister of the Chapel was James Fielding, the brother of one of the first missionaries to Britain. There were seven missionaries altogether 3 American, 3 Canadian and 1 Englishman, Joseph Fielding, who had previously emigrated to Canada. It is evident that James did not like what his brother preached because he closed the chapel to the Mormons but some were already taken by the new message and the work continued in private homes. On 30 July 1837, one week after that first sermon, nine converts to Mormonism were baptised in the River Ribble. The first conference was held on 25 December 1837. The second was held in Preston on 8 April 1838 and it is estimated that about 700 of the 2,000 British membership attended. The Preston branch of the Mormon Church is the oldest continuous branch of Mormonism anywhere in the world.

The centre for Mormonism today is Salt Lake City, Utah. However, not all that the Salt Lake headquarters tell us about Mormons is reliable because of the way they carefully select and present, even invent, their story. There are nearly 500 changes in today’s official history compared with the first written account. Further details can be found in What’s Through the Veil.

MAJOR BELIEFS

Mormonism differs in a major way from the beliefs of evangelical Christianity and we have listed the main differences here. A number of British Mormons in particular may not be aware of what the church actually teaches on some of these issues but everything is documented clearly.

GOD WAS ONCE A MAN

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … I am going to tell you how God became to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, that you may see. – King Follett Discourse, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.344/5 compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith.

You may have to question the Mormon closely because the original words and ideas they use may appear Christian. Their belief in one God who was once a man and not a Trinity is not only denied by the Bible but also by their own Book of Mormon as can be seen below:

Moroni 8:18 – For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to eternity.

2 Nephi 26:12 – … Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. He is not then just one of his many sons. Mosiah 15:2-5 – And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the father, being the Father and the Son. And they are one God. The Son is both Father and Son – yet one God.

Alma 11:22,26-32 – … I [Amulek] shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he [Amulek] answered, No. The Spirit of the Lord tells us that there is but one God.

3 Nephi 11:27,36 – … the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the father in me, and the father and I are one. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. Three in one and one in three.

Mormon 9:9 – For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing.

Interestingly the testimony of the three witnesses at the beginning of the Book of Mormon is itself Trinitarian. It concludes,

And the honour be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Even today, we find that the teaching is that God has a literal body. President Hinckley’s words recorded in The Ensign, March 1998, p.2, confirm this.

I believe without equivocation or reservation in God, the Eternal father. He is my father, the Father of my spirit, and the Father of the spirits of all men… He is personal. He is real. He is individual. He has “a body of flesh and bone’s as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22)

This of course is at odds with the biblical declaration that God is a Spirit. Hinckley however brings a twisted answer to this later in the same article:

Of Course God is a spirit, and so are you, in the combination of spirit and body that makes of you a living being, and so am I.

However, the Bible says that God is only a spirit it is the Mormon church that adds a body.

MEN CAN BECOME GODS

Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you. – Journal of Discourses, Joseph Smith, 1844, Vol.6, p.4.

This belief is a natural extension to C1 above and many Mormon men are striving to learn how to become gods. However, the Book of Mormon denies this teaching too:

… And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. – 2 Nephi 31:21.

JESUS CHRIST

But thank God that there were enough sane and sagacious souls on the side of truth and wisdom and the rebellious souls were vanquished as to the eternal and ultimate program. The principal personalities in this great drama were a Father Elohim, perfect in wisdom, judgement, and person, and two sons, Lucifer and Jehovah. – The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.33

… the Only Begotten of the Father . . . These name-titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the Father in the flesh . . . Christ was begotten by an Immortal father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers. – Mormon Doctrine, 1988, Bruce McConkie, pp.546/7

These two statements among many others that could be quoted show clearly that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible. Sometimes you will get Mormons making statements that appear to be biblical and so confuse Christians. However, do check what is said very carefully. For instance the statement below made by President Hinckley on 24 January 1997 and recorded in the Church News may seem correct but think carefully about the parts in bold italics.

We believe strongly in Jesus Christ. He is the central figure of all our worship. We regard Him as the Son of God. We
regard Him as the Redeemer of the world. We regard Him as the greatest man who ever walked this earth.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

As can be seen from the following quotations although the Mormons use the term Holy Ghost they mean something very different to that of the evangelical Christian faith. To help understand the differences we have highlighted certain phrases in bold italics.

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a Personage of Spirit, a Spirit Person, a Spirit Man, a Spirit Entity. He can be in only one place at one time and he does not and cannot transform himself into any other form or image than that of the Man whom he is, though his power and influence can be manifest at one and the same time through all immensity. (D. & C. 130:22-23; Teachings, p. 190, 275-276; Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 59-62.) – Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.358

President Joseph F. Smith said: “The Holy Ghost as a personage of Spirit can no more be omnipresent in person than can the Father or the Son, but by his intelligence, his knowledge, his power and influence, over and through the laws of nature, he is and can be omnipresent throughout all the works of God. It is not the Holy Ghost who in person lighteth every man who is born into the world, but it is the light of Christ, the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the source of intelligence, which permeates all nature, which lighteth every man and fills the immensity of space. You may call it the Spirit of God, you may call it the influence of God’s intelligence, you may call it the substance of his power; no matter what it is called, it is the spirit of intelligence that permeates the universe and gives to the spirits of men understanding, just as Job said.” – Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.752

THE TRINITY

The result of these beliefs means that the Mormon Church can make a Trinitarian sounding statement but they do not mean what orthodox Christians mean by the Trinity.

And so, my beloved brethren and sisters, I believe in God, the Eternal father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost… They are distinct beings, but they are one in purpose and effort. They are united in bringing to pass the grand, divine plan for the salvation and exaltation of the children of God. – President Hinckley’s words recorded in The Ensign, March 1998, p.7.

THE PRIESTHOOD

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints believes that they are the only church to hold the restored priesthood on earth today.

As pertaining to man’s existence on this earth, priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. It is the power by which the gospel is preached; by which the ordinances of salvation are performed so that they will be binding on earth and in heaven; by which men are sealed up unto eternal life, being assured of the fulness of the Father’s kingdom hereafter; and by which in due course the Lord will govern the nations of the earth and all that pertains to them. (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 136-200.) As there is only one God and one power of God, it follows that there is only one priesthood, the eternal priesthood. Thus the Prophet taught: “All priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it.” (Teachings, p. 180.) Also: “Its institution was prior to ‘the foundation of this earth, or the morning stars sang together, or sons of God shouted for joy,’ and is the highest and holiest priesthood, and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same and are held, controlled, and directed by it.” (Teachings, p. 167.) It is, however, proper and common to speak of the two great orders of priesthood as priesthoods; hence, the revealed statement, “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.” (D. & C. 107:1; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 80-183.) – Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.595.

A very interesting sidelight on the Aaronic Priesthood is the belief that;

All of these vital steps pertaining to the remission of sins are performed through the saving ordinance of baptism and the renewing ordinance of the sacrament. Both of these ordinances are officiated by holders of the Aaronic Priesthood… The Ensign, November 1998, p.38.

What is remarkable about this is that the Bible (See Hebrews 7:18-22 and 8:13), clearly tells us that the Aaronic Priesthood had to pass away because it was not sufficient to forgive sins. What does the Mormon Church know that God does not?

There is another interesting aspect to the priesthoods because of the way the church believes they received them.

These same keys of the kingdom held by Peter, James and John, who served in the First presidency in the dispensation of the meridian of time, and conferred upon Joseph Smith and all subsequent Presidents of the Church, are now held by [the Church President] today. He holds this supreme authority. He holds the right of revelation and decision for the priesthood and for the Church. – Words of Elder Haight on 3 April 1836 and quoted in Church News 13 March 1999.

Even if we disregard the far fetched descriptions of Peter, James and John there is still the major problem that not one of them could have conferred the priesthood on Joseph Smith because not one of them was qualified to hold it in the first place. The keys of the kingdom and the priesthood are two distinct things.

THERE ARE THREE HEAVENS

This teaching is found in Doctrine & Covenants 76:70ff.

The Celestial Kingdom reserved exclusively for those who believe and are obedient to the Mormon gospel. Only those in this heaven have an opportunity to become Gods. [D&C 131.]

The Terrestrial Kingdom, for good men and women of all religions, who have not embraced Mormonism.

The Telestial Kingdom where the wicked and degraded go.

There is therefore a general salvation for all good people a specific salvation for the Mormon elite and no hell, negating all the clear biblical warnings to “flee the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7).

SALVATION BY WORKS

Note in the following Mormon ‘scripture’ the words we have emphasised and consider how they have changed the original biblical teaching of Ephesians 2:8-10.

… it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. – 2 Nephi 25:23

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. – 3rd Article of Faith

No one can really know every nuance of every law and ordinance of the Mormon gospel, or of any legalistic system, and so no one can ever be sure of achieving full salvation. Some of the laws that are known more clearly include,

THE WORD OF WISDOM

The Word of Wisdom is a health law prohibiting certain things such as,

And again, hot drinks are not for the body or the belly. D&C 89:9

and prescribing others such as herbs and grains in season and meat sparingly.

Today hot drinks are taken to mean abstaining from tea, coffee and, for the more zealous, caffeine drinks such as cola. Taken literally many Mormon have broken it, including Joseph Smith, who drank strong tea (not to mention alcohol. See below.). President Hinckley said of the Word of Wisdom on 5 August 1998 and recorded in the Church News, 6 March 1999, that;

I Believe the Lord expects us to live the Word of Wisdom. He gave it to us as a great law of health… Nobody needs alcohol… You don’t need tobacco… The Word of Wisdom was given in 1833, in which it stated that tobacco is not good for man.

Where alcohol is mentioned in the original ‘revelation’ it is prohibited with the exception of, “in the assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.” However today Mormons substitute water for sacramental wine, practicing a complete prohibition. Furthermore, both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, his successor, were known to drink ‘wine or strong drink’, even though the revelation of 1833 clearly stated that, ‘it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in the assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him” (D&C 89:5).

Seemingly the Word of Wisdom is not the original one ‘given by God’ but Mormons must abide by further ‘interpretations’ of what is perceived to be the Word of Wisdom in order to,

prove ourselves worthy of great joy in the next life. Study Guide 4 – Eternal Progression

TEMPLE CEREMONIES

Not every Mormon is allowed to go to the Temple, only those who have been interviewed and are worthy to receive a ‘Temple Recommend.’ This passport into the temple, signed by two Mormon officials, allows the holder to go into any Temple in the world for a year. Once in the Temple they can go through the ceremony of Celestial Marriage, the ‘endowment’ ceremony, in which attendees are ‘endowed’ with further instruction about God’s plan, or receive these as well as the more ordinary ceremonies of the church, such as receiving the priesthood etc. for the dead.

BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD

… and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead . . . – D&C 128:17,18.

This follows genealogy work to discover the names of dead relatives. Many Mormons have had occultic experiences when concentrating on the dead like this but it is an essential part of working for their salvation and godhood. Some Mormons still claim, especially to Christians, that 1 Corinthians 15:29 is their authority for baptising the dead. [See later in this article.]

Again, the Book of Mormon would disagree.

For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. – Alma 34:35

This shows that because everything is decided before death, baptism for the dead is futile.

TITHING

And after that those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord. – D&C 119:4.

Accurate records are kept of every penny given. With special tithing funds and other giving, it is estimated that Mormons often give up to 30% of their income to the church.

POLYGAMY

Whereas polygamy on this earth is not now an official doctrine of the Latter-Day Saints, it will yet be in the future. They only gave it up because of the law of the land and their eternal future still involves plural wives. The fact however that polygamy was ever there in the first place is a direct contradiction of the Book of Mormon that shows God’s displeasure at it. ‘Behold David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord’ Jacob 2:24.

MORMON SCRIPTURES

The Book of Mormon is vital to the Latter-Day Saints as the following shows,

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are at the very heart of the Lord Jesus Christ’s latter-day work. Joseph Smith and his work were known prophetically in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon. As the Book of Mormon operates as the “keystone of our religion” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.194), so the process of translation was the keystone of the Prophet’s education. The Book of Mormon was central to Joseph Smith’s understanding of the doctrines of the gospel and of his role in the Restoration. – Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, James E. Faust, Ensign, January 1996, pp.2-4.

President Brigham Young said:

Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test. – Journal of Discourses 16:46.

Mormons have three basic Scriptures, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. They quote the Bible but where it disagrees with the Book of Mormon, they accept the latter. Their 8th Article of Faith reads,

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. [Emphasis added].

Mormons will even tell you that the Book of Mormon is recorded in the Bible. They will turn you to Ezekiel 37:15-20 and say that the Book of Mormon is one of the rods blended, the other rod being the Bible. However, this is an incorrect interpretation because the Bible clearly shows that they are rods signifying authority, much like a sceptre, and not books.

Some will say that they accept the KJV but they still call the Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ and believe it to be more reliable than the Bible. This causes a contradiction when you read the following,

The Book of Mormon establishes the truthfulness of the Bible. (See 1 Nephi 13:40.) It is evidence ‘to the world that the holy scriptures are true.’ (D&C 20:11.) – Church News, 3 February 1996, p.14.

They use the word ‘testament’ in the sense of ‘testimony’. However, it comes from the latin testamentum, as in ‘last will and testament, meaning ‘covenant’. The Old Testament is the old covenant and the New Testament the new covenant. The Book of Mormon cannot be ‘another covenant’ because God’s promises are all fulfilled in Christ (Luke 24:44-47)

The Book of Mormon purportedly took just over a year in all to translate from the golden plates. Most of the work, however, was completed in the last three months when Oliver Cowdry was helping Joseph Smith.

There are many theories about the writing of the Book of Mormon. Devout Mormons will ask the question of just how Joseph Smith could have written the book without divine help. Non-believers will talk about stolen manuscripts that became the basis of the story and the tales that his mother relates Joseph used to spin to keep them enthralled. Maybe this is part of the explanation. Certainly, it contains some 27,000 words from the King James Version of the Bible and so using other manuscripts would not be out of the question. However, there could well have been supernatural help too, but from which source? Smith himself admitted using a peepstone (type of crystal ball) to try to find buried treasure. David Whitmer who was closely involved with the work of producing the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s wife Emma, both confirmed that Joseph used a peepstone in a hat to accomplish the translation. The divine help through the peepstone would not come from God.

There were problems with the translation too. The second book of Mormon Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 3:9,10 tells of God’s displeasure with Joseph because he lost 116 pages of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. In fact, Martin Harris, one of the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, lost the pages. He could not understand why Joseph could not just retranslate them. Joseph of course could not be sure it would be the same if the missing pages were found. God answered the problem by leading him to another section of the plates that dealt with the same period but in a more spiritual way! This ‘frustrating’ of the translation of the Book of Mormon is quite strange. The verses below, which Mormons believe to be from God, would, here, suggest that the translation was not from God.

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round. Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men. – D&C 3:1-3

Whichever way the Book of Mormon came into being the Latter-Day Saints claim to have published more than 124,455,125 copies since it was first published in 1830 [Official web pages. Figures as of December 2004].

The Book of Mormon is the story of a Hebrew prophet, Lehi, whom the Lord ordered to flee from Jerusalem. He left with his family around 600 BC and they found their way to a new land that is today known as America. Later the descendants of two of Lehi’s sons, the Nephites and the Lamanites fought each other. The Lamanites had departed from the Lord but the Nephites remained faithful and had kept a detailed history of their dealings. Mormon, one of the last remaining Nephites wrote an account of their history on the golden plates and gave them into the hands of his son Moroni. Moroni buried them in the Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York around AD 438, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Lamanites. Such detailed history should be borne out by, for instance archaeology, but unfortunately for the Mormons, no real evidence can be mustered in support of the Book or Mormon. We will also see a little later that there is much that clearly disproves the claims within the book. However, we need to move beond the history and deal with the spiritual message too.

Twice in Doctrine and Covenants [20:8,9 & 27:5], we read that the fullness of the gospel is found within the Book of Mormon. Thus Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price could expand on the Book of Mormon but not add anything. However, as we have already shown, some of their major doctrines are not found within the Book of Mormon and some are even contradicted by it.

The Book of Mormon has undergone nearly 4,000 major changes since the first ‘inspired’ edition, over 170 years ago. Contrast this with the reliable record of the Bible proved true by documents dating back some 2,500 years. The Bible is also shown reliable by the discovery and recovery of places and items mentioned in the Scriptures. Examples of this from the Biblical record, which is not true of the Book of Mormon, would be towns, coins and animals.

Alma 56: 13-14 mentions the cities of Manti, Zeezrom, Cument, and Antiparah. vast populations are described dwelling in the cities of the Book of Mormon. Not a stone or pot, not a single item of any sort has ever been dug up that could verify their existence. Alma 11:4-19 mentions eight different coins – not one example of any one of them has ever been discovered. Ether 9:18,19 mentions several animals, traces of which have never been found in that place at that time. In addition, the cureloms and cumoms that have never been discovered, or even indentified, anywhere any time.

It is not only the Book of Mormon that has changed. Mormon scholars admit that their other two main books have also changed and there have even been changes in their history, which cover up false prophecy. Embarrassing predictions and statements that do not fit into today’s idea of the church are eradicated. [See What is Through the Veil, Reachout Trust, p.12 for further information.]

As with other groups the Mormons seek to explain these changes. For them, it is the ‘progressive revelation’ of the current Prophet of the Church. The following extracts are taken from an article in The Ensign, August 1996, pp.2-7, Entitled Continuing Revelation it was given by President James E Faust, Second Counsellor in the First Presidency.

I wish to discuss a special dimension of the gospel: the necessity for constant communication with God through the process known as divine revelation. I wish to focus. on God’s communications. through prophets, as distinguished from personal revelation. The prophets, seers, and revelators have had and still have the responsibility and privilege of receiving and declaring the word of God for the world. Each of the 92 Apostles called since then [1843] has been sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator. But the prophets, seers, and revelators succeeding Joseph as Presidents of the Church have been the Apostles in whom all the keys of Christ’s earthly kingdom have been active and functioning. We now move forward nobly and boldly, with courage and conviction, led by our prophet, Gordon B.Hinckley. He has been ordained and set apart as the prophet, seer, and revelator to the world. He alone holds and exercises all the keys of the kingdom under the Lord Jesus Christ. In our lifetime we have been favored with ongoing communications from the heavens, which have been open to the prophets of our time. Major divine pronouncements have included what we now know as section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, given in 1918. Surely one of the greatest divine disclosures came in 1978, when the blessings of the priesthood and temple became available to all worthy male members.

SHARING JESUS

SOWING DOUBT


Some questions to ask a Mormon to encourage them to see that the Latter-Day Saints are not God’s only authority on earth are:

The Old Testament clearly foretells Jesus birth to be in Bethlehem. The New Testament records show this prophecy to come true. Why does the Book of Mormon in Alma 7:10 say Jesus was born in Jerusalem? [N.B. Do not let them say it is a district because 1 Nephi 1:4 clearly shows Jerusalem to be a city and cannot be synonymous with Bethlehem]

Why is the Book of Mormon called ‘another Testament of Jesus Christ’? What was wrong with the first one? What can this one add that the original did not accomplish?

Why do we need it anyway when we read at the end of the first paragraph of the Introduction to the Book of Mormon that the Bible contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel?

Why is there a change of Ephesians 2:8,9 in 2 Nephi 25:23 [see quote earlier] that makes it say the opposite?

Alma 10:3 shows that Nephites were descendants of Manasseh. Mosiah 2:3 shows Nephites offering sacrifices according to the law of Moses. How is this possible when the Levites were the only ones allowed to make offerings?

Ether 1:34-37 says the language of Jared was not confounded at Babel and yet Genesis 11:9 says all languages were confounded.

PRESENTING THE REAL JESUS

The main focus of this discussion should be the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. After the discussion, the investigators strongest impression should be of the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. – Study Guide 1:1

As the above shows, the preparation that the Mormons receive before they come to your home leads them to emphasise Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon as the central theme of their discussions not Jesus Christ and the Bible. In sharing with a Mormon, it is good to look at their basis of authority and salvation by grace.

THE BASIS OF AUTHORITY

A good way to present this is by comparing the original with the copy. The Mormons will believe that the Book of Mormon is the most accurate book in the world. At the same time, they will claim that the Bible lacks authority because it is ‘a translation of a tranalation of a translation…

Ask, ‘when the Book of Mormon is produced in a language other than English, is this a translation or direct revelation?’ Make the point that these must lack in the same way as they believe the Bible lacks.

Next, make the point that there are many early manuscripts of the Bible and scholars can translate them today from the original Hebrew or Greek. The resulting text will bring no difference in meaning to modern-day English versions. Ask, ‘can we compare the original manuscripts of the Book of Mormon in the same way?’ We of course cannot because the golden plates were mysteriously taken back into heaven but even if we could, would it be possible for scholars to translate them? No, because they were in ‘Reformed Egyptian’ a language that does not even exist.

Another way of dealing with authority is to use the priesthood. The Mormon Church believes that they are the only ones to have the restored Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. Read the verses from the Book of Hebrews and share with them the following,

7:11 The Aaronic priesthood passed away because it lacked and it was replaced by the ‘better’ Melchizedek priesthood. We do not need to restore that which is lacking.

7:3 & 5:6 The Melchizedek priesthood never passed away and so how can it be restored?

There is no authority here at all.

SHARING THE SALVATION MESSAGE

Jesus is the only way to God. No prophet in the early church was above Jesus and no prophet in the Latter-Day church can be either. As we read in 2 Corinthians 11:4,13 the Mormon Jesus is a different one.

Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost – Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young, Vol.1, p.51

It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. – Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young, Vol.4, p.53

We are however not to judge, hate or condemn an individual Mormon. Scripture shows the reality of Jesus dying to take away our sin – 1 Peter 2:24, 25. Jesus became sin that we might be set free as new creatures – 2 Corinthians 5:17,21. We want to lovingly sow doubts about the organisation and then share the real Jesus. If there is not time for both – just share Jesus. He alone saves.

There are many relevant ways to share Jesus, here is one suggestion using the Book of Mormon. We should know that the Book of Mormon teaches that the Bible is true and contains the Gospel.

Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews… – Mormon 7:8.

It also teaches that new birth is essential,

And now behold, I ask you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have you received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? – Alma 5:14

For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit… I am born of God. – Mosiah 27:24,28

As already seen the Mormon gospel is one of keeping commandments and ordinances. Their third Article of Faith reads,

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

… it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. – 2 Nephi 25:23

This is clearly contrary to the gospel Paul preached. Yet we read in D&C 18:9 that early Mormons were,

… called even with that same calling with which he [Paul] was called.

Paul believed [1 Corinthians 15:1-4] that the Gospel is all about Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 also shows clearly that baptism was not in the true gospel that Paul preached. Galatians 1:6-10 shows what he said about any other gospel.

Highlight these differences especially in the area of grace and works. Present what you know about the Grace of Jesus [2 Corinthians 8:9] and that we cannot do even one thing to receive salvation [Ephesians 2:8,9.]

Because of these differences and because only one of you can be preaching the truth, ask if you could answer the following questions. Look at them both from the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

1. Does obedience to the law save us?

2 Nephi 2:5, ‘and by the law no flesh is justified’ agrees with Romans 3:20. The law cannot save us. [Note Galatians 3:24 – the purpose of the law is to act as our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. ASK: Have the commandments you have been taught led you to Christ?]

2. Do we work for salvation or is it a free gift?

2 Nephi 2:4, ‘… and salvation is free’ agrees with Ephesians 2:8-10. Salvation is a free gift.

3. In whom alone do we have salvation?

2 Nephi 31:20,21, ‘… and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved’ agrees with Acts 4:10-12. Salvation is only in Jesus.

Make each point slowly and carefully and ask whether the Bible and the Book of Mormon agree. Finally, offer a loving challenge to follow this clear testimony of the saving work of Christ alone. Bring this home further by sharing the reality of your testimony. Tell them about your new life in Christ.

There must be no adding to the simple and completed Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is the solid ground we are encouraged to build on in 3 Nephi 11:37-40.

Finally, we show a short presentation that you can use concerning baptism for the dead.

Read the context of 1 Corinthians 15 carefully. The Corinthian letter corrected a number of errors found in the church. Paul here is talking about resurrection because there were some that did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. He mentions those who are baptised for the dead [v.29] whereas in the next verse he talks of we. Paul is not saying that the Christian church is baptising for the dead. He is emphasising that those; the pagans in Corinth are doing it, showing that even among pagans, there was a belief in the resurrection.

Ask the Mormon, ‘why does the Mormon church today, a group that claims to be the only true church, do what the pagans did in Corinth?’

By practising baptism for the dead, they have ignored not only the teaching of the Bible but also that of the Book of Mormon. See Alma 34:35 quoted earlier. Ask, ‘what is your authority for baptising dead people int
o the Mormon church?’ The Bible clearly teaches that there is one life, one death and one judgement. After death, it is too late to change one’s mind.

IMPORTANT FACTORS

JOSEPH SMITH

We believe that there are 10 main reasons why we can say that to a Mormon Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus Christ is. We know that some Mormons would not agree with this statement and we are not calling such individuals liars. They may be genuine in believing this according to what they know or with what they have been prepared to investigate but the full facts tell a different story.

FALSE PROPHECIES

And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation: pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land… – History of the Church, Vol.1, p.315

Many years have passed since 1833 when these words were penned and the catastrophes foretold here have not occurred.

… the coming of the Lord, which was nigh – even fifty-six years should wind up the scene. – History of the Church, Vol.2, p.182

This was given in 1835. 56 years on was 1891!

In the days of Joseph it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones. – Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young, 1856, Vol.4, p.40

Within 26 years, Mormons would be better than Congress. Twenty-six years later Congress passed a law against polygamy aimed at the Mormons.

REORGANISED CHURCH

In a few parts of the country you will come across the Reorganised church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints [RLDS]. They will tell you that they are not Mormons. However, the roots are the same. Indeed the two were one up to the death of Joseph Smith Jr. on 27 June 1844. At this point, their followers were divided into factions with many claiming to be the true leader of the church. The main group went west to Utah but other groups waited for Joseph Smith’s son to take the position of president as designated by his father.

In 1852 in Wisconsin a group calling itself ‘The New Organisation’ held its first conference. Finally in 1860 Joseph Smith III came to a conference in Illinois, claiming to be drawn by ‘a power not my own,’ and accepted the position of president, which he held until his death in 1914. In 1867 this group published Joseph Smith’s revision of the Bible. Finally, in 1920 they set up their headquarters in Independence, Missouri.

As we would expect, there are many similarities. The RLDS bases its belief on the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Both believe in the ‘living prophet’ as someone who brings God’s fresh revelation. Both believe in the two priesthoods – the Aaronic and the Melchizedek.

Nevertheless, there are also differences. The leader until April 1996 was Wallace B. Smith, who could trace his ancestry back to Joseph Smith Jr. After Joseph Smith’s son died in 1914, his son F.M.Smith followed him. In 1946, he was again succeeded by his son I.A.Smith. Wallace Smith’s father took over in 1958 and retired in 1978. When Wallace B. Smith resigned in April 1996 for the first time a president, W. Grant McMurray was chosen not from the line of Joseph Smith.

In 1985, they also ordained their first woman elder something the LDS still does not do. They do not have the many temples that the LDS have and work on only their second temple was completed in 1992. Joseph Smith Jr. built their first temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Their temples also differ greatly from those of the LDS. The RLDS do not partake in secret ceremonies, such as baptism for the dead and the sealing of marriages for eternity.

At a recent conference of the RLDS, delegates considered shortening the church’s official name. They felt that the 10-word name was too difficult but also that it was often confused with the Utah-based LDS church. However, after a short debate they overwhelmingly rejected the measure of adopting a new name. More recently, however, they did change their name to ‘The Community of Christ’, although their original name is still their official name for legal purposes.

As we see, the differences are not about belief in the Book of Mormon. You may not therefore be able to talk to them about baptism for the dead but you certainly can about the gospel of grace. The basis of the RLDS church is also Joseph Smith and his revelations and so you can share on these lines.

(1)Water is used instead of wine in keeping with the church ban on alcohol. (Back to text)

 

Further information is available from Reachout Trust books tapes DVDs

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