Thursday, December 29, 2011

An ad for mormonism in the Wall Street Journal

The WSJ features what basically amounts to an advertisement for mormonism on its opinion pages tomorrow. The article, From American Idol to Mormon Missionary, is written by Allison Pond, a returned missionary who is listed as "an associate editor for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City". I would encourage you to check out the article and engage in the points it raises.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Where was Joseph Smith's veil?

It is an article of faith in the mormon church that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Chris:
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, 17)
Of course it is important to point out that this "first vision" went through a number of iterations until Smith settled on the version we know today (for a listing of these visions and the myriad problems with the whole event, see First Vision from the Mormonism Research Ministry). Regardless for mormons today this is simply fact, Joseph Smith was visited by two distinct "personages" manifested before Him, one being God the Father and the other Jesus Christ.

This account begs a number of questions but I think an important issue is how the Bible treats this notion of chatting with God the Father in person. The most pertinent passage is found in Exodus 33: 18023
Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23)
So here is Moses, one of the major prophets and figures in all of Scripture, and God won't even let Him see Him face to face. God instead hides him in the cleft of a rock and lets Moses just glimpse a tiny fraction of His glory because to see Him face to face in all of the fullness of His glory would destroy Moses.

When Moses came down, something had changed because he had been in the presence of the Lord...
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exo 34:29-35)
Moses was dramatically impacted by this event such that his face shone and the people were afraid to come near him, thus the veil. Apparently Smith, who allegedly had an even more direct encounter with the living God, had no such manifestation of having been in the presence of God.

That kind of leaves us with a couple of alternatives. One is that Smith was more special or less impacted than even Moses. The other is that the event never happened. Given the varying accounts, the Biblical impossibility of what Smith taught and the well documented fact that Joseph Smith was a teller of tall tales and a scoundrel, it certainly seems more plausible that this event sprang from the fertile soil of Smith's imagination, an event that fits into the fanciful tale that he spun and modified as he went along.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A very informative resource

Aaron Shafovaloff has been working on an important project, God Never Sinned. This gets to a crucial question: if God is a glorified person, did that mean that at some point in His existence He might have sinned. How you understand and approach this question is crucial to understanding the difference between mormonism and Biblical Christianity. Watch this video for a sampling:

This is the tragic fruit of mormonism, faith in a "god" who was perhaps a sinner. Check out God Never Sinned

James White on 'Is Mormonism A Cult?'

James White is going to be on the Paul Edwards show today at 5:00 PM EST discussing this topic. This is a crucial issue given the closeness of American evangelicalism and politics and the recent statements by Richard Mouw. You can tune in from Paul's webpage, God and Culture.

Check it out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Richard Mouw, evangelical seminary president and defender of mormonism

Mr. Mouw is a frequent commenter on mormonism, often tapped for quotes because he, unlike the vast majority of Christians, understands that mormonism is a false faith with unmistakably cultic practices. As such he was predictably asked by CNN for his opinion on the recent controveray over a statement by a supporter of Rick Perry who described Mitt Romney as a member of a cult: My Take: This evangelical says Mormonism isn’t a cult. Perhaps the comment regarding Mitt Romney was politically indvisable but it certainly is theologically correct. Not according to Richard Mouw however.

According Richard Mouw, who incredibly is the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, mormonism is not a cult. He bases this on what he describes as “a behind-closed-doors dialogue between about a dozen evangelicals and an equal number of our Mormon counterparts.”

Apparently he finds that mormonism is not as different as some of us, like those of us who actually were mormons, seem to think. From the CNN piece (emphasis added)…

So are Mormons Christians? For me, that’s a complicated question.

My Mormon friends and I disagree on enough subjects that I am not prepared to say that their theology falls within the scope of historic Christian teaching. But the important thing is that we continue to talk about these things, and with increasing candor and mutual openness to correction….While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.
Huh? How exactly can someone be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ if they misrepresent and frankly slander the very Person of Jesus Christ? A genuine follower of an idolatrous, blasphemous version of Jesus? Either the mormons Richard Mouw is speaking with don’t hold to the basic tenets of mormonism (which would mean they aren’t mormons) or Richard Mouw has a flawed understanding of Jesus Christ or, worst of all, he is so undiscerning and eager for compromise that he can’t tell adherents of pagan religion from genuine followers of Jesus Christ. Given that he is speaking with Robert Millett and others like him I can't believe the first explanation is possible.

What gives Richard Mouw the right to accept as followers of Jesus Christ those who subscribe to a theological system that turns Christ into a created being that is part of a polytheistic faith? Being a seminary President doesn’t give you carte blanche to utter this sort of foolishness. His frequent public utterances undermine the Gospel witness of many Christians who try to evangelize mormons. People like Bill McKeever, Sandra Tanner and Aaron Shafovaloff are working daily to reach mormons with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Richard Mouw has provided yet again ammunition for mormon apologists to undermine these efforts. They will say “look, this guy is a seminary President and he doesn’t think mormonism is a cult!”. That can only serve to hamper the Gospel witness of those who labor in this difficult field among the millions of lost individuals entrapped by the mormon cult.

It is embarrassing that a man who heads up a seminary is this ignorant of such a crucial issue, especially since he apparently spends a lot of time speaking with leading mormons. Perhaps he should have these conversations somewhere not behind closed doors where the issues being discussed can be exposed to the entire church rather than a secretive cabal of academics. I am awfully suspicious of conclusions reached outside of the view of the “little people” in the church. I would love to see the reaction of the president of a different seminary, namely Al Mohler, regarding the state of faithful mormons as genuine followers of Christ.

Not that he cares but I am publically calling Richard Mouw to repent of his support and approval of a pagan religion and a cult that entraps millions of people. As someone who has experienced first hand the cultic culture of mormonism and been exposed to the pagan practices of the mormon “temple” I can assure Mr. Mouw that for all of his study he has missed the mark by a mile. Paul had something to say about those who gave approval to those who were sinning…

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32 ESV)
I would categorize the leadership of the mormon church as slanderers and haters of God and men like Joseph Smith as inventors of evil. Mr. Mouw gives approval to men who practice these things by declaring that many of them are “genuine” followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so he treads a very dangerous line. I sincerely hope and pray that faithful Christians around Richard Mouw likewise call him to repent and if he refuses take the appropriate disciplinary steps to restore him.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Musing about Mitt

How Christians should think about a Mitt Romney candidacy and perhaps even a Presidency is going to become a more serious issue in the next twelve months. This video is a good place to start.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Glenn Beck, John Hagee and Zionism

Check out this brief but valuable interview with Kim Riddlebarger discussing Glenn Beck's recent trip to Israel. I might have mentioned that Beck is a dangerous wolf in sheep's clothing and by joining arms with him people like John Hagee and David Barton are making common cause with an unbeliever and wolf for the sake of  misguided notions of Zionism and a return to a "Christian America".

Click here to listen.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What about this?

Rachel Held Evans, a fairly well known Christian blogress and author invited a mormon lady, Jana Riess, to field some questions on her blog: Ask a Mormon...(Jana responds). Questions were typically pretty much fluff questions with Jana Riess getting to answer them without a hint of anyone suggesting that she was not telling the whole truth. For example:

From Ellen: Can you list several core beliefs that you hold in common with other Christians? Can you list several core beliefs of Mormonism that are different (either subtly or hugely) than those held by other Christians?

One shared core belief is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, and that his atonement makes it possible for humanity to be reconciled to God. This is why Mormons so stubbornly insist that we are Christians, even though we’re not Trinitarians. But for many Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, belief in the Trinity is the dividing line that determines whether a person can be considered a Christian.
That is pretty disingenuous. The aberration that is mormon theology is more than "just" denial of the Trinity, although that alone is sufficient to warrant the charge of heresy. It goes much deeper than that into the very nature of God as a created being and Christ as the same as Satan in terms of the nature of His being. To suggest that Christians and mormons alike hold that Jesus is "the Son of God" when I assume she knows full well how disparate the definitions of that title are between Christians and mormons is tantamount to an outright lie.

Here is my question. Is this a proper way of addressing mormonism? Giving a mormon apologist free reign to answer a series of soft ball questions with no clarification on terminology? I should hope that people reading Rachel's blog don't come away with the impression that mormonism is just a slight variation of Christianity. I am afraid that Rachel is letting her shared sense of egalitarianism with Ms. Riess color her judgment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A wonderful testimony

Really enjoying this testimony from the members of the band Adam's Road. They are all former mormons who have been saved out of mormonism and into the loving embrace of Christ who saves His people by grace and not by their works.

You can download their music for free at their webpage, watch the video, check out their testimony and music and be blessed!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Close but no cigar (against the Word of Wisdom ya know!)

With not one but two mormons running to be the GOP nominee for President, there is increasing interest in mormonism, a topic many people have an opinion on but few know much about. CNN posted an article purporting to be "10 facts about mormonism" in an article titled: Explain it to me: Mormonism . Several of them are pretty straightforward (what is the official name?) but some are quite a bit off the mark. Here are the items in question with comments...

2. Mormons consider themselves Christian but their beliefs and practices differ from traditional Christianity in key ways, including belief in sacred texts outside the Bible and practices like posthumous proxy baptism and wearing special undergarments.

Those things are true but that is not the big issue. The big issues have to do with heretical views of God, of man, of salvation, of the church, of...well pretty much everything of any importance. Mormons are not Christians with magic underwear and some weird practices, it is a completely pagan religion from top to bottom. The PR machinery of the mormon church is desperate to blur the distinctions today. I am a bit nostalgic for the days of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith where at least they were open and honest about their heresy.

3. There are about 14 million Mormons today, which more than half living outside the United States.

To clarify, there are perhaps 14 million names on the membership rolls of the mormon church but in terms of actual adherents the number is much smaller, perhaps half of that figure. No one outside of Salt Lake knows thanks to the cultic secrecy that pervades the hierarchy of mormonism. Got keep the sheep ignorant so they don't start asking questions. Hopefully as the light shines on mormonism more brightly, we will get more in-depth examinations of mormonism that go beyond ten snippets about a very complex cult.

5. The Church of Latter-day Saints has outlawed polygamy since 1890.

Sort of. The mormon church has outlawed the practice of polygamy but the doctrine of the "new and everlasting covenant" is very much still in force. It has to be, otherwise it might raise questions of just how prophetic the early prophets really were.

While in some ways I think a mormon President would help normalize mormonism and be a huge boost to the mormon church itself, I also think that in increase in scrutiny might expose more people to the quirks, oddities and outright heresies of mormonism. I am not a huge Romney fan, nor a fan of Huntsman, so I am hoping neither of them wins!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Glenn Beck my brother?

(Reposted from my main blog)

I got into a “discussion” with someone regarding Glenn Beck and the individual in question threw down the “don’t judge” and referenced the “remove the beam/plank in your own eye first” passages in Matthew and Luke. So that raised an interesting question for me. Is Glenn Beck my brother? If he is not, what is he?

I have made no secret of my concerns about Glenn Beck. Not because of his politics because frankly I don’t know that he believes anything he says. My concern as I have stated often is that Beck attempts to integrate himself into the church by downplaying the very dramatic issues with mormonism and playing up patriotism, nationalism, moralism and economic conservatism. To listen to Beck you would think mormonism was just a slightly variation on orthodox Christianity when it in fact is a completely pagan religion more akin to Norse mythology than Christianity. I don’t know if Beck is covering up his differences because he is trying to infiltrate the church or if it is purely driven by money. Some combination of the two is likely. Regardless, many otherwise well-meaning church going American conservatives find more kinship with a politically conservative unbelieving wolf than they do with a politically liberal fellow born-again follower of Jesus Christ. That is a serious issue.

Back to my question. First, what did Jesus actually say in the “remove the plank from your own eye” account. Here it is:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Something that I believe gets missed all the time here is that Christ is speaking here of seeing a speck in your brothers eye. Three times in these verses He references “brother”. Now I may be missing the nuance but it seems that Jesus is speaking somewhat narrowly here. Likewise the point here is not “never judge” because Jesus also talks about removing the log from your own eye so that you can see your brother’s eye clearly. So when we apply this to how we are to live our lives, these events are applicable to the relationship between fellow believers.

That brings us to the second question. Is someone like Glenn Beck my brother? What did Jesus say…

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”(Luke 8:19-21)
So who does Jesus say are our brothers and sisters? Those who hear and do the word of God. Likewise we read that those who are regenerate are adopted into the family of God. My brothers and sisters are not those who I agree with politically, they are those God has elected, regenerated and adopted into His family.

One more Scripture. Paul doesn’t seem really interested in judging those outside of the church:

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
Since people like Beck are unbelievers, shouldn’t we ignore them and concentrate on getting our own house in order? We certainly have plenty of need to get our house in order but that doesn’t preclude any of us from warning fellow believers about false prophets and ravening wolves who seek to weasel their way into our midst. When someone tries to pass himself of as “one of us” but is proven to be a false professor we don’t have an option here. I have no access to Glenn Beck otherwise I would call on him to repent. I do have a platform to address a small part of the church and in that capacity I think it is perfectly appropriate and necessary to warn the church about an evil person in our midst. That might strike you as an especially harsh statement. Is Glenn Beck really an “evil person”? Well if we define an evil person as someone who does evil and if we would qualify trying to lead God’s people astray with false and blasphemous teaching as being inherently evil, then yes I can’t see how we can view him any other way. There is a difference between someone who is lost and being led astray and someone who is leading people astray.

Jesus, Peter, Paul and John warned the church repeatedly about those who outwardly seek to appear as a follower of Christ but who are really false prophets, false brothers, ravenous wolves. They come in all shapes and sizes from Harold Camping to Jim Jones, Thomas Monson to David Koresh, Glenn Beck to Charles Taze Russell. Regardless they all have something in common: they pervert the Gospel for their own benefit.

The Bible, I believe, makes a distinction between the lost and false prophets and wolves. I try hard not to judge an unbeliever for acting in ignorance like an unbeliever. How exactly should we expect those who are outside of Christ to act? Now someone who is a false prophet, a wolf trying to integrate himself among the sheep to deceive and scatter them? That is a whole different proposition.

I am fully aware of my own failings and they are many and varied. My awareness of my own failings and those areas where I have a log in my eye have nothing to do with warning the Body about those who seek to sneak in and spread lies and dissension among the people of God. My sincere hope is that God saves Glenn Beck out of mormonism just as He saved me. Until that happens and as long as Beck seeks to lead people astray, I will warn anyone who wants to listen to see him for what he is, a false brother and someone that we should have no fellowship with, no matter how much he calls for a strong national defense and lower taxes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The irony is rich here

Author Eric Metaxes is being interviewed by Glenn Beck on his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Watch at about the 7:30 mark....

Here is the money quote:

He is fundamentally opposed to actual Christianity but he hides it because he knows that if he reveals it he loses everything.
Eric is talking about Hitler but that quote applies to Beck just as neatly. Certainly Beck in not a Nazi but he is no more a Christian than Adolf was. Both are part of a pagan religion that considered certain people to be sub-human, Jews for Nazism and blacks for mormonism.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A great post on the dangers of supporting Romney

Many Evangelicals are suspicious of Mitt Romney and for good reason. His meandering positions are troubling. His awkward and confused defense of Romney-care while condemning Obama-care is laughable and would provide ammo to Obama in debates and advertisements if Romney becomes the nominee. Of course there is also his mormonism. As a member of what most evangelicals consider to be a cult, Romney’s judgment is highly suspect. I read a great article today by Warren Cole Smith detailing the dangers of supporting Romney, A Vote for Romney Is a Vote for the LDS Church. That is a blunt and bold statement but I think it is true in many ways. I think this paragraph is a great insight into why Romney shouldn’t be supported….

What Weyrich understood was that you can't have it "both ways" when it comes to Romney's faith. You can't say that his religious beliefs don't matter, but his "values" do. The Christian worldview teaches that there is a short tether binding beliefs to the values and behaviors that flow from them. If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually—but inevitably—be warped. Mormonism is particularly troubling on this point because Mormons believe in the idea of "continuing revelation." They may believe one thing today, and something else tomorrow. This is why Mormons have changed their views, for example, on marriage and race. Polygamy was once a key distinctive of the religion. Now, of course, it is not. Mormons once forbade blacks from leadership roles. Now they do not. What else will change?
That is simply excellent and gets to the heart of mormonism. There is no settled and unchanging ground that mormonism rests upon other than anything is up for grabs based on what the latest prophet has to say. Little wonder that when mormons talk about their beliefs, they don’t stand on propositional truths about God, they focus on their church and their prophets in spite of the ever changing stances of mormonism. Polygamy is an eternal commandment! Whoops, that changed! Blacks cannot hold the priesthood! Oh, that is socially unacceptable and God changed His mind! This is the revealed design of the garment! Well fashions have changed and God has changed along with it! Romney shows some of those same signs in his public policy, as if he is also receiving “continuing revelation” that explains some of his major policy flip flops.

As Mr. Smith points out, mormon “values” do seem similar to Christian values but the underlying theology is a perversion. When your view of God is as skewed as what mormonism teaches, all of the resulting beliefs are likewise going to be flawed.

Having said all of that, Romney is, politically speaking, a huge improvement over Obama but there is a real danger that Romney will do the same thing that Glenn Beck is seeking to do writ large, i.e. normalize relations and cozying up with Christians by joining forces against political liberalism. Having abandoned the frontal assault against Christianity, mormonism seeks to normalize relationships, minimizing the differences and finding political common ground to entice people in. Christians need to recognize this for what it is and call it out where it occurs. When compared to the loss of an eternal soul, lower taxes suddenly don’t seem all that important.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2 Corinthians 6:14 anyone?

While I am not in favor of evangelicals getting too involved in politics, I really question when they make common cause with an unbeliever for the sake of political gains (emphasis mine)....

Another person has jumped aboard Mitt Romney's burgeoning presidential campaign — Mark DeMoss, deemed by the Christian Post as a "Southern Baptist media guru."

"(DeMoss) believes Christian voters mistakenly place theology over qualifications when they select a candidate for the presidency," Christian Post reporter Stephanie Samuel explained last week. "Shared theology, he noted, is a benchmark that many Christians only use inside the church or church ministry. … Based on what he has heard during his travels, DeMoss commented, 'I think more people, more evangelicals will get past [Romney's faith] in this election cycle than in the last election cycle.' Romney's popularity will likely grow since the top contender, Mike Huckabee, announced that he will not join the race for the presidency."
Winning the White House back is politically important and believe me I want to see President Obama replaced but the idea that we only need to worry about "shared theology" on Sunday morning flies in the face of 2 Corinthians 6:14...

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." (2Co 6:14-18)
When winning political victories trumps winning souls to Christ, we have a problem.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Who is crazier, Glenn Beck or Harold Camping?

It is kind of surreal to watch one cult member chastising and mocking the leader of a different cult.

So Beck mocks Camping for his ludicrous prophesies but doesn't seem to be too worried about all of the crazy things the "prophets" of his church have taught. He mocks the preparations for the end by Camping's followers but his church teaches its members to store food and water in their basements in preparation for some sort of future tribulation. It is no coincidence that lots of the survivalist outfitters are located in Utah!

Harold Camping. Thomas Monson. Glenn Beck. All deceived and all in need of prayer. Camping will be shown to be a false prophet once again tomorrow. Beck's various prophets have been shown to be false prophets for more than 100 years. When you get down to it, there isn't much difference after all...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More from the wolf himself

Glenn Beck expounding on Ephesians 6

I love that he exhorts people to read Ephesians. I wonder if he has read it, you know the parts where Paul reminds us that it is not works that save us...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

I wonder if he has read that and realized that the mormon notion of works righteousness and self-righteousness runs in complete contradiction with Paul's words?

I wonder how many Christians, or at least church attenders, are sitting in the audience listening to him speak of praying in "the temple" and realizing that an earthly temple doesn't jive with the Bible they carry with them to church on Sunday? That he is talking about the Gospel of peace but the "gospel" his church proclaims is another gospel that cannot save and cannot bring peace between man and God? That he is teaching them about the armor of God but that his church teaches that God was once a man and that men can become gods?

Little wonder that the church is in such dire straits when pagan unbelievers teach Scripture to audiences that are unequipped and unaware that they are applauding a man who blasphemes God every time he goes in his precious temple.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Studying Mormonism= Studying Christianity?

There is a new (unofficial) webpage put out by mormon’s that purports to be dedicated to “studying Christianity” (hence the name Study Christianity) without regard to “theological differences” (it is not a new page, it looks like it has been around a few years but this is the first time someone has pointed it out to me). Their intro page says:

The Foundation for Christian Studies (FCS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, teaching, and practice of Christianity in a way that inspires all people, regardless of theological differences, to come together in support of essential Christian values and compassionate service to God’s children across the globe. The FCS accomplishes this by providing rich scriptural course study and spiritual commentary, interactive web forums for thoughtful discussion, an online store offering inspirational Christian media, and a charitable giving program that emphasizes individual and community self-reliance.

This is the latest attempt by the mormons to change their tactics from a frontal assault on Christianity into a back-door approach. This approach attempts to draw people in with an ostensibly Christian message that waters down the inherent and irreconcilable differences between mormonism and Christianity in order to gain a foothold with those who are not sufficiently versed in Scripture and mormon marketing methods to recognize the deception. This group, founded by one Eric Shuster, attempts to marginalize the very real differences between Christianity and mormonism by describing any such attempt as “political correctness” and being contentious. That is not how Jesus described it.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked a pivotal question of Peter….

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)

The answer to that question is the key. Affirming who Christ claims to be is pivotal. It is not enough to say you "believe in Him". you must recognize His divinity because only God Himself is able to make sufficient atonement for the sins of His entire people. Notice in this passage that lots of people talked about Jesus and believed in some aspects of Him, whether it was His teaching or His miracles. It is not enough to say “we believe in Jesus” without also answering the question: “Who is Jesus?”. Mormons can answer the first question in the affirmative but when asked the second question, if they give an honest answer, you will see why Christianity and Mormonism are completely incompatible. This group tries to brush away differences but when you look more closely at what they say, you see we are not talking about the difference between a Baptist and Methodist, we are talking about completely different religions:

The contentious individuals and institutions who deny the Christianity of others often utilize their own personal interpretation of scripture and sect-driven dogma to support their assertions. They contend the privilege of earning the Christian label is dependent on such things as believing in the Triune God, accepting certain creeds, experiencing certain feelings, and/or belonging to a particular faith community (or not belonging to another). These disputations are reminiscent of the Pharisees of old who fought relentlessly to preserve the letter of the law of the Moses, while being urged by Jesus Christ to embrace the spirit of the law by putting love and faith at the center of their energies.

When you lump denying the Trinity in with belonging to a particular church, it is clear that this group is being intentionally deceptive. There are many, many Christians that I disagree with quite vehemently on any number of issues. I am not a Methodist or a Presbyterian or a Lutheran. What divides us doctrinally are secondary issues but every Christian is united on the fundamentals of the faith and the divinity of Christ is a non-negotiable. Whether or not Jesus Christ is God is not a divider among Christian groups but rather a divider between believers and unbelievers, between the faith in Christ that saves and the paganism that denies Him. Just saying “I believe in Jesus” is not enough. James 2:19 tells us even demons believe that God is one and that knowledge makes them shudder!

The Bible is quite clear that not everyone who says to Christ “Lord, Lord” is a Christian…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Part of what this foundation is designed to do is encourage Christians and mormons to work together for charitable works. That sounds awfully noble and Biblical on the surface but the unfortunate reality is that it is Scripturally untenable. Christians are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

These verses have as much to do with partnering with unbelievers to do charitable works as they do with the more common interpretation of marriage. Making common cause with mormonism makes about as much theological sense as Israelites making common cause with Baal-worshippers. Overly harsh? Not when you consider the very real danger that mormonism presents to the millions of people who adhere to it.

I am all for studying Christianity but I find it disingenuous and intentionally deceptive to play the victim card and plead for common ground in a faith born from a young man lying about a message he received from “God the Father” that paints all of orthodox Christianity as an abomination. At least be honest enough to stand up for your faith and not sugar coat the irreconcilable differences. Brigham Young and Joseph Smith were megalomaniacs and lecherous scoundrels but at least they didn’t play word games to try to hide what mormonism was all about. This webpage is just another in a long line of marketing efforts deigned to deceive those who are Scripturally ignorant and get mormon missionaries in their living room.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What makes a cult?

That is the question raised this morning in the Wall Street Journal by Mitch Horowitz, When Does a Religion Become a Cult? It is an interesting question and one that in Western culture is somewhat uniquely American because of our free and open society when it comes to religious expression. That freedom has made possible all sorts of different denominations, movements, sects and cults. Horowitz describes what makes a religion into a cult in this paragraph:

Many academics and observers of cult phenomena, such as psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo of Stanford, agree on four criteria to define a cult. The first is behavior control, i.e., monitoring of where you go and what you do. The second is information control, such as discouraging members from reading criticism of the group. The third is thought control, placing sharp limits on doctrinal questioning. The fourth is emotional control—using humiliation or guilt. Yet at times these traits can also be detected within mainstream faiths. So I would add two more categories: financial control and extreme leadership.

A few paragraphs later, Horowitz adds: Yet every coercive religious group harbors one telltale trait: untoward secrecy. There some aspects of this in many religious groups but I can think of one that embodies all of these perfectly. No shocker, that religious group is mormonism. Let's look at the list one by one:

1) behavior control, i.e., monitoring of where you go and what you do.

Check. Mormonism is well known for keeping its members busy with activities. It is not so much that Mormonism controls where members go but it does keep them away from certain people (i.e. apostates) so they won't be infected. Add to that the various legalistic requirements of the "Word of Wisdom" and you get a perfect example of behavior control.

2) information control, such as discouraging members from reading criticism of the group.

Check. This is an obvious one. Mormons are strongly discouraged from reading anything written by critics and those who critique or question mormonism are demonized by mormon leaders (i.e. Sandra Tanner)

3) thought control, placing sharp limits on doctrinal questioning

Check. Another easy one. I remember vividly when we lived in Michigan the first time, I mentioned some doubts I had about the Book of Mormon. My wife called some friends because she was concerned and it didn't take long for some "brothers" to stop over to get me back in line. Questioning mormon doctrine or mormon leaders is a sure way to get yourself in trouble and eventually end up in someone's office.

4) emotional control—using humiliation or guilt

Check. Mormonism uses an ornate system of control to keep members in the fold. The standards imposed are high enough to cause a great deal of guilt among mormons for failing to be faithful enough in their calling, home teaching, Family Home Evening, tithing, temple attendance, food storage, etc. Women are especially impacted by this.

5) financial control

Check. If you want to be a god, you need to go to the temple. To go to the temple you need a recommend. To get a recommend you must prove your "worthiness" by submitting to a grilling by a couple of men and you can be sure you are going to be asked about your "tithing". Now no one knows where those tithes go or how they are used because of the veil of secrecy over the finances of the mormon church but you better give 10% regardless!

6) extreme leadership

Is Thomas Monson an extreme leader? Not really but church leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young certainly were. They both were tyrants, lecherous and megalomaniacs. Modern leaders are more like really old corporate CEO's but the extreme hierarchy of mormonism is clear to anyone who bothers to look. Everybody reports to someone.

All six of these factors are bound together by extreme secrecy. Mormonism keeps lots of stuff, including embarrassing documents and their financial records, under tight control. When the pivotal religious experience, i.e. the temple ceremony, is forbidden to be spoken of outside of the building, you have the epitome of control and secrecy.

So based on what Mitch Horowitz listed, is mormonism a cult? Most certainly and the people who are still trapped in it are not only controlled by it but placed in spiritual peril. That is why those of us who have been saved out of mormonism have such an urgency and burden toward those still caught up in it. We are often asked "Why can't you just leave them alone?" My response is that I can no more leave mormons alone than I could walk by a person about to be crushed by a falling piano. Love compels us to speak, even when what we say is received with hostility or makes people upset.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coming soon to the Hoosier state!

Exciting news! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is building a new temple in Carmel, Indiana: Plans to build temple in Carmel reflect Mormon growth. No more driving to Chicago or Louisville! Carmel is a pretty ritzy town with a median family income in 2007 of $110,549, so you know the 50 acre site is going to cost a pretty penny. I am hoping to get down to Carmel when the "temple" opens and take the tour. We haven't been inside a mormon temple since we experienced our own temple ordinances in Washington, D.C. It should be a great opportunity to witness to mormons and curious visitors alike.