There is an amusing scene in the 1990 film Back to the Future III in which time-traveler Marty McFly, exploring his home town in the year 2015, encounters a holographic projection of a shark as part of the marquee at a theater showing Jaws 19. At first taken by surprise, Marty recovers and comments, “The shark still looks fake.”

I must confess that I have a similar reaction to the latest “sequel” in the long-running debate over whether Mormons are or can be Christians, prompted this time around by the conservative TV talk-show host Glenn Beck. Do we really need to discuss this question again? Apparently we do, given the lack of clarity that continues to characterize much of what is said on the subject.

The Christian blogosphere recently lit up following the comments of World Magazine online columnist Andrée Seu in which she spoke of Beck not just as a Christian, but as “a new creation in Christ” who is “red hot” toward God. “I can say without hesitation that I have not heard the essentials of the gospel more clearly and boldly in any church than on his program.” Seu acknowledged that Beck is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and admitted that Mormon doctrine is problematic, but described Beck as a latter-day Apollos who needs a Priscilla and Aquila to help him with his theology.

Never Mind!

Evangelical bloggers were quick to contradict Seu. Justin Taylor, one of the most insightful Christians blogging today, commented on “Andrée Seu’s Tragic Mistake on the Gospel of Glenn Beck.” Taylor warned: “It is easy to be moved by talk of having faith in Jesus, without asking who the person understands Jesus to be…. Despite what mainline evangelicalism has taught for years, the gospel is not ‘I trusted in Jesus and he changed my life.’” Russell Moore, an astute Southern Baptist theologian, argued that evangelical enthusiasm for Beck’s religious rhetoric is a sign that American evangelicals have largely traded the gospel for American civil religion:

“It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined ‘revival’ and ‘turning America back to God’ that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.”

World Magazine acknowledged Taylor’s blog and offered a retraction, stating, “Our website editing system failed in regard to Andrée’s post about Glenn Beck.” In a separate article, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Marvin Olasky, echoed Moore’s assessment: “Beck is syncretizing Mormon and Christian understanding in the service of a civil religion, but that’s a radically unequal yoking for reasons WORLD has pointed out before.”

One thing that seems to have been overlooked up to now is that Taylor and Moore offer two fundamentally different—and possibly incompatible—diagnoses of the problem. Both argue that evangelical enthusiasm for Beck reveals a lack of discernment and a shallow understanding of the gospel among American evangelicals. Taylor worries that Beck’s evangelical supporters are under the mistaken impression that anyone who claims that Jesus changed his life has accepted the gospel. Moore contends that those same evangelicals have mistaken American civil religion for the gospel. So which is it? Does Beck represent a personal-transformation gospel focused on Jesus as life-changer or a civil-religion gospel focused on a generic theism as the foundation for a stable society? I suppose it is possible to mix the two messages, and perhaps there are elements of both in Beck, but they don’t mesh naturally.

Mormon doctrine in two minutes

The main objection to viewing Beck as an advocate for the gospel is that the theology of the LDS Church, of which Beck is a member, is radically incompatible with the biblical gospel. The divide between biblical teaching and Mormon doctrine is so wide that from an evangelical perspective Mormonism falls outside the circle of acceptable, authentic expressions of the Christian faith. The crucial problems with LDS doctrine that impinge directly on one’s view of Jesus Christ and the gospel include the following unbiblical claims:

  • All human beings preexisted in heaven, where they were the offspring of heavenly parents (God the Father and a “heavenly mother”), before their natural conception here on earth.
  • Our Heavenly Father was a man who became a God—proving that we, too, can become gods.
  • Jesus Christ is the “firstborn” of God’s billions of spirit children and the first of those children to become a God.
  • As such, Christ is one of three Gods in the “Godhead,” as is the Holy Spirit, another of God’s spirit sons.
  • Christ is the “Only Begotten,” which means that he is the only human being whom God the Father literally begat in the flesh. God is Jesus’ literal father in the flesh (allowing Jesus to “inherit” some divine powers other humans do not have) and Mary is his literal mother.
  • Christ’s atonement guarantees immortal life in some heavenly kingdom to virtually all human beings, including those who willfully reject Christ.
  • Christ (and God the Father) appeared to Joseph Smith to tell him to join none of the churches because all of them were wrong and their creeds were an abomination.
  • Through Joseph Smith, God restored lost scriptures (e.g., the Book of Mormon) and inspired new ones (Doctrine & Covenants), from which Mormons learn the doctrines that set them apart from the rest of Christianity.
  • Christ organized the only true Church in these latter days with a hierarchical system of “priesthood authority” required to teach or baptize others.
  • Full forgiveness of sins and entrance into the highest heavenly kingdom, where God and Christ live, come to those who become members of the LDS Church, follow its teachings, and participate in its temple rituals, notably baptisms and other rites performed on behalf of the dead.
  • The ultimate goal of the gospel and of LDS religion is to become gods, with the same powers and potential as the Heavenly Father.

You can find full documentation and discussion of these doctrinal problems in the LDS faith on the website of the Institute for Religious Research (IRR), where I am the director of research. In particular, we provide a thorough analysis of the doctrine taught in the LDS Church’s basic manual on doctrine, called Gospel Principles. Frankly, the evidence is overwhelming that the LDS understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ is radically different from that of the Bible.

“Mormons are not Christians”: Do they hear what we hear?

As I have already observed, these differences deal with such basic elements of Christianity that from an evangelical perspective we must conclude that Mormonism falls outside the boundaries of doctrinally authentic, theologically viable Christian faith. The usual shorthand way of making this point is to say that Mormons are not Christians. Unfortunately, what such a statement achieves in simplicity and rhetorical punch it loses in clarity and comprehension. What people hear when they are told that Mormons are not Christians may be any of the following:

1.      “Mormons are not nice people.”
2.       “Mormons are really part of another religion altogether, such as Hinduism.”
3.      “Mormons are another entirely different religion by themselves.”
4.       “Mormons are not saved from eternal condemnation.”

All four of these meanings are problematic.

(1) Many Mormons are very nice people indeed, so this statement is also objectively false, even assuming that it is ever appropriate to use the term Christian to mean a nice person.

(2) It is objectively false to classify Mormonism as part of another world religion, such as Hinduism. Regrettably, some Christians have actually tried to make the case that Mormonism is Hindu. Dave Hunt and Ed Decker, in their notorious book The God Makers (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1984), argued as much:

“Although it uses Christian language to disguise its paganism, Mormonism is less Christian than it is Hindu. The basic dilemma faced by every Mormon is a direct result of its Hindu roots” (60).

The claim that Mormonism has “Hindu roots” is historically false. Mormonism historically arose as a Christian heresy—a religious offshoot of Christianity that still retains a focus on Christ as its central religious figure, albeit reinterpreted in a thoroughly unbiblical way. The LDS religion has no historical or religious connection to Hinduism and rejects basic Hindu concepts (e.g., Mormonism rejects the worship of idols, pantheism, reincarnation, and karma). There are similarities between Hinduism and Mormonism (as there are between any two religions), such as a belief in a plurality of gods, but such comparisons are superficial because the similar-sounding affirmations have completely different meanings in the contexts of the two religious traditions.

(3) Others have argued that Mormonism is sui generis, that is, in a class by itself, sufficiently distinct from Christianity to be classified as a new world religion. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, suggests that instead of viewing Mormonism as a “Christian faith” we should classify it charitably as “the fourth Abrahamic faith.” That is, Land proposes that we view Mormonism as a religion stemming from the Abrahamic tradition alongside Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This way of classifying Mormonism simply will not hold up. There is no more reason to classify Mormonism as a new Abrahamic faith than there is to so classify the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian heresy as large or larger and as diffused throughout the world as Mormonism. Indeed, there are numerous sects of Christianity that distance themselves theologically and religiously from orthodox Christianity while insisting that theirs is the true Christian church; Mormonism is simply one among many such sects. Historical, religious, and theological comparisons demonstrate that the Mormon tradition (including both the LDS Church and its hundred-plus splinter sects) belong in the broader category of “restorationist” Christian movements that view themselves as the instrument of true Christianity today. These include Adventism and its offshoots, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphianism and other forms of so-called Biblical Unitarianism, Oneness Pentecostalism, the Sacred Name groups, The Way International and its offshoots, and the LDS Church and its offshoots, among others.

(4) It may well be argued that LDS doctrine and religion are so far removed from the biblical gospel that most Mormons will not believe the true gospel as long as they remain committed to LDS doctrine. However, this leaves plenty of room for a small fraction of LDS Church members to believe the biblical gospel in defiance or ignorance of their religion’s teachings. In any religion, there are always people who still consider themselves members but who are rethinking their beliefs or who are transitioning out of the religion. Many evangelicals who have come out of the LDS Church found saving faith in Christ before they removed themselves from the LDS membership rolls. Indeed, some retain their LDS membership, hoping eventually to bring their families and friends out with them. One could argue that such individuals are Mormons in name only, but again, there are people along a spectrum of situations from true-blue Mormons through pick-and-choose Mormons to Mormons in name only. The point is that unqualified generalizations about all Mormons are difficult to justify. And of course, we are not competent to judge the souls of other people, although we can make educated guesses as to their faith based on what we can observe.

A more nuanced statement of point (4) would be to say that we should presume that Mormons who accept and follow the LDS understanding of the gospel will be lost unless they repent and accept the biblical gospel (Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:4-7). Putting the matter this way recognizes the spiritually destructive effects of the false teachings of the LDS Church, while allowing for the fact that sometimes it is difficult to tell whether or to what extent a particular Mormon actually accepts (or understands) LDS doctrine. If this is the position that evangelicals should take—and I think it is—it becomes problematic to make the generalized, unqualified statement that Mormons are not Christians. That is, it is unlikely that anyone hearing “Mormons are not Christians” will understand this to carry the nuanced meaning “Mormons who follow the LDS understanding of the gospel are presumed lost.” If we want people to hear what we really mean, we must try to articulate our view more accurately, even if it loses some punch.

One might suppose that the problem can be avoided by saying that Mormonism is not Christian—that is, by punting on the question of whether Mormons are Christians and instead asserting only that the religion of Mormonism is itself not Christian. This may be something of an improvement, but the same sorts of problems remain. If Mormonism is not Christian, what is it? It is not part of another religion, nor is it a completely different religion.

Of course, from an evangelical theological perspective it can be even more misleading to say, without qualification, that Mormons are Christians, or that Mormonism is Christian. Such statements would seem erroneously to concede that the LDS Church is a legitimate denomination of Christianity, standing alongside those denominations and independent church bodies that affirm the essentials of the biblical gospel. I’m all for stating matters as generously as we can, but not at the expense of the truth of the gospel.

Considerations such as those just discussed are the reason why, for several years now, I have argued that we should view the question “Are Mormons Christians?” as unproductive at best and misleading at worst. The question assumes that we should give it an unqualified “Yes” or “No” answer, neither of which is fully satisfactory. About three years ago on this very blog I addressed this question at some length, arguing that the answer depends on how one defines the term Christian. (That blog post was lost due to technical issues, so I re-posted it about two years ago with some revisions at IRR’s blog, The Religious Researcher.) If by “Christians” one means all members of all of the religious groups that belong to the world-religions classification of Christianity, then of course in that generic sense Mormons are Christians, along with everyone else who claims to be. If one uses the term to denote persons who have been saved from eternal condemnation through their faith in Jesus Christ, then the best answer we can give is that most Mormons evidently are not Christians in that sense although some may be. Evangelicals would also have to hedge their answer if they were asked “Are Southern Baptists Christians?” or even “Are evangelicals Christians?” since not all Southern Baptists or evangelicals have genuinely come to saving faith in Christ. After all, basic to evangelical doctrine is the conviction that merely accepting evangelical doctrine, or associating oneself with an evangelical denomination, will not save anyone, since it is through personal faith or trust in Christ, not merely doctrinal correctness or the right religious affiliation, that God saves us.

To avoid overreaching, I have proposed that we make qualified statements that are defensible as objective statements of fact concerning the LDS faith. For example, we can state that Mormons are not orthodox Christians, or that LDS theology is heretical. Mormons will, of course, dispute our understanding of what is orthodox and what is heretical, but we can define these terms to convey an objective meaning. For example, we can stipulate that orthodox means in agreement with the major Christian doctrines articulated in the creeds from the first through the fifth centuries, while heretical means deviating from those doctrinal standards. We should, in short, make clear that while we acknowledge that Mormons sincerely regard themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ, we are convinced that the LDS religious tradition is at odds with the essentials of the Christian faith as taught in the Bible.

Back to Beck

The need for a more flexible and nuanced approach to the subject of whether Mormons are Christians is well illustrated with the example of Glenn Beck. Let me state categorically that I have absolutely no inkling or opinion as to the state of Beck’s soul or the genuineness of his faith in Christ. I have never met him, do not follow his program, and do not have enough information on which to base a conclusion. The fact that Beck is LDS is, of course, of great concern and creates a general presumption that he is in need of the biblical gospel of salvation. On the other hand, there does seem to be some evidence that Beck’s personal understanding of the gospel is at least far closer to the evangelical message than one would expect of a typical Mormon. Consider, for example, the assessment of Beck’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation) offered just a few weeks ago by Bill McKeever. McKeever is the director of Mormonism Research Ministry, an evangelical parachurch organization based in the Salt Lake City area, right in the heart of the Mormon culture. McKeever and his associates at MRM are far from “soft” on Mormonism. They regard it as a heretical distortion of Christianity, and they actively seek to help Christians share the true gospel with Mormons. McKeever recently wrote an article for his website on “The Not-So Mormon Soteriology of Glenn Beck” in which he quoted the following remarks made by Beck on his television program on July 13, 2010:

“You cannot earn your way into heaven. You can’t! There is no deed, no random act of kindness, no amount of money to spread around to others that earns you a trip to heaven. It can’t happen. It’s earned by God’s grace alone, by believing that Jesus died on the cross for you. This is what Christians believe…. I also am wise enough to know that people will say, yeah, but Glenn Beck is a Mormon, he’s not even a real Christian. You can believe what you want. I will tell you that I am a man who needed the atonement more than most people do. I appreciate the atonement. I accept Jesus as my Savior. I know that I am alive today because I did give all of it to Him because I couldn’t carry it anymore.”

McKeever, who wonders aloud if Beck’s “close relationships with several evangelical Christians are not having a positive effect,” concludes that “it seems apparent that Beck does not agree with traditional Mormon soteriology…. Whether or not he knows he is out of harmony with his church, I cannot say, but if I understand the above correctly, he most certainly is.” McKeever admits that Beck might mean something different from what his words mean to evangelicals, but he finds no reason to suspect that Beck is anything but sincere and straightforward.

The point, again, is not to argue that Beck is or is not a Christian in the sense of someone genuinely redeemed from sin through authentic faith in Jesus Christ. He may be, we may and should hope that he is or will be, and those of us who have opportunity to engage him or other Mormons like him should caringly present the biblical gospel without compromise. The point, rather, is that in the real world people’s beliefs and affiliations are not always consistent or cut-and-dried. Most people’s thinking reflects a mix of religious, philosophical, and cultural beliefs, values, and assumptions. Making blanket statements about whether the members of a particular group are or are not Christians mistakenly assumes a uniformity of belief within the group that in most cases is simply not there. Avoiding such statements will enhance our credibility with those whom we are seeking to reach with biblical truth. It will help to foster mutual respect and constructive dialogue with those who need to know what true Christianity really means.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    238 replies to "ARE MORMONS CHRISTIANS 19: Glenn Beck and that Question Again"

    • teleologist

      mark s,

      Teologist, I did not attack you.

      Would you please simmer down with your hate and insult? When you did not respond substantively to my black hole analogy but rather attribute my comment as hateful that was insulting to me.

      Maybe you were so fixated with hate that you obviously did not understand my analogy of the black hole. I am assuming you at least know what a black hole is, right? A black hole is a physical phenomenon that has an event horizon where not even light can escape and any light shining on it would just get sucked in without any reflection. This analogy is applicable to Mormonism in the sense that the Bible is clear on Who God is. The idea of a self existent, from everlasting to everlasting monotheistic God is unambiguously and unequivocally manifested in the Bible. Even skeptics and atheists would concur this is what the Bible describes even though they personally reject this God.

      Only Mormons would pervert the nature of God and made Him into a finite being that exalted to a god and blasphemously elevate Man to the point of becoming god. If you do not recognize this then you are truly a black hole and no amount of light will illuminate your darkened mind. If you don’t believe this then again you are a black hole for not denouncing Mormonism due to your apostles, prophets and Presidents as heretics for perverting the Bible. My point again is that since you don’t understand this fundamental point in the Bible, there is no point in discussing anything else in the Bible with you because It would be darken to you.

      There are certainly kinder ways to convey that you think my beliefs are wrong, such as “I think mormons don’t understand the scriptures.”

      This is a given because Mormons have demonstrated this to be true. No my point was not merely that Mormons are wrong, but your minds are truly darkened due to the reason I gave above. To borrow a phrase from Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men”, you don’t want to hear the truth because you can’t handle the truth. Maybe there is a kinder way to tell you that your mind is darkened but I am not sure how.

      I fail to see how I could have cast you as a scapegoat

      When one is faced with criticism, it is easier to just attack those giving the criticism as hateful and insulting thereby brushing off their criticism instead of giving it serious consideration. You have completely brushed off my substantive criticism and even now have not addressed it but rather spend all your time attacking me personally, which is a scapegoat.

      I just don’t think most Christians share your belief because they understand the scriptures differently than do you. For most it is not a mater of your educating them so that they can know the truth as you understand it. Rather, they reject as extreme your interpretation of what it means to be a Christian.

      First, Christianity is not a popularity contest. I really don’t care how many Christians believe as I do. But you are delusional if you don’t think that the majority of Christians believe there is One God in Three Persons. He is self-existent from everlasting to everlasting. He was never exalted to God from a fleshly existence. And Man will never become gods.

    • teleologist

      Most of the Christian world, including the LDS, says you are wrong and they are right on some significant issue.

      Jared C, please quote me on what I said that you think is wrong?

    • James

      Teleologist,

      Perhaps the reason Mark did not reply “substantively” to your black hole analogy was because your black hole analogy was not substantive enough to be worth the effort.

      James

    • teleologist

      Perhaps the reason Mark did not reply “substantively” to your black hole analogy was because your black hole analogy was not substantive enough to be worth the effort.

      James, are you a Mormon? When I said substantive what do you think I was referring to, the black hole analogy or the LDS doctrines?

    • James

      teleologist,

      Your statement was, “When you did not respond substantively to my black hole analogy but rather attribute my comment as hateful that was insulting to me.”

      There is no other way to read this other than that you were chiding mark for not responding substantively to your black hole analogy. My opinion is that your black hole analogy is not substantive, and so does not warrant a substantive response.

      I am a Mormon.

      I have a general comment about the way this discussion is going. I suspect that there is some Evangelical out there somewhere who is way smarter than me and who could run circles around me in a debate. I bet he could clean my clock on every point of doctrine. But what will affect me much more is the way he treats me during our debate. If he demonstrates that my religion is false but does so in a way that communicates his love and respect for me, I’m going to be much more interested in seriously listening to him.

      I’m sure you can guess that the opposite is true if he cleans my clock but does so in a confrontational, abrasive, and insulting manner. He very well might clean my clock, and it is possible that I’ll rethink Mormonism, but it is very probable that I’m not going to have any interest in taking his beliefs seriously. For better or worse, we are representatives of our respective faiths when we are slugging it out here on the internet. If you leave a sour taste in my mouth, you are not gaining a convert. That isn’t how evangelism is done.

      Take it from a devout Mormon….the best way to convert a Mormon out of Mormonism and into orthodox Christianity is with gentleness, respect, and love. If you give us reason to distrust you you have failed.

      James

    • mark s

      teleo, again I say it: WOW! But this time with an exclamation mark, and in all upper case even. I’ve stayed courteous and respectful, and you have not even tried to do so.

      Your confrontational, in-your-face style is quite offputting and far from Christlike. Unfortunately, there are too many of this type of Evangelical, they somehow have no clue that they are offensive and contentious, but simply think they are RIGHT and that is enough.

      It really seems like you need to reevaluate your attitude. In fact, I suggest (tongue in cheek here) you stop worrying about the God we Mormons worship being the wrong one, because if you think that your own actions (and words) are a manifestation of your having accepted Christ, perhaps you have accepted the wrong Christ. The One I follow teaches love and compassion. And if you think that is what you are showing, please refer to the previous paragraph above.

      You said, “This analogy is applicable to Mormonism in the sense that the Bible is clear on Who God is”.

      Again, it is clear to you ONE way, but it is clear to me ANOTHER way. Your “the Bible says” approach just doesn’t hold any water when I disagree with what you think “the Bible says”. At this point, you would then be apt to challenge me to PROVE what you have been incorrect about in the Bible. Again, I cannot prove you are correct anymore than you can prove I am incorrect. I can prove it in my mind, and you can prove it in your mind; but I cannot prove it in your mind (it’s already made up), and you cannot prove it in my mind (it’s already made up). Which reminds me, why did I post on this blog to begin with? Oh, yeah–I was a bit shocked at your black hole comment. I guess I should have left it at that.

      Cheers!

    • teleologist

      There is no other way to read this other than that you were chiding mark for not responding substantively to your black hole analogy.

      James, there is another way to read this if you did not take my words out of context. What did I wrote right after that?

      you obviously did not understand my analogy of the black hole.This analogy is applicable to Mormonism in the sense that the Bible is clear on Who God is. The idea of a self existent, from everlasting to everlasting monotheistic God is unambiguously and unequivocally manifested in the Bible. Even skeptics and atheists would concur this is what the Bible describes even though they personally reject this God.

      I was not expecting Mark to dissect how the black hole is or is not a well crafted analogy. What I expected Mark to do was to respond substantively to the LDS doctrines that are an affront to God.

      I will be the first to admit that I am not the more graceful speaker and I am often too blunt. However, I did not intend any disrespect to anyone and I don’t think I have. On the other hand I also did not hold back on what I really thought the state of Mormonism is in. If someone can so warped what the Bible said about the Nature of God and Man, I think their mind is darkened. I could try to sugar-coat it but it would not quite as accurately express how I think.

      Now as I said, it was not my intention to disrespect anyone and I did not meant for this to get personal. But James, please help me out, why have you and the Mormons here made this into a personal and personality issue instead of responding to the substance of the problem which is your LDS doctrines, apostles, prophets and Presidents?

      While it is true that I hope all Mormons would repent and accept orthodox Christianity and be saved. My objective has not been trying to evangelize anyone. I just want Mormons to acknowledge and defend their LDS doctrines as stated by their apostles and prophets or denounce the LDS Church. If you choose to defend your LDS doctrines as stated by your apostles and prophets then that would be sufficient to establish that Mormons and Christians believe in a different God. This has always been the objective of my comments in this thread.

    • Mike

      Teleologist,

      You seem to be basing your entire argument on part of a quote from a non-canonized funeral speech taken out of its own context as well as out of the whole of Mormon doctrine. Yes Joseph claimed that God dwelt on an earth, the part you’ve left out (or underemphasized), however, and the most important part of the point Joseph made is the following:

      “God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth THE SAME AS JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF DID, and I will show it from the Bible.”

      He’s not drawing the analogy to US here, but to Jesus Christ. He never suggests that God was a sinner, like us, but that he once dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ. If this idea diminishes the Father, then it also diminishes the Son to say that he came in the flesh.

      Mormon doctrine is that Jesus Christ was a God before he dwelt in the flesh, and that he has always been one with the Father in the sense that he himself describes in John 17 and in Gethsemane, a oneness of will or purpose. If God experienced mortality the same way Jesus did, as Joseph suggested, then God also experienced mortality as a God who became flesh, and he must have remained sinless throughout his mortal experience.

      This shouldn’t be a horrifying doctrine to a Trinitarian who believes that the Father and Son are one in being or essence. If so, then in a very real sense the Father experienced mortality with the Son anyway.

      And as Joseph said, he got the idea from the Bible, where Jesus says that he only does what he has seen the Father do (John 5:19, KJV)–indicating, by the way, that he did in fact exist from eternity as well as the Father, if he was able to witness the Father go through a mortal experience.

      Now, before you call me a black hole, note that Mormons aren’t obligated to believe that the Father went through a mortal experience. It is doctrinal, however, that he has a tangible, glorified body. This doctrine, again, shouldn’t diminish him any more that it diminishes…

    • teleologist

      James, rethinking what you said, I would like to apologize to all the Mormons who were offended by what I said. Although it was not my intention to offend anyone I only wanted to speak the truth. I understand how you might be offended. I am sorry.

    • Mike

      Teleologist (cont.)

      After all, the Bible indicates that the Son is like the Father in every respect.

      So your real concern must be with the idea that we can become gods. I’ve explained quite clearly how this is also a Biblical notion. And nowhere in Mormon scripture is it taught more explicitly or often than it is taught in the Bible. I’ve given you several verses that suggest that through Christ we become heirs of God (Romans 8:17), that we are already called gods–even in our fallen state (John 10:33-36), that those who believe in Christ will become one with him EVEN AS he is one with the Father–even to the point of being made perfect in one (John 17:21-23), and that those who overcome will sit with him in his throne EVEN AS he also overcame and sits with the Father in HIS throne (Revelation 3:21). HE THAT HATH AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAITH UNTO THE CHURCHES (verse 22).

      These are Biblical doctrines, and each time I mention them, you simply say that you won’t discuss them because I’m either unsaved or a black hole. But I”M not making these claims, JESUS IS, nor have I ventured to interpret them. I’m simply stating them exactly as they are found in the Bible. So why do you seem to be denying or ignoring the words of Christ himself? Why won’t you even venture to explain what they mean in your theology? Why have there been NO adequate explanations given for them, that don’t require complex extra-biblical theorizing which diminishes their simple, straightforward meaning?

    • Jared C

      Teleologist

      The idea of a self existent, from everlasting to everlasting monotheistic God is unambiguously and unequivocally manifested in the Bible.

      Muslims do not see this, so it can’t be unambiguous and unequivocal.

      The fact that God has a Son indicates that Christians believe (at least) two persons are God.

      The Nicene creed says as much.

      Traditional Christians believe that that the fact that three persons are actually only one God in substance is a mystery, that cannot be explained.

      So it seems the black hole may be the power of the trinity doctrine to explain what is going on.

      But Mormons should be able to accept this because, surprise, they don’t have the words to really define the nature of God either.

      Why can’t you forgive Mormons for having their own mystery that they can’t explain? ;). . . I trust that God enough grace to do so, if Evangelicals don’t.

    • teleologist

      Mike,

      You seem to be basing your entire argument on part of a quote from a non-canonized funeral speech taken out of its own context as well as out of the whole of Mormon doctrine.

      No this is not the only quote that I am basing my argument on, but let’s just focus on this one point first and we can get to the other apostles, prophets and the LDS view of Jesus later. This is the quote that we are working from.

      God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form — like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man….it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see….and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3).

      First, it shouldn’t matter if this is canon or non-canon speech. The fact that the founder of your LDS faith can actually say and meant something like this should disqualify him as having anything to do with Christianity.

      He’s not drawing the analogy to US here, but to Jesus Christ.

      Of course he is. JS said “God himself was once as we are now” and he was once a man like us. That means US not Jesus.

      by the way, that he did in fact exist from eternity as well as the Father

      That is not what JS said. He refute the idea that God was God from all eternity.

      And no I am not going to call you a black hole. That is only analogous as it relates to the Bible. 🙂

    • Mike

      By the way, if you read the entire sermon (King Follett), Joseph Smith acknowledges that God is self-existent from eternity. He just adds that he believes our spirits are also self-existent. If so, then we did indeed enter into a relationship with the Father by adoption in the spirit world, just as we enter into a relationship with the Son by adoption in the mortal world (referring to a previous exchange, I think, on this thread).

      That said, this is not to place us on an equal footing with God. To be co-eternal with God is NOT to be equal in power, might, glory, intelligence, etc. And the Pearl of Great Price verifies that God is more intelligent than us all. We needed him to be our Father because we could not progress (be saved) without him, just as we need the Son in order to progress (be saved) in our next phase of existence.

      Again, however, there are plenty of Mormons in good standing who don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that we are all self-existent Spirits. Some believe that we were created as spirits as well as in the flesh.

      But this all goes beyond official doctrine. The simple doctrines are as I’ve explained, The Father has a glorified, immortal body, just as does the Son. In our mortal existence we are created in their image. We can eventually join with them in their kingdom, and become like them, except that we can only arrive there through submission to Christ’s grace/commandments (or at-one-ment).

    • Mike

      Teleologist,

      Later in the speech Joseph said, “We say that God himself is a self-existing God. Who told you so? It is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads?”

      So in the same sermon JS acknowledges that God is a self-existing GOD (meaning a God from eternity). So how do we reconcile this with what he said elsewhere? It’s simple really when you read the part I quoted earlier, that it is like JESUS CHRIST that God existed on an earth. So just as Christ was God from eternity, then came to an earth, took a body, died, was resurrected, and ascended WITH his glorified body. So the Father did the same. It is the notion that the Father never condescended to a mortal existence that JS is trying to refute. Specifically, he is refuting the notion that the Father is an unembodied, amorphous, spirit from eternity to eternity. He is verifying the Biblical account that we are created in our earthly form in the image of God, as well as his own vision of an embodied Father and Son.

      How then does Joseph mean that God was like US when he was on the earth? Well, obviously in the same way that Jesus was like us. And the Bible says as much, that became like us, so much so that we are called his brethren (see, e.g. Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 2:11, KJV).

      So if the Bible is not blasphemous for saying that God (Christ) became a man like us, and increased in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52), then why is Joseph Smith blasphemous for saying the same thing?

      Joseph also acknowledges our dependence on God in the same sermon, God’s greater intelligence, and his capacity to save.

      Now please go to bed (unless, of course, you live in Australia), and let me get some sleep!

      Mike

    • Mike

      Correction: I cited Hebrews 2:7 above, I meant Hebrews 2:17.

    • James

      teleologist,

      Consider the fact that when Jesus stated “I and the Father are one” (John 10) the Jews took up stones in an attempt to kill him. Why did they do this? Because, from their perspective, Jesus was twisting the scriptures so horribly and blaspheming against the divinely revealed word of God. They could hardly believe the outrageous and contemptible things he was teaching about God.

      I raise this as an analog to our discussion. I’ll let others get into the nitty gritty of the King Follett Sermon with you, because I’ve done that so many times before I’ve lost interest in that debate for now. But I hope that this analogy from John 10 drives home the point that devout, smart, bible loving people can strongly disagree with how to read the bible. Jesus faced the same challenge that Mormons are facing….and audience who thinks that these new teachings are an affront to God and which distort and pervert the word of God in the Bible.

      The reality is that competent individuals can read the text in very different ways.

    • mark s

      teology, apology accepted. I’m sure my previous post could have been a bit softer, so I too am sorry.

      Mike, you have made some great points. nice.

    • teleologist

      Mike,

      So in the same sermon JS acknowledges that God is a self-existing GOD (meaning a God from eternity).

      Actually you are wrong this is not what JS meant. Self-existing DOES NOT MEAN a God from eternity. I will demonstrate that to you with my following comments.

      So how do we reconcile this with what he said elsewhere? It’s simple really when you read the part I quoted earlier, that it is like JESUS CHRIST that God existed on an earth.

      I understand what you are saying but this makes no sense and it is irrelevant in any case. Because it doesn’t matter how much or how long JS makes comparison between God and Jesus the problem is when he said ”he was once a man like us” and ”I am going to tell you how God came to be God” . God was never a man like us. God is God from everlasting to everlasting. God did not ”came to be God”. No matter how you try to divert what JS said about Jesus, it is not going to explain away his precise words here. Let me give you another analogy. What JS is doing is similar to someone handing you a glass of 99% pure water but it has 1% poison in it. It doesn’t matter how you try to emphasize and explain how pure that 99% is, you will never be able to explain away that 1% of poison.

      Now what does JS mean by “God was once a man like us”? JS said,

      The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself. … There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven.
      So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. … But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.

      When JS said that God is self-existing, he did not mean that God was God from eternity. If he did then he must mean that we must be Gods also from eternity because we are also self-existing. How much more blasphemous can you get? Much more, JS said that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. In essence when JS said that God is self-existing, he meant it in the same way that man is self-existing and co-equal and co-eternal with God.

      I don’t mean any disrespect for what I am about to say but Joseph Smith is a wretched blasphemer and a son of Satan. If he lived during Phinehas’ time he would have gotten a spear through his belly. I know Mormons revere JS which is what blinds you to the Bible, but for Christians he is a false prophet and a son of perdition leading his follows straight to hell.

    • teleologist

      James,

      Consider the fact that when Jesus stated “I and the Father are one” (John 10) the Jews took up stones in an attempt to kill him. Why did they do this? Because, from their perspective, Jesus was twisting the scriptures so horribly and blaspheming against the divinely revealed word of God.

      I will let others if they choose to explain to you why Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God and why it is consistent with OT teachings.

      However, the problem with your analogy is that using your same logic we would not be able to judge any blasphemous teachings from anyone. Because the minute we try to stone them (figuratively only) you will raise the objection they tried to stone Jesus too.

      Second, to even compare the false teachings of JS to Jesus’ teachings, I personally find it offensive.

    • James

      teleologist,

      No need to have others explain to me by Jesus Christ is God. I already believe it. I believe it because LDS scriptures teach it.

      Regarding my analogy, my point was not that we can use this analogy as a get-out-of-jail-free card. I’m not taking the analogy that far. I’m only suggesting that competent individuals can disagree on how to read the text. Those who disagree with your particular interpretation of the Bible don’t always do it because they are dishonest or because they secretly hate the truth, or because they are devoid of the spirit of God. Humans are complex beings and we just disagree sometimes.

      I think I’ll drop out of this discussion at this point.

      James

    • Mike

      Teleologist,

      What, besides your personal beliefs, makes you think that the idea that the spirits of humankind have always existed is blasphemous? We acknowledge that we were created/formed by God as physical beings, as the Bible indicates.

      And if it is blasphemous to say that we (and you) have always been gods in a sense (although not one with God, and in no way comparible in intelligence, might, power, glory, etc.), then you may indeed find yourself in the camp of those who sought to slay Christ for saying not only that he was the Son of God, but also (in his own defense) for reminding them that their own scriptures said (and they cannot be broken) that even his accusers were gods? (John 10:32-36, KJV).

      It appears if we take Jesus seriously that the Old Testament prophets really meant what they said when they said (as did Joseph) that our God is a God of gods (Deut. 10:17; Josh. 22:22; Psalms 136:2; Dan. 2:4&).

      Indeed, to accept Jesus’ saying that we are gods (small g plural, OT elohim, NT theoi) and that the FATHER (Jesus said, my Father and your Father) is our God (large G singular, OT El, NT Theos), the God of us all (Jesus said, my God and your God) is NO different than to say that we are all children and he is our collective Father (Psalms 82:6). The meaning of these statements is the same, which is why they are used together in Psalms 82:6.

      And yet, gods or not, we still need the God of gods to be saved, and we must submit to his Son in order to become one with them.

      If you stone me for blasphemy, you’ll also have to stone Jesus and the author of Psalms 82, whom Jesus quotes and affirms. For I am not making these claims, but simply accepting what HE has said.

    • Kevin

      Teleologist,
      How can you say someone is
      a wretched blasphemer and a son of Satan – a son of perdition leading his follows straight to hell
      and clam not to mean any disrespect? That is very disrespectful. You have no right to make a judgment on what will happen to others after this life.
      The problem here is a disagreement on what a Christian is. If a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus the way you do, then anyone who does not (including Mormons) is not Christian. If it means someone who tries to be like him by following his teachings then that’s what you need to do to be a Christian. When Mormons clam to be Christian they clam to follow his teachings. You clam they are not because they don’t believe as you do. But I don’t see who gives you the right to decide what the definition is.
      Would Jesus be happy with you trying to destroy the faith other people have in him because they are not in the same congregation as you? I think not. Do you even realise the comparison you make with Joseph Smith and the Savoir taking a spear in his belly? Examine his life and you would agree he would take that spear in the belly to stand for his belief in Jesus Christ, only he lived in a time of bullets. Is your resolve to follow your faith in Jesus Christ as strong as his was? I think that would be a good indication of who is a Christian.
      I suggest you consider your own standing with Jesus and how you can be more Christian opposed to how others are not. As for anyone who wants to know what Mormons believe the best source is a real Mormon.
      If you want to be a Christian, I say try live a better life, be kinder, be forgiving and all the things your conscience tells you that you should do. I think Jesus will accept that.

    • Emily

      I recently became aware of a new movement within (or without, depending on your interpretation) the LDS church. It’s called “born-again mormon” which was a very confusing concept to me as they reject core mormon doctrine and embrace a fully evangelical theology. But given what Beck has said about his belief concerning salvation, I’d have to say he falls into this camp: http://www.bornagainmormon.com/about-faith.htm

    • James

      Emily,

      There is no “born again movement” within Mormonism. The link you provided is to Shawn McCraney’s website. Shawn McCraney is well known among Mormon apologists and is considered to be anti-Mormon.

      James

    • Francis

      I respect the Mormon faith. I like Mormons. But I can’t, for the life of me, think of Mormonism as a valid Christian sect, heresy, or cult in any way, shape or form.

      When you believe in a heavenly father as an enlightened and deitified mortal, plus or minus, implicitly, a heavenly mother, that’s no more a Christian God than Ahura or Vishnu is a Christian God. And not believing in God as who He has already revealed Himself to be, is the first, the last, and the only strike you’ll ever need to count yourself out of the Christian faith.

    • V.

      If Mormons believe the Bible is the Word of God, and that the Bible was written before the Book of Mormon, then the Book of Mormon should not contradict the Bible. If there is even one contradiction between the two books, then it is logical to conclude that one of the books’ is erred. You can then deduce that, since the Bible came first, and is also considered to be objectively true by Mormons, then any revelation received afterward, would have to be judged by the same standards they used to judge the Bible. If that “new” revelation was in violation of the standard by which the Bible was measured, then you can discount it as being inspired by a sovereign God and, thus, it is erred. Therefore, since the Book of Mormon does in fact contradict the Bible, it is my contention that it is not the inspired Word of God. Not only that, but it is heretical. The other alternative Mormons have is to dismiss the Bible, yet this is impractical, because if it were dismissed entirely, from what would the book of Mormon be based? Therefore, I believe Mormonism to be self-defeating in nature. One only needs to compare the Bible to the Book of Mormon, and they will see the Book of Mormons’ teachings differ from the Bibles’ teachings. Therefore, Mormons have faith in a relativistic religion. Although Mormonism contains some degree of truth, it is fundamentally corrupted as a whole, because it contains too many untruths at its core. The Bible is not the Bible, if it is polluted with heretical doctrine. I am going to use a simple analogy to better clarify my point. Imagine you mixed “The Wizard of Oz” & “Titanic” together. You would have a completely different story. Although the new movie would contain bits and pieces from the original movies, you could not call the final product “The Wizard of Oz” or “Titanic”, but, rather, you would have a different movie altogether. The same is true with Mormonism; it is not the same as Christianity, but is a different…

    • James

      V,

      Thanks for your contribution. I want to point out a few issues with your critique of the Book of Mormon.

      1. First of all, for Mormons, the Book of Mormon was not really written after the Bible. It is a bit complex, but basically the text of the Book of Mormon is a compilation and redaction of hundreds of years of history that took place concurrently with the Bible. True, the final redaction and editing took place after the New Testament was closed (by a prophet named Mormon around 400 AD), but the original source material was all written concurrently with the Old and New Testament. The final translation into a modern language (in this case English) didnt’t happen until the 1800’s, but that is not when the text was composed.

      So a basic understanding of the chronology of Mormon scripture will help you if you want to mount an offensive on it.

      2. The test you propose should be equally applied to every book of the Bible in relation to all books that chronologically precede it. Recall that the Bible is in fact a collection of books, and so according to your test we should expect every single book to never contradict anything written in any biblical book that preceded it (ie. Malachi should not contradict Exodus, etc.).

      Can the Bible really withstand the test? I realize that fundamentalist Christian apologist (the “inerrantists” if you will) will argue to the death that it does not, and they may truly believe it, but other serious and devout students of Christianity disagree. There are contradictions between books of the bible.

      3. Finally, Mormons by and large would reject the very premise of your test. We don’t necessarily believe that every written communication from God is going to be inerrant. Chronologically later scripture can in theory contract earlier scripture, and we give greater weight to the most recent revelation. Mormons are OK with errant scripture, we have a differen epistemological framework than Evangelicals do.

    • James

      We could spend a vast amount of time debating a few particular instances of contradictions within the Bible, but we are probably better served by realizing that we will not agree. The important thing is that notable and serious minds can disagree on the issue, so your test (“no contradictions between books of scripture”) is not going to be a very valuable test.

    • V.

      James,
      I appreciate your prompt response to my post. To address your first point, there have been no manuscripts of the Book of Mormon discovered that date back prior to the eighteen hundreds, nor has there been any archeological evidence found, which would support ancient Israelites living in America. Furthermore, there is no evidence of the “Prophet” Mormon’s existence. While you could argue there is no evidence supporting the existence of the Patriarchs, as well as no original Biblical autographs, we do at the very least have manuscripts which date back approximately to the year 2,500 A.D. There is not one manuscript of the Book of Mormon which dates back to that time frame. The fact you would even suggest the Book of Mormon was written around 400 A.D. is mere conjecture. You have no evidence to support your claim.

    • V.

      I am familiar with the chronology of the canon, and also, that the same test for canonicity applies to Scripture, as it does to the Book of Mormon, however; you have not clarified what Scriptures you believe are contradictory in nature. Can you please cite which verses specifically you are referring to and cite your sources of scholars who have disproved Biblical inerrancy? While I do not hold to a strong epistemological view, I do believe in “Biblical Inerrancy.” I disagree with your faulty logic that the most current revelation is the most credible. God’s nature is unchanging, therefore, just because part of His revelation is fulfilled, does not mean it is no longer relevant. Otherwise, you maintain a presupposition that God’s Word is erred. Forgive me if my assumptions are incorrect, but I gather you favor a soft “Historical” view of inerrancy. While I cannot fault you for your degree of faith, what I do not understand, is why you can also believe Scripture to be erred. So if Scripture is indeed erred, as you previously stated, then how do we know it to be true? Either it is God’s Word, or it is not. Which is it? Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt 5:18). Therefore, I believe my argument for Biblical inerrancy to be of the utmost importance, and it is relevant to the Mormon faith, as much as it is the Christian faith, if you do believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.

      Yes, you are correct in stating we can “agree to disagree,” yet I am troubled as to why it is you disagree. I believe the credibility of the Word of God to be the very foundation of our faith. I want you to know that I have a great love for you. I hope we can continue to have these theological discussions.

    • James

      Hi V. I think this could be a very good discussion. I personally don’t like discussions like these in public forums, simply because they inevitably get sidetracked by the multitude of voices who can jump in at any moment. The issues then fail to be explored with the depth they deserve. There is also the real temptation of “playing to the crowd” in public venues, where a good conversation turns into a points-scoring match. Finally, I note that in this particular venue, where I would be far outnumbered by those who disagree with me, I probably won’t enjoy it as much.

      All that is to say, would you be interested in a private email exchange? It is a much better way to have a friendly conversation on netural ground. Who knows, we may even strike up a friendship. If you are interested, please shoot me an email.

      [email protected]

    • Ed Kratz

      V.,

      Your statement that we have biblical manuscripts that date back to about “2,500 A.D.” needs some fixing. AD 2500 cannot be correct (AD 2500) is still in the future!) and 2500 BC is too early (no book of the Bible was even written that early). Perhaps you mean that we have biblical manuscripts dating about 2500 years ago. If so, this is close to being correct depending on what counts as a “manuscript.” Currently the earliest extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (OT) date from as early as the third century BC, or about 2300 years ago. There is also the famous archaeological discovery of the silver scrolls that have the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 written on them; these scrolls are about 2500 years old. They are discussed elsewhere on this site: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/08/top-ten-biblical-discoveries-in-archaeology-4-ketef-hinnom-silver-amulet-scroll/

    • Ed Kratz

      James,

      Although V.’s presentation of the argument needs some cleaning up, he’s basically correct in pointing out that it is verifiable fact that the Bible has existed for thousands of years, whereas there is every reason to date the origin of the Book of Mormon to the 1820s. There is no manuscript evidence whatsoever for the Book of Mormon, other than Joseph Smith’s English version. (The “Anthon transcript” doesn’t even count, since it was supposedly copied from another part of the gold plates than the Book of Mormon. In any case, even the Anthon transcript dates from the 1820s.)

      I’m not prepared to agree with you in rejecting the coherency test of Scripture. The textual information we have shows that Jesus and his apostles accepted such a standard (e.g., Matt. 5:17-18; 22:29; Acts 17:11). I grant that we don’t have sufficient information to resolve definitively every alleged and apparent discrepancy within the Bible on such relatively inconsequential matters as numbers, dates, and the like. However, where the NT presses the matter is in the theological coherence of the gospel with the teachings of the OT; the NT writings quote the OT profusely for the precise purpose of showing that the gospel that the NT presents coheres with the teachings of the Scriptures the Jews already had. It is incumbent on Mormons to do the same thing with regard to the “restored gospel” they claim to have taught in their extrabiblical scriptures.

    • James

      Rob,

      Your reply is a bit confusing to me. You point out that there are no ancient manuscripts evidence for the Book of Mormon, as if this were contrary to something I’ve said. I certainly didn’t make that claim. I *certainly* don’t think the Anthon transcript has anything to do with it, so that comment seems to have come out of left field.

      I know that you tangle with Hamblin and others at the MDDB, so I’m confident that you are a bit more familiar with LDS apologetic approaches than you are letting on here. I’m unaware of any Mormon apologist (much less a prominent one) who argues that ancient manuscripts of the text of the Book of Mormon currently exist. The textual history of the Book of Mormon, as told by Mormons and by the Book of Mormon itself, precludes the possibility anyway. As you know, Mormons believe that the one and only original copy of the Book of Mormon was hidden away for many centuries until it was delivered to Joseph Smith. Therefore, no ancient manuscript copies or translations of it would be expected.

      Nonetheless, when a relatively modern copy/translation is all that exists of an originally ancient text, we can still find clues to its ancient origin. Such is the case, I believe, with the Slavonic texts of 2nd Enoch. We don’t need the original text, nor the intervening copies, to determine that a modern translation has its origin in antiquity. You, Rob, can tangle with Hamblin et al., over the strength of arguments in favor of an ancient BOM text, but the basic methodology can’t be denied.

      I can’t take you on in a debate Rob. I work fulltime in an unrelated field, so I don’t have your breadth or depth of knowledge in the relevant fields. V. and I are now carrying on our conversation elsewhere, so I’ll bow out now.

    • Ed Kratz

      James,

      Having corrected V. regarding one of his main criticisms of the Book of Mormon, I was simply explaining that properly stated his criticism is quite valid. I wasn’t suggesting that you or other LDS apologists claimed that there were ancient manuscripts of the Book of Mormon extant. Thus, your comment about me being more familiar with Mormon apologetics than I let on was off the mark.

      I do, on the other hand, claim that this fact is more significant than you admit. Yes, given the narrative that Joseph Smith produced about the Book of Mormon’s origins, we are given to understand that no copies were made other than the one set of gold plates. But does that mean there is no problem? Hardly. Rather, it looks for all the world like a device of convenience; the story precludes other copies to account for the lack of copies. That problem could easily have been overcome by allowing the public to view the plates, as Joseph allowed in the case of the Egyptian papyri he claimed contained the writings of the Genesis patriarchs Abraham and Joseph. Or he could have produced a substantial copy of a few pages of text from the gold plates along with his inspired translation of same. Instead for nearly two years he would let no one see the plates, not even his wife, and just before they disappeared for good he allowed eleven family members and supporters to see them briefly.

      I will comment on 2 Enoch in a separate post.

      By the way, on January 1 of this year I withdrew from posting on the Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, once it became clear that the moderators were joining in the violation of their own rules and had drawn a line that made genuine dialogue impossible.

    • Ed Kratz

      James,

      Your comparison of the Book of Mormon to 2 Enoch is unhelpful to your cause, for so many reasons. (1) There are more than 20 Slavonic manuscripts, not just one, produced by different individuals at different times. (2) Coptic fragments discovered in 2009 date from before the origin of the Slavonic version(s) and confirm what all scholars already knew, which was that the book was originally written in something other than Slavonic (probably Greek) long before modern times. (3) The book of 2 Enoch did not appear under suspicious circumstances, as did the Book of Mormon. (4) So far as I know, no one is making 2 Enoch the basis for starting a new religion. If anyone was doing so, one would have every right to ask for good evidence substantiating its claims. (5) While scholars have proposed a range of dates for 2 Enoch, everyone agrees it was written about three thousand years or more after the time of Enoch! In this one respect your comparison is, in a backhanded way, completely appropriate: 2 Enoch and the Book of Mormon are both apocryphal works that are not what they purport to be.

    • James

      Rob,

      I know I said I’d stay away, but I just can’t help myself on this one.

      Once again, you appear to have responded to things I did not claim. Of your five points, none of them contradict the simple point I was making. I was comparing 2nd Enoch to the Book of Mormon in only a very narrow sense, and yet you seem to be attempting to compare 2nd Enoch and the Book of Mormon on a much grander scale. For the record, I agree with every one of your five points (except that the BoM was produced under “suspicious circumstances”, or that it is apocryphal.).

      My narrow point is that the case of 2nd Enoch demonstrates that scholars can conclude that a book is much older than any extant copy, and that its original language and culture are different from the one in which extant manuscripts were created. This is exactly the case of the Book of Mormon. We don’t need original manuscripts or copies from the intervening years in order to demonstrate that the English language translation has its origin in another language, time, and place.

      Fortunately, you already agree with the logic of that methodology and stated such with your comment #2. I grant that you can agree with the methodology without agreeing with where Mormons take it from there.

    • Mitchell

      Well I don’t have time right now to read the article or the comments but my thought don’t require that first.
      1. I think that Glenn Beck (Mormon) and Dennis Prager (Jew) have the best Christian Worldviews I’ve heard on the radio. (Note that I say “I’ve” to qualify and limit that to my experience.) That includes several local Christian radio hosts, although a couple of the substitutes hosts come close.
      2. Note that the word “Christian” is never defined. It is assumed that “everyone” knows what a Christian is. If a definition is every attempted it is not from an Evangelical, Reformed or even Catholic (and some world argue Catholics are not Christian from their perspective.) perspective.
      3. I grew up in a Russian Molokan community and know that some in that community were indeed “saved” yet still participated in activities and beliefs that would be questioned by most Christians (by the definition of Credo House). So I would say that you can be a Christian AND a Mormon, but if you are just a Mormon then you are likely not a Christian.
      I’ll be back to read the comments after I’ve read the article on my Kindle. Not sure what the “19” in the title of this post means, but I’m afraid there are at least 18 other posts on the topic of “Are Mormons Christians?”.
      PS – I got here because I’m researching the topic: What can Evangelicals Learn from Mormons. So far it seems we can learn about Youth Ministry, Family Ministry and “Gap Years” (Mission time before college). I’m sure there is a lot more too.

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