What God says about Mormons
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Stephen Stone, RenewAmerica President
March 11, 2012

The candidacy of Mitt Romney for the most powerful office in the world opens up the Mormon church to public scrutiny as never before.

This gives the American electorate an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the character of the LDS church — including its unique culture, from which Mormons tend to derive most of their controversial beliefs.

As we pointed out in a previous piece, the church's authoritarian society discourages members from understanding the church's own canon — beginning with the Bible — and produces, in turn, a body of relativistic beliefs widely held among the membership, beliefs at odds with the biblical gospel of Jesus of Christ.

The result is an institutional church, and culture, best described as "enigmatic" — hard to decipher.

In this installment of our series on Mormonism, we take a close look at the nature of the LDS church from the vantage point of God Himself, as recorded in the church's own canon.

What does God say about "Mormons," according to LDS scripture?

The only "true church"

Mormons are fond of quoting a passage in the LDS canon in which God declares the LDS church "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually" (D&C 1:30).

Members often use these words — recorded in 1831, shortly after the church's founding — to justify their belief that they alone belong to the church of Jesus Christ, and other professing Christians do not.

This view leads Mormons to assume that only members of the Mormon church can be saved, and others must convert to the church if they are to have the same assurance.

Entirely absent from such thinking is the biblical teaching that each individual must work out his or her own salvation "with fear and trembling" — as Paul wrote — "for it is God which worketh in you" (Phil. 2:12), and that the role of Christ's church is to aid each individual in doing so, not guarantee it, upon the saving "doctrine of Christ."

Also absent from such thinking is the last phrase of the passage — which contains a qualifier: individual members of the LDS church cannot, themselves, necessarily claim to be members of Christ's true church, nor can they necessarily claim to please Him by the way they live, even if the passage is accurate. The passage quotes God as saying He is "speaking unto the church collectively and not individually."

Of course, non-Mormons dispute the authenticity of the above reference altogether. Most Christians also hold the view that no organized church can save anyone: only Christ can save — for He alone gave His life to make salvation possible for all, upon the terms He has set. Those terms — His eternal, biblical "gospel" — transcend organized churches, Christians generally believe, even one professing to be "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth with which the Lord is well pleased."

The biblical church

Before we cite additional words of God regarding the LDS church, let's look at the biblical church of Christ, which offers insight to understanding what a church claiming to be His should be like in principle, and on what basis it would "please" Him.

The New Testament makes clear that Jesus set in motion the foundation of His church during His ministry, and it became a vehicle for preaching His gospel, administering authorized rituals relating to conversion and membership, conferring authority, and providing fellowship and guidance for believers.

The early church was comparatively simple: its central ritual was the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42); members willingly shared "all things" with each other "as every man hath need" (Acts 2:44-45); those given divine authority were to "feed" the church of Christ, not "being lords" over members, but "being ensamples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:2); where "two or three [were] gathered together" in Jesus' name, He would be in their midst (Matt. 18:20); all members were to be "one body in Christ," joined together with "the same mind" (Rom. 12:5,16); the teachings of the church were to focus unerringly on the original gospel of Christ (Gal 1:8); and so on — with a warning that after Christ's death, "grievous wolves" would enter the church, "not sparing the flock," and from among the church leadership "shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:28-30).

It is obvious in the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and others in the Bible that the early church was meant to be a refuge for true believers in Christ and His doctrine — not an authoritarian institution that took upon itself to "save" anyone, as the LDS church can validly be criticized for attempting to do today. (See our previous piece on LDS culture.)

The early church emphasized "Christ, and Him crucified," and each member was responsible to rely directly on Him for light, truth, and salvation. That's the message of the New Testament

The Book of Mormon church

The LDS church's own Book of Mormon seconds the above view of the "true church of Christ." Throughout the book, faithful Christians are described as those who have individually "come unto Christ," repented of their sins, been baptized as a witness that they will obey God in all things, received a spiritual "rebirth" by the power of His Spirit, and put their trust alone in Jesus Christ — not in man, nor in the authorities of the church.

Those willing to do so — much as the early converts in Acts, chapter 2 — were accepted among the community of fellow believers. Always, Christ — not an "institutional" church — is the focus of the book.

In fact, there is no institutional church at all in the Book of Mormon, of the sort that resembles the extensively-controlling LDS church today — typified by manuals for seemingly everything, elaborate programs for seemingly everything, codified norms for seemingly everything, an elite bureaucracy that seeks to control seemingly everything, and enforced dependence on human authority from top to bottom, suggesting a church that is the most institutional entity on earth.

Like the New Testament church, the "Book of Mormon church of Christ" is simple, consisting of devout believers who have genuinely become converted to Jesus Christ (not to His church), in company with sincere servants of God who themselves are converted, and whose only desire is to lead others to be "born of God" as they themselves have been. At least, that's what the record shows.

In the Book of Mormon, to be a true member of Christ's church meant to be fully dependent on Christ Himself; those dependent on the "arm of flesh" were characterized as imposters. Similarly, nowhere in the book is the church of Christ itself emphasized as essential to salvation as Mormons see the LDS church today. Instead, the church is described as the collective society of true believers who are saved directly by Jesus Christ, not by the church, its rites, or its leadership.

This closely parallels how the Bible defines Christians.

"A mighty change of heart"

Let me now share what a former LDS president said that coincides with the foregoing analysis — especially as it relates to the "true church" of God — then let's take a close look at God's words from the LDS canon that reveal what He thinks of the LDS church today, with which He can hardly be said to be "well pleased."

In 1989, the LDS church's most politically-conservative president, Ezra Taft Benson — who served as Eisenhower's Secretary of Agriculture and was church president during the Reagan years — issued a challenge to all LDS "members of record," inviting them to become "true members" of Christ's church.

He did so in an article in the church's chief publication, the Ensign, titled "A Mighty Change of Heart" in October of that year.

Benson wrote,
    In the usual sense of the term, Church membership means that a person has his or her name officially recorded on the membership records of the Church. By that definition, we have more than six million members of the Church. [Today, that number is 14.1 million.]

    But the Lord defines a member of His kingdom in quite a different way. In 1828,...He said, "Behold, this is my doctrine — whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church." (D&C 10:67; italics added.) To Him whose Church this is, membership involves far more than simply being a member of record.
He then proceeded to recite the Book of Mormon's central teachings of the need to "come unto Christ," experience a "mighty change of heart" that is the essence of spiritual rebirth, and become truly converted to Christ (not to the church). He said,
    When we have undergone this mighty change, which is brought about only through faith in Jesus Christ and through the operation of the Spirit upon us, it is as though we have become a new person. Thus, the change is likened to a new birth. Thousands of you have experienced this change. (emphasis added)
Note the last sentence. Of the many millions of Mormons who are on the LDS records — and who thus believe they are part of Christ's true church — "thousands" have become truly converted to Christ and been accepted by God as members of the true church, in the estimation of President Benson.

That's profound, to say the least. It contradicts numerous cultural presumptions common in the LDS church, and places squarely on the individual — not on the church — the onus for demonstrating acceptance into the "body of Christ."

D&C 10

Equally profound is the actual text of D&C 10 on which Benson based his definition of Christ's church. In verses 53 through 55, we read words attributed to Jesus Christ as follows:
    And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.

    Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church;

    Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. (emphasis added)
Consider these words carefully. D&C 10 in the LDS canon quotes Jesus as saying His church already existed at the time He was preparing to establish the LDS church. In other words, there were already true Christians, fully converted to Him, in 1828 — two years before the LDS church was founded — contrary to what many Mormons believe.

Jesus then assures those already accepted by Him as part of His church that by establishing His church anew, He was not destroying His pre-existing church, only "building it up." Hence, true Christians need not fear.

That's what it says. Never mind the thinking of most Mormons — who believe, without doctrinal grounds from their own canon, that the early church of Christ was entirely destroyed by corruption following the deaths of the original apostles.

Jesus is then quoted in D&C 10 as saying that, in addition to re-establishing His church —
    ...I will also bring to light my gospel...and shall bring to light the true points of my doctrine, yea, and the only doctrine which is in me.

    And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures [that is, the Bible] and do not understand them.

    Therefore, I will unfold unto them this great mystery;

    For, behold, I will gather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if they will not harden their hearts;

    Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely.

    Behold, this is my doctrine — whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

    Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.


    And now, behold, whosoever is of my church [by virtue of true conversion to Christ], and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

    And now, remember the words of him who is the life and light of the world, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Amen. (verses 62-70, emphasis added)
Such words shift the burden of assessing membership in Christ's "true" church from an institution to Christ Himself, and to individual, professing Christians — each of whom must truly "come unto Christ," not only to be saved, but to be counted by Christ as belonging to His church.

The problem of LDS culture

Unfortunately, as our previous piece emphasized, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems not to know — or appreciate — such plain words from its own canon. Rather than focus on the need for all persons to rely solely on Jesus Christ, be genuinely "born again" through His Spirit, and thereby attain true conversion to Christ and His gospel, the church emphasizes the need for members and non-members to rely on church leaders, who — they are told, "will never lead the church astray" — an undoctrinal assertion that dilutes and confuses the message of the church.

The result is an understandable perception among observers that "Mormonism" is a non-Christian cult.

For this perception, Mormons have no one to blame but themselves — that is, the culture of the church — if the Christian world "misunderstands" them, views them with suspicion, considers them pagan, likens them to Islam, and so on, as many Christians do.

This phenomenon reveals the most vulnerable weakness of the institutional LDS church: Mormons, themselves — at least those inclined to yield to the immense social and institutional pressure to "put their trust in man," rather than rely alone on Jesus Christ as commanded by the church's canon.

It also sets the stage for examining what God says about the culture of the church — His view of the culturally-driven perversion of His eternal gospel by a society of self-professed "saints" — as we read next.

The whole church under God's "condemnation"

According to a definitive section of the Doctrine & Covenants, God declares the entire membership of the Mormon church "under condemnation" for "treating lightly" the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

In D&C 84:54-60, we read,
    And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received —

    Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

    And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

    And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them [meaning the Bible], not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written —

    That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.

    For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you who now hear my words, which are my voice, blessed are ye inasmuch as you receive these things. (emphasis added)
Plainspoken words, hard to dispute. Whether a person accepts the Doctrine & Covenants as scripture or not — or the Book of Mormon — the above condemnation of the culture of the LDS church, attributed to God Himself, cannot be watered down to mean anything but what the words clearly say: LDS society as a whole is guilty of disregarding the "new covenant" of Christ's saving doctrine, and as a result, the LDS church is cursed.

When he was president of the church, Ezra Taft Benson often cited the above passage and expressed his desire that the divine condemnation of the church might be lifted.

Further words of condemnation

God's wholesale condemnation of LDS culture above was recorded September 1832, a year after initially proclaiming the church "pleasing" to Him. Twenty months later — in June 1834 — another section of the D&C was recorded, Section 105, officially declaring similar words of judgment regarding the general culture of the church.

Those words, again ascribed to God Himself, state:
    Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.

    But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

    And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom [the gospel itself];

    And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

    And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.

    I speak not concerning those who are appointed to lead my people, who are the first elders of my church, for they are not all under this condemnation;

    But I speak concerning my churches [congregations] abroad.... (verses 2-8, emphasis added)
Here again, in the church's official canon, we find strong words of the Lord condemning LDS culture — this time pronouncing Mormons as a group "full of all manner of evil." Such words may seem harsh, but Mormons consider them to be from God's own mouth.

More on God's view of Mormons

Similarly, in the Book of Mormon, we read an account of Jesus' thoughts on the modern LDS church.

Although parts of this passage could be interpreted broadly to apply to any Christian church today that loses sight of the gospel message, other elements suggest (in light of Mormons' belief that they alone are the "holy church of God") that the passage foretells the condition of the LDS church itself.

Let's look at what is recorded in Mormon 8:35-38:
    Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

    And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches [congregations], yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

    For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

    O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?... (emphasis added).
It's instructive to consider the above passage in light of another significant reference in 3 Nephi 27 of the Book of Mormon. In that reference, Jesus is recorded as saying that His church should be named after Him. Then He adds,
    [A]nd if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel....

    And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

    But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

    For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you. (verses 8, 10-12, emphasis added)
These words mirror a vital passage in the Doctrine & Covenants regarding God's judgments upon the LDS church in the last days. That passage, recorded July 1837, states,
    Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, as day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.

    And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;

    First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
    (D&C 112:24-26, emphasis added)
Since Mormons consider the Lord's "house" to refer exclusively to the LDS church (and no other denomination), the passage reflects much the same "condemnation" already laid out plainly in the LDS canon.

Are Mormons generally aware of the above verses, you may wonder. Most appear not to be — or if they are aware, they are oblivious to them. If a member happens to quote such words in LDS gatherings, by the way, they can expect obvious displeasure, even censure, from fellow members and local leaders.

Such words are anathema in the church. They are also God's — according to the church's officially-adopted canon.

Implications...

We don't wish to offend our conservative Mormon friends and supporters, especially those who are sincere in their desire to follow Jesus Christ, by citing disturbing words from their own official canon.

At the same time, the candidacy of one of Mormonism's "best and brightest" for the Presidency of the United States invites open investigation of the LDS church by a world left largely in the dark by the often-secretive — and nearly always inscrutable — Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its exceptionally servile, authoritarian, self-contradictory culture.

We've just examined God's recorded words from the LDS canon regarding the church. If those words are authentic, they reveal an enigmatic society that merits not more power and influence in America, or in the world — but decidedly less.

As far as Mitt is concerned, there's no understanding him apart from the problematic culture we've just discussed — from which he takes his basic values, beliefs, and priorities as a "cultural Mormon." Considering what's at stake this election, voters therefore have a duty to weigh Mitt upon biblical principle, "vetting" him thoroughly before entering the voting booth.

They also have a duty to examine his actions in the political arena, especially regarding social issues — looking not only at "what he says, but what he does," to paraphrase D&C 84:57 from the LDS canon.

As they hold Mitt up to the light for a better view, voters would do well to keep in mind the following words from the church's canon:
    Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. (D&C 98:10, emphasis added)
© Stephen Stone

 


They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31