Mormon Officials and Christian Scholars Compare Doctrine/Program 2

By: Lawrence Flake, K. H. Christensen, Sandra Tanner, Ed Decker, Dr.

Walter Martin; ©1983

The Mormons believe that God and His wife had to give birth in heaven to all the spirits before they came to this world.


Ankerberg: Thank you. Thanks for joining us tonight. We’re having a very interesting discussion with some of the representatives of the LDS Church, the Mormons. I’m holding in my hands The Wall Street Journal. They have just done, as we’re taping this program, two successive days of large commentary on the Mormon Church. I’d like to read just a part of that before we hear from our Mormon representatives. Talking about the growth of the Mormon Church, they say,

The Mormons claim 5.2 million members worldwide. But they think that they will double in 25 years. The Church sponsors a 50-state, 100-country missionary effort that is currently the most aggressive of U.S. religions. The Mormon Church operates a business empire rich and enviable by Wall Street standards. It administers a welfare program considered a model of charity and efficiency.

But it goes on to say,

What the Mormons lack and what some think they seek most of all is widespread acceptance by the mainstream religious community. One of the reasons they have a hard time with that is that the Church stakes a claim that it is God’s only true church.

That’s what The Wall Street Journal is saying. But instead of listening to them, I would like for you to listen to the Mormon representatives themselves. Let’s ask them what they think is the potential for man. I want you to listen carefully.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: You said that Mormons believe that I, or any other person, if we progress and progress we can ultimately attain to be God. Is that right?
Flake: I think that’s close. The point that we tried to make was this, John, that we have within us, because of our divine parentage, the potential to become what our parents are. Therefore, we believe that what God is, we can become by following the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ. And that then will help us to reach our full potential, which is to be like our Father.
Ankerberg: Okay. Refresh our memories, too, before we go on of the relationship of Father and Jesus and Holy Ghost.
Christensen: Well, that they are three separate and distinct individuals. There is God, the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. They constitute the godhead but they are three separate, distinct individuals.
Ankerberg: Three separate Gods?
Christensen: Yes.

Ankerberg: Okay, you’ve heard what Mr. Flake has said, and on set tonight as our guests we have three of the greatest Mormon scholars inside of Evangelical Christianity that are going to respond. Mrs. Tanner, I’d like to come to you first of all. You’ve heard what Mr. Flake has said about we have inside us the divine potential, divine parentage, if you want. What is he talking about right in that segment?
Tanner: The Mormons believe that God and His wife had to give birth in heaven to all the spirits before they came to this world. And they believe there are a lot of worlds with a lot of Gods and their wives who are procreating spirits for all these different worlds. And the Mormon plan of salvation is offering their people eventually the ability to become gods themselves.
I’d like to read a statement by President Joseph F. Smith. He’s now dead, but he was the President of the Church some years ago. This is an official church statement. It says, “All men and women are in a similitude of the universal father and mother and are literally the sons and daughters of deity.” Further down he says, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bases its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of deity. God Himself is an exalted man perfected, enthroned and supreme.” Further on in his official statement he says, “Man is the child of God, formed in the Divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable by experience through ages and eons of evolving into a God.”
One of the problems I have with this concept is that we all know we have sinned. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” [Rom. 3:23] And yet Mormonism is saying that man not only has the potential of godhood but is in fact “deity in embryo” and has the potential of becoming a god just like the Father is of this world.
Ankerberg: What do they say, then; I’d think that most of them would realize they have made mistakes; they have sinned; they have broken the Ten Commandments. How can a person become a god in their theology with the sin problem?
Tanner: Well, they believe we sin here on earth but when we finally achieve godhood, at that point we become sinless and totally righteous. So, you ask a Mormon “Is God righteous?” “Yes.” “But was He righteous when He was a human?”, and they’ll kind of back off. They aren’t sure.
Ankerberg: Okay. How does a person get his sin problem taken care of in Mormonism?
Tanner: Well, they would make reference to Christ’s atonement, but it’s really just a starting point for them. It’s like signing up at the university and having Christ pay your initial tuition but you have to pay everything from then on out for the next four years, and you have to earn all the grades yourself. So, Mormon salvation is really saying, “Yes, Christ died for you on the cross, but that was just the first step and you earn everything else yourself.”
Ankerberg: And they’re saying that because of what Christ did, we’re all going to make it.
Tanner: If we work at it hard enough we can achieve godhood just like the Father.
Ankerberg: Okay. We’re going to come back to that concept a little later on. But I would like to now go to another segment with our Mormon representatives on who they believe that God is. And the question that I’ve asked them is “Does God have a flesh-and-bones body like a man?” I want you to listen.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Bjornstad: In the King Follett Discourses in 1843 Joseph Smith, Jr., made no bones about it to say that he would take the veil away and that God was once a man and lived on our earth similar to what we have here. Would you deny those statements from Joseph Smith?
Christensen: No, no, from the point of view that God has a form of a man and He says so in the first book of Genesis, that He created you and I after God or in His own image. And the Savior came in the image of man. Again, may we come back to the point that this certainly elevates the status of man. It in no way degrades God, but certainly elevates the status of man. And sure He’s a man. He’s got a body of flesh and bones like you and I’ve got.

Ankerberg: Alright now, that might be a new concept to most of you, that Mormons hold that God has a flesh-and-bones body. Mr. Decker, you were a Temple Mormon for almost 20 years. You believed that and you taught that. Let me ask you this: Why is it that Mormons hold that God has a flesh-and-bones body like another man does?
Decker: Well, first we’re taught that God was once a man and that He became celestialized. That meant that His body became pure, physically pure, and celestialized. But we’re also told in the Mormon scriptures that this is so. In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 130, verse 3, we’re told, “John 14:23 – The appearing of the Father and the Son in that verse is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion and is false.”
Ankerberg: For some people that do not know what Doctrine and Covenants is, what is it?
Decker: Well, it is one of the key books of scripture that the Mormons have that are equal to or greater than the Bible in their authority to Mormons.
Ankerberg: And it’s saying that?
Decker: It says here that God being a spirit or God dwelling in the heart of man is an old sectarian idea which is false.
Ankerberg: So they’re saying that the idea that most people that think about evangelical Christianity or think about the God of the Bible, that God is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient spirit without a body. They’re saying that that is what?
Decker: They’re saying that that is blasphemy.
Ankerberg: Okay, now why do they say that? Why do they call it that?
Decker: Well, in the Mormon Temple ritual we’re taught that that’s a Luciferian doctrine.
Ankerberg: Okay. Where did they get this idea from?
Decker: Well, they get it from Joseph Smith.
Ankerberg: That’s what Joseph Smith said?
Decker: No. In the 22nd verse of the same 130th section of the Doctrine and Covenants it says, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; The Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” So God is a physical being, you can touch Him and feel Him. He is a man. When we go, in the Mormon Temple, to the veil, we believe that we will actually stand at a cloth veil face to face physically, breast to breast with God, and speak secret words to him physically. He is a physical being. So, again,…
Ankerberg: In the Temple now or some future date?
Decker: In the Temple now we have someone sitting in or standing in proxy for God. We believed that we will go to that. And, of course, again, we believed that the reason we came to the earth according to the law of eternal progression was to gain bodies so that we could become gods.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Martin, two questions. First of all, regarding Mr. Christensen’s statement, do you agree or disagree that God having a flesh and bones body, it “No way degrades God and it certainly elevates the status of man?” Is that a true or false statement in your concept and would you say that the Bible disagrees or goes along with that?
Martin: Well, my concept of it is irrelevant to the fact that it contradicts Jesus Christ. In John 4:24, Jesus said, “God is spirit.” And then He described what pure spirit was in Luke 24. He said, “Spirit does not have flesh and bone and you see me have.” So, God the Father does not have a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man. He is pure spirit. The Mormon argument that we’re made in God’s image, therefore, God’s a man, deals in what we call in theology anthropomorphism…
Ankerberg: And what’s an anthropomorphism?
Martin: Speaking of God in human terms. For instance, the Bible says God has eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet. It talks about this, so the Mormons look at this and they say, “There it is! God is an exalted man.” Alright, but it also says that we shall trust in Him (Psalms 91), that we shall trust under His wings. And God therefore has wings and feathers. “He shall cover thee with his feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust.” [Psa. 91:4] Jesus said, “I am the bread of life;” [John 6:48] now He’s a loaf of bread. “I am the true vine;” [John 15:1] now He’s a vegetable. “I am the way;” [John 14:6] you walk on Him. I am the door;” [John 10:9] wood, hinges, knobs.
I mean, anybody knows immediately you’re dealing with figurative language. But what this gentleman has done is to take literally the passages and ignored the fact that Christ’s definition of the Father is what’s important, not Joseph Smith’s.
Ankerberg: Is there anything in the Old Testament that would suggest that God does not have a flesh and bones body like man?
Decker: Yes. He says, “God is not a man.” [Num. 23:19] This is pointblank on the subject in the book of Numbers. So, for us to talk about God having body parts and passions in terms of a man brings us face to face with the Mormon doctrine of procreation, and here you are dealing with pornography.
Ankerberg: Alright, at this point we are going to give them another opportunity. They have a way of responding to what Christians have to say, what you have just said at this point. It has to do with: Do they consider the Bible to be the sole authority of doctrine? When we talk about “scriptures” are we talking about the same things? Do we all agree on one book or is there a difference of belief here? I want you to hear what they have to say.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Bjornstad: Can I ask you a question? What do you mean by “scriptures?” Are we talking about just the Bible or are we talking about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price?
Flake: That’s a good point. The fact is that Mormons believe in additional Scripture, and that’s a place where we depart from traditional Christianity. Our belief is that God has spoken to man through all dispensations of time and that those words have been written down and collected into the Bible. But we believe that He continues to speak to man and that in fact He spoke to man on the earth. At the same time He was speaking the words in the Bible, He spoke to men in other places and those words were collected into other volumes of Scripture. And we believe that He speaks in the same sense today as He did in ancient times.

Ankerberg: Alright, Mr. Decker, I’d like to come to you on this one. The Mormons at this point are enunciating what a lot of people believe: there’s not just the Bible as revelation. God must have been able to speak to all kinds of people and they are singling out specific books that they feel you can find Scripture. You taught this as a Mormon. You believed this as a Mormon. Tell us why you believed this to be true.
Decker: Well, it’s kind of interesting. At every fast and testimony meeting that I ever attended as a Mormon, we would testify, each of us that stood up, that we believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God and Joseph Smith to be a true prophet. And so this was a very basic foundation of our faith that the Book of Mormon was the Word of God, period. We believed the Bible to be the Word of God only insofar as it was translated correctly. We also believed the Doctrine and Covenants to be the Word of God and the Pearl of Great Price to be other additional Scripture.
Ankerberg: Can I just ask you, how did these other books come into existence besides the Bible?
Decker: Through the prophet Joseph Smith.
Ankerberg: All of them can be attributed to him?
Decker: Basically, yes. And so we put our faith in those and, of course, they added to the Bible in particular areas where the plain and precious things were taken, as we were taught, away by the great and abominable church. So we believed that many truths were taken from the Bible, many books were missing from the Bible, and what was left was mistranslated over and over again to the point that some of our leaders said that there was probably not one verse in the entire Bible that you can trust and stand on for your salvation. So you needed the additional books.
Ankerberg: I want to come back to you a little later on this thing of the prophet, who he is and the authority that he actually has. But I think we’ll let the Mormon representatives speak to that themselves first. Dr. Martin, what I’d like to come to you with is this: Why is it that Christians don’t go along with this thing that there are other books of revelation, that we stick just with the Bible?
Martin: Well, primarily because in Jude, verse 3, it says that the faith was “once for all delivered unto the saints,” and that was written before the close of the first century. The Mormon claim is that there are other books or sacred books along with the Scriptures. But the Bible is the oldest revelation which they say came from the same God. Well, then if God doesn’t change and He says, “I the Lord thy God I do not change,” [Mal. 3:6] then take the Bible which is the oldest and test all other revelations by the Bible. The moment that you do, you find out that Mormon scriptures contradict the Bible and, therefore, the Christian church automatically rejects them.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s roll on here. Let’s go back to our Mormon representatives and find out how they view the Book of Mormon in comparison with the Bible. Listen to what they say.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: Show us a little bit of the Book of Mormon there and say a word about it.
Christensen: The Book of Mormon. Briefly it’s a religious, historical record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. Just like the Bible is a religious, historical record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the eastern hemisphere.
Ankerberg: Is revelation then progressive and the last revelation out takes priority?
Flake: Sure. We believe in “living Scripture,” that is, just as in Isaiah’s day he could say with authority, “Thus saith the Lord.” We believe that there’s a man on the earth today with that same authority and power.
Ankerberg: To what extent is his authority? Is he like the Pope, more than the Pope? I just used that as an illustration. People are familiar with that.
Flake: Sure. We don’t want to compare him really with the Pope because the exact comparison would be to ancient prophets. He speaks with the authority of God. He can speak for God, under God’s inspiration and the people on the earth….
Ankerberg: In other words, God is speaking directly through him.
Flake: Correct. Sure. Exactly.

Ankerberg: Mrs. Tanner, in your book Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, a 600-page book with many of the original photographs that you have taken from Mormon documents and comparison and so on, as you have gone back and you have studied about the Book of Mormon historically and archaeologically. Can you tell me what Mormon scholars themselves are saying about the accuracy of the Book of Mormon?
Tanner: Well, the Mormon scholars have had to concede that they really have no geography for the book. Their men at Brigham Young University [BYU], Professor Sorenson, Professor Christensen, Dee Green, and a man who is not at BYU but also has written extensively on the Book of Mormon, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, have all qualified that they have no real geography for the book.
Ankerberg: These are not non-Mormons. These are actually the Mormon scholars.
Tanner: These are the Mormon people that are addressing the issue. And Mr. Ferguson says, “I’m afraid up to this point I must agree with Dee Green who has told us that to date there is no Book of Mormon geography. I, for one, would be happy if Dee were wrong.” But he concludes that “there isn’t any geography.” Now, in the statement that these Mormons made that you just showed a minute ago, they said the Book of Mormon was like the Bible, and they use the word “historically.” Now, when we take that comparison we find no true history for the Book of Mormon. You cannot find one city. You cannot find one of the rivers. You do not open any Book of Mormon and find a map because there is no geography for the book.
Ankerberg: And yet Mormon missionaries, one of the first things they tell a person is, “Boy, the Book of Mormon is accurate, and archaeology and history have confirmed it.”
Tanner: Right. But if you cannot locate one site, then you have no evidence. I think it’s curious in the latest edition of their scriptures they put in a map for the Doctrine and Covenants showing where the Mormons moved across from New York to Missouri to Illinois and they chart that all out in a map for you. The thing that would have really helped us is if they had put a map in the Book of Mormon. They don’t have one there because there is nothing to chart.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to go now to a quick cut of a historian and an archaeologist telling us a little bit about the history and the geography concerning the Book of Mormon. I’d like you to listen.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Narrator: Dr. Charles Crane, author, college professor, expert on Mormon archaeology.
Crane: As we look at the Book of Mormon we find an entirely different story. Instead of being an actual record of actual fact, I have looked over maps, checked archaeological information, and I still am left to wonder, where is the land of Zarahemla? Where is the Valley of Nimrod? Where are the Plains of Nephaha? I have been unable to find a record of even one city as mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
Tanner: We turn to the Book of Mormon, we have nothing. There is no Nephite language. There are no Nephite cities. There is not a map in any Book of Mormon. You cannot locate any site. There is no evidence for the book, and yet it is supposed to be a historical record.
Narrator: Dr. Richard Fales, author, lecturer, archaeologist.
Fales: We have never excavated one single artifact that even remotely relates to this alleged civilization that the Mormons claim existed in the United States, Central America, and in South America.
Narrator: No archaeological evidence has been found to authenticate the vast American empire described in the Book of Mormon, and yet archaeology has been able to prove the existence of all great civilizations including those of biblical times. For instance, these coins mentioned in the Bible – the shekel, the dram, the widow’s mite – have all been found in abundance.
Crane: What do we find when we look at the Book of Mormon? In Alma the 11th chapter, verses 5 through 19, is a listing of the coinage of the period of time that was used by these people. It lists the senine of gold, the seon of gold, the shum of gold. They had lesser coins: the shiblon, the shiblum, the leah. Need it to be said at this point that not one of these coins has ever been found?
Goodman: Many people do not understand the Book of Mormon. This is a history of the people that inhabited the American continent, North, South and Central America from about 600 BC to about 420 AD. And we have much evidence, of course, of people having lived there.
Crane: I am led to believe from my research that this is not an actual story but is a fairy tale much like Alice in Wonderland.

Ankerberg: Alright, this is what modern scholarship is finding out about the Book of Mormon in comparison with the Bible. Dr. Martin, give us a word of hope for people that might want to switch sides.
Martin: Well, all the great archaeologists that ever examined the Bible as Jews and Christians, W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins, Miller Burroughs of Yale, have all said that archaeology confirms the Scripture historically, that you have tremendous confirmation. You have none of this in the Book of Mormon as Sandra has pointed out. What the Christian wants to remember and what people should remember about salvation is that it is the gift of God, not by any works of righteousness. You’re not going to make it to godhood. You’re not going to work your way into a rank of deity. You’re going to have given to you by Christ through the love of God redemption which is the forgiveness of our sins.
Ankerberg: And that’s good news!
Martin: That’s the best news.
Ankerberg: I hope that you’ll stick with us because next week we’re going to talk about Joseph Smith and why it is that the Mormon Church holds that he’s a prophet. Then we’re going to talk about Mormon salvation. We’re going to outline it: what you have to do to become a god. We’re going to take you via Mr. Ed Decker and his life story in the Mormon Temple and what he had to do to become a god. I hope that you’ll join us next week.


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