Mormon Officials and Christian Scholars Compare Doctrine/Program 3

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

Walter Martin; ©1983

The Bible is it our sole authority? Is it the Mormon’s sole authority. Is the Book of Mormon the word of God to men?


Ankerberg: Welcome. If you’ve just joined us, this week we are talking about the claims of Mormonism and comparing them with the claims of Orthodox Christianity. A lot of people think that they are very similar. We want to find out if that is true. We are having a conversation with Mormon representatives and asking them certain questions so that you can hear exactly what they believe. This week we would like to take you to a question that they’re going to answer concerning the Bible: Is it our sole authority? Is it their sole authority? What do they believe about the Bible? I’d like you to listen to what they have to say.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: What do the Mormons believe? We’re talking about the Book of Mormon, and a primary question that a lot of young people would ask is: What is the authority structure? Who has the right to speak and tell us the truth? How do you know that they are telling the truth? So, what we need to know is: How does that operate in the Mormon Church?
Christensen: Well, I’ll give my observation and President Flake can give his. One of the things that we would like to make very clear is that we don’t have to rely just solely on the Bible. We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God, for it came via a prophet under inspiration from the Lord.

Ankerberg: Alright, Mrs. Tanner, I’d like to come to you on this. Is it of major significance that Christians hold to the Scripture, and they hold to the Bible and some other authority such as the Book of Mormon?
Tanner: Yes. If you notice in Mr. Christensen’s statement where he says they believe the Bible “as far as it’s translated correctly,” this is a Mormon way of subverting any verse that you say to him for your beliefs, because they may come back, “Well, we only believe the Bible as far as it’s translated correctly.” In other words, it makes a handy way for them to dismiss any verse you would use. And yet they say that they believe their Scriptures without a qualification as to their translation. They’re just the Word of God. The strange thing is that they can’t document any of the doctrines of the Bible have been tampered with; yet, we can show in their books of Scripture there has been doctrinal tampering.
Ankerberg: Give me an example. How much tampering is done in the Book of Mormon?
Tanner: There are four places in the Book of Mormon speaking of Jesus where it says that He is the eternal God, and they have plugged in the words “the Son of” to qualify it, because the original Book of Mormon taught that Jesus was truly God. Joseph Smith changed his view, decided that Jesus was a different person than God, so they had to make these four points of changes in the revelations. They also changed revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants where there was once a section that said “Joseph Smith only had one gift from God to translate the Book of Mormon. He got bigger ideas, went back and rewrote the revelation and now it says this was just the first gift God gave him.
Ankerberg: Alright. Well, let’s ask the Mormon representatives: What do they do when they find a conflict between the Bible and some of their Mormon Scriptures? Let’s hear what they would have to say.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: So, in other words, the authorities though are co-equal.
Christensen & Flake: Yes, correct.
Ankerberg: In fact, the Book of Mormon would take priority in interpreting the Bible.
Christensen & Flake: Not necessarily. Not technically.
Ankerberg: Would the Bible take authority in interpreting the Book of Mormon?
Christensen: I don’t think you say that.
Ankerberg: Okay, then who breaks the deadlock there?
Flake: Good question. The fact is the Scriptures teach that the prophecies of the Scriptures are not of private interpretation. In other words, we believe that the Word of God, wherever it is, is equal with the Word of God wherever it is. But the question is, of course, the interpretation that’s put on it. So the question is: Who has the right to interpret? Our belief is that the interpretation is to be given by the prophet, the man on the earth who is the mouthpiece for God.
Ankerberg: Who is that now?
Flake: In our case it is President Spencer W. Kimball. He is the President of the Church, the prophet who lives, guides, the Church today. There have been twelve prophets who have guided the Church since its reorganization in 1830, and again we believe that these men are on the same plane and speak in the same authority as ancient prophets.
Ankerberg: Who told you that these men have that kind of authority?
Flake: Well, that’s part of the restoration of the gospel. The restoration of the gospel in the latter days is based on the assumption that the original church of Jesus Christ on the earth was lost through apostasy, through error creeping in, the apostles being killed. And a few hundred years after the death of Jesus the only thing remaining of Christianity was just the vestiges thereof. We believe that a restoration was needed. So, we believe that in 1820 angels came from heaven and came to the prophet Joseph Smith, then a young man in New York state, and restored to him the gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety. Hence, the name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as opposed to the former day when the gospel of Jesus Christ was on the earth in its entirety.

Ankerberg: Alright. They have very succinctly stated their view. Mr. Decker, as a Temple Mormon for almost 20 years, you believed it and taught it just as strongly as they did. But one day, you have written and you have talked about the fact that you found out that was internally inconsistent. Can you explain why?
Decker: Well, several different reasons. The first reason, of course, is that I discovered that there was more than one prophet at one time on the face of the earth.
Ankerberg: Explain yourself. What does that mean?
Decker: In Mormonism we teach that there is only one true prophet at any given time at any given dispensation. Spencer W. Kimball is the prophet for the Church. But as I read the Book of Mormon and read the Bible at the same time, in the same time era I realized that we had prophets in the Book of Mormon and we had prophets in the Eastern Hemisphere also. So which prophet was the true prophet? We had two different prophets. For example, we had Lehi stating in the first page in the Book of Mormon that he was a prophet of God, that he called to Jerusalem to repent or God would destroy their city. When they wouldn’t repent he was told by God to leave.
Ankerberg: Now, for people that aren’t Mormons, who is Lehi?
Decker: Lehi is the first prophet of the Book of Mormon.
Ankerberg: He was a man in the Book of Mormon.
Decker: A man who was a prophet, who claims to be a prophet, during the reign of Zedekiah about 600 BC.
Ankerberg: And what did he say?
Decker: He said that they should repent and God would spare Jerusalem, and when they would not repent then He said, “Flee the city.”
Ankerberg: Okay. So His advice was “Take off.” What’s the problem with that?
Decker: Now, if you check in 2 Kings 24 and 25 you find out that Zedekiah reigned for 11 years around 600 BC. If you go back into the book of Jeremiah you find out that Jeremiah was a prophet of God, whom I believed to be a true prophet as a Mormon, and he reigned in the city of Jerusalem as a prophet of God during the reign of Zedekiah.
Ankerberg: So, you’d have to say that there are two prophets.
Decker: There’s two prophets there. But one prophet said, “Submit yourself to the king of Babylon, and any other prophet here that says you should flee the city or that you should repent and God would save this city is a liar.” [Jeremiah 21:7-10; 27:8-22]
Ankerberg: Now that’s Jeremiah saying that.
Decker: That’s Jeremiah saying that.
Ankerberg: Where did he say that in Jeremiah?
Decker: There’s probably 30 different places you can go to. Jeremiah 3; 17; 18; 19, everywhere throughout Jeremiah. Jeremiah 14, he goes into it. In fact, in the latter part of the book of Jeremiah, you discover men who were prophets who went out and left the city and were destroyed. So here we have in the Book of Mormon the very first prophet speaking out: two prophets, not one prophet.
Ankerberg: So as a Mormon, when you figured this out, how did that hit you?
Decker: Well, it disturbed me very mightily, as you can imagine. First off, you have to go back to the Bible again, as Dr. Martin said. You’ve got to test it. First off, you don’t test Scripture by a prophet. You test a prophet by the Scripture. That’s what Deuteronomy 13 says. That’s what Deuteronomy 18 says. That’s what Jeremiah 14 says.
Ankerberg: Because the Scripture is where God has spoken.
Decker: Test the prophet by the Scriptures. But as a Mormon we are testing the Scripture by the prophet who gave us the Scripture. That’s like asking the fox if he eats chickens.
Ankerberg: So you have an example in the history of Mormonism documented that is internally inconsistent with what he has said right here.
Decker: That’s right. And the Mormon people that have been sharing in this program have indicated that they have one true living prophet. Now, if we could have two prophets during the time of Jeremiah and Lehi, according to Mormon theology, if the Bible says in Acts 13:1-2 that there were “certain prophets [small “p”, plural – “prophets”] and teachers in Antioch” during the New Testament church that Christ established, somewhere we have a problem when all of a sudden everything that we do is tested by the prophet. Ezra Taft Benson said that the prophet – and Ezra Taft Benson, for those who do not know, is the head of the Council of the Twelve Apostles in the Mormon Church – he said that the prophet is above all Scripture and he’s above all dead prophets. If he says something that Scripture says differently, the prophet is right and the Scriptures are wrong.
Ankerberg: Sandra, let’s talk about office and function here. What’s the difference?
Tanner: Well, the Mormons like to tie in verses into the Bible that talk about apostles, prophets, teachers, and then they say, “See, you need all the offices in the church today.” And from this they are trying establish the need for their system of having a prophet and under him having these twelve apostles. And so you get into the problem of the verses that they are using. Are we talking about functions or are we talking about titles? The Mormons do not have all of the titles. Since they are going to say you have to have all those, they have no one called an “evangelist,” they have no one called a “pastor.” And yet if you ask them about this they say, “Well, an evangelist is our patriarch and our bishops are pastors.” And then I could say “Well, I could probably say the same thing in the other direction then: my pastor is a bishop. You say, “apostles,” well, then my missionaries are apostles. So you have to determine if we’re talking about the function or the title. And I would say that the titles of Mormonism are not found to be essential in the New Testament church.
Ankerberg: What do they do when you point out in Ephesians where the exact opposite order of titles is found? Instead of it being the prophet first, the Scripture says, “first apostles and then prophets,” and so on. [Eph. 4:11] Apparently the guy at the top should not be the prophet, it should be an apostle. And then they miss on the words, I think, where it says there were some apostles. And it talks about the apostles.
Tanner: They don’t usually look at the verse that closely, and they would say, “Oh, well, the prophet is an apostle and so that’s okay.” But I’ve not found a Mormon that could adequately explain why they would place a prophet superior to apostles, and yet the verse they try to use has it in the reverse order.
Ankerberg: Alright, so we have a problem biblically. We have a problem historically. I’d like to reverse it and say let’s go along with the Mormons and you might have another problem. And, Dr. Martin, maybe you could enunciate what that problem might be if we went back and said, “Okay, if the prophet is the one that speaks and when he speaks, boy, what he says goes.” How would this work out with Brigham Young and some of the things that he said?
Martin: Well, it won’t work at all. You have terrific internal contradictions among the prophetic voice in the church. Brigham Young, for instance, in Journal of Discourses in a sermon he preached – written down by four Mormon scholars so there was no doubt that he said it and he signed it – Brigham Young said in 1852 that Adam was the father and the God of the Mormons. And he identified Adam as, “Our father and our god and the only god with whom we have to do.” That’s very clear-cut. He even prefaced it by saying, “Hear it, Oh inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile,” so there is no mistaking it.
Then in 1873 Brigham came out and said, “How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints about one doctrine about which I revealed to them and which God revealed to me.” So it’s revelation. Adam is our father and our god. Then you have terrific contradiction because the Mormon Church six years ago said, “We never taught that. I mean, Brigham Young might have. Some others might have, but it was never a revelation.” Yes, it was a revelation. It specifically says it was a revelation.
Then, of course, Joseph Smith, the prophet, said to them, their first and greatest prophet said to them, “You practice polygamy or be damned.”
Ankerberg: Where did he say that?
Martin: Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. I’ll give you the quote: “Behold I give you a new and an everlasting covenant and if you will not abide in it then you will be damned. Practice polygamy, have many wives.” What happens? The United States government takes a dim view of polygamy and says, “We’re going to exile you to Mexico and take away all of your holdings.” Immediately the living prophet says, “Uh, there’s a change. Uh, give up polygamy.” So now they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t practice it. So, there’s another internal contradiction. Then the Negroes, a great illustration.
Ankerberg: Okay, what about them?
Martin: The Negroes, cursed by God, with a black skin, thick lips, a flat nose, and fuzzy hair because in the pre-existent life, according to Mormon theology, he didn’t fight valiantly on the side of God.
Ankerberg: Where do they say this?
Martin: This is in Pearl of Great Price. And so what happened is, he got sent to earth, the black man got sent to earth in the curse of Cain, the first earthly murderer. So, no blacks could hold the priesthood. It was forbidden to them till all the white men got the priesthood. Then they developed a multi-racial society. All over the world blacks and other people wanted to get into the Church. So Spencer Kimball meditates about it and says, “Alright, now’s the time. Now the blacks can hold the priesthood.” And he opens the priesthood to the blacks. In other words, what you’re really up against is this: you have a God that changes His mind depending upon what the living prophet says. That being the case, one can only deduce that the living prophet must be the Mormon God.
Ankerberg: And so you would assert we go back to Scripture. Why?
Martin: Go back to Scripture because the authority of the Scripture is the foundation of Christianity, and the Mormons make a big point of about saying, “We’re Christians.” Alright, if you’re Christians, obey the Scriptures not your scriptures.
Ankerberg: And what does Deuteronomy 13 say again?
Martin: It says that, “It there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and it comes to pass and he says to you, ‘Let us go after other gods which thou hast not known.’ Thou shalt not listen to that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. He has spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God to thrust thee out of the way that the Lord thy God has commanded thee to walk in, ye shall put that evil away from you.” [Deut. 13:1-5]
Ankerberg: Okay. We’re going to go back to our Mormon representatives and talk about: What does a person need to do in Mormon theology to progress to become a god? We would like for you to listen to the Mormon representatives lay out for us their system of how a man or a woman can become a god.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: How do you prepare to become god?
Christensen: Okay, the Savior laid that out for us. And I think then to a certain degree this is where we and conventional Christianity perhaps come together in the fact that the Savior came to the earth and laid out a pattern whereby some of these things could be done. President Flake has referred to some of them; one, being, of course, baptism. He pointed that out, that an individual needed to be baptized. They are cleansed of their sins.
Bjornstad: Do you have to be baptized to be saved in the Mormon Church?
Flake: Yes. Yes, you do.
Ankerberg: Okay, what else?
Christensen: Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; to receive the direction and promptings from heaven through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Certainly that’s important and necessary. It has to be further done by someone who has the authority to do it. We certainly don’t believe that anyone can just simply say, “Well, because I’ve had a feeling I think I can go out and be a minister.” That is not really appropriate and Paul made that rather clear.
Ankerberg: In other words, there’s been a progression of leadership that they have the authority to constitute you with that gift.
Christensen: And anyone acting in the name of God can trace that authority back to the Savior.
Ankerberg: Okay, what else?
Christensen: Those would be certainly the key ones. You’ve mentioned marriage. We feel it’s the eternal family, the family is an eternal unit and that the relationship between a husband and a wife, marriage is essential, necessary, an important part of this continued progression.

Ankerberg: Okay, Sandra, I’d like to come to you on this. What do you feel about the statement that you have to have the authority from the Church to start in this eternal progression to become a god and namely to get the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Tanner: Well, the claim for the Mormons is that Joseph Smith gave that authority and he gives you the Holy Ghost through his priestly authority. The funny thing is that we don’t know where Joseph Smith got it from. He’s just a 14-year-old boy. He says that he had this vision. He makes these claims for himself. We don’t know why we should believe it. If my 14-year-old boy said he saw a vision and saw God and Jesus to give him the authority, the Mormons wouldn’t believe him. So why should I believe this 14-year-old boy?
Ankerberg: Okay. Ed, you had the card. Tell me about the card that gave you the authority.
Decker: Well, President Christensen said that anyone acting in the name of God can trace his authority back to the Savior Himself. The words that they are using mean something to you far different than what they mean to the Mormon. As a Mormon, I know what he’s talking about. He’s talking about what I carried, which was my priesthood authority card. It showed the authority of the man who ordained me to the Melchizedek priesthood and who ordained the man who ordained him all the way back through Brigham Young and Joseph Smith to the Savior. And this, of course, he goes through…
Ankerberg: Did the card actually say that?
Decker: Yes, absolutely. It shows John the Baptist and Peter, James and John tied in there also. They came down and bestowed the priesthood for God.
Ankerberg: So the Mormon Church is absolutely serious about tracing this back to Peter, James and John, and Jesus Himself.
Decker: Well, I could trace my lineage, my priesthood lineage, by name of individual right back to Jesus Christ and in that line was Peter, James and John.
Ankerberg: What is the problem with that?
Decker: Well, obviously the problem is the fact that, number one, John the Baptist, who was the one who came and restored the priesthood, never held the priesthood that he was supposed to restore. He had to be a Levitical priest: he wore the skins of animals and ate food that was foul to the Levitical priesthood; he could not have been a Levitical priest. The Mormons say the only way you can get the priesthood, the only way you can get the authority right here, is by the laying on of hands. Now, he died without the authority, and there was no way that he could get it up in Paradise or spirit prison because that’s why the Mormons baptize for the dead because they can’t do physical ordinances there.
Ankerberg: Okay. So you’re saying that the point of there being a succession, going all the way back to Jesus, is broken by John the Baptist himself.
Decker: That’s right. He could not possibly have held the Levitical priesthood. His father did, but John the Baptist didn’t do it. In fact, in Matthew they asked Jesus where did He get the authority to do what He was doing, and He said, “You tell me where John the Baptist got his authority.” He said this to the Levitical priesthood leaders. “Where did he get his authority?” “You tell me that and I’ll tell you where I got mine.” They couldn’t. And He said, “Well, I’m not going to tell you where I got mine because I got mine from the same place.” [Matt. 21:23-27]
Ankerberg: Okay, so they are going through the motions, and if you don’t have the actual authority because John the Baptist wasn’t a part of that link, then apparently they don’t have the Holy Ghost given to them by the laying on of hands. So, therefore, they’re not saved.
Decker: Well, they believe the Holy Ghost is a physical being who looks just like a man but has a spirit body. You can take talcum powder, perhaps, and sprinkle about him. He is a physical being. He can only be in one place at one time, and if he is in Chattanooga he can’t be in Salt Lake City. So, again, you start dealing with things that have no meaning. You come back to what they just were talking about, about the mission of Jesus Christ on the earth. They talked about how to perfect us, but nowhere did they say that He was perfect and that He was our sin offering. They can’t deal with the blood. They can’t deal with the cross. They take Jesus and they put Him in the garden of Gethsemane suffering for our sins. They can’t bring Him to the cross. So they lose the whole purpose of Christ’s earthly presence.
Ankerberg: Sandra, what about this thing of this being a progression to exaltation? What is the difference between Mormonism and their plan of salvation? We’ve got to define terms here. What is salvation via Mormonism and then what is salvation via orthodox Christianity? Is it the same?
Tanner: Well, let me read you a quote by Bruce McConkie. He’s one of their living apostles today and he wrote a book called Mormon Doctrine to explain all these things. And he has definitions of salvation. Number one, he says, “Unconditional or general salvation – that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law consists in the mere fact of being resurrected.” So you get to the problem of definitions with Mormons. A Mormon could say everyone is saved because they believe everyone will be resurrected. And they say that is salvation by grace: resurrection.
Ankerberg: Now, hold to that one before you get to number two. Let me come to you, Dr. Martin, with your Bible. Does salvation equal resurrection, and does everybody have it automatically?
Martin: No, because Peter tells us we have “already been born again by incorruptible seed, by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.” [1 Pet. 1:3] That is before the resurrection. And the resurrection is not salvation; the resurrection is our taking on an immortal form to fulfill the image of Christ.
Ankerberg: It sounded like that you are saying that we automatically have it there in that verse the way you quoted it. Are you saying that everybody automatically gets that?
Martin: No. I’m saying that the moment we are born again or receive Christ as our Savior…
Ankerberg: How do you get born again?
Martin: We are born again when we come to the place where we recognize that we are lost and that we need a relationship with God that can only come through faith in Christ. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” [John 14:6] which means that we have to come to Him. We have to commit to Him. And the moment we do we become new creations in Christ Jesus. This is by grace alone through faith not by human works. [Eph. 2:8-9] In Mormonism salvation is by repentance, baptism, faith, good works, and obedience to the laws and the ordinances of the gospel as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints. That’s not salvation by grace. That’s a perversion of it.
Ankerberg: Okay. The second thing, what is the second part of salvation for the Mormon Church? Sandra?
Tanner: They call that conditional or individual salvation: “That which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. Salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life and consists in gaining an inheritance in the highest of the three heavens within the celestial kingdom.”
Ankerberg: Exaltation is to become a god.
Tanner: Yes. It goes on and says, “This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity and those who obtain it are gods.”
Ankerberg: Okay, next week we’re going to talk about this eternal marriage, which is the next step here in the progression. But, Dr. Martin, it sounds like you’ve got to do a lot of work to become that. Is that what we’re saying in Christianity?
Martin: No. In Christianity what we’re saying is that salvation is the gift of God. The gift of God is eternal life though the Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom. 6:23] But it’s the classic Christ of the Bible, the Word made flesh. It’s the Holy Spirit of the Bible. It’s the redemption of the cross. They have no cross. They have no blood atonement. They are trusting in their works as a means of adding to the cross: their works, the law that they follow, the gospel law they’re talking about. But Paul says, “If righteousness comes by the law, Christ is dead for nothing.” [Gal. 2:21] And that, of course, is the core of Christianity: Christ crucified in our place for our sins and risen for our justification.
Ankerberg: So there are major differences and we’re going to continue to go on with this discussion. Next week we want to find out from our Mormon representatives about eternal marriage, marriage in the Temple, and we have with us Mr. Ed Decker who was actually married in the Temple and we’re going to go through that ceremony. I hope that you’ll join us then.


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