Mormon Scholarly Apologetics and Their Cost
|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2012|
|In recent years the Mormon Church (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has significantly increased its scholarly apologetic efforts. This body of work might be termed the new Mormon apologetics. Does the new Mormon apologetics successfully defended the truth of Mormonism?|
Author’s note: The following constitutes a short notification about the newly published, Mormon Apologetics: A Losing Battle, a brief look at Mormon apologetics or their defense of Mormon faith. Links to the book are supplied at the end.
- “Using past patterns of growth as a baseline, religious sociologist Rodney Stark has projected an LDS population of 265 million by the year 2080. Using this projection, Stark has predicted that the LDS Church will become the next major world religion.” –Encyclopedia of Mormonism
New Mormon Apologetics
In recent years the Mormon Church (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has significantly increased its scholarly apologetic efforts. This body of work might be termed the new Mormon apologetics. It has sought to defend the Mormon faith in various ways with organizations such as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (formerly FARMS); Scholarly & Historical Information Exchange for Latter-day Saints (SHIELDS) and The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).
These organizations seek to defend Mormonism to bolster the faith of individual Mormons and reply to materials that are critical of the faith, including such important organizations as Utah Lighthouse Ministry (www.utlm.org), probably the definitive website for information on Mormonism (run by a former Mormon and descendant of Brigham Young); Mormon Think, produced by Mormons interested in historical accuracy (http://mormonthink.com/); and Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify (http://exmormonscholarstestify.org), as well as a number of similar organizations (see note 12), not to mention scores of critical books on Mormonism.
Mormon Apologetics: A Losing Battle is a short, popular book which briefly examines LDS apologetics to see if they make their case in defending Mormon truth claims (see note). Some Christian scholars today have argued that the Mormon church is marshaling new and able defenses of its faith and that the evangelical response has been seriously lacking. Other Evangelicals have actually written articles or books claiming or implying that Mormonism is biblically orthodox, or at least not far from it.
However, as readers will discover, the new Mormon apologetics has not successfully defended the truth of Mormonism, because Mormonism is not a religion of the truth. As the critical literature on Mormonism documents, defending Mormonism historically, biblically, theologically, philosophically, textually, prophetically, archaeologically, scientifically and in other ways is a tall order. In fact, it is impossible. It is impossible because biblical Christianity is the only established divine revelation and Mormon teachings contradict it as to virtually every major doctrine. It’s impossible because no one can prove falsehood is the truth, no matter how sophisticated their arguments.
Mormon arguments may have become more scholarly and original, but that does not necessarily make them true. For example, the modern theory of evolution has a great deal of original, scholarly and scientific argumentation on its behalf (virtual libraries of books), but the theory per se is nonsense and an impossibility. Why? Because it teaches that absolute nothingness alone, by pure chance (a non-entity) created everything there is. This is not science; it is myth and folly. Further, the theory lacks any genuine evidence on its behalf, as more and more scientists are conceding. The problem with evolution involves its false assumptions of materialism and naturalism which skew an accurate interpretation of scientific data. In a similar manner, the problem of Mormonism is its false assumption that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God who restored the original teachings of Christianity. Smith’s anti-biblical alleged revelations distort an accurate interpretation of biblical data.
A Critical Issue, Spiritually and Politically
Nevertheless, the subject of Mormon apologetics is an important topic because there are at least some 5-8 million active Mormons (14 million baptized members), and such attempts to defend the faith appear convincing to them. This helps to cement members’ commitment to their faith as well as produce new converts. The end result is to increase the ranks of Mormonism and stall or prevent the personal salvation of individual Mormons through hearing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As for lapsed Mormons, Mormon apologetics may help bring them back into the fold.
In addition, this issue is important because Mormonism is skilled at proselytizing, with some 60,000 missionaries around the world. Unfortunately, Mormonism finds most of its converts from the pews of Protestantism suggesting that Protestants need to pay much closer attention to biblical doctrine and apologetics.
Further, given the possibility of an American Mormon president for the next 4 (and perhaps 8) years, LDS membership could potentially increase 5-10 million in membership beyond its current expansion of 2.1% per year. (Incidentally, if Americans elect a Mormon president it will be an American first)
But not everything is well within the world of Mormonism, which offers reason for hope. Sociologist Starks prediction cited above, while not outside the realm of possibility, is nevertheless highly unlikely. Why? Because Mormonism looks great on the outside, but it’s another story on the inside. As a result, an exodus from the Mormon Church is also increasing, as more and more Mormons learn the truth about their religion and not just the misleading and deceptive claims made by church authorities. Literally millions of Mormons have left the LDS church or are lapsed and inactive.
For example, expert researcher on Mormonism and professor emeritus of Sociology and Religious Studies at Washington State University, Armand Mauss (a life-long Mormon) “estimates that 50 percent of LDS converts within the United States stop attending within a year of conversion, and 75 percent of foreign converts fail to attend after a year.” Even the church’s official historian, Marlin Jensen, recently declared: “Maybe since Kirtland , we’ve never had a period of — I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having now.”
To a significant degree, I would estimate that this apostasy is a result of the efforts of Christian apologists and former Mormons (Christian or not) seeking to present the truth about Mormonism. This truth is typically and intentionally hidden from individual Mormons by church leadership and also through LDS apologetics. Because there is a great amount of critical information on the Internet available to any Mormon at the click of a mouse, it’s getting more and more difficult for the LDS church to hide the truth. They may attempt to spiritually intimidate Mormons not to read this material, but many are reading it nonetheless.
Mormonism officially claims its teachings comprise an authentic divine revelation and that it is a genuine Christian religion – in fact, the only true Christian religion on earth. For example, Mormonism claims it believes in biblical revelation, in the biblical Trinity, in the biblical Jesus Christ, in salvation by grace — and to have absolute truth on its side — along with many additional assertions. Unfortunately, these official claims stand in stark contrast to biblical, textual, historical and other facts, something that can be objectively proven. Mormonism may claim to be true Christianity and not oppose Christian belief but this is simply false.
For example, The Book of Mormon refers to Christianity (which Mormonism believes is apostate) as “the Church of the devil”; “the mother of abominations”; “the whore of all the earth”; “the mother of harlots” and “the great and abominable church… whose founder is the devil” (1 Nephi 14: 10, 17). In the writings of founder Joseph Smith, second president Brigham Young and subsequent church presidents/prophets, and other authoritative doctrinal writings, and in the Mormon Temple ceremony, Christianity is clearly and consistently presented as something evil.
For a specific example, Mormonism claims to believe in the Trinity. But Mormon scholar Dr. Gary Lawrence, author of How Americans View Mormonism writes that the central biblical doctrine of God (the Trinity) is poisonous, destructive, deceptive, false, illogical, unbiblical, mocks God and prevents the whole world from understanding the true nature of Christ’s atonement.
Because of repeated deceptive claims to be Christian and biblical, polls now indicate that most people in America believe that Mormonism is a true Christian religion — including over 30% of evangelical Christians.
A religion that claims to be a genuine divine revelation from God will, by definition, have the truth on its side – it won’t conflict with the Bible, history, archaeology, science, etc. Unfortunately this is not the case with Mormonism. As a result, in the end, Mormon apologetic organizations such as those listed above only serve to advance, through unintentional deception, the biblically heretical teachings first begun by founder Joseph Smith in 1830, now continued for over 180 years.
Critically examining one’s own religion (as I have done with my personal faith, biblical Christianity) can be difficult because so much is at stake personally, just to mention in this life alone. But it is an absolutely necessary endeavor, no matter what the cost here, because so much more is at stake in the next life, indeed forever. In the end, to be found to be wrong about God, the most important Person in the universe, and to be wrong about salvation, the most important subject on earth, and to have promoted consistent and grave biblical error, carries eternal weight as to its consequences (Matthew 25:46; Galatians 1:6-8).
Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
My hearts desire is that Mormons would listen to the true historical Jesus in the Gospels, and not the invented Jesus of Joseph Smith and the Mormon church. As noted, eternal consequences lie in the balance.
Mormon Apologetics: A Losing Battle will hopefully be a small step in the right direction for both Mormons, Christians, and for anyone interested in the subject.
Because, in the end, the cost of Mormon apologetics (old or new) is not insignificant: it carries the price of millions of souls.
If by chance you are a Mormon reading this material, please see the homepage of JAshow.org for information on becoming a Christian and inheriting eternal life as an entirely free gift, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (see John 3:16; 5:24 6:37, 47; 17:3). “And this is the way to have eternal life–to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” (John 17:3, NLT)
Those interested in reading Mormon Apologetics: A Losing Battle can do so at:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/139389 or
- Heaton, Tim B. “Vital Statistics,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism Http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Vital_Statistics This citation was preceded by the following: “Although projections based on current growth rates are usually not precise predictions of the future, such projections do indicate future possibilities.”
- A much more scholarly and detailed treatment can be found in Mosser and Owen’s commendable text, The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement.
- See Utah Lighthouse Ministry (http://www.utlm.org); Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify (http://exmormonscholarstestify.org); Mormon Think, (http://mormonthink.com/); Mormonism Research Ministry (http://www.mrm.org); www.exMormon.org;www.Mormoninfo.org and similar websites in note 12. What Ron Priddis of Signature Books noted of FARMS remains true of LDS apologetics generally, though not all are as combative: “What I think is lacking is a critical examination of FARMS publications. Scholars find FARMS to be too absurd to take seriously…. FARMS needs to decide whether it will embrace scholarship or continue their polemical rants.” (“A Reply to FARMS and the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute”, Signature Books; http://signaturebooks.com/2010/06/a-reply-to-farms-and-the-joseph-fielding-smith-institute/)
- For an excellent primer logically argued see John Warwick Montgomery Tractatus Logico Theologicus, structurally modeled after Wittgenstein’s philosophical treatise.
- See my Darwin’s Leap of Faith and bibliography. Also, Dr. James Coppedge, Evolution: Possible or Impossible?; Dr. Lee Spetner, Not by Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution (The author has a PhD in physics from MIT, worked with the applied physics laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and has published in prestigious scientific journals); Dr. Jerry Bergman, “Why Abiogenesis Is Impossible”, The True.Origin Archive: Exposing the Myth of Evolution; http://www.trueorigin.org/abio.asp; Wendell R. Bird (JD, Yale Law School), The Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance (Philosophical Library, Two Vols.); AE Wilder Smith (three earned doctorates in science), The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution; Randy L. Wysong, The Creation Evolution Controversy (Dr. Wysong is not a Christian and soundly rejects biblical authority.) Ashby Camp, “Ashby Camp’s List of 1156 Articles Supporting Biblical Creation” (2010; updated February 7, 2012), The True.Origin Archive: Exposing the Myth of Evolution; http://www.trueorigin.org/camplist.aspAn excellent resource is the freely available computerized CELD database. The Creation-Evolution Literature Database includes over 24,000 articles with over 94% having abstracts and over 40% linked to full-text articles (as of March 18, 2012), involving 140 years of publishing (1873-2012). The “goal is to archive every periodical ever published about the creation/evolution religion/science debate.” (About CELD; http://www.bryancore.org/celd/about.html Brent) The main purpose is to “archive young-earth creationist literature” but it also indices opposing viewpoints. For a content list see: http://www.bryancore.org/cgi-bin/celdcontentreport.plIn addition readers may wish to peruse my Evolution Overturned: a Summary, forthcoming.
- “2011 Statistical Report for 2012 April General Conference”, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Newsroom, News Release for March 31, 2012; http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/2011-statistical-report-april-2012-general-conference Compare this with “… census data from some foreign countries … show that the retention rate for their converts is as low as 25 percent. In the U.S., only about half of Mormons are active members of the church, said Washington State University emeritus sociologist Armand Mauss, a leading researcher on Mormons. Sociologists estimate there are as few as 5 million active members worldwide. (Peter Henderson, Kristina Cooke “Special Report – Mormonism Besieged by the Modern Age”, Reuters, January 30, 2012;http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/01/30/uk-mormonchurch-idUKTRE80T1CP20120130)
- Ibid. The 2011 figure was 55,410 but “The surge in the number of members serving full-time missions was the greatest change in the statistical report for 2011 compared to statistical reports for years within the past decade”, representing a 6.1% annual increase indicating 60,000 should be approximately accurate. (“LDS Church Growth”; http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/
- I learned from a tenured professor at BYU who was familiar with the leaders and inner workings of the LDS church (now a Christian) that “the majority of converts to Mormonism come from the Protestant faiths.” One assumes there are also many Catholic converts.
- For some troubling information on the potential consequences of a Mormon presidency, see the books by former Mormon Tricia Erickson, Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?; Park Romney, a distant cousin of Mitt Romney, The Apostasy of a High Priest: The Sociology of an American Cult; retired Navy veteran and former sixth generation Mormon Rocky Hulse, When Salt Lake City Calls and John Weldon, A Mormon President of the United States? Why Christians Should Begin Praying for Mitt Romney Now – Some Thoughts and a Minority Opinion on the Latent Potential Consequences of a Committed, Temple-attending Mormon as President of the United States (in press). For the inherently deceptive and untrustworthy nature of the Mormon leadership see the documentation in former Mormon Kay Burningham, An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism as well as the information at www.utlm.org.Since George Washington, the clear majority of US presidents have been Protestant. Of the 45 American presidents in US history, all but 10 have belonged to Christian denominations of one kind or another (Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Dutch reformed, Episcopalian, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Quaker, or United Church of Christ. (As many as five of these may have been irreligious memberships.) Five presidents belonged to religions that opposed the Bible at one or more major doctrinal points – four were Unitarian (denying the Trinity) and one was Roman Catholic (denying salvation by grace through faith alone). Four were religiously unaffiliated presidents (perhaps Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes). Finally, Barack Obama was previously of the liberal United Church of Christ and liberation theology, although actively anti-biblical. (See David Barton, “America’s Most Biblically Hostile US President”, February 29, 2012, Wall Builders; http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=106938)To my knowledge, none of the 45 American presidents in US history ever belonged to a religion that was as actively opposed to Christianity. For documentation see my Behind the Mask of Mormonism, esp. pp. 89-94. As to polytheism, Mormons typically deny this while accepting that they believe in many gods. (They reject the label because they claim to worship only one God, Elohim, the principal earth God.) For documentation of Mormonism’s polytheism see the above title, chapters 10-12, and for specifically pagan elements see pages 84, 98-104, 111-12, 114-16, 130-31, 134-38, 180-81, 239-40. Technically, Mormonism believes in henotheism and pagan polytheism. As to polygamy, while officially declared to be an eternal covenant in their Scriptures (Doctrine & Covenants Section 132), it is not officially practiced today by the Utah church, although they do believe polygamy will be practiced in the millennium and eternally in the afterlife; on the other hand, scores of LDS offshoots continue to practice polygamy today specifically because of the divine revelation in Doctrine & Covenants. For more information on Mormon polygamy see Utah Lighthouse Ministry online and Behind the Mask of Mormonism, pp. 70, 112, 114-16, 134-37, 140, 406-19.In addition see the resources at: http://www.exmormonchristiansunited.com/ministering-to-mormons/For documentation as to the occult nature of Mormonism (something biblically prohibited e.g. Deuteronomy 18:10-12), see, e.g., the following five sources: 1) My Behind the Mask of Mormonism [Chapter 5: “Does The Mormon Church Accept New, Supernatural Revelations?; Section 6: Mormon Religion and the Occult (Chapter 18: Were Early Mormon Leaders Practitioners of the Occult? (Appendix: Does Mormonism Support Mediumism and Other Occult Philosophy?); Chapter 19: Does the Mormon Church Encourage Spiritism and Necromancy [Under Another Name]? (Appendix: Has There Been Satanic Infiltration of Mormonism?); Chapter 20: Does the Mormon Church Confuse Spiritual Gifts and Occult Powers?]; 2) Non-Mormon historian John L. Brooke, The Refiners Fire: the Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844;
3) Former Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism, Magic and Masonry; 4) Excommunicated but first-rate Mormon historian, D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview; 5) Mormon historian and director of the LDS Institute of Religion, Dr. Grant H. Palmer, An Insiders View of Mormon Origins (for which he was also excommunicated; ironically, claiming to have the truth and promote the truth, the Mormon leadership does not tolerate telling the truth about Mormonism.)
- John Weldon, The Mormon Deception, e-book available at:http://www.johnankerberg.org/catalog/TMD-BPDF.htmlhttp://www.amazon.com/The-Mormon-Deception-ebook/dp/B006WBQ2C6http://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/121623/1/the-mormon-deceptionAlso, John Weldon, Behind the Mask of Mormonism (1999).
- Cited by Elise Soukup, “Into the Future”, Newsweek, January 27, 2008; http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/01/27/into-the-future.html
- Peter Henderson, Kristina Cooke “Special Report – Mormonism Besieged by the Modern Age”, Reuters, January 30, 2012; http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/01/30/uk-mormonchurch-idUKTRE80T1CP20120130
- For example, Utah Lighthouse Ministry (www.utlm.org); Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify (http://exmormonscholarstestify.org); Mormon Think (http://mormonthink.com/); Mormonism Research Ministry (http://www.mrm.org/we-never-criticize); http://www.exmormon.org/tract2.htm Rethinking mormonism; http://www.i4m.com/think/intro/ and ExMormon Christians Unitedhttp://www.exmormonchristiansunited.comIn addition, see the links at each site and my Behind the Mask of Mormonism.
- For additional documentation, see 1) my Behind the Mask of Mormonism, chapters 8-9; 2) James White, “Quotations From Mormon Leaders on the Christian Faith”, Alpha and Omega Ministries; http://vintage.aomin.org/Quotations.html; 3) “Mormon Quotes – Christianity” Mormon Think; http://mormonthink.com/QUOTES/christianity.htm; 4)”Behold the Great and Abominable Church – References”, Ex Mormon.org; http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon121.htm; 5) “Quotes by LDS Leaders”, The Christian Defender – Defending Christianity Against False Doctrine; http://www.thechristiandefender.com/articles/OneTrueChurch.aspThe Mormon public relations claim that the “church of the devil” etc. is the “world system” is fundamentally flawed. For example, the world is not something properly classified as inherently religious having a religious worldview. Also, 1 Nephi 14:10 says there are only two churches. When Joseph Smith supposedly translated the book of Mormon Christianity was the only available second option. In addition, what 1 Nephi teaches about “the church of the devil” fits hand in glove with what Mormonism has taught about biblical Christianity since its inception.
- “The famous parable in Matthew 13 is a masterpiece. Tares (“a poisonous weed, which, until it comes into ear, is similar in appearance to wheat,” according to the [Mormon] Bible dictionary) are planted by an enemy in the Lord’s field (the world) to deceive, choke, crowd out, and destroy. “Hmm, what doctrines could possibly fit this description?
“What doctrines appear to be good but are poisonous and, without effort from the saints [Mormons] to combat them, choke out true doctrine and banish the Church into the wilderness? … With the perspective of history, one answer is very plain: The Trinity…. It has been the most successful of all tare-like deceptions…” (Gary C. Lawrence, “The Great Apostasy: From Creedal to Grave”; Meridian Magazine, May 3, 2012; http://www.ldsmag.com/church/article/9931?ac=1) In another article he writes that “the false and illogical doctrine of the Trinity is preventing the world from correctly understanding Christ’s Atonement…. It’s time to emphasize that we believe in the Godhead [i.e., henontheism], but not in the Trinity….It’s time to tell people that the doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical. The word appears nowhere in the Bible…. The Trinity creed is not only not a litmus test of Christianity, it is a mockery of God.” (Gary C. Lawrence, “The Trinity Creeds: Roadblocks to Understanding Christ’s Atonement”, Meridian Magazine, April 16, 2012; http://www.ldsmag.com/church/living/article/9665?ac=1, emphasis original)