Mormonism 201 (Introduction): Response to David Waltz

Written by David Waltz
Rejoinder by By Eric Johnson

David Waltz claims to be “a Catholic Christian” who has studied Mormonism since 1987, has“accumulated more than 1,700 books on Mormonism, including more than 150 anti-Mormon books. Add to this my collection of BYU Studies, Dialogue, Sunstone, and the vast majority of FARMS publications, and one could say I have a fairly substantial Mormon collection.” 

He apparently ordered Mormonism 101 because he felt “the title had an academic ring to it”and he hoped it would “build upon the recent Evangelical/Mormon dialogue of Blomberg and Robinson.” Once he received the book, it apparently did not take 15 minutes before he decided that Mormonism 101 “was nothing more than another ill-conceived, subjective, polemical, anti-Mormon publication.” In other words, he apparently gave our book a “thumbs down.”

In his review, Waltz promises that he will “demonstrate that McKeever and Johnson repeatedly use polemical methods against Mormonism that are defective.” In addition, he says he will show how our “approach to Mormonism is severely flawed; and importantly, their approach is a double-edged sword, which when turned on Evangelicalism, inflicts a much greater wound.”

The Making of LDS Doctrine

In an attempt to show that Bill and I don’t know Mormonism, Waltz writes, “The professors at BYU have as much ‘authority’ as the leading professors at leading Evangelical seminaries. Do McKeever and Johnson have the ‘authority’ to speak for Evangelicalism? I am truly amazed at how many times anti-Mormon writers have to be told that the only official, authoritative writings for the LDS Church are its scriptures (i.e., the Standard Works). And how many times does the anti-Mormon need to be told that, ‘a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.’ Throughout their book McKeever and Johnson quote past Mormon authorities who held opposing opinions on many issues and doctrines. McKeever and Johnson give me the impression that they are professional anti-Mormons, yet they cannot seem to grasp the elementary LDS doctrine on what constitutes official doctrine.”

This raises two questions. How is a Mormon supposed to get his doctrine? And how does that contrast with the Christian? The Bible is vital for the evangelical Christian because it is his authority from God. Every believer has been mandated to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Because Christians have a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), they have the authority to determine right doctrine from wrong. This is where proper hermeneutics (interpretation) comes in. In addition, Christians have been commanded to test everything (1 Thes. 5:17, 1 John 4:1). If we see doctrine mixed with error, we have been commissioned to point out the error and correct it (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:2-5).

According to the LDS leadership structure, the professors at BYU do not have authority to speak for the church. In Mormonism, there is a hierarchical chart, with the prophet sitting at the top. Twice a year the Ensign magazine prints center-spread pictures of the LDS general authorities. Although there are photos of more than 100 men in each spread, I have yet to see a current BYU professor portrayed there. According to the lines of authority in the LDS Church structure, there are at least 100 people who speak with more authority than the highest ranking BYU professor. On the other hand, a Christian professor speaks with as much authority as he correctly interprets the Bible and speaks its truth. In fact, evangelical Christians believe that truth belongs to God’s Word (John 17:17). The person who speaks in accordance with this Word speaks with authority.

Second, Waltz displays an utter act of ignorance when he says, “I am truly amazed at how many times anti-Mormon writers have to be told that the only official, authoritative writings for the LDS Church are its scriptures (i.e., the Standard Works).” Nay, it is we who are amazed at how many times those sympathetic with Mormonism continue to perpetrate the myth that Mormons get their doctrine only from the Standard Works. In our preface on page 10, we wrote: “The LDS Church manual Gospel Principles states that, in addition to these four books of scripture (i.e. the Standard Works), the inspired words of the living prophets and LDS Church publications can also be used to guide its members in the ways of truth.” This was a paraphrase of page 55 of Gospel Principles. Perhaps Waltz has insight that the church curriculum department is missing. There is no way Waltz’ statement can be true as long as Mormons keep insisting that they believe in an open canon and modern-day revelation.

Waltz also ignores the following that was also written on page 10: “…the student of Mormonism still needs to carefully weigh what LDS leaders have said and are saying since it gives us an idea of what kind of men they really are. For example, if certain LDS leaders continually make irresponsible comments, we must take that into consideration. Also if it can be demonstrated that such an ‘opinion’ was believed by church members to be true, then it places into serious question the LDS claim that its prophets cannot lead the church astray.” Although it may be convenient, hiding behind the word official ignores the fact that these men said the things attributed to them.

While we do quote from sources other than the four Standard Works, the vast majority of our LDS quotes come from general authorities and not laypeople such as LDS apologists or BYU professors. We utilized these sources on purpose because the LDS leaders are the only ones who speak with authority according to this church structure. The words of laypeople—though valued by many church members—are generally taken with a grain of salt. There is no comparison between what a BYU professor may write in a book when compared to the words of President Hinckley or Apostle Packer in general conference.

Interestingly enough, throughout his review Waltz utilizes a number of quotes from non-canonical sources, including four lengthy quotes from church general authorities in the following five paragraphs! Isn’t it odd that Waltz can freely quote sources outside the Standard Works but we can’t? If he didn’t believe these men were authoritative, then why did he quote them? It makes me wonder why we get criticized for quoting past general authorities when the Ensign magazine, the monthly publication of the LDS Church, does the same thing in every issue!

Third, as far as his contention that ‘a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.’perhaps Waltz could enlighten us by providing the source for this quote from the Standard Works. The fact is Joseph Smith made this comment in the privacy of his home when speaking with two members from Michigan. The quote actually comes from the Documentary History of the Church5:265 – not the Standard Works!

Waltz should look to see what Ezra Taft Benson said in his speech titled “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” Among other things, Benson said:

  1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
  2. The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
  3. The prophet does not have to say, “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
  4. The prophet is not limited to man’s reasoning.
  5. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

Based on these points, I have several questions. One, was this general authority speaking with the blessing of his church when he said these thing or was he leading his listeners astray? Two, who knows more about Mormonism? A man who said these things while serving as an LDS general authority? Or Waltz, a professed Catholic who merely has a lot of books on the topic? The answer seems obvious.

Finally, Waltz uses loaded language when he calls us “professional anti-Mormons” who are not able to “grasp the elementary LDS doctrine on what constitutes official doctrine.” I wonder if Waltz could give us a definition of “official Mormon doctrine” that is consistent with LDS history and the teachings of all LDS leaders. Also, I wonder what Waltz would say to a person who called himself a Catholic but:

  • rejected the Immaculate Conception;
  • believed there are only four ordinances and not seven;
  • thought that the Pope was just a mere man with no more of a connection to God than anyone else;
  • didn’t see a need for attending Mass.

Although I am still not sure about Waltz’ Catholicism, I wonder at which point he would declare that such a person—no matter how much he or she desired to be called “Catholic”—was a fraud? It seems reasonable that the designation Catholic has a certain meaning. Those who want to consider themselves Catholic should be willing to follow the basic doctrinal structure of the Roman Catholic Church. It is no different from Mormonism. Those who desire to be called Mormon needs to be willing to follow the basic doctrinal structure of the LDS Church and its leaders. If not, then the word Mormon really does not have any meaning.

The Apostasy

Waltz says that we generally misunderstand what Mormon leaders have meant when they refer to a “total” or “complete apostasy.” He writes: “I know of no member of the LDS Church that holds to the view that all truth was lost. In fact, most believe that many truths still existed in a scattered form throughout the years between the loss of the ‘keys’ in the early second century and the restoration in nineteenth (sic).”

It should be pointed out that we never said that the LDS Church teaches that “all” truth was lost. Rather, our point was that all authority was lost. This point is made very clearly on page 79 in our chapter on the apostasy when we wrote: “Mormonism was founded on the premise that the authority initially given to the apostles by Jesus Christ was lost until Joseph Smith restored true Christianity in 1830. Mormons say that since Christ’s church quickly abandoned His principles, the Reformation was not enough….” This is an instance of putting words into our mouth to make us say something we never did say.

Waltz proceeds to give four examples of what he says LDS authorities have taught. First, he quotes Brigham Young from the Journal of Discourses (7:4-5). Young said that a man such as John Wesley was “good” and therefore obtained an eternal “rest.” Is Waltz claiming that Young believed Wesley had any priesthood authority? For if Waltz had given the proceeding words, it would have shown that Young clearly denied that Wesley had any authority.

This is what the following sentences from Young’s talk say: “Why could he not build up the kingdom of God on the earth: He had not the Priesthood; that was all the difficulty he laboured under. Had the Priesthood been conferred upon him, he would have built up the kingdom of God in his day as it is now being built up. He would have introduced the ordinances, powers, grades, and quorums of the Priesthood; but, not holding the Priesthood, he could not do it.”

While Young said that the Spirit of God rested upon Wesley, Young certainly did not believe that Wesley had any priesthood authority. Why? It had disappeared from the earth until it was supposedly given to Joseph Smith. Therefore, Young very well could believe that Wesley’s fate would be fine because Mormonism teaches in three levels of heaven and that everyone, for the most part, will make it to at least the bottom level. Is Wesley headed to the celestial kingdom? While Young doesn’t say, the answer probably hinges on whether or not Wesley accepts the Mormon gospel in the next life. Exaltation can be accomplished only by those with priesthood authority, so Wesley’s fate rests in his future decision that was provided him only because a faithful Mormon who has authority was baptized on his behalf.

Waltz also quotes Lorenzo Snow, who became the fifth LDS president, in Journal of Discourses14:304 as saying that “everybody has the Spirit of God.” But here again, Waltz stops his quote short. Ending after the word “Methodists,” Waltz fails to put in the rest of the sentence: “in fact we are told that this is the light that lights every man that comes into the world; but to say that all have the Holy Ghost, the gift that was promised to those who obeyed the Gospel, it is not so.” In essence, Snow is saying that while all people have “the Spirit of God” (which comes from a general God-fearing belief), not everyone has the Holy Ghost. Only those who belong to the true church (LDS Church) possess this trait.

A third quote, this by church historian B.H. Roberts in The Defense of the Saints, shows that “there still remains light in the sky” despite the universal apostasy. Again, while there might be “light in the sky,” there is no authority because Roberts quite clearly taught that there was a final and complete apostasy. Consider the following quotes by B.H. Roberts (emphases ours):

History of the Church, Vol.1, Introduction, p.xl (of which Roberts was the editor): “This is a tremendous arraignment of all Christendom. It charges a condition of universal apostasy from God, especially upon Christendom that was dwelling in a fancied security of being the farthest removed from the possibility of such a charge; each division of the so-called Christian Church felicitating itself with the flattering unction that its own particular society possessed the enlightened fulness of the Christian religion. While the boldness of this declaration of the young Prophet is astounding, upon reflection it must be conceded that just such a condition of affairs in the religious world is consistent with the work he, under the direction of divine providence, was about to inaugurate. Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of sects there were already enough in existence. Division and subdivision had already created of confusion more than enough, and there was no possible excuse for the introduction of a new Christian sect. But if men through apostasy had corrupted the Christian religion and lost divine authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, it was of the utmost importance that a new dispensation of the true Christian religion should be given to the world.”

History of the Church, Vol.1, Introduction, p.xci (The Testimony of Prophecy to the Universal Apostasy): “Clear as the fact is made in this historical view that there was a complete and universal apostasy from the religion established in the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time:  and clear as is the proof from the same review that the Church of Christ then established was destroyed, there is yet another line of evidence pointing to the same solemn fact that I can not altogether omit, though often used in our literature, viz., the testimony of prophecy to the apostasy from the Christian religion, and the destruction of the Church of Christ.”

“The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Second Year, p. 204: “Paul’s Prophecy to the Thessaloneans: Paul, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, gives utterance to a prophecy which covers the whole ground of the absolute and universal apostasy of Christendom. A prophecy which, if the apostasy of so-called Christendom has not been complete and universal, proves beyond all question that the great Apostle [p.205] of the Gentiles is a false prophet; or if fulfilled, then it proves that the Church of Christ, so far as it existed in the earth, was to be destroyed; that another and different religion was to be substituted for the Christian religion; that another church, one founded by men, was to take the place of the Church of Christ, a worldly church dominated by the very spirit of Lucifer, who, under its rule, would oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God; and sit in the temple of God, showing himself, so far as this world is concerned, that he is God. Moreover, Paul declared in this very prophecy I am about to quote that the forces which would ultimately bring to pass this universal apostasy from the Christian religion—”the mystery of iniquity”—was already at work even in his day.”

New Witnesses for God, Vol.1, p.483: “And now let me say in conclusion–it is a fact; the world needed a New Witness for God; the church of Christ was destroyed; there was an apostasy from the Christian religion so complete and universal as to make necessary a New Dispensationthereof; the ancient prophets of God foretold the coming forth in the last days of a New Dispensation of the gospel; God has sent forth his angel with that New Dispensation; God did raise up a New Witness for himself, in the person of Joseph Smith, and divinely commissioned him to preach the gospel, administer its ordinances and speak in his name, and God has given to the world abundant evidence of the divine authority and inspiration of that Witness.”

Clearly Roberts did not believe there was any authority until Joseph Smith eventually restored it in the 19th century. Finally, Waltz gives a quote from Apostle LeGrand Richards’ book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Richards does say that there were truths that could be found in the Christian churches. However, consider what Richards said five pages later: “Since the departure from the true gospel of Christ was to be universal, as the prophets foretold, and since such universal apostasy was confirmed in the statement of Jesus to Joseph Smith, it would follow that a restoration would be necessary. Such a restoration is the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (pp. 32-33).

Again, this “universal apostasy” necessitated a “restoration,” which Mormons maintain came through the prophet Joseph Smith and the foundation of their church. So when did the universal apostasy take place? According to Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, “in the Old World the great apostasy was complete sometime during the second century A.D., and in the New World it gained the ascendancy in the fifth century with the destruction of the Nephites” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.477). The reason for the apostasy was the lack of priesthood authority. Apostle George Q. Cannon wrote, “It is because the Priesthood of the Son of God was withdrawn for a long period of time from the earth.”

According to Cannon, “many sought after God in a certain manner and according to the light they had, and many obtained some degree of knowledge concerning God. Some of them had a testimony of Him through their faith and died at peace with God. Many of our ancestors lived in this condition, and God bore witness to them by His Holy Spirit that He was pleased with them. But what of that? Is that all that is necessary to place them in a saved condition? By no means. Something more than that is necessary to obtain for them the full remission of their sins and to place them in a condition where they can be saved and exalted in God’s presence.”

Thus, Cannon could say that the “Reformers lacked Priesthood” when he wrote, “A Wesley, a Luther, a Calvin, a Wycliffe and a host of others who have arisen in the world, imbued with the highest and purest motives and the highest and most intense desires for the salvation of their fellow men, have labored zealously to turn men to God and to bring them to a knowledge of the Savior; but they have not had the authority of the Holy Priesthood.” So, while God might be pleased that these Reformers tried to know Him, they could not obtain the full remission of sins because, again, they lacked the priesthood.

The nature of God

Waltz apparently decided to move beyond the “Introduction” and spend some time critiquing several chapters from our first section on God. After spending several pages discussing the Church Fathers’ ideas of God, he writes, “I am not making the claim that the early Church Fathers taught a Mormon view of the Godhead.” Rather, he is “claiming that there are many common points of contact between the Mormon doctrine of the Godhead and the early Church Fathers.” Of this there is great debate.

Despite Watlz’ arguments, he fails to understand that the Mormon version of God is completely different from what is taught in the Bible. This is not a difference in language or semantics. According to Mormonism, God was once a man on another planet. He became the God of this world and became our literal father in the so-called preexistence. Mormons today hope to continue this chain and become exalted to the place of becoming rulers of other worlds. This is Mormonism at its core, which is much different than anything Christianity—whether Western or Eastern—has ever taught.

Waltz makes an interesting observation when, in reference to our description in chapter 1 regarding the nature of the LDS God, he says, “…they do not cite one verse from the uniquely LDS scriptures to support their claims. Why is this? It is because in the LDS official canon you will not find one verse which states that there was a time when God was not God. The authors they cite are going beyond the LDS canon, and beyond the time frame of the LDS canon.”

We find it incredible that Waltz would make such a comment. We find it more incredible that FAIR would have the audacity to include it in this review. Is Waltz actually implying that Joseph Smith had no authority to say “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see”? This “salad-bar” Mormonism that Waltz and FAIR espouse was soundly criticized in the fall 2003 general conference when James Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency said, “We can have a certain testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Redeemer of mankind, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet commissioned to restore the Church in our day and time without having a complete understanding of all gospel principles. But when you pick up a stick you pick up both ends. And so it is with the gospel. As members of the Church we need to accept all of it… Revelations from the prophets of God are not like offerings at the cafeteria, some to be selected and others disregarded.”

We would agree that both the Bible and Book of Mormon constantly contradict the idea that God was once a man. However, by claiming that a doctrine not found in the Standard Works would negate its ability to be a true doctrine for a Latter-day Saint, Waltz shows that he does not understand the basic tenets of Mormonism. The phrase, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become,” is not found in the Standard Works. However, there is no doubt that this catchy couplet first given by Lorenzo Snow (in a revelation no less) is generally believed by the vast majority of Mormons as doctrinal truth. In fact, there are other doctrines outside the Standard Works that are believed by Mormons, including the very idea that there is a Mother God. This teaching has been described as an “unspoken truth.”

Consider also what Apostle James E. Talmage says about celestial marriage: “‘Celestial Marriage’ is a term in current use among the Latter-day Saints, though it does not occur in any revelation contained in the standard works of the Church.”  Yet, despite the lack of support from the Standard Works, the ideas that God was once a man, the existence of a heavenly mother, and the veracity of celestial marriage are believed by the vast majority of Mormons. That being the case, Waltz needs to stop using this fallacious argument and admit that Mormon truisms can indeed be found outside of the Standard Works.

Waltz then asks a number of bizarre questions, including wondering why God did not create the universe earlier, what God was doing before creating this universe, and whether or not God is an eternal creator. Waltz fails to understand that, while God is eternal, the universe is not. In a mysterious way that is impossible for our finite minds to comprehend, God came out of His element (eternalness) to create time and this universe. Because the Bible starts at our beginning (Gen. 1:1), there is nothing more for us to know, just as we are provided with very little specific information regarding what eternity with God will be like (until we some day arrive at this state.).

If we had not been told otherwise, it would have been easy to assume that the writer of this rebuttal was a Mormon and not Catholic. The things said in the review seem strange when Catholic teaching is considered. After all, even Catholic Answers, a lay group of Catholic apologists, says that “…it would be better to say Mormons are even further from Catholicism than from Protestantism.”

In fact, the Catholic Answers site has several articles denying the truthfulness of Mormonism, including this which says in part: “For an illustration of doublethink one need look no further than the Mormon church’s doctrines about God. Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, taught the doctrine of a ‘plurality of gods’—polytheism—as the bedrock belief of his church. He developed this doctrine over a period of years to reflect his belief that not only are there many gods, but they once were mortal men who had developed in righteousness until they had learned enough and merited godhood. The Mormon church uses the term ‘eternal progression’ for this process, and it refers to godhood as ‘exaltation.’ Such euphemisms are used because the idea of men becoming gods is blasphemous to orthodox Christians. Needless to say, Smith encountered much hostility to these doctrines and so thought it wise to disguise them with unfamiliar terminology. Although he softened his terms, Smith minced no words in explaining his beliefs. ‘I will preach on the plurality of gods. I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see’ (King Follett Discourse) Mormonism’s founder concluded that his flock didn’t understand the nature of God. No mortal entirely does, of course, but this particular group was handicapped, not helped, by the strange theories expounded by Smith. True to his word, Smith took away the veil of misunderstanding, only to replace it with a monolithic wall of doublethink. After all, to teach that the all-sovereign God, the infinite and supreme being, the Creator and Master of the universe, is merely an exalted man is a fine example of what Orwell had in mind.”

Very clearly anybody who belongs to either tradition of Christianity—whether Eastern or Western—will have a problem when the God of Mormonism is compared to the God of the Bible.

At this point, I’d like to take a little space here to share the religious background on Waltz, who, once again, calls himself “a Catholic Christian” in his rebuttal. Based on e-mail correspondence with Waltz, I have discovered that his conversion to Catholicism has been relatively recent to the time he wrote this rebuttal. In fact, he graciously wrote me after I had asked him in July 2003 for clarification and he said, “I have been a member of the Roman Catholic Church since April 2002. Before this I was a non-denominational Christian seeker. In 1983 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I then began a quest to decipher which of the 20,000 plus denominations (now 30,000 plus) best represented the visible Church Jesus Christ founded….And starting in 1989 with the advent of two LDS missionaries cold-calling at my home, I started an in-depth study of Mormonism. (1,700 plus books in my library are related to Mormonism.)”

In other words, Waltz’ commitment to the Catholic Church began right around the time his rebuttal to our book was published, which was sometime between 2001-early spring 2002.Before this time, he claimed to be a “non-denominational Christian seeker” (whatever this means). Then, according to Kevin Graham, the founder of Mormonism 201, Waltz is also “a former Jehovah’s Witness” who is “probably a genius – he has read more books than I could ever count. He takes a personal interest in Mormonism and Catholicism and from what I can tell, he seems to think the LDS understanding of the Trinity isn’t too far off from the Orthodox position…. Every time someone needs a reference on the FAIR e-list, he is right there at the drop of a hat with full citations, page numbers and personal background on the author. Quite impressive I think. His personal library consists of more than 15,000 books for crying out loud.”

I decided to write Waltz a follow-up e-mail and I asked,

“David,

If you wouldn’t mind answering two more questions:

1) I would like to confirm if you were ever a Jehovah’s Witness as Kevin says you were?

2) Did you complete your rebuttal to Mormonism 101 before Easter 2002? If so, which religion do you consider yourself a member when you wrote this?”

After not receiving a response in nine days, I resent it. He then replied the next day:

“To be brutally honest, I am beginning to question the motive(s) in your above questions. As I stated in a previous email, I would truly like to have a serious dialogue with you; however, you stated that you did not have the time to pursue such. With that said, your questions have the appearance of preparation for a classic ad hominem argument. Because of this, there is an admitted reticence in my mind which precludes further dialogue with you; that is, unless I see some reciprocation.

My review of your book Mormonism 101 dealt entirely with the content of the book itself. I truly hope that any future criticism of my review on your part will be in the same spirit (i.e. addressing the content of my review). If I have misjudged your motives, please correct me.”

I responded on August 10, 2003:

“Understanding your background helps me to better understand where you are coming from and makes a HUGE difference in how I respond to your rebuttal. Ad hominem is when you attack the man, and the information that I am asking for can easily be used in a non-ad hominem way. The views in your rebuttal go against the average Catholic apologetic organization like Catholic Answers, which is why better understanding where you are coming from will be important to help me answer your position. Let’s be honest, you are the wild card in M201 in whom I cannot assume anything. If you are uncomfortable answering my questions, then that’s your prerogative. If you are fearful of ad hominem, then why wouldn’t you provide me with this information and let me make this fatal mistake? Please don’t judge my motives and I won’t unfairly judge yours.”

As of the publication of this rejoinder, Waltz has not yet replied. I certainly don’t want to utilize the logical fallacy of ad hominem—as Waltz fears that I will do—and I rarely ever publicly question an individual’s credentials or background. But when I ask somebody who claims to be Catholic if he knows whether or not Mormonism is true and he responds, “Don’t ‘know’ either way,” something seems a little strange. When I find out that this individual who supposedly wrote as a “Catholic” probably was not a Catholic at the time of writing his rebuttal, my eyebrows start to go up. And when the person who is in charge of producing one of the web sites where this rebuttal is posted says that he believes the individual in question was once a Jehovah’s Witness, I have to wonder if David Waltz isn’t someone who, though very bright, has not yet made up his mind about the Mormon Church being the only true church on the face of the earth.

I do not doubt the sincerity of Waltz. Besides getting a little testy with his last e-mail response, he seems to be cordial and not a bad guy. While I am not attacking his character, I do question his spiritual background. His religious past includes being a “non-denominational Christian seeker” and possibly a member of the Watchtower organization. And, as a new Catholic who probably wrote his rebuttal of our chapter before joining the Catholic Church, Waltz still seems to be seeking for truth and is therefore not fully convinced that he has found it in the Catholic Church.

Jesus

Moving to his critique of chapter two, Waltz writes, “Once again, it is the goal of McKeever and Johnson to prove that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Christian Jesus. On pages 40-41 they cite three LDS general authorities in their attempt to demonstrate that Mormons worship or believe in ‘another’ Jesus. The citations are, of course, pulled out of context in an effort to provide their readers some shock value. What are the facts? Are LDS general authorities making the claim that the Mormon Jesus is Christian while the Jesus of other Christian denominations is not? I think not. Although there are distinctions between the Christology of Mormonism and most other denominations, the distinctions are not of the sort that would place Jesus outside of the Christian camp.”

First, if the citations are, “of course, pulled out of context,” we’d certainly like to see how. And then we must ask what kind of Jesus that Waltz worships. Catholic Answers certainly understands the major differences with the personhood of Jesus:

“According to Mormon teaching, at one point in the eternities past, this man-become-God, or ‘Heavenly Father,’ begat the spirit body of his first son. Together with his heavenly wife, the Father raised his son in the council of the gods. Before the creation of this world, Jesus Christ presented to his father a plan of salvation which would enable the billions of future human beings the opportunity of passing through mortality and returning to heaven, there to become gods of their own worlds. At the same time, another son of the Heavenly Father and brother of Christ offered a competing plan. When Christ was chosen, the rejected Lucifer led a rebellion of one-third of the population of the heavens and was cast out.

“….Moreover, Mormons teach that Christ is a secondary, inferior god. He does not exist from all eternity. (Nor, for that matter, does his Father.) He was first made by a union of his heavenly parents. After having been reared and taught in the heavens, he achieved a certain divine stature. Through carnal relations with her Heavenly Father, the Virgin became pregnant with this lesser god. Mormons now believe that Christ’s divinity is virtually equal to that of his Father’s. As we have seen, this is a compromised godhood: Jesus Christ merely joins the end of a long line of gods who have preceded him, an infinite ‘regression’ of divine beings whose origin Mormons cannot explain.”

Again, a group of apologists from his own church recognizes that the Mormon Jesus is much different than the Christian Jesus. At this point, Waltz comes out with quite an amazing statement:“The section ‘Jesus and The Virgin Birth’ is almost not worth mentioning. I think it is safe to say that Mormons believe in the Virgin Birth. There has certainly been much speculation by Mormon authors as to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the Virgin Birth, but one thing is certain: the Virgin Birth is never denied. I find it interesting that McKeever and Johnson quote the following statement made by BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson in the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention video The Mormon Puzzle: The official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is the literal offspring of God. He’s got 46 chromosomes; 23 came from Mary, 23 came from God the eternal Father. Robinson’s statement is profound. McKeever and Johnson seem to deny that 23 of Jesus’ chromosomes came from God the Father. If God the Father did not provide 23 of Jesus’ chromosomes (miraculously through the power of the Holy Spirit), then who did?”

Based on the information we provided in our book, how can any of this be said? We have to wonder what kind of Catholicism Waltz follows. We have met numerous Catholics who have become distraught when they comprehend the Virgin Birth as painted by LDS leaders. As far as Waltz’ question, “If God the Father did not provide 23 of Jesus’ chromosomes, then who did?”we wonder if he is really serious. His question makes me doubt his comprehension of his own professed young faith. Jesus is fully God and fully man. To even play games with “chromosomes” is to insinuate that Jesus was literally and biologically conceived through the Father and Mary, which is LDS teaching, not Catholic. The Christian Virgin Birth is much different than anything described by LDS leaders.

Conclusion

What began as an introduction by a nonmember of the LDS Church turned into a rambling piece, especially in the second half of the article. Waltz is entitled to his opinion, which he certainly shares with us in this rebuttal. As a new Catholic, he certainly does not speak for the Catholic Church. In fact, his views even contradict a major Catholic apologetic ministry, which debunks the idea that, as Waltz puts it, “there can be no consensus on what truly constitutes ‘historic/orthodox’ Christian doctrine.”

To even say such a thing is ridiculous, for if we were to abide by Waltz’ thinking, then Hindus and Muslims should both be considered “Christian” since they both believe in God and confirm that Jesus was a great ethical teacher. And Paul obviously did not know what he was talking about when he claimed there were other gospels (Gal. 1:8-10). If Waltz’ arguments are to have any validity, then it must be true that all paths must lead to God since words would therefore not have any meaning.

For other rejoinders to the rebuttals of Mormonism 201, click here.


In order to make this review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder.

Steven Robinson (Mormon) and Craig Blomberg (evangelical Christian) dialogued in a book called How Wide the Divide: An Evangelical & A Mormon In Conversation (IVP, 1997).

Not one of those quotes came from the Standard Works; in fact, I don’t believe Waltz ever gives an original quote from the Standard Works in any part of his article, and that includes the Bible.

On this issue I highly recommend the following article by James White:http://aomin.org/ONEGOD.html

“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign, November 2003, p.22.

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, “Implicit in the Christian verity that all men are the spirit children of an Eternal Father is the usually unspoken truth that they are also the offspring of an Eternal Mother,” Mormon Doctrine p.516.

The House of the Lord, Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1912, p.85.

“Distinctive Beliefs of the Catholic Church, http://www.catholic.com/library/Distinctive_Beliefs_of_Mormon.asp

http://www.catholic.com/library/Gods_of_the_Mormon_Church.asp,

Personal e-mail from 7/28/03

I printed out a copy of his Internet article on May 9, 2002. This means that, at the very least, he began his rebuttal to our introduction before his conversion to Catholicism, and though I cannot confirm it, his article was probably posted before Easter 2002. So when he wrote this rebuttal, did he consider himself a Catholic? A non-denominational Christian? Or nothing at all?

Personal e-mail from 7/17/03. At the end of providing me some information on Waltz, Graham concluded, “Just curious… what is your purpose in this questionare? Are you under the assumption that he is perhaps an LDS only posing as a Catholic?”

Personal e-mail from 7/16/03.

There is no doubt that, as U2 put it, Waltz “still haven’t found what (he’s) looking for.” I, for one, would not be surprised if he eventually joins the LDS Church in continuation of his personal spiritual pilgrimage.

http://www.catholic.com/library/Gods_of_the_Mormon_Church.asp