Reviewed by Eric Johnson
The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ booklet was produced in 2008 and is apparently used by Mormon missionaries to explain why a “restoration” of the church of Jesus Christ is needed? This 24-page booklet (measuring 5×7 inches), with 9 pages of full-page pictures or illustration, taking up one-third of the space, and appears to be meant to be read in less than 15 minutes. Since this is printed by the LDS Church (with the church’s official emblem on the back cover), we will quote the booklet word-for-word, providing commentary from an Evangelical Christian perspective.
GOD IS YOUR LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER
God is your Father in Heaven. He knows you personally and loves you more than you can comprehend. He wants you to be happy in this life and in eternity. To accomplish this purpose, He provided a plan called the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God; His life and teachings are the guide to peace in this life and joy in eternity.
As a Christian, I believe God desires a relationship with people—that’s why Jesus came in the first place, to replace that which sin originally tainted. To say that God “knows you personally,” according to Mormonism, is a reference to the Preexistence, or Premortality (see here), as all humans were once spirits in a previous sphere. According to LDS teachers, this earth is the second estatem, a place where we can have bodies of flesh and bone. Understanding our past (premortal existence), our present (why we are here), and our future (the hope of attaining the celestial kingdom) is stressed in Mormonism.
Depending on what the tract writer meant by “happy,” I’m not sure I would agree with this assessment. Certainly God intends for His people to be fulfilled—John 10:10b says that Jesus desired for the believers to have life and to have it abundantly. There are going to be times, though, when we are not “happy.” James writes, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Tough times will come, and while we are to always have joy (cf. Galatians 5:22)—an attitude we are to have not just for the future but right now—there is no guarantee of bliss and happiness. The biblical writer adds in James 5:10-11:
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
C.S. Lewis says that there are times when pain can be useful in getting our attention, explaining the following in his book The Problem of Pain:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
THE GOSPEL BLESSES FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS
The gospel of Jesus Christ blesses all who accept and live it. One of the best places to teach and apply the gospel is in families. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, to allow us to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and to prepare us to return to Him after we die.
In Mormonism, there is a saying that “families are forever.” The hope is that a Mormon family—traditionally portrayed in LDS magazines and videos as comprised of a nuclear family with grandparents, parents, and children—can live forever in the Celestial Kingdom. As Christians, earthly families are important. However, what is more important from the words of the Bible is for a person to become a member of the family of God through belief in His Son and to receive salvation through the forgiveness of sins
The book of Acts describes the early history of the Christian church. For example, Acts 4:12 says that salvation can be found “in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Speaking about Jesus, Peter said in Acts 10:42-43, “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Preaching to the Philippian jailer, Paul and Silas explained, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” The message in Acts is repeated throughout the Bible, including Romans 10:8-13, Ephesians 2:8-10, and 1 John 3:23. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is very clear in explaining how faith, not works, justifies a person before God.
Although family relationships can be challenging at times, our Heavenly Father blesses us as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. These teachings help us strengthen our families.
We can strive all we want, but we will never be able to fully keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. See here.
HEAVENLY FATHER REVEALS HIS GOSPEL
As part of His plan, God chooses prophets, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
• Teach about God and are special witnesses of His Son, Jesus Christ.
• Receive revelation, or direction from the Lord.
• Teach the gospel to the world and interpret the word of God.
Our Heavenly Father has brought back—restored—divine truths that you can learn and live. These truths were revealed to prophets from the beginning.
Since this pamphlet concerns the “Restoration,” we should point out that nothing less than a complete apostasy from Christianity necessitates a “restoration.”
Prophets receive the priesthood, or the authority to speak and act in the name of God to lead His children. People who follow the prophets receive the blessings God has promised. Those who reject the gospel and God’s prophets lose those blessings and distance themselves from God. Those who reject the prophets and abandon their commitment to follow God are in a condition called apostasy.
Several points must be made:
1) In biblical times, priests had to belong to the tribe of Levi, making them different than prophets. Yet this pamphlet says that “prophets receive the priesthood,” which is not historically correct. A prophet could not be a priest and a priest could not be a prophet. The only person who held both offices, besides the ancient Melchizedek, was Jesus Christ Himself. (See Genesis chapter 14 and Hebrews chapter 7.)
2) In biblical times, rejecting the prophets was a sign of disobedience. Mormon leaders want their people to believe that disobedience to their teachings is the same as abandoning a commitment to follow God. Hence, to be considered a Mormon in good standing, a person must accept the prophet of Mormonism to be a teacher of truth.
Amazingly enough, listen to this quote given in 1945:
“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.” (Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945.)
It ought to be pointed out that this quote was also included in the Improvement Era, the official church magazine in that day, in June 1945.
Consider these additional quotes:
“We are most fortunate to have a living prophet at the head of the Church to guide us, and all who heed his counsel will be partakers of the promised blessings which will not be enjoyed by those who fail to accept his messages…Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the debate is over” (N. Eldon Tanner, “The Debate is Over,” Ensign, August 1979, p. 2).
“God’s eternal blessings are contingent upon our obedience and adherence to the word of the Lord that is revealed to us through His holy prophets” (L. Tom Perry, “We Believe All That God Has Revealed,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2003, p. 88).
“As we look to the prophets for guidance, we can be confident that they will not lead us astray” (L. Aldin Porter, “Search the Prophets,” Ensign, April 2002, p. 31).
“Those who listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles will not go astray. The teachings of living prophets provide an anchor of eternal truth in a world of shifting values and help avoid misery and sorrow” (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 75).
“You can always trust the living prophets” (True to the Faith, 2004, p. 129).
“The Lord speaks through His prophet today as surely as He did in days of old and in days from the Restoration of His Gospel. The words of President Thomas S. Monson are as important, even crucial, for us today as were the words of Moses, Noah, Elijah and other prophets in their dispensations, or of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other prophets in these latter days. Through His prophet today, the Lord has made known to us His will. If we do as we have been counseled, we will witness more miracles unfold as missionaries are called to minister among peoples of the world who, at the present, are deprived of the gospel’s joyful message. May we gather in conference not only to listen to a prophet’s voice but also to heed the counsel given through that voice” (“A prophet’s counsel,” Church News, October 25, 2008, p. 16).
Even though many of His children have repeatedly rejected Him and His prophets, our Heavenly Father continues to love His children. He wants to give us everything we need to be happy now and to return to Him after we die. The scriptures reveal a pattern of God repeatedly reaching out to His children, even though we do not always listen:
• God chooses a prophet.
• The prophet teaches the gospel and leads the people.
• God blesses the people.
• The people gradually disregard or disobey the teachings of the prophet. They eventually reject the prophet and his teachings and fall into apostasy.
• Because of apostasy, people lose knowledge of the gospel. Priesthood authority is taken from among them.
• When the time is right and people are ready to follow Him again, God chooses another prophet, restores the priesthood and the Church, and directs the prophet to teach the gospel.
According to LDS leaders, the Great Apostasy took place soon after the death of the New Testament apostles, and the gospel principles were lost. Joseph Smith is referenced in the last bullet point (“God chooses another prophet, restores the priesthood and the Church, and. . . teach(es) the gospel”). He is certainly the cornerstone to the LDS religion.
JESUS CHRIST ESTABLISHED HIS CHURCH
From the time of the Creation, the children of God looked forward to the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ. As He had promised, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over 2,000 years ago. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life. He established His Church, taught His gospel, and performed many miracles. He chose twelve men to be His Apostles, including Peter, James, and John. He taught them and gave them priesthood authority to teach in His name and to perform sacred ordinances, such as baptism.
Mormonism teaches that the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods are necessary for a person to be able to “teach in His name and to perform sacred ordinances, such as baptism.” Only males have the opportunity to become priests in Mormonism. In Christianity, authority is given to all believers through faith. Paul writes in Galatians 3:27-29, “For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Speaking to all believers, Peter writes about being a holy people in 1 Peter 2. He wrote beginning in verse 4, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Then, a few verses later, it says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
When Jesus established His Church, He received instructions from our Heavenly Father. He then instructed His disciples. Jesus taught His followers that revelation from God was the rock on which He would build His Church.
At the end of His life, Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of everyone who has lived or who will live on earth. This sacrifice is called the Atonement. Through His suffering, death, and Resurrection, the Savior made it possible for us to be forgiven. Those who have faith in Him, repent, and keep His commandments receive forgiveness of sins and are filled with peace and joy.
Two statements of LDS doctrine are made here:
1) Jesus died for the sins of everyone, which is called the “Atonement” in Mormonism. Since everyone on this earth chose Jesus in the premortal existence, they were given the right to have bodies. This was necessary to progress to one of three levels of heaven. In Christianity, however, only those who believe in Him have the right to become children of God. John explains what it means to be a child of God. In 1 John 2:29 he said, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” In 1 John 3:1, he said, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Then he says in verse 10, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
2) For forgiveness to be given, a Momron must have faith, practice repentance, and keep the commandments. Of course, these commandments must be kept continually, according to D&C 25:15.
Jesus conferred the priesthood on His Apostles.
A claim like this needs to have biblical support. Yet where does the Bible say that the apostles were given the “priesthood” by Jesus? The only way this could be read into the text is if a person held the presupposition that nobody can teach and baptize without authority. Hence, eisegesis (reading into the text) takes place rather than exegesis (reading the text and deriving its meaning).
After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ guided His Apostles through revelation. The Bible records many ways in which He continued to direct His Church (see Acts 10; Revelation 1:1). Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was led by God and not by men.
This paragraph is exactly right, as God guided the believers (the church) and provided the leaders revelation to speak authoritatively and write down scripture. Christians believe in revelaton, which we call “general” and “special.” Special revelation is the Word of God and understanding His principles thorugh proper interpretation.
THE GREAT APOSTASY
Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members. Other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority—including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.
This apostasy resulted in the formation of many churches with conflicting teachings. During this time, many men and women sought the truth, but they were unable to find it. Many good people believed in God and Jesus Christ and tried to understand and teach truth, but they did not have the full gospel or priesthood authority. As a result, each generation inherited a state of apostasy as people were influenced by what previous generations passed on, including changes to Christ’s gospel.
Some inspired people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized that practices and doctrines had been changed or lost. They tried to reform the churches to which they belonged. Without priesthood authority, however, Christ’s gospel could not be returned to its original form. A restoration was needed.
This pamphlet makes a very serious charge. It says that the gospel was changed soon after the death of the apostles. Proof is necessary to validate this claim, yet here in this article no evidence is provided. Jesus made it clear that His authority would never cease. For example:
Matthew 16:18 – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Matthew 28:20 – “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Ephesians 3:21 – “…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 5:22-33 – “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Martin Luther and John Calvin were, according to the pamphlet, “inspired.” Inspired by whom? If the apostasy of Christianity was a partial apostasy, then why was a “restoration” even needed? If, as Apostle Bruce R. McConkie put it, “the apostasy was complete and universal” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 425), , then nobody before 1830 must have been a recipient to God’s inspiration.
LDS leaders throughout the ages have claimed a “complete” apostasy, including:
Seventy B.H. Roberts: “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” (History of the Church 1:XL).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie: “After our Lord’s first coming and before his dreadful return, there is to be a day of absolute, total, and complete apostasy from the truth. Men are to be left to themselves, wanderers in darkness, without hope and without God in the world” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 36).
McConkie: “As we gaze in awe at the grand picture, we see the Lord Jesus ascending from Olivet as angelic witnesses testify that he shall come again in like manner at that place. From this splendid scene our eyes turn to the dark and dire and devilish days when Satan has dominion over his own. We see false churches, false worship, and false prophets. Iniquity abounds and evil is everywhere. There is universal apostasy; darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people; it is the evil night that must precede the dawn of the restoration” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 563).
McConkie: “In short, apostasy reigned supreme; it was universal, complete, all pervading. The religion of the lowly Nazarene was no whereto be found. All sects, parties and denominations had gone astray. Satan rejoiced and his angels laughed. Such were the social conditions of the day” (“Once or Twice in a Thousand Years,” Ensign (Reprinted conference address), April 2005, p. 56).
12th President Spencer Kimball: “This is not a continuous church, nor is it one that has been reformed or redeemed. It has been restored after it was lost. It was lost – the gospel with its powers and blessings – Sometime after the Savior’s crucifixion and the loss of his apostles. The laws were changed, the ordinances were changed, and the everlasting covenant was broken that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his people in those days. There was a long period of centuries when the gospel was not available to people on this earth, because it had been changed” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 423).
Some LDS leaders have argued that while there was a complete apostasy, there “still were left fragments of truth among the children of men, and some measure of truth thank God…it does not follow that we hold that all truth, that all virtue, had departed from the world, or that God had absolutely withdrawn from his creation. Not so” (B.H. Roberts, Defense of The Faith and The Saints 2:561). If you read the quotes above, such as men being “wanderers in darkness” where “iniquity abounds and evil is everywhere,” it doesn’t seem like there was any room for “fragments of truth.” Yet the standards that the Reformers stood for—including “Sola Fides” (salvation by faith alone)—are not upheld by Mormons today, and it was these teachings that supposedly caused God to say that “all” their teachings were abominations. So besides their opposition to Catholicism, what else do these Reformers have going for them?
For a review of a 2013 Ensign article on this issue, see here.
THE RESTORATION OF THE GOSPEL
In 1820, as He had done throughout history, our Father in Heaven again chose a prophet to restore the gospel and the priesthood to the earth. That prophet’s name was Joseph Smith. As a young man, Joseph was confused by the differences among the many churches in his area and wanted to know which church was right. Knowing he lacked wisdom, he followed the counsel found in the Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph Smith decided to ask God what he should do. When Joseph prayed to know the truth, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for “they were all wrong” and “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power hereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
James 1:5 is taken out of its context. After all, it was speaking about gaining wisdom, not knowledge. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. In this verse James tells his Christian audience to ask God for wisdom when they are undergoing trials and temptations, not for testing various truth claims.
If it is possible to test truth claims via prayer, then each person ought to pray about the claims of every religion, not just the Book of Mormon and Mormonism. Every faith’s scripture ought to be read and pondered before taking the test. I honestly wonder how many Mormons have prayed about the Koran (Islam)? The Vedas (Hindusim)? The Tripitaka (Buddhism)? How can the Mormon know the accuracy of Mormonism until he or she personally tests all religions in this way? Though we should most certainly use prayer to guide us in our search for truth, it should not be the only litmus test. Hopefully, prayer will lead us to the information we need in order to make an informed and proper decision.
We must also ask if God really demands that we pray about every choice we have, determining with our feelings whether or not or decision is the right one. Many Mormons might answer “yes.” Caution is crucial, since it could then be argued that a person should pray about stealing a neighbor’s car or committing adultery with a neighbor’s wife. A Mormon may respond, “That’s ridiculous.” We agree. But when the Bible says to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21) and commends the “noble” Bereans in Acts 17 because the believers searched the Old Testament after having listened to the apostle Paul, we think praying about the truthfulness of a religion is not a wise move. Please do not get me wrong. I am certainly not suggesting that prayer is invalid. No, it ought to be the very lifeblood of a professing Christian. But to turn prayer into a magic wand, hoping that the good feelings a person gets about a religion is a reason of validation, is to misuse this very powerful privilege we have been given.
Joseph Smith saw our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Of this experience, he said:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . .“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17
The above paragraph is a pull quote and not part of the main text, but I want to comment on it. According to these verses found in the LDS Standard Works, Joseph Smith saw God. Keep in mind that there were no other witnesses to this event. In essence, in order to accept this account, one must put complete faith and trust in Joseph Smith and him alone.
Even if it were possible for Smith to see God, Doctrine and Covenants 84:21–22 explains that the priesthood would have been needed in order for Smith to see Him:
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.”
Melvin J. Petersen, who taught church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, acknowledged that Smith had no such priesthood in 1820, the year he claimed to have seen God. He was forced to utilize John 1:18 of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible to support the idea that Smith saw God. It reads, “No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath bourne record of the Son.” (A Sure Foundation, 79).
In noting this dilemma, Brigham Young University professor Charles R. Harrell states,
“Explanations about how Joseph could have seen God before being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood or having received its ordinances have been varied. Early Mormon brethren who confronted this issue concluded that Joseph did hold the priesthood having, in some sense, brought it with him from the preexistence.”
Harrell goes on to say, “According to Joseph Fielding Smith, since the priesthood wasn’t yet on the earth, young Joseph was exempt from this requirement.” (This Is My Doctrine, p. 146 n. 65). Saying that Smith had been given the priesthood before his birth seems to be a stretch, especially since Exodus 33:20 makes it very clear that nobody can see God’s face and live (with or without the “priesthood”).
The Restoration of the Priesthood
In 1829, Joseph Smith received the same priesthood authority that Jesus Christ had given to His Apostles. John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus, appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Aaronic Priesthood, or lesser priesthood. Peter, James, and John (three of Jesus Christ’s original Apostles) later appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Melchizedek Priesthood, or higher priesthood.
Mormonism is based on the male member’s authority, which comes through the priesthood. There are two types of priesthood in the LDS faith: the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. When we compare these offices with what is described in the Bible, the difference is apples and oranges.
The spiritual significance of the Aaronic, or Levitical, priesthood ended with the death of Christ. The term priest refers to a person who stands up for another person/people, acting as a mediator in his cause. The Old Testament priest stood in the gap for the people and offered animal sacrifices to atone for their sins. Mormon males who claim to hold the Aaronic priesthood do not offer animal sacrifices; thus, their office is not a restoration of the original, as church leaders would like the public to believe.
Furthermore, Doctrine and Covenants 107:16 specifically states, “No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron.” This warning sounds similar to that found in Numbers 3:10, which states, “And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.”
However, it is not a modern LDS requirement for a Mormon priesthood holder to trace his family roots back to Aaron, the brother of Moses. Because the LDS Church stresses genealogical research in order to vicariously baptize for the dead, it would seem their leaders should know better than to claim such a priesthood for themselves.
The biblical Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18–20), who was the king of Salem as well as a priest of God, is a mysterious figure in Scripture. He blessed Abram, and Abram tithed to him. Nobody beside Melchizedek held the positions of both priest and king until Jesus came. Hebrews 7:21 declares that Jesus is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec.” Verse 24 adds that Jesus has “an unchangeable priesthood.” Hebrews 7:2–3 describes this order:
“First being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”
Christ met these qualifications. He is both Righteousness and Peace (cf. Eph. 2:14; 1 John 3:7). As the Word who became flesh (John 1:14), He continues His advocacy as the Christians’ priest. In fact, the Bible says that Christians are free to directly approach the throne of God and pray according to His name. As 1 Timothy 2:5 puts it, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
The New Testament does not support the idea that the Aaronic or Melichizedek priesthoods are necessary for humans; instead, Christians have authority as “children of God” through their belief. Contrasting Christians with the rest of the “world” (who “knew him [God] not”), 1 John 3:1 says,
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Paul distinguished between “children of the flesh” and “children of God” in Romans 9:8. Galatians 3:26 says it is “by faith in Christ Jesus” that believers become children of God, while John 1:12 says that “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
A royal priesthood is provided to all Christian believers. First Peter 2:9–10 states that Christians “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . [who] now have obtained mercy.” Even though Christians are priests in this spiritual manner, they are called to offer themselves as “living sacrifice[s]” to God (Rom. 12:1). As holders of this priesthood, believers are commanded to stand and intercede for people, not to offer blood sacrifices for the cleansing of their sins but to pray that they might turn to the one who cleanses from sin, namely, Christ Jesus.
After he received priesthood authority, Joseph Smith was directed to organize the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. Through him, Jesus Christ again called Twelve Apostles.
Just as Jesus Christ led His Apostles through revelation after His Resurrection, He continues to direct the Church today through living prophets and apostles. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the chosen prophet of God today. He, his counselors, and the Twelve Apostles hold the priesthood authority held by all the prophets and apostles of previous times. These men are prophets, seers, and revelators.
This religion is not only authority-based but leadership-based as well. According to this booklet, we are supposed to trust Joseph Smith, the founder of this religion. As stated earlier, we should trust the prophet and the other leaders as well. What they say, goes, regardless of how their words might contradict the Bible.
THE BOOK OF MORMON
As part of the Restoration of the gospel, God brought forth the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. By the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this book from an ancient record written on gold plates. The Book of Mormon is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (introduction to the Book of Mormon).
There are many assumptions that must be made in the above paragraph to accept these words as true, including
1) There was actually a universal apostasy requiring the need for a “restoration”—for refutation of this claim, see here.
2) God’s power brought forth the Book of Mormon—for refutation of this claim see here.
4) It was written on gold plates—for the weight of the plates, see here.
5) There were ancient inhabitants called Nephites and Lamanites—for refutation of this, see here.
The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. It helps us understand His teachings, including those in the Bible. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. You can know for yourself that the Book of Mormon is true. To gain this knowledge, you must read it, ponder its message, and desire to know if it is true. You must ask your Heavenly Father to confirm that it is His word. As you do so, He will reveal to you through the Holy Ghost that it is true.
While we dealt above with the topic of praying about a religion, and while we don’t want to minimize the experience of our LDS friends, we need to further point out that the rules have been rigged since the prayer’s request really has but one answer. After all, the investigator who declines the invitation to pray may be accused of not believing in prayer. On the other hand, those who agree to pray but don’t receive the “right” answer will probably be thought of as not having a sincere heart, real intent, or adequate faith, as Moroni 10:4-5 (quoted in a pull quote on this same page) puts it.
There is a psychological edge that the Mormon missionaries have when someone agrees to praying about the Book of Mormon. After all, the investigator may eventually get the “right” answer in an attempt to please the missionaries, close family members, or friends who have come to the same conclusion. In the end, one’s good feelings may win the day, even if the object of the prayer is false.
At one time or another, all of us have been fooled by our feelings, no matter how sincere we might have been. For example, Mormons believe that marriage is not only for life but also for eternity. Should it be assumed that the many Mormon couples who are divorced did not pray about their relationships beforehand? Surely knowing information about another person that could have exposed potential behavior problems—such as drug addiction, sex addiction, pornography issues, inward apathy to God, or repressed anger—would have helped with making a more informed decision. Yet how many Mormons must have “felt” God’s approval in relationships that were tragically doomed from the beginning?
The Bible makes it very clear that subjective feelings can be deceptive. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” while Proverbs 28:26 adds that only fools trust in their heart. Because everyone is a fallen and sinful creature, it is possible to be swayed by emotions and desires. To believe something is true merely because one feels it to be true is no guarantee of truth. Jesus commanded His followers in Mark 12:30 to love God “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Paul explained in 2 Timothy 2:15 that the believer must make the effort to study in order to correctly understand truth. In the next chapter (3:16–17), he added that all Scripture given by inspiration of God is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” so that the man or woman of God might be competent and equipped to do good works.
While it is true that faith does involve believing things that can’t be proven, it is foolishness to believe something that has already been disproven. If the Bible disproves a spiritual truth claim, it must be rejected.
As you come to know that the Book of Mormon is true, you will also come to know by the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a prophet and apostles today.
The assumption is that a person will “come to know that the Book of Mormon is true.” But what about the person who doesn’t come to know this? If this person not displaying real faith? As stated above, this is an unfair test with unfair psychological pressure placed on the prospective convert.
HOW CAN I KNOW?
You can know this message is true. If you ask your Heavenly Father in prayer, you can receive an answer from Him through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is also called the Spirit of God, and one of His roles is to witness, or testify, of the truth.
This knowledge can be miraculous and life changing, but it usually comes as a quiet assurance, without spectacular displays of God’s power. The Holy Ghost confirms the truth through feelings, thoughts, and impressions. As taught in the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through Joseph Smith is true. You will then need to choose whether you will live in harmony with the knowledge you have received.
These words are nothing more than pure psychological manipulation. Feelings, as we have said, cannot be trusted as the main indicator of truth. For more information on why this is true, see here.
I will skip the “List of Terms” that follows on pages 18-19 since I have linked to MRM’s analysis of these terms where each of these words was used.
The following questions and scriptures will help you learn more about the principles in this pamphlet and ponder on them. The list is not comprehensive; footnotes and cross-references in the scriptures will direct you to additional passages and resources.
What does it mean to you that God is your Heavenly Father?
Malachi 2:10 (Bible, Old Testament)
Hebrews 12:9–10 (Bible, New Testament)
Malachi 2:10 says, “Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?”
Hebrews 12:9-10 says, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.”
As a Christian, I have no problem with these verses. They certainly don’t teach about a God as defined by Mormonism. My problem is that a prospective convert may have a hard time understanding that there are differences between the God of the Bible and the God of Mormonism. If you are somebody thinking about converting to Mormonism, consider this article: God the Father According to Mormonism
What is the role of a prophet? Why is it important to know that God speaks to prophets?
Amos 3:7 (Bible, Old Testament)
Jacob 4:4–6 (Book of Mormon, page 124)
Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” Prior to this claim, God asked if it is possible for two to walk together unless they are in agreement (v. 3). He then gave several rhetorical questions that can be answered only in the negative (vv. 4–6). Mormons usually insist that verse 7 is a general rule, implying that the New Testament church will be led by a living, mortal prophet who will reveal the Lord’s “secrets” to the church. However, the context of this passage is speaking of impending danger and judgment upon the nation of Israel for the people’s iniquities (see v. 2).
In other words, God used mortal men to warn theocratic Israel on His behalf. To disobey a prophet in the Old Testament often resulted in judgment and punishment. Their words were considered final, authoritative, and, ultimately, binding. Nothing is implied in the Amos passage that this refers to the governmental role of a prophet living in post-Old Testament times. In fact, Christian theologian Wayne Grudem notes,
“There is no convincing evidence that New Testament prophets in their role as prophets ever governed early churches through ‘charismatic leadership’ by means of prophetic declarations about the direction of the church. This theory is based on some people’s ideas of how the church ‘must have’ or ‘could have’ developed, but it is not supported by the facts of the New Testament itself.” (The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 160).
Grudem points out that the role of a New Testament prophet is quite different from that of the Old Testament prophet:
“It is not surprising, then, that when we read the New Testament we find several times when the apostles are connected with the Old Testament prophets, but New Testament prophets, by contrast, are never connected with Old Testament prophets in the same way.” (Ibid, p. 28).
Though the LDS Church claims to be a restoration of how things were done in ancient times, the insistence that there can be only one “living prophet” whose authority is above all others is not consistent with teh teaching of scripture. For instance, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:29 that when two or three prophets spoke, those who heard them were allowed to weigh, or judge, what was said. How were they to be judged? Grudem explains,
“As a prophet was speaking, each member of the congregation would listen carefully, evaluating the prophecy in the light of the Scripture and the authoritative teaching that he or she already knew to be true.” (Ibid, p. 57)
In 1 Thessalonians 6:21, Paul told the Thessalonian believers that they should not despise prophecies but were to prove, or test, “all things; hold fast that which is good.” Obviously this would include prophetic utterances.
What does it mean to have priesthood authority? How does someone receive this authority?
Matthew 10:1 (Bible, New Testament)
John 15:16 (Bible, New Testament)
Matthew 10:1 says, “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
It is a complete leap to say that these verses support the idea that “priesthood” was required for “authority.” God gives the believer authority to do His work. A person does not have to have the priesthood (again, something only those in the line of Aaron could have) or the imprimatur of a certain church. The only qualificiation to receiving this authority is having forgiveness for your sins. As Acts 10:43 says, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
What happens when that authority is lost?
Amos 8:11–12 (Bible, Old Testament)
1 Nephi 13:24–29 (Book of Mormon, pages 25–26)
Amos 8:11-12 says,
“’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.’”
This passage is referring to the time of the Old Testament and the life of Christ, who was portayed as the presenter of Truth yet many would not listen. Jesus bemoaned this unfortunate fact in Matthew 23:37-39:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
As stated earlier, the Bible certainly does not allow for a “complete” apostasy, for Jesus promised He would be with His people “always.”
Did Jesus’s Apostles know that an apostasy would occur?
Acts 20:28–31 (Bible, New Testament)
2 Thessalonians 2:2–3 (Bible, New Testament)
2 Timothy 4:3–4 (Bible, New Testament)
Acts 20:28-31 says,
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
Certainly there would be apostasies, as several other biblical passages teach this. For example, 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” The context here (and elsewhere) is that “some” would leave the faith, but not “all.”
2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 says,
“…not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”
Notice the ellipsis at the beginning of this quote. In context, this passage suggests nothing about an apostasy that would take place after the deathes of the disciples. Instead, verse 1 refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. Unless the Mormon wants to argue that the Second Coming has already taken place, then this verse cannot be used to show that a complete apostasy took place some 1900 years ago.
Finally, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says,
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
This verse is fulfilled today in many different religions, especially those that claim to be “Christian” such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and, yes, the Mormon Church. Doctrine so often becomes a secondary issue when people determine which church to join. It’s a tragic mistake.
What does it mean to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored through Joseph Smith?
The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith (pamphlet)
It doesn’t mean anything to a Bible-believing Christian because the gospel was never lost and thus a restoration was never needed.
What is the Book of Mormon? How is it a witness of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet?
Book of Mormon title page
Book of Mormon introduction
The Book of Mormon is a fictional book that many believe is historical. However, the historical and archaeological evidence point to the fact that there were no such thing as Nephites and Lamanites and that Joseph Smith’s testimony has too many flaws. For a series of articles on Joseph Smith, see here.
What is the role of the Holy Ghost?
Alma 5:45–47 (Book of Mormon, page 221)
Moroni 10:3–5 (Book of Mormon, page 529)
According to John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Those who are led by the Holy Ghost/Spirit and test the claims of the Mormon Church will soon find out that there are many false prophets who are nothing more than wolves dressing up as sheep. We are told to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21) and to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) rather than just emotionally accepting any old gospel. My prayer for you, reader, is that you will rely on the Holy Spirit and test Mormonism rather than just accepting this religion based on nothing more than your emotional feelings.
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