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The Continuing Adjustments to Mormonism

by Sharon Lindbloom
7 January 2019

The media is reporting on a significant Mormon-related matter. On January 1st The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced changes to its temple endowment ceremony. While not unheard of, temple changes are somewhat uncommon, the last noteworthy changes having occurred in 2005.

Most of the recent changes to the ceremony are, according to anecdotal reports, not of great doctrinal significance (the LDS church will not provide an official report due to its policy of not discussing temple ordinances outside of the temple). However, LDS author Jana Riess says that the endowment ceremony “has been revised to more fully reflect women’s equal standing before God,” as the covenants women make in the temple have changed.

On January 2nd, the official Newsroom of The LDS church posted a “First Presidency Statement on Temples.” The short statement appears to have been prepared in order to quell any concerns church members might feel when they discover these changes to the endowment ceremony. The statement reads in part:

“Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.”

In other words, there’s nothing to worry about when essential elements of Mormonism’s “everlasting gospel” undergo continuous adjustment.

All of this brings to mind the LDS assertion employed to explain the basic need for the “Restoration” (i.e., Mormonism) in the first place. In a word: change.

According to the 12th President of the Mormon church,

“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, 423).

The LDS church asserts that early in the history of Christianity:

The Bible was changed:

“I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 327).

The doctrine of the nature of God was changed:

“This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity — and truly it is the father of all here­sies — swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian Era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is…men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity.” (LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of Salvation By Grace?” BYU Devotional Address given January 10, 1984)

The way to receive salvation was changed:

“One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone,’ which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called ‘reforma­tion.’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, 192)

The gospel itself was changed:

“After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread wickedness, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth.” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 13)

Christians would disagree with these LDS assertions, as Christianity has always held tightly to the Bible as the entirely trustworthy final authority on Christian faith and life. Throughout Christian history — including today — Christians have believed in God’s promise and ability to protect His Word (Matthew 24:35), in His self-revelation as one God in Trinity (see “What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?”), in His pronouncement that salvation and justification are gifts He freely gives according to His grace and mercy, apart from works (Ephesians 2:4-10; Romans 3:21-28), and the gospel that Paul preached — the Good News that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised to life again (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).

While I disagree with the Mormon contention of change, what I find really interesting is how Mormonism itself is guilty of the same accusations it makes against Christianity. But unlike the empty assertions the LDS church makes (i.e., without evidence), its own scriptural and doctrinal changes can be easily documented. For example:

LDS scripture has changed:

Joseph Smith recorded a revelation received in March 1829 and printed in the 1833 Book of Commandments (the scriptural predecessor to Doctrine and Covenants). It read (in part),

 “…and he has a gift to translate the book [of Mormon], and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.” (Chapter 4, verse 2)

This revelation was later changed. The current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants says,

“And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.”  (Doctrine and Covenants5:4)

For more information on Mormonism’s scripture changes see: Tanners, Changing the Revelations and 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon.

Mormonism’s doctrine of the nature of God has changed:

The Book of Mormon presents a monotheistic God (one God): 2 Nephi 31:21; Mosiah 15:4–5; Mormon 7:7.

The once-scriptural Lectures on Faith present a type of binitarian monotheism: “Q. How many personages are there in the Godhead? A. Two: the Father and the Son.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 5, Q&A section)

Later, Joseph Smith taught a plurality of Gods: “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” (History of the Church, 6:474)

As noted by LDS author Charles Harrell,

“Joseph’s teachings regarding the members of the godhead appear to have progressed from essentially a trinitarian three-in-one God with a modalistic flavor, to a godhead consisting of ‘two personages’ united by the indwelling Holy Spirit, to a godhead consisting of ‘three personages,’ and finally to a godhead consisting of ‘three Gods.’” (“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, Part 1)

For more information on Mormonism’s changing doctrine of God see Wallace, “Did Joseph Smith’s Doctrine of God Change Over Time?

Mormonism’s gospel (synonymous with its way to receive salvation) has changed:

The LDS Church defines the gospel this way:

“Ordinances are basic to the gospel. Now, what is the gospel of which we speak? It is the power of God unto salvation; it is the code of laws and commandments which help us to become per­fect, and the ordinances which constitute the entrance require­ments” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 502).

The early LDS Church taught this gospel of laws and ordinances:

“We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that these ordinance[s] are: 1st, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: 2d, Repentance: 3d, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins: 4th, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Pearl of Great Price, 1851, 55)

But this has been changed. Today the ordinances of the gospel have become only the first principles and ordinances, making room for additional “entrance requirements”:

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Pearl of Great Price, Articles of Faith, article 4)

The LDS church has changed its gospel from a simple, faith-based repentance to include additional ordinances such as temple endowment and temple marriage. At one time the “entrance requirements” even included polygamy, but this, too, has changed (see Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269).

Since its inception, Mormonism has claimed that historic, biblical Christianity went far astray and changed the true church established by Christ; because of these changes, the true church needed to be “restored” through Joseph Smith, via revelation directly from God. But this church, as allegedly divinely restored, has undergone significant and troubling changes to its scriptures, its doctrine, and its gospel.

While Christianity clings to the consistent and eternal Word of God found in the Bible, Mormonism changes – tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine its leaders are pleased to present (Ephesians 4:14). “There will be no end to such adjustments,” says the church’s First Presidency. It could be a new God. It could be a new gospel. It could be anything.

“Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

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