The Fruit of Mormonism: A Look at Seventy Mathias Held’s talk at the April 2019 General Conference

By Eric Johnson

On July 8-9, 2019, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson took a closer look at this talk on Viewpoint on Mormonism. Check them out her: Part 1  Part 2

Summing up Seventy Matthias Held’s talk at the April 2019 General Conference (“Seeking Knowledge by the Spirit”) is this subheading: “We should learn to discern the truth not only through our rational minds but also through the very still and small voice of the spirit.” Held’s talk was printed on pages 31-33 of the May 2019 Ensign magazine.

This general authority explained on page 31 how he and his wife moved to Germany after moving from their home in Colombia, South America. His wife apparently had a premonition that

we would receive some kind of message from heaven, without knowing how or when. So she started letting into our home all kinds of door-to-door salespeople, with encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, cookbooks, kitchen appliances, and so on, always waiting for that unique message.

Then, lo and behold, there was a knock on the door came produced by two young male missionaries. When Mrs. Held opened the door, they said they would come back when her husband returned. “Could this be the expected message?” Held asked. To me, this is a strange way to go about trying to determine truth. After all, did he ask this same question when the others knocked on the door?

When the missionaries began to present lessons describing the LDS gospel message, Held said he and his wife had “regretted that we had been baptized as little babies,” making it appear that they had been baptized as Catholics. To determine if Mormonism was true, “he said they “really needed to understand everything about it” (p. 32). Of course, this is a good idea, as researching a religion can help determine if what its adherents are saying is in line with the teachings of the Bible. Yet Held makes no mention of comparing the teachings of the missionaries with the Bible to see if what they said was actually true. Instead, he cited from 3 Nephi 14:16–it is also found in Matthew 7:16 in the Bible– and wrote,

But how could we know if what the missionaries were telling us about the Book of Mormon, about Joseph Smith, and about the plan of salvation was actually all true? Well, we had understood from the words of the Lord that we could “know them by their fruits.” So, in a very systematic manner, we started examining the Church by looking for those fruits with the eyes of our very rational minds (p. 32).

What fruit did they see?  Consider the six points he gives:

  • Friendly and happy people and wonderful families who understood that we are meant to feel joy in this life and not just suffering and misery
  • A church that does not have a paid clergy but one in which members themselves accept assignments and responsibilities
  • A church where Jesus Christ and families are at the center of everything, where members fast once a month and donate to help the poor and needy, where healthy habits are promoted, teaching us to abstain from harmful substances
  • We liked the emphasis on personal growth, on education, on hard work and self-reliance
  • We learned about the remarkable humanitarian program
  • And we were impressed by the general conferences, with the wonderful music and the profound spiritual principles shared there

These are the examples of the fruit he and his wife saw? Let’s quickly check off each one to see if any of these are good reasons to join Mormonism.

  1. Friendly people: Yes, many Latter-day Saints are friendly. But so are many other religious groups who display joy. Is this a fruit that points to the “true church”? I see no biblical evidence to support this as a fruit describing the “true church.”
  2. No paid clergy: Did Held honestly hold to this idea before he converted to Mormonism? I highly doubt it! What Held doesn’t explain is that many people in this church get paid, including him! For instance, in 2017 MormonWikiLeaks posted documents showing there were salaries—not “living expenses”—paid through pay stubs. See here. Mission presidents each average a six-figure income in the United States. To support this assertion, click here. The church office has a “payroll department,” as it employs tens of thousands of people (seminary and institute teachers, stake presidents, area seventies, bookkeepers, accountants, janitors, etc) around the world. Besides it wouldn’t be hard to make a case that bishops should not be paid because the Doctrine and Covenants says they should! (See D&C 42:71-73 and 75:24.) Finally, if we consider what the Bible has to say, Christian pastors are supposed to be paid. Click here.
  3. A number of things get rolled up into this one point, such as Jesus/families take the center place in Mormonism; members fast; and the supposed truthfulness of the Word of Wisdom. However:
    1. Is Jesus really the focal point in this church (even if he name is in the church’s title)? Who is the Living Christ of Mormonism?
    2. Did Jesus believe “families are forever“? The evidence shows that Jesus did not hold families as the centerpiece of faith.
    3. Is the Mormon health code reliable? There are actually many problems with how Mormons have traditionally interpreted D&C 89.
  4. The Helds were apparently enthralled with the industrious Latter-day Saints. However, there are many religious people who are just as industrious. Take, for instance, the Amish or the Mennonites–a group that even claims to be the “Church of God in Christ.” Why didn’t Held join either of these industrious groups?
  5. Humanitarian programs. It might surprise this general authority that his church doesn’t give away as much as he may have thought. In fact, the humanitarian giving by the LDS Church pales in comparison to Christian organizations. For example, the Mormon Church gave $1.116 billion in humanitarian aid to 167 countries from 1985 through 2009. The totals included more than 12,000 tons of medical supplies, 61,000 tons of food, and 84,000 tons of clothing. Breaking this down over twenty-five years (1985–2009), an average of about $45 million worth of aid per year was given. During those twenty-five years, the church had an average membership of about 9 million members. For each year, this equates to roughly $5 annually for each member of the church. Even if the church decided to increase its giving by, say, ten times, it would still fall far short of the annual giving by three of the biggest Christian humanitarian agencies around the world. In just 2009 alone, Feed the Children distributed $1.2 billion worth of food, supplies, and aid, an annual total that is more than the LDS Church has donated over two and a half decades. In addition, World Vision ($1.1 billion) and Samaritan’s Purse ($294 million) took care of the needs of the less fortunate and responded in times of natural disasters. How come they didn’t join Christianity based on these overwhelming numbers? To read more about this, go to “Doesn’t the fruit (good works) produced in Mormonism prove this is the true church?” Click here for more.
  6. The impression given at general conferences, with its beautiful music and profound spiritual principles. Again, a person would have to already bought into the teachings of the church to realize that what was being taught were “profound.”

Because of these six reasons, Held said that he came “to know with absolute certainty that” God and Jesus were to be worshiped, that Joseph Smith was called by God, that the Book of Mormon was an accurate history of ancient people in the Americas, and that the LDS Church is true. In other words, everything that Mormonism stands for were supported by the six points give above!

It seems to me that Held is biased about his beliefs. In fact, he seemed to sabotage anything someone could get from the Bible when he cited Moroni 10:5 and wrote this:

In my 31 years as a member of the Church, I have experienced many times that if we rely only on our rational mind and deny or neglect the spiritual understanding we can receive through the whisperings and impressions of the Holy Ghost, it is as if we were going through life with only one eye.

Yet the Bible teaches that inquirers need to consider all things and rightly discern the truth. As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, we are to “test everything.” First John 4:1 states, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I agree with Christian philosopher Douglas Groothuis who wrote,

A hearty, sturdy and insatiable appetite for reality—whatever it might be—is the only engine for testing and discerning truth. Truth is what matters most, particularly truth concerning our human condition in the world—its origin, its nature, its purpose (if any) and its destiny. Knowing the truth and living according to its requirements should be the hope and aspiration of the reflective person. (Christian Apologetics, 16)

Perhaps Held and his wife would have done better by using a different set of criteria. I have written a series of “10 Reason Why” articles with points that should be considered when it comes to the truth claims of Mormonism. I encourage you to check these out and see if these might have been better tools in discerning whether the evidence points to or away from the claims of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church leaders today.

Mormonism is either true or it’s not true. If it’s true, then the evidence should make it reasonable to believe that this religion ought to be followed. If it’s not true, it ought to be avoided at all costs.

In addition, if you are a Latter-day Saint, I encourage you to take a closer look at your church’s history. In fact, your scholars published the Gospel Topics Essays a few years ago that showed how Joseph Smith used a magical seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon; that he was married to “30-40 women” at the same time, a third of whom were teenagers while he was in his 30s and another third who were married to living husbands at that time; and that the Book of Abraham was a spiritual, not literal, translation of the scrolls that Smith purchased in Ohio. If there are so many problems with Joseph Smith and his scriptures, shouldn’t this be a consideration in determining truth? To me, this criteria is much more important than any of the six points listed by Seventy Held.