THE CROSS UNVEILED
Last Update: 8/2014
As a former temple recommend card-holding Mormon, I know and understand the zealous love Mormons have for God. I know they are some of the best people with morals and values second to none. For five years I was one of the “worthy” saints who was extending my best effort in being obedient as best I could to all the laws and ordinances of the church. I was sealed in the temple, trying to magnify my callings, paying a full tithe, attending the temple, following the word of wisdom and performed many other works so Heavenly Father would see I was worthy enough to qualify for the highest level of heaven (the celestial kingdom).
My journey out of the church began as I sat week after week and month after month in each of the three Sunday meetings starving for the word of Christ. A hole began to develop in my heart only Jesus could fill as I heard more and more about the teachings of the prophets, little on Jesus, and virtually no real in-depth Bible doctrine. There could be weeks pass by without even hearing the name Jesus Christ mentioned in sacrament meetings. The testimonies all sounded the same (i.e. “I know this church is true, I know Gordon B. Hinckley is a true prophet of God, and I know Joseph Smith is a prophet, etc.”) and rarely did you hear one with Jesus Christ even mentioned, much less centered on. The songs we sang were more about prophets than God or Jesus (“Praise to the Man,” “Follow the Prophet,” “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet,” “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” etc.).
The Bible tells us to sing praises to the Lord (Psalm 9:11), not prophets or anyone else. I knew in my heart even if Joseph Smith were a true prophet of God (or any other LDS prophet), that what they had done to restore the gospel was infinitely smaller than what Jesus Christ had done for us.
I just could not get over the fact as a church we would spend so much time focused on teachings of prophets and talks about "doing" (i.e. paying tithing, attending the temple, works, magnifying callings, etc.) and not on a relationship with Jesus Christ, His teaching and love. I could feel God drawing me to Him and His word as the Bible shows in John 6:44. This is when I really began to objectively search for the truth and follow the teachings of the Bible by testing my faith. I was determined to let truth be the guide for my feelings instead of my feelings guiding my perception of truth.
As you read, please understand I have gone through the full range of feelings (shock, anger, bitterness, despair, fear, depression, etc.) associated with leaving the LDS church. My marriage was fully tested and thankfully has survived, now flourishing as it is rooted in gospel truth with Christ alone as our guide. I sincerely wanted the LDS church to be true as my testimony had once so strongly confirmed. But through objective study of predominantly the Bible and the Standard Works, I quickly found out what I did not know was the "truth," but a feeling of what I desperately wanted to be true. The church brands people who leave as "weak" (among other titles), but it takes strength to examine all the evidence, and if the church were rooted in truth, then it should not be harmed by objective investigation. If I were "weak," I would have dismissed or ignored the mountain of facts and just pretended to believe the church was true.
My initial search for truth took some time to actually gain any traction due to the subconscious influence indoctrinated by the LDS church leadership. Like many Mormons, the first line of defense the leadership instilled in me were thoughts such as:
The Lord would never let the prophet lead the only true church (LDS church) astray.
My "worthiness" was tied to my absolute obedience to leadership.
If this church is not the true church, then there is no true church because all others are corrupt. There is no salvation outside the LDS church.
The Christian means of salvation by just believing in Christ cannot be the truth because they can believe and go right back to sinning.
The fear and guilt of losing everything (e.g. eternal life, eternal family, etc.) and being shunned if you leave.
Thoughts like this would inevitably lead me to make the following conclusion, thereby halting my search and falling back into conformity: Even if the church is not true, I am a good person and God will not send me to hell. So, I would end up being obedient to the church leadership and not dare question the church for fear of the consequences.
What I failed to realize at the time was if, in fact, the church were not true thoughts such as these which controlled my reasoning were likely not true either. I was still viewing everything through the lens of Mormon teaching. I needed to remove these lenses if they blurred the truth. If I was going to go about finding the truth in an objective manner, I needed to do it without any biases.
It has taken me about seven years of being out of the church to be at a point where these feelings have subsided enough to where I can objectively and selflessly attempt to share the true gospel of grace with and love my dear Mormon brothers and sisters still in the church. I still deeply care and think about all those who I once knew and associated with in the church. Since members are told not to associate with "apostates," discussing with them my reasons could put their temple privileges in jeopardy. This is one of the only methods I can openly share the truth of my story and the true gospel without putting them at risk.
I began to study the Bible, the standard works of the church and the church history (from church published sources only) in depth, testing my faith because if this was the only true church then all I should find would be truth and light. But since I was taught to believe the Bible was not reliable by the Mormon church, I also spent a significant amount of time researching the validity of the Bible. What I found through not only reading, but studying the Bible was truly amazing and was the beginning of my transformation from the yoke and burden of obedience to the law, which leads to sin and death (Romans 8:2-3), to grace, which leads to liberty and peace in Christ (Galatians 5:1).
One of my initial findings was the Bible was not corrupted as Joseph Smith had claimed. This is a claim which could not be 100% proven during his time because there were no Bible manuscripts which pre-dated when Smith said the corruption occurred, which is the end of the 1st century AD at the earliest. However, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered which contained a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, among thousands of other manuscripts.
This Book of Isaiah has been dated to about the 2nd or 3rd century BC, which is two to three centuries before Smith claims any corruption of the Bible occurred. When this Book of Isaiah was compared to our modern Bibles, it was found to be virtually identical, which means Joseph Smith and the prophet Nephi (1 Nephi chapters 13 and 14) in the Book of Mormon are wrong. Additionally, Joseph Smith's Inspired Version (Joseph Smith Translation) of the Bible added pages and pages to the Book of Isaiah, much of which was in chapter 29. Not a word of Smith's "inspired" scripture was found in the Great Isaiah Scroll or any other manuscript found with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I also began to understand though biblical Christianity and Mormonism both use the same or similar terms, they have different definitions and functions when compared. The Mormon use and function of salvation, grace, scriptures, the priesthood, prophets, apostles, evangelists, temples, doctrines, is not supported by any internal biblical exegesis, external manuscripts or archaeology, or any Judeo-Christian history. Therefore, I continued to question if Mormonism taught a "restored" gospel and not "another" gospel like the Apostle Paul warns us about in Galatians 1:6-9. One example is salvation. I was taught as a Mormon I was saved by grace through faith alone. Christians believe the same, but the key lies in how salvation is defined.
Mormonism teaches, “Salvation is twofold: General ~ that which comes to all men irrespective of a belief (in this life) in Christ ~ and, Individual ~ that which man merits through his own acts through life and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:134).
Christianity teaches salvation is a free and unmerited gift of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by trusting alone in His finished work on the cross. This transfer of trust from your works righteousness to Jesus' work forever secures your place in heaven.
Why don't the missionaries make certain perspective converts to the LDS church understand this difference? They are very quick to agree with the Christian definition when speaking to potential converts. It seems very shady and deceptive to not highlight such a monumental difference in beliefs.
I was not until later I realized the Mormon definition of salvation does not even work when you apply it to the Bible or the Book of Mormon. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Salvation here is not general because it is offered only through faith, and not everybody has faith in Jesus. So, it has to be referring to individual salvation. But wait, the verse states it is a gift so than no one can boast of their own works which rules out obedience to laws and ordinances and all the other works Mormon's must do to earn their place in heaven. This logic can be applied to dozens of other Bible verses on salvation and much of the Book of Mormon (i.e. Alma 11:37-40 or 3 Nephi 11:31-40) yielding the same result -- Salvation by the Mormon definition is not possible.
In studying the Bible, I learned God doesn’t change (Psalm 90:2, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). Humanity and various religions have always developed a god that fits their mold of what an acceptable god should be like. They do this by changing the character and sovereign nature of God and by adding new revelations and doctrines. Since God does not change, we must be the ones to change our ways to fit into what God has already provided for us as the way. We are the race which has fallen because of sin, not God. God’s word has never changed and will never need to be changed (Isaiah 40:8; Psalms 100:5; Matthew 16:18, 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23-25). It is everlasting from generation to generation until Jesus Christ returns in glory.
Yet in Mormonism, god changes, “everlasting” doctrines change, scripture changes, and prophets and their teachings change. As a Mormon, I had a strong faith in the prophets and church, but I have since learned the strength of your faith is not as important as the object you place it in. A weak faith in the biblical Jesus is infinitely greater than the strongest faith in a particular church, prophet, non-biblical gospel, or false Jesus.
I also learned there is nothing we can do to earn or qualify for eternal salvation. It is completely based on Christ and what He alone has accomplished for us. If it were based on my own works and effort, then I have reason to boast or glorify in my efforts (Romans 3:27, 4:2, Ephesians 2:8-9) which is exactly what God does not want for several reasons. First, it develops pride and self-righteousness which are terrible sins of the heart. Second, it elevates the glory of humanity and lowers the glory of Christ by stating what He did on the cross was not enough, incomplete, and unsatisfactory; therefore, we reject His work on the cross in favor of our own work. Finally, works and effort done in an attempt to earn or qualify for eternal life is rooted in a selfish motivation centered on you because you are doing to get or earn something. However, when you know your eternal life is secure from Christ's work alone, your works are done because you are saved (not to be saved) and are selflessly done purely for the love of Christ.
Tim Keller stated “religion” tells you what you need to do in order to be saved. Whereas in Christianity, you are saved by believing in the work of Christ alone. Christianity is the only religion in the world which does not require some sort of obedience to laws or ordinances, works, or moral conformity in order to qualify for eternal life. All other religions require some sort of personal effort other than believing in order to earn eternal life and this is why the message of the gospel is so radically different.
The Gospel literally means "good news" and the good news of the Gospel is Jesus did for us that which we could never do for ourselves because we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5). If we were just weakened by sin then our righteousness could improve our situation, but it can't, and God recognized it. God sent His Son Jesus Christ so believers may have what we don't deserve, namely His righteousness, as He took upon Him what He did not deserve, namely the punishment for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:18). This surely is good news for all who believe! Yet when you step back and look at the Mormon plan of salvation, there is no good news, because you get what you deserve based on your own obedience to laws, ordinances and personal righteousness. You will never know if you have been good enough and earned what was a free gift all along. This is terrible news ensnaring you in the curse and yoke of the law (Galatians 3:13, 5:1) blinding you to the liberty and peace through the free gift of grace Jesus offers to all.
The Law and My Pharisaical Heart Exposed
Another important teaching I learned was regarding the law (commandments). The law was fulfilled with Christ’s sacrifice (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4;Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). The Law of Moses was not given to follow for the removal our sins, but to reveal our sins (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:24) because the real issue is within our hearts.
This new covenant we are under is not regulation by obedience through the law, but having the law written on our hearts so it transforms us from within. This is exactly the way Jesus taught the law from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Like Jesus attempted to teach, striving to keep laws and ordinances in an effort on our part to merit eternal salvation will never make us righteous because obedience to laws and ordinances only changes our actions, not our hearts. The law is a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1) and a curse (Galatians 3:10-13) Jesus' grace frees us from. Mormons not only put the law back on their shoulders, they add many more laws to it!
The Pharisees followed the laws and ordinances more than anyone besides Jesus, yet it never changed their hearts because they did not use the law in the way it was revealed by Jesus. Because they felt they were earning their eternal inheritance by obedience to the law, their hearts were filled with pride and self-righteousness. Had they used the law as Jesus taught, it would have revealed to them their brokenness and the sinful nature of their hearts.
This is exactly what my heart was naturally doing as a member of the Mormon Church. It was full of pride because I had the whole truth; I was a member of the only true church on the earth; I had the priesthood authority to act in the name of Christ, I was doing more, giving more and being better person; I was helping to save people by my temple works; I would compare the moral conformity and obedience to laws and ordinances I put forth versus others.
Subconsciously, as this pride grew in my heart, I thought I was out earning others by being more righteous and God would bless me for it. I am not suggesting everyone is like this in the Mormon Church but given the nature of having to earn your eternal life in Mormonism, it does promote those feelings. This is why we realize only receiving the free, unmerited gift of the atoning work of Christ can make us righteous before a holy God, because if righteousness came through obeying laws and ordinances, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21). Jesus does not want a relationship with a prophet, laws, ordinances, works and moral conformity wedged in between us; He wants our hearts and a direct, personal relationship.
Slowly God began drawing me to Him through His word. The more I read and studied, the more my true nature was exposed before a holy God. I realized I was still in my sin no matter how religious my acts and efforts were because I had never come to Christ and trusted in His work alone for my righteousness and justification. I was trusting in my own righteousness to earn my justification as every Mormon is taught.
I began to realize as a Mormon I was just like Saul (a Pharisee), showing God through my religiosity just how worthy I was for His love, but the gospel unveiled how these acts and efforts were self-centered and selfish filthy rags. I was essentially making God a debtor to me. God showed me through His word the more religious I was, the further my heart was from Him. But like Saul, when Christ found me and drew me in, all the things I gained through my righteous efforts and law-abiding ways, I now counted as a loss to gain Christ. Now I am in Christ, not based on my own righteousness through obedience to laws, but through faith in Christ, which is the righteousness of God by faith (Philippians 3:7-9).
Like Paul says, I had a zeal for God, but it was not based on knowledge. I was establishing my own righteousness through Mormon doctrine, being ignorant of the righteousness of God presented throughout the Bible. Paul says Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:2-4).
The Gospel revealed gaining eternal life in heaven had nothing to do with my worthiness, but everything to do with Jesus' worthiness. When we transfer our trust from our own worthiness to Jesus' worthiness, only then can the free gift of eternal life be received. When you realize Jesus did for us that which we could never do for ourselves it humbles you to the core. Through this transfer of trust, we not only receive the benefits of Jesus' death, our past/present/future sins forever forgiven, but we also receive the benefits of his perfect obedience, his perfect robe of righteousness, so when the Father sees us he sees the record of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through faith we become children of God, gaining a new identity in Christ, starting the transformation of the heart.
LDS Church and Standard Works Study
In researching the LDS church, I quickly realized why they do not want you to read anything except the materials handed out to you in church. You are constantly loaded up with church-issued books, manuals, magazines and other materials. I realized this is a technique other religious groups use so you never have time to learn on your own about the church, the prophets and the doctrines which were once taught (even if they are from historical church published materials). I did attempt to read what the LDS apologists' (FAIR and SHIELDS) had to say regarding these issues I had heard about, but this only highlighted other significant issues. The apologists' flood you with volumes of circuitous reasoning and logic which rarely answers the question at hand.
Not even the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon and 1833 edition of the Book of Commandments (changed to Doctrine and Covenants in 1835) were able to escape major revisions to doctrines and prophecies. Teachings of doctrines which were once eternal/everlasting and essential for godhood have been abandoned (i.e. The United Order, Plural Marriage, The Curse of Cain, Blood Atonement, and Adam is God). Notably absent from the Book of Commandments are several of the foundational events in church history including the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood and the testimonial accounts of the eleven witnesses. Further study unveils major issues with each of these foundational events within the annals of LDS documented history.
In studying the history of the church and doctrines, I found rampant censorship and suppression of information. This practice of censorship, suppression and not being honest and open regarding church history is not at all in accord with the 13th Article of Faith, which states "We believe in being honest, true ... ." As Lyndon Lamborn stated to the Disciplinary Council during what would be his excommunication, "...Censoring has been a tell-tale sign of corrupt organizations since the beginning of time." Additionally, this practice does not align with quotes from General Authorities regarding this topic:
"A lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive. ... A lie can be effectively communicated without words ever being spoken. Sometimes a nod of the head or silence can deceive" (Marvin J. Ashton, "This is No Harm," Ensign, April 1982).
"We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. ... Honesty is a principle, and we have our moral agency to determine how we will apply this principle. We have the agency to make choices, but ultimately we will be accountable for each choice we make. We may deceive others, but there is One we will never deceive" (James E. Faust, "Honesty--a Moral Compass," Ensign, October 1996).
"The 13th article of faith says, 'We believe in being honest.' ... Complete honesty is necessary for our salvation. ... Lying is intentionally deceiving others. ... There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest." (2011 Gospel Principles Manual, Chapter 31: Honesty, pp. 179-183).
These comments and values on honesty the church vocalizes are not put into practice as easily seen from above and conflicting messages from Mormon Apostles such as Boyd K. Packer you will see as you read on.
Objective, true and verifiable information unveiled from church resources which would have major impacts on members testimonies and the veracity of the church is suppressed on major topics such as: The First Vision, the Priesthood restoration, the Book of Mormon origin, Joseph Smith's polygamy and polyandry, the translation method of the Book of Mormon, the translation of the Book of Abraham, the many other significant issues with historicity of the Book of Mormon, the church General Authorities being a "lay clergy," the church's (which is a corporation) vast wealth through investment of tithing revenue into corporations, land, malls, and many other investments.
Additionally, the Book of Mormon does not contain virtually any of the church doctrines even though it claims to contain “the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” Examples include: the plan of salvation, our pre-earth existence, plurality of gods, gods with wives, temple works, eternal marriage, chance for repentance after death, baptism for the dead, three levels of heaven, the church organization, god being an exalted man, the Aaronic priesthood, eternal progression, men can become gods, celestial marriage (plural marriage), and the word of wisdom.
Meeting with the Church Leadership
As I was studying, I kept a growing list of irreconcilable issues I found with the standard works of the church, doctrines which contradicted the Bible, Book of Mormon, and historical doctrines taught by the church. I ended up scheduling a meeting with my ward bishopric so I could ask them for answers. I was sincerely searching for answers and shared some of my concerns knowing they should easily handle these questions since they held high callings in the church and were being led by the spirit. Much to my disappointment, I did not get even so much as a response to any of the questions but was met with three men who only questioned my testimony of the church and shared their testimonies of the truthfulness of the church to me.
Since I received no answers from the bishopric, I then set up a meeting with the 2nd counselor to the Stake President, who was a former bishop of mine. We had always had a good relationship so I really felt he would be able to provide some help in answering some of my questions. The day we met I shared with him some of my concerns I had discovered from studying the Bible, the standard works of the church and church published sources.
To say I was shocked by the response I was met with would be a huge understatement. You could see the anger in his face and in his voice as he immediately began a verbal assault on me and my testimony with my wife sitting by my side. He was accusing me of going on the internet looking at “anti-Mormon literature” to get this information. I assured him I had done no such thing and was honestly and sincerely searching for answers. I could not understand why I was being treated in such a horrible manner by church leaders for asking valid questions. God has never rebuked an honest seeker. So, here is where I really began to see how the church was slowly conditioning me in the mantra of "pray, pay, and obey," because anything outside this was damaging to my testimony, family, and faith.
History is full of stories which have a similar response. Galileo Galilei was forced to stand trial in 1633 for heresy against the Catholic church for presenting evidence in his book, Dialogue on the Two Great Systems of the World, that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around as the Catholic church had taught. Since Galileo was old and sick, the Catholic church sentenced him to house arrest for the rest of his life (rather than burning him to death as they did with Bruno) for holding what the church considered to be heretical beliefs. We now know today Galileo was right and the Catholic church was wrong.
The idea here is the Catholic church was not interested at all in hearing the truth but attacking and punishing Galileo for publishing evidence which went against the teachings of the church. The Catholic church must immediately squash anything that could be damaging, and they did. Similarly, I felt I was being punished and attacked for presenting verified and indisputable information backed by the Bible, the standard works of the church and church publications that were potentially damaging to the Mormon church.
The response I was getting from church leaders did not at all align with what the church has publicly stated to its members. Some of these statements include:
"If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak" (George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, pg. 216).
"Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 16, pg. 46).
"'Our history is especially critical, because in a sense, we rise or fall with our history,' he said. 'If those early beginning stories that Joseph Smith told us are true, then we are the only true church as we contend. If they're not true, then we don't have what we purport to have'" (Emeritus General Authority Marlin K. Jensen, Mormon Times, Nov 19, 2009).
"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed" (D. Michael Quinn, J.Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24).
"Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, pg. 188).
Boyd K. Packer had a different opinion in a 1981 speech to seminary and BYU teachers titled “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect” and can be found at the LDS website. Packer states, “You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now... Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer... There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not... Some things that are true are not very useful... That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities... Do not spread disease germs!" (emphasis mine)
What Packer is saying to these teachers is to stop teaching these kids the true history of the church because it destroys faith. Hiding the facts of Church history is deception which the Bible and the Book of Mormon are both against. Let me ask you this question Mr. Packer: What is more faith-promoting than truth?
Packer also stated, "I have a hard time with historians… because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting" (Apostle Boyd K. Packer, as related by D. Michael Quinn, “Pillar Of My Faith,” talk delivered at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 19, 1994).
So is this why the church no longer teaches doctrines once held eternal and essential for godhood (i.e. The United Order, Plural Marriage, The Curse of Cain, Blood Atonement, and Adam is God), because even though they feel they are true, they are no longer “faith-promoting”?
The Bible tells us in John 3:20-21 truth loves the light and evil loves to be hidden in darkness. I did not understand why the church was not open with their history even though they publicly state just the opposite. Why do they keep all their historical documents and artifacts that could prove the church is true locked up in a heavily fortified vault in the side of Granite Mountain? Everything which proves the church true should be on display for the world to see hiding nothing.
In the LDS church, I was taught submission to the prophet and the church leadership was demonstrating my faith in God. I realized how I was passively being stripped of my own freedom to rationally think and reason by such rules and techniques.
Heber C. Kimball also taught absolute submission to authority by stating, "But if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it. None of your business whether it is right or wrong" (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 1857, 6:32).
This type of absolute unquestioned obedience to authority has dire consequences on our ability to critically think and logically reason. Asking questions about your faith you don't understand regarding historical issues or doctrines could not possibly weaken your faith if the object you place your faith in is true. Sincere questioning leads to better understanding and therefore, to a faith which can be shared and strengthened. Your spiritual journey will ebb and flow with normal bouts of doubts and skepticism, but if you never get answers and are told what is true because the prophet or brethren said so; your faith will never be strengthened.
Whom I Truly Praised and Honored
Mormonism taught me to honor and revere their prophets more than Jesus Christ. It taught me to glory in the works of man more than the work of Christ. A few examples of how I came to realize I was exalting man over God include songs we sang and teaching materials we used:
Singing songs that give praise to Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ (i.e. “Praise to the Man,” “Follow the Prophet,” “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet,” “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” etc.).
“I honor and revere the name of Joseph Smith. I delight to hear it; I love it. I love his doctrine” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 345).
“Where shall we go to find another man who has accomplished a one-thousandth part of the good that Joseph Smith accomplished?” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 18).
“We must accept the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith as the instrumentality through which the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ was accomplished. Each member of the Church, to be prepared for the millennial reign, must receive a testimony, each for himself, of the divinity of the work established by Joseph Smith” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 71).
As you can plainly see, Mormon leaders revere Joseph Smith and exalt his name by claiming it's Joseph Smith's doctrine, Joseph Smith's good accomplishments and Joseph Smith's established work. Jesus Christ can be prominent in a Mormon’s life, but He certainly is preeminent in a Christian’s life. This is something virtually all Mormons are guilty of; elevating Joseph Smith to an exalted god-like status while lowering the power and glory of Jesus Christ similar to that of an ancient Greek demi-god. Joseph Smith himself stated in the History of the Church, which you can still check out from your local LDS ward library, that "God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it" (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 319-320).
Joseph Smith was profoundly revered by his followers and his pride soared so much the he thought of himself as a god to us. This is further confirmed by one of the most audacious claims made by Joseph Smith in the same History of the Church books where he boasted "I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it.I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter- day Saints never ran away from me yet" (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 408-409). Seriously!? I am not making this up! Go to your local LDS ward, check out the book, and read the quote yourself if you don't believe me.
One more quote from Joseph Smith which can be found in this same volume of books as well as Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith I was shocked by is: "I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it" (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 517; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316). Does this sound like someone who is certain about the foundations of the church and the experiences he allegedly had in establishing the church?
Exalting man to godhood lies at the core of Mormon doctrines. LDS have all read and heard many times voiced by current prophets the couplet of Lorenzo Snow: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." Now it has become very clear to me how in believing teachings like this, my self-righteousness and pride exalted myself, while at the same time, I reduced the power and divinity of God. Psalm 90:2 states God has eternally existed as God and Isaiah 43:10 states the Lord is the only God that has ever or will ever exist. It hurts to this day to think not only was I taught this doctrine, but I actually believed in this doctrine. It's hard enough being a good father and husband, so I am thankful I only have to focus on that responsibility and not an indescribable responsibility of someday being a god.
But My Testimony Confirmed the LDS church was True
I came to understand the feelings I felt, which so strongly confirmed the truthfulness of the church to me, were just that – feelings. Feelings reveal our emotional reaction to what we examine, not the truthfulness of what we examine. Feelings are completely unreliable because they can easily be manipulated and provoked.
The FLDS and Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) both use the exact method LDS employ in determining the truth (Moroni 10:4 and D&C 9:8-9 challenge). Interestingly, they all come to the same conclusion - the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth, their church is the only true church on the earth (all others are false), and their Prophets are the only true Prophets on the earth (all others are false). They all get the same burning spiritual witness that confirms these beliefs. All cannot be right, so we know this method alone is flawed for determining truth.
False religious movements are very similar in this manner in they teach you good feelings about the church mean it’s true. If you have bad feelings, or do not get the spiritual witness of its truthfulness, then there is something wrong with you, not the church. You must still be sinning, or not have a sincere heart, or real intent. The thought the LDS church could be wrong is not allowed to be considered.
The Bible teaches us a very different, but simple method for determining whether a prophet and his doctrines are true. We are to test them (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22; 1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21), because our hearts (feelings) will deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 28:26), and because false prophets will arise (Matthew 24:24), and because Satan is far too cunning and will appear with his ministers as angels of righteousness (not unrighteousness) to deceive us (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
As a Mormon, I was hard-wired to fall back on this manufactured feeling (testimony) when my beliefs were challenged in any way. If I was to even entertain thoughts and evidences which are not harmonious with the teachings of the church, I would be branded as having a "weak testimony" and being "deceived by Satan." I would be singled out by leadership and talked about by other members. My eternal family unit and chance at the celestial kingdom are held hostage. I risk becoming a "son of perdition" and burning at Christ's second coming. My desire to fit in for fear of the consequences was constantly battling any thoughts the church might not true.
The subconscious phobia indoctrination cultivated by the church instills a belief system rooted in fear, guilt, and shame. I was taught by the church my testimony is most precious and needs to be strengthened and protected at all costs. This is how my feelings would replace facts as any evidence or fact presented will be ignored, denied or rationalized away to protect my belief. This is known is psychology as cognitive dissonance. Our minds like to subconsciously maintain balanced feelings of joy, happiness and security. My joy, happiness and security were tied to the truthfulness of the church. The teaching methods the church employs through phobia indoctrination taught me to subconsciously filter and reject any evidence which may jeopardize these feelings. I was subconsciously selective and biased to the information confirming my beliefs. This is known in psychology as confirmation bias. Most logical and rational people would agree these are not objective methods for determining truth and leave you exposed to potential for undue influence and deception.
I have since studied extensively on organizations like the LDS church who set impossible standards based on a works-righteousness system so members fall short of these standards. Magnified by the phobia-based belief system employed, members will continue to work even harder in a futile attempt to rid themselves of the shame, guilt and fear associated with falling short. Unfortunately, they don't realize they are in a perpetual cycle of works with no hope of ever knowing they have earned eternal life.
The Cross Unveiled
As a Mormon I was taught the cross was only a symbol of the dying Christ, and we believe in the living Christ, which is why we don't wear or have crosses on our church buildings. I thought this answer was so clever. But in studying the New Testament I learned what the cross actually meant.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." As a Mormon, the cross was foolish to me, which showed me there was a deeper meaning to the cross that I was completely missing.
Paul also states in Galatians 6:14, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Paul says here he glories in nothing (not the Garden of Gethsemane, baptism, temples, ordinances, obedience to laws, works, moral effort, wealth, power, status, etc.) except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is calling to our attention the work Christ did on the cross; that we are declared righteous (justified) before God based on the work Jesus did on the cross and nothing else.
I now realize the cross represents the redemptive work Christ performed vicariously for us because there was nothing we could do to earn eternal life as we were dead (no just weakened) in our sins (Ephesians 2:5). The cross stands for the triumph over sin and defeating death while being made alive in Christ. It is the where the justice and mercy of God intersect in a show of ultimate love for humanity. God is calling us to humbly come to the cross and see what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Paraphrasing Shawn McCraney: Can there be a greater false doctrinal teaching than to remove our focus from the very place where Jesus reconciles us to God, the cross, shunning and exchanging the symbol and meaning for a focus on a gold angel, a prophet, a church and obedience to a mountain of laws and ordinances one must follow to qualify for eternal life?
The Truth Unveiled
After studying the Bible, standard works, and the history of the church there was no doubt about where the truth stood. I knew it was Christ alone that justifies me before God, not a religion, my obedience to laws and personal righteousness or anything else. I no longer desired to bear the heavy burdens the church puts on you and desired the easy yoke and light burden Christ promises. I could no longer look past the false prophecies, the contradictions to the Bible or bury my head in the sand to the major issues with the standard works of the church. I could no longer twist the words of the Bible about the character and nature of God to fit the god of Mormonism. I resigned my membership from the LDS church, removing the yoke of bondage and curse of the law (Galatians 3:13, 5:1), exchanging it, so I may found in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, clothed in His righteousness and having real liberty and peace. Like Paul in Philippians 3:7-9, I exchanged my pursuit of God through my personal obedience and righteousness for rest and liberty with complete reliance on Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Now that I look back, it is crystal clear to me I was on a never-ending hamster wheel trying to earn through my own personal righteousness that which was a free gift of God all along. It must be a free gift so no one can boast or glory in their own efforts (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:27-28, 4:2-3) as this would shift the glory from Christ to you. Praise the Lord and His wonderful grace saving a sinner like me! All the glory and praise will always and forever be Christ's and not in me, or a church, or a prophet.
I did not leave because I wanted to sin, was offended, or was reading “anti-Mormon literature” (unless this means the Bible, Standard Works of the Church, or church published materials). I left because I had a Christ-sized hole in my heart, and I needed Him and His love. Since I have left, I have a peace and liberty I never had before which is promised in the Bible to all who put their trust in Christ alone for eternal salvation absent works. As I studied the Bible more and more, I fell in love with reading God's word and with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Bible truly is God's word and the power unto salvation.
When you look at Mormonism at the highest level, it is based on a bold claim that the Bible is corrupted and the Mormon church has the uncorrupted and whole truth. The angel Moroni led Joseph Smith to these gold plates which would become “another testament” of Jesus Christ. Now this alone does not make it wrong, but this claim should set off a huge red flag the Bible warns about over and over in verses like Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15,Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22, Jeremiah 23:26-32, Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and many others. We are implored to test these "prophets" and their doctrines against the Bible. If they tell us to receive another gospel which was not preached, have false prophecies, or tell us to go after other gods than the God of the Bible, or teach unbiblical doctrines, then they are false and they should be put to death – period, end of story (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22).
Would you not agree if the Bible were true, it would be in the best interest of a false prophet to first get you to doubt and not trust the word of God, but to trust in your feelings? By doing this a false prophet is able to get people to transfer their trust in the Bible to trust in the prophet. The prophet then becomes the ultimate authority, is unaccountable and untestable. Has Joseph Smith not followed this exactly?
Was I a Christian? Perception vs. Reality
While I was a member of the Mormon church, I had always been taught and believed I was a Christian. I was baptized into his church, prayed in his name and believed in him. However, as I began to learn about Jesus Christ in the Bible, I realized it was not what I felt in my heart or what anyone else said that made me a Christian. This is because the Jesus Christ I believed in, as taught to me by the Mormon church, was very different from the biblical Jesus Christ.
Some major differences include Jesus was not God in the flesh, and he was the spirit brother of Satan. He was not always God as he was once a man and had to earn his godhood. I was taught Jesus was one of many gods and saviors as he happened to be a god and savior for this planet. I was taught he was one of the gods that organized the heavens and earth out of existing matter and he did not create them by his word. I was taught Jesus atoned for the sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and not on the cross and there were certain sins his blood would not cover. I was taught faith alone in Christ did not save me to be with him in heaven without total obedience to Mormon laws, ordinances and works on my part (Please see "Jesus Comparison" for full list). I thought, how could I be a Christian if I denied virtually everything the Bible reveals about the teachings, character, nature of Jesus Christ?
When you are discouraged by the church to not listen to Christian music (even if you don't agree, the message in Christian music completely contradicts Mormon doctrine), read non-LDS Christian books, go into a Christian bookstore, or even fellowship with other Christians, that should have set off a red flag I may not have been a real Christian. You are even discouraged from reading Bible commentaries on the internet (or anything religious in nature that's non-LDS) to prepare talks. You are also discouraged from researching the historicity of the church, prophets and apostles, and doctrines, regardless of whether they come from historical church published materials. And don't even think about questioning anything as I rather harshly found out. The list of things the church discourages you from could go on and on, yet the church touts the free agency of man. It was "free agency" as long as every action, thought, and emotion was within the tightly controlled boundaries of the church.
Mormonism gradually changes you to fit into a certain mold, and if you don't fit your shortcomings will be in the spotlight, singled out by the leadership and talked about by other members. Women have it much worse as they also must submit themselves and their lives to being subservient and obedient to their male spouse and leaders. The pressure is immense to perform as close to perfection in all areas of your life and within the church.
Additionally, you are constantly reminded in sacrament and leadership talks you are not doing enough. These are likely some of the reasons as to why Utah, which is about 70% Mormon, leads the nation in depression and the use of anti-depressants1 such as Prozac (especially high in women). Utah also leads, has recently lead, or is among the leaders in the nation (per capita) in narcotic painkiller usage2, financial fraud schemes3, mortgage fraud4, on-line pornography consumption4 (a symptom of sexual suppression), rape5, bankruptcy6, suicide7 (especially high with teen males and homosexuals), and plastic surgery8. Why does the Mormon religion, which is supposedly the “only true church on the face of the earth,” and has prophets who supposedly communicate with God, have such horrible emotional, mental and physical side effects?
An Informed and Objective Decision
The LDS church has spent tens of millions on PR campaigns and marketing efforts (TV commercials, DVD's, billboards, internet sites, etc.) since the early 1980's to change the perception of the church in order to appear more Christian. What other Christian institution has done or needs to go to such great lengths in marketing their institution, as if it were a corporation, in order to change public perception? The LDS church combines this expensive PR effort with ~80,000 missionaries only to have membership increasing at a smaller percentage with each new year. At the same time, a growing percentage of membership is exiting the church with each new year. They are playing a shell game attempting to suppress their true history, early doctrines, and obfuscate their current doctrine while showing you a glamorous and expensive commercial of how Christian-like the LDS church is and how wonderful life is as a Mormon. All this does not change the history and the doctrine and members are beginning to find out. The LDS church is scrambling to put the toothpaste back in the tube as potential converts and members can easily become informed on the internet regarding the major issues the church attempts to suppress, distort, or outright deceive.
Church leadership calls any information against it as "anti-Mormon literature." They believe information on these issues can only presented objectively by the church. The problem with this view is the church also has a lot to loose/gain (billions in tithing revenue) by what information and how the information is presented, so there is great incentive for them to suppress or distort truth.
Look at this in a different light. Would feel you are getting enough objective information to make an informed decision if you are buying a Ford and only based your decision on what the Ford salesman revealed to you? Do you believe they would be open and honest pointing out any critical issues other customers might be experiencing with their vehicle after purchase, or do you believe they might elect to remain silent on these issues in order to make a sale? Now before you decide to make your final purchase, you research and find a large sample of others who have purchased the same vehicle you intend to buy and listen to and validate their reviews/claims (good and bad) about their ownership experience. Which route will guide you to making the best-informed decision based on all available and objective information? I believe most rational people would choose to research the vehicle before their purchase. Now let me ask you this - why would you choose to make an informed decision based on all available and objective information about a purchase of a vehicle or any other product you choose to buy, but not do this with regards to the most important decision you will ever make in your life?
Since I have left the Mormon church, I have come to develop a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I trust in His word alone and in His shed blood on the cross for my eternal salvation absent my own works. Today, I attend a Bible-based, Christ-centered, non-denominational church, and there I am surrounded by disciples of Christ who love the Lord and fellow-shipping with each other. I love the fact when my Pastor gives a sermon, he does not expect us to submit to what he teaches as absolute truth, but wants us to search the scriptures and test if what he teaches is true. Only now can I say I have the peace Christ gives us (John 14:27) made possible by His finished work on the cross. I now know the truth and the truth has set me free. And because Jesus Christ has saved me and will raise me to sit with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6), I desire to share the same free gift of saving grace to my Mormon friends and family which comes by and through Christ alone. I desire they may see the work Christ did for us on the cross was not only necessary for our eternal salvation, but enough for our eternal salvation.
Please take the time to read, ponder and study the gospel centered message I present here because Jesus of the Bible is so amazing and wants to lift your burdens from your shoulders and give you rest. He wants you to have peace and security that your eternal salvation is through Him alone and is guaranteed. When it is in Christ alone, the motivation is pure and selfless because your works will be demonstrated because you are saved and not to be saved.
Please realize all the laws and ordinances you must follow so you can be saved into a higher level of heaven, become a god and receive your own planet to populate is not the message and “good news” of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us not to follow other gospels, even if angels appear with them (yes, even the angel Moroni), or His grace will be of no effect on us (Galatians 5:4). Mormons are wonderful people and their hearts are sincere, but motivated for the wrong reasons.
Mormons, you are great people who are more righteous than most, whose deeds are second to none, but this is exactly what the religious leaders of Jesus’ time looked like. They had an outwardly righteous appearance, but no real brokenness and understanding of their sin and need of a Savoir. They felt through their righteousness and obedience to the law they earned their eternal inheritance (see Matthew 7 and 23), yet Jesus was clear they did not have eternal life through laws of righteousness (Romans 9:30 - 10:4).
Mormons, I know you will say you know in your heart the church is true and Joseph Smith is a true prophet because I testified the same, but making that statement does not change facts. People all over the world believe and die for their religions as they have an even stronger spiritual witness their religion is true and all others are false. But does this make it true? Spiritual witnesses must be tested against the Bible so you know it is from God. God would never give you a spiritual witness of something false, but Satan and his ministers would love to make your bosom burn if that is what it takes to get you away from God's word. Remember Satan and his ministers will appear as righteousness and not evil in the least manner to deceive even the elect (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). They want to sell you something that looks, feels, and tastes just like the word of God so he can deceive.
The battles we face are spiritual (Ephesians 6:12) and Satan is waging war for our souls duplicating the "feeling" the Holy Ghost (revealer of truth) gives to trick you into following a different gospel. So please, test your prophets and scriptures. Nothing bad can come from testing your faith; it's a win-win proposition. How strong can your faith be if you are unwilling to put it to the test? Please read and study the gospel because when you know the truth, the truth shall set you free and you shall be free indeed (John 8:32, 36).
1 James Thalman, Deseret News, 11/28/2007
2 http://www.deseretnews.com/article/660200893/Utah-No-1-in-prescription-drug-abuse.html?pg=all & http://health.utah.gov/prescription/pdf/UPHA_ej.pdf
8 Rebecca Ruiz, "America's Vainest Cities", Forbes Magazine, 11/29/2007