Archive Section III
What is the True Church?
Comparing New Testament and LDS Churches
II. What is "Truth"?
This article has been written for our friends in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon Church (abbreviated here as LDS Church) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Reorganized Church (abbreviated here as RLDS Church, today renamed the Community of Christ).
To both LDS and RLDS Churchs the concept of a "one and only true church" is a very important one. You will typically find members from both organizations bearing testimonies such as, "I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Church is true". To both Protestants as well as New Covenant Christians such a statement is scripturally unacceptable.
I. What is the "Church"?
According to LDS definitions, the
The word "church" in the English language usually means a Christian place of worship. The New Testament, however, defines "church" in two different ways:
"...Lord's true Church is the formal, official organization of believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ by baptism, thus covenanting to serve God and keep his commandments (D&C 10:67-69; 18:20-25). It is literally the kingdom of God on earth (D&C 65; 84:34; 136:41), and as such its affairs are administered by apostles, prophets, and other legal administrators appointed by Christ the King (1 Cor.12:27-29). It is the congregation or assembly of saints who have forsaken the world by accepting the gospel, a formal society of converted persons and not the unorganized spiritual vagary termed the Christian Church by sectarianism...Those who join the true Church and keep their covenants gain salvation in the celestial kingdom of God (D&C 10:55,69). In the true Church there will be apostles, prophets, true doctrinal teachings, revelation, visions, miracles, healings, the ministering of angels, and all the gifts of the Spirit (Mark 16:14-20; 1 Cor.12; 13; 14; 3 Ne.27; Morm.8; 9; D&C 46). Where these things are found, there is the true Church; where these things are not found, there the true Church is not." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition, 1966, pp.133-4)
A. The New Testament "Ekklęsia"
1. It is the ekklęsia (from which we get the English word ecclesiastical) which means a local congregation of Christians. It is never used in the sense of the "collective congregation" of all believers. In its simplest form, an ekklęsia was a meeting or an assembly. It is never used to mean an "organization" such as the "Baptist Church" or the "LDS Church". (The reference to the "church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria in Acts 9:31 does not refer to an organization because it is describing the scattered remanants of the Jerusalem ekklęsia or congregation -- see Acts 8:1).
The only places where ekklęsia is used to refer to the collective body of saints (Eph.1:20-23; Heb.2:12; 12:23) are references not to the earthly church but the heavenly church, belonging to the realm of resurrection glory. The local church, congregation or ekklęsia, however, because it was gathered together in Christ's Name and had Him in its midst (Matt.18:20) was able to taste the power of the age of come and was in a sense the firstfruits of that eschatological ekklęsia. For this reason each individual local church or congregation was called "the CHURCH OF GOD, which He hath purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Cor.1:2; 1 Pet.5:2; 1 Cor.12:27).
B. The Restoration "Ekklęsia"
This definition of the Church is completely in line with the way the Church was defined by the early Restoration before organizational subunits of a larger structure like "branch", "ward" and "stake" came into use. This is described in more detail later on in this article.
C. The New Testament "Koinônia"
2. The second concept, which is never translated as "church" in the New Testament but is very closely related to ekklęsia nevertheless, is the koinônia or FELLOWSHIP (sometimes translated as Communion -- see 1 Cor.10:16; 2 Cor.6:14; 13:14). Of the two terms this is by far the most important for whereas ekklęsia describes the fact of a gathering of people, koinônia describes the spiritual relationship between them. It is from this that we get the English word "communicate". It is this term that New Covenant Christians use in their name, viz. "New Covenant Christian FELLOWSHIP" (koinônia).
In its simplest usage, koinônia means "sharing" and "being generous". It is used to describe partnership in Christian work (2 Cor.8:23), secular business (Luke 5:10), and of those who share a common experience (e.g. persecution, Heb.10:33; Rev.1:9; suffering, 2 Cor.1:7; worship, 1 Cor.10:18; murder, Matt.23:30; the compact with demons in pagan cult worship, 1 Cor.10:20). It is also used to describe generosity (Rom.15:27; Eph.5:11; 1 Tim.5:22; 2 John 11; Rev.18:4; Phil.4:14; Heb.2:14).
In the purely Christian sense, koinônia is:
(a) Participating in the blood and body of Christ (1 Cor.10:16);
(b) Having a personal relationship with (fellowship) with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor.1:9);
(c) Having fellowship with the Holy Spirit, i.e. participating or sharing in the Spirit (Phil.2:1);
(d) Sharing in the ministry to the saints (2 Cor.8:4);
(e) Participating in the sufferings of Christ (Phil.3:10);
(f) Making your personal contribution by supporting the ministry through practical action and service (2 Cor.9:13).
THIS IS HOW THE NEW TESTAMENT CONSISTENTLY DEFINES THE CHURCH -- it is never defined as a concrete organization except in terms of the heavenly Church. When Christ said: "I will establish My Church" (Matt.16:18) he was referring to this koinônia ekklęsia, or fellowship of saints.
If follows, of course, that a Church or ekklęsia must be organized but what is important to realize is that the organization flows out of the koinônia and not the other way round.
D. The Rock of Revelation
Both New Covenant Christians and Latter Day Saints agree that the Church is established on the rock of revelation, namely the revelation that each person is entitled to, and must have before he or she can become a born-again Christian, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt.16:16).
E. The Twelve Apostles
The Saviour called 12 apostles while He was alive that they might be with Him (Mark 3:14). This personal association qualified them to act as His witnesses (Acts 1:8). They were missionaries, travelling elders, and were instructed by the Lord to teach all nations (Matt.28:19).
But they were also promised a more specific function as judges and rulers of God's people (Matt.19:28; Luke 22:29-30) with power to bind and loose (Matt.18:18), to remit and retain sins (John 20:23). Out of these scriptures arose both the Catholic and Protestant (Reformed) concept of keys, namely:
F. The Position of Peter
(a) The key of doctrine, to teach what conduct is forbidden and what is permitted, which is the technical meaning of "binding and loosing" in Jewish legal phraseology; and
(b) The key of discipline, to excommunicate the unworthy and reconcile the contrite, by declaring God's forgiveness through the remission of sins in Christ alone.
Peter received these powers first, as far as we know (Matt.16:18-19), as he also received the pastoral commission to feed Christ's flock (John 21:15), but he did so in a representative, rather than in a personal, capacity; for when the commission is repeated in Matt.18:18, authority to exercise the ministry of reconciliation is vested in the body of disciples as a whole, and it is the faithful congregation (ekklęsia), rather than any individual, which acts in Christ's Name to open the kingdom to believers and to close it against unbelief. None the less, this authoritative function is primarily exercised by preachers of the Word, and the process of sifting -- of conversion and rejection -- is seen at work from Peter's first sermon onwards (Acts 2:37-41). When Peter confessed Christ, his faith was typical of the rock-like foundation on which the Church is built (Matt.16:18), but in fact the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem contain the names of all the apostles written on them (Rev.21:14).
The apostles always acted as a body or quorum of 12 -- there is no mention of a "first presidency" -- of 12 apostles + 3 (making a total of 15 apostles) in the New Testament or in Christian tradition. Furthermore, the idea claimed by both LDS and Catholic Churches that Peter exercised full presidential leadership over the whole Church is refuted on two counts:
There are only two possible interpretations of these events:
1. By the fact of the leading position of James in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13,19), and
2. By the fact that Paul withstood Peter to the face (i.e stood up to him) (Gal.2:11).
New Covenant Christians accept both propositions -- that the Quorum of the Twelve had a corporate leadership, but with Peter, James, and John having special responsibilities in different spheres. Much as the modern LDS Church organization appoints a "Presiding Bishop" to have responsibility over the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 107:87-88), so New Covenant Christians believe that the apostle Peter presided over the Deaconate and James over the Eldership. This explains why James had a position over Peter. And the fact that Paul stood up against Peter when he started promulgating false doctrine demonstrates that there was no "First Presidency" but that the positions of the apostles were co-equal.
1. James had a higher authority than Peter, or
2. The Quorum of the 12 Apostles acted in a corporate capacity, and that such leadership was effective both in mercy (Acts 2:42) and in judgment (Acts 5:1-11), exercising a general authority over every congregation such as when they sent two of their number to supervise new developments in Samaria (Acts 7:14), and deciding with the elders on a common policy for the admission of Gentiles (Acts 15), while Paul's "care of all the churches" (2 Cor.11:28) is illustrated both by the number of his missionary journeys and by the extent of his correspondence.
Moreover, there is no such thing as an "institutional prophet" or a "first presidency" of "prophets, seers, and revelators" in the New Testament Church, either in the New Testament itself or in the writings of the Christian Fathers. Rather we read in Paul's writings:
The saints are built upon the foundation of apostolic and prophetic ministry (Eph.2:20) which is present in the local church or ekklęsia. For this reason, the ministry described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 is to be invested in the following people:
"Now you are the Body of Christ (the heavenly Church, not a "body of 'Christians'" or church organization) and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the Church (= ekklęsia = local congregation) FIRST APOSTLES, SECOND PROPHETS, THIRD TEACHERS, THEN WORKERS OF MIRACLES, THEN HEALERS, HELPERS (deacons), ADMINISTRATORS, SPEAKERS IN VARIOUS KINDS OF TONGUES" (1 Cor.12:27-28, RSV).
This ministry is given not because the fulness of the Gospel has already arrived BUT BECAUSE WE HAVE GOT TO GROW UP INTO IT. The "fulness of the Gospel" is an inner, spiritual process, like a physical body that is growing up to manhood (v.16). That is what the ekklęsia is -- that is what the church is -- a living organism of believers "upbuild(ing) itself in love" (v.16).
"And (Christ's) gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, UNTIL WE ALL ATTAIN TO THE UNITY OF THE FAITH AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD..." (Eph.4:11-13, RSV).
LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie writes:
"Basically, church organization IS THE SAME IN ALL AGES; the same organization that existed in the primitive (New Testament) Church prevails now. (Sixth Article of Faith)" ("Mormon Doctrine", op.cit., p.140).
We see, however, that this position cannot be reconciled with the plain teachings of the New Testament. The kind of centralized organization led by a first presidency simply never existed in the so-called "primitive" New Testament Church even when its rapid growth might have justified a large, centralized organization. The Lord's Church established in Palestine consisted of semi-autonomous, self-governing ekklęsia or congregations led by pastors (presiding elders) which were periodically visited by the apostles accompanied by evangelists, who were missionaries.
G. The "Seventy"
It is worth noting here that the Seventy special missionaries sent out by Christ in Luke 10:1,17 were not a special quorum of evangelists but simply 70 hand-picked apostles and other disciples called to do a particular job at that moment in time. They are never referred to again in the New Testament or by the Church Fathers. Moreover, some ancient New Testament manuscripts speak of 72 and not 70.
Many organizations like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the LDS Church claim to have "the truth" or "the whole truth". To quote McConkie again:
The proposition that the Church or ekklęsia is "true", "the truth", or "truth" is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Nowhere is the Church or ekklęsia ever described as a "place"; nowhere does the New Testament teach that salvation is to be found in an organization.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's Kingdom on earth and the only place where salvation may be found...these are absolute, eternal, ultimate truths" ("Mormon Doctrine", op.cit., p.811)
A. Salvation and the Church
Jesus Christ offered salvation to men and women long before any "church" or ekklęsia was established. The one time where it is mentioned by the Saviour directly is in Luke 19:9 where it refers to Himself as the embodiment of salvation (when he pardoned Zacchaeus), or to that which is evidenced by the transformed conduct of the publican. The conditions of salvation, as personally taught by Jesus Himself, are a contrite heart, childlike receptive helplessness, and a renunciation of all for Christ (Luke 18:26).
One of the first revelations received by Joseph Smith matches very closely this New Testament concept of ekklęsia and koinônia:
This revelation was given in May 1829 (according to the first collection of revelations, the Book of Commandments), though modern editions of the D&C say it was received in July or August 1828. Whatever date, it was given before the Church of Christ (as the Restored Church was originally called) was organized on 6 April 1830 (D&C 20:1).
"Behold, this is My doctrine: WHOEVER REPENTETH AND COMETH UNTO ME, THE SAME IS MY CHURCH; whoever declareth more or less than this, THE SAME IS NOT OF ME, BUT IS AGAINST ME; THEREFORE HE IS NOT OF MY CHURCH" (D&C 10:67-68).
This revelation is very important because it defines the Restored Church in very different terms to what it is defined as today by the LDS Church and by the later revelations of Joseph Smith. To summarize:
But what is "coming unto Christ"? This needs further enumeration.
1. The Church of Jesus Christ consists of all those who REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND COME TO THE LIVING CHRIST. Everyone!
2. Anyone who says that the Church of Jesus Christ is anything more or less than this IS NOT OF JESUS CHRIST! Therefore he is not a part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
B. Coming Unto Christ in John's Gospel
Is "coming unto Christ" "coming unto an organization"? Since Christ is undisputably the author of salvation, does this mean, as McConkie claims, that salvation can only be found in a particular church?
The Gospel of John gives perhaps the most detailed description of what salvation and coming to Christ really is. It is:
Salvation to John is inner life in Christ -- being alive in the Spirit (4:14). Those who believe have already passed from death to life (4:24). Jesus alone is the "bread of life (salvation)" to whom men should go (6:68) for the quickening words of eternal life. Water is the symbol of the saving life of the Spirit (7:39).
1. Trusting in Christ (John 1:12f);
2. Doing whatever Christ says (2:5);
3. Receiving the new birth from the Holy Spirit and so entering into the Kingdom (3:5) by trusting in the death of Christ (3:14,17), without which men are under condemnation (3:18);
4. Of the Jews, by revelation historically channelled through God' people -- and is a gift inwardly transforming and equipping men for worship (4:22).
Salvation is spiritual sight (9:25,37,39) and entry into safety, and abundant life of the fold and of the Father is through Christ (10:10). Resurrection life belongs to the believer (11:25f). We are drawn to Christ and His salvation by His being lifted up in death (12:32). Jesus signified His disciples' salvation by washing them, making them "clean all over" (13:10). He is the true and living Way to the Father's abode (14:6). Abiding in Him -- the Vine -- is the secret of life's resources (15:5) and for His sake, the Holy Spirit will deal with the obstacles to salvation and prepare for its realization (16:7-15). Christ keeps safely those who have knowledge of the true God and Himself (17:2-3,12). Finally, salvation is accomplished in His death (19:30) and words of peace and pardon accompany His gift of the Spirit (20:21-23). As evidence of our salvation, we are called to go and serve others in love (21:15-18).
C. Receiving Christ in the Acts of the Apostles
This message of salvation is repeated faithfully by the apostles. Never once do they go around inviting people to join the "true church" but to RECEIVE CHRIST by repentance (itself a gift and part of salvation -- Ac.11:18) (2:40), remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit.
D. Receiving Christ in the Pauline Epistles
Even after the Church has been around for a few years and heretical/apostate sects start springing up, the message is still the same. There is no grand central organization. The ekklęsia are still there. Paul, the great theologian of the Christian faith, simply expands on the central message of salvation. And what is that message?
NOT ONE OF THE APOSTLES EVER MENTIONS THE NECESSITY OF BELONGING TO A "TRUE CHURCH" TO BE SAVED. SALVATION IS IN CHRIST, AND IN CHRIST ALONE, AND NOT IN A "CHURCH". And neither did the first Latter Day Saints...
1. The Scriptures (of which there was only the Old Testament and a few circulating letters at that time) made men "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim.3:15ff, AV), providing the ingredients essential for the enjoyment of a full-orbed salvation;
2. Enlarging and applying the Old Testament concept of the righteousness of God, which itself had adumbrations of the saving righteousness of the New Testament, Paul shows how there is no salvation by means of the law, since it could only indicate the presence, and excite the reactionary activity of, sin and stop men's mouths in their guilt before God (Rom.3:19; Gal.2:16);
3. Salvation is provided as the free gift of the righteous God acting in grace towards the undeserving sinner who, by the gift of faith, trusts in the righteousness of Christ who has redeemed him by His death and justified him by His resurrection;
4. God, for Christ's sake, justifies the unmeriting sinner (i.e. reckons to him the perfect righteousness of Christ and regards him as if he had not sinned), forgives sin, reconciles him to Himself in and through Christ who as "made peace through the blood of the cross" (2 Cor.5:18; Rom.5:11; Col.1:20), adopts him into His family ("Body", "Church", "Ekklęsia") (Gal.4:5f; Eph.1:13; 2 Cor.1:22), giving him the seal, earnest, and firstfruits of His Spirit in his heart, and so making him a new creation;
5. By the same Spirit the subsequent resources of salvation enable him to walk in newness of life, mortifying the deeds of the body increasingly (Rom.8:3) until ultimately he is conformed to Christ (Rom.8:29) and his salvation is consummated in glory (Phil.3:21).
E. Defining the Truth
The only absolute definition of truth given in the Bible is in John's Gospel where Jesus says:
Jesus is not only the epitome of truth but is Truth itself. All truth is measured against Him as the absolute standard. In the Bible the word "truth" is used as follows:
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).
(1) The Old Testament
(2) The New Testament
1. The intellectual, of facts which may be ascertained to be true or false (Deut.17:4; 1 Ki.10:6); and more commonly,
2. The existential and moral, of truth as the attribute of a person. Thus Joseph's brothers are detained in prison "that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you" (Gen.42:16), i.e. whether they are dependable, consistent, or reliable character. It is significant that of the Hebrew words translated "truth" ('ęmet, 'ęműnâ), the latter is sometimes rendered as "faithfulness" (Deut.32:4, RSV; Ho.2:20). The Old Testament thinks much more of the basis of truth in a reliable person than of the mere facts of the case. This reliability is based on an attribute of God (Ps.31:5; Jer.10:10), whose truth "reacheth unto the clouds" (Ps.108:4) and who "keepeth truth for ever" (Ps.146:6). The God of the Bible is thus very far removed from the capricious pagan deities. He is true, i.e. CONSISTENT, both in His loving care for His children (Gen.32:9f) and in His implacable hostility against sin (Ps.54:5).
3. God judges truly (Ps.96:3), and sends forth truth (Ps.57:3). His Word is true in the sense that it is permanently valid. "As Thou art truth, so is Thy Word truth, for it is written 'Thy Word, O God, stands fast in heaven'" (Ps.118:89) (Exodus Rabbah on xxix). Truth is demanded of man as his response to God in obedience to the law (Ps.191:151) and in his inmost nature (Ps.51:6), and is the bedrock of all human relationships (Ex.20:16; Deut.5:20).
The TRUTH, as far as mankind is concerned then, has no objective reality until it is manfested in PEOPLE. The truth of the Christian faith is therefore only known in the lives of Christians. Thus to claim to "have the truth" is to bring forth the fruits (Matt.7:16,20; 21:43; Phil.1:11; Jas.3:17;; 3 Ne.14:16; D&C 52:17-18). Apart from God Himself, who is Truth, and the manifestation of truth in His people, truth has no independent existence.
1. Dependability, truthfulness, and uprightness of character. This applies to God (Rom.3:7; 15:8) and to men (2 Cor.7:14; Eph.5:9) alike. The use of the actual word "truth" in this sense is not common, but the thought of a God who can be trusted to keep His Word is implicit throughout the New Testament;
2. Truth in the absolute sense of what is real and complete as opposed to what is false and wanting (Mark 5:33; Eph.4:25). The Christian faith in particular is the truth (Gal.2:5; Eph.1:13). Jesus claimed that He was the truth personified (John 14:6; cf. Eph.4:21). He mediates the truth (John 1:17) and the Holy Spirit leads men into it (John 16:13; cf. 14:17; 1 John 4:6) so that Jesus' disciples know it (John 8:32; 2 John 1), do it (John 3:21), abide in it (John 8:44), and their new birth as God's children rests upon it (Jas.1:18). This truth is more than a credal formula, it is God's active Word which must be obeyed (Rom.2:8; Gal.5:7);
3. The adjective alęthinos especially sometimes carries the Platonic sense of something real as opposed to mere appearance or copy. Christ is this a minister of the true tabernacle (Heb.8:2) in contrast with the shadows of the levitical ritual. In clear allusion to the words of institution of the Lord's Supper (Sacrament/Communion/Eucharist), Jesus declares that he is the true bread (John 6:32,35) and the true vine (John 15:1), i.e. that He is the eaternal reality symbolized by the bread and wine. Similarly, the true worshippers (John 4:23) are not so much sincere as real. Their worship is a real approach to God who is spiritual, in contrast to the ritual which restricts God to Jerusalem or Mt.Gerezim (John 4:21) or to a particular organization, and which can at best symbolize and at worst distort Him.
In the light of this, can we sustain the position of Bruce R. McConkie who said:
No. Read on...
"There are also many truths in all churches, but the measure of truth required to assure salvation is found only in the Church where God has placed it according to his own will (i.e. the Mormon Church). Mormonism, so-called, is therefore a synonym for truth" ("Mormon Doctrine, op.cit., p.811)?
III. What is the "True Church"?: Part A
We have now seen what a Church is -- an ekklęsia or local congregation, or a koinônia fellowship. We have also seen that the truth is Christ -- the true facts, the law, dependability, consistency, etc.. And we have also seen that salvation is through the person of Jesus Christ alone, that truth cannot be contained in buildings or organizations, but transcends our physical world. It is a spiritual condition.
Jesus said that His Kingdom "is not of this world" (John 18:36). He went on to say: "If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight...but now is my kingdom not from here" (Ibid.). Yet Joseph Smith tried to establish a kingdom in this world. He established militias -- the "Danite Bands" and the "Nauvoo Legion" and the saints resisted their enemies by force of arms (compare Luke 6:29).
He attempted to establish a political Kingdom first in Kirtland, Ohio, then in Independence, Missouri, and then in Nauvoo, Illinois. Brigham Young then established a political Kingdom in Utah, calling it Deseret, before being forced by the U.S. government to concede political power. Both he and Joseph Smith were crowned "king" in secret ceremonies in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City, respectively, and established a special quorum called the Council of Fifty to be the instrument of the Church's political power. Joseph Smith even stood as a candidate for the presidency of the United States government.
The LDS Church's involvement in politics was a major corrupting influence both socially as well as theologically. The early revelations began to change in ethics so that they began to contradict the pure Word of God.
We are to preach a Kingdom not of this world. That is the truth.
B. Blessing and Cursing
The Lord Jesus Christ gave this commandment to the saints as one of the many measures of their truthfulness:
And then see what Joseph Smith wrote and caused the saints to do:
"But I say unto you, Love you enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt.5:44; cp. 3 Ne.12:44).
What is one measure of truth? The consistency of God. If God spoke to Jesus saying that we were to bless and love our enemies in the New Covenant, then the same God cannot tell the saints to curse and avange their enemies in the New and Everlasting Covenant. We are forced to conclude that D&C 103 is not a revelation from God, for this is to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24) by "prov(ing) all things (and) hold(ing) fast that which is good" (1 Thess.5:21; Moroni 7:14f).
"And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, YE SHALL CURSE THEM; AND WHOMSOEVER YE CURSE, I WILL CURSE, AND YE SHALL AVENGE ME OF MINE ENEMIES" (D&C 103:24-25).
We are to bless and love our enemies. This is the truth.
C. Establishing Zion in Independence
One of the characteristics of the New Testament Church was, as we have seen, the presence of prophetic ministry.
This is a false prophecy. It was not fulfilled. Over five generations later the Independence Temple remains unbuilt. Indeed, the "consecrated spot" doesn't even belong to the LDS Church but to a small Restoration denomination called the Church of Christ (Hedrickite). The LDS Church has attempted to buy it but without success.
"A revelation of Jesus Christ...concerning...the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the Word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, WHICH TEMPLE SHALL BE REARED IN THIS GENERATION. FOR VERILY THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT ALL PASS AWAY UNTIL AN HOUSE SHALL BE BUILT UNTO THE LORD, AND A CLOUD SHALL REST UPON IT...Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses -- for the sons of Moses shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed..." (D&C 84:1-5,31).
Nowadays LDS and RLDS apologists try to explain away the failure of this prophecy by claiming, that the word "generation" refers to "dispensation". But this claim is completely without any precedent or justification for "generation" means "a single descent in family or pedigree" (Concise Oxford Dictionary) and "dispensation" means "a religious system regarded as divinely ordained for a nation or for a period of time, e.g. the Mosaic or Christian dispensation" (Ibid.). The saints who lived at the time the revelation was given clearly understood the word "generation" to mean what it was supposed to mean -- those people alive at that time.
Moreover, both the New Testament and the "New Testament" part of the the Book of Mormon teach quite clearly that since the death of the Lord Jesus Christ animal sacrifices are no longer to be offered by the Levitical (Aaronic) Priesthood (who alone could offer animal sacrifices):
Yet Joseph Smith taught:
"Ye shall offer up unto me NO MORE SHEDDING OF BLOOD; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away with, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit" (3 Ne.9:19-20).
Animal sacrifice is finished...forever. To offer animal sacrifice -- now or in the future -- is to deny the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus Christ which was needed even before the Law of Moses, which is why the Patriarchs practiced animal sacrifice. To require animal sacrifice, or the shedding of blood in any form, is to deny the atonement and the testimony of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.
"The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. It began with the priesthood, and will be continued after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the laws of Moses; which ordinances shall be continued when the priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings...These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood, will, WHEN THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD SHALL BE BUILT, and the sons of Levi be purified, BE FULLY RESTORED....It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rights and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses's day, namely sacrifice, will be continued" ("Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" (TPJS), pp.172-173; "Doctrines of Salvation", 3:94; "Mormon Doctrine", p.666).
D&C 84 therefore contains a false prophecy and false doctrine. It also proves that by 1832, which was when D&C 84 was received, that Joseph Smith was not always teaching the truth. The LDS Church still believes that animal sacrifice will be reinstituted when it builds its temple at Independence. The RLDS Church, which accepts the revelation to build a temple at Independence, has done so, but not on the "consecrated spot" and has no plans to introduce animal sacrifice.
The truth is that the only sacrifice God desires now is "a broken heart and a contrite spirit".
D. The Financial Law
The Law of Moses, which was a preparatory gospel, taught the Law of Tithing as the financial law of the Gospel (Mal.3:8-12). With the advent of the Christian Dispensation or New Covenant, the Law of Tithing was replaced by a higher law of equality:
The law of "all things in common", called by Latter Day Saints, The United Order or Order of Enoch, was the law of the Church established by Christ and the apostles. The law of Tithing, which was a part of the Law of Moses and the Patriarchs, was never upheld in the New Covenant. Only later did the emerging Catholic Church -- and later the Protestant Churches -- re-introduce the Mosaic system of tithing which they subsequently abandoned. Only a few Churches, like the LDS Church, RLDS Church, and Seventh Day Adventists, practice various forms of tithing
"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need..." (Acts 4:32-35; see also 4:36-5:1-11, RSV)
The United Order was established in the Restored Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in harmony with the New Testament teaching. You can read about it in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 51, which was given in 1831. Note especially these words of the Lord:
Is the LDS Church living the "law of the celestial kingdom" (United Order)? No. Is the LDS Church, then, Zion? No. Read Sections 71, 78, 82, 84, 104, & 105 and see what the Lord's Law is today.
"..for it must needs be that they (the saints) are organized according to my laws (and here, particularly, the United Order); IF OTHERWISE, THEY WILL BE CUT OFF; wherefore let my servant Edward Partridge...appoint unto the people their portion, every man equal according to their families, according to their circumstances, and their wants and needs..." (D&C 51:1-3).
"Behold, I say unto you, Were it not for the transgression of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now; but, behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I require at their hands, BUT ARE FULL OF ALL MANNER OF EVIL, AND DO NOT IMPART OF THEIR SUBSTANCE...AND ARE NOT UNITED ACCORDING TO THE UNION REQUIRED BY THE LAW OF THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM (United Order); and Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom, otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself..." (D&C 105:2-5).
What has happened to the everlasting order -- the United Order? It was given "for the salvation of men". If it is not practiced by the "true Church", how can the Church be "true" and how can it dispense "salvation"??
"Verily I say unto you, my friends, I give you counsel and a commandment, concerning all the properties which belong to the order (Order of Enoch), which I commanded to be organized and established, to be an United Order, and an everlasting order for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come...with promise immutable and unchangeable..." (D&C 104:1-3).
According to the Lord, the RESTORED CHURCH IS UNDER CONDEMNATION because it has broken the celestial law and not repented of its transgressions AS A CHURCH and not as individuals:
The Church never repented and never obeyed this revelation, and after several pleadings, the Lord permitted the death of Joseph Smith and rejected the Church (D&C 124:32).
"And your minds in times past have become darkened because of your unbelief and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief hath brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, EVEN ALL; and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon (which commanded the United Order -- see 4 Nephi) and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom, otherwise there remaineth a scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion; for, shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay" (D&C 84:54-59).
Was the United Order just a temporary financial system?
What happens to the saints who refuse to live the United Order?
"This order I have appointed to be AN EVERLASTING ORDER unto you and your successors..." (D&C 82:20).
Can a people who, by definition, have been delivered over to "the buffertings of Satan" and fall under this category, claim to have the truth, or to be members of a "true Church"?
"And the soul that sins against this covenant, and hardenth his heart against it, shall be dealt with according to the laws of my church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption" (D&C 82:21).
What happened to the saints in Missouri and Illinois? Was Zion redeemed? No, they were scattered -- one group under Brigham Young to Utah, another under the eventual leadership of Joseph Smith III across the mid-West, another under James Strang to Michigan, another under Lyman White to Texas, and others even farther east to New England.
So what happened in 1838? A LOWER FINANCIAL LAW WAS GIVEN, the Law of Tithing (D&C 119). It involved handing all surplass property to the Church and then paying "one tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them FOREVER, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord" (D&C 119:4).
Forever??? How could that be so? How could a lower law be an eternal law -- an everlasting law -- a "forever" law? How can D&C 82:20 and D&C 119:4 both be true? Either they are contradictions, and D&C 119 is false (it wasn't added to the D&C until 1844), OR ELSE THE RESTORED CHURCH CEASED BEING A CELESTIAL CHURCH AND BECAME A TERRESTRIAL ONE.
If the Church doesn't live the celestial law then by definition it must be living a lower one. And if it isn't living the celestial law then it can't be a celestial church. Therefore it cannot be either teaching or living the "fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ".
But as if that isn't bad enough, worse news is on the way.
What was the Law of Tithing practiced by the Church after it fell from grace? Apostle Orson Hyde wrote in 1847:
Compare this with D&C 119:3-4. The LDS Church isn't even living the Law of Tithing properly! Do LDS members pay 10% of everything they own when they join the Church? No. Do they pay 10% on what is left over after they have paid their taxes and met their basic living requirements like food, rent, heating, clothes, etc.? No.
"The celestial law (sic) requires one-tenth part of a man's substance which he possesses at the time he comes into the church, and one-tenth part of his annual increase ever after. If it requires all a man can earn to support himself and his family, HE IS NOT TITHED AT ALL. The celestial law (sic) does not take the mothers' and children's bread, neither ought else which they really needed for their comfort" (Millennial Star, January 1, 1847, p.12).
The Law of Tithing was changed by Brigham Young when he took his faction west with him to Utah. Now the LDS Church pays 10% on gross income before tax and before living expenses have been met. It discriminates against the poor and "takes the mothers' and children's bread" from their mouths. Many a poor Latter Day Saint has cried tears of anguish over their inability to meet the requirements of the unjust system established by Brigham Young, living in guilt they need not have; while those who are rich get away with paying almost nothing at all. Is this the celestial law of equality? No.
The Book of Mormon teaches the United Order like the New Testament -- read 4 Nephi where "they had all things in common among them" (v.3) and therefore "there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but all were made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift" (Ibid.).
Are you living the United Order? Have you received the revelations of God by covenant? If you are not living the United Order and have received the revelations by covenant (which if you are LDS you have because you covenanted to do so in your temple), you are living in rebellion against God.
Does your Church practice the United Order? If not, then it is not a celestial church. "He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he receiveth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple, and shall be cast out..." (D&C 41:5).
E. Changing the Revelations: The Doctrine of the Godhead
In 1831 the Restored Church was Trinitarian. It did not teach that the members of the Godhead were separate persons. It taught, as the introduction to the Book of Mormon testifies: "And the honour be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, WHICH IS ONE GOD" (Testimony of the Three Witnesses).
The next stage of Godhead doctrine development did not come until the Church's move to Kirtland, Ohio. There Joseph Smith taught that the Father was a Spirit, the Son was a Personage of Tabernacle (i.e. has a resurrected, physical body), and the Holy Spirit was the "mind" and "will" of the Father and the Son. This was essential doctrine taught in the School of the Elders in the Kirtland Temple and was preached by the missionaries. It was published in the Doctrine & Covenants and was part of the Church canon. The Lectures on Faith (published by NPKF) was the "doctrine" component of the D&C while the revelations were the "covenants" part. The LDS and RLDS Churches both removed the Lectures because they contradicted their later Godhead doctrines -- and so strictly speaking their Doctrine & Covenants should only be called the Book of Covenants.
It wasn't until the 1840's, in the Nauvoo era, that the current LDS doctrine was expounded, as found in D&C 130:22. However, this section of the D&C was not added until 1876, and is not a "Thus saith the Lord" revelation but a collection of Joseph Smith's private teachings added later by Brigham Young.
Did you know that D&C 121, which talks about a plurality of gods (also current LDS doctrine) was altered by Brigham Young? Open your Doctrine & Covenants and follow with me in verses 28 and 32. I quote from the original written by Joseph Smith, and published in the Church's periodical, the Times & Seasons Vol.1, 131-2:
And now follow through the current D&C editions:
"A time when nothing shall be withheld, they shall be manfest" (v.28).
"According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Eternal God before this world was..." (v.32).
"A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest...According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was..." (added parts are underlined).
Verse 28 isn't sure if there are many gods or not but verse 32 is. Is God unsure? Doesn't He know? Or is this the work of man? Who changed Joseph Smith's original writing after his death, and by what authority?
The Book of Mormon, as we have seen, is said to be the New Covenant and the "fulness of the gospel" (D&C 20:9) along with the Bible (D&C 42:12). Neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon (and especially not the Book of Mormon) teach Joseph Smith's Nauvoo doctrine of the Godhead as found in Brigham Young's doctored version of D&C 121;23,32 and in Joseph Smith's "King Follet Discourse" (TPJS, p.342f).
Indeed the Book of Mormon is so Trinitarian that this writer has often used it when preaching to Pentecostals who, not knowing what was being read to them, have acknowledged it as the Word of God! Indeed, the Book of Mormon Godhead doctrine is called by many scholars Monarchistic Modalism where Jesus Christ is not just the Son of the Eternal God but the Eternal God (2 Ne.26:12). Indeed, the Book is almost completely Monotheistic, the Godhead consisting of One Person -- Christ being both the Father and the Son (Mosiah 15:3). (This is a complex subject and is treated elsewhere in other New Covenant publications).
Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and other LDS apostles taught that God was not omnipotent (all-powerful) (Journal of Discourses (JD) 2:64; 6:345; 14:71; 6:274-5; 14:71; 6:274-5; 11:286; 4:126) whereas the Bible teaches:
LDS apostle Orson Pratt, no doubt still under the influence of the Lectures on Faith, wasn't sure whether the Holy Ghost was a Person or not (JD 2:338; Millennial Star (MS) 12:308), and LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball declared that the Holy Ghost was one of the Sons of God the Father (JD 5:179). Yet LDS doctrine teaches that to have a body and be married are the pre-requisites to Godhood -- so how can the Holy Ghost have reached Godhood? (see "Mormon Doctrine", p.220, 1958 edn.)
"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God OMNIPOTENT reigneth" (Rev.19:6, AV; cf. Mosiah 3:5,17-18,21; 5:2,15)
Marion G. Romney, LDS apostle and counsellor in the First Presidency under Spencer W. Kimabll, said that God was only a saved soul ("Ensign", October 6, 1974).
The Bible declares:
And the Book of Mormon:
"FOR I AM THE LORD (YAHWEH); I CHANGE NOT" (Mal.3:6),
"For I know that God is not a partial God, NEITHER A CHANGEABLE BEING; BUT HE IS UNCHANGEABLE FROM ALL ETERNITY TO ALL ETERNITY" (Moroni 8:18; see also "Lectures on Faith", 2nd & 3rd Lectures)
F. Changing the Revelations: John's "Parchment"
Section 7 of the Doctrine & Covenants claims to be a translation by means of Urim and Thummim of a written parchment written by John the apostle. I'd like you to open your Doctrine & Covenants and follow with me as I quote for you the original version of this revelation as published in the Book of Commandments:
You will see, if you count up the words, that the original revelation had 143 words when printed in 1833, but that the 1835 version (which is in all modern D&C versions) has 252 words, meaning that 109 words have been added. This Joseph Smith did a great deal of in his revelations, which we in the New Covenant call pseudepigraphic expansion. However, D&C 7 was no ordinary "revelation" but claimed to be a translation of an extant parchment.
"1. And the Lord said unto me, John my beloved, what desirest thou? and I said Lord, give unto me power that I may bring souls unto thee. -- And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily I say unto thee, because thou desirest this, thou shalt tarry till I come in my glory:
2. And for this cause, the Lord said unto Peter: -- If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that unto thee? for he desirest of me that he might bring souls unto me: but thou desirest that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom: I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has undertaken a greater work.
3. Verily, verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired" (Book of Commandments VI).
If Joseph Smith could double the length of an extant "parchment" and add statements such as "I will make him a flaming fire and a ministering angel.." (D&C 7:6) then either there never was an original "parchment" or else he felt free to add to the original parchment later. If the latter is true, why does the introduction to this Section not say so; and how are we to know where and when he has "added" to other texts, such as the Book of Mormon?
LDS apostle Mark E. Peterson wrote:
LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie said:
"It seems unthinkable to the honest and devout mind that any man or set of men would deliberately change the text of the Word of God to further their own particular purposes" (As Translated Correctly, Salt Lake City, 1966, p.4).
LDS Church Historian, and later President of the LDS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote:
"As now constituted, the D&C contains 136 sections (in 1966)...most of these sections came to Joseph Smith by DIRECT REVELATION, the recorded words being those of the LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF" ("Mormon Doctrine", Op.cit., p.206).
David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, left the LDS Church because Joseph Smith changed the revelations.
"Joseph (Smith) immediately answered by letter (to David Whitmer) that he could NOT alter the revelations of the Lord" ("Essentials in Church History", p.109).
G. Changing the Artciles of Faith
The fourth article of faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads:
This doctored version appeared in the D&C for the first time in the 1851 edition. The original, penned by Joseph Smith, read:
"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 fo sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost" (underlined part added by Brigham Young).
Article 4 was changed to allow for temple work in the salvation process, something which Joseph Smith never made any mention of.
"We believe that these ordinances are: first, Baptism...."
H. Concerning Women
LDS President Brigham Young said:
"Sisters, do you wish to make yourselves happy? Then what is your duty? It is for you to bear children, in the Name of the Lord...bring forth in the name of Israel's God, that you may have the honor of being mothers of great and good men...are you tormenting yourselves by thinking that your husbands do not love you? I would not care whether they loved a particle or not; but I would cry out, like one of old, in the joy of my heart, 'I have got a man from the Lord!' -- I have borne an image of God!" (JD 9:37).
"There are probably few men in the world who care about the private society of women less than I do" (JD 5:99).
The New Testament says:
I. Who was Michael?
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it...He that loveth his wife loveth himself: for no man yet ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Eph.5:25,28-29).
According to LDS doctrine,
LDS D&C 137, which was added in 1981, reads:
"Our great prince, Michael, known in mortality as Adam, stands next to Christ in the eternal plan of salvation and progression" (Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine", p.491)
This revelation has, however, been changed from the original which was written by Joseph Smith in his own 1835-6 diary:
In another revelation, Joseph Smith wrote:
"I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept..." (D&C 137:5)
If Adam is Michael, how could Joseph Smith see two different personages called Adam and Michael?? The deletion of the words "and Michael" were made sometime during Brigham Young's presidency between 1845 and 1852 (see "Deseret News", September 4, 1852).
"And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel" (D&C 107:54)
The vision canonised by the LDS Church in D&C 137 in fact continues with another 200 words (see "History of the Church" 2:200-1) where Joseph Smith says he saws the 12 apostles of the Church in the celestial kingdom, even though many of them were later to apostatise (see JD 7:114-5). In fact, half of the apostles were excommunicated and four died outside the Church.
It would seem that D&C 137 contained many errors, and yet it was canonised by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the First Presidency in 1981 (see "Ensign", January 1985, p.30-31).
Therefore it cannot be the truth.
J. Unpublished Revelations of the LDS Church
There are many revelations received by LDS presidents which have never been included in the Doctrine & Covenants, and with good reason, though they have appeared in books published by the Church and privately by Latter-day Saints from time to time.
During the early 1880's the LDS Church was under severe pressure from the U.S. government to discontinue the practice of plural marriage. At this time, LDS presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff received several revelations. All of them told the saints to stand fast in this marriage practice for the Church would prevail over the government. Infact, as we know, the reverse happened.
The best known one, which is an accute embarrassment to the LDS Church, is worded in much the same way as the earlier revelations of Joseph Smith on the everlasting covenant of the United Order. Here is John Taylor's revelation, the manuscript of which is in the LDS archives and a copy of which appears in the Journal of Abraham H. Cannon which is possessed by Brigham Young University. It was received on 1 April 1992:
This "revelation" was not heeded (except by some 35,000+ "fundamentalist" Mormons who still live plural marriage) and on 6 October 1890, Wilford Woodruff made an official declaration, which appears at the end of all LDS editions of the Doctrine & Covenants, revoking plural marriage. Yet the same Wilford Woodruff himself had said earlier:
"My son John. You have asked me concerning the new and everlasting covenant (of plural marriage) how far it is binding upon my people. Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority. And how can I revoke an everlasting covenant? For I, the Lord, am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with: but they stand for ever. Have I not given my word in great plainness upon this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years, and this because of their weakness because of perilous times. And furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not; And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law; And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham's seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting; and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so. Amen."
It seems that LDS President Woodruff -- and the Latter-day Saints -- gave up his religion altogether.
"Do away with (polygamy), then we must do away with prophets and apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the gospel, and FINALLY GIVE UP OUR RELIGION ALTOGETHER" (JD 13:166; also see 5:203; 11:211; 25:209-310; 17:224-5; 11:239; 20:276; 13:183; 20:314-5).
The New Testament says:
What is the Mormon religion?? What is its doctrine??
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches (ekklęsia) of the saints" (1 Cor.14:33).
K. The Second Coming .. in 1891
Joseph Smith prophesied that the Second Coming of Christ would take place 56 years after 1835, i.e. in 1891 ("History of the Church" (HC) 2:182; also 1:323,176,188; 2:189,191; Millennial Star (MS) 15:205-206 cf. HC 2:189; Journal of Abraham H. Cannon, Oct.14, 1886 & February 16, 1890).
When the Lord failed to come in 1890 or 1891 the theory was developed that Christ would come TWICE, once secretly to an LDS temple, and secondly to the world on Mt. Olivet. One is reminded of the "explanations" given by Jehovah's Witnsesses when their prophesies on the return of Christ failed -- they were forced to claim that it occurred "invisibly".
L. The Whole of America Converted
In 1838, apostle Parley P. Pratt prophesied that in 50 years (1888) there would not be a single unbelieving Gentile on the American continent, and if the inhabitants were not greatly scourged within 5 to 10 years the Book of Mormon would be proven untrue (Original version of "Writings of Parley P. Pratt, 1952, p.205. This reference has since been deleted).
M. Some Peculiar Ordinations
The reason? A power struggle between Young and Kimball to get their sons as the next president of the LDS Church. Neither succeeded.
1. LDS President Brigham Young ordained his 11 year-old son John W. Young to be an apostle though he was never admitted into the Council of the Twelve ("Church Chronology", compiled by Andrew Jenson, Assistant Church Historian, Salt Lake City, 1899, p.xxvii).
2. LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, councellor in the First Presidency, ordained his 6 year-old son to be a High Priest (JD 10:370-2).
N. The Virgin Birth
LDS President Brigham Young declared:
But the Bible declares:
The Book of Mormon says:
Josph Fielding Smith, one time LDS Church Historian and Church President, said that neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon teach that Jesus was born of the Holy Ghost ("Doctrines of Salvation" 1:19).
"...she was found with child of the Holy Ghost...that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost" (Matt.1:18,20, AV).
LDS Bruce R. McConkie taught;
Brigham Young said:
"Jesus was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" ("Mormon Doctrine", p.546-7 -- also p.742).
LDS apostle Orson Pratt elaborated further, saying that the "other husband" was God ("The Seer", p.158) and that Mary was to be one of God's wives in the resurrection. LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball said that Christ was "naturally" begotten (JD 8:211) and Brigham Young further said:
"The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife. BUT MARY THE WIFE OF JOSEPH HAD ANOTHER HUSBAND" ("Deseret News", October 10, 1866).
Such ridiculous statements make the honest searcher after truth wonder if such men, claiming to be God's prophets, seers, and revelators, had any spiritual enlightenment at all.
"It would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm females, and give the Holy Ghost to them, lest he (the Holy Ghost) should beget children to be palmed upon the elders by the people, bringing the elders into great difficulties" (JD 1:51).
"O Lord, I have trusted in Thee, and I will trust in Thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm" (2 Ne.4:34).
"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth man, and maketh flesh his arm" (Jer.17:5).
O. On Africans and African Americans
"The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh" (D&C 1:19).
Concerning the black people, Brigham Young said:
And yet the fourth Article of Faith of the LDS Church states:
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomly, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind...How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? The curse will remain and they can NEVER hold the priesthood or share it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof" (JD 7:290, October 9, 1859).
Official LDS publications included these remarks:
"We believe that men will be pubished for their own sins, and not for Adam's (or anyone else's) transgression."
LDS President John Taylor declared that negroes not only had dark skins but "black hearts" as well ("Times & Seasons", Salt lake City, 6:857).
"Blacks are 'strangers to mercy when fully aroused' and are 'now seemingly tame and almost imbecile (idiots)" (MS 27:682-3, October 28, 1868).
"Negroes are 'the lowest of intelligence and the most barbarous of all the children of men. The race whose intellect is least developed, whose advancement has been the slowest, who appear to be the least capable of improvement of all people...The negro...looks as though he has been put in an oven and burnt to a cinder before he was properly finished making...It has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the Spirit of the Lord, and from whom His blessings have been withdrawn, have turned DARK to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them" ("Juvenile Instructor" (the official magazine for LDS youth), Salt Lake City, 3:142 & 26:635).
In the 1958 edition of his book, LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie said:
LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
"Negroes are not equal with other races where recept of spiritual blessings are concerned" ("Mormon Doctrine", 1958, p.477).
On another occasion he totally denied ever making this statement ("Deseret News", Salt Lake City, July 14, 1962).
"Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness. he became the father on an inferior race" ("The Way to Perfection", p.101).
Brigham Young declared that if a white woman mixed her blood with a black man, the penalty was death on the spot (JD 10:110).
The LDS Church followed a policy of excluding blacks from the LDS Priesthood for nearly 140 years and consistently taught that they could not receive the Priesthood until the Gospel had been taken to the rest of Adam's family first. Yet on 8 June 1978 LDS President Spencer W. Kimball reversed this ban and contradicted one and a half centuries of LDS theology (see "Official Declaration No.2" in recent editions of the LDS Doctrine & Covenants). Spencer W. Kimball did this because of social pressure in Brazil where most of the members had some negro blood in them which disqualified them from entering the LDS temple. (For a fuller discussion, request the pamphlet, "An Interview with Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards").
The Reorganized Church was one of the few Latter Day Saint Churches which never maintained a doctrine of racial discrimination against black people. Neither does the New Covenant. or even the Book of Mormon:
P. A Conclusion
"God has shewn me that I should not call any man common or unclean...of a truth I perceive that GOD IS NO RESPECTOR OF PERSONS" (Acts 10:28,34, AV).
"...(God) inviteth them all to come unto Him and partake of His goodness: and He denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female...all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile" (2 Ne.26:33; also see 1 Ne.19:17; 22:28; 2 Ne.30:8; Mosiah 27:25; Alma 29:8; 3 Ne.28:19; 1 Ne.17:35; 2 Ne.26:26-28,33; Mosiah 26:37).
"And I give you a commandment that ye shall teach them (affirmatively) unto all men; for they shall be taught unto nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" (D&C 42:58).
Bruce R. McConkie said:
You have now been shown a few of the inconsistencies and errors in LDS teaching and practice. As a result, there is only one conlusion that can be reached -- that what the Mormons say about Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists and others, is true for them also. Yes, the Mormons "have a little truth mixed with error".
"There are...many truths in all churches, but the measure of truth required to assure salvation is found only in the Church where God has placed it according to his will. Mormonism, so-called, is thus a synonym for truth. 'Have the Presbyterians any truth?' the prophet asked. 'Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error.." ("Mormon Doctrine", p.811).
Welcome to the human family!
IV. What is the True Church? Part B
Is there such a thing as a "true Church"? If by a fellowship of people who are sanctified in the truth is meant, then it is reasonable -- and consistent with Biblical teaching -- to claim that there is a True Church. But we have also seen that whilst the Church in heaven is perfect, the Church on the earth is not. For this reason, God has given the ekklęsia different ministries until the Church comes to a "unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph.4:13, AV).
The New Testament Church did not consider that it had become the Church of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph.4:5) but it was that which it hoped for, like the one Body in heaven (v.4).
A. What the Doctrine & Covenants Says
The term "the only true Church" was not heard upon the lips of men and women until after 1 November 1831 when it first appeared in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, Jr. At this time the Restored Church was known as the Church of Christ and its organisation was very simple, quite unlike that of the modern LDS and RLDS churches. But what is more interesting is what the revelation calls the "one and only true...church" (LDS D&C 1:30):
Let us summarize what this section of the Doctrine & Covenants says:
"Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants...(to) establish (the Lord's) righteousness...that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord (i.e. say "Thus saith the Lord"), even the Saviour of the world...(that) inasmuch as they erred it might be made known and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong...that they might have power to lay the FOUNDATION of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, THE ONLY TRUE AND LIVING CHURCH UPON THE FACE OF THE WHOLE EARTH, which which I, the Lord, am well pleased (at this moment in time, i.e. November 1831), speaking unto the church collectively and not individually (i.e. as a PEOPLE and not as single people or as an organisation) -- FOR I, THE LORD, CANNOT LOOK UPON SIN WITH THE LEAST DEGREE OF ALLOWANCE....I am no respecter of persons (and therefore churches, since a church is a collection of people)...Search these commandments, FOR THEY ARE TRUE...What I, the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, MY WORD SHALL NOT PASS AWAY..." (D&C 1:6,16a,20,25-28,30-31,35,37-38).
So what is the "true Church..."?
1. That in November 1831, the Church of Christ (not the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" which obtained its name in April 1838 -- D&C 115:3-4 -- or the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" which obtained its name in 1853 -- OR ANY OTHER CHURCH) was "the only true and living church upon the earth",
2. They were teaching and practicing the correct ordinances (v.15);
3. They were seeking to establish the righteousness (holiness) of the Lord (v.16);
4. They were willing to speak in the Name of the Lord (i.e. say "Thus saith the Lord" (v.20);
5. They were willing to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel (Good News of Jesus Christ) WHICH WAS THEN EXTANT IN 1831 (v.23);
6. They (ordinary members as well as leaders, i.e. the true Church) were willing to have their errors exposed (as being a condition of their remaining "true") (v.25);
7. They were SEEKING WISDOM and were WILLING TO BE INSTRUCTED (v.26);
8. They were willing to to be CHASTENED and to REPENT when they sinned (v.27);
9. The LORD CANNOT LOOK UPON SIN WITH THE LEAST DEGREE OF ALLOWANCE (v.31);
10. He (individual members as well as the COLLECTIVE MEMBERSHIP or CHURCH) who doesn't repent WILL HAVE THE LIGHT THAT HE HAS TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM -- FOR GOD'S SPIRIT SHALL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MEN OR CHURCHES -- SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS (v.33)
11. The Lord is speaking TO THE CHURCH COLLECTIVELY -- to the Church of Christ (in 1831) and to any other Church claiming His authority.
12. "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself" (v.38a).
B. Is the True Church an Organization?
If it is an organization, then the Church as it existed in 1831 was (according to Mormon logic) the true Church, and needed no further organization (since God said it was already proclaiming the "fulness" -- i.e. the compelete -- doctrines, organisation, and ordinances -- Gospel -- D&C 1:23). It was led, not by an institutional prophet, but by a FIRST and SECOND ELDER, namely Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 20:2-3), not a "first presidency".
The original revelation doesn't even call Joseph and Oliver a "first" and "second" elder -- this is one of the many revelations that was CHANGED later. The original revelation, which can be found in the Book of Commandments (see D&C 1:6), reads:
Compare this with your own edition of the Doctrine & Covenants. (Over 97 words were added to this revelation when it reappeared in the first edition of the Doctrine & Covenants in 1835).
"Which commandments were given to Joseph, who was called of God, and ordained AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST, an elder of this church (Church of Christ); and also Oliver, who was called of God, AN APOSTLE of Jesus Christ, an elder of this church" (Book of Commandments XXIV:3-4)
The "true Church" in 1831 had no First Presidency -- no Seventies (organized in 1835 -- D&C 107) and a single Priesthood simply called the "Priesthood" (i.e. there was no division between "Aaronic" and "Melchizedek" -- D&C 2:1). In 1831 there were only Elders, Priests, Teachers and Deacons. The reference to "presiding elders", "traveling bishops" (not now used in the LDS Church), "high councilors", and "high priests" in D&C 20:65-67 (written in 1830) was ADDED when the 1835 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants was published. The original revelation (Book of Commandments XXIV) DID NOT CONTAIN VERSES 65-67 AT ALL because High priests, Bishops, and High Councilors were unknown in the Restored Church until 1832. This therefore gives the false impression that these offices existed in 1832 when they didn't.
(Did you know that Joseph Smith never mentioned a word about the appearance of Peter, James and John in his diary? Every other important event is, including the appearance of John the Baptist. And because no mention of this appearance is ever made in Church publications until several years after the event, many Latter-day Saint historians doubt it ever happened at all).
Thus the "one and only true and living church upon the face of the earth" did not have, or apparently need, high priests, bishops or high councillors.
Of course, we can argue that the Lord is able to restore more in time (perhaps even alter the revelations? even if they contradict themselves??) but we can't then say that the "fullness" was on the earth in 1831. Nor can we say that an organization and a church being "true" are necessarily the same. Indeed we could argue that the Lord could change the organization again if He wanted to. But we can't claim at the same time that the organization and the church's "truthfulness" are in some way mutually dependent on one another.
If the "true church" is not an organization, what is it?
C. Is the True Church True Doctrine?
The LDS doctrines of the Godhead, Financial Stewardship, marriage, as we have seen, and others, have undergone many changes. Yet the 1831 Church of Christ was still "the one and only true Church upon the face of the whole earth" with whom the Lord was pleased, according to Joseph Smith's earliest revelations.
D. Is the True Church Holiness?
It is very clear from Section 1 of the Doctrine & Covenants, which tells us WHY the Church was true then, that RIGHTEOUSNESS or HOLINESS is what characterises the True Church (D&C 1:16) -- to be a teachable people, a repentant people, to speak in the Name of the Lord, to have pure faith, to seek for wisdom, to be humble, and to eschew sin.
But isn't holiness walking in all the Ways of the Lord too? Isn't it being obedient to the commandments? Of course it is. Everyone who knows the scriptures understands that.
Is the LDS Church living all the commandments -- as a collective people? Is it living the United Order? If it isn't, IT ISN'T BEING TRUE. So how can it be the True Church?
Do you "have the truth"? Where is this truth? Is it some abstract, hidden concept like "authority"? What is true authority? Can a person living in rebellion against God act with God's authority?
E. God Defines the True Church
Would you like a definition of the "true Church" according to Mormonism's own original revelations? You'll find it in the Doctrine & Covenants. Please turn with me to Section 10. Mark these words well:
This was given in May 1829 (according to the Book of Commandments; most editions of the D&C say July or August 1828).
"Behold, this is My doctrine: WHOEVER REPENTETH AND COMETH UNTO ME, THE SAME IS MY CHURCH; whoever declareth more or less than this, THE SAME IS NOT OF ME, BUT IS AGAINST ME; THEREFORE HE IS NOT OF MY CHURCH" (D&C 10:67-68).
Now think about this carefully. The Lord uses the same language here as He did in the Book of Revelation when he warns about altering revelation by adding things not spoken or required by the Lord:
Let's go back to His Word in 1828 (or 1829). How does He define His Church (the "one and only true Church")?:
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Rev.22:18-19, RSV).
Since this time a great deal has been "added" by LDS leaders to the scriptural definition of what the true Church is. Of course, you might argue that "coming to Christ" means alot more than simply accepting Him as Saviour. In some respects that is be true. God added burdensome rules and regulations to the simple Gospel of Faith given to Abraham because of the rebellion of the children of Israel, rules and regulations which Paul described as a "curse" Gal.3:13). In Samuel's day the people rejected the Lord's wish that they not have a king but chose Saul, and got what they asked for.
1. THE TRUE CHURCH CONSISTS OF ALL THOSE WHO REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND COME TO THE PERSON OF THE LIVING CHRIST (not to an organisation -- but to the Saviour of Mankind...there was no organisation in 1828/9 because the Church of Christ wasn't organized until 6 April 1830!);
2. IF ANYONE SAYS MORE OR LESS THAN THIS (that you must do more than repent and accept Jesus as Saviour), THAT PERSON IS NOT OF CHRIST AND IS NOT OF HIS TRUE CHURCH.
F. The Fruits of Rejecting the Gospel
This is just what happened in the Restoration. The people rejected the fullness of the Gospel -- the United Order for one thing -- and God gave them a lesser law...a law of rules and regulations. The result was a great loss of light to the Church collectively -- both to the laity and the leaders. Why do you think the saints were so cruelly oppressed? Why did the Lord not intervene in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois as He did in the days of ancient Israel when that nation was righteous? False prophecies were given in the name of the Lord -- prophecies that were not fulfilled, such as the one saying that the Independence Temple would be built in Joseph Smith's generation (D&C 84:5,31). It never was. It still hasn't been built over 150 years -- some 5 generations -- later. Indeed, the "consecrated spot" (v.31) doesn't even belong to the LDS Church but to a small Restoration denomination called the Church of Christ (Hedrickite) despite attempts by the LDS Church to purchase it. Nowadays LDS and RLDS apologists try to explain away the failure of this prophecy by claiming, without any precedent or justification, that the word "generation" (which means "a single descent in descent or pedigree" -- Concise Oxford Dictionary) refers to "dispensation" (which means "a religious system regarded as divinely ordained for a nation or for a period of time, e.g. Mosaic or Christian dispensation" -- Ibid.).
The D&C says that "if this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them..." (D&C 10:53). What kind of Church was that? The "true Church" consisting of born-again Christians who have repented from their sins and come to the Lord Jesus Christ for a remission of their sins and who thus enter into the Kingdom of God -- not a Church that follows an institutional prophet as the children of Israel followed Moses under the Old Covenant.
These things are not easy for people who are taught that scriptures and revelations are of uniform light and authority. Nothing that passes through human hands is 100% pure because no revelator is 100% pure, save the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. What, therefore, is the purest revelation? The Words of the Master Himself -- unadulterated and preserved through the centuries. And where are they to be found? In the New Testament.
G. The Book of Mormon
What about the Book of Mormon? Is it the "most pure" scripture as LDS claim? The Book of the Mormon passed through one editor (Moroni -- maybe more) and then through Joseph Smith -- two human intermediaries. The Doctrine & Covenants likewise was the work of a human intermediary, Joseph Smith. Recent statistical computer studies using wordprints show that the Book of Mormon (minus the Isaiah sections which come straight from the Old Testament), Doctrine & Covenants and the Book of Abraham show that in terms of style and vocabulary richness these books were written by one man -- Joseph Smith (History & Computing, Vol.3, No.1, 1991, p.20.21). None of these can therefore be pure verbal-plenary revelation but must be of a conceptual kind, and of different degrees of spiritual light.
New Covenant Christians therefore take the view that the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels are the most authentic Word of God, coming directly from God Himself, and that all other writings take a secondary place. The latter must harmonise with the former to be accepted. The inconsistencies and contradictions in revelations and scriptural writings by other than the Lord Himself must therefore be carefully checked against the known historical sayings of the Master.
Also, if he Joseph Smith did pseudepigraphically expand the Book of Mormon, then we have no way of knowing for sure whether the Book of Mormon was as it was written or whether Joseph Smith added to it here and there. Indeed, the presence of quotations from the Westminister Confession in Alma 40:11-14, or a Greek name like Timothy in 3 Nephi 19:4 (which is not a Hebrew name, nor does it appear in the Old Testament) must lead honest thinkers to question the purity of the text, unless you believe that Jesus Christ personally revealed to Alma the content of a Protestant Cetechism written in 18th century England, or that Jesus Christ gave a Nephite apostle a name in a European language which would have had no personal meaning to him or anyone else in ancient America (since it is highly improbable that any Nephite could speak Greek or even knew the language existed). There are many other such oddities, such as a man who struggled for breath and died after his head had been cut off (Ether 15:31) which must put a large question mark on the purity of the text. And how could the Book of Mormon be the "stick of Ephraim" (Ezek.37:16-17) when the Nephites were descended from Manasseh (Alma 10:3)?
None of these things disqualify the Book of Mormon as a piece of prophetic revelation but they, and many others, do make the claim that it is the purest scripture on earth most dubious and must force the honest searcher after truth to reassess the basis of what is meant by "revelation" and whether such are of uniform purity. This in turn will lead us to turn to the most reliable revelatory sources which are historically established (the Book of Mormon, unlike the Bible, is without any direct historical or archaeological evidence).
Moreover, there is no evidence that "plain and precious parts" of the Gospel have been removed by the "great and abominable church" (1 Ne.13:36); indeed, uninterrupted manuscript finds of the last 150 years all go to confirm the basic integrity of the existing Gospels in the New Testament, many of which date to a time before the "great and abominable church" (interpreted by most LDS as the Catholic Church) came into existence. The oldest Gospel manuscript, the Gospel of Thomas, which contains a collection of the sayings of Jesus unarranged in narrative form, confirm the witness of the four Gospels. And whilst this text contains many other interesting sayings not found in the New Testament, they in no way contain anything to suggest than anything "plain and precious" has been removed.
As New Covenant Christians we strongly disagree with Joseph Smith when he said:
H. The First Christians and the LDS
"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding its precepts, than by any other book" ("History of the Church", 4:461).
"Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none" (TPJS, p.71).
The true faith of Christ is not dependent on any book but on direct revelation with God and the apostolic tradition. If the LDS have no religion without the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants, then it cannot be the same religion as the first Christians. If that is so, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a restoration of the "primitive Christian Church" but something "extra" -- Christianity "plus". The first apostles, led by Peter, James and John, had no Book of Mormon or Doctrine & Covenants, yet their names are inscribed on the walls of the New Jerusalem, the city which Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints never built because they were never, in reality, told to. How could they? For the New Jerusalem is already built -- it is already in heaven! And many Christian prophets and seers have seen it in vision.
I. What is the Truth?
"And I John saw thew holy city, new Jerusalem, COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev.21:2; also 3:12).
We therefore find ourselves in an interesting situation where the Church established by Jesus Christ is defined by Him in a very different way to the traditional LDS interpretation. Indeed, we must ask ourselves: what is the truth? Most LDS claim to have the truth and say they have no need to search for it elsewhere. The Doctrine & Covenants defines it thus:
Obviously, no human has ever possessed such knowledge so no human being can claim to have it. Since a Church is the collection of people who make it up, no church can be "truth". As the revelation continues to say:
"And truth is KNOWLEDGE OF THINGS AS THEY ARE, AND AS THEY WERE, AND AS THEY ARE TO COME" (D&C 93:24).
Do you obey all the commandments? If you do, then you are without sin. Is there any man living without sin? Not at all, for "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom.3:23). Do you know all things? Of course not. Then you cannot have received all truth and light. "But the Church is true, therefore we have the truth," you may say. If you do, where is this truth? In the Scriptures? Some of it is, certainly, but by no means all. Do you have all the scriptures? If it is somewhere else, where is it?
"The Spirit of truth is of God. I (Jesus Christ) AM THE SPIRIT IF TRUTH, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; AND NO MAN RECEIVETH A FULNESS UNLESS HE KEEPETH THE COMMANDMENTS. He that keepeth the commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and KNOWETH ALL THINGS" (D&C 93:26-28).
The scriptures themselves say where all the truth is. Jesus Himself says: I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH; AND THE LIFE" (John 14:6). The truth is in a PERSON, not an organisation. Is the LDS Church being obedient to all the truth revealed in the scriptures it has? No. Then how can the "church", or anyone else in it, "have the truth?" Some of the truth, maybe, but certainly not all. That means that there is truth outside the LDS Church. It also means that it can't be the "true church" since it doesn't have all the truth.
A. True People, True Church
There are many questions you must ask yourself -- many things to search out. And these are questions you must ask in all honesty. Remember also that when a people rebell, God doesn't always reject them completely but assigns them a lower law. The Church of Moses lived a lower law too -- a burdensome law. Was the Church of Moses "true"? On a certain level, yes, though it was only as true as its people were true. Was it the complete truth? Is the LDS -- or the Church I represent -- the complete "truth"? How can a church which is not living all the commandments be "the truth" or be "true"?
That God is working through the LDS Church and many other Churches, we as New Covenant Christians do not deny. And we bless you for all the righteouss works you bring to pass. But to claim that you are the "one and only true church" and that you "have the truth" is plainly unsustainable from the scriptures, from God's Word. Can a people whose "minds are darkened" (D&C 83:54) whith regard, for example, to the United Order, be "true"? Can a Church which teaches that Brigham Young's version of tithing (let alone the true version practiced by the first saints) be "true"?
Israel rejected the system of Judges in Samuel's day and God allowed them to have a King, Saul. But He also told them, through Samuel the prophet, that they had rejected Him and that the fullness of the Gospel would not be theirs (1 Samuel 8:7; 10.19).
B. The Church Will Never Fall?
There is a myth in circulation that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will never fall. That is not true. A Church is as fallible as its people are obedient or not. Even the Doctrine & Covenants says so. As the Book of Mormonm so eloquently teaches in the parable of the vineyard, the Lord is able to take cuttings from the Vine and plant them elsewhere if he wishes (Jacob 5-6). He has done that throughout history of Christianity and continues to do so today.
The Church of Christ exists where there is one righteous soul on the earth. There are fallings away and apostacies to be sure but the Church never disappears entirely. If, as the LDS claim, there are three Nephite apostles and one from the Old World (John) walking the earth still, then the Church of Christ, with all its authority (however you wish to define it) has always been here, and there remains a questions as to the actual necessity of a Church restoration by angelic intervention.
C. One Elder Is Enough
In the book, "A Rational Theology" published under the authority of the LDS First Presidency, Seventy and LDS General Authority John A. Widtsř (of Norwegian origin) wrote: "As an illustration of the great power, authority and duty carried by the Priesthood, it may be recalled that, if by any chance every man holding the Priesthood in the Church should be destroyed, save on elder, IT WOULD BE THE DUTY AND RIGHT OF THAT ONE ELDER, BY DIVINE REVELATION, TO REORGANIZE THE WHOLE CHURCH with all the grades of the Priesthood and its offices" (p.103).
D. The Authority and Organization of the New Covenant
On 27 June 1984 God commanded Lev-Tsiyon haEfraiyim to organise what would become the Holy Order. An experimental organisation, the Independent Church of Jesus Christ, which was built on Restoration premises, existed between 1986 and 1992 before being disorganised. In April 1992 the Holy Order or Chavurat Bekorot (also known as the Chevra B'Qor, both meaning Church of the Firstborn) organized the New Covenant Christian Fellowships (NCCF/NPKF) as a partial manifestation of the New Testament Church of God. In 1996 the Holy Order organized the New Covenant Church of God. It is not the "one and only true church upon the face of the earth" because it is not perfect -- nevertheless we believe that the Lord is pleased with us and that it is the truest to be found. For those who desire a higher light and to draw closer to Christ, the New Covenant invites you to come, and look.
E. The 1831 Church of Christ and other Restoration Churches
The 1830 Church of Christ (D&C 20) was "the one and only true Church upon the face of the earth" in 1831 (D&C 1:30) -- if that revelation is true -- but no other church -- LDS, RLDS, or even ours [Independent Church], can rest on the laurels awarded over 150 years ago. The Lord has done many marvelous things through other Latter Day Saint churches -- most have since fallen away or have reached a certain level of light and then stagnated. The Mormon Church -- or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- may be the largest LDS denomination, and this may be interpreted by many of its members to be a sign of the Lord's favour. Certainly if numbers are anything to go by, then the Pentecostals -- who are the fastest growing Christian Church -- is the most highly favoured of all.
The more honest and intelligent will, however, realise that size or rate of growth is no criterion for judging truthfulness. The scriptures teach that in the last days God's people will be a small remnant, so small that Jesus Himself said: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)
From the earliest days the Church of Christ (later to become the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many other denominations) was in rebellion. 1831 was its heyday because then it was pure, humble, teachable, and godly. It was very small -- numbering only a one thousand members -- but God loved that Church, and blessed it, and declared it to be true to Him.
F. The Presence of Apostacy
Apostacy is with us all the time, in every church, more in some than in others. The truthfulness of a church is in change because the righteousness of people is in flux. Nevertheless there is what the scriptures call a "ripening in inquity" (Ether 2:9; 9:20) -- a point-of-no-return after which a Church may be said to be rejected. But what about the truthfulnes of doctrine and practice? And organisation? These are clearly not unimportant but if we are to believe the testimony of D&C 1, holiness is the heart of the Gospel.
The Doctrine & Covenants is not only a book of doctrinal and organisation development but also records the good and bad in people and the Church. We talk alot about "Restoration" and about the "Restored Church" but more important than the "restoration" of true theology and organization is the restoration of men's souls -- the bringing together of estranged, sinful people into a pure and holy relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
G. The Principle of Reformation
The restoration is important as far as it goes but there is another equally important principle and that is called REFORMATION. That word automatically conjures up in our mind Martin Luther and the Protestant movement which was so vitally important for the restoration of true Christianity. Reformation is part of the cycle of APOSTACY-REFORMATION-RESTORATION. It is an endless cycle in this sphere -- just look at your own life and you will see that this cycle is going on all the time. And what happens in us is a microcosm of the Church (see Moses 6:63).
Did you know that the "Restored Church" was -- and is -- first of all a "Reformed Church"? Turn with me to the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 5, verses 17-19 and I will now read to you the original verses as they stood in the Book of Commandments before they were later changed in your edition:
Why was this revelation removed? Who dares to change the Word of the Lord? Who dared change dozens of the revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants?? These are questions all honest Latter-day Saints will want answers to. Simply to say that "the prophet has the right to change whatever he wants to" is not enough, for the Lord has said that the people are to test the revelations. But the revelations have NEVER been properly tested -- not in 1835, not in 1876, and not since.
"And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a REFORMATION among them and will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priestcrafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old" (BC IV:5).
God's Word stands forever and men cannot change it no matter what priesthood rank they may have for all are under the condemnation of sin.
H. The New Covenant Reformation and Restoration
The New Covenant began as a reformation of the Latter Day Saint Churches, just as the 1830 Church of Christ began as a second reformation of the existing Protestant churches. Only after the Protestant world rejected a second reformation did a Restoration take place. When the Latter Day Saint Churches rejected reformation, a new Restoration was effected. The New Covenant, which is that new restoration, must stand or fall on its own merits -- on the basis of the sanctification (or lack of it) of its people. It is here -- today -- calling in the elect of God just as the 1830 Church of Christ did. Will you heed that prophetic call?
I. No True Church Today
It is our testimony that there is no true Church upon the face of the earth today, but there is one that is very close to it. Perhaps, one day, with God's approbation, it will be called "the one and only true Church" -- but that will depend on the people.
There was a true Church in 1831 but that has long since gone and every generation of Latter-day Saints must stand on their own merits or demerits. Are you willing to risk your salvation and exaltation by hiding behind buzz statements like "I know the Church is true"? Can you harmonize that with the Word of God? What if you can't? Will you pretend everything is in order? Is all really well in Zion? Remember also the prophetic words of the Book of Mormon:
LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie has written:
"The guilty take the truth to be hard, because it cuts them to the very centre" (1 Ne.16:2).
Friends, in the days of your ignorance God will justify you (Acts 17:30) but when the day of knowledge comes, then some real choices have to be made (see our pamphlet, According to Your Faith): The LDS Church has proven itself to be apostate by its own definitions and scriptural scandards. Will you follow the Lord or the traditions of men?
"If modern churches do not conform to the New Testament pattern of the true Church, then the non-conforming organizations are apostate" ("Mormon Doctrine", p.45).
May God bless you in your search for THE TRUTH. Amen.
This article was written in the days of the former Independent Church of Jesus Christ (disorganised in 1992) which had Restoration roots. Not all the views concerning the D&C and Book of Mormon expressed therein are necessarily those of the present New Covenant Church of God. However, we have placed this article on the Web because we feel it is important in encouraging Latter-day Saints to seriously question the assumptions on which their religion is based.
This page was created on 26 December 1997
Updated on 9 March 2001
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