As you look these over, you may see a question you've been having.
If not, feel free to ask it yourself from our Contact Us page.
Q: Is the Community of Christ church becoming Christian?
I just found your website and I have a few comments/questions.
1. I grew up Community of Christ and when I discovered how much I had been taught at church was myth and not reality, my world crumbled. Seriously, if the details can become so distorted in a few hundred years, how can I trust anything in any book, including the Bible? It seems like every so often someone with a lot of charisma comes along with a message for people and the people hear it and a new religion is born. We have Buddha, Christ, Joseph Smith, and Muhammad with similar stories. How do I know what is myth and what is real?
2. In one of your responses you said "You do not have the Biblical Jesus and His Biblical gospel; yours are the product of Joseph Smith’s fertile imagination manifested in his Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants." CofChrist has pretty actively moved away from Joseph Smith's Bible and Book of Mormon. In the congregation where I grew up, people bring their NIV bibles, not the JS bible. The world church has also begun educating people to the reality, actively letting people know that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, that he really was a nut case looking at a rock in a hat instead of translating actual plates. I think the church is slowly distancing itself from Smith's doctrine. Do you think the church can reach the point you would consider it Christian?
A: They're actually moving in the opposite direction.
Thanks for visiting our website. And thanks for writing!
I think you have perfectly legitimate questions and concerns. So let me address them.
1. Discovering the errors of the cult you were raised in can indeed be devastating. I've attached Chapter 2 of my book, The Long Way Home: Moving from a Pseudo-Christian Cult into Genuine Christianity for you to take a look at. There I describe in great detail typical emotional and spiritual reactions to the kinds of discoveries you've been engaged in. As you read through this chapter, you'll see that you are far from being alone! In fact, you are right in the mainstream. And you are right, Biblical Christianity has been perverted down through the centuries by many charismatic leaders who have led many others astray. Joseph Smith was hardly the first, and he certainly wasn't the last. This has led you to wonder if even the Bible itself can be reliable. This is why I have also attached chapter 7 of my same book. Entitled 'The Bible,' in this chapter I explain that the Bible is indeed reliable, and is the most thoroughly attested book in the history of the world. The wealth of manuscript evidence — and their remarkable agreement — documents the absolute reliability of the Bible. So there, you don't have to wonder any more — the Bible is in fact reliable. And as the Apostle Paul told Timothy, "The holy Scriptures, ... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:13). Let this now be said of you.
2. You say that many RLDS (Community of Christ) members now carry NIV Bibles to church instead of Joseph Smith's Inspired Version. You also say that RLDS/CofC leaders now openly admit many of Joseph Smith's sins, like polygamy and his 'stone in the hat' to produce the Book of Mormon. Indeed, these kinds of honest admissions would have been unthinkable in the RLDS church only a few short years ago. And so you wonder if all this may be leading them to be a genuine Christian church. I think that is a wonderful question. And one that many people are deeply confused about. But here is the simple reality: carrying an NIV Bible to church does not make you a Christian. Neither does acknowledging Joseph Smith as a false prophet. Nor does leaving a cult — like you have done — make you a Christian. That is why I have also attached chapter 5 from my book for you to read. It is entitled simply 'Salvation.' There I explain salvation, and what makes you a genuine Christian. I explain it 3 different ways. Because it is vitally important. Simply put, you only become a Christian by sincerely and humbly acknowledging your helplessness, fallenness and sin before God, asking Him and trusting Him for complete forgiveness, and then committing your life to following and obeying the real Jesus of the real Bible. And part of the sin you would seek forgiveness for is being deceived by Joseph Smith, and participating in his heresy. This is big. Even though you may have been sincere, you were sincerely wrong. And this is sin.
So in this process it is vitally important to distinguish between the Jesus of Joseph Smith, and the Biblical Jesus. Joseph Smith created a Jesus of his own imagination — one that does not exist in reality. And this counterfeit Jesus established a counterfeit gospel which cannot save. I cannot overstate this distinction. Many Latter Day Saints try to bring their counterfeit Jesus with them. They simply do not understand that there is a difference, which is a large part of their dilemma.
And what is true for you personally is true for the institutional RLDS/CofC church as well. Merely distancing themselves from Joseph Smith does not make them a Christian church. Nor does mimicking Christian vocabulary, or perhaps even allowing the use of a different Bible. The fact is that the RLDS church has been openly practicing and promoting blasphemous heresy for a very, very long time. And they still are. They need to come clean — publicly — for all of the skeletons in their closet. But instead of leading their church into a deep state of contrition and repentance for these grievous sins, they make matters even worse by adopting theological pluralism. Pluralism teaches that there are no right or wrong religions, because God authored all religions and is at work in all of them today. This includes not only Christianity, but Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and countless other lesser-known religions. According to pluralism, our job as humans is therefore to respect and appreciate the rich diversity God has authored. A most significant tenet of pluralism is that no one religion can claim to be superior to the others, even Christianity, because salvation can be found in all religions. That means that Jesus is no different — and no better — than Buddha or Mohammed. But Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:4). And so by promoting pluralism Community of Christ leadership make an open mockery of Jesus. Such depravity!
No, my friend, today’s RLDS /CofC church is no closer to the real Jesus than they were in 1830. In fact, they may be even farther away. Just like individuals, cults have choices to make when discovering the depth of their sin. And the Community of Christ has made all the wrong choices. Instead of confessing their error as sin, repenting of it and then embracing the real Jesus of the real Bible, they have embraced ultra-liberal humanist religion which has a very low view of the Bible, and an even lower view of Jesus. This is all in stark contrast with another cult of our time which did it the right way: The Worldwide Church of God. After their founder, Herbert Armstrong, died, their leadership repented of their heretical errors and did their best to bring the entire church into a saving relationship with the Biblical Jesus. You can watch a DVD which chronicles their process. Titled ‘Called to be Free,’ you can get a copy of it our website http://www.help4rlds.com/DVDs.htm.
Our prayer for the so-called Community of Christ is that they would repent of their sin and come to the Biblical Jesus in faith — in Spirit and in Truth. And lead their members to do likewise, as did the Worldwide Church of God. Then, and only then, can they be considered a genuine Christian church. We continue to pray that they would do this very thing. We earnestly seek their salvation, not their condemnation. But they have their own choices to make.
May the Lord bless you and bring you to a deep and abiding faith in Himself.
Q: How do I write a letter of resignation from the Community of Christ church?
A while back, I came across your website while searching for the meaning of “refiner’s fire.” Ironically, I was preparing for a sermon for the Community of Christ congregation in Bakersfield, CA.
I am a third generation RLDS member, plus a four year graduate of Graceland College. My affiliation with this church goes deep, and yet after reading Paul Trask’s book, and other books by authors not affiliated with the church, I know I must leave it behind in order to move forward.
I am not the kind of person that takes this decision lightly, knowing that it will upset members of my family and the church who I have come to care for deeply. However, I feel like a hypocrite to keep my name on the books, yet I don’t attend anymore.
I want to write a letter of resignation, for I believe it is one of the steps to moving on with a more Christ-centered life. Do you have any ideas on how to do this?
A: We applaud your courage! And you have options here. Let's talk about it.
Thank you so much for writing. I was moved as I read your letter. I admire your courage and integrity for exploring your faith, and coming to some very difficult decisions.
Please know that you are not alone. While they may not be visible to you right now, there are thousands of people who have been down the path you are on right now. We will pray for you as you take your next steps.
I believe you are wise in formally resigning from the Community of Christ church. Below I have included a section on this matter from chapter 6 in my book The Long Way Home: Moving from a Pseudo-Christian Cult into Genuine Christianity. You can view this entire book online on our website. I hope this passage will discuss some things for you to consider as you draft your letter of resignation. And as I mention below, I would be honored to read your letter before you send it, should you want me to.
"Remove Your Name. Part of unpacking your bags—breaking the spiritual bonds and entanglements with your old church—is requesting your name be removed from its membership records. As long as your name is on the official membership roster of your old church you are still connected to it spiritually—and, in a sense, legally. I’m not saying you need to do this the day after leaving. You’ll know when the time is right. My wife and I picked times that were right for each of us but months apart from the other. That’s okay. It’s not a race to see who can be first. Give it plenty of thought and prayer. It is a truly sober experience that you only do once in your life. It may be especially sobering if you spent a substantial part of your life there, and if your family has a long history in it.
When the time is right, find out the proper administrative procedure to have your name removed from your old church’s rolls. You will likely have to write a letter expressing your desire. It can be short, sweet and to the point. The only thing they really need to understand is that you want out. Or you can go into more detail if you prefer. Some people take the opportunity to vent their anger and frustration with the church’s leadership for deceiving them and others, for perpetuating a fraud. I have read a number of letters like this. I say, if it makes you feel better, let it rip. If their leadership gets enough letters like this, perhaps some of them will evaluate their own faith. But remember, it is all right to express your anger and frustration, but reflect Christian character as you do so.
Other people may want to take the opportunity to explain why they believe the church is wrong and not truly Christian—why they can’t remain a part of it and retain their spiritual integrity. If you do this, tell them how the Lord worked with you to understand those problems, and how He led you to the truth. This is the best of testimonies. You are simply testifying to what the Lord has done in your life. And because the Holy Spirit Himself did this work, perhaps He will also carry your testimony into the heart of the official reading your letter. You never know what good can come from this. You may very well end up being a missionary to them!
You might find it useful to wait a day or two before you send your letter. That lets you cool off a bit and maybe edit out some inappropriate comments. You may also ask someone else read your letter before you send it. This is a good idea, and creates a sense of accountability. They may recommend you alter some wording or perhaps make other changes. They may just help keep you from saying something you might regret later. Sometimes it’s just good to let someone else know what you’re doing. The Lord will lead you here.
Writing a letter like this may seem like a small step to take, but it is a significant one. You will likely experience greater spiritual freedom and freshness after you do. It is a gesture that closes the door officially on a part of your life to which you will never return. Be happy the Lord led you out, and be prepared to move on to a much better place."
Please feel free to write again if you would like to discuss things further. And please let us know how we can pray for you in the months ahead.
May God’s richest blessings be yours,
Q: What you people are doing here is pure evil. How can you live with yourselves?
I am a current member of the Community of Christ, and I would just like to tell you that what you people are doing here is pure evil. If you don't believe what we do, fine. We're not asking you to! But how can you honestly believe that you are "doing God's work" by calling our church a cult? The people in my church are the greatest, most kind, most loving people I have ever met in my life. You would do well to try to be as good of a Christian as they are. It breaks my heart to see you cutting down people who are genuinely about God's work. I will be praying for you; you obviously need it. I know you probably won't post this message on your website. That's okay. I certainly don't expect you to. God knows what you are doing, though. If you do post this, I just want to clarify the fact that our church is made of of "genuine Christians." We worship the same Jesus as every other Christian church out there. The Book of Mormom, whether you believe in it or not, is another testiment of JESUS CHRIST, not of Joseph Smith. So my question is - How can you live with yourselves?
A: Hang onto that outrage, and prove me wrong. We can then have a reasoned discussion.
Thanks for visiting our website, and thanks so much for writing. As a current member of the RLDS/Community of Christ church, I can certainly understand your outrage at our ministry. Years ago, I would have felt much the same way. Believe it or not, I’m actually encouraged by your outrage. For many people, outrage has been the first step in discovering truth, and then responding to it. So I hope you won’t stop with just one outburst, but that you will follow it up by diligent study to prove me wrong. My greatest fear for you is that you will stop your quest after this initial foray. You may feel you’ve given me ‘a piece of your mind,’ and that may make you feel better for the time being. That would be the greatest tragedy of all.
So I encourage you to really ‘let me have it,’ with ‘both barrels.’ That will require you to carefully study and reflect on what I have written. And then give a reasoned response as to why you believe I am wrong. I have three chapters in my book Part Way to Utah on the Book of Mormon. I suggest you start your study there. When you’re done with that, I would recommend you work through my six chapters on Joseph Smith’s priesthood system. Remember, don’t hold anything back. Let me have all your scientific and Biblical evidence for your beliefs. We’ll then have something we can discuss in depth.
You are understandably sensitive that I have found fault with your church. I truly understand that; faith is a very intimate, personal thing. And so you feel that I am personally attacking you and all other members of the RLDS/Community of Christ church. But that would be like characterizing a doctor with a scalpel as a vampire for removing a life-threatening cancer from your body. Or mistaking rescuers in life boats as hostilely attacking a sinking ship. If I didn’t love you, I would callously let you go your own way. What difference would it make to me? It is because I do love you that I want to do my best to help save you from your heresy. Because your church does, in fact, preach ‘another Jesus’ and ‘another gospel,’ which the apostle Paul warns us about in 2 Cor. 11:4. And this other Jesus and other gospel cannot save you. You do not have the Biblical Jesus and His Biblical gospel; yours are the product of Joseph Smith’s fertile imagination manifested in his Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants. Here is an important truth for you to understand—being nice doesn’t make you a Christian. You become a Christian only by coming into right relationship with the Father through the Jesus of the Bible, in Spirit and in Truth. The Jesus of Joseph Smith’s creating is a figment of his own imagination, and can therefore do nothing for you at all.
Dispelling the grievous errors of Joseph Smith is hard work for people. But those who have stayed with that struggle have been rewarded by a rich relationship with Jesus Christ, which they simply could not have conceived of while they were still RLDS. They have a genuinely new life in Christ, which will last throughout all eternity. I would encourage you to read some of their testimonies on the website. Better yet, you can experience this new life for yourself—but you will need to let go of Joseph Smith first. And if you’ll engage in that struggle, I know God will reward you, too, with victory in Christ.
Kelly, may you hunger and thirst for truth, and may God richly bless your desires,
PS — By the way, you are wrong. I do plan to post your letter on my website, as well as this response.
Q: Why do you say that the RLDS church is a cult?
A:Because it bears the classic marks of a cult. Let me explain.
Because it deviates from Biblical Christianity in a number of irreconcilable ways. I will mention just a few here. For a more in-depth explanation of why the RLDS church is a cult, see Carol Hansen's book Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is it Christian? See the section entitled Anatomy of a Cult, particularly chapter 4, Earmarks of a Cult.
- Extra-Biblical Revelation. RLDS hold as sacred Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and his Inspired Version of the Bible. Each of these books seriously conflicts with the Bible. They introduce a myriad of un-Biblical beliefs and doctrines. For an in-depth discussion of each of these books, see chapters 4-10 in Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons, and chapters 9-11 in Carol Hansen's book Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is it Christian?.
- A Different Jesus. Sadly, the scriptures and resultant theology of Joseph Smith introduce us to a Jesus which is very different from the Biblical Jesus. This is nothing new, it has happened right from the start of Christianity. It is precisely what Paul scolded the Corinthian church about. "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough" (2 Cor. 11:2-4, NIV). For an excellent discussion of the "other Jesus" of Joseph Smith, see chapter 4, A Different Jesus, in Carol Hansen's book Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is it Christian?.
- Un-Christian Priesthood System. The RLDS church is governed from top to bottom by a complex hierarchy of priesthood offices designed by Joseph Smith. While the name of each of these offices can be found in the Bible, not all of them have a rightful place in the Christian church. Rather, we discover that the entire system is actually blasphemous when we examine it closely. (See the next question, below. For an in-depth discussion of the entire RLDS priesthood system, also see chapters 11-16 in Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons.)
- Claim of Exclusivity. While some RLDS/Community of Christ today would back away from this belief, Joseph Smith taught that his was "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" (RLDS Doctrine & Covenants 1:5,e). He denounced all other churches as an abomination to God, and insisted that his priesthood alone has authority to represent God on earth. Rejection of others and claims to exclusivity are common earmarks of cults.
Q: How in the world can you say that the RLDS priesthood system is Un-Christian?
How in the world can you say that the RLDS priesthood system is Un-Christian? I have looked up each priesthood office in my Bible, and they are all there. In fact, this is so obvious, I am amazed that other churches don't have all of these offices.
A: The answer is a bit complex, but most worthwhile. Stay with me on this one.
Joseph Smith's priesthood system is a serious and complex subject. I have devoted six chapters (11-16) to it in my book Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons. It is complex because Joseph Smith combined several Biblical concepts into a tangled hierarchy, and presented it as a restoration of primitive first-century Christian priesthood. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a discussion of actual ministry in the first century see chapter 12 in my book, Ministry in the Early Christian Church. Presented below is a very brief summary of some of the problems with Joseph Smith's priesthood.
- Aaonic Priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is the Old Testament priesthood of Israel. God created Israel's priesthood to function as an integral part of the law He gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai. This priesthood was held first by Moses' brother Aaron and his sons, and was to be passed on only to Aaron's descendants (Exodus 28:1) within the larger tribe of Levi (hence the common designation “Levitical priesthood”). Aaron was the first of these priests to be designated the great, or high, priest. The New Testament tells us that the Mosaic law, including its sacrificial system and officiating Levitical priesthood, was only a shadow of the superior work which Christ would ultimately do for us (Heb. 10:1-2a, 11-14; Col. 2:16-17). It also tells us that the Law was completely abolished by this perfect and completed work of Christ on the cross (Heb. 7:18; 8:13; 10:9b-10; Col. 2:13-14). Furthermore, it tells us that any effort to revive the old order of things represented by the Mosaic law—in any way—displays open contempt for Christ and results in alienation from Him (Gal. 5:2-4). God, therefore, could never have authored a revival or “restoration” of the Aaronic, or Levitical priesthood within the Christian church. To do so would be to cast aspersions on the perfect work He had already accomplished through Jesus. Indeed, evidence from both the New Testament and church history confirm that no such priesthood order ever existed in the early Christian church. For a more in-depth discussion, see my chapter 14, The Aaronic Priesthood - A Biblical Analysis, or our Article on The Aaronic Priesthood.
- The Melchizedek Priesthood.
According to the Bible: Melchizedek is mentioned only ten times in the Bible—eight of which are in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In Israel, priesthood was confined to the lineage of Levi (through Aaron), whereas kingship was in the lineage of Judah. Consequently, religious priesthood and political kingship could never be held by the same person. This is what makes Melchizedek unique. The only glimpse we have of Melchizedek is in the three brief verses of Genesis 14:18-20. There we are told he that he was both king of Salem (later Jerusalem), as well as priest of God Most High. Psalm 110:4 is the only other Old Testament scripture referring to Melchizedek. This entire Psalm is Messianic: Jesus applied it to Himself (Matt.22:43-45; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42), and Peter reaffirms the early church's understanding of it in Acts 2:34-35, as applying to Jesus. Indeed, the author of Hebrews explains in detail that Jesus alone is this promised priest after the order of Melchizedek, and explains just how far superior His priesthood is above Abraham, the Levitical priesthood and the Mosaic law. Plus, in Jesus, the roles of both king and priest became united in one person, which had never before been true in Israel. Zechariah 6:9-14 also portrays this Messianic priest-king relationship without even using the name Melchizedek. Here Zechariah is told to crown the current high priest, Joshua, in a highly prophetic act, symbolizing the coming of Jesus who would ultimately fulfill both roles.
The most important point to note throughout all of this is: with the sole exception of Genesis 14:18–20, where Melchizedek is first introduced, virtually every mention of a Melchizedek priesthood in the Bible is in reference to the specific and unique ministry which Jesus Christ alone fulfills as God's chosen means of salvation for His people. Nowhere is there any suggestion that there ever was—or should be—an order of Melchizedek priests in the Christian church.
Since the Biblical concept of a Melchizedek priesthood always refers to the unique and exclusive role of Jesus Christ alone, any attempt by mere humans to appropriate this title or ministry to themselves actually constitutes a form of blasphemy, by usurping an unique title and function which belong to Jesus alone. We conclude, therefore, that God could never have authored the institution of a Melchizedek priesthood order within His church. Indeed, the New Testament and the history of the Christian church confirm that it never has had an order of Melchizedek priests.
According to Joseph Smith: Joseph Smith completely distorted the Biblical view described above by creating fictitious accounts of Melchizedek within his own "scriptures." His distortions are found primarily in his Inspired Version of the Bible in Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7, his Book of Mormon in Alma 10:7-16 and in his Doctrine & Covenants section 83:2. For example, he makes Melchizedek out to be a high priest. The high priesthood, however, was reserved only for Aaron and his lineage. And Melchizedek actually preceded Aaron by hundreds of years. The book of Hebrews also makes a big point that Melchizedek was "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever" (Heb. 7:3). His point is that the priesthood of Melchizedek 1) is perpetual, just like Jesus', and 2) is superior to Aaron's priesthood which depended on meticulous genealogical records to transmit its authority. Joseph Smith furthers contradicts the Biblical record by creating a genealogy for Melchizedek in Doctrine & Covenants section 83:2. He also tries to make it appear that there was a long line of Melchizedek priests, which authority was passed from one generation to another.
For a more in-depth discussion, see my chapter 13, The Melchizedek Priesthood - A Biblical Analysis, or our Article on The Melchizedek Priesthood.
Q: If the RLDS church is an abomination to God, why does he choose to bless the people who belong to it?
I am a member of the RLDS church and am currently searching for the truth about the church and Joseph Smith. I have read much of the information on your web site, including the testimonies of those people that have left the church after learning certain truths. I can see that there is much evidence against this church but there is one thing that I just can't figure out.
If the RLDS church is an abomination to God, why does he choose to bless the people who belong to it? Personally, I have seen the Lord working in my life and have received many blessings from him. Also, our church has an annual publication called, Daily Bread, that is filled with positive testimonies from people of how God has worked in their lives. I don't understand why he would do anything good for people who are following false teachings.
A: One of the best questions we've received. My answer may surprise you. I hope you find it satisfying.
I want to thank you very much for writing. I very much appreciate the question you are raising. I think it is a very good question, and not subject to a simple answer.
In the final analysis, God blesses us because of who He is, not because of who we are. If God blessed us only when we were right, where would be the grace? Jesus tells us to "Love our enemies" (Matt. 5:44), and goes on to explain that God Himself "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5: 45). In fact, God's greatest blessing to us came when we were at our worst, "When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son" (Rom. 5:10). All this because "God's kindness leads [us] toward repentance" (Rom. 2:5). I would invite you to read through the gospels and look at the people Jesus blessed there, the sick, the lame, the dead, the demon-possessed. It is clear that He was not endorsing their theology, or their righteousness. He was displaying His own holiness by doing good to them. Indeed, Jesus says He healed a blind man "so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). So it is with us. None of us merit the blessings of God. They are simply a demonstration of His great love for us.
I, too, experienced the Lord's blessing while an RLDS member, over a period of 19 years. I may have felt much the same way then as you do now. But the greatest blessing He gave me during that time, was deliverance from Joseph Smith. That may well be the same blessing you are beginning to experience. But you may not experience the full extent of that blessing in a day or two. For most people, it is a growing, evolving experience that takes some time to develop. My wife, Leslie, and I both feel that the depth and power and beauty of our personal relationship with Jesus far and away transcends anything we experienced in the RLDS church. We could have never conceived of such a relationship while we were RLDS members. Now that's a blessing!
Please know that you will be in our prayers.
May God continue to richly bless you,
Q: What is the Christian Church?
Hi, I have A question: (in a nutshell) What is the Christian Church? How would you begin to answer such a question? What makes it complex, if at all? thanks Diana
A: It's simpler than you may think.
Thanks for visiting our website. And thanks for writing. You've asked a wonderful question. In its simplest terms, the Christian Church is made up of people who, through repentance and forgiveness, have given their lives over to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Over the years, the church has also developed the doctrine of the "visible" versus the "invisible" church. The visible church is made up of the organized, institutional churches on earth, together with their formal members. Very "visible." The invisible church is made up of all those who have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but may not be a part the "visible" church on earth. They might be traveling "incognito" if you will. There is considerable overlap between the visible and the invisible church, but not all institutional church members may truly be Christians in their heart, and not all true Christians may take part in an institutional church. I hope that's not too confusing.
Beyond that, there are pseudo-Christian cults. The word "pseudo" means "not genuine, but having the appearance of." Pseudo-Christian cults may look like Christian churches on the surface, but underneath they distort the Bible, the gospel and the teachings of Christ. This is dangerous, because the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation for all who believe." But if the gospel becomes perverted, it loses its power to save. That's why the writers of the New Testament placed such an emphasis on accurate teaching. Pseudo-Christian cults, then, are dangerous for individuals on two counts. First, because the cult has distorted the teachings of Christ, the person may not have responded to the genuine gospel, and may not actually be saved. Pretty important. Second, the person may take part in promoting the distorted teachings of the cult, encouraging others to believe the cult teachings. This is sin, very serious sin, because they are actually leading others away from an accurate understanding of Christ.
Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." And He has been faithful to His word. His has extended His church ever since, in every age, to the most remote parts of the world. And He is doing the same today. In every age there have also been counterfeit, cult, churches to distract and detract from His genuine message. "Satan prowls around looking for whom he may devour." But Christ's church continues to grow in spite of those detractions. Our website and ministry are dedicated to helping cult members understand the error of their ways before it is too late.
Thanks again for writing Diana. Please let us know if there is any other way we can help.
Blessings to you,
Q: Are the RLDS even close to a biblically accurate understanding of who Christ is, and how to be saved?
In a nut shell, are they [RLDS] even close to a biblically accurate understanding of who Christ is and how to be saved? Where would you start if you were to attempt to steer them in the right direction? What is the major error in their understanding of biblical Christian doctrine? How would you lead an RLDS person to faith in Christ?
A: Joseph Smith distorted the Bible, the person of Jesus and the gospel. RLDS must first shed these perversions.
You ask about the RLDS understanding of Christ, of salvation, what their major error is, and how to lead them to faith in Christ. I address much of this in the final 2 chapters of my book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons, chapters 17 & 18 "Understanding the RLDS Dilemma," and "Helping RLDS to Victory." You might want to check out these 2 chapters for some ideas. Their major error is that they have accepted the leadership of a false prophet, Joseph Smith, and thereby have accepted his false scriptures and doctrines as well. Instead of correctly discerning that Joseph Smith was in error, they hold his doctrines up as God's ultimate truth. And because they have accepted Joseph Smith, they have also accepted the counterfeit Jesus who is portrayed in Joseph Smith's own scriptures, who is not the Jesus of the Bible. They therefore have a distorted view of Jesus, and of salvation. They mistake Joseph Smith's scriptures and doctrines for the gospel. And since they have responded to Joseph Smith's teachings, they therefore feel they have responded to the gospel and to Jesus Christ, and therefore have salvation.
In chapter 17 of my book I speak of spiritual immunization. In his commentary on the book of Hebrews, Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce says,
"People are frequently immunized against a disease by being inoculated with a mild form of it, or with a related but milder disease. And in the spiritual realm experience suggests that it is possible to be 'immunized' against Christianity by being inoculated with something which, for the time being, looks so like the real thing that it is generally mistaken for it."
This is precisely the dilemma facing RLDS people. Joseph Smith borrowed just enough material from the Christian church, for his own church to be mistaken as Christian. And since RLDS people feel they already have God's ultimate truth, why should they listen to you? It's you who should be listening to their superior revelation. People come out of the RLDS church and come to Christ generally in one of two ways. (1) If they are not overly steeped in Joseph Smith's teachings, they may sense a different "Spirit" among genuine Christians than they do in the RLDS church. In response to God's Spirit, they may leave the RLDS church behind and join with genuine Christians. While this does happen, it doesn't happen all that often. (2) Most RLDS leave their church and seek out genuine Christianity only after becoming disillusioned in Joseph Smith, his scriptures, church, etc. This is often a painful process, and many RLDS people simply don't have the personal courage to go through with it. It takes an unswerving commitment to the truth--no matter the cost-and a deep faith that God will get you through it. When confronted with their own personal moment of truth, many RLDS simply put their head back in the sand. I've had some tell me as much.
If you want to lead an RLDS person to faith in Christ alone, you may first have to lead them away from Joseph Smith and his teachings. So you should become familiar with their beliefs and be able to demonstrate precisely why they are un-Biblical. But above all, you'll need to pray for them. Perhaps for a long time. The battle for the souls of RLDS people is primarily a spiritual battle.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12)
Q: How do we respond to someone who doesn't believe the Bible is God's word and ultimate authority for a Christian's life?
I am a born-again believer in Jesus Christ and attend a Baptist Church in my area. My family and I have many contacts with RLDS church members. They tell us that the Book of Mormon verifies the Bible; that King James had the Bible translated to use it for his own purposes and that it contains errors. How do we respond to someone who doesn't believe the Bible is God's word and ultimate authority for a Christian's life?
A: Explain that the Bible is the most thoroughly attested book in history. And then explain that it is their scriptures which are the real problem.
Thanks for visiting our website, and thanks for writing. First, I must applaud your interest in your RLDS friends. They are lucky to have a conscientious Christian like you for a friend.
Your RLDS friends tell you that the Book of Mormon verifies the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Book of Mormon actually contradicts the Bible in a number of serious ways. In my book Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons I have 3 chapters on the Book of Mormon (chapters 5-7) which demonstrate many of these contradictions. You can either get a copy of my book or just review these chapters online; the entire book in on the website under Resources/Online Books. A good place to start would be chapter 7, under Book of Mormon Anachronisms. Chapter 15, The Heresies of Joseph Smith’s Priesthood, also documents how the Book of Mormon seriously contradicts the Bible when it comes to priesthood. Look under The Building Blocks of Heresy, and scan down to the Book of Mormon heading to read more.
They also say King James had the Bible translated for his own purposes, and that it contains many errors. Ask them to show you these errors. And then ask them to explain how they know they are errors, and what their significance might mean. Chances are they will point to passages which Joseph Smith himself altered in his Inspired Version of the Bible. I have an entire chapter on the Inspired Version in my book (chapter 9), which you might find helpful. The Bible is the most well-attested book in human history. There exist over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament alone. And there is remarkable agreement among them all. The slight variations which do exist are inconsequential when it comes to Christian faith and practice. To underscore this fact I would recommend the book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce. The Dead Sea Scrolls—which predate Christ by 2–300 years—also underscore the accuracy of the Old Testament. One of these scrolls contains the entire book of Isaiah, and is nearly identical with the Masoretic text, from which the Old Testament in today’s English Bibles has been translated. So in reality, it was Joseph Smith who did what they accuse King James of: he altered the Bible to suit his own purpose.
I very much appreciate your dilemma as you talk with your RLDS friends. It is hard to accurately discuss Christianity with one who rejects the authority of the Bible. After all, what other legitimate authority could there be? But Joseph Smith was not the first one to reject the authority of the Bible in order to establish his own doctrine. There is another man who did the exact same thing many, many years ago. He was so successful that he ended up creating a whole new religion, just like Joseph Smith did. This new religion became so successful that his followers now number 1.2 billion people! His name was Mohammed, and we are dealing with the result of his religious innovations today in the Middle East. There are striking parallels between Joseph Smith and Mohammed. I have summarized a number of these parallels in my Article “I will be a second Mohammed.”
To be successful with your RLDS friends you will most likely have to shake their confidence in what they already believe. As long as they feel they have the ultimate truth they will continue to feel that it is you who should listen to them. That can change only if their confidence becomes shaken in what they already believe. So you need to be prepared to do just that—shake their confidence. My book will help you do that on the points you raised above, and a whole lot more. Many Christians have been successful by talking to RLDS about their un-Biblical priesthood system. Once you understand what the Bible has to say about priesthood, it is very easy to show how wrong the RLDS system is. And the RLDS priesthood issue cuts right to the very foundation upon which their church was built. So once their priesthood system falls, the rest of the church falls right along with it. I devote 6 chapters of my book to a Biblical analysis of the RLDS priesthood system, chapters 11–16. The final 2 chapters of my book also deal with Understanding the RLDS Dilemma, and Helping RLDS to Victory.
God bless you as you continue to work with your RLDS friends. We will pray for both you and them.
Q:Why are you doing this? Should RLDS become unchurched or are you suggesting that they join any Christian based church?
Why are you doing this?
What is the answer for a member that decides to leave the Community of Christ. Are they to become unchurched or are you suggesting that they join any Christian based church? I often wonder why changes can't come from within if you really believe that the Spirit of God is with us if we follow Christ's teachings and witness that to our brothers and sisters in the church. Change takes a long time when there is so much history to overcome. Witnessing is far easier in the midst of the storm than from a distance where it's safe and non-confrontational.
Comments commonly made to me by members of the Branch I attend: (1) How can anyone claim that modern day revelations from God isn't possible since all is possible for God? (2) Jesus Christ is proclaimed the Savior and Redeamer of us all by the World Headquarters of the Community of Christ Church. How can that be wrong?
A response would be appreciated.
A: RLDS need to first get right with God by repenting of being deceived by a false prophet, and then come to saving faith in the real Jesus of the Bible. They should also become part of a Christ-centered church.
Thanks for visiting our website. And thanks for writing. By your comments and questions it sounds like there are some questions being asked by people in your branch. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to address them.
You ask what a member should do when leaving the Community of Christ church. Our principle concern is for the person’s spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. Their church affiliation, while important, is always second to this. When a person leaves the Community of Christ church they should first and foremost pay attention to their relationship with Jesus. This will involve confession and repentance for having been deceived by a false prophet and his false religious system, including false scriptures, false doctrines and a blasphemous priesthood system. If they have been in leadership positions or held priesthood this is especially critical, for they have not only been deceived themselves, but have most likely taught others the errors they themselves have followed. Jesus said,
“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" (Matt. 18:6–7)
It is indeed a grievous thing to teach others scriptural and doctrinal heresy in the name of Christ. These sins, while serious, will be forgiven—but only upon confession and repentance. I cannot stress this enough.
Regarding church affiliation, I would certainly never suggest that a person become unchurched, that is to cease attending church. However, choosing a good church with which to affiliate with can be challenging for a person who has newly left. They need to choose a sound Bible-believing, Christ-centered church. But they may not yet be scripturally grounded in order to evaluate such a church. Reading and studying the books available on our website could help in this area, because they will help a person recognize errors in doctrine. In particular, I would like to recommend my book, The Long Way Home: Moving from a Psuedo-Christian Cult into Genuine Christianity. In this book I take former cult members by the hand, and help guide them to Christ, and into genuine Christianity.
The new church should both preach and teach from the Bible and you should hear about many aspects of the salvation provided by Jesus, because without Him we have nothing, with Him we have everything. Such a church should enable all who attend to grow into spiritual maturity in Christ. There are many ways they can do this, but they all center around the work of Christ. If you don’t hear much about Jesus, keep looking until you find a church which talks about Him, and is centered on Him. There is no better sign to look for in a church.
You ask why a person can’t just stay in the Community of Christ church, and effect change from within, that is if they follow Christ’s teachings and witness to others in the church. There are many reasons why this doesn’t work. Perhaps the most important is that you simply can’t follow the teachings of Christ and remain a part of the Community of Christ church. That’s the whole problem to begin with! Your church seriously misrepresents Christ and His teachings. Now how in the world can you follow the teachings of Christ while still belonging to such a church, and being subordinate to its unscriptural spiritual authority? It’s an oxymoron. It’s like asking why you can’t stay dry while swimming in the ocean, or stay clean while crawling through a slime pit. You can’t. Neither can you be spiritually clean by continuing to promote spiritual uncleanness, which is exactly what you do by remaining a member. And how about witnessing to other members? The greatest witness you can provide is to come clean yourself, and then encourage them to as well. If you have ever flown on a commercial airplane, you will remember their instructions about oxygen masks. They always tell you to get your own mask on first, BEFORE you try to help others (children, the elderly, etc.) who are reliant on you for help. The same thing is true spiritually. You would like to change the church from within? Unless you are an influential leader in one of the leading quorums of the church, you simply won’t effect any change. They will (and have already) have more spiritual impact on you than you will on them. To think otherwise is just wishful thinking. Or an excuse to avoid the painful work of coming clean, and thereby witnessing to others the seriousness of their dilemma. And many people have chosen just such an excuse. (If you are in fact an influential leader in one of the leading quorums of the church, I want to talk with you further. I have some very serious things I want to talk with you about. Please let me know—seriously.) By the way, if you think ministry to RLDS from outside the church is “safe and non-confrontational,” you’ve got another think coming. You ought to see some of the email we receive. And some of the dialogues in which we engage, both by mail and in person. From this standpoint, it was much safer in the church.
You ask, “How can anyone claim that modern day revelations from God isn’t possible since all is possible for God?” I would answer that most Christians do believe God still reveals Himself today, in many ways, and for various purposes to continue blessing His people with His presence and with much needed guidance. What Christians reject are the revelations of Joseph Smith (or others) which establish radical new doctrines which flatly contradict what God has already said in the Bible. It is very important for you to understand that there is a big difference here! You can read more about this on our website.
You also ask, “Jesus Christ is proclaimed the Savior and Redeemer of us all by the World Headquarters of the Community of Christ Church. How can that be wrong?” It is one thing to proclaim Jesus Christ Savior and Redeemer, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder (James 2:19).” It is quite another to 1) follow Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23), and 2) to obey His commandments “Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say (Luke 6:46)?” The foundational scriptures, doctrines and priesthood system of the Community of Christ church all contain many serious errors which misrepresent Christ and lead people away from His truth. That, quite simply, is what is wrong with the Community of Christ church. I invite you to explore the books and other materials on our website to begin learning the scriptural truth about your church. We’re not talking about minor tweaks of doctrine here and there. We’re talking about wholesale spiritual fraud and heresy.
You have asked some legitimate questions here. I hope I have encouraged you to begin your own study to understand the many serious errors which separate the Community of Christ church from genuine Christianity. Please feel free to write again if you have additional questions along the way.
May the Lord bless you,
Q: On what basis do the RLDS believe that Christ will return to Independence?
On what basis do the RLDS believe that Christ will return to Independence? This just seems so "odd" to me and yet it is such a major part of their belief system. Do they claim to have visions or prophecies or instructions from God to substantiate this event?
A: The concept comes out of Joseph Smith's "revelations," and is one of his many perversions, keeping his followers ensnared in deception and confusion.
Greetings! Thanks for writing, and thanks for your concern for RLDS people. You have asked why RLDS believe Jesus will return to Independence, Missouri. It all has to do with Joseph Smith's teaching that his church was literally "Latter Day Israel." I talk about this subject in depth in chapter 3 of my book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons. You might want to check out that chapter for a more thorough discussion. I will try to give a short answer here.
Joseph Smith taught (erroneously) that his church was a latter-day restoration of the entire tribe of Joseph, comprised of the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh. American Indians were held to be the remnant of the tribe of Manasseh, while the English speaking part of his church were held to be of the tribe of Ephraim. He further taught that Independence, Missouri was the Lord's "promised land" to these restored Israelites, the "New Jerusalem." His church would build the Lord's temple there, to which He will return at the end of time. The Lord's return to this temple is confirmed in Joseph Smith's own scriptures--but nowhere in the Bible. Here are two short quotes out of Joseph Smith's Doctrine & Covenants.
"...the New Jerusalem [Independence, Missouri] which is hereafter to be revealed, that my covenant people may be gathered in one, in that day when I shall come to my temple [in Independence]. And this I do for the salvation of my people." (D&C 42:10c)
"And the graves of the saints shall be opened, and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem [Independence, Missouri], and they shall sing the song of the Lamb day and night for ever and ever." (D&C 108:10d)
The Old Testament prophet Malachi records the Lord's own promise, that He would indeed return to His temple, " 'Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the Lord Almighty" (Malachi 3:1). In fulfillment, Jesus, the promised messenger of the new covenant (Lk 22:20), did indeed already come to His temple -- Herod's first century temple -- in Jerusalem. Outside of Joseph Smith, there is no indication whatever that Jesus would ever come to a temple built in Independence, Missouri. It's just one of Joseph's many perversions, which keep his followers ensnared in deception and confusion.
Q: Is "Free Agency" a uniquely RLDS concept, or do Christians also believe in this but use a different term?
Hi Paul and Carol! I have a question that I thought either or both of you might know the answer to. Lately - I have been recalling that my mom very often taught me about the concept of "free agency" when I was growing up. She throws that term around a lot, even now. However, I have yet to hear that term in true Christian teaching - and I haven't ever come across it in the Bible. I know that Jesus is constantly presenting the "choice" to delibertly choose Him - but beyond that - I don't really see "free agency" in the Bible. Do Christians believe in "free agency" but maybe use a different term?
I'm wondering if this is an "RLDS" term/concept? I have only heard RLDS use this term.
I remember as a child - seeing God as "helpless" because "we" have our "free agency" to do as we please..... almost as if God has to "wait to see what we choose" THEN He can act. That is the concept of free agency that I was taught.... "if the saints use their agency to do good/righteous acts - THEN Zion can come.... but Zion can't come until we use our agency to do good ENOUGH". That was the concept my mother taught me. God was waiting on us. (Wow - isn't that blasphemous!)
The Bible - however - clearly shows God to be Soverign and completely IN CONTROL. His ability to act is not dependant on our "agency" - but rather - God clearly brings His will to pass, and keeps His Word with or without ourcooperation.
I hope this makes sense.... I'm not sure why this has been on my mind - but it's one of the things the Holy Spirit nudges me about here and there... so I'm hoping you can shed some light on it for me.
A: Christians do have a similar concept. But as usual, Joseph Smith put his own unique spin on it.
You are correct that the term "free agency" is uniquely RLDS. The term roughly correlates with the concept of "free will" in Christian theology. In your note you explore the concept of free will and wonder how that fits together with the concept of the sovereignty of God. People have struggled with the tension between these two concepts for millennia. These two extremes are represented in the theologies of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. Calvin built his theology around the sovereignty of God, while Arminius built his around the free will of mankind. The five primary points of Calvin's theology spell the acronym TULIP, which stand for 1) the Total depravity of mankind, 2) the Unconditional election of God, 3) the Limited atonement of Christ, 4) the Irresistible grace of God and 5) the Perseverance of the Saints. It is Calvin's doctrine of Unconditional election which portrays the sovereignty of God; He alone decides our destiny for us, we have no voice or say in the matter. On the other end of the spectrum is the concept of mankind's free will, which is championed in the theology of Arminius. Many Baptist denominations follow Calvin's theology, while certain Methodists, the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal denominations follow Arminian theology.
As I mentioned above, people have exhausted themselves over the centuries trying to reconcile the tension between these two extremes. This includes many Christian theologians. The theologies of Calvin and Arminius are useful in this regard primarily because they define the extreme positions, and thereby they help define the issues and the debate. But in reality, the truth likely falls somewhere in the middle, not at either extreme. As humans, we have trouble with things which leave us in tension. But when we consider a number of the attributes of God, we are left with no choice. For example, in this present sphere of existence, humans cannot adequately grasp the concept of eternity, in respect to either time or space. We may try to appreciate it, but in actuality we simply cannot apprehend it fully. The same is true of the Trinity, how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit can all be separate in some sense, yet a complete unity in another sense. We try to display our understanding of this mystery by developing analogies which seem to make sense to us. But the truth remains that the concept is simply beyond our present level of understanding. That's what makes God the supreme creator, and what makes us humans, the created ones. " 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts' (Isaiah 55:8-9)." The fact is, we simply are not smart enough to figure out God, and His ways. We can try, and I think we should; God wants us to seek after Him. But we should also admit when He is far too big for us. Isn't it presumptuous to feel that we are bright enough to master the deep things of God, to "put Him in a box" if you will? In doing so, I feel we try to place ourselves at His level, which we simply are not.
As with the concepts of eternity and the Trinity, humans struggle with the tension between Predestination and Free Will. And yet we have to confess that harmony between the two escapes us in our present condition. Consider the following two statements of Jesus. "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mark 8:34, KJV)." and "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (John 6:44, KJV)." If we take either of these statements in isolation--and many other similar statements in scripture--we run the risk of ending up at one of the extremes. However, when we consider these statements together, we end up in tension. And I believe that until we see Him face to face we will just have to live with that tension, as uncomfortable as it may feel at the present time.
As you point out, Joseph Smith added to this tension by coming up with the erroneous concept of an American Zion, and then holding his church responsible for its fulfillment. As you say, God's "hands would be tied" until Latter Day Saints became good enough to bring about this God ordained condition. Joseph Smith's statements in this regard have made countless people across many generations feel guilty for not being "good enough" to bring about "Zion." "Were it not for the transgressions of my people...they might have been redeemed even now (D&C 102:2a)." This is so very unfortunate, and so very erroneous. It has been an extremely liberating experience for people to be released from this erroneous teaching once they realize that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, myself included. I explain Joseph Smith's unbiblical concept of an American Zion in chapter 3 of my book Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons.
As you say, God will clearly bring His will to pass, with or without our cooperation. But at the same time He entices us to use our free will to join Him in His work on earth, and become the heirs of His wonderful salvation, a home in His eternal Kingdom. Until we see Him face to face in His Kingdom, however, we will likely not understand how both of these statements compliment each other; but will likely continue to see them in tension.
Hope this has been helpful Shauna.
God's blessings to you,
Q: If Christ isn't preaching in the prison house to those who have died without knowledge of the gospel, then how can God be called fair?
My husband and I were "raised in the church" though most of our experience has been in the Restoration Branch movement. This has been very problematic for us but we have always tried to be positive and work hard trying to keep spiritually vital in a dying movement. Recently our sister-in-law, a new convert, came to us with some questions her family had asked her and wanted to know how she could respond. We were surprised because we really did not know how to answer her. We told her we would honestly find out, feeling confident that we could find adequate responses in the church writings and doctrine. Needless to say, what began as a short exercise to help her out has become a research obsession filled with appalling discoveries. Consequently, it appears that my husband, children, and I along with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law will all be leaving the church leaving devastated friends and family members behind. It's really a weird time for us. We vacillate between sadness, excitement, and sometimes black humor because it all seems so ridiculous. We had a poignant moment with our eleven year old daughter. She asked us if Samuel the Lamanite was in the Bible. Then she asked us if we still believed that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. That's the real problem, even for us. We feel that we are starting from scratch in a way. RLDS doctrine is intertwined with true Christian doctrine and it is hard to extricate the truth from the deceptions sometimes. This back story is lengthier than I intended but hopefully you can see at what point we are in this difficult but freeing process.
My question is one of doctrine. If Christ isn't preaching in the prison house to those who have died without knowledge of the gospel, then how can God be called fair? What about little babies that die without having the chance to accept Christ? I have always felt that the RLDS faith offered the most fair portrayal of opportunity for salvation but now it seems that this doctrine is disjunctive with the Protestant view. I feel a bit bereft about this. Can you offer any insight into this perplexing problem? I would be greatly helped if you could.
Thanks so much for your bravery and hard work,
Name withheld by request
A: There are three popular Protestant ways of understanding the fate of the unevangelized. God will explain it all to us on the other side.
Hello (name withheld by request),
Thanks for visiting our website, and for writing. Before our own departure from the church, we had been part of the Restoration Branch movement as well. We are well acquainted with the turmoil this causes in a variety of relationships. We applaud your willingness to stand for truth, in the face of opposition. Please pardon me for taking so long to respond. I’ve been putting in very long hours at work, and I’m also trying to get my book ready for a 2nd edition printing.
"Is Samuel the Lamanite in the Bible?" Your 11 year old daughter's question indeed highlights the difficult period you are in right now. The sad reality is that Joseph Smith mixed the truth of Christ and the Bible with his own lie. That's what makes his church a "psuedo-Christian" cult. At first glance it bears some similarity with genuine Christianity, but when examined closely it is exposed as a fraud. Your daughter's question is quite understandable. And now I need to tell you something you may not enjoy hearing. We have known a number of people who have left Joseph Smith's churches and joined genuine Christianity. And I've often seen them do a 'mental check' when a familiar quote has come to mind or has been brought up in conversation. So what is that 'mental check?' They are trying to remember where the quote came from. Is it from the Bible, or is it a carryover from their Joseph Smith days, from one of his books? Sometimes this happens for years. Perhaps it will never stop altogether, though it may subside as time goes on. It's quite unnerving to question your own recollections, or those of others. But one thing is certain: you will be very sensitive to correct doctrine from now on. You have been burned once. You are going to be careful you do not get burned again. You will be much more sensitive to doctrine than Christians who do not share your past.
You say it feels like you are starting from scratch. It's really worse than that. You would be better off if it were that easy. As it is, you have to unlearn a large body of scripture and doctrine, as well as learn the right thing. And you have to know how to tell the difference between the good and the bad. It's somewhat like learning to type at the age of 49, as I did. You have to break old habits, which to some degree are comfortable and familiar, replacing them with new, better ones. As I type this letter, I'm doing so the new way. In fact, it feels strange anymore to revert back to 'hunting and pecking.' And I now like the new way more, though it took some getting use to. And a whole lot of discipline at first. God loves you so much He was not willing to let you remain in heresy. He has drawn you out of that mess in order draw you closer to Himself. You must trust Him to complete the work He has already started in you. And He is faithful--He will do it!
Forgive me for getting a little 'preachy,' but I felt you might need to hear some of that.
Your actual question has to do with "Christ preaching in the prison house to those who have died without knowledge of the gospel." This apparent chance of salvation after death appeals to you as being fair, but you are concerned that it is not the view of Protestantism. You have an understandable concern. However, the fact of the matter is that there is no single Protestant view of this doctrine--there are at least three differing views of the fate of the unevangelized. And each of these views has had a broad array of notable adherents throughout the ages, including theologians and pastors across broad denominational lines. Even today there remains a variety of opinion within denominations. The view which does seem to get more 'air time,' however, is the view you are concerned about. It is called 'Exclusivism' or 'Restrictivism.' In a 'nutshell,' that view claims that each human needs to have a conscious saving relationship with Christ in this lifetime in order to inherit eternal salvation in the life to come. Those who have never heard the gospel are simply left out. But it is important to understand that there are at least two other formal viewpoints, 'Inclusivism' and 'Post-Mortem Evangelization' or 'Divine Perseverance.' 'Inclusivism' believes that salvation comes only through Christ, but that a person may end up being saved without consciously knowing Christ in this lifetime. That view holds that God will judge each person according to their response to the degree of 'light' which was available to them through the created order, conscience and human culture. 'Postmortem Evangelization' or 'Divine Perseverance' holds that people may consciously accept Christ in the life to come in response to hearing the gospel there. This last view is actually similar to the RLDS view you mentioned.
It is important to note that the fate of the unevangelized is but one of a variety of theological issues for which there does not appear to be only one conclusive answer. In this present age we struggle with limited scriptural information and even more limited capacity to completely grasp the Holy and Eternal God. He gives us enough information to respond to Him in faith. But we shouldn't be so presumptuous to believe that we have figured Him all out. He is far too big and Holy for that. He has reserved a complete knowledge of Himself for the coming age--not this one. That sometimes leaves us in a nagging state of tension on some issues, like the one at hand. But please note that Christians do not break fellowship over this issue, though they may share differing opinions. There are perfectly valid points made by adherents of each view. And weaknesses as well. We don't let our limited understanding divide us.
At this point I would like to recommend some books you might finding interesting and helpful. The first one deals with the topic at hand, and is entitled What About Those Who Have Never Heard: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, edited by John Sanders and published by InterVarsity Press. There are actually three authors, each a theologian, who explain each of the three views I mentioned above. The other two then offer comment on the view described, so there are actually nine essays in all. My wife and I have read this book multiple times. It is very good.
A second book I would like to recommend is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart and published by Zondervan. I feel that this book is actually a condensed seminary course of study—and a whole lot cheaper! The authors guide you through the variety of genres which comprise the Bible, and what to look for in each genre. They also talk about the development of the various translations and the strengths and weaknesses of each. And they teach you to be a demanding reader, to ask questions of the text, and how to read passages contextually.
A third book is A Guide to Selecting and Using Bible Commentaries, by Douglas Stuart and published by Word Publishing. The author is a respected scholar from Gordon Conwell seminary near Boston. He surveys various types of commentaries and offers opinions on the very best commentaries for each book of the Bible. I use this volume each time I buy a commentary. It is priceless to me.
A fourth, and final book, is 1 Peter, by J. Ramsey Michaels and published by Word Publishing. This is a serious and scholarly commentary on 1 Peter. Mr. Michaels includes several pages of dense scrutiny of the passage on the ‘prison house.’ It is incredibly insightful, but heady. Tackle this one when you’re feeling particularly energetic!
God bless you, xxxxxxxx. I hope this helps. We would love to hear from you as your journey continues to unfold. Please feel free to write anytime.
Q: Can the same arguments against the RLDS church be used against the LDS church?
I am in the process of studying Mormonism (LDS) and had never heard, until now visiting your website, about RLDS. Can the same arguments against the RLDS church be used against the LDS church?
For what it's worth, I am certain that the Holy Spirit led me to your website. In addition to the time I have invested studying and meeting with LDS missionaries, I have been praying for Truth about Mormonism for months now. The Spirit revealed to me one day after I had prayed for a long time the word "Melchizedek" over and over again. I couldn't find what this meant until I found your website and I knew immediately that this is the information the Lord wanted me to read. Furthermore, of all the information I have learned of that discredits the LDS church, I had never heard of the controversy surrounding the priesthood. This leads me to know without a doubt that it was truly the Holy Spirit leading me to this information because it hadn't previously existed in my mind!
I must say that I am so excited to know that your ministry exists. I feel that God is going to use me to expose the Spirit of Error that has deceived so many LDS members, but I don't know how and I have been feeling overwhelmed wondering how I can make a difference.
Your personal testimony and your ministry have given me a renewed hope that all of the LDS members can find the truth.
Las Vegas, Nevada
A: The short answer is Yes. The long answer is below. Well, it's not really that long.
Thanks for visiting our website. And thanks for writing. I’m so encouraged to hear how the Holy Spirit led you to my website. He certainly works in powerful ways. So few Christians are willing to work seriously with Mormons. I know that none ever worked with me! I applaud your diligence.
You ask if the same arguments against the RLDS church be used against the LDS church? Most certainly, Yes. In my book I primarily discuss the bedrock upon which both churches are built: their common history (in many cases this is myth, really), their scriptures and priesthood. And while knowledgeable RLDS and LDS members might pick at minor differences, the truly significant features of these elements are identical between the two. The two churches began moving apart upon Joseph Smith’s murder in 1844, and then with the Reorganization in 1860. You may have read about that in chapter 1 of my book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons. But the bedrock elements, which I mention above, remained the same. And they remain the same to this day. Neither church has ever repudiated its many serious errors.
I find it interesting that the Lord led you to study Melchizedek, which in turn led you to my website. In all my reading about Mormonism, I, too, have never come across a penetrating study of their priesthood structure. My book had its origin in an experience the Lord gave me regarding Mormon priesthood while reading in the book of Hebrews one morning. And when I started my book, I wrote the chapters on priesthood first. Since then, I, and a number of others I know, have had some of our most productive conversations with RLDS people on the priesthood issue. It’s an extremely powerful issue for them, and for Mormons alike. Both churches are built upon the premise that they alone possess God’s exclusive priesthood authority. And it’s very easy to speak with them directly from the Bible. It took just two meetings with one RLDS priesthood member for him to resign teaching Sunday School and tell his Pastor he didn’t want to function in his priesthood anymore. Soon afterwards, he left the RLDS altogether, and began attending a genuine Christian church. We just went through my chapters on priesthood together with his girlfriend. Understandably, he protested at first. But the Bible is very clear and easy to understand on this issue, and the points I make are simply irrefutable.
Thank you again for writing, Sandy. May God bless and prosper your witness to Mormons.
Q: Can you tell me if The Church of Jesus Christ based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania is an RLDS church?
Can you tell me if The Church of Jesus Christ based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania is an RLDS church?
I have asked if they are Mormons and they say they are not. Some call themselves protestant. Recently I found out that their church uses a 'restored bible' and the Book of Mormon.
I would like to know if this church considers themselves Christians, as some of them seem to be labeling themselves protestants? Or are they Mormons? Is this church connected to the Independence, Missouri church?
Thanks for the info.
A: The short answer is No.
But they are kissin' cousins.
Thanks for visiting our website. And thanks for writing. The Church of Jesus Christ headquartered in Monongahela, Pennsylvania is not an RLDS church, but it is most definitely a branch of Mormonism. There are well over 100 different church organizations which sprang from Joseph Smith original church. Since the term "Mormon" has come to identify the largest of these groups, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, none of these other groups likes to be called "Mormon," since they disagree with certain aspects of Salt Lake City Mormonism. But there are certain elements of faith which knit these groups together, nonetheless.
The Church of Jesus Christ (Monongahela) originated under the leadership of William Bickerton in 1862. Joseph Smith's murder in 1844 left his church in tremendous turmoil, and an intense power struggle ensued. As a result, the church broke into factions, as powerful leaders led groups in various directions, both theologically and geographically. The largest of these factions followed Brigham Young from Illinois to Utah, where the Mormon church settled and grew. Sidney Rigdon, a prominent leader under Joseph Smith, led a group to Pennsylvania which he called the 'Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion.' In 1845 William Bickerton joined this group. The group began to disintegrate soon thereafter, due to some theological innovations on the part of Ridgon. Left without a church, for a time Bickerton met with a Mormon congregation in the region. However, upon learning of the Mormon doctrine of polygamy, the Adam-God theory, and other strange doctrines, he left this group as well.
By claiming direct revelation from God, Bickerton ultimately felt he had authority to start his own church to promote 'the true doctrine of Christ,' that is, Joseph Smith's version. Their official bible is the King James version, but from your letter it sounds like at least some of the members prefer to use Joseph Smith's 'Inspired Version' of the bible, owned and published by the RLDS church (for more information on the 'Inspired Version' see chapter 9 in my book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons). They also believe in Joseph Smith's 'Book of Mormon,' and print their own version (for more information on the Book of Mormon, see chapters 5, 6 & 7 in my book). One doctrine which distinguishes this group from other branches of Mormonism is their practice of Washing of Feet. And as do most branches of Mormonism, this church claims to be the true successor of Joseph Smith's original church.
Marina, you can find more information about this church on their official website at www.the-church.org. You can also find more information in Steven Shield's book Divergent Paths of the Restoration, published by Restoration Research, Bountiful, Utah. Some of the information I have provided above came from this book.
I hope you have found this helpful, Marina. I pray God may use you to help open the eyes of your husband to the unChristian nature of the church he was raised in.
Blessings to you and your family,