A testimony was published in the January issue of Apologia, a monthly publication of FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) an unofficial Mormon publication

Reachout/Barksdale (FAIR) Correspondence

#1 An Official Statement

A testimony was published in the January issue of Apologia, a monthly publication of FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) an unofficial Mormon publication. It is accompanied by an editor's note declaring that "Names and identifiable details of this individual’s testimony have been altered at the author’s request." The testimony can be seen at ftp://www.fair-lds.org/pub/Vol3/January.PDF

It is the story of a lady who became a Mormon but not before indulging in some less than honest practices as a so-called "anti-Mormon", things for which she feels considerable shame and embarrassment and of which she has fully repented. As she mentions her past association with Reachout Trust we have been contacted by a number of people who have expressed concern that what was done was done in the name of, and at the behest of, Reachout Trust. We know the lady involved and have been in touch with her. While respecting her wish to remain anonymous we have her full permission to publish the following statement that she has kindly made in order to clarify the situation.

"If I indicated that my dishonest and diabolical deeds might have been sanctioned by, or even KNOWN by, Reachout I wholeheartedly apologise, it was totally unintentional. I am heartily ashamed of myself, looking back, knowing that I was driven by an obsessive and unjustified hatred of the Mormons. Reachout do not act through hatred and I never indicated to them what I was doing. Please do correct this on my behalf in whatever way is necessary… Since EMFJ [ex-Mormons for Jesus] are mentioned too perhaps it should also mention that they knew nothing about it either."

We hope that this will clarify the position of Reachout Trust in relation to how the work of witnessing to the cults should be conducted. In our experience the great majority of discernment ministries operate in an honest and sympathetic fashion and have the love of the Lord and the eternal welfare of the lost as their motivation.

Doug Harris, Mike Thomas, Ann Thomas

#2 For Reachout Trust

In a message dated 02/09/00 11:17:21 AM Pacific Standard Time, thomas.reachout@net.ntl.com writes:

We hope that this will clarify the position of Reachout Trust in relation to how the work of witnessing to the cults should be conducted. In our experience the great majority of discernment ministries operate in an honest and sympathetic fashion and have the love of the Lord and the eternal welfare of the lost as their motivation.

Dear Thomas;

I was grateful to receive your e-mail which clarified any misunderstandings that may have been put forth in the article we recently published. I fully intend to publish this response in the February issue of Apologia.

Your last paragraph, however, struck me as a bit odd and more than a little disingenuous. Do you honestly not believe it to be "dishonest" to misrepresent LDS beliefs, even after being corrected with documented, verifiable evidence which refutes your statements?

I would be most eager to engage in a dialogue with you regarding these various misrepresentations, with an eye towards assisting you in maintaining the highest degree of accuracy possible in your claims. You see, I fully respect your right to disagree with our doctrine, but I have to believe that you yourself would insist on at least accurately portraying the official doctrines of the LDS Church with which you disagree, no?

I will look forward to communicating with you further on this regard.

Sincerely, D. L. Barksdale, President, Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR)

#3 Dear Mr Barksdale

Thank you for your prompt reply to our Email and for offering to publish it in your newsletter. I welcome also your acknowledgement of our right to disagree with LDS doctrine and I would be glad to discuss what you perceive as misrepresentation of that doctrine. I wish you would clarify for me, however, what exactly is LDS doctrine? I know this must seem an odd question from someone who so confidently criticises your doctrine, but you see whenever I think I have a handle on it and begin to question it - it disappears. One moment my Mormon friends are confidently teaching and vehemently defending something then, as soon as it begins to lose credibility, it becomes simple opinion, or worse, aberration.

Investigators begin their journey into Mormonism with the promise that unerring guidance and prophetic leading is the LDS inheritance only to find that eternal verities can too easily become provisional policies. Look to the prophet has addended "but not too closely". Restoration swiftly becomes Rapprochement, likewise revelation adumbration. "What is LDS doctrine?" is, then, a reasonable question I believe and I look forward to receiving your reply.

Sincerely, M Thomas

#4 Mr. Thomas;

Barks: Thank you so much for your prompt reply. ;)

Thomas: Thank you for your prompt reply to our Email and for offering to publish it in your newsletter.

Barks: No problem. It's no more nor less than a true Christian ought to do.

Thomas: I welcome also your acknowledgement of our right to disagree with LDS doctrine and I would be glad to discuss what you perceive as misrepresentation of that doctrine.

Barks: I must admit that I'm a bit confused by this statement... has any LDS you have encountered denied you the basic right to disagree with LDS doctrine? If so, they don't know much about our core beliefs. The Articles of Faith clearly state that we believe in religious freedom, and in allowing anyone to believe in what they choose.

I'm very grateful that you are willing to discuss the many blatant misrepresentations of our beliefs included in your writings and on your web site. That is an unexpected display of integrity that I very much appreciate.

Thomas: I wish you would clarify for me, however, what exactly is LDS doctrine? I know this must seem an odd question from someone who so confidently criticises your doctrine, but you see whenever I think I have a handle on it and begin to question it - it disappears. One moment my Mormon friends are confidently teaching and vehemently defending something then, as soon as it begins to lose credibility, it becomes simple opinion, or worse, aberration.

Barks: You'll have to forgive me, but I have a difficult time imagining that you are unfamiliar with what comprises official LDS doctrine, given the sheer number of statements from LDS leaders defining it. I also happen to be aware of a copious amount of correspondence between you and some of my colleagues wherein this very topic was discussed in detail. Perhaps you could assist me in understanding where your confusion lies by showing me where in their correspondence on this issue you found ambiguity?

In any case, since you appear to be confused about this issue, allow me to present some statements from LDS Prophets on this very topic, in case you've forgotten, or have never seen them:

"It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3:203)

President Harold B. Lee affirmed this:

"If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorised to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth." (The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24-26, 1973, with Reports and Discourses, 69)

We accept the 4 standard works and any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as authoritative. Now that I have answered your question and have provided referenced verification from the writings of not one, but two LDS prophets, I'm assuming that you will be integrous enough to accept the answer and not be confused on this issue any longer. :)

Thomas: Investigators begin their journey into Mormonism with the promise that unerring guidance and prophetic leading is the LDS inheritance only to find that eternal verities can too easily become provisional policies.

Barks: "Provisional policies"? How do you determine that this is the case, rather than that the Lord is leading His people dynamically, as opposed to statically (as modern Christianity believes)? How strange a notion is this! Unless, of course, you are suggesting that the Lord's instructions to His people never changes. If you are, I hope you are prepared to discard much of the Bible. We believe that the Lord leads and guides this Church through living prophets, and is very much in charge as much today as when He walked the earth. Does this bother you? Is this in any way unbiblical?

Thomas: Look to the prophet has addended "but not too closely".

Barks: Certainly not to those who truly do understand LDS beliefs. In fact, the only ones I have *ever* heard echo this sentiment were anti-Mormons, who had a definite agenda to advance. :)

Thomas: Restoration swiftly becomes Rapprochement, likewise revelation adumbration.

Barks: So, are you claiming that any change which occurs in the name of the Lord is automatically false and constitutes de facto evidence of a false belief system, or are you suggesting that the prophetic office demands infallibility? Is this (infallibility) a Biblical concept, or is this one that you have imagined? Were the Biblical prophets and apostles infallible? Did they differ on points of doctrine? Did they err?

As far as your charge of adumbration, my heavens, even the apostle Paul wrote that "we see through a glass darkly," and noted that even he was confused and uncertain regarding certain experiences and visions he had... are you suggesting that somehow he was misinformed or worse, was deliberately deceptive? Were the revelations he received adumbrated? Are you willing to hold the Bible to the same standard you seem to want to hold LDS prophets to? :)

Thomas: "What is LDS doctrine?" is, then, a reasonable question I believe and I look forward to receiving your reply.

You now have my detailed, documented answer. I'm very eager to see yours. :) D. L. Barksdale, President, FAIR

#5 Dear Mr Barksdale

Thank you again for a prompt and succinct reply. Perhaps you can clarify a point for me. You sum up your answer to my question "what is LDS doctrine?" by stating, "We accept the 4 standard works and any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as authoritative." I think I understand the part about the standard works, although I feel that even that may not be the clear and helpful statement it appears to be. In discussions with Mormons I am often surprised at how even the seemingly most simple statements taken from those standard works can be subject to "interpretation"; contingent upon special understanding known only to the "worthy"; brought into the category of "we don't discuss sacred things" (a most peculiar statement from an evangelistic religion); even consigned to the area of "one day we will understand these things". So I confess that, as apparently ingenuous as your statement appears to be, experience has taught me to check what is in the poke before I buy it.

The point on which you might provide clarification is that which refers to "any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve". What exactly would fall into this category? Would Conference talks? How about fireside talks, which are sometimes reported in the official Ensign magazine? Would articles from the pens of these men fall into this category? Does "statement" mean only official policy statement, or would it include statements given for clarification, for example President Hinckley's recent declaration that he believes in a different Jesus to the rest of us? Finally, would such statements be regarded as authoritative if coming from any one, or any combination of these men, or would it have to come from all fifteen before it could be deemed official? Perhaps you could provide me with examples of such statements and give a clear definition.

Sincerely, M Thomas

#6 In a message dated 2/12/00 3:49:52 PM Pacific Standard Time, thomas.reachout@net.ntl.com writes:

Thomas: Thank you again for a prompt and succinct reply.

Barks: You're certainly welcome. :)

Thomas: Perhaps you can clarify a point for me.

Barks: I would consider it a pleasure.

Thomas: You sum up your answer to my question "what is LDS doctrine?" by stating, "We accept the 4 standard works and any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as authoritative."

Barks: That is correct.

Thomas: I think I understand the part about the standard works, although I feel that even that may not be the clear and helpful statement it appears to be.

Barks: On what grounds did you determine this, especially considering the several statements from LDS prophets that I provided?

Thomas: In discussions with Mormons I am often surprised at how even the seemingly most simple statements taken from those standard works can be subject to "interpretation"; contingent upon special understanding known only to the "worthy"; brought into the category of "we don't discuss sacred things" (a most peculiar statement from an evangelistic religion); even consigned to the area of "one day we will understand these things".

Barks: Most fascinating. Perhaps you could humor me with some examples of this, and more importantly, how this ties into the central issue of your last missive, which was 'what constitutes official LDS doctrine'? Are you truly implying that because there are different levels of spiritual understanding of Holy Writ that Holy Writ then cannot possibly be a source of official doctrine?

Shall we apply this to your own beliefs, Mr. Thomas? Certainly you are aware that there is a huge diversity of "interpretations" of Biblical passages by those who call themselves Christians. If there were not, we certainly would not have the rather staggering number of Christian denominations dotting the globe, would we not? Is this truly proof positive in your view that the Bible is an "unworthy source" of Christian doctrine? Or is it your assertion that the Bible only holds one level of spiritual truth within its pages and does not hold deeper gems of truth for those more mature in the gospel?

I noticed that you failed to address Paul's remarks about "seeing through a glass darkly." What do you suppose he was referring to, if not the incompleteness of our spiritual understanding? I notice that you seemed to avoid my questions on this matter. Might I ask why?

Thomas: So I confess that, as apparently ingenuous as your statement appears to be, experience has taught me to check what is in the poke before I buy it.

Barks: It seems to me that you are simply saying, "I don't care what kind of documented, verifiable evidence you present, I refuse to accept it if it disagrees with my anti-Mormon agenda." Please share with me, Mr. Thomas, how this position is congruent with that of a true "Seeker of Truth," rather than a mere "defender of dogma"? Have you used this same level of scrutiny to interrogate your own sacred beliefs?

Thomas: The point on which you might provide clarification is that which refers to "any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve". What exactly would fall into this category?

Barks: I appreciate this question, since it is most easy to answer. This means exactly what is says. An excellent example of this is found in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.

Thomas: Would Conference talks?

Barks: By definition? No.

Thomas: How about fireside talks, which are sometimes reported in the official Ensign magazine?

Barks: By definition? No.

Thomas: Would articles from the pens of these men fall into this category?

Barks: By definition? No.

Thomas: Does "statement" mean only official policy statement, or would it include statements given for clarification, for example President Hinckley's recent declaration that he believes in a different Jesus to the rest of us?

Barks: I'm saddened that you would feel the need to stoop to such an inflammatory statement as this. I don't believe a true Christian would do this, as they would surely recognize that this kind of polemic is not "What Jesus Would Do." Be that as it may, the answer is "no."

Thomas: Finally, would such statements be regarded as authoritative if coming from any one, or any combination of these men, or would it have to come from all fifteen before it could be deemed official?

Barks: All 15.

Thomas: Perhaps you could provide me with examples of such statements and give a clear definition.

Barks: See my statement above regarding the Proclamation to the World on the Family. And Mr. Thomas, I gave you a very clear definition in my last missive. What part of it specifically did you find to be ambiguous? If you will share that with me, I will eagerly attempt to explain in simpler terms if that would assist you in comprehending it.

In the meantime, I still eagerly await your answers to the questions I raised in both this, and my last missive. I'm sure you failed to address them inadvertently, therefore I am eager to hear your response.

I hope this finds you and yours well and happy. Cheers! D. L. Barksdale President, FAIR

#7 Dear Mr Barksdale

Thank you again for attempting to clarify what is LDS doctrine. I do wish to clarify an important point before going any further and that is that I did not ask you "What is official LDS doctrine?" My question was, and is, "What is LDS doctrine?" The difference between the two questions, whilst not immediately apparent is, nevertheless, quite important.

"Official" LDS doctrine is that which the LDS church officially wants people to believe and understand to be the LDS position on any given issue, at any given time.

LDS doctrine, that on which I seek clarification, is what Mormons believe to be abidingly true on the fundamentals of the faith. The difference is easily and clearly illustrated.

In its attitude to other churches the Mormon Church has a distinctive, indeed unique, position. We are told that it is neither Catholic nor Protestant, or Reformed, but is Restored. In its relationship to other churches, if I go to the sources given by you as the only true standard by which to judge, the four "standard works", then I find the Mormon attitude to other churches, the LDS doctrine, is that "they were all wrong…all their creeds were an abomination in his [God's] sight; that those professors were all corrupt: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (JS - History 1:19)

If I go into the Book of Mormon I discover that "there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." (1 Nephi 14:12)

In the Doctrine and Covenants it is written that "this [LDS] church [is] the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…" (D&C 1:30)

Clearly LDS doctrine, what Mormons believe, is that the LDS Church is the 'church of the Lamb', the 'only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth', while all other churches are an expression of the 'church of the devil'; 'the mother of abominations'; 'the whore of all the earth'.

I have before me a copy of the "official" media pack for the opening of the Mormon temple in Chorley, Lancashire, the Preston England temple. Under the deceptively disarming title of "Facts" the list of the church's beliefs, official LDS doctrine, begins with the statement:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination, wholly committed to the New Testament account of the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of mankind."

What Mormons believe, LDS doctrine, is that they alone have the truth and on that basis stand apart from all other churches as unique.

"Official" LDS doctrine is that the Mormon Church is "a Christian denomination".

I cannot help but observe that this is, what was the word you used to describe the contents of our web pages? Disingenuous? Yes, disingenuous. You accuse Reachout Trust of misrepresenting LDS beliefs but it is the Mormon Church itself that is at the very least economical with the truth as it tries to present a politically correct image to an unsuspecting public. You hasten to emphasise those points you raise that I have failed to answer, yet you have singularly failed to address this point that I raised which sees the Mormon Church moving from the unique position of Restorationist to this position of apparent Rapprochement. I am prompted to ask the question, who exactly wants who for dinner?

You ask if any LDS has ever denied me the right to disagree with LDS doctrine. My answer is an unequivocal Yes! Every Mormon I meet seems to feel it an affront to question his faith, ascribes to me the basest motives of mischief and destructiveness, and readily demonises me as an "anti-Mormon"1, thus dismissing me in the classic ad hominem fashion so common amongst your fellow church members. Even from the top there is a warning sounded against rooting out and telling the truth. No less an authority than Boyd K Packer had the following to say in attacking even professionals as they attempt to achieve impartiality in telling the truth about Mormonism.

"There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."

Note that it is not lies about which Packer is concerned, but the truth. Given the history of your church I can well see how "some things that are true are not very useful". Clearly the message here is that there are things about the church's history that cannot bear close scrutiny without potentially damaging the faith of its members. I am grateful to Boyd Packer for confirming what we have said for some time. The church's test, then, of whether to tell the story of Mormonism is whether what you tell promotes the Mormon faith and engenders faith amongst it's members. If the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. The clear implication here is that the obverse is also true, i.e. if a lie promotes faith then there is no harm in telling it. This is an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Mormon leader Paul H Dunn whose Early Life and War Experiences proved to be less than scrupulous.

Even today it seems that what church leaders say is sometimes too embarrassing to repeat or discuss. I asked what seemed to me a clear and honest question, i.e.

"Does "statement" mean only official policy statement, or would it include statements given for clarification, for example President Hinckley's recent declaration that he believes in a different Jesus to the rest of us?"

Your reply I found most revealing.

"I'm saddened that you would feel the need to stoop to such an inflammatory statement as this. I don't believe a true Christian would do this, as they would surely recognize that this kind of polemic is not 'What Jesus Would Do.' Be that as it may, the answer is 'no.'"

How, pray tell, is this stooping, inflammatory, polemic and so contrary to what Jesus would do? I have this picture in my mind of Jesus challenging the Jewish authorities, "John's baptism, was it from heaven, or from men?" You will recall that the Jewish leaders reasoned amongst themselves that if they answered that it was from heaven then Jesus would ask them why they did not recognise it as such, but if they answered that it was from men then they would risk the wrath of the crowd, because John was very popular. The answer, then, to the question "what would Jesus do?" is that he would ask you an awkward question designed to put you on the spot. I am glad to discover that I have followed my Lord's example so faithfully.

Of course, you say that this is not an "official" statement, although that in itself is strange since he was acting in his official capacity as the representative of the church to the world's press. The question remains, however, did what he say, whether official or otherwise, represent LDS doctrine, what Mormons believe about Jesus, i.e. that the Mormon Jesus is different to the Jesus of the Christian Churches? I would be glad of an unequivocal answer.

So far as my question regarding "official statements", whilst I acknowledge that you have given an answer of sorts, I confess that I find it unsatisfactory. Your definition of an official statement, i.e. "any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve", and your further clarification, i.e. that "all 15" would have to be signatories to make it official raises other questions. How many times did Joseph Smith seek the approval of his underlings before giving a revelation or doctrine? If Brigham Young, Gordon B Hinckley, and everyone else claims the same office of authority that Joseph Smith had, why is such a precaution necessary? On that note, I can't remember reading where Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or any other biblical prophet for that matter, had to seek out signatures in order to make a declaration to the people.

Where in the standard works does it list all of the qualifications you list? Where in the Standard Works does it say all 15 have to sign a statement in order to decree true doctrine? For that matter, where in the Standard Works does it say that a prophet is only a prophet
when he is acting as such? I thought the History of the Church (where that quote is found) is outside the realm of doctrinal truth.

Your qualifications certainly go against the grain of D&C 21:4-5: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith." The prophet's commands are to be received as "he receiveth them" not as the quorum of the 12 receives them.

I would further observe that your example of an official statement is quite inadequate. The Proclamation to the World on the Family, whilst no doubt containing commendable Christian sentiments, and representing the LDS view, nevertheless hardly qualifies as an example of Mormons being unerringly led by a prophet of God in matters of correct doctrine and conduct. Don’t forget that my original question concerned LDS doctrine, not simple and safe policy statements that straddle the Christian centre right of American thinking. I suppose your answer can be said to be begging the question "where is the revelation in the Mormon Church?" So far we have settled on the 4 Standard Works but, outside of those, where can a person go to find accurate doctrine, accurate understanding of what is in the heart of a Mormon when he believes? I am afraid your answers, whilst no doubt well intended, have been too vague.

I wish to address your point about "seeing through a glass darkly". The reference is 1 Corinthians 13:9 and you seem to be using it to excuse the adumbration to which I originally referred. This text, however, is a reference to knowledge of Christ, which is now partial but will be complete. The "perfect" of verse 10 is a reference to fulfilment, completeness or maturity and a contrast is being made between the partial and the complete knowledge of Him. It is nothing to do with puzzling over vague prophecies, or adumbrated pronouncements.

Furthermore, that you should use this text at all in this way is most peculiar. Your church has always despised Christian churches for "seeing through a glass darkly", declaring that our knowledge is, at best, incomplete, at worst, corrupt. The promise of Mormonism is clarity of vision and confidence in guidance. Do you wish to work by our standards, as you see them, or by yours, as declared by church leaders? You cannot have the penny and the bun.

I am struck by your insistence that different levels of truth and understanding alone can account for the plethora of contradictions, anomalies, and vagaries in LDS doctrine. What deep spiritual insight can make sense of the apparent contradiction between Alma 34:36 and D&C 130:3? Can a deeper understanding help me make sense of the contradiction between Jacob 2:24 and D&C 132:1? Before you answer that question you should know that no less and authority than Legrand Richards said of this last mentioned contradiction:

"I am afraid I can't adequately reconcile these two statements. If the one in the Doctrine and Covenants had omitted the names of David and Solomon, then I think I could reconcile the two statements."

Of course I am not suggesting that there are not different levels of understanding and insight, and yes I do apply exacting standards to my own faith and to the Bible, God's word, in which I trust. Neither do I pretend that I have nothing to learn. But neither do I excuse my relative ignorance and occasional misunderstandings by claiming that when you get to my level you will see as I do. Furthermore, the standards which I apply to LDS doctrine and practice is the standard the Mormon Church invites me to apply. Having made a claim to unerringly and consistently lead the Saints I expect unerring and consistent leadership. When I do not see it, when I find the opposite, I feel I have the right to point it out and call to account those who have made and broken such promises. To paraphrase one Christian commentator, such men do not deserve the devotion of their followers.

I would be glad if you could, then, settle for me this issue of LDS doctrine. Is it only in the 4 Standard Works? Are these supplemented by living prophets and, if so, where can I find this "further revelation"? If talks, writings, pronouncements and interpretations by church leaders are merely speculation and opinion on their part, may a Mormon safely ignore them confident of remaining in good standing with the church?

Sincerely, M Thomas

#8 Mr. Thomas;

I apologize profusely for the time it has taken me to reply to your last message. It seems like a tidal wave of different time-consuming tasks has washed over me lately, leaving me very little time for recreational correspondence.

Please allow me to simply "dig in," however, and address the issues you raised.

Thomas: Thank you again for attempting to clarify what is LDS doctrine. I do wish to clarify an important point before going any further and that is that I did not ask you "What is official LDS doctrine?" My question was, and is, "What is LDS doctrine?" The difference between the two questions, whilst not immediately apparent is, nevertheless, quite important.

Barks: I would have to agree that there are several levels of "doctrine" that are taught in nearly ALL Churches and denominations, aside from the official sources that each claim to be authoritative, whether that be a creed, the Bible, or any other source. The LDS Church is no different. Individuals love to speculate on the mysteries in our fold as well as in others.

Your interest not in what the LDS Church embraces as official doctrine, but in the unofficial and often spurious "everything else," is quite disappointingly revealing. You obviously have no interest in understanding what Latter-day Saints truly believe, but are simply rooting around in the refuse dump of religious speculation for whatever stray bits of filth or contaminated rot you may find to hold up as "representative" of that faith, even though such samplings are clearly not.

Are you aware of how utterly dishonest and deceitful that effort is, Mr. Thomas? Would it please you for us to hold up the rather "interesting" teachings of Martin Luther regarding his belief that evil spirits could be exorcized by a "mighty blast of flatulence" as representative of the collective "doctrine" of all denominations that sprang forth from Luther’s influence? Or would it be fair to ascribe his rabid anti-Semitism to all of those same denominations simply because Luther quite openly taught hostility towards the Jews? Or would it be more honest and even-handed to accept what those denominations claimed to be their authoritative source of doctrine in order to really understand their true theology?

Or shall we, in yet another example, carefully examine the teachings of those who currently profess to be Evangelical, "Christian" pastors and teachers who advocate some very "odd" doctrines on their television programs, such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Jimmy Swaggart, those involved in the "Brownsville Movement," and many others who are currently being broadcast? Surely their teachings are "Christian Doctrine," by your definition, are they not? Does the fact that in many cases these individual (and quite erroneous) teachings vary wildly from the Biblical account mean that we can safely embrace them as a solid indicator of what YOU "really believe," seeing that YOU also claim the title of "Christian"? Or would you perhaps ask us to examine what you felt were more authoritative creeds and scripture to define your theology?

Or, better yet, shall we accept the rabid racism that permeated the "Christian" Church throughout the last 200+ years here in America? Are you truly aware of how intense, hateful, and vicious these "Christian doctrines" were… and even today are, in some areas? Surely, if I understand you correctly, you won’t have any problem if we soundly condemn you by association on the basis of these extremist "doctrines," correct? After all, it is not what you REALLY believe that we would be searching for, by your definition, but what "Christian" doctrine "is," in whatever form, and however specious.

An integrous man, Mr. Thomas, would seem to be one who had the intellectual, moral, and ethical acumen to honestly examine the views that a differing sect officially embraces as their doctrine, from sources they consider authoritative, instead of the spurious machinations of individuals members of its rolls, would it not? Or is your preferred method how we shall, from here on out, judge your own sacred beliefs and that of the rest of collective modern Christianity?

Thomas: "Official" LDS doctrine is that which the LDS church officially wants people to believe and understand to be the LDS position on any given issue, at any given time.

Barks: I note with some disappointment your retreat from a tone of civility and respect, to a more polemical one. Your statement here smacks of snide insinuation. Shall we say the same of your beliefs? Obviously, that which you claim to be a sacred, authoritative declaration of doctrine must be no more nor less than that which the official governing body of your denomination, whether it be synod, council, diocese, or convention, "officially wants people to believe and understand" to be your position on any given issue, at any given time, with the insinuation being that your real beliefs are something else entirely. Is this a fair assessment, Mr. Thomas?

Thomas: LDS doctrine, that on which I seek clarification, is what Mormons believe to be abidingly true on the fundamentals of the faith. The difference is easily and clearly illustrated.

Barks: While I shall look forward to your "clear and easy" illustration, I must again take exception to your definition here. It seems as though you are attempting to erect a straw man of immense proportion in order to hack away at for no other purpose than self-congratulatory back-patting on your "victory" as a good little Christian soldier. Why not instead take on the truth, Mr. Thomas? Does it intimidate you that much?

For your information, Mr. Thomas, as a life-long Mormon and returned missionary, as one who HAS taught LDS doctrine for many, many years, I can tell you authoritatively that Mormons believe our official doctrinal sources to be the only abidingly true sources of doctrine on the fundamentals of our faith.

Thomas: In its attitude to other churches the Mormon Church has a distinctive, indeed unique, position. We are told that it is neither Catholic nor Protestant, or Reformed, but is Restored. In its relationship to other churches, if I go to the sources given by you as the only true standard by which to judge, the four "standard works", then I find the Mormon attitude to other churches, the LDS doctrine, is that "they were all wrong…all their creeds were an abomination in his [God's] sight; that those professors were all corrupt: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (JS - History 1:19)

Barks: That is correct. This was stated by Jesus Christ Himself, in answer to Joseph Smith’s question about which Church to join. Later, JS clearly taught that all churches had a portion of the truth, but did not have the fullness of the Gospel, which had been lost through apostacy many years before. Does this idea trouble you, Mr. Thomas? Does it seem far-fetched and beyond belief that a good "Christian" could embrace such a view? Are you aware that the Great Reformers, as well as many other notable clerics through the centuries all remarked on this event, not the least of which was the founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams? My heavens, even Martin Luther wrote that Christianity had completely "ceased to exist" by HIS day. Is it so great a stretch to acknowledge that same event, and the same state of Christianity today?

Thomas: If I go into the Book of Mormon I discover that "there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." (1 Nephi 14:12)

Barks: That also is correct. Please also take note that this passage is paramount to declaring the basic difference between good and evil. There are two groups of people on earth... those who are honest, and sincere people who love God and seek to do His will, and there are those who are evil and seek to tear down anything good.

Thomas: In the Doctrine and Covenants it is written that "this [LDS] church [is] the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…" (D&C 1:30)

Barks: Again, this is correct. Christ established one church, not 2000. Does this fact bother you, Mr. Thomas?

Thomas: Clearly LDS doctrine, what Mormons believe, is that the LDS Church is the 'church of the Lamb', the 'only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth', while all other churches are an expression of the 'church of the devil'; 'the mother of abominations'; 'the whore of all the earth'.

Barks: Mr. Thomas, I must say you have a most fertile imagination. You have just given us a textbook example of the logical fallacy of "begging the question." Your conclusions are based upon the premise you have given, which you have not justified at all. None of the passages you quoted said that "everyone else" than the Mormon Church is the "Church of the Devil." Not one. And you have failed to cite, most interestingly, the many statements by JS and other LDS leaders which directly contradict this notion. Their position was that while Christianity as a whole had unfortunately inherited the dreadful heritage of the Great Apostasy, that there were many truths within those denominations that had survived.

Thomas: What Mormons believe, LDS doctrine, is that they alone have the truth and on that basis stand apart from all other churches as unique.

Barks: Yes, and another most important facet is that it is the Lord Himself who declared it so, and who initiated the restoration of His gospel, which was foretold in the New Testament.

Thomas: "Official" LDS doctrine is that the Mormon Church is "a Christian denomination".

Barks: Yes, because it clearly is.

Thomas: I cannot help but observe that this is, what was the word you used to describe the contents of our web pages? Disingenuous? Yes, disingenuous.

Barks: I am very sorry that this clear and plain statement of belief seems "disingenuous" to you. Could you please explain how articulately and accurately stated the facts are "disingenuous"?

Thomas: You accuse Reachout Trust of misrepresenting LDS beliefs but it is the Mormon Church itself that is at the very least economical with the truth as it tries to present a politically correct image to an unsuspecting public.

Barks: This is a ludicrous statement. Reachout Trust is correctly criticized for blatantly, knowingly, and persistently misrepresenting LDS doctrine even after being corrected and shown documented evidence that proves its error. To accuse us of being "economical with the truth" over clearly and explicitly stating our beliefs is, in itself, beyond belief.

Thomas: You hasten to emphasise those points you raise that I have failed to answer, yet you have singularly failed to address this point that I raised which sees the Mormon Church moving from the unique position of Restorationist to this position of apparent Rapprochement. I am prompted to ask the question, who exactly wants who for dinner?

Barks: I hasten to emphasize those point I previously raised which you have failed to answer because they are emminently germane to the issue here. And you have still, to this writing, not answered them, have you? Why is that, Mr. Thomas? Why are those question so difficult for you to address? As far as accusing me of not addressing your issue, please point out where I have not done so. The example you cite here is the first time in our correspondence that I even remember it being raised.

Thomas: You ask if any LDS has ever denied me the right to disagree with LDS doctrine. My answer is an unequivocal Yes!

Barks: Who has denied you the right to disagree? Such would be against the most basic tenets of the truths we hold dear. The 11th Article of Faith states, "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Who, may I ask, is the insidious creature who denies you this most basic right? Report them at once to their Bishop!

Thomas: Every Mormon I meet seems to feel it an affront to question his faith, ascribes to me the basest motives of mischief and destructiveness, and readily demonises [sic] me as an "anti-Mormon"1, thus dismissing me in the classic ad hominem fashion so common amongst your fellow church members.

Barks: Based on what you have expressed above, no one is denying you the right to disagree. What we have done is deny you the right to dictate what we ‘really believe,’ when such declarations are contradictory to that which we embrace as official sources for our doctrine, practice, and belief.

As far as "demonis[ing]"[sic] you as an "anti-Mormon," one could ask you a couple of revealing questions. Are you in opposition to Mormon doctrine? Have you not established an entire "ministry" for the purpose of "exposing" or "witnessing" against the doctrines of the LDS Church? Does that not, in fact, make you an "anti-Mormon" in the same sense that such activities, directed against Jewish people, for instance, would make one "anti-Semitic"? If you do not like the title, Mr. Thomas, a very pertinent question to ponder might be, "Why do I do those things that quite appropriately earn me that title"?

And no, Mr. Thomas, correctly identifying you as an "anti-Mormon" is not the classic "ad hominem" argument. It is a valid statement of fact, which I would love to see you address.

Thomas: Even from the top there is a warning sounded against rooting out and telling the truth. No less an authority than Boyd K Packer had the following to say in attacking even professionals as they attempt to achieve impartiality in telling the truth about Mormonism. "There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."

Barks: I had to read this through several times before I realized that you weren’t joking. Elder Packer’s statement is quite timely and very wise. There is no ‘hidden agenda’ in his words nor any counsel to hide anything from the membership of the Church at large, or from the public. Are you even remotely familiar with who the audience of this address was, or what the context was? This was taken from an address by Elder Packer to the Fifth Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators' Symposium, on the 22nd of August, 1981. This was an address to counsel teachers of our youth.

Elder Packer went on in this address to explain;

"Some things that are true are not very useful.

Historians seem to take great pride in publishing something new, particularly if it illustrates a weakness or mistake of a prominent historical figure. For some reason, historians and novelists seem to savor such things. If it related to a living person it would come under the heading of gossip. History can be as misleading as gossip and much more difficult—often impossible—to verify." (Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 106)

The question that lingers in my mind in reading your accusation above, Mr. Thomas, is whether you are being patently hypocritical in raising this issue at all. Tell me. Are you teaching your youth that they can get rid of evil spirits by a "mighty blast of flatulence," and that they should hate and murder Jews? Why not? That clearly is your doctrine (by your standards of determining such, that is), and to withhold these ‘truths’ from them is very sinister and evil, is it not? Withholding these facts surely doesn’t teach your tender youth ALL of the documented history of their faith, does it? Why are you not teaching them the Christian motives behind the witch-hunts of the 17th and 18th centuries, Mr. Thomas? The Inquisition? Sale of Indulgences? Why not? Could it possibly be that even though these events are a true part of history, that they are not very valuable in building the faith of these young men and women? What say you, Mr. Thomas?

Thomas: Note that it is not lies about which Packer is concerned, but the truth. Given the history of your church I can well see how "some things that are true are not very useful".

Barks: As with Christianity in general, as I pointed out above. The real question is, Mr. Thomas, "Are you willing to hold your own faith to the same standards you demand of ours"?

Thomas: Clearly the message here is that there are things about the church's history that cannot bear close scrutiny without potentially damaging the faith of its members.

Barks: Can we not make the same statement in relation to Modern Christianity?

Thomas: I am grateful to Boyd Packer for confirming what we have said for some time.

Barks: You are grateful to Elder Packer to stating the obvious? Does this mean by implication that you DO teach your youth all of the sordid details of every dark shadow and stain in the history of the Christian faith in order to make "full disclosure" to them? Please elaborate on this and provide us some evidence of this practice in the form of some current Sunday School manuals and teaching guides. I am most interested in your Sunday School curriculum.

Thomas: The church's test, then, of whether to tell the story of Mormonism is whether what you tell promotes the Mormon faith and engenders faith amongst it's members. If the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. The clear implication here is that the obverse is also true ,i.e. if a lie promotes faith then there is no harm in telling it. This is an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Mormon leader Paul H Dunn whose Early Life and War Experiences proved to be less than scrupulous.

Barks: Let me see if I understand you correctly. You are saying then, by extension, that it is wrong for Evangelical Christianity to determine whether to tell the true and complete story of Christian History to its youth based on whether what it tells promotes the Christian faith and engenders faith amongst it's members. Is that your position? You are claiming in your statement that it is incorrect that if the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. Is that right? You also note that the clear implication here is that the obverse is also true ,i.e. if a lie promotes faith then there is no harm in telling it. Based on fact nad actual practice, this indeed seems to be the position of Evangelical Christianity, I must agree. After all, this certainly was an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Christian apologist Walter Martin, whose Kingdom of the Cults and The Maze of Mormonism proved to be less than scrupulous and entirely less than honest.

Thomas: How, pray tell, is this stooping, inflammatory, polemic and so contrary to what Jesus would do?

Barks: Very simple. Christ would not misrepresent the substance and content of someone else’s remarks for the purpose of "digging a pit" for him to trap him in his words and condemn him unjustly because of them. But thank you for allowing me to teach you about the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I count it a privilege to do so with every opportunity I get.

Thomas: I have this picture in my mind of Jesus challenging the Jewish authorities, "John's baptism, was it from heaven, or from men?" You will recall that the Jewish leaders reasoned amongst themselves that if they answered that it was from heaven then Jesus would ask them why they did not recognize [sic] it as such, but if they answered that it was from men then they would risk the wrath of the crowd, because John was very popular. The answer, then, to the question "what would Jesus do?" is that he would ask you an awkward question designed to put you on the spot. I am glad to discover that I have followed my Lord's example so faithfully.

Barks: A few noteworthy points to observe here. 1) You are not Jesus. 2) We are not the Jewish authorities, nor do we seek to slay Him. 3) Your entire example misses the point. I must assume, intentionally.

Thomas: Of course, you say that this is not an "official" statement, although that in itself is strange since he was acting in his official capacity as the representative of the church to the world's press.

Barks: Please elaborate on why this would be "strange." Are statements made in interviews by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention here in America to the press "official statements of doctrine" accepted by all Baptists, simply because they are acting in an "official capacity"? Are they considered the same weight as scripture? Why the hypocrisy here, Mr. Thomas? Again, you are quite noticeably erecting a huge straw man that has no basis in reality.

Thomas: The question remains, however, did what he say, whether official or otherwise, represent LDS doctrine, what Mormons believe about Jesus, i.e. that the Mormon Jesus is different to the Jesus of the Christian Churches? I would be glad of an unequivocal answer.

Barks: President Hinckley was alluding to the fact that our respective understandings of who Jesus was, and is, vary greatly. In a very significant way, we do believe in a "different Jesus" than does modern Christianity. We believe in the Jesus who created this earth, who is the Only Begotten Son of Almighty God, who was born of a virgin, and was the only sinless one to walk the face of the earth. We believe in the Jesus who died for our sins, and paid the price for us to return to His presence some day. We believe in the Jesus who was literally resurrected, and was the firstborn of creation. We believe in the Jesus who will stand as the judge over all at the end. I believe, and President Hinckley correctly stated, that modern Christianity believes in a much different Jesus than the Bible teaches. And both Protestant and Catholic scholars alike join him and making that clear distinction. The Trinitarian Jesus of modern Christianity has no basis in Biblical truth.

Thomas: So far as my question regarding "official statements", whilst I acknowledge that you have given an answer of sorts

Barks: I am truly sorry if I have been obscure in any way. Please point out for me where my answer has been less than clear, concise, articulate, and very easy to understand.

Thomas: I confess that I find it unsatisfactory.

Barks: I confess that I find your finding completely irrelevant and meaningless.

Thomas: Your definition of an official statement, i.e. "any statement that appears over the signature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve", and your further clarification, i.e. that "all 15" would have to be signatories to make it official raises other questions.

Barks: Considering the difficulty you have had in answering the clear, plain questions that I have already posed to you, I find it no stretch of the imagination that you would have difficulty comprehending this very simple matter.

The policies and procedures of the Church have evolved quite significantly since the prophet Joseph organized the Church in 1830. Back then, the structure and organization of the Church was in its infancy. It was refined and crafted by the Lord, as the Church grew, by revelation through his living prophets, as can be seen throughout the Doctrine and Covenants. To make the claim that because the Church practices a policy now that it once didn’t, you are opening up yourself to a veritable tidal wave of accusation when considering the practices and policies of modern Christianity.

<< How many times did Joseph Smith seek the approval of his underlings before giving a revelation or doctrine? If Brigham Young, Gordon B Hinckley, and everyone else claims the same office of authority that Joseph Smith had, why is such a precaution necessary? >>

The Lord explained that it was because His house was not a house of confusion, but a house of order. I think the result of what you describe and the resulting aftermath can be readily seen in the abysmal lack of unity among modern Christian sects.

Thomas: On that note, I can't remember reading where Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or any other biblical prophet for that matter, had to seek out signatures in order to make a declaration to the people.

Barks: Gosh, on that note, I can't remember reading where Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or any other biblical prophet for that matter, embraced or taught the Nicene Trinitarian dogma, ex-nihilo creation, sola scriptura, sola fidianism, original sin, or any of the myriad of other non-Biblical doctrines that modern Christianity has invented. What exactly is your point?

Thomas: Where in the standard works does it list all of the qualifications you list? Where in the Standard Works does it say all 15 have to sign a statement in order to decree true doctrine?

Barks: Where in the Bible is the Nicene Trinitarian dogma, ex-nihilo creation, sola scriptura, sola fidianism, or original sin presented and taught? Again, what is your point?

Thomas: Your qualifications certainly go against the grain of D&C 21:4-5: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith." The prophet's commands are to be received as "he receiveth them" not as the quorum of the 12 receives them.

Barks: Still erecting the straw man, I see. Where did I suggest that the 12 received the revelation? The prophet receives the revelation, and the 12 are entitled to a confirmation of that revelation, as was the case with the Priesthood revelation in 1979. They, as a quorum, attest to, and confirm, the reality of and the accuracy of, the revelation or truth being presented to the Church for confirmation.

Thomas: I would further observe that your example of an official statement is quite inadequate.

Barks: I am quite sorry. I will try and use small words next time.

Thomas: The Proclamation to the World on the Family, whilst no doubt containing commendable Christian sentiments, and representing the LDS view, nevertheless hardly qualifies as an example of Mormons being unerringly led by a prophet of God in matters of correct doctrine and conduct.

Barks: How so? Who said that prophets were infallible and "unerring"? What straw man standard are you erecting NOW?

Thomas: Don’t forget that my original question concerned LDS doctrine, not simple and safe policy statements that straddle the Christian center right of American thinking.

Barks: Oh, I see. So, in order for prophesy to be prophesy, or any communication for the Lord to be authentic then, it must meet your standards of "uniqueness" and must not be a clear, forthright statement or position. Got it. Where in the Bible is this found again? Chapter and verse, if you don’t mind. I’m sure you’ll keep us apprised of your work in removing a large portion of the Bible then as well, since it is hardly "unique," and many parts of it (Proverbs spring to mind) are "simple and safe policy statements that straddle the Christian center right of American thinking." Please let us know which books and passages make the "final cut" in your editing efforts, OK?

Thomas: I suppose your answer can be said to be begging the question "where is the revelation in the Mormon Church?" So far we have settled on the 4 Standard Works but, outside of those, where can a person go to find accurate doctrine, accurate understanding of what is in the heart of a Mormon when he believes? I am afraid your answers, whilst no doubt well intended, have been too vague.

Barks: I’m afraid that "vagueness" is in the eye of the beholder. When your entire mission and purpose is to dredge up lies and misrepresentations about someone else’s sacred beliefs, it should come as no shock to anyone that the truth would seem "too vague." It is very difficult to revile against the truth in its plainness and simplicity, as the widespread and dreadful failure of anti-Mormons en masse is ample evidence of.

Thomas: I wish to address your point about "seeing through a glass darkly". The reference is 1 Corinthians 13:9 and you seem to be using it to excuse the adumbration to which I originally referred. This text, however, is a reference to knowledge of Christ, which is now partial but will be complete. The "perfect" of verse 10 is a reference to fulfillment, completeness or maturity and a contrast is being made between the partial and the complete knowledge of Him. It is nothing to do with puzzling over vague prophecies, or adumbrated pronouncements.

Barks: I can see that you are as much a stranger to proper hermeneutics as you are to sound reason and logic. 1 Cor 13:9 means exactly what I represented it to mean in context.

"Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor 13:8-12)

There is no such restriction contained in the context of this passage such as you ascribe to it in your desperation to avoid its condemning stare. You still have not adequately or "satisfactorily" addressed this issue. You have simply attempted to sidestep it without giving even one valid reason for your avoidance. This passage clearly does not speak ONLY of a knowledge of Christ, but of knowledge in general.

Thomas: Furthermore, that you should use this text at all in this way is most peculiar. Your church has always despised Christian churches for "seeing through a glass darkly", declaring that our knowledge is, at best, incomplete, at worst, corrupt. The promise of Mormonism is clarity of vision and confidence in guidance. Do you wish to work by our standards, as you see them, or by yours, as declared by church leaders? You cannot have the penny and the bun.

Barks: Peculiar? Not at all. Our Church has never "despised" other denominations. That is an outright lie. We have despised the actions and behavior of those who used their faith as a rationalization for their own evil behavior, and we have denounced the corruption of the pure, simple doctrines of Christ taught in the Bible by those who have another agenda. But as I reminded you previously, Joseph Smith and many, many others, including Gordon B. Hinckley in his last general conference address, had very positive things to say about honest Christians in other denominations, and about those denominations themselves.

There is clarity of vision and confidence in guidance in the LDS Church. There is very little, if any, of the insidious and incessant bickering, backbiting, politicking and jockeying for position within the LDS Church that exists in modern Christianity. That you could with a straight face, compare the two is most remarkable. I think a better question to ponder than the one you posed is "Do you wish to second-guess God Himself and cling to your blatant hypocrisy in judging spiritual matters, or are you willing to humble yourself and seek the truth wherever it may be found"?

Thomas: I am struck by your insistence that different levels of truth and understanding alone can account for the plethora of contradictions, anomalies, and vagaries in LDS doctrine. What deep spiritual insight can make sense of the apparent contradiction between Alma 34:36 and D&C 130:3? Can a deeper understanding help me make sense of the contradiction between Jacob 2:24 and D&C 132:1?

Barks: I’m afraid the "insight" doesn’t have to be particularly deep to reconcile these passages. David and Solomon had many wives and concubines that were given to them from the Lord. Their sin was in seeking more, which the Lord did not give them. For that, they were found guilty before God. What is your confusion in this most simple example? Need I tutor you in this specific instance? I will, if you wish. Let me know.

Thomas: Before you answer that question you should know that no less and authority than Legrand Richards said of this last mentioned contradiction:

"I am afraid I can't adequately reconcile these two statements. If the one in the Doctrine and Covenants had omitted the names of David and Solomon, then I think I could reconcile the two statements."

Barks: As one who knew Bro. Richards personally, I can authoritatively say, "Who cares?" And he would undoubtedly agree. What does his lack of understanding of this issue have to do with anything?

Thomas: Of course I am not suggesting that there are not different levels of understanding and insight, and yes I do apply exacting standards to my own faith and to the Bible, God's word, in which I trust.

Barks: Good. Then I am most interested in your answers to the many questions I have posed to date which you have not answered.

Thomas: Neither do I pretend that I have nothing to learn.

Barks: Baloney. Your arrogant tone suggests exactly that.

Thomas: But neither do I excuse my relative ignorance and occasional misunderstandings by claiming that when you get to my level you will see as I do.

Barks: Is that truly the inference that I made, or are you putting words in my mouth?

Thomas: Furthermore, the standards which I apply to LDS doctrine and practice is the standard the Mormon Church invites me to apply.

Barks: Is that how you rationalize hypocrisy nowadays? Interesting. Very insightful.

Thomas: Having made a claim to unerringly and consistently lead the Saints I expect unerring and consistent leadership. When I do not see it, when I find the opposite, I feel I have the right to point it out and call to account those who have made and broken such promises. To paraphrase one Christian commentator, such men do not deserve the devotion of their followers.

Barks: Nor, judging by your profound lack of A) knowledge of the Bible, B) knowledge of sound logic and reason, C) knowledge of Christian History, and D) knowledge of LDS Doctrine, do you deserve the devotion of your followers, it seems.

Thomas: I would be glad if you could, then, settle for me this issue of LDS doctrine.

Barks: I will certainly try.

Thomas: Is it only in the 4 Standard Works? >>

Barks: No, nor did I say so. Go back and reread my previous answer.

Thomas: Are these supplemented by living prophets and, if so, where can I find this "further revelation"?

Barks: In statements signed by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, which are then confirmed by sustaining vote of the membership of the Church.

Thomas: If talks, writings, pronouncements and interpretations by church leaders are merely speculation and opinion on their part, may a Mormon safely ignore them confident of remaining in good standing with the church?

Barks: Again, the straw man. Do you never tire of logical fallacy? You are attempting to equate apples and oranges here. For one to remain in "good standing" with the church involves standards of personal worthiness of conduct, and acceptance and support of the Brethren in their callings. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the status of the Brethren’s statements in relation to whether they represent official doctrine. One can certainly disagree with what they hear from the writings of the general authority and remain a member in good standing. One cannot, on the other hand, reject the official doctrine of the Church and be a member in good standing.

Now. Shall we discuss, in detail, the many, many contradictions and failed prophesies, and other errors found in the Bible, and its subsequent implied impact on modern Christianity? Please allow me to remind you… we are still waiting for your answers to my previous questions. Please find the time to address them in detail. I would be most grateful.

Sincerely, D. L. Barksdale, President, FAIR

#9 Dear Mr Barksdale

  1. Apologies for the time taken in replying accepted. For our mutual convenience I have used headings and numbered both paragraphs and headings. Forgive my saying so but I confess that I found your most recent missive - well, colourful! It seems that you regard me as "utterly dishonest and deceitful; polemical; lacking integrity; snide; self-congratulatory; blatantly, knowingly, and persistently misrepresenting LDS doctrine; patently hypocritical; digging a pit; intentionally missing the point; completely irrelevant and meaningless; with a mission and purpose to dredge up lies and misrepresentations about someone else’s sacred beliefs (excuse me while I draw breath); as much a stranger to proper hermeneutics as to sound reason and logic; arrogant; one who rationalises hypocrisy; profoundly lacking in A) knowledge of the Bible, B) knowledge of sound logic and reason, C) knowledge of Christian History, and D) knowledge of LDS Doctrine; a proponent of logical fallacy;" You insinuated "simple" and left out stupid; asinine; fatuous; mean; vexatious; wicked and annoying. Have you considered a career in diplomacy? :~)

     

    Let’s Get a Couple of Things Straight

  2. I have read my own Emails again and find that I question the doctrine and practice of your church, challenge your interpretation of scriptures, request clarification on many points, and even ask the odd awkward question in order to draw you on points (Just as Jesus might have done). I have not deliberately insulted you. I do understand how you would not like what I have written. I am also aware, of course, of the classic LDS response to all criticism, no matter the source, i.e. "for critic read enemy; to respond to criticism stand six feet above contradiction", and can understand how, on that basis, you might feel insulted. This, however, is paranoia and not in any way justification for language at once so demeaning to yourself and insulting to your correspondent. If you cannot respect me at least have a greater regard for yourself than to use such vituperative language. You do yourself and your reputation no good, and prove a poor ambassador for your church, when you so easily fall into haranguing your critics like a choleric schoolmaster.
  3. Before I proceed further I wish to clarify the position from which I work. You represent yourself as "a life-long Mormon and returned missionary...one who HAS taught LDS doctrine for many, many years" and on that basis claim to speak "authoritatively" on the issues under discussion. I respect your position (need I point out that to disagree is not the same as to disrespect?) and try to take seriously what you obviously take seriously, i.e. your position as one who "knows". I too speak with some background and experience in Mormonism. I was a Mormon for many years and spent most of my time in teaching positions in that faith. I served as a Ward missionary leader and was very familiar with the work of the missionaries; I taught both Seminary and Institute classes for many years, as well as the investigator’s course and the Gospel Doctrine class; I taught Sunday School classes and ran In Service teacher training courses; I served as a teacher in my Elder’s Quorum and, indeed, at my time of leaving I held the office of Elder’s Quorum President.
  4. I do not usually make so much of these things because I feel that what I write and say should be judged on it’s own merit (or otherwise) and not simply believed because I was all these things or, as is often the case with Mormons, rejected because I was these things but not any longer. Nevertheless, I point out these things here to emphasise that I too speak as one who HAS taught LDS doctrine for many years and "knows", and to say that I will not be so easily dismissed by your high-handed reproach.

    Unique or United?

  5. I observe that you seem to be advancing the notion that the LDS Church is both unique and non-unique at the same time, i.e. it is the "only" true Christian church yet part of the larger body of Christian churches. This is the issue to which I referred when I wrote of the apparent policy of rapprochement that is current in the Mormon Church. You insist that I am introducing a new subject, saying that you "don’t remember" my raising this issue before. However I raised the subject on 10 February when I wrote, "Investigators begin their journey into Mormonism with the promise that unerring guidance and prophetic leading is the LDS inheritance only to find that eternal verities can too easily become provisional policies. Look to the prophet has addended ‘but not too closely’. Restoration swiftly becomes rapprochement, likewise revelation adumbration".
  6. If you insist that the Mormon Church is the only true church, and it's leaders uniquely inspired of God, then you cannot compare your church, it’s practices or it’s leaders with other church’s. This, of course, begs the question, which I note you seem to have avoided. Let me reiterate.
  7. I have before me a copy of the "official" media pack for the opening of the Mormon temple in Chorley, Lancashire, the Preston England temple. Under the deceptively disarming title of "Facts" the list of the church's beliefs, official LDS doctrine, begins with the statement:
  8. "The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination, wholly committed to the New Testament account of the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of mankind."
  9. The following is taken from The Encyclopedia of Mormonism;
  10. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not see itself as one Christian denomination among many, but rather as God's latter-day restoration of the fulness of Christian faith and practice. Thus, from its earliest days LDS Christians sought to distinguish themselves from Christians of other traditions. Other forms of Christianity, while bearing much truth and doing much good under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are viewed as incomplete, lacking the authority of the priesthood of God, the temple ordinances, the comprehensive understanding of the Plan of Salvation, and the nonparadoxical understanding of the Godhead. Therefore, the designation "saint" reflects attachment to the New Testament church, and also designates a difference from Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity in the current dispensation."
  11. Of course, neither source is "official" in the sense of being "scripture". Nevertheless they do manifest a disturbing degree of confusion amongst those who claim to speak with at least some degree of authority. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a "Christian denomination" or is it not? Why, when The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states that "from its earliest days LDS Christians sought to distinguish themselves from Christians of other traditions", apparently by not being a Christian denomination, has the LDS Church seen fit to claim in England that they are a denomination? Is this an isolated example of such fudging of issues? Perhaps an example taken from personal experience will show that it is typical.

    Of Course we Trust the Bible - Sort of…

  12. A friend of mine met several times recently with Mormon missionaries. On their first visit he set out to establish their attitude to the Bible, declaring, "I am a Christian and trust the Bible as the fully reliable word of God. I have been told that Mormons are not Christians and do not fully trust the Bible". Their reply was an unequivocal endorsement of the Bible and they promised that they took exactly the same view as my friend. Several meetings later, frustrated by not being able to deal with the Bible verses my friend used to challenge what they were teaching, they declared the Bible to be unreliable and corrupt, "translated incorrectly". Challenged to square this with their first declaration of full trust in the Bible they struggled to hold two opposing thoughts in their minds at the same time. On the one hand the "official" stand before the world is that Mormons trust the Bible, on the other the true position is that the Bible is only reliable "as far as it is translated correctly". On the one hand the LDS Church is unique and not a Christian denomination but stands apart from all other traditions, on the other hand "officially" the LDS Church is a Christian denomination. Clearly these illustrate very well the fact that
  13. Official" LDS doctrine is that which the LDS church officially wants people to believe and understand to be the LDS position on any given issue, at any given time.
  14. LDS doctrine, that on which I seek clarification, is what Mormons believe to be abidingly true on the fundamentals of the faith.
  15. Of course it would be the easiest thing in the world to declare that our missionary friends were an isolated incident (I assure you they are not), that the media pack was a mistake and that The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is not scripture. However, here are three sources of "truth" about Mormonism that the world is being encouraged by the LDS Church to believe are reliable. If the Mormon Church cannot, in it’s own media pack, present a clear and truthful message on such a basic issue; if "representatives" of the Mormon religion, sent out to teach this darkened world the restored gospel, cannot be relied upon to be honest on such a simple point; if The Encyclopedia of Mormonism cannot be clear on issues of the Mormon faith then Mormons are no better than the blind leading the blind.
  16. You again make a comparison with other churches by trying to turn the question around on me:
  17. "Shall we say the same of your beliefs? Obviously, that which you claim to be a sacred, authoritative declaration of doctrine must be no more nor less than that which the official governing body of your denomination, whether it be synod, council, diocese, or convention, "officially wants people to believe and understand" to be your position on any given issue, at any given time, with the insinuation being that your real beliefs are something else entirely. Is this a fair assessment, Mr. Thomas?"
  18. This is nonsense! My church does not compare with your church AT ALL! Your church is, in its government and practice, ultramontanist in nature, and makes far-reaching claims to primacy and uniqueness. This is why I am asking these questions. How can you be the only one and at the same time one amongst many? My church is a local expression of a universal movement of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and accepts only the Bible as "God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim.3:16). When we say that we trust in the Bible we mean just that, not that we trust only those bits that agree with some "governing body…synod, council, diocese or convention" - or gathering of brethren. Whilst every Evangelical Christian would claim a unique position for the Christian faith in the sea of faiths in this world, no one church/congregation would claim the unique position of Rome or Salt Lake City amongst fellow believers. Furthermore, in regard to other faiths in relation to which we do make claims of exclusivity, no church with any integrity would claim to be "one of you" with the covert purpose of making them "one of us".

    1 Nephi 14:10

  19. Regarding your loose interpretation of 1 Nephi 14:10; perhaps you should read more of your leaders. You write that, "None of the passages you quoted said that "everyone else" than the Mormon Church is the "Church of the Devil." ". However, George Q. Cannon said the following:
  20. "After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised, there
    were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the
    Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organisations which are called churches throughout Christendom, though differing in their creeds and organisations, have one common origin. They all belong to Babylon" (Gospel Truth, pg.324).
  21. Consider also McConkie:"What is the church of the devil in our day, and where is the seat of her
    power? ...It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that
    perverted the pure and perfect gospel ...It is communism; it is Islam; it is
    Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts" (Millennial Messiah,
    pp.54-55).
  22. Here is a piece from the Ensign, Dec.1984, pp.8/9: "Possibly the best single witness of the apostasy of New Testament Christianity is the New Testament itself. The New Testament writers prophesied that the apostasy would take place in the Church and that the Church in fact would be overcome by it."(NB. An interesting interpretation in light of Matt.16:18. Surely a more stark contradiction of Scripture would be difficult to find.) Later the same writer portrays "Satan [sitting] in the place of God in Christianity after the time of the Apostles…"
  23. John Taylor, third president of the Mormon Church said: "We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol [sic]; it is as corrupt as hell and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.167)
  24. 1 Nephi 14:10 is clearly not simply delineating between good and evil. Even allowing that this distinction is being made the "good" is obviously Mormonism, and "evil" is everything else, including all of Christianity, as is made plain by McConkie "It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that perverted the pure and perfect gospel ...It is communism; it is Islam; it is Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts" It is plainly making a clear and unavoidable distinction between the church of the lamb (LDS), and Babylon, the place where Satan reigns in the place of God, the devil’s engine. The difference is that Mormon leaders of a previous age were much more forthright in declaring what they believed, whilst today’s leaders are guided by political expediency and are much more dissembling before the world.

    Rot? You May Have a Point

  25. I was interested in your remarks regarding my own motives and practices:
  26. "Your interest not in what the LDS Church embraces as official doctrine, but in the unofficial and often spurious "everything else," is quite disappointingly revealing. You obviously have no interest in understanding what Latter-day Saints truly believe, but are simply rooting around in the refuse dump of religious speculation for whatever stray bits of filth or contaminated rot you may find to hold up as "representative" of that faith, even though such samplings are clearly not."
  27. This is an interesting word picture. How many times have Mormons said that the General Conference (and other) talks found in the Journal Of Discourses are "speculation"? Is the King Follet Discourse, in which Joseph Smith taught that God is an exalted man, "stray bits of filth or contaminated rot"? What about Brigham Young's General Conference address wherein he taught that Adam was God? And how about the quotes above from George Q. Cannon, Bruce R McConkie and John Taylor? Are these examples of "unofficial and often spurious "everything else"? Or maybe we should look at the most recent General Conference addresses. Would you rather we call these talks "rot" than teachings of the living prophets? My colleagues and I could be persuaded.
  28. In a recent Conference address the Mormon Apostle, Dallin Oaks had the following to say: "The subject being taught in the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies of the church during the second and third Sundays of each month is the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church. During the last two years we have studied the teachings of President Brigham Young. For the next two years we will be studying the teachings of President Joseph F. Smith, the 6th LDS President.
  29. The books containing these teachings, which are being given to every adult member of the church as a permanent personal library resource, contain doctrine and principles. They are rich and relevant to the needs of our day, and they are superb for teaching and discussion." (Ensign, Nov. 1999, page 80)
  30. Mr Barksdale I have an extensive and "permanent personal library" of these books that "contain doctrine and principles". I quote from my library only to find you labelling "stray bits of filth or contaminated rot" what Dallin Oaks is pleased to call "rich and relevant…superb for…discussion". I find it remarkable that you insist I go to reliable sources for true LDS doctrine and then you call my sources, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, George Q Cannon, Bruce R McConkie, Gordon B Hinckley et. al. unreliable. It seems to me that the sayings of the so-designated living prophets of the Mormon Church is a reasonable place to look for the teaching of true LDS doctrine. It is most certainly "honest and even-handed" to look where the authority is claimed to be.

    Prophet, Seer, Revelator?

  31. And, of course, herein lies your greatest difficulty in this regard, i.e. the claims made by the Mormon Church for its leaders. In a recent Conference address, Ensign, November 1998, pp. 82/83. Merrill C Oaks spoke of The Living Prophet: our Source of Pure Doctrine. I commend it as a classic example of how Mormons are encouraged to think about their prophets and leaders. He quotes Spencer W Kimball thus:
  32. "Since that Momentous day in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth…
  33. "There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records [and he was speaking here of the four standard works] that would be the ‘end of the prophets’. But again we testify to you that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognised of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord" ("Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets," Ensign, May 1977, 78 Quotes in [square brackets] in original).
  34. Elder Oaks goes on to say: "We have large amounts of written historical material available to us, including sermons of early Church leaders. These give us background that helps us understand the early events of the Restoration…"
  35. Then goes on to promise: "There are wonderful continuity and agreement of these teachings and those of the current prophets."
  36. It seems reasonable to draw from these statements certain conclusions, i.e.
  37. That the four "Standard Works" are certainly not the only authoritative sources of doctrine.
  38. That the Lord continues to speak to and through his prophets "day to day".
  39. That these prophets can be relied upon to "interpret the mind and will of the Lord".
  40. That there is "a wonderful continuity and agreement" between former prophets and leaders, and current ones.
  41. Add to this the words of Dallin Oaks quoted above and it seems that people are encouraged to expect that transparency, clarity and continuity are the normative experience of those following Mormon leaders via. the media of LDS Scripture, LDS historical documents and LDS Church manuals. However, whenever I or any of my colleagues quote these materials that Merrill Oaks and Dallin Oaks find so "helpful" "rich and relevant" we are told that our sources are suspect. Clearly you subscribe to the Boyd K Packer/Paul H Dunn approach to church history, i.e. don’t tell it like it is but as you would have liked it to be.

    Follow the Leader, or Follow the Lord?

  42. You excuse the more aberrant sayings and beliefs of early Mormon prophets by making reference to Christian leaders of both an earlier age and more recent times thus:
  43. "Would it please you for us to hold up the rather "interesting" teachings of Martin Luther regarding his belief that evil spirits could be exorcized by a "mighty blast of flatulence" as representative of the collective "doctrine" of all denominations that sprang forth from Luther’s influence? Or would it be fair to ascribe his rabid anti-Semitism to all of those same denominations simply because Luther quite openly taught hostility towards the Jews? Or would it be more honest and even-handed to accept what those denominations claimed to be their authoritative source of doctrine in order to really understand their true theology?"
  44. "Or shall we, in yet another example, carefully examine the teachings of those who currently profess to be Evangelical, "Christian" pastors and teachers who advocate some very "odd" doctrines on their television programs, such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Jimmy Swaggart, those involved in the "Brownsville Movement," and many others who are currently being broadcast? Surely their teachings are "Christian Doctrine," by your definition, are they not? Does the fact that in many cases these individual (and quite erroneous) teachings vary wildly from the Biblical account mean that we can safely embrace them as a solid indicator of what YOU "really believe," seeing that YOU also claim the title of "Christian"? Or would you perhaps ask us to examine what you felt were more authoritative creeds and scripture to define your theology?"
  45. Whilst finding some of the teachings of some of these leaders (and I emphasise some) helpful, a Christian would afford none of them the exalted position Mormons give their prophets. Having declared only the Bible as "God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim.3:16) we regard our "leaders" as fellow pilgrims from whose experience and insights we learn, whose example we often follow, but from whose errors we also learn and whose counsel we are obliged to sift in light of Scripture, an attitude you and your fellows are at pains to insist is your own, I know. However, in light of the above statements re. the reliability, consistency and continuity of Mormon revelation it is a claim that holds no currency in our present discussion. Of course, if you wish your leaders to be regarded as no different to Kenneth Copeland, Jimmy Swaggart or Benny Hinn; if you wish the events of Salt Lake City to be viewed in the same light as Brownesville, Pensacola, or Toronto say the word and Reachout would be glad to publish a statement to that effect.

    Racism? Do you Really Want to go There?

  46. I confess I did a double-take when I read your remarks concerning "the rabid racism that permeated the "Christian" Church throughout the last 200+ years here in America?" You surely didn’t expect to get away with that one? How audacious! The Mormon Church has, during most of its history, proved one of the most racist churches in America. Christian Churches have recognised racism as an evil, a sin, something you yourself appear to insist upon. Where it has been expunged it has been in an attitude of repentance. Mormonism for 148 years practised racism as a command from God and has yet to repent of the racist remarks of its leaders. A more thorough example of institutionalised racism could not be found. Consider the exclusion of black people from any office in the church until 1978! Consider also the reasons for that exclusion. Perhaps you will excuse me while I "root around in the refuse dump of ‘Mormonism’s past’ for whatever stray bits of filth or contaminated rot I may find" in your less than honourable history of race relations.
  47. Apostle Mark E. Petersen frankly declared; Is there any reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of the worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life?...We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments... (Mark E. Petersen, Race Problems-As They Affect The Church)
  48. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie declared: Though he was a rebel and an associate of Lucifer in pre-existence, and though he was a liar from the beginning whose name was Perdition, Cain managed to attain the privilege of mortal birth... he came out in open rebellion, fought God, worshipped Lucifer, and slew Abel...
  49. As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed with a dark skin; he became the father of the Negroes, and those spirits who were not worthy to receive the priesthood are born through his lineage. (Mormon Doctrine,1958, p.102)
  50. John Taylor said: And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham's wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God. (JOD. vol.22. p.304)
  51. The result of this doctrine is clearly demonstrated by Bruce R. McConkie who said that, "The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to [Negroes]."(Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p.477)
  52. Brigham Young went so far as to say: Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. (JOD, vol.10, p.110)
  53. In 1978 this situation was reversed "by revelation" with an air that suggested Negroes aught to be eternally grateful. A bit like beating a child and expecting unqualified gratitude because you have stopped. Ever since, the Mormon Church has been parading up and down Africa behaving like the great benefactor when all along its "Scriptures" still contain verses that condemn the Negro, and its historical records and sermons of past leaders, that Merrill C Oaks found so commendable, still describe them as rebellious, liars, unworthy, a representation of Satan on the earth.
  54. You make some interesting remarks about the influence of Luther and some of the more bizarre and offensive things he believed: Would it please you for us to hold up the rather "interesting" teachings of Martin Luther regarding his belief that evil spirits could be exorcized by a "mighty blast of flatulence" as representative of the collective "doctrine" of all denominations that sprang forth from Luther’s influence? Or would it be fair to ascribe his rabid anti-Semitism to all of those same denominations simply because Luther quite openly taught hostility towards the Jews? Or would it be more honest and even-handed to accept what those denominations claimed to be their authoritative source of doctrine in order to really understand their true theology?
  55. I readily denounce such ‘rot’ and say that Luther simply got it badly wrong on some things. Now I offer you the opportunity to do the same with your own leaders. To denounce their racism, dismiss some of their strange and unscriptural teachings, and confess what fools these men were sometimes. Chapter and verse if you please, i.e. "Joseph Smith was wrong when he said…"; "Brigham Young was foolish to teach…"; "This declaration was less than honest; that practice was less than Christian". I am sure that there have been some very "interesting" doctrines and practices originating with these great men that Mormons wish were not taken as "representative" of the faith. Name them if you please and again I would be glad to have Reachout clarify your position.
  56. The final hypocrisy of the Mormon Church on this issue of racism came for me when a Scottish Stake President appeared on a British TV discussion panel addressing issues of faith and the beliefs of different groups. In true Mormon style candour was not the order of the day. In particular when the issue of the Mormon bar on Negroes holding authority in the church was raised the question was asked, Why? Why, until 1978 were coloured people barred from all but basic membership? The Stake President, a self-declared fourth generation Mormon, raised in the church replied, "I don’t know. We don’t know. None of us know. Only God knows."
  57. This in spite of the fact that June of that very year saw the issue plastered across the pages of the London Times and the Los Angeles Times. This in spite of the fact that the reasons are explained in Mormon scripture and have been routinely taught in Mormon publications (I know. I was there!). Perhaps he should have done a little more background reading amongst the "rot" we keep quoting, then he would have been in a position to explain it all to the charming Negro lady who accompanied him and who seemed totally taken in by this claim of ignorance. There is surely nothing more pathetic than a willing victim.

    Anti-Mormon?

  58. Your remarks concerning what makes an "anti-Mormon" I very much appreciated:
  59. As far as "demonis[ing]"[sic] you as an "anti-Mormon," one could ask you a couple of revealing questions. Are you in opposition to Mormon doctrine? Have you not established an entire "ministry" for the purpose of "exposing" or "witnessing" against the doctrines of the LDS Church? Does that not, in fact, make you an "anti-Mormon" in the same sense that such activities, directed against Jewish people, for instance, would make one "anti-Semitic"? If you do not like the title, Mr. Thomas, a very pertinent question to ponder might be, "Why do I do those things that quite appropriately earn me that title"?
  60. "And no, Mr. Thomas, correctly identifying you as an "anti-Mormon" is not the classic "ad hominem" argument. It is a valid statement of fact, which I would love to see you address."
  61. Perhaps I should address this issue now. The term is very negative and makes us sound as though we are thoroughly against something or another but not for anything in particular. Of course, that is the purpose for such labelling. To call someone anti-Mormon or anti-Catholic (another classic example) gives a negative flavour and casts a poor light, thus achieving by invective what might not so easily be achieved by an honest discussion of the issues. We are, however, Christians and not anti-Mormons and, like all Christians we have a very positive message, which is that through the atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved, by trusting in him and him alone. As a Christian ministry we may be described as those who " uphold biblical truth". This is very important because our role is to stand in defence of our faith rather than simply in contention with the faith of others. The case of Mormonism illustrates this point very well. The primary and most important claim that Joseph Smith ever made in this respect is that "all churches are corrupt and an abomination" in the sight of God. Systematically the LDS Church has attacked Christianity from that time.
  62. John Taylor, third president of the church stated: "We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…it is as corrupt as hell; and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.167) LDS Apostle Orson Pratt declared: "…all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God…Both the Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the 'whore of Babylon' whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickednesses." (The Seer, pg.255)
  63. Bruce R McConkie echoed these sentiments in the 20th century when he wrote: "[Nephi] designated the Catholic Church as 'the mother of harlots' (1 Nephi 13:34; 14:15-17), a title which means that the protestant churches, the harlot daughters which broke off from the great and abominable church, would themselves be apostate churches." (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, pp 314-15)
  64. Today that same message is brought to the doors of millions of people by almost sixty thousand LDS missionaries, who clearly teach that Joseph restored the gospel which was lost after the apostles were killed. Since which time, it is claimed, "the Christians" have twisted, corrupted, added to and taken from the word of God. It is a message in which the Book of Mormon is presented as the book of the restoration, "the most correct of any book on earth" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church). But a message in which the Bible is presented as the book of the apostasy, into which many errors have crept and whose dependability is confined to those parts that agree with the "restored gospel" of Mormonism.
  65. In the face of this blatant attack on "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3) we stand as watchmen on the towers, sounding a clear warning (Ezekiel 33: 7-9), "upholding biblical truth", and snatching from error those confused by deception (Jude: 22-23). This is a positive activity and one for which we do not apologise.
  66. Finally we describe our work as one of "building bridges to those in the cults". We appreciate that people are more apt to build walls and so we teach and practice bridge building. Of course anything approaching the challenging of other faiths in the course of our work leaves us open to the accusation of being destructive rather than constructive. A word that is bandied about a great deal in this respect is "polemical". So-called anti-cult writings are labelled polemical with the clear intention of representing them as altogether negative, ill meant, and mischievous. The noun polemic is defined in the Merriam~Webster Dictionary, and in Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, as "the art or practice of disputation". The New Fowler's Modern English Usage defines "a controversial discussion, argument, or controversy, esp. over a doctrine, policy, etc." One might, in this context, speak of a spirited intellectual exchange, a process of significant contention. Given these definitions Jesus and Paul were sound and practised polemicists and their example is one I am pleased to follow.
  67. To Mormons, of course, "contention is of the devil" (3 Nephi 11:29). Typically this is contrary to what the Bible has to say on the subject (Jude 3; Philip.1: 27). Following the injunction of scripture the Apostle Paul reasoned in the synagogues (dialegomai, Acts 20:7), earnestly attempting to convince people of the truthfulness of his message, "contending for the faith". Those who heard did not always receive him well either, accusing him of being a troublemaker (Acts 17:1-10). It has ever been so because bridge building is not conceding the other person's viewpoint, and contending for the faith involves contention. That's why it is called contending for the faith!

    Anti-Christian?

  68. As far as your definition of an "anti-Mormon," is concerned I could ask you a couple of revealing questions. In defining the term you write:
  69. "Are you in opposition to Mormon doctrine? Have you not established an entire "ministry" for the purpose of "exposing" or "witnessing" against the doctrines of the LDS Church? Does that not, in fact, make you an "anti-Mormon" in the same sense that such activities, directed against Jewish people, for instance, would make one "anti-Semitic"? If you do not like the title, Mr. Thomas, a very pertinent question to ponder might be, "Why do I do those things that quite appropriately earn me that title"?"
  70. By this definition you very clearly label yourself as "anti-Christian." After all, are you not in opposition to orthodox Christian doctrine? Have you not established an entire ministry for the purpose of exposing or witnessing against the Christian doctrines which conflict with Mormonism? Have not your own church leaders consistently attacked every piece of doctrine believed by Christians on every fundamental of the gospel? Have not Mormons labelled Christianity "a perfect pack of nonsense…[and] as corrupt as hell"; "nothing less than the 'whore of Babylon' whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickednesses."? Do you really think that when Mormons in their condescension declare the churches as having "some truth in them" Christians are going to overlook such invective and in obeisance gladly take crumbs from the prophet’s table?
  71. I have an alternative definition of an anti-Mormon for you. "Anti-Mormon" = anyone who has the audacity to ask that Mormons make a credible presentation of their doctrine that does not conflict with previous Mormon teachings and conforms to the teachings of the Bible.

    History or Revisionism?

  72. Your response to the Packer quote I found most curious. You defend him by pointing out that he spoke to teachers of young people who aught to be protected from truth that is "not helpful":
  73. "Some things that are true are not very useful.
  74. Historians seem to take great pride in publishing something new, particularly if it illustrates a weakness or mistake of a prominent historical figure. For some reason, historians and novelists seem to savor such things. If it related to a living person it would come under the heading of gossip. History can be as misleading as gossip and much more difficult—often impossible—to verify." (Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 106)
  75. You then write: "The question that lingers in my mind in reading your accusation above, Mr. Thomas, is whether you are being patently hypocritical in raising this issue at all. Tell me. Are you teaching your youth that they can get rid of evil spirits by a "mighty blast of flatulence," and that they should hate and murder Jews? Why not? That clearly is your doctrine (by your standards of determining such, that is), and to withhold these ‘truths’ from them is very sinister and evil, is it not? Withholding these facts surely doesn’t teach your tender youth ALL of the documented history of their faith, does it? Why are you not teaching them the Christian motives behind the witch-hunts of the 17th and 18th centuries, Mr. Thomas? The Inquisition? Sale of Indulgences? Why not? Could it possibly be that even though these events are a true part of history that they are not very valuable in building the faith of these young men and women? What say you, Mr. Thomas?"
  76. Am I to take it from this, Mr Barksdale that the Bibles used in your Bible study classes have been sanitised, perhaps like Lambs Tales from Shakespeare? Do you protect your youth from the weaknesses and mistakes of prominent Bible characters? Are you really so ill informed as you seem to indicate? We do teach our children these things! Protestant church history cannot be taught without talking about the sale of indulgences, not if it is to make any sense. It is no secret that the Salem Witch-Hunts were driven by religious fervour. And contrary to your suggestion, knowledge and examination of these things are very valuable in building and deepening the faith of young believers. Just as examining the follies and sins of Biblical giants is instrumental in a person's faith...or at least God thinks so as He saw fit to include these things in His Holy Word.
  77. A Christian friend, who was in Spain doing outreach at the LDS temple, was shocked that the LDS missionaries serving there, a city where the inquisitions took place, strolling through the square where many were tried and executed had never even heard of the Inquisition! Shame on them. What say I? I say, "The two great errors upon which the kingdom of Satan is erected are ignorance and error" (Authors of the Westminster Confession 1646). Need I remind you that if our young people aren’t encouraged to learn from our collective past they are doomed to repeat it? What say you Mr Barksdale?

    History or Gossip?

  78. This next bit took a bit of unravelling:
  79. Thomas:-The [Mormon] church's test, then, of whether to tell the story of Mormonism is whether what you tell promotes the Mormon faith and engenders faith amongst it's members. If the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. The clear implication here is that the obverse is also true, i.e. if a lie promotes faith then there is no harm in telling it. This is an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Mormon leader Paul H Dunn whose Early Life and War Experiences proved to be less than scrupulous.
  80. Barksdale:-Let me see if I understand you correctly. You are saying then, by extension, that it is wrong for Evangelical Christianity to determine whether to tell the true and complete story of Christian History to its youth based on whether what it tells promotes the Christian faith and engenders faith amongst it's members. Is that your position? You are claiming in your statement that it is incorrect that if the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. Is that right? You also note that the clear implication here is that the obverse is also true, i.e. if a lie promotes faith then there is no harm in telling it. Based on fact and (sic) actual practice, this indeed seems to be the position of Evangelical Christianity, I must agree. After all, this certainly was an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Christian apologist Walter Martin, whose Kingdom of the Cults and The Maze of Mormonism proved to be less than scrupulous and entirely less than honest.
  81. No Mr Barksdale you deliberately? misunderstand me. I point out that it is the Mormon view that if the truth does not promote faith then it is best to protect people from it. In this lies the implication that if a lie promotes the faith then it should be told. I also point out that this is an inference that was clearly taken to heart by the late Mormon leader Paul H Dunn whose Early Life and War Experiences proved to be less than scrupulous. That is to say that Boyd K Packer only wants to tell people the nice bits of history and Paul H Dunn seems to have had a flair for making the nice bits up.
  82. My own view has already been given above i.e., whilst I agree that there is no advantage and much harm in "gossiping", I can’t help but feel that Mormons label as "gossip" anything that they don’t want others to know about their church, their leaders and their history. Knowledge and examination of the sins and follies of church history are very valuable in building and deepening the faith of young believers, just as examining the follies and sins of Biblical giants is instrumental in a person's faith. Faith not only needs to be "promoted", a word that is peculiarly germane to Mormon teaching practice, but also challenged, yes even by uncomfortable truths. The failings of men and women are a clear illustration of our fallen nature and need for God. The triumphs of men and women of faith are a valuable lesson in the sovereign grace of God in their lives. The worth of the latter is underestimated without the knowledge of the former; the experience of the former is cause for despair without the living knowledge of the latter. Faith that is built on comfortable truth alone will falter when it meets life in all its discomfiting imperfection, especially within the family of believers.
  83. This was poignantly illustrated for me recently when meeting with four Mormon missionaries, two of whom appear to have been District Leaders. In retelling the story of Joseph Smith they told of his "martyrdom" in the familiar way, proudly telling of their founding prophet going "as a lamb to the slaughter". When I pointed out to them that Joseph died in a gun battle in which he shot three of his assailants they refused to believe me. They could not imagine Joseph having a gun in prison, "No one would be allowed a gun whilst in prison" they laughed, dismissing my "fantasy" account with some derision. I explained that guns had been smuggled in but they could not imagine their lamb-like leader colluding in such activity.
  84. When I showed them a reliable LDS source for this intelligence they were stunned into silence, then again refused to believe, thinking that I must have played a trick on them. I felt almost sorry that I had brought the subject up, so obvious was the impact this had on them, but I also felt angry that they had been sent out so ill equipped to deal with uncomfortable truths, faith challenging facts. No doubt they had been raised on only the nice bits of history, protected from the unsavoury and "unhelpful". A mean and thoughtless thing to do, don’t you think Mr Barksdale?

    How Dare You Say that we Worship a Different Jesus When Everyone Knows That we Do!

  85. I asked you about Gordon Hinckley’s statement to the effect that he believes in a different Jesus to the Jesus of other churches. You appear to agree but then protest that I should have the audacity to bring up the subject. So what are you upset about? If Pres. Hinckley said it, and meant it, and you agree, what's the problem? Upon what do you base your accusation that I was "misrepresenting" Hinckley and trying to trap you?
  86. I observe that you say that this is not an "official" statement, and that that in itself is strange since he was acting in his official capacity as the representative of the church to the world's press.
  87. You reply: "Please elaborate on why this would be "strange." Are statements made in interviews by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention here in America to the press "official statements of doctrine" accepted by all Baptists, simply because they are acting in an "official capacity"? Are they considered the same weight as scripture? Why the hypocrisy here, Mr. Thomas? Again, you are quite noticeably erecting a huge straw man that has no basis in reality."
  88. Again Mr. Barksdale you are not comparing like with like. When leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention speak they do not claim to do so as "prophets, seers and revelators". Baptists are not encouraged to view them as sole and reliable interpreters of the mind and will of God. Such comparisons, therefore, convenient as they may be, are misleading and distract from the point, i.e. the unique claims of the Mormon Church to authority in teaching and practice. It clearly is strange that in speaking to the world’s press on something so very fundamental to the faith as the nature of God, the so-called prophet of God should give a private interpretation. Surely he speaks knowledgeably and officially? And anyway, you agree with him so, again, what is the fuss about? The point I raised was that so often my colleagues and I are accused of "misrepresenting" Mormonism when we honestly teach that Mormons worship a different Jesus to that of other churches. Gordon B Hinckley has declared us correct in saying this and you agree with him, i.e. "In a very significant way, we do believe in a "different Jesus" than does modern Christianity." Your very own words!

     

  89. I Believe in…Uhm…?
  90. In your explanation of what Hinckley means you describe the Jesus you claim to believe in, which description perfectly matches the Jesus that I and every Bible-believing Christian worship:
  91. "We believe in the Jesus who created this earth, who is the Only Begotten Son of Almighty God, who was born of a virgin, and was the only sinless one to walk the face of the earth. We believe in the Jesus who died for our sins, and paid the price for us to return to His presence some day. We believe in the Jesus who was literally resurrected, and was the firstborn of creation. We believe in the Jesus who will stand as the judge over all at the end."
  92. I would like to ask, based on these remarks, how that represents a difference in our understanding of Jesus? You include this long list of things that modern Christianity adheres to, remarking afterwards that you and Hinckley both believe in a different Jesus than modern Christianity. Finally you mention the Trinity, but your remarks seem to indicate that your previous list demonstrates "significant" differences. Why do I get the impression that you wrote this in a hurry? And why, if Evangelical Christianity is so aberrant, do you insist on being identified so closely with it, i.e. as "a Christian denomination"? Frankly I don’t think you know what you want.

    This is Official - and Safe

  93. I have already said that your example of what does constitute an "official" statement is disappointing:
  94. "The Proclamation to the World on the Family, whilst no doubt containing commendable Christian sentiments, and representing the LDS view, nevertheless hardly qualifies as an example of Mormons being unerringly led by a prophet of God in matters of correct doctrine and conduct."
  95. Your reply is easily answered: "How so? Who said that prophets were infallible and "unerring"? What straw man standard are you erecting NOW?"
  96. There is no straw man, Mr. Barksdale, just a mountain of statements by Mormon leaders encouraging church members to view the prophet’s counsel as unerring, e.g. "Since that Momentous day in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth…
  97. "There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records [and he was speaking here of the four standard works] that would be the ‘end of the prophets’. But again we testify to you that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord" ("Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets," Ensign, May 1977, 78).
  98. "…so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people… will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord."? Perhaps we should addend the words "but not always reliably"? When I suggested this before you objected. In an Email of 11 Feb. I suggested that "Look to the prophet has addended "but not too closely"."
  99. To which you replied: "Certainly not to those who truly do understand LDS beliefs. In fact, the
    only ones I have *ever* heard echo this sentiment were anti-Mormons, who had a definite agenda to advance. :)" Perhaps you have changed your mind?
  100. "I would remind you that my original question concerned LDS doctrine, not simple and safe policy statements that straddle the Christian centre right of American thinking." Whilst I take the point you appear to be making, i.e. that revelation does not have to be spectacular or peculiar to be revelation, nevertheless this statement falls more into the category of cliché being passed off as insight. It simply illustrates the fact that Mormons are happy to discuss safe generalities and evangelical common ground. Well hurrah! for you. But on the fundamentals that mark out the true Christian faith as you see it your leaders appear to be reticent. Such an example coming from a religion that professes to have received unique and radically reforming intelligence from heaven hardly inspires confidence in the idea of a man who has been up the mountain and spoken with the Almighty. He seems more likely to have consulted his spin-doctors. I do not find fault with the sentiments expressed so much as the appropriateness of the quote in reply to the question. When I quoted a statement that I personally found more germane and with which you found sympathy, i.e. that Mormons worship a different Jesus, for some strange reason you objected.

    Prophets Ain’t What They Used to Be

  101. You paint a wonderful, if mythical, picture of a church growing and developing, achieving maturity, ‘crafted by the Lord’. This development, you say, can be seen throughout the Doctrine and Covenants. I have before me a copy of that book, 1981 edition, and note that the ‘revelations’ contained therein have in common the fact that they purport to be the voice of God, i.e. "Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high…" (D&C 1:1) "A REVELATION of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith Junior…Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church…" (D&C 84:1-2) "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph…" (D&C 132:1) "The Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West:…" (D&C 136:1, Given through Brigham Young).
  102. After this last entry, dated January 14th 1847, the only entries are Section 137, a ‘vision’ dated 1836, and Section 138, a ‘vision’ dated October 3, 1918. It seems, then, that 1847 saw the last church-developing revelation in the Mormon Church. That is a gap of 153 years. Of course you mention the 1979 (sic) revelation on Priesthood and indeed the Doctrine and Covenants contains a ‘Declaration’ to the effect that such a revelation had been received - but no revelation. This is also the case with the infamous 1890 Declaration on polygamy, reversing a so-called eternal principle. A Declaration but no revelation. Where is the revelation in the Mormon Church? Even if we were to be generous and allow that these declarations are revelation we still have 136 revelations from 1830 - 1847 and then 5 from 1847 - 2000. Not a "Thus saith the Lord", not a "Hearken, O ye elders of my church", not a peep from "the voice of him who dwells on high" for 153 years.
  103. How does this record compare with the assurance of modern prophets that: "Since that Momentous day in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth…revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord" (See above)?
  104. Or with your own even more specific insistence that: "The policies and procedures of the Church have evolved quite significantly since the prophet Joseph organized the Church in 1830. Back then, the structure and organization of the Church was in its infancy. It was refined and crafted by the Lord, as the Church grew, by revelation through his living prophets, as can be seen throughout the Doctrine and Covenants."
  105. Where in the Doctrine and Covenants? Have you looked at your own copy recently? Please tell me if I must update my own 1981 edition. Or are you simply holding onto the cherished but supposititious belief that something is there when in reality it patently is not? Of course we are used to hearing ad nauseam vague generalities about "official statements" over the signatures of such and such people, and clichés about "continuing revelation" and open heavens. Can we now have some meaningful specifics please?
  106. No doubt you wish to ascribe to me the basest of motives in asking such questions, perhaps believing me more than capable of answering them myself. But here is a sobering thought. If you were to indulge me for a moment and take my questions at face value, i.e. honest and well intended, and still could not offer me answer chapter and verse, then you have nothing to offer anyone else. What use then being "a life-long Mormon and returned missionary,…one who HAS taught LDS doctrine for many, many years"?

    Through a Glass Darkly?

  107. You disagreed with my own understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:9 and have every right to do so, of course. But do you have to be so malicious and abrasive about it? Did your folks never teach you manners? You don’t even try do you? You have dismissed me and therefore treat me with the contempt that so easily accompanies your discourse. I understand the text this way because that is my understanding of the text, not because I am "desperate" or trying to "side-step" the issue. Furthermore, I have not made up this interpretation out of some desperate need to parry your thoughts. You flatter yourself. Nor am I the only one to think that this is a reasonable understanding of the passage. Nor, indeed, am I unprepared to stand correction. Now there is a statement that I feel cannot be applied to my correspondent.
  108. You ask me for a reason for my thinking (you didn’t put it quite so politely, of course) and I will give it. If you have a different understanding I am glad to know it and would be pleased to study and ponder it.
  109. I understood your use of the passage in the context of our discussion to be an ‘explanation’ for the increasingly vague nature of Mormon leadership (I know you do not see it that way but I and many others do). I referred to revelation becoming adumbration and believe that I have given examples enough to at least give pause for thought. I have pointed out that, from the time of the missionary discussions onwards every church member is promised a degree of insight, knowledge, leading etc. that, it is claimed, cannot be found in other churches. Indeed I believe that I have demonstrated that Mormons are invited to believe that the church is led unerringly and on a daily basis by men who have direct contact with the throne of God. This is the promise of Mormonism.
  110. To use 1 Cor.13:9 to excuse the vague and explain the adumbrated is, then, not an option, since vagueness and adumbration are not part of the package offered by Mormonism. By using the text as you do you suggest that they are and that this is normal. If this be the case why does Mormonism devalue the Christian churches, as I have clearly demonstrated it does, for suffering vagueness and confusion rather than Joseph Smith’s "I combat the errors of the ages…I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth diamond-truth; and God is my ‘right hand man’"? The claim surely is that Mormonism offers "truth diamond-truth" and needs no dark glass to explain the existence of less. Or perhaps the gordian knot has been re-tied, the diamond blunted?
  111. Indeed, if your understanding alone of this passage is correct then the Christian church has much to commend it for knowing only in part and having imperfect insight, for such is the nature of Christ’s church "until he comes". Nevertheless I do believe that Paul is not using the idea of a dark glass, (v.12) (a reference to the imperfect nature of mirrors in first century Corinth. Not something you see through but see a reflection in.) to excuse his own, or indeed other’s vague leadership, as your use suggests. Nor do I believe that the ‘knowledge’ referred to is knowledge in general, again your own suggestion. In the context of the subject, i.e. spiritual gifts and the place of every member in the body, he is indeed referring to the temporal and partial nature of gifting, including knowledge, and the correct motive and end of gifting, i.e. love v.v. 1-3. Our seeing, whilst imperfect now, will be clear and complete when we see the author of that love, the Lord Jesus Christ, v12. All else will be gone on that day, prophecy; tongues; knowledge, but remaining will be faith; hope and love, the last being the greatest and reflected in its author whom we shall then see perfectly v.13.
  112. I can see how Mormonism’s emphasis on gaining godhood by a type of learning and growing process might lead you to interpret knowledge in terms of intelligence gained and factual understanding increased, and am familiar with the idea of Mormon temples being "spiritual universities". I do not see in this passage any suggestion that knowledge would be complete in the sense of having attained a level of academic excellence or accumulated intelligence but see, rather, the idea of fulfilment and maturity in character and nature, Christ-likeness, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known". "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known [partial knowledge?]. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2, The illustration of the mirror and its meaning is, I believe, brought out well here, i.e. Christ reflected in us and we in him).
  113. I would emphasise here that I am not suggesting that the Mormon view of knowledge precludes character traits but simply that my own understanding (though not by any means mine alone) of knowledge as used in this passage transcends the mundane of academia and achieves the mystical that is more characteristic of Christian ambition and calling.
  114. Finally, I am sure my own answers will prove incomplete and I apologise beforehand for that. I confess that I have struggled to untangle the discussion from the invective in order to deal with the former and ignore as best I can the latter. I do wish, however, that we could raise the tone of this discussion a little, and invite you to exercise a little more of that charity that characterises 1 Corinthians 13. Forgive me when I appear to have failed in this regard.
  115. You see, Mr Barksdale, I have no doubt in my mind that your beliefs are genuinely and earnestly held. I do not for a moment wish to ascribe to you, as you and your fellows at SHIELDS so readily and easily do to me, base motives and mischievous intent. I simply challenge you to look beyond the clichés of Mormonism, restored gospel; open heavens; continuing revelation; corrupt Christianity; wicked protagonists; evil Reachout Trust, and address the questions that I put in all sincerity and with the best of intentions. If you cannot bring yourself to believe in my simple good faith then I can do no more than pity you the cynicism you seem to have inherited along with the system of beliefs you so earnestly embrace.
  116. Is it not paradoxical that, should you come to my door as a missionary, you would wish to persuade me to look outside my own belief system and consider what you regard as a more viable alternative, challenge me to look beyond the ‘clichés’ of Trinity; Reformation; complete scripture etc. and yet when I bring you a similar challenge you not only refuse out of hand but positively bristle and fume, scold and rate, accuse and belittle. I am sorry that I seem to be so provoking. I welcome your comments and appreciate the differences between us but regret that worthy discussion appears to be so alien to these exchanges. Sincerely, M Thomas

As of yet Mr. Barksdale has not answered Mike Thomas.

The Reachout Story
is a short biographical piece on the Reachout Trust.

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