Thinking Out Loud

March 2, 2017

Christians Should Study Mormonism

A reader wrote asking if I’d ever reviewed any books by Denver Snuffer. I get requests to review self-published books all the time, but this time I found the name intriguing and next thing, I was reading a number of articles on his blog. He’s written a number of books, and has an additional website commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. According to my contact, “He was raised baptist and is now an excommunicated Mormon.  He’s a lawyer who is qualified to practice in the Supreme Court.” But it was this article below, which I thought readers here might find interesting.

 

Christians Should Study Mormonism

by Denver Snuffer

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

mormon-article-3-2Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;… From this time they almost totally ceased;… The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens…. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left. Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.


Go Deeper: In a more recent article Denver Snuffer draws a parallel between the time of Irenaeus and the doctrinal path of Mormonism. Check out Christian Apostasy.

August 31, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Due to an unfortunate accident last week, we have to remind readers: DO NOT PET THE WEDNESDAY LIST LYNX

Starting off this week with something a little un-characteristic for this blog…

  • From Drew Marshall’s Facebook page:  “Saw this somewhere: ‘For all you single ladies who are in such a hurry to find someone, here’s a quick piece of biblical advice: Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz. While waiting on YOUR Boaz, don’t settle for ANY of his relatives: Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az or Married-az….. and especially his 3rd Cousin Beatinyo-az !!!!’ “
  • Okay, that was a strange way to start the link list, but it was actually an excellent lead in to a piece by Donald Miller who doesn’t waste words but just asks, “Ladies, Why Do You Hook Up?”  Closing in on 400 responses.
  • CNN’s tech page reports on a Bible-based video game, El Shaddai, except that the Bible-book it’s based on is The Book of Enoch, not exactly part of the core canon of scripture.
  • Now that we’ve hooked you in with superficial story links, let’s aim for some substance with Confessions of a Former Worship Leader.  Yeah, I know, even that one starts with “confessions.”
  • “Are you busy but not intentional? Do you feel like you are just spinning your wheels and not getting any traction? Does there seem to be a lack of any kind of momentum in your organization? Could be you are dealing with way too much “sideways energy.” So begins a post at Brad Lomenick’s blog.
  • The Brink — an online magazine for twenty-somethings — interviews the voice behind the currently popular “Blessings” song, Laura Story.
  • A former Mormon thinks that Rachel Held Evans gave a Mormon apologist a free pass with questions that were too easy.
  • 150,000 views isn’t much by YouTube standards, but on GodTube it’s fairly significant. Check out Brazilian child singing sensation, Jotta A. singing Agnus Dei.
  • You didn’t know Eugene Nida, but depending on what Bible translation you use, you’ve been affected by his research and ideas.  Nida pioneered the translation philosophy often referred to as ‘Dynamic Equivalence.’ Nida passed away last week at age 96.
  • Your new word for the day: Biblicism.  It means Biblical Literalism.  Of which one kind is Letterism. (Hey, that’s what Wikipedia says; I think it’s a typo: read the section header that follows its mention.) Even though our family played Balderdash on Monday night, I’m not making these words up. Actually this was sparked by this article at Jesus Creed.
  • Rather than wait for a fan to post a lyrics-only video for his song, The Real World, Owl City did the job himself. Nothing new here, just a musical style that obviously works. More important might be his new website, Reality is a Lovely Place.
  • “God moves at three miles an hour because walking pace is the pace of love. Efficiency, hurry and haste do not effectively communicate love, and so a vision of mission centered around haste cannot be carried out according to the character of our God.” Eddie Arthur quoting Simon Cozens at Kouya Chronicle with a link to Cozens’ full article.
  • The activity known as gleaning — look it up — is alive and well as Kevin Rogers notes in a profile of Forgotten Harvest.  (Does anyone else think “The Activity Known as Gleaning” would be a great name for band?  How about “Forgotten Harvest?”)
  • It’s not a Christian movie in the sense we normally use that term, but on Sunday morning, Pete Wilson was gushing about a forthcoming film, Machine Gun Preacher.
  • Visit Zac Hicks blog for a free download of the song “Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus” from the album Without Our Aid by Zac Hicks and Cherry Creek Worship. (Offer ends Sept. 13/11)  Furthermore, get ‘the story behind the song‘ along with the classic lyrics.
  • Zach quotes Tim Chester in 12 Reasons to Give Up Porn. Heck, any two or three of these oughta be sufficient.
  • If you find you need something today to get angry or frustrated about, you could always read the King James Bible Declaration. Posted at SFL of all places!
  • I actually did read some other things this week that were a little deeper, you can find those over at C201.
  • And now for something completely different. Click the image to find the answers to James West’s Bible Puzzle

June 29, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday list lynx

Christianity Today magazine has found that recent articles on worship resonate with people, and that’s reflected in the first two links this week:

  • People want services to be accessible, but D. H. Williams asks the question, ‘Are there limits to this strategy?’
  • Why did the church embrace the pop/rock style found in today’s modern worship, but not utilize jazz or big band in its day?  Lawrence Mumford looks at the diversity of worship styles.
  • And over at Relevant Magazine — which we’ll return to later here — Adam Wood reminds us that worship involves the participation of both leader and congregant.
  • Ever been stuck in a checkout line where the person in front of you seems to be buying out the whole store?  Pete Wilson was, and he was anxious to get on his way, until he suddenly saw the person ahead of him in a different perspective.
  • I understand a little of where John Shore is coming from.  He’s certainly sympathetic to people who are both gay and professing Christians. [Example]  But does he go too far in one direction?  The blogger known as The Son He Loves thinks so and calls him on it.
  • Castanea, a word meaning ‘Chestnut tree,’ is also the name of a tribal community living together in Chestnut Hill, Tenn, which serves in this USAToday story as an example of what is called The New Monasticism.
  • Dan Kimball writes about Francis Chan‘s Erasing Hell with words like these: “It comes from a heart that is broken about hell. The pages themselves almost weep it is so heartfelt written. I know that sounds kind of corny, but it is true. This is written from a broken heart on the topic and that makes all the difference.”
  • If you’ve got Adobe, here’s the link to the .pdf with the Committee on Bible Translation’s response to the Southern Baptist resolution regarding the updated NIV Bible translation.
  • Also lining up to take a shot at the new NIV — with the accompanying fifteen minutes of fame — is the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  You can read the .pdf containing the CBT’s response to the CBMW. This best addresses the so-called ‘gender issues’ in the new translation, though it won’t satisfy people who already have their minds made up.
  • Discovered a new blog this week for our “If You Want Deep, We’ll Give You Deep” department.  Check out this treatment of the subject of atonement.  (Full title: …Without the Theoretical Nonsense.)
  • With two potential Mormon Republican presidential candidates, not to mention a Broadway play, here’s ten things you may or may not know about the faith of your LDS friends.
  • And speaking of cults, Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like thinks that the proponents of the kind of faith he blogs about are actually a bit of a contradiction.
  • There’s a Christian Game Development Conference.  Who knew?  But never underestimate the popularity of computer gaming.  By the way, for bonus points, visit their site and try to find clues as to where the conference is taking place.
  • Yet another CT piece; this one on how in their zeal to expand, multi-site churches with satellite campuses are now crossing state lines
  • A Pew Forum survey shows that Evangelical leaders are less concerned about Islam and more concerned about creeping secularism.
  • Jon Acuff has four reasons why people ditch church in the summer.  (Reasons not really good enough.)
  • Finally one more from Jon Acuff and his article on Christian satire for Relevant magazine, where we find today’s closing image:

March 30, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here we link again…

  • Topping the link list this week is my other blog, Christianity 201, which celebrates its first anniversary on Friday.
  • As the above picture indicates, The Book of Mormon, the book, is now The Book of Mormon the broadway play.  Even LDS leaders admit that the founding of their religion is a somewhat colorful story. (I think the guy in the forefront was working my street last week…)
  • The book Radical by David Platt was a big seller this summer, with some themes in common with Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Here’s a link to the free download of the preview chapter for the forthcoming sequel, Radical Together.
  • Only six percent of Christian couples pray together?  Pete Wilson lays that statistic out as the basis for a seven day challenge to his congregation.
  • A related item:  Canadian Dave Carrol — a confirmed ‘scrapper’ —  talks about learning the art of ridiculous love.
  • Another Canadian, former Cambridge Vineyard pastor Robert Hall died suddenly in a construction accident on the mission field in Zambia.  He leaves behind three young children and his wife Kate who is the daughter of Canadian broadcaster Jim Cantelon and his wife Kathy.
  • A final Canadian story: Linda Bond was elected — on the first ballot — as head of the Salvation Army International; the fourth time in 150 years that a Canadian has held the post, and the third time the denomination has elected a woman.
  • In light of the latest teapot tempest over ‘that’ book, Rachel Held Evans considers The Future of Evangelicalism.
  • Dean Lusk finds some of those really old Bible translations, like the NLT, in need of an update in this more contemporary paraphrase of Romans 2.
  • The Maccabeats are back.  This time the theme is the Feast of Purim, aka the story of Esther, like you’ve never heard it before.  (Actually we’re about ten days late, Purim was March 20th this year.)
  • And while we’re YouTube linking, Darrell from Stuff Fundies Like explains the fundamentalist aversion to playing cards.
  • At the blog Biblical Preaching, a look at the problem of preaching moralism.
  • With Good Friday and Easter Sunday inching closer, I want to share a site with you that is very useful if you lead worship or prepare the quotations that often appear on-screen during weekend services.  Here’s what Daily Christian Quote offers for Good Friday.
  • Dave at a new blog, Armchair Theology is running a series of Bible misunderstandings under the title, Calling God Fool.  Click to link to the blog and then scroll into the middle of March posts.

July 3, 2010

When Scripture Becomes Conversation

Filed under: apologetics, cults — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am

About ten days ago I walked in a conversation one of my staff members was having with a member of the LDS or Mormon church.   We were quite busy and so I started dealing with her, leaving my staff member to deal with other customers.

She was hoping to find some LDS material from their in-house printing company, Deseret Publishing, and I gently explained why it is that you don’t see those materials in a Christian bookstore.

But once I’d drawn a few lines in the sand, she was comfortable staying as I was comfortable continuing the conversation.

The thing that impressed me was how — without citing chapter or verse — the scriptures of her faith flowed out of her conversationally.   I could tell when she quoting something versus when it was just her talking, though she didn’t make a big deal out of it.   Of course, I don’t know if she was quoting Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price, or The Book of Mormon; while conversely, she was impressed that I could name those books off the top of my head.

I don’t know how many quotations our conversation contained.   I was able to spot two or three but there may have been more.    It was natural, effortless.   Biblical quotations flow from me just as easily — either quoted or instantly paraphrased — though I wasn’t trying to match her line for line, as it wasn’t that type of discussion.  But maybe that’s why I recognized what was going on at her end.

She remained convinced that I would be won over if I would simply sit down and read The Book of Mormon, though she failed several times to truly hear me when I said that I do, in fact, actually own one and have read large sections of it.

I’m reminded again of two quotations:

Of all the major religions in the world, Christians are least acquainted with their own scriptures.

And this one:

A faith community that does not impart its sacred writings to its young people is one generation away from extinction.

Sorry, I don’t have the sources on those at hand.  But obviously, either my LDS friend, or whoever has been mentoring her, gets it.

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