Review of:by Tad R. Callister
The Blueprint of Christ's Church
Reviewed by Richard Packham for the Association for Mormon Letters
Among the thirteen Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (authored by the founder of the church, Joseph Smith, Jr.), number six states: "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."
That fundamental statement expresses one of the fundamental beliefs of the Saints ("Mormons" or "LDS"), namely, that the Mormon church is a restoration (and the ONLY valid restoration) of the original church of Jesus' day. The main purpose of the volume under review is to demonstrate the validity of that belief.
The author is a former member of one of the top groups of leaders in the LDS church, having served in the Second Quorum of Seventies and later as head of the church-wide Sunday school system. His career outside his church duties was in the practice of tax law. The book under review is based on sermons and presentations given by the author, available on the church website lds.org. A brief version has also been used in pamphlet form as a missionary tool.
The "blueprint" of the title refers to the fundamental analogy with which the author begins his book. He describes how his family built a home, beginning with a blueprint. A sound structure must start with a blueprint. The plans were occasionally modified during construction, of course, to improve the final result. But the blueprint was the guide. Now, if God wanted to construct his church, would he not also have a blueprint? And where could one find that blueprint? In the structure of the church described in the New Testament, God's (only true) church.
This idea is not a new one, neither among Christians (mostly Protestants or Evangelicals), nor among Mormons. The Protestant Reformation took a similar approach, "reforming" the church to resemble the New Testament church more closely, and later a number of Christian groups (especially popular in Joseph Smith's day) were called "Restorationists," believing that "reforming" the current (predominantly Roman Catholic) church was not enough. The original church had to be "restored." Among Mormons the best-known formulation to date of the search for the "blueprint" of the original church was perhaps Floyd Weston's "17 Points of the True Church," which has been for many years a popular and handy missionary tool.
The characteristics (the "blueprint") of the original church, as presented by Callister in Chapter 1, are:
- Apostles and prophets as the Foundation (Acts 1:22-26, Eph 4:13-14)
- Other officers: seventies, bishops, elders, deacons, evangelists, pastors (Luke 10:1, 1 Tim 3, Tit 1:7, Acts 14:23, Tit 1:5, etc.)
- Officers are chosen from the rank and file - they do not apply for the position (John 15:16)
- After being chosen, officers are given the power of the priesthood (Matt 10:1, Mark 13:34)
- The church is named after Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:12-13)
- The church teaches that the Father and the Son are two separate beings (Luke 22:42, Mark 15:34, and others)
- God the Father has a body (Luke 24:37, 39-40, Heb 1:3)
- The gospel is preached to the dead (1 Pet 4:6)
- Heaven has three levels (1 Cor 15:41, 2 Cor 12:2)
- Marriage is eternal, does not end at death (1 Pet 3:7)
- No infant baptism, only infant blessing (Matt 19:15, Mark 10:16
- Baptism essential for salvation (John 3:5, Acts 2:38)
- Baptism is by immersion (Matt 3:16)
- Proxy baptism for the dead (1 Cor 15:29)
- Holy Ghost must be conferred, not automatic (Acts 8:15-17, 19:5-6)
- Members are healthy (1 Cor 3:16-17)
- Members are moral sexually: no adultery, no fornication ( Titus 2:5, Phil 4:8, 2 Pet 1:3,5, Matt 5:28)
- Church is family-centered (Mark 10:6-9, 1 Tim 3:4, Eph 6:1-2)
- Church manifests miracles and gifts of the spirit (Heb 2:4)
- Angels and visions are frequent (many examples)
- Church is a missionary church (Matt 28:19)
- Leaders and members receive revelation (Amos 3:7, 2 Cor 12:1)
The implication is that if an organization has the same structure it is, in effect, the same as the original. This does not follow. If I build a house using the blueprint for the Callister house, it will not, however true to the blueprint, be the Callister house. Or ask yourself: "What are the characteristics of the 'true' government of the United States?" You can list them: three separate branches, two houses in the legislature, checks and balances between the three branches, etc., etc. Does that mean that any government which shows all those characteristics is therefore the "true government of the United States"? Of course not.
The premise is: "If a church has the same characteristics of the early church (on this list), it is the true church. The Mormon church has them, therefore it is the true church." That is a fallacious use of the premise. This logical fallacy is usually called "affirming the consequent," and it makes the argument invalid. The premise can only be used to recognize a FALSE church, not the true church:
If a church is the true church, it will have these characteristics;Examples of the fallacy of "affirming the consequent" are available in any Logic 101 course. Here is one:
Church X does not have these characteristics;
Therefore Church X is not the true church,
If you have appendicitis, you will have abdominal pain (the first clause is the "antecedent," the second the "consequent").Another problem with such lists as presented here, or in Weston's "17 Points of the True Church" (which are quite different from Callister's) is that they are very carefully constructed to include only those characteristics that favor the organization being argued for as "the true church." It is another fallacy, called "no true Scotsman," which consists of setting up a definition which only has one outcome, but which is not a valid definition or the only possible one. If one searches the New Testament for the characteristics of the church of the original apostles (there is considerable debate among scholars as to whether Jesus himself actually set up a church), one could construct a completely different list, different from both Callister's and Weston's:
You have abdominal pain. (The consequent is affirmed, ...)
Therefore you have appendicitis (...leading to an unreliable conclusion - you may simply have overeaten).
Teachings and practices of the True Church:
- There will be no physical, visible coming of the Kingdom of God (John 18:36, Luke 17:21).The author lists none of these descriptions of Christ's church or Christ's people, and yet they are from the same source, the Bible.
- The celebration of the Lord's supper includes bread, wine (Matt 26:26-29) and the washing of each others' feet (John 13:4-15).
- Marriage and divorce are frowned upon (1 Cor 7, Matt 19:9, Mark 10:2-12).
- The Jewish Temple ritual will be observed (Acts 2:46).
- The Church takes priority over family (Luke 14:26, 12:51-53, Matt 10:21).
- Women must cover the head while praying (1 Cor 11:5-10).
- Eunuchs will have special respect in the Church (Matt 19:12).
- Only two commandments: Love God and love thy neighbor (Matt 22:36-40).
Members of the True Church can be recognized by the following (the "fruits"):
- They hold all things in common ownership (Acts 2:44-45).
- They do not sin (1 John 3:6-9).
- They can drink poison without harm (Mark 16:18).
- They do not strike back if you strike them (Matt 5:39).
- If you ask to borrow anything from them, you do not have to return it (Luke 6:30).
-They never have to hire movers or use UPS; they can literally move anything by the power of God (Matt 17:20, 21:21, Mark 11:23).
- They have no retirement plans, savings account, or food supplies stored away (Matt 6:25-34).
- They have no possessions (Matt 19:16-21, Mark 16:21, Luke 18:22).
- They never pray in public (Matt 6:5-8).
- They are like sheep or children (Matt 19:14, 18:3-4, Mark 10:15, John 10:2-27, Heb 13:20).
- They do not go to a doctor when ill, but heal each other with prayer (James 5:13-15, Mark 16:18).
- Their children are not rebellious; they kill them if they are (Matt 15:3-9).
- They do not die (John 8:51, 11:25-26).
Nor does the author deal with some of the striking differences between the present LDS church and the church described in the New Testament. A few examples:
In the NT the only references to "priests" and "high priests" are to the Levitical priests of the Jewish temple, not officers of the Christian church. The NT does not mention the church as having an "Aaronic" or a "Melchizedek" priesthood, but the LDS church has both. There is no NT passage that mentions anything like a "First Presidency" apart from the apostles, but the LDS church has such an office, higher than the apostles. The LDS church holds that its apostles are prophets and its prophets are apostles. But in the NT church, those were separate (1 Cor 12:28, Acts 13:1). The NT church had no "temples" and the only temple mentioned was the Jerusalem temple, which was where Jewish priests performed the Jewish sacrifices. The original Christians participated there in those Jewish rituals (Acts 2:46) and there is no mention of Christian rituals being performed there. There is no resemblance between that temple and the modern LDS temples, either in ritual or in purpose. The NT church required deacons to be married and have their own household (1 Tim 3:8-13) but Mormon deacons are usually young teenage boys living at home. The NT missionaries of the gospel carried no money or food ("purse or scrip") (Matt 10::9-10, Luke 10:4), but LDS missionaries provide their own support, carry money, buy their own food. More examples could be given.
The author makes some excellent points about some Bible teachings which are generally ignored or repudiated by most Christian denominations. The Bible God clearly is portrayed as having a body, as Mormons believe. And God the Son is clearly intended as apart from the Father in the NT (although that distinction is not so clear in the Book of Mormon itself, especially in the first edition). Baptism for the dead is a puzzle for Christians, but St. Paul acknowledges the practice, and some non-Mormon (and non-Christian) Bible scholars recognize that something called "baptizing the dead" was practiced by some early Christians. And the general Christian aversion to modern prophets and modern revelation seems clearly not supported by scripture.
But even some of the items the author lists as part of the blueprint are troublesome for the claim that the LDS church follows it. The requirement that the church be named after Christ was abandoned by the early Mormon church, which in May 1834 adopted the official name "The Church of the Latter-day Saints" with no mention of Christ. The present name, which includes "Christ," was not adopted until 1838. Does this mean that the church did not follow the blueprint (and was thus in apostasy) for those four years?
The requirement that the true church must teach that God has a body was ignored for many years, during which the Lectures on Faith were included in the church's Doctrine and Covenants (until 1921!), since Lecture Fifth clearly states that God the Father (unlike God the Son) is a "personage of spirit."
The author allows that alterations in the original blueprint can be made by the author of the blueprint. This explains how changes in doctrine and practice have been made by the LDS leaders, through revelation. This seems to be an example of the fallacy of "special pleading," since changes made by Christian church leaders in the early centuries are indications of apostasy, according to the author. The author does not deal with the fact that the actual revelations by which major changes have been made in the LDS church (the abandonment of plural marriage or the lifting of the ban on blacks holding the priesthood) have never been published. The most recent revelation published in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants was received in 1918, almost a century ago. This does not make for strong evidence for "continuing revelation." And when was the most recent visitation by an angel to a Mormon leader (the blueprint calls for them, right?)?
Although the author has a short appendix addressed to non-Mormons, the book is primarily directed to a Mormon readership. This is evident from the fact that the author frequently cites Mormon scriptures and statements by Mormon leaders to support his arguments. Such citations would hold no weight for a non-Mormon reader.
But those Mormon readers will find the book an excellent summary of how they should live in accordance with the Mormon version of the Christian gospel and how they should deal with any doubts or questions. The bulk of the book consists of short chapters which assume that the reader has been convinced that the LDS church is built according to Christ's blueprint. Many are phrased as questions the reader might ask, such as: "What is our ultimate destiny?" "What does it mean to endure to the end?" "Why do I need the Book of Mormon if I already have the Bible?" The author provides answers to these questions based on standard current LDS teachings.
Although the author's arguments are often weak or even fallacious, this book will undoubtedly be popular among the Saints, and a frequent reference book for the growing number of Mormon missionaries in their proselytizing efforts.
This review, together with a pro-Mormon review by Trevor Holyoak, appears on the AML blog.