Sample Dialogues for Challenging Mormons
By Richard Packham
There are several glaring contradictions in Mormonism that might be useful in getting Mormons to think about their beliefs, but we are usually unprepared to bring them up effectively. These examples were originally written as posts on the Exmormon Recovery Board. Click on the link below each dialogue to see comments that were posted there by other ex-Mormons. (Some have had minor editorial changes.)
#1: Baptism wording
The Church Handbook of Instructions (2006 edition) says, about the wording of the baptism ordinance: "The baptism must be repeated if the words are not spoken exactly as given in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73," implying that if any other words are used the baptism is not valid.
The wording in D&C 20:73 is:
" Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
So I ask a Mormon:
Me: Does this mean that if different words are used, even though they mean the same thing, the baptism would not be valid?
Mormon: That's correct.
Me: So, saying "I have been commissioned of Jesus Christ, and..." would not be valid?
Mormon: Correct. The wording must be precisely the same.
Me: If the baptizer were to say, instead, "Having authority given me of Jesus Christ..." it would not be valid?
Mormon: Aren't you listening? The words have to be exactly like D&C 20:73!
Me: Well, the words I just quoted are exactly the words that Jesus told the Nephites to use, in 3 Nephi 11:24-25. So those would not be an effective baptism?
Me: John the Baptist restored the true baptism in the Latter Days, when he visited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, right?
Mormon: Yes, that is correct.
Me: So John the Baptist must have used the correct wording, so that the baptism would be valid?
Mormon: Of course.
Me: So, when he baptized the Savior, did he say, "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ..." or did he say, "Having been commissioned of you..."
Mormon: Whatever he said, it was a valid baptism.
Me: So it really doesn't matter what the exact words are?
Mormon: You are just being argumentative.
Me: I'm searching for the truth. But then was Helam's baptism valid, in the Book of Mormon? Alma didn't use the correct words. He said: ""Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world." (Mosiah 18:11-14)
It sounds to me like Alma's baptism was not effective?
Mormon: You need to repent.
#2: "sun" vs. "son"
"the Sun [or Son?] of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2 vs. 3 Nephi 25:2) The 25th chapter of 3 Nephi is identical to the King James translation of Malachi 4, with two modifications, one very minor, and one that betrays the English origin of the Book of Mormon. Where Malachi says "...ye shall... grow up as calves OF the stall" Nephi says "...ye shall... grow up as calves IN the stall." That is insignificant.
But the other change is where Malachi says "the Sun of righteousness [shall arise]"; Nephi has "the Son of righteousness." Although the two words 'sun' and 'son' sound identical in English, Malachi was writing in Hebrew, and the Hebrew words for 'sun' and 'son' are quite dissimilar, as is the imagery and meaning of the two words. Only in English could such a confusion occur. Since the error makes a considerable difference in the meaning, one must ask why God did not correct the error when the scribe was writing the Prophet's dictation of this passage? (The JST translation of Malachi has "Sun".)
It is interesting to note that an article published in 1822 in Canandaigua, New York, (a few miles from where Joseph Smith lived) makes the same mistake in discussing Malachi 4:2, quoting it as "Son of Righteousness" (cited in David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon (second edition) p. 131).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, in his Mormon Doctrine, article "Son of Righteousness" treats 'son' and 'sun' as having the same meaning. It appears that Mormon theology works only in English.
#3: Name of church 1834-1838
According to the Book of Mormon, the true Church of Christ will have the name of Christ in its official name.
"And how be it my church save it be called in my name?" 3 Nephi 27:8
Me: What does this mean? Does it mean that if a church does not have "Christ" or "Jesus Christ" in its official name, then it is not the true church?
Mormon: Yes, that's what it means. You notice that our church is named the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Me: If it were officially called something else, without "Jesus" or "Christ" in the name, that would mean that it was not the true church?
Mormon: Of course. That's what the Book of Mormon teaches us. That way we can recognize that the Lutheran Church or the Catholic Church or the Methodist Church - since they are not named after Christ, are not His church.
Me: I see that the First Presidency of your church, on May 3, 1834, obtained a vote from a church conference to change the original official name of the church ("Church of Christ") to "The Church of the Latter-day Saints." No mention of Jesus or Christ. Your church had that name until April 26, 1838, a period of almost four years, when it got its present name (D&C 115:3-4). Does that mean that for those four years your church was not the true church?
Mormon: Well, it was still the true church. The church itself had not changed. It was the same church. Only the name was different.
Me: But you agreed with the Book of Mormon, that a church without "Christ" in its name was not the true church. Your church lacked that name for four years.
Mormon: I feel here the spirit of dissension. You need to pray more so that you are not under the influence of the Adversary.
#4: Bible prophecies
Me: As you are an authority on Mormonism, I am certain you are familiar with the Bible passages that are prophecies of Mormonism and the Book of Mormon?
Mormon: Why, yes, I am. I have memorized all of them, since they are powerful confirmations of the Restored Gospel. The "two sticks" prophecy at Ezekiel 37:16; the "fruitful bough by a well" prophecy at Genesis 49:22; the "other sheep" prophecy at John 10:16; the "familiar spirit out of the ground" prophecy at Isaiah 29:4; the prophecy about Professor Anthon and the "sealed book" at Isaiah 29:14... I know them all.
Me: ALL of them?
Mormon: Yes, I know them all and can recite them from memory.
Me: I'll bet you that you have not memorized at least two more Bible prophecies of Mormonism that you have not mentioned.
Mormon: That's not likely. I am not a betting man, but I don't think you can give me a Bible prophecy about Mormonism that I don't know about.
Me: Then you can give me the Bible citation for the prophecy about the incident when Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered in 1832, and the prophecy about the Saints relocating to Utah?
Mormon: Er... I wasn't aware of any such prophecies in the Bible.
Me: But you have maintained that the Bible does prophesy about later events in Mormonism?
Mormon: Of course. We only need the Holy Spirit to see that they are actual prophecies of the events of the Restoration. Where are those two prophecies?
Me: When Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered, one of the mob tried to force a vial of poison into his mouth, and in doing so broke a tooth off, leaving him with a life-long lisp. That was prophesied at Psalm 3:7.
Mormon (opens his quad and reads): "...O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly."
Me: The mob was led by men who suspected Smith of making improper advancements to their sister. It seems that this prophecy is labeling Smith as an enemy of God, ungodly.
Me: And the Saints being forced to move to Utah was prophesied at Jeremiah 17:5-6.
Mormon (reads): "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited."
Me: That certainly is an accurate description of Utah in the 1840s: "...a salt land and not inhabited." That is where Jeremiah said those would end up that "trusteth in man, ... and whose heart departeth from the Lord." It sounds like Brigham Young.
Me: If you have the proper Spirit, you will see that these prophecies are as spot-on as the ones you have memorized.
#5: Languages in the pre-existence
Me: I have a question about the pre-existence and the Great Council in heaven. Did the spirits there speak any Spanish or French?
TBM: No, of course not.
Me: Any Russian or Japanese?
TBM: Don't be silly. Those languages did not exist before the world was created. They are human languages.
Me: I'm quite serious. Perhaps older languages, such as Latin or Greek or Egyptian?
TBM: I'm certain that the language used in the Great Council was not any earthly language.
Me: So if someone claimed to be a prophet, and said he had a vision of the pre-existence, and there were people in his vision who said their names were Enrico and Dimitri and Jaqueline and Hideiki Nakamura, you would not believe him?
TBM: Right. Those are names from modern languages. Those languages came into being only long after the world was created.
Me: Okay. Now I have a question about the Council. Who presented the two plans for consideration?
TBM: One plan was from Jehovah (who later was Jesus) and the other was from Lucifer.
Me: Lucifer? Was that his name?
TBM: Yes. He later was also called Satan.
Me: But how can that be? "Lucifer" is a Latin word, pure Latin, meaning "bearer of light, light-bringer," and you insisted that nobody in the pre-existence spoke Latin or any other earthly language.
TBM: Well.... I'm sure there is an explanation... I know the Church is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet of God...and I love my mommy and daddy and I'm grateful for my dog and my sisters and brothers...
.. See comments
#6: What is doctrine?
Me: You are knowledgeable about church doctrine, about what is doctrine and what is just common belief but not actually doctrine, right?
TBM: I like to think so.
Me: I have a couple of questions then about the doctrine of Christ's church, that is, Christ's doctrine. I know that the basics are faith, repentance and baptism. But what about paying tithing? Is that part of Christ's doctrine?
TBM: Yes, that is in the Doctrine and Covenants. That is part of the doctrine of Christ's church.
Me: Does Christ's doctrine include the sealing together of families for eternity?
TBM: Oh, yes. That is one of the beautiful parts of our Savior's doctrine.
Me: Is the requirement to wear the garment (if you have been endowed) part of Christ's doctrine?
TBM: Yes, to remind us of our covenants.
Me: So the making of covenants is part of Christ's doctrine too?
TBM: Yes, indeed.
Me: So, to summarize, you are saying that the LDS church teaches that Christ's doctrine, in addition to faith, repentance and baptism, includes also paying tithing, sealing families, wearing garments, and making covenants?
TBM: Yes, and there are other parts of the doctrine that you have not asked about.
Me: One more: You believe that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired and contains the word of God?
TBM: Yes. I know that it is truly the word of God.
Me: All of it?
TBM: Every word!
Me: I don't think you believe it all, according to what you have just said. The Book of Mormon quotes Jesus as telling the Nephites that his doctrine consists of faith, repentance and baptism, and that "whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil..." and hell will receive them (3 Nephi 11:31-40, esp. verse 40). So, according to the Book of Mormon, by telling me that tithing, sealing, garments and covenants (and you said there is even more!) are part of Christ's doctrine, you and your church are denying your own scripture, and you "come of evil" and are going to hell.
TBM: Well, I'm sure there is an explanation. I feel an evil spirit here....
#7: Worshiping Jesus
Me: Please tell me whether this is an accurate statement of Mormon doctrine, from the "Encyclopedia of Mormonism": "Latter-day Saints worship and pray to the Father and offer all other sacred performances to him in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ." Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said: "We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost." Is that really Mormon doctrine?
TBM: Yes, we worship God the Father, in the name of the Son.
Me: Another question: I have heard that Mormons believe that Jesus was the "God" referred to in the Old Testament. Is that correct?
TBM: Yes, before he became incarnate, Jesus was called "Jehovah" and was the God of the Old Testament.
Me: It was really Jesus, then, that dictated the Ten Commandments?
TBM: Yes, as Jehovah.
Me: So it was Jesus, then, speaking as Jehovah, who said "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"?
TBM: That's what we believe.
Me: Then aren't you Mormons violating that commandment of Jesus/Jehovah, by worshiping God the Father rather than the being that said "Thou shalt have NO OTHER gods before ME"?
TBM: I know the church is true, I know that Joseph Smith was....
D&C 121:35-37 says that the priesthood can only be used in "righteousness" - that any man who uses his priesthood "in any degree of unrighteousness," such as to "exercise control, dominion or compulsion" over others' souls, loses his priesthood and his authority - "the heavens withdraw."
It would seem that this doctrine (as logical and just as it seems) poses a serious problem for Mormons, in two ways.
Mormons believe that gospel ordinances (baptism, laying on of hands, blessing the sacrament, ordaining others to the priesthood) are not valid unless performed by someone who actually holds the appropriate priesthood authority. If someone performs such an ordinance but doesn't hold the priesthood, the ordinance is not valid.
First, how would anyone know that an elder performing a baptism or ordination has not lost his priesthood because of some previous, generally unknown, attempt to use it unrighteously, to exercise "dominion" over someone? The passage implies that the mere act of using the priesthood authority unrighteously causes it to be lost; no church court or process or announcement is necessary. The "heavens withdraw." God knows that the man has lost his authority, but nobody else necessarily knows. In fact, even Mormons who know of his unrighteous use of the priesthood will probably comment "It's not for us to judge," and "Nobody's perfect; we are all human and make mistakes." But those comments would nullify what D&C 121 actually says, and make it meaningless.
And yet the concept of "authority" is fundamental to Mormonism. If you were baptized by a Methodist minister or a Baptist preacher (who in Mormon eyes have no authority because they don't hold the Mormon priesthood - the only valid priesthood), you simply have not been baptized at all. But how is that different from being baptized by a Mormon elder who has invisibly lost his authority because of using it in "unrighteous dominion"? (I'm recalling the Mormon husband who forced his unwilling wife to have sex every night because he held the priesthood and was an authority over her, for example. That is certainly "unrighteous dominion." Or Joseph Smith's promising Helen Mar Kimball that her parents' salvation would be guaranteed if she would submit to becoming his wife - that certainly is not doctrinal, and would thus constitute using his priesthood authority in "unrighteous dominion.") Is that baptism or ordination valid, from an elder who has lost his priesthood authority?
I have asked this question of Mormons, and their responses are pretty lame.
One Mormon said that the offender retains his authority until officially removed by a church court. But that is not what D&C 121 says. It mentions nothing about any action by church authorities. "The heavens withdraw."
Another Mormon said that the validity of the baptism or ordination depended on the faith and belief of the recipient, not the priesthood holder. If the baptizee BELIEVES that the baptizer has authority, the baptism is valid. Yet that contradicts the entire idea that ordinances are only valid when performed by someone with valid authority. This argument would also validate the baptism by the Methodist minister or the Baptist preacher, since their baptizee obviously believes that the baptizer has the authority to perform a valid baptism.
The second problem is that Mormons HAVE to believe that unrighteousness by priesthood holders causes the loss of authority, since that belief underlies their entire theory that the early church fell into apostasy: Mormons claim that the leaders after the original apostles died were unrighteous, and THEREFORE they lost their authority. And that produced the "great apostasy" and the need for a restoration. And that argument negates the explanations given by Mormons for the loss of authority, since the Christian church can point to a clear line of priesthood authority from Peter to the present day, whether "righteous" or not. And there is no record that those unrighteous early Christian priesthood holders - from whom the present Christian churches trace their authority - were deprived of their priesthood by any valid church court. And clearly all the Christians who have been baptized in the last 2000 years believed that the priest had the authority. So, according to that particular Mormon argument, their baptisms are all valid, right?
Can anyone come up with a better Mormon solution to what appears to be a fundamental problem for Mormonism? Ask your Mormon friends.
#9: Prophecy of Joseph Smith's murder
Me: Can you cite the scriptural prophecy that says Joseph Smith would be murdered?
TBM: You are referring to the Prophet's statement, when he was returning to Nauvoo to face arrest, that he was "going like a lamb to the slaughter."
Me: No, since that prophecy is not scriptural. There is a scripture that prophesied it. Don't you know it? It's in the Doctrine and Covenants.
TBM: Hmm... I can't think of it.
Me: It's D&C 3:4.
TBM: I'm trying to remember what that passage says.
Me: It says: "For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him."
TBM: But that is not a prophecy about Joseph Smith!
Me: I think that it is. It is one of the few prophecies of his that were actually fulfilled. On May 26, 1844, Joseph Smith made the following statement in a public sermon: "Come on, ye persecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! For I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." (History of the Church 6:408-9)
At the time he made this boast, he was secretly married polygamously to over 30 women, some of them wives of men still living. Many who knew of these secret marriages accused him of changing the doctrine of the church to satisfy his own carnal desires, in violation of the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2:23-29, 3:5) and D&C 49:16.
Almost exactly one month after this boast, on June 27, 1844, he was killed by his enemies in a gun battle at Carthage Jail, thus fulfilling the prophecy.
Me: You are quite an expert on Mormon scripture, right?
TBM: (modestly) Well, I like to think I know the scriptures quite well.
Me: The scriptures specify in detail how the sacrament is to be administered. Can you tell me how many passages in the Mormon scriptures are disregarded in the actual performance of that ordinance in today's church?
TBM: Why, none. The church's administration of the sacrament conforms strictly to what God has revealed to his prophets in the scriptures.
Me: I don't think the church conforms to D&C 89:5-6.
TBM: That's the "Word of Wisdom" - of course we follow that.
Me: But that passage says that you should use "wine...of your own make" in administering the sacrament.
TBM: Ah, yes, but D&C 27:2-3 says it doesn't matter what we eat or drink as emblems in the sacrament.
Me: I suppose we could argue over whether Section 89 supercedes Section 27, since 89 was given later. But let's not.
TBM: (triumphantly) So you see we are in complete compliance!
Me: Not quite. Are you aware that when the sacrament is being blessed, the entire congregation is to kneel? That's in D&C 20:76 and also Moroni 4:2.
TBM: Well, all that kneeling would be inconvenient...
Me: Also, the person blessing the wine (or water) is supposed to actually TAKE the cup (that is, hold it in his hand), according to D&C 20:78 and Moroni 5:1.
TBM: You are just quibbling!
Me: But here's one that is no quibble: D&C 20:46-50 says that no priest is to administer the sacrament if an elder is present - the elder is to do it. Having a priest administer the sacrament, as is usual in large wards, is contrary to scripture, since usually there are elders present.
TBM: I'm sure that we are following the guidance that the Brethren receive from Heavenly Father.
Me: It looks like you are violating scripture during every sacrament meeting!
#11: Temple dedications
When the Mormons build a new temple, before it is opened for the performance of Mormonism's most sacred ordinances, it must be "dedicated": a high Mormon official comes to the temple, members holding a certificale of their worthiness (a "temple recommend") fill the temple to attend the ceremony, and the official says a "dedicatory prayer," which sanctifies the building and makes it sufficiently holy that the Spirit of God can enter it comfortably.
Here's the problem:
Usually the dedication ceremonies extend over several days, often four or five. The same ceremony is performed, with the same dedicatory prayer. The purpose, of course, is so that more members can attend the ceremony than if it was done only once. It is a faith-inspiring experience to be able to attend a temple dedication.
But questions arise: if the ceremony is performed on four different days, at what point is the temple truly sanctified?
If the first day's prayer is valid and effective, then the following days' ceremonies are vain repetition. They are meaningless, only for show. Those attending on following days are only watching a re-enactment, like the re-enactment of a historical battle: it's not real. But if the temple is not effectively dedicated until the final day, then the previous days' ceremonies were vain and meaningless. Or does the first day's ceremony consecrate it 25%, with each following day adding to the consecration? The Kirtland temple was dedicated with one prayer. Why does it take more nowadays? To hold multiple ceremonies seems to be an admission by the church that they don't have enough power or authority to do it in one swoop.
It's like a theater production that announces four "opening nights." Once they have opened, there can be no more "opening nights."
So, dear Mormon, tell me: at what point is the temple actually dedicated?
#12: Fasting Rituals
ME: I have a question about your fasting. As a Mormon, you do fast occasionally, I understand. Is that correct?
MORMON: Oh, yes. Fasting is a spiritual experience, and helps us to be receptive to the Spirit.
ME: Is fasting a requirement?
MORMON: We are to fast when we feel the need at any time, but we are also instructed to fast on the first Sunday of each month, called "Fast Sunday," and donate the money we have saved by fasting to the church, to provide for the poor.
ME: Is there any ritual associated with fasting?
MORMON: The scriptures often mention fasting in connection with prayer, and so we customarily pray before the fast and during it, for the Holy Spirit to be with us and to give us the strength to endure the lack of physical nourishment.
ME: Any other ritual requirement?
MORMON: No, there is none.
ME: So Mormon fasting is not Christian?
MORMON: (shocked and surprised) Of course it is Christian! Mormons are Christians, and we fast as Christians!
ME: But according to what you said, you don't follow the directions for fasting as given by Jesus.
MORMON: Of course we do!
ME: Do you anoint your head when you fast?.
ME: Do you ritually wash your face as part of the fast?
MORMON: Well, of course we wash our face anyway, but not as part of the fast.
ME: Open your Book of Mormon and read Christ's instructions to the Nephites, at 3 Nephi 13:17. Jesus said there: "...when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;.."
MORMON: Well... I suppose that was his instructions to the Nephites, who may have needed special instructions. It doesn't apply to us nowadays.
ME: Jesus said the same thing to his followers in Palestine. Open your Bible to Matthew 6:17..
MORMON: (pause) If it were that important, our church leaders would have told us to include that when we fast..
ME: Hmm... it isn't good enough that Jesus himself gave the commandment to his followers?.
MORMON: Well, there are certainly more important things than that, like paying a full tithe, and not drinking coffee, and wearing a white shirt to church....
. ME: You sound more like a Pharisee that Jesus was criticizing than a follower of Christ..
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