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DISCERNING THE MORMON CHURCH
OBTAINING GOD'S WISDOM
By Cal Fullerton, July 22, 2011
I’ve got the answers, says the Lord.
You don’t have to look anywhere else.
I’ve got ‘em all!
This post answers the question, “What’s the biblical way to determine if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a Christian organization?”
Christian leaders give differing answers. If you're going to judge the LDS Church you'll want to do your own search.
God is the ultimate source of all wisdom, so we want to use the discernment he has given us through our faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our human nature apart from Christ is judgmental. It tends to judge way too quickly. It also tends to be controlled by unfounded fears rather than faith in the Lord’s guidance.
This article expands on those truths and others. Our Father’s advice will help us in every area of life to walk in the eternal blessings he has purchased for us through the death and resurrection of our Liberator, Jesus Christ.
Consequences for making false condemnations
When we judge the LDS we need to make sure we are correct because if we aren’t, unpleasant consequences will follow.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.
The Bible says God hates the lies of a false witness:
Proverbs 6:16, 19 Rash accusations belong in Satan’s kingdom. He loves to accuse, and his people are generally characterized by their habit of making speculative accusations:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: . . . a false witness who pours out lies.
Proverbs 12:6 LB
The wicked accuse; the godly defend.
Slander is a major sin. If anyone has ever lied about you in a way that harmed your reputation, you know how it can hurt. It is the ninth of the Ten Commandments:
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
When Christians condemn falsely and claim to represent God, they also violate the Third Commandment:
Deuteronomy 5:11 RSV
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
You can’t get much higher than the Third Commandment! And being a Christian doesn’t exempt you or me from the penalty (unless we repent before the penalty catches up with us, in which case the penalty may be waved). Taking the Lord’s name in vain tends to frighten the Holy Spirit away as well.
The fear of God, if not our love for him, will make us very careful with our words. One excuse Georgia State Trooper Roger W. Betsill, Jr., heard after catching a speeding auto was “I didn’t know you were around.” (i)
God is always around!
Prophet Bob Jones became acquainted with the consequences of being a harsh judge. He said if you’re quick to criticize your brothers, you’ll become
hard on yourself. He said you’ll become a perfectionist, unable to rest in the mercy and grace of God.
I remember becoming acutely aware of my own judgmental attitude years ago when attending an Assembly of God church in Virginia. During one period I kept imagining that members of the congregation were accusing me. It became such a preoccupation that I had difficulty looking into people’s eyes. I kept imagining that they were imagining I had ungodly thoughts and that I was a hypocrite or conceited. A few times I actually wondered if they wished I’d stayed home!
As I prayed about it the Lord showed me the problem wasn’t them—it was me! I was the judgmental one. My own thoughts were boomeranging back to me.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Kenneth E. Hagin told of a time when he had some physical problems that wouldn’t go away after he prayed for healing. After three nights of no results, he asked the Lord if he was doing anything wrong. He heard God speak clearly to his spirit that he had judged another pastor, saying things he shouldn’t have said about him. As soon as he repented, he was healed. (ii)
A judgmental attitude will hinder us from experiencing the blessings Jesus bought for us on the cross. Some people have great difficulty saying anything good about their pastor. “He’s not practical enough.” “She doesn’t quote the Bible enough.” “I almost fell asleep I was so bored. Ha, ha, ha.”
Then they turn their guns on the TV evangelists. “He’s full of fluff. There’s no substance to what he says. What’s he doing on TV, anyway?” One time I responded, “Well, maybe God’s called him to specialize in humor. Sometimes we just need to laugh.”
David J. du Plessis (1905-87) was well-known and greatly used of God in spreading the light of Pentecostalism into fundamental circles. He said that before God could use him as he wanted to, he had to cure him of a judgmental attitude. The Lord told him, “I want you to be a public defender—not a public prosecutor.” (iii)
If we defend God’s people God will defend us. He treats us the way we treat his people:
Matthew 10:40-42 (Jesus speaking)
He who receives you [Jesus’ twelve disciples] receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
On the other side of the same coin, James 2:13 says, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”
If we find out where God’s people are; then receive, help, and defend them; Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, will defend us! I like that. We can declare that the Father’s people are his, and the Father can declare that his people are his because Jesus “speaks to the Father in our defense” (1 John 2:1).
Judging by the Holy Spirit
Does curing ourselves of judgmentalism mean we can’t ever judge? No, the cure is to follow the Spirit of God when we judge.
From A to Z, following the Spirit of the Lord is what the authentic Christian life is all about. All we really know is what the Holy Spirit tells us. Anything else is mere opinion. And we can’t trust our opinions.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8 was spoken to the wicked, and our thoughts are no better than the thoughts of the wicked until they are transformed by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
When we admit that all we know theologically is what God has revealed to us through Christ, we have to admit we don’t know much—which is a great place to be—in a teachable position. When we use our own stinkin’ thinkin’, we’re operating in empty religion, pretending we’re smarter than we are, and misrepresenting our God by taking his name in vain (Deut. 5:11). Not cool.
Oral Roberts wrote, “When the Spirit of God abides in you, you can detect the false teachers. You will know them as liars because the Holy Spirit will reveal them to you.” (iv)
Popular Christian pop artist Rebecca St. James was asked at a concert, “Do Mormons go to heaven?” She said later it caught her off guard, but she sensed the Holy Spirit leading her to say, “Only God can judge a person’s heart.” She said later, “I know that answer didn’t come from me.” (v)
When we judge by the Spirit, we are simply passing on the judgments the Father has already made. That’s what Jesus did:
John 5:30 (Jesus speaking)
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear.
If Jesus couldn’t judge by himself, are we qualified to?
A tenant complained to his landlord, “The people in the apartment upstairs sure are annoying. Last night they stomped and pounded on the floor until midnight.”
“Did they wake you?” the landlord asked.
“How do you know they were stomping and pounding?”
Some people complain about the Mormon Church when the Church isn’t doing them any harm!
It has been said by various Christian leaders including Billy Graham that if the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the earth today, ninety percent of the church’s activities would continue as though nothing had happened! No wonder false discernment is common.
When we judge by our natural natures instead of by the Spirit of the Lord, we cross a line into the devil’s dead zone. It’s a line we all cross because our Christian walk is like blind people groping around in a house they haven’t yet learned to navigate by touch.
Hearing the Spirit
Tig squeaked his way into my office. The door squeaked. He squeaked. Then the door squeaked again. The door's squeaks got sandwiched between his squeaks (Tig is our cat). I thought, Is it the door or is it Tig?
Satan imitates. This is why we must learn to discern the voice or the inner impressions of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Masses of great books are available on hearing God. I’ll just mention a few basics here.
One way to increase our awareness of our Father’s voice is to get into his presence by reading the Bible and other anointed books. Like tuning in a radio station, the sweet voice of our Lord is clarified by adjusting the knob of our meditation. The normal Christian life involves setting our eyes on the words of God instead of the words of the world. In Joshua 1:8 God told Joshua how to be successful. He said, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night.” Psalms 1:1-3 says, “Blessed and happy are people who meditate day and night on the words of God.”
Faith comes by listening to the words of God (Romans 10:17), and faith is the key that unlocks the realm of revelation for discernment.
Another way to increase our awareness of our Father’s voice is to talk to him a lot—and listen.
Itinerant revivalist John Crowder wrote, “Sadly, studies have shown that American pastors pray an average of 15 minutes a day.”(vii) Pastors! It’s no wonder that even Christian leaders mistakenly condemn other Christian leaders.
Prayer has been a key to the power of God for great men and women of God throughout church history—they daily spent hours in prayer. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), initiator of the Protestant movement, “began each day with three hours of private prayer.” (viii)
Eddie L. Hyatt said the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the First Great Awakening in America (1726-1750), “derived its power from his prayer life. He would spend whole days and weeks in prayer, and it was not unusual for him to spend eighteen hours in prayer prior to preaching a single sermon”! (ix)
Kenneth E. Hagin, often considered the father of the Word of Faith movement, said, “I often pray five or more hours a day.” (x)
If “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 must be in close competition—it says: “Pray continually.” Paul said, “Night and day we pray” (1 Thess. 3:10).
When my personal prayer time is led by the Spirit, I spend a large portion of it thanking and praising the Lord. That is another key to entering the presence of the Spirit where his guidance is clearer—praise, which is a form of prayer in a broad sense.
The times of the day when I commune with the Lord through prayer, and listen for him to talk back, are like safety pads from which God launches me, like a frog hopping from lily pad to lily pad (an attempt at humor).
A third pillar that sets us up to discern correctly is living right. When I quoted Joshua 1:8 above, I didn’t quote it all. Here’s the rest of it:
Joshua 1:8 [emphasis mine]
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Those who gossip frequently, or get caught up in pornography, or are habitually rude, and so on don’t comprehend the principles of God very well. These people are more apt to give credence to ideas that are not from heaven.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart.
One reason we evangelicals in general misjudge the foundation of the Mormon Church is that we're afraid of them. This was the case with me, anyhow. My unfounded fear clouded my discernment. It also caused me to limit my firsthand exposure to Mormonism, which left my distorted image of them undisturbed. I didn’t dare touch the Book of Mormon with a 9-foot pole! While contemplating visiting the Joseph Smith Memorial, the thought came that I might possibly be kidnapped, which I now see in hindsight was utterly ridiculous.
Someone said, “FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real.” Minister Bill Purvis’ wife Debbie was telling of an analyzation someone had done of what we typically stress over. This analyzation found that only 8 percent of what we stress about actually happens. If that’s true, then at least 92 percent of our stress is caused by False Evidence Appearing Real. Baseless fear, which can be a demonic spirit, hinders us from hearing God.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of false teachings to be avoided in the LDS Church. The right kind of caution is in order. Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you” (Matt. 24:4).
So we watch out but we don’t prejudge. The love Jesus put in our hearts overcomes irrational fear.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
It has taken me over twenty years to overcome the unreasonable, unfounded, ungodly fear I had of the Mormon Church, and I still haven’t overcome it all. If we walk in the legitimate, reverential fear of God, unwarranted fear of the unknown will blow away like dry leaves before a wind. Then we can be confident because “a man who walks by day will not stumble” (John 11:9).
Someone said racial prejudice can result from fear. For example, whites may feel a little uneasy around blacks and vice versa, causing us to shy away from each other.
God told the Israelites that fear was among the curses that would come on them if they disobeyed:
I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight.
But that’s not you and me. We are in the Father’s presence through faith in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who died to set us free. A windblown leaf does not make us run away, and we have boldness to venture into strange places. “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). We knock over demonic lies in Jesus’ name as if they were animal balloons. We can know by revelation whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is founded on the real Jesus.
(i) Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, Sylvia Wallace, The Book of Lists 2 (New York: Bantam, 1981), 495, cited in Rusty Wright and Linda Raney Wright, 500 Clean Jokes and Humorous Stories and How to Tell Them (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour 1985), 88.
(ii) Kenneth E. Hagin, Three Big Words (Tulsa: Faith Library, 1983), 24-26.
(iii) David du Plessis, A Man Called Mr. Pentecost, as told to Bob Slosser (Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1977), 163.
(iv) Oral Roberts, The New Testament Comes Alive, Vol. 3, Hebrews-Revelation (Nashville: Parthenon, 1984), 75.
(v) Lindy Warren, “A Saint At Age 21,” Charisma, Apr. 1999, 46.
(vi) Adapted from Dixie Yarns; in Readers’s Digest, Jan. 1982, 83, a; cited in Rusty Wright and Linda Raney Wright, 500 Clean Jokes and Humorous Stories and How to Tell Them (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour 1985), 31.
(vii) John Crowder, Miracle Workers, Reformers, and The New Mystics (Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image, 2006), 223.
(viii) Mike Fearon, Martin Luther (Bloomington, Minn.: Bethany House, 1986), 156.
(ix) Eddie L. Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity (Lake Mary, Fla.: Charisma House, 2002), 109.
(x) Kenneth E. Hagin, New Thresholds of Faith (Tulsa: Faith Library, 1972), 61.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Cal Fullerton. Permission is granted and you are encouraged to send the above article to your own email lists and post it on your own websites.
All Scripture quotations above, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE,
NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.