----- Original Message ----- From: "Tanner J Halverson" Subject: I Am A Mormon
Good Afternoon, I wondered onto your website, and read your article about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. I have to say it was most impressive. Russ Wise, the author really has done his homework into the LDS church. I appreciate what you said, and I can understand by reading your article why one would think the LDS church is so far off the beaten track. I am not here to bash, or to curse you to Hell for saying mean things against my church, for you can say the same thing about the LDS church ragging on other "Abominable" churches (As our church leaders have said). I will be the first to agree, our church leaders have and will continue to exclaim that The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints is the ONLY true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. I do not want to take too much of your time, I want to ask you a few questions. I am very curious on your answer. I believe these are worth while questions, I hope you take them not lightly.
1 - Who is to say that Christianity is the real source of Salvation. Example, if you take the whole human population on earth today (Approx. 6 Billion or so people) around 20% of the Human race is "Christians" made up of all Baptist, Catholics, Methodist, so on and so forth. China itself has over 1 Billion population, and they are all Muslims. Muslims, Hindu, and Islam have more population of members then Christians do here on earth. Who is to say Christians is the way, and not Muslims? Of course if you ask a faithful Christian, they will say Muslims, Hindu, and those far off eastern religions are wrong, and only Christians are correct. When I mean "Correct" I mean the way to be "saved" or live with God again. However, if you turn the tables, and ask a Muslim or a Jew if they are correct, they will say, "Yes, it is only through Muslim, or Hindu, or Jewish traditions that will allow some one to be 'saved'" Is this making sense? Bottom line, who has the authority to say Christians are right, Muslims are wrong? We know we cannot be saved in the Kingdom of God unless we believe in Christ, according to Christianity. On the other hand Muslims believe if you confess Allah to be God, you will be "saved" it can't go both ways, I hope you understand that. Muslims and Christians will not be put in the same place in Heaven for believing 2 different ideas. Who is to say there is a Heaven? According to Christianity there is one, but there is a religion that believes no Heaven, but you are reincarnated over and over. Who here on earth has the power and Authority to say what is really what? Christians say the Bible is our Authority, I believe that, but Muslims don't. They think the Kahran is the correct Authority. To much confusion in "World Religions" That is my first question - who has the Authority?
2 - You and I will agree, and for sake of argument, the Christianity have the True source of Salvation, through the Holy Bible. Within the Christianity world, there are hundred if not thousands of different Christian church that believe all differently. Example, Catholics believe in "Hail Marys" and Baptism by sprinkling children. 7th Day Adventist believe when you die you in the grave until the resurrected, there is no "Spirit waiting place". Evangelical free churches believe you do not have to be baptized to be saved in heaven. I over heard a lady that stated "God is neither man or woman" Here we have a lady that goes to a church that believes God is not a man or a woman, she is probably one of those Flaming feminist Wackos. Anyway. In North Carolina, where I served my Mission for the LDS church, we visited an investigator that his church believed that God was Black. I can keep going on and on. Here is my point. So many hundreds of churches claiming to have the truth, but all differ, and yet they use the EXACT same BIBLE. Something is definitely wrong with this picture. I do not believe God had intended to have his children here on earth Believing that He was Black, or not a man or woman, having no baptism to be saved, when it clearly states you have to be baptized in the Bible to enter His presence. Many, many contradictions when you go "Church Hopping" around the area. So my question, which Christian religion has the whole truth? One has to have it, just because each church believes so differently. "God is not a God of Confusion, but of light" That is straight from the Word of God, but us "Christians" can't agree. Something is wrong. What is you opinion? Thank you for your time. I am anxious to hear from you with a logical answer, I don't want "Just because" answer, I want to know where you get your Authority from, when everybody else gets it from the same source (The bible) but yet, believe so differently. Thanks. TJ PS - Don't judge something you don't understand. This judgement will haunt you to your utter destruction
From: "Russ Wise" <email@example.com> on 03/22/2002 02:20 PM Dear Tanner, I appreciate your inquiry. Thank you for being open to other possibilities regarding how God might make Himself known in the world. I am in the process of answering another email that has eternal consequences for the sender. Allow me to get back to you next week if I may. Since you brought up the issues of 'reincarnation and Islam' I am sending you two attachments to read over the weekend. Call it homework if you'd like! Anyway, I thought they might have some interest for you. Blessings on you and may God reveal Himself to you in a glorious way.
Russ Wise - with Christian Information Ministries
Tanner wrote: Russ, Thank you for responding so quickly to me email. I will wait most anxiously for your reply next week. I will take your advice and take home these 2 attachments with me over the weekend. I apologize, I do not want to be mistaken, I am personally not interested in reincarnation or Islam, I brought those examples up, to show difference in everybody's personal believe. However, I will read these notes and learn a little more about Islam, for my understanding of Islam and reincarnation is not all that great. Thanks again. TJ
Russ wrote: Dear Tanner, Thank you for permitting me to get back to you regarding your request. Once you have an opportunity to read the attached letter I would like to hear from you. I pray that God will give you understanding as you seek Him. Russ Wise with Christian Information Ministries
Informing, teaching, and equipping the body of Christ
March 27, 2002
Thank you for your inquiry. I appreciate your desire not to “bash” me or to “curse” me. However, many do as a result of the positions I take regarding a number of issues – Mormonism being one of them. I appreciate the fact that you are interested in a dialogue concerning your faith and Christianity. Note that I said - your faith and Christianity. I did not, nor do I, assume that Mormonism and Christianity are one and the same. I suspect you picked that idea up from my earlier writing which you referenced.
Before I begin my discussion of your questions let me ask you for clarification of a couple of earlier statements you made in your email.
First, you made the comment: I will be the first to agree, our Church leaders have and will continue to exclaim that The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints is the ONLY true living church upon the face of the whole earth. I sensed that you may not be in full agreement with their position. Perhaps you are! Then again I may be reading too much into your comment. I would appreciate a clarification.
Second, at the end of your second page you made the following statement: Who here on Earth has the power and Authority to say what is really what? Christians say the Bible is our authority, I believe that, but Muslims don’t. My question for you would be, Is the Bible truly your authority? Or do you also accept the Book of Mormon as well? If so, then you have a dilemma, because, as a rule, the Bible does not agree with the Book of Mormon on points of theology. The only places that I would be in agreement would be those portions where Joseph Smith included major portions of Scripture (the Bible) into his text.
If you are still with me, let me make an attempt to answer your questions. Your first question is centered on the idea of whether Christianity is the true source of salvation. Can we know for sure – beyond doubt? I believe it is, and I also believe we can know that Christianity is the only true source for an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ – beyond doubt. Your second question (Who is to say Christians is the way, and not Muslims?) is similar, so I will blend the answer into one response.
You are indeed correct in that there are a multitude of options for one to be “saved” when it comes to religion. The question that we need to ask ourselves is this: Can I know for certain which understanding of salvation is true? Is there evidence for me to consider that offers substantial information regarding the truth claims that will affect my eternal condition? A kindred question is this: Can I have complete faith in the one who makes these truth claims? Another question would be, What is their authority? Can their claim be verified?
Christians have verifiable evidence to support the idea that Jesus is the only source of salvation, whereas others – including Muslims – do not. Let me explain: Hindus accept Krishna as their god and he is believed to be their way to enlightenment (salvation). Muslims accept Muhammad as their prophet and the one who has the final revelation from God regarding the state of mankind and salvation.
Christians, on the other hand, believe that Jesus was both fully human and yet divine. The issue that we need to address is this: Is there any verifiable difference between Jesus and the others? I contend that there is without doubt. Jesus is the only one who claimed deity and was able to justify His claim. Krishna, Muhammad, and all the other founders of their respective religions died and remain in their graves. Jesus, on the other hand, died but He, unlike the others, was resurrected. This one act sets Jesus apart from all other individuals who would claim to be man’s avenue for salvation. Jesus, through His resurrection, gave authentication to His claims. Jesus alone overcame death. The others, quite simply, could not pass the test!
What were Jesus’ claims? He not only claimed to be God, but He claimed to have bodily resurrected. First, let us look at His claim to deity. In John we read that, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” And what was the response, they picked up stones to stone Him because He made Himself to be God by saying He was the I AM -a claim to deity. John 10:25-33 gives us another indication that Jesus considered Himself to be one with the Father. Again, the response was to stone Him for saying that He and the Father were one. The Jews took up stones, not because of His “good works” but for blasphemy nBecause You, being a Man, make Yourself God. In Hebrews 1:8-13 we find where the Father gives legitimacy to Jesus as God. He says, Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever.
Jesus also accepted worship. If He were not God, but merely a man He would have been condemned. In Matthew 8:2 we read where a leper worshipped Him. Jesus did not correct the man and deny him. He accepted the leper’s worship – as God. John 9:35-39 likewise offers us another example of Jesus accepting the worship of a (formerly) blind man.
The Old Testament prophesied His coming. Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.1 Krishna and Muhammad along with all the other founders of religion fail the test.
Christianity in reality is not a religion as much as it is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is not a listing of Laws that one must obey to be acceptable to God. It is a relationship that is based on God reaching out to mankind through His Son – Jesus. Therefore, salvation is not determined by what I do, but what He did for me. In other words, Christianity is centered on what God did for us, not what we attempt to do for Him.
Your second question is perhaps the most important. Who is the final Authority? This question is partially answered in the discussion above. However, it is of most importance to recognize that Jesus is not only divine and therefore trustworthy as our God and Messiah, but also that His Word – the Bible, is equally trustworthy.
Our final authority is the Scripture: the Old and New Testaments alone. As Christians, we believe that no other text contains the authority that the two Testaments hold as the Word of God. They alone are inspired. The Qu’ran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Book of Mormon, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or any other text does not have the authenticity of the Holy Bible.2 The Bible, therefore, becomes our standard for truth. The question that begs an answer is this: Can I truly know that the Bible is the Word of God? Or is it simply one choice among many?
As Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, so our understanding of Jesus stands or falls on the reliability of the Bible. They are inter-twined. One is dependent on the other for authentication.
We can have faith in the Bible as our source for truth. We can likewise know that the Bible is God’s undeniable Word for us. The Bible is our guidebook for how to live a fruitful life for God. The Bible, unlike other religious texts, has archeological authenticity.
The greatest reservation that many have regarding the Bible is that it is said to have so many different translations and subsequent interpretations. Varying translations are of man’s creation, not God’s. Man has unwittingly imposed his own interpretation and conclusions on Scripture without adequate understanding of the Hebrew and Greek texts. Because modern man decides to impose a gender-neutral translation on the public or to speak of God as female or worse yet, an “it”, does not invalidate the original. When in doubt, look at the documentary evidence – the first century writings rather than the layered interpretations of finite men. When we attempt to interpret Scripture we must apply the internal evidence test. That is, we use Scripture to shed light on itself rather than using external sources – like our personal understanding or opinion.
As mentioned above, the Bible stands apart from all other texts in that it alone has archeological authentication. The Book of Mormon cannot claim such. Yes, I know the L. D. S. answer to the query, but it does not satisfy. If their pre-supposition is true, then why did God not take the other Testaments to the heavenlies as well? Personally, I’m not willing to stake my eternal security on the church’s (L. D. S.) weak belief. I am willing, however, to stake my security on the Bible and its verifiability. In short, I need more than the church saying, just trust me or just because!
I am going to forgo a lengthy discussion of biblical archeology at this time. There is overwhelming evidence elsewhere. See my endnotes for further reading and evidentiary material. Allow me to close with this final thought. When we seek a viable faith system to put our faith, we first need to ask ourselves several questions.
One, does the belief system have continuity? Does it contradict itself on any level? As an example: Is God believed to be a single deity or is He a multiple deity. Mormon apologist, Bruce McConkie in his revered text, Mormon Doctrine, makes this statement, “Three Separate Personages – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – comprise the Godhead. As each of these persons is a God, it is evident, from this standpoint alone, that a plurality of Gods exists. To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these three are the only Gods we worship. But in addition there is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods (p. 576-577).” However, when we look at the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following, “And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship (20:19). Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end ().”
Two, does the belief system have correspondence? Does it correspond with known evidence? As an example: How well does it match with, say, known archeological information? When archeologists conduct digs around the Middle East they often use the Bible to enhance their understanding. They do not use the Book of Mormon. The Smithsonian Institution released a document in the Summer of 1979 stating that they have never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a specific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book (letter on file). This letter was released as a result of Mormon missionaries telling prospective converts that the Book of Mormon was in agreement with archeology and the Smithsonian Institution used it as a matter of course.
Three, Does the belief system have comprehensiveness? In other words, does it adequately answer all questions? As an example: If it can be proved that Jesus was merely a man and never resurrected from the grave then it would have devastating consequences for Christianity. To put it another way, can the belief system be falsifiable? If Jesus were not resurrected from the dead then Christianity would be false. It would not be uniquely different from any other religion where they had a dead prophet or founder to serve. It would be just another false belief system.
However, when it comes to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price we find a number of opportunities to question their veracity. As an example: When we consider the Pearl of Great Price we discover that the Book of Abraham is highly questionable and it does not correspond with known evidence. In essence, it does not have any verifiability with what is known. The reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics that is believed to be the Book of Abraham is in reality, The Egyptian Book of the Dead – a funerary text. It does not mention Abraham at all. The eleven papyrus fragments that Joseph Smith discovered were actually three different funerary writings. One was for a deceased woman by the name of Ta-Shere-Min. Another was for another female named Amon-Re-Neferinub. The third was a Book of Breathings, also known as Sen Sen because of the repetition of this word throughout the text.
A Mormon Egyptologist by the name of Dee Jay Nelson was given the task of interpreting the papyri for the Mormon Church. Upon finishing his work he came to the conclusion that the fragments believed to be the Book of Abraham were indeed Egyptian funerary texts and was fraudulent. As a result, the Mormon Church excommunicated Nelson and his family in 1975. He, Nelson, had previously written the First Presidency to give his findings regarding the papyri and to subsequently resign from the Mormon Church because of the fraud the church had perpetrated on the membership for decades (letter on file).
Tanner, as a result of the above material and volumes more I have in my research files, I cannot in good faith remotely consider the Mormon Church as a source for salvation. I submit the above with humility. My desire is not to “bash” or condemn, but to offer you points of concern that cause me discomfort in relation to a viable belief system: a belief system that best represents the material available to us - whether it would be from archeology, theology, or known history. The Bible passes the test every time. The writings of Joseph Smith fail the test every time.
I encourage you to continue asking the tough questions — but, even more so, to diligently seek out the answers – no matter where they may lead you. I have discovered over the years that those who would deceive us usually have a desire to limit our questioning. They do not want us to discover the truth of their weak and inadequate belief system. However, when it comes to Christianity – questioning is encouraged. Questions give rise to understanding and understanding allows us to recognize the trustworthiness and reliability of our God and Savior as the only source for salvation.
Thank you again for your inquiry. I have spent the time involved responding to you because you need an answer – not another cliché. I pray that Jesus will give you understanding regarding all that I have shared with you.
1.McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 168-192.
2.Ibid., p. 3-116, 333-349.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Tanner D Halverson" To: "Russ Wise" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: "Probe - Info" <email@example.com> Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2003 Subject: I Am A Mormon - A response! (hello again)
Russ, Good morning, my name is TJ. You and I exchanged emails about a year ago concerning the LDS church which I belong. I am here at work cleaning out all of my old emails and came across our emails we wrote. I laugh, thinking I can convert you to mormonism, and you converting me to your beliefs. If I may, I would like to ask you a curious question concerning the destiny of the LDS members. What is your belief concerning LDS church members when they die? You have my permission to boldly speak your mind. Thanks. TJ
Russ wrote: Dear Tanner, I appreciate your getting back to me - was it March of 2002 when I last heard from you! It seems to me that you were composing a letter to me at the time. I am somewhat disappointed that you were not interested in discovering the truth about your faith, even though you appeared to be legitimate in your inquiry. That be as it may, I have responded to your request. You will find it in the attached letter.
Let me encourage you to sincerely discover the Truth! Russ Wise
Informing, teaching, and equipping the body of Christ
I was pleased to hear from you recently! However, I was a bit disappointed in that you seem to have been more interested in winning me to your position regarding Mormonism than you were in gaining an understanding of the truth regarding what you have come to accept as your belief system.
In regards to your inquiry about Mormons and their destiny after this earthly life let me respond this way. I believe that many Mormons will be in heaven (as I understand it). My reasoning is as follows! Mormon missionaries have been successful in converting a large number of Christians to their view — the belief that the Mormon Church and orthodox Christianity (including mainstream Christian denominations as a whole) are the same. A growing number of Christians have accepted that Mormonism is simply another “denomination” which one may join. This being said, these Christians become Mormon under false pretenses. They are Christians, but they have been deceived. They have not lost their salvation. They are simply mistaken! I expect to see them in heaven.
The Mormon Church does not overtly teach heresy. It is more subtle! However, once the new convert seeks the priesthood and enters the Temple he then learns the finer aspects of Mormon theology. Once this happens the new convert is faced with a decision: either to hold to his or her former faith or to accept the new teaching of the Mormon Church. Before the new convert is exposed to Temple teachings he is somewhat ignorant of the heretical teachings of the church—that one can become a God or Goddess, individual exaltation is achieved through works, Lucifer is the brother of Jesus, black skinned people are cursed. However, once he becomes informed he is then held accountable for the veracity of his newly accepted belief. In other words, he is faced with the obligation to turn away from the false teaching or to accept the teaching at face value and subsequently deny his former faith, for his new faith is not compatible with orthodox Christian/biblical doctrine. To put it another way, the individual is responsible for his or her decision regarding spiritual truth. Once we stand before God our argument that someone deceived us will not likely hold water.
If the individual accepts Mormonism, although falsely,as another Christian denomination and is not exposed to the heresy of his new found faith experience, in my view his salvation is intact. However, if he accepts the Mormon Church and all of its teachings including the above mentioned concerns, then he is treading on dangerous ground and subsequently may place his salvation in jeopardy. I would not presume that his salvation is lost. But I would be quick to say that he has placed himself in a spiritual quandary that only God can resolve. Personally, I would not want to be there!
Tanner, allow me to close by making the following comments. You could possibly cause me to consider the potential validity of Mormonism if you are able to offer an adequate answer to the following questions.
1.Why is there no evidence for the Book of Mormon as a historical document? There is not one piece of evidence that would strengthen the Mormon Church’s position. Archeological material does not exist. We have ample evidence for the Old and New Testaments but none for the Book of Mormon. Why is that?
2.Why does Joseph Smith quote heavily from the King James Version of the Bible when he translated the text for the Book of Mormon? It appears that the Book of Mormon is not based on ancient material when Joseph uses misplaced material from a later date and attempts to pass it off as having taken place at an earlier time. Compare the following examples: some will go “into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mosiah 26:27 and Matthew 25:41); but “then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God” (Alma 40:25 and Matthew ). Space does not permit an exhaustive look at the countless pages of other comparisons that could be made. If you are interested I can supply them for you! A thorough study of the comparisons between the Book of Mormon and the Bible will lead to only one conclusion. The Book of Mormon is fabricated from the Old and the New Testaments and the material was taken from a variety of sources regardless of the proper time frame. The serious scholar can only arrive at one conclusion regarding the Book of Mormon, it is an amateurish attempt at nineteenth century fictional writing. For a complete discussion of the above material look at H. Michael Marquardt’s work. It is particularly interesting to note that he discovered these inconsistencies when he began to study more closely his new-found faith in Mormonism as it compared to his prior faith as a Baptist.
3.Why are the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Book of Breathings (aka. Egyptian Book ofthe Dead) similar? In fact, the Book of Abraham does not mention Abraham at all — not on ce, because it is not about Abraham, but about something else entirely. Reference Dr. Hugh Nibley, Improvement Era, Feb. 1968, page 40-B.
4.Why does the Mormon Church use faulty hermeneutics when they interpret Matthew 15:29? If this doctrine is of such great importance, why is it not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture? The conscientious Bible student allows Scripture to lend understanding to itself without introducing frivolous interpretations from an outside source.
5.Why does the Mormon Church teach salvation for the dead when the Bible is explicit in its teaching regarding the subject? See: Hebrews 9:27. Are you willing to gamble that the Mormon Church is correct in its interpretation or are you serious enough to check it out for yourself? I am not willing to wait until it is too late to make the right decision regarding such an eternal question! I hope that you aren’t either!
6.Why is the ritual used in the Temple virtually the same as that in the Masonic Lodge? Yes, I am aware that the church has revised the ritual so it no longer reads verbatim from Masonic sources. But that does not change the deceptive aspect of its use. It is interesting to note that in the 1990 version the penalties for revealing the secrets have been removed from the ceremony. This is of interest since the penalties were considered to be “most sacred”.
7.Why are there several differing accounts of the First Vision of Joseph Smith? Was he mistaken about the circumstances and who appeared to him? If the foundation of the church is to lay on this “truth” then it seems to me that the Mormon would want a firmer foundation for his faith.
Tanner, I have attempted to offer you a concise treatment of my concerns regarding the Mormon faith. There is much more that can be considered for our discussion. However, space does not allow it. I pray that you are indeed sincere in your desire to discover the truth about Christianity. I recognize that as a Mormon you have a great deal to overcome in your quest. Allow me to encourage you to seek the Truth with all of your being! The outcome of your future and your eternal state depends on your doing so.
May God bless you in your study and may His Holy Spirit direct you as you open your spiritual eyes to His Truth.
NOTE: I retained the integrity of our correspondence so you will read it without changes. You will note that Tanner chose to disregard my questions about his faith. He responded by simply asking further questions. Perhaps he will seek the Truth in the future. I trust you will find our interaction helpful and informative.