Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Becoming Gods/Chapter 10

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 10: The 'Christian' Question"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
Becoming Gods
Chart.becoming.gods.ch10.jpg

Response to claims made in Becoming Gods, "Chapter 10: The 'Christian' Question"

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: 255, 434n15 - LDS leaders spent decades denouncing mainstream Christianity

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

LDS leaders spent decades denouncing mainstream Christianity.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Those who persecuted Latter-day Saints professed to be Christians.


Question: Did Latter-day Saints wish to avoid being classified as Christians?

Early Mormon leaders self-identified as Christians, but condemned Christians who persecuted the Saints as being hypocritical

An argument often used by critics who are attempting to exclude Latter-day Saints from being counted among Christian religions is that the early leaders of the Church "condemned" Christianity. The argument then follows that Latter-day Saints voluntarily separated themselves from being classified as Christian, and should therefore not desire to be included among the family of Christian religions. Among the references critics use to support these assertions are the following:

  • Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:218.
  • Orson Pratt, "Baptism for the Remission of Sins," The Seer, p. 255.
  • Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 2:196.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:73.
  • Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:89-90.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:229.
  • John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 2:25.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:171.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:199.
  • John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 13:225.
  • Andrew Jenson, Collected Discourses 2:150.
  • B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 116.
  • Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 132, 246, 269, 314-315.

Early Latter-day Saint leaders were denouncing hypocrisy, not Christianity

One of the major issues that early LDS leaders had with those that professed to be "Christian" was the fact that they were sometimes foremost among the persecutors of the Saints.

Suppose we now notice that part of the world called Christians, that profess to believe the Old and New Testament, King James's translation. They say they believe this Bible, yet if you are in France, Germany, England, in the United States, in the Canadas, in the islands of the sea, or no matter where among the Christian nations, the moment you make it known that you have embraced the Book of Mormon, and that you believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet, they will at once accuse you of throwing away the Bible, they will publish abroad that you have become a "Latter-day Saint," "a Mormon," and consequently have denied the Bible you formerly believed, and have cast it entirely away. What is the reason of this, which I need not undertake to substantiate, for it is a fact that almost every person knows? Now, we ARE believers in the Bible, and in consequence of our unshaken faith in its precepts, doctrine, and prophecy, may be, attributed "the strangeness of our course," and the unwarrantable conduct of many towards this people. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:237)

We lived in Illinois from 1839 to 1845, by which time they again succeeded in kindling the spirit of persecution against Joseph and the Latter-day Saints. Treason! treason! treason! they cried, calling us murderers, thieves, liars, adulterers, and the worst people on the earth. And this was done by the priests, those pious dispensers of the Christian religion whose charity was supposed to be extended to all men, Christian and heathen; they were joined by drunkards, gamblers, thieves, liars, in crying against the Latter-day Saints. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 19:61)

Brigham's point was that those who persecuted the Saints were not extending the charity that typically characterized Christianity. This was not a condemnation of Christianity in general, but rather a condemnation of those who professed to be Christian but did not practice Christian principles. Brigham was denouncing hypocrites. Likewise, Joseph F. Smith also denounced such hypocrisy:

I felt to thank God that we still possessed our lives and freedom, and that there was at least some prospect of the homeless widow and her family of little ones, helpless as they were, to hide themselves somewhere in the wilderness from those who sought their destruction, even though it should be among the wild, so-called savage, native tribes of the desert, but who have proved themselves more humane and Christlike than the so-called Christian and more civilized persecutors of the Saints. (Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 23:74)

The denunciation of hypocrisy among those who professed to be Christians is not a denunciation of Christianity itself. Latter-day Saints certainly identified themselves as Christians during this period of time.


Response to claim: 256 - The Book of Mormon teaches that there are only two churches: 1) the false church of the devil and 2) the true church of the Lamb

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon teaches that there are only two churches: 1) the false church of the devil and 2) the true church of the Lamb.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. The "great and abominable church" is defined to by anything that takes people away from Christ's church.


Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that the scriptural terms "church of the devil," the "great and abominable church," and the "whore of all the earth" refer to a specific religion?

According to the Book of Mormon, the "great and abominable church" and "whore of all the earth" refers to any organization that opposes the true Church of Jesus Christ

The Church does not teach or endorse the idea that these terms refer to any specific religion or organization. It is clear that in cases where past church authorities have modified this definition through speculation, that the First Presidency has firmly declared those speculations to be in error.

The criticism is based upon references in the Book of Mormon to the "church of the devil," which is referred to as the "whore of all the earth." For example:

And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)

George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church

Although the scriptures do not associate this "church" with a specific organization or religion, several early 19th century church leaders stated their opinions regarding who they considered the "whore of all the earth." For example, George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church:

And to-day, those who are inciting mobs against this people; those who go to Congress, and incite persecutions against us; those who fulminate threats and frame petitions; those who meet together in conventions; those who gather together in conferences, are those who belong to this "mother of abominations," this "whore of all the earth," and it is through the influence of that accursed whore, that they gather together and marshal their forces in every land against the Latter-day Saints, the Church of the living God.[1]

Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government

Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government that failed to help the Saints during their times of persecution:

It is very easy to be seen that the nation that has oppressed us is going down. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith something about the judgments that await the inhabitants of the earth, and he said in the revelations that the judgments should commence at the house of God. I will read to you parts of the revelations which speak of these things....and that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the Prophet....[2]

Orson Pratt claimed that it was the founder of the Catholic Church in a publication that was later repudiated by the Church

Orson Pratt, in his 1853-1854 periodical The Seer, claimed that the founder of the Roman Catholic Church was “the Devil, through the medium of Apostates, who subverted the whole order of God” and that they derived their “authority from the Devil....”[3] The Seer, however, never achieved sufficient circulation to propagate this idea through the general Church membership. In fact, The Seer was disowned by the First Presidency in 1865 for containing "doctrines which we cannot sanction."[4]

Bruce R. McConkie's first edition of Mormon Doctrine associated it with the Catholic Church, before that edition was refuted by the First Presidency

Bruce R. McConkie is credited with promoting the idea within the modern church that the "great and abominable church" was in fact the Roman Catholic Church. The first edition of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, a book which contained sufficient errors that the First Presidency declared that the book was "not approved as an authoritative book"[5] and that it should not be re-published, contained this rather direct statement:

It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this ‘church which is the most abominable above all other churches’ in vision. He ‘saw the devil that he was the foundation of it’ and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization.[6]

The offending language was removed in the second edition of Mormon Doctrine and replaced with language more consistent with the Book of Mormon

When the first edition of Mormon Doctrine went into circulation, the idea that the "great and abominable church" was the Catholic Church became embedded in popular belief, despite the fact that this idea was never sanctioned or preached over the pulpit. A second edition of Mormon Doctrine was eventually released with the offending language regarding the Roman Catholic Church removed. In the second edition, McConkie states:

The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature — whether political, philosophical, educational, economic social, fraternal, civic, or religious — which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God.[7]

This statement more closely aligns with what the scriptures themselves say, without any additional interpretation. Modern church leaders have stayed close to the definition in the Book of Mormon, by identifying the "great and abominable" church as any organization the leads people away from the Church of Jesus Christ.


Response to claim: 257 - The "ongoing condemnation of Christianity" is "built into the very core of Mormonism as a central tenet"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The "ongoing condemnation of Christianity" is "built into the very core of Mormonism as a central tenet."

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Early Latter-day Saint leaders clearly considered themselves Christians, but condemned the hypocrisy of other Christians who persecuted the Saints.


Question: Did early Mormon leaders consider themselves Christians?

Early Latter-day Saint leaders clearly considered themselves Christians, but condemned the hypocrisy of other Christians who persecuted the Saints

It is also clear that early LDS leaders did not object to Christianity per se—since they clearly considered themselves Christians, this would have been nonsensical. What early Church leaders did object to was the hypocrisy of some Christians, who discarded Christian scripture and principles and lied, misrepresented, persecuted, and visited violence on a Christian group with whom they disagreed: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints are not unique in this regard; history is full of violent or bigoted men who claimed the sanction of Christ for their mistreatment of others, as victims of crusades, pogroms, shunnings, and inquisitions can bear witness.

Many of the present-day authors who misrepresent the Saints profess to be Christians

It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that many present-day authors who attack and misrepresent the Church are likewise Christians. Latter-day Saints understand, however, that such critics are not representative of all Christians. Happily, they are generally a small, if shrill, minority. We reject their tactics without rejecting the Christianity in which they claim to drape it. It is difficult to believe that the Prince of Peace would sanction such tactics.


Question: Did LDS leaders claim that Christians were no longer present on the earth after the apostasy?

Brigham Young: "in the experience of every true Christian who has lived and still lives upon the earth"

Consider these quotes from Brigham Young:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is given in the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and in the experience of every true Christian who has lived and still lives upon the earth, teaches that it is the privilege of every Saint so to live and walk before their God, as to enjoy the light of the spirit of truth from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, through their whole lives. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:233)

The Christian world, I discovered, was like the captain and crew of a vessel on the ocean without a compass, and tossed to and fro whithersoever the wind listed to blow them. When the light came to me, I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:73)

Brigham said that Christians had lost their direction, not that they didn't exist

Notice that Brigham didn't say that there were no Christians, but instead stated that they had lost their direction.

There is a reason that Brigham had a low opinion of those who those who called themselves "Christian" during the early days of the Church. "Christians" were among those who persecuted the Latter-day Saints.


Question: What did early Mormon leaders think of Christians?

George A. Smith: "Christian sympathy was not very strong for the Latter-day Saints. But we feel very thankful to those who did contribute..."

George A. Smith's comments indicate that there was not a general condemnation of Christianity:

Christian sympathy was not very strong for the Latter-day Saints. But we feel very thankful to those who did contribute, and shall ever remember with kindness their generosity towards the Saints. (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:123)


Response to claim: 262, 440n46 - The "Mormon Jesus" is one of three gods overseeing this planet

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The "Mormon Jesus" is one of three gods overseeing this planet.

Author's sources:
  1. Source not specified.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply propaganda on the part of the author. Any Latter-day Saint would not recognize this statement as being anything close to reality.


Response to claim: 262, 440n46 - The "Mormon Jesus" is the literal brother of Lucifer

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The "Mormon Jesus" is the literal brother of Lucifer.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

|authorsources=

  1. No source specified.

}}

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Latter-day Saints believe that we are all spirit brothers and sisters. Christian critics of the Church use this statement for "shock value."


Question: Do Latter-day Saints ("Mormons") consider Jesus to be the brother of Satan?

We believe Jesus is the divine Son of God and that Satan is a fallen angel, but that God is the Father of all

Some Christians claim that since Latter-day Saints consider Jesus and Satan to be "brothers" in the sense that they have the same Father, that this lowers the stature of Christ, or elevates that of Satan. Some go so far as to imply that the LDS "really" worship or revere Satan, and are thus not true "Christians."

Jesus, Satan, and all humanity share God the Father as their spiritual sire. However, moral agency led Jesus to obey God the Father perfectly and share fully in the Father's divine nature and power. The same agency led Satan to renounce God, fight Jesus, and doom himself to eternal damnation. The remainder of God's children—all of us—have the choice to follow the route chosen by Satan, or the path to which Christ invites us and shows the way.

Divine parenthood gives all children of God potential; Christ maximized that potential, and Satan squandered it.

To choose the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace that attends it will lead us home again. If we choose to follow Satan's example, and refuse to accept the gift of God's Only Begotten Son, our spiritual parentage cannot help us, just as it cannot help dignify or ennoble Satan.

In December 2007 the Church issued the following press release on this issue:

Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. [8]

Latter-day Saints do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed

LDS doctrine does not subscribe to traditional creedal trinitarianism. That is, the LDS do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed. Specifically, the LDS do not accept the proposition that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father," as the Nicene Creed declares.

Rather, LDS doctrine teaches that God the Father is physically and personally distinct from Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. The Father is understood to be the literal father of His spirit children.

LDS believe that Jesus Christ's role is central to our Heavenly Father's plan. Christ is unique in several respects from all other spirit children of God:

It is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father

God the Father also had many other spirit children, created in His image and that of His Only Begotten. These children include all humans born on the earth. Some of God's children rebelled against Him, and contested the choice of Jesus as Savior. (See D&C 76:25–27). The leader of these children was Lucifer, or Satan. Those spirit children of God who followed Satan in his rebellion against Christ are sometimes referred to as "demons," or "devils." (See Moses 4:1–4, Abraham 3:24–28).

Thus, it is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father.

Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable

However, critics do not provide the context for the idea that Christ and Lucifer were brothers. Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable. In a similar way, Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus and Satan are equals. The scriptures clearly teach the superiority of Jesus over the devil and that Michael (or Adam) and Lucifer (Satan) and their followers fought against each other (See Revelation 12:7-8) to uphold the plan of the Father and the Son.

Finally, while it is true that all mortals share a spiritual parent with Jesus (and Satan, and every other spiritual child of God), we now have a different, more important relationship with Jesus. All of God's children, save Jesus, have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In sinning, they abandon and betray their divine heritage and inheritance. Only through Jesus can any mortal return home to God the Father. This return becomes possible when a sinner is born again, and adopted by Christ, who becomes the spiritual father to those whom He redeems. (See Romans 8:14–39.)

Critics also ignore the Biblical references that imply that Satan is one of the "sons of God." (See Job:16, Job 2:1)

Cautionary Note to Members

An Anti-Mormon poster at the 2004 Mesa Easter Pageant betrays its poor understanding of what "Mormonism" actually teaches.

Elder M. Russell Ballard cautioned members of the Church:

We occasionally hear some members refer to Jesus as our Elder Brother, which is a true concept based on our understanding of the premortal life with our Father in Heaven. But like many points of gospel doctrine, that simple truth doesn't go far enough in terms of describing the Savior's role in our present lives and His great position as a member of the Godhead. Thus, some non-LDS Christians are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a secondary role for Christ in our theology. They feel that we view Jesus as a spiritual peer. They believe that we view Christ as an implementor for God, if you will, but that we don't view Him as God to us and to all mankind, which, of course, is counter to biblical testimony about Christ's divinity…
Now we can understand why some Latter-day Saints have tended to focus on Christ's Sonship as opposed to His Godhood. As members of earthly families, we can relate to Him as a child, as a Son, and as a Brother because we know how that feels. We can personalize that relationship because we ourselves are children, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. For some it may be more difficult to relate to Him as a God. And so in an attempt to draw closer to Christ and to cultivate warm and personal feelings toward Him, some tend to humanize Him, sometimes at the expense of acknowledging His Divinity. So let us be very clear on this point: it is true that Jesus was our Elder Brother in the premortal life, but we believe that in this life it is crucial that we become "born again" as His sons and daughters in the gospel covenant. [9]

Early Christian Evidence

An anti-Mormon protester at October 2002 LDS General Conference does little to help others understand LDS doctrine properly.

The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius wrote:

Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,--inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,--in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father... Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father. This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us. God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power... [10]

Many things he here taught are not considered "orthodox" by today's standards. However, Lactantius was definitely orthodox during his lifetime. Amazingly, many things here correspond to LDS doctrine precisely in those areas that are "unorthodox." For example,

1. "He produced a Spirit like to Himself," namely Christ. Christ, in this sense, is not the "co-equal," "eternally begotten," "same substance" "persona" of the later creeds.
2. "Then he made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain." God made another spirit who rebelled and who fell from his exalted status. He is the diabolus.
3. Christ is the "first and greatest Son." Not the "only" son.
4. Lastly, since the diabolus and Christ are both spirit sons of God, they are spirit brothers.


Response to claim: 262, 440n46 - The "Mormon Jesus" atoned only for Adam's transgression, providing us with the opportunity to obtain "eternal life" by our own efforts

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The "Mormon Jesus" atoned only for Adam's transgression, providing us with the opportunity to obtain "eternal life" by our own efforts.

Author's sources:
  1. Source not specified.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins all mankind. The author has borne false witness.


Question: How do Mormons see the relationship between works and grace?

Differences in terminology

Two LDS authors insightfully described the LDS doctrine of grace and salvation, and compared it to the schema used by many Protestants, as follows:

(1) Latter-day Saints believe that our individual sins (not just the original sin introduced by Adam) are forgiven as a result of God's grace. (2) Latter-day Saints believe that salvation (in the Protestant sense of that term—salvation from death and hell, coupled with immortality in the presence of God) is graciously and unconditionally granted to all but sons of perdition; (3) For Latter-day Saints the real issue of salvation has to do with the individual's continued growth into God's likeness (sanctification) and exaltation, which are the synergistic outcome of divine grace and human striving. It is the Latter-day Saint degrees-of-glory eschatology that does not fit nicely with Protestant models of grace, grafted as they are to a heaven-or-hell eschatology...

Salvation is an all-or-nothing affair for most Protestants, making the distinction between "born again" and "unregenerate" correspond exactly to that between "saved" and "damned." For Latter-day Saints, though, most of the "unregenerate" receive a degree of glory—one which passes all earthly understanding (DC 76:89)—for having chosen to come to earth and for deciding not to deny the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Latter-day Saints hold that the life led by those receiving lower degrees of glory is substantially different than that supposedly enjoyed in Protestant heaven or hell. Those in the telestial kingdom for instance (and thus some of those that are "saved") do not enjoy the full presence of the Godhead as they would in Protestant versions of heaven. However, the absence of the Father and the Son (which in this respect would equate to Protestant notions of hell) is a far cry from the Protestant notion of eternal torment, as they still enjoy the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, and a glory beyond human comprehension. Similarly, the residents of the terrestrial kingdom are neither clearly "saved" nor clearly "damned" according to Protestant definitions: they have accepted the testimony of Jesus (corresponding to "saved") but have not been valiant therein and receive only the "glory" and not the "full presence" of the Father (corresponding in this sense to "damned"). Clearly, given these and other differences, the Latter-day Saint understanding of salvation cannot be directly correlated to Protestant soteriology and eschatology...

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Protestant assumption that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works constitute two separate grammars of discourse. To the contrary, we believe that it is false and that James and even Paul, as well as living prophets, make it clear that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works are actually inseparable.[11]


Response to claim: 262, 440n46 - The "Mormon Jesus" provides no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The "Mormon Jesus" provides no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.

Author's sources:
  1. Source not specified.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Latter-day Saints believe that salvation and resurrection is a gift to all humanity provided by Jesus Christ. The belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of god is required only to accept that the words of Jesus Christ through a prophet revealed the ordinances that lead one to eventually achieve to exaltation.


Question: Do Mormons believe that Joseph Smith must approve whether or not they get into heaven?

The Book of Mormon confirms that no mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus Christ

Critics charge that Joseph claimed, or it was claimed in his behalf, the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," and that this gives to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

No mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus, as the Book of Mormon bears witness:

...the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.(2 Nephi 9:41.)

Joseph's participation in the judgment is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper

Joseph's participation in the judgment (at the command and sufferance of Jesus) is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper. Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.

Members of the Church reserve their worship for God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. They do not worship Joseph Smith or any other mortal, save Jesus only. Joseph Smith's position in LDS thought is analogous to the role which Peter or Paul plays in traditional creedal Christianity.


Response to claim: 268 - The Bible does not mention a total apostasy

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Bible does not mention a total apostasy.

Author's sources:
  1. 2 Peter 2:1-2

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Latter-day Saints believe that the Bible does talk of a total apostasy.


Question: Was the apostasy after Christ complete?

For millenia, a variety of observers and religious thinkers have argued that the Church organized by Christ did not persist to their day

Some Christians charge that although the apostasy is predicted in scripture, that this would not be a universal apostasy. They insist that a band of faithful Christian believers who kept the "true faith" were always present on the earth. The presence of these believers means, for the critic, that there was no need of a Restoration as taught by Joseph Smith. From the Evangelical perspective, Mormons "were the ones to initially separate their church from, in their view, apostate Christendom."

For millenia, a variety of observers and religious thinkers have argued that the Church organized by Christ did not persist to their day. The Latter-day Saints are not unique in this belief, nor can they be excluded from "Christianity" for teaching this doctrine.

Indeed, much of Christian history has revolved around the belief that no true expression of Christ's Church was on the earth, which resulted in efforts to establish just such a church.

The idea that no Christian church has continuity with the church established by Jesus is not unique to Mormons

The realization that no Christian church has continuity with the church established by Jesus in divine authority or doctrine is not an idea that originated with the LDS Christians. Many Protestant clergymen and others have long realized that if the Catholic Church's claims to be the proper continuation of Christ's church are false, then a universal apostasy must have occurred.

Indeed, were it not for a belief in the complete apostasy of all current churches, there would have been no motivation for the founders of various denominations to start their own churches—they would have simply joined the denomination which they believed had continuity with the original church of Jesus and the apostles. This is, of course, why churches which separated from Catholicism are called Protestant churches. Therefore, it defies reason for a non-Catholic to claim that Mormons were the "first" to separate themselves from what they considered "apostate" Christianity.


Question: What is the Catholic view of the apostasy?

The Catholics claim unbroken apostolic authority and teachings down to the present day

The Catholic Church takes a slightly different tack on this issue. Rather than arguing that an apostasy of other churches occurred (necessitating the formation of a new denomination), the Catholics claim unbroken apostolic authority and teachings down to the present day.

Catholics and non-Christians

About non-Christian belief systems, the Roman Church said:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”...

As a remedy for [a] relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ...

[T]he theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith...

[T]heological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is [in fact merely] religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself...

Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, “does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors'”...[12]

Catholics and non-Catholics

Protestants would likely not quarrel with much of the above. But, the Catholic Church is crystal clear on how they view all other Christian denominations (italics present in the original):

The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him...

Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church”...

The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity—rooted in the apostolic succession—between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church...

“outside of her [i.e., the Catholic Church's] structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”, that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”...The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches...

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities [i.e., other denomination "churches," though the Catholics do not so designate them, as will be seen] which have not preserved the valid Episcopate [succession of bishops] and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.

“The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection — divided, yet in some way one — of Churches and ecclesial communities; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach”...

Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”...

If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation...[13]

Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in 2007

Pope Benedict XVI approved the release of another statement which cited the above document (which he helped prepare in 2000) making clear the Catholic Church's attitude toward non-Catholic Christians:

"Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century [i.e., "Protestants"]?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.[14]


Question: What is the reformation view of the apostasy?

Muntzer: "the Christian church lost its virginity and became an adulteress soon after the death of the disciples of the apostles because of corrupt leadership"

Early Anabaptist Thomas Muntzer believed that

the Christian church lost its virginity and became an adulteress soon after the death of the disciples of the apostles because of corrupt leadership, manifested in the predominance of a clergy who cared more for the amassing of property and power than for the acquiring of spiritual virtues.[15]

Reformer Sebastian Franck believed that the

outward church of Christ was wasted immediately after the apostles because the early Fathers, whom he calls ‘wolves’ and ‘anti-christs’, justified war, power of magistracy, tithes, the priesthood, etc.[16] [That they are wolves] is “proved by their works, especially [those] of Clement [of Alexandria], Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Hilary, Cyril, Origen, and others which are merely child’s play and quite unlike the spirit of the apostles, that is, filled with commandments, laws, sacramental elements and all kinds of human inventions.”[17]

Wesley: "It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries"

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, lamented that the Christian had apostatized from the gospel that Christ and the apostles had taught, had lost the spiritual gifts that they once enjoyed, and had returned to heathenism, having on a dead form remaining:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit 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, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby, heaped riches and power and honor upon Christians in general, but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not as has been supposed because there was no more occasion for them because all the world was become Christians. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause of it was the love of many, almost all Christians, so called, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine His Church, could hardly find faith upon the earth. 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 only had earth a dead form left.[18]

Church of England: Officially affirmed that the so-called Church and the whole religious world had been utterly apostate for eight centuries or more

In the Church of England Homily Against Peril of Idolatry we read:

So that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom—an horrible and most dreadful thing to think—have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry; of all other vices most detested by God, and most damnable to man; and that by the space of eight hundred years and more.[19]

The Book of Homilies dates from about the middle of the sixteenth century; and in it is thus officially affirmed that the so-called Church and the whole religious world had been utterly apostate for eight centuries or more prior to the establishment of the Church of England.

American Protestants: "we must not expect to see the Church of Holy Scripture actually existing in its perfection on the earth"

In a work prepared by seventy-three noted theologians and Bible students, we read:

...we must not expect to see the Church of Holy Scripture actually existing in its perfection on the earth. It is not to be found, thus perfect, either in the collected fragments of Christendom, or still less in any one of these fragments....[20]

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, prominent American Baptist clergyman and author, described the condition of the Christian churches of the first half of the twentieth century in these words:

A religious reformation is afoot, and at heart it is the endeavor to recover for our modern life the religion of Jesus as against the vast, intricate, largely inadequate and often positively false religion about Jesus. Christianity today has largely left the religion which he preached, taught and lived, and has substituted another kind of religion altogether. If Jesus should come back to now, hear the mythologies built up around him, see the creedalism, denominationalism, sacramentalism, carried on in his name, he would certainly say, 'If this is Christianity, I am not a Christian.'[21]


Response to claim: 273 - Baptism for the dead is unbiblical

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Baptism for the dead is unbiblical.

Author's sources:
  1. No source given.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

There is considerable evidence that some early Christians and some Jewish groups performed proxy ordinance work for the salvation of the dead


Question: Does the practice of baptism for the dead have ancient roots?

There is considerable evidence that some early Christians and some Jewish groups performed proxy ordinance work for the salvation of the dead

The most obvious of these is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

There have been attempts to shrug this off as a reference by Paul to a practice he does not condone but only uses to support the doctrine of the resurrection. These claims are indefensible. Paul's statement makes no sense unless the practice was valid and the saints in Corinth knew it. This is easily demonstrated if we just imagine a young Protestant, who doubts the resurrection, who goes to his pastor with his problem. The pastor answers him, saying, "But what about the Mormons who baptize for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?" You know what the young doubter would say. He would say, "Pastor, they're Mormons! What's your point?"

In fact, we know that baptism for the dead was practiced for a long time in the early church. As John A. Tvedtnes has noted:

... historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the [Cerinthians]> of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:
“In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.) [22]

Thus, baptism for the dead was banned about four hundred years after Christ by the church councils. Latter-day Saints would see this as an excellent example of the apostasy—church councils altering doctrine and practice that was accepted at an earlier date.

Tvedtnes continues:

In early Judaism, too, there is an example of ordinances being performed in behalf of the dead. Following the battle of Marisa in 163 B.C., it was discovered that each of the Jewish soldiers killed in the fight had been guilty of concealing pagan idols beneath his clothing. In order to atone for their wrong, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and commander, collected money from the survivors to purchase sacrificial animals for their dead comrades:
“And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:43–46.) [23]

Collection of Other Sources that Can Support the Latter-day Saint Position

Other sources can give credence to the Latter-day Saint position on this matter. Below we list a selective compilation of quotes from scholars that can demonstrate that:

  1. Vicarious baptism was practiced by the ancients
  2. The practice wasn't condemned by Paul (even though that would be a natural thing to do given the corrective purposes of the first letter to the church at Corinth).
  3. The best translation of the original Greek refers to a practice of vicarious baptism.

The passage in the Bible is, at the very least, very short and cryptic. We can't know much about the practice accept the preceeding three assertions. Thus the following scholars would not affirm that the practice of vicarious baptism matches the modern Latter-day Saint conception of it i.e. that it was done on such a massive scale, for salvific purposes, etc. Some argue on linguistic grounds that this only had to do with catechumens (prospective converts to Christianity who died without baptism) but that is not fully substantiated by the text nor the historical context of the passage. Furthermore, as is noted by several scholars (a couple of which are included below), it is complicated by the fact that Paul spoke approvingly of believing Christians becoming vicarious, sanctifying vessels for non-believing spouses.[24] This could naturally be extrapolated to all kindred, non-believing dead.

There is much that we can't know from the text of the Bible itself following an exegetical approach. At some point, additional revelation is necessary to illuminate and expand on previous revelation. That would be the Latter-day Saint position. As Joseph Smith has said concerning the Restoration, it occured so that "a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times."[25] Latter-day Saints need not feel compelled to defend every last element of their theology from antiquity. Some elements may appear in seed and then be expanded on later by those "things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world[.]" What 1 Corinthians 15:29 can tell us without a doubt is that the practice is ancient and that it wasn't rejected by Paul or others of the earliest Christians. The Greek of the passage is unequivocally said to support the notion that vicarious baptism was performed. Other revelation outside of the Bible can expand on it in the Restoration.[26]

Following is our selective listing of sources.[27] All bolded text has been added by the editor of this article:

  • Søren Agersnap: "It cannot be denied that Paul is here [1 Cor 15:29] speaking of a vicarious baptism: one is baptised for the dead to ensure for them a share in the effect of baptism, and this must relate to a post-mortal life. It is also clear that Paul himself refers to this baptismal practice, and without distancing himself from it (This is the embarrassing perception which is the reason for some (comparatively few) interpreters making an imaginative attempt to ignore that this relates to a vicarious baptism)."[28].
  • Charles Kingsley Barrett: "The primary reference is to Christian baptism: certain people (οί βαπτιζόμενοι suggest a particular group, not all Christians) undergo the rite of Christian baptism—in what appear to be very strange circumstances. They are baptized on behalf of the dead. The second part of the verse follows clearly enough. If the dead are dead and are beyond recall, there is no point in taking this or any other action on their behalf. But what was the practice of baptism for the dead, and did Paul approve of it? An account of the history of the interpretation of this passage is given by M. Rissi, 'Die Taufe für die Toten (1962)'...It is very unlikely that with the adjective dead (νεκρός) a noun such as works (cf. Heb. vi. I) should be supplied. Throughout this chapter (and in Paul usually) ‘the dead’ are dead men. It is equally unlikely that on behalf of (ὺπέρ) is to be taken in a local sense, and that the reference is to baptism carried out over the dead, that is, over their graves. The most common view is that Paul is referring to some kind of vicarious baptism, in which a Christian received baptism on behalf of someone, perhaps a friend or relative, who had died without being baptized. There is evidence for some such rite among various heretics (among other quotations Lietzmann cites Chrysostom, on this passage: ‘When a catechumen among them [the Marcionites] dies, they hide a living man under the dead man’s bed, approach the dead man, speak with him, and ask if he wished to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer the man who is hidden underneath says instead of him that he wishes to be baptized, and so they baptize him instead of the departed), and there were precedents in Greek religious practices, though not close precedents (see Schweitzer, 'Mysticism', pp. 283 f.). Stauffer lays great stress on 2 Acc. xii. 40-5. Apart however from 1 Corinthians there is no evidence that a rite of this kind arose as early as the 50’s of the first century. This does not make it impossible; many strange things happened in Corinth. But would Paul have approved of it? It is true that in this verse he neither approves nor disapproves, and it may be held that he is simply using an argumenatum ad hominem: if the Corinthians have this practice they destroy their own case against the resurrection. This is the view held by some, and it is possible; but it is more likely that Paul would not have mentioned a practice he thought to be in error without condemning it. Of those who accept this position some draw the conclusion that vicarious baptism cannot be in Paul’s mind, others that, if he did not practice the custom himself, he at least saw no harm in it, since he too held an ex opere operato view of baptism that bordered on the magical…The idea of vicarious baptism (which is that most naturally suggested by the words used) is usually supposed to be bound up with what some would call a high sacramental, others a magical, view of baptism. Immersion in water is supposed to operate so effectively that it matters little (it seems) what body is immersed. The immersion of a living body can secure benefits to a dead man (at any rate, a dead catechumen). This however was not Paul’s view. He did not himself give close attention to baptism (i. 14-17), and though it is probable that most of the members of his churches were baptized it is quite possible that some of the Corinthian Christians had not been baptized, and by no means impossible (even if we do not, with Rissi, think of an epidemic or an accident) that a number of them may have died in this condition. There was no question of making these persons Christians; they were Christians, even though unbaptized. But baptism was was powerful proclamation of death and resurrection, and in this setting it is not impossible to conceive of a rite—practiced, it may be, only once—which Paul, though he evidently took no steps to establish it as normal Christian usage, need not actively have disapproved. And what would be the sense of it, if the dead are not raised?"[29]
  • Stephen C. Barton: "…Paul adds further ad hominem arguments against those who deny the resurrection of the dead (cf. 15:12). …the Corinthians’ own ritual practice (of surrogate baptism on behalf of the dead, a suggestive analogy for which appears in 2 Acc 12:43-45) testifies abasing denial of the resurrection of the dead and would be rendered meaningless apart from resurrection faith (15:29)."[30]
  • Richard E. Demaris: "The isolated character of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in its literary context and the lack of indicators in the verse as to the nature of the rite make it all too easy to propose a range of grammatically possible translations. But the highly speculative interpretations that result only underscore the need to place the text (and practice described therein) in the fullest possible context. Behind all attempts to remove vicarious action from baptism for the dead, one senses uneasiness about Paul or the early church’s association with a rite that appears to be 'superstitious' or 'magical' (Raeder 1955: 258–9; Rissi 1962: 89–92). (Understood vicariously, the practice would affirm that the living can ritually affect the dead.) But who is feeling the discomfort? Paul himself maintained that family members could act vicariously for each other (1 Cor 7:14), and he recognized an efficacy in eucharist that certainly appears to be 'magical' (Sellin 1986: 278; M. Smith 1980: 248): 'Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.' (1 Cor 11:28–30)...[The culture of Greco-Roman society was one] in which aiding the dead was all-important and which assumed that the world of the living could affect the world of the dead. In such a culture baptism undertaken by the living for the dead would have made perfect sense…At the very least, the adaptability of funerals to non-funerary situations opens the door to finding baptism other than where we might expect to find it, at the threshold of the church. Furthermore, two extraordinary types of funeral are noteworthy for how they elucidate baptism on behalf of the dead: (1) a replacement or substitute rite performed vicariously for the dead; and (2) funerals for the living. Both applications are imaginary rites, whose context indicates whether we further qualify them as honorary or mock. This, then, is the language for baptism on behalf of the dead that is both contextually and ritually sensitive: it was an imaginary rite of the honorary type...Isolating baptism for the dead, as Meeks did, made it mystifying to him (Meeks 1983: 162), but placing it in context has the opposite effect. Set alongside funerals for the living – those of Turannius and Pacuvius – baptism for the dead does not appear mysterious. In terms of who undergoes them, both rites reverse ordinary practice. Likewise, in light of surrogate or replacement funerals in which a person or community carried out a rite for someone in absentia – for Pertinax and the Lanuvium burial club member whose body could not be recovered – baptism on behalf of the dead falls within the typical range of ritual variation in the Greco-Roman world. In the context of other rites, therefore, baptism for the dead is, contrary to what New Testament scholars claim, not obscure."[31]
  • James D.G. Dunn: "Similarly he accepts a diversity of belief about baptism (1.10-16; 15.29). He does not insist on the sole legitimacy of his own view or of a particular view of baptism. Instead he plays down the role of baptism; it is kerygma that matters not baptism (1.17). And though in 10.1-12 he is probably arguing against a magical view of baptism, in 15.29 he shows no disapproval of the belief in vicarious baptism, baptism for the dead; on the contrary he uses the practice as an argument for the belief in resurrection...I Cor. 15.29 probably refers to a practice of vicari­ous baptism whereby the baptism of one was thought to secure the salvation of another already dead. Here then is indication of influ­ences shaping the theology of baptism and developing views of bap­tism which are far removed from anything we have already examined. And yet Paul addresses those who held such views as members of the Christian community in Corinth – these views were held also by Christians. In other words, as soon as we move outside that sphere of Christianity most influenced by the Baptist’s inheritance the diver­sity of Christian thinking about baptism broadens appreciably."[32]
  • Gordon D. Fee: "First, as already noted (n. 15), this unusual use of the third person plural, when elsewhere Paul always turns such references into a word to the community as a whole (e.g., vv. 12-13, 35-36), suggests that it is not the action of the whole community. On the other hand, there is no reason to deny that it was happening with the full knowledge of the community and probably with their approval. Second, Paul’s apparently noncommittal attitude toward it, while not implying approval, would seem to suggest that he did not consider it to be as serious a fault as most interpreters do. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine any circumstances under which Paul would think it permissible for living Christians to be baptized for the sake of unbelievers in general. Such a view, adopted in part by the Mormons, lies totally outside the NT understanding both of salvation and of baptism.[Fee is an evagelical scholar and thus is less open to scholarship that would support Latter-day Saints. There actually isn't evidence to support this view. See how he hedges in suggestion "(b) below.] Therefore, the most likely options are (a) that it reflects some believers’ being baptized for others who either were or were on their way to becoming believers when they died (e.g., as in 11:30), but had never been baptized; or (b) that it reflects the concern of members of households for some of their own number who had died before becoming believers. What they may have expected to gain from it is not quite clear, but one may guess that at least they believed baptism to be necessary for entering the final eschatological kingdom. In any case, and everything must be understood as tentative, this probably reflects the Corinthian attitude toward baptism in general, since 1:13-17 and 10:1-22 imply a rather strongly sacramental stance toward baptism on their part, with some apparently magical implications. Perhaps they believed that along with the gift of the Spirit baptism was their 'magical' point of entrance into the new pneumatism that seems to have characterized them at every turn. If so, then perhaps some of them were being baptized for others because they saw it as a way of offering similar spirituality to the departed. But finally we must admit that we simply do not know.[Interesting thing to conclude with considering his assertion before about Latter-day Saints.][33]
  • Rolf Furuli: "There can be no question that the most natural rendering of 'baptizomenoi huper tōn nekrōn' would be 'being baptized for the dead' or 'being baptized in behalf of the dead.' In almost every other context, such a rendering would have been chosen."[34]
  • David Bentley Hart: "The practice of Christians receiving baptism on behalf of other persons who died unbaptized was evidently a common enough practice in the apostolic church that Paul can use it as a support of his argument without qualification. And the form of the Greek (ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν [hyper tōn nekrōn]) leaves no doubt that it is to just such a posthumous proxy baptism that he is referring."[35]
  • Scott M. Lewis: "Verse 29 is one of the most vigorously disputed passages in the NT. On the surface, it seems rather simple. Using the statement of the opposition as a springboard—there is no resurrection—Paul points to the inconsistency and futility of a practice of the Corinthians, i.e., being baptized on behalf of the dead. Despite the numerous attempts to explain this passage away, or get out of the difficulties and discomfort it causes, it seems better to accept the obvious surface meaning of the passage: Some Corinthians practiced a form of vicarious baptism. What is meant exactly by that, and when and under what circumstances it was practiced is impossible to answer…"[36]
  • Andrew T. Lincoln: "With regard to the problematic verse 29 it is likely that the Corinthians’ confusion is at the root of the practice which has produced an even greater confusion among later commentators. One could guess that with their bewilderment about the fate of those who had died and their strong faith in the efficacy of baptism, some Corinthians were practising a baptism for the dead which they believed might still somehow ensure a place in the kingdom for deceased believers. An ad hominem argument by the apostle points out the futility of such a practice if the dead are not raised."[37]
  • Steve Mason and Tom Robinson: "The only reference among 1st-century Christian writings to proxy baptism on behalf of those who have died without having been baptized. Myriad alternative explanations that have been proposed reflect more the interpreters’ discomfort with the plain meaning of the words than any linguistic ambiguity. Paul simply uses this example without explanation and quickly discards it (see the angels of 11:10). We have no opportunity to determine what he thinks of the custom."[38]
  • Leon Morris: "This reference to baptism for (hyper) the dead is a notorious difficulty. The most natural meaning of the expression is that some early believers got themselves baptized on behalf of friends of theirs who had died without receiving that sacrament. Thus Parry says: 'The plain and necessary sense of the words implies the existence of a practice of vicarious baptism at Corinth, presumably on behalf of believers who died before they were baptized.' He stigmatizes all other interpretations as 'evasions . . . wholly due to the unwillingness to admit such a practice, and still more to a reference to it by S. Paul without condemnation.'[39]
  • John J. O'Rourke: "Nevertheless many ancient and most modern writers understand this as a vicarious baptism received by baptized Christians on belief of deceased catechumens. The obvious difficulty is that Paul does not appear to offer any objection to this practice, so prevalent later among heretics."[40]
  • William F. Orr and James A. Walther: "The allusion to the idea and/or practice of baptism on behalf of the dead is unique in the New Testament in this passage. . . . Close inspection of the language of the reference makes all attempts to soften or eliminate its literal meaning unsuccessful. An endeavor to understand the dead as persons who are 'dead in sin' does not really help; for the condition offered, if the dead are not being raised at all, makes it clear that the apostle is writing about persons who are physically dead. It appears that under the pressure of concern for the eternal destiny of dead relatives or friends[,] some people in the church were undergoing baptism on their behalf in the belief that this would enable the dead to receive the benefits of Christ’s salvation. Paul remarks about the practice without specifying who or how many are involved and without identifying himself with them. He attaches neither praise nor blame to the custom. He does take it as an illustration of faith in a future destiny of the dead."[41]
  • Stephen E. Potthoff: "Cult of the ancestral dead in classical Greece has been thoroughly documented, and scholars have also identified the early Christian ritual of baptism for the dead mentioned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15.29) as an outgrowth of the longstanding cult of the departed in Corinth (Garland 1985: 107–120; Johnston 1999: 36–81; DeMaris 1995: 663–671)."[42]
  • Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright: "One of the most controversial and difficult texts in all of Pauline literature is the reference to baptism for the dead. It is not my purpose to canvas the various interpretations proposed, nor does the view argued for in this essay depend in any way upon the interpretation proposed here. What the verse suggests, however, is that baptism was considered to be indispensable for believers. The plethora of interpretations indicates that the original meaning of the verse is not easily accessible to modern readers. The difficulty of the verse is not entirely surprising, for Paul does not explain the meaning of baptism here, but instead appeals to the baptism of the dead in support his theology of the resurrection. Any baptism performed for the sake of the dead is superfluous, Paul argues, if the dead are not raised. Strictly speaking, Paul does not praise or condemn the practice of baptism for the dead, and hence a theology of baptism for the dead can scarcely be established from this verse. It seems most likely, in my judgment, that baptism for the dead was practiced when someone became a believer and died very quickly thereafter—before baptism was possible. What this verse suggests, despite its obscurity, is the importance of baptism. Baptism was considered to be the standard initiation rite for early Christians, and hence some believers at Corinth thought that baptism should be done for the sake of the dead."[43]
  • John Short: "The point is that there would be no sense in the procedure if there were no resurrection. Whatever doubts some members of the church had concerning it, there were others who were such firm believers in the Resurrection that they submitted to this rite of vicarious baptism on behalf of certain of the brethren, probably catechumens, who had passed away before they had been baptized and received into the full membership of the church. Perhaps also they had a feeling, natural enough at that stage of Christian understanding among those who had so recently been pagans, that unbaptized believers at the resurrection would not be so near to their Lord as those who had undergone the rite. Or they may have done it to ensure as far as possible that nothing would be lacking in respect of the eternal bliss of the redeemed. At its best, the vicarious ceremony was a tribute to the spirit of fellowship, of unity, and of solidarity in the community, and as such it would be sure to commend itself to Paul. There are still some survivals of this ancient Christian practice, though in the main it has fallen into disuse. In a sense it might be compared with prayers offered for the dead. They too may for some signify the deep spiritual solidarity of the Christian fellowship in heaven and on earth, in which all are one in Christ Jesus. Whatever the effect of such practices on the joy of the saints in heaven, they do reflect a kindly, generous, and Christian spirit on the part of those on earth in the desire for the continued and increasing wellbeing of those who have passed beyond the veil. Perhaps it is well to leave the matter there. Paul is content to do so, merely pointing to this ancient rite, and incidentally giving us another glimpse into the customary procedures of the early Christian fellowship as they illustrated the truth of the Resurrection. If Christ is not raised, and if therefore no resurrection of the dead, what could such baptism mean?"[44]
  • William Tabbernee: "In mainstream Christian circles, 'vicarious baptism' may have been practiced as early as the time of St. Paul (1 Cor 15:29). It was almost certainly practiced, from the second century C.E. onwards, by the Cerinthians.[45]
  • James D. Tabor: "For Paul baptism is not a symbolic ritual but a powerful spiritual activity that effected real change in the cosmos. Paul, for example, refers to some who 'baptized in behalf of the dead,' evidently referring to a practice of proxy baptism for loved ones who had died before experiencing their own baptism (1 Corinthians 15:29). Whether Paul endorsed the practice or not we cannot be sure, but it would be unlike Paul to refrain from condemning a practice he did not at least tolerate. After all, there is a sense in which all baptism is 'for the dead' since it represents a 'burial' of the dying mortal flesh in preparation for receiving the life-giving Spirit. Whatever the case, this practice of 'baptism for the dead' shows just how efficacious the activity was understood to be as a means of invoking the Christ-Spirit—even for those who had died!"[46]
  • Jeffrey A. Trumbower: "Paul alludes to a practice of some Corinthian Christians in 1 Cor. 15:29, 'Then what are they doing, those who are baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why are they baptized on their behalf?' Paul does not here object to this practice, whatever it is, and he uses it to convince the Corinthians that if they are baptized on behalf of the dead, they must also believe in the resurrection as Paul understands it. Enormous vats of ink have been emptied in both pre-critical and critical scholarship speculating on precisely what those Corinthian Christians were doing, why they were doing it, and Paul’s attitude toward it. A thorough 51-page survey of opinion from the second century down to 1962 was assembled by Mathis Rissi; there is no need to rehearse that entire history here. I agree with Rissi and Hans Conzelmann (and, for that matter, with Mormon prophet Joseph Smith), that the grammar and logic of the passage point to a practice of vicarious baptism of a living person for the benefit of a dead person."[47]

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Baptized for the Dead"

Kevin L. Barney,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (August 31, 2020)
This thorough treatment of the mention of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29 gives a meticulous analysis of Paul’s Greek argument, and lays out the dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of theories that have been put forth with respect to its interpretation. Barney concludes that “the most natural reading” and the “majority contemporary scholarly reading” is that of “vicarious baptism.” Therefore, “the Prophet Joseph Smith’s reading of the passage to refer to such a practice was indeed correct.”

Click here to view the complete article


Response to claim: 274-276 - The need for the Aaronic priesthood ceased and was replaced by a new one that is held by all believers

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The need for the Aaronic priesthood ceased and was replaced by a new one that is held by all believers.

Author's sources:
  1. Hebrews 7-10

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood. Neither the Bible nor other early Christian writings support the idea that all Christians hold priesthood authority to govern the Church or administer its ordinances. Instead, this doctrine is a novelty necessitated by the protestant break with Rome.


Question: Is there a "Priesthood of All Believers" which eliminates the need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority?

Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood

It is claimed that there is no need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority since the Bible teaches that all believers hold the priesthood. However, Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood. Neither the Bible nor other early Christian writings support the idea that all Christians hold priesthood authority to govern the Church or administer its ordinances. Instead, this doctrine is a novelty necessitated by the protestant break with Rome.

Here, we examine some of the scriptural passages cited in defense of the concept of a priesthood of all believers.[48]

"A royal priesthood"

  • "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This was the principal passage cited by Martin Luther in defense of a priesthood of all believers. What Luther failed to note is that Peter was actually referring to an Old Testament passage, in which the Lord told the Israelites through Moses,

  • "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6).

Yet of the Israelites present at the mount of revelation, only the Levites were chosen for priesthood service.

The Gospels and Acts

Based on the belief in the "priesthood of all believers," a Protestant minister often feels that the Bible (or God) has called him to work. But Christ made it clear that this is not the way it works. He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-24).

Only a believer would prophecy in the name of Christ or, in his name, cast out devils. Yet the Savior said that he would cast out those he never knew. It is wrong to profess to do something in the name of Christ when one does not have the authority to do so. Note that Christ said that there would be "many" who would claim to have performed good works in his name who would be rejected, so this is not just an occasional person.

That specific authority was required to perform ordinances in the early Church is made clear by the story found in chapter 8 of Acts: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:14-20). Simon was not trying to buy the Spirit, but the "power" to "lay hands" on people so they could receive the Holy Ghost. This power is what we call "priesthood." Simon had already been baptized in the name of Christ, but this did not authorize him to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

At the last supper, Christ told his apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16). This ordination did not take place because they were baptized, but came after they had chosen to follow Christ. In Luke 6:13, we read that "when it was day, he [Jesus] called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." So only twelve of Christ's followers were chosen to be apostles. Mark gives more details concerning this event: "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils" (Mark 3:13-15). From this, it is clear that the apostles received, at that time, "power" that other followers of Christ did not have. He later gave that same power or priesthood to seventy others (Luke 10:1-20).

The account in Acts 19:1-6 is also instructive on the concept of authority to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost: "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."

These men (twelve in number according to verse 7), said they had been baptized "unto John's baptism," probably meaning by someone claiming authority from the John the Baptist, who had been killed by Herod Antipas long before the time of Paul. But Paul doubted the truth of this statement, knowing that John had told people of Christ who, coming after him, would baptize them with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11; John 1:29-34). So Paul taught them about Jesus, after which "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" and Paul "laid his hands upon them" for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Early Christian history

Christians in the first centuries do not seem to have endorsed the idea of a priesthood of all believers either—instead, this was a later idea developed by Luther to justify his break with Roman Catholicism, which claimed priesthood inheritance from the apostles.


Response to claim: 276-279 - The Melchizedek priesthood was never a literal order of priests. It belonged only to Melchizedek and Christ

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Melchizedek priesthood was never a literal order of priests. It belonged only to Melchizedek and Christ.

Author's sources:
  1. Hebrews 7:24
  • D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer, eds., The Eerdman's Bible Commentary, p. 1241.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is incorrect. The claim that priesthood is non-transferrable fails on linguistic, scriptural, scholarly, and logical grounds.


Question: Was the priesthood held by Jesus priesthood not 'transferable' to members of the Church?

The Bible supports the Latter-day Saint position that the Priesthood is the authority God has given man to perform ordinances necessary for salvation.

It is claimed that only Jesus held the priesthood, and that such priesthood was not 'transferable' to members of the Church. However, the claim that priesthood is non-transferrable fails on linguistic, scriptural, scholarly, and logical grounds.

The Bible supports that Latter-day Saints position that the Priesthood is the authority God has given man to perform the ordinances (e.g. baptism, sacrament, sealing, etc.) that Jesus has declared to be necessary, in order that the atonement may have full effect in our lives.

The claim that the priesthood is not transferable is based upon old scholarship

In Bauer's Greek-English lexicon, we read:

Aparabatos, on (see parabaino; belonging to later Greek [Phryn. 313 Lob];not LXX) Hebrews 7:24 usually interpreted 'without a successor'. But this meaning is found nowhere else. Aparabatos rather has the sense of permanent, unchangeable" [followed by citations].[49]

Thus, it is the priesthood which is unchangeable, rather than being non-transferable. Other scholars that confirm this understanding include Harold W. Attridge,[50] Franz Delitzsch,[51] James Moulton and George Milligan,[52] David L. Allen,[53] Dana M. Harris,[54] Hermann Cremer,[55] and Craig Koester.[56] Claims that the priesthood is not transferable are not supported by the Biblical text. Rather, the priesthood is a permanent and necessary part of the Church—any Church claiming it is unnecessary does not meet the Biblical model.

The ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament agrees, in which the word aparabatos is discussed:

This is a rare word found only in later Greek.... Its usual sense is 'unchangeable,' 'immutable.'"
[after giving examples from secular literature: Plutarch, Josephus, Epictetus, etc]
Hebrews 7.24 says of Christ that because He remains to eternity He has an unchangeable and imperishable priesthood. Instead of the passive 'unchangeable' [743] many expositors suggest the active sense 'which cannot be transferred to another;" 'Christ has a priesthood which cannot be transferred to anyone else' [citing Bengel]. This is a natural interpretation and yields a good sense, but it does not really fit the context. We should keep to the rendering 'unchangeable,' the more so as the active sense is not attested elsewhere." (742-3).[57]

The statement 'yields a good sense' suggests that those who choose that translation are probably doing so for theological reasons, not grammatical or linguistic reasons; and the TDNT author is voting against such a choice.

In a review of Walter Martin's book, The Maze of Mormonism, in which Martin bases his argument against the Melchizedek Priesthood on the interpretation of "unchangeable" being "non-transferable, Richard Lloyd Anderson informs us that:

Instead of treating descriptions in the Acts or Pastoral Letters concerning the bestowal of apostolic authority on others, Martin prefers to base his case on a dubious translation of Hebrews 7:24, maintaining that Christ's priesthood is "untransferable." But his vintage 1889 citation from Thayer's lexicon for this use is squarely contradicted by the best authorities in the field. The lexicon of Arndt-Gingrich (in agreement with Moulton-Milligan) gives more than a dozen secular uses of the period to show that the term in question (aparabatos) "rather has the sense permanent, unchangeable." The point of the passage is not that Christ's priesthood cannot be transferred, but that it permanently remains superior, as does he, to all other authority.[58]

So we see that it is incorrect to interpret "unchangeable" as "non-transferable."

Additional evidence

The rather late Christian understanding that Jesus would be the last High Priest of the Melchizedek order (see Hebrew 7:24, marginal reading no. 5 in most King James Version translations) is based on an erroneous interpretation of the Greek word aparabaton which does not mean "intransmissible" but means "unchangeable" when referring to Jesus' priesthood.[59]

And:

God's promises to Abraham are extended to all who come unto Christ: Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was the priest who blessed Abraham, in whose loins was Levi. The superiority of Christ's Melchizedek Priesthood over the Levitical priesthood and the Law of Moses is developed in chapter 7. Melchizedek was a type of Christ. His priesthood was more enduring than the Levitical priesthood, which was limited to blood lines and was not given with an oath and whose priests did not continue because of death and needed daily renewal (Heb. 7:3,21,23,27). The Melchizedek order of priesthood, however, was directed by Jesus Christ, who, unlike the high priest under the Law of Moses on the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:4), did not need to "offer sacrifice for his own sins, for he knew no sins" (JST Heb. 7:26). His priesthood was aparabatos meaning "permanent, unchangeable, and incomparable" (Heb. 7:24). No other priesthood will succeed it. It will be the permanent power of salvation and eternal lives within Christ's church forever more[60].[61]

Modern Bible translations

More modern versions of the Bible agree with this interpretation.

Hebrews 7
24 (NIV)
but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. (emphasis added)
Hebrews 7
24 (NASB)
but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. (emphasis added)
Hebrews 7
24 (RSV)
but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. (emphasis added)

The interpretation of "unchangeable" to mean "non-transferable" does not stand up to scripture, correct doctrine, Biblical scholarship, or Greek terminology.

Why the opposition to priesthood?

It is understandable that creedal Protestant Christians (who make up the vast majority of sectarian anti-Mormons) desperately need the priesthood, as understood by Latter-day Saints, to be non-existent today. The whole idea of authority, direct from God, being necessary for the saving ordinances of mankind, completely undermines and destroys the traditionally accepted doctrine that one is "saved by faith alone." It also completely destroys their own claims to authority, since they are the result of a break-off from the Roman Catholic faith.

If the Catholics did not have the priesthood authority, then the Protestants cannot have taken it with them. Hence, they are anxious to claim a "priesthood of all believers," or claim priesthood isn't needed at all.

If the Catholics did have the authority, then Protestants were wrong to leave in the first place. And, the Church rejected the view that the priesthood was "non-transferrable." Biblical scholarship has now "caught up" to this view, but Joseph Smith had it right in the first place.

Reading Hebrews 7:24

As seen above, most of the argument against the LDS doctrine of priesthood is based upon Hebrews 7:24:

But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.(emphasis added)

Some Christians interpret the word "unchangeable" as meaning non-transferable. Therefore, they say, the Priesthood that Christ held (the Melchizedek Priesthood) could not be transferred to anyone. But, as we have seen, this relies on an out-dated reading of the Greek. Such a view was defensible in the 19th century; it can no longer be sustained.

But, even if we grant this obsolete reading, could this be the correct interpretation? If so, there is a glaring contradiction within this very chapter, for verse twelve says the priesthood has changed:

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.(Hebrews 7:12) (emphasis added)

Either the priesthood is transferable (changeable), from Christ to others, or it is not. Which verse are we to believe? Let's take a closer look at this "unchangeable" priesthood in Hebrews 7:11-24:

  • 11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,)

(under the Aaronic priesthood, the people received the law of Moses -- an eye for an eye)

  • what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

(Those that hold the authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, also hold the authority of the lessor, or the Aaronic Priesthood)

  • 12 For the priesthood being changed,

(Here is a glaring contradiction to what the some Christians claim, for it clearly says the priesthood "changed." Let's continue to examine just what changed, and what the term means in context.)

  • there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

(The Law of Moses changed, not the priesthood. In other words, when Christ came, he gave a higher law. For example, the law was no longer an "eye for an eye," it was "turn the other cheek." Along with this higher law, came a higher priesthood, which is what is meant by "changed.")

  • 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

(Moses did not speak about the Melchizedek Priesthood and the higher law, which the Lord had, but he did speak of the Aaronic Priesthood, or the lower law.)

  • 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,

(This priest is Jesus Christ)

  • 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment,

(The Law of Moses—An Eye for an Eye)

  • but after the power of an endless life.

(The higher law, which Christ brought, which will lead us to eternal life.)

  • 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

(Christ, and the priesthood authority He holds -- the Melchizedek Priesthood -- is eternal -- without end.)

  • 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.

(The Law of Moses was abolished with the institution of the higher Law brought by Christ.)

  • 19 For the law [Mosaic Law] made nothing perfect

(We could not become perfect as our Father in Heaven commanded us to be by obedience to the Mosaic Law, for it does not contain the authority for the saving ordinances of salvation—the "keys" to bind in heaven and on earth, or in today's terminology, temple ordinances)

  • but the bringing in of a better hope did;

(A better hope, or a higher law, which brought the authority for the saving ordinances)

  • by the which we draw nigh unto God.

(It is through this higher law, by partaking of the temple ordinances, that we can "draw nigh" unto God, or become like Him, which is to "be perfect" {as God is perfect} as He commanded us—Matthew 5:48.)

  • 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

(This is in reference to the oath and covenant of the priesthood.)

  • 21 (For those priests

(The priests of the Aaronic, or Levitical, priesthood)

  • were made without an oath;

(The Aaronic, or lessor, priesthood, does not require an oath or covenant.)

  • but this [This = Higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood] with an oath

Ezra Taft Benson discussed this idea:

"When a priesthood holder takes upon himself the Melchizedek Priesthood, he does so by oath and covenant. This is not so with the Aaronic Priesthood. The covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood is that a priesthood holder will magnify his calling in the priesthood, will give diligent heed to the commandments of God, and will live by every word which proceeds "from

the mouth of God" (see D&C 84:33-44). The oath of the Melchizedek Priesthood is an irrevocable promise by God to faithful priesthood holders. "All that my Father hath shall be given unto them" (see D&C 84:38). This oath by Deity, coupled with the covenant by faithful priesthood holders, is referred to as the oath and covenant of the priesthood."[62]

  • by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

(The Melchizedek Priesthood is eternal)

  • 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man (Jesus Christ), because he continueth ever, [Eternal] hath an unchangeable [Eternal] priesthood.

(In context, this verse (24) that some Christians use to try to argue against the priesthood, is saying that since Jesus Christ is eternal, so is the authority He has. It is this same authority that Christ passed on to his Apostles, and they, passed on to others in the Church.)

This explanation should make it plain that the law, or schoolmaster (see Galatians 3:24), to lead the people unto Christ was administered by the Aaronic, or Levitical, Priesthood. However, perfection cannot be obtained through this priesthood alone, as Paul explained. Therefore, it was necessary for the Lord to send another priest after the order of Melchizedek. The priesthood thus being changed, there was "of necessity a change also of the law."[63]

The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, therefore, was introduced by him to take the place of the law of Moses. But, this does not mean that priesthood transfer to mankind has or must cease. In fact, Jesus actions in the Bible, and the conduct of the apostles after His resurrection, show precisely the opposite pattern.


Notes

  1. George Q. Cannon, "PREDICTIONS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON, etc.," (April 6, 1884) Journal of Discourses 25:128.
  2. Heber C. Kimball, "OBSERVANCE OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD," (January 6, 1861) Journal of Discourses 9:131.
  3. Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington D.C., April 1854).
  4. Deseret News (12 August 1865): 373.
  5. Dennis B. Horne, Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings (Eborn Books, 2000), [citation needed].
  6. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [1st edition] (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1958).
  7. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 760. GL direct link
  8. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan," Press release (12 December 2007). off-site
  9. M. Russell Ballard, "Building Bridges of Understanding," Ensign (June 1998), 62. off-site
  10. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2.9. in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (1885; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 7:52–53.
  11. David L. Paulsen and Cory G. Walker, "Work, Worship, and Grace: Review of The Mormon Culture of Salvation: Force, Grace and Glory by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006): 83–177. off-site wiki, italics in original, see footnote 11 for some of the quoted text.
  12. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration Dominus Ieusus, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," (2000-II), Section I. off-site
  13. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration Dominus Ieusus, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," (2000-II), Section IV, italics in original. off-site
  14. William Cardinal Levada, Angelo Amato, S.D.B.; ratified and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church (29 June 2007). off-site
  15. Muntzer, “Sermon before the Princes” (Allstedt, 13 July 1524), in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. G.H. Williams (Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1957): 51 (103-4).
  16. Franck, Letter to Campanus, in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. G.H. Williams, (Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1957), 51:151-152.
  17. Frank cited in Daniel H. Williams, “The Corruption of the Church and its Tradition”, in Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999): 148–149 (103-104).
  18. John Wesley, cited in Wesley's Works, Vol. 7, 89:26, 27.
  19. Church of England, Homily Against Peril of Idolatry (Date). off-site
  20. Dr. William Smith, Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1896).
    Note: Dr. Smith is not connected with Joseph Smith or the Church.
  21. Fosdick cited in Daniel H. Williams, “The Corruption of the Church and its Tradition”, in Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999): 101–131.
  22. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign 7 (February 1977): 86. The source erroneously refers to the "Marcionites" instead of the "Cerinthians".
  23. Ibid.
  24. 1 Corinthians 7:14.
  25. Doctrine and Covenants 128:18
  26. This obviously requires a rejection of the doctrine of sola scriptura and the affirmation of continuing revelation outside the Bible. For the best treatments of those from a Latter-day Saint perspective, see Robert S. Boylan, Not By Scripture Alone: A Latter-day Saint Refutation of Sola Scriptura (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2017). See also Robert S. Boylan, After the Order of the Son of God: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Latter-day Saint Theology of the Priesthood (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2018).
  27. FairMormon thanks Jaxon Washburn for his compilation of these sources.
  28. Søren Agersnap, Baptism and the New Life: A Study of Romans 6:1-14 (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1999), 175–76.
  29. Charles Kingsley Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Harper & Row Publishers Inc, 1987), 362–364.
  30. Stephen C. Barton, “1 Corinthians,” Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, James D.G. Dunn, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 1348.
  31. Richard E. DeMaris, The New Testament in its Ritual World (London: Routledge, 2008), 59, 63–64.
  32. James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Nature of Earliest Christianity (London: SCM Canterbury Press, 2006), 25, 172.
  33. Gordon D. Fee, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 766–767.
  34. Rolf Furuli, The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 1999), 289.
  35. David Bentley Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 297.
  36. Scott M. Lewis, So That God May Be All in All: The Apocalyptic Message of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 (Rome, Italy: Editrice Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, 1998), 70–71.
  37. Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 36.
  38. Steve Mason and Tom Robinson, Early Christian Reader: Christian Texts from the First and Second Centuries in Contemporary English Translations Including the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 70.
  39. Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), 218.
  40. John J. O'Rourke, "1 Corinthians,” A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, Reginald C. Fuller, Leonard Johnston, and Conleth Kearns, eds. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1969), 1159.
  41. William F. Orr and James A. Walter, 1 Corinthians: A New Translation (New York: Doubleday, 1976), 337.
  42. Stephen E. Potthoff, The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage: Near-Death Experience, Ancestor Cult, and the Archeology of Paradise (London: Routledge, 2017), 3.
  43. Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2006), 130–131.
  44. John Short, "Exposition of First Corinthians," The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, 12 vols., George Arthur, ed. (Abingdon, UK: Pierce and Washabaugh, 1953), 240.
  45. William Tabbernee, “Initiation/Baptism in the Montanist Movement,” Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity, David Hellholm, ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 941.
  46. James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 277–278.
  47. Jeffrey A. Trumbower, Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 35.
  48. Part of this wiki article originally derived from John A. Tvedtnes, "Is There a Priesthood of All Believers?" FairMormon link. Due to the nature of a wiki project, it has since diverged from the source material, due to other editors' additions or alterations.
  49. Reference "aparabatos," in Walter Bauer and Frederick William Danker (editors), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature , 3rd edition, (Urbana and Chicago, University Of Chicago Press, 2001), 97. ISBN 0226039331.
  50. Harold W. Attridge, Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 210.
  51. Franz Delitzch, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, trans. Thomas L. Kingbury (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), 370-371.
  52. James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), 53.
  53. David L, Allen, “Hebrews,” The New American Commentary, 42 vols. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 35:428.
  54. Dana M. Harris, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2019), 5.A.3.
  55. Hermann Cremer, Biblio-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, trans. William Urwick (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1872), 655-656.
  56. Craig R. Koester, Hebrews: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 365. FairMormon thanks Jaxon Washburn and Robert Boylan for their compilation of these sources.
  57. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (editors), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (translator), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 5: 742-743.
  58. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Book Review of Walter Martin's The Maze of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 6 no. 1 (Autumn 1964), 60.
  59. S. Kent Brown, "The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Mormon Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 23 no. 1 (Winter 1983), 56.
  60. Article here cites Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 166,322. off-site
  61. Richard D. Draper, "Hebrews, Epistle to the," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992).
  62. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 223. ISBN 0884946398. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  63. LeGrande Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 84. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) PDF link