Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Becoming Gods/Chapter 10

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


A work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
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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:

FairMormon 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:

FairMormon 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: Author's opinion

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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: Source not specified.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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: No source specified.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 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: Source not specified.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information



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: Source not specified.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information



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: *2 Peter 2:1-2

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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: No source given.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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?

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 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][22] 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.) [23]

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.) [24]


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: Hebrews 7-10

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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.[25]

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

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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 that Latter-day Saints position that the Priesthood is the authority God has given man to perform the ordinances

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].[26]

Thus, it is the priesthood which is unchangeable, rather than being non-transferable. 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).[27]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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[30].[31]

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."[32]

  • 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."[33]

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. The source erroneously refers to the "Marcionites" instead of the "Cerinthians".
  23. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign (February 1977), 86. off-site
  24. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign (February 1977), 86. off-site
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (editors), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (translator), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 5: 742-743.
  28. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Book Review of Walter Martin's The Maze of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 6 no. 1 (Autumn 1964), 60.
  29. S. Kent Brown, "The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Mormon Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 23 no. 1 (Winter 1983), 56.
  30. 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
  31. Richard D. Draper, "Hebrews, Epistle to the," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992).
  32. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 223. ISBN 0884946398. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  33. LeGrande Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 84. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) PDF link