Ravi and Rob (Crystal Cathedral, 2004)Ravi Zacharias
Most of you know that Ravi Zacharias passed away last month. He was one of Christianity’s top defenders. An eloquent and gracious spokesman, his passing was certainly our loss but his gain. I first met him at the Crystal Cathedral in March 2004. Eight months later, I had the privilege of watching him speak at the Salt Lake City LDS Tabernacle and a couple other venues.
This Utah trip was quite controversial. Many Christians were afraid that the LDS Church would censor Zacharias to a certain extent and that they would simply use him to prop themselves up. And by the way, contrary to the urban legend, Zacharias was not the second and only Evangelical to speak in the Tabernacle since the famous nineteenth century evangelist Dwight Moody (for more on all this, see HERE). Dr. Richard Mouw (who had quite a bit of controversy of his own when he introduced Zacharias and apologized to LDS for the way Christians had treated them) reported that when Zacharias participated in these events, he “was asked simply to set forth the basic message of the Christian gospel—with the only stipulation being that he not engage in any anti-Mormon polemics in his presentation” (Richard J. Mouw, Talking with Mormons [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012], 2.) Zacharias also gave a lecture at Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah. During the Q&A time, I observed someone ask him if Mormonism contradicts Christianity and how. Zacharias said that there are indeed major differences and we need to have a sincere dialogue about them. However, he said that he was a guest, and evidently that is why he declined to directly answer the question.
Whatever long-term benefits Zacharias had in gaining more credibility and making more in-roads with certain Latter-day Saints during his times lecturing in Utah, this was at the expense of their immediately understanding the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. Generally speaking, they walked away clueless as to what those differences are and thinking they really are not that different from traditional Christianity after all. At that 2004 event in the Tabernacle, I brought along a Mormon friend of mine, and she told me as much. To the LDS mind, any differences there may be are due to latter-day revelation, so of course they don’t contradict previous revelation. They just fill in the gaps and shed further light.
Despite Zacharias’ goal of opening up civil dialogue between two opposing worldviews, this normally works when the differences (i.e., comparisons as well as contradictions) are clearly articulated. In fact, Zacharias's co-presenter at a University of Michigan presentation affirmed as much in the Q&A session. Abu Murray responded to an atheist questioner who was wondering why the secular viewpoint was being singled out for criticism. At the 1:20:10 mark, Murray said, "Sometimes when in order to show the clarity of one position, you have to compare it with something else. Our colleague Os Guiness often says this: 'Comparison is the mother of clarity.' And I think we have to do that in order to show the differences between two views." If that worked well with Zacharias continually going after secularism, then one would think that the same rule would apply to going after Mormonism. However, at best, Zacharias only went after Mormonism (at least
here in Utah) in a covert and indirect way, which by definition opened himself up to a lack of clarity. (Of course he didn't do that when he became the general editor of the late Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults, and one of the chapters singled out Mormonism with much clarity.)
This is not to say that Zacharias dishonored God and that God could not do anything worthwhile in the LDS community through the Zacharias lectures. I believe the opposite. In fact, I think those lectures accomplished a lot of good in this community. As a member of the Body of Christ, Zacharias fulfilled a specific function that is not to be construed as normative for everyone else in that Body. Our Lord often spoke in parables that were not clear to many after all.
I say all this to provide a context. Last month, I found an online audio of when I asked Zacharias a question at the University of Utah in 2004. It starts at 4:20. The date in the video title is wrong. That is when this video audio was published on YouTube. Since Zacharias refused to talk about the differences between Mormonism and Christianity that night, I asked a specific question that at least some LDS could identify with without mentioning anything about Mormonism per se. One friend called it a nice “quarterback sneak.”
Video Intros for My Email Class
I have begun to put video intros up for each of my Mormonism vs. Christianity email class. Here’s the first video. I think this will make the class much more personable and inviting. Information on signing up for this free six-week class may be found on the home page of either MormonInfo.org or MeetTheExMormons.org.
Feast and Testimony Meetings
We will be starting our monthly fellowships up again this month given that Utah has been lessening the restrictions due to COVID-19. Please pray for people to attend, that we’ll use wisdom and be safe, and that many online may be blessed by these video testimonies.
We Need Your Partnership!
We not only need your prayers, but we need your financial partnership as well. Keep in mind that your investment is not simply for us, but for the lives of others we reach with the gospel. The standard way to financially invest is by writing a tax-deductible check to Courageous Christians United (CCU). For more information on various ways to invest in this ministry, including online giving, please see our “Invest” page on our sites. Please keep in mind we have no financial guarantees each month. Ministry partners come and go. If you’re not a partner and are blessed by these monthly updates, please consider joining our team and let us know soon. We’d love to be your missionaries here in Utah.
For those who sign up to partner with us on a monthly basis, I will send a signed copy of the book I contributed a chapter in--Sharing the Good News with Mormons (Harvest House). Many thanks to those of you who hold us up in prayer and/or in your financial giving!
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[Transcription of a voice mail:] A friend of mine in CA, her husband converted to the LDS church 6 months ago. She’s not LDS. He’s getting ready to do his endowments, but she has to right a letter to the bishop stating that she consents to that. I’ve never heard of that. ...What have you heard about that? And she said she has to meet with the bishop to talk to him and I told her that she needs to get biblical counseling. She attends a Calvary Chapel… I told her she needs to meet with somebody first before she meets with the bishop, ‘cause I’ve never heard that the husband needs a consent from the wife for his endowments.
[I replied:] I've heard about stuff like this before, but don't know much about it. I'd tell her she doesn't need to waste her time with the bishop unless she wants to preach to him. I'd tell her to tell her husband that she doesn't consent, since she doesn't consent with him being Mormon and giving their $ to a cult, but she'll still love, pray, and serve him and will continue being a part of C[alvary Chapel].
...I've heard there are significant differences [between the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and “the actual original king james bible”] but unsure of what those are. Also, can you think of examples of these differences off the top of your head?
[I replied:] Gen. 50 where Smith adds a prophecy of himself, 2 Sam. 12:13 where God does not put David's sin away, and Rom. 4:5 where God justifies not the ungodly.
[He replied:] I just went through the mormons bible and didnt see [these] there.
[I replied:] yeah, it's not in their King James Version. It's in the Community of Christ's Inspired Translation, which LDS footnote in their KJV.
[He replied:] Wooooaaaww what! I didn't know that. Even when I was LDS I didn't pay attention to the footnotes though. Why do the lds footnote the community of christ... what in the world. I thought they didnt respect each other.
[I replied:] They don't footnote CoC. They note what the JST says and the CoC owns the copyright.
[He replied:] Okay okay so let me get this right...
Mormons use original kjv but when there's something they want you to add or take out they footnote it and that footnote directs you to what JS would want you to read. Right?
[I replied:] Pretty much. The problem of course is that the JST… has absolutely no evidence for it and there's all sorts of evidence against it.
[He replied:] I just followed that footnote and wow! I didnt know how this worked. I'm new to this so this is absolutely blowing my mind!
I dont know how someone doesnt pull [t]he footnote and wonder why there's so much difference! So would Mormons basically be blatantly using the JST rather than KJV if the CoC didn't have the copyright? Is that the only reason they don't just straight out say we follow the JST and not the KJV?
[I replied:] They do, but for the most part they (and you) were too busy with all your church busy-ness to get you to really study for yourself. Don't know if they'd be using it or not. They may like it the way it is so they can appear more Christian on the surface.
[He replied:] sorry for blowing you up with questions but… I only know of how the book of mormon was translated. How and when did JS come up with a whole different version of the bible too???
[I replied:] He worked on it after the BM. He claimed he completed it, but continued to work on it up until his death.
[He replied:] thank you for walking me through this!
Thank you for your help. I'm not interested in Mormonism. However, I've been contacted by two young men from my neighborhood some time ago. Recently, I had a casual conversation with another neighbor who I think she's open-minded, hopefully. I appreciate any help you can offer on how I can manage that conversation.
I’m an ex Mormon
Would like to learn about Jesus again
I’m not aware of any Jesus except the LDS Jesus
[I replied:] Please read my MormonInfo.org
Just saw this on FB as well... https://www.mrm.org/10-reasons-jesus
[He replied:] Yeah those are common
I had my name removed in 2014
I just wonder if it’s worth learning about Christ
Is he the Christ I once believed in?
How can it effect my life
Can I give him burdens again?
Cause I need a buddy at times
Life gets too heavy
[I replied:] Well western civilization is shape[d] because of Him, so for that reason alone it would be worth it to read the New Testament and come to your own conclusions.
[He replied:] Western civilization is shaped because of him? I do have a new bible that I skim occasionally
[I replied:] Yeah, if it wasn't for him we wouldn't have the Christian Church, Christian philosophers, universities, hospitals, art, etc., etc. Read the New Testament and see what you think.
[He replied:] Yeah okay
[I replied:] Ask God to help you. I'm here any time you have questions. Btw, if you go to my MormonInfo.org, I have a 6 week email class that may be helpful for you as well.
[He replied:] the Mormon stuff is behind me
The only thin[g] I appreciate about the Mormon years and mission is the drive to get as much education as possible
So I have a good job and a lot of education while pursuing the mortal exaltation lol
I just need to check out who Jesus is
[I replied:] Sure, but there are cobwebs you'll find that are still hanging around. My wife had them years after she left Mormonism and became a Christian. It takes time. Also, contrasting what you learned with what Christianity has taught for 2000 years now will be helpful for your learning.
[He replied:] Okay thanks I’ll check it out
I just remember how I put Jesus on a high pedestal
It would be cool to learn about who he really was
[I replied:] Be patient. It's a long road for recovery.
[He replied:] I thought I was recovered
Maybe there are webs still hanging
Guilt chases me sometimes
[I replied:] That's what people say after just a few years of being divorced too, and the problem is that it's myopic. Especially with kids. A whole life built together isn't easily dismissed
[He replied:] Oh for sure myopic
[I replied:] Christ took the guilt. There's peace with God in Him.
[He replied:] Leaders were crazy there
LDS ...doctrine was lethal
Tore people apart...
[I replied:] You may also be encouraged by watching some of our testimonials at our home every month at www.MeetTheExMormons.org.
[He replied:] Thanks
[I replied:] Praying for you!
You may also want to join our FB discussion board. Just please answer the 3 questions to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/MormonInfo.org/.
[He replied:] ...I don’t believe the LDS history or church for along time
There doctrine is nuts
I saw you guys at the salt lake temple years ago
In the 90s
I think you are VERY patient. Those I speak to are very well trained and hard to reach. Keep teaching us!!
I believe I heard you speak to us in Salt Lake City about Mormonism.
I am a Baptist (not a mormon!) and I am currently talking to some Mormon Missionaries. I was talking to one dude and every time I talk about Joseph Smith being a false prophet. They always say to go back and pray about it. They say I am just going to get confused when I dig into the reasoning part of mormonism. I point out that they can not go to their feelings because their heart is wicked and even Joseph Smith got his feelings wrong when it came to the copyright being sold in Canada. However, they still point back to prayer.
Do you have any extra advice or encouragement?
[I replied:] We dealt with all this the first week when we talked about can our feelings be trusted. It is very maddening when they do this, and there's really not much we can do about it. What are you going to do? Give a person who doesn't care about reasoning 10 reasons why they should reason? I mean, you can show them all the reasons, but nothing is going to work until God gives them a heart for truth and using the minds He gave them to examine the evidence. The problem is that they beg the question that feelings are the only sacrosanct way that God gets His message across to us. If you're confused with reasoning, then they are confused with their thinking that merely praying and waiting for a good feeling is going to solve anything. It's not just the mind that is fallen; the heart is equally fallen. The answer is coming humbly before God's word and letting it enlighten us. It is a more sure word of prophecy after all (2 Pet. 1:19).
I suggest giving them some damning evidence, maybe share how God commands us to use our minds in honoring Him, and if they persist, then ask if it would be alright to pray there and then. Then pray that God will open their eyes to truth and how they're getting ripped off by Smith and that you would all be open for whatever God has for y'all, since God is a God of truth and won't contradict Himself. Then thank them for their time and move on to other LDS who may be a little more open to ascertaining the evidence.
I love to read your newsletter each month and am excited about your doctoral program opportunity. Obviously you're a good writer and editor, but if you would like an extra set of eyes to look over your thesis, I'd be happy to volunteer to do that. I'm sure I'd learn a great deal as well:) I'm a retired court reporter, so over the years I've produced thousand of pages of transcripts and I'm now trying to put my skills to good use. So if there's anything I can do, please let me know.