En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

  • Grab My Button!

    BWS tips button
    <a href="http://dadsdevoted.com"><img src="http://i496.photobucket.com/albums/rr323/baileytribe/blog/blckwhite_button.jpg" alt="BWS tips button" width="125" height="125" /></a><div style="border: 1px solid #DDD; margin: auto; padding: 5px 10px; background: #F8F8F8 none repeat scroll 0pt 0pt; overflow: auto; height: 100px; line-height: 1.5em;">***</div>

Archive for March, 2008

Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates…Hoax!

Posted by Scott on March 30, 2008

Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates
Overview and Current Perspectives
Copyright © 2003 Institute for Religious Research

000aaa_kinderhookcolor-crop-sh.jpg

On April 23, 1843, six bell-shaped brass plates, covered with undecipherable engravings were unearthed near Kinderhook, Illinois, 70 miles south of Nauvoo. These plates have come to be known as the Kinderhook Plates.  A Latter-day Saint was present when the plates were discovered, so news traveled quickly back to the Mormon community in Nauvoo about the discovery of a new set of metal plates with writing on them. Initial LDS reactions were positive and reflected an expectation that these plates would support the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon. Soon after their discovery the Kinderhook Plates were taken to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith so he could examine them.

On Wednesday, May 1, 1843 in the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, the editor of the Mormon Church publication TIMES AND SEASONS published an article on this discovery.

The article stated:  “Circumstances are daily transpiring which give additional testimony to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” 

The article went on to say:

The following letter and certificate, will perhaps have a tendency to convince the skeptical, that…even the obnoxious Book of Mormon, may be true; and…that there may have been such [gold] plates as those from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

Mr. Smith has had those [Kinderhook] plates, what his opinion concerning them is, we have not yet ascertained. The gentleman that owns them has taken them away, or we should have given a fac similie of the plates and characters in this number. We are informed however, that he purposes returning with them for translation; if so, we may be able yet to furnish our readers with it (TIMES AND SEASONS, vol. 4, pp. 185-87).

The bell-shaped plates were later returned to Joseph Smith and according to historical sources, both Mormon and non-Mormon, he began a translation of the engravings and identified the skeletal remains found with the Kinderhook Plates.   

For example, Joseph’s private secretary William Clayton, recorded the following journal entry for May 1, 1843:

I have seen 6 brass plates which were found in Adams County . . . President Joseph has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found & he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven & earth (An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, ed. George D. Smith, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1991, p. 100; emphasis added).

For many years, this entry in Clayton’s journal was attributed to Joseph Smith as a first person statement.  This is because it was cited as such in the official History of the Church, May 1, 1843, which reads:

I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike County, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 372; emphasis added).

For 130 years this statement was accepted as unquestionably accurate.  Joseph Smith claimed to have seen the Kinderhook Plates, he identified them as ancient artifacts, and translated part of them.  However, since 1980 some LDS scholars and apologists have argued that these statements did not originate with Smith, but rather Clayton himself invented them or merely recorded hearsay.

This raises some interesting questions.

How plausible is this argument raised by some LDS writers? Was it unusual for accounts recorded by Joseph’s scribes to be entered as Joseph’s own words? Who was William Clayton? Was he in a position to accurately know and record Joseph’s words?  Was Clayton considered a reliable scribe and a dependable person?  Are there other entries in his journals that are accepted without question as the words of Joseph Smith?

Clayton: Intimate Confidante of Joseph Smith

From his conversion to the Mormon Church at age 23 in Preston, England in 1837, to his death in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1879, William Clayton is described as “never swerving in his belief in the church and its leaders” by George D. Smith, editor of An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (p. xvii).  In his fifty page introduction to Clayton’s life and journals, George D. Smith includes descriptions of Clayton from close associates and family members who uniformly remember him as a serious, meticulous and dependable person. His daughter spoke of him as “methodical, always sitting in his own armchair, having a certain place at the table … his person was clean and tidy; his hands small and dimpled” (p. liii).  G.D. Smith writes:

Long after his death, Clayton was remembered as “the soul of punctuality”; his daughter remembering his “love for order, which he believed was the first law of heaven … he would not carry a watch that was not accurate” (p. xvi).

Mormon leaders recognized Clayton’s gifts and abilities early on, for after being a member of the LDS Church for less than six months he was named second counselor to the president of the British Mission (p. xvi), and later became the first branch president of Manchester (BYU Studies, 27:1, p. 47).

At Clayton’s death, Joseph F. Smith, who would become the sixth President of the LDS Church, noted Clayton’s achievements:

He was a friend and companion of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it is to his pen to a very great extent that we are indebted for the history of the Church … during his acquaintance with him and the time he acted for him as his private secretary, in the days of Nauvoo (p. lx).

LDS scholars who have studied Clayton’s life have noted his “meticulous detail that was the hallmark of his writing” (p. xx), and also that,

Beginning early in 1842, William Clayton found himself involved in nearly every important activity of Nauvoo, but especially the private concerns of the prophet. For two and a half years, until Joseph’s death in 1844, they were in each other’s company almost daily.

[James B.] Allen [who wrote a biography of Clayton], explains that Clayton was not only Smith’s trusted employee and associate but also his personal friend and confidante. He wrote letters for the prophet, recorded his revelations, ran his errands, and helped prepare the official history of the church (pp. xxii-xxiii).

There would appear to be nothing or no one to detract from Clayton’s ability to accurately record the words of Joseph Smith, and every reason to believe he did so accurately and reliably.

Therefore, one can understand why the leaders of the LDS Church when compiling an authoritative history of the life of Joseph Smith and the Church, would accept without question the accuracy of Clayton’s journal entry for May 1, 1843 that stated:

I have seen 6 brass plates which were found in Adams County . . . President Joseph has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found & he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven & earth (Intimate Chronicle, p. 100, emphasis added).

As LDS leaders constructed a history of Joseph’s life with words recorded by him and others, it would have been easy to justify modifying Clayton’s May 1, 1843 entry so it read as follows when incorporated into the History of the Church:

I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike County, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and other, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 372) 

If one does not accept Clayton’s journal entry at face value, about the only alternative is to imply that Clayton did not hear Smith make these statements, but instead was willing and capable of inserting speculative and unsubstantiated ideas and falsely attributing them to Joseph Smith.  While this can be granted as a possibility, it certainly seems improbable and highly implausible given what we know of Clayton’s life and character and the high level of confidence placed in him by Joseph Smith and subsequent LDS leaders and scholars.

Corroborating Evidence

Equally important in assessing the accuracy of Clayton’s journal entry is the existence of corroborating historical evidence related to Clayton, Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates. For example:

  • The Mormons  published facsimiles of the plates in a broadside titled “Discovery of the Brass Plates,” published at Nauvoo, Illinois, 24 June 1843.  This broadside stated in part:

    The contents of the Plates, together with a Fac-Simile of the same, will be published in the “Times & Seasons,” as soon as the translation is completed (LDS Archives – reproduced in Stanley B. Kimball, “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax,” Ensign 11 [August 1981]:72). 

  • Joseph Smith hired Clayton specifically to record what he did and said, and “beginning in early 1842, William Clayton found himself involved in nearly every important activity of Nauvoo, but especially the private concerns of the prophet. For two and a half years, until Joseph’s death in 1844, they were in each other’s company almost daily” (Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, George D. Smith, ed., pp. xxii-xxiii). 
     

  • Clayton was with Joseph Smith on the day he records Joseph rendering his verdict on the plates (Intimate Chronicle, p. 100). 
     
  • Church Historian George A. Smith affirmed in 1858 that there was an accurate system in place so that the recorded history would be “strictly correct.”  The historians and clerks engaged in the work were “eye and ear witnesses of nearly all the transactions recorded in this history, most of which were reported as they transpired, and, where they were not personally present, they have had access to those who were” (Edward Ashment, unpublished article on file, Institute for Religious Research, Appendix A, p. 2) 
     
  • The history of Joseph Smith that contains the Kinderhook Plate statement was approved by Brigham Young, who himself was at Joseph Smith’s house and saw the plates there.   Young even includes a sketch of one of the plates he saw at Joseph’s house in his diary (Ashment, p. 2).

Thus, numerous historical sources indicate Clayton’s May 1, 1843 journal entry is accurate, and that Joseph considered the Kinderhook Plates ancient artifacts and began a translation of them. This historical evidence, coupled with a complete lack of any evidence to the contrary, was sufficiently convincing that for over 130 years no Mormon seems to have questioned or contested the authenticity of these bell-shaped brass plates.

LDS writer Stanley B. Kimball summarized the extent of LDS acceptance of the Plates as follows:

Over the decades, through the pages of the Times and Seasons, the Nauvoo Neighbor, The Prophet, missionary pamphlets, the Millennial Star, the Desert News, the University Archaeological Newsletter, the Improvement Era,  [in]  BYU Symposia  [and in Visitors’ Centers, and]  in books and unpublished reports, LDS scholars and laymen (and at least two RLDS writers) have affirmed and striven to prove the story of the Kinderhook plate incident and tried to make them vouch for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and to defend Joseph’s alleged translation of them (Stanley B. Kimball, “New Light on the Old Kinderhook Plates Problem,” based on a paper read at the 16th annual Mormon History Meeting, Ricks College, May 1-3, 1981, p. 3).

Challenges and Mormon Defense

Due to the historical evidence and the testimony of Joseph Smith, the Mormon community accepted and defended the Kinderhook Plates as genuine artifacts of ancient origin. Non-Mormons, however, at times challenged the LDS view that the plates were ancient artifacts. One such challenge came from Wilbur Fugate who participated in the 1843 discovery of the plates. He gave testimony in an 1879 letter to James T. Cobb that he had been involved in a hoax along with two other men. He claimed that together they had cut out thin pieces of metal and etched markings on them with beeswax and acid.  Then they had aged and secretly buried the plates and faked their discovery, inviting a Mormon to be present so word would get back to Joseph Smith (Welby W. Ricks, The Improvement ERA, vol., 65, 1962, pp. 656, 658).

However, Mormon defenders rejected this testimony and even had a surviving original plate examined in June of 1953 by Stanley B. Hill and Edward Pwiiski, two non-LDS engravers, to determine whether it was etched with a sharp object, or engraved with acid.  While this testing was not conclusive, there seemed to be evidence the plate was engraved rather than etched. This led Mormon scholar Welby W. Ricks to write:

The plates are now back in their original category of genuine. What scholars may learn from this ancient record in future years or what may be translated by divine power is an exciting thought to contemplate. This much remains. Joseph Smith, Jun., stands as a true prophet and translator of ancient records by divine means and all the world is invited to investigate the truth which has sprung out of the earth not only of the Kinderhook Plates, but of the Book of Mormon as well (Ibid. p. 660).

For over 130 years, from the discovery of these bell-shaped plates in 1843, the consensus Mormon position based on historical evidence was:

1.   The Kinderhook Plates appeared to be authentic, ancient artifacts.

2.   Joseph Smith saw the plates and had facsimiles made of them.

3.   Smith accepted them as authentic, evidenced by his claim to have translated them sufficiently to have determined their origin.

A Sudden Twist in the Trail

000aaaa_kinderhookcolor-crop-sh.jpg  All this changed radically in 1980.  In that year LDS history professor, Stanley B. Kimball, secured permission from the Chicago Historical Society to do a new series of highly technical tests, including use of a scanning electron microscope and an X-ray fluorescence analysis.  These were performed by Professor D. Lynn Johnson of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. The tests were conclusive: this was indeed one of the original plates presented to Joseph Smith in 1843.  However, it was not of ancient origin, but rather a modern brass alloy produced in the 19th century. The Kinderhook Plates were just what Fugate had claimed in 1879, “a humbug”. (Stanley B. Kimball, “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax,” Ensign 11 [August 1981]:69-70).

Suddenly, the Kinderhook Plates did not support Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon, but instead raised serious questions about Joseph’s prophetic claims to be able to translate ancient languages.

LDS Scholars Revisit the Issue and Respond

LDS scholar Stanley B. Kimball, who initiated the conclusive testing on a surviving Kinderhook Plate in 1980, also provided the principle Mormon response to these results in an article he wrote for the official Mormon Church magazine, the Ensign. Kimball’s article reported the test results and then sketched out a survey of the historical evidence related to the Kinderhook Plates. Kimball’s conclusions (which have become the most common line of response given by other LDS apologists) can be summarized as follows.

  • Joseph was never fooled to begin with. The Kinderhook Plates were a frontier prank that Joseph was exposed to but he did not fall for it.
     

  • Joseph neither claimed to make a translation, nor did he even start a translation.
     

  • Joseph’s statement found in History of the Church that he had translated a portion of the Plates should be attributed to Clayton’s speculation.
     

  • Where Clayton got such an idea is unknown, but it is most likely he was reporting hearsay and then attributed it to Joseph Smith.

Stanley B. Kimball in his article for the Ensign magazine in August 1981, wrote:

Where the ideas written by William Clayton originated is unknown. However, as will be pointed out later, speculation about the plates and their possible content was apparently quite unrestrained in Nauvoo when the plates first appeared. … Whether or not he [Clayton] was present when Joseph Smith saw the plates is unknown (Ensign, August 1981, p. 67, 71).

Origination of William Clayton’s Ideas Unknown

It is notable that Kimball’s conclusions constitute a complete reversal of the previous Mormon position on the Kinderhook Plates. For over 130 years both LDS leaders and the Mormon community accepted them as authentic, ancient records, and as such they were used to support Joseph’s claims to be a true prophet, seer and translator.

Kimball’s article attempts to absolve Joseph Smith by claiming that the contemporary testimony of Clayton and others were based on “hearsay stories circulating in Nauvoo” (Ensign, August 1981, p. 73).

However, at least one other LDS historian has found serious problems with Kimball’s attempts to reinterpret Mormon history, and especially his attack on the reliability of William Clayton’s journal as a source for what Joseph Smith said.  Noted LDS scholar and writer Edward H. Ashment took exception to Kimball’s attempts to defuse the Kinderhook Plates issue.  Ashment first outlined the compelling historical evidence that closely linked Clayton to Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates (cited earlier in this article).  Then, he detailed numerous serious flaws in both Kimball’s arguments and methodology as found in the Ensign article, and concluded with the following:

Kimball argues from the standpoint of argumentum ad opinabilem, in which the argument proceeds from prior belief to empirical conclusion. In this fallacy, the “prior belief” constitutes the categorical premise upon which the conclusion is based. In other words, because Kimball assumes that Smith was a prophet, Smith therefore would not have incorrectly identified and interpreted the Kinderhook Plates.  This explains his specious attempt to exculpate Smith by claiming that Clayton’s and others’ contemporary testimonies were based on “hearsay stories circulating in Nauvoo” (1981, 73).

Kimball’s article is an example of religious apologia presented as though it were history. Facts which are not congenial to increased faith in a given dogma are discredited (as Kimball has attempted to do with the 1 May 1843 entry), distorted or excised (Ashment, p. 2).

Kimball appears to impugn Clayton’s reliability to accurately record Joseph Smith’s words only when these now cast shadows on Joseph’s character and claims.

The question facing the investigator today regards the legitimacy of this post-1980 response. When we encounter objective evidence that overturns previous beliefs or at least calls them into question, is it honest or reasonable to then reassess and reinterpret the historical facts so the belief can stand, or is it time to reassess our beliefs and assumptions? The Kinderhook Plates are a known hoax.  Joseph Smith identified them as ancient artifacts and claimed to translate a portion of them. An honest wrestling with the issues seems necessary where there is a commitment to spiritual and intellectual integrity.

Glenn Evans
Joel B. Groat

Copyright © 2003 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

He Leads Me Beside Still Waters!

Posted by Scott on March 28, 2008

Psalm 23:1-6 is a short chapter.  However, the Lord has it jam packed with meat that each of us guys can live on.

We have a God that is our Shepherd.  This means He watches over us as sheep.  Whether we like to think about it this way or not we are all like sheep prone to wonder away and get into trouble unless our Shepherd keeps us in line.  A Shepherd makes sure we are in the right places to eat and drink, so we will want for nothing.  This does not mean we will have everything we want, but everything we need…there is a difference.

Our great God gives us green lush pasture grass to lie down in…nothing greater to a sheep than tall luscious green grass in the morning with a bit of cool watery dew on top, yum-yum.  With us it is the same way.  Our gracious Lord gives us a place to lie down in peace at night.  It is our Shepherd that gives us this sweet rest. 

Then we are lead by the crystal clear calm waters that are quiet and peaceful.  These can be described like small ponds with not even a ripple across them, like looking at glass.  Come to think of it I have not seen sheep drink from a running brook or stream…as sheep they are probably too scary to drink from such a source.   Mostly I have seen sheep drink from is a still, quiet, pond or lake only.  Could it be this way for real..I will have to research further on that?  Anyway, in the middle of a hard day, God will calm us and quiet us with His presence.  Just knowing He is beside me is all I need to know in order to gain a steady hand with my problems.  Even if my issues are not going my way just having my Jesus beside me is all I need.  It is in this moment beside the calm quiet waters that He restores my aching troubled soul.   My Lord brings about the stability in my soul so that rest and peace can take place.  He gives us the steady hand to accomplish our work.  He gives us the steadiness to calm our families during the storm.  As Jesus leads us we can lead our families as well.  It is our job as dads and husbands to help our families to drink from these calm quiet ponds and find rest there.  We are to lead our families to the Shepherd.

You know guys, God is our personal guide leading us on the right paths in this life.  It is for His glorious name that He guides us back over to a righteous road away from the treacherous way we can be headed.  You know us sheep are prone to wonder and not recognize when we are going the wrong way that leads to our tragic end…God as our Shepherd knows this.  Thankfully we can count on His beautiful guidance each and every day.  It is hard for any man to give up ourselves in order to allow God to rule our lives, but guys, we must.  We must be the example of obedience to His word to show our families it is “ok”.  They will gain trust in our Shepherd if they see us trusting and obeying Him.

Throughout life each one of us will walk through the deepest darkest valley.  As the scripture puts it “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.  It is appointed that every man die once a physical death.  However, in this instance we can apply this “darkest valley” as death, financial ruin, spiritual upheaval, major health issues, etc.  In our lifetime we will walk through many dark valleys in order to get to the next mountain top and we have to climb this huge mountain just to get there.  Mountain tops are not that long compared to the valley below them and the sides leading up to them.  This is why we see far more valleys and find ourselves climbing mountains most of the time than we experience standing on top of the mountain.  Each mountain top experience I have had was absolutely wonderful…I never wanted to leave there, however, in order to continue to grow closer to my Lord and be obedient to His calling, I had to leave the mountain top and begin that long decent down the other side towards yet another valley.  This is tough to do.  God never promised us it would be an easy life, but that it would be one worth living in the end.  You see, we can count on our Lord to walk with us through these darkest valleys.  We need not fear any kind of evil since He is with us.  He has two big sticks to beat off anything that might try to keep us in that valley or ruin our time there…it is His rod and staff.  We can take great comfort in knowing this as we follow God along the right path through the valley.  Guys, these valleys are never where we want to stay, but the wisdom gained there is absolutely irreplacable.  I like to be beside a calm lake, with beautiful greenery all around.  I love watching the birds fly in and animals roam around those areas.  It can be great sometimes.  If we are not careful, guys, we will get accustom to living in the valley and not want to start climbing the mountain again.  These valleys have tremendous purpose, but we must continue on.  That mountain top is still the best place to be even if for a short period of time.  You see, it is there we can actually see all of God glorious wonder.  It is there we can shout the praises of our great King and see where it is we have been.  It is hard to see where we have been in the valley, but on the mountain top we can see it all that is behind us and much of what we have coming before us.  This is not saying we can see each trouble still to come…we can see much of the terrain we have to cross in order to get to the other side.  Hey, like my kids, I love a good adventure and in that valley below is adventure guaranteed.

Each of us no matter how gracious or good we are will have enemies.  Even if this enemy is satanic in nature, it is still our enemy.  As a matter of fact if anyone is against God they are an enemy of God making them our enemy as well.  So, regardless how hard we work to make sure no one is our enemy, we will still have enemies.  Our gracious Lord prepares a table that is fit for a king to eat at right in the presence of our enemies.  He intends that the enemy see that we belong to Him.  God wants our enemies to know that He is our God, our Guide, our Shepherd, Our Leader, and our Redeemer.  At the same time He anoints us or honors us before our enemies, which is one of the highest forms of affection and honor He will bestow on us.  Our cup will run over with the affection of our great sovereign Lord.  While the enemy can only grumble and look on…God is loving us and taking care of us each step of the way. 

Finally, we find ourselves with goodness, mercy, and love following us all the days of our lives.  This is a promise.  Men, understand that we can live off the promises of God…this t-bone steak for us!  This promise is not that we will spend our entire lives on the mountain peaks, but that even in the darkest valleys goodness and mercy and love will follow us there.  We can count on our God to provide that for us.  In the end of it all is really no end at all.  For we will live in the house of God forever.  For all eternity we will rest with our great God in heaven livign life to the fullest in thegreatest sense that God intended us to live.  These valleys, the shadow of death, the financial turmoil, the marital problems, the health issues, the pain, the suffering, the depression, the unclear direction, the uncertainty..this will all pass away someday into a new morning that is crystal clear with the light of the glory of our Lord Jesus with His hands open wide for each of us.  As God has said, “though I walk THROUGH the valley”.  It does not say we are staying there or how long we will be there.  We are only walking through it…there is another mountain peak coming…there is a new day dawning.  His mercies are fresh and new each morning, guaranteed!  After all is said and done in this life, we have eternity waiting…stop and imagine eternity or forever…what will that be like?  What a glorious picture we can make of this.  Those without Christ have no picture to visualize.  Those of us in Christ, oh what a wonderful day it will be.  AMEN!

Posted in devotion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Honest Questions for LDS!

Posted by Scott on March 27, 2008

I have just run across these different ideas, rituals, stories and such as I have been studying on the LDS Church.  Now, admittedly I can hear all kinds of answers from non-LDS members and some former LDS members, but I do not know if they are correct.  Everyone has an opinion and some make a great case, but I want to hear from LDS members and what you think about these things.  I mean they are a part of LDS, so you must have an opinion or understanding on them.  Please, answer honestly and I will post what you answer.  If a further question arises from your answers I will post in another posting, but questions may not come up. 

Here are several questions to things I just do not understand:

1. Why does the Mormon church use Satanic symbols on the Temples?  The pentagram (satanic goat head) for instance is across the top of the Temple in Illinois 6 times?  Then you have the Sun God Baal underneath it 6 times and then towards the bottom is the moon god 6 times.  What is that all about?

2. Where did the planet Kolob come from in LDS?  I have read and watched documentaries on this and what is that all about?  God and other gods coming from a planet Kolob where a counsel once met to determine which one of God’s sons would be the redeemer and Jesus was chosen which made Lucifer mad and he talked a 1/3 of the angels to go with him or their skin turned black as a curse.  I don’t know that this is the belief across the board, but I have seen it in a few video presentations and also read a couple of articles that described it similiarly.  It tells us in John that Jesus was God’s one and only Son, so I am not sure where Lucifer comes in as being Jesus brother.  I have always heard this, but could not reconcile it.  I was just wondering what this is all about.

3. What was the stone for that Joseph Smith wore around his neck and Brigham Young wore one as well…so hhas been  reported.  I cannot remember what it was called….something like a Jupiter Stone or something like that.  The stones have been said to have occultic symbols on them of course I have never seen one or heard of one to know. 

4. I have heard two different accounts of this and I have read two different accounts.  One says that 13 witnesses actually testified to seeing the Golden Plates with their owns eyes.  Then the other account is that these 13 testified they only saw the Golden Plates spiritually..through spiritual eyes, but not physically…only Joseph Smith saw the actual Golden Plates with his own eyes.  I was just curious as to which one seems to be the actual doctrine of LDS on this.  I do not have an opinion on it…but when you hear or read two differing accounts one gets curious as to which it is.

5.  I read yesterday about the Kinbrook Plates.  These were bell shaped plates that were golden.  A group of men reportedly unearthed these plates that were stamped with symbols on them and took them to Joseph Smith.  It was told that Joseph begin to interpret these plates and symbols and when half way through found out that the plates were a hoax by these men and that the symbols meant nothing.  Do you have further information on this?  I only heard and read briefly on this, but wondered if anyone has actually seen any transcript as to what Joseph Smith was writing down as that the symbols meant?  The folks doing the documentary may not have known the truth about this either.  I was shocked to even hear about them as I had never heard about them until I was reading online about golden plates and then found a video that was talking about them as well.  Curious to know what else is known about them.

Remember, I am simply curious to know answers to these questions.  I get alot of questions about different things like this and I also want to be able to set people straight when they are misquoting as well.  If anyone can speak on some or all of these questions that would great.  If you simply do not have an answer that is understandable as well.

thanks,

Scott

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

LDS Members: You Have Met My Goal!

Posted by Scott on March 27, 2008

OK, you have answered the questions raised yesterday…thank you one and all.  I appreciate the great responses…some were very good responses and some just the same old stuff, but that is how it goes with any question no matter what the faith.  Some comments were somewhat harsh and I did not post them as my intent was not to create that kind of dialogue.  Any character assassins on me or my source is not allowed…sorry!  Just make the case for you personally and your faith and leave at that…I think we can all get along with that.

The overall goal was to create some dialogue here.  It seems if I ask sweet little questions in my post to the LDS they will not respond, however, when I post some questions that really are meaningless in the overall scheme of things you pounced like a cat on a flicker of light.  I would encourage you to just make your cases without all the snotty comments in between.   Some of you obviously have either had these questions before or really got to researching on it which is terrific.  We all must know why we believe what we believe and how to defend it.  I had a few that said you guys would not respond to the post and it would go no where and I thought they were crazy and you would respond and defend and you certainly have.  Great!  I am not saying here you convinced me otherwise, but that was not the goal intended.

Now, be looking for other questions in the future that really are a puzzle to me and I really do want the answers…I do not have any preconceived ideas on many of the future questions.  If I do I will tell you I do.  I would not be asking the questions if not looking for the answers.  Do not mistaken my questions as looking for truth…I am looking for some clarification on puzzling ideas, practices and questions.  I will make this very clear, I know where the truth is and it is found in my Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word, the Savior, the King of Kings and sets at the right  hand of my heavenly Father.  All the snotty remarks in the world will not change my mind about my Jesus.  I know how big my sovereign God is…far bigger than most will give Him credit for.  So, do not approach answering my questions as if to bring me into LDS…that will not happen…I want to be frank about that and it is not a slam against the LDS for me to say this.  However, I want to improve upon what I know about LDS from you…not from pamphlets and hear-say, which usually are distorted somewhat.  I have a few LDS missionaries that come over from time to time, but they really do not know very much about the deeper details of the LDS faith.  These 6 questions I asked stumped them, so I am not about to embarrass them with further questions like this….that is not my goal at all.  I care deeply for these young elders of the LDS and do not intend to embarrass them or argue with them either.

I like each of you that are civilized and even some that are spunky and I guess even those of you that did not get your comments posted, change your language and I will let you through:-)  Just realize I do not fear you or the LDS…there is nothing to fear, so I really do not understand why other Christians are so afraid of you either.  You may not think so, but it is true that I care deeply about each of you and where you will spend eternity.  In a strange way, though, I want to know everything I can about your faith.  This helps me to be able to understand where you are coming from.  If all I have are distorted ideas from what others say or what I read from those that may not know anything, then how can I understand you.  That goes both ways I know.  I will post a video I have found from time to time and ask you to help me understand what they are saying, so do not take the video as me trying to convince you of something or embarrass you…that is not the intent.  I want you to watch the same thing I am and shed some light on the content.  Many thousands of others will see the same thing.

So, do not turn your ears and eyes off, please.  I have watched more video productions, read more information (some good and some not so good), had personal conversations with Mormons, have clients that are Mormons or bel and even read a good portion of the Book of Mormon, so do not think I am clueless on everything.  Yet, I do not have an answer for many strange things you do or believe in…I say “strange” because it is too me.  Thanks for reading and listening to me and I look forward to some of you coming back to assist with answers and comments to my bizarre questions.  Just bare with any questions that may seem stupid…I do not see any questions as stupid you might ask no matter how simple.  Lets learn about each other.

Pressing on in Christ my Lord,

Scott

Galatians 1:6-9 & 2 Timothy 3:16-17  

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Could Joseph Smith have been a great story teller..or a true prophet?

Posted by Scott on March 26, 2008

Interesting video.  Sandra Tanner in this video is the great great grand daughter of Brigham Young.   Can you tell me your thoughts on the contents of this video?  I am not stating a support of it, just want your opinion of what it is claiming.  I mean for most people to think about someone putting their face inside a hat looking at a stone and having God’s word revealed to them is just amazing to me.  So, I just want some LDS comments on this.  Watch with openness of heart and mind.

 

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Free Masonry, the Occult and Joseph Smith! What are the connections?

Posted by Scott on March 26, 2008

Please watch and if you can address the issues this video raises I would greatly appreciate it.  I have read and researched most of this and it all seems to be true, but I wanted the opinion of someone from the LDS to address the issues.  I could not have presented it better than this video, so i just posted it to save time.  This is in no way condemning LDS…it just creates questions for the non-LDS person out here and we would like to know that someone from the LDS address it rather than us listening and watching and reading.

 

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beware of Proclaiming Yourself!

Posted by Scott on March 26, 2008

By: John Piper

The great challenge of the preacher is to follow Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

But there are more ways to preach ourselves than one might think. This word from James Denney has exerted a sobering effect on me since I first read it in 1982. He had these words framed and posted in the vestry of his Scottish church.

No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save. (Quoted in John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 325)

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Can Any Mormon or LDS Member Answer A Few Questions? Christian Comments Welcome!

Posted by Scott on March 26, 2008

Posted by Scott Baileyhave never found anyone within the Mormon faith that can answer these few simple questions which all raise other questions, so I pose these here to see if someone within the Mormon faith can answer them for me and everyone else…we really would like to know the answers.  For other great discussion questions go here:

1. If the American Indians were suppose to all be descendants of Lehi as is told, why was there so much diversity in the language and yet there was no indication of Hebrew in any of the Indian languages?2. Lehi as the Book of Mormon states that he found horses when he arrives in America.  Yet the horse described as well as many other domesticated animals did not even exist in America until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.  So, how could Lehi have found horses several hundreds of years before they were even in America?
3. Nephi says that he had a “bow of steel”.  It is well known that Jews did not have steel at the time Nephi states this nor were there any iron or steel smelted on this continent until many hundreds of years later after the Spaniard Conquest.  How did Nephi have a “bow of steel” hundreds of years before steel was even known?

4. In The Book of Mormon we frequently see mentioned “swords and sci-meters (scimitars).”  This is interesting again because “sci-meters or scimitars” were unknown until the rise of the Muslim faith well after 600 A.D.  How could this be?

5. We know according to scholars and historians that silk did not exist in America during the pre-Colombian times.  Yet, The Book of Mormon says the Nephites possessed silk.  How did they get silk when silk was not around and was unknown during this time?

6. Joseph Smith describes in The Book of Mormon the Mayan Cliffs and high mountain peaks.  Where are these actually located?  Much of the geography of The Book of Mormon was thought by B.H. Roberts, Mormon General Authority and considered an expert on The Book of Mormon in the early 1900’s, to be alot like the landscape in and around the New England area.  B.H. Roberts began to question the authority of The Book of Mormon in his latter days to the point and I quote “Joseph Smith wrote The Book of Mormon himself and that there was no golden plates“. This comes after years of devotion to the Mormon faith and he was an apologist and expert on Mormonism besides the fact that he served on the Mormon Church’s First Council of the Seventy.  All I ask is that where are the Mayan Cliffs and other geographical places mentioned located geographically..not speaking of the only one location in New York that was an easy find?

I would also challenge anyone to research B.H. Roberts work he did before his death in 1933, but was not published until after his death.  A comprehensive study of these documents were published in 1985 as Studies of the Book of Mormon by the University of Illinois.  These were also edited by two Mormon scholars, Brigham Madsen and Sterling McMurrin.  Further interesting facts is that B.H. Roberts, expert in the Mormon faith he was a part of to his death, he wrote an open letter to then President Heber Grant, his counselors, the twelve apostles, and First Council of Seventy requesting an emergency meeting with them concerning these many questions.  However, upon the conclusion of this meeting they had resolved nothing, many did not take these questions serious, and most only testified to what they believed without knowing or researching any of the facts raised in these questions.  B.H. Roberts concluded Joseph Smith was merely caught up in spiritual excesses to which he imagined prophecies and manifestations.  “His revelations become merely human productions…Morbid imaginations, Morbid expression of emotions (were) likely to find there way into the knowledge of Joseph Smith and influence his conceptions of spiritual things.”  Roberts also concluded that the “golden plates” did not really exist, but were “psychological”.  Finally, Roberts was convinced that it was very clear that The Book of Mormon was taken from the ground work of Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews that came out prior to The Book of Mormon and was published near where Joseph Smith lived at the time…in B.H. Roberts own conclusion was that Joseph Smith was a plagiarist.

So, in conclusion, I am simply asking if anyone out there claiming to be of the true Mormon faith or The Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can answer these puzzling questions for me.  If they can, we can put years of unanswered questioning to rest and thousands upon thousands of new believers will be added to the faith.

Thanks.

Scott

 

If you or someone you know would like more information on becoming a born again Christian, please, contact us via email Guys @ scott@dadsdevoted.com or Ladies @ dana@livingstones4moms.com !  We would be glad to spend time with you through email to answer any questions you may have and help you in placing your loyal trust in Jesus Christ as your savior today!  If you are only interested in debating theology, doctrine, religion or anything else, please, do that through the comment forum provided at the end of this post.

 

Researched from James R. Spencer, former Mormon Elder, from www.mazeministry.com

Update:  3-30-2010  I know many LDS members have commented here and on other sites claiming to have answered all these questions long ago. However, I have found only speculation in each answer given, nothing truthfully documented.  So, these questions still remain today as they did when first published. 

Posted in Mormonism or LDS | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

21 Flaws of the “Altar Call”

Posted by Scott on March 25, 2008


by Pastor David Wooten

The invitation system is a modern evangelism innovation…

  1. …without scriptural warrant.
  2. …that is faulty and dangerous.
  3. …that has created a new, unbiblical vocabulary (i.e., “repentance and faith” have been replaced with “decide for Christ,” “ask Jesus into your heart,” “Give your heart to Jesus,” “first-time decisions,” etc.)
  4. …not practiced by the church until about 150 years ago.
    • It was begun by Charles Finney who believed conversion was a psychological event and used this “anxious seat” to replace the purpose of baptism.
    • It was popularized by Dwight L. Moody.
    • It was standardized by Billy Graham.
  5. …that has contributed to filling our churches with unregenerate church members.
  6. …leading easily to abuse and manipulation of the method, especially towards children and teenagers.
  7. …established upon psychological premises.
  8. …mistakenly equated often with the new birth and/or conversion.
  9. …involving a high rate of apostatizing (90+% according to the Billy Graham Evangelisitic Association).
  10. …that is unnecessary for the Holy Spirit to do His regenerating, saving work.
  11. …that is used to attempt to quantify soul-winning results.
  12. …that is not the biblical mark of whether a church is committed to evangelism or not.
  13. …where often the appeal to “come forward” supercedes or replaces any explanation of sin, repentance, or faith.
  14. …that implies (or sometimes states explicitly) that those sinners who do not “come forward” are disobeying a divine command.
  15. …climaxing with the recitation of a sinner’s prayer that is equated with conversion.
  16. …that some respond to in their attempt through human effort to earn their standing before God.
  17. …calling for the sinner’s instant performance rather than his careful contemplation of his sinfulness and the One whom he has offended.
  18. …that adds a condition for salvation (”come forward”) that Christ never gave.
  19. …that confuses the unregenerate man as to the specific obligations of his duty.
  20. …that morphs the task of the evangelist to the duty of “drawing the net” by coaxing people to come down the aisle.
  21. …seeking to give men relief from God’s conviction before He has made them fully humble and miserable over their sin.

I believe that the altar call has become the modern evangelical equivalent of Roman Catholicism’s pennance. Ask a Catholic how he knows he is right with God, and he will tell you that he did his pennance (x number of Hail Mary’s, etc.). Ask someone in a modern evangelical church how they know they are right with God, and he will likely tell you that he “came forward” during a public altar call. Both are woefully inadequate and unbiblical evidences of the new birth.

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Dangers of the Invitation System!

Posted by Scott on March 25, 2008

by Jim Ehrhard


As a young minister, I once made the “mistake” of closing a Wednesday evening service without extending a public invitation.1 Early the next morning, an irate husband came to my office. For the first time in years, his unsaved wife had come with him to church. “If you had only given an invitation,” he angrily explained, “she would have gone down the aisle.”I explained that if the seed of God’s Word had been planted in her, then she would come to faith. Then she could “go down the aisle” on Sunday and share what God had done. My explanation fell on deaf ears. I had missed the opportune time, and if she never came to Christ, I would have to bear her damnation on my conscience for eternity, he retorted.

In the ensuing months, God granted me many opportunities to speak personally with this lady about her spiritual condition. Not only was it obvious that she was not under conviction of sin; but she had little real understanding of the gospel. Through our conversations, she came to see her sin and real conviction made her life miserable. One morning she called and said, “I’ve finally come to Jesus. Now I understand what you’ve been talking about.”

This experience, and many similar that followed, led me to reexamine my views of the invitation system that I had always assumed were as much a part of the gospel as the death and resurrection of Jesus. My involvement with a Christian college ministry, attendance at a number of schools of evangelism, and my denominational traditions had led me to see the public invitation as vital to evangelism. Studying the Scriptures and the history of preaching and revivals began to lead me to a different conclusion. But the process of laying aside something that was so “normal” to me was a great emotional struggle. I needed to know that the dangers of such a system outweighed the benefits that everyone claimed.2 I needed to know that I could still be evangelistic without extending a public altar call. I needed to see a better way.It is my hope that this article will help you in these areas. To do a thorough analysis of the system and its history is far beyond the scope of this undertaking. But perhaps as we examine this issue, we can see the dangers inherent in this system and chart a course for a better way.

As we begin, one thing must be made thoroughly clear. I am not advocating that we not invite people to come to Christ. The invitation to come to Christ is one that we are called to make. Should we shrink back from such a call, we would be rightly accused of being “ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Thus we should do everything possible to be more proficient in extending God’s great invitation to come to Christ.

However, God’s invitation that must be extended to all is not synonymous with man’s invitation system. Only since the 1800s has this system been employed to bring men to Christ.3 Since that time, this system has been refined and employed to such an extent that many today equate “coming to faith” with “coming down the aisle.” Such an equation is not only inaccurate; it is dangerous because it deceives many into resting their faith on a “profession” rather than on Christ, who alone is “able to save to the uttermost” (cf. Heb. 7:25).

The Dangers

1) The danger of promoting a method not promoted in Scripture

Evangelists often seek biblical support for this practice in a number of passages. One evangelist says, “Christ always called people publicly, and this statement is confirmed by texts such as ‘Follow Me,’ or ‘Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.'”4 But to conclude that Jesus gave altar calls on the basis of those passages is to fail to be honest with the text. No doubt Jesus called men to Himself. But do we see any example where He (or the apostles, for that matter) appealed for people to “come forward” as either a testimony to their decision or as an act of accepting Him?

Furthermore, what is Jesus calling these to? Is it merely to make a “one time” decision about Him, or to follow Him all their lives? The invitation system gives the impression that the former is Jesus’ intent. And what about “confessing Him before men”? Is Jesus saying that by a single act of confession one becomes a believer? Or is He teaching that one mark of true faith is a life that continually confesses Him? Again, the invitation system leads many to trust their eternal destination to confidence in a “confession,” though they openly live in rebellion to Him throughout their lives.

In summary, many passages show that Jesus and the apostles called men to repentance and faith. But no passage indicates that either used any form of “invitation system” in bringing them to faith or in confirming their faith.5

2) The danger of eliciting an emotional response based upon the personality of the speaker or the persuasion of the appeal

In Mark 4, Jesus portrays four types of hearers of God’s Word by using the parable of the soils. In the second soil, Jesus describes those who, “when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness.” But, Jesus cautions, “they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time.” Jesus knew the reality of being heard by crowds who had no desire to truly follow Him.

While this psychological element ought to be reason for concern and caution in using the invitation system, proponents actually argue that this element is all the more reason to extend an appeal for a public decision. Billy Graham teaches that the pressure brought upon the human soul is so great that an emotional outlet must be given. He argues:

Many psychologists would say it is psychologically sound. One of the reasons why our films and dramas usually have such a bad effect is that they stir the emotion to such a high pitch and do not offer any practical outlet for action.6

Evangelist George Sweazey agrees: “To stir people religiously without giving them anything they can do about it leaves them far worse off than they were before.”7

In reality, most psychologists would agree with Graham’s assessment of the psychological pressure of the appeal, but would conclude that the response to his call is largely the result of this psychological pressure. One psychologist, George Target, gives such an assessment:

All present are told to pray, instructed to close their eyes and bow the head, and the form of the words is the auto-suggestive one that hundreds of others are already going forward, finding happiness, peace, love, God. … The counselors planted all over the audience make the first few moves, create the sense that the statement is true even when it very often is not. … It might all be true, there might be some nameless peace down there with all the others. The tension screws to the breaking point and beyond. The wonder is that so few actually obey.8

In his book, Preaching and Preachers. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones cites an example in which the invitation appeal given by an evangelist was, by program necessity, separated from the message by a half-hour of hymn singing. In explanation of the disappointingly small response to his appeal, the evangelist stated that the effect of his appeal was diminished by the half-hour of hymn singing. Lloyd-Jones observes that the evangelist’s “admitting that half an hour of hymn singing can do away with the effect of a sermon… is a striking illustration of the fact that direct pressure on the will can produce ‘results.'”9

Lewis Sperry Chafer, a well-known evangelist and one of the founders of Dallas Theological Seminary, used the invitation system until he saw the inherent dangers:

Because of satanic blindness to the gospel of grace (2 Cor. 4:34), unregenerate man cannot comprehend the true basis of salvation, and is therefore ever prone to do the best he knows. This is to attempt to work out his own standing before God by his own efforts. It is this natural tendency to do something of merit that prompts many to respond to the evangelist’s appeal. … A leader with a commanding personality (and every successful evangelist must possess that characteristic in the extreme) may secure the public action of many, when the issue is made one of religious merit through some public act.10

To make matters worse, many go away from the “altar,” told that they are now Christians, knowing that they are not changed one bit. As a result, their unbelief may harden into skepticism toward anything Christian. R. L. Dabney notes:

They feel that a cruel trick has been played upon their inexperience by the ministers and friends of Christianity in thus thrusting them, in the hour of their confusion, into false positions…. How natural to conclude that those [experiences of conversion] of all others are delusions also? They say: “The only difference between myself and these earnest Christians is that they have not yet detected the cheat as I have.”11 The extension of an appeal for public decision may result in a purely psychological response that provides a catharsis for the emotional pressure of the sermon. Such persons falsely assume that their action has made them right with God. In others, it may drive them further into skepticism and doubt about the reality of the conversion of anyone. Such dangers ought to alarm every person sincerely concerned about the salvation of lost souls.

3) The danger of confusing the “coming forward” with salvation

Here we have one of the greatest dangers of the invitation system. Even those employing it go to great pains to make clear that “going down the aisle” does not save anyone. We are saved by faith in Christ alone, they contend. Billy Graham, for example, says:

There’s nothing about the mechanics of coming forward that saves anybody’s soul. Coming forward is an open acknowledgment and a testimony of an inward experience that you have had with Christ. But this inward experience with Christ, this encounter, is the most important thing.12

But examination of the invitation used by Graham shows just how confusing the system is. Keep in mind that Graham has already noted that the coming forward is a “testimony of an inward experience that you have had with Christ.” When is the person converted? Why are they coming?

I’m going to ask you to come forward. Up there – down there – I want you to come. You come right now – quickly. If you are here with friends or relatives, they will wait for you. Don’t let distance keep you from Christ. It’s a long way, but Christ went all the way to the cross because He loved you. Certainly you can come these few steps and give your life to Him. …13

At the “altar,” the confusion continues as he addresses those who have come: “You have come tonight to Jesus Christ, you have come to receive Him into your heart. …” Which is it? Have they already come to Jesus, or are they coming now to receive Him? Graham continues: “He receives you; He died for you; He says, ‘Thy sins are forgiven.’ You accept that. The past is forgiven, God forgets…. He cannot even see your sins.”14 Then he leads them to repeat a prayer known as “the sinner’s prayer.” The question again is obvious: have they been forgiven, or will they be when they pray the prayer?

To make matters worse, many often add so many things to the invitation that one cannot be certain what he is being asked to do. This was especially true in the invitations of Billy Sunday who often exhorted people to “Come on down and take my hand against booze, for Jesus Christ, for your flag.”15

Even Spurgeon warned about the potential for confusing any system16 with salvation:

Sometimes shut up that enquiry-room. I have my fears about that institution if it be used in permanence, and as an inevitable part of the services…. If you should ever see that a notion is fashioning itself that there is something to be got in the private room which is not to be had at once in the assembly, or that God is more at that penitent form than elsewhere, aim a blow at that notion at once.17

Who can observe the invitation system today and not see that many are in danger of confusing this practice with coming to faith in Christ?

4) The danger of counting great numbers who only discredit their profession by their lives

In fact, Leighton Ford argues:

I am convinced that the giving of some kind of public invitation to come to Christ is not only theologically correct, but also emotionally sound. Men need this opportunity for expression. The inner decision for Christ is like driving a nail through a board. The open declaration of it is like clinching the nail on the other side, so that it cannot easily be pulled out.18

In other words, the giving of an invitation ought to result in an even higher percentage of “converts” living out their profession. Yet the very opposite seems to be true.

Even the statistics compiled using the invitation system show that only a very small percentage of “professors” show any signs of conversion even a few weeks after the decision. According to Sterling Huston, a survey after a crusade in the Pacific Northwest indicated that only 16 percent of the inquirers became new additions to the churches. While one should be appalled at the low rate of retention, Huston actually considers this a significant fact showing the value of the crusade!19

While pastoring in New England, our church participated in two Graham crusades. We received the names of 10 converts from one crusade and six from the other. In our follow up, not one was interested in church, the Bible, or even talking about their “new-found faith in Christ.” Other pastors reported the same results.

Ernest Reisinger notes: “This unbiblical system has produced the greatest record of statistics ever compiled by church or business.”20 But such an observation is not new to our times. A century ago, Dabney observed, “The thing is so well-known that in many regions the public coolly expect about forty-five out of fifty, or even a higher ratio, to apostatize ultimately.”21

Such was not the common experience before the use of the invitation system. Those who were converted were so thoroughly changed that there was no need of a system to encourage decisions or record them before there was fruit. False conversions were the exception rather than the rule in the ministry of Finney’s contemporary, Asahel Nettleton. For example, of the 84 converts in an 1818 revival in Rocky Hill, Conn., all 84 had remained faithful according to their pastor’s report 26 years later! Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of 82 professions were noted in a similar pastor’s report on a revival in Ashford, Conn.22

Toward the end of his life, Charles Finney, after reflecting on the many who claimed conversion but had since fallen away, had mixed thoughts about the genuineness of his work. In fact, his development of a doctrine of perfectionism (“entire sanctification” was the term preferred by Finney) came out of his attempt to answer the question as to why so many of his “converts” lived such godless lives. The use of an invitation system eventually leads to a two-tiered approach to the Christian life to explain the difference between those few who have been changed by their “decision” and the multitudes who have not.23

5) The danger of giving assurance to those who are unconverted

This is perhaps the greatest alarm for those who sincerely desire to see men enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If our use of such a system leads some to believe that their decision “settles things with God” for all eternity, then we may be responsible for many of those in Matthew 7 who hear the words of our Lord saying, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” It is vital that we share the good news, but it behooves us equally to be certain that we not give assurance to those who show no evidence of conversion.

That is exactly what the invitation system does. It encourages people to make a response that “settles things” and, through subsequent counseling, to never doubt that decision. Anyone who is involved in personal evangelism can share countless examples of persons who, though presently living in gross sin, will nonetheless tell the evangelist that they are fine because they “made a decision for Christ” a certain number of years ago. They have never had any change in their life; they have no interest in church, the Bible, or even God. But they have made their “decision.” Can we not see how dangerous such a system is to the souls of men?

Two centuries ago, evangelist George Whitefield warned about this danger:

I am glad you know when persons are justified. It is a lesson I have not yet learnt. There are so many stony ground hearers, who receive the Word with joy, that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits. That makes me so cautious now, which I was not thirty years ago, of dubbing converts so soon. I love now to wait a little, and see if people bring forth fruit; for there are so many blossoms which March winds you know blow away, that I cannot believe they are converts till I see fruit brought back; it will never do a sincere soul any harm.24

Likewise Spurgeon warned:

Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house, and never making him say, Father, I have sinned.”25

In The Soul Winner. Spurgeon cautions against using pressure to secure quick decisions:

It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over…. Some of the most glaring sinners known to me were once members of a church; and were, as I believe, led to make a profession by undue pressure, well-meant but ill-judged.26

For years, we have heard about the values of the invitation system. It is even widely intimated

(often plainly stated) that one who failed to give public invitations could not be concerned for the souls of men. Yet could it be that the very opposite is true: that the very extension of such an appeal might be the means for deluding many into a false state of assurance ultimately resulting in their damnation?

A Better Way

But some will ask, “What other way is there to bring people to Christ?” I would respond: “The way that was used by Jesus and the apostles, the Reformers, the Puritans, and most others until the 1830s.” That way is simply to proclaim the truth, to call men to repent and believe, and to leave the results in the hands of the Spirit who alone can bring people to faith (cf. John 3; 6:44, 65; etc.).

To explain a little more fully, let me give you two “musts” for those who would be evangelistic apart from using the invitation system.

1) We must learn to trust the power of God’s Word to convince, convert, and change lives

Paul said: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). In I Corinthians 1:18, he contended: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Peter was likewise convinced that the Word of God has power to convert. He reminded believers that they had been “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

To be evangelistic, we must be convinced of the power that God’s Word has in converting men without the help of our man-made systems. Remember the evangelist whose appeal was separated from his message by a half-hour of hymn singing? It is obvious that he was not convinced of the power of God’s Word apart from the addition of his appeal. We must be, or we will be tempted to add things to the preaching of the Word to secure greater commitments.

Those who ministered before the development of the invitation system saw the awesome power of the Word to work in men’s hearts. David Brainerd testifies to the:

preaching God made use offer the awakening of sinners, and the propagation of this “work of grace among the Indians.” … There was then the greatest appearance of divine power, in awakening numbers of secure souls, promoting convictions begun, and comforting the distressed.” 27

Accounts from the ministry of Nettleton show the deep and penetrating work of the Word of God on hearers:

As he was speaking, a youth sitting near a window cried out like one shot with an arrow. The people were so engrossed in the evangelist’s message that it hardly caused a diversion. Several in one family were aroused at this meeting and went home weeping. The head of the house had gone to bed when they arrived. He listened as their carriage drove up and was startled by a wail of distress coming from without. He leaped from his bed, rushed outside and was met by his daughter-in-law who threw her arms around his neck and exclaimed, “My father, what shall I do? What shall I do?” It was a miserable night for this young woman, but before morning all was well. She received Christ as Saviour and peace came.28

Such occurrences while ministering in the power of God’s Word were not uncommon. In letters to his friend. Philander Parmele, Nettleton described many similar conversions. After a meeting in New Haven, Nettleton wrote:

One young man seized my hand exclaiming “I am a sinner. I am a sinner. What shall I do?” They [people at the meeting] left the house and went home sighing, & sobbing in every direction. I came home & found a number around the door of Mr. Williams’ house, in the most awful distress, Some were standing, some sitting on the ground, & some on the door steps exclaiming “What shall I do?” I shall die. I shall die. “I Can’t live.” This alarmed the neighbors who called to witness the awful scene. With much ado I got them into the house, about eight or ten in number. The fact was, the young man aforementioned, who left the meeting house in such distress, was walking in company with them, when all at once he found relief and exclaimed, “I have found the Saviour.” He was now very joyful. He sat clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid. My first business now was to warn them against a false hope. Prayed with them and enjoined it particularly on them not to go home together, but to go alone, & be alone, for the business must be settled between God and their souls. Maria (a young woman living in this family) was one of the number. She retired to her chamber, sighing and sobbing, and crying for mercy, and exclaiming ‘I shall die, I shall die.” She came down and went out doors, and returned in the same awful distress to her chamber. And suddenly all was still and hushed to silence. I sat still below and said nothing. I soon heard the sound of her footsteps descending the chamber stairs. She opened the door and with a joyful countenance exclaimed O, Sir, I have found the Saviour. I continued to warn her of the danger of a false hope. She exclaimed “I love Christ. I do love him. O how sweet.” In the morning, early, she called to see one of her anxious mates, who was so distressed the night before; and Lo: Barsheba exclaimed “I have found the Saviour.” That was a happy meeting. The young man aforementioned resided in the same family (this was John Towner’s house). On Saturday evening about midnight another, equally distressed, found relief. Within a few days 8 or 10 are rejoicing in hope. What will be the end. I know not. Do pray for us, and your friend, A. Nettleton.” 29

Such was often the nature of conversion in the days before the invitation system when the Word was boldly preached and left to do its work in souls. Many modern examples of conversions could also be given, such as that of C. S. Lewis, who, after being confronted with the truth, struggled with it until one day he was strangely converted riding in his sidecar.

The real question is: How powerful is the Word of God? Can it change men from sinners into saints without an extension of an altar call? Will it convict and convert (as God promises),or will we need to add something that helps men “settle it”? You will never be able to do without the invitation system until you are thoroughly convinced of the power of God’s Word.

2) We must urgently appeal to all men to come to Christ now

After reading this far, one may be tempted to avoid giving any appeal for people to come to Christ. Please do not misunderstand: we are under divine command to call “all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Erroll Hulse reminds us: “The preacher is free to exhort and command, to plead and implore, to reason and invite. He is an ambassador who speaks on behalf of the great King and whose purpose is to bring about reconciliation.”30

Allow me to note a few particulars about this responsibility.

First, our invitation must be universal. It matters not (for the purposes of this article) whether you view the atonement as limited or unlimited or whether you accept the doctrine of election or not: the scope of our appeal must be universal. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest evangelistic preachers, was a thorough-going Calvinist. Yet he understood that our appeal must be universal.

In one of his sermons, Spurgeon reminded his congregation about the doctrine of God’s electing some from the foundation of the world. But he noted that our task is to “preach the gospel to every creature,” not to find the elect. Spurgeon said that if God had painted a yellow stripe down the back of each of the elect, he would run up and down the streets of London, lifting up shirttails, and preaching the gospel to the elect. But, Spurgeon reminds us, God has not done so. Instead He has commanded us to “preach the gospel to every creature.” We must urgently appeal to everyone to come to Christ.

Second, our invitation must be urgent. When preaching or counseling about salvation, we must never give men the idea that repenting is something they can put off. Some who have dropped the invitation system because of its dangers have also dropped the urgent call to believe. We must say to men, “You must repent and believe the gospel.” Should they say, “But I cannot,” we must say, “But you must. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. Your failure to do so only shows the wicked state of your heart. If you saw your sin as God sees it, you would flee to Him as the only salvation for your soul.”

John Kennedy, a nineteenth-century British minister, provides some additional instruction concerning counseling inquirers. Notice that he puts the focus of counseling inquirers on the object of their faith:

Faith [by those using the invitation system] is represented as something to be done, in order to [gain] salvation; and pains are taken to show that it is an easy thing. Better far than this would it be to see it, that those with whom they deal are truly convinced of sin, and to labour to set forth Christ before them, in his glorious completeness as a Saviour. To explain faith to them, that they may do it, is to set them still to work, though setting an easier task before them. I know well the tendency there is, at a certain stage of anxious inquiry, to ask, “What is faith, that I may do it?” It is a legalist’s work to satisfy that craving; but this is what is done in the “inquiry-room.” “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” was the question asked by one who approached the dawning of a day of salvation. Explanations of what faith is are but trifling with souls. How different is the Scripture way! The great aim there is to “set forth” the object, not to explain the act, of faith. Let there be conviction, illumination and renewal, and faith becomes the instinctive response of the quickened soul to the presentation by God of His Christ; and, without these, no explanation of faith can be helpful to any one. The labour to explain it is too often the legal spirit. It were wiser to take pains in removing ignorance and error regarding God, and sin, and Christ. Help them know these, if you would not build them up with “untempered mortar” in a false peace. If you would be wise, as well as kind, work in that direction, rather than hurrying them to belief.31

We must be patient to allow the Holy Spirit to work conviction in the heart. That may happen in a few moments, a few hours, days, or even years. But we must remain imperative in our appeal. Our message and our urgency must not change – people must repent and believe today.

Finally, our invitation must call them to Christ. The focus of all the evangelistic appeals in Scripture is the same. Jesus said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Our appeal must be to come to Christ, not to follow any prescribed method that might cause some to equate their “coming” as coming to Him.

Conclusion

An examination of the invitation system is not an easy one. It is an emotional one. “To reduce sense of shock that some may feel, I would remind them that for well over 1800 years the Holy Spirit completed successfully all His work of saving sinners without this method. It was only with the advent of Charles Finney (1792-1875) that the ‘appeal’ as an organized method really got under way.”32 Even then, it met with much resistance until near the end of the nineteenth century. Today it is accepted as if it was used by Jesus and Paul. Be warned – many will consider you non-evangelistic if you even question the validity of this system, much less consider no longer using it as a method to bring people to Christ.33

But we must be honest about the dangers that we have examined in this article. Is it not clear that the Scriptures “provide an invitation to sinners which is perfect and does not need addition?'”34 Are you concerned about asking people to do something for salvation that was never promoted in the Bible or in early church history?

Do you wish to eliminate possibilities that persons might respond to an emotional appeal or your persuasion rather than to the gospel? Do you wish to reduce the confusion that many have in equating “coming forward” with being saved?

Are you tired of seeing great numbers coming forward only to discredit the name of Christ by professing something that has no reality in their lives? Are you really concerned to see people converted – truly converted – instead of falsely assured? Then please examine this system carefully and honestly.

On the other hand, we must not confuse the invitation system with inviting people to Christ. This we must do with all urgency. “The Great Invitation of the gospel is an awesome and glorious subject. While we are in this world we should never cease making ourselves more proficient and winsome in the employment of invitations.”35

Still, the dangers of this system are serious. The souls of men are at stake. To be biblically evangelistic, we must be certain that what we do leads men to faith, not just to decisions.

Copyright © 1999
CHRISTIAN
COMMUNICATORS WORLDWIDE
Scripture quotations taken from
The New King James Bible, Copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »