Paul Derengowski, ThM
On November 9, 2007, Elder Russell Ballard, a member of the Mormon Church’s governing body, and Council of Twelve Apostles, gave an interview that was conducted by U.S. News & World Report, and posted online. The gist of the article deals with his responses to questions about the LDS Church in light of the upcoming Presidential election, where staunch Mormon Mitt Romney is running. The following is an excerpt from that interview, with subsequent rebuttal in italics showing where Ballard, like so many LDS leaders, attempted to mislead the public. Since the interview is copyrighted, only a limited response is offered under Fair Use Law. The reader, therefore, is encouraged to go to the site and read the whole interview for any remaining questions and comments not dealt with here.
US N&WR: What is the biggest misconception that people have about your church?
Ballard: One is that some people say we Mormons are not Christians. We can’t comprehend that, when Jesus Christ is the center of everything we teach and believe. He’s the head of the church, as far as we’re concerned.
Reply: It is not a misconception to believe that the Mormon Church is not Christian, simply because the beliefs held by Mormons and taught by the Mormon Church are not Christian to begin with. And when Ballard misleads the interviewer by claiming that Jesus Christ is the center of the everything we teach and believe, that only confirms what those knowledgeable about Mormonism have been saying all along, namely, that Jesus Christ is not the center of anything in Mormonism, except for maybe as a religious icon that is appealed to, to make the Mormon think he or she is a Christian. In fact, a most recent article in Deseret News notes BYU Professor Camille Fronk stating, “…the concept of ‘grace’ is uncomfortable for many Latter-day Saints, who are quick to focus on ‘works’ as a means of salvation. Teaching LDS high school students in the 1980s, she found many of them were well-versed in topics like temple marriage — which is unique to Latter-day Saints — but didn’t talk much about Jesus Christ.” So, if Jesus is this center of attraction in the Mormon Church, why doesn’t it “talk much about” Him?
When it really boils down to essentials, the centerpiece of Mormonism is Joseph Smith. He is the fountainhead of everything Mormon. He is the topic of most every conversation in Mormonism. He is the savior of every Mormon, and the world, as is evidenced by Joseph Fielding Smith’s comment, “If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth when he said that he stood in the presence of angels sent from the Lord, and obtained keys of authority, and the commandment to organize the Church of Jesus Christ once again on the earth, then this knowledge is of the most vital to the entire world. No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God [emphasis his]. It is, therefore, the duty of every man to investigate that he may weigh this matter carefully and know the truth” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:189-90). Yet, it is statements about Joseph Smith that the Russell Ballard’s of Mormonism leave out when giving interviews to be consumed by the public that place Mormonism in proper perspective, and exclude it from being a Christian religion. For there is only one Savior, and his name is Jesus, and not Joseph.
Ballard: The other thing is that some people say the Mormons are a cult. We don’t understand that. We’re a very strong Christian organization that’s doing great things and trying to relieve human suffering, to increase knowledge of the gospel truths, to lift and inspire and bless the lives of our Heavenly Father’s children.
Reply: The reason why some people say that Mormonism is a cult is because that is what it is. Now, what Ballard and others have attempted to do is steal the term “cult” away from those using it in a theological manner, and then claim that if Mormonism is a cult, then all religious parties are cults as well. But, that is merely abusing the term for mitigation reasons. Mormonism is a cult because its theological system is contrary to everything that the Bible and historic Christianity represents. It teaches a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, while the Bible only speaks of one, true God. It teaches that Jesus is the brother of Satan, while the Bible tells us that Jesus is the co-Creator of all things in existence, including Satan. It teaches that salvation is merited through good works on one level, while universally distributed to everyone, regardless of what one believes, on another level, while the Bible tells us that there is only one kind of salvation, which is inherited by God’s grace, through faith.
Moreover, Ballard does what all cult leaders do, in that he attempts to justify Mormonism’s aberrant theological beliefs by telling people to look at Mormonism’s wonderful works. Yet, just because an organization might do benevolent human works to alleviate suffering in no way detracts from the fact that that organization is still a cult. Why? Because human benevolence is not a factor in determining whether or not a group is a cult, or that a person is a cultist. What one believes about God, Jesus, Sin, Salvation, etc., is at the center of defining whether or not a group or organization is cultic in a theological sense. So, despite Ballard’s and others consternation of why many Christians believe that Mormonism is a cult, by definition that is exactly what it is. See here for more information on what a cult is.
US N&WR: And what about your sacred Scriptures?
Ballard: We also get that one: “Well, Mormons don’t believe in the Bible. You have your own Bible.” Which is ridiculous. We think the Bible is a miracle. We accept the Bible, and we also accept the Book of Mormon. We use them hand in hand as Scripture and guidance and doctrine. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon has more references to Christ and his teachings and his words than are in the Bible.
Reply: Actually, it is not ridiculous to state that Mormons do not believe the Bible. In fact, the Mormons cannot believe the Bible, and accept anything it has to say as authoritative, simply because of all the disclaimers that Mormonism makes about it. On the one hand the Bible is purported to be full of errors, even though there has not been one Mormon that has been able to provide substantive evidence to support such a charge. While on the other hand, the Bible is alleged to be “missing many plain and precious truths,” which once again, when pressed on that proposition, no one in the Mormon organization can provide manuscript evidence supporting such a charge. Instead, what are usually offered are subjective claims and emotional appeals, ultimately leading back to what Joseph Smith allegedly saw and heard, and that is supposed to settle the question. Therefore, to avow that the Mormons believe the Bible, given all the disclaimers involving its authority and trustworthiness, coupled with its subjective appeals to Joseph Smith, is to engage in relative doubletalk that fails to answer the charges to the contrary.
Ballard then goes on to give a backhanded compliment to the Bible, like most Mormons do when confronted with biblical questions. All of those kinds of comments are geared toward is to introduce the Book of Mormon alongside the Bible as an equal to it, which once again, only serves to demonstrate the pretentiousness of Ballard’s compliments. In other words, what Ballard intends to say is that the Book of Mormon is his guide, and that as long as the Bible agrees with it, then they can be used in tandem.
Ballard also misleads the interviewer by making him think that all of Mormon doctrine is to be found in either the Book of Mormon or the Bible, when such is not true. In fact, there are many “official” beliefs that Mormons subscribe to that only come from subsequent teachings in Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and actually contradict what the Book of Mormon says. For instance, the Book of Mormon posits a monotheistic view of God, while in D&C a polytheistic view is advocated. And perhaps one of the more controversial doctrines that Mormons are noted for, polygamy, is condemned in the Book of Mormon, while promoted as a soul-saving doctrine in D&C. Therefore, while Ballard implies that Mormon beliefs are found in the Book of Mormon and the Bible, the truth is that very few of them are.
Lastly, the appeal to the number of times Christ is mentioned in the Book of Mormon as a credibility factor in favor of Mormonism is about as relevant as the lame appeal to Jesus being in the Mormon Church name, meaning that it is irrelevant. Many aberrant groups like to think that just because Jesus is on their side, in whatever manner, and however much, that that somehow means that their particular group is the real deal. Such could not be further from the truth. For it is not how many times Jesus might show up in a particular document, or who includes Jesus in their religious organization’s name that gives them credibility. It’s whether or not the Jesus that they are advocating has the same resemblance as the one taught in the Bible that gives them credibility. And the Mormon Jesus is about as far removed from the Bible as heaven is from hell. There is no resemblance; therefore, it is irrelevant how many times his name is printed in the Book of Mormon. It is still a fraudulent document.
US N&WR: And the doctrine of the Trinity?
Ballard: Let’s put it in simple terms: God the Father, Jesus Christ, Holy Ghost—separate individuals. God is the father of all our spirits. Jesus Christ, son of God, savior of the world, is separate and distinct. We find that most people think they’re separate and distinct. When you go door to door, as we did as young men, and talk to the average person—the theologians might have a different view—but people think of them as distinct.
Reply: First of all, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are not separate individuals, given that God, who is one being, cannot be separated into parts; and that is exactly what Mormonism wants people to believe, that God is a separated being. Rather, the three persons who comprise the Trinity are distinct, not separate. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. Yet, the three of them constitute the “only, true God” (Jn. 17:3). Otherwise, one is left with what Ballard and Mormonism teaches: tritheism. And Christianity is not a tritheistic religion. It is a monotheistic religion.
Second, God is the father of all our spirits, but not in the sense that Mormonism teaches. For Mormonism teaches that God is busy with his harem of wives siring and conceiving thousands, if not millions, of spirit babies, who are then commissioned to be sent to earth to begin their “Eternal Progression” unto godhood through a life-series of trials, tests, and temptations. Biblically speaking, though, when the term “father” is applied to God, it is idealistic, if not metaphorical. It has nothing to do with God literally siring anybody. As the Harper’s Bible Dictionary states, “‘Father’ is also the term for God Jesus used to in the prayer he taught his followers (Luke 11:2). Rather than being derived from a human analogy, the term ‘Father’ for God represents the ideal by whom every human father is to be judged (Eph. 3:14-15)”(333). The Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible tells us that, “When God is referred as the father, this is simply the use of a metaphor in which he is likened to a kind and loving father…Yet to avoid the metaphor of father as a description and designation of God is to lose sight of the fact that Jesus chose this as his metaphor to address God and that he taught this as the metaphor by which his disciples should address God” (247). Therefore, Ballard is merely uttering the usual naturalism inherent in Mormon thought, whereby God cannot be thought of as a father, unless of course he is involved in some kind of sexual activity that through natural processes makes him one like all the fathers that preceded him, as well as those that follow him.
Third, the only reason that perhaps “most people think that” God is a either a fragmented being, or one person manifest in three modes, is that fewer and fewer people are inclined to read their Bibles, let alone think about God, except perhaps in existential or Modalistic terms. That said, though, it is irrelevant what people think about God, or how many of them do. What matters is what God thinks, and reveals about Himself, and whether or not those same people are going to conform their theology to what God has revealed. And He has revealed that there is only one, true God, and that there are three persons to whom that designation belongs: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Ballard, like so many contemporary Mormon leaders, has done the same thing in this interview that others have done recently when asked about the Mormon faith, including Mitt Romney. He lies, misleads, and glosses over information that, if told, would give the reader a clearer understanding of what Mormonism is all about. Instead of being upfront and honest, he deceives the interviewer, and anyone else unwary of what Mormonism teaches, by using terms and arguments that are either twisted, incomplete, or simply have been answered time and again by the critics of Mormonism. And as the 2008 Presidential election draws nearer, those in the media and public will most likely see more and more of this type of deception going on, especially if Mitt Romney remains in the Presidential hunt. Lord willing, somewhere along the line, a knowledgeable interviewer will be privileged enough to do an interview with one of these LDS leaders, and strip the Mormon façade away for everyone to see, before it’s too late.