Tag Archives: Topix

A Contrast In Attitudes

I recently received an e-mail from one of my colleagues, Aaron Shafovaloff of Mormonism Research Ministry, about a former Mormon who apologized to him via email. Aaron forwarded this email to others in the ministry as an encouragement for us. I asked the original writer if I could share it here and other places. He gave me permission as along as I keep his name confidential. We’ll call him “Chuck.” Here is Chuck’s letter to Aaron as is and in its entirety.

Dear Aaron, I remember (under a former YouTube name) mocking or criticizing several of your videos on Mormonism. I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and felt that your videos created false accusations against the Church and my faith. I thought of you as a hateful and spiteful person. As the times have turned, I realized that I was wrong. I was the one who was hateful and spiteful and I would like to as for your forgiveness. The reason why I have changed my opinions came when I was reading scripture and came across Matthew 7:22-23 : On that day many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you law-breakers!’ I was frozen on these two verses and all I could feel was fear. I couldn’t explain it at first, but all I felt was a paralyzing fear from the words of Jesus. Then the thought came across my mind, “What if I am one who Jesus Christ will turn away from the kingdom of God?”

I since then started to conduct serious research into Mormonism, its histories and claims, if they were compatible with the Bible (also did the same for Evangelical Christian beliefs), and if the Church projected an accurate and fair picture of its history. First, I found that many parts of our history are not talked about too often. I found some of our contreversal beliefs are never explained, nor taught by missionaries until well after baptism. I also discovered that many of these things never make it into our LDS videos because they, “Are not necessary and ideal in promoting the spiritual aspects and faith promoting material of Joseph Smith.” I quickly realized that we, as a Church, were deliberately deceptive of our faith and hid or destorted facts on plural marriage, views on race, exaltation of humans into godhood, and many other things.

After looking how our doctrine compared to the Bible, it made clear sense as to why we needed additional scripture. Either the doctrine unique to Mormonism needed the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, or the Pearl of Great Price to back it up or scripture from the Bible needed to be distorted beyond its meaning. When I e-mailed FAIR LDS about how certain passages were met to be read versus how they translated them, the response I got was, “That is one way you could translate it. Unfortunately, there was just so much confusion that we needed as restoration to understand these things.” However, when examining these “Abomamable Creeds of Christendom” I realized that all their statements come straight out of the Bible! They were just formulated to give names to Biblically accepted beliefs such as Holy Trinity. I was more in shock to realize that all Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Churches were in mutual agreement with these creeds which were (as a learned later on) were very historical to the early Christian views.

So, I have left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after having to be force to conclude that it was not of God nor Christ. So, I choose to accept Jesus Christ as my savior and worship him always and not the Jesus of Joseph Smith. I want to thank you for your ministries (especially Mormonism Research Ministry which I obtain valuable information concerning Mormonism) and hope that you continue to serve Christ in your every day life. Once again, I am deeply sorry for comments I left on your videos because those statements were the real lies and deceptions.

God bless,
Chuck

What an encouraging letter! I frequently get posts from Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim that I am wasting my time on YouTube or with our ministry in general. My response is 1) I do not think pursuing the souls of men is a waste of time and 2) they do not receive the private correspondence we receive. It is these kinds of letters that encourage us to keep doing what we do. As you can imagine, the majority of the responses we receive are not this encouraging. Meet Larry. If you have been following our blog for awhile, you may remember Larry.

Last year, I posted a blog about a Mormon man who challenged me on Topix. You can read that post here if you are interested. To make a long story short, things did not go well with Larry. He eventually became even more unreasonable and likened me to a murderer and a rapist for engaging in our ministry. At that point, I thought it was best to ignore Larry’s comments until I received an apology. I have done so until recently.

Once I remembered that Larry lives near the city in which I will be attending an apologetics conference, I decided to post to Larry in hopes that we could meet in person and settle our differences. The Topix post is titled An attempt at peace with Larry. For the sake of time, I will reproduce just my original post to him and his answer.

My post
Larry,
You and I have a misunderstanding that I would like to clear up. You also owe me an apology for likening me to a murderer and rapist for simply being a critic of your religion. I would like to resolve our differences and clear up your misunderstanding and we have an opportunity to do so face to face. I will be in Kansas City for a conference in March (http://www.emnr.org/conference.html ) and would like to meet you.

I look forward to meeting you and resolving our issues so we can get on to the positive discussions we use to have. If you aren’t careful, we might even become friends. ;-)

Larry’s Response
Let me first say Keith I am not avoiding you. I have spent the last three days in the hospital. As for you offer you can put it and your demand for an appology were the sun dont shine. You claim I compaired you to a murderer and rapest, what I did was to point out that you are no different than the ministers who through their words led people into mob action that led to those crimes. I pointed out that you called LDS foreigners in Chrsitian America including those LDS who have spilt their own blood for this country. Just like those ministers of old you have a ministry that has no other purpose than to attack religions you do not like. Just like those ministers you feel people with lies and half truths to stire up problems for the LDS CHurch. You do not go out and commit acts of violence against the LDS neither did the ministers of old. YOu do however through your lies lead people to actions that you can the deny any aprt of. Why then would I want to wast my time on you?

Is it me or are some Mormons not anywhere near as nice as the Mormons on those TV commercials? I must admit that I was disappointed with Larry’s response. I offer peace, but he would rather hang on to hatred. This guy is really one tough nut to crack and regardless of how nice I try to be to him, he simply does not see the need to respond in kind.

After I read his response, I was quickly reminded of “Chuck’s” encouraging words to Aaron and his kind email to me. In it he stated, “While I was in Mormonism and was blinded from truth… anybody who showed me the truth out of love felt hateful in my eyes. A ministry like yours, to me, was nothing more than a hate group who persecuted me for my beliefs. I now realize that yours (and several others) ministries is to help the LDS people obtain true salvation for we are all blinded by a false gospel administered by a false prophet. I think when my eyes was opened to Christ’s love and grace, that my heart was more recieving of the love of others and the need to right my wrongs with the followers of Christ. I look at what you guys do and it is tough love… the fact that you do have to speak against Mormonism, but the love of someone who cares about a complete stranger’s ability to one day be in heaven. Thanks for what you do!”

Chuck is right. This kind of love is tough, but it is worth it. I share this contrast, not in an attempt to make Larry look bad, but for the purpose of encouraging the Christian reader that God does indeed save the lost. If you are discouraged because of someone in your life who is giving you a hard time about Christianity, just remember “Chuck.” God is still in the business of doing miracles. I hope that one day Larry will come to his senses having escaped the snare of the Devil (2nd Timothy 2:24-26) and will one day be able to write a letter like Chuck’s. Please join me in prayer for Larry.

The Importance Of Doing Your Homework

I have been active in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons on the Topix.net forums. Months ago on one of the conversation threads, a Mormon, who goes by the name “Larry,” asked me about a quote used by Gerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry. According to Larry, the Tanners are guilty of “telling outright lies about what the Early LDS Leaders have said” (Post #13 of the above thread). I decided to look into the issue for Larry. This exercise was a good reminder of how important it is to take care in research and to be sure to consult primary resources, and if necessary, even contact the originator of the quote.

To give a little history, Larry challenged me about this issue some time late last year and produced two quotes for me to evaluate. One of the quotes was easily dealt with, but the other one was not. I did not have the primary resource (a talk given by the Tanners) and Larry did not provide it. I told him that until he could provide me with a reference, I could not comment on the quote because I wanted to see the context in which the statement was made. Since that issue last year, I temporarily stopped posting on Topix because other ministry responsibilities were taking priority.

I’ve recently started posting on Topix again and Larry brought up the same issue once more. I answered Larry’s challenge with the following post (#57), “I did, months ago. But at this point, I do not remember which thread it is on or even which quote you are referring to. If you would be so kind as to provide the quote in question, I will look at it again.” Larry says that he never saw the post. At this point I need to say something about Topix.

Since it is primarily a source for news, they do not have any features available for forum posters to search for older posts. I tried to go back and find Larry’s original question and my original answer by looking at older threads, but since conversations rarely stay on topic and there are no search features, it was near impossible to find our original posts. Instead of continuing to waste time looking for the old posts, I just asked Larry to resubmit his question so that I could take a look at it.

Larry reposted his concerns in post #62.

The link in Larry’s post is to an LDS apologetics site (FAIR) which addresses this alleged misquote of the Tanners near the bottom of the page. Look for the “Orson Pratt” heading. As FAIR does, Larry believes this to be a dishonest use of this resource and wants to know if I agree. To make his case, Larry quotes the Tanner’s partial use of this resource (only showing the appearance of an angel) and then gives the full quote which shows that Orson Pratt did know about the Father and Son in the First Vision. According to Larry in post (Post #81);

It is realy (sic) not that hard. Sandra Tanner said Orson Pratt and the other Early LDS leaders did not know about the first vision and gave a quote from Orson Pratt to show this. I gave both he (sic) quote and the original quote from Orson Pratt with the 200+ words that Sandra Tanner removed. Is it wrong to remove 200+ words tomake (sic) a quote say the exact opposite of what the person said? I did not ask for anything on the other items like the 1840 pamphlet printed by Orson 2 years before the official version was published that gave every account found in the official version. i (sic) just asked about the one quote and gave you both the Tanners version and the original version. It shold (sic) not take more than 10 min. to come up with an oppinion. (sic)

Due to family and other ministry responsibilities, I was not able to immediately look at this issue. Once I had the time, I tried to post my response. As mentioned in my Monday, March 31st blog entry, I have been having trouble with my posts appearing on Topix. For some unknown reason, a good number of my responses were never posted on Topix. I did not realize just how many of them were never posted until I started writing this response to Larry.

In order to look at the resource, I asked Larry for the reference to the Tanner talk. If the Tanners supposedly said something on a recording, I want to hear the recording so that I can understand the context in which the quote was used. I do not think it is fair to ask me to judge a statement outside of its context. As show above, Larry has already provided a context for me, but I reserve the right to evaluate that for myself. Here is Larry’s less than cordial response to my request for the reference. “I gave you thye (sic) date of the Talk. Do I need to go to your house and do the work for you? You asked for the site I got the information from and gave it to you. Have you even looked at the information or are you just dodging me still?” (post # 113)

Do you see the problem here? Larry trusts a secondary source and thinks I am trying to avoid the subject because I want more information. When I ask him for the primary resource, he becomes indignant. Since Larry does not have the primary resource, and has probably never heard the Tanner talk himself, I decided to look at the reference anyway and try to understand how the Tanners were using the quote. If I could not understand how the quote was used, I could easily call Sandra Tanner and ask her.

When I look at the partial quote by the Tanners and then the whole quote provided by FAIR, I can understand why Larry has a problem with the use of this quote. If the Tanners used this partial quote to try to prove that Joseph Smith did not see the Father and the Son, then this is clearly a quote taken out of context.

It is interesting to note that FAIR does not provide a reference link to the Tanner’s web site so that you can check the quote for accuracy. The FAIR article is referring to this item on the Tanner’s web site which Larry later provided for me. When you look at this web page, you will see that it is a list of “References for a talk given Nov. 8, 1998, Salt Lake City, Utah.” The reference in question is the second quote under the 1869 heading. On of the first things you will notice is that very little of the information on this Tanner web page is written in article format. Since most of what appears on this page is just references, it is not possible to determine the context in which the quotes are given or how they were used in the talk. Remember, Larry said in post #81 that Sandra Tanner claims, “Orson Pratt and the other Early LDS leaders did not know about the first vision and gave a quote from Orson Pratt to show this,” and disregarded the fact that the whole quote shows the opposite.

If this is what the Tanners have done, then they have born false witness against the LDS Church. If Larry is wrong about how the quote was used in the Tanner talk, then he is bearing false witness against the Tanners. Because there is no context given on the Tanner’s web site about this talk, I decided to call Sandra Tanner and ask her about it.

Sandra and I talked on March 28, 2008. When I brought up the item on her web site, she was already familiar with which quote was in question and how Mormon apologists have attacked it. We talked for 10-15 minutes and I made sure that I understood her argument and how the quote was used in her talk. I will do my best to explain that here.

Sandra explained that the topic of her talk was how the first vision itself has changed throughout the years and that it was not always used to prove that God has a physical body, especially in early Mormon history. In other words, the first vision story was never used by Smith as proof that God the Father has a physical body. Although he mentions seeing two personages in an 1838 vision account, the purpose of Smith sharing that alleged vision was never to prove the physicality of the Father like the LDS Church does today. According to Tanner, the first vision was never used as proof of the physical nature until “YEARS after Brigham Young died, probably around the turn of the century” (Personal email from Sandra Tanner to me).

Tanner also noted that the quote in question mentions the appearance of an angel before the appearance of the Father and the Son and then another appearance by an angel. Tanner’s use of the ellipsis is not to try to hide the fact that the Father and Son are mentioned, but instead to show that angels are mentioned both before and after the alleged appearance of the Father and Son. With this information the question must be raised, “If Smith saw an angel before the first vision, then why is the appearance of the Father and Son called the first vision when it would have had to have been the second vision? Let’s look at the quote.

By and by an obscure individual, a young man, rose up, and, in the midst of all Christendom, proclaims the startling news that God had sent an angel to him; that through his faith, prayers, and sincere repentance he had beheld a supernatural vision, that he had seen a pillar of fire descend from Heaven, and saw two glorious personages clothed upon with this pillar of fire, whose countenance shone like the sun at noonday; that he heard one of these personages say, pointing to the other, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” This occurred before this young man was fifteen years of age; and it was a startling announcement to make in the midst of a generation so completely given up to the traditions of their fathers; and when this was proclaimed by this young, unlettered boy to the priests and the religious societies in the State of New York, they laughed him to scorn. “What!” said they, “visions and revelations in our day! God speaking to men in our day!” They looked upon him as deluded; they pointed the finger of scorn at him and warned their congregations against him. “The canon of Scripture is closed up; no more communications are to be expected from Heaven. The ancients saw heavenly visions and personages; they heard the voice of the Lord; they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to receive revelations, but behold no such thing is to be given to man in our day, neither has there been for many generations past.” This was the style of the remarks made by religionists forty years ago. This young man, some four years afterwards, was visited again by a holy angel. (Journal of Discourses V.13 P. 65-66)

Notice that the second mention of the angel says that Smith was visited “again by a holy angel.” According to the official version of the first vision, the initial vision Smith ever had was of the Father and the Son, then three years later Smith claims to have been visited by an angel in his bedroom. The above quote shows that Smith was visited by an angel, then by the Father and the Son, then four years later was visited again by an angel.

Now that we have seen how the Tanner quote was used, we see that there are no motives of deception, thus the Tanners are not guilty of bearing false witness against the LDS Church. Even if you disagree with the Tanner interpretation of the quote, there is no basis for accusing them of dishonesty. I understand where the miscommunication has taken place and think there is a simple solution to avoid any confusion in the future.

If there was a bit of commentary on the Tanner web page that explains how and why each quote is being used, there would be no misunderstanding of the quotes. Regardless of the fact that there is no commentary on this page, I believe that it is irresponsible to create your own context for how these quotes are being used and then accuse the Tanners of deception. Remember, in post #81 of the Topix thread, Larry said that, “It shold (sic) not take more than 10 min. to come up with an opinion.” (sic) That is precisely why Larry and FAIR have misunderstood the Tanners. If Larry and FAIR had just done a little homework, they would not be guilty of bearing false witness against the Tanners.

Trouble With Topix

I have been active in Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons for the last couple of months through a news site called Topix. Along with reading all sorts of news items, readers can also participate in conversation about those news items or they can post their own comments and questions in the Forum. Obviously I participate in the JW and Mormon forums.

Because of some research that I was doing for a Mormon who asked me a question, I found that a great number of my posts were either never posted to Topix or have been taken down. Now that I realize that there are a substantial number (23) of my posts missing from the conversation, I understand why some of the Mormons have been confused and/or angry with me. I’m not too happy about it either.

I’ve spent a good amount of time writing these responses only to have them disappear into cyberspace. The interesting thing is, I can see the posts from my computer when it is signed into Topix, but I cannot see them when I am not signed in. Frustrating the say the least!

I am writing this blog in hopes that someone from the “Are you scared we are right” conversation thread will see it and let the others know that I have been having trouble with my posts. I have also contacted Topix in order to get the issue resolved. Here is an e-mail that I have written to Topix.

Topix,
I have been having some real issues with a number of my posts either not showing up on the Topix Forum or indiscriminately taken down. I assure you that they are not in violation of the terms of service. The thread with which I am having trouble is titled “Are you scared we are right?” and can be found on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Forum.
http://www.topix.net/forum/religion/latter-day-saints/TT0IDLHULVDIVKMJV

If there is a problem with posting, please let me know how to resolve the issue. If this is some sort of “moderation punishment,” I would like to speak with a supervisor. I have screenshots of my missing posts so that I can prove that they are completely in line with the terms of service. I eagerly await your response.

Keith Walker

The slide show below shows the screen shots I have taken of my missing posts. The quality of the pictures was much better before I converted them into the slide show. If anyone wants to see the pictures of the posts, I can e-mail them to you. Please pray that this issue is resolved soon.

Topix

Over the last four weeks I’ve been spending a good portion of my day on a web site called Topix. Quancast describes Topix as,

“Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the
information and discussions that matter to them in every U.S. town and
city.

A Top 20 online news destination (Hitwise, July 2007), the site links
news from 50,000 sources to 360,000 lively user-generated forums. Topix also
works with the nation’s major media companies to grow and engage their online
audiences through forums, classifieds, publishing platforms and RSS feeds.

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Topix LLC is a privately held
company.”

The user generated forums spoken about are where I have been spending my time. There are thousands of forums for just about any newsworthy topic imaginable. I just happened to stumble upon the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon forums.

On these forums, there is a mix of people who participate in the discussions. There are JWs and Mormons, former members, people who are studying the become members, Christians, Atheists, and those who are just curious. I have found that since I have been visiting the forums our web traffic has increased significantly.
Topix is a great place to hang out and talk with JWs and Mormons. Not only have I been in conversations through the forums, but I have also been in contact with people privately. Feel free to join in the discussions and please pray that God uses Evidence Ministries for His glory.