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Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ ^ | Dennis B. Neuenschwander

Posted on 01/02/2011 5:46:30 PM PST by Paragon Defender

Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ

By Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander Of the Seventy




Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Jan 2009, 16–22

Adapted from a presentation to the Seventy.




In the Doctrine and Covenants we read that Joseph Smith was “called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:2). The call of an Apostle is first to witness or testify of Jesus Christ. Old Testament prophets testified of His coming. The New Testament Apostles bore personal witness of Christ’s being and of the absolute reality of His Resurrection. This apostolic witness was the basis of their teaching. “Ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8) was Jesus’s instruction to the original Twelve. Peter testified on the day of Pentecost to the Jews who had gathered “out of every nation” (Acts 2:5) that “this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Similarly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that Jesus “was seen of me also” (1 Corinthians 15:8). The sure witness of Christ’s being and the reality of His Resurrection is the first pillar of apostolic testimony.

The second pillar is centered on the Savior’s redemptive and saving power. Peter teaches that to the Lord “give all the Prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

Without these twin pillars of testimony concerning Christ, there could be no Apostle. Such testimonies are born of experience, divine command, and instruction. For example, Luke writes that Christ showed Himself to the Apostles “alive after his passion … being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

How does the Prophet Joseph Smith fit into these apostolic requirements? The answer is “Perfectly.”

The First Vision

Joseph Smith’s apostolic instruction began in 1820. Pondering the questions of religion, he soon found that there was no way to reason or argue one’s opinion to an authoritative conclusion concerning the correctness of the various churches or their doctrines. Short of a divine manifestation, young Joseph could add only one more opinion to the already existing “war of words and tumult of opinions” (Joseph Smith—History 1:10). But Joseph’s questions on religion were answered by the personal and physical manifestation of God the Father and His divine and living Son, Jesus Christ—an experience referred to as the First Vision.

Like that of the original Apostles, Joseph’s experience with Deity was direct and personal. There was no need for the opinion of others or the deliberations of a council to define what he saw or what it came to mean to him. Joseph’s vision was at first an intensely personal experience—an answer to a specific question. Over time, however, illuminated by additional experience and instruction, it became the founding revelation of the Restoration.

As apostolic as this manifestation of Christ’s being, existence, and Resurrection was to Joseph Smith, it was not the only thing Jesus wanted to teach him. The boy Joseph’s first lesson arose from the manifestation of Christ’s absolute, omnipotent, and divine power. Joseph learned firsthand at least one meaning of the redeeming and saving power of Christ when he prayed in the grove. As he began to pray, “Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction” (Joseph Smith—History 1:15). With every bit of energy Joseph had, he began to call upon God to deliver him from the grasp of this enemy.

“At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction … , I saw a pillar of light. …

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).

Joseph Smith’s confrontation with the adversary is reminiscent of an experience Moses had, about which the Prophet would learn some few years later. Unlike the boy Joseph, however, Moses saw God’s greatness first and then was confronted with the power of the adversary before being delivered from his influence. (See Moses 1.)

The difference in the order of events is significant. Moses was already far into maturity and had much knowledge and influence prior to this event. By displaying His magnificent power to Moses before he faced the adversary, the Lord helped Moses put his life into perspective. After experiencing God’s glory, Moses said, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). This incident enabled Moses to withstand the temptations of the adversary that followed.

Joseph Smith, on the other hand, was an inexperienced young man, who in his lifetime would repeatedly face adversarial power and the overwhelming problems it brings. By facing the adversary first, then being saved from his assault by the appearance of the Father and the Son, Joseph learned this indelible lesson: as great as the power of evil might be, it must always withdraw with the appearance of righteousness.

This lesson was critical in Joseph’s apostolic education. He needed this knowledge not only because of the personal trials that lay ahead of him but also because of the overwhelming opposition he would face in founding and directing the Church.

The boy Joseph went into the grove seeking wisdom, and wisdom he received. His apostolic instruction had begun. Among the great apostolic lessons of this First Vision were both the physical nature of the Savior and Heavenly Father and the initial and fundamental lessons relating to Their power—each a pillar of apostolic testimony.

The Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith’s early apostolic instruction continued with his translation of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon gave Joseph access to “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel” (Joseph Smith—History 1:34), principles that were necessary to understand even prior to the organization of the Church. The Prophet was introduced to numerous “plain and most precious” (1 Nephi 13:26) prophetic and apostolic testimonies regarding the Savior, all of which served as models for him.

Indeed, the Book of Mormon prophets employ over 100 titles in their teachings of Christ, each of which helped Joseph understand the Savior’s divine role.1 By virtue of these teachings, Joseph Smith became intimately acquainted with ancient prophets, giving him insight into the divine purpose of his responsibilities.

The Book of Mormon illuminates the universality of Christ’s Atonement. The Savior’s holy sacrifice is not confined to the borders of the Holy Land of His day or even restricted to the apostolic world of the original Twelve. The Atonement encompasses all of God’s creations—past, present, and future. What an impression Jacob’s teaching of the “infinite atonement” (2 Nephi 9:7) must have made on the mind of young Joseph, especially in contrast to Christian teachings at the time.

The Book of Mormon also introduces the universality of the Resurrection and other doctrines relating to it. Discourses on this doctrine by Lehi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, Amulek, Samuel the Lamanite, and Moroni are all rich sources of instruction.

During the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet received additional valuable personal instruction concerning the redemptive and saving power of Christ. In 1828 Martin Harris persuaded Joseph to lend him the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript. When Martin Harris lost those pages, the Prophet felt an enormous despair.2 His mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded that Joseph exclaimed: “Oh, my God! … All is lost! all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God. … How shall I appear before the Lord? Of what rebuke am I not worthy from the angel of the Most High?”3

For well over a month the Lord left Joseph in this terrible condition of remorse.4 Then came relief and the apostolic lesson. The Lord told Joseph:

“The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. …

“For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him” (D&C 3:1, 4).

These words carefully describe what Joseph Smith had been experiencing. He had learned the exacting nature of the apostolic call and to whom the Apostle, at all cost, owes his loyalty. “Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words,” Joseph was told, “yet you should have been faithful” (D&C 3:7–8). Joseph Smith had lost access to the plates for a season and had been taught an invaluable lesson. Subsequently, the plates were returned, and his position as translator restored.

How critical were the lessons provided by the translation of the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith grew in his apostolic calling! The Book of Mormon is the “keystone of our religion”5 because it contains so many prophetic testimonies of Christ and stands as a tangible witness of the Restoration.

Continuing Revelation and Scripture

After finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon in 1829 and organizing the Church in 1830, Joseph Smith had the opportunity to receive continuing apostolic education through the process of translating other scripture. This included three years of translating the Bible and, beginning in 1835, translating the book of Abraham. Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible expanded his understanding of the role of Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. It also resulted in additional revelation, namely the book of Moses.

The book of Moses provided the Prophet with important knowledge about the Savior’s ministry, including His role in the Creation. “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying: … I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things” (Moses 2:1). Further, He said, “And worlds without number have I created; … and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:33).

The book of Moses clarified Christ’s relationship to the Father in the premortal existence and reinforced the Prophet’s understanding of the ascendant power of righteousness. One of the most beautiful of all the apostolic lessons that came to Joseph Smith in this revelation was the confirmation of God’s love. It was so different from the harsh, unforgiving, and judgmental personage so many believed God to be; the book of Moses reveals a God of infinite compassion. Enoch saw that the “God of heaven … wept” (Moses 7:28) over those who would not receive Him. Wishing to know how it was possible, Enoch was given an answer that has a familiar biblical feel to it: “I [have] given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father. … Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:33, 37; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37–39).

Through the translation of the book of Moses, the Prophet also became more acquainted with the redeeming and saving power of the Savior. As the Lord said, this earth was created “by the word of my power” (Moses 1:32) for the purpose of bringing “to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Many long years before the Savior taught Thomas and the Twelve that “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), He revealed to Moses that “this is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time” (Moses 6:62).

The First Vision in the grove, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the revision of the Bible, the revelation of the book of Moses, and the translation of the book of Abraham laid the basic foundation of the Church, largely through the rapidly expanding knowledge and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith relating to Jesus Christ.

Revelations given to him and compiled in the Doctrine and Covenants contain a wealth of knowledge concerning the Savior. One could research the numerous topics and cross-references of the Topical Guide and Guide to the Scriptures referring to Jesus Christ and still not understand the breadth of information on the Savior that the Prophet Joseph Smith brought to the world. I am grateful to know that Jesus was “in the beginning with the Father” (D&C 93:21). I am grateful to know that He “suffered these things for [me], that [I] might not suffer if [I] would repent” (D&C 19:16).

My Testimony of What the Prophet Revealed

I am grateful for yet one other thing about the Savior’s ministry that stirs my soul deeply. From studying the promises of Malachi, Moroni’s initial visit with Joseph, the Savior’s words to the Nephites, and the visit of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, I learn that God loves His children and has provided a way for each to return to Him. I know of no doctrine more just, no teaching that gives more hope than that of redemption of the dead. I am so grateful for the revelations that teach me that the Savior’s Atonement reaches to those who have lived, loved, served, and hoped for a better day yet never heard of Jesus or had the opportunity to embrace His gospel. This knowledge alone would be sufficient to convert me to the gospel if I knew nothing else at all. Here, at least for me, is the ultimate testimony of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

What, then, can be said of the incomparable saving power of Christ? That which Joseph Smith learned in the Sacred Grove about the power of righteousness overcoming evil foreshadows the final scene. So reveals the Lord:

“I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me—having done this that I might subdue all things unto myself—

“Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great day of judgment” (D&C 19:2–3).

Our own testimonies of the Savior are framed by the testimony and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Is it any wonder then that the Prophet taught that “the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”6

Joseph Smith’s apostolic testimony of the divine reality and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as his knowledge of the redemptive and saving power of the Savior, can best be seen by the Prophet’s own beautiful, powerful, and succinct witness:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

How grateful I am for the apostolic call of Joseph Smith.





1. See Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (2003), 457–58.

2. See Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (1958), 128–29.

3. History of Joseph Smith, 128, 129.

4. The 116 pages were lost in June 1828. In July Joseph Smith received what is now section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In September the plates were returned to the Prophet. See the historical introductions to D&C 3; 10.

5. History of the Church, 4:461.

6. History of the Church, 3:30.







TOPICS: Breaking News; Other Christian; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: braking; cult; heresy; inman; lds; lies; notbreakingnews; propaganda; religion
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To: aMorePerfectUnion; reaganaut; DelphiUser
BTW, I am a descendant of Abraham with the genealogy to prove it.

HA! Delphi, you make me LOL....

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. Titus 3:9

961 posted on 01/03/2011 2:27:30 PM PST by colorcountry (Comforting lies are not your friends. Painful truths are not your enemies.)
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To: restornu; Logophile
Allow me to revise and extend my remarks:

Thin-skinned Mormons probably should not respond to criticism, if they cannot do so without getting upset.

962 posted on 01/03/2011 2:28:17 PM PST by Logophile
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To: reaganaut

When again is your birthday? :-)

963 posted on 01/03/2011 2:28:48 PM PST by T Minus Four ("Vital truths were restored by God through Joseph Smith. I just can't think of one")
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To: Paragon Defender
It is the anti-Mormon freeper gang that “posts offensive, provocative, inflammatory stuff on a daily basis”.


We can't afford statues and stuff...

964 posted on 01/03/2011 2:29:48 PM PST by Elsie
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To: DelphiUser
Get a Book of Mormon, Get a Bible. Read both, pray about both, ask God to testify of Jesus and ask God to reveal errors for what they are, and truth for what it is and listen for God's response. The response should contain a testimony of Jesus, or it may not be from God.

Notice the conditional "test of the BOM"....

I have posted here before that after much study, prayer and fasting, I received a message from the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon was not a message from God, that Joseph Smith's "revelation" was not from the spirit of God, and that Christ is the Savior of mankind. That Christ is with me always, and that HE is the only way to salvation through HIS grace, not through empty works or rituals.

This is MY testimony to all.

I invite all Christians to praise Him here, but I don't believe it necessary to "defend" your faith against a challenge from those who are misled. If any care to take up the challenge of reading the Book of Mormon and asking God its truth, please do so. But be aware that if you receive a message that it is NOT true, you will be told by mormons that YOU failed in some way.

Answer to above from DU: I'm asking you again, how exactly did you receive your negative message?

What exactly were you asking God in your prayer?

What exactly were your preparations for an answer from on high?

Please understand I am not trying to tear you down, but your actions are not consistent with your words here and I as an analyst must either conclude that you have left something vital out of your report, or you have falsified it in some way. I do not like to think that my Christian brethren would lie about something so important to the salvation of the soul, so I ask for more information to help me and any Lurkers to rectify the apparent contradictions of your story with your actions.

As you can see, "taking the test" is not simple...if you do not receive the answer that doesn't fit the mormon template.

965 posted on 01/03/2011 2:30:00 PM PST by greyfoxx39 (("A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.")
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To: DelphiUser; reaganaut
IMHO Regardless of what denomination you are, all Bible followers should be paying tithing to their church.

You can pay your tithing all day long to your church. I give all, my everything, to my Lord and His Church - it is ALL His!!

966 posted on 01/03/2011 2:30:47 PM PST by colorcountry (Comforting lies are not your friends. Painful truths are not your enemies.)
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To: DelphiUser; T Minus Four; colorcountry; Colofornian; Elsie; FastCoyote; svcw; Zakeet; SkyPilot; ...

Tithing was not a mosaic law, Abraham followed it, so it was not fulfilled, besides the early Christians followed it too.

- - - - - - -
Epic fail. While it was part of the Abrahamic covenant, it is considered part of the law (as was sacrifice).

Early Christians DID NOT PRACTICE TITHING. They either lived communally or gave as they were led (as Paul teaches). There is no mention of tithing in the NEW Testament.

Here is a good link on the subject. It would serve you well to read it:

The bible is written to all Christians even if we are not bound by the Law of Moses. Christians are NOT to tithe but to give as we are led, and BTW, that more often than not is more than just the 10%. Also, who says we need to give to a church? We need to give to the LORD, at certain times I have been led to give to ministries rather than a church so I have. It is all God’s money and afa ex-mo’s go - the Christian ones I know are much more generous since they have been freed from the law the LDS church puts forth.

967 posted on 01/03/2011 2:31:00 PM PST by reaganaut (Ex Mormon, now Christian - "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Tennessee Nana

You can race Elsie. I have a long late night ahead, so I’m going to go take a nice prayerful nap.

968 posted on 01/03/2011 2:31:43 PM PST by MHGinTN (Some, believing they can't be deceived, it's nigh impossible to convince them when they're deceived.)
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To: Syncro; narses

I understand why Christians don’t believe the title is true; it is a statement of mormon belief, one that is well-known to anybody who knows something about the LDS religion. In their belief system, Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith. Most Christian denominations do not believe this happened.

I even understand the reason some people believe that this difference of opinion is more important than other differences of opinion that show up in Caucus thread titles. First, those differences are of a different degree than this difference, and second, it is actually rare for the title of a caucus thread to contain enough information to call out a disagreement.

The mormons aren’t the only faith which feels put upon either. There is a perception of anti-catholic postings, which lead to a caucus thread titled “Catholic Apologetics Thread”, which discussed how to handle such attacks, and had an interesting set of ideas of how religion could be handled more charitably in these forums, in a more protective manner to avoid people being abused or feeling attacked for their questions and discussions.

I’d like to see a more charitable application; however, I understand that this is at cross-purposes with those who feel part of the use of Free REpublic is to save souls, to proselytize, to convert. Obviously there are those who believe that is the LDS poster’s purpose. More clearly, that is the stated purpose of the anti-mormon posters, to convert mormons to christianity.

As to this thread, it could easily have been handled by reposting the original article as open, and letting christians have a go at arguing the point. There was in fact very little arguing the points made in the article.

I also found it funny that a lot of the first 100 posts were attacks on the original poster for “failing” to post as caucus, for thinking his thread deserved breaking news, and for forcing it down people’s throats. It wasn’t until the news spread that this was not the poster’s fault that people stopped attacking, and instead praised the move.

969 posted on 01/03/2011 2:32:46 PM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: Sherman Logan

It doesn’t say anything about him fighting back when he was cut to pieces.

Smith is no martyr.

970 posted on 01/03/2011 2:33:42 PM PST by reaganaut (Ex Mormon, now Christian - "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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For good reason.

971 posted on 01/03/2011 2:35:03 PM PST by T Minus Four ("Vital truths were restored by God through Joseph Smith. I just can't think of one")
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To: Sherman Logan

But Mormons revere him as a martyr.

972 posted on 01/03/2011 2:35:03 PM PST by reaganaut (Ex Mormon, now Christian - "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Paragon Defender
Completely false. You really should get your info from more than anti-Mormons. You are being misled. Willingly it would appear.

"PD; have you been spitting out your pills; AGAIN?"

973 posted on 01/03/2011 2:35:15 PM PST by Elsie
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To: Paragon Defender

See this is what I mean about regurgitated propaganda.

Instructions given by Joseph Smith:

          "Doctrine & Covenants" Section 129:
1  There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones;
2  For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 
3  Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory. 
When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you. 
5  If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand. 
If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear;
7  Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message. 
8  If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him. 
9  These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.

Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Illinois, February 9, 1843. History of the Church 5:267. 

974 posted on 01/03/2011 2:36:58 PM PST by Elsie
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To: Elsie

Well, I wasn’t, until you responded to me. Have a nice day.

975 posted on 01/03/2011 2:37:06 PM PST by Cymbaline ("Allahu Akbar": Arabic for "Nothing To See Here" - Mark Steyn)
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To: Elsie

I WAS away, until you posted to me four times.

976 posted on 01/03/2011 2:38:38 PM PST by Cymbaline ("Allahu Akbar": Arabic for "Nothing To See Here" - Mark Steyn)
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To: T Minus Four
977 posted on 01/03/2011 2:39:02 PM PST by greyfoxx39 (("A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.")
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The jury will note that the defendant's lawyer has called my client's reputation into account.

Is he now prepared to show the court the EVIDENCE for these SCURRILOUS charges?

978 posted on 01/03/2011 2:39:02 PM PST by Elsie
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To: reaganaut; DelphiUser
BTW, I am a descendant of Abraham with the genealogy to prove it. [Delphi user] - - - - - -

Oh my heck, LOL! Lay it on us dude!

979 posted on 01/03/2011 2:39:36 PM PST by T Minus Four ("Vital truths were restored by God through Joseph Smith. I just can't think of one")
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To: T Minus Four

But what mormon thread isn’t, for those who believe the mormon faith is not christian?

I find most of the LDS threads, and titles to be contrary to my belief system. I guess I’m just not seeing why this particular thread was seen as much worse than any of the others, or why it was considered to be revealing something new about the mormon faith.

Maybe more of just a “last straw” thing.

980 posted on 01/03/2011 2:40:50 PM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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