The Table Podcast

Respectfully Engaging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and Richard Hornok discuss respectfully engaging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Note: This interview was recorded before the president of the Utah-based church, Russell M. Nelson, asked people to discontinue use of the terms “Mormon” and “LDS.”

Respectfully Engaging World Religions
  1. Respectfully Engaging Atheism
  2. Respectfully Engaging Sikhism
  3. Respectfully Engaging Shintoism
  4. Respectfully Engaging Animism
  5. Respectfully Engaging Judaism
  6. Respectfully Engaging Hinduism
  7. Respectfully Engaging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  8. Respectfully Engaging Islam
  9. Respectfully Engaging Jainism
Timecodes
00:15
Hornok' s family background in ministering to Mormons.
04:33
The origin and history of the Mormon church
11:55
Different branches of Mormonism
16:50
Mormon redefinition of Christian terms
21:16
Mormon view of the Bible, heaven, and salvation
28:28
Mormon prophets and ecclesiastical structure
29:59
Mormon temple, wards, and meetings
34:45
What attracts people to Mormonism?
38:00
How familiar are most Mormons with Mormon Doctrine?
42:19
Mormon views regarding dark-skinned people
44:58
Advice for respectfully engaging Mormons
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. And we are talking today with Richard Hornok who is a pastor in Texarkana, Texas, but his story goes back further than that. He’s part of a family that has ministered to Mormons for what, two generations, three generations?
Richard Hornok
Two generations.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Richard Hornok
Yeah, started in 1953.
Darrell Bock
All right. and our topic as part of our World Religion series we’re talking about Mormonism today. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and I actually went to seminary with Richard’s brother, so this is kind of fun for me to be able to do this.

Richard, talk a little bit about how your family got involved with being associated with Mormons, and –

Richard Hornok
Sure.
Darrell Bock
– and just run us through your family tree on this.
Richard Hornok
Okay. Well, my father was one of those Navy World War II guys. Got saved a couple years after he had been at Pearl Harbor. He actually was at Pearl Harbor the day the war broke out.
Darrell Bock
Oh wow.
Richard Hornok
In 1943, got saved, and then got discipled by the Navigators, and so when he got out of the service, decide that God was calling him to ministry. By that time he had married my mother, and so they went to Moody Bible Institute and graduated in ’50, and then he became a pastor in the Chicago area.

My oldest brother was having health issues, and the doctor said you’ve gotta move him to a drier climate, you know, some place like Denver or Phoenix or Salk Lake City, and just providentially around the same time, my dad had been at a pastor’s conference there in the Chicago area, and he had heard some speaker talk about Mormonism, and how there was just actually no evangelical witness there or very little evangelical witness at the time.

And it was just one of those things that really resonated with my dad and my mom, and they had a passion for evangelism, and between my brother’s health issues and God laying that upon their heart is like that’s how God led them. So he resigned the church in ’53 and went out there, basically just kind of a tent-making type ministry, and was involved in church planting for really the rest of his life.

They had six kids. I’m the youngest of those kids. Five son, a daughter, and all of us ended up going into ministry. All the boys came to Dallas Seminary. My sister married a guy who had come to Dallas Seminary, so all six of us graduated from his seminary.

Darrell Bock
We appreciate you appreciate the seminary going in the ’70s.
Richard Hornok
eah, it must be something in the water there. I don’t know. Anyway, three of the sons ended up back in the Salt Lake area, and one, the oldest brother, actually went back and took over the first church my dad started, and while he went off and started other church. You know, Salt Lake’s a big city, –
Darrell Bock
Yeah, sure.
Richard Hornok
big valley. And then another brother went and started a church that was there. And then my brother Doug just recently, about five years ago, went back and took over one of the churches to. So now there’s three of them in the valley. And so we’ve just had, you know, growing up in Salt Lake, you can’t help but learn about Mormonism.
Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Richard Hornok
And all my friends were Mormons. My best friend was a guy named Ned, lived right across the street. I don’t ever remember not knowing Ned. Ned’s dad was the bishop. A bishop is a Mormon pastor. So people got a lot of kicks out of that the pastor’s kid and the bishop’s kid were best buddies.

And Ned’s probably the strongest Mormon I know. I mean, three biological kids, but he’s adopted seven kids which is a big part of Mormonism, you know, spreading their gospel just through adoption, taking in kids and all that.

Darrell Bock
Well, fascinating. So let’s talk a little bit about Mormonism. Most people think, well, it’s some kind of an offshoot of Christianity. In doing my work for this podcast, it’s very, very clear to me how, if I can say it this way, American focused Mormonism is in some of its eschatology and that kind of thing.
Richard Hornok
h, it is, yeah.
Darrell Bock
And so that struck me in reading about it. So let’s talk a little bit about the relationship of Mormonism to Christianity. Emerged in the 1820s to 1840s basically.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
Joseph Smith, Jr. who was unhappy with his relationship to the church, and had a vision, I take it.
Richard Hornok
ad a vision. When he was 14 years old the story is that he’s in Upstate New York, not far from Buffalo, a town called Palmyra, and when he’s 14 years old, he’s frustrated with all the churches in town, he’d seen all the bickering and the fighting that was going on, and this is, during that time I think just church historians called it the Burned Over District.
Darrell Bock
Burned Over District, yep.
Richard Hornok
And so he was a product of that. And he goes out, and he’s reading in his Bible, James 1:5, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God and God will give it.” So he goes out in the woods and he’s praying, “God, I don’t know what to do. I really wanna have a relationship with you. What do I do?” And the story is that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and tell him “Don’t join any church. I’m gonna give you the revelation.”

And so he comes out of the woods, basically, saying “Everyone’s wrong, and I’m gonna have the answers.” And so from there, he proceeds, of course people who study Mormonism, you know, they’ll say, “Well, he went on to join a couple different churches,” but whatever, but Mormons would say, “No, he stayed faithful to that.”

And then over the course of the next 15-16 years, he had a series of other visions, and one of those visions, by the time he was about 30 was from an angel named Moroni whose father was Mormon, and Mormon was a prophet that had recorded the story of some Jews who had left Israel right before the Babylonian captivity.

Darrell Bock
So we’re in 600 B.C. or so.
Richard Hornok
es. Sailed across the ocean, landed in Central America, and they were the other sheep that Jesus had that he referred to in John 10.
Darrell Bock
So Christopher Columbus was not the first one to hit the continent.
Richard Hornok
o, no, some Jews did it, what, 2000 years earlier. And so consequently, they would see a lot of Native Americans that actually their genetic roots go back to Jews, Judaism as opposed to the Pacific Rim like most historians would _____.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So this results in –
Richard Hornok
eah.
Darrell Bock
– in two groups of people, and I may mess up the technical terms here, but so it is the Nephites or something?
Richard Hornok
he Nephites and the –
Darrell Bock
The Laman –
Richard Hornok
amanites.
Darrell Bock
– Lamanites.
Richard Hornok
nd they’re having a war and they’re fighting over, you know, because they fell into corruption, and of course, all of this is fantasy, okay.
Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Richard Hornok
can even talk with you about the theories as to where Joseph Smith got all this stuff, but they had, you know, war within them, and they had departed from the truth, but on Saturday, after Jesus had been crucified on Friday, before he rose again on Sunday, on Saturday, he spent in Central America, straightening these people out and giving them the true gospel and getting them right, and –
Darrell Bock
So instead of going south he turned left, huh?
Richard Hornok
es, I guess. And so then in about 300 or 400 years A.D., several hundred years afterwards, Mormon recorded all these things on golden tablets, and somehow, even though he was living in Central America, he buried them in Upstate New York on Hill Kimora, and so when Joseph Smith had one of his other visions, the vision he had from Moroni, an angel who had been the son of Mormon, Moroni was showing him where these golden tablets are, and Joseph translated them from Egyptian hieroglyphics and that’s the Book of Mormon.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Richard Hornok
nd that’s the story, and Joseph got that in about 1830 and the Book of Mormon presents a theology that _____.
Darrell Bock
So he was about 20 years old when this happened?
Richard Hornok
e was 14 when he had the first vision and then between 14 and 30, he had lots of other visions.
Darrell Bock
And so the Book of Mormon is one of the scriptures that we talk – that Mormons have.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
There are a few other canonical-like sources for Mormonism as well, right?
Richard Hornok
ight. They had the Doctrine of Covenants, they have the Journal of Discourse, the Pearl of Great Price, and they’re just the sermons of Joseph Smith, the sermons of the other prophets, basic teachings that have been added to the church through the years.
Darrell Bock
So obviously, there must have been a migration because the story starts in New York and we end up in Utah.
Richard Hornok
ight, right.
Darrell Bock
So how did that work?
Richard Hornok
I mean, you know, from a more objective perspective, I mean, Joseph Smith was a shyster. I mean, the whole polygamy thing, which most people have heard about. He would marry these young women and, you know, people in that time just were not gonna tolerate it, so they kept getting driven out of places.

They went to Ohio, got driven out of Ohio. Went to Illinois, got driven out of Illinois. Ultimately, in Illinois, finally Joseph Smith was actually murdered or he was put in jail and then the stories vary, but he’s trying to escape from jail and a mob ends up killing him, and so they viewed him as a martyr, and that’s when Brigham Young ultimately takes over the main branch, and then they migrate to Salt Lake.

And that all happened in about 1845, they ultimately went to Salt Lake in 1847, and this is long before Utah’s a state, long before that part of the world is settled, and their desire was to actually become their own nation.

Darrell Bock
To become Zion, right?
Richard Hornok
o become Zion. And Brigham Young’s gonna be the head of it, and everything’s gonna be great. The only thing that happened was, that was in 1847, in 1849, they discovered gold in California, and so Utah becomes a traffic pathway to get to the gold –
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Richard Hornok
and so the U.S. government is not gonna allow that territory in between to become its own nation, so eventually, there’s kind of a power struggle, but it takes about 50 years, and then ultimately all those states become states and Utah became a state, I think, in about 1897.
Darrell Bock
Now, another group ends up in Missouri.
Richard Hornok
pringfield, Missouri.
Darrell Bock
In Springfield, Missouri, yeah. So –
Richard Hornok
ctually, not Springfield, Missouri. I forget the name of–
Darrell Bock
Okay. so the end up in Missouri, and so there are today three different kinds of Mormonism.
Richard Hornok
ight, right.
Darrell Bock
So let’s talk a little bit about that.
Richard Hornok
Well, after Joseph Smith died, there was basically a power struggle, “Who’s going to be the next leader? Who’s gonna be the next prophet?” And it came down a choice between Brigham Young and a guy named Sidney Rigdon, and Sidney Rigdon is actually kind of interesting because many of his descendants or several of his descendants actually live in Texarkana. That’s why I pay attention to him and his story.

But the choice was Brigham Young wanted to continue the practice of polygamy and Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith’s first wife – because Joseph Smith ended up having like 49 wives. Probably had more, but at least 49 that they’ve documented, and there was basically a power struggle, and the choice was, “Are we going to be polygamists or are we gonna be monogamous?”

And Sidney Rigdon and Emma, Joseph Smith’s first wife, definitely did not want to be polygamous, but they lost the election. Brigham Young was a more charismatic, dominant leader, and so the vast majority of people went with him.

That’s the group that went to Salt Lake. Sidney Rigdon, Emma, and a few other followers, went to Missouri, and they became the reformed, or the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That’s RLDS, and now they’ve changed their name to, what was it?

Darrell Bock
The Community of Christ.
Richard Hornok
he Community of Christ. Yeah.
Darrell Bock
So you’ve got – and then there’s a – and then the other thing –
Richard Hornok
undamentalists.
Darrell Bock
The fundamentalists. What’s important to understand here is that Mormonism, because it has a charismatic revelatory element to it –
Richard Hornok
es.
Darrell Bock
– can change its doctrine on the fly.
Richard Hornok
ight, right.
Darrell Bock
And so that’s happened in two major ways, one dealing with polygamy in 1904 and another dealing with the role of blacks in the religion in 1978, but when you get the development of doctrine, you get some people who don’t wanna go anywhere.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
They were happy with the way it was.
Richard Hornok
Right. Well, what happened was, in the late 1800s, when Utah was being forced to be a state, they had to pass a law that said polygamy was illegal, and the federal government was just gonna require that, and of course you can’t have a church that is saying that’s one of the key ways to get to heaven, and with the vast majority of people being part of that church, so there’s kind of this power struggle for a while.

But ultimately, the prophet, and I forget the name of the prophet at that time, had a revelation that polygamy, this world is not capable of handling a doctrine so sweet was polygamy, so God’s gonna delay the practice of that. So it’s not that they don’t believe in it, it’s not for this time. It’s not for this dispensation.

And so they stopped practicing it, and then Utah became a state. And it’s interesting that some of the military bases in Utah were actually established by the federal government to make sure they really did enforce this anti-polygamy.

Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Richard Hornok
hen, well, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, other prophets had made statements that if, like this is one of our key doctrines. If we ever depart from that, we’ve lost the gospel. Well, there were people who took their prophet at face value.
Darrell Bock
Their initial prophet.
Richard Hornok
Their initial prophet, and Brigham Young, and the other prophets, so they’re like, “Hey, this place and has gone liberal,” and so they’ve left, and they’re what are called the fundamentalist Mormons.

And so like Warren Jeffs and that group that are in Colorado City, Arizona, Utah, it’s right on the border there, and even the ones that are out here in El Dorado, Texas, they’re all part of the fundamentalist Mormons, and they do practice polygamy because they said that’s what Joseph said we are supposed to do. If we ever stop doing it, we’ve lost the truth.

Darrell Bock
So we have three groups. We have a variety of scriptures. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the core doctrines. Let’s talk about the doctrine of God for a second. They’ll refer to the Father, Son and Spirit, but they don’t mean the same thing by it.
Richard Hornok
No. In fact, that’s one of the things, before I get to that, Mormons, particularly in the last couple of decades, they use our language. They use all of our terms, biblical terms, but they have completely different definitions, forms, meanings, forms. But anyway, on God, I think the best way to summarize it is with the prophet Lorenzo Snow, and I think he was sometime around 1900-1910.

He had a little quip that went, “As man is, God was once. As God is, man may become.” And so essentially, you, I, we could become gods. If we live our life right, we could become gods. Our God, the Father, he once was a man on some other planet, some other universe, and he was such a good guy, did what he was supposed to do so well, that his god made him a god, and gave him his own universe, his own solar system, and so he’s doing that.

And there’s a Mrs. God. In fact, there’s many Mrs. Gods, and they had children all in preexistence up in heaven, and the oldest son is Jesus. That’s why he’s the Son of God, but we’re all children of God. And so, in fact, Satan is the second born of God and Mrs. God, one of the Mrs. Gods, and so we’ve all been sent here to prove our worthiness, and the ones that really do well, will someday be granted deity, they’ll become a God and get their own universe and solar system to do with as they please.

Darrell Bock
So this is where the ethic or Mormonism comes from, and this idea of doing that which is right. It is a religion of, if I can say it this way, ethical orderliness. One of the 13 vows that exist in Mormonism deal with the whole area of ethics and character and that kind of thing. But it’s coming out of a completely different place. You’re trying to become a certain kind of –
Richard Hornok
h, yeah.
Darrell Bock
– of righteous figure, and the righteousness that you have is your righteousness.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
There’s no –
Richard Hornok
ight. You referred earlier about Mormonism and just its tie to America and the American culture. I mean, it makes perfect sense. The harder you work, the more you get. The better you are here on earth, the better heaven is gonna be. I mean, and if you’re good enough, you will became a bazillionaire god.
Darrell Bock
Yep. So there are lots of differences. I started to say little differences, but they’re not little differences.
Richard Hornok
h –
Darrell Bock
These are really significant –
Richard Hornok
major differences.
Darrell Bock
– in the way things are done. So one of the, I imagine one of the issues in having conversations with Mormons is to understand you may be hearing terms, but you’re not hearing terms used the way you’re used to hearing them.
Richard Hornok
Right, right. It’s interesting to me, when I was growing up, and probably until about 1980-1985, their strategy was “we’re right, everyone else is wrong. When Joseph Smith came out of the woods after his first vision, it’s ‘everyone else has it wrong. I’ve got it right.'”

Since 1980-1985, basically their strategy has been to change and just become another Christian denomination, and as part of that change, they talk about salvation, they talk about faith, they talk about redemption, but they all have totally different meanings. They’ll talk about blood atonement, Christ dying for our sins, but when you really scratch under the surface, you find out that it’s still a works-based salvation that they’re preaching.

Darrell Bock
Now, we’ll talk about heaven for a second. My understanding is there are three levels of attainment, if I can say it that way.
Richard Hornok
ight, mm-hmm. The telestial, the terrestrial –
Darrell Bock
The terrestrial, and the celestial.
Richard Hornok
and the celestial.
Darrell Bock
At least it rhymes.
Richard Hornok
eah, yeah. I think Joseph got that from the Old King James there in 1 Corinthians _____.
Darrell Bock
And that actually is another point, and that is that –
Richard Hornok
otally misunderstood the passage.
Darrell Bock
– it’s that the King James only Bible is the Bible the Mormons refer to.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
So you’ve got that part of the conversation as well.
Richard Hornok
nd you were talking about the articles of faith. The eighth one says “We believe the Bible as far as it’s translated correctly.”
Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Richard Hornok
nd of course, by the word ‘translated’ what they really meant was transmitted because they think that oh, with all the manuscripts and the lost manuscripts, we don’t have what Paul and Peter and Moses wrote. That’s why it’s got so many mistakes in it, and disagrees so much with the Book of Mormon. Where it does agree with the Book of Mormon, it’s good. But the accepted translation is the King James.
Darrell Bock
And that’s interesting because this all, of course, gets formed before we get to, if I can talk in New Testament terms here for a second, the different kinds of manuscript traditions that have triggered our own difference between the Kings James and some of your modern translations that are based on basically two different approaches to the manuscript tradition that feeds into the New Testament. That’s another podcast.
Richard Hornok
ure.
Darrell Bock
But that’s, all this has happened before then because the King James was the only book in town when Mormonism came on the scene. So we’ve got about a minute left, a little more than a minute left before we hit the break. Let’s introduce at least the heavenly levels. What’s going on there.
Richard Hornok
Well, what’s going on there is, as I mentioned earlier, we were all spirit children of God up in heaven, and we were sent here to show our worthiness, and depending on what kind of life we live determines what heaven we will go to.

I mean, the murders, the terrible people, they will go to the lowest heaven. I think it’s the telestial. And they’ll maybe spend some time in a place called hell, the Lake of Fire, but ultimately, because Jesus died for their sins, they’ll end up in the telestial kingdom.

Darrell Bock
So there’s a universal strand to Mormonism that ultimately, most people, if not all –
Richard Hornok
veryone’s gonna get to a heaven.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s just –
Richard Hornok
ust not gonna get to godhood.
Darrell Bock
And celestial’s the highest.
Richard Hornok
Celestial’s the highest, and actually, it’s kind of a bullseye, you know, you can get to the celestial kingdom, but not necessarily to the middle part where you’re gonna become a god. We, ’cause we’re all good people, expect you and I probably won’t, the people listening to this, because preachers are among the worst.

We’ll go the telestial kingdom, but the good folks that just are not Mormons, they’ll go to the middle place, and then the Mormons will go to the celestial, but the really good Mormons will go to the middle of the celestial, and God will let them become a god.

Well, just because you’re a Mormon, and just because you jump through the various hoops doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re guaranteed to be a god. It’s like it’s all based on the quality of your life, and so someone that has really done the stuff, they will end up in that center section.

The rest, who maybe were good, but just not good enough, they’ll be some sort of servant to God, they’ll be some sort of administrator in God’s kingdom or something, but they’ll be in a great place, far better than where we’ll end up, according to them, but they won’t necessarily get to be a god. But the goal is to become a god who then has many wives and can go populate his own universe.

Darrell Bock
Okay. Now, there are a couple other things that we need to talk through doctrinally, and that is, let’s talk about the structure of the church for a second. With that, you’ve alluded to the prophet.
Richard Hornok
ight.
Darrell Bock
There’s the 12 apostles.
Richard Hornok
es.
Darrell Bock
So let’s talk about that for a second.
Richard Hornok
Okay. They have a prophet. they’ve always had a prophet. Joseph Smith was the first, Brigham Young was the second, and since then, I think they’re now onto their 11th prophet. They just have a new prophet. The previous prophet, Thomas Monson died, I believe sometime around the first of the year, and there’s a new prophet named Russell Nelson. He’s the 11th prophet, I think that they have.

And the prophet has two counsellors, and so it’s the prophet and two counselors, and then below them are 12 apostles. And so those 15 men are basically the powerbrokers of the church, and then below them, there are 70, the Council of 70. And so those 85 people are the power structure, and then it’s a pyramid below that.

The prophet is basically the voice of God. When he speaks, you know, for God, what he says is true. In fact, there’s statements from just even 30 years ago that if a current prophet says something that contradicts a previous prophet, you’re supposed to accept that current prophet as the current information.

Darrell Bock
Voice of God, yeah.
Richard Hornok
o that’s why the whole thing about polygamy, the whole thing about black people, they could accept those changes, or should have accepted those changes because a current prophet is saying something that contradicted what Joseph or Brigham or any of the other prophets had said.
Darrell Bock
So this prophetic structure, the prophetic is like – an analogy, like the president or the –
Richard Hornok
He is. He’s the president of the church. The prophet, the president of the church. Now, the thing that’s really fascinating about all of those 85 men that I just referred to, the prophet, his two counsellors, the 12, the 70, none of them are theologians. In fact, the current prophet, the new prophet, is a retired heart surgeon.

His first counselor who will most likely become the next prophet, and the guy is 93, so he’s not gonna live that much longer, his first counselor is the retired chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, Dallin Oaks. These men are not theologians. It’s not like they’ve gone off, studied theology.

Darrell Bock
You’ve actually gone to where I was going next which is that these are bi-vocational people, right?
Richard Hornok
ight. Basically, independently wealthy people that probably no longer serve in their whatever their profession was. They just now lead the church.
Darrell Bock
So what kind of training does someone get who ends up being in these roles. Is there –
Richard Hornok
Mormonism is a lay-led ministry. A lay-led church. In fact, that was one of the things when I was growing up that my dad had gone to school, that my older brothers were going to a seminary. “What in the world’s a seminary?” in they’re thinking, and we were paid. I mean, “Your dad gets paid to do this?”

My dad, you know, I refer to my best friend, Ned, Ned’s dad was a postman. He pastored that church as a volunteer. It’s all lay-led. No one’s a theologian. No one is encouraged even to really study. I mean, Mormonism is one of those religions that basically when it comes to your religion, you are just encouraged to not think. You’re encouraged to have faith. it’s like, “Don’t investigate that.”

Darrell Bock
Including in your leaders.
Richard Hornok
Don’t worry.” Yeah, and even the leaders. They don’t sit and analyze the text to see, “Is this exactly what it means and what’s this nuance?” and stuff like that. That’s absent. That might occur in the history department at a place like Brigham Young or University of Utah, but, no, the leadership of the church is just – they’re always encouraging people to engage in faith-promoting activities, and faith-promoting thoughts because we just gotta believe, you know, which is just part of their new strategy of, even though it’s a works-based theology, they’re just telling you, “Hey, you just gotta believe this stuff, so go work.”
Darrell Bock
Interesting. Now, the other feature, probably the last feature that we need to talk about in terms of teaching and doctrine, and the structure of the religion is, there are temples.
Richard Hornok
es. ____ temples around the country, and around the world, yeah.
Darrell Bock
And I take it there are some things that happen in the temples, but it’s not like Christianity and having a church on every block.
Richard Hornok
ell, in Salt Lake City, there is a church on every block.
Darrell Bock
On every block. Okay. But those aren’t all temples, right?
Richard Hornok
o, no. They will have what are called ward houses.
Darrell Bock
Okay, there you go.
Richard Hornok
nd that ward will service about 1,000 people, and they’re divided into three or four congregations. A congregation is maybe 200-250 people, and they divide it geographically.
Darrell Bock
So a ward is like the model of a parish church.
Richard Hornok
es. Yeah.
Darrell Bock
This church serves this area.
Richard Hornok
Yeah. In fact, it was so fascinating when I was growing up, the people on our side of the street were part of one ward, and the people on the other side of the street were part of another ward, and literally, the people on our side of the street, hardly ever associated with the people on that side of the street.

They hardly knew each other, they didn’t know what was going on in their lives because these people went to this church over here, and those people went to that church over there or these people went at 9:00 and these people went at 10:00, and these people over here went at 1:00.

Darrell Bock
Now, do they call these churches or are they called wards?
Richard Hornok
hey’re called wards or chapels.
Darrell Bock
Okay. Chapels. Okay.
Richard Hornok
nd every ward has a bishop, a pastor.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Richard Hornok
hat’s what my friend dad’s was, a bishop. And then there will be a stake president. He’s like a guy that might be over 20 wards, maybe over 5 buildings, 10 buildings, and so he’s maybe over, you know, a couple thousand, 10,000 people. But again, he’s all volunteer, just a lay _____.
Darrell Bock
Now, are these wards just gathering places or what?
Richard Hornok
They go to church and they’ll have what they call sacrament meetings where they’ll gather, and they’ll take communion. Usually the sacrament meeting is a testimony meeting, and so they’ll just stand around and it’s like popcorn.

Someone will stand up and say what’s going on in his life and ask for prayer, and then someone else will do that and do that, and do that, and then they’ll take sacraments. They might sing a few songs, and that’s the sacrament meeting. They’ll have the priesthood meeting which is kind of the men’s meeting, teenagers and men, and they’ll teach about their priesthood and all of that. I mean, the whole thing is very elaborate.

You become an uranic priest when you’re 12 and you become a Melchizedek priest when you’re 18. That’s when you get to go to the temple and you go through the temple ceremonies.

Darrell Bock
Okay, that’s where I’m headed next is what happens at the temple that’s different than what happens at the ward?
Richard Hornok
Right. At the temple, you go and the temple is primarily for two things. There’s marriage for eternity and baptism for the dead. Now, there’s some other things that go on, but those are the two primary things.

Marriage for eternity, when a man and woman get married, they’re not just married ’til death do us part, they’re married forever because we’re gonna go to heaven, and hopefully this guy’s gonna become a god and I’m gonna get to be Mrs. God. And so we’re married for eternity. Baptism for the dead is based off of 1 Corinthians 15:29 where Paul talks about “else what are they gonna do who are baptized for the dead if the dead rise not at all.”

Darrell Bock
And there are about 100 different ideas about what’s going on there.
Richard Hornok
eah.
Darrell Bock
_____ exogese that passage.
Richard Hornok
actually did my master’s thesis on that.
Darrell Bock
Really?
Richard Hornok
eah, so it is a mess.
Darrell Bock
You were a busy guy.
Richard Hornok
Yeah. So when I was a kid, my friends, they would go to the temple, and they’d get baptized probably 100 times for dead relatives, and that’d take place in about 15 minutes. I mean real high-tech, there’s a screen there. They guy would read off the name, and you’d get baptized, and you’d come back up, baptized, come back up.

And they were even taught, my friends were even taught that if you paid attention when you’re under the water, that person might come back and thank you for baptizing them. You know, this is a person that’s been dead 200 years, but, “Wow, thank you Ned for finally getting me going on the way up.”

Darrell Bock
Wow.
Richard Hornok
eah, oh, it’s demonic to be honest.
Darrell Bock
So as we’ve seen, there are just a myriad of differences between –
Richard Hornok
h, totally.
Darrell Bock
– Christianity and Mormonism.
Richard Hornok
otally. Totally.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, well let’s shift gears here and talk a little bit about now what’s the attraction, in your view, of this faith. There’s something that strikes me immediately is there’s an orderliness to it –
Richard Hornok
bsolutely.
Darrell Bock
– and a structure to it.
Richard Hornok
nd it makes sense. The harder you work the more you get.
Darrell Bock
So that obviously is a draw. Is there anything else that you think is a draw?
Richard Hornok
Well, the biggest thing that most people think about is family. I mean, take Mitt Romney, for example. I mean, who doesn’t want a family like him. I mean, beautiful wife, five incredible looking sons who all married well, lots of grandchildren, lots of money, no scandal. They all seem like they get together and enjoy one another.

I mean, family is forever, and that’s a huge thing, and it’s like if your family is falling apart, your marriage is falling apart, come to the Mormons. They probably, to the average person, seem like they have more going on in terms of how to put together a family than anyone else. It’s not true, but that’s one of their shticks.

Darrell Bock
I know I can say this about Judaism because my family is Jewish, and so I’ve seen synagogues work, and there’s a community element to this, and an identity element in terms of being a little different that also can be a feature of attraction. My remark is to some of my Christian friends, “If you wanna see community, come to some synagogues. They have terrific community there.” And I suspect there in these wards and with Mormons, it’s a similar thing, but the family seems to be the most important unit.
Richard Hornok
Right. If the family is operating the way they think it should, there’s that. One of the things that I’ve noticed though in the last few years is now they are really touting the fact that they provide peace, and security, and comfort.

In fact, in the workshop that I’m gonna do, I’m gonna show a YouTube video of a guy whose wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver, and he is talking about how he found the ability to forgive this teenage drunk driver for taking his wife’s life, and he did it through faith and trust in his heavenly father in and in his son, Jesus.

And I mean you watch it, it’s an incredible story, and it’s what the Mormons are saying, “This is what our religion provides.”

Darrell Bock
Yeah, since you mentioned the workshop, we’re taping this on a day in which we’re hosting a conference on world religions, and Richard, this is why he has the name tag on his shirt –
Richard Hornok
op.
Darrell Bock
No problem. – is running the workshop on Mormonism for us. So that fills in a gap people were probably curious about. So we have community, we have family. There’s an orderliness to what is going on. Those are the attractions of the Mormons.
Richard Hornok
ight. And, yeah, there’s maybe a few others, but those are the ones that come to mind.
Darrell Bock
Now, let’s shift gears one more time and ask this question, and that is, I meet a Mormon, and maybe I know, maybe this podcast tells me the most I’ve ever known about Mormonism, so I’m kind of working with a blank slate.

And we always say, and we’ve said it in this series, no matter what religious movement we’re talking about, the first thing you wanna do is getting a GPS on someone and where they are spiritually, just get to know them well enough to know what drives them spiritually, etc., and we’ve already suggested probably some things by what we’ve done.

You know, there are different kind of Mormonism. I have no idea, and I probably should’ve asked this earlier, in the spectrum of not just the three different kinds of Mormonism that are out there, I suspect, as in all religious movements, you have people who are tight adherence, if I can say it that way, and people whose association is a little looser.

Richard Hornok
ore social, yeah.
Darrell Bock
Would that be fair to say?
Richard Hornok
es. Yeah.
Darrell Bock
And so they may or may not be tightly connected to all the doctrinal things that we’ve talked about.
Richard Hornok
In fact, I would say that even those that are tightly connected are not really all that astute about their doctrine. I mean, Mormonism does not encourage their adherence to investigate their religion, to learn the ins and outs of their theology, and as I mentioned earlier, it’s just investigate those faith-promoting activities and beliefs.

And so I think this is where you’re going, but that’s why, in reality, if you engage a Mormon, you don’t start talking about these wild and crazy things that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young taught because they wanna forget them.

The internet in particular has helped them come out and recognize, “Boy, we’ve got some weird beliefs,” and they are working like crazy to mainstream themselves without changing their core doctrine of a works-based salvation and the chance to become a god.

And so if you went at someone that way, they’d just put up a wall, totally turn them off. I think the best strategy in engaging Mormons is what I actually heard from a guy named Micha Wilder. Micha Wilder was a missionary, Mormon missionary down in Florida. He was from Salt Lake, actually from Provo area.

His mother actually taught at Brigham Young. She was a tenured professor at Brigham Young, and he went on his mission to Florida, and he called on, I think a Southern Baptist pastor, and the Southern Baptist pastor just challenged him to do, to read the Bible and think.

And so this kid, for nearly two years, read the Bible and thought, and by the end of the time, he recognized that Mormonism was not accurate, came to saving faith in Christ, and now he’s got an evangelistic ministry, two Mormons and trying to warn people about Mormonism.

Darrell Bock
So the way not to go and engage with Mormons would be to be fully briefed on all this doctrinal stuff –
Richard Hornok
h, no.
Darrell Bock
– and dump all – in fact, if, you know, the thing I often hear in relationship to Mormons is people are, “Well, that’s the religion that believes in polygamy.”
Richard Hornok
h, yeah.
Darrell Bock
And that’s a false path to go, isn’t it.
Richard Hornok
hey would put up red flags, and it’s like, “You don’t even know anything about us. No, we don’t do that.”
Darrell Bock
They might acknowledge it’s a part of their history.
Richard Hornok
ight, oh, yeah, they will.
Darrell Bock
But that’s it.
Richard Hornok
Right, they will. They’ll acknowledge that it’s a part of their history. They’ll acknowledge that it was for another era. But most people actually won’t even know how it fits in. They’ll just be like, “I don’t really think about that. I think about this things that are just gonna help me in my relationship with God.”

It’s kind of like when we study the scriptures and there’s things we don’t understand seem to be apparent contradictions, it’s like you dwell on those, those things are gonna deteriorate your faith. So that’s their strategy. You dwell on these weird things that were in our history, it’s gonna deteriorate your faith.

Darrell Bock
Now, the second area that we’ve talked about where there’s been a significant change is the whole attitude towards blacks. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and I’m backing up here and filling in with some content.
Richard Hornok
hat’s a great illustration though of how Mormonism is basically this moving target. What happened –
Darrell Bock
With the dynamic of the faith.
Richard Hornok
Oh, yeah, with the prophet who speaks and contradicts the previous guys, but take what the current guy says. In ’78, the prophet had a revelation that people with dark skins, black people, could now hold the priesthood. Up until then, Mormons would not allow a black person into a temple, certainly would not allow them to have the uranic priesthood or the Melchizedek priesthood, become a missionary, the whole thing.

And interestingly, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught that the reason people’s skin was black was because up in heaven before we all came to earth, those black people had been rebellious against God. Now, me, because I was born in Salt Lake about 15 miles from the temple, I must’ve been really good up in heaven because I got white skin and born close to the original temple. You know, you weren’t so good, but you still got the white skin.

A person born in deep dark Africa, half a world away from the temple and with dark skin, he must’ve really been a scoundrel up in heaven. That is what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught. Now, they don’t believe that anymore. They kinda brushed that under the rug, but that’s why they couldn’t hold the priesthood. Well, in ’78, I mean, the civil unrest and all the stuff that’s going on, it’s like the handwriting on the wall was, you know, “If we’re gonna progress as a religion, we gotta get rid of this doctrine,” so lo and behold that at a strategic time the prophet has a revelation.

In fact, my mother always sarcastically said, “He had the revelation within days of when the Howard Hughes will was proved to be a fraud.” One of the wills of Howard Hughes was gonna give all his money to the Mormon church, and then it was proved to be a fraud.

Well, the day that judgment came down was within days of when the prophet changed the new cycle and said, “Oh, now we’re gonna allow the black men to have the priesthood.” So now, it’s like that whole part of their theology is gone, irrelevant and things have changed. And they’ve done that with dozens of areas.

Darrell Bock
Interesting. So we’ve got three minutes left. Let’s talk a little bit about how would you – what advice would you give to someone who’s met a Mormon and beings interacting with them, and develops a friendship with them, etc.
Richard Hornok
I would say love them and just engage them in the warmest, dearest friendship you could have. Recognize that this is a person that is incredibly sincere and devout, and really wants a relationship with Jesus Christ, but they are caught in a web of heresy, they’re in a cult. It really is a cult.

And I would say basically, encourage that person as you have opportunity to just investigate the word of God and to really think about what they believe. And I believe the scandalous stuff, I just keep that on the bookshelf. Maybe someday they might ask, but all of that stuff’s coming out, and so even the Mormons know that they have scandal in there, so they’re going all kinds of things to counteract that. But I would say do like that pastor did for that missionary.

Darrell Bock
Yeah, that’s where I was going next.
Richard Hornok
Just love him, point him towards the word of God. When I was kid growing up in high school, I mean, one of the things that I did hear was because I lived as good a life as they did. They couldn’t understand it. “How in the world can Hornok elieve that salvation is by faith alone and Christ alone. I mean, he doesn’t have to do anything and he’s getting to heaven. How weird is that?”

And yet I, not because I was intentionally doing it, but I lived as good a quality of life as they did. We didn’t drink, we didn’t do drugs. They morality, all that stuff. And that impressed them. It’s like, “Why as this guy living as good a life as us or even better, but he’s not doing it for the reward. He’s doing it out of a relationship.”

Darrell Bock
Interesting. So the whole them of Christ is –
Richard Hornok
bsolutely.
Darrell Bock
– a missing piece that is the contrast in many ways –
Richard Hornok
bsolutely.
Darrell Bock
– along with perhaps the doctrine of God that is a place to get people to think about “God has provided this.” And then the response of the life is the issue not a reward of life.”
Richard Hornok
ight, right.
Darrell Bock
Well, Richard, I really appreciate you taking the time with us –
Richard Hornok
h, I’ve enjoyed.
Darrell Bock
– to come in and help us get our hands around what Mormonism is, and this has been a good introduction. I’ve learned some things.
Richard Hornok
hat’s always good.
Darrell Bock
This is always one of the more fascinating religions that I think we’ve covered, and there are so many people in the United States that hold to this.
Richard Hornok
h, yeah, 14 million.
Darrell Bock
Fourteen million. So thank you for being a part of this. And we thank you for being a part of The Table and hope you’ll join us again soon.
Read More
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Richard Hornok
Richard J. Hornok, on staff as Senior Pastor, is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute (79), Washington Bible College (80) and Dallas Theological Seminary. Richard holds the degrees of Master of Theology (84) and Doctor of Ministry (93) from Dallas. Richard comes from a family of pastors. Along with being a second generation Pastor, his four brothers and his brother-in-law all graduated from Dallas Seminary and have served as pastors throughout the United States. Richard grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where his father was a church-planting missionary.
Arts & Media
Nov 20, 2018
Melissa TravisMelissa TravisMikel Del RosarioMikel Del Rosario
Explaining the Christian Worldview to Children In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario and Melissa Cain Travis discuss explaining the Christian worldview to children, focusing on her apologetics work and the Young Defenders Series...
Ministry
Nov 13, 2018
Jeremy KimbleJeremy KimbleDarrell L. BockDarrell L. Bock
Thinking Biblically about Church Membership and Discipline In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Jeremy Kimble discuss ecclesiology, focusing on church membership and church discipline.
no related