From the Mailbag (17 Points of the True Church)

forever-stamps by samantha celera (Flickr)Please pray for me as i am trying to leave mormonism. My husband is very active in church and he sent me this. What do you think.

Thank you.
Connie

FROM THE BIBLE: 17 Points of the True Church of Christ

[1] Christ organized the Church (Eph 4:11-14)
[2] The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23)
[3] The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets (Eph 2:19-20)
[4] The true church must have the same organization as Christ’s Church (Eph 4:11-14)
[5] The true church must claim divine authority (Heb 5:4-10)
[6] The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
[7] The true church must baptise by immersion (Matt 3:13-16)
[8] The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17)
[9] The true church must practice divine healing (Mark 3:14-15)
[10] The true church must teach that God and Jesus are seperate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17)
[11] The true church must teach that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone (Luke 23:36-39; Acts 1:9-11; Heb 1:1-3)
[12] The officers must be called by God (Heb 4:4; Ex 28:1; 40:13-16)
[13] The true church must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7)
[14] The true church must be a missionary church (Matt 28:19-20)
[15] The true church must be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20)
[16] The true church must practice baptism for the dead (1Cor 15:16&29)
[17] “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:20)

Hi Connie,

We will definitely pray for you as you seek God’s truth. It is often a difficult journey from Mormonism to saving faith in the one true God, but no one travels that path alone. “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

The 17 Points of the True Church that your husband sent you has circulated within Mormonism for a very long time. The Mormonism Research Ministry website discusses this list in “Examining the ’17 Points of the True Church.’” At the bottom of that page you will also find links to a 3-part Viewpoint on Mormonism radio broadcast examining the 17 Points. You will find another helpful written evaluation at “Alpha and Omega Ministries Responds to 17 Points of the True Church.”

Without repeating a lot of what you will find at the above links, as a brief overview, let me offer this. The 17 Points purport to come from the Bible. If you take each point and look up the passages cited (I encourage you and your husband to do this!), you will find that the list loses much of its impact. Many of the Bible passages cited don’t seem to relate in any way to the claims they are supposed to support; many of the Bible passages are stripped from their context and used in ways the biblical writer did not intend; and many of the Bible passages are presented as imperatives though those imperatives are absent from the Bible itself.

For example, point #2 says, “The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23).” The verse cited says this: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Nothing here speaks to the name of the true church.

Point #5 states, “The true church must claim divine authority (Heb 5:4-10).” In its context, this Bible passage is all about Jesus, not about the church. Here God compares Old Testament priests with the “great High Priest” Jesus (Heb. 4:14), explaining that just as the Old Testament priests identified with the people they represented (Heb. 5:1-3) and served by God’s appointment (Heb. 5:4), so too Jesus became High Priest at the Father’s appointment (Heb. 5:5-6) and was identified with His people through suffering (Heb. 5:7-10). When understood in context, this Bible passage says nothing about the church or its claim to divine authority.

Point #6 states, “The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13).” This is stated (as are all the others on the list) as an imperative, as though it is a command from God. But none of the Bible passages cited include a command for all-volunteer ministry. Let’s consider the Bible passages provided in the 17 Points list in their context.

In the Acts 20 passage Paul notes that he didn’t want the money or clothing that belonged to members of the Ephesian church; rather, he himself provided for his own necessities, and also for those who were with him. He modeled the Christian commitment to help those in need (the weak), encouraging the church to remember, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

In the John 10 passage, Jesus is identifying Himself, teaching that He is the True and Good Shepherd. He talks about thieves and robbers and hirelings who care only about themselves; when trouble comes they desert the sheep — they cannot and will not save the sheep. But Jesus, the True Shepherd, loves the sheep and will lay down His life for them. This is about Jesus; it has nothing to do with whether clergy should be paid for their service.

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul talks of his desire and commitment to preach the gospel free of charge. This is Paul’s personal conviction, not a command for the church. Paul makes this clear in his preceding remarks when he argues that ministers of the Gospel are entitled to material blessings from those whom they serve. Paul writes, “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14).” So in context we find that, rather than a command for an unpaid ministry, Jesus commanded the opposite!

Among the other points in the list are some that are subjectively self-fulfilling, like point #13, “The true church must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7).” Any church can make any claim it wants. Many churches/religions/sects claim revelation from God; this does not mean that they actually receive revelation from God, nor does it mean that their claim is evidence that they are “the true church.”

So many of the items on this list are things that happened or were mentioned in the New Testament, but were not commanded or intended to be normative. The issue of unpaid ministry is an example of one of those, as is point #8, “The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17).” In Acts 8 it is recorded that Peter and John did indeed lay hands on the Samaritan believers, yet in other places in Acts we find the reception of the Holy Ghost without the laying on of hands (Acts 4:31; 10:44; 11:15). With this sort of approach to the scriptures, the 17 Points list could just as well include Acts 9:8-9 and insist that the true church must require new converts to spend three days fasting in blindness. It would be a grave misuse of the Bible to make such a claim; yet the 17 Points list is built on the same sort of biblical misrepresentation.

You asked what I think of The 17 Points of the True Church of Christ. I think it is a futile attempt (among many others) to make Mormonism sound biblical, while in reality it is far from it. Mormonism (as well as the 17 Points list) begins with an unbiblical concept of the church (i.e., that it is an organization) and strays far afield from there. For a biblical look at the church I invite you to read “What is the Church?” by Matt Slick at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Again, Connie, I encourage you to always read and study any Bible passage in its greater context. Christian author Greg Koukl is fond of saying, “Never read a Bible verse.” That sounds radical! But check it out in context: “Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.” You might find his STR.org blog post on this topic helpful.

Thank you for your email, Connie. Please let me know if there is anything more I can do for you. May you sense God’s presence beside you as you continue your journey, and may His presence give you strength and peace.

In Christ,
Sharon

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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14 Responses to From the Mailbag (17 Points of the True Church)

  1. MJP says:

    I enjoyed your letter, Sharon.

  2. Mike R says:

    Sharon, that was a great response you gave to the Mormon woman . it was full of truth , compassion and concern for a person who was fooled into thinking Mormon leaders are appointed by Jesus . I pray for her freedom , which is only found in Jesus .

    The Mormon church is run by men who are very skilled at P.R. , and those under them are also trying to in various ways to advertise Mormonism as true Christianity . One technique to accomplish this is to use half truths in advertising Mormonism , and the tract called ” 17 points of the True Church ” is a good example of this behavior .

    # 4 reads , ” The true church must have the same organization as Christ’s church .” [ Eph 4:11-14 ] .

    That statement is a half truth . It has fooled people .
    It’s similar to # 6 of the Mormon church’s “Articles of Faith ” .

    The Mormon church is fond of claiming that the Mormon church is the very same church Jesus established 2,000 years ago :
    ” It is a glorious truth and blessing to enjoy membership in the church , the only true church of the Lord Jesus Christ restored to earth in exactly the same form as it existed when Christ established it first twenty centuries ago.” [ Joseph L. Wirthlin , Oct 1953 Conference ].

    ” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints , set up by the power of God , by the authority of the Most High , is exactly the same Church that Jesus built up — that is the same in all it’s essential principles ; the same organization , the same kind of officers , the same doctrines , the same spirit , the same in the power that attends those ordinances , doctrines, principles and commandments as were revealed to the ancient church . It is governed just exactly in the same way that the church which Jesus established when He was upon the earth was governed.”
    [ Charles Penrose , JofD v25 p 229 ] .

    Those are the claims of Mormonism , and they are misleading . They are half truths , and that is very effective in fooling sincere people to join the Mormon church .
    When Mormonism is tested by comparing the New Testament record with what the ” 17 Points Points of The True Church ” claims , we find this Mormon tract to be misleading , sneaky .

    What # 4 of the “17 points of The True Church ” fails to mention is that the offices it mentions in Eph 4:11,12 are not the only offices found in the Mormon church . One example being that of the First Presidency — the New Testament teaches no such arrangement . There are other examples .

    Bottom line : Mormon leaders shortly after they started their church experienced a good feeling and wrongly interpreted that as a whispering from of the Holy Ghost , and that led them to create doctrines ( including church offices ) that were of their own making , not from God . Ever since then in order to convince would be members that their church was the very same one Jesus established in the first century some clever sales techniques needed to be used , and sadly , too many people were fooled into joining a counterfeit .

  3. historybuff says:

    Regarding those 17 alleged characteristics of the true church, one wonders how a reasonable Mormon cannot immediately see through a lot of the gibberish and face the facts.

    A recent Salt Lake Tribune article answers the questions that many non-Mormons have been asking for years: Why can’t the LDS people just focus for once on the facts and concede that their prophets have made many serious mistakes over the years? Why won’t they even discuss it like reasonable people?

    The answer gets a little complicated. Sure, nobody likes to have their cherished beliefs questioned, and nobody wants to rile the entire family. But there’s more to it than that. By opening their minds and asking questions, Mormons would not only be aggravating their family members, but also their neighbors, friends, and quite possibly their employers. As the Tribune explained it,

    “Our city is the global headquarters of that world-wide religious organization, an organization that not only claims the loyalty of a large percentage of the state’s population but also has a huge measure of political influence. Exactly how much power it has is sometimes hard to pin down. The Legislature snaps to whenever the church talks about such things as booze or sexual politics… . It’s a company town.” http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/2884366-155/pyle-why-all-the-mormon-news?page=1

    Salt Lake City is a company town. And the Mormon influence grows exponentially as you move into smaller towns and rural areas where it seems non-Mormons do not exist and independent thought is extinguished immediately like an unwelcome cigarette.

    Be patient with Mormons. When they have questions they do not first seek answers. They first seek sanctuary, a safe place to ask questions. Be that sanctuary.

  4. falcon says:

    Here’s the problem. Mormons are hung-up on the concept of the “one true church”, to which I say, “So what?”. They think it’s a big deal but it’s not. One point that escapes them is the amount of “apostasy” that’s gone on with the “one true church”. Right after Joseph Smith started his religion he had a split because the people felt he went beyond his charge and had become a false prophet. There are all kinds of Mormon sects and all claim to be the “one true church” with the “restored gospel”. And guess what? They all get a burning in the bosom about it.
    But here’s the thing. The “true church” is the Mystical Body of Christ peopled by all born again believers in Christ. It’s not a denomination. When Christ comes back for His Bride, those who are born again by the Spirit of God will be the Church that welcomes Him.
    And let me add………..Jesus is not the spirit off-spring of one of the millions if not billions of Mormon gods, and one of his plural wives.
    Mormons need to identify and accept the Christ. Not some manufactured christ who has no ability to save them from their sins.

  5. falcon says:

    My young Mormon friend insisted to me that his LDS religion wasn’t a “system”. Well what else could it be? If you were to ask a Mormon what you have to do to become a god, they’d give you a list with bullet points that need to be checked off. And even at that, these LDS folks never know if they’ve done enough to become a god. The carrot is always dangling out in front of them and is there to keep them in line, walking in lock step with what the “system” demands.
    With Christianity, it’s all about Jesus. No system. But then in Christianity, there isn’t a false gospel of men becoming gods. God offers us salvation through grace and we accept what He is offering us through faith. We then conform our lives to God’s expectations, not out of compulsion but out of gratitude. The Bible clearly teaches this, but the Bible does not teach Mormonism. So when Mormons say that everything they believe is in the Bible, they are being more than a little disingenuous.
    If we earn something, it is no longer a gift. God makes clear that what He offers us is a gift. Our works are our way of saying “thank you” to God for what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

  6. TJayT says:

    I actually have to agree with you on this one Sharon.

    I seem to recall reading about the history of the 17 points somewhere (maybe I heard it in the three parter of the podcast that you referenced. I didn’t go back and relisten to them). It seems they were originally posited by Floyd Weston, though I have seen at least one other version with very different points. There seems to be a great deal of debate about whether the story he told behind the formation of the list was true or not (Something about him and some college friends hearing a talk by Einstein, then making this list and all of them separately joining the LDS church because of it) but even if for the sake of argument we say the story was true this particular list doesn’t hold water. It really just looks like a LDS person wrote down a list of things the Church does and then tried to proof text them. I’m afraid the fellow that shared this with his wife isn’t going to get very far if he keeps dipping into wells like this.

    That’s my two cents about it at any rate.

  7. falcon says:

    TJ
    Good point about what I’d call “scripture mining”. This basically violates every rule of legitimate interpretation of what God’s Word is saying. What this guy is trying to do is woven various verses of the Bible together to make a tapestry, but he fails. Sharon hits the nail on the head when she writes:

    “Many of the Bible passages cited don’t seem to relate in any way to the claims they are supposed to support; many of the Bible passages are stripped from their context and used in ways the biblical writer did not intend; and many of the Bible passages are presented as imperatives though those imperatives are absent from the Bible itself.”

    Here’s the problem that LDS have in attempting to prove that Mormonism is the restored one true church with the one true gospel. In-the-end, Mormons are left to bear their testimony because their attempts to prove Joseph Smith’s concoction true, fail miserably, but they make the (Mormon) feel good. These folks have bought into the Mormon narrative emotionally and now they must try and justify it rationally and with evidence. It doesn’t work and that’s why having gone through all of the emotional stages of denial etc., they end up leaving the church.

  8. falcon says:

    Thankfully this woman took the time to contact Sharon and seek further information. It’s amazing to me how people don’t bother to check things out but simply accept a piece of information at face value. I guess it’s because I enjoy checking things out and doing research that being a skeptic is part of my make-up. Having said that, I admit that anybody can be fooled and to think other-wise is to set yourself up for a con.
    I’ve watched some recent videos from a woman who was in Scientology for thirty plus years. Way back in the seventies she went to a seminar without any inclination towards joining any such group. Well she attended a follow-up workshop and BINGO, she was in. Now this is not some naive person.
    I’ll repeat what Dr. Walter Martin use to say. “Question everything told to you. Even what I tell you.”
    I’d say that’s great advice. I know I have to check myself when I watch these videos of former Mormons because they are generally above average intelligence people and they got sucked in. I get it with those raised in the sect. They are brain washed from the beginning. But then I realize that most of the converts just got the surface level information and in most cases thought they were joining another branch of Christianity.
    Former LDS bishop and now Christian Lee Baker talks about all the missionaries he wore out before he joined. He says that now he sees that all the information he needed to find out the truth about Mormonism was right there, hiding in plain sight, but he didn’t see it. Not knowing what questions to ask is another element of this.
    I would recommend Dr. Walter Martin’s book “Essential Christianity” because it lays out the basics of the Christian faith in a readable and succinct manner. If a person knows the truth, they can spot the counterfeit.

  9. falcon says:

    LDS are really stuck.
    They’re sold on the program based on a feeling, an emotional response to reading the BoM. Just a side note. Do I think reading the BoM can result in a positive emotional response on the part of the reader? Obviously yes because it happens to those who decide to join the LDS church. The question is, “Is that response, testimony to the truth of the BoM?” Obviously not because we have a lot of former Mormons who no longer believe the BoM and the LDS church are the real deal. The built in fail-safe LDS response is that these people were led astray by Satan. Satan is pretty clever but I don’t think he can change facts and evidence that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s all bogus.
    What we have here is a classic case of spiritual warfare. The apostle Paul, in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians discusses this topic. He says that we don’t war against flesh and blood. Instead we war against the rulers and principalities in the spirit world.
    I can imagine the confusion that a questioning LDS person has when they begin to have a disconnect between their feelings and facts. They have come to believe that their feelings reflect reality. What they don’t understand is that feelings/emotions are the results of their dominant thoughts at any given time.
    I would suggest that these folks try their best to put their feelings aside and begin to read the NT with a fresh set of eyes. In it, they will discover the truth because it is true, not because they feel a certain way.

  10. falcon says:

    So there’s the problem for a faithful but questioning LDS member. What do they do with the emotional buzz they get from their religious experiences? Doesn’t that make things “true”? Don’t their fellow Mormons always talk about “feeling the spirit”? Feel good and it’s the spirit. Feel bad and it’s Satan. If you question, you’re opening yourself up to Satan. BOO! Are you sufficiently frightened?
    The buzz the LDS folks get is what I would call an “emotional reward” that reinforces the LDS narrative. In sufficient enough dose, it can be quite intoxicating. So doesn’t it follow that there will be a period of emotional “withdrawal” as an LDS begins to learn things that conflict with the things that make them feel good?
    From what I gather from former Mormons, especially those who have come to know Jesus in a personal way, the freedom they gain far surpasses the emotional turmoil they experienced on the way out.

  11. falcon says:

    Sandra Tanner posted this on fb so I’m assuming anything that’s there is fair game to re-post.

    Prisoner J R in Nevada sent me a letter thanking me for strengthening his testimony in the LDS church. Then he went on to comment:
    “Through your different publications, I can easily see how much you hurt inside, and find yourselves in so much missery of the pain from jealousy…revenge…hate…feelings which are clearly seen and perceived through the many enraged and despiseful words you use…Truth will always find oposition, like in the time of Enoch, Noah, Jeremiah, Jesus, …I beg you to come back.” [I think English is his second language]

    Now this folks is a real true believing Mormon. We’ve had some in this category appear from time to time on MC. More so in the past then these days. How do you respond to someone with a mindset like that? I don’t know if you can even have a logical discussion with such a person. I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in a different context. My paraphrase: “Ones like these can only come out with much prayer and fasting.”

  12. Mike R says:

    Another one of the “17 Points ” that is rather ridiculous is #15 :
    ” The True church must be a restored church .”

    Mormonism’s grasping at straws in order to convince people it is Jesus’ exclusive body of Christ , His church , is seen in the claim of #15 .

    According to Mormon leaders soon after the deaths of Jesus’ apostles a complete / universal apostasy occurred . This was a apostasy of Jesus’ church and from His gospel of salvation and it caused Christianity to die off and the gospel (salvation ) to be unavailable for 1700 years , until Joseph Smith appeared on the scene claiming to restore it .

    Like most authoritative type claims made by Mormon leaders this one is another clever use of half
    truths used to sell Mormonism to the public .

    The New Testament does in fact teach that a apostasy would occur , but not a universal one by any means . For 2,000 years there has always been true Christians because the gospel of salvation has been read or heard preached ever since Jesus apostles first taught it in New Testament times .
    Matt 18:20; Jn 17: 17,20 ; 20:29-31 ; Eph 3:20 .

    Mormon leaders resorted to a tactic ( claiming a restoration of the gospel because of a apostasy ) that is not surprising , and it did’nt surprise me when I first looked into the claims of Mormon leaders because I had encountered similar false advertising in the claims of authority by Jw leaders
    Both are autocratic groups , and both are classic latter days false prophet led organizations .

    The truth about the Creator , and how to be completely forgiven and reconciled to Him and receive the gift of eternal life from Him has been preserved down to today as is found in the Bible . There’s enough in the Bible to accomplish that . No need for the latter days prophets of Mormonism at all .

  13. falcon says:

    Mike
    The premise that the first century Christian Church went into apostasy is an easy one to test. We have the historical record and we also have the Bible. In order for this premise to work, Mormonism had to invent conspiracy theories. The two that are hauled out the most is the one about the Council of Nicaea and the other is that all of the Mormonism got left out of the Bible by medieval Catholic monks. A twin to these is the claim that copying the Bible so many times corrupted the text.
    I remember when Andy Watson took our LDS friend Ralph all the way back to the second century to show that the primitive Church taught the doctrine of the Trinity. It blew, out-of-the-water, the LDS claim of the invention of this doctrine at the behest of the Emperor at Nicaea. In-other-words, the LDS church is fraudulent in its claim. Alas, from what I remember, Ralph didn’t get that “BONK, I should have had a V8 moment” once this information was made available to him.
    Facts and evidence will only help if the LDS member has a willingness to consider that possibly there are inconsistencies, half-truths and in some cases (gasp) lies in the Mormon tale.

  14. falcon says:

    The idea that the Church went into apostasy soon after the death of the apostles is a piece of fiction any false prophet could use to push his brand of religion.
    Now here’s the irony. There are those who claim that Mormonism, of one type or another, went into apostasy. The early converts to Smith split from him and claimed he was a fallen prophet. The FLDS claim the LDS is an apostate outfit. So we see, the same old story gets told again and again to serve whatever purpose the tale teller might have.
    There is no mystery about Smith and his claims. He told various versions of his first vision story at times that he felt the sect needed a boost. If a Mormon would take an honest look at the history of the sect, they’d see that the original version of the restored gospel went through significant changes. I think that would count as apostasy from the original, wouldn’t it?
    But the average LDS is not going to even get that far in their thinking because it would mean denying the burning in the bosom they received upon reading the BoM. The interesting thing is that the burning in the bosom was suppose to cover the truthfulness of the BoM but came to encompass all sorts of things.
    If I were a questioning Mormon, the first thing I’d do is check and see how the restored gospel lines-up with the gospel message presented in the Word of God, the Bible. That should be enough right there to draw some significant conclusions.

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