In this episode, Kurt speaks with the president of Ratio Christi, Dr. Corey Miller, on his testimony of leaving Mormonism and finding evangelical Christianity.
Kurt: Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill, where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Very nice to be with you here. episode 151. Eventually we’ll get to like a thousand if we just keep doing this, Chris. It’s gonna be a lot of fun, week after week, bringing a great material to you. Today we’ve got a fascinating story coming up, a former Mormon. tells us about his journey and his reasons for finding and discovering evangelical Christianity.
You know, a lot of Mormons roughly about 50 percent of them become atheists after they discover some of the truths of the Mormon religion. So we’ll be getting more into that today. But first, just a few announcements. for our program. We at Defenders Media have begun a donor drive of sorts this summer, a grassroots donor drive.
We’re looking to have new donors join our ministry on a month to month basis here, monthly giving small grassroots. 10, 20, 30 dollars a month. We would love to get your support. We’ve got a nice little image here that our graphic designer made. So if you could kindly consider joining our team of monthly supporters, you can help change the conversation on a number of topics in the news, in theology, worldview apologetics.
Politics, economics, that’s what this program is about helping to strive for truth on these various issues. And if you want to learn more about how you can do that, you can go to our website, veracityhill. com, click on that patron or donate tab, and you can learn more. We would love to get your support.
We’ve already had a few folks that have signed up and would love to help grow the number of supporters of our program. Well, this program has been going almost for three years now, and we bring in a number of folks from different perspectives. And you know, we only designate one hour a week to bringing in a variety of topics.
But if you wanted to learn more about Christian history, I have a great book to recommend to you. It’s Classic Christian Thinkers by Professor Ken Samples. You know, many of us pick up Christian theology and history in a piecemeal way, making it difficult to understand its significance. In his new book, Classic Christian Thinkers, philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples offers a masterful summary of the lives of Christianity’s greatest defenders.
The history of these nine timeless truth seekers overflows from the pages of the Bible into history itself. Take a step toward a richer faith by visiting Reasons. org. Slash veracity in order your copy of classic Christian thinkers today, and we had samples on our program a couple months ago to talk about that book.
So if you want to learn more, you can watch our episode on that, or you can go ahead and order that book. You can go to reasons. org slash veracity. And so it’s just a great tour de force of the Christian thinkers. And I know our guest today is a fan of one of those Christian thinkers, Aquinas. Dr. Corey Miller, he is the president of Ratio Christi, and he’s also taught at Indiana University Kokomo for about 12 years.
Corey, thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
Corey: Great to be here with you. Yeah,
Kurt: Yeah, it’s we, you know, we’ve had a number of times now to run into each other in person traveling the country. Yes. You travel a lot more than I do. You, you’re gone probably like every other weekend it seems, in, in different places, but…
Corey: don’t have my passport number memorized yet, but maybe soon.
Kurt: Nice. Now you have a fascinating story and you, you talk a little bit about your journey but, but more so the reasons in your recent book, Leaving Mormonism. Now, as you know, there are a number of books on Christian Mormon dialogues, and so what, what makes this book a little bit different than those?
Corey: I think the authors, never before has there been a book out by a collection of authors who were all former Mormons, so former insiders, current broadly evangelical, so now looking out but not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and possessing possessing an academic doctorate. Three of us have PhDs and one an education doctorate.
Kurt: Yeah, so it’s sort of the number of qualifications here, former Mormons. Now, some of you here in the book, you were raised it, some, some even converted, is that right?
Corey: Yeah, two of us are genealogical Mormons, born into it with a history, and two were converts into it, and served at BYU, either in the grad school or on faculty.
Kurt: Wow, that, see, that’s fascinating when you get you know, academics there, because, you know, for… For many Christian apologists, you know, we like to say, well if you just look at it, look at it historically, analyze it, you know, be a scholar when it comes to the religion, you would think it would help lead people away.
But yet, some of these scholars, even over at BYU, they, they just hold to a different view. It’s a, I guess, a very much different epistemology they have on these matters of …so we’ve done a show on Mormonism before, but before we really jump into it and, and, and your journey, maybe you could spend a few minutes here and tell us about the Mormon religion.
Corey: So Mormonism is based on an alleged revelation of God. Modern revelation is a linchpin in more Mormonism. An alleged revelation of God where Joseph Smith, the founder was wondering which of all the various religions, and at that time, what he meant were Protestant denominations, essentially up in the new England area, which of those are true.
Which church is the true church? And he was confused because the Methodist wanted him to join them and the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians all these tent revivals happening And so as the story goes he went off into the wilderness to pray Cites James 1 5 if any of you lack wisdom Let him pray and God will give him this wisdom and he goes off into the forest to pray into the grove and he’s given an appearance by God, maybe God and Jesus or some angels, depending on the version of the first vision, but God and Jesus appeared and told him that he was to join none of them because all of their teachings were an abomination.
They had all totally apostatized and he was to be the one to restore. The truth and the priesthood, most importantly, on the face of the earth. And so those two necessary and jointly sufficient conditions are required to get Mormonism off the tarmac. There had to be a total apostasy from the face of the earth to function authoritatively for God.
And then second, there has to be a… a restoration. And Mormonism, a particular branch of Mormonism, I might say, is that restoration. There’s been over 400 since Joseph Smith died.
Kurt: Wow. That’s a fascinating journey that he had. You know, it’s to, to think that all of these Christian denominations have, have gone astray.
They’re this great apostasy that’s occurred. Certainly is a. Bold claim that everyone up until this time has been confused, lost now of course getting into Mormon theology, whether there are people that even survived that great apostasy or there were true believers during that time is another, another matter.
And and you certainly get into the reasons here. But first let’s, let’s go into your story, your journey. You said you were born and raised as a Mormon.
Corey: Yeah, born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I say in the book I was a sixth generation Mormon, but I lied. I was actually a seventh generation Mormon.
It was a short sightedness on my part. I was aware of the seventh, but I was so fixated on one particular member, John Scott, that I Just went back to him and I’ve found more information out about him just in the last two months But very fascinating because I’m a history buff. I’ve been to his tomb. I’ve taken my kids and my mother there You can see on the tombstone in Salt Lake the names of all of his wives He had five of them and 37 children of which I’m a descendant Wow, so some of my family say that I come from healthy stock and that’s what they mean by that
Kurt: Wow. Okay, so Salt Lake City, born and raised. Was it a typical upbringing? Were you going to the the ward every Sunday?
Corey: Part of it was typical, part was not. Yes, when I was raised, I was going to the ward every Sunday. I would be there for everything from the mundane, Cupcake Day, the Boy Scouts, which was essentially Mormon Scouts at the time.
So integrated or the two the church dances, church basketball, that kind of stuff. But I got my CTR ring. I was pretty peeved that I got it. I lost it. It wasn’t stolen. I don’t know. I’m still wondering to this day. But it was the shoes. the right ring that every little kid gets in Mormon primary classes.
And I was, I was faithful going as a small child. And when I got into adolescence, that changed. But the reason it changed was not because I had rejected Mormon theology as much as I had my immediate Mormon sociology for Hippocritical frustrations, I think,
Kurt: If you can tell me, tell me more about that. So you left because of just the practical outworkings of Mormon religion.
Corey: Yeah, and no one should judge a religion based on bad fruit that they experience, but in my case I had, and this is where my non or atypical Mormon upbringing comes in, is my mother and father were both the black sheep of their respective families, and they weren’t married, my mom was a smoker, and if you know Mormon doctrine, that’s a definite no no.
That’ll, you know, that’s a major violation of the words of wisdom, and it’ll keep you potentially out of the celestial kingdom. So, in any case in, I, I didn’t feel warm, didn’t feel welcome, I was a poor kid growing up, single parent home with a mom who was a smoker, and that just didn’t fly very well.
So, my, my immediate circumstances and relationships, I felt like, were… You know, I was kind of ostracized. That was my, my feeling anyhow, and I didn’t care for the community. But I never stopped believing in God. In fact, because I didn’t, I wasn’t raised with a father in the home. I always took joy in the fact that I had a heavenly Father.
And I never rejected that notion of God until I had a, a genuine biblical Christian experience.
Kurt: Hmm. And so, alright, when, when was it, so you were a teen when you sort of became disenfranchised with your. The religion of your upbringing, which is fascinating when I, when I was a teen, I began to ask those deep questions of life.
For some people it’s their teenage years, for folks it’s their college years, so there’s a bit of a spectrum there. So, and then, so how long was it then that you were disenfranchised until you became an evangelical? Christian.
Corey: Yeah, I would say my teen years, certainly up until I was 16, when I had a friend whose mother was Mormon, father was Christian, he had moved to California, he invited me that summer to stay at his home between sophomore and junior year.
I could stay there the whole summer. As long as we satisfied one criterion by his father, and that was to attend this non denominational Christian camp called Hume Lake. And I thought, okay, no big deal. It’s one week, we get to spend the summer at, you know, Santa Cruz Beach. What have I seen? Barely seen the Great Salt Lake, so that’s going to be a phenomenal experience.
But I get there, and… The speaker talked about hell in a way that I’d never heard before in Mormonism. It really put my sin in perspective. Hell was known more as H E double toothpicks. It was a cuss word. You don’t really know anyone that’s going there. You don’t talk about it. You don’t speculate about it.
But. When this guy talked, I resonated with the fact that I was a sinner and grace made sense for the first time ever. As Paul says that, you know, the law brings about the knowledge of sin. I knew sin to be utterly sinful and grace was utterly graceful. It rocked my world. I saw Jesus in a new light.
I’d always heard about Jesus. I mean, we both studied one point. He’s on 1. 7 verses in the Book of Mormon, him or his ministry. Mentioned that frequently, but never before had I understood grace from that vantage point because I hadn’t understood sin from that vantage point. And so it, it, it literally transformed my life.
I saw the validity in the community at the same time. I was accustomed to religion, but not to grace filled Christian community and that just rocked my world. So I went back to Utah end of the summer. I packed my bags and I moved to California for my junior year of high school where I stayed with this Christian family, got to see what it was like to have a father in the home and siblings and so forth.
I was discipled, very, very seminal seminal time period in my life, I think, discipled by a great youth pastor there. When I came back to Utah for my senior year to graduate, that’s when the pressure was on from a girlfriend that I probably shouldn’t have stayed with, and friendships that I had, and extended family warning me that based on one interpretation, as a son of perdition, maybe I might spend eternity in a worse place than Hitler if I didn’t watch my Ps and Qs.
And so the challenge was, are you sure you want to be an apostate here? Are you sure you want to do this and not reread the Book of Mormon this time for the sake of truth rather than mere tradition? So I thought, yeah, I’d better do that. And so I began reading through the Book of Mormon this time for the sake of truth.
a different eye, and I found it severely wanting, very defective in many ways, it raised a lot of questions, and what that did in turn was to say to myself, you know, this was probably a good decision that I left Mormonism, but now how do I know that becoming a Christian and Having as my new epistemological authority, the Bible was a really good move.
I had learned as a Mormon that the Bible was full of holes, but it was not a big deal because we had modern revelation. But once modern revelation is gone, what’s the Mormon to do? You can’t trust the Bible. It’s already been taught to you that it’s untrustworthy. So I had to wonder whether the Bible was trustworthy, whether God existed at all, whether I existed, and that sent me into this trajectory of philosophy and comparative religions where I’m at today.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. Wow. Fascinating. So with regard to Mormon doctrine, they would say that the, the Bible is one of the holy, one of their holy books. But it’s just incomplete? Is that, is that why they sort of, you know, view the Book of Mormon as of more, of higher authority than the Bible?
Corey: Yeah. Well, in one sense Kurt, it’s all incomplete because they have an open revelation. They’ve got modern revelation. But it wasn’t just that the Bible was incomplete in and of itself, but that it was corrupt. The eighth article of faith says that we believe the Bible is true. As far as it’s translated correctly, which the implication is it is not, but that’s fine because we have modern revelation, but it is one of the four standard works, the Book of Mormon.
Which is another testament of Jesus Christ and, and the most perfect book ever. The Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and then the Bible, the King James in particular. As far as it’s translated correctly.
Kurt: So would they make that qualification about the Book of Mormon though, being as long as it’s translated correctly from,…
Corey: No, the most perfect book ever. Fascinating. Doesn’t have the same problems.
Kurt: Yeah. So it’s just you know certainly begging the question or special pleading on, on those holy books. I didn’t even know that there was a distinction between, I thought, you know, you’d think that they’re all sort of equal kind of like, you know, the Chronicles of Narnia, you know, each one is of equal value.
Interesting. Okay. So you go so you. You go to California, you’re discipled, you come back to Utah, it’s where you’re really put to the test there. And then you go on this trajectory where you realize the Book of Mormon is false. But you go on to think more about the deep questions of life. Does God exist?
Like you said, do I exist? So, so what happens then? I mean, so, you are an evangelical believer presumably by this point, but maybe asking… Deep questions. You have doubts. Sometimes when people have doubts, they don’t necessarily give up the beliefs they presently hold. So where do you go from there?
Corey: Well there was a deep period of, I think, skepticism where my life had been transformed, but I started really getting into the questions of how do I know, jumping into epistemology and ran into Descartes and Realized there wasn’t a lot that I could know and and Ron ran into Calvinism and wondered am I one of the chosen?
Maybe I just end up, you know on Judgment Day not getting in but saying praise you God at least I got to taste From the breadcrumbs of the table, you know But I’m I’m not deserving all these theological and philosophical questions that are swirling around and so even though I had been transformed I wondered in the back of my mind if maybe I just needed to get back on the You know on the moral bandwagon and live my life appropriately because maybe, maybe something else is true.
It could be Islam, could be science, could been, had something to do with. The way that I had approached things and so I really had to dive into comparative religions and philosophy for a while and try to figure some things out and little by little what started emerging was strong evidence confirming the Christian faith that got me more excited than, you know, when I first became a Christian because now I actually had confidence.
It wasn’t just the An existential encounter, a sense in which I had communion now with the God of the universe. But now I had a mission, and this was true, and there’s good reasons behind it. I can, I can, I can… Give myself to this for all eternity, because I think there is an afterlife, and I’ve got reasons for it.
Kurt: Alright, so there are many non believers out there today in, in our country where they are beginning to view Christianity in the same way they view Mormonism. It’s just this, oh, that’s nice for you, yeah, you’re nice people but, you know, there’s no good reason to, to believe a Christian. And, in fact, you know, they…
They might perceive that your confidence is the same type of confidence that they hear from their Mormon neighbor. So what sort of sets Christianity apart from Mormonism, then, to the outsider?
Corey: Well, one of the things I get into in my dissertation is testimonial knowledge. And I mentioned that at least in one of my chapters in my book as well.
Testimony, a lot of Christians want to demur when they hear it and discount it because they don’t appreciate where a Mormon is coming from when they bear their testimony. But testimony has a long, valuable tradition. Not just in the philosophical world, but in common sense. Most of what we take ourselves to know, we don’t know, we believe.
But we believe based on the testimonial evidence of other people. Parents, teachers, experts, or whatever. So, testimonial evidence itself is not a bad thing. It’s, it’s where a subjective testimony, as a sole criterion of truth, comes in that becomes the problem. And the Christian doesn’t base Everything on a sole criterion of truth, not that God couldn’t reveal himself to me and that suffice as warrant and knowledge even if I were the only person in the universe that God had revealed himself, it’s possible to call that knowledge, but in a competing marketplace of testimonial experiences and ideas you don’t have to know God in order to show God, but this is where apologetics comes in and not all testimonies are equal.
Not all are equally valid or, or evidenced or reasonable. And so. What we want to say and what I say in the book is that you’ve got to test your subjective testimonial evidence to make sure it corresponds with objective testimonial evidence. And that means the testimony of scripture for one but also considering ethics and history and science and so forth testimony or our witness of all of life.
Kurt: So the testimony, testimonial evidence has to be corroborated with other aspects of knowledge.
Corey: I use, gotta use the big words, yes, yes.
Kurt: You know, if we, if we look at reason and argumentation has to be logical. You know, arguments have to be sound. If we look at history, for example, this is a, this is a big one with Mormonism, right?
They make certain historical claims in the Book of Mormon. And we should be able to corroborate what we’re being told is historical with what we see in the earth. So like with archaeology.
Corey: But that’s right. I’ve in the last year and a half on account of the book getting out there into the public, it’s enabled me to have two debates with Mormon scholars, one in the U.K. through Justin Brierley’s premier radio program. And then another at the University of Utah, which was kind of an interesting one, a three way Dialogue between me a Mormon history professor and a Muslim scholar But in both cases, I brought up an experience that I had had over in Israel We went to Israel to plant a chapter with Ratio Christi and we were there for 10 days And this place is just absolutely amazing.
If you haven’t been there yet or any of your listeners, you’ve got to go make a pilgrimage One time in your life, at least it, it puts the Bible in 3d. It’s in color. The place is a veritable sandbox of archeological toys. And, you know, in one hour doing excavation in the Kidron Valley, our team, most of us found at least one item.
I personally found something in the sixth century AD in just one hour. And right above me right above me, just above the hill. Was the BYU Israel campus and so myself and one of our teammates decided we’d had to have to run up there and take a selfie and I couldn’t help but think imagining, you know, what’s going on in the classroom there.
I’ve been there for 10 days. These BYU students have been there for a whole semester. Surely they’d seen what I had seen in the Holy Land. They must be raising their hand in class and professor. Why don’t we even have a bone or a shred of a bone here supporting the Book of Mormon? And when I brought that point up both at the University of Utah and on the premier radio debate both of those scholars One of them agreed, but simply said absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
We will find the evidence one day, but they both agreed. There is virtually no evidence in support of the book of Mormon archaeologically. So that, that objective testimony is just not there. And in fact the more and more that we dig up seems to leave less and less room available. And even contradict things that they believe to have been present in the Book of Mormon.
Kurt: It seems a lot harder to get dig permits in Israel than it would, say, upstate New York.
Corey: Right. Well, they still have to uproot other buildings. And even when, even when half of the stuff is found, because they’re… Building an apartment complex or a new school and they have to call in, you know The the archaeologists and say wait stop digging.
We’ve just found something So, you know if there were you know, six hundred thousand people in a battle four hundred thousand Lamanites two hundred thousand Nephites in upstate, New York Give me a sword. Give me a bone something You know, it should have been there and and to this day now Mormons are backstepping and saying well, is it really even in?
You know, the, the Book of Mormon stories and the geography, was it in North America? Maybe it was in, you know, Central, South America. Gee, we don’t know. We’re not going to commit to any one place now. It’s, it’s in the America. So it’s, you got half the earth to go, right? North or South America.
Kurt: Yes, I think in when I learned about Logical fallacies, I think that’s called moving the goalposts now You know, right?
So that’s interesting that it’s certainly good that many of them grant that there is no evidence and it’s
Corey: Unfortunately, it’s one of the big reasons for the Mormon exodus today that you had cited an earlier statistic between 49 to 51 percent when they leave Mormonism now are going into the new atheism.
But a lot of the reasons they cite are the historical reasons, Joseph Smith’s story. The lack of historicity behind the Book of Mormon and so forth. So those things have now come to light through the internet and sometimes it doesn’t help to go onto the Mormon apologetics pages because the Mormon will go there with one doubt and realize, holy cow, there’s 20 more questions I have coming away from here.
Kurt: Fascinating. You mentioned Joseph Smith. I want to talk about him and your personal connection to him as well. But we’ve got to take a short break here. So when we come back, we’ll talk about that and other issues in Mormonism. Today I’m joined by Dr. Corey Miller of Ratio Christi. And if you’re watching through Apologetics 315, we are simulcasting to Veracity Hill and AP 315’s Facebook pages.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsor. If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor, you can go to our website, veracityhill. com Click on that patron tab and you’ll see the sponsorship options as well. And there are a number of different levels for sponsors of whether it’s just a nice shout out at the end of every program or a link at our website.
Or if you want to play an ad during our break, we would love to get your sponsorship for your business or your organization. Well, on today’s episode, I’m joined by Dr. Corey Miller, the president of Ratio Christi. Corey, before we jump back into our program we have a segment of the show called Rapid Questions, and I didn’t tell you about this.
That was intentional. Just short questions. We get to know a little bit more about you. It’s 60 seconds. And so without further ado, I’m gonna get it started. So are you ready? Hit it. Taco Bell or KFC?
Corey: Taco Bell
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Corey: Oakwood Elementary School.
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Kurt: Pick a fictional character that you’d like to meet.
Corey: Bugs Bunny?
Kurt: What type of music do you listen to?
Corey: Eighties and country.
Kurt: If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
Corey:Well, Donald Trump, the most powerful man in the world right now.
Kurt: Let’s see. Do you love your job? Careful how you answer.
Corey: Absolutely. Yeah.
Kurt:Where would you like to retire?
I have no answer for that. That’s a good question. A happy wife is a happy life, so a lot depends on her being here.
Kurt: Nice. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Corey: Night owl.
Kurt:What’s your best childhood memory?
Probably snow skiing, doing aerials.
Kurt: Yeah. I mean, it’s a long way from the mountains of Salt Lake City to the cornfields of West Lafayette, Indiana. Yeah. Do you miss the mountains much?
Absolutely, I appreciate Indiana more now that I have a motorcycle because I can drive off into the sunset and there’s a new beauty there. Yeah, there is.
Kurt: Oh, people don’t realize that. There is. Yeah.
Corey: Yeah. Yeah. Beauty to the Midwest that I’ve missed. But yeah, I miss the mountains terribly.
Kurt: Yeah, I went to school out in California and people say well, it’s just a bunch of cornfields I mean, I’ve lived in the suburbs of Chicago, you know, basically my whole life, but But still there’s a beauty to a sea of corn.
I mean people don’t realize as you’re driving by There’s something to that. So you’ll never starve That’s, well, as long as the corn is good. Yeah. Okay. Let me ask you this. So when I asked you the school you went to, you gave me an elementary school. Usually the answer we get from folks is like a college or graduate school.
Corey: I didn’t know what you wanted. I’ve, I’ve been to too many schools. I’ve been in school for far too long.
Kurt: No, you, you do have a PhD. Where did you get that from?
Corey: Yeah so my second attempt at a PhD was from the University of Aberdeen in
Kurt: Scotland. Okay, second attempt, now we have to hear of the first attempt.
Corey: First attempt my story went viral this week, published by thecollegefix. com. Yep. And I feel like my, my PhD there was a bit sabotaged. I was forced out of it through having no one that would be my advisor. And without having an advisor, you can’t even register for research hours. And without having that for a semester, you’re gone.
And it was over the fact that I was told my dissertation a. Faith perspective, unquote, even though part of my dissertation was on the virtue of faith and Aberdeen picked up the exact same topic and published it.
Kurt: Wow. Fascinating. And you went through an ordeal. I mean, it was a multi-year ordeal with that first attempt, wasn’t it?
Corey:Yeah, I was there for five years. I already had two other master’s degrees and a third master’s degree is about useless. I mean, they already say, you know, what’s the difference between a philosophy degree and a pizza? One feeds the family. So I spent five years for, for what? But I feel like, you know, in God’s sovereignty and his economy he battle hardened me for what I’m doing today.
And so it wasn’t a waste of time. I’m not bitter. I think I’m better for it by the grace of God. It helped me understand more of what’s going on in the universities, and it was out of that that I really developed a passion to reach professors with the idea that if you can get the professor, you can get 30 years.
Kurt: All right you’ve got a banner in the background you talked about how you’ve been prepared for battle here. I am even wearing some of the older gear since you guys have rebranded. Tell us a little bit about Roscio Cristi and what you guys do.
Corey: Ratio Cristi has been around for about a decade, eight years, as a 501c3. And the mission is to equip students and professors with historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus. We envision thoughtful Christianity, which resonates with the heart in compassion and with the mind in contemplation. And we want to see lives transformed on campus today so that we can see the culture changed tomorrow.
We have apologetics clubs at major universities from Rutgers to UCLA, and in the Philippines, where I just came back from, we just launched in a partnership with the first master’s degree in apologetics in the Southeast Asian community. And we’ve got chapters in Africa, Canada, a study center in London, Pakistan, and other places.
Professors ministry and high school ministry as well.
Kurt: You mentioned UCLA. I saw in the, in the, small news here. Something with Rosho Christi and a UCLA student happened. Tell me about that.
Corey: Yeah, I had to retract because we’ve got some complexities going on. Conversion is genuine and it’s not the first where we’ve had something like that happen.
And the… president of another campus club, closes down shop and now as a Christian works with us. Yeah. So I’ve, I’ve got to put the details of that on hold, but yeah, it’s glorious to see God having some significant impacts on the campuses.
Kurt: Yes. Yes. You’ve had other scenarios like that where you say, for example, have the president of the, of a secular student organization.
Leave as a result of converting to Christianity. So, now unfortunately there’s work to do on our side because you have stories of Christians leaving say because of street epistemologists just being the eternal skeptic for, for Christians who have never thought about this stuff which is why Ratio Christi is so important in preparing students to give a defense for the hope that’s within 1 Peter 3:15.Okay, so let’s get back to the topic today. We’re talking about leaving Mormonism we’ve talked about your journey out of it, and I certainly want to talk more about the, the issues. We got a little bit into that in the first half of the program. But your connection to Joseph Smith, I gotta hear about this.
Corey: So my ancestor six generations back, John Scott, Colonel John Scott was a member of the Mormon battalion. He was Joseph Smith’s, one of his personal bodyguards. And when I was in Northern Indiana meeting with a donor about a year and a half ago, So the donor said, wait, you’ve got to wait right here.
I’ve got to call my niece. Get over here. Listen to this guy’s story. Tell her who your great, great, great grandfather was. And I said, it was one of Joseph Smith’s bodyguards. And he said, now tell him who your great, great, great grandfather was. My great, great, great grandfather shot and killed Joseph Smith.
So he said, so yours wasn’t doing his job. Unbelievable. Wow. What a connection. Come out. So yeah, so Joe, now how that happened was this. Most of the listeners who are interested in this topic will resonate with this story. At the time, Joseph Smith was busy assigning other men’s wives to himself in the afterlife.
And even in this life, even men who were currently married with women, he would be reassigning them. So the highest defector ever in Mormonism Was the second counselor in in Mormon church government. You’ve got the prophet and then the first and second presidency. William Law was the second president or the second counselor, right?
Well, I just learned that my great, great, great grandfather. I have the letter, a personal letter from Joseph Smith to Colonel John Scott to court martial Major General Wilson Scott, who had been excommunicated just weeks before, along with his brother, the Second Counselor, William Scott. And they started a new Mormon sect.
Well, why were they excommunicated? Because there is this thing called the Nauvoo Expositor. After all of this stuff started going down, and William Law and his wife Jane Law said, No way! I’m not giving my wife to you. And Jane said, no, I’m not. I’m already married. Thank you. They decided to put out a newspaper publication, the, the Nauvoo Expositor.
It only had one publication because Joseph Smith sent his minions to vandalize and destroy. The printing press and the property Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks has not too long ago talked about this and for that the local municipalities came by and picked up Joseph Smith and sent him to jail.
And not long after that, as the story goes, he was shot and killed. So why was he shot and killed? Why was he put in jail? Because of this issue of getting other man’s wives to be his own. My great, great grandfather, John Scott. Was a follower of his, his father, Jacob Scott, who was very good friends with the laws, decided to peel off and start this new Mormon sect.
John said, dad, take the hand to show you my faithfulness to prophet Smith. I’m going to take five lives and ended up having 37 children and court martialed General Major Wilson law. So after Joseph Smith’s dead, then John Scott began reporting directly to Brigham young. And one of the marriages of his was performed by Brigham Young.
So that’s, that’s what some of my family when they comment that I’ve got a healthy stock, that’s it.
Kurt: Wow. What a, what a family history there. That is fascinating. So yeah, you come from a long line of Mormons then. And you know, that’s, to, to move away from that tradition, you know, I’m sure there was a lot of pressure back in Utah back when you were a teenager.
Corey: Yeah, for some more than others. But in my case, because I had that immediate family buffer zone where my mother was not what you would call an active Mormon. Sometimes we call that Mollie Mormon. So…
Kurt: you call it what?
Corey:We call it a Mollie Mormon.
Kurt: Mollie Mormon. I haven’t heard that term before.
Corey: In Utah, you know, Napoleon Dynamite, you would appreciate that show much more too if you came from Utah or had a Mormon background.
But a Mollie Mormon, someone who is an an active Mormon tries to do their best as the CTR ring is pursuing worthiness to be temple worthy, to get married in the temple. Ultimately, pursue celestial glory and do the same thing God has done.
Kurt: Fascinating. There are just so many different rabbit trails I want to go down, like, you know, you were told that you’d be in a worse place than Hitler, correct me if I’m wrong though, but there’s no view of hell, at least as an equivalent in the Christian means of eternal separation.
It’s just sort of different levels of glory. Is that right?
Corey: Yeah. So there’s, there’s three degrees of glory of heaven. The celestial, the terrestrial, and then the telestial kingdom. And then you’ve got, you know, the second death, which is where you’ve got the sons of perdition, Satan and his followers.
And on my interpretation, it would include apostates who knew the truth. And love Mormonism and then maybe spoke out against it as well. So hell is sometimes associated with, you know, spirit prison where Jesus went and spoke to the spirits who were in prison. We, you know, Mormons baptize people for the dead so that they can have the proper priestly baptism and then they’ll hear about the Mormon story and the gospel according to Mormonism.
there and have an opportunity to go to one of the three degrees of glory. Almost no one goes to where the sons of perdition would be. That’s Satan and his followers. And on one interpretation and importantly, Where I was at the time that was an interpretation that I was taught applied to me if I wasn’t careful.
Kurt: Mm. All right. In your in your second chapter here of the book in Leaving Mormonism, and for those that are just joining us, here it is, by Kregel Leaving Mormonism, Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds you talk about sort of some of the foundational issues. with Mormon doctrine and theology.
We’ve maybe covered a little bit about that. There’s one, say, on salvation. So what’s the issue with salvation there in Mormon theology?
Corey: Yeah, in that chapter, I cover three essential issues. One is essential for dialogue, and that is the testimony. Most Christians get frustrated with that, they don’t know how to deal with it but it is an essential point for dialogue that you’ve got to be able to subvert to have a serious con conversation about the essential doctrines of salvation and who is God, both of which find their segue in the personal work of Christ.
So in Mormon soteriology and their doctrine of salvation they’ve got. A conundrum the pop Mormon view is try, try your best and God will make up the rest. And that’s what most Mormons tend to believe. And that’s why there’s no real urgency for thinking about, you know, serious repentance. If I’m wrong, I’m simply wrong.
I’m still a good person. I’ll go to one of the degrees of glory. They don’t see this, this sin as serious as a historic Christianity has treated it as the Bible treats it. And on the other hand, there’s this idea. In the Book of Mormon, it does not teach, try, try your best and God will make up the rest.
Neither is one of their key prophets, Spencer W. Kimball, in his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. It teaches, become perfect by this lifetime or else. And I knew of this as a young child, and I was a serious Mormon as a young child. So serious that I delayed my baptism at age eight, which is the standard age to get baptized, because I knew, at least, you know, I was being taught that when you get baptized, it’s baptismal regeneration.
It’s part of salvation. You’ve got to get it by the requisite priesthood, the Mormon priesthood, for it to count. And when you get baptized, it’s like, you know, washes away. Your slate. So you’ve got this blank slate, but what happens if I sin after this? Well, you’re going to get these little black marks on your slate.
And I’m thinking to get into celestial glory, I know the book of Mormon said that no one clean thing can enter. I knew that as a child. And so I decided what I would do is I would wait until I was 88 years old on my deathbed and I’d get baptized and I’d get into celestial glory. But I, in fear and trembling, I thought, what if I get hit by a semi truck before that, having failed to be baptized by the proper priestly authority, I’m doomed.
And so I got baptized at age nine. But in Mormonism, there’s this conundrum you know, pop Mormonism is, is believed and taught. Try, try your best and God will make up the rest. But the Book of Mormon does not teach that. There are no three degrees of glory. There is only heaven or hell. And there is a timeline by which your perfection must be done.
And it is in this lifetime. And Spencer W. Kimball, who was an apostle for 20 years and a prophet for 10 years, you know, you combine Paul’s and Moses authority together in one man, he writes one big volume And to be his legacy book and it’s about how to get your sins forgiven and it is crystal clear that trying is not sufficient in that book.
Perfection is and it must happen by this lifetime.
Kurt: I want to ask you I, I’ve had some interactions with Mormons and I know I referenced earlier the fallacy of moving the goal posts when you try to reference a Mormon prophet, sometimes it’s, I’ve encountered the the reply, Oh, well, he wasn’t speaking or writing in his official capacity.
So when is it that we can say, Oh yeah, that is the official writing or official teaching?
Corey: Mormonism is like a slippery fish in that regard, because that is the scapegoat. Every time there’s an issue raised, you could say, Oh, it wasn’t in his official capacity, right? The problem is their own prophets.
Brigham Young has said that a person doesn’t need to say, Thus sayeth the Lord. He says, Every sermon I give is as good a scripture as you need. And, you know, his, his revelations are better than, than the scriptures. And for Mormonism, in terms of epistemic authority, it’s all about the living prophet, the living prophet.
As opposed to the dead prophets, and they have to give that caveat because they don’t, they’re not consistent as more important than the standard works, according to some Mormon authorities, but the common sense should speak you know, volumes here. We’re not asking a prophet if, if Mormonism is all about modern revelation of living revelation, if there is any teeth to having level living revelation.
It doesn’t mean we want them to teach us how to mow lawns or make poached eggs or get a rocket to the moon. Just tell us how to get to heaven and who God is. Everything else is secondary, a distant tertiary, and when it comes to these issues, if they’re thoroughly confused and can’t even tell us who God is, and even contradict each other on this, then what is the point?
Kurt: Yeah, it’s you can see how some people would come to it and say, hey, this is just like a social club, and you’re just, you know, making things up, and but unfortunately some of that, those views carry, you know, for non religious folks that carry over into to Christian belief as well, and so that’s why it’s important to look at the facts and do the investigative work.
I know that’s… One of the ways I remained a Christian was through apologetics. I was reading Ravi Zacharias and Paul Copan as a teenager. And so that’s why I stayed. I had doubts, but I never left my Christian faith. But that’s one of the reasons why I stayed in the faith is because of the work of apologetics.
So, and I know many people value the work of Ratio Christi. So if… Last question for you here. If if you could give some advice to how we could talk to our Mormon neighbors. What are some topics we should broach? What are some key terms we should be aware of? Because Mormons, they want to say, oh, we’re just like you.
They’ll even use the same words, but of course they mean something very different by those words. So what are some things that people should be prepared for?
Corey: You and I both have a mom. We can spell it backwards, M O M, but it doesn’t entail that it’s the same mom. All we have to do is start describing that mom, and they’re radically different.
And likewise, just because we spell it G O D or spell Jesus J E S U S, it doesn’t follow that it’s the same person. They are radically different. But I would advise people along the lines of truth and love. You’ve got to not only pursue the truth, but you have to come across as a truth seeker to the Mormon.
Otherwise, they’re going to see you as disingenuous and someone that’s maybe just out to win an argument or maybe to Bible bash them or something like that. You’ve got to come across as a truth seeker, and you’ve got to love them. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so that we listen more.
You get five different Mormons, you’re going to have six different opinions. And so don’t count on the Mormon you’re talking with to be a cookie cut to maybe what you’ve studied. Get to know the individual, genuinely love them, and try to speak Mormonese. As well, Mormon is the language of experience.
And so where they’re used to taking stock in bearing their testimony, the Christian needs to bear testimony with as much tenacity. The Mormon confuses tenacity with veracity. One needn’t do that, but they do. And I’ve seen a Princeton THM get rocked by a Mormon missionary as a 19 year old because he couldn’t understand how tenacious they were and he didn’t have that same tenacity.
We’ve got to be able to not only subvert their overconfidence in their testimony. Maybe by a police lineup comparing their testimony to other Mormon sects and say which one is true, bringing them back to the grove experience of 1820 and now it’s five Mormons lining up rather than a Presbyterian, a Methodist and a Congregationalist and so forth and now they’re feeling the burn, the burden there of whether a testimony is something they can rely on.
So that when you get to the meat of issues of salvation and the nature of God, they’re not going to sit back on that testimony and rest comfortably anymore. They’re going to be living in doubt with that area that to the average Mormon, that’s the buckstopper when it comes to authority. There are the scriptures.
There is the prophet, and there is the testimony, but for the average Mormon, it’s the testimony. I don’t care what you show me about Joseph Smith, I have a burning in my bosom, and I know that it’s true. You’ve got to deal with that, and I tell you how in the book. And there’s another book that Sean McDowell and Eric Johnson put up a little while ago too, it’s Sharing the Good News with Mormons Practical Strategies, I’ve got a chapter in there, and about 20 other people have chapters too.
Corey: Same idea.
Kurt:Wonderful. If people want to learn more about how they can get invested in Ratio Christi, where should they go?
Kurt:Awesome. And there you can learn about all the different the groups there. And like you said, you guys are all over the planet and, and just growing.
It’s, it’s one of those ministries that just blossomed, you know all you guys were having chapters start up and you, you know, to manage it all was becoming a, a, a difficulty because It was so needed. People realized, hey, this is needed. Not just, you know, your typical campus religious group. Hey, why don’t you come play ping pong, that type of thing.
Corey: Yeah, that’s right. Two steps forward, one step back. We’re, we’re growing though.
Kurt: Yes. Wonderful to hear. Corey, thank you so much for joining us on our program today and God bless you and, and all the work that your your organization is doing.
Corey: Thanks, Kurt. Love you, your kindred spirit, and your program.
Kurt: Thank you. Thanks. We’ll be in touch. Alright, well, I’m looking forward to the next couple weeks coming up. Especially we’ve got an interview coming up with Winfield Bevins. And we’re going to be talking about tradition and liturgy. It’s going to be a fascinating discussion. I’m sure Ted Wright’s going to join us for that as well.
He’s read Winfield’s book. And it’s interesting that we think of You know, liturgy has this ancient thing, but as I chatted with Ted probably a few weeks ago, even contemporary services do liturgy. And so we all do liturgy, it’s just a question of, well, what is the liturgy? So we’re going to be looking at that in a couple weeks.
I’m looking forward to that interview. If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage you to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and if you really are a fan of the show, please subscribe on iTunes and the Google Play Store. And also be sure to give us a kind review as well. It’s great for folks that are just coming across our podcast for the first time.
They want to learn more about about what the show does. So that does it for our program today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Skyfloor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Reasons I want to thank our technical producer, Chris for all the great work that he does and to our guest today, Dr. Corey Miller. And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.