Friday, October 24 2014


menuClick Here
Michael R. Ash
Thursday, April 04 2013

Even the Very Elect Can be Deceived

By Michael R. Ash Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
Email Author
Author Archive
Send To a Friend
Print Article Bookmark and Share

In my last installment I said that I would discuss some of the ways that fundamentalist thinking can unknowingly create stumbling blocks to our testimony. Before I get to that, however, I need to point out some important considerations about those who might be vulnerable to testimony damage.

It is significant that we ask: Who are those members who could potentially fall away because of hostile “intellectual” arguments? The answer is: all of us. We are told that in the last days “the very elect” (Matt. 24:24)—even the “elect according to the covenant” (JST Matt. 1:24)—could be deceived by “false Christs” and “false prophets.”

When we think of false Christs and false prophets we may envision lunatics who claim to be Jesus or perhaps radical leaders who would try to draw us into a faith of their own making. A false Christ or false prophet, however, would refer to anyone (religious or secular) who falsely claims the power and/or knowledge that leads to ultimate happiness and answers man’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

Basically, any belief system that attempts to lead us down a path of thinking or behavior that draws us away from returning to Heavenly Father would count as a false Christ or false prophet. It is important therefore to note that we are told that such false teachings would even deceive the “very elect” and even those who made “covenants.”

History relates the tragic stories of other “elect” who lost their way—including one third of our pre-mortal brothers and sisters, Cain, Laman and Lemuel, Judas, the Book of Mormon Witnesses (although two returned), Sidney Rigdon (who, with Joseph, saw the Savior), and others. It should become apparent that all of us need to be on guard. Having a testimony now, or having had spiritual experiences in the past, doesn’t guarantee safety.

According to a 2001 informal poll of over 400 former members of the Church,[i] nearly two-thirds of the respondents had been active church members for at least 20 years, 58% had been married in the temple, and 59% had served missions. Former-members, of whom I am aware, include Relief Society Presidents, as well as Elder’s Quorum presidents, Bishops, and even a Mission President. A large percentage of former members undoubtedly had real testimonies and were active in their wards.

In the dream given to Lehi and Nephi they saw that many who had already “commenced” on the path to the tree of life “did lose their way” because of the mists of darkness (1 Ne. 8:23).  An iron rod ran alongside the path to the tree and those who grabbed on to it were able to stay on the path even when blinded by the dark mists. Nephi saw that this iron rod represented the word of God (1 Ne. 11:25).

Those who stayed on the path, held on to the rod, and finally made it to the tree (the “love of God” [11:25]) and tasted of its fruit were not completely safe, however. Lehi saw that some of those who tasted the fruit did “cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (8:25). Why were they ashamed? They were scoffed at by those in the great and spacious building on the other side of the river (11:26-28). Nephi saw that his building represented “the world and the wisdom thereof” as well as the “pride of the world” (11: 35-36).

Some of the people who had traversed the long path, held on to the word of God, managed to stay on the path in spite of the mists of darkness, and finally tasted the fruit of God’s everlasting love, still lost focus of the power of goodness of God’s love (perhaps even looked to see if there was something better [“cast their eyes about”]) because of the “wisdom” of the world.

I’ve seen this happen myself. Members who have real testimonies, who are active in the Church, who not only hold leadership callings, but devote their times and talents to the Lord, who pray, pay tithing, hold family evenings, and live the commandments—I’ve seen them lose focus on their spiritual experiences because they discover something (or several things) that contradict their assumptions of non-doctrinal issues (although they may not realize that their concerns typically center on non-doctrinal issues).

Unless they recognize that their paradigms about those issues are either faulty, naïve, or incomplete, they may suddenly doubt their spiritual experiences and question (and often jettison) any witnesses they had previously received from the Holy Spirit.

The wisdom and pride of the critics in the world tells us that there is no such thing as spiritual experiences—that all such feelings are nothing more than emotions driven by confirmation bias (this will be discussed in greater detail in later installments). Critics argue that not only are such sources unreliable but they give contradictory answers to different people throughout the world (another topic to be addressed later). Only science, reason, and intellect, they tell us, are valuable in determining truth.

While I’m a big fan of truth as acquired from science and I believe that there are many scientific evidences that support belief, it is not possible to know, or fully deny, the existence of God through scientific means alone.

The best two medicines with which we can inoculate our testimonies are: A) The recognition that “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it” (D&C 93:30). In other words spiritual things are spiritually discerned. We can never know if God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, or that Joseph Smith beheld them both in his First Vision without tapping into the spiritual realm; and B) Many of our paradigms and assumptions about the intellectual aspects involving the scriptures, prophecy, and the nature of prophets, are often sophomoric. As Paul said: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corin. 13:11).

As we will discuss next time, it’s not childish to have different opinions on matters of non-doctrinal issues, but it is potentially dangerous to one’s testimony to not to recognize that there are differing opinions and approaches to many LDS topics, or to ascribe to those opinions the weight of doctrine.



  1. Words to the wise; I hope to be wise.
  2. Scary topic. Thank you for addressing it so thoroughly. One of my biggest fears is losing my testimony. I've seen it happen. One of my good friends has an issue with a church leader and so has stopped attending church. She laughs off my fears for her, saying this doesn't affect her testimony.... oh? really? but you're not going to church, not fulfilling callings and talking trash about the bishop to anyone who will listen? What does losing a testimony look like, if not that!
  3. A good warning for all of us. Clever attacks about various "issues" are potentially faith destroying if we are not careful to keep our understanding of pure doctrine intact. Thank you for taking the time to instruct us.
  4. We are taught from on high, "line upon line, precept by precept." "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Regular prayer, scripture study, Family Home Evening, church and temple attendance, service to others, and the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us be shielded by the whole armor of God, so that our faith stays strong.
  5. About Leah's friend; We are commanded tom never speak evil of the Lord's annointed. Even if the bishop is wrong, we don't speak evil about him because it can cause great harm to others and to the Church.
  6. If you fall away after being 'converted"you were probably not "all in" in the first place. There are two major way sa members lose their testimony. Sin and "evil speaking". Those invite the influence of the "one who hates all truth". Testimonies should be based on the foundation of the Savior and his Atonemtnet. These are only received by personal revelation. This revelation has to be constant in our lives through keeping the commandments as best we can and always strengthen by constand prayer and scripture study, which keeps our spiritual eyes open. Many of the "elect" cannot stay in because they require constant "signs" to keep their testimony and when signs are not prevelant either through sin or looking "beyond the mark" as Abinadi boldly spoke to the priests of Noah, their testimony melts away when heat is applied. Testimonies are not based on leaders past or present, but are centered in Christ. My only wish is that when they leave, they leave the church alone. Isn't it sort of strange that when they leave they can't stand the people who stay. Sort of a testimony that the church is true in a counterintutive way.
  7. Michael, Thank you for the continuation of the series. I think that your point about taking time to evaluate new data is well made. I do wonder at this passage though: "Unless they recognize that their paradigms about those issues are either faulty, naïve, or incomplete, they may suddenly doubt their spiritual experiences and question (and often jettison) any witnesses they had previously received from the Holy Spirit... The wisdom and pride of the critics in the world..." Intellectual integrity demands that we always acknowledge and explore the possibility that our current paradigm is flawed - and this includes the paradigm of spiritual experiences. If we categorically omit the possibility that spiritual experiences are natural phenomena, then we admit a gaping hole in our reasoning. It's one thing to say that it is impossible to prove or disprove god using science. It is another to say the same about spiritual experiences. I look forward to that section of your series. Also, it sounds a little disingenuous to me to attribute critics' positions to their "wisdom and pride". They could certainly say the same of us. In reality, most naturalists are just as devoted to self-reflection and truth as anyone else.
  8. The title of your article is misleading. The JST of Matthew 24:24 corrects the original text to read: " ... if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." "If it were possible" reassures the very elect that it is NOT possible to be deceived, because of their virtue and righteousness. Although we should always be on our guard, those who truly are the "very elect" need not worry too much.
  9. Very interesting observations. From what former LDS members say, they were "true, believing" members and did understand doctrine. But when reading what they say or listening to them it is obvious they did not truly grasp doctrine nor did they believe the doctrine. And they also say LDS do not believe in Christ and spew the same old tiresome arguments of the anti-Mormons. I do think that during our meetings, especially Sacrament, we do not discuss Christ enough. I had to search out the claims of the church for myself. I have both a spiritual testimony and an intellectual testimony of the doctrine. There must be something other religions are afraid of concerning the LDS church because there are over 700 so called Christian ministries in the U.S. that are really anti- Mormon organizations (not counting what is on the internet). @ lasthop: on another site (anti-Mormon) you come across as one who does not believe in religion. Your comment above leads one to believe you are LDS. ??? Curious.
  10. Great article. Thank you for publishing it! Several of the comments here prove just how at-risk we are. One of the key points of this article is that it is exactly these people (The Elect), the ones with testimonies, who have felt the Holy Ghost and know the truthfulness of the Gospel. who will be led astray. You are dangerously fooling yourself by claiming that those that fall away 'didn't really have a testimony' or 'did not truly grasp doctrine.' I know several people who have left the church, and they DID understand the gospel; they DID have spiritually based testimonies; they DID know the truthfulness of the gospel. But, like all humans, they make mistakes. They were led into temptation, and their inability to repent of their sin, or their pride in the teachings of the world led them astray. By casually dismissing those who fall away as people who never really understood the Gospel in the first place, you are ignoring the truth. And the truth is that you and I are at risk of falling away, just as much as they were. Our refuge is the scriptures, prayer, and a true broken heart and contrite spirit.
  11. I would recommend you watch The too 5 truths and myths why true believing mormons leave the LDS church. It's on YouTube from Mormon stories. You are misinformed if you think the members that leave must have sinned or not really had a testimony.
  12. I feel there is a need for the church to better explain some of the issues that lead faithful memebers away. The large majority of people that I have seen discover "issues" would have a much easier time resolving them at face value - but there is a perception (and I am not here to validate or discredit that perception) that the church as an organization hides or skirts these issues. THAT is what seems to harden the hearts of even the elect. Furthermore, in my experience it is the very principles that have been the faithful aspire to that often serves as the ammunition for disaffiliation. Take honesty for example, when people discover that Joseph Smith denied his practice of plural marriage to the general church population up until his death it is the principle of honesty that is now the problem. In some cases it is morality and the practice of early church leaders taking on very young wives. The point is that if there was guided dialogue that helped members beter understand these issues (doctrinal or not) the shock factor would be mitigated.
  13. My wife and I went through hell with mormon racists that pertitioned to australian gov and had her deported. I spoke about this to members and the gossip reached the bishops ears and I was branded an apostate and termianted from attending church here in perth Dianella temple stake Western australia for 7 years that broke my marrige. I know with all my heart that this man who went onto stake pres was wrong tho in the time away from the church I learnt that a testimony must be based on a personal relationship with christ not man for many leaders will misjudge and hurt to the core but we must forgive them and move on in or out of the church. In writing to the first presidency it was ignored, but I dont care anymore I found the real jesus and attend church for the sake of my wife and that is in another stake that accepts me. I believe that man leader will pay in gods time for hurting me the way he did that broke my marrige but my wife and I are not devoiced so there is still a chance of eternity together if I love jesus and move ahead and strive to better myself....I put no leader on a predestill anymore not even prophets but only christ. The church is just to busy to answer letters these days but I know that many at the top of mormonism is highly moral and good but on the lower levels we have all sorts of problems because to be a true christian we must not judge at least not unfairly like this bishop and stake president did here in Australia who is a iron fist lawer in court of law by profession treating his flock like in a court room is just plain wrong.... blessings to all those trying to get testimony again without focus on leaders so much as christ the only true focus no matter what relegion, christ as focus is the testimony that I build and honor as my saviour.. Australian downunder.

Add Comment