Non-Mormon Bible Study Scratches Me Where I Itch.

Don - June 9, 2007

My son and I drive 40 miles roundtrip every Tuesday night to attend a non-mormon Bible study. The “minister” is well know in the born again Christian community. He has produced commentaries on most every book in the Bible, has a regular radio spot and produces CDs on various religious, political, and Israel related topics.

When I’ve told members that I’ve purchased most of his O.T. commentaries and attend his lectures weekly I’ve gotten some results I didn’t expect.

Reactions have been everything from “that’s interesting” to “you’re going to hell.” I’ve been asked why would I listen to such rubbish. Some have wondered whether it would effect my testimony.

I’ve purchased, I’ve listened and I go because there is a depth of study I don’t find and can’t find from any L.D.S. source. I feel I’m pretty well founded in our doctrine, so many of the things said have no effect at all. In fact, my son and I have some great discussions after the class about his false doctrine and his viewpoints.

I’m teaching the book of Daniel in a single adult class. Seaching all the L.D.S. material gives me very little in depth material. Ok, Daniel and the Word of Wisdom (which really had nothing to do with the word of wisdon), Shadrach and the boys in the furnace and a bit on Neb’s dream with a few paragraphs about the church being the stone cut out of the mountain. Oh, yeah and a bit of material about the Lion’s den and the writing on the wall.

There is so much more!!!

There is no verse by verse in depth commentary of the scripture, most especially of the Bible available from any L.D.S. source. We miss too much. We have lesson after lesson over the same subjects, year after year. We touch a few high spots and then quickly move on to “get thru” the lesson – what a pathetic waste.

The Tuesday night Bible study is going to take 16 weeks to get through just the book of Romans. (Last week I purchased a CD to add to my library and made a contribution in the offering box…it’s worth it!)

At least if I go to Hell I’ll know the scriptures that got me there!


  1. My former Stake President used to attend a non-denominational Bible study group each week. I attend the weekly Shabbat Torah study at the local synagogue. I also have an Evangelical student who has been regularly attending Institute classes for a few years.

    I think a good historical-critical LDS commentary would simply duplicate much work that has done elsewhere. Better to simply write up whatever LDS tidbits are applicable, and profit from the other work that has been done.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 9, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  2. Nitsav, I agree an LDS commentary would duplicate other work already done. I think however that the benefit would be that LDS people might read it. There seems to be a prevailing feeling amongst members that we shouldn’t be reading non-mormon material. Non-mormon materials might corrupt us, or teach us false doctrine, or cause us to go to hell!

    Comment by Don Clifton — June 9, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

  3. I agree. I wish LDS were more willing to reach beyond LDS sources. There is both much to be mined from the thoughts and scholarship of others, as well as other perspectives to be gained.

    Also, I find it a good mental exercise, since I continually evaluate what I read as to its compatibility with my understanding of LDS thought and the gospel.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 9, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  4. Kevin’s Footnotes to the New Testement is really great. I understand that the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ series is pretty good (even though it is from Deseret). I don’t think we have anything on the Old Testament.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 9, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

  5. I’ve attended BSF and also a local Bible study at my neighbor’s church. I’ve definitely gotten some of those wary reactions from my fellow saints–especially when I quite the Mom’s institute class to attend the nonMormon bible study.

    The nonMormon Christians can be a little freaked out when they find I’m in their class too. Don, was it a big enough crowd to hide your LDSness?

    Comment by Johnna — June 9, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  6. Don,

    If I remember correctly you are somewhere in the Provo/Orem area. Assuming (because of low density) the class is not 20 miles south of Provo, I’m guessing that it’s north, in Salt Lake Valley. Are you willing to share the class location?

    Comment by Daylan — June 9, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  7. Daylan,
    He’s actually in Spokane. He owns a theater in Orem.

    Comment by Rusty — June 9, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

  8. Daylan, the location is in Post Falls Idaho…I’d really be “looked” at funny if I were in Provo/Orem happy valley and went to a non-mormon bible study!!

    Comment by Don Clifton — June 9, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  9. Johnna, actually the study group is usually between 75 and 100 people so yes we just blend in. First night we were singled out as first time visitors, got a welcome packet but since then no problem.

    I do wonder if anyone notices when Bret and I look at each other funny when we hear “doctrine” that isn’t correct. Sometimes we even smirk, or laugh to ourselves.

    Comment by Don Clifton — June 9, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

  10. It seems to me that those who think you’re going to hell haven’t read much that the brethren have written where they cite non-LDS theologians. McConkie cited extensively from Dummelow and Jamieson and Talmage used Edersheim extensively. In my own institute classes I haven’t hesitated to use the same sources as well as Adam Clarke and occasionally J. Vernon McGee. LDS apostles haven’t claimed that we are the sole repository of gospel truth — only the sole source of authority. As Latter-day Saints, hopefully we have enough discernment to recognize false doctrine and bogus scholarship whether it comes from a non-LDS Bible study down the road or from the oddball on the back row of the gospel doctrine class. We take truth wherever we can find it; and hopefully we reject false teaches whenever we find it.

    Just take a look at a typical CES manual on the New Testament and see if uses exclusively LDS authorities. I find in the bibliography of the N.T. manual: Adam Clarke, Dummelow, Edersheim, Farrar and several others. I wonder if those people you referred to think the compilers of the Institute manual are going to hell as well?

    Comment by Alma — June 9, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  11. Ahhh, Post Falls, Idaho . . .

    He must be a strong dispensationalist if it is who I am thinking of (Douglas Wilson in Moscow, Idaho would be his direct evangelical counterpoint in eschatology). . .

    Don, you ought to go to one of the Steeling the Mind Conferences while you are at it. I went to the one last summer.

    I like your topic. I spent a year in Daniel, then a year and a half in Ezekiel . . . and so far we have been about a half year in Isaiah. I wish you lived close to Idaho Falls so we could do some study together. :)

    Comment by Todd Wood — June 9, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  12. Sorry about the old web handle.

    Btw, it is beautiful up there in the north.

    Comment by Todd Wood — June 9, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  13. That’s a big group! We have 10-12 every week for Torah study, and I’m the only Christian other than a retired EV couple.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 9, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  14. Don,
    Would you mind giving up the name of this minister? I would love to get a hold of some of his stuff.

    Comment by cj douglass — June 9, 2007 @ 7:30 pm

  15. I find it funny that there are STILL members out there that get uncomfortable with non-LDS scholarship, what with all the C.S. Lewis quotes and talks on being a good neighbor and all. Also, most of my religion teachers at BYUI RECOMMENDED a number of non-LDS commentaries and other scholarly works to my fellow classmates and I.

    What I’d love to see is some verse by verse, book by book study of our nonbiblical scriptures. Wouldn’t you think tons of people would love to go to a class on the book of Jacob? 3 Nephi? Ether? D&C 76? etc etc. Sure, there isn’t as much to draw from, but there won’t ever be if nobody ever starts. The closest we have now are Hugh Nibley lectures.


    This is his ministry’s website. Like dad said, mostly great stuff and usually only a bit off when he is wrong. They ARE evangelicals though, so they don’t care much for Mormon doctrine and he’s good friends with Hal Lindsey>:)

    Comment by Bret — June 10, 2007 @ 12:43 am

  16. “They ARE evangelicals though, so they don’t care much for Mormon doctrine”

    This is the biggest problem right there. Mormons have been harangued and Bible thumped for so long that the general membership would rather not talk or read anything from non-Mormons. As much as I admire your love thy enemy and learn truth from every source attitude, it has been implied that the teachers could turn on you in a moments notice. Respect sometimes has to go both ways. As much as I enjoy learning from non-Mormons about Biblical studies that is always in the back of my mind.

    I am no expert, but it seems to me if there is a dirth of usable information then those who want it most should try to do something about the situtation. That is something I have run into time and again with these kinds of “need better commentary, biblical studies, revelatory scripture studies” discussions. A lot of I would add educated people seem to know what they want and how to complain, but that is the farthest it will go.

    On the other hand, I really do understand why those who complain don’t do a lot with it. Mormons are a busy people with lives both related and unrelated to the Church. My own love of writing and research is constantly curtailed by other things. Unlike most other religions, Mormons don’t have a paid ministry whose very purpose is theological studies and the Church. There just isn’t enough history and desire for systematic theology.

    Comment by Jettboy — June 10, 2007 @ 7:06 am

  17. I used to teach a teen-age Sunday School class. One of the students was a convert from a Catholic family who, even though he was now LDS, continued to attend his Jesuit-run high school. His knowledge of Christianity and theology was stunning. None of the other kids even knew what he was talking about. Too many of our kids, it seems, sleep in Seminary, socialize in Sunday School and never, ever do any independent reading or study. I’m all for simple faith and testimony, but our lack of any deeper understanding of religion — whether gained from lds scholars or non-lds — is, I think, hurting us in the long run. At the very least, it probably prevents us from having meaningful conversations with those who do have such knowledge.

    Comment by Marcus — June 10, 2007 @ 7:18 am

  18. I have a set cassette tapes of Missler’s lectures on Isaiah (these are about 20 years old) and I found myself wishing that he would present a more neutral treatment. The flavor was a bit too evangelical for my tastes. Of course, the LDS commentaries on Isaiah are too Mormon for my liking. So, perhaps, I am just hard to please.

    Comment by S — June 10, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  19. I am no expert, but it seems to me if there is a dirth of usable information then those who want it most should try to do something about the situtation. That is something I have run into time and again with these kinds of “need better commentary, biblical studies, revelatory scripture studies” discussions. A lot of I would add educated people seem to know what they want and how to complain, but that is the farthest it will go.

    I don’t understand this comment. I don’t complain about a dearth of commentaries. Those of us who find LDS sources limited are generally happy using non-LDS sources. What irks me is people who wont’ read anything unless it’s Deseret Book, since that’s the source of all True Scriptural Commentaries.

    I know what I want, and I know where to get it; it’s just not Deseret Book.

    Are you suggesting that we *should* be writing an LDS verse-by-verse with your last line?

    Comment by Nitsav — June 10, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  20. In other words, there’s not a dearth of *usabale* information. Just a dearth of LDS commentaries, which provides no problem whatsoever for those of us willing to take advantage of them.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 10, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

  21. I am mostly talking about the implicaton of, “There is no verse by verse in depth commentary of the scripture, most especially of the Bible available from any L.D.S. source. We miss too much. We have lesson after lesson over the same subjects, year after year. We touch a few high spots and then quickly move on to “get thru” the lesson – what a pathetic waste.” It isn’t the only time I have heard this. If this isn’t some kind of complaint, I don’t know what it is.

    Yes, I know that the bulk of the comments are about Mormons who don’t read things outside of Deseret Book. However, behind all that is the subtext of LDS-centric writing as substandard. I actually agree with this. What I don’t agree with is that many who bring it up (usually calling it “correlation” material) don’t leave any suggestions. Another thing I don’t see is (although some have at least thought about it) writing anything themselves to broaden the choices. There is, of course, publication complications right now. I partly blame it on Deseret Book that I think has killed LDS Publishing for several generations.

    Comment by Jettboy — June 10, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  22. As J. Stapley mentions, I tried to write such a verse by verse treatment of the NT from an LDS perspective. I think of this as more of a set of explanatory notes than a full-blown commentary. The LDS publisher who originally was going to publish it in the end determined that it would be way too long and too scholarly to fly in the LDS market. And you know, I really couldn’t disagree with them.

    When I teach GD, I often will do a quick overview of the reading assignment but then focus on a much smaller block of text and dig into it verse by verse the way a non-LDS Bible study group would do it. I find that people almost always love this approach.

    I think it is great that you attend a Bible study with your son. Good for the both of you.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — June 10, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  23. Kevin, I do the same. I like teaching in depth instead of skimming thru a few things just to get thru the material. And like you I get more positive comments with this approach.

    I wonder if an online / blog in depth study could be started? I don’t know what format, or how, but just a thought….any ideas?, any interest?

    Comment by Don — June 10, 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  24. Just coming out of lurking to second comment number 23. I would love a sort of online commentary/blog thingy were started. It could easily allow for the combination of scholarly LDS and non LDS commentary and I would love to have something like that as a resource for in-depth scripture study. I would be pleased to help in any way I can to get something like this going.

    Comment by Eliza Roxcy — June 11, 2007 @ 2:44 am

  25. “The LDS publisher who originally was going to publish it in the end determined that it would be way too long and too scholarly to fly in the LDS market.”

    Ouch, that is sad. I don’t know if it is an audience thing or a publisher thing. You also said you agreed. Why?

    Comment by Jettboy — June 11, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  26. I have a question for Kevin Barney and other in-depth advocates. How do you keep from going so far in depth that you are finding things that aren’t there? A particular, common LDS version of this is when we take an Isaiah chapter from the Book of Mormon, or a JST modification of the New Testament, and obsess over how changing a few words illuminates everything, and without the modification we’d be mired in the darkness covering the world thanks to those mistranslating scribes.

    There are times I’ve listened to a teacher belabor every little thing to the point I feel like they’re making stuff up.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 11, 2007 @ 8:08 am

  27. I find it refreshing that there are other faithful LDS that seek learning in whatever means God has made available be it both LDS or Non-LDS sources. I am a faithful LDS and I love to study truth whereever I can find it. I love my infobase and gospelinks libraries and I study many non-LDS sources as well. I have found that many of these non-LDS sources are many times inspired by God to administer to His children.

    I am full aware of the lack of knowledge and learning among general LDS members and their resistance to any original inspired thought outside church manuals.

    I often try to share some insights in our GD class and am sometimes wrongly considered an apostate for my thoughts or insights.

    I wish we had an advanced GD class where we could openly share thoughts and insights freely to better uplift and edify one another.

    Our current GD teacher is an Elderly Sister that just reads through the manual and does not allow any other thoughts than those displayed in the manual.

    I can’t wait for Christ to come and set things in order.

    How wonderful it will be then.

    Comment by Jothan — June 11, 2007 @ 8:22 am

  28. There is a website trying to do some more in-depth commentary.


    Comment by Nitsav — June 11, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  29. being a convert from mainstream christianity, i would have a tendency to view not only an outside bible study with suspicion i.e. if they are so dang sharp, then why aren’t they LDS, and i would have a tendency to view with concern a desire to seek wisdom there when i see small children in the LDS church who understand more about God and eternity than the best they have to offer.

    i did run across an extremely interesting non-lds christian guy by the name of brent walters though who purportedly has the world’s largest private collection of early christian literature.

    i think he was or is a prof at sjsu or something like that. could probably google it.

    it is amazing how close some of the stuff he has come up with lines up with lds thought although in talking to him he categorically rejects any connection to the church, but i get the impression he tends to have a mental block against the idea… very brilliant guy though.

    Comment by garry — June 11, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  30. I’ve written up a fair amount of commentary on Biblical books and the LDS-only stuff as well, which is all located here:

    Some comments are more polished than others. My comments on Isaiah and some of the other OT Minor Prophets draw on numerous non-LDS sources and are among the more comprehensive. If I live long enough, I plan on finishing the entire thing and getting them all set up as print-ready PDFs, like the comments on the D&C.

    Don is quite right about the typical LDS reactions and the general lack of LDS-sourced material on the Bible. It would be a duplication of existing material. The problem is, as others have pointed out above, that you have to pick through a lot of Biblical commentaries to get good stuff. And, while some commentaries are better than others, not all in a particular series are going to be good and worthwhile.

    What is boils down to is you have to invest a lot of time reading and picking through things on your own, sorting the wheat from the chaff. There is no easy solution here, but if you spend the time, it will be well worth it and you will be an asset to your GD class. Most decent sized local libraries will have smattering of various Bible commentaries. Go and check some out and peruse them and see which ones have value and which dont. When you find some you like, then pick them up at used book stores and online at and you will end up with an ecclectic collection of references to resort to.

    Comment by Kurt — June 12, 2007 @ 4:40 am

  31. Kurt, thanks for that link. Seems to be a great resource. My biggest (preliminary) concern is over doing the synopsis of the Scriptural stories. Other than that, it has promise.

    Comment by Jettboy — June 12, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

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