I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
(Galatians 1:6, 8)
Well, just how many gospels are there?
It appears Paul is implying there is only one true gospel, which he describes as the gospel of "the grace of Christ."
Any other ain't gonna cut it.
In the New Testament there are four canonized Gospels chronicling Jesus's mortal ministry: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (Joseph Smith changed the titles of "Gospels" to "Testimonies" in the JST, but I'll continue to call them Gospels here).
And there are lots of other Gospels, of course ― such as the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary and Gospel of Peter ― which are considered pseudepigrapha (writings attributed to historical figures who were not the actual authors).
But the question is whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the "gospel of Christ's grace" as Paul instructed?
And if not, whose gospel are preaching?
Which gospel do we teach in the Church?
Perhaps the best evidence of the gospel we believe in is not the one we preach, but the one we practice.
If we sit down and think about this for a minute, we'll discover the truth. It's a little secret which we don't talk about: it's okay to ignore those Four Gospels; in fact, we can disregard the entire New Testament.
You think I'm kidding?
We have created a sort of "Super-Gospel" for members of the Church, which has become the Fifth (and greatest) of all the Gospels.
But is it the same gospel as Paul taught?
Let's see: is this illusive Fifth Gospel, you ask, some kabbalistic treasure trove of Jesus's lost sayings? Is it the Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon? Will we find the vision of the Brother of Jared in its pages?
The Fifth Gospel is the Church Handbook of Instruction.
The Gospel of the Prophet
The Gospel of the Prophet goes back to Wilford Woodruff who taught that he could never lead the Church astray, thereby leading the Church astray.
There's a popular story that President Woodruff shared in 1897 (more than 50 years after the incident, but who's counting?)
"Brother Brigham took the stand and he took the Bible and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,and laid it down before him. And he said: 'There is the written word of God to us concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,' said he, 'when compared with the living oracles [living prophets] those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.'" (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, Oct. 1897, 22–23).
Isn't it odd, this statement, saying that for us to have "the word of God direct to us now" it has to come from a prophet?
And here I thought that was what the Holy Ghost was for:
I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
[Notice - It is God through the Holy Ghost (not through the prophet) who shows us all things we should do]
Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ.
(2 Nephi 32:5-6)
Nephi would have had a field day with the way we have corrupted the priesthood; Nephi would look at the elaborate Chess Board we have turned the priesthood into, with its pawns and bishops and kings, and he'd knock the whole thing over.
"What were you thinking?" he'd say.
So what is the priesthood actually for, then?
And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Where can we find this kind of priesthood?!
The Fifth Gospel is the Gospel of the Living Prophet (just take the name of the current President of the Church and stick it after "Gospel"). In the Gospel of Nelson, for example, it is written:
Thou shalt not take the name of Mormon in vain.
So we've made the word "Mormon" anathema? Is that what the gospel is about? Is this the "gospel of grace" Paul taught?
President Nelson said, "Being passionate about using the correct name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a vital way that we as a people take His name upon us." (Russell M. Nelson, "The Everlasting Covenant,"Liahona, Oct. 2022)
Something's not adding up. Here's what I find so interesting about the Gospel of the Living Prophet: the "living" part.
As a living Gospel, it changes and twists and turns depending on who is at the head. Never a dull moment!
No more stodgy old Gospels whose manuscripts were copied by monks on crumbling parchment; now we have the clarity of presentism to guide us.
Instead of an eternal and everlasting gospel of love we get one that is "till death do us part" (you know, until the prophet dies and is replaced; we treat the seniority of the Twelve as mechanically as a PEZ dispenser).
The other day I was reading a Facebook comment by a member of the Church who rudely rebuked another person for calling us "Mormons," comparing it to a disparaging racial slur (you know the one).
As I read the thread of comments, it struck me (as if I needed any further evidence this policy was not of God) how faithful members of the Church are now offended at others' use of the nickname "Mormon" (which never bothered them before President Nelson's talk).
Do we think our moral outrage pleases God when we chastise his children for calling us "Mormons?"
Why is it some members seem strangely delighted to catch others committing this infraction in order to correct them? Is it to virtue signal their loyalty to the prophet?
Why are these pious individuals hell-bent on making others "an offender for a word" (Isaiah 29:21)? They are like body builders in skimpy speedos at a competition flexing their biceps as if their oiled, bronzed muscles will impress us, signaling their allegiance to the prophet.
But why don't they flex their muscles in support of the gospel of love and grace? I rarely see members indignant over the way the poor and marginalized are treated in our wards.
I worry, though, because these loyal soldiers of the prophet appear to be doping on the steriods of obedience to a Gospel that is not Christ's.
Victory for Satan? Yes, indeed, but not in the way they think.
One Gospel to Rule Them All
In the exalted presence of the Fifth Gospel, all others wilt away into obscurity.
We can scientifically show that the Fifth Gospel is supreme in the Church because whenever the Four Gospels conflict with it, the Fifth Gospel prevails.
But don't worry! Just because the Fifth Gospel has never been canonized and has never been accepted by the membership of the Church; and just because it has no authorial attribution and is anonymously written; and even though it institutionalizes priestcraft and is posted online in all of its electronic majesty so it can be altered, changed, amended and rewritten without notice with just a click of a button, faster than a digital, Orwellian blink; and just because its contents are as impermanent as the morning dew, changing according to the whims of the current regime . . . .
. . . just trust in the Fifth Gospel! New Motto: "In [the Handbook] we trust."