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Mormon Scriptures Revealed

Mormonism is everywhere. A leading Republican candidate for president is a Mormon, there is a play on Broadway about The Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church has launched a multi-million dollar ad-campaign about Mormons called “I’m a Mormon.” Even though I have been teaching a class on comparative religion for years, taking students on trips to Salt Lake City, and interacting with my Mormon friends, I had never read Mormon scriptures in their entirety.

Recently I asked some Mormon missionaries to show me that their religion is true. They said if I read The Book of Mormon with an open heart then God would impress its truthfulness upon me (they quoted Moroni 10:4). So, I earnestly prayed that God would impress upon my heart the truthfulness of the Mormon scriptures, and then I determined to read as many of their books as I could, including The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), and The Pearl of Great Price.

It was time well spent because I now understand Mormonism better. But rather than being convinced of its veracity, I have more questions and concerns than ever before. The following are some personal impressions after spending a great deal of time interacting with the writings of Joseph Smith.

Mormonism puts a heavy burden of works on its followers. Although there are some passages that talk about grace and free salvation (2 Nephi 31:19; 1 Nephi 2:4; Mosiah 26:40), the overwhelming emphasis is on earning salvation through obedience to commandments and refraining from sin. For example, Alma 5:27 says, “Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?” The next passage says you must be entirely stripped of pride or you cannot meet God.

Mosiah 10:32 says, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.” God may have provided an opportunity for salvation through the death of Jesus, according to Mormonism, but you have to keep all the commandments and follow all the ordinances to experience that salvation. The onus is on you. This seems in sharp contrast to the grace-filled message of the Bible (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5; John 6:29) where works stem naturally from a recognition that we have been saved.

Doctrine & Covenants has historical difficulties. Since the Doctrine & Covenants are later revelations than the Bible, Mormons believe they trump it. Two problems crossed my mind while reading Doctrine & Covenants. First, D&C 84:65-72 copies verbatim the text of Mark 16:15-18 (KJV). Even the footnotes in the Doctrine & Covenants cite these passages in Mark as if they are Scripture. While this passage remains in contemporary Bibles, it is almost unanimously accepted that these verses were not in the original Gospel of Mark. Our earliest manuscript copies do not contain them. Most Bibles have a footnote indicating this. If this passage were not authentic, why would Joseph Smith have received it as a revelation from God as if it were? A very likely scenario is that Smith simply copied from the existing Bible of his day (KJV) and was not aware of this problem.

Second, Joseph Smith made a false prophecy. D&C 87:1-2 says, “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls; and the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.” It’s true that the civil war broke out two decades later, but this is hardly a remarkable prophecy since the signs were already apparent. The problem is the second part of the verse where Smith says this war will “be poured out upon all nations.” This, of course, never happened.

The Book of Mormon strongly condemns polygamy. Given how prevalent plural marriage has been throughout Mormon history (beginning with Joseph Smith himself), it came as a surprise to me how strongly the Book of Mormon condemns it. The people of Nephi were condemned for multiplying their wives (Jacob 1:15) and the commandment is clearly made that men should have only one wife (Mosiah 11:2; D&C 49:16).

But later Joseph “received” differing revelations. To justify plural marriage, Smith pointed to Abraham, Solomon, and David as examples of those God blessed with multiple wives and concubines. D&C 132:38 says, “…and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.” While God may have allowed them to engage in polygamy, this hardly means they were not sinning. In fact, the Genesis account makes it clear that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman (a view the LDS Church has endorsed since 1890). It is highly problematic to say that God overturns a fundamental principle of creation elucidated in the first chapter of the Bible.

The view of faith in the Mormon Scriptures differs from the Bible. Alma 32:17 says, “Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” In other words, faith involves believing something we do not know. If we knew it, there would be no need for faith. But the Bible proposes a different relationship between faith and reason. Rather than being opposites, the Bible presents a view of faith that is based upon what we do know. As philosopher J.P. Moreland put it, “Faith is trusting what we have reason to believe is true.”

For instance, in Exodus 7-14 Moses performs various miracles so the people will know there is a God and then in turn trust him (see 7:14 and 8:10). The pattern is:

1.  God performs a miracle

2.  The people have knowledge about God

3.  They are called to believe

Exodus 14:31 says, “When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in Him and in His servant Moses.” The miracle that they could see and know came first, not the belief.

Knowledge is not the opposite of belief, as the Mormon scriptures suggest. Faith does not involve believing something without evidence. Rather, it is a trust in God in light of what we know to be true. Jesus healed the paralytic so the people would know that he has the authority of God (Mark 2:10).

I suspect the reason the Book of Mormon has this view of faith and knowledge is that the Mormons’ claims cannot be investigated. The cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon have not been located (i.e. Zarahemla), the gold plates cannot be examined, the hill Cumorah cannot be excavated because LDS scholars can't even agree whether it's in North or Central America, and the millions of bodies destroyed in the Americas are nowhere to be found. When there is no convincing external evidence corroborating a belief, it must be based upon experience, feeling, and blind faith. This may be the view of faith in the Book of Mormon, but it is decidedly not the biblical view (see John 20:30-31). There is much more that could be said. Here are a few quick additional observations and tensions in the Mormon scriptures:

·      The view of God evolves from monotheism to polytheism (Compare 1 Nephi 13:41 with Abraham 5:3)

·      Black skin is a curse from God because of wickedness (2 Nephi 5:21; Jacob 3:5, Mormon 5:15; Book of Abraham 1:26),

·      Original sin is rejected, yet there is a recognition that humans are fallen and fundamentally corrupt (Articles of Faith, D&C 121:39). Which is it?

Some of these are more serious than others. Certainly Mormon scholars have considered these objections and offered responses (and Christians have offered counter-responses). Yet the weight of these problems was enough to convince both my heart and my mind that The Book of Mormon is not another testament of Jesus Christ. I feel the same about the Doctrine & Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.

But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

 

Comments

Yes, read it for yourself certainly, but please do so cautiously and with proper preparation. I have quite a bit of experience with this religion, and reading good books ABOUT Mormonism is essential before diving in. You must understand that Christians and Mormons use very similar words in their discussions of faith matters, but the meanings to each group (for example, "grace") often differ greatly. May I please recommend the very excellent "Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons" by Mark Cares? It will prepare you to understand more fully what you are reading. Please also do not underestimate the powers and principalities at work here. Pray for God's protection as well and that He will guide you to His Truth.

For a detailed explanation of the Mormon world view, read http://www.evidenceministries.org/2011/08/what-is-the-significance-of-mo...

It is four pages of an official Mormon Church manual which clearly describe the non-Christian nature of Mormonism. The best part about it is it was written by the Mormon Church so it cannot be discounted as unofficial.

On another note, the fourth book of Mormon scripture is the Pearl of Great Price, not the book of Abraham. The book of Abraham is one of the books within the PoGP.

I think the Mormon "God the Father" is too small. If he was just a man who attained "exaltation" by following principles and such, he's still just a man and not an eternal, immortal, omniscient, transcendent self-immanent Creator who exists outside and beyond finite time and space. Like a song might need more cowbell, I need more God than the Mormon one.

That's not to mention the difficulty posed by the idea that there exists some ideal of exaltation which this man/god attained and towards which we are to be striving. Where did that come from? Is there a higher God that created and defined that ideal? If not, then who says where that ideal is set? Joe Smith? B Young? Anyone?

I think I'll just declare my own self exalted and endowed with god hood. How come my opinion isn't as important as Smith or Young or those other guys? After all, they're just men like me.

What's that? If I declare myself God or possessed of god-hood people will say I'm crazy?

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You mentioned above that you now understand Mormon better now that you have read much of its canon. I believe your comments, however, indicate that you still misunderstand its theology on some key issues. I believe your citation of Alma 5:27 is misapplied--and demonstrates the reverse of what you expected to show. A man who was not stripped of pride may very well believe that he can earn salvation to his own works. On the contrary, a man who relies wholly on the merits of Christ, recognizing that he is an unprofitable servant, is stripped of pride. Consequently, you can read in the book of Mormon that there is no other way or means of salvation than Christ. King Benjamin’s discourse in the first 7 chapters of Mosiah explains this clearly. (You also quoted Mosiah 10:32 but it’s really Moroni.)

Mormons don’t believe that their scriptures “trump” the Bible any more than you believe that Galatians “trumps” Ephesians. They may require a different interpretation than commonly held; but that is essentially the same effect of the New Testament on Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament. Truth isn’t determined by popularity. Similarly, “near unanimous” approval for deleting 11 verses from the gospel of Mark is a pretty cavalier attitude towards the Bible. The primary reason for excluding those passages is that they’re not found in some of the most ancient manuscripts. What if we were to find that these ancient manuscripts survived because they were deficient and fell into disuse—unlike others that wore out and were replaced with authentic copies? The discoveries of manuscripts from the Judean desert demonstrate that very often the first and last portions of books didn’t survive.

In order to classify Joseph Smith’s prophecy on the Civil War as a false prophecy you have to engage in special pleading and to rely on interpretations that conflict with the understanding of those who were contemporaries of Joseph Smith. Orson Hyde certainly disagreed with your assessment and claimed that Joseph Smith’s prophecy referred to war in general rather than being limited to the Civil War itself. Some Americans were astonished at Joseph Smith’s prediction during the Civil War, with at least one newspaper wondering if it was evidence in favor of Smith. (see Philadelphia Mercury 5/5/1861)

You may want to re-read Jacob 2 where you’ll find that God says polygamy can be allowed if He commands it. The first objection by Mormons to Joseph Smith teaching on this subject brought the question how it could be authorized given the Book of Mormon’s statement. Joseph Smith simply cited Jacob 2:30.

I’d like to address other items but I’m out of time.

Note to readers: Rather than take anyone's word for it (even mine), research the origins of the Book of Mormon in works such as "Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?" by Cowdry et al. and other works. Once you read about the dubious origins of the BoM, you'll see major distinctions and how the book itself shows that it is not only not inspired, but that it isn't even well written. Investigate the entire scheme involving the supposed Book of Abraham from the Pearl of Great Price, you'll see the true nature of Joseph Smith's attitude towards his followers (ref. The Book of Abraham). If you read of Joseph Smith's 34 wives, you'll then get a better grasp of why you shouldn't trust a guy who would lie to his own wife (ref. In Sacred Loneliness; Doris Hanson).

PS - Alma Allred, a well-known Mormon apologist, is being a good PR-guy, but a little disingenuous in saying that Mormons don't think that "don’t believe that their scriptures 'trump' the Bible". The 8th article of faith for them is: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Note the use of the phrase "as far as it is translated correctly". (In past interviews, Alma has tried to play down this phrase.) The idea that the Bible as we have it today is untrustworthy either mostly or entirely is firmly implanted in the Mormon mind from the writings of its leaders throughout history. Some references: Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 28; Mormon Doctrine, pp. 82,83; The Ensign, December 1985, p. 55, etc.

In fact, to the Mormon, that the Bible -- the Old and New Testaments -- doesn't contain the full written revelation of God is evident in their use of the BoM and insistence that it alone contains "the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (D&C 20:8-9). By way of comparison, has the Book of Mormon been translated correctly? How could anyone know? (If testimonies of the "creative process" for the BoM are to be believed, then even Joseph Smith didn't "translate" anything.) We have no way to verify his translation of the BoM. Yet when his "translation" of the Book of Abraham is put to the test, he fails miserably. And the Lord Jesus has told us that "whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10) If he is proven to be lying about his translation of the Book of Abraham (which happened in the early 1960s), what does the imply of the BoM?

So, love Mormons. Be wary of Mormonism.

Mormonism uses many of the forms and ceremonies of masonry which have been around way before Joseph Smith. Smith stole these from the fraternity to which he once belonged. In my conversations with folks that have left LDS I have heard of practices that bordered on cultish behaviors. I love Mormons but I will not visit their temple.

Mormonism uses many of the forms and ceremonies of masonry which have been around way before Joseph Smith. Smith stole these from the fraternity to which he once belonged. In my conversations with folks that have left LDS I have heard of practices that bordered on cultish behaviors. I love Mormons but I will not visit their temple.

"Faith: No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked policies of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot -- it's a poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It's a parasite that's regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism here -- it's one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong, and at the same time faith is a central tenet of just about every religion on the planet. We can't ignore that -- that's the thing we are interested in fighting."--P.Z. Myers

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Sean McDowell is a teacher, author, speaker, husband and father. He is an avid fan of college basketball, ping-pong, and his favorite superhero is the Amazing Spiderman.