By guest writer Marshall Proctor
My quest to better understand Mormonism and improve my ability to effectively witness to Mormons has taken me to some wild places. I am currently listening to The Book of Mormon on the podcast app Podcast Addict, and I am currently at Alma 25, which I am guessing is just shy of half the book. Here are a few of the things I’ve found thus far.
First of all, and most importantly in my estimation, the fundamental premise of the Book of Mormon (hereafter BOM) is intensely problematic. The people of the book of Mormon are supposed to be descendants of the Jews, but as you read the BOM you can’t help but notice the absence of anything Jewish about them. Explanations are not forthcoming as to why these descendants of the Jews A., never even mention the religious practices of their purported forefathers, much less communicate anything in regards to their own practicing it, and B., why there is not any explanation as to why and how they are to transition from that form of worship to this new form. The conspicuous absence of anything in regards to the descendants of Nephi observing the Passover or any other Jewish feast is a huge problem that Joseph Smith seems to have been completely unaware that he needed to address if his claims were to be credible. Perhaps this will come later, but I think that if the claims of the BOM this issue would have been central to whole first half of the book. We get nothing. Not a line of explanation is offered as to why the entire sacrificial system is simply abandoned, and not even replaced until just a few hundred years before Christ, and even then, there is no meaningful basis for this.
To be fair, God’s law is mentioned several times, but it seems clear that the moral law is in view, and even if the sacrificial ceremonial law was in view it would have been impossible for them to observe since Lehi is said to be a descendant of Joseph (1 Nephi 5:14), we don’t know what tribe Zoram was from (we are introduced to him in 1 Nephi 4:35), and we don’t know what tribe Ishmael was from (we meet him in 1 Nephi 7:2-4); so who are the priests, since there are no Levites? If either Zoram or Ishmael were Levites, God-fearing Jews would have been quite sure to include that information the moment they were introduced in the story, at the beginning of 1 Nephi. Further, there is no instruction as to building a tabernacle or temple for sacrifices, there is no instruction for setting up a new priesthood, there is no formal covenanting with this new people group, there is nothing at all of how these people are to worship God beyond repenting of their sin and obeying the commandments.
In Christianity the law, especially the sacrificial system, is fulfilled in Christ, which becomes the basis for the new covenant, and the reason why the sacrificial system is terminated. The importance of there not being a sudden, random, arbitrary change in God’s dealing with man, but a reason for the change is why there was a necessity for the book of Hebrews to be written. The book of Hebrews needed to be written to explain not only why the change, but why not to return to the old way. Frankly, there are so many issues on this front that it really deserves it’s own article.
Secondly , the BOM borrows popular story plots from the Bible. A prime example is the conversion of Alma the Younger, which can be found in Mosiah 27. Alma the Younger is introduced to us as having become a “very wicked and an idolatrous man… of many words” who has conspired with the four sons of Mosiah to destroy the church (incidentaly, this is all supposed to have happened between 100 and 92 B.C.) by leading them away from God through the use of flattery. As they were going about doing this, an angel appears, descending from a cloud, speaking “with the voice of thunder” which causes the earth to shake, and so fills Alma and his companions with awe that they fall to ground. The Angel demands to know why Alma is persecuting the church, and gives him a strong rebuke. The angel then commands him not to persecute the church anymore, and then he departs. Alma is so shaken up by the encounter that he is paralyzed and loses the ability to speak. He is returned to his father, and after several days of prayer and fasting, Alma recovers. Sound familiar? The Apostle Paul, while unconverted Saul, sought to destroy the Church and was known for putting Christians to death. He encounters Jesus Himself, why demands to know why Saul is persecuting the Church. Saul is made blind, and only receives his sight after Ananias lays hands on him. It’s the same story with different details. This is a common occurrence in the BOM, but this particular incident stood out the most.
Thirdly, The BOM explicitly teaches heresy regarding the Trinity. Not only that, but from my conversations with Mormons, but it’s actually inconsistent with what Mormonism became. Mosiah 15:1-4 reads,
“And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son- The father, because he was conceived by the power of God,: and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son- And they are one God, yea, the very eternal Father of heaven and of earth.”
A chapter later in Mosiah 16:15, the doctrine is stated quite clearly, “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.”
The Father and the Son are not the same person. The Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. They are distinct, separate persons. It is true that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are all full, coequal partakers in the one divine being of God, each being fully God in himself, yet it is inappropriate to confuse a sharing of the divine being between the persons of the Trinity with the Father and Son being the same person. Otherwise, the Baptism of Jesus makes no sense, and neither does his Transfiguration, or Jesus’s multiple prayers to the Father, which addresses the Father as clearly being a different person from himself, while not detracting from his own deity in any way.
Perhaps I was given the wrong material by the Mormon missionaries, but in the little book True to the Faith; A Gospel Reference, in the section on The Godhead it reads, “From the Prophet’s account of the First Vision and from his other teachings, we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings.” Throughout the book, clear distinction is made between the Father and the Son. On this point, I recognize that there may be some nuance I am missing, but it really seems to me to be an inconsistency within the teaching of Joseph Smith and the Latter Day Saints. In any case, both positions are at odds with scripture.
Fourthly, Joseph Smith began, but never completed his own “translation” of the Bible. I put the word translation in quotes because that’s what the LDS church calls it. Whatever it may be, a translation of scripture it most assuredly is not. It is a reimagination of scripture. For instance, here is John 1:1 as found in Joseph Smith’s Translation. “In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.” I don’t know of a single Bible translation which says anything even remotely close to that. Not even the loosest paraphrases say that. In fact, that verse is almost always rendered, with only a few minor variations, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I have never seen a single Greek scholar argue for Joseph Smith’s rendering. I haven’t seen a single commentary suggest that there is some major dispute in the original language. My copy of Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament doesn’t provide any textual variants that may lend credence to Joseph Smith’s reading. In reality, there is not a chance in the world that his reading was the original reading. But, I already know what the response is likely to be. Joseph Smith’s translation is the original reading, but the apostasy happened so soon after the death of the Apostles that it was never copied correctly, or that the altered text was so proliferated and so few documents from that time have made it to us that it isn’t likely that we would find one of the very few original copies, if they even exist anymore. If it is not that exact argument, I am sure it is something similar.
Pray for the Mormon people. They have been deceived. The Mormon’s I have talked to don’t even seem to be aware of their own beliefs, much less on how they differ from the true Gospel. Pray that God would bring many Mormons out of Mormonism. I pray that so many Mormons would leave the Mormon faith, that in a hundred years the entire religion disappears. May God grant that the Mormon Church be evangelized out of existence.