Archive for August, 2015

Room in the Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Room in the Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

by Fred W. Anson
In their zeal to build their case against Joseph Smith many biblical Christians unintentionally abuse Revelation 22:18 to argue for biblical support of a closed canon. However, when read in context that passage is referring solely to itself – not the Bible in it’s entirety, and not to any other book of the Bible:

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Revelation 22:16-21 (KJV)  

Notice the use of the terms,  “the words of the prophecy of this book” and “the words of the book of this prophecy” limiting the conditions exclusively to “this book” and “this prophecy”.  The language of the text itself limits the scope of these conditions to this book of prophecy – that is, the book that we now know as “The Book of Revelation”.

Because of this awkward misstep by their debating opponents, Latter-day Saints will often feel vindicated that Joseph Smith did not violate Christ’s explicit instructions to future generations in regard to the Book of Revelation. This too is in error. In actual fact, Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), both took away from and added to the the words of the prophecy of the book. Let’s consider where and how he did this.

Joseph Smith’s additions to and deletions from the Book of Revelation
The changes from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible are italicized in their JST equivalents.

Rev 1:1-8
John received a revelation from Jesus Christ and delivered it to the leaders over the seven churches in Asia rather than the book being a revelation of Jesus Christ. 

JST
1 The Revelation of John, a servant of God, which was given unto him of Jesus Christ, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass, that he sent and signified by his angel unto his servant John,

Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

Blessed are they who read, and they who hear and understand the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Now this is the testimony of John to the seven servants who are over the seven churches in Asia. Grace unto you, and peace from him who is, and who was, and who is to come; who hath sent forth his angel from before his throne, to testify unto those who are the seven servants over the seven churches.

Therefore, I, John, the faithful witness, bear record of the things which were delivered me of the angel, and from Jesus Christ the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.

And unto him who loved us, be glory; who washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.

For behold, he cometh in the clouds with ten thousands of his saints in the kingdom, clothed with the glory of his Father. And every eye shall see him; and they who pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

For he saith, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

KJV
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

“Landscape with St John the Evangelist at Patmos” by Gillis Coignet (ca. 1542–1599) from the Hermitage Museum

Rev. 1:16, 20
The seven stars in the Savior’s hand are actually leaders of the seven churches rather than their angels.

JST
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.

20 This is the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the servants of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

KJV
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Rev. 2: 22
Jezebel and the wicked will be cast into hell rather than into a bed.

JST
22 Behold, I will cast her into hell, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

KJV
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

Rev. 2:26–27
Several changes and additions made

JST
26 And to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms;

27 And he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father.

KJV
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

“The Apocalypse of Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos” by Jan Massis (ca. 1563)

Rev. 5:6
Twelve servants of God are sent to all the earth rather than seven Spirits of God. 

JST
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having twelve horns and twelve eyes, which are the twelve servants of God, sent forth into all the earth.

KJV
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Rev. 12:1—17
Several changes and additions, including a reordering of verses. The woman and the man represent the kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.

JST
And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.

And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.

And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;

And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.

Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;

10 For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them.

12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.

14 Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent casteth out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helpeth the woman, and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth up the flood which the dragon casteth out of his mouth.

17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

KJV
1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“Great Day of His Wrath” by John Martin (ca.1851-1853)

Rev. 13:1
The beast of Revelation 13 is in “the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth.”

JST
1 And I saw another sign, in the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth; a beast rise up out of the sea, and he stood upon the sand of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns; and upon his horns ten crowns; and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

KJV
1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

Rev. 19: 15, 21
God uses the word of Christ rather than a sword to smite the nations.

JST
15 And out of his mouth proceedeth the word of god, and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth; and he treadeth the winepress in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

21 And the remnant were slain with the word of him that sat upon the horse, which word proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

KJV
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

Additions via Doctrine & Covenants
And, finally, Doctrine & Covenants 77 is a wholesale addition to the Book of Revelation by claiming to be a divinely inspired interpretation of the book directly from God Himself.  For example, the woman [the Church], the child [the kingdom of God], the rod of iron [the word of God], the dragon [Satan], and Michael are explained. The war in heaven is continued on the earth. These are all additions to the Book of Revelation text with no manuscript support to justify them.

An early copy of Doctrine & Covenants 77 (click to zoom)

An early copy of Doctrine & Covenants 77

Doctrine &Covenants 77
Q. What is the sea of glass spoken of by John, 4th chapter, and 6th verse of the Revelation?

A. It is the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state.

Q. What are we to understand by the four beasts, spoken of in the same verse?

A. They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air; that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.

Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?

A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.

Q. What are we to understand by the eyes and wings, which the beasts had?

A. Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge, that is, they are full of knowledge; and their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.

Q. What are we to understand by the four and twenty elders, spoken of by John?

A. We are to understand that these elders whom John saw, were elders who had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches, and were then in the paradise of God.

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?

A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will,mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?

A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.

Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.

Q. What are we to understand by the angel ascending from the east, Revelation 7th chapter and 2nd verse?

A. We are to understand that the angel ascending from the east is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And, if you will receive it, this is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things.

10 Q. What time are the things spoken of in this chapter to be accomplished?

A. They are to be accomplished in the sixth thousand years, or the opening of the sixth seal.

11 Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe?

A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.

12 Q. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpets, mentioned in the 8th chapter of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things; and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming.

13 Q. When are the things to be accomplished, which are written in the 9th chapter of Revelation?A. They are to be accomplished after the opening of the seventh seal, before the coming of Christ.

14 Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?

A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.

15 Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?

A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers.

bible-revelation-1_EDITED

Summary and conclusion
So there is it, Joseph Smith blatantly, overtly, boldly, and without any trace of concern, embarrassment, guilt, or remorse took away from and added to the very biblical book that Christ stated doing so would result in plagues and damnation. Yet, remarkably, the LdS Church not only doesn’t deny this fact, it actually boasts about it:

Acting by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, Joseph Smith corrected portions, but not all, of what is amiss in the King James Version of the Bible. In the book of Revelation corrections, for instance, the angels of the various earthly churches become the servants (presiding officers) of those units. The lamb with seven horns and seven eyes becomes a lamb with 12 eyes and 12 horns, thus perfecting the symbolism to identify Christ and his apostles. Chapter 12 is so revised as to identify the woman as the church of God and the child that she brought forth as the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. And so forth.
– LdS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, “Understanding the Book of Revelation”[1]

What Mr. McConkie failed to mention here is that Joseph Smith had absolutely no manuscript support – or verifiable support of any kind for that matter – for his changes while the King James translators remained faithful to the source manuscripts they translated from. In other words, Mr. McConkie’s arguments are fatally flawed and rooted in blatant confirmation bias – that is, Mr. McConkie comes to the conclusion first and then bends the facts to fit it.

Again, the evidence is clear that Joseph Smith very much disobeyed and violated the explicit instructions of Jesus Christ in Revelation 22:16-22 and one need go no further than official, correlated LdS Church sources to see it.[2]

NOTES
[1] Bruce R. McConkie, “Understanding the Book of Revelation”, Ensign, September 1975. A fuller explanation and analysis of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible can be found on the Mormon Think (click here) and Mormon Research Ministry (click here) websites.

[2] In addition to the McConkie Ensign article referenced in the prior footnote, the reader can also cross reference the passages using the LDS.org website as noted throughout this article. For example this link provides a quick summary of some (but not all) of the changes that Joseph Smith made to the Book of Revelation: Scriptures: JST Revelation.

“Joseph Smith Translating” by Nelson

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We Agree with Moroni 8--18

“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
Moroni 8:18

There was a time when Mormons agreed with Moroni 8:18. As Mormon historian Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”1

Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
Psalm 90:2 (JST)

“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”
Isaiah 43:10 (JST)

“I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.”
Isaiah 44:6 (JST)

Doctrine and Covenants
In what was originally read to Church membership as the “Articles and Covenants of the Church,” D&C 20:17 spoke of the God who was always the same unchangeable God: “By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…” D&C 76:4 spoke of this same God: “From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail…”

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Book of Mormon that God is a spirit (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53.) Click on image to zoom and read.

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Bible and the Book of Mormon that God is an eternal, unchanging, triune Being (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53). Click on image to zoom and read.

Lectures on Faith
In what was originally a part of Mormon scripture, Lecture 3 of the Lectures on Faith taught, “A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes” is “…necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” It goes on to quote the word of God, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” The lecture then goes on to say that, “he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”

Book of Mormon
This echoes Mosiah 3:5, which speaks of “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…” Moroni 7:22 also speaks of “God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…” A chapter later we learn in Moroni 8:18 that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.” Other passages in the Book of Mormon also reaffirm God’s eternal, unchangeable nature:

“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 27:23

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 29:9

“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever , and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?”
Mormon 9:9

“And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchanging Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”
Mormon 9:19

Mormonism Radically Changed
The Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830. Fourteen years later, Mormon theology had dramatically changed. On April 7, 1844, Joseph Smith preached his famous King Follett Discourse. In it he taught:

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…

It is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple…

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you…2

Lorenzo Snow summarized the big idea that further developed like this: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may be.”

Since then, Mormonism has never been the same. Mormons now radically re-interpret verses like Moroni 8:18 and essentially reject the original teaching that God was unchangeably God from all eternity to all eternity. Mormons are now even in disarray and confusion over whether Heavenly Father was once a sinful mortal.3

Again, Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

NOTES
1 Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology.” Sunstone 5:4; July-August 1980

2 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. On June 16, 1844, Smith went on to teach that Heavenly Father has his own Heavenly Father (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 473-479). Also see Ensign, April 1971 and May 1971.

3 See http://GodNeverSinned.com

JST = The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (aka “The Inspired Version”)

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Introduction: In 2004, after Richard J. Mouw’s now infamous apology in the Mormon Tabernacle, Ron V. Huggins of  the Salt Lake Theological Seminary wrote an article that the ensuing years has come to be known as “the infamous Pander/Slander Article”. That is, the watershed article on how Christians wishing to enter into interfaith dialogue or relationship with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will slander their brothers and sisters in Christ and pander to Latter-day Saints. Now, one would think that an article written eleven years ago would have little relevance over a decade later wouldn’t you? However, the recent pander/slander tactics of Baptist Theologian Roger E. Olson, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Pastor Chris Duckworth, have prompted us to reintroduce this classic article to a new audience for their edification and enlightenment. Folks, it looks like it’s 2004 all over again! — Editor

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats itby Ronald V. Huggins, B.F.A., Th.D.
On November 14, 2004, well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias appeared in Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle. What might have been a remarkable opportunity for interfaith dialogue between Mormons and Christians was seriously damaged when Dr. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, issued a controversial apology that seemed to portray Evangelicals as commonly bearing false witness against Mormons. Evangelicals present at the event, even some of those sitting on the stage, went away with the clear impression that Mouw was aiming his criticism at them and excluding only the small group of out-of-towners brought in by Greg Johnson’s ministry, Standing Together, which sponsored the event.

Let me make it clear that I agree that some Evangelicals have certainly been unkind to Mormons and have been guilty of inaccurately portraying Mormon beliefs. But this does not characterize the attitudes and actions of most evangelical churches and ministries, which is what made Mouw’s blanket apology inappropriate.

In the days following the event Ravi’s powerful preaching was radically downplayed, as Mouw and his apology moved to center stage. The LDS Church News carried an article entitled “Ravi Zacharias Speaks at the Tabernacle,” that dedicated more than a third of its three columns to Mouw’s remarks and only a single paragraph at the end to Ravi’s message. The official LDS Church web page reported the event as if Richard Mouw had been the main and indeed the only speaker at the event, making no mention of Ravi Zacharias at all. I include here the entire story as it appeared on the official LDS Church website (www.mormonnewsroom.org) on 29 Nov. 2004:

Evangelical Calls for Greater Understanding. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the largest in North America, spoke at Salt Lake Tabernacle November 14 during an ‘Evening of Friendship.’ At the event Mr. Mouw said, ‘I am now convinced that we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. …We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe.’

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

The story is accompanied by a photograph of Dr. Mouw along with a link to Beliefnet.com, where his entire remarks on that occasion are found under the heading: “‘We Have Sinned Against You.’ A leading evangelical speaks at the Mormon Tabernacle and says evangelicals have spread lies about LDS beliefs.”

Richard Mouw is credited with posting the remarks, but the introduction speaks of Mouw in the third person. In that introduction the Southern Baptists are specifically named as representing (apparently) the kind of thing Mouw was attacking in his remarks, despite the fact that South East Baptist Church was one of the sponsors of the Tabernacle event and its pastor, Mike Gray, was included among those seated on the stage.

It’s hard, in light of this reporting, not to view the LDS Church as somewhat self-serving in its backing of Ravi’s appearance. Acting as if it wished to engender good relations between Mormons and Evangelicals before the event (which was co-sponsored by the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Studies at BYU), the LDS Church seemed to quickly drop any interest in Ravi once it was over.

Some Christians in Utah were surprised and disappointed by the apparent bad faith reflected in the LDS Church’s post-event coverage; others, including myself, expected it on the basis of the conviction that, contrary to the belief and hope of many Evangelicals, the LDS Church does not appear ready for, nor does it seem really to desire, authentic dialogue with Evangelicals. What the LDS Church certainly does seem to desire is mainline respectability. It is clearly interested in finding room at its events for those Evangelicals who are willing to publicly disparage their own brethren and so to lend a hand to its own project of marginalizing (rather than interacting with) careful and credible critics like Jerald and Sandra Tanner, the Institute for Religious Research (IRR), and others. As such, the LDS Church appears to be interested in “dialoguing” only with Evangelicals who lack an in-depth knowledge of Mormon history and doctrine, and who are thus more likely to take at face value the representations of its PR people.

This was dramatically illustrated for me at the 2004 regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Association of Religion held at BYU. After the event Dr. James Wakefield and I were talking with another Evangelical scholar visiting from Fuller Theological Seminary. All three of us had presented papers. Suddenly a senior Mormon scholar and apologist very deliberately and ceremoniously reached his hand between Dr. Wakefield and me in order to introduce himself to the scholar from Fuller. He displayed no interest whatever in speaking to Dr. Wakefield or me, despite the fact that he had sat intently taking extensive notes during my entire paper, and also, that I had recently published an article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought that had interacted with, and challenged, some of his writings.

Many pastors in Utah, including those supportive of the Tabernacle event, were deeply disappointed by Dr. Mouw’s apology. On December 3, 2004, some twenty-five pastors and other Christian ministers met with Standing Together director Greg Johnson to discuss the event. A number of those present (including myself) had come from ministries that had financially supported the event. Some had even been present on the stage during the event. There was, I think it is fair to say, a solid majority that felt Dr. Mouw’s apology was both ill-advised and inappropriate; a significant number of those present (again including myself) felt it was highly inappropriate.

After Greg Johnson had assured them that there had been no way to know beforehand that Dr. Mouw would make his unfortunate remarks, the gathered pastors naturally expressed surprise at learning that the faculty of Salt Lake Theological Seminary (SLTS) had communicated with Dr. Mouw in August 2004 and expressed concern that he avoid following the pattern he had established in writing and public events during the past few years of disparaging earlier Christian efforts to reach Mormons for Christ. Regrettably, Dr. Mouw ignored the SLTS faculty’s concern. Nearly all those present at the meeting understood Mouw’s accusation to be directed at ministers in Utah in general.

how-wide-the-divideUnfortunately, Dr. Mouw’s disparaging remarks towards his fellow Evangelicals at the Tabernacle are not the first example of this kind of behavior in an event sponsored by Standing Together. The difficulty is that Evangelicals associated with that ministry have developed unhealthy, lopsided relationships with Mormon apologists. Several years ago I came up with a name for this “evangelistic strategy” – the “Pander/Slander” method: “If you want to pander to the Mormon apologists not ready for real dialogue, the cost is going to be a willingness to slander the Christian brethren that went before you.” Anyone who has read How Wide the Divide? by Evangelical Craig Blomberg and Mormon Stephen Robinson, a project spurred on by Standing Together’s Greg Johnson, will have noticed that Mormon scholar Stephen Robinson very quickly wraps himself in a cloak of victim privilege and makes sure Blomberg understands he is going to regard any challenges to his idiosyncratic expressions of Mormon doctrine as persecution. He acts, in other words, as a victim-bully. Once the book was out there, anyone who criticized Blomberg for not challenging Robinson’s evasions was denounced by Mormon apologists. So the cloak of victim privilege was thrown over the shoulders of Blomberg too. So also now with Richard Mouw and Standing Together.

In saying this I must stress that Craig Blomberg is an excellent scholar and the fact that he behaved in a more scholarly and gentlemanly manner than Robinson did in that exchange should surely not be held against him.

As early as 2002 I cautioned Greg Johnson against belittling earlier Christian efforts at reaching Mormons as a way of buying credibility with Mormon apologists. In 2001 I similarly cautioned Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, two of the editors of The New Mormon Challenge, a work with a Foreword by Richard Mouw, in which he again declares himself “ashamed” of fellow Christians who have labored in the field before him.

Acting, in my view, with similar lack of good faith in relation to the publication of that book, the Mormons first pretended to be supportive of the project and then quickly panned it afterwards as just another anti-Mormon effort. Not only so, but after promising to appear at a public book-launching event in Salt Lake City (The New Mormon Challenge Conference), the major Mormon participants cancelled out at the last minute, leaving only the idiosyncratic Mormon maverick lawyer-theologian-apologist Blake Ostler to represent the Mormon side. When the FARMS Review of Books came out with its take on The New Mormon Challenge in the winter of 2002, one of its authors, Louis Midgley, quoted one of the principles set out in Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley’s 1963 “How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book” against the book’s editors:

“A benign criticism of your predecessors will go far towards confirming your own preeminence in the field. Refer gently but firmly,” Nibley admonishes, “to the bias, prejudices, and inadequate research, however unconscious or understandable, of other books on the subject.” It should be noted that Mosser and Owen began their venture into Anti-Mormonism with an essay in which they neatly positioned themselves to come to the rescue of the evangelicals overwhelmed by the “new Mormon challenge,” by doing what previous writers have lacked the skill and knowledge to accomplish.[1]

The New Mormon ChallengeMidgley’s comments are interesting. Prior to the release of the book, FARMS had singled out Mosser and Owen for high acclaim as if they were the only Evangelicals that ever deserved the name “scholar,” even at the time when neither had his doctorate. It had even re-released and praised the article Midgley now damns as “anti-Mormon.” More than a year before this review I warned Mosser and Owen that they were being used and that all the apparent friendship and support the Mormon apologists pretended to be giving them then would suddenly vanish the moment they ceased being useful. I had hoped I was being too cynical, that there might have been a glimmer of something real in the Mormon apologists’ relationship with Mosser and Owen. Sadly, my fears subsequently appear to have been confirmed.

Mosser and Owen are fine scholars who should not be condemned for being naïve. They are young and it is surely forgivable that they would have wanted to assume that the trusted leaders of a religious organization that claims to represent Jesus Christ on the earth would act with greater ethical integrity in its relationship with outsiders. Alas, we must all live and learn.

In any case, The New Mormon Challenge did represent an important bluff caller. For a long time previous to its release Mormons had been complaining that no one with scholarly credentials had critically and carefully interacted with their scholarship. My own position on that question was that it was incumbent on nobody to interact with the work of Mormon apologists until they produced something of real scholarly significance that could stand on its own outside Mormon circles. I had read a good deal of it and found that in the areas in which I had particular expertise, their work was, with a few exceptions, appallingly inadequate. The New Mormon Challenge at least provided exactly the scholarly interaction the Mormon apologists wanted, and yet since its release they have shown themselves to be as disinterested in real interaction as before. Their only long-term interest seems to be with Evangelicals who, lacking a sufficient understanding of their teaching, will pander to them without challenging them with anything deeper than broad allusions to “serious differences that divide us.”

With Dr. Mouw’s most recent apology at the Tabernacle, I am concerned that Standing Together will become fixed in its commitment to a strategy of disparaging earlier efforts to reach Mormons. If this appearance is correct, it is not a healthy development.

Dr. Mouw’s troubling comments at the recent Tabernacle event have damaged not only his own credibility among ministers in Utah, but also the credibility of the leadership of Standing Together. This is regrettable because their role in fostering Evangelical-Mormon dialogue is an important one. Many Christians in Utah and elsewhere would long for an apology on the part of Dr. Mouw to Utah pastors and mainstream Evangelical ministries to the LDS community affected by his comments. This is especially so in view of his planned participation in a Joseph Smith bicentennial event at the Library of Congress event in May 2005. Robert Millet at BYU has had a leading role in planning this event and the non-Mormon scholars who are participating in it have apparently been carefully hand-picked for what they will not say rather than for what they will say. We should be very troubled if Mouw insists on offering another one of his blanket apologies at that event, although I am concerned that he may very well do so.

Meanwhile, I would urge those at BYU and the Library of Congress who are planning the May 2005 Joseph Smith Bicentennial event to include the participation of legitimate Mormon and non-Mormon scholars whose work is not necessarily “faith promoting.” My desire as a representative of the latter group is to participate in dialogue that is not only respectful, but also authentic.

Postscript: The Joseph Smith Bicentennial event (entitled “The Worlds of Joseph Smith”) was held at the Library of Congress on May 6&7, 2005. And, as the author anticipated, the roster was stacked with scholars whose work and narrative regarding Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church was overwhelmingly skewed toward the “faith promoting” side of the line. The audio and video files from this event are no longer available but a bound volumes of the papers presented at this event can be purchased from Amazon. — Editor

Ron Huggins Bio ShotABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron V. Huggins, is Assistant Professor of Theological & Historical Studies, Salt Lake Theological Seminary and an Executive Board Member at The Institute for Religious Research.

Born in Moscow, Idaho and reared a Roman Catholic, Ron came to know Christ in 1976 during his last year as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho.

Shortly after his conversion Ron read a biography of Martin Luther, and it became clear to him (much to his surprise) that God can use educated people to further His kingdom. This new understanding sparked a desire for further theological education, which was not realized for a number of years while Ron was engaged in various ministries (including a four-year stint on the staff of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho).

In 1984 Ron was able to see his dream fulfilled by beginning to pursue a Masters degree at Regent College, Vancouver. After finishing his doctorate at Toronto in 1997 and before coming to Salt Lake Theological Seminary, Ron taught Church History at Moody Bible Institute Center for External Studies in Spokane Washington. During the same period he also taught Latin in private Christian Schools.

Ron was married in 1980. He and his wife Marguerite have four daughters: Sarah, Anna, Nollie, and Mary.

NOTES
[1] Louis C. Midgley, “Faulty Topography,” FARMS Review of Books, 14.1-2 (2002): 148.

Further Reading
– A transcript of Dr. Mouw’s original November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle apology can be read here.  
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.
– Mike Thomas’ critical analysis and editorial on Dr. Mouw’s methods and mean cans can be read here.
– The Official Statement on Richard Mouw by Evangelical Ministries to New Religions can be read here.
– Fred W. Anson’s apology for Richard J. Mouw can be read here.

a_logo© 2015 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research website. It is republished here per IRR’s usage guidelines and with their express permission. Beggar’s Bread is thankful to IRR their generosity in allowing us to republish Dr. Huggin’s classic article. 

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