Archive for September, 2019

An early 20th Century Postcard of the Baptismal Font in the Salt Lake City Temple.

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the fifth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

21) Doctrine &Covenants 20:37’s explicit and hard requirement of repentance from sin as a prerequisite to baptism.
Mormonism claims Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) Section 20 as its great mandate from Christ as to how His restored Church was to be structured and organized. As the section header for this revelation states:

Revelation on Church organization and government, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at or near Fayette, New York. Portions of this revelation may have been given as early as summer 1829. The complete revelation, known at the time as the Articles and Covenants, was likely recorded soon after April 6, 1830 (the day the Church was organized). The Prophet wrote, “We obtained of Him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to His will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once more here upon the earth.”

Included in this revelation, in verse 37 it is stated that one must repent prior to baptism:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.
(D&C 20:37, bolding added for emphasis) 

In Early Mormonism, it was explicitly taught that one must fully repent prior to baptism as  the Book of Mormon explicitly states:

But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
(2 Nepi 31:14, italics and bolding added for emphasis) 

Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
(Alma 7:15, italics and bolding added for emphasis) 

And the teachings of Mormon leaders tightly reflected this pattern:

If you have been righteous from your birth up, and have never committed known sins and transgressions, be baptized to fulfil all righteousness, as Jesus was. If you can say you have no sins to repent of, forsake your false theories, and love and serve God with an undivided heart
(Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.159; bolding added for emphasis)

Has water, in itself, any virtue to wash away sin? Certainly not; but the Lord says, “If the sinner will repent of his sins, and go down into the waters of baptism, and there be buried in the likeness of being put into the earth and buried, and again be delivered from the water, in the likeness of being born—if in the sincerity of his heart he will do this, his sins shall be washed away.” Will the water of itself wash them away? No; but keeping the commandments of God will cleanse away the stain of sin
(Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.159; bolding added for emphasis)

But oddly, in modern Mormonism water baptism has morphed from something that one does after one has already repented to becoming the actual act of repentance itself resulting from remorse over past sin. Just consider these quotes from modern Church Leaders and literature:

Each ordinance and requirement given to man for the purpose of bringing to pass his salvation and exaltation is a covenant. Baptism for the remission of sins is a covenant. When this ordinance was revealed in this dispensation, the Lord called it “a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” This covenant was given in the beginning and was lost to men through apostasy, therefore, when it was revealed again, it became to man a new covenant, although it was from the beginning, and it is everlasting since its effects upon the individual endure forever. Then again, whenever there is need for repentance, baptism is the method, or law, given of the Lord by which the remission of sins shall come, and so this law is everlasting. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:152)

In addition to recognizing our sins, we must feel sincere sorrow for what we have done. We must feel that our sins are terrible. We must want to unload and abandon them. The scriptures tell us, “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and … have truly repented of all their sins … shall be received by baptism into his church” (D&C 20:37).
(“Repentance”, “Gospel Principles (2011 edition)”, ellipses in original, bolding added for emphasis.) 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. It begins with faith in Christ. We believe in Him, trust Him, and depend on Him. Such faith leads us to repent—to stop doing things that are wrong and continue doing things that are right. Our faith in Him also makes us want to show our love by keeping His commandments, including baptism.
(“Lesson 3: The Gospel of Jesus Christ,”Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2018)”)

“… Sincere repentance will lead to the waters of baptism and forgiveness; but the need for repentance will continue while life lasts. Through baptism we may obtain forgiveness for past sins but it does not guarantee against future folly. Repentance is a vital requisite to the growing life. …”
(Hugh B. Brown, “Eternal Quest”, p.102, quoted in “Chapter 14: Repentance,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000)”, ellipses in original, bolding added for emphasis.) 

Granted, in modern Mormonism, this can all be a bit fuzzy with Mormon authors sometimes seeming to refer to the Early Mormon doctrine of repentance as a hard prerequisite for baptism and other authors seeming to refer to baptism as the evidence of the act of repentance but the fact remains that there has been a subtle, but distinct shift away from the former. What used to be hard black and white is now gray and gooey. One can’t wonder if modern Mission Baptism quotas and other such pressures to generate baptisms – which didn’t exist in the much looser Early Mormon Mission system – aren’t at least in part responsible for sweeping the clear words of D&C 20:37 and the Book of Mormon regarding repentance as a hard prerequisite for baptism into the dustbin.

22) Baptism for health.
Are you sick? Do you need to be healed? What should you do? Why go to the Temple and receive a Baptism for Health of course! Being baptized for health was started by Joseph Smith in the early 1840s and ended in 1922. Here’s an account of the practice:

“SHORTLY AFTER HER HUSBAND returned home from a British mission in 1890, thirty-six-year-old Eleanor Cannon Woodbury Jarvis entered the St. George Temple font. This mother of eight sought a miracle. She remembered: “In the spring of 1884 my health failed and I had very poor health for the next 17 or 18 years. I was very near death’s door several times, but by the power of Faith my life was spared. . . . I was taken to the Temple in a wheelchair, was carried into the Font, baptized for my health & walked out & dressed myself, the first time for six months.”’
(Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, ‘“They Shall Be Made Whole”: A History of Baptism for Health”, The Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2008, p.69)

At its popularity baptism for health was the most common and popular form of Mormon Baptism. The practice quietly ended in the early 1920’s:

“The ultimate demise of healing by immersion was a top-down phenomenon, originating among the upper echelons of Church leadership. Early Mormons lived in a dynamic period of literal restoration: new scripture, charismata, a biblical exodus, and the return of the healing pools of old. As their healing liturgy became separated from the temple, Latter-day Saints did not completely forsake the curative nature of these edifices but sought the temple as a place of spiritual, not physical, healing and renewal. Although not part of modern LDS praxis, baptism for healing is an integral feature of Mormon history and played an important role in the development of the modern Church’s rituals and conceptualizations of healing. It was born of Mormonism’s charismatic restoration, received Joseph Smith’s revelatory support, and was promoted by generations of Church leaders. Although it was ultimately eliminated from the lexicon of the faithful, it provides an illuminating window through which historians can view the health, life, and death of Mormon men and women.”
(Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, ‘“They Shall Be Made Whole”: A History of Baptism for Health”, The Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2008, p.112)

Today this practice has simply been swept into the dustbin.

23) Church members in good standing being rebaptized for the remission of sin and/or the renewal of covenants.
This was a practice that Joseph Smith started:

In late 1839, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (by an 1838 revelation) was relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois. Many who were already baptized members of the church, were rebaptised either to show a renewal of their commitment to the movement or as part of a healing ordinance.
(“Rebaptism (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia) 

That small precedent developed into a widespread ordinance under Brigham Young:

After the death of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, in 1844, rebaptism became a more important ordinance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), as led by Brigham Young. Young led his group to the Great Basin in what is now Utah, and most of his followers were rebaptized soon after arriving as a sign that they would rededicate their lives to Christ. During the “Mormon Reformation” of 1856–57, rebaptism became an extremely important ordinance, signifying that the church member confessed their sins and would live a life of a Latter-day Saint. Church members were rebaptized prior to new covenants and ordinances, such as ordination to a new office of the priesthood, receiving temple ordinances, getting married, or entering plural marriage.
(“Rebaptism (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia) 

Finally, the First Presidency deemed such widespread use of rebaptism improper, so in 1893 they changed it – although under extenuating circumstances it lingered on for a while before it finally tickled down and dried up. As a result, today about the only time you see a Latter-day Saint rebaptized is when somebody already known to have been previously baptized in accordance with LDS doctrine is excommunicated rejoins the church.

Other than that, Mormon rebaptism has been brushed right into the dustbin – or, if you prefer, has gone down the drain and then straight down the memory hole to never be seen again.

A contemporary photo of the Baptismal Font in the Provo City Center Temple.

by Brian Horner
Like virtually all of the 19th century, American cults of Christianity, Mormonism began as an attack on the historically orthodox, biblical faith that it claims to have “restored”. While individual Mormons and Mormon leaders hold some diverse views on this matter, the basic idea they all share is that at some time shortly after the death of the last apostle, the authority of the gospel, the church and the Word of God (the Bible) was lost due to a universal, general apostasy and corruptions introduced into the Bible. The predicate to Mormonism’s alleged, “restoration”, is what Mormons are taught to regard as the “great apostasy”. The disdain that Mormon “prophets” and other leaders held for the vast majority of Christians who populated the orthodox Body of Christ throughout the ages –actually for the roughly 95% of the history of Christianity between this “great apostasy” and the initiation of Joseph Smith’s prophetic career in 1830—is palpable and obvious in their own words.

Mormonism begins with Joseph Smith’s alleged “First Vision” – an event, which Smith described with contradictory variations. But the basic message lies in every version: Mr. Smith claimed to have received this revelation from God (or the Mormon Gods “Heavenly Father” and his son “Jesus Christ”):

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.
(Joseph Smith – History 1:19)

Here Smith attributes an explicit condemnation of the Christian church as “corrupt” and “an abomination” to God himself (or by the Mormon Gods, including Jesus Christ).

Brigham Young, the second “prophet” of the LDS organization carried on this Mormon tradition teaching that, “The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to their knowledge of the salvation of God” (Journal of Discourses 8:171). He continued, “With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.” (ibid, 8:199). According to this Mormon “prophet”, Christians are totally ignorant heathens.

Young’s successor, John Taylor, confirmed this in his preaching. “What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing; yet these very men assume the right and power to tell others what they shall and what they shall not believe in. Why, so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.” (Taylor, ibid, 13:225). Taylor taught the Mormon faithful, that Christians are fools.

Similar assaults against historically orthodox, biblical Christianity continued throughout several generations of Mormon “prophets”. Their message regarding this “great apostasy” was driven to the logical and common conclusion held by Mormons today as represented by B.H. Roberts, the most highly placed, official LDS historian within the organization. He said, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p.xlii).

Dug's Special Mission_EDITED

This is consistent with both the message of the Mormon “prophets”, on this matter as well as the natural, even the necessary logical extension of the original, alleged “revelation from God” experienced by Smith and his successors, ever since. If Christianity had survived and was still alive and well in any form, anywhere on earth in 1830, then it would have been impossible to “restore” it with Mormonism. It is impossible to “restore” anything, in the sense that Mormonism uses the term, which already exists. This message is nothing less than the condemnation of the entire Christian church, allegedly from God himself. It has been carried down through the history of Mormonism to the present day and it is one of the key, essential claims that Mormons use to justify the existence of their religion. If Christ had remained with and in His church as He promised and God had not condemned the Christian church, as Mormons claim, then there would be no need for the existence of the entire Mormon religion. Its existence would simply be redundant as well as contradictory to the historic orthodox faith.

So what does all of this have to do with the Mormon rhetorical tactic of deflection? It serves as a topic that provides an excellent example of the kind of argumentation I want to describe here. I have debated this particular topic (and many others) with Mormons for decades. I have found that This topic is highly useful in exposing the falsehood of Mormonism since like so many things taught and believed by Mormons. Their view on this matter cannot be reduced to a matter of “faith”. It is a purely historical topic and the truth of any such claims as this can be easily determined by simply examining the historical facts.

Keep that in mind as we proceed, using this issue as an example of this kind of problem. After all, we are simply discussing the historical assertion of what Jesus, his apostles, and their churches taught. The issue is not the truthfulness or the meaning of what they affirmed and taught; it is simply a matter of identifying the teaching itself. Did Jesus teach the distinctively Mormon doctrines and practice of not? One can agree or disagree with what these doctrines meant or how to interpret them. The issue here is this: Were they actually taught it in the first place?

When Christians question or challenge the claims of Mormonism you can count on one thing: Mormons will almost invariably try to change the subject when they perceive that they cannot answer or defend the claims of their organization. The above doctrine of this supposed, “great apostasy” is an excellent example. The dialog usually follows this basic pattern, exemplified by Mark (a Christian) and Larry (a Mormon):

Mark: So let me be sure of our claim here; Joseph Smith received revelations from God about how the whole Christian faith had been corrupted and had decayed into an abomination to God. Is that right?

Larry: Yes that’s basically it.

Mark: “And now, at this point in time, we have Mormonism, which is the restoration of what was lost in this ‘Great Apostasy’, right?”

Larry: Correct. Joseph Smith was appointed by God to bring people back to the true gospel and God used him as the prophet of the Restoration. As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s one true church, which is the only church on the earth today that retains the authority of the prophets and apostles who are still the foundation of the church, according to Ephesians 2:20.

Mark: Well that is pretty difficult to believe.

Larry: Why? Don’t you think that God wants his authority and the true gospel to be represented by his church?

Mark: Yes. But, if Mormonism is the restoration of the Gospel of Christ then we should be able to see that Christ himself taught the distinctive doctrines and practices that Mormons claim to have “restored”. I mean, you guys cannot have ‘restored’ something that never existed. And if it exists today, there was no need to “restore” it. Mormonism includes a whole bunch of things, in fact even requires lots of things that neither Christ nor his 12 apostles ever taught, like polytheism, the Mormon temple rituals, God the Father is a man living in outer space, and so on. Can you show me some reasons to think that Jesus or his apostles ever taught such things? …

At this point, Larry (or any Mormon) will almost always evade that question, and then cover his retreat with any of a variety of “red herrings” – a named logical fallacy, aka “Ignoratio elenchi”. This fallacy is deployed to distract the exchange or an audience from a point or a question. If successful, the Mormon will derail the conversation away from the question that he or she knows they cannot answer without causing irreparable damage to their religion’s public image.

In this scenario, Larry might respond to Mark’s question by ignoring it and launching a counter-question such as, “Can you prove that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount”? Or he might ask, “Can you prove that Jesus walked on water”? or “Can you show me some reasons to think that the Hebrews migrated out of Egypt?” etc.

It is important to notice that there is no answer to Mark’s question in Larry’s response. Instead, he is trying to evade the question (avoid answering it) and then misdirect the conversation off onto a different topic, usually in such a way as to illustrate that no one can “prove” anything in the Bible to be true as long as someone refuses to believe it, just as we Christians refuse to believe that Christ ever taught the distinctive Mormon doctrines that their organization supposedly “restored” such as, for example, that dogma God the Father is a man living in outer space.

But the red herring fallacy is not the only evasion they use. Frequently the Mormon will deflect a direct question by attempting to abstract the subject matter to a level where he can technically “answer” the question by answering a question about the broader context containing Mark’s question. For example, the Mormon might respond to a challenge to show that Jesus and his apostles ever taught Mormonism’s distinctive dogmas by trying to show that the Bible elsewhere mentions other “gods” and that the Jews were indeed polytheistic, thereby proving that Jesus taught polytheism – a central dogma of Mormonism that are absent from the New Testament and Christianity for it’s entire history. This effort to broaden the issue is just another trick. It’s a bit more clever since it can be shown that indeed the Bible at least mentions other ‘gods’. It also describes the Jews practicing polytheism. But this deflection falls flat on its face in light of two simple facts so easily observed in the text of the Bible.

First, this “answer” simply ignores the obvious fact so evident in the context where these gods are mentioned, that they are repeatedly identified as false gods (Ps 115 and 135 are good examples). It also ignores the many explicit declarations by God that He alone is the only God that is, was or ever will be. (There are numerous examples throughout the Bible. Isaiah 44-46 contain clear and explicit revelations on this matter). Finally, it ignores the horrific punishment that God meted out on His people for their sin of practicing and teaching polytheism. Thus, the mentions of polytheism in the Old Testament are purely descriptive and not proscriptive. God tells the truth that some of His chosen people did indeed slip into this worldview. But pointing out that they sinned is not God’s endorsement of their sin of polytheism.

Secondly, this answer does not answer the actual question that was asked, pertaining to Jesus Christ, his apostles, and their churches supposedly teaching polytheism. If Jesus understood the Old Testament to actually endorse polytheism, as Mormons infer he must have, then we rightly expect that he would have made that point. After all, the number of Gods in existence must obviously be a critically important element of ANY coherent theology and we expect Jesus to have come with the truth on this essential point. If Jesus understood that there really are MANY Gods (one of the alleged, teachings of Christ that Mormons claim to have “restored”), then surely we should see some evidence of that somewhere in his own words, the words of his apostles or even their churches. Yet, no such evidence exists. The state of the evidence argues that the Mormon claim that Jesus taught polytheism to his disciples is therefore rightly regarded as false, by virtue of the lack of any reason to think he did!

I do not want to get down in the weeds of these particular Mormon doctrines here in this post. This issue of the Mormons claiming to have “restored” the original, authentic teachings of Jesus Christ supposedly lost to the earth in the alleged, “great apostasy” is only here as an example of the point I want to make, which is an examination of the tactics used by Mormons when responding to Christian challenges to the claims of their religion.

The larger point here is to be on the lookout for the distractions, deflections, evasions, counter-challenges, etc. used by Mormons in ways that, by virtue of their highly predictable commonality, appear to have been somehow ingrained into their subconscious. If you have ever debated Mormons and have not seen this behavior, consider yourself to be extremely unique. I have debated Mormons for decades and cannot remember even a single encounter wherein my Mormon correspondent did not quickly try to change the subject when it was clear that he or she could not allow him/herself to answer me honestly.

When challenging or questioning the claims of Mormonism, you will find or have already found that the deceptive practice of deflecting questions and responding with red herrings is a real problem. My advice is twofold:

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet. Click on the above image to see a video of Mr. Millett instructing Mormon Young People on how to deflect and evade direct questions and challenges from outsiders and critics.

1. Formulate your questions and challenges carefully and thoughtfully.
Another game Mormons seem to have been trained to play is to avoid answering your questions and challenges by parsing out words and/or quibbling with the form of the question rather than its intended content. They will frequently misrepresent your question (a straw man fallacy), in an effort to answer the question you “should have asked”, to quote Robert Millett, a popular BYU professor, and Mormon Apologist, instead of the question that you actually asked. There is nothing you can do to eliminate this evasion. But you can make it hard for them to use it effectively by carefully stating a well-thought-out challenge or question.

2. Do not be distracted by the tricks.
Pay careful attention to the Mormon’s response. Listen for a direct, honest answer to your question or challenge. This does not mean siphoning the response for only the answer you want. It means accepting an honest, truthful and valid answer to the question. As long as your question/challenge strikes at the heart of the Mormon claim in question, you are unlikely to get that answer. What you are far more likely to get is a deflection of some kind – perhaps very much like the ones illustrated above. In that case, your response should be to point out that you do not see how the deflection answers the specific question that you asked. Stay focused on your question or challenge. Repeat your question until you get an answer and always insist on an actual answer.

This is where forethought about your own question is important. You do not want to have to clarify the question after the Mormon evades it, because then you run the risk of being accused of “moving the goalposts” and your Mormon friend (or opponent) is not likely to let that slip and will use it constantly as an excuse to continue avoiding your questions. Also, see if you can get your Mormon friend to back up their answer, if it ever comes, by offering some supporting evidence and valid argumentation. (You will almost never get this far). When a direct answer, backed up by evidence and/or valid reasoning does not come, be careful in how you point out that failure. Expect it and don’t let it bug you. Just point out why the answer is invalid.

Unfortunately trying to lead someone who has been deceived –in some cases for an entire lifetime—to simply be honest with you and therefore with themselves will rarely end well. We human beings have a tendency to be defensive about the things we believe. A psychological condition called, “normalcy bias” will kick in and cause people to try whatever they can to get away from the facts that prove that they have been deceived. Moreover, a confrontation with factual reality that debunks closely held beliefs will frequently induce cognitive dissonance, causing many people serious intellectual and emotional distress. So be gentle if you can. Remember that 1st Peter 3:15 calls us to be prepared to have an answer (Greek: “apologia”) for the hope that is within us, but to do so with gentleness and respect:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
— Peter 3:15 NIV

About the Author
Brian Horner graduated with a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He now sails around the Caribbean serving various ministries and teaching apologetics when he’s not writing articles like this one.

A Response to Greg Trimble’s “Why The Bible Needed to Be Rescued”

This Bible was damaged saving the life of a British Royal Army Medical Corps nurse when a German plane machine-gunned the makeshift hospital he was serving in during World War I. (click image to read full story)

by Michael Flournoy
Ask a Latter-day Saint about their faith, and they’ll proudly proclaim that God has given them new scripture. In addition to the Bible, they have The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Their modern-day prophets and apostles also speak scripture over the pulpit twice a year at General Conference.

In a recent article entitled, “Why the Bible Needed to be Rescued”, LDS blogger Greg Trimble argues that the Bible is not complete. He says, “So, when someone says the Bible is complete, my question is, where did they get that from? Who said that God was going to stop talking to us through prophets? Why would He? He’s been doing it since the day he dropped a garden in Eden… so why would He stop now when we need it the most?”

When I was a Latter-day Saint this was my trope as well. Why would a loving God stop talking to us? It didn’t make sense. However, if we turn the tables, we will see that an open canon is more problematic than a closed one.

Imagine that a book came out called, “Everything You Need to Know about Marriage.” Then, a year later volume 2 came out. A year later volume 3 made the New York Best Seller’s list. What would this do to the original title? Would it save it, like The Book of Mormon supposedly saves the Bible? No. These new volumes would undermine the original book because clearly, it does not teach us everything we need to know about marriage.

This is exactly what The Book of Mormon does to the Bible: it weakens it. By adding new revelation to the equation, the LDS church says the Bible is insufficient. The Book of Mormon is subsequently weakened by the Doctrine and Covenants, and it by the Pearl of Great Price. All these religious texts are weakened by modern Mormon prophets.

According to Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young once took the stand, laid out the LDS scriptures, and 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, when compared with the living oracles 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.”
(Conference Report, October 1897, p.22)

In Mormonism, the dead prophets are weakened by the living prophet. In October of 1990, President Hinkley gave a talk entitled, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’” in which he quoted a missionary saying, “While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church that bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.” (Conference Report, October 1990

Hinkley and his successor President Monson both pushed for the famous “I’m a Mormon” campaign. But when Russell M. Nelson became the prophet, all that was hewn down. In October of 2018, he gave a talk entitled, “The Correct Name of the Church” wherein he said that using the nickname Mormon is “a major victory for Satan”. (Conference Report, October 2018)

As long as new scripture is able, not only to add to old scripture but to contradict it, an open canon is worthless because we never know what’s coming that might obliterate something we believe in now. With an open canon, there’s no guarantee that even the gospel basics won’t be changed somewhere down the road.

The Book of Mormon’s subtitle is “Another Testament of Christ.” It is championed as being a second witness to support the stories of the Old and New Testaments. The reality, though, is far different. It claims that many plain and precious things were taken out of the Bible, and because of that, “an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Nephi 13:29)

This statement only serves to weaken the Bible, to say that it has the story wrong and that it’s insufficient. To say The Book of Mormon came to its rescue is like saying a lifeguard jumped in the pool and rescued someone by drowning them.

Another verse I used to cite as a Latter-day Saint was John 21:25 which says:

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25 KJV) 

I was convinced that John 21:25 supported the need for more scripture, but here’s the dilemma. If all the books were written, and the world was filled, all those books could not be read. So, while it’s emotionally satisfying to think we deserve modern scripture, it isn’t very practical.

With a closed canon, God’s word is succinct. It is powerful. It can’t be altered by the whims of a false prophet. To say we need an endless quantity of God’s word is to say there’s no quality in God’s word, and that simply isn’t true. So no, The Book of Mormon did not rescue the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible rescues us from The Book of Mormon and anything else that corrupts the gospel of Christ.

The inside of British Private Leslie Friston’s bullet-scarred, life-saving Bible which he brought home after it rescued him in World War I. (click image to read full story)

Originally published on the “Water Into Wine” website on September 4, 2019, as “Defects of An Open Canon”. It has retitled and republished here with the kind permission of the author with only the lighest of editing.

The “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In a nutshell, the case of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon is as follows:

1. All of the 11 witnesses were related either by blood or by business interests. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were cousins. Joseph Smith, Sr. was Joseph Smith’s father. The Whitmers were former business associates of the Smith family. Hiram Page was married to the Whitmer’s sister, Catherine. And Martin Harris was financially invested in the success of the Book of Mormon in a way that it would ruin his estate if it failed.

2. The three witnesses were of questionable character – this assertion is based on what fellow Mormons said about them. For example, Joseph Smith said on Dec 16, 1838: “Such characters as [his former personal secretary William] McLellin, John Witmer, David Witmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (see “History of the Church”, vol 3, p.232)

3. All three denied the Latter Day Saint faith at some point converting to other religions. This was confirmed by Brigham Young who, in 1859 said, “Some of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterward left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel.” (Brigham Young, “Want of Governing Capacities Among Men—Elements of the Sacrament—Apostasy, Etc.”, Journal of Discourses, vol 7, p.164)

4. All of the three witnesses were eventually excommunicated from the Mormon church. (details below)

5. Two of the three excommunicated witnesses later returned after denying their testimony and joining other churches. This is roughly equivalent to Peter, James, and John denying their testimony that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead, joining Samaritanism (or another middle eastern religion), then reversing themselves and returning to the Church that they had denied and denounced. (details below)

And when you consider the corpus of evidence for each individual, the case against them gets even stronger:

Martin Harris
1. Was known for being very unstable religiously. Over his lifetime he changed his religious affiliation over 13 times. (see Wikipedia, “Martin Harris”)

2. Before joining Mormonism, Martin Harris was first a Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationist, then a Baptist, and then a Presbyterian. (E. D. Howe, “Mormonism Unvailed”, pp.260-261)

3. After Martin Harris’ excommunication from the Mormon Church in 1837, he changed his religion eight more times, going from the Shakers to one Mormon splinter group to the next, and back to the main group in 1842. (see “Improvement Era”, March 1969, p.63; also see Brigham Young, “Journal of Discourses”, vol.7, p.164)

4. In 1846, (after his excommunication in 1837) Martin Harris was preaching among the Saints in England for the Apostate James J. Strang. (see Andrew Jenson, “Church Chronology”, p.31; also see “Millennial Star”, vol.8, Nov. 15, pp.124-128)

5. He signed his name to the following statement: “Testimony of three witnesses: We Cheerfully certify… The Lord has made it known to me that David Witmer is the man. David was then called forward, and Joseph and his counselors laid hands upon him, and ordained him to his station, to succeed him… He will be prophet, seer, Revelator and Translator before God.” Signed Martin Harris, Leonard Rich, Calvin Beebe. As we know from history, this never came to pass as Brigham young became Joseph Smith’s successor. (“Saints’ Herald, Volume 17”, p.555)

6. The Mormons stated of Martin Harris and a few other men within the pages of the church’s official newspaper at the time, “a lying deceptive spirit attend them…they are of their father, the devil…The very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him.” (“Millennial Star”, vol 8, pp.124-128)

7. Phineas Young wrote to his older brother Brigham Young on December 31, 1841, from Kirtland, Ohio: “There are in this place all kinds of teaching; Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was for the Book of Mormon” (see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

8. Martin Harris testified that his testimony for Shakerism was greater than it was for Mormonism. The Shaker’s “Sacred Roll and Book” was also delivered by an angel. (see Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “The Case Against Mormonism”, vol.2, pp.50-58; also see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

9. In the Elder’s Journal for August 1838, Joseph Smith denounced Martin Harris as “so far beneath contempt that to notice him would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make. The Church exerted some restraint on him, but now he has given loose to all kinds of abominations, lying, cheating, swindling, and all kinds of debauchery.” (see J. A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way”, pp.256-257)

10. Like David Whitmer, Martin Harris later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: He said he saw the plates with “the eyes of faith and not with the natural eyes”, that is, with spiritual eyes. (see E.L. Kelley and Clark Braden, “The Braden & Kelly Debate”, p.173)

David Whitmer
1. David Whitmer said in 1887: “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints…'” (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, p.27)

2. David Whitmer belonged to at least three Mormon splinter groups at different times, but he died in opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – that is the original church started by Joseph Smith as well as what later became today’s Brighamite denomination of that church – and its priesthood doctrine and claims.  (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, also see John Farkas, “Fabricating The Mormon Priesthood: By God Or By Man?”, Beggar’s Bread website) 

3. Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: Whitmer told Theodore Turley that the plates were shown to him by a “supernatural power”, “…all I know, you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.” Whitmer replied “I now say I handled those plates. there was fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.” and he described how they were hung “and they were shown to me by a supernatural power.” he acknowledged all. Turley asked him why the translation is not now true, & he said “I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.” (see “Theodore Turley’s Memorandums” LDS Church Archives, in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking for Turley in late 1843; also cited in Dan Vogel (editor), “Early Mormon Documents” vol.5, p.241.; also, with minor editing, Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol.3, pp. 307–308)

4. David Whitmer changed his story about seeing the plates and later told of finding them lying in a field and later still, told Orson Pratt that they were on a table with all sorts of brass plates, gold plates, the Sword of Laban, the ‘Director’ and the Urim and Thummim. (Millennial Star, vol.40, pp.771-772)

5. During the summer of 1837, while in Kirtland, David Whitmer pledged his new loyalty to a prophetess (as did Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery) who used a black seer stone and danced herself into ‘trances.’ (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches”, pp.211-213)

6. His association with the aforementioned prophetess was the beginning of the end for Whitmer in regard to the Mormon Church. It ended in 1847 in his declaration to Oliver that he (Whitmer) was to be the Prophet of the New Church of Christ and Oliver a Counselor. (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, by David Whitmer, Sept. 8, 1847, printed in the “Ensign of Liberty”, 5/1848, p.93; also see “Ensign of Liberty”, 8/1849, pp.101-104)

7. In the meantime, he was excommunicated and roughly put out. He and Oliver Cowdery’s families were driven into the streets and robbed by the Mormons while they were away trying to leave to make arrangements for a safe place to flee to. (see “John Whitmer’s History of the Church”)

8. Cursed by leaders such as Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer was denounced by the Prophet Joseph Smith as a “dumb ass to ride ” and someone “prays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass!” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.228)

9. David Whitmer never returned to the LDS Church but joined splinter groups that denied and denounced the original Latter Day Saint church he helped found. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

10. He went to his grave denying his testimony of Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God, while still affirming his testimony of the book of Mormon. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

Oliver Cowdery
1. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Mormon church and joined the Methodist church. (see Wikipedia, “Oliver Cowdery”)

2. In 1841 the Mormons published a poem which stated: “Or Book of Mormon, not his word, because denied by Oliver”. (see “Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482)

3. The Mormon church accused Oliver Cowdery of Adultery and claimed he, David Whitmer, and Lyman E. Johnson (another Early Mormon Leader) had joined “a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs”. (see Rollin J. Britton, “Early Days on Grand River and the Mormon War”, p.77)

4. Oliver Cowdery was the Church’s second Elder, often called the “Second President.” The early day companion of Joseph Smith, he was a scribe for the Book of Mormon, present at the “Restoration of the Priesthood,’ and as close to the real truth as any man. (see “Pearl of Great Price”, Joseph Smith – History 1:66–75; Joseph Smith History vol.2, pp. 72-76)

5. However, in 1838 in Kirtland, Oliver Cowdery confronted Joseph Smith with the charge of adultery with Fanny Alger, and with lying and teaching false doctrines. (see Private Letter to Brother, Warren Cowdery, by Oliver Cowdery, Jan. 21, 1838)

6. Joseph Smith denied this and charged Cowdery with being a liar. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3 pp.16-18; also see “Elder’s Journal”, Joseph Smith, July 1838, p.45)

7. Church records now show Miss Alger was Smith’s first “spiritual wife.” Cowdery was telling the truth. (see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record”, 1886, vol.6, p.233; also see Wikipedia, “Fanny Alger”)

8. Cowdery was excommunicated for this and other “crimes”. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3, pp.16-18)

9. Later, as a Methodist, he denied the Book of Mormon. (“Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482; also see “Improvement Era”, Jan. 1969, p.56; and Joseph Greehalgh, “Oliver Cowdery-The Man Outstanding”, p.28)

10. Cowdery publicly confessed his sorrow and shame for his connection with Mormonism. (Charles Shook, “The True Origin of The Book of Mormon”, pp.58-59)

11. While the Mormon church claims he rejoined them in the fall of 1848, ( see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record” vol.5, p.201) they also accused him later that year, with trying to “raise up the Kingdom again” with the Apostate, William E. McLellin. (see Juanita Brooks, “On The Mormon frontier, Diary of Hosea Stout”, vol.2, p.336)

12. Oliver Cowdery was publicly charged by Joseph Smith and leading Mormons with stealing, lying, perjury, counterfeiting, adultery, and being the leader of a gang of “scoundrels of the deepest degree!” (see “Senate Document 189”, Feb. 15, 1841, pp.6-9; also see B. H. Roberts, “Comprehensive History of the Church”, vol.1, pp.438-439)

13. Joseph Smith listed Oliver Cowdery as among those, “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.232)

14. Oliver Cowdery died claiming that the book of Doctrines & Covenants must be discarded. This was a stance that he first publicly articulated in “An Address to All Believers in Christ” in 1887 and never wavered from until his death a year later. (see David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ”)

Stated plainly, with witnesses like this, who needs enemies?

Compiled by Fred W. Anson from the author uncredited “The Case Against the Three Witnesses to The Book of Mormon”. Editing was required to eliminate or minimize the original’s polemic rhetoric, inconsistent formatting, and to improve overall clarity and the quality of the presentation. All that to say, with the greatest sense of appreciation to the unknown, original author who did the heavy lifting of original research for this piece: Thank you! 

Richmond, Missouri, is the location of the log cabin in which Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were imprisoned before being taken to Liberty Jail. David Whitmer and his family lived in Richmond for many years, and Oliver Cowdery lived here for a time before his death. Both David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery are buried in Richmond. A monument honoring Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon—was erected in Richmond under the direction of Junius F. Wells. On November 22, 1911, the monument was dedicated under the direction of Elder Heber J. Grant. In this photograph, taken during a light rain, prayer is being offered at the dedication ceremony. A metal box within the base of the monument contained copies of the Latter-day Saint scriptures, the History of the Church, and other documents. (photograph by George Anderson, 1911)