Archive for January, 2021

A stained glass window in the Salt Lake 2nd Ward depicting the First Vision. The First Vision is where God, according to Joseph Smith, said that all if the existing Christian Creeds, were an abomination in his sight (see Joseph History 1:19). This would have included the Apostle’s Creed which is discussed in the following article.

The following article was written in 2007 and is so significant and relevant to Mormon Studies that it’s surely deserving of the greater and broader audience that follows Beggar’s Bread. I think that after you’ve read it that you’ll agree.  –Editor

by Bryan Stout
There is an interesting exchange going on at Beliefnet.com about the age-old question “Are Mormons Christian?”, between Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Orson Scott Card, LDS writer. While I have some thoughts I’d like to share about the main issue, here I want to point out a perhaps surprising convergence between two things, one of which is rejected by each side, namely the Book of Mormon, and one of the ancient Christian creeds.

The LDS objection to ancient creeds is probably better stated as an objection to conciliar creeds, that is the creeds defined by the Ecumenical Councils, where bishops from throughout the ancient church met together to resolve doctrinal debates. We do reject the decisions made at those councils, and we reject the whole process as a fundamentally flawed substitute for prophetic revelation.

But there was another type of creed, the baptismal creed. These creeds were used as concise summaries of beliefs (similar to our Articles of Faith), as an outline of concepts to teach potential converts (similar to the missionary lessons), and as a quiz of important beliefs before baptism (similar to the baptismal interview questions). The most famous of these is the Apostles’ Creed, which reached a stable wording by the 8th century but has roots reaching back to the 2nd. Here is one of several translations of the creed; I have numbered its traditional 12 articles for reference:

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

If you showed this to the average Mormon-on-the-street, I reckon they would say they believe in all but a couple of these claims. If you go on to point out that “descended into hell” means “descended into the grave, ie. the world of dead spirits”, that “catholic Church” means “universal church”, and that “the communion of saints” means “the fellowship of believers”, they would say they believe the entire thing. We Latter-day Saints believe every claim in the Apostles’ Creed, because they are both taught in the Bible, and reaffirmed in latter-day scripture. Indeed, they are almost contained in our scriptures, since the doctrinal summary in D&C 20:17-36 echoes most of the themes of the Apostles’s Creed, and vv. 22-24 are a close paraphrase of AC 4-6.

Finding Book of Mormon passages that teach each of these basic Christian concepts is an easy exercise, so much so that the problem is choosing which ones to use. Here are the selections I made:

AC 1 –
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth” (Mosiah 4:9)

AC 2 –
“I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth.” (Alma 5:48)

“There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17)

AC 3 –
“And behold, he shall be born of Mary … she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.” (Alma 7:41)

AC 4 & 5 –
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people … the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:12-13)

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” (1 Nephi 11:33)

“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings” (2 Nephi 25:13)

AC 6 –
“Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men” (Moroni 7:7)

AC 7 –
“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross … that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (3 Ne 27:14)

AC 8 –
“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him” (1 Nephi 10:17)

Joseph Smith’s First Vision, depicted in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City
(LDS Media Library)

AC 9 –
“Notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.” (Mosiah 25:22)

“And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” (Moroni 6:5-6)

AC 10 –
“They all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified … After they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:2-3)

AC 11 –
“The death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, … the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form … this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; … now, behold, I have spoken unto you … concerning the resurrection of the mortal body.” (Alma 11:42-45)

AC 12 –
“Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41)

“Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life … Amen.” (Mosiah 5:15)

To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences not covered in the Apostles’ Creed. Mormon doctrine about the nature of God and Man is radically different from that of most Christian groups. We believe that God exists in space and time, and that every person is literally God’s spirit child, having the potential of becoming like him — “gods, even the sons of God”. Therefore, Dr. Mohler is quite right in pointing out that we have different answers to the biggest questions debated in the Ecumenical Councils regarding the divinity of Christ: 1) How can God be both One and Three at the same time? 2) How can Christ be both divine and human at the same time?

Those were important questions. Nevertheless, I believe that much more important were the issues that the ancient bishops did not have to debate, because they were mostly in agreement about them. There is a God who created the world, and who will hold us accountable for how we live our lives. There is a savior, Jesus Christ, who literally atoned for our sins, who taught the principles for living the abundant life in mortality and achieving eternal life hereafter. There is a Spirit who can lead us to truth and sanctify our souls. If we follow that Spirit, trust our lives to Christ and keep the commandments of God, we will be led to stand at his right hand at the judgment day. Doing this is the most significant meaning of term “Christian”.

About The Author
I received a BS in Math at Brigham Young University in 1981, and went to grad school in Computer Science at the University of Illinois. I did all the coursework for a PhD, but left without doing a dissertation, to do applied Artificial Intelligence research for Martin Marietta near Denver, followed by computer game development for MicroProse. I was part of a big down-sizing in 1993, but instead of moving on I continued courting, and married, my wife Meg. After a couple of years of figuring out that two jobs weren’t worth it, we decided I’d be the stay-at-home parent while Meg continued working as an engineer for the Navy (she’s now a program manager). I keep in touch with my interests in both AI and games, frequently participating at the annual Game Developer Conference on various game AI topics. Other secular interests include science fiction and fantasy, dance (I toured several times with the BYU Ballroom Dance Co.), and astronomy. Now that our oldest daughter (my stepdaughter) is in college, and the other two going on to 4th and 5th grades, I will be trying once again to figure what to be when I grow up. — Bryan Stout

Palmyra New York Temple First Vision Stained Glass Window.

Originally published as, “Guest Post: The Apostles’ Creed and the Book of Mormon” on the “Times and Seasons” website by Julie M. Smith on July 11, 2007. In accordance with their reblogging policy, the article content has been republished in its original form. The title was changed to it more intriguing, and provocatively interesting to potential readers, as well as to tie this article into the other “Abominable Creed” articles in this series.

Also of interest: The Abominable Creed of Doctrine and Covenants

An appeal to the translation shamers of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message”

by Fred W. Anson
For years I’ve watched as well-meaning but largely uninformed Christians have torn into Eugene Peterson’s highly vernacular translation of the Bible, “The Message”. I’m old enough to have been around when he was just beginning his work on this unique translation and loved it from the first time I saw his very first translations of the Psalms published in Christianity Today back in the day (I even clipped the very first article and tucked it away in one of my many Bibles, I liked it that much). So from before even the very first imprints rolled off the presses and hit the shelves at Christian bookstores I “got” what Peterson was trying to do – after all, he never made it any secret.

However, a whole lotta folks never seem to have bothered to try to understand, let alone listen to what Mr. Peterson himself said about the translation. The term that he frequently used to describe it is that it’s a “Pastoral Translation” of the Bible that’s intended to speak to the reader in a way that more literal, formal translations can’t and don’t. Thus, it was intended to be more a devotional Bible than anything else.

And nowhere did he express his intentions, translation philosophy, or goals better than in the Preface – you know, the one that no one ever bothers to actually read because they’re either too busy blissfully loving and benefiting from The Message or misunderstanding and publicly shaming and bashing it – typically, out of uninformed ignorance.

To use an imperfect analogy, one need only read that preface to will see that what the latter group is doing is condemning The Message for not being a Mercedes Benz when it was never intended or meant to be one. Rather, it was meant to be a Volkswagen – that is, steadfast, simple, direct, approachable, readily available, and uncomplicated. And like a Volkswagen, it was never intended to replace or compete with a Mercedes Benz, it’s only meant to complement them and fill a niche that they can’t or won’t.

Thus, whenever someone compares The Message to the many excellent tighter more formal word-for-word translations of the Bible it’s very much the same. But however you slice it, both a Mercedes Benz and a Volkswagen will get you to your destination even though the ride may be very different. Both serve a function and a niche in the market. They are designed to serve their particular audience well, and they do.  And, to stretch this analogy even further, if you’re older, more mature, and more established in life (like this author is) while your current car might be a Mercedes, is it really a problem if your first car was a Volkswagen? Your Mercedes meets you where you are today, just as the Volkwagen did back in the day.

So then, tell me, given all this why is it that well-meaning but misguided, more mature and established Christians so often translation shame fragile new Christians – like those coming out of controlling Churches, like the former members of the LdS Church that this author specializes in –  for using the Message? Why do they use insensitive language like, “You really should be using a good translation, you know!” Friend, can you feel the condescension and arrogance just dripping like acid in those words? Well, guess what, so can these often struggling baby Christians who just trying to find an English translation of the Bible that speaks to them and meets them where they’re at! They’re trying to figure out this new Christian thing that they’ve gotten themselves into and instead, they’re being Bible translation shamed by their elder siblings. No one likes being “should” on, and given where they’re at and given where they came from these folks are particularly sensitive to it. I see it all the time – and it makes me cringe all the time.

So older, more mature, and more established in the Christian faith friends, I appeal to you – no, I plead with you in Jesus’ Name – if The Message connects with someone and helps them in their walk with Jesus, please, please, please just let them be. Please!

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t recommend that they also get a more literal, word-for-word translation for meetings and Bible Studies (since The Message isn’t designed for or a good choice for those functions) but if they like the Message for devotional and other personal reading (which is specifically what it was designed for an how it was intended to be used); if they find that it meets them where they; and if they find that they’re growing in the faith through The Message in private outside of meetings, then why oh, why can’t you just let them be?  Can you find it in your heart to have a little empathy for these dear new ones in Christ, please? Be the older, wiser, more compassionate brother or sister in Christ, not the shaming, judgmental, intolerant Church Lady.

So with that introduction, it’s my hope by republishing the Preface to “The Message” in its entirety (and sharing it whenever I encounter a “The Message” basher – of which there are many these days) perhaps I can do my own small part in bringing some peace and understanding to this increasingly ridiculous situation. Friends, if you’re going to criticize something don’t you think that you should first make at least some attempt at understanding it first? And when it comes to “The Message” all you have to do to gain that understanding is simply read the preface – it’s all right there.

“The Daily Message” is the one year devotional Bible that Eugene Peterson produced using The Message as a basis. (click to zoom images)

Preface
TO THE READER
If there is anything distinctive about The Message, perhaps it is because the text is shaped by the hand of a working pastor. For most adult life I have been given a primary responsibility for getting the message of the Bible into the lives of the men and women with whom I worked. I did it from pulpit and lectern, in home Bible studies and at mountain retreats, through conversations in hospitals and nursing homes, over coffee in kitchens and while strolling on an ocean beach. The Message grew from the soil of forty years of pastoral work.

As I worked at this task, this Word of God, which forms and transforms human lives, did form and transform human lives. Planted in the soil of my congregation and community the seed words of the Bible germinated and grew and matured. When it came time to do the work that is now The Message, I often felt that I was walking through an orchard at harvest time, plucking fully formed apples and peaches and plums from laden branches. There’s hardly a page in the Bible I did not see lived in some way or other by the men and women, saints and sinners, to whom I was pastor — and then verified in my nation and culture.

I didn’t start out as a pastor. I began my vocational life as a teacher and for several years taught the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary. I expected to live the rest of my life as a professor and scholar, teaching and writing and studying. But then my life took a sudden vocational turn to pastoring in a congregation.

I was now plunged into quite a different world. The first noticeable difference was that nobody seemed to care much about the Bible, which so recently people had been paying me to teach them. Many of the people I worked with now knew virtually nothing about it, had never read it, and weren’t interested in learning. Many others had spent years reading it but for them it had gone flat through familiarity, reduced to clichés. Bored, they dropped it. And there weren’t many people in between. Very few were interested in what I considered my primary work, getting the words of the Bible into their heads and hearts, getting the message lived. They found newspapers and magazines, videos and pulp fiction more to their taste.

Meanwhile I had taken on as my life work the responsibility of getting these very people to listen, really listen, to the message in this book. I knew I had my work cut out for me.I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today. I had always assumed they were the same world. But these people didn’t see it that way. So out of necessity I became a “translator” (although I wouldn’t have called it that then), daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.

And all the time those old biblical languages, those powerful and vivid Hebrew and Greek originals, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imagination of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible.

I did that for thirty years in one congregation. And then one day (it was April 30, 1990) I got a letter from an editor asking me to work on a new version of the Bible along the lines of what I had been doing as a pastor. I agreed. The next ten years was harvest time. The Message is the result.

The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was earlier in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again. But I haven’t tried to make it easy — there is much in the Bible that is hard to understand. So at some point along the way, soon or late, it will be important to get a standard study Bible to facilitate further study. Meanwhile, read in order to live, praying as you read, “God, let it be with me just as you say.”
(Eugene Peterson, “The Daily Message”, Preface, Navpress. Kindle Edition)

In the foreword to “The Message Devotional Bible” Peterson continued that same Pastoral approach to scripture:

Our conversations with each other are sacred. Those that take place in the parking lot after Sunday worship are as much a part of the formation of Christian character as the preaching from the sanctuary pulpit. The small talk that happens around the ritual of putting children to sleep for the night is as sacred as the most solemn of Eucharistic liturgies.

But conversation, as such, though honored by our ancestors, is much neglected today as a form of Christian discourse. If we’re to be in touch with all the parts of our lives and all the dimensions of the gospel, conversation requires equal billing (although not equal authority) with preaching and teaching.

The conversations I would like to have with you are more casual than formal—the kinds of conversations we would have if we walked through the mountains together, stopping here and there to catch our breath. We’ll travel a lot of terrain together, some of it breathtakingly scenic, some of it ploddingly plain, and some of it precariously uncertain. Here and there along the way I’ll point out details in the biblical landscape, drawing attention to a particular word, pointing out a pertinent piece of historical background, pausing a moment to talk with you and to lead you in prayer.

With that in mind, it’s my personal joy to come alongside you in the wondrous and perilous journey that is your life and my pastoral privilege to walk with you through the Scriptures. I come as a guide as well as a fellow traveler.

Traveling mercies for us both.

Eugene H. Peterson
(Eugene H. Peterson, “The Message Devotional Bible: featuring notes & reflections from Eugene H. Peterson . The Navigators”)

And this is the reason why I love The Message, why I use it, and why I will continue to include it in my devotions – period. My “default setting” is to analyze and study scripture rather than enter into a conversation with God through scripture in my devotions. My natural tendency is to go deep into the text rather than just let God speak through the text.

So, I was challenged by a good, discerning Pastor to stop doing this during my daily devotions and simply start reading scripture experientially rather than intellectually – after all, goodness knows, that I do enough of the latter in my Religious Studies work. Reading a more literal, formal translation (such as the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Bible, or my beloved New King James) tends to keep in that “default setting”. However, reading a high vernacular translation like J.B. Phillip’s New Testament, The New Living Translation, or The Message tends to push me out of my default setting and approach the biblical text like a conversation rather than a textbook – it skews me into a more visceral mode that for guys like me that like to live in their head can be very balancing. It works, try it.

Oh, and by the way, my Pastor was 100% right, treating my daily devotions strictly like my daily devotions, and nothing more has changed my life for the better.  We all need both bible study and daily devotions and my spiritual life was suffering from a full experience of the latter. I cycle through all good translations as I read the Bible each time through in my devotions – that means both formal and vernacular translations, and that includes The Message.

The bottom line to all this is this: The Message, though not a tight, formal translation of the Bible serves a purpose: personal devotional Bible reading. Just like a Volkswagen if it’s used within its role, limits, and purpose it’s a great resource. Yes, outside of those boundaries, it’s no longer an appropriate resource – and like a Volkswagen, The Message can and will be abused from time to time – we have all seen that. Regardless, Bible Translation shaming someone for using The Message and hating on it because it’s a Volkswagen rather than a Mercedes Benz not only makes no sense, it’s rude, insensitive, and inappropriate behavior. The very antithesis of what Jesus would do.

Perhaps no version of The Message captures the purpose, intention, and role of The Message like the Devotional Bible edition. It’s here where Eugene Peterson’s vision of the translation as “Pastoral” and “devotional” come together. (click images to zoom)

compiled by Fred W. Anson and “Team TOYBOM”
In late 2019 a new group was created on Facebook* with the express purpose of encouraging Non-Mormons to read through the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. It’s called “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka ‘TOYBOM’)” and its mission and goal is to get Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so they can openly and honestly discuss it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense. 

Thus no Mormons (members of any Latter Day Saint denomination or splinter group) were allowed in the group so that the group can speak freely, evaluate, analyze and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin-doctoring, and confirmation bias-driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon whenever True Believing Mormons are present.  The goal was to quietly, objectively, civilly, and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.  The results were both surprising and expected, but that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

About a month into the first year of reading I could see a lot of value in non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon based both on my own direct experience as well as the comments that the group was making as we went along. So I group sourced the article that you’re about to read. I suspect that you’ll find it just as interesting as I did. — Fred W. Anson

Why Non-Mormons Should Read The Book of Mormon

1. To Experience the Book of Mormon directly for yourself without outside Mormon influence or pressure. Need I say more about this? I don’t think so. We’re talking about the pure Book of Mormon, devoid of Mormon or Mormon Missionary HeartSell (which we’ll talk about later) and other emotional grooming tactics here. Anyone who’s met or talked with the Missionaries or a Mormon friend in regard to the Book of Mormon will know exactly what I’m talking about here.

2. To gain the ability to engage in honest, candid, even blunt analysis and discussion of the Book of Mormon.  Reading the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover gives you the right to do this. If you haven’t read it, you’re just criticizing what you don’t know and have never directly experienced. That is, you’re speaking out of ignorance. Christians very rightly get upset with Atheists who criticize the Bible but who have never actually read it – if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. We can’t, on one hand, criticize critics of the Bible who are ignorant of it, and then hypocritically engage in exactly the same behavior, can we? Just read the book and you earn the right. It’s that simple.

3. To have fun (Yes, fun!) Experiencing this dreadfully boring, ridiculously absurd book requires a good sense of humor. If you don’t have one before you start reading it, you will by the time you’re done. The candid, blunt, even brutal discussion of the narrative of the Book of Mormon in the TOYBOM group was (and is) in a word, hilarious.

Psychologists tell us that humor is a coping mechanism and suffice to say, good coping mechanisms are required to read from 1 Nephi 1:1 to Moroni 10:34 in a year. The humor and camaraderie in the group was the only thing that kept many of us going in those moments (and trust me there were many of them, it was a constant topic of discussion) when it would have been a lot easier to throw in the towel and move on with our lives.

So do you want a good sense of humor? Want a better, richer, sense of humor? Read the Book of Mormon. Better yet, read it in a group with a bunch of non-Mormons.

4. To get support, encouragement, and make new friends while struggling, scraping, and scrapping to make it to the back cover.  That is if you read it with other Non-Mormons rather than just on your own, of course! Candidly, even most True Believing Mormons don’t get past 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon (for reasons that we often discuss in the group but I’ll spare you here). The Book of Mormon is an easy book to get frustrated with, get fed up with and quit on. If you read it with another person or two you can – actually must – encourage each other to stick with it despite all that, if you have any hope of “enduring to the end”.

5. To, at the very minimum, gain a basic knowledge of the Book of Mormon, thanks to having actually have read it. No, you won’t be an expert after a one-time read through, but you’ll at least be able to talk to it with some degree of direct experience with the text. I know this one almost goes without saying, but it’s still important to reemphasize it by saying it right out loud.

6. To gain an understanding of the Biblical doctrines that disprove both the Book of Mormon and Mormonism. Stated plainly, the Mormon dogma that the Book of Mormon doesn’t contradict the Bible is ridiculous to the point of absurdity. If you have even a basic, working knowledge of the Bible these contradictions pop out at you all the time as you’re reading the Book of Mormon. They are an asset to know and to keep on hand for future discussions with Mormons. Doubt me? Just read the book and you’ll see it for yourself.

A montage of the Isaiah passages that the LdS Church officially acknowledges are plagiarized from the biblical book of Isaiah via the chapter headers of the affected portions of the book of 2 Nephi. (click to zoom)

7. To discover first hand how much of the Book of Mormon has been plagiarized from the Bible. It’s so far and wide in the Book of Mormon that without reading it, it’s impossible to understand just how much the Book of Mormon, directly and indirectly, plagiarizes from the King James Version of the Bible. Entire chapters of Isaiah are directly plagiarized; Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount is plagiarized; ditto for other portions of Matthew. It is glaring: So glaring, in fact, the LdS Church even notes it (without calling it plagiarism) in their header summary of some chapters. For example, consider this summary header for 1 Nephi 20:

“The Lord reveals His purposes to Israel—Israel has been chosen in the furnace of affliction and is to go forth from Babylon—Compare Isaiah 48. About 588–570 B.C.”

Or this for 1 Nephi 21:

“The Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles and will free the prisoners—Israel will be gathered with power in the last days—Kings will be their nursing fathers—Compare Isaiah 49. About 588–570 B.C.”

And we realize that it may sound odd to say that the Bible disproves the Book of Mormon when so much of it is actually in the Book of Mormon, but it does. After all, ripping something out of context and then contorting it into something completely else isn’t unknown or unheard of in this world, is it? If you want to see how the Book of Mormon does it, you’ll have to see it for yourself. It’s actually pretty interesting at times and hilarious at other times.

8. To become familiar with the content of the Book of Mormon so you can ask Mormons sincere questions about it that are meant to help you understand their viewpoint. Since this isn’t an attack on them or their religion, it also builds trusting relationships with Mormons. How’s that for a cherry on top? After all, you have shown them the respect and honor of reading their holy writ, right? Even when it was tough and trying, right? That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

9. To discover things that can be used in debate settings. Such as the places where the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible (as mentioned above), modern Mormonism, the Book of Mormon itself (the internal contradictions are really something to behold!), or just simply don’t make any sense (Shiz, anyone? Jaredite Barges anyone?). It can be fun watching Mormons squirm as they have to give an account for their own scripture once you’re empowered like this.

On the second point, most people who haven’t actually read the Book of Mormon typically don’t understand that the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism. Rather, the Book of Mormon teaches 19th Century American Restorationism in a way that’s generally aligned with historic mainstream Protestant Christian orthodoxy. For example:

  • The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus is Eternal God. And as such, Christ was neither created nor procreated.
  • The Book of Mormon says that God is eternal and unchanging.
  • The Book of Mormon states that God is a Spirit.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that there is only one God.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that the One God consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that is, the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity (albeit with a strong modalistic skew).
  • The Book of Mormon states that God created via nothing but His word – that is, “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing).
  • The Book of Mormon condemns Polygamy.
  • The Book of Mormon states that there is only heaven and hell.
  • The Book of Mormon denounces universalism as a “false doctrine”.
  • The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns the type of secret oaths and combinations that are found in the current Latter-day Saint Temple Endowment ceremony in the strongest terms.
  • The Book of Mormon denies that there is a second chance to repent and receive the gospel in the next life.
  • The Book of Mormon states that baptism isn’t an absolute requirement for salvation.
  • The Book of Mormon states that man was created by the power of God’s word not procreated by spirit parents.
  • The Book of Mormon makes a clear distinction between men and angels.
  • The Book of Mormon states clearly that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world on the cross.
  • The Book of Mormon discredits key points of the First Vision.

So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to a really bad version of “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”. Again, doubt me? Read it.

10. To Demystify the Book of Mormon. Because Mormons hype the Book of Mormon and its alleged power I would guess to the average non-Mormon they’re under the impression that it offers some kind of amazingly potent and life-changing transcendent experience if you will just pick it up and read its amazing, astounding transformative words. Many Mormons are under the utter delusion that one only need to read the Book of Mormon to be utterly and completely persuaded that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon, Latter Day Saint Restorationism (not to mention their Mormon Denomination’s expression of the Restoration) must be true.

I have even had non-Mormon Evangelical Christians tell me that they would never read it out of fear of being deceived by powerful demonic forces leaping forth from its pages and latching onto their face like something from an Alien movie – yes, I’m exaggerating that for effect, but it’s not too far off!

Well, as a group of people who have now actually read it we can now tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. The Book of Mormon is so poorly written, plodding, dull, and downright boring that its only real potency is in its ability to put the reader to sleep. The group agreed on this unanimously! Probably no one explained this better than Mark Twain when speaking of the book he wrote:

All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Trust us, friend, you have nothing to fear from the Book of Mormon – except the possible exception of being bored to death by it. If you doubt me, just pick it up and read it, it’s about as threatening as having to sit through a really, really bad religious play that was written, produced, and performed by a bunch of Junior High Sunday School students whose favorite filler line is, “it came to pass.”

11. To expose Mormon HeartSell and other forms of Mormon emotional manipulation so that you’re inoculated against them. So after the last point, you’re probably wondering, “Then how and why does anyone fall for this ridiculous book?” The answer to that is the power of emotional manipulation, such as the LdS Church’s trademarked (no joke, it really is a trademarked product that they sell through Church-owned subsidiary, Bonneville Communications) “HeartSell” system of persuasion. Here’s how the Bonneville Communications website described HeartSell back in 2015 before it got exposed and they went underground with it:

The now-defunct Bonneville Communications webpage that contained the above verbiage. (click to zoom)

At Bonneville Communications, our ability to touch the hearts and minds of audiences makes us an essential resource for organizations with vital messages.

For more than 30 years, our creative professionals have designed public service and direct response messages for national nonprofit organizations such as the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Boy Scouts of America, National Hospice Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Salvation Army.

Our unique strength is the ability to touch the hearts and minds of our audiences, evoking first feeling, then thought and, finally, action. We call this uniquely powerful brand of creative “HeartSell”® – strategic emotional advertising that stimulates response.”
(“AFFECTING CHANGE BY REACHING THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OUR AUDIENCES”, Bonneville International website, 2016-02-19)

One critic of the LdS Church explained how HeartSell works using the Missionary curriculum of that particular time as a case study:

In the Mormon Missionary handbook in the mid 1980’s, “The Uniform System for Teaching Families,” instructions were given to the missionary on how to “bring the people you teach to a knowledge and conviction of the truth” effectively. (Page A-l) “Keep in mind how you want the family to FEEL… help them FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE GOSPEL.” (Page A-l, No. 4)

Further instructions encouraging this FEELING were given:

“As the Spirit confirms to you that those you are teaching are receiving a witness of the Spirit, pause in the discussion and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brown, what you are FEELING right now is the Spirit of the Lord testifying to you that we are teaching you the truth. You are beginning to receive YOUR OWN TESTIMONY of the truthfulness of this message.” (Page A-3, No. 4)

NO LESS THAN 84 DIFFERENT TIMES in the series of missionary lessons given to “Mr. Brown,” the missionaries were instructed to “TESTIFY” of the truthfulness of their message. Over and over and over again, they reinforced virtually every point they make of a personal assurance that it is true–that the Book of Mormon is true, that God did speak to Joseph Smith, that the true church was restored, etc., etc.

Although modern missionary handbooks [editor’s note “The Uniform System for Teaching Families” was replaced by “Preach My Gospel” in 2005] have removed these embarrassing statements, they are still encouraged to “bear witness” to the truthfulness of their message as they feel the spirits prompting.”
(Jerry Benson, “The Mormon Testimony: ‘I Testify to You…’“ (caps in original))

Reading this incredibly dull and boring work of badly written 19th Century religious fiction without the burden of Mormon emotional grooming and manipulation will immunize you against these tactics.

12. To gain the “Street Cred” of actually having read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover. If you haven’t read it, in Mormon eyes, you simply don’t have Street Cred.

Screenshot of a poll posted in a Mormon Debate group on Facebook on January 6th, 2020. The name has been withheld here, but if you click on the image you can view the poll in its original context on Facebook.

Period.
No, if’s.
No, and’s.
No, but’s.
Over and done!

Consider the screenshot of a Facebook poll by a True Believing Mormon (TBM) in one of the debate groups that I’ve included here. Trust me, this survey was a litmus test that was driven by an agenda. And that agenda is this, “Any Non-Mormon here in this group that hasn’t read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover is ignorant, unenlightened, probably bigoted, prejudiced, and most certainly biased and can, therefore, be ignored.”

No, it’s not logical. No, it’s not rational, and it is fallacious but it is also an escape hatch. And there’s nothing Mormons love more than an escape hatch, is there? So how do you close this one? Easy, just read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover to eliminate it. This is the #1 reason group to read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover. And it’s what kept us all going until we were to the back cover. In fact, over the course of the year, we all had stories about how the fact that we were in this group and committed to reading the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover had given us an added level of credibility in the eyes of our Mormon friends and family.

Summary and conclusion: I saved the best reason for last in that list on purpose: Gaining Street Cred with Mormons is by far the most important reason why an outsider to Mormonism – any outsider to Mormonism – should read the Book of Mormon. Mormons are very rightly skeptical about and suspicious of outsiders who refuse to read this book given the weight and value that they place on it. Just consider these words from an official, correlated LdS Church manual in this regard:

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) stated, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461; Book of Mormon introduction).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that the Book of Mormon “should be considered the most remarkable and important religious text to be revealed since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago. Indeed, in its role of restoring plain and precious biblical truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths about Jesus Christ and preparing the way for the complete restoration of his gospel and the triumphant day of his millennial return, the Book of Mormon may be considered the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 9–10).
(Lds Church, “Book of Mormon Student Manual (Religion 121–122)”, Chapter 1: The Keystone of Our Religion)

So given all that, I can think of no better way to process and respond to this most hyped of all Latter Day Saint scripture – and the book that has always represented Joseph Smith’s prophetic credential than to read it for yourself. And if you find that you need a helping hand to get through it, Team TOYBOM stands ready to help. Join us, click here to put in an Add Request. And trust me, if you do, you will learn a lot and have a lot of fun getting through what is surely one of the worse pieces of English literature ever published.

So in the end I couldn’t agree more with Mormon Apostle, soon to be LdS Church President, Ezra Taft Benson when he said:

“We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it! The Book of Mormon is not on trial-the people of the world, including the members of the Church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ”
(Ezra Taft Benson, “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p. 63. See also “Ensign”, November 1984, p.8)

Indeed, all you have to do is read it to know that, “these things are not true.” (Mormon 10:4)

The landing page for “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” (aka “TOYBOM”) Facebook group. Click on the image to visit this group and put in an Add Request to join if you’re interested. If you prefer MeWe, the link is https://mewe.com/join/toybom

* A MeWe edition was also added later. It can be accessed here: https://mewe.com/join/toybom