Archive for the ‘Book of Mormon’ Category

LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward

LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward
(click to watch video)

“Bearing testimony is ‘Declarationism’.
And ‘Declarationism’ is the last bastion of the unreasonable fanatic.”

— Lyndon Lamborn, ExMormon Foundation 2008 Conference Keynote

by Fred Anson
Mormon Testimony bearing is the cornerstone of Latter-day Saint (LdS) Theology, culture and experience – it is the “lens” through which the world is perceived – the very core of LdS epistemology.  As composer, free thinking Latter-day Saint, and cultural observer William Call explains:

“A Mormon’s ‘testimony’ feigns certainty via a supposed knowledge that negates real understanding. He who knows ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’ has no need to comprehend, discern, or master . . . Both rank and file Mormons and their leaders are dependent on their testimonies. They cannot question what they already ‘know’ is true. And so it is that a Mormon testimony is more than a denial of life’s uncertainties; it is a denial that a critical evaluation of any kind is effective or necessary so far as discovering religious truth is concerned.”
(William Call, “The Cultural Revolution”; Freethinkers Press, 2000)

It is also the primary means of converting others according to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

“Spoken testimony is the foundation of faith and with written testimony becomes the essence of scripture…
Latter-day Saint missionaries, in particular, rely on testimony bearing, rather than on logic or artifice, to reach their listeners.”
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Testimony Bearing)

Thus Mormon Testimony Bearing does many things including:
1) The Mormon Testimony acts as a “trump card” that over rides logic, reason, even physical evidence. 
Which explains why so many non-Mormons have observed that when trying to reason with Mormons about their religion that any evidence – Biblical, historical, archaeological, scientific, psychological, or otherwise that contradicts their “testimony” gets trumped by it. Others have described trying to use reason and logic with True Believing Mormons as, “like talking to someone behind a wall of glass.” Jerry Benson, a Pastor involved in outreach to Mormons in Southern California describes the phenomenon like this:

“To the Mormon, the ultimate test for truth is an “INNER FEELING” or a “BURNING IN THE BOSOM” which tell him that every facet of Mormonism is true.”1

2) The Mormon Testimony acts as a metaphysical “panic room” that the Latter Day Saint can retreat to should anything get in that unsettles them or causes Cognitive Dissonance.
For those unfamiliar with the term or concept, Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a fundamental cognitive drive to reduce this dissonance by modifying an existing belief, or rejecting one of the contradictory ideas. Once the Mormon retreats to this “panic room” nothing gets in (like new disturbing evidence) and nothing gets out (like old comfortable beliefs) until the crisis has passed and/or Cognitive Dissonance has dissipated. Again, Jerry Benson:

“When the Mormon is confronted with scripture from the Bible that refutes the teachings of the Mormon Church, or when he is faced with documentation proving the unreliability of the Mormon books of scripture, or when you have shown him a dozen absolute contradictions from Mormon sources, you will probably be treated with ‘THE MORMON TESTIMONY.'”2

3) The Mormon Testimony acts as the active agent in converting others to the Mormon religion.
As President James E. Faust Second Counselor in the First Presidency stated in a March 1997 Ensign article:

“Perhaps we do not always remember that it is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others. Our testimony is our own. It cannot be challenged by someone else. It is personal and real to us. But it is the Holy Spirit that gives a similar witness to another.”
(James E. Faust, “First Presidency Message: The Importance of Bearing Testimony”; Ensign, March 1997)

quote-testimony-bearing-is-the-key-to-missionary-work-thomas-s-monson-68-92-05

However, Ex-Mormons – including Returned Missionaries and Stake Mission Presidents – have suggested that quite another force is at work here – human psychology. In fact, these Ex-Mormons assert that one of the LDS Missionary’s core tools – the so-called, “Book of Mormon Challenge” is nothing more than emotional and psychological manipulation. For those of you unfamiliar with “The Book of Mormon Challenge” (also, and often more commonly known as “The Moroni 10 Formula”) it’s as follows:

The Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:2-6: 
And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God] that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

This formula is intermingled with Missionary Coaching as Jerry Benson points out:

“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.”3

Benson’s outsider’s voice is joined by a multitude of former Mormons who have analyzed deconstructed this approach to “revelation”.    Consider the cases of Bob McCue (a former Bishop and Stake Mission President, and now an agnostic) and Shawn McCraney (a former Born-into-the-Covenant Mormon, Returned Missionary, Temple Mormon, and now a Born Again Christian). Their methods and styles are as different as these ExMormon men are. McCue, a Canadian Tax Lawyer, has written a series of calm, even toned articles on the Mormonism. Excerpts from his most comprehensive article on the subject of Mormon Testimony Bearing comprises a major part of this paper’s final section.

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney

McCraney, on the other hand hosts a popular Salt Lake City based television program where he has been passionately – even aggressively – outspoken in his criticism of Mormon Testimonies. There was no better example of this than the August 26, 2008 show entitled “By Their Fruits – Part 3 – Revelation Unsupported by Scripture” where @13:01 into the program McCraney slowly and methodologically deconstructs not only how he developed his own Mormon Testimony but the techniques that he and his fellow Missionaries used to induce those investigating the LDS Church into developing a personal Testimony experience.

One of the keys to this proselytizing process, according to McCraney is that if an investigator’s testimony that doesn’t produce the desired result is simply rejected as either “false” or the investigator is told that they didn’t fully meet the requirements of The Moroni 10 Formula – such as praying with real intention or real faith. Therefore, and this can’t be emphasized enough, in Latter-day Saint culture only one result is valid when it comes to Mormon Testimonies!

This moved from abstract to real for me when a Mormon on a now defunct internet discussion board challenged me when I bore my Mormon Testimony which went like  this:

“I would like to bear my testimony.

I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have read the Bible and prayed regularly for over 30-years. I have also studied, sought God and prayed about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, as well as many other official LDS Church documents. I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life. And it is that which I feel when I testify to this:

I bear witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a man made religion synthesized by Joseph Smith, a false prophet. To that end I also bear witness that all the Mormon “living prophets” that followed Joseph Smith up and until today have been false prophets. Further, I bear witness that the Book of Mormon is a work of non-inspired 19th Century fiction. Finally, I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as all it’s splinter groups are non-Christian cults.

Here I stand before God and before men. Thank you for letting me share what I know to be true.”

Ironically, I was only one of five board members who bore similar testimonies as a result of taking “The Book of Mormon Challenge”. Every single one was rejected as “invalid” by the Latter Day Saint thread participants. In the lightly edited board exchange that follows you’ll find my deconstruction of the psychological dynamics underlying the typical Mormon Testimony as well as the typical LDS reaction to it.

LdS:
“When you took the Book of Mormon challenge did you go in skeptical or did you think as I did, “How could this book come from anywhere but God?” That is what I asked myself, and that was the beginning of a revealed testimony which transcends the arguments of Man!”

My Response:
What you’re describing is what’s known as a “presupposition”:

pre-sup-pose
verb (used with object), -posed, -pos-ing.
1. to suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance.
2. (of a thing, condition, or state of affairs) to require or imply as an antecedent condition: An effect presupposes a cause.
(Dictionary.com)

The problem that I see here is that when you took the “Moroni 10 Challenge” you didn’t read the Book of Mormon objectively simply reading and considering the words on the page you presupposed that it was from God and guess what – that’s exactly what you found!

Moroni's Grammatically Correct Promise

This is a known psychological phenomenon called a “gestalt closure” where your mind “closes the loop” with a known recognizable object, desired or predetermined conclusion. This is normal and natural – we all do it. It’s actually it’s an indicator that God is a God of order because He designed our minds to seek out order even in the midst of randomness or even chaos. Here’s an example:

GESTALT PRINCIPLE OF CLOSURE
The Gestalt principle of closure means that the mind is able to derive meaning from objects or pictures that are not perceived in full. For example:

I-m s-re th-t y-u w-ll be a-le to und-rst-nd th-s s-nt-nce

Most people are still able to read, “I am sure that you will be able to understand this sentence”, in the above sentence although nearly 25 percent of the letters have been omitted.

That’s because the mind is quite able to bridge the gaps that were left in the sentence. That’s due to Gestalt Closure. Here’s an example: In the figure above you should see an integrated figure thanks to Gestalt Closure:

Graphic_Closure_Cropped

An example of gestalt closure. The mind bridges the gap to fill in or complete the “white” figure in the middle.

Gestalt Closure and Snapping
However, Gestalt Closure also has a dark side. For example, in Mind Control Cults it’s used to guide the investigator to a “snapped” psychological state as their mind projects into, or brings to closure a predetermined conclusion that they conditioned to “presuppose” by the person in the cult guiding them to “snap”.

Such as, “If you will read the Book of Mormon with an open heart and open mind then I’m sure that you too will see – as we do – that an inspired book like this, revealed to an ignorant, uneducated farm boy, could have ONLY come from God!”

So you dutifully go off and start reading the same Book of Mormon and guess what, you’re sudden struck with the new “reality” is no ignorant, uneducated farm boy could write this great book of inspiration – it could have ONLY come from God!

Yet, others who just read the book without any Mormon preparation think that it’s (take your pick):

What’s the difference? One person reads the book with presuppositions and see inspiration and another takes it at face value and doesn’t. Same book, completely different results.4

LdS:
“For the record (and good laugh) could you please explain, or give us a practical example of a ‘stereotypical Gestalt Closure/Cult Snapping experience?'”

My Response:
Sure let’s look at the infamous ‘Moroni 10 Formula’ that’s at the core of ‘The Book of Mormon Challenge’ shall we?

shutterstock_book_of_mormon-1280x960STEP 1: The “Moroni 10 Formula” is introduced to the Investigator/Born-Into-The-Covenant-Mormon (I/BIC).
Look at the language of the passage it’s quite interesting – note, in particular, the bolded words and especially the bolded and redded words.

Moroni 10
2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

STEP 2:
These instructions implant random patterns into the subconscious of the I/BIC:

This book will open me to “wisdom”. […if it be wisdom in God…]

This this book will open my memory […ye would remember…]

This book will cause me to receive some things. […ye shall receive these things…]

This book will open my “heart” […and ponder it in your hearts.]

If I do the above I will receive something as it says, “And when ye shall receive these things”. Not“if” but “will” – an absolute emphatic.

Once I receive that “something” I must seek “spiritually”, (not intellectually) as it says, “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;”

However, if I want to keep the things that I’ve received my “heart” must be sincere as it says, “. . . and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart . . “

And I have to be intentional or I’ll not only not receive but not keep what I receive, as it says, “. . . with real intent . . . “

So if I don’t receive anything it’s my fault – I wasn’t sincere or intentional enough in my heart.

Or I didn’t have enough “faith”. [. . . having faith in Christ . . .]

But if I’m really sincere and really intentional and really have faith then I will have truth revealed to me, [‘…he will manifest the truth of it unto you . . .

And it will be from God [. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost…]

And if I’m “good” I will acknowledge this “truth”, if I’m “bad” I will “deny” it! [“…whatsoever thing is good is just and true…”]

And if I do deny it, I am denying Jesus Christ Himself! [‘…wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.’]

Again, these random prepositional parts and pieces are called “implants” – they create random but concrete forms so that Gestalt Closure can fill in the gaps via psychological projection.

More examples of how the mind engages in Gestalt Closure.

More examples of the mind gestalts to create a unified whole out of bits and pieces of information.

STEP 3:
So with these implants rolling around their subconscious, the I/BIC trots off to seek this transcendent experience.  And very often they find it . . .

STEP 4:
Then all these, loose, random, implanted patterns work until a recognized pattern merges and concertizes in the conscious mind and “BAM!” the I/BIC “Gestalts” the desired result: An emotional, non-intellectual, irrational witness that Joseph Smith is a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is from God.

OPTIONAL LOOP BACK TO STEP 1:
AND if they don’t receive it, per the Moroni 10 Formula, the I/BIC knows to do it again until they “get it right” and do it with enough. . .

  • Sincerity
  • Intention, and
  • Faith

. . . to achieve Gestalt Closure.  And this step is often done repeatedly until the I/BIC “gets” a Mormon Testimony that they can bear. Even if the Moroni formula isn’t fully understood, or only partially understood, or not understood at all, the I/BIC still has the random implanted thought, “There MUST be something here! The Missionaries/My Parents/My Friend/The Internet/etc. told me that there’s something here so there MUST be!”

The Mormon preparatory technique is a fine example of how to create a situation where Gestalt closure has a high probability of success.

But probably the most telling evidence that The Mormon Testimony is a guided Gestalt event is the uniformity. Sit through the typical (3-hour) “Fast and Testimony” meeting at your local LDS Ward Meeting House and nearly all of the testimonies given will match the following template with only the slightest modification:

“I know that God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth today. I know that this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation.”
(“Testimony Glove”, Friend magazine, October 2008)

As Jerry Benson says plainly from years of working with Mormons, “Almost all Mormon testimonies are identical.”5

Were this truly a “personal” testimony rather than a “implanted” testimony based on a corporate template that has been reinforced by Gestalt closure wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect less uniformity and more originality? Just compare and contrast the heartfelt but often rambling, disorganized, fragmented, even confusing testimonies given in Churches, 12-Recovery Groups, even ExMormon groups to the equally heartfelt but neat, concise and formulaic Mormon Testimony and the contrived, induced nature of the latter becomes even more apparent.

LdS:
“You claim that when overwhelmed with evidence, logic and reason, a Mormon will retreat into their testimony like someone retreating into ‘A Panic Room’. This ‘Panic Room’ concept is a crock and just show how truly ignorant and uninformed you really are!”

My Response:
Well, I’m not the only person who’s seen this behavior from Mormons – it’s nearly universal.

When the facts, evidence, and feelings of Cognitive Dissonance get too hard to process Mormons retreat into the “Panic Room” of their “Internal Witness/Testimony” until they feel safe and settled enough to come out again.

I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve lost count – so have many others.

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

From A Former Mormon Bishop
The insight and observations from former Latter-days has been remarkable. Bob McCue (a former Mormon Bishop and Mission Stake Mission President) had far more to say about how this works than I ever have. What follows are excerpts from a lengthy 128-page paper that he wrote on the subject which validates much of the above.

Nowhere is the “saying is believing” paradigm more visible in Mormon culture than in the Mormon custom of “bearing testimony”. Young people who were raised as Mormons but do not “have a testimony” are encouraged to “bear their testimony” until the find it. That is, they should publicly state that they believe Mormonism to be God’s one and only true religion, etc., or that they want to believe this, even if they do not. This is the one of the primary techniques used by missionaries and members of the Mormon Church to “strengthen the faith” of prospective members and young Mormons, including Mormon missionaries who do not yet believe. A large percentage of the Mormon missionaries who started their missionary service with me in 1977 fell into this category.

Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard referred to this practise by telling a story that dates to Brigham Young, near the beginning of Mormonism, that is fair to assume has been told many times since then. He told this story at a Mormon General Conference on October 3, 2004. It is important to note that anything said by a Mormon Apostle at a General Conference is more important than scripture from a Mormon point of view. That is, to the extent that it does not contradict scripture it is on par with it, and to the extent that it contradicts or “clarifies” scripture, the scripture is overridden. Ballard’s remarks were as follows:

My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.

Many years ago Brigham Young told of an early missionary in the Church who was asked to share his testimony with a large group of people. According to President Young, this particular elder “never had been able to say that he knew Joseph [Smith] was a Prophet.” He would have preferred to just say a prayer and leave, but the circumstances made that impossible. So he started to speak, and “as soon as he got out ‘Joseph is a Prophet,’ his tongue was loosened, and he continued talking until near sun-down.”

President Young used this experience to teach that “the Lord pours out His Spirit upon a man, when he testifies that [which] the Lord gives him to testify of” (Millennial Star, supplement, 1853, 30).

The lesson, I believe, is clear: having a testimony alone is not enough. In fact, when we are truly converted, we cannot be restrained from testifying. And as it was with Apostles and faithful members of old, so is it also our privilege, our duty, and our solemn obligation to “declare the things which [we] know to be true”
(D&C 80:4).

Brothers and sisters, join together with the missionaries in sharing your precious testimony every day, witnessing at every opportunity the glorious message of the Restoration. The fire of your testimony is all that you need in order to introduce the gospel to many more of our Father’s children. Trust in the Lord, and never underestimate the impact your testimony can have upon the lives of others as you bear it with the power of the Spirit. Doubt and fear are tools of Satan. The time has come for all of us to overcome any fear and boldly take every opportunity to share our testimonies of the gospel.

So, Ballard is saying several things. First, Mormons have a duty to say they “know” the Mormon Church is true more often. Second, they should say that even if they don’t believe it is true. Third, they should ignore the feelings of fear and doubt that indicate they do not know the Mormon Church is what it claims to be. And fourth, the act of saying something is true will cause them to “know” that they did not previously know.

And most of all, Ballard is saying that the basic premises of Mormonism are sacred, and hence unquestionable, as far as Mormon leaders are concerned.

I recall being told that story, and others like it, when I was a young person and did not believe that Mormonism was “true”. However, my testimony did not spring from saying things I did not believe. Rather, the dynamics described by the short story “The Missionary” are closer to what I experienced. And so, I was never a fan of the “say it even though you don’t believe it” philosophy that is prevalent within Mormonism.

As noted above, when I served my mission a large percentage of the missionaries who entered Mormon missionary service do not have a “testimony”. It is commonly believed within the Mormon community that young men are sent into the mission field first and foremost for their own good ? that is, to get their own testimony and become firm in the faith. And, they are encouraged to find their testimony by bearing it. That Ballard would say this at a Mormon General conference is not surprising since he has been a key player in the formation of Mormon missionary strategies for decades and has consistently taught this principle in that context at least since I was a missionary in the late 1970s.

Think of how the principles Aronson outlined above would be likely to apply to one of the many Mormon missionaries who starts his missionary service without a testimony. He doesn’t yet have a testimony of his own, and many times each week for two years he stands in public wearing an authoritative looking suit and bears solemn testimony in God’s name with regard to the truthfulness of the Mormon Church. He is not paid to do this. In fact, he knows that he is sacrificing his and his family’s money and time in order to have the privilege of bearing this testimony. So, either what he says is true, or he is a liar (or fool) to have said it. Since few people like to admit that they have been fooled or are a liar, the easiest conclusion to reach is that the statements made must be true. He also knows he is encouraging the people who hear him to make a commitment that will absorb a huge percentage of their lives and will change the course of their lives in dramatic fashion. This situation is calculated to produce the maximum attitudinal change in those young missionaries.

Something similar happens when regular Mormon members bear testimony to their friends and neighbours, and it is intensified if any of those friends become Mormons as well. This is why Mormon leaders like Ballard are constantly after the members to do missionary work with the friends, and to bear their testimonies. That is not to say this is a conscious strategy on the part of Mormon leaders. Rather, there is a strong correlation between members who bear regular testimony and members who remain faithful, hence testimony bearing is encouraged. Cognitive dissonance theory and the principle of insufficient justification in particular provide a cogent explanation as to why this is the case, and it has nothing to do with the truth of Mormonism’s claims. Not surprisingly, a similar strategy works well for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many other religious groups.

oaksMormon leaders justify the practise of encouraging people to say things that they don’t believe on the basis that those things are certain to be true, so even if the person saying them does not believe them to be true, she is still telling the truth. So, testimony bearing is a fundamental part of the Mormon culture. Each meeting, class, Mormon activity, etc., is opened with prayer. Most Mormon prayers are an implicit bearing of testimony; a certification that the Mormon Church is the Mormon Church’s God’s true Church. From the time they are able to speak their first words, little children are encouraged to utter such prayers. They do so at their meetings on Sunday, and at home on a daily basis with their families. Those occurs both in private, with Mom and Dad initially saying the words for the child, and in public before family members in the home each day and later in larger groups at Church. Formal testimony bearing is part of every lesson presented at Mormon Church or activity, and every speech (talks by Mormons) presented in Church services. Young people, again, begin to give these talks on a regular basis starting at age three or four. They are encouraged to bear their testimony each time they stand up and give a talk. Most adults have teaching responsibilities within the Mormon Church. They also bear their testimony each time they stand before the congregation to teach.

Mormon hymns are another form of testimony bearing. Starting at age 18 months, Mormon children are taught to mouth the words to songs that testify to the truth of the Mormon message. Each week these songs are sung at Mormon worship services for children, teenagers and adults. Mormon are encouraged to sing these songs in their homes during weekly Family Home Evenings and to have them playing in the background at other times.

Once a month, each Mormon congregation has a “fast and testimony” meeting. This is a meeting held at the end of a Sunday on which food and water are abstained from for a period of 24 hours by faithful Mormons. Toward the end of that period, the testimony meeting occurs. Going without food weakens body and the intellect, making it more susceptible to emotional experiences. These meetings are intended to provoke emotional experience. Feelings are shared with regard to the importance of family, community and a part of every testimony is a formula which has been laid down by Church leaders respecting belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the current prophet (whoever he may be) is also God’s only prophet on Earth and that the Mormon Church is the one and only true Church of God on the Earth. No dissenting opinion is permitted. And a steady stream of members approach the pulpit to express their faith in public. It is thought “cute” to have small children to stand up before the congregation to utter the words “I know the Church is true; I know the Book of Mormon is true; etc.” Special, and highly charged testimony meetings are held for teenagers at “Youth Conferences” and other special youth meetings which for many young Mormons is where the first visible glimmers of testimony are felt, and magnified. The short story “The Missionary” explores this process.

The "Testimony Glove" a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

The “Testimony Glove” a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

A variety of other similar examples from within Mormon culture could be described. I do not accuse Mormons of consciously planning to brainwash their children and those who investigate the merits of the Mormon Church; however, the system just described could hardly be better designed for that purpose. Again, I do not accuse Mormons of dishonesty or deceit. There may be a few at the top that are guilty of this, but the vast majority are certainly not.

Other Mormon Behaviours Related to the Principle of Insufficient Justification
Mormon culture includes many other behaviours that are likely to bring the principle of insufficient justification to bear on the creation of belief in the key tenets of the Mormon Church. For example, Mormons go through odd temple rituals that require promises of faithfulness and obedience to be made in front of other members of the community of faith; Mormons act as lay leaders of their congregations and commit enormous amounts of time and effort to Mormonism in this way; Mormons spend two years as full time missionaries while bearing testimony daily and baptizing new members who look up to the missionaries as their literal saviours; Mormons hand out Books of Mormons to their friends and otherwise encourage their friends to join the Mormon Church because it is God?s one and only true Church; and Mormons engage in many other behaviours that are part of Mormon culture and that publicly commit them to the Mormon Church. In each of these cases, the principle of insufficient justification will kick in to make Mormons feel that the Church must be ?true? and otherwise more valuable that it should objectively or rationally seem in their lives. Were this not the case, they were either liars or fools to do and say the things they did, and it is hard for most humans to consider that as a viable alternative.

I engaged in many of the behaviours just indicted while I was a faithful Mormon. The principle of insufficient justification would predict that this behaviour on my part would have created a powerful cognitive dissonance barrier to any information that indicates that the Mormon Church is not “true”. This is because if the Church is not true, I have been either dishonest or foolish by virtue of having done what I did, and I “know” that I am neither dishonest nor foolish! And, as noted in greater detail below, the more important to me is my image as a smart person, the more effective that cognitive dissonance barrier will be.
(excerpted from “Do Smart Mormons Make Mormonism True? And Answers to Other “Tough Gospel Questions” in Reply to a Faithful Mormon Scholar’s Defence of Mormonism”; Bob McCue; June 20, 2004; Version 3)

Holy Bible_Edited

What Does The Bible Say About The Mormon Testimony?
For the Christian, Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (NIV) is as good a description of The Mormon Testimony as you could hope for. It says:

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

Perhaps the most interesting phrase in this Bible passage is, “. . . if the sign or wonder of which he was spoken of takes place . . .” In other words, God, through the human instrument Moses, was saying, “There will be false prophets who can produce signs and wonders!” But then God goes on to explain how you can tell what criteria for veracity you’re to use when you’re confronted with one of these false but able to produce signs and wonders Prophets, “. . . and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,'” God says (paraphrasing), “Regardless of what signs and wonders the prophet produces you are to judge him by his behavior and on the content of his words. Specifically, does this prophet push you toward Me the true God of Israel or does he push you away from Me and toward other gods?” So at the end of the day, the issue with anyone who claims to be a divine prophet isn’t miracles or how the prophet makes you feel, it’s what he says and does – it’s it’s behavior and content not feelings, signs, or wonders!

So I have no doubt that Mormons and Investigators really do feel something when they apply The Moroni 10 Formula. I have no doubt that the infamous Mormon “burning in the bosom” is real. In fact, Christian Apologist and Ex-Mormon Timothy Oliver to this day says that the “burning in the bosom” that he felt as a Mormon was undeniably real! In fact I have felt that same sensation myself and I know for a fact that it’s real! It is a legitimate sign I do not deny or denigrate that fact at all. It is indeed a legitimate wonder. However when we apply the Biblical test these very real, undeniable “signs and wonders” are irrelevant because Joseph Smith:

Folk art painting of Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Folk art painting of Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

  1. Prophesied another God
  2. Prophesied another Jesus
  3. Prophesied another Gospel
  4. Prophesied using Biblical words but changed their meaning
  5. Prophesied new revelations that are not in the Bible and, in fact, are contrary to it

Nowhere was this call to “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” from Smith clearer than in the King Follett Discourse when he said:

I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. I am going to inquire after God; for I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him; and if I am bringing you to a knowledge of Him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am His servant; for I speak as one having authority.

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.
(“The King Follett Sermon”, Ensign, April 1971, italics added for emphasis)

Though I have had Mormon after Mormon deny it, the content of what Joseph the Prophet preached in the King Follett Discourse was clearly, “‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known).”6 As a result he was clearly a False Prophet. Therefore, the church that he founded are based on false revelations from a False Prophet.  And we have been specifically commanded by God not to join institution that holds to “other” gods. This is called “idolatry” – and dear reader, the Bible is clear what the consequences of following a false prophet into idolatry are dire both in this world and the next. If you have any questions, just see Revelation 21:7&8 which says:

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
(Joseph Smith Translation, italics added)

Conclusion
The Mormon Testimony experience is a real phenomenon. However, applying the Gestalt psychological model to it, the experience and sensations surrounding it are easily explainable. Further, and to review, the Biblical witness is that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Therefore a Mormon Testimony event is ultimately an emotionally induced psychological experience accompanying a testimony to a false prophet and other gods whom God has commanded His people not to follow. To do so is to take your fate upon yourself.

proper-application-of-the-moroni-10-challengeNOTES:
1 Jerry Benson, “The Mormon Testimony: ‘I Testify to You…’.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 My LdS Brother – who had been “prepped” by my Mormon Uncle – felt the infamous “burning in the bosom while my other brother – who had not been prepped by my Mormon Uncle – just picked it up and read it. He called it, “Like reading a book about a bunch of Jews on the Planet of the Apes.”
5 Op Cit, Jerry Benson.
6 And subsequent Mormon Leaders have further validated this by explicitly acknowledging that the Mormon Church follows another Jesus. Since the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is God, this Mormon Jesus is also another God.

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages’”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads”, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some sub­stance to what they say”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90; )

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard P. Brockbank, LdS Seventy, “The Living Christ”, Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26; )

MormonTestimonyBasedOnChurch

(This is the Second Edition of this article. The First Edition was originally published on September 26, 2008 on the now defunct Concerned Christians discussion board)

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A Response to Hugh Nibley’s “Book of Mormon Challenge”

On April 16, 2016 Jeremy “Gogo” Goff, republished the Hugh Nibley “Book of Mormon Challenge” on his website in a manner that suggested that it was some type of unassailable proof for the Book of Mormon from back in the day. Unfortunately for Mr. Goff, skeptics had already thoroughly debunked and demolished Mr. Nibley’s confirmation bias driven, straw man filled debacle decades ago. Apparently Mr. Goff never got the memo. Here’s Sandra Tanner’s classic deconstruction and analysis of this “challenge” that isn’t. — Editor

Legendary BYU Professor, Hugh Nibley

BYU Professor and Mormon Apologist, Hugh Nibley

by Sandra Tanner
Some years ago a member of the Church of Jesus Christ  of Latter-day Saints gave us the following outline. (Several variants of this have been circulated through the years but all seem to contain the same major points.) While no author is given on this copy, we have another copy that was distributed in 1976 at the St. George, Utah, LDS Temple Visitor’s Center that bears the name of Hugh Nibley. We have been told that Nibley used to hand out copies of this paper in some of his classes at Brigham Young University.

Since this challenge has once again been sent to us for our comments, we present the following critique.

The original “Challenge” text appears in this color, with our comments following in regular type.

The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World
If one scoffs at the missionary’s explanation of the Book of Mormon, he is in so many words claiming it to be false: That it is a deceiving fraud formulated through the efforts and talents of a common man. What is produced by one man can always be duplicated by another. The challenge that the Book of Mormon makes to the world is that of duplication. Because the book complies with every one of the following conditions, in order to produce a similar record, one must comply with the same conditions.

Here is the challenge: Can you accept it?

1. Write a history of ancient Tibet covering a period from 600 B.C. to 450 A.D. Why ancient Tibet? Because you know no more about Tibet than Joseph Smith (or anyone else) knew about ancient America.
107coversmallAncient American ruins were already known in Joseph Smith’s day. In the early 1800’s there was high interest in the American Indian culture and artifacts resulting in many books and newspaper articles. Also, there were a number of books printed before the Book of Mormon discussing the origin of the American Indians specifically claiming that they descended from Israel—the very idea put forward in the Book of Mormon.

In 1652 Menasseh Ben Israel’s Hope of Israel was published in England. This Jewish rabbi was a firm believer that remnants of the ten tribes of Israel had been discovered in the Americas (Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, by Dan Vogel, 1986, p. 117).

In 1775 James Adair published The History of the American Indians. He theorized that there were twenty-three parallels between Indian and Jewish customs. For example, he claimed the Indians spoke a corrupt form of Hebrew, honored the Jewish Sabbath, performed circumcision, and offered animal sacrifice. He discussed various theories explaining Indian origins, problems of transoceanic crossing, and the theory that the mound builders were a white group more advanced than the Indians (Indian Origins, page 105).

A popular book of Smith’s day was View of the Hebrews, by Rev. Ethan Smith, printed in 1823, with a second edition in 1825.

LDS General Authority B. H. Roberts wrote extensively about the parallels between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon (see Studies of the Book of Mormon). Rev. Robert Hullinger gave the following summary of B. H. Robert’s parallels:

According to Roberts’s later studies, some features of View of the Hebrews are paralleled in the Book of Mormon. (1) Indians buried a book they could no longer read. (2) A Mr. Merrick found some dark yellow parchment leaves in “Indian Hill.” (3) Native Americans had inspired prophets and charismatic gifts, as well as (4) their own kind of Urim and Thummim and breastplate. (5) Ethan Smith produced evidence to show that ancient Mexican Indians were no strangers to Egyptian hieroglyphics. (6) An overthrown civilization in America is to be seen from its ruined monuments and forts and mounds. The barbarous tribes—barbarous because they had lost the civilized arts—greeting the Europeans were descendants of the lost civilization. (7) Chapter one of View of the Hebrews is a thirty-two page account of the historical destruction of Jerusalem. (8) There are many references to Israel’s scattering and being “gathered” in the last days. (9) Isaiah is quoted for twenty chapters to demonstrate the restoration of Israel. In Isaiah 18 a request is made to save Israel in America. (10) The United States is asked to evangelize the native Americans. (11) Ethan Smith cited Humboldt’s New Spain to show the characteristics of Central American civilization; the same are in the Book of Mormon. (12) The legends of Quetzacoatl, the Mexican messiah, are paralleled in the Book of Mormon by Christ’s appearing in the western hemisphere. . . . Roberts came to recognize that, at least in the case of Ethan Smith’s book, such works were widely available (Joseph Smith’s Response to Skepticism, by Robert N. Hullinger, Signature, 1992, pp. 183-184).

For more information the similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews, see Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, by David Persuitte.

2. You are 23 years of age.
Why this age would be necessary is unclear. Many young people have accomplished things that seem beyond their years. Alexander the Great led an army at age 18 and Mozart was composing music by the age of 6. In his late teens Joseph Smith showed signs of being a creative and charismatic leader, as evidenced by his leadership in various money-digging schemes. According to his mother, Lucy Smith, he was a creative storyteller as well:

During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, by Lucy Smith, 1853, p. 85; reprinted under the title Joseph Smith’s History by His Mother).

3. You have had no more than three years of formal school education, and have spent your life in backwoods farming communities.
Simply because Smith did not spend a number of years in a formal school setting does not mean that he was uneducated. He even enrolled in school when he was 20. Further instruction could have come from Smith’s father, who had been a school teacher and subscribed to the local newspaper (Inventing Mormonism, by Marquardt and Walters, pp. 43-45).

To the right is a sample of Smith’s handwriting in 1832 which shows that he had been instructed in writing and penmanship.

From Dean C. Jessee, “Personal Writings of Joseph Smith” (2002), page 16 (click to enlarge)

Author Dan Vogel observed:

Certainly, Smith had less schooling than his wife, but he managed to write reasonably well. After examining several letters from the early period of Smith’s life (1831-32), historian Dale Morgan concluded that they exhibit “a flair for words, a measure of eloquence, and a sufficient degree of schooling” (Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, by Dan Vogel, 2004, Signature Books, p. 119).

Similar claims of no education have been made for Muhammad. He had limited schooling, received visions, started a new religion and produced the Koran, a book considered scripture by over a billion people. (For more comparisons, see Joseph Smith & Muhammad, by Eric Johnson.)

Another similar claim has been made for Ellen White (1827-1915), of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which has grown to over 14 million members in less time than it has taken the LDS Church to reach 12 million. One Seventh-day Adventist writer gave the following summary of White’s life:

One morning four women gathered in a humble home in New England for their regular season of earnest prayer. After the three older women had prayed, Ellen Harmon, a shy girl of eighteen, began to pray. Suddenly she stopped praying and after a few moments of silence the women turned to Ellen and noticed that her eyes were wide open. . . . And Ellen told them that she must have been in a vision, but it seemed like she was right there. . . . Later, Ellen received another vision and this time the Lord asked that she tell her visions to the people.

A meeting was arranged for in Portland, Maine. About 200 people gathered to hear this young woman tell her vision. . . . She married James White a year after her first vision and she lived 70 more years, dying at the ripe old age of 87. During her lifetime she had more than 2,200 visions from the Lord. . . .

Though Ellen White had less than four years of formal education, she was instructed by the Lord to write and give counsel to the Church. If we had one copy of each book she has written placed one upon another, they would make a stack of books over seven feet high. She has, no doubt, written more than any modern writer. . . . The same God who gave her the vision, has given her the gift of inspired writing (The Spirit of Prophecy—Modern Prophets: Are They of God?, by L. E. Tucker, California, nd—possibly 1960’s).

Such claims do not prove that Muhammad, Ellen White or Joseph Smith truly received communication from God. But they do illustrate that Joseph Smith is not the only one from humble beginnings to claim the role of a prophet with millions of followers.

4. Your history must be written on the basis of what you now know. There was no library that held information for Joseph Smith. You must use none. There is to be no research of any kind.
Contrary to the above statement, the New England area abounded in literature speculating on the origin of the American Indian. In Smith’s neighborhood there was a library, bookstore and newspapers.

Both Palmyra and Manchester had a lending library. Even though there is no evidence that Joseph Smith borrowed from the Manchester library, he could have used the Palmyra library. There were also plenty of other sources for information. Robert Paul, writing for the BYU Studies, observed:

Moreover, if Joseph had wished to explore the literary materials of the day, it would have been unnecessary to travel the five miles to Manchester when in Palmyra, only two miles distant, there were several bookstores and at least one library, the contents of which he would have been free to peruse. . . . As early as 1819, and occasionally thereafter, book auctions were held in Palmyra. . . . The availability of bookstores and libraries in Palmyra, together with the fact that the Smith family regularly obtained the Palmyra Register and later the Wayne Sentinel from the newspaper office which doubled as a bookstore, would have mitigated the need to travel nearly three times the distance to acquire literary materials from the Manchester area (BYU Studies, Summer 1982, p. 340).

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

Robert Hullinger commented on the popularity of View of the Hebrews:

View of the Hebrews circulated widely in New York. It was also condensed in Josiah Priest’s The Wonders of Nature and Providence, one of the more widely circulated books of the Manchester rental library in 1827 (Joseph Smith’s Response to Skepticism, p. 186).

The local newspapers occasionally ran stories about the Indians. The Palmyra Register for May 26, 1819, reported that one writer

believes (and we think with good reason) that this country was once inhabited by a race of people, at least, partially civilized, & that this race has been exterminated by the forefathers of the present and late tribes of Indians in this country (Palmyra Register, May 26, 1819).

Furthermore, the following was published in the Smith’s local newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel, in 1825:

Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief (Wayne Sentinel, October 11, 1825).

The Book of Mormon parallels the views of Smith’s day; it does not parallel archaeologists’ findings today. This is one of the areas which demonstrate that the Book of Mormon was written in the 1820’s, not 600 B.C. to 421 A.D.

5. Your history must be 531 pages and over 300,000 words in length.
There are a number of books of equal or greater length claiming to come from God. Examples are the Koran, A Course in Miracles, Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, Oahspe, the prophecies of Anna Katharina Emmerick and the writings of Ellen G. White. These all claim to come from God.

Another group claiming divine instruction and visions were the Shakers. They published a number of pamphlets and books written in a scriptural style.

One of their books is A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book; From the Lord God of Heaven, to the Inhabitants of Earth. More than sixty individuals gave testimony to the “Sacred Roll and Book.” Although not all of them mention angels appearing, some of them tell of many angels visiting them—one woman told of eight different visions. On page 304 of this book we find the testimony of eight witnesses. They claim that they saw an angel and the “Roll and Book”:

We, the undersigned, hereby testify, that we saw the holy Angel standing upon the house-top, as mentioned in the foregoing declaration, holding the Roll and Book.

Betsey Boothe. Sarah Maria Lewis. Louisa Chamberlain. Sarah Ann Spencer. Caty De Witt. Lucinda McDoniels. Laura Ann Jacobs. Maria Hedrick. (A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book; From the Lord God of Heaven, to the Inhabitants of Earth, 1843, page 304)

Joseph Smith only had three witnesses who claimed to have seen an angel. The Shakers, however, had a large number of witnesses who claimed they saw angels and the Roll and Book. There are over a hundred pages of testimony from “Living Witnesses.”

(For more on the Shakers, see www.passtheword.org/SHAKER-MANUSCRIPTS/index.html)

Of particular interest is that Martin Harris, one of the Book of Mormon witnesses, also joined the Shakers. He evidently had a testimony of the Shaker book as well as for the Book of Mormon (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 63).

Authorship page from an 1849 European edition of the Book of Mormon

Authorship page from an 1849 European edition of the Book of Mormon

6. Other than a few grammatical corrections, you must have no changes in the text. The first edition as you dictate it to your secretary must stand forever.
Besides the approximately 4,000 grammatical and spelling changes that have been made in the Book of Mormon, there have been both historical changes and doctrinal changes.

In two places the name of a king has been changed from Benjamin to Mosiah. In the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon we read as follows:

. . . king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings . . . (Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, page 200)

In modern editions of the Book of Mormon this verse has been changed to read:

. . . king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings. . . (Book of Mormon, 1981 ed., Mosiah 21:28)

The same change was made in Ether:

. . . for this cause did king Benjamin keep them . . . (Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, page 546)

In the 1981 edition, Ether 4:1, we read:

. . . for this cause did king Mosiah keep them . . .

According to chronology found in the Book of Mormon, king Benjamin should have been dead at this time; therefore, the name was changed to his successor, Mosiah.

(For more information on changes, see our Topical Index: Book of Mormon: Changes.)

Four important doctrinal changes relating to the godhead were made in the second edition of the Book of Mormon. The original Book of Mormon clearly taught that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were one God. However, through the years Joseph Smith’s concept of God evolved into three Gods (see chapter 7 of our book The Changing World of Mormonism).

One of the most significant changes was made in 1 Nephi 13:40. In the 1830 edition it was stated that the very purpose of the Nephite records was to make known that Christ is the Eternal Father:

These last records, . . .shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world . . . (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., p. 32).

In the current edition three words have been interpolated:

These last records, . . . shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world. . . (1 Nephi 13:40)

A second important change was made in 1 Nephi 11:18; this is on page 25 of the 1830 edition. In the first edition it read:

Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

In modern editions it has been changed to read:

Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Notice that the words “the Son of” have been inserted in the middle of the sentence. Verse 21 of the same chapter originally read:

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!

It was changed to read:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!

Verse 32 of the same chapter, which is on page 26 of the original edition, was also changed. In the 1830 edition it read:

. . . the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

It was changed to read:

. . . the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world: and I saw and bear record.

While most of the changes in the Book of Mormon were done by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition, a number of changes were made as recently as 1981. (See Intro to 3,913 Changes: Major Changes Between the 1920 and 1981 Editions of the Book of Mormon.)

"Jesus Christ visits the Americas" by John Scott. It doesn't get much more Jewish than this does it folks? Especially the "Jewish" Temple in the background.

“Jesus Christ visits the Americas” by John Scott. It doesn’t get much more Jewish than this does it folks? Especially the “Jewish” Temple in the background.

7. This record is to contain the history of two distinct and separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
This point assumes that Smith correctly identified the different groups. Strangely missing is any reference to the Maya. Surely the Book of Mormon people would have encountered them.

To date, none of the Book of Mormon people groups have been identified through independent archaeological research. The Introduction to the Book of Mormon declares that

After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

Thus one would assume that it would be easy to identify descendants of the Lamanites. Yet DNA shows that the “principal ancestors” of the American Indians were Asians.

Many writers have produced complicated novels dealing with various fictional groups of people. Just look at the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien (www.tolkiensociety.org).

8. You must describe their religious, economic, political, and social cultures and institutions. Cover every phase of their society, including the names of their coins.
The Book of Mormon does not match any culture here in the Americas. It fails totally in the areas of religion, economics, politics and social culture, including their “coins.”

While the Book of Mormon does not use the term “coins” it is used in the heading of Alma, chapter 11, which describes the Nephite monetary system: “Nephite coinage set forth. . .” The chapter goes on to state:

And the judge received for his wages according to his time—a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given. Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value (Alma 11: 3-4).

However, when Europeans landed on the New England coast they did not find the American Indians using gold or silver as money. The first medium of exchange seems to have been shell beads, called Wampum (www.mohicanpress.com/mo08017.html). Later Indians exchanged such items as animal furs for the foreigner’s knives, axes, and other utensils (http://countrystudies.us/united-states/history-9.htm).

Further south, the Maya did not value gold as part of their trade system. Instead, they traded such items as salt, cacao, quetzal feathers, obsidian, colored shells and jade (The Maya, by Michael D. Coe, 2005, seventh edition, p. 206).

Whether or not the Book of Mormon refers to coins or measurements of metals, there is no evidence that gold and silver formed the basis of Native American commerce.

The Book of Mormon, An Angel Appears to Alma

The Book of Mormon, An Angel Appears to Alma

9. Change your style of writing many times. Many ancient authors contributed to the Book of Mormon, each with his own style.
Much of the book has the same long, rambling type of narrative one would expect from one author. Those instances of differences could be accounted for by the fact the book plagiarizes extensively from the various authors of the books of the Bible.

Joseph copied sections from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Paul’s letters, etc. For example, in Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.” This same phrase appears in the Book of Mormon, prior to the time of Christ. Alma 58:40 reads “stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free.” For more examples see our book Joseph Smith’s Plagiarism of the Bible.

10. Weave into your history the religion of Jesus Christ and the pattern of Christian living.
Instead of being a proof of divine inspiration, this is evidence that the book is a modern work. The Old Testament has no mention of Jesus Christ by name, or the Christian concept of baptism. Yet these are an integral part of the Nephite religion during the period before Christ. For instance, in approximately 550 B.C. God instructs the Nephites “repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son” (2 Nephi 31:11).

Also, the Book of Mormon repeatedly borrows phrases from the New Testament (King James Version). The problem is that these are found throughout the Book of Mormon prior to Christ’s birth and prior to the writing of the New Testament. Below are three examples of how Smith wove together parts of the Bible to make his new scriptures. The parallel biblical phrases are in brackets. In Alma 5:48 (about 83 B.C.) we read:

. . . I know that Jesus Christ [John 1:17] shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father [John 1:14], full of grace, and mercy, and truth [John 1:14]. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world [John 1:29], yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name [John 1:12].

Supposedly written about 550 B.C., Jacob declared:

And he commandeth all men that they must repent [Acts 17:30], and be baptized in his name [Acts 19:5], having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel [Isaiah 43:3], or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God [Acts 8:12]. (2 Nephi 9:23)

Compare the following Book of Mormon passage with the Bible:

Mosiah 5:15 [about 121 B.C.] 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, . . .

1 Corinthians 15: 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

11. You must claim that your smooth narrative is not fiction with moral value, but true and sacred history.
The Book of Mormon may have a complicated story line but it lacks a “smooth narrative.” Dan Vogel observed:

The book Joseph dictated abounds with examples of his poor grammar and Yankee dialect as well as his penchant for digression, redundancy, and wordiness. Rarely are his characters’ inner moral conflicts reflected. Most often we encounter flat, uncomplicated, two-dimensional heroes and villains. Generally the plots are simple and frequently improbable (Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, p. 119).

There are a number of religious books claiming to be “sacred history.” Many imitation gospels were written after the New Testament claiming to have been penned years earlier by various apostles (see http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/writings.htm).

"The Book of Zelph: Another Testament of the Book of Mormon"

“The Book of Zelph: Another Testament of the Book of Mormon”

12. You must include in your book fifty-four chapters dealing with wars, twenty-one historical chapters, fifty-five chapters on visions and prophecies. Remember, when you begin to write visions and prophecies, you must have your record agree meticulously with the Bible. You must write seventy-one chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and you must check every statement with the scriptures or you will be proven a fraud. You must write twenty-one chapters on the ministry of Christ, and every thing you claim he said and every testimony you write in your book about Him must agree absolutely with the New Testament.
The author of this challenge seemed to be unaware of the fact that the Book of Mormon was not divided into its current chapters and verses until 1879. The original chapters were much longer, resulting in fewer chapter numbers. Regardless of the number of chapters, it is sufficient to show that others have written books claiming to come from God that are equally, if not more, complex than the Book of Mormon.

In fact, there are people on the Internet claiming to have translated other portions of the gold plates. One man claims to have the lost book of Lehi. Another person claims to have restored the lost book of Zelph. And yet another person claims to have the sealed portion of the plates.

As for including chapters on the ministry of Christ, Smith plagiarized many portions of the gospels, including the Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew with only slight variations (3 Nephi 12).

Also, by Smith’s own admission he had sufficient exposure to Christianity to write the religious material in the Book of Mormon. According to Joseph Smith’s 1832 history, he had studied the Bible since he was 12 and had already determined that all churches were in error prior to his first vision:

At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest [p.1] with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that <they did not adorn> instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository [the Bible] this was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mand <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, edited by Dean Jessee, Deseret Book, 2002, pp. 10-11; photo on page 2 of this newsletter).

As for “checking every statement with the scriptures” the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible on a number of points. It does not “agree meticulously with the Bible.” For example, the Bible plainly states that the gospel, with its inclusion of Gentiles, was not fully revealed until after Christ’s death. In Ephesians 3:3-7 Paul writes:

by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister. (See also Col. 1:26; 1 Peter 1: 1-12; Romans 16:25-26)

However, the Book of Mormon maintains that the knowledge of Gentile inclusion existed in 545 B.C. In 2 Nephi 26:12 we read:

And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus in the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God

And in 2 Nephi 30:2 we read:

For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off. . .

For other examples of contradictions, see Bible and Book of Mormon Contradictions and (www.irr.org/mit/bombible.html).

13. Many of the facts, claims, ideas, and statements given as absolute truth in your writing must be entirely inconsistent with the prevailing beliefs of the world. Some of these worldly beliefs must be the direct opposite of your claims.
If the Book of Mormon’s claims contradict anything, it is the current scientific views of American Indian origins, rather than the views of Joseph Smith’s time. Nevertheless, it is not clear why such a contradiction with “prevailing beliefs of the world” would necessarily lend proof to the divine authenticity of any claim, as required in the above challenge. The fact that some Book of Mormon claims contradicts other widely accepted claims could be evidence for Joseph Smith’s own imaginative, yet inaccurate, thoughts.

When we examine the literature of Smith’s day we find that books such as View of the Hebrews argued that the American Indians were descended from the lost tribes of Israel. A similar concept is found in the Book of Mormon, where the people are descended from Israel. However, scientists today believe, and DNA confirms, the Indians descended from Asians, not Israelites. (See Quest for the Gold Plates by Stan Larson and Losing a Lost Tribe by Simon Southerton.)

An artist's rendering of the Jaredite barges from an LDS Church manual.

An artist’s rendering of the Jaredite barges from an LDS Church manual.

14. Included in your narrations will be authentic modes of travel; whether or not those ancient people used fire; description of their clothing, crops, mourning customs, and types of government. You must invent about 280 new names that will stand up under scrutiny through the years as to their proper application and derivation.
The Book of Mormon does not describe the “authentic modes of travel.” When Lehi and his family landed in the New World they supposedly found “the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse” wandering in the wilderness, animals supposedly brought by the Jaredites years before (see 1 Nephi 18:25; Ether 6:4; Ether 9:17-19). In Alma 18:9-12 we read of the king’s “horses and chariots.” In 3 Nephi 3:22 we read of the Nephites “horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and . . . their grain.” Alma 1:29 specifies that they had “silk and fine-twined linen.” Yet there is no archaeological evidence for these things prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas.

Evidently Joseph Smith thought a group of people from the Old World could simply bring their way of life, animals and seeds with them and create the same lifestyle in the New World. For instance, Mosiah 9:9 tells that the people planted “wheat.” However, archaeologists depict a very different lifestyle for the region most favored by LDS scholars as the Book of Mormon lands. Michael Coe, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University, describes the diet of the Maya:

While there are profound differences between the subsistence base of the lowlands and that of the highlands, the ancient foursome of maize, beans, chile peppers, and squash formed then, as it still does, the basis of the Mesoamerican diet, . . . (The Maya, p. 13)

The Book of Mormon also claims that cattle, sheep, swine and goats were “useful for the food of man” (Ether 9:18). However, the animals most hunted in Mesoamerica were the deer, cottontail and dog (Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, by Michael D. Coe and Rex Koontz, 2002, p. 89).

Metallurgy is another problematic claim of the Book of Mormon. It refers to steel swords produced in the New World (2 Nephi 5:14-15; Ether 7:9). It states also that the people worked with both iron and gold. Stan Larson observed:

William J. Hamblin, professor of history at BYU, criticized those who see “large-scale metal ‘industries’ ” among Book of Mormon peoples, affirming that the text “claims only that certain metals were known to the Nephites.” However, the Book of Mormon attributes advanced metallurgical skills to both Jaredites and Nephites. Glenna Nielsen Grimm said that “sophisticated metallurgical processes were engaged in that involved the mining and refining of both ferrous [i.e., iron] and non-ferrous ores.” Consider the impressive description of metallurgical technology during the time of Kish, a Jaredite king about 1500 B.C.:

And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work (Ether 10:23).

One must keep in mind the important distinction between mere metalworking and true metallurgy. Metalworking means the cold hammering and shaping of metal, while metallurgy requires temperatures of 700° to 800° C and involves some or all of the following technological processes: smelting, casting, gilding, annealing, soldering, and alloying. The Book of Mormon does specify the practice of smelting among the Jaredites, for Ether explained that Shule “did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel” (Ether 7:9).

Raymond Matheny described the metallurgical technology needed to produce iron objects:

A ferrous industry is a whole system of doing something. It’s just not an esoteric process that a few people are involved in, but ferrous industry—that means mining iron ores and then processing these ores and casting these ores into irons and then making steels and so forth—this is a process that’s very complicated. . . . In other words, society would have to be organized at a certain level before ferrous industry would be feasible.

The technology of mining is problematical for the Book of Mormon. Where do you find iron ores in sufficient quantity to create an industry? . . . No evidence has been found in the New World for a ferrous metallurgical industry dating to pre-Columbian times. And so this is a king-size kind of problem, it seems to me, for so-called Book of Mormon archaeology. This evidence is absent.

Matheny also pointed out that the extraction of iron from ore needs high temperatures and various fluxing substances which produce slag, which in turn become indestructible rock forms. In the 1920’s B. H. Roberts summarized the situation, saying that “there is nothing on which the later investigators of our American antiquities are more unanimously agreed upon than the matter of the absence of the knowledge of, and hence the non-use of, iron or steel among the natives of America” (Quest for the Gold Plates, Stan Larson, pp. 195-196).

Michael Coe gives further background on items used by the Maya:

From the time of their initial contact with the Maya, the Spaniards learned to their bitter disappointment that there were no sources of gold and silver in the Maya lowlands, and the foreign colonizers soon came to look upon the region as a hardship post. Yet the native inhabitants, to whom the yellow metal was of little value and in fact unknown until about AD 800, had abundant resources which were of far greater importance to them in their daily life, in their rituals, and in their trade. . . . .

As archaeologist Robert Cobean has noted, obsidian—a natural volcanic glass—was to ancient Mesoamerica what steel is to modern civilization. It was turned into knives, lance and dart points, prismatic blades for woodworking and shaving, and a host of other tools. . . .

The Maya elite had their special needs, above all jade, quetzal feathers, and marine shells (The Maya, pp. 22-23).

Oddly, the Book of Mormon never mentions these items that were so important in Mesoamerica.

In the 1996 statement from the Smithsonian Institution we read:

One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron (Smithsonian Letter, 1996. Also see http://blog.mrm.org/2012/03/the-smithsonian-institution-and-the-book-of-mormon/).

As for the topic of authentic names, almost half of the Book of Mormon names are from the Bible, while many others are variations of biblical names. “Lehi” is a Hebrew place found in the Bible (Judges 15:9, 14, 19). “Nephi” is from the King James translation of the Apocrypha. In
2 Maccabees 1:36 we read:

And Neemias called this thing Naphthar, which is as much as to say, a cleansing; but many men call it Nephi.

The main hill in the Book of Mormon is called “Cumorah.” However, the spelling is somewhat different in the first edition. The original text of Moroni 6:2 reads:

. . . we might gather together our people unto the land of Camorah, by the hill which was called Camorah, and there we would give them battle.

Captain Moroni Raises Title of Liberty Mormon while a chorus of steel Nephite swords are raised in honor.

Captain Moroni Raises Title of Liberty Mormon while a chorus of steel Nephite swords are raised in honor.

One of the main leaders in the Book of Mormon was “Moroni.” Interestingly, there are islands off the east coast of Africa named the Comoro Islands (also spelled Comora), and the capital is Moroni. A common school book in Smith’s day was Geography Made Easy, by Jedidiah Morse, 1813. On page 356 he mentions the “Comora Islands” off the coast of Africa.

Smith could have also heard of these islands in connection with his treasure-digging, as the famous pirate Captain Kidd, along with many other pirates, stopped there. It was rumored that he later buried his treasure somewhere in New England. Ron Huggins informs us:

One day in late March 1697, a ship . . . arrived at the Island of Mohilla, one of the Comoro Islands. . . . It would not depart again until April 18. Its captain, William (a.k.a. Robert) Kidd, did not know he would soon become one of history’s most famous, and notorious, pirates.

In those days pirates, even famous ones, were no oddity in the Comoros. . . .

But it was the rumor of an enormous treasure trove buried somewhere, or scuttled along with the mysteriously missing Qedah, which did most to immortalize the man. The fact that Kidd was arrested so soon after arriving in Boston made it highly likely, or so many believed, that his treasure was still out there, somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Thus, Kidd’s treasure became the most vigorously sought pirate’s prize of all. For Mormons, the fact that the pirate was hanged for crimes allegedly committed in the vicinity of Moroni on Grand Comoro is significant because the hunt for his treasure came to play a part in the story of Moroni on Comorah (“From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 36, no. 4, Winter 2003, pp. 17-19).

Further on in the same article, Huggins relates various statements connecting Joseph Smith with an interest in Kidd:

Stories about pirates and, especially, stories about Captain Kidd, played a particularly important role in the young Joseph’s imagination. According to J. H. Kennedy, Joseph “made confession” that the autobiography of Captain Kidd “made a deep impression upon him.” Kennedy does not say in what context Smith made this “confession.” Palmyra native Phietus B. Spear recalled in an 1873 interview that as a boy Joseph “had for a library a copy of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ stories of Captain Kidd, and a few novels.” Pomeroy Tucker also mentions Joseph’s youthful fascination with Captain Kidd, Stephen Burroughs the counterfeiter, and others, noting that such stories “presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions.”. . . E. D. Howe [in his 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed] describes the prophet’s parents as “having a firm belief in ghosts and witches; the telling of fortunes; pretending to believe that the earth was filled with hidden treasures, buried there by Kid[d] or the Spaniards”. . . .

Rumors of Kidd’s treasure were not limited to sites on the Eastern seaboard. Nor were the Smiths particularly unique in digging for it. John Hyde, Jr., wrote in 1857: “It was quite common in the western part of New York, about thirty years ago [i.e. 1827], for men to dig for treasure which they supposed had been hidden by Captain Kidd and others.” (“From Captain Kidd’s Treasure,” pp. 37-38; also see John Hyde, “Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs” p.263).

Another prominent Book of Mormon name is Mormon. This name was already in use prior to 1830 as the name of a species of puffin birds on the east coast of North America. For more information on Book of Mormon names, see Possible Sources for Book of Mormon Names.

15. You will have to properly use figures of speech, similes, metaphors, narrations, exposition, descriptions, oratory, epic lyric, and parables.
Ideas for parables, figures of speech, etc. could have come from reading the Bible. The book of Revelation speaks of “the four quarters of the earth” (Rev. 20:8), which is echoed in the Book of Mormon, “four quarters of the earth” (1 Nephi 19:16). For other similar copying, see The Changing World of Mormonism, chapter 5 and Joseph Smith’s Plagiarism of the Bible.

Another source of ideas is the Apocrypha. It was readily available in Smith’s day and was published in many Bibles. For examples of Joseph Smith’s borrowing from the Apocrypha see our Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 89.

"Nephi Fashioning the Plates" by Bill L. Hill

“Nephi Fashioning the Plates” by Bill L. Hill

When one considers the effort needed to make the original gold plates of the Book of Mormon and then to engrave them, one would expect a scribe to be as concise as possible, not wordy. Nephi’s brother, Jacob complained:

I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates (Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:1).

However, lengthy sentences abound. Here is just one example:

And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away; And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea, for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land (3 Nephi 8:1-3. For other examples see Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 105).

One could more easily imagine such long, rambling descriptions coming from someone spontaneously dictating to a scribe (as Joseph purportedly did) than from someone painstakingly engraving each word of a long historical record.

In order to maintain the impression of “properly using literary styles” the author of the Book of Mormon not only plagiarized verse after verse from the Bible, he also lifted wording from other sources. The Preface to the King James Bible (prepared for the 1611 printing) uses certain words which do not appear in the Bible, such as “clouds of darkness” and “overshadowed.” Yet the Book of Mormon contains similar wording:

. . . the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not disperse. . . (Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:31)

In fact, Smith repeated these words over and over again in the book of Heleman:

And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness . . . behold the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not disperse . . . the Lamanites could not flee because of the cloud of darkness which did overshadow them . . . he saw through the cloud of darkness . . . the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness maybe removed from overshadowing us? And Aminadab said . . . You must repent.. and when you shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you . . . the cloud of darkness was dispersed. And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about . . . by a pillar of fire (Helaman 5:28, 31, 34, 36, 40-43).

After this repetitious section of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith never used the words “cloud of darkness” again; instead he used the words “mist of darkness” or “mists of darkness.” It is interesting to note that the word “mists” (plural) is not found in the text of the Bible either, but it does appear in the Preface of the King James Bible (see Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 84).

Also, in order to “properly use . . . descriptions” one should not produce any anachronistic references. Yet many items are mentioned that would not have been known in Book of Mormon times, such as candles. In 3 Nephi 8:21 we read:

And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled . . .

16. You must invite the ablest scholars and experts to examine the text with care, and you must strive diligently to see that your book gets into the hands of those eager to prove it a forgery, and who are most competent to expose every flaw in it.
Actually, the first scholar to denounce the Book of Mormon was Professor Charles Anthon in 1828. Martin Harris took a small sample of the text, known as the Anthon Transcript, to Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Anthon. Professor Charles Anthon wrote:

The whole story about my pronouncing the Mormon inscription to be reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, apparently simple-hearted farmer [Martin Harris] called on me with a note from Dr. Mitchell, of our city, now dead, requesting me to decipher, if possible, the paper which the farmer would hand me. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick—perhaps a hoax. . . . I have frequently conversed with friends on the subject since the Mormon excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained anything else but Egyptian hieroglyphics (as quoted in Mormonism Unvailed, by E.D. Howe, 1834, pp. 270-272 )

43anthontranscript

Anthon Transcript (click to enlarge)

Also, the Book of Mormon characters bear absolutely no similarity to Mayan characters. Below is a sample of Mayan hieroglyphics.
Mayan Hieroglyphics from M.T. Lamb, "The Golden Bible", p. 264 (click to enlarge)

Mayan Hieroglyphics from M.T. Lamb, “The Golden Bible”, p. 264 (click to enlarge)

Many scholars since Prof. Anthon have looked at the Book of Mormon and have come to the same conclusion. After discussing the Mormon belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on the Maya, frankly stated:

Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, . . . nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon . . . is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp. 42, 46).

17. Thorough investigation, scientific and historical evidence, and archeological discovery for the next 125 years must verify its claims and prove detail after detail to be true, for many of the details you put in your history are still buried beneath the soil of Tibet.
There are no archaeological sites, writing samples or artifacts that can be identified as Nephite, Lamanite, or Jaredite. The LDS Church does not even publish a map designating the location of the Book of Mormon story. In fact, they seem to discourage attempts to designate any place as a Book of Mormon site. In 1978 the LDS Church News warned members not to get involved in trying to figure out where the Book of Mormon story took place:

The geography of the Book of Mormon has intrigued some readers of that volume ever since its publication. But why worry about it? . . .

To guess where Zarahemla stood can in no wise add to anyone’s faith. But to raise doubts in people’s minds about the location of the Hill Cumorah, and thus challenge the words of the prophets concerning the place where Moroni buried the records, is most certainly harmful. And who has the right to raise doubts in anyone’s mind?

Our position is to build faith, not to weaken it, and theories concerning the geography of the Book of Mormon can most certainly undermine faith if allowed to run rampant.

Why not leave hidden the things that the Lord has hidden? If He wants the geography of the Book of Mormon revealed, He will do so through His prophet, and not through some writer who wishes to enlighten the world despite his utter lack of inspiration on the point (Deseret News, July 29, 1978, Church News Section, p. 16 and Where is Cumorah?).

Though never endorsed by the Mormon Church, Latter-day Saint Vernal Holley’s map (top) based upon his opinion or “pet theory” of the Land of Promise location; The bottom is Holley’s map of the same area as it existed around the time of Joseph Smith, showing the same or similar names. (click to enlarge)

Though ever endorsed by the Mormon Church, Latter-day Saint Vernal Holley’s map (top) attempted to reconcile the Book of Mormon with Northeastern U.S. geography; The bottom is Holley’s map of the same area as it existed around the time of Joseph Smith, showing the same or similar names. (click to enlarge)

This LDS editorial leaves us with several questions:

1. If the Book of Mormon recounts historical events and places, why would it “undermine faith” to search for those sites? Researchers do archaeological studies for biblical sites, why not for LDS scriptures?

According to challenge number 17 it would seem that scientific testing of Book of Mormon geography would be welcomed. Yet the LDS Church leaders discourage it. In a recent LDS student manual is a theoretical map of various Book of Mormon sites. However, the caption states:

No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any existing geographical locations (Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1996, p. 163).

They evidently know that Book of Mormon sites do not fit the geography of the Americas.

2. Current editions of the LDS scriptures contain maps of the LDS Church migration across America. If maps aid in understanding the Doctrine and Covenants, why wouldn’t they be important for studies of the Book of Mormon?

3. If only the prophet can determine Book of Mormon geography, why doesn’t he?

4. If the prophet is the one who can correctly speak on these issues, then shouldn’t Joseph Smith’s statement that Lehi landed in Chile be authoritative? (See www.irr.org/mit/bomarch1.html)

5. Are the ? Then of what value are speculations on geography by BYU scholars? (See http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/cumorah.htm)

One of the LDS Church’s official web sites is still promoting the hill in New York as the place Moroni buried the plates. See (http://www.hillcumorah.org/cumorah.php).

18. You must publish it to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people declaring it to be the word of God and another witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Other books have done the same. James Strang, one of the contenders to succeed Joseph Smith, claimed divine revelation. Strang declared that

he was visited by an angel at 5:30 p.m. on June 27, 1844—the exact moment of Joseph Smith’s death—and anointed to be Smith’s successor (“God Has Made Us A Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons, by Vickie C. Speek, 2006, p. 22).

Later Strang claimed to find a buried record. Vickie Speek explains:

On September 1, 1845, Strang told followers he had learned by revelation about some ancient plates of brass buried in a nearby hillside. He claimed an angel appeared before him and showed him the plates in vision and gave him his own urim and thummim to translate the records (God has Made Us a Kingdom,” p. 24).

For more on James Strang, see (http://www.strangstudies.org/James_Jesse_Strang/).

19. The book must not contain any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements. Your history must not contain any statement that will contradict any other statement elsewhere in the volume.
There are many absurdities in the Book of Mormon, such as the story of the Jaredite barges, in Ether 2:16-21 and chapter 6.

According to the Book of Mormon, after the time of the Tower of Babel, Jared and his brother, together with their extended families, were told to build “barges” to carry them from the Middle East to the promised land (America). These eight barges were to be “small” and “light upon the water.” They were to be made the “length of a tree” and “tight like unto a dish.” At first God gave no instructions for light or ventilation. But the brother of Jared brought it to His attention and the Lord instructed:

Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood (Ether 2:20).

One wonders how long they would be able to breathe, let alone deal with the problems of pressure, with the boat sealed up and “swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (Ether 2:25)? This sounds like modern submarine capabilities. Also, when did one use the hole in the bottom? Did the boats flip over, thus requiring two holes? How does one transport people, flocks, herds, water and food in rotating vessels?

Then the brother of Jared complained that there was no lighting inside the barges. The Lord instructed him that they couldn’t have “windows, for they will be dashed in pieces” (Ether 2:23). Remember, this supposedly took place thousands of years ago before glass windows.

The brother of Jared then suggested that God touch sixteen stones, “molten out of a rock,” to make them “even as transparent glass” to provide light in the barges (Ether 3:1-2). This gives them two stone lights for each barge, full of people, animals and supplies.

They are next instructed to prepare “all manner of food” for themselves and “food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them” (Ether 5:4). How would they have room on eight small barges the length of a tree to store food and fresh water for a trip that would take a year?

One wonders how these eight small barges stayed together and on course? No instructions are given as to any means of steering the vessels which are “light” and “tight like unto a dish,” yet they are driven by furious winds and at times “buried in the depths of the sea.” Amazingly, all eight barges arrive at the same spot at the same time. This horrible trip is summed up as follows:

And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water (Ether 6:11).

No such trip could have been made thousands of years ago.

The HIll Cumorah (c.19th Century)

The Hill Cumorah (19th Century photograph)

The account of the decapitation of Shiz (Ether 15:29-31) is equally unbelievable. Supposedly the Jaredite civilization came to an end with a terrible battle involving millions of people at the hill Ramah. The Nephites and Lamanites would later choose the very same location for their last battle but named the hill Cumorah.

The last two opponents were Shiz and Coriantumr. After Coriantumr beheaded Shiz, “Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.” Did his head struggle for breath or his body? Either situation is impossible.

An important example of anachronistic contradictions in the Book of Mormon is found in the use of the name “Jesus Christ.” Some time around 550 B.C. an angel revealed to Jacob, brother of Nephi, that the Redeemer would be named “Christ” (2 Nephi 10:3).

After this, Nephi had it revealed to him that “Jesus is the Christ” (2 Nephi 26:12). However, according to the first edition of the Book of Mormon, Nephi already knew this name years before:

And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and Jesus Christ, which is the Lamb of God . . . (Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, page 28).

Since the Book of Mormon states that the name was first made known to Jacob, then to Nephi, Joseph Smith had to change the words “Jesus Christ” to “the Messiah” in the 2nd edition. Thus in the 1981 edition we read:

And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God. . . (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:18).

This change allows Nephi to refer to the “Messiah” without using his name, leaving it to Jacob to later reveal that the Messiah would be called “Christ.”

The same mistake is made when King Benjamin (about 124 B.C.) revealed to his people that the name of the Messiah would be “Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 3:8). According to Book of Mormon chronology, this name would have been known for hundreds of years, having been revealed earlier to Jacob and Nephi (see Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 74).

In fact, it had already been revealed to the Jaredites hundreds of years before Jacob and Nephi. In the record of the Jaredites is an account of the appearance of Jesus to the brother of Jared:

Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son (Ether 3:14).

20. Many theories and ideas as to its origin must arise, and after discovering and examining the facts, they must fail. You have claimed that your knowledge had come from divine origin, and this claim continues to stand as the only possible explanation. The strength of this explanation must not decrease as time passes, but actually increases to the point where it becomes the only logical explanation.
The Book of Mormon has grown less credible through non-LDS scholarly study, not more so.

The Book of Mormon tells of three migrations to the Americas, a land held in reserve for these people. It never mentions other groups occupying the land prior to the arrival of the Book of Mormon peoples. Yet the DNA of the American Indian shows that 99.6% descended from Asians, not Israelites. For more information on DNA problems, see Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 103 and the book, Losing a Lost Tribe, by Dr. Simon Southerton. For other problems, see (www.lds-mormon.com/bomquest.shtml).

21. Your record is to fulfill many Bible prophecies, even in the exact manner in which it shall come forth, to whom delivered, its purposes, and its accomplishments.

No Bible scholar sees the Book of Mormon as fulfilling prophecy. Mormons often cite Ezekiel 37:15-21 as a prophecy regarding the Book of Mormon. Mormonism claims that the two sticks refer to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. However, the chapter gives its own interpretation of the passage. At that time Israel was divided into two groups. Verse 18 states the people will ask for an interpretation of the joined sticks. In verses 19-22 the Lord declares that the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel shall be joined into one nation. It is a promise from the Lord relating to the restoration of Israel. See Book of Mormon Overview and (http://www.mrm.org/ezekiel-sticks).

22. Call down an angel from heaven in the middle of the day and have him bear testimony to four honest, dignified citizens of your community that the record is the word of God. These witnesses must bear the angel’s testimony to the world, not for profit or gain, but under great sacrifice and severe persecution, even to their death beds. You must put that testimony to the test by becoming an enemy to these men.
The witnesses to the Book of Mormon were involved in magic and money-digging prior to testifying to the book. They were not the most “dignified” citizens of the area. Several years after Joseph Smith started his church he denounced Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, even calling him a “wicked man” in two different revelations (D&C 3:12-13; 10:6-7). The other two witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, were accused of uniting

with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property, . . . (Letter quoted in Senate Document 189, Feb. 15, 1841, pp. 6-9).

Since Smith himself lost confidence in these men, why should anyone today trust their testimony about angelic visions? For more on the witnesses, see chapter 5 of our book, The Changing World of Mormonism.

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

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

Other movements, such as the Shakers and Strangites, have claimed revelations, angelic visitations and listed various witnesses. In fact, Martin Harris joined both of these groups (Changing World, chapter 5, pp.100-101).

Besides this, many Catholics and Protestants have recounted visions. Two famous Catholic visions were the appearance of Mary in 1531 to Juan Diego in Mexico and her appearance in 1858 to Bernadette at Lourdes. Two Protestants claiming visions of Christ were Rev. Elias Smith, in 1816 and Asa Wild in 1823 (Changing World of Mormonism, pp. 159-160). Thus Smith’s claim of visions is not as unique as many LDS people believe.

23. Thousands of great men, intellectual giants, national and international personalities, and scholars for 165 years must accept your history and its teachings even to the point of laying down their life rather than deny their testimony of it.
This could equally be applied to Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. See response to points 2 and 3.

24. You must include within the record this promise: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
This challenge provides Mormons with a comforting explanation if one does not get the same confirmation that they did. If you pray about the Book of Mormon but do not receive a witness in your heart that it is true, you did not pray with “a sincere heart.” Latter-day Saints seem unaware of the thousands of people who claim to have sincerely prayed about other religious texts and are equally convinced that they have found the truth. Prayer alone is not enough to ensure that one is not misled. It didn’t keep Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris from gaining an equal testimony to the Shakers and James Strang.

25. Missionaries must bear record to the world for the next 165 years that they know the record to be true because they put the promise to the test and found it to be true. The truth of it was manifested to them by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Christian missionaries have put their faith and lives on the line for almost 2000 years. One need only read Fox’s Book of Martyrs for examples.

"Mormons visit a country carpenter" (1856) by Christen Dalsgaard, depicting a mid-19th century visit of a missionary to a Danish carpenter's workshop. The first missionaries arrived in Denmark in 1850. (click to enlarge)

“Mormons Visit a Country Carpenter” (1856) by Christen Dalsgaard, depicting a mid-19th century visit of a missionary to a Danish carpenter’s workshop. The first missionaries arrived in Denmark in 1850. (click to enlarge)

26. Over 52,900 plus [This number is different in other copies] competent salesmen must be so sold on your book that they gladly give up two or more years of their lives to take it to all parts of the world for distribution. They not only pay their own way during these years, but return bearing testimony that the time spent will remain as one of the highlights of their lives. They receive nothing in return for their efforts but the joy of having shared your book with others.
The number of committed followers does not guarantee that the movement has the truth. Also, not all LDS missionaries pay their full expenses. The LDS Church has a general missionary fund to help those who are not able to pay for a mission. How is this any different from any Christian missionary society where funds are pooled to send out missionaries? This represents a great sacrifice on the part of Christian missionaries who have generally spent years in college to prepare for such a calling. Plus, they do it as a lifetime commitment, not just two years.

27. Your book must not only raise the standards of millions of people but do it in such a way that they become one of the great moral, ethical, and dynamic marvels of the day. They must become world renowned for this.
The Book of Mormon simply echoes the moral teachings of the Bible. In Alma 16:18 is a list of sins, all of which are dealt with in the Bible:

Now those priests who did go forth among the people did preach against all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and malice, and revilings, and stealing, robbing, plundering, murdering, committing adultery, and all manner of lasciviousness, crying that these things ought not so to be—(Alma 16:18).

We read in Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Yet an ocean away Moroni writes “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mormon 9:23).

Paul cautions that to “be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life (Rom. 8:6). However, hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, the Book of Mormon recorded “Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Nephi 9:39).

Philippians 2:12 states “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Again, Moroni uses the same language, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Mormon 9:27).

Of course the Book of Mormon sounds Christian; it simply plagiarizes verse after verse from the Bible.

Christians, Jews and Muslims have traditionally promoted honesty and family values. The LDS Church does not have a corner on the concept.

28. For the next 20 years you must watch those that follow and you, your family, and the dearest of your loved ones persecuted, driven time after time from their homes, beaten, tortured, starved, frozen and killed. Tens of thousands must undergo the most extreme hardships in your presence just because they believe your claims concerning the origin and content of what you have written on ancient Tibet.
Early Christians were arrested, thrown to the lions, and died in various terrible ways for their faith. Mormons have never suffered to the extent that Catholics, Protestants and Jews have done. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been persecuted far beyond anything experienced by the LDS Church. See (www.persecution.org) or (www.bibleleague.org).

29. You must gain no wealth from your work, but many times lose all that you have. Like those that believe you, you must submit yourself to the most vile persecution. And finally after 20 years of this, give your own life in a very savage and brutal manner, for your testimony concerning your history book. This must be done willingly on your part.
Joseph Smith brought on many of his problems with his secret doctrines like polygamy and the kingdom of God. He did not die as a martyr, but in a gun battle while in jail (See Joseph Smith’s Death).

Zealots have been sacrificing and dying for their various causes for thousands of years.

30. Start right now and produce this record which covers 1,000 years of history, doing it, not in the peaceful atmosphere of your community, but under the most trying of circumstances which include being driven from your home several times, and receiving constant threats upon your life. Please have your book completed, talk a friend into mortgaging his farm to raise money to have it printed — all in 60 days.
The Smiths had moved a few times during Joseph’s childhood due to financial reverses. But Joseph was hardly “driven” from his home several times during the production of the Book of Mormon.

Joseph and his father traveled to the border of New York and Pennsylvania to work for Mr. Stowell in 1825 and 1826. Mr. Stowell hired Joseph Smith specifically because he claimed to have magical powers to find hidden treasure. After Joseph married Emma in 1827 they lived with his parents. However, his former partners in money-digging were hounding him about the gold plates, feeling that he owned it to them to share the treasure. Martin Harris, who financed the printing of the Book of Mormon, told a newspaper editor:

The money-diggers claimed that they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them, and continued concealing the plates (Tiffany’s Monthly, August 1859, as quoted in The Creation of the Book of Mormon, by LaMar Petersen, p. 136).

"Joseph Smith Translating" by Nelson

“Joseph Smith Translating” by Nelson

In the winter of 1827-1828 Joseph and Emma moved south to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to live on her parent’s property while he did his translation (see Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, by Dan Vogel, p. 106). During this time Joseph’s father lost the family farm due to debt and moved in with his married son, Hyrum. Joseph later moved north to the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, where he finished the translation. These moves seem to relate more to monetary necessity than religious persecution. (See Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, by Newell and Avery, pp. 24-29)

The Book of Mormon project was not restricted to “60 days.” Smith seems to have been working on his story prior to getting the plates in 1827.

Joseph’s mother said that he used to entertain the family with tales about the Indians. Since Smith’s mother places this after the time the angel first told Joseph about the plates (1823), some have argued that he was merely repeating information he got from the angel. However, it is hard to imagine God sending an angel to tell Smith entertaining stories of the Indians’ “dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode,” etc. It sounds more like a young man practicing his story.

Joseph Smith first started dictating his book in 1827, so he had at least three years to record the story prior to its publication.

Also, Martin Harris, the man who mortgaged his farm to finance the printing of the Book of Mormon and one of the witnesses, had been involved with Joseph Smith for three years. He didn’t make a quick decision to finance the project. In fact, he seems to have gone into the venture with an eye to making money. Dan Vogel explains:

According to his [Martin Harris] wife and sister-in-law, Harris boasted in 1828 that the Book of Mormon would be a financial windfall. According to Tucker, “Harris was led to believe that the book would be a profitable speculation for him, and very likely in this [fact] may be traced his leading motive for taking the venture. He was vouchsafed the security of a ‘special revelation’ commanding that the new Bible should in no instance be sold at a less price than ‘ten shillings,’ and that he himself should have the exclusive right of sale, with all the avails. . . . Indeed, he figured up the profits . . . thus: 5,000 books at $1.25 per book, $6,250. First cost, $3,000. Showing a clear speculation of over one hundred per sent upon the investment” (Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, p. 481).

However, when the book failed to sell, Martin became concerned about the mortgage on his farm and the possibility of foreclosure to cover the printer’s bill. In response to this Joseph received a revelation denouncing Martin for hesitating to pay the bill:

I command thee [Martin Harris] that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God—. . . Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage (Doctrine and Covenants 19:26, 35).

LDS historians James Allen and Glen Leonard observed that the Book of Mormon “was not a commercial success, however, and a year later Martin Harris, true to his word, sold his mortgaged farm and paid the $3,000” (Story of the Latter-day Saints, 1992, p. 53).

There is only one answer: The Book of Mormon is a divine record. If not, its origin must be stated and its claims must be explained by the critic. It isn’t enough to merely discard it as false and forget about it!

The first thing to do in examining any ancient text is to consider it in the light of the origin and background that is claimed for it. If it fits into that background there is no need to look farther, since historical forgery is virtually impossible.

Forgeries that fit the historical background that is claimed for them are not only possible, but are prevalent. For example, there were the infamous Hitler diaries, consisting of 60 volumes, created by Konrad Kujau in the 1980’s:

. . . Kujau might have remained a small-time crook had he not come into contact with Gerd Heidemann. A Stern reporter whose career had reached something of an impasse, Heidemann had developed an unhealthy interest in the personalities of the Third Reich and an expensive appetite for the artefacts associated with them, . . .

He was immediately fascinated by the “Hitler Diaries”. Kujau’s first production was no more than a single volume labelled Political and Private Notes from January 1935 until June 1935. Adolf Hitler. . . .

Believing — or wanting to believe — this extraordinary volume authentic, Heidemann went to Stern with his “revelation”. His star began to rise at once. Amid great secrecy, the magazine’s publishers agreed to give him the funds to pay Kujau for more diaries, to be secured, at some risk, via his high-ranking contact in the East German military.

Kujau set to work. For three years, he wrote Hitler’s daily thoughts in Gothic script into a black A4 notebook. On to each page he would pour tea, to give it an aged appearance. He would then slap the pages together and batter them against the table to wear and age the volumes. Finally he affixed two red wax seals in the form of a German eagle on the covers.

The diaries purported to run from June 1932 to April 1945. In composing the content, Kujau worked from a library of reference books, newspapers and medical records. The result was not immediately impressive, though it was only after the hoax was revealed that the banality of the entries seemed so strikingly clear (www.mishalov.com/Kujau.html).

mark-hoffmannews

Master Forger Mark Hofmann presenting one of his forgeries to the highest ranking leaders of the LDS Church. (click to enlarge)

The forgeries were announced to the world through Stern, then exposed by David Irving:

Adopting high-powered marketing methods at their press conference to sell the multi-million dollar diaries, Stern began by presenting to the hundreds of television and newspaper journalists a one-hour video film describing how the documents had been found in East Germany by their star journalist Gerd Heidemann. . . .

The diaries had been faked, it turned out, by Konrad Kujau, a gifted Stuttgart confidence trickster. Irving located Kujau’s abandoned “workshop” in May 1983. . . . Irving was in court in Hamburg on July 8, 1985, to hear sentence passed on Kujau, who had confessed to forging the documents, . . . (www.fpp.co.uk/bookchapters/Torpedo/Intro.html).

One need only look at Mark Hofmann and his numerous documents and letters to see an LDS example of historical forgery. Like Kujau, Hofmann used historical research, artificially aged ink, etc. to create his documents. He was even able to deceive the president of the LDS Church. In 1980 the Deseret News carried a picture of Hofmann examining the supposed Anthon Transcript with President Spencer W. Kimball (see chapter 6 of our Tracking the White Salamander). Not only were the LDS leaders unable to discern that Mark’s documents were forgeries, they were buying them. After Hofmann killed two people the whole forgery scheme was exposed and he is now serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison.

Summary
Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt declared:

The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record. . . . If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions . . . if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it: if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. . . .

If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated. . . .

But on the other hand, if investigation should prove the Book of Mormon true . . . the American and English nations . . . should utterly reject both the Popish and Protestant ministry, together with all the churches which have been built up by them or that have sprung from them, as being entirely destitute of authority (Orson Pratt’s Works, “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon,” Liverpool, 1851, pp. 1-2).

When we look at the origin and background of the Book of Mormon we find that the only one to actually examine the record was Joseph Smith, a young farmer-turned-magician. He announced to his family and neighbors that a long dead inhabitant of the Americas had appeared to him in a vision and eventually showed him where to find the ancient record of his people.

However, no one was allowed to go with Smith to retrieve the plates from the hill and no one was allowed to see them, except in vision. When a sample of the Book of Mormon characters was shown to scholars it was denounced as a fraud. While translating the record, the plates were either hid in a box or secreted outside the home. After the translation was completed the plates were returned to the angel and have not been seen since that time, thus making it impossible for experts to examine the record.

Over the next 178 years scholar after scholar has concluded that the book is a product of the 19th century, not an ancient record (see Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 105).

Where is the non-LDS scholar who views the Book of Mormon as a historical document? Where are the artifacts, buildings or samples of writings of the Nephites, Lamanites or Jaredites? These groups supposedly numbered in the millions and built great cities. There are thousands of artifacts relating to the Israelites, early Christianity, Maya and Olmec civilizations. Why are there none for the Nephites and Lamanites? Where is an official LDS map?

There were no elephants, horses or cows in the Americas prior to the Europeans’ arrival. Also, American Indians did not have wheeled vehicles, metallurgy, or wheat during the Book of Mormon time period. Nothing has been found that directly relates to the Book of Mormon civilizations. Obviously it is a fictitious work of the nineteenth century and should be rejected. As John warned centuries ago:

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

Marching out an army of straw men doesn't win an argument.

Marching out an army of straw man  arguments not only doesn’t win an argument, it shows that you have no strong arguments to present.

About the Author
One can’t talk about Sandra Tanner without also talking about her late husband Jerald.  Jerald Tanner was born in Provo, Utah and reared as a Mormon. He studied at the University of Utah and received a degree from Salt Lake Trade Technical Institute. He was a fifth-generation Mormon; his great-great-grandfather, John Tanner, gave large donations to LDS founder Joseph Smith when the fledgling church was deeply in debt.

Sandra McGee was a fifth-generation Mormon. She is a great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS church. Both families had longstanding ties to the Mormon community.

Soon after they were introduced, Jerald Tanner and Sandra McGee began jointly researching the subject of Mormonism. Each had been raised in the LDS faith, but discovered that they each as a teenager had begun to question the church.

Sandra Tanner

Sandra Tanner

Jerald and Sandra Tanner were married in Mission Hills, California on June 14, 1959. Soon afterward, both resigned from the LDS. In 1964, they began an outreach to Mormons at their house in Salt Lake City, which grew into Utah Lighthouse Ministry. They had two daughters and a son together. After 47 years of marriage, Jerald Tanner died in Salt Lake City on Oct 1, 2006, as a result of complications arising from Alzheimer’s disease. He had retired a few months before his death. This article was published the month of his death.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner are considered two of the more influential Mormon Studies scholars of the 20th and 21st Century. Beggar’s Bread considers it an honor to be granted permission by Sandra Tanner to republish this classic article.
(source for author’s bio: Wikipedia)

This article was originally published in the Salt Lake City Messenger #107,  October 2006. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author. 

BACK TO TOP

church_sign-wideby Fred W. Anson
Since I’m known in most circles for my strong Reformed theological stance, a lot of people are surprised to discover that I’m also full blown, tongues speaking non-cessationist Charismatic.

There’s a reason for that: I’m embarrassed. Yes folks, I’m embarrassed by so much of the insanity that goes on among my Charismatic/Pentecostal Brethren these days that I find myself wanting to distance myself from a movement that I once was proudly part of. If anyone has any doubts about why, just pick the latest copy of Charisma Magazine skip the editorial content (which is generally written by sane, reasonable people), and read the ads (which in many cases seem to written by people who are neither).1 If that doesn’t convince you, just flip to the Trinity Broadcasting Network (aka “TBN”) on your television and try to last for more than about 15-minutes – them folks is all nuts from what I can tell!

Yes, the lack of biblical theological, sound doctrine, discernment, and good old common sense that some of today’s Pentecostals and Charismatics engage in is embarrassing folks, truly embarrassing – and I’m saying this as someone who’s part of the tribe! The term that we thinking Charismatics use for these lunatic fringe nutballs is “Charismaniacs” – and trust me, they have legitimately earned the title! In fact, a few have even go so far off the rails that they openly embrace – and even promote – Mormon error. Let’s look at a couple of these.

Paul Richardson and Lynn Ridenhour

Advertisement for a joint Paul Richardson, Lynn Ridenhour seminar. (click to zoom)

The Errors of Paul Richardson
In previous articles2 Beggar’s Bread readers were introduced to Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, an allegedly ordained Baptist Minister who has a testimony of Joseph Smith as prophet due to being introduced to the Book of Mormon by one of his Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ neighbors in Missouri. Dr. Ridenhour merited his own article because he’s the most notorious personality in this regard. In fact, it was through Lynn Ridenhour’s Facebook page that I discovered Dr. Paul Richardson, of whom he wrote:

MEET A DEAR FRIEND. Meet Dr. Paul Richardson, Pentecostal minister who loves and preaches out of the Book of Mormon. A few years back we hosted a Book of Mormon seminar in Independence. Two protestant preachers—a Baptist and a Pentecostal—preaching out of the Book of Mormon. I remember the night. The place was packed! We had an LDS Bishop there, missionaries were there. RLDS brothers and sisters were there. A Catholic priest came.

I consider Dr. Paul and his lovely wife, Faye, the dearest of friends. What a John the Baptist they are! Forerunners ahead of their time—spreading the good news of the restoration gospel and the message of the precious Book of Mormon throughout the southern states of this nation. Dr. Richardson publishes his monthly newspaper and mails it out to Pentecostals, mostly pastors all over southern United States. He also gives away free “Record of the Nephites,” as he calls the Book of Mormon.

Dr. Richardson is the chancellor of Spirit of Truth Institute, a Bible School. His school has ordained over 430 Pentecostal ministers. What a friend!3

Now it should probably be noted here that Dr. Ridenour actually transitioned from being a cessationist Baptist to continuationist Pentecostal during the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970’s. So if you attended that seminar what you really got, despite Lynn Ridenhour’s spin doctored rhetoric, was not one, but two Pentecostals who have fallen into Mormon error. And Dr. Ridenhour isn’t joking about any of the stuff he said about Paul Richardson, let’s consider some “gems” from his website:

El Greco, "The Pentecost"

“The Pentecost” by El Greco

OUR DISTINCTIVE STAND
We accept the Book of Mormon, which we also refer to as “The Record of the Nephites” or “The Nephite Record.” Why? Because …

  • It is a companion to and comparable to the traditional 66 books of our Holy Bible, as Sacred Writ
  • It is obviously inspired of God and from heaven.
  • It is in harmony with our Holy Bible, confirms and supports fundamental Christian teachings and is another powerful witness unto our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It is a fascinating true account of ancient Israelites who migrated by ship to America about 600 B.C.
  • This authentic account was dug up, supernaturally translated by the power of the Holy Ghost, and first printed in 1830. Sadly, the Utah “Mormons” have made many little alterations in their version of it, but we still have copies that conform to the original manuscript.
  • It authoritatively corrects a number of old false teachings that have plagued the Church for generations.
  • It is theologically sound, full of spiritual light, and very edifying to the soul.
  • It is the first installment of much more extra-Biblical Revelation prophesied to come forth in this end time.4

And how does Paul Richardson support his claims that the Book of Mormon is an “authentic account”, “obviously inspired of God and from heaven”, and a “true account”? Archaeology? Science perhaps? Cross referencing the historic records? Evaluating the linguistics of the Book of Mormon relative to Native American linguistics maybe? Theological consensus perhaps?

Of course not! Rather, given the fact that it’s been soundly discredited archaeologically, scientifically, historically, linguistically, theologically, and just about every other way, he just does it the same way that all true believing Mormons do: He elevates his feelings and experience above all else. He simply ignores the fact that not only isn’t there a scrap of evidence to validate the Book of Mormon, there’s a mountain of evidence that discredits it. Here’s an example of the type of feellings driven, Mormon style, mental gymnastics that he engages in:

SOMEONE HAD TO WRITE THE BOOK OF MORMON
—It did not just drop down out of Heaven. There are only three possible origins: 1. God, 2. Man, or 3. the devil.

Joseph Smith, Jr. did not write the Book of Mormon. He only translated it. Then soon afterward his life became such a lie that the Book he translated was stigmatized causing the Christian church to rejected [sic] it.

What does the Book of Mormon do for me?
• Well, it inspires me to pray and to be loving and kind.
• It convicts me of any selfishness, fleshly disposition or worldly attitudes.
• It builds up my faith and gives me courage to trust the Lord.
• It puts me in a Heavenly frame of mind and kindles a strong desire in me to walk with God and to live holy for Him.

Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service. Reading the Book of Mormon does all the same things for me as reading the Holy Bible does.5

But the fact of the matter is that objective evidence simply can’t be ignored. And if that evidence contradicts your emotional decision it still has to be dealt with somehow. Given that, consider how arbitrary and inconsistent he is in accepting the divine calling of Joseph Smith as inspired translator of the Book of Mormon while simultaneously throwing him under the bus as a fallen prophet:

Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and a great Seer.

His gift was utterly supernatural!

He had an amazing gift from God to translate the ancient Nephite Record. His great contribution was incomparable, for which we are very grateful.

But not long after he translated the Book of Mormon, he clearly became deceived and misguided and no one should follow either his personal example or his false teachings, which clashed with both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I prefer to follow the pure Word of God!6

Wiggin-Pentecost-smaller

“Pentecost” by Mark Wiggin

This is pretzel logic at it’s finest! This is like saying that Mohammed was a divinely inspired moralist when he received the Koran but lost the anointing when he started slaughtering infidels. Or that L. Ron Hubbard was an expert in human psychology when he wrote Dianetics but suddenly became a manipulative hack after it fell off the bestseller list. Neither narrative is true: The moral character of neither man changed before or after the these works were published, they remained the same. Likewise, the historical record demonstrates that Joseph Smith was a con-man and a shyster before, during, and after the creation of the Book of Mormon. In all cases, the only thing that really changed was the amount of power and influence that these men were able to consolidate to themselves as a result of the publication of their defining work. And once they had that power consolidation protecting them, their true nature manifested itself.

So apparently in Richardson’s mind the rationale goes something like this: “So what if Joseph Smith didn’t live a life that produced good fruit (per Matt 7:15-20)? So what if the rotten fruit he produced has resulted in a plethora of abusive Mind Control Cults that have followed him in engaging in the practice of polygamy? So what if he taught that the God of the Bible is just an exalted man who is just one of an infinite number of such gods throughout the cosmos (in violation of Deut 13:1-11)? So what if Joseph Smith destroyed fortunes and families through failed prophecies (in violation of Deut 18:18-22)? Brother, his book sure makes me feel like I’m in a really good church meeting when I read it, so it must be of God, right?”

Clearly Dr. Paul Richardson is failing to plumb line any of his beliefs against the absolute and objective standard of the Bible. I can say this emphatically because while the Book of Mormon is an interesting example of 19th Century American Protestant Restorationism, it simply isn’t fully “in harmony with our Holy Bible”. As Donna Morley noted in her analysis of similar claims by Lynn Ridenhour:

Here’s what Alma 13:13 actually says:

“And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”
(Alma 13:13, RLDS, bolding added)

Further, here’s something else Alma says in chapter 13:

“Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.”
(Alma 13:10, RLDS, bolding added)

In the above, Alma stated that the high priests escaped damnation only by working righteousness. The righteousness is credited as “their righteousness.” This isn’t the unconditional grace that’s taught in the Bible this is conditional grace where one must perform good works in order to merit grace rather than it being a unilateral gift of unmerited favor and mercy from God Himself!

True Christianity isn’t based upon our righteousness. The prophet Isaiah says that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). Because we don’t have righteousness of our own, true followers of Christ are given His righteousness:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
(Romans 3:22, NASB)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB)7

pentecost 2

“Pentecost 2” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998)

The Book of Mormon also contradicts with biblical theology on other key points as well. For example, it’s view of the Godhead is modalistic8 and it rejects salvation by grace alone through faith alone (that is unconditional grace) for Roman Catholic style conditional grace ( that is, salvation by grace plus works):

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
(2 Nephi 25:23 LDS bolding added for emphasis)

This is in direct contradiction with the Bible:

“For it is by faith you are saved through faith, not that of yourselves it is the gift of God”
(Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB bolding added for emphasis)

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
(Romans 11:6, NASB)

So it’s clear that Dr. Paul Richardson is in very grave error. He isn’t following the “pure Word of God” at all. I would respectfully suggest that he reconsider his feelings regarding the Book of Mormon in light of what the pure Word of God actually says regarding using feelings as the ultimate means of discerning truth:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
(Jeremiah 17:9, KJV)

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
(Proverbs 28:26, KJV)

Dr. Paul Richardson pitches the “Record of the Nephites” without explicitly stating that it’s the Book of Mormon.

The Errors of Cal Fullerton
While he’s not well known, probably the most interesting of the Charismatics who have been snared by the spirit of Mormonism is Cal Fullerton. Unlike Lynn Ridenhour and Paul Richardson, his justification for his stance isn’t quite as eye rollingly, face palmingly, ham fistedly inane, absurdist, and irrational. Rather, like non-Charismatic LdS Church advocates Richard J. Mouw and Roger E. Olson, he has been seduced into an odd form of theological liberalism and eyes wide shut ecumenicalism that’s rooted in feelings and experiences trumping both biblical orthodoxy and reality. One need go no further than the home page of his website to see this:

“Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Christian?” This question and others about Christianity in the Mormon Church are reverberating worldwide.

The answers given are usually polarizing. Those who say no are primarily evangelical Christians. Those who say yes are primarily Mormons . . . but not all of them.

Respected evangelical leaders such as Joel Osteen have said yes.

The president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, who has been recognized as an important voice among reform-oriented evangelicals, confessed that evangelicals have spread lies about LDS beliefs…

In order to do this completely and most effectively, there must be unity among us. Jesus prayed, “I have given them [my disciples] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:22-23 NIV).9

"Icon-Pentecost" by Phiddipus

“Icon-Pentecost” by Phiddipus

So there you have it, an Evangelical Scholar whose work in Mormon Studies has been discredited and denounced by recognized and respected Evangelical Mormon Studies Scholars (Richard J. Mouw)10 and an ear tickling heretic (Joel Osteen)!11 I mean if these guys say it’s true, then it must be – right? I mean, with “evangelical leaders” like this who needs wolves, we have them right in the flock!

But, wait it gets, even better: Though it’s rarely mentioned in public, Cal Fullerton also bases his stance regarding the LdS Church on a prophecy from an errant Charismatic prophetess. Here’s how he relayed this incident on a Mormon/Evangelical discussion board:

I heard the prophecy (not a dream or vision) by the prophetess long after the Word of God—printed & living—revealed to me God’s perspective on the LDS.

Incidentally, the prophetess fell short of saying the LDS is Christian and should be accepted into the Christian fold. Rather, she rebuked the church of Christ for pointing fingers at Mormons. At one point she yelled, “THROW DOWN YOUR STONES!” I liked it so much that I asked permission to use her prophecy in something I was writing. She denied permission, which is why, for the sake of integrity, I’m not mentioning her name now. (She is well known and highly respected among charismatics.)12

And there you have it – classic Charismaniac error. When push comes to shove, Biblical absolutes get shoved to the side and are subordinated to feelings and experiences. This theme can be found again, again, and again on Mr. Fullerton’s website. Again one need go no further than his home page:

Helen [Cal Fullerton’s wife] and I are not taking this stand because we have another opinion– opinions are already too easy to find–it’s because the Spirit of the living God has revealed it to us. Have you ever noticed that virtually all non-Mormons who say the Mormon Church isn’t Christian, don’t say that God told them so? The reason is He didn’t!13

So it came as no surprise to me when Mr. Fullerton offered the same, “Pray about it my friend” defense of the Mormon Church in the aforementioned online discussion that one would expect from a Mormon. Here was my response:

[Your challenge that I pray about the Mormon Church] deserves special, detailed attention. With this statement you have demonstrated WHY some Charismatics/Pentecostals and nearly all Latter-day Saints fall into error.

Cal, I don’t HAVE to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I have to pray about whether I should lie, cheat, steal, or commit adultery. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to told to pray about Biblical absolutes.

Rather, for a true Christian the Bible is his/her absolute authority – not feelings, not experiences, not relationships, and not . . . whatever. And in this case Joseph Smith failed to pass every Biblical test for a true prophet and he passed every test for a false one:

1) Deceiving God’s covenant people into following another God. (Deu 13:1-11)
2) Giving future predictions that failed to come to pass. (Deu 18:18-22)
3) A life that produces bad fruit. (Mat 7:15-20)
4) Denying that Jesus Christ was God eternal incarnated in human flesh. (1 John 4:1-3)

In addition we can add:
5) Use of Occult practices like scrying and Shamanism.
6) Incorporating Freemasonry into the LDS Temple ceremonies.
(Freemasonry is rooted in Kabbalah which is occultic)

As I’m sure you know occult practices are soundly condemned throughout both the Old and New Testament so I won’t bore you and the other readers with a list of proof texts on this. In regard to Joseph Smith’s involvement with these practices here’s a good write up by former Mormon, Janis Hutchinson that ends with this closing statement: “No individual, knowing the truth about the Mormon Church’s occult background, could possibly follow Joseph Smith as a prophet or embrace his teachings.”
http://www.janishutchinson.com/joeoccult.html

So no Cal, there’s no need to pray about whether Mormonism is Christian anymore than I need to pray to determine if Branch Davidianism, Christian Spiritualism, Freemasonry, or Scientology are. Sure there are good, moral, admirable people in each of these religions but that doesn’t make them Christian any more than it makes their founders true prophets of the God of the Bible.

And, I must say it, suggesting that I – or any other Christian for that matter – disregard Biblical absolutes and pray about whether the false religion started and based on the teachings of the false prophet Joseph Smith simply demonstrates how flawed, errant, and unbiblical your theology has become.14

At this point, I’m not quite sure what to add in regard in regard the Errors of Cal Fullerton. One need only parse through his website to see error, after error, after error.

"Pentecost" (Unknown Artist)

“Pentecost” (Unknown Artist)

Good Theology? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Good Theology!
Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richards, and Cal Fullerton represent the Charismaniac extremism that John MacArthur and his supporters pointed to with glee in their “Strange Fire” book and conferences in indicting Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement as a fountainhead of error. They’re easy targets since, unlike many Charismatics, they seem to lack any real theological depth. For example, consider this “gem” from Cal Fullerton:

It has been said that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is not a Christian organization because Mormonism denies one or more of the “essential” doctrines of the gospel. To determine if that statement is correct, we need to have a good grasp of what actually is essential. To correctly classify the LDS we need to be sure which doctrines of the Holy Bible are absolutely mandatory in order for someone to become a Christian and enter heaven. Roughly seventy percent of Mormon teachings agree with evangelical teachings. But that does not prove that the LDS is a Christian denomination. The tenets and members have to agree with the Bible’s essentials.

I have assembled these essentials into four.

Essential Number 1: Believe God Rewards…
Essential Number 2: Repent to Faith in Jesus…
Essential Number 3: Receive Jesus (the Holy Spirit) Into Your Heart (Be Born Again)…
Essential Number 4: Believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ…

According to the Bible, if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the four essentials I’ve listed above, we must classify it as a Christian denomination instead of an unchristian cult. That is because God has plainly promised that if you do the essential requirements I have outlined, he will accept you into his eternal family.

Back when I thought the Mormon Church wasn’t Christian, I didn’t pay much attention to whether each of their doctrines had to do with a mandatory requirement for entering heaven. That was one of the reasons I made a tragic mistake of judgment.15

I can hear the sound of palms hitting faces throughout cyberspace as those grounded in historic, biblical theology read that “masterpiece”. I know of no credible theologian who would accept that list as fundamentally sound criteria for soteriology, let alone mainstream Christian orthodoxy! He apparently has no clue that the Essential Doctrines of the Christian faith have recognized throughout Christian Church History as the following:16

"Pentecost 4" William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 - 1998)

“Pentecost 4” by William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 – 1998) (click to zoom)

The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith
1) The Deity of Jesus Christ.
2) Salvation by Grace.
3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4) The gospel of Jesus Christ, and
5) Monotheism.

In the end Cal Fullerton only demonstrates his own ignorance and destroys his own case by doing a Mormon style “redefining the terms to fit the predetermined conclusion”. In fact, Mormonism doesn’t even get through the Judeo-Christian gate because of it’s rejection of monotheism in favor of henotheistic polytheism.

Likewise, as pointed out in a previous article, Lynn Ridenhour can’t even properly articulate the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by mainstream Christianity without speaking heretically. And he then one ups that heresy by concluding that Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead is correct.17 Finally, as noted previously, Paul Richardson seems quite happy with the modalistic version of the Trinity presented in the Book of Mormon, as well as its denial of salvation by grace alone. Folks, if you’re looking for theological depth from these three, look elsewhere! The aforementioned John MacArthur could well have been writing specifically about them when he said:

We ought to begin with the Word of God, allowing a proper interpretation of the text to govern our experiences. A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture.

Charismatics downplay doctrine for the same reason they demean the Bible: they think any concern for timeless, objective truth stifles the work of the Spirit. They envision the Spirit’s ministry as something wholly free-flowing, infinitely pliable— so subjective as to defy definition. Creeds, confessions of faith, and systematic theology are seen as narrow, confining, not elastic enough for the Spirit to work within. Acknowledging this tendency within charismatic circles, one author wrote, “A college student once warned me of the ‘dangerous doctrine of demons’— his description of systematic theology. ‘The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture,’ he explained. ‘Teaching doctrine is Satan’s attempt to use our minds to understand the Bible rather than relying on the Holy Spirit.” (William E. Brown, “Making Sense of Your Faith”, Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1989, p.55)

That is a shocking statement. In reality, the only thing good theology stifles is error, which is why sound doctrine is the single greatest antidote to charismatic deviations. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16: 13). Any work of His will elevate biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people.18

Pentecostal Charismaniacs: Mormons Gone Bad
But now it should be apparent that these men are more Mormon than Christian in their epistemology. This should come as no surprise since as noted in prior articles19 Mormonism was a byproduct of the same 19th Century American Restorationist Pentecostalism that birthed today’s modern Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. That epistemology, in a nutshell, can be described thusly: Feelings, faith, facts – in that order. As Lutheran Pastor, Don Matzat (who has past involvement with the Charismatic Movement) observed well:

There is nothing wrong with Christians desiring feelings, emotions, and experience. In fact, the lack of any experience is in itself an experience. The lack of feeling is a feeling. The lack of emotion is an emotion. Any cursory reading of the New Testament demonstrates that love, joy, peace, hope, contentment are to be the Christian’s experience, feeling, and emotion…

Rather than coming against a feel-good faith, we should clearly teach that true Christian feelings, emotions, and Holy Spirit experience are the product of sound theology. Rather than confronting imbalance in the church by promoting the alternative and pushing the pendulum to the other side, we should begin with a balanced perspective which means recognizing that feelings will follow a faith that clings to the objective promises of God in Scripture. The person who believes and confesses that his sins are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross should feel guilt-free and experience the joy of having a cleansed conscience. Feelings and emotions. while not the cause of our faith, are the expression of our faith. Martin Luther writes, “We can mark our lack of faith by our lack of joy; for our joy must necessarily be as great as our faith.” Again he writes, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.” (Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), Vol. 2, p. 692.)…

Hopefully the present conflict between sound doctrine and feel-good experience will lead to a balanced perspective on both sides. Those who minimize sound doctrine and promote feelings and experience must recognize that they are plotting a course for deception and disaster. Those who focus on sound doctrine must begin teaching people to apply those great truths of Scripture to their daily living so that the experience of God’s people matches what the Word of God commands.20

And Charisma magazine more directly and forcefully articulated the same sentiment in a web article by Joseph Mattera entitled, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”. In fact, according to Mr. Mattera, this is the #1 characteristic of a Charismaniac:

1. You put prophecies and extra-biblical leadings on the same level as the written Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 says if we speak not according to the Scripture then we have no light. Second Timothy 3:16 teaches that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The Scriptures are our rule for life and the highest standard for judging truth.

Unfortunately, some in the charismatic camp seem to be led more by personal prophecies and supernatural visions and dreams than by the Scriptures. I have known some people who would record personal prophecies by well-known “prophets” and—without praying about it or comparing it to Scripture or getting discerning counsel from more seasoned leaders in the kingdom—would just obey the prophecy as if it were as inspired as the Bible.21

Jean_II_Restout_-_Pentecôte

“Pentecost” by Jean II Restout, (c.1732)

In other words, biblical epistemology is facts, faith, feelings – in that order. To see the contrast, just consider Paul Richardson’s “evidence” that the Book of Mormon must be true because, “Each time you lay the Book of Mormon down and walk away, it feels just like you had a real good church service.”22 Now compare this to his lack of any acknowledgement that the Book of Mormon does in fact contradict both the Bible and Christian orthodoxy. When you take that and then factor in the reality that there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon – a glaring omission that somehow fails to be addressed on his website or in any of his articles – the work’s rejection as holy writ should be fait accompli. Instead, again, again, and again in his articles Mr. Richardson endorses the book as scripture equivalent to scripture based on subjective analysis that’s devoid of any objective evidence. As I said to Cal Fullerton regarding this same kind of lack of discernment and failure to plumb line such impressions against objective evidence:

I, a fellow Charismatic who believes in modern prophetic utterances and the other gifts of the Spirit say to you now as I did back on the [now defunct] Concerned Christians board [in 2010]: I don’t care WHO that prophetess was, I could care less what her reputation is among Charismatics or anyone else for matter, she gave a false prophecy – period.

When plumblined against the Bible it was a false prophecy. Period.

And most distressingly she validated a false prophet and a heretical non-Christian group in the name of (and allegedly in the voice of) God. She is, therefore, a false prophet and a deceiver. Period.23

This blatant disregard of objectivity (especially biblical objectivity) over personal subjectivity is very Mormon isn’t it? In fact, Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel and a Charismatic with Pentecostal roots, could have been describing these men when he wrote:

It is of utmost importance that we allow the Bible to be the final authority for our faith and practice. Any time we begin to allow experiences to become the criteria for doctrine or belief, we have lost biblical authority, and the inevitable result is confusion. There are so many people today who witness of remarkable and exciting experiences. The Mormons, for example, “bear witness” to the experience of the truth of the Book of Mormon. They encourage people to pray in order to experience whether or not their Book of Mormon is true. One person says he has experienced that it is true, and another says he has experienced that it is false. Which one am I to believe? Each swears he has had a true experience from God; yet one has to be wrong. Whenever you open the door for experience to become the foundation or criterion for doctrinal truth, you are opening a Pandora’s box. The result is that the truth is lost in the conflicting experiences, and the inevitable consequence is total confusion. We know that God is not the Author of confusion.24

Further, didn’t Christ stress the importance of evidence throughout His sermons? And could Paul have been any clearer when he said that if our Christianity isn’t empirically true then “we are of all men the most pitiable”?

If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
(1 Corinthians 15:14-19, NKJV)

In summary and conclusion, this unbiblical, feeling affirming, evidence denying pattern can be seen plainly in the writings and public instruction of all three men – again, one need only spend some “quality time” on their websites to see this clearly. By embracing false scripture from a False Prophet – and even worse, encouraging others to do the same – these men have become false teachers themselves. And the Bible was quite clear what God’s people are to do when we encounter a false teacher, false prophet, false apostle, or false anything for that matter:

You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
(Deuteronomy 13:3&4, NKJV) bolding added for emphasis

pentecost

A primitive fresco of Pentecost.

NOTES
1 Full disclosure and clarification: I worked as a Music Reviewer for “Worship Leader Magazine”, which is also owned by Strang Publications, the publisher of Charisma Magazine, from 1992-1993. During that time I found John Strang and his staff to be reasonable, personable, and theologically sound. I think that’s why you will find the editorial content of Charisma Magazine to be generally sound.

That’s why I’ve specifically recommended that you just view the advertisements in the magazine instead – they’re an unvetted, raw picture of the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church at the grassroots level and, frankly, it’s scary. Whenever someone asks (or challenges) me about my (admittedly blunt) assessment of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement I just point them to there. After seeing them, nothing else need be said. For example, let’s look at a couple of them from the December 2015 issue of Charisma magazine:

“Blood Moons are not about the end – they are about the beginning.

For over 3,000 years God has used the blood moon tetrads on His feast days of Passover and Tabernacles as a sign of special revival coming to His people. The last great blood moon revival came in 1967, when God poured out His Spirit to begin the charismatic renewal. Today there are over 600 million charismatic Christians who are the fruit of this revival, including most of the readers of this magazine.

The blood moon tetrad of 2014-2015 occurred in troubled time, as have most the previous 14 blood moon tetrads. Yet we can see the beginning of a new revival coming based on unity in Christ in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Don’t miss it!

we invite you to study the Scriptures, the heavenly signs, and the history of the blood moon tetrads in our new book . . . ”
(Charisma, December 2015, p.9)

But, wait folks, if blood moons aren’t enough, there’s more! Consider this “gem”:

“Discouraged?
Need a miracle?
Lack the faith to believe?
Desire to be empowered to heal?

– Receive step by step Biblical Instruction to activate God’s healing power in your life.
-Be encouraged as you read the amazing testimonies that are in this book.

Afraid?
Feel defeated?

– Tap into the supernatural potential of your faith.
– Unleash the power of God.
– Experience the impossible.
– Overcome in these Last Days.
(Charisma, December 2015, p. 15)

Even more disturbing are the titles and subtitles of the latter books being advertised in the second advertisement: “Dare to Believe: The True Power of Faith to Walk in Divine Healing and Miracles” and “Greater Than Magic: The Supernatural Power of Faith”. Apparently, the Bible isn’t enough any more, now we need the equivalent of “How To” Charismatic cookbooks and computer manuals! Further, if one didn’t know in advance one might even assume from the title alone that these are books from pagans on how to cast spells or channel metaphysical powers and forces. Yet there they are, being advertised in the flagship periodical of American Pentecostals and Charismatics! And not only does no one seem to care, but judging by the reviews of these books on Amazon, my Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters seem to be delighted by it! It is any wonder that prudent and conservative continuationists distance themselves from such things?

My dear Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters we can do better than this! Brothers and sisters we must do better than this in the Name of, and for the cause of, Christ alone!

2 See “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour” and “Weak Arguments #7: ‘The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.’” in particular.

3 Lynn Ridenhour, Facebook post October 20, 2014

4 Paul Richardson, “Our Distinctive Stand”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived). The reader may also be interested in reading Dr. Richardson’s biography (which for or some unknown reason he calls a “News Release”) by clicking here.

5 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had To Write The Book of Mormon”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

6 Paul Richardson, “The Charm of Joseph Smith”; “The Full Revelation Believers” website (now archived).

7 Donna Morley, “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, Appendix: Is the Book of Mormon Really “Baptist”?”

8 See Ronald V. Huggins, B.F.A., Th.D., “Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?”; Also see Bill McKeever, “Modalism in the Book of Mormon”.

9 Cal Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page. Bolding retained from original.

And in accordance with the usage guidelines of that website we post the following: “Copyright © 2008 Cal Fullerton. Permission is granted, and you are encouraged, to print the above article in hard copy form, as well as send it to your own email lists and post it on your own websites. We only ask that you include the name of the originating website (EvangelicalsandMormonsforJesus.com) and this copyright and permission notice.”

10 Please see the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions “Statement On Richard Mouw And Evangelical Countercult Ministries”; And for a good analysis and deconstruction of Richard J. Mouw’s claim that Evangelical Christians have lied about and misrepresented the Mormon Church see Fred W. Anson, “Scolasticus cum Peter Principle”; Also recommended: Mike Thomas, “That Apology and How Liberal Theolgians “Go Native”’, and; Fred W. Anson, “Apologizing For Richard J. Mouw”.

11 See Matt Walsh, “Joel Osteen and his Wife are Heretics, and that’s why America Loves Them”; Also see “Joel Osteen-Preaching a False-Positive, with a Smile”.

12 Cal Fullerton comment, September 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm on the article “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons” by Jared C. on the LDS and Evangelical Conversations website.

13 Op Cit, Fullerton, “Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” home page.

And by the way, and for the record Mr. Fullerton, there are thousands of Christians who can subjectively claim that the Mormon Church is neither true or Christian because God told them so. I’m one of them:

I would like to bear my testimony . . .
I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have studied the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon and I have prayed consistently for over 30-years. I have taken the “Moroni 10 Challenge” and I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life.

… and my testimony is this:
I am utterly convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a non-Christian cult, that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, as is Thomas S. Monson. Further, I am utterly convinced that the Book of Mormon is an uninspired, man created work of 19th Century fiction.

Here I stand before God and before men – I can do no other.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.

And if my testimony isn’t enough, I can provide similar testimony from other Christians with little to no effort at all. Further Mr. Fullerton, please note that -unlike your testimony of the LdS Church – the body of objective evidence, including the bible itself, supports and verifies our subjective testimony. So in the end where has all this subjective testimony bearing of contrary positions gotten either of us? Answer: Absolutely nowhere.

What I have said to countless Mormons, I will now say to Misters Ridenhour, Richardson, and Fullerton: That Mormon testimony of yours plus a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee at Denny’s and that’s about it! And what’s true for you is just as true for my contra-Mormon testimony: Testimony bearing in and of itself proves nothing. Rather, let’s see the objective evidence that supports and verifies it – because in the end that’s all that really matters.

14 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

15 Cal Fullerton, “Essentials for Salvation”“Evangelicals and Mormons for Jesus” website. Bolding from original retained.

16 See Matt Slick, “Essential Doctrines of Christianity”, CARM website. While Mr. Slick’s article is an excellent short vernacular primer, C. Michael Patton’s “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell” article is the better resource for those seeking a fuller, more nuanced understanding of the subject. Finally for those who find Mr. Slick’s outline format a bit too cryptic and Mr. Patton’s article too long should consider the short but insightful “What are the essentials of the Christian faith?” article on the “Got Questions?” website instead.

17 In his article, “God of the Philosophers: Brief Comments on the Godhead” (now archived) Lynn Ridenhour writes:

“The God of the Trinity wallows in modalism, stumbling to give its advice to new converts. Listen to Cyril of Jerusalem:

“…For there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Ghost; the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on; it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.” –Catechetical Lectures 16:24

Enough.

What kind of Being is God?

Let Joseph answer. The Prophet preached that “…if you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form,” and that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22).

As I said in the beginning, this may be old hat to most, and not unlike the tour guide, some may be tempted to say “…O, we see it all the time…” and walk away, but for me—it’s like seeing the Niagara Falls for the very first time.”

In case you didn’t notice that a heretical definition of the Trinity followed by an endorsement of Joseph Smith’s blasphemous tri-theistic view of the godhead.

18 John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship” (pp. 73-74) Kindle Edition.

I would ask the reader to note that while I find much to soundly applaud in this work, overall I was disappointed by John MacArthur’s extremist stances, exaggerations, misrepresentations and generally ungracious, polemic attitude in both this book and the conferences that preceded it. Perhaps Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the “Reformation Commentary on Scripture” as well as several other books said it best when he wrote:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

I also agree with Reformed Theologian John Piper who wrote:

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

I’m trying hard in this article to tread a fine line between being too polemic and too tolerant regarding Charismatic practices that I consider imbalanced or outright unbiblical. I will leave it to the reader’s judgment to determine if I’ve succeeded or not.

19 See Fred W. Anson, “Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad”“Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad [The Sequel]”; Also see John Farkas, “Speaking in Tongues and The Mormon Church”.

20 Don Matzat, “Feelings, Emotions and Christian Truth”

21 Bishop Joseph Mattera, “10 Signs You Are a Charismaniac”, Charisma magazine’s “Charisma News” website. Bolding from original retained.

22 Paul Richardson, “Someone Had to Write The Book of Mormon”.

23 Fred W. Anson reply to Cal Fullerton, September 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm; Op Cit, Jared C., “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons”.

24 Chuck Smith, “Charisma Versus Charismania”, Kindle Locations 1282-1289.

The Bible

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:1, KJV)

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“Beer is made by men, wine by God.”
― Martin Luther

by Marie Johnson
The Book of Mormon claims to be, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” but when it is put to the test, the gospel it embodies is nothing more than a man made concoction of of law mixed with grace; a tainted gospel that is condemned by the Apostle Paul.

In Galatians 5:4 (AKJV) Paul writes, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.” He reiterates his point in Romans 4:13-14 (KJV), “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”

The Bible teaches that before, during and after God made covenants with Israel, people were counted righteous by believing the promises of God (Romans 4); not by obedience to the the law of Moses (Romans 3:20). In the book of Hebrews we read that, prior to Christ, God’s people looked forward to the promise of a heavenly city; the Old Testament version of eternal life (Hebrews 11:9-16). In addition to God’s promise of a heavenly city, the Messiah and the New Covenant were also promised (Galatians 3:8, Hebrews 8:6-13). The people of God who lived before Christ were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (Hebrews 11:1, 13-16, 39).

The Old Covenant sacerdotal system, which came 430 years after God made his promises to Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-3) was never designed to give eternal life. Its purpose was to act as a tutor and a disciplinarian; teaching people about the depths of their sinfulness. As their custodian, it watched over them and keep them in check until the fullness of time came and they could be justified by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:19-24). Just as the promise was not the reality, the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant were only a foreshadow of the good things that were coming in Christ (Hebrew 10:1-2).

Inaugurated with the shed blood of animals, the Mosaic covenant had a very distinct beginning. When Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled the book of the covenant and all the the people, the Israelites were bound to abide by the law of Moses (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:19). They were required to continually perform sacrifices for the temporary covering of sins (Hebrews 10:11). If they intentionally defied the Mosaic law, they would be cut off from Israel; that is, put to death (Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 10:28). No Hebrew was exempt from this obligation to the law until, “the fulness of the time was come, [when] God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5,KJV).

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Because Jesus redeemed those under the law, the Old Covenant became obsolete when the New Covenant was ratified in his blood. (Hebrews 8:13, 10:9-10). Jesus addressed this in the parable of the wineskins. New wine can’t be poured into old wineskins: The old skins will burst and both will be ruined. (Matthew 9:14-17). The two covenants can’t be mixed.

In spite of Paul and Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Mormon asserts that people who were under Old Covenant law could freely partake of the New Covenant and claim remission of sins through Jesus’ atonement. One example can be found in the introduction to 2 Nephi 25, “The Nephites keep the law of Moses and believe in Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel. About 559–545 B.C. [about 575-580 years before the New Covenant existed].”

BYU Professor Noel B. Reynolds gives a nice summary of this teaching explaining how it is found throughout the Book of Mormon (emphasis mine):

Because of the great visions and revelations he rebloodd, Nephi shared a role with his father as a founding prophet. At a young age he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and believed his father’s words. He heard the voice of the Lord telling him that he would become a ruler and teacher over his brothers (1 Ne. 2:22). He witnessed the vision of the tree of life shown earlier to his father (1 Ne. 8), which showed him the future birth, baptism, and ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as the future rise and demise of his own people. He was shown also the future establishment of the Gentiles in the Western Hemisphere and the restoration of the gospel in their midst (1 Ne. 11-14). Because of these revelations, Nephi was able to teach his people the gospel or “doctrine of Christ”-the means by which they could come unto Christ and be saved (2 Ne. 30:5; 31:2-32:6). His carefully formulated teaching of this doctrine provided a model that other Nephite prophets invoked repeatedly (see Gospel of Jesus Christ).

Because the Nephites had received the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, their strict observance of the law of Moses was oriented toward its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, and Nephi explained to his people that they should observe the law of Moses as a means of keeping Christ’s future atonement always in their minds (2 Ne. 25:29-30). The law itself had become “dead”to those who were “made alive in Christ” and who knew that Jesus was the one to whom they could look dirctly for “remission of thier sins” (2 Ne. 25:25-27).”
(Reynolds, Noel B., “Nephi 1”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

Here is another example from Mosiah 3:13-16, 28 where, “strict observance of the law of Moses” is taught (that is the Old Covenant) while a direct appeal is made to the atonement of Christ for the remission of sins (which is the New Covenant):

“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them…and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the The law of Moses availath nothing except it were through his atonement. And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins…. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.”

“King Solomon Dedicates the Temple” by or in the style of James Tissot (c.1896–1902)

Splattered throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon, this concocted gospel attempts to mix the Old and New Covenants, only to rip apart the fabric of the Old Covenant and trample underfoot the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant was bound together and structured around the temple, the priests and the sacrifices. It was inaugurated in and kept by the blood of animals. Before the High Priest could enter God’s presence (The Most Holy Place in the temple), the blood of animals had to be spilled as a sin offering. If the High Priest had tried to enter the Most Holy Place without first making a sin offering, if he tried to enter by promising a future animal sacrifice and not by the literal shedding of animal blood, he would have died. (Leviticus 16:2-3).

The New Covenant was also inaugurated in and kept by blood; the blood of Jesus (Mark 14:24). Just as no one could enter into the Old Covenant without the literal shedding of animal blood, no one could enter into the New Covenant and gain the blessings of the atonement without the literal shedding of Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 9:16-28).

However, as seen in Mosiah 3:16 above, The Book of Mormon teaches that, before Jesus died, the, “blood of Christ atoneth for their sins“ and the children of men received, “remission of sins,… even as though he had already come among them.” This was impossible. For, as the writer of Hebrews explains, “without shedding of blood, there is no remission [of sin].” (Hebrews 9:22, KJV) 

Claiming to receive remission of sins based on blood which had not been shed, makes Jesus’ death into nothing more than a token or a symbol. Remission of sins and the gift of eternal life are not given through tokens or symbols. They are given based on the reality of a vital union with the one who shed his blood and died to take away our sins; the one and who is eternal life (1 John 1:2, 3:5, 5:9-12).

The claim that Nephi was given a revelation about Jesus Christ does not change how the covenants were ratified. The terms of ratifying the New Covenant were not, “Nephi will receive a vision about the restoration of the gospel” or “Nephi will be able to teach his people of the ‘Doctrine of Christ’.” The New Covenant came into effect only when Jesus was dead. (Hebrews 9:15-17).

In Alma 22:14, the missionary Aaron preaches the the gospel of The Book of Mormon to King Lamoni’s father and tells him, “…the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their [fallen men’s] sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth..” In response, King Lamoni’s father asks, what he should do that he might have eternal life, be born of God and receive [God’s] spirit (All blessings of the New Covenant. They were not available under the Old Covenant. See eternal redemption in Hebrews 9:12-26; see the requirement for Jesus death to be born again in Jn 3; see Jesus promise of the Spirit in John 14:16-18). Aaron responds to Lamoni’s father, “If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.”…and Lamoni’s father does so.

This story is infused with the Biblical concepts of calling on God’s name in faith, repentance, bowing down, believing and receiving. It has a strong air of authenticity. However, when tested, it is missing the most essential ingredient required for the forgiveness of sins: a sacrifice.

Aaron’s gospel overlooks the fact that under Mosaic law animal blood must be shed to make atonement for sins (Leviticus 17:11). Instead of requiring an animal sacrifice, Aaron tells King Lamoni’s father he is covered by Jesus’ sacrifice; a sacrifice that has not taken place and does not exist.

1886-1894 --- A painting from a series of Bible illustrations by James Tissot. --- Image by © Brooklyn Museum/Corbis

“The Crucifixion” by James Tissot
(c.1886-1894)

Today, we look back on Jesus’ death and from our perspective we see that the people of faith who lived under the Old Covenant are now covered by the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice. When they lived under the Old Covenant they were counted righteous because they believed God’s promises; not because those promises were a reality. As a demonstration of their faith in the promises of God, they performed the animal sacrifices required under the covenant they had with God. They did not claim remission of sins based on blood that had not been shed or a covenant that did not exist.

This is the bitter gall The Book of Mormon asks us to swallow – wrapped in catch phrases and words that have been lifted from the Bible. In 1982 the LdS Church labeled the Book of Mormon, “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. The word, “testament,” is Latin for covenant. The Book of Mormon is not another covenant of Jesus Christ. It is not , “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. The Book of Mormon teaches a gospel that violates both the Old and the New Testaments of God. Those who imbibe it’s false gospel will stumble and fall short of the pure grace and truth that are offered to us by Jesus Christ.

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28, KJV).

The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Another gospel comes by the Book of Mormon.

About the Author
Marie Johnson is a free lance writer and researcher in Utah who specializes in Latter-day Saint culture and theology.

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LynnRidenhourYouTube

Dr. Lynn Ridenhour working his shtick for a Community of Christ audience in September 2015. (click to watch video)

by Fred W. Anson
Well it’s happened again! Every so often some Mormon will rediscover Dr. Lynn Ridenhour and think he’s “the bomb.” What you don’t know who Dr. Lynn Ridenhour is? Well, you’re not alone. Please take a seat…

Dr. Lynn Ridenhour is a former Liberty University professor and allegedly an ordained Southern Baptist Minister1 who, despite the fact that he has never been baptized into any Latter Day Saint church, has a Mormon-style testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He has been warmly embraced by both Brighamite (that is members of the Salt Lake City, LdS church) and Josephite (that is members of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints/Community of Christ, herein referred to as RLDS/CoC) churches as “a witness of the Restoration”. Consider this excerpt from a BYU article on Dr. Ridenhour:

Shortly thereafter, his new neighbor handed him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Lynn [Ridenhour] retorted, “Sir, that’s a Book of Mormon—I thought this was a Christian community.” Undeterred, the neighbor left the book, and Lynn decided to read it as a courtesy and with the intent of lifting his neighbor out of darkness. Lynn described what happened next: “I opened that precious book of the stick of Joseph, and I did not get out of the first page. When I read, ‘I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,’ I knew! From then on, I knew I was reading the divine word of God, I really did. That was in May of 1985, and I haven’t stopped. I tell my Baptist friends I have been born again—again!”2

Dr. Lynn Ridenhour in a BYU TV interview (click to view video)

Dr. Lynn Ridenhour bears testimony in a BYU TV interview (click to watch video)

So there you have it, according to BYU, Dr. Lynn Ridenhour is living proof of the veracity of Mormonism as well as the epitome of what a truly honest, spirit-led, and enlightened Protestant/Evangelical/Mainstream Christian looks like. Care to argue with the Church owned university? Further, Dr. Ridenhour’s article, “The Baptist Version of The Book of Mormon: Protestant Doctrines within the Book of Mormon” is typically cited or linked to as proof of Dr. Ridenhour’s great spiritual enlightenment. This is the circa 2001 article in which he claims that the following Baptist doctrines can found in the Book of Mormon: Born Again Experience, Plan of Salvation, Plan of Redemption, Salvation, The Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Faith, and Grace.

Lynn Ridenhour is right . . .
And, indeed, the Book of Mormon proof texts that Dr. Ridenhour cites in support of his thesis, if taken strictly at face value, do indeed appear to reflect modern mainstream Protestant doctrine. So Dr. Ridenhour is largely correct when he concludes:

The two go hand in hand, really–Protestant doctrine and the Book of Mormon. They’re not at odds.The Book of Mormon is filled with Protestant cardinal doctrines, believe it or not. In fact, I discovered, the Book of Mormon is more “Baptist” than the Baptist hymnal in places. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s so. I read the Book from cover to cover and found as a Baptist minister, there is absolutely nothing in it that contradicts the Bible.

For example, the book uplifts the blood of Christ (Mosiah 1:118, RLDS), declares that salvation is only by God’s grace (2 Nephi 7:42, RLDS), defends the grand theme of salvation (Mosiah 1:108, RLDS), and proclaims that salvation comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9, RLDS). Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ’s blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4, all RLDS). Thus, our “tongue ‘n’ cheek” title, The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon. I’m telling you, the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through. From cover to cover.3

In fact, I’ll do Dr. Ridenhour one better: The Book of Mormon is actually more Trinitarian than the Bible is.4 Yes, that’s right, the Book of Mormon explicitly, and repeatedly, states plainly that the one (and only one) God consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Mormon 7:7, LDS
And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

2 Nephi 31:21, LDS
And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

3 Nephi 11:27, LDS
And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.

2 Nephi 2:14, LDS
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God [notice: singular not plural], and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

The

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

Jacob 4:9, LDS
For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God [again, notice: singular not plural] being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

Testimony of Three Witnesses, LDS
And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

So Lynn Ridenhour is right about the strong Protestant affirmation in the Book of Mormon. But does he really “get it” folks? Answer: No.

… but so what?
While Dr. Ridenhour’s evidence is sound, his “leap of faith” conclusion that the book was divinely inspired and testifies of Joseph Smith’s legitimacy as a true prophet of God isn’t. After all isn’t this abundance of 19th Century Protestantism exactly what we would expect to find in the Book of Mormon given the sources that Joseph Smith synthesized, compiled, and plagiarized it from?5 Why is any of this astounding, surprising, or deserving of over-the-top hyperbolic gushing like . . .

What a book!

Perhaps the late [Mormon educator and writer] John Henry Evans(1872-1947) said it best when he penned an overview of the Prophet’s life with typical nineteenth century eloquence:

“…Here is a man,” says Evan, “who was born in the stark hills of Vermont; who was reared in the backwoods of New York; who never looked inside a college or high school; who lived in six States, no one of which would own him during his lifetime; who spent months in the vile prisons of the period; who, even when he has his freedom, was hounded like a fugitive; who was covered once with a coat of tar and feathers, and left for dead; who, with his following, was driven by irate neighbors from New York to Ohio, from Ohio to Missouri, and from Missouri to Illinois; and who, at the unripe age of thirty-eight, was shot to death by a mob with painted faces.

Yet this man became mayor of the biggest town in Illinois and the state’s most prominent citizen, the commander of the largest body of trained soldiers in the nation outside the Federal army, the founder of cities and of a university, and aspired to become President of the United States.

He wrote a book which has baffled the literary critics for a hundred years and which is today more widely read than any other volume save the Bible…”
Joseph Smith, An American Prophet, 1933 preface

Joseph Smith “…wrote a book which has baffled the literary critics…” So true.6

Literary Critic, Harold Bloom

Literary Critic, Harold Bloom

Really? Well, I don’t know of any scholars who are “baffled” by the Book of Mormon. I have no idea where John Henry Evans and Lynn Ridenhour are getting this from. For example, literary critic Harold Bloom (who devoted an entire chapter to Smith entitled, “The Religion-Making Imagination of Joseph Smith” in his book, “The American Religion”) certainly wasn’t baffled when he stated plainly:

With the Book of Mormon, we arrive at the center of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission, but hardly at any center of Mormonism, because of Smith’s extraordinary capacity for speculative development in the fourteen years that remained to him after its publication. The Book of Mormon was not only his first work; it is the portrait of a self-educated, powerful mind at the untried age of twenty-four. It has bravura, but beyond question it is wholly tendentious and frequently tedious. If one compares it closely to Smith’s imaginings in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, it seems the work of some other writer, and I don’t mean Mormon or Moroni.7

Nor was Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon “baffling” to Lutheran Pastor, Robert N. Hullinger in his award winning, and critically acclaimed book, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”. Like Bloom, Hullinger is impressed with the religious creativity and dedication to Protestant fidelity in the Book of Mormon. However, unlike Ridenhour, he sees clear evidence of naturalistic inspiration behind the work:

In defense of God, Joseph Smith assailed the natural revelation of deism and the static revelation of traditional Christianity. To enable revealed religion to overcome natural religion, however, he supported the deistic attack upon the view that the present Bible is God’s complete and errorless revelation to mankind. Destruction of the traditional view left him free to preserve special revelation by his own means.8

Validation of Pastor Hullinger’s assertions can be seen in the fact that Joseph Smith and early Mormonism treated the Book of Mormon more like Joseph Smith’s prophetic credential than authoritative scripture. As Mormon Apologist Daniel C. Peterson notes:

Studies of Latter-day Saint sermons and curriculum from the earliest period of church history well into the 20th century demonstrate surprisingly little use of the Book of Mormon to establish doctrines or as a text from which to preach. Many Saints were converted by reading it, but, thereafter, they tended to overlook its specific content. Early members, mostly converts, knew the Bible well and used it extensively in their teaching and missionary efforts, but the Book of Mormon served mainly as a kind of talisman, its sheer existence pointing to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.

Even Joseph Smith used the Bible far more than he used the Book of Mormon in his sermons.”9

And last but not least, among his contemporaries neither Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon were a mystery. In 1831, only a year after the Book of Mormon was published, in his pointed review of the Book of Mormon, renowned Christian leader Alexander Campbell noted (with a far amount of sarcasm) how closely aligned early Mormon doctrine was with the Protestant American Christianity of the time:

This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies – infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to. How much more benevolent and intelligent this American Apostle, than were the holy twelve, and Paul to assist them!!!10

Using Dr. Ridenhour's criteria for Joseph Smith isn't C.S. Lewis a prophet too?

Using Dr. Ridenhour’s criteria for Joseph Smith isn’t C.S. Lewis a prophet too?

So how and why would one conclude that because Joseph Smith was able to put together a 19th Century work of fiction (and one that’s merely a reflection of the Christianity of his time) that he was a prophet of God? Should we declare John Bunyan a prophet for writing “Pilgrim’s Progress”, or C.S. Lewis for writing “The Chronicles of Narnia”,“The Screwtape Letters”, or “The Space Trilogy”? After all, many moderns sense the same spark of the divine in those books that Mormons do in the Book of Mormon. So if the Book of Mormon is a legitimate prophetic credential for Joseph Smith why aren’t these works for these authors? With all due respect to Dr. Ridenhour, this is beyond an irrational leap of faith – it’s patently absurd!

This is especially true when one considers what Smith followed the Book of Mormon with. The Book of Moses, The Book of Commandments, Doctrine & Covenants, The Book of Abraham are filled with heresy of the type that any qualified ordained Southern Baptist minister would and could never endorse – let alone bear witness to someone who as a true prophet of God! Oh, and by the way, the Book of Mormon does indeed contradict the Bible repeatedly – on that point Dr. Ridenhour is simply wrong.11 OK, but that said, even if I’m generous and go along with his premise that, “the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through from cover to cover” in the Book of Mormon . . .

So what? Modern Mormonism still can’t be found in it. So in the end Dr. Lynn Ridenhour is much ado about nothing! But wait, if that’s not enough, there’s more.

A “Heads Up!” To Our Latter-day Saint Mormon Friends
Fellow Mormon Studies Scholar Bob Betts and I first engaged Dr. Ridenhour on a now defunct interfaith discussion board over a decade ago. By then he’d already been going with this “shtick” for several years. So this guy is nothing new. That said, here are some things that we discovered in regard to Dr. Ridenhour at the time that I think our Mormon friends should know:

  1. Graceland University

    Lynn Ridenhour speaking at Graceland University, the flagship university and seminary of the Community of Christ.

    Lynn Ridenhour practices Pentecostal-style tongues speaking and thinks that all Latter Day Saint Restorationist should too. Which is why he considers himself more RLDS/CoC than LdS.12

  2. Dr. Ridenhour has never been baptized into any Mormon church – be the LdS Church, the RLDS/CoC, or any other Latter Day Saint denomination. He has a small following with the RLDS/CoC folks and an on again, off again following with the LdS crowd but that’s about it. He is neither RLDS/CoC or LdS, he’s cobbled together his own form of Mormonism – much of which I suspect most LdS Mormons would disagree with strongly.13
  3. One reason why Dr. Ridenhour has never been baptized into any Latter Day Saint group is because he (like us) has real concerns, issues, and differences with some of the things that Joseph Smith taught after the Book of Mormon. To my knowledge Dr. Ridenhour has never published anything in this regard but he has told several people (in one-on-one settings, never in a public group setting) this verbally. Therefore, Dr. Ridenhour is in reality more aligned with the RLDS/CoC stance that at some point Joseph Smith became a fallen prophet rather than the LdS stance that Smith was faithful and true to the end.14

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that if our Mormon friends and family members will simply spend some “quality time” time on Dr. Ridenhour’s websites their enthusiasm for him will wane – it typically does. This is a case where knowledge really is power. Here are the links to them (yes, there are two):

Lynn Ridenhour’s “Building Bridges Ministry” website (new)
Lynn Ridenhour’s “Winepress Ministries” website (old, now archived)

These facts usually sober the Latter-day Saint crowd up in regard to his shtick. When all this “other stuff” starts coming up Mormons of all flavors tend to drop Dr. Ridenhour like a hot potato and then get some distance – quickly.

Lynn Ridenhour and Robert Millett

BYU Professor Robert Millet and Lynn Ridenhour at a joint speaking engagement that they did at the historic Stone Church in Independence, Missouri in June 2013.

NOTES:
1 Dr. Ridenhour’s claim of being an ordained Southern Baptist Minister has always been in dispute. He claims to have received this ordination in 1965 in a small Baptist church in Missouri but has never produced any verifiable evidence for it and the details that he has provided are cryptic and sketchy. For what it’s worth, Dr. Ridenhour’s open letter regarding these issues, entitled “Clearing up Baptist Background Controversy”  (now archived) can be found here.

Unfortunately, due to the fact we’re talking about something that supposedly happened fifty-years ago and before the digital age, most of the principals involved are most likely dead now. So until Dr. Ridenhour produces some hard and verifiable evidence that he is indeed currently a Southern Baptist Minister in good standing, the qualifier “alleged” will remain regarding this claim.

Finally, please note that email and social media requests to Dr. Ridenhour for objective, verifiable evidence of his Southern Baptist ordination (such as a scan of his ordination certificate, letter of ordination, clerical license, etc.) have gone unanswered as of the date of publication.

2 Keith J. Wilson, “A Witness of the Restoration”, BYU Religious Education website.

3 Lynn Ridenhour, “The Baptist Version of The Book of Mormon: Protestant Doctrines within the Book of Mormon”, CenterPlace.org website. Bolding and italics are in the original article. The links to an online 1908 RLDS edition of The Book of Mormon have been added for this article.

4 It should be noted that the strong, explicit Trinitarianism of the Book of Mormon somehow gets overlooked in Dr. Ridenhour’s writing and in his presentations to Brighamite Latter-day Saints – who are Tri-Theistic, unlike their Trinitarian RLDS/CoC counterparts. One could very easily get the impression that this is deliberate.

It should also be noted that Dr. Ridenhour has written on the Trinity. However, his writing on the subject (which is sparse) demonstrates ignorance rather than mastery of Trinitarian orthodoxy. Candidly, he seems as confused on this doctrine as he does on most points of essential Christian orthodoxy. This general confusion on Dr. Ridenhour’s part raises even more questions about his claim to be an ordained Baptist minister. Specifically, it raises questions as to why a Baptist church (a denomination known for its unyielding commitment to sound doctrine and biblical fidelity) would ordain someone this theologically compromised.

5 A few of these sources are discussed in my article, “Weak Arguments #7: “The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.”’

6 Op Cit, Ridenhour, “The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon …”

7 Harold Bloom, “The American Religion”, Chu Hartley Publishers. Kindle Edition, Locations 1184-1189.

8 Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p. 150

9 Dan Peterson, “Embracing the power of the Book of Mormon”; The Deseret News, Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

10 Alexander Campbell, “Delusions: An analysis of the book of Mormon with an examination of its internal and external evidences, and a refutation of its pretenses to divine authority”, The Millennial Harbinger, February 7, 1831. Red bolding added for emphasis.

11 As Marv Cowan notes in his open letter to Dr. Ridenhour:

“You said you found the Book of Mormon consistent with the Bible but there are some serious conflicts. II Nephi 25:23 [LDS] is often quoted by Mormons who reject salvation by God’s grace apart from our works. “It says “We know that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do.” Do you believe that? Or, do you believe Eph. 2:8-9 and Rom 5:6? It can’t be both ways…

You said the Book of Mormon is consistent with the Bible, but there is a problem in verse 2 of the first book. Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem, had the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians in 600BC. Anyone speaking Egyptian in Jerusalem in 600 BC would probably have had a very short life. Do you know why and what the Bible says happened about that time? [Note: Mr. Cowan is referring to the Babylonian Exile here]

I Nephi 2:5-9 [LDS] says the River Laman runs continually into the Red Sea. Can you name a river that runs into the Red Sea? There never has been any! When it rains, which is seldom, the wadi’s run a little water down the dry washes to the sea, but that is all.
(this letter is archived on the MormonInfo.org website)

Also see Sandra Tanner, “Bible and Book of Mormon Contradictions”,
and Luke P. Wilson, “Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible”.

12 See Lynn Ridenhour, “Those Crazy Charismatic Book of Mormon Lovers”, now archived. The reader will also note that all Book of Mormon and other references in Lynn Ridenhour’s work uses RLDS/CoC scripture rather than the equivalent LdS Church scripture.

13 See Lynn Ridenhour, “All Things to All Men — Is Lynn a Baptized Member?”, now archived.

14 While readily admitted the anecdotal nature of the evidence backing this claim, the fact remains that Dr. Ridenhour publicly expressed this in response to Bob Betts’ challenges regarding Joseph Smith’s polygamy, polyandry, and criminal activities on the now-defunct Concerned Christians discussion board back in 2006. He reiterated it to both Bob Betts and me on the same discussion board again in 2009 when we challenged him with the same historical facts.

Further, John Hamer, a historian for the Community of Christ and a former President of the John Whitmer society has confirmed that Dr. Ridenhour has said this to him in private email exchanges. Other Community of Christ/RLDS members have disclosed that he has said it in person before or after speaking in their congregations – however, never during his public addresses.

Not surprisingly, this is a detail that Dr. Ridenhour tends to overlook and leave unsaid when he’s interacting with Brighamite Latter-day Saints. In fact, he publicly denied that he believes that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet in an article published in 1999:

“Many restoration saints who embrace the Book of Mormon also believe that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet. To me, that’s like saying Andy Griffeth [sic] robbed the Mayberry Bank, or that Roy Rogers was a crook. It just doesn’t compute, add up.”
(Lynn Ridenhour, “Introduction to Lynn Ridenhour: Prologue”, now archived)

However, when his back is pressed against the wall regarding the overwhelming body of historical data regarding Joseph Smith’s late in life megalomania, sins, and crimes, Dr. Ridenhour will join us in reality (after all Andy Griffith and Roy Rogers were actors playing fictional characters on television. The real men were just men.) and acknowledge that things are far more nuanced regarding the Joseph Smith “prophet puzzle” than his standard, public shtick (which is also largely anecdotal) would indicate.

Despite Mr. Ridenhour's claims the Bible and the Book of Mormon are not in harmony and do, in fact, contradict.

Despite Dr. Ridenhour’s claims the Bible and the Book of Mormon are not in harmony and do, in fact, contradict.

Appendix: Is the Book of Mormon Really “Baptist”?
The following analysis is from Donna Morley a Christian author and Adjunct Faculty member in the Communications department at The Master’s College

I believe Ridenhour was deceptive in his article, “The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon”. Specifically, he understates and glosses over the very real contradictions and differences between how the gospel is presented in the Bible versus the Book of Mormon. Let’s consider just a few of the comments that he made:

The two go hand in hand, really– Protestant doctrine and the Book of Mormon. They’re not at odds. The Book of Mormon is filled with Protestant cardinal doctrines, believe it or not. In fact, I discovered, the Book of Mormon is more “Baptist” than the Baptist hymnal in places. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s so. I read the Book from cover to cover and found as a Baptist minister, there is absolutely nothing in it that contradicts the Bible.

For example, the book uplifts the blood of Christ (Mosiah 1:118, RLDS), declares that salvation is only by God’s grace (2 Nephi 7:42, RLDS), defends the grand theme of salvation (Mosiah 1:108, RLDS), and proclaims that salvation comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9, RLDS). Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ’s blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4, all RLDS). Thus, our “tongue ‘n’ cheek” title, The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon. I’m telling you, the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through. From cover to cover.
(Lynn Ridenhour, “The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon”, bolding and other formatting retained from source)

 First, while there are obvious similarities between the Bible and the Book of Mormon (which are explained in Mr. Anson’s article above), there are areas where the Book of Mormon and the Bible contradict. And, it’s here where Ridenhour wasn’t being honest. Let’s look at the first Book of Mormon verse that Ridenhour gave:

“But men drink damnation to their own souls, except they humble themselves, and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”
(Mosiah 1:118, RLDS).

As we see, the Mosiah verse tells us that it’s “through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent (Mosiah 1:118, RLDS). While the above sounds “biblical,” it’s far from it because the underlying meaning of the words have changed. The “atoning blood of Christ” (at least in Brighamite Mormonism) is defined as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Consider this from the LdS Church owned Mormon.org website:

Jesus Christ did what only He could do in atoning for our sins. To make His Atonement fully effective in our individual lives, we must have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized and confirmed by one having authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, obey God’s commandments, receive sacred ordinances, and strive to become like Him. As we do these things through His Atonement, we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father forever.
(“Atonement of Christ”, Mormon.org website)

Christ did only what he could do? Apparently it was not enough, because a person must also do other things (such as receive “sacred ordinances”) for the atonement to be complete. And the official LDS Church website says as much:

“Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.”
(“Atonement of Christ”, Official LdS Church website)

Second, Ridenhour wasn’t honest in regards to the Book of Mormon and God’s grace. Yes, he’s accurate in that 2 Nephi 7:42, RLDS “declares that salvation is only by God’s grace” yet, he skips what else Nephi said about grace: “… for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23, RLDS). Paul the apostle made it very clear: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6, NASB). He also said, in regards to salvation:

“For it is by faith you are saved through faith, not that of yourselves it is the gift of God”
(Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB; bolding added for emphasis)

Ridenhour also provides Mosiah 1:108, RLDS, stating that it “defends the grand theme of salvation.” Here is what Mosiah 1:108, RLDS says:

“But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God; for salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Unfortunately Mosiah later in the same discourse gets a bit confused about salvation:

“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, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him, who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”
(Mosiah 3:21, RLDS)

According to Mosiah, without “good works,” Christ won’t seal you as His, nor will you be brought to heaven.

Ridenhour tells us the Book of Mormon proclaims of a salvation that comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9, RLDS). Again, Ridenhour overlooks what Mosiah also said:

“ye shall 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…”
(Mosiah 3:21, RLDS, bolding added).

Ridenhour then wrote:

Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ’s blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4 [all RLDS]).
(Op Cit, Ridenhour)

Alma 3:86 (RLDS) states:

“Yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you, the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.”

Let’s get this straight. Alma the elder (to distinguish from his son, “the younger”) was born roughly in 174 B.C. In the Book of Mormon, he was a Nephite prophet. He was the one to establish the Church of Jesus Christ in the Americas. Here’s an obvious question, how is the Church of Christ established when Christ had not even been alive in 174 B.C.? Historically speaking, this just doesn’t add up. As we know Jesus preached about repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15). He told us we must be “born again” (John 3:1-21). You can find this in the New Testament teachings of Christ, NOT in a story that supposedly took place in the B.C. era.

While the message of repentance and being “born-again,” is a good message, so too is the story of Pilgrim’s Progress, yet we certainly can’t say, historically speaking, that the Pilgrim’s Progress is true. We just don’t have any evidence, just as there is not any evidence for the Book of Mormon story.

The next Ridenhour referenced verse to consider is Helaman 2:71 (RLDS) which says:

“O remember, remember, my sons, the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.”

Notice the above words, “only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.” We’ve already discussed the Mormon atonement, so we won’t belabor the point any further, only to say that Ridenhour does not understand the Mormon view of Christ’s atonement. For him to believe it’s identical to the biblical view, is reckless on his part, since he claims to be a “Christian pastor” (which, as noted in footnote 1 of the main article is debatable).

Further problems emerge when you consider the next verse he uses as a proof text. Alma 13:13 (RLDS) actually says:

“And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”
(Alma 13:13, RLDS, bolding added)

Once again, Ridenhour doesn’t tell the entire story. Further, here’s something else Alma says in chapter 13:

“Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.”
(Alma 13:10, RLDS, bolding added)

 In the above, Alma stated that the high priests escaped damnation only by working righteousness. The righteousness is credited as “their righteousness.” This isn’t the unconditional grace that’s taught in the Bible. This is conditional grace where one must perform good works in order to merit grace rather than it being a unilateral gift of unmerited favor and mercy from God Himself!

True Christianity isn’t based upon our righteousness. The prophet Isaiah says that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). Because we don’t have righteousness of our own, true followers of Christ are given His righteousness:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
(Romans 3:22, NASB)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB)

This is the process that Protestant Theologians call “imputation”:

“Imputed righteousness therefore means that upon repentance and belief in Christ, individuals are forensically declared righteous. This righteousness is not the believer’s own, rather it is Christ’s own righteousness ‘imputed’ to the believer.”
(“Imputed Righteousness”, Theopedia website)

So despite the hyperbolic spin doctoring, what we see again and again in Lynn Ridenhour’s work is confirmation bias driven hermeneutics where he ignores context, and cherry picks proof texts that support his predetermined conclusions – while simultaneously ignoring those that don’t. This isn’t honest biblical scholarship, this is blatant manipulation. The vernacular term for this is “scripture twisting”. And without it, Lynn Ridenhour’s thesis that the Book of Mormon doesn’t contradict the Bible, teach another Christ, or preach another gospel, simply falls apart.

Therefore, and in conclusion, if Lynn Ridenhour thinks that the Book of Mormon offers “grand themes of Protestantism,” then he is either confused about Mormonism and the Book of Mormon, or he’s confused about Biblical Christianity and the Word of God—the Bible. One thing for sure, something is amiss in his thinking.

scriptures open book of mormon_edited

A modern Book of Mormon open to 1 Nephi 12

Also recommended:
– MormonInfo.org has archived a series of open letters to Lynn Ridendour here. These letters were written after his article, “The Baptist Version of The Book of Mormon: Protestant Doctrines within the Book of Mormon” was originally published on his website. These letters are not only interesting from a historical perspective but contain some arguments and evidence that are outside the scope of this article.

– There are several excellent reference articles on the contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. First and foremost, I would recommend the late Luke P. Wilson’s, “Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible” as a brief overview. Second, Sandra Tanner’s, “Bible and Book of Mormon Contradictions” provides a nice drill down with full source citations. Her companion article, “Contradictions in LDS Scriptures” also discusses the differences between the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s other, later revelations. Finally, Marian Bodine’s, article for the Christian Research Institute, “The Book of Mormon Vs The Bible” is a long but rewarding tour of intra-book contradictions.

– Portions of this article were previously used in “Weak Arguments #7: ‘The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.’”. Reading this article will give the reader the “big picture” view that Lynn Ridenhour is missing in his analysis of the Book of Mormon. It’s my opinion that if Dr. Ridenhour had considered the greater historical, social, theological, and cultural context surrounding the advent of the Book of Mormon he never would have stumbled into the error that he has.

– My article, “Weak Arguments #6: “Mormon doctrine was heretical from the very beginning.”’ explores how Mormonism started out largely aligned with mainstream 19th Century American orthodoxy only to slide into heresy and error down the road. Conspicuously absent in Dr. Ridenhour’s rhetoric is an acknowledgement that the modern Latter Day Saint Restorationist movement is buried under the heresies and blasphemies which emanate from the revelations of the false prophet Joseph Smith that came after the Book of Mormon was published. This is particularly true of the Brighamite Salt Lake City LdS Church but is also true to varying degrees of all the various Latter Day Saint splinter groups, denominations, and affiliates. This article demonstrates that the Book of Mormon is now in fact an incongruous relic of a Mormonism that simply no longer exists today.

KeithWalkerQuote_Edited

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We Agree with Moroni 8--18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 See http://GodNeverSinned.com

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

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Newburgh Seminary College

Was Christ born “in Bethlehem” or “at Jerusalem”? And does it matter?

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Fred W. Anson
The Argument:
“The entire Book of Mormon was discredited just as soon as it said that Christ was born in Jerusalem.”

Why It’s Weak:
This argument is a molehill not a mountain. This is a valid contradiction with the Bible, however, on it’s own, it discredits this verse but not the entire Book of Mormon.

1) This molehill was turned into a mountain by Mormon Apologists
This argument arises from the fact that Alma 7:10 in the Book of Mormon says:

And behold, he [Christ] shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, 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.

The first Christian Mormon critic I know of that used this argument was Alexander Campbell who in his 1831 review of the Book of Mormon polemically observed:

But he is better skilled in the controversies in New York than in the geography or history of Judea. He makes John baptise in the village of Bethabara, (page 22) and says Jesus was born in Jerusalem, p. 240. Great must be the faith of the Mormonites in this new Bible!!![1]

And, of course, he has a point since the Bible states plainly, not once, not twice, but eight times that Christ was born in Bethlehem. This is a clear contradiction with the Bible. And since Mormon critics are of the opinion that the Book of Mormon is just a piece of contrived 19th Century historical fiction, as far as we’re concerned, it’s the kind of thing that one would expect were that the case. There are no just surprises here!

However, Mormon Apologists just can’t seem to leave it alone. As Mormon Researcher Bill McKeever notes:

It is obvious that this is a very sensitive issue with these [Apologist] Mormons. According to them, Alma was referring to the surrounding area of Jerusalem and not the city itself. They insist that Alma was a real person, so to credit him with saying that Christ would someday be born in Jerusalem and not in Bethlehem would be a serious faux pas. To say otherwise casts doubt upon the historicity of Mormonism’s sacred Book of Mormon.

We do not hide the fact that we do not believe the Book of Mormon is an ancient text. Because we believe Alma is a fictitious character, we naturally wouldn’t credit him with such a gaffe. We are not implying that Joseph Smith was ignorant as to where Jesus was born. Instead, we believe that this was a simple slip of the pen. Joseph Smith may have mistaken the better-known Jerusalem for the lesser Bethlehem.[2]

And if one suspends disbelieve and presumes that Alma the Younger was in fact a historical figure, such a gaffe is still really no big deal – people get excited and misspeak like this all the time. For example, do you remember the last time that Grandma and Grandpa retold the same story and spent half the time correcting each other’s bad memory rather than actually telling the story? I rest my case.

After all, if the Book of Mormon is true history then Alma would certainly would have known the location of the Messiah’s birthplace wouldn’t he? That’s because the Book of Mormon tells us that he had the plates of brass (see Alma 37) which is said to have contained the Biblical record up until the time of Jeremiah’s prophesies. If that was the case, then Alma would have had Micah’s prophecy, since Micah prophesied more than a hundred years before Lehi left Jerusalem. And that prophesy states clearly:

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2, bold italics added for emphasis)[3]

A slip of the pen, in a work of fiction? An over zealous speaker with a bad memory? No big deal right? Well, according to Mormon Apologists, no – this is a big deal!

View of Bethlehem from South Jerusalem. Bethlehem is only 6-miles away.
(click to zoom)

2) What’s 6-miles between friends?
So, rather than simply acknowledging that this is a contradiction with the Bible, Mormon Apologists go to great lengths to convince the world that the word “Jerusalem” in Alma 7:10 really means, “the land of Jerusalem”. This argument is based on the fact that Bethlehem is a suburb of Jerusalem that’s only 6-miles away. OK, I can kind of see that. I was born in Anaheim, California which is a suburb of Los Angeles. Therefore, for those who are unfamiliar with the city (which includes a Major League Baseball team and an itsy bitsy amusement park called “Disneyland”) I tell them that I’m from the Los Angeles area. However, in actual fact, downtown Los Angeles is 24-miles from where I was born. And if anyone pressed me (which hasn’t happened yet) I would simply say, “Well, to be precise I was born in Anaheim which is where Disneyland is, where Angel Stadium is, and where the Los Angeles Angels play baseball.” In other words, I would clarify and things tighten up a bit. I just don’t think that this, in and of itself, is a big deal. Do you?

Thus, Mormon Apologists argue:

Google Earth satellite photo of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. (click to zoom)

Google Earth satellite photo of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. (click to zoom)

The town of Bethlehem is in the “land of Jerusalem.” In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely “in the land,” especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the “land of Jerusalem. This is, in reality, another literary evidence for the Book of Mormon. While a forger would likely overlook this detail and include Bethlehem as the commonly-understood birthplace of Jesus, the ancient authors of the Book of Mormon use an authentic term to describe the Savior’s birthplace—thereby providing another point of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.[4]

But the problem passage doesn’t use the term “land of Jerusalem” it says, “at Jerusalem”:

Dr. Peterson argues, “The most reliable way to determine what a given phrase means in the Book of Mormon, therefore, is to look at the Book of Mormon” ([FARMS] Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5:73). This is a reasonable point. The problem is that Peterson and his colleagues ignore this guidance and instead go to great lengths to defend a phrase that is not included in the text. While much has been written to defend the notion that Jesus was born in the land of Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that this phrase is not used in this passage. We repeat, the phrase land of Jerusalem is not used in Alma 7:10.[5]

Furthermore, the other eighteen times the term “at Jerusalem” is used in the Book of Mormon it always means “in the city of Jerusalem”.  Thus, as Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson very correctly observe, “if a phrase is used 19 times, and in 18 of those times it can be demonstrated that it means the actual city of Jerusalem, it is both inconsistent and tenuous to interpret Alma 7:10 otherwise.”[6]

3) Straining at gnats, swallowing Camels…
On the Mormon side of the divide the problem is that Mormon Apologists make this a hill to die on. Why? So Joseph Smith had a slip of the pen when he was writing the Book of Mormon – so what? So Alma had a memory lapse or simply misquoted Micah 5:2 in his prophetic zeal – so what? By straining at this “gnat” of a problem Mormon Apologists are merely bringing attention to the “camel” of their over the top apologetic tactics. Why not just acknowledge the contradiction and move on to more pressing Book of Mormon issues?

On the Christian side of the divide the problem is that some critics overstate their case in exaggerating the importance of this contradiction. While it’s true that the Mormon apologetic on this point is strained and inconsistent, it’s not completely unreasonable. And while this contradiction most certainly discredits this verse it’s a stretch to say that it discredits the entire Book of Mormon. Rather, the overall case that discredits the Book of Mormon is a culmination of contradictions, problems, and issues not just a single contradiction, problem, or issue.

Further, standing on the Mormon side of the divide I don’t see Christians abandoning the entire Bible and calling it “discredited” over just a single Biblical contradiction. I don’t see Protestants denouncing Catholic and Orthodox Bibles as fully discredited simply because they contain the Apocrypha. Nor do I hear Catholics and Orthodox Christians denouncing us because our Bibles don’t. Why then do some Christians expect Mormons to abandon the entire Book of Mormon based on solely one problem text?

4) …and showing obvious bias
I think that the underlying problem here is many Christians seem to employ a double standard when it comes to Mormonism. These Christians tend to judge all things Mormons much harsher than they do all things Christian. After all, the Bible isn’t without contradictions too. Here’s an example:

Matthew 27:5 (NKJV)
Then he [Judas Iscariot] threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Acts 1:18 (NKJV)
Now this man [Judas Iscariot] purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.

Even if we harmonize this as the hanging rope breaking and Judas’ entrails gushing out after his corpse hit the ground, the fact remains, that when taken at face value this is a contradiction. Should Christians declare the entire Bible discredited because of it? Even Atheist critics and Muslims[7] don’t suggest such a response because it’s so “over the top”. Yet, many Christians would demand exactly that of Mormons over Alma 7:10. To me, such a demand on Mormons reveals an extreme bias on the part of some Christians and the type of unjust, uncharitable treatment that can drive Mormons deeper into the LdS Church if they stay, or right past Christianity and straight into atheism if they leave. This need not be, there is a better way.

The Stronger Arguments:
While it’s clear that while Alma 7:10 used in isolation isn’t a strong argument, it can be used as part of one or more stronger arguments. Let’s look at them.

First Suggested Strong Argument: “Alma 7:10 is just one of many pebbles breaking the shelf.” 
Most ExMormons tell us that there wasn’t just one thing that convinced them that the truth claims of the LdS Church don’t add up, it was a culmination of a lot of little things. They say it’s like a bunch of pebbles being tucked away on a shelf in a deep, dark corner – that is until the shelf finally collapses under the weight of them all. That said, here’s a sampling of some other pebbles[8] to add to the pile in addition to the Alma 7:10 Jerusalem pebble:

"Scriptures" by Grant Heaton

“Scriptures” by Grant Heaton
(click to zoom)

Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon people built temples in the Americas and performed sacrifices. (Alma 16:13)
Bible: Jerusalem was explicitly chosen by God as the one and only place for the one and only temple and the only legitimate place for sacrifices. (1 Kings 8:44-48Deut. 12:5-6)

Book of Mormon: The priesthood did not need to be Levitical. The Book of Mormon people were from the tribes of Joseph (1 Nephi 5:16-17) or Manasseh (Alma 10:3) not Levi. Nephi, who consecrated the first priests, was from the tribe of Joseph (2 Nephi 5:26) as were they.
Bible: The priesthood could only be through the lineage of Aaron, a Levite. (Numbers 3:9-10)

Book of Mormon: At Christ’s crucifixion, there was three days of darkness. (Helaman 14:27)
Bible: At Christ’s crucifixion, there were three hours of darkness. (Luke 23:44)

Book of Mormon: At the tower of Babel the Jaredites had a separate language which was spared the confusion of languages. (Ether 1:34-35)
Bible: At the tower of Babel there was one language, which was then confused by God. (Genesis 11:1)

Book of Mormon: The Gospel, the Church, and Christianity existed prior to Christ’s incarnation. (2 Nephi 26:12)
Bible: The Gospel, the Church, and Christianity were proclaimed during Christ’s ministry and came to exist after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. (Matthew 16:18)

Book of Mormon: One son of King Zedekiah escaped destruction and came to the Americas. (Helaman 6:108:21)
Bible: All of King Zedekiah’s sons were killed. (Jeremiah 39:6)

Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon people people received the gift of the Holy Ghost as early as 545 BC (2 Nephi 31:12-13)
Bible: The Holy Ghost was bestowed on the Christians at the time of Pentecost in 1 AD. (Luke 24:49Acts 2:1-4)

Second Suggested Strong Argument: “Why are those Jews acting like goyim?”
“Goyim” is the Hebrew word for “nations” that in Jewish vernacular has come to mean “gentiles”. The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient record of Jews who left the Middle East around 600 BC. However, these alleged Jews don’t act like 7th Century BC Jews, they act like 19th Century AD Protestant Christians. As Alexander Campbell notes in his review of the Book of Mormon:

[Joseph] Smith makes Nephi express every truth found in the writings of the Apostles concerning the calling and blessing of the Gentiles, and even quotes the 11th chapter of Romans, and many other passages before he had a son grown in the wilderness able to aim an arrow at a deer. Paul says these things were secrets and unknown until his time; but Smith makes Nephi say the same things 600 years before Paul was converted! One of the two is a false prophet. Mormonites, take your choice!

This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies – infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to. How much more benevolent and intelligent this American Apostle, than were the holy twelve, and Paul to assist them!!! He prophesied of all these topics, and of the apostacy, and infallibly decided, by his authority, every question. How easy to prophecy of the past or of the present time!!

He represents the christian institution as practised among his Israelites before Jesus was born. And his Jews are called christians while keeping the law of Moses, the holy sabbath, and worshipping in their temple at their altars, and by their high priests.[9]

Further, as Mormon Studies Scholar Luke P. Wilson notes:

The most common biblical terms used to describe the Old Testament priesthood, temple and appointed feasts, are entirely missing from the Book of Mormon. Here are 10 examples of such biblical terms with their frequencies, that never appear once in the Book of Mormon:

  • “laver” (13 times in Bible)
  • “incense” (121 times in Bible)
  • “ark of the covenant” (48 times in Bible)
  • “sons of Aaron” (97 times in Bible)
  • “mercy seat” (23 in Bible)
  • “day of atonement” (21 times in Bible)
  • “feast of tabernacles” (17 times in Bible)
  • “passover” (59 times in Bible)
  • “house of the LORD” (627 in Bible)
  • “Aaron” – this name appears 48 times in the Book of Mormon, but never in reference to the biblical Aaron or the Aaronic priesthood.[10]

Finally, and not insignificantly, as one Mormon Researcher has observed:

2 Nephi 25:24 says, “we keep the law of Moses”. During the time this was written (about 559–545 B.C.) the Nephites were claiming to be orthodox Jews. Having the law of Moses, they would have said the shema (Duet 6:4) and they would have followed the Mosaic law strictly. In fact, the phrase “we keep the law of Moses” appears in the Book of Mormon four times (2 Nephi 25:242 Nephi 5:10Jacob 4:5, and 1 Nephi 17:22), it is a recurring theme throughout the book.

According to Mormon dogma Nephi and Lehi followed the Mosaic law without error. Yet even after all they allegedly knew concerning God and His law why did they still break his commandments? There’s just no excuse for this if the Book of Mormon is true. Further, why are the Nephites blessed by God despite their disobedience of His law, while at the same time God is calling down judgment on the Jews in Israeli for violating it? This makes no sense!

Further, the Nephites were from the northern kingdom (the tribe of Manasseh), so they would have known their heritage. They would have surely known the story of Jeroboam and all he did to put Israel into such a state of apostasy that it merited the Assryian exile of 722 BC. The orthodoxy and legitimacy of these Book of Mormon Jews needs to be seriously questioned![11]

Simply put, shouldn’t a book written about Jews, by Jews, for Jews be . . . well . . Jewish? Shouldn’t such a book accurately reflect Jewish history, values, attitudes, and customs? Well the Book of Mormon ain’t Jewish folks – it’s goy through and through!

Summary and Conclusion:
These arguments are just a small sample of the vast array of better, stronger arguments to choose from. Simply put, the Book of Mormon discredits itself in so many other, better, more persuasive ways that the begging question is this: Why use this weak argument at all? It’s a molehill not a mountain.

"Jesus Christ visits the Americas" by John Scott. It doesn't get much more Jewish than this does it folks? Especially the "Jewish" Temple in the background.

It doesn’t get much more Jewish than this does it – especially the “Jewish” Temple in the background.
(click to zoom)

NOTES
[1] Alexander Campbell, “Delusions: An analysis of the book of Mormon with an examination of its internal and external evidences, and a refutation of its pretenses to divine authority”, The Millennial Harbinger, February 7, 1831

[2] Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, “Was Jesus born ‘at Jerusalem’?”, Mormonism Research Ministry website

[3] And, I should add that Micah 5:2 not only says “Bethlehem” clearly but redundantly.  “Ephratah” is the ancient name for Bethlehem. A variant of the name first appears in the Bible in Genesis 35:

“Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor.” (Genesis 35:16, NKJV)

“So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).  And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.” (Genesis 35:19-20, NKJV) 

This is also reiterated elsewhere in the Bible (click here).

[4] Uncredited, “Question: Why does the Book of Mormon say that Jesus would be born ‘at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers’ when the Bible states that he was born in Bethlehem?”, FAIRMormon website

[5] Op cit, McKeever and Johnson

[6] Ibid, McKeever and Johnson

[7] For example, please consider these critiques:
Atheist Critic: Uncredited, “Discrepancies in the Bible: The Death of Judas Iscariot”
Muslim Critic: Abdullah Smith, “The Death of Judas”

[8] This list was taken mainly from the website of Main Street Church of Brigham City, “Scripture Reference: Bible & Book of Mormon Contradictions”. Other recommended resources:

Sandra Tanner, “Bible and Book of Mormon Contradictions”
Luke P. Wilson, “Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible”

[9] Op cit, Campbell

[10] Luke P. Wilson, “Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible”, Institute for Religious Research (IRR) website

[11] Adapted from a Facebook comment made by Brian Roberts on December 19, 2014 in the B.C.  &  L.D.S.  (Biblical Christians and Latter Day Saints) discussion group.  Mr. Roberts has also written extensively on the theme of Book of Mormon inconsistencies on his “Sinners and Saints” website.

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