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
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.
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
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
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:
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
- 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
- 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):
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.
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” 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.
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 it’s unyielding commitment to sound doctrine and biblical fidelity) would ordain someone this theologically compromised.
5 A few of these source are discussed in my article, “Weak Arguments #7: “The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.”’
8 Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p. 150
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”. 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?”.
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 I 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 over look 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”)
However, when his back is pressed to 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.
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)
“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.
– 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.