Response to Jehovah's Witness Articles
on the LDS Church
by John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper
In the November 8, 1995 issue of Awake!, the Jehovah's
Witness organization published a brief article on Joseph Smith entitled "A Young
Man's Search for Answers," followed by a second article "The Mormon Church--A
Restoration of All Things?" The first article has some minor inaccuracies, but
otherwise has the appearance of an unbiased attempt at briefly recounting the history of
Joseph Smith. The second article begins along similar lines, but then turns to a
rendition of familiar criticisms of the Book of Mormon, most of which have little
substance and have been answered time and time again. The author(s) were evidently
unaware that these issues have been more than adequately addressed, and it is clear that
they simply picked them up from some of the typical anti-Mormon literature that has been
floating around unchanged for decades.
The story of Joseph Smith begins by noting that "many
farmers" of Joseph Smith's day "were tantalized by tales of buried Indian
treasure" and sought this treasure "armed with magic seer stones, incantations,
and divine rods." Supposedly, "local legends told of a great Indian
civilization that perished in a terrible battle somewhere in New York State."
Unlike the second article, which is replete with references, there is no source
given for this information. But its intent is clear: it lays the foundation
for establishing that Joseph Smith simply invented the Book of Mormon, which fit
with what others already believed. Were this true, of course, one would expect that
Joseph Smith's story would have been better received. The fact
is, he was persecuted for what he said happened to him.
Here are some of the errors in the articles, referenced by page
number, followed by our response. We have skipped over
some of the more minor errors.
- "It meant instant death for others to see
the plates at that time" (17). We know of no indication that people
would die if they saw the plates. Joseph Smith merely indicated that he would
be destroyed if he showed them to anyone without permission (JS-H 1:42).
- "The plates were inscribed in
reformed Egyptian' writing, Smith explained, which was more compact than
Hebrew" (18). Neither Joseph Smith nor the Book of Mormon tell us
why the Nephites used reformed Egyptian, though the compactness argument is a valid one.
Thanks to archaeological finds in the Near East during the last few decades, there
are now several examples of mixed Hebrew-Egyptian writings and of Jews (including some
from Lehi's time) writing in Egyptian script.
- "According to Smith, Mormon's son, now the
spirit Moroni, had given him the record on golden plates" (18). At no
time does Joseph Smith call Moroni a "spirit," and it is generally understood
that he was a resurrected being. To some people, the term "spirit" hints
at séances and contact with the "dear departed," which is not something Joseph
Smith was involved in.
- "When hostilities
erupted, Smith was
arrested and jailed in Carthage, Illinois" (18). Hostilities did not
erupt. Joseph Smith was charged with the destruction of a press--an action
undertaken not by Joseph alone but by the Nauvoo City council, with one dissenting vote.
The practice of destroying libelous presses had its precedent in actions taken by
local governments in other parts of the United States in that time. When charged
with wrongdoing by those opposed to his religious views, Joseph voluntarily went with his
brother Hyrum and some friends to surrender to state authorities in Carthage.
- "The majority of church positions are
unsalaried" (p. 19). Virtually all ecclesiastical positions in the LDS
Church are unsalaried, the exception being the General Authorities of the Church, fewer
than a hundred in number in a church of ten million.
- "The temple endowment ceremony involves a
series of covenants, or promises, and a special temple undergarment to be worn ever after,
as a protection from evil and as a reminder of the vows of secrecy taken" (p. 19).
The garment is not "a reminder of the vows of secrecy," but a reminder of
the covenants we make in the temple to obey the basic laws God has given us, which are explained as the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice
(acceptance of Christ), the law of the gospel (helping others come to Christ), the law of
chastity, and the law of consecration. There are many early Jewish and
Christian texts that speak of the use of this special priesthood garment in ancient times,
and some of them even attribute special powers to the garment, though, in fact, only God
possesses such powers. (John A. Tvedtnes, Priesthood Clothing in Bible Times,
in Donald Parry, ed., Temples of the Ancient World [Deseret Book Company and FARMS,
1994]: 649-704; Stephen D. Ricks, The Garment of Adam in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian
Tradition, in Donald Parry, ed., Temples of the Ancient World [Deseret Book
Company and FARMS, 1994]: 705-739.)
- "Strict tithing of their income is
required" (p. 19). Tithing is considered a
free-will offering. Membership in the Church is not contingent
on paying tithing. The principle of tithing is very ancient, going back at
least to Abraham (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4-10) and Jacob (28:22). In the days of
the early apostles, Christians were asked to donate all of their possessions to God (Acts
- "Why the need for other
(p. 20). It is likely that the Jews of the first century A.D. were asking the
same question when the gospels and epistles began circulating. To people of that
era, the Bible consisted of the Old Testament alone. Before Jeremiah wrote his book,
the Israelites already had scriptures, and there was so much opposition to the prophet's
new revelations that the first copy of his book was burned and he had to redictate it to a
scribe (Jeremiah 36:4-32). There have always been people who wanted to accept the
former revelations and ignore the ones God had for their own generation. But, in his
love for his children, God has continued to provide prophets and scriptures down through
the ages. The Bible itself is not a single book, but a collection of many of these
revelations. Ironically, the Bible is different for Jews than for Christians, who add the
books of the New Testament. Some of the books in our current New Testament were not
acceptable to many early Christians and they had books in their Bibles that are no longer
in ours. The Bibles used in the Christian churches of Armenia and Ethiopia also
contain books not in our western Bibles. It is naive to believe that the English
Bible is everything God ever gave or has to give to mankind. Certainly the Bible makes no such claim.
- "LDS writers express profound misgivings
about the Bible's reliability because of alleged deletions and translation errors"
(p. 20). Latter-day Saints have no more reservations about the text of the
Bible than do the vast majority of Bible scholars. On the whole, we accept the Bible
and use it to expound church doctrine and practice, believing that there are some minor
errors, omissions, and additions, to the various books contained therein. We honor
the Bible and strive to live by its principles. We also honor the Book of Mormon,
which is a second witness of Jesus Christ and supports what the Bible says of him.
Orson Pratt's views of the Bible, cited in the Awake! article, are extreme
and are not those of other LDS Church leaders and members. The pamphlet's assertion
that discrepancies found between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Bible manuscripts
"consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations of spelling" is
correct only for those scrolls that are part of the Massoretic tradition from which our
own Bible was produced. Even so, the number of variants are not few, and some of the
"slips of the pen" involved omission of one or mores lines of text or the
addition of explanatory marginal notes into the text. In addition, a number of the
Dead Sea Scrolls represent variant traditions of biblical books, such as the ones found in
the Greek Septuagint and Samaritan Bibles. One of the Hebrew Jeremiah scrolls, for
example, follows the much shorter Septuagint version, while others follow the Massoretic
text from which our Bibles have been translated. The Septuagint Jeremiah is an
eighth shorter than our Jeremiah and has considerable transpositions. In Jeremiah
10, where the Septuagint omits verses 6-8, 10, and moves verse 5 to appear after verse 9,
the scroll found near the Dead Sea follows. One of the Hebrew Exodus scrolls
reflects the Septuagint version, while another is closer to the Samaritan.
Similarly, a Hebrew Numbers scroll is closer to the Samaritan than to the Massoretic
text and is closer still to the Septuagint. And so it goes. From the evidence
of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is clear that already two thousand years ago, there were
different versions of the books of the Bible. The quote from long-dead Sir Frederic
Kenyon, asserting that there have been no changes in the Bible text over time, is clearly
out-of-date and does not accord with post-Dead Sea Scrolls Bible scholarship.
- "Doctrine and Covenants . . . revelations
. . . have been revised at times as doctrinal and historical developments dictated"
(p. 20). Doctrinal issues were not changed in the revelations, only church
practices and organization, as the church grew over time. When Jeremiah redictated
the book he had previously dictated to his scribe Baruch and that the king had destroyed,
he added material not in the original (Jeremiah 36:32).
- "The Pearl of Great Price . . . contains
Joseph Smith's revisions of the Bible book of Genesis" etc. (p. 20).
Actually, only the first few chapters of that revision are included in the Pearl
of Great Price.
- The statements regarding the Book of Abraham (p. 20) reflect the
views of only some who have studied the matter and cast the book in an unfair light.
It would be impossible to discuss the entire matter in these few pages.
- Additional doctrines presented "by the church's living prophet . . . are equal in authority to the
Holy Bible" (p. 20). This is true only insofar as such doctrines are presented for canonization by the Church.
Prophets, too, may have their own opinions. Joseph Smith declared that "a
prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such" (History of the
Church 5: 265).
- Regarding scripture beyond the Bible, the pamphlet quotes Paul's
words from Galatians 1:8, "Though we, or an angel from heaven,
preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto him, let him be
accursed" (p. 21). The "gospel" is, however, not a book,
but the "good news" (which is what the word means) about Jesus Christ, his
mission and atoning sacrifice. When Jesus went about "preaching the gospel
of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23; 9:5; 11:15; Mark 1:14; Luke 9:6; 20:1), he
obviously did not carry the New Testament with him, for it had not yet been written.
In 3 Nephi 27:13-22, Jesus described what he called "my gospel" to the
Nephites and it is exactly the same gospel that we find taught in the New Testament.
The Book of Mormon is not "another gospel," but another record of the
same gospel message--that through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ we can be saved.
- "In the pages of the
Bible . . . the only
offer of godhood ever recorded . . . was the empty promise by Satan the Devil in the
garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5)" (p. 22). While it is true that Satan told
Eve that by partaking of the fruit she and Adam would become "as gods, knowing good
and evil," we must also note that, in Genesis 3:22, God himself confirms that
this is what happened: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one
of us, to know good and evil." Obviously, the promise was not so
"empty." Where Satan deceived Eve was in saying that she would not die
(Genesis 3:5), in contradiction to what the Lord had said (Genesis 2:17; 3:3). The
scriptures command us to become perfect and holy like God (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16;
Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). In Psalms 82:6, the Lord declares, "I have
said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." Jesus
repeated this when the Jews sought to stone him for making himself God, then added,
"If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be
broken" (John 10:30-36). Peter wrote that we can become "partakers of the divine
nature" (1 Peter 1:2-4), while Paul declared that, as "children of
God," we can become "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ"
(Romans 8:14-15). John similarly noted that we are "the sons of God," that
"when he shall appear, we shall be like him," and that "every man
that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John
3:1-3). [Emphasis added.]
- "The Book of Mormon says that had
the former spirits Adam and Eve remained sinless, they would have been childless and
joyless, alone in Paradise. So its version of the sin of the first married couple
involved sexual intercourse and childbearing . . . (2 Nephi 2:22, 23, 25)" (p. 22).
Actually, it is mainstream Christianity, following teachings introduced by St.
Augustine, who believe that the "original sin" was sexual in nature, while
Latter-day Saints believe that Adam and Eve partook of a literal fruit that made them
mortal. That this first sin was not sexual intercourse is clear from the fact that
Eve ate the fruit before Adam (Genesis 3:6). It is not remaining
"sinless" that would have left Adam and Eve "childless and joyless,"
but the fact that they were not mortal and, unable to be exposed to opposition, would not
have been able to distinguish joy from sorrow. It was Eve, not Adam, who was
deceived by Satan, as Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 2:14. Having transgressed the
commandment of God, she would be cast out of the garden, while Adam, had he not taken the
fruit she offered him, would have remained. But because he fell, men are, as the
Book of Mormon passage states, and mortality has come into the world.
- "While accepting the
Bible's authority, in
case of disagreement LDS doctrine necessarily assigns greater weight to the words of their
prophets" (p. 22). The statement is basically true, but it implies that
there could be a "disagreement" between the Bible and living prophets, which is
nearly nonexistent. The differences seen by non-Latter-day Saints are due to their
misconceptions about what the Bible says and about the role of prophets, ancient and
modern. One would not expect, for example, that every prophet should build an ark
just because God told Noah to do so, nor to go to Nineveh as God told Jonah. In his
day, many Jews rejected Jesus because he did not fit their preconceived notions of what
the Messiah should be. Jeremiah and other prophets were rejected because they did
not fit the preconceived notions of the people about what a prophet should be.
Things haven't changed much.
- "The story [of Martin Harris' visit to
Professor Charles Anthon] appears to be inconsistent, however, with Smith's claim that he
alone had the gift to translate the language of the plates" (p. 22). The
inconsistency is not in the story told by Martin Harris, but in Anthon's claim that he
would be able to translate the record. At the time of Harris' visit to Anthon, there
existed no Egyptian grammars or dictionaries. Indeed, the first of these were just
being prepared by the French scholar Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the
Egyptian language, and were not published until after his death in 1832--two years after
the Book of Mormon was published. Anthon might have made a valiant try, but
he was not qualified to do the work.
- "It has troubled some readers that The
Book of Mormon, this most correct' of books, lifts at least 27,000 words
directly from the Bible version that is purportedly full of errors and that Smith later
undertook to revise" (p. 22). Since the Book of Mormon was
written by Israelites who possessed many books of the Bible, we should not be surprised to
see them quote from those books. New Testament writers frequently quoted Old
Testament prophets and Psalms, and some Old Testament
prophets quoted from earlier prophets. Many hundreds of examples could be given.
The Book of Mormon would be more suspect as ancient scripture if it ignored
the Bible. Joseph Smith's comments about the correctness of
the Book of Mormon have often been misrepresented. The full quote, from History of the
Church 4:461, reads, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most
correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer
to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." His stress on the book's
"precepts" clearly shows that the prophet was referring to its doctrinal
content, not its language. No one language can adequately express all the nuances intended
by the original. Anyone who knows a foreign language can attest that there is no
one-to-one correspondence between words in two different languages. Thus, for example, the
Hebrew word meaning "to sit" also means "to dwell." Seeing this word
in a Hebrew text, a translator would have to decide which of the two English verbs to use
in his English language version. In 1 Nephi 1:6, we read that "there came a pillar of
fire and dwelt upon a rock before him." In this case, Joseph Smith used the word
"dwelt" where another might have preferred "sat." Many of Joseph's
later corrections to the Book of Mormon and the Bible were attempts to clarify the intent
to English readers. The fact that Joseph later made corrections to the text of the Book of
Mormon, on both copies of the manuscript (the original and the copy prepared for the
printer) and in later editions demonstrates that he did not consider the book to be an
infallible translation. The Book of Mormon itself indicates that it may contain errors
made by the men who wrote it (Title Page; 1 Nephi 19:6; Jacob 1:2; 7:26; Mormon 8:1, 17;
9:31-33; 3 Nephi 8:2; Ether 5:1). Since Joseph Smith must have known about these
statements, his declaration of correctness could not have meant that the book had no
- During World War II, "German Mormons were
encouraged to bear arms for their country and to pray for her victory," and
some saw clear "links between their faith and the politics of
the Third Reich," so much so that "the church even
excommunicated one dissident posthumously after the Nazis had executed him" (p. 23).
Mistakes were clearly made by some church leaders in Germany, as is evidenced by the
fact that the excommunicated man was reinstated after the war as a correction of the
error. The fact that he was a dissident indicates that not all Latter-day Saints saw
links between their beliefs and those of the Nazis. Indeed, many German Latter-day
Saints are known to have resisted and a number died at the hands of their oppressors.
We admire the Jehovah's Witnesses for their passiveness and willingness to die
rather than participate in war. At the same time, we note that God himself
occasionally ordered the ancient Israelites to war against their neighbors (note
especially the books of Joshua and Judges) and that Jesus declared, "Think not that I
am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come
to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter in law against her mother in law" (Matthew 10:34-35). Remember, there
is "a time to kill, and a time to heal . . . a time to love, and a time to hate; a
time of war, and a time of peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:3, 8).
- "A comparison of the first edition of The
Book of Mormon with current editions reveals to many Mormons a surprising fact--that the
book said to be translated . . . by the gift and power of God' has itself undergone
numerous changes in grammar, spelling, and substance" (p. 22). Such
changes should not be "surprising" at all, since one of the introductory pages
to the 1981 edition reads, "Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in
past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that
seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and
early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith." Joseph Smith himself noted
that, in preparation for the second (1837) edition, he made corrections (History of the
Church 4: 494-5). Since the spelling and punctuation were largely the product of
the typesetter, not the translator, these kinds of corrections are irrelevant. When
Joseph Smith said "that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on
earth" (History of the Church 4.461), he had reference to its doctrine, not
its language. "Most correct" does not mean "perfect." Mormon and
Moroni admitted that mistakes may have been made in the record (Book of Mormon,
Preface; 3 Nephi 8:2; Mormon 8:17), as did Nephi (1 Nephi 19:6; cf. Alma 10:5).
- "Some find it difficult to reconcile that
about 20 Jews were said to have left Jerusalem for America in 600 B.C.E. but that in less
than 30 years, they had multiplied and split into two nations! (2 Nephi 5:28)" (p.
24). The Book of Mormon does not say how many people came to the New
World with Lehi. Nor does it say that they had "split into two nations"
after thirty years. Rather, we learn that Nephi and three of his brothers, a friend
and an unspecified number of his sisters, along with their families (spouses and children,
perhaps grandchildren) parted from his older brethren and their families (2 Nephi 5:5-8).
Neither group was yet called a "nation."
- "Within 19 years of their arrival, this
small band supposedly built a temple after the manner of the temple of Solomon' . .
. a formidable task, indeed! The seven-year construction of Solomon's temple in
Jerusalem occupied nearly 200,000 laborers, craftsmen and overseers--2 Nephi 5:16; compare
1 Kings 5:6)" (p. 24). The author of these words quotes only part of 2
Nephi 5:16, leaving out Nephi's comment that the temple "could not be built like
unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto
the temple of Solomon." The temple was obviously not as elaborate, nor as
large, as the one Solomon built. It was probably like the small Israelite temple
excavated at Arad that was built in the time of Solomon and in the same shape.
Moreover, we are not told in what year the Nephites began or finished the structure.
The thirtieth year after their departure from Jerusalem in 2 Nephi 5:28-31 refers
only to when Nephi made the second set of plates. The actual journal entry was made
in the fortieth year, as is clear from verse 34. [See the Response to Question 2 (42 Questions).]
- "Acts 11:26 says: The disciples were
called Christians first in Antioch.' (KJ) But Alma 46:15, purportedly describing
events in 73 B.C.E., has Christians in America before Christ ever came to earth" (p.
25). Were we to say that the Templars were organized in Germany and settled
in the Holy Land in the late 19th century, you might try to correct us by saying that the
Templars were organized in the year 1118 by Hugh de Payen and participated in a Crusade to
the Holy Land in the years that followed. Actually, both statements are correct, for
we would be referring to two different Christian groups that called themselves
"Templars." Since Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, didn't know
about the followers of Christ in the New World, he would naturally assume that the term
"Christian" was first used in Antioch in his own day. In the same way, many
history books credit Columbus with having discovered America, though there is now abundant
evidence for the Vikings having visited North America five hundred years earlier. If
one acknowledges that prophets such as Isaiah (e.g., Isaiah 53) foresaw the coming of
Christ, there should be no problem in having a people living a few decades before his
birth and who looked forward to his arrival calling themselves "Christians."
Since the term "Christians" is from the Greek word that gave us
"Christ," it would not, of course, have been used by the Nephites. They may have
called themselves Meshihim, from the Hebrew Messiah. All we can say for certain is that
the anglicized form "Christians" was used in the English translation to
represent whatever term the Nephites used.
- "Many places mentioned in the Bible still
exist, yet the locations of virtually all sites named in the Book of Mormon, such as
Gimgimno and Zeezrom, are unknown" (p. 25). The ease with which biblical
sites have been identified has come not because scholars have dug and found the name
inscribed on records on the site (this has happened at only a handful of places, and only
since the 1930s!). It is because those sites have, for the most part, always
retained their ancient names or a close approximation thereto. This is because the
conquerors and immigrants who have come to the Holy Land have always spoken Semitic
languages, related to Hebrew. Thus, for example, when some of the Jews returned from
the Babylonian captivity, they now spoke Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew. The
Israelites who had remained behind also adopted an Aramaic dialect, Samaritan. These
languages were still in use by the Jews and Samaritans of Jesus' day. Even after the
area became Christian under the Byzantine empire, the Christians of Syro-Palestine
continued to use Aramaic/Syriac dialects (the two words mean the same), and the native
churches of the area to this very day continue to employ these dialects in their liturgy.
The Arabs conquered the area from the Christians in the seventh century and retained
the ancient names in Arabic form, for Arabic is another language related to Hebrew.
Even the Crusaders, who came from Europe, adopted Syriac--the local Christian
language--as the official language of the "Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem."
When they were removed, Arabic was reinstated as the predominant language of the
area. Unfortunately, in Mesoamerica, we have not had the same continuity of related
languages that could retain the ancient place-names. Mayan, Aztec, and other
languages of various families have predominated for centuries, resulting in the change of
many place-names. A number of Mexican and Guatemalan cities named in early Spanish
writings of only five centuries ago can no longer be identified, so one should not expect
more of Book of Mormon cities that are much older. In addition, archaeological
investigation of the area has also been much more difficult than in Israel, because of the
jungle that, in some areas, has covered over ancient sites. Only in the past few
decades has any serious archaeological work been done in some parts of Mesoamerica, and
most of that at sites that postdate the Book of Mormon era. One cannot expect
as much from this region as from the arid Middle East. Nevertheless, there is a fair
amount of archaeological evidence already available that ties Mesoamerica to the Book of
Mormon. We suggest reading Warren and Ferguson's
The Messiah in Ancient America, John Sorenson's
An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Diane
Wirth's A Challenge to the Critics, and William
Hamblin's "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach
to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of
Mormon Studies 2/1 [available as a FARMS reprint].
- "A faith based upon solid
Scriptural knowledge, rather than just on an emotional prayer experience, presents a challenge to
sincere Mormons" (p. 25). Latter-day Saints are urged by Church leaders
to read the scriptures on a daily basis. The scriptures form the basis of study in
all LDS Church classes. From the time one is a teen, there is opportunity to attend
seminary and institute of religion classes at sites near high schools and universities.
Each year, dozens of books of scriptural research by LDS scholars are published.
No one is expected to just pray to find the truth. D&C 9:8 instructs us to
"study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right."
Moroni 10:3-5 tells us regarding the Book of Mormon that we must "read
these things," then "ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if
these things are not true." The principle of asking God is found in the Bible:
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it
shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh
findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7). "If
any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and
upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). If we neglect
this step in our search for truth, we shall end up like the rest of the Christian
world--divided into hundreds of churches, each differing with the other on matters of
doctrine. [Emphasis added]
- "The life of Jesus Christ stands in stark
contrast with LDS theology. While Jesus was no ascetic, his simple life was devoid
of any ambition to amass wealth, glory, or political power" (p. 25).
Despite the fact that the pamphlet suggests that Latter-day Saints seek for wealth,
glory, and political power, devout members of the Church try to pattern their lives after
that of Jesus Christ, following the admonition in Jacob 2:18, "before ye seek for
riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God." Since the Book of Mormon shows
time and time again that setting one's heart on wealth and power leads to pride and to
spiritual downfall, it is hard to see why the authors of the articles think that "LDS
theology" teaches the opposite. It is also ironic that, on the one hand, the
pamphlet denounces the idea that we can become like God (p. 22), then here states that
"Jesus' true disciples" pattern their lives after him.
A sidebar on page 24 contrasts "The Bible and Mormon
Writings." We shall look at each of these here.
- "The garden of Eden was probably in the
Mesopotamian region by the Euphrates River," while in LDS belief it "was in
Jackson County, Missouri." The Bible does not say where the garden was
located. Surely the flood could have taken Noah quite far away from the original
site. The Euphrates river in Genesis 2:14 cannot be the one we know by that name,
for the rivers in Genesis 2:10-14 are divisions of a single river coming out of the garden
of Eden. While it is true that topography can change over time and that the rivers
may no longer exist or may no longer have a single source, the major rivers of the Middle
East flow in different directions, having very different sources.
- The Bible tells us that "the
soul dies.--Ezekiel 18:4; Acts 3:23," but the Book of Mormon says "The soul
could never die.'--Alma 42:9." In the sense that "the spirit and
the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from
the dead is the redemption of the soul" (D&C 88:15-16), it is true that the soul
can die (for the body, the spirit, and
the soul, see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). But the term "soul" is sometimes used
for "spirit" in English, as virtually any dictionary will attest. Thus, in
Revelation 6:9-11, "the souls of them that were slain" obviously refers to
spirits that lived on after the body was dead, for they cry to the Lord for vengeance.
Had the revelation in D&C 88 been received before Joseph Smith translated the
Book of Mormon, he might have used the word "spirit" in Alma 42:9.
Nevertheless, his translation reflects good English usage for his time. That
the spirit survives after death is evidenced in such Bible passages as Isaiah 14:9-20;
Ezekiel 32:18-32; Luke 16:22-31; 24:39; John 2:1-10.
- In the Bible, we learn that "Jesus was
born in Bethlehem.--Matthew 2:1-6," while the Book of Mormon says "Jesus was to
be born in Jerusalem.--Alma 7:10." After the many discussions of this
subject, we are surprised to see this argument recycled. After all, since Joseph
Smith, like all American children of his time, must have known that Jesus was born in
Bethlehem (what practicing Christian
family never sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem"?), the wording in Alma 7:10 must
be deliberate. Actually, it does not say that Jesus would be born in the city
of Jerusalem, but in "Jerusalem which is the land of our
forefathers." In more than forty passages, the Book of Mormon speaks of
"the land of Jerusalem" (e.g., 1 Nephi 3:9-10; 7:2). Jerusalem is called a
"land" in Jeremiah 6:8 (cf. 15:5-7). In ancient Israel (Joshua 8:1; 13:17;
15:45, 47; 17:11; 1 Chronicles 6:55-56) and among the Nephites (e.g., Alma 50:14), major
cities controlled nearby villages and the land in which they were located was denominated
by the name of the principal city. Thus, for example, Tappuah is called a "land"
in Joshua 17:8, but a "city" in Joshua 16:8. Jeremiah, a contemporary of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, wrote of "Jerusalem and
all of its cities." Clay tablets written in the fourteenth century B.C. and
found at el-Amarna in Egypt use the term "land" for Palestinian sites known to
have been ancient cities. For example, one text (EA 289) speaks of the "town
of Rubutu," while another (EA 290) mentions the "land of Rubutu."
The first of these also speaks of "land of Shechem," and "the land
of the town of Gath-carmel" (both ancient cities) and says of Jerusalem, "this land
belongs to the king." A third text (EA 287) mentions the lands of Gezer,
Ashkelon, and Jerusalem. One of the Amarna texts (EA 290) speaks of "a town in
the land of Jerusalem" named Bît-Lahmi, which is the Canaanite equivalent of
the Hebrew name rendered Beth-lehem in English Bibles. [Emphasis
- While the Bible indicates that "Jesus was
begotten by [the] holy spirit.--Matthew 1:20," Brigham Young taught that "Jesus
was not begotten by the holy spirit. He was begotten in the flesh by Adam's having
intercourse with Mary" (p. 24). In the reference given (Journal of
Discourses 1.50-51), President Young did not use the term "intercourse," nor
did he specifically say that Adam fathered Jesus. In any event, such a doctrine was
never accepted by the Church. To us, it makes little sense to speak of the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost if the Holy Ghost is really the "Father" of Jesus!
While Matthew 1:18-20 implies that the Holy Ghost fathered Jesus, Luke 1:35 makes it
a bit more clear, when the angel said to Mary "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,
and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing
which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Latter-day
Saints believe that one cannot endure the presence of God without being filled by the Holy
Ghost--a fact implied in Acts 7:55-56 (see "Transfiguration" in Bruce R.
McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 803). Mary could not have endured the presence of
the Father unless protected by the power of the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis
- The Bible says that the "New Jerusalem
[is] to be in heaven.--Revelation 21:2," but the LDS belief is that "New
Jerusalem [is] earthly, to be built by men in Missouri, U.S.A.--3 Nephi 21:23, 24;
Doctrine and Covenants 84:3, 4." We note that the pamphlet fails to cite
Ether 13:3, where we read "of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of
heaven." Three verses later, it says "that a New Jerusalem should be built
upon this land" (Ether 13:6). Obviously, the Book of Mormon sees no
conflict here. Bruce R. McConkie explained that,
"This New Jerusalem on the American continent will have a dual origin. It will
be built by the saints on earth and it will also come down from heaven, and the cities so
originating will be united into one holy city" ("New Jerusalem, in Mormon
Doctrine, 532). Joseph Smith also spoke of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven
(History of the Church, 2.262; 4.453).
- "Writers of the Bible were inspired to
write God's thoughts.--2 Peter 1:20, 21," but the Book of Mormon "prophets are
said to have written according to their own knowledge.--1 Nephi 1:2, 3; Jacob 7:26)."
Obviously, the writers of the Bible also wrote according to their own knowledge,
whether from personal experience or from knowledge received by revelation. For
example, in the same chapter (2 Peter 1:16-19) Peter gives his personal testimony of
Jesus, saying he and his fellow apostles "were eyewitness" of the
transfiguration on the Mount. Note also that Peter "thought he saw a
vision" (Acts 12:9) and that Paul wrote "I think also that I have the Spirit of
God" (1 Corinthians 7:40). Shall we interpret this as uncertainty?
- The "Mosaic law, including
terminated by the death of Jesus. Contributions are to be voluntary, not under
compulsion.--2 Corinthians 9:7; Galatians 3:10-13, 24, 25; Ephesians 2:15). But
D&C 64:23 declares, Verily it is . . . a day for the tithing of my people; for
he that is tithed shall not be burned at his [the Lord's] coming).'" We
see no conflict here. Tithing in the LDS Church is voluntary. But the Lord
does command that we pay a tithe, just as he commanded in ancient times. Through the
prophet Malachi, he promised blessings from heaven for tithe payers and said that he would
"rebuke the devourer . . . and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground"
(Malachi 3:10-11). Even in the early Christian church, we read of a man and his wife
whom the Lord slew because they did not give all that they had promised, "and great
fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things" (Acts 5:1-11).