SHIELDS header banner /w logo

Jehovah's Witnesses
Critics Corner

Death to see BoM Plates?
Reformed Egyptian
Spirit Moroni?
Mormon Hostilities?
Unsalaried Positions
Temple Endowment
Other Scriptures?
Bible's Reliability?
D&C Revised?
PoGP Revised?
Book of Abraham
Prophet = to Bible?
Another Gospel?
Bible & Godhood
Adam & Eve and
Sexual Sin
Prophet Greater
than Bible
Anthon Episode
Book of Mormon Plagiarizes?
Mormons & WW II
Book of Mormon Changes
Book of Mormon Nations
Book of Mormon Temple
Book of Mormon Christians
Book of Mormon Geography?
LDS  Scriptural Knowledge
Jesus Christ & Mormonism
Garden of Eden
Soul Death
Jesus Birthplace
Jesus Conception
New Jerusalem
God's Thoughts



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 2:44; 4:31-37).

  • "Why the need for other scriptures?" (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 failings whatsoever.

  • 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 added.]

  • 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 added.]

  • 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 tithing, [was] 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).