A Response to Ron Rhodes and Marian Bodine, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995).

By John A. Tvedtnes

     The book by Rhodes and Bodine is one of the most sophisticated anti-Mormon books I have seen.  It generally avoids the nonsensical, repetitive approach found in most anti-Mormon literature.  Though the authors have a better grasp on LDS beliefs than most, they still misunderstand and/or misrepresent many of these beliefs and exaggerate in ways that are less offensive than previous attacks on the LDS Church.

     From its organization and content, I presume that the book's goal is twofold: 1) to prepare readers to resist the temptation to accept LDS doctrines, and 2) to assist people who want to win “Mormons” away from their beliefs.  Consequently, it begins with an introductory chapter designed to sensationalize, with such sub-headings as “The Incredible Wealth of the Mormon Church” and “The Mormon Media Empire.”  Since people tend to distrust the wealthy, the media, and politicians, these sections can serve no other purpose than to present the LDS Church in a negative light.  The information given therein is certainly irrelevant when it comes to evaluating whether the Church's doctrine is correct.

     The first doctrinal issue is also addressed in the introductory chapter, in a section entitled, “Are Mormons Christians?”  To show that they are not, the authors cite “theologian Gordon Lewis,” who wrote that a Christian needs “to believe in one personal, transcendent God, one incarnate Christ, the completed atonement, and one gospel of grace through faith alone,” then notes that “Mormons do not believe these things, as we will demonstrate in this book” (p. 14).  Actually, Latter-day Saints believe almost exactly as Lewis states.  We would disagree, however, that grace does not come through faith, but as a free gift from God.  But salvation, as the Bible makes abundantly clear, includes much more than just faith, as the vast majority of the Christian world (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian churches based on the Middle East and Africa) would agree.  Indeed, it is a minority of the Christian community that believes that faith alone can bring salvation.  Most believe that ordinances and good works are also necessary.  Indeed, Lewis’s statement is based on Paul’s declaration that, in the Christian Church, there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:5).  But Lewis, relying in faith alone, would ignore the “one baptism” of which Paul spoke and fails to note that the Bible declares that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17-20).  Jesus himself noted the importance of obedience to God’s commandments when  he gave the true definition of a Christian: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

     In this response, I shall attempt to address, as concisely as possible, just a few of the questions and criticisms contained in the book.  In some cases, I must reword questions in order that each of the criticisms reflect a statement.  But, in fairness to the authors, I shall refer to the page on which they deal with the subject so the reader can judge for himself.

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism denies the scriptural doctrine of the Trinity and the true deity of Christ (p. 17).

     The statement is completely false.  The first Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”  The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that its purpose is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.”

 Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism teaches that there is more than one God (they believe there are many) (p. 17).

     While it is true that we teach that there is more than one God, this belief does not contradict “biblical Christianity.”  Paul wrote that there were “gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).  Psalm 82:1 declares that “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.”  Consequently,  “the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords” (Deuteronomy 10:17; see also Joshua 22:22; Psalm 136:2-3; Daniel 11:36).  Some of the fathers of the early Christian Church argued that God could only be the God of true gods, never of false gods.1  Typically, the Church Fathers indicated that the "gods" over whom God was God are humans who have been redeemed.2

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism teaches that God the Father is literally an exalted man with a physical body of flesh and bones (p. 17).

     Since we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), why should we deny that God has a body?  When Moses asked to see the Lord's glory, the Lord told him, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”  But he agreed to show him something else, declaring, that “while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:18-23).  This is hardly the description of a God without a body.  There are many more Bible passages in which God is described as having a body.  For example, in Exodus 24:9-11, we read “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone . . . And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”  If God did not have a body, how could he sit on a throne as the prophets have described (1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26-28)?

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism teaches that human beings can become gods themselves (p. 17).

     This belief is found in a number of Bible passages.  In the Hebrew original of Psalm 8:4-5, we read, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  For thou hast made him a little lower than the gods, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.”  The Psalmist also declared, “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6).  Jesus, when accused of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God, cited this passage and added, “If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:31-36).  Paul taught that we can become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17; cf. Titus 3:7).  He also tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:5-6).

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism teaches that Jesus was born into this world through the physical, sexual union between God the Father and Mary (p. 17).

     Actually, there is no specific LDS doctrine that states this, nor are there
any statements from Church leaders that there was a "sexual union" between
God and Mary.  I would not exclude that possibility, but all we can say
from our scriptures and statements by Church leaders is that Jesus is the
literal Son of God.  Brigham Young seems to have hinted at a normal marital
relationship, but he never says it in the explicit way suggested by the

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Mormonism teaches that eternal life is attained by a person's works and not by grace alone (p. 17).

     The truth is that the LDS Church teaches that without the atonement of Christ, which came by grace alone, there would be no salvation.  Salvation by grace alone, however, would mean that all will be saved, saint and sinner, just because Christ provided that salvation.  Even the most avid Protestant believers in salvation by grace add that at least faith is necessary to gain salvation, while most would add that confession of Christ is also necessary.  In view of these specific actions required of men to be saved, how can one not believe that our own works play a role in our salvation?  James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17-20), so it is obvious that good works are a part of the faith that brings salvation.  Moreover, Jesus declared that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  So baptism is also essential to salvation.  That deeds of righteousness are necessary to salvation is attested by Paul's statement that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Joseph Smith gave conflicting accounts of his first vision (p. 20).

     The natural response to this is that each account was emphasizing different aspects of what Joseph experienced.  The authors have a footnote (“Possible Mormon comeback”) addressing this response, saying that “these accounts do not just present different ‘aspects,’ but set forth flatly contradictory assertions.”  But when one looks at their chart comparing “First Vision Accounts,” one sees that they have clearly misrepresented them in order to make them appear contradictory.

     Joseph Smith’s accounts of his first vision have less variants than the different accounts of the apostle Paul's first vision, the primary sources of which are chapters 9, 22, and 26 of Acts.  According to Acts 9:1-2, Paul (then called Saul) received letters from “the high priest,” while in Acts 26:12 it says he had a commission from “the chief priests,” and Acts 22:5 it is “the elders” who gave him the letters.  In two of the three accounts (Acts 9:3; 22:6), we learn that Paul was near Damascus when he experienced the vision; in two (but not the same two - Acts 26:13; 22:6), it happened at or about noon.  In each case, one of the accounts omits the information.  While Acts 9:3; 22:6 says the light from heaven surrounded Paul, in Acts 26:13, he said it also surrounded the men who accompanied him.  Similarly, in Acts 26:14, all of them fell to the earth, while the other two accounts (Acts 9:4; 22:7), only Paul falls to the earth.  In two of the accounts (Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8), Paul interrupts Christ at a different point than Acts 26:14-15 to ask who he is.  In two accounts (Acts 9:5; 26:15), Christ responds, “I am Jesus,” while in the third (Acts 22:8), he says, “I am Jesus of Nazareth.”  In only two of the accounts (Acts 9:6; 22:10) does Paul again interrupt to ask what he should do; in both of these accounts, Christ tells him to go into either “the city” or “into Damascus” to learn what he should do.  In the third version, Christ not only does not tell him this, but he gives him instructions not found in the other two accounts (Acts 26:16-18).  This third account leaves off after verse 20, so there are no further comparisons to be made with it.  But of the other two, it is interesting that the information given in Acts 9:8-18 about the Lord’s instructions to Ananias and about Paul’s recovery from his blindness differs greatly from the much shorter account in Acts 22:12-16, including the words addressed by Ananias to Paul.  Acts 9:19-25 also gives information about Paul's sojourn at Damascus that are not included in the other two accounts.

     For the most part, the differences between the stories are not serious enough to cast doubt on the event, despite the fact that they are more marked than the differences in Joseph Smith’s accounts of his vision.

  • Acts 9:7 tells us that Paul’s traveling companions heard the voice, but saw no one, while Acts 22:9 says they saw the light but did not hear the voice.

  • Acts 9:23-25 tells us that the disciples let Paul down from the wall by night in a basket because the local Jews sought to kill him.  But in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul wrote that his escape in the basket was necessitated by the fact that the governor, Aretas, was trying to apprehend him.

  • In all three of the Acts accounts, Paul goes from Damascus to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28; 22:17) or Judaea (Acts 26:20).  But, after alluding to his vision in a letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:11-16), he wrote, “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus,” then later came to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:17-19).  He then notes that he went to Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21), which agrees with Acts 9:30, which has him going to Tarsus, which is a city in Cilicia.

  • According to Acts 9:29-30, when the brethren in Jerusalem learned that the Grecians sought to slay Paul, they sent him to Tarsus via Caesarea.  But Paul attributed his departure from Jerusalem to a revelation from God, in which he was told to leave because “they will not receive thy testimony concerning me” (Acts 22:17-21).

All of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the church, though Martin Harris later returned.

     To me, the departure of these men, when disaffected with Joseph Smith (over issues other than the Book of Mormon, to which they continued to testify!), reinforces their testimony of having seen the angel and the plates.  More important than anything they ever said about the event is what they did about it.  Both Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery returned to the Church.  These are hardly the acts of men who could have just remained outside and kept their mouths shut or confessed to having participated in a great fraud.

Jesus’ promise to Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) prove that the entire church could not have fallen into apostasy.

     Since gates—even the gates of hell—do not attack and destroy churches (or anything else), it is clear that Jesus could not have meant that hell would not destroy the church.  Indeed, gates are either intended to keep people in (prisoners) or keep people out.  But since Jesus gave Peter keys in verse 19, it seems clear that he intended that the church should open the gates of hell and release its prisoners.  This is what he meant about the gates of hell not prevailing over the church.

     That there would be an apostasy is clearly stated by Paul, when he wrote that Christ would not return to the earth “except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).  This parallels what Peter said in Acts 3:20-21 about Christ's remaining in heaven “until the times of restitution of all things.”  The Greek word rendered “falling away” in Paul's epistle is, in fact, apostasia, from which we get “apostasy.

     There is much more that could be said about the misrepresentations in this book, but a busy schedule does not permit me to detail all of them.  I hope that this small sampling will demonstrate the problem with both this book and many other anti-Mormon books.


1.  Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.2-3, in Allan Menzies, Ante-Nicene Fathers (1897; reprint Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 9:323-24.  Augustine, The City of God 11.1, in Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1st series (1887, reprint: Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 2:205.

2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.6:1, in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers (1885; reprint Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 1:419.  Augustine, Exposition on the Psalms 136:2-3, in Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1st series (1888, reprint: Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 8:628.  Augustine, City of God 9.23, in Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1st series (1887, reprint: Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 2:178.  John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.15