Sunday, February 27, 2005

Are Mormons Christians?

I know you may be starting to feel a bit tired of all these posts about Mormonism so don’t worry the light is at the end of the tunnel. In this, my second to last post on the topic of Mormonism, I wanted to focus on a comparison between Mormon doctrines and Christian Doctrines. Often times I’ve talked with Mormon’s who try to convince me that they are Christians just like me. They’ll tell me they believe in God, they believe in Jesus, the plan of salvation, and they believe in the Bible too. In the past when they would say this, I’d be stuck not knowing what to do. Then I learned an important lesson I’d like to pass on to you. Whenever they say they believe in the same thing you do, the most important thing you can do is stop and define your terms. In other words, you could say "We both believe in God, but who do you believe God is?" What is the authority of the Bible? What is your understanding of who Jesus is? Another way would be to explain your beliefs. For example, you could say “Well I believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three persons of the same God. Do you believe that?” This is critical to avoid any misunderstandings about exactly what you are talking about. After all, both Muslims and Christians believe in Jesus; however Christians believe Jesus to be fully God and fully man while Muslims just believe he was a good prophet. Does that make Muslims Christian? Of course not. So in this post I wanted to briefly look at some of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity in some very fundamental areas and let you decide for yourself if Mormon’s are Christian.


Christians believe:
1. God is a spirit without flesh and bones (John 4:24, Psalm 139:7-10)
2. God is not a man (Numbers 23:19, Romans 1:22-23)
3. There is only one God (Isaiah 44:6,8, 45:5, John 10:30)
4. God has always been God (Psalm 90:2)

Mormons believe:
1. God the Father has a body of flesh and bones, (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22).
2. God exists in the form of a man (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, pg. 3.)
3. There are many gods (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 163., pg 576-577)
4. God was once a man (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 345)


Christians believe:
1. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18, 23-24)
2. Jesus was the creator of all things and therefore was not the brother of the devil (Colossians 1:16-17)
3. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity (John 10:30)

Mormons Believe:
1. God had sexual relations with Mary to make the body of Jesus (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 218, 1857; vol. 8, p. 115.)
2. Jesus was a created being and therefore Jesus is the brother of the devil. (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 192, 589. Gospel Through the Ages by Milton Hunter, P. 15)
3. Jesus is one of three gods (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 319)

The Bible

Christians believe:
1. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. It is authoritative over all (2 Timothy 3:16)
2. The word of God will live forever (Matthew 24:35, Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25)

Mormons believe:
1. The Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. (8th Article of Faith of the Mormon Church)
2. The gospel was lost from earth (Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3, pg. 265-326, Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 44)


Christians believe:
1. Those who don’t believe in Jesus are condemned to hell (John 3:16-18, Matthew 10:28, Revelation 20:15)
2. The blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all sin (Romans 5:8-9, 1 John 1:7)

Mormons believe:
1. Some degree of salvation will come to everyone. In other words, the atonement [the atonement is a fancy word used to describe Jesus’ act of putting humans in correct standing before God] was universal for all. (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, pg. 85, 91-92)
2. Some sins cannot be paid for by Christ’s blood (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 93, Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph F. Smith Vol. 1, pg. 135)

I could show many more but space doesn’t allow but I think you get the point. Although the same terminology is used, Mormons and Christians mean very different things when talking about issues central to their faith. Christians who are reading this, I want to encourage you in that anytime you are sharing your faith with someone and they say “Oh, I believe in God too” or “Oh, I believe in Jesus”, please don’t stop there and assume they believe in the same God or the same Jesus you do. Ask questions. Ask about who this God is? What did Jesus do? How come Jesus was qualified to pay the price on the cross? If you are like me, you’ll quickly be surprised at how often we assume the people we are talking to hold to the same beliefs we do, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Do Mormons Believe in Salvation by Faith or by Works? Part 2

Before reading this post, I'd highly recommend re-reading the previous one. It will help with the flow of this post and I think it will make more sense if you read them together. Okay well we've got a lot to cover today so let's get right into it. For those who have talked with Mormon missionaries in the past (You’ve probably seen them around in your neighborhood. They are typically young men that wear white shirts with ties, dark pants, and ride on bicycles) know that talking about salvation can be confusing. Even I’ve had conversations where I walked away scratching my head because what they said sounded similar to what I believe. However, after doing some more studying into Mormon doctrine, I realized why this was confusing. When Mormons speak of salvation, there are actually two different salvations being discussed. The first is called “General Salvation.” They will commonly refer to this as “Salvation by Grace” (not to be confused with the Christian definition of Salvation by Grace). This General Salvation only refers to a person’s immortality and resurrection from the dead. It does NOT refer to where they are going when they die or to what degree. Basically it allows for the POSSIBILITY for one to have a spirit body and to have spirit children but doesn’t guarantee anything.

The second type of salvation is called “Individual Salvation.” Now individual salvation is an important one and as stated in Mormon doctrine, this type of salvation is “salvation by works.” (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, pages 92, 144. 2 Nephi 25:23, Alma 7:16, Doctrines & Covenants 132:12). So what exactly are these works that one must do? One Mormon I spoke with gave me a list. He said the following were necessary for salvation to the “highest level”:

Baptism in a Mormon church
Regular attendance at Mormon Church
Consistent good works
Attaining worthiness
Engaging in temple work (rituals)

Now you can probably immediately see some of the problems I have with this list. The first is what about circumstances out of your control? For example, what if you are unable to regularly attend church due to illness? For example, let’s say you are bed ridden. Or what if you live in a very rural area and there is no church for hundreds of miles; then what? How much exactly is "consistent attendance" Every week? 50 out of 52 weeks a year? What is the standard? My second problem is that these requirements are entirely subjective. What is the standard for “Attaining worthiness?” By who’s definition? The Church? The Apostle’s? God’s? Jesus? My own? What objective standards do I use? What about “Consistent good works?” Is that consistently throughout the hour? The day? A lifetime? How many are enough? When do you know? What is the scale of good deeds to bad deeds? How many times must you help an old lady across the street to “work off” murdering someone?

In addition to these criterion I have found that one must accept Mormon leadership for salvation. For example, In Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, page 186 it states “There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.” (Also see Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses Volume 9 page 312). Well if you read my previous post on Joseph Smith’s lack of fulfillment of the criteria of a prophet of God, you’ll see we have a very serious problem here. If I can show that Joseph Smith can’t live up to his OR God’s standards as a prophet and therefore choose not to recognize him as such, how can I have salvation?

Okay so now we have a basic understanding of what Mormon’s believe the goal and method of salvation to be. So now let’s compare this with what the Bible has to say. Anyone who has read through the Bible can tell you that it essentially has one underlying theme running consistently through it. That theme is the nature of man, the problem of sin and Jesus Christ as payment for that sin and therefore those who believe in Him and his work on the cross can spend eternity in Heaven with God. The Bible makes it very, very clear in many verses that belief in Christ Jesus is the ONLY way to get to Heaven and that no amount of works can do that for us. While Ephesians 2:8-9 are the most commonly cited, there are several more. Here are just a few of the verses that show this critical truth: (Pay special attention to the parts I marked in bold)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:5-7

“And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:9-11

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. The Bible specifically states that you can’t do good works to get to heaven. (At this point some Mormons would argue that James 2:20 says the opposite, however, when read in its proper context, one can see that this verse is stating that if you truly have a relationship with Christ; your works will show it. It is not saying that you have to have works to be justified). So what does the Bible say the way to salvation is? Check out the following

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. – John 14:6

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3

“And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." – Acts16:30-31

Although these are only three of the many others, did you notice something similar about them? That’s right, they all talk about Jesus Christ as the way to salvation and not works. This is the core belief of Christianity. That faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. So what do Mormons think about this “Salvation only by faith in Christ” doctrine? Well, Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Mormon Church, said “Mankind is damned by the faith alone doctrine” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2 pg. 139). Apostle Bruce McConkie said “Many Protestants erroneously conclude that men are saved by grace alone without doing the works of righteousness” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 2, pg. 229).

I hope over the past two posts you’ve been able to see that Christians and Mormons do not share the same beliefs regarding salvation. Mormons believe in three levels of heaven with the goal being to reach the highest level. They believe Jesus Christ was no different than you or me except he didn’t have a physical human father like we do. Christ had to work out his own salvation and it had no bearing on my salvation or yours. They use the term “Saved by Grace” to refer to the fact that they believe in immortality and bodily resurrection. A more important component called “Individual Salvation” is by works only. This flies directly in the face of Christian beliefs. Christians believe that there is one heaven and one hell. They believe that Jesus was God incarnate, that is he was 100% God and 100% man, who came to the earth, lived a perfect life without sin, and was therefore uniquely qualified to pay the price for sin on behalf of mankind. Christians believe that putting one’s faith in Jesus as God and for payment for our sins is sufficient to have eternal life. (See 1 John 5:11-12). When faced with the Christian view of salvation, Mormon leadership has effectively branded it as heresy.

To my Mormon friends visiting this site, I urge you to consider what has been written. I hope you see that both of these views cannot be right. One must be wrong. I urge you to look at the evidence as presented throughout this series. I have not merely stated my own theories but have quoted extensively from Mormon sources. It is my prayer that you will see that out of His love for us, Jesus Christ has already paid the price for your sins. There is no amount of works that are good enough to buy your way into heaven and rightfully so because that would cheapen the honor of being there. Rather He has already purchased heaven’s entrance ticket for you, and is holding it out for you to accept. Won’t you put your faith in the Jesus of the Bible today?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Do Mormons Believe in Salvation by Faith or by Works? Part 1

I’d like to start out by thanking you for sticking with me thus far throughout the series. I know any type of series’ can sometimes be a bit tedious but based on some of the feedback I’ve received I believe a lot of people are coming to a better understanding of what Mormonism teaches. I’d also like to give a special word of thanks to those of you who are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints who have stuck with me thus far. I know it is never a pleasant thing to see the beliefs you hold so dearly being placed under critical scrutiny. However, because the stakes are so high (eternity) and the need for truth is so great, I really feel it is important to place these beliefs under the microscope and see them objectively and clearly. So again I thank you for your open-mindedness to what I have to say, as well as your emails challenging me on certain topics.

Okay, so let’s take a quick look at where we’ve been. So far we’ve covered (albeit briefly): How Mormonism started, What basic beliefs Mormon’s hold, That their main prophet had numerous false prophecies and couldn’t live up to God's or his own standards, that their holy text contains numerous changes and has zero archeological evidence to support it. Now I’m going to change our course and take a look at doctrine. I want to focus on one doctrine in particular; the doctrine of salvation. That is, how does one get to heaven? Again, this topic is so vast that numerous volumes could be written about it so we are going to look at only the tip of the ice berg.

Before we can get into salvation issues, it is important that we take a quick look at the Mormon worldview. This will help make sense of why they see things as they do. If you remember from my earlier post, Mormons believe that humans pre-existed in spirit form. We were then sent down to earth and filled up human bodies so that we could work out our salvation to obtain our “Godhood” in the highest level of the Celestial Heaven. [SIDE NOTE: Mormon’s believe that there are three levels of heaven. The first level is the “telestial” level. This is where the wicked evil people go. The second level is called the “terrestrial” level. This is where luke-warm Mormons go, good non-Mormons (whatever that is) go, and where those who accept Mormonism after they die go. (That’s right, if you got it wrong while here on earth, you get a second chance to do things right when you die). The highest level of heaven is called the “Celestial.” The Celestial is made up of 3 degrees. The highest of these degrees is where you get to be your own God and therefore is the one we are all shooting for. Okay, now back to main point...] The God that we worship was once a man on another planet and he achieved this “Godhood” and now rules our planet with his spirit wife and spirit children. Two of those spirit children were Jesus and Satan. Mormons believe that:

A plan of salvation was needed for the people of earth so Jesus offered a plan to the father and Satan offered a plan to the father but Jesus' plan was accepted. In effect the Devil wanted to be the Savior of all Mankind and to "deny men their agency and to dethrone god." – Mormon Doctrine, Page 193; and Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, Page 8.

This “plan” that Jesus presented is what we currently use to obtain salvation in this world. Now this has very important implications that will help you understand their view of salvation. You must realize that to a Mormon, Jesus was a spirit child just like you and I were. Therefore his nature is not unique. Now his incarnation, or how he came to earth (the fact that God and Mary had sex) is unique, but his nature isn’t. Every “exalted person” will reach the same status that Jesus is at now. In fact, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt, in explaining Jesus’ humanity, went so far as to say “Jesus was a polygamist being married to several woman including Mary and Martha.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, Nov 1853, Vol. 1, Number 11, p 172.). So you can see, Jesus doesn’t hold any special position to a Mormon in so far as his deity by nature is concerned. To them, he is just a good example to follow. In fact Mormon Doctrine specifically states:

"Christ is a saved being who came to earth to work out his own salvation. Jesus' sacrifice was not able to cleanse us from all our sins." – Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, Page 247, 1856.

Notice the two words I put in bold; “his own.” That is, Christ didn’t come to earth to secure your salvation or my salvation (a truth which is fundamental to Christianity) rather he came to earth to work out his own salvation. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie states “Christ’s death did not secure salvation, it only made it possible.” (Bruce McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 3, pg. 238)

So hopefully now you have a bit better understanding of where a Mormon is coming from. I am going to stop here because the second half of this post is a bit longer and more detailed so I'm going to split it into two parts. After I post the second half I'd encourage you to re-read this post first so the information will be fresh in your mind before you take on the rest of it. I should have the second half posted within a few days....

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Is the Book of Mormon the Inspired Word of God? Part 3

In my first post regarding the Book of Mormon I looked at problems with the nature of the book. In the second post I looked at problems with the consistency of the text and some of the changes that have been made. In this post I want to look at what I feel are some ethical problems with the book.

The first problem I have is that the Book of Mormon has some parts that have clearly been plagiarized from the King James Version of the Bible. There are extensive quotes, including whole chapters from the book of Isaiah that are taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, some Scholars believe there are approximately 27,000 words in the Book of Mormon that have been directly copied from the King James Bible. Plagiarism is nothing knew, just ask any college student. However here is my problem. If the Book of Mormon was written sometime between 600 BC and 421 AD as it claims, how can it have direct quotes from the King James Version of the Bible which was written over 1000 years later, on a different continent, from a different language? Golly that sure is one heck of a coincidence isn’t it? I can’t say for sure, but I would be willing to bet that any professor who had a student turn in a work with 27,000 words copied from another publication and yet still claimed them to be his own would probably get kicked out of school (or in this case start his own religion).

The second problem I have with the Book of Mormon is its obvious errors. Mormonism claims to accept the Bible as the word of God (as long as it is translated correctly [whatever that means]). The Bible clearly states in Matthew 2:1 and Micah 5:2 that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. However, the Book of Mormon states in Alma 7:10 that Jesus was born in Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were two distinct cities over 6 miles apart. Both cannot be correct. It may seem like a minor point to you but for me to accept a book as the word of God, simple mistakes just should not be there. Furthermore, in the book of Jacob 7:27 it states, ”and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu." Now, correct me if I’m wrong but the French language wasn’t really a language until about 800 AD. So what is a French word doing in a document supposedly written by a Hebrew in America around 600 BC? It just doesn’t fit.

The final problem that I have with the Book of Mormon is its completeness. If you remember the Book of Mormon is supposed to be the “most complete book on earth.” Now if it is so complete why doesn’t it address issues that are central to Mormon doctrine? I have compiled a list of 12 issues that are at the core of the Mormon belief system. Not one of these is explicitly or thoroughly addressed in the Book of Mormon. Those doctrines are: Church organization, Plurality of Gods, Plurality of wives, Word of Wisdom, God is an exalted man, Celestial marriage, Men may become Gods, Three degrees of glory (heaven), Baptism for the dead, Eternal progression, The Aaronic Priesthood, and The Melchizedek Priesthood. It seems that such a complete book that was designed by God as his correction for the lost church should address such issues.

As I finish my third and final post on the issue of the Book of Mormon I hope you have been learning some important truths about this book. To quickly recap we learned that the there were only a few witnesses to the existence of the original tablets, many of whom later changed their mind about whether or not they saw them. We learned that there is no historical archeological evidence for claims made by the Book of Mormon and leading scientific institutions clearly say so. We took a look at a few of the thousands of examples of the Book of Mormon being changed over the passage of time. We then saw that the Book of Mormon has been plagiarized, contains obvious errors, and doesn’t address many of the essential doctrines of Mormonism. All of this from a book that Joseph Smith claimed was the “most correct of any book on earth.”

I’d like to end this analysis on the Book of Mormon with some words the Apostle Paul left for the Galatians. In verse 8 he writes:
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Is the Book of Mormon the Inspired Word of God? Part 2

In my last post I looked at some of the errors with the nature of the Book of Mormon. In this post I want to look at some of the changes to the book. Several sources I researched all stated that there were almost 4,000 independent changes between the original 1830 and the current 1981 versions of the Book of Mormon. 4,000 changes!!! I find it ironic that the Book of Mormon set out to fix the corruption that took place over the previous 2,000 years and yet within its first 150 years has been corrupted in over 4,000 places. Now I’ll grant that some of these are minor spelling corrections but many more are not. In the interest of space I cannot list all of the changes. Therefore I will only list a couple of my favorites. Now I realize that it is very easy for me to make these claims unchallenged. Therefore, as always, in the interest of fairness, I encourage you to verify these claims yourself. I also realize that most of you don’t have access to either an 1830 or a 1981 version of the Book of Mormon. So, again in the interest of fairness, I will provide one. Click Here for a photocopied version of the 1830 Book of Mormon. (The photocopy helps ensure accuracy as opposed to someone simply typing it). Click Here for the 1981 version of the Book of Mormon.

First, on the title page of each book Joseph Smith is recognized as the playing a key role. However the 1830 version states “…by Joseph Smith Jr. Author and Proprietor” as compared to the 1981 version which states “translated by Joseph Smith Jr.” -- So which is it; did Joseph Smith write the book or did he simply translate it? It may appear like a minor issue of semantics but in reality it has major implications for the rest of the book.

Secondly, the 1830 version of the Book of Mosiah, p.200; states: "...on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Benjamin had a gift from God..." However the 1981 version states in Mosiah 21:28: "...on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God..." – So which was it? Was it King Benjamin or King Mosiah?

Thirdly, the 1830 version of the Book of Alma p.315; reads "But behold, as the seed swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow, and then ye must needs say, That seed is good; for behold, it swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow." However, in the 1981 version, the leaders of the Church have taken the liberty to rewrite it to say the following “But behold, as the seed swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow, and then ye must needs say, That seed is good; for behold, it swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow. And now behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say that I know that this is a good seed; for behold, it sprouteth and beginneth to grow." – They not only doubled the length of the verse but entirely changed its meaning.

Finally, in regards to skin color the 1830 version of the Book of 2 Nephi 30:6 uses the word “white.” This is important to know if one has ever desired to study how the Mormon Church has historically viewed blacks. (Click Here for more information). However the 1981 version uses the word “pure” instead of white. This is very convenient considering that it wasn’t until June of 1978, only 3 years earlier, that blacks were allowed by the church to hold a position of priesthood.

I could go on and on with countless other examples of changes in the Book of Mormon. (Well okay, technically not countless as there are only about 4,000 of them). Please notice that I did not show simple grammatical changes but changes that significantly alter the meaning of the text. I find it very interesting that when the 1830 version was translated from the tablets, it was done with seer stones, one character at a time. Seems reasonable that one character at a time should produce a pretty accurate translation shouldn’t it? If it wasn’t translator error than why would a sovereign God have dictated a text with so many errors? Why couldn’t he get it right the first time? These are questions that Mormons must be held accountable to answer. I don’t know about you, but personally I do not feel comfortable trusting my eternity to a book written by a god who can’t seem to make up his mind and therefore needs regular “updates” to his holy text. If you would like more information or would like to see lists with more changes you can Click Here, Click Here, Click Here, or Click Here.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Is the Book of Mormon the Inspired Word of God? Part 1

As you’ve come to know by now, I am a firm believer in going straight to a religion’s holy text as the best way to determine whether or not a religion is true. This series on Mormonism is no different. In fact, there is so much to say on this topic that I’ve divided it up into 3 posts. The first post will cover the history and nature of the Book of Mormon. The second post will look at some of the changes made to the Book of Mormon over the past 150 years. The third post will look at some of the ethical problems I have with the Book of Mormon. As always, I will do my best, when possible, to provide as much citation for you as possible.

According to Mormonism, the true church was lost from the earth and God saw a need for its restoration. (Ironically enough, the Bible claims the exact opposite in Matthew 16:18, Click Here). God recorded an account of His dealings with the original inhabitants of the American continent between the years 2247 BC and 421 AD. Mormons claim this account was originally engraved on gold plates by ancient prophets, written in “reformed Egyptian,” deposited in a stone box and buried in New York. Joseph Smith was led to these plates and translated them through a “seer stone.” Smith was so confident of his find that he said “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth” (History of the Church Vol. 4 page 461).

The first issue I want to look at is whether or not these gold plates actually existed. The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Joseph Smith (many of them were related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. However, curiously enough, no neutral third party was ever allowed to examine them. On top of that most of these witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. In response to their abandoning him, Smith called them “liars.” Now I don’t know about you, but I personally find these circumstances rather suspicious and would be curious to see how the case for divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon would stand up under modern day courtroom cross-examination of these witnesses. For more information about these gold plates and the witnesses that later changed their minds about actually seeing them you can Click Here or for a list of resources Click Here.

Perhaps even more interesting than the lack of evidence for the gold tablets is the lack of any archeological evidence supporting the claims of the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough, the detailed history and civilization described in the Book of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand years, covering both North and South America, which was familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, steel, wheeled vehicles, shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of the Old World culture. However, no trace of any of these supposedly very common things has ever been found in the Americas from that period and many of the features of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the Americas are never mentioned in the book. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Book of Mormon presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a single language and communication between distant parts of the Americas. However scientists tell us that the history of the Americas actually shows the opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely East Asian - definitely not Semitic [which the Book of Mormon states], as proven by recent DNA studies), and many unrelated native languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or Egyptian.

Friends, this isn’t looking good for a God who is supposedly trying to restore his lost church. However the ever zealous leaders of the Mormon Church have also noticed this problem. Instead of recognizing the obvious lack of divinity for their book they have spent millions of dollars on archeological excavations with the hope that science will back up their claims. Well those digs have been conducted time and time again and the news is not what they were hoping for. The Bureau of American Ethnology, National Geographical Society and the Smithsonian Institute have all issued statements very clearly stating their views on the Book of Mormon. All three unequivocally believe the Book of Mormon has absolutely no basis as scientific fact. The Smithsonian Institute even went so far as to say

“…Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.”

Now remember, the Smithsonian is only interested in scientific fact. They have no bias one way or the other, religious document or not. If you would like to read the entire statement by the world- renowned Smithsonian Institution regarding the Book of Mormon, Click Here.

I could go on and on about the archeological problems of the Book of Mormon but space won’t allow for it. If you would like some more information or to do your own research about the archeological problems with the Book of Mormon, you can Click Here. If you would like to read a fascinating article regarding the problems with the metals mentioned in the Book of Mormon you can Click Here.

So let me give a quick recap of what we have seen so far. We have a book that was supposedly inspired by God, seen by only a handful of people and several of which later recanted and said they made the story up. On top of that, three of the world’s leading archeological organizations have stated that there is absolutely no scientific correlation between the Book of Mormon and any archeological evidence whatsoever? And we haven’t even gotten into what the text says yet!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Was Joseph Smith a False Prophet?

One of the unique characteristics that Christianity has to verify its truthfulness and legitimacy is prophecy. Prophecy is commonly defined as something along the lines of “The foretelling of the future through a direct revelation from God” and the one who does this foretelling is referred to as a Prophet. But how does one test the legitimacy of a messenger of God? Was Nostradamus a prophet? What about the fortune teller that lives down the street? How does one know? Well since it is very easy for someone to say “…thus says the Lord” and claim it is a word of prophecy, the Bible has in place some very strict criteria for determining a true prophet of God from a phony. Perhaps the clearest verses regarding the testing of a prophet can be found in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 which reads:

'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

Did you see that part about “that prophet shall die”? Remember this was a culture that didn’t have 16 years of appeals in the court system. God instituted this harsh punishment in order to make people think twice before speaking on behalf of God. If the person didn’t have a 100% success rate, that person was killed immediately. The Mormon text “Doctrines and Covenants” also has a statement on prophecy. D&C 1:37 states “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” Notice that phrase “all be fulfilled.” That will be important in a minute.

Joseph Smith claimed to be a prophet of God and he made many prophecies as such. The problem is that most of them didn’t come true and due to specific dates or people involved, many of them will never be able to come true. Now remember, according to God (who is the one giving the prophecy to the prophet) all it takes is for 1 prophecy not to come true and that person is branded as a false prophet. I have found a list which compiles well over 50 prophecies made by Smith (with citation) that never came true. (For the complete list Click Here). I’ve listed four of my favorites below:

Dec 16, 1833. Doctrines & Covenants 101:17-20 Zion (Missouri) shall not be moved out of its place; the Saints will receive their inheritance there, and there is no other place than Missouri appointed by God for the gathering of the Saints.

FULFILLMENT: History shows us that not only were the Mormons removed from Missouri but today we can see them as having established their headquarters in Salt Lake City Utah. Why are they in Utah today if God appointed the state of Missouri for them?

Feb 14, 1835. History of the Church 2:182. Joseph Smith preached that the coming of the Lord would be in 56 years (i.e., about 1891). This prophecy also occurs in his diary for April 6, 1843 and HC 5:336. See also D&C 130:14-17. Joseph Smith prophesies that "there of those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes." He prophesies "in the name of the Lord God - let it be written: that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens till I am 85 years old, 48 years hence or about 1890." (The official historians have deleted the last phrase, beginning with "48 years" from the church history, but it is contained in the original diary.) The version in D&C 130 is phrased negatively, i.e., Christ will not come before 1890. It is also made conditional on Joseph Smith living to the age of 85. Joseph Smith says (v 16) that it might merely mean that if he lives to 85 he will go where Christ is, and therefore see his face. But that interpretation would not make sense if the revelation is in response to Joseph Smith's inquiry about the time of the second coming (v 14).

FULFILLMENT: The second coming did not occur about 1891, and the Church does not claim that it did. Nor has it occurred since. Joseph Smith did not live to be 85 years old. God must have known that he would not. Why would God make a revelation conditional upon an event which he knew would never happen?

April 23, 1834. Doctrines & Covenants 104: 78-83. God's promise to deliver the Saints from their debts. "It is my will that you shall pay all your debts." The Lord will soften the hearts of their creditors.

FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith and other prominent Mormons had to flee Kirtland (Missouri) to avoid their creditors, leaving debts of thousands of dollars unpaid. Smith ultimately filed bankruptcy.

Feb 6, 1844. Joseph Smith prophesies that within five years the Mormons would be able to live without cooking their food. (Joseph Smith manuscript diary, omitted from the History of the Church. Cited in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy, Salt Lake City, 1994, p. 642).

FULFILLMENT: The Mormons are still cooking their food.

Now we only looked at four of them, but I think you get the idea. According to the standard set forth in the Bible and in Doctrines and Covenants Joseph Smith does not meet the standards of a prophet of God.

Another issue that questions Smith’s credentials as a prophet of God is the famous Book of Abraham translation. It’s a long story but basically Smith translated some Egyptian hieroglyphic scrolls in 1835 (remember at this time scientists hadn’t yet cracked the code of hieroglyphics). He stated that these scrolls were the Book of Abraham and the Book of Joseph which later became Mormon Scripture and part of the Pearl of Great Price. The scrolls were then lost and found again in 1967. By this time Egyptologists could translate hieroglyphics. What they found was astonishing. These scrolls were “common Egyptian funeral scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham. The "Grammar" has been said by Egyptologists to prove that Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure fantasy: he made it up” (If you’d like more information Click Here). So as we have seen so far. Joseph Smith does not meet God’s or his own standards for a prophet and he lied about his abilities from God.

I could go on and on about other aspects of Joseph Smith’s character (i.e. he had been tried and convicted of fortune telling) but in the interest of time and space I cannot. I feel that I have presented a reasonable case (considering the limited space with which to work) against Joseph Smith. However, in the interest of fairness I shall let him speak for himself. In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Joseph Smith himself:

I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I, The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me ye.

--History of the Church Vol. 6, pp.408-9