The foundation of the Mormon faith is their four standard works- Book of Mormon (hereafter BOM), Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the King James Version of the Bible. To Mormons, these works are equal in terms of being “inspired by God.” Although the Bible, is rather sub-canonical in LDS thinking:
the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God (Pearl of Great Price, in the 8th Article of Faith; emphasis added).
Saying that the Bible is the Word of God “as far as it is translated correctly” is an “easy out” for Mormons, especially when they encounter difficult verses which contradict their theology or they cannot answer, hence they assume their conclusion that their trying to reach. This, is a typical Mormon apologetic. Moreover, it is fair to say that there are not one in a thousand Mormons who can properly translate Hebrew or Greek into English.
A key factor in Christian apologetics, which the Mormons would agree to, is the fact that the Bible is the oldest revelation originating hundreds of years before the BOM. This point should be well established at the prologue of your discussion with the Mormons. Once that point is made, it opens the door for effective evangelizing from the Bible alone. We ought not to test doctrine by our feelings or prayers but by Scripture (cf. Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21). False gospels were obviously in the apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote to the Galatians:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-8)
Paul markedly states that the propagators of false gospels would be cursed by God (anathema) Paul could not have used a stronger term then anathema.
Scripture is the sole objective authority, whereby all things are measured and tested. When the apostle Paul was in Berea the people listening tested all things that Paul said, not by a feeling or a “burning in the bosom” but by Scripture (cf. Acts 17:11). Let us therefore test the BOM to what we know is the Word of God, and examine, objectively, its credibility.
The BOM above the Bible?
In their effort to proselytize, Mormon missionaries will bring out the BOM first, rather than the Bible. The Mormons are absolutely, without qualification, convinced that the BOM is the Word of God. Mormons will tell us that they know beyond doubt that the BOM is true because God confirmed its truthfulness to them by way of a “burning in the bosom.” Commonly Mormons share the usual testimony, concerning the validity of their belief: “I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet and that the church is true and the BOM is true. . . .” Not surprising is that they cannot provide any factual, objective evidence but rather they will say that, “I prayed about it and God confirmed it by a burning in my bosom.” Mormons will quote Moroni 10:3-5 and Doctrine and Covenants, 9:8, 9, which tells them to pray about the BOM and God, will manifest a “burning in the bosom.” This, of course, is not the biblical method of testing, nor is it good God told us to test all things using Scripture as the standard (cf. Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:15, 16).
Feelings can be deceptive:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it (Jer. 17:9)
There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Pr. 14:12)
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. . . . (Prov. 28:26 KJV)
Leader and founder Joseph Smith Jr. claimed, as do other cult leaders, that God spoke to him personally, telling him that all the churches, all the Christian professors and all the Christian creeds were completely in error. Then we learn how God supposedly told Joseph Smith that he alone was chosen to restore the church, which suffered a total apostasy shortly after the death of the original apostles. But, of course, there is not one shed of evidence that would support this view.
Thus, a “new prophet” with a new scripture, the BOM “another testament of Jesus Christ” emerged. We are told that on September 21, 1823, three years after Smith’s alleged encounter with God the Father and Jesus, the angel Moroni son of the prophet Mormon appeared to Smith in his bedroom. The angel told Smith that there was a book that was written on gold plates. Allegedly these plates were written in “reformed Egyptian” (an unknown language–known only to Smith). The plates contained an account of the former inhabitants of this continent- primarily the Nephites and the Lamanites.
The Nephites were righteous and therefore “white and delightsome” and the Lamanites were the ones that rebelled against the Lord and became cursed with black skin (cf. 2 Nephi 5:21; BOM). This, of course, is racism at its peak. We are told that eventually the wicked black Lamanites destroyed virtually all the white righteous Nephites. The Mormons say that the Lamanites are the ancestors of the American Indians. Before the desolation of the Nephites, a prophet named Mormon wrote this supposed historic account, on “gold plates.” Mormon then confided the plates to his son Moroni who thereafter hid them at the hill Cumorah around A.D. 421. And on September 22, 1827 subsequent to many other visits, Moroni finally allowed Smith to remove the gold plates buried at the hill Cumorah (Western NY).
We also learn how Smith allegedly translated the “gold plates.” David Whitmer, one of the “three witnesses,” explains, let us read Whitmer’s statement:
I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A peace of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read of the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it was disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God and not by man (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Concord, CA: Pacific Publishing Co., 1976, reprint; emphasis added).
Of course, this method of translation is as occultic as it gets.
The Insurmountable Problems of Book of Mormon
Nephi or Moroni?
Difficult is the task for LDS leaders, to somehow try to defend the blatant contradictions of their founder Joseph Smith. We are told in the current LDS scripture Pearl of Great Price (Smith, History 2:33) that the BOM is a translation from the “gold plates” that the angel Moroni allegedly gave to Smith. In fact at the top of every LDS temple is the angel Moroni tooting his horn.
Yet in the Mormon gospel, Pearl of Great Price (original 1851 ed., 41) we read that it was not Moroni but rather the BOM prophet Nephi that had delivered the plates to Smith! Moroni is nowhere to be found in Smith’s original story. So why the change of angels? The LDS Church has never provided an answer for that question.1
The question I ask is: If Moroni was such a key figure in the BOM, then why is he still a mere angel rather than a God? In Mormonism, an angel is somewhat of a punishment or as LDS apostle Bruce McConkie says that the ones that did not make it to exaltation (i.e., Godhood) they are damned (cf. Mormon Doctrine, 670). In Mormon theology, only the righteous can become a God. Was not Moroni righteous? And but another question that has never been sufficiently answered.
Changes in the BOM
Few Mormons are privy to the fact that the original 1830 BOM is substantially different than the current editions of the BOM. There are nearly 4000 changes from the 1830 ed. to the current ed.! The usual arguments imposed by the missionaries, trying to defend the indefensible, are that the changes are misspellings or punctuation errors. This line of argumentation seems sensible at first, to the uninformed; however when the 1830 ed. is compared to the current BOM we find that there are multiple changes in the factual data not just the spelling and punctuation. Many of the changes are doctrinal! One would ask though, “Why were there any corrections at all?” According to Joseph Smith:
I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth. . . . (see the Introduction of the BOM; cf. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:461).
Furthering this false notion that the BOM is free from error, Smith claims that after he translated the plates God told him:
These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear” (History of the Church, 1:54-55; emphasis added)
Think about it, after the translation was completed, according to Smith, God gave His approval of the flawlessness of the translation – but what of the 4000 changes?
The 1830 ed. of Mosiah 21:28 reads: “King Benjamin had a gift from God. . . ” The current ed. reads, “King Mosiah had a gift from God. . . ”
The 1830 ed. of 1 Nephi 11:21 reads: “And the angel said unto me, Behold the Lamp of God, yea, even the Eternal Father.” Current ed. reads, “even the Son of the Eternal Father.”
The 1830 ed. of 1 Nephi 11:32 reads: “yea, the everlasting God. . . ” The current ed. reads, “yea, the Son of the everlasting God. . .”
These are just a few of the numerous and substantial doctrinal changes. But why, are there changes at all? God allegedly said, “and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct. . . ”
And according to Smith, God said this after the translation was finished! When in fact the translation was not correct- nearly 4000 changes!
Again, why were there any changes at all? Notice the precise way translation (as Whitmer tells us above): character by character, then reading the characters back again to confirm. And when the translation was finished God said, according to Smith, “and they [the “gold plates’] have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct. . . .”
Again, why the changes if God said the translation was correct? This point must be driven home.
One interesting point that should be discussed with Mormons is the fact that the BOM contains some 27,000 words taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. This in itself presents a rancid problem for the BOM. We are told that the BOM was written between 600 B.C. and A.D. 421. So how did 1611 Elizabethan English words get in the BOM? A question, I think, that is inescapably awkward for Mormon missionaries to deal with.
In fact there are many places in the BOM where whole verses are plagiarized word for word from the KJV (compare Luke 10:15 with 2 Nephi 9:34; John 1:29 with 2 Nephi 31:4; John 15:6 with Jacob 5:7; Eph. 4:5 with Mosiah 18:21; 1 Cor. 3:4 with Moroni 7:45. These are but a few of the many plagiarized verses that the BOM contains.
Notwithstanding the hopeless attempts to substantiate the BOM by gratuitous and less than honest archaeological claims; is the reason as to why archaeology is so antagonistic to Mormonism. Embarrassing for the LDS Church is the lack of archaeological evidence, which is anything but encouraging for investigating Mormons?
The fact is, there is not a single shred of anything that could even come close to validating the BOM. First of all, the BOM talks of great wars in which hundreds and thousands were killed yet no one has found any evidence of these wars. Also, what about all the BOM locations and structures? Where is the proof? For example: where is the “land of Moron, north of the great land of Desolation?” (Ether 7:5, 6; BOM). Where is the evidence for a “King Moron?” Has any BOM town or land, ever been found? The answer categorically is NO!
Next time you pick up a BOM try and find a map of any BOM land or city. Hence, there is much confusion and debate among LDS scholars as to BOM locations. Not at all surprising is that no BOM location has ever been discovered. Embarrassing to the Mormons are the glaring facts: No BOM persons, no BOM coins, no BOM nations, no BOM names, no BOM artifacts, no BOM scriptures, no BOM inscriptions, no BOM gold plates, has ever been found. There is nothing that would demonstrate the BOM as a reliable record.
BYU Professor Thomas Stuart Ferguson
Ruinous to the BOM’s credibility is the archaeological research of former Brigham Young University professor Thomas Stuart Ferguson. For the lone purpose of discovering archaeological evidences of the BOM Ferguson founded the Department of Archaeology at BYU. Their first field trip was in 1948 to western Campeche (southern Mexico). Campeche would be the first of many following excursions.
And after a twenty-five year journey of research and trying to prove the archaeology of the BOM Ferguson came short of anything that would support the BOM. Subsequently in 1975, out of total discouragement, Ferguson wrote a paper in a response to Mormon apologist John Sorenson and Garth Norman entitled: Written Symposium on Book-of-Mormon Geography: Response of Thomas S. Ferguson to the Norman & Sorenson Papers. Wherein he states:
With all of these great efforts, it cannot be established factually that anyone, from Joseph Smith to the present day, has put his finger on a single point of terrain that was a Book-of-Mormon geographical place. And the hemisphere has been pretty well checked out by competent people. Thousands of sites have been excavated (4; to obtain the paper see Ferguson’s Manuscript Unveiled, Salt lake City, Utah: Lighthouse Ministries).
Ferguson’s conclusions were the result of many years of honest and objective research. Most Mormons missionaries today are unaware of Thomas Stuart Ferguson and his research. Therefore, it is well worth the time to mention him.
Dee F. Green
In addition to Ferguson, Dee F. Green who had worked with Ferguson, was one of the first to overtly criticize the BOM. He was once heavily involved in the archaeological research of the BOM. In 1958-1961 he was the editor of the University Archaeological Society Newsletter. What he said in an article is well worth reading:
Having spent a considerable portion of the past ten years functioning as a scientist dealing with the New Worlds archaeology, I find that nothing in so-called Book of Mormon archaeology materially affects my religious commitment one way or the other, and I do not see that the archaeological myths so common in our proselytizing program enhance the process of true conversion. . . . The first thing we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exist. . . . since no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography. Biblical archaeology can be studied because we do know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful (or any other location for that matter) were or are (Carlfred B. Broderick, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1967, 100-101; emphasis added).
Uninformed Mormon missionaries will often insist that the prestigious Smithsonian Institution and other credible institutions actually utilizes the BOM for an archaeological guide. However that statement is simply false, in point of fact, inasmuch as the many have inquired to the Smithsonian Institution concerning the BOM the Institution had written a response letter to inquiring minds. Whereby refuting point by point the preposterous assertions fabricated by the Mormon Church and their founder Joseph Smith.
Overall, archaeology has always been a thorn in the flesh for the Mormons. Mormon missionaries struggle with the lack of evidence concerning the BOM. Whereas the Bible is well supported by detailed and extensive archaeology. Just about every town, city, and land that is mention in the Bible has been located. The Bible, unlike the BOM, is over flowing with physical evidence (e.g., structures, coins, writings, ostraca, papyri, manuscripts, quotations from early church Fathers, etc).
This type of evidence can be examined and verified to demonstrate the genuineness of the Bible that would satisfy even the most incredulous. The BOM is an island that is deserted of objective tangible evidence. *To see a photocopy of the Smithsonian’s statement concerning the BOM– go Here
What is quite remarkable is the fact that the BOM is replete with many anachronisms. An anachronism is a person or a thing that exist but is chronologically out of place. Example: The BOM mentions “steel” in 1 Nephi 4:9. The BOM contains the English word “Bible” in 2 Nephi 29:3-6. It speaks of “glass” in Ether 3:1. There are many more that can be cited. So, since the BOM is a supposed record of the people in the American continent from 600 BC to AD 421 how were these things possibly around? Even more puzzling is the BOM prophet Lehi who is said to have found something like a “mariner’s compass” (see 1 Nephi 16:10, 16; 18:12, 21; Alma 37:38). How did Lehi find a compass around 600 B.C. when it’s a matter of historical fact, a magnetic compass was first used by the Chinese to navigate not until A.D. 1100?!
Furthermore the BOM mentions particular animals in the New World such as elephants (Ether 9:19), cows, oxen, horses and goats (1 Nephi 18:25). Not one of these animals even existed in the New World at this particular time, as concurred by the Smithsonian Institution. Mormons go so far as to say that the highly regarded Smithsonian Institution supported their claims; but the fact is: Smithsonian Institution has never taken the BOM seriously, neither has anyone else except the Mormons.
Also, Joseph Smith says that the BOM did not contain Greek words:
There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon (Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 299; emphasis added)
No Greek? The fact is, contained in the BOM are numerous Greek words. For example, in Alma 16:13 we see the word “synagogue” which comes from the Greek word, “sunagoge.” Historically out-of-place is the fact that the concept of a synagogue did not exist at the time of Lehi’s migration from Israel. Also we read in 3 Nephi 9:18; “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” “Alpha” and “Omega” is the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet!
BOM without LDS Doctrine?
Since its inception, Mormons are convinced that the BOM contains all the many plain and precious parts that were lost through the hands of men. However, when reading through the BOM one discovers something that is quite odd: distinct, standard LDS doctrines are not contained in the BOM!
In other words when we comb through the BOM we don’t find LDS doctrines like: God is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bones; the plurality of Gods; a Mother God in Heaven; Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial heavens; Baptism for the Dead; Celestial marriage; the Law of Eternal Progression; Exaltation (i.e., man becoming a God); the Aaronic Priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood and the doctrine of Pre-existence.
Where in the BOM are all these many plain and precious parts and distinctive LDS doctrines that were supposedly lost? What exactly did Smith restore?
*See: The Early Teachings of Joseph Smith where we find that Smith did not hold to many present-day essential teachings of the LDS Church, like polytheism (many Gods), the teaching that the Father has a body of flesh and bones, etc.
Sadly, the Mormons really do believe and trust that the BOM is the “Word of God.” However, when we put the BOM under scrutiny we find that the BOM is anything but a reliable source. If it was, in fact, God’s Word, the BOM would not be historically inconsistent nor would it contain the vast internal and external discrepancies (e.g., different accounts of the so-called “first vision”; different accounts of angels; the archeological problems; anachronisms; plagiarisms; etc.). The Bible stands the test. It is the oldest revelation hence all things should be tested in light of it. The Bible can be demonstrated to be the Word of God.
So, whom can you trust? You can’t trust the BOM- but you can trust Scripture, the Word of the true and only God.
1, For a photocopy of the original Pearl of Great Price, 1851 ed., 41, where “Nephi” is mentioned rather than “Moroni,” write this ministry.