BOOK OF MORMON DIFFICULTIES
Between the Reliability of
The Book of Mormon and
The Holy Bible
Rev. Bob Pardon
The Mormon Church historically has encouraged, both inside and outside the Church, independent pursuit of Book of Mormon reliability. From the beginning, Mormons have stressed that their first book of scripture can withstand any and all scrutiny. This is a very important, and challenging claim, as the Book of Mormon is purported to be a further revelation of Jesus Christ in America, and the foundation upon which the Mormon Church is built. Thus, if the Book of Mormon is to be accepted as divine revelation, it is critical to test its authenticity to determine whether the same "divine imprimatur" rests upon the Book of Mormon, as it does upon the Holy Bible.
As Mormon apostle and historian, George A. Smith, has rightly said:
"If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, p.216)
The following are similar statements of confidence and challenge:
"If this book be of God, it must have sufficient evidence accompanying it to convince the minds of all reasonable persons that it is a Divine revelation...the testimony establishing the truth of the Book of Mormon is far superior to that establishing the Bible in its present form...any person who will carefully examine the subject will be obliged in their hearts to say there is a hundredfold more evidence to prove the Divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon than what we have to prove the Palestine records." (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pp. 22, 36, 37)
"...the Book of Mormon can and should be tested. It invites criticism." (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 1957, p.53)
"No one can read the book with a prayerful heart and not receive the testimony that it is true. Its evidence internally and externally is overwhelming." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 2, p.199)
"For those outside the faith, the Book of Mormon demands a decision. Either it came from heaven, or it did not. Those who seek salvation must face that issue squarely, they cannot dismiss it with a wave of the hand." (Robert Millet, Ensign, December 1992, p.10)
I agree, in the main, with the above statements. If the Book of Mormon is divine revelation then the faith commitment it calls for should be heeded by any sincere seeker. However, emotional commitment and sincerity, no matter how firm, are no proof that something is true. One's faith is only as trustworthy and reliable as the object of such faith. If subjective emotional reasons are the standard by which reliability and truth are determined, in an ultimate sense, delusion will be the final end. History is rife with tragic examples where subjective determination established the "truth," i.e. the Baha'i Faith, Islam, etc. This is not to say that one's subjective faith experience is not to be trusted. It simply recognizes that such faith experiences must ever be grounded in an objective, verifiable reality. Thus, it is important to know not only what one believes, but why; the foundation upon which those beliefs rest.
Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president of the LDS Church, has rightly emphasized where the investigation must begin; with the internal and external evidence. What evidence exists for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as a divine revelation, and how does this compare with the evidence for the Holy Bible?
1. The bibliographical/internal test asks, "Since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regards to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and the first known copy? Does the author disqualify himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies?"
A. Most ancient peoples go to extraordinary measures to preserve what they consider to be their sacred scriptures. These are the words of their god(s) and must be protected for future generations. Thus, evidence often exists to determine whether a religious document is genuine or not. Does such manuscript evidence exist for the Book of Mormon?
Supposedly, the Book of Mormon is a translation of the culture, beliefs, and religious history of essentially three groups of people, the Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites, from the second millennium B.C. (Tower of Babel) to 421 A.D. These records were contained on the Large and Small Plates of Nephi, and the Plates of Mormon, and were deposited by Moroni in the Hill Cumorah in 421 A.D. Prior to their deposit in that location they had been carefully written, collected and passed down from one generation to another for over 1000 years.
What is disturbing is the time interval between the writing of original plates and the Book of Mormon itself. The Book of Mormon, published in 1830, stands anywhere from 1,400 to 2,400 years after the original documents. Even more disturbing is the lack of any manuscript evidence other than the Book of Mormon. There does not exist one single ancient manuscript, or even the fragment of one. No gold plates have ever been produced, nor have the contents of the plates ever been referred to by any other ancient writer.
How is it that the Jews, who supposedly are the authors of this important "holy history," could carefully preserve the text of the Bible, yet not the Book of Mormon? And why are other ancient writers silent about such a vast civilization that once existed on this continent?
Where manuscript evidence for other Mormon scripture has been found (the Book of Abraham), this has proven to be extremely troublesome and embarrassing to Church authorities (see appendix).
B. Mormon writers have often taught that the Bible is a wholly unreliable record in matters of doctrine and history. This is because many "plain and precious truths" were either lost, removed, or corrupted by early Church leaders and later generations. However, modern Mormon scholarship has recently aligned itself with the findings of non-Mormon scholars around the world. Dr. Richard Anderson, of BYU, stated:
"In studying a particular author in antiquity, the classical scholar typically works with a few principal manuscripts, together with a few more extensive fragments or portions of manuscripts. The New Testament scholar, however, faces the wonderful but impossible prospect of attempting to comprehend a text preserved in about 3,000 manuscripts...Nor is sheer quantity most impressive, for the antiquity of his manuscripts should be the envy of all ancient studies...With such an early collection, the question naturally arises how the text is different from the traditional one. Differences lie in numerous details, but the outstanding conclusion is that there is little, if any, significant change...
It is easy to get lost in debate on details and fail to see the overwhelming agreement of all manuscripts to the historical record of the New Testament...This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within one percent of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99% of the verses in the New Testament...There is more reason today, then, to agree with him (Sir Frederic Kenyon) that we possess the New Testament 'in substantial integrity' and to underline that 'the variations of the text are so entirely questions of detail, not of essential substance.' It is true that the Latter-day Saints have taken the position that the present Bible is much changed from its original form. However, greatest changes would logically have occurred in writings more remote than the New Testament. The textual history of the New Testament gives every reason to assume a fairly stable transmission of the documents we possess." (Fourteenth Annual Symposium of the Archaeology of the Scriptures, BYU, 1963, pp. 52-59)
2. It would seem reasonable to assume that basic and fundamental Mormon doctrine is derived from the Book of Mormon. Also, that the Book of Mormon contains all that is necessary for one to gain access into the very presence of God. According to Doctrine and Covenants the Book of Mormon contains:
"...the truth and the Word of God." (D&C 19:26)
"...the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ." (D&C 20:9) "...the fulness of the everlasting gospel." (D&C 135:3)
Jesus also claims in Doctrines and Covenants that the Book of Mormon has:
"...the principles of my gospel." (D&C 42:12)
"...all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock." (D&C 18:4, cf. 17:1-6)
However, as I have had opportunity to consult the Book of Mormon and Bruce R. McConkie's, Mormon Doctrine, it appears that many critical doctrines are not taught in the Book of Mormon, The following are doctrines I could find no reference to:
A. The Trinity as three separate gods.
B. Eternal progression.
C. Salvation after death in the spirit world.
D. That God has a physical body.
E. That God was once a man.
F. Temple marriage as a requirement for exaltation.
G. Three degrees of heavenly glory.
H. Mother gods.
I. Elohim populating this planet through spirit children.
J. Baptism for the dead.
The Book of Mormon is said to contain the "fullness of the everlasting gospel" (D&C 27:5; 135:3). According to Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, p.160, Joseph Fielding Smith writes, "By fullness of the gospel is meant all the ordinances and principles that pertain to the exaltation in the celestial kingdom..." If a person had only this book, would they possess all that was necessary to obtain exaltation? Would they have any understanding of what awaited them according to contemporary Mormon teachings? If this book contains, "all things written concerning...my gospel," why are there doctrines, some critical, not contained therein?
3. In 1821, Dr. Ethan Smith was installed as the pastor of the Poultney Congregational Church. Oliver Cowdery's family apparently belonged to this church, as three of Oliver's half sisters were baptized there. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Oliver knew Ethan Smith. In 1823, seven years before the publication of the Book of Mormon, Rev. Smith published a book entitled, View of the Hebrews, wherein he was concerned with the final destination of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
It is the noted Mormon historian, B. H. Roberts, who first pointed out the amazing correspondence between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. In two unpublished manuscripts released by his family after his death, this eminent scholar presented a short list of parallels between the two books.
A. Both set forth the Hebrew origin of the American Indian.
B. Both talk of an ancient book buried in the ground.
C. Both speak of Prophets and Seers.
D. Both mention the Urim and Thummin and a breastplate.
E. Both speak of ancient Egyptian inscriptions.
F. Both talk of a civilized and barbaric element in the population.
G. Both claim a portion broke away from the civilized group and degenerated into a savage state. The savage one destroyed the civilized one after long and terrible wars. H. Both have references to the destruction of Jerusalem.
I. Both quote extensively from Isaiah.
J. Both represent the settlers of the New World as once having had a "Book of God."
K. Both present these settlers as having an understanding of the gospel.
L. Both speak of a white messianic figure who visited these early settlers.
During his analysis Roberts asks, "Can such numerous and startling points of resemblance and suggestive contact, be merely coincidental?"
In his work, Book of Mormon Study, Dr. Roberts also made these statements:
"In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet. An imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the 'common knowledge' of accepted American Antiquities of the times, supplimented [sic] by such a work as Ethan Smith's, View of the Hebrews, would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is." (Part 1, Chapter 14, p. 250)
He also freely admits that:
"...there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin, The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency." (Part 2, Chapter 1, p. 251)
Finally, later in the book, Dr, Roberts asks:
"Is this all sober history...or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history."
4. Since the Book of Mormon is claimed to be the Word of God, and Joseph Smith stated, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on the face of the earth" (History of the Church, vol. 4, p.461), the implication is that this work is perfect in form and content.
This has also been the understanding of LDS Church authorities during the last 150 years. Joseph Fielding Smith, sixth President of the Church, stated in a sermon:
"Joseph did not render the writing on the gold plates into the English language in his own style of language as many people believe, but every word and letter was given to him by the gift and power of God...The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another would appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect, the writing on the stones would remain there. Then Joseph would require the scribe to spell the reading of the last spoken and thus find the mistake and when corrected the sentence would disappear as usual." (Journal of Oliver Huntington, 1881, p. 168)
Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth President of the Church, has likewise stated:
"Inspiration is discovered in the fact that each part, as it was revealed, dovetailed perfectly with what had come before. There was no need for eliminating, changing, or adjusting any part to make it fit, but each new revelation an doctrine and priesthood fitted into its place perfectly to complete the whole structure, as it has been prepared by the Master Builder." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. I, p.170)
It would seem reasonable to assume, in light of such teachings by Church authorities, that current editions of the Book of Mormon would be identical to the 1830 edition, particularly since God made the translation.
I have been able to obtain a copy of that first edition and was perplexed to find that there have been literally hundreds and hundreds of changes. Many of these changes are minor, i.e., spelling errors, punctuation, etc., but many are far more substantive. All of these have been corrected in later editions.
The following are examples of such corrected errors:
1. "Adam and Eve, which was our first parents." (p.15) grammar
2. "...and loosed the bands which was upon my wrists." (p.49) grammar
3. "As I was a journeying." (p.249) - grammar
4. "...they had began to possess the land of Amulon, and had began to till the ground." (p.204) -- grammar
It is difficult to understand how a translation, superintended by the power of God, could contain such basic errors. It also cannot be said that these errors crept in through poor proof-reading or type-setting. Noted Mormon historian, Francis Kirkham, had this to say when considering the vast majority of changes in the original text:
"Such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the 'typos,' or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character, they are of the web and woof of the style and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed, the first edition of the Book of Mormon is singularly free from typographical errors." (Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, The Book of Mormon, 1942, pp.200-201)
Far more serious and troublesome are the substantive errors; those that have been corrected which were found to be in conflict with Mormon doctrine. The following are two illustrations.
In the 1830 edition, on page 32, it reads, "And the angel spake unto me, saying: 'These last records...shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the World; and that all men must come unto Him, or they cannot be saved.'" This corresponds to 1 Nephi 13:40 in modern editions. Then on page 25 of the 1830 edition it reads, "And he said unto me, 'Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh...' And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me, 'behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father.'" This corresponds to 1 Nephi 11: 18-21. The problem in these sections, and two others, is that Jesus is said to be the Eternal Father, contrary to current Mormon teaching. In later editions, "the Son of God" has been inserted before "the Eternal Father."
Apparently, when Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, he ordered two hand written copies made. The RLDS has one complete copy and the Church in Utah has portions of the other. Upon comparing the 1830 edition with these two hand written copies, two sections have "the Son of," written in between the lines. The other two sections do not include this addition.
It is exceedingly difficult to reconcile these problems with the Church claim of divine translation for the Book of Mormon. Joseph also stated, "...I copied a considerable number of them (Reformed Egyptian characters) and by means of the Urim and Thummin I translated some of them..." (Joseph Smith History, 1:62). Then there are Joseph's prophecies to Oliver Cowdery, D&C 8:2, 9:8-9, that STRONGLY suggest an error free translation. Even aside from these explicit statements, presuppositionally, does it seem likely that God would inspire a translation in which both grammatical and doctrinal corrections would need to be made? It also cannot be posited that these "difficulties" are a consequence of Joseph's lack of formal education, otherwise the frequent testimony that the entire translation is through the "gift and power of God" is meaningless.
In comparison with the Bible, the closer one comes to the original autographs of the New Testament, the fewer the transmissional errors. However, the closer one comes to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, the more numerous the errors.
5. Another very troublesome area in the Book of Mormon is the vast similarities to the King James translation of the Bible. Literally hundreds and hundreds of verses in the Book of Mormon appear either in part or exactly as they were translated in the King James English. The following are a few examples:
A. 1 Nephi 20, 21 ~- Isaiah 48,49
B. 2 Nephi 7, 8 ~ Isaiah 50,51
C. 3 Nephi 12, 14 ~ Matthew 5-7
D. 3 Nephi 24, 25 ~ Malachi 3,4
There are a number of questions that need to be answered. How could large sections of the plates of Nephi and Mormon contain perfect King James English, in translation, 1,200 years before that English existed? Also, how could the King James be quoted exactly in the Book of Mormon? The Book of Mormon is a translation of Reformed Egyptian, and the King James is a translation of the Hebrew. Yet, the Book of Mormon repeats word for word the King James translation.
The Book of Mormon is also said to contain the "fullness of the gospel." If such is the case, why would the "gentiles" receive portions of the Bible they already have, rather than some more enlightening pronouncements that Jesus was supposed to have said to those ancient inhabitants of America?
Some Mormon apologists have reasoned that the King James English was used by God as He gave Joseph the translation because people were used to the English in their Bibles. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it can be demonstrated that translation errors of the King James Edition occur verbatim in the Book of Mormon. Note the following examples. The King James translates the Hebrew "chuppah" as defense, when the correct translation is canopy. 2 Nephi 14:5 follows the King James version in this translation error. This is also true of Isaiah 5:25 and 2 Nephi 15:25. Here the Hebrew "suchah" is refuse, not torn, as it appears in both versions.
When it quotes the King James it includes italicized words which are not present in the Greek and Hebrew. These are placed in the text by translators to clarify the text. Mosiah 14 contains the thirteen italicized words from Isaiah 53. How did this come to he? The King James translators wouldn't be born for another 1000 years.
These things are extremely problematical if one is determined to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is a document of divine origin.
The external evidence test asks, "Do other historical documents of this period confirm or deny the testimony provided by these documents themselves?"
Since there are no contemporary documents to corroborate the reliability or authenticity of the Book of Mormon, archaeology is the only possible route to pursue. Archaeological evidence is also one of the strongest testimonies either confirming or denying the historical reliability of the document in question. Understanding this, Ross T. Christensen, Mormon anthropologist stated:
"The Book of Mormon is of such nature that its validity can be submitted to a thorough and objective scientific test...
If the Book's history is fallacious, its doctrine cannot be genuine. On the other hand, if the historical content proves to be correct, by inference, it is impossible that the doctrine could be incorrect.
...I am fully confident that the nature of the Book is such that a definitive archaeological test can be applied to it." (University Archaeological Newsletter, 30 Jan., 1960, pp. 3-6)
LeGrand Richards, in his widely read book, A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, even goes so far as to confidently assert:
"Modern archaeological research has accounted for many of these buried cities (in the Book of Mormon); uncovered cement highways mentioned in the Book of Mormon; and located temples and other magnificent buildings erected by those people who reached a high stage of civilization and culture in the land of America. The traditions of the Indians confirms these facts." (A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, 1990, p.74)
The Book of Mormon is replete with rich details of the history and culture of two vast, ancient civilizations, the Nephites and the Lamanites. This includes some 38 cities, the geographical location of rivers and seas, crops, animals, metallurgy, kings, massive wars, migrations of peoples, palaces, etc. Thus, it is reasonable to assume, that there will be a plethora of "footprints" in the archaeological record, particularly since a mere 1,600 years has passed since hundreds of thousands perished on the hill Cumorah in the last great battle.
However, what is most significant and troublesome is the total lack of any corroborating evidence. Not one city has ever been found, not one river or sea, not one artifact like a sword or shield, not one scrap of Reformed Egyptian, not one battlement, not one person, nation, or place in a New World inscription, etc., and no geological reference has ever been shown to exist. At this point in time, even Mormon scholars are admitting such. The following is just a sample of those of the Mormon academic community who are best qualified to speak in this area. Dr. John Sorenson, former assistant professor of anthropology at BYU has stated:
"Few of the writings they have produced are of genuine consequence in archaeological terms. Some are clearly on the odd-ball fringe; others have credible qualifications. Two of the most prolific are Professor Hugh Nibley and Milton R. Hunter; however they are not qualified to handle the archaeological materials their works often involve." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, pp.145-146)
Dr. Sorenson went on to say three years later:
"In situations where sources of religious and secular authority conflict with each other, a Latter-day Saint sometimes finds himself in a quandary. He has been assured by folklore transmitted in lessons, talks and church literature that archaeologists (usually gentile) are steadily proving the Book of Mormon authentic while through his formal education he has become aware in actuality 'the experts' seem to contradict the scripture." (Dialogue, Summer 1969 p.81)
But perhaps most disconcerting are the remarks made by Dr. Dee Green, Mormon scientist and former editor of U.A.S. Newsletter. In the journal, Dialogue, he states:
"There have been no spectacular finds, no Zarahemlas discovered, no gold plates brought to light, no horses uncovered, and King Benjamin's tomb remains unexcavated...
The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists. Titles on books full of archaeological half truths, dilettanti on the peripheries of American archaeology calling themselves Book of Mormon archaeologists regardless of their education, and a Department of Archaeology at BYU devoted to the production of Book of Mormon archaeologists do not insure that book of Mormon archaeology really exists. If one is to study Book of Mormon archaeology then one must have a corpus of data with which to deal. We do not. The Book of Mormon is really there so one can have Book of Mormon studies, and archaeology is really there so one can study archaeology, but the two are not wed. At least they are not wed in reality 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 (nor any other location for that matter) were or are. It would seem then that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but we have already seen that twenty years of such an approach has left us empty handed." (Dialogue, Summer 1969, pp. 77-78)
Other Mormon scholars could be cited, but perhaps most telling are the remarks of Dr. Sorenson:
"As long as Mormons are willing to be fooled by (and pay for) the uninformed, uncritical dribble about archaeology and the scriptures which predominates, the few LDS experts are reluctant even to be identified with the topic." (Dialogue, Spring 1966, p. 149)
The above quotes by Mormon scholars are all from the late 1960's. Has anything substantially changed from these early evaluations? Essentially not, except to make the picture more bleak. Dr. Ray Matheny, professor at BYU in anthropology and history, states that there is no evidence for a ferrous or non-ferrous metal industry in pre-Columbian times and this is a "king-size kind of problem...for so-called Book of Mormon archaeology." In speaking of the odd find here or there, the object of ferrous or non-ferrous metal, the Roman coin, etc., he states,
"Ship-building and sailing, use of magnetic compass, overseas navigation, wheeled vehicles drawn by horses, tent manufacture, linen manufacture, many agricultural products from the Old World, wheat and barley, vineyards and wine presses, domestic animals from the Old World, glass manufacture, and so forth. All these paint a scene that seems to be quite foreign to what I am familiar with in the archaeological record of the New World. People have continually dragged up esoteric examples of many of these things...An esoteric thing found in a society or in an archaeological context has little meaning to us...Many Mormon scholars have tried to put these esoteric things together and thread together a story that would support the Book of Mormon. In general the archaeologist does not do this. He does not try to weave together all these little esoteric pieces of things..." (Sunstone Theological Symposium, Book of Mormon Archaeology: What Does the Evidence Really Show? [Panel Discussion], August 25, 1984)
Then, in even more graphic terms he states during the same panel discussion:
"If I were doing this cold like John Carlson (a non-Mormon) is here, I would say in evaluating the Book of Mormon that it had no place in the New World whatsoever...lt just doesn't seem to fit anything that he has been taught in his discipliner nor I in my discipline in anthropology, history; there seems to be no place for it. It seems misplaced...lt seem like the items are out of time and place...And I think there is a great difficulty here for we Mormons in understanding what this book is all about. We are all involved in this in one way or another...That's why we're here to discuss it, and this forum provides an opportunity for discussion that's quite different from your Church experience where you cannot bring up...where there's an attempt to reinforce faith all the time, where we cannot bring up these questions."
I believe the dispassionate observer is faced with a real quandary. If the Book of Mormon, as a divine revelation, is a factual representation of the early inhabitants of the Americas, why did God not leave one shred of evidence in the historical record to support it?
As Professor Green has truly stated, archaeological support for the authenticity and reliability of the Bible is of a far different nature. A general rule of thumb in archaeological circles is that, if the Bible mentions it, it exists.
In light of the massive amount of evidence that seems to mitigate against receiving the Book of Mormon as divine revelation, and "...Another Testament of Jesus Christ," I have found that contemporary Church spokesmen and Mormon apologists have resorted to this line of defense.
"This (power of the holy ghost to allegedly confirm the divine origin of the Book of Mormon) must ever be the chief source of evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary to this, the primary and infallible (evidence)...(This) will ever be the chief reliance of those who accept the Book of Mormon, and expect to see its acceptance throughout the world." (A Sure Foundation: Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions, 1988, pp. 61-62)
"It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the studies of the learned will prove the Book of Mormon true or false...God has built his own proof system of the Book of Mormon as found in Moroni, chapter 10, and in the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses and in various sections of Doctrines and Covenants. We each need to get our own testimony of the Book of Mormon through the Holy Ghost." (E. T. Benson, Teachings, p. 48)
"In contrast to the indecisive nature of (the) external evidence, the Lord has provided a way to obtain decisive support for the book's authenticity: 'The Spirit of Truth...will guide us into all truth.'" (A Sure Foundation: Answers to Gospel Questions, 1988, p. 27)
"Pay no attention to the criticism, but ask yourself prayerfully, if the record is not true." (President Joseph Fielding Smith)
"For those blessed with it, spiritual experience is the most compelling data. Honesty requires that one remain true to it even in the face of other evidence to the contrary. Were a case made against the Book of Mormon, our sense of balance and personal integrity would compel Mormons to hold their beliefs." (Dialogue, Spring 1969, I, p. 92)
This is a long way from those early confident assertions of Mormon scholars and authorities, quoted in the introduction to this paper. Statements like these would never need to be made if the "internal and external evidence" did support the historical reliability of the Book of Mormon, like Joseph Fielding Smith (I0th President) asserted. I have never found these kinds of statements about the Bible and its reliability. Consistently, the reliability of the Bible is verified by believer and non-believer alike. When the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel to the Bereans, how were they to know whether it was true or not? Do the Scriptures teach that they went out and prayed, and asked the Holy Ghost to confirm it? No! We read
in Acts 17:11:
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so."
They did not have to rely upon some subjective experience, they had the Scriptures of the Old Testament by which to judge Paul's words. While it is true that James 1:5 tells those who lack wisdom to ask God for it, the context refers to those who are already brethren. It also clearly states they will receive wisdom, NOT knowledge.
The Book of Mormon just does not stand up under an investigation of the internal and external evidence, it simply lacks historical credibility. The Church's reliance upon subjective evidence, also, goes no further in establishing the credibility of the Book of Mormon, than does simply reading it. It is exceedingly troublesome to believe something without any evidence. However, it is sheer foolishness to believe something in spite of the evidence.
The reliability of the Holy Bible is in an entirely different category. The body of this paper can be verified by checking any of the references, both Mormon and non-Mormon. For the Christian, the Bible stands as concrete testimony that his experience is true. However, it appears for the Mormon that his experience bears witness to the truth of the Book of Mormon, even when opposed by the plain facts. What trial lawyer would defend his client against the charge of a capital crime (where capital punishment is an option) with his strongest piece of evidence being, "I testify to you that John Doe is not guilty." When a man's life is at stake the evidence needs to be weightier than the trial lawyer's internal testimony. How much more when a person's eternal destiny is at stake.
However, for us, the real issue from the very beginning has been to establish who the real Jesus is and what He came to accomplish. The Bible consistently teaches that only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is able to save ANY person, in the ultimate sense, "to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25; 9:12-15; Romans 5:10; 6:23; I Thess. 5:9-10). This is because Jesus is not simply a man who became a god, but THE God who became man; laying down His life that we might have eternal life (John 3:16). He is not only the Son of God, but is God the Son (Phil. 2:6-11; Gal. 4:4; John 1:1,14). The simplicity and essence of the Gospel (all that is necessary for salvation in an ultimate sense), Paul clearly stated in I Corinthians 15:1-5:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you...and wherein you stand; By which also ye are saved (in the ultimate sense)...For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve..."
In the Book of Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul speaks of salvation (in the ultimate sense) this way:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast."
Salvation is a free gift, unearned and given by the grace of God to all who receive His son as their personal Saviour. Thus, it does not come through any Temple ordinances, Temple marriage, Baptism, etc. Eternal life with the Father is gained through simple faith in Christ's finished work upon the cross for me.
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