“You Anti-Mormons Haven’t Come Up with Anything New Since 1830”

I was briefly looking over your site. I find it amusing when I have nothing else to do to see if you anti-Mormons have come up with anything new since 1830. It appears you have not. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints like myself, we indulge in the challenge of finding answers to such shortsighted claims as are found on your site. To help in these boring times I would ask for something different. To start out if you would quit using phrases like “orthodox christians”, and “historic christianity”, it would first eliminate a great deal of confusion for those whom you would blind by your craftiness. After all what does it matter if people believed something for thousands of years. If it is wrong it will always be so. Thus, just because “orthodox christians” believed in the trinity for hundreds of years that doesn’t make it any more true than when it was spawned by uninspired men. This will force your mind to think of new lies to tell people as you divert them from the Spirit of Truth. However I’m sure you will misconstrue and misrepresent my words. But at least you will know that you had to shade the truth to advance your own cause.

Thanks for reading the article on Mormon Doctrine of God. It is difficult to take your response seriously since you are simply making personal attacks, which involve name-calling and cynical remarks. This hardly represents the attitude the Bible teaches believers to have. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and reverence.” I see none of that displayed in your remarks here. Your conduct and attitude says a great deal about your religious faith. I hope this is not typical of the attitude of the Mormon Church. A biblical critique of my article on a more scholarly level would be more profitable. Not only a biblical critique of my work but also a biblical defense of your position leaving out the sarcasm and personal insults would be very profitable for all parties. Until then, I cannot take your comments seriously.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


Mormon Doctrine of Jesus: A Christian Perspective

Dr. Pat Zukeran looks at a Mormon view of Jesus, comparing it to an authentic Christian perspective. He finds that the Mormon view is not supported by the biblical text.

Jesus a Procreated Being?

The Mormon Church claims to have restored the true teachings of Jesus. In this article, we will compare the Mormon doctrine of Jesus to the New Testament.

The New Testament teaches that Jesus, God the Son, is eternal and has no beginning. However, Mormonism teaches that Jesus is a procreated being, the literal offspring of God the Father and one of His heavenly wives. According to Mormon theology, God the Father, Elohim, dwells on a planet with His many spirit wives producing numerous spirit children who await to inhabit physical bodies so that they too may one day ascend to godhood as their parents did. Jesus is believed to be the firstborn spirit child of Elohim. The Doctrine and Covenants, one of the four sacred books of Mormonism states, “Christ, the Firstborn, was the mightiest of all the spirit children of the Father.”{1} The Gospel Principles, which is the manual of the Mormon Church, states, “The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.”{2} James Talmage, one of the early apostles of the church wrote, “[A]mong the spirit-children of Elohim, the firstborn was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors.”{3}

According to the Mormon view, Jesus is not unique from the rest of mankind. He is simply the firstborn spirit child. The Doctrine and Covenants states, “The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind.”{4} That is why Mormons refer to Jesus as elder brother. James Talmage wrote, “Human beings generally were similarly existent in spirit state prior to their embodiment in the flesh. . . . There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of mankind.”{5}

Mormon doctrine deviates significantly from the Bible, which teaches that Jesus is eternal and not procreated. Although Mormons teach that Jesus is eternal, what they mean is that He existed as a spirit child prior to His incarnation. Being an offspring of Elohim means He was created at some point in time.

To support their view, Mormons appeal to John 3:16, which states Jesus is the “only begotten.” The Greek word used there is monogenes, which means “unique” or “one of a kind.” It does not mean procreated, but emphasizes uniqueness.

Mormons also appeal to Colossians 1:15, which calls Christ the “Firstborn over all creation.” The Greek word for firstborn is prototokos, meaning “first in rank, preeminent one.” It carries the idea of positional supremacy. Christ is the firstborn in the sense that He is preeminent over all creation. Renowned Greek scholar, the late F.F. Bruce, wrote on how the term was used during the time in which Paul wrote. “The word firstborn had long since ceased to be used exclusively in its literal sense, just as prime (from the Latin word primus–first) with us. The Prime Minister is not the first minister we have had; he is the most preeminent. . . . Similarly, firstborn came to denote (among the ancients) not priority in time but preeminence in rank.”{6} Psalm 89:27 in the Septuagint calls David the firstborn. We all know David is not the first-born son in his family, nor is he the first king of Israel. “Firstborn” here is a title of preeminence.

These Bible verses do not support the teaching that Jesus is a procreated being. The Bible further teaches Jesus is an eternal being. He had no beginning.

Colossians 1:17 states, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ as the eternal Son of God existed before all creation. Since Christ is “before all things,” He did not depend on anyone or anything for His creation or existence.

John 1:1 shows Jesus is eternal and has no beginning. John wrote, “In the beginning was the word.” Scripture indicates that the universe was not created in time, but that time itself was created along with the universe.{7} In other words, time was not already in existence when God created the world. The world was created with time rather than in time. Back before the beginning mentioned in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 lay a beginningless eternity.{8} The verb was is in the imperfect tense, indicating continued existence. So Jesus did not come into existence at some point in eternity past, He always existed. There has never been a point where He was not in existence.

In John 8:58 Jesus tells the religious leaders, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus is identifying Himself as the eternal God, quoting the words from Exodus 3:14. For this reason the Jews were seeking to stone Him for the crime of blasphemy. The words “I am” or “Yahweh” in the Hebrew language is the verb, to be. This name conveys the meaning of eternal self-existence. Yahweh, whom Jesus is identifying with, is eternal and beyond the realm of time. Abraham came to exist at a point in time, but Jesus never had a beginning. He is uncreated and eternal. Since the Bible teaches the eternal nature of Christ, He cannot be a procreated being as Mormon doctrine teaches.

Lucifer and Jesus

According to Mormon theology, God the Father lives on a planet with His spirit wives procreating spirit children who await physical bodies to inhabit. As we learned earlier, Jesus is the first son born to Elohim. God the Father had numerous other offspring, which included Lucifer. This makes him a spirit brother of Jesus and of all human beings. Mormon theologian LeGrand Richards writes, “Satan was just as much a man in the spirit world, as were those spirits who have been given bodies through birth in this world.”{9}

Mormonism teaches that Jesus and Lucifer were involved in planning mankind’s eternal destiny. In order to attain godhood like our heavenly parents, the spirit children needed to leave the presence of their heavenly Father, inhabit a physical body, and live a worthy life. Elohim knew that mankind would sin and thus require a savior to pay for sin and show us how to return to our heavenly father. At the heavenly council, Jesus and Lucifer proposed their plans. Lucifer offered to go to earth and be the savior but he wanted to force everyone to be saved and do everything himself. Jesus desired to give man the freedom of choice. The Father chose Jesus’ plan. Angered by the decision, Lucifer persuaded one third of the spirit children to rebel and a war in heaven took place between Satan’s forces and Jesus and His followers. Lucifer was defeated, cast out of heaven, and denied the right to inhabit mortal bodies.{10} Without the ability to attain physical bodies, exaltation to the Celestial kingdom is impossible. He became known as Satan and his followers became the demons who now exist on earth as spirits opposing God’s work.

Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie states, “The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the worlds was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the savior of mankind.”{11}

The Bible teaches that Jesus is not the spirit brother of Lucifer or of human beings. Lucifer is an angel and part of the created order. Ezekiel 28:13-19 reveals that Lucifer, in contrast to Jesus, is a created cherub angel. Colossians 1:16 tells us that Christ is the Creator of all things, including the angelic realm. The words “thrones”, “dominions”, “principalities” and “powers” were used by rabbinical Jews to describe different orders of angels. In Colossae, there was a problem of worshipping angels. Christ had been degraded to their level. Paul’s argument here is that Christ is superior to the angels for Christ created them. Lucifer falls into this category of a created angel, thus making him a created being. Hebrews 1:4 also reinforces the fact that Jesus, being God the Son, is superior in nature to the angels. Christ is Creator, while Lucifer is creature, two totally different classes and they cannot be spirit brothers as Mormonism teaches.

The Incarnation of Christ

The Mormon doctrine of Jesus deviates from biblical teaching regarding the preincarnate life of Christ. It also deviates in its teaching on the incarnation of Jesus. Mormonism teaches that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of sexual relations between the flesh and bone Heavenly Father and Mary. Jesus is the only earthly offspring so conceived. Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie states, “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.”{12}

He also writes, “God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; He was born in the same personal, real and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about this paternity; He was begotten, conceived, and born in the normal and natural course of events, for He is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says.”{13}

James Talmage wrote, “Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh.”{14}

Mormon theology teaches that the Father was the main person involved in Mary’s conception, not the Holy Spirit. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father.”{15} Mormon Historian Stephen Robinson states, “Mary was in some unspecified manner made pregnant by God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”{16} Dr. Robinson attempts to remain faithful to Mormon theology and the Bible, but his attempt falls short.

The Bible makes it clear: Jesus was conceived as the result of a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, not a physical union with the Father. John 4:24 says that God is spirit. He is not a resurrected man.

Luke 1:35 states, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Holy Spirit’s supernatural work in Mary’s body enabled Christ–eternal God–to take on human nature. Jesus thus had a dual nature. He was fully God and fully man. Mormons reject this teaching.

Stephen Robinson writes, the “unbiblical doctrine of the two natures in Christ was added to historic Christianity by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.”{17} This might be a consistent conclusion for Mormonism, but it is contrary to the Bible. Throughout the Gospels Jesus showed His humanity: He was hungry, He got tired, and His human body experienced death. However, He also revealed His divinity, demonstrating omnipotence (Colossians 1:17), omniscience (John 2:25), eternity (John 1:1), and omnipresence (Matthew 28:20).

There is a wide separation between the Mormon doctrine of the incarnation of Christ and what the Bible teaches.

The Atoning Work of Christ

Another key area in which Mormon theology deviates from biblical teaching is their view of the atoning work of Christ. To understand this, we must understand the Mormon view of the fall. According to Mormon theology, Adam was given two conflicting commands by God: one to become mortal and the other not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; out of which mortality, children, and death would result. Adam chose to eat of the fruit for it was the only way salvation could come to mankind.{18} As a result of the fall, Adam and Eve left their purely spiritual state and became physical beings. Mortality and child bearing would provide the way to exaltation and godhood. Man then inherited a dual nature, one physical and the other spiritual.{19}

Jesus’ death is believed to have atoned for only Adam’s sin, leaving us responsible for our sins.{20} Adam’s act brought mortality and death. The result of Jesus’ atonement is that all humankind will be resurrected. Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie states, “Unconditional salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected.”{21} The Second Article of Faith states, “We believe that men are responsible for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”{22}

In Mormon theology, there is a distinction between general salvation–resurrection for all, and individual salvation which refers to exaltation. Mormonism teaches that that we have all attained universal resurrection as a result of Jesus’ death, but we must now earn our own place in heaven by doing all we can do.

Mormonism teaches there are three levels of heaven: telestial is the lowest level, the terrestrial, and celestial. The resurrection of Christ allows non-Mormons entrance to the telestial or terrestrial kingdom. All Mormons desire the celestial level where they attain exaltation to godhood. Attaining to this level depends on their life here on earth. The Mormon Church and Joseph Smith play the major roles in achieving exaltation. The Gospel Principles tell us that Jesus “became our savior and He did His part to help us return to our heavenly home. It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.”{23}

The Bible does not equate salvation with resurrection. Jesus’ death provides atonement for all of humanity (Isaiah 53:6), but salvation is contingent on one’s response to Christ’s atoning work. Salvation applies only to those who accept Christ’s work on the cross. It is not universal as in Mormonism.

All mankind will be resurrected, but it is at the resurrection that some will be condemned to hell and others to eternal life in God’s presence (Rev. 20:11-15). Those who reject Christ will not be saved (John 3:18). So resurrection is not equated with salvation.

Finally, individual salvation is by faith alone, not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) It is through faith in Jesus alone that one receives the full measure of the gift of salvation. The Bible does not teach three levels of glorification. There is only eternal life with Christ, or eternal separation from God.

Jesus the Polygamist?

As we have studied, the Mormon doctrine of Jesus deviates from the Jesus of the Bible in several key areas. Another unique teaching of Mormonism on the life of Christ is in regards to His marital state. Mormonism teaches that while on earth, Jesus was married to at least three women. Although Mormons today try to distance themselves from this teaching, it is clearly a part of their historical record. Orson Hyde, one of the original Twelve Apostles of the Mormon Church and who was ordained by Joseph Smith, cites the gospel of John when he writes, “Jesus was the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana of Galilee, and He told them what to do. Now there was actually a marriage; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. I shall say here, that before the Savior died, He looked upon his own natural children as we look upon ours.”{24}

Mormonism teaches that Jesus was not only married, but He had a family. In a speech given by Hyde in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, he exclaimed, “I discover that some of the Eastern papers represent me as a great blasphemer, because I said, in my lecture on marriage, at our last conference, that Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were His wives, and that He begat children. All that I have to say in reply to that charge is this–they worship a Savior that is too pure and holy to fulfil the commands of his Father. I worship one that is just pure and holy enough ‘to fulfil all righteousness;’ not only the righteous law of baptism, but the still more righteous and important law ‘to multiply and replenish the earth.’ Startle not at this! For even the Father Himself honored that law by coming down to Mary, without a natural body, and begetting a Son; and if Jesus begat children, He only ‘did that which He had seen His Father do.’”{25}

This would be consistent with Mormon theology, since marriage is a requirement for exaltation to godhood.{26}

According to the New Testament, there is no evidence to indicate that Jesus was married or that He had children. It is even more inconceivable that He would enter into a polygamous relationship, for it was not God’s intended will for marriage. (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and 1 Timothy 3)

Our study reveals that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Mormon view of Jesus teaches that He was not eternally God, that He was procreated as the first spirit child of the Father, He is a spirit brother of Lucifer, and was begotten of the Father through physical relations with Mary. For these reasons, we cannot consider the Mormon teachings on Christ to be consistent with the New Testament.

Notes

1. Doctrine and Covenants 93:21-23.
2. Gospel Principles, 11.
3. James Talmage, Articles of Faith, 425.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 93:21
5. James Talmage, Articles of Faith, 426.
6. F.F. Bruce, Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979) quoted in The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 126.
7. Harold Kuhn, “Creation,” in Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl F. Henry. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983.), 61, quoted in The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 100.
8. Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdman’s Publishing Co. 1983), 996, quoted in The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 100.
9. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and Wonder (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Publishng Company), 277.
10. Gospel Principles, 16-17.
11. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine 193.
12. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 546-547.
13. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 742.
14. James Talmage, Articles of Faith, 466.
15. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1975), 1:18-20.
16. Craig Blomberg and Stephen Robinson, How Wide the Divide?, 135.
17. Craig Blomberg and Stephen Robinson, How Wide the Divide?, 78.
18. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 47.
19. “Church News” in Deseret News, July 31, 1965, 7.
20. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and Wonder, 98
21. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 669.
22. Articles of Faith 2.
23. Gospel Principles, 19.
24. Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, 89.
25. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 210.
26. Doctrine and Covenants 132.

Bibliography

Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1986.

Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982.

Gospel Principles. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979.

Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982.

Ankerberg, John & John Weldon. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1992.

Beckwith, Francis, Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Phil Roberts, Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998.

Blomberg, Craig & Stephen Robinson. How Wide the Divide? Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997.

McConkie, Bruce. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991.

Ostling, Richard. Mormon America. San Francisco: Harper and Collins Publishers, 1999.

Richards, LeGrand. A Marvelous Work and Wonder. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976.

Talmage, James. The Articles of Faith. Salt Lake: Deseret Book Company, Revised Edition, 1984.

Young, Brigham. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997.

©2002 Probe Ministries.


Character of the Cults: A Christian Perspective

Written by Patrick Zukeran

Dr. Zukeran compares the beliefs of several modern cults against a conservative biblical worldview.  This analysis makes it readily apparent that cults are not representing a scriptural view of true Christianity.

Challenge of the Cults

This church is growing so rapidly, sociologist Rodney Stark predicts that by the year 2080, it will become the most important world religion to emerge since the rise of Islam.{1} What church is Dr. Stark describing? It is not a Christian church but the Mormon Church, an organization labeled as a cult. The rise of the Mormon Church represents the growing challenge facing the church, the kingdom of the cults.

What is a cult? The greatest authority on the cults, the late Dr. Walter Martin, described a cult as “A group of people gathered around a specific person’s misinterpretation of the Bible.”{2} Cults are groups that claim to be in harmony with Christianity but deny foundational Christian doctrines such as the Trinity or the unique deity of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 7:15-17, Jesus gives us a warning about the coming of the cults. He states, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” What Jesus was warning was that cultists will look, act, and sound like Christians. However, that is only in external appearance. One can parade as a true believer for a time, but eventually one’s words, actions, and especially one’s beliefs–their “fruit”–will give one away as a counterfeit.

The growth of the cults can be attributed to several factors. First, it is a fulfillment of the warning given by Jesus and the apostles. In Matthew 24:23-26, Jesus warns us that as His return draws near, there will be an increase in false prophets who will ensnare many in their false teachings. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter warns us that false teachers will arise from within the church.

The second factor in the growth of the cults is the breakdown of the family. Cults provide the family atmosphere many from broken homes long for; the cult leader often takes the place of a father figure.

Finally, we can attribute the growth of the cults to the failure of the church. As my mentor repeatedly stated, “The cults are the unpaid bills of the church.” The cults thrive because Christians are lacking in biblical and theological understanding. Dr. Martin stated, “The rise of the cults is directly proportional to the fluctuating emphasis which the church has placed on the teachings of biblical doctrine to Christian laymen. To be sure, few pastors, teachers, and evangelists defend adequately their beliefs, but most of them — and most of the average Christian laymen – are hard put to confront and refute a well-trained cultist of almost any variety.”{3} If the church engaged in solid and in-depth Bible teaching, the cults would not flourish as they do today.

Doctrinal Character of the Cults

How do you know if a religious group is a cult? Jesus said that you will know false prophets by their fruits. In stating this he was not only speaking of their words and actions but of their doctrinal beliefs as well. Cults deviate from biblical Christianity in several key areas of doctrine.

Cults promote false teaching on the nature of God. The Bible teaches there is one God revealed in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The central feature that distinguishes cults from biblical Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. All cults have a distorted view of this doctrine. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses condemn the doctrine of the Trinity, and Mormons teach tritheism, three gods who make up the godhead.

Second, cults teach a false view of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Christ is 100 percent man and 100 percent God. This has been called the hypostatic union. In 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul warned about false teachers teaching another Jesus. A modern-day example of false teaching is Christian Science which teaches that Jesus was not God but a man who displayed the Christ idea. He neither died for sins, nor was He resurrected.

Third is a false teaching on salvation. All cults have a works-oriented Gospel. The death of Christ is believed to give followers the potential to be saved. So after believing in Christ, one must serve the organization to attain salvation. Salvation is found in the organization and one is never really sure if one has done enough to be worthy of salvation. In the International Church of Christ, for example, disciples are scrutinized by their discipler daily to determine if they performed as worthy disciples. Failure to meet the standards may result in discipline. Disciples can never be certain they have done enough for salvation.

Fourth, there is extra-biblical revelation and the denial of the sole authority of the Bible. Cults claim that extra revelation is given to the leader whose words are seen as inspired by God and equal to the Bible. If there is a conflict between the Bible and the leader’s words, the latter takes precedence. So in reality, the leader’s writings take precedence over the Bible. When interacting with cultists, I often hear them claim their teachings are consistent with the Bible. However, when I point out where their teachings deviate from the Bible, they eventually claim the Bible to be in error. In most cases, cultists claim the Bible has somehow been corrupted by the church.

Sociological Structure of the Cults

Not only do cults deviate doctrinally from biblical Christianity, they have distinctive sociological characteristics. The first is authoritarianism. The leader or organization exercises complete control over a follower’s life. The words of the leadership are ultimate and often considered divinely inspired. Going against the leadership is equivalent to going against the commands of God.

The second characteristic is an elitist mentality. Most cults believe they are the true church and the only ones who will be saved. This is because the group believes they have new revelation or understanding that gives them superior standing.

Third is isolationism. Due to their elitist mentality, cultists believe those who do not agree with them are deceived or under the influence of Satan. Therefore, many feel their members must be protected from the outside world, and physical or psychological barriers are created. Members are prohibited from communicating with those outside the organization who do not agree with the teachings of the group.

Fourth, there is closed-mindedness and the discouragement of individual thinking. Because of its authoritarian nature, leaders are the only ones thought to be able to properly interpret the Bible. All members are to turn to the organization for biblical interpretation and advice on life decisions. Therefore, individual thinking and questioning is discouraged. There is an unwillingness to dialogue and consider other viewpoints.

Fifth is a legalistic lifestyle. As mentioned earlier, salvation is not based on grace; cults teach a works-oriented gospel. This leads to a lifestyle of legalism. Followers must live up to the group’s standards in order to attain or maintain their membership and hope for eternal life. Followers are required to faithfully serve, and attend meetings, studies, and services. As a result, there is tremendous pressure to live up to the requirements of the organization.

Finally there is a difficult exit process. Since salvation is found in the organization, leaving the organization is considered by many to be leaving God. All former members who leave cults are shunned by members which often includes members of their own family. Many are warned that if they leave, they will be condemned to hell, or seduced by Satan. Many ex-members are harassed by the organization even after they leave. Exiting members often end up distrusting any religious organization and end up feeling isolated and alone.

Life in the cults is marked by fear of judgment, pressure, and legalism. This is a far cry from what we are taught in the Bible. Jesus and the apostles taught that the new life in Christ is one of grace, love, and freedom from the law. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The peace and rest promised by Christ is seldom experienced by those in the cults.

Cultic Methodology

When you receive a knock on your door in the mornings, who do you assume it to be? A salesman? A Girl Scout selling cookies? For many of us, we assume it to be a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon missionary looking to tell us about his or her organization. One of the reasons cults have grown is their methodology.

The methods cults use to win converts are moral deception, aggressive proselytizing, and Scripture twisting. By moral deception I mean cults use Christian terminology to win converts. For example, New Agers use the term born again to support reincarnation. Mormons use terms like the Trinity and salvation by grace but these terms have different meanings than what the Bible teaches. Therefore, many untrained Christians are deceived into believing these groups are actually Christian.

Aggressive proselytizing is another method of the cults. Although many Christian groups use aggressive evangelism, they do so out of a love for God and a desire to see others come to know Christ. Many cultists proselytize for much the same reasons but added to this is the desire to win God’s approval. They work for grace rather than from grace. The cults require their members to evangelize. Many groups hold their members accountable for the number of hours they spend witnessing for the organization. Many members feel guilty if a day or so goes by without them proselytizing.

Scripture twisting is another method of the cults. Cultist quote verses in the Bible that support their position, but skip over the verses that do not. Often, there is gross misinterpretation of Scripture so that contradictory verses will better fall in line with their views.

For example, Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons try to use verses to show Jesus is a created being. However, their position is easily shown to be incorrect when you explain the context and correct meaning of the terms. Also, when you show additional verses that contradict their position, they are often surprised and realize they have never seen those verse before or that the organization’s explanations of those verses are unable to be supported.

To successfully engage in conversation and effectively witness to those in the cults, Christians must be prepared in the following ways. First Peter 3:15 states that we must always be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” We must be prepared by knowing the word of God through diligent study of it. Second, we must be prepared to overcome our fears and lovingly reach out to cult members, exercising the fruits of patience and gentleness as we share the truth.

Danger of the Cults

The rise of the cults pose a serious challenge to the church because they present several dangers to the church and families involved. First, there is a spiritual danger. First Timothy 4:1 states “…that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Ultimately the spirit behind all lies and deception is the devil, so the ultimate force behind the cults is the evil one.

Galatians 1:8 states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other that than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” The false gospel of the cults cannot lead anyone to salvation. There are eternal consequences for false beliefs. For this reason Jesus and the apostles are very harsh on false teachers.

There is also a psychological danger. The mind controlling techniques used by the organizations can cause immense damage mentally and emotionally. Living under the pressure, guilt, and dependence on the organization has proven to have tremendous negative effects on individuals.

Third, there is domestic danger. Individuals are taught that loyalty to the organization is equivalent to allegiance with God. Therefore, loyalty to the organization supercedes loyalty to family. Thus, if a family member begins conducting himself in a way the organization does not approve of, the cult will often separate the family from the individual member. Isolation can be emotional or physical. Numerous families have been separated as a result.

In some cases there is a physical danger. The teachings of David Koresh cost the Branch Davidians their lives. Hobart Freeman taught that believers did not need medicine for illnesses, and told his followers to throw all theirs away. As a result, he and fifty-two of his members died from curable conditions.

In light of this threat, what are Christians called to do? First, we are called to study and know the Word of God. Paul writes to Timothy and all saints saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Christians should master the Bible so that they will not be deceived by any false teaching. Second, Titus commands us to be able to confront and refute false teachers. Finally, in Acts 20, Paul exhorts the leaders of the church to protect their flock from the false teachers that will prey upon the sheep. Every Christian is called to know the truth so well they can confront false teaching, and protect their church and family from it.

Notes

1. Richard Ostling, Mormon America (San Francisco, Calif.: Harper Collins Publishing Inc. 1999), p. XVI.
2. Walter Martin & Hank Hannegraph, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis, Mich.: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), p. 17.
3. Norman Geisler, When Cultists Ask (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1997), p. 15.

Bibliography

Cults

1. Ankerberg, John and Weldon, John. Cult Watch. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1991.

2. Boa, Ken. Cults, World Religions, and the Occult. Wheaton, lll.: Victor Books, 1990.

3. Martin, Walter & Hank Hannegraph. Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1997.

4. Geisler, Norman and Rhodes, Ron. When Cultists Ask. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1997.

5. Rhodes, Ron. Challenge of the Cults. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing, 2001.

 

Mormonism

1. Ankerberg, John, and Weldon, John. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism. Eugene, Ore: Harvest House Publishers, 1992.

2. Blomberg, Craig and Robinson, Stephen. How Wide the Divide? Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

3. Oslting, Richard & Joan. Mormon America. San Francisco, Cal.: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

1. Bowman, Robert. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1989.

2. _______. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1989.

3. Rhodes, Ron. Reasoning From the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1993.

©2003 Probe Ministries.


Examining the Book of Mormon – A Christian View

The book of Mormon needs to be evaluated by the light of scripture and its purported evidence for its reliability. Dr. Pat Zukeran shows that the bad character of the book’s witnesses, the lack of archaeological support, and internal errors reveal it to be the flawed work of man, not God.

The Mormon Story

Some people believe the Book of Mormon is a new revelation from God given to Joseph Smith. Mormons recognize it as divinely inspired and equal in authority to the Bible, but others have reason to doubt its claims.

Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt wrote in 1851, “The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record. . . . This book must be either true or false. . . . If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever planned upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God. . . . If true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it.”{1}

In this article, we will take a look at internal and external evidences for the Book of Mormon to see if it should be considered inspired writing.

The Book of Mormon is said to be a record of two ancient Jewish civilizations that migrated to America. The Jaredites left Babylonia during the building of the Tower of Babel in approximately 2,250 B.C. After establishing a civilization in America that lasted two thousand years. They eventually succumbed to corruption and apostasy and were judged by God and destroyed.

The second group of Jews left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. before the Babylonian exile during the reign of King Zedekiah. This group crossed the Pacific and landed on the west coast of South America. Lehi and his son Nephi led these righteous Jews. This group eventually divided into two warring camps, the Nephites and the Lamenites and spread throughout North and South America. The Lamenites were cursed with dark skin because of their evil deeds and were the forefathers of the American Indians.{2}

Latter-day Saints believe that during the end of the 4th century A.D. the Nephite prophet general Mormon and his son Moroni, compiled the records of these two civilizations using the Reformed Egyptian language and recorded them on gold plates. Moroni hid the plates in the hills of Cumorah near Palmyra, New York to be revealed at a later time. The Lamenites eventually destroyed the Nephites in 421 A.D. on the Hill Cumorah. The Lamenite civilizations continued to degenerate and had forgotten their Jewish history. When Columbus found them centuries later, they had become as the Book of Mormon describes them, a “filthy and a loathsome people.” (Book of Mormon 5:15)

Does the Book of Mormon qualify as divinely inspired scripture? In determining the answer, we will take a critical look at several key issues. First we will look at the nature in which Joseph Smith received his revelations. Second, we will investigate the character of the author and the key witnesses. Third, since the Book or Mormon claims to be a historical work, we will see if there is evidence to support this claim. Finally, since the Book of Mormon says it is the most perfect book ever written, we will examine it to see if it contains any false precepts. Let’s examine the Book to see if it is an inspired ancient historical record or a nineteenth century product.

Origin of the Book of Mormon

Mormons believe Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823 as a glorified resurrected being, and delivered to him the golden plates from their hiding place in the Cumorah hills. Using an occult seer stone, Smith translated the history of the Lamenites and Nephites into the Book of Mormon.{3}

In studying the origin of the Book of Mormon, we must first investigate the issue of the canon of scripture. Christians believe the canon is closed with the 66 books of the Bible. There are no more revelations outside these books. Here are some reasons why.

First the authority to write the Holy Scripture was given to the Old Testament prophets of God and the New Testament Apostles of Christ. The last apostle died at the end of the first century A.D. and there has not been anyone who fulfills the qualifications for apostleship since then.

Second, the canon is confirmed to be closed by Judaism, Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church. According to the writings of eye witnesses—Emma Smith (one of Joseph Smith’s wives), William Smith (his brother), and David Whitmer (one of the three key witnesses), Smith used a common occult practice of crystal gazing.

In 1877 David Whitmer wrote,

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 piece 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 off 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 would 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 any power of man.”{4}

Emma Smith wrote to her children, “In writing for your father, I frequently wrote day after day. . . . He sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”{5} So according to these accounts, Joseph Smith received his revelations word for word and used a seer stone.

By contrast, the Bible was not given to us in a word for word dictation form, nor is there a case of any biblical writer using an occult object to receive revelations from God. Mormons point to the use of the Urim and Thummim but their purpose was quite different. The Urim and Thummim were used for a time by the Aaronic priests only to gain answers of Yes or No from God to particular questions. Lots were cast to discern God’s will, not to receive content for revelation. Finally, we must understand, the Aaronic priesthood and its practices are replaced by the finished work of Christ (Hebrews 7:12). Occult methods, such as crystal gazing, are forbidden in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Leviticus 19:26, 31). Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie even denounces using objects to gain new revelation. He condemns Hiram Page, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon for using a seer stone to gain new revelations. Joseph Smith obtained his revelations contrary to the method of inspiration received by the biblical Prophets and Apostles.

Character of the 11 Witnesses

Joseph Smith claims that after he translated the plates, he returned them to the angel Moroni. Therefore, there is no way to verify the veracity of the plates or Smith’s translation. Smith’s only defense of his account is the eleven men who signed statements claiming to have seen the golden plates. Therefore, the credibility of Smith’s account rests on the testimony of these eleven witnesses. There are three key witnesses who claim to have seen the angel show the golden plates to them. The remaining eight allege to have seen the plates but not the angel. The LDS church asserts these men never denied their testimony. However, when we examine the lives of the witnesses, we find they were untrustworthy, wavering, and gullible witnesses.

Six of the eleven witnesses, including the three key witnesses were eventually excommunicated from the church. Former Mormon President Ezra Taft Benson summed up the legacy of the eleven witnesses this way. “Six of the original Twelve Apostles selected by Joseph Smith were excommunicated. The three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the church. Three of Joseph Smith’s counselors fell–one even helped plot his death. . . . The wolves among our flock are more numerous and devious today than when President Clark made a similar statement [in 1949].”{6}

Let us first examine the character of the three key witnesses since their testimony is the most important. In a letter dated December 16, 1838, Joseph Smith stated this about the three key witnesses and John Whitmer, one of the eight. “John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention.”{7}

Martin Harris’ testimony shows him to be a gullible and unstable man. He changed his religious conviction approximately thirteen times. He had joined several Christian denominations and other cult groups that include the Universalists, Strangites, and the Shakers. {8}(Ankerberg, 196) In Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith gave revelations in which he denounces Martin Harris and calls him a “wicked man.”{9} The Mormon leaders published an article in the Elder’s Journal, a Mormon publication edited by Joseph Smith, in which they accused Harris guilty of “swearing, lying, cheating, swindling, drinking, with every species of debauchery. . .” (Elders Journal, August, 1838, 59).{10} Here the leaders of the Mormon Church strongly criticize the character of Harris.

Oliver Cowdery was also shown to be a very gullible man. He was led astray by Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses who himself claimed to have divine revelations from his own seer stone. Although Joseph Smith denounced Hiram as a false teacher, Smith stated “to our grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive. . . . Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he obtained certain ‘revelations’ . . . all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s House, . . .”{11} Despite Smith’s condemnation, Oliver Cowdery joined Page’s movement. Not only was he a gullible man, he was also indicted on several accounts of fraudulent business practices. The Mormon Church in a letter wrote, “During the career of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer’s bogus money business, it got abroad into the world that they were engaged in it. . . . We have evidence of a very strong character that you are at this very time engaged with a gang of counterfeiters, coiners, and blacklegs . . .”{12} Cowdery was eventually excommunicated and he later joined the Methodist Church.

David Whitmer wrote, “God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter- day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so should it be done unto them.” In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. . . . About the same time that I came out, the Spirit of God moved upon quite a number of the brethren who came out, with their families, all of the eight witnesses who were then living (except the three Smiths) came out; . . .”{13} Here David Whitmer denounced the Mormon Church and encouraged people to follow his example and the example of the other witnesses and leave the church.

Joseph Smith in response attacked the character of David Whitmer. Smith stated, “God suffered such kind of beings to afflict Job . . . this poor man who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride but David Whitmer, to forbid his madness when he goes up to curse Israel: and this ass not being of the same kind as Balaam’s . . . he brays out cursing instead of blessings. Poor ass!”{14}

The character and life of the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon are very different from the Apostles of Christ. None of the Apostles wavered in their defense of Christ, even though all suffered and most died for their faith. The Apostles remained consistent in their teaching and never fell into any type of apostasy. Their lives were marked by honesty and integrity. They were never indicted for any criminal activity except for preaching Christ. The character of the Book of Mormon’s eleven witnesses does not strengthen Smith’s defense but cast further doubt on its authenticity.

Archaeology and the Book of Mormon

According to the Book of Mormon, Jews migrated from the Middle East to Central and South America and established great civilizations on the continents of North and South America. The Book of Mormon states that large cities were built so that by 322 A.D. “The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings and the people were as numerous almost as it were the sand of the sea.” (Mormon 1:7) Thirty-eight cities are specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Also in the final battle between the Nephites and Lamenites, 230,000 Nephites were killed near the hills of Cumorah in New York.

With such a vast population and cities, one would expect to find numerous archaeological evidences to substantiate such large civilizations. However, there is no evidence to validate the claims of the Book of Mormon. Despite expeditions financed by the Mormon Church, archaeologists have concluded the Book of Mormon is not historical but a work of fiction.

The Smithsonian Institute in a letter to the Mormon Church states, “The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian Archaeologists see no connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book.”{15}

The National Geographic Society writes, “With regard to the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon, neither representatives of the National Geographic Society nor archaeologists connected with any other institution of equal prestige have ever used the Book of Mormon in locating historic ruins in Middle America or elsewhere.”{16}

Even Mormon archaeologists admit there is no conclusive evidence. Dr. Hugh Nibley, a Mormon apologist, states in his book Since Cumorah that no real archaeological proof for the Nephite civilization exists. He writes regarding the Nephites, “All that we have to go on to date is a written history . . . there is nothing whatever that an anthropologist or archaeologist as such can say about the Book of Mormon.”{17}

Dee Green, professor of anthropology at Weber State University and a respected Mormon scholar states, “The first myth we must eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists . . . 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 that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but . . . years of such an approach has left us empty-handed.”{18}

Another prominent Mormon scholar is B.H. Roberts. He was described as one of the most valiant writers and speakers in defense of the Book of Mormon. However, after years of research he concluded at the end of his life that the Book of Mormon was a fictional work created by Joseph Smith. He wrote, “the evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator. It is difficult to believe that they are the product of history, that they come upon the scene separated by long periods of time, and among a race which was the ancestral race of the red man of America.”{19}

Another prominent defender of the Book of Mormon was Thomas Ferguson, who was president of the New World Archaeological Foundation, which was funded by Bringham Young University and the Mormon Church. He hoped to discover archaeological support for the Book of Mormon. In 1962 he announced, “Powerful evidences sustaining the book are accumulating.”{20} However, after years of research and many fruitless expeditions, his original hopes were shattered.{21} He eventually wrote,

With all 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 I must agree with Dee Green, who has told us that to date there is no Book of Mormon geography. I, for one, would be happy if Dee were wrong.{22}

In contrast, biblical archaeology has provided thousands of discoveries that have confirmed biblical references. Hundreds of ancient civilizations, artifacts, historical records and inscriptions have been discovered that prove the historical accuracy of the Bible. Archaeological discoveries confirming biblical accounts have been acknowledged by Christians as well as skeptics. Foremost Middle East archaeologist Dr. William Albright wrote, “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”{23} When asked if archaeology confirms the accuracy of the New Testament, scholar John McCray states, “Oh, there is no question that the credibility of the New Testament is enhanced.”{24} A historical faith should have historical proofs. Historical research has led both Christians and skeptics to affirm the historicity of the Bible. However, historical research has proven damaging for the Book of Mormon.

Errors in the Book of Mormon

Mormons claim the Book of Mormon is the most perfect book ever written. Joseph Smith stated, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.”{25}

Is Joseph Smith’s claim true? Errors in the Book of Mormon should cause one to question its divine inspiration.

In studying the Book of Mormon, one soon finds numerous historical, geographical, and scientific errors. First, in Mormon 9:32 the Book of Mormon claims to have been written in Reformed Egyptian, but Egyptologists say this language does not exist. Second, in Alma 7:10, Jerusalem is called a land or country when it is a city. In Alma 46:15 the saved in America take on the name Christian in 73 B.C. In the Bible, believers are not called Christian until 50 A.D. in Acts 11:3. Nephi 17:7 teaches that leprosy occurred in America in 34 A.D. but no cases of leprosy here are known until 1758. Mormon 9:2 and other references teach that the Indians had official records, scrolls, and other writings, but historical research shows no such records were kept. (Mormon 5:23, 3 Nephi 9:18, 12:18)

Not only are there historical errors, but there are false teachings as well. Alma 24:16 teaches that burying swords deep in the earth will keep them bright. Basic science proves that burying steel objects causes decay and rust. 2 Nephi 13:24 teaches that baldness is caused by sin. Other absurdities include the teaching that God curses Indians with dark skin and anyone who marries an Indian will be cursed (2 Nephi 5:21 Jacob 3:3-9, Mormon 5:15-17, Alma 3:6-10). However, when Indians accept the Mormon teaching, they will become white and delightsome. (2 Nephi 30:5-7)

There appear to be internal contradictions also. In 3 Nephi 9:18, Jesus allegedly preached to the Nephites who fled Jerusalem in 600 B.C. with concepts communicated in the Greek language. But the Nephites are said to have written and spoken in Reformed Egyptian. Therefore, they would have no knowledge of Greek since Alexander, who lived in the 4th century, had not Hellenized the world yet. Jesus preaching to the non-Greek Nephites declaring, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” would have not made any sense. Moreover, Joseph Smith and the Mormons claim the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated had no Greek or Latin in them.{26} However, Alpha and Omega are Greek, not Egyptian terms. Even stranger is that the French word “adieu” is used as a farewell in Jacob 7:27.

In contrast to the Book of Mormon, the Bible proves to be historically accurate and internally consistent. It also does not have the absurd teachings that we find in the Book of Mormon. The evidence appears to point to the fact that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient historical text, but an 18th century work created by Joseph Smith.

Notes
1. Orson Pratt, “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon,” Orson Pratt’s Works, (Liverpool: 1851), 1, quoted in Richard and Joan Ostling, Mormon America, (San Francisco: Harper and Collins Publishing, 1999), 263.
2. Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), Introduction page.
3. Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine. (Salt Lake: Bookcraft, 1991), 98.
4. David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” (1887 reprint, Concord, CA: Pacific Publishing Company, 1972),
12, quoted in John Ankerberg and John Weldon, What do Mormons Really Believe? (Eugene, OR.:
Harvest House Publishers, 2002), 167-168.
5. The Saints Herald, May 19, 1888, 310, quoted in Ankerberg and Weldon, What do Mormons Really Believe?, 167-168.
6. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, (Salt Lake City, UT.: Bookcraft, 1988), 89.
7. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 3, 232.
8. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism. (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1992), 196.
9. Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 3:12-13 & 10:7.
10. Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 96.
11. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 1, 109-110, quoted in Tanner, 96.
12. Letter quoted in Senate Document 189, February 15, 1841, 6-9, quoted in Tanner, 98.
13. David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ,” 1887, 27-28, quoted in Tanner, 97.
14. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 3, 228, quoted in Tanner, 97.
15. Official Letter from the Smithsonian Institution, Summer, 1979.
16. Ankerberg & Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism,
184.
17. Tanner, 138-139.
18. Ibid., 139-140.
19. B.H. Roberts, Studies in the Book of Mormon, (Urbana, Il.: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 243, quoted in Richard Abanas, One Nation Under Gods, (New York, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002), 76.
20. Thomas Stuart Ferguson, One Fold and One Shepherd (1962), 263, quoted in Tanner, 140.
21. Tanner, 140-141.
22. Thomas Stuart Ferguson, “Written symposium on the Book of Mormon Geography:
Response of Thomas Ferguson to the Norman and Sorenson Papers,” 4, 7, 29, quoted in Abanas, 77.
23. William Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Pelican Books, 1960, 127, quoted in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, (San Bernadino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), 65.
24. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1998), 96.
25. Book of Mormon, Introduction page.
26. Times and Seasons, 4:194; J.N. Washburn, Contents, Structure and Authorship of
the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City UT; Bookcraft, 1954), 161, cited in Tanner, 124.

Bibliography

  • Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.
  • Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982.
  • Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982.
    Abanas, Richard. One Nation Under Gods. New York, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002.
    Ankerberg, John & John Weldon. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism.
    Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1992.
  • ______. What do Mormons Really Believe? Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 2002.
  • Beckwith, Francis, Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Phil Roberts, Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The
    Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism.
    Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998.
  • Blomberg, Craig, & Stephen Robinson. How Wide the Divide? Downer’s Grove, IL:
    InterVarsity Press, 1997.
  • Givens, Terry L. By the Hand of Mormon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997.
  • McConkie, Bruce. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake: Bookcraft, 1991.
  • Ostling, Richard. Mormon America. San Francisco: Harper and Collins Publishers, 1999.
  • Richards, LeGrand. A Marvelous Work and Wonder. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976.
  • Richardson, Allen and David, & Anthony Bentley. 1000 Evidences for the Church of
    Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Salt Lake City: Envision Press, 2001.
  • Talmage, James. The Articles of Faith. Salt Lake: Deseret Book Company, Revised Edition
    1984.
  • Tanner, Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The Changing World of Mormonism. Chicago: Moody
    Press, 1981.
  • Young, Brigham. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young. Salt Lake
    City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997.

©2002 Probe Ministries.


Mormon Beliefs about Prophecy, Heaven, and Celestial Marriage

Russ Wise demonstrates some ways in which Mormonism cannot be true because of false prophecies. He also examines their beliefs about three levels of heaven, and the concept of being married for eternity, even though scripture contradicts these doctrines.

The Book of Mormon: A Superior Revelation or a Hoax?

Missionaries for the Mormon Church have converted millions of people to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by convincing them that the Book of Mormon is true and superior to the Bible.

The Book of Mormon claims to be history of “the period from 600 BC to 421 AD during which the Nephite, Lamanite, and Mulekite civilizations flourished.”{1} It is also believed by the Mormon Church that these civilizations were descendants of Lehi, a Jew who led a colony of people from Jerusalem to the Americas in 600 BC.

The Nephite prophet Mormon and his son Moroni played major roles in bringing the lost story of these civilizations to light. War broke out among the descendants of Lehi, and as they were about to annihilate one another, Mormon wrote their history on golden plates and hid them in the hill Cumorah in New York state.

According to Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon scholar, the Book of Mormon has three purposes:

• To bear record of Christ and clarify his Divine Sonship and mission, proving that he is the Redeemer and Savior;

• To teach the doctrines of the gospel in such a perfect way that the plan of salvation will be clearly revealed;

• To stand as a witness that Joseph Smith was the Lord’s anointed through whom the latter-day work of restoration would be accomplished.{2} (According to the Mormon Church, Christianity was corrupted after the death of the last apostle and Joseph Smith was anointed by God to restore the true church.)

Referring to the Book of Mormon, the Mormon apostle Orson Pratt, said: “This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God…. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked…impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions.”{3}

It is imperative that we recognize the Book of Mormon for what it is and challenge those who continue to perpetuate the false idea that it is true. In order for the Book of Mormon to be accepted as divine truth, the Bible must be discredited.

The book of 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon says: “Because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words.”{4} Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”{5}

The underlying problem with the Book of Mormon is that there is absolutely no objective, external evidence for much of the information found in the book. And the information that is trustworthy was plagiarized right out of the King James Bible. Beyond the fact that the Book of Mormon cannot be verified externally, the potential convert is told that the Smithsonian Institution uses the Book of Mormon to aid its archaeological work. However, in a letter referring to this Mormon claim, the Smithsonian Institution Department of Anthropology states: “The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book.”{6}

Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Church, has unintentionally summarized my thoughts about the Book of Mormon exactly as he stated, “If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions which would be easy to detect.”{7}

It is interesting to note that there have been close to four thousand corrections made in the Book of Mormon to date. What an epitaph for a “perfect” book of divine teaching.

Prophesies That Didn’t Come True

Mormon writers have influenced millions of people over the years and have been instrumental in developing less than truthful statements concerning the church. These statements, or prophesies, must be looked at carefully, then refuted when they miss the mark of legitimacy.

It is imperative that we understand the biblical teaching regarding a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall 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 happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. . .”{8}

If the prophecy does not come to pass, the scripture is plain in stating that the individual is not a prophet of God and that he should be put to death. There is no acceptable average of correctness other than 100% correct, 100% of the time. Anything less had grave consequences.

The president of the Mormon Church is known as the “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” of the church. It is their duty to divine the word of God, to be His mouthpiece.

Perhaps the most embarrassing prophecy that did not come to pass is the prophecy regarding the temple in Zion. The Doctrine and Covenants, a later book of revelations given by Joseph Smith, says this about the temple:

“Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place…. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord. . .”{9}

This prophecy was in reference to Jackson County, Missouri. It is interesting to note that this prophecy was given in September of 1832 and that there has not been a temple built as of this date nor within the generation of those living in 1832.

Another prophecy related to the temple in Zion is found in Doctrine and Covenants 97:19. It states: “And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: Surely Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there. . .”

Once again it is noteworthy that a temple was not built in Missouri, but that a temple WAS built in Salt Lake City. If the prophecy is true, Salt Lake City cannot be Zion. However, if Salt Lake City is indeed Zion, the prophecy is utterly false.

On another occasion, February 14, 1835, Joseph Smith said that “it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.”{10} The truth regarding this prophecy that Jesus would return in 56 years is obvious to any living today. His bride is yet waiting His return after one hundred and fifty-five years.

The fact that these and other prophecies of Joseph Smith were not fulfilled leads us to only one conclusion in light of Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Joseph Smith was indeed a false prophet.

The Great Restoration or the Great Fabrication?

The Book of Mormon tells us that many of the truths of the early church were lost when the church fell into apostasy. Joseph Smith taught that after the death of Jesus Christ and the apostles, there was a total apostasy. They further teach that the churches of our day do not represent Christ and have, in fact, done away with many of the original truths of the early church. The Book of Mormon states, “they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.”{11}

One major aspect of the restoration which Joseph Smith was called to establish was that of the priesthoods—both the Aaronic and the Melchizedek.

The Mormon Missionary Handbook indicates that the only ones who have the authority to baptize new believers are those who hold the Priesthood in the Mormon Church. However, when one takes a critical look, it is obvious that the concept of reintroducing the priesthoods into the church is an unbiblical endeavor.

This is of primary importance when one realizes that the structure of the Mormon Church is based on the revelation of Joseph Smith.{12} According to the past president of the Mormon Church, Spencer W. Kimball, “The priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things pertaining to the salvation of men. It is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. Without this priesthood power, men are lost.”{13} Bishop H. Burke Peterson declared that the effectiveness of the priest’s authority, or “the power that comes through that authority—depends on the patterns of our lives; it depends on our righteousness.”{14} It is interesting to note that the priest’s power to do the will of God is not given by the Holy Spirit but comes from one’s personal righteousness.

David Witmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had this to say about the Priesthoods: “This matter of ‘Priesthood,’ since the days of Sidney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter- Day Saints. Priesthood means authority; and authority is the word we should use. I do not think the word priesthood is mentioned in the New Covenant of the Book of Mormon.”{15} Witmer goes on to say that it was in fact Sydney Rigdon who gave Joseph Smith the idea of reintroducing the Priesthoods. The Mormon Church had been operating for two full years before the establishing of this new line of authority. About two thousand followers were baptized into the church and confirmed without the advantage of a recognized priest.

David Witmer addresses his remarks to Joseph Smith as he continues his address to all believers in Christ by saying, “You have changed the revelations from the way they were first given and as they are today in the Book of Commandments…. You have changed the revelations to support the error of a President of the high priesthood…. You have altered the revelations to support you in going beyond the plain teachings of Christ in the new covenant part of the Book of Mormon.”{16}

Not only does Joseph Smith have problems with his revelation concerning the priesthoods with the authority of the Book of Mormon and David Witmer, but the Bible does not help him either.

It is apparent that when young Joseph was plagiarizing the Bible that he did not look very closely at the book of Hebrews. If he had, he might have realized that God had sent His Son to be the eternal High Priest.

Three Chances at Heaven

Joseph Smith was a man of revelation. Perhaps the most welcome revelations from young Joseph were his new teachings about salvation. The idea that all people would receive a measure of salvation was widely received by the Mormon Church.

As well, his teaching regarding the celestial kingdom found wide acceptance. According to Bruce R. McConkie, author of Mormon Doctrine, “Heaven is the celestial Kingdom of God.”{17} LeGrand Richards, a presiding bishop of the Mormon Church, says that we have “at least five places to which we may go after death.”{18} He says we “have three heavens, paradise, and the hell so often spoken of in the scriptures. . . .”{19} Joseph Smith taught that “in the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.”{20} However, according to the Holy Bible, Joseph’s teaching about man’s disposition after death is anything but scriptural.

The revelation or “The Vision,” as it came to be known, is found in the Doctrine and Covenants and was given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon on February 16, 1832.{21} This revelation was given by Jesus {vs. 14} to those individuals who will be in the first resurrection of the Firstborn. The Firstborn are those who held the priesthood.

The Celestial Kingdom is made up of three levels or degrees of heaven. The first, or the lower level of heaven, is known as the telestial glory. This degree of heaven is held for those “who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus,”{22} but who, nevertheless, did not deny the Holy Spirit. The Telestial Kingdom is for those who chose wickedness over godliness.

The second degree of heaven is the terrestrial glory. This level is held for those “who, though honorable, failed to comply with the requirements for exaltation, were blinded by the craftiness of men and unable to receive and obey the higher laws of God.”{23} Likewise, it is for those who rejected Christ in mortal life but accepted Him afterwards.{24}

The third, or the highest level, of heaven is that of the celestial. This degree is held for those who have received the Temple ordinances. They have been married in the Temple for all time and eternity and they are gods.{25} According to James E. Talmage, they “have striven to obey all the divine commandments,. . .have accepted the testimony of Christ, obeyed ‘the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,’ and received the Holy Spirit.”{26} Therefore, they are entitled to the highest glory.

The remaining options for the individual who does not qualify for the celestial glories are paradise and perdition, for the Latter- day Saints do not believe in a hell. Joseph Smith put it this way: “There is no hell. All will find a measure of salvation.”{27}

At death the individual’s spirit goes either to paradise to later be judged and offered one of the three degrees of heaven, or his spirit is sent to perdition where it is given a chance to repent and thus gain a higher heavenly option.

Perdition, commonly known as Spirit-Prison Hell, is a temporary state even though it lasts more than a thousand years. It is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon does not seem to agree with the Doctrine and Covenants where it clearly states there is no second chance for repentance after death. Alma 34:32 states,

“For behold this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God….Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end…if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”{28}

Once again it becomes evident that Joseph Smith changed his mind regarding another key revelation, since the teaching of the Bible does not correspond to the changeableness of the Mormon prophet. We must conclude that Mormonism completely lacks of any biblical basis and is truly another gospel.

Celestial Marriage: Fact or Fiction?

Eternal Marriage is essential for exaltation. A key element of Mormon doctrine and the foundation for exaltation in the highest heaven is celestial marriage. Exaltation is the primary goal for each Mormon to achieve. To understand the Latter-Day Saints’ desire to enter into an eternal marriage it is important to understand the term “exaltation.”

Exaltation, according to an official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publication, “is eternal life, the kind of life that God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.”{29}

We find in the Book of Moses in Mormon scriptures God saying, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”{30}—in other words, to help man and woman become gods and goddesses in the celestial kingdom.

“An eternal marriage must be performed by one who holds the sealing powers and authority”{31}—one who holds the priesthood authority. The marriage “must also be done in the proper place. The proper place is in one of the holy temples of our Lord. The temple is the only place this holy ordinance can be performed.”{32} Mormons believe that if they are married by any other authority the marriage is for this life only and therefore negates their opportunity for celestial exaltation.

William Clayton, Hyrum Smith’s clerk, was present when Joseph Smith first announced the revelation regarding plural and celestial marriage. Clayton wrote that from Joseph he “learned that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in celestial glory.”{33}

This revelation was first given publicly at Nauvoo, Illinois, July 12, 1843. In May of that year Joseph revealed that “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it.”{34} Joseph goes on to reveal that “if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned.”{35}

It has already been pointed out that the individual will receive a measure of salvation regardless of his disposition. The recurring question that remains is, Why should I subject myself to the regimen of the church (ie. the hassles) if I will receive salvation anyway? We find the answer further in the revelation. “We must be obedient to every covenant that we make in the temple of the Lord. He (God) has said that if we are true and faithful we shall pass by the angels to our exaltation. We will become gods.”{36} The Mormon hopes to become a god himself but only if he is in complete compliance with the church.

It is noteworthy that the teaching that reveals the foundation for celestial marriage {exaltation} is not to be found in the Book of Mormon, the “most correct” of any book on earth.{37} Therefore, it seems that the motivation for entering into celestial marriage is not based on fact but on the possibility of being a god or a goddess.

The teachings of the Mormon church often go unchallenged and many in the church, along with a growing number outside its doors believe it to be a Christian institution. Those in the church have in many cases been “fellowshipped”; that is, they have been catered to for the specific reason of gaining their membership in the church. Often these members have not clearly discerned the doctrine of the church.

Those outside the Mormon Church see the good works of its members and because of their lack of understanding of Christian teaching and their acute lack of knowledge regarding Mormon sources, they tend to think that the Mormon church is as Christian as the Baptists, Methodists and the Presbyterians.

Brigham Young, second President of the Mormon Church, challenged the world to test the teachings of the Latter-Day Saints. This essay is an answer to his challenge.

Notes
1. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1979), 98.
2. Ibid., 98-99.
3. Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Liverpool, 1851), 1-2.
4. Joseph Smith, Jr., The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 29:10 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982).
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 194. See also, The History of the Church (Vol. 4, November 28, 1841), 461.
6. Letter from the Smithsonian Institution (SIL-76, Summer 1979).
7. Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, p. 188.
8. The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Deuteronomy 18:20-22) Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982).
9. Doctrine and Covenants 84:1-5 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1968). See also verse 31.
10. The History of the Church, Vol. 2 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 2nd ed. revised, 1976), 182.
11. The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:26.
12. Joseph Smith, Pearl of Great Price 2:68-73 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1968).
13. “The Example of Abraham,” Ensign (June 1975):3. See also Gospel Principles, First Quorum of the Seventy, (1986), 103.
14. “Priesthood Authority and Power,” Ensign (May 1976), 33.
15. David Witmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 64.
16. Ibid., 49.
17. McConkie, 348.
18. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1950), 263.
19. Ibid.
20. McConkie, 348.
21. Doctrine and Covenants, 76:11-119.
22. Ibid., 76:82.
23. Talmage, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976), 92.
24. Doctrine and Covenants, 76:73-74.
25. Doctrines and Covenants, 76:58.
26. Talmage, 91.
27. John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker After Truth, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press, 1951) 177-78.
28. Book of Mormon, Alma 34:32.
29. Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978, revised 1986), 289.
30. Ibid., 290. The Doctrine and Covenants, Moses 1:39.
31. Gospel Principles, 233.
32. Ibid.
33. Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1977), 345.
34. Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-3.
35. Ibid., 132:4.
36. Gospel Principles, 234. See also Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20 and the Mormon publication by Oscar W. McConkie, Jr., God and Man (The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1963), 5.
37. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 194.

©1994 Probe Ministries.